Monday, May 03, 2021

Another Memory From Fifty Years Ago

Here is another brief walk down memory lane. I am recording these things so that once my memory has slipped, I can read and remember.

Fifty years ago, May 3 1971, I rode my new Yamaha 350 from my meager apartment in Gatchell to the Inco General Office in Copper Cliff. I proudly walked into the office carrying my helmet like a badge that told the world that I was a little bit different, a man to be reckoned with. I was a biker.

The men in the Pay Office (women were not allowed to work there until 1974) made the appropriate noises but the boss, Bob McInnis, looked at me like I had two heads. It was a pretty conservative place back then.

Mondays and Tuesdays, the Copper Cliff Police Force (company owned) drove us out to TD banks, mines and surface plants to hand out pay cheques. We had over 18,000 hourly rated employees back then and I personally handed cheques to about 4,000 of them a week. I spent Monday morning at the main TD bank branch on Durham Street paying men who worked at the mills, smelter and refineries (Tuesday was mines day). Back in the office, I was scheduled to spend the afternoon at the Iron Ore Recovery Plant, sitting in the Time Office with Timekeeper Hank Harrison and handing out cheques to the workers as they came off shift. Normally, I would be driven over there by Copper Cliff  Police Corporal Lloyd Walford, a jovial, portly man who I could not imagine doing actual police work. This day, I asked Lloyd to take the cheque box and meet me at the plant gate.

I fired up the R5 and, in a cloud of blue two-stroke smoke, pulled out of the parking lot. Now that I had been riding two whole days, I figured I knew what I was doing. I took Power Street and followed it onto company property past the Copper Refinery gate. I crested a mild hill and saw a large patch of gravel at the end of the road to the new Nickel Refinery, which was under construction. Alarmed, I applied the brakes. Or rather, I applied the front brake because I knew that is where most of the braking power came from. Most of the time. Unfortunately, this was long before ABS and the front wheel locked in the gravel, losing the gyroscopic effect that kept the bike upright. Down we went, the bike and I, at about 40 MPH. I slid, it slid, eventually stopping in a crowd of dust.

I will give the old Yammies credit, they were tough. Thankful for my old, used leather motorcycle jacket and gloves, I got up, dusted myself off and picked up the bike. The handlebars were crooked but everything else looked good so I fired it up and rode the last quarter mile to the IORP gate. Lloyd, using his keen police powers of observation, noted that something had happened. I told him I was fine and he suggested I look again. Blood was running out from under my right sleeve and dripping on the ground. Something had punctured my leather jacket and then my skin as the sleeve slid up. I had a gash in my forearm ending just below the elbow.

Hank took the cheque box to the Time Office while I was sent to the adjacent First Aid Room. The attendant cleaned the wound as well as he could (gravel kept coming out of it for a couple of weeks afterwards), applied antiseptic and bandaged it. Then I went back out to do my job. Soon after, I began to feel cold, clammy and faint. Before I fell off the stool, Hank got me back to First Aid where they decided I was in shock and needed to lie down on a cot. Hank handed out cheques until I felt better.

When it was time to leave, I took the meager tools and loosened the bolts on the front end. Then I grabbed the bars, pulled them into the right place and tightened the bolts again before riding home. And that was that.

Until the next day when I walked into the Pay Office and Bob, the Paymaster, said "Here comes Skid". In addition to being Inco's first Workman's Compensation motorcycle accident, I had earned a new nickname. It probably would not have stuck if the incident on May 17th had not happened. More on that later, but fifty years have gone by and Skid still how many people know me.

Fifty years. Wow. Where has the time gone?

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Fifty Years

 Today is a very important anniversary in my life.

Fifty years ago, May 1st 1971, I was 18 years old and had been working in the Inco Pay Office in Copper Cliff, Ontario (a suburb of Sudbury Ontario, then Nickel Capital of the World) since the previous December. Before I moved away from Sault Ste. Marie, I bought a 1970 Yamaha R5 350 cc two stroke motorcycle. As I recall, I paid $912 of borrowed money for it. Because I got it in October, I did not get a chance to ride it before I left town.

The weather forecast for Saturday (May 1st) looked good so I took a Greyhound bus the 180 miles to the Soo on Friday evening. The next morning, after putting the fully charged battery into the bike, I kicked it over. It started right away with that distinctive ringey-dingey-dingey sound that Yamaha two stroke engines of the era were famous for. The R5 350 was a redesigned machine, having been downsized and up-powered from the 1969 350 version To top it off, it was painted a stylish fuchsia and white. Complementing that, I had a metal flake fuchsia helmet, fuchsia shirt and fuchsia socks. Yes, I looked like a neon rider.

1970 Yamaha R5 (not mine but looked just the same)

You have to understand that I had only ridden a motorcycle once before. The previous year, I was the one sitting on an 80cc Suzuki project bike when it finally started so I rode it around my girlfriend's yard until I tangled with a weeping willow tree and ripped off a cable. Despite that shaky start, I was not deterred from the great adventure before me. Once the bike warmed up, I gamely fastened my helmet, clicked the bike into gear and rode to the nearest gas station. After topping up the tank, I turned east on Highway 17 and rode the 180 miles back to Sudbury. And that, friends, was my first motorcycle ride on the road.

Since then, I have had a few incidents (as my nickname might suggest). Two were in the first two weeks of riding and just two more occurred over the next more than 500,000 miles. Riding has been a constant in my life for the last fifty years. It has been about more than just the motorcycles, though. It has been travels far and wide shared with my wife and partner, Sandy, plus all the great people we have met along the way. As I reflect on our history today, I eagerly look forward to what the next fifty years will bring.

Ride safe,
Jim 'Skid' Robinson
Waterloo, Ontario
May 1. 2021

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021

Here it is, New Year's Eve. Time to bid farewell to a year that really turned out to be underwhelming. COVID and a cancelled summer plus the loss of Sandy's Mom Jan, after she deteriorated due to lockdown, made this one we would probably rather forget.

On the plus side, though, we are in a new place where we do not need to worry about maintenance, mowing, snowblowing or any of those other responsibilities of ownership. We took possession two months ago and have not regretted it for a minute.

Soon after we got back from the last trip, the TV arrived. Kim and Mike helped us pick it up in their van and bring it home. While at Leon's, we also ordered two recliners that were delivered just a few days later. Then we ordered a king size platform bed headboard and frame, also from Leon's, and a foam mattress in a box from Douglas. The stacked washer and dryer that came with the unit died (seized dryer motor) so our landlords Vic and Mone bought a new one. It took a while to get it connected due to condo rules that any connections need to be done by a licenced plumber, but they are now working.

We still need a couch, chairs and tables for the living room, furnishings for the guest bedroom and dresser and bedside tables for the master bedroom, in addition to a few other things, but we are getting by just fine.

We found an optometrist and we have a family doctor lined up. The latter was arranged through Health Care Connect, a provincial government service. Unfortunately, Ontario Premier Doug Ford ordered a 28 day lockdown starting Boxing Day due to increasing COVID rates so we won't be able to schedule an appointment until after that ends. Still, there is light at then end of the tunnel.

After several years of looking at it, I am now doing most of my work on my HP Windows 10 convertible, although the W 7 Dell is still in service. I subscribed to Microsoft 365, which came with a TB of OneDrive cloud storage. Most of my files are mirrored there and can be shared with any of my devices. I have one more program to test in the W10 environment and I then will be able to switch over totally. Then I will start working on the photo scanning project. There are so many photos.

So the year was not a total loss. We are staying positive and staying safe. We look forward to seeing people in 2021 and, if the vaccine works out, maybe doing some traveling. So, on an upbeat note,


Friday, November 13, 2020

Waterloo Ontario to Sudbury Ontario Return - The House Is Sold

In the few days since we arrived in Waterloo, we found a Costco and bought a microwave oven. We also checked out Zehr's grocery store and found that they did not have the product lines we liked despite being part of the Loblaws family. Creatures of habit, we found a Real Canadian Superstore just like the one back hope, except it was about six times larger. While there, we registered with the pharmacy. We also stopped by Leon's furniture store and ordered a 65" Samsung Q80T television. This was a couple of sizer larger and a lot better picture quality than the one I broke (No, I swear I did not break it on purpose). We found out that the furniture pipeline was empty and orders could take a long time to fill. Fortunately, they expected this TV to arrive within the week.

Yesterday, we drove to Sudbury and checked into the Hampton Inn. Then we went out to supper at St. Louis Bar & Grill with Leo and Diane.

This morning, as it rained lightly, we went for breakfast at Perkins with Safe Ride Home Sudbury President Lesli Green. We would normally have been starting the 2020 campaign to provide rides home in their own vehicles for clients who thought they might be over the limit. Alas, with COVID, this season was not to be. While I would be stepping down as Volunteer Coordinator, I expected to remain on board in a consultative role as this program that I really believe in moves forward.

We stopped at the house and carefully loaded our pictures in the car. We saw that Lana had picked up the furniture from the garage, The few things remaining, outside the items specified in the sale agreement, did not bother me since we were turning the house over a month earlier than originally agreed to.

Then we drove downtown for our 11:00 AM meeting with our lawyer, Tracy, at Best Law Offices. Sandy and I had been two of Peter Best's first clients back in 1975 and now, with his daughter Amy spearheading the firm, they would fulfill our last legal needs as citizens of Northern Ontario. We signed a lot of papers and turned over our keys to the house we had lived in for 36 years. You would think there might have been a bit of sadness but, to tell the truth, I did not feel it.

It was drizzling as we headed south just after noon. We caught rain in Parry Sound but the sun was out as we took the back road through Hockley on the way home. We noted that the Rosebud parking lot had been closed off since out last trip. The last way in, we were slowed by big trucks taking the back roads late on a Friday afternoon and it started raining as we reached Waterloo. The Equinox was parked in the garage just before 5:00 PM.

Clouds north of Waterloo

We were now full-fledged residents of southern Ontario, something I have not been since before I was three years old. Time to settle in and enjoy our new home.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Sudbury Ontario to Waterloo Ontario - Moving Trip #4 (Last)

Back from Waterloo on Thursday, it was time to get the last things out of the house. I put out a call to the Freedom Riders and had some of our brothers and sisters of the wind come out Sunday and lend a hand. Not only did we get the furniture we were taking to Waterloo loaded in the trailer, we also got the large couch, love seat and other things we were giving to Lana moved to the garage. It would be easier for her to pick them up from there before the 15th. The weather was absolutely spectacular for the move.

Our TV was on the floor and we ended up sitting in camp chairs for the night. That was after we went out for supper with Leo and Diane at St. Louis Bar & Grill.

This morning, we loaded the TV and chairs in the Equinox. The only things remaining were our paintings and prints, which we would pick up next week when we came up to close the deal on the house.

It was spitting a bit as we left town at 8:30 AM. We stopped at the truck pullout at Burwash to dump the garbage and, with the air a balmy 57 F, the morning did not feel like Northern Ontario in November.

I am going to miss Highway 69

Port Severn - Cottages on islands can be a problem here

Not sure what the Mountie Moose was guarding

It was 70 F when we saw a northbound group of sport bikes at Waubaushene. I would bet they were heading into Muskoka for a bonus last day of riding the curves.

Arriving at the condo by mid-afternoon, we geared up for a wait. That was not to be because the afternoon booking did not show up and Alice let us go ahead early. With Mike and Tom not there yet, I started moving everything that I could alone. That turned out to be a lot of things. Mike arrived early and we got the rest of it while Tom, who had to travel from Tillsonburg after work, arriving in time for the clean-up. He also brought some of the boxes I had stored in his garage on the way down.

The son-in-laws went over with me to park the trailer in its new home. Then we came back and I hooked up the new modem/router. It was as easy as Rogers had suggested and we had the WiFi and cable working in no time. The older big TV in the bedroom was OK but we discovered that the cracking noise when I squeezed the screen while picking up the 49" Samsung smart TV was fatal. We knew something would not survive the trip.

At the end of the day, we were finally in residence. We had my roll top desk (circa 1977), our kitchen table and chairs (circa 1975), camp cots and folding camp chairs plus a ginormous number of boxes. Time to start unpacking. Tomorrow.

Today's Route (288 Equinox/trailer miles):

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Thursday, November 05, 2020

Sudbury Ontario to Waterloo Ontario and Back - Moving Trip #3

When we got back from our trip to Waterloo where we picked up the condo keys, we has less than two weeks to get the move done. You can't just pull up to a high rise building any time you want and start unloading a large amount of stuff, so we had booked the freight elevator for three hours Thursday (today) starting at noon. This gave us a target for our penultimate load.

The bulk of our things were going into either bankers boxes or slight larger boxes that had originated at the hospital and came to us via Lana, a schoolmate of Kim and Heather, who had just moved into her first house in Garson. We also arranged to give her some of the furniture we were not taking with us.

Wednesday, I started loading boxes. The symmetry of only having two sizes of box allowed for very orderly arrangement of them in the 5 x 10 trailer. When I had three layers of loaded, we started placing odd shaped and bulky things on top. We also loaded the Equinox and the Kia Rondo, the latter of which would be making a one way trip.

Once again, Leo became an essential member of the moving team. I'm sorry we did not get any photos today because I would have liked to have some visual memories of how this went.

We picked Leo up and brought him over to the house before 6:00 AM this morning. It was warmer as we set out, Sandy and I in the Equinox with Leo following in the Kia Rondo. For our American friends, the Rondo was discontinued in the USA after 2010. This was a 2012 Canadian model Sandy's dad bought new and bequeathed to her in his will. It didn't get used much and had less than 15,000 kms on the odometer. 

It was unseasonably warm (49 F at 7:00 AM) and we saw a northbound Indian motorcycle north of Waubaushene, where we stopped at the new Tim's. Continuing on, we approached Waterloo via Highway 9, Orangeville and Fergus. I found the most efficient way to get to the condo from this side was via Winterbourne and Bridge Street, something I had not considered before.

We arrived at the service doors of 6 Willow Street a couple of minutes before the appointed noon hour. I went in to the management office to look for Alice, the building superintendent, not knowing that she had been watching for me. She tracked me down and watched as we got the vehicles backed up to the service door. Then she showed us how the freight elevator worked and left us to our own devices.

Sandy did not want us wearing shoes inside the unit due to the off-white carpeting. The foyer was tile so that was OK. The system we set up was that Leo would bring the boxes from the trailer and vehicles and stack them by the elevator door. I would load the elevator and ride it up to the 15th floor and carry them into the unit, stacking them in the foyer. Then Sandy would move them into the living room and re-stack them there. The job got finished quickly and we were able to turn the elevator back over to Alice sooner than we expected. Then I booked it again for 6:00 PM to 9:00 on the 9th (so Mike and Tome could help with the furniture move in).

The last task was to take the Kia and park it in one of our spaces in the underground lot.

We were on the road back before 3:00 PM. There were a lot of motorcycles enjoying the unusually warm weather on our way back. Arriving in Sudbury about 8:30 PM, I unhooked the trailer and gave Leo a ride home.

Today's Route (566 Equinox/trailer miles):

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Monday, November 02, 2020

Waterloo Ontario to Sudbury Ontario - Moving Trip #2 (Day 3)

Today was our first morning waking up bright and early in our new home. One thing this place does have is hot water. Lots of it (according to the Welcome to Waterpark Place book, they pressurize the pipes to 150 PSI) and it was instantaneous.

The first stop this morning was at the condo management offices where we met building manager Tracy. We filled out some tenant forms and booked the freight elevator for the afternoon of Thursday November 5th. That would be the first of two trips down to move all of our possessions. On the way, we checked out the exercise room, swimming pool, party room library and billiard room. The pool and exercise room were open, although under COVID restrictions regarding number of people.

I had arranged for cable TV and Internet with Rogers. They had a relatively new system called Ignite where the DVR is actually in the cloud. You get a modem/router and a wireless box for each TV. No cables other than one to connect the modem to the cable outlet. And it was a do-it-yourself install. I got a text from the delivery person and was able to track his progress online, which allowed me to meet him in the parking lot and get my bag of goodies. I just left everything in the unit since we had to head back to Sudbury.

Our new landlords stopped by this morning. Vic and Mone are retired from the University of Waterloo and live in London. They bought this place to be their retirement home but settled in London due to family circumstances and have been leasing this unit out for almost thirty years.. They are very nice folks and were fixing up a few things in the unit.

One last task on the way out was to find the Access Storage office and take care of the paperwork for the storage spot I was renting for our trailer. Then we were heading north just before 1:00 PM.

We followed the secondary roads through Fergus, where we picked up lunch at Mickey D's, and then Orangeville where we followed Highway 9 to Highway 400. Snow flurries started in Barrie and then started to intensify around Mount. St;\. Louis.

Snow in Barrie

After a coffee stop at the new Tim's at Waubaushene, the snow turned to rain near Parry Sound. It was 4:00 PM and starting to get dark. On Highway 69, there was no snow but there were a lot of plows out. What did it matter, it was only taxpayers' money. There was snow on the ground and it was dark when we pulled into the driveway just before 6:00 PM.

Today's Route (285 Equinox miles):

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Sunday, November 01, 2020

Woodstock Ontario to Waterloo Ontario - Moving Trip #2 (Day 2) - We Get The Keys

We had agreed to meet our real estate agent Alex Bunker at the condo at 11:00 AM. It was wet this morning so everyone was lucky they had gotten Halloween done before this system rolled in.

Checking out about 10:00 AM, we drove the 40 miles to Waterloo and parked in the Visitor lot near the front door. Alex arrived shortly after and gave us each a ring of three keys including an RFID fob and a remote control. Alex showed us how the fob opened the front doors, the doors to the amenities like the pool, exercise room, etc. and the entry from the underground garage. A nice couple in the lobby explained that button #1 on the remote opened the garage door to Parking Level 1 where our two spots were located. One key opened the door to the storage lockers on P 1, one opened our mailbox and the last opened the front door to our unit. Then we went up and did a walkthrough of unit 1504, which was just as it had been represented to us. Alex also gave us a welcoming gift basket and then bid us goodbye.

I went down and moved the Equinox into one of our parking spaces. Then I used a cart by the elevators to move our possessions in the car either into the locker or up to our unit. We had brought our camp cots along with the memory foam mattresses and bedding Sandy had made for them and set them up in the master bedroom. We had a couple of camp chairs to sit on but we had no TV yet, so we turned in very early.

Today's Route (40 Equinox miles):

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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario - Moving Trip #2 (Day 1) - Halloween

Since the run to Woodstock last week, we had made great strides in reducing our worldly goods. Darren contacted us a few days ago to see if we were interested in moving the closing date on the house up again. I told him that we could do November 15th if we could leave a few things in the house rather than cleaning everything out. The buyer agreed.

It was now the end of October. Both Halloween and taking possession of the condo were upon us. We decided to go to Woodstock today for Halloween with grandkids (suitably distanced) and then meet Alex at the condo tomorrow morning to pick up the keys.

Marie and Ron came by with their trailer to pick up the master bedroom set Sandy had sold to a friend of theirs. We also loaded them up with any other goods they were willing to take and struck a deal on our snowblower. Then we stuffed as many boxes and essential goods as would fit into the Equinox.

Just after noon, we set out for the south. Imagine our surprise when we reached the end of the four-lane just before the French River and were unexpectedly directed onto the new highway. Rather, we were on half of it, as one side of the new four-lane road was opened for two way traffic. The were on new pavement most of the way to the Grundy turnoff including crossing the French and Pickerel Rivers on new bridges.

The end of the four lane approaching the French River

The French River Trading Post from the new highway

Looking at the old Pickerel River Bridge from the new one

Last week we were on that other highway

We stopped in Parry Sound at McDonald's for coffee and a bathroom break. It was really a chance for me to wake up again. The rest of the way to Highway 401 in Toronto was uneventful except for one stretch at the Aurora exit on 400 where I suddenly noticed the 80 KPH reduced speed sign. Looking down, I saw that we were doing 132 which could trigger a seven day licence suspension and vehicle impoundment (50 KPH over is where this draconian roadside justice comes into play). I slowed down.

We chose the Toronto/401 route because it was Saturday afternoon and we expected traffic to be reasonable. It was, although we saw eastbound traffic in Mississauga held up by police, ambulance and fire vehicles. There was no evidence of a wreck, just a few unmarked pickup trucks. RIDE check? COVID checkpoint? We never did find out.

Eastbound traffic being held up on 401 for an unknown reason

The stopped line up eastbound went on for a long time

We took a detour through Waterloo so I could show Sandy our new home.

Our unit is 14 floors up (15th floor with no 13)

We arrived at the Best Western Plus in Woodstock just before 6:00 PM. After checking in, we headed over to Heather and Tom's where a modified Halloween was underway. Heather, Sandy and I walked the neighborhood with Jasper and Fiona as they visited homes which creatively dealt with the Trick or Treating under COVID conditions.

Heather and Tom's distancing solution - take one

Somebody inventing obits for still-living neighbors

Getting treats while keeping distanced

This household went all out

After we finished the walk through the neighborhood, where a surprising number of houses were still offering the kids candy, we went back to the house and spent some time with the Jasper and Fiona. Then we returned to the hotel after making a stop at a Subway to pick up something for supper.

Today's Route (315 Equinox miles):

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Sudbury to Woodstock Return - Moving Trip #1

Now that we would have the condo on November 1st and had to be out of the house by December 1st, things started to get serious. We had decided that we would not take much of our furniture with us, so it became a race to sell, give away, donate or throw out much of what we had. We also had a massive job going through all the boxes and drawers of "stuff" to decide what would go with us.

We ended up using bankers boxes for a lot of things we decided to take. Sandy did a lot of the work packing them up, a little more every day. We also made a few runs to the Greater Sudbury landfill with junk and to Restore, Value Village and the Pet Thrift Shop with things that still had some miles in them.

Although we did not have the condo yet, Sandy and I decided I should make an advance run to Woodstock. Heather and Tom had kindly agreed to let us store the bike in their garage for the winter so we would take that and as much as we could carry. Anything not bike related could be brought over to the condo after the end of the month.

I hooked up the trailer and loaded the bike for the first time this season. Then we packed all the related bike gear and as many other boxes as we could. Without folding the rear seats down, the back of an Equinox will hold ten banker's boxes plus some flat things and some soft stuff.

Leo (who helped us so much during the move) and I set out early in the morning. We took Highways 69 and the 400 all the way to Highway 401 in Toronto and then followed that west to Woodstock where we arrived just before noon. It did not take long to unload everything and start heading back. On the way, we drove through Waterloo and checked out Waterpark Place. It looked impressive. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures.

In an attempt to avoid traffic, we headed north on the back roads through Fergus, Orangeville and Stayner. We were back in Sudbury in good time, having covered 633 miles since we had woke up this morning.

Phase One of the move was done. Thank you Leo.

Today's Route (633 Equinox/trailer miles):