Return to the Road: Fayetteville, North Carolina

An enticing round-up of off-the-field odds, sods, ends, ephemera

Did you know? Fayetteville was named after the Marquis de Lafayette, who visited the city 42 years after it was named for him.

By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com | June 4, 2019 4:30 PM

I spent three nights in Fayetteville, and during each of those nights I attended a Woodpeckers game. Plenty of material has already resulted from these excursions, and by plenty I mean articles on the ballpark, the food, the region's baseball history and the group of fans behind Peckers Suite One.

Today's dispatch is more in the style of Return to the Road, the series of Ben's Biz Blog posts documenting my experiences outside of the ballpark. (In other news, RIP Ben's Biz Blog.)

I arrived in Fayetteville on the afternoon of May 1. It was too early to check in to my hotel, and way too early to go to the ballpark, so I visited the site of Babe Ruth's first professional home run and then sought out some lunch. Prior to the trip, a Fayetteville-based reader by the name of Roscoe had emailed me and recommended The Barbecue Hut. There are two Barbecue Hut locations in Fayetteville. I went to one of them. 

Tweet from @bensbiz: Well, I made it to North Carolina. pic.twitter.com/TFmP3dtYeD

Barbecue Hut is a charming hole in the wall. No frills. Just order at the counter, get your food and slide into a plastic booth. I ordered a combo, thinking I'd choose from two meats, but it turned out to be pulled pork and fried chicken. That was a no go, considering I have celiac disease, but that fried chicken looked amazing and I'm sure it tasted amazing. My order was adjusted to pulled pork only, and it was very vinegary. That, I'm told, is the Carolina way. Or at least one of the Carolina ways. BBQ styles tend to get quite specific.  

My inadvertent fried chicken order wasn't my only barbecue snafu in Fayetteville. The next day, following another recommendation, I went to Fowler's for lunch. That was the plan, at least. But I pulled into the wrong parking lot, dented my rental car after backing into a wall while pulling out of said wrong parking lot and then swung into the correct parking lot only to immediately be told that the restaurant was closed for a private event. You can't win 'em all, but I felt profoundly lost at that moment. 

After an uninspiring lunch elsewhere, during which I was internally berating myself for my momentary lapse in driving skills, I paid a visit to downtown Fayetteville proper. This was a nice reprieve from the more homogenous strip-mall surroundings that had characterized my non-ballpark time in the city up to that point. 

The above photo is of the Market House, located in the middle of a traffic circle. I don't know much about the Market House, but the internet tells me that it was built on the site of what had been the State House. It was at this location that, in 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. constitution. 

Hay Street, one of the thoroughfares emanating from the Market House traffic circle, is the home of many downtown businesses. (It is also where Segra Stadium is located.)

At the beginning of this post -- yes, I'm still calling this a post, even if Ben's Biz Blog is dead -- you'll find a link to my article on Fayetteville's baseball history. This article was based on an exhibition at the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum, but that wasn't the only museum in town with a baseball exhibit. The Arts Council of Fayetteville featured a Baseball Hall of Fame-curated exhibit entitled "Picturing America's Pastime." I did not visit that exhibit, but I did call in for a "Show Before the Show" segment while standing in front of it.

I, of course, barely scratched the surface when it came to visiting Fayetteville attractions. Jenny Bell, who served as my Designated Eater at May 1's Woodpeckers game, is the communications coordinator for the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Here are a few things she suggested that I didn't get the chance to check out: 

Cape Fear River Trail
Runners and nature lovers alike enjoy this 5.3-mile paved trail that is part of the East Coast Greenway and runs parallel with the Cape Fear River; you can easily park at Clark Park and hit the trail in either direction from there.

Paraclete XP Indoor Skydiving
The Golden Knights use this indoor skydiving facility to train, and anyone can experience a short but exhilarating "flight" inside their giant, vertical wind tunnel.

Airborne & Special Operations Museum (ASOM)
On Thursday, May 2nd, the Global War on Terror Memorial Wall (similar to the Vietnam traveling wall) will open to the public for a few weeks at the ASOM, which is one of our most popular attractions and a museum that's been compared to those in D.C.

One Fayetteville attraction I did briefly visit was J.P. Riddle Stadium, currently home of the summer-collegiate Fayetteville Swampdogs. This ballpark opened in 1987 and hosted the South Atlantic League's Fayetteville Generals/Cape Fear Crocs from that season through 2000. (Related: the Cape Fear Crocs had a fantastic team theme song.)

  
My plan was to wander around J.P. Riddle stadium for a bit, and maybe try to get a tour from someone on the Swampdogs staff. It was not to be, however, because...well, long story short, I am prone to anxiety and I found myself distracted and overly concerned about some problems I had been having earlier in the day which, par for the course, didn't turn out to be a big deal in the long run. I went back to the hotel to briefly regroup before heading out to my third and final Woodpeckers game. Living the dream! 

Yes, being on the road is exhausting. It's always worth it, however, as there are so many small moments that it make it all worthwhile. Moments like waiting in line at a Cookout drive-thru at 12:30 in the morning, soaking in the aesthetic. 

Tweet from @bensbiz: North Carolina at night pic.twitter.com/Fhx1PEB2hU

That'll be it for me from Fayetteville. I hope that this post and my other articles and my numerous tweets gave you a sense of the team and the place. Thank you for reading. I will always appreciate it. And, of course, there's still more to come from Lynchburg and Richmond. My next trip, meanwhile, kicks off on June 12. For more info on that, as well as everything else that I'm currently working on, please bookmark the following easy-to-remember (and even easier to visit) URL: 

www.milb.com/bensbiz

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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