We’re in to double figures! Having visited the old world charm of the Southern of the two Carolinas, it seemed only fair that we stop by its Northern brother.
Given our taste for BBQ it seemed odd to be visiting North Carolina with something else entirely in mind: Nascar. The National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing is closely associated with North Carolina and many consider the state to be its spiritual home. Whether or not that’s really the case,we don’t know, but we headed to Charlotte Motor Speedway to see what all the fuss was about.
Charlotte today is more closely associated with banking than Nascar, being the second largest financial centre in the States after New York, but we didn’t spend any time downtown. We stayed at a bit of a faceless airport hotel….like we said, we were here for the racing. Once we’d changed our hire car (handy being close to the airport sometimes…) following a close encounter between the windscreen and a large stone, we headed out to the raceway.
The race in North Carolina is held at night so the circuit, home to the world’s biggest high definition television, looks pretty spectacular all dressed up. If you’re not into loud noises and brash crowds then find another way to sample this part of America because Nascar is a pretty unique experience. The atmosphere is friendly rather than fevered but once the cars get going the noise is pretty hard to beat. Our fellow race goers were an interesting bunch and as with any American sporting event they wear their patriotism on their sleeves. The racing does drag on a bit mind you, three hours or more for that matter and once the sun goes down the cloudless skies make for a chilly evening when you’re sitting on your bum not moving! We were lucky that Nascar was in town when we were passing through (or maybe Josh re-routed slightly despite concerns from Hannah…) and if you get the chance you should try it out.
Shockingly on our part we didn’t sample any of North Carolina’s famous BBQ (though I’ve heard the NC variety can be a bit vinegar-y), preferring to keep that for our next destination, Tennessee. For our second night we headed into the Smoky Mountains, destination Bryson City. We joined the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway at Waynesville before turning off on to the famous and awesomely beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway that winds its way through the Smoky Mountains. We were there just as the leaves began to turn and it was difficult to resist stopping at every one of the viewpoints. Had we been a couple of weeks later with Autumn in full bloom it would’ve been all the more spectacular.
Bryson City is a tiny town but no less worthy of a stop for it. We parked up on Main Street, had a bite to eat at Jimmy Mac’s (a tasty burger, for a change) followed by a milkshake at Soda Pop’s on Everett Street. Then we headed to our lodgings for the evening, the confusingly named Charleston Inn. Its just a couple of minutes drive from Main Street up a windy road and into the trees. The accomodation is basic but comfortable and you get a tasty breakfast thrown in to the bargain. The resident cat is a bit on the grumpy side, but maybe we just caught him on a bad day.
It’s fair to say we didn’t do North Carolina anywhere close to justice. There are plenty of places to see as well that we weren’t able to sample, Asheville and Wilmington (where some of Dawson’s Creek was filmed!) to name but two. But what we did see, we liked a lot.
Rate the State
Good for: Petrol heads, BBQ lovers, leaf peepers and scenic byway enthusiasts.
Bad for: Not a lot really!