June 3 – 14, 2021
With another full day ahead of us, we lit out from the condo around 8am to stop for donuts and coffee at a Dunkin’ on Sugar Creek before arriving at George’s place at 9am. We’d spend the next hour with him, remembering times past, catching up on the present, the whereabouts and goings on of his kids including the small world fact that his daughter Angela works with our friend Hans, who we’d be seeing on Monday. As I mentioned earlier, although fairly large as a city (15th in the nation), Charlotte still feels like a small town at times.
From there we drove to Davidson to Summit Coffee to meet up with Joanna’s sister Debi along with daughter Kristen and son-in-law Brian and son Shaun and his partner Hannah. On the way we drove on the roads we used to take when riding our bikes there from our house. Halfway there we ran into Charlie on his bike, one of those serendipitous encounters we came to expect in Charlotte, regardless of how big it grows I came to understand that about a quarter of the time we went out we’d run into someone we know.
When we first moved to Charlotte, Debi and family all lived not far from our old digs in Los Angeles but would move near us a couple of years later. Joanna’s Mom would follow in 2015 and before we knew it, none of Joanna’s family was left back on the west coast. Joanna’s youngest sister Nicole lives in Durham, and we would see her later in our trip.
It was warm sitting at the benches behind Summit, our usual hangout when cycling there, and it would get warmer as the day progressed. We had some sobering business to attend to that afternoon, that is to attend a memorial service for a friend, Wayne, who had passed away a week earlier. A year or two after we arrived in Charlotte, we joined the Piedmont Adventure Club (PAC), a group with a long history of camping, hiking, and travel.
It would turn out that Joanna and I were just about the youngest members and the club, and it, as many do, was gradually declining in membership and activities as people aged, but in the beginning, we enjoyed many hikes and some camping with the group. Wayne, with his zeal for life, was a mainstay, one of those folks that is the glue for an organization. We shared many enjoyable moments with he and his wife Arlene and can genuinely say that he will be missed.
We were a little early when we arrived in Concord for the service and so, in our quest to hit all of our favorite dining destinations, stopped at a nearby Cook Out to get a burger and hot dog southern style, that is with cheese, chili, onion, mustard, and slaw. With quality ingredients and reasonable pricing, their philosophy and delivery are akin to a Sonic as they also feature close to 40 flavors of milkshakes. I got hooked on this style of dressing a dog or a burger many years ago when visiting Rendy in Greensboro and find it nearly impossible to locate outside of the east coast.
No indoor dining offered, it meant we sat outside on a bench in the sweltering heat carefully eating these chili-dripping exemplars of all that is unhealthy and messy and amazingly, managed to remain neat and tidy. Finished eating, we made our way to the service where we paid our last respects to Wayne, gave our personal condolences to Arlene, greeted a few of our PAC friends and then with some time on our hands before dinner along with Keith and Diane at Jim and Diana’s at their house, drove back to the condo for a little downtime.
Dinner was a highlight, Keith as usual supplying us with good red wine from his personal collection (recall our wine adventure in the fall of 2019 https://3jmann.com/2019/11/09/central-coast-wine-weekend-part-one/ and https://3jmann.com/2019/11/14/central-coast-wine-weekend-part-two/ when he introduced us to Andrew Murray Vineyards) as we drained several bottles and spent that kind of quality time together that good friends cherish.
Sunday would bring another full day, starting with meeting Luther, Jay Z, and Nelson, all PAC members, at the Flying Saucer near the University. During our tenure in Charlotte, starting in April 2008, the Saucer was our bar, our version of Cheers. With their UFO Club plate program (drink 200 different beers and you get a numbered plate with your name and a quote on it) we would acquire four, three for me and one for Joanna. That’s right, 800 beers between us and I’m currently sitting at 153, just 47 more to go for my fourth plate.
We started with a beer apiece and after an hour or so Joanna took off to attend the monthly meeting of the book club she belonged to in town, our trip providing great timing as this weekend coincided with the meeting. I’d stay on for another beer or so before hitching a ride with Jay Z down to NoDa to meet with another pair of good friends, Lyndsay, and Dave. She was the marketing director for us at the Student Union and now does the same work for the entire Student Affairs division. Dave is a tenured professor at UNCC in the Sciences.
I joined them at Wooden Robot’s fairly new second location, The Chamber. We’d been here in 2019 with Lyndsay and Dave along with Jessica and Kris (we were in town for Kristen and Brian’s wedding) and it was nice to return to a place with beer we enjoy. After one there, we moved on to one of the first breweries in Charlotte, and one of my favorites to this day, Birdsong Brewing. With humble beginnings in 2010 their small tap room just a block away from another Charlotte Brewing pioneer, NoDa Brewing, they’ve grown to be a regional player.
We sat outside to enjoy our beers and when finished, moved on to one last brewery, a new outlet for Morganton’s Fonta Flora Brewing in the recently opened large food court, Optimist Hall. Known for their wild ales and intriguing collaborations, I’d end up consuming a couple of excellent double IPA’s as we waited for Joanna to join us. Just as she was arriving, one of those early summer monsoon quality downpours hit and thus she arrived soaking wet, nothing a good beer wouldn’t fix right away.
Our last stop of the day was a restaurant mainstay for us, Intermezzo Pizzeria in Plaza Midwood. It opened in 2007 when brothers Branko and Djordje Avramovic wanted to bring their grandmother’s Serbian family recipes and 20 plus years of combined restaurant experience to Charlotte. We’ve only had pizza there once as the draw for us is their savory traditional Serbian dishes, including Piroska (Balkan-style Stuffed Pizza), Sarma (Cabbage Rolls), Stuffed Peppers, and Chicken Francese.
We were a little disappointed when we went to order though to discover that two of our favorite dishes, a veggie pasta and a schnitzel plate, had been discontinued but recovered by splitting an order of the cabbage rolls and a couple of pizzas, all while I got to consume Birdsong’s seasonal Honey Pie, their high gravity IPA with a touch of Honey. We bade farewell to Lyndsay and Dave and returned to the condo looking forward to the next day when we’d meet up with Hans and Sarah for an afternoon on the river in their new boat. Stay tuned for what a day that turned out to be.
Cook Out: https://cookout.com/
Flying Saucer: http://www.beerknurd.com/locations/charlotte-flying-saucer
Wooden Robot/The Chamber: https://woodenrobotbrewery.com/location/the-chamber/
Birdsong Brewing: https://www.birdsongbrewing.com/
Optimist Hall: https://optimisthall.com/