Miles Traveled: 456; Current Location: Wilmington, NC

In 1998, at the start of the show’s second season, Dawson’s Creek moved to Wednesday nights at 8:00, the same day and time that Beverly Hills, 90210 aired on FOX.  Suffice it to say, Dawson’s Creek and I permanently parted ways.  If you want to know where I thought the “cool kids” were hanging out, just look at where I spent the last seven years.  It wasn’t in a beach town in Massachusetts.  So, as a result of staunch loyalty to FOX’s aging flagship, I’m not as familiar with Wilmington as some of my peers.  Dawson’s Creek fans (like Jamie Rokus) know all about Wilmington because to them, “Wilmington” is just fancy word for “Capeside.”

By now, Dawson’s Creek is only one of many television shows and movies that have filmed in Wilmington, and upon my arrival here, it’s easy to see why.  Even at first glance, it was clear to me that Wilmington is an adorable beach destination without the tourist trap signifyers that plague so many similarly situated towns.  The boats, docks, and houses are picturesque, but the town still manages to exude an overall sense of calmness.  It’s as though there is actually room for all of these buildings and they’re not jammed in right next to each other as a result of over-expansion.  Maybe one day, Wilmington.  Maybe one day you’ll get there too.

After my arrival, we headed straight to the beach, and I enjoyed seeing the ocean again.  Then we went to a local fish market to get shrimp for dinner.  Typically, the only shrimp that I see come in the cup of noodles soup package, so these shrimp looked much different than the ones that I had been used to.  Shockingly, they were even better.  Tomorrow I will spend another full day in Wilmington, and I look forward to further exploration, maybe even of the setting for “that other teen drama,” the one that didn’t air on FOX.

So far, I give five stars to Wilmington.  Of course, before I got here, I had to make the drive from Atlanta.  The drive from Atlanta gets five stars as well but in addition to the five measly regular stars, it gets the special 6th giant bonus star.  It gets the “rest stop of America” award.

Thanks to a credible tip that I had received, I knew to expect something great along the way.  It was called “Pedro’s or something.  You’ll see it.”  Uh yeah.  “You’ll see it” turned out to be the understatement of the year.  Not only did I see it from a country mile, but thirty-five billboards told me about its existence for eighteen country miles before I arrived on site.  But once I did arrive, the glory of Pedro’s was nothing short of amazing.  If I’ve seen this before, my memory was kind enough to eliminate it for me so that I could experience it again as if I were visiting it for the first time.  Today, Pedro’s was new to me.

I make the following recommendation in all (some) seriousness.  Skip Myrtle Beach, don’t bother with the zoo, avoid getting a hotel and stop shopping at the mall.  You can do all of this – you can get everything you need – at Pedro’s.  Pedro’s has everything.  Leather goods?  Check.  Fireworks?  Check.  Ice cream and hotdogs?  Check.  Rides and arcade games?  Check.  Animals made of plaster?  Check.  T-shirts that claim you’ve vacationed in east coast cities that you haven’t necessarily ever visited?  You guessed it… check.  Pedro’s is a one stop shop for all things Southeast Coast and coincidentally, for all things Mexico.

See, Pedro’s full name is “Pedro’s: South of the Border,” as in, south of the Carolina border.  Pedro’s separates North and South Carolina.  I personally don’t think that America has ever come up with anything else quite as clever as this, except for maybe the Shamwow towel.  I spent thirty minutes at Pedro’s.  I didn’t get food.  I didn’t get gas.  I got random junk.  Random treasures from my favorite place to “stop off” in America.  I couldn’t risk not having souvenirs to preserve the memory.

Before I exited the interstate to get to Pedro’s though, I faced a dilemma.  It became obvious that by visiting this mecca, I was going to miss the sign welcoming me to North Carolina.  I was pissed. Don’t these state line planners realize that the people who stop at Pedro’s are the same schmucks that care about being visibly welcomed by the next location?  Trust me, every carload at Pedro’s finds joy in progressing to the next state.  These are the people who wake their kids up in the back seat to say, “look guys, Florida!”  I don’t know why we’re like this.  It’s still Florida whether or not you require the giant label, but for some reason, people like me appreciate the stake in the ground.  One foot to the left of the sign is in Georgia, the other foot is in Alabama.  We get a kick out of this kind of crap.  So why leave the sign there for the non-Pedro’s goers when it should clearly be part of the overall Pedro’s experience!?  I sense another letter coming on…

Aside from my time at South of the Border (as if I needed anything else), my drive was fairly uneventful – except for the new appreciation that I’ve developed for South Carolina.  South Carolina officially has the cheapest gas that I’ve found anywhere in the country.  Gold star for that.  In addition to the cheapest gas, I also noticed that some of their gas stations feature coolers filled with individually sold ice cold beers.  Does this feature strike anybody else as a little bit “off the beaten path?”  Of course, if the beaten path is still not drinking and driving that is.  What could be the reason for this kind of sale other than to take beer with you the car?  If you live in the area, presumably you own a refrigerator.  If you’re going on a trip, presumably you have your own cooler.  If you don’t have your own cooler, presumably the ice cold beer that you just bought will be warm by the time you make it to wherever you’re headed.  Presumably.  It’s too bad that there are about 1,500 miles separating South Carolina from New Mexico because if they ever had the opportunity to meet, I think they’d get along nicely.

As I mentioned, tomorrow I will stay here in Wilmington and then progress up the East Coast. I hope that everyone is having a great summer weekend!  I am very much looking forward to my favorite holiday, July 4th, next week but I am also enjoying my final days on the road.  Luckily, there are some interesting things scheduled for the final days, so stay tuned!