Sunday, March 27, 2016

Woodstock Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

Happy Easter. After getting up at 7:00, I read Jasper stories for a while. The Weather Network said it would be +5C in Sudbury today, with rain falling on top of the recent snow. Heather was still sick and there was heavier rain called for tomorrow, so we decided we would head back a day early.

We left just after 11:00 AM, stopping for fuel and some food at McDonald's (where we found one of the new order kiosks aimed at countering increasing minimum wages). By 11:30, we were headed east on the 401 enjoying blue skies and 41F temperatures.

New McDonald's ordering system

This tells when your order is up

Traffic was light on the 401 until we got to Halton. Then it started to get heavier so, because this was the last day of a long weekend, I decided to pay the extra charges for the ETR407. That got us to 400 North with no slowdowns. Traffic on the route north was surprisingly light. We stopped at the On Route Service Centre in Barrie for a bathroom break and then at the Subway in Waubaushene where we got a ham and Swiss sandwich to share.

No traffic on 401 East

There were a few motorcycles out

400 North was moving well

No skiers on Mount St. Louis

We went through Parry Sound around 2:30, noting that there was almost no snow on the ground.

I always wondered about Avro Arrow Road in Nobel. First, Nobel was named for Alfred, discoverer of dynamite and originator of the Peace Prize. It was home to two explosives and munitions factories in World War I. They closed in the 20's but were reactivated in WW II. That doesn't explain the reference to what should have been Canada's greatest contribution to modern aerial warfare, the Avro Arrow. The planes were built in Toronto and the chief test pilot was from Wilno. What I just found out is that the Orenda Iroquois jet engines that were to power that magnificent airplane were developed at a plant in Nobel.

Small village, interesting history

North of Pointe Au Baril, we encountered more snow. This would be residue of the Good Friday storm that spared the south. North of the French River, we noted fences alongside the right-of-way. They were positioned like the larger wildlife fences to the north, but these were less than three feet high. I need to call MTO and find out just why they built these non-barriers.

More snow as we get closer to home

Always interesting mineral patterns

As we took the ramp from Highway 69 North to the Highway 17 Bypass, we met an OPP RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) Check hidden behind the rock cut. It was good to see them out at an unexpected time and I thanked them. The stop just took a moment and we were on our way.

Arriving home at 3:50, we found a plow bank at the end of the driveway and a drift across my parking space. I refused to get the snow blower out and attacked the white stuff with my trusty shovel. No point in doing a perfect job since it was just going to melt anyway.

Early spring snow

Today's Route (314 Equinox miles):

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Woodstock Ontario

I woke up at 5:30 and spent an hour reading my Kindle. The current book on the go is Matthew Stewart's Nature's God - The Heretical origins of the American Republic. It explores the Deist leanings of many of the US Founding Fathers and the expansion of Deism in the western world in the 1700's. That is interesting because, today, hardly anyone had ever heard of Deism. I developed the belief before I knew it had a name.

After my morning read, I went down and made sure the blog was caught up to date as I enjoyed my first coffee of the day. Jasper got up and had some yogurt while I typed.

Yogurt is the best

 It was a slow day because Heather's cold/flu was still keeping her down. Eventually, Sandy took her over to the ER where they said there were a lot of people with these symptoms. They suggested staying hydrated and running a humidifier. Part of her problem is that she is very restricted on what remedies she can use since she is expecting a new arrival in a couple of months.

Funny hats

Daddy's hat is funnier

Sandy and I picked up lunch at Tim's. We read and played with Jasper with Season 5 of The Office playing in the background. Supper was sandwiches and, after JJ went to bed, Tom watched Galaxy Quest for the first time and then the rest of us turned in.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Cambridge Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

I didn't wake up until 9:00 AM this morning. Everyone else was already moving. The word from Sudbury wasn't good as far as the weather went. It looked like we got out of town just in time. Kenny posted a picture of his snow blower in a place where there hadn't been snow the day before.

Ken's overburdened snow blower in Sudbury

Everyone else was up before I was. Kim, Mike and the girls were getting ready to attend Good Friday church services. The granddaughters wondered if we were going and didn't quite understand when Grandpa Jim told them that he did not like thunder and lightning. Besides, we had seen a lot of them during the Disney adventure and were down primarily to spend some time with Jasper.

Outside, evidence of the ice storm littered the countryside. Kim's Mazda, where the build-up was almost an inch thick, was a prime example.

A coating of ice

Almost an inch thick

We stopped at McDonald's on Main Street so I could get a sausage McMuffin for me and a cranberry orange muffin for Sandy. For the first time in Canada, the system designated an order number on the receipt which displayed on a screen when the food was ready. The number system has worked well in the USA for years without the screen. This looks like it will be even better.

Heather called and asked if we could pick up some Hall's cough drops on the way. We stopped at the Flying J in Ayr and did just that. I do like the merchandise they carry in the FJ. It caters directly to travelers and professional drivers.

On the 401, we saw more evidence of the freezing rain as the ice laden trees glistened.

Ice sculpture in nature

Welcome to Oxford County

Even the evergreens got into the act

Suddenly, about ten miles before Woodstock, the ice coatings stopped. Snow cover ceased. Grass appeared.

Heather's employer - Trigon Construction

No sign of winter's last hurrah here

We arrived at Heather and Tom's just before 11:00 AM. Jasper and Tom were playing with trains on the floor while a sick Heather was flaked out on the couch, much the worse for wear. I helped play with the trains for a while.

Jasper helping Mommy

Have couch, will sleep

Jasper James

 When Jasper went down for a nap, I sorted photos and notes and did some blogging. The smart phone has two camera programs on it. The FV-5 has a lot more options than the default Google camera but, due to an anomaly with the Nexus orientation sensor, the selfies come out upside down plus the photos are more difficult to upload. I may give up some sophistication in the interests of ease.

Jasper got up rested and went back to playing. We ordered pizza on line from Domino's, which Tom and I went to pick it up. Sandy and I shared a crunchy thin crust Hawaiian while my taste buds actually craved a Canadian (pepperoni, bacon and mushroom). Greater love.......

Jasper's pizza

After supper, there was more playing. Jasper is getting quite vocal and, sometimes, we can tell what he means. He is still shy with us, though. Our fault for not seeing him enough.

Eventually, it was story time and bed time for the little guy.

He sure likes Dad

Reading Elmo books

And then there was just Grandma

With everyone else in bed, Tom and I watched some episodes of The Office on Netflix. I never watched this series when it was originally on but I may make a point to blitz it some time in the future. Around 11:30, we called it a night as well.

Today's Route (34 Equinox miles):

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sudbury Ontario to Cambridge Ontario

We had intended to travel down to Woodstock a couple of weeks ago for grandson Jasper's 2nd birthday party, but we had to cancel so we could be at Normie's funeral. After talking to Heather, we decided that Easter weekend would be a good alternate date.

Before we get into this trip, however, I guess that I should bring you up to date on a few things. Around the middle of the month, we hit a warm spell the likes of which I have never seen before in March. The snow, which had accumulated a couple of inches a day since Christmas, melted with a vengeance. This was compounded by a few days of rain. All that water had to go somewhere, and a lot of it made it to our weeping tile and outdoor sump.

The sump pump I replaced last year after the broken water main flood started to lose effectiveness and soon wasn't keeping up with the inflow. (I took it apart later and found the plastic base that channeled water to the outflow hose had a large crack in it). Remember my brand new first smart phone? The one I got in late January? In the course of getting the new pump positioned, I dropped my new phone down the hole into a couple of feet of water and wasn't able to recover it for almost 24 hours. It did not survive the ordeal. Luckily, I had taken Google Protect coverage which will replace the phone up to twice over the first two years for any reason (for a deductible). I filed the claim on a Sunday afternoon and had a replacement by Tuesday noon.

Since then, pumps and phones have been working well but I do need to contact some professionals to find out the best way to permanently fix the sump/drainage issue. At the same time, we have retained a contractor and decorator to do some renovations to the main floor, mostly paint and trim along with some needed repairs plus a new bathroom. The basement will be gutted. Outside, in addition to the sump, I need a new concrete floor in the garage and a paved driveway. It should be a busy year so stay tuned for updates on our progress.

OK, enough of the catching up. As I mentioned, March has been exceptionally warm. That, of course, was bound to run out and it did. The forecast for today called for a severe snowstorm in the Sudbury area and freezing rain in southern Ontario. Lucky us. The marginal weather was compounded by the fact that, for some reason I can't fathom, I did not get to sleep last night. At all.

So here is was, Good Friday Eve. I packed my gear (Sandy has been packed for a couple of days) and loaded everything in the Equinox. We stopped for fuel and food on the way out of town and were rolling just before 10 AM. The sky was overcast and the temperature was 24 F but, so far, things were pretty good.

We weren't twenty miles south of town when the first flakes started to fall. As we went on, it started to stick to the road a bit but we still had adequate traction. We caught up to a slow moving Chev Traverse which I was happy to follow despite the growing line behind us. On a day like this, you never see the black ice until you are sliding sideways, so it pays to be cautious.

The snow starts to stick a bit

Follow the careful Traverse

Watch the oncoming plow blades

The wind was out of the east the whole way, a sign that bad weather was coming. Worse than we already had. The single lane of traffic at the French River Bridge was not an issue because there was no traffic. The detour around construction at the Key River wasn't a problem, either. We followed the Traverse until we got to the four lane north of Parry Sound, where everyone picked up the pace and started passing.

Passing the plow wasn't the best idea

We stopped at the Seguin Trail Tim's where there was more snow on the ground. The radar looked worse ahead. Continuing on, the snow changed to freezing rain but it didn't seem to be making the road much more slippery. Someone missed the northbound exit ramp at Highway 12 and another car was off the road in Barrie with a lot of body damage, but that was all we saw. Near Barrie, the rain stopped and the roads got clearer until we stopped at the new On Route Service Centre at Innisfil.

Here, it was slushy enough I changed my shoes for boots before getting out. Inside, Sandy got a Tim's pulled pork sandwich while I got a new chicken/bacon/ranch wrap to go. The prices were higher than at home due to it being a service centre. Captive audience. Before we left, I scraped the ice off the wiper blades.

Sandy at the Innisfil On Route

While we were in the service centre, it started to rain again. Still, the road was clear and so I decided to take a chance on the 407 toll road.

Rain on the 400

Once on the 407, the rain eased up but fog set in when we reached the 401. I lost sight of all landmarks as we approached Milton and this held all the way until Cambridge. Still, everyone was behaving themselves and we all got along just fine.

In Cambridge, one low lying spot on Franklin had a lot of water in it. I watched the cars ahead of us go through before trying it myself. We pulled into Kim and Mike's driveway at 3:35.

Mike was nominated for an award, so he and Kim were going to a dinner. He didn't expect to win but they were going to get a $100 a plate meal out of it so it was a no-brainer. We were going to watch Jolene and Robyn for the evening, giving us some grandchild bonding time, before heading on the Woodstock for the weekend.

After some discussion, we decided to head out to Tony's Family Diner on Franklin. There were only a few other people there so we were seated and served in short order. The kids had chicken nuggets and fries, Sandy had a Caesar salad with lots of chicken and I had beef barley soup and a BLT.

At Tony's Diner

Jolene, Grandma Sandy and Robyn

It almost looked like the heathen devil weed on my beef barley soup

It was pouring rain after supper, so we went right home. The girls watched a little bit of TV while I dozed in the easy chair. Then it was off to bed. My daughters were both raised in a secular household but now both go to church, so I read Robyn the story of the loaves and fishes from her book of Bible stories. I tucked her in and then I went downstairs. As a result of no sleep the night before, I immediately fell asleep for the night.

Today's Route (285 Equinox miles):

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

RIP Normie Hein 1955 - 2016

There was a text on my phone from Gary Lamarche when I woke up at 5:00 AM, telling me that Normie passed away at midnight at Maison Vale Hospice. He was diagnosed at the beginning of November last year with Stage 4 liver cancer. You will note from the Music For The Soul posts that he was well respected throughout many parts of the community.

Norm Hein - 2005
State Highway 128 NE of Moab, Utah(along the Colorado River)

I met Normie around 1980 when we both joined the Nickel Riders Motorcycle Club. He was unique back then, known for his distinctive laugh and his penchant for wearing sunglasses at night. He rode a Yamaha and he rode it hard.

As the Nickel Riders was winding down in the late 1980's, Normie moved on the the Bikers Rights Organization (B.R.O.) and then became a founding member of the Freedom Riders Motorcycle Association. Somewhere not long after, he traded the Yamaha on an AMF period Harley Sportster. He "enjoyed" the Ironhead for about a decade before moving on. Biker and I were riding Kawasaki Vulcans, so Norm bought a 1500 Vulcan Drifter and became a member #8571 of the Vulcan Riders and Owners Club (VROC). He signed up with the nickname Abby Normal.

Around 1990, Normie and a friend attended a meeting of the Valley Trail Masters snowmobile club. I was there in my capacity as Vice-President (Operations) of the Sudbury Trail Plan Association, the umbrella organization for eight local clubs including VTM. VTM was electing directors. I convinced them that Normie would be an asset, so they drafted him. In 1992, when I moved up to STP President, I needed someone to replace me as VP-Ops and recruited you-know-who. The following year, when I convinced the STP Board that we needed a full-time staff operations person, Normie was the ideal candidate. He held that position for the rest of his life, making immeasurable contributions to organized snowmobiling both locally and across the province.

In 1992, Norm and I attended a meeting called by Sgt. Lynn Beach of the Ontario Provincial Police to discuss a rash of recent snowmobile fatalities. It was determined that alcohol was the main factor and that the police did not have sufficient resources to deal with it. We moved STP Trail Wardens in to assist while Norm researched Ontario legislation and prepared a proposal to appoint trained volunteers as Special Constables to enforce the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act. Thus, the Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol (S.T.O.P.) Program was born. This had an immediate and demonstrable impact on reducing snowmobile fatalities where it was in place. Ironically, the program was cancelled February 12th of this year by myopic bureaucrats. Norm was the last of the original 14 STOP Officers to be serving.

Action Sudbury - Citizens Against Impaired Driving is a local activist group started in 1984 by Sudbury Mayor Peter Wong. Norm joined them in 1994 and was the second longest serving member at the time of his passing. He was recipient of both the provincial Peter Wong Award and local Rollande Mousseau Award recognizing his contributions to the cause.

Over the years, Norm an I had a shared background in motorcycle clubs (I followed him to the Freedom Riders in the mid-90's), organized snowmobiling and sober driving activism. That said, there were many other aspects of his life that I wasn't part of, like his support and involvement in the local music scene, his generosity to the homeless in our area, sky diving and his earlier career with Pinkerton's. I do remember handing a paycheck to his father Carl (Employment number 8200 IIRC) every Tuesday at INCO's Garson Mine every Tuesday in the early 70's long before I knew Normie. Memorable ran in the Hein family.

Normie was well known for his involvement, but his greatest strength was his ability to get other people involved. Many people in many places are there because Normie convinced them that they should be. He inspired a personal loyalty like no one else I have ever seen. When he believed in something, he became a force multiplier.

It was good that Norm had a chance to see how much he was appreciated when groups of local musicians staged Music For The Soul, a two day benefit February 11th and 13th at the Towne House Tavern. The assembled folks from across a broad spectrum of Sudbury citizens bespoke the high regard in which he was held by so many.

Rest In Peace, Normie. You will be missed by many.
Love Honour Respect

I need to make special mention of Gary and Cheryl Lamarche. When Norm was diagnosed and it became apparent that he would not be able to live on his own, they took him into their home. He stayed there until last Thursday when he moved to Maison Vale Hospice. Their love and care for a friend went way above and beyond and are proof that angels walk among us.