Friday, November 17, 2017

Safe Ride Home Sudbury

The inaugural Safe Ride Home Sudbury campaign begins operating tonight. President Lesli Green split from the national Operation Red Nose organization after eighteen years, saying that a made-in-Sudbury program will address local issues more effectively.

As before, Safe Ride Home Sudbury will see volunteer teams dispatched to drive people home in their own vehicles if they believe they have imbibed too much holiday cheer. It is a free service, although donations are gratefully accepted. These donations support local youth athletic activities, while all the expenses of the program are born by very generous corporate partners and sponsors. The program will run every Friday and Saturday from now until the end of the year and finish up on New Years Eve, a total of fifteen evenings.

The new brand necessitated a new mascot. Stewie the Sober Bear was built in Toronto to Lesli's specifications. We drove down last month and picked him up at the factory, so to speak.

 Greg, Stewie and Lesli yesterday

Lovely vehicle provided by Cambrian Ford 

R.I.D.E sobriety spot check yesterday to promote the program launch

Once again, I will be the Volunteer Coordinator. This involves receiving applications and background checks from the Greater Sudbury Police Service, acknowledging them and entering them in a database. Reminders are sent out for the nights each volunteer selected. When they show up at the headquarters at NORCAT, they are assembled into teams of Escort Driver (delivers the team to clients), Designated Driver (drives the clients in their own vehicle) and, sometimes, Navigator (handles the paper work and usually accompanies the DD in the client vehicle). I am also the head trainer, providing orientation sessions to new volunteers, and oversee the front of the HQ much of the time.

When all the HQ stuff is done, I usually hit the road with my regular partner JM (who also becomes Stewie for promotional activities).

I have been involved in sober driving initiatives for twenty-five years. In 1993, Norm Hein and I worked with police services to develop the Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol, which helped police interdict impaired sledders. I was also active for a number of years in Action Sudbury - Citizens Against Impaired Driving. Several years ago, I gravitated towards Operation Red Nose and this past year, I helped with the development of and transition to Safe Ride Home Sudbury.

So don't worry about me for the rest of the year. I will be busy and having fun all at the same time.

Monday, October 02, 2017

York Pennsylvania to Sudbury Ontario

It was another dark start to the day as we hit the road before 6:00 AM. The beds and pillows at the Wyndham Gardens were outstanding. We will put this place on the preferred list for future visits.

We navigated through town to I-83 north and then made a quick stop at a Speedway and McDonald's for gas and food before heading north towards Harrisburg. Exit 34 was like a pit lane with an exit ramp that went past the fuel station and restaurant and then merged right back onto the Interstate.

 Once again, I did not consult the map and ended up wandering around Harrisburg following obscure GPS directions before heading north along the east bank of the Susquehanna River on US 22. It was foggy along the river and, after a ways, we crossed the river and took US 15 North along the west bank.

Mishap in the fog along US 15

Almost got the house

We followed US 15 but took an unintended jog onto the new I-180 into Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series. Really, I need to look at the maps. The Interstate detour added a few miles and accomplished nothing. After a stop for a bathroom and more coffee, we continued north to New York.

Fog banks along US 15

Trees are starting to change colour

There are some series viaducts in this part of the country

Welcome to the Empire State

The road got rougher as soon as we crossed the New York line. This was still being billed as the "future I-99 corridor". We stopped at a McDonald's in Painted Post for more coffee. Back in 1978, Sandy and I got lost in a traffic circle in Painted Post because it didn't have any highway numbers on the signs. Now they have all kinds of highway numbers and no traffic circle. It was also here in 1999 that I learned not to eat a Popsicle while riding a motorcycle on a hot day.

Welcome to Painted Post New York

Lots of Highway signs in Painted Post

We took I-86 out of Painted Post and then exited on I-390, which continued northwest to Mount Morris. This was near where the Rochester Peacemakers used to host the Lost Weekend Rally in the 1980's. From there, we followed the dead straight NY 63 to Batavia and onto the New York Thruway.

Nary a bend on NY 63

On to the Thruway and thanks for EZ Pass

We headed west on the Thruway with a last stop for relatively cheap US gas at the Clarence Service Center around noon. Near Buffalo, we exited on I-290 and then took I-190 across Grand Island to the Lewiston/Queenston border crossing.

Not sure why we took this picture

Geese flying north?

One of two Grand Island Bridges

Off Grand Island

Almost on native soil

The NEXUS lane was empty at Lewiston so we pulled right up. The booth was remote, so we declared our T-shirts and camp chairs to a disembodied voice. We were released and then went through the EZ-Pass toll booth. Total crossing time was about two minutes.

I should note that we went through many toll booths yesterday and today, but every one of them accepted our EZ Pass transponder. And the EZ Pass is free as long as you make provision to automatically top up your account when it falls below a certain level. I wish the twits that run our ETR407 would start this idea. Right now, there is a monthly transponder/account fee for a ridiculously overpriced road.

The Maple Leaf forever.....

Welcome home, eh!

OK, the ETR407 is way overpriced but we were in a hurry with a long way to go, so I bit the bullet. We took the QEW across the Burlington Skyway and then got on the 407. As it crossed the 401, we saw the traffic on the free road was dead stopped while we were rolling along briskly. Before long, we were turning due north on the 400.

Stopped traffic on the 401

Near Stonewall's house

Traffic was fine right up to the 400/11 split on the north side of Barrie. The northbound ramp was still under construction. I have a feeling rookie workers will retire before they finish this little project.

400 exit north of Barrie

Some day this will be finished

The home stretch

I was surprised to see how many trees have not started to change colour. We stopped at the new Tim's at the Honey Harbour exit for still more coffee before continuing.

Lots of still green trees

The tiger motif is a little scary

Miller Paving (great outfit) working on 400 south of Parry Sound

Little holdup

As perfect as it gets

There was a wreck near Shawanaga. The road was open but they had a lot of emergency response crews. They even had  Ministry of Natural Resources Conservation Officers directing traffic. The only thing we didn't see was a lot of wrecked vehicles, just a few with some minor damage. Maybe everyone was just enjoying the nice weather?

Lots of emergency vehicles

Another just down the road

And MNR doing a non-traditional role

Four laning of Highway 69 continues south of the French River

Have to save those poor rattlesnakes



We reached town and pulled into our subdivision about 5:45 PM. We had covered over 650 miles in twelve hours, not bad for an older guy who seems to tire more easily these days. This was an excellent trip to a brand new place with old friends and new, and we were glad we did it.

(N.B. - It has taken me a long time to get the last two days finished. My apologies to anyone who has been paying attention.)

Today's Route (651 Equinox miles):

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Corolla North Carolina to York Pennsylvania

Around 1918, James Thomas Woodend emigrated from Northern Ireland. In London, Ontario, he met Lena Beatrice Guest, a descendant of Irish people who had arrived in Canada a century earlier. They moved to Detroit, Michigan where my mother Mildred Eileen Woodend was born in 1924. Her younger brother, James Warren Woodend, was born in Rochester, Michigan two years later. Then the family moved back to London where the children, both natural born US citizens, were raised with many Canadian Guest relatives.

Mom stayed in Canada, married a Maritimer and had three Canadian sons. In 1975, she discovered that, due to a quirk of fate and legislation, she was still a US citizen. My brother Dave sponsored her and she officially joined the Great White North after many years of paying taxes, voting and serving on juries illegally. My Uncle Warren (known as Jim outside the family) joined the US Army at the end of WW II and served in Germany. He then married a Canadian girl, my Aunt Bet, and settled in the USA where they had five children.

I told you all this to explain how I have American cousins in the York, Pennsylvania who I have not seen in way too long. That was something we were going to rectify today.

Before we could get to York, we had to leave the Outer Banks. It was hard to believe that our week was over and another bucket list line had been crossed off. The OBX were everything I had hoped for and more, and sharing it with Linda and Billy Bob made it all the more special. Thanks to Denise and Nic for putting it all together, and the great circle of family and friends they enjoy.

We had loaded all but the overnight bags in the car last night. The alarm went off at 5:00 AM and we hit the deck running, but Linda and Billie Bob had beaten us to the punch. They were already gone by the time we reached our car at 5:20.

It was pitch black as we wound our way south and then turned west on Highway 12. It was difficult to clean the windshield due to the salt, but it wasn't a real issue while the traffic was light. We stopped at a little McDonald's, part of a Shell station, where they had no McMuffins. It was strictly a McBiscuit or McGriddle morning. We encountered another couple in a Jeep, a vehicle very much part of the beach/dune culture down here.

We crossed the Virginia Line at 6:50 AM and headed for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel, stopping for fuel in Virginia Beach. The BP station was right across the road from the station we had stopped at with Sherm, Southern Draw and Charm and Phillip back in 2102. Then we started out over the 23 mile water crossing, interspersed by two places where the highway went underwater through tunnels designed to let larger ships (like the USN aircraft carriers) enter the bay.

There was no oncoming traffic

And then we go down

It is kind of a spooky feeling

Back up again

And down we go again

The second tunnel

And then a raised span for smaller boats

And, at last, dry land

Atlantic Ocean

The bridge dropped us down onto the Delmarva Peninsula. The name is a combination of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, the three states which occupy this narrow piece of land that separates the Atlantic Ocean from Chesapeake Bay. As we headed north on US 13, I resolved to reread some Michener.

We crossed from Virginia into Maryland and then into Delaware. We saw some interesting vehicles and sights, and passed by Dover International Speedway, also known as The Monster Mile, just about the time the NASCAR Cup cars were getting ready to roll.

Seen at a Maryland truck stop

Don't know what this was, but look at the camber

Another one

This was also part of the procession

The Monster Mile

Crossing the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal

Power Plant

After a stop at McDonald's for lunch to go, we got on I-95 South, which was actually heading west at this point. We crossed back into Maryland and then exited on State 272, which took us north to Pennsylvania. Once we were in the rolling farm country of the Keystone State, I felt myself relax.

The GPS took us through the rolling farmland and a few small towns, passing some Amish buggies along the way. Eventually, we arrived in York.








I had made a reservation at the Wyndham Garden York. It was a fairly upscale place but I used a Wyndham Rewards Go Fast and traded 3,000 points for a substantial reduction in rate. As we were checking in about 2:10, we saw what appeared to be a convention crowd gathering. Pennsylvania Corrections Officers. Our room was on the back side and was very nice.

I called my cousin-in-law John and he, cousin Tracey, their son Austin and his daughter came over to our room. It's been almost twenty years (green Nomad days) since we stopped to visit. Austin was just a little shaver then, but Tracey has hardly changed at all.

The family planned to meet at the Round The Clock Diner. We followed John over there and were joined by cousins Cathy, Stef & Geary, Nancy & Jeremy plus kids.. Cousin Jamie wasn't able to make it but the rest of us had a great time catching up. After supper, we went over to Nancy's house for a while. The cousins thought that I look just like Jamie.

A nice place for a casual family supper/reunion

Together again

It was around 9:00 PM when we decided to call it a night because we had a long day tomorrow. I kick myself for letting it go this long but resolve to visit family more often in the future. After saying our goodbyes, we followed a convoluted GPS route back to the hotel and turned in.

Today's Route (390 Equinox miles):