Monday, March 30, 2009

The Bride & Groom Arrive (Jamaica Day2)

The big news at the Riu Resort Saturday was that Mike & Mel had arrived. At 7am I hit the gym for my first 20 km ride and met a few people. On the way back I ran into Mel's grandmother, who is also an early riser, had some juice and talked for a bit. The kids came in at 11:37am and since their room wasn't ready and they couldn't wait to get to the beach, they left their bags in our room. The whole gang went to the swim-up bar, played some volley ball, had a swim, got some sun and then back to the swim-up bar. You'll notice that there's no mention of any food or rest. And that's where Mike and Mark's day went for a bit of a turn. Since booze is literally cheaper than water and the resort is all inclusive, the fire water flows freely. If you wanted to sit under a palm tree and nurse a 40 oz. bottle of rum you just have to ask. Mike and Mark did something pretty close, without the palm tree or the nursing. Bojo, their favourite bartender, was mixing all kinds of wonderful concoctions in 40 oz. bottles and then simply pouring straight into their mouths, saves on washing all those glasses. We were on the beach a good 100 yards away and we could hear Mike laughing over the roaring of the surf, time about 1:30pm. The gang came down for a quick swim but Mike was missing. AJ, Brad and Mark swam out to the man who sat in a boat at the edge of the swiiming area selling t-shirts, beads, necklaces, and a strange smelling tobacco-like product. None of the kids bought anything but they kept us all entertained. I'm not sure why this guy assumed people would have cash in their swim trunks but he must have done some business as he was out there all day long every day. (behind AJ in the pic)

We noticed about this time that we weren't hearing Mike anymore and Mark had disappeared. Then we got word that we had to see them. The lack of food, rest and too much sun, not to mention too much liquid refreshment had taken its toll. In a lobby just above the pool, there they were. Mike in a chair with his head on a pillow resting on a pillar (he had discovered the pillar was sort of hard) and Mark still in his straw hat sitting in a chair with his head in his hands. They remained motionless for better than an hour. I kept checking their chests to make sure they were still breathing. After getting the pictures (first picture at 3:47pm) and sharing their story with 100s of passers by, we decided they needed to get to a room. Mel and Jill went to check in and find some help. We got their bags and off they went for another half hour. When they got back they reported the rooms were too far away for the guys to walk, not that they could walk any distance at this point. We had seen some wheelchairs and decided to put them to use as 'one of our grandparents is too tired to get to her room'.

We got Mike upright, into the chair (4:52pm) and began the trek from one side of the resort to the other. They were on the far end of one of the U shaped buildings and the elevator was out at that end. This meant after going through the entertainment hall, the main lobby, around the 5 restaurants and the other pool, we had to enter the opposite end and then push all the way around. Each floor has 80 rooms and except for a few on the ends there are rooms on one side of the hall only. A return trip took about 30 minutes and then we did it all again to rescue Mark. We never saw Mike again that day but Mark was up and about later in the evening. 

Sal and I had reservations at the Japanese restaurant and enjoyed the quiet meal. There were only about 3 tables occupied at the later sitting. After supper we went to catch the end of the entertainment for the night, a beach party and bonfire. The resort has a very talented bunch of kids that do the show every night and mingle with the guests on the beach during the day. Our first full day on the island was a memorable one for everyone. Everyone but Mike and Mark that is.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Getting There is Half the Fun (Jamaica Day1)

Curtis gave us a lift to the airport and of course our flight was delayed an hour before we even checked in. When I am picking someone up I'm always monitoring the status of the flight online so I don't have to sit and wait if there are delays, and there are delays, lots of delays. Never thought to check for my own flight. We arrived in Toronto at about midnight and after getting our luggage and making the journey to the other terminal it was 1am. Everything was closed and other than a few people sleeping the terminal was deserted. We settled in with our books and magazines to wait for our 6am flight. AJ and Brad showed up from their long day meeting with friends and then the Merciers came in from the hotel they stayed at. Before we knew it we were sitting on a 757 high over the states on our way to Jamaica. 

The flight seemed to take forever. We were lucky enough to be located a few rows behind the Princesses of Mississauga, a group of 5 married women heading down without their husbands. They were loud. I've never seen a flight attendant snap but one of the princesses managed to arrange that for us as she took off her seat belt and stood up before the crew had even moved when we touched down. They had a unique way of dealing with cabin pressure change, they sat with dixie cups pressed to their ears during the descent, and then they got louder as they squealed about the water. I wonder why NASA never picked up on that economical method, I stuck with my gum. 

The views coming in over the water were amazing as we could see Cuba and many small islands in the turquoise water. Once we landed and were herded into the terminal in Montego Bay we began the long process of lining up and waiting to line up and wait some more. That feat completed we were directed to our bus that would take us to the resort. Our bags were quickly snatched by a uniformed gentleman who rolled them the 100 steps and then dropped them at the back of the bus for his waiting partner. "you have something for me and then you watch you bag go on the bus mon, take care of the boy there mon". All I had was $15 in Canadian at this time so he got the $5. His partner picked up the bags and put them in the cargo hold and followed me to the front of the bus looking for his share. Sal and I got on the bus and we decided to give him something as well, might as well have our luggage when we get there. This was going to be expensive, we weren't even out of the airport and were uncomfortable twice. 

I'm not sure what to say about my first impressions of Jamaica. Most cities and countries hide their poverty stricken and uglier spots. Jamaica lines the main highway with them. As we careened down the road, dodging slow moving vehicles, passing like we were in a Porsche and tailgating like the peloton in the Tour de France it was all there. Mansions on manicured landscapes and shacks pieced together from any available materials, beautiful golf courses and garbage strewn lots, schoolkids in their uniforms and the poor. There must have been a huge clearance sale on building blocks as it seemed everyone was building a house or adding another floor. The craftsmanship of the block work was, well let's just say some of our masons here could run a class or two starting with how to lay a level line. Many of the creations had very ornate designs but were only partially finished, without a roof or missing a wall, surrounded by scaffolding but devoid of any workers. In some cases a long wall resembling a fence would be sitting in an empty area without any concievable purpose, alone on the property.

Formula 1 should really look into holding a race in Jamaica. There is an excellent pool of drivers. Every vehicle has a working horn, a hard working horn. At one point we were passing a slower vehicle after having it disappear. We were high up in the third row in the coach-style bus and I could not see its rear window. As we passed on the 2 lane road another car passed us using the shoulder of the oncoming lane. Beep beep. I'm sure the law reads 'one must honk at every other driver at least once, and then attempt to beat him to wherever he is going'.

We made a stop about midway to Ocho Rios for refreshment, primarily Red Stripe beer, the local brew. It was pretty tasty, similar to Rickards Red with a bit of a bite in the aftertaste. This spot was probably the hottest I felt during the entire week.

When we finally pulled into the long palm tree lined driveway of the Riu resort everything changed. It was beautiful. And then there is the beach, fine sand stretching into the water giving it the turquoise color. Some rooms weren't quite ready but we had a quick look around, checked in and then relaxed. The endless buffets had a pretty good mix and the main courses were changed up enough to provide variety. They also have some specialty restaurants but their story will be told in a later post.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not Now, OK?

I guess I'm going to need to get a 2nd job to keep Sal at home. Since she's been around for supper we've been eating some pretty hearty meals. Last night was chicken taco soup and made-from-scratch corn bread. I carted some of the soup in my pack this morning and just about ended up eating from the pack as Eyowen and I did a full perpendicular slide along a sheet if ice on the bike path. Both wheels facing 90 degrees from the direction we were travelling. One leg on the pedal and the other hopping along behind trying not to fall over and explode my tasty cargo. Sure was good to get out and the high winds dried up a lot of the bigger puddles.

I don't often stop and pray for anything. I'm pulling out all the stops on this one. Please let Sal enjoy our upcoming trip, period. She's been coming down with a cold and that just won't cut it. This is probably a once in a lifetime for us and it just wouldn't be fair. Just give her one week and then if she's due a nasty cold then fine, but not now, Okay? Thanks. You can even give one to me, I can't freeze out the germs anymore so have at it, I won't complain at all.

Jamaica here we come.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Canada Gets the Tube Socks

I posted this pic to Rick Mercer's Photo Challenge. This Hour Has 22 Minutes commented on the latest elections, the US is like the kid that got a new ipod on Christmas morning and Canada got tube socks.

Well Deserved Send Off

The gang at the Kakabeka club threw a great surprise party for Sal on Tuesday. I only found out at lunch and had to fib my way out as she thought she was going in to work, she had no idea.  About 40 people braved the blizzard to attend. We couldn't go more than 50kmph on the way home as the wind was whipping up the snow and finding the road was tough.

I spent my day off yesterday hanging at Petrie's, most of the morning cleaning 'Atikokan orange' mud off of a mountain bike and tuning it up. In the afternoon I made my first (nearly) solo repair to a customer's well aged bike. It had no functioning brakes and was caked in road salt. He wanted brakes and had to have his mode of transportation back in an hour. While he went to a doctor's apointment I pulled off the old calipers and cables and put on new ones. It's hard to get a good brake when the rim is as crooked as Bernie Madoff but he had 100% more stopping power than when he arrived, we even lubed the chain. Something that hadn't been done in years.

The weather looks like it is finally going to break, again. I think I can safely say I've gone through the entire winter without a cold. In recent years I'd get one and be barking for 6 weeks. The secret is to take your germs out for a nice walk in -30 temps and freeze them out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Toes Are Crossed

I think most of the residents ot TBay will agree we don't need the snow that's been predicted tonight. I have my fingers and toes crossed and keep saying, nope it ain't going to happen. Have confidence.

On the Canadiens firing Carboneau, I think Mr. Gainey is going to say oopsie on that one some day. I won't have to jinx them this year.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Season to Remember

Hockey ended for the 96 kids of the Northwood league on Saturday and as relieved as I am to see it end for another season it is always a day with mixed emotions. Both games with hardware on the line ended with goals in the last shift breaking ties. For every kid out on the ice pointing a single finger to the ceiling of the old barn these is another crying over the loss. It is tough to watch. I secretly have my favourites but I can't let anyone know. Normally I'm pulling for the underdogs, especially when I put the teams together. This season the team that was last all year long in the regular season finished with the Best of the Rest knocking out the 2nd place team with a 1-0 decision. The kid that got the winning goal led the league in assists and for once took the shot instead of passing so I was thrilled for him and his team of overachievers. The championship saw the 3rd and 4th place teams battle it out to a 3-2 final. No real favourite in this one as they were both underdogs to even make it to the game. In this one I was just hoping the game would be decided by the kids and not by a bad call or even one that could provide an excuse. Since you're going to lose little battles every day in life, it's not a bad thing to learn how to do it and then pick yourself up and try again. 

Friday, March 6, 2009

Good Morning Mr. Lepieu

I decided to walk in today since cleaning Eyowen last night took just about as long as the ride itself, lots of little grains of sand all over. Not so great for the new paint job. I had only a windbreaker, light toque and no gloves on so I'll probably need to swim home. As I headed up Alloy Drive I looked up and about 40 feet away was a large skunk waddling his was toward me. I stopped and headed right to the other side of the street. He stopped and headed right over the snowbank and through the ditch. Dave mentioned he had smelled skunk around his house and I said there's a big difference bewtween smelling a skunk and smelling like a skunk.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

First Commute

It was great this morning and a bit sloppy after work but what the heck, it wasn't snowing. Getting the km's in is just more do-able outside. Riding after supper kills the evening, not to mention the butt.

An award winner from NAHBS, the Ellis Cycles 953 Road Frame, selected as Best Lugged Bike. Lugs are the polished stainless steel pieces you see joining sections of tubing, the traditional way to assemble a frame. (thanks for the correction Doug)

So Cool

I got an email yesterday informing me that I have been nominated to the RBC Local Hockey Leaders program which acknowledges volunteers in minor hockey. There is a selection process and Northwood could win one of 13 packages awarding $10,000 along with a signed Team Canada jersey and a spot to carry the Olympic torch. The names of everyone nominated go into a display case at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto which I think is very cool. I won't have my headshot up there with Bobby but my name will be there to find in the same building. I'm sort of overwhelmed. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

This is Getting BORING

The short ride I took outside on Sunday has made riding indoors a real chore. If there's no new snow on the pavement tomorrow it's time to start hitting the road. I passed the 1000km mark for '09 tonight.

Another beauty from the NAHBS, Blacksheep Cycle's Stellar, a 29" SS mountain bike in titanium.

It looks like the city engineer is going to come back to council with a way to save the shop about $25000 in taxes, enduring the process may have actually been worth the work.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Frostbite Claims Jill's 2nd Iditabike

Sad to read that Jill Homer's attempt at a 2nd Iditabike fell short. She stepped into a crack in the ice on a lake and nearly lost Pugsley, her snow bike. One boot filled with water and rather than stop and dry it she attempted to get to the first rest stop 6 hours away. It took her more than an hour to thaw out the boot and get it off, only to discover the frostbite and end up in emergency for 6 hours.
Three games to go in the Northwood season after a major upset and two ties on Sunday. The teams now play off in a one game for the hardware and I get my weekends back, just in time.

First day off without pay in the new cost cutting scheme at the other job, I spent another afternoon assisting the assembly of a road bike on Monday. Road bikes are a lot more technical than mountain, more precise and becoming more and more my most desired rides. I spun the rear wheel of the bike lightly to check the wheel and then watched in awe as it just kept spinning as if someone was pedalling it. I swear it went on for 5 minutes. I'm learning lots and meet lots of the hockey crowd as they come in for skate sharpening.

The pic is of another showstopper from Naked Cycles in BC from the NAHBS.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

February Wrapped

February was another cool month with a week of rain and slush that froze over to make moving outdoors a challenge in any mode. I continued the walk to work, got in a few outdoor rides and was picked up 3 times for after work commitments. My mileage is right on schedule for a 25% increase, 939 km for '09 as compared to 730 in '08, thanks mostly to the seatpost hack on Ethel. Now if I could just get outside a bit more. Simply riding to work won't cut it if I just go the shortest route, I'm better off walking until I can hit the longer routes. 
Our medical plan at work denied my claim for the hepatitis shots, I guess they'd rather pay for treating that than preventing it. Just can't catch a break these days. I'm looking at part-time jobs to keep up, just need to get through this year and then all the big bills will be done. Submitted our tax returns late last night, a new record for me.