Saturday, April 25, 2015

Concord, North Carolina - A Howl of Dismay

When I told people I was meeting Gary at the Great Wolf Lodge, the people who don't have kids looked puzzled; the people who do have kids and had been to the one outside Seattle looked horrified. Why?? was the prevailing question. Because the Army says so, was the only response. Gary has annual training here in Concord and the Great Wolf is where everyone is being put up, which is odd on many levels, the least of which is that this is not necessarily an event that families can participate in given that the reservists have come from all over the southeast, and some folks are quite far from home. I flew in two days ago figuring I could work in the room while Gary has his training, and of course, not knowing any better (and dismissing the stricken looks on the faces of my friends), I figured I'd have some fun on the water slides, because, why not? Well, because... picture if Chuck E. Cheese built a hotel. It's a water park, but it's an indoor water park - no fresh air and little natural light, just a dank, humidity-filled cavern with kids in swim-diapers. The water is about 2 feet deep in the wave pool, and about 6 inches deep in the kiddie pool. Those are my guesses anyway, since there's nothing that could actually get me down into the water park area, but there are windows looking through from the lobby. Our room is perfectly nice but the hotel lobby and public areas have all the ambiance of an arcade. Am I sorry I came? Of course not. I can't think of any place I wouldn't go just to see and be someplace new.
This is playing on a continuous loop on a big screen on our floor; the only possible reason I can think of for this is to make the guests feel like they're on an acid trip. 
If you look hard enough, you can find a great meal anywhere, even in the Southeast, land of chain restaurants and processed food. Last night, we found the Soul Gastrolounge in Charlotte where the Southern fried chicken wings were divinely crunchy and the Korean BBQ wings had a sweet kick of chili. The wings and an avocado salad made a great dinner, followed by tiny pastries filled with huckleberries and goat cheese with a scoop of lemon-vanilla ice cream for dessert. The neighborhood, on the edge of downtown Charlotte and filled with trendy restaurants, wine bars, and a few boutiques and antique shops, prove that hipsters exist in all parts of the country.
from the Soul Gastrolounge website; get there early or be prepared for a LONG wait..
The unappealing water park and the hotel's fever-dream decor aside, the main reason I'm here is that there is a dinner tonight to close the Army reservists' training exercises, and I have a date with a Lt. Colonel.