January 20 to February 14, 2014 NOMADS Project, Mercedes, MS

February 15 (Approximately) to June - Gate Guarding, TX or LA.

June, 2014 - Up to Alaska!

September - NOMADS Annual Meeting, Branson, MO

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Food, Family and Ford

Cullman, AL

Food:     On Thanksgiving we had dinner at Len's son's house.  Lennie made the traditional Cajun dirty rice, cornbread dressing and pecan pie.  He and wife Tammy also served turkey, a great macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole, Mississippi mud pie and a green salad.  I contributed cole slaw and green beans.  Len made banana pudding.

Family:  This is Leonard Jr. with wife Tammy and daughters Morgan and Maddie.   The young man is Morgan's boyfriend Joshua.

Ford:    As we are waiting for repairs on our truck at the local Ford dealer, they gave us a loaner.  On the previous post I referred to it as a Fairlane.  OOPS - What do I know!  She is a Crown Victoria.   They call it their Blue Beauty.

And another F - Flu -   My computer caught a "virus" two days ago.  I could do close to nothing on it.  I asked the campground owners here to direct me to a computer repair person.   I took it in for repair yesterday and he removed the many viruses.   We are now good to go.

So in the last week we have had a Failure on our truck and back in the shop it is.  Then a Failure on the computer.    Lastly yesterday I knelt on the sofa to open our blinds.  I felt my left knee twist.   It is swollen and sore.  I am having some difficulty navigating steps.   Otherwise I am Feeling Fine.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bridges of Blount County

Cullman, AL

We had a great day on Monday touring.   On Tuesday we decided to take it easy and just head out to do some grocery shopping.  We had noticed on Sunday that the truck was emiting white smoke when we first took off.  It did not happen on Monday so did not think much more about it.  But - on Tuesday there it was again and then we smelled a familiar odor.  It was the same odor we smelled last Thanksgiving Sunday while traveling back to NJ from Alabama and we broke down in Virginia.  

Fortunately we were only one mile from the Ford dealer.  Yup - looks like the same old problem.   In September 2009 the engine oil cooler split.   The dealer in NJ replaced it.  Then two months later over last Thanksgiving the new one split.   This time Ford replaced the entire engine, radiator, hoses, heater core.   We thought that would be the end of it!  Nope - here we are one year later and faced with same issue.

Being Thanksgiving week the Ford dealer, who rents cars, had none available.   We called Enterprise, same story.   So the dealer provided us with a loaner.   An 97 Ford Fairlane.  She ain't pretty but the price is right and she runs.   We will know by Monday when we might get our truck back.

In the meantime, we have things to see and places to go.    Granddaughter Madison stayed with us Tuesday night.  Yesterday we toured.    Nearby Blount County has three covered bridges.   First we found the site of Swann Bridge.  However, after seeing a sign for it and driving a dirt road we found ourselves at a blockade with no bridge in sight.  There was another sign - Bridge Out, no trespassing.   This bridge is (was?) the longest in Alabama at 324 feet.   We never got to see it.

We then drove about 15 miles to Easley Bridge.   This bridge is 95 feet long and sits 18 feet above a creek.  The bridge was blocked from walking on it.  There was a posting at the entrance of the bridge that the bridges of the county are all in disrepair.   It states the county committee has control of funds for renovations but will not release the money.   It is sad to see the condition of these old relics.

Only a few miles away was the Horton Mill Bridge.   This bridge is 220 long and is the highest covered bridge over a waterway in the nation.  This bridge is also in disrepair and you can not walk on it.  It does have a picnic area and walking trails around it.

We then decided we were hungry and stopped for lunch at Captain D's, a fast food seafood place in these parts.   Disappointed, we were. 

The town of Cullman is home of St. Bernard Abbey, Prep School, Monastery and the Ave Maria Grotto.   A Monk Brother Joseph Zoelti was born in Bavaria in 1878.  He came to the Abbey in 1892.  Due to an accident, he became hunchback.  That did not stop him from working on miniatures throughout the grounds over many years.    He built the first one in 1934 and the last one in 1958.  He died in 1961.   He used various materials in his work, a lot of it donated.    Broken glass, old jewelry, cold cream jars, seashells, small statutes - whatever people would send him.

Here are a few samples of his work:

We had a delightful day with Maddie.   Later in the week we will seek out other interesting places to see.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Checking out the area

Cullman, AL

We have spent some time visiting with Leonard's son Lennie and family.   This is the house they are now renting but plan on buying.
Most of the leaves are off the trees except for these beautiful maples.  The campground is loaded with them.
On Sunday we, as is our usual practice, found the local Methodist church and attended services.  This church and its second sanctuary, classrooms, offices and community hall take up an entire town block in Cullman.  That large building in the background is part of the complex.

On Monday we did a bit of touring.   Our first stop was at the old Houston Jail in Houston, AL.  It was built in 1868 is the 2nd oldest log jail in the nation.

The hand-hewn logs were filled with nails to prevent prisoners from sawing their way to freedom.  There are two small rooms in the jail.  After it was no longer a jail and until the 1960's it was used as a private residence.  Note the hole in the back wall.   While a jail, this was the "bathroom facility"   EEWWWW!!!

Next we drove to the town of Natural Bridge to see the longest natural span east of the Mississippi.   The sandstone arch spans 148 feet long and 60 feet high.  It was formed by an underwater river over 200 million years ago.

A little west of Cullman is 270 foot long Clarkson Covered Bridge.  There is a lovely picnic grove at the bridge site.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

And on to Alabama

Cullman,  AL

We finished our project in Georgia on Thursday.   During Leonard's last few days he completed the wiring project with the help of NOMAD Ernie.   This is a picture of Len back up in the attic.  You can barely make him out in the middle center left, but there he is, that dark shadow.

Our group worked really hard the first two weeks.  We were wondering what to do those last few days.  Leonard took care of that by falling through the ceiling.  NOMADS couple Ernie and Donna Rainey took charge of the fix.   Ernie worked on the repairs, Donna did the mudding and then applied a coat of spray
"popcorn" ceiling paint.   This first picture is of the repair.  It looks discolored because it is still wet.  Next is  Donna following her spraying the ceiling.

My job the last few days was power washing the area around the pool.  

On Wednesday in came the police!   Officers from Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama were at the camp with their K-9 partners.   We were surprised to see three sheriff cars from Cullman, AL where Len's son lives and where we are now.  Cullman is about a 5 hour drive from Vienna.  We were told there were 60 dogs.  The officers hid explosives and drugs in various buildings and then worked with the dogs to re-certify them.   A police line up.

Following our last day of work, we went to dinner at Yoders, an Amish cafeteria in nearby Montezuma.    Seated at the far left is Stacy, the camp director surrounded by her children and husband Matt.
We got back on the road Friday around 8:30 am.   We arrived in Cullman, AL about 12:45 central time.   After getting settled at Cullman Campground, our home for the next two weeks, we drove over to sons house and visited a short time with Lennie, Tammy, Morgan and Maddie.  

It was an early night for us with a good nights sleep.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And through the ceiling

Vienna,  GA

Our work week started well enough.   On Monday morning  Len finished up the ramp he build two weeks ago by water sealing the bottom supports and then starting an electrical project at the camp directors house.

I spent the morning power washing the pool area and picking up more fallen branches.   Then in the afternoon Len asked for my assistance at the camp directors house.  He and I went up into the attic to drill a hole.  I did not enjoy walking the beams, afraid of slipping and falling through the sheetrocked ceiling.

After drilling the holes, I waited outside for him.  He was preparing to thread wires through outside PVC pipes and I would assist in pulling the lines.   Our goal was to make an electrical hookup for an RV.   As I was waiting outside,  I heard a loud crash inside the house.  I knew immediately what it was. Yup, he is the one who slipped off a beam and came through the ceiling.

He came through the section on the left, but the hole was about half of what has been cut out.   The rest has been removed during repairs.  It is a wonder he did not get caught up in wires.  Fortunately when he went through he caught himself and hung on the beam, then dropped to the floor and rolled.  The room in which he fell is the family room.  It used to be the garage.  Immediately under where he fell is the steps.

Had he fallen hard on these steps it would have been much worse.   The ambulance was called.  They arrived within minutes and checked him out.  We decided not to have the ambulance take him to the ER but I would drive him.   Nothing broken - just lots and lots of scrapes and bruises.  He has a large scrape on his right arm, another on his chest.   His right leg is swollen, scraped and bruised from mid calf almost to the knee.   It could have been much worse.

Today Leonard and I took it easy.  We changed out a few light bulbs in various buildings then hung 8 new blinds in the recently painted conference room.  In the morning he was okay.  But by 2 he was really feeling the effects of trying to do too much.  We stopped work around 2:30 and took it easy.

Tonight the Board of Trustees of the campground had their monthly dinner meeting in the dining hall and we were invited.  

We now have only a day and a half of work left.   Most goals are accomplished.   I will finish up the power washing of the pool area tomorrow.  Len will get back to the electrical project but as instructor.  He will oversee the project by giving directions to someone else.   He is in no condition to climb ladders nor do we really trust him up in that attic again!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Andersonville and beyond

Friday and Saturday were spend touring.  Sunday meant church, laundry and washing of the truck.

Andersonville, GA

I  remember from Civil War history that Andersonville, GA was a prisoner of war camp for captured Union soldiers.   I did not know that it was only in existence 14 months.  If fact, it opened after the south had, in effect, lost the war following the battle at Gettysburg.  

Andersonville not only tells the story of its own history but is a tribute to all American Prisoners of War.  In 1998 the National Prisoner of War Museum opened at Andersonville dedicated to the men and women of this country who suffered captivity.   We started by watching a 30 minute movie narrated by Colin Powell with personal memories of POW's from WWII, Korean conflict, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf wars.  From there we took a walking tour of the grounds led by a National Park Service guide.

The cemetery.   Note how close the headstones are.  This is because the bodies were buried without caskets in a long ditch, side by side.    After the war, Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross came to Andersonville and with the assistance of a former prisoner, identified all but less than 500 of the dead. As this is a National Cemetery, there are still interments but in a different section from the Civil War dead.  They average of two burials a day.  As we drove through the cemetery there was a burial in process on so we did not stop to walk around.

This is an escape tunnel.  The tree has grown up around it.  Most escapees were recaptured.

Approximately 45,000 prisoners passed through Andersonville.    It held 33,000 men at a time and averaged 100 deaths a day.  This is a replica of the stockade fence that surrounded the compound.  The logs were square cut and rose 15 feet above ground and 5 feet below the ground.   Between the wooden fence and the stockade was the deadline.  Should any part of a persons body cross into that zone they were immediately shot and killed.

Americus,  GA

Habitat for Humanity was started in Americus, Ga in 1976 by a young couple who saw a need and wanted to make a difference.   Many people mistakenly believe it was started by Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn.   They did not become volunteers until sometime in the mid 80's.  At this site is the administration offices, a welcome center and examples of homes being built by Habitat volunteers around the world.  First on the self-guided tour is an example of housing of some of our poorest in this country.

This is an example of a South African house built by Habitat.    Each house in this complex has signage indicating the materials used and method of building.  There are currently 17 sample houses.
Plains, Ga

We drove through Plains.  This was the only thing of interest to us.  A peanut wagon.

Warner Robins,  Ga.

On Saturday we drove about 50 miles north to the town of Warner Robins home of the Robins Air Force Base.  

This is a HUGE complex.   We were there for more than 4 hours.  Not only are there many planes, but there are displays and artifacts telling the story of WWII and all subsequent wars.

This is the inside of a C10 used to drop parachuters and cargo.  This plane will fly inches from the ground while unloading trucks from its rear hatch.

This plane has a cruising speed of 2,000 mph with a flying distance of 3,000 miles.  Sure would be a quick trip of only an hour and a half!  They were getting set up for some type of affair later in the day to be held in this hanger.

This is the helicopter that flew Bobby Kennedy from the Pentagon on November 22, 1963 to Dulles Airport for the arrival of his brother's body as it was returned from Dallas.

Vienna, GA

The Joy Sunday School Class at Vienna church invited us to join them for dinner on Saturday night held in the dining room of the campground.   Then as is our practice, the group goes out to lunch each Sunday after church.  There are few places in the area to dine.   We were told by several people that many folks eat in the hospital cafeteria on Sundays in nearby Cordele.   So when in Rome ......   the hospital cafeteria it was.   Not at all bad.    This sure was a first!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

End of another work week and still sore

Vienna,  GA

First, welcome to Jeanne and Allan who are also fulltimers.  We met this fine couple last year while visiting our son in Alabama.    Jeanne and Allen - We will be spending Thanksgiving again in Cullman if you will be in the area give us a shout!  We would love to see you again.

We have now completed our second week of volunteering at Camp Dooley.  This week Len and a couple of the other guys built a shed around the water pump out on the ball field.   Then he took inventory of light bulbs that need changing and built benches at the ball field.

As for me - I spent most of the week power washing.   But each morning while it was still somewhat cool, I painted directional signs.   These signs were first routed by another volunteer, Andy.

The power washing included the chapel which was turning a lovely shade of green.

This area is full of pine trees that drop their large needles, causing mildew and dirt to build up.  After power washing the chapel I did the sidewalk leading to it.  This sidewalk is about  60 feet long.  Here is a picture that shows my work in progress.

There is an outside worship area that sits next to a small stream.   There is a large wooden cross on a red brick base sitting in front of 15 concrete benches.   I could not imagine anyone sitting on these benches. They were black and dark green with mold.  I washed the benches and red brick base.  These are before and after pictures of some benches.

I was glad to power wash.    If not, I would have to paint walls.  And I HATE PAINTING WALLS.  I know some day I will have to paint but fortunately I missed that bullet this time!  Not every NOMAD hates to paint.   Here are two fine ladies who did a super job on the conference center.   This is Connie and Barb.

We feel so blessed that we are able to serve in this way.    One more week here and we will be off to Alabama for two weeks.     Our next NOMAD project is not until January in Tucson, AZ.

Check out NOMADS at http://www.nomadsumc.org/

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cotton, pecans, buffets and BBQ

Vienna, GA


We are seeing a different kind of white stuff covering the fields down here.  Not the cold, wet, white stuff that we are used to up north.  The white covering the Georgia fields is cotton, a major crop.

Square bales.  We also see lots of huge round bales.


The other large crop in this area is Pecans.   We were given a tour of a local pecan farm by the owner
of Ellis Farms - Elliott Ellis.
The larger of these trees were planted in 1918 and still provide a substantial crop of pecans every other year.
Once the pecans drop from the trees, they are blown into piles then loaded into trailers and brought to the processing facility. The pecans are then sorted to remove debris. 

After sorting they are stored in cold storage until they are packaged.  

Mr. Ellis stresses to never buy pecans sold along the road and sitting in bags in the sun.  He says pecans need to be kept cool or they will turn rancid.   Visit the Ellis Bros. web site at


Our first buffet of the weekend was Friday night at Pats Camp just outside of Vienna.   It was okay, just okay,  On the line were catfish fillets, whole small catfish, baked beans, cole slaw, salad, hushpuppies, cheese grits. and french fries.  Not worth a trip back.

On Sunday after church we went to Sheilas in the neighboring town of Cordele.  The restaurant is connected to this store.
A much better buffet. (AND FOUR DOLLARS CHEAPER)   Fried chicken, ham, roast beef, BBQ pork, white beans, green beans, cole slaw, seafood salad, green salad, collards, cornbread, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, bread dressing, and all kinds of pies and cakes including (what else?) pecan pie.

Bar B Q

Each year the town of Vienna hosts the Big Pig Jig.  This is a competition with teams from all over the country.    I took lots of pictures of the various cookers but I am having a difficult time uploading pictures here.   It has been taking about 15 minutes a picture.   

The one picture I will upload is that of a whole roasted pig.   The first prize winner in that category was the local Vienna Volunteer Fire Company.   Stacey, the director here at the campground and her husband Matt were on that team.
Tomorrow - it's back to work!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A week of work and now sore muscles

Vienna,  GA.

We have completed our first week here at Dooly Campground in Vienna, GA.   The only employee at this campground is Stacey, a young mother and wife who is solely responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the entire complex.   She does a great job but is so very thankful for the twice-a-year assistance she receives from NOMADS.

Some of you reading this might assume we are working at a campground for RVers.  That is not the case. Dooly was founded in 1875 as a Methodist Camp Meeting.   It currently is being used for various activities such a Vacation Bible School, Walks to Emmanus groups, occasional weddings and other community events.  This weekend there is a Prison Mission group meeting here.

There are 9 of us working on this project.   As is our usual practice we attended the local Methodist church on Sunday morning.
Stacey prepared dinner for us on Sunday night in the camp dining hall.  Her husband Matt did a bang-up job grilling steaks!    After dinner we reviewed our goals for the next three weeks.

On Monday Len got to work on a stubborn pipe leak that had been giving Stacey problems for some time.  
It was stubborn for Len too.   After several attempts at fixes, he finally got the leak repaired on Wednesday.

I had a fun job on Monday.  They have a very large baseball, volleyball and soccer field that was in desperate need of mowing.  The lawnmower is a type I had never operated before.  I will say this - if I ever have a large yard again, this would be my choice.  
Hey Rick - is this like your John Deere baby?     As I said, it was a large field and took a full day of work to get the tall grass mowed.

In between attempts to fix the leak, Len built a portable ramp to be used to enable wheelchair access into the conference building.  This is only the frame.  I haven't taken a picture of the completed ramp.  He did a super job.

Most of Len's Tuesday was spent completing the ramp and working on the leak.  I, not having enough of riding around on that large mower, mowed the rest of the campground, including around the pool area, the dining hall, the conference room, the parsonage (Stacey and Matts house), the cabins and general grounds.  In the afternoon I did my very least favorite task, I PAINTED!    Oh how I abhor painting but I know I can't always avoid it.   The little painting I did was to prime one wall in the parsonage.   Enough of that I say!

On Wednesday the correct parts were received for leak repair, allowing Len to complete that job.  I picked up branches and dead limbs which were all over the place.   I loaded then into a golf cart/trailer and unloaded them on the brush pile.  In the afternoon Len assisted me as there were some that were too heavy for one person to lift.

In rained most of Wednesday night into the morning.  Therefore, we found inside work to do.  Len and I hung blinds on all the windows and doors in the dining hall and changed smoke detector batteries.

Every day Stacey prepared lunch and break snacks for us.  

On Wednesday we attended a dinner and bible study at the Vienna UM Church.   The guest speaker that night was our own leader Gene Wengert.   They do this each week.   They have a simple dinner from 6:00 to 6:30 with a short bible lesson following.  This week they served vegetable soup, pimento cheese sandwiches and banana pudding.  The whole event took less than an hour.

Every one of us agree - four days a week is about all we can work.   Friday was very welcome.  Time to rest those aching muscles.