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Among Tar Heels

This (past) weekend, Ganesh and I went to Chapel Hill, NC to visit friends, introduce me to his old campus (he did his grad school work at UNC), sample the local specialties, and indulge in a bit of how-things-have-changed sight-seeing. Well, the nostalgia was more for him than me, this being my very first visit to the region. Since we chose this weekend unaware that it would also be one of the hottest weekends for the area, naturally the car’s AC decided to quit within minutes of leaving DC.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of driving through Virginia and parts of North Carolina in 100 degree weather, flanked by trucks and minivans, alternating desperately between a strategy of open windows for some kind of heat-lessening breeze and the stifling hot closed-window-to-keep-out-the-smell plan. It’s not as much fun as it sounds, believe me. By the end of the trip, I was so heat-addled and groggy that I was reduced to making horrible puns on names of towns (Stagville? Do only bachelors live there? And when they marry, do they have to move away?). Clearly I was not myself and after hours in a boiling car my thoughts were sticking to the inside of my skull like my clothes were adhering to my skin and the car seat.

Once we arrived (finally), we decided to recuperate from the stress of the drive by sitting outside in the North Carolina heat (still no AC) and having some nice cold beer. Or in my case, a nice cold Gin and Tonic. Who needs a shower and a change of clothes after a long hot drive when you can have a cocktail and great conversation? Sometime later (I soprt of lost track of time a bit that evening), we moved on to a Mexican restaurant and pitchers of margarita. Oh, and some good food too.

Aside from the broken AC*, it was a wonderful weekend. The people who were our gracious hosts were wonderful and generous, their house is fantastic (so much art, so many books, what living space) and to top it off, they have a cat that is friendly enough to come and be petted by visitors. Not to mention, I had the best pecan pie I have ever tasted, or shall ever taste, at Mama Dip’s. Don’t even try telling me there’s better pecan pie elsewhere, or even anything as good as Mama Dip’s pie. It’s no use, I’ve had a taste and I’ve been converted. Ganesh and his buddy have been building up this pie over many conversations and yet even with all their abundant praise and talk of crack as the secret ingredient, they did not oversell this pie.

The fried chicken was excellent as well by the way. It’s a good thing we spent the rest of that Saturday walking around the UNC campus after that lunch or the good food would have sent me into a stupor. And then I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the Spaetzle we had at our friends’ house that night. All in all, a wonderful weekend. Travel truly does help make you more expansive. Um, I mean it broadens the mind and offers new experiences.

* As for the AC, which was fixed before the trip back, those nice folks at the AAA Service Center certainly weren’t kidding when they promised that the cost of fixing the compressor would not exceed $850, the amount they first quoted. The bill came to just $849.33 in the end. What a savings.

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