Day 6 – Bridge Completion

Friday, November 23, 2018

The morning started out a few degrees below 0 but it warmed up to 13 C ( 55 F ).

We arrived at the job site shortly after 8 am to find that the water on the ground was frozen.  The cold was also evident from the icicles I occasionally found hanging on the end of my beard.

We continued with the work on the deck:

and the ramps:

When we had 6 boards left to nail, we nailed together the last 2 boards and placed them at the house end of the deck.  We nailed the other four boards together and then ‘ squeezed ‘ them between the main deck and the last 2 boards using a sledge hammer.  It took a lot of effort but we were finally able to persuade the boards to squeeze between the existing boards and then we nailed them from underneath the deck.

We had finished all but a few minor jobs by 12:30 pm and since we needed to check out of the hotel by 1 pm, Roger, Spencer, Braeden, Justing Bernie and I returned to the hotel, showered, packed and checked out at 1 pm.

We then drove back to the job site for a group picture .   One of the nearby home owner’s grandson, fastened one of the reflectors at the end of the bridge as a form of dedication.

Don then drove one of the MDS vehicles onto the deck, we took a group picture and then said our good-byes.

We were all tired and a bit stiff and sore from using muscles that had been hibernating for the bulk of the year.   Most likely, the young fellows will bounce back quickly, but I’m sure that my body will complain a little longer even with some rest and possibly a much appreciated massage.

With a sense of accomplishment at having finished the bridge, we left Moundsville at 1:30 pm and drove back home.  We arrived at the border just before 7:30 pm; having stopped for something to eat along the way.  After dropping everyone at their homes,  I arrived at home shortly after 8 pm.

James 2:14-17 English Standard Version (ESV)

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. “

Day 5 – Bridge Work Continues

Thursday, November 22, 2018 – American Thanksgiving

It was a few degrees below freezing when we left to go to the job site, but we were determined to get as much done as we could.

To support the sides of the ramps, the Gabion baskets were placed at the sides of the ramp on each end of the bridge and Kurt filled them with rocks and Terry, Don and Bernie sealed the tops.

During the day the volunteers took turns doing the different jobs.   Although Don is the site director, he doesn’t shy away from work.

There was a lot of tamping to be done on the ramps because the ground was soft and wet, so Bernie and Spencer assisted Don.

Roger installed the final bolts on the railing supports and in few situations he had to burn out some of the holes for the bolts.   For a few of the bolts, he placed a step ladder in the creek in order to reach them.

Spencer, Bernie, Roger and I worked on nailing the deck boards on the bridge.

It was Thanksgiving and most of the restaurants were, closed but the “ Huddle House “ was open so we went there for lunch.   One of their specialties was the deep fried Oreo cookies that the young folks liked.

By the end of the day we had almost finished the bridge and the ramps.   The decking on the bridge still needs to be completed, more gravel needs to be added and tamped down on the ramps and some wooden caps have to be built for the railings on each end of the bridge.

We are hoping to be finish the bridge by noon on Friday.  After that we will clean up the job site and the trucks before heading back to the hotel to shower and pack for the ride back home.

Day 4 – Start of a Bridge

Wednesday November 21, 2018

It was mostly overcast and a little cooler than the previous day.

After breakfast, devotions and reviewing the plans for the day, we drove to the job site.

Roger finished the railing work then assisted with the other jobs.

Spencer and Bernie finished touching up the bare spots on the bridge and railing with green paint, while Braeden and I started mixing cement and pouring the concrete pad at the home side of the bridge.  When we were half finished, Spencer, Roger, Justin and Bernie helped finish the concrete work.

With the concrete work finished, we started nailing of the 2×4’s for the deck of the bridge.

Bernie checked the curve of the 2×4’s to make sure that the crown of the boards were facing up.

Braeden handed the 2×4’s to Spencer and Justin and supplied them with nails, laid down the tar paper on the beams under the 2×4’s and occasionally straightened the deck with a sledge hammer.

I lined up the 2×4’s on end and then Spencer and Justin nailed the boards together.

When we were almost finished for the day, the local channel 9 fox news stopped by to interview us.   A film crew from the local news station arrived in the afternoon to find out about the progress of the bridge and  the story was later shown on the local evening news.  The link to the story is:

As we were packing up a short conversation with one of the homeowners that will benefit from having a new bridge.   I had seen pictures of the damage to the original bridge which had been damaged by a flood and he told me that the damage had gotten worse by the erosion of the water.   Before the bridge could be rebuilt the walls of the creek had to be shored up with rocks to avoid erosion in the future.   He also told me that the concrete in the creek which was used as an emergency access, had been poured in the 1930’s.

I took a picture of his truck as he crossed the creek to get to his house.

After we finished packing up we headed back to the hotel for a much needed rest.

Day 3 – Bridge Preparation Work

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The day was mainly cloudy and cool with temperatures only a few degrees above freezing.

Building a bridge is similar to a lot of other projects in that it requires a lot of preparatory work to be completed before the final stage that is the most visually appealing.

The day started poorly for me when I broke the key for the tool trailer while opening it in the morning.   It took me an hour to finally get the broken part of the key out of the lock so that we could open the main door of the tool trailer.

There were many different jobs to complete that I can’t remember all of them and we helped each other on several of the jobs.

Roger welded the angle iron no the ends of the bridge,

As well as the cross member supports under the beams,

And welding on the railings.

Justin worked with Terry to install the framing for the concrete that was to be poured at both approaches to the bridge.

Justin also helped with clean the steel for painting, the concrete work and several other jobs.

Braeden did some grinding, tightening of bolts, cleaning of the welds in preparation for the painting,

As well as some mixing and pouring concrete for the roadside approach to the bridge.

Bernie and Spencer tightened bolts, helped clean the welds for painting, assisted with the pouring of the concrete and they replaced the 6×6 that had been removed to repair the outside beam.

Kurt moved the dirt from the home side approach to the bridge and then filled it with large stone after it was delivered as well as numerous other jobs. Kurt and his skid steer have been invaluable.  He lifts steel, rock, dirt, cement mix, pipe, etc, which makes it easier for us to do our jobs.

The work required us to walk along the beams to get from one side to the other because the creek level was too high to walk across without getting our feet wet.


Even though I had put on “ waterproof “ boots to work from the creek, I did get them full of water when I chased after an 8 ft 2×6 that I had inadvertently dropped  into the water, while I was trying to put it on the beams, however, I was able to retrieve it before it floated away in the fast moving water.

It was after 5 pm, when we finally finished the concrete work, cleaned up and returned to the hotel.

The day was very tiring but we were able to make good progress on the bridge.

Day 2 – Moundsville Bridge Preperation

Monday, November 19, 2018

It was drizzling rain and the temperature was a bit cool when we got up at 6:30 am.  After a very nice breakfast in the lobby of the hotel, Don led us in a time of devotion and then he reviewed the agenda for the day.   Since the forecast was for a light rain all day, we anticipated that there would be limited work to do.  The issue of the defective steel beam had not yet been resolved so that limited the things we could do, however, everyone was eager to do something.

We drove the short distance ( 2 km ; 1 mile) to the work site which was situated on the town side of the Little Grave Creek next to the bridge we would be working on.  As we drove up, we got our first sight of the bridge.

Don reviewed the work he wanted us to do and gave us some background information about the bridge before we started.   The bridge is the only access for several families to get them from their homes to the road which is on the other side of Little Grave Creek.  A temporary concrete pad had been poured into the bed of the creek, in order to allow the residents to get to the other side after the bridge had been washed away in the flood of 2015.

Spencer, Braeden, Bernie and Justin moved some angle iron.

When that was done, Spencer, Braeden and Justin fixed the sign for the job site.

Then they tied some re-bar and bolted down the I-beams on the bridge.

Meanwhile Bernie assisted Kurt with moving and breaking apart a large old concrete slab that had been removed from the original bridge.

Roger and I started the day by fixing the damaged equipment rack on one of the trucks.   After that Roger cut some angle iron pieces to be welded on the bridge railings where they had been cut to allow them to move so that they would not be damaged if the bridge flexed or moved.   When he finished cutting the angle iron pieces, he trimmed the railings with a torch where they had to overlap.

The area around the concrete support for the bridge was filled with dirt and rocks to make the ramp to the bridge from the road.  The area was them tamped down by Justin, Bernie, Braeden and Spencer.  Controlling the tamper occasionally proved to be a challenge, specifically on the rocks.

By 2 pm, welders from the manufacturer of the steel I-beams arrived to repair the issue with the defective beam.   They lifted the beam to remove the sag and welded the crossmembers to the adjacent beam.  This took them until 5 pm.

It drizzled continuously during the day and we were all covered in mud.  We left the job site at 3 pm and returned to the hotel to wash our clothes ( and gloves ), take a shower and relax before going out for dinner.

We were all tired by the end of the day but we were all felt that we had made much more progress than we had anticipated and we were looking forward to continuing the work on the bridge.

Day 1 – Travel to West Virginia

Sunday, Nov 18, 2018

I picked up Roger at 7:30 am before driving back to Niagara and picking up Justin, Bernie, Spencer and Braeden.

It was a cool morning with temperatures around 2 C ( 36 F ).

By 8:15, we were on our way.   We drove to the duty free shop, but the Tim Hortons was closed for renovations so we continued to the border and arrived there at 9 am.   There were 6 cars in front of us and of course, I chose the slowest lane.

It took approximately 20 minutes to reach the border guard but when we did, he took our passports and paperwork, asked us a few questions about our trip and then directed us to door #2 of the customs office.

As soon as we entered the customs office, we were called to the desk, asked a few questions and then directed to sit down in the waiting room until my name was called.   After 15 minutes, we were called back to the desk, given our passports and sent on our way.

I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to cross the border so efficiently.  We now had lots of time to get to Moundsville, so when we reached the McDonalds overpass in Hamburg, we stopped for coffee and a breakfast sandwich.

The roads were dry and the temperature was 5 C by the time we reached Meadville, where we stopped for lunch at the local Perkins restaurant.

By 1 pm we were back on our way and drove the last few hours to Moundsville where the temperature was 14 C ( 57 F ).    In moundsville, we met, Dan the MDS office administrator, who checked us into the Sleep Inn.  At 5 pm we met the site director, Donald Horst and the long term staff.    In total there are 12 of us who will be working on the bridge project this week.

We were informed that we will be working on a 60 ft bridge has 4 steel beams and one of the outside beams has a 2 inch “ sag “ in it, so it can’t be used in its current state.  There are several options for repairing the problem, however, none of them are quick or easy fixes, so we will have to wait for a solution to be adopted.   Fortunately there are other things we will be able to do while we wait to find out what the solution will be.

After our orientation we went to a Chinese Buffet for dinner, before returning to the hotel for the night.

Preparation for Traveling to West Virginia

Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018

Last year, during the American Thanksgiving, Spencer Miller, Bernhardt Pulst and Justin Reimer joined me in building a bridge in West Virginia, under the direction of Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS).    After we finished the bridge, they all said that they would like to do it again.

In August, I contacted them to see if they were still interested in serving with me on an MDS assignment in West Virginia during the American Thanksgiving week. The response was swift and unanimous; they all wanted to go again. Either they were gluttons for punishment or they had just forgotten what it was like to travel and work with me. Whatever the case, I signed us up for the Thanksgiving week.  In September,  Spencer informed me that his brother, Braeden also wanted to join us.

The Sunday before we were supposed to leave, I was introduced to to a fellow parishioner, Roger Ferron, who is a accomplished welder, machinist and mechanic.   We were discussing the MDS trip and I informed him that during the previous year they were looking for a welder.  He expressed an interest in joining us, so I obtained his contact information and told him that I would check with the MDS office to see if they needed a welder and if they would be able to prepare the border crossing paperwork in time for him to join us.

By Tuesday morning I was informed that they could make use of a welder and they should be able to get the paperwork to us before we left.  On Wednesday I met with Roger to get the information required for his border crossing letter, only to tell him that I had been contacted shortly before our meeting that plans had changed and the project would no longer require a welder.   Roger was disappointed and still wanted to come along so I quickly emailed the office administrator in West Virginia and he confirmed that there was still a spot for Roger, even if they didn’t need a welder.

Everything seemed to be coming together, however, this now left us with a unique ‘ opportunity ‘.  My car can only fit 5 people and we now had 6 travellers; myself, Spencer Miller, Braeden Miller, Bernhardt Pulst, Justin Reimer and Roger Ferron; plus all of the luggage.  Either I would have to find a larger vehicle or we would have to travel in 2 cars.  After contemplating the different options, I checked the price for renting a minivan and decided that this was the best option.   The only caveat was that I had volunteered to take care of the multimedia at a Marriage Seminar and I would be too busy on Saturday to pick up the van so I had to pick it up on Friday evening.  I drove to the rental office and I was informed that they had a Chrysler minivan, but it was overdue for return.    The agent wasn’t sure if it would be returned in time for me to pick it up on Friday, so he showed me a Toyota highlander that he could give me, as a backup plan, even though we both agreed that the minivan would be the best option.   Fortunately the minivan was available by the time I arrived to pick it up.

I was informed on Thursday by the MDS office in West Virginia that there had been more changes in their plans and we would be finishing the bridge(s) in Moundsville, WV at the beginning of the week before driving the rest of the way to the project site in Clendenin.   The accommodations at the Moundsville site would no longer be available when we arrived there, so arrangements were being made for us to stay in a Sleep Inn.

The drive to Moundsville is only 5 hrs,  so I planned to leave at 8:30 am on Sunday.   This should give us plenty of time in case there would be any delays at the border.

The weather forecast indicates that there might be light snow in the Erie, Pennsylvania area on the way down to West Virginia, but overall the temperatures will be between 2  to 11 C ( 36 to 52 F ).  The temperature in the West Virginia area is supposed to be a little chilly; around the freezing point at night and up to 10 C ( 50 F ) during the day and it should be dry most of the week.