This was the second stop in the US where I cursed my limited time — I earlier passed through San Francisco for the first time in 25 years without seeing much more than tarmac and a terminal, and now my return to Charlotte after the better part of 15 would be equally stunted.
It was pissing rain from dark clouds as we landed an hour and a half behind schedule, black US Airways planes lurking ominously in the drizzle like birds of bad weather (to quote a Finnish expression). But while others cursed and moaned about their missed connections, I was not in a hurry tonight, and the miserable weather just meant that I wasn’t kicking myself for missing this sightseeing chance. After waiting another hour for first my bag and then the shuttle bus to show up, it was closer to nine by the time I was checked into my hotel and could head out to grab a long-delayed dinner. I wanted something Southern, something filling, and something cheap, and the Cracker Barrel a block away — the only restaurant within walking distance from the otherwise fine Fairfield Inn Charlotte Airport — filled all three counts perfectly. They were out of turkey, alas, but I substituted meatloaf (badly microwaved), battered fried okra (which proved that everything tastes good deep-fried, except okra), turnip greens (an interesting new acquaintance), mashed potatoes with gravy (yum) and cornbread with butter (sweet enough to be my dessert). I paid my $8.57 at the cashier as directed (was I supposed to tip the waitress? Probably, but when and how?) — and, sated, rolled downhill to sleep.