Photo illustration by Katie McBride

Road trip

September 19, 2022


Maggie Johnson, ’18, and Nick Minnix, two staffers in the alumni relations office, tag-teamed a Spider road trip to Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina, this summer.
By Maggie Johnson, '18, and Nick Minnix

Wednesday morning, Aug. 3, Maggie Johnson
With nametags printed and Spider swag packed, I leave campus and hit the road. Destination: Raleigh.

I am a big fan of the Spotify playlist. For this drive, I’ve got my summer 2022 playlist. I like country, so it’s got good summer tunes from Miranda Lambert and such.

After a quick 2½ hours, I pull into the hotel, check in, and then bop around to explore. I’ve never been to Raleigh before, and it reminds me a lot of Richmond.

A map showing Virginia and North Carolina, with lines connecting Richmond to Raleigh (numbered 1), Chapel Hill (numbered 2), and Charlotte (numbered 3).

Wednesday evening
[1] Program time. Our host today is Matt Golden, ’07. Part of our goal is supporting Spider businesses, and Matt is co-owner of Bowstring Pizza & Brewyard.

The building used to be a Gulf Oil storage garage, and it still has an industrial look. Outside, there are picnic tables, a great mural, and string lights. Definite brewery vibes.

Turnout is good — about 30 Spiders from class years ranging from 1959 to 2022. I’ve got Spider beach balls and other giveaways for everyone.

One thing I hear over and over is how nice it is to be having events again. People are so excited after two-plus years to get out. And it’s so easy to connect with fellow Spider alumni. I’ve never been to an alumni event where people haven’t mingled.

Thursday morning, Aug. 4
[2] An intimate rise-and-shine breakfast at Press coffee shop in downtown Durham, right next to the Durham Bulls’ stadium.

Our organizer this morning is Nicole Thompson, W’91, president and CEO of Downtown Durham, a catalyst for downtown’s revitalization. We’re a small group, five of us — all alumni — and it’s very nice.

One alum drove in from Chapel Hill, and two others work for Duke University. The ones at Duke relocated fairly recently, so they’re really happy to get local recommendations.

Moments like this just bring you back and make it easy to find those bridges of connection. Everyone exchanges phone numbers before we part, and I head back to Richmond. I would love to do this every summer.

People are so excited after two-plus years to get out.

Thursday morning, Aug. 4, Nick Minnix
As Maggie drives north, I’m on I-85 South toward Charlotte. The first season of the podcast Unobscured, which focuses on the Salem witch trials, keeps me company until I reach the hotel. After getting a little work done there, I head for tonight’s venue, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Charlotte’s oldest brewery.

Thursday evening
[3] I meet Jim Birch, ’02, Mecklenburg’s chief operating officer and our host. It looks like a classic German beer hall, the kind of place where people really turn out for Oktoberfest.

Similar to Raleigh, about 30 alumni and guests come, which is a great size. Plenty of people, but everyone gets to meet everyone. After a bit of chitchat, we take a tour of the brewery and see everything from the brewing area to the bottling station, then come back to the bar for a tasting of Copper, their Düsseldorf-style Altbier.

Our event space is available until 8:30 p.m. When that time hits, most of us move into the public area, and it’s like a second Spider happy hour. We’ve got Spiders from classes from 1968 to 2016, and like in Raleigh-Durham, people are really excited to get together again.

I’m getting that vibe from a lot of our events. The next morning, I’m back on the road and already thinking about where to go next.