When we awoke in Charlotte it was almost lunch time, so we had breakfast. Greg made egg, cheese, and (he’s Italian) salami sandwiches. After eating, we left all of our stuff at Greg’s and jumped in the car to visit my cousin, Dustin, in Durham. After two and a half hours of driving, we were checking out his apartment and discussing late lunch/early dinner. Tom had been bringing up BBQ lately and it was on my mind by now, so I asked Dustin to look up a place. After reading some online reviews, he decided on The Q Shack.
This next part is a total non sequitur, so bear with me. While living in New Jersey for two years, I cut back on my fast food consumption quite a bit. Sarah doesn’t like eating it, and I really can’t defend it when she is cooking meals that are much better. Right before this 100 day adventure, she went home for a week to visit with her family. This left me in the position of having an opportunity—nay, a mandate—to drive around and try some of the places that I had been seeing for the past two years but had never tried. One of these was Chick-Fil-A; I (having been brain washed by movies like Super Size Me and people like Tom and Sarah) went with the “healthy option,” the Spicy Chicken Cool Wrap. Big mistake. Dry and bland, this was the worst wrap ever.
This is when Larry, my boss at work, introduced me to the fast food rule of thumb. After a long discussion, we expanded and clarified the rule. It states the following: “When ordering at an establishment where a number and a picture are used to describe the meal options, never go beyond first three the first time you order food. Those items, after all, are the ones that made the restaurant so famous to begin with. For the purposes of defining “first three,” different sizes of the same sandwich (like quarter pounder and double quarter pounder) count only as one option.” Live by it.
The menu at the Q Shack didn’t quite fit the number/picture rule, but by the layout, I could tell that it applied here, so I went with the first item, ordering the “Smoked Pork Butt [sic]” plate. Dustin got the same in sandwich form. Sarah and Tom didn’t realize it, but they inadvertently followed the rule by getting the second item on the menu, The Chile Rubbed Beef Brisket, which they got sliced on a “Texas Toast” sandwich (shown here). Not this time, smoked beef sausage. You are far too far down the menu for a first time experience.
Everything was excellent. I had a “Cheer Wine” a red soda that reminded me of Code Red Mountain Dew, and everyone had sides of hushpuppies - essentially just deep-fried dough. These were the first hush puppies that I have ever enjoyed, but they were still a little bland. We finished and went to see some buildings on Duke University, which had some of the most interesting masonry I have seen. The rectangle cut rocks were all different colors and sizes but fit together in a very orderly fashion. For the chapel, this came together to make an absolutely massive and beautiful building.
After checking out this corner of campus, we ventured over to The Sarah P. Duke Gardens. There were all types of trees, bushes and flowers. We thought it was particularly interesting to walk through the bamboo forest area. Tom was taking so many pictures we almost lost him.
After the gardens it was errand time. We went to a sport store for a new roof bag for our camping stuff, picked up some needed fuses to keep the electronics in the car up and running, and Dustin was kind enough to solder a new cigarette lighter adapter onto our spare GPS, getting it up and running once more. He used the opportunity to show off his multiple soldering irons, neither of which needed to be plugged in (and one of which didn’t get hot), some heat-shrink tubing, used in place of electrical tape for professional wire repairs, a free Iphone that was given to him when the screen broke (he repaired it) and some other odds and ends. Collecting these types of things and tinkering with them is a hobby of both his and mine, and has helped on the road trip immensely.
After this we said our goodbyes (thanks for everything, Dustin) and got back on the road towards Charlotte (stopping at a regional fast food spot, Bojangle’s, which left much to be desired), Greg called and said we would be going to a piano bar. We were ready to take it easy and agreed that it would be fine to sit back and sip cocktails while listening to some light piano tunes in the classic piano bar setting. This is not what we got.
We went to Howl at the Moon at the Epicenter and walked in to quite a scene. There were plastic pails of cocktails at many of the tables and Jell-O shots in oversized plastic syringes with a little whipped cream on the outside. Before long, Love Roller Coaster started playing the entire female wait staff climbed on a table in front of the stage and danced. Here are some of the songs that were played by the band throughout the night:
I’m Just a Girl – No Doubt
Summer of '69 – Bryan Adams
Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-A-Lot
Freebird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye
Sexyback – Justin Timberlake
Several words in most of the songs were changed to make them more risqué. The whole night was punctuated by the bands antics with a bachelorette party and, Greg’s favorite, one of the guy performers was playing keytar.
On the way back to the car (Greg was kind enough to be designated driver) we got extra excellent sausages from a street vendor.