Return to the Road, Part 3: Local Landmarks and Regional Delicacies

As part of my desire to milk my road trip content to the largest extent possible, I have been periodically posting odds and sods from my recent journey to the Carolinas. Part One featured crabs and a Civil War landmark, while Part Two highlighted regional fast food and North Carolina baseball history.

And that leads us to — what else? — part 3. This chapter starts with Day 5 of the trip, which started in Durham and ended in nearby Burlington. Let’s repeat that, this time in bold:

Day 5 — Durham to Burlington

I attended an eventful game on Saturday evening at palatial Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), and followed that up the next morning by dropping in on the team’s former home. That would be the similarly-named but drastically different Durham Athletic Park (The DAP), which housed various incarnations of the club from 1926-94.

 

The ballpark is world-famous as a result of having been featured prominently in the classic film Bull Durham, but fell into disuse after the Bulls re-located to the DBAP.  Minor League Baseball, in partnership with the city of Durham, have since renovated the facility and it is now used as a training center for all manner of baseball jobs (more on that HERE).

The DAP also serves as the home field for a variety of youth and recreational leagues (including the excellent Durham Long Ball Program), and on the morning I stopped by I was expecting to tour the facility while one of these games was going on. But, as I later found out, all of the day’s activities had been canceled due to the heat.

Therefore, I was left to wander the perimeter of the stadium by my lonesome. Truly, there wasn’t a soul in sight.

The area surrounding the stadium had a somnambulant vibe as well, fitting for such a soporific Sunday morning.

But at least there were some unexpected patches of city-owned greenery.

Durham to Burlington (home of the Appalachian League Royals) is only about 35 miles, resulting in one of the lightest travel days of the trip. I took my time on this particular journey, first stopping for a late breakfast at reader recommended fast food chain Biscuitville.

The ambiance was a bit lacking, but I was able to obtain a country-fried steak biscuit, grits, and a sweet tea for the eminently reasonable price of $3.94.  I really wish I had this in front of me right now:

Upon leaving Biscuitville, I decided to locate some of this “Cheerwine” soda that had been so enthusiastically recommended to me by this blog’s contingent of North Carolina-based readers. I stopped at three convenience stores along the way and while none stocked Cheerwine I did nonetheless obtain some regional snacks.

For instance, I learned that Tom’s Potato Chips offers separate “Vinegar and Salt” and “Salt and Vinegar” flavor combinations.

But the above items were downright healthy compared to this devastating 1-2: Fatback and Fried Pork Skins from Carolina Country Snacks. Even though fatback is hard, unhealthy, and tough to eat I really like the stuff. I ate the whole bag that evening, yet another shameful solitary moment in a lifetime full of them.

And while not specifically a southern treat, nothing washes it all down better than a Mello Yello (in the absence of the still-elusive Cheerwine, of course).

From here to eternity

I think the main reason I keep buying this stuff is because I’m in love with the logo, which implies that the double-Ls in both words carry on past the label and into infinity.

I was soon distracted in my Cheerwine search by a series of billboards for a so-called “shopper’s heaven” by the name of J.R’s. The first billboard I saw advertised the store as the “USA’s Largest Cigarette Dealer,” but it only got more interesting from there. “Everything From Brassieres to Chandeliers!” was my personal favorite billboard, with “Awesome!” being a close second. It was duty to make a pit stop.

Shopper’s heaven included cigarettes, dolls, books…


And, of course, Sarah Palin toilet paper.

I was very proud of my personal J.R. haul, which probably sums up me as a person more than I’d care to admit.

Pretty self-explanatory, I think, except for the fact that those “Mr. B’s”  peanuts are deep-fried and meant to be eaten shell and all! As a regional snack food aficionado I was very happy to have found them, but it’s an idea that is better in theory than in practice.

The next stop on my detour-laden journey was Cookout, yet another reader-recommended regional fast food joint. The place turned out to be a “Double Drive-Thru,” with no indoor seating.

I ordered a “slaw dog” and — yes! — a Cheerwine float.

My first Cheerwine experience, albeit one compromised by vanilla ice cream. I still don’t know how to describe Cheerwine — it’s like a milder-tasting Cherry Coke with a hint of Dr. Pepper, but with a sparkling effervescence all its own.

Thank You God For America!

Cheerwine appeared in my post on that evening’s Burlington Royals game, a dispatch which also included this image of the team’s men’s room:

However, I have since been informed, by reader Matt Campbell, that the Thome nameplate has gone missing! Observe:

If anyone has any info on what happened to the Thome nameplate, then please get in touch!

But in happier news, it is worth noting that the Burlington women’s bathroom is decorated in similarly appealing fashion. Reader Rebecca Campbell (yes, Matt’s wife) was kind enough to send along these images of a land in which I had not dared to tread:

Could all of this lead to an extensive series of “Bathrooms of the Appalachian League” blog posts? I can only hope! If anyone can assist with this endeavor, then you know where to find me — alone and in front of a computer:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

5 Comments

Stifling my laughter at the way you incorporated us into this entry makes it hard to compose my thoughts. Here’s an interesting tidbit about Becky & I that somehow I associate with our bathroom photos: our son was born in the front seat of our car. I assure your readers, we are some of the most sophisticated North Carolinians around! I’m a little creeped out that our B-Royals/Indians bathroom shots are identical except the Thome name and the 3-4 inches difference in our height. As I’ve shown previously, I can talk all day about NC baseball so here are some quick thoughts:

-We went to Kinston for the first time last week. Totally. Awesome. That place has to have another team in there immediately. Greensboro is now my only Carolinas pro ball park that I have yet to visit.
-You had me smiling proudly as I read this…until I got to the JR Outlet part. That’s about as bad as it gets here. You really are at the bottom level there. Mid-Atlantic folk can liken it to Ollie’s…for poor people. (PS, I grew up with people who eat regular old salted peanuts with the shell on).
-If you like Mello Yello, you need to try Sun Drop the next time you’re here. It’s what would happen if Mtn Dew & Mello Yello had a baby, covered it in sugar, and made it live in a sugar cube igloo. I can’t stand Cheerwine, but I like it better than Sun Drop. If you’re a soda fan though, it’s one to try.
-Despite my rookie league ballpark bathroom photos and car/delivery room stories, I’ve pretty much lived in the city all my life….which is not where you find Biscuitvilles. Thus I’ve never been, but from the looks of that meal I’ll need to stop the next time I’m between towns.
-The one thing you missed at Cook Out: milkshakes. There are none like them. Fun fact: Cook Out has no official website, and if you want their nutritional info you have to ask (and get lucky with the employee knowing where they are). You want a corn dog or some chicken nuggets AS YOUR SIDE to a combo meal? No problem. Hands down the best fast food you can buy, though, and yes I’ve been to an In N Out.
-Again, if you return to western NC (my favorite part) remind me to get you into a What A Burger. People from Texas think they know what I mean but they don’t. Much smaller operation than the chain and much tastier too. There you can get a Witchdoctor to drink, which would bring your soda adventures full circle.
Matt

Thanks for sharing. While I love reading your stories about MiLB, I always really enjoy your road trip adventures. A great read, as usual!
– Malcolm

http://theballparkguide.mlblogs.com/

Worth Reading once agian Ben! Cant wait to check some of this stuff out for myself!

Pingback: Return to the Road Part 4: Looking to the Future, Wrapping Up the Past « Ben's Biz Blog

Pingback: The Year in Ballpark Food, Part II « Ben's Biz Blog

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