Monday, December 31, 2012

Annual Vehicle Statistics

Gold Wing stats:
Mileage travelled: 6,591 Kms (4,113 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 109.14
Miles/ US Gallon: 37.7
Mileage at end of season: 240,939 Kms (150,370 Miles)

Avalanche stats (total):
Mileage travelled: 26,827 Kms (16,743 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 1,291.44
Miles/ US Gallon: 13.0
Mileage at end of season: 79,630 Kms (49,697 Miles)

     Avalanche stats (towing trips):
     Mileage travelled: 17,996 Kms (11,231 Miles)
     Fuel Burned (USG): 932.22
     Miles/ US Gallon: 12.0

     Avalanche stats (other):
     Mileage travelled: 8,832 Kms (5,512 Miles)
     Fuel Burned (USG): 359.22
     Miles/ US Gallon: 15.3

Motor Home Stats:
Mileage travelled: 4,622 Kms (2,885 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 326.2
Miles/ US Gallon: 8.8
Mileage when sold in August: 131,107 Kms (81,824 Miles)

Dodge Caravan Stats:
Mileage travelled: 6,411 Kms (4,001 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 219.91
Miles/ US Gallon: 18.2
Mileage when disposed in June: 189,221 (118,093 Miles)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas - December update

Merry Christmas to all. Although we didn't go anywhere out of town since December 3rd, it has been a very busy month.

Operation Red Nose

Operation Red Nose is program in place in a number of communities across Canada. During the festive season, three person teams of volunteers respond to calls from individuals who believe they may have had too much to drink to drive home safely and legally. One member drives the escort vehicle while the designated driver will drive the client's vehicle home accompanied by a navigator. The escort vehicles have two way radios to base to receive the calls. Shifts start about 8:00 PM and they stop taking calls at 3:00 AM so, after the pizza at the end of the shift, volunteers can get home as late as 5:00.

I worked three Saturdays before Christmas with teams made up of Action Sudbury volunteers. We were a small part of the overall volunteer contingent but were able to show support from our organization for this worthy cause. Next year, we'll start earlier and try to get more out.

December 8 - Ron, Nataly and me

December 15 - John, Ashleigh and me

December 22 - Me, Jamie and Ashleigh

December 22 2nd team - Steve, Gary and Lino

I have one more shift scheduled for next Saturday with daughter Kim and son-in-law Mike, who will be visiting from Cambridge. If you have this free service in your area, please use it. Or better yet, volunteer for it.

MS Society Sudbury Chapter Christmas Social

The members of the local chapter gathered  at the Rona Ramsey Centre Of Hope for the annual Christmas get-together. I was a bit tired after getting in at 4:30 AM from Operation Red Nose. The meal was pot luck and the chefs were awesome. 

In addition to the food, there was plenty of time for getting to know fellow members and we even had our own Elvis impersonator, who apparently is a regular fixture every year.

Cindy and Joan

Elvis lives!

The table

Sheila, Donna Rose and Laurel slave in the kitchen

The Centre Of Hope building is unique among MS Society chapters and was the brainchild of Rona Ramsey, for whom it has just been named. Rona was also honoured with a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Award recognizing people that have provided outstanding volunteer service.

During the month, I was appointed Treasurer of the local chapter and am still trying to figure out how the books work.

Salvation Army Kettles

On Thursday the 13th and again on the 20th, I put in a couple of hours as part of an effort by our local chapter of the Ontario Provincial Police Veterans Association to support the Salvation Army. We manned the kettle at the local Costco, sharing time slots to cover both days completely. Even a devout non-Christian such as myself can't help but acknowledge the fine work this group does and, despite my personal beliefs, I had a good time wishing everyone Merry Christmas and thanking them for their generosity.

Ringing the bell for the Sally Ann at  Costco

France Gelinas Constituency Office Christmas

France Gelinas is the Member of Provincial Parliament for part of Sudbury. She is a strong supporter of Action Sudbury and always invites us to promote our message at the Christmas fete she hosts at her constituency office in Hanmer. This year, Normand and I both attended and, along with Ms. Gelinas, gave out red ribbons and other promotional items on December 18th in front of her offices. There were also cookies and coffee. It was a feel-good day.

Me, France Gelinas and Normand

Tom and Heather Visit

Tom and Heather drove up in a snowstorm on Friday night and visited for a couple of days. They headed back yesterday morning but it was great to see them even if just for a short while.

So again, Merry Christmas to all. May you all have enough.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Cambridge Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

It was grey overcast this morning. The warm weather had melted all the snow and ice and I was comfortable in a T-shirt and sneakers. The trip home was uneventful as we took Highway 24 to Airport Road, Highway 9 and Highway 400 North. In Caledon, we saw Canada geese flying north. Either they are confused or they know something we don't.

In Guelph - look beside the pole for a mini-excavator hung by a cable

I made a note to mention a comedian named Ross Bennett who we caught on XM. He did a routine on water skiing that had me laughing hard enough I couldn't see for the tears in my eyes. Not so good when you are the one who is steering 6,000 pounds of Chevy truck (OK, almost a truck) down the road. I looked on YouTube but didn't find the particular routine. Still, keep an eye out for this guy.

The Barrie service centre I keep complaining about actually had a construction trailer set up and they were cutting down fir trees. Maybe they will finally get this done some day. Or at least get it started.

We stopped at the Esso at Waubaushene. They have this moose sculpture there but I guess I have never looked at the sign before. I wonder what they were thinking?

I understand the rest, but yodeling????

The stretch of Highway 69 north of Harris Lake to the Magnetawan Bridge has been resurfaced. Wow, I didn't even notice them doing it. It is really nice, though, since this had been the worst stretch of pavement on the whole highway. North of the French River, they say two stretches will be finished by summer of 2015 and 2016, respectively. I wander about the rest, which is supposed to be done by 2017. Hard to tell when the MTO website is three years out of date. But that is government for you.

There was an OPP cruiser on the four-lane north of Estaire parked in the perfect spot to catch northbound traffic. He was just around a curve hidden by a rock  cut. Lucky for me 119 KPH in a 100 didn't catch his eye. As we approached Sudbury, we found that after blue sky for a couple of hundred miles, the city was under a cloud. No surprise.

You can tell we are approaching Sudbury

As usual, I noted the gas prices. Regular was $1.207 per liter in Cambridge when we left and was $1.286 when we got home. For the US crowd, that is a difference of over $0.30 per gallon. Another cross we bear here in the north. We got into the driveway at about 1:00 PM, not bad time for a winter drive.

Today's Route (285 truck miles):

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Sunday, December 02, 2012

Cambridge Ontario - Birthday Party Day

As mentioned, this isn't really anyone in the family's birthday but when you are really important, like the Queen or my grandchildren, you can celebrate whenever it is convenient. So today is Party Day for Jolene and Robyn.

The early part of the morning included finishing the decorations in the family room. Cookie the FurReal dog wouldn't be putting in an appearance since she was going to be a Christmas gift. Later in the morning, the many aunts, uncles, cousins and other grandparents started to arrive and the party got into full swing.

Robyn and Jolene at the Play-Doh table

Robyn and Jolene with birthday cupcakes in the background

Uncle Tom, Aunt Heather and Grandma Sandy

Dad Mike and kids at the cupcake table

Grandma Koolen gets down to kid level

Mom Kim, Jolene and the inflatable chair

Robyn working at a puzzle

After the gift openings, food and birthday cupcakes, the visitors started to head out for the rest of their day. As for the rest of us, it was time for Kinderswim. This is a swimming class for young children and their parents at a nearby pool and we went along to spectate. I got one picture before being informed that cameras were not allowed in the pool area. Silly me, I forgot that everyone is paranoid these days.

There is a good looking family

I was impressed with the enthusiasm both kids showed in the water. I hope they keep this up and we can have lots of fun times in the pool and at the beach in the future.

Back at the house, Tom and I took a run to the new Lone Star Bar & Grill to get and order of Fajitas For Ten to go. This was more than enough for all of us and made for a different supper. Then it was time for the kids to go to bed while the adults had some TV time before turning in as well.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Cambridge Ontario - Hanging out with the grandkids

Today was a fairly quiet one for me. I got to babysit Jolene and Robyn while Sandy and Kim went shopping. We played and had a great time but I didn't take notes so I don't have a lot to tell except to say that being a Grandpa is great.

Robyn giving me "the look"

Jolene giving me "the other look"

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sudbury Ontario to Cambridge Ontario

Granddaughter Robyn's second birthday was October 21st while granddaughter Jolene is going to be four on December 23rd but, in the interests of getting all the traveling family together, parents Mike and Kim decided to hold a joint party on Sunday, December 2nd.

This morning, Action Sudbury held its Red Ribbon Kickoff, the start of our holiday campaign to encourage people to Drive Aware, Not Impaired. As Vice-Chair, I put on my new jacket, shirt and tie and actually got to say a few words, primarily suggesting that the various sober driving organizations need to work together locally. Some of the ladies said I cleaned up nicely and should dress up more often. After the festivities, I took all the display gear to Normie at the Sudbury Trail Plan office in Garson where he was going nuts because this weekend was the cut-off of the reduced price snowmobile trail permits and everyone had left it to the last minute.

As we were getting ready to leave, Kim called and asked if we could look for a FurReal Friends toy dog named Cookie. We started at Toys R Us where the lady told us Cookie was discontinued. Then we tried WalMart where the very attractive toy department manager said she had one earlier but it was gone. She suggested Zellers, which was liquidating due to the Target takeover. There we found Cookie but it was $70, not the $20 Kim expected. With discounts, it was actually priced at $56. We called Kim and, after some debate at her end, we were told to get it even though there was a No Return policy in place.

Finally, after a stop at Subway for a road lunch to go, we were rolling south bound at 3:25. I had hoped my brother Rabbi, who is home in the Soo from the Oil Patch in Alberta, would have been able to join us but he had other commitments. The first half of the trip was uneventful although, after a stop at the Tim's south of Parry Sound, we heard barking coming from the back seat where we had Cookie stowed. Near Waubaushene, we started to encounter snow which began to lightly coat the roads so I slowed down. North of Barrie, we saw a gang of northbound plows taking up the whole road with a long line behind them. The only catch was that there wasn't much snow on the road, which didn't speak well for the judicious use of our tax dollars. Through Barrie, we were held up because a couple of vehicles tangled and a pickup truck was crosswise in the road.

Pickup truck crosswise on Highway 400 at Barrie

Once clear of that obstacle, we continued south on slushy roads. I was pleased with how the truck handled it. My Neon would have been sideways and my Caravan would have been pulling back and forth but the Avalanche just drove through it in total control. I had it in Four Wheel Drive Auto mode, which means the front differential is engaged but only puts power to the wheels when the truck thinks it needs it. This uses a little more fuel but gives a much more stable feeling and better control. Still, we took it easy because I don't want to be one of those people who think 4WD is a magic bullet and then end up in the ditch.

I had always wondered how the Garmin Zumo 550 knew to change to night mode since it doesn't have a visible light sensor. I finally looked it up and the consensus is that it works off the internal clock (which it is not smart enough to adjust for time zones even though it knows where it is) and the sunrise/sunset times in the current zone to change the setting. This device is both very smart and incredibly stupid at the same time but I don't know how I traveled before I had it.

We stopped at the Highway 89 Service Centre McDonald's for burgers to go and were treated to another episode of Cookie barking in the back seat. I wondered if we should feed her? The road dried out near Canada's Wonderland but we still took the expensive Highway 407 toll road around the north side of Toronto, where the electronic Compass sign said "Arrive Alive - Drive Sober" This is the motto of Arrive Alive, the provincial organization Action Sudbury is affiliated with. When we reached Highway 401 West, we encountered bumper-to-bumper traffic and crawled our way along, although it picked up a bit as we got closer to Cambridge. Even with the black ice, I think that the forty car lengths gap that some drivers were leaving was a bit much.

We finally pulled into Kim and Mike's at 9:30 PM after negotiating glare ice on the Cambridge side streets. They don't believe in using salt (or much of anything else) down here in the winter.

Today's Route (285 truck miles):

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Freedom Riders Halloween Party

The Freedom Riders held another successful Halloween Party at Ray's house in Hanmer. The turnout was a bit disappointing but all who were there had fun, hence the success.

Costumes galore

Jill and Shaun

President Rob, Ruth and Jack

Shaun talking down to Rob as Ruth and Jack watch

Ken and Carole are having fun

Sandy and Mary Ann hit the food table

Our host ray in all his sartorial splendour

Monday, October 08, 2012

Woodstock Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

It was Thanksgiving Monday and, while we would be heading home today, we were in no hurry.

The first order of business for Tom and I was to watch the recording of last evening's NASCAR race at Talladega. This took less time than the actual race because we fast forwarded through the commercials and some laps where nothing was happening. We are both in the VROC NASCAR Fantasy League and were pulling for our respective drivers. The 168 lap race was fairly uneventful for 167 3/4 laps and then, on the final turn, all hell broke loose when a good percentage of the field wrecked. Restrictor plate racing is a crap shoot at best and I rolled snake-eyes in this one.

Shortly after 9:00 AM, Kim and Mike arrived with the girls and we headed for the restaurant at the nearby Travel Centers of America truckstop. In addition to a la carte items (including the only chicken fried steak I have found in Canada), they have a decent breakfast buffet. I had my first seniors (60+) buffet and, after looking at the wise choices, grabbed a selection of eggs, bacon, sausage and ham backed up by home fried potatoes and pancakes. I have no willpower but I am a satisfied eater. Once again, the granddaughters behaved perfectly, unlike many kids I see in restaurants. Jolene had a Mickey Mouse pancake and sausages while Robyn enjoyed a toddler's buffet focusing on potatoes and sausage links.

The family truckstop breakfast

Robyn,is happy as always

After breakfast, everyone came back to Heather and Tom's for a while. After we bid them adieu, I talked to Heather for a bit about some accounting issues with her association books and then we were on the road by noon.

Jolene playing with Uncle Tom's video game

Heather and Tom's deck  project

I fueled at the truckstop Sunoco before we started out. The price was $1.287 per liter, much better than the $1.366 we found when we got back to Sudbury. I don't understand why this disparity exists but we have become resigned to it.

I decided not to go home through Toronto because it was too late in the last day of a long weekend and I figured all the roads into Hogtown would be jammed. We took the 401 to Cambridge and then followed Highway 24 (or what is left of it post-Harris) to Airport Road and Highway 9. There was, as we noticed all weekend, a strong O.P.P. presence all along the 401. Going through Erin on 24, normally a quiet little town, southbound traffic was exceptionally heavy. This was compounded by additional traffic due to the fair. I chuckled and thought of Sherm when a comedian on XM started talking about Big Lot stores.

Many O.P.P. on the highways this weekend

Downtown Guelph

More Guelph

As we merged from Highway 9 onto the 400 North, the Honda ahead of me accelerated briskly to 80 KPH (speed limit 100), preventing me from picking up speed and certainly annoying the trucker who was bearing down on both of us from behind at about 110. I moved over a lane as soon as I could and left the Honda to the trucker.

Northbound traffic was heavy but moving steadily, unlike the often stopped three lanes of cars going southbound. I love living in the north and not having to play lemming. We stopped at Waubaushene for Subway and coffee, As we moved further north, the brilliant fall colours started to fade until we were left with the yellows of birches and poplars and then no leaves at all.

Sunday driver in Erin

Southbound traffic jammed in Barrie

Highway 400 meets Highway 11

I feel sorry for the city folk

As we move right along

Trees north of Barrie

Some more, but the colours are less vivid

Splashes of colour

And more

More yellows now

Northern colours - not

Our leaves have fallen

We arrived home about 6:00 PM. Before we started out, I had dropped the tire pressures from the door plate 30 PSI to 27. This was directly proportional to an actual weight of 6,000 lbs versus a GVWR of 7,000. The truck rode and handled better and yet, at 20.0 MP(US)G, it didn't suffer in the  mileage department. I will bump the pressures up when towing but, for now, it looks like 27 is the number.

Today's Route (312 truck miles):