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DC can be so fun, but in this heat, the fun is best had in the shade or indoors…

July 21, 2005, 10:03 PM

I had fun in DC on Wednesday the 20th. It was a long day, but fun nonetheless.

However, the fun didn’t start right away. Oh, no. The drive up to Vienna was “more challenging” than usual. For those of you who don’t know, my car will have been in our family for fifteen years this month. So it’s an old car as these things go. And it’s seen fairly continuous service for those fifteen years. As a result, things start doing strange things as they age. My cruise control can be a little tricky sometimes. When it wants to work, I get up to speed, start it up, and then set it. It will catch, and it will work fairly well. However, other days, it will do one of two things. It will either try to catch and miss, or do nothing at all. In both cases, the cruise control light blinks several times, and then goes out, and the light will not come on again until the car is restarted. The end result is no cruise control until the car has had several hours sitting turned off.

So coming off of VA 608 in Fishersville onto I-64, I set my cruise. It caught and we were sailing. Changing to I-81, I always come off of cruise control, since it’s too tight a curve to take at full speed. Then once I get back onto I-81, I set the cruise control back to where it was. And life is good, don’t you see. Today, coming off the ramp and onto I-81, in re-setting my cruise control, it missed. So no cruise for me on the way up! Thus instead of just sailing up there, I was kind of doing an up-and-down thing speeding up and slowing down, since my mind wants to be on cruise control, but my car just won’t agree to it. I’ll get up to the proper speed, and then accidentally let it drop. Not a good thing. So we have to start over, getting to the right speed again. It’s a vicious cycle. After my stops at Sheetz and Wal-Mart on the way up, I checked my cruise again to see if it would come to life again (it sometimes does), but unfortunately no. No cruise for me. Several blinks and then dark. But at least it’s during the day, and I’m still fresh as a daisy.

Approaching the DC area, I once again hit traffic, but it wasn’t as bad as it could be. Good stuff. Parking at Vienna was a breeze as well, since it was 10:00 on my arrival, and so I could park in the guaranteed spaces. So we just moseyed into the North Garage, checked out the situation, and parked. I like to park on Level 4 (open top deck), but it was completely full except for this moron in a sports car who parked enough out of his space to cause the next guy to park the same distance out of his space (proper spacing between the sports car and the next guy, though). Then that leaves about ¾ of a space left between the second car, and a person parked correctly. Thus the space is wasted, because these prima donnas think that they’re too good for just one parking space. Thus by their little spacing job, they’ve essentially parked across two spaces. So while there was an empty parking space, it was inaccessible. I ended up parking on the third level, about midway down the garage.

And that’s another thing. As you may know, the North Garage is undergoing rehabilitation for two years, which started last winter. On my July 6 visit, they’d moved from the second section to the third section, which is the further back of the two sets of ramps. That throws me off so much, since that ramp is how I usually get up and down. I go into the garage on Level 1 via Vaden Drive (there’s a second entrance on Virginia Center Blvd. where you enter on Level 2), and take that back-end ramp right to the top. Instinct says turn there, but until they’re done with that section, I can’t do that.

And now, into the Metro system. I had received a message from Oren about an unconfirmed sighting of a Rohr with the new color scheme, so I made note of it when planning my movements. At Vienna, I caught Rohr 1224, which is noteworthy because when Mom and Sis went to DC and I asked them to note car numbers, Sis noted this one because it reminded her of Christmas Eve. So there you go:

Rohr 1224

From Vienna, I did my Rosslyn thing, and then rode around to Metro Center to confirm Oren’s unconfirmed sighting of the new-color-scheme Rohr. Unfortunately, I never found it. Oren’s sighting came during the morning rush hour, while I was hunting during midday. It’s quite possible that the set went to the yard during midday, but who knows. We do know that there is a redesigned Rohr set (it’s 1170 and 1171), but we’ve not yet gotten photos of it. I want to be the first to report, like I was with the Rehabs.

I did, however, see Breda 2008-2009, which are now rehabs, go through on the opposite track. Recall the photo of me on Breda 2008 before rehab, which ran on the front of the site back in 2003. I also saw Breda 4018, which was a surprise. Breda 4018, you may recall, was the lead car in the train that was servicing Woodley Park-Zoo on November 3, 2004 when a train with Rohr 1077 as the last car backed into it. So the last time I saw Breda 4018, it looked like this, with Rohr 1077 sitting on top of it. Since the accident, it underwent heavy repair at Greenbelt, and now is back on the railroad. And it looks exactly the same as it did before the accident, with flip-dot head sign, and “RED” sign in the door window. I didn’t catch whether or not the Breda horse was still on the side of the car. The horse logo on the exterior is something that only the 4000s have. The 2000s (before rehab) and 3000s never had the logo in that spot – only on the inside with the builder’s plate.

Otherwise, Metro Center got quite dark, all of a sudden, as a circuit breaker presumably got tripped. The lights between the tracks on the Shady Grove end of the station suddenly went out, leaving that end quite dark. Look:

Metro Center in darkness

Immediately, Metro employees went into an electrical closet and went to work fixing it. They got the lights back on in about five or so minutes. Still, really weird.

From there, I took a Red Line train to Gallery Place-Chinatown, and then from there, took a Green Line train to Mt. Vernon Square (both of these rides were the only rides I would take on these lines this particular day). At Mt. Vernon Square, we found another light problem! Can you figure out what’s wrong here?

Mt. Vernon Square station a little darker than usual

Turns out that the lights in the crowns of the pylons were out in this case. However, since the station is of a different configuration than Metro Center, it was less noticeable, but noticeable nonetheless. It’s related to how in side-platform stations (such as Metro Center or Pentagon City), trains cast a big shadow on the ceiling when they arrive, while they don’t at center platform stations (like Mt. Vernon Square or Union Station). And at side-platform stations, where most of the lighting comes from the center row of lights, at center-platform stations, it is a little more evenly balanced, where losing the pylon lights didn’t make it all that much darker. The majority of the lighting comes from the trackside lights. Lose a row of trackside lights, and you’ve got a dark station, like at Federal Triangle in the summer of 2004.

From Mt. Vernon Square, I took a Yellow Line train to L’Enfant Plaza, transferred to the Blue and Orange Lines, and went east. My goal was to replace some pictures taken last year at a few stations along the Blue Line for my Transit Center site, as the photos from last year were somewhat blurry. I did better this time. So I visited Capitol South, Eastern Market, Potomac Avenue, Benning Road, and Capitol Heights on my way out to Largo. Due to the heat and humidity (the humidity being the worst thing), I only went outside at Capitol South and Potomac Avenue. Between L’Enfant Plaza and Capitol South, I rode Rohr 1001, which is the first car to arrive on the property back in the 1970s. 1001’s mate, Rohr 1000, is the second car to arrive on the property.

At Largo, I went across to The Boulevard at the Capital Centre, a recently-built outdoor mall next to the Largo Town Center Metro station. I went to Starbucks, where I used the restroom and had a bottled water. I sat at a counter next to where they make the coffee while I enjoyed my water. My comment to the Starbucks employees was, “I feel like I’m sitting at a bar! Though this drink I’m having is going to get me so loaded.” They were amused.

After I enjoyed my water, I headed back to Largo Town Center station. There, I noticed that Metro unfortunately has rolled back what I considered to be a great improvement over the older stations. The older stations have mostly regular cash-only-no-Smartrip-no-passes farecard machines. There are one or two cash-only machines with a Smartrip target, and two or three Passes/Farecards machines. Kind of like this at Capitol South. When Largo opened, its farecard machines looked like this – wall-to-wall Passes/Farecards machines, which are the most versatile machines. They dispense regular farecards, they accept Smartrip, and they dispense the all-day passes. They also not only accept cash, but also credit and debit cards. Now, Largo’s been retrofitted with all regular machines, save for three Passes/Farecards machines. Seems a step backward to me…

After Largo, I figured, since I’m out here, I might as well go out to New Carrollton as well. For some reason, I consider the run between L’Enfant Plaza and Stadium-Armory to be less-than-exciting, so I went out to New Carrollton. At New Carrollton, I got some aerial photos of the station from the other side. I also got an interesting sign photo near where I took the photos of the station:

US Government Private Property sign

Unless I am completely off in my knowledge of how things work, government property and private property are mutually exclusive terms. If it’s owned by the government, that’s considered public property. Likewise, if property is owned by a non-governmental entity, then it’s considered private property, as in privately owned. I think what they’re going for here is more along the lines of the “NO TRESPASSING” posted directly underneath, but they’re not using “Private Property” like they should, since a government property is not private property.

As I was leaving New Carrollton, Metro was experiencing delays on the Blue and Orange Line due to a train having gone down at Smithsonian. Since Metro is a two-track system, this can cause traffic to back up. So our departure from New Carrollton was delayed, and then we stopped and waited three separate times between Minnesota Avenue and Stadium-Armory. The first time was due to a Blue Line train needing to go in front of us at the junction of the two lines. The other two were due to the backup. I did get a nice picture of RFK Stadium from the train, though:

RFK Stadium from the Metro

At the time, a Washington Nationals game was going on. Don’t be discouraged by the small number of cars, though. Nationals fans are strongly encouraged to take Metro to and from the game, and most do.

From there, I made a brief stop at King Street to check out the progress of the new canopy and mezzanine. What bothers me is that in announcements such as this one, it indicates that “a new canopy, similar to the present canopy above the station platform that will go over the uncovered portion of the platform”. To me, this sounds like what they did at National Airport. There, they built a second canopy that covers everything that the original canopy didn’t. Thus you have two canopies – one is the original gull-wing canopy, and the other is a far more modern-looking canopy. At King Street, the new canopy looks like the old one, but it doesn’t connect with the existing canopy. It comes out a bit and stops. Thus you have the original canopy, an open space, and then the new canopy. My question becomes, “What’s the point?” Unless you’re in the first car (inbound) or last car (outbound) of a six-car train, you’re going to be running in the rain to reach that new canopy. I’m holding out hope that there is a plan to connect the two canopies, but I don’t see it as too likely.

And from King Street? Pentagon City, of course. I did my Pentagon City thing, though I did it inside this time, down in the food court. The humidity, even as daylight turned into evening, was still awful. So I took it inside.

After that, I went back to the train, to go down to Huntington and back (I certainly made up for not visiting a terminal last time, no?). I ended up catching Breda 3155, which had a little problem with it. What do you see wrong with this picture?

Breda 3155 with one headlight out

One headlight was out. That’s very unusual. I’ve never seen that before, and I’ve been riding the Metro for eleven years.

I also got a surprise on that train. I didn’t realize that anyone I knew was on the train with me. Turns out that my friend Tristan was on the train! He was going to get off at King Street, but after he realized I was on board, he rode down to Huntington and back to King Street with me. Turns out he’d gotten on the train back at Gallery Place-Chinatown. I got on at Pentagon City, and got a nice little spot by the center door, against a windscreen. Still, that was a pleasant surprise. At King Street, he went on his way, and I transferred to a Blue to go to Rosslyn in order to make my transfer to Vienna.

Back at Vienna, I got to the car, and got going. The trip was again “challenging”, since when I got back onto I-66, the cruise control still wasn’t working. A few blinks, and dark. Greeeeeeeeeat. Seems that the pedal and I would be great friends for the return trip, too. I made my two regular return-trip stops just fine, but when I got to Harrisonburg, I had to stop, as fatigue was starting to take over. So I ended up going to the Sheetz on Main Street to take a nap. One thing to look for when taking a roadside nap is to find a place that’s well-lighted, and has people moving around. Sheetz fit that criteria. Nice nap, too.

And from there, right on home. It’s funny how plans sometimes get twisted around, though. I was originally going to do mostly outdoor stuff, photographing the new DC Circulator buses, as well as doing the Blue Line, but with more popping above ground. But then when I saw that the temperature would be 95 with high humidity, I changed my plans to keep me indoors more. And you wonder why most of my outdoor photo sets are during the winter…

Web site: I finally found the manufacturer's Web site for Metro's safety vests! Turns out it's the FliteStar 110, manufactured by Head Lites. Pretty cool, no?

Song: What don't I sing in the car to entertain myself? (Particularly on the way home)

Quote: Funny thing I realized today while I was writing this entry. Since I knew this was going to be a long entry, I composed it in Notepad instead of in the Web browser, since I find it's too easy to accidentally erase these things in the Web form. I saved the text file, and used an activist-style date designation for it. That's when I realized it - when the file was called "J20 Journal Entry". That just tickled me, since "J20" to me refers to, you know, J20 the Counter-Inaugural. Also scary is that it's been six months since J20, but that's another story altogether...