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Remember not to misspell, now… that’s B-O-R-F.

January 21, 2007, 10:10 PM

Occasionally I have fun with my coworkers. I recently had the occasion of having some cans of spray paint go through the Service Desk to go back to their proper department. And in the meantime, talk of graffiti came up. I made reference to the DC-area graffiti artist John Tsombikos from Great Falls, best known as the main person behind the “Borf” campaign. Of course, my coworkers had no idea. They don’t make these biweekly runs to DC like I do. I remember seeing graffiti from the train along the eastern half of the Red Line referring to “Borf”, and I was like, what-the-heck. “Borf”? It wasn’t until really recently, talking about the “disarm” message that was stenciled on the sidewalk of the Key Bridge, that I really found out what Borf was all about. Very prolific.

Otherwise, it snowed today, as the weather forecasters predicted. Actually, it snowed first, then turned to freezing rain, and then to sleet. All and all, it was not a pleasant drive to work. Actually, going in was worse than leaving. It was all still snow then. Basically packed snow all the way to Waynesboro. The Sable still drives better in the snow than the Previa did, but the trip was not without its challenges, as stopping was something of a challenge. Most notably, I was unable to stop at the intersection of the westbound off-ramp of I-64 and Rosser Avenue in Waynesboro, and therefore slid right through a just-turned red light. So yes, I ran a red light today. I did, and so did the car beside me. Both of us slid right through the red light, blowing our horns to warn any potential cross-traffic of our situation. We both got through unscathed.

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Does anyone know…

November 29, 2006, 8:21 PM

Does anyone know the location and/or purpose of a beacon or searchlight in Rockingham County, Virginia just south of Harrisonburg? I first noticed it in 2003 when I was commuting to JMU, and I gave it some more serious thought about what it was last night when I most recently saw it. And I see it on most trips through that area at night.

It appears to originate west of Interstate 81 and US 11, appearing to originate from Bridgewater, or just south of there. I’ve never actually seen the device that this light originates from – just the light itself. The beam of light is white, and it moves in a clockwise direction at a fast speed. If you’ve ever seen the way a lighthouse’s beam moves, it’s about the same.

To see the area I’m referring to, here’s a map. The beacon appears to originate from west of the highway (left on that map). The furthest north I’ve been able to see it is at Exit 240, which is the Mt. Crawford/Bridgewater exit on I-81, the junction of I-81 and Friedens Church Road. The furthest south I’ve seen it is just north of the Augusta County line. The boundary between the two counties is not marked on the map, but to give you a general idea, it’s a straight northwest-to-southeast line just north of Fadley Road and Weyers Cave Road (Route 256).

So my question is, has anyone else seen this particular bit of light? Does anyone know where it’s actually located? Does anyone know what its purpose is? If you know what it is, I would like to know!

Categories: Driving, Harrisonburg

It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

November 27, 2006, 9:06 AM

Whenever I go to Washington, this line spoken by Elwood in The Blues Brothers comes to mind. Reason I mention this is because, aside from the cigarettes and the sunglasses, it’s fairly accurate for me. When I leave on my bi-weekly trip to Washington, it’s dark, I have a full tank of gas, and it’s 100+ miles to DC.

If you want to get somewhat specific, it’s roughly 150 miles. That accounts for four miles on I-64, 79 miles on I-81, and another 62 miles on I-66. That comes to 145 miles right there. Then when you consider the distance traveled on local roads, meaning the distance from my house to I-64, as well as the little bit of driving on Saintsbury and Vaden Drives in Vienna to reach the North Garage, it comes to slightly over 150 miles. I’ve been meaning to actually measure the distance with the Sable’s odometer, but by the time I think of it, I’m too far downrange for it to be worth setting at that point.

The only time I’ve actually reset the odometer to measure the distance was for my August 31, 2005 DC trip, which meant that it was the Previa’s odometer and not the Sable’s. You may recall that the August 31 trip was characterized by a confrontation with some Metro employees who basically wet their pants when they saw me photographing trains, which led to a meeting with a Transit Police officer. Regardless, it didn’t work out. The reason was twofold. First, I forgot to take the reading at the end of the trip, and made a few trips to work and back before realizing this. Secondly, even if I had remembered to take the reading, it wouldn’t have been accurate, since there was a detour around a work zone on westbound I-66 on that return trip, as well as the next one. Traffic was funneled off I-66 at exit 47, sent down some dark local roads, and then funneled back onto the highway at exit 43.

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Categories: DC trips, Driving

An interesting ride home…

October 24, 2006, 10:02 PM

Well, I ended up going against what I said I was going to do in my last entry. I did take Route 1 up through Alexandria, but then plans changed in Arlington. First of all, I took a side trip into Pentagon City, mainly to prove to myself that I could get there by car. So I went over, and drove past the mall. I also discovered some of the space between Pentagon City and Crystal City, and took a fleeting look at a park near the mall.

Then, returning to Route 1, I drove up until just short of the 14th Street Bridge. There, the road forks, with the right fork going to the 14th Street Bridge, and the left fork going to Rosslyn. I took the left fork, and found Wilson Boulevard. From here, I was basically following the Orange Line, station for station. I saw Rosslyn’s buildings (though I didn’t see Rosslyn Center), and continued past the Court House, Clarendon, and Virginia Square-GMU stations. There, I saw a sign for I-66, and turned, and headed into Ballston. I took Fairfax Drive past the IHOP restaurant, past the Hilton and Ballston Metro Center, and past the Metro station entrances. Then, a couple of blocks later, Fairfax Drive turns into the on-ramp for I-66.

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Categories: DC trips, Driving

The new strap is taking some getting used to, but it works…

October 23, 2006, 8:19 PM

Hello from Pentagon City on my Richmond-to-DC trip, where I started from home, drove to Richmond via I-64, and took the driving tour through downtown Richmond, which is best described as the good, the bad, and the ugly – very ugly. I don’t call Richmond the “armpit of the state” for nothing.

Then I swung up I-95 to Fredericksburg, where I explored around a bit. One of these days, I will figure out something to photograph while I’m there. Then from there, I continued to Woodbridge, where I visited Potomac Mills. Very quiet place this time around, with my visit occurring on a Monday afternoon. Then I drove up US 1 a bit, and caught the Metro at Huntington. I visited my friend Tristan, and then went around a bit on the Metro, ending up here at Pentagon City.

So fun stuff. From here, I’m going to railfan over to Franconia-Springfield, then double back to King Street and ride back to Huntington, where the Sable is parked. Then leaving Huntington, I’m going to take US 1 to the 14th Street Bridge, and then drive into Washington. I don’t know what my route will be there yet. Then from there, I’m going to take I-66 to US 29, take 29 to Charlottesville, then catch I-64 again to go back home.

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Categories: DC trips, Driving, Radio

This was perhaps one of my scariest return trips from DC…

October 13, 2006, 12:47 AM

On my DC trips, for the run up to Vienna and the run back home, the goal is for the actual driving to be uneventful, and therefore forgettable. As you probably guessed, having had so many of these things, I don’t always get what I want.

I remember one time in May 2004 when I had a blowout on the way up. It happened on I-81, near Mt. Crawford. Thus this happened about 30 minutes into the trip. AAA put the spare tire on, and I continued to DC. The return leg of that trip was uneventful. Then there was the time in June 2004 when it was raining hard all the way to Vienna, culminating in a soaking of the Previa’s undercarriage right at the Nutley Street exit, which caused the car to strain at 25 mph for that last little bit into the parking space. Then there have been numerous return trips where I’ve gotten so fatigued that I have to stop en route and take a nap. Then there was January 17, 2004, and also January 20, 2005 – on those return trips, I had to battle snow almost the entire way back.

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Categories: DC trips, Driving

Add “windshield” to the list of things to fix next week…

September 17, 2006, 11:17 PM

It seems that when it rains, it pours, as I had another incident in the Sable on my way up to Harrisonburg today. This time, I got a nasty crack in my windshield. I was driving up I-81, and a rock flew up and hit my windshield in the extreme upper left corner from my perspective. Since it was so extreme of a corner that it was actually on the black, I thought at the time that I’d gotten away unscathed, since I didn’t see any damage from my vantage point in the driver’s seat.

The purpose of my trip to Harrisonburg was to visit the Rocktown Infoshop, which is a left-wing bookstore on Elizabeth Street in downtown Harrisonburg similar to the Brian MacKenzie Infoshop in DC. I parked along Court Square in Harrisonburg, and walked the block or so to Rocktown Infoshop.

Rocktown Infoshop is a neat place. Besides a small selection of books (they aspire to have as much as DC’s Infoshop), they also have locally-made crafts, a free store where you can donate items and also take what you wish at no cost, and a place to sit and relax. The space is larger than DC’s Infoshop, and unlike the Infoshop in DC, Rocktown Infoshop is at street level, and therefore has a good storefront. Recall that in DC, the Infoshop is in the basement of the Flemming Center, and as such has a narrow set of stairs to access its outside entrance, and has no street-level storefront to speak of.

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Categories: Driving, Mercury Sable

An interesting little trip…

June 29, 2006, 5:37 PM

I took a little trip to the DC area via Richmond and I-95 on Wednesday. Fun trip. I went that longer way instead of my usual I-81 to I-66 route because I wanted to visit Fredericksburg and Potomac Mills.

My visit to Fredericksburg was fairly simple. The question before the house was whether it was worth it to make a trip to Fredericksburg, which is somewhat hard to reach for a day trip, to do a photo set. My determination for Fredericksburg was that while it was indeed charming, and definitely a place to visit when I eventually find a job in the DC area and move up that way, I didn’t see anything on this drive through that I would really want to make a special trip for, and that I couldn’t do using a similar feature in another city that is easier to reach.

However, I did see a sign that was, to say the least, surprising.

Gas allegedly for $1.00 per gallon

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I feel… tall…

March 8, 2006, 5:51 PM

You would think, since I’ve driven a van for most of the time I’ve been driving, that I’d be used to a car that rides high. Especially since it’s not even been a month since I turned in the Previa for the Sable (I got the Sable on February 9).

So yeah, I had to drive Mom’s Sienna today. That was a culture shock, mainly because I felt like I was very high up off the ground. In the 27 days (so far) of driving the Sable, I have gotten used to feeling like I’m sitting flat on the pavement. In the Sable, one rides low to the ground, like in most cars.

Still, I felt really high up in the Sienna. I also am amazed how quickly I forgot where all the controls are. I reached for the selector in the center console like I do on the Sable. The Sienna, by the way, has controls like the Previa had, and so the selector’s on the steering column. I’m reaching for the left stick on the column for the wipers. They’re on the right in the Sienna. All in all, it was a strange feeling. And I’m still surprised about how accustomed I am to driving at car height.

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Categories: Driving, Places

I will not conduct my own fire drills…

February 19, 2006, 9:51 PM

I went to Martin’s with my friend Katie on Friday, and we had a blast. The thing I noticed first off, though, was in the right-side vestibule. Notice anything wrong with this photo of the fire alarm annunciator?

Notice anything wrong with this photo of the fire alarm annunciator?

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The magic number is $64.95…

February 15, 2006, 4:01 AM

$64.95. That’s the magic number to get the Ford dealership to start the process of making new keys for my car. See, I have programmed “smart” keys for the Sable, and so I can’t just go get a key cut. One person I spoke with said I’d need to go to the dealership, and “bring your checkbook.” He wasn’t kidding. And the $64.95 is just to hook up their computer. The keys are $18-something on top of that.

Meanwhile, I’m taking the car to Washington for the first time today, and that ought to be fun. With a new car in hand, I get to enjoy such comforts again that had stopped working long ago on the old car such as cruise control and a radio. I will actually be able to listen to NPR on the way up now. I’m tickled.

This trip will also help determine whether or not I’m going to let people (and by “people” I really mean “me”) eat in the Sable. Having drinks is okay, as I have been having my regular soda every day on the way to work. Still, I used to eat in the van, usually on my trips to Washington. The question becomes whether I am still going to do that, or whether I’m going to, like, eat the food at Sheetz. The Sheetz I go to in the mornings is a truck stop-style store, so there’s a large eating area in there.

This will also be my last Wednesday trip to DC for the foreseeable future, as it seems work is changing my days off, and so future DC trips will need to be taken on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. Then April 22 is the date of the Spring 2006 meeting of the World Bank, and so there will be a Saturday trip in there for that demonstration (call it A22?).

Anyway, though, there you go. See you later on…

I’ve had this car for two days, and I’ve already taken it in the snow…

February 11, 2006, 6:47 PM

Funny how things work out sometimes. I’ve only had the Sable for two days, and we’ve already bonded in a way that can only occur when you’re driving home from work in the snow. It snowed today, you see. And with my still not being completely used to the car, I took it out in the snow. And we made it out and back in one piece.

And let me tell you… the Sable seems to handle better in the snow than the Previa. I’m thinking it’s because it’s front-wheel drive (the Previa was rear-wheel drive), plus it’s closer to the ground. The Sable is also a breeze to clean snow off of, too. It’s because it’s not so tall. Not so much reaching to do there, compared to the Previa, which was a full head taller.

Now tomorrow is going to be really fun, though, as I have to drive through all the snow in the morning, in the dark.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday…

December 15, 2005, 10:45 PM

On Wednesday, I went up to northern Virginia, though not like you’d expect. This was by no means a “DC trip” like I usually do. Like my “accidental” DC trip in August, this was an off-week trip, but this time it didn’t involve the Metro at all (closest I got was driving past the 1C bus on two occasions), nor did it involve Pentagon City.

The official purpose of the trip was to make a run up to the DC metro area using US 29 via Charlottesville to see how well it would do as an alternate route. I also tested a variation on that route via Harrisonburg. Then while I was up that way, I also had a surprise in store for a friend.

So my trip went like so: I-64 westbound from Fishersville to Staunton. Swing north onto I-81, and take that as far as Harrisonburg. Here, we said goodbye to the Interstates for a while, which honestly are boring roads. I took a pass through JMU for old times’ sake, and ended up down near Valley Mall in Harrisonburg, at US 33. I took US 33 eastbound for a while. This took me through Elkton, in the eastern part of Rockingham County, and then up a mountain to Skyline Drive at Swift Run Gap. At the top of the mountain, we entered Greene County, and got into a monster of a backup. Two trucks were doing the safe thing – going down the mountain very slowly. We can’t fault them for that. Well, we could, but it wouldn’t be fair. Besides, the runaway truck ramp was snowed over, and looked pretty short anyway. I wouldn’t want to be a runaway truck and have to use that…

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Categories: DC trips, Driving, Matthew

Blue Screen of Death on the self-checkout…

December 11, 2005, 5:58 PM

I wondered when it would happen, and today it finally did – one of our self-checkouts crashed and displayed the dreaded “Blue Screen of Death”. I just wish I had a camera with me at the time, because I so wanted to take a picture of that…

Otherwise, though, I realized in the last few weeks that the customers don’t listen to a word I say. I put this to the test recently, using one of everyone’s favorite Homestar Runner holidays – Decemberween. Decemberween is, to quote the Homestar Runner Wiki, “a holiday celebrated by the people of Free Country, USA, 55 days after Halloween, on December 25th. It bears many similarities to Christmas with colorful lights and garlands and the giving of presents, but with some obvious differences.” Read the whole article for more information on Decemberween, because it’s otherwise irrelevant. Just focus on the name. So I would casually ask, “Are you all ready for Decemberween?” instead of “Are you all ready for Christmas?” I would get the same response for “Decemberween” as I would for “Christmas”. Not a single person ever questioned my use of “Decemberween”. Not a one. Scary.

Meanwhile, my belief that the more religious stuff a person has on their car, the worse driver they are has been confirmed once again. I first talked about this in this entry from May 23. Today I had two cases on the way home. The first was on US 340 where I got stuck behind this van that had “JESUS” right on the license plate. And it was going 35 in the left lane (and the speed limit was 45 and then changed to 55 before I could pass them). Then turning onto 608, I got behind another person with a bumper sticker where a religious group decided to be cute and do a religious take on the logo for CSI. The bumper sticker said “CSI: Christ Saves Individuals”. Here’s a Web site showing the logo in question. These people not only were going five miles below the speed limit the whole time I was behind them, but they also decided that a green light means “stop”. After dealing with the previous slowpoke coming out of Waynesboro, and then having to sit behind this moron for a few miles, sitting at the green light was the final straw. I hit my horn, and leaned on it until these bozos moved. They moved, and thankfully, our paths diverged after that point.

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Bad, bad parking…

December 7, 2005, 4:09 AM

Just a couple of things I want to show you before I go off to Washington DC this morning…

First of all, check this out:

Wearing the FliteStar vest

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