Getting to Dulles . . .
REGARDING your comparisons of ways of getting to Dulles Airport [Lab Report, Nov. 24], I agree that driving to Dulles from the District is relatively easy, but it can be a completely different experience coming from Montgomery County. The Beltway can be backed up at any time of the day (there's no alternate route), and the nerve-racking experience of crossing four lanes of the Virginia toll road in afternoon rush hour to get to the Dulles Access Road (in less than a half-mile!) can demoralize even the most experienced driver. And as far as parking in the economy lot, well . . . The time spent driving around looking for a space, locating and walking to the nearest bus pickup point and waiting for the bus can only increase a traveler's frustration after a harried commute.
I hate everything about Dulles, but driving and parking there is probably my most hated part of the experience. And, as a United frequent flier, I usually have no choice.
. . . and Parking There
I READ with interest your column about Dulles parking lots and their special prepaid exit lanes [Coming and Going, Dec. 1]. The system is definitely a boost to getting out of the parking lots quickly, but only during non-rush hours. There is a big problem with the set-up during evening rush hour as one attempts to enter the highway just south of the exit plaza, since entrance to the highway is controlled by a stop sign.
All vehicular movement between the stop sign and the exit plaza becomes dependent on the four-lane road being clear of vehicles so that people can exit left out of the parking lot to leave the airport grounds. At rush hour, vehicles back up from the stop sign to the exit plaza to the extent that cars still in the parking lot cannot exit until traffic in front of the exit plaza has moved. A stop light is needed at that junction or, at the very least, a police officer controlling traffic during rush hour.
YOUR COLUMN suggests that patrons parking briefly at Dulles (e.g., to pick up arriving passengers) cannot use the new self-service machines near the arrival area without paying a fee and therefore require a human cashier at exit. However, even though these self-service machines cannot deal with free minutes, the machines at the exit in the automated lanes can: If exiting within the grace period, one can simply insert the card into the card reader and the gate barrier will lift, just as it would with a card that had been "imprinted" by the self-service machine.
THE NEW machines that allow you to pay for parking before leaving the terminal have another problem. They accept "cash or credit card," but the operative word is "or." Some accept cash. Some accept credit cards. Strange as it seems, not one I've found offers both options.
I made this discovery last weekend. There was a bank of four or five machines, and the only available ones were all credit card only, which sounds silly for a $3 charge. As per your column, the $3 probably wasn't valid either because of the lack of a grace period when using the machines! The only way to pay cash was to stand in line and wait at the cash-only machine. Another alternative, as an attendant pointed out, was to hike elsewhere in the terminal (away from where my car was parked) in hopes of finding another unit that accepts cash.
DELTA HAS a partnership with Air France. In fact, Delta flights from Washington are on Air France. But they have different availabilities [Coming and Going, Nov. 24]. I can get an upgrade on the nonstop D.C.-Paris flight on AF for about $1,100; I can't get the upgrade from Delta for less than $1,300. And I can't use my Delta miles to get the AF upgrade, although I can use them to get a free ticket. Since I prefer to use my miles for upgrades (they're worth more that way, too), I'm up a creek!
Dolphins in the Wild
FOR ANYONE who wants to swim with dolphins ["Fin-Off: Sea Cows vs. Flipper," Nov. 10]:
About 12 years ago, I threw my wetsuit on and ran into the ocean off of Bethany for an early-morning swim. As I was chugging back toward my takeout point, I felt a slight bump on my right thigh. Reaching my hand back, I felt something smooth, round and large. I didn't know what it was until I stopped for a look and realized I was swimming in the middle of a group of dolphins. I figured that one of them was inspecting me.
A memory I will never forget.
La Plata, Md.
JUST THOUGHT I would tell you that I took you up on your "discover Queens" story ["Queens for a Day," Nov. 3].
This weekend I journeyed to New York to celebrate my daughter's birthday, which we would normally do in Manhattan. But I took a cue from you and we did the "Queens thing." It turned out to be most enjoyable. We stayed at the Best Western City View Motor Inn, and, as you stated, it was quite comfortable and reasonable.
The American Museum of the Moving Image was fascinating . . . and something we never knew existed! The birthday celebration Saturday night was at a restaurant you recommended -- Tournesol, Bistro Francais. It was marvelous.
Thanks for a well-researched story and right-on-the-money recommendations. We're saving a few of the other mentions for a future visit.
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