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):

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Woodstock/Cambridge Ontario Visit (2 days)

We had a couple of good days visiting the kids and grandkids. I know my American friends may think this is way too early for Thanksgiving since they use it to kick off the Christmas season south of the border, but our seasons are different up here and we like to celebrate the harvest before it is buried under a blanket of snow.

I woke up late yesterday and took a pass when Heather and Tom dragged Sandy out for a cool morning walk. What Sandy didn't know was that the route was over five kilometers long and part of the last section was uphill. Still, they made it back in one piece.

Suitably exercised, the four of us hopped in the Avalanche and headed for Kim and Mike's in Cambridge.

Seen on a cold morning on the 401 (red and white patch on the helmet)

We arrived to find Jolene colouring at the dining room table and Robyn napping. Jolene is now in full time Junior Kindergarten and told me she really likes it.  Robyn got up before too long and has to be the happiest almost two year old I have ever seen. She has an infectious grin that lights up the whole room. Mike fixed a couple of pizzas for lunch and we spent part of the afternoon playing with kids and visiting.

Jolene colouring

A picture for Grandpa Jim

Later, Sandy and I joined Tom and Heather at his mother's house in Breslau for Thanksgiving Dinner. Tom's dad Stan is a truck driver and was on a run across the country but his mom Zofia set a table for the family, including his two brothers and all three sets of in-laws. All were originally from Poland and, including a great table of food, there was a selection of fine vodka and other spirits. Since the men were driving, most of the imbibing was done by the ladies. I had a great talk with Agnes' father who goes by Wesley. I won't try to spell his real Polish name but he is a programmer/systems guy for RBC with libertarian leanings so we had a lot in common.

After supper, we drove back to Woodstock and went to bed soon after.

Sunday morning was cool but Tom and I headed for nearby Cedar Creek Golf Course. It is a nice little nine hole course without too much trouble and we were only the second twosome out. I persuaded Tom that a power cart would be a good idea. The round was pretty good although my wedge was not working at all and probably cost me seven of the 48 strokes on the card. On the plus side, I finished with the same ball I started with. We will have to do this again.

Back from the course, the four of us took a trip to Home Depot to check out building materials for finishing basements. It will be a while before they are ready to do the reno, but Heather wanted to know what was available. From there, we moved on to Cambridge to Kim and Mike's again.

After more playing with grandkids, we sat down to another Thanksgiving dinner. Again the grandkids were very well behaved and we enjoyed the meal immensely. There was some more playing and then, after bedtime, the grownups had some time together before it was time to return to Woodstock again.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

The original plan for this Thanksgiving Weekend was that Kim and Mike would bring the grandkids up for a visit. We suggested that, rather than have them pack up and travel north with two girls under four years old, it might be easier if we came down for the weekend. They agreed. We will stay at Heather and Tom's in Woodstock and travel to Cambridge to visit.

Before we left, I took care of a couple of chores. First, I called Proline Trailers in New Hampshire to order more aluminum blocks that secure the Condor chocks to the floor. Anyone who saw the process of removing the blocks from one channel to slide them into another when switching from single bike mode to double will remember it wasn't the easiest job. With the new blocks, I can leave a set in each channel so that moving the chock will be much easier.

The second task involved calling Turf King about our lawn. We haven't had a lawn service since 2007, about the time parts of the front and back yard were re-sodded. The sodded areas were good until this year, when they suddenly started sprouting gigantic weeds including dandelions, plantains and some things I have never seen before. Turf King provides aeration, fertilizing, insect control and weed treatments throughout the season, including an optional in-depth weed treatment. Owner Rob will call me Tuesday about coming by to do an inspection and plan a strategy.

The problem area is nearest the house

I can't even name some of the things in this budding jungle

We finally hit the road about 11:30 AM. After a quick stop at McDonald's for lunch to-go, we headed south, although we spent the first five miles out of town trying to get through a slug of vehicles whose drivers seemed to have left their brains at home.

North of the French River and also south of Pointe Au Baril, the road workers have blocked off the passing lanes. Most inconvenient.  On the northern part, they are ready to blast some of the bedrock while further south, Miller Paving is resurfacing some of the existing road. We got held up near the Parry Sound Industrial Park for fifteen minutes while a steady stream of northbound vehicles just kept rolling. It didn't help them much because once we got going, the stopped northbound line was still over five miles long.
Closed passing lanes

Stopped here for fifteen minutes

Finally moving

Jammed up northbound holiday traffic

Interesting rock formations abound

I experienced something new in the Avalanche as we were rolling down the slab. I was moving at 120 KPH (75 MPH) when ripples in the road surface appeared to be causing a shudder. We never noticed this on the long trip but then we were towing the trailer and never saw 75 MPH. It didn't do this when we got it and I suspected either the new tires were out of balance or the tire pressures were too high (considering the door plate pressure was for 7,000 lbs GVWR and we were under 6,000). Later on, I did some research and found this is not unknown and may be due to the front suspension resting on the bump stop on one side. When the rain stops tomorrow, I will take a look.

We stopped at Tim's south of Parry Sound for a potty break and then kept on right through Barrie. On the south side, we got off on what used to be Highway 88 and went through Bond Head to catch CR 1. This took us through the Hockley Valley to Orangeville, where we took CR 3 to Fergus and then down and across 86 to Elmira. From here, I let the GPS find us back roads and I wasn't exactly sure where we were most of the time.

The Mennonite influence continues to be evident here as we passed numerous horse and buggies, farmers working fields with horse drawn plows and even some progressive Mennonites in a plain Grand Caravan. They have been inconvenienced at West Montrose where the covered bridge they prefer to use has been closed due to a cracked crossbeam, probably due to vehicles over the 3 tonne limit crossing the structure.

Large flock of birds behind us

Mennonite buggy

And another

Bringing in the hay

For sale

We arrived at Heather and Tom's at 6:05. The kids made supper while I sorted photos (please see the next post for some very nice coloured trees Sandy recorded from the passenger seat). I found a problem with Google Maps because it suddenly does NOT believe that one can get from Sudbury to Parry Sound on Highway 69. I found that this glitch has also imposed itself on previous dynamic maps. From now on, I guess I will reduce the maps to Jpeg's to prevent retroactive unintended revisions. Too bad, because the interactive nature of the maps will be lost. I did send Google a note regarding the glitch but am not holding my breath for a fix. This flaw has only appeared since last weekend.

While I was blogging, Sandy and our hosts were watching TV. Before too long, I got done and decided to turn in.

Today's Route (325 truck miles):

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario - More Colours

Photos by Sandy taken from the passenger seat of our Avalanche.