Thursday, October 29, 2009

RIP Ronald "Chunk" Keisling V~5679

Ronald "Chunk" Keisling
Boscobel, Wisconsin
June, 2005

We received word today that one of the kindest, gentlest and most knowledgeable VROCers it has been my privilege to meet passed away in his sleep Tuesday night in Sparks, Nevada.  Chunk Keisling, who hailed from Jefferson, Wisconsin, was on his winter pilgrimage to pan for gold in the warmer climates.

I think Sandy and I met Chunk about 2001.  I know it was at Eureka Springs, Arkansas because he was giving away FGGB buttons.  That stood for Fat Guy Grey Beard and there were a lot of takers. Chunk was a master of many things including photography, painting, lapidary, gold prospecting, baritone horn playing and nuclear physics.  After Fred's passing, he aided Mo at Kickstand Lodge for a long time and was a fine chef as well.

Chunk attended very many VROC gatherings.  He was one of the smaller contingent who could be counted on to pop up almost everywhere, sometimes on the red Kawasaki Concourse that used to belong to Foggy (RIP) and other times with his 800 Vulcan in the back of his truck.  He towed a Time Out camper trailer behind the Connie and we would often compete with him for the most level spot to set up.

We last saw Chunk in August at the Interlochen gathering.  He and I sat out the  last night away from the fire and watched the Perseid meteor shower.  It occurred to me that this was also how I had spent the last night with Snake.  He was in his usual form, dispensing the wry Wisconsin with with great effect.  It's funny, I never knew his name was Ronald until I saw the obituary.

I loaded a few pictures I took of Chunk over the years here.

Rest In Peace, old friend.  We are sure going to miss you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Waterloo Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

It was a slow morning as we packed our gear and loaded the van up for the trip home.  We were invited to a gathering at the parents of the groom's house and were happy to attend.  There was much food and the happy couple opened wedding gifts.  Thank you Stan and Zofia for the hospitality.

Stan lays out a tray

Some of the food available

Opening the gifts

Well fed, we turned our vehicle north and headed back home.  The four of us arrived safely without incident.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wedding Day - The Ceremony

The wedding party moved in through the back door of the Black Forest Inn and the ladies went upstairs for the start of the ceremony, guided by wedding planner Barb.  The multitude was assembled in the chairs set out, waiting patiently.  The wedding theme was set out in the table markers, featuring highway numbers with the motorcycle motif.

Life is a Highway

To get things rolling, Tom and his best man entered via a side door and took up their positions front and centre.  Next the lovely mother of the bride, Zofia, descended the stairs at the back and was escorted to the front of the hall by her husband Stan.  They were followed by each of  the ladies in the wedding party who, escorted by their respective gentlemen, lined up at the front.  All was now ready for the big moment.

Stan and Zofia

Kim and Mike

Sandy and Jim

It was time for the bride's entrance.  Heather, resplendent in her gown, descended the stairs to the landing.  Sandy and I would escort her up the aisle together.  She looked spectacular and I don't have the words to express the emotions that go through a parent's heart at a time like this.

She descended carefully and we took up our positions on each side of her.  Then, to the familiar strains of Pachelbel's Canon in D, we started up the aisle.  We did not do the step/pause/step/pause thing.  I was too busy taking in the moment and seeing all the smiling faces of family and friends turned towards us.

At the front, we stopped and each gave Heather a hug and a kiss.  I shook Tom's hand and Heather moved to join him.  It would have been smoother if I had not been standing on the hem of her gown (making me think of Lehrer's Wiener Schnitzel Waltz), but we got through the moment without disaster.

You can't see my foot on the hem

The ceremony was largely a blur.  Zofia and Stan and Sandy and I gave our approval of the marriage and, after Trish and some friends said some fine words, Heather and Tom recited their vows to each other.
Then they took part in a sand ceremony in which they each pour coloured sand into a container that already holds a quantity of a third colour.  The different sands mix in a unique pattern, representing the mixing of their lives, and they keep the glass container as a reminder of that.

Sand Ceremony

Following the signing of the documents, the happy couple walked back down the aisle to the approval of all in attendance.

Mr. and Mrs. Heather and Tom Gronek

We all followed to the back where we mingled and enjoyed appetizers, champagne and an open bar.  It didn't take long for the ceremony guest seating to be removed and the family round tables to be installed on what would eventually be the dance floor.  After a suitable period of socializing, we moved back to our tables.

The staff were right on top of things as they brought the food.  They had a special salad Sandy requested due to her need to avoid Vitamin K and the entrees (chicken beef or vegetarian selected on the RSVP cards) were delivered to the appropriate people without fail.  I'm not sure how they managed this but I was impressed.  The red wine was excellent (I didn't try the white) and they kept it coming although  I had to stop after two because I would later be a designated driver.  The Black Forest is known for extremely competent wait staff and excellent food and today was no exception.

Instead of clinking glasses to get the  happy couple to kiss, guests had to approach the front and draw a candy kiss out of an opaque container.  If it was the proper colour, they would kiss.  Otherwise, no joy.  Young Will, Rob and Kirstie's son, had a large number of the correct coloured kisses and kept Tom and Heather quite busy.  It seems he found a tray of kisses on a table near the door and grabbed all the right coloured ones he could.  This young man should go far in life.

After dinner, the family tables were moved and we were relocated to the sidelines.  The dancing began with the bride and groom taking a tour of the floor.  Heather and Tom had been taking lessons in preparation for this.

First Dance

The Dip

When it was my turn, Heather and I danced to I Loved Her First by Heartland, a real 3/4 waltz with totally meaningful lyrics.

Look at the two of you dancing that way
Lost in the moment and each others face
So much in love your alone in this place
Like there's nobody else in the world
I was enough for her not long ago
I was her number one
She told me so
And she still means the world to me
Just so you know
So be careful when you hold my girl
Time changes everything
Life must go on
And I'm not gonna stand in your way

But I loved her first and I held her first
And a place in my heart will always be hers
From the first breath she breathed
When she first smiled at me
I knew the love of a father runs deep
And I prayed that she'd find you someday
But it still hard to give her away
I loved her first

How could that beautiful women with you
Be the same freckle face kid that I knew
The one that I read all those fairy tales to
And tucked into bed all those nights
And I knew the first time I saw you with her
It was only a matter of time

But I loved her first and I held her first
And a place in my heart will always be hers
From the first breath she breathed
When she first smiled at me
I knew the love of a father runs deep
And I prayed that she'd find you someday
But its still hard to give her away
I loved her first

From the first breath she breathed
When she first smiled at me
I knew the love of a father runs deep
Someday you might know what I'm going through
When a miracle smiles up at you
I loved her first

I don't usually dance and we only had a few moments of practice but we did OK (if you don't count me getting off on the wrong foot).  Then everyone else got into the act and I got to wander the room and visit with friends, many of whom had traveled some distance to be there.

Doug & Carol and Normie

Terry & Patsy and Leo & Diane

Sherry, Jan, Katie and Rob

Kirstie, Diane, Dave and Rob

Fred & Ginger

John & Lorie

It was a fun evening.  One surprise at the end of the evening was that the open bar in a hall full of Polish people and bikers served less alcohol than anticipated.  Maybe this is a sign that the drinking and driving message is getting through to people.

I didn't take any pictures at all, but Tom  has posted a two sets of the photographer's photos on Flickr, Wedding Pro and Wedding Day for your viewing enjoyment.

As the party wound down and the guests said their goodbyes and trickled away, the bride and groom settled up with the Inn for the bill.  At 1:00 AM, they were the last people to leave the hall.  I drove them to the Destination Inn before taking Jessica home, finally getting back to my room at 2:00.

The last to leave

I barely had enough energy to get untangled form all the parts of the tuxedo before I collapsed on the bed.

Wedding Day - The Preparations

Oddly, I was up again and in the exercise room at 6:00 AM for an hour of cardio.  It is not nearly as much fun when there are no TV's or other people to watch.  Then it was time to start getting ready for the BIG DAY!

Yesterday's rain had stopped but there was still a strong wind blowing.  The only difference was that today it was coming from the south and didn't bite nearly as much.  Mike picked up the girls to take them to get their hair done, while I checked the tire pressures in Heather's Grand Am after she hit the curb yesterday. 10, 12, 12, 18.  I was sure I had given her a tire gauge and showed her how to use it.  Off to the gas station for some air since I didn't want to over-tax the little air compressor I carry.  Then I checked the van and found them all at 25 PSI compared to the spec 36.  It looks like the new Goodyear Comfort Tread Kevlar tires were set at this pressure when I got them, which explained the smooth ride.  I took it over and upped the pressure to 36.  Now it is riding like a truck.

In the meantime, the ladies were having fun with hair and make-up.

Sandy in makeup

Heather in the chair


The limo ride back

While they were away, I had several father-of-the-bride tasks.  The first was to get the flowers when they arrived and ensure they were moved to Heather's suite.  No problem.  Then I was to go over to Zehr's and pick up prepared sandwich and fruit trays so the bridal party could nibble while they were getting dressed.  Not only was this no problem, when I got to Zehr's there was (in a very crowded lot) an empty space right in front of the door.  It was closer than the handicapped spaces.  Good omen, indeed.  I got the food back to the suite and then went downstairs and reheated some cold pizza from yesterday.  The  girls arrived back just after 12:00 and I drove the men's boutonnieres over to Zofia's house.  On the way, a small patch of blue sky showed through the overcast.  The guys were relaxed and watching TV, but the pace was about to pick up.

I started to get dressed up in my monkey suit.  It all fit quite well, but I eventually needed some help with the shirt studs.  Sandy got dressed as well and we went down to the lobby wait for the bridal party to descend.

The limo

The bride

The ladies

Then it was off to Zofia's to collect the guys and get some photos taken.  Sandy went in the limo with the bridal party while I took Jan, Harry and Jessica in the Caravan.

The Gentlemen

Stan, Zofia, Harry and Jan

There were two video cameras and the still photographer today.  They got some shots at Zofia's of the bride, the groom, the bride and groom, the wedding party, etc.  Then we piled into the vehicles and drove to the Sun Life building for photos.  The limo parked right on the street, causing some traffic consternation and we had to wait for another wedding party to vacate the steps as the wind picked up and a little rain spit on us.  The limo driver, Mark, was a jack of all trades.  He cleaned a spot of dirt on Heather's gown and said he was prepared to sew buttons or anything else that was required.  He was also the brother-in-law of Dr. Huneault in Sudbury who did Sandy's surgery back in 2007.

Cleaning the gown

Once the grandparents and parents were done being photographed, I took our van with Harry, Jan and Jessica headed for the Black Forest Inn in Conestogo.  (I learned that Conestogo is not the home of the Conestoga wagon, but that the settlers here came from the  Pennsylvania Conestoga Valley where the wagon did originate.  Conestogo is a heavily Mennonite area).  As we waited for the limo, people started to arrive and John G. got this picture of me all dressed up.

Me all cleaned up

The limo arrived with time to spare and we moved inside for the Big Event.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Toast to Gunslinger

Many of the VROC family will be gathering in Virginia tomorrow to remember our departed brother Gunslinger. If it was not the wedding weekend, we would have been there to share the tears and the precious memories.  Tonight, Rabbi organized a shared event that we do on occasion to celebrate someone in our VROC family.  At 11:00 PM EST today, VROCers around the world would pause and drink a toast in Phil's honour.

As the appointed hour drew nigh, I read Sandy a post made by Viper, a longtime VROC member from Washington State.  I'll share it here for those of you who are not members of the club.  It was hard to finish it because I was getting all choked up.  Here is what Viper wrote:

Some of you know that I live on one of the best riding roads in the northwest. Riders from all over the area come here to experience the twisties and views on the Wind River Highway up to Mt. St. Helens. I see and hear bikes hitting curves all summer long. But yesterday, something happened I just have to talk about.

I was turning off the WRH onto my driveway, stopped to get the mail and heard the roar from over a mile away. The road gently rises from the north  to my drive starting with a nice sweeper about one mile away. From the sound of  it, I knew there were some vtwins on they way, so I stood beside the truck looking  through the mail waiting to see how many of my brothers were out there. Lights started blinking into view in the distance and the deep rumble of long pipes echoed though the valley as the riders snaked into view. No way to tell how many were there just yet, but they would all pass me in just a flash.

The riders slipped from view as the road dipped slightly before bracing the hill. Power was added to many a piston and the thunder increased as the hill  pulled them back into view. I could begin to see the group were running tight and hard, but still could not get a handle on how many there were. I could tell they had ridden together for a long time by the way the held the formation.

On they rode, fast and straight, right into my neck of the woods. When the  were close enough to make out some details, a strange sense of nostalgia came over me  and I suddenly knew I would recognize the riders and bikes. Could it be? A wandering group of VROCers were in the area and didn't let me know first? I would have ridden with them for sure had they called. I felt I should go get my ride  out here right now. But, I knew there would be no catching these guys though. I have ridden  with them before and I just knew they were unstoppable.

Closer now, and I can feel the vibrations in my chest and my feet feel the ground tremble as they came up to the top of the rise. Some had helmets on and some didn't. Hair was flying and leather was snapping as they came abreast of me. I almost fell over I was so week in the knees. I see my buddies! X and Wolfman on the front row. Gunslinger, Kilo, Chuck and Snake were in their wake. Too many to count. Too fast too see them all, or maybe it was the tears in my eyes. Nose to tail, bar to bar, they rode past all  giving the low wave like it was just no big deal.

They didn't expect me to be in the pack and didn't invite. I knew they were just out riding and doing what we all do. As they passed, bits of dirt, leaves, dust and debris blew up and made me duck behind my shoulder to try to keep them in my sight. I squinted to follow them down the hill and into the next sweeper to the south, but as I opened my stinging eyes to watch the tail lights, the sound was gone, the wind had died and there was silence in the air once more.

I never got the count. Too many, of them going by too fast. My ears were  ringing and my eyes were burning and my heart was aching. I miss them all. Those riders in the wind left me with the reminder of these facts:

All too soon, the pack will grow in numbers. Some one else will see them, one day, riding hard and close and I'll offer the low wave as we go by. We all will at one point or another. But not yet. Too many good roads left to ride and there are many good friends here to join with us on the rides.

Enjoy the ride, forever.

VROC #151

Phil, it was an honour to know and share the VROC life with you.  You have now gone on, as have so many of our other friends, but you will never be forgotten.

Rest In Peace.

Wedding Day Minus 1

I was up and in the hotel exercise room at 6:00 AM.  They have a couple of treadmills, a horizontal bike and two elliptical machines, just what I needed.  They are Nautilus, different from what I am used to, but they did the job and I  got a good workout.  I was the only one there.  After an hour of sweating, I went back to the room, showered and headed down to the breakfast area for a Continental bite to eat.

It was raining and there was a bitter wind out of the north.  The girls headed to Elmira for a final fitting check and then brought the gowns back to the hotel where Heather checked in.  She has a Jacuzzi King suite, one step up from ours and a floor above.  The one wrinkle was that the bridal gown needed to be hung but there wasn't anywhere in the room high enough to do it.  Heather and Kim went out and got some removable 3M hooks which we installed on a valance after moving the furniture around.  Voila.  Hung gowns.  Then we all adjourned to our room for Domino's thin crust pizza I had ordered.

The girls then left for some shopping and to get their nails done.  Sandy already had a manicure in Sudbury but she went with them anyway.  I hung around the room and watched some Youtube videos on the computer.  There were some good ones from Stargate Atlantis on McKay and Keller's growing relationship (Jewel Staite is one of my favourite actresses and David Hewlett's geek character wins her heart) and one of an actress named Leela Savasta who had a very bit role on one show.  I predict we will be seeing more of her in the future.  Atlantis was a great program and I am really a big softy for romance stories.  Here are the best clips.

During the afternoon, I went down to check the van tire pressures.  Fuel mileage has been off for a while now and I should be doing this on a regular basis.  After all, I am anal about bike tire pressures.  But I haven't paid attention to the Caravan and I found all four tires to be around 25 PSI when they should be 36.  Not wanting to dig my compressor out, I headed to the gas station down the street and paid fifty cents to use their high pressure hose.

When the girls got back, Sandy told me Heather had driven her Grand Am over a curb.  I went down and checked the right front tire.  There was only 10 PSI in it and I feared the worst, but will look at it tomorrow when the rain lets up.  The car isn't moving until after the wedding anyway.  It looks like this is tire day.

Heather and Kim were getting settled in her suite when bridesmaids Agnes and Tina (Tom's brother's wife and soon-to-be wife, respectively) showed up for girls' night.  Sandy, Harry, Jan and I headed over to the Daily Grill for some supper.  The special was a chicken Cordon Bleu, which we all had and it was excellent.  Our server, Natalie, is studying to be a paralegal.  If she does that half as well as she serves tables, she ought to be a very good one.

I dropped the family at the hotel and went over to pick up Jessica, who had just finished her shift at Chapters.  She, Heather and Kim would be spending the night in the suite.  In their room, Heather and I practiced a waltz step for our Father/Daughter dance.  We'll be stepping to I Loved Her First by Heartland, a very appropriate tune.  It is 3/4 time but fairly fast so we have to slow it down by half, a bit tricky since the last time I danced was at Kim and Mike's wedding.

Then it was down to the room for a bit of TV, a toast to Gunslinger and then off to bed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wedding Day Minus 2

Today was the day we would head south for Heather and Tom's wedding.  I was up before six and laid out my clothes for Sandy to pack since we were (uncharacteristically) sharing one large suitcase.  Then I left for the gym in a cold rain.

While I was working out, Luc and Shannon on the radio kept reporting that freezing rain was approaching from the north.  Cartier, then Chelmsford followed by calls from Garson, which is right next to us.  Luckily, when I went out, the rain wasn't freezing.  Instead, we had big white snowflakes falling.  Thank heavens for Al Gore and Global Warming because I'd hate to see what would be going on if we weren't warming up uncontrollably.

At home, I loaded our gear into the van as the white, fluffy stuff started to stick.

The van is ready to go

We picked up Jan and Harry and were on the road before my target time of 9:30.  Traffic  was light and the snow changed back to rain before we got to the French River.  The rain would remain with us all the way.  There was a lunch stop at Subway in Waubaushene where we got Meal Deals to go and forgot our cookies.  Then I went across 89 to Alliston, down Tottenham Road, across the Hockley Valley and down to Fergus.  We took Jan and Harry across the Kissing Bridge and showed them where we camped for Cyclefest.

The Destination Inn, where we had two suites booked, has grown since the last time we stayed here.  The tower and suites are new and the place is very upscale.  We took the luggage to the rooms on the four floor and then I headed for Cambridge to pick up my tuxedo at Moore's.  I tried it on and everything fit.  On the way back, I picked up Kim and Heather's friend Jessica in Kitchener and brought her to the hotel.

After killing a bit of time, we drove out to Conestogo to the Black Forest Inn, the site of the wedding and reception, for the rehearsal.  We met the Planner, Barb, and the Officiant, Trish, as the clans gathered to receive our instructions.  An Officiant is a secular individual authorized by the government to perform wedding services.  The Black Forest is a restaurant part of the time so we practiced while the diners looked on, some weird kind of impromptu dinner theatre.

Trish addresses the multitude while our son-in-law Mike impersonates a bodyguard

Trish lines up the wedding party

Grandma & Grandpa Jacobs and Jessica look on

Sandy and Tom's parents Zofia and Stan

After we had rehearsed, the crew adjourned to St. Louis Ribs on Northfield for the Rehearsal Dinner.  We all fit into the back room where a young lady named Whitney took care of us single-handedly.  She did an excellent job and we at while Heather and Tom presented gifts to the people who would be standing with them.  They also gave the parents very nice electronic picture frames.

On the way out, Mike, Tom and I reviewed the critical path for Saturday, especially clarifying the responsibilities each of us had.  After that, I dropped my team at the hotel and gave Jessica a ride home before returning and turning in for the night.  The beds and pillows here are very comfortable.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Waterloo Region Model Railroad Club

The WRMRC is an HO scale club located near Guelph that operates an HO scale layout depicting the CP Sudbury Division circa 1975.  I have been aware of this layout, located in a quonset hut and eventually planned to include six levels, for some time but had never seen it in person.

Leo and I drove down today to check out the open house, held once a year.  Heather and Tom met us there and we spent a couple of hours looking through what will be an accurate representation of the local CP operation.  Although it is largely a work in progress, the accomplishments to-date are substantial and the vision for the future is huge.

I found the era interesting because, from 1974 to 1977, I looked after Inco's non-metallic stocks.  These were large volume/cost supplies that often arrived via rail.  Items included Bunker 'C' oil unit trains, quartz from Lawson Quarry, sand flux from Garson and petroleum coke.  In 1977, I moved to Metals Accounting and we tracked ore shipments, concentrates, iron ore to Little Current, sulphuric acid and liquid SO2 shipments and any other intermediate and final products, again many moved by rail.  The modelers were interested in any facts I could provide about operations back in the day, although they are much better versed on the local industry and operations than I am.

They was some talk about a bear and cubs one member had installed on a rock outcrop overlooking CPR Bay.  The club president thought it was out of place but we assured him that bears were not unheard of in this location, even if it was a residential area.

After the visit, we climbed back in the van and drove home.

Waterloo Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

I hope everyone had a great (Canadian) Thanksgiving.

We woke up this morning to -4C in Waterloo.  This was odd because TWN said it was only 0C in Sudbury.  Not often that it is warmer back home than down here.

We left Tom & Heather's and dropped a gift from Heather to Tom off at Kim & Mike's for hiding before heading home.  We left there about 10:45.  I took the Canamera Parkway and Wellington 32, but cut south of Guelph on Laird, Downey and Stone Roads.  This looks like it will be a great way to avoid Guelph traffic as long as the traffic lights on Stone Road don't back up.

Up on Highway 9, we took a drive through the Tecumseth Pines adult lifestyle (retirement) community.  I believe friends of ours will be moving here shortly.  I've always looked at the neighborhood from Highway 9 and thought it would be a nice place to live.  Seeing it up close hasn't changed that opinion.

We followed Highway 9 to 400 North without incident.  Northbound, I was reminded why I'm glad I live in the north as three lanes of southbound traffic ground to a halt around Highway 89.

Stopped southbound traffic on Highway 400 near 89 about 12:30 PM

Looking south at stopped traffic on 400 at the Highway 11 interchange in Barrie

As we continued to roll north without much traffic, we started to get into the coloured trees.  The best were between the Musquash and Moon Rivers.

Various scenes along Highway 400

It started to get cloudy north of Waubaushene and spitting rain around Parry Sound.  Had a nice hands-free cell call from Thrillseeker as drove along.  She was looking for Guns phone number.  Traffic got heavier and slower on the northbound side.  We were jammed up at the speed limit except in the passing lanes when everyone, including the slowpokes, floored it.  The jam worked to our advantage north of the Key River when we came over a rise and found an OPP laser unit staring at us.  Due to flashed warnings and backed up traffic, we were doing 30 KPH LESS than the speed limit at that point.  One of the slow movers I got behind was a light brown Honda CRV doing 55 MPH but it had Ontario plates so it couldn't have been Slammer.

They closed all the passing lanes from Estaire to Sudbury.  Wiped them out and painted new fog lines.  I'm sure MTO decided these would no longer be needed when the new four lane Highway 69 opens down to Estaire, supposedly this fall.  It would have been nice, though, if they had waited until the new highway was open before closing the lanes on the old one.  It would be nice, once in a while, to have access to those who make these decision so I could ask the perennial WTF?

Neighbor's poplar trees

Back home, I note that the huge poplars in the back yard two doors down haven't even started to change colour.  This is typical.  They wait until all the other leaves have been raked up and the weather is really nasty before covering our yards with their many more leaves.  I hate those trees.  So does the neighbor but he doesn't have the considerable scratch right now to get them taken down.

We'll be heading south for the wedding a week from Thursday.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More Waterloo

Slept late again today. I never do this at home.

Heather and Sandy went shopping while Tom and I headed over to the driving range to hit a few balls. It was way too cold and windy, but that didn't stop us. I haven't swung a golf club in fourteen months and, as you might expect, it wasn't pretty. I did start to get it going a bit near the end of the bucket.

Often, when practicing, I will split the skin on the side of my right middle finger do to improper grip pressure. Didn't feel anything today so I was surprised when I looked at my finger and saw I had torn a slab of skin right off the side. The finger was so cold I didn't even feel it. That's why I carry band aids in the golf bag.

We had a quiet afternoon and then Heather and Tom went out to see a band at Oktoberfest while Sandy and I watched a movie on the DVD. We turned in early.

Caught Up

As of this moment, the blog is up to date. I'll try to keep it from getting so far behind again.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Waterloo Ontario

We (I) got up late this morning and worked on the blog while Heather went out to get her hair coloured. Then she, Sandy and I went over to the Conestogo Mall to get her wedding gift for Tom. What the gift was shall remain a secret for now because Tom checks this blog from time to time.

After shopping, I blogged some more until it was time to go over to Tom's parents house for a turkey dinner. Zofia is the hostess with the mostest and had turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad and cranberries. Dessert included pumpkin pie and some apple things.

On the way home, we stopped and picked up some DVD's. Heather and Tom watched some movies, Sandy went to bed early and I kept blogging since I was almost caught up after being behind for several months.

Friday, October 09, 2009

RIP Phil "Gunslinger" Thompson V~953

After we got to Heather and Tom's, Sandy was checking Facebook and saw a very sad post by Roxy. It seems our good friend Phil "Gunslinger" Thompson of Martinsville Virginia died today in a motorcycle crash. We met Phil at our very first VROC rally in Suches Georgia back in 1999.

Phil was a truck driver and a staunch libertarian. Several years ago, he reconnected with Lynn, a lady he knew back in school, and they got married. This past year, he fought throat cancer and it looked like he had won. Now he's gone, courtesy of a pick-up truck driver who "didn't see him", and the world is a lonelier place for those of us who knew him.

Our deepest condolences to Lynn and Brandy.

I went through my photo albums for some pictures of Phil. Some are mine, some I took from people's posts over the years, if anyone wants to check them out.

Here are some random thoughts I posted on the VROC newsgroup.

I was surprised that I don't have any recent ones and it occurred to
me how long it has been since I have seen Phil. But I have always
considered him a kindred spirit.

I was in that crowd Joker spoke of at Suches. Phil had the first of
the modern folding camp chairs and, with a high back, it dwarfed him.
All I could see was the hand come out, take the bottle of JD, tip it
and pass it on.

I remember the black Peterbilt climbing Wilkerson's Pass in Colorado
on the way to V2K and how he convinced the fairground security that
the Pete tractor was an RV so he could park it on site. I remember
the two of us riding back from Durango to Ignacio after dark slowly
with all the lights on high to avoid the deer.

I remember sitting up one night at Lake Lure after even Scott and
Margo had gone to bed, sharing a bottle and talking about all kinds of
important things, most of which we forgot before morning. Rest
assured it was all stuff good libertarians would approve of.

I remember early ES mornings when Phil, Uncle Lyle and I would sit
around the back of the IHS office drinking coffee and swapping tales.

I remember the blue/black/purple/pink paint job.

I remember him telling me how he met Lynn again and how happy he was.
I was happy for him, too.

Unfortunately, I also remember going through Martinsville last summer
and thinking I should call Phil. But we were on a deadline and there
would always be tomorrow, right? I was wrong and now he's gone and
I'm really sorry.

Rest in Peace, Phil. The world is a lonelier place without you and
I'm going to miss you a whole lot.

Sudbury Ontario to Waterloo Ontario (Van)

With Heather and Tom's wedding only two weeks away, we decided to drive to Waterloo for (Canadian) Thanksgiving Weekend. We took the van because the weather is just too unpredictable at this time of year.

We left after I completed my gym workout and paid the bills, getting away about 11:00. The vehicle choice was validated when we started to encounter rain about 20 miles south of Sudbury. It rained all the way, much of it hard and cold. Sandy got some coloured tree pictures as we rolled along, but the best ones were ruined because of the rain. Best colours, if anyone is looking, were on highway 400 between the Moon and Musquash Rivers.

Some Fall Colours

It was a slow trip because of traffic. We took Highways 9 and 24, and tried the new shortcut on Wellington 32. We still went through Guelph traffic but I think I can beat this going back via Laird, Downey and Stone Roads. We'll check it out on Monday.

We arrived at Kim and Mike's about 5:00 PM. Jolene is standing all the time now, occasionally unsupported, and can clap, wave and high five. I expect it won't be long before she takes those first steps. After Mike got home, he ordered pizza and salads for supper.

We left Cambridge about 8:00 PM in hard rain. On the 401, traffic was dead stopped westbound so I took a detour up 24 and across Maple Grove Road to Highway 8. Thank goodness for GPS because we had never been this way before, although when we crossed Fountain Street by the Toyota plant I knew where we were. As we went up the ramp onto 8, the other direction was stopped for an accident right there at the ramp. A dark rainy night is about the worst driving I know short of an ice storm.

We got to Heather and Tom's and visited a bit before hitting the sack.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Day Ride Through Muskoka

Leo called this morning to see if I was up for the ride we talked about a few days ago. It was cool but the skies were clear and I figured it would be good to take a spin. Despite the colourful leaves, I have no pictures because, like a bonehead, I forgot my camera at home.

The first order of business was to stop at Moores and get my sizing for the wedding tuxedo checked. I was measured back in June but you can amend the sizing for free if it is done more than two weeks before the event. After that, you pay a fee. Lucky for me, my critical measurements are still the same.

Leo met me at Moores. We left town about 10:00 AM at 12 C. Not far south, we got stuck in a line of traffic behind a float carrying a large haul truck. The first two passing lanes were shut down for construction so we were caught in the slow parade until the Killarney turnoff. Once past, we settled into a 108KPH pace, just 18 KM over the limit. This is a pretty safe speed with respect to keeping the driving record ticket free.

We stopped at the Visitor's Centre at the French River. I stopped here with Sherm a couple of years ago but it was closed. Today it was open and I got my first look at the inside. Many more nice exhibits than I had imagined. I'll bring more tourists through here in the future. We had a nice talk with Angie, the guide, about the exhibits including interesting ones about the native culture in the area. They actually had a sign like this at the entrance to the parking lot. I didn't get a photo myself because, as I said, the camera was at home. We have massasauga rattlesnakes here and obviously value them more than the folks do in the states.

The Visitor's Centre is at the south end of the French River Snowmobile Bridge, Canada's largest cable supported snowmobile bridge. It was built by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, fulfilling a dream that started when I was on the OFSC board back in 1995. It is an awesome structure and is used by tourists in the summer to get a spectacular view of the historic French River, which played a major role in the early fur trade.

From the French, we headed down past Parry Sound and across 141 the same way Terry and I did back in September. This time, we stopped at the Crossroads in Rosseau for lunch. It was a little pricey but the food and ambiance were very good. We each had a ham and swiss on marble rye bread with really good fries. There were several other riders in for lunch and the motorcycle traffic was busy here despite the lateness of the season.

Back at the bikes, a lady came over and asked us if we could help her. She and a friend were trying to move a large file cabinet and a credenza into their Bed & Breakfast, The Rosseau Retreat (c. 1873), just across the street and it was proving to be a little much for them. The four of us managed to get the job done and we were invited to stop in the next time we get through here.

From Rosseau, we continued across 141. Just out of town I got a call from Dave Butler, who just moved down to this neck of the woods. I had called his cell earlier but got a message that I was being sent to his uninitialized voicemail which would not accept messages. Dave had trouble hearing me so I said I'd call him back in a couple of minutes. When I did call, I got the voicemail message again. Near as I can figure, Rogers doesn't know how to find his phone when he is not in his home area of Sudbury, because I got the same result for several more calls. Oh well, we tried.

We left 141 and rode into Bracebridge. I had planned to cut over to Highway 11 before we got to town but the road was gravel so we went right through the middle. On the south side, we caught 11 and rode to Gravenhurst where we stopped for gas. The skies had clouded over back at the French and were looking a bit ominous, but the cell browser showed no rain so we continued south, accessing Southwood Road, aka Muskoka 13, via Beiers Road. At one intersection on Beiers, someone has an old Arctic Cat mounted way up in a tree. Another reason I should have had the camera.

Southwood Road is the one I wrote of back in August when we took it with the van. It is the gnarliest road I have ever seen in Ontario and rivals many in the American Southeast. All I could think as I rode north on it was that it would make a spectacular snowmobile trail. We rode easy, not much sand but a lot of leaves, past the Torrance Barrens Conservation Area and on up to Torrance, a blip on the map on Highway 169. At the end of this post, I put in a map of Southwood Road.

From Torrance, we headed back up Highways 169, 69, 400 and more 69. In Parry Sound, the four lane construction sign says "Completion Summer 2009". Oops. The ride home was uneventful although, as the shadows lengthened about 5:00 PM, the temperature started to drop. We got in just after 6:00 with another excellent day in the logbook. Not sure how many more there will be, but we'll squeeze as many rides as we can in before we store the bikes for the winter.

Today's Route

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Southwood Road (Muskoka 13)

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Back To The Gym

I went back to the YMCA gym this morning, hitting the floor about 7:00 AM. First time since June 2nd. I always promise I will go over the summer, but never do.

To avoid any bad effects from suddenly increasing my activity level, I started slow. Just the treadmill at about half the elevation I was doing when I stopped and half the weights at lower levels. I felt pretty good when I got done despite the poor fitness level my heart rate monitor showed.

Strangely, after Labour Day when I focused on eating better, my weight actually went up a few pounds. That is frustrating since I hope to drop the remaining thirty pounds by spring.

But where I am now is no big deal. It's where I will be after a winter of steady work that has me excited. Wish me luck.