Loop right, loop left. Get on U.S. 50, go off U.S. 50, under U.S. 50, beside U.S. 50. Go 13 miles through the woods on a rutted, two-lane road. Go up a rise, down a rise, up another rise.
At last! Assuming you have not lost your sanity, or patience, or way, or sense of humor, you have arrived at the Capital Beltway train station in Lanham.
And you cannot arrive there by car in any other manner.
The situation will change in a year. By then, the Beltway railroad station will have been relocated into a terminal where Metro's extended Blue Line will also stop. The joint terminal will sit about 600 yards north of U.S. 50 and about 3/4 of a mile southwest of where the railroad station sits now.
By the time the joint terminal opens in October, 1978, new on and off ramps will have been grafted onto the westbound lanes of U.S. 50, greatly reducing the number of maneuvers necessary to reach the station.
Coming eastbound, motorists will still have to pass under U.S. 50 to reach the new station. But a new onramp joining U.S. 50 and Arwick-Ardmore Road will eliminate much of the competing traffic, and the new station will be much closer to the underpass than before.
In all, the adventurous spirit now useful in finding the station will soon be largely unnecessary.
For now, however, one must endure two stop signs, two yield signs, nine "this way" signs and about eight minutes to get from civilization to the station. If you like gauntlets, you'll love Lanham.
Waht makes the situation even crueler is that the Beltway and Annapolis Road, major through highways, are both visible from the station. The Beltway is more than visible; only 150 yards away, it is audible. And in the grove of elms separating Beltway from railway, one can easily envision a freeway interchange.
An interchange was considered in March, 1970, when the train station opened. But it was rejected for two reasons: the train station was only temporary, and the interchange would have been too close to an existing one (Annapolis Road) to meet interstate highway safety guidelines.
Enter Prince George's County. Taking over the train station from the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1972, the county built parking facilities and repaved and regraded Cobb Road, which connects U.S. 50 to the station.
"I get a lot of questions, oh, yes," said Esther Rosier, 26, a parking lot attendant and security guard at the station. "A lot of people say, 'I don't know if I can get back. Is this the only way to get in here?'
"I got lost myself the first time I tried to get here.Went almost to Annapolis."
One group that appreciates the trek through the trees is county cab drivers.
Regardless of where cab passengers are going, the meter will read $1.90 before the driver is even onto U.S. 50. A typical fare to the Ramada Inn at Annapolis Road and the Beltway, which a good outfielder could reach in two throws, is $4.50. Without all the looping and turning, now unavoidable, the fare would be $1.20.
"I look at it as a hassle." said Richard Boddy, 25, a driver for Capitol Cab. Better access to the train station "would save me time, but I'd lose that $1.90,"Boddy said.
Gary Rechter, a computer operator from Philadelphia, had just missed the U.S. 50 off-ramp en route to the station for the 11:52 one recent morning.
"The traffic's not so bad," said Rechter, "but this is ridiculous. It's a maze out there."
Rechter vowed that, on his next trip to Washington, he would drive. "Who wants to get lost?" he asked.