The 2012 National Book Festival- Part I: Getting There

by: Marlene email

What with one thing or another,  it’s been a busy fall on the Eastern Shore of Virginia so we had been on again-off again about going to Washington DC for this year’s National Book Festival, held on the National Mall,  Sept. 22-23,  about a 4 hour drive  from the Eastern Shore.   But I did make hotel reservations,  just in case,  leaving plenty of time for cancellation if need be.  Naturally, it was at the 11th hour,  Thursday the 20th,  that everybody previewed their Friday- through- Monday schedule, thereafter declaring  the week-end a “go”.  This  meant commencing a hyperactive search for books by the authors we love who would be autographing their books at the Festival, checking  to see which books we  already had and which would need to be purchased in route at my favorite Barnes and Noble in Virginia Beach.   There is a book sales  tent at the Festival which offers the latest books from the scheduled authors but that involves standing in a line so I prefer to bring everything with me that I want autographed.  ( Also, if it’s a favorite author, I usually have some of their earlier books which I like to try to get signed as well.) As this was our 5th Festival,  I pretty much had everything down to a science.  Pack the books in a big rolling cooler with a long pull handle– the cooler is a great place to sit while in line, it holds important extra stuff like umbrellas & trail mix,  if it rains it keeps the  books  dry, etc.  In fact,  my # 1 piece of advice to a prospective Festival-goer—- best to come with a  combo chair-storage container- book protecting  cooler on wheels !

I had optimistically planned to leave the Eastern Shore  by 9 am.  Silly me  !  Finally pulled out of the driveway about 11:30 in a two car convoy,  Eldest Daughter and boyfriend in one car,  moi, hubby and two grandkids in another, ready for great adventures on the road.   Which in this case meant a first stop at COSTCO  in Virginia Beach to get  another GPS  because mine was acting a little weird and I would never try to drive in Northern Virginia/D.C. without one.  Which makes me wonder, how did we ever get around without a GPS ?  I still have a couple of old D.C.  map books sitting on the top of a bookcase and I still consider myself  proficient with a map, but really, as heavy traffic zooms by on I-495, with crazy drivers darting in and out,  cars plunging  for off-ramps, crowding in from on-ramps,  all at 65-75  mph,  I just can’t imagine how we ever managed to get anywhere safely and on  time without a GPS  !  Anyway, walked out of  COSTCO about 1 pm but by then the kids were  hungry.  Of course !   So,  off for a quick  lunch at Panera’s about a mile away and finally, about 2 pm, we were actually, definitely,  on the road to D.C.  So much for my original fantasy of a 9 am start !   After about 50 inquires of  “how much longer ? ”  and 2 pit stops, by 7 pm we were checking into our hotel in Arlington,  just a hop-skip-jump across the river from the National Mall, tired, hungry but excited.

For dinner  I had already planned to try Ray’s Hell Burger ,  the very casual burger place that  I had read President Obama had taken Vladimir Putin to for  burgers and fries, figuring that if it’s good enough for the President and the Russian  head of state,  then it was good enough  for the 6 of us.  And the kids love hamburgers.   But what I hadn’t reckoned with was how popular it would be on a beautiful Friday night.  Good Golly, Miss Molly !   Jammed inside, jammed out on the patio, a pretty long  line to belly up to the window and order.  But finally, order we did, snagged a table out on the patio and waited for our food, which arrived surprisingly fast.   The burgers were indeed delish, perfectly char-grilled on the outside, nice and moist inside, snuggled into a top quality bun.  In my case,  also topped with cheddar, grilled fresh mushrooms, grilled sweet red onions, all accompanied by Ray’s excellent homemade  “5 cheese”  mac and cheese, sweet potato fries and crunchy slaw.  Was it worth the wait ??    Final Answer:  Absolutely terrific burgers,  just don’t go on a Friday night unless you’re prepared to wait or unless you are with the President !   By dinner’s end,  we all were  exhausted and totally ready for a good night’s rest before heading across the Potomac River to the 2012 National Book Festival the next day. (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

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