Once upon a time, standing in line waiting to pay for my weekly groceries was the most frustrating waste of time imaginable.  Waiting.  Waiting.  No matter which line I choose, it’s the wrong one.  I love listening to the cashier’s idle chit chat.  Or better:  listening to the patron in front of me idly chit chatting WITH the cashier.  I am totally up to speed now following a stimulating debate on the merits of a proposed new stop light at South Riverand Main Streets.  I hadn’t realized the crimes of those responsible for the escalating price of blueberries.  I would have something enlightening to add but for the fact that I was totally engrossed in what new heights of drama trap Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.  As my turn finally comes, I strategically place my groceries on the belt:  frozen foods first, followed by dairy, then pantry items, fruits and veg, with bread and eggs taking up the rear (okay, don’t judge me).  The teenagers don’t always bag them according to my established template, but they are learning to follow my instructions which I offer very patiently, given the constructive time I’ve now spent in line.

Now, another new level of frustration is rapidly encroaching upon my ever-so-ample free time:  the “dead” time I face when dealing with my computer!  I cannot believe the amount of time I spend upgrading browsers, downloading files, and installing new programs onto my computer.  It seems to take – as my daughter would say – forEVER!  I’m always optimistic that the computer is being honest with me as it reassuringly informs me “This might take a few moments…”  Then, I obediently sit there, doing nothing, but watch that ubiquitous little bar inch its way s l o w l y .from left to right.  I would have finished my memoir by now if not for the time computer is unavailable to me!!  After a few more wasted precious moments (see? the computer was lying), I start to second guess myself:  I probably just installed a virus, didn’t I?  This new program or website is now having a feeding frenzy on my hard drive, isn’t it?  I pray that little red X icon doesn’t appear signaling an epic fail in my attempt to be totally up to speed.  And how about that pleasant time spending trying to determine why, for no apparent reason, the internet goes down.  Suddenly.  Without warning.  In the middle of a critical email to a my daughter’s 6th Grade teacher about her overdue library book fine (clearly her older brothers never signed a single book out of their middle school library as I was not even aware middles school libraries charged overdue book fines)!!

This, of course, prompts new heights of wasted while I misdiagnosing my internet connectivity issues.  That poor soul on the end of the Customer Care line has spent four years in a post secondary computer engineering program in order to sagaciously guide me through the following highly technical instructions:  unplug your modem, wait 30 seconds, plug it back in, and try again.  Hey, what do you know?!  He was right!  Damn, if that wasn’t four years well spent.  And the four years he spent at university were also probably constructive.  However, this seems to do the trick, 90% of the time.  So I can now quickly get back to that upgrade I need off the internet…

Still downloading …

Still checking for updates …

Still installing…

Still finishing set-up…

Then, I get the ultimate message signaling success, but that somehow only sets me further over the edge, potentially requiring medication: 

“Please restart your computer now…”

Is it ok to wear pyjamas to the grocery store? I really want to know.  Will ‘sleepwear as street wear’ become the next fashion passion for all as Lorraine Duffy Merkl of East Side Our Town writes (and I mean not just for teenagers since mine have also decided pj bottoms are de rigeur on the teenage catwalk)?


It was the Tuesday after a long weekend.  We’d just returned from a phenomenal long weekend away with my extended family.  We ate, we drank, we peed our pants laughing, we pulled a few muscles and strained a few ligaments scaling down mountains, and all the while my mom systematically wrote each one of us out of her last will and testament… you know … typical family weekend.

The Tuesday after a long weekend-back-to-work/back-to-school is always painful.  I was tired.  I was cranky.  The cupboard was bare.  One of the dogs had fertilized the white living room carpet – probably the result of his feral weekend at the frat house-for-hounds (aka kennel).  Though I was the last one home, the contributions were still there – just the pungent aroma I needed after a long-Tuesday- at-work- after-a-long-weekend.  Everyone, including the dogs, was complaining about homework and hunger.  “There’s plenty of food in the house,” I shot back “just no more junk food. See?”  I yanked open the frig door.  They were right.  There was no food in the house.  The frig was empty.  I gave them all a granola bar and told them to hang on … help was on its way.

“Feed the dogs!” I yell, as I run up to change.  “Fed them yesterday!” was the reply I got.  “Funny, I fed you yesterday too,” I reminded her.   “And see?  You’re hungry again!”  Eyes rolling, she fed the dogs.

As I changed out of my work clothes, making my mental grocery list, I wondered – as I peered over the mountain of dirty laundry – could I get away with going to the grocery store in my pyjamas?  IT WOULD BE SO EASY!  It was the only thing I really wanted to wear!  I thought of all the summertime boaters I’d seen all summer traipsing through the store in their bathing suits.  To a few of those, I should have offered my bathrobe.  It would have been a sympathetic gesture for all humanity.  They wouldn’t care.  Or all the trades people I’d seen quickly running in after work in their overall and muddy work boots.  They wouldn’t notice.  I used to take the boys to the bus stop in my pyjamas when my daughter was still an infant.  I was wearing snow pants and a jacket, mind you, but the bus driver didn’t seem care. 

I ask you, who would care?  My friends would not care.  No, it’s not likely they’d drop a jar of pickles at the sight of me in the middle of aisle four.  Heck, they’d take one look at me, tuck a carton of dulce de leche Haagen Dazs in my cart and soothe me:  “There, there, dear.  Don’t worry.  It’s a short week!  Friday is on its way.”  How noticeable would little ol’ me be in my flannel snowflake ensemble with matching slippers?  So adorable. So cozy. So tempting.

So wrong.

THAT would be the day I would run into any of my kids’ teachers, and CAS would be on my doorstep the next day.

That would be the day I would run into any one of my husband’s clients, and we’d soon be eating canned ham.

THAT would be the day I run into one of my colleagues, and no one would make eye contact with me the rest of the week.

THAT would be the day, I run into any of my boys’ friends, and they would be the laughing stock of the cafeteria (though I can take comfort in knowing my daughter’s friends would simply assume that grown-ups have pyjama day at work too).

No, that did it.  I pulled on my jeans and a turtleneck sweater and marched off to the grocery store in some manner of civility and respect.

 Someone else will have to set the next food-shopping fashion fervour!


Author’s note:  Just for the record, I am NOT actually pictured anywhere here!

Yes indeed, this weekend would be Norman-Rockwell-picture-postcard-perfect.  I was looking forward to the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend with such bubbling enthusiasm that my poor siblings had to endure more than one email from me that began with “only # more sleeps!” until our reunion.  Imagine a vista where the slopes of the mountains were in their scorching splendour of furious reds, mellow yellows and vivid oranges, gentling protecting the beautiful Intrawest resort village of Mont Tremblant, Qc, Canada (about an hour north of Montreal).   Couple that venue with the crispness of a Fall morning that then gave way to uncharacteristically high daytime temperatures, transporting us all back into summertime mode (in fact, several heat records were broken on Sunday).  Then picture the cozy family campfire that transpired as the chilled night air returned.  Yes indeed, this weekend would be picture-postcard-perfect.


If you could take away the hike down the 875m mountain (2,871ft) on a trail called Le Bruler.  Translated, bruler means to burn, as in the knees, the quads, the calves, etc., as I quickly come to realize.


If you could take away that the younger generation effortlessly side-stepped shoe-sucking mud holes and gazelled from rock to rock.


If you could take away the image of the young father we passed heading down the mountain, while he was heading up with an infant in his front carrier and a toddler in his backpack carrier.  My sister couldn’t help muttering, “Show-off!” as she allowed him and his pre-school entourage to pass.


If you could take away the fact that the trail map suggested that Le Bruler was approximately a two-hour hike.  Never trust trail map approximations.  Three and a half hours later, I had made 2 frantic calls to my 74-year old mother back at base camp:  one to confirm we had acclimatized to the oxygen levels and were continuing our descent and one to coordinate lunch.


If you could take away the fact that due to this massive hiking expedition, Thanksgiving dinner took place at 10p – well passed the bedtimes of some of our younger guests (and mine, I might add)!


If you could take away the fact that the perfect homemade cranberry sauce (fresh cranberries, sugar, spices and a splash of Grand Marnier) never got served (but damn if that Grand Marnier didn’t go down good with 2k to go!).


If you discount the hydraulic patient hoist with which we all had to take turns the next morning to help us get out of bed, providing great inspiration to my niece aspiring to become a doctor (just not in geriatrics!).


If you could take away the unabated enthusiasm that surrounded the annual, traditional kids vs. parents football game.  Though my muscles begged for a forfeit, I endured my older brother’s Bluto-like soliloquy:  “’Over’? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!”  Alright, already (though I did manage to sneak off the field and participate as official photographer instead … laparoscopic surgery is postponed).


If you could take away the fact that the kids legitimately won and now hold bragging rights for an entire year.  And really!  Seriously.  What were we thinking?  They were all young teenage athletes, one of them playing high school varsity football!  There’ll be just no living with them, now (but wait!  I do need them to help me down these stairs!).




But really… would I really take away these little (ok, sometimes not so little) imperfections, entirely?  Approaching Martha Stewart standard, but never quite?  Will anyone actually remember these little blemishes?  Maybe.  But there are what makes us a family – and what moves us to make the effort to continue to gather annually from (presently) six different North American locations.  Maybe, not-so-perfect is a much better standard.

Yes, indeed this weekend was picture-postcard-almost-perfect.

Contract for Services Rendered

This agreement is made this day of Friday October 6, 2011 between Better Hockey Parent (hereinafter referred to as “the Provider”), having its principal place of business in Hockeyville, Canada and Ever-Growing-Lazy Hockey Parent (hereinafter referred to as “the Client”), having its principal place of business down the street from Hockeyville, Canada.

The Client hereby engages the Provider to provide services described herein under “Scope and Manner of Services.” The Provider hereby agrees to provide the Client with such services in exchange for consideration described herein under “Payment for Services Rendered.”

Scope and Manner of Services

Services to be rendered by Provider:

  1. Deliver by all means possible but legal, the appropriate hockey playing offspring to Saturday morning practice at designated time (0600) and specified location (see team website); and,
  2. Ensure all manner of protective equipment is available and appropriated engaged during aforementioned 0600 practice; and
  3. Return appropriate hockey playing offspring to principal place of residence following practice; or (if return time is estimated to be earlier than 0800h),
  4. Appropriately engage and supervise appropriate hockey playing offspring until the designated time of return.

Payment for Services Rendered by Client:

The Client agrees to pay the Provider for services rendered according to the Payment Schedule attached, within one (1) calendar day of the end of the 2011-2012 minor hockey season for services rendered from the Provider.

  1. Reimbursement for all Tim Horton’s coffee supply and required sustenance (i.e. donuts, Timbits, Red Bull) for aforementioned 0600 practice; and
  2. Provide necessary reasonable and customary reimbursement of all fees associated with required skate sharpening fees for the 2011-2012 hockey season (including any and all play-off games); and,
  3. Assume responsibility for all fundraising activities of offspring’s teammate for the 2011-2012 hockey season, including but not limited to
    1.  bottle drives,
    2. pumpkin sales,
    3.  raffles,
    4. Christmas wreath sales,
    5. chocolate bar sales,
    6.  gift card sales,
    7. PamperedChef product sales,
    8. fantasy hockey pool participation, and
    9. any other extraordinary fundraising activities partaken by the team; and,
  4. Provide necessary and appropriate infusions for the next out-of-town hockey tournament (strictly limited for consumption by only those that have reached the age of majority in the specified location of the out-town hockey tournament) including reimbursement of intermittent but probable watering hole tab; and,
  5. Provide pleasingly scented seasonal laundry service for all UnderArmor garments and socks associated with and worn during the 2011-2012 minor hockey season (the Provider shall designate appropriate rotation and delivery of said garments); and,
  6. Be appointed, and provide safe and reliable service as, the designated driver for the Provider and the Provider’s Spouse to the parent hockey party whichever date immediately follows the date of abovementioned 0600 hockey practice.

Should the Client fail to pay the Provider the full amount specified in any of the aforementioned clauses within the date specified by the Provider, a late fee equal to Offspring’s Teammate’s first-year tuition fees at an accredited college or university of their enrolment, shall be paid and interest of 10 percent per annum shall accrue from the calendar day following the end of the 2011-2012 hockey season.

Applicable Law

This contract shall presumably be governed by the laws of the County of Canada and in the Province of Ontario and any applicable but not entirely useful law, rule, precedent, practice, tradition, routine, habit of typical hockey parents.


In witness of their agreement to the terms above, the parties or their authorized agents (not to include abovementioned offspring or teammate of offspring) hereby affix their signatures:


Better Hockey parent   


Ever-Growing-Lazy Hockey Parent


Author’s note:  You think this is bad?  You should see the contract drawn up when my husband has to take our kids to 6am hockey practices! A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

In a parallel universe, I am a witty humour writer that spends her day penning clever repertoire making up my own deadlines and taking commercial breaks from my scintillating radio talk show about hockey moms.  Back on earth, however, the day-to-day me has a real day job.  And the day-to-day me has spent the past three days at health and safety certification training (it’s true:  I need to work on my rock-paper-scissors technique).  Three days… 24 hours … I’ll just never get those back.  Three days of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, important regulations for the service sector, duties and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers and certified members of the joint health and safety committee. 

Note the last phrase:  certified members of the joint health and safety committee.  That would be me.  First, however, I must successfully pass the test which was administered at the end of the course.  Does anyone else still stress over the word “test” years after graduation?  I did a little gulp when I discovered that our class was being administered four different tests.  Yeah, I know!  I could not even count on my colleague – she was given a different test!  My goodness, these government folk are clever.  Anyway, no need to angst, the test was a breeze, a cinch, un morceau de gateaux.  Allow me to provide you with an abbreviated version of the test just in case you’re ever called upon to do health and safety certification training.  I’m sure you’ll agree how entirely accurate were my answers when asked to define the following terms:

Certified: Okay, you mean any “mom”, right?

 Competent person:  A competent person is someone who can feed the dogs, order pizza, and pour my wine, – at the same time.  Come to think of it, this goes beyond competence.  This would be true talent.

 Internal Responsibility System – Is this the principle behind my friend flushing my car keys down the toilet the minute I arrive at her house?  Or is this the one where my husband asks me if I’m coming home or planning on sleeping under that table all night?

 Dangerous circumstance:  A dangerous circumstance refers to a situation in which I wake up and find out we’re all out of coffee.  Not good.  Very dangerous circumstance.

 Confined space: A confined space is a fully or partially enclosed space not designed or constructed for human occupancy – aka what passes for the bedroom my two teenage sons share.

 Exposure Limit – When my eyes start to water when exposed to my boys’ “confined space”, I know I have reached my maximum Exposure Limit.  The current Time Weighted Average limit (or TWA) is 0.05 seconds.  Should Expsoure Limit be reached, please refer procedures outlines in Regulation 632, section 17 regarding Preventing Unauthorized Entry.

 WHMIS – Refers to current available wine supply (Women’s HomeMade Intoxicating System)

 There you have it!  Pretty impressive, don’t ya think?  I sure hope I passed!.  My employer will be so proud.  

I am sooooooooo going to get Employee of the Month…

When I complain about headaches, my husband tells me all the time, “When you get out of bed, it’s feet first!”

Ba-dum-bum.  I stole that from a Henny Youngman classic.

Things are going to be different in hockey this year.  There has been so much chatter and twitter about concussions lately.  It’s all the talk in hockey town these days.  First, my daughter’s favourite Sidneyhas not been able to play hockey since January 2011 and his return to the NHL is still unknown (good thing she has a life size poster of him in her bedroom to tide her over).  Several recent tragic deaths of NHLers, allegedly suicides, have raised awareness regarding the lingering effects of concussions and their link to mental illness.  Finally, Hockey Canada has initiated a new head contact rule for minor hockey and every hockey association in Canada is initiated or expanding their non-checking divisions (checking starts at the Peewee level, ages 10-12, in my boys’ association for both competitive and recreational hockey, and does not exist at all in my daughter’s association).

I have 3 kids in hockey – I’m thankful they are goalies.  Actually I am NOT thankful they are goalies as they’ve made my pure enjoyment of the game virtually impossible (see post) and my official induction to AA entirely likely.  I can concede, however, that head shots are not typically directed at the goalie of the team – unless of course you’re my 15-year old son who insists on pointing out to every player he’s thwarted that their mother wears army boots … or something like that (my hearing’s not so good anymore).

Hockey Canada’s poster about their new head contact rule doesn’t make me happy though.  This is the sign my husband usually gives me when I have my more than occasional perio-menopausal moments.  Now I’m going to have to see that hand signal 10 times a game and it’s really going to confuse me!  Did I forget something again?  Why is that zebra on the ice giving me the What were you thinking?! sign?  Who does he think he is?  Only my husband can give me the What were you thinking?! sign!  Maybe that zebra IS my husband (my vision’s not so good anymore)!

I have seen some hockey hits that make me feel truly nauseous (or was that the canteen coffee?).  Though I approve Hockey Canada’s decision to implement this new rule (I know, like they care), the ripple effect will be go all the way to the local hospital emerg room.  There will be decidedly few kids there due to concussions sustained in the wickedly violent game of hockey (which is good) but I’m not so sure my experiences in the emerg waiting room will be near as satisfying (which is bad).

Me:  So… what are you here for?
Player:  I got slammed into the boards from behind by some jerk on the other team.
Me:  Oh, that’s a bummer [since I’m totally hip to the teenage lingo].  Gotta headache?
Player:  Yeah, but we won the game so it’s ok.  How ‘bout you?
Me:   I knocked myself out on the upper bunk making my kid’s bed*.
Player:    [Loser]

So NOW, with fewer kids in the waiting rooms with concussions due to injuries sustained in hockey, the conversation in the waiting room of my recurrent hospital visits will be decidedly different:

Me:   What are you here for?
The Drunk (not to be confused with me talking to myself):  I banged my head on the street lamppost after I left the bar.
Me:    Bummer, that sucks.
The Drunk:  Yeah, but I don’t remember anything so it’s cool.  How ‘bout you?
Me:   My husband caught me banging my head against the wall again and brought me in.
The Drunk:   Bummer, that sucks.  I like that white jacket you’re wearing.  Can I have it?
Me:   Yeah, I don’t remember anything, so it’s cool.  Am I wearing a white jacket?  Oh!   So I am.  I guess we can share!  What are you here for?

Things are going to be different in hockey this year.


* I didn’t pass out but this actually happened to me – I swear to God I’ve given myself a concussion! And that upper bunk has been there for 5 years!  How do I keep forgetting it’s there??!!


“It’s not fair!” I complain,  “This is stupid!”  and I continue my incoherent muttering under my breath.  I catch the satisfying smirk my 15-year old tries to hide, and the irony that I sound just like him is not lost on me.  “What are you lookin’ at?” I lash at him, “Oh my God, Mom, just let it go!” and he gets up of the couch and moves to another room, safe from my frustrated tantrums.  My 10-year old daughter ventures in from the gloomy, rainy outdoors.  “Mom, what’s for lunch?” she asks.  “Get lost!” I bark back at her.  “She stands there eyes wide, undeserving of this sudden of rudeness, and retreats to her father for the basic necessities of life. “Maybe you should give up” offers my husband.  “Give up?!  What are you talking about, I can’t give up!  I won’t give up.  I started it; dammit, I’m going to finish it,” my irritation unmistakable.

This loving family scene is me doing a puzzle at the cottage.  Yes, a jigsaw puzzle.

As the summer cottage season begins I load up the car with all the necessities for the season, mainly ketchup and toilet paper, but also a new puzzle every summer for those rainy days. This year I was delighted with my selection.  I smiled happily all the way to the cash register and agreed entirely with the cashier’s opinion that it was absolutely “an enviable scene” and a “great choice”.  It also brought back so many fond memories of the summer of 1989 and my prolonged back packing trip throughEurope.  My then boyfriend (now husband) and I spent two spectacular weeks in September of that year inGreece.  My prized puzzle choice was a high quality, Ravensburger puzzle with new state of the art “Soft Click” premium puzzle interlocking technology (swear to God).  Santorini,Greece.  Yes, indeed.  Stunning white-washed buildings with brilliant blue tile roofs set against a magnificent blueMediterranean Seaon a clear sunny, blue-sky day dotted with wispy white clouds.  Can’t you just picture it?

Are you getting it now?!  Do you understand the huge puzzle gaffe I have committed??!!  Blue on white on blue on white surrounded by … more blue on white!  Six cups of coffee later, I shout out, “A-ha!  Gotcha!”

Ten pieces done, and only 990 to go. This puzzle is turning me into a complete psychopath.

My visiting sister walks by, with her freshly blended marguerita, and offers, “Are you crazy?  You honestly have no idea how to pick out a puzzle, do you?  Colours, girl, lots of different colours.”  I look at her with the bleary red eyes of an axe murderer but don’t have time to look for the axe.  Must. Finish. Puzzle.

The following weekend, my sister-in-law is visiting with her two daughters, borrowing our cottage– and my daughter – for the week.  She’s never been to our cottage so upon giving her the tour, I stop at the dining room table.  “And this,” gritting my teeth, “This … is my puzzle.  I’m not quite finished!”  I’ve almost managed the perimeter.

For the record, I am relatively new to the puzzle thing.  We’ve owned our cottage now for five years so in my lifetime I’ve probably now accomplished – oh, I don’t know – five puzzles.  Make that four.  I am not able to take credit for this one.  Upon my return to the cottage the following weekend, the puzzle is done.  Finito. Complèt.  The puzzle that brought me to the brink of at least a dozen of the mental disorders listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM, was fully completed by my sister-in-law in two days.  I don’t get it.  The cottage and its occupants appear relatively unscathed throughout her ordeal. “We were going to save you the last piece.” she says.  I smile and offer up my gratitude – and spit in her wine glass when she’s not looking.  Next summer?  I shall unveil my new puzzle:  Thomas the Tank Engine.  60 pieces.  Suitable for ages 4+.

I’ll show her.

Summers are short in the great white north, and summer cottage weekends seem even shorter.  We’ve taken to leaving the cottage well after Sunday dinner, emphasizing our reluctance to return home and to our regular Monday to Fridays.  I felt particularly justified in leaving late last weekend since hockey try-outs delayed my arrival to tranquility until Saturday afternoon.

So the Sunday dinner menu this past weekend called for barbeque pizza.  If you have never tried it, it’s well worth the extra time and effort – akin to pizza lover’s paradise.  Unless of course you’ve already invested the time to create build your own backyard pizza oven.  In which case, you can stop reading now.   The freshly rolled pizza dough must first be brushed with olive oil and grilled before it is ‘topped’, and then quickly re-grilled to heat through and melt the cheese.

This past weekend my boys created an Epic BBQ Pizza of all Pizzas.  Any Meat Lovers Pizza out there would have shriveled up in disgrace at the site of this impressive pie.  As every leftover meat in the frig made it’s way to the pizza’s top, I felt the need to point out to our guests that a) we do not own a portable defibrillator, and b) the nearest hospital was 30 minutes away.  I confirmed we were not filming the next episode of Man vs Food but asked that they all please complete this short waiver anyway.

Though “Epic” was a good moniker for the meal, “everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink” was probably more suitable.  One of the boys yelled out, “needs more bacon strips!” to which I replied, “Seriously, there really are no more bacon strips”.  Not sure if that was a look of disappointment on his face or a calculated thought as to where exactly be the nearest slaughterhouse.   As I crumbled a little goat cheese over my scattered leftover chopped fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, my other son quipped, “Green stuff can’t be showing; you gotta cover it with more cheese” as if pointing out some code of honour from the homemade pizza trenches.

I’m reasonably certain that had I took a slice of their pizza, I would not be here to tell the story.  Suffice to say, there were no leftovers from their batch, and they showed no interest in my kitchen handiwork.  I scolded them and preached that they’d soon pay for their trans-fatty transgressions, but no, their young teenage iron-guts triumphed … and begged for more a little while later.

Oh to be young….

Upon telling friends and family that my husband and I had decided on a summer vacation to California wine country together without the kids (while all at camp), I sensed some jealousy masked in their exaggerated “Oh, how wonderful for you!”  Upon hearing that we planned to cycle through California wine country together, they added some raised eyebrows with obvious concern that a reasonably decent 20-year marriage was about to fly over the handle bars and into the ditch.  I’m not actually a cyclist, you see, but the brochure looked so good that I signed off on the payment with reckless abandon throwing caution (and the two-page waiver form) to the wind.

Mile one

After a brief layover in San Francisco during which I clearly did not conserve sufficient strength in my legs walking up and down hills with grades not meant for mountain goats let alone humans or cars, we left the city behind and were shuttled to our first winery not far from the town of Sonoma.  After an introductory wine tasting at Etude Wines, delightful shady picnic lunch, and bicycle safety briefing, we took to our ride for the afternoon.  This warm up ride (HA!), intended to get to “know our bicycles”, began at 2 o’clock in the afternoon… on a hot, sunny Californian day … it was at least 90ºF (32.2ºC) out there.  I was not yet phased for I knew today’s route took us only 18miles (30km; never mind that I’ve actually only ridden 30k once in my life) via the historic village of Sonoma along with a visit to another winery.  The slogan for Ravenswood Winery is ‘No Wimpy Wines’ but thankfully not ‘no wimpy riders’, because I stumbled into their tasting room donating a lung and a barrel of sweat.  Their other motto is ‘if your colour is beige, you should probably drink something else’.  No worries there as my pale skin had just recently fermented into the colour of their beloved 2006 Cab.  Along with the heat, we also endured this totally freakish swarm of locust-like flying bugs, some of whom I believe are still making their home in my hair.  If these were the detested glassy-winged sharpshooters which I read threaten the wine country, then wine country and its tourism don’t stand a chance.  Resuscitated at Ravenwood, we set off again for the remaining 17 miles.  Our first night’s rest was at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, so I pedaled furiously thinking if that spa closes before I get there, someone’s going to get hurt – real bad.   Still married after Day One.

Mile 18

At some point during my dinner of roasted Sonoma duck breast with glazed cipollini onions, duck confit, foie gras farce, scarlet beets with port wine sauce, someone mentioned something about tomorrow’s invigourating climb up out of the valley over Sonoma Mountain.  I ignored them as I sipped my wine ; I’ll get the highlights over bacon and lemon cottage cheese pancakes in the morning.   We do not speak of my walking up and over Sonoma Mountain (just slightly smaller than Mont Tremblant).  We do not speak of my  riding the brake the whole way down the other side.  Nor do we mention that we passed the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center which was inexplicably closed (no meditating today, just haulin’ ass up a big mountain).  No, instead we speak of my first sighting ever of a coast redwood, under which I stood in utter amazement.  And speaking of udder amazement, our afternoon ride led us back toward the Pacific Coast along rolling farmland.  Though not on their résumés, an impromptu lamb herding exercise along Valley Ford Mountain Road tested my husband and our guide, who shall be henceforth be known as The Lamb Whisperers.   Though parts of the pot-holed Fallon Roadin the afternoon weren’t suited to a military tank, let alone a road bike, we arrived safely at Bodega Bay Lodge .  No marital flat tires yet.  Hot tub overlooking the ocean eases some of the aches and tension; dinner and wine afterward assures peace for another day.

Mile 62 (Day 3)

Must pay closer attention to elevation chart today.   The morning ride up Pacific Coast Highway 1 was almost dreamlike.  The initial fog, so common to this region, soon gave way to glorious sunshine.  This is good.  This is good because there is no cycling lane on Pacific Coastal Hwy 1, and I seriously wanted that cedar redwood logging truck to get a good visual on my location.  Though my eyes were glued to the obvious lack of any paved shoulder, I did steal the occasional view of the Pacific Oceanand the numerous state parks that dot that roadway.  A sidetrack to Goat Rock Beachwas strategically averted upon noting the elevation down to the beach and then back up (surely the view can be no better down there?!).  After following the Russian Rive rfor a while, we entered Armstrong Woods State Reserve (What’s the difference between a reserve and a park?  I do not know), where I got up close and personal with some of the largest and oldest living things on the earth.  Their size escapes description.  All I know is that it was so peaceful and all too soon I was hustled back to the roaring traffic.   Shortly after we stopped to ask about the well-being of our fellow travel mate and her new road rash after an unfortunate encounter with a parked car, my husband decided to take an alternative (read:  longer and/or different from my own) route, and I bravely forged onward to Napa.  He got a little lost and appeared at our agreed upon meeting sport (Twomey Cellars ) an hour later than scheduled.  There’s a ripple in my wine now.  I am a little pissed off that I have no time to check out the town of Healdsburg and only 15 minutes to dip in the pool before showering for dinner and meeting our guest speaker from one of the local Russian River Valley vineyards.  I make a secret pack with the ghost the purportedly haunts Madrona Manor  to haunt my husband all night long (but to no avail, and of course it’s me who wakes up and scours the room with my teeny weeny reading light before heading the bathroom).  I resolve to find my happy place on Day 4 and the chip my travel mate lost from her tooth.

Mile 105

I shall make the conversion for you:  I have now travelled 168km on two wheels.  Perhaps our friends pictured the two of us frolicking in the hot tub feeding each other Californiagrapes and wine.  To which I would say, “fuhgeddaboudit” (as my newest cycling friend from Long Island, NYwould say).  IF my east coast body clock managed to let me stay up until 10pm, I would shout out a couple of ‘woohoos!’ and pass out.  If my husband so much as looked at me and my aching quadriceps, I would come back with, “Are you an RMT?  No?  Then don’t talk to me.”  I know – the trip was my idea.

Today, some of the group decided to make a full day of it and ride from Healdsburg to Yountville (some 63 miles) bypassing our lunch at Robert Young Winery in the beautiful Alexander Valley of Sonoma County.  I was thinking, “Bypass lunch at the winery…?”  Then some others decided to head off quickly after lunch to tackle the challenge that included the words ”up” and “over” and then “down” into the town of Calistoga.  There was no way I was making the same mistake twice.  Nuh-uh.  Pack ‘er up; I’m riding with the Van Man.  Day 4 brought me closer to heaven.  There is a god and Napa by thy name.  I think I could live in Yountville, California.  I’d be fat and poor but really I could.  Dinner at the Thomas Keller restaurant Bouchon  left me a little uninspired and even questioning if a visit to its more famous sister restaurant, The French Laundry, would have been any different. The spa, however, at the Villagio Inn and Spa, left me wondering when I could move in.

Mile 146

So many wineries … so little energy left in my legs … so very little money left in our wallets.  Knowing our mode of transportation would not take us too far off track, we rode along the Silverado Trail and soon stopped at , Silver Oak Cellars , following soon thereafter with a visit to Beringer.  Morning wine tastings?  Why not?  We had arranged to have lunch at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Restaurant (former Christian Brothers winery).  Browsing the campus store was almost as enticing as lunch.  I’m sure equally excellent food was available in the town of St. Helena where I spent far too much on a single bottle of Napa Valley olive oil.  By the time we arrived back at home base (I did so enjoy calling The Villagio Inn and Spa, home, even if only for 48 hours!), I was ready toss my brand new cycling shoes.  You know something else, after 5 days cycling trying to look beyond the back of my ass, even my husband tired of saying “the view is great from back here!”

Mile 175

Screw this, I’m done, going to the spa.   Go away everyone and everything!  Especially you stinking cycling shoes!  Four hours and a year’s worth of my son’s tuition costs and I am restored!  And so… after a lovely lunch at NapaStyle, we bid adieu to our new cycling friends.  We boarded our shuttle to return to San Francisco, where my husband and I planned to spend the weekend before returning to reality in Ottawa.  We still had some sightseeing to do in San Francisco, you know, not having accomplished much on our initial visit upon arriving.  So, If you thought whipping through the streets of San Franciscoin a go-kart might be conspicuous, try doing it a GoCar painted bright yellow wearing the Great Kazoo’s helmets .  Though initially I tried not to make eye contact with anyone, I did determine that it was way more fun to smile and wave exuberantly at all gawkers who pointed and laughed at us.  By the way, a 6am flight out of San Francisco International Airport requires a 415am hotel pick up.  Remind me not to do that again.

Ahhhhhh, home sweet home.  Next stop? The Loire Valley (it really is a valley, right?)!

Post script: 

I should make it clear – we both agreed that this was one of the best vacations we’ve ever had!  Though mostly accurate, my blog post was tongue and cheek because I knew the memories of phenomenal people and sensational vinos, vistas and victuals would far outlast the painful moments described above  – along with the numbness in my right arm.  Backroads, the tour company with which we travelled, is second to none in service, tour excellence and local lore expertise.  My husband made a most deserved toast to our tour leaders Jill, Tony and Kaliegh over our last group dinner at Hurley’s in Yountville, and hopefully we see them again in our travels (hopefully in Yountville).

About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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