Thursday, October 29, 2020

North Carolina Transportation Museum

I don't know why it took us so long to visit the North Carolina Transportation Museum. I've heard good things for years and it's not that far away. The other day, we made a point to visit and the experience did not disappoint.

Located in Spencer, NC, a little over 45 minutes north of uptown Charlotte, the North Carolina Transportation Museum is situated on the site of what was once the Southern Railway's largest steam locomotive repair facility in the southeast. There, you'll find an impressive collection historic buildings and railroad, automotive and aviation relics.

When we went, the museum was still somewhat closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Since then, the indoor exhibits have opened. Either way, I can highly recommend the Transportation Tour, an outdoor walking tour of the museum's 60-acre grounds. This approximately 1-mile loop takes visitors by all of the outdoor historic structures, including an authentic train station built in 1898, the largest remaining roundhouse in North America, a locomotive repair shop and other fun artifacts.

The museum also occasionally offers train rides, like the hugely popular Polar Express during the holidays, and other events. Check the website for upcoming events. Also worth noting, there are restroom facilities available whether you do an indoor or outdoor-only tour.

This was a fun, captivating, active, educational outing. On a pretty day, it's a fun way to spend a couple hours outside discovering new things (that are really quite old!). If you've been meaning to visit, go ahead and make a special trip. You'll be glad you did.

How to get there:
The North Carolina Transportation Museum is located at 1 Samuel Spencer Dr, Spencer, NC 28159.

Don't forget to pack:
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: There's hardly any shade on the museum grounds.
  • Water and snacks: Be prepared; you might stay longer than you planned.
  • Comfortable walking shoes: Sneakers will do.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Charlotte Dog Parks

I didn’t know I was a dog person until we got Pedee. We never had dogs growing up, and I dragged my feet pretty intentionally long after our daughter, who was somehow born loving dogs, started asking for one.

But when the rescue foster family dropped our sweet pup off for a trial-run visit last fall, he quickly won our hearts and I discovered the joys of his energy, enthusiasm, loyalty, companionship and love.

Pedee is the perfect dog for our family. Of course, there was a period of time when he was younger that he couldn't ride in the car for more than 10 minutes without getting sick (how were we to take him on all of our adventures when he couldn't make it across town?!), but his belly settled and now he knows that when we invite him to hop in the van, we're going to end up somewhere fun.

He's a great trail dog, bounding between whoever's leading the pack and whoever's bringing up the rear. He loves exploring, but he loves his people and never ventures too far from us.

For all the exploring we do, we only just recently discovered the delights of public dog parks. We're late to the game, but we realize now how great they are, and there are a number of them around town. Free of charge, these parks offer plenty of contained space for dogs to run and play off-leash. Open from 7:30 a.m. until sunset daily, these amenities are well-maintained by Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation

The best part for us is watching Pedee make friends and play with his four-legged buddies. Of course, the wonderful thing is that, since users are there for the same reasons and must meet all guidelines and maintain current vaccinations, we can be comfortable in letting him romp.

A list of municipal dog parks, locations and descriptions can be found on the Park and Rec website. They include:

Our favorite these days is the park at McAlpine Creek. It offers a large, wide-open field for fetch connected to a tree-filled, shady area for a water break and play. There are enclosed areas for both large dogs over 20 pounds and smaller dogs that weigh less. There are also benches and covered picnic tables. And plenty of friendly fellow dog-lovers.

As much fun as we all have covering new terrain, it is a delight for everyone in our family, Pedee most especially, to enjoy canine social time. I didn't get it before, but I'm most decidedly a dog person now, and grateful to be one.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Boone's Cave Park

There's a 140-cave in Davidson Co. where American pioneer Daniel Boone and his family were rumored to have spent their first winter after moving to the area from Pennsylvania in 1751. How cool is that? 

Boone's Cave Park, located in Lexington, NC, just under an hour north of uptown Charlotte, is home to this storied cave and a number of other fun features, including biking and hiking trails, a disc golf course, picnic shelters, fishing and primitive camp sites.

First, a little more about the park's historical significance. It's said that in the mid-1800s, Squire Boone, Daniel's dad, headed south with his family to the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina and settled for their first year in this fertile, river-side site. Daniel was 16 at the time. It should be noted that, while it's not been confirmed that the family in fact lived in the cave, it has been documented that Daniel roamed the area during his time in North Carolina.

If you visit, you'll find the cave on the banks of the river, just down a few sets of boardwalk stairs where Boone's Cave Rd. ends inside the park. There is parking here or in a lot a few hundred yards closer to the entrance next to a bathroom facility.

When we visited, we parked in the center parking lot (next to the restrooms) and set out to explore from there. One important note: During our visit, the mosquitoes were especially problematic. It seems this low-lying area offers a perfect breeding ground, so keep this in mind and consider making this a cooler-weather trip.

The park offers more than 7 miles of trails (see the park map at the bottom of this brochure), many of which are said to resemble what Daniel Boone and other backcountry settlers would have experienced when they roamed the area hundreds of years ago. 

The park is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from May 1 to September 18, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from September 19 to October 31, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from November 1 to April 30. You'll want to note that the park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day.

We found Boone's Cave Park to be a fun place to explore. Between the novelty of its historical significance and the abundance of recreational activity options, this makes for a fun, dynamic, family-friendly destination. We'll be back -- when the mosquitoes aren't so bad!

How to get there:
Boone's Cave Park is located at 3552 Boones Cave Rd, Lexington, NC 27295. You'll find parking just inside the park and at the end of Boone's Cave Rd. There are restroom facilities here.

Don't forget to pack:
  • Comfortable walking shoes: Sneakers will do. Note that it's likely to be muddy after rain.
  • Bug spray: Especially during warmer months.
  • Water and snacks: Pack enough to stay a while.
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: The park is mostly shaded, but not entirely.

Thursday, October 1, 2020


Do good, get moving, and have some fun. Those are the reasons our family will be participating in Sustain Charlotte's Biketoberfest during the weekend of October 24-25.

We came to know Sustain Charlotte, a local nonprofit that advocates for smart growth and sustainability, when we participated in one of their events a couple of years ago. Sustain Charlotte is high on our list of charitable organizations because of the work they do to support a healthy, equitable and vibrant community. This isn't just about more trees and fewer cars. Sustain Charlotte advocates for diverse housing and transportation options, works to protect the environment, actively supports the local economy, and engages the community. You can learn more about their efforts here

This year's Biketoberfest, one of Sustain Charlotte's signature events, will be necessarily different from years past. Whereas before there were large gatherings at the start and finish and mingling during the ride, this year will feature multiple routes for a choose-your-own-adventure-themed event with a scavenger hunt and chances to win prizes over the course of the weekend. Of course, the primary goal remains to raise funds to support Sustain Charlotte's efforts to inform, engage, and empower residents to address the numerous sustainability challenges that have accompanied our rapid population growth.

The event routes are organized by level of difficulty: family friendly, medium, and expert. (You can see routes here.) We'll probably do the one closest to our house so that we can jump on our bikes straightaway, rather than commute.

Registration is $35 and includes an event t-shirt. Kids 18 and under participate for free.

If you're not up for this year's ride, but Sustain Charlotte's work aligns with your values, too, you can support participants by making a donation. (Here's our family's page if you want a place to start!).

I'm looking forward to a day two-wheeling around our beautiful city with the kids, knowing that our fun outing is also doing meaningful good for the greater community. Join us?