The drive down to Charlotte from Raleigh was quick and we arrived at the Apollo RV Park and got set up. We were actually in Concord, NC, which is a bit northeast of Charlotte, and we were in NASCAR country! This whole area was full of campgrounds for the Charlotte Motor Speedway. We hadn’t researched the area very well, so the place we stayed wasn’t really all that great. We had already scoped out a new place we would be moving to the next morning. The older couple that owned the Apollo were sweet as can be and ran the park out of their home. In fact, we came into their living room to pay for our night and they were settled down in the living room watching TV. Nice, nice people, but the park just wasn’t for us. It basically felt like we were camping in their backyard. We headed out for dinner and stumbled upon the Carolina Ale House. Mike said they were the best wings he ever had, which is saying a lot, and they had over 100 beers on tap, all served in an icy cold chilled glass. We frequented this place 3 times during our stay here!
The next morning, we packed up and drove the ¼ mile to Tom Johnson Camping Center & Racing Resort. Didn’t even need to hook up the car. We got settled and the vibe was already so much better, plus this is the lowest we have paid yet for camping, only $23 (I’m sure much pricier during big events). We had views of all three racetracks – Charlotte Motor Speedway, ZMax Dragway and The Dirt Track at Charlotte. There were no events or races happening, but there was an RV Rally onsite, so lots of fellow campers. I can just imagine how much fun this place would be on a race weekend!
We decided to do a tour of the tracks, so walked over and paid $12 for an hour tour – totally worth it. We got into vans and headed down to the main speedway. We had a great guide, Babette, who was full of knowledge. We actually drove out onto the track and she explained all of the different areas, then we did a few laps around at about 80mph (racers go over 200 mph) and we could really feel the banked turns. It cracked me up that we were racing around the track in a 12-passenger van. You can do a tour where you get suited up in full gear and get in a car with a professional driver; 3 laps at 165mph for $150. We were good with the van! The tour also included the Dirt Track and the Zmax dragway, which is the only 4-lane drag strip in the world. This whole complex plus the camping areas are all owned by one person, Bruton Smith. Money is not a problem for him — apparently he saw the big screen at the Dallas Cowboys arena (which at the time was the largest HDTV in the world) and wanted to have something larger. So he had one installed at the Speedway, which is now bigger, pretty impressive. Afterward, we went up to the restaurant to try to get a beer, but it was closed, so we snuck down another floor and went out to the seating/suite areas to take some photos. Neither one of us are Nascar people, but this made us appreciate the sport and more interested in attending a race at some point. We made our way back to park and decided to head to the NODA (North Davidson) district to Baja Fish Tacos, another Guy Fieri recommendation. This place was absolutely packed, but we were able to find a spot at the bar. It did not disappoint!
For more pics from our tour of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, click HERE
The next couple of days were very windy and wet. We took some time to get some errands done including laundry, haircuts, pedicure and some shopping for our upcoming events of the Masters and Kentucky Derby. On Saturday, we headed an hour north to Denver, NC for dinner at the home of Mark & Denise Abbott. Mark is a friend of Mike’s good friend Bruce from high school and Mike met him on their last guy’s golf trip in Bend. He is also a Coug! Anyway, we got in touch with them and they very kindly invited us up to their home. This is always a treat for us to be in a spacious house (rather than the cramped MoHo or a restaurant) and enjoy a home-cooked meal and conversation with friends. We had a great night with delicious food and wine and we really enjoyed getting to know them better. Thank you Abbott’s!
The weather decided to take a turn for the better on our last few days! That is one thing we have learned about this area is how volatile the weather can be. In our 6 days here, we have experienced a range of temps from low 30’s to low 80’s. That just doesn’t happen in Seattle. One day we headed into downtown Charlotte. We walked around all day long and I just really loved the feel of this city. It is very clean and felt completely safe. There was a definite business/corporate crowd walking around and there were many restaurants with outdoor seating areas and a mix of office buildings, retail stores, churches and hip looking condos. We visited some classic tourist spots and took pics at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the very cool Duke Energy building and the Corner of Trade & Tryon. We stopped at the 7th Street Public Market (a warehouse where locals sell food, drinks & crafts) for a beer, then found a wine bar, which had ½ price bottles and sat outside. We were right in the heart of the downtown area and it was fun to watch the work crowds and just enjoy the atmosphere. On the way back to the car, we stopped at the highly recommended Amelie’s French Bakery for a sea salt caramel brownie, which was one of the best desserts I have ever had. I am going to be dreaming about this one for years to come!
On our last day in Charlotte, the temps reached over 80 so we just hung out at the MoHo park, sat out in the sun and BBQ’d. We both really liked this town. It has a lot to offer not to mention the housing is extremely affordable. The people were all very friendly too. They are passionate about their sports teams and we enjoyed the local food and craft beer scene. Random side note: Many of the scenes from one of our favorite shows Homeland have been filmed here too – I love that kind of stuff! Next stop is Columbia, SC for a few days then onto Augusta, GA for our bucket list – The Masters! Looking so forward to this and meeting up with some great friends from home.
p.s. I have started a running program via an App that my friend Sunny shared with me. It is great for someone like me who is NOT a runner as it eases you in with alternating walking, running and sprinting. I have been doing it every other day for 3 weeks now and am now running in 3-minute increments with 1 minute of recovery walking for a total of 35 mins. It is not easy for me, but I must say it feels good to get outside and have some “me” time. I have been going rain or shine and it certainly makes all of the eating and drinking feel a bit ‘less-guilty.’ By the end of 8 weeks, I will supposedly be running the entire time. Stay tuned…