The Grand Tour

Over Presidents’ Day Weekend, we trudged on up to the Vale of Humility to tour some colleges with our girls.

As one does with 11th graders in the house

Winter break indeed

Drive to Chapel Hill

Getting colder and colder

Rainy and windy



Lunch stop at Smithfield BBQ in Fuquay Varina around 12:30 just in time for the church crowd

Sunday dinnah for a lot of these folks


“I got us this here table”

“Jackson, go warsh your hands, Son”

“Tell your Diddy, I need some hep”

“How you coming along?”

“Good, Granddaddy’s living with us now. He’s 88 and don’t get around too good”

“Used to be a field tech at the John Deere, you know”

“Glad this Brunswick Stew is two for a dollah”

God, how I love North Carolina


For years, the Sandlappers of South Carolina and the Cavaliers of Virginia have called the Old North State the Vale of Humility between the two Mountains of Conceit. Not sure which of the three is being satirized more.

Then it’s on to the Streets at Southpoint

We will stop at a Nordstrom

Screeching stop at a Nordstrom

And a Barnes & Noble

And an Anthropologie

Get out of here and on to Chapel Hill

Venerable and vaulted at The Carolina Inn

Check in


So many cookies

Perfect room with sitting area

Go for a walk in the cold mist

Go to the Old Well

Cold, rainy, perfect

Pass the place where Silent Sam once stood

Not a shred of evidence he was ever there

As we tear down monuments, I am reminded of what David Sedaris said to the graduating class at Oberlin last May.  Really.  Oberlin. The height of political correctness:

“The goal is to have less in common with the Taliban, not more.”

Academia 2019: triggered all the time

Picking up the Daily Tar Heel

Read about more triggering

Pop into the Ackland Museum to escape the bone chilling weather

Amazing vine sculptures out front

Exhibit of Asian porcelain

So much Chinese Export that even David Sanctuary Howard himself might rise on up from the dead for a look see; love me some Lowestoft

Back to the Carolina Inn

Rest period

Supper at the Carolina Inn

Man showing plumber’s bum across the restaurant

We keep laughing

Don’t do crack

Asleep by 9 p.m.

Sleep of the just

The just exhausted

Warm bed under down duvet

Southern Part of Heaven

Breakfast at Ye Old Waffle Shoppe on Franklin Street

Same since 1972

Best coffee

With cousin Hampton

Walk through campus

Run in the Wilson Library just for old time’s sake

To Student Stores for UNC Swag

Back to Carolina Inn to deposit said Swag

Information session in the Student Union

“How many of you are little brothers or sisters being dragged along?”

At least one hand goes up in our row

Tour with guide who was a bit, well, spastic

Super nerdy but so into UNC

“So, if we beat dook or win a big game, we all rush up onto Franklin Street…it’s pretty cool…so one’s called rushing Franklin… last year…I was running to Franklin Street and it’s called Chapel HILL for a reason…cause it’s actually a hill…. and it’s all up hill…and I was running…but I slowed way down…and this kid looked at me and said…eye of the tiger…eye of the tiger…and I started running again….and that gave me that last burst of energy…and I made it….and I love the Tar Heels”

Way into Policy…Social Justice…and…South Campus

May be on the spectrum?

“So, my friend made this cutting board in the makers’ space lab in Venables and I totally saw it on Instagram and said ‘Whoa, I would totally pay like $50.00 for that’ and she wrote me back, ‘I made this in the makers’ space in Venables’ and I came and made a box, y’all, a real box”

Speaking of which, she boxed her own ears when she was excited


Hit the side of her head

Bless her heart

“Big interview on Wednesday….really really big”

Hope she got it

Standing near one building, I said, “The last time I saw this building, it was kind of a dump”

“What’s your connection to Chapel Hill?”

“I graduated in the Bicentennial class of 1994”

“Are you KIDDING?”

Boxed her ears

“No, ma’am”

Boxed her ears

“That’s SO cool”

Boxed her ears

Finally, she ends the tour at the Old Well

“I just want you to know, that the line to drink from Old Well [guess she has something against articles] stretches forever on first day  [no articles] of each semester because drinking from Old Well [again, she really despised articles] ensures you get A’s”

It actually doesn’t

I know

I tried most semesters

Walk to Woollen Gym to meet new best friend Brian Chacos who shows the girls athletic facilities all while riding in his Carolina Blue and White golf cart

He works for the football crowd

Tour of the new weight room and secret access to Keenan Stadium

Really amazing athletics at Chapel Hill



Thanks, Brian

Thanks, Hampton, for setting it up

Drives us in the golf cart all the way back to Franklin Street.

Ain’t y’all sumpin

To Sutton’s Drugstore for lunch

I had a charge account….really….may be one of these two will, too, one day


Pics of old favorite waitress, Jesse, on the wall

Stories of weekly lunches there at the same table



Sweet tea

Stories of Jesse chasing shoplifter with scissors

“I’m gonna kill you!” she yelled as she ran at the perp

Walk to the Carolina Inn to get the car

On to Winston Salem

Stop off to look at Elon College

“Dad, I don’t think I want to go here.”

Really big red brick buildings with HUGE LETTERING





Guess their students have bad eyesight

Turning right on N. O’Kelly Ave….should be O’Kelley…..


And, yes, our 2nd “e” is an affectation


“We don’t need to stop,” says our Junior

“Thank you, next” quoting Ariana Grande, says our Sixth Grader

On to Winston Salem

The town that tobacco built

 They’re trying to revitalize the downtown

Hipster coffee shop on the corner

Condos in all the old tobacco buildings

Lots of ship lap

Lots of pickled wood

Lots of beards

Lots of railings made out of wires

Lots of AirPods

Old Tobacky in North Cackalacky


To the Cardinal Hotel, in the old Art Deco Style RJR Building that served as inspiration for the Empire State

Rec room in the basement with Ping Pong, pool table, basketball court, bowling alley

Crushed at Ping Pong by the 6th grader

Rest period in the room

Finally summon an Uber to take us to Roosters near the Krispy Kreme HQ

We love the one in Charlotte, NC

This is the one that started it all

For us Charleston folks, we’re always jaded when it comes to eating out in other towns; Roosters never disappoints

Our Uber driver was a major dook supporter

We discuss an upcoming basketball game to be played in Durham and our allegiance to the Tar Heels

“My brother played football for dook”

“I’m sorry”

“Keep talking like that and I’ll put your Tar Heel ass out on the side of the road”

“Y’all are going DOWN on Wednesday in Cameron”

“Zion’s gonna cream y’all, and I really might dump you right here”

I think he was kidding

“Well, the Heels play as a team, so we’ll see”

We won in Cameron, as you may know

And Zion blew his shoe

And is now going pro

So uber

At Rooster’s finally

Lovely waitress

Lovely meal

Back to the hotel and straight to sleep

Or attempt to sleep with the train passing by every hour

And trucks backing up in the middle of the night

Who needs sleep?

Up at 5:30 a.m.

Just like a regular school day

Walk in the cold to breakfast at Krankie’s

Chicken biscuits the size of a baby’s head

With Texas Pete and honey

And strong coffee shop coffee

With a side of hipster irony

Drive over to Wake Forest

Arrive super early and drive to Reynolda Village

Back to Wake where we drive around

Haven’t been there in 30 years since I toured

Beautiful campus

So much brick

So green

Check into the Admissions Office

“Last name is O’Kelley,” states my eldest

“First name, Margaret?” queries the Admissions Officer

“Yes, Sir.”

“You don’t have to ‘sir’ me,” comes his reply

“Oh, yes, she does,” comes mine

Into the auditorium with all manner of folks but without many Southern accents

Hour long info session with an impressive Admissions Officer

85% of the room from Up Nawth or Cali


Before our tour Margaret remembers the man who came to Ashley Hall and goes back in to speak to him

Atta girl!

Hour long tour going all around the campus

Forgot how pretty Wake is

Where are all the Baptists?

Biggest denomination here, Roman Catholics

Such a big emphasis on foreign study

Wake owns a palazzo on the Grand Canal, a villa in Vienna, and a town house in London

I want to be Peggy Guggenheim’s neighbor for a semester

I want to walk the Ringstrasse

I want to take the Tube to class

I want to go back to college

Tour with Senior from Columbus, OH

Youngest of four who have gone to Wake Forest

Her poor parents; hope they like Alpo

Studied abroad


Didn’t box her own ears or anything

“Where are most of your students from?”

“Twenty per cent of the students are from North Carolina.  Then New Jersey is the most represented State.”

Annoying Mom, most definitely from New Jersey, asking Annoying Questions and talking annoying loudly with her Annoying Son then announcing annoyingly grandiosely, “We have to go to catch a flight”



No one cares

We won’t miss you

See all aspects of Wake

“Is this a jock school?” asks another parent

Um….it’s not Dennison…..

“No, ma’am.”

Super impressed by all Wake has to offer



Guaranteed housing

Great library

Wanted to eat lunch in the dining hall myself

Sneak into Wait Chapel

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Ecclesiastes 12:1


Back to Admissions office with daffodils blooming in the cold

I40 to I77

Lunch at Chic Fil A in Mooresville, NC

Drive to Davidson with ice pellets falling on the car

Just a drive by at Davidson, since there had already been a tour

Another school we love

So love

Almae Matres everywhere

Or at least in Davidson and Chapel Hill

Driving home in the rain discussing endless possibilities 






2 thoughts on “The Grand Tour

  1. Hamlin, I could have directed your tour in Winston-Salem. I would have sent you to see Salem College, of course, because you have daughters who deserve it. Also, your food choices were pretty good, but there’s more. In general, it sounds like you had a good visit. Come back, ya hear.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this! I cannot decide whether it is your keen descriptions of people or your keen descriptions of food that make me thristing for more. You truly have a gift.

    Liked by 1 person

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