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Driving in Virginia on Thanksgiving morning…

November 22, 2012, 7:04 PM

First of all, greetings from Stuarts Draft, where I will be through Sunday.  And so far, so good.  The drive went surprisingly well, and then Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely wonderful.

Considering how well my drive went today, though, I don’t know why anyone would want to go driving on the day before Thanksgiving.  Seriously, this was one of the easiest drives to Stuarts Draft that I’ve had in a long time.  I left the house around 8:45, and it was more or less smooth sailing the entire way.  Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County, from my house to the Beltway, was no problem.

On that note, by the way, does anyone know what’s going on with the Freestate gas station on Georgia Avenue at Layhill Road?  This is how it looked this morning:

The Freestate station on Georgia Avenue

In this picture, the sign is gone, the gas pumps are also gone, and the site is fenced off.  The underground tanks were dug out about two weeks ago.  The building appears to be vacant as well.  I have no idea what’s going on here, but I’m curious.  But at least this time, a business that closed on that block didn’t close on account of having a bus crash into it.  But if anyone knows what’s going on here, leave a comment below.  I’m wondering what’s going on with the site, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going on there, like whether this is going to be a gas station again in the end, or whether it’s going to be something entirely new.  I don’t know.  But I want to know.

Where were we, now?  Yes – the drive.  Then the Beltway was pretty quiet, too.  No problems in Maryland, and then in Virginia, the regular lanes were pretty good, too.  The new Lexus lanes were open (which I am opposed to because the only thing green about them is the money), but no one was using them.  I-66 in Fairfax County?  Nothing to it.  Just going.  I had no problems on the rest of I-66 as well, and then I-81 was very easy.  Took a restroom and coffee break at Sheetz in Woodstock, but otherwise no stops until I got off the freeway for good.

And surprisingly, I only saw two cops on fundraising detail the entire way.  You would think that there would be more, and I distinctly remember more than two going the same way last Thanksgiving.  But this time, I only saw two.  One in Fairfax County, and then I saw nothing else until I saw an otherwise unremarkable Chevrolet Impala driving in the median of I-81.  At first I was thinking, what is this idiot doing? and then I spotted a bunch of antennas on the back of it, and I realized, oh, it’s an unmarked cop car.  It all makes sense.  Realize that if you see a plain car with a zillion antennas, it’s probably an unmarked cop car.  And that’s also playing really dirty when it comes to highway revenue enforcement.  As it is, Virginia has made the use of radar detectors illegal.  So you can’t legally use an electronic device to determine where a speed trap is in the first place.  Then when the cops use an unmarked car for tax assessment purposes, it really comes off as playing dirty.  They don’t raise revenue with cops and radars like they do in Virginia over on the Maryland side.  We have cameras that issue robo-tickets to generate revenue in Maryland, plus they otherwise just tax the crap out of us.  But at least outright taxing the crap out of us is more honest about it than playing cat-and-mouse on the highway.

I was also both surprised and not surprised about how much Mitt Romney stuff is still up in the Shenandoah Valley.  It’s one thing to put signs up for political candidates, but please, folks – take them down when the election is over, especially if your guy is the one who lost the election, and he didn’t even carry the state (Virginia went for Obama in 2012).  Likewise, I saw a lot of George Allen signs as well.  And I don’t believe that either one of them will ever even run for so much as dogcatcher in the future.  (But notwithstanding the expression, is dogcatcher actually an elected position in any jurisdiction?  I’m guessing not – I’ll bet dogcatcher wouldn’t even be a patronage appointment, but a merit-based position.)  You would think that once the signs are advertising the names of people that are now political has-beens, people would take their signs down.  And you would be wrong.  Of course, this is the same area where they’re still fighting the civil war despite that the civil war has been over for almost 150 years.  Do you really think that a little thing like an electoral defeat will stop them from promoting their chosen candidate?  If it were me, and my guy lost, I’d take those signs down really quickly.  Just like those signs for the Republican and the Independent candidates for the Senate election in Maryland this year.  As soon as Daniel Bongino and Rob Sobhani got both of their butts soundly kicked by incumbent Ben Cardin, those signs all disappeared.  Every last one of them.  Not so for Republican candidates in Virginia.

Then in Fishersville, I stopped to get the car washed, and found another thing to add to the grammar hall of shame.  This is the sign at the car wash at Sheetz:

The car wash sign at Sheetz in Fishersville

Someone needs to tell the people who wrote and approved the copy on that sign that even if the word is an initialism, it does not take an apostrophe to pluralize it.  “SUV’s” is incorrect.  The correct way to pluralize that is “SUVs”.  Yes, no apostrophe is correct.  For that matter, I can’t think of any instance where an apostrophe is used to make a word plural in the English language.  So don’t do it.  I don’t know why people like to do this, but it’s far too common than it should be.  The only thing I can think of is that with initialisms, people want to insert the errant apostrophe because they feel this need to introduce some separation between the initialism and making it plural.  But it’s still wrong.  And just because millions of people all do it doesn’t make it right.  So don’t do it.

And then outside the Sheetz is what we call lane elimination on a budget:

A cheap way to eliminate a left turn lane on Ladd Road in Fishersville

First of all, yes, this view is off my driver’s side mirror.  What you’re looking at is the intersection of Ladd Road and Route 608 in Fishersville (map here).  And for some reason, the state decided to get rid of the leftmost of the two left turn lanes.  Thus they just kind of fenced off the lane with pylons.  I don’t quite understand why they got rid of the left turn lane, but if they’re going to do it, this is not the way to do it, because the result looks cheesy.  I think if it were me, I would do one of two things.  Option one would be to paint out the rightmost left turn lane with wide orange stripes and have some physical separation between the left turn traffic and the through traffic (a raised median exists on the other side).  Then option two would involve adding pylons around the aforementioned rightmost left turn lane.  Or do both.  But in any case, I would have closed off the other lane.  This method looks tacky and I think it could definitely be done better than it was done.

And then of course, this is Thanksgiving dinner:

Thanksgiving dinner

This was awesome.  Let me just say that my father is an amazing cook.  Starting at the top left and going across, we have tzimmes, stuffing, green bean casserole, turkey, kugel, mashed potatoes, and then at the bottom of the photo, the gravy.  So good.

Then for later tonight, we have cake.  Needless to say, I will need to put in some extra hours at the pool to make up for all of this.  Good thing I’m getting a pair of short fins for Christmas.  Those will be good for helping me work off this Thanksgiving dinner.  After all, I don’t want to backslide on my weight goals on account of family togetherness and holiday traditions.  I have a new, slimmer figure to maintain, and an even slimmer figure still to achieve.  And dammit, I will get there.

And then tomorrow, Mom and I are going out to run a few errands.  I’m getting my first scheduled maintenance on the Soul, and then we’re going to see what other trouble we can get into.  And I got a new winter coat!  Dad had a winter coat that was a few years old that he hadn’t used much that he gave me that was perfect.  It fits well, and has all of the features that I liked about my current coat like the second set of pockets, but isn’t comically too large for the body that occupies it.  I like this very much.  My parents are awesome.

  • Academic research (including some of my own, shameless plug: http://www.orenstransitpage.com/thesis) strongly suggests that HOT lanes are not Lexus Lanes (a belief that I held prior to writing my thesis) and are probably one of the most effective ways to increase roadway capacity in light of the fact no politician is willing to raise the gas tax or fund transportation properly.  Seeing as governments have little to no money for transportation improvements on the scale of adding 56 lane-miles to a road such as the Beltway, do you have a better suggestion for how to build new or wider roadways than public-private partnerships such as this one?