Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween in Cambridge

This morning, Heather and Tom headed off for work. I continued tinkering between my slow computer, trying older restore points and disabling some processes. These efforts picked up the speed a little but it still isn't where it should be. I miss Windows 3.1, where I knew what the computer was doing. Whoever invented the Registry, with its millions of lines of undecipherable instructions, deserves a special place in Hell.

At lunch time, Sandy and I went over to the Heritage Pancake House on Julianna Street, which was fairly empty. We each had soup and split a clubhouse sandwich. This is one of the few places that doesn't take VISA. Then we stopped by WalMart looking for some slippers for Sandy. It seems her other pair somehow got purple paint on them. As usual, she didn't see anything she liked.

We left for Cambridge about 4:00 PM. Everyone was home by 5:00 and, after the kids had supper, it was time for costumes. Robyn was a flower while Jolene was a cupcake. It seemed to take forever to get dark and I kept watching the street to see if the house lights were on or if other Trick Or Treater's were out and about.

How have these plants avoided the frost?

Any kids out there yet?

I think I see someone

Maybe I'll just take some candy from our bowl

Let's get the show on the road

Robyn sees more stairs and away she goes

Finally, time to go

Mike had gone over to the new house to hand out candy. Sandy stayed at the old house while Kim and I went out with the kids. Kim carried Robyn while I walked with Jolene. Last year, Mike and I had rehearsed Jojo on how to say "Trick or treat" and she was good at it until we got to the first door. Then it was deer in the headlights as she stood there in awe. This year, she was right on the money with "Trick or treat" and "Thank you". We only did about a dozen houses or so before we worked our way back home.

Trick Or Treat

Grandma Sandy, we're home

Back home, Jolene helped hand out candy to the other kids as they came to the door. She seemed to be a big hit with the older ones. She only had a couple of candies but one of the new things in the candy bag were little containers of Play-Doh, and she amused herself with them.

Making things with Play-Doh

I'm not sure what it is but it looks good

Mom and Grandma unwind

But what is Jolene up to over there?

As the streets cleared, Mike returned from the new house. It seems the youth density in both neighborhoods is about the same since each house had about fifty callers. I reflected back on my old friend Tarkus' annual rant on how Trick Or Treating was teaching our children to be share-the-wealth liberals. I miss arguing politics with him but he has moved on to other interests.

We left for Woodstock about 8:30, encountering a little rain on the way. We reflected on the ideal Halloween weather while the kids were out. Not too cold with no wind or wet at all. Back at Tom and Heather's, we saw what Tom had done with the pumpkin they had. This Jack O' Lantern is absolutely amazing. Without the candle inside, it looked like a series of random cuts but when it was lit, the face appeared. A work of art.

I'm not a Simpsons fan but it might be Ned Flanders.

It was a quiet evening and we were all in bed early.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Waterloo and Cambridge Ontario

Sandy and I were up again and on the road back to Cambridge this morning. When we got there, Sandy and Kim loaded up their paint and equipment and set off to the new house to paint Jolene's bedroom light purple, her favourite colour, while Mike and I entertained the kids at the old house. Kim called soon after because the new door key they had cut didn't work in the door so I hopped over with my copy, which worked just fine.

Sisterly love

The family that plays together, stays together

Back at the old place, Mike and I held down the fort until lunch time. Then we loaded the kids in his new 1500 RAM truck and stopped by McDonald's for a bag of burgers and fries before heading over to the new house to feed the painters (and us).

The painting was coming along well, although there appeared to be philosophical differences between Mike's and Kim's methods. No problem, though, because Kim and Sandy were doing the job so the ladies did it their way. The downstairs bedroom will be the playroom and Mike had brought some toys over so Jolene and Robyn played down there. Except when Robyn headed for the stairs, which was often. She likes to climb and the child gates weren't in place yet, so we had to keep a close eye on her. That didn't stop her from slipping on a step, hitting her chin and biting her tongue, but it was a minor injury.

Jolene still loves her Elmo couch/daybed

And she wants Robyn to love it too

Forget it, I'm out of here

When the painting was done, we headed back to the old house where came made up some tasty homemade pizzas. Then Sandy and I headed back to Woodstock for the night.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Waterloo and Cambridge Ontario

We were up this morning and headed back to Cambridge with Heather and Tom, stopping at Starbucks to get Kim a pumpkin spice latte. We spent most of the morning playing with the kids and then Sandy, Heather, Kim and I went shopping. First stop was at People's Jewelers so Heather could get her wedding and engagement rings checked and cleaned. Then it was on to a paint store to get a can because Kim and Sandy planned to repaint Jolene's new room tomorrow.

For supper, we ordered dinner for pick up from Mostly Thai in downtown Galt. Tom and I went to pick the order up but I erroneously plugged the address in as Ainslie Street South. That happens to be a bowling alley next to the fancy new local bus depot. Once we swapped to North, we found the place easily. I don't think I have ever eaten Thai before but found it quite tasty.

After supper, we returned to Woodstock for the night. At the house, we watched some TV and then I settled in to read Niven's Juggler of Worlds, a book Cat let me take when we visited them in California back in June. I really enjoy Larry Niven's stories about Known Space. This one retells the familiar Beowulf Shaeffer stories from a completely different perspective. The fact that I fell asleep while reading should not be taken as a negative commentary on a very good book.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

Yesterday, we finished the fall yard work including final lawn mowing and late fall fertilizing along with pulling some of the more obstinate weeds. I like to think of the Fiskars tool I use for the large weeds as a supplementary lawn aerator, two tools in one. Today, we are heading to Cambridge and Woodstock to see the family and, on Monday, take Jolene Trick or Treating.

It was clear and sunny this morning. The early temperature was below freezing but it improved significantly before we left at 11:00 AM. Before we hit the road, I called ETR 407 toll road around Toronto to get three erroneous charges in September, billed against the motorhome which hadn't left Sudbury since before they were incurred, erased. They checked the photos and agreed that the plate they had looked like mine but wasn't. There is now a flag on the plate so that if it comes up, they will visually verify it. They also told me that they were no longer charging the video fee for non-transponder equipped motorcycles. Good to know.

It was a good day to travel. The fall colours are pretty well done for the year, except for the golden needles on the tamarack trees.

Tamarack trees along Highway 69

The old master at the wheel

Traffic was light southbound but got busier on the 400 south of Barrie so I got off at Highway 9 and headed west to Mono Mills, our usual route when I want to avoid heavy Toronto traffic. Then it was south on Airport Road for a few miles and then southwest on 24 and south again at Eramosa. When we reached Highway 7, I tried something new and continued south all the way to Wellington 34, which took us to Highway 6 and the 401. From there, it was a short hop to Townline Road in Cambridge.

I noted that both Service Centres on the 401 near Cambridge were closed. The sign said they were being redeveloped to serve us better. That's also what the sign says at the former Service Centre on the northbound 400 Highway at Barrie, but they demolished that one in May 2010 and there has been no sign of rebuilding, renovating or anything else since then. To check it out, I went to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website and found a page on these renovations. Construction is supposed to commence in Barrie in the fall of 2011 and at the Cambridge facilities during the winter of 2011/12. Okay, it is late October 2011 and there is absolutely no activity in Barrie. Furthermore, while the Cambridge sites are scheduled to be reopened in the fall of 2012, the Barrie date is yet to be announced. OK, so much for my sniveling about MTO and how they look out for the traveler. Back to the trip at hand.

We arrived at Kim and Mike's about 4:30. Kim was already home and, soon after, Mike arrived with the kids. We hadn't seen them since July so the changes were obvious. Jolene is still talking a blue streak but her vocabulary has increased substantially. And Robyn, who just turned one, is walking. And she took to me right away, which was a big change from July. I never realized that grandchildren were going to be so much fun.

Robyn and Mommy

Jolene in traveling mode

Three generations

I think Robyn wants me to pick her up

Sandy brought the ingredients to make a casserole for supper and got to work while I played with the young ones. Heather and Tom arrived from work and, eventually, we all sat down to eat. Later, Mike discovered that the second pound of ground beef (the recipe was doubled) was still in the microwave where it had been defrosting. Shades of Clara Peller. But even if it was a little light on the meat side, it was good.

Jolene uses the spoon and bowl for supper

Robyn doesn't:-)

After supper, Kim took Sandy and I plus Heather and Tom over to the new house they had just bought. They decided a while back that they needed more room than the two story three bedroom semi-detached they bought about five years ago, and managed to find a place that fit the bill just about a mile from their current abode. Their offer was successful and they sold the old place for just above their asking price within a week of listing it. The new place is a back split on a lot that slopes to the rear of the lot. The top floor has three bedrooms and a bathroom, the main floor has a living/dining room, kitchen and large garage and, one level down, there is a family room with fireplace, another bedroom, a large renovated bathroom and sliding doors leading out to a huge back deck complete with pergola. Down from this in the front is a level with a laundry room and sizable unfinished basement and, one more level down in the back, the furnace room, a storage area and a workshop. That's right, five levels. There should be no problem with room now. We will be back next weekend to help with the big move.

After returning to the old house, we followed Heather and Tom to Woodstock where we would be spending the nights during this stay, arriving at 10:30. I spent the rest of the evening wrestling with my little ASUS netbook, which has slowed way down due to what appears to be some kind of corruption of the Windows XP operating system. I tried going back to prior restore points with no luck. This happened once before and it took a clean install of the operating system to fix it. I will probably have to do that again when I get a chance. Then it was off to bed.

Today's Route (325 van miles):

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Motorhome Is Stored

Today, the motorhome was put away for the winter. It is now residing in Rob and Chantal's spacious back yard in Val Therese until spring. Thanks to both of them for the generous offer of the space.

A couple of weeks ago, I took it into Don't RV for regular roof maintenance, which included cleaning, UV treating, caulk checking and TV antenna gear greasing. This is something that I will eventually learn to do for myself. To make access easier, I had Andrew install a ladder on the back of the unit. The water systems were also drained and winterized with non-toxic anti-freeze and the two house batteries were pulled so I could take them inside and put them on battery tenders. If I had known there was power available at Rob's, I would have left them in place and simply plugged in the shore line to keep them charged.

Everything was removed from the RV and put in the basement at the house. We will decide in the spring just what needs to go back in because we were certainly over equipped this year. We filled the fuel tank and added three cans of Sea Foam, about right for the 55 USG tank. The propane tank had been filled after the last trip.

Today, we hooked up the trailer and drove it out to the Valley. I pulled the tire pressure sensors off the wheels and will replace the batteries before re-installing them in the spring. I taped plastic sheets over the external vents for the fridge, furnace and water heater. I climbed the new ladder and put a cover over the A/C unit. Sandy liberally spread fabric softener sheets throughout the unit to keep rodents at bay. Then Rob hooked up and backed the trailer into the yard and I moved the motorhome back beside it, parking the wheels on sheets of 1/2" plywood. I cracked the roof vents, which are protected by Max-Air covers, to enable the moisture to escape and Rob and I put the tire covers on using the awning pole technique sandy devised last year. The fridge was left open. And we locked it up. All that remains is to pick up a tender for the house battery.

I hope everything is good to go. I see many units stored outside all winter and, barring last year when this one was in Alabama, it was stored the same way. So we'll keep an eye on it and start planning for next season.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Freedom Riders North Bay Ride

The fall has been unseasonably warm and the forecast for this weekend was no different. I put out a call to the Freedom Riders yesterday to see if anyone was up for one more ride and got replies from Dan and Rob that they would be heading for North Bay today. Doug said he and Carol might join us too.

This morning was clear and dry with a forecast high of 24C. Couldn't ask for better. Rob said we would leave from Tim's on Levesque Street at 10:30. Sandy and I left the house at 9:55, stopping for gas on the way. When we got to Tim's, Rob, Dan and Tracey were already there. We waited to see who would show up. Doug and Carol arrived on their V-Strom right at the appointed time.

Dan, Sandy and Tracey waiting at Tim's

Tracey and Sandy in deep discussion

Rob took the lead, setting a leisurely pace about 10 KPH above the posted limit. We didn't get far because the railway crossing gates at Coniston came down just as we got there. Rob made it through while the rest of us waited for a seemingly endless inter-modal train to go by. It was long enough that they had helper engines in the middle and at the end.

Rob waits for us as we wait for the train to go by

CN helper engine at Coniston

Once the train cleared the highway, we continued on our way enjoying the unseasonably fine day. I don't know what you call Indian Summer in these politically correct days, but this is one of them. The trees were still showing some good colour.

Fall colours along Highway 17

More fall colours

Approaching Warren, an OPP cruiser came out of town and headed east ahead of us with the lights going. I noted the side marker lights as it came out of the side street weren't very visible. Half way to Verner, we found the reason for his rush. A car heading west had driven into a deep ditch. Asleep, forced off, swerved to avoid a moose? Who knows? It didn't look too serious.

We stopped at RL Equipment in Verner, a Honda/Yamaha dealer where I take the Wing for service. They had few bikes and fewer snowmobiles but there was quite an ATV selection. I was looking at a nice 11 HP tracked Honda snowblower but stopped looking when I found it had a price tag of $4,000. My twenty year old unit still works and I've only used it a couple of times in each of the last two winters. If necessary, I can get a good unit to replace it for less than half the cost of the Honda. Outside, we talked to a couple from North Bay on a new (to them) GL1800 who were headed to Sudbury for a ride.

RL Equipment in Verner

From Verner, we continued on to North Bay as the temperature climbed.

Lake Nipissing

Good group discipline on Highway 17

More fall foliage along Highway 17

Doug and Carol in North Bay

In the Bay, we stopped at Burger World for lunch. I had a bacon cheeseburger with soup instead of fries (trying to watch the calories) while Sandy had a corned beef on rye sandwich.

Rob, Tracey, Doug and Dan outside Burger World

Rather than go directly back to Sudbury, we opted to head north for a ways on Highway 11 to Marten River. That is spelled with an E because it is named for the member of the weasel family that is popular with trappers. Marten River was, in fact, home to a Trapper's Museum although I can't find anything that says it still exists.

At the crossroads that is Marten River, we turned right on Highway 64. This shortcut was opened in 1971 and I first rode it when it was still gravel. It is now a nicely paved road with sweeping corners and not much traffic. I was particularly impressed by the way Tracey rode. She was second to Rob and was rock steady the whole time.

Riding Highway 64

We passed through the small community of Field and continued on back to Highway 17 in Sturgeon Falls. There, we adjourned to Tim's for a brief comfort stop. We met some riders from the Valley who knew Rob and Dan and spent some time swapping tales.

Seen at Tim's in Surgeon Falls

I had planned to go south from Verner to Noelville and then swing back up to Hagar but it was running late and our friend John from Ottawa was due to stop by. Doug's hip was hurting so we both headed directly back, with a side trip up the Garson Coniston Road as we reached town. John was waiting when we got home.

It was an unexpectedly good day for a ride but i still need to work on my photos. I take some but, unlike Sherm, Stewey and others, I often don't think of getting the camera out and don't realize what I missed until I am writing the day up later. I'm going to try to make a conscious effort to do better in the future.

Soon it will be time to store the bike and RV but I bet I can get a few more riding days in before then.

Today's Route (206 motorcycle miles):

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Monday, October 03, 2011

Arrive Alive Conference - Barrie Ontario

Normie and I just got back from the Arrive Alive Drive Sober Conference in Barrie, Ontario. We are both directors of Action Sudbury, a local group dedicated to the elimination of tragedies caused by drinking and driving. This year's theme was Impaired Driving - What's Next.

We left yesterday after the Freedom Riders monthly meeting. Norm rented a black GM Tahoe that looked every bit like a police vehicle. That was probably appropriate because probably 60% of the conference attendees were on the job. Unfortunately, he couldn't find any magnet mount roof antennas to complete the image. It was a very comfortable vehicle, considering that it was basically a truck.

We arrived in Barrie (180 miles south of Sudbury) and checked into the host Holiday Inn just as the official Arrive Alive Annual Meeting was ending. Action Sudbury Chairman Ron and Treasurer Gary were already there. We all went out to Wild Wing for, you guessed it, wings for supper. I had my favourite, a dry Cajun rub. Then we returned to the hotel and sought out the hospitality room where we mingled with attendees, mostly cops and government employees, from across the province. Then it was off to bed.

The hotel workout room opened at 5:30 AM. I was there soon after and found no one else was similarly motivated. The security guard turned the lights on for me and I figured out the nuances of the equipment before putting in 45 minutes of cardio. Then it was back to the room for showering a dressing before heading to the hot breakfast buffet.

We were in the meeting room on time. the first presentation was from ladies representing the Ministry of Transportation and Attorney General, who updated us regarding recent and proposed changes in legislation. Then we were briefed on the status of remediation programs and new hardware available. After a buffet lunch (I skipped dessert), we were given an excellent presentation by an OPP Traffic Staff Sergeant regarding distracted driving and another of the use of social media to carry the message to youth using methods they can relate to. I particularly liked the Happy Hour Fail piece.

At the afternoon break, Ron and Gary headed for home. Norm and I stayed to take in the presentations on Off Road Vehicles and Motorized Snow Vehicles since we had what might be called a professional interest.

We were on the road just after 4:30 and arrived home about 8:00 after a quick bite at Lick's south of Parry Sound. It's been a long time since I had a Homeburger, but I had back bacon on a bun instead.

I decided to attend the conference this year to see what other areas are doing in terms of anti drinking and driving initiatives. We will be sitting down in December to do some strategic planning and I can use all the ideas I can find to add to the mix. There wasn't any magic bullet that I could see but I did learn a few new things that could prove useful. And I expect I'll head back down again next year.