Monday, April 22, 2013

Staycation - White Water Center and NASCAR

Thursday after work I kicked off the start of a four-day staycation.  I've always been the type of person who heads out of town for vacation, leaving the second I can escape.  Charlotte has so much to offer in entertainment though, so this time I wanted to stay planted right here at home.  Since the family was in town for the previous evening's Taste of the Nation, they hung out to play in Charlotte as well.

Mission number one was to explore the US National White Water Center.  Can you believe I've been in Charlotte for nearly two years, yet this was my first visit the the outdoor adventure park.  Aside from paying $5 to park, there is no expense to explore the endless hiking and biking trails that wind throughout the property and along the banks of the Catawba River.  Check out the white water rapids!  I'll definitely be back when the water is a bit warmer to ride the rapids.

Bailey played the role of fearless leader and led us on a two hour hike through the woods.  Occasionally we came upon obstacles which tested our balance and coordination.  Mom opted to be the photographer while Dad and I had a bit of fun.

The weather couldn't have been any more perfect.  The only problem we encountered were HUNDREDS for cankerworms which hung from tree branches and were instantly all over our heads, arms, and shirts.  You can read all about the infestation in Charlotte here, but suffice it to say, no one wants these critters crawling on them!

By the end of the afternoon, we were officially feeling one with nature (literally thanks to the covering of worms) and ready for showers and dinner.  The Charlotte staycation featured lots of great eats, so I'll save all of the food pictures for a separate post coming soon.

Dad's birthday happen to coincide with my vacation, so on Friday I gifted him with an afternoon spent at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  After years of Mom and I teasing him about watching endless hours of cars driving circles around the track, he has remained a die-hard NASCAR fan.  Most recently, much to my embarrassment, he even acquired a Dale Earnhardt Jr t-shirt.  I'm pretty sure there is a rule that he is only allowed to wear it inside on race day, otherwise never being seen in public with such a travesty.

As expected, Dad seemed to have a fantastic time immersing himself in the history, memorabilia, and simulations.  I actually enjoyed the experience quite a bit too.  Did you know NASCAR originated from men trying to build cars to outrace police when they were being chased for producing/buying/selling moonshine?

The simulators were our favorite part.  You begin with practice sessions to perfect handling, shifting gears, and cornering, and then ultimately progress to a five minute in-car simulator.  As expected, Dad put all of his years of knowledge on the line and came across the finish in first place among the ten drivers.  Thanks to my competitive nature, I seized my race-car driver talents and came in a respectable second.

Judging by the big grin on his face, I'd say the NASCAR Hall of Fame was a perfect birthday gift for this guy.  And just to add a bit more excitement, Mom splurged and bought him another shirt to add to his collection!  

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