Sunday, February 24, 2019

Cambridge Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

Things were interesting this morning. We didn't want to start too early due to the dire forecasts last night, so we didn't get up until 9:00 AM. Environment Canada had issued three separate warnings overnight. The first, before dawn, was for freezing rain. The next, a while later, was for high winds. The last one, not long ago, was for fog. Word from Sudbury was that rain had fallen, the side streets were like skating rinks and maybe we should wait a day before coming back. Kim said a Sudbury pastor that they knew was live-streaming his morning service so his flock could stay safe at home.

With these scary harbingers of doom to consider, I checked the trusty weather radar. Taking everything into account, I predicted we would run behind the rain front all the way, getting to Sudbury before the temperature dropped below freezing and the snow began. It looked about as optimistic as we could have hoped for and, even if it did turn nasty,  there were many places along the way that we could go to ground if necessary. We had decades of experience driving in winter conditions and my only real fear in bad conditions was the other driver.

I decided to avoid the 401, always a good plan in marginal conditions. We left at 9:30 and headed northeast on Highway 24 through Guelph. There was even less snow in the fields than there was on Friday.

 Snow unbound fields along Highway 24

It was 42 F as we stopped for coffee in Erin and, soon after, we encountered fog. Canadian federal regulations require daytime running lights on all cars and trucks, so every Canadian vehicle should always have some lights to the front. As usual, we met more than a few running through the fog with no lights whatsoever. I have not figured out how so many vehicles on the road today do not conform to the federal standard. Provincially, there is no requirement for headlights to be on in the daytime, so drivers do not risk being charged under the highway laws. Still, common sense dictates that you want as much light showing as possible when visibility is limited.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who run fog lights 24/7. In the soup today, I did turn the fog lights on and appreciated the extra coverage they provided.

 Fog varied from this to a lot thicker

Near Mono Mills, I almost had to take the ditch when a driver came out of the fog passing another car on two-lane Airport Road. I am not sure what he was thinking but, as I said earlier, I always fear the other person. The fog continued along Highway 9 but cleared by the time we turned north on six-lane Highway 400.

 Fog cleared on Highway 9

We stopped about 11:30 at the On Route service centre in Barrie for a bathroom break and more coffee. Radar showed that it was raining to the north of us, while the forecast predicted snow starting in Sudbury about 5:00 PM. Lots of time to cover the 180 miles before then.

There weren't many skiers at Mount St. Louis. Around Waubaushene, a light rain started falling. It was actively raining by the time we got to Parry Sound but the temperature was still 40 F so the roads were OK. A crew with a backhoe was cutting drainage channels through the snowbanks on Highway 69, a sure sign of spring.

Rain was heavier at the French River and we saw contractor plows on the four-lane with the blades down on bare pavement. The one on the lfft was scraping snow off the centre bank and depositing it in the roadway. I often shake my head at what they are doing with our taxpayer money. Water had pooled in some low spots but it was easy to avoid those spots because there was always at least one clear lane.

 Still snow in the Great Whire North

Lots of snow

It was still 36 F when we reached Sudbury. Despite all the warnings, it turned out to be a pretty ordinary trip. We were in the driveway before 3:00 after braving water and slush ruts in our subdivision. Next week, we will head down again for Jasper's birthday party.

(Waiting for Monday to come back would not have been a good idea. Conditions were bad enough to trigger a 70 car pile up on southbound Highway 400 south of Barrie, resulting in closure of the whole highway in both directions.)

Today's Route (281 Equinox miles):

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Cambridge Ontario - Coldest Night Of The Year

The Coldest Night of the Year Walk wasn't until this evening, so we were in no rush to get up. After rolling out of bed at 9:15, we called Heather and arranged to meet for breakfast at Dean Michael's Griddlehouse in Woodstock at 10:00.

We arrived just after Heather and the grandkids. Tom was busy with something at the church. Michael's was a little busy, so they opened the far room for us.

 Recommended for breakfast in Woodstock Ontario

 Catching up

 It's not just a waffle

 Jasper's waffle

 Fiona is waiting patiently

 Happy girl

Breakfast was excellent as usual. Afterwards, we went back to Heather's house for some grandchild time. We would be coming back in a week for Jasper's birthday. Then we headed back to the Travelodge in Cambridge for a nap.

After heading over to Kim and Mike's for 3:30 PM, we then followed them to The Vineyard Church on Elgin Street where many of participants had gathered. Our team was from Cambrian Community Church and Kim, our captain, registered us and picked up our toques. There was also a CONY walk in Sudbury the same night, but Sandy and I were more interested in supporting the family.

While waiting, I met Kathryn McGarry, the new mayor of Cambridge and a former Minister of Transportation under Kathleen Wynne. She was surprised that we would come all the way from Sudbury for the walk. I mentioned my time working with MTO to revise the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act back in the day. She was a nice lady, I guess I can forgive her for being associated with Ms. Wynne.

With all the snow at home, it had not occurred to us that we might be able to walk in shoes so we didn't bring them. They would have been a lot more comfortable than boots on the walk. After opening ceremonies at 5:00 PM, we started out on the 5 kilometer route. The 10 K was the same but kept going after the turnaround point.

 Team Cambrian Community Church

 Starting out... last place

Much of the route was on dry sidewalk but there were some spots where ice was still built up. Sandy hung onto my arm since she was sporting her new cast and had fresh memories of slipping and falling. The mood was generally upbeat and jovial with all these folks really buoyed up about helping the less fortunate in their community.

Interactive map

The turnaround point for the 5 K walk was at Maranatha Christian Reformed Church, also on Elgin Street. They had coffee, hot chocolate, water and snacks available. Suitable refreshed, we started back. It was dark by the time we arrived (still in last place) and were treated to some hot food and a variety of delicious looking desserts.

According to the scoreboard, team CCC raised $1,750. A total of $36,430 was raised by 132 walkers on 19 teams to support the Urban Hope Centre. There was a lot of prayer that was outside my normal Deist frame of reference, but I judge people based on intentions and sincerity and both were good here.

We got back to our hotel room by 8:00 PM with plans to head home in the morning. There were dire weather warnings for tomorrow, with local forecasts of freezing rain and then snow. We set the alarm and turned in early, planning to decide what to do after we saw what the morning really brought.

RIP Gambler 1956 - 2019

We got back to the room after the skating races and found word that Rod "Gambler" McDaniel V~13993 of Mountain View, Arkansas had passed away. He was diagnosed not long ago with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and was placed in hospice soon after.

Rod, his wife Deb (Bubbles) and whole family have helped organize the annual VROC Reunion in Eureka Springs, Arkansas every fall. They also popped up at other rallies from time to time. As with Lucky Al a couple of weeks ago, they were very close members of the VROC family.

 Rod 'Gambler' McDaniel - Eureka Springs, Arkansas (2017)

Gambler and Lucky Al - ES 2017

You leave a large empty place in the lives of everyone who knew you, Gambler. Our condolences to Bubbles and family.

Rest In Peace

Sudbury Ontario to Cambridge Ontario and Skating Races

For people who like to wander a bit, we had certainly not been doing that lately. In fact, we were not out of town since we got back from the Arkansas trip last September. Time is flying by because, in some ways, it seemed like that just happened yesterday. This was alarming when one stopped to consider that this was the rest of our lives sliding away.

Daughter Kim, son-in-law Mike and the girls usually participate each winter in the Coldest Night Of The Year walk in Cambridge. CNOY is a Canada wide initiative which raises money for local programs that support vulnerable families and individuals. Sandy and I normally donated to Kim and Mike's team, which represents their church, but decided that we needed a road trip. The walk was on Saturday but Mike informed us that Jolene and Robyn would also be participating in the Galt Schools’ 89th Annual School Skating Races on Friday night. A twofer.

We usually stay in Woodstock when we are down but decided to try a Cambridge venue this time. I wanted to build a few more Wyndham Points but had not been pleased with the Super 8 last time. The Travelodge on Hespeler Road had good reviews and reasonable rates, so I reserved for Friday and Saturday nights.

It should be noted that Sudbury was experiencing an unusually severe winter. We had the coldest temperatures seen in years, coupled with over ten feet of snow and very little thawing. After fueling up and going back home to get the voice recorder I had forgotten (showing how rusty I was regarding trip preparations), we hit the road about 9:40 AM. The temperature was around 26 F, so the snow was not as crisp as usual.

The trip was uneventful. We stopped for lunch to go at McDonald's in Parry Sound and then again for a bathroom break at the service centre on Highway 400 in Innisfil. Nobody noticed that I had to do up the button on Sandy's jeans because of the cast on her wrist.

Once we got onto Highways 9 and 24, it was evident that the south had a lot less snow than we did. There was a shiny layer on top showing that their last precipitation was probably rain. The old Eddie Shack coffee place in Caledon was now a Tim Horton's. Poor old Eddie, gone and forgotten. We stopped at the Tim's in Erin for more coffee.

Lesli phoned me about some Safe Ride Home business and I marveled that I could be anywhere in North America and a caller would not know that I wasn't sitting in my living room. There is so much technology these days like cell phones, computers, GPS, digital cameras and so on that was barely even contemplated when I was in school. But I would have to think long and hard about whether it is better or not. I guess it would depend on who you are and what you value.

Sci Fi fan AND grammar Nazi?

We arrived at the Travelodge about 3:00 PM. It was an older building but the desk clerk was very friendly and the room was recently remodeled. There was a real Indian restaurant attached but, not being familiar with real Indian food, we decided to avoid it until we could find a guide familiar with the cuisine. Instead, we took a nap until race time.

The Skating Races

Mike said they would be getting to the Galt Arena Gardens about 6:15. We were a few minutes behind them, so they saved a parking space right behind them. It looked like a lot of people were arriving.

I need to say a few words about the Galt Arena Gardens. It is reportedly one of the oldest continually operating ice hockey arenas in the world. It opened in 1922 and was renovated in 1997. It makes me sad to think that our own stately Sudbury Community Arena, built in 1951, is slated for destruction and replacement at a very high cost to taxpayers. I wonder how much an upgrade would cost? The Cambridge Skating Club has been teaching figure skaters in the Gardens since 1951. Neil Carpenter, Toller Cranston and Ron Shaver all got started here and, if I remember correctly, my brother Doug studied there with Carpenter for a few summers in the 1970's. That was before he traded in his skates for a guitar.

 Galt Arena Gardens

 Catalytic heaters for the spectators

One of many murals depicting the arena history

This school race has been going on for 89 years. There were elementary school age kids in skates everywhere. The principal of Chalmers Street Public School was issuing numbered jerseys to each of his students, including Jolene (28) and Robyn (4). There were many individual and relay categories divided by age and gender. Each of the girls would compete twice, first individually and then as part of a relay team. I took photos as best I could, considering there was a net meant to stop errant pucks between the lens and the ice.

 The Chalmers Street Public School Team

 Mom and Grandma settled in to watch

 Robyn (in pink) set to start her race

 Giving her all

 And done

 Second place

 Jolene's turn

 Hard charging

 Until she caught an edge

Then it was time for the relays.

 Jolene about to pass a competitor

 Her team came home in second place

 Robyn charging ahead

 And rounding the turn for home

Parents and grandparents watched intently

After the skating was finished, we all headed up Hespeler Road to the State and Main Kitchen and Bar to get some supper. It was my first time in a State and Main, a southern Ontario roadhouse style chain. The food was good but I wish I could have stuck to my diet. Oh well.....

After supper, we bid adieu to the family and moved the short way up the road to the hotel. Tomorrow would come all too soon.

Today's Route (280 Equinox miles):

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

RIP Hearly Hinds

While we were waiting to see the orthopedic surgeon at the hospital, I received a text that Hearley Hinds had passed away last night from injuries sustained in a snowmobile incident a week before.

I first met Hearley in 1980 when I had the occasion to buy a Dodge Horizon. Given the nature of this vehicle, it was only natural that I would get to be on a first name basis with the service manager at my dealership. Hearley did a great job overseeing the service operation at Laurentian Chrysler and our relationship continued through a 1984 Plymouth Voyager and 1995, 1997 and 2003 Dodge Caravans, not to mention a 2000 Neon and a 2000 Cirrus. I can say without a doubt that it was Hearley that kept me within the Chrysler family over the years and, when he retired, I moved on the Chevrolet (because of you, Kenny).

Imagine my surprise in 1989, when I got involved in organized snowmobiling as Vice President of the Sudbury Trail Plan,to find that Hearley was a driving force in the Nickel Belt Snow Spirits, one of the clubs that made up STP. While avoiding the political and business aspects associated with sledding, he was one of the key "can do" people that built the trail system. He  was able to get trail work done in a manner that was equaled by few others.

Our condolences to Margo and the family. Hearley was one of a kind and he will be missed. Rest In Peace.

Sandy Sees The Orthopedic Guy

We headed over to the hospital early enough to get a parking spot in the closest lot. After proceeding to the proper Ambulatory Care Unit waiting room, we took a number and were seen by the admitting desk right away. Then we got comfortable, talked to some of the folks we had met the night before and met some new people. Most had fresh casts on because this was orthopedic clinic day in the ACU and yesterday was icy slip day.

The first time Sandy was called, it was to meet with an osteoporosis advisor. This nurse's job was to interview more mature people who had sustained fractures, explain the risk osteoporosis risk factors and suggest mitigating strategies. She also offered to schedule a free bone density scan, which Sandy accepted. It is nice to see some preventative measures being practiced.

Back in the waiting room, we watched as people were called in one after the other. Eventually, Sandy was called again and another history was taken by a nurse. From there, it was across the hall to X-ray and then back to the big waiting room for yet one more long wait.

Finally, we were called for the final time and escorted to a room in the back that was subdivided into four examining areas. Dr. Tubin, the surgeon, looked at the X-rays and said there was a crack in the radius and a small chip in a wrist bone but no surgery would be required. He also asked if the arthritis in her thumb caused and trouble. Sandy said she wasn't aware that she had arthritis so, no, it wasn't a problem. Tubin has a five star rating, unusually high, and his folksy manner (unusually in a bone doctor) has to be one of the reasons. He told one of the people following him that the wrist needed to be re-positioned and said he would see her again in three weeks.

I don't know if the people who apply the casts are nurses or technicians, but they are good. This one cut off the plaster cast and quickly applied a fiberglass replacement. Given a choice of colours, Sandy picked pink. We booked another appointment here for three weeks hence, said goodbye to our new friends and headed home.

Sandy shows her new cast to her mother  

RIP Lucky Al 1955 - 2019

We were shocked to receive news today that "Lucky Al" Mottram V~9147 had passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack at his home in New Jersey.

Lucky Al - Eureka Springs VROC Reunion 2018

Al has been a part of our wandering VROC family for many years. Retired from business, he had recently been pursuing his interests in being a blacksmith and acting. He was a respected and loved fixture on the VROC rally circuit and will be greatly missed.

Rest In Peace, Al. It was an honour to know you. Gone but not forgotten.

Sandy Takes A Tumble

It started on the weekend when a light drizzle fell and then froze. I walked out gingerly on Monday night to place our blue box and garbage at the end of the driveway for the Tuesday morning pickup.

Tuesday afternoon, Sandy grew impatient waiting for me to collect the empty blue box and garbage can. While I was napping, she ventured out to do the job herself. Unfortunately, she slipped on the ice and fell backwards. She knew her arm was hurt, but went ahead and retrieved the containers and then got the mail as well anyway.

When I woke up, she told me what had happened. Her right wrist hurt but there was no obvious deformation and she also had some pain in her right shoulder. At suppertime, the pain in the shoulder had abated but the wrist had not so we decided to go and visit  the folks in the Emergency Room at Health Sciences North.

The admitting and triage folks took care of her relatively quickly and we were soon ushered into the ER proper. There is a lot of talk about hallway medicine in Ontario, where patients needing admission exceed the rooms available, so they wait on gurneys in hallways, lounges and anywhere else they can find to put them. The ER sure was overloaded this evening, with more than one patient to an examining room, parts of corridors screened off and gurneys in the halls. We were shown to a small waiting area packed with people cradling injured limbs. It seems Sandy was not the only one who slipped on the ice this day. (The count proved to be 42 fractures due to slipping on the ice throughout the day.)

We spent a few hours getting to know our fellow patients. Eventually, Sandy and I were shown to a private examining room where we waited for another while as we watched nurses, orderlies and the odd doctor come and go outside the door. The wait actually did not bother me since I know that people are seen in the order of urgency, and we were low on that list.

Eventually, a young resident came in, took a history and did a preliminary examination. She said someone would be by to take Sandy for X-rays and ordered something for pain. After a nurse had taken Sandy for the X-rays and then returned her to the examining room, the resident returned with Dr. Bourdon. He was the former hospital Chief of Staff and was now Vice President of Medical and Academic Affairs. He was also the doctor who handled Sandy's pulmonary embolism back in 2009. He said the break was not severe and then he coached the resident on how to apply a plaster cast. She booked an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon in the out-patient clinic tomorrow morning for follow-up.

We headed home and set our alarms for the next morning.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

R.I.P. Malcolm L. Jacobs 1950 - 2019

Malcolm on a trip to the UK

Jan phoned to let us know that Malcolm passed away early this morning. It was a tragedy for someone so alive and vibrant to be struck down so young, but his condition had been grave ever since the heart attack on December 14 and subsequent strokes. We thought he was improving but it was not to be.

Sandy's Mom Jan is in a nursing home with advancing dementia and we had not told her about his heart attack in December or the problems since. Today, we simply told her that he had a massive heart attack and passed away. It was difficult to tell just how much she grasped, especially since she said she had just been talking to him yesterday, something that would have been totally impossible. 

Malcolm would have been 69 on the 11th of this month.