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“Arlington Cemetery station is closed! Please get back onto the train and go to the next station!”

May 31, 2004, 9:36 PM

Well… my birthday trip to Washington DC that I took a day early (my birthday is the 30th, and I went on the 29th) went very well. A friend of mine actually put it this way…

Um, do you realize what is going on in DC this weekend? I’d leave Transit Deprived Town in the Middle of Nowhere, VA now if you want parking at Vienna come Saturday morning.

I do not take offense to “Transit Deprived Town in Middle of Nowhere, VA”. I am both transit-deprived locally, and also in the middle of nowhere. And Staunton’s trolley-bus system, the closest thing to transit around here, doesn’t even follow a schedule, but rather, they just say that they run a 20-minute loop, and so a trolley-bus should be there about every 20 minutes or so when service is running. They do call their two services “Green Line” and “Red Line”, which amuses me, though.

But anyway, though, the main concern in the comment was that DC was supposed to be swamped with tourists for the World War II Memorial dedication, which I was already aware about. The concern, of course, was that I would not be able to get parking at Vienna. Hadn’t planned for that, but after thinking about it, I determined that if I didn’t get parking at Vienna, I would head over to Franconia-Springfield on the Blue Line and park over there.

Thankfully, though, the situation didn’t happen, though I was afraid it would, since I had travel trouble. What happened? Well, on my way to Washington, about five miles before reaching Harrisonburg, I had a blowout. It took TWO HOURS from the first time I called AAA to the time someone finally came. I was a little irked, to say the least. But anyway, a wrecker service finally came, and they towed me from where I was to the Exxon station in Mt. Crawford, about three miles away, where they put the spare tire on, and then we all went on our merry way. Understandably, it was unfeasible to stay where I was, as it was too close to the highway to safely change a tire (there was a guardrail in this portion of shoulder, preventing me from pulling far enough off to make such a thing feasible). They offered to tow me somewhere to get it fixed, but I just needed a change to my spare tire, and would visit my local Wal-Mart later for a real tire (yay for TLE). Besides, I had a DC trip to do.

So anyway, I got to Vienna around 11:00 despite increased traffic due to the World War II Memorial dedication traffic. I made terrible time, considering I left at 5:30 in the morning, but taking out about two and a half hours for the tire incident, I was only slightly delayed by the heavier traffic, plus being more vigilant than normally about watching out for “bears”, i.e. police, due to the holiday weekend.

So I got to Vienna, and realized that my friend was thankfully wrong about the garage. While the main parking lots at Vienna were full, the North Garage, where I usually park, was practically empty, like a normal weekend in DC. I got my usual parking space without a problem.

I also got to see the cicadas, also known as 17-year locusts, for the first time here. Big gross bugs. Their discarded exoskeletons were also everywhere.

When I got into the station, I said hello to the station manager at Vienna, who is a nice lady who knows me and calls me “sweetie”, and noticed a table with Metro employees and Transit Police at it. Turns out they were helping ease congestion at the farecard machines by selling round-trip farecards to and from Smithsonian Station by hand. Cash only, please. Me, I shimmied on up to the Passes/Farecards machine so I could buy a day pass with my debit card.

From there, I took a Breda train into Arlington, and made my usual stop at Rosslyn, where I sit out on that balcony at Rosslyn Center and turn my ideas for a day’s plan into a plan. Figure out where I’m going to go and how I’m going to do it. I determined I was going to visit the upper half of the Green Line, and visit all the stations I’d never visited before. So from there, it was off to Metro Center (I rode a Red Line CAF train!), and then to Gallery Place-Chinatown.

At Gallery Place, I seized the opportunity to ride a rehabilitated Breda up one station, so I made a stop at Mt. Vernon Square to change trains, as the Breda was on the Yellow Line, which ends at Mt. Vernon Square station. On the Green Line, I made stops at Shaw-Howard University, Columbia Heights, West Hyattsville, Prince Georges Plaza, College Park-U of MD, and Greenbelt. I’d never photographed any of these stations before, and so I took the opportunity now to do so. Favorite station was Prince Georges Plaza, since it looked so huge, with the effect of making the trains look small in comparison. Shaw was interesting because the pylon still had a yellow stripe around it, a vestige from its early days in 1991 when there was still no Green Line, and for the sake of simplicity, all trains ran as Yellow Line trains.

Now when I made stops at all these stations, I rode in whatever car I landed at, usually somewhere in the middle. On the way back to Fort Totten, I caught the railfan window on a CAF, since I wasn’t going to be stopping anywhere until there. Besides, after Fort Totten the line goes underground, and that’s not nearly as fun as a surface or elevated line.

At Fort Totten, I finally caught some photos of the upper level Red Line platform (though the Green Line platform is more interesting), and caught a Rohr on the Red Line to Union Station. Rohr is important here, because the railfan seats are sideways, not backwards, making life easier for me, and not giving me a neckache. While riding to Union Station, I overheard over the train operator’s radio about train 201 being out of service, causing a delay on the Red Line in both directions. They asked the operator of train 201 about how bad the problem was (train totally dead), gave instructions on what systems to check, and how to orient themselves to get into the Farragut North pocket track. Turns out they ultimately had to couple another train with train 201 to push it to wherever they finally decided to take it (probably Shady Grove or Brentwood Yard) to get it out of service and off the line so service could resume. They ended up running messages on the signs saying “DELAY – RED LINE BOTH DIRECTIONS”. This later changed to the direction of Shady Grove only.

So I went to Union Station – just as well, since the train operator announced that he was instructed to hold there anyway because of the delay. So they were there for a few minutes and I was off. At Union Station, I went around to this magazine store and looked around, and also just simply walked around – a break from some serious railfanning before hitting the trains again.

After that, I went to Gallery Place, switched trains to Yellow, went to L’Enfant Plaza, and then took Orange to Smithsonian. From there, I fought my way up the escalator since all three escalators were turned off so customers could use them all for entering the system. My technique? Start out yelling “INCOMING!” and then elbow my way up against the crowd, not without a few comments that I’m going against the crowd. Turns out the WWII event was just getting out. Still, it looked good out there. I then walked to L’Enfant Plaza station, which was fun.

From L’Enfant Plaza, I caught a rehabilitated Breda on the Yellow Line towards Huntington. Weird was that the interior LED didn’t work while it was on the F Route (that’s the part where it shares track with the Green Line) nor the L Route (the bridge). When it got to the C Route (shared with Blue plus the line to Huntington), though, it started showing stations and door sides like it was supposed to, vs. showing “YELLOW” all the time.

That train and I parted company at National Airport, where I stopped to look at the station, which had been recently renovated. Most trains going to Huntington say this on the side:


| HUNTINGTON            

The side LED on Breda 2000 (the second car in the set) showed this:


| YELLOW                  

Another bug I guess they still have to work out. The other cars in the consist correctly showed “HUNTINGTON” on the side.

After photographing National Airport, I caught a Breda 4000-series car to Pentagon City, where I did my thing. I looked at a new store there – Brookstone. They had all kinds of overpriced gadgets there, including a bunch of massager devices. And they had them for you to try out. I enjoyed them all (it felt so good after a good day’s work railfanning), except for the foot massagers. The foot massagers tickled the bottom of my feet too much (I’m quite ticklish on the bottom of my feet). The one that massaged the side of my feet felt good, though, as did the one that just vibrated under my feet. Much more than just vibrating, though, and it got to be too much stimulation, becoming unpleasant tickling.

Otherwise, it made me feel like a new man, getting my back massaged all kinds of ways, with all kinds of devices, getting my neck massaged, and even getting my calves massaged. Wow. And all done by machine, which was nice. If you’ve read a quote from (I believe) November 2002, you’ll read about how I don’t like massages involving human touch, but how I really like getting a massage by a machine. Don’t know what it is, either. Probably because with a human, I’m concentrating too much on the person and making sure I’m doing things “right” than on just letting go and getting the tensions worked out. Basically, getting massaged by a person leaves me more tense than I started. Getting massaged by a machine is much better, because I know what it’s going to do, it doesn’t have a mind of its own, and I can control it. But $3,450 says that those things are staying in the store. I told you they were overpriced.

After Pentagon City, I went down to Crystal City for a brief visit to the Crystal City Underground. I decided against it after getting to the station, so I just turned around and went to the other platform to catch a Blue Line train to go to Rosslyn. I did get some long-exposure photos of the trains entering and leaving, though. Weird-looking.

On my way up to Rosslyn (where I would transfer to an Orange Line train), I happened to again be on the last inbound train to stop at the Arlington Cemetery station before it closed for the night (Arlington Cemetery closes before the rest of the system). On my last trip in early May, I did, too, but it was a little nicer-sounding. The train operator announced before, “This is the last inbound train to stop at Arlington Cemetery, so you may want to plan accordingly if you use this station.” This time, the train operator simply announced, “Arlington Cemetery, doors open on the right. This station is now closed.” Then the doors opened, and the station manager and train operator each announced that Arlington Cemetery station was now closed. The station manager also told people who got off the train to get back on the train and go to the next station (that’s where the title of this journal entry comes from). I had always wondered how they closed the station. Turns out that the last train is simply a collector train, collecting the last people to use the station, and then leaving. I always figured they also let people off, let them leave the station, then closed the station up. But instead they only let people use the station as an entrance for the last train. I can also presume that last time I went through there on the last inbound train, that there was still an outbound train yet to stop there, since this time, it was evident that this was to be the FINAL train to stop in the station. I presume after this, the station manager at Arlington Cemetery would contact Central Control, who would set it so the trains would pass through Arlington Cemetery without stopping.

Anyway, at Rosslyn, I got out, rode the unusually-noisy escalators (I took a movie of them to show you how noisy they were) up to the street, and took some long-exposure photos of the streets nearby. After that, it was back down to the trains, after I caught some long-exposure photos of a train entering and leaving Rosslyn on the upper level. I got a good angle for this – my camera was on the floor, which provided an interesting view. From there, it was off to Ballston (more pictures), and then Vienna, and then back home again.

What a trip, eh? I didn’t get back home until 4 AM.

Meanwhile, Sunday was my birthday, where I didn’t do a thing. I got $40 from the parents for those Strong Bad t-shirts I want, and got a birthday cake from them. I was explicit, though – NO singing, NO candles, since 23 is only another step towards turning forty. They invited me to come with them to have the cake, but instead I never cut me a slice until like 11:00 at night.

Meanwhile, I still don’t regret not going to my own college graduation. I read in the Staunton paper on Sunday about two private schools having their graduations, and a big photo for each. Plus various colleges had their graduations recently. The local public schools won’t be out for another couple of weeks, I believe.

Anyway, though, I still don’t regret intentionally missing my own graduation. Note that “still don’t regret” should not be construed as “will regret later”. I really hate ceremony. Even more so after watching the final episode of The Cosby Show on Nick at Nite, where Theo graduates college.

Speaking of Nick at Nite, I finally got Wal-Mart’s “Rollback Man” commercial on tape! And so now I made an MP3 of it as well as an AVI of it. It’s catchy.

A thousand man who faces any danger,
Rolling prices back for friend and stranger,
He’s the Rollback Man!
He’s the Rollback Man!
He’s changing all those numbers,
Lower prices are his game!

(Spoken) Our rollback mission: To save you even more. Wal-Mart. Always low prices. Always.

I also noticed something. They used multiple Wal-Marts to do the commercial. They used a regular (non-Supercenter) Wal-Mart for the exterior shots, but they used a Supercenter for all the interior shots. You can tell by the ceiling (gymnasium-style), and plus Rollback Man flies past an aisle in the grocery department, fairly obvious by seeing “Luncheon Meats” on a sign in the background, as two astonished customers look on.

Now if only we could get a cool laser like that…

Still, speaking of Wal-Mart commercials, remember that one where Gingy the gingerbread man runs through the store in a toy Jeep? That was right about when I got hired. I looked at the human associate in the commercial, and thought, I hope I look that good in my Wal-Mart vest.

Turns out I look better. Or at least I think so.

Anyway, I’ve said enough tonight… I have work at 11, and it’s really late.

Web site: World War II Memorial official Web site

Song: Rollback Man!

Quote: "INCOMING!"