We are off at 9:30a this morning, but not before we
hear a voice calling from the Car Wash about 200 yards away. We realize it is the young black man who came
down to talk with us the other night. He
makes his money offering to wash or wax or detail cars when they come in to use
the ‘Do It Yourself Wash’. One of the
pipeline workers had promised to give him a job, but then it rained and the worker
got called to a leak in a line over on the Georgia border. The man was very polite in asking Rick if we
needed our truck washed. Rick said we
were driving into the mud everyday so there wasn’t any point! Anyway, he saw us packing up and called out
to wish us well and safe travels! We
left with just the one RV now in the
lot, and no one apparently living there at the moment.
We head back up University, over the
river into Northport, and then north on Highway 43 – we will two lane it all
the way to Decatur and our reservation at Point Mallard Campground. The countryside is lush, heavily forested
with conifers, deciduous, and thickets underneath. All shades of green as some trees are still
budding out. Crimson clover lines the
highway for much of the way.
We travel for about 25 miles behind
an RV that was weaving all over the road.
We wondered if the guy was drunk, falling asleep, or what! It was a little scary, but I imagine even
worse for the cars coming in the opposite direction when he was straddling the
center line until the last moment. We
lost him when we stopped for a potty stop and lunch in Cullman.
We finally found it!
All settled in among the trees.
I couldn’t get the campground
website to load, so had to rely on Google Maps to get us to the park. It took a very convoluted route, and we had
trouble finding the actual campground, but we made it! Tomorrow’s route over to Space & Rocket
Center will be much easier!
I couldn't find Baker City on it,
2000 plus miles away!
Flowers near entrance
The campground is very full and
crowded. Spaces are close together. It appears there are many weekly and monthly
residents. One gal I talked with said
that her group of friends all live within 15-30 minutes of here, but they come
and stay to golf, enjoy festivals, etc.
Rick took a long walk along the
river and through the golf course, while I opted for a shorter route that also
clarified how to get connected with the internet. Once I figured it out, it was very high speed
and wonderful! I was able to catch up on
a number of things!
Thunderstorms are on the forecast
and we did have light showers this afternoon, but so far the temp is pleasant
and cool. Ready for a day of space
Today’s adventure focused on the
Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.
It was just a 30 minute drive across the Tennessee River and to the
center just southwest of Huntsville. A
former sleepy little cotton town, Huntsville became a munitions stockpile
during World War 2. Following the war a
team of German rocket scientist moved to America and brought their expertise to
US scientists. Huntsville then became a
mecca for racketeers and the development of the Saturn V system. It is now home to the Marshall Space Training
Center, Space Camp, Robotics Camps, and Aviation Camps!
Statue at entrance
We arrived at the 9am opening and
left at 4:30. We still didn’t see all
the exhibits or try all the interactive opportunities. There is way more than a full day of
activities to see. AND we didn’t take
the 2 hour tour down to the Marshall Center. At the entrance is a bronze statue with the following inscription: "Dedicated to those whose pioneering spirit inspired generations to explore beyond existing boundaries in a never-ending quest for knowledge."
What DID we do?? We went to two IMAX movies! The first was Journey to Space and gave a brief
overview of the Apollo missions, the Shuttle and International Space
Station. The heart of the movie was on
the new technology and emphasis to journey to Mars. Orion is the new program name and it was
fascinating to see the process they are taking in planning and training. Target dates?
Men on Mars by 2030’s. The second
IMAX was on the Hubble Space telescope, its repair missions, and the tremendous
images of the universe it is sending home.
The movie left you feeling very, very small. I was also overwhelmed with the magnitude of
a God who is in charge of it all. I so wanted to take pictures during the movie, but they weren't allowed.
Rick on Mons Olympus
Rick tried his handing at rock
climbing early in the day which was a good call. Not busy at all at the time, but a crowded
place for the rest of the day! He looked
like Spiderman on the wall as he ascended in progressively more difficult
routes three times. The wall is called
the Olympus Mars, which is the largest volcano mountain on Mars and in the
entire solar system. The name was pretty
much the only connection to Space I could find!
We walked the outer grounds early in
the day, seeing the Pathfinder Shuttle Stack atop the boosters rockets. SO BIG.
Hard to get a picture of the size when you are right under it! A number of other rockets on the grounds (Rick
wondered if they were all well grounded because they look like good lightning
targets otherwise!). We bypassed the G
Force Simulator, a spinner that lets you experience 3Gs of centrifugal
force. We opted for the Space Shot,
which simulates 3Gs of liftoff and also simulates microgravity. You are shot upwards rapidly and then drop
down. I felt like I left my stomach at
the top of the drop! Pretty fun.
Preparing to take off on the Space Shot
Rick attempts docking
Lunch between movies at the Mars
Grill. I had a good salad bar and Rick a
fat burrito. Prices reasonable and no
tax! (Alabama has a 9% sales tax, even on food.)
A huge pavilion (Davidson Center for Space Exploration) houses a Saturn V rocket on its side, in sections, with a detailed step
by step of the Apollo program and the rockets involvement. It was pretty interesting. They had great memorabilia from all phases of
Apollo and the Shuttle programs, space rocks, etc. Rick tried his hand at docking the LEM with
the Command Module, but apparently unsuccessfully, so I guess they were lost in
space! By 3:30 we were getting brain
dead….time for the Gift Shop!!
Pathfinder Shuttle atop the booster rockets
Back to the trailer by 5pm and
evening spent writing postcards.
YES! We finally bought nearly 20
and I didn’t care that they were 50¢ each!
Ginger prepares for re-entry
4.23.16 Saturday A THREE STATE DAY!
Decatur, AL to Glasgow, KY
We are on the move today after a
rather noisy beginning to last night. A
full park on a Friday night filled with families….let’s just say they were
having a VERY good time! But it
eventually calmed down!
First into Tennessee!
We pull out just after 9am to head
north to Kentucky – under 200 miles away, but we’ll travel through three states
today! Tennessee isn’t very tall south
to north! Our intention originally was
to take 231 all the way from Huntsville to just before Barren Lake. Well, that was going to force us to drive
INTO Huntsville, so we went north on I-65 instead, hoping to cut across to 231
at the easiest opportunity. We left the
interstate at Exit 22 and started angling over.
I missed a necessary turn, however, so we ended up in the middle of
Murfreesboro before connecting to 231!
Stopped there at a Walmart for lunch in the Subway and grocery
shopping. Rick picked up a few other
items, one of which proved fortuitous later in the day!
And then Kentucky!
The countryside was green! Green fields, green trees! A smattering of white blossomed trees, some
very tall, some shorter which I think were dogwoods. None of them were magnolias, that I could
tell. Farms and lots of small towns (and
some big ones!) Just off the freeway we
gassed up and found a post office. So, …
our 18 postcards were mailed in the little town of Cornersville, TN, population
1200. But the good news was that the
mail was due to go out in less than an hour!
Our pristine spot at Bailey's Point!
Bailey’s Point Corps Campground is
literally on a long peninsula of land that juts out into the man-made reservoir
of Barren Lake. We checked in easily and
in locating our campsite realized we had scored big time! A site right above the water with an unobstructed
view of the lake. Water and electric
hookups, clean restrooms, hot showers – all for $11.50 a night! Gotta love the Senior Pass and Corp
Dogwood tree behind campsite
We take a walk, grab the rest of our
Subway sandwiches, and watch the sun go down over the lake. Life is good!
And a sunset from our trailer
Mammoth Caves National Park
A misty shroud on the lake this
morning, but I was still able to see the full moon as it set around 7am. We enjoyed the early sunshine and left around
9:15 for Mammoth Caves National Park, located about 30 miles north. Our most direct route was on a windy little
country road that crossed the dam and then headed straight up to junction with
the park roads. It was a beautiful drive
through the Kentucky countryside past farms and dilapidated barn
buildings. We crossed both I-65 and
Cumberland parkway in arriving at the National Park.
Sinkhole and New Entrance area
We spent the next couple hours
roaming the Visitor Center, gift shop, and grabbing some quick lunch before our
noon tour. I had made our reservations a
week ago, but realized at the last minute that I needed to pick up the
tickets! The gal so nicely gave them to
me even though I didn’t have my ID, nor did I have Rick’s Senior Access Pass
with me! Prior to the tour, we were
enlightened with the following new revelations about the cave:
a. Mammoth is the longest cave system in the
world with 405 miles currently mapped and more possible as they haven’t found
the end yet! It may not have the
LARGEST caverns or ‘rooms’, but the system is like a giant subway map or a
plate of spaghetti only 400’ deep.
b.The upper regions
of the cave are not active except in certain places, as the water has now moved
much deeper to carve new chambers. The lowest
levels are explored in boats!
c.The cave was
discovered in 1803 and opened for commercial tours in 1816. This year they are celebrating their 200th
d.Early cave tour guides
were often black slaves, men who when ‘underground’ were in positions of
leadership with learned educators and politicians from around the world. What a challenge to remember ‘their place’
when they emerged from the cave at the end of the tour.
e.We saw a map of
sinkholes in this area of Kentucky. Each
is a potential opening into the cave system.
There were hundreds of them!
Cheater picture from postcard of Niagra Falls formation
tour began at noon with a bus ride over to the ‘New Entrance’, discovered in
the early 1900’s. Two buses carried our group of approximately 75 people. At least it wasn’t the 112 tour maximum! Several young children keep things
interesting as their little voices asking wonderful questions kept echoing
through the passageways. We first
dropped 250 feet down through a series of 280 steps. The holes is very narrow in places. In others you can look down to what appears
to be a bottomless pit. We gathered in a
large chamber with a very flat limestone roof.
Early discoverers called this Grand Central Station
passageways lead off of it. It is a
horizontal chamber as opposed to the vertical shafts. At the end of the tour we entered a third
type of chamber….one that is more of the Carlsbad Cavern type – filled with
stalactites and stalagmites, columns, straws, draperies, and flows. Unfortunately I was having trouble with my
camera at this point so I didn’t get good pictures. Maybe I’ll steal a few from the postcards I
Back to the Visitor Center by
2pm. We checked out the gift store one
more time and then I drove us back to Bailey’s Point. The trailer is warm as it sits in the
sunshine! Rick takes a brief power nap
while I check out the nature trail.
Sunday calls, including a visit with Jed for his birthday.
The sunset tonight was stellar. More
color than last night. What great front
row seats we have!
Rick took a picture of our little trailer as he came down the hill.
Bailey’s Point COE, Glasgow, KY to Jenny
Wiley State Park, Prestonburg, KY
One of the cuts
How can I summarize today? ‘Over hill, over dale!’ or perhaps, ‘Green, Green, It’s Green They
Say!’ We traveled through nearly 250
miles of rolling green hills – up and down, in and around. A cut through the mountain here and
there. Tiny small towns with a host of
strange names that Rick read off while I drove for a short stretch. Gas has gone UP! We are excited to find it under $2 now, and
even went BACK for a $2.04 station! I
remarked that we didn’t see much in the way of wildflowers, unless you count
the splattering of blooming dogwoods.
But alongside the highway….grass!
We stopped in Manchester (just east
of London – yes, folks from the British Isles settled in the interior of
Kentucky to work the coal mines!) to
grab a bite to eat at a little Mexican restaurant. We both ordered Hawaiian Fajita Quesadillas –
the special of the day. Pineapple makes
everything good! Finished off the
leftovers just now for dinner!
Campsite at Jenny Wiley
We followed the Cumberland Parkway
and then another Parkway, mostly following route 80 through the southern third
of Kentucky. Had a little trouble
finding the signs that led us to the campground at Jenny Lake State Park. Everything wanted to tell me where the resort
was, not the campground. But we stumbled
on it and then even discovered our name on a tag on the campsite we had
reserved! The campground is NOT
full. In fact, of the 32 sites on our B
Loop, it is our trailer and a lone tent way down at the other end. We are next to the bathhouse which is
nice. Maybe more will roll in tonight,
but I have my doubts on a Monday!
Rick and I both take walks, Rick’s a
little longer than mine and out on one of the trails along the lake. We finally were able to pick up some wine at
the CVS….they don’t sell it in the grocery stores in Kentucky.
It is muggy and humid out
today. A storm is supposedly brewing,
but we had big fluffy white clouds all the way across the state. Warm.
Glad to have the fan and AC in the trailer!
Meeting Austen in Paintsville!
Today we met Austen! While the forecast is for a storm later on,
the morning dawns warm and sunny! We don’t
get moving too fast and enjoy a little leisure time, heading into Paintsville
around 10:30. The road follows along the
base of some impressive limestone cliffs above one of the many little rivers
that flow through each hollow. Most of
these will flow either into the Jenny Wiley reservoir where we are camped or
north into Paintsville Lake.
Cool old Methodist Church in town
The town was established in the
early 1800’s by a gentleman who settled land and built a house along the Paint
River. By 1825 or so, he had platted out
a townsite on his land. Coal is the big
business in these parts, and with the demise of coal the town has been hard
hit. Jobs are hard to come by. The town is spread out on a plain where the
hollers open out into Apple Valley.
There is a small Paintsville High School and then the large Johnson
County High School where Austen attends.
It is a newer sprawling campus on the plain, next to McDonalds and all
the box stores!
We drove around for awhile, checking
things out, and looking for a thrift store or used book store. Rick was out of books. But first order of business was
breakfast! We tried a Bob Evans and it
was very good!
Eventually we found the city library
where I could hook on to some free wifi and Rick found a couple shelves of
books available for 5 for $2 – all hardbacks!
We spent about an hour there as we waited for our 1:30 appointment at
the high school. I was trying to post
stuff, but pictures didn’t go well. I
did get a lead on a campground for the end of the week.
Then it was time to meet
Austen! We went to the main office and
waited for Karen Salyer, the Children’s Services coordinator for the
school. She led us to her headquarters
down in the basement of the building. A
VERY pleasant and engaging woman who greeted us right off with hugs. We had the opportunity to visit with her for
awhile and learn a little more of the set up and Austen’s situation. Karen left to grab Austen from class when he
didn’t hear the loudspeaker.
We recognized the tall young man
immediately from the pictures that have been on our refrigerator for the past
many years! He is easily 3 inches taller
than Rick, filled out but not heavy, wears glasses, and has a short beard to go
with his short cropped hair. He was
obviously a bit nervous, as were we!
Karen invited us into her office where we could visit more privately and
eventually came in and joined us.
The visit was delightful. Austen began to talk freely about his home
situation, his goals and dreams, plans after high school. Here Karen was a great help as she could fill
in the details, such as scholarship possibilities, needing to fill out the
FAFSA, the local voch-tech college within walking distance for Austen. We pushed hard for him to finish strong and get
his diploma. He has hoped to go for
Diesel Mechanics, but with the decline of coal and the need for such mechanics,
we encourage him to consider other options as well, such as plumbing or
electrical work. He has a good head on
his shoulders and is trying to make good choices. I was thrilled to hear he was going to church
with his girlfriend when possible. He is
currently living with his girlfriend’s grandmother and at 18 is now ‘on his own’. Karen
openly spoke of the need to let God be in charge….the difference between
Bible-belt schools and out west apparently!
The visit only lasted an hour….Austen
had to get back to class. We took some
pictures, I gave him our gifts and explained a few items, we hugged and
left. Karen spoke with us a few moments
more and then walked with us out the building.
She does an amazing job, working with some 30 plus youth all sponsored
through Children, Inc. throughout the area, often from Kindergarten on up. With the school she helps identify those who
can use the assistance. But her office
was also busy fitting kids with suits for the prom coming up this weekend. They had a whole filing cabinet filled with
clothes of varying sizes. Karen said our
contributions are usually ‘held’ for school shopping at the beginning of the
school year and Christmas. All in all, a
good experience and I hope it helps Austen to focus on what he needs to do in
the coming weeks and months. We have
committed to turning our sponsorship over to his brother Andrew when Austen
graduates the end of May.
We stopped at McDonalds for a little
more wifi time and a drink, but after 45 minutes it was becoming a zoo with all
the school kids! I called Mom briefly
and we were finally able to make a phone connection with the campground in
Bryson City, NC to confirm a reservation for Thursday through Saturday
nights. Back to the campground!!
Rick took a power nap while I walked
C Loop, which is ¾ of a mile to go up and back, and then along the Jenny Wiley
and Sassafrass Trails for abit. I
started looking for Austen’s name in trail letters, eventually spelling it
out. Coming back I visited with the park
host about adding another night on to our stay.
He told me it would be free since I hadn’t received my ‘free night of
April camping’ yet online! What a
deal! We talked for awhile and I learned
of some of his park host adventures.
Today he had to call for a tow truck to pull a man’s truck out of the
lake – an mistake launching his boat on a slippery ramp and the boat pulled the
whole truck into the lake, with the cab 3 ½ feet under water. Poor guy.
Just trying to catch some crappie for dinner. That dinner will cost a truck price. The store is being rebuilt because last year
some guy got mad and drove it off the foundation. Another man died at his site! The host was surprised they asked him back! More people have come in to A loop, but still
us and the tenter up the road on B.
Pretty quiet and private.
As we read this afternoon, we
watched a cardinal using our truck mirrors to preen itself. That explained all the bird poop and dirt
marks on both mirrors and the side windows.
We pushed the mirrors inward and later you could hear the bird scolding
us when it return! Saw a couple of deer
on the hillside above. There are black
bear warnings at the campground.
Dinner of BLTs out on the picnic
table with the tablecloth even. High
class. Since the laundry room is
closest to us, we decided to wash a load while we ate. By the time the laundry was done, the bugs
were coming out, so into the trailer for the rest of the evening. A good day.
Ah, the long awaited storm finally
arrived last night around 10! We had
heard the wind begin to pick up a little earlier and a sudden cooling to the
humid warm air. Gradually distant
rolls of thunder began to echo and then the rain arrived. Being down in the hollers in hill country
means that thunder really does ROLL – sometimes the sound can last for 10
seconds as it bounces from canyon to canyon and against the limestone
cliffs. Rick battened up the ‘hatches’ and we snuggled in for the night! Lulls, followed by more lightning, until the
early morning hours. Around 5 Rick went
out and plugged the trailer back in. He
slept better knowing there was no danger during the night!
Now I sit listening to the birds
(there are cardinals all over!) and an occasional pitter patter of drops on the
roof. We have signed on for another
night as the storm is supposed to continue off and on. A day of perfect leisure lies ahead!
Around 11:30 we finally decided we
ought to at least go into town, grab a little internet so I could send a couple
emails, and eat lunch! We stopped first
at the library with secure internet where I sent in Austen’s graduation money
to CI online, caught all blogs up to date, wrote a couple other emails and
checked gas prices. Just realized the
one thing I forgot was to get accurate directions to the campground for
Lunch again at Bob Evans, where I
wanted to try their all-you-can-eat soup, salad, and bread lunch entrée. Well, it was good, but service was not. Slow to deliver, I had to ask for my biscuits
when they weren’t delivered and I was half done with my meal, no chicken could
be found in the chicken noodle soup, and my biscuits came without butter. BUT….it did taste good and I didn’t need
butter anyway. Even though it was all
you can eat, I was never asked if I wanted any more, etc. Ah well.
We stopped to pick up a couple items at Dollar Tree and then back to the
Rick took a longer hike up on the
Jenny Wiley Trail, while I trekked a couple miles on the Sassafrass Trail. Light rain a couple times but nothing
major. Just HUMID to be hiking in the
More people have come into the
campground – there are at least three other trailers in our loop now.The neighborhood is getting crowded!(Understand there are 32 sites on this loop!) (Not sure why that line appears!)
Time to move on again! However, we will put Corp Parks on our list
of ‘check it out’ from now on. This has
been very nice for a VERY nice price! I
make use of the excellent shower (best showerhead for flow and pressure and
hottest water of the trip!) to wash my hair.
We don’t rush as it is a beautiful sunny morning again. A stop to empty the tanks and garbage and we
pull out right at 10:30am. We anticipate
about 130 miles, but it turns out to be a little further!
The terrain is pretty much the same….rolling
hills lined with trees, broad green fields and pastures, and swollen muddy
rivers with flooded side channels! More
logging is done here than I expected and since most of it is on private lands,
they haven’t exactly done a lot to clean it up afterwards.
We head north on Route 43 toward
Demopolis and our rendezvous with I-20.
We haven’t driven the trailer on an interstate since a 20 mile section of
I-20 in central Texas! But today we log
a whole 31 miles!! The interstate puts
us in easy search of the Sunset RV Park where we check in and pay for our two
But first, a stop in Demopolis for
gas, which turns into the Subway in Walmart, which turns into….we need to go
grocery shopping, so why not do it now?
We stock up for the week, learning later it is a good thing because we
need to provide our lunches.
Our spot at Avalon RV Park....pretty sterile!
We pull into the park and get our
directions to Avalon RV park, just under 2 miles away. Our CAV partners for the week, Larry and
Mem, are already set up and waiting for us.
Larry wins my immediate approval when he grabs some boards in the back
of his truck and makes a second step for me outside the trailer, as we are ‘high’
on the step side! What happened to our
park trees? After a week in the forest,
we are in a gravel parking lot!
111 Juanita at beginning of build
Larry and Mem have put the job site
into their GPS and offer to have us accompany them on a look see of the house
construction. It is about 3 miles away
and easy to find. Apparently the tornado
went right up the street, because it is lined with simple Habitat houses, with
occasional other houses scattered in.
Our site is at the end of the street on the curve. The house is basically framed in with part of
the roof rafters built. A nice cement
porch wraps around 1 ½ sides. Three
bedrooms, two baths. Larry and Mem are
Safety Instructors (uh oh!), and Larry was thrilled to see railings on the
scaffolding, boards on the rafters, etc.
I imagine I will get to pull out my hardhat this week!
Back to trailer to make our phone
calls, unwind, and prepare to go back to work!
The skies are still clear and blue, and it should drop down into the low
40’s tonight! YES!
ADDENDUM: Best discovery of the night! My LTE tether is faster than ANY internet I have had so far this trip! Hurray!
A beautiful morning, brisk, but
sunny. We drive the 3 miles to the house
site on Juanita Ave, a street prior to the tornado had the reputation of 12% of
the Tuscaloosa crime. The side effect of
the tornado, which pretty much wiped out all the houses along the street, was
to ‘clean house’. Rentals have been
replaced with homeowners and the whole feel of the neighborhood has
changed. It is still predominately a
black neighborhood, but a great deal of pride shows in the upkeep of the homes,
crime is WAY down, and truly we are building HOPE!
Doesn't take Rick long to get
up on the roof!
We are joined by a crew from
Mennonite Youth Volunteers (six month volunteers) and 2-3 from the Presbyterian
church, in addition to a few locals and other long term volunteers who come
down to Tuscaloosa to build with Habitat for a week at a time. All together, the site was buzzing! As of last Thursday the house was a concrete
foundation slab. Friday and Saturday
walls were built and raised, sheathing was applied to the outside walls, and
the roof supports were started. This is
a CRAZY roofline with peaks and valleys all over the place. It is not one that is done with trusses, so
we are building the roof supports as we go.
Brandon is the construction supervisor on this particular house. He is a long thin guy with a ready smile for
We learn a little tornado
history. It cut a half mile wide path
through southeast Tuscaloosa. Over 60
people were killed. The Habitat
affiliate gained considerable momentum from the tornado, however, and has used
that to up their building program from 1-2 houses a year to 10 or more. They are currently involved in at least one
other new build project, finishing up another house down the street, and just
completed a rehab project. Churches have
‘bought in’ and together are sponsoring homes financially. They have quite a program going for now.
Ging helps put up roof
Wooden stairs to scaffolding
My first project is to help build a
wooden access ladder up to the scaffolding.
Rick takes off for the roof and spends all morning up on top. I ended up on the roof somewhat by accident, but
that was ok. Both of us were working to
complete the roof supports. After lunch
Rick was involved with the roof sheathing in the areas where the supports were
finished. They also got the foot rail up
on top of the layer of ‘felt’ or a synthetic substitute. After lunch I ended up working with Brandon and
Tyler on the last section of roof. After
a quick lesson, Brandon left and Mennonite Tyler and I were on our own. We did get three supports cut correctly and
in place by ourselves, but oh, the brain power it was taking!
Crazy roof lines
End of Day 1 Photo
Larry worked inside the house most
of the day, finishing some of the framing there. Another gal was inside installing the
hurricane clips on each stud (a job I did on my first build in Las
Cruces). Everyone else was outside. Mimi, the other CAV gal, was ground support
for most of the day, hauling a few sheathing boards (with help) and acting as ‘gopher’
much of the time.
Our CAV crew: Larry, Mem, Ging, Rick
We quit at 3pm, largely because the
roof was finished. I think some of the
locals were working later to get another layer of roof sheathing down. I cleaned up the roof area of all the scrap
wood from the cuts and called it a day!
University of Alabama Bryan-Denny Stadium
Rick and I then headed on down University Ave toward
town in search of the post office. Well,
we finally determined that maybe Google is still showing the Eastside PostOffice
from before the tornado, because the spot marked is a vacant lot and there was
no building! So….we drive on down
University, past the college and Bryant Stadium and find the main post
office. I mail my postcards and walk
inside to buy some more postcard stamps.
Oh my! There must have been 15
people waiting in lines. I turned around
and said I’ll buy them somewhere else!
We drove back out on Bear Bryant Ave which took us right behind the
stadium. I hope I got some good
A quiet evening settling in to the Tuscaloosa environment.
Another beautiful day dawns, with
the forecast for a bit cooler but still filled with sunshine! We have a half hour reprieve today, with the
schedule calling for a 9am start due to a construction meeting prior. We get to our house at 111 Juanita and are
told to report to House 18 down the street – we will be helping with paint or
landscaping. We go down there and find
things bustling with activity. I meet
Angel and Anthony, the homeowners. Angel
has the most incredible dreds – beautifully coiffed and down to her buttocks. She was delightful to meet. I helped unload a few plants from the nursery
trailer. Rick was sent on an errand down
to the other house to get something from the trailer.
A side note about this house. Apparently, Nick Saban, head coach of the
Alabama Crimson Tide football team, said if his team won the national
championship, he and his wife Terry would basically provide the major funding
for a new house. The story goes he wrote
the check to Habitat the next day after the victory! I met his wife, Terry, this morning as she
was overseeing the landscaping. She is a
pretty dynamic lady with a huge crew of college girls there to work the
soil! However, Rick returned with gloves
for the gals and the message that we had been given wrong information and we
were to report to 111 if possible. Since
I was hefting a pick axe at the time to break up some very hard soil, I readily
gave up my job to go back and hammer!
Nail gun in action
And hammer we did. I can’t even begin to count how many nails I
hammered by hand today and how many times I reloaded my power nailer. I was on the roof all day helping Barry and
Dave with the sheathing. They were
basically getting the board in place, cutting to fit, putting in a couple of
nails to hold it, and then I would go to work.
A nail every 4” on the edges and every 6” on the studs. I hammered by hand for awhile, but then
realized I couldn’t keep up and my arm was going to die! The only reason I don’t like a nail gun is
because you can’t feel when you miss
the stud and hit a shiner.
Rick hammers in elephant skin
Rick started out helping with the
sheathing and then shifted to continue applying the ‘elephant skin’ (a
substitute for roofing felt) on the back side of the house. It had been started yesterday. Rick worked with Jenna, an AmeriCorp intern
for much of the morning, but then alone after lunch as Jenna was sent out on an errand. Both of us will feel it in our backs
The design of the Habitat houses
includes a ‘safe room’ – a large closet built into one of the bedrooms. It has anchors six feet deep into the
foundation, steel walls, a steel reinforced door, double plywood, etc. It is made to withstand up to a Level 4.5-5
tornado. Hard to imagine, but if I lived
down here I would want such a room in my house.
Progress...End of Day 2
We CAVs quit around 3pm – tired and
beat. I think Barry and company were
going to continue working for another hour.
The roofers are coming on Saturday (a company donated the labor to put
on the roof) and we have to have everything sheathed, faced, etc. by then. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain from 2pm on,
but we will have a full crew again as the Mennonite boys will be back
again. (They volunteer at a hospital on
We are passing a MacDonalds on the
way home and Rick says he could use a Frosty or something. I concur and we veer into the turn lane
quickly to sit for 45 min air conditioning eating an ice cream cone (me) and a
We heard from Children, Inc. again
this afternoon. Apparently the problem
with getting the parent signature for our visit is because Austen’s mom and
stepfather have been arrested. He is
bouncing around at various homes, not attending school regularly, and life is a
bit of a mess. Not good. The school is hoping to keep him long enough
to graduate. The CI counselor feels our
visit would be impetus to help that happen and she remembered that Austen has
celebrated his 18th birthday is a legal adult. We don’t need parental permission to visit
him! He is on spring break right now, so
hopefully he’ll sign papers next Monday and we will be a go for a visit on
A nice late afternoon sitting
outside the trailer with Mem and Larry and visiting. I guess it was our Happy Hour without food or
drink! The nights are cooling off, so we
get the heavier sleeping bag back out!
This will not be a quiet campground.
A whole series of trains and whistles during the night, garbage trucks
dumping at 4:30, sirens and the traffic noise from University Ave, and the
back-up beep of the truck that leaves at 5:30 and the one that returns at
6:30. Sleeping in mornings is not an option! But we were toasty again last night with the
heavier bag! While there are clouds this
morning and a cool breeze, the forecast is for some sunshine and temps in the
70’s BEFORE the storm hits tonight.
And the rain did come, but well after we were home for
the night, dinner eaten, and we were prepared to listen to raindrops!
Tonight as I write I am as tired as I have ever been
after a CAV day. Rick and I were both
back up on the roof all day, in 20-30 mph winds, trying to get more of the
elephant skin down. We have a ‘deadline’
of Friday or Saturday when the roofers are scheduled. Today was a beehive of activity at the house
site with a good crew present, especially in the morning. The Mennonite boys tackled the job of
finishing the decking (sheathing) of the rest of the roof – a tedious job of
intricate hips and valleys, weird cuts.
They were still working at it when we quit the roof at 2:30, saying the
winds were too strong and we were too tired to continue safely! Other groups were putting up the fascia trim,
cutting out window opening and nailing all the edges. The masons were back to work on the steps and
finish the pillars. Late in the
afternoon, the windows arrived, insulation was delivered, and the plumbers
Mem took our picture as we rested on
For the morning, Rick and I had the pleasure of
working with Dennis from the Methodist church and LouAnn, one of the associate
pastors at First Presbyterian Church.
LouAnn stayed through lunch and talked extensively with Rick and I. We told her we would hopefully see her again
this weekend at church…especially since we have met at least 4-5 people from
that congregation. Services at 8:45 and
11am! Also an organ concert to ‘blow out
the pipes’ on Friday evening .
We laid down a lot of the elephant skin on the roof. It was windy and hard to keep in place. A lot of hand nailing. I hit my fingers a lot at the beginning and
appreciated Mem’s ‘Thumb Protector’ which is magnetized to hold the nail in
place. Worked like a charm. I think I shall ask Santa Claus for one! Mostly it was a lot of up and down, knee
work, arm and shoulder work, and of course, staying on the roof work! After lunch we worked with a young man named
Joey. Between the crazy roof lines and the
wind, we made some progress, but…..we were hampered a bit by the fact that the
boys hadn’t finished the decking yet in the back corner.
End of Day 3 Progress
Home by way of Win Dixie, a supermarket where we pick
up a few items. Showers and relax. As I type the storm has hit full force. Thunder is rumbling, lightning is flashing
all over the place. Fortunately though,
the wind doesn’t seem as bad. I just feel
very exposed out in this ‘parking lot’.
Should be over soon….I hope! G’night!
Ah, the storm was over by 8:45 last
night and we had a peaceful night’s sleep!
and ready to go this morning, but had to find out from Larry where we were
headed. He had an address and his GPS to
guide us there – a house in progress in the southwest portion of town. It was right across the street from
Tabernacle Baptist Church!
Finished job at Tony's house
Marking my story boards at 21st St.
This house is being built for Tony
who is so excited he cries everytime he comes to work or see the progress! It is being built with a heavy duty type of
brick, which is designed to withstand winds up to 180 mph. The entire brick outer walls have been
laid. An inner 2x4 stud wall will be
constructed on the inside of the bricks.
Our job this morning is to help put up the trusses for the roof! Oh boy!
Good thing the Mennonite boys are here today – agile and strong! Rick is on the roof crew, while I help lift
trusses up. Initially I worked to spread
some sand around the site to try and reduce some of the MUCK of MUD from last
night’s rain. Then I was given the job
of marking ‘story boards’ with 2 foot lines all the way around. I did about 10 of them, ranging from 8 to 14
feet. We finished up at lunch time, with
the roof trusses all in place. The group
was returning after lunch to finish scaffolding moving, etc and the securing of
all the trusses completely.
Rick and Barry finish covering the peak.
We CAVS and Barry were heading back
to the Juanita St. site to try and finish up the roof so the metal roofing crew
could come in tomorrow or Saturday. The
fascia and sheathing on the walls needed to be finished and the last section of
Elephant Skin applied. Larry and Barry
worked on the fascias, while Rick and I went back up to our skin job. We worked all afternoon, very grateful that
Barry came to help us finish up! This
roof design is not one you want to learn on, that’s for sure!
End of Day 4 Progress
We wrapped it up (literally!) at
4:10pm. A late day, but it is done! Showers
(cold one for me in the trailer, as the water heater pilot light blew out
last night!) and by 5pm we were sitting in a booth at Jalapeno Mexican Grill
for dinner. Rick ordered a Fajita Quesadilla
and I a Shrimp Quesadilla. Both very
Visit time with Halsteads outside
for abit, a phone call to Fessels, and early to bed! I had a text from T Mobile saying I had used
up my high speed allotment for the month, so my tethering was MUCH slower
tonight, but tolerable! Maybe I should
have clicked to see what an upgrade would cost!
A restless night as it was warm when
we went to bed, but around 1:30 the cold front moved in with a good wind storm
that shook us up abit. The temperature
in the trailer dropped 20 degrees from 12:30am to 6 am! But the day dawns sunny, albeit breezy
Larry worked with Rick
Mem on cleanup
We are off for Juanita drive again –
today to work with the Methodist crew.
We didn’t think the roofers were coming until tomorrow, but the
sheathing passed inspection this morning, so it is go ahead with the blue board
insulation. The Mennonite boys are
working over at the 21st Street brick house. A good crew this morning, AND the roofers
decide to join the party! Roofing
Contractor Chuck shows up with his crew of young men – somewhat a ragtag
looking group of men, but they can roof!
Chuck gives a big grin with his front toothless smile, tattoos lining
his arms, but he quickly volunteers to lead the opening prayer and it is a
passionate entreaty to God for safety, blessing on our work and the people we
serve. Chuck’s crew has responded with
the Methodist ‘Same Ten’ group to Katrina, tornados, etc. for the past 6
Supervisor Barry and Larry
models their suspenders!
So….it is a bustle of activity and
people try to stay out of each other’s way!
Rick and I help CAV Larry to finish the soffits supports and fascia on
the east side of the house. We basically
spend all day on those efforts, but we finish!
Groups are applying blue board insulation, windows begin to get
installed, someone is working inside the house on the safe room, and after
lunch some gals show up to paint a primer coat on the panels that will be
ripped into soffits. In the meantime,
the south and west ends of the house get metal roofing applied.
Just before lunch we broke to pray
for one of the roofers who had to leave because his wife was heading to the
hospital, situation someone unknown. I
added them to my prayer list. The
Methodists brought lunch – Fried Chicken and Ice Cream. I have noticed in the south they don’t
necessarily provide what I would consider a complete
lunch – like fruit, etc. But we had
plenty of chicken!! And rolls!
A good day. I can’t believe the progress on the house
over the past week. Andrea, the
homeowner, should be in to work tomorrow and she will be amazed at the changes.
End of Day 5 Progress
The pipes at FPC
Home to shower and get a leisurely
dinner. We leave shortly after 6 to
check out the laundry at Sunset RV, where we checked in. Then into town to the Presbyterian Church for
the Dedication of their new pipe organ, and a concert by a renowned organist
from England. A pleasurable 2 hours of music – both classic
Bach up to modern Disney.
Front of sanctuary
A weekend lies ahead! Laundry, Habitat BBQ fundariaser downtown
tomorrow, maybe a River walk, church and a fish fry with Halsteads on
A Day for Relaxin’ in Tuscaloosa
We slept HARD last night! But up early for a Saturday to scoot over to
Sunset RV where we originally checked in as they have 2 machines in their
laundry and we can get it all done at once!
Five dollars in quarters and an hour and half later, we are done! Back to the trailer to relax a little before
heading into town. I worked on my ‘organ
drawing’ for today’s prayers – a tough one to draw and even worse to
Around noon we drove downtown to
where the Druid City Arts Festival is taking place along with the First Annual
BBQ Cook-off to benefit Habitat for Humanity.
All was taking place downtown at Government Plaza, a perfect venue for
such events. We walked around the vendor
circle first, amazed at the range of artwork and the eclectic nature of much of
it! We met up with Larry and Mem in front
of the Habitat BBQ station. Bought beers
(pop for me!) and found a table on the sidewalk. You purchased 10 tickets for the cookoff for
$10 donation and then could sample each station. With your ballot there was a people’s choice
award. The judges had already made their
decisions! More meat than I have eaten
in awhile and some stations provided side dishes as well. We had various forms of BBQ pork, chicken,
and beef (I don’t think I had any beef).
Sides included macaroni and cheese, turnip green cornbread, beans, and
corn. We were full when done! It was fun.
Another round of the vendors and I
bought a pair of ear-rings. Music was
being played on the stage and the crowd was enjoying the sunny afternoon. Weather was perfect.
Riverboat moored on the Black Warrior River
Drove down to the RiverWalk and
strolled for a half mile or so along the well maintained path. Saw a couple of moored riverboats and three
tugs on the other side of the Black Warrior River. The bridge to Northport spans the river at
this spot as well. Budding trees, dying
azaleas, and plenty of green along the way.
The path is actually 4.5 miles long, much of it on the U of A campus as
it borders the river.
Backtracked to head down to WalMart
on the south edge of town for a little grocery shopping and then home. Found a post office down there, plus a Dollar
Tree! Still haven’t found postcards at
any of the stores we have been in. That
is a MUST buy tomorrow!!
Back to the trailer around
4:15. Phone call with Luke, then a
couple hours sitting outside visiting with Larry and Mem eating veggies and
dips and drinking wine. It’s cooling off
Church and Fish Fry!
Another good night’s sleep! We arise and by 9am we are on our way to find
a place for breakfast. I am using my
phone to search as we head west toward downtown. We stop at the Wayfarer, but it is too
crowded and a long wait. So I find a
nearby IHOP which serves us well! Arrive
early for the 11am worship service, so we wander the halls of this massive
church. There is a full size gym with a
jogging loop on the balcony. Beautiful
chapel as well as the massive sanctuary with the pipe organ. We chose to come to the late service to make
sure we got the organ again, as I read somewhere that the 8:45 service was in
the chapel. Talked briefly with LouAnn
and Ellen Potts (Habitat director) after the service. Ironically, it was Youth Sunday here as well
as back in Baker City! Theme was ‘Leap
of Faith’ with the text from Peter walking on water.
First Pres Tuscaloosa
After church we stopped at three
drugs stores, two souvenir shops, a Dollar General, and two grocery stores
looking for postcards! Zilch! Bummer!
Our last chance is the Cracker Barrel gift shop. We’ll try there tomorrow. I did pick up some elephant earrings for Mem,
plus an elephant set for myself. The
elephant is the mascot for U of A and there are elephants ALL over town.
Catfish a frying in the pan!
Rick chats while Larry fries!
Lazy afternoon and then around 4pm
Larry started cooking our dinner. What a
feast. Our contribution was a bottle of
wine and one sweet potato (plus ice cream for dessert!) Larry was cooking
Southern style: fried catfish, fried taters, Sweet tater fries, cole slaw,
grits, and hush puppies. It was all
delicious! Mem saved some grits from
their breakfast just so I could try them!
We sat around and chatted until 7 or so.
Talks with Mom and Jed during the
evening. All is well!
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 6 Click HERE for all photos
Tony's brick house on 21st St.
We are back at the 21st St. brick house for
Tony today and I finally get a chance to meet Tony! He has taken all week off work to put in some
hours on his home. A single man, Tony
gets emotional every time he comes to the site and sees the progress
happening. Today Rick and Larry were
putting the ramjet nails into the Safe Room wall and Rick asked Tony if he
wanted to give it a try (basically it is a 22 shell that ‘bullets’ the nail
in). Tony witnessed parts of the 2011
tornado – he saw a bus and semi spinning in the air. I couldn’t help but think that Tony had a
sense of security to be installing his safe room – his place to go in the event
of another tornado.
Tony fires nails into his safe room
We also have the opportunity to meet
Shonda today. Shonda’s house has barely
been started and she is trying to get some of her hours in sweat equity
in. She works nights, however, and had
just gotten off work from her job at the state mental hospital at 7am this
morning. Shonda’s house is just a couple
blocks away on 22nd St.
Shonda figured I was her ‘boss’ today and she followed me around asking
what we were going to do next. It was
pretty funny, but I tried to keep her busy!
I gave both Shonda and Tony their Christmas Habi-Holidays ornaments before
leaving today. I got hugs from
Mem and Shonda paint the panels
The Mennonite boys were on the job,
as well as 3 college men from one of the frat houses. Before the mid-day storm hit, we were able to
get some of the metal roofing in place, Rick and Larry were finishing up some
details on the front porch in the rafters, and Mem, Shonda, and I were painting
4x8 boards that will be soffit material and the underside of the porch
roof. We devised a drying rack (I used
some of the skills learned in Kalispell from Kathy and Diane!) that handled 14
sheets eventually! We even managed to
get it covered with plastic sheeting and held down with bricks before the rains
fell too hard.
My scribble of Tony and
Shonda at work
Once the rain hit, we all moved
inside and it was cozy! Floors were
cleared and swept, chalk lines set for walls, second walls installed on the
safe room, and they were beginning to frame up some walls when we left at
2:45. Rick and I left a few minutes
early because the storm was moving in and we wanted to be back at the trailer
before anything major hit. I don’t think
I remembered to take an end of the day picture of the house when we left. (It was raining hard!)
We made a quick stop at the post
office so I could purchase some stamps on the way home. Arrived back at the trailer to find all well,
the fix in the air conditioner still dry as ever. Rick was glad that he dropped the front
slightly more this morning – something he does when we suspect rain to make
sure everything drains forward and off rather than puddling around the AC
Afternoon and evening (I suspect)
will be spent listening to the pitter patter of raindrops! (And hopefully not a lot of thunder and
Addendum….yes, it rained and
rained! A good bout of thunder and
lightning between 7 and 9, but seemed to settle down to JUST rain then. Rick had braved the wet to go out and unplug
the trailer….just to be on the safe side.
One good power surge could burn out our system.
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 7 Click HERE for all photos
The red is the actual tornado path, the pale orange
is the area of devastation.
A cloudy morning but the rain has
stopped! Tuesdays are a late start on
the job site, as the supervisors all have a meeting in the morning to determine
who is where with what crews for the rest of the week! Barry is with us today and we have a small
crew. Mennonite boys are at the hospital
on Tuesdays. So its just Barry, Joey, a
local volunteer, and us CAVs for today!
Joey leaves at lunch and another young man comes in during the afternoon
– his first time to volunteer. He got
the job of shooting the nails into the safe room, only the ‘gun’ wasn’t working
so he sledge hammered it all! Whew!
Rick and Larry's handiwork for the day
The site is muddy but
tolerable. We worked inside all day
trying to get ready for the electrician, plumbers, and heat crews coming in
later this week. The roofers had
finished all but a few peak caps, and they were back during the day to finish
up. Rick and Larry tackled the job of
putting some framing up above the wall on the porches and then blue boarding
over it. A tedious job to cut around all
the 2x4 beams, etc. But first…. The 4x8’
sheets of plywood in the attic area had to be dropped down, and then Rick was
up in the rafters (after we took the walk boards away of course!) to nail in
about 6 cross braces that were missing from the roof supports.
Working in tight quarters
I was given the job of blueboard,
only on the inside of the walls at the very top. I was cutting 5”x22.5” pieces of blueboard
and then wedging them into the space, the purpose to prevent the spray-in
insulation from leaking into the soffits.
I was working from the top of the ladder (due to my height challenge
status!) and could only do one opening at a time. So it was up ladder, insert, down ladder,
move ladder, repeat. I would cut about 6
at a time and then go install them. I
figure there were about 40 plus opportunities.
It wouldn’t have been bad except I was working around some huge bolts in
places, plus all the nails and screws the roofers had shot through that missed
Fuzzy photo...but rods we glued in
to hold the safe room in place.
Mem and I at the end of the day had
the job of squirting epoxy into holes at the base of the safe room and
inserting some rods into them. By
tomorrow Barry said they will be firmly held, probably stronger than the
concrete itself holding them. Again, the
safe room has been an education in itself.
But if I lived in tornado country like these folks, I would want the
comfort of knowing I had a secure place to go when the warning siren
sounds! I might come out to find the
rest of my house gone, but at least my family would be intact!
End of Day 7 Progress
Two more attempts to purchase
postcards today – we went to Cracker Barrell gift shop AND Pilot – both places
we had been assured carried cards. In
each we got the line, ‘We used to have them….’
So alas, everyone will have to wait until next week when we go to
Huntsville. SURELY the Space Center will
The skies have cleared and it is a
cool but beautiful evening out. Larry
cooked collard greens and cornbread pancakes tonight and brought us some so we
could savor a bit more of true Southern cooking!
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 8 Click HERE for all photos
These two weeks have flown by so
quickly! Only three more days of labor
and the rest of the trip is playing tourist and family time! We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Barry
as our supervisor most of the time.
Part of my upper tape job.
Larry and Rick worked hard on this
section of blueboard!
The Methodist are out in force today
as well as Joey and a few other college students who wander in and out for 3-4
hour blocks. Rick and Larry quickly go
back to their unfinished job blocking off the porch gables from the attic. The job hasn’t gotten any better over night
with crazy cuts here and there. Mem and
I volunteer to mark the walls for the siding, but first I remember that Rick
and Larry hadn’t taped the part they did yesterday, so I tackled that job. Working from an 8’ ladder, I could barely
reach the top gaps with the VERY sticky tape, but we got it done. The idea is to keep the attic insulation from
leaking into the soffits or porch areas.
Once I caught up with Rick and
Larry, Mem and I went to work on
Hanging around on the scaffolding chalking lines for siding.
marking the blue board with siding lines. Barry made us a story board which is
basically a two by four marked with the 7” increments. Line it up with the OSB on the bottom and
mark the wall. Stretch the chalk line
between the marks and snap. Check to be
sure it is level every now and then.
Make sure the two sides of a corner are lined up with each other. All this would have been MUCH easier if the
scaffolding hadn’t been so close to the walls!
We basically finished with two sides of the house and got the third side
marked but no chalk lines snapped yet.
Mem and I on the scaffolding!
I had a good time working with Mem
today, but I challenged her to go outside her comfort zone when I asked her if
she could get up to the scaffolding level so we could chalk the top of the
wall. She did and confessed that was the
first time she had been up on scaffold for years! (Mem is 71 years old). We took our picture together!
The inside of the house today was a
zoo. I was glad to be working
outside. The heat and AC boys were in, a
group was finishing up the safe room, and Jenna was up in the rafters during
the afternoon to put in some final
Rafter rat Jenna
When I walked in, it was a MESS!
Ducting everywhere!! The plumbers
and electricians are still on schedule for tomorrow I think.
The Methodists brought pizza for
lunch today and we brought a little home for dinner – there must have been 4
medium pizzas left over! Halsteads went
to Home Depot after work and picked up a portable circular saw that we are
going to donate to the affiliate. We’ll
put in half on it.
Final Day 8 Progress Picture .... too bad you can't see our red chalk lines all around!
Rick got a call yesterday from PERS
that he signed his supplement forms a few days too soon, so we got the page run
off on Mem and Larry’s printer and will get it in the mail.
4.14.16 Thursday HAPPY
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 9 Click HERE for all photos
We are scheduled for House 19 today,
the Saban Foundation funded home, to work on the punch list for
completion. No hard hats today! Couldn’t even leave our shoes on! Paper was down in the middle of all the
floors, but they had been cleaned and with all the mud in the yard ….. (The street has been undergoing water main
changes the whole time we’ve been here – every house gets a huge hole dug in
the front yard and then mix in several inches of rain and you have MUCK!) The first thing I did was make a boardwalk
path to the porta potty!
Boardwalk to potty
We had a list to work on….miscellaneous
painting, both large surfaces and small.
I did most of that. Rick painted
the driveway outside door, Larry cut some molding which then had to have the ends
painted. Joey, a local, showed up mid
morning and worked to install the rod in the wardrobe. He left at lunch with the project unfinished,
returned, and we think went to the other house to work. Hmmmm….
So we finished up that as well!
I noticed a gap in the master
bathroom between the sink countertop and the wall, a gap that would trap items
down on the floor and be unclean-able or irretrievable. So…after much discussion, Barry decided to
fix it. Couldn’t find the extra piece of
cabinet wood, but Rick suggested we break apart the kitchen cupboard that was
damaged and still sitting in the dining room.
So he did the demolition, and Larry spearheaded the construction using
the wood from the cabinet. It worked out
pretty good and now there is just an inch deep of space that can catch
something – MUCH better! Unfortunately
that job took a good chunk of time! But
we still got mirror hung, etc. in that bathroom.
A gift for the affiliate
While we were eating lunch, a man
came to clean the windows! He did a
great job both inside and out, vacuuming out the gaps, washing, etc. Earlier in the morning, Brandon stopped by and Larry took that opportunity to present Barry and Brandon with the saw we had purchased for the affiliate. Barry quickly said it could live in his truck! Larry's was invaluable on the roof to make cuts without having a cord hanging over the edges!
Mem, Rick, Ginger, Brandon, Barry, Larry at 19 Juanita, the Saban house
Quick stop after work to pick up a
bottle of wine for the invite we received last night to have dinner at Peter’s
house. Peter is another of the
supervisors who has been over at the 21st St. house most of the
time. We have worked mostly with
Mem and Larry drive us out to Peter’s,
and after a couple of wrong turns and then a phone call, we find his little
caretaker house set in an old YMCA camp slightly NE of our Avalon RV Park. It is off a small gravel road in the trees! Peter, in exchange for fixing things up at the
rarely used camp and using ReStore materials, lives in the renovated house and
is a presence when Habitat has groups coming in and needing housing. He had the table (a large piece of glass set
into the counter) all set and ready for us.
Also joining us was Scuba Steve, a former Habitat volunteer who is
visiting for a brief time, and Peter’s son, Alex. It was amazing hearing Peter’s story of his
involvement with Habitat and how he came to have a job with the local
affiliate. (He felt God urging him to go
to Biloxi, MS for a year following the hurricane. He ended up staying 2 ½ years, and then
another 5-6 on the road at various other locations) Peter has already bought his RV so he can join
the CAVs in a few years! We had a
wonderful dinner and dessert, plenty of wine, and a rousing game of Bananagrams
Our crew at Peter's. Steve took the picture.
Another story I want to share from
today. Monique was back this morning to
volunteer for a couple hours. Monique
has already received her home, even though she still has a few hours left to
fulfill. She is probably the last
homeowner who will get the keys prior to completion of hours. Monique’s family was in the hurricane. Their home, uninsured, was a tiny little 3
room building that was in the direct path of the tornado just a couple blocks
from her current home on Juanita. Monique’s brother and mom were injured, not
seriously, but Monique was thrown from the house, found on the other side of
the street. She coded twice in the
hospital and was in a coma for a month.
Peter said she was one of the last tornado survivors to leave the
hospital. She lost the vision in one eye
and seemed to have difficulty at times forming her words. I asked her if she remembers anything from
that day and she said, ‘Nothing. Not
until I woke up after the coma.’
Wow. I can’t imagine. But here she was, trying to finish her sweat
Neat leaf shadows from lights at Peter's
Sadly, we discovered
that Angel and Anthony, the homeowners for the Saban house, have only a
fraction of their required hours completed.
Their house will be done and sit empty until they get finished. Barry couldn’t give me a good idea of how
long Habitat will hold that house for them.
We shared that some affiliates require at least 100 hours before you can
get on the list for a house – a down payment on the interest to truly partner
The rain for today didn’t really
materialize – thankfully. We heard some
pitter patter last night but nothing during the day. Hopefully tomorrow will be the same and we
can get some outside work down on 111 Juanita.
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 10 – Final Day Click HERE for photos
Our final day as a Tuscaloosa
CAV. Rick and I discussed our options
last night and we have decided to stay an extra two days at least, three at the
most. That will still give us time to
spend a day in Huntsville and a day at Mammoth Caves, before we have to be in Paintsville
on Tuesday afternoon.
And it is a busy, productive day on
site! The Methodists are out in force,
with even more coming later in the morning.
Some college gals show up this afternoon. Jenna and Barry patiently orient everyone and
get them busy, regardless of when they arrive.
Look at those beautiful soffits!
Rick tackle the soffit installation. The Methodist install exterior doors and the
final window and then get started putting up siding. Mem and I, with the help of Edie, a late
coming Methodist, finish the chalking of the entire house for the siding. After lunch Edie and I mark all the studs to
assist the siding installers. And then….
Edie helps clean the corners
Shot-gun corner edges
I asked Barry if he wanted the
corner units ‘fixed’. It was apparent
Joey wasn’t coming to this site today to be given the job. Joey installed the corners on Wednesday with his new finish nail gun and we think he was enjoying himself way too much. The corners looked like they had been shot with a shotgun - holes and nails everywhere! So, cleanup needed to be done and Edie was willing to
help! Wee walked down to the Saban
house to pick up the Spackle. Armed with
a hammer to pound nails all the way in, putty knives to check for nail
The Methodist siding crew took off
on the front of the house.
heads, clean, bright pink Spackle, and a caulk gun, we slowly worked our way down the corner trim. I couldn’t believe how
many nails were in each piece of wood.
Edie had to leave, but I finished the job up myself by 3:30pm. Barry was really pleased with the
improvement. A good coat of paint and
the corners will look ok. It was really
nice working with Edie today and she was able to maneuver more easily than Mem
in and out of the scaffolding and up and down ladders.
End of Day 10 Progress ...you can barely see the siding and
just a peek of all that soffit work!
Many of the long term folks here at
the park pulled out this morning. They were pipeline workers and maybe the job is shifting to a new area. But in their place, we come home to find
several new rigs. We suspect the park
may fill up more tonight with people coming into town to attend the Spring
football game tomorrow at the stadium.
Rick is playing to go, but I will drop him off and he will walk the rest
of the way in. I’ll go find some place
fun to visit!
We go out to dinner tonight with
Larry and Mem at the Jalapeno Grill – it is a pretty good little Mexican
place. A pleasant time and we voice some
of our past concerns about ‘Safety Trainers’ which they have fortunately helped
ease! They will head out in the morning
for Indianapolis to visit their daughter and grandkids.
No rain is forecast for the
Alabama Spring Football! WIFI!
What was that last line I wrote last
night? Shortly after Mem and Larry
pulled out around 8:30, the raindrops fell!
Nothing major and a relatively short shower. Just enough to make the day humid later
on! We spent a lazy morning, somewhat
planning our next few weeks. Each fixed
our own rendition of an egg dish for a hearty breakfast. I think that’s twice the propane stove has
been used on this trip– both times by Rick cooking his eggs. At 12:30 ish we headed into town so Rick
could attend the Alabama Crimson Tide spring football game. It was FREE to the general public. Rick really wanted to see what the 100,000
capacity Bryant-Denny stadium was like!
So I dropped him off about 5 blocks away and drove a mile or two down to
a MacDonalds where I spent two hours using fairly good speed wifi to download
my pictures from the past week and to surf for some campsites in Kentucky.
Rick’s report was the game was a fun
experience! He especially enjoyed the
fact that it was such a great opportunity for families to come – the price
being affordable! Little kids cheering
‘Roll, Tide, Roll!”, etc. Last year’s
Heisman Trophy winner, a ‘Bama player, was awarded the trophy that will remain
at the University. From Rick’s pictures,
it appeared 95% of the crowd was wearing their RED shirts!!
A few people opted for the
nose bleed section!
When we left for the game, our
trailer was a lone little island in the center section of the park. Tonight we are surrounded by ‘Big Boys’ – 5th
wheelers and large RV’s. Most have not
unhitched, so I expect them to leave in the morning!
Weather tomorrow is forecast for
80’s and sunny! I think we are going to
God’s Chapel…. In the form of the UofA arboretum just across from the RV
park. Lots of trails to roam and a
We spend a leisurely morning watching all the rigs
around us depart! Many of the pipeline
workers have left as well. It could be a
lonely few days here!
Around 10:30 or so we head over to
the U of A Arboretum. The boundary of it
is probably within a football field of us – just across the highway and the
railroad tracks, but we have to drive a couple miles to find the main
Signs for Wildflower Garden
were better than flower
Tree pod with colorful markings I
found on the trail.
The site is located adjacent to what was the
University golf course and the VA Medical Center. We saw evidence of both! In fact, we didn’t know the part about the
golf course until much later, but as we walked some very old paved pathways
amid some long cleared areas, I told Rick it looked like an old golf course
with cart paths. We ended up walking a
number of those paths, moving further away from the main Arboretum area and
eventually ended up at the far boundary by the VA center! We backtracked and finally found the center’s
greenhouses and pavilion. Maintenance
has not been a high priority in the past few years and things are rather run
down: signs overgrown, etc. I did find
the wildflower garden and was able to identify several flowers. I used the new ‘Garden’ app on my phone for
that! Rick took off for awhile and found
the Tree Platform for his ‘church time’.
I saw on the map that
there was a labyrinth and was excited to spend my
prayer time there. Unfortunately, I
never found it. I think it was probably
a mowed path and it hasn’t been created recently. But while the facilities appeared a bit
haphazard, the trails and the trees themselves were wonderful. We saw some families out for a picnic, but in
general it was pretty quiet. Since we
parked up by the dog run area at the entrance, we added to our ‘hike’ with a
good half mile in to the Arboretum trails.
The ponds were full of water iris,
the trails laced with various pines, tulip poplars, sweet gum, and magnolias
(not in bloom yet! L) I found the rhododendron garden (not in bloom
except for azaleas!) and a HUGE magnolia tree.
In the wildflower garden I found columbines, wild geraniums, sweet
William, trilliums, meadow rue, fleabane, and more. Rick found a new red flower that I used my
phone app to identify: firepink. All in all, our time was a good two hours of
activity and reflection.
Purple water iris
We left to head on a new road,
Woodland Drive, down to the Walmart Neighborhood Market off Skyland to do a
little grocery shopping. Our efforts
included a rotisserie chicken which we ate for ‘linner’ at 2:30pm! We stopped at the Sunset RV office enroute
home to pay for our additional four nights.
Can’t beat a rate of $10 a night!
Also got our quarters so we are ready to hit the laundry again before we
Afternoon of phone calls to Moms and
Luke. I spent at least 20 minutes
cleaning house – sweeping, shaking rugs, sinks, toilet. I even dusted! This is a sized house I can handle!
Tuscaloosa Habitat Drop-In Day 1
Our trailer all by itself!
Our campground is emptying! We heard a couple of the big rigs leave early
this morning and by the time we got home at 3:45pm, we were absolutely alone in
the center of the space! By dinner time,
only 2 other 5th Wheels are located on the outer circle. It’s rather lonely!
A big crowd gathers to work on Monday. Barry was challenged to keep everyone busy and answering questions. 'Barry!, Barry!'
Tuscaloosa probably did not NEED our
help this week. A crew of Episcopalians
is here for a week, 11 from Michigan and 11 from Florida. Apparently a father-daughter connection
between the two groups! They are a fun
loving group and worked hard. For
several this was their first Habitat experience, others have made the trip to
Tuscaloosa before. Barry recognized a
Margie makes a cut...
Rick was given a crew of 3 others to
help finish up the soffits. He said they
did great and were eager to try all aspects of the job. One gray haired lady shot the nail guns and
cut holes with the jig saw. I got a
picture of her on the saw with GREAT concentration! Three teams tackled the siding, one on each
side of the house that hadn’t been finished.
Others put in the porch ceiling, began work on the porch supports. After lunch the Mennonites were to tarp a
lady’s roof who was having leakage
While I was on top scaffolding level, I took a picture of the crazy roof, now finished.
I worked with a gal from Florida, Teresa, who was on the trip solo and a
first-timer. She enjoyed the job of
caulking! We also had Monique working
with us for awhile and then another gal, Lindy, from the local community. We had windows to caulk, doors, soffit trim,
etc. I did all the caulking on the
soffit going around the inner edge of the roof-line. It was awkward to twist around to see into
the spot. I will have a crick in my neck
My caulk partner Teresa
Today was also the warmest day of
our time here – a beautiful, sunny, but warm 80 plus degrees. Lots of water and we were shade seeking by
the end of the day. Working with one
hand on the metal roof for stability, also told me ‘this roof is hot!’
I counted up over 30 people on the
site today. Twenty two Episcopals, 2
CAVs, 2 locals, 4 homeowners, and 6 Mennonites!
A lot of people to keep busy on one house, but Barry did a great
Progress Photo, End of Day 11
Tuscaloosa Habitat Drop-In Day 2
Progress has been made on Tony's house!
We are back at Tony’s house on 21st
St. today, at least to begin with! Barry
and Jenna are working on punch list at 19 Juanita, the Mennonites are at the
hospital on Tuesdays, so all the Episcopals went to 21st as well. They will be there for the rest of the
week. Peter quickly gives us a job to
do: transportation detail! We are to
drive back over to Juanita and pick up ‘Buck’, the Habitat truck, pick up the
nibbler cutter for the siding, and come back.
We do so, with a brief pause to visit with Barry and Jenna! Back across town with the truck, we pick up
Peter and head to the Habitat warehouse to pick up some trim board. The warehouse is NOT the office or the
Re-Store, but a big building where they store the donated materials, extra
materials, AND where they build on rain days!
I discovered this is a Habitat, not just for Humanity, for also for
Caninity and Avianity! On off
from scraps, they build children’s playhouses, dog houses, and bird
houses! I guess it just depends on the
size of the discarded material! The
playhouse is adorable with a porch, an L floor plan, etc. They sell them for $2000. Pretty neat!
I thought of Suzanne Fouty – she would appreciate the Habitat for all
We delivered the trim boards,
dropped Peter off, and then went over to Shanda’s bare concrete slab ‘house’ to
pick up some saw horses. Two houses are
being built in this location – Shanda’s and one other.
Rick quickly went to work with the
soffit crew, who were excited to see him back.
They had spent the whole time preparing scaffolding and hadn’t done any
soffit yet! I searched for a place to
tap in prior to lunch, and eventually spent some time preparing seats for the
crowd to eat on under the big tree. Boards
across bricks, etc. It worked pretty
well and we left them up for their use the rest of the week!
Lunch in the 'park'
After lunch I helped set up a paint
station for the trim boards we had obtained and then redesigned my drying rack
for that purpose. Then….it was time to
caulk and paint up on the eaves. If I
thought Rick and crew had left some gaps over at 111, I changed my mind. They were nothing compared to some of the
grand canyons I had to fill with caulk.
It was hot and muggy today. My
first real taste of the southern humidity.
At 3:30, Rick reminded me we still had to return the Habitat truck to
Juanita St. and pick up OUR truck! So, a
few goodbyes to the Episcopals – we might not see them tomorrow- and off.
Rick catches me caulking the soffit cracks
from the scaffolding.
We didn’t do laundry this weekend,
so it was a must do this afternoon. We
arrived at Sunset seconds after another car which meant we wouldn’t be able to
use both washers (if even one!) So off
down Skyland to a Laundromat I had found earlier. Seems we got there just in time, as a number
of people showed up after us (probably having just gotten off work!) I am so glad to have a washer/dryer at
I talked to Dave while waiting for
the dryer (Liz wasn’t home) and then Cherrie called as we were driving
home. A good chance to catch up with folk! Quiet evening! (Of course it is quiet, there
isn’t anyone else in the campground!)
Tuscaloosa Habitat Drop-In Day 3
Our last day of Habitat work this
trip (unless we hear from one of the drop-in sites at the last minute! ) The big group is over at 21st
Street, but the Methodist slowly straggle in and eventually there are probably
about 10 there. Three of the Mennonite
boys are here, Brian missing as he is packing for his trip home. Brian leaves and a new young man arrives tonight. Barry has to leave for awhile in the morning,
but Brandon shows up to supervise our crew!
Front of house is looking done!
Rick on fascia trim this morning,
helping some of the others get started on the project. I have two other women helping to caulk, one
a novice, but she does pretty well! The
older gal took a fall from the ladder this morning. I was concerned about her. We were caulking trim work on the porch, and
then up to caulk the fascia trim as soon as it was installed. Shanda also showed up this
morning to paint,
along with her friend Sam. They just
stayed for the morning. Shanda is
determined to have all her hours done by the time her house is ready to
Lunch crowd at Jim and Nicks BBQ
We debated, but decided to join the
staff and Mennonites for Brian’s ‘Goodbye’ lunch at Jim and Nick’s BBQ
downtown. It was a chance to see Jenna
and Brian plus Peter one more time. We
left around 11:30 and didn’t get back until 1:30! Rick and I both had pulled pork BBQ
sandwiches plus a side. I gave Jenna a
pair of tie dye shoelaces! We met
Mennonite House Leader Tyler’s wife and 2 year old son. It was a good time.
Gable Rick worked on
Back to 111 Juanita to find most of
the Methodists had given up on us! But
the boys showed up for an hour, plus another young college man, Jose and Rick
and Barry and I. I continued to caulk,
while the ‘frieze’ was installed so that they could start work on the gable. By the end it was just the four of us
working, but the one gable got done.
A ‘fake’ window had been framed to
balance the window at the left of the front door. Behind it are the shower stalls. Barry had been debating all week on how to
finish it off. In the meantime, he kept
thinking a face looking out would be fun, so I said I would take care of
it! I found some heavy white plastic,
used tape to outline the window lines, and drew one of my Scribble figures
(with eyes and a shirt!) I mixed the red
dirt with some water to rub on and at least color the shirt with a big A on
it! Barry loved it! At least it will give the neighbors something
to laugh about for awhile. And it was a
temporary break from caulking!
I grabbed Brandon and Peter when they stopped by to take a picture of the Tuscaloosa 'Supervisors'! Barry, Brandon, Peter
We stopped at McDonalds for some
wifi to get our tickets for a cave tour this weekend, but Mickey D’s didn’t
have working internet. Rick drove down
to Wendy’s and from the parking lot, we got the job done! Gas into the truck, and then back to start
the pack up process – mostly cleaning up the back of the truck of work tools,
We are now one of TWO rigs in the
lot. One of the 5th wheels
left today while we worked. The other is
still here, but we haven’t seen a truck with it for days. So basically, the camp area is ours alone as
we sit in the middle. But tomorrow we
So I wrap up the Tuscaloosa post on
this blog! This has been a great
experience. I only wish Tuscaloosa was a
little closer and we would be back. We
have been treated very well. I told
Barry he ranked right up there in my top three favorite site supervisors! Experiencing the racial mix of Tuscaloosa has
been good for me. I haven’t interacted a
lot with African Americans – certainly not in 99% white Baker City! I have enjoyed meeting homeowners and
visiting with them. Their stories are amazing. All have been black. All have appreciated my ornament gifts. I’ve received hugs. Am I always comfortable when I find Rick and
I are the only ‘white folk’ in the Laundromat?
No, but I’m better than I used to be!
We head north from here…..stay tuned for CRUISING APPALACHIA COUNTRY!
Progress pictures from our two plus weeks:
Beginning of Build
Day 13 - All Siding finished, but one gable. Caulking done. Painting begun. Safe Room done.
21st Street - Tony's House
The day we arrived to put up the trusses.
After two weeks...Interior framing done, roof done, Front gable done, Siding on back half done.