Friday, December 31, 2010

Season Stats

Gold Wing Stats:

Mileage travelled: 30,278 Kms (18,815 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 479.84
Miles/ US Gallon: 39.21
Mileage at end of season: 226,051 Kms (140,468 Miles)

Motor Home Stats:

Mileage travelled: 3,636 Kms (2,559 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 279.38
Miles/ US Gallon: 9.16
Mileage at end of season: 102,772 Kms (63,863 Miles)

Dodge Caravan Stats:

Mileage travelled: 18,350 Kms (11,402 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 586.90
Miles/ US Gallon: 19.43
Mileage at end of season: 170,019 Kms (105,650 Miles)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Woodstock Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

We were up, packed and ready to roll by 7:00 AM. After saying our goodbyes to Heather and Tom, we were rolling by 7:25 under clear skies. I planned to avoid Toronto because it would still be Monday rush hour when we got there. The slower route up Highway 24 looked preferable. Than Sandy pointed out that many of the Hogtown people would be taking Monday off to compensate for Boxing Day, so I took a chance and followed the 401 all the way to Highway 400. Sandy was right. There was less traffic than on a typical weekend.

We stopped at the King rest service centre for a break and then rolled on to the Tim's south of Parry Sound (I think I will start referring to this as the Seguin Tim's since the Seguin Trail - pronounced See-goo-in - runs right past it) where we met our friend John from Ottawa. Long time blog readers will remember John was the unfortunate soul who took the spike through his tire in Hendersonville, NC on our ride to Georgia a few years back. John usually visits family in Sudbury over Christmas and stops by but we weren't home. Today, he was on his way from Sudbury to visit his brother in Hamilton so we arranged this brief meeting.

John, Sandy, Jan and Harry at the Seguin Tim's

We made it home without incident by 12:37 and found no new snow since we had left.

Today's Route (316 miles):

View Larger Map

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day In Woodstock

Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is one of those holidays we don't share with the USA. It seems to be confined to some Commonwealth nations and its origin has been subject to much speculation.

We got up late this morning but had a mission to accomplish. Unlike Sudbury, where shopping is prohibited on Boxing Day (giving rise to much acrimonious debate from both sides), Woodstock finds itself in the 21st Century and Boxing Day sales are the norm. This is probably the closest thing to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, in the US.

Tom was already up and lined up at Staples when I got up at 7:30. He was trying to nab one of a limited number of Acer Netbooks advertised in their flyer. That left it up to Heather and I to get to Canadian Tire before it opened at 9:00 AM to get two motorcycle lifts on sale for half price. It was damp and cold as we picked up the CTC flyer from Tom, where he was well positioned near the front of the line.

There were about twenty people lined up at the Crappy Tire store when we arrived at 8:45. The line built quickly but, other than one guy in a CMC vest ahead of us, nobody else looked like bikers. When the doors opened, there was no stampede like seen in the Black Friday videos. True to Canadian style, we were very orderly as we filed in. Unfortunately, this store has an unusual layout and we didn't scope it out before Christmas, so it took a while to find the lifts. In fact, I saw a guy with one in a cart and he pointed me down an aisle saying there was only one left. One left? Maybe they only had two. We grabbed the sole remaining lift and then Heather went to look for a trouble light that was on sale. Imagine our amazement when we saw cart after cart carrying lifts. There was even one grey haired lady who looked like she was 70 pushing one. I blame myself for making the same mistake as Custer at Little Big Horn. Always scout the territory in advance.

We got the lift back home to find that Tom had been successful in his Netbook quest. Lucky for him he only needs one lift next summer for maintenance. The second one was so that both bikes could be stored off the ground. He has almost a whole year to find another sale.

We spent the day watching the recorded Big Bang Theory marathon. I hadn't seen most of Season One so these were new to me, but I enjoy the show so much I don't mind watching reruns. I also got some work done on the blog, which is way behind. The rest of the day was pretty quiet, with the last while spent packing and getting ready to head for home tomorrow.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day in Cambridge

We were all up early this morning.  Heather and Tom would be spending the day with his family. The rest of us left about 7:40 AM for Cambridge, arriving at Kim and Mike's shortly after 8:00. Jolene was already up and playing with her large Santa gift, a complete play kitchen. We immediately got into the opening of the rest of the presents.

Jolene doesn't need help opening gifts

The girls examining the tree

Jolene watching over her little sister

And helping out

What is she looking at?

Oh, it's Dad playing with her toys

In fact, some toys require a team effort

Sandy and Mike working on dinner

Jolene in a pensive moment

It was special to have Great Grandma and Great Grandpa there

Robyn looking chipper

Jolene looking not so chipper

It reignites all those old Christmas feelings to have young children around. I never imagined how much I would enjoy being Grandpa, especially since I never really grew up.  I like this. It made it extra special to have Jan and Harry there so we could share the day with four generations.

 Mike and Sandy put together a fine supper that included two whole chickens, stuffing, potatoes and veggies.

As the day wound down, we took our leave and headed back to Woodstock, arriving at 9:30 (just after Tom and Heather). Heather had recorded a first season marathon of Big Bang Theory, one of our favourite TV shows. Harry had never seen it so we watched a couple of episodes before going to bed.

I hope each and every one of you reading this enjoyed Christmas as much as we did!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve in Woodstock/Breslau

Heather had to work today but Tom did not. I headed over to McDonald's and picked up McMuffins and things for breakfast while Tom replaced the donut spare tire on his Hyundai. He and Heather blew a few days ago on the way home from work.

Kim called to say that she and Mike had come down with something last night and were now quite violently sick. Based on the description, it sounded like a food issue rather than a viral thing, which would be good because it would not be contagious and they should recover more quickly. Since they would be hosting us tomorrow and were obviously not able to go out grocery shopping, Sandy took down the list and said we would pick up the necessary items.

We headed across town guided by the GPS to find the Zehr's grocery store and managed to pick up almost everything on the shopping list. The only thing missing was Ensure, which we got next door at Shopper's Drug Mart, along with four Lottomax tickets. I normally shun lottery tickets, viewing them as a tax on people who don't understand probability. But the prize was maxed out at $50 million with a load of $1 million dollar bonus prizes so we figured that a long shot is better than no shot at all.

On the way over and back, I tried the new audio book. It was just fine but it seems Sandy either doesn't like audio books or doesn't like Ayn Rand. Either way, I will have to listen to this while she is sleeping in the passenger seat. That should still allow lots of listening:-)

Heather got home from work early.  After getting dressed up (a pretty limited exercise in  my case), we all jumped in the van at 5:30 PM and headed for Breslau. Zofia was laying on a traditional Polish Christmas Eve spread and had graciously invited all of us to join them. The Polish tradition features a selection of sweet and sour dishes. The only meat in any of the dishes is fish. One nice touch happens at the start of the meal when each participant takes a wafer and individually approaches each other person. They each break off a portion of the other's wafer and say some personal words.

Heather and Tom dressed up for Christmas Eve

The table is set

Zofia prepares before an appreciative audience

And here it comes

After the excellent meal, Tom's brother Greg and new wife Tyna stopped by. Santa delivered gifts to each person and we shared some stories. It was a memorable evening and a chance to see some of the special traditions Heather has married into. Thank you, Zofia and Stan, for your gracious hospitality.

We were back in Woodstock by 11:00 PM and watched a TV show on people who were creating those garish, over the top Christmas light displays for their home before turning in.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

We suggested Heather's Christmas idea to Sandy's parents, Jan and Harry, when we got back from the last trip. They liked it so we headed south this morning to all see the kids for the holidays.

I was up at 6:00 AM. One of these days, I may learn to pack the night before a trip but I doubt it. By 8:15, we had picked up Jan and Harry and were headed south in a minivan loaded with people, luggage and Christmas goodies. We made one stop at the Tim's south of Parry Sound and another at the service centre in Vaughn where we had lunch at another Tim's. Then it was on to the 401 and west to Cambridge. I took a detour down Townline Road to show the in-laws the large homes on Avenue Road.

I noticed the Compass signs had the message "Driving while suspended risks vehicle impoundment". Risks? Impoundment? I have some strong thoughts on this matter and believe that anyone driving under criminal suspension, usually for impaired driving and often without insurance, should face a mandatory permanent seizure of the vehicle. After all, the court suspended their licence for dangerous behaviour and their choice to continue driving demonstrates a total lack of respect for the law and other drivers on the road. I hope that, after I do suitable legwork, Action Sudbury will support an initiative to bring this proposal to the government.

We arrived at Kim's around 2:00 PM. Jolene was at daycare and Mike was still at work so we had a chance to visit with Mom and new baby Robyn for a while before they got home.

Proud Grandpa and Baby Robyn

Mike got home with Jolene about 5:00 PM. She was all smiles as usual. Although her birthday party was a couple of weeks ago, she was actually born on this date two years ago and we brought her a few gifts.

Grandma and Jolene

Opening a birthday gift

Modern and simpler version of our old Etch-a-Sketch

Is this the start of a musical career?

After a while, we moved on and met Tom and Heather at the TOA restaurant in Woodstock where we had supper and had fun with an animated conversation with the server and some of the other patrons. Then we went on to the house where we got Jan and Harry set up in the 2nd bedroom while Sandy and I moved onto the futon in the 3rd bedroom/office.

Heather and Tom's house - Woodstock Ontario
(Photograph by Tom G)

We watched TV for a while and visited. I discovered on the CNN site that was having a free trial offer download of an audio book in .aa format. While many audio books exist in MP3 format, the Zumo requires the .aa file type to take advantage of the audio reader features like bookmarking. I downloaded an abridged version of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged narrated by Edward Herrmann because I thought it was time to revisit this great work. The abridged version, at 11 hours long, was only half as long as the unabridged version and would refresh me on all the significant details.

Eventually, we all toddled off to bed.

Today's Route (321 miles):

View Larger Map

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Who would have believed anyone could put up with me for thirty years, not to mention the extra five before we tied the knot.

Happy Anniversary to my dear wife!!!!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why I Am Not A Mechanic

Anyone who knows me understands that I should not be trusted with tools. Bring me a shoe box with a year of receipts and I will construct you a set of books. Let me play all day with my spreadsheets and charts. But don't let me try to actually fix anything.

I bought my snowblower in 1992. Two carriage bolts hold each of two skegs on the bottom of it and are slotted to set the base clearance. I adjust them between my driveway and the neighbors because my crusher dust needs a layer of snow cover and her paving stones don't. Bolts were rusty, hard to turn. Rather than use penetrating oil, I use brute force and ignorance. Three bolts tighten, one breaks off clean. I buy four new carriage bolts and nuts, might as well replace them all. One bolt broken, two removed successfully (again without penetrating oil). Fourth one starts turning, either the square shoulder of the carriage bolt or the square hole in the snowblower bale  rounded off. Borrow nut splitter from father-in-law (who knew they made a neat tool like this?), crack the nut and remove bolt. Snowblower hole rounded off, of course. Buy regular bolt and install it. This one will take two wrenches to adjust from now on.

The not a mechanic part isn't about the skill level I fail to display, though. It is more because I got absolutely no level of enjoyment out of the tinkering. Red Green would laugh at me........

(Note to self:  Think about getting a new snowblower before too long.)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The End Of A (Personal) Era

My first ride on a snowmobile was brief. It was 1963 and my father was testing a new type of machine he hoped would make life easier for his exploration people in the winter bush. The Snobug was a single ski contraption with  an engine in the rear. The operator sat inside it on a bench seat. I got a short ride around a field.

In 1971, my mother bought a 10 HP Skidoo Olympic that I rode from time to time when I got back to Sault Ste. Marie for visits. Then, in 1978, Sandy and I bought a pair of 22 HP 275cc Arctic Cat Lynxes. While the Broder-Dill Snowmobile Club maintained a small network of trails heading from the south end of the city to the Killarney Road, that was about it for organized trails nearby. Once a year or so, a few of us would take a compass and map and, using topographical maps would try to get from here to somewhere else.  It was a challenge.

In 1988, organized snowmobiling took off big time in Sudbury. I fell in with the leaders of the new Sudbury Trail Plan Association which had been founded by a group of visionaries led by Don Lumley. Large grooming machines and interconnected trails saw the association grow to include eight local clubs responsible for a network of over 700 miles of trail. I upgraded to a Polaris Indy Trail 488cc Sno-Pro sled (designed for cross country racing) and threw myself into helping the system grow and improve.

STP was a revolutionary umbrella association that allowed the eight united clubs to accompish far more than they could individually. We went from one Bombardier BR60 groomer to a whole fleet of Tucker Sno-Cats, tractor conversions and Bombardier BR160 and 180 machines costing over $100,000 each.  I started as vice-president of the association and then, after I spearheaded a reorganization, VP - Operations before replacing Don as President from 1992 until 1995. I also served as District 12 Governor on the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs provincial board during 1994 and 1995.

In 1992, we started an experiment to improve snowmobile safety by training volunteers as Special Constables to augment police snowmobile patrols under the innovative Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol (S.T.O.P.). I represented STP as an Operational Manager through the pilot project phase and then served as the first OFSC Provincial Coordinator when the program was expanded, finally stepping down in 1999.  The last few years, partnered with OPP Sgt. Lynn Beach, was a very rewarding time as we carried the Gospel of S.T.O.P. across Ontario..

At our peak, our family owned four operating sleds but the more I got involved in organizing and administering, the less riding I did. After backing away from the work side of things, I discovered the hunger to ride was substantially diminished. I ended up with one snowmobile, a small '98 Skidoo MXZ 440 fan that had belonged to Sandy before she decided she didn't want to ride any more. In 2007, I applied to be reinstated as a S.T.O.P. Officer on Normie's team to see if I could recapture the old feelings. I enjoyed my time back on the trails even though my sled was by far the smallest and slowest one out there.

But recently,I found the spark was gone again. Last season, I missed the first part of the season due to family issues. Afterwards, the changes proposed to the S.T.O.P. Program by the OPP and the unwillingness of the OFSC to take a stand in defence of the vision we had built the program around, completely sapped my motivation to stay involved with a sport that I have enjoyed for so much of my life. This, coupled with the fact that this was an activity that Sandy didn't share with me, convinced me it was time.

I resigned from S.T.O.P. at a regional meeting last month and let it be known that my last machine was up for sale. I hadn't even advertised it when I got a call from Tim, who said he had heard from Normie that I had a sled for sale. It was a bit of a blow to my ego to hear that he was looking for one for his 12 year old daughter, but it was realistically an excellent machine for her.

Last night they came over, looked at the machine and gave me a deposit. Today, they brought a trailer by, loaded the Skidoo on it, paid me the balance in cash and I waved goodbye as my last link to the snowmobiling lifestyle rolled away.

The '98 Skidoo MXZ 440

Life is full of changes. We do things for a while and then, when they don't satisfy us any more or circumstances make them impossible, we move on to other things. This is another one of those times. While I may miss riding over the packed snow from time to time, I can always rent one for a few days and get it out of my system. And now one less thing ties me to Sudbury and the Frozen North.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Woodstock Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

Today is the 69th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Day That Will Live In Infamy.

Schools were closed for a second straight day even though the snow here was nothing like what London was getting. We left Woodstock before 9:00 AM and rolled through Toronto onto Highway 400 North. Despite the heavy snowfall in SW Ontario, there was nothing on the ground as we passed through Halton. I'm not sure what the Torontonians were sniveling about because we didn't see any evidence of the heavy snow the television news had been reporting. At least the mayor didn't call the army out this time. Of course, the Mayor of Toronto doesn't have the authority to mobilize the army but Mel Lastman did it anyway a few years ago after a heavy snowfall. And the army responded. Strange things are often done in the Big Smoke.

We stopped at the service centre near King Road and I installed a new rear windshield wiper. The old one had virtually disintegrated. Then we started up the 400 as conditions deteriorated and the accumulating snow made the roads greasy. No problem as long as everyone slows down and drives accordingly.

Traffic moving slowly on Highway 400

A gang of snowplows

The snow was worst around Highway 89 but tapered off once we got north of Barrie. The ski hills at Mount St. Louis were making snow like crazy and I can just imagine the smiles on both the operators' and skiers' faces.

One thing I noticed on the way back (I should have noticed it on the way down) was that the old Petro-Canada gas station and adjacent liquor store trailer at the Highway 64 turnoff had been leveled. Another familiar landmark gone.  Over the years, we have seen one gas station after another on Highway 69 disappear. Now there are just two left on the 100 mile stretch between Parry Sound and Sudbury.

On the way up, it looked like the lakes were freezing well. It is important to snowmobilers that lakes and swamps freeze and that the ice thickens before they are covered with an insulating blanket of snow. Otherwise, they will face a winter of slush and unsafe ice. So far, so good.

We reached the Sudbury SE bypass at 2:10. Unlike some areas in the south, there was very little snow to be seen. The new hotel they have been building on RR 55 has now been unveiled as a Marriott TownPlace Suites. I've never heard of this brand before, but it looks very nice. After years of having no new hotels in town, they are now rising up everywhere.

I still feel pretty rough from the lung infection but am hoping it clears up soon.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Hanging in Woodstock

We had planned to head home today but Heather asked us to stay one more day. She and Tom had to work today and the plumber was scheduled to come by to connect the water softener. Coming from Sudbury, with its water coming from lakes nestled in the extremely old Canadian Shield, hard water is not a concern. Down here, with the water supply provided by wells drilled into limestone, water softeners seem to be mandatory.

The plumber arrived fairly early and set to work. He knew Sudbury quite well, having spent many summer visits at a friend's camp located on West Bay of Lake Wahnapitei. He set to work and was finished in no time. The only mishap occurred when he was soldering a pipe and set off the new high tech talking smoke alarms. We paid him with a blank cheque Tom left and he was on his way.

We spent the rest of the day napping and watching TV. While Woodstock wasn't getting hit, just 30 miles away London was being inundated by a major snowstorm. Schools and businesses were closed and the people were trying to shovel out from under more snow than they received all last winter. A big low pressure system over Quebec was driving the cold weather all the way down to Florida.

After Heather and Tom got home, we had a supper of perogies that Zofia had made for us. Then, braving huge fluffy snowflakes, Tom and I headed out looking for the right kind of salt for the water softener system. We found lots of salt, but not the kind specified in the owner's manual. We returned empty handed, but Tom went out again alone and found what he needed.

Before we went to bed, Heather broached the idea of bringing Sandy's parents down for Christmas. It sounds like a good idea and I hope we can persuade Jan and Harry to join us.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Visiting the Scottish Rite in Hamilton

Heather is a member of the Association of Administrative Assistants, presently serving as the national treasurer. Before we came down, she asked us if we were interested in joining them for the Hamilton Chapter Christmas gathering at the Scottish Rite Club in Hamilton, the place where they hold their regular meetings. This would include a brunch buffet and a play, A Christmas Carol. We said we'd like that and she ordered tickets for us.

We left Woodstock about 10:00 AM and drove into Hamilton on the 403. One of the great things about Woodstock is that it sits almost equidistant from the Tri-Cities, London and Hamilton and is joined to each by a first rate divided highway. We arrived early at the building and had no problem finding parking.

The Hamilton Scottish Rite building is awesome. It was originally built in 1895 as the home of the Tuckett family who made their millions in tobacco. It was bought by the local Masonic Scottish Rite leaders, substantially added to, and dedicated in 1923. The old stone architecture imparts an air of solid elegance and they rent the club out for a number of social activities.

After meeting some of Heather's compadres from the AAA, we sat down to some fine food and good conversation. Following the meal, the club offered a tour of the building and we took advantage of it. We even got to see the Masonic meeting room up on the top floor. My father and grandfather were Masons but I never felt the calling.  I almost feel now that I missed out on something.

The tour complete, we adjourned to the theater for a good rendition of Dickens' famous Christmas play. Most of the actors carried it off well and Scrooge was particularly excellent. The interludes featured Christmas carols sung by the club choir. I'm not sure why, but the strains of the old English ballad Barbara Allen seemed to keep finding their way into the organ interlude.

After the festivities, we returned to Woodstock via Cambridge, where we dropped off two surplus bats of insulation and a couple of unneeded tools at Rona.

At home, we spent a quiet evening watching TV before turning in for the night.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Moving Day In Woodstock - Part Deux

Today was a slow one for me. My chest was still hurting from the hit it took from the rogue futon yesterday and I was still coughing some from the bronchitis so I took it easy much of the day after we returned the truck to U-Haul and picked up the last few items from storage.

Tom's old friend Remi came over to help him insulate and drywall the garage and they got right down to work. Remi's wife Lisa went shopping with Heather and Sandy for window blinds and other household articles.

Later in the day, Kim, Mike, Jolene and Robyn stopped by for a visit. Jolene is usually a holy terror as her inquisitive mind pushes her to check out everything she sees, but she was so enamored of her new squeaky shoes that she pretty well ignored all the open boxes and things piled throughout the house.

By the end of the day, the guys had finished the garage and it looked pretty good. Tom was pleased with himself since the total cost was only a fraction of what the contractor quoted for doing the job.

One thing I did accomplish was to remotely winterize the motor home. When I left it in Alabama, I just drained the fresh water tank, thinking that we were in the deep south and freezing would not be an issue. When I got home, I checked the climate for Centreville and found that winter nights can get pretty chilly. Record lows for December were in the 10 to 15 degree Fahrenheit range and next week they were forecasting low 20's. This was not good since the lines were full of water. I had called Blondy and asked her to pick up a gallon of pink RV antifreeze. Today, i talked her and a friend through the best winterizing process I could. Open the low point drains, empty the water heater, fill the P-traps with anti-freeze and split the balance between the black and grey water tanks and drain the water pump. We weren't able to blow the lines out with compressed air but I'm hoping it all works out for the best.

Thanks again, Blondy.  I won't ever leave the unit again without winterizing it, no matter where it is.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Moving Day In Woodstock

By the time I got up, Tom had headed over to the local storage facility where much of their things have been kept since they left the condo. When he got back, we headed one exit back on the 401 where all the restaurants and stores are located and picked up some things at Canadian Tire. Then we went on to the storage facility and crammed as many of the small items as we could into both vehicles. Returning to the house with breakfast from Tim Horton's, we unloaded and then prepared to go and pick up the U-Haul truck Tom had reserved.

While we were out, the excavator operator had started to take the pile of earth in the back yard and back fill the freshly poured foundation next door. Watching this guy work for a bit, I developed an appreciation for his skill at working the large machine in close quarters.

Excavator working in the back yard

I drove Tom in search of the U-Haul shop which he thought was out in the country off the first exit from the 403. At the exit, we turned left and proceeded a couple of miles until we saw the 401 crossing over ahead of us. Tom figured we had turned the wrong way, so I was in the midst of making a U-turn when I saw orange and white U-Haul trucks across a field on the cross road ahead of us. Abandoning the turn, we continued on and found that, while we had in fact turned the wrong way for where the business used to be, they had just moved to this new location. Talk about luck.

The luck did not seem to be holding when we found that the 17' truck Tom had reserved had been taken out of service the previous day. All they had were two 26' units but the lady let us have them for the price of the smaller unit. I also insisted we rent a fridge cart because of some of the heavy items we had to move.

Our 26' U-Haul truck

Strangely, the truck was registered in sunny Arizona

Tom followed me back to the house where I left the van and we took the truck back to the Tri-Cities. Sandy and Heather stayed behind to wait for a delivery from Sears and a visit from the Rogers cable installer. Our first stop was The Brick furniture store in Kitchener, where we picked up an electric fireplace. Then we went on to Zofia's in Breslau where we loaded a washer, dryer, couch, love seat, box spring, mattress and containers of clothes and other small things. Considering there were just the two of us guys plus Zofia, we did pretty well getting it all stuffed into the truck. The last stop was at Rona's in Cambridge where Tom picked up insulation and drywall to finish the inside of the garage. About now, we realized that what we thought was bad luck in not having the smaller truck actually worked in our favour. I don't think it would all have fit into the 17' unit.

Back at the house, I was thrilled to see that son-in-law Mike had showed up. The two younger guys did the heavy lifting getting things into the house. Sears had been by and dropped off the fridge, stove, dishwasher and TV. Unfortunately, the master bedroom suite would be delayed for a week or so. On the plus side, the massive fridge fit into its space, but just barely. The Rogers installer was also there hooking up the cable TV, Internet and phone. (Two out of three ended up working but the phone ended up requiring a visit at a later date by a regular installer who pointed out the errors made by the contract guy.)

Rogers installer - we thought he knew what he was doing

About the time that the truck was empty, Tom's two brothers arrived so we headed back to the storage building for the rest of the stuff. After I caught a corner of a futon that swung open into my sternum, causing me to wonder for a bit if I had broken a rib or two, I played a relatively minor role in the loading. When we were done, there were only a few glass items left to be picked up tomorrow. Back at the house, the young guys again emptied the truck and then we took the it over to the TOA parking area for the night.

Heather or Tom ordered pizza which we enjoyed as things got sorted and assembled. By the end of the night, we had an electric fireplace and large screen TV functioning and were connected to the Internet. Zofia also stopped by with some more things and helped start the unpacking process. By the time everyone headed out, the snow had started to fall. Large fluffy flakes were landing in Woodstock but Mike called back to advise that the 401 to Cambridge was snow covered and experiencing whiteouts. The northwest wind was coming in across Lake Huron and Georgian Bay bringing heavy lake effect snow, while Woodstock got a break because it was in the shadow of the Bruce Peninsula.

Sandy and I had a bed but no curtains and, by virtue of the slope in the back yard, looked directly out on the sidewalk on Finckle Street. This was no problem for an exhibitionist like me, but Sandy was careful changing.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

We are heading south to help Heather and Tom move into their new house in Woodstock, about 30 miles west of Waterloo. Since they sold their Waterloo condo in August (they got virtually their asking price four days after listing it) they have been living with Tom's parents. That started out at their home in Waterloo, not far from the condo, but moved to Zofia and Stan's new home in Breslau in September. By now, I figure they will be happy to relocate to their own castle.

Sandy and I set out from Sudbury this morning after I went in for an ultrasound of my arteries to make sure that I didn't have an aortic aneurysm. I had no symptoms but my doctor figured it would be good to check it out at my age. "At my age". Those are three scary words. In any case, the lab tech told me my arteries were fine and seemed exceptionally clear considering i have been a smoker for 40 years. We got underway by 11:00 AM under partly cloudy skies with a little snow on the ground. Both of us were still suffering from colds and I was on antibiotics for the bronchitis mine had turned into  but we felt (hoped) we were on the road to recovery.

We encountered the usual snow squalls on the way down, a lake effect feature of the winds blowing across Georgian Bay and then meeting the shore. As the snow started to accumulate on the road south of Parry Sound, I slowed down. Unfortunately, a couple of other drivers didn't and put themselves off the road.

Driver off the road near Moon River

A second driver who forgot how to drive in winter

Driving conditions near Waubaushene

South of Waubaushene, the road improved and we motored right along. Because of the time of day, I elected to follow the 400 all the way to the 401 in Toronto, the fastest route if it isn't rush hour. I won't go into the difference of opinion I had with the bozo in the blue Durango who figured that he had some kind of divine right to hog the left lane, but I did make my point to him. We arrived at Heather's office in Ayr at 4:00, picked up the keys to the Breslau house and then went back and picked Tom up in Cambridge when he got off work at 4:30.

From Cambridge, we stopped at the Breslau house where Tom picked up a few things and then we went on to Woodstock. The new house looked great and I really like the open concept layout. I think the double garage was a wise choice. They are still building on both sides and there was a huge pile of dirt in the back yard from the foundation excavation next door.  Landscaping will have to wait until spring but the interior of the house is very nice.

When Heather got home, we went over to the TOA Family Restaurant. I finally tried their chicken fried steak. This is the only place in Canada I have ever seen it on the menu, probably because it caters to American truck drivers. It wasn't the best I have had, but it wasn't bad, either.

Back at the house, there was no furniture. Knowing this, we brought our air bed down from Sudbury and set it up in the second bedroom while Heather and Tom slept on the floor in the master bedroom. Since there was no TV or other entertainment and expecting a busy day tomorrow, we turned in early.

The new house in Woodstock
(Photo by Tom G)

Today's Route (356 miles):

View Larger Map

Friday, November 26, 2010

Action Sudbury - Red Ribbon Kickoff

As I have mentioned before, I am involved with Action Sudbury. This is a community organization established in 1984 to raise awareness of the perils of drinking and driving. One of our main programs is the annual Red Ribbon Campaign where we distribute ribbons to local drivers. They tie them to their mirrors or antennas to signify their pledge to always drive sober.

At the beginning of the festive season, we host a Red Ribbon Kickoff to highlight the campaign. We have done this for 22 years now and again returned to the very supportive Travelodge Hotel for this year's show. We had a good selection of politicians, law enforcement officers, media and members of the public attend as usual.

The hall we set up last night

City of Greater Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner

STOP Officers Real, Terry and Norm

Action Sudbury Chair Ron Roy as the piper plays the lament

John, victim of a drunk driver, shares his story

An attentive audience

Jessica of OSAID and the Chain of Life

Special Constable Real accepts a donation to assist with volunteer STOP Officer expenses

Amanda Elizabeth Kohls receives the Rollande Mousseau Award from Rollie herself

In addition to the speakers and presentations, we screened a video produced by the Transport Action Commission of Victoria, Australia. It is a compendium of their PSA videos produced over the last 20 years and conveys the damage done by drinking drivers in a very powerful manner. You can view it on Youtube here.

It was another successful day and I'd like to remind everyone out there to
Drive Safe, Drive Sober.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Buffalo New York to Sudbury Ontario

We checked the weather and saw it was -10C in Sudbury this morning. They were forecasting a high of +2 with flurries. Much as the north runs in my blood, a few more days in the sunny south would have been nice.

With the car loaded, we headed north across Grand Island to the Lewiston Bridge. At the border, the agent suggested that we must have done some shopping in eight days away. I explained that we had only spent $5.00 on goods we were bringing back this time but that they would have a lot to collect when we came back with the motor home in the spring.

Leo needed to order a speedometer cable for his bike so we stopped at the large BMW car/bike dealership in Oakville. This is a large place and even has an Internet cafe for people waiting for their vehicles. The bike area was upstairs and didn't have much selection left, but there were lots of nice cars. The only drawback to Oakville was the continued construction on the QEW. They have been working on it for 25 years. Maybe, in another 25, they will get it finished.

Taking the 403 up to the 401, we saw some strange buildings being constructed. It turns out that these are condos for the Fernwood Absolute Condo Community. It made me think off something in Dubai.

Absolute Condo Community - Mississauga Ontario

We made another stop at Costco in Barrie for gas and hot dogs. Then there was one more break at the Tim's south of Parry Sound where we saw two one ton trucks towing classic cars in enclosed trailers. They were destined for a shop in Val Caron where they say they have about twenty of these gems at any given time. We will have to go out and visit them sometime soon.

I noted on the way into Sudbury that the beaver ponds were frozen. Cold temperatures and light snow cover make for the best kind of freeze-up for sledding, not that it matters to me because my last sled is for sale. Still, I wish Normie and STP great conditions for a successful snowmobile season.

Finally we were home. It was an interesting maiden voyage and we are looking forward to more miles of smiles in the spring.

Today's Route (344 miles):

View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Birmingham Alabama to Buffalo New York (by air)

Sandy and I were up at 4:00 AM Eastern Time (3:00 AM Local).  We didn't want to sleep in because we had the early shuttle call to get us to the airport with lots of time to spare before our 8:00 AM flight.  We weren't sure, with all the TSA horror stories going around, if we might have trouble clearing security because we were furriners.  I used the time to post bills, catch up on a few blog entries and review the TSA website yet one more time.

It was a beautiful morning here but Sandy heard we might have snow in Buffalo.  The shuttle arrived right on time at 5:30 local time and zipped us right over to the airport.  Delta had a gentleman at the curb who checked our bags as we got out of the shuttle.  Each bag cost $25.00, not like the old days, but it was much more convenient.  He have us the tags and boarding passes and told us the luggage was checked directly through to Buffalo.

There were about forty people lined up waiting to clear security, but we were through in about ten minutes.  The first check was a hand swab to sniff for explosives.  They were doing every fifth person and I was lucky enough to be number five.  It took a few seconds for the machine to return a negative and let me move on. At the main check, we took off our shoes and emptied our pockets, putting everything in a basket.  Then we walked through the metal detector, were handed our gear back and moved on.  Leo was held a bit longer because he kept his metal rimmed sunglasses in his pants pocket.  All in all, everyone was pleasant and professional, a far cry from the tales currently being told on CNN and elsewhere.

Since we were so early, we stopped at one of the airport restaurants and had breakfast.  They had WiFi so Diane and I puttered around on line for a while before moving on to our gate.  While sitting at the gate, I noticed two TSA people in uniform walk in and sit down.  They were pretty casual, as if they were on a break, but I saw the way they were watching the people and pointed it out to Sandy.  I guess I was too obvious watching them because, when they called our flight at 7:45, the agents moved over to the gate and spot checked some of the carry-on bags.  I am pretty sure that I was watching them so closely earlier because I was one of the people to be 'randomly' selected.  Again, pleasant and professional.  No big deal.

Our aircraft for the short hop over to Atlanta was a DC9-50.  I wasn't aware that any DC9's were still in service but the -50 appears to be the last and largest variant.  I haven't been on a plane in years and I am starting to remember why.  We waited patiently as the passengers tried to cram all manner of carry-on luggage into the overhead bins.  Now I may be old fashioned but, in my flying days, any bag you carried on had to fit under the seat ahead of you.  The overheads were reserved for blankets, pillows and passengers' coats.

Finally settled, we pushed back  and taxied out right on time.  Before we reached the end of the runway, we stopped and the captain came on telling us Atlanta was backed up due to clouds and congestion.  As a result, we would be holding here until our window opened at the other end.  Since we were on a tight connection in Atlanta, this was not cheerful news to us.

Finally, twenty minutes late, we were airborne.  It was a quick flight and, as we descended into one of the busiest airports in the world, we could see the weather had cleared.  The pilot made a very nice landing and we taxied to the gate where we had to wait again while all those people ahead of us struggled to get all that luggage out of the overhead bins.

Deplaning, we looked at the board and saw our flight to Buffalo was scheduled to leave from Terminal A shortly.  We were at the far end of Terminal B so we started to run towards the hub.  Sandy needed to make a short stop at the ladies room, so we lost contact with Leo and Diane on the way.  Alone and hoping the other two were doing OK, we kept running until we saw arrows pointing to Terminal A.  There was an underground train, for crying out loud.  Lucky for  us, one was by almost immediately.  Arriving at A, we found our gate just in time.  Most of the plane had boarded as we, huffing and puffing, dragged ourselves up to the counter.  The wise ass there told us with a perfectly straight face that we would not be able to board.  Seems we had been running too hard........  Joke over, they waved us through but we saw no sign of Leo and Diane.  What to do?  Luckily again, they arrived about two minutes later and we all just barely made it on the plane.  The best part of arriving late is that most of the people had already stored their luggage in the overheads.  We did wonder if the luggage made it but there would be no way to tell for sure until Buffalo.

This aircraft was an MD-88, a successor to the DC9.  It had a lighter load than the flight to Alabama so Sandy and I had three seats between us.  We were airborne right on time.  The only drawback was the family in the seats behind us.  I think they were speaking Farsi and the boy behind Sandy kept kicking her seat.  We had the chance to move back in the plane but I don'y like sitting between the engines on this configuration.

Sandy put her earplugs in while I took the Netbook and, courtesy of gogoinflight, was able to hook up to WiFi and even have an IM chat with Malachi as we flew over Kentucky.  It looks like this was supposed to be a fee service but it was a free trial for this trip.  Thing went well even though the drink service had to be suspended for a while due to turbulence.  As we descended into Buffalo, the child behind us thought it would be a good time to have a temper tantrum.  Ah, the joys of mass transit.  Again we touched down nicely and made it to the terminal in one piece.

I can remember a time, from 1977 to 1993, when I had a serious phobia about commercial flying.  Before this period, no problem.  I even worked in helicopters in the bush with no doors on them.  Then, suddenly on our first trip to England, I became a white knuckle flyer.  This continued through a number of trips until I came to grips with both my own mortality and the unpredictability of the fickle finger of fate.  Now I don't worry any more and actually enjoy flying.  The airplane part, not the terminal/security nonsense.

Once in the terminal, we proceeded to the baggage collection area to see if the luggage had made the short change in Atlanta.  Lo and behold, there it appeared.  Or most of it.  The zipper on one of Diane's bags had broken and her camera was missing.  The case was still there, zipped up, so it hadn't just fallen out.  We visited the Delta office and they weren't very helpful.  They claimed they weren't responsible for checked electronics and all she got for redress was a $25 certificate, which only reimbursed her for the fee paid to check the bag in the first place.

Leo called the Clarion, where we had left their car and we would spend the night.  They promised to send their shuttle right over and we went outside to wait in the biting wind.  They were there soon and we loaded up and proceeded directly to the nearby hotel.  After getting checked in, we headed over to Bob Evans for lunch.  Back at the room, Leo and Diane went shopping while Sandy and I just kicked back and relaxed.  I started to read a book and dozed off.  The rest of the evening was given to periods of reading and napping.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanks Blondy

In addition to giving us a place to park the motorhome and driving us back to Birmingham, Blondy also had a new RV sewer hose, still in the box, and a hose slinky which we need for future travels.  These were left when they sold her father's fifth wheel.

Blondy, you have a heart as big as all outdoors and I can't express how grateful we are for all your help.  Thanks for everything and we'll see you again later in the winter.

Scottsboro Alabama to Centreville Alabama to Birmingham Alabama

It was another beautiful morning, much like the best of July mornings back home. Alabama trucks do idle in parking lots because one pulled in close to us last night and rumbled until dawn. The driver had his two pre-teen children with him. The trucks don't bother Sandy or I because she wears earplugs and I just tune them out, but I know they were a problem for Leo and Diane.

We ate breakfast at Krystal's, a fast food place right next to us. The portions were small and the food was southern salty, but Diane and I liked it. That's 50%.

The Unclaimed Baggage place was close by and, after packing clothes bags for the flight home, we got there by 8:30. They didn't open until 9:00, so Leo and I pulled the Tire Pressure Monitor sensors off the tires and removed the batteries for storage. The pressures, which had been around 70, were now universally 75, probably due to the warm temperatures. After checking tread depths last night, I found that the outer tread was wearing faster so, despite the scale and table data, I need to increase the pressures from 70 to 75. That meant we could leave them where they were.

When the doors opened at 9:00. we checked out the unclaimed baggage. It is much like a very well appointed and organized Value Village. Although there are some very upscale items (appropriately priced), much of it was run-of-the-mill used clothes and equipment. Sandy bought a fanny pack and camera case and I got a new case for my sunglasses. Total cost was just over $8.00.

Unclaimed Baggage - Scottsboro Alabama

Ready to shop

Shopped out, we left Scottsboro on Alabama 35 to Fort Payne. The motorhome climbed the big hill leaving Scottsboro with ease. At Fort Payne, we caught I-59 southwest. This is one rough concrete road in the right lane, so I travelled in the left until we finally reached nice new pavement. That was short lived and then we had ten miles of rough single lane as they worked on the other side. I was running the posted 55 while a line of transports ganged up behind me. The new surface looks like asphalt. Finally, we got clear of the work zone and settled into a steady 60 MPH.

Diane came up with a great idea. Rather than haul all the luggage down to Blondy's in Centreville, where the RV is being stored, and then back again to our hotel in Birmingham, we stopped at the hotel and left Diane and the bags. The Rime Garden Inn and Suites is an interesting cluster of buildings and I opted to park across the street in a warehouse lot instead. The rooms weren't quite ready so we left Di on a couch in the lobby and moved on.

The plans called for a fuel stop and holding tank dump at the Flying J at Exit 104 on I-20. Unfortunately, while I fueled and dumped three cans of Seafoam in the tank, the dump station was out of service. The station is in major disarray as they remodel due to the Pilot/Flying J merger. We were directed to a Petro truck stop at Exit 100.

Petro had a dump station and it was free. Unfortunately (I seem to be using that word a lot), the dump was elevated, getting in the way of gravity draining the hose. As I lifted the hose, the connector broke off and we dumped half the black water tank in the parking lot. Luckily, I was away from the tank and the lot sloped the other way. By holding the hose in place, Leo and I were able to get the rest of the tanks drained and then we got out of there fast, after firing up the generator and turning on the roof A/C to get the Seafoam through that system.

Blondy called just as we were getting of at Exit 97 to Centreville to say she was only a half hour behind us. I parked in a truck lot at a Jack's Restaurant to wait for her to catch up. We packed more gear and I conditioned the holding tanks for storage while waiting. Blondy soon arrived and we set out for Centreville.
Blondy's home, we got the RV situated under the roof where her step-father's 5th wheel used to reside. Then we unhooked the bike trailer and pushed it under another part of the roof. I went through my checklist as we got the RV ready to sleep. Good thing I had a list.

I opened the valve and drained the fresh water tank. Shut off the fridge and LP valve. Opened and blocked the fridge door. Made sure the roof  vents were open. Then we drove the unit up onto the plastic leveling blocks to get the tires off the ground, covered the wheels (not an easy process because I had to get underneath to run the cords behind the tires) and connected the battery tender. It was at this point that Sandy found the side door wouldn't close due to a post that came into play when I moved up on the leveling blocks. Off came the wheel covers, Leo repositioned the blocks and I moved back a foot. It was then that Sandy suggested the awning hook might help with the cords for the wheel covers. Covered in red Alabama dirt, it seemed like a good idea to me. Finally, I disconnected the power lead to the converter and we set two jugs of Damp-Rid in the home to collect excess moisture.

Yours truly meets red Alabama dirt while covering wheels
(Photo by Blondy)

The RV's winter resting spot 

Blondy drove us to an Olive Garden where we shared a fine supper and swapped stories. Then she took us back to the hotel where we confirmed a 5:00 AM Central Time wake up call and our 5:30 AM shuttle to the airport. We watched TV and read for a bit before falling soundly asleep.

Today's Route (234 miles):

View Larger Map