Category Archives: Family

Spotted….one Surly tied to a lamp post

So I was down in Burlington, VT today, celebrating 17 years of marriage with Marie and the kids.  Why we took the kids with us we’re not sure.  It seemed like a fine idea at the time.  You know, be with the family, all together, enjoy the day etc.  Well, by the time Marie and I had tried to settle the first three arguments between the kids, we were ready to turn around, or perhaps leave them on the I89 somewhere outside St. Albans.

But of course we didn’t do that.  We bought them something to shut them up.  You can save your lectures: I know that’s not the right way to deal with it.

Anyway, the point of my story is simply to share a fun sighting during our walkabout of downtown Burlington.  We were walking along, minding our own business, when Marie suddenly points out a Brooks saddle to me.  I thought she meant in a store window and I was getting seriously excited thinking that may be I could talk my way into buying one sooner rather than later.  But no, it was the next best thing, and that was finding one attached to a lovely Surly fixed gear bike.

Surly Steamroller with Brooks B17 Narrow seat. Awesome!

I almost bought a Surly Steamroller before I settled on the Kona Paddywagon.  The principle reason I ended up opting for the Kona was the price.  I got an extraordinary deal on it and I could not refuse.  I do like the Surly very much though.  It’s got lovely simple lines, and aesthetically is a very good looking bicycle.  The example above was no exception.  The only shame is that there was a gnarly looking kid’s mountain bike strapped to the other side of the lamp post, and of course the Surly was secured with its own “not-so-attractive-but-very-functional” locks that took away a little from the overall look.

The part that I was truly impressed with was the beautiful dark brown leather Brooks B17 Narrow saddle.  What a beauty.  This is exactly the model that I am looking for (thanks to some good advice from readers) and seeing one today atop the Surly sealed the deal for me.  It looked bloody magnificent.

The Kona being all black with some silver highlights (in the form of the logo etc) I am leaning towards the black saddle, but I would welcome any opinions from you on that one.  Could I get away with the dark brown saddle?  To me it’s more of a classic look.  Thoughts?

One last comment.  Our Surly owner had also locked the saddle to the bike, through the other gigantic lock that secured the overall package to the lamp post.  He was wisely not taking any chances with his pride and joy.



Filed under Cycling, Family

A vote for independence

Yesterday we celebrated July 4 with our American friends.  Having just experienced Canada Day on July 1 in Montreal is was fun to experience the US equivalent in the small town of Westbrook, CT.  We were not disappointed.  You’d be hard pressed to find a nation who takes pride in their country more than the Americans.  I toyed with the idea of prancing down the beach in my Union Jack swimming trunks chanting ‘God Save the Queen‘, but the respect I have for their patriotism prevented me from undoubtedly making a fool of myself.

Grove Beach at dusk, July 4.

The real fun begins as the sun starts to fade.  Everyone gathers on the beach and starts to dig the holes that will become a fire pit.  Most people are moving lethargically having just stepped away from the table, but as the ‘moment’ draws near there is a heightened sense of anticipation and energy that starts to be felt from everywhere, especially from the younger participants!

Our resident fire-maker and host, Brendan, got the fire going and it wasn’t long before the children were all crouched around roasting their marshmallows in earnest.  Marie had Smore making duty and was busy prepping the Graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolate.  The production line seemed endless with one child after another running up with the marshmallows in varying states of doneness, ranging from a light golden colour to a deep black crusty hue.

Roasting marshmallows.

The magic is in watching the kids though.  Put children, a beach, a fire, marshmallows, a pink sky and then fireworks and you’ve got yourself an incredible evening.  Lest we not forget the two dogs, the awesome Primo and Rio, an ultra laid back pro basketball player who goes by the name ‘Q‘ and glow-sticks galore and you’ve got all the makings for an evening that will not ever be forgotten.  Incidentally, Q played for the Montreal basket ball team for a couple of years and so it was like meeting an old friend!

Ollie making the leap during the 'Hole Jumping' Olympics

Just prior to settling in to watching the fireworks, we had an impromptu ‘Hole Jumping’ competition.  Ollie had started digging at about 2.00 p.m. that afternoon and he had kept digging right through to supper time.  The result was a hole that was at least 8′ across and probably 3′ deep.  Talk about an invitation to jump right across it!

The variety of looks that were captured during the glow stick portion of the evening provided for much amusement from all corners.

Happy 4th of July

Finally, the fireworks started popping and banging at around 9.00 p.m. and we were treated to the display that was taking place in Clinton to the right and, hold on, can’t remember the name of the town to the left, but we got to share in their display as well.

The festivities, and by that I mean the fireworks, continued late into the night.  Just when you thought they were done and you started drifting off to sleep a loud BANG! shocked you out of your slumber and brought your heart rate right up.  Eventually I managed to somehow tune them out and fall to sleep.

Thank you America for sharing your Independence Day celebrations with this Canadian family and thank you Karen and Brendan for having us as your guests once again!

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Westbrook, CT

It’s finally that time of year again. Our annual trip down to the beach house in Westbrook, CT. A more perfect location is hard to find.


That’s not to say that the drive down was not without it’s challenges. The rain, falling for at least 80% of the trip, was torrential at times. There was one spot in the middle of Massachusetts where a series of cars were pulling off dramatically to the side and parking there with their hazards blinking gloomily in the semi-dark. We elected to continue, slowly, my thought process being that sitting motionless on the hard shoulder did not appeal to me when visibility was so low. I had a better chance of avoiding any mishaps if I was already moving. We had also passed a very unpleasant looking crash about twenty minutes prior so that was very much on my mind as well. Got to keep moving.

We made awesome time. Arriving at the beach house we were thrilled and excited to see Karen and Brendan and it really felt like coming home. This is the fifth year that we come down here for a week and it always feels as if we’re just continuing off from the previous trip. We’re spending the next few days with some new friends which is brilliant. For dinner this evening we were seventeen and not a single glass or plate was broken. Burgers, salmon, baby bok choy and banana chocolate chip sour cream cake. An eclectic mix for sure, but then so are all the house guests. Just as with the dinner, it all works well together.


As I lie here in this enormous water bed it sounds like the Battle of the Somme outside. It is July 3rd but by the sounds of things they are in full dress rehearsal for tomorrow. If what we’ve been fortunate enough to see tonight is anything to go by, then the display tomorrow is going to be phenomenal.


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Fixie or kayak?

Two modes of transport, one used by me and one by Ollie, my 10 year old son. I used mine, the fixie, to get myself to the Point-Claire Yacht Club to watch Ollie zoom around Lac St-Louis in the kayak. To add a little background as to why this day has turned out to be so special, it is because Ollie, up to this point, has steadfastly refused to get into any kind of boat. Well, small boat anyway. He did go on the rather large ferry that takes you from Toronto to Toronto Island, but you don’t feel much in the way of water motion and if you want you can stay well inside the craft so as not to even appear on the water. He also took the sightseeing tour of the Ottawa river, again a largish boat. Today was going to be his first foray into single-seater watercraft.

Ollie paddling away (seated in the middle).

Summer seems to have arrived here in Montreal and the brief ride from home to the marina on the fixie was enough to give me a wet neck and more than slightly damp chest. From the distance I could see the kids all lined up on the pier as it jutted out into the water and one by one they were boarding the canoes and kayaks. Marie was also there as a volunteer Mum, helping the kids on and off the boats and trying to keep order. It’s not an easy task to control about forty-five children in life jackets, all of them charging around the bobbing deck of the pier trying to push each other in the water.

Lunch, the reason I arrived at 12.15 p.m., was a chaotic affair to say the least. Kids were trading portions of their lunches as if they were the latest and hottest stocks on the market. Voices were raised, names were being called out, and through it all the teachers calm voices acted like a blanket of authority over the whole crowd, preventing anything from escalating beyond more than noise. Ollie, fresh from conquering his mild phobia of bobbling boats, was behaving like all ten year olds and doing a magnificent job of pretending that we, his Mum and Dad, did not exist. When Marie tried to join in the game of Chinese Dodge Ball, the Chinese version apparently making use of three balls instead of the more conventional one, she was told in no uncertain terms that she could not play. He did come and offer a half-hearted explanation when he thought his friends were not looking. Funny how the generations come and go, but the basic behaviour of kids is the same all across the world and through all the ages.

Ollie prepping for his big Dragon Boat debut.

Before heading back for a series of afternoon conference calls I was able to watch Ollie and his classmates load themselves into a Dragon Boat for the practice sessions prior to the big race. Three boats in all were going to be taking part and all this was going to be adjudicated by a couple of teen lifeguards in their dinghy-like motorboat. How they were going to be able to make any sense out of the chaos that I can only imagine ensued is beyond me. Suffice it to say that by the time Ollie got home he had the broadest grin on his face that you could imagine. I see some kayaking and canoeing in our future.

As for me, I could not stay and see the race so rode back home on the Paddywagon. I did allow myself the treat of taking the long way home, so zooming right past my street and continuing all the way down to the circle, stopping for some milk on the way and finally pulling into the driveway hot, sticky and content. I had probably not done more than 12 km in all but it was a quick enough burst that it cleared the head for the ensuing couple of hours of business speak.

Lac St-Louis at lunch today. This is not half a mile from home. Awesome.

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New York State of Mind

Not the song, nor the city per se, but we did find ourselves pulling up to the US border at around 11.00 a.m. this morning and it had not been in the plans the night before. Let me back up a second. Last week was Mother’s Day in North America and we spent the whole week painting our bedroom and bathroom. An enormous project that bled right into the following week, we had made the decision that we would postpone any Mother’s Day celebrations until all the work was done. So this weekend was the one. Sunday was to be all about Marie.

Breakfast in bed was followed by a selection of presents and cards which was followed by a pause. I knew something was coming, I just could not quite put my finger on what. And then it came. “Let’s go to Plattsburgh!” So we did.


Within an hour we were at the border, passports at the ready and an eagerness normally reserved by a hungry dog when he senses his dinner is being prepared. The experience with customs was without a doubt the most pleasant that any of us have ever had. We were actually treated to a smile which momentarily threw us off. For a brief second all those spy books you read as a child come flooding back and you suspect that this is some covert tactic to get you to drop your guard and admit that you are smuggling three Canadian grown apples into the US, but then just as quickly we realised that may be this was just a nice bloke trying to make an otherwise stressful job a little more pleasant. Well done!

We go to Plattsburgh for one reason, shopping. No wait, make that two reasons. Panera Bread as well. What an awesome place for lunch that is. But shopping is the number one concern and it’s all about Target and groceries. Not at the same time necessarily but we don’t have Target in Canada yet and so it’s a real treat to shop there and of course whenever you’re in a country other than your own you have to go and stock up on edible goodies that are native to the area.


Of course not everything is meant to be consumed by humans but we could not resist this jiggly package of dog gravy and imagine who the genius was who came up with that one. Were they watching their poor mutt try and choke down a bowl of dry kibble one afternoon and suddenly thought “That dog needs some lube. I am going to market dog gravy!” Well, whoever it was has the last laugh because there it is on the shelf, and until I can come up with something better to compete with it I have no right to judge.


As is usual, everything is big in the US, and I could not imagine trying to force down this entire tin of gnarly looking baked beans in one sitting let alone a week.


Perhaps a large jar of some sort of sausage packed in god knows what would go well with the beans? I didn’t want to find out so we moved right along, but four stops later we had the car boot chock-a-block with all sorts of groceries, much of it impossible to combine into anything that would resemble a meal, but of all of it completely necessary to our survival. You have no choice but to simply keep telling yourself that you only do this trip a couple of times a year so really you’re saving money. Amazing what you can convince yourself of sometimes!

We rolled back into town before dinner and let the dogs out, their excited and slightly cross-legged dance of joy when they saw us only cut short by the urgent need to get into the back yard. A long, exhausting day, but terrific fun. Where are we going to go next?


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