Sunday, January 09, 2011

Woodstock Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

Sunday morning, time to head home. Before we left, Sandy was looking through the Canadian Tire flyer and saw that they had the bike lift that we were only able to get one of on Boxing Day listed for the same price at the Woodstock store. She pointed this out to Tom.

We were on the road about 8:00 AM. I proceeded east on the 401 at my new, slower pace, stopping at the service centre near Cambridge for fuel and a Mickey D breakfast. We followed the 401 to the 400 and headed north as usual, stopping again at Derek Roberts' Esso in Waubaushene for some food. I listened to Atlas Shrugged on the Zumo much of the way and finished the first half just before Sudbury.

The drive was uneventful. We noticed some fresh snow north of Parry Sound but the roads were clear. Police were largely absent but, at my new rate of travel, it doesn't make much difference because there is no way I would come to their attention.

We arrived home before 2:00 PM.

One thing I never mentioned from Friday. As I was out on Kim's front porch smoking, I watched the garbage men (sanitation engineers?) feed an entire couch into the back of a regular garbage truck. It crushed part of it, drew more in, crushed another section and kept that up until it was gone. I never knew one of those trucks could do that.

Today's Route (317 miles):

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Toronto Bike Show

The first objective today was to NOT get to the Motorcycle Supershow in Toronto too early. The VROC supper was planned for 7:00 PM and we have, in prior years, been ready to leave the show and had a long wait until food time.

To fill the morning, Sandy and Heather watched a TV series of TV shows on brides and their wedding gowns while I blogged. Then we made a run over to the TD Bank so I could get some cash, Heather could do some Association business and Tom could pick up his car the the Hyundai dealer next door. On the way back, we stopped at the Pancake House Restaurant for a late breakfast. This place had very generous portions, the food was good and prices were reasonable. Thanks for the grub, Tom.

We left for the show at 2:00 PM. A traffic snarl-up on the 401 saw us get off on Mississauga Road and follow Derry Road to the International Centre. On the way, we had to make room for a couple of fire trucks that were in a hurry to get somewhere. We hoped it wasn't the show and it wasn't. They turned north on Airport Road. At the Centre, we found a parking spot not too far from Door 1 and found no line-up to buy tickets. This was unusual.

I think we entered Building 5. Almost at once, we ran into Jack and Deb, rally friends from London who ride with the CMA. Then we met our friend Di, who is now wearing a CMC (Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers) patch from their Barrie chapter. Di is one of the Fry crowd but has been out of organized riding for some time, so it was really good to see her back in the game.

Sandy and Di

We were surprised to see a large part of one of the buildings given over to new and used motorhomes. There were used and new Class C and Class A units including one diesel pusher. and the prices were good. I judged there were even some better deals than the one I got last fall. Oh well.

Walking around, I judged there were substantially less booths than in prior years. Despite the inclusion of the RV's and other non-motorcycle displays, there was still an open feeling and the crowds were down as well. In fact, the usually crowded food court was 2/3rds empty and you could have swung several dead cats in Building 1 where the club displays are usually packed in.

In building 1, we stopped to talk to the GWTA rep about Wings and passed some time with Steve, an old acquaintance who was manning the Americade booth. We also bought new Big Skinny wallets. I needed one because it was time to retire my STOP badge wallet and I had so many cards that it took a second wallet to keep them all in line. Without the badge, all my cards fit in the new folder with room to spare.

Large Boss Hoss (v8 Chevy engine) bike display

Tom on a new Kawasaki Vaquero

Large Indian display

Heather tries on an Indian for size

Nasty looking Yamaha V-Max

A list of all the stuff on the V-Max

A trailer EZ might recognize

Probably the best booth in the place was the one designed by VROC member Dave (Rudeboy) for the Canadian Sidecar Owners Club. The theme supported our military and the sacrifices they have made on behalf of us all. Although Dave wasn't able to be at the show or dinner today, my hat is off to him and the other CSOC members who put this all together.

Canadian Sidecar Owners Club Booth

An excellent theme, well executed by a friend.  Let me echo my thanks to all the citizens, past and present, who have served on behalf of us all.

After a few hours wandering about, we had our fill of the show.  With the apparent decrease in both exhibitors and attendees, I have to wonder if it is a sign of the current economic situation or is this event losing out to the December show, which is a flashier deal downtown and is supported by the manufacturers?

Sandy and Heather resting their feet in the nearly empty food court

We left in time to make it to the Mandarin for 6:45. Guns normally organizes the dinner but wasn't going to be here, so Tom took over. He had a reservation for 7:00 and, when he checked in, they said they would call us then. Unlike prior years, we were down to seven with the four of us, Mike (RCAF) from Ottawa and Roger (Big Grouch) and a friend from Windsor.

Mike arrived just before 7:00. Something must have happened to Roger because it turned out he was conspicuous by his absence. We stood in the crowded waiting area listening for our group to be called. Something didn't go right and Tom and Mike took turns checking with the lady who was keeping the list. She kept saying "You're next" but they kept calling other parties. I have no idea what was up with that but finally, after 7:30, they called one more (not us) group and we got fed up. After a few words to the lady at the podium, who didn't seem to care, we left and went over to the Woodbine Racetrack and Slots for their buffet.

One funny thing.  Heather got pulled aside as we entered Casino and carded.  The security guard thought she might not be of age to enter a gambling facility.  He was very surprised when her Driver's Licence indicated she was 29 and would hit the magic 30 in three more weeks.  As for Heather, she wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or pleased.  This beats her Mom's record of being carded on her 25th birthday.

The Woodbine buffet didn't have nearly the choices the Mandarin does but it was good and the price was less. The roast beef, especially the second serving hot out of the oven, was excellent. As usual, i ate more than I should have. I was amazed at how many people were there, dressed to the nines, playing the slot machines. I hope they spend lots because the government is the beneficiary.

After we ate, we headed back out to the van, walking gingerly because there was some very slick ice in the parking lot. The trip back to Woodstock was uneventful and we arrived home about 10:45.

Thanks to Tom for doing the organizing and Guns for all the years he put this dinner together. I think, though, that the Mandarin has worn out its welcome and Heather says they will check out some other alternatives for next year. She will also be writing a nasty letter to the Mandarin management, something she does quite well.

Today's Route (162 miles):

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

It is time once again for the Toronto Bike Show and VROC Frozen North Dinner weekend. We'll head to Woodstock today, take in the show and dinner in Toronto tomorrow, spend tomorrow night back in Woodstock and come home on Sunday.

Over the last day, perhaps two inches of light snow drifted down in our area. For some reason, the city felt it necessary to mobilize the plows so I took some time to clean our neighbor Gwen's driveway. I just used the scraper because it wasn't worth getting the snow blower out. Sandy told me it was -16C, still above the seasonal average but below what we have experienced so far this winter, and clear. I think this is only the second clear day in a couple of weeks.

The last few trips south, I have driven all the way to Toronto and taken the 401 instead of using back roads. Fuel mileage for the Caravan, usually about 23 MPG (US) on the highway, was down to 20 MPG or less and I was getting concerned. Mileage drops as the temperature goes down but this was way too much. Usually, to Toronto, I drive 18 KPH over the limit and then flow with the faster traffic on the 401 (which usually means 130+ KPH). Today, I will slow it down and see what happens. My plan is 100 KPH in the 90 zones and 105 in the 100 zones.

We hit the road at 9:20. The pavement was clear but wet. The 100 KPH must have been a good speed because we didn't catch up to anyone of get caught up to for the first 40 miles. Near the Key River, we had some very light snow crystals falling from the blue sky and sparkling in the sun. Just another one of Mom Nature's beautiful sights.

South of Parry Sound, the weather changed. The sky clouded over and we rolled into typical Georgian Bay snow squalls. They weren't bad overall, but there were a few patches where they got quite intense, and the road became snow covered while visibility dropped to almost zero. Still, there wasn't too much accumulation and, slowing down a bit, we were able to continue without much difficulty.

Snow squalls along Highway 400

By Waubaushene, we cleared the band of squalls and the sky cleared again. The wet roads were taking a toll, though, and the windshield washer fluid light came on after less than 150 miles. The tank had been full when we left Sudbury. I stopped at the Esso Station at Waubaushene and bought three jugs, putting one in the tank and holding the others in reserve. We would probably need them before we got home. I remember my older vehicles where the washer fluid tanks didn't hold a full jug. The larger tanks on the newer vehicles, which hold a whole container, are much more convenient.

Travelling at my new 105 KPH pace on the slab kept me in the right lane most of the time. Trucks in Ontario are supposed to be governed at 105 KPH (thanks, Premier Dad, for saving us from ourselves yet again) so we didn't cause them any problem. I fired up my Atlas Shrugged audio book on the Zumo and listened to Ayn Rand's classic tale for an hour or so as we cruised along. In Toronto, we exited onto the westbound 401 and found traffic our direction moving well, although the eastbound lanes were dead stopped. It was only 1:30 so I can only guess there was some kind of accident ahead of them.

In Cambridge, we stopped for fuel and I found my slower speeds seemed to be working. I got 24.7 MPG (US) for the run. This was not a record (that was achieved on a day of running back roads at 80 KPH), but was much better than average. Interestingly, my elapsed time wasn't too far off the faster runs. With gas in Sudbury costing $1.15/liter ($4.36/USG assuming the dollar at par), I will be trying to keep the speed down in the future.

We arrived at Kim's shortly after 2:30. Mike was at work and Jolene was at daycare so we visited with her and Baby Robyn, who is getting much more animated as she gets older.

Momma Kim and Baby Robyn

I left Kim's at 4:45 to pick Heather up at her office in Ayr and take her to Cambridge to get her hair done. I stopped on the way at a Tim's for a snack wrap and wondered why someone who was buying coffee for a whole crew (nine coffees and a bottle of juice) would tie up the drive through instead of going inside. I picked up Heather and we got to Cambridge early, so we stopped at Starbucks. Heather had to order for me since I don't speak barista. We sipped coffee and discussed how here job was going before going to the hair place.

It took an hour and a half for Heather to get done so I sat in the van and listened to Atlas Shrugged while waiting. One quote jumped out at me. One of the arrogant academics who was screwing up the economy said "We must control men to force them to be free". I am enjoying the book (again) and seeing that, while the world it describes is out of date and fictional, many of the situations she describes hold true today.  Especially the feeling among the liberal elites that the average person is not capable of taking care of themselves.

When Heather was done, we returned to Kim's to get Sandy. Mike and Jolene had gotten home but we missed Jolene because she was already in bed. Sandy says she is now getting into the Terrible Twos and got some photos of her before she went to bed.

Wild Child Jolene

Who says static electricity can't be fun?

Leaving Kim's we drove on to Woodstock, stopping at McDonald's to pick up supper. Once again, I am really impressed by the layout of the new house. Tom was home and we watched some TV before going to bed.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Curious Day

I had a weird day on a couple of fronts.

First, the blood sugar.  I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago.  My only medication is Metformin.  Although my quarterly A1C blood tests show that I am in good control, I have periods where the blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day without regard to what I have been eating.

Last night, I worked as a volunteer for Action Sudbury at the Boardwalk Gaming bingo from 6:30 until 8:30.  Because I had not had a full supper before, I picked up a Poppa Burger and onion rings at A&W.  I know, way too much salt among other bad things but I really like them.  Lately, I haven't been paying much attention to hydration and went to bed dry.  I woke up in the morning a whole lot drier.  My blood glucose was 9.8 (176 by US measure) compared to a normal limit of 6.0 and a diabetic target of 7.0.  Unacceptable.

Being dry, I downed three of my large 16 oz mugs of water.  Two hours later, a retest showed the glucose level had dropped to 4.7 (85).  I checked it twice to be sure.  The standard lifestyle change for diabetics involves proper diet and exercise.  They say to drink water but I never realized what an impact hydration versus dehydration has on the sugar levels.  You can be sure that I will be more attentive to this in the future.

The second thing happened when I went to give blood.  I had been scheduled back in December but had to defer due to being ill.  I wandered in about 10:00 AM and found a bunch of high school students, mostly first time donors.  This is great to see since I heard only 4% of eligible donors in Canada actually give.  The only problem was that first time donors take a little more time to get through the process.  As a veteran (this was my 90th), they bumped me ahead.

There was new reading material to study.  They streamlined the iron testing, finally, and the screening by the nurse went well, although my blood pressure was high (there's that A&W salt again).  I got to fill out the manual questionnaire because the interactive computer system was down.  Then it was on to the chair where the extremely cute Kelly took the actual blood.  Excellent.  Five out of five for the needlework.  I filled the bag in five minutes, and declined a wrap for my arm.  Then I headed for the recovery area where Bill got me a couple of slices of pizza (Thursday is pizza day courtesy of Mr. Toppers) and a coffee.  I was cool, the old pro among all these kids, including the green looking one laying on the cot with the cold compresses.

It was about now that it diverged from the normal experience.  I noticed the band-aid wasn't sticking well and went to press it down.  That was when I saw the dark spot and then dark red blood started to run out from under the band-aid and down my arm, a substantial flow.  I grabbed napkins for a compress and told Bill I had a re-bleed.  He had special absorbent pads in his pocket for just such an occasion and gave them to me, asking me to try to keep the blood of the floor because the clean-up procedures for blood are pretty intensive.  They walked me back to a chair beside the green kid and gave me more pads to keep pressure on the leak.  We joked around  for a while allowing the blood to clot all over again, and then did a full wrap with that self sticking wrap that eventually rips all the hair off your arm.  Ninety donations and this was the first time I ever had a problem.

Back at the table, I didn't have any more trouble and enjoyed the pizza while I caught up on things with Bill, who I haven't seen for a while. The rest of my universal O-Negative blood stayed right where it was supposed to.

My closing thought is that if you are eligible to give blood, please consider it.  It only takes a short while and it truly is the Gift of Life.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

R.I.P. Shoe Tree

The Shoe Tree (I know there are many shoe trees but I think this was the most famous) was located on US 50 (the Loneliest Road in America) east of Fallon Nevada and pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

Over the last few years, we have stopped here a number of times for a break and to wonder why all these people threw their shoes up into the tree.

No more. Some miserable vandals have cut the Shoe Tree down. I was surprised at the amount of anger and sadness I felt hearing this. It makes me wonder what was going through the minds of the vandal(s) as they sawed it down and think that this is a small example of the callous nature that too many humans exhibit. Those that do are a waste of good skin and air, a matter that should be rectified as soon as possible IMHO.

Goodbye Shoe Tree. We will miss you.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year

It is New Years Day, the start of 2011. Some people have said they were happy to see 2010 over with and I understand there were problems for others during the year. But, for Sandy and I, it was pretty good. New granddaughter, lots of travel, good friends and a new (to us) motor home. I hope that this upcoming year is half as good.

It has been unseasonably warm and even foggy the last few days. My yard is almost bare. I'm glad I sold my sled.

Our yard on New Years Day

We spent last night over visiting friends Doug and Carol in Hanmer. The also invited their neighbors Don and Pat. Don worked in the Inco Smelter Process Technology Department and was also a USWA 6600/2020 steward so we crossed paths regularly back in the day. We had a chance to reminisce and catch up during the evening. carol laid out a nice spread of finger food including a large shrimp ring and we had some hot wings to top it off.

Sandy, Carol, Pat and Don

Doug's Biker Santa - Anyone think this looks like Normie?

We all left shortly after midnight and Sandy and I made our way home carefully through dense fog.

We would like to wish all our friends a Happy and Successful 2011