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I went to Harrisonburg today…

July 6, 2004, 9:35 PM

Yeah, I had to run a few errands over in Harrisonburg today, and so that gave me an excuse to go visit JMU. That was fun. I took Big Mavica with me, and so I took some photos of Potomac Hall, the new fire alarm system in Warren Hall, and the progress of the renovation work on Harrison Hall. So that was fun. JMU is doing some changing, all right. They’re also continuing with the work on bricking over the drive right in front of Wilson Hall.

It was also really cool to be photographing Potomac Hall again! I needed some “authentic Potomac Hall” for my new College Life site, and so that felt really nice to be back there again. My exact comment to myself was, “I feel like I’m home again.” I didn’t go in, since it appeared that the place was empty anyway. But I did get to see Potomac’s housekeepers again, whom I hadn’t seen since May 2003. They were all glad to see me again, too.

What amazed me the most about my trip to JMU was the new fire alarm system in Warren Hall. Recently, Warren and Taylor Halls each got new fire alarm systems. Recall that these two buildings share a few levels, and when the fire alarm goes off in one, it trips the other. The fire alarm system in Taylor was replaced last December, with that side getting a new Simplex alarm system. They replaced the smoke detectors and the pull stations, but they did not replace the horns and strobes. Those were non-ADA compliant Edwards horn/strobes from 1993, when Taylor was built. Which I thought was strange, both right afterwards, and even more so now, which you’ll see why after I tell you more. Now the new fire alarm system in Warren Hall that they installed also replaced the smoke detectors and the pull-stations, but they also ran new wires with related conduits for new Simplex notification appliances (horns and such) on the Warren Hall side ONLY. Stranger still that on three of the four floors, this was replacing already-ADA-compliant Gentex equipment installed during the 1999 renovation of the third through fifth floors of Warren Hall (Warren no longer has a first floor, since the floor numbers between Warren and Taylor Halls were synchronized with each other when Taylor was built, and Taylor has a first floor). So they mostly replaced ADA-compliant equipment, and provided about the same or less coverage as before in most areas (they did add some new coverage, though, in some rooms). But they still left the old horns in the other area, and did not upgrade there.

Bottom line? Strange. You’d have thought that Taylor would have gotten new fire alarm horns, too.

Simplex TrueAlert wall-mounted horn/strobe. This particular one is mounted on a support column.
Simplex TrueAlert wall-mounted horn/strobe. This particular one is mounted on a support column.

Ceiling-mounted horn/strobe.
Ceiling-mounted horn/strobe. This struck me as strange. Simplex abandoned this style for wall-mounted horn/strobes a few years ago, in favor of the style above. But they seem to have retained it for ceiling applications, as there’s quite a few locations in Warren Hall where ceiling strobes are necessary. Still, that’s a new twist on an old style (the old style I have in my collection!). I’m used to “FIRE” on the face of it and it mounted on a wall. This one has “FIRE” on both sides of it, and is ceiling mounted. Nonetheless, I was surprised to see it. I’d have figured that they’d have used a TrueAlert for the ceiling. This was the first time I’d seen a Simplex horn or strobe used in the ceiling in a LONG time, though.

Pull station. All of the old Edwards stations on both the Warren and Taylor sides were removed and these new Simplex ones put in.
Pull station. All of the old Edwards stations on both the Warren and Taylor sides were removed and these new Simplex ones put in.

Notification appliances in Taylor Hall, still in place after two alarm system replacements, seen here in this September 9, 2001 file photo.
Notification appliances in Taylor Hall, still in place after two alarm system replacements, seen here in this September 9, 2001 file photo. I was surprised they didn’t change those out, because when the fire alarm finally went off in there while I was in there on my last day as a JMU student. I figured, “Finally, on my last day as a JMU student, of all days, too!” Plus I was pleased to hear them since I figured they would have been replaced with the new panel that I knew was going in.

And some non-fire alarm photos for you to see, too…

Potomac Hall!
Potomac Hall! Awwwwwww… I felt so happy to be back in the courtyard again, snapping photo after photo after photo. How happy did I get? 42 photos worth, so I was not only emotionally happy, but also a little trigger-happy, too, taking more than half a CD’s worth of photos.

Purple sign in front of Potomac Hall. This was put in the summer before my third year in Potomac. Before that, we had a black sign.
Purple sign in front of Potomac Hall. This was put in the summer before my third year in Potomac. Before that, we had a black sign.

Harrison Hall renovation, currently in progress. This is the original part of Harrison Hall, with all the windows ripped out.
Harrison Hall renovation, currently in progress. This is the original part of Harrison Hall, with all the windows ripped out. I was disappointed to find the columns on the windows remaining, as I’d hoped they’d reconfigure the window frames to match the surrounding buildings. Also am disappointed to see that the sails above the windows on the top floor will not be restored, and will remain as vents. I guess we can’t have everything, but at least this building is finally getting renovated, as it was VERY old inside, had a very strange layout inside, and smelled funny.

Harrison Hall Annex, which was added in 1928.
Harrison Hall Annex, which was added in 1928. The Annex is getting some serious additions to it, and I’m wondering how it’s going to all look when it’s done. I hope it’s not nearly as bad as the 1960s renovation of the original part of the building ended up looking. I’m sure it will be beautiful when it’s finished, since the 1960s and 1970s were unfortunate times for architecture, creating some of the ugliest buildings (eyesores!) you’ve ever seen. As I said, though, I’m sure this will be beautiful when it’s finished, and will be the JMU building I’ll wish had existed when I went there.

The new bridge connecting the original building and Harrison Annex.
The new bridge connecting the original building and Harrison Annex. The original bridge, built with Harrison Annex in 1928, was demolished completely. That bridge was three stories tall (thus connecting all floors), but a lot narrower, and mostly intended as a corridor from one side to the other. The original bridge actually originally had cars running on a road beneath it, as the bridge was originally built over an existing roadway, and rather than re-route the road, they built the building around it. This was later shut off and made into an entrance when the road through campus was re-routed later on. There are still remnants of the original road through campus, which went from Main Street behind the quad buildings on one side, turned to pass in front of Wilson Hall, and then turned and went behind the buildings on the other side of the quad. Now, no less than three buildings are sitting on this original alignment, with Harrison Annex, Wampler Hall, and the Music Building sitting where this road was. Remaining parts of this original road have been incorporated into service drives, parking lots, converted to pedestrian walkways, or completely torn out altogether. Now, what were we talking about originally? The new bridge. This new one is a lot wider than the original, and I think will actually contain some things in it besides just getting from one side to the other. But it looks like there will be some huge windows in there, though.

The statue of James Madison.
The statue of James Madison. He’s short, let me tell you. He looks taller on my Web site. I didn’t realize what a little runt he really was until I saw him again. He really does look taller in my photos of him. But as you saw in my February 2003 cover photo, I’m a head taller than him (the statue is life-size).

I also went to the Verizon store in Harrisonburg to check on some things, where I found out that the guy in Staunton who sold me the phone originally was an IDIOT, giving me some highly erroneous information. There’s a reason we won’t go back to that Staunton Mall kiosk ever again. I also went to the Harrisonburg Wal-Mart (which I refer to as “Big Harrisonburg” to differentiate from Dayton, which is smaller), where I got a new shirt to replace a ripped one, plus loaded a shopping card to get the 3¢ off per gallon of gas at the Sam’s Club gas station that they have on site. That’s handy. We need one of those gas stations at our Wal-Mart in Waynesboro. Trust me, we need it, since Waynesboro doesn’t have many places where gas is cheap.

Now to clarify that point, though – “where gas is cheap”. I am referring to this in a relative sense. It seems you have two different kinds of gas brands. Your expensive brands, and your cheap brands. I am of the belief that gas is gas. Especially when I find out that if it doesn’t sell as one brand, it can be rebranded as another or sold to another oil company to use under their brand, plus oil companies will refine crude oil at a competitor’s refinery if it’s cheaper than using their own facility. For more information, visit this page, which does a better job explaining it than me.

So you have your expensive brands of gasoline. These are your big name brands like Exxon, Shell, Mobil, BP, Amoco, Citgo, Sunoco, Texaco, etc. You probably recognize these brands quite readily, no? I will not buy gas branded as any of these names because they’re WAY more expensive than the cheapies. Anyway, then you have your cheap brands of gasoline. You have Sheetz, Etna, Hess, Raceway, Liberty, Crown, Murphy USA, Sam’s Club, etc. They’re lesser-known brands, but gas is sometimes a full ten cents (10¢) per gallon cheaper (and that’s before any Wal-Mart shopping card discounts!) than with the expensive brands. And you wonder why I favor the cheapies over the other names. Only time you’ll see me sitting at the pump of an expensive brand is if I need something to tide me over until I can reach a cheaper brand. Then I’ll usually put five bucks worth in and find the nearest cheap station. And my car runs no better when it’s got Exxon or Shell in its tank than when it’s got Sheetz or Hess in there. The moral of the story? Shop around for your gas. Could save you big.

The next thing is to get me a small, fuel-efficient car. But that costs more money than I can afford to spend right now.

All this talk about gasoline reminds me of an episode of Home Improvement where Tim was supposed to get the “Car Guy of the Year” award, and they said that “he’s got gas in his veins”. Jill’s comment was then, “I can think of a few other places.” Me, I do not have gas in my veins, as the stuff under the hood of my car is something that I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know enough about to mess with. This is why it’s important to network. Get to be good friends with someone who’s proficient with cars. Or even better, someone who has gas in their veins.

Meanwhile, I’m going to Washington DC tomorrow. That ought to be fun. I’m going to be railfanning the eastern parts of Blue and Orange, and the southern part of Green. I’m also going to do a little panda chasing, and also meet up with Mom at some point during the day, as she’ll be in Washington getting Bill Clinton to sign her copy of “My Life”. Here’s a new experience for Mom: she’s going to get to use a SmarTrip card for the first time. Me, I’ve used a SmarTrip before. Still, Mom and I will probably meet up somewhere for lunch or something.

Web site: GasBuddy.com, which claims to help find cheap gas prices in your city. Handy, indeed. Especially since we discussed your different gas brands and such, and the differences in price.

Song: MacArthur Park

Quote: "Anything else I haven't said?" - Me after I finished writing this journal entry. I think the only thing left to write about is the kitchen sink (but I'll spare you that one today)

Categories: Fire alarms, JMU