Gary's Thoughts and Opinions

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The return trip home FROM HELL!

I am home at last after the Return Trip From Hell yesterday.

I had what was supposed to be a 1 hour 20 minute layover in Minneapolis, that turned into a 5 1/2 hour layover due to local weather, one of 2 runways being shut down and the weather in San Francisco. Of that 5 1/2 hours, 90 minutes were spent sardined into the airplane and waiting at the end of the runway with the engines turned off waiting for the weather in San Francisco.

I had intended to get Amtrak out of Richmond at 3:48, but missed that one due to the layover. The next train I should have been able to get was the 7:15... except Amtrak CANCELLED the train. The next train was due at 8:42PM ... which didn't actually arrive until 10:10PM because it was broke down in San Jose and which broke down for another 10 minutes between Suison (sp?) and Davis.

I spent 3 hours in the Richmond Amtrak station waiting for a train home. If you have ever been to that station you know there is nowhere safe to go nearby and nothing but concrete or steel benches to sit on.

When I finally got on the train, it had been over 12 hours since I had eaten and I was forced to eat Amtrak food.

I arrived in Sacramento at 11:48... which was 20 minutes AFTER the last light rail left the Amtrak station.After a $15 cab ride home I finally arrived at 12:10 which was a full 7 hours later than I should have.

Some of the things I learned on my visit to Washington, DC.

Some of the things I have learned from my trip to Washington DC:

1. People there are surprisingly friendly... with the exception of the female Transit drivers who would as soon rip your throat out as answer a question about the transit system.
(a) The locals if they discover you are from out of town will warn you to stay out of the SW area of DC.
(b) Listen to them.

2. If you stay in the State Plaza Hotel almost everything is a $6 cab ride away. If they are further away you can use the Metro which is only a $3.50 cab to the nearest station.

3. Wear orthotic inserts in your shoes because you will walk A LOT. Even if they are the most comfortable shoes on the planet... BUY INSERTS!

4. There is literally a Starbucks on every corner.

5. Every crosswalk with a traffic light has a countdown timer.
(a). Pedestrians are open season even if you have the green walk signal.
(b) It is an absolute NECESSITY to be clear of the crosswalk BEFORE the countdown timer reaches 0!
(c) It is perfectably acceptable to jaywalk if there is no oncoming traffic.
(d) Be prepared to jump out of the way when jaywalking... or for that matter any time you are crossing a street.

6. Drivers in DC are VERY impatient. If you drive, and do not know where your horn button is, learn because you WILL need it.
(a) The car horn is the local musical instrument of choice.
(b) Car horns are heard 24/7 in DC.

7. The majority of the people will RUN down the escalator to the Metro even if they have 4 minutes to wait for the next train.
(a) When using the escalators stand to the right if you are not walking because they will say something to you.
(b) If you don't stand on the right EVERYONE knows you are a tourist.
(c) If you do not stand to the right you risk being accidently (??) pushed to the right so they can pass.

8. Pay the $5 for the rechargeable Metro plastic card and start with $30 of fares on it. The initial cost will be $35, but you can recharge it at any metro stop and ALL transit in DC accepts the card.
(a) This will save you precious seconds during high traffic times because you just touch the card to the turnstile instead of waiting in line to buy a ticket and then waiting the few for the turnstile to accept and return the ticket.
(b) If you carry a wallet, place the card in your wallet and then all you need do is touch that side of your wallet to the turnstile thus removing the necessity of trying to get it in and out of the wallet. This also gives the appearance that you are not a tourist.... that is assuming you adhere to 6a above.

9. When entering the train stand clear of the doors because exiting passengers have the right of way and insist on taking it.
(a) If you don’t stand clear of the doors and allow people to exit, you may cause people to miss the train and then you are in deep shit!
(b) If you do cause people to miss the train, then offer to throw yourself in front of the next one to atone!

10. If you travel in October carry a backpack with a change of clothes because the weather may change from sunny and hot to cold and cloudy within hours. On cloudy days carry a compact umbrella or some other rain deterrent.

11. Did I mention orthotic inserts even if you have comfortable shoes?

12. Don’t be afraid to ask directions from transit folks or from fellow travelers. They will answer them.
(a) This does NOT apply to the female transit drivers as mentioned above.
(b) Don’t be surprised if they will actually walk you to some point to be sure you are headed the right way.
(c) Apparently DC transit is occasionally confusing even to those that live or work there.

13. Allow PLENTY of time to see the sites because you will undoubtedly discover others nearby while on your way to one of them that will cause a detour.

14. When visiting the National Archives, THEY ARE DEAD SERIOUS ABOUT NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY!!! They warn you multiple times in advance of allowing admittance to the area. They will give ONE (1) person in the entire huge room ONE (1) warning. If ANYONE else flashes again they will FORCIBLY AND NOT NICELY escort them from the building... not the room... the entire building.
(a) I am not the one they escorted from the building because after they escorted the other guy out I was afraid to even use my camera.
(b) Don’t be in between the person they escort and the exit to the building.

15. When visiting the Tomb of the Unknowns be sure you time your visit to be on the hour and watch the changing of the guard. I would advise the 5:00 P.M. one because that is the last public viewing of the day. After 5:00 P.M. the entire area around this tomb becomes a military high security no access area and they tell you in no uncertain terms to leave.
(a) Get there early to get a good place at the top of the stairs to take pictures because they REQUIRE everyone to stand and BE ABSOLUTELY SILENT while the ceremony is happening. (b) Bring Kleenex. It is a VERY solemn and respectful event.

16. If The President is making any outdoor appearance at The White House, go visit somewhere else because security goes up to the paranoid level and you won’t get within 2 miles of the place. I know this because the day I first tried to see The White House was the day Obama was accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in The Rose Garden.
(a) If the security is at this level DO NOT attempt to approach the Secret Service, DC police, the SWAT members or any other law enforcement person to ask ANY question.
(b) If someone else approaches these people, turn and walk swiftly ANYWHERE else besides there.

17. Did I mention orthotic inserts even if you have comfortable shoes? 18. ONLY Washington DC cabs can by law take you places within DC. Cabs that are from Virginia or Maryland can ONLY take you to destinations in the respective states and DC cabs cannot by law take you to destinations in either Virginia or Maryland.
(a) Some cabs are NOT plainly marked.
(b) It is mandatory for taxi passengers to wear a seat belt. There is a sign in the cab and the driver will NOT remind you.
(c) If the police see you without your seat belt it is a $50 fine to you and the cab driver does not get fined.

19. Use the transit system because it will save you a LOT of walking qnd there is virtually nowhere you cannot get to.
(a) If you rent a car plan on spending a lot of time trying to park it.
(b) If you rent a car plan on spending a lot of money to park it if you use public parking lots.
(c) If you rent a car and plan on staying in the DC area, local Virginia are or local Maryland area, then you are nuts!!

20. If there is any public demonstration or event happening at either The Capitol or the White House, (and there are a lot of both) get your transit card filled or buy your passes long before the event is scheduled. If you buy the plastic rechargeable transit card you will be VERY grateful that you did.

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