Biking to the Islands #2

When I went to the Toronto Islands last week, I didn’t have much time to bike around beyond Ward’s Island, but did want to get the chance to go further, and poke around Centre Island – a place pretty much overrun with people on summer weekends.

I hadn’t been to Centre Island for over 50 years(!), except for one memorable blues festival in 1974 which featured Son House‘s last public performance, plus the great Johnny Otis and Roy Buchanan among others. (Just found a terrific video from the early 70’s of Johnny with son Shuggie playing with Buchanan. Video quality is bad, but the music is great!)

The weather forecast for tomorrow is snow, but today was another gorgeous January day, temperature a few degrees below freezing, sun shining and not a cloud to be seen.

A perfect day for biking.

Co-incidentally, while on the island, I came across a couple of tweets from Sean Marshall (@SeanYYZ) about the islands.  One tweeted a link to an article on the Spacing website, “Exploring “downtown” Centreville in the winter: A ghost town in more ways than one” about the history of the Islands, as a once bustling (relatively speaking) residential community. The other tweet linked to a post on Sean’s website about his day biking the Islands last December.

Besides Centre Island, I looked forward to the fun of ferrying through the ice there and back, watching the ice split and move away from the boat, and then gather back together after we passed, all accompanied by a great ice-crunching sound track.

While buying my ticket, I got into a conversation with the ticket collector about what a beautiful day it was, and how much I enjoyed the icy trip across the bay. She told me she has worked there for 27 years, but has never taken the ferry to the Islands! She said she knew she had to one day, and I told her to make sure she did.

A one minute clip, to the island and back:

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January biking in Toronto

When I decided to retire at the end of December last year, I briefly thought that wouldn’t be a good time of year, as I planned to use some of my free time for biking around Toronto. But (knock on wood), as long as we don’t have the constant snow/ice/Arctic temperatures of last winter, I figure I’ll be ready to explore Toronto on bike in the cold.

So far, it’s been great. I bought some good winter biking gear from two of my favourite bike shops (Sweet Pete’s and Urbane Cyclist), replaced the lights that some lowlife stole recently(!), and since I retired just before Christmas, I’ve traveled a lot more kilometers by bike than by car.

Here, a few photos and one short video from the past week:

Monday, I took a ride to check out the spiffy new cleaned-up Union Station. Thursday, a gorgeous, sunny day just a few degrees below zero, I took a quick trip over to Ward’s Island, my first winter trip to the Toronto islands. It was great fun watching (and listening to) the ferry grind through the ice (already broken by an icebreaker), but the chunks would come together again after we passed through.

On the way to Ward’s… (Note: click icon in bottom right for full screen)

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Photos from Monday & Thursday (click for larger image; click left or right to scroll through pics)


A Christmas time to remember

Posted Christmas Day (with a Boxing Day update)

Click thumbnails for larger images

The great Toronto ice storm of 2013 left us in the dark (and cold) for about 43 hours, from 9 am Sunday (Dec. 22) until about 4 am on Christmas Eve.  At the peak, there were 300,000 homes in Toronto without electricity or heat, just as some terribly cold weather approached. We had already gone through a 46-hour blackout in July following that month’s “Great Flood” Toronto had experienced. One lesson we learned from that time was to not keep a lot of food in the freezer! We threw out a lot of spoiled food last summer; a lot less this time around.

If our dark and cold house wasn’t enough of a connection with the problems Toronto was experiencing, we had a fallen hydro lying on the road right in front of our house. Falling tree branches pulled it down on Sunday, severing the house across the road from us from the main electrical feed. (Which of course was dead at the time). A police car sat on our street most of the day blocking the street in case anyone touched the completely dead electric wire. The car left, but the street was blocked off with police tape.


Below: Police guard a dead (for now) hydro wire. We had emergency supplies stockpiled

A hydro wire came down Sunday. Emergency Rations


We watched (and our cats, Ethel and Charlie experienced) the dropping of temperature in the house hour by hour. Sunday night, many on our block gathered in a house across the road to enjoy a fireplace, candles and wine. By Monday, some were moving out, to stay with friends and family who had heat and power. We decided to hold off one more day; moving would be traumatic for the cats, and we thought we could survive one more night. Monday night, we went around the corner to a neighbourhood restaurant, Classico, for dinner. The owner also filled up our hot watter bottle. Back home, Charlie and I sat by the fire, while Ethel crawled under the covers and against the hot water bottle. (She stayed near it all night, as we all huddled together in the bed, with plenty of covers).

xmas-freeze_ch-fire-w xmas-freeze_w-bottle-w


I woke up about 4:30am. I knew what time it was because the electric clock told me. Santa had come a day early! I went to the basement to make sure the furnace and hot water heater had come on (they had). I checked the thermostat: 8C — but climbing! How happy all of us were. Soon, the cats settled in in one of their favourite places in winter — on top of the living room radiator. They didn’t move for a long time…


Now, on Christams Day, there are still tens of thousands of homes without power or heat, as crews work around the clock to clear trees, fix wires and restore hydro. We certainly appreciate — once again — having a warm and bright home, especially for Christmas.

Today, a hydro worker showed up to disable the downed hydro line on the street. The house it had come from was the only one on our block which didn’t get power back on Tuesday. Our neighbours moved out that day to stay somewhere with heat. We understand they should get power back sometime tonight.

Below: a couple of other photos from our power-less days.
– Our 1940’s-era Northern Electric phone came through for the second time during a blackout
– Our Ukrainian and Canadian flags in the ice storm.

Once again, our 1940's Northern Electric phone came through during a blackout. Our Ukrainian and Canadian flags in the ice and snow


Boxing Day update…

The original worker yesterday didn’t remove the downed wire. This morning I discovered he’d just looped it up, and stored it safely (!) on our property, covered in much yellow police tape.

Live wire tied up on our yard.

About 11:30 this morning, a crew showed up. They re-attached the wire and restored power to our neighbour’s house.

Onward into winter…

Hi-tech (1940’s version) to the rescue

As of this time, we’ve been without electricity in our neighbourood (Swansea) for 41 hours and counting, courtesy of the great 2013 Toronto rain & floods.

This morning we put out our green bin with the first installment of ruined food from fridge & freezers.

Depending on cell phones for communication and internet is a challenge without power to charge them.  Our home phones were useless, but fortunately, our classic 1940’s Northern Electric rotary dial classic works perfectly on our landline.

One of these phones is working. Which?

One of these phones is working. Which?