Waking up each morning on my running trips is always an adventure in itself. Sometimes, it’s in the middle of the night, and I have to do a quick analysis of where I am. Other times, it’s stepping down off the bed wondering which part of my body is going to scream at me to lay back down. The best moments are when I open the shades to see the view of the property in the sunlight for the first time. Such was the case on Wednesday morning when I was welcomed by the surroundings of Sunset Beach, North Carolina. It was great motivation for the day.
I spent a little time before we left walking around the property. I found the outdoor showers that I would have completely taken advantage of a few months earlier. The Sunset Inn is awesome!
We departed at 7:15 toward the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill). Our goal for the day was to run a 5K (3.1 miles) on the campuses of North Carolina State, Duke and North Carolina. The day before, I totally forgot to thank my colleague Debbie Smith with a Runner’s Choice. Have no fear, we found some awesomeness just a few minutes up the road in Wilmington, North Carolina. We stopped at the USS North Carolina to play a little game of Battleship.
Our drive was three hours to Raleigh, North Carolina, our home base for the day. We arrived at 10:30 and checked in to Chez Cain, changed, and picked up a college friend Ross Cain, our running companion for the day. Ross lives just a mile or so from North Carolina State University’s campus, the start of our running route for the day. College campuses in the fall are the best, and we had amazing weather. Our first stop on campus was the Free Expression Tunnel, a fun thoroughfare where individuals can paint whatever they’d like. I thanked Anna Lombardo, and I found it a bit symbolic. I don’t know Anna, but she made a donation to my trip. I always have a few of these types of donations each year, and it’s always encouraging. Thank you Anna!
Close to the tunnel is the Brickyard, a main hub on campus. Students congregate at the Brickyard, and it is always filled with activity. There are always a few main places on campus where you can get a true feel for the campus culture. The Brickyard is that at North Carolina State. I thanked my Iowa State fraternity brother Clayton and his wife Jess. Clayton is a military man, and he lives nearby in North Carolina, serving the country. There was no better day to thank Clayton than on Veterans Day. Proud of you man.
Speaking of Veterans Day, we came upon one awesome tribute on campus. It made for a dandy picture and a moment of reflection.
A highlight of the day was meeting up with my former colleague Ben Dictus! I love this guy, and it is always a pleasure seeing him. Tillie and I had dinner with Ben and his wife Cass in Portland earlier this year when we traveled the West Coast. Ben and Cass moved to Durham earlier this year as Ben is pursuing his PhD at North Carolina State. They are also building a tiny house on a property in Durham, and I love that they are doing this. We stopped at the Phi Delt house on campus to say thanks.
Our next stop was the Memorial Bell Tower, an impressive structure that welcomes people to campus. I thanked my Aunt Sue and her husband Keith. I get to see Sue & Keith a number of times throughout the year at Iowa State football tailgates. We were with them a few weeks back at my cousin’s baby shower. Thank you Keith & Sue!
As mentioned before, our running companion for the day was Ross Cain, a college friend. During the summer of 2001, Brad and I were recruitment chairmen for Phi Delta Theta at Iowa State, and we attempted to recruit Ross. While Ross decided to join another fraternity on campus, we had many a good time during our time at Iowa State. He works for John Deere in Raleigh and is a great advocate for the city. I love being around people who love where they live. He took us to a lunch spot with a view!
Following a light lunch, we headed towards Durham. On the way, we stopped at an area that is home to two massive stadiums – PNC Arena and Carter-Finley Stadium. PNC Arena is the home of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and Carter-Finley Stadium is where the North Carolina State University Wolfpack play football. At PNC, I thanked Randy & Lori Good again.
We made our way into Carter-Finley for a picture. I love empty college football stadiums. They are a stark contrast from the atmosphere on game day. I thanked Jay & Heidi Longnecker again.
We then drove to Duke University, a campus that we knew would provide some serious beauty for our next 5K. If you have never visited Duke, it is a must for those who love college campuses. Nestled amongst the massive Duke Forest, Duke’s campus is very much a source of pride for the community. We entered the Sarah P. Duke Gardens to start our run.
I definitely mixed up two donor stops at Duke, but it all worked out in the end. At the Gardens, I thanked my good friends Brad & Kelly Becker. Brad is a fraternity brother from Iowa State who now lives in Kansas City. It was fun to communicate back and forth with Brad during the MLB playoffs. Brad and Kelly live in Kansas City and are Royals fans. Brad is also one of those guys who I truly love spending time with. We laugh a lot, and the two of us seem to see much common humor in life. Brad and Kelly have an adorable son (Bowen).
At the heart of Duke’s campus is the Duke Chapel. Every campus has its signature landmark, and the chapel is just that for Duke. The campus was under quite a bit of construction including the chapel. Unfortunately, we were not able to go inside. I thanked my Iowa State fraternity brother Andy Max. Born and raised in the ‘Doah (Shenandoah, IA), Andy’s presence is always an enjoyable one. We have a common love of Chevy Chase and Christmas Vacation. One of the funniest guys I know, some of my most hilarious memories from Iowa State include Andy.
Down the way from the chapel, Brad caught some familiar Greek letters in the distance. Duke University is the home of Phi Delta Theta’s North Carolina Alpha Chapter. We stopped for a quick pic, and I thank Ben Dictus once again.
Our next stop was one that we had been looking forward to all day. As a college basketball fan, a trip to Duke would not be complete without visiting Krzyzewskiville and Cameron Indoor Stadium, home to the Duke Blue Devil basketball team. Basketball is life around these parts, and the program at Duke is a huge part of the campus culture. If you’re a basketball fan, you know that Krzyzewskiville (named after basketball coaching icon Mike Krzyzewskiville) is where Duke students camp out before games.
We walked inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. The building is open to the public. Normally, the size of athletic stadiums stick out on campus. This is not the case for Cameron Indoor. It’s tiny, and it blends in with the campus building around it.
One can normally stand on Coach K Court unless practice is in session. Upon entering, we soon realized that practice was in session. We were greeted by these signs at every entrance to the court.
The reigning NCAA champs were practicing just inside, and I couldn’t help but break a small rule to capture a picture. I convinced Ross to bypass the sign with me to take the picture. I thanked my Iowa State fraternity brother Josh Lembrich in somewhat of a haste. Our effort was fruitful as you can see Coach K just over my left shoulder. Josh and I are former roommates, and he now works for Molson Coors in Golden, Colorado. Josh is a jet setter and has the opportunity to travel the world for the company. I enjoy following his travels, and I can always get a great recommendation from him.
Many know that I’m a fan of four-legged friends, so I couldn’t pass up a stop at the Duke Lemur Center. The Duke Lemur Center is an 85-acre sanctuary for rare and endangered prosimian primates, located just off campus at Duke. It is the largest sanctuary for prosimian primates in the world. While we didn’t have time to take the tour, I did stop to thank Mike & Deb Sedlacek again.
We jumped back in the car and made the short trek to Chapel Hill, the home of the University of North Carolina. Another beautiful campus, UNC was draped with fall colors and a youthful environment. We began our run on one of the main quads.
At the end of the quad is the most recognizable structure on the UNC campus – The Old Well. I didn’t plan it this way, but my thank you at this stop was my second thank you of the day to a few of my favorite military veterans. Jadee is Tillie’s oldest sister and an Air Force veteran. Jadee and her husband Jason, also an Air Force vet who has climbed the ranks quickly, just moved to Tampa, Florida to work at a new base. As many military families do, they’ve lived in a number of places throughout their lives. I’m very proud of Jason & Jadee.
We then ran through the UNC Arboretum, a beautiful sanctuary within campus. It was filled with students studying, couples walking and visitors taking pictures. I thanked my sister-in-law Lauren and her boyfriend Tom. Lauren recently moved from Des Moines to Minnesota for work, and Aunt Lauren stayed with us for a few months after she sold her house in Des Moines. We loved having her around, and Cal greatly looked forward to having his friend Tom visit the house.
Our next stop was Kenan Memorial Stadium, home to the Tar Heel football team. I love that many Southeastern football stadiums are right on campus. Upon entering the stadium, we got a kick out of the fact that the stadium is home to many stair workouts by students. A great place to get a good workout! I thanked my cousins Adam & Lindsey once again.
As a sports fan, when you think of the University of North Carolina, you think basketball. Michael Jordan spent his college days here, and iconic coach Dean Smith created a basketball hotbed in Chapel Hill. While I can’t say that the Dean Smith Center is the greatest looking basketball arena in the country, UNC fans will probably tell you that the product on the court matters more than what the arena looks like. I thanked Tom & Colleen Good, my uncle and aunt. We see Tom & Colleen often throughout the year at Iowa State athletic events, and I always love stopping by to see them. I always rave about Colleen’s cooking/baking, and Tom keeps me posted on the year’s harvest. Family is important to me, and the greatest luxury of living in Ames is easy access to seeing Goods often.
Speaking of Goods, next door was the Carolina Basketball Museum, and I thanked my cousins Matt & Jessi Good. Matt is a huge sports fan and an avid collector of sports memorabilia. His collection is amazing, and they always like to sponsor athletic-related stops during my trips. Matt works for Kingland Systems in Ames and Jessi works out of their house in Clear Lake for IBM. They have two young children who are becoming quite the talented musicians.
Our final stretch of the day’s run was basically uphill for a few miles. Brad expressed one of the trip’s memorable quotes, “Man, I see the hill, but where’s the chapel?” The hits don’t stop from this guy. We made it to the Phi Delt house. Three stops today and three Phi Delt houses, all sponsored by Ben Dictus.
I want to take a few seconds to brag about our North Carolina Beta Chapter at UNC. Each year, the chapter partners with Pi Beta Phi sorority to host the Eve Carson 5K. You may remember the story about Eve Carson, the student body president at UNC who was murdered a few years back. Eve was a Pi Phi, and both chapters work together to host the 5K each year. The 5K has grown significantly, and this year they raised close to $200,000 for the foundation that was setup in Eve’s name. The event is truly remarkable, and it says a lot about the young men and women involved. You may have noticed the white shirt that I was wearing today to celebrate the 5K. I want to thank the chapter’s philanthropy chairman Parker Younts for sending a few shirts to Brad and me. It was a great addition to today’s run.
Our final stop of the day was the amazing Carolina Inn. The gorgeous inn sits in the heart of campus. I thanked Norma Friedrich again for her donation.
Overall, we ran 10+ miles during the day. We outdid ourselves a bit, but that’s really the theme of the trip. Three campuses in one day was awesome! We drove back to Raleigh, showered, and headed to The Raleigh Times. Brad and I agree that we had our most enjoyable meal of the trip at The Raleigh Times. The place is awesome. Over the years, the restaurant and bar has taken over adjacent buildings to grow the restaurant. If you look at the space from the outside, it looks like a few different restaurants. Inside, each space brings a different flavor to the restaurant.
I enjoyed my food and drink so much, that I forgot take pictures of it! So just do some imagining with me for a bit. We started with North Carolina pulled pork nachos and our three dinner orders were Quack & Mac (mac ‘n’ cheese with duck), a braised beef borrito and a french dip pho sandwich. Yeah, delightful, and our waitress and host were amazingly kind and funny. I want to specifically thank Samantha Haten for hosting us for an amazing dining experience.
On to Charlotte, North Carolina.