California may hold the "Golden State" title, but North Carolina could've earned the moniker well before the '49ers rushed west. It was near the city of Charlotte where a young farm boy named Conrad Reed discovered a 17-pound gold rock in the woods in 1799. There was only one problem: he didn't know it was gold! His family used the rock as a doorstop for three years until a Fayetteville jeweler saw it, bought it for $3.50, then sold it for $3,600! A gold rush ensued, and Charlotte led the country in gold production until the precious metal was discovered in California more than four decades later.
These days the city of Charlotte is still a strong economic force, as it's home to several national banks and major businesses. Yet the modern-day "gold in the hills" for the region has to be the big-money, driving-in-circles phenomenon known as NASCAR. Race shops dot the landscape surrounding the city, bearing some of the biggest names in stock car racing. The metro area is home to one of NASCAR's premier venues, Lowe's Motor Speedway. Every Memorial Day weekend the track plays host to one of the most-attended sporting events in the country, the Coca-Cola 600.
The Speedway hosts many other events throughout the year, including an annual autumn ritual where precious metals again congregate on North Carolina's fertile soil. We're talking about the Goodguys Southeastern Nationals, a gathering that never fails to draw thousands of slick 'sleds, hot rods, and brawny musclecars for one last hurrah before winter. This was the first time in several years that R&C had been back to the Southeast Nats, and we were simply blown away. We knew there were cool cars in the area, but the volume and quality was overwhelming. It was a nice surprise-kinda like stumbling over a rock that turns out to be gold.