Friday, July 1, 2022

The Rae apartments, construction continues

The Rae is a new 343-unit, five-story apartment building being constructed on Motor City Drive across from the Home Depot and Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland.  This is the site of the former Ourisman Ford car dealership.  I most recently posted about the construction of the Rae back in April and a lot of progress has been made since then.
 The final shape of the building is clear now.  The full height of the building is up and the outer walls are sheathed in Tyvek.  No windows are in yet and the roof isn't on.  This is the view from the corner of Motor City Drive and Westlake Terrace, right near Montgomery Mall.
The Rae apartments parking garage entrance.

 The central core of the building is a multi-story parking garage.   The concrete walls of the garage were ugly when they were exposed, but now the wood built apartment floors hid them and it looks much better.

The far side of the Rae apartments, nearest to Home Depot and the Post Office.  Construction isn't quite as far along here, the walls of the final floor of apartments are still going up.


Thursday, June 30, 2022

Tow Hitch Platform review

 Usually when I go camping my car is filled to the top, leaving my passengers with bags between their feet.  I decided to make their lives a bit easier by buying a platform that slides in to the tow hitch receiver on my car.


There is a wide variety of platforms you can buy of varying quality, on the low end you get a simple steel platform that has a low lip, and on the high end you can get a $500+ system which has a locking box, can swing away to grant access to the back of the car, and can even be stacked two high.

Folded-up configuration. It doesn't stick out nearly as far and has a locking pin to keep it from falling down.

Since I don't plan to use this very often I didn't buy anything super expensive.  For about $200 (shipping was extra and isn't cheap) I got a platform that can fold up when not in use.  It also came with a anti-rattle hitch tightener and a cargo bag with tie-downs.  It sticks out about 3 feet from my car so I have to keep that in mind when backing up or changing lanes


The flat plate on top with two screws is the anti-rattle hitch tightener, it really works.

I chose a platform instead of a roof-mounted box or bag because roof mounts negatively impact the vehicle's aerodynamics which can have a significant negative impact on your gas mileage. The hitch mounted boxes and platforms are in the wind-shadow of the vehicle and don't impact fuel economy as much.  When driving I didn't notice any impact so I'm sure it is well under 10%, probably 3-5%.

Before you get one of these, thing about how you will use it.  Different vehicles have different amounts of weight you can attach to the trailer hitch, the number you are looking for is the "tongue weight" and for cars and small SUV's it is usually between 100 and 250 pounds.   

The bolt and cotter pin keeps it from folding unexpectedly (this is in the down position). When folded up, the bolt goes through the hole on the bottom left.

I got to use it for the first time when I went camping in Shenandoah  and it went well.  I put the cooler, the camp chairs, some tarps and a sleeping bag in it and that didn't completely fill it up. This freed up a lot of space inside the car.  Driving wasn't affected (except for the changing lanes and backing up, which I already mentioned).


There is not a body in there, I promise

You can't  just dump your gear on it and go, the stuff needs to be strapped down so it doesn't go flying into the road when you hit a bump.  If you have hard boxes you are putting on (like a cooler or Rubbermaid totes you can get tie-downs and strap them directly.  I use a soft cargo bag, this has integrated tie-downs and is weather resistant. There is a several inch overlap where it closes and has both a zipper and velcro.  It also lets you put odd-shapped or soft items in it (I used it for sleeping bags too since they are somewhat bulky).  


The platform sticks out several feet behind my car, which makes backing up or changing lanes a bit harder.

As a bonus, the bag it makes it less obvious what is in there so there is less of a chance of someone walking by and stealing your stuff.  It isn't real security though, there isn't a lock, and even if you did lock or zip-tie the zippers closed, someone could cut through the bag with a utility knife.  You can also buy hard boxes that have a bit more security if you are worried.  I would hesitate to leave things in it overnight at a hotel, but for quick bathroom breaks or lunch I think it is a reasonable security compromise.

I'm really pleased with this purchase, although I won't use it very often, it makes my life significantly better when I do.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Go Visit: Lake Frank

 I haven't paid a lot of attention to Lake Bernard Frank, it is kind of like the forgotten sibling of Lake Needwood.  Lake Needwood is the big star with many activities, the nearby Lake Frank is smaller and there is less to do there.  However, that doesn't mean it is a bad place, it is actually pretty nice and worth a trip or two.

There is a parking lot at 15211 Avery Rd, Rockville, MD and trails leading off from that. This park is run by the Montgomery County Department of Parks.

The main trail is the Lakeside Trail, it goes around the lake (but often not right at the lakeside).  A portion of this trail is dirt as seen here, but a portion is paved.  You can also access the Rock Creek trail from this park.

What would a lakeside trail be without a lake?  Here is Lake Frank, looking towards the dam at one end. The overflow drain is visible in the distance.

A large portion of the trail is actually an old abandoned road for vehicles with access to a parking lot at the lake shore.  Vehicles are no longer allowed on it.

Since the trail was once a road, it is no surprise that there were once parking lots.  The remnants of them are still visible, with lots of grass and weeds growing through the cracks in the pavement.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

More houses at the Amalyn development

Little green houses, for everyone

 There has been a lot going on at the Amalyn housing development at the site of the old WMAL radio towers in Bethesda, MD.  At least six houses are far enough along in the construction process to have the green walls up.  Here are two that are right next to each other.

Right next to the grey model home is another house under construction.  Green walls, no roof.

Quite a number of lots have been laid out, some have a sign saying they are available, others, like this one, are sold. Construction hasn't started here, but some of the sold lots have the foundations in progress.

The townhouses are still in progress, with the white building wrap and windows in.  I'm a bit surprised that they haven't made more progress, my April update showed the walls were up even then.

The clubhouse, which was just a concrete pad in April now looks like a real building, the roof and wrapped walls are up but no windows yet.

 This looks like another water retention area to slow the runoff during a rain storm.

 Earlier this month I posted about them putting silt fencing up in another part of the field.  Well, they have started working in that area of the housing development, it looks like they are removing the topsoil now and adding it to the big pile of dirt in the center of the field. This is in the area between Derbyshire Ln and Renita Ln

Friday, May 20, 2022

The view from Hip Flask in Downtown Bethesda


The new Marriott hotel at 7707 Woodmont Avenue in Downtown Bethesda, MD is open and on the roof they have a bar called Hip Flask.  It was fairly crowded when i got there and they soon started limiting the number of people so by the time I left there was a line of people waiting to come up.

The have a bunch of nice looking cocktails and interesting appetizers but I found their beer selection to be fairly weak. There is an inside portion and and outside portion, I focused on the outside part.

What I was really interested in was the view, and it did not disappoint.  Because of where the sun was, I couldn't get a good picture looking west so all these pictures are looking east.  There wasn't good visibility to the north or south because building blocked the view.

From the roof-top bar you can see the LDS Temple just to the right of the Marriott HQ building (Surrender Dorothy).

I brought a camera that let me zoom in on downtown Silver Spring, do you recognize any of these buildings?  I really like the balloon mural towards the right of the picture.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Mormon Temple open house is going on now


The D.C. Mormon Temple is open for visitors from now through June 11th.  This is a rare opportunity to see the inside of a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  After June 11th the temple will be rededicated and only LDS members will be allowed in.  You can find out more about how to visit at their DC Temple open house site.

This is not the first time the temple has allowed visitors.  When it was first built and prior to it's use there was an open house, but that was in 1974, so this is a a very uncommon event, it is only happening now because they just finished extensive renovations of it.

I went yesterday and it was a lot different than I expected.  I had thought it would be more like a cathedral with a huge, high-ceilinged common room, but it isn't. There are multiple floors in the temple, each largely dedicated to a different use.  The tour is self-guided but you are following a path, with plenty of knowledgable people around if you have questions (like since there is a sealing, can their be an un-sealing? [answer: yes])  You can see the tour information here and on the tour you can get a paper copy of that information.

You can't actually see every floor.  The top floor for instance is closed, but I was told that is a large gathering room with chairs and a pulpit.

You also are not allowed to take pictures inside the temple, which is why I only have exterior shots.  However, at the tour information link above there are interior pictures.

Even though I call it the "Mormon Temple" because that is what I grew up with it being known as, officially that is not it's name.  In 2018, the LDS church decided that the word "Mormon" didn't convey what they wanted.  Here is a quote from the FAQ: 

This sacred building was often called the “Mormon Temple.”  However, in 2018, the Prophet and President of the Church, Russell M. Nelson, offered correction to any inaccurate name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including improper reference to the “Mormon Church.”  Mormon was a great prophet, whom we honor, but the Church was named after our Savior Jesus Christ. The correct name of the Church is: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thus, the proper name of the Temple is the “Washington D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” 

The reference to “saints” in the name of the Church references the Apostle Paul’s use for people who try to follow Jesus Christ’s teachings.

Monday, May 2, 2022

A new area gets silt fencing at Amalyn Bethesda

I walked around the Amalyn housing development today and notice that they are putting up more silt fences to control erosion.  These fences usually go up shortly before they start work in an area, so there is likely going to be construction in this part of the former WMAL transmitter site. An area of underbrush has been cleared at the end of Derbyshire Lane, and a silt fence has been installed the entire frontage with Derbyshire.  Fortunately, the fence is only two feet tall and you can step over it.

The fence continues to the dip in the field. There is still some fencing and equipment beyond it so it is possible they will continue the fence on the other side of the muddy area.

If you every walk around the field, you will probably recognize this part, it stays wet for longer than anywhere else and is a proto-stream.  The silt fence stops just before it.

Friday, April 22, 2022

McCrillis house and gardens


One of the lesser known parks in Montgomery County is McCrillis house and gardens.  This is a five acre park donated to the county in 1978.

There are numerous paths winding their way throughout the property with a large variety of trees and shrubs, many of which have signs with their names on them.

There is also a house which you can rent for special events but isn't normally open to the public.

The park is located at 6910 Greentree Road, Bethesda, Maryland 20817 and is  open daily from 10am until sunset.

Monday, April 4, 2022

The Rae apartments, construction update.

 The Rae is a new 343-unit, five-story apartment building being constructed on Motor City Drive across from the Home Depot and Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland.  This is the site of the former Ourisman Ford car dealership.

 Here is a context shot that I took from the bridge over the I-270 spur.  On the right is The Rae construction, in the distance behind it is the Home Depot. The road you see is Westlake Terrace which is what Fernwood Road becomes.  On the left, outside of the picture, is Montgomery Mall.


Here's a good view of the construction. In the distance to the left is the parking garage and there is the concrete block tower that the rest of the building will be built around. The building will be primarily constructed out of wood.

Here's the view from Motor City drive. What can I say, that is super ugly.  Looking at their website it does appear that there will be apartments in front of the bare concrete wall of the parking structure, so it should look a lot better once it is done.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Amalyn Update

 It has been a while since I have posted an update on the Amalyn development, which is the new housing development on the former WMAL transmitter site.  They have been busy so lets get started.

The main road, which is an extension of Grayswood Road to Greentree Road is paved (that was in my last update) and they now have planters blocking you from driving onto it from Greentree.  For a while it was just the barrels and some tape.  They intend to leave it blocked until traffic calming devices are installed on Grayswood.

Up until this weekend, the sales office was all dark gray, which made it hard to read the "Toll Brothers" sign on it.  Now thy have painted the front part white.  To the right of it you can see the first house has also been given a dark gray color.  It looks like it is nearly done with drywall up on the inside.

The first set of townhouses are under construction.  They have garages in the back.  I assume these will be the model townhomes.  They are bare plywood right now.

It looks like this isn't for a house since there isn't a basement, and it looks to big to be townhouses.  Maybe it is a commong clubhouse or activity building?

A fairly new water retention pond. This is right at Greentree and Grubby Thicket Way.

They have been burying a lot of pipes for drainage and it looks like they have a lot more to go.