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Not just Bull Durham anymore

We spent a quick 48 hours in Durham, North Carolina this past weekend. There’s alot to do in a small space and time.

Here’s a recap of our experiences and our recommendations for your next visit to Durham.

First, make note of RDU. That is the acronym for Raleigh – Durham airport. Delta and Southwest are both main carriers that fly in and out of the Raleigh Durham Triangle area daily. In fact, we had direct flights on smaller planes through Delta at a very affordable rate.

RDU is small and concise airport. It has two terminals and you can easily navigate them quickly and efficiently.  Everyone from TSA to the Starbucks team are friendly, representing true Southern hospitality. No need to run through here. You can see from one end of the terminal to the other. You’d have a hard time missing your gate a RDU.


Since we’re from Detroit, and I spent quite a bit of time marketing the Ford Mustang, Avis rental car was more than happy to rent us a bright cherry red new 3.8 Liter. Good thing they didn’t give us a 5.0! We had a hard enough time not putting the pedal down on the smaller engine. Avis is a short seven minute bus ride away from the terminal. The staff was friendly and very easy to deal with. They had us in and out and well on our way before we could say “Ford Mustang”.

Once we were there and settled in the vehicle, waze help direct us out to where our family lives. After a nice light breakfast together, Jake and I hopped back in the car to check out the area. Armed with a great list of things to do, we tried to pack in as much as possible.

Our first stop was the Duke Gardens at Duke University. When I was in Junior High, I was a huge fan of the Duke basketball team and Coach K. (Sorry to hear they lost the game this past Saturday.)

It was great to walk around the Gardens, view the foliage, watch the ducks on the pond.

Once you walk through the gardens, you can easily get to the Quad on campus and also see the Duke University Chapel. Now mind you, I did not find this to be a chapel at all. In my opinion, it was not small or chapel like. In fact, it’s a very European style Gothic cathedral. When you look up at the ceiling, it has large soaring arches down the center aisle above the pews. It also contains absolutely fabulous works of stain glass, adorned with small details including descriptions in the glass that look just like hand writing within the actual glass. Each pane has a description of which biblical verse the artwork is representing.

Also on display, was a great set of more contemporary art work by Sadao Watanabe (1913-1996).  His was a Buddhist, but transitioned to Christianity. His artform was a native Japanese-style stencil art that was formally used to dye kimonos. His goal was to communicate Christian beliefs to Japanese through artwork that they understood and were more familiar with.

Sadao Watanabe Permanent workation art artist duke university chapel

We spent quite a bit of time oogling at the ceiling, artworks and the construction that reminded us a lot of Europe, however needed to wander back to our car.

Along the way, we saw some amazing installations of the human form interpreted through wood and twigs. We took several photographs inside the sculptures to represent the size of the artwork in comparison to a person. (For reference, I’m about 5′ 9″.)

Fantastic, fun and interactive, that’s exactly what sculptures and art should be. Museums of the world, take note, we humans want to participate in art! We want to feel it touch it and be surrounded by it… Not just see it hung on a wall from a distance.

After our wander about the gardens, we hopped in the car and drove over to Ninth Street. It’s a quaint shopping and dining strip near the town. We checked out a small shop called Vintage Home South. The owner has an interesting offering. She collects older furniture and refinishes it. VHS gives the pieces a whole new look and feel. A more modern southern shabby chic with light shades reflecting the current home trends. She has beautiful mirrors made out of former doorways, denim sofas, and lots of other small items for your home. I could have easily brought a few things home. Too bad everything I loved would not fit in my suitcase.

Of course, around the corner, Guitar Jake found High Strung. High Strung specializes in vintage violin, cello, and guitar sales and lessons. We went in to check out the Laravees on display and meet some new musicians. A very friendly bunch over there with lots of talented folks. They’re also offering ukulele lessons these days, just like our friend, Chris Brantley, very popular and fun.

We decided that we would need to move on to Downtown Durham in order to see what’s going on in the small city. We drove by their baseball stadium, that is home to the minor-league team, the Durham Bulls. You may remember the film, Bull Durham from the late 1980’s. This film was indeed shot in Durham, North Carolina, downtown and the surrounding areas. Very fun to see the stadium. Unfortunately, the weather in January was not friendly to a live baseball game.

Just a couple of blocks away from the stadium, we found a great joint serving multiple flavors of ciders. Recently, due to some auto immune complications, Jake has gone gluten-free. I know, you’re all surprised because we have historically loved our micro breweries. Health must come first. We were excited to find a local place that brews only cider.

Bull City Ciderworks has more than 15 flavors of cider on draft incorporating varying degrees of sweetness, dry, savory, vegatable and fruity flavors. I overheard lots of folks say, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m into cider.” Once they tasted a few of the samples, they were hooked.

Jake and I appreciated the affordable flights you could get with either four or five different options of flavors. We tried not to duplicate our flavors so we could share as many as possible. We did end up leaving with a six pack of their Rhize Up and the Orange you a Hippie bottled versions of their cider. We highly recommend Bull City Ciderworks when you’re in Durham.

Then there is Picnic… BBQ Hog Heaven!

I can’t say enough nice things about the food and the people there. Wyatt, the pitmaster, happened to be a lawyer in the past and gave it all up to pursue his hog heaven dreams of having authentic great pork barbecue.

Now what does that mean? Wyatt has had giant smokers built where he can have four full size sides of hogs smoking at the same time in each smoker. Wyatt also sources these hogs through his partner locally. Although he didn’t say they were “happier than pigs in shit”, I did get him when he told us his hogs live on an actual farm with acreage. The hogs get to forage around in the woods like their ancestors of the past. Because of this partnership, his meat is lean and extremely flavorful. Trust me when I say Picnic is well worth the stop if you’re ever in Durham and want some barbecue.

Northerners, take note, they have vinegar based bbq sauce in the Carolinas.

Hope you have the opportunity to visit Durham, NC sometime in the near future.


A Few Things To Do Austin Texas

Austin from South Congress
View into Downtown Austin from South Congress

The other day, my cousin messaged me and asked if I knew of anything to do in Austin… Of course, I have some great recommendations for thinks to do in Austin. I love it there. It’s been our second home for over ten years.


Austin Capitol at Night
Austin Capitol at Night

Visual treasure
For sights, I really enjoy the architeure of the Texas State Capitol Building on Congress. Also, the bridge on Congress Avenue over Lady Bird Lake at dusk with the bats flying out from their roost.




Plus there are miles of fantastic walking, running and biking trails all along the river in downtown Austin. Loads of places to wander and get in touch with nature.

Melissa's Kung Fu Grip
Melissa’s Kung Fu Grip


Shop til you drop!
South Congress Avenue and 6th Street West of Lamar are great neighborhoods for browsing and window shopping. There are a several uniquely Austin businesses around there where I have found some funky finds. From homegoods to clothing, the shop owners are proud of being Texans and they support their local artists and designers.

Curiosities and randomness in Austin Texas
Curiosities and Randomness

Food & Tunes
On the South Congress side of town, The Continental Bar and Guero’s Taco bar are great places to socialize and also happen to have good live music. Just check what time the band starts online… It’s almost always a good representation of local Texas music.


On Sunday’s the brunch time band at Joe’s Coffee is also awesome. I’ve been to Austin in January when it is freezing rain and there’s nothing happening outside. Rarely though does the cold keep Texans inside when they could be out playing music.

Here’s a little video that is 15 seconds of exactly “What I love about Austin”

Another place that’s got a great band most Saturday nights is called the White Horse & it’s east of I-35 a couple blocks and near 6th Street. Look it up, my friend Dave Insley has a band called the Careless Smokers that usually plays honky tonk swing in there. They also offer dance lessons on Saturday nights. Super good times, not fancy, but as a bonus they have a pool table.

Dave Insley at White Horse Austin
Dave Insley at White Horse Austin

Another great iconic Austin place is the Driskoll Hotel on the famous 6th Street. Even if you’re not staying there, it’s beautiful to have a drink inside in the bar. I’d recommend 6th Street, but only if your college age or into a crazy shot-shot-shot-shot scene. For me, “Dirty 6th” is not really my cup of tea. Generally, I prefer the places that are off the beaten path a bit. Even Antone’s, the icon for live blues music has moved to the East side of I-35. What’s the city coming to?


Great trendy Vietnamese food at a place called Elisabeth Street on First Street (also on the South side)… and as always the Torchy’s Taco Truck would never steer you wrong. Those guys can make tacos out of the most amazing ingrediants. The guys at Torchy’s recently opened a retro dine in taco dive that has a huge bar area and outdoor seating to boot. For those of you familiar with the bygone Austin landmark, Fran’s, you’ll note that Torcy’s Taco is on that same plot of land.

Torchy's Taco
Torchy’s Taco

Another idea is the Whole Foods headquarters store. It’s downtown Austin on the corner of 6th and Lamar. It has an ice rink on the roof. Also enough prepared food to pick up anything your tastebuds fancy for a great lunch on their patio. While you’re there, across the street is one of the only record stores left in the world called Waterloo Records and they have our 7 Million Jigawatts cd on their shelf somewhere. 🙂

Check out Cedar Street in the Warehouse district at night when my pal, Rob Wagner and his band Suede or the Jukebox Junkies are playing.  The place is “inside-outside” and has a totally fab Austin vibe.

A great outdoor concert venue to see major label artists is Stubb’s BBQ.


I would not recommend their bbq, but I do love their sauce. The outdoor stage with the wild west style lean-to beer and bbq stands surrounding the main hill. The stage sits on the edge of some valley would have been stream if the weather ever rained in Texas.


That’s not all!
There’s Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, swimming in Barton Springs, tubing the Colorado River, drive through the Hill Country, take in a pickers circle in Lukenbach, shop till you drop at the San Marcos Outlet Mall… There’s so much to do in Austin. All you really have to do is put your feet on the ground and bring your appetite.

View from the Lamar Walking Bridge
View from the Lamar Walking Bridge
Gorillas in Austin
Gorillas in Austin