Saturday, May 23, 2009

Freedom Riders Manitoulin Ride

We received an Email Gord and Shirley sent the club inviting everyone on a ride to Little Current on Manitoulin Island for fish and chips today. It sounded like a plan and, along with Leo, we arrived at what we call the 'Little' Tim's early so we could have breakfast. We call it Little Tim's to denote it from the other, larger Lorne Street Tim Horton's where most motorcycles meet.

The group lined up in Timmy's lot

Quite a crew had arrived by the posted 10:00 AM departure time. For a change, we departed on time with President Rob in the lead. This left Daniel, Gloria and their friends having to catch up with us on the road. Leo took the rear on his R1150RT with Doug & Carol on their V-Strom just ahead. I was just ahead of that as we rode out MR 55 and caught the Hwy 17 four lane west to the Espanola turnoff. We rode through the town of Espanola and stopped at the Tim's on the south end.

The group riding through downtown Espanola

Doug & Carol caught at a traffic light

When we left Tim's, things got a little confused. Three bikes that were not with us but stopped at the same Tim's pulled out in the middle of our group. The lead bike was a Harley with Voyager outrigger wheels piloted by a lady. Daniel, at the front of our second section, didn't realize the three weren't ours, so he held his position despite the fact that the Voyager Harley was having trouble with the great sweeping curves on Hwy 6. This lasted for quite awhile and none of us wanted to break formation to pass until we finally came to the single southbound passing lane. At that point, Lea and I stepped out and motored on ahead with most of our stragglers in tow.

No big deal because, when we got to Little Current, the bridge was open to allow boat traffic to pass. The bridge is a single lane structure which used to have railway tracks down the middle as well. It opens at the top of every hour to allow boat traffic into the harbour.

Leo had some words with the other three riders. It turns out the lady on the quad Harley had only been riding for three days. He suggested that she ride her own ride and not feel pressured by faster traffic. He also discovered that the 1984 GL1200 riding with her was the very same one he sold several years ago. Small world.

The Little Current Bridge opening

Terry and I notice the bridge is closing

Across the bridge, we pulled in at the fish and chips stand for a bite to eat.

While waiting for our food, Lea and I discuss the finer points of the ride down as Nicky and Dan's friend look on

Gord & Shirley and Terry left us at this point to attend to other affairs. After some food and using the magic trunk compressor from Pogo to adjust Rob's tires, it was time to leave. First, Daniel's HD needed some help getting started due to a bad battery. He had left the battery on a tender all winter but had not turned the tender on.

The auxiliary Harley starting crew in action

We left on what I thought was a ride to Six Mile Point and Bridal Veil Falls at Kagawong. We motored south on Highway 6 but rode right past the Point, continuing on until we turned right on the road through Sandfield. OK, we were going right on to Kagawong. Surprisingly, our fearless leader (an Island novice) missed the turn in Mindemoya and continued on towards Providence Bay. Good followers that we were, we stuck with him.

Near Providence Bay, we encountered a mile or so of washboard gravel. When we hit the pavement again, I looked in my mirror expecting to see two bikes. There was only one, Doug. We made a U-turn and went back looking for Leo, fearing the worst. Luckily, it wasn't. In true BMW tradition, his mirror had fallen off on the washboard. Luckily, it had the requisite tether cord attached to it.

Leo and I work on the mirror

The mirror was impossible to get re-installed so we disconnected the tether and threw the mirror in the trunk as cars went by in the gravel at high rates of speed. Since the rest of the group hadn't waited, we hoped they were circumnavigating the island and not stopping in Providence Bay and so we motored on to Gore Bay. I just missed a bird and Doug hit one, so we figure there was a Kamikaze movement afoot.

From Gore Bay, we headed east to Kagawong where we found Dan's Harley parked at the top of a slope and the gang enjoying the view of Bridal Veil Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls, Kagawong

As the skies started to close in, we made our run back to Little Current where we stopped for fuel. As we were stopped, a fire engine headed south on Hwy 6 with lights and siren going. (More on this later.) Then we rode back up Highway 6 to Espanola.

Highway 6 near Willisville

Highway 6 near Espanola

When we arrived in Espanola, Leo didn't stop because he was late for a family BBQ in Sudbury. Doug and I decided to go with him and, after a spirited run, caught him on Highway 17. Doug and Carol broke off north at Highway 144 and we rode into town with Leo. On the last bit home, the temperature gauge on the Wing as slightly elevated. I know everything that will cause the engine to heat up and there was no visible reason for this. At home, I found the coolant overflow was almost empty so maybe the faint coolant smell I get from time to time means I have a minor leak somewhere. We'll check it out.

After getting the bike home, we took the van over to Doug and Carol's where they treated us to a fine steak dinner cooked on the grill after which we played some cards until it was time to go home.

A Sad Postscript

On May 29th, I received this article from the Manitoulin Expositor.

If you look closely at the photo of the bike being hoisted, it is a Harley with a Voyager kit. The same one that we followed most of the way to Little Current. It seems that at about 4:00 PM the lady was trying to turn the bike around in the parking lot at Six Mile Point and accidentally went over a 150 foot cliff. It's hard to visualize this happening unless the clutch slipped and she froze. Anyway, this has to be where the fire engine we saw was headed. Luckily she survived although she has leg fractures and needs knee surgery. Apparently the rescue and vehicle recovery were quite a challenge.

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Note that these Google Maps are interactive so you can zoom in on them to get more detail on specific sections.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Action Sudbury at Dynamic Earth Media Event

At the last meeting, the Freedom Riders membership agreed to join Action Sudbury. This worthwhile organization, started by Peter Wong and currently headed by Ron Roy, has been promoting safe and sober driving for 25 years. The Freedom Riders feel that drunk drivers are a threat to people on the road and that motorcyclists are proportionately more at risk of injury and death than car drivers.

We were notified that there would be a press conference with Rick Bartolucci, Sudbury MPP and Ontario Minister of Public Safety & Correctional Services at Dynamic Earth this morning. Various speakers would introduce a campaign to promote sober ATV operation, various awards would be given out and everyone would smile for the cameras. Action Sudbury would have a booth set up.

The police presence was more than I expected. The OPP SAVE team had a tow vehicle, trailer and two ATV's. OPP and GSPS had motorcycles. GSPS had a boat. Even Honda had a traveling display. Uniforms were everywhere.

Action Sudbury Display at Dynamic Earth

Normie, flanked by new Greater Sudbury Police Chief Elsner and Deputy Chief Lekun

It all went as planned. After the press conference, most of us had hot dogs or sausages on a bun BBQ-ed right there for us. Then we tore down the display and headed back to our previously scheduled day.

I have been involved in community programs aimed at interdicting impaired drivers since 1992 and can't stress how much I believe that it is important that each of us ensure that we are not impaired by alcohol, drugs or fatigue when we take control of a vehicle.

Arrive Alive - Drive Sober

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Waterloo Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

Before we left Tom & Heather's for Combermere, I had lost one of the chains that hold my vest closed. Tom loaned me one of his three for the weekend. When we got back, I checked the restaurant where we had supper and along the road looking for it, but no luck. Just before we left this morning, Heather found it on the kitchen chair I had been sitting on, hidden under a jacket. So, just so I wouldn't have everything together, I forgot my Support Our Troops cap on their table.

We left as Heather was heading out to work. It was clear and 8C, but The Weather Network was calling for rain between Parry Sound and Sudbury.

The trip to Barrie was uneventful except for an OPP convoy we encountered after leaving the Hockley Valley in Loretto. A van coming south on 50 Road turned east on 1, followed by several police cars and SUV's. It pulled onto the shoulder and one cruiser blocked the road as several others arrived. Then they headed east again.

It's hard to make out, but all the vehicles ahead of us are police units

We wondered if the lead van was part of the convoy or, because it was unmarked, was being followed in anticipation of a takedown. It must have had some serious cargo because the whole group pulled into the OPP detachment at Beeton, where a TRU Team member was standing outside waiting.

We stopped at the service centre in Barrie for breakfast at McDonalds and fuel. We barely beat a busload of schoolkids to the counter. Although the sky was still clear and the temperature was up to 18C, I checked the radar on my new cell phone browser and saw we wouldn't get away unscathed. On went the rain suits. We looked a little funny all dressed up under the still blue skies but, thanks to technology, we knew we were doing the right thing.

Riding north on 400 through Barrie, we came upon an unmarked OPP car following a police officer riding an OPP Harley. I'm not sure what the deal was, but the motor officer was not the most competent rider I have seen. They got off at Bayfield.

As we approached the outskirts of Parry Sound, the rain started. It was still 18C, but started cooling off and was down to 7 by the time we reached Still River, sixty miles south of Sudbury. The rain was steady until the outskirts of the city, when it let up. By the time we reached the by-pass, parts of the road were dry.

On the by-pass, we saw OPP and ambulance. Two pickup trucks were in the ditch on their sides facing different directions. I'm not sure if they were a head-on or a side swipe, but it looked serious.

At home, we settled in and watched the Survivor Finale recorded on Sunday night. Luckily, we had avoided accidentally finding out the results for a whole two days and were able to be surprised as if we were watching it live.

PS - Two days later, my red hat arrived via courier. Thanks, Tom.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Combermere Ontario to Waterloo Ontario

Sandy and I were up at 7:00 AM. It was cool but the skies were clear and sunny. Much better than the snow we faced last year. While we waited for Heather and Tom, Brother John dropped by for a visit. T&H arrived and we finished off our food with a breakfast of toast and yogurt before wandering up to Cabin 17 to say our goodbyes.

We were on the road by 10:00 AM as the temperatures rose to decent levels. Heading down Hwy 62, we went through Bancroft before the local traffic got heavy. We were pleased to see the visible support for our troops in Afghanistan hanging from every light standard in the small town.

Bancroft Support Our Troops banners

We headed west from Bancroft. In this part of the country, the GPS tries to take us down every side road thinking it is a shortcut. Despite the fastest time setting, these roads aren't up to the same standard as the main highway and would, in fact, take us a lot more time. Oddly, in busier areas, the routing will keep us on main roads and avoid valid shortcuts. This is why the GPS remains more of an art than a science.

We took Highways 68, 503 and Monck Road to Orillia where we fueled up at a very busy Sunoco. Then we stayed north on Old Barrie Road (following some kind of livestock truck I had inadvertently let in ahead of us) to Midhurst, where we stopped for lunch at the Midhurst Coffee House and Breakfast Place. This is the spot we discovered last year when in the cold and heavy winds, Heather needed a stop. The food is good and the hot chocolate (for the non-diabetics) is excellent.

The Midhurst Coffee House and Breakfast Place

From Midhurst, we looped farther to the west before cutting down to Waterloo, avoiding traffic returning to Toronto. We came in by the back roads through Fergus and headed to Tom's parents place to put the Suzuki's to bed. Toms mom, Zofia, asked us in for a fine supper before we headed back to Tom and Heather's for the night.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Great Fireworks Display

The Sunday night fireworks display has been a mainstay of the Combermere weekend for all 21 years. Some of the fireworks are purchased by the committee with the money collected from the participants while the rest are brought by individuals.

About 9:00 PM, I headed down to the dock. This was a well planned campaign this year thanks to Brian, the lodge proprietor.

Tube fireworks on the beach

Brian had already laid out the tube fireworks on the beach. They were ordered from smallest to largest to allow the show to start gradually and build up. Marc and Andrew were going to light these first.

Fireworks technology has come a long way in the last couple of years. The dock fireworks used to consist of mortars on solid bases and we would launch 50 of them or so. Last year, the multi-shot boxes appeared. This year, we only had about 6 mortars, but there were lots of the big boxes.

The six stacked on the left contain 160 choreographed shots each and even the smallest are over 20. This makes for a much more exciting show as the sequences can by quite spectacular. It also makes for less fuses to light, but is more dangerous working around them to keep a steady show going.

We even had some Vulcan fireworks

Your launching crew, Andrew, Matt, Yours Truly and Marc

Marc started on the beach with little guys that basically created coloured showers. He moved on to Roman candles and then to some that put on some sequenced shots. He held off before the three largest tube devices while Matt and I shot the mortars. Then, as he set off the last big three on the beach, Matt and I fired the flare and got ready to go.

Andrew lighting the last big ones on the beach

Matt chose the order for ours and set them up with the fuses facing consistently towards me. I lit. There was a steady show and, as we neared the end, we lit a set of three at once and then another for the finale.

Matt and I lighting some boxes in a cloud of smoke

Matt lights the grand finale

The whole show took about 45 minutes and, from where I stood, looked like one of the best we had done. The only near mishap came when one of our smaller box charges tipped over after the first shots. Luckily, it righted itself when the next charges went off. We were also showered with debris as the tops blew off the packages. Some of it was burning. Fun times were had by all.

After our finale, they handed out sparklers to the kids and most people adjourned to the Round House for the last night gathering. Unlike the Friday night young people's bash, this was mellow and subdued. People eventually drifted off and Brother Rob and I, with Katy, were the last to leave at the stroke of midnight.

Another Day Around Combermere

Well rested, Sandy and I woke up about 6:00 AM. We relaxed and I read more Uris until the rest of the family arrived a little after 8:00. Breakfast consisted of two packages of bacon, 16 scrambled eggs and most of a loaf of whole wheat bread.

It was quite cold outside but there was no sign of the forecast flurries, even though there was a stiff breeze blowing through the tall trees. The phone browser told me it was 3C in Bancroft but felt like -1.

After breakfast, Kim, Mike and Jolene made the circuit of the cabins to say their goodbyes. Mike wanted to beat tomorrow's Toronto-bound traffic and get out a day early. They hit the road a little after 11:00.

Heather, Tom, Sandy and I decided to go for a ride. I plotted out old traditional route through Palmer Rapids, Quadeville and Foymount before swinging back to the Wilno Tavern for lunch. Palmer rapids was celebrating Palmerfest. I'm not sure what was involved but there were a lot of cars with kayaks and canoes. These are tough folk because I'm sure the water temperature was quite cold. Funny, I had forgotten that Plamer Rapids implied that there would be some fast moving water somewhere.

In Quadeville, I elected to scrub the long route and take the direct way to Wilno. Some of the road was OK but I'm sure that part of it was three miles of used pavement they stretched to cover 15. Some of it was almost as bad as Sudbury streets. Tom hit one pothole that really jarred him and he wasn't too happy about it when we arrived at the tavern.

Wilno was the first Polish settlement in Canada. The tavern serves perogies, cabbage rolls, Polish sausage and sauerkraut and other ethnic food and, today, they had the buffet. Heather, Tom and Sandy ordered a la carte, but I made two trips to the buffet table. I probably shouldn't have, but it was good.

After thanking Tom for treating us to lunch, we went outside where Tom's bike refused to start. In fact, it refused to do anything. I figured it had to be either a battery terminal or a fuse. They were both under the front seat, so we pulled it off and I found a loose negative terminal. After a bit of tightening, he was back in business.

We rode along Hwy 60 to Barry's Bay, following one very slow driver the last part of the way. If I were a cop, I would have pulled him over to check his sobriety. In the Bay, we stopped at the train station/tourism pace to get a photo of the water tower. Heather and Tom have been collecting photos of themselves in front of water towers wherever they go.

We fueled up so we'd have full tanks starting out for home tomorrow. Then it was back to the Lodge where we were just in time for the challenge judging and ice cream feast. We didn't do well in the challenge because we didn't try some of the more difficult tasks.

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John asked if I would be lighting the dock fireworks tonight and I said sure. That's been my post for years. He said he'd detail Matt to assist after he had done such a fine job last year. Brian had already done the beach prep work and gotten a lot of the fuses ready, something we left until the last minute a year ago. We also considered that we would be able to light at a more leisurely pace since it won't be pouring rain this time. There was a moment of hope that we wouldn't have a premature explosion like one of my smaller mortars last year or an errant candle like the one that hit Brian. The uncertainty provides a lot of the fun.

Mud bogging is a popular pastime in the Madawaska Valley

The four of us sat down to a supper of fireside pie (a concoction of meat, potatoes and carrots), Caesar salad and Kim's homemade bread. This was topped off with chocolate pudding.

The forecast for tomorrow has changed. They now say it will be going down to -4C overnight, but tomorrow should be sunny and warm up fairly quickly.

After supper, I had some quiet time to read before it was fireworks time.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Around Combermere

It was raining this morning when we got up. I decided I needed to catch up on my blogging. After a while, Heather and Tom wandered over and, still later, Kim, Mike & Jolene. Mike and Kim made an apple/oatmeal concoction for breakfast/lunch that was pretty tasty and filling. After breakfast, I took a nap. When I woke up, the kids had headed back to their own places.

The group ride scheduled for 11:00 didn't happen due to the persistent rain. Maybe tomorrow.I took the computer over to the lodge and posted all the blog updates. Sandy and the kids went visiting. Jolene has been a big hit here and we've had fun spending some time here. Most of the time, she is all smiles and odd noises. Occasionally, she gets fretful when it's nap or feeding time but is a happier kid than most.

We made a supper for the six of us consisting of lasagna, Caesar salad and some homemade bread Kim brought. After supper, it was getting dark. The guests left and Sandy and I wandered down to the Round House to see what was going on. In a word, nothing. It was 9:30 and no one was there. Perhaps it was the fact that, with the temperature dropping like a rock, everybody decided to stay in their warm cabins. We could have gone visiting but, being surprisingly tired, we headed back to Cabin 3 and turned in for the night. I managed to read about four pages of Leon Uris' Armageddon when sleep caught up with me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Waterloo Ontario to Combermere Ontario

Heather headed to the chiropractor this morning. When she came back, she told us that police had closed an area around Weber and Northfield due to an ammonia leak at a plant. Traffic was badly tied up and that was the way we had planned to leave town.

The forecast said it was +4 and would be heading to +18. The call was for sunny until evening. Someone on the radio said the song was "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", not "Dirty Deeds Done With Sheep". I immediately though of my VROC friends in new Zealand.

Tom drove his car over to his parents where they loaded their bikes. I skipped the first part of the route I had loaded in the GPS and went out through St. Jacobs to avoid the road closures. We ran the usual route up through Fergus and Orangeville to get to the Hockley Valley.

Tom had told me they needed gas after 100 kms. Once again, we were reminded of the downside of GPS use when I selected a Petrocan station in Beeton as the stop. All we found when we got there was an empty corner where the station used to be and a sign saying a new one was coming soon. We managed to make it to Pete's Donuts at the corner of Highway 27, where we had breakfast in addition to getting fuel.

I have never run up Highway 27 to Barrie. It is parallel to Highway 400, which I do all the time, but has places I never heard of. Like the little town of Newton Robinson. In Barrie, we travelled 400 for a short way and saw a traffic accident being attended by an OPP S/Sgt in his white shirt. I guess he was first on the scene, but I've never seen anyone that senior handling a minor collision. Of course, traffic all had to slow down to see what was going on.

We took 11 to Orillia and then went pretty much directly to Combermere via Monck Road, Highway 503, Highway 118 and Highway 28. The traffic wasn't to bad and, while rough in some spots, the pavement was passable.

Tom & Heather in the rear view mirror

Unfortunately, in one stretch with nowhere to pass, we got behind someone who thought the speed limit, or slightly below, was a reasonable speed.

We stopped for gas at Bow Lake. I called Kim but got voicemail. After we got rolling again, she called back. The hands free cell on the bike is a nice feature. Turns out they were about 20 minutes behind us on the same highway. After getting through a very busy Bancroft, we arrived at Stevenson's Lodge.

Sandy, Heather and Tom went to find Rob and see about the cabin arrangements. They did some dickering and we did some switching around. About then, Mike, Kim and a smiling Jolene arrived.

Tom, Heather and Sandy took Mike's van to Barry's Bay for groceries for the six of us. Because the van only had seating for three, I took the bike. We were careful not to buy too much. After returning to the lodge, we had a feed of chili and hot dogs in the main kitchen as people continued to roll in. The SEVROC people in Maggie Valley had a webcam going courtesy of Russ. The lodge had a router so I was able to check out what was happening down there. Then we were outside talking with some folks when strange things started to happen.

I'm not sure if Justin is washing Ken's face, or what, but the picture was too good to pass up

Then we adjourned to the Round House. This is the large octagonal building with the fireplace in the centre where we hang out most evenings. This wasn't our usual Round House. I'm not sure where all the young folk came from, but the place was hopping.

Old friend Eric and son-in-law Mike share a moment at the Round House

A few of us watched the antics until, about 1:00 AM, the last of the "old" folks decided it was time to head for bed. The forecast of rain tomorrow and flurries Sunday morning was weighing on us as we turned in.

The Day's Route

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sudbury Ontario to Waterloo Ontario

Once again, the time for our annual Victoria Day trek to Combermere, Ontario is upon us. This will be the 21st year. And, once again, we will miss SEVROC in Maggie Valley NC because it is on the same weekend. I need to work on being in two places at the same time. We will ride to Waterloo today and then over to Combermere tomorrow with Heather and Tom. Monday, we'll all go back to Waterloo, and Sandy and I will return to Sudbury on Tuesday.

This morning, it was raining quite hard with strong gusting winds. We weren't in any rush so we watched the season finale of Lost (it ended with a bang) and Ice Road Truckers. Then I went out and picked up some cash and lawnmower gas. Bike tires were checked and we packed the gear. By noon, the rain was gone and I loaded the bike. The bags seemed light, leading us to wonder what we had forgotten. Probably nothing, we are just master packers. By 12:30, we were on the road.

By 12:40, we were on the southeast by-pass and fast moving clouds out of nowhere were raining on us. It only lasted five minutes, but the spitting on and off was consistent until Parry Sound. The one constant was a brutal wind out of the southwest. It pulled and tore at us steadily. One small trunk pocket opened up and Sandy's fuzzy Freedom Riders neck warmer left for parts unknown. The temperature started at 17, dropped to 12 and recovered to 14 over the first hundred miles.

We stopped for lunch at McDonald's in Parry Sound. Further south, the winds got even harsher, especially once we got south of Barrie and there was nothing to break the wind. At Highway 89, we left the 400, fueling at Cookstown. Proceeding to Alliston, the Honda plant must have just changed shifts because the oncoming traffic was steady. It made me think that, with all the woes of the Big Three, Honda was still going great guns.

We arrived in Waterloo at the advertised 6:00 PM. Heather and Tom were coaching their soccer team in a field beside Northfield Drive. We stopped there and then went over to the nearby Daily Grill where the Waterloo Wings were having their weekly supper. We had coffee with them and, I'm sorry to say, I won their 50/50 draw. Then we talked bikes outside until Heather and Tom arrived, having won their game.

Kevin, one of our favourite Waterloo Wings

Note to the Waterloo Wings: I'm sorry we left you off the Freedom Rally sponsor page. Again.

The four of us stayed at the Daily Grill for supper. Then we went back to the condo where we watched the two hour season finale of Grey's Anatomy. All our shows are ending, so we'll have lots more time on our hands after next week.

Sandy talked to Kim. Mike will pick up fireworks for all of us tomorrow before they leave town.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Freedom Riders Mall Display

he Freedom Riders promote motorcycle safety and awareness every spring with a display in the New Sudbury Shopping Centre. The main purpose is to remind the public that motorcycles are back on the road and to ask them to look twice. We also get a chance to make other riders aware of the club and what it has to offer.

We set up Thursday night after the mall closed. President Rob's pretty 2001 1100 Yamaha V-Star was the central attraction. It 's mounted on a revolving turntable Gord masterminded and surrounded by plastic chain.

Lea, Gary V, Chantal, Dan and Rob listen as Gord tells how it is done

We also have a table with promotional materials. Since we are a new member of Action Sudbury, we handed out many of their promotional items encouraging safe and sober driving. Impaired drivers are a serious threat to riders.

The new feature this show was the display case that Dan and Gary V built over the winter.

It is an excellent piece of work and gives us a place to display out club awards (or anything else that might need displaying).

Various members worked the display over the next two days. We made many contacts with both the motorcycle community and the general public. It's a lot of work, but worth it.

Saturday night, after closing, the usual crew arrived to tear down the display and load it. Tomorrow, Gary V and I will deliver the various components to their respective storage locations.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sudbury Rocks Marathon

This isn't a travel post but the day was a little out of the ordinary so I figured I would record it for posterity.

The Sudbury Rocks Marathon is a large event by local standards. It involves a full marathon, a half marathon, a 10K and a 5K run as well as walkers. The full marathon is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon so some serious runners show up. The proceeds from the event go to the Canadian Diabetes Association.

A while back, the Greater Sudbury Police Service contacted Normie to see if, once again, the STOP Officers could assist with traffic control. Quite a few of us volunteered. The race was starting at 8:00 AM and our briefing time was at GSPS headquarters at 7:00.

It was a clear, crisp morning and I was early. I figured that, with HQ being close to the YMCA and the run starting at the Y, parking might be at a premium. I was wrong. Had the whole parking lot to myself as I ate my Tim Horton's breakfast sandwich and drank my black Timmy's coffee. Eventually, other STOP people showed up and we wandered across the street to get our directions.

The route ran from downtown around the northeast corner of the old city and back. One loop was the half while full marathoners would do the course twice. One traffic lane along the entire way was blocked with traffic cones. We found ourselves assigned to intersections along the earlier part of the route. Somehow, my name was left off the assignment list but there was one extra intersection at the corner of Madeleine and Lasalle that was unmanned so that's where I got sent.

Arriving at the intersection, I parked in a private lot belonging to a small accounting firm on the corner and took my place. Shortly thereafter, a yellow school bus stopped and let off a young lady. Caitlin was a high school student doing her community service requirement by volunteering for the Diabetes Association. She would assist with traffic. We introduced ourselves and then we waited.

At about 8:30, the first runners appeared coming our way. The ones leading were running along easily. Since we were past the turnaround points for the 5 and 10K runs, all we would see were the half and full marathon people. Over the next half hour, quite a few people came by as we stopped traffic on and off Madeleine which might have interfered with their passage. Some were running well and others were already feeling the pinch.

When it was obvious the people had all passed by for the first time, I realized we would have to wait quite a while before the full marathon crew came around the second time. Gary (Biker) lives nearby and would be heading out shortly for a Freedom Riders meeting, so I called and asked if I could borrow a couple of folding chairs. He dropped them off right away and Caitlin and I settled in to wait.

An hour or so later, the lead runner sprang into view running all alone. He passed us and didn't even look like he was breaking a sweat despite the fact that he was about 26 kms into the run. Before too long, a couple of more came running along. Then the rest slowly reached us, spread out much more than the first time. Vehicle traffic on Lasalle picked up too, so we actually had more to control. Finally, about 11:30, Constable Rick came by to tell us the last were gone.

The STOP crew had decided to go for lunch afterward at the Win Fortune Chinese buffet. Caitlin was going to have to wait for the yellow bus and then follow the whole route back to the Y, so I gave her a ride and dropped her in the south end on my way to lunch.

This was the first marathon I have worked. I was impressed by the leader and eventual winner's athletic ability. A friend tells me that last year he ran six full marathons in six consecutive weeks. Super human comes to mind. I was also impressed by the runners' courtesy. Many thanked us for working as they came by, some with breath they could little afford to spare. Lastly, to the lady who didn't look when pulling out onto Lasalle, thanks for not hitting that truck and causing me a lot of paperwork.

It was a good day for a good cause and I expect that, if we are asked again next year, I'll be there.