Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Blahs

We haven't been anywhere since the beginning of the month so I decided to post an update on how we've been doing.

I mentioned in my Christmas post that I had my last cigarette on November 27th. That was still my last cigarette. As for my general lack of motivation, I have gotten a few things done but am still coasting for the most part. On the plus side, I have lots to keep me busy once I get going.

One of the negatives lately has been my weight. On December 5th, I tipped the scale at 210 pounds. On January 24th, I was almost 225. Ouch. Sitting around watching TV, eating all the wrong foods and not going to the gym have a price. Plus my blood sugar hasn't been very well controlled, either.

That changed on the 25th. Since then I haven't had one thing that wasn't on my good foods list and have watched my portion control. I've started back at the gym, taking it slow at first, and I am getting plenty of water. My weight this morning was 218 and my blood sugar has been much better. This rate of weight loss won't continue. There is always a loss of excess fluids at the start of an effective diet (for me, anyway) and I expect to settle in at about two pounds a week based on approximately 1,600 balanced calories a day. The only thing I worry about is that tobacco used to be my way of ignoring food. Now I need to ignore both. So far, so good.

I also finally got in to see the cardiologist for the consult regarding my echo cardiogram and stress test last October. My Doctor had the reports in November and told me the echo showed increased calcification of my aortic valve while my stress test was "equivocal". The cardiologist cleared up my concerns. He said the Aortic Valve Stenosis (big words) was only marginally increased and the murmur was still a level one. He had me schedule another echo for two years down the road to keep an eye on it. As for the stress test, he said I handled the treadmill well and the only equivocal signs came at the end of my cool down period. He said not to worry about it.

It has been a mild winter without much snow. A few weeks ago, I fired up the 25 year old snowblower. Despite working fine a few weeks before, the auger drive seized up. I think it was the gearbox. In any case, it was very old so we headed over to Lowe's and bought a new one. Since it doesn't get used that much any more, we bought the house brand unit that was on sale. It is a 27" approximately 10HP unit and has been working fine for the few snowfalls we've had.

I need to get to work clearing my backlog. Some people are depending on things and I need to get things out of the way so I can get around to planning the spring trip. The days are getting longer and things should be right with the world before too long.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Freedom Riders Kris Kringle

The Freedom Riders Motorcycle Association of Northern Ontario, Inc. held it's annual Kris Kringle party this evening in the field house at Ridgemount Playground. It might seem like an odd time for a Christmas party but we don't have date conflicts with other parties and the presents for the gift exchange are usually on sale.

Last year, the weather got down to -32C overnight. This year was much milder.  We picked up Sue, the club Secretary, on the way and arrived before 3:00 PM. There was a good contingent of early people to help with the setup.

The official evening started with a short club meeting at 5:00 PM. That was followed by mingling and socializing for a bit before the pot luck buffet was laid out. The food was excellent and nobody was hungry when it was over.

Some of my favourite ladies

The buffet table

Ken digs in

Mmmm Mmmm Good

After dinner, we moved on to the gift exchange segment of the Kris Kringle. It involves wrapped gifts on a table and names in a drum. The first person called picks a gift from the table, unwraps it and shows it to everyone. Each person after has the option of taking a gift from the table or stealing one that is already open. If your gift is stolen, you may take one from the table or steal another one (provided it hasn't already been stolen in this round). It is best to be picked last.

I pull the names and keep track of who has stolen what. This can get complicated near the end when many open prizes are in play. Sandy usually complains that she either picks something she doesn't need or gets her choice stolen. I have tried to convince her this isn't about the gifts. Rather, it is a warped sporting event where you try to screw your fellow club members.

Ken told me a tale of one such exchange where he was picked last. Rather than steal something, he wanted to get it over with so he took the last wrapped gift from the table. It was a set of tie-downs, which he didn't need. So this year he was picked part way through with many nice gifts available to be appropriated. Instead, he took a wrapped gift and got (you guessed it) tie-downs. Santayana said it best.

My name was pulled part way through and I got a set of titanium drill bits. Sandy outdid herself and was picked second last. Almost perfect for a change. She stole a nice pair of pillows. And still, in retrospect, thinks she might have preferred a different choice. I give up:-)

We hung out after the gift phase for a while and then people started to drift away. A number have booked rooms at the motel around the corner. The wild parties are a thing of the past because of the club's position on drinking and driving. We are much more responsible these days and a lot duller as well.

It was a good party. Thanks to Marissa for coordinating it.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Cambridge Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

Mike was up early this Monday morning and got the kids ready before leaving for work. We helped Kim get them into the car seats so she could drop them at daycare on the way to her job. It was a frosty start to  the day as we headed out after the usual stop at McDonald's. All Sandy had was decaf and a muffin while I had my usual sausage McMuffin (no egg) and real coffee. McDonald's coffee has been improving and I will now take it as soon as I would a Timmy's. Plus they have much better lids on their cups.

We would have hit Toronto at morning rush hour. Figuring this would be a bad situation, I got off the 401 at Highway 6 North and took CR 34 northeast. This avoided Guelph as well. Instead of going north on CR 1/29 to Eramosa, I went one road further and took Guelph Line up to Highway 24. I won't do this again. At 24, we got behind two school buses at the stop sign waiting to turn left, Traffic was so heavy on 24 that it took quite a while for them to get moving, which kept us from turning right. The Eramosa route has traffic lights at the intersection.

We stopped to use the washroom at the new Tim Horton's in Erin. This shop has a very convoluted drive to get in, guarded by the nastiest speed bumps I have seen in a while. Then we stopped in Mono Mills for some of the relatively cheap gas. Going up Highway 400, I started to feel really tired. It made me think of the old saying:

I want to die peacefully in my sleep just like my grandfather.
Not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.

I drank a 5 Hour Energy drink. Again, about an hour and a half later, my blood sugar dropped excessively low. I am starting to suspect the little energy bottle reduces glucose. Good to know if it is true.  This time, I had chocolate bars handy for just such a situation.

We rolled into Sudbury at about 1:00 PM. Gas was $1.326 compared to $1.189 this morning in Mono Mills. Something foul is afoot in gas pricing across the province but no one seems able to pin the oil companies down as to why.  In any case, another successful weekend on the road is behind us.

Today's Route (293 van miles):

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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Woodstock Ontario to Cambridge Ontario

It was a short and quiet day today. We got up and slowly made our way the whole 33 miles from Heather and Tom's to Kim and Mike's. We had originally planned to visit for a while and then high-tail it for home but changed our minds and decided we would head home tomorrow instead.

I didn't get any pictures today but then again neither did Sandy. This was too bad because watching grandkids massacre lunch makes for some great photo ops. Jolene is getting to be quite the conversationalist and Robyn is walking anywhere and everywhere. I don't remember a whole lot of the day because, I have been told, I spent much of the afternoon sleeping on the floor of the family room. Sandy and Jolene worked on puzzles and then joined Kim to make chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

Grandkids are absolutely amazing. And we have the best grandkids in the whole wide world.

After supper, we watched a movie. I think it was Cowboys and Aliens. I think I enjoyed it. Then we went to bed.

Today's Route (33 van miles)

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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Toronto Motorcycle Show and VROC Dinner

We were up at 7:00 AM sharp, aiming for an 8:00 AM departure for Toronto. We grabbed a McDonald's breakfast as we were leaving Woodstock. I know Mickey D's is supposed to be bad for us but when we are on the move and need something quick, we know what we will be getting. The shameful secret is that I also like the food.  There was absolutely no snow on the ground and, as we crossed Highway 6, we saw more geese flying north. Winter ain't like it used to be.

Approaching Toronto, we stopped at a brand new Fairmont Inn & Suites at the corner of Hurontario and Courtney Park in Mississauga. This is so new that even Google Maps didn't have it. A VROC friend from Detroit, Steve aka Jester, was staying there and would be attending the show and dinner with us. Steve was the very first non-local VROC member we ever met. Back in 1999, we stayed at his house and then rode together to SEVROC in Georgia. He's had been a regular at the Toronto gathering but has been absent for a couple of years.

Steve was ready when we got to the hotel and it sure was good to see him. He is retired now and rides the new BMW K1600, a bike I am not very familiar with. This weekend, he drove his car. It was a short hop around the airport to the International Centre, where I expected to face a traffic jam looking for parking spots. Oddly, just before the doors were scheduled to open, there was little traffic and a lot of free spaces.

Inside, we bought our tickets and joined the long line at the inner doors. At 10:00 AM sharp, the doors opened and we were swept inside, part of a river of humanity. It was obvious from the wider aisles and gaps in the booths that there less exhibitors than usual this year. This show is more retail oriented and the manufacturers haven't supported it since the December show started downtown a few years back. Strangely, Kawasaki had a full fledged corporate presence and it was good to see them.

After a preliminary walkabout, I left the others to continue sightseeing while I adjourned to the Vancouver Room to represent the Freedom Riders at the Ontario Road Riders Association meeting. It lasted about an hour and a half while we discussed some issues pertinent to street riding clubs.

After the meeting, I found the rest of our crew just outside at the food court. Sandy was nibbling on pizza and drinking a $3.50 bottle of water. That must have been some really special water. Then I followed them as they continued their tour. I had absolutely nothing on my shopping list so there was no pressure as we wandered, but I did note a few things.

Bushtec Trailers had a display here for the first time. There is no Canadian Distributor so this was a factory team from Jacksboro, Tennessee. I bought a Bushtec hitch for the Wing back in 2005 and stopped by the factory to have it installed.  I was extremely impressed by the facilities. Imagine my surprise to find that the Preston family sold the business a few years back and Andrew and John were no longer involved in any capacity. Apparently Lewis and Electrical Connection are still working with them, though. The booth was being manned by the General Manager and the Production Manager. I wondered if Sherm knew this, since he knew the Prestons for many years when he was on the show circuit. I also wonder if the legendary Bushtec quality and service will survive the transition.

Bushtec trailer display and the new general manager

We saw another odd trailer in the Sarasota booth. It was a fully enclosed fiberglass unit called the Siesta and was unlike anything else I have seen designed for a motorcycle. They claim a surprisingly low weight but I'd want to check it on a scale. Also, I had to correct the salesman when he overstated the weight of the Leisure-Lite trailer in a comparison. I have seen the scale ticket on mine. Anyway, this was base priced at $2,440. Of course, windows are extra and the options are many and varied. Still, no setup required each night and you can always climb in on the side of the road if it is raining.

Sarasota Siesta trailer

We checked out the Kawasaki offerings but, since Sandy and I have already ridden the Voyager and Vaquero, we watched the kids paw the bikes. Heather was quite taken with the 900's.

Heather fits the 900 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic quite nicely

We also stopped to chat with old friend Cray Scarlett, who is the sales honcho at Open Road BMW in Newmarket. We go back a lot of years and Crayzy was in his glory meeting people and selling bikes. He had a 1600 just like Steve's on display so I got a primer on all the features of this revolutionary bike. If you need a Beemer, give Cray a call.

Heather, Steve, Sandy and Cray in the Open Road BMW booth

We left the show about 3:05, stopping outside to admire the bikes which had been ridden to the show. The weather couldn't have been nicer for January. I wish we could have ridden, too. There was even a 1974 Kawasaki Mach III, a 500cc 2-stroke three cylinder screamer. I used to swap my R5 for one periodically back in 1971 and can attest to the fact that it was one of the fastest things on two wheels when it was introduced. This one was in very nice shape but seemed a lot smaller than I remember it.

This doesn't look like January in Toronto

1974 Kawasaki H1 Mach III 500cc

Tom picked the restaurant well. A brand new St. Louis Ribs & Grill, it was just a short hop from the International Center and, despite football games today, not crowded. We had a small turnout but more people than last year. In addition to the five of us, Mike and Adele from Ottawa attended. They have been Ontario rally friends for the last 30 years and are Vulcan owners as well. A little late but a sight for sore eyes all the same, The Mighty Stonewall wandered in accompanied Mary and their daughter. I am still kicking my butt for not getting a picture of Stonewall's impressive handlebar mustache.

Tom, Sandy, Adele, Mike, Heather and Steve at St. Louis Ribs

The food was good and the company was great. I think the earlier time and the more laid back venue was a great success. I look forward to doing it again next year and many thanks to Tom for organizing it.

After we left, we dropped Steve off at his hotel. It sure was good to see him and I think we may have
convinced him to attend the Wandering Rally in Virginia next September. On the way back to Woodstock, we stopped at WalMart in Cambridge so Tom could pick up a new Sony Playstation 3. I was dead beat by the time we got in and hit the sack soon after.

Today's Route (159 van miles)

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Friday, January 06, 2012

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

It's the weekend of the North American International Motorcycle Supershow Show in Toronto. For the last decade, this has also been the weekend of the Annual VROC Frozen North Dinner. It was traditionally held at the Mandarin in Rexdale but they screwed up the reservation last year. Tom made a reservation at a new St. Louis Ribs and, instead of waiting until 7:00 PM, we decided 4:00 would be a good time since we were usually tired of the show by then. Today, we will go to Woodstock, dropping by Cambridge first to visit the grandkids (who are home with Mike) and drop off some personal items.

We were out of the driveway at 6:50 AM. The temperature was -5C and there was a light freezing drizzle coming down. Not the best travel situation, especially given the horrendous wrecks that we've had in the last week, so I hope the salt trucks are out in force. We stopped at Pioneer for fuel and saw our price was $1.326. We'll see how that compares to down south.

Traffic was light as we headed south. The drizzle gave way to a light fog as the sun rose and warmed the snow. The radio said it was going up to +3 today in Sudbury. Coverage was low all through the snow belt (the area that gets lake effect precipitation off Georgian Bay). We made a quick rest stop in Waubaushene where the gas was $1.189 per liter. Almost $0.14 or more than $0.50 per USG less than it is back home, just 150 miles to the north.

The service center (I have decided I am going to start using U.S. spellings to keep my spell checker happy) in Barrie remains untouched. The sign still says Closed - Rebuilding To Serve You Better but no one is rebuilding. The MTO website has removed the reopening date and replaced it with TBA. I am willing to bet that MTO evicted the old tenants (McDonald's and Petrocan) to get higher rents from new tenants, who then reneged when the economy hit the skids. It may be a long time before it reopens, if ever.

Snow cover became light to non-existent south of Barrie. It would probably be a good weekend for running shoes but I forgot mine at home.

Snow cover north of Highway 9

The new Canada's Wonderland coaster is coming along nicely

It was early so we followed the 400 to the 401 and headed west. Through Mississauga, the Toronto-bound traffic was dead stopped for several miles. I would hate to live here. Near Halton, we saw some Canada geese flying north. Then, near Highway 6, we saw a motorcycle headed east. While I don't agree with the alarmists as to the cause, the climate is a'changing.

We arrived at the Cambridge McDonald's and had a light lunch. I had called Mike to say we were coming but he had taken the kids to Aylmer for the day. We just dropped the boxes we had to deliver in their garage and headed on to Woodstock. One thing I did note today on the way down was a pretty extensive police presence on the roads.

When Heather and Tom got back from work, we headed out for supper. Restaurants in Woodstock are pretty popular on Friday nights. We tried Kelsey's and Montana's but the wait was too long. Boston Pizza was shorter so we waited and were seated in short order. The dinner was OK but nothing to rave about. Then we went back to the house and watched Paul on DVD again. Sandy and I saw this at Doug's on Christmas Day and laughed our proverbial asses off. It is just as funny the second time around.

I did doze off a bit near the end of the movie so when it was over, it was time to hit the sack.

Today's Route (321 van miles):

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year

May 2012 be everything you all hoped it would be.

Tom and Heather came up from Woodstock to share New Years Eve.  It was a quiet evening.  They headed back fairly early this morning.

Now to start the next season's travel plans.

BTW, still no cigarettes.