Teamoakville.comComments?Blog archiveAbout me



Aug 31, 2011

Greetings from the John Labatt Centre in sunny London. These training camps are the only time I get to come here and not sweep snow off my car in the morning.

- - -

Pad's first scrimmage of the camp was this morning. Tuesday was pre-camp interviews, medical evaluations, fitness tests and then a light skate.

Pad's scrimmage team features a couple of NHL draft picks and the son of a former Leaf who is a very recent arrival in this town. Their team lost 4-3 to the Green squad, but my guy looked fine and was plus one on the game.

I think the grind of having played four games Friday to Sunday, a two-hour practice Monday night, a one-hour skate and fitness testing Tuesday and now two 90-minute scrimmages per day today and tomorrow is catching up with him.

And me.

We went lights out last night at 10:30p -- which is unheard of in his world. But he was tired and it will be worse tonight.








Aug 29, 2011

We're back from Huntsville. Rather than diving into a narrative I think I'll go with some random thoughts and observations today:

  • Pad's team did well, going 3-1-0 on the weekend, losing in the final to the host Huntsville Otters, who they had beaten the night before. This junior A thing is more of a marathon on a weekend like this. We've all been to tournaments where you play even five or six games in a weekend. But those games are usually periods of 10-10-15 or something, the standard for minor hockey. All the games in junior are three periods of 20-minute stop time. The players have to be at the rink two hours before game time. So for a 5:30p game Friday night, we got to the rink at 3:30p, and the game ended at about 8:15p. By the time the guys shower and gossip, it's close to 9p before you're back at the hotel. Multiply that by four games between Friday night and mid day Sunday and . . .

  • you have a lot of tired players and parents. The home team deserved to win, and the advantage of sleeping in your own bed and eating mom's food doesn't hurt. Pad's team picked up some injuries too, which isn't unusual early in the season (it's still August for Pete's sake). Pad played all four games and was utterly exhausted, as his primary role as a shut-down defenceman is to be physical. He's still asleep. Here's a photo of him introducing himself to one of Hamilton's guys on Saturday:


  • Huntsville/Muskoka is nice, but, v1. I wouldn't take a cottage there if you gave me one. The drive home -- the Sunday final started at 2:30p, so we hit the road at about 530p) is clearly one of the truly horrid experiences in Canadian life. Three lanes of bumper to bumper traffic from 20 kilometres north of Barrie almost to Major Mac. Jesus Mexican Joseph. If I did that run every Friday night and every Sunday night, I would kill myself or someone else. Or both.

  • Huntsville/Muskoka is nice, but, v2: Laura was unimpressed, mostly by the absence of an ocean. The rocks are nice and the lakes are nice and the traffic sucks. But in terms of soaring vistas and communing with the Creator and all that, we'll take Cape Breton, thanks. To each his own!

  • Pad stayed in a hotel with the team. We stayed in a hotel elsewhere. I don't think he got a lot of sleep and for sure he didn't get to eat like he eats at home. One theory is that he will appreciate home more. But it's just a theory. I texted him Sunday morning with three questions: Do you need your skates sharpened? Do you need a ride? Do you need food? No, no, yes please. I did a quick run to McDonalds and bought $30 worth of McMuffins, pancakes and juice for him and his roommates. Grateful doesn't come close to describing the look I got. I almost got bitten when I handed him the bags.

  • Pad is off to London tomorrow to skate with the Knights at their camp. Lots of junior A players will be doing the same this week at major junior camps across the country and in the US. He was fortunate in that he had several invitations but he settled on London because of the quality of the program and its relative proximity. There's always a bunch of NHL drafted players at these things so the quality of the scrimmages is off the charts. His heart is still set on pursuing college hockey, but major junior camps are a good test of where you fit in, and you can stay for 48 hours without jeopardizing your college eligibility. We're looking forward to it, but blogging may be intermittent at best.

Aug 26, 2011

Too much going on at home to spend much time here trying to be witty, interesting or informative, most of which I usually fail to accomplish anyway.

We're heading for beautiful downtown Huntsville for pre-season junior A hockey action this weekend, and then will race the crowds home down the 400 on Sunday evening.

I'm really excited about that last part.

Next week Pad is off to London for another training camp and I'm going to take a few days off to go along for the ride. Another friend of the family is working out with the University of Western Ontario rugby team at the same time and I'm on tab to provide slabs of red meat. I am looking forward to that night out.

Hopefully some of that will turn into blog fodder.

Anyway, that's what's new.

- - -

If you want to read a good piece on Sidney Crosby's concussion travails, click here. The scary scenario is that he might be back to square one.

I've seen concussions up close -- one of my guys, and other people's kids too -- and it's a scary thing. What Crosby is dealing with doesn't sound good.

- - -

Speaking of scary -- the New York Yankees hit three grand slams en route to a 22-9 rout of Oakland yesterday.

That's never happened in the history of MLB.

My dad thinks that with it's $200 million-plus payroll, the Yankees should expect that type of production every game.

Read more here.

- - -

Stay safe on the road this weekend. I get to practice what I preach and I'm sure my patience will be tested.

Hug the kids.


Aug 23, 2011

How many smoke detectors do you have in your house? How many is too many?

A little background . . .

My lovely spouse is the daughter of an insurance adjuster. Her dad was one of the last independent adjusters in the Maritimes and he is very good at what he does. I’m sure it can be stressful work, dealing with folks in the aftermath of a bad event, but if you knew him you’d know why he’s so good at what he does.

Anyway, when it comes to house fires he’s seen it all. And Laura learned from him that you can’t really have too many smoke detectors.

We have 11 in our house. Yeah, that sounds like a lot.

We have one in each of the four bedrooms – our guys are teens and sleep with their doors closed. Fine, but that makes a smoke detector pretty important.

There’s a hard-wired smoke and CO detector in the upstairs hall.

There’s one in the downstairs hall just off the kitchen and family room. There’s a CO detector in the main hallway.

There’s a smoke detector at the top of the basement stairwell.

There’s one in the basement laundry room/furnace room.

There are three in the basement family room – there are ceiling bulkheads where smoke might gather in one part of the room and not immediately trigger an alarm somewhere else on that level.

And there’s another CO detector in the basement.

So, that’s 11 smoke and three CO detectors.

It seems like a lot for a fairly average house like ours, but better safe than sorry.

Sunday morning I got up before everyone else as I often do and was sitting out back reading and poking around on my laptop.

Pad’s Facebook status, updated at 3a, was:

The smoke alarm goes off in my room at 3 a.m. and there's no fire anywhere... I love waking up thinking I'm gonna die.

While the update may be a little dramatic, I’m sure it is startling to wake up to a smoke alarm, even if, as it was in this case, a false alarm.

But three things are worth noting.

First, the alarm actually woke him up. Pad is a pretty deep sleeper, so this was good to know.

Second, the alarm in his room also woke his brother. Which is also good. Together they apparently roamed the house, determined there was no smoke anywhere and went back to bed.

And third – noting my use of the word “apparently” above – the alarm didn’t wake me and Laura. And the boys didn’t wake us up either. (* -- Laura claims to have a vague recollection of the boys being up at 3a, but her testimony would not stand up under a decent cross examination.)

We’ve told them that next time, it’s okay to wake us, too.

And while it was a bit of an inconvenience for sleeping beauty, it was good to know he won’t sleep through the alarm.

And overall, it just sort of reminded us on why it’s important to have smoke detectors standing guard over the family in lots of places.

With fresh batteries.

Maybe 11 smoke detectors seem like a lot – but actually, we have 12. I have a brand new spare in the cupboard, still sealed in the box.

Just in case.

- - -

A big tip of the hat to the Oakville Hawks’ women’s u15 lacrosse team that won the bronze medal at the provincial championships.

This is just the second year for the women’s lacrosse program in Oakville, and because of low enrolment in the first year a lot of these kids had to play up a year so they could field a single team.

They have come a long way in a hurry and are part of the community’s growing legacy in the sport.

Read more here.

- - -

I’ve mentioned before that Chris is a big Harry Potter fan. Millions of teens his age are, too.

So, last night I walk to the mail box and among the junk mail and flyers was an odd parchment envelope addressed to “Mr C Arnold, The Smallest Bedroom,” and then our address.

On the back the letter it was sealed with an official seal from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Long story short, Chris has been accepted into Hogwarts.

I had two questions. First, when did he apply and second, how much is this going to cost me?

Chris gave me the big “duh” look – one doesn’t apply to Hogwarts, they invite you.


I’m still awaiting a reply on the second question, but I’m pretty sure flying brooms don’t come cheap.

Chris has a cousin in Cape Breton with an extra large heart and some time on her hands.

She made his day.

The three-page letter was authentic to the smallest detail, including official letterhead, two pages of required school supplies (does Staples carry the dragon-skin gauntlets?) and instructions on where to report.

For the record, Pad immediately asked when Chris would be moving out and would if be okay to blow out the wall between their rooms and create one larger room for him.

We vetoed that notion.

The letter from Hogwarts, below.

- - -

Did you feel the Earth move yesterday in the big quake of ’11?

Honestly, I did.

I was sitting at my desk just before 2p. There was a slight but clear change in the air pressure in my office – enough that the ceiling tiles crackled slightly, as if they were being moved a bit.

And then there was a subtle but distinct sway. Just once, back. And forth. Very, very slight.

I immediately called the main news desk and told them there had been a tremor and they treated me as if I’m insane, which is typical. Minutes later, AP moved an alert from Washington near the centre of the quake.

As seismic events go, this one won’t go down in history.

You can read about it here.

And you can look at a photo collection of the “devastation” from the quake here.

- - -

 Summer reading:

My wife rightly points out that I should add Last Night In Twisted River, by John Irving, to the list I started.


- - -

Our neighbourhood is apparently home to a happy optimist.

It's not unusual for people to tape notices to the super mailbox on the corner. Lawn mowing services, house cleaners, painters for hire, missing pets, etc. These short notices are designed so you can tear off a phone number and call if you are interested.

Yesterday, I saw someone -- judging from the penmanship, a young person -- had taken the initiative to share a little happiness.

I didn't take one.

But I left with a smile anyway.



Aug 19, 2011

Well, I got one single email reply from blog readers for manly summer reading suggestions.

Thankfully, my Facebook pals were more forthcoming. My two-line request for suggestions triggered a tsunami of ideas from friends as near as Oakville and as far as southeast Asia.

Since I don't necessarily think you're all a bunch of illiterate freeloaders for not stepping up to help, I'm going to pass on a selection of some of the most popular ideas from my FB friends.

* -- means I already read it. In no particular order:

-- Best Laid Plans (Fallis)*

-- Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Chabon)*

-- Freedom and/or The Corrections, (Frazen)

-- Anything by Cormac McCarthy *

-- Anything by thriller author Stephen Hunter

-- Seabiscuit

-- The Killing Circle

-- Our Kind of Traitor (le Carre)

-- All the Rage (biography of iconic 60s keyboard player Ian MacLagan)

-- The Fort (Bernard Cornwell)

-- Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (Marlantes)

-- A Visit From the Goon Squad (Egan)

-- The Tender Bar (Moehringer)

-- The Fourth K (Puzo)

-- Any book by Dave Bidini


Happy reading!

- - -

When not reading (ha!) I'm standing in rinks and last night got to observe Son #1 take a stick and/or elbow across the nose with all the attendant blood and fuss that follows such things when you wear a visor and not a cage. It wasn't malicious, it was hockey.

When I pointed out the obvious -- that this would not happen if you wore a cage -- he simply smiled and said, "I knew you would say that."

And that was the end of that conversation.

The prevailing wisdom is that big defencemen who wear cages in junior hockey are wusses who are not respected by their peers and have zero credibility when push comes to punch and one has to scrap to stand up for his teammates or himself.

For the record, I don't personally subscribe to that school of thought BUT at the same time I think that guys who do wear cages have no business pretending to be enforcers. (The guy in the collision with Pad was also wearing a visor.)

There's nothing more galling than seeing a guy in a cage chirp away and push his stick up into the face of a guy with a visor. And most of the players in Pad's league adhere to that code of conduct pretty religiously. And those who don't will usually find themselves at some point soon scrambling around picking up the pieces of the hardware that held their cages on after some guy in a visor calls their bluff and rips it right off their helmet. We've seen that more than once.

Anyway, just another fun night at the rink.

- - -

Last weekend of vacation. Relatively quiet 48 hours ahead.

Maybe even a cold beer tonight instead of a cold rink.

Whatever your plans, drive safely. Be careful on the water.

Hug the kids!


Aug 18, 2011

I have one weekend left in my vacation and I need a book. A great book. A book that will leaving me laughing and in awe. A book that will inspire, inform and invigorate.

A guy book.

The only rule around suggestions is that you are not allowed to suggest The Help. Also, it has to be available in digital form.

Send your suggestions here.

- - -

It's been warm the last couple of evenings. Unless you're standing in a rink. Which I was.

Wearing shorts and a fleece pullover it was cool, but not cold.

Weird, huh?

One more session tonight then we're done til Sunday, and an apparent exhibition pre-season game, which may or may not include veterans and may or may not include a lot of rookies/tryout candidates, meaning a lot of veterans get to sit and watch.

We'll see.

- - -

Speaking of lacrosse, the Oakville Beaver brings news that a local businessman is planning to build a year-round lacrosse training facility in Oakville.

Jamie Dawick, who owns the Toronto Rock, announced plans Wednesday for the 81,000 square-foot facility, that will be the practice home for the Rock and create a venue for year-round lacrosse for the sport's many players.

It will have an indoor turf field and two box arenas on the nine-acre site on Invicta Drive.

Not that it needed the push, but something like this could put Oakville lacrosse at the forefront of player development in Ontario, and it will certainly raise the sport's profile in our town.

Read more here.

- - -

If my evenings have been eaten up this week with junior hockey camp, my days have been spent with Chris.

Yesterday we went to Long and McQuade to retrieve his saxophone that was in for repairs. A music store to Chris is like a candy store to a baby and he can't help himself.

We left with the sax and some kind of funky foot pedal thing that plugs into his guitar amp. I'm not sure what it does, but he seems to like it.


Aug 17, 2011

We're back.

A entirely uneventful journey via Westjet, a direct flight from Sydney to Toronto, and we were back in Ontario at 8:17p last night, a little earlier than scheduled.

All the luggage arrived where it was supposed to be.

Maybe Air Canada can take a lesson . . .

- - -

We also managed to get Pad on the ice in time for 9:30p, in spite of his navigationally challenged father.

He's back at it tonight and Thursday night for a pair of 90-minute sessions. Yep. It's hockey season.

He was also in a beaming mood when he came out of the rink, fresh from hitting people and skating hard. He said his wind is nowhere near where he wants it to be, which is no surprise given the way his summer went.

We'll be watching to see how quickly he turns that around.

- - -

When Chris was younger, he had a habit after vacations away. He would immediately drop everything upon returning home and go to the basement and play with his "stuff." It was a typhoon of Lego, trains, cars, etc.

Last night after we got home (after the detour to unload his brother) Chris dutifully carried in suitcases and bags.

And then he headed for the basement.

Instead of Lego, he dove into his guitars. He was still down there when Pad and I got home around 11:30p, although evidence would suggest the was a pause for pizza.

- - -

Speaking of evidence, the colour of our lawn indicates that Ontario finally got some rain while we were gone. Even our neighbour's lawn, that was the colour of sand when we left, is now green and growing again.

We got up this morning and Laura had to immediately start working -- almost 800 emails crowded her Outlook program.

She took a few minutes to sit out back with me on the patio in morning sun while that carnage flowed in before returning to the home office.

We already miss the water and waves, but there's something to be said for a sunny Oakville morning.

Onward. The day awaits.


Aug 16, 2011

If all goes according to plan, we'll be back in residence tonight, and we will get off the plane running.

Patrick's junior team has their first on-ice training camp session tonight at 9:30p, a full 65 minutes after we land. Not sure what he'll do with the spare time.

We'll drop him off on the way home -- a teammate already has his gear and sticks to bring to the rink -- and then I'll head back to the rink to bring him home.

He very good news is that he was 100 per cent cleared for contact sports this morning. Nothing like cutting it close, but he's happy, so we're happy.

And hockey season begins anew.

- - -

Monday in Cape Breton was lovely -- not quite sunny, but a bright day with cloudy periods and the boys' grandfather drove them to the other side of the Bras d'Dor and took them sea kayaking. (The Bras D'Dor is salt water -- a sort of inland sea of bays and inlets and islands with tides, jellyfish and everything else the Atlantic offers, albeit with slightly calmer waters most days.)

While they hit the water with their cousin Ally, Laura and I prowled Main Street and played tourist.

It was a pretty good day, all in all.


- - -

Speaking of pretty good days, my friends on the major mosquito AAA Oakville A's baseball team had a most excellent weekend, too.

I'll let my correspondent describe the action.

This past week end the Major Mosquito AAA Oakville A’s were in Waterdown to compete for the Play Off Championship, a win by any of the 5 teams meant a berth to Windsor Labour Day Week End to compete for the Ontario Provincials ( we, Oakville had already earned 1 of 2 spots for coming in first in league play )

Well when Sunday afternoon rolled around we found ourselves playing against the Mississauga Tigers ( again as always ) for the Championship, 1 game winner take all. ( and of course with Mississauga already making the finals, meant they earned the 2nd birth however they still wanted to beat us )

Scoreless game going into the 5th when Mississauga put up a pair to lead 2-0.

They took that lead into the bottom of the 7th and with 2 on and 1 out, for some reason beyond me, they intentionally walked our number 4 hitter ( did I mention that this was Mosquito Baseball, 11 year olds ) to pitch to our number 5 hitter.

Well he made them pay for that and drove a shot in the gap to the fence that cleared the bases and gave us our 2nd COBA Championship Back2Back.

Here is a pic of the boys with their hardware ( League and Play Off Champs )

Up next, Windsor and an OBA Provincial Triple Crown.


Matt Stone, Jordan Gamble, Evan McIntyre, Tanner Elson, Paul Costin, Ethan Hammond, Luke Seidel

Luke Raczywolski, Sandro Severin, Erice Cerantola, Tyler Sagl, Carter Pauley

A’s coaches

Allen Elson, Richard Gamble, John Raczywolski, Drew Hammond and Ryan Seidel

- - -

I'm onto my fourth book in less than a month, which is a testament to the rain, I think.

Anyway, I'm reading Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand, the same author who wrote Seabiscuit.

It is, without question, the most astounding real-life adventure I have ever consumed.

And that is the right word -- you don't read this book, you consume it as fast as you can.

It is the story of Louis Zamperini, a punk-turned-Olympic runner and sports icon, turned war hero.

By a weird case of coincidence, a friend and regular blog reader emailed me to say he had just finished reading this book on the very day I downloaded it to my Sony Reader.

His review:

"Why read fiction when stories like this are out there?"


You can find the Amazon summary here.

For summer reading I got Pad to tackle The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, and I got Chris to read The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger, both selections carefully crafted to appeal to their tastes.

Both of them will enjoy Unbroken, too.


Aug 15, 2011

Friday turned out to be one of those sort of summer days, the dreams of which sustain you through a Canadian winter. Sure, we had three days of rain and fog, and an okay weather day to hike on Wednesday.

But Friday was full throttle Nova Scotia summer.

And yes, I went into the surf, several times in fact.

Make no mistake, it was cold. But it was warmer than it was earlier in the week and, as the old Maritime saying goes, it's not that bad once you get in.


Anyway, I was the first to take the plunge and the boys were still in bed at that point in the day. They later followed me into the inky dark water, and Laura eventually went in too, but she didn't pretend to enjoy it.

But the sun was hot and bright and vacation blue skies dotted with billowing white clouds were the order of the day. All agreed that this was the Ingonish we know and love. There was a perfect summer sky on Friday night with a nearly full moon throwing more light than we saw at noon earlier in the week. And we ended the night with the fire and 'smores on the beach.

We could have stayed one more night but we decided to de-camp back to Ben Eoin to spend the days we had left with family.

Saturday and Sunday were as nice, or nicer, than Friday and largely spent swimming from the dock in East Bay of the Bras d'Or (again, cool but warming up) and then going up the hill to swim in the pool, which after the bay felt pretty much like a hot tub.

We ate too much and sat up late on the deck telling lies and then slept late.

Today we're driving back across Kelly's Mountain to Baddeck where the boys are going sea kayaking. We'll come back here for one last night and then late tomorrow afternoon we'll start the journey home.

We're hoping the trip west to Toronto goes smoother than the trip east to Halifax almost two weeks ago.

Some pictures from Friday:

If the waves are small enough, you ride them up and down. If they're breaking, you duck under them.


Pad returns from a run on the beach.


Laura and Chris at the water's edge, North Bay beach. Middle Head dominates the center of the photo,

and to the right is Cape Smokey.

Pad tells his mother she's too small for junior hockey.


She's just the right size for the beach, though. What a day.

You can tell by the shadows it was late in the afternoon. Just a stroll in the surf.

End of the day. Moon over Middle Head, clouds hanging over Smokey.


Aug 12, 2011

Finally, sun.

There was blue sky and golden sun all across the island this morning, and those of us covered with mildew from the last four days emerged from our sodden caves to to squint at the heavens and rejoice in the day.

Today, I'm going in the water. That's a bold statement simply because the sun  being out doesn't mean the water is fit for a mammal -- even a large, well-insulated one like me.

But, as they say in these parts, we'll give er' a go.

Laura is on a conference call with her office as I type this, and she is irritatingly close to the beach, so the sound of the waves will put everyone in southern Ontario in a really good mood, I'm sure.

- - -

The cabin we're in this week is small but comfortable. It has two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a large common space that serves on the far end as the kitchen and at the other end as the living room. In between is a dining area. It has a small flat-screen TV, satellite television, a gas BBQ, and a pretty good selection of kitchen utensils.

The bad news is that when your children are 6-4 and 6-1 respectively, they don't fit so well into the two single beds in the second bedroom.

So we have rigged the two single beds into one larger one (which Pad unilaterally declared was his) and Chris sleeps on the pull-out sofa bed in the living room, which is also larger than a single bed.

At the end of the day, this works fine.

I generally fall asleep by 11p here -- the sounds of the waves do that to you -- and Laura isn't far behind.

The boys stay up and watch TV. It's all good.

But the morning is a different event.

Both boys sleep late, as if they are in a poppy field, so with Chris in the middle of the common area we have to tip toe around.

It doesn't matter. Inevitably he wakes up and it's become something like having an ill-tempered gnome standing sentinel over the cabin.

"Shh!!!" he admonishes us, usually me.

Or, "Do you think you can open that door any more loudly??"

Naturally, these comments wound us a great deal, but we compensate by deducting $10 off his 2011 Christmas present allocation every time he opens his mouth. He's now in the hole for 2011 and we're working on 2012.

- - -

Thursday just seemed especially wet, grey and dreary here. Motivating anyone to do anything was pretty much a lost cause.

At 430p I abandoned the cabin and headed off in the fog for an extended tour of the beach, turning north and just walking. I would guess I covered about 2.5 kilometres or so until I reached the river estuary at the far end which was too deep to cross.

A couple men were slapping the water with fly lines, but not getting much action so far as I could tell.

I just sat on a log and watched them fish, watched the seas birds circle, and watched the fog roll in, and in, and in.

My phone pinged with a text from Laura wondering where the hell I was and if I was coming back. Happily, she too then left the cabin and walked north into the fog, and we met up on the beach as I made my way back.

We had a fabulous takeout seafood dinner -- half a lobster stuff with crab, scallops, mussels, shrimp and all sitting on a bed of angel hair pasta.

As I said at the outset, the day dawn bright and sunny, the fog gone. It's about 22 degrees and we see people already in the surf.

I'm going to give it my best shot.

Listen for the scream.


Aug 11, 2011

And now, the weather.

It's raining again. Or, still raining. I'm not sure.

- - -

We managed to go the entire daylight period on Wednesday without rain so once the boys woke up (after 1p) we lit out for the the other side of the Cabot Trail to hike for a couple hours.

We had long set our sights on a trail about 10 or 15 minutes north of Cheticamp. It was an hour's drive to get there, but the Skyline Trail is famous for the spectacular vistas that reward those who hike the five or so kilometres out along the spine of a rocky ridge that juts out into the ocean.

Skyline is also the same trail where a Toronto woman was killed by a coyote in the fall of 2009. Such attacks are rare and we made sure we were all well educated on what to do in the event of an encounter.

Turns out we need not worry. There were more hikers on the trail yesterday than you would find on the GO train platform at Oakville during morning rush hour. It would be a truly demented coyote who would stick around there.

Elvis Costello instructs the family on the dangers of bears, coyotes, moose and steep terrain.


The hike took about two hours and involved several fairly rapid and steep grade changes -- as in, up or down trails by 150 metres vertical. Yes, I'm in terrible physical condition but I managed.

It was worth the agony.

About 25 minutes of hiking a trail that was better maintained than most Oakville sidewalks got us to our first real vista, and it was just a glimpse of what was to come.


At this point in the hike you start to feel like a prop for a Nova Scotia Tourism ad, because everywhere you look is prettier than the last place you were.

Finally we get to the end of the trail, where a boardwalk has been constructed. Signs are posted warning visitors to not leave the trail because it is environmentally sensitive. It may be, but I suspect the real reason is that sheer cliff faces are not more than 20 or 30 feet off to the side and there's not much to hold on to on the way down.

Either way, this is the top of the boardwalk. It goes down the steep grade in a hurry. No more than 60 feet in either direction off this boardwalk in the photo below is sheer rock face. We stayed on the trail.

This next shot is Pad and Chris standing at the corner of the next turn, which in turn leads to an even greater descent. And if it looks like that's a big drop off . . . it is.


Now to the good part. Again, because of the number of hikers and the obvious peril of straying too far off the safe track, the government has built a long board walk down to the final viewing area. Good thing. It's as steep as it looks.

That platform at the end is where you want to be.


This is the way down. Don't miss the turn.


When you get down there you have an amazing vista of water, sky, birds, wildlife and German tourists.

The water as you can see was dead flat calm, which was good news for the people on the whale-watching expedition, seen below just off Chris's forehead.. We watched them watch the whales.


Through the magic of a long lens and blowing up the digital image on my laptop, you can see what the people on the board were so excited about. I count at least six whale fins in the water around the tour boat. Note how the boat is listing to one side as everyone moved over to take pictures.

Eventually we were going to have to hike back up the trail. And even with the boardwalk it was a walk that would elevate your heart rate fairly quickly. So we rested first.



We would have preferred hot beach weather and playing in the surf and all those things. But in a way, the weather forced a change of plans on us and it was terrific. There's so much to see here and it's really easy to be lazy and just do the easiest thing. I'm glad we did this hike.

After the hike we drove into Cheticamp, a pretty Acadian village where French is still the preferred language, and had dinner at the artists' co-op restaurant.

It was 7:15p before we finally pointed the car back toward Ingonish for the 75-minute trip back to our cabin.

We crossed two of the Cabot Trail's highest points -- MacKenzie Mountain and North Mountain -- in thick fog and thick moose conditions.

We saw six moose all told in three separate sightings, and frankly moose along the road only serve to turn a scenic drive into a white-knuckle experience. Cars never win in moose-car collisions and the fog at the top of the mountains was a bit unnerving, knowing so many moose were nearby.

We got home safe and we no sooner pulled up to the cabin and a gentle rain started to fall.

The boys put on a movie and we tried to sit on the deck and have a glass of wine but the prevailing wind carried the rain into our faces so, it was back inside.

Everyone is asleep here this morning but me.

And I think I need a nap.

Sun in the forecast for tomorrow. I better rest up.

For more information on hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, click here.


Aug 10, 2011

The stunning news this morning from our airy perch on this rock in the north Atlantic is that it's not raining. The forecast would suggest this is a temporary meteorological phenomenon but no one huddled in our tiny compound of cottages is balking at the bright sky.

It's not sunny. There's no blue. And the temperature is 14 degrees. But it's not raining.

Rain is forecast for later today. And tomorrow.


- - -

I did at least walk the beach yesterday and ventured into the water up to my knees. I brought a towel, enthusiasm and good intentions to go right into the waves. But I lost all feeling in my feet within about 15 seconds and, as they used to say on the Seinfeld TV show, there would have been considerable shrinkage if I had gone any further.

There was a lot of sand on the beach and I did see something that struck me as somewhat interesting. Actually, it struck me as remarkable, but to you it's probably only somewhat interesting.

And that is that the surf was so large that even when I was standing 10 or 15 feet up the beach, the waves were hitting down on us. The surf was higher than the beach. I would imagine that's a little bit what it looks like when a tsunami is coming. Thankfully this was just roiling water, but just the same it was an interesting effect.

The surf is comparatively quiet today -- still pounding but nothing like it has been for two days. But without a corresponding improvement in air temperature and a change in prevailing winds to bring some warmer water into the bay, I won't be heading into the surf anytime soon!

- -  -

It's 10a here (Atlantic time) and I'm the only one moving. Largely cut off from civilization -- in a good way -- everyone is mostly relaxing and with the weather as it is, there are no pressing deadlines to meet. So, people sleep and catch up on some of the hours lost during the regular 365 of racing to planes, trains and automobiles. And rinks.

I'm going to wander down to the beach again renew my challenge to Chris and Pad to find something more interesting on the sand than they will. A perfect stone. A seashell. A sand dollar.

It's good work if you can get it and for now I'm gainfully employed.


Aug 9, 2011

It's still grey, wet and cold, but now we're in Ingonish, which if you look at the lobster-claw shape of Cape Breton Island, is on the inside of the large pincher near the far right edge.

Laura and I have been coming here together since we were first married in the last century. We have been coming to this particular cabin for most of a decade, with the boys in tow. When they were little we would put them in life jackets and let them splash in ankle-deep water, racing the waves up the sand as the waves broke behind them.

When they got older, we would all go out into the surf and take our lumps from Mother Nature.

We've seen the ocean here so flat and calm you could water ski on it. The most amazing thing the ocean does at North Bay is move the sand around. Right now there is a fair amount of sand covering the four kilometres of almost completely deserted beach. Literally overnight, a change in wind and water can pull all the sand on the beach out into the bay, leaving behind a beautiful treasure of polished beach stones and little else. How much sand gets moved? It is not at all unusual for boulders the size of small cars that were covered and invisible one day to be left standing naked on the beachhead, suddenly casting long shadows in the absence of four or six feet of sand that disappeared, literally, overnight.

The eerie thing is, the sand comes back just as fast. There aren't enough Caterpillar tractors in Nova Scotia to do in six months what nature can do in 12 hours just on this one beach. 

And then there are days like yesterday and today, where truly you would be taking your life in your hands by venturing out more than a knee-high into the surf.

"Under tow" is not some mythical thing confined to the pages of John Irving novels. It's real and deadly and people who grow up near the ocean have a keen respect for the ocean. One second you can be 15 feet from shore in five feet of water and the next thing you know, you're on your way to Ireland. (If you ever find yourself caught in one, the steps for recovery are relatively simple. The hardest part is step one, which is, stay calm. Step two: get your head above water. Step 3, swim parallel to the shore (don't try to swim directly to the shore. You will get tired faster and, well, that's a bad idea.)

Anyway, the weather here is okay for an old married couple enjoying time away from the Blackberries and GO trains. The rain has been occasionally interrupted by periods of Scot's mist (not to be confused with Scotch mist, which is what happens when the guys up the road at the Margaree barn dances fling Glenfiddich at one another.)

It's not so great for the boys, but even they concede the surf is better than cable TV.

See for yourself.


- - -

Pad cleared stage two of recovery last night, getting the green light for all forms of workout -- except full on-ice contact. A good day! One week until training camp opens. Fingers are crossed.

- - -

Letters, we get letters, we get lots and lots of letters . . .

My posting yesterday about the new MOHA Select-level hockey program from Novice through Midget drew some commentary from the readership. Interestingly, since I first started twitching about this topic a couple of months ago, I have not received a single email in support of converting House League red-level to Select. I appreciate that really means nothing in an of itself. But I have received lots of email from people who are not looking forward to hockey season because of it.

And the news that Select divisions will be ineligible for balancing is not going over well in my inbox at least, and it's going to go over less well in December when the parents who thought they signed up for good-ole' fun house league hockey see junior's team is 0-7-1 or whatever and it's not looking like it will get better.

Anyway, here's an email from a reader, sent yesterday:


At some point, the adults will realize that the “rules” should never, ever, get in the way of common sense.  If we in Oakville want a better system that involves the ability to balance teams in our league, then we should adopt that – for the kids.  If we in Oakville find that it will take some time to roster teams after a draft to ensure that each team has the proper allocation of certified staff, we should adopt that – for the kids.  If we in Oakville want to have one division with contact and one without, and we have willing families and children, then whatever we do, we should not throw out all of the good, common-sensical things we have adopted over the years just to fit ourselves into some loophole.  I received a note saying there is now “no such thing as a twelve minute period”.  That is an exact quote.  Well yes indeed there is, it is twelve minutes long, and we’ve been using that in the third period for years.  And if at the end of the day the adults can’t figure out a way to adopt a comprehensive set of rules that respect all of the good that has gone on in the past, then the adults just haven’t tried hard enough.  Get an exemption from the OHF for a year while the issues are worked out.  Go to Hockey Canada and get them involved.  The last thing anybody wants is for adults to look stupid in the face of games played by kids.  Unfortunately, it happens all too often, and it is happening again this year here in Oakville.

In other words, if it has to be Select, then for God's sake protect the important elements of our league like balancing and fixed playing structure. Please?

For the record, the author would have no issue with me publishing his name -- he's a long-time coach in our town with impeccable credentials, whether you measure it by championships won, kids having fun, or putting hours of service where his mouth is. It's my decision to keep personality issues from cluttering the debate, which in this instance starts and finishes 100 per cent with what is best for house league hockey players from seven to 17.


Aug 8, 2011

Greetings from grey, wet, cold Nova Scotia.

The weather is of little concern to me and Laura. The boys may be another matter but since they've been either sleeping or eating since we arrived I don't yet know the answer.

One of the great things about Nova Scotia is that it's beautiful in all kinds of weather and you just take the wet days and roll with them.

Honestly after last Thursday, it's a wonder we're here at all.

- - -

When I last updated you I was sitting in the Ottawa airport, wildly optimistic that sooner or later we'd get to Halifax.

Turns out the smart money was on later. Much later.

The days started out brilliantly -- after an evening of packing in which I smashed a toe black-and-blue against a bed leg. We were waived through the baggage lineup at Pearson to a priority lane. Laura got pulled out of a long line at security for a random spot check and we all got yanked with her, and that sped things up.

We arrived in Ottawa on time at 8a and had 75 minutes before our connecting flight and used the time to have a nice breakfast. (We were travelling on Air Miles, hence the need to connect through Ottawa. It seemed like no big deal at the time.)

We boarded the flight on time and then . . . it all went south.

A problem with the brakes. We'll be on our way in 15 minutes. Then an hour. Then everyone off the plane.

Stay tuned. This is about 10a. By 3p, they were still holding out hope for the passengers on the Flight of the Damned.

At 4:30p they cancelled flight 674.

I had already made the best alternate booking I could for a party of four.

Which was we had to fly BACK to Toronto and catch a 840p flight to Halifax. Remember, we were up at 415a to get ready for the day.

This flight departed Toronto late, wheels up at 920p. We got to Halifax shortly after 1230a Friday ADT. The full-size rental car I reserved had been "upgraded" to a Jeep Compass. Someone missed the memo on the dimensions of the Arnold-King family and our luggage.

But God bless Air Canada, they think of everything.

Knowing we would never get all four suitcases into the little Jeep, our national flag carrier conveniently failed to deliver one bag to Halifax -- Laura's, of course. Only one of the four of us actually cares about how she looks and it's her.

We finally got to our friends' home in Halifax at about 115a.

As Laura says, there are friends and then there are good friends. Friends who wait up til you get there and hand you a beer. Friends who bake the birthday cakes for my dad's party the next day, which we were going to do but couldn't because Air Canada wouldn't let us use the galley.

We left Halifax Saturday night and drove to Cape Breton. Sunday we loaded up on provisions and parkas for our five nights in the highlands.

I cut the grass on my in-laws' property, which is akin to saying I removed all the lumber from the BC interior. It's a big job.

Laura weeded gardens and organized the supplies for the cabin.

I think the boys are here somewhere. I haven't seen either of them in days.

Right now a cold rain is falling over East Bay of the Bras d'Or, and shortly we'll embark on the next leg of the journey.

If it stops raining there will be photos, and maybe even a video.

For now, I would be ever so grateful if you would stop what you're doing, stand up and turn around on the spot three times and clap your hands over your head while saying "rain, rain, go away."

I'm not sure it will help. But it can't hurt.

- - -

My dad's party was brilliant. We all laughed hard. At one point Laura suggested she and my sisters' husbands -- all three of them Capers -- run and escape while they could.

Luckily they didn't. It was a lot of fun.

 - - -

Minor Oaks Hockey is pressing ahead with plans to make all "red" house league divisions from Novice through Midget

"Select" for the coming year.

The net benefit of this move, if it can be called a benefit, is to allow the older age groups to continue body contact -- full checking, etc.--*

But there are problems with this plan, not the least of which is that rosters for all Select-level teams have to be final before the teams can play a single game.

So that means no balancing. If a coach selects a weak team, well, apparently that becomes his problem for the next six months. Never mind if the kids previously known as house leaguers have to suffer a dismal season, but there will not be balancing.

Also, I have a well-dog-eared copy of the MOHA playing regulations covering everything from fixed playing structure to goalie substitutions.

If there's a document for our new Select universe, I haven't seen it yet.

Playing Devil's advocate, do you think some coaches will be tossing aside the old fixed-playing structure of house league days in favor of, um, playing the best players in order to win?

Hey. It's Select hockey. Not House League.

What did you think you were signing up for? Suck it up, kid.

* -- Disclaimer. I have one kid left in MOHA and he'll be playing midget white. It doesn't matter to me one way or the other personally if MOHA declares House League Red to be minor pro.


Aug 4, 2011

Air travel is so glamourous.

Air travel on points is even more so.

And air travel, on points, in summer is glam like the Oscars.

Up at 445a to get to the airport for 6a for a 7a flight to Ottawa to catch a connection to Halifax.

Everything was fine until we entered Ottawa airspace.

The brakes on the plane that is supposed to take us to Halifax don't work -- actually, they work too well. They won't let the plane move. So, as the pilot said, bad news-good news.

The bad news is they have to replace the part. The good news is the part is already in Ottawa.

We were supposed to be in Halifax before lunch. We'll be doing well to be there for early dinner. (Or, supper as they say in Windsor Junction.)

Summer air travel. Glamourous like head lice.

My boys zone out in the Ottawa departure lounge . . .



Aug 3, 2011

Finally, rain.

Not to be one to wish away the hot, humid, and parched summer conditions but it was a comfort last night to wake to the sound of a long, steady, soaking rain falling loud enough to drown out the air conditioner.

I am not a guy who obsesses over my lawn. If I can keep it within some range of green I'm happy. I don't like spending my money pouring water on the ground. But the last few weeks have sorely tested even my resolve, so I was happy that we finally got some rain.

- - -

Our visitors from Halifax left early this morning. It was a great visit that included a dinner party and a dinner out, and lots of laughs.

A sign of a great friendship is when you don't have to spend a lot of time on formalities, you just pick up where you left off the last time and away you go.

After the six of us got back from dinner, the boys showed our friends some of their skills on guitar, and then we sat out back on the patio and enjoyed a warm, but not uncomfortable, summer evening.

The good news -- or maybe bad news if you don't like Oakville invasions -- is that we'll see them tomorrow in Halifax.

- - -

Yes, it's true. Our first "all-in" family vacation in two years.

The big guy is looking forward to seeing his grandparents for the first time in 24 months, but he would also like to keep training at the pace to which he is accustomed. His time on the injury shelf hasn't dulled his ambitions much, in fact it's pretty much had the opposite effect. But mama bear was firm on this decision: we all going on vacation, to the same place, at the same time, together.

That suits Chris just fine. This will be his third trip the Nova Scotia since March and all I can say is thank goodness for Aeroplan and Air Miles.

We've made the usual arrangements for a house sitter to move in while we're gone -- impoverished students are easily placated with a full fridge, access to a car and HD television.

Our itinerary will include a few days around Halifax, then off to Cape Breton for a week of just of the four of us, with some pop-in visits from relatives, followed by a few days with Laura's folks on the shores of East Bay.

Family in the east have warned me that the weather there is considerably cooler and wetter than we've had.

I can't say that is scaring me off too much.

- - -

One of my most loyal readers hailed us across the canyons of the Home Depot on the weekend -- we were in search of hardware to repair a lamp (we ended up buying two new lamps) and he was preparing to do battle with nesting wasps.

I'm happy to report that he claims to have survived the mano-a-mano confrontation.

He also passed along a link to an interesting blog being authored by folks having more fun than most of us are this summer.

The Open Road Project is a cross-Canada adventure by five young men committed to seeing Canada and, in their words, committing random acts of kindness.

It's an interesting adventure, made all the more so by their mode of transportation (1979 GMC Vanguard).

The blog is a fun read, never dull, and a reminder of the joy of youth.

Click here to read it.

- - -

Speaking of the joy of youth, the smartest person in our house celebrates another birthday today.

The old Rod Stewart song says "you're ageless, timeless; grace and fineness; you're beauty and elegance."

Also a terrific mother and gifted journalist and editor.

And, she can cook.

Happy birthday!