Road Trip, Day 3: Wilmington

Friday started with a 9 a.m. panel presentation at UNC Wilmington with my two grad school friends. We drove to the campus, which is really beautiful, and met up with them in the conference building.

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The panel was on our experiences pursuing our Masters’ degrees in communication, and how we’ve benefited from them since we’ve graduated. It was really fun to reflect on our Marquette experience together and to answer questions from the audience.

Dave and I headed out after the panel, while our friends stayed at the conference. Our desire for vacationing and sightseeing trumped our academic inclinations. Instead, we headed to downtown Wilmington, where the Cape Fear River provides yet another gorgeous waterfront.

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I recognized multiple places from Dawson’s Creek, although many have apparently been torn down since the show was filmed 10-15 years ago. This river walk is definitely featured often.

Tropical storm Andrea was causing extremely strong winds, so sitting outside for lunch wasn’t an option. But we found a waterfront place, The Pilot House, that had a covered porch.

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Dave ordered shrimp & grits. I tried some and it was amazing. I could get used to Southern cuisine.

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I got a crab cake melt with home-made chips. Really, really good.

When we got back outside, the winds had only worsened, and rain was coming down with strong gusts.

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I got out my rain coat and Dave opted for his new umbrella, which he carried with the pride of a Southern gentleman.

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We decided that our next activity should probably be indoors, so we headed across the river to tour the USS North Carolina Battleship.

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This was probably one of the most awesome historical sites I’ve ever toured. The lower decks were just like a city, with dining rooms, sleeping quarters, a barber shop, a whole sick wing, convenience stores, a post office, etc. The info boards all had a crew memories section, and the excerpts from interviews always were relevant to the very place you were standing.

We took about three hours to walk around the elaborate decks. I got a vivid idea of what it was like to be an enlisted sailor in the South Pacific on this Navy battleship. The sense of camaraderie and positivity surprised and impressed me given that sailors were faced with the threats of World War II and lived without privacy in extreme heat, away from their loved ones.

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We ended the tour with a visit to the pilothouse, where I rested my feet on the captain’s chair.

After the tour, we headed back to the hotel to change, and then drove right back downtown, to 128 South, for the conference dinner and keynote, with subsequent outdoor dancing.

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Dinner was buffet style. I chose fried catfish, a veggie blend, a salad, and some bread. And for my drink, a Merlot.

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It was one of the most fun nights I’ve had all year. Living in Pennsylvania, I am away from my college and grad school friends, so I rarely get the chance to go dancing with the right people at the right places. But I love dancing. So I savored every moment of this event.

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There were also a lot of line dances (Electric Slide, Cotton Eyed Joe, Cupid Shuffle, etc.). I loved everything about that.

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Dave was talking to one of the conference attendants from Germany, trying to get a sense for what teaching at an English-speaking campus there would be like. It’s so cool to meet people from across the world at events like this.

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The view from this balcony/porch was amazing. We could see the river and the battleship, as well as many downtown buildings.

We were initially supposed to say goodbye to our friends after this event, so we could head up to Virginia on Saturday morning. However, tropical storm Andrea has now moved North, and we have no desire to follow her. Instead, we’re going to hang around Wilmington for another day and finally get a chance to go to the beach and swim in the ocean. That’s why I didn’t want to plan ahead for this trip, but just kind of see where life takes us. I could get used to this.

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