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Buses, fire trucks, ambulances, trains, and… moo cows?

October 19, 2017, 11:17 PM

This past Saturday, Elyse and I got together with our friend Dave, and we went to the Public Safety Open House held at the new Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy on Snouffer School Road near Montgomery Village.  Then we went out to Middletown and visited South Mountain Creamery, which is a dairy farm that sells products on site.

The Public Safety Open House event was a lot of fun.  There was a little bit of everything for us to see there.  We started out by looking at a row of Ride On buses.  Apparently, this facility is used to train Ride On operators, because there is, more or less, one or two of each type of bus that Ride On operates located at the facility.  We saw two Gillig hybrids, an Orion VII CNG, a New Flyer C40LF, and two Gillig 30-footers.

Ride On 5822, a New Flyer C40LF.
Ride On 5822, a New Flyer C40LF.  We all commented on how the one panel on the front was so faded.  No idea why.  I speculated at the time that it might be from the diagonal parking at the old Gaithersburg division’s causing sunlight to hit that corner more than others, but after thinking some more about it, while certainly plausible, I don’t know if I’d necessarily go with it now.

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Renting out eight rooms…

September 30, 2017, 12:29 AM

So apparently, I spoke too soon when it came to the closure of The Inn at Afton.  You may recall that last month, I announced the closure of The Inn at Afton, based on a sign that said that the lobby and hotel were closed.  Elyse and I went down that way again on Wednesday, and one of our stops was to see how The Inn at Afton looked in the daylight after finally going out of business for good.  Much to our surprise, we found that the place was open again.  We stopped into room 211, which was being used as the lobby, and had a chat with the lady working inside.  As it turns out, the hotel is barely operational, with only eight rooms, all on the parking lot side, in service.  None of the rooms on the other side, which has a tremendous view of the piedmont, are in service.  I’m told that the remaining rooms have been stripped, and a walk past some of the first-floor rooms that are not in service seems to confirm this.  That means that out of 118 total rooms, 110 of them are out of service, presumably for being uninhabitable.  That’s an availability of 6.7%.  For that few rooms, it hardly seems worthwhile to remain open, but apparently, they do, likely out of habit.

Meanwhile, the room being used as the lobby smelled strongly of mold, and had visible mold and water damage.  Definitely an unhealthy environment.  We might have stuck around for longer and chatted with the very nice lady working there, but the mold smell was too much.  I imagine that the rooms that are still in service are just as bad, if they are willing to let the room that they’re using as a lobby become so bad.  Thank heavens for Orbit “Bubblemint” gum.  It got the mold taste out of my mouth.

So apparently, and much to my surprise, just when we thought that the book had closed on the operational history of the vintage businesses on Afton Mountain, there’s more to the Afton story to be told.

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I definitely didn’t expect to go to New York City on Wednesday…

August 25, 2017, 12:30 PM

Wednesday, August 23 had been planned as a road trip day for quite some time.  Elyse turned 21 two days prior, and this was my birthday present to her, going on a trip up to Asbury Park, New Jersey to visit the Silverball Museum, a pinball arcade on the boardwalk.  We previously visited this facility in May.  Then the plan was to go up to Menlo Park Mall in Edison to go to Rainforest Cafe, where we were having dinner, and I was buying Elyse a drink.  The day that we ended up having was a lot of fun, but definitely more expansive than I had originally planned.

We left the house around 11:00, with Asbury Park as our destination.  We made a quick stop at Maryland House, and then a White Castle in Howell Township:

White Castle in Howell Township

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The other shoe finally dropped on Afton Mountain…

August 18, 2017, 1:25 AM

On Wednesday, I was on a day trip down to Stuarts Draft and such with a few people.  On the whole, it was a fun time.  On the way out, we swung by Afton Mountain in order to give a quick, five-minute tour of the abandoned motels up there.  One pass across the lower properties, then up and across the front of The Inn at Afton.  The Inn at Afton was a lot darker than I might have expected, and I spotted a sign on the window of room 213, which, as we discovered in April, was being used as the lobby.  This is the sign:

"HOTEL CLOSED. LOBBY CLOSED. WILL REOPEN AT A LATER TIME!"

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Categories: Afton Mountain

Going to show that you never know what you’ll find at the thrift store…

July 30, 2017, 2:39 AM

It’s amazing what you find sometimes when you hit the thrift store.  Case in point, at Unique Thrift Store/Value Village in Hillandale Shopping Center, Elyse and I found this:

Elyse holds a "Big Mavica" type camera

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A lovely little road trip to West Virginia and back…

July 23, 2017, 3:53 AM

This past Wednesday, Elyse, Aaron Stone, and I took a little road trip to Jefferson County, West Virginia.  There was some stuff for all of us, as Aaron wanted to see some stuff that Elyse and I had seen before, I wanted to see some stuff that I had spotted in some Instagram pix, plus wanted to get newer photos of some areas where I had been before.

But first, food.  We designed our trip to take us to Sunshine General Store, which is this little hole in the wall restaurant north of Brookeville, at the intersection of Georgia and New Hampshire Avenues.  Their hamburgers are to die for – thick and juicy.  However, you really have to know that they’re there, because at first glance, the place looks abandoned.

After we had our hamburgers, we headed over to Brighton Dam.  The intent was to get some new photos of the dam, but much to my surprise, a dam rehabilitation project was underway, and the park where you got the best views of the dam was closed in order to accommodate the construction work.  The level of Triadelphia Reservoir was much lower as well, presumably because of the dam project, and from the looks of the now-exposed land, it had been lower for quite a while:

Triadelphia Reservoir, with the lower water level.  Compare to the water level in April 2014.
Triadelphia Reservoir, with the lower water level.  Compare to the water level in April 2014.

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Taste testing some novelty sodas…

June 4, 2017, 2:30 PM

This past Thursday, Elyse and I finished up a round of taste tests on a bunch of novelty sodas that we bought at Rocket Fizz in Richmond back in March.  Recall from the second Journal entry about our Richmond trip:

The novelty sodas that I got in March

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Categories: Food and drink, Richmond

A trip to the pinball museum…

May 29, 2017, 10:08 AM

On Tuesday, May 23, Elyse and I, along with mutual friend Brian, went up to Asbury Park, New Jersey for the day.  Our goal was to go to the Silverball Museum, which is a vintage arcade on the Asbury Park boardwalk.

We left in the 10:00 hour, and headed up via the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I-295, and I-195, with a stop for lunch at Maryland House.  On the way up I-295, imagine Elyse and Brian’s surprise when I said, “I think I left my hat at Maryland House,” in that oh, crap sort of way.  Elyse suggested turning around to get it, but we were too far afield to do that.  To turn around would be tantamount to cancelling our trip to return to Harford County, Maryland, just north of Baltimore.  So we continued on, hatless.  After all, we would pass Maryland House coming home, so we could see if it was still there at that time.  I know what I did – I set my hat down on the table next to me when we were having lunch, and I walked off without it.

Arriving in Asbury Park, we located the pinball museum, but first, I wanted to check out a place from my childhood that I had missed during my 2013 trip: Asbury Youth Center, which was a children’s clothing store run by my Uncle Skippy.  I remember Uncle Skippy, and remember his being pretty awesome.  Many of the outfits that you saw me in on the Childhood Days page, such as this one came from Uncle Skippy’s store.  The store closed in the late 1980s when Uncle Skippy retired, and I hadn’t been back there since.  So a quick Google search revealed the address to be 660 Cookman Avenue, and it was off to the races.  This is what the building that housed Uncle Skippy’s store looks like today:

The location of Uncle Skippy's store, now a restaurant called "Taka"

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Red Line to Grosvenor…

May 17, 2017, 11:52 PM

You may be aware that in February, Metro began retiring the Breda 4000-Series railcars, starting with 4054 and 4055.  While most of the retired cars will likely be sold for scrap, not all of them will.  When 4089 was retired, it was cut up and converted into vendor kiosks, intended for use at Grosvenor-Strathmore station.  Today was the first day of this pop-up market, which will run at least through the end of June, and eventually be incorporated into a new development at Grosvenor station.

So Elyse, Elyse’s father Joe, and I gave it a look.  The car is cut up into different sections, with the various sections arranged around the station entrance.  Here’s an overview of one side of the setup:

Overview of one side of the setup

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Categories: Elyse, Montgomery County, WMATA

Seeing where Schumin Web lives…

April 27, 2017, 10:24 AM

On Tuesday, Elyse and I took a big loop trip through Virginia and Maryland.  We started at my house, went up through Frederick (where we had a late lunch at Sheetz), then took US 15 over the Point of Rocks Bridge into Virginia, where we went through Ashburn, and then down into Manassas, and from there, back home via the Beltway.  The plan was to see Manassas Mall, which we both realized that we had never actually been to.

As it turned out, Manassas Mall wasn’t that exciting.  It was a fairly generic one-story suburban shopping mall that contained fairly typical mall stores and a Walmart store, plus it contained an indoor go-kart track, as well as a place called Uptown Alley, which contained an arcade, bowling alley, and laser tag, as well as a restaurant.  Other than the entertainment venues, it was more or less as expected.

However, more interesting than Manassas Mall was a side trip that we made on the way down.  You may recall that, since 2007, Schumin Web has been hosted with DreamHost.  In 2012, DreamHost began operating in a data center in Ashburn, Virginia, and my site was one of many to get moved there.  It makes enough sense, since Schumin Web is based in the eastern US, and the largest segment of my viewership is also in the eastern US.  I remember getting a big boost in speed when the site started serving from Ashburn rather than Los Angeles, which made site maintenance that much easier.  With the site hosted in Northern Virginia, it wasn’t a large leap to imagine a trip to go see where the building that it was housed in was.

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Just when you thought that the mountain couldn’t look any worse than it already did…

April 16, 2017, 5:37 PM

On Tuesday, April 11, I got together with Elyse and Melissa, and we headed down to Virginia for the day.  The plan was to get together with my parents, plus visit Afton Mountain and downtown Staunton.

We left the house at 9:30, and took US 29 down to Charlottesville.  First stop was Moe’s Original Bar B Que, where we had lunch with my father.  Fun time, and my father seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to finding good barbecue.  Every barbecue place that Dad has taken me to has been wonderful, and this was no exception.

From here, we took US 250 across to Afton Mountain.  There, we went to the second overlook, i.e. the Rockfish Valley Parking Overlook, to get some views.  I tend to avoid Afton Overlook, the first overlook, after being propositioned for sex there one night back in 2005.  The second overlook, which is a mile and some change further down the road, tends to attract fewer undesirables.  I suppose it’s because it’s further away from civilization than the first one, which is a minute’s drive from the freeway.  In any case, the view is awesome:

View from Rockfish Valley Parking Overlook

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Soda, toys, and a Kroger like no other…

April 6, 2017, 2:07 PM

So, as promised, here’s the rest of the trip to Richmond that Elyse and I made.

After leaving the Science Museum, we headed over to Carytown.  Elyse wanted me to see Rocket Fizz, which is where she got some bottles of “Stalinade”, a strawberry-flavored soda that, as I said on Instagram at the time, was “Communism in a glass.  Definitely tastes the way that I would expect communism to taste: red.”  They have a very large selection of unique sodas, and some with novelty flavors, and some with novelty names.  I ended up buying a six-pack of novelty flavors.  Here was the take:

Sweet corn, ranch dressing, butter, San Francisco fog, grass, and bacon with maple syrup.

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I’m doing science…

March 30, 2017, 8:35 PM

This past Tuesday, March 29, Elyse and I headed down to Richmond for the day.  The idea was that we wanted to go somewhere, but it was going to rain, and so we needed a good indoor venue.  So we decided to go to the Science Museum of Virginia.  I had not been in a very long time (15 years!), it was indoors, and Elyse liked it a lot when she went a few months ago.

I was surprised to find out that all of the exhibits were different compared to previous visits.  The exhibits had changed gradually over several visits in the nineties, but this change was a bit more dramatic, with all new exhibits, as well as the removal of a mezzanine level that previously existed in the main hall.  The new exhibits seemed more child-focused, which is something that I don’t remember from my last visit in 2002.  They had a hurricane simulator, where you could experience gale-force winds, tropical storm-force winds, and hurricane-force winds.  They also had a track that challenged you to outrun different kinds of animals (turns out that I can run faster than a rat, or at least keep up).

There was also a demonstration of robotics that used an air hockey table.  There, you had to beat the robot at air hockey.  All went well at first, but this was more exciting than most.


Yes, the puck got stuck.  There was a spot on the robot’s side of the table where the puck was prone to getting stuck, and since it was on the robot’s side (and thus protected by plexiglass), we couldn’t get it loose.  The robot was set up to shoot a puff of air when the puck got stuck, but it couldn’t make it move.

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Categories: Elyse, Richmond

“Hello!  Welcome!”

March 9, 2017, 12:03 PM

You may recall from the Pittsburgh photo set that Elyse has an interest in elevators.  I find them interesting as well, though to a lesser extent than Elyse and others.  However, I always enjoy seeing an unusual specimen, like the pop-out buttons on the elevators at the Investment Building in Pittsburgh.

This elevator, at the United Office Building in Oxon Hill, takes the cake for interesting features.  Check it out:

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Saying goodbye to Landmark Mall…

February 23, 2017, 9:21 AM

About a month ago, Elyse, Brian, Aaron, and I took a field trip to Landmark Mall in Alexandria, visiting it for the last time.  Landmark was slated to close permanently on January 31, and so we came by to get photos before it all shut down.  This trip took a similar form to when Elyse and I visited Owings Mills Mall in September 2015, though in the case of Owings Mills, we didn’t know that in less than two weeks from our visit, the mall would close permanently.  With Landmark, the mall was closing at the end of January in preparation for a redevelopment that would replace the mall with a mixed-use “town center” style development.  The Macy’s and Sears stores would remain through the redevelopment, however, I suspect that may change.  The Landmark Macy’s was included in the round of store closings that Macy’s was doing in early 2017, and I’d suggest that the long-term prospects for Sears’ survival are looking pretty grim, so the plan to include those two buildings in the new development might change, as one of those stores is vacating, and the second may not be far behind.

And then here are photos:

Escalators in the mall's northeast corner, viewed from the lower level.
Escalators in the mall’s northeast corner, viewed from the lower level.

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Categories: Alexandria, Elyse, Friends, Shopping