Wednesday, March 2, 2016

New Destinations: Wilminton and New Bern

Wait a minute: did I say I was headed to Texas? Well, that's true, but I neglected to tell you of the stop off in North Carolina, to visit with my daughter and her family. I should tell you a little bit about that  before we move on to Texas.

Besides, the visit in Texas wasn't that great, outside of seeing my dear friends and family. There just happens to be a lot going on in Texas right now; none of it very good. So let's stay a while in North Carolina, shall we?

My daughter and her family/household are very busy. Staying there is always a bit chaotic, seeing as she is currently helping her half-sister get on her feet, and said sister has 2 small children and a boyfriend, all of whom reside in Jenn's house, along with Jenn's 2 kids, 2 cats and the dog. Often I ran outside, seeking quiet and solace, away from the noise.

As busy as Jenn is, she always makes it a point to find interesting things for us to do. Thus, on one of her days off from work, we headed into New Bern, named by the immigrants after their home: Bern, Switzerland.

New Bern was settled in 1710 by Swiss and Palatine immigrants. Many historic buildings still stand; in fact this town is a gem of southern living at its height. Tryon Palace is a good example, as is the John Wright Stanley house, built in 1780.

Tryon Palace                                                                John Wright Stanley house

New Bern has so many churches! In fact, 12 are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are more, newer churches scattered around the city, too. Considering that New Bern's population is only 29,574 as of last census count, I wonder where all the people come from to attend all of those churches. 

New Bern is the birthplace of Pepsi Cola, originally called Brad's Drink. The historian at the Pepsi museum informed us that, because of a plethora of drinks named after their inventors at that time, Caleb Bradham, the inventor of Pepsi, changed the name of his concoction to reflect 2 of the drink's ingredients: the kola nut and the digestive enzyme pepsin.

I'd love to include a picture or 2 we took of the museum, but my dear daughter has them on her phone and hasn't sent them to me. I'd also love to show you the Moo Diner, a cow-themed restaurant and other snapshots we took on our short visit around town. They're all on her phone. I hope she sends them quickly. Maybe I can post a pictorial essay.

On the way out of town we stopped at an old barn that had been converted into an antiques shop. Many stores in America boast 'antiques' but most of their wares are what we would now call 'retro': only about 30 years old. As we ambled around the displays we spotted a box of well preserved magazines, among them a copy of Life from 1962 – at the height of the Cuban Missile crisis, detailing what citizens need to know about fallout shelters. Further in the pile was a tribute to slain president Kennedy, printed December 1963. As my son-in-law's birthday was just a few days away and I know him to be a history buff, we spent a few dollars on his personal copies of historic moments.

And then we trick-wrapped them, making him believe he was getting expensive wine. Fooled him! After the laughing, he was sincerely impressed with his gift.    

A few days later, we loaded up and headed for Wilmington, a dog-friendly city. You need to know that in order to understand why Garrett, my son-in-law, was so insistent on taking the dog with us. Poor dog, doesn't get out much. Well, he doesn't go on outings but he does go out regularly, otherwise the house would be untenable!

Wilmington is older and more established than New Bern, and has much more history. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperating. It started raining while still on our way there and, by the time we arrived, it was a veritable downpour. Still we gamely trooped on, walking a few blocks of the historic district.

Jenn and Garrett, having previously gone on a tour of the city, knew of the many ghost tales and hauntings. One place in particular, now and architect's office, was the site of lynchings. Across the street sat the governor's mansion, with a fine railing around the second floor veranda where prominent society people went to watch black people get hung. Rumor is that the architect's office is haunted by the spirits of all those people who met such a horrible death.

Another tale is that of the roommate who got buried alive. As the story goes, the friend/roommate of the man who died kept hearing 'go to his grave' when nobody was around to say it. After a few days he and another friend went to their roommate's grave only to find he had been buried alive! Thus the term 'graveyard shift' to describe working overnight: from that incident, a law emerged that someone must sit by the graves of newly buried bodies to make sure they are really dead.

On our way out of town we saw the USS North Carolina, a battleship that served during WWII, now permanently docked on the coast, and turned into a museum. She looked quite impressive against the leaden grey sky.

None of this serves to explain why Wilmington is such a dog-friendly city, but it certainly must be because there were so many dogs out, even in the inclement weather! 

Unfortunately, close proximity to the dog set off my allergies and the bad weather served to wear my down. By the time we arrived home I was feeling so poorly that I just went to bed, hoping to recover in time for my long bus ride to Texas, 2 days from then. I'll write you again from the bus!

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