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Archive for the ‘Ontario’ Category

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STUPID LEUKEMIA !!!  She was only 48-years-old. That’s the sanitized version of what I muttered when I read the Facebook post last week that my cousin passed away.

I’m the oldest child of the oldest child on my Dad’s side of the family.  He’s one of seven children.  And they all had kids and so on.  Five generations of us with my beautiful and feisty 96-year-old Nana the matriarch.

My cousin Jennifer was 8 years younger than me.  I remember her as a cute little blonde.  Younger sister to Stuart & Jamie.  Every year on Boxing Day the whole clan gathered for Boxing Day at my grandparents house for a big turkey dinner. When Grandpa passed away Jennifer’s parents took over hosting the party.  In their old school rec room we all had in our basements back then.

Because she was so much younger, we never really connected except for kid play at family parties or croquet in our grandparents garden.  I moved to the Northwest Territories in 1984.  Jen would have been 16-years-old. She was busy with high school and all things teenager. I was dealing with life away from home and a brand new relationship.

Back in the pre-Internet days we had to actually write letters to each other or spend big money to call long-distance.  I savoured letters full of family news & gossipy tidbits. Of course being so far away you usually give each other the short, sanitized version. The one where everyone is “fine” until births, weddings and tragedy make the family headlines.  The Ontario family are more involved in the daily fabric of each other’s lives.  I’m an outsider that blasts back in occasionally for a family fix.  I don’t always know the stories behind the stories.

Through the grapevine I learned Jennifer had grown up into Jen — a travel agent. And then the exciting news when she became Mrs. Jen Robinson. Not having children of her own she channeled huge maternal love towards her nieces & nephews.

I love this picture of Jen and her dad, my Uncle Don.  He was a man’s man with a loud booming voice, worked restoring classic cars with his sons and I know he adored his little girl.

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A few years ago I found Jen on Facebook.  We caught each other up in a few sentences. The “I’m fine” with slightly more meat.  Jen was managing five travel agencies and doing mostly corporate work.  She and her husband Gary had a comfortable weekend routine spending time with family.

My Dad was the one to tell me Jen had been diagnosed with leukemia.  She would have to undergo many rounds of chemo before a bone marrow transplant was possible.  The family rallied to provide rides, meals and whatever Jen & Gary needed.  She spent  Christmas in the hospital, missed her nephew’s wedding and spent more time in the hospital than at home.  Then this summer the shocking news that Jen was being sent home — no more treatments — bone marrow was no longer an option.

Anytime I private messaged Jen she always got back to me right away.  I, on the other hand am notorious for not always being so prompt with my replies.  August 9th my last message to her starts with “love you too Jen” and “yes I agree wee babies are cuddly.”  Half written, I never finished the conversation.  Thought I had but went on to something else and totally forgot.  I just realized it today when I looked up our conversations to see how long we’d been Facebook friends.  Made me so sad I hadn’t pressed the send button.

Keeping us all up to date Jen posted each trip to the hospital when she spiked a fever and then her joy to be home again.  The last heartbreaking post was Jen “feeling blessed” as she checked into hospice and sending her love to all.  Those last few pictures of Jen surrounded by family…still smiling.

She loved, she was loved.  To me Jen was an earth angel with the extraordinary gift of making everyone around her feel cherished and a little bit better about themselves.  A beloved daughter, sister, auntie, wife, friend, and cousin.  Now a shining star.

Rest well Jen — you will be missed !!

 

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After two weeks in Ontario we packed up the bike & trailer, hugged my Mom goodbye and started the trip home.  Granted, it’s a circuitous route that is taking us south for a a few days but we’ll veer west early next week.

We passed over the Welland Canal one last time before riding into Niagara Falls to cross the border into the U.S.  Another amazingly quick crossing.  Just a few questions about where we’re headed, how long we’ll be in the States and what we’re bringing with us.  South Carolina, then home, two weeks and pretzels.

One important piece of equipment on the bike is our GPS system.  After safely guiding us across Canada and back to Ontario our faithful companion Sassy stopped working yesterday.  Thanks to Clare’s Harley dealership in Niagara-on-the-Lake they moved us to the front of the service appointments line and installed a new GPS system that is bigger and better than her predecessor.

image.jpegWith the temperature at 88 degrees along with high humidity we were glad to have frozen water bottles and Gatorade on board today.  Dark clouds provided brief moments of shade and at one point we even put our rain coats on.  Five minutes later we had blue skies so pulled over one more time and couldn’t get the coats off quickly enough.  Ewwww it was like an instant sauna.  Grove City, Pennsylvania was the perfect place for lunch and our server  recommended one of their famous sandwiches.  I had the Pitts-Burger but it should be called the Behemoth.  Burger, fries, cheese & coleslaw between two slabs of bread.  Chris had to eat his with a knife & fork.  I decided to eat it with my hands and it wasn’t pretty !!

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Stopping at the Welcome Centre at the West Virginia border we reserved a room in Morgantown.  We were told it gets very busy with university students returning and Moms & Dads here to get them settled in.  We walked into our blissfully cool room and decided to stay indoors.  It’s so handy to order food online and have it delivered.  Pizza for dinner and cannelloni for dessert !! Tomorrow we’ll travel to the other end of West Virginia and one day closer to friends Gwen & Ron in Hartsville, SC.

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Love & hugs from the road…

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The motorcycle turned into the driveway at my mother’s apartment building in Welland, Ontario on July 27th and it’s been a whirlwind of family reunions, shopping, sightseeing and so much laughter.  We had a few days catching up with my Mom before our daughter Megan and our two-month-old grandson Bowen flew out from Vancouver Island to join us.

GG (Great-Grandma) and Great Auntie Betty both met Bowen for the first time and fell instantly in love — as we all have. It’s amazing how one little boy can be so entertaining.  Better than TV we watched Bowen constantly waving his arms and legs and sharing his adorable, impish grin.

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Our first family party was in St. Catharines with Chris’s side of the family.  The lower left picture is Chris with our niece Jenna.  We joked how amazing it was to see her two years in a row after attending her wedding last May.  Next up Great Aunties Robynne and Rilla visiting with their great-nephew giving us another one of his interesting facial expressions 😀

A very sweet moment was our great-niece Sloane presenting a gift to the baby. Sloane is 3-years-old and just adorable.  So bright and smiley and a reminder to us how literal little people can be.  Sloane’s momma Shannon looks like she’s having quite a serious conversation with Bowen.  We found out Shannon is going back to school to get a Master’s Degree to become a vintner.  Seems fitting that our nephew Jamie is an award winning brewmaster and his sister will be a wine scientist !!!  Thanks to you all for carving out a night to spend time with us.

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A few days later in St. Catharines 5 generations of family gathered to celebrate my Nana Collings 96th birthday.  You’d have thought we were at an awards ceremony with paparazzi taking thousands of pictures.  Nana held Bowen (who is the youngest) in the picture with her great and great-great-grandchildren.  The next picture is Nana surrounded by her own children: sitting beside her my father Bill, and in the back row is Liz, Jill, Ben, Dave & Josie.  My Uncle Owen from BC wasn’t able to make it.

And a very special moment was our own 5 generation picture with my Nana, my Dad,  Megan, Bowen and I.  It was wonderful to see my Dad’s cousin Janice from Detroit who made the long drive for lunch and headed back again right after.  My Uncle Dave joked that I’m not as young as I think I am — it was 50 years ago that I was the flower girl at his wedding.  I met cousin’s spouses and children for the first time and reconnected with cousins I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager.  The guest of honour looked lovely in lilac and reminded us all to appreciate every day we’re given.  And thanks Nana for paying for brunch for the whole lot of us.  I’m sure I won’t have bacon & chocolate covered fruit on my plate together at the same time anytime soon.

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Taking some time to sightsee we spent an afternoon in Niagara Falls.  Like a mini Vegas — Clifton Hill is very crowded on a hot day in August and hard for an easily distracted person like me to have to watch where I’m going with so much going on.  So excited to be on an adventure our great niece Sloane told us Niagara Falls is her favourite place.  That’s perfect because she lives there lol.

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The hot and humid weather has been challenging even with air-conditioned cars, homes and stores.  We happily took my cousin Stuart up on the offer to swim in his pool.  Bowen wasn’t crazy about being woken up with his feet in cool water but I suspect he’s a water baby just like his Mom.  When I saw that slide I couldn’t resist and no I’m not sharing those pictures with you !!  My heart was just pounding when I hit the water but what a rush !!  Stuart & Mandy we are thankful for those few moments of respite from the heat.  image.jpeg

The next adventure was a road trip to Haliburton where my brother Dan, sister-in-law Sue and our niece Vivian live on a beautiful treed 40 acre property with a river running through.  We sure appreciated having a camper/trailer in the driveway providing separate sleeping quarters for Megan & Bowen, Chris & I.  And oh happy day it was air-conditioned which we really appreciated the first night.

Saturday August 6th we all headed to Lake of Bays for the Kennedy family reunion.  This year’s theme was Wild, Wild West and I was on Calamity Jane’s Posse.  What a thrill to be on the winning team and have my name on this year’s trophy.  I won the Spelling beans competition by being the first one to open a can of baked beans, pour them out onto a tray and spell the word “chow” with my bare hands.  The festivities came to a close with my brother playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes while the sun set.

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Sunday night we celebrated two August birthdays — mine & our niece Vivian’s.  We had a wonderful dinner in Norland, then headed back to Haliburton for cake & champagne.  What an amazing few weeks it was to be surrounded by relatives.

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There are so many people to thank: Chris’s family for hosting a wonderful bbq & get together, Auntie B for our own room & use of the Betty Boop mobile.  You’re an awesome roomie and I’m so glad you’re on Facebook.  Thanks to my Mom for giving up her bedroom for all of us and making space for so many extra bodies, loaning us your cool car and making sure we had loonies multiple loads of laundry.  Thanks to my honey for renting a van so we could travel comfortably up north.  And my apologies to friends and family we weren’t able to visit because we plumb ran out of time.  Tomorrow we get back on the bike and head south into New York State heading for friends in South Carolina.

Love & hugs from the road…

 

 

 

 

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It’s not a very clear picture — I actually look like an alien but this is me with my scarf right up over my nose and covering my ears from the cool air this morning. We were on the road super early to get out of Quebec City.

We see the most amazing things in our travels.  This morning a parachutist landed in a field right beside the highway.

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Sassy (our GPS) was up to her usual tricks again today — I guess she thought it would be fun to send us right through Montreal.  That’s the closest to the city I’ve ever been so I was happy to see a few skyscrapers in the distance.  Chris’s skill level maneuvering traffic and countless lane changes — EXCELLENT !!

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Today we really noticed the incredible number of motorcycles, campers and vehicles carrying bicycles — we’re all on the move.

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Arriving in Cornwall early afternoon we booked a room at Best Western. Since the room wasn’t ready we plunked ourselves down at a table on their outdoor patio.

Sharing a baked brie appetizer as well as a deep fried appy plate to go with our cold beer we had a relaxing two hours in the shade with a lovely breeze.

Our original plan was to spend the night in Toronto tomorrow but hotel after hotel showed no room available online.  Chris called another and was told there are 6000 people attending an Alzheimer’s symposium.  All the reasonably priced rooms are gone !!  Plan B is a night in Bowmanville.

Love & hugs from the road…

 

 

 

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What a wonderful few nights we had in Welland visiting with family.  Thanks to my Mom and Sid for chaufeurring us around while the bike was in the shop getting a tune-up.  It’s all tickedy boo and ready for the next phase of our trip.

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And it was an extra special treat to go out for dinner last night at the Log Cabin in Fonthill.  I highly recommend their meatloaf and smashed potatoes and so gIad Chris ordered the bread pudding with whisky sauce for dessert.  I felt marginally sorry for anyone sitting in our section.  My cousins have been making me laugh until I cry for as long as l can remember and last night was no exception.

After I got a few more Mama hugs this morning we headed for the border. Thankfully there was no line-up and it only took us a few minutes to get across the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, NY.  The border patrol asked where we were headed and what we were bringing with us.  They were happy with our answers of “Maine” and “a bottle of scotch.”

The huge American flag is located near the small town of Murray on private property.  It’s got to be 50 feet high and the owner gave us a wave when we pulled over to take a picture.

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Thanks to my cousin Brian who suggested Highway 104 after crossing the border. It was a leisurely few hours of small towns, farms and a much slower pace.  We did eventually get on the I-90.  It’s okay Mom don’t worry 😀 All vehicles were very respectful giving us lots of space and we got smiles, thumbs up and waves. Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, Virginia, Rhode Island, Quebec, Ontario & of course New York were license plates that passed us.   After 4 days of extreme heat we added layers today and moments after we put on rain gear we got a bit wet.

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Tonight we’re happily ensconced at the Best Western in Utica, NY.  All I can say about tomorrow’s itinerary is that we’re heading east.  Our goal is to eventually head down to the New Hampshire & Maine coastline and then up to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia & PEI.

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Love & hugs from the road…

 

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Yesterday we had no plans until meeting up with my brother Dan for lunch so we had time to sleep in, organize the trailer and spend some time on the water in Parry Sound.  Just down the road from our motel we got stopped at the train tracks so we sat in the warm sunshine enjoying the 10 minutes of clickety-clack of cars carrying important cargo across the country.  The beautiful weather is perfect for all of us visiting or living in cottage country.  A leisurely water view lunch and catch up with Dan was followed by a meandering ride on mostly secondary roads.

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We stopped in Gravenhurst to have a look at Segwun, the oldest coal-powered steamship in North America.  The Segwun and Wenonah II are busy all summer long with dinner/wine & sightseeing cruises.  We sat on the porch at Muskokabilly’s with a cold drink enjoying the view.  I haven’t been to this part of Ontario since I was a kid.  Family friends had a cottage on the lake and I remember going into Bala to buy treats.image

Arriving at Dan & Sue’s 40 acre riverfront property we were welcomed warmly by Freeway and Sophie.  Freeway is the older dog and much more mellow than Sophie who is a retired explosives & weapons sniffing police dog.  We quickly shed all our bike gear, grabbed another cold drink and headed to the screen house.  An outdoor living room overlooking the river with lots of comfortable furniture.  The screens are very important being on a wooded property with water.  There are lots AND LOTS of mosquitoes, black flies and other winged insects that all want to bite.  Our 16-year-old niece Vivian and sister-in-law Sue both got home from work and after bbq burgers we went downtown to a waterfront park to watch Dan and his fellow Haliburton Highlanders Pipe Band practice.  This is Dan’s informal piper attire — we’ll get to see him in all his finery in a few weeks.  One more night in Haliburton and we’re off to the Niagara Peninsula for a few days with my Mom & family and the bike will go into the shop for a quick tune-up before we head to the east coast.

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Love & hugs from the road…

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Wawa.  It’s just fun to say it and I mean no disrespect to the friendly people who live there.  Our server at 17 North Restaurant told us that Wawa in Ojibway means goose and we’re actually pronouncing it incorrectly.  It’s “way-way” not “wah-wah.” Either way it’s my new favourite word.image

The first sign that caught my eye this morning was at a tiny motel that also sold gas and as I found out very stale gum.  It said “General Store,  Bait,  Ice and Guideing.”  Whoops someone missed the spell check.  After that I started to focus on signs.  Very distracting because they are everywhere — that could be another cross country trip all together.

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I admit to being a tad upset when I noticed pictures from the past few days all have a smudge in the same spot. No amount of wiping or cleaning the lens helped so I guess our trusty camera is off to a repair shop.  So no it’s not a dark cloud on a beautiful sunny day.  And look what we found in Sault Ste. Marie – Herbie the Love Bug.

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Tonight we had the absolute pleasure of reconnecting with friends Dolores & her daughter Lexi and to meet Lexi’s children Zayden and Zaria.  Great hilarity ensued and I’ve got crayon fridge art that will have a place of honour in our trip scrapbook.  Tomorrow we’re aiming for Parry Sound and a visit with a high school pal of mine.

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Love & hugs from the road…

 

 

 

 

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