Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cambridge Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

Easter morning. We got up to the sounds of children exploring their haul from the Easter Bunny. And what a haul it was. There was even something for Grandma and Grandpa.

Exploring the Easter goodies

Grandma with her treats

After we had gone through the Easter morning rituals, the Koolen family was off to Mike's parents place in Aylmer while we headed to Woodstock to Heather and Tom's. On the way, we saw some geese walking on a frozen pond. They didn't look happy. I stopped at the new Flying J and fueled up at $1.258, the best price in this area.

We arrived at Heather and Tom's just before 10:00 AM. We settled in and watched some TV, mostly Top Shots episodes, until 3:00 PM when we headed back towards Tom's parents place in Breslau for Easter dinner.

Zofia and Stan again set a traditional Polish table where three sons, their wives, their grandchildren and parents of the sons' wives all sat down. The meal was, as usual, spectacular. The  main course included pork medallions, turkey, beans, potatoes, vegetables and cranberries. There were several wines to complement the food. Then cakes were brought out along with coffee and liqueurs. Oddly, we then had salads that included quinoa, corn and mushrooms. The good food was matched by the company. All in all, it was an amazing dinner, although I ate too much.

After returning to Woodstock, Tom and I watched more Top Shots, talked about how the PS3 connection worked and then turned in.

Today's Route (109 truck miles):

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cambridge Ontario - Ontario Science Centre

Mike had originally suggested that we take the kids to the Royal Ontario Museum today because Jolene wanted to see the dinosaur exhibit. I found it awesome that a four year old would even know there was a dinosaur exhibit. Unfortunately, we checked and found that the dinosaurs had moved on, so we went to Plan B and headed for the Ontario Science Centre in Don Mills instead.

Since we were going to pick up Heather at Tom's office and the seven of us would have been a tight fit in Mike and Kim's Mazda, we took the truck as well. I had the GMRS radios that we bought for the Arkansas/Virginia run last year so we could communicate between the vehicles as we went.

The first stop was to collect Heather at Tom's workplace near the 401 and then we headed east on the big road. We opted to stay on the 401 and I let Mike set the pace all the way to the Don Valley Parkway and then south to the Science Centre.. Traffic was steady and, when we got there, parking space was ample (for the mere sum of $10 per vehicle). It was warm and sunny, almost like a real spring day, as we piled out of the vehicles for the short walk to the entrance.

Lots of people heading into the Science Centre

At thee front desk, we used coupons downloaded from the Web and received a discount on our admission prices. Then Mike went to get a stroller while we we waited in a large, glass windowed hall and tried to figure out where we were going on the map supplied in the guide. The Centre has six levels but is tiered  down a hillside, so it isn't simply up and down.

Our first objective was the children's play area. Mike, Robyn and the stroller took the elevator down while we took the escalator. He overshot and it took a while before we reconnected. Then, after a wander through the space exhibit, we found the large, interactive child play area.

Future astronaut Jolene

Robyn needed a little help

You put the ball in the Rube Goldberg style rails....

...and try and figure out were it went

Only twelve more years.....

Mike found the high ground to observe

After exploring the play area for a while, we went down to the cafeteria for lunch. They had several different vendors with choices ranging from pizza to healthy selections. The prices were about what would expect for a captive clientele, more than on the street but not enough to break you. As usual, the grandkids were good about eating in public, in contrast to the wailing little girl sitting on the other side of me.

Eating done, we headed to the bottom level just in time for the electricity demonstration. The highlight came at the end when people lined up to experience the Van De Graaff generator and had their hair redone by static electricity. Jolene's hair experience was the best of all the people who tried it.

A shocking experience

After wandering through the science and technology displays, we decided to call it a day and headed back to the entrance, with an obligatory stop in the gift shop on the way out.

They say going green is big these days

Little sister gives big sister a ride

Leaving the Centre, we headed north on the Don Valley Parkway, starting a a snail's pace. I'm not sure where all the cars came from but they were all going the same direction. Ours. Once we got to the 401, the pace picked up and, once we were past the airport, the stopped eastbound traffic made us happy we were going west. Lots of traffic on a Saturday reminded me of why I hate cities.

There were a lot of bikes out today but the heavy layer of salt on the 401 was waiting for a solid rain to wash it into the ditches. We passed the two service centres under reconstruction near our Cambridge exit. They look like they are going to be glass palaces. Just after 4:00 PM, we pulled into Kim and Mike's driveway.

Tom came by after work and we had shrimp for supper. The young ones sure do like shrimp. We played around with them until bedtime and then, after Tom and Heather went home, we watched Silver Linings Playbook On Demand. It was a good movie with a  feel-good ending and showcased more of the great skills of Jennifer Lawrence.

Jolene hates being hung upside down (except when Uncle Tom does it)

After the movies, it was off to bed early again. We didn't want to frighten the Easter Bunny away.

Today's Route (170 truck miles):

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Woodstock Ontario to Cambridge Ontario

I woke up after 7:00 AM and we settled in to watch last night's episode of Grey's Anatomy, downloaded from some sources and played through the PS3, while Tom brought back breakfast from Tim Horton's. We headed back to Cambridge at 9:15, arriving at Kim's at 9:40. There was a dead possum in the middle of Myers Road. At least I think he was dead and not just playing possum. These critters used to be considered a southern thing but started moving into this area more than a decade ago. Sooner or later, we will need a stew recipe.

Mike was at work doing went to work early to do some work in anticipation of his company's inventory. We spent time playing with the kids and watching some TV until he got back.

Jolene, Grandma and Robyn

When Mike got back, we all decided to go for a walk. It was cool and windy but that didn't stop us. Everyone bundled up and we set out on a trek that took us a couple of blocks and then down a path to a creek. Mike thought this would be a good turnaround point but Kim said we should continue along the path to a local playground. Mike pointed out that this would be a fair distance and he would end up carrying someone back but the majority sided with Kim and we kept going.

Kim, Jolene and Sandy wait for the slowpokes

We are coming

Someone is being carried already

We are walking into a stiff headwind

We finally reached the playground, a nice little facility. The whole area has a rubber mat ground cover to minimize bruises. I wish we had this when I was a kid. The slides were popular, as were the swings. Jolene insisted on the big kids swing and, despite her father's warnings, did not fall off.

Mom helps Robyn get lined up on a slide

Rubber mat ground cover

This is a good spot for children

After a wile, we started back and discovered another path back up to the street level. As Mike had said earlier, it was a good walk back to the house but we made it OK with only a little carrying.

Robyn gets a little lift along the way

Back at the house, Mike ordered some BBQ for delivery. It was good, although not quite up to the standard we have gotten used to in the south. Still, it was tasty and the grandkids really tucked into it.

Robyn waiting on food

Jolene likes hot chocolate

Later, after Jolene and Robyn had gone to bed, we settled in and watched some television before turning in fairly early. Keeping up with children takes a lot out of us poor old adults.

Today's Route (33 truck miles):

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

It was the Thursday morning before Good Friday.  Last year at this time, following an exceptionally mild winter, all the snow was gone. Bikers and golfers had been out for several weeks and spring was well under way. This year was a whole other thing. Our winter had been more like the winters of old, with heavier snow and colder temperatures, and spring was dragging its heels. A few hard core riders had been out but the golfers were still hibernating.

Our front yard this morning

Our trip south this weekend was to visit kids and grandkids we hadn't seen since Christmas. I had one chore before leaving, to deliver a monthly report on our Action Sudbury charity bingo's to the city licence office. I had, as Vice Chair, been covering for our illustrious leader since December since he and his wife (our secretary) decided that winters in Mexico were much more palatable. I will be glad to see both of them get back in a week or so. They won't, however, like the snow.

After looking for a gas station that wasn't too crowded and dropping off the report, we headed south under grey skies just before noon. The road was dusty to salty as we motored along. The visible salt will soon wash into the ditches with spring rains, attracting moose to the roadsides and requiring enhanced vigilance.

Construction of the new four lane highway was well under way from the Killarney turnoff to the French River. It looks like the Holiday Golf Course at the Alban turnoff has lost a few fairways and greens because the roadbed for the new lanes now sits were they had been. I'm not sure if this means the end of golfing here or not. Although it was evident a lot of work here had been accomplished, the only worker we saw today was covering up the reduced speed limit signs in preparation for the long weekend.

Passing through Barrie, it was good to see construction proceeding on the service centre on the northbound side. About time since it was closed for rebuilding in May of 2010. The southbound service centre at Highway 89 was now just a hole in the ground, but it looked like this one might get done in a more timely manner.

We got off Highway 400 at Highway 9 to avoid Toronto rush hour traffic and proceeded west to Mono Mills, where we saw that gas prices were $1.249 per liter compared to $1.296 back home. This spot normally has the lowest prices along our route and today was no different.

West of Caledon, we did see one bike coming out of the side road that leads from the Forks of the Credit, a popular motorcycle road. Good for him. Then in Guelph, we took a different route to avoid the rush hour jam that usually happens on Highway 24 as traffic tries to make a left turn on County Road 38. Instead, we went south on Highway 6, cut off on Downey Road to CR 34 and then proceeded to Townline Road in Cambridge. We encountered little traffic this way and arrived at Kim and Mike's just after 5:00 PM.

The grandkids were happy to see us and we were even happier to see them. Robyn is 2 1/2 and absolutely fearless. Usually she is smiling at everyone. Jolene, at almost 4 1/2 years old, has been in junior kindergarten since September and is a ball of fire. We visited with them and shared pizza for supper before heading on to Heather and Tom's place in Woodstock for the night. The plan was to come back tomorrow for more grandchild time.

We left Cambridge at 7:45 and arrived in Woodstock 8:30. I was surprised to see the former Esso station at Cedar Creek Road and Highway 401 in Ayr was now a Flying J. We don't have a lot of these in Ontario but this made me wonder if we are going to see more.

Heather and Tom had cancelled their cable TV service and were now relying on Netflix, run through their PS3, as well asdownloaded TV programs. This was something I wasn't familiar with but, while watching a number of episodes of Top Shots, I realized I have all the hardware necessary to do the same thing. I won't be cancelling my cable service anytime soon but it would offer significant additional viewing options at a very minimal cost. Then again, perhaps I don't need more viewing options, given the amount of time I dedicate to watching the (I guess I can't say tube any more) flat screen these days.

Sandy turned in before me but I was in bed by 11:00 PM, unusually early compared to when I usually retire.

Today's Route (321 truck miles):

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Toronto Spring Motorcycle Show

One of the ways we pass the winter months is by travelling to Toronto for the various motorcycle shows. Normally, Leo, Doug and I will make a day run down and back to see the December show downtown at the Convention Centre while Sandy and I attend the January show at the International Centre with Heather and Tom. This winter we did neither, so Doug and I decided to visit the show we normally skip, the Spring Motorcycle Show, again at the International Centre. Leo was still in Arizona and Sandy decided she didn't want to spend nine hours in the car, so it was just Doug and I.

Freedom Riders Barry and Bev live in southern Ontario and had volunteered to set up and man a club booth (provided free of charge by the show) to promote the Freedom Rally this summer. Several other club people were also planning on going down and back for the day.

Doug borrowed his wife's little Kia for the trip to save us some fuel. He pulled into our driveway right on time at 6:00 AM and we got underway. The only stop on the way out was Timmy's for my black coffee and breakfast sandwich to go. We had slipped back into a March cold snap after the the previous week's above freezing temperatures but, despite it being -15 C (+5 F), it looked like it was going to be a good day to drive.

The  240 mile run down to Toronto was uneventful. We made a stop at Tim's half way down for a pit stop and arrived at the International Centre on Airport Road in Mississauga at 10:25. The last forty miles had been through light snow squalls and sloppy roads. The parking lot was far from full and we parked the little Kia easily. However, there was a large lineup to buy tickets, but it only held us up about ten minutes and we used the $3.00 off coupons Doug had printed from the Internet.

Unlike the January show, which takes up five buildings, this one was confined to only two. There were accessory vendors selling mostly clothes and displays of custom and vintage motorcycles, dealers selling bikes and tourism places promoting their areas. But one of the largest categories was clubs promoting charity rides plus a couple of larger events. The charity aspect has proliferated in recent years and competition among them is intense.

Doug and I explored Building One looking for the Freedom Riders booth. Not finding it, we stopped at the food court for a lunch of Nathan's Famous hot dogs and fries. Then we moved on to the other building, working our way through the aisles until we found Barry and Bev. They were not twenty feet from where we had originally entered the show. The booth was simple but very nice, with the club banner and Barry's 2002 GL1800 for a backdrop. A couple of minutes after we found them, club President Rob, Dan R. new member Paul and a friend of theirs found us.

Barry manning the Freedom Riders booth

Rob, Barry, Bev, Paul and Dan in the booth

Doug and I took over the booth for an hour or so to give Barry and Bev a chance to see some of the show. Having worked snowmobile shows for years, I know that exhibitors often miss most of  what is going on around them. The idea here was to promote the 20th Annual Freedom Rally, which is taking place August 2nd through 5th in Sudbury. Once upon a time, there were club rallies throughout Ontario each summer. These were low key events where you set up your tents, rode in the daytime and mingled around the bonfire in the evenings. Over the years, the clubs burnt out and these type of weekends started disappearing in favour of the mega-events like New Liskeard. Recently, Muskoka, Manitoulin and South Georgian Bay have been trying to get on the large rally calendar and generate some tourism dollars for their area. But the casual laid back atmosphere of a club weekend is missing at these venues and so we are promoting the Freedom Rally as a chance to experience the fun of the old days.

Me talking to Barry about something or other

Selling the rally (I need less food)

When Barry and Bev came back, Doug and I made one more circuit. I stopped and talked to Glenn from Motorcycle Mojo magazine about a problem with my digital subscription and why the magazine should cover the last club rally in the province. Doug got him a rally flyer and then we headed for the door. I had also, throughout our visit, managed to make a few Vulcan riders aware of VROC so we may see a few new Frozen North members in the future.

Frankenyamaha 550 Ropemobile

Dnepr being restored

He works cheap

New police bike

1999 Drifter with 4,950 miles on the clock

Leaving the hall about 2:30, the squalls had stopped and the parking lot was now full. Doug had driven down so it was my turn to take the wheel. We stopped on the way out and I filled the tank for my share of the fuel. Then we headed north on clear roads. We stopped at Lick's south of Parry Sound where Doug had a signature Lick's Homeburger and I had back bacon on a bun. As we were eating, Biker walked in. He and Normie had done the day trip to the show too. Both are Freedom Riders and VROCers. They left Sudbury after we did, didn't find the booth at the show and headed back before we did, but stopped in Barrie for wings.

The last stretch went by quickly and I was home by 7:00 PM. It was pretty sparse as shows go, but it was a good day for a road trip and we saw a few things and met a few people. All in all, it was a good day.