The month of July would fly by as we engaged in our normal activities with one big difference. During a gathering at the Wine Vault with former colleagues at UNC Charlotte, the prospect of my returning to campus in an interim role was broached, as the Director of Parking and Transportation Services.
I didn’t think much about it at the time, but over the course of the next few days I ruminated on the potential. We’d spent a pretty good chunk of money on home improvement projects since our return from the Texas trip in April and I didn’t have any big trips scheduled until the first part of October. And there were elements of working that I missed; the interaction with people you don’t experience as much when retired, the intellectual stimulation that work can bring, and the feeling of accomplishment that is part of a good job.
So I contacted Keith, who’d I be reporting to and said I’d be interested. Long story short, I started full time on Monday July 20th and would fill in until the end of September, hopefully leaving about the time a full time director was hired and in place. I’ll write more about this experience as I near the completion of my term but in the meantime it has put a minor crimp in our travel during this two-and-a-half-month period.
A highlight of the period would be the planned east coast visit of our west coast friends and their wives, Jan and Evan (San Clemente), Sheila and JB (Chino Hills), and Sharon and Doug (Denver) for the first week of August which would include three nights in Carolina Beach where we would stay with Ann and Rendy. By Monday morning all of the participants had arrived in Charlotte and right around noon we took off in both of our cars for the four-hour drive to Carolina Beach.
Nearing Laurinburg, about half way, a clamor for a lunch stop arose and after a false stop at Cook-Out (they only had outdoor seating and it was hot) we drove a couple of blocks over to Smithfield’s, a North Carolina chain featuring chicken and BBQ. Joanna and I split a Shrimp Platter (Shrimp with coleslaw, French fries, and hushpuppies). The shrimp were a small variety, coated in a batter and lightly fried. It was a good meal to split and provided us with just enough food to get us through the afternoon until dinner time.
We arrived at the beach in due time and settled in for what would be three very enjoyable nights. Dinner the first evening was on us; Joanna and I had been busy Sunday cooking up a large batch of Carnitas, using a slow cooker recipe we’d had success with in the past:
Slow-Cooked Carnitas Recipe with Tequila
1 boneless pork shoulder butt roast (3 to 4 pounds) 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 2 teaspoons olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 bunch green onions, chopped 1-1/2 cups minced fresh cilantro 1 cup salsa 1/2 cup chicken broth 1/2 cup tequila 2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies Cut roast in half; place in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Sprinkle with the garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Add the onions, cilantro, salsa, broth, tequila and chilies. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender. Remove meat; cool slightly. Shred with two forks and return to the slow cooker; heat through. For best results, take the amount you are going to serve and lightly sear in a frying pan to give a little crust to the meat and bring out the flavors Total Time: Prep: 20 min. Cook: 6 hours Yields:12 servings
We serve it with fresh corn tortillas made on the spot at Las Lupitas Carniceria & Tortilleria, a local Mercado on Tryon Street near Eastway. Add whatever other ingredients you want to make soft tacos; the choices are unlimited. Throw in rice and refried beans, plenty of cold beer and wine and there may not be any better way to feed a large group of hungry adults.
Our plans to spend time at the beach were dashed the next day by a storm system that would bring rain all day. So we executed a fall back plan: drive up to Wilmington and walk the historic district on the banks of the Cape Fear River. We found parking a couple of blocks from the river and spent the next hour or so walking around downtown, browsing in any number of the antique and gift shops that populate this area.
It being early in the afternoon, thoughts soon turned to food and the next twenty minutes were spent trying to find a restaurant that could accommodate our crowd, having been turned away from the Front Street Brewery and Riverboat Landing. As we were about to give up we happened upon The George on the Riverwalk, saw that the menu was inviting and even better, found seating for the entire group. Joanna and I split an order of Crab Corn Chowder (Lump Crab, sweet corn, potatoes, onions, celery and carrots in a creamy New England-style chowder)and a Chicken Panini (with Applewood smoked bacon, provolone cheese, and sun-dried tomato basil presto mayonnaise on toasted sourdough bread). Both were excellent, the soup with plenty of lump crab and the corn lending a hint of sweetness to the overall presentation, the sandwich hearty enough to provide us with the sustenance needed to get us through the rest of the day.
Rain still coming down, we finished up our lunch and returned to the house. The evening would see us hitting the Carnitas again, this time adding a BBQ sauce twist to it and on what would turn out to be a steamy humid night, playing many games of Cornhole downstairs on the driveway. JB captained many a winning team, holding court until the wee hours, when we all decided to call it a day, many bottles of wine consumed, hoping that better weather would give us some options to hit the beach on Wednesday. Who knows what might transpire?
Las Lupitas: http://www.yelp.com/biz/las-lupitas-charlotte
The George: http://thegeorgerestaurant.com/