Digging Out and Delivering the Post

We decided to take a late morning walk and see how the community was grappling with Snow Storm II….while preparing for a possible Snow Storm III — yes it seems as if we have a third bout of snow heading our way in time for President’s Day weekend!

After navigating the melting ice in front of our apartment we bumped into a member of the local Post Office team. She gave us an update on the mail situation in Bethesda — basically, it seems that the local office has had to work with a reduced staff because some of its members cannot get to work (their roads are still blocked etc.). Adding to the work load is the fact that many roads that the Post Office crew service have yet to be cleared and the Post Office vans are having trouble getting down them without getting stuck.

It is likely that it will take about a week for all the mail delivered. I must say that you have give the Posties some credit for trying to get the job done in tough circumstances (although maybe not quite as tough as those facing Kevin Costner in The Postman).

Later on in our walk we saw first hand the challenges facing the folks trying to ensure the mail is delivered — just behind the Giant in downtown Bethesda we came across another Post Office van but this time it was stuck in the snow. The driver had been trying to head down a side road but the mixture of melting snow and ice had trapped the vehicle. Fortunately a super bunch of guys who had been clearing driveways near by helped us to get the van out — another example of the superb attitude folks in Bethesda have displayed these past few days.

Anyway, the rest of our walk was fairly calm in comparison. I hope to have a few pics up on the site later in the day but wanted to bring this story to you. If you haven’t had your mail picked up or delivered try and be patient….the Postal crew are working hard at getting the mail service back to normal asap.

Bethesda Sports: Local and Global

As we prepare for a second snow blast in less than a week, it is hard to imagine that in a few short months we will be enjoying the 2010 World Cup which is being held from June to July in South Africa. Your soccer loving team here at Bethesda Actually will be writing about the local aspects of the big event later in the year — we will cover everything from the best places in Bethesda to watch the games to shops where you can go and buy a national team soccer shirt so that you can proudly display support for your favorite country.

One of the great things about the soccer World Cup is that it inspires so many kids, as well as the young at heart, to get off the couch and kick around a ball – I have grown up playing soccer and, to this day, one of the highlights of my week is playing soccer with a group of friends on Saturday morning here in Bethesda. During World Cup tournaments it is wonderful to see people of all ages rediscovering their love of the beautiful game.

Of course there are lots of locals who play, coach and watch the game from ages 5 to 50 all year round. Recently I discovered that here in Bethesda we have access to a local coach who was part of a team that made a little bit of history at the 1990 World Cup.

For those of you who can’t quite remember the high points of that tournament, it was the World Cup where Africa finally made its mark on the global stage.Argentina, powered by the amazing Diego Maradona, were the World Cup holders (they had won four years earlier in Mexico) and in the opening match of the 1990 tournament they were playing the soccer minnows of Cameroon.

No one expected Cameroon to do anything other than show up and get swept aside by the World Champions but instead the Indomitable Lions (yes Cameroon’s national side has an AWESOME nickname) won the game and put African soccer on the map. And what does that have to do with Bethesda? Well it turns out that the captain of that Cameroon side, Emile Mbouh, currently coaches youth soccer in the Bethesda area. Emile’s partial bio at Bethesda Soccer Club reads as follows:

Emile Mbouh U12 & U16-Captain of Cameroon’s National Team in ’90 & ’94 World Cup -Played in 4 African Nations Cups and earned 113 Caps for Cameroon -Played Professionally in La Liga in Spain for Valencia, French Ligue 1 for Le Havre-Coached the successful Bethesda Legend

In addition he has got his own coaching program – the Emile Star Soccer Program. We were blown away when we realized Emile lived in the area and will certainly reach out to him and see if we can get his thoughts on local soccer, coaching and the upcoming World Cup.

So, more to follow on Emile and soccer from Bethesda to South Africa!

We hope you enjoyed the first sports feature on Bethesda Actually. In this weekly sports column we will try and cover Bethesda sports from every angle. Please drop us a line at bethesdaactually@gmail.com if there is a story you think we should cover.

Bethesda Sports is a weekly column about all things sport in or relating to the Bethesda area

Fire Hydrants May Need to be Re-cleared

fire hydrant

We noticed this fire hydrant and others like it as we trudged around town yesterday.  It’s great that residents have been keeping them clear of snow throughout the blizzards, especially after Montgomery County officials urged action to ensure they remain accessible should the need arise.  Looking out the window at the moment, it looks like we’re going to have to get our shovels out again…

A Walk About Town in the Calm Before the Storm

As we awaited the blizzard that is currently swirling around outside, we decided to take a stroll – or should I say trudge – around town and make the most of that small pocket of time known as the calm before the storm.  Here are some fun photos we picked up along the way:

queen vic

Has anyone seen the awesome snow statue of Queen Victoria – literally the ice queen herself!  We have no idea who made this but whoever it was clearly put a lot of work into it with terrific results (could it be the local ex pat population perhaps?!).  Oh and we loved the Mardi Gras beads around her neck serving as pearls – definitely an interesting new take on good old Queen Vic!  Our photoshoot also snapped the grandmother of Europe from various angles:

queen vic 2

The impressive sculpture’s profile stands out well against the tree in the background.

queen vic n raj

And here’s Raj trudging over for a closer look!

big melt

Even someone who fared as poorly as I did in science class at school can figure out that when all this snow finally melts, there’s going to be one heck of a lot of water washing around the streets of Bethesda!  The photo above shows the roads swimming after a brief encounter with the sun yesterday… So if this is the small melt, what can we expect from the big one?  Hopefully when the sun does come the snow will melt slowly because those snow mounds along the sides of the roads are going to make things interesting for drivers and pedestrians alike!

posh pooch

When we passed Posh Pooch we noticed this change of business notice in the window.  By the looks of it, the premises is set to become a new restaurant in old Bethesda.  More to come on this (in the meantime does anyone know what the story is?).

deliveries

With the break in snow some restocking started and the trash removal guys were everywhere – clearly trying to get done what they could before round two. This guy had driven down from Baltimore to deliver his goods and was hoping to deliver them and then get out before conditions worsened again.

circulator

The Bethesda Circulator stops had been dug out but unsurprisingly service has yet to resume…

street

The streets were lined up with crews preparing for the next onslaught.  Let’s hope all this heavy machinary is currently proving effective!

safeway

The empty shelves say it all!  There was no shortage of people ducking into Safeway to get what they could between storms but those that made it in faced very bare shelves if they were looking for any fresh produce.  Vegetables, fruit, milk, yogurt, fish and so on were pretty much cleared out completely.

safeway 2

Plenty of shoppers lined up at check out despite the lack of produce on the shelves, while Roopa picks up some essentials!

scratch cards

Even the Lotto card scratch off machine was out of stock for a lot of its cards – hard to tell if it was a problem with restocking or if the third day of government shut downs from weather has made people believe that anything is possible.

colors

The melt was pretty short and walking was treacherous.  Even the news of the snow was almost buried.  Snow still piled high on the side of the roads and ice definitely setting in.  From berries and shrubs to buildings the icicles were pretty amazing. Some of the colorful berries and leaves made a beautiful contrast to the snow.  And finally, just before the weather turned again we found an almost perfect snow angel. Someone’s still looking at the bright side!

Early Morning Snow Scene

Here are a couple of pictures taken this morning after yet another evening and night of snow.  The visibility is pretty low but the scene is reminiscent of the calm before the storm – in other words the blizzard that is raging outside right now!

Bethesda snow

Bethesda Snow Shovels Sold for a Profit in Georgetown

We mentioned this here briefly over the weekend – 80 snow shovels reportedly purchased from Strosniders Hardware were sold on for a tidy profit on the streets of Georgetown that same day.  I must confess I was rather irritated at the time, trying to pick up a snow shovel at the last minute due to an impressive lack of forward planning earlier on, and finding I couldn’t get hold of one until the store re-stocked.  But after considering it for a few days, I think it’s fair to say that whoever was responsible showed a promising entrepreneurial flair, and some may even be sorry they didn’t think of it sooner.

Let me know what you think to this move.  Should the person be commended for their business acumen?  Or was it an unreasonable thing to do under the circumstances?  Better still, if the perpetrator is reading this, drop us a line and tell us how you did!

Shovel Out Fire Hydrants! Montgomery County Officials Urge Action

With another snow storm about to hit us we wanted to bring this important safety request to your attention. We saw this statement from Montgomery County and felt we should pass it on — please read it all the way through and if you have any questions or concerns reach out to the County or local emergency services.

Montgomery County Officials Urge Residents to Shovel Out Fire Hydrants

Montgomery County officials are urging residents to clear snow away from fire hydrants so that they are visible from the road and accessible to firefighters in the event of emergency.

Residents are also reminded to exercise caution when shoveling snow. Shovel snow into the yard rather than the street, to facilitate plowing. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the body. Individuals with heart disease or high blood pressure should follow their doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter.

Property owners are responsible for clearing their public sidewalks, driveways and entrances within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm. All residents are strongly encouraged to be good neighbors by clearing the sidewalks in front of their homes, as well as assisting those who may not be physically able to do so. 

Reflections on a Snowy Weekend

Here are five quick reflections on the Snow Bowl weekend:

1. Tastee Diner and its staff are AWESOME — we just knew they would be open on Saturday morning and the hot chocolate hit the spot.

2. Sometimes it takes a massive snow event to remind us to slow down, go for walks and chat to our neighbors.

3. The Bethesda Up and local road and rescue services do a wonderful job – thanks!

4. If you have a four wheel drive it does not give you license to speed when the road is covered in snow and ice!

5. There are a lot of good people in this area who are happy to pitch in and help their community get through challenging times.

Feel free to share your reflections on Snow Bowl weekend here.

“I’m Going to Get More Snow!”

was the way the 5 year old we overheard near Cosi proclaimed his love both for the winter wonderland and the prospect of ANOTHER snow storm hitting Bethesda and the surrounding area tomorrow and into Wednesday. His mother had a, well, how shall I put it, slightly different feeling about things and replied “Don’t talk to me about more snow!”

And in a nutshell we have the two views of the coming snow event — some of our fellow citizens want MORE snow and for others, well, let’s just say that 27 inches and counting is more than enough for one week!

Darcy’s Store: A Short History of Bethesda

Bethesda Meeting House

Bethesda Meeting House

(Image via Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Like many hamlets since swallowed up in an burgeoning metropolitan area, Bethesda’s roots are rather humble.  A typical outlying settlement, Bethesda began life as a small collection of buildings alongside a busy road that had once been a Native American trail.

The town’s viabiliy was cemented in the early nineteenth century when the thoroughfare was converted into a toll road called the Washington and Rockville Turnpike, transporting tobacco and other commodities between Georgetown and Rockville, and up to Frederick.  Around the toll and a solitary store, a small settlement grew up that would one day become Bethesda.

Originally named “Darcy’s Store” after local business owner William E. Darcy, the growing town acquired its definitive name in 1871 when postmaster Robert Franck named it after the Bethesda Meeting House, a Presbyterian church built in 1820.  The church burned down in 1849 but was rebuilt the same year on an adjacent site, where it stands to this day.

The church in turn took its name from the biblical Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, a place associated with healing.  In ancient Greek manuscripts, the name of the Pool is often mistaken for that of the New Testament town Bethsaida, described as a “desert place” and believed by scholars to be the possible location where Jesus fed the five thousand.  The origin of the church’s name has led to a common misconception that the town took its name directly from the Pool of Bethesda.

Many villages grew up around crossroads – mini hubs where travelers congregated before continuing in their various directions – and Bethesda was no different.  Straddling a crossroads for most of the nineteenth century, the town was little more than a blacksmith, post office, church, school, some houses and a few stores.  But that was set to change after the turn of the twentieth century, when the newly installed streetcar line connected Bethesda to the nearby District of Columbia.

This enabled suburbanization to take a hold, with the neighborhoods of Battery Park, Woodmont, Drummond and Edgemoor springing up on farmland adjacent to the turnpike.  Well-to-do men like Merle Thorpe built mansions in fine grounds and help found the Woodmont Country Club – now on land occupied by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Thorpe’s home, Pook’s Hill, accomodated the exiled Norwegian Royal Family during World War Two.

Pook’s Hill was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s 1906 story, Puck of Pook’s Hill.  Puck was the mischievous sprite of English folklore also known as Robin Goodfellow, who is thought to have lent his name to the popular outlaw Robin Hood – or Robin of the Greenwood.  Nevertheless, it is a fun pagan injection into Bethesda’s otherwise biblical heritage.

The rapid expansion of government during World War Two correlated to a rapid expansion of Bethesda, with the National Naval Medical Center (1939) and NIH (1953) built north of the downtown.  As a result, medical professionals, government contractors and business people have flocked to the area.

Bethesda has since become the core employment hub of southwestern Montgomery County, with many of its workers traveling from Washington, DC and vice versa.  Major companies headquartered here today include defense giant Lockheed Martin, Mariott International, Honest Tea and Ritz Carlton.

Darcy’s Store is a weekly feature article about the history of Bethesda