Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Road Trip: Durham, North Carolina

The old adage is that one of the greatest parts of vacation is the planning. And there is always the “call to confirm” that appears in all the flyers.

For my birthday (which is in December) my wife gave me an “IOU” for tickets to a Durham Bulls baseball game. I cashed those tickets on Monday when the Bulls took on the Charlotte Knights in a game that was featured on ESPN's 50 days in 50 states.

Kenny Mayne

The City: Durham has its pockets of nice areas unfortunately they are intertwined in a way that you never know where to feel comfortable. The city was relatively clean with a lot of trees, but had an overall “blah” feel that didn’t make you feel at home.

The Residents: One thing I did notice in Durham (as well as Kannapolis, Mooresville, and Concord) is the politeness of people. Heading in-and-out of the doors, they’d always hold the door for you, just little things that we Ohioans don’t seem to have time for anymore.

Bennett Place: A State Historical site located on the northwest side of the city and commemorates the final days of the Civil War. The sign on the site paid homage to the Bennett Farm being the site where General Sherman accepted the largest hand-over of men from General Johnson during the Civil War. Unfortunately, the site is closed on Monday. We were able to walk around the site and look at the buildings, but the information center and buildings were closed.

Duke University: As a closet Blue Devil fan for years, hey, I’m a former Danville Blue Devil. So when the Buckeyes were out of the NCAA Basketball tournament earlier it was cool to have someone to root for. This was something I was looking forward too, walking around the campus and getting a feel for this fine institution of higher-learning. I was hoping to visit Cameron and run into golf coach Rod Myers (OWU class of 1961) and introduce myself. But, we found that they charged you $2 an hour to park at the site. $2 is nothing, but the thought that I was going to pay an institution of higher learning to simply WALK AROUND the CAMPUS really bugged me. So we drove around campus for a few minutes, but it wasn’t the same and we moved on.

Duke University Tobacco Museum: Obviously, the state of North Carolina shuts down on Monday, which if I’d made a couple of phone calls, I would have known. The site was closed so we drove by slow and looked at the pretty grounds.

Brightleaf Square: Another disappointment. The Visitor’s Bureau made this area seem like the “it” spot in Durham to hang-out and spend and afternoon. There were several restaurants and some interesting – and expensive – shops but the area was rather a dud for us. It did boast the best Mexican Restaurant – El Rodeo – we’ve eaten at in a long-time. I’ve become leery of eating beef at Mexican establishments, but they had some of the best hamburger – it was juicy without being fatty – that I’ve ever had.

Guglhupf Bakery: Now for another rule, cities don’t always agree on how to name their streets. For example, in Durham, there are four different streets bearing the name “Chapel Hill” and that doesn’t include those with other words included in Chapel Hill – like Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. We spent 45 minutes looking on Chapel Hill Blvd. for the Bakery, only to realize that it was housed in a building on what was listed on street signs as being Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. We also found this to be closed, but by the time we found it was after lunch.

At this point, we gave up on our search for the “local” scene and headed to a wine shop. Thankfully that was open, so we picked up a couple of local Carolina brews and a Reisling from a Carolina winery to enjoy later this week. We did a little shopping before enjoying the Hampton Inn’s pool and heading to the Durham Athletic Park for the reason for our stay.

Durham Athletic Park: For a complete write-up on our visit to the DAP, visit "Road Trip: Durham Bulls 5, Charlotte Knights 0" at Minor Details.

Overall: My take on Durham is that is an okay city, but not a real tourist friendly place. I’d probably go back for a Bulls game, but it would be on the way through the city and not another vacation destination.
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