Friday, January 31, 2020

Chatham Ontario And A Sleepover

Tom is a retired OPP detective who I met when I was a Special Constable with the Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol. We are both members of the local Chapter of the OPP Veterans Association and he helped me immensely when I was Secretary/Treasurer.

Tom and his wife Yvette moved back to Chatham, Ontario a couple of years ago to be nearer to her family. He and I stay in touch but we had not seen them since they left town, so I thought this would be a good time to rectify that. Chatham was only 100 miles down the 401 from Woodstock.

There was a light snow falling as we left the hotel, so we brought our boots just in case. There were areas of light snow and fog as we rolled down the big highway surrounded by trucks. From the looks of many of them, Toronto was still sending its garbage to Michigan.

Making good time on the 401

Colonel Talbot gave my many times great grandfather
his start in this area (1822)

Not sure what is was, but it was wide

Barriers to keep trucks from crossing the median 
(less than successfully)

Wind turbine near Chatham

Closer look at the barriers

We found Tom and Yvette's very nice place in a seniors community in Chatham with no difficulty. Their home looked small from the outside but had an ample garage, four bedrooms and a finished basement. A man was there installing an alarm system, a lot easier now than it was before wireless technology.

It was nice catching up with the two of them. Tom rides a Burgman 650 step-through scooter and golfs, so we have a few things in common. Plus he has always been a good person to have in your corner. We shared some stories and then they fed us a nice lunch. Eventually, we had to get back to Woodstock because Jasper and Fiona were going to be sleeping over on the fold out couch in our living room (remember the suite upgrade?).

The fields near Chatham are looking a little green

Turbines had almost all been shut down

Some snow closer to London

Light snow dust falling

We got back to the hotel about 5:40. Heather and Tom brought Jasper and Fiona over and stayed for a while. After they left, the kids ended up laying down and going right to sleep. They both had coughs but that didn't keep them awake at all.

With everyone else in bed, I headed on back down to the exercise room for another half hour on the treadmill. It went a bit better today. Then I got back to the room and turned in too.

Today's Route (193 Equinox miles):

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Visiting London Ontario and Cambridge Ontario (CCC Debating Society)

Since we were going to be down here for a few days, it was an opportune time to touch base with some old friends. This morning, we drove the short way to London to see a couple of people.

Pastor Jack and Deb ride a Gold Wing, are key members of the Christian Motorcycle Association and have been regular attendees of the Freedom Rally in Sudbury for many years. I sent Jack a message last week and he invited us to stop by their place for coffee.

The drive to London was brief and uneventful. We got to their house at 10:00 AM and were greeted on the front steps by a smiling Jack. Deb was out but came through briefly on her way to another appointment. Jack is now the lead pastor for all the CMA chapters in Ontario and Quebec and they have an active summer of traveling planned. He had heard about the demise of the Freedom Rally and expressed sadness that it would no longer be on their schedule, but he will always remain a close friend of the Freedom Riders.

Sandy and Pastor Jack

John and Lorie are also very longtime friends of ours living in London. In high school, John and I were both in the award winning Bawating Concert Band under the tutelage of conductor Uncle Frank Elliott (RIP). I was the middling bass clarinet player (the instrument was delicate enough that very few of us were allowed to play it) while John played a tuba. He had an aptitude for music and eventually took over from Uncle Frank for a while before moving on to other musical adventures.

John and I have shared a lot of bonds. We both lived in Hollycrest Subdivision in the Soo, both lost younger brothers in tragic circumstances and our other younger brothers remain best friends in that same subdivision. We are two of a very small part of society that believes it is proper to hang a lobster from the Christmas tree. It is always good to see him.

We picked John up at home just after noon and headed to a Kelsey's Restaurant where Lorie joined us on her lunch hour. Lorie was well known there and we had a great lunch while rehashing old times and sharing perspectives on the state of the world today. It was a good time but I was so engrossed that I forgot to take any pictures.

John and Lorie's son Jesse and daughter Leah have inherited their musical talent. Jesse has been producing musical shows that showcase his, and sometimes Leah's, virtuosity with the fiddle. His Fiddler On The Loose show will be playing at the Hamilton Family Theatre in Galt in early July. Jasper and Fiona will be a little too young to appreciate it but I think we will stop down on our way to the Black Hills and take the rest of the family.

Back at the hotel about 4:00 PM, I actually got changed and went down to use the treadmill in the nicely appointed exercise room. It had been over a year since I strapped on the heart rate monitor and I was disappointed (but not surprised) by the poor cardio performance. I did get in a half hour but it barely took my usual warm up level to keep my heart rate in the target zone. More work will be required.

After picking up McDonald's supper, we headed over to Heather's. Tom had taken both kids to the Community Centre so Jasper could participate in a Lego robotics workshop, so we headed over there. That is one nice facility and even includes two ice sheets (although one is older and hidden away).

The old arena and the silver shovel from the new facility sod turning

Fiona giving me two "thumbs" up

After leaving the Community Centre, Heather and I dropped Sandy at the hotel and headed to Cambridge for a gathering of the Church On Tap group. This is where members of the Cambridge Community Church get together on Thursday nights for refreshments and discussion on matters of faith, philosophy and friendship. Apparently, their subjects are far ranging and Mike thought they might get some mileage out of my Deist viewpoint. Heather came along because she enjoys this type of discussion as well. Sandy did not because she doesn't.

After picking Kim up, we arrived at Kelsey's (another one) on Hespeler Road right on time. Pastor Dan and Marilyn were already there and we were shown to a table. This was it for tonight. We discussed a broad range of topics and I enjoyed the company. If a person's faith helps them get along better with other people (for me, this especially includes respecting the rights of others), I am all for it. These people were like that. Maybe I was overly garrulous, though, because Pastor Dan texted Kim right after and wondered if I was always that talkative.

Marilyn, Heather and Kim

Same with Pastor Dan

Bidding the others good night, Heather and I were headed back to Woodstock by 11:00 PM. It was a pleasure to discover that the stretch of 401 between Hespeler Road and Highway 8 had finally been completed. This has been a bottleneck during rush hours and now sported five and six traffic lanes westbound.

I dropped Heather off at the house around 11:30 and returned to the hotel and went straight to bed.

Today's Route (148 Equinox miles):

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Visiting Cambridge Ontario - Gore Mutual and Skating

Sandy slept in really late today. She used to be a morning person but that has changed. I read my trusty Kindle until she woke on her own. Then I discovered what I had forgotten at home (there is always something). The handle part of my electric toothbrush was still sitting on the charger. Luckily, I always carry and old fashioned manual model in my kit.

Heather had suggested we stop by her office with coffee this morning, but she texted to say she was at home until noon since Jasper was being kept out of school due to a cough. We left the hotel about 10:30 and picked up an iced coffee from Tim's for her and various McMuffins at Mickey D's for us. We visited for a while before going back to the room where I sorted photos from our October Agawa Canyon trip. After reviewing almost 400 and deleting the bad ones, I selected around 50 to use in the long overdue blog post.

(Side note: was it ever good to be wearing shoes outside again)

The Gore Mutual families tour was slated to start at 2:00 PM. We drove over to Cambridge, looked after a bank chore and were in the parking lot on time. Kim met us at reception and escorted us through the security doors to the meeting hall located in the headquarters.

Spring-like weather at Gore HQ in Cambridge

Gore Mutual is a small insurance company with a long history. They do not sell policies directly to clients but operate through a broker network. As such, they work on carving out niches where they can provide more value than their competition. In 2014, Gore Mutual was voted #1 insurance provider in Ontario by The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO).

After signing NDA's and getting coffee and cookies, we were treated to a brief history of the company. It was conceived in a pub in 1837 but was put on hold while the Upper Canada Rebellion was resolved. I was sad to note that I know much less about the Rebellions of 1837-1838  than I do about American history, so I have some reading to do.

I did not take any photos of the tour. My understanding was that cameras were frowned upon inside the buildings. The current head offices were built in stages 1935, beginning with the iconic stone structure, which is visible from the street, in 1935. We were taken on a group tour of the main buildings including the board rooms, the original vault and marketing. Then Kim took us to Information Systems, with a detour on the way through Underwriting where she started out. Both areas were bigger than I imagined and we met a number of her co-workers. I found it very interesting, having spent years working with systems before I decided that work in general wasn't for me. Then we returned to the hall and were given a wind-up video before leaving with Kim.

Leaving Gore, we followed Kim just down the street and picked up granddaughters Jolene and Robyn at their school. From there, we stopped by their house and then headed to Galt Arena, the oldest operating arena in the world (opened in 1922). Back in the 70's, my youngest brother Doug spent summers here studying figure skating here from Neil Carpenter. Ron Shaver was a contemporary.

For the first part of the session, Jolene and Robyn helped the toddlers on skates. Then they worked on their own technique. Robyn told me she preferred to work with the little ones rather than skate on her own.

Galt Arena

There is nowhere to get a clear photo of this banner

Watching the grandkids



Skating Moms

After skating - Jolene and Dad

Robyn getting her gear together

The A.E.D. was locked up - just what you need in an emergency

After skating, we headed over to Thirteen Food and Beverage in downtown Galt for a bite to eat. The building was old, the decor was rustic but classy and the service was impeccable. Downtown Galt, a part of Cambridge now, is one of the most interesting spots I know in Canada. The old stone buildings look very solid and stately. Followers of A Handmaid's Tale will recognize the architecture. Someone recounted going home one day and seeing a number of bodies hanging from one of the stone bridges because they were shooting a scene for one of the episodes.

I still hadn't totally blown my diet and stuck to a very nice chicken Caesar salad. Everyone else was able to experience more of the interesting Thirteen menu. Thanks for supper, Mike.

At Thirteen in Galt

Mother and child reunion...

It was 23 F and damp with  a cutting wind as we left the restaurant about 9:20. We bid goodbye to the family and drove back to the hotel in Woodstock, about a half hour away. It was straight to bed when we got there.

Today's Route (62 Equinox miles):

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Sudbury Ontario to Woodstock Ontario

Kim asked us to come down to Cambridge for a thing her employer, Gore Mutual Insurance was putting together. They were trying something new and hosting a day where spouses and parents could tour the headquarters and see where their loved ones worked. This was scheduled for Wednesday and Heather and Kim's birthday was Saturday, so we decided we would stay down and call on some other friends in the south on the intervening days. I booked six nights at the Best Western Plus in Woodstock, our go to place when we are in the area.

This would be the first time we had left Sudbury since the Agawa Canyon trip in October. In fact, the Agawa trip blog posts were still outstanding but I hoped to get caught up in my spare time over the next few days. It would also be our first time down Highways 69/400 since our Sherkston Shores trip in August. This might be the longest period in forty years that my tires have not graced this route.

The last few days had been unseasonably mild but things tightened up today at 22 F under grey skies. After some banking chores, we were underway about 10:20 AM. The snow cover was lighter than usual for this time of year as we proceeded south. By the time we got to Woodstock, green grass was visible.

A bridge for animals to cross the highway

Ice formations on the rock cuts

The new French River Bridge steel is now in place

The mug Sherm gave me

Sandy has one too

We stopped at the Subway at Waubaushene and ate there because a chopped salad would not be a good think to munch on while behind the wheel. The car, which had a major service last week, was running very well. Continuing on, it spit a little light rain here and there.

New construction along Highway 400 south of Barrie

Grass in Woodstock

We arrived at the Best Western around 4:20. Upon checking in, we found that the couple in the junior suite I had reserved had delayed their departure, so we were upgraded to a full suite. After bringing in the luggage, we got two Caesar salads to go from East Side Mario's (which turned out to be do it yourself kits) and took them over to Heather and Tom's to have supper and see the grandkids.

Back in the room by 9:00 PM, I managed to transcribe all my blog notes from the voice recorder from October through today. Then we hit the very comfortable king sized sack.

Today's Route (313 Equinox miles):

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Travel Plans for 2020

In the dead of winter, it is always nice to look forward to summer travel plans.

In May, we will return to Maggie Valley, North Carolina for the annual Vulcan Riders and Owners Club Southeast VROC Rally (SEVROC). This gathering has been going on since 1999 and has been in MV since 2006. Head organizer Jax got married and moved to Texas last year, so it will be a no frills rally for 2020. Just a date and a place. Others may add a few frills by the time it happens. We will trailer the bike down and spend the better part of a week enjoying the camaraderie, amazing roads and superb dining.

June may see the VROC Wolfman's Wandering Rally in Mountain View, Arkansas. This moves from place to place each year. If it is there, we will be there also.

There is another no frills rally planned for Deadwood, South Dakota in early July. It has been a few years since we went to play in the Black Hills. We will trailer out to this one.

After Deadwood, we will take the bike on its first real motorcycle trip in ten years. We will accompany Zeke from Deadwood to the Going-To-The-Sun  road through Logan Pass in Montana. From there, we will ride down and take Beartooth Pass in the south part of the state. These have both been on my bucket list for a while. Then we will proceed to Cody, Wyoming via the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, a road Sandy and I took two years ago in the Equinox when Beartooth was closed due to a June blizzard. Lastly, we will return to Deadwood via Tensleep Canyon and Powder River Pass in the Bighorn Mountains. This was the first mountain pass Sandy and I did on our initial trip west in 1978 and we did it as well two years ago in the car, but Zeke has never been over it. In Deadwood, we will load back up in the trailer and head for home.

August 7 to 9, we will be returning to Twinsburg, Ohio for the Twins Days Festival. We used to take Kim and Heather when they were young and the two of them have been attending ever since. Not having been there for many years, we thought it would be nice to visit again. It is quite the experience.

Later in August, a week in Bracebridge (Monday to Friday) would allow us to explore some of the best motorcycle roads in Ontario.

The VROC Eureka Springs Reunion in Arkansas is scheduled in September. This has been going on there since 2001 and we seldom miss. Leaving Saturday morning, we have two days to get to Corolla, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Denise has rented another house for the week, just like two years ago. From there, we will head home and wind down the season.

It looks like a good year and we hope to see a lot of old friends and family along the way.

Safe Ride Home Sudbury 2019

Things were pretty much a blur from mid-October through to New Years Day.

I am the Volunteer Coordinator for Safe Ride Home Sudbury, a volunteer driven designated driver service that takes people home in their own vehicles if they feel they have had too much holiday cheer to get behind the wheel themselves. I also do media relations, speech writing, training and a variety of other jobs.

The service media launch was the beginning of November and we took calls between 8:00 PM and 3:00 AM every Friday and Saturday between November 15 and the end of the year plus New Years Eve.

Pretty much from the time I got back from the Agawa trip, I was up to my neck in preparations or recovering from all night shifts. But we did respond to 1,074 calls for service and delivered over 2,000 people safely home, so it was worth the effort.

Once New Years Day dawned, work was over for another year. Except for the post mortem, planning improvements for next year, the thank you party for the volunteers and whatever else crops up.

Mascot Stewie, SRHS President Lesli Green and GSPS Constable Dave Hamilton
of the Traffic Management Unit at the Safe Ride Home Media Launch