Thursday, February 28, 2013

Building and Bicycling

And yet again Saturday was another cold day to continue building the house. So once again I bundled up in layers of clothes and stuffed hand warmers inside my gloves.
And as I left the house I looked up and saw a huge turkey vulture hunched on top of the bakery roof looking back down at me. I got up as close as I could to take photos and failed to even start to intimidate him. He really wasn't bothered, just sitting and posing as I snapped the shutter.
At the house, we were a bit thin on the ground with volunteers which wasn't surprising with the cold spell we've had lately. I was thinking to myself that I'd rather still be tucked up in my warm bed with Kota and Rosie. But Val and Pam were there as well as Jamie the electrician so I knew we'd have some laughs.
Val and I carried on with electrical work while Pam started learning about plumbing and was soon laying pipes throughout the house like a pro.
I'm not sure how we got on to different references for the toilet but I mentioned that a commonly used and much loved term in England was The Bog, so Jamie promptly wrote it above the door.
I was pig tailing the exposed wires at the outlets, and here is an article explaing that:
Jamie followed after me checking my work and our wiring from last week and then capping the outlets once he had confirmed that they were good to go. Val and I finished our task by early afternoon and were very pleased to be able to get away and head home, but I was caught as I tried to scuttle out and had to sweep upstairs before I could escape. I did this willingly enough as poor Krysta who usually does this was at home sick. I left Pam finishing her pipes and didn't feel guilty about leaving her as I knew she'd be going home shortly too. We'll be very pleased when we get a warm day to work through, these freezing conditions really dampen our enthusiasm.
On Sunday I wallowed under the covers for as long as the cats would allow me, but I could hear their empty food bowls clinking in the kitchen as they shoved them about wailing pitifully, sounding like it had been days rather than a few hours since they'd last eaten. But I was glad once I was up as I realized that it was a beautiful day with the sun shining and no shivering as I opened the door, letting the cats out and a gentle breeze in. I decided to check out the trails of a park that Val had told me about, Whitney State Park in Warrenton. But before that I decided to use some of my energy on housework. The warm sun must have given me an urge to do some spring cleaning because before I could think twice I was vacuuming,  cleaning out the fireplace and washing all the hardwood floors. I put a new saddle on my mountain bike and then threw it on the back of Stuart. I got to the park and found a few vehicles there but couldn't see or hear any people. I decided to follow a mud trail rather than a wider fire track and set off.
I had to remove my sunglasses as the trail was very bumpy, large rocks, tree roots and logs as well as puddles and thick mud were par for the course and I had to concentrate fully on staying upright. Talk about jumping in at the deep end, it was very intense but exciting too as I bumped, crashed and splashed my way along the trail. I have to admit that I was impressed at how comfortable the bike was with my new saddle and the shocks on the front forks really removed a lot of jolting from my ride. I rode across a muddy creek, albeit not as fast as I would like. I'm so used to riding my racer with its thin tires that I can't quite fully trust these thick knobbly ones on the mountain bike just yet. But I was secretly impressed with myself at how well I did, even pedaling fast up muddy hills. I shall definitely come back here to ride especially with it being so close to home.
There was also a wonderful old wooden house on the fire track so I stopped to investigate. The photo above with my bike standing next to the house was taken precisely 1 second before my bike fell over. I stupidly put the bike stand down in mud so of course it would fall. Having had 3 motorbikes in the past I should have known better and put a flat rock under the stand.
I got back to the car and found the parking area full, but I'd only seen a couple of people so I have no idea whether this place is popular more for riding bikes or for walking. I'm sure future visits will give me an idea.
On the way home I stopped at an abandoned house I've driven past many times.
Its pretty gables attracted me but the house itself was completely trashed inside and falling apart which was a shame. I've driven past many times looking forward to the right moment when I would stop and explore it, but my exploration took no more than 5 minutes as I walked inside and around the back. Sad that such a pretty house has no chance of being restored. Walking back to the car I noticed that the wind had picked up and once again had icy fingers that picked at my hair. I heard toads across the road trilling from the frozen pond but chose the warmth of the car rather than walking across to investigate. Another time. I wanted to be home in front of a blazing fire and as I pictured the crackling logs I realized that I was tired. But happy that I'd enjoyed a warm day in the fresh country air.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DC and the Technicolor Church

At the house on Saturday morning, I guess someone's ears had been burning last week as a couple of hours into the day, the new house owner turned up, armed with a hammer and a big smile. It was great to see her and I know everyone else was pleased too. It was another freezing cold day and we welcomed her support. I didn't take many photos this week, I really didn't want to keep taking my hands out of their gloves. We resumed our electrical task from last week and laid the rest of the cable upstairs.
 Girls with power tools. Yay!
 Robb was a superstar and brought gas heaters for us to eat lunch by and warm our hands at. He even put the front door in which made us laugh and we jokingly reprimanded anyone that came in the house and left it open.
 Trying to stay warm as we ate lunch with Robb in the background doing door duty. We managed to finish laying the cable in the house and spliced all the wires.
 But once that job was finished enthusiasm had waned, thanks to the chill air, and so we wound down about 2pm, promising ourselves steaming bubble baths and frothy hot chocolate once we got home.
 Sunday was another bright and sunny day but this morning I laid in bed and relished the laziness of sleeping in. Kota and Rosie had breakfast and then rejoined me in bed as we sat and watched the sun rise.
Later, I met Emily and Margie in DC as there was a church I'd been trying to see for a while. While Mum was here in October, an artist, Alex Brewer, had been painting an old abandoned church with bright colors and I wanted to see it first hand. He wanted to, "re-purpose it in a positive way." Apparently it took him and his team several weeks to complete the project slapping layers of paint over the building.
I have to admit that I was disappointed after seeing it, an impression shared by Emily and Margie. We walked all around studying it from every angle but I really couldn't see 'the art', and was actually quite amazed that it had taken a team so long. We all agreed that us three could've done the same thing in one day. It just looked like the paint had been slopped over the walls and there were plenty of paint runs streaking downwards from the numerous circles and dots. There has been a mixed reaction from the public, some like the bright colors while others feel that the building has been desecrated. I personally think that if this was to be done, then they should have got a group of local school kids to paint the church rather than a graffiti artist from Atlanta. I really think they would have done a better job. The following quotation from a web site praising his work made me chuckle, "The works take on a life of their own in the process. Remarkably, that often requires re-doing, re-painting, or destroying major portions of the painting during the course of its construction. Often several layers lie underneath each finished product, adding literal and figurative depth to his paintings." Really?
Across the street from the church is an abandoned school and on a wall outside it is a beautiful mural, hand painted and encrusted with broken mirror pieces that glint as you walk past.
This to me was far more artistic and clever. I couldn't decipher a message within the mural, I've never been good at that, but it was something we could stand and enjoy, and I wondered if the things depicted were sources of enjoyment to the artist. They were to us.
The day was getting colder and the wind was picking up so we decided to find a local bar for food and beer to finish off the afternoon. We found an Irish bar and as we walked along the sidewalk this guy strolled past us clutching a huge bunch of silver balloons that the strong breeze was trying to free from him. I would ordinarily have wondered what he was doing with them or where he was going but after the past couple of hours of looking at strange sights, I didn't wonder at all. I just smiled.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hello House & Goodbye Henryton

On Saturday, I went back to Warrenton to continue electrical work on the Habitat house. It was another cold day but John, bless him, had brought hand warmers for everyone which really helped. I think the last weekend had put folks off because we were short on the ground with volunteers this week but Val, Evelyn and I pushed on and worked together to get one of the bedrooms wired up as downstairs was completed. Val and I installed the cables while Evelyn followed and spliced the wires coming out of the sockets so they were ready for connection.
Checking the wiring diagram with Ralph, our qualified electrician and teacher.
Val clamping the wire to the wall struts.
Yay! We had hot food for lunch, pasta and delicious sausage. While eating, I had a chat with our WomenBuild site boss. I'd noticed that the past 3 weeks we hadn't seen the lady who was getting the new house and was curious to know how much time she herself had to volunteer. She only has to put in 50 hours which left me open mouthed in astonishment. How can someone who benefits so much be expected to give so little when the rest of us are donating so many weekends? I mentioned that I found this information and her absence was really deflating my enthusiasm, and if I was starting to become disenchanted then some of the others could be too. I was then told that she had even had the audacity to ask whether the house would be finished by the end of March. I would have told her that if she put in some time herself the completion date would be sooner. I'm going to finish this house as I am committed to completing this project but I don't know if I shall be as heavily involved with future house builds.
 The Electric Team. We finished the bedroom but failed to muster up any more enthusiasm to start another room, it really was too cold, and others were starting to pack up too. Sure hope next week will be warmer!
On Sunday Steve and I hooked up with DCUE and went to revisit an old haunt, Henryton. I've been a couple of times already to this crumbling decrepit TB hospital but we got the news that $3.5 million has been set aside for asbestos abatement and demolishment of the site this coming spring, so it was a final trip for me to say thanks and farewell.
This site has been a hang out for grafitti artists, explorers, party goers and of course many vandals. It has even been investigated for paranormal activity,
There have been a few fires here too and the buildings have slowly become more and more wretched. Despite a web site trying to save the place,,  it seems that finally the fight has to come to an end, but Henryton will live on in our photos, videos and internet reports. So the following photos are my last collection of the famed sanitorium.

Some of us brought our favorite props along. I had my glass marble, a piece of mirror and a chunk of reinforced glass, Margie brought her stuffed cat, and even found a little china cat in one of the buildings, likely the last intact thing in the place. And Olivia had her clown, great idea for creepy shots. And then the few of us remaining as the afternoon came to an end took a final group shot in front of the complex.Henryton was built in 1923; I felt a little sad it didn't manage to stand for a century...
There's more information on Henryton here:
Afterwards Lewis directed us to a biker bar close by that he'd found on the internet, The Woodstock Inn.
It was warm and had a pretty good selection of beer along with some great food. Once again, a great urbexing trip rounded off nicely!