The time came to go exploring further than just Downtown Raleigh. I checked which towns I could reach easily by bus and started asking people round me which one would be worth visiting. I did not get much help here, so I randomly (but encouraged by a short travel time) picked out the town of Cary, west of Raleigh. I tried to do some research online to identify must-see locations there but I was not particularly successful. No. 1 attraction according to TripAdvisor was the Fred G. Bond Metro Park which I put on my list of two items. For the rest of my trip, I decided to let the town surprise me.
It felt like an eternity until the bus finally came to the bus stop where I was waiting. It was a rather small bus and the driver was rather old. Without recognizing that I left Raleigh and entered another town, I reached my destination safely. The bus ride, however, provided me with another opportunity to think about my possible prejudices against people other than Caucasians. There is no experience in my life that would justify me to feel “different” in a bus with Caucasians only and in a bus with primarily African-American passengers. Yet, having grown up in exclusively Czech society and having done most of my traveling in “white” Europe, it is a completely new situation to be a minority (using skin color as a delicate criterion) in a spot such as a bus or bus stop. Upon getting on the bus, I realized there was no entirely free double-seat and I would have to sit next to some other passenger. It took me a millisecond to find the only white guy in the bus and I realized that the most natural thing seemed to sit next to him. In a few more milliseconds, I re-evaluated my initial decision as I asked the question How would the African-Americans in the bus feel about that? (assuming they would realize a Czech girl got on the bus at all). I would not care about an African guy choosing to take a seat next to another African but I was not sure it would be the same the other way around. I therefore sat down next to the guy whose hairstyle I liked the most.
That was the human equality/role of society lesson right in the morning and the rest of the day was just a trip – i.e. no serious topics but lots of exploration. I got surprised right after getting off the busy – Cary has got such a nice combined bus and train station! Even better, there was an information board with map and points of interest. Among others, there was a town hall located only across the railroad and across the street. That is why I decided to start my exploration there. I cannot say it was not nice, yet the building was sort of a disappointment. The modern business-like building did not fit my European standards at all. For photography purposes and architecture study, the unknown brick building with cute yellow window frames close to it was a much better object.
From there I walked down the main street, hoping to see more of the downtown and thankfully, I got plenty of it. There was a bank, a tiny farmer’s market (10 stands at maximum), several stores, two churches, a cafe in an absolutely gorgeous building and the Cary pottery building asked for few pictures, too. I finally reached the Cary Arts Center that would make for a much nicer town hall than the actual building I saw earlier in the morning. I decided there would always be enough time for some arts and without checking it at all, I headed to the Cary’s site No. 1: the Bond Park.
I studied the route online before and knew it would be a long walk (47 minutes). At one point I doubted I was going the right way but asking for directions was not an options as the streets were completely depopulated. I wondered where all the Americans were – definitely not at the farmer’s market and neither at the church. I would have probably noticed them at either location. At the beginning, the walking was fun as there was so much to see: some nice houses, a Cuba restaurant, very old Ford for sale and several small stores (the closed chocolate one was a pain though).
That would eventually come to an end and the section of auto-related services followed. Although one could probably get there a highly complex care for their vehicle (from tire to breaks and wash to something called auto spa), it was much less fun for me. Once I reached the point when even the auto stuff was over, walking stopped being fun at all. That was when I gave myself a time limit and the deal was: If you do not reach the park or get any clue you are getting closer to it by that time, you will return. The moment I was about to run out of the time I got on a Black Creek Trail and there was a map! What I saw there, looked more than promising and as the surroundings of the trail were so nice, I decided I would continue towards my destination.
Once on the trail, it did not take awfully long to get to the park and any delays were caused by picture taking. There was a lake with several dragonfly species living there but they were not too cooperative – they barely ever sit down even though it was noon and damn hot. While I still hope to discover a nice picture in my memory card, I am afraid the only outcome was that I almost cooked both myself and the camera (that thing had never been so hot). Along the trail, there were many houses and I thought it was a great location to live – probably no more than 30 minutes from Raleigh and at once, all it would take to get to the trail was walking down the backyard.
The first view of the lake was simply breathtaking!
At the lake, there were several people but the number of them did not reflect the number of cars parked there. “Where are the Americans?” Although the view of the lake was spectacular, some more great opportunities would only come. There were three trails going along the lake and in the park (though it looked more like a forest) and I walked down the Paw Paw trail – the baby one, only a mile long loop. A mere mile gifted me with so many opportunities to take pictures! And now I am not talking about views of the lake any more but about great blue heron sitting at the tree (while still within the reach of my camera), a beautiful, large yellow butterfly feeding on bright yellow flowers and a frog as small as my thumb nail. Indeed, it felt like a photography heaven!
The lake was apparently a favorite spot for fishermen who were provided special trash bins for their lines. In fact, there were so many people fishing that I wondered whether it was legal to be at the lake without a fishing rod. It was a fisherman who caused another (i.e. second in only two days) fish trauma to me. There he is with two kids, he reaches for a plastic bag and gets a live fish out of there (“How long has the poor animal being been there without any water?”) and starts putting it on the hook of his fishing line. Still alive! It was a huge evolutionary mistake that fish were not given the gift of voice. Had they gotten it, it would be much harder to harm them like that. The cooking directions on my instant oat meal give warning that once cooked in the microwave, the bowl might be hot. Absolutely common sense, yet we are better informed. But for heaven’s sake, who cares about the poor fish?
By the time I finished the loop, I had a map which turned out to be extremely useful on the way back. A slightly stressful moment was the one when it looked like it would start raining while I was still in the middle of nowhere. When I turned back, there were only occasional white puffy clouds but in the direction I had to go, there were heavy dark grey ones. Thankfully, few raindrops was all what happened. The walk back provided me with two more special moments: meeting with another cardinal and for the first time in my life, I saw a hummingbird in the wilderness. I did not manage to take a picture of either one. It might be good this way though – if captured, the elusiveness of the moment would be gone for good.
I decided I would try reach the second destination on my list – an Indian temple called Sri Venkateswara. I never got there. When I reached the crucial intersection and had do determine whether to go there or back downtown, I decided it would probably be too much walking and since I wanted to get on the bus at 5 PM, I headed back to the center of the town. This last stretch was the only one where there was no sidewalk at all. Previously, I was forced to cross streets just to get on the sidewalk on the other side but there always was one.
I still had some time left before the bus would go but later in the afternoon, there was even less live than in the morning. Most of the places seemed to be close, one of the few exceptions being an art gallery displaying (and selling) art of North Carolina artists. It was a nice place to hide and cut off some of the waiting time for the bus. Once I was onboard, I was so glad there would be no more walking but a short walk from the bus stop in Raleigh to my apartment.
I did feel super tired and though the trip to the lake was a reward already, I rewarded myself once more at home – with the Strawberry Ale. Unusually high in alcohol content, the flavor was bit disappointing. At no point during the consumption, I tasted anything somewhat resembling strawberries. It tasted exactly the way apple cider would.
I had originally hoped to explore a US town today but instead, I spent most of my time in the nature. It was good this way as I could see some species I had not seen before or definitely not in their natural environment. The Saturday marking the halfway of my stay was very enjoyable and I hope that the next week, I would be able to go exploring some other place, hopefully with a nice companion.