Day 6 – Drive Home

Black Friday, November 29, 2019

We had a quick breakfast in the morning and drove to the job site to continue building the deck of the bridge    By 11:30 am, we had used up all of the wood we had for the decking so we took a picture on the deck.

From left to right; myself, Billy Frye, Erv Willms and Wieland Hamm.

Before we left, we wrote our names on one of the steel beams under the deck.

At 12:30 pm we left the job site one last time and headed back to the campsite, where we had some lunch, cleaned up and loaded our things into the car.

We left shortly after 1 pm and arrived at home by 9 pm.

We had a wonderful time in Clendenin and enjoyed working with Billy Frye, Caleb and Scotty.   The weather was cool, but very good for working and everyone was very friendly.

Day 5 – Clendenin

Thursday, November 28, 2019  ” American Thanksgiving ”

It was cool in the morning and the temperature remained slightly above freezing.   Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the stores were closed and the traffic was extremely light.  We were fortunate that Billy sacrificed his Thanksgiving celebrations with his family to help us work on the bridge.

On the way to the job site, I stopped to take a picture of the concrete bridge myself and some youth had helped build in 2017.

When we arrived at the job site, we continued bolting the I-beams, inserted rubber pads under them and welded the ‘ transverse bracing ‘ on the road side of the bridge.

Billy welded a piece of angle iron on the road side of the bridge to hold the wood decking in place and then we attached a roll of felt on the beams for moisture protection, before starting to nail the 2″ x 4″ x 12′ boards on edge, to form the deck.

By the end of the day we had completed a quarter of the deck.

When we arrived back at the campsite, we took showers and then the four of us had supper together .   During the evening, we discussed various topics while Esther knitted a blanket.


Day 4 – Clendenin

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

It had rained all night, however, by the time we arrived back at job site, it was only drizzling and by 10 am it was sunny.

At the job site, we removed the tarps, installed a felt layer on the ground between the footings and Billy placed rocks on the water side of the bridge abutments.  

This took a good portion of the day because the riprap ( large rocks manually placed for erosion protection ) consisted of very large and heavy rocks that had to be slowly moved by the excavator and the skid steer.

When the riprap had been completely placed below the footers, we started to place the 16″ beams on the footers.

By the end of the day we had placed all of the I-beams on the footers and secured them.

It had become windy in the afternoon and we experienced some large wind gusts, one of which knocked down a large tree on the hill close to the house with a loud bang.

Just before we left to go back to the campsite, a hydro truck quickly pulled off the road next to the bridge and disconnected the power by opening the  switches on the pole.   We soon found out why because shortly after we left, we were stopped on the road by a hydro truck that was directing traffic because a hydro pole had been knocked down and it was hanging across the road by its wires.   We were  only a delayed a few minutes and we continued our 30 minute drive back to the campsite and as we neared Clendenin, we could smell a lot of smoke and a little while afterwards we noticed a brushfire on the hillside.

The smoke was quite thick and we were again stopped by a hydro truck that was directing traffic, however, we were soon allowed to drive past the area.   We arrived back at the campsite by 5:30, cleaned up, ate supper and chatted for a while before going to bed.

As we were chatting, the power cycled off and on, a few times,  until we heard a load bang and a bright light near the campsite and the power stayed off.   Wieland and Esther walked the short distance to the area where the sound had originated.   It appeared to have come from a hydro pole along the road and the power lines had been torn apart.

It was an interesting evening.


Day 3 – Clendenin

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

After another good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast we drove to the job site.  It was a bit warmer in the morning when we arrived and it reached 12 C ( 53 F ) by midday.  

Billy used the excavator to drive down the piles at the corners of the foundation, with guidance from Erv, cut them to length with a torch and then we completed the installation of the rebar for the bridge footings. 

By 1 pm the concrete truck arrived and we poured concrete.   On the house side, we had the concrete truck filll the bucket of the excavator and then Billy dumped it into the the form.  

On the road side Billy directed the chute directly into the form for the footing.   Then we vibrated the concrete to help settle it and then troweled the top of the concrete.

Before we left for the camp site we covered the concrete footings with tarps because there was a prediction of rain over night.

A new crew for the house building project in West Virginia had arrived at the campsite at 10 am before heading to their job site and they arrived back at camp, just after we had started supper.   They joined us for supper and we spent the evening getting acquainted with them.

Day 2 – Clendenin

Monday, November 25, 2019

It was near the freezing point when we woke up and after a delicious breakfast cooked by Esther; Billy Frye, our crew leader and a member of VOAD, arrived at the campsite and drove with us to the job site, where we would be rebuilding a 36 ft bridge.   The previous week Billy, a few other members of VOAD ( Caleb and Scotty ) and some volunteers had spent a few days working on the bridge.

It was a 30 minute drive to the job site at the Mullin house and once there, we surveyed the old bridge, discussed the work that had to be done and spent several hours removing the heavy, rotten wooden decking that had been loosened the previous week.   

After the wood had been removed from the bridge, Billy cut the severely rusted steel beams from the steel foundations, cut them in half and then proceeded to remove them.

While we were in the process of removing the beams, the homeowner came outside and sat on the deck of her house and watched us.   I talked with her a while and found out that the house had belonged to her mother, she had purchased it a few years ago and she now lived in it with her daughter.   I didn’t see her daughter but I believe that she was working.

When the beams had been removed, Billy dug the base for the footing on the road side, so that we could place the form for the concrete on it and insert the rebar.

The form for the house-side of the bridge had been completed and set in place the previous week.   By the end of the day, we had finished removing the old deck and made most of the preparations for pouring the concrete the next day.

By 4:30 pm we packed up and drove back to the campsite where we met some volunteers who were building a house for a local family.

After eating a wonderful supper prepared for us by Esther, we spent the evening exchanging stories and events we had experienced during the day.

Day 1 – Drive to West Virginia

Sunday – November 24, 2019

In the early fall of 2019, I called the MDS office to see if the ‘ Bridges ‘ program was still operational.   I was informed that it was still active and was being now being run by VOAD ( Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters ) in conjunction with the the Region 1 MDS unit, so I contacted Rodney Burkholder, the contact person for Region 1.    He informed me that more than 60 private bridges had been built and VOAD has funding for another 50 due to the success of the program.  I informed him that I would like to bring a crew to help build a bridge during the American Thanksgiving week.   He told me that the week was available for me to come down, however, there may be difficult to arrange for a local cook to be available on Thursday or Friday due to the American holiday, so I told him that I would see if I could arrange for a cook to come along with us.

After contacting several people and a few changes in volunteers, I had confirmations from Wieland Hamm, as well as, Erwin ( Erv ) & Esther Willms.   Esther had agreed to be the cook for us and the occasional workers that would be there for the house building projects in the area.

It was a cool 4 C ( 38 F ) when we left Niagara at 8 am.   We arrived at the Nexus booth at the Peace Bridge slightly before 9 am.   The border guard asked us where we were going and the purpose of our trip,    After giving her our border crossing letters and explaining that we were service volunteers going to West Virginia to help build bridges, she asked us to go through US Customs because she didn’t know how to handle the situation.   The guard in the custom office was very pleasant, but after talking to us ( with his supervisor watching ), he decided to ‘ parole ‘ us by taking all of our passport information, fingerprinting each of our fingers and taking our pictures.  2 hours later we were free to go.

The next 6 hours were uneventful with only a few rest stops and a stop shortly after we entered West Virginia, for lunch.

We arrived in Clendenin at 5:30 pm and met with Rodney and Joyce Burkholder at the MDS campsite which was located in a former church building.   We made our introductions and then headed to the town of Elkview and had supper at a Mexican restaurant that Rodney had recommended.   

After supper we bought some groceries at a Kroger store in the area, before we returned to the campsite for the evening where we relaxed after the long drive.