STATE 13: NORTH CAROLINA
To break up the long, eight-hour drive from Assateague National Seashore to Charlotte, we spent a night in Cabela’s parking lot in Garner. The next morning while we were getting ready to drive the last three hours to Charlotte, we got a knock on our door.
Unsurprisingly, a knock isn’t what you want to hear while you’re spending the knock in a parking lot. As much as you can prepare for nights spent in parking lots by calling ahead and speaking to management to ensure that they allow overnight parking, you still kind of brace yourself for a knock on the door by some sort of official.
Neither security nor the police, it was a middle-aged man on the other side of our door, curious what it was that we do. After Tyler gave him a quick synopsis of [HAS HEART] and the whole 50 States tour, the gentleman thanked us for our service and shared that he’s a retired Army Commander who served all over the world for over 30 years. With a Cabela’s bag still in his hand, he said he wanted to grab something from his car for us.
He returned with two challenge coins. To this day he stays in contact with the men and women who served with him, citing that their fight doesn’t end when they get home. For some, the fight might get more difficult and complicated. With a firm handshake, he thanked us for what we were doing and gave us the challenge coins as a small token of appreciation and encouragement to keep going.
And so we went on.
A couple hours later, we finally pulled into our RV site on the shores of Hard Rock Lake. If it were a couple months earlier and about 40 degrees warmer, this would have been a ideal lakeside location. Instead, the trees were barron and the air was as crisp as it was cold. Still, it was a beautiful site from the inside (with the heat on).
What we weren’t ready for, nor imagined would happen in North Carolina, was something we were previously too familiar with back home in Michigan — SNOW.
Although it was just a dusting, this was our first experience being in weather this cold in our trailer. Thankfully we had full hook-ups and enough propane to heat our little tin can until it was toasty as could be.
After spending our first day working from the trailer following-up on past projects, preparing for the NC project, and planning ahead for the upcoming project in a couple days, Tyler really wanted to explore the famed Tobacco Road rivalry between two college basketball powerhouses: North Carolina and Duke. He’s a basketball nerd, in case you didn’t know yet.
The larger of the two, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is also the oldest in the state, established in 1789 and has an enrollment of nearly 30,000 students. Tyler wasn’t able to get into the basketball arena as he hoped, but we did venture briefly around the campus and took in some of the sites, sounds, and buzz of the college campus.
By the time we made it fifteen minutes down the road to Duke, it was starting to get dark and mildly gloomy with the Winter fog rolling through. It’s a much smaller school than UNC, roughly half the size of enrollment around 15,000 students, but Tyler and I both agreed that its campus was 10x more beautiful.
Again, Tyler wasn’t able to bust through the doors of Cameron Indoor Stadiumwhere the Blue Devils basketball team calls home, but he did somehow make his way into their practice gym(?).
Eventually we found each other in a student dining facility that looked like it was straight out of Harry Potter — which is much more my preference than sports. Before driving back to our little home, we enjoyed a bite to eat amongst stressed-out college students cramming for finals.
Before our project, our Veteran Bobby Carrasquillo invited us to visit him where he works at The Independence Fund, whose mission is “…to empower our severely wounded Veterans and their Caregivers to take control of their lives. We provide the resources and tools that enable Veterans to regain their independence, and fight for their ability to sustain it.”
One of the core pillars of The Independence Fund is their mobility program that is open to catastrophically wounded Veterans of all eras and ages to enable them to get back outdoors through a variety of of devices, including this Zoom chair that they insisted Tyler and I take for a spin.
Needless to say, it’s called the Zoom chair for a reason — it has some zip to it!
After our exciting test drive, we walked by their wall of Veterans they’ve helped regain their mobility (which is awesome!) and got a quick tour of their office space and Bobby’s office before we departed and told him we’ll see him tomorrow for the project!
*View the North Carolina state project we facilitated with U.S. Army Veteran Bobby Carrasquillo, designer Scott Brinkley whom we were introduced to by AIGA Charlotte, videographer Eric Schlenker from Wheelhouse Media, and photographer Mike Carroll.
Their collaborative design is entitled “Love Like This,” a creative depiction of the enduring bond and brotherhood Bobby experienced while serving two tours in Iraq. Above all, Bobby and Scott encourage each person to experience this type of love — the type of love that one would be willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of others. Have you ever felt a love like this??