The past weekend will go down as "one of those", and as far as where things really started to go wrong, I need look no further than Google Maps directions to our hotel in DC.
The plan was to drive down to Washington for the weekend, and see the sights, and visit an LJ friend of arosoff
's. Aside from sticky traffic and equally sticky weather all the way down (particularly through Delaware), the trip went well right up to the point where we'd got into DC and turned right off New York Avenue onto First Street....
Y'see, Washington has an interesting street naming system: it has A Street, B Street, C Street, and so on, with A Street being the most southerly. In this scheme, there is, as you might expect, a street named N Street.
Google Maps thinks it's clever though, and whilst in many ways it is (it knows Washington's one-way system on a Friday, which is different to what it is on a weekend), in other respects, it's not. It sees N Street and thinks "hmm, N, that's an abbreviation for North, so on my directions, I'll print North Street". Oops. It wasn't until we'd driven round and round that we'd worked out what the directions were supposed to be doing (i.e. navigating us through a byzantine one-way system) and that, indeed, we should've taken N Street.
So by this point, having finally got back on track, we now had:
- 1 very cranky baby
- 1 increasingly cranky Alexis
- 1 tired stressed and cranky Neil
Heavy traffic in downtown DC didn't help, and with my eyes on the prize (1 block from our hotel) impatience got the better of me and I decided to pull out from behind a stationary car ahead of me just to make up a couple of extra car lengths. I just misjudged by maybe 6 inches how close I was to said car in front, with a resulting scraping of bumpers. Cue exchanging of details (in my case... here's the Hertz rental details), and a frustrating evening trying to report to the DC police an accident that they weren't interested in because:
- Nobody was hurt
- Neither vehicle was badly damaged - both were able to clear the scene
- Both parties exchanged details and went on their respective ways
Cue a room service dinner and no chance to take a stroll in the evening.
Admittedly, Saturday turned out okay, and we went round the Air & Space Museum with mucho geeking opportunities at various bits of memorabilia. Admittedly outdated... very outdated in the case of the Solar System and "Use of Computers in Flight" displays, and embarrassingly so in the case of their hastily put-together patches in the wake of Pluto's re-designation. Think the Science Museum, but maybe a little more up-to-date. Dinner in a good restaurant (very good lobster salad, good if unimaginative buffalo steak, fantastic chocolate dessert, well-behaved baby), followed by a night-time visit to the Lincoln Memorial, which is as grandiose and over-the-top as the classical Greek monuments that it was designed to emulate.
Sunday dawned wet, and the concierge confirmed that it was due to rain all day - which scotched our plans to head up to the zoo and see the pandas. So we drove around DC for a bit, and finally got a good view of the White House in the rear-view mirror as we headed up 16th Street towards Silver Spring.
We made it to Silver Spring in good time, heading to estherchaya
's for lunch and general chatting with her and her husband. We left there around 3pm, next stop: Hertz counter at Baltimore-Washington International airport.
Ugh. They had to exchange the car, even though the Mazda was perfectly driveable. They gave us a Ford Taurus.
Let me tell you a bit about the Ford Taurus.
It's awful. It's a total piece of shit. It has a turning circle that would embarrass a supertanker. It's so heavy it generates a significant gravitational field. It has horrible controls. It has no fucking fog lamps, which I consider absolutely essential when driving in heavy rain on fast, busy, multi-lane highways. It starts to shudder when I go above 65mph. It has ridiculously powerful air-conditioning. Its driving position is too low down (though once I'd stopped at a rest area and played with the seat adjustment controls, this was rectified to some extent). It's too bloody wide. I hate this car with a passion. Sure, the Mazda had its faults, but at least it felt like I was driving a modern motor vehicle. The Taurus, on the other hand, is just a traditional American gas-guzzling wagon with a passably modern shell.
I had to pass up a Chevy Malibu in favour of the Taurus too - the Malibu, which I've driven before and know is a perfectly serviceable and comfortable car, wouldn't have been big enough by far.
Then the drive back up I95 and the Jersey Turnpike, in heavy rain all the way, which was more than a little hairy. Low visibility, heavy traffic, inadequate headlamps, more-than-inadequate overhead lighting (on the Belt Parkway through Brooklyn, more than half of the overhead lamps were out, and those that did work were incredibly weak, making it incredibly difficult to spot lane markings because there were no cats eyes). We finally got in at 12.30am, and I zonked pretty much right away.
Today, I have done mostly nothing.
P.S. The London 2012 logo - I bet it would make a great cookie cutter pattern.