Dennis and I decided to take a little mini-break in Charlotte, North Carolina with our bicycles in tow. The real purpose of the trip was so that he could pick up an old car that he bought and drive it home. I wasn’t game for a long road trip so I decided to fly. That seemed like a grand idea but things have a way of turning out differently than one might expect.
The trip started off well enough. We managed to find a room at The Duke Mansion, a beautiful (and surprisingly affordable) bed-and-breakfast in Charlotte’s prestigious Myers Park neighbourhood. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was the summer home of Buck Duke and his daughter Doris. Duke made millions at the beginning of the 20th century as the owner of Duke Energy and the American Tobacco Company. He controlled 40% of the pre-rolled cigarette market in the United States, clearly a lucrative business. At the time of his death in the 1925, he was worth the princely sum of $140 million, 1/652 of the US GDP. Buck wanted to make sure that his daughter experienced life in the South, where he was born, so they would spend their summers here while his wife preferred the excitement of New York City. After his death, his wife promptly sold the mansion.
After a succession of owners and a near-cataclysmic fire, the ownership of the home was converted to a charitable trust and opened as a 20-room bed-and-breakfast in 1998.
After exploring Myers Park on our bikes, we head off to explore the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, a paved walking and cycling path which runs along Sugar Creek into downtown Charlotte. Unlike many major metropolitan centres, Charlotte is not situated on a river or an ocean. Instead, it is punctuated with many small streams. As recently as 2000, Sugar Creek was the most polluted stream in Charlotte. With a strong civic vision and lots of money, the pollution has been cleaned up and it has been redeveloped into a fine public green space.
I particularly liked the sign along the path “Life is what happens outside your car.”
Sending Dennis on his way back home, I decided to spend one extra day in Charlotte and check out the upscale shopping mall, South Park. Home to Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Neiman Marcus and the like, it was a day of browsing and not too much buying.
The Duke Mansion was full, accommodating a wedding, so I “downgraded” my stay to a Marriott adjacent to the mall.
After a pleasant morning shopping, I patiently await my flight home. Engines firing, we hurtle down the runway. Rattle. Rattle. Shake. Shake. “Wait a minute,” I think, “this doesn’t seem right,” as the pilot quickly applies the brakes and aborts our takeoff. Taxiing back to the gate, we are offloaded after we are informed that one of the engines is malfunctioning. A few hours pass and a new plane is brought into service. We load the plane and are ready to go only to be informed that the crew now has passed their allowable hours of work and our flight has again been cancelled. With no hope of getting out that evening, the passengers are again standing in line trying to make arrangements for new flights for the next day.
American Airlines picks up the tab for a hotel for the night and apparently, they don’t have connections at the Duke. I now find myself in the Ramada Airport South, a rather ramshackle place at best.
The lobby art isn’t Doris Duke, but another redhead, Tormund Gaintsbane from Game of Thrones, plugging Wyndham Hotels.
The water feature in the atrium isn’t quite on par with the Duke either! I think perhaps it is a garden hose.
The pool is closed for renovations, though looking at the height of the weeds adjacent to the pool, I think it’s been closed for quite awhile.
Sunrise Over the Pool! The view from my room!
The ubiquitous white rockers favoured on porches throughout the South, find a place at the Ramada, too, though in a slightly less charming setting than the Duke.
All kidding aside, I am thankful for the “Rattle Rattle Shake Shake” on the runway rather than a “Rattle Rattle Shake Shake” in the sky. That would have made for a much worse time than spending the night in a less-than stellar Ramada Inn. Besides, I’ve been quite occupied while I wait for my flight.