A lovely time in Charlotte

3/22/22

OK, I’m back! I took a few days off from blogging to connect with a close friend here in Charlotte over the weekend. We stayed in a vegan eco-hotel(!) and enjoyed a few local vegan restaurants, as well as a cool tiny vegan grocery store, tucked away inside the nifty used bookstore Book Buyers in a local strip mall.

Then last night and today, I stayed with another Warmshowers host, Pam Murray, who is a bicycle activist extraordinaire! In fact, today she was being filmed by a PBS crew from the nearby Raleigh, NC television station. They filmed her first around the house, then out on her bike riding to the grocery store, and finally this evening after dark, leading a local nighttime bike ride with about 25 participants. I hope I’ll be able to see the segment when it airs. Pam is the founder of CLT Spokes People, and the director of NC Bicycle Benefits, which grants cyclists special discounts and freebies when they arrive at a business by bike and show their helmet sticker. She also leads local classes called Cycling Savvy, to help people to become more comfortable and safe as they explore getting around town by bike.

Pam took me around town by bike this morning, on a handful of errands, including a great bike shop, the post office, and the drugstore. Then we went to lunch at a nearby vegan restaurant and market, Oh My Soul, that was incredible! It is owned by a group of young South Africans, who actually founded the restaurant in South Africa, then moved it here to Charlotte. It is an ambitious place, not only serving traditional restaurant meals, but also offering vegan “meats” and cheeses in deli cases, as well as many decadent desserts, including a yellow-and-blue-frosted cupcake benefiting an animal rescue in Ukraine.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch together on their patio, and then later in the day I returned solo, to pick up a small cheese sampler. (As it turns out, their cheeses come from Rebel Cheese, in Austin, which as you may recall I recently visited.) Today I picked up more of the dill havarti, as well as a za’atar cheese and a fennel-flavored one, both of which intrigue me. Pam and I will sample them for brunch tomorrow, alongside the hummus she made from scratch today. (She cooked the dried beans in the Instant Pot, and then blended all ingredients by hand, without even using a food processor! Pam is very committed to living in eco-friendly ways, such as bicycling for transportation; reusing materials—including packaging materials—whenever possible; picking up discarded items and furniture on roadsides and repairing them; and more!)

She told me about Bicycle Benefits, which she helps to administer locally and nationwide. (If you’d like to get it going in your town, send her a message.)

I have thoroughly enjoyed connecting with Pam, and I also enjoyed my solo rides around the area. Charlotte is a very beautiful city, with a lush urban canopy, and lovely neighborhoods filled with houses that are beautiful in simple ways, without being ostentatious. I find this to be a charming city.

Today’s weather was perfect, as well, in the mid-70s. Tomorrow, when I take the train to visit my aunt and uncle near Raleigh, thunderstorms are forecast for most of the day. We’ll see if I can dodge the raindrops on the way back to the station!

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