Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Wilmington, North Carolina
If it hadn’t been for Nick joining the Army, Linda and I would probably never have seen Wilmington, North Carolina. But he did, and we did, and we enjoyed the visit very much.
We learned in early June that when Nick graduated from Army basic training at Fort Jackson, SC, we would be able to drive him to his next posting, which turned out to be at Newport News, VA, a reasonable distance away along I-95. But we didn’t want to be doing just Interstate road food and chain motels by the highway. We were to leave Fort Jackson at noon Thursday and had until 5 p.m. Friday to get Nick to Virginia, so I did some wool-gathering to see if there might be some place we could stay along the Carolina coast Thursday night.
Wilmington’s not on the coast, though it’s half an hour from several beaches. It’s actually a port town of over 100,000 people on the Cape Fear River, and it has a historic downtown area with a river walk. Sounded good to us, so that’s where we ended up.
Too Much City, Too Little Time
We arrived late on a hot, humid afternoon (is there any other kind in the Carolinas in July?) and checked into the Best Western downtown on the river. It was a four-story hotel, with a tower that stood alone as a fifth floor. We stayed in the tower suite, which had a living area with sofa bed on the ground floor and a loft a story higher with king bed and stunning views of the river on one side and the city on the other. It cost $168 plus tax for the night.
Once we’d checked in, Nick wanted to get online and catch up with his email from the last three months (soldiers are offline for basic training). While he was doing that, Linda and I headed south toward the bridge along the river walk. We dropped into a cookware store where there was a back room devoted to Carolina barbecue sauces. We bought a bottle and asked the friendly clerk for a recommendation on a seafood restaurant.
She suggested Elijah’s, right on the river, and we made our way there. It looked good, and not wanting to do more walking in the heat than we had to, we called Nick and told him to join us.
Dinner by the River
It was a weeknight, and we were able to get a table outdoors, just a few feet from the river. The food was good, so filled up and happy we walked back to the hotel, stopping at Poodle’s tropical wear store to get a cap for Nick and a T-shirt for me. Just upriver from the hotel, the city had placed a series of stools by the railing at the water’s edge, and after we returned, I sat on one of those and just watched the water flow slowly by for about 20 minutes.
Coming back, I saw that there was a walkway from the second floor of the hotel to an observation deck built out over the river. I took Linda out there, and we had it to ourselves, watching the sunset from one of its benches and listening to a group of anglers on a nearby pier chaffing each other.
We enjoyed our all-too-short stay and wished we had another day to explore the town. Two days later, at Raleigh-Durham airport, security confiscated the barbecue sauce for being a bottle that couldn’t travel carry-on. Maybe that was God’s way of telling us we need to go back to Wilmington and put the sauce in checked luggage the next time around.