Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The S.T.O.P. Season

The Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol (STOP) started in Sudbury in 1992 in response to a number of sledding fatalities, combined with police budget and manpower limitations. STOP Officers are volunteer Special Constables and Provincial Offences Officers empowered to enforce the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act (MSVA) in Ontario. I served with STOP from its inception until 2003, when I turned in my badge because I had lost interest in snowmobiling.

In mid-2007, I approached Normie, the Sudbury Area Coordinator,about getting re-instated. This would be a first for the Patrol and the Provincial Committee worked out a process. I had to rewrite the exam and undergo the new, more rigorous background check.

Due to circumstance I won't go into, the crew of trainees in Sudbury and yours truly haven't been sworn in yet. We hope this gets done soon but, in the meantime, we assist police and sworn STOP Officers in making snowmobiling a safer sport.

I am still riding the 1998 Skidoo MXZ 440 fan cooled sled that used to be Sandy's. It's small, light, underpowered and generally reliable. For the first time in several years, we had an excellent winter. There were many patrols and most of the people were riding safely and responsibly.

STOP Officers Ready For Patrol at -26C
Trevor G, Me & John O (Photo by Andrew H)

It's been good to get back out there. We know from both the hard statistics and the anecdotal evidence that the STOP and police presence on the trails are responsible for saving lives.

My last patrol was March 14th, when we had four days of +9 and the ice coating on my crusher dust driveway melted, effectively stranding the sled in the garage. While the riding in the city was done, they kept running the north end of our system for another few weeks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Old Time Photos

Martin Carey, a mainstay of the old Nickel Riders Motorcycle Club, posted some photographs on Facebook that recalled a much earlier age. I grabbed a few of them to share with people who don't follow Facebook.

Here, for your viewing enjoyment, is The Way We Were.

Note the skinny guy masquerading as me.

Aspencade, Lake George NY, 1983
Receiving the Aspencade Family (AMA) Award
Sherm will probably recognize Til Thompson, founder of the original Aspencade in Ruidoso, NM

Waterloo County Touring Club Cyclefest - Same Era
Observation Run winners

Cyclefest clowns

Doing a club display - downtown Sudbury

Hung over in Cannington, Ontario

The outfit in a rainy field somewhere

At The Shop - Fielding Road, Lively

One of the twins (I can't tell) touching Terry's Terraplane sidecar

Us on the road

About 145 pounds soaking wet

Holding the Ride For Sight Cross Canada Torch
Leo is on the right

Little Red Riding Hood

My Witchy Woman:-))

The Dodge Caravan

Our Caravan is a 2003 model with 135,000 kms on the clock. About two weeks ago, the 'Service Engine' light came on. The dealership looked at it right away and determined it was a transmission sensor module. External inspection showed it didn't seem to be in very good shape, but they reset the code to see if the problem would recur. It did the next day, so I asked them to order the part. The module finally came in on Monday.

I left the van there this morning and got a shuttle ride home. In addition to the module replacement, I asked them to give the tranny its 50K service and check out the front end. There was a shake/vibration and it had recently started pulling slightly to the right. The van was ready about 2:00 and the shuttle came to pick me up.

The module cost $821. I guess I'm helping to bail Chrysler out. The transmission was serviced and they said one of the OEM tires had a broken belt. Since these tires had 135K kms on them and were showing about 4/32nds tread remaining, I wasn't surprised. Next stop was my favourite Goodyear shop.

I discovered that the OEM tires, Integrity, are available and only have an expected life of 80K kms. Looks like I stretched that way out. For a little more, I upgraded to the Assurance Comfortread. they are supposed to be quieter and have a better ride. I also asked them to check the alignment since I always believed new tires should all be pointing in the same direction. While installing, they found the left outer tie-rod end needed replacing. I had the right one changed last fall.

After they were done, I took it for a little drive. No engine lights, the transmission shifted fine, it tracked straight and the tires were quiet and compliant on the rough Sudbury streets. It was an expensive day, but I will enjoy driving the beast again.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Something to do for the day......

Leo called and asked if I would go to Toronto with his ferry crew and drive a car back for the Ford dealership. Not much pay, but I like to drive.

Five of us left here southbound at 6:00 AM in a Ford mini-van. It was -13C when we left, but the sky was clear and stayed that way all day. There was a quick pit stop at the Tim's south of Parry Sound and we arrived at a Ford dealer near Yorkdale at about 10:15. John picked up an F150 truck and started home. Then we dropped Leo at another dealer where he picked up a 450 truck with a small dump bed. Don, our captain on this trip, made a mistake between the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway, so we got a tour of a part of Toronto I'd never been in before.

My car was at a dealership on the Queensway, right beside where the Gardiner, QEW and 427 meet. This time it was a Ford Fusion. Automatic transmission, cruise control, all the important stuff. I hooked up the GPS (Don said a GPS was cheating) and followed directions up the 427, across 401 and north on the 400. Grabbed lunch in Barrie and had the car at the dealership in Sudbury by 4:15.

The Fusion drove nicely. Good handling, nice ride. Visibility to the rear wasn't as good as I'm used to and the brakes chattered for some reason, but I didn't use them much. Around Barrie, I discovered the Sirius satellite radio built into the console. After playing for a while, I found US talk radio and listened to a discussion of President Obama's efforts so far.

One thing I did notice was the heavy layer of salt still on the roads. We'll need some solid rain before I do this run on the bike.

All in all, a good day. Some pleasant driving and a few dollars in my pocket.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Season Planning

Although it's snowing today, yesterday was the official FIRST DAY OF SPRING and there was a lot of melting over the last week. It will be possible to get the bike out as soon as we have a good rain to wash the salt off the road. All it needs is the removal of a mothball that fell into the right tailpipe as I was applying anti-rodent baggies last fall. It's in a harmless location but I'm not sure what it would do if it heated up in there.

So now it's time to consider our plans for the upcoming season. With the Wolfman's Wandering Rally (WWR) being held in Kentucky and our plan to ride down with Heather and Tom, it looks like a ride out west won't be in the cards this summer. That said, we'll try to do some more laid back, closer to home riding and maybe I can figure out how to hit a golf ball again.

So here's what I know right now:

May 07-10: Freedom Riders Mall Display, Sudbury On
May 14-18: Fry Guys Weekend, Combermere On
Jun 11-14: WWR, Richmond Ky
Jun 18-21: NEVROC Laconia Weekend, Epsom NH
Jul 31-Aug 03: Freedom Rally, Sudbury On
Jul 09-12: GLVROC Rally, Angola In
Aug 13-16: Interlochen Mi
Aug 22-23: FNVROC Meet In The Middle, Somewhere in Ontario
Sep 03-07: Cyclefest, Waterloo On
Sep 18-20: either NEVROC Maine Ride, Bethel Me OR VROC Reunion, Eureka Springs Ar
(unless one of them reschedules, the we do both)

Brother Bear also tells me he and Laurie are traveling the two weeks after July 4th, so we might go riding with them. That W(BG)V trip a couple of years ago was fun and they are good people to share the road with.

I may take the bike to Georgia for a suspension rebuild this spring, or I might put it off until later. I also want to squeeze in some time in the North Carolina mountains, riding the best roads in the world. A few closer camping and exploring trips might get fitted in as the urge hits us.

Whatever happens, we will keep the blog going and share our thoughts of the open road with anyone who is interested.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Netbook

I was supposed to be on sled patrol this afternoon, but they forecast rain and we cancelled. Instead, I went to Staples and bought the ASUS EEE 1000HA Netbook I wrote about on the weekend. I also got a slimline Sony USB CD/DVD since netbooks typically don't have them and a Panasonic voice recorder with speech-to-text capability. Hopefully, this should both let me capture my blog thoughts while riding and reduce my typing time.

I'm not in a rush to configure this little machine, but it will become my primary computer when I finish. The desktop will be relegated to network hub, file backups, printer sharing and games.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Cambridge to Sudbury Ontario

We didn't get a chance to see Heather and Tom yesterday because they were at work trying to clean up a backlog Heather has been facing. They were going back in today for 9:00, so we headed over early to buy them breakfast. It was REALLY early, because we sprung the clocks ahead last night.

Tom led us down the road a short piece to the Cedar Barn Restaurant. We had a nice breakfast and got a chance to visit a bit. Then they headed for Ayr and we headed home.

On the 401, I saw a GL1800 Kitchener bound. About five miles later, on our side, I saw a salt truck dispensing product on the road. Maybe he knows something the Wing rider and I don't. Traffic was light through Toronto and up the 400. The ski hill at Mt. St. Louis had lots of snow but very few skiers. I can't imagine why people aren't out in droves for some nice spring skiing.

We got home mid-afternoon. I settled down to watch the Atlanta NASCAR race. Once again, my choices didn't help me a lot. Them's the breaks.

It looks like we'll be around home until we get the bike out, unless something comes up. I'll be posting our tentative summer itinerary soon.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Fred's Birthday Party

We were up at 6:00 AM. I did some Netbook research (posted separately), picked my NASCAR Fantasy League drivers for this week's race at Atlanta and caught up on some other chores.

Then came the reason for our trip down. Fred Poysor of London was being feted with a surprise 80th birthday party at the New Sarum Diner. You'd never know that Fred was 80, considering how spry he is. He credits chopping his own wood with his fitness.

Plans changed at the last minute and it was just Kim, Sandy and I going to the party. It poured rain as we drove down the 401 towards London and then cut south on 74. New Sarum Village has been there since the 1800's and has not gotten much bigger since them. We arrived at the Diner, about a block off Highway 3, and found the party was taking place in the hall out back. It was just was dripping with ambiance.

Display in the hall entryway

We were greeted by Fred's daughter and met Peggy, a rider we know from the rally circuit, as soon as we got in the door. There was a group of people in the hall that we didn't recognize, and a couple we did. Not long after, Fred and Ginger (dance, anyone?) arrived. He thought he was going to the famous candle shop down the road.

Kim, Peggy & Sandy

Ginger & Sandy

The Birthday Boy & Friends

Immediately upon arriving, Fred was given a Rickards Red. Then, as he worked his way through the crowd of well-wishing family and friends, someone crowned him. The Diner set out sandwiches and other food at a table and we grabbed some nourishment while talking about old times. A few other biker friends stopped by as well. Later, Fred cut the large birthday cake and I broke my diet to have a piece. I think the Rickards and sugar high got to Fred a little towards the end:-)

Makes me think of Showgirls gone horribly wrong

About 5:00, the party wound down and we headed back to Cambridge in a driving rain. Mike had prepared a fine supper of slow cooked beef with BBQ sauce, potatoes and spinach salad. Then we tucked into the dieter's friend, angel food cake. At least they tell me it's one of the better choices when on a diet. I'm not sure about the whipped cream and fruit on top.

We caught some TV and played with Jolene before turning in. I have never seen a baby this good. Very little fussing. So I'll close with a couple of today's baby pictures.

Are you looking at me?

Just another nap


Back in 2005, I was looking for a small full-function computer to carry in the trunk of the bike that would let me post blogs, sort photos, handle Email, pay bills and keep my financial records while on the road. Laptops and notebooks took up too much space. After searching high and low, I discovered a Fujitsu Lifebook. It was about 10" x 7" x 1.5" and weighed about three pounds with the heavy duty battery. The technology was three years old when I bought it in March, 2005 for the huge sum of $1,700.

Over the last four years, people have commented on the little machine. It has served me well even though the low power consumption Crusoe processor was slow and the screen wasn't bright enough to use outdoors without using my jacket for a hood.

Then one day ASUS came along with a little machine called a EEE (Triple E). It was the same size as my little Lifebook but faster. I was leery because it had a small solid state drive and ran Linux. Soon, however, the market exploded and these little Netbooks were being made by many manufacturers. Trying to compare all the different models and features was making my head spin, but the Lifebook's days are numbered and I need to upgrade soon.

OK, I have finally decided that I want one of the two ASUS models, now that they run XP and have 160GB hard drives.

ASUS Eee PC 1000HA or ASUS Eee PC 900HA

Both have the same 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, screen resolution and Atom N270 processor. Neither have Bluetooth and I give up the touchscreen I had on the Fujitsu but I get USB2, a web cam and speakers. The downside for the 1000 is that it is slightly bigger (10.5" x 7.5" x 1.5" compared to 8.9" x 6.7" x 1.33") and 0.7 lbs heavier at 3.2 lbs. The plus side is that it has a wider screen, larger battery and much higher resolution web cam. Prices are in the $400 range, much better than four years ago.

I have decided to go for the 1000. I saw a tag for it on the shelf at Staples here in Cambridge yesterday. Checking on line today, though, I can't find it on the Staples website. Nor the Future Shop website. Lots of vendors I have either never heard of or have no easy access to. Lucky me, as usual. Now my search will begin.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Sudbury Ontario to Cambridge Ontario

Here We Go Again

It was just a week ago that we came down this same road heading for Cambridge/Waterloo. That was for dress shopping. This time, we're heading for a birthday party. Fred is a friend of ours from the motorcycle rally circuit who lives in London. He rides a GL1800 in a sporting manner and is the gentleman who coached Heather when she was working on her motorcycle licence. Well Fred is going to be 80 and they're having a surprise party for him in New Sarum tomorrow afternoon.

BTW, New Sarum is adjacent to St. Thomas, home town of Rachel McAdams, if anyone is interested in star gossip.

But what a difference a week makes. Last Friday, we set out in the tail end of a blizzard with temperatures dropping down to the 10F below levels. Snow was drifting and whiteouts were common. This Friday, the temperature is 35F and a light rain fell overnight. The roads are clear and spring is in the air despite four feet of snow in the front yard.

We left Sudbury just before 7:00 AM. The drive down was uneventful and traffic was light. All the snowmobile trailers we saw going south on Sunday were headed back north today. They were in for a major qualitative difference in their riding experience this time. At Derek Roberts' Esso in Waubaushene, where a couple of sleds rode in for gas last Sunday, there was only grass and dirt today. I opted to follow the 400 right down to the 401 and avoid the tolls. We made it into Kitchener in about four hours and twenty minutes, good time considering I held to 20 KPH over the limit.

The Passport Office

Since we were coming down this way and since our passports just happened to be expired, we planned to visit the Kitchener Passport Office as soon as we got to town. I had pulled up the PDF forms on line and filled them out, printing the hard copy. We got photos at the CAA last week and don't need guarantor signatures because we are renewing within a year of expiry. We would have gone to the Sudbury Passport Office, but we don't have one. our former Liberal MP campaigned in the last election saying we should have one, but she didn't do anything about it for the 13 years she was part of the government. One reason why she is 'former'.

I found a nice big parking lot right across the street from the government building. Unfortunately, it was for monthly parking people only. Going around some blocks, I found an underground lot with lots of spaces. It was a three block walk but the first two hours were free.

They have a reception counter where a knowledgeable person checks your application and photos and gives you a number. Sandy and I shared a number, D353. After signing in the appropriate places, we sat in a waiting area looking at a big electronic board of which window was serving which number. A's were new applications, D's were renewals. I have no idea what B's and C's were. But they were at D347 in Window 07 so how long could it take?

For the present, we discovered 07 was the only renewal window. No big deal because how long could a renewal take, especially since the application was vetted already. We didn't count on D349. I don't know what this younger gentleman did, but the lady working the window had to go and confer with her boss twice, they both conferred with someone else once, they tore up his application and made him write a new one, then she went and wandered around looking lost for a bit before making him write some more. Personally, I wasn't concerned with his problems except that he was doing all this in the ONLY window serving us poor D type people. If he screwed up the form, why wasn't he sent back to the end of the line to start over? Or taken in a back room and beaten with sticks? I was starting to think I could become a waiting room hero if I hit him with a chair.

Eventually, they noticed the backup and, after good old 349 had been tying the window up for a half hour, they switched a couple of other windows to renewals. Shortly thereafter, we were summoned to Window 10 where Joanne ably took care of us quite quickly. We talked about bikes and the upcoming Friday the 13th at Port Dover while she completed the paperwork. Then it was off to pay the $87 each and get a receipt. The passports will be shipped to us within the next ten working days and then I will notify NEXUS of our new documents. Can't be too careful when your name is on the Watch List.

Hey, we made it back to the van in just under two hours so the parking was free.

What a Nice Day

It was hard to imagine an early March day like the one down here. Unlike our snowbanks back home, the ground is clear here. It's about 60F and there is no sign of salt on the streets. The sun is shining brightly. We saw our first motorcycle on the 401 in Milton and now they are everywhere. My throttle hand was twitching.

Kim hadn't had lunch so we stopped at Subway on the way over to her place and got us all healthy sub choices. While Kim and Sandy caught up on soap operas, I took a run to Staples for some new Zebra gel pens and notebooks. They have new selections in the Netbook category so now I have to do more research. Sooner or later, I will have to jump in, probably by the end of this month. The trusty old Lifebook is just getting too slow.

Back at the house, I finished up the Freedom Riders monthly treasurer's report and the 2008 annual financial statements and sent them out to the members. I won't be at the Sunday meeting, but that's no reason not to have the reports done. Then we had an excellent supper and watched TV for the rest of the evening, taking turns playing with Jolene until it was time to turn in.

Jolene Picture

Sandy took the camera and got some shots of Jolene. Here's one.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Grandpa, I Guess

Son-in-law Mike took this picture last Friday and sent it to me. Jolene was paying a lot of attention to my watch so I took it off and was showing it to her.

Blog Links

There are a host of blogs out there, some of them VROC and some others that I find interesting. Since the new Blogger system makes it easy to manage these gadgets on the right side of our blog, I've decided to provide links to some of them. There is one section for current VROC ones we're following, another for completed blogs that show our history and a 3rd for non-VROC blogs I found interesting.

They are ordered, in each section, based on the date of the last post. Most recent are at the top.

I'll add more as I find them.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Waterloo to Sudbury Ontario

We decided to return home Sunday instead of staying over. We'll be headed back down again on Friday anyway.

The day was clear and so were the roads as I took Highway 401 to Toronto. I skipped the 407 and went all the way to 400 because it was Sunday morning and the traffic was relatively light. Not much doing all the way up to Sudbury other than the snow levels increasing as we got closer to home.

The plow had filled the mouth of the driveway after we left. It was hard work with the snow blower because it was pretty frozen but I got it done.

It's hard to believe the large snowbanks here contrasted with virtually no snow down south. On the plus side, our two thaws since Christmas took down a lot of snow otherwise we would have more snow than I have ever seen. As it is, it looks like we'll finish out the best snowmobile season in years in fine style.