The Commute: From Here To Eternity

Years ago a small band of CIA employees (inspired by colleagues John Heidemann and John Seabury Thomson) decided there was a better way to get from their Maryland homes to their Virginia office. If you are geographically challenged be advised that the Potomac River separates the two states.

The resourceful CIA guys got a canoe. They commuted for years, avoiding lots of traffic and getting lots of exercise, until the New York Times did a feature story and blew their cover.

It’s probably safe to say that more feds are commuting longer distances than ever before. High housing costs forced many to the burbs.

Metro Washington, home to the largest concentration of feds, is a classic case. Depending on whose survey you read, our traffic is second or third worst in the country.

The other day we talked about Long Rangers, including one fed whose daily roundtrip commute is 200 miles. You can check it by clicking here.

A number responded with some interesting takes – some interesting commutes and some interesting numbers.

For example:

I commuted the last 30 or so years from Hagerstown, Cumberland, Westminster to Rockville. I retired and went to work for the feds in McLean and recently moved even further away to Littlestown, Pa.. It was 47 from Westminster and now 73. I used a Geo Metro quite a bit I bought new in ’93 and always got 50 mpg. It died with 220,000 on it. I was later able to locate a pristine ’92 Metro with an auto trans that “only” gets 42 mpg. It still has the old R 12 a/c coolant so it’s ice cold in summer.

You almost have to commute if you want to make the money (or work for a certain agency.) I have co workers that do 90 each way from WV every day, so I can’t complain and I know there’s some even further out. I maintain a locker with extra clothing etc if I need to stay over and if it snows.” Rick

For a five month period (middle 1990’s) during my career, I did a 140 mile daily RT commute as a “travel assignment.” My employer had decided it was cheaper for me to “commute” this travel assignment (and pay me strictly mileage) instead of paying per diem. Although I agreed with the logic of saving travel funds, (and the mileage money was FANTASTIC), I am glad it was only 5 months. Let’s just say, during that five months, I occasionally “found” reasons to take sick leave just to avoid the drive!

Oh, how did I keep my sanity on those drives? I listened to NPR, and I purchased a few “learning courses on tape” for those drives.

Please sign me as “Retired Anonymous

Think how much better the commute would be now that there’s WFED (1050 on your AM dial)! — Mike

I hope this email makes sense, there’s a lot to talk about with long commutes and I’m trying to be brief.

Long distance commuters who do it for just a few thousand dollars extra each year need to examine how much the commute costs, both financially and personally. I commute from Leesburg to Alexandria each day, on a motorcycle most days (only in snow or ice storms do I use a car). So fuel costs are as low as I can realistically expect (at about 48 mpg).

Even so, I have to use the Greenway and the toll road, so each month I spend about $175 in tolls and about $126 for gas. So already I’m spending $300 just to travel to work and back. My commute is typically 55 to 60 minutes each day, partly because I can use the HOV lanes.

Now factor in the maintenance costs. My commute of 92 miles each day pales in comparison to commuting from Pennsylvania or the eastern shore. And because I use a motorcycle that is highly reliable and trouble-free, my costs are very low.

…I have to wonder how many people do these long commutes (more than 50 miles one way) because they are afraid they can’t get the work where they live. My neighbor commuted to Washington D.C for several years until he finally decided to find work in Leesburg. Yes he took a pay cut of about $8k, but his commuting costs went way down and his quality of life went up because he was finally able to be home with his wife and young child.

In the end we have to weigh what we give up by not being home against what we gain… So I’ll continue to make this commute until my agency is forced to move to Ft. Meade at which time I’ll have to move. That commute, over the top of the beltway, just isn’t attractive right now. Paul in Leesburg, Va.

The Nearly Useless Factoid

The next time someone tells you that the only real person to be depicted as a PEZ dispenser was Betsy Ross, you’ll know better. According to, there have been three! Betsy was one, Daniel Boone was another, and the third was Paul Revere (although his was named the “Captain“.)

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