Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year End - A Quiet Quarter

We haven't posted a blog entry since we got back from Arkansas in September.

On October 3rd, Sandy's mother Janet had her right hip replaced at Health Sciences North. Jan was 88 years old at the time, which puts the lie to the propaganda from south of the border that the government health care system here cuts old folks loose. She came through the surgery just fine.

Jan after surgery 

The family decided Jan wasn't going to be able to return to the home where she had lived alone since her husband Harry passed away in 2014. We had arranged for her to have respite care at a retirement residence where we hoped she might take up permanent residency, but they declined to take her after a physical and cognitive assessment.

The week after the surgery, Tom and Heather brought Jasper and Fiona up to catch a Splash 'N Boots show and to visit with Grandma And Grandpa. They managed to visit Great Grandma Jan and take in Science North as well.

Another four generation photo
Sandy, Jan, Fiona & Heather

At Splash & Boots

Multi Axis Trainer at Science North

Jasper meets a bug

During the last quarter, the Freedom Riders made a concerted effort to put the deferred donation account, funds we have earmarked for local children's charitable causes, to work. We donated $500 to the Infant Food Bank, $1,000 to the NEO Kids Foundation at the hospital, $1,000 to a local family facing severe financial hardship due to their son's surgeries in Toronto and $500 to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program (CAMHP).

Freedom Riders donate to the Infant Food Bank

Freedom Riders Donate to the NEO Kids Foundation

Sandy and I had the pleasure of meeting Conservative Party of Canada leadership Candidate Maxime 'Mad Max' Bernier at a local bakery. He was passing through town and a few of the CPC members answered an invitation to hear him come out and speak. It was a very small informal gathering, so we actually got some one-on-one time. Max is the only true libertarian running for the leadership, so Sandy and I even joined the party so we could vote for him. We can always quit again when the campaign is over:-)

Sandy and (hopefully) future Prime Minister Bernier

We're with you, Max

We got to mid-November and Jan was still in the hospital. All the Long Term Care homes are under the control of the provincial government. There are seven in our area with 1,600 beds and there are approximately 1,300 people on a list waiting to get in. This is one of the downsides to the government system, not dealing with real finite limits. The system gives lower priority to people actually in hospital so we finally made a move to bring her home. This elevated her status to Crisis and led to a bed at Extendicare York nursing home before she even moved. In the meantime, Sandy and I had been spending six hours a day at the hospital because the facilities were not geared to long term care.

Jan and Sandy in her room at Extendicare York

Neither of the Extendicare locations are the preferred long term care facilities in Sudbury, but the waiting list at the better places is measured in years. She is still on the list for upgrade if something should become available. In the meantime, she is lucky to have a very nice roommate in Pearl, who is five years her senior.

Just after Jan moved, I attended the Action Sudbury Citizens Against Impaired Driving Red Ribbon Campaign Kickoff. MADD originated the Red Ribbon symbolizing sober driving in the USA, but Action Sudbury started the tradition first in Canada. As a past Vice Chair, I like to attend and this time was bringing a message of support from Operation Red Nose Sudbury, where I have been getting more and more involved.

Mary Roy talks to Evolutionary Band director Norm McIntosh

A number of local dignitaries spoke about the need for people to make responsible choices. Action Sudbury Chair Ron Roy told me I would be up right after the presentation of the Rollande Mousseau Citizen Recognition Award. This is the honour Action Sudbury bestows each year on a citizen who has worked diligently to promote safe and sober driving. The surprise was on me when Brenda and Rolly called my name. I was honoured and humbled to be recognized in the company of past award winners, including the late but never forgotten Normie Hein.

The Rollande Mouuseau Award 2016

In mid-November, I started to pick up the pace with Operation Red Nose Sudbury. As volunteer coordinator, I received the application forms and background checks from police, entered all the pertinent data in a spreadsheet and worked out which of the sixteen operating nights each person would be coming out. I notified the volunteers their information was received, reminded them before their shifts and prepared worker lists for each night. Then I oversaw the sign-in table and conducted orientations for the new people. I also backed up President Lesli in supervising the hall and end of night wrap up activities. When I wasn't busy, I went on the road. Damn, that seems like a lot:-))

The Freedom Riders were one of the most active community groups/businesses to support the Red Nose campaign over the last few years.

One of the Freedom Riders nights at Operation Red Nose

Christmas was quiet. Kim and Mike brought Jolene and Robyn up just after the holiday. They saw Great Grandma and we went to a movie together. Heather and Tom were also coming up for several days in the new year.

The family at the movies

It is hard to believe that another year is done. The older we get, the faster time flies. Happy New Year all and we will see you when we see you.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Auburn Indiana to Sudbury Ontario

We started north on I-69 at 6:45 AM after a hot Hampton Inn breakfast. After crossing into Michigan, the roads got rougher, as usual. In Lansing, we took US 127 north but it took me two tries. I have gone through this interchange many times and yet I somehow got turned around and found us heading for Port Huron on the first attempt.

Usually, the trees here are well into their colour change this time of year, but all Sandy got to photograph was a few tinges. Maybe fall will be late this year. Maybe we can golf on Christmas Day again??

A bit of colour

A bit more

Trees are taking their time

I was really starting to feel really tired so Sandy took over the driving from Gaylord to Mackinaw City.

Team driver

Clouds behind clouds

Big Mac comes into view

Rested, I took the wheel back  before we crossed the Mackinac Bridge. The High Wind signs were up but they didn't affect the Equinox.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

Lanes closed as usual

Hydro-Jet Ferry

Gateway to a different world

The Upper Peninsula was quiet. We stopped for fuel before crossing the border. There was almost no traffic US bound and we drove down to find an empty lane just waiting for us. The border agent asked what we were bringing back with us. I told him we had various items amounting to $250 US and he waived us right through. Total time on the bridge was about four minutes. Best crossing ever.

Lake boat leaving locks for Lake Superior

No one ahead of us

The trip back was uneventful until we got to the Spanish River Bridge. It was still one lane but we got across quickly. Then we got stuck in a much longer line because they were paving at Old Nairn Road. Then there was another and finally a 4th flagger by Fairbanks Road. That was a miserable final 35 miles after a 2,500 mile trip. Good old MTO.

Two seasons in Northern Ontario - winter and construction

Even the cops don't get a break

Will they get it finished by winter?

We finally pulled into our driveway a little before 5:30. It is always sad to get home after the last run of the year. Hopefully, it will be a short winter and then we can do it all over again.

Today's Route (600 Equinox miles):

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Eureka Springs Arkansas to Auburn Indiana

Thanks to everyone (especially Laura) for another great VROC gathering. The Stonegate Inn worked out well for us. The WiFi could have used more bandwidth, since it stalled when we all got on line, but it was better than most places VROC ends up. In-room coffee would have been nice as well. Maybe we will go Biker's route and start bringing a Keurig. All in all, we had a great time.

Oh yes, Happy 61st Birthday to my brother Dave (Rabbi).

We were up at 4:15 AM. Sherm was out the door at 4:25 while we hit the road at 4:40. It was a pleasant 66 degrees although there was a lot of condensation on the windows that the climate control system in the Equinox did not seem to be able to handle for a while.

It was just after 5:00 when we went through the McDonald's parking lot in Berryville but none of the outside lights were on. We opted to keep going up through Blue Eye into Missouri and over to US 65 North.

Sunrise over US 65

Going by Branson


We stopped at the McDonald's we sometimes visit in Ozark. They had kiosks like we have at home, but they were not operational. The young lady said they were an experiment, as was the Build Your Own Burger, so I guess Canada is ahead as far as Mickey D's technology goes. Except for all day breakfast. We don't have that.

Heading northeast on I-44, the sun was in our eyes except when we encountered occasional patches of fog. Rather than go through St. Louis like usual, I decided to take I-255 and cross the Mississippi River south of the city. We got fuel in Sullivan and lunch at the McDonald's in Effingham.

Fog on I-44 in Missouri

Bridges over the Mississippi River on I-255

Old Man River

From Show Me to Land Of Lincoln

Nice vehicle for a Sunday drive

Someone zigged when they should have zagged

Effingham Illinois

We continued on through Illinois on into Indiana where we went south around Indianapolis on I-465. We came out on I-69 up through Fort Wayne, rolling into Auburn at 5:00 PM Eastern. Losing the hour moving east did not set us back much. We took a tour through town before returning to the Hampton Inn. With 692 miles down today, we would have a little less than 600 to cover tomorrow.

A house in Auburn Illinois

After we settled into our room, we went to the nearby Cracker Barrel for supper. We called Sherm and found he was almost to Grants, New Mexico and still rolling. Supper was OK but my chopped steak was a little too well done.

The Old Country Store

They are all the same

Back in the room, we went to bed early. Hampton Inn's have the best mattresses and pillows. We can't afford them all the time (or maybe we can?) but we don't avoid them when one is in the right spot. I read for a bit and then fell fast asleep.

Today's Route (692 Equinox miles):

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Eureka Springs - Crescent Hotel, War Eagle Mill and more ice cream

From today, it will be exactly six month until St. Patrick's Day.

A number of people pulled out this morning. Malachi & Corvette headed for Colorado while Debbie, Vickie and Kay went towards Texas. Plaything told Scooter that fourteen hours on the road was not her idea of a one day ride, so they were Chattanooga bound a day ahead of plan. This was her first long haul on the Spyder and she was doing great.

As we were bidding Au Revoir to everyone (that is so much less final than goodbye), Magellan and  family headed off to have a quiet ceremony to remember his son-in-law J-POB, who passed away back in January at the young age of 38. Brian was a smiling face on the VROC circuit for years and we are really going to miss him.

Saying goodbyes

The Texas ladies are leaving

Hot Sauce, Mal, Hang, Zeke and Corvette


J-POB's ride to the bridge

Mal and Corvette heading home

There they go

Once everyone was gone, Zeke and Hang joined Sandy, Sherm and I as we headed over to try the breakfast buffet at the Crescent Hotel. This was the dining room that we jammed 416 VROCers into (capacity was 350 according to the fire department) back in 2001 for a banquet sponsored by Kawasaki as well as the place where, back in 2003, photos showed more orbs than a Lawrence Welk bubble machine.

At 9:00 AM, there was all kinds of space and nary an orb to be seen in the dining room. The food was well prepared, although we had a little misunderstanding regarding the charges. Unlike any other buffet I have ever attended, there was a separate charge for using the omelette preparation table. Our server was very good looking but could have been a better communicator. We chose not to make a fuss and went on with our day.

Crystal Room at the Crescent Hotel

Breakfast buffet

No orbs

We got back to the hotel about 11:00 AM and found no one else there. After doing a bit of planning for the trip home, we decided to go for a drive.

The five of us piled back into the Equinox. First stop was War Eagle Mill, which had been partway underwater during the flooding last fall. The water level was part way up the first floor but it was now fixed up as good as new. This is pretty routine since the mill flooded twice in 2009, once in 2011 and again in 2015.

I did a bad thing and bought some of the unusual candies. Sherm chose peanut brittle made with Tennessee moonshine while I got Jack Daniels pecan pralines and something called Wicked Mix.

War Eagle Mill

The drive line

Unusual goodies

I should not have bought these

Or these

The bridge at War Eagle Mill

The dam

The rare undershot water wheel

Some history

From War Eagle, we continued on around Beaver Lake to Rogers. It was too early to stop at G@d's BBQ for lunch so we kept going down the new highway to the east. OK, it's an old highway with a new surface and another lane each way. Before too long, we found ourselves back at the Shortstop in Garfield where we introduced Zeke and Hang to the outrageous ice cream cones.

Meanwhile, back at the Shortstop....

Then we looped around to pay a visit to the world's largest beaver dam before returning to our motel.

Another dam view

The Beaver Dam holding back Beaver Lake

A thoughtful moment

Back at the Stonegate, we started to pack and load up for an early morning departure. Some character showed up with a karaoke machine. Apparently he is a regular and has a deal with motel management but he didn't fit in with our vibe and, after a conversation with a few members, he opted to go elsewhere for the evening.

Supper was the leftovers from Hot Sauce's stupendous feed last night. He made up what he considered to be a mild chili. Us poor Canuckians still found it warm, but the brisket was to die for. No one ever goes hungry when Scott and Margot are around. Thank both of you (and all that helped out) for all you do year after year.

Southern Draw recharging his batteries



So much food, so little time


Gambler digs into the chili

As the sun set on our last gathering of the year, there were goodbyes all around. Many of us would be leaving before first light tomorrow so this was the final adieu. The last run of the season is always bittersweet but we know that, when winter is done, we'll do it all again.

With two long days to get home (Sherm's route was 1,296 miles while we had 1,280 miles), the three of us hit the sack early.

Today's Route (79 Equinox miles):