Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DC Metro culture: A Visitor's Perspective

So, I've attached a copy of the DC Metro map, an invaluable tool for the Capitol visitor who wants to see the sights via public transportation:

And being a visitor to DC, I want to speak about my perceptions on the DC Metro.

The trains run on six different colored lines: Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Orange, and Silver. And each line is known to have its own unique personality. Why? Who knows? But researching the issue by looking online or asking other Metro riders proved fruitless.

Being the observant type, I tend to notice distinct and subtle differences between the lines: differences between rush hour/non rush hour (non-rush hour is between 9 am – 3 pm), destination locations, noise levels, vagrant saturation, smells, cleanliness of the stations, etc.

As a real-life example, I’ll share a recent experience: I finished my workday in the late afternoon, as I usually do, and was happy to see that I stepped onto the platform just as a train was arriving—what luck! I chose a seat in the train and noticed that it was more crowded than usual. Looking about the compartment, I glimpsed trash strewn about the seats and no less than 3 soda bottles rolling to and fro on the floor. As well, my fellow riders were boisterous…much louder than the usual afternoon crowd. Hmmm, I thought, they’re probably just coming from a nearby social or sporting event. I watched as three youths defaced the back of a seat, adding to the existing graffiti. Other riders ignored the graffitos or looked on with disaffected stares.

Soon enough, though, I heard the operator’s station announcement and realized I was not on the Silver or Orange Line train to Vienna—I had inadvertently hopped aboard a Blue Line train to Franconia-Springfield. I exited at the next station and was soon aboard a Silver Line train to my intended destination.

My example illustrates nothing more than my observations and perceptions.

And I should mention operators: What diverse group of conversationalists these Metro employees are! It appears that all operators are locally hired; so there’s that…
Along with fellow amused riders, I routinely strain to understand the unintelligible gibberish blaring from the speakers. Imagine the adult’s voice on a Charlie Brown TV special, pumped full of liquor/ganja and blasted at maximum decibels. At. Every. Single. Stop.

“Mmmpphhh andgretty ftttttaaarrrmmm orgubart mallyoop Smithsonian vrrangy trebbytran grrrrrtttyyy. Train moving! Wah, wah, wahhh.” I hear that a lot.

Now, I KNOW that I’m between Farragut North and Rosslyn, but I’ll be danged if I would know that from the oratory that emanates from the speakers.

Something is occurring, some type of information is being passed along…we just can’t understand what it is. Why are we stopping? Was there an accident? An emergency? Are we waiting behind other trains?

And then come the sounds of Shaft – slash – Barry White on Quaaludes saying something important.

Or not—we can’t tell.

I do know that I’m on the Orange Line, heading to my hotel just five stops away. And it’s the first stop in the Commonwealth of Virginia. That is proudly announced every time.
And let me say something about the stations themselves.

Most of the stations I frequent are well-lit and fairly clean, if not a bit musty smelling. Trash on the walkways begins accumulating by 7 am. Escalators are constantly non-functioning and in varying states of disrepair. Metro riders will encounter panhandlers in the mornings and are treated to local musicians busking for spare change in the afternoons. On any given day, you’ll see ill-behaved denizens jumping the turnstiles when Metro staff aren’t looking.

Another form of riding for free is a maneuver I call the “follow-thru,” whereby a non-paying miscreant follows a paying customer closely through the turnstiles. On two occasions I’ve been rear-ended when my fare card didn’t immediately register; the would-be offenders then turned around sheepishly and waited for the next paying customer to come along.

Other forms of bad behavior are easily spotted every hour of the day. Some breaches of Metro rules—if not of courtesy and common sense—are:

• Blocking escalators by standing on both sides of the steps: Stand on the right, pass on the left.
• Blocking passengers from exiting train cars: Stand aside and allow passengers to exit before attempting to get on.
• Taking up an entire seat with papers, luggage or your big butt: Move to one side as seats are made for two riders.
• Disturbing others by talking loudly (to others or on your phone): No one wants to hear others yak while they’re commuting to or from work; silence is golden and much appreciated.
• Leaving newspapers or garbage on the seat or floor as you leave the train: Take your personal items and trash with you when you exit.
• Blocking others from getting on/off during rush-hour traffic: We’re all sardines when it’s crowded; there’s always a way to allow more people on and to assist others with exiting.
• Eating, drinking, smoking: Strictly prohibited at all stations and especially on all trains. Transit Police enforce this ordinance; otherwise, the system would attract roaches and rodents. If you observe anyone violating rules, call the train operator using the red button at the end of each car.

There are other rules, but these are the ones that I notice the most. Perhaps others will post their observations.

Lastly, I’m going to refrain from going into the specific differences about what a Metro rider might encounter on a Red Line train headed to Anacostia or Southeastern and

Northeastern sides of town… especially the Southeastern parts. I’ll leave that alone but will provide an interesting piece of info on DC demographics:

Each dot represents 25 people.

Red = white, blue = black, green = Asian, orange = Hispanic.

Metrorail lines are shown in brown; roads are reflected in gray.

According to Metro, 59 percent of all crimes are cell phone snatches, with 450 cases reported until August of this year as compared with 327 during the same period last year. Also up are bicycle thefts, of which there were 303 during the January to August period this year compared to 202 last year. "Force & Violence" and armed crimes have also seen a slight increase. There have been 71 reports of sexual harassment system wide, with 29 classified as criminal.

A quick check of the DC Metro's most dangerous stations:

• Brookland: (Red Line) with 44 incidents
• Deanwood (Orange Line) with 41 incidents
• Minnesota Avenue (Orange Line ) with 40 incidents
• Gallery Place (Red/Yellow/Green Line) with 35 incidents
• Rhode Island Avenue (Red Line) with 34 incidents
• L’Enfant Plaza (Yellow/Green Line) with 33 incidents
• Capitol Heights (Blue Line) with 33 incidents
• Benning Road (Blue Line) with 30 incidents
• West Hyattsville (Green Line) with 28 incidents
• Vienna (Orange Line) with 28 incidents

Seven of the top ten stations with the most crime are in D.C., two are in Maryland and one is in Virginia. When narrowed to just D.C., Fort Totten (27), Georgia Ave-Petworth (26) and Union Station (23) enter the top ten.

I hope my notes have helped those who wish to use the Metrorail system while visiting the Capitol. It’s a fine system and enjoyable if you follow a few simple rules.

Hey, but what do I know? I’m only passing through this town.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hanging out in our Nation's Capitol

I'm spending a few months in DC. Interesting work, and I'm enjoying the culture/climate change. Really I am.

Planning to rent a bike a couple of weekends and see the country. I hear there's some fantastic riding in Virginia.

Also, a co-worker offered me her Ducati Monster anytime I wanted it. So I may be taking the Duck out in the twisties before too long.

Anyone have some ideas about DC riding?

Photos to follow.

Note: Yeah, for you grammarians, it's capital vs capitol...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Baja ride! August 23-24, 2014

I'm hosting a group of riders from New Mexico and Arizona for a weekend Baja ride .

These are guys I've ridden with in Arizona.

The 6 of us (5 of whom will be on KLRs!) will ride from San Diego, through Tecate, to Camalu, Baja California and retutn via Tijuana. We will camp on the beach on Saturday night.


Hooo, boy. Just back from a weekend ride down the Baja coast, mainly from Santo Tomas to Camalu. Wow, why didn't I know that the coast road was washed out in several places? I gotta do better research...

I hosted a group of KLR riders from New Mexico and Arizona. And my little brother tagged along on his Gen 1 KLR.

All went really well, but there were some areas that were not big bike friendly. A couple of drops but no injuries.

We hit the coast just north of the Punto San Jose lighthouse and spent time at Coyote Cal's; I'm pleased to say that there's a Kug sticker there now. We camped on the beach at the volcano south of Erendira.

The next morning (Sunday), we headed south with breakfast plans in Camalu. After two pretty serious wash-outs and detours that were not feasible, we hit the pavement, then Hwy 1 North.

I had a hook-up at the San Ysidro border and the crossing took 8 minutes total.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

IMS ADV Footpeg review

A few days before departing for a 30-day ride through Canada and Alaska, a friend of mine had a chance meeting with Chris Hardin from IMS Products. Chris thought that his new IMS Adventure footpegs would be perfect for such a ride.

I reluctantly removed my Fastway pegs, a set I was quite fond of, and installed the larger (wider, longer, heavier) IMS ADV pegs on my KTM 990. Hmmm, not bad at all.

I was immediately drawn to the quality of these pegs. They looked and felt as if someone had designed these things to be bulletproof. They are solidly constructed of 17-4 cast stainless steel and fit perfectly where the stock pegs would go.

I called Chris to verify a point of installation and found that the guy knows his products. I told him that I was a little concerned that a new product would be tested on such a brutal ride. He assured me that IMS had been around quite a while and he was confident that the pegs could withstand anything the Great White North could throw at them...even a drop, should that occur.

I should've knocked on wood right then.

After returning from 24 days of riding in Alaska and Canada (9600 miles--close to 1800 of that was on dirt or unimproved roads) I can confirm that these footpegs are as tough as any on the market.

We routinely updated our RR on ADV Rider (It's Pronounced In-You-Vick. I think. http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=988579&page=6) if you want to see what we did and where we went.

I used the IMS ADV pegs the entire ride and they held up well. I liked the pegs from the moment I installed them.

The bottom line is, I had already installed some pegs I liked but gave the IMS ADV pegs a try. They were sturdy and comfortable and held up extremely well in some very challenging circumstances. I do not baby my bike.

The best feature of these pegs, in my opinion, is the size: they are wider and longer than probably any other footpeg on the market. This is a huge plus for those riders who plan to put in a lot of miles or have big boots.

The quality is unchallenged. I "may" have dropped my bike a "couple" of times (no photos=no proof! ) and the foot pegs remained unscathed. They are solidly built and stood up to some serious abuse on this ride.

I can attest to the durability and comfort of the IMS pegs. On top of that, they look good! I highly recommend them and have decided to keep them on my bike instead of replacing them with the pair I had previously installed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

And we're off...Destination: Arctic Circle and Beyond.

Oooooh, eeeeee! What a ride. I've returned from 24 days in Canada and Alaska and will provide updates soon.

Inuvik. It's pronounced I-New-Vick. I think...

As mentioned over the past few years and in at least three previous posts, I am heading into the Great White North this weekend. That part of the world continues to call to me like a mentally unstable lover...

My friend Dan and I will be departing Sunday, June 29, for the town of Inuvik, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. I’ll also try to squeeze in a visit to Alaska’s Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay (just an extra 2,500 miles). We aren’t retired, we aren’t riding for a cause, we aren’t attempting to commit any acts of badassery...we just want to ride to the northernmost possible point, meet some nice people, drink some interesting beverages and return with some cool stories -- virtually unscarred .

We have every intention of riding our big motorbikes from San Diego all the way north and crossing back into the US near Blaine, WA, in late July. I will be riding a KTM 990 Adventure; Dan will be on his BMW R1200GS. We plan to camp most of the time and stay in hotels when we can’t stand our own musk. We’ve mutually agreed not to be eaten by Grizzlies if at all possible. The bear spray we bought at REI has a “no maul” money-back guarantee, so that’s good.

We have a very flexible agenda. There are many things we’d like to see in 30+ days, but we’re playing it by ear. It’s 3,800 miles each way, with lots of side roads in between, and we expect to ride over 10K miles. Neither of us has a particularly remarkable attention span so the possibilities are endless. Dan’s bringing along a fairly nice SLR camera, and we both have small video cameras, so we'll do our best to document the experience.

Here are two GPS map trackers so friends and family can follow our progress:

Where Am I Riding Map (Works in Chrome, Safari, FireFox, and IE9): http://www.whereamiriding.com/my-profile/userprofile/DanDiego

SPOT Adventures Map: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0GOrQRdjM0Y1M7p9gWdJJU8oP3zJ5ubA1

I will try to provide updates on this blogsite as I travel along, but I'm unsure how that'll go...

Share in the adventure as we go a couple of degrees north of the Arctic Circle in search of...well, we haven't really identified a purpose yet. It's likely just a midlife crisis. But come along, anyhow!

Your humble sojourner.