A somewhat belated Happy New Year to you all.
I trust you all had a Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year.
I think Jerry Seinfeld might have been on to something when he simply called it “Festivus''.
Today's epistle may not have a lot to do with cars, but I deserve to be cut some slack due to what has happened over the past couple of weeks.
We 'won' Christmas last year. All our sprogs and their Significant Others were at Kenzie World Headquarters; we had a tree and everything.
This year, it was looking like Lady Leadfoot, me and some cats. Everyone else was somewhere else, ranging from Chesley to Whitehorse to Canberra Australia.
No point in roasting a turkey for two. We were thinking of splitting a 12-inch turkey club from Subway around a roaring fire.
Then the lights went out.
Saturday evening before Christmas.
Trying to sleep with shotgun blasts every few minutes as trees and branches crashed to the ground.
No heat, no light, only the water that was in our storage tank, plus some drinking water we always keep on hand for just such an emergency.
No clue as to when power would come back. Estimates that it would be as much as a week proved accurate - Friday evening after Christmas for us.
So much for Festivus.
We did enjoy the irony of living in our adult child's basement - our daughter Laura's townhouse in Guelph. Her roommates, fellow U of Guelph students, were all away for the holidays so there was lots of room.
To complete the trope, I did play some video games...
Here's a shot of the main damage chez Kenzie World Headquarters. The big branch fell off a tree to the right of the barn, bounced off the barn roof (you can just see a bit of damage to the fascia board on the upper part of this photo, with the 'scar' from the tree from which the branch fell). It pinned the Dodge Journey test car, and punched a hole in the Miata's roof.
Initially, it looked as if the Dodge broke the fall of the tree so the Miata was not more badly hit! But amazingly, the Journey did not appear to be damaged at all.
Further examination once the debris was cleared showed two holes in the Miata roof, and the hood lightly dinged.
Could have been a lot worse.
Don't worry - the Hornet was IN the barn.
The barn roof needs to be re-shingled anyway, and some of the roof sheathing replaced, so it won't be much more expensive for the roofer to fix the fascia board too.
We don't know what it would have cost for an arborist to clean up the fallen trees and branches. But Bill Gardiner, our Motoring TV mechanic, texted me out of the blue and asked if I needed someone with a chain saw. Well, yes...
He said he much preferred to do that than help his wife take down their Christmas decorations. So, come on over!
On New Year's Eve day we cut up all the trees and branches that were in the driveway, yard or over the pool.
Stuff that fell in the woods stayed in the woods.
There is one big birch branch still leaning against both our power line and phone line - we were afraid to touch that one for fear of causing more damage, but it will have to be dealt with eventually.
Our beautiful little Christmas tree lies on the deck, as undecorated as the day Lady Leadfoot bought it.
Beside it sits a face cord of firewood. Maybe we will have to buy that wood stove after all.
We were actually luckier than some of our 'better-prepared' neighbours. Some of them heat with wood - one even had a propane feed to his barbecue, so that's how their turkey dinner got cooked.
(Subway was closed Christmas Day by the time we got to it, so we nuked leftover pizza...).
But those who weren't clever enough to put perishables outside or in their garages lost much of the contents of their fridges and freezers.
Our house stayed cold enough that nothing was affected.
OK, so the cats were a bit cranky. We checked on them every day, but they were fine. We couldn't take them with us because Laura has four of her own.
Our neighbours two doors down had just installed a big generator so they were OK - except a fallen tree knocked out their power and phone lines, and Hydro/Bell don't fix that. He somehow managed to find an electrician - he knows people, but you know those guys got a bit of an extra Christmas present this year... - but he needed to get some parts so they weren't back on line until three days after us.
A Christmas we won't soon forget - unfortunately...
We've never had anything remotely like this in 40 years out here. Given that they KNEW an ice storm was coming you wonder why they weren't better prepared.
Some back-up service people we heard from who came in from places like London, Listowel and even Winnipeg said they weren't contacted until Tuesday, by which time the full extent of the damage was well-known.
Sure, the service people probably got triple time and a half.
We thank them for their tremendous service at a very awkward time of year.
But emergency planning obviously needs to be re-thought. Some areas of Toronto were power-free for even longer than us in the boonies.
Our roads out here are barely clear even now. There are still big trees leaning on poles and wires.
Another foot of 'global warming' sits in my driveway as I type; I can barely imagine the added loads on the remaining trees.
It was interesting to observe traffic during the blackout. For the most part, people seemed to understand that uncontrolled intersections were to be treated as four-way stops. Everyone stops; whoever gets there first goes first; tie goes to the car on the right (easy to remember - 'right' of way...).
But you had to be careful. All it would take is one guy not playing nice and you'd have a Big Time crash, with limited emergency services to help you out.
Another aspect of driving under these conditions - we just aren't used to seeing obstructions that have fallen across the road. It wasn't a matter of only looking well down the road, but also of looking up, to see if overhanging branches were going to bash into your windshield.
Road crews couldn't keep up; I must have cleared a dozen big branches off our sideroad myself.
Long after the ice had melted off the trees, they were still falling; I guess they had been weakened, and another stiff breeze was the camel-back-breaking straw.
We have had a couple of minor power outages since.
But the worst seems behind us now.
The joys of rural living!
Or urban living, for that matter...
Next week, what Astronaut Extraordinaire Chris Hadfield can teach us about driving, right here on Earth.