If you can’t run with the big dogs

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

I spent several days last week with my cousins on a road trip to Alexandria, Va., for a family gathering. My cousin Becky flew into Greensboro, I drove to Winston-Salem and my cousin Liz and I picked Becky up at the airport. Liz had some really great chopped barbecue from Little Richard’s and we took a sandwich to the airport for Becky.

She lives in Miami and doesn’t get authentic Carolina barbecue very often. Becky had only one suitcase for our journey. Granted, it was the biggest suitcase I’ve ever seen, but as she pointed out, at least she was able to pack everything into the one bag.

We loaded up Liz’s Prius the next morning with all our luggage and hit the road. Liz and I took turns driving. We had good directions to the hotel and found it fairly easily.

We were scheduled for a tour and dinner at Arlington House and were ready to leave on time.

Another cousin from Wilmington rode with us to act as our guide, as she’d once lived in the area some years back.

We arrived within view of Arlington National Cemetery and exited onto what appeared to be the correct ramp. Halfway up the exit ramp, we realized we would wind up going the wrong way on a major highway into Washington.

If this happened, we would never recover and would miss the entire evening at Arlington House.

So Liz pulled over to the far right of the ramp and proceeded to back down the exit ramp so we could get back onto the highway.

Other cars were traveling up the ramp, and she couldn’t see clearly to back so Becky and Charlotte directed her as to when to stop and when to go. In this way, we were able to get back onto the highway, find the correct exit and arrive safely at our destination. It seemed like a good thing to do to me, and it worked. Liz made me proud. After all, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” And yes, we could have been killed or arrested, but we were not.

After a great evening at Arlington House and the best crab dip I’ve ever eaten (I got the recipe from the chef and will run it on the food page soon), we prepared to go back to the hotel. Before our group departed, I took time out to stop a cousin and ask if he would be willing to bail us out if we were arrested. He said he’d be glad to do it, as he’d brought plenty of cash with him. That’s what family is for, and I felt we’d covered all our bases.

Of course we got lost driving back to the hotel and found ourselves in a dark and deserted area beside the Potomac River. We looked for someone to ask directions of and came upon a large group of young men standing around with bikes.

Becky said, “Should we ask them for directions?” We all said, “No!” I thought they looked like a gang, although we weren’t sure gang members ride bikes, but thought that if we erred it should be on the side of caution. Just because we’re not normally a cautious bunch doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally show good judgment.

Fortunately, in just a minute we saw a police car idling in the street. We pulled up beside it and asked for directions, and the officer kindly gave us great directions back to the George Washington Bridge, and we were soon safely home.

The next day we took a two-hour walking tour of old Alexandria, conducted by an indefatigable 81-year-old guide who held up a lot better than we did.

We saw the tavern, still in operation, where George Washington ate lunch when he came into town from Mount Vernon on business. We toured the church where he worshiped and where Robert E. Lee was confirmed. And we heard a great program presented by a noted historian who specializes in the Civil War era.

The next morning we left for Petersburg to spend some time with more cousins and visit an old family home in Chesterfield County, where we were caught trespassing and confronted by the irate present-day owner. I thought it was worth taking the chance, have no regrets and we all got some excellent pictures. Becky worked hard to soothe the savage beast, and we didn’t go to jail again. Not this time, anyway. But boy did we have fun. We had many other adventures, but I’ll save those stories for another time.