Archive for March, 2015

PentagonMemorial07

The Pentagon

The D.C. area is not only home to the largest library in the world, it is also home to the world’s largest office building.  Located just outside of D.C., across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia (MAP), that building is The Pentagon, and it is where I rode on this bike ride.

The Pentagon was dedicated on January 15, 1943, after ground was broken for construction two and a half years earlier, ironically on September 11th.  It is the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, although it was not initially intended to be.  In the 1930’s,  President Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned another building for the War and Navy departments, but they quickly outgrew that space. That’s when a new building was commissioned. The old War Department building is now the State Department.

The Pentagon also serves as a symbol of the U.S. military.  “The Pentagon” is often used metonymically (which is today’s vocabulary work of the day, and is defined as “a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept”) to refer to the Department of Defense, rather than the building itself.

Although it remains the world’s largest office building, The Pentagon currently ranks only 12th in the world, and 2nd in the U.S., of all buildings in terms of floor area, with approximately about 6.5 million sq ft, of which 3.7 million sq ft are used as offices. (Dubai International Airport is the largest in the world, and The Palazzo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is the largest in the U.S.)

Over 23,000 military and civilian employees and non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon. It has five sides, five floors above ground, two basement levels, and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 miles of corridors. It is thought of as one of the most efficient office buildings in the world. Despite the 17.5 miles of corridors it takes only seven minutes to walk between any two points in the building. The Pentagon covers 34 acres of land and includes a five-acre central plaza, which is shaped like a pentagon and informally and ironically known as “ground zero,” a nickname originating during the Cold War and based on the presumption that the Soviet Union would target one or more nuclear missiles at this central location in the outbreak of a nuclear war.

The Federal government paid just over $52 million for the land and to construct the massive building.  And under the oversight of General Leslie R. Groves, who also oversaw the Manhattan project,  building of the Pentagon was accomplished in just two years.   After the September 11, 2001 attacks, it cost $501 million dollars just to repair the damage.  And it has had one major renovation since it opened its doors in 1943.  That renovation was completed in 2011, cost $4.5 billion, and took 17 years to finish.

Some other interesting facts and figures about The Pentagon include the following. If you chopped off the Empire State Building at its base and laid it across the top of the Pentagon, it would not reach from end to end. And the Pentagon has twice as much office space as the Empire State building.  The Pentagon has 284 rest rooms, twice the number needed due to being built when racial segregation laws requiring separate facilities still existed. It also has 691 drinking fountains, including the legendary “purple water fountain.” The building was originally designed without elevators, to save on steel, but has 131 stairways and 19 escalators. The Pentagon has 16,250 light fixtures which require 250 new bulbs daily. It has its own post office, dry cleaner, barbershop, nail salon, shoe repair shop, gymnasium, clinic, florist, and even a DMV.  It also has a CVS, a Best Buy and an Adidas store. The Pentagon has plenty of dining options as well, including two Starbucks, three Subways, and a restaurant staff of 230 persons who work in 1 dining room, 2 cafeterias, and 6 indoor and 1 outdoor snack bars. The Pentagon also has: 4,200 clocks in the hallways; 7,754 windows, and; 16 parking lots with approximately 8,770 parking spaces. Over 200,000 telephone calls are made daily through phones connected by 100,000 miles of telephone cable. The building’s Post Office handles about 1.2 million pieces of mail monthly.  And, out of 210 countries in the world, the Pentagon consumes more oil per day than all but 35 countries.

The public can access The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, which is located on the grounds to the southwest of the building.  However, because it is a military facility, access to the building and other areas can be restricted.  But guided tours are available.  The Pentagon Tour includes a 60-minute presentation and a 1.49 mile walk through the building, and it is well worth the time.

Advertisements
GeorgetownLabyrinth01

The Georgetown Labyrinth

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a labyrinth as “a place that has many confusing paths or passages” and asserts that it is synonymous with a maze. But that definition is incorrect. A labyrinth and a maze are not the same. There is a distinction between the two. A maze is multicursal and refers to a complex branching puzzle to be deciphered with choices of path and direction, dead ends and either no exit or one that is difficult to find. A labyrinth, on the other hand, is unicursal, with a single, unambiguous path leading to the center and back which is not difficult to navigate.

The Labyrinth Society is a international organization whose mission is to support all those who create, maintain and use labyrinths.  According to the Society, a labyrinth is a tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation which is also thought to enhance right brain activity. Labyrinths have been an important part of many cultures spiritually for thousands of years, and have also been used to create decorative art. Walking through one is usually intended to be a meditative and contemplative act, and many religions, including some Christian churches, integrate walking meditation into their spiritual practices. For others, labyrinth walking is simply a great way to unwind on a beautiful day and clear your mind.

There are a number of labyrinths in the greater D.C. area – a dozen, actually. Two are nearby in Virginia. One is indoors, the other outdoors, and both are located at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria. There are also two in Maryland, one at the Hallowood Retreat Center in Dickerson, and the other at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton. There are also eight which are located in D.C. proper. One is on the grounds of the The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, located in D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood. Another is located on the rooftop terrace of a commercial office in northeast D.C. which houses the American Psychological Association.   There are also labyrinths located in some of the city’s churches. These include The Church of the Epiphany, Westminster Presbyterian Church, St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, and at Washington National Cathedral. The remaining labyrinth is the one I chose to visit and walk during this lunchtime bike ride.

Located in the Georgetown Waterfront Park, located at the southern end of 33rd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, The Georgetown Labyrinth is the only labyrinth located on public property in D.C.  It was provided by the TKF Foundation, a private grant-making foundation whose purpose is to create “Open Spaces, Sacred Places.”  The Georgetown Labyrinth is meant to “foster human spirituality and connections for people of all beliefs, faiths, and cultures.”

No one knows for certain the exact number of labyrinths in the United States, but in addition to the seven in D.C. there are 112 more in Virginia, and another 71 labyrinths in Maryland. There are labyrinths located in every state, with some states having 400 or more. So if you’d like to visit and maybe even experience a labyrinth walk for yourself, but you’re not in the local D.C. area, there is bound to be one near you. You can find one using the online World-Wide Labyrinth Locater. And you don’t have to wait until World Labyrinth Day (which is the first Saturday in May) to do it.

PartridgeJeep01

The Partridge Family Jeep

When I saw this Jeep on one of my recent lunchtime bike rides near the Four Mile Run Trail in Arlington, Virginia, my first thought was, “I hope it belongs to Suzanne Crough.”  I thought it would be really far-out to meet the youngest member of the Partridge family, especially since today is her 52nd birthday.  I figured it probably wasn’t hers though, because she lives in Bullhead City, Arizona, where she is a wife, mother to two children, and working as a manager at Office Max.

So I continued to wonder whose Jeep might this be. I knew it couldn’t be Dave Madden’s, because unfortunately he passed away in January of last year at the age of 82. And I figured it probably wasn’t Shirley Jones’ vehicle either, because at the age of 80 there’s a good chance that she isn’t still driving.  And even if she is, it probably isn’t in a vehicle that looks like this because she is a known as a very private person and this Jeep just stands out too much.

I’m also fairly certain that the Jeep does not belong to Ricky Segall, who played the precocious Ricky Stevens, the show’s “Cousin Oliver”, a cute but largely unnecessary shark-jumping Prince Valiant-haired moppet who popped up in the last five minutes of several episodes beginning in the series’ final season.  Because he had such a minor role in the show, he probably doesn’t hold the same loyalty or fondness for the Partridge family bus. Also, since Ricky was the only Partridge family member to also appear on The Brady Bunch (although Shirley Jones was originally offered the role of Mrs. Brady and turned it down), his loyalties are somewhat divided.  Additionally, it doesn’t seem like it would be the vehicle of choice of someone who dropped out of show business to become an ordained minister in Canada.

I then thought, maybe it belongs to Jeremy Gelbwaks. But after studying chemistry at UC Berkeley, he became a computer analyst and moved to New Orleans where he works as a business and technology planner. Besides, he was only with The Partridge Family for one year, and was replaced after the first season by Brian Forster.  So like Ricky Segall, he only rode on it for a year and probably doesn’t hold the same loyalty or fondness for the Partridge family bus.

I’m pretty sure the Jeep doesn’t belong to Brian Forster either. Brian is a race car driver in Northern California, and he continues to act in community theater there. So he spends most of his time on the west coast.

I also figured the Jeep probably doesn’t belong to Danny Bonaduce. After periods of drug abuse, homelessness, and a series of arrests, including soliciting and then robbing and beating a transvestite prostitute, he seems to have his act together these days.  He’s now fairly busy professionally, currently working on his number one morning radio show, The Danny Bonaduce Show on KZOK 102.5, Seattle’s classic rock station. He also works as a commentator on the TruTV Network show entitled “The Smoking Gun Presents: World’s Dumbest … ”, as well as making various guest appearances and performances.  Besides, he also spends the majority of his time on the west coast, with homes in both Los Angeles and Seattle. He spends most of his time in Seattle though, which is why he is currently trying to rent out his residence in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. So if you are a big Partridge Family or Danny Bonaduce fan, and can spare $12,000.00 a month, you may want to check out his house because the Jeep probably isn’t his.

Susan Dey, currently a board member of the Rape Treatment Center at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, probably is not the owner of this Jeep as well. It seems out of character for someone who has disassociated herself from the show and is the only person who has consistently refused to take part in any Partridge family reunions over the years. This might be attributable to the unrequited crush she had on David Cassidy throughout the series, which she did not handle particularly well.

This leaves David Cassidy, but the Jeep probably isn’t his either.   Even though he was here in the D.C. area a few weeks ago when he performed at the The Birchmere in Alexandria, I still don’t think it is his.  As child stars tend to do, David Cassidy for a long time wanted to break away from the character he played on TV, so he probably wouldn’t want to drive around in a vehicle that reminds everyone of the TV series.  I was kind of hoping it wasn’t David Cassidy’s anyway. After multiple drunk driving arrests over the past few years in Florida, California and New York, including one just last year, he shouldn’t be driving. Especially since it seems as though he doesn’t fully understand the seriousness of the offenses. The arrest report in one of his recent cases, when he was pulled over and arrested by an officer who happened to be named Tom Jones, reported that Cassidy jokingly asked officer Jones “What’s New Pussycat?” in reference to the 1965 hit song by the singer who shares the same name as the officer. Also, a video of one of Cassidy’s other drunk driving arrests was featured on the TruTV Network series entitled “The Smoking Gun Presents: World’s Dumbest … ”, in which his fellow Partridge family member Danny Bonaduce jokingly thanked Cassidy for no longer making Bonaduce “the most embarrassing member of The Partridge Family.”

So, having ruled out all of the members of the Partridge family, I guess I may never know who owns this groovy Jeep.

PartridgeFamily01

FullCount01

Full Count

With the unusual amount of snow and ice and the bitter cold temperatures we have had to endure here in the D.C. area this winter, it sometimes feels as though summer will never arrive. But it is, indeed, coming. And one sure sign of summer’s impending arrival is baseball season’s opening day. So take heart, because one month from tomorrow is the official start of the 2015 season.

To celebrate this fact I chose to ride to the Federal Reserve Annex on this lunchtime bike ride. Now that may seem like an odd choice, but I chose it because of an art installation entitled “Full Count,” which may be found on the north lawn of the grounds of the annex, located near the intersection of Virginia Avenue and 20th Street (MAP) in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of northwest D.C.

Full Count is a collection of four life-size bronze figures depicting a baseball pitcher, a catcher, a batter and a home plate umpire. Created by American sculptor John Dreyfuss, the statues are arranged to capture the pinnacle moment of America’s official pastime – a moment when anything is possible. As the pitcher contemplates what pitch he will throw to home plate, 60 feet and 6 inches away, the batter stands tall as he prepares to take his stance to await the pitch and a chance to take a swing. The catcher and umpire lean in close. It’s not just the batter’s turn at the plate that is at stake. The entire game can hinge on this moment. It’s a full count, and the next pitch could be the most important of the game. Will the batter foul it off and prolong the drama? Or maybe it will be a strike, and the batter’s team will go down in defeat. Perhaps it will be every little leaguers dream – a walk-off homerun. It is all up to your imagination in the moments that you experience “Full Count.”

But for now it’s back to reality, as the snow on the ground near the statues attests. It is still just over a month until opening day at Nationals Park and other ballparks around the country.  And the players are still far away, at spring training in warm locations like Florida or Arizona.  So for now, we just have to remember that like baseball and the boys of summer, the warm weather will be here soon enough.

FullCount01a     FullCount03     FullCount04

FullCount02     FullCount05

WoodrowWilsonBridge01

The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge

You would think that a mile and a quarter long, multi-span drawbridge which carries a twelve-lane interstate highway used by more than a quarter of a million vehicles every day would not be a very good location for riding a bicycle, but that is not the case with the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.

The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, commonly referred to as the Wilson Bridge, was planned and built as part of the Interstate Highway System created by Congress in 1956. Construction of the bridge began in the late 1950s, at which time it was called the Jones Point Bridge. It was renamed the “Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge” in honor of our country’s 28th President in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as part of that year’s centennial celebration of Woodrow Wilson’s birth on December 28, 1856. President Wilson was an advocate of automobile and highway improvements in the United States, and during his presidency reportedly spent an average of two hours a day riding in his automobile to relax and, as he would say, “loosen his mind from the problems before him.”

The Wilson Bridge opened to traffic on December 28, 1961. First Lady Edith Wilson, the widow of President Wilson, was supposed to have been the guest of honor at the bridge’s dedication ceremony honoring her husband on what would have been his 105th birthday. However, she died that very morning at the family home they had shared in northwest D.C.

The Wilson Bridge as it was originally constructed was designed to handle between 70 and 75 thousand vehicles a day. But by 1999 the bridge was handling 200,000 vehicles a day. This caused not only traffic issues but serious maintenance problems as well. Despite undergoing continuous patchwork maintenance beginning in the 1970’s, and being completely re-decked in 1983, the overuse took its toll and in 2000 construction began to replace the bridge with two new side-by-side drawbridges. The massive $2.357 billion construction project utilized 26 prime contractors and 260 subcontractors employing 1,200 full-time workers.  The 230 thousand ton, 1.2-mile long structure was completed almost a decade later.

The Wilson Bridge currently consists of two parallel bridge structures, each with 17 fixed spans and one 270-foot twin double leaf bascule span. The northern span carries the Inner Loop of the Capital Beltway, which is comprised of Interstate 95 and Interstate 495, while the southern span contains the beltway’s Outer Loop.  And with eight leaves, each weighing four million pounds, giving the drawbridge 32 million pounds of moving mass, it is the biggest drawbridge in the world.

Connecting the city of Alexandria, Virginia, with National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Prince George’s County, Maryland, the Wilson Bridge also crosses the tip of the southernmost corner of D.C., giving it the distinction of being the only bridge in the United States that crosses the borders of three jurisdictions. The 300-foot mid-span of the western portion of the bridge is also the shortest segment of Interstate Highway between state lines.

But to me, one of the most impressive features of this massive structure was the forethought to make it bicycle friendly. The northern span of the bridge includes a pedestrian and bike passageway known as the Wilson Bridge Bike Trial. The 3.5-mile trail extends from Oxon Hill Road across the Potomac River to the Huntington Metro Station in Virginia. The trail connects to the network of trails, including the Mount Vernon Trail at Jones Point Park in Virginia.  And future plans call for it to connect with the Potomac Heritage Trail in Maryland. The trail has a steel railing on the north side called the bicycle barrier and a concrete barrier with a short steel railing on top called the combination barrier to separate the bikeway traffic from the highway traffic. The trail, which opened on June 6, 2009, is approximately 12 feet wide, with “bump-out” areas where users can stop to observe views of D.C. and Old Town Alexandria.

The Wilson Bridge Bike Trial has a speed limit of 10 m.p.h., which is a good idea due to the bridge’s many steel joints that can damage bike tires and rims at high speeds. The speed limit for bikes is also a good idea since the trail is also used by many pedestrians.  While riding on the trail it’s also a good idea to remember that it is a drawbridge and may open periodically, so paying attention to warning lights and bells is necessary. The trail is closed between midnight and 5:30 a.m.  It is also closed during snowstorms, so much like the D.C. area, it has had a rough go of it this winter.

WoodrowWilsonBridge01a     WoodrowWilsonBridge03     WoodrowWilsonBridge04
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]