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Why can’t DC set all the traffic signals in Dupont Circle to flashing red more often?

June 9, 2009, 2:39 PM

Let me tell you… Dupont Circle was definitely different this morning coming out of the Metro. DDOT had milled the pavement overnight in preparation for resurfacing, and all of the traffic signals were set to flashing red in all directions. This traffic light configuration lasted through rush hour, which is when I saw it.

And let me tell you… I haven’t felt this safe crossing the street at Dupont Circle in a long time. Nine times out of ten, when I’m navigating Dupont Circle, I’m doing so as a pedestrian, and am pretty much at the mercy of the cars. I’ve heard people describe the signals in Dupont Circle as “suggestions”, and people really do drive like maniacs through Dupont Circle, going too fast through the intersections, honking at pedestrians, and cutting pedestrians off. I’ve told people numerous times that the most dangerous part of my commute is right near work – specifically, crossing Massachusetts Avenue NW in the southeastern part of Dupont Circle.

At that location, you have several movements going on. You have people turning from Dupont Circle onto Massachusetts Avenue. You have Massachusetts Avenue through traffic in Dupont Circle (separated from local traffic) going back onto Massachusetts Avenue. Then you have traffic from Massachusetts Avenue going into either the through lanes in Dupont Circle or the local lanes. Now the traffic entering the circle from Massachusetts Avenue is okay. That tends to go in pulses, and there are long breaks where the roadway is clear. But the traffic going past that intersection that’s already in Dupont Circle is no-holds-barred. People go too fast. People cut other people off while making illegal turns. And the pedestrians are like little targets, or at least that’s what it feels like sometimes.

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Categories: Roads, Washington DC

So the apartment is clean from top to bottom…

December 28, 2008, 2:09 AM

I just finished giving my apartment a thorough cleaning ahead of my trip to Stuarts Draft for a week. I did the rugs, I did the floors, I dusted, I completely cleaned the kitchen, and I completely cleaned the bathroom. It was a long ordeal, but the place looks great now!

Most bothersome, though, was cleaning the carpets. I had Mom’s shampooer, and I went the whole nine yards. I picked everything up, moved furniture around, and everything. I had my coffee table up-ended and in the kitchen, if that tells you anything. Bedroom, hallway, and then living room. The living room was perhaps the most challenging. First I had to make sure not to shampoo myself into a corner, but also what to do once the carpets were done.

\Determining what to do once the carpets were finished was actually pretty exciting. I grabbed my coat, my hat, my iPod, and my phone, and took to the Sable for a few hours late at night. Makes me glad that gas is cheaper again, because I finally got to explore a bit. It’s time to see what’s beyond Silver Spring. So I took a small late-night road trip. Previously, I’d only been on Georgia Avenue as far as Norbeck Road, which is not all that much further north than my street. Now, I followed Georgia Avenue a long way. I went through Olney, seeing roughly where Montgomery General Hospital is (the Y bus’s northern terminus), and continued, finding out that Georgia Avenue narrows down to two lanes once you clear Olney. Olney also appeared to be a lot smaller than I expected. I expected a larger town, but there you go. And then beyond Olney, Georgia Avenue reminded me a lot of various back roads in Augusta County, Virginia, where I used to live. Lots of curves, and two lanes. For the first time in a long time, I broke out the high beams.

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And we’re back!

August 29, 2008, 10:00 PM

And we’re back in Silver Spring once again, after a fun vacation. Now we’re refreshed and ready to take on the real world once again.

It’s interesting, though – the way my travels usually go, usually one leg of the trip goes flawlessly, and one has issues. The outbound leg went flawlessly. Perfect driving conditions, and traffic was fairly light. The return trip, however, was not so flawless. Traffic was heavy the entire way, and I had to detour around a bit within Hampton Roads.

First of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Hampton Roads area, let me explain for a moment. Hampton Roads is encircled by the Hampton Road Beltway, which is formed from the final 36 miles of I-64, and roughly 20 additional miles of I-664. Inside that, going roughly east-west through the middle, is I-264, which runs from I-64’s terminus to the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Then there’s also I-464, which runs from the Downtown Tunnel in Norfolk (part of I-264) to State Route 168 on a roughly north-south track, intersecting I-64 along the way. Confused yet?

My detour started because I saw a sign on one of those highway message signs: “HRBT 4.5 MILE BACKUP, MMMBT CLEAR”. This told me that the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) had a massive backup nearly five miles long on westbound, while the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (MMMBT) was going smoothly. My understanding is that these HRBT backups are common, and that they’re looking into a permanent solution to the problem.

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Categories: Driving, Vacations

Watch as the highway narrows…

August 24, 2008, 10:39 PM

So I made the trip to the beach today, and I am now writing from the Travelodge Suites on the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

And the best way to describe the trip down is watching the highway as it gets narrower and narrow. I started in Silver Spring, where I caught the beltway – each side four lanes wide. Then after I cleared the DC area, I-95 dropped a lane and was down to three lanes. This was the configuration all the way to Richmond and onto I-64. Then once I cleared Richmond, I-64 dropped down to two lanes, and stayed this way into Newport News, when it fluctuated between two and three lanes as we went through Newport News, Hampton, and Norfolk, and finally three lanes to the oceanfront.

On the way in, I swung by the site of the former Coliseum Mall in Hampton, which I visited back in 2005. Recall that they had Edwards horn/strobes, and that I visited in 2005 to positively identify the mystery mall that I had briefly visited back in 2003. Now, though, Coliseum Mall is very different. The mall was demolished in early 2007, and construction of a new open-air “town center” style shopping center called Peninsula Town Center is well underway. Currently, the only stores open are JCPenney in a new building, and Macy’s in its original building. I never thought I’d see an anchor store with one of those “STILL OPEN” signs on the side in person like I’ve seen in various retail blogs, but there it was. These signs are generally used to indicate that the anchor store is still open despite that the rest of the mall is being torn down. In this case, the regular Macy’s logo is on the side, and a sign saying “IS OPEN” was right beneath it. This was the case on all of the Macy’s building’s logos. The new town center is certainly cute-looking, but the 1970s-era Macy’s building will look really strange next to the rest of the buildings. Of course, they may renovate the exterior of Macy’s and make it match, but we’ll see.

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This was the first time we were all together in a long time…

March 17, 2008, 10:48 PM

Stuarts Draft was, as always, a lot of fun. And note, that is one sentence I never thought I’d find myself saying. But anyways…

So the whole dump-the-car-at-Vienna plan went according to plan, though it did take longer than I had planned to get out of the exit ramp. Of course, look what I had to contend with:

Traffic on I-66 at Nutley Street

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Of course, this would be the time when I realize the discs I need are with my parents.

March 11, 2008, 6:14 AM

I was getting ready to convert the Lappy to its new “final” configuration – a dual boot between Windows Vista and Ubuntu Linux – and in looking for my Vista discs, I realized that they weren’t here. I turned the place upside down, too. Went through all the drawers in my desk, through all the junk on my desk, and so on and so forth. Not here. So I have to go digging through what stuff of mine is still in the “pirate room”, aka my old bedroom. Of course, it’s not like it’s far away. I’m going there tomorrow night. So I’ll look.

Otherwise, today should be exciting. This is the day I position the car at Vienna after work. I’ve already packed my suitcase, and emptied my crates (I intend on bringing more of my stuff to Silver Spring, so the take from last time needs to be unloaded). Then you realize that whatever I don’t take with me this evening has to go to work with me tomorrow. Thus the key is remembering everything tonight, because I’m not coming back after work tomorrow, and I don’t want to drag all of everything of mine to work. Bad idea.

And then Sis flies in earlier on Wednesday, so we all will be together again on Wednesday night. Yaaaaaay!

When I drive down to see the parents, I’m reminded of why I used to always do the driving on my DC trips in the early morning and late at night.

March 2, 2008, 11:30 PM

First of all, let me say that I had fun in Stuarts Draft and surrounding over the weekend. I came down Saturday morning, and went back up Sunday evening. In the process, I got to see Katie, my parents, and my friend Patrick Jarrett.

And the drive itself reminded me of why, when I did my bi-weekly DC trips for more than three years, I did the driving in the early morning and late at night. Traffic was much lighter than otherwise. On the way up to DC, I’d leave the house around 5:30 AM. Quiet on the highway. Then on the way back, I timed my arrival back at Vienna for around midnight to head back. Traffic was much lighter during those hours than otherwise. On my trip this time, where I took US 29 down, and I-81 and I-66 back, I think the only time when traffic wasn’t thick was on the way down between Culpeper and Ruckersville. Otherwise, it was pretty heavy traffic almost the entire way, including on US 340 going towards Stuarts Draft. Not fun.

However, the rest of the trip was fun. I got to see Katie for a few minutes, and then headed into Stuarts Draft to see the parents. They’ve made some changes to the “Pirate Room” (my old bedroom, which they’ve turned into an upstairs living room) since last I was there, removing my old desk and putting in this dresser with a ship painted on the front in the room in its place. It’s really nice, too. Meanwhile, we also finally named the pair of goldfish that Mom put in there. She hadn’t originally given them names because she couldn’t tell them apart, but I determined that one was more brightly colored than the other, thus we could tell them apart. I named them Castor and Pollux, after the twins in Greek mythology. It has a bit of a personal connection for me, as my astrological sign is Gemini, which is headed up by the stars Castor and Pollux. And in the fish, Castor is the more brightly-colored fish, while Pollux is the one with slightly more subdued colors.

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What a fun weekend!

November 25, 2007, 8:38 AM

All in all, I had a fun Thanksgiving weekend in Stuarts Draft, but I’m still very glad to be home again.

Thanksgiving itself involved the usual – turkey, and all the various fixings to go with it, and then falling asleep afterwards.

Then I spent Friday with Katie. We had a blast, as we did anything but shop. We went on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a while, then rode back around to Charlottesville, where we went to the Mellow Mushroom, where we had a vegetarian pizza with a pesto base. Twas awesome.

However, before Katie and I started out, we got a movie of Katie’s cat Peabo chasing a laser pointer around…

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So I guess you could say I had a good time in Stuarts Draft over the weekend…

September 11, 2007, 10:48 PM

All in all, I did have a good time. Spent time with the parents on Saturday, and with Katie on Sunday. We had a blast, too.

First of all, on the way in, as I mentioned, I photographed the Starbucks in Waynesboro at the request of a coworker, and here it is:

Starbucks in Waynesboro

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“And just where they should stick out…”

August 12, 2007, 6:40 PM

On the way back to DC, I visited with my friend Katie for a few hours. We went out for breakfast, and then just kind of hung around for a bit. Fun times.

Meanwhile, in the car on the way to breakfast, I played Katie the song that Randi Rhodes plays every Friday on her show. Turns out that Katie and her mother enjoy the song, too! And Katie knows the words about as well as I do. Funny moment. We were going along with the song:

You know girls, men aren’t the only people in the world today that have something to give, but it sure looks like it sometimes. Just look around you – men stick out all over the place. Big fat cigars! Big fat stomachs! And just where they should stick out – phhbtt! – where is it?!

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Categories: Driving, Katie, Music

Were you expecting something else?

February 13, 2007, 11:57 PM

I got home after a very hellish drive back from work through heavy sleet and freezing rain, and Mom says to me, “You’re alive!” My exact response was, “Were you expecting something else?”

Let me tell you, though… in the year that I’ve had the Sable, this makes snowstorm #3 (one last year, two so far this year). And the Sable does so much better than the Previa did in bad weather. Driving the Previa in bad winter weather was kind of like playing Russian roulette. You never knew what was going to happen. The front of the car had a tendency to wobble a bit due to the engine’s location closer to the center of the car than the front, and correcting that made for a very unpleasant ride home, and on more than one occasion, caused me to briefly lose control.

I remember one time spinning out on ice in the neighborhood. I remember spinning counter-clockwise, and was convinced that I was heading for the ditch, and possibly into someone’s mailbox, and in that short time that I was spinning, basically resigned myself to that fate. But I ended up just spinning out on the road, and all I had to do was get pointed right again, and I was able to continue.

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Categories: Driving, Winter weather

Sable got slimed…

January 24, 2007, 2:39 PM

First of all, just to let you know, I did go to the protest, though I wouldn’t consider it to be as successful as many would have liked. I’ll discuss it in more detail later, because I want to look at the photos and movies from it first.

Otherwise, though, this was the Sable’s 31st trip to the DC area (my 85th since starting going to DC regularly in 2004, but who’s counting), and it was not looking all that nice after the trip was over.

The reason was the snowfall we had on Sunday. The area where I live, as well as the Washington DC area, was hit by a snow and ice storm on Sunday, January 21. As a result, the roads were salted. With the snow and ice on the ground, I took the Sable on two back-and-forth trips to work on Sunday and Monday. It still looked all right after that. And then on Tuesday, it went to northern Virginia. I-81 and I-66 were perfectly clear, though I managed to catch my fair share of residue from snow and snow removal.

I was surprised to see water laden with dissolved de-icer dripping from the ceiling of both parking garages at Vienna (where I was unable to find a parking space this time). That fell down on my car as big white drops.

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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