Interstate 495/Capital Beltway, Inner Loop, Northern Virginia at about Milepost 50 near Braddock Road exit, Wednesday, March 21, 2018 (yesterday), approx. 2:00 PM
If you’ve ever driven in the Washington, DC area, you should be able to figure out what’s rare about this photograph. I’ll add two more details: road conditions are not unusually slippery (surface is wet, not icy) and this stretch of highway did not have limited access when I took this photo.
This past Tuesday I was doing business near Washington, DC with a colleague from the Boston area. We then had to drive to Richmond, VA to spend the night because we had an appointment first thing Wednesday morning. There were reports of a major snowstorm coming. We had an afternoon appointment that a lot of people had to drive to in Fredericksburg, VA, about halfway between Richmond and DC along Interstate 95, and then I had to take him to a hotel near Dulles Airport.
Wednesday morning rolled around. Snow was falling in Richmond but not sticking to the road at that point. The guy in charge of our Fredericksburg meeting was telling me that guys from the DC area were bailing right and left, so we postponed. The Federal Government was closed. We went into our meeting, which took a couple of hours, and outside we could see snow falling pretty densely with large flakes. When our meeting ended, the parking lot had a little over an inch of snow. We had to head north, so we were a bit worried. Not terribly; we weren’t in a rush, I’ve driven plenty on snow and my passenger, who was willing to drive, lives outside of Boston - enough said.
We get out of the lot. The road has no snow on it. On a local highway, I cross slush while changing lanes. And that’s the worst I drive in all the way up to the DC area. Snow on the sides of the road have blades of grass visibly sticking up through it, all the way up. We have to drop a couple of boxes off at a guy’s house, so we go back to a residential area. Still no problem driving, even on the side streets. I try to go into a local bank branch later that afternoon: closed, I’m assuming because of weather, because I’m well within posted hours.
In the DC area, because so many people come from elsewhere, a whole lot of people are afraid to drive in weather. The Government and a whole lot of local businesses are closed, so hardly anyone’s on the Beltway.
This sinply is not what anywhere on the Beltway looks like during daylight. In fact, it’s not what the Beltway looks like on a weekday between 6 AM and 1 AM. I was very freaked out. I had to snap a few shots, and this is the one where my windshield wiper is out of the way. At the time there was a light snowy drizzle. For most of the day, driving was unusually easy and quick because conditions were decent but traffic was unusually light.
Unfortunately, yesterday evening I would run into the opposite situation. After I dropped my guy off at his hotel near Dulles - he couldn’t fly home early because the airlines had cancelled flights to New England - I headed north toward home. A little after I reached Pennsylvania, the roads got a bit slippery, but things didn’t get bad until I hit Interstate 81 just north of Harrisburg. This is a highway that goes through mountains, and it was snowing. Road conditions were what you would expect if Chris Christie was Governor of Pennsylvania and had it in for someone driving from Harrisburg to Hazelton (where the snow turned to rain). We’re talking a little under an hour and a half if conditions are good. I spent a fair amount of time driving in columns moving a little over thirty with a left lane that was white. I never saw evidence that any of the road northbound had been plowed. Southbound, oddly enough, was moving well. My best guess is that whoever ran the plow route was screwing someone else’s wife and not telling anyone where he was.
The right lane, the one you can see, often looked considerably worse than this.
The road cleared at Hazelton, leaving me another couple of hours to home, so I stopped at a Denny’s for dinner (it’s what I could find easily). I got home a little after eleven. Two days, starting Tuesday at 2:45 AM, less than twenty miles short of a thousand. I don’t like it when part of it is slow driving due to weather.
I’ll now include another photo from the trip. This has nothing to do with driving but has to do with the purpose of the trip. Why I’m telling this story will not become apparent until you see the photo. The guy I’m traveling with works for a loudspeaker company. We were requested by a design and installation company to assist them with a product demonstration, so we shipped the speaker in and went over to demonstrate it. Technology in this area has gotten way more sophisticated in the last several years, so these systems do things most people (including a whole lot of people within the industry) aren’t aware can be done at all, including keeping loudness pretty even as you get away from the speaker and minimizing the effects of room acoustics. We’re demonstrating a single box just for proof of concept, and we’re forced to demonstrate it from a table top rather than elevated, where it would perform substantially better and eliminate problems we can’t from this height. Also, when these speakers are stacked and electronically combined, they can accomplish the aforementioned even loudness and reverberation reduction functions much more effectively than a single box can. So we demonstrate the box on a table top and the people from the facility prefer it to the ceiling-mounted system they have, and the system that preceded that one, as is by itself on the table top. Not ideal, which is why they still want the full system, but an obvious improvement in terms of sound and intelligibility. Perhaps more surprisingly once you see the photo, the speaker can fill the room by itself without being pushed anywhere close to its maximum. This is by no means an inexpensive box, but you’re about to see why.
I’ve never tried anything like this before. Not at a distance like that with a single box.
In case scale is at all ambiguous, the box is 18 1/2 inches tall.