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

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.