Saturday, December 31, 2011

Annual Vehicle Statistics

Gold Wing Stats:

Mileage travelled: 7,954 Kms (4,943 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 133.22
Miles/ US Gallon: 37.10
Mileage at end of season: 234,005 Kms (145,411 Miles)

Motor Home Stats:

Mileage travelled: 23,713 Kms (14,735 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 1,786.66
Miles/ US Gallon: 8.25
Mileage at end of season: 126,485 Kms (78.598 Miles)

Dodge Caravan Stats:

Mileage travelled: 12,945 Kms (8,044 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 405.95
Miles/ US Gallon: 19.82
Mileage at end of season: 182,810 Kms (113,598 Miles)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. Happy Hanukkah, Cool Yule and Krazy Kwanza, too. We came within twelve hours of having a green/brown Christmas here in Sudbury but enough white stuff fell to (barely) coat the ground. It has been an exceptionally benign fall and early winter. I'm actually glad my sled is gone.

It has been exactly a month since I posted here. In that time, a lot has happened. Or not much, depending on how you look at it.

Right after the Red Ribbon Kickoff, I got sick. Probably spent too much time in that meeting room with too many virus riddled citizens. Or maybe it was the flu shot the week before. Who knows? In any case, it started with sneezing and a slightly sore throat before settling into my chest. It wasn't really bad except for the coughing fits that emptied my lungs of air and wouldn't allow me to breath in. I had to wait until the spasm passed, doubled over and trying not to panic. When my voice went away, I paid the sawbones a visit and he prescribed ten days of antibiotics. Total duration was over two weeks before I felt good again.

On a positive note, independent of being ill since the bug was just ramping up, I had my last cigarette on November 27th. I had been telling myself for some time that I really didn't enjoy smoking. It didn't taste good, the raw feeling in my lungs wasn't a pleasure and going outside all the time (often alone) made me feel like a leper. So when the package ran out that evening, I just didn't get another one. Because the cold/flu was getting worse, I didn't even miss it until I was past the physical withdrawal. Now I just need to stay on top of the psychological game because if I don't stay quit this time, I probably never will. Old dog and all that.  In almost a month of no nicotine, I haven't gained any weight, either. I haven't lost any, but that isn't the prime concern right now. My brother told me today I should get one of Allen Carr's books. Strangely enough, when I told Sandy about this, she retrieved the Carr book that she gave me ten years ago that I never read. Now I will.

The downside this past month has been a total lack of motivation to do anything. I have been laying on the couch watching TV, reading some novels and browsing the Internets. All the various jobs for the Freedom Riders, OPPVA, Action Sudbury, AAA and my personal task list just sit there on the table staring at me. And I am good at not noticing. I think it may be either some form of depression (although I don't feel particularly bad) or grieving for my old friend tobacco. Anyway, none of the tasks are critical yet and I always work best under deadline pressure, so I know I will get a Round Tuitt before too long. I hope.

I'd like to thank our friends Doug and Carol for including us in their family Christmas dinner today. It was good company combined with amazing food. We really enjoyed ourselves. And, as another Christmas fades into the past, I would like to wish everyone peace on Earth (unless they don't share the same feelings, in which case they can feel free to reap what they sow).  Take care, all.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Action Sudbury Red Ribbon Kickoff

I have been volunteering for several years now with Action Sudbury - Citizens Against Impaired Driving. This organization was started by Sudbury Mayor Peter Wong in 1984 to raise local awareness of the dangers of impaired driving.

One program is our Annual Red Ribbon Campaign which encourages people to tie a red ribbon on their vehicle antenna or mirror as a pledge to always drive safe and sober. We hold a media event every November to kick this off. With media and dignitaries in attendance, we heard a number of speakers, donated funds to the Sudbury Unit of the Snowmobile Trail Officer patrol, donated funds to the Greater Sudbury Police Services to fund a RIDE sobriety spot check and provided funding for a local documentary on a major tragedy caused by a drunk driver. More information can be found in this Sudbury Star article.

I took a few photos of the proceedings:

Our small display board

Friend Gary, GSPS Constable Richard (sled cop) and STOP Officers Real and John

A familiar face

Normie (Abby Normal) and Brenda

OPP Inspector Fern Labelle and Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner (mug shot)

Nickel Belt Member of Provincial Parliament France Gelinas

Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk

It was a successful morning. Now it is up to each and every one of you.

Drive Safe!  Drive Sober! Report Erratic Drivers!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Woodstock Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

One month until  the solstice and the official start of winter.

We left at the same time as Heather and Tom headed for work.  After a quick stop to get McDonald's breakfast to go, we were headed east on the 401 by 7:45 AM.  Traffic bogged down east of Cambridge so we took the Highway 6, County 34, County 1, County 29 route to Highway 24.

It was a nice day for traveling.  We got coffee in Mono Mills and then followed Highway 9 to 400 North.  The service centre in Barrie still doesn't show any evidence of work being done.  I did learn from the radio that watching one hour of television takes 22 minutes off your lifespan.  At that rate,  I think I must have died several years ago.

Welcome to Muskoka District.  The sign says "Once Discovered, Never Forgotten".  The Simcoe County sign says "For The Greater Good".  I understand the Muskoka motto but wonder what the Simcoe people were thinking with the second.

The snow around Parry Sound was almost gone.  Near the French River, I found my blood sugar was low again.  I wonder if the 5 Hour Energy drink contributes to this since it was a common factor between this time and last.  On the plus side, I had a Snickers bar with me this time.  We got into Sudbury in the early afternoon without event.

One beef those of us in Northern Ontario have relates to gasoline prices being much higher here than in the south. These photos, taken today, tell the tale. 'Nuff said.

Mono Mills Ontario

Sudbury Ontario

Today's Route (321 van miles)

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Woodstock Ontario - Book Shopping In Kitchener

I had a slow day today. Heather had a candle party to go to in Toronto and Sandy went with her. Tom drove them and went to visit his friend Remi while the party was underway. They planned to be back by 5:00 PM.

I had several books I was looking for. I wasn't familiar with any large retailers in Woodstock, so I headed to Chapters in Kitchener, about 30 miles east on the 401. The store was moderately busy as I browsed the paperback Science Fiction/Fantasy shelves.

The first book I was looking for was Towers of Midnight, Book 13 in the Wheel of Time series started by Robert Jordan. Jordan passed away after the eleventh book of what was supposed to be a twelve book series, but he left many notes on how it was to end. His wife, who was also his editor, engaged Brandon Sanderson to finish the work but they decided that Book 12 needed to be split into three parts, hence the thirteenth and fourteenth volumes. Towers of Midnight was released in 2010 in hardcover but just came out last month in paperback.

The second book was Robert Sawyer's Hybrids, volume three of his Neanderthal Parallax Trilogy. This explores the idea of a rift between two parallel Earths which divided 40,000 years ago. In ours, CroMagnon Man was successful while, in the other, Neantherthal Man prevailed. Interestingly, the rift happened in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory deep in our Creighton Mine. This local touch added to what was already a fascinating tale.

The last book was Destroyer of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner. It is the third in a set of four (so far) labelled the Ringworld Prequel Series. It tells the tales already told by Niven in Known Space
from a totally different perspective. Other than Heinlein, Niven is my favourite SciFi writer.

Luckily, I found all three.

With my new books in hand, I headed back to Woodstock. I stopped at Mickey D's and picked up an Angus burger on a ciabatta bun for lunch. Then it was back to the house where I spent the afternoon reading and napping.

Kim and Mike stopped by with the girls later in the day. They had been to a kids' Christmas Party at African Lion Safari hosted by Kim's employer, Gore Mutual Insurance. They stayed for a while but, bonehead me, I didn't take any pictures. As I have said before, I really need to concentrate on improving this.

The rest of the gang didn't get back until 8:00 PM. Tom and I settled in to watch the recording of the final NASCAR race of the season from Homestead, Florida. Unfortunately, there were enough rain delays that the race went overtime and we didn't get to see the ending. That was too bad because the Championship ended in a points tie between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. Stewart became the Champion because he had won more individual races, but it was a great showing by both drivers. Now I will suffer race withdrawal until February.

We'll be heading home tomorrow so we were in bed by 11:00.

Today's Route (62 van miles):

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Woodstock Ontario - A Double Birthday Party In Cambridge

It was sunny, cool and windy this morning. Heather and Sandy went over to WalMart to get some cards while Tom and I headed for a motorcycle dealership so he could pick up some oil for the bikes. It's time for the pre-storage change. The dealer had a 1996 Kawasaki Voyager XII with only 56,000 Kms on the clock sitting on the floor. It was very clean and I expect someone will get a lot of miles of smiles out of this bike.

Back at the house, we had to wait for the ladies. It seems they decided to look for more than cards. When they finally returned, we all piled into the van for the drive to Kim and Mike's new house in Cambridge. The rest of the gang was already there including Mike's parents, siblings and their kids. Jolene and Robyn were dressed in their birthday finest and having a whale of a time.

Aunts and uncles and cousins, Oh My!

Mike grilling some excellent tube steaks

Grandma Gail and Robyn in the playroom

Jolene's party dress

Grandma Sandy and Mommy chowing down

Two kids means two cakes

Robyn looks happy

A whole cake just for me???

Grandma Gail and the cousins

Grandpa Peter keeps a low profile

Uncle Tom and Robyn

Mike cuts the cake

Uncle Tom and Jolene team up to feed Robyn

Jo Jo doesn't need any help

And, in the final analysis, neither does Robyn

All the nice gifts and yet they end up playing with the bag

Robyn taking a spin

The party's over - lets' get out of that dress

After the party, we hung around for a bit before heading back to Woodstock for the night. The new house is certainly ideal for entertaining. The whole crowd fit on one floor without crowding so there would have been room for many more people to attend comfortably.

Today's Route (67 van miles):

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

This was the first really chilly morning so far this fall. We were heading back down south (again). Kim and Mike had decided to hold a joint birthday party for our granddaughters even though Jolene's actual day was December 23rd and Robyn's was back in October. All the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were going to be there so we couldn't miss it. And we were looking forward to it. We'd spend tonight at Tom and Heather's in Woodstock.

I would have liked to leave early but stayed to put in an appearance with my Action Sudbury - Citizens Against Impaired Driving cohorts at a cheque presentation. We are in a partnership with the Sudbury Health Unit and Greater Sudbury Police Service for a project that Ontario's Trillium Fund has seen fit to fund and the ceremonial cheque was being presented at 11:00 AM.

We arrived early at the Alzheimer's Society building where the presentation to us and five other groups would be made. Eventually, the VIP's and media were in place and the promise of funding our project to the tune of $50K was made by Sudbury MPP and Ontario Minister of Northern Development and Mines Rick Bartolucci. Then we had coffee and took the obligatory photos before hitting the road.

The Action Sudbury Crew & our benefactor
Rolly, Mary, Ron, Honourable Rick Bartolucci - MPP (Sudbury), Brenda, Me and Normie

We fueled up and stopped at McDonald's in the south end on our way out of town. This Mickey D's has a small parking lot and the lunch time drive-thru customers had it totally blocked. I didn't realize this when I pulled in and was stuck in gridlock until the drive-thru line moved ahead. This is one of the worst lots I have ever seen. We would have stayed in the drive-thru except that we needed to use the facilities inside.

We were finally on the road by 12:25 with our bag o' burgers in light snow squall conditions. There were very few cars on the road and the CBC radio gave way to the highbrow classical music those elitist SOB's put on between talk programs. I note public radio in the US does a similar thing. I guess they feel this sets them above the unwashed masses.

Snow squall near Estaire Ontario

About an hour south of Sudbury, we started to encounter snow accumulations from a good fall they had yesterday but the roads stayed clear. This continued almost all the way to Barrie before the green terrain returned. Interestingly, near the Shawanaga Reserve north of Parry Sound, we saw a snowplow generating a mass of sparks as he plowed and salt/sanded a bare highway. Another one of those things that make you go hmmmm.

 Tom Thomson Georgian Bay style jack pines

Deeper snow than at home

Typical Northern Ontario scenery

On the 400, I was passed by one more driver with a cell phone stuck to his ear. It makes me wonder about the politicians who outlawed the practice. I bet they went home feeling pretty good about themselves because they passed a law. But, as usual, a law without the resources or strategy to enforce it in anything more than a piecemeal basis is useless. Better to let the drivers govern their own behavior and, if cell phone records show the driver was on a call during a crash, lower the boom on him for distracted/careless driving. Oh well, that's my rant for the day.

We stopped at the Timmy's in Mono Mills and I had my first TH caramel latte. Not bad and cheaper than Starbucks. Then we took Highway 24 southwest and Sandy got some photos of the sunset as we went through Caledon towards Erin.

Sunset over Caledon

More sunset

Waves of clouds

I decided after the last time that the shortest way to Woodstock was 24 right to the 401. It may be the shortest but in Friday rush hour traffic it sure wasn't the fastest between Guelph and the 401. We sat for quite a while as traffic backed up trying to turn left on County 38 South. When we got to the 401, it was congested as far as Highway 8 but then opened up and we cruised into Woodstock without further problems.

We went to the Family Restaurant in the Travel Center of America for supper and then headed back to Heather and Tom's where I sacked out early for a change.

Today's Route (315 van miles):

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Winter Preparations

It was partly cloudy and above 50F today so I took the Wing to the gas station and, after putting in a half can of SeaFoam, filled it up with fuel. Then I took it for a ten mile ride to get the SeaFoam through the injectors. It is a little nippy wearing a mash jacket at 50, but not too bad considering there should be snow on the ground.

Back home, I moved things around in the garage, aired up the snowblower tires (chains slip off at 0 PSI), checked the oil and fired it up. It started right away, pretty good since it is almost twenty years old. I also got out my array of shovels plus the broom and ice chopper and put the reflective posts at the end of the driveway.

I emptied all the items from the Wing bags, trunk and fairing, putting them in a storage box where I can find them in one place next spring. Then I rolled it to the back of the garage and lifted it onto the centre stand. I had changed the oil last week so it was just a matter of putting mothballs in the exhaust and fabric softener sheets at various places around the frame to repel rodents. Then I plugged in the battery tender and kissed it good night.

The garage winter layout

Crossover - golf clubs versus shovels

I also took a few moments to set out rat traps for the chipmunks since they started extending their burrows last night. And I climbed up on the roof to check out a squeeky whirlybird turbine. Didn't fall off the ladder but I did cut my thumb on a sharp edge. Go figure.

Chipmunk mound and rat traps in boxes

So it looks like I'm ready for the white stuff.

Apropos of nothing, son-in-law Tom sent me this photo of a GL1800 whose owner didn't know when to stop. I would hate to be around this on a sunny day.

Perhaps this is a little too much chrome?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Blog of Blogs

Today was the 13th and, even if it wasn't Friday, you just knew something had to go wrong.

Several years ago, I saw that there were getting to be more and more blogs being done by my VROC family. I thought it would be nice to have one location where people could check and see what was going on in the VROC blogosphere, so I started a blog of blogs. Rather than just list them, I discovered a Blogger gadget that would maintain them in the order in which posts were made. The most recently active blogs would keep moving to the top. It was slick and every time that I saw a new blog over the last few years, I added it to the list.

Today, I was doing some editing and added a test entry. When I went to delete, I accidentally selected the button that deleted the gadget instead of the individual item. You would think that there would be a confirmation dialogue for something this drastic. Something that said "You are about to delete two years of work. Are you sure you want to proceed?" But no, Blogger didn't anticipate a simple wrong keystroke and the gadget, along with all the painstakingly collected links, was gone into the ether. Without an Undo option! I am usually scrupulous about backing things up but I'm not even sure it would have been possible in this case.

So I put out the word out to VROC for blog links. And I checked the profiles of some prolific VROC bloggers to find not only their own blogs, but other ones they follow. I now have well over 100 discovered. The one problem is sheer volume. I maintain one travel blog so that would be a single brief operation to add my entire history to the list. A few others do this, too. But some of the most interesting bloggers in our circle start new ones for each separate trip or topic and it will take quite some time to add them, one by one, to the list. But I'm working on it.

A tip to novice bloggers. Blogger allows you up to 99 blogs for your user ID. I have four. Skid & Sandy On The Road (this one), Skid's Letters (to record my letters to the editor), Skid's Random Thoughts (musings that I occasionally save for posterity) and the Blog of Blogs. It will be easier for your followers to reflect on your history if you limit the number of blogs you maintain. Posterity will thank you for it. For those who have myriad different ones, they are important enough to me to spend from now until Christmas making sure the links are all collected in one place. And for all who take the time to share their lives in our common community, thank you so very much.  Keep writing.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Woodstock Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

We set the clocks back last night. Earlier sunrise, earlier sunset. It was a bright sunny morning in Woodstock, very unseasonable. We again stopped at McDonald's for food and Canadian Tire for gas and then headed straight into Toronto on the 401 at a blistering 100 KPH. The drive was uneventful as we caught the 400 north for home.

After a stop at Waubaushene for a 5 Hour Energy drink, we continued on. There was a traffic enforcement blitz near Moon River but it was no concern of ours at the speed we were traveling. North of Parry Sound we encountered a few motorcycles on the road, unbelievable for this time of year. We made one more stop at the French River Trading Post and then pushed on for the last forty miles.

Strange clouds near Parry Sound

Soon after we left the Trading Post, I started feeling weak and shaky and started sweating. A quick glucose check showed my blood sugar was only 3.7 (67 for my American friends), exceptionally low for me. Since I don't use insulin, hypoglycemia is't usually a problem for me so we didn't have any sugar in the vehicle nor anywhere to get some before Sudbury. I pulled over and let Sandy drive.

Once in town, we stopped for fuel and a Mars bar. The mileage was only 25.6 MP(US)G this time, probably because we didn't take back roads in the south and kept to 100 KPH in the 90 stretches, but it was still way better than usual. The chocolate bar kicked in but I immediately developed a migraine aura. As with the few times they have hit me in recent years, it was a silent migraine. No pain, just a feeling of pressure in my head.

On the way home, we saw motorcycles everywhere. Again, very strange for this time of year. We picked up some groceries and got in with plenty of time to catch the NASCAR race from Texas.

Today's Route (318 van miles):

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Moving Kim and Mike

We had originally been told to be at Kim and Mike's for 8:00 AM but got a call suggesting an hour later wouldn't be a problem. When we left, we took two vehicles, Heather traveling with me and Sandy going with Tom. We made a quick stop at Starbucks to get Kim a pumpkin spice latte.

When we got to the house, it was apparent that the rest of the crew arrived at or before the original time. Mike, his buddy Jay, his brother and brother-in-law, who looked like the front line of a football team, had the truck in place and were well on their way to filling it with furniture and appliances. Being smaller and older, I just stayed out of their way, disconnecting cables on the entertainment centre and helping Mike's mom Gale and the ladies load smaller stuff into the two minivans. We made a couple of trips to the new house and the rental truck made two as well. It went pretty well and everything was in the new place by 3:00 PM.

The A Team taking a well deserved break

The second load is well under way

As we were wrapping up, Mike ordered some Mr. Topper's pizza for the crew and everyone took a sustenance break. Then the heavy hitters left and I followed Mike as took the truck back to the Penske shop, After looking all around the closed building, we found the key drop off box.and then I brought him back to the house,

Mean looking Gremlin in the Penske yard

We did our best to move the boxes and things from the garage to the appropriate levels but it will be some time before it is all squared away. About  three, they went to pick up the girls from the baby sitter's.

Kim taking a break in the family room

Heather resting

Tom found some floor

Mike and Sandy comparing notes

Mike and Robyn

One last thing on Mike's list was a new TV. His old 27" CRT set was toast and he was wrestling with what to get, considering the myriad units on the market. Tom had a nice Samsung 46" LCD he had gotten last year and I have a several year old 42" Panasonic Viera plasma, so we took him shopping. Our first stop was Sears, where they had the same set as Tom's, but for over $100 less than a year ago. After comparing sets and talking to the sales guys, that is the one he settled on. Because Sears didn't have a suitable TV stand (it needs doors because of the kids), we went on to Best Buy where Mike chose what he wanted but would have to go to the Kitchener store tomorrow to pick it up. Best Buy had the same TV but it was priced higher than Sears.

Mike sent this picture of the new TV

On the way home, we picked up Arby's for everyone. Back at the house, we ate Beef 'n Cheddar sandwiches and curly fries. Hunger satiated, the four of us drove back to Woodstock. It was an early night to bed.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

Yesterday, I gave the Wing its pre-storage oil change. I was joined for this season end ritual by Leo, who had never changed the oil himself in his new (to him) GoldWing. Leo's bike was a little harder to do because the wires from his low mounted driving lights interfered with the removal and re-installation of the oil filter, but we got the job done.

Today, we were off to the south again to help Mike and Kim move to their new house. Mike would be getting the 16' Penske rental truck about 1:00 PM and planned to move the contents of his 10x10 storage unit this afternoon. Moving the from the old house was scheduled for tomorrow when Tom, Mike's friend Jay, his brother and brother-in-law would be available to do the heavy lifting. To get there in time today, we were on the road by 7:10 AM.

There was a thick coating of frost on everything as we set out in the dark.  The traffic was light as we followed Highway 69 south at my new leisurely pace.

Sunrise on a northern highway

Heavy frost and gnarly trees

The trip was uneventful. Because it was early in the day, I opted to take the big road through Toronto but skipped the 407 ETR toll road in favour of the 401. As we passed Canada's Wonderland, we could see a crane hoisting sections of yet one more roller coaster into place. This one looks like it will have an extreme drop. We haven't been to Wonderland in years but I'd love to go back if I could find someone who liked thrill rides to go with me.

New roller coaster (green) at Canada's Wonderland

The exit from 400 to 401 west was still under heavy construction. The sign says it will be done by fall of 2013 which seems like an awfully long time, but it has been a major traffic pinch point for years and needs to be improved.

We arrived in Cambridge at just after 1:00. A quick fuel stop showed the benefit of slower driving was still there with mileage improving again to 26.9 MP(US)G. We got to the house and Sandy stayed with Kim and the girls while I drove Mike over to get the rental truck. Then we headed for the storage facility on Franklin Blvd.

I have seen many storage facilities but never one like this. The entire place was indoors with an internal loading bay and external loading docks. Mike had forgotten the key for his unit so one of the employees got bolt cutters. The cutters were old and didn't do a really good job. The new cutters were out on the company truck. After a lot of gnawing and twisting at the lock with the cutters, the final break was achieved with pliers. A 10x10 locker can hold a lot of stuff. Some of the boxes were packed by my daughter who packed by volume rather than weight. No skin off her nose because she didn't have to lift the large box full to the top with books.....

Rental truck ready to load at storage facility

A nice sized little truck waiting to be loaded

Mike is still smiling

Indoor storage and hand trucks for loading - a soft touch

When we had finished loading the truck, and the contents just fit, we drove over to the new house and Mike and I unloaded the contents into the garage. We tried to move as many things to the appropriate rooms but lack of labeling limited our effectiveness.

The new house - who would believe five levels?

Unloading into the new garage

When the truck was empty, we left it there and went back to the old house to rejoin Kim, Sandy and the grandkids. We stayed for a while before heading on to Tom and Heather's in Woodstock for a good night's rest before the big move tomorrow.

Jolene looks ready for winter

Today's Route (322 van miles):

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