So you've decided to take a trip to your nation's capital. Well here's a few things you should know that will hopefully help you prepare for your trip.
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The DC road grid was laid out by a Frenchman, which explains why locals hate the French, and also explains much about US Foriegn Policy. Within DC proper, the roads are laid out in a grid, with other streets crossing the grid at weird angles, usually through a traffic circle. No one in DC knows how to drive in a traffic circle, and people from the surburbs are worse. Many streets are one way, and making a left turn can require travelling three or four blocks out of your way. Right turns are worse. Right turn on red is allowed, except at intersections that are posted otherwise.
Most intersections are posted otherwise.
Also, within DC we take security seriously! Primarily by shutting down major roads and intersections for no discernable reason.
If your road map of Montgomery County MD is more than a few weeks old, throw it out and buy a new one, it's obsolete. If in Loudon or Fairfax County in Va, and your map is one day old, it's already obsolete.
There is no such thing as a dangerous high speed chase in DC, it's just another chase, usually on the BW Parkway.
All directions start with "The Beltway", which has no beginning and no end, just one continuous loop that locals believe is somehow clarified by an "inner loop" and "outer loop" designation. The inner loop goes clockwise, the outer counterclockwise. This makes no sense to ANYONE outside the Metro Area.
The Metro Area stretches north to south from Southern Pennsylvania to Frederick Virginia, and east to west from the Chesapeake Bay to the Shenandoah River. Also to parts of West Virginia and maybe the Delmarva (DElaware, MAryland, VirginiA peninsula.)
Construction on I-270 is a way of life and a permanent source of scorn and cynical entertainment. It's ironic that it's called an "Interstate" as it runs only from Bethesda to Frederick (unless you consider Montgomery County another state, which some do). Opening in the 60's, it has been torn up and under reconstruction ever since. Also, it has a "Spur" section which is even more confusing.
This is true of the Beltway also. Especially the local intersection known as "the Mixing Bowl" where 4 interstates (95, 295, 395, and 495) come together. It has been under constructon for several years, and will be for several more. Also beware the Wilson Bridge. A new bridge is being built, at a cost of about $8,000,000,000, in the hopes that it can be finished before the old one collapses under the load. The old one, and the new one, are drawbridges. When the bridge is up, traffic stops.
Any mild disturbance in the flow of traffic backs up the Beltway for miles in either direction. Something catastrophic, such as a semi-truck jacknifing on the Legion Bridge, can shut down traffic for 10 miles in each direction, and on all the side roads, in 15 minutes. You may have to detour through Leesburg, Point of Rocks, and Frederick, to get where you are going. Or you can go via Norfolk and the Bay Bridge/Tunnel. Not to be confused with the Bay Bridge.
To avoid these disturbances people listen to WTOP, 1500 AM and 107.7 FM, for the traffic report which runs every 10 minutes. 24 hours/day. Even if they can't avoid the disturbance, they listen to find out what the disturbance is, and in the hope that the person who caused it died screaming in agony.
The minimum acceptable speed on the Beltway is 75. Anything less is a hazard to navigation.
The morning rush hour is from 5 to 11 AM. The evening rush hour is from 1 to 8 PM. The lunch rush is from 11 AM to 1 PM. Friday's rush hour starts Thursday morning, especially during the summer on Route 50 eastbound.
If there is a ball game at the Redskins stadium, there is no point in driving anywhere near PG County.
Tip: Never say PG County to anyone from Mitchellville, Upper Marlboro or Fort Washington, they'll blow a blood vessel in their neck and go into a seizure.
If you run the red light, be sure to smile for the $100 "picture" you will receive courtesy of DMV. However, if you don't go as soon as the light turns green, you will get cussed out in 382 languages, none of them English. If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear-ended and shot at.
Rain causes an immediate 50 point drop of IQ in drivers. Snow causes an immediate 100 point drop in IQ and a rush to the local supermarket for toilet paper, bread and milk. IF it might snow, schools will be closed. If it is already snowing then the bus will pick up the children and they will immediately CLOSE the schools after 8 inches of snow has fallen. All parents must leave work upon arrival to pick up their children.
All unexplained sights are explained by the phrase, "Oh, we're near Takoma Park."
If someone actually has their turn signal on they are, by definition, a tourist.
All old ladies in Buicks have the right of way near or in Leisure World.
Many roads mysteriously change their names as you cross intersections. Don't ask why, no one knows or cares.
If asking directions in Arlington, Langley Park, Wheaton or Adams Morgan, you must know how to speak Spanish. In Annandale and Seven Corners a Cambodian, Korean or Vietnamese dialect will come in handy. If on Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill or U Street, a gay dialect helps. If you stop to ask directions in Southeast... well, just don't.
A taxi ride across town will cost you $12.50. A taxi ride two blocks will cost you 16.75 (it's a zone thing, you wouldn't understand).
Traveling south out of DC on Interstate 395/95 is the most dangerous, scariest thing you will ever do. There is nothing more frightening than seven lanes of traffic cruising along at 75 mph, BUMPER TO BUMPER. It's not speeding, it's NASCAR time, let's DRAFT!!!
The open lane for passing on all interstates is the far right lane because no self-respecting local would ever be caught driving in the "slow" lane. Unofficially, both shoulders are fair game also.
The far left lanes on all interstates are official "chat" lanes reserved for drivers who wish to talk on their cell phones.
Note: All mini-vans have priority clearance to use the far left at whatever speed the driver feels most comfortable multitasking in (it's not a mini-van, it's a bullet on wheels with a TV).
If it's 30 degrees, it's Orioles' opening day. If it's 100 degrees, it's the 'Skins opening day. If the humidity is 90+ and the temperature is 90+, then it's May,June,July,August and sometimes September.
NEVER ask a native Washingtonian for directions. We don't know street names and will tell you to turn left where Woodies (Woodward and Lothrop) used to be. If the landmark in question was standing last week, it may not be there now.
NEVER,EVER leave town the Thursday or Friday of a three-day weekend. Leave on Wednesday and take Tuesday off to come back; otherwise, you'll arrive at the same time when you left a day early to beat the traffic.
Avoid I-66 at any time. Just listen to the traffic report ONCE and it is the same every day. The sun is in your face in the morning, and for your return trip, it's once again blinding you in the afternoon.
Avoid Rt. 7, (Leesburg Pike or any other name it changes to) at all times as well. Same story as above except you have no breaks because on this road, there are people who commute from West Virginia.
Of course you could take the subway, known locally as The Metro. Remember that either the Orange or Red line will be shut down or single tracked due to an accident. Unless both are shut down or single tracked. This is most likely to happen during rush hour. The escalators rarely work, the elevators even more rarely. However, the trains are very clean, kept that way by highly motivated police who will not hesitate to arrest a 12 year old for eating a french fry.
Have fun in D.C.!
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