We had another great photo adventure this week, keeping it fairly close to home (though we did venture into the abutting region) since our adventurous son sprained his ankle bouldering. We didn’t want to drive all the way into the mountains and not be able to hike, or head the other way to the coast and get caught up in anything Hurricane Dorian may have churned up. So we settled on Sanford, Pinehurst and Southern Pines.
One of our favorite places was the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, on the campus of the Sandhills Community College. We ambled through the ten different garden spaces for about an hour and a half. Whoever goes through their landscape gardening program can only be successful, that’s for sure. While you’re there, swing by Betsey’s Crepes … I had a scrambled egg bowl with sausage and spinach, and the Marie Antoinette crepe (strawberries and Nutella). Because, #Adventuretime!
One of my favorite adventures this summer was our day trip to Wilson, with the highly-anticipated purpose of checking out the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. Turns out the small southern town is full of charm, and on the up-and-up. We had a great day! There are a handful of delicious restaurants, a very active arts council (and public art), and beautiful old buildings. A definite great da
The North Carolina Zoo is synonymous with Asheboro, NC, but we’re not really a zoo family. We think animals should live in the wild. But we set Asheboro as our destination during an adventure we had last week that took us to the Pisgah Covered Bridge and Seagrove. Other than the Zoo, and the bomb-ass ice cream parlor that used to be on the road between Hwy 64 and the Zoo (Mayberry) that sold my favorite flavor in the history of EVER — Charlie Brown (chocolate with ribbons of peanut butter), it was a pass-through town on road trips. Did you know there’s a downtown in Asheboro … that’s NOT on Hwy 64 at the Zoo entrance? Mind. Blown.
Downtown Asheboro is a pretty little area with a handful of good restaurants and a TON of antique stores. We’re not antique store fans, but when in Rome, right? Our son found an old Hasselblad for sale for $2,500, which we passed on because he works for Southeastern Camera and gets his gear there. Other than that, we noticed a bunch of creepy old dolls and big, heavy furniture. It was easy to navigate Downtown Asheboro, and they’ve got sidewalks everywhere. Definitely happy our adventures wrapped up in this pretty little part of town.
My mother-in-law has talked about Seagrove for years, so our adventurous son and I added it to the itinerary this week. It’s not an easily-traversed town because there are no sidewalks and there are about 80 potters spread over 15 or 16 miles. So, walking a town the way we typically try to travel was not possible. But it was interesting, all the same.
Because NC pottery is famous, and nearly every art gallery and specialty art shop in the region has a relationship with a potter and sells it, I didn’t feel the need to try and hit all 80 studios. Plus, Mark Hewitt lives in town with us and we save newspapers for his kiln openings. But we stopped at two places that were notable. First, Seagrove Stoneware Gallery. I got a couple dinner plates from potter Alexa Modderno, a vase and a little bowl for doo-dads. We had a nice conversation with her husband, David Fernandez, who happens to be the Mayor of Seagrove. What a nice, personable guy. He told us Seagrove had recently completed a study with the NC DOT and hoped to move forward with sidewalks in the coming future. That would make the town usable, for me, and worth going back to. The other spot to discuss is the Carolina Bronze Sculpture Garden. We were following the map we’d gotten at the pottery visitor center and museum, and I think the distances were eyeballed. We had to do two U-turns on our journey from downtown Seagrove to the foundry off Maple Spring Road, but we were happy we found it. Mayor Fernandez really chatted it up, and told us the foundry was famous for its large-scale bronze sculptures. I think by the time we found it and walked around the “pond,” we were just done with the day. But check out Seagrove, particularly if you don’t have pottery at your fingertips. There is amazing creativity in that handful of miles.
Years ago, we discovered that our son is willing to make an adventure out of anything. It’s fortunate that he shares my wanderlust, but it’s too pricey to do big trips all the time. So we compromise and try to adventure around on day- or overnight-trips about every two or three weeks. He loves to be surprised, so when our schedules synch all I have to do is tell him to clear the day and he says, “let me grab my camera.” This summer, we’ve been focusing on North Carolina.
Because he was out in Boone last week photographing and mountain biking with friends, and we were in the inner coastal a couple weeks ago (in Wilson), I decided to keep us in the Piedmont region today. I planned three stops: Pisgah Covered Bridge (with a side hike in the Uwharrie National Forest), Seagrove and Asheboro. And while we had fun, nothing was as exciting as I anticipated.
TripAdvisor is a great resource when we’re traveling, particularly when we’re in Europe. I post reviews all the time, and am typically in agreement with most of the reviews I search for. But not today. TripAdvisor gave Pisgah Covered Bridge 4-1/2 stars. I give it the finger. Seriously, the people of Randolph County don’t deserve an entity that’s both a local and federal historic landmark. The bridge itself is tiny, and is one of two original wooden historic covered bridges in NC. And while the outside is charming and rustic, the inside is covered in graffiti. So sad. Traveler beware: wireless service is abysmal in that part of the county, so have your journey plotted out ahead of time. If you’re passing through Randolph County from here to there, or are going to Uwharrie National Forest and happen to pass by Pisgah Covered Bridge, swing by. Otherwise, don’t make it your destination.
One of my favorite adventures during our week in New Orleans was a day trip to Avery Island, the century-and-a-half home of Tabasco. Our fascination with its tasty history stems from a story we heard 17 years ago on NPR, and it’s been on our mental bucket list ever since. I mean, hot weather isn’t the only thing we southerners have a penchant for. The two-hour drive was enjoyable, and took us through several bayous and beautiful southern Louisiana landscape. We even stopped in Houma to check out the giant shrimping boots. Hello, Forrest Gump, right? Admission was only $5 per person, but we bumped it up to the $12 fee so we could also drive through the Jungle Gardens (totally worth it — we saw several alligators, and even came up on one eating a huge fish).
We finally made our way to New Orleans, and had a great time. I read that there were something like 72 neighborhoods in NOLA, and each has its own personality. No truer description has been written of places we’ve traveled. I encourage you to go beyond the French Quarter … it was so not our favorite part of the city. We ate all the requisite foods, like beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde, muffuletta, catfish, jambalaya, Creole, gumbo, and pralines. My favorite city adventures were at NOMA, where we saw a beautiful traveling exhibit from Timothy Duffy and the Music Maker Relief Foundation, along with pieces from its permanent collection like el Greco, Warhol, Picasso, and Pollock. Louis Armstrong Park was lovely, though our favorite park was Audobon Park. The St. Charles trolley was relaxing, and afforded a great amount of people-watching time. My heart goes out to the residents of our most recent adventuring as they brace for flooding and a potential forthcoming hurricane. We’re in North Carolina, and are no stranger to hurricanes and tropical storms.
(c) 2019. Photograph by Peyton Sickles. @sicklesphotography