Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Couch Trip

Ah, it's great to be young and insane!

-- Billy, from "The Dream Team*"

Yesterday evening, N. and I executed Part II of the Couch Upgrade Master Plan that was begun over the weekend. We had to return to her sister's place in Virginia to collect the final of three pieces.

Potomac Storm 4
This is the last thing I remember before the apocalypse.
Everything went fine getting to Virginia. We took Rock Creek Parkway to avoid the construction on 9th Street, leaving just before 6:30 so we'd hit it when the traffic returned to two-ways. Easy as pie! Getting out of town during rush hour is the hard part, right?

Wrong. We came back in over Memorial Bridge, with the intent of returning home to Columbia Heights via RCP, as we had come. In the intervening time, which couldn't have been more than an hour, the parkway had been completely barricaded. You couldn't turn right onto the parkway, so you had to go into this little Ohio Drive turnaround thing. From here, I figured I would try to get back to 23rd Street by going around the other way 'round the Lincoln Memorial.

Wrong. You could not go left in order to go "clockwise" around the circle, also blocked, forcing you to go right, into some kind of no-man's-bus-parking-tourist-zone. A place where no sane person would ever choose to drive. A place where I had no choice but to drive.

Us and about a million other cars, of course, since everyone was thoroughly confused at this point by the complete madness of the dysfunctional detours and non-existent traffic control officers.

This was 30 minutes of my life. Really.
So around we go, eventually ending up right back where we started: at Independence & Ohio Drive where the parkway was blocked. From there, of course, it was clear that the only way to escape was on Independence Avenue eastbound. A U turn and there we were.

Hello, Washington Monument! Hello, Tourists!

At this point I realized we would be required to drive deep into the heartland of DC, the mall. We eventually found ourselves heading up 14th Streetish. By now, it had been an hour in traffic and the weather was looking ominous. But we were close to home: I was on Rhode Island Avenue, heading towards Logan Circle. Soon I would be at Sherman Avenue which is pretty much a straight shot to from my front door. I could almost taste victory!

But no, the saga was not meant to end like that. Rhode Island was blocked off before Logan Circle. There was some incident on the northern side of the circle involving many police cars, but the south side looked clear so I wasn't sure why they closed RI Ave. completely. Nor could we turn around, because traffic was bumper to bumper the other way. But hark, an alley! We were saved! I ducked in, convinced we would soon be free.

But as I could see the light at the other end of the alley, one final challenge lay in wait. Like the Kraken of our odyssey, it loomed before us.

A Ford Expedition with a trailer in tow was attempting to back through the alley.

"Ford Expedition" just by itself is something that simply has no place in a city, much less an alley. Add "trailer" and you're fully West Virginia. These things should be stopped at the border. But backing up through an alley?? The alley that happens to be the only possible escape route from traffic hell? While rain is starting to pelt down upon our precious couch?

In the meantime, of course, another car had come into the alley behind us, completing the absolute madness. Hunger-induced crankiness ensued. Words were exchanged between myself and that Expedition's "navigator." Everyone threw up their hands. The details are a blur at this point but somehow, miraculously, we turned around and got back out of the alley. We found a place to stop and covered the couch with a tarp. Somehow we escaped to 15th Street which by some miracle was functioning and got the hell out of Dodge. Somehow the skies were sort of merciful and the storm had passed by the time we got home.

Nearly 90 minutes after leaving Springfield, VA, we got home.

What did we learn? Who is to blame

I tried to find a way to blame this on the bikes, but I couldn't. A couple of them did scare the crap out of me by blowing by me just as a light changed, but it was no skin off my nose. I did, however, nearly have a collission with someone in a wheelchair who playing frogger with his life downtown. That was awkward.

I would like to chastize the Park Service for the worst traffic control ever when closing basically the only way to get to Northwest DC from Memorial Bridge. You stole an hour of my life that I will never get back.

But at the end of the day, it was just one of those situations where everything aligns to create the perfect storm. That was one big twinkie, but we lived.

* I couldn't find any suitable quotes from "The Couch Trip." But they are both movies from the late '80s about escaped mental patients so it was close enough.


Alex said...

That's crazy. I would put all the blame on the Ford Expedition driver, because you have to be a douche to ever contemplate owning something like that, even without adding the bit about the trailer and backing up in an alley.

Jamie said...

The Expedition guys were insane. I despise those things. If two of them happened to be parked on opposite sides of my street, I bet trash trucks couldn't get through.

Besides that, the irony of having an apartment-sized vehicle but still requiring a trailer to haul around your crap...

Unknown said...

My girlfriend and I were victims of ally parkers this weekend. We were coming in from Virginia to find that our street was blocked off by the Caribbean Carnival. After some words with the police how, despite my gf's Virginia license plates I actually did live there they let us through. Of course there was no street parking, so we went into the ally to parking in my row house's space. Apparently one of the houses felt it was their right to park three cars in the actual ally blocking it off from all through traffic. And naturally backing up through an ally resulted in hitting a conveniently placed pole.