Monday, May 26, 2014

RIP April Yoder

We got word that, just about the time we were arriving back in Sudbury, VROC friends Brad and April Yoder of Killbuck, Ohio were in a motorcycle wreck. Brad was in hospital in serious but non-life-threatening condition but, unfortunately, April had succumbed to her injuries.

Brad and April were fine folks who attended many of the Great Lakes VROC and other events. They had been planning a new gathering in Central Ohio just after Labour Day. We will miss April and send our deepest condolences to the family and best wishes to Brad for a speedy and complete recovery.

Brad and April Yoder

Woodstock Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

We were up fairly early this morning. Based on yesterday's discovery, I put together a toasted sausage and egg sandwich in the breakfast room. We checked out and loaded the gear in the car under beautiful skies.

Heather asked us to stop by the house before we left. Tom had already gone to work on his bike, but Heather and Jasper were waiting when we got there. Sandy found she was missing her watch so we returned to the hotel and she went up and checked the room. No watch. Then it turned up in a carry back that she referred to as pink but Mal and I determined was actually a tan colour.

Sandy, Heather, Jasper and Mal

A rare photo including yours truly

We were on the road shortly after 8:00 AM. To avoid the Monday morning rush in Toronto, we followed Highway 24 through Guelph to Highway 9. North of Guelph, we got into a line doing 70 kph in an 80 zone. I took the opportunity to pass the vehicles several at a time. The young lady at the front of the line looked a bit perturbed with me and made some gestures as I finally got by her. I am not sure what was going through her head since she was being an impediment to the flow of traffic. All about her, I guess.

There was a bathroom/bagel stop at the new Tim's in Erin. Then we crossed Highway 9 and turned north on the 400. In Barrie, instead of staying with 400, we went north on Highway 11 to Severn Bridge where we connected with the south end of Muskoka Road 13. This is one of the twistiest roads in Ontario and took us to Highway 169 just before Bala.

The Kia has the semi-automatic transmission option, where the driver can select gears manually, albeit without a clutch. I used this option on MR 13, running between 2nd and 3rd gears. The car did quite well. I determined that the amount of sand on the road made this a less than ideal road for motorcycles at this time.

 Muskoka Road 13

 Muskoka 13 took us to Highway 169 through Bala and on to Old Highway 69, which we followed to the Tim's at Horseshoe Lake Road where we made a final stop. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived back home about 2:30 PM.

Today's Route (330 Kia miles):

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Woodstock Ontario - Jasper's Baptism

Despite our early bedtime, we slept late this morning. Heather called my cell about 8:00 AM and asked if we could pick up some crackers, sugar and ice on our way to their house.

The sign in the breakfast area said "complimentary continental" so I filled a bowl with raisin bran. Then I discovered hot eggs and sausage patties on a different counter and changed my focus. Following breakfast, we went over to WalMart and got the items Heather requested. Mal and I delivered them to the house, where we met Tom's parents Stan and Zofia, before going back to the hotel to dress.

Once again, I put on the new pants and shoes (with two pairs of socks), topped with my dress shirt, tie and conservative blue blazer.   Despite all that, Sandy (as usual) looked a lot better than I did. Then we headed back to Tom and Heather's just in time to join the procession over to the church.

Leaving for the church

Heather and Tom carrying Jasper

Holy Cross Polish Catholic Church was a small building. It only holds one English mass a month and this was it. The family gathered outside and then went in, taking pews near the back. Always near the back. I immediately realized two things. One, it was hot inside the church. And two, only a very few of us were wearing ties and jackets, much less anything dress at all. In fact, I saw a lot of shorts and golf shirts. Oh well, I am not very current on this whole church thing and didn't want to be disrespectful. This weekend, I probably attended more church than I have over the last five years.

Holy Cross Polish Catholic Church

Great uncle, uncle, aunt and other grandparents

 Jasper doesn't seem too concerned

The son-in-laws

The mass was....... OK, I have nothing to really compare it to. It lasted about 45 minutes and it was warm. The service was English but the hymns were Polish. I sat and stood respectfully and soon it was over.

Once the regular parishioners had gone downstairs for coffee and cakes (apparently it was a mortal sin to skip this, or so Father was reputed to have said), the family gathered at the front of the church for the baptism. Jasper was the only one getting christened today so we had the place to ourselves.

The priest was a very pleasant fellow, although it was obvious that he was more comfortable in Polish than in English. He also had  a sense of humour, telling Jasper that his baptism certificate was a "driver's licence to Heaven". Uncle Mike (Heather's sister's husband) and Aunt Agnes (Tom's brother's wife) are the godparents. In a slight mix-up, Jasper was almost christened Justin. That would not have been great. Through it all, young J.J. was stoic, even when the water was applied.

Gathered for the service

Parents and godparents

Meeting the priest

 Tom dabbing his son

 Heather doing the same

Welcome Jasper James Gronek

Back to the godparents and parents

From the church, everyone went back to Heather and Tom's house where there was some food laid out. Some might be an understatement. A person would never go hungry at any Polish social event. I tried to go easy but succumbed to a large bowl of bacon wrapped sausage. Another thing I was not familiar with was the baptism dinner sponsored by the parents. We would be dining later at the Elmhurst Inn in Ingersoll.

Jasper's christening outfit

The happy family

Kim and Mike had taken the girls to Aylmer to stay with his parents while the baptism was going on. They were going back to Aylmer to pick them up for the dinner so Sandy, Mal and I opted to follow them in the Kia.

Mike's parents Gail and Peter live on a nice property south of Aylmer. When we got there, the kids (and Peter) were taking a nap. We sat  out on the deck visiting with Gail, who is both outspoken and funny. Before too long, the sleeping beauties were up and about.

Robyn and Jolene with Grandpa Koolen

After a good visit, Mike loaded the kids in their van and we headed back to Ingersoll, which lies just before Woodstock on the 401. The Elmhurst Inn and Spa is a nice facility based  around a historic building that was constructed in 1872. The newer parts are tastefully concealed behind the original structure. We arrived a few moments before the contingent from Woodstock. They seated us in a private room in the restaurant, which is located in the historic section.

The meal was a buffet laid out in another common room. It was an excellent spread, including a superb prime rib and lobster. My biggest objective was to not overeat since I usually have the willpower of a goldfish when it comes to unlimited food. Robyn and Jolene behaved admirably during the meal.

 ElmHurst Inn fine china

Jolene and Robyn behaving well

And now enjoying themselves

A pleasant private room

After dinner, Mike, Mal and I took the girls outside to play on the front lawn. They have several fountains, large trees and a gazebo. Before long, they were joined by their cousins Adrian and Maya. The weather was still gorgeous, proving that summer was finally here.

Pleasant grounds

The original 1872 structure

Jolene and Robyn exploring the fountain

Cousins at play

Eventually, it was time to go. After saying our goodbyes, we drove back to the Best Western. Kim and Mike followed us to pick up a few items Kim had left in Sudbury back in April. Kim drove with me to talk about her work situation while Sandy went with Mike and the girls.

Back in the room, I tuned to the Coke 600 (NASCAR race from Charlotte NC) on the TV but told the others they could change the channel if they wanted. Instead, they went to sleep and I read my Kindle for a while before turning off the light.

It was a good day. And Mal got to meet the rest of our children's families.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

With the memorials done, it was time to head south for Jasper's baptism tomorrow morning. Sandy's brother Malcolm, who lives in the fantasy world of West Vancouver, was back east for a few weeks to spearhead the cleaning out of the old homestead.  There have been many trips to the landfill, salvage yard, Value Village and even a full truckload to the hazardous waste facility in the last little while.

Mal had met our son-in-law Tom when he accompanied Heather to the Association of Administrative Assistants AGM in Vancouver a couple of years ago. However, he has never met our other son-in-law Mike or any of the grand-kids, so he decided to go with us.

This would normally have been an Avalanche trip but we have acquired a new vehicle. Harry had bought a 2012 Kia Rondo (not available in the US since 2010). He left a letter indicating that he wanted Sandy to have the car when he passed on. After Marie, the executor, got back from holidays, we all went to the Ministry of Transportation and switched the ownership over. Although it was a 2012, it had less than 1,900 kilometers on it when we got  it. This trip would give it a better break-in and, hopefully, save us some gas expense.

Before we left, I went to check  something on Google Maps. To my great dismay, I found that Google had "improved" the interface. As has happened so often lately, they made it more friendly for tablets and phones and made it awful for those of us who use a computer and save the maps for illustration purposes. Luckily, I Googled the roll-out and found an option to return to the "classic" view, along with a survey about why I didn't like the new version. I hope they support this for a while.

Following a minor miscommunication, we were on our way about 2:00 PM. The skies were clear and the traffic was light. We made a quick stop at the Tim's south of Parry Sound and then continued on to Toronto. Because it was Saturday afternoon, I opted to take the 400 right down to the 401 West. Westbound lanes were moving well but we saw the eastbound side was virtually stopped from the 400 split back past Pearson Airport. The little red car was peppy but Mal said the back seat, while roomy, left a lot to be desired in the comfort department due to the seat design.

We arrived at the new Best Western Plus on Athlone Avenue in Woodstock about 7:00 PM. This is a new Best Western, but it used to be a Microtel and is about three minutes from Heather and Tom's. It still has some Microtel features like the window seats in the rooms but they removed the ubiquitous mirrors above the headboards. The overall feel was very upscale and the staff were friendly as they checked us in. Our room was a king bed junior suite that included a sofa/fold out bed for Mal.

Once we got our gear into the room, we headed over to Heather and Tom's. I went out to Subway and picked up food for the five of us. For a change of pace, I got myself a chopped salad with roasted chicken. It was large, pretty good and fit the diet recommended by my cardiologist. I need to do more of this.

We got to see Jasper before he was put down for the night. I was impressed with the colour video baby monitor. It's amazing what tools parents have today. We sat around and visited until it was time to go back to the hotel about 10:00 PM. Everyone must have been tired because we went straight to bed and to sleep.

Mal, Sandy and the Kia

Jasper ready for bed

 Won't be long before he is mobile

Today's Route (315 Kia miles):

Freedom Riders Annual Memorial Service

We had planned to head south to Woodstock yesterday for Jasper's baptism, which will take place tomorrow morning. Instead, we decided to stay and attend the funeral of a friend from the MS Society, which was being held today at 11:00 AM and drive down this afternoon. This  meant we would be here for the annual Freedom Riders Memorial Service at 9:00 AM at Fielding Memorial Park.

Each spring, the club members gather to pay our respects to those members who are no longer with us. This is followed by brunch and a ride. Because of the funeral and trip south, Sandy and I were only able to attend the service. Too bad because it was a perfect day for a ride. We took the car to the park where a large number of members had gathered. Shortly after 9:00, Father Jolicoeur of St. Jean de Brebeuf Church spoke some words of comfort and warning. As a rider, he urged us to be cautious on the road while asking God to look after us. I am not a person of faith but I never turn down a blessing. Strangely enough, the good Father also suggested we should buy Sonny Barger's book and read it:-)

Father Jolicouer delivers the blessing

After the blessing, we moved over by the bikes and President Rob presented a cheque for $1,100 to Chris Montgomery from the Canadian Diabetes Association. Actually, he presented an envelope with our 2013 membership reconciliation because the Treasurer (yours truly) forgot the cheque book. I will give Chris the real cheque next week. The donation will send an underprivileged local youth to Camp Huronda, a summer camp near Huntsville, Ontario for diabetic kids.

"Cheque" presentation

Following the memorial and presentation, we hot-footed it home and changed into out best Sunday-go-to-meeting togs for the funeral. For me, this included my new dress pants and Rockport dress shoes. In the store, I had tried on the shoes with my sweat socks and they were fine. The thin dress socks left the shoes a little loose, so I double socked it with dress socks over swears. Perfect.

We picked up Biker an the way to the church. It was a small United Church in an old section of the Donovan. There wasn't a parking lot so we found a place on the street and walked. I was raised in the United Church of Canada but probably haven't been in one for over forty years. The service for the late George Anderson was well done, with our own Rose telling some tales about George and Betty.

The service went a bit long but I think George would have liked it. When it was done, we headed home and prepared to leave for the drive south.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Status Update

You can see from the recent posts that there hasn't been a whole lot of traveling going on.

We had planned to make the revived Hill Country Ride in Texas in early April. When father-in-law Harry started having ongoing medical issues, I cancelled that.

Harry's death at the end of March triggered an episode of severe depression and anxiety in Sandy. This had been building for some time while she acted as his advocate during several hospitalizations for a variety of ailments since New Years. It became so severe that, on April 19, she was admitted to the Acute Psychiatric Ward at our local hospital. She stayed there for 17 days undergoing a course of medications and counseling. It worked and she was released almost as good as new.  In the meantime, I cancelled our planned May trip to SEVROC in Maggie Valley, NC. The one redeeming fact was that Butch & Teresa from Kentucky got the motel room I cancelled.

I also pulled the plug on the trip we had planned to Solvang, California in July to the VROC Aebleskiver Rally. This would have been fun but Sandy's mom Jan is living alone in her house around the corner from us. She suffers from mild dementia, mostly in the memory area. While Sandy's cousins have been helpful, we are now the primary caregivers and are not comfortable leaving for too long at a time.

What we do have on deck is the Freedom Riders June trip to North Carolina to ride The Tail of the Dragon and other Smoky Mountain roads. I will be guiding the crew for three days in the area. We will be heading down a week earlier with another couple to do some extra exploring. We also plan attend the WWR 8 in Bryson City NC in early August and the VROC Reunion in Eureka Springs Arkansas in September.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

RIP Lonnie Armstrong V~8199

Lonnie and Gail were core members of the Great Lakes Chapter of VROC. Their smiling faces were one of the things you could count on when we gathered.

Rest In Peace, Lonnie. We will miss you.