Of hikes and hotdogs

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Although there was a slight bite in the air, we didn’t have a cloud in the sky this morning. After so much rain here recently, we had to get outside and take advantage of the weather.

But, where to go?

A Google search helped me find a comprehensive listing of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill hikes on Trails.com. It was in alphabetical order — and the first, the American Tobacco Trail, caught my interest. The ATT is a “rails to trails” project, in which old railroad tracks are converted to relatively flat hiking, biking and equestrian paths.

It was about a 25-minute drive through the rolling countryside, but we found the entrance in Apex, parked and then hit the trail, passing swamps, forests, cantering horses and, this being North Carolina, the occasional driving range (“Watch for golf balls next 300 yards,” read a sign).

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With the sun bearing down, we pushed on and triumphantly reached the 3-mile marker. On our return, we passed a timid turtle that seemed to have lost its way.

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To celebrate our achievement and negate any positive health benefits associated with the 6-mile trek, we drove to downtown Raleigh for a visit to the Roast Grill. This tiny joint was recently featured on Man vs. Food, as host Adam Richman set a new record by wolfing down 17 of their classic hotdogs smothered in chili.

The line snaking onto the street was our first indicator that this dinky, simple place that has been around since 1940 — and today is run by George Poniros, the original owner’s grandson — knew what it was doing. The Grill has just one item on the menu: its hotdogs, which are charbroiled on a burner and then covered with onions, some mustard, a simple slaw and top-secret chili.

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The dogs were burned nicely on the outside, plump and juicy on the inside. Buns were steamed warm. The chili was the perfect consistency and texture, onions added an additional bite while the slaw cooled it all down.

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The real beauty, however, might have been the simplicity of it all. There’s no ketchup available here. Nor fries or onion rings.

Just simple, and delicious, hot dogs.

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