As GL's (group leaders) we were advised that there was another couple wanting to join the project, they only had two weeks available to work and not the usual three. That was fine with us. In discussing this with the host it was fine with him as well and his response to their proposal of working a few extra hours to compensate led to an arrangement where I worked extra hours as well and managed to finish the project earlier than scheduled. This meant that we could take a bit slower and safer pace heading north and it gave us some family time at Easter but I'm getting ahead of the story.
Normally, SOWER projects start on a Monday, but with the compressed schedule and the host's needs - they were planning to start framing a three bedroom staff house on Saturday we started on Saturday as well. The other SOWER man and I framed all but the garage - of course there were sixteen other volunteers helping :-). The volunteers were all very experienced and the work flowed well in the t-shirt 76 degrees F. temperature. Many of the people working were students or graduates of the John Brown University Construction Management program as are several of the fulltime NLF maintenance staff. I worked hard and learned a lot.
On Monday the weather was not fit for working outdoors. It had snowed overnight and then was rainy and slushy for the next couple of days. The SOWER men assembled and stained bunk beds, build a storage bin for scrap metal, made some chainsaw carriers and did some varnishing in the new dorm buildings. After the weather improved we worked on framing the house along with one staff member. He did the skilled high work and we puttered along filling the spaces such as the gable framing and blocking between joists, making rafters, crossties, etc. and helped frame and put up the garage walls. One afternoon another staff member showed up and the two managed to sheet the entire roof in under two hours. Try doing that without air nailers. Speaking of air nailers it was my first use of one and other than the occasional surprise of kick-back when it nailed another nail on top of the first I soon grew to appreciate the tool.
By the time we left, the house was closed in and the roof tarpapered ready for shingling. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of the house at that stage. I would have testified in court that I took some, but the digital media casts doubt on my certainty. Perhaps it is another senior moment.
The SOWER women did office work, cleaning and sorted the camp canteen inventory.
This project is worth working at and they are appreciative of help and welcome even short term help if your skills match their needs.
The Road Home (etc.)
We had some doubts that we could get back out of the hollow we were in the same we got there without the truck bed sides and the underside of the fifth wheel trailer rubbing. It seemed it would be better if we could go the other way, but that would mean considerable backtracking to Siloam Springs, unless the backroads through Arkansas and Missouri were passable. One Saturday afternoon we went for a drive to check them out. There were several very scenic choices that were not practical to pull a rig over unless one was in search of adrenalin and body shop bills. The route we ended up choosing had a dramatic spot where the rock extended over one half of the road. There would not be clearance for our rig in the southbound lane, but the northbound lane was okay. Okay, that is, as long as one timed things to avoid southbound semi-trailers using the northbound lane to avoid the rock overhang. On our way back from exploring we took the freeway home and spent some time trying to follow the directional sign to the WalMart museum in Bentonville, Arkansas home of Sam Walton's first store. We failed to find it and eventually headed home.
On our last work day I quit midday and we got away shortly after lunch and headed north avoiding the risk of frost in the morning and the dark in the evening. First night was spent in the parking lot of a Flying J truck stop in Missouri. We had winterized the plumbing before leaving so the middle of the night waddle that this old folk takes to the restroom involved getting dressed and walking across the parking lot. The parking lot was full of police cars and fire trucks. Apparently a young woman's car engine had caught fire at the pump. Missed all the excitement - nothing left but a bunch of cops doing paperwork. OBTW - in the probably too much information category - in an emergency in sub zero weather the head can still be used if you use RV antifreeze to flush it. Too expensive for my Celtic heritage as a regular practice, but acceptable compared to some alternatives.
We carried on North driving relatively slowly compared to last year's trip north in a panic to get on our land while it was frozen. The lower speeds and not fighting a head wind cut fuel consumptioon by almost half in volume, but not, of course, in cost with recent fuel price increases.
After crossing the border we stopped for fuel in Winnipeg and then pushed on westerward. It was too early to stop at the Portage La Prairie Wal Mart we had stayed at a few years ago so we pressed on to a likely looking truckstop in Brandon but it was almost full of trucks and almost full of mud so we pressed on further. We ended up stopping in a creepy looking truck stop with bad food in a town close to the Saskatchewan - Manitoba border. We slept well and got up the next day and drove through snow and blowing snow as the weather forecasts call it to Regina. By the time we turned north toward Saskatoon and ultimately, Meadow Lake the weather and the roads had cleared.
Willy had done a good job again clearing our driveway and parking pad. We set up the rig in a kinda level fashion and abandoned it, slides in in favour of Our daughter and son-in-law's home in Meadow Lake. It was good to see family again and it was a minor bonus that we had arrived back just in time to vote in the federal by-election. After a week laying about and being houseguests, attending a community Good Friday service and showing up for the Easter service at our home church we headed south again.
When we first moved Meadow Lake I was talking to somebody who was saying that when her husband retired the following year they were "moving south". I allowed that that would be nice and then she said, "Yes, we are moving to Regina." Not my first thought when I hear "moving south". But there was a shutdown there and it would allow the purchase of trinkets and other trash such as tires for the truck and trailer and fuel for carrying us to our adventures so that's where we, too, were going for three weeks of work that worked into six.
The orientation and other training were scheduled on Tuesday and Wednesday with work to start the following Monday so we ended up exploring Regina and every free or cheap attraction it offered. It's not so bad. Really. The orientation was very structured and gave me pause and maybe even a slight culture shock. In pondering the target audience which ranged from total newbies to industry to grizzled veterans and the hazards involved in the plant and the very large number of people they process in such a short time with very few HR people the sheep dip approach is justified as the most appropriate.