CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- John F. Kennedy once said nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. Of course, John Kennedy never rode a bike through uptown Charlotte.
You can see a lot up here when you look over a set of handlebars. There are guys crossing the street with hot dogs. Guys sleeping on benches. Women walking back to work.
What we haven't seen, until now, are big metal fences. They’re heavy-- taller than I am. Those barriers just went up at 8th and Brevard Streets. There’s another new fence going up around the police memorial at Old City Hall on East Trade Street.
Not everybody is impressed.
“They're putting a gate around it,” said Tina McCullough, who was walking by the police memorial. “I mean, nobody's ever stole it before.”
But still. It is a good time to be a fence builder.
Between Old City Hall and the arena, NBC News is setting up shop. They let me into their temporary Charlotte newsroom, a big white tent full of color bars and wires and a break room.
Over in front of Bank of America headquarters, Chad Diamond sat by himself. He's only seen one thing change in the run up to the DNC.
“Well,” he said with a shrug, “I noticed my parking prices went up.”
Diamond usually sits on a bench on N. Tryon Street to people-watch at lunchtime. He just happened to be there when Jerry Richardson walked out of the skyscraper across the sidewalk.
The Carolina Panthers owner owns Bank of America Stadium, where President Obama will speak next week. Yes, he has a great spot to watch the speech, he said.
I asked him if he’s noticed any change uptown. “I've noticed a lot of excitement,” Richardson said, “and I notice an enormous amount of people I don't recognize or know.”
Down the block at Trade and Tryon, Lee Seng Yang is cleaning up under the tent where he sells flowers to passers-by. He hadn’t noticed much of a change uptown. Yet. And when things do change, Lee won’t be here. He won’t set up his tent during the DNC. “I try to stay away,” he said. “When police do their security, I don’t want to be involved here.”
Plenty of people do want to get involved here, including a curly haired little girl who was wearing an Obama pin. She and her grandparents were walking past a new pocket park at 6th and Tryon, in front of the Carolina Theater. A woman walking down the street asked where she could get a pin like that. There’s a DNC store open on the corner of S. Tryon Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, they said. Try there.
All around uptown, there were new plants, new banners and new tents. And there were guys who are suspicious of people riding around on bikes shooting video with iPhones. People like, uh, me.
“They’ll get you for a terrorist,” warned a man in a floppy hat. He kept walking.
Even with all of the changes, this was the last time Charlotte would be somewhat normal for a while. And there was no better time to hop on a bike, ride around, and be curious.