April 21, 2009

Driving in Traffic 101

I truly should have been born more privileged in life and had my own personal car & driver. I find driving tedious, dangerous and uncomfortable. But for a family, it's an economical and relatively hassle free way to arrive at point B from point A.

The thought of staying in my small town for an entire week was more painful than the idea of a road trip. We opted to see our nation's capitol. With the advice of some locals and a bit of research, the trip was set. In less than a 5 hour drive and all the hustle and bustle of Washington DC would be ours for the asking. Provided the drive go smoothly.

It didn't.

Garmin nĂ¼vi 3790T Sat Nav I literally crossed the border from MD to DC on a small narrow parkway that had signs posted what hours we could travel that direction on the road. While trying to absorb the information, the vehicle in front of me stopped suddenly. I did, too.

By hitting her. Luckily, it wasn't a serious accident, but an inconvenience. The damage was minimal, except she was driving a dealer loaner vehicle, so we had to wait for a police officer to come take a report. That also proved confusing as nobody knew whose jurisdiction the accident happened. VA, MD, or DC? It took nearly an hour to sort out, and I had a sinking feeling that my vehicle fun was only beginning.

Parking in DC is not easy either. I found what seemed to be a good lot and we braved the cold rainy day by lurking in the National Art Gallery. At 5 PM, we'd had enough since we had started so early in the day and decided to head back to the room. Rookie mistake to leave DC during 5 PM rush hour. I could have crawled back to the room more efficiently.

The 20 mile, two hour drive to our hotel in Northern VA solidified my decision that the Metro was the way to get into the city. Slight problem. No parking was available at the first Metro Station. I drove another 5 miles to the next one and found a meter, since the lots were still full. I rummaged through the bowels of my purse, the van floor and scavenged the change from the kids' wallets for all coins silver-colored.

Like a reverse slot machine, I poured in one coin after another, but no time registered on the meter. I read the fine print. It only accepted quarters, but there was no change machine in sight. Curses! OH did I! I pulled out the Mother of all swear words and tarnished the innocent ears of the Minis. We had to drive into the city. I think I scared them, as we passed two or three more Metro stations and I asked, Should I look for parking here? It was met with a resounding "NO!"

I drove right into DC around 10:30 AM and found a lovely parking garage. We decided to stay until 7 PM to avoid the rush hour. We got back that second night the same time we did by leaving at 5 PM. I felt positively local by now and decide to do the same thing the following day, Friday.

We stayed in DC for dinner and discovered that our car was locked in the garage for the WEEKEND. (No, there were no signs indicating this, apparently though I was in a university parking lot and shouldn't have parked there in the first place). HUGE PROBLEM since we planned to head home the following morning.

Fortunately, I had a guardian angel friend that we had dinner with and then drove us back to the hotel promising to bring us back to the city the next morning to figure out how to get our car out of vehicle prison, as I rattled against the aluminum door, banging for my vehicle to appear.

I was on a bit of a wild goose chase from the parking garage, to the phone number on my claim ticket, to the university police, to a 24 hour lot that I COULD have parked at had I known, back to the police to finally claim my minivan.

The best part? As the officer was walking with me to my van, he inquired, "Oh, don't they have front license plates in your state?" I sheepishly smiled, "Yes, they do, but the screw on it was bent on the way INTO DC when I bumped that vehicle, and I removed it so it wouldn't get lost."

Yet, despite all the travel trials, we had a fabulous trip and look forward to returning again. My plan next time is to stay in the city proper and take our bicycles to get around. Good idea?

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