Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Holiday Doings

The year 2014 is drawing to a close.

December was busy. After we got back from Cambridge, I developed a nasty cold that turned into bronchitis. This put a crimp into some of my holiday festivities and tasks. By mid-month, I was back in gear. I worked a number of Red Nose shifts and tried to catch up on other chores.

Christmas was quiet. Sandy and I had her mother Jan over for the day, but that was about it. That changed soon after. Kim, Mike and the girls arrived on Saturday the 27th for a few days. They got a room at the Towne Place Suites and we all went to MIC Restaurant for supper.

Supper at MIC

The girls seem to be enjoying themselves

After supper, I headed out to do a Red Nose shift. This started about 8:00 PM and I got home, as usual, about 4:30 AM Sunday morning. While I was out, Sandy called to say that Heather, Tom and Jasper had arrived. That put my mind at ease because I always worry when family is on the road on a winter night.

The next morning, we enjoyed having everyone home for a bit. Kim and Mike headed home on Monday, but Heather and Tom would be spending a week. Jasper has to be the best behaved baby I have ever met and it was good to get to know him better.


Tonight, Tom will be working the Red Nose New Year's Eve shift with me. This is a hard night to get volunteers but the Freedom Riders have come through again with a few teams. Secretary Sue will be acting as our navigator tonight. They will take calls for an extra hour, closing the phones at 4:00 AM.

So, with best wishes to all for a Happy New Year, we're out of here.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Cambridge Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

Rabbit, rabbit. A new month dawns.

We were up and rolling by 7:20 AM. It was Monday morning and you couldn't pay me enough to go anywhere near Toronto, so we started heading northeast on Highway 24, or what remains of it after it was segmented by one of the more senseless acts of Mike Harris' Common Sense Revolution.

Reaching Guelph, we found they had torn up Wellington Street again. This was just ripped nine ways from Sunday a couple of years ago and here its was shredded one more time. I navigated some back streets to get to McDonald's for breakfast to go. It was a pleasant surprise to find that Mickey D's had been remodeled for the better. Same footprint, different innards.

The route continued up 24 all the way to Airport Road without incident, and then we made a short hop north to Highway 9. The winds were blowing strongly out of the north, which was probably fair in someone's eyes since they had been largely out of the south on our way down. Overall, the percentage of time I am pushing a headwind is vastly greater than random chance or prevailing winds should allow.

Continuing east on Highway 9, we once again noted some confused Canada geese flying north near Schomberg. The nebulous "they" almost got me as I merged from 9 onto Highway 400 North. A highway maintenance vehicle was blocking part of the merge lane and, although he had a couple of orange traffic cones deployed right at the truck, there was no advance warning. I was glad that the right travel lane was empty or it could have been nasty.

The fuel stop and bathroom break at the Barrie Service Centre was brief. They don't seem to have very many gas pumps here and the layout is less than optimal. But then what would I expect from a brand new facility designed by the government? And the exit where Highway 11 splits from Highway 400 is still under construction. I expect there is some young MTO engineer who expects to work on this project until he retires.

As we moved on towards Parry Sound, we got fog and then snow. By Horseshoe Lake Road, it had started to accumulate on the road surface, causing me to slow down a bit. In Parry Sound, we encountered some squalls verging on whiteout conditions and then we moved from squall to blue sky and back most of the rest of the way.

First the light fog

Then the flurries

Pointe Au Baril

Clouds over Sudbury

When we got back to town, I went straight to the MS Society building where I was going to park the trailer for the winter. I got the lock to the gate on the side yard open but wasn't able to lock it again after I dropped the trailer because it was frozen. Not having any de-icer nor a blow dryer, I took one of the padlocks off the trailer ramp and used that to secure the compound, leaving one of my keys on the ring in the office.

When we got home, we found that all the snow had melted. Again. It looks like it is going to be an interesting winter.

Today's Route (280 Avalanche miles):

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Birthday Party in Aylmer Ontario

Woke up at 6:00 AM. Wasn't successful so I woke up again at 7:00 AM. Still no dice. My feet hit the floor about 8:00. There was no Email that needed to be dealt with so Sandy and I showered and headed down to the motel office for Raisin Bran, toast and coffee.

After breakfast, we headed over to Kim and Mike's. Everyone was getting ready to leave for Aylmer for the party. We put Jolene's booster seat in the Avalanche so she could travel with us and headed out about 11:30. Heather and Tom had taken Jasper to Kingston for a getaway and would be coming straight back to Aylmer from there.

A little after 12:30, we arrived at Cy's Bowling Lanes and Lounge in Aylmer. Many of my police friends know Cy's because the Ontario Police College is in Aylmer and Cy's is one of the few places in town to get a beer. The back room was already set up for us. Before long, Mike's parents Gail and Peter arrived as did his sister and brothers and their offspring. Tom, Heather and Jasper appeared soon after.

 Cy's Bowling Lanes and Lounge - Aylmer Ontario

Gail and Peter at the head of the table

Mom and Dad look relaxed

The first order of business was, naturally, bowling. The last time I bowled, I injured my knee so I just watched. Some of the children were so small that it took all they had to get the ball to the end of the alley. But there was a lot of laughing and I think everybody had a good time.

Jolene getting ready to roll

Robyn keeping her eye on the ball

Happy smiles

Jolene keeping cousin Jasper entertained

More of the bowlers

After bowling, Cy's kitchen sent out the food.  We had wings, chips and mozzarella sticks. I tried to watch what I ate. Always watch what I eat. Then I eat it, which is probably why I don't seem to be able to lose weight. It's the old seafood diet. See food, eat food!

After the food, the party moved on to cake and gifts. There was a lot of both.

The gift table was full

Waiting for the cake

It was a nice cake
My law enforcement friends will understand this

As it wound down, we took the gifts out to Mike's van. We were the last to leave, following Heather and Tom back to Woodstock so I could get Tom's Operation Red Nose application. I needed to get it to Sudbury so his background check could be finished before he came up to work with me on New Years Eve.

We arrived at their house about 4:20. I was impressed with their new concrete driveway. It makes the house look finished. About 5:30, we headed back to Cambridge in the dark. It was raining lightly, the kind that soaks up the headlights and limits visibility, so I took it easy. At Kim and Mike's I hooked up the trailer we watched a little TV. The girls had gotten Nerf guns but unlike the soft Nerf bullets, these had some substance to them. I wouldn't want to get shot with one.

Afterwards, we hauled the trailer back to the motel for an early getaway in the morning. There was a suitable space next to our building where I parked it. It was almost 9:30, typical On-The-Road bedtime, so I read some more on the Kindle before going to sleep. This is great because we can turn off the TV and all the lights so Sandy can sleep and I can still read as much as I want. When I've had enough, all I need to do is close the cover and roll over.

Today's Route (139 Avalanche miles):

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sudbury Ontario to Cambridge Ontario

Today was another one of those days when I would have liked to be in two places at once. Tonight was the first night for the Action Sudbury/Impact 621/Freedom Riders team to work for Operation Red Nose, plus I was supposed to do the newby orientation again. The team lists had been drawn up and submitted and Tom, a longstanding Red Nose volunteer, would cover my training responsibilities. It would have been nice to be, there but a granddaughter's birthday party comes first. Since it was going to be a double party (Robyn was born in October and Jolene in December but Kim and Mike hold one official party so people can travel and celebrate both), that is twice the reason to head south.

Before we could leave, there were a couple of chores that needed doing. First off, there is a sump along the outside wall inside the garage. It is almost six feet deep and handles drainage from weeping tiles along that wall by means of a submersible pump. For the last few days, the float switch on the pump has been sticking, causing it to continue running after the sump is dry. This is a surefire way to chew up a lot of electricity and, before long, burn out the pump. I thought I had it fixed but the switch failed again so I headed over to Lowes and bought a replacement. And a spare. Climbing down in the sump is a nasty job but I have a system now and had the switch changed in about ten minutes. It looks like the service life of the magnetic switch is about two years.

I checked the oil in the truck, topped up one tire with a slow leak and hooked up the trailer. The trailer ramp padlocks were frozen so I attacked them with a blow dryer. That did the trick in short order. I dropped the ramp, loaded the old (OK, it is 2012 vintage so I guess I should say "older") snow blower and tied it down. We were almost ready to go. Then I hooked up the GPS and found that the car mount wasn't getting any power. Murphy was in high gear today. No big deal, I knew my way.

We were on our way south at 10:28 AM. It was -2C under grey skies and the roads were slippery due to lightly falling snow, but the forecast in Cambridge was for 10C so I expected that conditions would improve somewhere down the road. I am not a big fan of towing on slick surfaces, but I put the truck in 4WD Auto and third gear and let it roll along while avoiding making any sudden moves.

Traffic was light as we moved along carefully. We were listening to the Red Neck Comedy Channel on XM and I made note of two things that resonated. The first was a comedian named Henrickson who was talking about erectile dysfunction. He described it as trying to stuff a marshmallow into a piggy bank. The second item was a few words of wisdom from the late Brother Dave: "Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get." Sounds close to my own philosophy.

I gave the GPS another try around Still River and, wonder of wonders, it worked. This car mount has been a little flaky since North Carolina in August and, now that one of the button has fallen off the actual GPS, I will need to consider replacing it with a refurbished Zumo 550 (if they are still available) or perhaps an upgraded unit of some kind. Another winter project.

We stopped for McNuggets in Parry Sound and Sandy got a smoothie to wash hers down. South of Waubaushene, the temperature moved above freezing but the winds got stronger. On the plus side, the roads were clear. There were skiers on the hill at Mt. St. Louis but the snow looked pretty thin. Still, this was an early start for them so they must have been smiling. South of Barrie, we noted that the southbound service centre that had been closed at Highway 89 was not being rebuilt at that location. Instead, an On Route facility was being constructed on open ground a few miles north. This looks like a good spot and stopping won't run afoul of the interchange traffic.

It was off again at the King Service Centre for fuel. I scoped out the trailer parking in the back and determined you can't really get there from the pumps. No problem because we weren't stopping but it was still confusing. North of Toronto, I decided to splurge and take the 407 Toll Road. This is outrageously expensive but, with the trailer, it is the easiest route. When we turned west, the tail wind pushed the fuel mileage from 10 MP(US)G to 14. There was no snow down here.

Strange clouds and no snow near Toronto

Near Milton, we saw some confused Canada geese flying north. I wasn't sure what this meant. The rest of the trip was uneventful. Upon arriving in Cambridge, I noted that the gas price at the Shell on Franklin was $1.089 per liter, compared to the $1.136 we had paid in Sudbury. Still, both prices were a welcome relief from the $1.35 range we had grown accustomed to. I know this international price war is going to hurt our economy but, in the short term, it was sure helping my wallet.

We arrived at Kim and Mike's at 4:25 PM. I unloaded the snowblower and fired it up, giving Mike a crash course on the basics of its operation. Then I backed the trailer into their driveway and unhooked it. We visited for a while and then decided to go to Lone Star for supper. Sandy and I stopped by the Super 8 to register and get our keys on the way. While we were there, Kim called to say that Lone Star was too busy and we should meet them at the Thai Coconut Island on Hespeler Road instead. I have never had Thai food before so this would be a new experience.

We were the only customers at the Thai Island. I had Pad Thai with beef and found it quite tasty. The had several types of Koi in a tank, which kept the girls amused while we waited for our food. Our server took a photo so, for once, I got to be in one of my pictures.

Coconut Thai Palace - Cambridge Ontario

When we finished supper, we headed back to the house and I had the pleasure of reading Dr. Seuss to the kids. The Cat In The Hat Came Back, to be precise. I love the rhythm that the good doctor used in his stories. About 10:00 PM, Sandy and I headed back to the Super 8. I had reserved a suite which turned out to be two rooms where the wall between them had been knocked down. It was an odd setup and I wasn't too impressed with the accommodations. Still, it was a bed. I read a book on my Kindle until I ran out of steam and finally went to sleep.

Today's Route (281 Avalanche miles):

Friday, November 28, 2014

Busy November

November has been busy so far despite the fact that we haven't gone anywhere yet. Halloween brought our first serious snow storm. Then it melted. Then we got another dump. And it melted. And again and still again it melted. Three days ago, we got our fourth fall of heavy, wet snow. I went out and bought a new snowblower, a Cub Cadet 26" three-stage HD model. The 13 HP engine handles both heavy, wet snow and the Northern Life newspaper with ease.

Wet snow three days ago

On the 20th and again yesterday, I volunteered a couple of hours to represent the OPP Veterans Association ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at the doors of Costco. Our chapter covers two days for this worthwhile purpose. My Deist views don't square with the religious bent of the Sally Ann but I respect the work they do and consider this time well spent.

 The bells, the bells......

On the 22nd, the local Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol unit volunteered once again to assist with security and crowd control for the Sudbury Santa Claus Parade. As an alumnus/retiree, I am usually pressed into service for this event. I spent the duration of the parade keeping kids off the streets at the corner of Elgin and Durham Streets along with two volunteers from our Citizens On Patrol program. At least, nobody was sitting on the curbs thanks to wet snowfall number three.

After the parade, the team adjourned to The Doghouse for wings and beer (Diet Coke in my case).

The Freedom Riders also had a float in the parade. It was a very good float if I do say so myself.

Special Constable Chuck heading for his assigned spot

Getting located

Kids building a snowman by the Inukshuk

This morning, Action Sudbury - Citizens Against Impaired Driving kicked off its Annual Red Ribbon Campaign at the Travelodge to promote safe and sober driving through the holiday season. We had to set up early today since the hall had been in use last night.I learned that when you borrow a projector from Normie, make sure that all the cords are in the case before you pick it up. Luckily, the hotel IT folks loaned us what we needed to get by.

Action Sudbury Chair Ron and member Norm

These kids just sat there

This was why

Moment of silence

Amazing Grace

Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas

Outgoing Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuck

Sudbury Deputy Police Chief Al Lekun

OPP Inspector Mark Andrews

Ron, Brenda Stankiewicz and Rolly Mousseau preparing to announce the winner of the Rolly Mousseau Award

 Rollie Mousseau Award winner Norm McIntosh of the Evolutionary Band

Ron and Norm - two leaders in the fight against impaired driving

The kickoff went well. After it was done, Ron and I delivered the displays back to the Action Sudbury storage locker in the Sudbury Trail Plan offices in Garson. Norm L. and Dave D. delivered Red Ribbon Coin Boxes to the Post Offices through the City of Greater Sudbury. The City is so large that the shortest route I can find for this task is 120 miles. I will be picking them up in the New Year when Ron is in South Carolina and Norm is in Arizona.

One additional task got added to my plate this month. As I have for the last two years, I coordinated a team effort to support Operation Red Nose here. This program fields teams of volunteers throughout the city to get people and their vehicles home from their social engagements if they feel they shouldn't be driving. My efforts coordinate participation by volunteers from Action Sudbury, The Impact 6/21 Foundation and the Freedom Riders for two specific nights, the first being tomorrow. The new task is thanks to Lesli Green, founder and president of Operation Red Nose Sudbury, who lost her trainer and approached me about taking on the role. I sat with her and we worked out a syllabus to orientate new volunteers. I gave my first training session last night and will do another this evening.

Tomorrow, Sandy and I will head for Cambridge for the nominal joint birthday party for granddaughters Jolene and Robyn on Sunday. I will be towing our trailer with our old snowblower for son-in-law Mike, who bought it from me when I acquired the new cadet.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Tale Of Two Parties

In my retirement, I have been all to aware of two continuing problems. One is that I cannot be in two places at once. The second is that I don't take enough pictures of anything to tell a good story. Both were brought home to me today.

Today was the day the Freedom Riders were holding their annual Halloween Party. This is a big do for the club and Ken and Carole had opened their new home to the Club as the venue. But this was also the day that OPP Sr. Constable Shawn Rae's retirement from the OPP was being celebrated in Britt, a little town 60 miles south of Sudbury.

We met Shawn when we, volunteer snowmobilers of the Sudbury Trail Plan, joined forces with the provincial and municipal police services to try to improve safety on the local snowmobile trails back in 1992. This initiative turned into the province wide Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol, and Shawn was one of the key individuals in making this happen. I spent many hours back in the day with Shawn on the trails, in snowmobile shows and other tasks making this happen. Now that he was calling an end to his career with the OPP, attendance was not an option.

A group of current and former STOP Officers from Sudbury decided we would attend the retirement party to show our appreciation of Shawn's long and honourable service. We met at Biker's house where he jumped in the Avalanche with Sandy and I, while Normie and retired OPP Constable Dave rode with Real. Dave was looking pretty good after his double lung transplant.

Biker and Normie waiting to depart for Britt

Sandy and Dave

We got to Britt and found than most of the good parking places near the church hall had been taken. We found a space across the road and jammed the truck in. The hall was full to overflowing, with music supplied by some local players. It was very country with a guitar, a fiddle and some fellow playing the spoons. The man of the hour was there with his family and I got to meet his first grandson. There should have been photos of all this but this is where problem number 2 kicked in.

We had a buffet supper and socialized. It was dark when the whole town lost power but this was Britt and nothing is a problem for long in a small town. The Fire Rescue truck arrived, large spotlights were placed in the hall and the generator was fired up.

 Rescuing the party

After supper, there were a number of speakers presenting a cross between a toast and a roast. Shawn wound up by telling a few stories of his own, mostly on the funny side, although funny to a cop is often horrifying to a citizen. If Shawn ever offers you a hand, be very careful.

The OPP will be much the poorer now that Sr. Constable Rae is no longer on the roads and trails, but I expect he and Joan will be part of the Britt scene for quite some time to come.

After the speeches, Biker, Sandy and I got in the truck and drove back to Highway 69 in total darkness (remember that the power was out and the houses were dark). We headed back to Sudbury so we could put in an appearance at the Halloween Party.

The party was in full swing when we got to Ken's. It looked like everyone was having a great time. I discovered that I am not very good at guessing the weight of a pumpkin.

 The Freedom Riders ladies

So we couldn't be in two places at once but we could, in this case, be in two places in rapid succession. And that's not too bad.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Freedom Riders Colour Run

It was time once again for the Freedom Riders Annual Colour Run. It was a particularly nice day for late September. Vice President Ken had a nice route laid out to Parry Sound and then over to Highway 11 via Highway 124. It was an awesome route, but a few of us were not in the mood for quite that long a ride.

At the club supper last week, John and Janet sat with us and expressed an interest in a shorter jaunt to celebrate the changing of the leaves. Gary and Dianne decided to join us so we all met this morning at the Tim Horton's at the corner of Lasalle Boulevard and Notre Dame Street.

Meeting at Timmy's

We had a little issue with John's bike leaking fuel at the beginning, but he got that sorted out. I led us across to Highway 144 and north past some pretty coloured leaves to the A.Y. Jackson Lookout overlooking High Falls on the Onaping River.

A.Y. Jackson was a founding member of the Group Of Seven, an conic band of painters who described the Canadian landscape during the first half of the 20th Century. The lookout is a popular spot, especially at this time of year. Some of Kilo's ashes were spread here, making it a special VROC site as well. Today, they were having a charity BBQ in the main building, but we weren't hungry yet.

At A.Y. Jackson Lookout with Highway 144 in the background

High Falls

From the Lookout, I took a short jaunt further north so I could ride the curves along the Onaping River. Just before the railway crossing, I turned and rode back. The tar snakes and breaks in the asphalt made it less enjoyable than usual. We rode on back down to Chelmsford where we turned due south on Highway 144 and then took the Municipal Road through Lively, continuing on to Jube's Bar and Grill in Copper Cliff.

The pavement sucks on 144

Some trees don't realize it is fall

Jube's Bar and Grill - Copper Cliff, Ontario

In the shadow of the Superstack

The building housing Jube's used to be Lolas Restaurant, a regular stop for people going to or from work at INCO's (now Vale but I refuse to call it that) Copper Cliff Complex. Sandy and I used to work in the General Office which can be found in a direct line between the camera and the stack in the above photo.

On the evening of May 17, 1971, I pulled out of this very parking lot on my 1970 350cc Yamaha R5 with a young lady named Linda on the back seat. I turned right, headed up the hill and collided with the back end of a parked Plymouth Roadrunner when the bike refused to turn left due to a deployed sidestand. That made the nickname Skid, given by my boss two weeks earlier after my first minor mishap, permanent.

The six of us had a nice lunch and then went our separate ways. It was a great day for the last ride of the season. Last ride? How depressing. I really need to consider becoming a snowbird.

Today's Route (64 motorcycle miles):