Monday, December 04, 2017

Woodstock Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

It was a slow morning. We left the hotel room at 8:40 AM. After a quick stop at what is one of the better run McDonald's franchises on Norwich Avenue (fast, accurate pleasant, all the equipment works), we were eastbound on Highway 401 in a moderate to heavy fog bank. The temperature was 35 F so ice was not an issue and there was no snow on the ground.

We got off at Highway 8 in Kitchener and took Sportsworld Drive and Maple Grove Road across to Highway 24. This took us to Guelph, where we bypassed much of the city by taking Highway 7 and County 29. In Eramosa, we reconnected with 24.

Fog on Highway 24

A short jog north on Airport Road at the end of 24 brought us to Highway 9 in Mono Mills. Mono has two gas stations which typically boast the lowest gas prices along our route. Today, 87 octane was going for $1.149 compared to $1.209 in Woodstock and $1.259 in Sudbury.

The Highway 24 & 9 route takes longer than following the super slab to Toronto, but I enjoy it more when we have the time to spare.

As we drove along, I contemplated my GPS. Who would have thought, twenty years ago, that we would have a device that showed all the roads, our position on them, and points of interest along the way. Jester had one when we went to SEVROC in 1999, but it was just a green screen with digits on it.

When we left Highway 9 for 400 North (the new ramp is an opposite turn from the old one), the fog lifted. We made a stop at the Barrie ONroute service area just after 11:30. I got a Tim's Chipotle Breakfast Steak Wrap (without the chipotle) to go. And more coffee.

There was still no snow on the ground but the Mount St. Louis ski area must have had the snow making machines going overtime. Their hills were patches of white in a sea of brown.

Snow on Mount St. Louis

Traffic was light on Highway 400 north

Tom Thomson type of Georgian Bay tree

We have Highway 69 all to ourselves

The four-laning of the 100 miles of highway between Parry Sound and Sudbury, under construction since 2004 and originally scheduled to be finished by 2017, was far from done. One of the features on the new highway was wildlife fencing, largely installed into solid rock at what I presumed was a significant cost.

Wildlife fencing in solid rock

Note that the bottom two feet or so of the fencing consisted of a much finer mesh. Then, when the big fence stopped, a much smaller fence carries on. I used to think this was a turtle fence, since I couldn't see it blocking much else and they are very concerned about Blanding's turtles in Northern Ontario. Then I was watching a documentary on Killbear Provincial Park near Parry Sound and saw the same type of fence. It was to keep rattlesnakes off the road. They go to great lengths to protect the Massasauga rattlesnake in Ontario. The fact that it is illegal to kill them should amuse some of our southern friends.

In fact, driving this highway many hundreds of times over the years, I have never seen a dead rattlesnake. I have hardly ever seen a dead turtle. I wonder how much they spent on this dwarf fence of limited purpose while we are still looking for a PET scanner at the hospital in Sudbury?

The world's shortest wildlife fence

Once we got north of the snake zone, the big wildlife fence resumed without the finer mesh. This fencing even has pass through gates for people on foot such as hunters.

Gate in the big fence

White Pine Chutes, Wanapitei River

As we approached Sudbury, the speed limit dropped from 100 KPH to 90. I was still doing 115 when I went by the unmarked OPP Tahoe, but he didn't seem to care, so we made it home unscathed at about 3:25 PM.

Now we will probably be staying close to home until spring.

Today's Route (314 Equinox miles):

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Woodstock Ontario - Christmas Pageant

Sandy and I slept in this morning while Heather, Tom and the kids went to church. Heather texted when the service was over and we agreed to meet at 11:40 at East Side Mario's, part of a popular Canadian chain. It was just across the street from our hotel and children ate free on Sunday.

 Sandy and I got to the restaurant first

 Everyone looks ready for lunch

 Cute would be an understatement

Sandy and I shared a very generous club wrap while I also had some very tasty roasted tomato garlic soup. Unlike yesterday, I will report that it was very good. We should consider dining out at ESM in Sudbury once in a while.

Fiona was cute. At 18 months, she insists on feeding herself using a fork. Meantime, Jasper needed no utensils for his personal pizza.

 I can do it all by myself

 Can't beat pizza

After lunch, we went back to Heather and Tom's where we played with the grandkids, talked with the kids and, as the afternoon wore on, snacked a bit on leftovers from yesterday's party. There was lots of food and it was good.

Although Sandy and I are not religious and didn't belong to or attend any church while our children were growing up, we didn't denigrate people of faith either. We figured this would allow our offspring to decide for themselves as the grew old enough to appreciate the great questions of life. Both daughters and their families now attend regularly.

Heather and Tom belong to Calvary Church in Woodstock. They were holding their Christmas Pageant this evening and Jasper's age group had a role to play on stage. The church had a very nice auditorium/stage facility and I managed to get in and seated without getting struck by lightning. It was a fine show, very upbeat and positive. Peace on Earth and good will to all men (and women) is not a bad message, no matter what a person believes.

You can just see Jasper in the second row (look for the glasses)

After the pageant, we went back to the house for a bit, and then Sandy and I returned to the hotel. On the way, we stopped at Wendy's where I picked up a bacon portobello mushroom melt hamburger to go. It was pretty damn good. I can't figure out why I am not losing weight.....

Again, we were in bed early. I read a bit on my Kindle before falling asleep. The Kindle is great because you don't need to leave a light on and, when you have had enough, you just close the cover and slip it under your pillow. If you wake up at night, you can read a chapter before going back to sleep without disturbing your partner.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Sudbury to Woodstock - Tom's Birthday Party

Heather planned a surprise party to celebrate Tom's 40th birthday this weekend. Tom's brother Wojtek and his wife Agnes would be hosting at their house in Breslau (part of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo). Sandy and I couldn't miss this, so I skipped a night of driving for Safe Ride Home Sudbury. Once the teams were assigned and the orientation done last night, I came home and got some rest. Tonight, others will cover for me too.

It was 33F when we rolled out this morning, but the Weather Network said it felt like zero. We were on the road at 7:20 AM after a brief stop at McDonald's (where the damn kiosk printer didn't work one more time). A light rain was falling so, with the below freezing temperatures, speed was moderate and no sudden moves were contemplated.

I started out fine but got bitten by the drowsy bug somewhere down the line, so we stopped for coffee at Tim's at Seguin and then again at the Innisfil On Route. Traffic jammed up for a bit on the 400 around King due to a closed lane, but that didn't last long. Because it was around noon Saturday, we took the cheap route and followed 400 all the way to 401 West without incident.

Slow traffic on Highway 400 near King Road

Heather had a special birthday cake made by Too Nice To Slice, which she asked us to pick up at their shop in Kitchener. The place was a little tricky to find because it was in the back of an industrial yard, but we finally spotted it. They had some amazing cakes in there. This one featured a can of Polish beer pouring over the cake. We gently put it in the back of the Equinox and, with great care,  delivered it directly to Breslau.

The cake arrived safely in Breslau

Since it was still early and we hadn't eaten, we drove back into Kitchener and stopped at Oscar's Family Friendly Restaurant on Victoria Street. The food wasn't anything to blog about, so I won't. Then we headed over to Zehr's for a fruit tray to contribute to the party. It was still early so then we took a tour to Guelph to take on some fuel.

Back in Breslau, we saw that there wasn't much street parking on Avery Court. The number of cars would have tipped Tom off except that Heather told him Wojtek had called to say parking would be tricky because "someone on the street" was having a gathering.

The crowd started to assemble. Food was put out. Children played. Adults talked and had a drink or two. The Polish side of the family brought some good vodka, as usual. We waited for Tom, Heather and the kid to arrive.

Decked out nicely

Sandy is looking cheerful

Are they here yet???


Lots of food

The birthday boy gets a plate

Grandson Jasper found a cookie

Son-in-law Mike doing his Grizzly Adams impersonation

Granddaughter Jolene has finished it all (whatever it was)

Youngest granddaughter Fiona looks pleased

It's tough to blow out candles around a beer can

Happy 40th Birthday, Tom

Now how do I cut this thing???

After the food and gifts and visiting were done, Sandy and I headed out for Woodstock about 7:00 PM. We usually stay at the Best Western Plus but I had left it a little late to book the reservation. Something must have been going on because there was no room at the inn. Luckily I was able to get a king room with couch at the Days Inn next to the Tim Horton's on Norwich. The room was OK and I was able to add a few Wyndham Rewards points to the bank.

It was a quiet evening. We turned in early and watched a little TV on the large flat screen before turning out the lights and going to sleep.

Today's Route (335 Equinox miles):