Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Jul '10


There are two alternate titles to this post: 1)I’m Glad We Didn’t Get There First and 2)Asheville is a Small Town.

On Wednesday evening, Valerie and I went out to the lot to see what happened that day on the house. While we were there we talked to Cindy and Dave, our future neighbors, who were out walking their dogs. Cindy told us that when the framers showed up for work that morning they found a box at our street’s gate with five abandoned puppies. Someone had dumped them. They were only a few weeks old, malnourished, scared, and one had a very injured back leg.  She said that the crew cared for them during the day and that Caleb, the head framer, took them home.

Two minutes after Cindy and Dave left, I got a call from Shelle, our real estate agent. She’s all happy and bubbly and says that she was just at the vet (our vet, too, Animal Hospital of North Asheville) to pick up her cat and that she met someone we know—Caleb. He was there, with all five puppies, getting them checked out and treated. Shelle is a real animal person and was so excited about the puppies, sad and angry that someone just dumped them, but happy that Caleb took it upon himself to get them cared for. What’s really weird is that all of this, our learning of the puppies through Cindy, Caleb taking the puppies to our vet, and Shelle happening to be there at the same time, all happened within just a few minutes. We don’t know that many people, yet. This is a small town!

The good news is that the puppies appear to be okay. They are about 5-6 weeks old, were neglected, and need some TLC. The injured puppy has a broken back leg and the vet set it and put it in a cast. The cast will come off in two weeks and soon after the puppy, a girl, should be okay. Caleb has adopted her and named her Mika, sort of a shorted version of Makita. Yah! Jimmy, one of the other framers, has adopted one of the boys, the feisty one. He doesn’t have a name yet. Caleb has made arrangements to give the other three puppies to Brother Wolf Animal Rescue after he fosters them for a couple weeks and gets them back to health. And, what’s really cool is that our vet is donating their services for free! This is something that they just do. Very nice.

Now, I know the question you’re about to ask…and the answer is, no. Maybe someday, but not now. But, Serena was very good with Mika and her brother when they all met on Thursday. Cindy told us that our street is, unfortunately, a magnet for abandoned pets. This wasn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last.  Shame on the people who did this, but it’s turning out very well!

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Jul '10

Valerie’s Maters

Valerie has a little garden here at Camp Bell and we’re celebrating something that we haven’t been able to appreciate in many many years — homegrown tomatoes! If you’re checking in from the Pacific Northwest, those are the red things in the pictures, below. Mmmm Mmmm Good!


Jul '10

Nosebleed Territory

This past week the framers finished up a few of the main level interior walls and built the master suite floor—joists, beams, and plywood. Walking around on the main level in the foyer, dining, and kitchen, you really get the feeling that it’s all becoming a house. It’s exactly as we imagined it, and I think, with the awesome views from seemingly everywhere, actually better!

On Thursday evening, Dad and I got the ladder out and climbed up to the master level. I’m not afraid of heights but I have to admit…my knees were weak when I peered down to take some pictures. Yikes, we’re in nosebleed territory!

The lumber for the garage was delivered on Friday and Steve says that by the end of next week it will be completed and dried-in, courtesy of a second framing crew! There are two other things need to get done next week. We need to nail down (pun intended) our decking material. We’ve decided on a heat-treated poplar product called Cambia. Unfortunately, it’s not distributed in North Carolina. The closest lumber yard that carries it is 450 miles away in Manasses, VA. Our lumber supplier has been trying to work out a way to get it delivered and, so far, has not had any luck. If we don’t make progress next week I’m going to rent a U-HaulPenske truck and drive up to Manasses with my credit card.

The other thing I need to resolve is getting a cable/Internet hookup. I will sleep better at night if we have a couple security cameras during (and after) construction. There are too many teenagers walking the street and partying at the I-240 cut after dark. We’ve recently found a shot glass in our house and beer cans and bottles thrown out the back windows so we know they’re coming inside. The cable company normally won’t install service to a house under-construction but I met with the engineering coordinator last week and think we may have worked out a compromise. Fingers crossed. If we can make this happen then I can order and install an internet camera system and look-in (and call the police if necessary) from Camp Bell.





Jul '10

Asheville Vacation

On Monday, Mom and Dad drove down from PA for a visit. It’s a long 10-hour drive but they made it just fine with a couple stops for snacks and gas. It’s been over a year since Dad was here. He helped me unload the first trailer load of our stuff last May. When he last saw Camp Bell, all the interior walls were pink. Mom’s never seen it (she’s just heard us tell all the horror stories) and both were impressed with what we’ve accomplished. Several times they said “this is a cute house”. I hope that’s what the potential buyers say next spring!

Although my Dad had intentions of helping us work this week, we needed a break from all of it and decided to just play tourists.

Tuesday evening we did another Chef’s Challenge dinner between Curras Nuevo Cuisine and Cucina 24. I have to admit, I was a bit stressed over this. Valerie and I are pretty adventurous as to what we eat. Mom and Dad, not so much. I imagined them staring at their plates, looking up at me, looking back down at their plates and shaking their heads. Luckily, the secret ingredient was corn and the chefs stuck to pretty normal fare. We had duck, two different ways, and, although Mom and Dad’s only knowledge of duck was that they had “heard it was greasy,” what we had was far from that and was VERY good. Dad passed on the scallops and the white pancetta but Mom ate everything, cleaned her plates actually, and they both said the food was very good. I was impressed. They’re branching out! Oh, and Curras won. Yah!

Wednesday we did the Biltmore — all of it, except for the winery; all the floors of the house, carriage house, arboretum, conservatory, Antler Village, farm, etc. Whew, I was tired after all that, so I’m sure they were, too.

Thursday we took them to 12 Bones for lunch. Friday we did Bele Chere. Intermixed in all that were several trips to the new house to check on the progress. On Saturday morning, they heading back to PA. They arrived safely and will have lots of stories to tell their friends about our new stompin’ grounds and future home.




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Jul '10

You Can Never Have Too Much Concrete

I think we pretty much kept the local concrete plant in business for the month of May and they were probably wondering what happened to us. Luckily, for them, on Friday we had our garage floor poured. We’re talking a drop in the bucket compared to what was needed for our foundation, but, I’m starting to believe that you can never have too much concrete.

Tom and crew were there bright and early on Friday morning. By the time we arrived at 9:00am they already had much of the concrete in place and were beginning to smooth it out. It seems that most of these guys now have their own pump trucks and they make quick work of getting the concrete to where it’s needed. No shovels, no wheelbarrows, just point and shoot. Funny thing, the manufacturer of their pump is Putzmeister. I can image a bunch of marketing types sitting around a conference table, or more likely a pub table, thinking up that name.

Another cool tool they used was a 6′ long trowel that’s attached to a weedwacker engine—an after market modification, I assume. The engine doesn’t really do anything but vibrate the long blade, but by using it they can settle the concrete and remove any bubbles while they smooth it out. Ingenious. Tim the Tool Man Taylor would be proud.

We had two things done that make for a better concrete job. At the entrance of each bay the concrete is “cut-in” about ¾” deep, 10″ long, and 9′ wide. It’s basically a recess that’s slightly lower than the concrete around it. The garage door will close into this recess and it prevents any blowing rain from running into the garage. The garage floor is already sloped, but this is an added measure of insurance. We also had the concrete immediately sealed. This will help it cure since it will dry more slowly and it will keep any construction dirt and dust from getting embedded into it. And, future oil drips shouldn’t penetrate and should just wipe up. The downside is that it can never have an epoxy coating put on (since it won’t stick) but I don’t think that will be necessary after seeing the beautiful finish these guys did. We’ll be calling them back to do our driveway!

On the framing front, most of the interior main-level walls are done! The only one left is the Living/Office dividing wall. Next week I expect the garage to be built, maybe some work on the deck, and plywood to go on the exterior walls. I’m not sure if this will be a 4-day work-week or not. Fri/Sat/Sun is Asheville’s mega-downtown-street-arts-crafts-music-food-party, Bele Chere. Mom and Dad are coming to visit and we’ll be there.





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Jul '10

Steelpan Music to My Ears

Get out the mallets! We have a steelpan! Okay, maybe not a musical steelpan (AKA steel drum) but I’m sure if you hit it hard enough you could play a one-note reggae tune. What we do have is the steel pan for under our garage floor. On Monday and Tuesday they framed the garage floor and today they put down the steel pan, complete with rebar. It looks like they’re ready to tie all the rebar together and perhaps, pour the concrete floor on Friday.

It’s so nice to see a metal pan with rebar in it, one that slopes 2″ from back to front so that rain water and melting snow dripping on the floor from the cars will run towards the doors. Our Seattle garage was just concrete poured directly onto plywood that didn’t slope. It was cracked and settled in the center. Every winter, without fail, we would have water dripping onto the ceiling tiles of the shop, below, sagging and staining them. I replaced several tiles before we sold the house. I wonder if the new owners discovered the problem…if not, they eventually will. A wise man once said, “When you pay for quality, you only cry once.”

The main level of the house is really taking shape. The kitchen window wall is framed up and WHAT A VIEW Valerie will have from her prep counter! The front door wall and several interior walls are up, too. I was out there, tonight, with my copy of the plans and a measuring tape playing Mr. Quality Assurance. It’s a bad habit, but they’re doing a great job and I can’t complain. I’ve gone from “What have I done?” to “I think Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.

"Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"
Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")
Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"
---Bob Marley




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Jul '10

Bigfoot Lives in North Carolina!

I always thought that Bigfoot/Sasquatch was a Pacific Northwest creature living deep in the Cascade Mountain forests. His lore is so well known out there that Seattle’s pro basketball team has a Bigfoot mascot named Squatch. However, just when we thought it was safe to go into the North Carolina forests, we hear about a recent sighting of the big hairy guy just 53 miles from Asheville. After reading the news article and listening to the radio interview with the man who saw him, I think there are multiple reasons not to venture too far outside the city limits…I think I hear banjo music…

Bigfoot has apparently gone blond and lives in North Carolina. At least according
to Cleveland County resident Tim Peeler, who told local authorities of his encounter
with the 10-foot tall creature, reports the Charlotte Observer.
Peeler thought he was calling coyotes, but instead got surprised and frightened by
what, or who, came a-calling. "Instead of them, him," Peeler, who lives in a rural
area near South Mountains State Park, told NBC affiliate WCNC NewsChannel 36.
"This thing was 10-foot tall. He had beautiful hair," said Peeler, adding that it
looked like the creature had six fingers on each hand.
"I come out here and rough-talked him and run him off," continued Peeler. But then
the creature returned. Luckily the encounter ended safely when Peeler got a bit more aggressive.
"I said, 'Get away from here! Get! Get!' and he went right back up that path again."
Sgt. Mark Self of the Cleveland County sheriff's office responded to the suspicious person call placed
by Peeler. "It scared me," said Self. "This is just totally blowing my mind that they even brought it
back up," adding that the Sasquatch legend has been in the county since the 1970s.
"It doesn't bother me now -- I don't think there's anything to it," Self said. Still, the sheriff's
office plans to continue its routine patrols of the area. "If we see something, we’ll try to capture
it and take it into custody," he added.
So campers and hikers visiting the state park, one of North Carolina’s least-developed recreational sites,
be forewarned -- you might want to plan on carrying a big stick, and leaving the coyote caller at home.
-- Kelly Burgess, LA Times

Below is a radio interview with Tim Peeler, the guy who saw Bigfoot, by Seattle radio personality, Dori Monson. I have no idea how Dori kept from laughing.


Jul '10

Serena the Dock Dog

Serena LOVES to swim, especially doing the “dock dog” thing, jumping into the water to retrieve sticks. She’s part cattle dog and they aren’t known for swimming but the other part of her must be Lab becuse she’s quite the jumper, er, belly flopper. Here are two videos of her, this morning, playing in the Swannanoa River at Azalea Park in Asheville. There were two little girls swimming in the same pool and they had a great time with Serena. Listen carefully at the very end of the second video after I say “Good Girl.” Serena made sure I got cooled off.

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Jul '10

It’s a Wall Building Frenzy

It’s been a wall building frenzy at 380 Vance Gap Forest. Despite the heat and humidity (90′s are unusual for Asheville, so they tell us) the framers continue to build our house higher and higher. So far this week they’ve framed up the shop (under the garage) and a few of the exterior walls on the main levels. We can now look out our future living, office, and dining room windows! Wow, nice views! They also started on the deck, framing up the joists that will form the breezeway between the lower level and the shop. There’s still some interior wall work to be done on the lower level, but it’s really taking shape and becomming a house.

We’ve been busy looking at color choices for our rock, board-and-batten, wall shakes, stucco, and concrete paint. I think we’ve got it figured out—until this afternoon when we look at more samples. At least Steve, our builder, likes the colors, so they can’t be too bad.

And…we had our first visitors this week! Valerie’s sister Linda, Steve, Sarah, and Sarah’s friend, Allison, are on a two-week south-east grand tour. They started out in Indiana, did some sight seeing in KY, stopped for a couple days in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, then dropped by beautiful Camp Bell on Sunday. We went to see the Asheville fireworks from Cindy and Dave’s lawn (they live above where we’re building and have a drop-dead view of the city and the fireworks). Valerie went with Linda, Steve, Sarah, and Allison to tour the Biltmore on Monday. On Tuesday the die-hard travelers left for Charlotte to go to Wallyworld Carowinds and a water park and from thre are headed to Myrtle Beach for a few more days. They might stop by again on their way back. If the timing’s right, we’re going to Ribfest on Sunday. Whew. It makes me tired just writing about it!




Jul '10

Dance Hall

Another good week of progress. The main level’s floor is 95% done. They just have some plywood around the edges to cut off. The lower level still needs the bathrooms framed in and furring strips attached to the concrete stairwell walls, but that’s minor work. Oh, and they also need to tear out a small wall. They got over zealous with the 2×4′s and nailer and built a wall where the bunk room’s door should be. Maybe they think it’s a safe room? By the end of day on Friday, the end of week three of framing, we had our first floor dance hall!

The framers have had to work around some not-so-perfect concrete walls. All things considered, I can’t complain and I’m pleasantly surprised that they’re as close to plan as they are. My worst fears of them being totally in the wrong place or being way out of plumb weren’t realized. The worst error is in the back (thankfully) where a couple feet of concrete tips in about 2″. The framers set the sill plate where it should be—which puts part of it hanging out over thin air. Between the stucco guy eventually building out the wall and the decking covering it up, no one will ever know. Several places in the front are out of line or plumb a 1/2″ here, 3/4″ there. But, all of those places will eventually be covered with stone and can easily be hidden with a little more or less mortar behind the rocks. No problémo.

Speaking of stone…we’ll need to pull the trigger soon on our choice. We’ve decided on the Eldorado Stone brand, probably a mountain ledge stone. There are multiple color choices and we’ve spent several hours staring at them in the showrooms. On Wednesday, we’ll pick up some samples to take out to the lot and look at “in the wild” along with our siding, trim, and roof color choices. Big decision, and once it’s made, there’s no going back. It’s not like paint.

The other big decision is what the deck will be. Maintenance is a big thing with me (I want to enjoy this house, not work on it all the time) so I don’t want standard pressure treated southern yellow pine deck boards. They look good the first year you put them down, but, unless you are religions about cleaning, staining, and sealing them every year, they will warp, crack, split, and quickly look nasty. We’ll have 1500sf of deck and it would be a huge ongoing effort to keep it looking good. Composites (Trex, etc) reduce the maintenance needs but none of them have met our standards for look and feel. The brands that are plastic mixed with wood fibers look fake and scratch easily. The brands that are 100% plastic look like, well, plastic. Ipe (pronounced Eepay), a Brazilian hardwood, is really nice, but it’s very $$ and has that whole chopping-down-the-rain-forest issue around it. I’m looking at a new product called Cambia that’s a heat-treated poplar. It has a nice brown amber color that resembles a tropical hardwood and, per the literature, has all the benefits of a composite but is a real local wood grown in sustainable, managed, forests. It’s not sold in North Carolina, yet, but is sold in Virginia. I’m working with the company, there, to get a sample. If we like it, I may be making a U-Haul run in a couple weeks.

Here are some pictures of the week’s progress…





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