Saturday, February 02, 2019

R.I.P. Malcolm L. Jacobs 1950 - 2019

Malcolm on a trip to the UK

Jan phoned to let us know that Malcolm passed away early this morning. It was a tragedy for someone so alive and vibrant to be struck down so young, but his condition had been grave ever since the heart attack on December 14 and subsequent strokes. We thought he was improving but it was not to be.

Sandy's Mom Jan is in a nursing home with advancing dementia and we had not told her about his heart attack in December or the problems since. Today, we simply told her that he had a massive heart attack and passed away. It was difficult to tell just how much she grasped, especially since she said she had just been talking to him yesterday, something that would have been totally impossible. 

Malcolm would have been 69 on the 11th of this month.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Another New Year

We ended fifteen nights of Safe Ride Home Sudbury with a huge blizzard last night. The AWD Equinox was sidelined due to a spontaneously shattered lift gate window, so we made due with the FWD all season tired Kia Rondo. The little car was a major challenge in the deep snow until I shut off the traction control. Then it clawed its way anywhere I asked it to go. The phones were live from 8:00 PM until 3:00 AM and Sandy stuck with me the whole time as our team (among others) drove callers who thought they might not be safe behind the wheel home in their own vehicles.

Safe Ride Home Sudbury mascot Stewie

Safe Ride Home Sudbury worked every Friday and Saturday night starting November 16, 2018 through to the end of the year plus New Years Eve. The total road volunteer strength was 210 individuals, with some working one night and some working almost all, in teams of two or three. My job was to receive applications, review them, build the database and schedule, prepare work lists for each night and oversee the sign-in/team assignment function as well as the training. I also drove every night once the HQ tasks were done, gathered the stats and cash at the end of the night and generated the reports. Additionally, I prepared the media releases and executed the social media campaign. All in all, it was a busy but very rewarding time, working with great people and knowing that we were keeping some other people from getting behind the wheel when they shouldn't.

The most difficult part was helping the clientele realize that the volunteers don't give up their nights so that the general public can party. They do it because the general public will party and needs as many alternatives as possible to keep from making poor decisions.

The family ended the year on a somber note. Sandy's brother Malcolm, the epitome of exercise and healthy eating at 68, suffered a major heart attack at his home in Vancouver on December 14. After a quintuple bypass operation, they placed him on an ECMO  machine to help oxygenate his blood while his heart was not up to the task. ECMO has some risks and it appears that, in his case, it may have been the cause of a series of strokes. His kidneys were also damaged in the process. His partner Jan was with him every day and kept the family posted but he was still in ICU and in guarded condition at the end of the year.

It is hard to believe that another year has come and gone. It is also hard to believe that I have not posted here since we got back last September. We are now starting to make some serious plans to squeeze as much as we can out of 2019 before it gets relegated to the trash heap.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Grayling Michigan to Sudbury Ontario

Sandy and I got up at 7:00 AM Eastern and found my phone was still on Central. It was set to take the time from the network it was connected to. The same thing happened in June between Mountain and Central time, when my efforts to override the phone's automatic function had some serious repercussions. My decision today was to leave it alone and let it work itself out.

It was grey, overcast and 55 F as we skipped the hotel breakfast and hit the road at 7:30.

In the low light of near morning. I came to a realization about certain drivers. Those who drive on a freeway with their high beams on are the same folks that hog the left lane. I reached this conclusion after the third vehicle fitting the profile passed us. I'll bet their self-centred disregard for common courtesy leads them to park in RV spots as well. Are some drivers really inconsiderate or am I just becoming old and grouchy? Or, maybe, both??

We stopped in Gaylord for fuel and the traditional Golden Arches coffee and breakfast to go.

The signs at the Mackinac Bridge warned of high winds and said big trucks, RV's and cars with trailers would be limited to 20 MPH on the span. In fact, there was only one northbound lane open so the first big truck limited EVERYONE to 20 MPH. Today, oddly, the high winds were out of the east. I can't remember encountering that before.

Big Mac

Wind warning

Reduced speed

Construction - can it get any better?

The Straits are choppy

The only open northbound toll booth

Traffic in the Upper Peninsula was very light and not many trees were changing colour. Fifteen miles south of The Soo, the temperature was 51 F and the skies were still grey. We took on our last load of relatively cheaper fuel before crossing the border.

Very little traffic and green trees on I-75

There was absolutely no US bound traffic on the bridge thus morning. After paying the bridge toll, we crossed the border at 10:40 AM and reached Canadian customs moments later (after negotiating a one lane construction area on the bridge). There were a couple of cars queued up in the line I picked and the time each took led me to believe the officer was being thorough. When we got there, we found he was actually being more chatty. He was amused by my list of purchases specifying both US and imputed Canadian costs. He also chuckled because I was bringing back part of a bottle of bourbon that I had bought in Ontario and taken out with us. There was no comment about the back end of a GoldWing in a box. At 1:50, we were released and allowed to go on our way.

No line to pay the bridge toll

The border

One lane on the bridge

The steel plant is looking busy

Lucky for us the line was short

We stopped at Mickey D's for a smoothie and coffee. Plus a few McNuggets. The electronic compass sign said the Highway 17 was closed at Nairn Centre, just outside the City of Greater Sudbury boundary. We hoped that it would be cleared by the time we got there. Detour options might be available depending on where the road was closed.

Just a bit of colour

Osprey on its nest

Road work east of Iron Bridge

More along the Mississagi River - nice paving job

A little sunshine

We stopped for a bathroom break at the Esso station in Blind River (long may you run....) and I checked Google about the road closure. A morning post by MTO said they were detouring around a wreck using Lorne Falls Road. Google Maps confirmed that this was within the City and that the detour was only a couple of miles in length.

We saw blue skies as we reached Webbwood and then came to a halt just after passing through Nairn Centre at 2:15. It was not very far from the supposed crash site so I didn't think we would be there very long. At first. Soon it became obvious that a lot more traffic was going west that was going our way. We crawled until we could see Lorne Falls Road and then stopped. I believe that the heavy recovery vehicles had arrived and shut down the highway but that no one was there to tell the drivers about the detour. We could see the odd vehicles turning onto the back road or coming from it. Finally we started to crawl again and, after an hour sitting in line, we reached Lorne Falls Road and turned right. No one else did. After about seven minutes on the dirt road, we reconnected with Highway 17 and immediately got up to speed. I was disappointing in both the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ministry of Transportation for allowing vehicles to sit for an hour or more when the detour they had announced was right there. Further, MTO had tweeted the road was open three minutes before we first encountered the line. Oh well, what can you expect from government?

The line leaving Nairn

The official City boundary

The detour is just around the bend but no one is moving

Home - sort of

One casualty of the line

We see it but we aren't moving

Finally - Lorne Falls Road (all to ourselves)

The rest of the way home was uneventful. The four lane stretch of Highway 17 was still just two lanes.

How do the suction cups on those posts stay stuck?

It was 62 F as we arrived at the house just before 4:00 PM. I backed into the driveway and unloaded the bike before parking and disconnecting the trailer. All the bags and gear in the car were moved into the house except the final drive by 4:45. We stopped by Kevin's and gave him the drive, fueled the car (a shock even at $1.27 per liter), got some groceries and were home before 6:00 PM.

Tomorrow it will be three months until Christmas. Our out-of-Canada travel is probably over until 2019, which leaves me feeling sad. I hope we can still get some riding in before the bike is put to bed for the winter. On the plus side, the snow blower has been tuned up for what I hope will be a mild snow season.

Happy tails to you until we meet again!

Today's Route (347 Equinox miles):

Sunday, September 23, 2018

DuQuoin Illinois to Grayling Michigan

The alarm went off at 5:00 AM and we were on the road by 5:27 Central Time. We were going to lose one hour of travel time today due to the time zones. It was dark as we drove east on Illinois 14 towards Benton and I-57, so I did not need to worry about sunrise blinding me.

We stopped at the Mickey D's in Benton for coffee and breakfast sandwiches to go before turning north on I-57. Strong headwinds ate into the fuel mileage.

This was the day that yesterday should have been

The Effingham cross from a different angle

A real motorcyclist

We stopped for fuel in Paxton, Illinois. This was the most expensive gas that we had seen on the whole trip. $2.999 per US gallon.

All morning, we were being passed by Corvettes with racy licence plates and grey haired folks in the seats. They were almost all doing the speed limit. No further comment.

South of Kankakee, Illinois we saw a sign that said "French Canadian Heritage Corridor". This was the first I had ever heard of this, although we were all aware of the French explorers in this region. I wondered if they would do anything about learning to pronounce French Canadian names?

As we got to northern Illinois and turned east on I-80, I realized that (like Toronto) the speed limit signs were merely a suggestion. Traffic was heavier than I expected for a Sunday as we crossed into Indiana at about 11:00 AM Central Time.

Indiana wants me...

Many Sunday drivers

We stopped at a McDonald's in a Pilot truck stop to get some lunch. This location had thoughtfully laid out a few long parking spots for trailers and RV's. As usual, several clueless morons in cars chose to park in them. I parked in front of the Tahoe because, when we arrived, it was the only spot available.

The world abounds with twits

The first couple of miles after we crossed the Michigan border on I-94, I thought the trailer would bounce right off the hitch. I would have imagined that a state would want its first impression to be better than this. We also lost an hour in the blink of an eye.

Pure what??

No way could I even do the speed limit into the headwind

Michigan State Police still uses those big red dome lights

I was again appalled at the merging drivers who will come up the on ramp, crawl along the merge lane at less than the speed of traffic, force drivers to move left and then, once they have caused a disruption in the Force, speed away. I had a new strategy. If I thought they could have matched speeds in the merge lane and found a gap, I would not pull over. So there!

Lucky we didn't get behind this crew

It would probably be fun to live here

North of Grand Rapids, traffic came to a sudden stop. It was almost a disaster because a white SUV was stopped with no brake lights on. The sign said the left lane was closed one mile ahead, yet the lane was already clear. I went into rolling road block mode and kept anyone from jumping ahead in the line. I prefer the zipper merge but that only works if enough drivers take advantage. Otherwise, you just become a lane jumper.

Traffic backed up waiting to merge

One lane traffic as the other side is rebuilt

Southbound traffic was stopped for many miles

Trees are late changing colours

We stopped at a Rest Area south of Cadillac and I booked a room at the Ramada in Grayling. We checked in just before 6:00 PM Eastern. The bar/restaurant was closed on Sunday and we didn't have the energy to go out for supper, so I sorted photos and blog notes and transcribed the purchase list for Customs that I had made up in DuQuoin. Sometimes I thing a portable printer would be nice. Then, as usual, we were in bed early.

Today's Route (617 Equinox miles):

Saturday, September 22, 2018

DuQuoin Illinois - GWRRA Southern Illinois Ride In Day Three

The heat wave was definitely over this morning. It was 60 F and just felt like 60 with rain falling. We received word of a big windstorm at home and tornadoes in Ottawa. To our relief, Di was staying at our house and let us know that we had suffered no damage.

A cool rainy morning

We drove over to the fairgrounds where Carlene was overseeing a fine breakfast. There were eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy. Then they set up a flea market where I bought a book "NC Scenic Byways" from Steve Schlager for $1.00. I also ordered a Kindle version of Steve's book "The Train That Vanished" from Amazon.

Reed looks like a lumberjack but he's OK

Charlie did some of the serving

Willie putting out some items at the flea market

Some of the goodies for sale

This should prove useful

People were bundled up

I wish we could buy sausage gravy in a can

Sandy and I returned to the hotel to start organizing our suitcases for our departure tomorrow morning. Willie was planning on leading a scenic ride at 10:00 AM with lunch at a restaurant in the village of Ava. Although I wasn't interested in riding in the wet, we said we might drive there in the car and meet them about 12:30.

I didn't receive word from Willie saying whether he had left or not, but we headed out about noon anyway. We ended up following a funeral procession south out of town and I was pleasantly surprised to see that almost every northbound vehicle pulled over the allow the procession to go by. It turned into a cemetery in Elkville while we continued on.

We reached Ava, a very small place, at 12:30 sharp. There were a lot of cars parked in front of Gabby's but no motorcycles. It was raining, so Sandy and I thought maybe no one was coming and considered moving on. Before we could decide, two bikes came around the corner. Willie was leading a couple on a trike and we found the restaurant had a room reserved for us. A call from Carlene suggested that there were ten more people in cars coming, so Willie apologized to the staff for the low turnout. In fact, the apology was not required because there were 25 people seated when all was said and done.

Gabby's must have learned their portion control from Lambert's and Kalin's. I ordered a mushroom/Swiss/bacon burger. The burger at Kalin's the other evening was extraordinary but this one was right up there too. Sandy had a BLT that she said had too much L and T, but that was easy to fix. The bacon looked like it had been cooked with a press.

One surprise was that when the server ran my US VISA card, it was declined. She was busy so I paid cash rather than make her go through the process again. I was concerned, however, and resolved to test this right away to see if a call to VISA would be necessary.

Gabby's Restaurant - our room was packed

Not a vacant seat in the room

The burger was most excellent

After lunch, Sandy and I drove back to DuQuoin and stopped at the Moto Mart for fuel before returning to the hotel. The pump accepted my card with no problem. In the room, we found that the WiFi was working but it was slow.

We finished packing all except our overnight bags and, despite a light rain falling, loaded them into the car. Then I hooked up the trailer and loaded the bike in the wet. Finally, I made a list for our Customs folks of purchases we would be bringing into Canada with us. By the time we came out to drive to the fairgrounds for the closing activities at 5:00 PM, the rain had stopped.

I won a set of Cynoculars in the draw and Sandy pulled Willie's name as second prize in the 50/50 draw. Carlene thanked everyone for coming and Willie reminded everyone that next year's Ride In would be the 35th and also the last Carlene would be coordinating. It will again be the week after ES, so we very well might show up one more time.

Bean counting - my specialty

The door prizes

My door prize

Sonny drawing door prize tickets

The Lovely Carlene with some closing comments

After the prizes and comments, they set up a very nice potluck supper. Sandy and I sat with author Steve and his wife Sandy from Carterville. Like most of the other people here, they were friendly, welcoming and very interesting.

It was not late when Sandy and I went back to the room. I set my alarm for 5:00 AM and we turned in early.

Today's Route (44 Equinox miles):