June 3 – 14, 2021
A short drive of an hour plus to Durham awaited us so we dawdled that last morning at Ann and Rendy’s before departing around noon. Knowing dinner would be later in the day, we stopped at a McDonald’s just off the I-40 for food to tide us over until then. This mega franchise operation, in business for longer than many can remember, I feel gets a bad rap. I’m not sure of the cause as generally the facilities are rigorously maintained, the ingredients are of a good quality and output is consistent regardless of where you are eating it.
I generally eat one of two items on the menu, either an Egg McMuffin (in the morning) or some version of whatever Crispy Chicken Sandwich (lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo) they are featuring that day. This time around it was the chicken and one of the things I like about it is how well constructed it is, the Potato Roll nicely encapsulating the contents, holding it all together until the last bite.
We arrived at Nicole’s (Joanna’s youngest sister) place soon thereafter and settled in for the next three nights. Joanna’s main focus during this visit would be to spend as much time as possible with her mother Joan, who now lives in Raleigh after moving from Charlotte late last year. I would occupy my time by seeing a couple of sets of friends from my student union days, Carolyn for breakfast the next day and Dan the following.
First up though was to drive down to Raleigh to Joan’s independent living facility to take her out to dinner at the North Ridge Pub, conveniently located across the street from her home. This is single storefront operation in a large shopping center complex neighbor to a number of other restaurants. The three of us were seated at a table in the back near the kitchen and we ordered drinks, a Bombshell Hipster Wheat for Joanna, a Dark Horse Merlot for Joan, and a Wicked Weed IPA for me.
Joanna ordered the Crab Cake (Pan seared with black bean rice and vegetables) for dinner while Joan and I each selected the Beef Stix (Beef Kabobs – Tenderloin skewered with red onion and red pepper served with brown rice and broccoli). It was all done nicely, cooked correctly and sufficient portion sizes as well as we all cleaned our plates. We finished with a piece of cheesecake for dessert and the tab came to a very reasonable $100.
With Joanna preoccupied with her mom the next day, I set out as planned to meet Carolyn in Raleigh at Brigs Great Beginnings for breakfast. A longtime friend from our student union days, we’d met when we volunteered with ACUI to do project work together. This friendship strengthened during a couple of July’s when the ACUI leadership team (staff members, Board of Trustees, Regional Directors, and various project teams) would gather at the campus of the University of Indiana in Bloomington. Days were spent together as a whole and in our respective groups working on strategic plans for the Association, setting goals and doing the groundwork for projects we’d execute once we were back at our home campuses.
This took place during the height of Lance Armstrong’s defense of his Tour de France titles, and I’d found a bar near the town square that would broadcast each day’s stage; perfect timing for fans like me. Carolyn and I joined our teammates for dinner at an Italian restaurant and both liking wine we asked the waiter for a recommendation, and he said the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. We’d both consume two glasses and when the check came for the drinks (ACUI paid for our food) the tab was well over $30 per person. WTF!! Each glass turned out to be $14 apiece, an exorbitant amount for Bloomington, Indiana. We paid the tab and then made our way with some other cycling enthusiasts to the bar I’d located where wonder of wonders, it was half price bottle of wine night and we proceeded to drain one or more bottles of a similar Pinot Grigio for roughly $6 a pop. From that day on she and I would always state that we’d be consuming nothing but expensive wine when we met.
Brigs was crowded when we arrived, it being the first weekend in May, traditionally graduation time (high school and college) in this part of the country, but fortunately a table for two opened up and upon sitting, I ordered my customary veggie omelet and a coffee, and the meal passed full of the conversation that we can generate effortlessly. We finished and bade each other farewell, looking forward to the next opportunity, doubtless far into the future, when we could next meet.
Next up would be highlight organized by Nicole, that is, drinks in downtown Durham followed by a live performance by a group we’d seen a number of years before in Charlotte, Abbey Road Live. As early evening rolled around, we found ourselves parking the car and walking to the Unscripted Hotel and its rooftop bar. It’s an impressive edifice in the middle of the city and surprisingly, a check of room rates revealed it is not all that expensive.
It would just be drinks for us here though, for Joanna the Fresh Fruit Frose (Rosé, vodka, triple sec, strawberry puree, strawberries (served frozen) and I the Sophisticated Sour on Tap (Evan Williams Bourbon, Pama Liqueur, simple syrup, and lemon juice), served in a plastic bag with a hole for the straw I would drink it with. Both drinks hit the spot on a warm evening as we enjoyed the rooftop view, both of the surrounding neighborhood and all of the folks gathered around the pool.
Next, we walked a half mile to the Motorco Music Hall for our night of Beatles favorites. Normally an indoor venue with a large patio, for this event they’d converted an outdoor parking lot into a seating area, one where you reserved a plot of artificial turf that could seat parties of different sizes.
We were some of the last to arrive but for some reason, the last remaining open pod was in the front row, great seats that we hadn’t expected. We’d brought our own chairs and after getting some food and draft beers, we settled in for the show.
The first time we saw them, they played Abbey Road from beginning to end, then took a break and returned to play a number of songs out of the entire catalog. This time around it would be greatest hits all the way, soon getting folks in the audience singing along and not long after up and dancing. Before long Joanna and Nicole joined them (the dancing part) and the evening passed as they joyfully did their own version of twisting and shouting, and the day couldn’t have ended any better.
North Ridge Pub: https://northridgepub.com/Raleigh_Upscale_pub_Restaurant/
Brigs Great Beginnings: https://www.brigs.com/locations/raleigh
Abbey Road Live: https://www.abbeyroadlive.com/bio/
Motorco Music Hall: https://motorcomusic.com/