Eye, eye, standby

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2018 by David Palmer

Full recovery from our journey took a few days, but through necessity we plunged straight back into routine and the British weather obliged us for once by remaining sunny and warm; the lawns got mowed, the pool was returned from green to blue and the allotments were watered and weeded.

Sue visited Holdenby Hall on the 19th with the U3A History Group for a spot of Victoriana and followed that up the following day with a trip to the cinema with Charlotte, before enjoying an outing with her rambling group 24 hours later treading the fields of Leicestershire under what appears to be up to now, permanently blue skies.

On the 20th I took a phone call from the Doctor’s Surgery. They had previously attempted to call whilst on the road in Canada with the results of a recent health review, but I put it off until I returned to the UK (just in case it was bad news). However, everything was fine and there was no need to start taking a multitude of pills that quite a few of my friends seem to have been prescribed after their health review.

However, just prior to flying to Toronto I had noticed that I was having problem with the sight in my left eye, part of my vision was becoming increasingly distorted. Some 30 years ago I had a similar problem with this eye and after laser surgery removed the problem along with around 30% of the vision in that eye I adjusted to the quirks of seeing the world slightly different. By and large my brain and good eye would fill in the missing parts of an image during most situations, but this was not the case whilst playing sport etc. Playing squash became pointless as it wouldn’t take my opponent long to find out that I had a problem with a ball that came directly at me from off the wall (I couldn’t gauge where in space the ball was), things happened too fast and my brain had little time to compute its position from just one angle of view. I gave up squash. Tennis proved to be a less of a problem as shots directly at you are rare and the distance the ball had to travel gave my brain a chance. I would play the occasional air-shot and look a bit of a fool but the rest of my game was ok so opponents would never guess.  Catching a high ball in rugby would be a problem, but experience gave me an edge, so I was rarely underneath one and carried on enjoying the game for many more years. Golf was peculiar, when the ball is driven off into the distance, I have to concentrate really hard as to where it is going. If I lose sight of it for a brief second I am usually at a loss as to where it has ended up. Quite frustrating, and often results in a lot of hunting and lost balls. Though I love the game, I rarely play golf mostly because few of my friends enjoy the game and unfortunately all of them still work. Playing pool creates a different problem, I will occasionally catch the end of the cue against the ball prior to playing a shot as I can’t gauge the distance of the cue tip from the ball accurately enough (unless I really concentrate). I blame the beer for such lapses and smile sweetly at opponents enjoying the free shots I give away. Driving is fine, as regular visits to the opticians over the years have confirmed, though for the last couple I have had to resort to driving glasses, more due to the fatigue my eyes suffer from concentrating, rather than any loss of view.

Normally, when I first began to notice fresh distortion, I would have checked it out with the opticians straight away, but made the hard decision to delay as I feared I may lose my driving licence just before I was required to drive in Canada to see Gwenda. Luckily, there was no further deterioration and despite having to adjust to driving on the wrong side of the road we had no problems as the distorted part of my vision was filled in by my good eye and on the occasions I tested my vision with my left eye alone, the issue was off to the far left of my sight and remained small.

On the 26th I went to see the optician and as expected she requested an urgent appointment with the eye department at the Royal Hospital in Leicester. The vision in the left eye had reduced significantly from my last eye test, but surprisingly it had improved in my right. She could see no issues on the retina so suspected that the problem lay behind. The hospital rang a few days later and an appointment was made for the 9th of July. Sue drove me to the appointment as I knew I would be having drops in my eyes that would blur vision and prevent safe driving. After a couple of hours of ocular examinations, and an injection of dye to highlight problems, it was decided that I had fluid build up behind the retina and a course of three injections was needed. Thankfully my vision was assessed as being ok for diving. I had the first injection on the 12th. It is not pleasant having a needle go into your eye, but it is interesting seeing the chemical flood into your vision. I was concerned that I had a circular black hole in the lower part of my vision where the needle went in, but thankfully after 24 hours it disappeared. I was given antibiotic drops to take for the next five days, and apart from some soreness for a couple of days everything went well. It is early days, but I believe there has been a slight improvement to my vision, two more jabs to go!

Quite a while ago Sarah had seen a specialist for a problem that she had been having with her eyes. Some of her lashes were growing inwards and would require attention if more serious problems were to be averted. At around the same time as I was seeing the optician about my own eyesight, Sarah underwent laser surgery to remove the offending lashes. The procedure seems to have been successful and hopefully the remaining lashes have learnt their lesson, and will grow in the right direction from now on. They have been warned!

Charlotte continued to struggle with the pain from her two slipped discs, looking after a husband, two children, a cat, countless chickens and a home has not been easy for her and she has relied heavily on a large selection of pills to try to keep her family life as normal as possible, but it has been horrendously difficult and without strong pain killers it would have not been possible. Sue and I have helped out when possible but the situation has taken its toll on the whole family. Matters weren’t helped by an unsympathetic and unprofessional local pharmacy which reduced her to tears when recently she attempted with Sue to arrange the delivery of some medication. The officious attitude displayed was compounded by some outrageous comments from one of the staff in the hearing of all those present. A complaint was made to head office and an apology received, but quite rightly I do not think that  Suraj is leaving the matter there. Battling debilitating pain, lethargic GP’s and a NHS system that through overload has gone into slow motion has made life hard for our daughter.

Not long after this unfortunate episode, Charlotte had another MRI scan and an appointment with the specialist. It was obvious that the spinal injections had not worked, the scan showed that one of the discs had turned black and the other was grey and on its way to the same condition. She was offered a choice of an operation or continued physiotherapy and a life of painkillers.  She chose to have the operation, though there are risks involved with this route. Because she has been suffering for so long and that her discs are deteriorating she has been placed on the ‘Urgent’ list, this means she may be called for an operation at short notice, so the family is now on standby to get her into hospital when called and cover what ever needs to be covered during and after the procedure. Recovery will be around 6 months, but I guess may be longer. In preparation for the operation she has stopped taking one of the strongest (but addictive) painkillers, Tramadol. The first week of abstinence produced the expected withdrawal symptoms but she coped well, proving she is a very strong individual. As a family we will help her pull through this awful situation and reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

*Since writing this blog Charlotte has been given a date for her operation. It is the 4th Sept., the same date as Suraj’s birthday. Fingers crossed that is a lucky omen.

On a much lighter note, though ‘football didn’t come home’, watching England progress through to the semi-finals of the World Cup was not the tortuous affair of previous excursions into this competition. At times they played well, produced the results they should have done and though they eventually lost to the Croatians, they weren’t a disgrace and I do believe they were the better team, though not the strongest (we can work on that). For once it was nice to host a BBQ for friends and watch an England soccer team not lose in the quarter finals. Especially as I had purchased a new HD, 3D cinema projector to watch the matches on! On an even lighter note I watched the semi-final along with Paul, Peter and an awful lot of more  sophisticated real ale connoisseurs at the Langtons Beer Festival, held at the Langton Micro Brewery. Apart from the match result, the accompanying music and refreshments were first class and ample.

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On the 25th of July, I took Jamie and his friend Bill to East Midlands Airport to catch a flight to Rhodes. They hired a car while they were there and managed to get around the island enjoying the same kind of weather as we were experiencing in the UK. I picked them up just after midnight a week later.

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Recently we seem to have been hitting a period when the electrical items around the home have decided to play up. First one of the ovens in our double oven died and this resulted in the purchase and installation of a new one. Next, the kitchen fridge decided to struggle to keep food fresh so, after cleaning out the filter, repositioning the face-plate and cutting down the base board to allow a greater flow of air and lowering the temperature control, things improved somewhat, but as the temperature for the last month or so has  been well into the 20’s, we decided not to replace it until cooler times and see how it performs then. Annoyingly the dishwasher came out on strike. It refused to finish its cycle and filled up with water. Again, I stripped it down, cleaned all the filters, flushed the piping and in gratitude for a bit of pampering it is now working fine. On a personal note, my mobile phone decided to play up. It is a windows 10 phone and I love it, but with an increasing number of updates it is running low on memory and is now becoming unstable. Unfortunately, it won’t permit me to reset it to free memory so I have bought a new one, a Sony Experia XA2 ultra running Android. Finally, with such high temperatures and no forecast end to the oppressive heat in sight, the air-con in my car began to struggle, so into the garage it went for a re-gas and now I drive in comfort. I wonder what will be next?

As in 1976 we are going through a rare period of dry and hot weather conditions. The lawns are yellow and brown, the soil is heavily cracked and the poor farmers, like me, are struggling to keep their crops watered. The cattle and sheep are eating the hay and silage set aside for their winter feed and we are beginning to get hose pipe bans around the country (but not in our region yet). On a more positive note, there appears to be an abundance of fruit. We have so many black currants that Sue has put a sign up at the end of the driveway and is selling punnets of them for 50p. Black berries seem to be dripping out of every hedge and I have never seen them so large, I am expecting a bumper harvest of grapes.

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Sue has been out several times with her rambling groups, but due to the heat she has often come back exhausted. I have been out each day on my mountain bike, because I go off road and the ground is so hard it has taken its toll on my trusty steed. Over three days I had 8 punctures! Not thorns, but splits in the inner tube due to the rock hard uneven surface, riding is similar to holding onto a rampant jack-hammer at times. On a couple of occasions I had to call Sue to come and pick me up in the car when the inner tube split, was replaced by the spare that I carry and then this one split a few miles on! Events came to a head on one particular day when I inflated the tyres to make them more solid to try and solve the splitting problem and after a few miles of rough going, the inner tube burst through the tyre wall without splitting. Counting myself lucky I deflated the tyre, inserted the inner tube back inside and reflated it. Further on into my route for the day I was descending at speed down a disused railway bank which necessitated a sharp turn at the bottom to avoid a hedge. My disc brakes decided not to bite on hard enough and I buried myself in a rather nettly and thorny bush. After extracting myself, pleased that I wasn’t too roughed up I tracked along a freshly mown green lane, to bury the front wheel into a deep hole that was hidden by a covering of grass, being catapulted over the handle bars was more embarrassing than painful so after checking the bike was ok a set off again. Within 200m my rear wheel locked and I slewed to a stop. Dismayed, I  found that the derailleur mechanism had mangled itself into the spokes so badly that I couldn’t free it to allow the wheel to move. Sue had to come and fetch me again. It took three days in the bike shop and a brand new set of gears to put her back on the road. So far (touch wood) we have had no more incidents. I will never again complain about muddy tracks.

Usually, I look after Mia during at least one day in the week when either Lee or Sarah work in Northampton and she accompanies Peter and I to Bridge 61 at Foxton Locks for lunch (usually Yorkshire pudding, sausage, mashed potato and mushy peas covered in thick onion gravy, heaven). With the recent temperature being so consistently high, like all other furry/hairy animals Mia has suffered in the heat. I have to ensure that she has frequent drinks and at every opportunity she finds shade and sits or lays down to recover. In this heat she is no lively bouncing bundle of mischief. I do feel sorry for the cattle and sheep we pass on our ambles, they are also clearly suffering and in many of the fields there is little shady sanctuary to be had.

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Jamie has his apartment up for sale .

When he has viewings he brings his rabbit Maddy here, wisely he wants to give potential buyers the impression that they are purchasing an apartment not a hutch. We house Maddy in an old chicken coop of Charlotte’s and I have extended it with a wired run into a hedgehog box. I am not sure what she thinks of the situation, but she just sits quietly under the shade in her cage. She can be quite petulant, sometimes she will turn her back on you when you approach and at other times she seems eager to make contact. Unfortunately, we do not heave any of her favourite food (iPhone leads) and she has to make do with lettuce, dandelions and carrots.

As the schools have broken up, on the 23rd July Sue took Lucas and Ellis to the cinema as treat. They saw Sherlock Gnome, their reports were quite favourable but I profess to being dubious about that. I think Arthur Conan Doyle would turn in his grave. The following day, Sue went to see a more adult film at a Silver Screen session, before meeting up with me at Charlotte’s. I took Sue, Charlotte, Lucas and Ellis to Geddington ford for a lovely picnic. The boys played in the ford while i cooked sausages on a BBQ. It is a beautiful and historic spot, very popular with the locals for picnics and indeed it did get quite busy. The weather was gorgeous and we vowed to do it again. I had parked near the Eleanor Cross in the centre of the village and after packing up we went to read its associated information board. While I wandered over to look at the church I got engaged in conversation with a local resident who was very keen to relate the history of the village to us. Half an hour later, filled with fascinating facts and anecdotes we eventually managed to extract ourselves from our new-found Canadian friend. Sue and I would have loved to continue chatting to this very knowledgeable gentleman, but the heat was fearsome and the boys were getting restless, so we retired to The Star hostelry across the road to quench our thirst and cool off.

 

Sue and I have noticed a three-legged cat visiting the garden over the last week or so and today our next door neighbour Viv called to see if we knew anything about it. Apparently she has been watching it in our garden and was very concerned, she brought around some cat food to feed it. It is her intention to take it to the vets tonight and see if it is chipped. In the meantime Sue has bonded with the rather sad little creature by feeding and watering it then giving it the obligatory fondle. I have to admit to having my fingers crossed that the owner will be found and it moves on, or in this case, hops on.

Update on cat: The following morning Sue took it to the vets where they scanned and read the details on its chip. The owner lives just a few streets away, but when the vet telephoned they were out. The cat remained at the Vets. However, later that day whilst I was walking Mia in the park I came across a young pigeon that had fallen out of its nest. To save it from the many dogs that were around loose, I picked it up and took it home. It is now being looked after by Sue and I. We keep it in the hedgehog box that last week had Maddie in residence. It’s getting three meals a day and seems comfortable with the situation. I gauge that it is only a week or two from being able to fly, so our guest is temporary.

After my morning cycle through the parched fields around Harborough I decided to catch up with a bit of paperwork in my refreshingly cool study. First job was to go on-line and claim back some tax that the Inland revenue had overcharged me. Next I complained (on line) to my pension provider asking them to explain why they had reduced my payments by £13 a month. I moved on to research a cheaper energy provider than EON were forecasting for the next 12 months. I used the Citizens Advice website to compare providers. I was shocked at the number of companies there were, pages and pages of them. All of them cheaper, so I opted for the cheapest of all at over £260 less. They had good reports on Trust-pilot so we shall see. I finished off the bureaucracy by researching a cheaper car insurance quote for Sue. The whole rigmarole didn’t take long  and I did manage to keep my cool during the whole process, but I still preferred ‘the old days‘ when we didn’t have endless choices to make and companies trying every ploy imaginable to squeeze a few more pounds from you. I do feel sorry for those , not computer/internet savvy, life must be increasingly expensive!

Lee, Sarah and Mia have been improving their sailing skills over the weekends. They have felt confident enough to take top the water without their Admiral, the only challenge being the heat of the sun as there has been very little wind for several months now.

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When Sue and I go away for a holiday I always make a video of our escapades, here is the latest one of Canada:

 

 

 

Midland to Toronto and Home

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2018 by David Palmer

Breakfast of cereals, toast and strong coffee preceded a 10am start to a long day travelling. It was predicted to be hot 28+, but the morning had the sun struggling to break through high cloud.

As we left Midland heading south the traffic started to build up, reversing the trend of the last couple of weeks with more cars than juggernauts. The towns we passed through had populations in the 10’s of thousands rather than just a few hundred that we have previously been experiencing and we could tell that it was a Saturday as lawns were being mowed and cars washed on drive ways. The closer we got to Toronto the more industrial it got and the four lane highway that had been previously snaking its way through fields and the periphery of townships began to take on the feel of approaching a very busy city. No letting the mind wander now, road signs had to be read and the volume of traffic began to squeeze on our little Nissan Rogue.

We changed our plans repeatedly on the journey into the big metropolis. First we were going to stop in Barrie, then we were going to stop in a park near Pearson Airport, but finally we decided on just getting the car back to base. We filled up with fuel a mile or so away from the rental car park and then dropped the car off.

Inside the terminal we found where we could store our luggage and then bought return tickets on the UP Express train into Union Station, Toronto. The journey took 25 minutes and just had two stops on the way. It conveniently disgorges its passengers next to the CN Tower.

The plan was to wander around the city centre, have lunch and then return to catch our flight, and that is what we did. The area around the tower had changed dramatically from when we visited it 30 years ago. The large marshalling yards had been developed into a train museum, Ripley Aquarium, shops and eating houses, it was much improved and today it was packed with people, many of whom were off to see the Toronto Blue Jays play the Washington Redsocks, they were passing through the centre to board buses taking them to the game, dressed in their patriotic shirts of blue.

We had lunch in a restaurant just a block away from the tower. As we were leaving there was a strange beeping noise, when Sue asked what it was, a rather disinterested waitress told us it was a fire alarm. As we exited onto the street, several fire engines turned up, horns blaring away, nobody moved in the restaurant, it was a false alarm. I suppose this must happen often. We next took a walk down to the ferry port where we sat on bollards, watching the water traffic pass by, glad of a cooling breeze from the lake, the clouds had disappeared and the sun was slowly turning the city streets into a furnace.

Sufficiently cooled we headed back towards the centre, stopping at a bar to escape the heat and quench our now considerable thirst. Continuing our way back to the station we were passing Ripley’s Aquarium when I spotted a security guard running out of the building holding a fire extinguisher. What I had taken as smoke from a BBQ or outdoor fast food stall was in fact the outside of Ripley’s on fire. He soon quenched the flames, but where were the fire service when you need them? The fire began on a wood chipped flower border against the building, probably from a discarded cigarette.

We returned to the airport, picked up our luggage and then waited a while for our check in desk to open. We were passengers no. 2 & 3 in the queue. After security, we sat in the bar and had some more refreshments before making our way to the departure gate which for our flight meant a short ride in a bus to the other side of the runaway where we waited inside a building used during busy times. Shortly after we had sat in our seats to wait for the gate to open, Sean, Domini and Caitlin turned up. We chatted about our various Canadian adventures until we boarded the aircraft.

The plane departed on time at 10.45pm. I slept a great deal of the flight, but Sue felt ill and spent some time up front with a stewardess cooling down as she was overheating. She had an attack of her Golfer’s Leg; the last time that happened was prior to a flight from Vietnam.

Caitlin was met by her mother at Stansted and said her goodbyes; we made our way back to Harborough in Sean’s car via a traffic jam near Huntingdon, arriving home at 2pm.

As it was Father’s Day the rest of the family had planned a BBQ at Sarah’s house in Leicester, but this was rescheduled from noon to 3 pm. We arrived there very tired at 3.20 pm. Lee’s parents and grandmother were there as well as all the Palmers. It was a chilly afternoon but the rain held off. Sue and I were both back home just after 8 pm and crawled into bed, two very tired bunnies.

Sudbury to Midland

Posted in Uncategorized on June 16, 2018 by David Palmer

We had an abortive start. We left the motel at 9am eager to get on the road as it was a gorgeous day promising to be good for sightseeing. However, with our destination inputted into the Satnav, the screen suddenly went into night mode just a few hundred metres down the road and I couldn’t see anything on the screen in such bright sunlight. I pulled into a side road and attempted to reset it, but for some reason it wanted a Wi-Fi connection to find our destination. We returned to the Motel and parked outside the office and picked up the signal. It was then that we realised that we had forgotten to fill up with fuel, the gas station being 5 minutes down the road in the opposite direction. It is not wise to start a journey in Canada of several hundred km without a full tank as the distance between opportunities to do so are quite large. Thank you Satnav, we love you too. After filling up with petrol our conscientious little bit of technology behaved impeccably.

First stop today was an impromptu pull in to the French River Information Centre. We were the first visitors of the day and on entering the centre to check out what the place could offer two inquisitive Brits, the receptionist suggested that we first do the trail to the rapids which the fur trappers (Hudson Bay Company) had to negotiate. It wasn’t too challenging she said and would take an hour or so.

The trail began with a poster warning us to be careful of the rattlesnakes. Plunging into the forest it became apparent that we had to follow the blue circles, thoughtfully pinned onto trees at regular intervals. It was decided that Sue looked out for blue circles and I looked out for snakes. We soon found out that the local mosquitoes were looking out for us! We both soon made switches from tree branches to discourage the little darlings. The path at times was over a mass of tangled tree roots and at others over and between boulders, but all the time it was through thick undergrowth. It was hot, sweaty going and with attacks of swarms of bugs to distract, there was always the danger of slipping and turning an ankle. Eventually we heard the thunder of the fabled rapids and after another hundred metres or so we broke through the trees to find ourselves on a rocky promontory above them. It was difficult to gauge which was the better, the view before us or the lack of bugs whirling around.

We descended to an information board situated on the rocks next to the rushing wall of water. I couldn’t help but smile when I read that the rapids were originally controlled by the French until a couple of brothers turned up called Kirke and took possession of them. However, it is still called the French River. We stayed quite a while discussing how you could possibly canoe over such a turbulent torrent , we found several very old metal pegs drilled into the rocks that would have helped in some way, but quite a lot of lives must have been lost on this section of river.

For some reason, the bugs didn’t attack so much on the way back. Perhaps the switches had taught them a lesson they didn’t want to repeat? On seeing the receptionist again I inquired as to whether sending tourists down the trail to see the rapids was their way of ensuring that the mosquitoes got fed. She smiled.

We spent a little time looking at the exhibits on fur trapping inside the centre, but though well displayed there was little substance, so we moved on towards Midland.

Our only other stop was for a pleasant fish and chip lunch at a roadside restaurant. We spent some time talking to the owners, who were very interested in the Royal Wedding and were in despair of Donald Trump. For once, they didn’t appear to have any relatives in Britain or indeed had even been out of the country. They seemed very happy doing what they did, and they served up the best fish and chips I have had in a long, long time.

They next section was a bit of a drag. A gorgeously sunny day, beautiful scenery passing by, little traffic and I was feeling tired and had enough of driving. I was glad when we arrived at our accommodation for the night; The Knights Inn (good name eh?)

After a bit of a rest we took a walk to nearby Little Lake. A lovely amenity for the town. Shallow beaches, warm water, lots of squirrels and trees, plenty of benches to rest weary legs and a vender who sells the largest ice-creams ever! We discovered a new sport and it is brilliant! They call it Disc Golf. Around the lake and through the park we kept seeing strange posts with chains dangling down into circular tub like structures, what were they for? Then we came across five guys practising for a big competition there tomorrow. They explained what they were doing. They had to throw a disc into the tub, from a concrete slab which was 100 m or more away, through trees etc. The disc is really a heavy flattish Frisbee. They use a driver disc (the heaviest) to start with, then they switch to a putter disc (lighter). There is a white circle around the tubs which if the driver lands inside, they can then use the putter from the edge of the line to spin it into the tub. It looked very popular, there were quite a few groups practising. I would have loved to have a go.

We wandered back to the hotel, then drove down to the harbour area to see the locals promenading and the boat owners firing up there BBQ’s for the evening meal (very civilised).

We went for our own evening meal at probably Midland’s smartest restaurant. I was still wearing shorts as it was such a hot evening so the management placed us at a table away from the other guests and nearest to the toilets. I took their point and was on my best behaviour. The food was really good and when they realised that we were not riff-raff, they treated us well.

Later in the evening, we packed and made our plans for returning home, realising that we are due to attend a family BBQ on Sunday, unfortunately we discovered that we don’t land back in Stansted until 11.15 am and with a 2 hour drive afterwards, it may mean that we may not make it. We shall see.

Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury

Posted in Uncategorized on June 15, 2018 by David Palmer

Our destination today was Sudbury, the Satnav indicating a journey time of around three and a half hours and the sky promised good clear day. We left the motel just after 9.30am after any rush hour traffic had gone.

We hadn’t gone far when we made our first stop in Bruce Mines, we passed a small museum and after a quick turn-a-bout we found it was open. It was a small local museum housing artefacts from the areas’ main industry, copper mining (hence the towns’ name), it also contained lots of eclectic items from local residents. We donated $7 and were given a personal tour by a well-meaning lady who she said was standing in for the usual guide. We were kind and ignored her lack of knowledge or presentation skills and chatted and smiled appropriately. We were thankful that we have at last found a museum open, before July 1st! We spent around 3/4 of an hour browsing the exhibits, but probably the most interesting aspect of the visit was taking place outside where the local Mennonites were passing driving in their carriages and dressed in traditional garb. They were going to the large superstore across the road. Our guide wistfully informed us that they owned many of the farms around and much of the land; I suspect there may be issues there.

Moving on we put quite a few miles under the wheels before stopping for lunch at a Chinese/Canadian restaurant.

The traffic was light all the way to Sudbury and good driving apart from a couple of roadworks where the workers were beavering away replacing the road surface. Unlike the UK where roadworks are controlled by a traffic light system, here they prefer to have people waving flags and holding Stop/Go lollipops. The seemingly odd thing is that these controllers are usually women or indigenous, but mostly both. I wonder if there is a bit of ‘ism’ going on here.

We found our accommodation ‘The Richard Lake Motel’ without any problem, checked in, unpacked the car then set off to find Sudbury’s ‘Big Nickel’. It is the world’s largest nickel and is located outside the Dynamic Earth Centre which is a technology museum with a tour of a nickel mine thrown in. Unfortunately, we were severely delayed by city traffic and arrived at 4 pm to find the museum was closing; the last group of visiting school children were exiting as we approached the entrance. We photographed the ‘Big Nickel’, read all the information boards around the site and then joined the heavy traffic to make our way to plan B, Moonlight Beach.

The beach is situated on Moonlight Road within Moonlight Park and I guess is at its best under moonlight, but under sunlight it is pretty good too. The lake is flanked by very impressive and expensive properties, probably making it THE place to live in Sudbury. The beach itself is golden sand and contains lots of play equipment to amuse small children. We bought a couple of huge ice creams in a small cafe above the beach and sat licking away at a picnic bench watching a growing number of people enjoying the facilities. Cones demolished we took a walk to the other side of the bay, climbed a rocky outcrop following a small path to another small bay. We were fascinated by the many large hairy caterpillars apparently basking in the sun along the route. We eventually worked it out that they had emerged from the weird cobwebby nests clinging to the junctions of branches in the bushes all around us. On our return to the car, the beach had considerably filled up with families bringing their small children to be tired out before bedtime.

Returning to the motel I discovered that somewhere on our travels I had lost the room key, reception provided a new one without having to pay for it, phew. We enquired as to the location of a decent restaurant and then found it, just 5 minutes away by car. The meal was excellent but more notable for an item of food that we didn’t choose. I named it ‘Death on a plate’; it was potato chips covered in cinnamon sugar and fried, two large scoops of ice cream placed on top and the whole lot covered in chocolate sauce. In discussion with the waiter we learned that the concoction contained 1450 calories!!! He seemed amused that the UK now has a sugar tax on such things.

On the way back to our accommodation we stopped to admire the sunset at Richards Lake, before watching TV until zzzz’s.

Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14, 2018 by David Palmer

A very pleasant night’s sleep was brought to an end by a thunderstorm and torrential rain around 8am. We were reluctant to make an early start to today’s adventure, hoping that the rain clouds would move on. By the time we did load up the car, it had gone 10am and it was still raining and a decidedly chilly 7 degrees! Our host during last night’s splendid meal was Trinidadian and had informed us that she had lived in Wawa for the last 30 years as on the journey between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa she had fallen in love with the country and had decided to make it her home. Sue had looked up to day’s route and discovered that it is listed as one of the 9 best road trips in North America. It didn’t look very likely that we would be seeing it at its best today.

For the first half hour we saw very little of the beautiful coastline we were apparently following other than the occasional bay seen through rivulets of water marching across window glass.

When the rain eased we took the opportunity and pulled into one of the beauty spots along with a couple of other travellers. Oooooo, it was chilly, but the view at Old Lady’s Beach was pretty good, even under a sombre sky. Clouds whipping low over waves seemingly thrashing each other in a race to the beach, gave meaning to the story outlined on an information board we had parked next to, of the foundering of a large iron-ore freighter in the 1960’s during the worst storm ever recorded on Lake Superior.

Though the rain didn’t return for the next section of our journey, we had been warned that this route was often susceptible to fog and that is what we got. Thick, dense fog that reduced vision at times to just around 50m or so, slowing our progress and ensuring that eyes were fixed on the grey murkiness ahead and not on the presumable pleasurable scenes passing us by in slow motion.

We stopped (to rest the eyes) at a Tourist Information Centre, situated on the banks of Hades. Well, it could have been, the surrounding forest merging into writhing, swirling grey, green cauldron fumes, while the beach promised to deliver Charon and his ferry boat through the blanket of fog just a few metres off-shore. However, it was lovely and warm inside and manned by friendly rangers eager to discuss bears. We confessed we hadn’t seen any. The interactive displays were pretty interesting and held our attention until the journey beckoned and we drove off again along the ‘road to nowhere’.

The fog eventually gave in to the returning rain and around lunchtime we pulled into a Cookhouse for some vittles’. Local white fish from the lake and fries from a field somewhere, gorgeous! As a bonus, on leaving we noticed that hummingbirds were sipping from a couple of hanging feeders. Of course we photographed them (they were unconcerned at our presence), what stunning creatures they are. So fast, so small, so sweet!!!!

Those little birds were the essential element to break the spell that had marred our journey so far. The sun came out; we could see where we were going. However, we then met a series of road works that at times slowed our journey to a stop, but eventually we arrived in Sault Ste. Marie and the Satnav talked us directly to the Holiday Motel.

After checking in we drove off to explore. First was Bellevue Park, a pretty patch of green that jutted out into St. Marys River. After parking up, we discovered why the unusual wispy clouds were whizzing across an otherwise clear sky, it was blowing a gale! The river was glinting in the sunlight but white horses were galloping madly across its surface. And it was cold. We did a full circumnavigation of the promontory, glad on the lee side that we were out of the wind. On the other side of the river was Trump country, we could see lines of RV’s parked up along the opposite bank; you could easily swim across, but not today. We came across a box attached to a post that vended free poop bags for dog owners, how novel, what a sensible use of local taxes. With initiatives such as this there is often a HOWEVER, and there is one here. The park (and river) is home to several hundred Canada Geese, and they also poop, and it is as large as a medium sized dog poop. Goose droppings were everywhere! Good try Sault, but you need a goose education programme to run in parallel.

Next we drove to the other side of the city to visit the International Bridge, St. Marys Island and Whitefish Island.

The bridge is the border between the USA and Canada. Considering its importance, there appeared to be little traffic traversing this huge structure, on average a vehicle every 30 seconds.

The two islands are linked and are a 1st Nation Heritage site. After parking up we crossed the large ship canal onto St. Mary’s Island and then walked up to the bridge. The wind had now dropped and though late in the afternoon it was quite warm. Bridge photos taken we set off on the island trail. We came across some fly fishermen, in waders casting for fish in the main river. We dallied awhile, hoping we would see a fish landed, but were disappointed. Further along the trail we met a red winged blackbird, he was keen to chat; tweeting, chirping and screeching at us as we walked along. We reciprocated and he responded. No idea what the conversation was but it lasted a good ten minutes before a passing walker broke our conversation. Next, we came across a beaver lodge, a local explained that it was their winter lodge, the summer one was across the river and that is where they had their young in the spring. Yuppie beavers eh?

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The walk along the trail took up the rest of the afternoon. The Heritage site is well designed and was thoroughly enjoyable, it really brought the history and the nature of place out in its info boards and I am sure is a huge asset to the citizens of the city. They seem to use it well.

On returning to our accommodation we a meal at a fast food outlet in the city, before settling own free the evening watching some TV.

Schreiber to Wawa

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2018 by David Palmer

The route from Schreiber to Wawa for the early part of our journey stuck close to Lake Superior’s northern shoreline and the views were of still waters, tree covered islands, inviting little bays and of course an increasing number of small settlements, usually accompanied with a camping or RV site.

The morning was a sunny one but the temperature was quite a few degrees down than further inland, the lake was having a cooling effect. As we progressed eastwards it began to cloud over. We stopped awhile in Marathon for a break and a large hot chocolate, we checked out the town beach, but it was just pebbles and piles of drift wood. Marathon sounds as if it might be interesting but regrettably it is not, not a patch on its Greek namesake.

Driving on we had a brief rain shower, then another stop. This time to photograph a moose at the side of the road, a little later on Sue spotted another and again we stopped, this one however seemed as much interested in us as we it, staring us out until we got fed up of taking its photo. He was trying hard to make the front cover of ‘Nature Weekly’ and gave us his best poses.

The road now took us inland, through forested hills and lake after lake, most having at least one cabin attached to it, no doubt for summer use by the ‘city slickers’ from out east! Soon, as we neared our destination, the Mystic Isle Motel, just south of Wawa, we returned to the shore of Lake Superior and the sun came out.

The plan was to find the hotel first then explore, but when the Satnav announced we had arrived, we obviously hadn’t! Retracing part of our route we headed into Wawa town and had lunch in one of the restaurants. Stomachs satisfied we then had a mooch around the shops, before enquiring at the Tourist Information Office as to the location of our accommodation. Annoyingly to find that if I had earlier driven around the next bend we would have found it.

After checking in at reception we found our room and were pleasantly surprised, it was beautifully decorated and furnished to a very high standard, certainly a cut above the usual Motel standard.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the locality. First stop was Silver Falls, followed by Silver Beach then coming across an early settlers’ cemetery we spent time at the three a gravestones still showing and read the associated information boards. A fascinating insight into the lives of those lying beneath our feet. We surmised that the cemetery was situated there as it would have afforded a magnificent view of the lake for its residents. How thoughtful.

We moved on along the very dusty road that we had been following for quite a few kilometres (with the low fuel tank sign displayed) to reach Sandy Beach. Here we walked the length of this pretty arc of silver sand, meeting a local walking his two dogs. We chatted awhile then moved on to stand and watch a large flock of Canada geese clustered together as if in a union meeting, just a few yards off shore. I wonder what they were gaggling on about?

The beach is famous for the ‘Canada Seven’, they were a group of artists, and this beach and other nearby locations were often painted by them. At various sites we would find information boards concerning particular paintings and the artist that created them. A novel idea as the boards were often presented as an easel with the artist’s seat in front.

With an emptying fuel tank we drove on quite a few more kilometres to Magpie High Falls. Waterfalls seem to be becoming quite a theme with this holiday, but I guess when you visit a country with this much water, it is inevitable. These falls were created as part of a hydro-power scheme, but are none the less impressive for it.

With our thirst for yet another body of cascading water satisfied we sped with dust clouds billowing behind to a gas station just outside Wawa. $72 dollars saw the 4×4 hungry beasts belly full again before driving at a more leisurely pace to Wawa town beach. Being ‘out of season’ it was empty (of course), so after another beach walk we took to the car and cruised around the beach side properties, envying their view, their life-style but not their winters!

We returned to the Mystic Isle Motel later than planned, so after a quick change (glad we did) we made the short walk to a recommended restaurant located just above the nearby river. It was fine dining and we luckily were dressed finely. We had the best meal of the trip so far, which helped when the bill came and had to be paid. Lake Superior Walleye fish and chicken stir fry don’t come cheap.

Returning to our room we spent the rest of the evening chilling out (Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz’s).

Long Lac to Schreiber

Posted in Uncategorized on June 12, 2018 by David Palmer

Checking out of our motels here hasn’t happened yet. We are asked to just leave the key in the room and shut the door when we go. No reminder as to when we are to vacate the room or seemingly a check on whether we have taken the TV, microwave or fridge with us! The Canadians out here are very trusting, but then so was Gwenda who would leave the house unlocked when we took her out. This used to be the same when I was a young lad in God’s own country, Yorkshire. The doors weren’t often shut, let alone locked during the day, unless you were going to the seaside for a week. Knocking on your neighbour’s door when you visited would never happen, that was far too formal for friends/neighbours. How things have changed in the UK, keep the faith Canada.

We left the key by the TV, shut the door and set off west on around a 4 hour leisurely drive to Schreiber. A railway town, so named after an Englishman who rose to the rank Chief Engineer in charge of railway construction in Canada. He was rewarded with a knighthood and a town named after him.

As in the previous leg of our journey we met very little traffic, surprising because this was Monday, a working day. The day was cloudless and the scenery sliding leisurely by became increasingly more interesting. There was increasing signs of habitation; camp sites, little pockets of houses and lakes with cabins. We passed through Jellicoe, but saw no cats, then Beardmore and saw no beards, but as we entered the forest covered Palisades our journey took a turn for the better. No more ruler straight ribbon of tarmac stretching from horizon to horizon, we now wound along the shores of lakes on roads squeezed between water and mountain, such a pleasant change from the day before.

We stopped for the toilet in Nippigon at a gas station and discovered that they vended coffee for free, we had two! I took the time out to wash the windscreen as the insects had painted it with their internal workings as they mindlessly played a game of chicken with the Nissan Rogue doing 90kph. There was only going to be one winner there, but they still kept on coming. Amusingly, I discovered I had half washed the car parked next to mine before noticing that it was Kia, in my defence they were the same colour!

From Nippigon to our accommodation in Schreiber we were heading east again, along the shore of Lake Superior. Again, a refreshing change of scenery. The settlements we were passing through were very pretty and I guess a very desirable place to live for a Canadian.

After checking into the Villa Bianca Inn situated alongside HWY 17 and close by the Trans Canadian Railway depot, we took a drive through the town, stopping at the Railway Museum to find it shut, it appears nothing happens for tourists outside of the large cities until July 1st. We searched in vain to find a local restaurant for lunch, but eventually settled on a KFC.

Next, we drove down to Schreiber beach. An attractive place, we spent quite a bit of time exploring the shore, rocks and the little stream gurgling into the lake. We came across a swarm of large yellow butterflies drinking from a patch of damp sand, we took quite a few photographs of them before returning to the car.

Driving further east along HWY 17 for a few more kilometres we visited Aguasabon Falls and Gorge. A spectacular and thunderous fall of water into a narrow gorge, reached along a raised walkway and viewed from a platform set into the cliff to one side. The spray billowing from the cascade created a rainbow that I hoped would show on the photos that I took. Moving on to Terrace Bay we climbed the lighthouse located just off the highway and had a great view over this small lakeside township. We took a turn around the local shops before driving down to the beach. It is here that the Aguasabon River enters Lake Superior via another thunderous waterfall. We walked from end of the beach to the other before taking the trail through the trees to the top of the waterfall and some more photos.

Returning to the Villa Bianca Inn we rested awhile then drove west to a small hotel which had a restaurant, recommended to us by a local. However, many food establishments in Canada close on Sundays and Mondays (out of season) and this one was one of them. We about turned and dined again on KFC. Waiting for our order to be filled, ironically I watched a news item that headlined, “Over 70% of Canadian men eat unhealthily.” I am not surprised, there appears to be no choice for them on two days a week.

We dined on chicken and chips with peach wheat ale in our room and watched TV; it’s the Monday night Canadian way.