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LIVE LOCAL, LIVE SMALL: Getting back on track for exploration and adventure

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I really do have to get back on track with my list of 40 things I want to do around town this year. Renovations have taken up way more resources—not just financially but time-wise—than I had anticipated.

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“So how’s your list of things to do this year coming?” the lovely editor lady at encore asked a couple of weeks ago.

The map of the Mountains to Sea Trail hotspots, which connect the coast to the mountains of NC. Courtesy photo

The map of the Mountains to Sea Trail hotspots, which connect the coast to the mountains of NC. Courtesy photo

“Um … not so great,” I admitted.

For those of you who came in late: In January I announced a list of 40 things I was going to do in town this year. I wanted to go out and visit the attractions that make our area so vibrant. My editor lady knew I wasn’t off seeing Route 66 and turning in six columns I had promised her in regards to small economics on America’s Main Street. Since I was sitting in front of her instead of wandering through Arizona, it seemed a safe bet she figured out those pieces weren’t getting turned in this summer.

She took a sip of her drink and asked, “What’s the problem?”

I answered honestly: “Renovations have taken up way more resources—not just financially but time-wise—than I had anticipated.”

I have four (or more) renovation projects happening this year. That is a lot for anyone to keep moving forward. The second floor of the bookstore has been the crepe d’ renovation project for the last five years. I think we are finally closing in on finishing up the plumbing and electrical. Maybe.

My parents’ house on Market Street has had a pretty intense year, including a fairly substantial tree trim of my beloved aging oak. As much of it was saved as could be but still … sigh.

Following that, we embarked upon a long overdue soffit repair and restored the balustrade on the front porch. The amazing Jeremy Bradford, trim carpenter of my dreams, rebuilt it with detail that just took my breath away. Then the bad news came about the extent of the repairs the back of the house needs. Let’s just say: my collapsing historic mansion lives up to its description.

Of course, there was the bizarre and wonderful adventure of Jock deciding to knock a hole in the exterior wall of our house. The hole was large enough to drive a Ford Econoline moving van through it. I am proud to report that, as of now, we have walls, floor, ceiling, and roof everywhere that it is customary to expect them.

We also have most of the kitchen we have been talking about for the last 10 years. Tiling the floor together (with the help of our puppy, Hilda) I commented that the tile looked just like the Italian red kitchen tile he had pointed out eight years ago as what he had in mind for the room.

The dogs are relieved to have a certain level of normalcy back in their lives. When Jock began the kitchen renovation, they became very concerned. I mean that’s where the food lives. But they didn’t miss any meals (despite their fears).

In addition I have been slowly working my way through the restoration of my two mid-’60s Volkswagens. The ’67 VW Camper Bus (The Argus) was supposed to be restored in time for a cross-country trip this summer. (My apologies to the readership, but that trip has to get put off ‘til next year. Still, I am looking forward to exploring the Live Local stories of the Mother Road.)

Meanwhile, my ’65 bug (Kafka) finally has an engine again. But it is going to be a while before I have time to sand him down and do a ground-up restoration. Along the way, however, I have learned how to change the rear main seal, re-wire the engine, and re-install the clutch and accelerator. It has been exciting.

So, I have been busy—also running a small business, writing and trying to make quality time for life with Jock. When I look back at the proposed list I made at the beginning of 2015, though I am not anywhere near as far along as I wanted to be by now, I have actually done more things than I realized.

I finally visited Halyburton Park for the first time since it opened. It is lovely! My friend, Donna, took me on a walk through the trails and I marveled at all the people there. It is obviously heavily utilized, and that is wonderful news.

Jock and I went to the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher for the first time since I was 12 years old. To say it has seen major changes from my youth is an understatement. “What do you notice about the design of all the exhibits?’ I quizzed Jock.

“What specifically are you thinking of?’ he responded.

“Everything is kid-height. It’s thoughtful. It’s great.”

“As it should be,” he nodded. 

Good design aside, I have to say the breath of information covered was really impressive: not just salt water environments, but extensive information about our river and the marshes around us.

I also finally had a beer at Wilmington’s oldest bar, Barbary Coast, and ate a Britt’s Donut. They’re two places I had yet to visit despite being a lifelong resident of Wilmington. Somehow, the world just feels a little more balanced now.

Jock and I went raptor hunting at the Cape Fear Raptor Center. Also, on one impulsive lovely evening, I took the horse-drawn carriage ride downtown.

One of my plans was to walk part of the state’s Mountains to the Sea Trail (preferably with Hilda). The trail connects the NC state parks from the Great Smokey Mountains to Cape Look Out—it’s a remarkable vision brought to life, celebrating and connecting our great state. I thought we were going to have to travel a couple of hours by VW to get to the trail. Then a miracle happened: The Mountains to the Sea Trail came to us—Pender County to be exact. The organization decided to bring a spur down through Onslow and Pender counties, including through the Penderlea Homestead Museum area and center of the town of Burgaw. At the ribbon cutting I was pleased to hear several people discuss the hoped economic impact of the new spur of the trail. Hikers looking for food and lodging were expected to spend money in the small businesses nearby (especially in Burgaw—the trail goes right through the historic area). I still need to take Hilda back and walk more of the trail, especially near the Moore’s Creek Battlefield.

There are a couple of things on the list, beside the Route 66 trip, I am waiting to take The Argus to: Carolina Beach State Park for camping and Merritt’s Burgers (I mean come on, that’s the perfect place for pictures!).

All that aside, I really do have to get back on track with getting out and seeing this amazing area. I’m sorry for the delay, but I promise I will get moving. I am especially looking forward to fencing and horseback riding (which are on the list). More so, even though I haven’t gotten as far along as I would like, at each step I have met truly lovely and surprising people. That is at the heart of what makes this so exciting.

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