Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sudbury Ontario to Cambridge Ontario

Happy Halloween!!!

But we won't be home to celebrate. Actually, we never do. We usually go to dinner and a movie instead. But things were different today. This is the beginning of our trip to Disney World in Florida with Kim, Mike, Jolene and Robyn.

Last week was a scramble to get various tasks done before departure time. The bike got stored, as did the lawn mower (after cutting the grass as short as I dared to minimize spring raking), while the snowblower was moved to front and centre in the garage. I worked my way through the various task lists until the only thing I had undone this morning was to buy a new pair of shoe laces.

We will be flying out of Toronto tomorrow. I have only flown once since 9/11 and am not up on the rules, so packing was a matter of checking various websites. Kim and I were comparing notes last night and it seemed that she had some sort of numbered ticket receipts for WestJet that she said she got in Bolton when we booked the flights. I couldn't find mine and didn't remember getting any, so I called the airline. The phone was answered after three rings by John, a real Canadian voice, who looked things up based on a confirmation number I did have and explained that I had everything I needed. He also gave me some tips about checking in. Three cheers for West Jet.

Sandy and I each had one suitcase weighing under the 50 pound maximum and one carry on bag. Mine was my laptop bag with computer, meds and paperwork. We finished putting the last things in the suitcases this morning and loaded them in the Equinox. This would be the first trip in the new vehicle without towing the trailer.

We stopped at Tim's for the usual breakfast to go on our way out of town and were rolling south a few minutes after 9:00 AM. The sky was grey, the temperature was in the low 40's and specks of rain were falling as we cruised along in light traffic.

Grey overcast leaving Sudbury

As we crossed the Naiscoot River about 70 miles south of Sudbury, I spotted a bald eagle soaring above the highway. I can't remember ever seeing one of these majestic birds in this part of the country before.

We stopped at the Tim Horton's at Horseshoe Lake Road south of Parry Sound. It was very quiet here and most of the folks that had stopped looked like hunters.The skies were clearing and the leaves were mostly gone. There was another stop at the new On Route at Innisville. There was a construction zone near Highway 9 signed at 80 KPH. I slowed to 90 and was almost run over. Why put these signs up if no one is going to enforce them and everyone is going to ignore them?

Traffic was light so we followed 400 right to 401 west. I got off the 401 at Highway 6 North and took County 34 west. At the first traffic circle, I turned south and we worked our was on back roads to the south end of Franklin, thereby avoiding the traffic and construction zones. I don't think it saved any time but it was more relaxing.

On Highway 6, we saw a Miata done up in racing stripes and a number. From the front, it looked very much like a Lotus Elan. If only the new ones had a spare tire.......

Nice looking Miata

After stopping at Subway for a sandwich to take to Kim and Mike's, we were in their driveway by 2:15. The girls were on a play date while Kim and Mike were trying to get things into suitcases (he ended up with one weighing 49.8 pounds). I stayed out of the way and took a nap until Heather called about 4:15. Sandy and I left the packers to their task and headed off to Woodstock, stopping at Walmart to finish my To Do list by getting some black shoelaces.

Jasper was cute as a lizard in his green costume. There was a discussion about whether he was an alligator, a crocodile, a dinosaur or a dragon. The very young go out early in this neighborhood and I followed Jasper as Tom took him from door to door, lifting him up the steps where necessary. Tom would knock, then Jasper would knock. When the door opened, he would grin from ear to ear, take what was offered and carefully place it in his bag. As he walked away, he would say "Bye" some of the time.

It started lightly raining as we went out. By the end of the first block, Grandpa decided to go back because he was taking these shoes and this jacket on an airplane early in the morning and would rather they weren't too wet. Tom and Jasper went on right around the block and got home a bit later.

It isn't easy being green

Setting out

Thoughtful folks

Walking with a purpose

Knock, knock

When everyone was back and Jasper's costume was off, he seemed surprised (but not unhappy) to find that all the candy was his. As kids came to his own door, he would rush to answer it. All in all, he did very well on his first Halloween.

The spoils of Halloween

We started back to Cambridge about 7:00 PM in the dark. It was darker because the light rain sucked up all the light. It made it seem even darker when we set the clocks back before going to bed. The morning would come early so I tucked myself in about 10:00 PM (new time).

Today's Route (358 Equinox miles):

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cambridge Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

Happy Thanksgiving!! In only 19 more days, we'll be leaving for a week at Disney World.

We were in no rush to leave so Mike made breakfast. Then he had to go into work after getting a call from a contractor who was doing a job today and got stuck. As Mike pointed out, this person will be likely to turn to him again because he helped the guy out of a bind on a statutory holiday. Good business practice.

It was sunny and 65 F when we left just before 11:00 AM.

I decided that since it was Sunday morning, we would follow Highway 401 all the way to Highway 400 before turning north. The price was right on this route. In Mississauga, the westbound traffic was backed up but our eastbound side kept rolling. Things slowed down around Dixon Road, but we kept moving. I switched to the collector lanes and got to the 400 ramp without a problem.

Highway 401 Eastbound

Traffic was moderate heading north. The west wind slapped the unladen trailer around a bit, but it was manageable. I found the Chev was more stable if I locked out 6th gear. We were passed by a Lamborghini that exited at King Road. I have no idea why a car that exceeds the speed limit in 1st gear is attractive, but it did look good. We also passed a broken down Rama Casino bus.

Lambo exiting

Rama bus

Near  Holland Marsh, two OPP Golden Helmets passed us, followed by a Suburban towing their support trailer. The Helmets always ride side by side, even when traveling with the full group. It looks really impressive but my survival instincts question the number of options the riders would have if something suddenly went wrong.

North of Highway 89, the southbound traffic started to back up (as usual).

Southbound 400

Nobody on our side of the road north of Barrie

Some leaves have changed

Many haven't

Mt St Louis/Moonstone Ski Hill

It was time for fuel by Waubaushene, so we stopped at Roberts Esso. It wasn't as busy as I had expected, given the volume of southbound traffic. After I filled the tank, I found a spot to park the outfit and we went inside. A sandwich to go from Subway plus coffee and cookies from the adjacent Country Style Donuts and we were rolling again.

All went well until we came to the end of the passing lane before the Pickerel River Bridge. At that point, northbound traffic ground to a halt. I remembered that the French River Bridge, a couple of miles ahead, was down to one lane controlled by traffic lights due to construction.

We crawled ahead and, every so often, a line of about 80 cars would go by southbound. It took about a half hour to cover the two miles to the bridge and get across,

Crossing the French River one lane at a time

Once we were officially in Northern Ontario, I deduced that more people from the south had been visiting us than the other way around. It took us a half hour to cover two miles. The southbound line extended eleven miles back past Highway 64, all the way to the four-lane. Someone at the back would be here for hours.

Next in line to cross

Thousands of vehicles

Highway 64 - the Alban turnoff

Clear roads, one of the perks of being a Northerner

The rest of the way to town was uneventful. At the TownPlace Suites, we saw tour buses and trucks belonging to the Paul Brandt/Dean Brody 2015 Road Trip. It turned out that they would be playing at the Sudbury Arena tomorrow night.

Rare custom bike in Sudbury

Tour buses

Road Trip trucks

I was backed into the driveway by 4:45 and we were unloaded and unhooked by 5:00. I took the Equinox out and filled it up. The fuel mileage for the trip was just over 15 MPG (US), or 18 Canadian, compared to a typical 12 US in the Avalanche.

Today's Route (288 Equinox miles):

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cambridge Ontario - Rockton Fall Fair

I woke up late again this morning. Jolene gave me a lesson on using the elliptical machine in the basement. She said she wasn't allowed on it unless an adult was present. Still, aerobic workouts are a good habit to acquire at any age.

The breakfast of Cinnabons wasn't the healthiest, but it was popular. Kim had suggested that the Rockton Fall Fair (modestly referred to at the Rockton World's Fair) might be an entertaining place to visit. The little village of Rockton on the highway to Hamilton is better known as the home of the African Lion Safari. My plan was to arrive at the fair early and beat the rush.

We were early indeed. We parked just outside the gate right next to the handicapped spots.

Parked in an empty lot in Rockton

The midway didn't open until 11:00 AM, so we toured the poultry building. There were more types of chickens, roosters, ducks, geese and turkeys than I have seen in one place in a long time. There was also a section for rabbits, which interest me more than the birds.

Can we have one?

A corn box for future farmers of Canada

We walked through the Midway area checking out the rides and then decided some food would be in order. Man does not live by Cinnabon alone. There were any number of food concessions but I suggested we support the local Lions Club because they put the money they make back into the community. The girls had hot dogs while I enjoyed stacked back bacon on a bun. It was cool and there were strong gusts of wind, but I had to call it a fine fall day.

Support your local Lions Club

The midway still wasn't open so we wandered through some other pavilions. In one we watched a bit of the alpaca judging. Then we went through a building filled with goats. There was even a breed of goat that had no ears. I had never seen one before but I found the La Mancha breed has been around for a long time.


The midway was finally coming alive. I suggested that each girl could take three rides. In practice, that expanded to four rides each and then we all went on the Ferris wheel together.

Robyn on the Super Slide

Jolene ready to fly

The only ride they did together

Jolene tried the swings, too

Looks like fun

Robyn on the Merry-Go-Round

Jolene on the Dragon coaster

Why aren't her hands up now?

With the fun done, we decided to head for home. On the way out, I donated to the Boy Scouts and they gave each of the girls a nice apple to eat on the way back. The parking lot was now full. At least that was what the sign said. The early bird gets the worm. Of course, I often wonder how that works out for the worm.

Kim and Mike were already home when we got there. It was time to haul the bed over to Heather and Tom in Woodstock. Robyn and Jolene elected to come along so we moved their booster seats in the Equinox and set out. I asked the girls to make sure we didn't lose the trailer.

The girls played with Jasper and his toys while Tom and I disassembled the bed in the trailer, carried the pieces upstairs and reassembled it in Jasper's bedroom. Heather had this bed when she was going to university. The way it goes together is ingenious but not necessarily evident without the instructions. Still, we got it done.

 All three grandchildren

It was unfortunate that we couldn't stay longer but we will come and visit longer on Halloween and maybe go out with Jasper. We had to go home tomorrow because I broke a tooth just before the weekend and I had a Monday appointment to get it fixed.

We got back to Cambridge by 4:30. Mike ordered supper from Swiss Chalet, who now have rotisserie beef on their menu. Not a fan of their chicken, I found the beef was pretty good. After the girls went to bed, the four adults watched Toronto win the do-or-die ball game against Texas and then hit the sack.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cambridge Ontario - Dinner & A Movie

I woke up about 9:00 AM, later than everyone else. Sandy and I went with Kim to take the girls to skating lessons at the Galt Arena Gardens, the oldest continuously operating ice hockey arena in the world.

Robyn having breakfast

Ready to go skating


Lace them tight

While we watched the girls skate, Kim pointed out that Mike had sold the new lighting in the arena. I wandered around a found a mural for the Cambridge Skating Club featuring Ronnie Shaver from the 1970's. It suddenly hit me that this was where my late brother Doug had come in the summers during the early 70's to train with the same coach Ron had, Neil Carpenter. I suddenly felt a connection to this stately old building. And I didn't document any of it with the camera on my belt because I suck as a photographer.

Back at the house, Kim and Mike were getting ready to leave for a wedding in Fort Erie (right across the river from Buffalo). They were staying at the Clarion, a place we stopped at and enjoyed on the way to SEVROC in 2013.

With parents gone, we settled down to watch the animated Hotel Transylvania on Netflix with the girls. They had already seen it but we were catching up since we would soon be off to see Hotel Transylvania 2 at the theater. I'm not a big fan of animated kid movies (Shrek excepted), but I did enjoy this.

First movie done, we piled into the Mazda and headed for the Cambridge Centre Mall and the Galaxy Cinemas within. We were early so we bought our tickets and then wandered over to Tim Horton's for hot chocolate and "dirt and worms" donuts. That would be donuts covered with chocolate sprinkles and gummy worms.

A pre-show snack at Timmy's

Robyn's dirt and worms donut

Jolene tearing into her donut

We got back to the theater in time to get some good seats. The girls were extremely well behaved in the show and didn't keep Grandpa awake. Seriously, I saw most of the movie and enjoyed it, although I'm not sure whether that was more enjoying the kids enjoying it. Still, a pleasant experience.

Kim had suggested Tony's Family Diner on Franklin might be a good place for supper. The place was packed but we found a table for four right away. The menu was simple but the food was good (when it finally came). it seems the kitchen has some throughput limitations. The delay was rough on the girls, but we got through it. We also had a lot of food to bring home with us.

It was later when we got home so we watched one episode of Dogs With Jobs and then the girls went to bed. It was my turn to read stories to them tonight, although Robyn actually read me a story instead. Sandy and I didn't stay up much later.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Sudbury Ontario to Cambridge Ontario

Canadian Thanksgiving was upon us. We hold it much earlier than our neighbors to the south, probably because our harvest season comes sooner. Since we hold our Turkey Day on a Monday, it is a true three day weekend with no Black Friday and, because it is in early October, we don't have the whole start of Christmas shopping season overtones. For those of us in Ontario, it signals the Ministry Of Transportation shutting down the roadside picnic areas for the winter.

A while back, Kim and Mike had asked us if we would come to Cambridge and watch Jolene and Robyn overnight on Saturday while they attended a wedding in Fort Erie. We said sure. Plus we had a youth bed to deliver to Heather and Tom in Woodstock for Jasper's bedroom. Since the Equinox was much smaller than the Avalanche, we loaded the bed in the trailer. This would give us a chance to see how the new vehicle and trailer would work on the highway.

One thing I noted earlier this week when I used the trailer to haul the snowblowers to the shop for servicing was that the drawbar on the Class III hitch Larry's installed was loose in the receiver, causing a rattle/clunk when we hit a bump. And there are a lot of bumps on Sudbury streets. I stopped by Larry's yesterday and picked up a Roadmaster Quiet Hitch kit, which installs easily and immobilizes the ball platform in the receiver. We hooked up the trailer and left it ready to go overnight.

I slept poorly again last night. This is getting to be a habit I'd like to get rid of. Sandy did most of the packing. The one thing I had to do was print the Email Kim had sent me with instructions on how to pick the girls up after school. One thing. I printed it and left it on the printer. No big deal because Kim and Mike called as we were leaving town to tell us they had tickets to the afternoon Blue Jays/Texas ball game in Toronto and, in the course of getting the data, we found out she had given me the wrong combination to their front door.

After the traditional breakfast-to-go at Tim's, we were on the road by 9:05 on damp pavement under grey, overcast skies with the temperature hovering around 46 F. The little Chev pulled the lightly loaded trailer just fine. I expected this because, at 303 HP and over 270 ft/lbs of torque, the V6 has almost as much power as the V8 in the Avi. There is no Tow/Haul mode but the transmission slipped between 5th and 6th gears easily under manual control and the torque converter locked up better. There was still a bit of clunk in the ball/trailer interface because I hadn't checked the coupler fit, something that is usually more pronounced when the trailer is empty. Still, I was happy with the way it pulled and the Driver Information Centre told me I was getting better mileage than the Av.

New car/trailer setup

I experienced a few bouts of disorientation, possibly attributable to the lack of sleep and dehydration, or it could be a holdover side effect of the Champix (no smokes since June 4th, no Champix since July 19). It isn't too bad in the car but is a real pain when it happens on the bike. I need to find a fix because I find myself not looking forward to riding for fear of experiencing vertigo on two wheels. In any case, the feeling didn't last too long today.

We stopped at Tim's at Horseshoe Lake south of Parry Sound for a bathroom break. There were a couple of busloads of people there so we did our business and got back on the road. The leaves were finally starting to change. Here's hoping the late colours will be the sign of a late and mild winter.

South of Barrie, the northbound side of the 400 was starting to get busy. One drawback to the Equinox is that it's gas tank is smaller than the Avi so that, even with lower fuel consumption, it will mean more frequent stops when towing. We stopped at the new On Route service centre near Innisfil for the first time but we couldn't see any food we liked, so we just filled the tank and moved on.

There was a McDonald's on Major Mackenzie within sight of Canada's Wonderland. We ate in the restaurant because we had time to kill. I look forward to the days we can take the grandkids to Wonderland. We continued south on 400 until I saw an overhead sign that gave a longer than expected time to the 401. Although I hate the exorbitant tolls, I made a last minute decision to take the ETR407 and bypass the suspected traffic.

As we turned to the west, severe crosswinds started acting on the light trailer. I didn't notice it as much in the Avalanche, but it was a lot heavier than the Equinox. The traction control includes a trailer anti-sway component which I suspected was adding some extra action to the stability control. I turned Stabilitrac off for a while and things seemed to improve. Again, I know this will get better with more weight in the trailer.

The 401 was slow in Halton as we transitioned from the toll road, but it soon picked up. It ground to a halt again just past where we got off at Townline Road in Cambridge. We worked our way down Franklin Boulevard through the construction zones and roundabouts waiting to be completed, and arrived at Kim and Mike's before 3:30. I backed the trailer into the driveway, noting again that this tow vehicle length makes backing up as easy as pie, even when turning more then 90 degrees into a driveway with a pole right beside it.

I worked on a few things on the computer until 4:45, when it was time to pick the girls up at school. We took Kim's Mazda with the car seats to the school, where we had to get by a door buzzer and show ID to a protective (but really pretty) teacher before being allowed to collect the kids. Jolene informed me that the ball game was in extra innings so that Mom and Dad would be later getting home than expected.

At home, Jolene (six years old) heated left over pizza and wings for all of us in the microwave and we settled down to watch the game. Texas won in the 14th and Kim called from the train station to let us know they would be in about 9:00 PM. I fell asleep in the recliner and woke up just before 9:00 to find Sandy had put the girls to bed single handed and Kim and Mike were just coming in the door.

We visited a bit and watched the new episode of Blue Bloods before turning in.

Today's Route (286 Equinox miles):