Saturday, July 21, 2012

Side Tracked

Thar be Pirates in Gananoque. Arrrrrr

Gananoque was holding its annual Pirate Festival, complete with a Captain Jack look alike contest and it just seemed like the perfect day to go spend some time by the water and enjoy all the fun.  I decided, since we were heading to an area that we don't get to all that often, I would download a few geocaches along the way.  It just seemed in keeping with a day with pirates, since pirates and treasures seem to go together.

Off we went and when we got to Crosby we discovered that their flee market was in full swing. Well, hey, treasure can be found at a place like that too, so we stopped and had a look around.  Before we were done, we had purchased three things.  If we had been heading for home, we would likely have left even more money there.  But some things just don't keep well in a hot car all day, so we'll just have to make a point of going back there before the season is over.

From there I noticed that there were some geocaches off to the right, and figured they were at the various locks nearby.  My satelight map somehow did not land on my GPS this time when I downloaded it, and though it showed up on my Base Camp program, the file could not be found even with a computer search, so I could not transfer it.  That meant we were pretty well flying blind.  My GPS has a basic map but if you go off a main highway none of the other roads show up on the screen. 

We followed the road to Davis Locks.  By the time we got there I thought we were actually driving around the lake, as we were driving away from the posted geocaches.  The road turned out to be a dead end when we got to the locks.  Still, it was a lovely spot, and very popular on this beautiful day.

By this time we were well aware that it was too hot to go to Gananoque and walk around all afternoon.  On our journey back to the main road we saw a sign pointing us to Chaffey's Mills. There are locks there too, so we took that road. Once more, I was amazed to discover we were headed away from the geocaches.  By this time we were getting hungry and thirsty so we found a little general store that served sandwiches and burgers. We had the latter along with a bag of chips and some soft drinks.  That helped refuel us for more explorations. 

Once we had thoroughly explored this location we decided to go through Forfar and head over to Athens.  It seems they had a tornado earlier this week.  There was lots of evidence of trees being snapped off and uprooted.  We saw a couple of garages that had definitely been hit by falling trees.  Most of the downed trees had been cleaned up, but not all of them.  There was one still leaning on a house. 

From there we headed for home, stopping to pick up a few groceries and a cooked chicken along the way.  It was not the day we had originally planned. We never did get to Gananoque, see any pirates, or even go looking for geocaching treasures.  Still, it turned out to be a perfect day and the treasures we found were the sights we saw.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Free Time Does Not Equal Boredom

A few days ago I posted this on my facebook page.  While most people seemed to agree with me (it got many likes and was shared several times) someone else suggested that teenagers need entertainment from time to time.  A bored teenager is just trouble waiting to happen, apparently. 

This got me thinking back to my own teen years.  I lived on an air force base, well away from anything resembling a city.  There was a movie theatre there, and we had "Teen Town" dances once a week, but there were no other organized activities for us. Yet somehow, I never suffered from boredom.

My friends basically hung out at my place most evenings. We would listen to AM radio and just talk.  Other than that, we would go for walks and ride our bikes to a nearby beach. We would attend school dances that happened occasionally throughout the year. That was a bigger deal than teen town as we tended to get dressed up for the school dances. We weren't bored. We were enjoying each other's company.

Kids today are over scheduled.  Both parents have to work these days, just to make ends meet, so the kids are commonly shuffled off to day care at a very early age.  Then they find themselves in Kindergarten a few years later.  In my day you were at least 5 before you were in this sort of regimented environment.  Today's kids have scheduled times to do things at a much earlier age, and when they don't have a scheduled activity to take part in, they no longer seem to know what to do with themselves.

I think unscheduled time is extremely good for all of us. It gives us time to dream and experiment and even invent. We're all capable of amusing ourselves if someone doesn't give us the notion, at a very early age, that we have to be entertained by something outside of ourselves.

Things have changed over the past few generations.  There was no TV in my mother's day. I heard stories of her digging her fingers deep into the wool on sheep as she tried to ride on them.  She had a pet crow who could talk, and her dog used to go to school with her, and even lay at her feet in the classroom.  They played Cowboys and Indians with real BB guns.  She even shot her own mother with one once.  My Nana was playing with the kids and they were quiet so long that she thought they were gone and so she stood up from behind the rock where she had been hiding and POW!

In my own childhood we amused ourselves by putting on theatrical productions for my grandmother when she visited.  We even created a Circus a couple of times, complete with a parade, a gypsy fortune teller and games where you dropped pennies into a tub of water. Participants could win candy prizes if they managed to get one into a submerged cup. We were even fortunate enough to have a friend whose father had a cotton candy machine, and he would cooperate with us when we had a circus..  When we were not busy with big productions like that, we created a mail system where we wrote and delivered each other little notes. There was no e-mail or texting back then, of course, but the idea was the same.  We played in the woods and built forts and climbed trees, and if we wanted some extra money we knocked on doors and offered to clean people's basement windows. We played marbles and games like Red Rover and  hopscotch. We played Cowboys and Indians too, but we had cap pistols.  And when we did get a pellet gun, we were told not to shoot at anything live.  TV was something new and there were only a few channels back then. We were outside until the sun when down and we never looked to our parents to find us something to do. They would have found us some chores.

My own kids also spent time outside with their friends. They had a more defined boundary than I did, but they were still out there someplace, out of sight and often in the woods.  They didn't play Cowboys and Indians anymore. It was more like a game of war or something.  They were still shooting at one another, but since not all kids were allowed to have even  toy guns anymore, some of them just picked up a stick and pretended.  There were major arguements about whether the imaginary bullets hit the intended targets or not. This generation grew up with TV so sometimes it was hard to get the cartoons turned off and get them moving on weekends. There was swimming lessons in the summer, and things like soccer, bowling and karate were also available, but not everyone took part, and if they did, they usually only got involved in one or two things.

Today we seldom see a child outdoors, let alone unsupervised.  Not only are children now shepherded to and from school, they are always indoors, or under the watchful eye of some adult. There are all kinds of organized sports and other activities for them to take part in, and most of them know more about how to operate a multitudes of electronic devices that fascinate them to the point that they hardly move at all.  School is out now, and while the streets and woods would have been full of kids in past generations, it is eerily quiet out there now.

I feel sorry for today's children. They don't get the same chance to run and play freely as we did. They don't get to make up games and find innovative ways to amuse themselves. They rely on adults and electronic devices to keep them busy.  I'm thankful my own grandchildren have a cottage to go to, where they can explore nature and daydream from time to time. 

There have been many great inventors in this country. Our modern life would not be what it is if it had not been for them. But if our current crop of children do not get some unscheduled time to explore their world and have time to dream, they will never be able to work out how to do the things they dream of.  These are our future inventors. They need time and freedom to become creative.   I'd like to see today's adults take a step back, and let that happen. 

If kids have a chance to learn to amuse themselves when they are little, they continue to be able to do that throughout their lives.  Intelligent people are not usually bored , but I sure see how that might happen if a mind isn't given the chance to experience some unscheduled time and learn what might be done with it from an early age onward.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Latest Technology

Seven years ago I started to wear a hearing aid.  Even then, it was likely over due. But the darn things don't last as long as you would think, given the price, and though I got a couple more years than expected, the old one finally died just before Christmas.  Oh yes, I have been driving people mad by asking them to repeat things ever since.  As I said, they are not cheap and there were other places to spend the money but since I could no longer stand not to know what the people around me were talking about, I finally went and got a new one this week.

I was told that the technology had changed a lot since I got my last one. In fact I was even warned that the new technology might be too much for me.  So, while I was very excited to be going to get the new assistive device, I was also a bit worried about what they meant by that statement.

My old unit was a good one. It had a wee button on it that let me adjust the sound to get rid of background noise, and it was also supposed to be adjustable so that it would work with the phone. Well, I never did get it to work with the phone, though I had it adjusted a couple of times because of that. I ended up listening on the phone with my right ear, so I had to hold it there with my left hand if I had to write anything down. Awkward, but at least I could still hear on the phone. 

Yes, in case you are wondering, I am supposed to wear two hearing aids, but I guess it's a good thing I only accepted one, or I never would have been able to use the phone at all. 

The old unit also came with a little remote control, so I could adjust the volume.  I only ever used it if I was at a play, or in a restaurant. Then I would get rid of the background noise and boost the volume.  That worked very well for me.  The other setting on that remote put the whole unit into automatic mode. That means it would adjust itself, as needed, as I went from one environment to another.   I found that to be very annoying as it had a slight delay and usually changed as I was leaving the new environment and passing on to another one that it was no longer set up for.  I gave up on that option shortly after I got the first hearing aid.

This new aid has that little button and a remote too, but it has a few interesting differences.  I don't need to set it up to use it on the phone. It changes settings on it's own, both when you start to use the phone and when you stop. It senses that all by itself.  Other than that, there is still a little button on the unit that gets rid of background noises, and has another setting for wind!  That surprised me, as when I got the first hearing aid, I was told these little computers don't like wind.  This new one has a wind shield and with this new setting, I might actually hear people I walk with on windy days. I'll get to test that out this week.  My fingers are crossed for that to work!

The main difference with this unit is that it sends me signals as to what it's doing.  It will play me a little tune when it first turns on, so I know it's up and running. It will tell me in words, what mode I'm in as I change from on to another. Yes, it talks to me!  It will even tell me when the battery is about to die.  If I mess around with the volume control on the remote control to much, and loose track of what setting I have it on, I can reset it by hitting the Home button, but if I still don't think that it's set to the original mode or volume, then I can open and close the battery door three times and it will reset everything, or, if it can't, it will actually tell me, "Make an Appointment!" 

I've been wearing it since Friday morning when I got it.  It doesn't have too much technology for me, and I'm still not sure what they meant by that.  I'm doing fine, and so happy to be back in the world of the living.  I was almost in tears one night last week as I sat in the home of some friends while they had a good visit with my hubby. I couldn't hear my friend, who was sitting right beside me on the left. I couldn't hear my hubby who was sitting on the opposite side of the room. I could only hear the person on my right, and he didn't do much of the talking.  Not being able to hear is not fun!  Last night we were at a little dinner party with two other couples, and even though it was outside on the patio, I had  no trouble hearing at all.  I'll be needing a slight fit adjustment, but otherwise I'm quite happy with this new unit.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Muskoka Geocaching Holiday

We have just come back from our holidays. This year we decided to go on a geocaching adventure so I picked an area that I thought would be nice to explore. Then I downloaded the maps and the geocaches within 5 km of our planned route onto my Garmin Dakota 20 GPS.  That gave me 500 caches to choose from when we hit the area.  The route I chose was between Huntsville and Orillia, Ontario but that doesn't mean we necessarily intended to cover all of it.

We stopped for breakfast at a place called The Cupboard, in Arnprior.  I highly recommend that place. The food was plentiful and tasty, and very reasonably priced. I'm sure we'll go back there again sometime.

We saw two deer on the road before we got to Algonquin Park, but no wildlife as we drove through. I had booked a room at the Comfort Inn at Huntsville before we left home, and it was definitely a good place to land when we finally arrived.  We had only ever  been to Huntsville once before and that had to be about 15 years ago.  It's a pretty little town with lots of hills and a river running through it.  After a bit of a rest, we turned on the GPS and checked to see where the nearest caches were, then off we went.  I wasn't so determined to pick up all the caches as I was to see the sites the listings brought us to, so it didn't bother me that we drove by some and didn't find some of the others.
One of the ones we didn't find was up at the Lion's Club lookout point.  Heck, it was hard enough to just find that!  We had been up there on our previous visit, but the road was much better marked at that time. This time we had to ask numerous people before we found someone who actually knew where we should turn off to get t here.  There was a lady from England up there reading. She was really enjoying our Canadian weather, she said. 

Geocaching helps you find all the interesting spots the locals want to point out that may not be in the tourist brochures. Huntsville  not only has a river, but it also has locks.  A pretty place, much like home.  But unlike at home, there were no boats as the locks had not been opened for the season yet. We found that strange as there are certainly a lot of boats on the Rideau at this time of year.

Then there was the boardwalk over the bay, creating a short cut for the waterside trail.  We never would have found this if it had not been for geocaching.

As we were driving to our next location along highway 11, I noticed there was a clump of geocaches off the main road, near some water. I mentioned that, and my hubby said that here was an exit coming up. I suggested he take that exit, and I'm so glad he did.  That's how we discovered Port Sydney.  Now, if I were to build a cottage somewhere, this would be the perfect spot.  We found caches along a roadside trail, at the beach, and on a woodland trail. We also found kids in a tree near the beach.  We had to be careful that they didn't see us looking for the cache nearby.

We went to the dam to look for another one, but there was too much metal and it kept screwing up the headings on the GPS.  That's okay as the site was the best treasure we found on the entire trip. 

Below the dam we saw some kids climb a pine tree, walk out along the branches while clinging to the branch above them and then plunging into the water below.  After they swam around in the deep water there, they went a bit downstream and used the rushing water to slide over the rocks.  I could have sat there all day and just watched them.

We went on to Gravenhurst for the night.  There we found the docks at one end of town and a beach with a bandstand at the other side of town.  The main problem with Gravenhurst is that it needs more decent places to eat. 

After visiting their farmer's market the next morning, we headed for for Bracebridge.  On our first trip to this area we managed to find a huge rocky lookout that I had seen in a brochure. We had to ask many people where that was, but finally found it. The trail across the rock back then was marked with painted arrows. We had to stand on one to see the next one. We were not sure if that "trail" made a loop, or how far it went. As it was late in the day and very difficult to see the arrows for a reverse trip, since some of them where on the downside of a dip, we decided it was not a good time to venture too far.  I doubt that it would be good to be caught up there at night, or in a storm.

This time I saw at least 4 mentions of Huckleberry Rock in the brochures. I was not sure if it was the same rock, but figured it would at least be similar. Think of the Group of Seven and the paintings or wind blown pines on a rocky surface done by Tom Thomson. I'm sure he sat up there and did those.

It was the same rock. We just came at it from a different angle. There is now a canyon cut through this rock, and you can walk up to the edge of that and look down if you like.  This rock is the oldest on the planet, and absolutely huge.  I'm so glad we were able to find it more easily this time. 

When we were finished walking around on the rock we went back to Bracebridge. There are a number of caches along trails leading to the waterfall in the middle of town.  I know we never saw that last time we were there, so once again, geocaching is a great way to find the local sites. 

If you are looking at a map you may notice we are backtracking. We had decided to go back to Huntsville for another night, before heading home.  While there a waiter asked if we had been up to the Dorset Lookout Tower. We hadn't heard about that, but it was not far off our route on the way home, so we did make the scenic side trip.  This tower is 100 feet tall, and because it stands on another rocky outcrop, it looms 365 feet above the Lake of the Bays.  Not everyone makes it to the very top.  You have to climb the stairs, and while the ones closer to the bottom go up the centre of the tower, the upper flights spiral around the outside of it, which can feel a little spooky. 

It was a long trip home but we did stop in Eganville for our final meal on the road.  It was a  nice trip and we certainly picked a great area to go exploring.