November - getting out of Toronto early enough to save our sanity from the Rob Ford insanity, and miss the "Catastrophic Ice Storm". We had already had our ice storm in Texas. Enough with the ice already.
March - making the decision that we had sighed up at the blue sky and palm trees with contentment enough times that we should purchase a small shack in California and enjoy it over the next few years - while we can.
discovering that tennis does not have to hurt; the right training, and the right medical attention, and tennis can be pain-free.
September - celebrating the "Debut" of Billie Grace Garland at our backyard party in Collingwood. Friends and family gathered from all across Ontario to meet the new gal in the family.
June - attending the Spring Concert for the Festival Wind Orchestra, Bronwen dancing with the troupe, and meeting Glenn.
working with the dedicated volunteers from the Collingwood Food Coop. The Coop itself may not be all that we planned or wished for, but the people that I have met are amazing. I wanted some community involvement for 2013, and I could not have wished for a better engagement.
changing - it seems very strange to be in California for Christmas. It has broken a tradition for me that goes back to the day that I was born. Even after Carol and I married, Christmas was always with my mother and father, until my mother passed away. Then my sister took over all of the work of having Christmas for both her family and mine. Christmas tradition seemed to continue without skipping a beat for over 60 years. From California, our thoughts and wishes are for a great holiday season and terrific 2014 to all.
My favourite beer and I can only get it at Ralph's just down the street. 32oz of beer from El Salvador for $1.99, and it helps me earn a further discount at the gas pumps. Cross-marketing is a wonderful, wonderful thing; the more I drink, the further my car will go.
Bought three pot lights at Home Depot and had an electrician install them (bill to come). They buzzed. Called him back and he said get a new dimmer. Installed a new dimmer as recommended by Home Depot. They buzzed. Bought new spotlights and installed them myself (electrician money spent). No buzz yet, but not finished. I am playing tennis at Shadow Mountain (uppity tennis club) this morning and do not have time to finish the job.
A bunch of boxes arrived tonight. We now have chairs at the counter, and we were able to sit quite civilized and have dinner. I thought that I would also include a photo of the living room (yes, I did hang that mirror all by myself). After it was hung I started wondering about earthquakes. Have I done it correctly for a house sitting right on top of the San Andreas Fault? Today I went to Ace Hardware and asked if the technique I used was correct for this part of the country. I also asked some residents at the complex. Everybody had the same response - if there is a good earthquake, the mirror will be the least of my worries. Only one person asked if it was above my pillow in the bedroom.
Note: I first heard of Micky Newbury in the lyrics of a song by Jennifer Warnes. I have become quite a Micky fan. He was a pretty unique talent that I wish I had been able to see. Here is a 1 hour show that I recommend:
A glass top has been ordered for the dining table. It should arrive December 21 so that we can have our Xmas dinner on a table. We are now known in the neighbourhood as the couple without chairs, without bar stools, and no table. We are being invited out a bit as a result. When I think of it, it is a pretty good scam we are pulling. Once the glass top arrives, it will likely all end. But for tonight we eat someone else's cooking.
Today was Bronwen's concert. It seems funny not being there. The Festival Wind Orchestra put a lot of effort into their productions and they are very professional shows. Carol and I enjoy it every time. I will be working with the orchestra to make certain that they hold their Xmas concert in June or July in the future.
Carol's sister Sue is not doing too well right now. She is mid-way through her chemotherapy, and this week she took a tumble and broke her arm. She has been hospitalized for the past four days while they get her healthy enough to set the arm. We are holding our breath. Our thoughts are constantly with Dave and Erin.
I partnered with the tennis pro's father (remember the 80 year old money player) against a couple of much younger players yesterday. We lost pretty miserably 4-6, 2-6. I was definitely the weakest player of the four. I think that Leoncio was pretty pissed with my play. Leoncio is not used to losing. In all fairness, I am willing to use the 70 years that our team gave up, as an excuse. It would appear that he is not so inclined.
December 14th is the annual Xmas Concert for the Festival Wind Orchestra. See if you can find Bronwen in the photograph below.
The table has arrived! Well, not the whole table. We thought that the glass was too green, and that it was 4 inches to big. Remember, we only want 56", not 60". We start the search for an appropriate glass top tomorrow. We really do like the base though, and we met a delivery family (Fabricio, and his son Damian) that will pick up anything in the valley and deliver it to our home for $65. How can you beat that! One issue that I can see looming is that Carol now thinks that she is an accomplished "consignment" shopper. I am not sure that is a good thing. Still having our meals using lawn chairs and the breakfast bar although I expect this to change soon.
Partied with our American friends on Saturday night. Carolling started at 4PM followed by pot-luck appetizers at 5:30PM. About 60 people at the clubhouse, but only 4 ladies carolling. I thought of joining in, and then thought better of it. Home in bed watching TV by 8:30PM.
Sunday was 6 hours of cruising the consignment and other furniture stores. We still do not have a table of any sort, so meals are awkward and I am still typing up hill. I think that we have found a used glass top table though. We will be going back to a consignment store in Indio to look at an iron base with a 60" glass top. Carol will allow a maximum of 56" for the glass top, so we are really only interested in the base. I can get an appropriate 56" top on the internet for $160, but the shipping to our door is $300. Hmmm. Something should give here. I wait and see.
I was pretty certain that I would be constantly engaged in discussion by our American friends and neighbours about the activities of Rob Ford. In my mind I had prepared a group of throw-away lines that I thought might end the conversation without all that much discussion. To my surprise, There has not been that much talk of the mayor, and that which has happened was quite likely started by me.
When I meet new people they always ask where I am from, and I reply "Ontario", or "Toronto", or "Collingwood, Ontario", depending on how much data I think is necessary. Not always, but at least once for each of these answers, the person asking has responded "Oh, eastern Canada". Usually, the conversation also has a short section about Rob Ford.
One of my American friends hit the nail on the head; Americans do no know much about Canada. They do not carry a mental image of the map of Canada in their heads the way Canadians do of the United States. I once corrected a new friend by saying that Toronto is more central, and they were OK with that, but then informed me that they must have been thinking about Montreal being in eastern Canada. This is all OK, and Canadians should expect this, (really, I think we like it that way). The map of Canada should be important to Canadians, not Americans. Americans do have more important things in this world than Canada to think about. To get back to my friends point:
"the shame is that one of the few things that Americans now know about Canada is that Rob Ford is the mayor, that he is a criminal, and there is nothing the city, the province, or the federal government can or will do to remove him from office".
"One of the few things that many Americans now know about Canada". Ouch! To exaggerate, the American experience of Canada may be limited to the Iranian hostage situation of 40 years ago, and this is now being challenged by the Rob Ford story. Ouch. We have truly fallen from grace.
Thank goodness Black Friday is over. Not that Carol and I have finished furnishing this place, but that the thousands of Americans are now out of our way. We still have lots of work to do. In the past, if a clerk asked if they could help me, while I was loitering, waiting for Carol, I always said "I think that my wife has been kidnapped by store personnel, can you tell me what the ransom is?". These days I just explain that "I am with the lady over there, the one working on her black-belt in shopping".
Really though, we are down to just a few hundred things. Right now I am sitting on a lawn chair, with my laptop on the breakfast bar; you could call it up-hill typing. I can angle the screen so that I can see it, but the tops of the keys are nearly out of sight. I could use a bar stool.
Although I have focused on the shopping, we have taken time to play. With the exception of Sunday, one, the other, or both of us have played tennis each day, and yesterday (Sunday), I watched an exhibition match between Isobel (club pro) partnered with her 80 year-old dad Leoncio against an 18ish whippersnapper and his father. It was a nice 2 set win for Isobel and dad.
Isobel and Leoncio are from the old days of tennis. When she was a little girl growing up in South America, Leoncio would arrange "cash games" with Isobel as his partner to supplement his coaching. She has that same look in her eyes when talking about it that I am certain I have, when I think of merry-go-rounds.
This morning we both have some play time, then we are heading into LA to look at bedroom furniture. Yea!
We arrived in Palm Desert Tuesday afternoon, Really glad to be here, but both of us pretty grumpy bears. One look at the new, empty vacation home immediately overwhelmed both of us. It is one thing arriving to a clean, furnished rental home with internet, TV, cutlery and dishes; it is quite a different feeling arriving to an empty shell. Decorating was a fun thought several months ago, but not today.
It is day three in Palm Desert now and we have started to settle in. Cutlery and a TV has been purchased. Dishes may come in the next couple of days. We now have towels. After tennis today we can go looking for a dresser.
Black Friday was a bit of fun. We started at BestBuy on Thursday evening (Sales start at 6PM and run all night). Got in and out with the TV of my choice in 20 minutes, and not once did I feel that I might be trampled. Saved about 25% (you never really know). Met a couple in the payment line from London, Ontario who now live here full time. The next store was Kohl's where there was a deal on 82 pieces of Oneida cutlery for $47. I kept handing it to Carol. She kept setting it down and picking up a set of 65 pieces for $159. I would take it out of her hands and replace it with the $47 set. She would just set that one back down. I was saved by the length of the checkout line. It was taking forever, and eventually Carol abandoned her purchase. We have cutlery though; found the same stuff at another store, 65 pieces for $99. Gotta love Black Friday.
Today Carol is having a tennis lesson and playing in the drop-in round robin. I have played three days in a row and I am taking the day off. I have been playing even though I have been suffering from flu-like symptoms (and I do mean all of the symptoms). I think that I am on the mend, but at one point it felt like 2009 in Italy all over again.
Time Warner will come by today to hook up the internet at the shack. I am using the new connection at the clubhouse at this time. Once we are set up at home, I can get back on the air and post some photos.
Carol and I have finished sitting around in hotel rooms waiting for the weather to clear. Monday morning we tentatively left our hotel in Pecos and started to drive. On this second attempt to leave Pecos, the temperature hovered just over freezing for the first 2 hours and then climbed to 4 degrees as we descended into the valley that holds the Rio Grande just east of El Paso. It rose from 4 degrees to 16 steadily between El Paso and Tucson and held as we approached Phoenix. Our hotel is in Chandler AZ. Chandler is a smaller version of Silicon Valley. The hotel is in the middle of a science and technology complex, and it has given my heart a bit of a beat to be around technology companies again. Paypal is here, and of course eBay, but also Intel (employing 12,000 people). I find myself looking at the young people at the hotel, and asking myself what is he/she working on? As a member of the geek community, will I know their name one day? Is that Mitch Kapor?
We are 4 hours from 99 Verde Way, and we pick up and hour as we cross the California border. I received an email while driving yesterday asking me to play tennis Wednesday morning. "Of course", but I need to arrive early enough to purchase a new pair of tennis shoes.
I did not post yesterday because nothing had changed. We continue to look at grey skies, attempt to drive in rain and sleet, and try to avoid winter storm Boreas. For example, this morning we got up in Pecos, Texas (another town gutted by Walmart), waited until 10AM to let the sleet warm to rain, and started west on Interstate 10. Thirty minutes down the road we came to a stop, and waited 2 hours, moving a couple hundred feet in total. Finally a truck driver told me that there was ice on the road ahead and cars were not able to navigate it.
We decided to turn around (we were sitting at a freeway entrance), and head back to the hotel in Pecos. I was going to say that I have been in this town 3 times, but I can now claim that I have been here 4 times.
Since we are not driving, I can type a bit about dinner last night at Alfredo's Mexican Restaurant.
One of the TripAdvisor reviews put it this way:
"I'm so sorry to say this but this was not a good restaurant. Service was very bad. We were not greeted, not even acknowledged when we arrived. When a table was ready the man just nodded at us from across the restaurant, didn't say a word! The food was very bad. It's cramped and uncomfortable to sit in. The table was still wet from being wiped. I just cannot stress enough that this was not a good experience. Please, do not go here. The food is overpriced too."
Now that is a review that I need to check out. Carol and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Alfredo's. Here is my review on TripAdvisor:
"The desk clerk recommended Alfredo's as we checked into our hotel. We have spent 3 days driving in rain and sleet, and we were looking for something warm and comforting to help us settle in for the evening. Alfredo's did the job. Good service, great food, cold beer, and "authentic" atmosphere. I had a small ribeye steak that was delicious with beans, rice, guacamole, and flour tortillas. Lady had a vegetarian dish that she enjoyed too. The only drawback was the server thinking that white zinfandel was white wine, and letting me choose Bud Light before she got to Dos Equis. I agree, not a real problem."
We were fortunate to arrive in Pecos, along with a visiting Bishop. The locals were lining the main street, carrying placards welcoming the Bishop. When the parade went by, it was led by 4 lit police vehicles. Folk were standing in the sleet and rain watching. Carol and I watched the procession from the window at Alfredo's. The wait staff all stopped and hung out the door looking. I have asked about the Bishop at the desk; nobody has a clue who he is or what was happening.
That is all for now. When I get up tomorrow morning it will feel like groundhog day. Pecos, Texas three days in a row. That's it - I am going for beer. OK, just one last review (from some New York lady named Andrea) of Alfredo's:
"Yeeeeeehaw! I'm in the town where The First Rodeo took place! Good ole Pecos, Texas. I had no choice but to stay the night in this town, all the other hotels were completely booked for some reason. Rodeo conference? Oil riggers conference?
The entire town was dudes. I saw three females and 97 dudes the whole time I was there. And I was only there for a total of about 10 hours. It's like, you walk in and all the heads turn because they can tell a female is coming.
So Mexican food. It was pretty gosh darn good. Not amazing, but solid. I had the beef taquitoes. They came with a small undressed green salad, rice, beans topped with cheese and guacamole. It also came with a bag of chips and salsa. This was all about $9. I'm glad I took my food back to the hotel. Yeeeeeehaw!"
Getta life, Fred
- a record was going to be set. Either we were going to extend the record distance travelled with both bicycles intact, or we were going to lose both bicycles for a record 3rd time. We are in Amarillo TX. We have both bikes, so the distance record is extended, but damned if both did not jump from their cradles during the trip. If it had not been for the modifications to the carrier, both would be gone - stretched somewhere along Interstate 40.
A good friend of mine replied to yesterday's post thinking that I should not be "smug". Bad things happen in clusters, and a cluster is frequently more than three.
It had been -3 degrees most of the day, and it rained, spit, sleeted, for 537 miles. The windshield wipers kept getting iced up. We had to stop many times, sometimes while emergency crews cleared tractor-trailers that had lost control on the bridges. Yes, the bridges do ice before the road. We were able to step out and whack the blades against the windshield to clear the ice. It never occurred to me that the bicycles would get heavy, and ugly, and try to jump the carrier.
We are in a Drury Inn. They give you a free beer and a hot dog when you arrive. All is good. One more night on the road and we will be in Palm Desert.
As some of you know I have had some trouble carrying bicycles to California. Last year we lost two bicycles from a hitch-mounted carrier in Burlington ON, the first night of the drive to Palm Desert. The Thule bike rack ($800 installed) straps broke let go of the bikes on the QEW at high speed. They were both subsequently run over by a truck, completely destroying them.
Two years before, we had two wonderful bikes in roof mount carriers, and sheared them from the top of the car going into the covered entrance at a hotel in Effingham IL. The roof racks were busted and stripped from the car. One of the bicycles ended up entering the back seat of the car through a side window, and I was totally humiliated. I reassembled the car with duct tape and we continued on.
Yesterday we set a new Appleton distance record for bicycle carrying. We are in Springfield Mo. We have beaten last years distance of 164km by 1526km, and the previous record of 1150km by 540km. We are at kilometre 1690, and we still have the bicycles. We are smug. It is the same bike rack that let go last year but with a couple of non-Thule improvements.
Tonight they will be in Amarillo TX (home of the 72oz steak). Speaking of the 72oz steak, you can get one at the Big Texan, and if you can eat it in one sitting, it is free. How good is that!
Just a couple lonely guys on the town. Ross and I went to Duntroon (yes, Duntroon) to see the Fred Eaglesmith Travelling Steam Show. Good fun. Fred is an international star who was born in southern Ontario, probably near Port Dover. I thought that you might enjoy seeing a YouTube video of Fred singing White Rose. That is Willie P Bennett on the mandolin and harmonica. Willie was a Toronto born singer, song writer who released his first single in 1969 and won a Juno Award for best roots album in 1998. Willie died in Peterborough in 2008.
Note: November 4, 2013 - Added 27 photos of Gray's Greater Canadian Shows from 1937 to the FairGround.
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Sometimes my ability to screw up something simple surprises even me. Last night Katie and I had a father daughter date - martinis at the Pantages Martini Bar followed by en evening front-row at the Steve Earl concert at Massey Hall. In was terrific to spend an evening with Katie. We shared lots of laughs and conspired just enough to make the evening memorable. The martinis were good. The tickets for the show stunk. Nobody's fault but my own; rather than having two tickets front-row right of the aisle, I had two tickets last row left. It seems that I had the seating plan upside down when I selected the tickets. I guess the price should have tipped me off.
This is a photo that I took last year. Finally got to thinking about how I would like to shoot a city. I will be in Toronto this week for a couple of days, and the plan is to think about capturing more of Toronto in B&W.
In June last year Joan & Charles, Keitha & Ross, Mary & Dean, and Carol & I spent a weekend in Gananoque as wished by Mary. A good boat ride in the thousand islands, a too long bike ride, and some uncooked fish, along with a nice visit with all. A good weekend.
It is too bad about the swan in the back ground, but that is how record-photos are sometimes. Here is a good picture of Jolly Jumping Bille. Not quite Jumping Jack Flash, but jumping none the less.
Baby Sitting went well. Granddad taught Billie how to count to five, and the first few letters (up to M) of the alphabet. She is eager to learn. We decided to watch the Leaf game for some relaxation. Billie was a little cranky through the whole Leaf game, but seemed to settle down and be in good spirits once the Montreal game started.
Mid September we were joined in Collingwood by Carol's cousins for the annual Stuart cousins get-together. Susan was not feeling well enough to make the trip up from Georgeville, but Sharon came from Ottawa, and Heather from Orillia. Of course, Len and Earl came along to help me listen. I brought out a couple of boxes of photographs from London East and we never looked back. Good visit.
I have finally posted a few photos taken at Erin Ecker's April wedding in the Dominican Republic. It was a beautiful wedding for a terrific couple.
Much of the family made it to Collingwood yesterday for Thanksgiving. Michelle and Tyler were unable to come, but all the other important people arrived. Billie did a good job stealing the show from the adults. She floated from one person's arms to another's for the whole day, finding each new set of arms perfectly suited to her amusement.