Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Wed
28
Apr '10

Ding Dong the Deck is Done

Although my balcony/deck project has been done for a couple weeks, we just recently got around to taking pictures. It wasn’t that big of a project but I did use some products I’ve not worked with before (Trex decking, Deckorator metal pickets) and had to learn how to do a few new things (remove and replace vinyl siding). The blister I got from driving 300 deck screws has long since healed and it’s nice to be able to walk out of our front sliding doors without fear of falling through to the concrete driveway, below. It came out pretty nice, especially the black rails and round black pickets. The original was white and I think that black makes a nice accent. The only thing left to do is to paint the underside white, but that has to wait a couple months until the pressure treated joists dry out. On another front, we’re nearly done with the remodel of our guest bath—Valerie’s been the primary effort behind that project—and pictures are coming soon.

 

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Tue
27
Apr '10

Flame On

Over the past week we’ve discovered a pleasant surprise about our lot. Our future house will be surrounded with Flame Azaleas. We didn’t know it until last week when they started to come into bloom. At first, it was just one or two that were bloomed out. We noticed them and thought they were nice, but recently they’ve started bloomin’ out all over the place! They’re beautiful and there are too many to count. What’s interesting is that they seem to only be on our lot and a little ways into the lots on each side. There are a few here and there along Vance Gap Road but 90% of them seem to be within 100′ or so of our future house. Nice!

From the book Wildflowers of the Blue Ridge Parkway: “Color: Orange;  Bloom: May-July; This beautiful mountain shrub is one of the earliest blooming azaleas and is the only one with orange blossoms. The clusters of tubular, vase-shaped flowers range in color from bright orange to red to yellow. The deciduous ovate leaves are 2 to 4 inches long. This handsome plant presents striking displays along the forest edges and on grassy balds.”

 

 

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Sun
25
Apr '10

See Rock City

Their weekend vacation over, the president and first lady have returned to Washington (the district, not the state). It was funny watching all the hoopla surrounding their visit. We knew exactly where they went and at what time, what they ordered in restaurants and how much they paid. People were lined up at the overpasses and even sitting along the interstate in lawn chairs to watch the motorcade go by. Yeesh. You’d think Obama was the leader of the free world or something.

The president’s visit did put Asheville in the spotlight as a great vacation spot. Tourism is a major part of our economy. If O’s visit gets more people to vacation in Asheville and spend their $$ here, that’s a good thing. For $20 I can show you the exact spot where Obama touched the handrail as he left The Corner Kitchen.

One interesting and funny thing about the president’s visit was reading what the national press thought of Asheville, how they could distill (pun intended) all-things-Asheville into a short, simple, paragraph:

From the Wall Street Cheat Sheet: “Asheville is a fun and funky town full of artists, entrepreneurs, yuppies, activists, and outdoor enthusiasts. The restaurants are world-class and the year-round events (especially the summer music festivals like Bele Chere) are wonderful family fun. There’s 12 Bones (where Obama ate last time) for some of the best BBQ in the South, and lots of breweries like Lexington Avenue Brewery for those who want to know why Asheville is the Craft Beer Capital of the US.” Link…

There’s this, from the Christian Science Monitor: “Founded as a health resort, the little city of ‘hillbilly-hippies,’ entrepreneurs, musicians, retirees, and community drum circles is, indeed, a progressive’s vision of America.” Link…

And, to go with one local ogler’s sign that read, “Retire here!” there’s this from the New York Times: “Asheville is considered a relatively liberal enclave in a relatively conservative state, known for its festivals, arboretum, crafts, music and art deco architecture. Perhaps the president may want to check it out for when he is done with the White House. Black Enterprise magazine last year rated it No. 11 on its top 20 best places to retire.” Link…

P.S. It may be true…“First Lady says she and president are ‘looking at houses’ around Asheville”. Hey, we know of a vacant, relatively new, house in a great location that’s owned by the feds (we were told that the deal for the gambling house fell through). Now, wouldn’t that just be be too funny?…

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Fri
23
Apr '10

Tienes miedo a las alturas?

The guys building our foundation walls speak very little English. Steve, our builder, doesn’t speak Spanish. Luckily, or by design, the owner of Target Walls does and he can translate. Given that they’re now working quite a few feet up I thought a little Spanish for the title of this entry would be appropriate. Tienes miedo a las alturas? Are you afraid of heights? These guys sure aren’t.

They’re continuing to make progress on the garage wall forms but are working themselves into a little predicament. They still need to dig the “ditch” and pour the footing for the north tub wall that connects to the front (west) garage wall. Steve said that they couldn’t reach it with the large trackhoe they had here a couple weeks ago so they left it TBD. Now they’re at the point where they have to dig it so they can connect all the forms and do one large continuous concrete pour. I’m not sure how they’re going to do it, but Steve thinks they’ll dig what they can reach from the street with the trackhoe and then dig the rest by hand. Ouch. Rain is predicted for the weekend so Monday may be a muddy work day.

I have to admit that I’m having some angst over the magnitude of this foundation, but everyone tells me that it’s not uncommon in western North Carolina. We know that. They build on slopes, here, steep ones. It’s normal. Maybe it won’t look so ominous once we bring in dirt to fill and slope the crawlspace and build up a couple feet around the perimeter. When the house is complete and we’re on the inside looking out at the view, it’ll be worth it!

 

 

 

Finally, one minor annoyance, but one we’re going to have to watch…someone tagged our Johnny using orange marking paint from a spray can the foundation guys were using. Argh. While we were on site, Steve tried to explain to the workers not to leave their paint cans out when they go home for the night. That conversation was lost in translation with the guys pointing into their truck telling Steve where he could get more paint. Steve eventually gave up and decided to talk with the boss later, today. Yo no hablo Inglés.  

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Thu
22
Apr '10

Now THAT’S a Dog House

We took advantage of the absolutely beautiful spring weather and visited the Biltmore, today. It’s their Festival of Flowers time and many of their flowers and plants were in full bloom. We walked around the grounds for a couple hours visiting the gardens, the lawn, coi ponds, and more. Serena loved it and the physical and mental stimulation wore her out. We had a late lunch at the new Cedric’s Tavern and Serena slept under the table the entire time. Lots of pictures, below. I added a new feature to the blog—you can now click on an image to enlarge it. The two pictures at the end are of, we suspect, Obama’s “advance” team flying in before he arrives tomorrow for vacation. The Biltmore is directly between the Asheville airport and the Grove Park Inn and these two black, unmarked, helicopters made multiple trips back and forth while we were walking the grounds.

  

  

  

  

   

  

  

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Mon
19
Apr '10

There Be Walls Here

On Friday they poured the concrete for the crawl (ha ha) space walls under the main section of the house and today they removed most of the forms. Gotta say, it looks pretty darn good; nice and neat, plumb, level, and straight. Hope it’s in the right spot and of the correct dimensions. Next up is to build the forms for the garage, breezeway, and the infamous “tub” — the 12″ thick concrete walls that will run from the road, across the front of the house, and back to the road. These walls (yes, they’re structurally engineered) will create a “tub” that will be filled with compacted gravel, then geotech fabric and topsoil to create our driveway and front yard out of thin air.

The Sub-Basement That's Not So Bad...

The next two pictures are at the bottom of our lot looking up. All that disturbed soil is our sewer line trail running from the house down to the manhole. Yes, a trackhoe with a very brave operator dug a ditch down that hill. From house to manhole is about 200′ and it’s about a 200′ drop. For all you math majors, that’s an approximately 45° slope.  Supersonic Doo Doo. I labeled Serena and the house to put it into perspective.

It All Flows Down Hill The Hill to Scale

Bonus points for anyone who gets the play on words for the title of this entry… And, for that matter, Friday’s entry. It’s fun thinking up these titles.

Fri
16
Apr '10

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

The word tonight is that President Obama, the first lady, their two daughters, and his mother-in-law are coming to Asheville next Friday for a weekend vacation. They’ll be staying at the Grove Park Inn, just down the mountain hill from the future Patton homestead. The last time he was here he ate at 12 Bones.  If he wants ribs again he’ll have to do some searching. The 12 Bones closest to the Grove Park is closed on weekends, but the one just down the road from Camp Bell is open on Saturdays. We’ll be looking for the motorcade on Sweeten Creek Road…nah, probably not.

Here’s the link to the local TV station’s website…

President Barack Obama’s visit to Asheville gives city ‘priceless’ publicity…

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Thu
15
Apr '10

I’m a Rocket Man

Tonight was Thirsty Thursday at the Asheville Tourists game. They played their arch-nemesis, the Hickory Crawdads (gotta love those minor league team names).  Besides the baseball game and the cheap drinks ($1 Bud and $2 craft beers) there was one other attraction—Rocket Man! Kinnie Gibson, AKA Rocket Man, is in town to promote the ActionFest film festival going on this weekend. He’s an ex-stunt-double for Chuck Norris and flies a compressed air powered jet pack. We recently bought a new digital camera that also shoots HD video and this was the perfect opportunity to try it out. Now that’s a cool way to fly! Unfortunately, the Tourists lost, 5 to 3, and I have that crazy Elton John song stuck in my head…”Rocket man burnin’ out his fuse up here, alone.” Now you do to :-) .

Wed
14
Apr '10

Building a Skyscraper!

No, we are not building a skyscraper. It’s only a 2997 square foot house with two stories and a basement. But, when you’re on a steep hill, you “gotta get to level” and that means a TALL crawlspace on the downhill side. How tall? Well, it’s looking like 18′ at the highest point sloping up to a mere 3′ at the top. Glad we went with poured concrete and not cinder block. I stood at the bottom last night staring up saying over and over, “What have we done?” Valerie corrected me, “No, what have YOU done?” Maybe we’ll grow mushrooms in there, or build a wine cellar, or make cheese, or…the possibilities are endless.

Concrete forms to heaven... Higher and Higher! We're gonna raise mushrooms in there!

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Sun
11
Apr '10

It’s not 50% Because It Can’t Be 50%

Tuesday, March 30, was the 6-month anniversary of my heart valve surgery! I saw Dr. Usedom, my cardiologist, that day and had an echocardiogram on Thursday. This time he scheduled me for a 3D echocardiogram to more accurately measure my heart function because my high activity level and general health don’t mesh with the “supposed” low ejection fraction measured since my surgery. I should have problems climbing stairs. Hiking 7+ miles and rebuilding a 9′ high deck should be impossible.

During the test I carefully watched the monitor. 3D echo’s are way-cool technology. You’ve probably seen pictures of fetus 3D ultrasounds, the ones where you can make out the baby’s features. It’s the same technology for the heart. The details are amazing and it can measure the heart’s function perfectly. For all you geeks, or budding geeks (nieces and nephews – listen up!) it uses calculus, specifically Simpson’s Rule, to calculate the volume of the heart’s left ventricle just before the contraction and at the end of the contraction. The difference between the two is the amount of blood that was pushed out and gives you the ejection fraction number. A 2D ultrasound can only use Simpson’s rule in 2 dimensions and makes an assumption about the size and shape of the ventricle. A 3D ultrasound takes infinite 2D slices all the way across the ventricle and more accurately computes the volume. It also looks at 16 different segments of the heart and tracks their motion to identify any that might not be contracting like they should.

What I saw on the monitor was EF=51% and that all the segments were contracting and relaxing together! Normal EF is 50%-60%.

Fast forward to yesterday. Dr. Usedom called with the results. He said that one reason it took so long to get back to me was that he wanted to personally look at the pictures. The radiologist who read them came up with 50% and put that number in the report. Dr. Usedom couldn’t believe that 50% was correct because he didn’t think it was possible to get there from where I was last fall—in the danger zone of 25%-28%. That level of improvement just doesn’t happen. So he looked at the pictures, himself, and applied a little bit of “art” to the “science”. He feels that the one area of my heart that post-surgery wasn’t contracting at all is now contracting, but not as much as he would like, so he’s knocking 5% off of the radiologist’s number and calling it EF=45%. Spoil sport! He says my valve repair looks good with only “trace” leakage and that overall my heart is in good shape. Yah! That explains why I feel great. Smack me on the forehead, I’m healed!

He wants me back for an office visit in three months and may at that time drop my digoxin. There’s controversy as to whether it’s actually beneficial so we might try cutting it out. He also said that we might eventually consider dropping the carvedilol and the lisinopril. It all depends if my heart has actually healed or if the drugs are just making it easier for my damaged heart to pump. I expected to be on meds for life so I won’t be disappointed if that’s the case, but it sure would be nice to be off them. All-in-all I got very positive news. He’s happy. I’m happy. It’s time to visit our new Cook-Out restaurant for a footlong Cookout-Style hot dog (chili, slaw, mustard, and onions)!

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Fri
9
Apr '10

Everything’s Coming Up Oranges

Our footings are 90% poured! The only one left to do is for the driveway’s north retaining wall. I have no idea how late they worked on Wednesday night, but they got done what needed to be done before the rains came on Thursday. It rained hard, but luckily not enough to cause any red torrents of mud. The ground was so dry that it just absorbed in and didn’t run off. The footings look good! Maybe next week we’ll get some concrete walls.

Looking Southeast Looking Northeast

IMG_2046 Got Stick?!

The workers seem to love oranges. They’re always eating them and there are peels, everywhere. When we were checking out the footings yesterday I saw an orange that was left behind, probably because it got too dark to find. I thought it made a unique art picture. And, lastly, several months ago someone (teenage boy?) took the “Towing Enforced” sign from the entrance and threw it over the hill — yah, that’ll keep the tow truck from coming. I decided to venture down to rescue and repost it. While I was there I discovered our street sign that had also been tossed over the edge. It took some doing to wrestle them out of the brush and drag them up the hill but I managed to rescue both. I’ll either remount the street sign myself or ask the city to do it. Now the post office can find us…

Orphan Orange Vance Gap Road Sign

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Thu
8
Apr '10

I Pour My Concrete at Night

And on Wednesday (night), we had our footings. We’ve been Camp Bell workaholics lately and have really only gotten out to our lot for short visits several times a week. Yesterday, Valerie spent the day fixing the walls in the guest bath while I worked on the deck. By 6:00pm we were exhausted and starving (we skipped lunch). I was ready to crash but Valerie wanted to check on the foundation progress so we drove up to Vance Gap on our way to Asheville Pizza and Brewing.

For the last several days the foundation crew has been working steadily on our house, digging more footings and adding more rebar each day. The owner told me that they used to have nine crews but now only have four and they’ve had to expand their coverage area to Johnson City just to keep themselves busy. With all the bad weather this winter they haven’t worked much so I think they’re now “making hay while the sun shines” and taking advantage of the good weather and our employment.

That being said, it’s now getting dark around 8:30pm and I didn’t expect to see anything except for a vacated work site when we arrived at the lot just after 7:00pm. Wrongo. As we turned onto Vance Gap Road and rounded the bend I saw a flashing yellow light, then a concrete truck, then three concrete trucks, one cleaning out, one at the lot, and one waiting. They were pouring the footings!

Concrete in Waiting Now THAT'S a Construction Site! Concrete at Dusk

We walked to the site and found two guys manning the concrete pump truck and several guys down in the hole operating the concrete hose and pouring the footings. They looked to be about 2/3 done but dusk was upon us. We watched for a while and took a few pictures then went for pizza. I sorta felt bad doing that but hey, we worked all day, too… After dinner (an Asheville Amber for Valerie, Scottish for Ron, and a large ham, mushroom, and banana pepper for Serena) we stopped back at the lot to see the finished work. It was 8:15 and getting dark fast but they weren’t done yet! A full concrete truck was backing up to the pumper as we arrived. Yikes. We didn’t hang around to watch but they had to be there long past 9:00. Hopefully someone brought in lights!

Today it rained for most of the day. That’s why they wanted to get the footings poured — they were watching the weather. If they didn’t do it yesterday, and stayed late to finish, they would have been hand digging out soupy red mud from around the rebar all weekend. Thanks guys!

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Tue
6
Apr '10

Rotten to the Core

 While Valerie is working on the guest bathroom (regrouting the tub walls, skim coating and painting the walls, redoing the floor, and more) I’ve decided to tackle replacing our sagging front balcony/deck. Let’s just say that if I knew how bad it was, how rotten the wood was, I never would have walked on it. You hear stories about decks collapsing and people getting severely injured or even dieing…this one was days away.

A Screwdriver Sticks Right in the Beam Rotten Deck Boards The Beam Broke In Half

It took all of four hours to completely dismantle it (thank you Mr. Sawzall). As you can see in the pictures, the deck boards and the main support beam were severely rotted. When I made the final cut to free the beam and let it fall, it broke in half when it hit the driveway. Yikes! The Lowes delivery truck arrived this morning with a load of 12′ pressure treated lumber, cedar posts and rails, and white vinyl siding. Weather permitting (and that includes if it’s too hot, like today) I should have it rebuilt by the weekend.

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Mon
5
Apr '10

Rebar and the Police

The weather has been perfect for construction and things are moving along. The foundation crew worked on Saturday and finished digging the footings, except for the north and south retaining walls which they’ll do later from the street with a long-reach backhoe. The guy running the little backhoe “down in the hole” is very good — keeping himself from tipping over, making perfectly square dirt walls, and planning his work so he could get out without messing up his completed ditches! They started putting rebar in the trenches and looked to be about half done with that monumental task this afternoon. Since we’re building on such a steep slope I knew that our engineer had called for lots of concrete and rebar in the foundation, but geeze Luise, it looks like we’re building a skyscraper. There’s tons and tons of rebar all carefully bent and tied together. See the pictures, below. As expected, there are a couple places where a rock ledge was exposed and protruded into the foundation area. They removed as much as they could with equipment and I think the remainder will be pinned and tied into the concrete to become part of the foundation. Sorry, no dynamite.

Workin' in the Pit Rebar Wow!

We had two little issues this week. Someone (teenage boys perhaps?) tried to push our Porta-Potty over the hill. Luckily there was a tree just behind it that kept it from going over the edge. Now it’s tightly cabled to a tree and staked to the ground with rebar (we had a few extra pieces laying around). Steve called the police so it’s on their radar and they said they’d step up patrols on our street. We also noticed that the crew must have had a small fire (about 10′ x 15′) in the ditch across from our site, probably caused by a lit cigarette. Everything is very dry and it wouldn’t take much, and apparently didn’t, to get a fire going. Luckily we had water and a yard valve hooked up last week so they had something to extinguish it with.

And, speaking of police…when I was up there Sunday afternoon to swap out the time-lapse camera battery I encountered their “stepped up” patrols. I parked at the gate and didn’t bother to unlock it since I was only going to be there a few minutes. I walked to the lot, started work, but had to stop because a group of three (two teenagers and their mother) walked past. I suspected they were going to the I-240 cut overlook. Once they were out of sight I finished my work and decided to walk with Serena to the end of the street to see if that’s, indeed, where they went. We got to the cul-de-sac and the people were gone. They must have slipped through the opening in the fence. Serena and I walked back and as we rounded the bend I saw a police car parked behind our Jeep and an open top Jeep next ours. I walked up to the cop, completely forgetting that Serena was off leash, introduced myself, told him I was a lot owner and asked what was up. He asked about the other Jeep and I told him about the trio and where I thought they went. We chatted about the porta-potty incident and increased patrols, etc. Just then the three people walk up and the cop goes to chat with them. He pretty much read them the riot act, checked their IDs, and told them they were trespassing on State DOT property. They gave him some lame excuse about getting permission from someone at the police station (he checked and they didn’t) so he let them go and told them not to come back. Bottom line — the police want us to call whenever someone parks at the gate or if we suspect that someone is going through the fence to the I-240 cut. Sunday’s folks were from out of town but we get lots of regulars. The police think that if they charge a few of them with misdemeanor trespassing word will get out and they’ll stop coming. We’ll see. Lesson learned, though. We need to start parking inside the gate. As the cop said, I was lucky it was him and not the tow truck. And, he didn’t care at all about Serena being off leash. She ended up jumping in our Jeep to cool off and he even reached in to pet her.

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