We’ve hit the homestretch of the trip. Each day brings with it a few more aches and pains. We’ve had a lot of great food, but as you can imagine, when you’re doing nothing but driving, running, eating and sleeping, the grind can take a toll on your stomach. Brad’s presence has really helped with the mental aspect of this trip for me. When I’m by myself, the end of the trip hurdles are much greater. We obviously both miss our wives and kids, our work email queue gets a little longer each day, but we’ve continued to push each other each day. As we drove from Raleigh to Charlotte, our car, that is way too smart for us gave us a hint that we needed to slow down a bit in Charlotte. With Brad driving, I’m surprised that our car didn’t notify him with, “Is that really a dance move? Oh my!”
Our day in Charlotte was just what we needed. Besides the time we spent in Atlanta upon arriving, Charlotte is really the only big city on the trip. The energy of the city gave us a jolt and the sunny and 72 weather was great as well. Brad was very excited for Charlotte, because he has spent a great deal of time in the city with one of Ernst & Young’s clients. We arrived in the Queen City at close to 10:30am and immediately checked into our Plaza Midwood Airbnb spot for the evening. More about our gracious host later. We grabbed an Uber downtown (excuse me, Uptown), shared a quick sandwich and began running. The route’s start point for the day was at the Queen Charlotte statue. Charlotte and its resident county received its name in honor of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who had become queen consort of Great Britain the year before the city’s founding. While I may be partial to my former Queen City of Cincinnati, Charlotte sure is pretty. I thanked my pal Mike Hyatt again and remembered that Mike and I were able to hang out in Charlotte this past January.
A second nickname for the city of Charlotte derives from the American Revolutionary War, when British commander General Cornwallis occupied the city but was driven out by hostile residents, prompting him to write that Charlotte was “a hornet’s nest of rebellion,” leading to the nickname The Hornet’s Nest. While we’re at it, can we all agree that it was a great move for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats franchise to change their nickname back to the Hornets? Speaking of the Hornets, this is where they play – Time Warner Cable Arena. I thanked fellow Phi Delt Nick Scalice. Nick was the first individual initiated into our chapter at Florida Atlantic University. That’s a big deal! His leadership was an integral part of the group’s success.
No stop in Charlotte would be complete without a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. If you’ve never been to a NASCAR race, you should go. I went to the Brickyard 400 years back and had a blast. Iron Phi now has a fun connection to NASCAR. The individual who has raised the second most money for the program is Ben Kennedy, a NASCAR driver. Ben is also the grandson of the founders of NASCAR. Pretty cool, eh? When he became an Iron Phi, he slapped the logo on the side of his car for the next race. Here’s another fun story. This January, Phi Delta Theta had its General Officers Conference in Charlotte. The NASCAR Hall of Fame ceremony was going on at the same time, and our hotel was housing many of the guests. A few of our attendees took pictures with Richard Petty among others. It was great. I thanked Tom & Colleen Good again at the Hall of Fame.
Just up the road was the Wells Fargo Eastern Headquarters. Charlotte is full of bankers, and I was able to see one of my favorite ones later that night. More on this later in the post, but I thanked Shane & Jenna Omann at the stop. Jenna works for Wells Fargo and just had her first child just a few weeks back! I grew up across the street from Jenna, and I consider her one of my little sisters.
The next stop was an awesome one. In front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art stands the famous Disco Chicken. There was no better person to thank than my Dance Marathon-loving pal Jamison Arends. One of the most philanthropic guys I know, Jamison and I link up for breakfast or lunch when he comes back to Ames.
The next stop was directly next door. The Mint Museum is a leading, innovative museum of international art and design committed to engaging and inspiring all members of the global community. I thanked Matt & Jessi Good again for their donation.
Just up the road, we arrived at Bank of America Stadium, home to the NFL’s Charlotte Panthers. The city is high on the Panthers right now as they are 8-0 in the 2015 campaign. I thanked my second parents Roger & Paula Griffith. Charlotte holds a special place in their heart with their daughter (Jenna) living in the city. The Griffiths were in town just a few weeks ago to see their newest granddaughter. We learned later that night that Roger just left town a few days ago. It would have been fun to cross paths with him.
On the other side of the stadium, we found another grand entrance to the stadium. I capitalized on a Runner’s Choice to thank my sister-in-law’s dogs. Who knew dogs were equipped to make online donations, but I support their technological advancement. Jadee’s greyhounds are awesome, and I felt that they’d appreciate a giant statue of a cat.
Our next stop was BB&T Ballpark, the home of the Charlotte Knights, a Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Two friendly women let us in for a picture. I thanked Shane & Jenna once again for their donation.
Across the street was an incredible view of the Charlotte skyline. I really enjoy the crown-looking top on the city’s tallest building. It’s quite fitting. Did you know that 33 other U.S. cities are in some way nicknamed “The Queen City”? I learned something new today! I thanked Suzanne Alexander again for her donation.
We then ran to Johnson & Wales University, a university known for its culinary arts. We ran past many students dressed in their chef’s attire. I thanked Meghan Tallakson again. Meghan went to college in Charlotte (UNC-Charlotte), so I thought that this stop was somewhat fitting!
The Fourth Ward in Charlotte is filled with immaculate homes and great architecture. The stretch of our run through the Fourth Ward was a treat. I thanked Michael Curry again for his donation.
Within the Fourth Ward is the Elmwood Cemetery, a cemetery with a great view. I thanked my colleague Tucker Barney. Tucker leads the Fraternity’s expansion arm, and he spends his time starting new colonies for the organization. I had his job a few years back, and it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.
We then prepared for the longest stretch of our run out to the thriving NoDa district, home to a number of breweries. We arrived at NoDa Brewing Company. Unfortunately, it was closed, but I did capture this picture to thank my former colleague Keith Wysocki. Keith and I have many great memories together working on Phi Delt expansion, and I love visiting him in Lincoln, Nebraska when I can. If you ever need a rundown on the Kentucky Derby, Keith is your man for horsey information.
We finished at Heist Brewery in NoDa. We sat down for a few drinks to celebrate our 6-mile run. I thanked Taylor & Haley Abel. Haley is another Griffith and my other little sister. The Abels live in Iowa City with their two dogs and adorable daughter Ellie. They are also visitors to Charlotte to see Jenna.
I want to specifically thank Katherine Bruce and the folks at Run For Your Life. Katherine so graciously equipped the two of us with Thunder Road Marathon shirts (along with some other goodies) for our run. The long-sleeve shirts were perfect for today’s weather, and we wore them with pride.
We cleaned up and headed over to Midwood Smokehouse to pick up our dinner for the night. We had made dinner plans with Jenna & Shane, and the BBQ pickup was a phenomenal idea. I want to thank Stephanie Kalish at Midwood Smokehouse for graciously filling our bellies with some of the best BBQ in the country. If you don’t eat BBQ in Charlotte, you’re missing out.
Now you know why. So good!
I even made a new friend with my BBQ ribs – Jenna and Shane’s awesome Great Dane Daisy. I felt very much at home with a dog at my side trying to get a little something something. The only difference was that Daisy could look me in the eye and make me feel worse about not feeding her.
It was so great to reconnect with Jenna & Shane, and I’m thankful that they had us over just weeks after having their first baby. I love chatting with new parents, and these two are going to be amazing role models for little Hazel Sue. Shane works at Quail Hollow Club, an amazing golf course in Charlotte and home to the 2017 PGA Championship. Hazel was prepared to watch her Buffalo Bills play that night.
I also want to thank our amazing Airbnb host Kristin Zupancic for hosting us in her unique Midwood Plaza loft-syle condo. Her condo is amazing and filled with eclectic decorations.
The Plaza Midwood location was just perfect for the day, and her condo had everything we needed for a comfortable evening. Have I told you recently how much I love Airbnb?