We decided to start our journey at 6:00 am sharp on Monday, August 11. We had spent the previous day calculating trip times between our various destinations and way points (38 in all), and meticulously mapping out in a spreadsheet (see below). We came up with 12 hours and 48 minutes as our official estimate.
We gathered all the necessary provisions for our trip in our respective backpacks:
- thermos of coffee
- couple of sandwiches
- granola/breakfast bars
- candy (mini Three Musketeers, Milky Way, and others)
- a reusable water bottle
- extra phone batteries
- portable USB charger
- wet wipes
- printable WMATA map
- folder with Metro Map and our official timetable
- Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine, and
5:58 a.m. All’s quiet on the Arlington front. We started our journey in Rosslyn, where we reside. At this early hour, Arlington was just starting to show signs of life as cars began to arrive in parking garages and people moved in and out of the Metro turnstiles with a fresh Express paper in hand. Naturally we took the new high speed elevators down to the platform instead of conquering the first escalator.
Our first destination was due west – Vienna. After waiting seven minutes for a Vienna-bound train, we boarded a silent, but not empty, Metro car and swiftly moved towards our first end point and scavenger hunt item, the end-point selfie.
After taking a quick selfie at Vienna, we caught an inbound Orange Line train to East Falls Church and made our first transfer on to the much-famed Silver line. This morning was actually my first Silver line experience. I had intended to ride on the first train on July 26 but was unable to join my designated regional leaders. Despite being aboard a 40-year-old 1000 series car, our train glided smoothly along the new rails and we were able to enjoy the scenic views of Tyson’s and the West Falls Church rail yard from a-top the new system. After some time, we got to Wiehle Ave and snapped our second selfie and made off for the District on a comfortable 5000 series, car 5166 to be exact.
We switched trains in Rosslyn to complete our second transfer and skipped up to the Red Line at Metro Center on one of the 4000-series cars which all seem to be living on the Red Line. Our first Red line stops were Woodley Park, Bethesda, and Medical Center, which feature three of the five tallest escalators in the system. Honestly, this was not as exciting as it could have been. But, after traversing the combined 618 feet of escalator and some heavy breathing, we made it up to Shady Grove for selfie number three and did our turnaround back into the heart of the system.
We zipped back down to Metro Center and caught an Orange line train due east to New Carrolton. As we passed Stadium Armory, we watched D.C. police driver training in the RFK Stadium parking lot and watched rookie cops whip their cruisers around methodically placed traffic cones. In New Carrolton, we did our routine and doubled back to Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center for two more checklist items (art and selfies).
10:30 a.m. Time for a bathroom break. Unfortunately, we were informed by the station manager at Largo Town Center, without elaboration, that the bathrooms were closed for the day for “safety reasons.” No matter. We continued back towards L’Enfant Plaza – interestingly enough again by chance on car 5166 – where we were able to use the customer facilities without a problem.
By this point, we had crossed the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines off of our list and had already ridden in all six series of Metrocars. Now it was time for the Green Line. We caught a Branch Avenue-bound train and got off at our first stop: Anacostia, which is pretty remarkable. Because of how close to the surface the station is, it doesn’t use a vaulted ceiling design, but rather, individual compartments which do a tremendous job of isolating sound and creating a unique décor that is still fitting within the style of the Metro system. We exited the station here and observed the art installation, River Spirits of the Anacostia, prominently displayed atop and around the station entrance. We had a few minutes to walk around and take in the station, given the 12-minute intervals between trains.
We passed Congress Heights but stopped at all the remaining Green Line stations, Southern Avenue, Naylor Road, Suitland, and finally Branch Avenue. We faced our first real disappointment at Suitland because the art installation advertised on the WMATA website has not been there for at least two years. The station manager we spoke with had never heard of the installation and seemed a little surprised and caught off guard that two people were in Suitland looking for art. No matter. We did our familiar about face at Branch Avenue and pressed north, as it was time to finish the Red Line. We switched over at Gallery Place after stopping briefly at Archives to snap a few pictures, accidently blinding the Metro driver with flash photography in the process.
Our first stop on the Red Line was Silver Spring. It was here I had hoped to see the “Penguins on the Go” art mural, but alas it was not meant to be. After wandering the station in search of art, we talked to a station manager who was familiar with the piece but wasn’t sure if it was still here as they had gotten rid of it a few years ago with the ambition of repainting it. He let us exit the station through the emergency gate to see if it was still on the wall but it wasn’t. It was just a wall. We spent the next 10 minutes poking fun at the Silver Spring Transit Center, surmising how it was possible to mess up a simple parking garage.
2:00 p.m. Up one stop on the Red Line, we traversed to the deepest point on the Metro, Forest Glen. Forest Glen is the only station serviced solely by elevators. This stop did not disappoint. It was eerily silent with the exception of water dripping onto the track down the tunnel. We took some really artsy pictures here and walked around the lazy station, almost entirely devoid of people, with the exception of the lonely station manager in his command post between the two tunnels.
After our photoshoot, we zipped up to Wheaton and played around on the longest escalator in the Western hemisphere by snapping selfies of us appearing to hold onto the railings for dear life. After a little backtracking from Glenmont, we paused at Fort Totten to observe the 2009 Red Line memorial and switched up to conquer Greenbelt. The Greenbelt stop is surprisingly scenic and, while traveling between College Park and Greenbelt, you are treated to a nice scenic view of the College Park Airport and Museum.
3:30pm. We’re 10 hours into our journey and are 30 minutes ahead of schedule. We can taste the finish line. As we headed back through the city towards Huntington and Franconia, we benefited from the extra train service down the Green/Yellow line as we made numerous stop at Petworth, U Street, and Columbia Heights to see the art.
After a quick stop at Pentagon to switch over to a Huntington-bound train, we arrived at the end point on the Yellow Line and quickly found the incline elevator! While it wasn’t quite up to par with the speed of the Rosslyn or Forest Glen elevators, the experience was still exciting and novel and warranted some photography.
We boarded the train once again and set off for Franconia – Springfield by way of King Street, the final end and transfer points on our journey. Time was on our side here as we were lucky to not have to wait more than a few minutes for a Blue Line train. As we set off for Rosslyn, we fist pumped and exchanged high fives as we passed through Arlington Cemetery, the marker for our 91st station passed through or visited for the day. At the top of the Rosslyn escalators, we clocked in at 11 hours and 50 minutes, nearly a full hour ahead of schedule at a mere cost of $14.30 per person for a day’s worth of adventure.
In retrospect, it may have made sense to get the one-day pass ($14.95) to have the freedom to go in and out of the Metro gates as we pleased, but overall, we were happy with our trip planning and were glad that we decided not to wait to do this trip on the following Friday, amid the disastrous cracked rail and subsequent Blue Line closure.