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When things go so well, you wonder where in the ointment that we’ll finally find the fly…

June 23, 2005, 10:37 PM

As anyone who read my away message on Wednesday saw, I was in the DC area. And things went smoothly. Very smoothly. The kind of so-smoothly that makes you start to wonder where the kinks are going to show up. I got up right on time before my alarm clock (unlike the late start I got last time), and got out without a hitch. My cruise control held up for the entire trip (it’s been known to cut out from time to time), and I encountered no major traffic jams on eastbound I-66 coming in. Usually I encounter traffic at around milepost 41 (just past the Haymarket exit), and it usually doesn’t clear until milepost 46 (just before the Manassas exit). Clear sailing right on in. Traffic only really got thick right around the Nutley Street exit, which is the one I take to access the Metro station. Beyond Nutley Street, and approaching the Beltway, however, was where the traffic was. I’ve often contemplated skipping Vienna and driving a few miles further to park at West Falls Church (where I noticed the new parking garage was underutilized), but all that traffic kept me at Vienna.

By the way, I currently am comfortable in driving to two Metro stations: Vienna and Franconia-Springfield. Vienna of course is my Metro station of choice. I always start at Vienna. Out of all my trips to DC, I’ve only not originated at Vienna twice (and one of those is only half a non-originate at Vienna). Once was my first trip ever to DC, back in 1994 at the age of 13. Our family went with friends, and we stayed over at another friend’s house. We ended up driving around to Pentagon City in Arlington, interestingly enough, and parked at the parking garage at Pentagon City Mall. That’s how I learned of Pentagon City Mall’s existence, and I still go there all the time, as I love Pentagon City, though for differing reasons over the years. I used to actually seriously shop there, but now the mall is more like a hangout, where I spend about $5 there to get something quick to eat and get a newspaper and then park myself somewhere to enjoy it all. I have no idea how to get to Pentagon City by car (I wasn’t driving), but could probably figure it out.

The other time was July 28, 2001. And that was only halfway not originating from Vienna. That, by the way, was my first day really railfanning the Metro in DC, riding the Metro for its own sake and photographing. My earliest photos of the Metro are from 2000, but this was my first time railfanning. The railfanning occurred with my wanting to explore around on the Metro before heading over to Pentagon City (and Potomac Mills later on). At Pentagon City, at the Babbage’s there (which is no longer there, by the way), I found a DVD-ROM drive that was far superior to my existing one, which was giving me problems. This was also while I was rehabilitating my computer in the summer of 2001, so it worked out. I didn’t buy right away, though. That happened later, because I wanted to see if I could get it for less at Potomac Mills. I ended up spending so much time railfanning that Potomac Mills was a QUICK trip. Seriously, in, look, and back out. I didn’t want Babbage’s to close on me before I could get back over. So to speed things up, instead of going from Vienna, where I normally would, I got the Metro at Franconia-Springfield, and took the Blue Line directly to Pentagon City. I bought the DVD drive at Babbage’s, as well as a USB expansion card (which added four additional USB ports to the computer) at Electronics Boutique (now EBGames) to replace the old decoder card that I didn’t need anymore. And then from there, I left as quickly as I came, taking the Blue Line back to Franconia-Springfield. And back home from there via I-66. And it was on that trip where I encountered this at the Franconia-Springfield parking garage:

IT IS COOL TO FART ON TV HAR TRR

Anyway, though, back to the present. At Vienna, things still went without a hitch. I found a parking spot on the top level of the parking garage, and rolled on into the station. A touch of normalcy again: I finally got a Breda for the first train of the day again, after having gotten everything else for a first train the last several times I went. Seriously, I got CAFs, Rohrs, and Rehabs, but not classic Bredas. Getting a Breda for the first ride of the day became such a regular thing that I started saying I was catching my “first Breda of the day”.

Then I did my Rosslyn thing, where I got a message on my phone from Oren about what he was doing that day (he would be at Shady Grove). After that, I was off! My route was less than direct to where I wanted to go, since I tried to go for variety over directness. And if this sounds like what I did on J20, you are correct. I took a Blue from Rosslyn to Metro Center, took a Red from Metro Center to Gallery Place-Chinatown, and then took a Yellow to Mt. Vernon Square. From there, I exited, since I was going to the Infoshop, mainly to grab a few phone numbers off the Internet that I had failed to bring with me that I needed to call that day. I also checked bus schedules and routes for crossing over from one end of the Red Line to the other.

So from the Infoshop, I walked over to the Shaw-Howard University station, and grabbed the Green Line towards Greenbelt. This was one of only two trains containing CAF cars that I would get all day, and this was the only one that was a solid six-car CAF consist. Otherwise I didn’t ride a rehab all day, and thus except for two rides on CAFs, all I got all day were Rohrs and Bredas.

I got off of Green at Fort Totten, and transferred up to Red. Before going to meet Oren, I decided to zip around up the eastern end of the Red Line and then take a bus across (which is faster than taking the Red Line all the way around, which I have done before). I actually visited Forest Glen, Glenmont, and Wheaton, in that order. Lots of railfan photos of the stations there, including this gem at Wheaton:

Escalator at Wheaton station

There you have it – the longest escalator in the Metro system, seen all at once, bottom to top, all 230 feet of it.

Then from there, I caught the Q2 to Rockville, which is a Metrobus route (last August, I took a Ride-On route similar to this from Rockville to Wheaton). I rode an Orion V, specifically #2122. If I had been just a few minutes earlier, I would have gotten a Flxible, but the Orion worked out well enough.

From Rockville, I caught a Red Line train to Shady Grove, which was my other CAF ride of the day. The front two cars on this consist were 4000-series Bredas.

I met Oren at the Ride-On 100 shelter at Shady Grove, and we talked and I got some Ride-On photos. It was a nice day, for the most part. The sun was out, but a little later on, off in the distance, the sky became VERY dark. It wasn’t long before this darkness reached us. The temperature dropped a bit. Rain started to come down. Thunder. Lightning. Wind. Thank goodness for bus shelters.

And when they said scattered thunderstorms, they meant it, too. Since this storm seemed to come out of nowhere. Seriously. When I left the bus at Rockville, this was the weather:

The weather at Rockville station

And when I first got to Shady Grove:

Clear skies at Shady Grove

Note the clear skies all around. The storm came from this direction as well. Not long after, this is what the weather was:

Storm at Shady Grove

But it didn’t take too long to blow over, and things ultimately cleared up nicely. After visiting with Oren, I took the Red Line back into downtown Washington DC, transferred to the Yellow Line at Gallery Place-Chinatown, and headed to Pentagon City.

I left Pentagon City later than usual, around 10:15 or so (compared to 9:30 normally). I also knew I had some time to kill in order to properly time my return to Vienna. So after my transfer back to the Orange Line at Rosslyn, I determined to head over to Ballston.

At Ballston, I used the time to collect my thoughts, and also have the Coke that I couldn’t get at Pentagon City due to problems with the vending machine. I ended up going over to the 7-Eleven across Fairfax Drive from the station to get that soda, and briefly contemplated asking for a paper bag for the soda, but ultimately decided against it. Why? To see what people’s reactions would be if I was drinking my Coke out of a paper bag. Sophia on The Golden Girls once said, “You drink out of a bag in the park, and all of a sudden, everyone’s your friend!” Like I said, I ultimately decided against it. Though on my June 8 trip to DC, I did for the first time see a person drinking out of a bag in the park, specifically at Dupont Circle. But like I said, I ultimately decided against it. Which was probably a good thing.

Then from Ballston, I rode four stations down the line to Vienna, and that was that.

Also, at Ballston while waiting for the train, I noticed something. I noticed that this was not a night that the Nationals were playing. You can usually tell when the Nationals play by looking at what’s running on the Orange Line. On a normal late night, the display screen might look like this:

Train arrival times on a normal night (simulated)

But on game nights, it looks like this:

Train arrival times on a game night (simulated)

I’m exaggerating just a little (these are manipulated photos), but still, longer trains and more frequent service are what you’ll find on the Orange Line on game nights.

All in all, though, the trip went very well, and I got a lot of good images, which will probably end up somewhere on the site eventually. And I’m still amazed about how few CAFs I got, and that I got no rehabs all day. Like I said, my riding was mostly Rohrs and Bredas all day.

Web site: Wikipedia article on Wheaton station

Song: Various remixes of Super Mario World music

Quote: Probably not a good idea to lean against the metal poles of the bus shelter during a lightning storm... - My thought when I realized what I was doing.