Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Holiday Season

Here we are at the end of 2015 and I haven't posted anything since we got back from Disney World.

The biggest thing I have been working on was Operation Red Nose, which kicked off Saturday, November 27th. Teams of volunteers  drive holiday party people and their vehicles home safely. It operates Thursday, Friday and Saturday every week until the end of December and then on New Years Eve.

For a few years now, I have been coordinating Red Nose participation by Action Sudbury and the Impact 6/21 Foundation, two local groups whose mandates are to reduce impaired driving. The Freedom Riders Motorcycle Association have supported this in the last few years, but this year wanted to participate under their own banner. And their participation this year was awesome.

I have graduated from a group coordinator to Head Trainer last year and then slowly assumed responsibility for keeping the list of volunteers, scheduling, end of night wind-up and pretty much whatever else President Lesli required. I was on site every night, and got out on the road many of them. This cause inspires the volunteers, both regular and occasional, to go above and beyond so it is easy for me to become more committed.

The OPP Vets Chapter 13 held its annual Christmas gathering on December 3rd at the Copper Cliff Italian Club. We bowled in their downstairs alleys, held a meeting and then had a buffet dinner. I am a member of the OPPVA because of my past time as a Special Constable with the Snowmobile Trail Office Patrol. STOP Officers are welcome and many of the police officers I worked with belong. In fact, I am now the chapter Secretary/Treasurer.

OPPVA 13 also spent two days manning kettles for the Salvation Army, one at a new liquor store and the other at Costco. We do this every year. I am not a believer but I do respect the work that the Sally Ann does and don't mind contributing a few hours to the cause.

It was a funny December. The snow that came at the end of November went away and roads were clear right up until after Christmas. Sam opened Cedar Green Golf Course and people played Christmas Day. Greens fees were a donation to the Sudbury Food Bank. Other people rode their motorcycles on Christmas Day. The snow arrived Boxing Day night while I was handing out Tim Horton's coffee cards on behalf of Operation Red Nose at police sobriety spot checks.

Mike, Kim and the girls came to Sudbury on December 27th. They stayed at TownePlace Suites and we went out to eat at various places. We also took the girls to see The Good Dinosaur, fulfilling a promise we made at Walt Disney World. They headed back south on the 30th.

Visiting great grandma - four generations

Grandpa Jim worn out in the hotel room

So now we are at New Years Eve, ready to ring in 2016 as we help revelers and their vehicles get home on behalf of Operation Red Nose. This is a hard night to get volunteers and we stay open an extra hour until 4:00 AM. I will be working with Tom and Eve, fellow Freedom Riders and friends from the snowmobile world for almost 30 years. Sandy will be riding along with us. She was already out one night with me on the 19th, the eve of our 35th wedding anniversary.

So to all of you, it has been an eventful year. We enjoyed the things we did and were sorry some things had to be cancelled due for medical reasons. Hopefully, that is behind us for a while. Take care and we'll see you in the morning.

Monday, November 23, 2015

R.I.P. Karen 'Cat' Siegelaar V~6724

We lost a good friend today. Cat Siegelaar of Fillmore, California passed away unexpectedly. She leaves behind her husband Jim, who she met through VROC.

Cat was a renowned long distance rider who was well known at major VROC gatherings. She and Jim were the organizers of the Aebleskiver Rally in Solvang, California for the last few years.

Rest In Peace, Cat. We're going to miss you.

Cat and Jim Siegelaar - Solvang, California - 2011

Memorial Page

Monday, November 09, 2015

Cambridge Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

After the late arrival early this morning, I slept until 10:30 AM. When I got up, I had a coffee, swapped some photos with Mike and gave Kim a stuffed Eeyore to pass on to Jasper.

By 11:45, we had the gear in the Equinox and fixed the wing mirrors where some twit had folded them back while we were away.

I have no idea why we have this picture

It was 50F and sunny when we set out. After getting food at McDonald's, we followed back roads to the 401 where the GPS took us towards Toronto. Because of the time of day, I had no qualms about taking Highway 401 to the 400 and avoiding the prohibitive 407 tolls.

There was a solid wind out of the south that pushed us once we got on the 400. It was still 50F near sundown while we saw motorcycles on the road. This was very unusual for November. The trip was uneventful except for a nagging pain in my lower right back, and we pulled into our driveway at 4:45 PM.

Trip Summary

Looking back on the trip, we had a few observations.

First, the girls. We had been concerned about how they might behave since they can be a handful at times. But they were as good as gold throughout the trip. It was a major pleasure to accompany them to Disney World.

Second, the crowds. November is no longer what it was back in the day. There used to be two parks and four hotels on the property. Now there are four parks and we have no idea how many hotels. Looking at the latest stats, it appears the two weeks after New Years might be the best time.

Bottom line, the trip was expensive (especially considering the drop of the Loonie versus the US dollar) but we would not have missed it for anything. Next time, early January and a budget resort.

Today's Route (291 Equinox miles):

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Walt Disney World to Cambridge Ontario

Our last morning in Walt Disney World had dawned. The express checkout page had been slipped under our doors while we slept. I checked it and found all to be in order. We had to be out of the room by 11:00 while the bus was supposed to leave for the airport at 5:50 PM.

If we were traveling within the USA, we would have been able to check our bags directly from the hotel. Because we were International, we would have to take our bags to the airport with us. What we could do was take the bags to the lobby and leave them in the custody of Bell Services until it was time to depart.

After stacking our bags on a luggage cart and tipping the bellman, we went to the Contempo for our final breakfast. I have to say that this restaurant has been a good start to most of our days. The food choices were good and the service was quick. It was fun to eat while the express monorail took the day visitors, noses pressed against the windows, over our heads.

With the day at our disposal, we once again returned to the Magic Kingdom by monorail. Mike owed Jolene a ride on the Tomorrowland Speedway, so the rest of us took Robyn to The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (a repurpose of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride). Better than It's A Small World!

Back on Main Street

Jolene at the wheel

Driving diva

Afterwards, we met Mike and Jolene at the Monsters Inc. Theater. This is a stage show but some audience members are included by being caught on camera and put up on screens by the stage. For some reason, they picked Mike to play the role of Sully which had all of us laughing. Except Mike, who was busy being Sully:-)

After the show, we had ten minutes to get across the park for our FastPass on Pirates Of The Caribbean. It was hotter and more humid than it had been all week, but we persevered and arrived with three minutes to spare. This time, the ride was not shut down and we got to ride it right to the  end.

A word on the weather. It turns out that this has been the hottest first week of November since they started keeping records over 100 years ago. Plus the humidity today is so thick you could cut it with a knife. To say it was oppressive would be an understatement. My clothes were soaked with sweat and sticking to me like glue.

There are stroller lots all over the park

From Pirates, we rode the Aladdin Carpets where Robyn found a sword. We turned it in to the nearest cast member. The breeze from the moving carpets was a blessing.

Aladdin Magic Carpets

On a magic carpet ride.......

There were no more high power rides available for FastPass so we went back to the midway in Fantasyland for another Dumbo ride. Then it was back to Adventureland where we went to the Enchanted Tiki Room for old times sake.

We had to wait for another Robinson family to get their pictures

It was a good time for ice cream. They had an orange slushy with soft serve ice cream and citrus swirled 8 inches high. They can be messy if you aren't careful but they are cold.

Enjoying slushies

We worked our way back to Main Street where the ladies went shopping for a while. The shops have all manner of Disney and related paraphernalia. The rest of us waited outside.

Waiting for the shoppers

Rather than take the monorail, we got on the direct boat from the Magic Kingdom landing to the dock at Wilderness Lodge. From there, we switched to one of the Bay Lake boats that took us to the Contemporary dock.

Someone is tuckered out

Contemporary Resort Gardens

We recovered our bags from Bell Services about 4:00 PM and settled down in the air conditioned lobby to wait for our bus. As the time drew near, I spent some time talking to Chantal from Guest Services about changes they were planning. The bus finally arrived, we stowed our bags underneath and climbed aboard. After another couple of stops at other resorts, we were on our way.

Our arrival at the Orlando Airport at 7:00 PM was Terminal B, Level 1. We had to find our way to Level 3 to find the crossover to Terminal A. When we got to the WestJet counter, there was no one else around. They took our bags, issued our boarding passes and sent us to TSA Security.

Kim, Mike and the girls were directed to an express line for parents with small children. That was very thoughtful of the TSA. Sandy and I went the long way but there was hardly any line. We both got sent through the full body scan machine. When we got through, a supervisor named Barry was asking people for their opinions on the process. I told him the sign telling people what to expect should be further along in the line. He seemed surprised that anyone would read a sign. He was also engaged in a long conversation with Jolene.

We caught the monorail to the building where our gate was located. They had seating and some restaurants in the hub, so we had a late meal of Burger King while we waited for our flight to be called. Of course I still can't decipher what they say over airport PA systems despite all the new technology.

The plane was to board at 9:00 PM. WestJet does not pre-board children in Orlando because there are so many of them. We got on board and settled into our seats to watch the folks struggle to fit outrageous amounts of luggage into the overhead compartments.

Airborne 20 minutes late, we were treated to a brilliant display of heat lightning out the port windows. We ate our last container of Contempo potato chips and filled out our customs forms. Our cabin crew had left Orlando this morning, flown to Ottawa, returned to Orlando and were now on their way to Toronto. That was quite a day for them.

We touched down at Pearson International Airport at 12:21. We made our declarations at Customs and collected our bags. The second Customs officer waved us through and we found the stretch limo driver waiting with a sign that said "Jolene & Robyn". The 32F temperature felt good after the heat of the Florida day. We arrived in Cambridge at 2:20 AM and went straight to bed.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Disney World - Quiet Day and Magic Kingdom

Today would be our last full day here. We all woke up late and I continued blog notes and photo sorting. It's hard to imagine that I have published so little of the blog, considering how much time I have invested in it.

We stopped at the Contempo Cafe about 10:30 for breakfast. I went and spoke to Concierge and Bell Services about how to get our bags stored tomorrow while we were wandering the park. Then we went back to the room where Sandy did some packing. The mousekeeper told us that Very Merry Christmas was starting tomorrow and the hotels would be packed. Mike took the girls to the pool for a while.

We arrived at Mickey's Character Buffet next to the Contempo Cafe in the Contemporary lobby at 5:30 PM. The food was good and the characters were plentiful.

Meeting the chef

Goofy must be the sous chef

The family portrait


That's rude!

Don't mess with Minnie!

We had decided to spend the last evening in the Magic Kingdom.The monorail platform was jammed, apparently due to the influx of people for a marathon (lots in running gear) and the early Very Merry Christmas arrivals.

We made it to the first FastPass to meet Ariel at 7:30. I waited outside, resting on a wall, while the rest went inside.

Going in to see Ariel

Meeting the mermaid

The Ariel visit went quickly and they were back a lot sooner than I expected. Then we visited Anna and Elsa of Frozen fame. One of these days, I will have to watch the movie.

Robyn and Minnie

Waiting our turn


Big hugs

We all get in the picture

Meeting Elsa


Group photo

We moved on the the old midway style area in the northeast corner of Fantasyland where the Flying Dumbos are now located. They rode Dumbo and the Barnstormer kids' roller coaster before it started spitting rain. The rain started to pick up so we started back towards the monorail station.

Classic Magic Kingdom

At the hotel, I used my last three snack credits for three side orders of Contempo potato chips. These 'homemade' chips are excellent. We finished our main packing and Kim booked our seats for the flight back but couldn't print the boarding passes. She did prepay for our checked bags. And we re-booked the Pirates of the Caribbean for tomorrow morning.

Before going to bed, I ate an apple crisp dessert I had in the fridge since Monday, washed down with a cup of decaf. Our lasy night in Mouseland.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Disney World - Epcot

I woke up to the realization that the week was quickly sliding by. We arrived on Sunday and it was already Friday. I was up at 7:00 ready to go to Epcot, but I was the only one. Finally, after breakfast at the Contempo Cafe, we made it to the monorail platform by 10:00.

Ready to go again

Arriving at Epcot

Our first stop at Epcot was Mission Space. Kim and Mike tried this the other night when they were here. It was a simulator ride with two levels of intensity. They did the milder one before and Mike, Sandy and the girls opted for that again. Kim and I went for the more extreme ride. I've never been on a simulator before that was equipped with barf bags.

Robyn is tall enough

Ready for Mission Space

The ride was fun. Gary Sinise was our mission director. He instructed us to keep our heads back against the headrest and our eyes on the screen or there would be a good chance we would need the barf bags. There were four people in a capsule. We each had a role (commander, pilot, navigator, engineer) and a task assigned for our training mission to Mars. The ride actually pulled 2.5 positive G's as well as slipping to the negative side.

Needless to say, we survived the mission.

The seasoned space veterans moved on to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival Center. This is a two month celebration of food and wine from around the world with booths throughout Epcot.

The Food and Wine Festival Headquarters

Coffee, anyone?

We moved on to the Electric Umbrella Restaurant, a quick serve place that features burgers, fries, mac & cheese and the like. It was good and dessert, a 140 calorie no sugar and gluten free brownie, was awesome.

Jolene and Robyn went to the Ladies Room by themselves and turned the wrong way when they came out. To their credit, neither of them panicked and they got their mistake figured out before we went looking for them.

The Electric Umbrella

OMG It's Gluten (and sugar) Free

Our next scheduled activity was FastPasses to Soarin', located in The Land. This is one of the most popular rides in the entire resort. FastPasses must be booked days or weeks ahead. It simulates riding a hang glider or similar conveyance over the California countryside.  It is a peaceful and relaxing tour, and you can even smell the oranges as you swoop over the citrus groves. I'd do this again. And again. We met a couple in line who live about 60 miles away and come to Epcot regularly just to enjoy Soarin'. The current version will shut down in January and be upgraded to a new Soarin' experience, expected to open by summer.

On the way to Soarin'

Leaving The Land, we were now able to book a new FastPass. The one we really wanted, Test Track, was booked solid. In fact, even with pre-booking you can't reserve both Soarin' and Test Track on the same day. So we went to Imagination for the old Figment ride. Sandy was wearing her 30 year old Figment shirt, which got some comments from the cast members present (most of whom were much younger than the shirt).

Figment was dated. So was Captain Eo, the laser and dance show with the late Michael Jackson which was cutting edge when it was made by George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola at the peak of Jackson's career in 1986.

Somewhere in Epcot

Somewhere else in Epcot

Hey, Minnie!

Imagination, the home of Figment

After we finished in Imagination, we moved on to the World Showcase, a series of national pavilions arrayed around a lagoon. It was jam packed with people enjoying the food and wine in all the Festival booths around the circle.

Our first stop was the Mexico Pavilion where we took a boat ride through Mexico escorted by the Three Caballeros (Donald Duck, José "Zé" Carioca and Panchito) from the 1944 movie of the same name.

Next, we started around the lagoon counter-clockwise, beginning with Canada. We moved through the United Kingdom, France (Escargot croissants and alcohol frozen treats), Morocco, Japan, America, Italy, Germany and China, before arriving at our supper destination in Norway.

Paris in the background

They were framed

French cuisine

Mike eating snails

Rainbow from Italy

Mike asked if we could get a picture of this

Taking a break

What were we looking at?

Kids and drums

Someone is getting wet

We arrived at the Norway pavilion where the Maelstrom Ride used to be, It was shut down a year ago, to be replaced by a new ride based on the film Frozen early next year. We looked at some features before lining up for our reservation with the princesses at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Jolene befriends a troll

On our way to our table

All the servers were from Scandinavia. Marit, possibly the prettiest of the pretty, looked after us. There was a well appointed appetizer buffet, but we ordered our entrees a la carte. I remember our first time at Disney World back in 1985 when the meal plan consisted of three sit down meals a day and it took us a few days to realize we could not eat three full meals every day. Now I think that one full meal, one quick serve meal and a snack may be too much. I skipped the dessert medley of rice pudding with ganache, choocolate mousse and an apple blossom pastry.

The character element was billed as Princesses On Parade. I don't know one princess from another, but there were a lot of them.

After supper, Sandy and I took the girls back to the hotel while Kim and Mike stayed to sample the wines and food. It was dark at 6:45 as we took the monorail back to the Transportation Center. Imagine our surprise when we found the Resort Monorail was shut down. We could have taken the Express to the Magic Kingdom and walked but took the ferry across the Seven Seas Lagoon instead.

Waiting for the ferry

On the ferry, we talked to a lady whose son had been a US Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer for twenty years. She told us he may have been the only Rescue Swimmer to have actually been bitten by a shark. I do know that that Rescue Swimmer training makes the Navy Seal requirements look like a walk in the park.

From the Magic Kingdom, we walked to the Contemporary. As we were getting close, the Resort Monorail went by over our heads.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

We got back to hotel before 8:00 PM. While we were in the lobby, a man with a walker fell on the escalator and I found the STOP button was hard to activate under its Plexiglas cover. I managed to get it stopped and the staff took over. It looked like all was going to be fine.

In the room, we found the Mousekeeper had installed an Olav balloon on their bed.


At 9:00 PM, I took the girls to the dock where we caught one of the boats that circumnavigate Bay Lake. We did a lap of the lake and met a couple from Nottingham, England who had been married at the Grand Floridian ten years ago. They were back on a 19 day trip to celebrate their anniversary.

We got back to our dock just as the light and music show was starting on the water. Back in our room before 10:00, the girls went right to sleep. Kim and Mike didn't roll in until after midnight. After Epcot, they went over to Disney Springs and enjoyed the Cirque Du Soleil extravaganza. It was nice to give the two of them a chance to get away by themselves for a while.