We didn’t have high expectations from our train ride from Charlotte through to Durham, but were thoroughly impressed by our experience. We rode what is known as the Piedmont train – it runs 3 times a day from Charlotte to Raleigh return and it was great. It was super comfortable, the staff on board were very friendly and helpful (with directions, maps and advise), and a bonus was it had free tea coffee and water – a really nice way to ride. The train had to stop at stations along the way every 20 – 30 mins, and so after something like 5 stops we arrived at the Durham Station around 1.15pm. Waiting for our bags we searched the station to pick out Frank from the housesit who had offered to collect us from the station. With Frank identified, and greetings exchanged and bags in hand, Frank drove us to their lovely home in outer Durham which we would be look after for the following week. Durham is a fairly large city – not that we got back into the heart of downtown Durham, but has a population of 265,000 or more – more than big enough. Frank and Robyn whose home – and pets, we would be minding for the week, live on the outer suburbs of Durham, not far from Duke University in Chapel Hill. Durham forms part of the Research Triangle – an area well known for its medical research and facilities – 3 universities feed into the area which is anchored by the cities of Durham, Raleigh and the town of Chapel Hill – area has a population of over 2 million so it’s a bit thing in North Carolina, and wider US for that matter.
Frank and Robyn’s home is part of a lovely lake front development in the South Point area I think it was known as. Robyn and Frank welcomed us into their home and introduced us to their pets Mitch and Vasco whom we would be looking after whilst they headed to Colorado to visit family for the following week. Mitch is a Kelpie cross from Tasmania and is thought to be around 12-13 years old. He’s lived a pretty charmed live I think – he was rescued by Robyn’s mum after a big fire I think it was, and lived with her for maybe 5 years until she passed and then Mitch was flown all the way to the US to take up residence with Robyn and Frank. Vasco is an18 year old parrot – parakeet I think – very colourful, but not entirely friendly, so our contact would be through the cage only (apparently he’s good with Frank, or maybe it was Robyn only – one of the two of them). We spent the remainder of our Tuesday conversing with Robyn and Frank about each other, the area, travels and opportunities – a really nice couple who made us feel very welcome in their home – the pleasure being all ours to look after things for them. That evening we went out locally for some dinner and continued our good conversations – a nice day. Robyn and Frank didn’t need to head off until around 2pm on Wednesday, so the morning was spent walking Mitch around the really nice lake track – short route is around 1 mile, or you could take the extended loop which we favoured which was around 1 ½ miles – nice and easy. The lake has some nice bird life – ducks and geese and even a couple of large Blue Herons.
In the lake itself there are some turtles which we saw a couple of times – got to watch the Snapping Turtles we’ve been told – pretty nasty when they want to be. The lake had lovely trees around it so there were loads of squirrels playing around – there’s something about them that just makes you smile when you see them. Another bonus around the lake was the little book exchange booth that had been set up – I picked up a couple of good books and dropped a couple off I’d been carrying. Robyn needed to get her nails done down at the local mall about a mile or so up the road so we went with them and picked up some supplies for the week ahead. With Robyn and Frank heading away that afternoon we just settled back and enjoyed the company of Mitch and the surroundings. The weather during the following days was a mix – sunny but cool but with periods of rain – quite a bit of rain at times as the area in front of the house became quite sodden. Our daily routine involved walking Mitch in the morning, and later in the day – big loop in the morning, and shorter loop in the afternoon. He doesn’t like the rain so we had to time things right with getting out and about with him. We passed our time reading and planning some next steps of our travels. In between we hiked back up to the shopping area to have a look around and picked up a few more things. The weekend was a hive of activity around the lake with loads of people, and dogs out walking – really good to see considering we really hadn’t seen too much walking anywhere to date on our travels.
On Monday I had a Skype interview call once I could connect with the technology – not the same experience as a face to face, but things went okay, and a follow up call is planned. On the Tuesday despite the drizzle we headed out and walked up to the shopping area again. This time we took part of what is called the American Tobacco Trial. The trial runs for almost 23 miles and links across the Research Triangle area. The track follows the abandoned train tracks set up for the American Tobacco Company in the 1970’s. The track was nicely maintained and a nice alternative to the main road up to the mall. At the shops we both got haircuts and picked up some supplies so we could cook a nice meal for Robyn and Frank’s return that evening. We hiked back up the trail getting home before the rain came to too much and got busy straightening the place up. Robyn and Frank arrived back home around 5.30pm and we had a really nice evening catching up on each other’s week and picking up on some travel conversations for good measure – good food, nice, wine, and good company – great mix. On Wednesday morning we had one last walk around the lake with Mitch with Robyn and Frank along for company and just enjoyed the surroundings and what this past week had offered us – a very nice, pleasant experience – as the housesit testimonials would attest to.