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Mountains - City - Sea

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Us at the home we sold in NoDa in 2018 to follow our dreams and buy Fort Linwell on Roatán island

When we began our journey of change in 2018 we knew we wanted to shake things up in our lives and we knew we wanted to be in the Caribbean. Travels there - Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, St Lucia, Aruba - had all pointed us in that direction. We loved the scenery and sea, the warm humid wind blowing off the water but more than any of that we loved the culture, the people, and the food. We loved the pace of life. We loved the mix of languages: English, Spanish & the various local Patois.

Joey walking through West End, Roatán on our first visit

We fell in love with how different it was from where we'd grown up, the American south - Georgia and North Carolina. We wanted to learn and we wanted to grow. When we found Roatán we realized "this was it". We felt like we fit in as outsiders there (if that makes sense), people observing and working to be a part of the community, bending ourselves to the place not trying to make it conform to us or our expectations. Our plans to live there were full and were optimistic so we eagerly jumped in head first. For us, we certainly shook things up.

Our home we sold in NoDa so we could purchase Fort Linwell, Port Royal Roatán

But plans change. After selling everything in Charlotte, NC, and purchasing our home and property Fort Linwell in Port Royal and heading to the island, we had a number of things point us back to where we'd come from. Family, business, personal. A combination and set of circumstances that couldn't be ignored.

This didn't end up as a full move as we'd anticipated and planned for (and done), but a step back and a breather to figure out what we needed to do and where we needed to be. At no point before had our plans included living in more than one place, we'd never talked about it. We had assumed we had to choose and we had made our choice. Over time and many trips back to Roatán we realized we loved so many things about both places we found ourselves in, the island and Charlotte. We began coming to terms with the realization that we may have moved too soon in one direction, but that we also didn't have to only choose one.

Small "cut" in Oakridge, Roatán

We used to think everything was "either or", you had to go one direction or the other. Pick an outcome, pick a path, make a choice. We've since discovered that you don't necessarily have to take just one path or choose one destination. Maybe not even just two.

The strip in NoDa, Charlotte. Bars, music venues, restaurants and shops

We love Charlotte, and our neighborhood NoDa in particular. The activity, the people, the food and diversity. Charlotte is a rapidly growing southern city, I was born here (Joey in Atlanta) and for both of us it feels like home. NoDa is a former mill village, with 100+ year old textile mills surrounded by homes that formerly housed the workers. Artists flocked here in the 1980's and 90's after a period of decline and their imprint on the area is everywhere. Our primary business, the NoDa Company Store, is in the heart of the neighborhood and our home is just a couple blocks away. Unlike Port Royal, this home is very urban. We have a heavy rail train line a block behind us and another a block away in the other direction. We can walk to stores, shopping, dining and nightlife. Our home sits on a lot that's less than a quarter acre.

The home (and gardens) we sold in NoDa to buy in Roatán

And NoDa is growing like crazy, a light rail line now cuts through on its way to Uptown Charlotte's core and the other direction to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). Up and down the line are rows of new developments including apartments, condos and townhomes mixed with office & commercial spaces. To move to Roatán we sold a large home here and when we returned we bought a small one. We have our little outpost in the middle of all the hustle and bustle.

Our little bungalow in NoDa (pre new paint job!)

With all of that our love for the island and our friends and family we've met there hasn't diminished. In reality its grown. Our ability to be there has been shut down for over a year now due to the pandemic, but that's the only thing that's held us back. As we've sheltered in place, in Charlotte, through most of 2020 and now, diving into 2021, we've worked on our home here and dreamed of our home there. We've worked through the ups and downs to keep our business afloat through the uncertain year. After months of staying home and staying safe we ventured out over a few weekends to the mountains of North Carolina. Spots we were familiar with and felt we could social distance somewhere other than our home and small yard!

**Our trip to Golden Valley and the cabin we stayed in**

A weekend in the foothills in Golden Valley "away from it all" drew us in. My dad's family is from Asheville and I've visited the area my whole life. Joey spent time as a kid in Helen, Georgia, and the foothills there and we've both visited Asheville often since we've been together. We both love the Mountains as much as the ocean. We decided to see if there were any places for sale similar to the spot where we were staying - a cabin by a bold flowing stream in an open small valley. And so our journey took another turn...we added another path.

Me and a few cousins at a family reunion in the mountains of North Carolina

These last handful of years have been filled with plans and then adjusting those plans as needed, so we were comfortable following our hearts again in this case. But we've learned to adjust to realities, to calm exuberance and tame our excitement to a degree. We took this new direction into deep consideration and made sure the plans, as best as can be, were solid.

**Rush Creek property - Mountains of North Carolina**

We found a spot in the mountains, and like Fort Linwell in Port Royal, we can't believe we found what we did. How was everyone else missing out on this place? Unbelievably it checked off everything we'd wanted, something you don't really expect. We've named it Linwell Falls at Rush Creek, 103 beautiful acres with a stream running through it, almost a mile of small falls and pools all along its path, and a small pond. An open 2 acres surrounded by deep forest canopy filled with underlaying rhododendron & ferns. A small valley with a rise of over 400' to a ridge top capped at just over 2800'. There are little hollows with small springs everywhere. There are small pole barns and a stable on the property ready to be converted to cabins for us and for guests. There's an old cabin built in the 1940's that we might be able to renovate.

It's an isolated retreat off a 1-lane gravel path but only 15 minutes to the tourist oriented towns of Lake Lure in one direction and 20 minutes to Black Mountain in the other. All an easy 2 hour drive from our home in NoDa.

One of the pole barns and the stable at Rush Creek

Our little bungalow in NoDa

It looks like we'll be moving from place to place, mountains - city - sea, as the seasons dictate. We plan to, eventually, convert our 1-car detached garage behind our home in NoDa into a small 2-story home and renting out the main one. We'll have another small home for ourselves in the mountains and the same in Port Royal. Who knows the full schedule for all of this, and for us personally, who cares? It might take a year. Or two or three. We'll happily take things as they come, working on each as we are able - all with the end goals in mind but allowing reality to set the schedule. All of this, for us, is beyond exciting. All of it with the intention of sharing these beautiful places with others, the places we think are the most beautiful in the world.

Fort Linwell, Port Royal - Roatán

Soon we'll be offering our home in Port Royal as a rental - we are working on it now - and eventually we'll have additional casitas. Similarly we'll be doing the same in the mountains. Maybe renovating the 1940's 4 bedroom cabin if it's salvageable, but definitely building out the barns. We'll dot the property with smaller cabins in various hollers and hilltops. We'll always have a home base in Charlotte, a spot to drop bags and take in some nightlife, football games, concerts and dinners with friends, a crossroads for us between the mountains and the beautiful crystal clear Caribbean Sea. We certainly appreciate the position we find ourselves in and consider ourselves lucky, able to spend time in such wonderful places.

We'll happily put in the sweat and effort to make it all continue to come true - all the while making plans we know might be subject to change!

Cow & Calf at night - Fort Linwell, Roatán

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Shirley Renninger
Shirley Renninger
Jul 27, 2021

Doing it well!


Shirley Renninger
Shirley Renninger
Jul 27, 2021

Good luck to you both, you are living “the life”and doing it weekly.


The Linwells
The Linwells
Feb 16, 2021

That's so cool Liza! Where was the spot you lived? Not familiar with Henry & Friends but would love to learn more. Do you know what's there now? Also would you have any old photos? Was Lee the same as Lee Matute? Find any buccaneer stuff? Sorry for all the questions but love learning all we can! Nice to meet you


liza mathews
liza mathews
Feb 16, 2021

Enjoyed finding your site! Spent many hours, days, weeks, months snorkeling Cow and Calf while living on Henry & Friends land there in the 80's...with Mr. Lee the many stories! Port Royal, indeed, is special (but your new place sounds pretty awesome as well!)...keep making those dreams come true!


Enjoyed reading about your plans with mountains, city and sea and it all certainly sounds interesting!

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