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August 2011

The last post about titles, exams, or the dmv, I'll ever do- I promise.

Speaking of titles, I'm the legal owner of my motor scooter once again.  The Virginia DMV issued me a new title last week.  I gave them every document I had on it, including three years of Australian registrations, a faded Scooteria point of sale receipt, and a letter from the Australian Roads and Traffic Authority.  The DMV person was still a little hesitant but after showing her how the registration is used to transfer ownership from seller to buyer, I think that did the trick. 

For those interested in taking the Virginia motorcycle road skills test- (to everyone else, the rest of this may be a little boring.) 

The Virginia DMV doesn't have a one stop shop for motorcycle riders.  Their site allows you to search for DMV locations.  Each location has a website specific to the services they offer.  Some sites specifically say, motorcycle road skills tests are NOT offered here.  The ones that do offer the driving test, don't advertise it.  So if the site doesn't say "it's not offered here", then it is.  Nice. 

The nearest driving test facility to Falls Church is Alexandria, 10 miles away.  On Saturday, I went early, waited two hours, my number came up, and it started to rain. (Irene hates scooters)  The tester cancelled my test.  They didn't want to risk someone getting injured if the rain caused them to wipe out during the test.  I asked the tester's supervisor if I could waive any responsibly of the DMV and take it anyway.  They declined my offer.  Out of curosity, I asked the supervisor what happens when a motorcyclist encounters bad weather at some point in their future?  Wouldn't rain make it a more appropriate testing environment?  Isn't it unsafe to test cyclists only during the most optimal conditions. He didn't respond. Ahh, check and mate, sir.

I ended up taking a day off and went back again on Monday.  I arrived right when the DMV open and during sunny skies.  But after five minutes in line the DMV's printers went off-line.  No ETA on the system's availability.  The next closest DMV is 5 miles away in Franconia, VA.  The third times the charm they say. I headed to Franconia and arrived around 9:30am to wait in line again.  Other DMV's were also experiencing problems so the overflow came to Franconia instead. My number was called 2 hours later. 

The motorcycle test area is located in the DMV parking lot.  The north and south ends of the area still allowed DMV traffic to come and go.  A couple of times, I had to wait for the flow of traffic to cease before starting an exercise. The tester set up all the traffic cones and explained each exercise in detail.  They were the same as the examples already found on the internet so I was glad there were no surprises.

Virginia's 2011 Motorcycle road skills test

1st & 2nd exercise- Cycle to the opposite side and make a sharp left turn without touching the lines.  After the turn come back and do a controlled stop, which will place the front tire in a white bordered square.  The tester said as long as the tire met the ground inside box, it didn't matter if my fender or any other part of the tire was over the painted box.  Not the same info as other testees have reported, but I didn't question it.

3rd & 4th exercise - Move forward and weave through 5 traffic cones 12ft apart in length, and offset by 3 ft.  After the cones, come back to the start and perform a right handed u-turn with in the painted lines. 

5th exercise - Perform a controlled stop as quick as possible after reaching 12-15mph.  The tester said I needed to accelerate by the first line I cross and maintain that speed until I cross the second line.  After crossing the second line, apply the brakes, stop and wait for the tester to measure the distance from the second line to where I ended up.

6th exercise - Do the same exercise again, but instead of stopping after the second line, swerve to the left or right and avoid touching the painted lines.  The tester told me which way to turn as he read the question.

  • #1 Left turn - I passed
  • #2 Stop in the box - I passed
  • #3 Cone weave - Dropped my foot once but kept going and finished the rest of the cones.
  • #4 Right U-turn - I passed
  • #5 Controlled stop - I passed (I braked so hard even the tester was even impressed.)
  • #6 Controlled swerve - I passed

Contrary to what other cyclists said, I was never told I could do any of the exercises more than once.  The tester told me I would do each exercise once, and my score would be based on points.  Get too many points and I fail the test.  My score was 3 points, since I put my foot down once.  Had I failed, I would have had to come back another time.  Fail the entire test three times and you have to go to a special class for motorcycle driving safety, in order to get your full license.

Thankfully, I passed.  'Cuz you know, who wants to hang out with all those cycle rejects in summer school. 

Irene's departure

It was a dark and stormy night...

Hurricane Irene peaked over Virginia around 2AM.  By morning around 890,000 Virginia/DC/Maryland residences had lost power.  I lost power around 3:30AM and stayed up until dawn to make sure my basement didn't flood.  I have a newly finished basement with all my electronics plus a new AC sump pump and a DC backup pump.  The pumps were installed about a month after I moved into the house.  My neighborhood has a ton of trees and I expected frequent power outages due to falling branches. 

After the outage, the main pump stopped running and the backup pump took over, working straight through the early morning hours.  It ran continuously for about 4 hours until the rain had stopped and the ground water had leveled off.  

Dominion power did a great job getting power restored.  Mine was back on by 10AM.  That's a quick turnaround, in my book, considering the hundreds of thousands that were effected.  Try living overseas and being without it for days and then you'll see how nice it is to be here in the States.

The only other damage around my house was all the dead branches in my front and back yards.  One cluster of branches fell about 20 feet from me after I had just cleared the yard.  Even though it's now a sunny Sunday morning, there's still a strong wind blowing, so I'll leave the rest of the cleaning till this evening.

The six year list

Courtesy of NASA - Hurricane Irene 
A hurricane's approach always reminds me of a kid's pun.  "Why are hurricanes always girls? Because if they were boys, they'd be himacanes."  Then along comes 1979, and now hurricanes can carry a male moniker as well.

I know hurricane names are reused but who decides which names are given and when?  Turns out the World Meteorological Organization does.  So coinciding with Hurricane Irene's timely approach, I present the six year list of Atlantic storm names and the order in which they're given.

Download The six year list

If a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate, for obvious reasons of sensitivity, than it's removed from the list and retired.

Retired hurricane names

My entire family's names are on the retired list but mine is not. My sister's name is actually on it twice. I'd say that shows you which names are associated with destruction and mayhem.  I'm saving that bit of trivia for the next stressful holiday get together.

shimmy, shimmy, shake..

 Soon to be I-survived-the-2011-quake tee shirt buyers 

Yesterday's quake in Virginia reverberated along the East coast, including in DC.  I don't have anything extra to add to the numerous reports already available via your favorite search engine.  Only to say I was impressed once again by the speed of the Internet as a means to communicate.  Cellular phone calls were hard to establish.  And standing outside in a mass of people tends to create a lemming effect without anyone taking the lead.  I only spotted a couple people with bullhorns and even they couldn't be heard above the crowd noise very well.  But searching the web via smartphone, provided a quick confirmation on the quakes location exactly when it happened. 

  • reported the 5.8 quake occurred in Mineral, VA. 
  • Facebook's friends status updates scrolled by with flash mob synchronization, reports of feeling the quake and how they were doing. 
  • Metro rail updated its timetables and informed riders that trains are running at reduced speeds of 15mph.

Leaving the city yesterday afternoon was difficult.  It seemed like all the district's workers were leaving at once.  Metro trains were running 20 min apart and packed beyond capacity.  Buses were stuck in traffic with standing room only.  I ended up walking from Foggy Bottom metro to Rosslyn just to get a cab.  And even hailing a cab was futile until I asked a doorman in front of the Key Bridge Holiday Inn to call one for me.  I stopped by the DMV on the way home to take care of some business.  Unfortunately, afterwards I found myself stranded once again just a couple miles from home.  My bus came by but didn't stop even though it was 1/2 empty.  It was another 20 minutes for the next one, so I ended up walking home the rest of the way.

I guess it's best to get out of Dodge as early as possible to avoid the onslaught of mass transit communters, or get my scooter street legal as soon as possible.. 

Italian seeks asylum in my house

  who didn't know it was casual topcoat day? 

 -Overworked U.S. Customs agents take a break to pose for their new Facebook profile photo-


My Italian scooter is in the country illegally.  I didn't receive any cleared paperwork from U.S Customs when it arrived a few weeks ago.  The cycle continues to hide out from authorities while I go back and prove it's cleared inspections.  

I learned that U.S Customs sometimes clears shipments but never officially stamps every cleared document.  That's what they did with my cycle.  No explanation was given as to why they didn't hold the paperwork until they could stamp it.  They just sent it onward to a shipper anyway.  It's like mailing a letter without a stamp and being surprised when it's returned.

So the shipping company returned the paperwork to Customs and asked how soon they could stamped the paperwork.  Customs response was; "When we get around to it.".  Customs said they have new shipments now, that are a higher precedence over mine. 

There's an example of "job security" in action for you.  Guarenteed duplication of work, with a nice little buffer of wasted time in between.  Touché, Customs. Touché.

Once all of this is settled, there's still a small matter involving ownership.  I left Australia with my cycle and the understanding Australia does not use a title to signify ownership.  You register the vehicle with their local Roads and Traffic Authority to say you're the operator of said vehicle.  But if someone decides to steal your car, you don't actually have any proof that it's yours except for a receipt saying you payed for it.  Good luck with proving it's not a forged receipt.  The judge will see you now.  Here's your car 2 years later.

The Virginia DMV tells me Australia does use a title.  They just couldn't tell me what it's called. So the next time I go to the DMV, I'll bring my faded receipt showing paid in full, all the years of registration tags with my name as the operator, and a didgeridoo-signed by the Prime Minister saying "enjoy touring Oz on your new scoot Dan!". 

Is it worth going through all this to have a cycle?  If your everyday DC commute is on the Orange line, you wouldn't have to ask.