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Slug Tales: Elvis Lover Bewilders Commuters

By Laura Cirillo

Anyone who frequently uses the slug lines to commute is bound to experience something out of the ordinary from time to time. When asked, most slugs could probably manage to recall a unique personality or situation they’ve experienced at some point of their travels.

One morning while Slugging to work, I was picked up by a retired Marine who was headed to the Pentagon. It was clear from the start he was a Marine, from his car’s license plate holder, to his Marine Corps baseball cap, to the piles of Marine doodads inside his car, there was certainly no mistaking it.

What made this significantly more peculiar was that he didn’t look like a stereotypical fit, retired military-type, and more like, well, Santa Claus. Overgrown white hair, white beard, glasses and… denim overalls? Look, I don’t know what Santa wears in the off-season. I just knew the second I got into the backseat and shut the door that this was going to be an interesting ride.

I wondered where this man would go once he arrived at the Pentagon. Could he possibly work a desk job dressed like that? I pondered this while we listened to a twangy old country song that sounded a lot like Elvis Presley. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I discovered later that it was actually an Elvis song.

“Train, traaaaain, comin’ round, round the bend…” I was pretty sure that would be stuck in my head all day. The song ended as I closed my eyes in an attempt to catch up on the sleep I undoubtedly missed out on the night before, and next thing I know, the song started playing again!

“Train I riiiiide, sixteen coaches long… Well, that long black train got my baby and gone…”

OK, I get it. He likes the song and wants to hear it again. He must have hit repeat on his CD player, which I’ve done that plenty of times myself. But once it was over, it played again. And again. That song played in one continuous loop, repeating itself over and over as Saint Nick drove 90 mph on the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes to the Pentagon. I was starting to feel like I had entered The Twilight Zone.

The best part of that morning had to be the end of the ride. As he stopped the car at the designated Slug drop-off spot, he turned down the music and said, smiling, “Well, I hope you’ve both memorized the words to my favorite song. I know I sure have!”

Normally, I’d say “thank you” before exiting the vehicle, but that day, even I was at a loss for words. After all, how do you respond to that?!

The front seat passenger got out, shut the door and looked at me, bewildered.

“Was that the same song playing over and over?” she asked. I told her that I was pretty sure it was the exact same song throughout the ride.

“Weird,” she said, shaking her head. “I thought maybe it was a remix, but I didn’t think they could remix country songs like that.”

All I could do was laugh.

Laura Cirillo lives in Prince William County and commutes to work daily in Washington, D.C. Whether she’s slugging or on the bus, Laura knows commuting is always more fun on Northern Virginia’s High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, avoiding rush hour madness and catching a power nap along the way.

Share with us!
Share with Slug Tales your best Slug story, from the funny to the irreverent, sometimes just Slugging to or from work can be one of the most memorable events of the day. In April we’ll pick our favorite submitted Slug Tale and award the submitter with a $50 gas card. Please be sure to include your full name, address, email and telephone number with your submission. Good luck.

Slug Tales: Slugging Can Bring Out ‘Talkers’

Editor’s note: This is the first is a series of columns that aims to share the lighter side of Slugging – the popular commuting method used on Interstate 95 / 395’s High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes. Read on to find out how you can win $50 in gas.

By Laura Cirillo

For Slugs who commute from Virginia to Washington, D.C., there’s a reason why a “no talking rule” is in place.

One day while carpooling home from work, this particular lady and I ended up in the same car.

She and I both are Slugs — no, not a slimy gastropod mollusk without a shell – but commuters who use an informal carpooling system to travel between our homes in Northern Virginia to jobs in and around Washington, D.C.

To Slug, vehicles must have three or more occupants inside to use the highway’s commuter lanes, or High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. It’s customary to stand in lines of fellow Slugs who are all waiting for rides home.

While at the Pentagon one afternoon, a car pulled with a couple that was riding home together. The couple invited us to ride, and another Slug standing next to me – a woman whom I didn’t know, as is usually the case with Slugging – and I both slid into the backseat.

While I normally nap on the ride home, I couldn’t on this afternoon because the Slug sitting next to me was a “talker.” She was going on about how her son had just been accepted to an out-of-state university on a full athletic scholarship.

She was a proud mother, and I couldn’t blame her. He was even being featured in a magazine article. The driver of the car and his wife, both in the front seats congratulated her, noting how thrilled she must be.

Then the proud momma went into how her star athlete had served three years in jail for armed robbery and was now trying to turn his life around. Good for him, but this was probably more than we needed to know from a complete stranger at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday.

She continued with more details, about how they cried together when she visited him in jail, and how his father had never really been around. Considering the ride from the Pentagon to the commuter lot near my home is normally 30 minutes or less, this one-sided conversation was getting pretty heavy.

Finally, she stopped and asked if she could make a phone call. Our ride culminated with momma calling the magazine to order as many copies as possible of the issue her son was featured in.

At the end of our trip, she was dropped off first. Later I got to hear the couples’ reactions to their passenger’s stories. The wife admitted that she had to close her eyes and stop listening after a while, and the husband agreed that he was only trying to humor her. He understood her excitement at first, but then it started to get, well, a little uncomfortable.

This is a prime example of why the “no talking” rule is in place. We may share rides with our fellow slugs, but none of them need to know our life stories!

Laura Cirillo lives in Prince William County and commutes to work daily in Washington, D.C. Whether she’s slugging or on the bus, Laura knows commuting is always more fun on Northern Virginia’s High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, avoiding rush hour madness and catching a power nap along the way.

Share with us!
Share with Slug Tales your best Slug story, from the funny to the irreverent, sometimes just Slugging to or from work can be one of the most memorable events of the day. In April we’ll pick our favorite submitted Slug Tale and award the submitter with a $50 gas card. Please be sure to include your full name, address, email and telephone number with your submission. Good luck.

The Desk: No Shopping Rush for Us This Year

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

After the turkey leftovers are put away for sandwiches and last licks are taken from the dessert bowls, what’s next on this annual day set aside to give thanks? If you’re a retail employee you’re probably headed straight to bed to get a few hours of sleep before your shift begins at midnight.

Stores in the Potomac Communities are opening earlier than ever this Black Friday – the one shopping day each year when retailers slash prices on electronics, home goods and just about everything else — to entice shoppers to rush their stores, open their wallets and take them out of the red and put them back in black.

K-Mart remains open on Thanksgiving, but other big box stores like Walmart and Best Buy that have traditionally waited until 4 or 5 a.m. to open Black Friday have now decided to join the ranks of shopping malls, like Potomac Mills, which has opened at midnight, and has remained open for nearly 24 hours, on Black Friday since 2009.

For years I have covered Black Friday madness, talking with shoppers who have literally made battle plans with friends, family members, and neighbors, who have all worked ahead of time plotting out who will make the mad dash for their most coveted items.

At midnight last Thanksgiving night at Potomac Mills mall, a fight broke out at the gate of Foot Action shoe store for no other reason that the store’s metal gate had not opened soon enough to appease the hordes of shoppers. Is fighting to get into a shoe store really worth the late night rush to the mall?

Employees working the sale counters at midnight, at first, usually tell me how funny it is to see so many customers at such an early hour. Later, into the early morning hours, they begin their own fight with fatigue.

And why shouldn’t they be tired? Sure, they had Thanksgiving Day off of work to be with family, friends, or to catch up on sleep. But, unlike us, they had to cut short their holiday or go without sleep to make to work so shoppers can feed their shopping need. Moreover, many shoppers each year simply venture out from their homes to be a part of the early shopping buzz.

I appreciate all the invites we’ve gotten from stores and malls asking us to come and write stories about the mob of holiday shoppers who rush their doors at midnight. This year, however, we won’t be there.

Thanksgiving is a time to be with family, friends, or the ones you care about no matter what your religion or creed. It’s a national holiday, and should be more than just some day wedged between Halloween and Christmas where we fat out on delicious fixings and then dream of the deals on computer gaming systems, enticing people to leave their homes on Thanksgiving out of curiosity to be apart of Black Friday.

Some argue retail workers must accept, given the state of the current job market, early Black Friday hours as part of the job, and the companies are just responding to shoppers’ demands. They’re right responding to demand, but retailers have also had help over the years creating the Black Friday craze with the help of advertising and media that put so much focus on the event.

Maybe the big box stores are opening earlier will alleviate mob scenes where some people in past years have been trampled to death. Maybe we’re seeing the evolution Black Friday, or maybe we’re just standing by to watch the continued erosion of the Thanksgiving holiday.

One thing is sure: the deals will still be around even if you’re not at the stores at midnight.

The Desk: Taking Pause for Married Life

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

Calling it one of the greatest days of my life is certainly an understatement. When asked what my favorite part of the whole thing was, my answer is simple: seeing my bride looking as beautiful as ever while walking down the aisle.

I was married this weekend to the woman whom I’ve shared everything with for the past five years. Married on Saturday in what felt like weather more indicative of November than October, it was a beautiful occasion filled with family and friends – all of whom we could never thank enough for helping to make our special day possible.

As we both look at building our lives together, I appreciate all of the kind words you have sent us over the past few days. Your thoughtful advice has given me pause and made me reflect on what successful relationships are and what they could be.

And, while there never can be too much pause in the news business, I will take a brief time away from managing the daily operations of our growing website. It will continue to be updated daily by our dedicated staff members who have always been an engrained part of the communities we serve.

Looking forward to the next few months and into the holidays, will undergo small changes to improve the user experience, showcase new local advertisers know where to shop to support neighborhood businesses, and we will continue to bring you news and events that affect your lives.

The Desk: A Tough Week, But Worth It

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

This past week certainly put our resources and skills to the test. first pulled our resources to cover a Primary Election, then shifted gears on the same day to cover an earthquake, and by the end of the week we were bringing you details about a hurricane brushing the Potomac Communities.

The truth is we couldn’t have made it through this week without the help of some great folks.

Our readers

As an independent community news organization we are only as strong as the readers who support us. This week, we received great tips on stories about the upcoming elections, they told us what they saw during the earthquake, and told us how Hurricane Irene was affecting them where they live. Please keep the comments, emails, and messages on Facebook and Twitter coming.

Our editorial staff

Our writers and photographers work hard to cover their communities and bring you the most current information to our readers, telling the impactful stories that other local news organizations miss. This week, they worked overtime to cover the community and demonstrated what great, independent media is all about.

Our advertisers

Without the great local businesses that sponsor, we would not be able to bring you the coverage and perspective highlighting the Potomac Communities. Our advertisers understand the local exposure and value we bring to their business and we certainly value them.

The Desk: Clarifying Statements from Royse, Principi

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

Marilyn Duval probably wanted to ask her question to Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi herself, but something happened to her phone connection and we never heard her voice during Principi’s telephone town hall conference Wednesday night.

So, Principi asked it for her:

“Why does Route 1 look so run down and bad, it looks like we’re in a ghetto, and what improvements are you trying to make to improve that situation?”

Principi, a Democrat, this fall will try to keep his seat on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Following the conference, Principi’s Republican opponent, Chris Royse, slightly distorted Principi’s answer and posted it on his Facebook page.

First, Principi’s answer to Marilyn Duval:

“That is an excellent question and, quite frankly, it is the heart and soul of my four years in office, and clearly I’m not doing a good enough job if Marilyn thinks it still looks rundown.”

Now, what appeared on Royse’s Facebook site:

“During my opponent’s “telephone town hall” meeting last night, when questioned about the deteriorating state of the Rte. 1 Corridor, he stated “I’m not doing a good enough job in the District.” I agree. It is time for new leadership in Woodbridge; it is time to elect Chris Royse as Woodbridge Supervisor.”

It’s no secret U.S. 1 is filled with old strip centers, with many of them lacking anchor stores. There are a lot of places along the corridor, known as brown spots, to redevelop. Perhaps letting some of them go in lieu of new green spaces wouldn’t be such a bad idea either.

Anyone running for the job of supervisor in Woodbridge also knows that corridor is a traffic sore spot with both residents who commute and travelers who are passing through.

Principi during his last four years in office has seen the County Board approve the widening of U.S. 1 between Mary’s Way and the Occoquan River, as well as the designation of an area near the Woodbridge Virginia Railway Express station as a mixed-use, urban redevelopment area.

Royse has long called Principi’s vision for a redeveloped Woodbridge just that, a vision, and says involvement of more business owners is needed to make Woodbridge newer and better, and is trying to lure at least one government entity to the district.

Voters will go to the polls Nov. 8 to decide which candidate they want to represent their neighborhoods.

The Desk: Familiar Signs, Familiar Neighborhoods

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

Have you ever taken a drive down U.S. 1 in the Potomac Communities only to notice signs you may have seen in movies or on your bottle of salad dressing?

At two mobile home parks in North Stafford, the signs that mark the neighborhoods remind me of an eerie place in a horror movie franchise and the other with ranch dressing I’ve seen put on salads.

The two mobile home parks, Crystal Lake and Hidden Valley, are less than a mile away from each other on U.S. 1.

Compare the sign at Hidden Valley to the logo on a bottle of dressing that bears the same name and you’re bound to notice a similarity.

The sign outside Crystal Lake is similar to birthplace of Jason Vorhees, the killer in the Friday the 13th horror movies.

While the sign may be similar, luckily for us in the Potomac Communities, it’s not the same Crystal Lake that spawned so many bad horror movie sequels.

Get more from The Desk and discuss it on our Facebook page.

The Desk: Jukebox Would Make Sandwich Better

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

I, like many others who have followed the story of local restaurant County Fare, watched with anticipation Wednesday night when the eatery was featured on Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible.”

The show came to Stafford in April and provided restaurant owner Eric Green a much-needed makeover for an eatery has seen hard times.

I had lunch at County Fare on Saturday, which is now being billed as “a great American diner.”

Having spent a few years working in corporate chain restaurants, even managing one of them, I appreciate County Fare’s new local diner feel.

My lunch, the “sort of Philadelphia Cheese steak” was piled high sliced beef, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms (I ordered green peppers on the sandwich, too, but they never showed up) and the all-important fresh cut home fries. The food tasted much better than when I visited County Fare prior to their makeover.

The menu, however, is riddled with times and dates when food is served are served. The great thing about a diner, especially the 24 hour ones (which County Fare is not) is that breakfast, lunch and dinner are served all day, never leaving me wondering if French Toast or a Patty Melt is available after 2 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Breakfast is served until 11 a.m. weekdays, and some items aren’t available until 4 p.m. Making things even more confusing, we were given a “weekend menu” and in the end ordered something that wasn’t even listed on it.

The new, baby blue décor of the restaurant gives the diner a modern feel while displaying items and photos from Green’s proud time in the Marine Corps.

But any diner goer knows music – tunes that are easy to sing along with – are paramount to the diner experience. For most of visit Saturday, music was missing.

All diners need a great jukebox that lets customers select which song they want to hear. Hopefully someone with an old jukebox sitting in their basement will donate it to County Fare. We also hope Green will accept it, as he has many other bright and positive changes to his restaurant.

The Desk: Share Your 9/11 Stories

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

We’re approaching the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and though it was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history it’s important that we remember the events that affected us on that day and how our lives were forever changed in the days, weeks and years following the attacks. invites you to share your stories about 9/11: Stories about where you were during the attacks, where you went in the days after, those you might have helped to deal with the tragedy, and how you helped you and others to overcome, remember the victims and move on.

Please send your stories and we’ll be in touch with you so we can feature who helped to make a difference in our community. 

The Desk: Hello, Summer!

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

Ah, the first day of summer. For some (like me) it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

There is something welcoming about knowing I won’t have to put on layer upon layer of clothing if I need to run outside to my car to get something, or take our small dog for a walk.

While summers in the Potomac Communities are always humid and sticky, you can always take a dip in one of the many swimming pools, lakes and rivers, or you can choose to take a short ride to one of several beaches on the Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia seashores.

But while our most celebrated season of the year (undoubtedly tied with the December holidays) kicks off, bringing with it family vacations, and a lighter volume traffic on local highways, keep in mind it’s the shortest season of the year.

In less than three months, on September 3, we will inevitably greet the fall with all of its bright leaves and colors.

For now, I’ll just think about the colors of summer, preferably with a cold drink in my hand with, maybe, a piece of colorful fruit garnishing the rim of the glass.

The Desk: When Are Shorts OK in the Office?

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

Remember last week? Stifling hot temperatures, heat warnings and air that was so humid it was almost impossible to step outside for more than a few minutes.


While all of that changed on Monday with cooler temperatures, you know it’s going to get hot again as summer is just beginning.

With that said, I’d like to know when it is OK to wear shorts to the office. Many of you whom have workplace dress polices last week probably threw caution to the wind and donned a pair of summertime shorts.

Should employees be allowed to wear shorts only when the temp rises above 90 or 95 degrees? How about allowing shorts every year beginning June 1?

Should there be a length requirement for those shorts? There are some guys who like to wear their shorts long, resembling a pair of pants. And some girls who like to wear their shorts, well, too short.

Are you already allowed to wear shorts in your office or have they been banned altogether?

Let us know what you think by commenting below during our summer shorts questionnaire.

The Desk: A Helping Hand for Hemorrhoids

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

Got Hemorrhoids? We can help.

No, that’s not a cheap ploy from a journalist to lure you in to reading his latest blog –– it’s an actual banner than hangs outside a doctor’s office in Woodbridge.

Associates in Gastroenterology hung the banner on their Smoketown Road office just across from busy Potomac Mills mall.

I certainly did a double take when I drove by the building, which was the old newspaper office where I once worked.

“That’s exactly the kind of reaction we wanted when we hung the banner up,” explained Associates in Gastroenterology spokeswoman Sheri Styles. “A lot of people have commented on the banner, those comments ranging from ‘we love the banner’ to ‘are you serious?’”

This is the third banner to grace the façade of the doctor’s office.

Previous banners have been about making people aware of the dangers of colon cancer and prevalence of Celiac disease, which damages the small intestine.

Hemorrhoids, too, are no laughing matter, said Styles. The banner just draws attention to a problem many people suffer from, albeit in an unusual way.

Its marketing materials like these that take gumption to use, helping this doctors office stand out from others in the area that undoubtedly offer the same services.

Now it’s up to the bright minds at the Gastroenterology office to top the current banner.

A few creative ideas spring to mind for future banners but I won’t be the one to go there.

Uriah A. Kiser is Executive Editor and founder of

The Desk: End Days for Comcast Analog TV Service

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

By Uriah Kiser
Senior Producer

The end times didn’t come over the weekend, but for Comcast customers without a digital set top box they came Tuesday.

We’re getting word that the nation’s largest cable company, which serves Prince William and Stafford counties, has now made it mandatory for customers to have set top cable boxes on each of their TVs to continue to watch cable TV.

The message that appears on customer’s TV screens states multiple upgrades have been completed to Comcast’s network, and a set top box is required to access the upgrades and to continue receiving TV service.

Prices for Comcast’s XFINITY digital TV packages start at $68 per month, andthat’s without bundling products such as phone and internet.

We’re reaching out to Comcast to find out more about the required change.

So, while many viewers have moved on from analog television sets to high definition sets –– many of which already that require set top box to access many of the high definition features –– is it right for the cable company to force customers without digital TVs to rent special equipment just to watch TV?

With cable TV prices what they are, have you canceled your TV altogether for an online movie or video steaming service?

Or is this just a sign of the times, and should people stop griping and and just get a cable box?

The Desk: A Celebration of Food

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

By Uriah Kiser

There are many restaurants to choose from the Potomac Communities. They offer everything from fast food, late night diners, and some offer a salad bar and all you can eat buffets.

One restaurant that lies off of the beaten path in Occoquan, Bistro L’hermitage, is unlike any place I’ve been to in the Potomac Communities.

The setting is cozy, as the restaurant is nestled inside what feels like a classy French stone country home. We went to the eatery recently for a family celebration, but the food on our plates turned out to be a celebration of its own.

While I wish I had ordered the chicken dish my fiancé did because it looked and tasted so delicious, I ordered the Entrecote –– a New York strip steak served with mashed potatoes and baby spinach. The meat was cooked to perfection, with just a small amount of pink to satisfy my medium well temperature request. The potatoes have the dish just the right amount of starchiness and saltiness, and cooked spinach made for an all around impressive presentation.

Then it was time for desert, and while everyone else was ordered his or her favorite Crème Brulee, I ordered the Mousse au Chocolat alamode. It was a rich chocolate lava cake served with berries and just the right amount of ice cream.

It was enough to make me pull out my cell phone and snap a photo of the colorful dish.

After coffee, we managed to pull ourselves away from this wonderful fine dining experience. Eating here was enough to make you want to make every dining experience a special occasion and give up the frequent visits to the late night, fast food all you can eat places.

Uriah Kiser is the Senior Producer of

Editor’s Desk: Great Test Scores Are Better than Usher

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

It’s not often we get to cover stories about renowned pop stars coming to the Potomac Communities. It’s even less often the stars don’t appear and we are forced spend our afternoon speaking with record label public relations people, radio station program managers and a school principal asking “What happened? Where is Usher?”

Erroneous reports that Usher would appear Friday at Woodbridge Middle School turned into utter confusion.

A teacher hoping to bring the singer to the school for a celebration apparently spilled the beans that he would appear, but had not spoken with the singer or his representatives.

It turns out Usher and pop star Prince Royce, who was also rumored to make an appearance, was never scheduled to appear.

While it’s important that if you’re planning an Usher concert you might want to make sure he knows he’s supposed to show up, it’s also important we remember the reason for the school’s celebration.

The students at Woodbridge Middle School did very well on Virginia’s Standards of Learning exams this year. Their scores reflected progress over the previous year’s scores and earned them the title “school of excellence.”

Looking at the photos captured by our chief photographer, the students were smiling and seemed to have enjoyed their special day. There was a moon bounce, professional football players, motivational speakers, local politicians, and a singer (though not as well known Usher) who came to perform in the school’s gymnasium.

All of that should not be forgotten just because the pop star (who was never supposed to show) didn’t stop by.

It’s also a lesson for us a community news organization to be sure that we continue to report the news and how it affects the communities we serve.

We will also reaffirm our commitment to checking and then double-checking our sources, verifying we have the most accurate information before posting the story to our website.

We weren’t wrong to report the rumors of Usher coming to Woodbridge, but we could have done a better job understanding why the school was having a celebration and just who was supposedly bringing Usher to the school.

Editor’s Desk: Republicans Want New District

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

By Uriah Kiser
Managing Editor

Virginia’s newly shifted House of Delegates district to the Potomac Communities, and who will eventually become its representative, will be one of the biggest political stories this year.

The House voted last week to shift the 2nd House District to portions of Prince William and Stafford counties from Southwest Virginia  after population declined there.

If the district passes all other hurdles of the redistricting process, including a review from the U.S. Justice Department, it will encompass portions of North Stafford, the Quantico area, Triangle, Southbridge, River Oaks and Woodbridge east of U.S. 1. I’m already calling it the district, as it lies in the heart of our coverage area.

Last week, we heard rumblings that Stafford County Board of Supervisors Republican Chairman Mark Dudenhefer is exploring running to represent the district.

Cleveland Anderson, the man who last year said he’d like the GOP’s nod to unseat Democrat Del. Luke Torian in Dumfries’ 52nd House District, is now also interested in the district.

“The way the new district lines have been drawn, it seems that Torian has a better chance of keeping the precincts that we won during the last election [in 2009],” said Anderson.

Then there’s Republican Jim Riley, the Southbridge Home Owners Association President, an attorney and Virginia Virtucon editor, who says he’s been thinking about making a run to get a GOP nod to represent the district. An announcement from his camp could come as early as this week, I’m told.

All of these interested parties will undoubtedly lead to a primary election later this year, prior to the general election on November 8, making the district one to watch.

Are there any Democrats or Independents interested in the would-be seat?

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