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And the photos are in…

May 21, 2011, 9:26 PM

I certainly had fun on my vacation week! I went swimming on Monday, sat around like a bum on Tuesday, headed to Stuarts Draft on Wednesday, photographed on Afton Mountain on Thursday, and then went to Kings Dominion and Potomac Mills on Friday. Plus I finished the Plungefest 2011 photo set in Photography across a few days’ time.

When I went down to Stuarts Draft, I headed down via US 29 through Charlottesville. Technically speaking, on my route, you just nick the top of the city itself, but spend a lot of time in the Charlottesville metropolitan area. I think the total time spent within the city limits is about two minutes, depending on whether or not the traffic lights like you. Arriving in Stuarts Draft, I first stopped at Stuarts Draft Middle School, where I attended middle school and where Mom now teaches eighth grade. Checking in at the office, I noticed that they had the cover off the master clock, due to the need to manually sound the tones because of SOL testing. So I got a photo:

The master clock at Stuarts Draft Middle School, a Lathem LTR4-128.

This is a Lathem LTR4-128, and has been sounding tones for SDMS since at least 1992, when we moved to the area. This replaced a previous clock mechanism manufactured by Edwards, which, according to Mrs. Carey, longtime (now retired) SDMS secretary, the original clock malfunctioned a lot, requiring the office to have to sound the tone manually for class changes whenever it would malfunction. Then the Lathem clock came along, and presumably all of their problems were solved, because decades later, it’s still there – a testament in itself to how well it works.

SDMS did, however, change the pitch of the tone since I finished there in 1995. They currently use a somewhat high-pitched tone. When I was there, that tone existed, but was only used for special cases when they had to go off of the programmed schedule. For instance, the special tone was used for late openings, early dismissals, and after fire drills, as these were all cases requiring that the tone be sounded manually. The regular class-change tone was much lower in pitch (and more pleasing to the ears). I used a tone generator to recreate the old tone and the current tone to illustrate what I mean:

SDMS old class-change tone (780 Hz, triangular wave)

SDMS new class-change tone (1318.51 Hz, triangular wave)

And like in these sounds, the tone sounds for five seconds. The old tone certainly does sound better, doesn’t it? They should switch back to the old tone.

What’s funny is that the same model of master clock was used all throughout my school career. Seriously, Grimes Elementary in Arkansas, Stuarts Draft Middle School, and Stuarts Draft High School, at the times I attended each, used the same type of clock. However, only SDMS’s clock sounded tones over the PA system (which would override spoken announcements). At Grimes and SDHS, the master clock would ring physical bells throughout the building. I would imagine that the clock at Grimes is still there, and we know that SDMS’s clock is still there. SDHS likely has a new clock, as that school has been renovated and the system presumably upgraded/replaced.

But enough about master clock systems. There are other matters to discuss as well.

On Thursday, after spending a lot of time perusing TV Tropes, I went out to photograph the mountain. I had glanced at it on Wednesday while passing by on I-64, and decided it was worth a full visit again. All told, I took 220 photos of Phil Dulaney’s eyesore on the mountain. Here are a few highlights:

Abandoned hotel room, part of this row of abandoned hotel rooms. Unlike when I photographed in 2003, these rooms are now wide open, and the roof has deteriorated considerably.
Abandoned hotel room, part of this row of abandoned hotel rooms. Unlike when I photographed in 2003, these rooms are now wide open, and the roof has deteriorated considerably.

Yes, that's a tree growing inside one of the abandoned Skyline Parkway Motor Court buildings. A tree. I had previously only photographed this particular building from a distance. This is what it looks like inside the room second from far left in the linked photo from 2003.
Yes, that’s a tree growing inside one of the abandoned Skyline Parkway Motor Court buildings. A tree. I had previously only photographed this particular building from a distance. This is what it looks like inside the room second from far left in the linked photo from 2003.

Graffiti. One of the buildings was now, along with being in deplorable condition from neglect, also defaced by graffiti. Lovely. Just what we need up there. And considering the track record when it comes to maintenance on this property, this graffiti will be there for a while.
Graffiti. One of the buildings was now, along with being in deplorable condition from neglect, also defaced by graffiti. Lovely. Just what we need up there. And considering the track record when it comes to maintenance on this property, this graffiti will be there for a while.

Main sign for The Inn at Afton. Yes, the motel is still open.
Main sign for The Inn at Afton. Yes, the motel is still open. According to the lady at the front desk, the sign was destroyed in a windstorm. Okay, sure. However, I was through on a day trip in February with Matthew, and the sign was missing then, too. One would think that the sign is insured, and that a sign advertising that there is a business there would be important, and that replacing the sign panels would be important. Apparently not. Considering that the restaurant at this motel, Dulaney’s, is now closed, considering how few cars I saw here, and now considering that the sign is missing, I have a feeling that it won’t be long before this motel finally gives up the ghost. I would think, considering the missing sign, the lack of cars, and the abandoned buildings that surround the property, that most reasonable people would assume that the property is also closed.

By the way, I’m currently thinking that the new photo set based around these photos will be called “Afton Mountain: Victim of Neglect”. I can understand when progress renders a set of commercial buildings obsolete, and progress indeed passed the cluster of Afton Mountain businesses by. Then there comes a point where neglect takes obsolete property and makes it into a dangerous eyesore. I believe that the county would probably buy up the whole property and redevelop the land itself if it could afford it. I’m still figuring out how to present it, but I think I’m in the finger-pointing mood with this one.

Then going back home, I also got a few photos of the “anatomically correct bull” in Stuarts Draft:

The "Anatomically Correct Bull" along US 340 in Stuarts Draft, Virginia

The "Anatomically Correct Bull" along US 340 in Stuarts Draft, Virginia

Yep, it’s all there. Look for yourself and see. We don’t call it the “anatomically correct bull” for nothing. As mentioned, I had previously thought that the bull had lost its nuts, but it turns out that I just didn’t get enough of a chance to look at it while driving by. So there you go. Welcome to Stuarts Draft…

Then on Friday, we went to Kings Dominion with Mom and the eighth graders. Basically, I was accompanying Mom on a school trip for “Math and Science Day”. Officially, I was not part of the trip, but whatever. The eighth grade went over in five chartered Quick’s buses, and I traveled in the Sable. We traveled completely separately, as I made three stops on the way, stopping for gas at the Citgo (formerly Exxon) in Stuarts Draft, for a soda in Zion Crossroads, and then at the eastbound rest area in Goochland County to get up and walk, and recycle the soda bottle. And then when I got to the park, I managed to find the employee entrance. Oops. But get this – despite my stops and my wrong turn, the buses and I all arrived at the same time. They started later and can’t drive as fast, so there you go.

Getting in, Mom and I got with our assigned group, and we headed over to our designated rides. First was the log flume. I hadn’t ridden one of those since 1992 at Silver Dollar City. So that was fun. The students had to use a stopwatch and measure the speed of the descent. The length was already provided, and so they had to take the time of the descent and then determine how fast it went. Me, I just went for kicks. I rode twice. You do get mildly wet on this ride, and that was surprisingly refreshing. This is me after two log flume rides:

Me after two log flume rides.

Kind of funny to get wet while wearing that shirt, ya know? After all, Jeff from Today’s Special was wearing his “Camp Rainbow” shirt when he fell in a wading pool in the episode “Summer Camp“.

Then the other ride was bumper cars. The group was required to record the time length of the bumper-car session. Don’t ask me what they were supposed to figure out from there. This is me doing the bumper cars:

Doing the bumper cars

Doing the bumper cars

That was fun. As I was the only one bumping that, you know, actually had a driver’s license, I was nimble in this thing. And I made it my job to bump the rest of the group, and only the group. I didn’t bump any non-SDMSers.

Then this is the bumper car ride in action, during the group’s other test on it:

Otherwise, we mostly had a quiet day. We weren’t so much interested in riding rides, as Mom and I both aren’t into roller coasters. But we did photo others riding, and got to see the drop tower in action:

Notice that once they get to the top, the operator says, “Five, four, three, two, one. Goodbye!” before releasing them to drop down. Reminds me of the line from Spaceballs:

Ship voice: …counting down. Ten… nine… eight… six…
Skroob: Six?!? What happened to seven?
Ship voice: Just kidding! Seven… six… five… four… three… two… one. Have a nice day!
Skroob, Sandurz, Helmet: Thank you!

It’s funny… Mom asked me if I wanted to do this ride, and my response was this: “I wouldn’t ride the drop thing at Sega World in London. This thing is WAY taller. No way.” Somehow, getting dropped from 300 feet up is not my idea of a good time.

Then we also went up the “Eiffel Tower”, a 1/3 scale replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. That offered a 360-degree view of the park and surrounding area. Pretty cool. Take a look…

The drop tower drops a group, as seen from the Eiffel Tower.
The drop tower drops a group, as seen from the Eiffel Tower.

The roller coaster car goes over the top of the Intimidator 305 ride.
The roller coaster car goes over the top of the Intimidator 305 ride.

The Quick's buses from SDMS, and the Sable a little bit behind them. I made sure to park close by.
The Quick’s buses from SDMS, and the Sable a little bit behind them. I made sure to park close by.

Then later, we observed the Berserker in action. That ride swings riders back and forth in increasingly long arcs before doing about three full-circle loops, taking riders upside down in the process. I love this photo that I got of the process:

Notice the long hair on the women - these folks are upside down, and long enough for gravity to have a chance to pull the hair back down.
Notice the long hair on the women – these folks are upside down, and long enough for gravity to have a chance to pull the hair back down.

And there you go, I suppose. Prices in the park, meanwhile, were outrageous. Mom and I were amazed to see the price of a full pizza at $25.00, and a 20-oz bottle of soda for $4.00. But, you see, they’re betting that you won’t be so offended by their prices that you’ll leave and go to the Burger King across the street from the main entrance for lunch. And the restaurants were doing good business, so their bet appears to be paying off. The folks at the middle school all brought their lunch, and ate outside the gates. I bought a sandwich at Sheetz the night before (for around $4.00), and had that for lunch, along with a 20-oz soda (which only cost me $1.50 or so). No theme park food for me. In keeping with healthy eating, I made sure that the sandwich was full of vegetables, as I put lettuce, tomato, onions, olives, and yellow peppers on it. I don’t get to enjoy Sheetz like I used to, because there are no Sheetz locations in Montgomery County, and so I only get to enjoy Sheetz when I go on a trip somewhere. The nearest Sheetz stores, you see, are in Leesburg and Frederick, each around 25 miles away – too far for just casually going over there for lunch. And having gone to school in Harrisonburg, you really develop a taste for Sheetz. If Sheetz really wants to be my friend, they’ll build one in Wheaton or so.

Then at the end of the time at Kings Dominion, Mom and I said our goodbyes, and I headed up I-95 back to Maryland. I did, however, take time out to visit Potomac Mills on my way. I was hoping to get some more pajama pants from the JCPenney Outlet there.

It was kind of surprising to me that Potomac Mills would be so quiet on a Friday night. The parking lot had lots of close spaces available, and the foot traffic in the mall was very light. I guess they do more business on weekends when the bus trips and such arrive, rather than during the week, but still, that surprised me. Even more surprising was that the JCPenney Outlet store is closing:

"Store Closing" signs at the JCPenney Outlet store at Potomac Mills

Yeah, those are “STORE CLOSING” signs on the wall. And everything was discounted. It seemed, however, that unlike most store closures that are run by an outside company, that JCPenney was actually running their own closing sale. But since I couldn’t find anything that I wanted, it didn’t matter how good the prices might have been. I was sad to end up leaving empty-handed.

By the way, did anyone ever notice that the sign is actually in the wrong font for Penney’s? Take a look:

Signage on the JCPenney Outlet store

Compare to this photo of a regular JCPenney store. Yes, the font is slightly too narrow for JCPenney.

But with the JCPenney Outlet closing, I really have no more reason to go to Potomac Mills. Unfortunately, that mall has changed, and not for the better. The stores are less appealing than they used to be, that’s for sure. I remember Potomac Mills from 1999, and that was a fun place that one could easily spend hours in. Not so much anymore, unfortunately. Having been to Potomac Mills, Franklin Mills, and Arundel Mills, I can say that Potomac Mills is losing what makes a “Mills” property special. Arundel Mills is more what I would consider your typical “Mills” mall, and I can’t speak for Franklin Mills anymore, as I’ve not been there in almost a decade. Hopefully it’s still as “Mills” as it was in 2001.

And that’s about it. Back to reality on Monday morning.

Web site: Online Tuning Fork, an online tone generator

Song: "Professor Wikipedia". I love this video, because I edit Wikipedia a lot...

Quote: Meanwhile, I'm sure that my neighbors are glad I've finished working with that tone generator, even if I did keep the volume low...