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.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

I'm not sure if I had mentioned this before, but Heather and Tom are expecting their first child in February. This will be our third grandchild. For something different, they are hosting a house party tomorrow to reveal the gender of the new addition. Heather found an idea where the results of the ultrasound are given to a baker who then bakes a cake. Under the icing, the cake is either blue or pink and, when it is cut at the party, all is revealed. We couldn't miss this so we are on our way to Woodstock today.

It was cool and clear as we left the house at 11:10 AM. After a stop for a Tim's steak and cheese on a breakfast biscuit sandwich to go (the girl on the cash didn't know this choice was on the menu), we headed south.

The highway resurfacing south of the French River was on hold as the crews stowed their paving equipment for the weekend. We stopped in Parry Sound so Sandy could get lunch at McDonald's. I was a bit annoyed to see fuel there at $1.193 per liter, compared to $1.329 we saw advertised in Sudbury. This was an even larger gap than usual.

There was a trace of snow on the ground near Barrie and almost all the trees had lost their leaves. It was Friday afternoon so I decided to avoid Toronto, cross Highway 9 and take 24 through Caledon towards Guelph. Knowing that 24 would be a problem past Guelph because of traffic trying to turn left on County 38, we took County 29 southeast at Eramosa and followed it  all the way to County 34. We followed this to Highway 6 and the 401, where we got onto the slab. As usual, the traffic was slow and heavy through Cambridge but opened up as soon as we crossed Highway 8.

On the way back from Waubaushene last week after dropping the trailer off, the truck had been making a light whine at highway speeds under light application of power. It was doing this again and sounded to me like a problem in the drive line, perhaps the torque converter, universal joint, transfer case or differential. I don't like new unknown noises because, untended, they will often leave you stranded on the side of the road. We've put 40,000 miles on this vehicle in less than 15 months and bad things will catch up with us faster than the average driver, so it will go in for diagnostics when we get home.

In an example of perfect timing, we arrived at Heather and Tom's less than a minute before Heather arrived from work. I didn't even have time to try and remember their alarm code. She was driving their brand new Hyundai Tucson which replaced their Elantra last week.

Yesterday was Heather and Tom's 4th Anniversary so Sandy and I took them out to supper. After some consideration, we went to Crabby Joe's in downtown Woodstock. Tom let me drive the new vehicle. It was a nice meal with good service, very enjoyable. Our server found the gender cake plan quite interesting. On the way back, we stopped at Zehr's and Sandy got eight large Cadbury Dark Chocolate Fruit & Nut bars, something that has all but disappeared from most shelves back home. She eats three squares a day, exhibiting a willpower I can only wish I had.

Back at the house, we watched a little TV before turning in. I'm sorry that we didn't take any photos today. Unlike Sherm, I lack the deep-seated drive to record all my great moments with the camera. I promise to try harder in the future.

Today's Route (323 Avalanche miles):

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Big Trailer Is Sold

We decided to sell the bigger 7.5 x 14 trailer (PROLine MOT 90-14) after the California trip in June and replace it with a smaller 5 x 10 (PROLine MOT 510). Fuel consumption and manageability weighed heavier than the ability to haul friends' bikes around. I couldn't order the new trailer until the beginning of August due to PROLine's summer vacation shutdown and also had to use the large trailer for the Freedom Rally here and the VROC Interlochen Rally in the first two weeks of August. That was when I listed it for sale on Kijiji and in the AutoTrader.

The trailer sat here through August and September with little interest in our ads. Before we picked up the new trailer right after Labour Day, I got permission to store the big one at the Rona Ramsey MS Centre Of Hope, where I am Chapter Treasurer and there was a fenced in side lot. By the beginning of October, I was starting to get discouraged and, when it came time to renew the Kijiji ad, I reduced the price a bit.

Soon after the reduction, I got an Email from someone named Jeff inquiring about the trailer. I told him the unit was still for sale and he made an offer only slightly below what I was asking. Faced with the thought of having to keep the trailer all winter and deciding the offer was close enough that dickering didn't seem in order, I accepted and he sent me a deposit via Email.

I had never participated in an Email cash transaction before, either sending or receiving. Depositing the funds via on-line banking meant I didn't have to pay any fees and the money was in my account immediately. I wish I could use this across the border.

Jeff lived in Shelburne, west of Barrie on Highway 89. He asked if we could meet him somewhere part way to finish the deal. I suggested Derek Roberts Esso at Waubaushene, 150 miles south of us. We agreed to meet on Friday (today) at 2:00 PM.

Leo volunteered to come with us in case I needed a replacement driver. Fatigue is a real issue these days, probably due to the heart issues I am waiting to have dealt with. We picked him up around 9:00 AM and then drove over to the MS building where we hooked the trailer up. After a quick stop at Tim's to get some food to go, we were on the road. But, as I got to the south end of town, something was nagging me and I suddenly realized what it was. There are ten adjustable tie-down loops for the trailer and, upon stopping and checking, only four of them were aboard. The other six were in my tie-down bag back in the garage. We had to drive all the way back around town to the house and get the other loops. Then we were back on the road for real.

The weather was good to Parry Sound where we stopped at McDonald's for lunch. It started to get grey as we headed south of there and started to rain as we approached Waubaushene. I called Jeff to let him know we were running about twenty minutes late. He and his wife Judi were already inside having coffee when we pulled into the station.

The ladies stayed inside while Leo, Jeff and I went outside to check out the trailer in the pouring rain, which let up as soon as we were done. All was satisfactory so we unhooked from the Avalanche and connected to Jeff's van. They plan to haul a couple of Harleys in this trailer. It seems we have covered some of the same roads across the continent over the years. Trailer work done, we went inside to finish the paperwork and then they were on their way. Nice folks.

Farewell trailer

We hit the road back north. The rain had abated at Waubaushene but we drove into another heavy storm before too long. On the way, we passed a BMW rider under an overpass putting his rain suit on.

Rain ahead - glad we have a roof

After driving through some heavy rain, we stopped at the Tim's at Horseshoe Lake Road just south of Parry Sound where the precipitation had again let up. The BMW rider pulled in just after we got there. It turns out he was a Metro Toronto cop who was on a weekend adventure. He was traveling without either map or GPS, planning to seek out good riding roads across the Algonquin Park area. It was good he stopped here because this was where he needed to turn east and I gave him a recommended route, which included a few of my favourite roads in the area.

We continued north uneventfully and arrived back in Sudbury before dark, dropping Leo at his house before going home. It was good to be back and down to the requisite number of conveyances again.

Moonrise over Don Lita Subdivision

Today's Route (318 Avalanche/trailer miles):

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Sault Ste Marie Ontario - Spyder's Web Band and Shirley's Birthday

Yesterday, we headed out for the Soo about noon with Gary (Biker) and Cheryl in their GM Acadia to celebrate Shirley Kominos' (of Spyder Web's Band) 50th birthday. She and her band partner Mark Allemang have been regulars at the Freedom Rally over the years, providing live entertainment in the evenings, and some of us  thought it would be nice if club members could share this special day with her.

On the way down, we were treated to the vivid palette of fall leaves as the trees announced that winter was on its way.

The traditional Northern Ontario mix of deciduous and evergreen trees

A variety of colours

More trees

We stopped at a picnic area between Blind River (long may you run) and Iron Bridge for a brief break.

Mississagi River

Gary, Cheryl and Sandy

Tour faithful blogger

In Iron Bridge, the actual bridge is still down to one lane controlled by traffic lights. The fellow ahead of us was towing a U-Haul trailer and seemed to think the red light didn't apply to him. As he pulled ahead to the bridge, he learned why he should have had more respect for the signal.

I don't need to stop for a red light

Oh oh, where's reverse?

The log truck didn't even slow down

Traffic was light and the trip down was pleasant.

Not many cars on the road

We arrived in the Soo in good time and got checked in at the Holiday Motel, where the four of us were sharing a room. We made one trip out to find a liquor store and had to go all the way downtown to the Station Mall. Then we slipped over  to McDonald's for supper and then waited for Kenny and Carole to arrive. He didn't get away until after work but managed to get in at 9:00 PM due to a blatant disregard for speed limits.

Holiday Motel - Sault Ste Marie Ontario

When Kenny arrived, the six of us piled into the Acadia crossover and I drove us to the Esquire Club on Second Line, not far from where I used to live.

Esquire Club - Sault Ste Marie Ontario

At the club, we went inside and found that Shirley had saved us a table at the front. It always makes you feel special to know the the "Reserved" sign is just for you. Bill and Janet were also there from Sudbury but were staying with family.  As Designated Driver, I bought my first Diet Pepsi but was told anything following that would be on the house.

Shirley and Mark took the stage for a normal Spyder's Web first set but then a number of others got up and the evening turned into a sort of large jam session. The crowd was small at first but soon grew to standing room only. The dance floor never stopped hopping and the music was excellent. There was even a saxophone.

One high point was a rendition by Valerie Powley of Me And Bobby McGee, one of my favourite songs. She channeled Joplin for a while and then went somewhere that was all her own. I have to say that it was the best version of the song that I have ever heard.

Shirley the Birthday Girl

Mark on the keyboard

Bill and Janet

Sandy and Cheryl

Melissa, Soo resident and Spyder's better half

Carole and Kenny

The evening wound down about 2:00 AM and then I drove the six of us back to the motel.

We didn't see Carole and Kenny the next morning. We were up fairly early and set out for home as the rain started. The trip was uneventful and  we got back, glad that we had made the trip.