Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Backroad Trip to DC

Mini in front of Washington Monument
Last week I had to go to Washington, DC, for some job training.  Travelling is not a big part of my job and it is usually always related to training.  DC is not somewhere I go outside of my job.  I think the last time I was there was a trip with my wife early in our marriage.  So, we decided to take this opportunity and go up there together.  A sort of mini-vacation.  And by taking the Mini, it would also be a Mini vacation.

I decided to use Google Maps to plot out a route up there that would not use the Interstates.  This added about an hour to the length of the drive.  But it had the benefit of letting me find some twisty backroads to enjoy, avoiding the frustration of Interstate traffic, and the opportunity to find a Roadside America attraction.

The map below shows the route that we ended up taking.

View Larger Map

The first leg involved a run up Hwy. 49 to Roxboro and then Hwy. 501 up to South Boston.  49 is not a particularly exciting road, probably made less so by all the trips I had to make up to Roxboro as part of my consulting business.

From South Boston, we took Hwy. 360, which merged with Hwy. 15, until we reached a turn off onto Hwy. 47.  This finally got us onto a nice 2-lane country road that meandered through the Virginia countryside through some small communities (towns?) until we reached the small community of Charlotte Court House.  Heading out of there, we picked up Hwy. 604, which on the map looked like a nice squiggly line and was the reason for the detour off 15.

This proved to be a smart move as 604 did not disappoint.  It was a great twisty drive along a rural Virginia road.  Not a very technical road, it had enought twists and turns to keep things interesting and fun.  And it was long enough to provide a good 20+ minute run of pretty much continuous runs.  Even though it was a rural area, it did seem like there were quite a few residences along the way.  And at the very end, we met VA LEO headed in the opposite direction.  So I don't know whether they patrol it regularly or it was just a freak coincidence. I suppose it was a good thing I had been slowed up a bit by traffic!

Hwy 604 - 3.5 HowlsThe long drive also gave me an opportunity to think up a way to rate the roads I take my Mini on.  Kind of like a movie rating system.  But who wants to use something as boring as stars.  So I came up with the idea of "howls" to rate the roads.  For example, The Dragon would be a 5 Howl road.  My initial rating of Hwy. 604 north of Charlotte Court House is a solid 3.5 Howl road.  I might even be convinced to bump it up to 4.0 if I can drive it again (maybe without the wife).  I suppose I'll need to create a page or database to hold my ratings in one place.

At the end of 604 we hooked back up with Hwy 15 into Farmville for some lunch, before using it to head north out of town.  I wasn't really expecting a whole lot, but I was pleasantly surprised by the run up Hwy. 15.  It reminded me quite a bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway as it wound its way through the countryside.  Straight stretches were rare and the trip was punctuated with short stints through little towns like Gordonsville and Orange.  howls_hwy_15The road itself was somewhat curvy and was enhanced by the beautiful countryside we travelled through.  So even though it was a little short on the technical driving, it made up for it with its ambience.  So I'll give Hwy. 15 from Farmville up to Culpepper a solid 3.0 Howls on my new scale (which I seem to vaguely recall from the recesses of my mind would be Likert scale?).

The Giant Rollerskate
Once we reached Culpepper, things started to shift over to being more suburban as I suppose we were reaching the outer fringes of the DC metro area.  We followed Hwy. 29 up to Remington and Bealetown for our second detour of the trip.  Thanks to Roadside America, we found the Giant Rollerskate and got a picture of a Mini car next to it.

From there, we followed 29 up to I-66 for the drive into DC.  When we got to Falls Church, the Interstate was stopping up due to wrecks.  I had to stop for some gas anyway, so we stopped for some dinner and let the traffic clear out.  Then we headed on into downtown DC and the hotel.  Then I had to let the valet park the Mini.  Yikes!!!

So for the next couple days I spent most of my time in class.  We did manage to get out and see the monuments one evening (I had never seen the National WWII Memorial) and ate at a nice restaurant (DC Coast if you must know, but mainly because it was across the street from the hotel and we were tired of walking).

Friday morning we got up and headed to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Parking for that gave me a chance to get what I think is a pretty good shot of my Mini with the Washington Monument.  My son's class had gone through the part of the USHMM for children during their class visit last fall.  We were able to go through the main part this time.  That was a very moving experience.  If you haven't been, you really should go.  Without going into details (especially as I try to avoid talking politics), one thing I noticed was how quiet it was in the museum as all of the visitors each experienced what they were seeing and learning about in their own way.  And it was very crowded in there which made it all the more eerie.

After that, we picked up some T-shirts for the kids, my wife got her pillow back from the hotel, and we headed home using I-95.  As expected, it was bumper to bumper traffic until we got to about Fredricksburg.  Bumper-to-bumper almost took on a very bad meaning at one point as there was some girl driving along in the most idiotic fashion on the way out of the city.  At one point I had pulled into the right lane in front of a bus and my wife was concerned about us being in front of it.  I could tell the bus driver was laying back and told her it would not be a problem.  I told she did need to watch out for the car that had just pulled in behind me (I had watched her tailgating me earlier and almost sideswipe me when passing me).  Sure enough, traffic came to a stop and I look back to see her bearing down on me.  She locked it up and I rolled up a couple feet - that's probably all that kept her from hitting me.  Eventually a Jag got between us and she proceeded to almost rear-end him as well.  When not doing that, she was weaving all over the lanes.  I almost expected her to just go on off into the median barrier at one time.  We did watch as, despite her obvious lack of driving ability, she proceeded to spend time on her phone, eating, and putting on makeup.  Pitiful.

A gallery with a few other pics from the trip is available.  Mainly your standard pics of the monuments and a protest came by the hotel on their way to the White House.

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