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Here’s a Funny Story: The Other Chapel Hill

There are two Chapel Hill’s in North Carolina. I’m not kidding. I’m really not. Don’t worry, I had no idea either. Let’s compare both of them.

First, the background: I work at AAA in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I help people with directions. I’ve often been asked to map out a route to Chapel Hill. That part’s easy. However, when I put it in the computer, there are two counties the name “Chapel Hill” shows up in: Orange county and Madison county. Um, say what? Madison county? Where is that? Is that actually in North Carolina?

Yes, it is. It’s actually where I’ve spent many summers. Madison County, North Carolina, is where my grandmother lives. It’s about forty-five minutes northwest of Asheville. There’s one stop light in the entire county and that’s in the county’s capital of Marshall. Actually, you’re more likely to find moonshine than government buildings. I take that back. You’re most definitely more likely to find mason jars of moonshine—Madison County is a “dry” county. This part of North Carolina is where NASCAR was born. It was moonshiners outrunning the law with fast cars.

There’s one school in the entire county. There’s 20,000 people in the entire county. Chapel Hill is a small road in the geographically large, but sparsely populated county. I mean, I’m talking tiny.

The Chapel Hill in Orange County has nearly 60,000 people, a nationally recognized athletic and academic program, and the home of UNC Healthcare. It’s the location where most everyone thinks of when they hear “UNC.” They don’t even have to hear the “Chapel Hill” part. If I was born and raised in Western North Carolina, my grandmother lives in Madison County, and I’ve never even heard of the “Chapel Hill of Madison County,” then I guess it’s safe assuming Chapel Hill refers to the one in Orange county.

Just the fact that you know there’s another one though, kind of makes you appreciate the Chapel Hill’s of North Carolina even more.

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