Washington


If you live, as I do, Between the Beltways, WTOP rapidly becomes your best friend.  You know, the one who gives you advice during the hard times, the one who has the last-minute scoop, the one who knows, well, everything.

Several moves ago (same house I live in now), I worked at Washington National Airport (now Reagan).  I commuted through some fairly scary areas.  WTOP, then found at 1500 AM, was my favorite station because of the excellent, frequent traffic reports.  Now, I work from home and teach my children here as well.  WTOP – found now at 103.5 FM – is still my best friend. 

Today, for example, I drove to a couple of local wine shops to research an upcoming article on Spanish wine.  Since I was in Annapolis, I hit Trader Joe’s (buffalo burgers needed restocking) and a couple of other errand spots.  As I started my car, I caught the latest traffic report.  WTOP reported a complete closure of  I-97 northbound at Farm Road…second time in a week.  I was able to divert onto Route 50 and take a different road home.

Deciphering traffic reports is a life skill.  I’ve lived in several large cities (I grew up in the Los Angeles area, a real traffic challenge) and learned to translate Italian and German traffic reports, out of necessity.  “Traffic jam” is “Stau” in German and “coda” in Italian, if you’re interesed.  It’s far better to avoid the seven-kilometer Stau than to endure it, trust me.

Last summer, I drove through Chicago en route to my friend’s Wisconsin home.  I had a decent map and a car radio.  I might as well have been in Beijing, really.  I listened to traffic reports that made no sense whatsoever.  If you’re in New York City as a tourist, you’ve at least heard of the Lincoln Tunnel, but Chicago’s landmarks and major traffic arteries were, well, more foreign to me than an Autobahn.  It was downright scary.  After I reached Wisconsin, I dragged out my Chicago maps and memorized the directions of the roadways I’d heard about on traffic reports.  Next time, I’m sure I’ll do better.

Navigating unfamiliar roads is always challenging.  When you’re in a new city, driving while trying to understand roadway slang, avoiding traffic problems is a superhuman feat.  That’s why I’m grateful to traffic reporters everywhere, especially my hometown heroes at WTOP.  You make our lives a little less stressful.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Bruce Wayne, KFI-In-The-Sky, traffic reporter for KFI radio, Los Angeles, who died in a fog-related crash.  He was L. A.’s first true traffic reporting personality.

I mentioned yesterday that the GW Memorial Parkway in Virginia is one of my favorite local roads.  The very first time I drove along the Parkway, it was spring – my first on the east coast.  The Parkway was a wonderland of blossoms in shades of white, pink and purple.  I was enchanted.  Some California trees bloom, of course, but not like this!

We drove all the way from D. C. to Mount Vernon and I just couldn’t stop staring at the flowers.  They were everywhere, cascading from branches and springing up from the roadside.  I’ll never forget that drive.

These days, I spend more time on the northern part of the Parkway, from the Pentagon up to Spout Run.  When it’s been raining, you can see little sparkling waterfalls on the west side of the road.  Green leaves peek out from the most improbable rocky places.  The Potomac River is far below, shaded by the branches.

I love to see people out enjoying their capital city, whether by bicycle or on foot.  Happily, the park areas near the GW Parkway are packed on weekends.  Gravelly Point Park, for example, near (Reagan) National Airport, is full of families flying kites, looking at airplanes and relaxing in the summer sunshine.  It’s a great place to stop and stretch your legs.

I think I’ll go for a drive.

I logged 4.5 hours behind the wheel today, all on D. C. metro area roads.  I hit the Beltway, Route 32, Route 29, I-66, Kenilworth Avenue, Route 50 and more.  For what?  Picking up a camera, taking a child to dance camp…that’s pretty much it.  Adding to the thrill was the fact that my first errand of the day, putting my new tire onto the right front wheel, had to be rescheduled, so I did all this with no spare tire.

Ouch.  I think I’m headed for a dose of Vitamin M (that’s Motrin to you and me) before bed, as even the tip of my nose is now aching.  I’m not qualified for the WNBA, but I’m a bit taller than the average bear-ette, and sandwiching myself into a Dodge Stratus for hours isn’t my idea of fun.

On the good side, the car did well in spite of the brutal pre-rush hour traffic, the 90-degree weather and the lack of spare tire.  I completed my errands without major problems.  We have the whole evening free to cuddle kitties and watch Animal Planet.  All’s well that ends well.