What do you do when a project doesn't go just right? It seems that everyone has a story to tell about times like these. Simon Stanfield, whom I met at January's World of Concrete, provides a tale on how to make the best out of a bad situation.

This wily industry veteran gave his account of a unique “opportunity.” It's nice to know that our volumetric brethren can experience difficulties in their delivery process just like everyone else.

Last year, a specialty cement manufacturer hired Stanfield to monitor a bridge deck repair project in Shelby County, Ky. Stanfield is a consultant whose expertise is how to batch Very Early Latex Modified Concrete (VELMC) using volumetric mixers. This fast-track job had to go smoothly.

The bridge resurfacing project near Frankfort, Ky., quickly became more than just an overlay. Inspectors discovered that the spans' concrete was so spalled and deteriorated, that after demolition and prep work, only the rebar was left in places. The engineer then opted to replace these voids by pouring almost full depth with the VELMC. Finally, the contractor would have to come back and apply the 2-inch overlay when the concrete underneath reached sufficient strength.

The contractor had little problem in the tear-out. But before the VELMC could be placed, he had to shore the entire deck and patch portions of the reinforcement by welding new plates and strands into place. Stanfield showed up at the job at the required time and watched some of the demolition. Everything seemed to be going smoothly when the troubles started.

The first big delay occurred when the sparks from some welders ignited the brush on an embankment. With the dry conditions, the fire spread to the highway's median. Repair work stopped as the highway was closed to allow the fire department to extinguish the flames.

Stanfield made the best of this delay. He met the crew at a nearby truck stop and calibrated their volumetric mixers. Then he waited, for the first time.

His second wait came later that day. With the repair work and shoring ready, the contractor was ready to pour, only to find out that the liaison from the latex polymer supplier was missing. A hurricane in North Carolina prevented the engineer from leaving his home. After a series of telephone calls and assurances, the pour finally began, way off schedule. The crew went ahead and poured the high-tech mix and cast a bunch of test cylinders.

Following the pour, Stanfield was worn. He had about 48 hours to wait before the overlay. He had been up all night and day and just wanted to sleep. But Stanfield's wife had other ideas.

Later that afternoon, with the consultant taking a nap in his vehicle in quaint downtown Frankfort, his wife visited some of the interesting shops. When she returned, she asked if he heard the fiddle music. Stanfield was too tired to hear anything.

His wife was adamant and directed him to drive in the direction from which she thought it was coming. They pulled onto Broadway and found among the original state capitol buildings, tents, marquees, and lots of people. In the middle of it all, a bluegrass band was giving a performance. They discovered that this was the annual Kentucky Folklife Festival.

The free event was full of authentic old-time instruments and blue-grass musicians that had literally come out of the hills to perform. Stanfield and his wife had such a good time, they listened to music the rest of the weekend.

Stanfield says this was his first project where fiddling around actually was worthwhile. jimambrose@aol.com