I always get a thrill when taking delivery of a new style jersey for the first time. I’ve tested the prototypes, hemmed and hawed over minute details, and just about driven everyone batty who has worked on it. But all of that fades from memory once I claim the first medium for myself and tear open the package.
Usually that occurs at our factory in Miami but this past Thursday was different. A small lot of Valkenburgs, our new full zip Merino jersey, was ready at our new factory in Morganton, North Carolina. Coincidentally, I was in Winston-Salem (about 90 miles away) visiting my parents and siblings to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday. Road Holland is a family affair, so along with my father, mother, and sister, we hit the road to Morganton to collect the lot.
I like the drive to Miami but there's nothing like being in the hills in Western, North Carolina. There's also a lot less traffic.
Morganton, “Nature’s Playground” as the official welcome sign says, sits in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Asheville and Hickory. It’s seriously picturesque and despite a fulsome amount of 18 wheelers lumbering along some of the major thoroughfares, it seems like a great place to begin a cycling sojourn into the hills.
With a population just shy of 17,000, you surely won’t mistake it for a major metropolis. Yet in previous times, Morganton was a serious producer of textiles of all sorts. Sadly, NAFTA washed that role away. With the Valkenburg, we’re helping reverse the tide and get some people back to work.
Once at the factory, I had a nice visit with Nand and Neelan, the heads of the operation. Arriving in the US from India in 1979, they lived briefly in New Jersey before settling in Morganton where they have focused on high-quality athletic clothing ever since.
I also talked with some of the cutters and sewers of our jerseys. Just like our food, I believe it’s important we know where our clothes come from. When you do, you can almost feel the pride they take in their work in the garment itself.
After saying our goodbyes to Nand and Neelan and loading up the car, we headed back to Winston. Along the way, we stopped in Statesville where we lunched at The Carolina Bar B-Q.
My family knows BBQ. While we had differing opinions of the cue (it was very lean and lightly smoked), we all agreed that the cake-like hush puppies were some of the best we had ever eaten.
I particularly enjoyed the red slaw and turnip greens. The CBBQ offers two sauces – mild and hot. The latter (my preference) is emblematic of Eastern NC offerings while the former represents Western and almost Kansas City like influences.
The desserts were tempting but we were just too full and had an early dinner back in Winston to think about.
I have four main passions in life – cycling, wristwatches, hi-fi gear, and BBQ. On Thursday, I hit two of the four.
Not bad for a day's work.
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