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Adventures up north…

November 21, 2018, 1:48 PM

Back in the middle of October, as part of a weeklong vacation from work, Elyse and I took a trip to upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania.  The first day took us up to Cortland, New York.  The second day, we explored Scranton, Pennsylvania.  The third day, we briefly explored Wilkes-Barre, and then went down to Centralia before heading home.

Our route on the first day took us from home up I-270 to Frederick, and then US 15 to Harrisburg.  We had planned a stop around Harrisburg in order to photograph Three Mile Island from across the river, but scrapped it due to bad weather (clouds).  We can day-trip it to Harrisburg any time, and traveling to the spot for Three Mile Island would have been a significant detour.  We both agreed that we weren’t going to make a long detour for bad photos.  Once we got to Harrisburg, we joined Interstate 81 for our travels north.

I definitely got to know I-81 a whole lot better than I did before taking this trip.  Previously, I had traveled on I-81 from its southern terminus near Knoxville as far as exit 116 in Pennsylvania, from my Centralia trip in May (prior to that, I had only traveled as far as the I-78 split).  Now, I’ve traveled the entire length of I-81 in Pennsylvania, and also 52 miles in upstate New York.  If there’s one thing to be said about I-81 north of Harrisburg, it’s that the views are outstanding.  I-81 runs through the mountains, and it’s quite a sight.  And just like it does in Virginia, it skirts around every single city, which doesn’t make for the most interesting trip.  I prefer when freeways go through the cities like I-95 tends to do, because it gives me something to look forward to, and also keeps me more engaged.

But thankfully, we had this license plate game that Elyse found in a thrift store, so as we spotted different states’ license plates, she turned that state over on the board.  The most unusual license plate that we saw was for St. Maarten, at a Sheetz in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania.  Why a vehicle from St. Maarten was in central Pennsylvania, I don’t know.

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No, this is not the solution to kids’ getting run over…

November 4, 2018, 2:59 PM

Last night, Elyse shared a photo with me from Facebook depicting a school bus making a stop way out in the middle of the road:


Photo: Dana Shifflett Farrar

The photo was captioned, “With the string of school bus accidents, I loved how this bus driver intentionally placed itself [sic] in the middle this morning.  At first I wondered what they were doing, then I realized the kids had to cross the road.  Well done, sir.”  I don’t know where this specific location is, but considering that the person who posted it is from Shenandoah, Virginia, this likely depicts a location in Shenandoah County, Virginia, and as such is most likely a Shenandoah County school bus.  This was likely done in reaction to recent news stories where children have been injured while going to school.

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Categories: Driving, Honda HR-V, School

A visit to Morgantown…

October 24, 2018, 10:00 AM

On October 8, I went out to Morgantown for the day with Elyse, Brian, and Trent.  This was a fun little trip, with the intention of exploring the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system and also seeing a few elevators, as the three of them are very much into elevators.  I’m not as much into elevators as they are, but I’ve learned a lot from them.

It’s a long drive to Morgantown, that’s for sure.  From Montgomery Village to Morgantown took us about four hours, with stops in Frederick, Sideling Hill, Cumberland, and La Vale for various (mostly restroom) needs.  I was amazed about how mountainous Interstate 68 was, particularly west of Cumberland.  It felt like we were constantly going up a mountain, but the HR-V was killing the hills like a champ.  This trip also brought out the roadgeek in all of us.  We took I-68 from its eastern terminus in Hancock, and, since we were practically there already, rode 68 to its western terminus at I-79.

Sideling Hill was known territory to everyone.  We had all been there before, but the view was still worth a look.  However, it was foggy on this particular day:

Sideling Hill overlook, facing approximately east

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A walk down an abandoned road…

May 24, 2018, 5:40 AM

On May 17, 2018, I took a solo trip up to Centralia, Pennsylvania.  For those not familiar, Centralia is something of a modern ghost town, having gradually been abandoned due to a coal mine fire that’s been burning uncontrolled beneath the town since 1962, likely caused by deliberate burning of trash in the town’s landfill, which was on top of a former strip mine.  As of 2013, the town had only seven residents remaining, and when those remaining residents pass on or otherwise leave the town, their properties will be seized via eminent domain.

I had done some research about the site, but was a bit iffy on whether it was going to be good or not.  I was concerned about its being a bust, but it was still intriguing enough to make the trip.  And as it turned out, it was pretty cool.  The biggest “attraction” at Centralia is an abandoned section of road known as the “Graffiti Highway”.  That road came about when Pennsylvania Route 61 began having subsidence and visibility issues due to the coal mine fire.  The state built a new alignment for the route on more stable ground in 1993, and the old alignment was abandoned.  Since then, many people have come by and left graffiti tags on the road, which gave the road its nickname.  Besides the road, there are also several cemeteries in Centralia, as well as one remaining active church, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

When I went up, I wasn’t quite sure how it would work out.  Based on my research, as well as a little Google sightseeing, there were the roads of the former town surrounded by empty land and a few houses, and the possibility of seeing steam from the mine fire rising from the ground.  The Graffiti Highway was most intriguing.  I’d heard mixed reports about how accessible the Graffiti Highway was, though.  When it was still under state ownership, my understanding was that police tended to chase people away on a routine basis.  I didn’t want to travel that far just to get chased out.  But last fall, the state vacated their easement, i.e. they gave up the right of way, determining that it will never again be used for a road, and ownership of the land reverted back to adjacent property owners.  So I believe that the old road is now on privately owned land, and as such, the heavy enforcement went away now that the state no longer owns the land.  In any case, no one bothered me on my visit.

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They listed the color as black…

April 2, 2018, 2:23 PM

In the time since the Soul burned a little less than two months ago, Elyse and I had been wondering what happened to it afterward.  We knew that it had been taken to Terry’s Body Shop in Purcellville immediately after the fire, and then the insurance company moved it to a facility in Culpeper in order to do their investigation.  The sequence of events that I described and the photos of the fire itself pointed to a fuel fire, i.e. that fuel started leaking out near the engine, and then, presumably, once the leaked fuel hit the hot engine, it ignited, and the rest was history.  However, the results of the insurance company’s investigation were inconclusive, as the fire had burned everything so thoroughly that their experts were unable to formally determine a specific cause that triggered the whole sequence of events.

Elyse had wondered if the car would end up on one of those auto salvage auction sites, and went hunting online to see if she could find it.  Her search came up empty.  Then, a few weeks later, I put the Soul’s VIN into Google to see what came up.  I didn’t expect to find anything, so I was a bit surprised to hit pay dirt.  I found a page from Insurance Auto Auctions with photos of my former car.  The listing indicated that the damage was “total burn”, with a black exterior and a black interior.  The black interior was correct, though I imagine that they weren’t thinking of the one that I remembered, but rather the one that existed after the fire.  The description of the exterior color as “black” amused me, because most of the body was no longer green following the fire.  Considering that, it’s pretty hard to argue with that description of the color.

Right front view.  I imagine that this side, with its heavy smoke and fire damage, is what led the auction site to list the car's color as "black" instead of green.
Right front view.  I imagine that this side, with its heavy smoke and fire damage, is what led the auction site to list the car’s color as “black” instead of green.

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Categories: Kia Soul

Now I’m a Honda driver, but I’m still missing my Soul…

February 26, 2018, 1:56 AM

No one ever told me that losing a car would be so difficult.  The car itself is gone, and after about a week in a rental car (a Hyundai Accent), I am now the proud owner of a Honda HR-V, a crossover SUV:

My new car, a Honda HR-V

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Categories: Honda HR-V, Kia Soul

I guess that I can cross “escape from a burning car” off of my bucket list…

February 13, 2018, 2:40 PM

Sad to say, my 2012 Kia Soul is no more.  On the night of February 7, in Lucketts, Virginia, as Elyse and I were on the way back home from a trip around the area with friends, my car caught fire and was destroyed in the resulting inferno.  Thankfully, we both escaped without injury.

The day had gone pretty well.  We had gotten together with two friends, Trent and Jackson, and we went from Gaithersburg to Rockville to Silver Spring to DC to Alexandria to Annandale seeing various things, with a focus mostly on elevators, as Elyse, Trent, and Jackson are all elevator enthusiasts.  I have somewhat of an interest in them, but not nearly as strong as the other three.  At the end of our day, we dropped Trent off at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, and then took Jackson up to Dulles Airport to meet up with family members of his that were flying in from out of town.  After we left Jackson with his relatives, Elyse and I headed out.  We took the Dulles Greenway to Leesburg, and then headed north on Route 15, intending to go over the Point of Rocks Bridge, and then continuing to follow Route 15 until we reached Frederick, after which we would turn south to head home.

However, circumstances would dictate otherwise.  As we were going up Route 15, the car suddenly started losing accelerative power, getting it back, losing it again, and so on.  The end result was that I was rapidly losing speed.  Elyse thought that it was the transmission slipping, and with that in mind, I was trying to see if I could get the car to a safe location in order to stop and call AAA for a tow truck.  A transmission problem would be covered under the Kia 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and so, like the engine replacement that I had a couple of months ago, I would take it to the dealer to get it fixed, and everything would be fine.

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Categories: Elyse, Friends, Kia Soul, Virginia

I suppose that this is why you buy a Kia…

December 4, 2017, 2:59 PM

I suppose that what happened to me recently is exactly why you buy a Kia.  My car had been making some funny noises for a while, but since the check engine light had not come on yet, I figured that I had time to deal with it, and put it off until later.  This past Monday, the noises got noticeably worse, and the “check engine” light finally came on.  That’s when I scheduled a repair with a Kia dealer (since I suspected it might be covered by the warranty) and booked a rental car for the upcoming repair.  Then the car finally quit on me on the way to work, i.e. it just cut off in the middle of Georgia Avenue in Olney.  Thankfully, I was able to coast to a safe location to call for a tow truck.

The car ended up riding on the back of a tow truck from Olney directly to the dealer, and then I took the bus the rest of the way to work.  Then the next day, Elyse and I took a bus down to Rockville to pick up the rental car and talk to the people working on my real car.  I decided to kill two birds with one stone on that one, because I had planned a trip to IKEA during that time anyway, so I rented a truck.  So for a few days, I went from a Kia Soul – a compact – to a Ram 1500 pickup truck.  That thing was massive:

My rented Ram 1500 pickup truck

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Categories: Furniture, House, IKEA, Kia Soul

Snowzilla!

January 24, 2016, 10:55 PM

So the “Snowzilla” (as named by The Washington Post) storm has come and gone, and it left a large pile of snow in its wake – enough to kill part of the roof of the Safeway in Bel Air, Maryland, and the roof of Wayne Lanes in Waynesboro, Virginia.  Thankfully, I came through this storm just fine, and it was just a matter of digging out.  This storm dropped light, powdery snow (as compared to wet, heavy snow), and there was a lot of it.  I got more snow on my balcony in this storm than I did in 2009 and 2010’s major winter storms, for one.  Check this out:

The reach of the snow on my balcony: all the way in!

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Categories: Kia Soul, Winter weather

How stupid do they think that I am?

March 31, 2015, 1:08 AM

I recently received an envelope in the mail that looked like this:

I saw this envelope, with just an address and what appeared to be a handwritten address, and thought “bill”, since this is how I’ve seen some smaller doctors’ offices do billing.

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“I am always so thrilled when people realize how much better a place can look with just a few simple changes!”

October 12, 2014, 12:07 PM

This past week, I finally finished the work that I’d been doing at my house for the past two months.  The way I figured, since there was a period of time while the various processes related to onboarding at the new job were still coming together, I might as well take the time to finish a few things on my to-do list.  It’s funny, however, what inspires a person to decorate.  Back in July or so, my friend Suzie described my house as “a hot mess”.  I thought about that over the next week or so, and came to the conclusion that she was right.  And I admit – it was looking a little bit too “lived in” at the time, with a lot of unfinished business all over the place.  The closets were not being used to their full potential, I had a pile of stuff on the counter between the kitchen and the living room, the table was full of junk, and there were things in visible locations when they should have been in closets.

I started out on August 5, doing what I called the “demolition” phase.  This was where I cleaned out the closets and determined what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to get rid of.  It’s amazing how much junk can fit in a one-bedroom apartment.  I ended up getting rid of a ton of stuff.  I had long-outdated information about the 2008 Democratic National Convention from the Unconventional Action consulta that occurred in January 2008.  I had the banner from the black bloc at the National Equality March from October 2009.  I had an expired bottle of generic Solarcaine from the time when I got sunburned at Splash Down Waterpark in June 2008.  I also had a carton of fabric softener from 2007 that I had never opened, where all the liquid had been absorbed by the carton itself, leaving a blob of whatever solids were in the softener at the bottom.  No, seriously.  Take a look:

Yeah, I believe that the light parts of the carton were supposed to be white...  The blob of fabric softener solids in the bottom of the carton.

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Digging out of the snow…

February 13, 2014, 6:55 PM

So considering that the pool is closed tonight due to the snow, I still got my exercise today, pool or no pool.  For those not familiar, the east coast of the United States got hit with a pretty significant snowstorm.  This is the biggest snowstorm that I’ve seen since Snowmageddon in 2010.  And hitting in the same week as Snowmageddon did back in 2010, no less.  However, this snow has mostly been the light, fluffy kind so far, and that’s the stuff that you can clear off the car with the brush part of the scraper with little effort (and really get some distance when slinging it).  However, when more than a foot of it falls in a short time, it does start to compress a bit.  But it looked very pretty while coming down last night:

The parking lot at the Safeway in Olney at around 10:00 on Wednesday night.
The parking lot at the Safeway in Olney at around 10:00 on Wednesday night.

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Categories: Kia Soul, Winter weather

Getting some action out of this snow…

January 22, 2014, 11:37 PM

Let’s admit it: between the wet, heavy snow and the light, fluffy snow, I will always fall on the side of the light, fluffy snow.  Powdery stuff is just nicer snow than the wetter stuff.  And with the recent snowfall to come over the DC area, we got the fluffy stuff.  It’s more likely to blow around and hit you in the face, but it’s easier to clear off of your car, and easy to shovel off of the balcony.

And like any good snowfall, I got pictures.  Of course, I got the obligatory off-the-balcony photo:

Good morning from Aspen Hill, Maryland!

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Categories: Kia Soul, Winter weather

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

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Nothing like shopping with an arsenal of snarky tweets…

October 7, 2012, 1:42 AM

So I went shopping in Gaithersburg and Germantown on Saturday night. This was a follow-on from Friday’s shopping trip in Wheaton and Aspen Hill. Today’s goal, as with Friday’s goal, was to find some shirts in my current size that I could wear to work. The shirts that I wore last winter (the thrift store clothes) are now too big on me. So I went off in search of clothing.

First of all, Friday’s mission consisted of Old Navy and JCPenney in Wheaton, and then Kohl’s in Aspen Hill. I quickly discovered that Old Navy was not what I was looking for. It was clear that Old Navy was not catering to my demographic. It caters to the teenage set and to adults who are way hipper than I am. However, I did find a winner at Penney’s:

The shirt I found at Penney's  The shirt I found at Penney's

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Categories: Clothing, Kia Soul, Shopping, Target