April 21st, 2014 | Author:

Remember the coal trains that travel along the tracks right across the street from us?
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I don’t have a clue where they are headed as they trundle by here, but I do know that they get loaded up just outside of Jackson.
The tracks pretty much follow the drive to the school (and continue on down the road to wherever coal goes).
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Given that the standard maximum grade for freight trains is 2.2%, it’s been pretty interesting to see the different access venues for reaching the other side of the tracks.  These are just some of the options we saw on the 5 mile trip from town to the school.
There are your over the track crossings-
Yes, one of them was just a regular railroad crossing.

But to be sure, the tracks are not usually that close to the road level. There is usually a bit a hill involved in these crossings.
So up and over they go!
Sometimes they are paved
but most often not.
Like the one that the school uses to access their property on the other side of the tracks.
OCA Train Crossing

Then there are the underpass options. Sometimes (for whatever reason, I don’t know) they put in a nice bridge.
Well, I guess it was a nice bridge at some point.
And sometimes a little bit smaller, not quite as nice, bridge (but then again, that road is a bit sketchy too).
And sometimes they just seem to make a little tiny tunnel
and you know that if you live on the other side of that tunnel you will never drive anything bigger than a Honda Fit.

Finally, if the grade just becomes too steep to manage, the tracks themselves will dip into the mountain
eliminating the need for crossing the tracks altogether.

Let’s just say I’m quite thankful that we are parked on This side of the tracks!
Train Tracks

April 19th, 2014 | Author:

(Let’s overlook the fact that we’ve been here for over a week,OK? 😉)

So, Jackson, KY. When we stopped at the welcome center the helpful guy stocking the shelves commented that he just couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to go to Jackson. Humph. Well, while Jackson is indeed pretty much out in the boonies, it is home to Oakdale Christian Academy which has been home to us this last week (and will continue to be for the next!).
Oakdale Campus-5

Home Sweet Home April 14
It’s been a good project so far. Gary has been busy working on the plumbing at the under-construction girls’ dorm
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and I have been helping out in the library and also processing mountains of “Box Tops for Education”.
We did have a bit of excitement earlier this week when it snowed! Really? Mid April? Kentucky?
The neighbor's bird feeder is a popular spot this snowy Kentucky morning! So glad it's right outside my bedroom window.  #heyitsaprilalready
(Must have been a tax day joke?)
But crazy weather aside, this is a great spot. I’ll let the school web site tell you more about the school and its interesting history, but currently it is a Christian boarding school with about 60 students from all over the world. The campus is lovely and in the process of updating and upgrading many of their buildings. I took a little “walk about” this morning…..
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I knew they owned some property across the street, so I decided to check that out too.
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Yes, those tracks are pretty darn close, but fortunately the trains, even though they are long coal trains, do not run all that often. (Could’ve been a long couple of weeks otherwise, right?) Getting on the other side of the tracks afforded a good view of the campus too!
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That’s their new gymnasium. Oh, and they also own up to the top of the hill – though they haven’t quite come up with a great use for it yet. 😉
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Classrooms and dorm rooms.
But back on the other side of the tracks there was some pretty interesting stuff too.
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And even a small cemetery where the founder and a few others are buried.
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Another view of the campus from graveyard.
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Once I got back down, I checked out the stream that runs behind the buildings -
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It’s really lovely, isn’t!

But the school isn’t just about buildings and landscape. We haven’t had the opportunity to get to know too many of the students, but we’ve come to know and love the staff. Especially the bluegrass playing ones!
Oakdale Bluegrass-1
So much fun on a warm spring evening! ☺️
As we’ve watched the staff, administration, and dorm parents interact with the students here, we can definitely see where it is being true to its mission statement -
to change lives by providing a challenging educational program and a Christ-centered community for teenagers from a broad spectrum of experiences, leading them to lives of learning, serving others, and loving God.

More pictures of the campus and the other side of the tracks can be found HERE!

April 14th, 2014 | Author:

and a sweet week with our niece, Christiana. Chris’s mom and dad had given her an “Uncle Gary Gift Card” for Christmas to facilitate the replacement of 5 very leaky windows in her Chattanooga house. We were delighted to be able to work in the visit on our way to our April project in Kentucky,
Love the redbud along the highway. Not so crazy about the construction cones or the bug splatter on the windshield, but I do love the redbud! #gettingclose
and I do believe she was delighted with the work that was accomplished. Even though there were a couple of glitches, it was still a great week!
We took up residence right outside her house and just ran our electric cord through her front window so we could keep our batteries charged and the fridge running. It really worked out well -

We could enjoy all the amenities of her home while still sleeping in our own bed. It’s a really good plan. :)
The windows about to be replaced are these two in the front and then the three down side on the first floor.

We started on the front ones – Out with the old

and trying to figure out how to get the window frame square for the new ones -
It was very interesting (um, maybe frightening) to check out the construction behind the original windows (well, not original to the house, just original to the most previous renovation.)
Yikes! And eventually, in with the new!

We ran into a couple of complications on those first two windows, but after a good dinner at a great local burger joint, we were ready to move to the side!
These were a bit more tricky just due to the distance off the ground, but we all kept plugging away. Gary of course did most of the plugging (away).  Chris and I worked on painting the trim and stuffing insulation into the cracks (which helped explain why her house was always so cold!), while Gary squared up the openings and got them ready for the windows.
Hi, Chris! We’re coming with the window! Actually placing the window in the opening was a three man job – Chris on the inside and both Gary and I on the outside lifting the window into place – which is why I don’t have any pictures of that. Could not figure that selfie out!
We are very familiar with “old house” renovations, but it never ceases to amaze me just how crooked these old dwellings can be.
We’ve got him framed now!
Let me just interject here that it wasn’t all work and no play. Why even an early evening run to the local Lowes can allow for some beautiful views!
Crossing the Tennessee River at dusk, with promises for a beautiful  Saturday.
We checked out some great local eateries
Big day ahead on the window project- good thing we started it with the breakfast of champions!
and I even got to accompany Chris for a run up Lookout Mountain to Covenant College where she works.
It's a beautiful day for a walkabout at Covenant College.
And what a beautiful morning that was!
But back at the house the work continued. We only were able to change out 4 of the windows due to one of them being damaged, but along with the windows Gary was able to get the mailbox properly installed in some concrete, fix some goofy electrical issues, put up some new house numbers and change out a couple of defective lights in Chris’s closet and laundry room. All in all, a very good week!
By the end of the day Wednesday (we were all leaving Thursday morning), the house was put back together, and even though there was still some touch-up painting to do (it had to wait for the caulk to set up or I would have done it. Honest.) it seemed like a job well done.

Chris has always been near and dear to our hearts. She was living in Philly while we were getting ready to sell the house and hit the road so she joined us for many of our garage sales.  And she also went home with a fair bit of our “stuff”, so when we get to visit her it’s always a wee bit like coming home! We love you, Chris – it was so fun to come and work and play and eat and laugh with you! Maybe we’ll see you on our way south in the fall and take care of that last window! See if you can hang on to that extension ladder, okay? :)

April 11th, 2014 | Author:

The Texas SOWER Reunion, that is!
From the arrival of the first RV on Sunday afternoon
to the departure caravan Wednesday morning
it was a perfectly grand event.
It had all the necessary ingredients for a great reunion -
A never ending campfire -
in the early evening….
enjoying the first night with friends…..
and starting the day with a cup O’Joe around the fire with the guys.
Morning coffee by the campfire. Well, the guys thought it was a good plan.  #2014txreunion
There was great food -
the first night Hot Dog Roast-
Pizza night -
Lunch at the Trinity Pines dining hall -
and a how-can-you-have-a-SOWER-gathering-without-a-potluck Potluck!
Can I hear a “yum”!
There was a Talent Show
and funny or serious, all were quite talented. :)
Of course there was the SOWER Auction!
Checkbooks up! And what will the starting bid be on these baked-fresh-this-morning sticky buns?
$50.00 you say? Who brought the forks? (The auction raised over $3500 for the ministry! Whoohoo!)
But for all the food and fun and (camp)fire, what really made the reunion so wonderful were these guys.
2014Reunion Group
What a special group of hard working, hard playing, and Jesus loving people! We’re so thankful that He continues to knit us together into a family!

If you’d like to see the whole set of photos, check them out HERE! I was pretty busy with the camera!

April 07th, 2014 | Author:

I’m so far behind on this dear little blog – kudos to those of you that keep checking in! I figured instead of trying to condense everything into just one post, I’d do a couple of entries to try and keep things straight. And first up will be the wrap up of our March project at Trinity Pines Conference Center. It was a great project, and with a team of 11 couples, much was accomplished!

Remember when we started? (And this photo was taken two days into the project so it isn’t really the beginning.)
Well, a mere 10 working days later, these are just some of the things that were accomplished -

6000 sq ft of concrete was scrapped and scrubbed.
5 electric palm sanders were often going at once.
(Thank goodness for ear plugs!)

28 doors were hung and framed.

11 gallons of Sand and Seal were applied.
2250 ft. of trim was sanded, sealed, sanded, sealed.
100 outlets and switches were wired.

8 bathroom vanities were built
and rough plumbed.
1680′ of lumber was cut and routed for new bunks.
And 20 4′ florescent lights were installed
along with all of the other light fixtures in the building.

Elsewhere around the property -

50 bathroom lighting fixtures were switched out.
1500′ of water pipe was laid.

There was something for everyone to do. Our ladies that couldn’t help with the construction worked on items for the gift shop or helped out in the kitchen. There were so very few idle moments at Trinity Pines in the month of March.
But please don’t think we were all work and no play. Not only did we manage to fit in some fun game nights, we also enjoyed some fine food events too!
Homemade Waffles and Ice Cream!
And the perennial favorite -
The good life!
Hot Dog Roast. Who brought the mustard?

All is quiet now at the building –
and the checklists have been taken down.
But these good folks will remain as dear friends even though many miles may separate us in the years to come.
To God be all the Glory! It was a great month!