Saturday, 30 July 2005

Adoption Visits

We have finished over a weeks worth of visits with Jeremy and things are going smoothly. Both Tina and Adam have spent some quality alone time with Jeremy, and for the most part he loves their company. He loves the sights and sounds of Windsor - save for buses - saying "woah" whenever we drive on the expressway. Tomorrow and Monday we get him for a full day. Friday will be his first sleepover. That is when things get interesting. Have we said that this kid is cute? No? Well, this kid is cute.

Sunday, 24 July 2005

Jeremy and Corbin

Corbin is happy to have a baby brother, however Jeremy remains undecided.

Saturday, 23 July 2005

Adoption Visits - Jeremy

After a year and a half wait, we have finally begun visits with our second child, Jeremy. He is a 18 month old boy, who has light brown hair and weighs about 26 pounds. We just finished our third visit this morning. This kid is one bundle of non-stop energy.

Corbin met him for the first time yesterday. They chased each other around. We still have about 3 more visits before we sit down with our worker, the foster family, and the Jeremy's worker to discuss the next stage (visits to our house and sleepovers).

Jeremy could be in our house by the second week of August. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 12 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - A Summary

After a few days of recovery from a long trek, the vacation can be summarized in one word: Awesome. Yes, the vacation was awesome. Corbin was well-behaved and a had great time swimming at each hotel (to him a vacation is all about hotels and swimming pools).

The weather co-operated for the most part. It rained a few days, mostly a drizzle, but those were travel days so no big loss. We did not do all the tourist-type things that others may do, but we enjoyed the trip. The New England area of the US and the East Coast of Canada are beautiful areas. We will be back again.

Our Recommendations:
  • Super 8 Hotel, Truro, Nova Scotia is a newer hotel with a waterslide. Your kids will love you. A great place to stay over on your way to or from Cape Breton, Halifax, Digby or Yarmouth.
  • Irving Nature Park, Saint John, New Brunswick is an awesome nature park with trails, beaches, lookouts and more. A mere 7 minute drive from downtown. And it is free.
  • Comfort Inn, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Indoor pool. Arcade room. Laundry. Right off the interstate. Centrally located. This hotel looks beautiful on the outside. A great place to stop when traveling from Southern Ontario to the east coast of the US and Canada.
  • New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, New Brunswick. An excellent museum that is not too big with lots of hands on activities including a huge craft and play room. Open late Thursday nights. Admission is reasonable. After visiting the museum, have a bite to eat at a local eatery and wander the downtown and waterfront area. Watch the tide come and go.
  • Avonlea Village of Anne of Green Gables, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. Yes, it is a tourist-type thing, but it is cool to interact with the characters in various buildings and on the street. The shindig at the Fishing Shanty was a highlight. You can follow the schedule or go along at a leisurely pace and enjoy the atmosphere.

Sunday, 10 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Days 9 and 10

Saint John, NS to Windsor, ON

Big push home. Two very long days of driving - about 800 to 900 km each day. Driving through the US with a stop in Albany, NY.

Day 9 - Saturday - consisted of driving through Nova Scotia, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York to eventually arrive at the Holiday Inn Express in East Greenbush (Albany), NY. The forecast called for rain. We left Saint John around 9:00 am and arrived in St. Stephen, NB about an hour later. We stopped by the Ganong chocolate
store and bought some more goodies. US Customs was next.

As mentioned previously, both Canada and US Customs are located at either end of the bridge that connects the communities of Calais (pronounced Kaliss), ME and St. Stephen, NB. In fact, the booths on the Canadian side are located on the deck of bridge. Talk about a space crunch. Trucks entering the US have to make a sharp 90 degree turn to the right to get to their booths. I have read that sometimes, trucks are asked to pull straight ahead and the inspection takes places on the main road. Crazy. After the usual questions, we were permitted to enter the USA. Loaded up on some cheaper US gas (about 25 cents per litre cheaper) and continued on our long journey home.

It started to rain in Maine, which seemed to take forever to drive through. In New Hampshire, where it stopped raining, we came across the biggest scam in the US: the Blue Star Turnpike. I don't have a problem with toll roads per se, but the toll road (I-95) in New Hampshire is about 15 miles long, has three exits and costs a $1.00 (both ways if you are doing a round trip).

have signs 3 miles ahead of the toll plaza warning you about the toll plaza - this is where the wait begins to pay the toll. It took about 30 minutes to get to the toll booth (there must have 10 or so toll booths in each direction). There are no rest areas on the turnpike, but if you have a need for some booze, there are state-operated liquor stores. The only reason this toll exists is to exact a tax from Bostonians and New Yorkers (and other travellers) who are heading up to Maine and the East Coast of Canada for some fresh air and clean water.

As a comparison, we paid $1.50 to drive 89 miles of the Massachusetts Turnpike aka Mass Pike (and they have real rest stops on the Mass Pike). I can imagine the backup during holiday weekends. We took I-495 to I-290 to I-90 (Mass Pike). This took us through Worcester, MA. Traffic was moving well. Around 6:30 pm we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express East
Greenbush (Albany-Skyline). After driving for 10 hours and almost 900 km, Adam was tired.

Day 10 - Sunday aka the Last Day of Vacation - started out well. It was sunny and warm - no drizzle to worry about. The Express Start Breakfast Bar was the best on this trip. Besides the warm cinnamon buns, bagels, toast, juices, coffee, boiled eggs, they also had real bacon and scrambled eggs. A very good breakfast. We managed to get out of the hotel around 9 am (since Adam is a Priority Club member, no checkout is required - just leave the keys in the room or counter and off you go). We stopped by a nearby Wal-Mart so Tina could buy a book to read on the long trip home.

It was an uneventful four hour drive to Buffalo, NY and the Peace Bridge (which needs a major upgrade) into Canada. Canadian Customs was packed but moving at a good clip - about 10 minutes in total. Another 5 minutes to pay the bridge toll and away we went on the QEW.

Typical Sunday and summer traffic on the QEW, 403 and 401. Stopped at the Woodstock rest area to fuel up (only 88 cents a litre) and let Tina drive us home - Adam was burnt out from driving some 1500 km in two days. It was a usual drive down the 401 to Windsor.

The flat land after London seemed all that much flatter after driving through the Appalachian mountains and various valleys, coves and bays. We arrived in Windsor around 6:00 pm, to the same weather that we left 10 days ago - hot and humid. The weather seemed unbearable - we got used to the moderate climate out east. Unpacked the van. Vacation over.

Friday, 8 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 8

Saint John, NS.

No plans again today. With the weather warm and sunny, we picked the Irving Nature Park as our destination. Located a mere 7 minutes from downtown Saint John, the park is a natural area with trails, lookouts, picnic areas and beaches. There is no charge to visit the park. The park is simply beautiful.

We drove a narrow and winding gravel road and came upon a small parking area. Below was a large "beach" of stones, rocks and pebbles. It was low tide, so there was plenty of stones for Corbin to pick up and throw into the ocean. Adam walked into the water, now officially having stepped foot into both the w
est coast and east coast of Canada. Adam picked up a few stones and managed to cut his index finger, creating a lovely gash. Next stop: the hospital.

Tina drove up to the hospital, which is located at the University of New Brunswick Saint John Campus. There are no straight roads in Saint John, so the drive took about 10 minutes. About 40 minutes later, the gash had been glued and covered with a bandage and Adam had been given a tetanus shot. We left the hospital, paid a $1.25 for one hour of parking (most hospitals around Windsor charge $2.50 or more), and headed back to the Nature Park.

We stopped by an observation area that also was a picnic area (including barbecues). Because of the picnic area, the whole area was crawling with chipmunks. While excited, Corbin was cautious of the friendly chipmunks.

After a few minutes and some reassurances, it became Corbin's mission to feed the chipmunks - not that they needed feeding. At the van, we left some food and waited for the rodents to appear. Sure enough, one came from a distance and began nibbling. Adam took some closeup pictures of the chipmunk.

We left the area and headed down to the main beach, where Corbin proceeded to throw more rocks into the ocean and Tina and Adam watched the tide come in. It was a relaxing day spent at the nature park (including the side trip to the hospital).

Thursday, 7 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 7

Digby, NS to Saint John, NB.

Very little driving today because we are taking the ferry to Saint John, NS. The day began with another continental breakfast that was acceptable. It was cloudy with a light drizzle. With the ferry scheduled to depart at 1:00 pm, we hung out in the motel room watching TV and playing games until 11:00 am, when we checked out of the motel and drove into Digby to Return of the Toymaker, a toy store with hand-made wooden boats, wharfs and doll houses, Christmas ornaments, and other goodies.

Children can make a miniature sailboat; naturally Corbin was excited. The sailboat is pre-made, but requires the drilling of two holes to hold the masts. The owner, Howard Pyle, placed the boat in the jig and Corbin turned the handle on the drill press to make the two holes. Next, a dowel was placed in a vise grip and Corbin sawed it to make two masts. Mr. Pyle then placed the dowels in a jig and asked Corbin to pull down a handle on a century-old drill press. The dowels were inserted into their holes and Corbin hammered away. Next two pins (one at the front and one at the rear) were hammered in. Mr. Pyle threaded a string through the holes. A sailboat was created. Corbin immediately wanted to paint it and asked where the sails were. Adam said we could work on those things at home. We left the store and headed to the ferry dock.

At the ferry we wandered around the terminal, stopping for a customary "pee break" and getting a few munchies from a vending machine that gave Tina a hard time - as in you paid for something and it got stuck - but all worked out well in the end. We sat patiently in the van. The Princess of Acadia arrived around 12:15 pm or so. Unloading the ship took a long time - at least when compared to the Chi-Cheemaun (Tobermory, Ontario). Eventually, we were directed to enter the belly of the ship. We headed up to the passenger decks and proceeded to the cafeteria to have lunch (which was reasonably priced).

The journey between Digby, NS and Saint John, NB takes 3 hours. There is a big screen TV in the main lounge where a children's movie is shown. They were playing Ice Age, which grabbed Corbin's attention and freed us for about 90 minutes.

After the movie, Corbin messed around with his GameBoy, played some games with us and we kind of wandered around the ship. The weather changed from dreary to sunny about half-way through. Around 4:00 pm, the ship arrived in Saint John, and a few minutes later we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites.

Adam mentioned that the New Brunswick Museum was open late Thursdays. Since we had not done much this day, we concluded that it would be good to see the museum and grab a bite to eat. A trail, Harbour Passage, leads downtown along the harbour and was only about a 2 minute walk from the hotel. It took about 10 minutes or so to get to the museum, which is located in Market Square, a larger facility with stores, restaurants, a library and a convention centre. Admission was $9.73 for the three of us - the bargain of the trip.

The museum consists of three floors with large exhibits. On the main floor, a guide, Elizabeth, asked us if we had any questions. Corbin had plenty. Corbin and Elizabeth hit it off. She showed Corbin around and took us to the second floor where the whale bones were on display. The museum looks small at first but is jam packed with exhibits. Apparently about 40% of their collection is on display. Elizabeth had to leave us to make an announcement. We headed up to the third floor which contained a large play room where kids could read books, make crafts, play with toys and computers. At the craft counter, Corbin and Elizabeth made a snake.

Unfortunately for Corbin, we were getting hungry, so after about 2 hours at the museum, we went to a restaurant inside the Market Square and had a late supper. The day ended, with us walking back to the hotel - that is Tina and Adam walking, Corbin running - and heading to the pool for a swim and a dip in the hot tub. Even Corbin spent some time in the hot tub.

Wednesday, 6 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 6

Truro, NS to Digby, NS.

No real plans today - a 300 km drive today. The weather forecast for today is rain during the afternoon. After filling up at the continental breakfast, we got Corbin ready for one last water slide session while Adam loaded up the van. We checked out around 10 am or so and headed out to Digby, NS. We decided on the scenic route - Highway 215 aka the Glooscap Trail (which takes you from Truro to Windsor). Along the way we saw the vast tidal bore at
Shubenacadie River at low tide - an amazing site - an huge flat area of red. We could only imagine what high tide looks like.

Near Walton we stopped at the side of the road to watch the tide come in. It was neat to watch the small creek reverse flow and the water slowly rise. At Walton, we took a small detour to visit the Walton Lighthouse. One has to climb very steep staircases (almost ladders) to reach the top for a great view of Walton Harbour and the Bay of Fundy. By the time we left the lighthouse, a steady drizzle was coming down. We arrived in Windsor - the one in Nova Scotia. Corbin was initially confused but quickly caught on that it was not his Windsor.
Heading towards Digby, it started to rain more. The big problem was the spray from the vehicles. It was not raining hard enough to clear off the mist. Adam eventually pulled off Highway 101 and took the more scenic Highway 1. We passed the Annapolis Tidal Generating Station where the power of the tide is used to generate electricity.

Arriving on the "outskirts" of Digby, we were greeted by a Wal-Mart, Sobey's, Atlantic Superstore and a Canadian Tire. Who knew Digby was such a commercial centre? We arrived at the Admiral Digby Inn tired but safe. The Admiral Digby Inn is located a mere 1/4 mile from the ferry dock and about 2 miles from downtown Digby. It is a two-storey motel where one drives up to their room. The rooms were clean and well-appointed. After unpacking, we headed into Digby to have a nice supper at the Fundy Restaurant. Adam ordered grilled scallops (a first for him), Tina had haddock and Corbin had the usual hamburger and french fries. The scallops were to die for. Sauteed in a garlic sauce they were firm but flaky. The baked potato was perfect. A great dinner at a reasonable price - you cannot go wrong with fresh seafood. We strolled the main drag and headed back to hotel.

Tuesday, 5 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 5

Cavendish, PEI to Truro, NS.

Headed into Cavendish for some breakfast at the Friendly Fisherman, then back to the hotel to pack, let Corbin swim one more time and check out. Went up the road to Cavendish one more time. We spent some time at Avonlea Village of Anne of Green Gables, a recreation of the village from the television series. Complete with the original schoolhouse that L.M. Montgomery taught in, the village has people not only playing the various characters found in the books but interacting with visitors. As we entered the schoolhouse, Corbin was shy and refused to enter. He slowly warmed up as we watched a shindig at the Fishing Shanty. As we
left Avonlea Village, Corbin wanted to stay - could have been the pony ride, could have been him having a good time.

After a quick browse at a local shopping plaza, we drove to Wood Islands to catch the ferry to Caribou, NS. Catch is a very key word. With nine minutes to spare, we arrived at the ferry dock, paid our money and boarded the ferry, saving us two hours of waiting time (or two hours of grief). It worked to our advantage. We arrived at the Super 8 Motel in Truro, NS (about 45 minutes southeast of Pictou, NS).

This Super 8 Motel is only two years old and has a water slide. Yup. A water slide. Corbin refused to believe Adam at first but once he saw it, he could not contain his excitement. But he had to wait - we were hungry. We stopped at regional eatery - Frank & Gino's - for a nice dinner. A quick stop at Sobey's to stock up on munchies and we were back at the hotel. Guess what we did next? Water slide! That thing is amazing. Adam was able to splash half the pool room - the speed one picks up is scary but fun.

Monday, 4 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 4

Bangor, Maine to Cavendish, PEI.

Another big travel day - just under 600 km. No major stops planned along this leg of the trip. It was ironic that on Canada Day we traveled to the US and on Independence Day we drove to Canada. After fuelling up on some cheaper American gas, we headed out into the Maine wilderness towards Calais, ME/St. Stephen, NB and the US-Canada border. No problem at Canada Customs (or whatever they are called this week). First stop in Canada? Tim Hortons, naturally. Second stop? Ganong Chocolates (right across the street from Tim Hortons). We bought some chocolates and candy and continued our trek to PEI.

We stopped at the information centre just outside Saint John to get some guides on what to do in Saint John when we return via Digby, NS. In Moncton, we stopped at McDonald's for a quick bite to eat and headed towards the Confederation Bridge. Adam experienced his first traffic circle or roundabout in Canada (his first experience in a roundabout as a driver was in Boston). It was interesting to say the least. Eventually, the Confederation Bridge appeared in the distance. Since tolls are collected when leaving PEI, the highway leads straight onto the bridge, which makes for a informal entrance to PEI. Believe it or not, we saw a police officer giving out a speeding ticket on the bridge to some poor sucker. Anything for a buck I guess. After our 12 km trip across the bridge, we arrived on the red soil of PEI. On the drive to the hotel, we
saw potato plants growing everywhere, yet no chip or french fry stands were to be seen.

The landscape in PEI is beautiful. The red soil contrasts against the lush greenery. The island is hilly (something we have encountered on a daily basis since leaving Essex County). We arrived at the Clarion Hotel Cavendish Gateway Resort, a lovely hotel located just south of Cavendish. Our room was located on the top floor of a three-storey structure that looked to be original and had a hardwood floor, a peaked roof and a great view of the countryside. The evening was young, so we headed into Cavendish to check out Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum and play some mini-golf (which we do at least once on almost every vacation). Back to the hotel and the swimming pool.

Sunday, 3 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 3

St. Johnsbury, Vermont to Bangor, Maine.

Since we decided to go to Santa's Village yesterday, we had to revise our "plan". Our first stop was Chutters in Littleton, New Hampshire. Chutter General Store has the longest candy counter in the world - 111 feet and 11-3/4 inches long. There are three rows of jars filled with all kinds of candies. There is penny candy, regular candy and specialty candy. You put on plastic glove, open a jar and fill your bag with the candy. We bought $20 worth of candy. Tasty. Next, we toured Main Street and visited a few bookstores followed by a walk through a covered bridge to a small farmers/flea market. Adam was salivating at the fresh bread available, but due to the long drive ahead, did not give in to his temptations.

A few miles down on I-93 we stopped at the Aerial Tramway at Cannon Mountain. This was the first aerial tramway in North America. Contrary to popular belief, a tramway is NOT a gondola. A tramway consists of two cars, with each car acting as a counterweight. When one car goes up, the other is coming down. We did not have to wait too long to board a car - trams were departing every 12 to 15 minutes. The ride takes about 8 minutes and takes you to the summit of Cannon Mountain at 4,180 feet. At the summit we took a trail that offered a breathtaking view of the surrounding area - all the way to Canada! Corbin and Adam walked up to on observation tower that also doubles as a communication tower. It was
a clear day so the view was amazing.

The next 3 or so hours consisted of traveling through the White Mountains area on twisty hilly roads. The highest we go was an elevation of 2,600 feet (not as high as the 4,000 or so feet in the Smokey Mountains). We stopped for supper in North Conway at Friendly's Restaurant. Yes, the staff were friendly. We arrived at the Days Inn in Bangor, Maine some time after 6:00 pm. It was a long day, we were tired, checked in and headed to the pool. The hotel is dated and in need of a major make over - and there are plans to renovate this year. But the hotel was clean and cheap (though the wireless internet signal was useless).

Saturday, 2 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 2

St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

We had decided during the planning of this vacation to spend two nights in St. Johnsbury for two reasons: 1) to give us a chance to decompress from the long drive on Day One; and 2) to act as start or gateway to our East Coast vacation. Well, make that three reasons: 3) Adam had discovered there was a lot happening tourism-wise in this area, so St. Johnsbury was acting as a base for information collection for future vacations.

There was no itinerary for the day. Options included visiting a local museum and planetarium or a trip to Littleton, New Hampshire (a 10 minute drive southeast). The weather forecast for today was a warm but dry day. No humidity and no oppressive heat. We decided to take advantage of the good weather and headed out to Santa's Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire (this was to be a stop on Day Three as we headed towards Bangor, Maine). It was an excellent choice. Santa's Village is about 35 minutes east of St. Johnsbury on US-2. By the time we arrived the place was alive with excitement - and Corbin was more than willing to add to that excitement. He loved the place. With no oppressive heat and humidity to wear you down, it was an enjoyable experience for all. It was one of the best outings the three of us has had. Corbin went on almost all the rides including the roller coaster, ferris wheel, log flume and multitude of other rides. We caught a cheesy show with a talking Christmas tree and four elves. But Corbin liked it and that is all that mattered. After almost 5 hours in the park, we left tired but having lots of fun.

We headed back to the hotel via a side trip south to Littleton, New Hampshire. Main Street in Littleton has won numerous awards. The place was busy. It was late in the day and Tina and Corbin were tired so we drove through and headed back to St. Johnsbury via I-93. At the hotel Corbin was itching to get back into the pool, so we spent some quality family time in the pool (which is advertised as heated but is nowhere near being heated). We had supper had a local diner. The food was good, but on the pricey side, especially after you convert to Canadian dollars. Food in the US is either dirt cheap or expensive. Seems to be no middle ground.

With Santa's Village off the list, we are making totally new plans for Day Three. Possibilities include Littleton, the Aerial Tramway at Cannon Mountain and/or the Slide Ride at Attitash. Any of these would include driving through the White Mountains area - an amazing range of mountains and valleys. Stay tuned to find out what where we went.

Friday, 1 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 1

Brantford, Ontario to St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

The big first day of our vacation. Just under 900 km in total. Our target departure time was 6:00 am. Our actual departure time was 7:05 am. Why the difference? Seems that the combination of going to bed late and waking up too early was enough to put Corbin in a miserable place. He complained his leg hurt, his wrists hurt, that he was going to throw up, that he was not well. Yeah. What a good way to start the trip. It almost drove Adam to the brink. After 30 or so minutes, Corbin slowly came around, and we said our goodbyes and headed out. Traffic through the GTA was typical - even for a holiday. The only slow down in Toronto was due to jack-knifed truck carrying bagged ice - the irony was not lost. Shortly
thereafter we stopped in Ajax for breakfast and a refuel.

The next 200 km or so were torture. You see, some time after the Highway 35/115 interchange, the 401 goes from 3 lanes to 2 lanes. Usually not a major problem, but with cottage bound traffic, it was a problem. You would be driving along and in a few seconds you were doing 20 kph or you were at a standstill. No accident. No nothing. Seems that some people had difficulty in passing vehicles, as in they would barely speed up to pass a slower
moving vehicle. With the volume of traffic, that meant traffic bunched up good. At the rest stop between Napanee and Kingston, Tina took over driving duty and Corbin was given his special surprise of the trip - a Game Boy Advance SP. He was in seventh heaven.

Just inside Quebec, we were looking for a place to eat other than McDonald's, but it seems that Quebecers love McDonald's. It was not until east of Montreal that we found an alternative in Burger King. Wait. Let's go back a few minutes. Yes, Tina drove through Montreal. With Adam playing the navigator, she managed to drive through Montreal with no problem. Tina was proud of her accomplishment. After finishing a late lunch, Adam drove the final leg. We hit some light rain in the Eastern Townships, but that quickly gave way to sunny warm weather. There was very little traffic on Autoroute 55 towards Vermont. We arrived at the Canada-USA border to be greeted by a small US Custom's facility (two booths). It was amusing not having to pay a toll to enter the US. We arrived at the Comfort Inn & Suites in St. Johnsbury, Vermont around 5:00 pm. Check-in was courteous and fast. In less then an hour, we were enjoying the swimming pool. A good Day One.