Wednesday 28 May 2008

HOV lanes grow slugs in DC since 1971

You may remember I blogged about the petrol price craziness back in January. That was nothing. Now, every single day there are radio, TV, and print stories complaining about high petrol prices. So much so, that news networks are struggling to find ways to make filming a petrol pump look interesting.

The prices have risen dramatically - when we arrived in September 2007 we were paying about $US2.70/gallon, now we are paying about $US4.00/gallon. Of course it doesn't worry us too much because we have probably the second smallest car in America.

It seems this latest set of rises was finally enough to force concerted action in America. Some (most?) of the reactions are stupid - a summer petrol tax holiday (aka vote buying), stopping strategic petrol stockpiling, "gas price guarantees" from car manufacturers for their gas guzzling vehicles, and some good - massive demand and pressure on manufacturers for hybrid and highly efficient vehicles.

I'm still yet to hear a story about the government having the foresight to spend more money on public transport or people moving closer to work.

I also just found out about "slugging" or "casual carpooling", which is an interesting symptom of the carpool lanes in DC that has been going since 1971!!! This is how it works:

The system of slugging is quite simple. A car needing additional passengers to meet the required 3-person high occupancy vehicle (HOV) minimum pulls up to one of the known slug lines. The driver usually positions the car so that the slugs are on the passenger side. The driver either displays a sign with the destination or simply lowers the passenger window, to call out the destination, such as "Pentagon," "L’Enfant Plaza," or "14th & New York." The slugs first in line for that particular destination then hop into the car, normally confirming the destination, and off they go.

Interesting that people would be scared for their lives hitch-hiking around the US, and yet they are happy to pick up random strangers to save a few minutes on their commute!

Playoff Beards

I was just watching the Hockey Stanley cup and saw this little box pop up on the screen that said something about "Playoff Beards". Buh? Then I noticed all the wildman faces under the helmets. Awesome. Sadly Movember will never will never achieve the same popularity here, because half the male population are already sporting dirty dirty Mo's.

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson - Mr. Universe 1861

Bec, Rob, and 3yr old Max turned up fresh from Disneyland, complete with Mickey ears, to stay with us for two weeks. We headed down to Shenandoah National Park and stayed in a cabin there, did some walking, and tried to stop Max torturing various forms of wildlife - mainly ladybeetles and worms, no bears this time.

We also checked out Lauray Caverns, which are some of the best caves I have ever seen. The photo on the left shows what look to be like a city of delicate stalagmites but it is actually a reflection off perfectly still, clear water. This cave is a serious money spinner - it has a shopping mall size carpark and the whole cave is wheelchair accessible!

On the way to Shenandoah we checked out the Civil War battle site at Manassas. This was the first major land battle of the Civil War and the place where Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson earned his nickname.

If you believe the statue (see photo), Jackson was Mr. Universe for 1861 (look at those arms!), and rode around on Farlap. We got a awesome walkthrough blow-by-blow of the whole battle from a ranger, while we walked in the soldiers' footsteps out in the fields.

Tuesday 13 May 2008

Civil war and eating my weight in crab

Mum and dad stayed with us last week, which was fun. On the weekend we got our history on, starting with a visit to Harpers Ferry on the border of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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This was where John Brown did his thing, which helped set the country on the road to civil war, and Harpers Ferry continued to be a flashpoint during the civil war. After that we headed up to Antietam (said An-tee-tum), which was a civil war battlefield, and holds the depressing title as the site of the bloodiest single day battle in American history, with 23,000 casualties.

We went out to dinner with mum and dad a few times - my favourite was when we had the seafood buffet at Phillips in the inner harbour. I ate nothing but crab legs, which meant it took about three hours of hard work before I was full, but it was an awesome dinner :)