Sometimes you have those weekends where you just have to get out of the house…

June 11, 2014, 6:06 PM

Ever get that feeling of “I just have to get out of the house”?  I recently had that feeling, where I just needed a change of scenery for a little bit, and so I planned a weekend trip down to Stuarts Draft to visit the parents, going down Friday, and coming back Sunday.  They were, as always, delighted to see me, and on the whole, we had a good time.  I also made some extra space in my house, as, on Mom’s request, I brought my sister’s old bicycle back to my parents’ house.  Gave me some practice in “beheading” a bicycle by removing the front wheel, and then reattaching it at my destination.  But it travels much more easily without the front wheel:

The bicycle has been beheaded!
The freshly-liberated front wheel.

Fits perfectly in the back of my car with the front wheel detached, however.
All stacked neatly in the car, ready for transportation.

I also realized fairly quickly why I picked a bicycle with an aluminum frame.  My sister’s old bicycle has a steel frame, and it’s much heavier going up and down the stairs than my new one.

The drive down went well enough, but traffic on US 29 between Gainesville and Charlottesville was a bit of a bother.  Some days, you can set cruise control on 29 and just go, but not on this particular day.  Too much traffic this time around.  Too much start and stop, and too many cars around.

Arriving in Stuarts Draft, I first stopped at my old middle school, where it was the last day of school, and where Mom just finished up her last year.  Yes, Mom is retiring from teaching, and as such, this was probably the last time I’d be visiting there for a while.  So after saying hello to Mom, I did a little tour and took a ton of photos.  For the record, Stuarts Draft Middle School has been kept up incredibly well, and despite having just finished its 36th school year, it is looking awesome.  It looks better now than it did when I was there back in 1992-1995, mostly due to better paintwork and various other improvements over the years.  Definitely looks better than Stuarts Draft High School did at that age, that’s for sure.

So I started in the office, and kind of wandered around a bit.  My fellow SDMS alumni, be prepared for a treat, as you see our old middle school, still mostly the same as before.  We’re also going to see a few things that you probably never paid attention to before…

The master clock, a Lathem LTR4-128, which replaced an earlier Edwards clock system. Only the cover remains from the original master clock.  The fire alarm panel, a DSC Maxsys PC4020CF, which replaced an Edwards Custom 6500 system in 2005.
The master clock and the fire alarm panel in the office.  The clock system has always been in this configuration as long as I’ve known it, with a Lathem master clock behind an Edwards cover, but my understanding is that the Lathem clock was put in relatively early on because the original Edwards system malfunctioned frequently.  If anyone knows what kind of system this cover was used for I’d love to know.  The fire alarm system is currently a DSC Maxsys, which replaced an Edwards Custom 6500 system in 2005.

The master clock, a Lathem LTR4-128, which replaced an earlier Edwards clock system. Only the cover remains from the original master clock.
Now this is an antique.  This is the graphic annunciator for the Edwards system.  As such, it is no longer functional with the DSC Maxsys system.  It’s interesting to look at, because, being original to the school, it doesn’t have the 1993 addition on it.  When I was in sixth grade, I noted that my morning classes were in zone 2, and my afternoon classes were in zone 1.  No idea what zone the pull stations that were added in 1993 were wired into.

The original intercom system
The intercom system, like the graphic annunciator, is also a bit of an antique, but it still sees daily use.  It’s a Rauland system, but I can’t tell if the entire thing has a model number, or if it’s just the model numbers of the various modules that form the system.  I do remember that Mrs. Garber (principal from 1993 to 2000-something) regularly had issues turning the radio module (in the middle) off in the morning.  She would always manage to turn the radio way up before successfully turning it off.

The seventh grade locker area
The seventh grade locker area.  This area is not original to the school, having been constructed during the 1993 addition.  It was constructed against a windowed corridor on the building’s west side.  The outermost two of the four windows were blocked in, while the inner two windows were converted to passages between the new locker area and the existing corridor, with heat-activated roll-down fire doors separating the two.  This locker area is unique for having three single-level locker islands in the middle of the space, which the sixth and eighth grade lockers do not have.  These are also now the oldest lockers in the school, as the original sixth and eighth grade locker areas were removed in 1997 to create four additional classrooms.  Those old locker areas were replaced with rows of new lockers along the main corridors.  The lockers are all open in this and subsequent pictures due to this photo’s having been taken on the last day of school, and therefore the lockers were being cleaned out by staff.

My old seventh grade locker
My old seventh grade locker, number 1269, in one of those islands of single-level lockers.  Owing to the replacement of the other locker areas, this is the only one of my lockers that still exists.  I was the first student to use this locker, in the 1993-1994 school year.

The eighth grade hall, viewed from near the west end of the building.  The old eighth grade locker area is located to the right, in the area where the concrete block wall ends and the drywall begins.  The replacement lockers line the hallway to the left.  For sixth graders, the eighth grade hall is like a forbidden zone, as students, at least in my time, were explicitly told that they were not allowed in the eighth grade hall.  There really was no reason for sixth graders to ever need to use the eighth grade hall, but I always thought that the outright prohibition was probably a little bit over the top.  It was also never mentioned what would happen to little sixth graders who were caught in the eighth grade hall.

The forum, facing the stage

The forum, facing the rear
The forum is a feature that I’ve never seen anywhere else.  The cafeteria at Stuarts Draft Middle School is a cafetorium, i.e. it doubles as both the cafeteria and the auditorium.  The forum is a smaller formal space, with a tiered audience area and a small stage with its own lighting.  The forum had brown carpet when I was in sixth grade, and received new blue carpeting in 1993, along with the office and the library.

For that matter, I always wondered if the office deliberately tried to avoid having fire drills while the forum was in use or if it was just coincidental.  I wonder this because when I was in sixth grade, during the “expectations” assembly that we had on the second day of school, Mrs. Kidd (then the principal) mentioned about how normally, only the two rear doors in the forum were used to leave, but that in the unlikely event of a fire drill in the forum, all four doors would be used for egress.  There was also one instance when I was in sixth grade where there was a fire drill at the beginning of the period immediately after a group that I was in was occupying the forum.  When I was a student there, though, fire drills were only held during second, sixth, and seventh periods, with one exception, where there was a fire drill during eighth period.  Fire drills were never held in first, third, fourth, or fifth periods (the latter two due to lunch periods), and, aside from the one exception, eighth.

The utility room

The utility room
Ever wondered what the utility room next to the gym looked like?  Here it is.  Lots and lots of pipes, and big equipment that makes noise.  It’s also very warm in that room, too, probably due to all of the equipment.  This was the last place in this school that I had never explored, and so I decided to take a look.

The custodians' office
The custodians’ office, off of the utility room.  Yes, the custodians have a couch.

The gym
This is the gym, facing southeast.  Two years ago, I had mentioned that the Bauer Drive Recreation Center gym looked a lot like the gym at my old middle school.  Now you can compare for yourself.  However, imagine that the walls were two shades of institutional green, with a darker shade beneath and including that maroon line, and a lighter shade above it to the rafters.  Then the entire area from the bottom of the rafters to the roof were painted a darker green color.  They painted the gym a “mushroom” color all the way up in the summer between my seventh and eighth grade years, but the ceiling was left in its original green.  Delighted that they finally painted the ceiling a normal color.

Boys' locker room
The boys’ locker room looks (and, unfortunately, smells) the same as when I left it.  Only major difference is that they pulled out the row of full-length lockers along the one wall and added cube lockers to replace them.  I presume they needed more space for kids to store their Phys. Ed outfits, and so the old lockers had to go.  They did, however, keep locker #1, which was Mr. Ellis’ locker back when I was there.

The unpaired pull station in the gym
The gym also contains the only pull station in the original part of the school that’s not accompanied by a notification appliance (though none of the five pull stations in the addition are paired with a notification appliance, either).  There was an Edwards 270A-SPO here back when I was a student.  That old pull station now lives with me (it’s the “LOCAL ALARM” one).

And that’s my old middle school.  Not sure when I’ll be there next.

Otherwise, the following day, I went out with Mom for her various errands, which took us to a few different places.  One of the places that we visited was my ex-store, the Walmart in Waynesboro.  This sign there amused me, because it’s up for some interpretation:

This certainly is up for interpretation

While the official meaning of this is that this is where a baby changing table is located, I interpreted it as the place where you bury the bodies.  A few folks on Facebook had other interpretations, such as where you get giant engagement rings, and where you barbecue babies (and you thought my interpretation was nutty!).

Then I was also slightly pleased to see this:

The now-former McDonald's in my ex-store

The now-former McDonald's in my ex-store

This is the now-former McDonald’s in my ex-store, which closed in the relatively recent past.  And good riddance to them.  I’ve never been a big fan of McDonald’s, since their food is basically garbage, plus this one in particular did not endear itself to anyone early on with all of the canned announcements that they used to run on the PA system.  Rumor on the street is that this is supposed to become a Burger King.  That can be dismissed out of hand because, if that were actually the case, the Walmart Realty site would not list the space as being available for leasing as of this writing.  A Burger King in Walmart would not be unheard of (one is going into a Walmart store in Newport News), but if a Burger King’s coming to the Waynesboro Walmart was true, it wouldn’t still be listed as available for leasing.

After this, we went over to the P. Buckley Moss Museum in Waynesboro.  This will probably be my last visit here, as it’s slated to close on July 13.  I’ve always enjoyed the Moss Museum, but my understanding is that it doesn’t get the traffic that it used to.  The organization that owns and operates the museum will be opening a gallery in downtown Waynesboro, though, which will help with the continuing revitalization of the downtown area.  According to museum staff, the existing museum building has been donated to Virginia Tech.  No one knew what they would use the building for, though.

I always found the fire alarm system in the P. Buckley Moss museum to be interesting, so before we left, I grabbed a few photos of some of the fire alarm stuff.  I’ve never seen the panel for the museum, but what I did see has always intrigued me.  The notification appliances are Wheelock ET speakers without strobes, and then the pull stations are Pyrotronics MS-51.  However, the astute observer will notice more pull stations than usual, and often found in pairs.  The main gallery contains a Halon fire suppression system. and the remainder of the building contains a pre-action sprinkler system.  For the Halon system in the main gallery, regular MS-51 stations activate the fire alarm, and specially-marked MS-51 stations with Stopper covers activate the Halon system:

Halon pull station with stopper cover

The Moss Museum was also the first time I’d ever heard of Halon, and the first time I’d ever seen a Stopper cover.  Then this is what the remainder looked like:

Two pull stations, a few inches apart, one plain, and the other adorned with a “SPRINKLER RELEASE” sign.  Understandably, considering that this is an art museum, we don’t want to damage the many original artworks found here accidentally, and a conventional wet-pipe sprinkler system would likely cause more damage than it prevented.  Thus the waterless Halon system in the main gallery, and the pre-action system elsewhere.

Then Sunday was interesting enough.  The goal of the day was to get ready to go back home, plus do a little power washing.  The idea for power washing came about after I saw the Power Washing Porn page on Reddit.  Basically, people power wash stuff, and then post pictures of the before, after, and sometimes also during.  I knew that there were some surfaces on my parents’ house that hadn’t been cleaned in decades, and so I had some good candidates for shooting some power washing porn of my own.  I’m going to give a larger treatment to the power washing in Life and Times, so I’m not going to elaborate too much here, but let me give you a sneak preview:

The brown swath was freshly power washed

Amazing what you can get when you blast water at something hard enough.  Almost 22 years’ worth of grime blasted right off in minutes.  Who would have thought that the wood looked almost new under all of that gunk?  And apparently a lot of the gunk went onto my legs:

My legs after power washing a bunch of stuff

Apparently it was very naive of me to think that I wouldn’t get dirty after power washing a bunch of stuff.  I ended up having to wash these clothes and take a shower before I left for home.

Then the trip home was pretty awful.  I got caught in massive downpours as part of a severe thunderstorm not once, but twice coming back.  But first, on the way out, I stopped to briefly check out the Shoney’s in Waynesboro, which closed “temporarily” not too long ago:

Exterior of the Shoney's in Waynesboro

Sunroom in the Shoney's in Waynesboro

Sign for the Shoney's in Waynesboro, minus the name part

I don’t know about you, but this looks suspiciously like a restaurant that has served its last platter.  Someone needs to get a stick and remove “TEMPORARILY” from the sign, because it’s clear that they’re history.  I just hope that the restaurant’s employees got some notice of the closure, rather than showing up for work only to find a note on the door stating that the place was closed.  Doing that sort of thing to one’s employees is really wrong, but it happens far too often with restaurants.  The Shoney’s location in Staunton closed abruptly one day, along with several other locations owned by the same franchisee, and employees got zero notice of the closure until they showed up for work and found out that they were out of a job.  Waynesboro was a corporate location rather than a franchised location, so I would hope that the company treated its employees better than an independent operator, but I have my doubts.

The Shoney’s location in Waynesboro has been the source of rumors for years, and this just adds fuel to the fire.  Ever since Waynesboro had its retail boom in the mid 2000s, this restaurant has been the subject of a rumor that it was going to be converted to an IHOP.  It had been denied officially before, but now that the building is closed, who knows?  I think that the rumor is mainly wishful thinking, because Shoney’s is generally considered dated, and IHOP is another restaurant that’s known for its breakfast, but which does not exist in that area, as the nearest ones are in Harrisonburg and Charlottesville.  This is just like how I’ve heard so many people over there say that they want an Olive Garden in the area.  What is it with people and this strong desire for low quality food?

And then, as mentioned, the drive home sucked, as in driving 40 mph down I-66 with the flashers on, and not being able to hear the clicking of the flashers because it was raining so hard.  I first encountered the storm on I-81 for about 15 miles.  With I-81’s being a north-south route, the storm passed overhead and that was that.  But then when I turned east on 66, I caught back up with the storm, and unfortunately, stayed with it until I got to Fairfax County.  I stopped for a break at Sheetz in Haymarket, and got a few pix of how bad the rain was:

Rain at the Sheetz in Haymarket

Rain at the Sheetz in Haymarket

Rain at the Sheetz in Haymarket

That’s what I was dealing with.  No fun.  Note the water pooling up in the parking lot next to the curb.

But all in all, not a bad trip.