Monday, May 27, 2013

Remembering Tuscaloosa Tornado 2 Years Later

A few days before we left Tuscaloosa, we took drive around the area near Holt which was close to our work site.  We were near the Alberta area building houses.
We took some photos of the area.

This is where Alberta Elementary School once stood.
And over in the Holt area more effects of the storm:
We saw only one storm shelter:
And a house with a pool and garage - only the garage left
The devastation and destruction of these tornadoes is hard to comprehend.  We have never been through one or experienced it.  Two years later, things are a lot better, but their lives have changed and they have endured a lot.

When we see the recent tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma our hearts go out to them also.  But for now I think about what one homeowner said to us while we were in Tuscaloosa, "Thanks for remembering us".

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Two Weeks in Tuscaloosa

We finished up two weeks at the Tuscaloosa Habitat For Humanity Disaster Recovery Build.  It has been another great experience.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves here.  We met a lot of new people and got to do some fun things at the job site.  The work has been pretty much the same as other HFH builds.

The first week we worked on outside trim and siding.  This week we have been involved with framing, raising walls and sheathing for the sides and roof.  And installing some tornado strong tie-rods and a building a safe room.

While here, we have seen some interesting things:
- A University of Alabama BCS Championship ring -
Leon is a student at U of A and the team Equipment Manager.  He has volunteered on site for a few days and let us take a peak at some of his hardware.  He let Dee Dee try the ring on for size.

- Chief Financial Officer for the Los Angeles Angels -
Bill Beverage is the CFO and one of only 30 individuals across the country.  His son and daughter in law, wife and a contingent of 19 from Tucson were here for the second week.

- Safe room -
We had never heard of a safe room before we arrived here in Tuscaloosa.  HFH uses a FEMA design for this and is building it in all their new homes.
There are hundreds and hundreds of screws securing this inside of the home which has its own foundation.

Some high-wind/tornado/hurricane straps, rods and bolts:
And work accomplished on week two:  the group started with a couple of walls up
and by the end of the week most of the windows were in and the black tar paper on the roof was installed.

We also made it a point to go see the Paul 'Bear' Bryant Museum -
The Bryant-Denny Stadium at the University of Alabama -
And two college groups, one each week:
- University of Georgia -
- University of Arizona -
And Peter -
A great guy to work with.  One of the best we have worked with!

And somewhat unexpected: we ate at a great Thai Restaurant on campus:
If you are thinking about joining a Habitat for Humanity Build - the affiliate in Tuscaloosa could use your help.  And they have some great work going on and know how to make it a fun and productive time with their volunteers!

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles ~ until next time...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Adventures on Roadrunner Laundry Day

Saturday was wash day at our house.  Like always, we got the clothes and such out of the basket and sorted it before we took it to the washers and driers.  Since we don't have one in the Roadrunner, we use a laundromat (or Joan's or Kelly's or the washers/dryers at the campground).
We don't have a washer and dryer in the Roadrunner, but we have the plumbing/hookups if we ever want to install one.
So today - we were off to the laundromat.  I found some on my iPhone and went to one that was a little rough looking.  So we proceeded to another one.  I was a little suspect when we ended up in an industrial area and then to the front door of the offices of 1 Stop Laundry.
 We then found a Soap and Suds downtown.  It was a little crowded and required us to use payment cards (as tokens) which we needed to purchase.  So we continued on until we found a nice place nearby - a 1 Stop Laundry.  It was clean and not too crowded.  Plus there was a convenient store nearby for coffee and a donut.
Pam's first choice of washers was occupied, so she used a couple of other ones.
So -- it took us a couple of hours and $10 to do our laundry.  Some would say - too much hassle -- they'd rather have the washer and dryer in their RV.
We prefer the space and don't might doing it this way.

How about you?  Do you have a washer/dryer in your RV?

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...

Friday, May 17, 2013

We Are Not the Only Ones

There are all kinds of volunteers at this site!  We have a whole lot of folks from different parts of the country who are volunteering and doing Disaster Recovery work in Tuscaloosa.  We are part of the HFH RV Care-A-Vanners group.  And there is a steady stream of other volunteers who are also on site.

The Mennonites are here with about 5 men.  They have their own trailer and equipment and 'sign up for  a 6 or 12 month stint.
And a group of college men and women who are here from Georgia.  This group we found particularly interesting.  It all started with Mercedes.

Mercedes (in sun glasses -below) recently graduated from the University of Georgia.  Two years ago after the tornado hit Tuscaloosa she was drawn to get involved.  She drove out here by herself and found a group of people that were taking in volunteers and getting ready for recovery work.  She followed up with a second trip with about 20 other volunteers.  They were housed in the local Nazarene church.  Since then she has made it back to Tuscaloosa each year after school lets out and brings friends with her.

Here is a shot of the group:
This is a great group: Janine, Kelly, Mercedes (first row); Howell, Kari, Justin (second row); Monica, Alex (back row).  This group knows how to work and have fun doing it!  
And they are polite!  I haven't heard as many "Yes Sir", "Yes Ma'am"'s in years.  

One day we had a local group from the Capstone Hotel in town.  They included folks from HR and the Event Planning office.
In addition to working on site all day, they had lunch: large chicken wrap, Gatorade, pear and two chocolate chip cookies.

Down the street the United Methodist Church (UMC) Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is building a house.
There have been thousands and thousands of folks who have been here to help with the recovery.  With  the destruction of over 5,000 homes, there will be a lot of work to do for some time.

That is all for now -- thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mostly Painting for Now in Tuscaloosa

We have been on the job site in Tuscaloosa Habitat for Humanity and are off to a great start!  We love it when the affiliate knows how to farm out the work and keep everyone busy and involved.  The first couple of days, we have been painting the house on Juanita Street.

We started off with introductions in the team meeting/form up at the beginning of the work day.
Brannon is the site construction manager and he gets a lot of help from Joe who is our house leader.  Peter our campground host and HFH staff member keeps us busy too.

The scaffolding was up all around the exterior of the house which made it very nice.  No extended ladder work reaching high places which is fine with me.  We always learn and see new things at different places.  Here we saw scaffolding rails for the first time.
Scaffolding is heavy, takes a lot of time to set up and take down - but once it is in place it is great.  And safe.  HFH is making a concerted effort to step up its safety emphasis and the rails on the scaffolding are a good example.
Some worked on getting the trim up and caulked and then we all got into painting it.
It carried over into Tuesday and we gave the whole exterior two coats.
And we accomplished our goal of finishing the house painting so we could get the scaffolding down.
It has been a good first two days here and we are looking forward to the rest of the week.

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Feel free to drop a note/add a comment - we always love those!
Until next time...

Monday, May 13, 2013

On to Our HFH Time in Alabama

We always like spending time here in east Tennessee.  This time was no different.  It is such a beautiful place and has lots of history.  And Pam grew up here and has a lot of family here.  We have been coming here for over 35 years now.

But it was time to leave our spot at Mike and Joan's place. We have a great situation with water and electric at the "Roadrunner RV Resort and Campground".
We got to visit them for over a week.    A great thing about this lifestyle is being able to visit family and seeing the grandkids growing up.  Kayla graduates from HS next month and Noah (going into 5th grade) is ready for summer baseball to start.  And its always great to spend time with Michelle and Jeremy.  Nephew Joey and I got to play golf on Friday and got in 27 holes which was fun.

But it was time to move on and we packed up and got underway about 8:15 on Sunday morning.  It took over 5 hours to get to Y-Acres Campground.
We are now set up in our Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Campground spot in Tuscaloosa Alabama.
We start work this morning for a two week gig here to work on some home struck by the devastating hurricane tornado of two years ago:  April 25-28, 2011.  After we arrived, Peter (campground host and long-time local Habitat volunteer) took us for a short drive through the area struck by the hurricane tornado.   It was very sobering to see the aftermath of the destruction --even two years later.

Many homes are gone never to return.  Much of the neighborhoods hit still show the effects.  But many folks have stayed and rebuilt.  We saw some of the 15 31 Habitat houses that have been built since then.  There are another 6 or 7 in various stages of construction that we will be working on.

We are looking forward to putting in some good hours and learning new skills and meeting some homeowners.  A big bonus of being here is that we found out HFH Care-A-Vanner friends Jim and Betty are also here for a while.  So that will be fun catching up and working with them again.

Hope you all have a good week.  Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hitting the Trails Brimstone Recreation Area

If you love to 4-wheel and have never been to Huntsville, TN to check out the Brimstone track - you need to!  It is one fun place to spend the day!  Niece Michelle and husband Jeremy have all the gear and season passes to Brimstone Recreation.  They took their son and and his buddy and me for an outing that was a one great day!
Jeremy got the 4-wheelers and dirt bikes all ready and packed up.  We left a little after 8 and headed to Huntsville.
Of course, along the way, we had to stop for breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Lake City.  Then on to our destination.  We checked in to Brimstone and paid for a day's worth of trail riding for me.  Everyone else had season passes/wrist bands.

I was so impressed with the office/check in station.  These folks are high tech and first class.  They turned a gas station into their office and it was very well organized.  Very classy first impression!
We were greeted by Donika - the senior office manager who runs the place.  She was very helpful and we were all set to go in no time.
I liked the way the place looked and thought they were pretty high tech for an outdoor recreation business.  We checked in on a workstation at the counter.  Donika indicated the iPads should be in soon for that purpose.  If you go to their website: you more impressive stuff.  Like the interactive trail map:
And you can find them on FaceBook.
They host a yearly bash/concert/competition called 'White Knuckle' that looks interesting.  And if you are looking for a vacation place to spend a few days running the trails and jumps of a great facility in Tennessee - add this to your list...

So if you are looking for another outdoor adventure on your 4 wheeler/ATV/off-road vehicle, you might want to check this out.

After checkin- we headed to our parking area near Trail 3.
Jeremy unloaded and we got our helmets on before Michelle checked out our waterproof map of the trails.  
Then we were off!
We road the easy trails and I had an easy 4 wheeler.  Mine had no clutch to worry about - all I needed to do was steer, watch my speed and figure out which gear to put it in.
Figuring this out was not too tough -- it was all about switching gears and speed.  I was pretty comfortable after about 20 minutes.
We stopped at the motor cross track up on top of the mountain near the power lines and spend time there going around the 'track'.
Then we hit the trail again and went back over to the parking lot to grab some lunch.  But first we had some negotiating to do…
After lunch our chief mechanic topped off the tanks and checked things out for our afternoon ride.

I like the way Jeremy plans things out and carries a first aid kit and set of tools for some contingencies in case some thing comes up.
Then we hit the trail for the afternoon session
We saw some beautiful country and made some wonderful memories.
Can't wait until our next outing...

That's all for now on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Thanks for joining us!