Russ and I were originally slated to go to an NFL game last weekend in Pittsburgh, but, long story short, the trip didn’t make. Not enough people were interested. We’re hoping that it will be a go for next year, though.

So, instead, we decided to spend that weekend hanging out down in the Smokies. Then we decided that we’ve done that so many times in the past five years, we’re a little bored and wanted a change of venue. So, we somehow decided that Charlotte would be a fun place to try. Why did we decide that? Oh, yes! Because there is an IKEA store there, and the mother ship beckons me home! But what else is there to do in Charlotte, the Queen City, as it’s also called? Well, they have an NBA team – two home basketball games the weekend we would be there. But neither of us likes basketball. They have an NFL team. Which was playing away that weekend. Carowinds, a place I haven’t been since the week after I graduated from high school in 1989, is open limitedly that weekend for Winter Fest. But we ultimately decided to pass on that to take in a hockey game. I know that I read that they have a hockey game. I also read somewhere that the Carolina Hurricanes play in PNC Arena or PNC something. We waited until Friday night to buy our tickets to Saturday night’s game. From our really comfy hotel, a Comfort Inn & Suites in the Choice Hotels Chain, which is the chain I’ve had loyalty points with since the 1990’s. And Russ asked, “Do we need to get insurance for any reason?” I said surely not, it was less than 24 hours away. What could possibly go wrong. And with a click, he purchased the tickets.

“Raleigh,” he said suddenly.
“What about Raleigh?”
“They play in Raleigh.”
“No, they play in PNC Something, which is really close to here.”

Ah. PNC is the name of a bank apparently based in Charlotte and for which numerous venues are named. Including PNC Music Pavillion in Charlotte and PNC Arena in Raleigh. TicketMaster DOES, indeed, know where the Hurricanes play, btw. In Raleigh. A full 2.5 hours away from Charlotte, where we were booked to stay in this nice hotel for two nights. The next morning, I inquired about canceling our second night and, much to my surprise, they agreed to do so. Membership apparently has its privileges. (I’m a diamond level-member currently, and have spent about 13 nights in Choice Hotels this year alone, even during Covid.) So I found a Quality Inn that said it was close to PNC Arena in Raleigh. Knowing nothing about Raleigh, I booked it, with a sinking feeling, because, frequently in this chain “Quality” indicates a vast quantity of just that. After a successful shopping trip to IKEA the next morning, we set off for Raleigh, arriving in plenty of time to check in to the hotel, where, upon arrival, we couldn’t help but notice an ambulance right off the property. Okay, a little ominous… On my way out to help Russ with the bags, a stranger called out to me and asked if I had any cigarettes; I answered no, and Russ put his pack away before the guy could see them. On our way out of the hotel to the hockey game, we saw sleeping bags littering the front yard of the property. With people inside them. I asked Russ if he wanted to try to find something else. “No, it’s just one night, We’ll manage.”

The game was phenomenal! Russ got us seats right down on the ice, so there was lots of action. Some players got slammed into the plexi-glass right in front of us (one of my favorite sounds in the universe), and one of the team celebrations for a scored goal was right there in our immediate line of vision. Russ caught one of the t-shirts they threw out into the crowd – and even smiled when I took a picture! (Russ rarely smiles outright in pictures.) We had gotten amazing parking through WhizParking and got out in record time to get back on the road to the hotel.

When we arrived, there was one empty spot for Preferred Loyalty Members, so Russ backed Rupert into it. I never back into spaces; I’m not that talented a driver. Well, there were two things that Russ wasn’t counting on: 1) a hedge that wouldn’t allow him to open the driver’s side door; and 2) Rupert’s engine dying and not being able to re-start it to pull forward to re-situate the SUV. Poor Russ, all 6’3” of him, had to crawl out across the center console in order to get out. We had just replaced the battery in Rupert earlier in the week because he wouldn’t start at the house for me one day. Russ jiggled the cables, then restarted it from the passenger side, and that seemed to fix matters.
Then we went inside the “Lack of Quality Inn.” The people in sleeping bags from the front lawn had now assembled themselves inside and were screaming at each other from across the room. We had a room across from the lobby. My Chicago-born hubby quickly locked the door behind us and I instantly realized that the situation was at least as bad as I had originally thought it was if he put that much speed and emphasis on locking the door behind us. Being the humorous gal I am, I posted about the situation on Facebook, starting out, “If I should die before I wake,” but asking friends to pray for a safe night for us.

No lie: About 5 minutes after turning off the lights and getting situated in bed, the emergency fire alarm light in the room started strobing! We jumped out of bed, dressed quickly, gathered up all of our belongings, a little surprised that, being that close to the lobby, no one came pounding on our door to get us up/out, and exited to the lobby. Where no one had bothered leaving the building. Russ spoke to the desk attendant and demanded our money back. He did so unflinchingly. As we walked out into the parking lot, the first of two large ladder fire trucks pulled up. Russ still couldn’t get in the driver’s side of Rupert because of the hedge, then got stuck halfway across the console, and sorta lurched it forward enough to put it in park in the middle of the parking lot, get out, and enter from the driver’s side. Then we drove on to Durham, about 15-20 minutes away, and stayed at a lovely Comfort Suites there near the airport for the remainder of the night.

I’m trying to talk Russ into going to another hockey game while we’re in Chicago for Thanksgiving next week. He tells me that they’re in a shady part of town. I laugh.