So this trip came as a surprise to me, got an email from Kim Tunney, leader of disaster response teams for John Knox, asking if there wasn’t some way that I could come on this trip to Virginia.  Well, given I didn’t even know about it, tell me more.  So we had to change Phantom tickets, but pulled that off, so I joined the team, with some people from previous ones and two first-timers.  What was great about this trip was that someone had contacted a retired pastor/contractor, who had already surveyed the jobs, decided on what could be accomplished in the timespan, ordered the materials, and spent the week with us, helping at the sites as needed.  His name is Bob, and we all fell in love with him, such a kind soul, fun to be with, patient, a great teacher and leader, loved to joke around, you name it. Photo above right.

    We also knew the three jobs before we went: remodeling a bathroom, building a porch, and underpinning a trailer -- do what??  Well, Valerie, a 1st timer, knew what that was, and I’ve built many a porch with Habitat, so I knew what tools to bring with me.  Bob said yes to my whole list, but said I wouldn’t need the chopsaw; “excuse me, we ALWAYS use chopsaws to build porches.”  Well, he just uses the circular saw, but I use my chopsaw.  He was speechless as we unloaded that from my truck; “I’ve never known a lady who owned her own chopsaw.”  “Hey, you be nice to me, or you can’t use the sawzall that you told me to bring.”  And why do I need a sawzall for the porch?  Well, I found out.  He chops off all the tops of the 4x4s posts so that the ledge is smooth all the way around, turned out nice.

    The underpinning didn’t need his help, and their team of three actually finished in 2 1/2 days, so Bob spent his time between the porch and the bathroom.  We loved saying, “Bob, don’t you need to go to the bathroom? Bob, isn’t it time for you to go to the bathroom?”  He helped us the first day digging the post holes, which we three ladies would never have accomplished.  Then he also helped installing the stringers for the stairs, that’s when I ended up in “prison,” and then came back with a new 4x4 to replace the really warped one at the top of the stairs, which is when Jenny climbed in the “prison.”  But the rest of the time, he left me in charge of Kim and her daughter Jenny, who were super quick learners, great workers who needed no supervision, only called me if something didn’t look right, and both have new BFFs called cordless drills.  The sisters/homeowners Nicole and Renee are ecstatic about their new porch, built on top of the crumbling brick one, and still talk about how they had expected a team of GUYS to be building their porch, only to be greeted by me and my mother/daughter tag team.

    We had driven down on a Saturday, had a little difficulty finding the church due to faulty GPS directions, but finally arrived and got unpacked and mattresses inflated.  Pastor Brad took us “sight-seeing” on Sunday, and because the church’s TV didn’t work, we told him we were invading his house for the CAVS game 7 of the NBA Finals.  The sole photo above says it all.  A come-from-behind-beat-the-odds-set-a-new-record VICTORY for Cleveland.  The curse is finally broken, and we were able to be part of it.

    The bathroom project for Jean Ramey was just remove the tub and install a shower stall.  Take off the siding, save it to reinstall, knock out the wall, haul the tub out, etc.  Well, the knock-out-wall part revealed termites and carpenter ants and all their destruction.  New studs, sistering the joists, new floors, and cut down the shower stall by 10” to fit in this tiny house, all had to be accomplished, but the project still got finished in the timespan and Jean is much safer now that she doesn’t have to step over and into a bathtub to take her shower.

    The underpinning involved putting up decorative panels below the trailer to keep animals out and also help with insulation from beneath.  Valerie led Peg and Jessica on that team, and theirs was by far the most uneventful and least needy of all the projects.  They got lost trying to get to the “porch” on Thursday after lunch, but on Friday, Valerie went to the bathroom, and Peg and Jessica learned about porch-building from my apprentices Kim and Jenny.  Just keep Peg away from a chopsaw in the future. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

    One of the sights of Grundy is the multi-level Walmart, with a parking garage, and the only “cartalator” in the world.  A horrific flood in 1977 destroyed 97 of the 101 businesses in town, and the Army Corps of Engineers responded with a $600M project for a new road and downtown area, which later included this unique Walmart.  Their cinema also has a parking garage instead of a parking lot. 

    Grundy is in a river valley.  We learned a lot about mountain culture:  bridges are to the left or right of the road you’re on, you don’t actually drive ON them, they’re for getting to people’s houses; not knowing this gave us problems when given directions with “after the 3rd bridge, etc.” Silly us, we were expecting to drive OVER 3 bridges.  Names of roads are quite entertaining: Hurricane Bridge Road, Dog Fork Road, Little Coal River (and there was no river), Turtle Creek Road, Mud River Road, Running Right Way (and it was on our LEFT) and Big Ugly Creek Road.

Going to “prison”

Old underpinning gets covered with new.  Homeowner Pat is totally pleased.

The churches whose people were getting our help with restoration thanked us with dinners, which was nice, but we had been told we were on our own for meals, so that kinda threw off our plans for the food that we had brought with us.

The normal river on the left becomes the flooded river after a heavy rainfall.  We caught just the bottom edge of the rain that devastated and flooded parts of WV.

Saturday we went to Breaks park for a “picnic” which featured STEAKS grilled in the rain.

Sunday and Wednesday, Brad showed us the sights of Grundy, swaying bridge above, which we of course had to cross with him shaking it, charming park to the left & above, and high price homes with gorgeous views of the mountains and valleys.

Invading Brad’s home for Game 7 of the NBA Finals.