Monday, January 27, 2014

Cambridge Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

Time to head home again. We woke up a little after 6:00 AM and got everything packed and loaded. The weather radar showed some active snow along our route but all the highways appeared open. Light fluffy snow had fallen overnight and, while it was piled high on the vehicles, it was easy to brush off. Kim loaded the girls into the Caravan to take them to the babysitter about 7:20. so we said our goodbyes and left at the same time.

We stopped at the McDonald's in Hespeler to grab some breakfast to go (don't tell the dietitian). The temperature was -12 and the skies were clear, although evidence of the overnight snowfall was all over the roads. We headed towards Guelph on Highway 24, deciding to avoid Monday morning Toronto traffic. Everyone was moving slowly and we crawled a few places as quite a few vehicles tried to make left turns from the two-lane road across heavy traffic going the opposite way.

Highway 24 heading for Guelph

Winter makes pretty scenery

We left most of the traffic in Guelph and had 24 pretty much to ourselves for a while. Before long, we caught up to the snow. Visibility near Erin, where we stopped at Tim's for a pit stop, was down to zero in some spots. But again, four wheel drive and lots of experience driving in marginal conditions prevailed.

Highway 24 leaving Guelph

The snowfall begins

I call this greasy road conditions

Downtown Erin

Looking for Timmy's

We don't need no stinkin' coats

By Caledon, the snow had stopped and we saw blue skies head. By the time we got to Highway 400 North things were looking pretty good, although we saw plows with their blades down on bare pavement. Really?. But the clear skies only lasted a little while and, by the time we reached Barrie, we were back in whiteout conditions.

Highway 400 looking good at the Holland Marsh

Ominous clouds ahead

Back into it approaching Barrie

A bit clearer at the Bayfield exit

This is our exit

North of Barrie, the road was snow packed and we only had one good lane to travel in. That didn't stop a few cowboys from passing us but that was too risky for me. Weighing a few minutes saved against ending up on our roof in the median, I stayed in line of sensible vehicles and left plenty of room.

Passing the Mt. St. Louis ski area, the skies cleared again and we were able to pick up the pace. We stopped again at the new Petro-Can at the Honey Harbour exit for a pit stop and then had the road pretty much to ourselves for the next fifty miles to Parry Sound.

Icy but pretty good going north of Mt. St. Louis

Ice, anyone? I think not.

Ice formations at Old Highway 69

They are pretty

No salt down near Pointe Au Baril

With forty miles to go, we crossed the French River Bridge and entered what I consider to be the true Northern Ontario. Maybe some day there will be a sign on the bridge welcoming people people to Canada's 11th province and we won't have to put up with those yahoos down at Queen's Park any more.

Welcome to Northern Ontario

We arrived at Municipal Road 55 at 1:57 PM. The trip took a little longer than usual, but we made it safely. We stopped at the grocery store for a few items and got home to find a bit of snow in the driveway. I parked on the street and got out the snow blower. After moving some of the white stuff, I put the truck in the driveway and unloaded our luggage.

A little more snow while we were away

Apropos of nothing, here is a bit of trivia I learned. I found out some time ago that the lyrics from Amazing Grace and House Of The Rising Sun were interchangeable. What I learned recently from the Blue Collar Comedy Channel was that that great old Hymn can also be sung to the melody of Ghost Riders in the Sky. As if that wasn't enough, it also works to the tune of Gilligan's Island. I have no idea why anyone would want to know this, but I found it amusing.

Today's Route (285 Avalanche miles):

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cambridge Ontario - Shower Day

I slept in until 8:00 AM this morning. This normally wouldn't have been an issue except that the air bed was set up in the family room. Everyone was being very quiet when they should have just tipped the bed over and gotten me moving. Still, it was a very good sleep.

Kim and Sandy started cooking for the potluck part of the shower and began to get things organized while Mike went to the grocery store to get a few things. It was -17 here but TWN said it was -32 back in Sudbury, another yo-yo drop from the mild temperatures yesterday.

I did some Blog work (I always seem to be behind in the winter) and played with Jolene and Robyn. When Mike got home, the four of us went out and played in the snow in the back yard.

Enjoying the snow

An angel making a snow angel

And another one....

Daddy doesn't mind getting a little snowy

The kids have stickers - Oh Wow.....

At 12:30, we loaded all the shower goods into the Avi and I took Sandy and Kim to Kitchener. The roads were snow packed but we got there without incident. It took a little work to find the Williamsburg Community Centre in the mall lot. They built what resembles a small town street of shops and the hall was on the back side. Very quaint in a modern kind of way.

A unique kind of strip mall

And here is the hall

The hall was on the second floor but they had an elevator. It was probably the slowest elevator I have ever seen (there was a sign on the panel that said "Slow Elevator"), but it worked and we got all the stuff upstairs. Wojtek and Agnes arrived, as did Zofia and a few other organizers. The church group who had the place booked before us was just leaving, so we got to work and set up the tables and chairs. Then the ladies set the tables while Wojtek and I filled balloons with helium and helped out where we could. When all was ready and the guests started to arrive, the gentlemen made themselves scarce.

The table setup is coming along nicely

The food table

A onesie cake

The ladies deciding what to do next

Sandy's photos of the shower

I stopped at a PetroCan on the way back to Cambridge. They were out of regular gas due to people filling up because more snow was forecast, but all I was looking for was a couple of jugs of windshield washer fluid. Back at the house, Rob showed up to hang out after dropping his wife Jenny at the shower.

We decided that I would get Jenny when I picked up Sandy and Kim. I left at 5:00 PM and took almost forty minutes to get to the hall because it was now actively snowing and the roads had deteriorated. We spent some time helping undecorate the place and put all the chairs and tables away. From all the gear we put in Heather and Tom's Tucson, it looked like she had made out like gangbusters. All stowed, we were on the road back to Cambridge by 6:20. The return trip took another forty minutes.

At the house, Mike ordered BBQ delivered. We had pulled pork, brisket, meat loaf, fried apples, potato salad, onion rings and fries. It was pretty tasty for delivery food. After Rob and Jenny left, I finished my outstanding Blog entries. Since I got back to the house, I hadn't been able to access my Gmail account and assumed it was down because they had significant outages on Friday. Not so. I had just switched back to Firefox as a browser and something had gotten twisted. Deleting the history got everything working again.

Later in the evening, we watched the Grammy Awards and I realized just how out of touch I was with modern music. If Def Punk is an example of where music is heading, I'll stick with the oldies. Before the show was over, I headed for bed (which wasn't very far considering the bed was right next to the couch).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sudbury Ontario to Cambridge Ontario

Tomorrow, Kim and Tom's sister-in-law Agnes will be holding a baby shower for Heather in Kitchener. There was no way that Sandy was going to miss this so we were headed south. After a frigid week, it was a mild -8 C this morning but they were forecasting -29 C again for tonight.

We left the driveway at 7:15 AM and made a stop at Tim's on the way out of town. The radar showed a solid wall of blue indicating heavy snow to the south but I figured that between the four wheel drive and a reasonably cautious driving style, we should be OK. Unfortunately, as we reached the southern outskirts of town, the overhead electronic Compass sign announced that Highway 69 was closed.

We returned to town and stopped at the nearest Tim Horton's where I used Sandy's tablet to access the Ministry of Transportation road conditions web page. It showed Highway 69 closed from Estaire to Parry Sound, a distance of over 80 miles. It also showed many other road closures but I was able to see that Highway 17 to North Bay and 11 south to Barrie were supposedly passable, so we opted to take the longer route.

By 8:05, we were headed east on a snow packed two lane Highway 17. The snow was blowing as we covered the 75 miles to North Bay. Before Sturgeon Falls, we encountered the first SUV off the road. For a while, the drifting was heavy enough that I was guessing where the lines were on the road and sometimes where the road was.

Highway 17

Recent snow fall created a winter wonderland

In North Bay, we swung south on the four lane divided Highway 11. As we left the city, we drove under a black cloud that started adding new snow to what was already drifting. The road cleared a bit and the first plow we saw was actually plowing bare pavement. But we were soon back into snow pack and it wasn't long before there was a semi rolled over in the median. Near Powassan,  we came into some clear sky but were back into squalls by South River. Periodically, we would see someone who was either not as cautious or more unlucky than we were.

Passing plows was tricky

Clear sky south of Powassan

Moving cautiously along

Northern winter scape

Zigged when he should have zagged

Back into the snow

We were experiencing complete whiteouts due to strong winds blowing the fresh snow by the time we got to Gravenhurst. Interestingly, the exit number for Highway 169 is 169. I know I'm not supposed to be eating at the Golden Arches any more, but it was the closest place to the highway and I was hungry. We got our usual choices to go and I cleaned off the licence plates and lights. Sandy got a picture of me out in the snow in a golf shirt. At -8, the wind actually felt kind of comfortable.

Cleaning parts of the truck in Gravenhurst

The snow and blowing almost stopped as we moved on south. I was surprised to see gas in this corridor priced at $1.209 per liter compared to $1.326 in Sudbury. I never knew this was such a low cost area. We passed Webers Hamburgers and I made a promise to myself that I would come by this way when the weather was a little nicer and give one a try.

Bad day for a lineman

A future lunch stop

We were in and out of snow until Orillia, where the skies cleared and the six lane road looked pretty good, but a faint glint of sun reflecting up from the road surface was a warning. I don't know what happened to the truck that was supposed to spread salt between Orillia and Barrie but it never got to the road. I drove slowly and didn't make any sudden moves but a lot of people became victims of the black ice that looked just like 15 miles of good dry pavement. Any application of brakes caused the ABS to kick in and the slowing effect to be negligible, so I stayed loose and left lots of room. We saw a few northbound vehicles going sideways.

The road looked good...

Minor incident

A little more serious

Another one bites the snow

They lost it going the other way, too

Cruiser parked crosswise to shield the wreck

And another

This jackknife shut the highway down

The black car out the rear window is sliding

One more little one

You wouldn't have been able to walk down this hill

Once we got to Highway 400 in Barrie, the black ice was behind us. They obviously had gotten salt down here so the road surface was wet and slushy but the traction was pretty good. I could visualize the Toronto crowd going northbound and transitioning from this to glare ice with no warning. It was a surprise there weren't more in the weeds.

So we were back on a road where we could steer and brake but we weren't out of the woods yet. Not far south of Barrie, traffic slowed to a crawl behind a pair of snowplows. There was a single in the left lane and a Tow Plow taking up the right two. They were moving at a sedate 25 MPH. I hoped they would break formation at the Highway 89 interchange and let the traffic go by. They didn't. Then I hoped for 88. When they showed no signs of getting off the freeway, I did.

Lined up behind the plows

Traffic was light as we took Highway 88 a couple of miles west and then took Highway 27 south to the multi-lane 427. It was a pleasant drive after what we had been going through all day. We made it down to the infamous 401 and headed west again. The road was adequate and the traffic was moderate. In Milton, the wind was generating drifts off the buildings but it wasn't getting down to our level. Someone in a car found that you really should yield to big trucks.

Blowing snow at roof level

This truck suffered a little damage...

...but the car was the big loser

Best roads all day

Cambridge doesn't use salt so the streets can be a little tricky, but we pulled into Kim and Mike's at 3:08 PM without incident. Mike was snow blowing with his neighbor's machine. It was the first time he had operated one of these residential units, although he had experience with bigger tractor mounted ones back at the homestead in Aylmer.

Mike moving snow

We had some time to visit with Jolene and Robyn before we all piled in Kim and Mike's new Caravan (Mike says it is more practical than the Dodge Ram) and headed to Beertown for supper. Mike takes a lot of business clients here and was greeted like a VIP. The kids behaved perfectly. I had the Ultimate Mac + Cheese dish and found it to be excellent.

Jolene, Mike and Robyn at Beertown

Mom and Grandma

Beertown's Ultimate Mac + Cheese

After supper, we slipped and slid our way back to the house where Mike went shopping while we played with the kids. Robyn's Barbie doll has more shoes than Imelda Marcos. Mike had set the air bed up in the family room so that is where we turned in relatively early.

Today's Route (346 Avalanche miles):