Five North Carolina Destinations for NASCAR Fans

Whether you’re a casual fan or a diehard NASCAR lover – or even if you’re just into history or sports – the NASCAR Hall of Fame (400 E M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28202) is a must-see destination in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Let me preface this by saying: I’m not the biggest NASCAR fan out there. I’ll watch a race here & there, but I don’t have a favorite driver or team. With that said, my husband used to really love it when he was younger, so when we had the chance to visit the HoF while in North Carolina, we jumped on the opportunity — and I’m really glad we did.

My biggest suggestion: if you have the time, take the guided tour. It’s packed to the brim with incredibly valuable, interesting insights that you wouldn’t get otherwise. The HoF offers guided tours on certain days at 1 PM, and they last about two hours. There’s an additional cost on top of general admission, but the tour is absolutely worth it.

You will learn SO much & see so much history. From cars driven by Red Farmer to racing suits worn by various drivers over the years, busted-up tires used in races and a myraid of trophies – there’s a little bit of everything here. It’s particularly neat to walk along the rows of cars, all the while going up in grade like a real racetrack. There’s also the iRacing simulator, the pit crew challenge & more for interactive, hands-on fun.

While you’re welcome to spend as much or as little time as you want, you could probably realistically spend an entire day here. Multiple floors filled with exhibits, memorabilia and interactive displays could easily keep one entertained for hours.

Even if you do elect for the guided tour, you’re also free to roam the Hall after the tour to dive deeper into anything specific that caught your eye.

Don’t forget to stop by the Pit Stop Cafe for lunch, too – they’ve got quick, easy options like sandwiches, wraps & snacks to keep you fueled.

Other NASCAR-related points to hit in the area include:

  • Charlotte Motor Speedway (5555 Concord Pkwy S, Concord, NC 28027): Even if there’s not a race going on, it’s still worth a drive down and a visit to the gift shop. There is a small parking lot near the gift shop for visitors, so be on the lookout. They also offer tours of the speedway.
  • Dale Earnhardt Plaza (101-109 W A St, Kannapolis, NC 28081): Essentially a small park in the midst of Kannapolis, the plaza is a nice touch to honor one of NASCAR’s most well-known drivers in recent history. The statue homage is hard to miss, but be sure to scope out the whole plaza for a few neat little touches, too.
  • RCR Racing Museum (425 Industrial Dr, Lexington, NC 27295): A great, affordable self-guided tour of this museum will allow you to learn a lot about Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt. It’s a move-at-your-own-pace kind of place, so check out all the historic cars & other memorabilia from over the years, including items related to current RCR drivers!
  • Richard Childress Racing: After you’ve visited the museum, ask the gift shop staff for directions to the actual RCR open building on the campus. (It’s literally a two-minute drive.) Here, you can view the actual working area of RCR! When we visited right before the Charlotte race, we saw them working on wrapping Austin Dillon’s car that was used in the race a few days later.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Recently, I had the chance to see a band live in concert on their ‘reunion’ tour of sorts – for the first time in nine years. While getting the chance to see this group again for the first time in a long time was something special all on its own, it also gave me the opportunity to reflect on life. To be honest, it made me feel a bit sentimental about my own life and how much growth I’ve seen over the last nine years.

There’s nothing wrong with romanticizing your life, and in a way, I think that’s what I’ve done when reflecting on the last nine years. The last time I saw this band, I was 22 years old and still maybe a little lost. The last time I saw this band – at this same venue, in fact – my dad was kind enough to provide transportation. Now, of course, he’s long since passed on.

It’s wild how time flies, and so much can change in a span of (in this case) nine years. Today, I’m 31, happily married for nearly six years and working a full-time job that I’ve been at for nearly eight years. I finally have a driver’s license and a car – two things I was still seeking back then – and in a few months, I’ll be moving to a new apartment. (It’ll be the fourth place I’ve called home since 2013). My life feels stable, healthy, comfortable – all great things. If you would’ve told me back in 2013 that I’d be where I am right now, my mind would’ve been blown.

And if you would’ve told 22-year-old me that I’d get to see that band again someday, at the same venue, but with very different life circumstances – and bringing my husband along to the concert – I would’ve shook my head at you and laughed.

Thinking about time in this way makes me think about how it also moves differently over the span of our lives. As an example, nine years ago, one of my nephews wasn’t even born yet. (He was born in late July 2013). These years have been the entirety of his LIFE, and yet only a small part of mine. If I think I’ve experienced growth and development in my life over the years, I need only look at his life to see just how much can happen in a period of time.

As the kids would say: it made me feel some type of way.

2020: A Year of …. What the Hell.

How can I even put the year of 2020 into words? Typically around this time, I’d look back on the year that was, the travels I went on, new things I tried… but goodness, how do we even begin to look back on 2020? Hundreds of thousands of people died from the coronavirus. The pandemic, the lockdowns, the shutdowns. The election. So much bad, so much pain, so much suffering for so many people. It seems foolish to even try to find any positives out of the year.

2020 was the year that everything went on pause for a while. Where we worked from home for a few months before trying to go back to some semblance of normalcy. Where our hockey seasons were shuttered, suddenly, in mid-March, and our lives were thrown into disarray. But it’s also the year that our family welcomed a niece (Iyla, in January) and found out we were adding another nephew (due in February 2021) and another niece (summer 2021). Ryan and I celebrated four years of marriage – and I don’t think I left New York state once all year. (Is that right?!?)

It’s also now been more than a year since I last saw my sister & her family, since they live in North Carolina. I miss them dearly, as well as all of our other nephews & nieces, but I’m also grateful for video chats and phone calls that help us feel connected during these socially-distant times.

2020 felt like the longest year, and yet also the shortest year. All I can say at this point is: I’m glad it’s over, and hopefully we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnels here, between the vaccines for COVID-19, the upcoming inauguration of Biden, etc.

Here’s to hoping those lights at the end of the tunnels aren’t oncoming trains.

Book Review: Reigniting the Spark

As a result of another book review I did on here, I got an offer to read & review this book: Reigniting the Spark: Why Stable Relationships Lose Intimacy and How to Get It Back. I was provided a free copy of this book to read & review, and it took me longer than I’d like to admit to finally dive into it. (I’m going to blame this partly on the fact that we’re living in a pandemic right now, and I’ve had a hard time finding time or energy to do much of anything some days!)

I want to start off by saying this, as it’s how the book was marketed to me and also something I found true while reading it: this book is a valuable read for anyone. I think the title implies that it’s only for people who are in unstable relationships, who are having problems, etc. but I took a lot of value from this book despite the fact that I am in a stable relationship. After all, none of us are perfect. There’s always room for growth and improvement in our relationships, and we should always be working on them. Don’t get complacent!

This book focuses on a few main premises. While I won’t go into too much detail, the first premise is this: kindness is key. It’s about how we treat other people, and whether we see ourselves and our relationship as a unit or as two individuals. It’s about treating your partner as one of your kin:

“Kindness isn’t merely being pleasant to others, or serving their needs, or even putting their needs before your own. You can do all those things in a subservient relationship, out of a sense of civic-mindedness, or as an expression of a religious calling. You can and should do good deeds for employers and employees, neighbors, or even strangers, but that sort of kindness is not what keeps people together as a couple.”

The author then dials in on the two “golden gifts” in a relationship: stability and intimacy. You need both of these in order to make a relationship work, and you’ll learn more about this in a couple chapters worth of content. From examining one’s character, to lowering your partner’s anxiety, both of these factors are necessary pieces for a good, solid relationship.

“If stability provides the roots for a relationship, intimacy provides the energy for growth.”

From there, the book dives further into stability and intimacy, what these mean and how they can and cannot be found.

“You can only say yes if you know you’re able to say no.”

Also, don’t be afraid when the author starts talking about religion in the beginning. This is not a religious book, and you don’t need to follow any certain set of beliefs in order to read it or take anything from it.

With all of this said, I think there’s a lot of good content in this book, and if you’re reading it, you’re probably the type of person who’s willing to absorb some of its advice and wisdom. Regardless, I think it’s important to keep in mind: this book isn’t going to “save” your relationship, if your relationship needs saving. You, and your partner, putting in the work – perhaps *aided* by the advice you get from this book – will.

This book is published by TCK Publishing and is available in multiple formats on Amazon.

The Pandemic Fatigue is Real.

Not that anyone needs reminding, but we’re living through a pandemic right now. It’s exhausting, right? Hundreds of thousands of people have died. People – with real lives, families, friends, hopes and dreams. Many more have gotten sick. Some have recovered, but some still have long-lasting effects from COVID-19, months later. You think you’re healthy? Think you don’t have any pre-existing conditions? You aren’t safe, either.

On top of the physical stress, there’s the mental aspects. Knowing that you can do everything in your power, and you can still catch the virus. Knowing that at any time, you could unknowingly be an asymptomatic carrier. The uncertainty that lies ahead. The uncertainty of another lockdown. It’s emotional, too. Not knowing when you’ll be able to see family or friends, or go out and do the things you love.

Unless you’re a billionaire, it isn’t possible to thrive in the midst of a pandemic. It’s hard enough to just take it one day at a time and try to survive through another day, another hour. Another holiday. And on, and on, and on.

The pandemic fatigue is real.

I’ll admit it: I’ve let my guard down a little here and there. Yes, I wear a mask every time I go to the grocery store. But sometimes I don’t wear one in the hallway of my apartment building. I wear a mask every time I see my mom, even while we’re in the car and I have to make sure my glasses don’t fog up while I’m driving. But sometimes I’ve seen other family members who aren’t wearing masks…. and I haven’t worn one, either.

But a Twitter thread I saw just the other day reminded me: I can’t afford to let my guard down. I can’t afford to be lax about this; none of us can. Because all it takes is one encounter, and who knows what can happen? I would be absolutely devastated if I had COVID and unknowingly passed it on to one of my young nephews or nieces, or my mom who’s on the higher end of her 60s. What would happen to my family if I got suddenly very sick? Or, if I recovered but had lasting health problems months later?

We need to take this seriously. We need to keep taking this seriously.

It’s incredibly frustrating to see some people basically going about their lives as if we aren’t going through a pandemic. Getting together at restaurants with ten of their closest friends for a fun dinner… how I wish I could do that! Going to a bar, just to hang out. Having parties and holidays with entire families…. and no masks. It’s frustrating. It’s irresponsible. And it’s the reason we’re still here, seven months later, still in a pandemic.

As the holidays are approaching, this is an awful crossroads to be at. But how can I spend time with family this holiday season if no one’s wearing a mask? It isn’t safe. How can I miss the first Christmases of my newest niece and nephew? But how can I risk it? How do I tell them that we can’t do this? The holidays are still a month or so off but I’m already thinking about it. I don’t know what to do. It’s not like things are going to suddenly get better in that timeframe. It’s not like everyone’s going to suddenly decide to wear a mask. So…. what in the world do I do?

I remind myself: there’s a reason I’m doing what I’m doing. I value my life, my husband’s life, and the lives of our families and friends – and their families and friends. I’ll remind myself of the more than 200,000 Americans who have needlessly died from this – including some people I know.

And I’ll keep reminding myself, over and over again.