Monday, October 22, 2018

Our first RV Care-A-Vanners Build


From the RV Care-A-Vanners website:

If the open road calls to you, the RV Care-A-Vanners are for you. This volunteer program invites anyone who travels by recreational vehicle to make Habitat part of your journey, or even your destination.

Bring your family and friends. Everyone is welcome, and no experience is necessary. We understand that whether you live your life on the road full-time, or just squeeze in an adventure when you can, you appreciate the need for safe, affordable housing. This is your opportunity to help provide the same for others.

If you spend a lot of time on the road, you likely consider anyone you meet to be a neighbor. We feel the same way. It’s this mindset that helps us further our mission. We’d love for you to partner with us because there are a lot of neighbors who need our help. By participating in Habitat’s RV Care-A-Vanners, you will actually get to meet and work with families on their house and help them create a place they can call home. It starts with recreation, but ends with relationship.

We’ve known about RV Care-A-Vanners through other fulltime RVers that we know, and we’ve been involved in Habitat for Humanity builds through our Community Service projects at Ford, but we had not yet participated in a build with RV Care-A-Vanners.

I signed up for their newsletter a couple years ago, and was perusing the latest edition when I noticed that there was a build coming up in Alanson, MI, which is just north of Petoskey, and they were looking for participants for the first 2 weeks of October.  We were planning on going up that way anyway, so I signed us up! Then I told Tom that he was going to be working construction for 2 weeks . . . Smile

All of the builds provide RV sites for the participants, usually full hookup since it’s a 2-week project, often free on the jobsite or at a nearby campground.  At this particular location, there were sites available for up to 8 RVs in the Petoskey KOA.  Since it was peak color season in northern Michigan, our campsite wasn’t free, but it was a very reasonable $20/night.

Our site at Petoskey KOA (which has since been bought by Sun RV Resorts, so will probably have a new name next year)

Petoskey KOA

We were looking forward to meeting other RV Care-A-Vanners, learning about the program, and having a fun group of people to work with.

Unfortunately, we were the only ones who signed up! 

The RV CAV coordinator gave us the option of cancelling, but we wanted to go and the Habitat Coordinator assured us that we would not be working alone.  They had several corporate groups signed up during that time period, and there were local volunteers who work on builds on a regular basis.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon and got set up at the KOA.  Normally, they have a kickoff dinner on Sunday night for all the RV volunteers, but since it was just us, we met with Mandy, the Habitat Coordinator, at a local restaurant.  She treated us to dinner, and gave us some information on Habitat of Northwest Michigan, the current builds they have going, and our schedule for the next 2 weeks.  Tom was working everyday, but I just had 2 days/week to participate – Wednesdays and Fridays.  She was OK with that, so this would work out pretty well.

They currently have 3 build sites in progress.  The first is Alanson, MI which is just about 7 miles north of the KOA. They are building a small subdivision at that site, with two houses already occupied,

Previous Habitat house

Another previous habitat house

one nearly done,


and one new house with just the foundation in place.  That was supposed to be our primary site, weather-permitting, and that’s where Tom reported for work on Monday morning.  He was working with a group of women from the Stafford Hotel Group, and their chef was sending lunch to the build site – that was a nice little bonus.


The lumber was getting delivered just in time.


They worked on getting the sill plates and walls laid out.



Tom said they were a fun group to work with, and he had a good time.  On Tuesday, he was back at the same site with a group of local men, and they put the walls up.

Day 2 - Walls going up



They made some really good progress in two days!

On Wednesday, we were both scheduled to work and it was projected to rain all day – heavy rain.  The site supervisor, Larry, had us meet him at their Boyne Falls build site, which is about 20 miles south of Petoskey.  There is just one house under construction there, and it’s almost complete.  They are just finishing up interior trim work.

We reported to the basement, where we painted interior doors . . . or I should say I painted interior doors.  Tom painted one . . . and I fired him from painting!  From then on, he did the prep work for me – removing hardware, filling little holes and scratches, and sanding.  I painted 9 additional doors.

Tom doing prep work on the doors


Painting doors

It wasn’t hard work, but standing on concrete all day was rough on my legs, and I was ready to stay home and work my desk job the next day!

Tom reported to the 3rd build site on Thursday, Boyne City, where the crew was sheeting the roof of one of two houses that are going up concurrently.

Covering the roof

Another day of progress

Friday was a busy day, and we would be working with a crew from Lowe’s to get the exterior insulation on that same house.

Insulating the outer walls

We worked our way around the house . . .

Taping seams

Hanging vapor barrier

and got three sides covered.  That was quite a bit of progress in one day!  It was a chilly day, but at least we stayed dry!

Three sides done

Week 1 was complete, and we were ready for the weekend off!

The following week started out warm but a little rainy, and Tom spent the first couple days working with Larry on some finishing touches in the Boyne Falls house, and picking up supplies for the Boyne City houses. 

On Wednesday, we were back in Boyne City.  Tom and I picked up donuts for the crew of local volunteers,

Favorite bakery in Petoskey

Breakfast of Champions

and we enjoyed the spectacular view of the colors changing as we made the drive from Petoskey to Boyne City.

Early morning on Walloon Lake

So many beautiful views along the way!

Colors increasing



No wine for the build site, though!


It was a beautiful day on Wednesday – actually hot, but we had a nice breeze all day.  Tom and a few guys finished up the insulation on the last side of the same house,

Insulating the last side of the house

Mudding the foundation

and I worked on mudding the foundation of the 2nd house, while a few other guys prepped for the roof trusses to be installed the next day.


On Thursday, Tom was back with most of the same crew to get the roof trusses set on the 2nd half of the house.

Setting roof trusses

It was a windy day, but they got it done!


Final roof section

Friday was our last day, and it was a cold & blustery one!  They guys were putting roof sheeting on the trusses,

Sheeting the roof


but I kept myself busy inside the other house for as long as I could.  There was a bunch of sand and leaves on the floor, and wood strewn all over the place, so I spent my time sweeping and organizing . . . and staying somewhat warm – or at least out of the elements!

Looks much better!

Cleaned up inside

It was a rewarding two weeks, and I’m glad we signed up for it.  I think Tom enjoyed having something else to do while I worked, too.  We’d definitely do it again, but hopefully if they have another in northern Michigan it’ll be a little earlier in the season – maybe September!  We’ll look for builds in other areas of the country, too.

Check out the website if you’re interested – they have builds all through the year, at many different locations.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Enjoying some nice fall days in Charlevoix

Beautiful tree

After a week of rainy, chilly days, we finally had a stretch of very pleasant, even warm & humid, fall days.  We enjoyed the sunshine, got Casey outside for lots of walks, and even had a campfire with our neighbors one evening.

The combination of the rain, sunshine and warmer temperatures really made the colors pop in the trees all around us!

Enjoying the nice fall weather

Tuesday was supposed to be the nicest day of the week, so once I was done with work I picked Tom up form the Habitat job site and we headed over to Lake Michigan.  It was a beautiful day for a drive,and I on the hunt for Petoskey stones!

Nice afternoon for a drive

An old hunting spot

When I was young, my family used to camp in this area every summer, and one of our favorite places for Petoskey stone hunting was the Lake Michigan Beach near the town of Norwood.  Much of that lakefront area is contained in Fisherman’s Island State Park (which is also a great place for finding Petoskey stones), but our destination was the area south of the state park.  Driving towards the lake, the road ends at a little township park with a small parking lot.  From the parking lot, there’s a short trail to the beach.

Lake Michigan

By the time we got there, clouds were starting to roll in, but I was determined do some hunting.  There were a few others with the same idea.

A good spot for petoskey stone hunting

Just a few fellow hunters

Norwood Beach

I walked the shoreline, but since I couldn’t go much past my ankles (the water was pretty chilly!), I didn’t find as many stones as I’d hoped for.  I did find some, though, so it wasn’t a total loss.

On our way back to Petoskey, we stopped in the little town of Charlevoix for dinner, with a walk along the waterfront.

Just a few boats still in the water at this time of year . . .

Fog moving in

Round Lake

We could see the lake beginning to be overtaken by fog, and by the time we finished dinner we couldn’t see the lake at all anymore.

On Saturday, we were back in Charlevoix for the Apple Festival.


It was a cool, crisp fall day, but the sun was shining and it was great day to be outside.  We walked through the craft booths, many of which we had seen at previous craft fairs, and then we walked though the apple orchard vendors.

There were several orchards there, but I was in search of the one that had SweetTango apples – they’re my current favorite, and the kids like them too.  We found them finally, at the last orchard booth we came to, and I bought a half bushel to take home with us.  I also picked up a half peck of Northern Spy - our favorite pie apple.  I think an apple pie is in our future!

Chili CookoffAs we walked around the craft booths, we saw a sign for a chili cookoff lunch at the local Methodist Church.  Chili sounded pretty good for lunch, so when we were finished shopping, we walked over to the church for lunch.

The chilis were all made by local restaurants, and several of them were really good.


After lunch we walked up a side street and came across an area that a local farm had set up for the kids – there were all kinds of farm animals, and the kids were able to feed them carrots and grains.

Feeding the farm animals

It was a very popular area, and the kids were having fun feeding the animals.

Jacobs SheepSo was Tom!

Tom got in there with the kids!

It really was a beautiful day . . . no fog over the lake today!

Round Lake

Before leaving town, we took a walk along the channel to take a look at Lake Michigan at the city beach.

Pretty treesPretty trees along the channel,

Along the channel to Lake Michigan

and a look at the lake.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan Beach

Too chilly for Petoskey stone hunting, though!