Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spring Trip 2016 - Part 6: APPALACHIAN ADVENTURES


4.21.16 Thursday
Tuscaloosa to Decatur, Alabama
154 miles

          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.
Crimson Clover
     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 adventure tomorrow!  

4.22.16 Friday
US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL
A gray day as we cross the
Tennessee River
            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! 
Framed rockets
      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
190 miles

      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 Parks!! 
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

4.24.16 Sunday
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 anniversary!
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

           Our 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
because 6 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 bought! 

            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. 

4.25.16 Monday
Bailey’s Point COE, Glasgow, KY to Jenny Wiley State Park, Prestonburg, KY
247 Miles

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!  

4.26.16 Tuesday
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.

4.27.16 Wednesday
Rain 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 tomorrow! 
            Lunch again at Bob Evans, where I wanted to try their all-you-can-eat soup, salad, and bread lunch entrĂ©e.  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 campground.
            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 thick woods! 

            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!)


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Spring Trip 2016 - Part 5: TUSCALOOSA!

4.3.16 Sunday
Coffeeville to Tuscaloosa, AL
150 miles

            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 weeks. 
            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!  

4.4.16 Monday
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 1

            Whew!  This build may kick my rear!  I am a little sore tonight, a little sunburned,
Beginning gathering: Mem, Larry, Presby guy, Brandon, and
Mennonite leader, Tyler
            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 everyone. 
            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 pictures! 
A quiet evening settling in to the Tuscaloosa environment. 

4.5.16  Tuesday
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 2

            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 tomorrow!! 
            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 Tuesdays!) 
            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 McFlurry (Rick). 
            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 April 26. 
            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!  

Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 3

Lou Ann, from Presby church,
worked with us today

            Ah!  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 arrived. 
Mem took our picture as we rested on
the rooftop!
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 . 
Anyway….our work.  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!

4.7.16  Thursday
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 4

            Ah, the storm was over by 8:45 last night and we had a peaceful night’s sleep!  Yes!
Up 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 good!
            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! 

4.8.16 Friday
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 5

            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 still. 
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 years. 
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 Sunday! 

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 color! 
            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 this evening!

4.10.16 SUNDAY
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! 

4.11.16 Monday
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 6
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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 both! 
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 unit. 
            Afternoon and evening (I suspect) will be spent listening to the pitter patter of raindrops!  (And hopefully not a lot of thunder and lightning!) 
            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. 

4.12.16 Tuesday
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 7
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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 a stud! 
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 carry postcards! 
            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!  

4.13.14 Wednesday
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 8
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            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
bracing.  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 BIRTHDAY LUKE!
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 9
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Saban House
       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!
Repaired gap!
   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 Barry. 
            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 afterwards. 
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 equity obligation.  
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 with Habitat. 
            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. 

4.15.16  Friday
Tuscaloosa CAV Build Day 10 – Final Day
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            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.  Larry and
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
to 'repair'
            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 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 weekend!  Yea!!  

4.16.16  Saturday
Alabama Spring Football!   WIFI!

Bryant-Denny Stadium 
Band section!
            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 wildflower garden! 

4.17.16 Sunday
University Arboretum

Arboretum entrance
            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 entrance. 
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
Flame azaleas
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
Tree Platform
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 leave. 
            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! 

4.18.16 Monday
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 few faces.
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. 
problems.  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 tonight! 
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 job. 

Progress Photo, End of Day 11

4.19.16 Tuesday
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
Bird houses

days and 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 Living Things! 
Shanda's 'Slab'

            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 home!!! 
            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!) 

4.20.16 Wednesday
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 go! 
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. 
I'm Trapped! 
            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, etc. 
            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 shall leave! 
            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: 

111 Juanita

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.