Paradoxically speaking, an Englishman abroad — who never gets flustered over anything — went into panic mode when the Sat-Nav provided decided to crash five minutes out of the Columbia (S.C.) Metropolitan Airport.
After using a quarter of a tank of gas circumnavigating the city, I observed a plane descending into the urban landscape. Heading in that general direction, I eventually found my way back to Alamo car hire, and a new GPS unit.
The America’s Best Value Inn sign at 516 S. Hancock St. marked the end of my journey and the beginning of my second visit to Rockingham. My host and the hotel’s proprietor, Jay Patel, welcomed me like a long-lost friend, as he did the year before, the warmth of his welcome reminding me of the courtesy that all business folk show to their customers in this city.
You see, it was this home-grown courtesy that attracted me here in the first place. My second wife, having spent 30 years as a U.S. expatriate living in the U.K., decided she would like to come home to the States.
After a lot of soul-searching and Internet searching, we decided on North Carolina, and it was on the first visit to Rockingham that I met Kim Ayers of Thomas Realty Co. This lady has the patience of a saint, and we (my wife and I) are eternally grateful for her professional guidance and support; it has taken some time, but her intuition and counseling has been a blessing.
Discovering Pat’s Kitchen, the home of real Southern fried chicken and overeating, I found the atmosphere to be that of a homecoming rather than dining out.
This is also true of Rockingham’s Captain George. This restaurant is extremely popular, and I was lucky to get a seat and appreciative for it. The steak is the best I have ever tasted and the seafood is simply outstanding. Both businesses are to be found downtown. Henry’s Café on Hancock Street is also worth a visit.
It was after eating in one of these establishments that I encountered another soul plying his trade, sitting on the sidewalk with a plaque around his neck (war hero and still out of luck); I felt a pang of guilt and put some money in his hat.
There are other entrepreneurs, children bidding to clean your car in direct competition with the car wash business I was driving into as I pulled off U.S. 74 Business. I had experienced similar entrepreneurialism in Bombay and Tangier, but there it is more in your face. In the U.K. and the U.S., poverty doesn’t seem to exist.
Do not misunderstand me — this is not a criticism, just an observation. People have a right to live; so-called religious people do the same thing on TV, but they seem to be more successful at it than the poor beggars on the street.
On a lighter note, there is a furniture shop in downtown Rockingham where the flat roof has given up the ghost and water has wrecked the premises. The proprietor told me, as he flipped through his catalog, ‘’I’ve worked here for 30 years, it’s just a leak. I’ll get whatever you want in a couple of days.” God bless him.
Robert Harris is an Englishman planning to relocate to Rockingham. He lives in Steeton, West Yorkshire.