Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Annual Vehicle Statistics

Gold Wing stats:
Mileage travelled: 5,980 Kms (3,716 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 99.4
Miles/ US Gallon: 37.4
Mileage at end of season: 246,919 Kms (153,435 Miles)

Avalanche stats (total):
Mileage travelled: 35,338 Kms (21,985 Miles)
Fuel Burned (USG): 1,759.3
Miles/ US Gallon: 12.5
Mileage at end of season: 115,018 Kms (71,472 Miles)

     Avalanche stats (towing large trailer):
     Mileage travelled: 14,258 Kms (8,860 Miles)
     Fuel Burned (USG): 806.55
     Miles/ US Gallon: 10.8

     Avalanche stats (towing small trailer):
     Mileage travelled: 6,366 Kms (3,956 Miles)
     Fuel Burned (USG): 306.37
     Miles/ US Gallon: 12.9

     Avalanche stats (other):
     Mileage travelled: 14,714 Kms (9,169 Miles)
     Fuel Burned (USG): 646.38
     Miles/ US Gallon: 14.2

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day Snowplow Story

I was out snow blowing the driveway for the fifth time of the season when the snow plow, a Belanger contract unit which had been widening the street, made a turn to come back up Meadowside and widened the corner a tad too much.

Ditched snow plow

He was in pretty good with a full load of sand on the back. Eventually, a Rotator from Johnny's Towing arrived. Instead of pulling him out, this unit just lifted the back of the truck up so it could drive ahead.

That was a lot of excitement for our normally quiet neighborhood.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

I hope that everyone has had an amazing holiday season and is celebrating a very Merry Christmas.

This has been a busy season. As mentioned before, I joined other volunteers and police officers for the official Festive RIDE Kickoff on the 2nd. Then we had the Christmas celebrations:

December 5th - OPP Veterans Association Bowling and Dinner
December 6th - Action Sudbury Dinner
December 8th - MS Society Christmas Social and Dinner

On the 12th, I rang the bell for the Salvation Army at Costco for a couple of hours on behalf of the OPPVA and then attended an awards ceremony at Civic Square where the Freedom Riders got 3rd Place Non-profit for our entry in the Santa Claus Parade.

On the 13th, 14th and 21st I drove for Operation Red Nose, driving people and their vehicles home after they had been drinking. This was a combined effort of Action Sudbury, OSAID (Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving) and the Freedom Riders.

On the 18th, some of us attended the Charity Bingo, and annual event at Boardwalk Gaming. Won nothing. Then on the 19th, I attended the open house at the constituency office of MPP France Gelinas were we jointly handed out Red Ribbons and Action Sudbury promotional materials while wishing everyone Merry Christmas.

On the 23rd, I worked with MCTV to develop a Public Service Announcement for Action Sudbury that would air on New Years Eve.

And here it is, Christmas Day. The month has flown by. I've now run the snowblower four times, more than I have all season for the last three years. I can only hope that the rest of the winter flies by as quickly.

So again, Merry Christmas to all of you.

Sandy and other OPPVA ladies

Sandy and Andre at MS Christmas Social

MS Chapter Chair Laurel

A rare picture of us together

Carl relieving me at the Costco kettle

Freedom Riders receiving Santa Claus Parade award

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cardiac Rehab

I went for my first visit to the Health Sciences North Cardiac Rehab Program facilities located in the Sudbury YMCA building. All angioplasty and bypass patients are referred after their procedures to learn what lifestyle changes will slow the progression of their coronary artery disease.

After filling out some forms and watching an orientation video, I had a one on one with my new caseworker, Trevor. He is new as a caseworker but, when I started at the YMCA back in 2001, he was my fitness coach. A few years later, he switched jobs and I had specifically requested him since he already knows me and my background.

This initial interview involved getting the medical history and asking a bunch of lifestyle questions. The Rehab program is normally a six month process, with eight weeks of introductory sessions and four months of supervised work in the gym. This assumes that the patient does not have any gym experience. Since I have been in the gym for twelve years and was taught the correct use of heart rate monitors and the equipment (by Trevor) long ago, we settled on a two weeks of the introduction (four sessions) tailored to my situation. In the meantime, I will work out as usual now that I can do so without angina attacks.

Trevor does plan to send me to the hospital for another stress test to determine what my optimum workout heart rate is. Theoretically, my maximum rate is 220 minus my age and the cardio workout rate is 80% of that or 127 BPM. He will skip the theoretical part and give me a real number. I will also have a personal session with the dietitian as well as several classes on lifestyle improvements.

So I am on the road to recovery. Quit smoking, eat right, get regular exercise. What could be easier than that?

Monday, December 02, 2013

Grandkids Birthday Party

Granddaughter Robyn's birthday is October 21st while Jolene's is December 23rd. The Koolen family tradition  is to have one common party to allow the families to get together and celebrate both. This year, they picked December 1st as the official party date and the bowling alley in Aylmer as the location. Of course we had to attend.

Saturday, November 30th

The skies were grey and we had early snow as we set out at 8:25 AM for Tom and Heather's in Woodstock.

More snow than usual for the end of November

The trip down was uneventful. We stopped at the new Canadian Tire gas bar in Parry Sound where I picked up a couple of jugs of the purple de-icing windshield washer fluid. This time of year, you go through a lot of this stuff to keep the windshield clear on the highway.

The ski hills at Mount St. Louis were already open, a bonus for the operators after a few lean years. Having worked on snowmobile trails in the past, I am aware of just how vulnerable winter seasonal activities are to the whims of Mother Nature.

South of Barrie, the northbound side of Highway 400 was down to one lane (from three). Good thing it was Saturday and not a weekday rush hour, but the traffic was still backed up for quite a ways.

It's good to be heading south

I opted to go through Toronto because it was Saturday. Traffic on the 401 wasn't bad and it was up to +1 in Halton with no snow. We passed a couple of people yacking on their cell phones as they were driving, contrary to the Highway Traffic Act. I wonder how many of these would pay attention if the law allowed the police to confiscate their phone the same way that they seize radar detectors?

As we approached Waterloo heading for Cambridge, we got a call from Heather and decided to stop in and see Kim, Mike and the kids. Robyn was wide awake but Jolene wasn't feeling so well.

Robyn, smiling as usual

Jolene flaked out with Mom

Don't bother me.......

We left Cambridge and arrived at Heather and Tom's in Woodstock about 3:10 PM. We had supper of pasta, sauce, broccoli and cauliflower and then Sandy, Heather and I went to WalMart to get wrapping paper and cards for tomorrow's party. For the evening, we settled in and watched Red 2, a sequel to the Bruce Willis action flick Red. Soon after, everyone turned in for the night.

Sunday, December 1st

I was up at 8:15. Tom was having trouble with the new washer, the same problem he had with the old washer. The cold water line wasn't feeding the machine, a problem we had suspected was a bad water mixing valve. But this was a new machine and I found that, while we had water at the pipe, no one had checked the hose. Sure enough, turn the water on and the hose would pulse and stop. He went and got a new hose whereupon I learned about Watts Flood-Safe auto shutoff fittings. If the hose exceeds the established flow rate when, for example, the hose breaks, the fitting will shut off the flow. Aha, great idea once you know about it. When filling the line on a new connection, don't open the valve all the way or the valve will shut off. I need to get these at home.

We got a call that Jolene wouldn't be at the party today because she had gotten sicker overnight. Mike would be there with Robyn, however. Heather and Tom went to church while I went over to get Sandy some calamine lotion at Walmart  for her itchy legs. The store was a zoo with the pre-Christmas rush. Then, after Tom's brother Wojtek, sister-in-law Agnes and their two kids arrived, we headed out in a convoy of two vehicles to Aylmer.

The GPS told us to turn left in downtown Aylmer and that the bowling alley would be 0.9 kms on the left. In fact, it was 1.1 kms on the right. The device is wonderful but sometimes it is a little fuzzy in close quarters.

Party central

Pretty much everyone was already there when we arrived including Robyn who, without her sister there, had all the attention to herself. The kids played, we ate an excellent selection of pizzas, wings, chicken strips and all kinds of mean nasty things I am sure the dietitian is going to warn me about. But it was good. Then Robyn and all her cousins hit the bowling alley before gift opening time.

Birthday girl

Grandma Sandy

Grandma Gail

Lots of food

Robyn and cousins

Co-grandpa Peter

Three years old


Aunt Nicole helps with the gifts

Then everyone else pitches in


The cousins admiring a gift

After the party, we headed back to Woodstock where we found the snow was melting. We watched movies on Netflix and I resolved once again to connect my PS3 and subscribe. Of course, I have made this resolution several times before and not followed through. Then Sandy went to bed while the rest of us watched Russell Peters Notorious recorded in Australia. Russell is one funny Canadian, probably as irreverent as anyone out there today. Don't watch him if you are a fan of Political Correctness. When the show was over, the rest of us went to bed as well.

Monday, December 3rd

We were up before 7:00 and Tom left for work in Cambridge early. Heather didn't have to go until 7:45, so we were on the road at about that time. There was very little traffic on the 401 until we reached Highway 8 in Cambridge, but we got off soon after and took Highway 24 through Guelph.

There was one stop at the new (and hard to get into) Tim Horton's in Erin for a bathroom break and coffee. In Schomberg, on Highway 9 near the 400, there were four police cruisers stopped going the other way. Either this was a very early RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) check or something was up. I never did find out.

It was -1 and wet coming out of Barrie so I backed the speed down because I prefer to be old rather than bold these days. The idea of finding black ice isn't high on my list of priorities. The temperature dropped to -3 in parry Sound and -4 by the time we got to Sudbury. They were still working on the Highway 69 four lane project north of Parry Sound despite the new snow.

Mount St. Louis ski area

Salting near the freezing point is good

Winter Wonderland

Some day this will be four lanes

Working on new lanes despite the snow

Lots of rock to be moved

We arrived in Sudbury about 1:30 PM and found a lot more snow than when we left on Saturday. After we got unpacked, I fired up the snowblower and cleared our driveway and the neighbor's as well.

I spent the evening with Action Sudbury, other anti impaired driving groups and three police services engaging in the official kickoff the to Festive RIDE program in the city. We stopped a lot of vehicles, with the police checking for drinking drivers and the volunteers handing out various goodies to the safe and sober ones. It was a cool, damp night and (I must be getting older) I was glad to get back inside when it was all over.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Action Sudbury Red Ribbon Kickoff

Action Sudbury is a local group of concerned citizens and agencies formed in 1984 by the late Peter Wong to promote sober driving. One of the initiatives is a Red Ribbon campaign through the festive season. Drivers tie the ribbon to their vehicles to let the public know that they support the message. Mothers Against Drunk Driving started this in the 80's in the USA but Action Sudbury was the pioneer in Canada.

The Red Ribbon Campaign is introduced each year with a kick off ceremony held in late November. Politicians, law enforcement representatives, students and the general public gather to hear speakers promoting the message "Drive aware, not impaired". This was the 25th year that Action Sudbury has distributed the Red Ribbons.

I have been a volunteer with Action Sudbury for a few years. Ron Roy, a retired O.P.P. Traffic Staff Sergeant with whom I was partnered in the mid 1990's as Provincial Coordinators of the Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol, has been the Chair of Action Sudbury for many years. This is my second year as Vice-Chair.

Our keynote speaker was a bit different this year. Instead of having a known figure tell us about the evils of getting behind the wheel after having some drinks, Paul Walker spoke from the perspective of someone who had done just that, resulting in the death of his best friend. After serving his time, he is now sharing his story, grief and guilt with people and imploring them to learn from his experience. His presentation was well received with most acknowledging the courage it took to set himself up as an example of what not to do.

The affair was covered by a variety of local media including the Sudbury Star. As one of the founders of the Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol and a retired S.T.O.P. Officer, I presented a cheque from Action Sudbury to Senior STOP Officer Special Constable John O'Connor to cover part of the out of pocket expenses by the dedicated volunteers of the Sudbury Unit.

Presenting a cheque to Special Constable John O'Connor

After the speaking was done, sandwiches, muffins, coffee and juice were available for the assembled multitudes. After people left, a few of us took down the displays and packaged up the remaining promotional materials for future events.

December will be a busy month for Action Sudbury.

We, supported by the Freedom Riders, will join other local sober driving groups Impact 621 and Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID) in volunteering as drivers and navigators for Operation Red Nose. Formally, we will be participating over two nights but I am scheduled for six including New Years Eve.

Monday, we will join the other groups and three police services to formally kick off the annual Festive RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) campaign by handing out Red Ribbons and promotional materials on a large RIDE sobriety spot check.

On the 19th I will be handing out ribbons and other materials at an open house conducted by Mme. France Gelinas, the Member of Provincial Parliament for Nickel belt Riding. France has supported us for years by including us as she marks Christmas at her constituency office.

We will be buying thirty second spots on our local CTV station before New Years Eve to promote our Call Me cards. The custom spot will introduce the Action Sudbury Call Me cards as a means of providing those one cares about with another responsible choice if they run out of options. I need to both consult on the production and pay the bills because my fearless leader has deserted winter in favour of Rome and Mexico. I'll see him again when the snow has gone.

On the plus side, this and other volunteer jobs will keep me busy through the winter months.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Angiogram Followup

I went to see my family doctor today for the first follow-up after my stent was inserted. I was having strange tingling sensations and pressure in the groin area. He checked it out and said I had not developed a false aneurysm, a serious condition where blood leaks from the arterial puncture and forms a hematoma. The sensations were, in his opinion, due to the femoral nerve being irritated or pressured and should go away after  a while. That I can put up with. So I'm good to go and just waiting for a call to go and visit the cardiac rehabilitation clinic located in the YMCA gym..

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Angiogram and Angioplasy

Many of you reading this have been aware that I've been having some cardiac issues recently. After the California trip in July, I started having pressure and burning pain in my chest when faced with physical or psychological stress. It would go away if I took it easy for a bit and I would be good to go until the next time. I immediately suspected angina, not unsurprising in an overweight person with bad eating habits who had been smoking for 45 years and had a family history of coronary artery disease.

While on the Arkansas trip, I did have to share the situation with a few people who noticed I was off my game, but generally kept it under my hat. As soon as we got back from Arkansas, I hauled myself straight to our family doctor. He agreed that it probably wasn't heartburn, given all the risk factors, and arranged for an expedited stress test at the local cardiac clinic. I was already scheduled for an echocardiogram in a few weeks as part of regular monitoring of my aortic valve stenosis, but they got me in for the walk on the treadmill in a few days.

Two years ago, I had a stress test as part of  my regular monitoring and I did well. They had to take the treadmill beyond the regular levels to get my heart rate into the target zone of 138 beats per minute. This time, I made it to level three and my heart rate was stuck at 110 when another angina attack struck. I had to stop right there. My regularly scheduled visit with the cardiologist to follow up on the echo was at the end of the month, but the day after the stress test I got a call telling me that the appointment was moved up to the day after that test. The young lady told me that of they could have accelerated the echo, they would have.

The day after the echocardiogram, Sandy and I sat down with the cardiologist. He said there was almost certainly a blockage and he should conduct an angiogram to check it out. The first available date was in mid-November, so he gave me a prescription for nitroglycerin spray to use for angina and told me to take it easy. Soon after, I got a call from the hospital telling me that the angio would be done November 18th and that I should be there for a pre-admission check on the 15th.

Skip ahead through a month of waiting. On the 15th, I attended the pre-admission clinic at Health Sciences North and gave them my medical history. Because I had already had a recent chest X-ray, they just took some blood and gave me an ECG. I was told to report to admitting at 6:30 AM on Monday.

Heather and Kim drove up to Sudbury through nasty weather on Sunday so they could be there to support Sandy. I had pointed out that it was just an angiogram with minimal risk and maybe they should hold off in case I was going to need open heart surgery, but they wouldn't hear of it. They arrived after dark, having driven through some nasty patches of rain on the way up.

Monday morning, we had no trouble getting a parking space before 6:30 AM.. We all reported to the admitting department where I was given a bracelet and some forms to take to the 3rd floor. There was a special waiting room for the angio department. About a half dozen of us were taken into the suite where we were assigned beds. I was number two, since diabetics are treated first. We were told to change into hospital gowns and our medications and vital signs were noted. I laid back on the gurney and a nurse named Dwayne started an IV line into the back of my left hand. It burned more than I remember from any previous time. He didn't hook the line up yet and sent me back out to the waiting room to stand by until my name was called.

It wasn't long before Dwayne came back and got me. In the suite, I reclined on the gurney and they wheeled me into the OR where I was transferred to a narrow bed as gowned and masked staff bustled about. Someone connected the IV and shot some Lorazepam into my system, putting me in a much more relaxed mood. Then a nurse named Nathan tried to get a line into my femoral artery. He had some trouble, probably because I forgot to tell them about my 1996 right inguinal hernia repair. They had applied local freezing so it wasn't painful but someone probing your groin forcefully with a large bore needle does fit the definition of uncomfortable. They were just about to give up and go to my wrist (an optional site) when Nathan said he had it.

My cardiologist entered the scene. The angiogram procedure involves threading a catheter from the line in the groin up through the arteries to the heart and then injecting a dye that is opaque to X-rays. This way, they can see the blood flow through the vessels that feed the heart and detect any blockages. When they inject the dye, you can feel a warm flush go down your body from the top to the bottom. They did this twice in rapid succession. Other than the warm sensation, there was no sense of  the catheter being there.

When the angiogram was done, the moment of truth had arrived. My hope was that an angioplasty, where a balloon is introduced via the line to the site of a blockage and then inflated to open the vessel, followed by a mesh stent that is expanded at the site to keep it open, would do the trick. The less preferable alternative would be open heart surgery for an arterial by-pass (or several).

The cardiologist asked what he had told me about the calcified valve. I said he had told me that he believed the valve was still OK and, if the dye confirmed this and a stent was all that was required, he would leave it for now. That's it, he replied. One stent in the circumflex artery, which was about 90% blocked. Talk about a feeling of relief.

Now the neurologist doesn't do the angioplasty or stent. That is the province of an interventionist and the one who would do mine hadn't arrived yet. With the line still in my groin, they wheeled me back to the ward where I laid flat on my back for four hours. I hadn't had coffee and they were out of Styrofoam cups. Sandy and the girls fed me a muffin and I napped for a while. When the cups finally arrived, I got no coffee because it was time to take me back to the OR. Once again, I felt nothing as the catheter with the balloon was threaded through my system nor when the stent was inserted via the same route. In a few minutes, it was done and they wheeled me out, but not before giving me before and after photos of the arteries in my ticker.

Before and after photographed by Heather

They wheeled me to elevator and whisked me up to the Eighth Floor where they had a special recovery room for the angio patients. There were two nurses, Melinda and Erin, for six of us. People who only had angiograms were released the same day after four hours of lying still after the arterial line was removed, but those of us who had angioplasties were kept overnight due to a large dosage of anti-clotting drug Plavix.

I was in recovery for about an hour before Erin and Melinda removed the line in my groin. As soon as it was out, they clamped me to the bed with what was basically a large plastic C-Clamp. I laid there for 45 minutes  as Erin periodically reduced the pressure in increments. When the clamp came off, Erin put a pressure dressing on (after shaving some vital parts to prevent later pain when the dressing came off). I had to lie on my back with a ten pound sandbag on top of the dressing for two hours. Then I was permitted to lay on my side for another two hours but had to remain flat. After that, I could move from side to side on the bed and raise the head end, but wasn't allowed up until the next morning.

It was a long night lying there, with nothing but the beep and hum of monitors to keep us amused. Several times, one of the ECG leads pulled off my chest causing a warning and night nurse Mike had to come in and reattach it. At one point, my blood pressure reading was 85/49, causing a different alarm to sound. The cuff on my arm had slipped and the pressure readout returned to 110/75 after adjusting it.

As morning broke, we all heaved a sigh of relief. Melinda and Erin came back on duty and breakfast of oatmeal and toast arrived. A lab tech took some blood and we were encouraged to get up and wander the halls, towing the stand with our IV bags with us. They warned us that if we felt a popping sensation or felt wetness, we should hightail it back to the ward.

When nothing went wrong, we were allowed to get dressed and waited for the cardiologist. He arrived and gave us our instructions. He gave me a prescription for Plavix, which I'll be taking along with aspirin for at least a year, and orders to take it easy for a week. I was told no driving due to fear that the leg action of moving from the accelerator to the brake might open the artery up, and if bruising spread rapidly or it started bleeding, apply pressure above the wound and call 911. After the week, I could do whatever I wanted as long as I followed a low salt, low fat and low sugar diet. Wow, not much food to look forward to. I was to see my family doctor in a week and go for another stress test in early February.

Sandy and the girls came and picked me up and we went home. They left later in the day because Heather had to be back at work tomorrow and I settled in for a week of leisure.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fixing The Avalanche

Just a quick update on the whine in the truck driveline.

When we got back from Woodstock, I took it to the Chev dealer where Ken arranged to have Rob, one of their top guys, take it for a test drive. I went along. He hooked up his diagnostic computer and drove to Coniston and back, monitoring what it was doing and controlling some of the operations from the computer. He heard the whine right away but said that his instrument suggested the torque converter was fine. He thought it was perhaps a pinion gear bearing in the front differential. I made an appointment to take it in on the 12th.

So Tuesday morning, I dropped the truck off at the dealer. I got a call from Marc, one of the fellows who writes the work orders, telling me Rob had found a rough feel in the right front wheel bearing while the truck was on the lift. This wasn't the source of the whine but I had just replaced the left front. I didn't want to have to come back later when the noise got louder, so I told him to replace it. After replacing the hub assembly, they went after the whine in the front differential and the truck would stay in overnight.

Yesterday, I got word that the front differential was fine and they had the noise pinned down to the rear. It seems there was a lot of play in the pinion gear bearing so Rob was going to replace all the bearings and seals. And the truck would be in for another night.

Today, after we attended the Salvation Army Christmas Lunch with members of the OPP Veterans Association, Ron and Mary dropped us off at the dealership where we picked up the Avalanche, sans whine. It was an expensive exercise but I have always been overly aggressive with maintenance and repairs, probably why we have spent so little time broken down on the road over the years.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Woodstock Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

I slept in again this morning, and my feet didn't hit the floor until 8:30. I must really like this bed. Thanks to Heather and Tom for putting us up.

We were on the road by 10:00 AM, stopping at the Flying J in Ayr for fuel. I was happy to fill the big tank for $1.182 per liter. There was a crack in my primary credit card so it wouldn't swipe at the pump and I had to go inside to settle up. I guess I wore it out. No big deal, the card expires at the end of next month so I'm expecting a new one in the mail any day.

Because it was Sunday morning, I opted for the all superslab route through Toronto. I even decided to pay the toll for the ETR (Express Toll Route) 407 across the top of the city. I don't do this much because the fees are excessive but I was in the mood to get home with as little fuss as possible. It was a good choice because the traffic was minimal. Soon, we were headed north on Highway 400.

I'd like to be here on a day when speed enforcement wasn't in effect

Canada's Wonderland was still open

We stopped at the Subway in Waubaushene and split a ham and Swiss sub to go. The skies looked a bit angry as we pushed north. Most of the deciduous trees were bare, giving the skyline its stark winter look.

Few leaves on the trees

It looks like tree didn't get the message

North of Pointe Au Baril, we were brought to a halt by a flag lady. This was a surprise because I thought they were stowing the equipment for the weekend on Friday. But no, it was late in the season and they weren't wasting any time shaving and paving the road surface. We were at the front of the line, so I got out and talked to her. She said they were doing about two kilometers a day.

Waiting for a big southbound line of traffic to clear the single lane

When we were finally cleared to move again, we proceeded through a couple of miles of single lane road while they laid and rolled fresh asphalt on the other side. This was being done by Miller Paving, an outfit I have come to respect because of the high quality work they do.

Sunday paving south of Still River

Southbound traffic waiting

The highway was grooved as far as the Highway 522 intersection and then was good for the last fifty miles into Sudbury. I listened to the NASCAR Martinsville race on the satellite radio as we drove along. We arrived home about 3:30, glad to have made the trip to participate in a significant moment in our family's history.

Today's Route (314 Avalanche miles):

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Woodstock Ontario - Gender Reveal Party

I slept in until 8:00 AM this morning. The guest bed here is very comfortable. It was raining steadily when I got up, although there were reports of snow as close as Stratford. Sandy and Heather went out shopping and said they would pick up breakfast at McDonald's on their way back. In the meantime, I did some research on drive lines and learned a whole lot about torque converters that I never knew before. I also called Freedom Rider brother Kenny, who works in the service department at our local Chev dealer, to pick his brain.

When the ladies got back, Tom went out to pick up the cake. This didn't go smoothly. Before he returned, the baker called the house to apologize. It seems one of her staff left the order form with the cake so that Tom inadvertently learned the result ahead of time. He was surprised the baker had called and told us because he had decided he would keep the fact that he knew to himself and pretend to be surprised when the time came.

The preparations went well. Before the first guests arrived, everything was laid out in style. Chili was cooking and a wide selection of finger foods and pastries ready for the masses.

Ready for the party

Punch and coffee

Gift packs for the cousins

The cake

The first to arrive were Kim, Mike, Jolene and Robyn. Wojtek and Agnieszka, Tom's brother and sister-in-law, arrived soon after with young Maja and Adi. Tom's Mom Zofia was with them. Next, Tom's other brother Greg arrived with his better half Justyna and their little one, Aleks. Soon, the kids were playing with little Slinkies and, in Adi's case, Lego.

Robin and her buddy Whale Seal

Jolene on her best behaviour (for now)

Zofia, Sandy and Kim - grandmas didn't look this good when I was little

Mike and Daddy's Girl Robyn

Cousins at play

Jolene watches as Grandma Zofia gives Maja a hand

Justyna watches her Mom and Aleks

Before long, it was time for the moment of truth. The crowd assembled around the cake table as Heather took the knife and Tom stood by, pretending to be waiting in anticipation.

Gathered at the cake table

The moment of truth

IT'S A BOY!!!!!

Yes, this will be our first grandson. The parents-to-be tell us his name will be Jasper.

The good spirits continued for a while before people started to depart. Heather and Tom had to attend a housewarming  later in the afternoon, so Sandy and I packed up some leftovers from the feast and headed to Cambridge for supper at Kim and Mike's. After we ate, visited with Jolene and Robyn and got them settled into bed, we watched some TV before heading back to Woodstock. It was a dark, rainy night along the 401, one of those times when the moisture in the air soaks up the headlights leaving limited visibility. Too old to be bold, I took it easy and we arrived in one piece.

Heather and Tom were in bed when we got back to the house so we turned in straightaway ourselves.