Friday, August 29, 2014

Santa's Village - Bracebridge Ontario

Kim, Mike, Jolene and Robyn have been up for the week. They rented a nice waterfront place on Sunnyside Road, fronting on Long Lake. In addition to local activities, Mike wanted to take the kids to Santa's Village in Bracebridge, about 150 miles south of Sudbury.

Mike and Kim have a nice new Dodge Caravan with seven seats, so we decided that was the way to go. Sandy and I met them bright and early at the WalMart at the south side of town where we left the Kia for the day. Mike drove while I took the shotgun seat to navigate. Instead of the GPS recommended route across Highway 169 south of Parry Sound, we took Highway 141 through Rosseau, on of my favourite Ontario motorcycle roads. It was fun even in the van.

The parking lot was starting to fill up when we arrived at Santa's Village. We found a spot near the end of the main lot and walked over to the front gate, where we found a small line of smiling parents and kids waiting to buy admission tickets.

A rare sighting in the parking lot

The girls seemed to have a lot of fun during their visit. I don't have a play by play of all the things we did but took a few pictures to remember the experience.

The girls like roller coasters

The kids stayed close to us

Saying hello to Santa was a must

Mom and Grandma had fun too

My first train ride in quite a while

Half way to the North Pole

Swan rides take pedal power

Jolene waiting for her swan

Robyn is still smiling

This is better than a colouring book

Jolene climbing the nets

And riding a green creature

This was the smoking area

The Ferris wheel wasn't too big

But it's only August.....

One more run on the roller coaster

Jolene shows how it is done

Snow motorcycle?????

Everyone was pretty well worn out by the time we decided to leave. Mike drove back, this time taking Highway 169 through Bala to Highway 69. The return trip was as uneventful as the way down. All in all, it was a great day. I can't wait until we can take them to Canada's Wonderland.

Today's  Route (297 minivan miles):

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Farewell, Harry

We lost Sandy's Dad Harry last March at the age of 90. After the memorial service, we decided to save spreading his ashes until we had a nice summer day when everyone could be there. A few weeks ago, Sandy, her Mom Jan and I took a drive down to West Arm looking for likely spots. Right near Sucker Creek Landing, where they kept a houseboat for a number of years, we found a nice little picnic area on the water. From there, we could look over a short distance and see where their floating camp had been moored.

Heather, Tom and Jasper came up yesterday, as did Diane, a close family friend and ex of her brother Mal. This morning, we went down to meet Kim, Mike and the girls at the French River Trading Post. They were coming up for a week to stay at a place they had rented on Long Lake, one of the 390 bodies of water within the City of Greater Sudbury.

The rendezvous went off without a hitch. When we pulled into the Trading Post lot, Mike was checking the four bicycle rack on the back of their new minivan. Nothing like being a family man.

We convoyed up to Highway 64 and then followed it to the designated spot where Sandy's cousins (children of Jan's identical twin sister Gill) and their families plus her ex-husband Brian (former houseboat partner of Harry and Jan) and his wife were already assembled.

We could not have asked for a better day. I said a few words and then, as Vince Gill and Patty Loveless sang Go Rest High On That Mountain in the background, I stepped out on the rock above the waters and let Harry's ashes fly free in a place that he had enjoyed so much.


Jolene contemplating nature

Waiting for things to begin

Cousin Marie and Jan

Robyn found a bench

Cousin Sue and Sandy

Grandpa Jim and his girls

Rest In Peace, Harry

Heather and Sandy

Mike, Jolene & Kim

A quiet family moment

And then it was done

Jan and the exes

Jolene looks ready to take on the world

Heading out

Afterwards, we moved a short way down the road to Shuswap Lodge where Marie had reserved a large table for our meal. Everything was ready for us and we enjoyed a fine family meal together.

It was a long table

Jan was handling things well

Heather and Jasper

Robyn, girl of mischief



Jasper napping

After the meal, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Sudbury.

The day was everything we hoped it would be. Family gathered to say goodbye to a special person. It was an honour knowing you, Harry. We will miss you. May you Rest In Peace.

(Thanks to Tom and Mike for the additional photos)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Erie Pennsylvania to Sudbury Ontario

It was our last day of the trip and I was in no hurry to get going. One problem with delaying getting to the motel breakfast was that most people think that 8:00 AM is a good time to eat. The nook was crowded, but we managed to get a table. Sandy had cereal and yogurt while I had cereal and brown toast.

I got the knives we had received from Southern Draw out of the luggage in case Customs wanted to inspect them and then we were on the road by 8:30. We crossed into New York and got on the Thruway for the sixty miles to Buffalo and the border with crosswinds from the south tugging at the trailer.

We didn't make it straight to Buffalo on the Thruway. The State Police had the highway blocked at one exit and we were forced to get off. We didn't find the reason but there was a plume of black smoke off in the distance so I assume it was some kind of wreck. The traffic was jammed as we negotiated a traffic light at a one lane overpass due to construction, and then had to line up at the toll booth. The E-ZPass paid off as the transponder only lane was fairly clear.

Following Highway 20, we stopped for fuel before returning to the Thruway at the next interchange. As I approached the toll booth, I noted a loud squeak from the left front wheel area. It abated when I dragged the brake so I put it down to some trash stuck in the caliper and decided to keep going but monitor it.

The Thruway was closed

Back on the big road, we went through the final toll booth and took I-190 to the Peace Bridge. The US side had two lanes open and was backed up to the Canadian side. Again we were lucky because almost no one was going to Canada this morning and we were on Canadian soil by 10:45. There were lineups of about four cars at each Customs booth. I couldn't tell if the NEXUS lane was open until I saw a car use it and then I slipped between the pylons into that lane and approached the booth. One card failed to scan so the agent did it for me and then, after one easy question about purchases, welcomed us home. The wheel was still squeaking.

US bound traffic on the Peace Bridge

The QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way) was busy on the Niagara bound side but we had an easy go. Sandy got a picture of the shipwreck at Jordan Station. we pass this all the time and  I have always wondered what the story behind it was. I was able to find this via Google. You would think something this prominent would be better known.

Jordan Station shipwreck

What rear licence plate?

How hard is it for someone merging onto a freeway to come up the ramp, accelerate to match speed and then slip into a gap? I guess the lady who triggered this thought by trying to merge at a much lower speed and then accelerating to Warp 9 would have done better if she hadn't simultaneously been applying makeup.

I noted flashing height limit warnings when we started up the Burlington Skyway. Then I noted height warnings on each lane of the superstructure. Of course, none of it matters if someone leaves the box on their extended dump truck up. The guy must have been drunk. Oh yes, it looks like he was.

Warnings on the Burlington Skyway

We drove on across Toronto on the ETR407 and caught Highway 400 northbound, stopping for fuel and food at the new Service Centre at King. There, we found that the brain trust at MTO had not allowed enough parking for more than a few trucks. It was jammed so we skipped on to the other new Centre in Barrie, where there was more room. After getting food to go at Tim's, I topped up the tank (I hate Canadian fuel prices) and we rolled on.

North of Barrie, the 400 is down to one side of the highway. When we were going south, there were two lanes northbound and one southbound separated by a concrete barricade. Now, there were two lanes southbound. This barricade goes for quite a few miles but is segmented and I believe I saw video about how a mobile unit can relocate it relatively quickly. Do they do that every weekend to accommodate traffic flow?

Traffic was light to Parry Sound. To our horror, we saw a few trees already trying to change colour. Damn, where has the summer gone?

A splash of orange foliage

We stopped at the French River Trading Post forty miles south of Sudbury for a bathroom break. There was a prominent sign saying the washrooms were only for paying customers and directing the public to the Visitor Centre one mile south. I don't remember this from before but I bought a coffee to go after using the facilities just to stay honest.

Last stop

As we approached Sudbury, the clouds started to build as usual. At MR 55 and Highway 17, we saw a  two element oversize load with police escort getting ready to move. There is another thing I'm glad we didn't meet on the road.

Clouds over Sudbury

Large load

We pulled into the driveway at 5:00 PM and had the truck emptied, the bike unloaded and the trailer parked by 5:40. Then we mowed part of the lawn before knocking off for the evening. While I was mowing, our neighbor Jay stopped over to tell me that a black bear had been prowling our yards last night and showed no fear of humans. Good to know after dark.

It was another good trip. There have been too few this summer but we are looking forward to Arkansas in September. By the way, the truck wheel had stopped squeaking by the time we got home.

Today's Route (432 Avalanche miles):