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And we’re back!

August 29, 2008, 10:00 PM

And we’re back in Silver Spring once again, after a fun vacation. Now we’re refreshed and ready to take on the real world once again.

It’s interesting, though – the way my travels usually go, usually one leg of the trip goes flawlessly, and one has issues. The outbound leg went flawlessly. Perfect driving conditions, and traffic was fairly light. The return trip, however, was not so flawless. Traffic was heavy the entire way, and I had to detour around a bit within Hampton Roads.

First of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Hampton Roads area, let me explain for a moment. Hampton Roads is encircled by the Hampton Road Beltway, which is formed from the final 36 miles of I-64, and roughly 20 additional miles of I-664. Inside that, going roughly east-west through the middle, is I-264, which runs from I-64’s terminus to the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Then there’s also I-464, which runs from the Downtown Tunnel in Norfolk (part of I-264) to State Route 168 on a roughly north-south track, intersecting I-64 along the way. Confused yet?

My detour started because I saw a sign on one of those highway message signs: “HRBT 4.5 MILE BACKUP, MMMBT CLEAR”. This told me that the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) had a massive backup nearly five miles long on westbound, while the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (MMMBT) was going smoothly. My understanding is that these HRBT backups are common, and that they’re looking into a permanent solution to the problem.

So rather than sit in traffic for ages waiting to get through the HRBT, I detoured. Rather than getting on I-64 at its eastern interchange with I-264, I planned to take I-264 to its western terminus via the Downtown Tunnel, which is where I-64 and I-664 have their eastern termini as well. However, there was a traffic backup at the Downtown Tunnel (where does it end?), but I was able to avoid it by quickly exiting onto I-464. I had no idea where I-464 went exactly, as this was an unplanned detour off the slightly-planned detour on a road I’d never been on before. I figured it connected with I-64 at some point, since it was (A) a three-digit interstate, with (B) an even number as its first digit. It helps to know the numbering scheme. I-464 dropped me slightly ahead of where I-264 would have, on eastbound I-64 at roughly milepost 291 (by the way, “eastbound” I-64 at this point actually carries traffic west). Okay. Familiar territory again. I took I-64 to its terminus, and then took I-664 through the MMMBT and back to westbound I-64, leaving the Hampton Roads Beltway behind. And we’re back on the planned route.

Then on I-64, traffic was heavy the whole way to Richmond, as the lanes dropped down to two in each direction before widening back up to three as Richmond neared. Then I-95 was no walk in the park, either, with traffic heavy, but moving.

While on I-95, I stopped to visit Potomac Mills, since I was going right past there anyway. I was hoping to find some bargains on pajama pants like those white-camo ones I have that I got for seven bucks each last year, but unfortunately, no such luck this time. The only ones I found in my size were too long in the legs and had too much rise to them. Drat…

Afterwards, continuing the trip, traffic continued to be heavy but moving through the Mixing Bowl and on through to the Beltway. Things clogged up, however, quite close to home, in Maryland, just after clearing the I-270 interchange, turning the inner loop of the Beltway into a near-parking lot. Not fun. But then once I got off the Beltway, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way home. Good deal.

And then with it being the beginning of Labor Day weekend, the Virginia State Police was out in force doing their fundraising work. And based on the number of people I saw pulled over along the way, I’d say they were filling the state’s coffers quite nicely. They run a real racket, and you’d think it would be easier and more ethical to just raise taxes across the board to meet their funding needs than to play this whole cat-and-mouse game with the police. This way, everyone pays for the state’s needs, not just certain people being singled out. Plus then you can take a bunch of gas-guzzling Crown Victorias off the road, as well as the lessened need for so many state troopers, and plow all of those savings into other state services as well.

That’s another thing I’ve noticed, too – Virginia is really big on speed traps compared to Maryland, where I now live. I see a lot of cop cars in Maryland, but I’ve never seen them do a speed trap. On the other hand, you’ll find Virginia state troopers all over the interstates in every hideout they can find looking to raise revenue wherever they can. Every time I drive into Virginia, I’m reminded of that when I see that first Crown Vic in the median of I-66. That’s usually when it strikes me that I’m in Virginia again, and seeing the sneaky tactics that Virginia uses to raise money.

And no, I did not get a speeding ticket, nor did I even get pulled over for any reason. I’m just saying is all. And before anyone complains that speed traps are about safety and not revenue, we would see the roads crawling with cops doing speed enforcement all the time if it were really about the safety. I saw ZERO cops on the entire way down to the beach on Sunday (a normal weekend), and more than I care to count on the way back (a holiday weekend).

Web site: This page and this page on traffic enforcement as a fundraising tactic rather than really being about safety.

Song: Theme to The Randi Rhodes Show, which I listened to the whole way home.

Quote: And we're back!

Categories: Driving, Vacations