Reversible

On November 5, 2014 · 2 Comments

It dawned on me recently, as I drove around the Washington, DC area, that there seemed to be an inordinate number of reversible road lanes that switched directions on regular schedules. The occurrence that got me thinking about this was a one-block section of Washington Boulevard (map) on the western edge of Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood


Reversible Road Lane
Washington Blvd., Arlington, Virginia, USA
via Google Street View, July 2014

I’ve driven through that slot a number of times and I never gave it much of a second thought. It seemed rather self-explanatory. Overhead lights with green arrows and red x’s denoted lanes that could be traversed depending on prevailing morning or evening traffic patterns. It made sense even if it lasted for such a short distance. It was the only three lane segment with four lanes radiating from either end. It saved on construction costs.

The variety of different types of reversible lanes also surprised me as I started ticking-off some nearby examples.


Overhead Lights


Stupid Young Driver on Cell Phone in Closed Lane on Chesapeake Bay Bridge!
Stupid Young Driver on Cell Phone in Closed Lane on Chesapeake Bay Bridge! by William Johns, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge (map) connecting Maryland’s eastern shore to the rest of the state provided yet another example of overhead lights signaling traffic flow. The bridge accommodated prevailing traffic to and from Atlantic Ocean resorts especially during the summertime. More lanes opened towards the beach on Fridays and pointed back towards home on Sundays, almost like the ebb and flow of tides.

Overhead lights exposed an inherit problem: people needed to understand that lanes could reverse and they also needed to know what the symbols meant. "Stupid Young Driver on Cell Phone" had obvious difficulties with one or both of those concepts.


Just a Sign


'Signs' -- Chain Bridge (VA) January 2014
'Signs' — Chain Bridge (VA) January 2014 by Ron Cogswell, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Chain Bridge (map) had three lanes stretching across the Potomac River between Arlington and Washington, with the middle lane reversible. Only a single sign told motorists about the unusual situation (Street View). Presumably daily commuters traveling over the bridge during critical hours would already understand the situation. Woe to the poor visitor who happened to cross the bridge at an inopportune time and not see the sign.


A Machine Does All the Work


Lane Mover
Roosevelt Bridge, Washington, DC, USA
via Google Street View, August 2014

Another Potomac River bridge between Arlington and Washington, the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge (map) offered a better solution. The reversible section had a concrete barrier to keep drivers from making a mistake. An odd little machine moved the barrier twice a day to accommodate commuters. This unusual arrangement was created by Lindsay Transportation Solutions.

The moveable barrier system enables the DOT to quickly reconfigure traffic lanes and directional capacity on the bridge in less than 15 minutes (the bridge is just under one mile in length). The Barrier Transfer Machine (BTM) safely transfers the barrier one or two traffic lanes at speeds from seven to ten miles per hour. A magnetic tape grooved into the pavement guides the BTM and ensures precise placement of the barrier wall.

That seemed a lot safer than signs or overhead lights.


Completely Reversible with a Sign


IMG_4012
IMG_4012 by bankbryan, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Some of our local roads were completely reversible. The Rock Creek Parkway (map) — actually called the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway in official terms, which I didn’t know until a few minutes ago — operated with two lanes in both directions most of the time. However in the morning all four lanes headed towards Washington and all four lanes returned traffic to the suburbs in the evening. Monday through Friday. Except Federal holidays. Make an error reading a sign (Street View) and find oneself heading towards the wrong way on a four-lane highway.

I would stay away from here on Columbus Day. Federal government employees are about the only people who get the day off. Imagine everyone else forgetting about that quirk and thinking it was a normal Monday commute. Yikes!


Completely Reversible and Safer


Interstate 395 - Virginia
Interstate 395 – Virginia by Doug Kerr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A stretch of Interstate 95 and Interstate 395 (map) from Northern Virginia into the District featured two High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes that switched directions for the morning and evening commutes, sandwiched between and completely separate from the regular highway lanes. These are being converted into High Occupancy/Toll (HOT) lanes although the concept will remain largely the same.

These seemed considerably safer. Barrier arms blocked access to ramps that led to these special lanes so that cars traveling in the "wrong" direction couldn’t make a mistake. The arms raised when the lanes reversed and it was safe to travel that direction again.

There were several more reversible lanes in the area that I didn’t have space to mention. Also Wikipedia had an entire article devoted to reversible lanes in other parts of the world so I imagined they were rather prevalent. It was funny how I’ve grown so used to seeing them that I never considered how weird they seemed conceptually.

Presidential Death Locations

On July 6, 2014 · 3 Comments

After examining birthplaces for the Presidents of the United States, I shifted gears and did the same for the places where they died. This proved to be a little more problematic because greater attention had been focused on their exact places of birth, undoubtedly because it’s a more cheerful subject. I began with the shared spreadsheet compiled in the prior article and added columns for all of the presidential death locations, including as many exact latitude/longitude coordinates as I could find and links to appropriate websites for more information.



View Presidential Birthplaces & Death Locations in a larger map

I then overlaid presidential death locations onto the earlier birthplaces map. Some sites might be worth visiting. They included palatial estates later converted to museums and often co-located with presidential libraries. Others, well, I’m not convinced I need to visit the hospital room where Richard Nixon died of a cerebral edema.


Died in Office



Garfield Memorial, Long Branch, New Jersey

I could imagine a subset of macabre presidential trivia aficionados focused on the eight Chief Executives who died in office. That would be a bit morbid for my tastes, and yet I’ve trudged over to Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House to see where Abraham Lincoln was shot and died. James Garfield, William McKinley and John Kennedy were also felled by assassins. The other four, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren Harding and Franklin Roosevelt died of natural causes.

Garfield barely served as President, elected just a few months before he was shot by a delusional office-seeker in the waiting room of a Washington, DC train station in 1881. He may have been killed as much by the inept medical attention he received after his injury as by the bullet itself.

Had Garfield been left where he lay, he might well have survived; the bullet failed to hit his spine or penetrate any vital organs. Instead, he was given over to the care of doctors, who basically tortured him to death over the next 11 weeks. Two of them repeatedly probed his wound with their unsterilized fingers and instruments before having him carted back to the White House on a hay-and-horsehair mattress.

Doctors eventually brought the suffering Garfield to a summer cottage on the New Jersey shore in a last-ditch hope that fresh air and cooler temperatures might revive him. Nothing remains of the original cottage and only a granite marker records the place where Garfield spent his final few days.


Clusters


DSCF1881
Woodrow Wilson’s House by JB, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

Presidents died in a more dispersed pattern than where they were born. Nonetheless two clusters demonstrated the opposite extreme and offered much tighter groupings than any of the birthplace clusters. Neither location surprised me, nor will they likely surprise the 12MC audience.

Many former presidents remained politically active as they grew older and retained their ties to Washington, DC. One might expect that some of them died there. I counted seven. Three died in office within the physical boundaries of District: Lincoln, W.H. Harrison and Taylor (the last two passed away in the White House). John Quincy Adams died in the Speaker’s Room of the US Capitol Building. Dwight Eisenhower died at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Woodrow Wilson and William Taft died at their post-administration mansions. Wilson’s home included 39,200 square feet of livable space. Taft’s home became the Syrian Embassy (until ordered closed in March 2014). Maybe I’ll undertake a Presidential Death Location tour for an upcoming 12MC Bicycle Ride.

If not politics, then financial power would seem to be attractive to people of this elevated stature. Four of the former presidents ended their days in Manhattan: James Monroe; Chester Arthur; Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon.


Counterintuitive


Ulysees S. Grant Cottage
Ulysees S. Grant Cottage by Selbe & Lily, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

I scratched my head in bewilderment at some of the places where presidents died. I never would have guessed that Garfield died at the Jersey Shore. Monroe in Manhattan seemed odd too. He’d spent the bulk of his retirement in Virginia and moved-in with his daughter Maria only after his wife passed away. Maria had married Samuel L. Gouverneur, a New York City attorney and politician.

The placement of Ulysses Grant’s death also seemed out of context, a cottage in the woods north of Saratoga Springs, New York. Grant spent the final six weeks of his life at the cottage rushing to complete his memoirs. He died of throat cancer three days after finishing his task. The book provided financial comfort for his family after his death and remains in print.


Sweet Retirement



Gerald Ford Home, Rancho Mirage, California

Some former presidents managed to escape office and retired to lifestyles with less pressure. Many of them resided on sprawling estates and lived well as they grew older and eventually passed away there: Thomas Jefferson at Monticello; Andrew Jackson at The Hermitage; Rutherford Hayes at Spiegel Grove; Theodore Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill; Lyndon Johnson at his Johnson Ranch. Even later presidents like Gerald Ford seemed to live in style, with Ford’s home situated conveniently along a golf course in Rancho Mirage, California.

There were other gems. I’ll leave the rest of the spreadsheet to the 12MC audience to explore.

Circling Back

On May 11, 2014 · 1 Comments

"Circling Back" would be the best title for this article, implying a revisiting or rethinking of previous ideas with a connection back to Twelve Mile CIRCLE. It’s appropriate. Also it sounded a lot better than "barely warmed-up leftovers" which is what it really is.

I reached back to a trio of articles for the first item including one from the very early days of 12MC. My wife and I made our annual pilgrimage to "Savor: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience" yesterday evening. I first wrote about this event in May 2008 which was also the first year it was held. Back then the venue was the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC and since then it’s been held at the National Building Museum except for last year when it moved to New York City. Naturally I’ve attended every year except for last year.

I’m getting to the point where my poor old body can’t take too many beer festivals anymore. We concentrate on Savor which is run by the Brewers Association (the same group that does the Great American Beer Festival) and also the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin, which is run by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild. Those are all I need; I might as well concentrate on the best. Quality over quantity.

Right about now the entire 12MC audience is wondering where I’m going with this. Let’s jump back a couple of months and revisit Geo-BREWities. One of the places I referenced was Confluence Brewing in Des Moines, Iowa. Well, to my complete surprise, notice what I spotted last night.


Confluence Brewing

Last February I said,

Looking at its location a little more closely, the brewery can’t be more than maybe a mile-or-so from the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers… I’ll bet the river confluence inspired the name of the brewery at least a little even if I couldn’t find it stated explicitly.

I can confirm that now. I had a nice conversation with the owners. Either that or they were humoring some oddball geo-geek who was asking them about their name.


Lickinghole Brewery

Another brewery connected with 12MC’s Three Notches article, and specifically to the Three Notch’d / Three Chopt Road in Central Virginia which runs not too far from the brewery. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery is at the forefront of the whole Farm Brewery movement that’s been building in recent years and offered a "Three Chopt Tripel" for tasting. Lickinghole sounded like a rather, um, interesting name for a brewery too. I guess you do what you gotta do to get your name to stand out in a crowded field. It’s certainly memorable.

By the way there is also a Three Notch’d Brewing Company named after the same road a little farther west in Charlottesville. They weren’t represented at Savor (I’ve tried their beers elsewhere) although I thought it was still worth mentioning because it aligned with the theme. I’ve now discovered a beer and a brewery both named for the same basic road.

Also represented was Mother Road Brewing Company from Flagstaff, Arizona, which would definitely qualify as a Geo-BREWity too. It was named for the Mother Road of course — the famed Route 66 — which ran through Flagstaff on its way from Chicago to Santa Monica. I should have taken a photo. I guess I was too busy grabbing coasters and stickers from their table. I’m a sucker for breweriana swag.


Monumental Ride

The boys and I will replicate the Monumental Ride I first referenced about three years ago, later today. I was informed in very certain terms that the best possible Mother’s Day present would involve removing myself and the kids from the house for a few hours.


Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument from the Potomac

This might also be a good opportunity to mention the upcoming 12MC Geo-Oddity bicycle ride I’ve been threatening for awhile. It’s finally going to happen and I’m trying to narrow down the date to a Saturday or Sunday in June. It will feature many of the sites discussed in Monumental Ride plus many more. The route remains a work in progress although here is what I’m thinking:



View Epic 12MC Geo-Oddity Bike Ride in a larger map

Those who expressed interest earlier should have already received an email message with more details and a request for date preferences. Those who want to jump on the bandwagon can contact me and I’ll forward the same information along. It should be a fun, casual ride with plenty of stops for abundant geo-geekery.


Dorena-Hickman Ferry



Everyone is probably tired of hearing about my Riverboat Adventures so I’ll be brief. The Dorena-Hickman ferry made an appearance in Part 3 (Borders). I finally uploaded some video footage to YouTube and created a dedicated page for the ferry on my travel website. That probably won’t interest most of the 12MC audience although maybe a handful of readers share my ferry fascination and may want to see much greater detail about this particular one.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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