Monday, October 2, 2017

Pittsburg to Aspen...the LONG way.

Of the lower 48 states, I had been to all except Michigan.  A few years ago, I had opted to accompany an older gentleman who had served in WWll on a trip called "The Honor Flight".  These trips occur all across America.  American airlines donates the planes and crews, the organization locates the WWll vets and volunteers, pay their own way, to be an assistant if needed to each vet on a day trip from a major airport to Washington DC for a day.
I had stayed connected with the Vet and his wife, but was going to surprise him and pay him a visit in at his assisted living facility in Michigan.  I had his contact info and address, so after my stint in Kittanning, PA volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, I drove north into Michigan.

Well, the surprise did not work. For nearly a week, I tried to call he and his wife's # but no one answered.  No contact was made. (I've called numerous times since...but still no contact.)
..... My choice then was simple. Drive north through Michigan and over the Mackinac Bridge

 into the Upper Peninsula of the state.  I  heard it was beautiful.  It was!

I had friends that lived just a bit SW of the crossing point and made arrangements to visit them in a couple of day.  In the mean time, I drove to the furthest point of land in the NE of Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point.
                                          Coast Guard Station and Light House at Whitefish
 Took a tour of the Light House while I was there and what a great view from the top!




The Museum not only had artifacts from many of the ships sunk over the centuries, but an interesting display throughout, that told the story of the European settlers entry into the region.
Museum Website

I stayed overnight in a small State Park before and after, then headed south west along the coast of Lake Michigan for my upcoming visit with friends Mary and David, eating well, having some laughs and good conversations.

 Special treat was a picnic at a remote little park on the water, where David grilled some hot dogs. Wonderful day.

Soon though I was on the road and decided to take Rt. 2 west, as it runs just under the Canadian border, an area I've never seen. Very decent road, wonderful country and smaller towns.  So much better than interstate travel!  Twas a good move and stayed near the border until I entered Montana, then began dropping south through Wyoming and towards Salt Lake, Utah.  Beautiful scenery along the way and made stops at special places.




                                          Weather stayed perfect, clear skies and mild temps.
                                         Every day, the landscape changed several times.
Of course, sooner or later, weather changes and I saw it coming. Drove a little bit further into this National Park and sat out the freezing rain and sleet.

Had to be at my next assignment for Habitat, in Silt, Colorado soon, so with the exception of one more visit with friends in Sheridan, Wyoming, I drove daily to wonderful scenic locations on my way to Silt.  Had a lovely time of it.



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Habitat for Humanity, Kittanning, Pa.

Driving north from Florida to help with a HFH build in Saxton, Pennsylvania, I was diverted to Kittanning, Pa. The reason surprisingly was Hurricane Harvey.  A crew of NCCC (the new version of the old Civilian Conservation Corps- CCC)workers in Kittanning were sent to Houston to help out, leaving a very short labor force behind. I was sent to help out.



Arrived finally at the Wheel In Campground 10 pm in rain.  Very nice but remote. Pete loved his morning and evening walks, often around farm fields and always along the stream.



The campers there were 'regulars', who leave their trailers and seem to use them as weekend get-aways/2nd homes.  Jovial bunch with dogs and kids and totally enjoying their fire pits and barbeque's.

One gent kept his 1960 Fire Truck in the Campgrounds barn, taking it out for a run around the camp and local parades.
The local Habitat for Humanity affiliate was in the process of building 2 high tech homes. Sloping property and basement heights added to difficulty working on the exterior. Scaffolding and other platforms had to be built for safe working conditions.

Built for solar benefits as well as massively insulated, the living room will have (4)  5' x 6' triple pane windows.  Ceilings had to be sheathed, then 2x4" runners added for attaching 5/8" Sheetrock.  Overkill in my estimation and way above what "Habitat's phrase of decent, affordable housing" means to me. Oh well.


Adding scaffolding on this sloping terrain proved to be a Rubics Cube of a problem. The fill dirt was full of rocks,  concrete and metal junk, so getting a level surface for each foot proved difficult. However, all window efforts required a platform from which to work.


Left after the windows were framed out for the additional Dow Board insulation, that still needed to be installed on the exterior, having put in my 10 work days.

However, Sunday I drove to the nearby town of Ford City, Pa., that originally had 3 Catholic churches.  Over time, the lack of funds, forced closure and the sale of 2 of them.  The 3rd has been kept open and is a beautiful example of turn of the century churches.  Time changes all things...........

  Now driving north to explore Michigan and it's upper peninsula. Got to visit with a co worker up there and now heading to Colorado exploring the US most northern road, Route 2.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Very Long Month

It's amazing how time flies or, how one can really fly if pressed for time.  This year has been exciting yet at times totally relaxing.  This past month will explain that comment a bit.

June was spent working and traveling in the perfect weather of the North West U.S.  Could not ask for better working conditions and the scenery everywhere was spectacular.

Those that I worked with were all 'on the same page', loving what they were doing and at times closing their eyes in wonderment, that life could be so perfect.

Traveling between destinations chosen as much by happenstance as well as year long preplaning so I could add my efforts to Habitat for Humanity's Caravanner RV team was wonderful.   Often, I would make my days route choice with morning coffee.  Yes, I'd have a general idea before moving from point A to point B, but allowed myself the freedom to add as much newness and surprise to my life when making these choices.


For example, traveling west towards Kalispell, MT. from Rapid City, SD, I chose a meandering route that would allow me to drive over the Beartooth Mountains.  The road is open only when it can be cleared of snow and the timing was good for me to skirt along the top of Yellowstone National Park and Beartooth Hwy. on my way west and then turn north and drive up 93 along Montana's western side.

In Kalispell, Habitat builds a fair amount of homes, from this larger than normal home for a large family, to more typical 3 bedroom 2 bath homes for families of 4.  (Normally....)

Due to the frost issue, foundations must be deeper than in the south where slabs are normal.

Thinking I had a couple of extra days between builds, the next being in Port Angeles, WA., I ventured to SW Oregon to visit an old High School buddy and his wife.

 Then, ready to hit the road north, I received an email requesting that I turned East instead and drive 2900 miles so I might help out a local Habitat Affiliate in West Virginia, to an area just hit by deadly floods.  In the morning I was on the road East.

As near a straight line as possible shown on a Rand McNally maps as Interstates, my path offered little of the perfect scenery that the secondary roads offer.  However, some of the driving offered pleasant surprises.

One for sure was many miles driving in the Salt Lake City area.. Winds were driving salt into the air, just like dust storms I've seen.  Twas interesting!
                                           ...............  Also this Super Sized foot bridge

Animal bridges  surprised me.. built so wildlife can cross from one side of a major road to the other without fear of death to either man or beast.  Cool!
 Entering Hwy 60 in West Virginia, the folks and support teams from the National Guard and Non Profits had already done an amazing amount of work, cleaning out homes, removing materials from homes and businesses that was water damaged, and trying to move back at least in the direction of normalcy.  
 People died, homes and businesses ruined, lives put on hold.
 It will take years.





As banks of streams and rivers were quickly covered by raging water, anything in its path was swept away and destroyed.


Our task in Greenbriar County of WV was to do a little Disaster work, but mainly to help keep Habitats ongoing construction moving forward.

West Virginia homes we are building are modest.  They follow Habitat guidlines yet must be affordable to those applying.


One home  a half hour drive up on Muddy Creek Mountain, had only a slab poured and only a small amount of supplies on hand.

 Problem was a group of 60 HS students and their adult leaders were due in to help construction.  We had to get prepared and lead.






Not much to show initially, but at the end of the week, a home was visible.. Still much to be done.

The town of White Sulphur Springs, which had been badly damaged during the floods, had another home under construction but the interior needed some corrections and then paint, before walls, flooring and cabinets could be installed.

A group of 47 Catholic students from NJ were split between the 2 homes and I think everyone of them did a fantastic job!  I was super impressed with their efforts and attitude.  Great Great Great!
                                                                            Ian
                                                               Santiago and Nicki
                                                                              Kat

                                                                         Deaglan
                                                                          Victoria
                                                                            Doug
                                                                     Jae and Matt
The surrounding area of West Virginia is Wild and Wonderful, as they say.  Beautiful mountainous country; some old, some new.


 Confederate memorial in Union, WV





                                                                an Old homestead




So, here we are... the HFH Caravanner volunteers who responded to lead teams and work their tails off, having a night out.


Mexican food and a Mariachi band.  The break was perfect.

The area is working hard to pull itself together but it is evident everywhere, that those affected and those effecting what is necessary, will persevere.



Long month!!