Thursday, August 10, 2017

Last Post and Trip Summary

I kind of dropped the ball on the true and accurate quantitative stats on the trip.  But rough calculations would indicate 4600km of kilometrage.  The truck has all the fancy electronic calculations and it showed that we averaged about 11.5 litres per 100 km quite steadily.  So we drank anywhere of 500 litres of gas.  Gas averaged about $1.10 per litre....  Not too hard to total those numbers.

We left on the 23rd of July and were home on August 8th.  That should be 16 days.  11 nights were in a hotel, and then the others were at the MacLeod's in Port Hood.  The 11 nights totalled $1350, there about.  Food, drink and like expenses weren't calculated, but at 16 days away, to estimate about 70 bucks per day wouldn't be too far off.  One bill to come will be the 407 Toll that we took on the way home.  It may be the dooziest of them all.  It is what it is.  My friend and his wife are starting a 20 plus day road trip today, ultimately going to and from Kamloops.  As I've wrote before, bring twice as less clothes and twice as more money!

The drive home was manic.  We were torn as the unfinished boat ride and fireworks were going to be missed.  Alex didn't plead, but made a good logical case for us to stay.  In the end it wasn't in the cards.  After a great out and back run with Alex, we returned to Shelly keenly packing up our provisions.  Wild horses wouldn't keep us/her/us from leaving.  Maybe another baseball tournament - maybe not.

Busy roads awaited as many others travelers had our intentions too.  It was all smooth sailing, retracing the familiar steps back across Nova Scotia, into New Brunswick, and up past Woodstock.  Edmunston, NB would have knocked off 900km for the day.  A worthy total.  But having already been fed and fueled, it was only eight or so at night and Rivere' Du'Loupe  was only 90 minutes more.  Or 90 minutes less the next day....  We pushed on.

As it was no hotels were available.  We went into one, and the receptionist informed us that they were full, and all others in the community.  No matter, Levis, PQ was only 90 more minutes and thus 90 less the following day....  Down adjacent the St. Lawrence in the dark.  Which incidentally, was how we were left, in the dark, regarding the hotel situation across from Quebec City.

It was the same story retold but with a different author.  All of the rooms in The Quality Inn were accounted for, along with every other room in the city.  Okay....  It was well after eleven at night.  I gassed and top the truck full.  Very full.  Who knows where we would get.  Who knows if anything was open.

They receptionist in Levis was nice enough to give us a list of 50 or 60 names of hotels within the general area.  She sort of just handed the paper to Shelly with a this-is-a-your-problem-type-of-problem look.  Which it was in that it was "our" problem.  However.  We drove and called a number in Drummonville, PQ.  It was another 140 km, but, being an optimist, 140 km less to drive the next day.  Sure enough at the Hotel Dauphin a room was available.  "Hold it, " we pronounced in fran-glish.  We'd be there at 1:00 am.  It was also, the last room they had.

The next day we had a stop to make in Kingston.  Friends of Shelly's.  Having been with all my friends for the past 15 days it certainly wasn't an unreasonable or undue request.  We got up and drove the 350 km from Drummonville to Kingston and had a 90 minute visit.  We had to keep it outside and in a park because their condo and contents would have taken a severe beating from the caged restlessness of Molly and Wally.  The friends are in their 70s, and as it is they don't have a Molly and Wally proof house and contents.  Any self respecting 5 and 2 year old would have torn their place to shreds, add long car rides, late nights, lack or sleep, eating in restaurants for stretches on end, our two were at their max.  But the visit was fine.  They live right at the marina and downtown trail in Kingston and we pushed off with the last 450 km in front of us.  Home was looking good.

I wish I had taken more people pictures over the past two weeks and some.  I don't have any pictures of us in Quebec City as I forgot the camera on both excursions, and there were lots of things going on.  It is also  nice to have pictures of people.  No pictures of Alex and I together.  None really of Rich and I.  The biggest shame is the lack of pictures of us as a family.  You can only do so much about that however, hence the selfie stick....  But I like the people pictures to tell a story just as much or better then the geographic shots.

As for other summary notes, it really goes without saying that at times it was difficult and a task all in all to bite off what we tried to chew.  You are just out of your comfort zone in all capacities with kids on the road.  However the alternative is staying put and not exploring or trying new things.  A little bit of struggle and diversity when one is out of their elements is a good thing and needs to get identified from time to time too.  When you travel you can't fight the elements of weather or distance or time.  You have to give in to them and work accordingly with whatever gets thrown at you.  You have to reserve (hotels perhaps), but you have to be reserved to go with the flow, rather then alter the path of the flow.




More Chestico Days

After two huge days of baseball and running championships, the awesome parade, square dancing, and, of course piano moving, there was just bit of unfinished Chestico Days business.  There was a boat parade we were invited to ride in, subsequent Port Hood Island visit via boat, and the grand finale of fireworks down at the wharf.  Molly was so excited to get this all going, unfortunately it would not be the case.

We drove the 5km to the marina in two cars.  It was raining.  The parade was postponed for twenty four hours.  No sea faring fellow would want to be out in this weather if it wasn't absolutely necessary.  We boarded the big boat to have a beer and plan the next move with a dozen or so other disappointed partiers.  We would end up going to the captain's cabin in Judiquo for a BBQ.   It was captain Linden MacIntyre; 2009  Giller Award winner for The Bishop's Man and retired CBC host of the Fifth Estate.

The BBQ was great, although it continued to rain the entire time. He has an amazing place and it would have been better to be outside.  However the two dozen people who were now there were all really nice and we all engaged in conversation like we had all been friends for years.  Such as it is during a Cape Breton kitchen event.  It was so much fun that Alex had to call for a ride home.  Linden was celebrating a release of a new novel, and just revelling at being around his siblings, children, grand children, and friends. After Linden found out we were from Goderich, we talked to him at a little length about the Steven Truscott story, investigation, trial and of course acquittal years later.  He had quarterbacked a Fifth Estate story about Steven in the early 2000s which brought him to Goderich.

So all that could still be done would be the fireworks.  We had an incredible scoff to eat and in a way it was like another fine Cape Breton kitchen party.  Six adults, five kids, and the dog and rabbit.   Kids hand dishes we washed, and the troupe was off to see the nine thirty explosions.  There was a silent presence getting closer to the launching area.  Though it wasn't raining, the light show would also be delayed.  No fireworks.  Back to the house.  Transition to bed.

With the five kids asleep, the dog and rabbit nestled into their slumber, and three adults tapping out too, it was left to Shelly, Alex, and me to discuss various topics in education and life.  A number of profound observances were noted, and no sooner had eleven o'clock rang, the three of us ambled to our bedrooms looking for sleep.  It wasn't hard to find.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Chestico Days

We had quite the spirited day on August 5th.  Morning came early as it usually does with Wally.  By seven he had already been up for thirty minutes, and he was restless to get out of his crib 15 minutes ago.  So a Cape Breton kitchen meeting was in progress to sort out the events of the day.

Up first was an 8km road race.  The no frills out and back race for ten bucks was on for Evelyn and I.  It would start at the fire hall of course, and proceed 4 clicks South on 19, and then back.  It was a beautiful sunny, warm and windy mornin.  There were about 100 people plus eager to set a personal best, or just finish the race.  I ran with a group of 3 other people for the first half, the two others by 5k, then just one other until 6k, and by the next half mile it was just me.  I ran in for the win in thirty minutes and thirty seconds absolutely smacked with fatigue and exhaustion.  I spent all my energy.  It was a good time, and Evelyn finished as the third female across the line within ten seconds of the first and second place runners.  It was a close finish.



Post race, the municipality had a parade.  We watched it from the start, thus reaping a vast amount of candy and treats that were thrown from the floats.  Each kid filled a plastic grocery bag.  It was Halloween-esq, but without the really good, high end candy.

The heavy lifting started thereafter.  Alex brought out a piano from Dartmouth to be moved into the Port Hood house.  I had always thought piano moving was insufferable, terrible work.  But a year ago I watched Shelly's piano get moved into our house in Goderich.  Granted the man and women who moved it were seasoned pros, they navigated the process with total and complete ease.  I remember thinking if I knew it would have been that easy, we could have done it.

Well today was my chance and I can say emphatically that ease was not in the equation.  It was an upright piano as Shelly's was, but this was a monstrosious beast!  We had all the right tools like a good dolly and a make shift sidewalk across grass.  We had enough room to get through doorways and no tight turns or obstacles in our way.  However the weight of this instrument made it very difficult to move.  The kicker was a 10 inch lift into the house.  If it wasn't for creating a lever with a 2x6, there would have been noooooo way Alex, Shelly, and I would have completed the task.  Anyway it got situated into its new surroundings, and I pity the people who have to move it again.

After the piano business, Alex and I took the girls to the beach.  Port Hood is known as the beach capital for f Cape Breton.  The beaches are in wonderful shape and the water always seems to be warmer in the area.  We spent an hour and a half there and sure enough, despite being a bit windy, it was a great day in the sand and surf.  And after moving the piano and running the race, it felt all the more relaxing.

By late afternoon Crystal and John Robert had arrived at the house and we had supper.  In the evening Alex and I returned the Uhual rental, and then we gathered up some people to go to the West Maboo square dance.  We completed a few sets of the three finger sequence and got caught up with Alex's sister Marianne.  It was getting past midnight and we still had a fifteen minute drive home.  It had been a busy and fun filled day as is usually the case out here.  Never a dull moment!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Port Hood, NS

We left Alma and continued east getting further and further away from home.  Was this a good decision?  Have we had enough of the nomadic lifestyle, and be better served by returning back to familiar grounds.  It was too late for that as Moncton was driven through, then Amherst.  We were officially in Nova Scotia.  We had driven 450km reaching Port Hood in Cape Breton.  Puke stains engulfed Wally, the car seat, an IPad, and everything else on the rear passenger side of the car during the last 1.5km of the journey.  Close, but not close enough.

We made great time however.

By and by we got settled.  Our hosts had to go back to Dartmouth, NS to take care of some personal affairs, so we had their cottage/cabin to ourselves for the next 48 hours.

Upon arriving Wally was tended too first.  Bathed, cleaned, fed, cuddled, and sorted he was mostly back.  He was put down to bed and by mid afternoon and the truck was soon stripped, wiped, Clorox bleached, and aired out as much as possible.  Molly and I went on a laundry adventure, and found a spot at a campground just before Maboo to wash the items which were dirty in the capacities that they were.  The campground had a pool.  So as our clothes were washed and dried, we swam.  It was a great use of time.

On Wednesday night we didn't do too much of anything else except get a feel for the lay of the land, and to plot our moves for the next couple of days.  As it is the municipality is having their annual summer festival known as Chestico Days.....  There would be lots to do.

I ran on Thursday morning, and Shelly got herself signed up for the area's coed slow pitch tournament.  This was nine o'clock in the morning.  The first pitch was at ten.  One more lady was needed, so Shelly was in luck.  Lots of it too.  Shelly loves baseball and a day of it would be nothing but a good time.  The teams were picked at random, however there were 6 MacDonalds on her team and two others whose last name also started "Mc/Mac".  In more ways then one she was an outcast, last name included, however her stingy defence and open up offence showed her peers that her Ontario ball skills were not to be scoffed at or taken lightly.  Wouldn't you know it, they won the Championship.  The kids and I returned to see the final few innings of play and this bunch of homogeneous looking guys with red hair and beards, and the lasses, had their customary picture taken at home plate as winners do.

Anyway it was been five or six years since I have been to this cabin.  I was surprised by how things have changed around it and the community.  We are here for another few days and will get more observances and incidences noted.  As of yet our hosts haven't arrived, but it will be quite fun when they do.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Bay of Fundy National Park

Only a simple 300km separated us from our next destination in Alma, NB.  The salt and fir ecosystems on the Bay of Fundy and pine forests of southern New Brunswick collide in this beautiful location.  The national park is quite large and of course it boasts hiking, biking, camping, water sports and fantastic scenery all about.

We got checked in to a great motel with cabins.  The cabins were all booked, but our room is basically a suite with a kitchen and a sectioned off area with bunk beds for the kids.  The danger flags rose because of the sleeping arrangements (bunk beds), but having one of the two fall from the top would be just-the-way-things-go during this trip.  Disaster and accident has found us everyday one way or another, so the bunk beds could add to this.

Added to the fantasticness of the area, we also were 24 hours with the Tremainiacs.  After swapping stories on the highway and having some drinks, we ordered pizza and continued to one up each other's tales with reflections of our time on the road.  They had a great story about two flat tires just off of the Cape Breton Causeway and how it got fixed, to ours which was a shit explosion (by a kid), in Quebec City at our lodging and how it got cleaned.  I guess the main idea was about solving problems more then anything.

We all went for a bit of a run and or bike ride on the Tuesday morning.  Evidently the bed would not be a problem, but a pretty hard wipe out on the bike by Molly.  Trying to hard and being over confident on rough terrain, Molly had quite a header and shed some blood and lots of tears.  Her lip caught most of the fall, and it looked like it had been injected with Botox.  It was a source of a lot of whining and complaining throughout the day.  In the end the run was okay.


We also drove about 40km to the Hopewell Rocks.  It is that iconic site you see of rocks submerge to different levels during the high and low tides.  Rocks that are arched, and in one picture someone is kayaking through them and in another the person is walking.  It was neat.  But really crowded.  Tones of people and bus loads of tourists such as ourselves.  

On the way we stopped at this beach when the tide was low.  There were hardly anyone else there, and we just walked and walked out almost one half of a mile or more.  It was great and we should have just stayed.  However Hopewell wasn't so bad, that was until tiredness overcame Wally at the furthest point away from the truck and we had to just get back as he became wild and wacky beyond belief.


The park also has an amazing salt water pool which is heated.  It over looks the ocean.  The pool is probably 25m by 20, and it has an additional kids section.  There are plenty of chairs which lined the perimeter, and lifeguards on duty.  Both times we went it was busy, but not too busy.  The pool is another added touch which sets it apart from other similar places I've been.

We had walked quite a lot.  There was one more destination to get to and that was Dickens Falls.  It is a very easy 1km loop where there is a 15 or 20 foot waterfall.  The water is only about 50 cm wide when it falls, but it is impressive nonetheless.  The family was fresh, so we walked it without any problems or crowds of people.

There is so much more we didn't or couldn't do here.  4 days would be most ideal with a keen and willing bunch of adventurist with good weather.  It is an outdoors paridise and Alma offers nothing for indoor entertainment other then restaurants.  Alma is teeny tiny small, but the area at large is huge.  We stayed at the Fundy Highlands Cabins and Motel and it was amazing.  

I knew the sizeable tidal shifts that happen down here and was so glad I came to check it out.  The fishing boats are floating and docked when the tides are high, but are put on crates and lifts when the tide is low.  Scott Cook recommended that we get to this area and I'm glad to have.





Sunday, July 30, 2017

Into New Brunswick


A 500km driving day (1600km in all) brought us to Woodstock.  There are a few famous Woodstocks of course.

As the trip was planned, the odometer on the truck was going to indicate an oil change.  I figured we'd this Woodstock would be just about that time.  I went online to the automated service request of the local Toyota dealership and booked the truck in for its lube.  The standard automated reply came almost instantly that said yup, no problem.  This was back at least two months ago or so.

Fast forward to two weeks ago I got a pleasant phone call fro May, the manager at Woodstock Toyota.  She wanted to make sure I had the correct Woodstock.  Woodstock, NB, not ON.

The big reason for stopping here was the Jellystone Yogi Bear Park full of Water slides and similar attractions.  The kids got a blast out of the rides, games, bouncy equipment, and other activities.  It was a great deal; not too hot and not too many people.  The park was certainly geared for kids under twelve and families.  It was clean and everyone was friendly.  It is situated in an odd area right beside what looks to be an oil refinery, but it suited our needs.

This trip is transitioning into the rural section as big city sites won't be had for the next few thousand kilometres.

We got on our bikes and went on a really great ride on a old railway line through Woodstock.  Along the way we saw many like minded users and stopped into a neat marina.  The Marina had this huge falcon nest atop a hydro pole with five eyasses in the nest, yet they were the size of seagulls!  The nest was quite large.  The size of a bald eagles nest.  Anyway we waited around long enough to see one of the parents returning home with a large stick to reinforce the nest with.

That was about it.  We ate at a great restaurant called Murray's at an Irving gas station on exit 191, we had a great ice cream treat at a Dari Delight in Woodstock, and I got a major case of déjà vous at the WalMart, but that was for good reason because I had been there at least two other times before on previous adventures.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Quebec City

It was an easy 450km to make it pretty much 1100km traveled since leaving town.  Quebec City was our destination, but interestingly all the road signs into the province of Quebec just indicate the city as Quebec.  We knew what we were doing.  I figured though sometime later that Quebec City is an English term used by anglophones.

We arrived on Wednesday and after getting settled into our second Airbnb.  We walked around the Saint-Roch neighbour where we were staying.  Its liveability is incredible with every type of park, corner store, restaurant, confectionery, laundromat, and such all with a walkable approach.  The bike trail which outlines the perimeter of the city was only about 1km away too.  It was a good score.  Parking was good, although it is first come first served on a narrow street.

So yes, we walked the first half day in the city, and ventured by bike and infant carrier thereafter on Thursday and Friday.  I need a map wherever I go.  A physical hand held map I can touch, write on and turn upside down if necessary.  We did not have a camera on our person either day because it was forgotten.  However we set out for some adventure and saw lots of interesting things.

Thursday's efforts were concentrated on things around the bike path.  We hit up the market, marina area, and the lower and smaller quarters of the old Quebec area.  Having the double carrier to convert into a stroller is awesome, but in crowded areas and in hilly and tight confines, it is a bit of a liability. On one hand the kids are tucked away, but it is dam hard to meander in said locations.  Plus, every so often one of them wanted out to walk.  But even a walking two and a half year old is not ideal as they don't want to hold your hand from time to hand, stay on the side walk, or mind the etiquettes of all the passerbys.  Young kids, nor the stroller, makes entering shoppes easy especially in this place.

Friday was spent by first arguing in the morning....  A lot.  We brought kids.

Just kidding.

On Friday we started off up a super steep, Tortola steep, road called Salaberry to get to Battlefield Park.  How steep.  I don't know.  Dam steep.  But we made it to the crest and it was flat from there on.  I imagined this area to be plain, but it was very treed and it doesn't offer extensive views of the city or the river.  Nevertheless it is a wonderful place and we played on some equipment and biked around it.  We stopped at its Citadelle, checked out the English built Martello Towers, had a good look at the Joan of Arc tribute, and then made our way through the Saint Louis gate and into the Chateau Frontenac range.  We parked and locked up our bikes and would continue by foot to get some eats, and then take a guided handsome cab around.

The handsome cab was a driver named Stephanie and her Paint Belgian cross named Sabby.  For forty five minutes they gave us the narrated tour of the district and some of its influential buildings and dates.  Probably because of the kids going from shop to shop to see the knick knacks wasn't going to happen, but this tour gave us a reprieve from our own source of locomotion, and a history lesson all in one.  What surprised me the most was how much English influence Quebec City actually has.  Well, she said something like it was French from 1600 to 1750 roughly, and then English thereafter.  There were a great deal of catholic immigrants from Ireland whom settled in the area, thus  the continued strong lineage of religion based courtship with the French, but there wasn't much mixing and marrying between the groups of people whom did not share a traditional religious sameness.  It was interesting that there are a few dedicated blocks and churches that are Anglican and or Presbyterian.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Out in Ottawa

We were ready to burn off some steam and depart from our accommodations.  It had rained for the past twenty hours.  With that ended, we unloaded the bikes and began our journey downtown.  It was only an unfortunate two miles.  We had so much more energy to burn.

We parked our bikes at the corner of Elgin and Laurier and converted the tow behind into a stroller.  We were off to Parliment to watch the 10:00am changing of the guards.  It's Shelly's alumni thing.  I revisit St. Denis Centre, Shelly revisits the barracks.  For two summers Shelly blew her trumpet and marched to the beat of the Ceremonial Gaurd.  Daily life in the military was no easy task, I suppose, when you are armed only with a silver Kanstul 1000 and a bear skinned hat.  However she lived to tell about it, and see it as a spectator for the very first time the other day.  I could tell she was very proud of the job the band does, and proud for herself for once doing it.  There were a thousand plus people watching....


With that ticked off, we explored more of the square kilometre or so of Parliment by foot without going inside.  We got up and down Spark's Street, to the Byward Market of course, and just around.  It would be back to the bikes and over to Quebec pedalling.  The best view of Parliment is from the Gatineau side of the river.

Shelly was a bit apprehensive at first with the volume of traffic, but we got into our bike line on the Macdonald Bridge and ease set in.  I had done all of these Ottawa activities just under two years ago. So it wasn't a big deal to me.  But Shelly found her stride and amalgamated into the flow of things.  Wouldn't you know it, but the 3 mile trail along the PQ side of the river was closed.  Blasted.  But we had a nice ride nonetheless.  The topper was stopping for an hour at this amazing horticultural exhibit of Canada 150 at the base of the Bridge.

There were about 25 enormous creations telling a historical Story of Canada.  All the pieces were sculptured from vine, ivy.  MosaiCanada150 was its official title and it is highly impressive.  I can't say I had a favourite piece.  They all seemed to outdo each other.....

By now, being mid afternoon, many of voyagers would have been content at their spoils and returned to dock.  But having missed a full day yesterday, we were still on a mission.  It would be up to Landsdowne Park area for some food and play.....

Still not content after a few pints of Beau's Lager, a few glasses of mystery red wine for Shelly, and nachos, it would be up to Hogg's Back and Moonies Bay.

Hogg's Back is quite the impressive display of water exiting a dammed up area into a narrow passageway.  There is no way it flows as fast or strong as Niagara Falls, but it was moving!!  I had never been there before and it is well worth it to see.

Moonies Bay was just shutting down for the day.  Beachcombers were packing up to leave, and families were arriving for the playground facilities.  Huge, huge Canada150 money has been pumped all over Ottawa, but no where more noticeable then these playground area at the beach.  They had a unique and indentifiable structure for each of Canada's provinces and territories.  It took up the foot print of a football field anyway.  So ya....  The kids loved it.


We returned to our abode and we were all beat down, tired, cranky and usual.  We did a lot.  We saw a lot.  We asked a lot of the kids.

I would definitely return to Ottawa another time.  The thing is it is an outdoor place.  One can't do anything about weather, but it really was too bad we had that rained out day.  I wouldn't stay at the AirBnB place again either.  I would recommend it for people if there wasn't anything else, but not for us.

Off the Quebec City.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Goderich - Ottawa

Packed up with nearly three weeks of (un)necessary things, we took off for an east coast Canadian road trip.  The first stop would be an easy 660 km to the nation's capital.

Goderich to Ottawa via the 401.  Sunday June 23rd.

Pretty easy driving all in all.  There was a lot of traffic, but we always were able to skim the road at that magic 100km/h speed.  The truck would be our method of travel with our bikes and an assortment of other goodies to keep us occupied.

Being that it is 2017, technology isn't a must, but it s certainly a convenience in this day in age.  I get that yesteryear kids suffered through such journeys by car with imagination and books only, but that doesn't have to be the case.  So we let the just ride along for the first 90 minutes, then busted out the iPads.  I got a HooToo Travel Mate Router and loaded up a collection of movies that would undoubtedly quiet and occupy the worst kid traveling by car.  Sure enough, Frozen was finishing by Bowmanville, and we needed a gas and bathroom break.  Not a word from the back seat!   So these HooToo items are pretty neat.

We are staying in an AirBnB in Ottawa.  It is good because there are two rooms fully furnished, a kitchen free parking and it is in a great neighbour with shops and a huge kids play area.  But it does feel a bit weird.  It feels like a working house rather then a traditional hotel.  I don't get this feeling in a hotel that you are I'm someone else's place.  Obviously the owner is not here, and the privacy is great, but it is just a bit of a different feel.  No matter.  It has all been good this far.


We all had a great walk last night over to Bank street and around the Gleeb neighbourhood.  It all is coming back to me from my adventure here in September 2015....

So now it is Monday and it has poured rain all day.  No biking.  No walking.  No Byward Market.  No Typical Ottawa stuff.  We took the kids to an indoor play area which was over priced and not that great, and then walked around the Bayshore Mall for a few hours.

The rain is sure to subside, and we will get out to explore and navigate.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Golf and Rodeo

My buddy's in-laws have quite the hospitality house.  It is complete with 4 holes of golf, an indoor pool, ping table, a huge property with trails, and a sizable pond too.  A few weeks ago I asked if we could have a few hours out there to enjoy said things.  It didn't seem to be a problem, so we loaded up kids, siblings, cousins, friends and parents for a great afternoon outdoors.

Upon arrival most of the kids bee-lined it straight to the indoor pool.  They would be under the watchful eye of my sister and Leanne whilst the rest of us hit the links.  There were about 7 of us golfing, and another 2 or 3 using frolfing with Frisbees.  There aren't any t-boxes, so one just shoots from wherever they get an inclination.  The four greens are more then suitable.  Everything looks regulation like for the most part.  So we just hit from this place and that place into the direction which seemed the best.  If the shoot wasn't so good, well, I just hit another ball in my pocket.  No scores.  No real etiquette.  No pressure.  It was a super terrific afternoon.

The pond was the next stop.  It is a gravel pit being drenched.  There is a dock to let go off of into the water and climb back up on.  It is an enormous thumb print which would be as big as 10 football fields perhaps.  The golf course was about that big too.  The water was not only crystal clear, but it was warm, clean and refreshing.  Shelly and Wally weren't able to enjoy the afternoon, but they'll get out on another occasion.
A couple days thereafter Shelly, Molly, Wally and I hit up some pro/semi-pro rodeo in the swinging hamlet of Dungannon.  There was about  1100 people there watching all there is to watch.  I have to say that it was really, really good - just a few notches off excellent.  Its organization was highly professional in that the announcer was terrific, the pace of the events were quick, it looked professional, and the talent of everyone involved seemed very good.

What else made it good was that they always had something going on in the lag time between events.  At a sporting event there is always something happening on the jumbo tron between play, but at a rodeo you don't have that form of technology.  But they did have this entertaining clown.  He did some lasso tricks and was highly animated.  Kids were involved in different things like the mutton ride, and 60 kids exploded into the ring to take flags off the tails of calves to win a prize.

The rodeo started a bit cheesy with quite the religious prayer and a display of Canadian nationalism that is nice, but not very common in Canada.  However after that, it was straight to the bull riding.  We came for the carnage and wipe outs.

There was an equal amount of events for men and women.  Lots of beasts were ridden and roped throughout the 2 hours.  There were a number of barrel race runs in the 15 second area - which I assume is good.  There was a ninth girl whom just graduated 8th grade from the school I work at who was in it and her and her pony made it around the barrels in mid 17 seconds.  I was very impressed as her horse was much smaller then the rest, and she wouldn't be any older then 14.  So good on her and her horse.

And of course there were a number of missed roped steers, barrels knocked over, and ejected riders from the backs of bulls during the session.  However I suppose that is the way it goes.  I gathered that these people are doing it for the love of the sport and the tradition of rodeo.  The weather cooperated and I would go back again if it was happening next year.  I'd tell the riders though to not do as much looking at your phone and riding your horse....  Saw a lot of that.  Or maybe not a lot per-sea, but shouldn't you see none.  



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Knife/Ax Throwing.... Huron County Chuckers

video
I think I have mentioned something like this before, but people are serious at the things they do.  Or, there is a lot of seriousness at the top end of all kinds of activities.  No matter what the activity, there is a select group who are vested.  Serious model airplane pilots are meticulous in the craft of aerodynamics, flight, controls, and the like that that world involves - model air planing.  So anyway, knife and ax throwers have a heightened awareness within their craft.  Weighted knifes calibrated to the ounce.  Set distances which can't be fudged.  Targets hung at a precise vertical limit.  Fancy holsters for the knives.

It was out to a buddies place the other day with Tara, Trevor, and Craig.  There is an indoor throwing facility only a few kilometres outside of town.  I know many people throw knives in town, but this group prefers to keep in all on the down-low so that they aren't really a business, rather just a social club.  I get it.  But when it comes to the actually throwing, sets of rules and norms are strictly followed to a tee.

I started with the knives.  There are no sharp edges on them whatsoever.  They have a tip, but it is not sharp at all.  If the knife does get a burr on it, they immediately polish/grind.buff it off.  I think I was throwing from between the 2m and 3m line with 1 spin.  I held the knife by the handle, of course, and after its spin it either penetrated the wooded stop, thudded to a crash, or ricocheted back at me.  One does have to be very mindful.  Whether it was luck, maybe some skill, but I ended up getting the hang of it.  But like bowling and golf, there were plenty of off-the-marks despite getting a number of smooth throws to land.

As you move back with the knives, the spin increases.  Maybe between the 3 and 4m lines it is a 1.5 spin, therefore you throw while gripping the "blade", which is not sharp, part of the knife.  I can't say I hit too many of those throws in their respective mark, so I just moved forward and worked on the 1 spin throw.

It was actually a hatchet, not an ax, but hatchet throwing was also on the menu.  The same principles applied, although I don't recall any throwing done by its "blade" end, which again is not sharp.  Maybe a bit easier, but this throwing was fun and satisfying in that way bowling a strike is, or hitting a hole in one in mini-golf is.  When the hatchet leaves your hand you can almost instantly sense its worth.  Immediately you can feel whether it is on the mark and will impale into the wood.  Like knife throwing, it is all finesse and feel.  This is not a sport for muscle heads.  The speed or thrust in which you throw makes little difference - although in Game of Thrones that does not appear so.  I can tell you it is more about rhythm and touch.  Just for some fun, Craig also chucks a shovel which is about a foot and a half in length, and sure enough thump!


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Beach'n It - Lake Huron

Over the past few days we have had a number of great visitors.  First we had Mark Kiteley and his family stay with us on their Ontario travels, and this was coupled with a Rich Tremain and his two kids visit too.  We had lots of fun, good food, good drink, backyard bbq, backyard camp fire, and the like.  We went for a run and were down at the beach having a swim.  All in all we had a great few days together doing this and that.  No pictures unfortunately.

Today my good buddy Drew was in town with his two kids in tow.  The weather continued to be fantastic, so after a bit of a walk around town to the neighbour shoppes, it would be down to the beach again.  I rented a stand-up paddle board for the occasion.  I had never been on one, but being a quick study and sure on my feet I didn't feel like it would be too much of a challenge in the Lake Huron chop.  It wasn't.

Basically it was a great day around town and down at the beach.  I suppose the lake water isn't as warm as I have made it out to be.  It isn't terrible - but it is refreshing.  That is okay because it is quite warm around here and the cooling nature of the water is a great reprieve from the mid day heat.

The paddle board was a huge success.  I was taken back by how stable they are - or this one was.  It wasn't at all like a canoe with its tippy disposition.  The kids loved going for rides on it and it wasn't difficult to steer or build up a bit of momentum whilst out on the water.  This one was a blow-up one I believe, or a portion of it was.  Whatever.  It was a lot of fun and if the forecast called for sunny blue skies and calm conditions out on the surf I would rent one again for a few hours.  And there were lots of pictures to take.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Start of Summer


As always, the summer holidays arrived.  I don't count down the days.  Nor do I feverishly wait for the last bell to ring and bus leave the school.  Year after year the day comes and that is that.  I can't say that I wasn't looking forward to the end, but I certainly don't quantify the occasion.  I always get asked if I do, and I don't.

So first up was putting together a suitable float for the Canada Day Parade in Goderich on behalf of the Huron & District Labour Council.  It was my idea, so I quarterbacked the bulk of the theme and organizing.  I introduced topic and said I'd do it so long as it wasn't a Macaulay show.  So long as it wasn't just me, and the kids on the creation.  We have a very small committed labour council, but not that small.  I was assured a few others would show up and take part.


The parade in Goderich is actually quite big.  The route is about a mile and a quarter - and it is lined quite consistently with excited people.  At its peak there were people 10 to fifteen deep for about 400m.  Reading this in a big city you'd think that is nothing, but for here it is big....

The recipe for the float included my 8x8 utility trailer, a four wheeler, 4 bails of straw, and red and white decorations.  And the people too.  We had to have some people.  The float came together in about 15 minutes.  The staging area was only a few hundred metres from the house, and the rain had subsided in perfect timing.  We got a few brothers and sisters on the float - I adorned it with the Avon Maitland ETFO flag and off we went.....  The only bad decision was wearing my jacket as it was very hot.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Hanging Around


Hanging around with a noose around your groin is basically what teacher's do (on field trips, and sometimes just daily).

We were off 14 km down the road to a gem of a spot I had never been to in my life.  All these years teaching in the area and living here too, I had never been to Camp Kintail.  Founded way back in 1929, they have a few hundred prime acres nestled along the shores of Lake Huron.  It has roots in the church, but it was a secular day through and through for the class Liesa and I brought this year.  I half figured there would have been a bit of a pre-meal blessing, or at least a token camp fire song about religion.  But alas, nothing.  Just a day of great weather and lots of fun and activities.

We got to the big stuff first.  The ropes course would be our first destination.  It looked good enough for Navy Seals in training.  In fact it looked great.  There were no less then 12 different vertical paths and challenges.  They all seemed rather difficult too.  However the inner climber sprung out among the adolescents and they were up walls, across wooden bridges, swinging from a zip line, and the like for a solid hour.  The only problem in this station was the 12 obstacles were only minded by 6 or 7 be layers.  So a bit of standing around.   I wanted to get-at a few of the challenges myself, but I figured the day and its liveliness was for the students, not for me.....  Though I did manage to get a few of them donkeys to hoist me up the squirrel swing or whatever it was called.  Thankfully they didn't drop me like a sack of flower.

Next up was the beach.  It was sunny and warm out at over 20 degrees centigrade, but Lake Huron must have been a fresh 60 degrees Fahrenheit max.  No sense no feeling - most of the students were in the water and splashing about.  The paddle boards came out, a number of kayaks, and even some canoes got going....  The water was a bit rough - I couldn't see the life guard having too much ambition to go rescue a capsized student in such cold conditions....  So I was out myself in a scow and keeping and eye on everyone.  I stayed dry and had a good paddle to boot.

There was a nice hot lunch for the 130 kids or so involved at Kintail for the day.  We sat in groups of 8.  I half expected a bit of a religious saying or prayer to kick things off, but instead roles were assigned and kids found themselves with a job in order to expedite our salad, fries, chicken burgers, drinks, and so on.  It was a well oiled machine indeed.  The fun, or so the newbies thought, was when it was post lunch and staff started walking around with a scrapper-spatula.  The promised this would be an exciting job to help.  All of the rookies put up their hands, and no sooner were they are garbage duty scrapping the excess food off of the plates and into the trash!

Anyway the rest of the day was good.  There were a number of other balance games and games of chance....  Archery and sling shots were also let-go.  They had a fairly large 100+ foot enclosed slide.... We were in groups to geo-cache....  Just a fun day.  Lots of pictures, but all of kids.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Invasion of the Shriner's

I don't know how it came to be, but there must have been a big southwestern Ontario Shriner's gathering in town this weekend.  They partied and paraded quite jubilantly on Saturday afternoon starting only a hundred metres or so from the house.  Other curious neighbours gathered to see them off on their loop of the square as I did.


There wasn't one lady to be seen in the lot.  Evidently women aren't or can't become a member of the order.  However it is a fraternity..  But what a shame...  All the little Honda dirt bikes and four wheelers, the Aladdin-like shoes, the dune buddies and fire trucks.... All the neat toys and gizmos.  They had a clown brigade too.  There were a few different bands playing.  It all sort of takes one to the middle east or off to Morocco.  Totally Lawrence of Arabia type atmosphere, but in Goderich.