Once again, I’m falling behind blogging about all my adventures this summer. So, before I hop on a plane again tomorrow morning, I thought I’d try to at least get the post up from my vacation that happened back at the end of July!
Of course, the internet hates me, so I am giving up the battle with these pictures. I edited them into groups, so I could include more pictures but have fewer actual images for your computers to load, but they were too big for Photobucket to cooperate with me, so I tried in Flickr only to discover that they automatically changed all my .gifs to .jpgs, making them unusable, but not to worry — Flickr makes it next to impossible to link to your own images anyway. So, I posted these pictures out of Photobucket (since it’s at least user friendly, for goodness’ sake), and some of them are horribly pixelated. Given the amount of time it took me to get to this point, added to the number of people who read this blog in the first place, I am leaving them as they are and calling it “artsy.” Just work with me — some of the pictures may look a bit wonky, but I can counter with the fact that some of these pictures are of James Lafferty, nullifying your right to complain. And if anyone has a suggestion for a photo hosting site, I’m all ears.
It’s both wonderful and dangerous that one of my favorite places is only a five hour drive from my apartment. That makes it easy and tempting to hop in the car with a full tank of gas and point my car in the direction of Wilmington, NC. I’m not the only one who feels that way, so together with my friends Katie and Ali, we set out for a week at the beach.
On the trip down, we made a point to stop by the Cheesecake Factory for lunch, and we found ourselves talking about what we were going to do when we got “home.” Ali snagged pictures of the first road sign pointing the way as well as the “Welcome to Wilmington” sign when we reached the end of I-40 and landed in paradise.
We made a few stops before we even got to our hotel, including a visit to “Tree Hill High” (Cape Fear Community College) and the infamous “Clothes Over Bros.” Naturally, we were also eager to get downtown and explore.
We stayed at the Riverfront Hilton and got a great group rate as part of the One Tree Hill Fan Reunion. We even got a free upgrade to a river view room, affording us a bird’s eye view of the river, the battleship across Cape Fear, and even our beloved River Court in Battleship Park. Since I’m a tremendous nerd, I noticed that we were staying in Room 409 – which just so happens to be my favorite episode of One Tree Hill (4.09, “Some You Give Away”).
We had to make a trip back to the car to finish bringing in our suitcases and our cooler, which I quickly discovered was much too heavy for me to carry. We were faced with either having to carry our water bottles upstairs one handful at a time, or getting some help, so when I spotted a capable-looking fellow across the parking lot, my instincts took over and I yelled, “Hey! Big Strong Man!” Luckily for us, he answered my cry for help and carried our cooler inside for us. He was a real trooper, especially when he realized that our cooler really was THAT heavy and we weren’t just being dainty.
Aside from the chivalrous guests and glorious views, the best part of our hotel was its proximity to downtown and the River Walk.
As we walked around downtown, Ali spotted Bethany Joy Galeotti and Lisa Goldstein walking with a group of girls on Front Street. We were all taken by surprise and didn’t want to interrupt them on their way. I am typically a little quicker on my feet and not remotely shy, but seeing Joy – who is awesome, if you didn’t know – was a bit much for even me.
We met up with our reunion group for a quick meeting and then we went out walking around again after dark. This time, eagle-eye Ali spotted Lindsey McKeon on Market Street, and we stopped and talked to her for a while and took pictures. Lindsey is much sweeter than her alter-ego, Taylor James, but I rather enjoy all of One Tree Hill’s scandalous characters.
Sunday morning, we got up bright and early to go to church (Port City Community Church) with Katie’s aunt and cousins. After church, we had breakfast and then parted company, as Katie went to spend some time with her family, and Ali and I went to tour the studio.
After our tour, Ali and I joined Katie and her family at the pool for the afternoon. Then, we went back to our hotel pool, where two handsome gentlemen – James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti – were waiting for us. (Either that, or they were just coincidentally swimming there, but I like the other theory much better.) They were both nice enough to let us get pictures and grin like fools in their general direction. We initially took pictures standing between them, but my picture didn’t take, so I got a do-over wherein James took a picture of me and Stephen, and Stephen took the picture of me and James. Later, we saw Kate Voegele by the pool when we were on our way out to dinner. She was also delightful and happy to chat with us.
Ali’s picture turned out perfectly, so I’m giving it lots of pixel space here:
Monday was the day of our official Reunion tour, so we piled into a 15-passenger van with our fellow fans for a day of sight-seeing.
Going off of our tip from the day before, we started our day by heading to the Batting Cages to watch Austin Nichols and Jackson Brundage do some filming for episode 8.02. Joe Davola (Executive Producer) was on hand, directing the episode. You can see him in the blue shirt talking to the crew in one of the pictures below.
We watched filming for about an hour in the hot, hot heat. (And for the record, everything that took place this week happened in the HOT, HOT HEAT.) From filming, we proceeded to Screen Gems Studios for our private group tour.
We toured Stages 7 and 8, which include the downstairs of Nathan and Haley’s house (Stage 7), the upstairs of their house (Stage 8), and Mouth and Skills’ apartment (Stage 8). Because we were a small group on a private tour, the guides opened up the porch area of Nathan and Haley’s house and let us walk out to the pool. I had seen the downstairs of the house many times (and loved it each time as it is a magnificent set), but getting to see the pool, porch, and sun room was a really cool experience. It was also my first time touring Stage 8, so I got to see Nathan and Haley’s bedroom, bathroom, guest room, and Jamie’s room. Mouth and Skills’ apartment was also cool to see. I noticed a lot of picayune details in their bachelor pad that I’ve never noticed on screen.
After our tour, we had lunch, and drove around to several key One Tree Hill locations. I covered most of these locations in my first Wilmington blog, so I don’t want to be redundant here. However, we did visit some locations I had not seen before, so I’ll cover those for you.
The most exciting spot for me was the practical location of Nathan and Haley’s new house. Considering that the sets for their house take up two sound stages, it comes as no surprise that the house itself is massive and beautiful. The owner was home and was delighted to let us all look around and take pictures. The sets in the studio are near-perfect reproductions of the house itself:
The backyard extends down to the river, and the chairs in the yard and the dock have been featured in several scenes, as you can see below:
Of course, we had to make a stop at the River Court, and since I’d been there many times before, I took the opportunity to admire the view from the court across the river, looking at downtown Wilmington:
Greenfield Lake was also on our docket, and I’d been there before, too, but this time, I ran into a bit more wildlife, including a duck that waddled out of the woods and startled one of the girls, and a scary lot of alligators swimming in the lake below the bridge:
One of the newest practical locations is for Focus, Quinn’s photo gallery. The show uses the empty Roudabush building for those scenes:
Grace United Methodist Church was on our touring list, so I suggested calling ahead to see if they would allow us to come inside and see the sanctuary. The staff was very obliging, so we got to take some pictures inside the beautiful church.
After a successful day of touring, we concluded our evening with dinner at Hell’s Kitchen. Named for it’s usage on Dawson’s Creek, it also appeared as The Swinging Donkey in Season 2 of One Tree Hill:
After dinner, Katie, Ali, and I walked back toward the hotel and ran into Stephen Colletti again, down on the River Walk:
Tuesday morning, we set out to tour Airlie Gardens before the heat became too stifling (95 degrees is preferable to 115, after all). When we picked up our map at the Visitor’s Center, we were told that the One Tree Hill crew was working at the Pergola, staging for a scene to be shot the following day. The staging guys told us that Clay and Quinn would be walking along this path, and they were adding fake flowers to make it even more beautiful:
The Pergola was definitely the place to be, because in addition to the crew guys and us, we were visited by several swans who were hanging out on the steps:
The past few times I’d been to Airlie Gardens, they were constructing a new butterfly sanctuary, so that area of the park was always closed. On this trip, though, construction had been completed and we were able to walk through the butterfly house:
When we left Airlie, we headed back downtown to catch filming at TRIC. We camped out with other fans across the street from base camp and waved to the actors as they went between the trailers and set:
While on a break from filming, several of the actors came over to see us and take pictures. They were happy to hang around signing autographs and taking pictures until every person had gotten a chance.
Tuesday night, we went to dinner and then walked around Independence Mall before calling it an early night and heading back to the hotel. I was in desperate need of some sleep, so Katie and Ali went for a late night swim and let me get some extra rest.
Working on a full night of sleep, we all set out Wednesday morning for a late breakfast at the best place in town – The Dixie Grill.
There, we ran into Jamie, who was part of our tour group, and he was happy to share his pictures with us. He had taken a picture with Jackson at TRIC the previous morning, and then ran into Sophia Bush when she was walking downtown. He was the only member of our group who met her on the trip, and we were delighted for him. He emailed me his pictures so I could share them here as well:
After breakfast, we walked around downtown, enjoying the River Walk again, stopping by St. James Church and Day School, and ducking into a fountain garden tucked away in the courtyard of a bank on Market Street.
The doors were open at St. James, so we were able to take a look inside there as well:
After cooling off back at the hotel, we ventured out again to Hugh McRae Park, where we heard there was filming at the baseball field. When we arrived, we ran into some other fans, and together we watched Stephen, Kate, and Jackson film a scene together. Austin Nichols was hanging around as well, but wasn’t filming while we were there. He did, however, come over to talk to us and take pictures!
After leaving the baseball field, we walked around the rest of the park for a bit and then decided to get some relief from the heat by checking out The Fuzzy Peach, which was recommended to us on Twitter by Jeff Hidek of Wilmington’s Star News. The Fuzzy Peach is a pay-by-the-ounce yogurt bar, and it was delicious. This was our first stop here, but not our last!
Wednesday night, we decided to go out to Fort Fisher Beach (my favorite beach ever!) and have a picnic as the sun was setting. We stopped at McAllister’s Deli on our way to get sandwiches to eat, and made our way down the coastline.
We made a quick pit stop to see Brooke’s beach house, as Ali had not been there before:
When we left Brooke’s place, we were mere minutes from Fort Fisher. We easily found a close parking place, gathered our food and blankets, and walked down to the beach. The sun was setting over the trees, making for some gorgeous colors in the sky. As always, Fort Fisher was pretty quiet, but we did run into some locals who were out walking their dog, and they pointed out some dolphins that were playing in the water about halfway out to the horizon. They were friendly and were happy to chat with us about Wilmington and One Tree Hill, and then they volunteered to take a group shot for us.
Thursday was our last full day in Wilmington, and while we contemplated what we wanted to do, a storm rolled in over the river. With rain drenching downtown, we loaded into the car and drove up the coast towards Topsail Beach, about 45 minutes north of Wilmington. We heard there might be filming at Clay’s Beach house, and we figured we had nothing to lose since we couldn’t do much else with the rain.
We finally found the beach house, far out on the inlet, found a place to park, and walked back up the road before going onto the deserted beach. Filming had been rained out, but the skies were just clearing, so we were able to walk along the beach and take some pictures.
We debated about whether they also used the house as a practical location for indoor filming, and after coming home and rewatching Season 7 scenes in Clay’s beach house, the presence of ceilings, waves in the background, and the sheer size of the house itself, I am now convinced that this beach house is used for both interior and exterior shots:
Still chipper from our beach adventure, we had a little sing-a-long in the car on the way back. My trip playlist included the Doktor Kosmos song “Holiday,” which was used to great (hilarious) effect on One Tree Hill. Ali caught me singing and gettin’ down on video, and we enjoyed many laughs about it in the hotel that night, while watching the clip of One Tree Hill that inspired it and the (HOLY CRAP CAN YOU BELIEVE THERE IS ACTUALLY A) music video of Doktor Kosmos singing his song.
The day was still a bit dreary when we arrived back in Wilmington, so we seized the opportunity to drive around to some of the locations we had missed.
While we were out, Ali took my picture from the balcony of Nathan and Haley’s apartment building:
We also went to see the pilot house – which served as Lucas and Karen’s place in the first episode. After it was filmed, the owners declined to sign the permanent contract, so the show went with their second choice house. I am pleased with the house they ended up with, but it was neat to see the one from the pilot episode as well. The current owner was less than thrilled, however, as she ran out of the house to make sure we were not location scouts hoping to use her house for a TV show or movie. I assured her that we were not – we merely wanted to take a picture of the house. I am not sure what about us looked like we were filmmakers of any kind, but she was satisfied with our answer and we went on our way.
I drove really slowly so Ali could get pictures of the consecutive streets signs on Market that read “Clay Street” and “Evans Street,” respectively. One might assume that is where Mark Schwahn got the name for Nathan’s sports agent, Clay Evans.
When we got back to the hotel, we decided to walk back downtown to the Reel Café for dinner. Reel Café doubled as Carl’s Crab Shack on One Tree Hill and apparently made quite a few appearances on Dawson’s Creek as well. Their food was delicious, so we enjoyed a big dinner and walked around downtown until we made room for some delicious Kilwin’s ice cream. I am not sure how we made it all the way to Thursday before we stopped into Kilwin’s. It’s a Wilmington staple!
Our walk back afforded more beautiful views of the River Walk as the sun faded away:
We decided to go for a late night swim, and before jumping in the water, I took this picture of the sunset from our hotel’s pool area:
Friday morning, we slept in and then packed up to check out. Our week was nearly over. With the suitcases back in the car (and a cooler that was a manageable weight by week’s end), we made our last stops before driving out of town.
Katie wanted to get some pictures of the “Psycho Derek Bridge,” which we drove over nearly every day while we were in town:
We also rode out a little way to go see Roy’s Bait and Tackle, where Q was shot in Season 6. The man himself was manning the counter when we went inside to get some snacks (and take a look around), and he was delighted to see us and ready to tell his story about the night that One Tree Hill came to film at his store.
We had to go by the River Court one more time before we left, too:
We stopped to fill up the tank before leaving town, and who should we see there filling up as well? James Lafferty! We didn’t say hello this time, of course, but it was still a bit of a thrill to see him again, if only from afar.
I sprang one last quick stop on Katie and Ali, stopping at the Fifth Street Bridge, which turned out to be a great place to photograph the Sixth Street Bridge made famous by One Tree Hill’s opening credits:
After leaving Wilmington, we drove out to the middle of nowhere to get to the site of the bridge accident in episode 3.22. From there, we made another stop at The Cheesecake Factory (it was National Cheesecake Day, for goodness’ sake!), and then drove into Greensboro for a show that night at a venue called Greene Street.
One of Ali’s favorite bands, Jonas Sees in Color, was playing a homecoming show Friday night, so Katie and I tagged along. The opening bands were a little too much to handle, so we left Ali to hang out with her friends and Katie and I went and explored the Four Seasons Mall. You know me and malls, so when I say I “explored” the mall, I really mean that I said, “Oooh, look! A day spa! I think I’ll get a pedicure.”
We returned to the venue before Jonas Sees in Color took the stage, and through a wrong turn up the stairs, Katie and I ended up on the roof of the building, looking out on the city. Greene Street also has a rooftop bar/club, but it was still early enough that it was a peaceful place to hang out and pass the time.
We went downstairs to the balcony level at showtime, while Ali watched from the crowd below. I took a few pictures for her:
After the show, we made a late night stop through the Cookout drive thru and started making our way back home in the wee hours of Saturday morning after our week-long adventure.
The following Friday (yes, less than a week after my return home), my office-mate and friend Kelli announced that she was ready for a weekend getaway and wanted to go to Wilmington. That coincided with a Hope4Hannah fundraiser that James Lafferty was doing, so I decided at the last minute to tag along with Kelli and head back to Wilmington yet again. On my way out of town, I saw this bus and knew it must be fate:
She was already in Raleigh, so I drove down late Friday afternoon, arriving in time to join her for dinner and go see her cousin’s art opening downtown. After the opening, we got on the road to Wilmington.
We rolled into town around 10pm, and The Fuzzy Peach was our first stop. Kelli loved it as much as I thought she would, and after that, we checked into our hotel to get some rest.
Saturday morning, we drove downtown to get breakfast at The Dixie Grill. There was a 45-minute wait (it’s worth it), so we used the extra time to walk down by the river where a farmer’s market was set up in the street. I snapped a photo of some musicians who were entertaining the fruit and veggie vendors from their spot on the River Walk:
After a delicious breakfast, we headed down the coast to go to the beach. Traffic was heavy, since it was a Saturday in August, but we continued driving south towards Fort Fisher. Traffic continued to thin all the way down the coast, and when we arrived at Fort Fisher, it wasn’t crowded at all. (One of the many reasons I love that particular beach.) We sprawled out in the sand and enjoyed the peace and quiet for a while.
Kelli decided to go out into the water, and when she came back, she said she had been viciously attacked by a metal beach chair that came hurling at her in a wave. We got her cut cleaned up and headed back toward the hotel.
There was still sunlight left, so we traded in the beach for the pool:
I looked online to choose a spot downtown for dinner, and saw that the Front Street Brewery was conveniently located and had rave reviews. We discovered there was a wait there as well, so we walked down the street and back with our buzzer in hand and I took some pictures, including one of our dinner destination:
The food at Front Street Brewery was amazing! We both loved everything that we ate. Kelli got the ribs, and I am not a ribs-eater, but I could see that the meat was so tender, it was falling off the bones. My chicken was also perfectly seasoned and grilled. The food was so good we contemplated whether we might be hungry again before they closed for the night!
After dinner, it was right at time for the charity event to kick off at The Calico Room, which was on Front Street on the opposite side of Market. To my surprise, we were some of the first to arrive, which meant we were able to snag a place at the bar.
James Lafferty was on hand as the “celebrity bartender” for the event, and he had actually practiced making some drinks the night before. However, you can’t learn to be a bartender in a day, but he made an admirable effort and handed out a lot of ice waters – many of them to me! At one point, he also made me a Diet Coke, and if you know much about me, you know that is a perfect combination of two of God’s best creations.
We had a great time at the event and made some new friends throughout the evening.
I also got another picture with James. This time, we’re both wearing clothes (hurray!) and we’re not squinting into the sun. Nothing against my poolside pic from the week before, of course, but this one does seem a bit more appropriate:
Later in the evening, Austin Nichols showed up, and I got a picture with him as well:
We left sometime around midnight to head back to the hotel, hugging everyone goodbye and promising to come back to visit – which I will, next time I’m in town.
Sunday morning, we slept until it was almost checkout time, and then headed out to get breakfast at Whitey’s, which we heard was going to be torn down to build a Walgreen’s before year’s end.
After breakfast (and it was pretty much lunchtime), we drove back downtown to stop in at Kilwin’s (because I had promised to bring Katie back some fudge), and then we headed home. It was a quick trip, but it was definitely a memorable one!