pitappsmallThere is a significant change underway in Woolwich township, and I fear that without action, the beauty and uniqueness of our home will be damaged for decades to come.  I am referring to the proliferation of gravel pit applications that have been submitted to Woolwich Council this year.  There are no less than 3 brand new applications underway, and all within 4 km of each other, and completely surrounding the small village of Conestogo.

The aggregate industry is a very well connected and funded one, and their ability to steam-roller opposition is well documented.  The decision to allow or disallow the operation of a specific gravel pit rests in the hands of the local, and ultimately, the provincial government.  Many concerned residents have formed the Conestogo-Winterbourne Residents Association to ensure that our quality of life, safety and property values are not hijacked by commercial interests.  But this is not an easy battle for us.  It is expensive and time consuming.

There are some real dangers posed to all of us if these pits are approved.  There will be a ridiculous number of large gravel trucks driving through Conestogo via Northfield & Sawmill as well as through the notoriously dangerous Crowsfoot intersection.  Having reviewed in detail one of the applications, their ‘traffic expert’ did not see any increased risks to life or property by potentially having 27 gravel trucks per hour go through the Crowsfoot intersection.  And that’s just the ‘expected’ traffic for a single gravel pit.  This is why citizen involvement is critical.  Gravel trucks are incompatible with communities.  School buses and Mennonite buggies are no match for a fully loaded gravel truck.

We all came together as a community to establish Woolwich as Hockeyville.  And although we didn’t receive the official recognition, it’s clear to all who live here that this is Hockeyville.  But there are commercial interests who wish to turn Hockeyville into Bedrock, the home of the Flintstones.  I for one love this community too much to sit idly by while farmers fields backing onto homes with swing sets are turned into noisy, dusty and potentially fatal gravel pit operations.

Let’s join together to fight this.  We have a community meeting scheduled for Monday, April 27 at 7:30pm at the Conestoga Golf Club.  The official Hunsberger pit application public meeting is on Monday, May 4 at 6:30pm, at the Conestogo Public School.  If you are a resident of Woolwich Township, please find the time to attend these very important meetings, or prepare yourself for the persistent rumble of gravel trucks.

We can affect the change necessary to preserve our quiet community, and ensure that our children grow up in a safe and protected environment.  Without citizen involvement, I fear that this letter will once again be re-posted after a gravel truck and one of our loved ones has what the commercial interests would call an ‘incident’.

For more information, please visit: http://conestogo-winterbourne.com/

mJm

Note: since I first wrote this, it has been published in the Observer and The Record.

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We’re all aware that the US is in serious trouble because some unconscionably stupid, or greedy consumers took on mortgages for homes that they could not afford. And they were met all to warmly by predatory mortgage lenders who sold these mortgages, then handed them off to other scoundrels who packaged them up as “mortgage-backed securities”.

There is much discussion about what to do with these mortgages.  Senator McCain’s Presidential campaign included a kind of “buyout” for these mortgages, which struck me as a profoundly un-Republican thing to do.

First, I want to separate the mortgage difficulties faced by a family who’s income has been affected by a recession-related job-loss.  You can’t hold people responsible for a mortgage that they could have managed without difficulty when both parents were working.  I’d actually want to see them assisted before we help the stupid/greedy people.

The “culprits” I want to focus this discussion on are the people who, either through ignorance or greed, bought a house that they could not afford. Let’s call what they have “bad mortgages”.

As Consumers, we all have an implicit personal responsibility to only spend what we can afford. There are protections in place to prevent us from being taken by fraudulent marketing.  This is one of the aspects of “regulation” that is hotly debated by the Left and the Right. Pure free marketeers believe there should be no regulation, but I think that leaves consumers in the position of having to either be, or hire, the services of a financial and legal expert to vet every transaction they undertake. Clearly, that’s not scalable. The Left believes there should be lots and lots of regulation. That will grind commerce to a halt, and add so many layers of bureaucracy that our markets would become massively inefficient wastelands. Neither side is right.  There is a reasonable compromise to be struck.  And the fact that Canadian Bank and Mortgage regulation has largely insulated the Canadian homeowner from these problems speaks to the benefits of reasonable regulation.

President Obama has created a proposal that he describes as follows:

  1. refinancing help for four to five million homeowners who receive their mortgages through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
  2. new incentives for lenders to modify the terms of sub-prime loans at risk of default and foreclosure
  3. steps to keep mortgage rates low for millions of middle class families looking to secure new mortgages
  4. additional reforms designed to help families stay in their homes

I’ve been thinking more lately about what the “right thing” to do is with respect to these “bad mortgages”.  It is entirely unfair, in my opinion, to pay off, in any way, the equity shortfall, or mortgage payments of a bad mortgage holder. You can easily imagine a neighbour of his next door, who bought a smaller house, and is fully current with his mortgage, wondering why his tax dollars are paying for the mistake/greed of his neighbour.

It would not be fair.  But in the “big picture” we have an economy which is being held at gunpoint by these bad mortgages.  Some major US financial institutions, like Citibank and Bank of America could become insolvent if the mortgage failure trend continues.  These banks will become the proud owners of massive numbers of homes which are worth much less than their mortgaged value.  The Bank’s money, long gone into the hands of builders and speculators.  The cascading effect of major US bank failures is a terrifying one.  Don’t worry about your savings and checking account, because 99% of us don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars there.  But think about the small and medium sized businesses.  Think of the credit crunch when a few more major banks fail.  More businesses will fail, and more people will lose their jobs causing yet more mortgage defaults.  It’s not a pretty picture.

So what might be fair? The current proposal is for the government to pay portions of these mortgages, and re-negotiate the lending rates.  But to me, that’s unbalanced. Fred shouldn’t be paying off Stan’s mortgage because Stan is a greedy/stupid guy.  I have a proposal:

When mortgage relief is offered to anyone who has a “bad mortgage”, if they take it, they forfeit any equity to that house when they sell it until the government is paid back.  Think of it as a 100% capital gains tax on bailout home sales.  As with all systems, there are ways to game it to your advantage.  I fear this would be very difficult to implement. But the spirit of this idea is that the government/taxpayer gets it’s money back when/if the home sells at a higher price in the future.  The bailed-out homeowner doesn’t get off scott-free.  Of course, this assumes the house will be worth more in the future, but that’s not likely to happen for a long time.

I’m curious what you think of this idea.  My gut says one underlying problem is that it doesn’t let the “bubble” reset, but it prolongs inflated home values.  One of the arguments used by proponents of a mortgage bailout is that “good mortgage” holders home values will be negatively affected by the default of the “bad mortgage” holders. That’s true, but isn’t the loss in home value related to an inflated supply of homes?  I think the underlying problem is that too many homes were built (at too large a price because of the easy-mortgage money that was available).  That’s not going to be corrected by bailing out these mortgages.  I think the market has to stabilize, which probably means the housing over-build has actually reduced the value of everyone’s home. Supply and demand 101. Grow the economy, and raise the wealth of the middle-class, and perhaps the demand side of the equation will scale up and start raising home values again.

The Obama proposal allows people to continue to live in homes they can’t afford, while honest, hardworking taxpayers continue to live within their means.  Are there no repercussions for being irresponsible and for affecting the health of your country?

I find it ironic that with all the money and attention focused on terrorism that the greatest threat to our “way of life” has come from idiots and scoundrels holding US passports in hot pursuit of “the American Dream”.  I hope these people are ashamed of themselves.

mJm

Christmas was once again a wonderful time to gather with my family, and enjoy the fun that can only be had with loved ones from different generations.  Santa visited, and brought with him a great assortment of gifts that were universally treasured.  But there was something I secretly wanted, but have yet to receive.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months reading from various sources about the current challenges our global economy faces.  The financial meltdown brought on by the ABCP farce seemed to sneak up on us (or at least it snuck up on Sen. “the fundamentals of our economy are sound” McCain).  But the disaster we are seeing in the automotive industry, and specifically, the “Big 3” is something many people have seen coming for years.

I have vastly simplified their problems down the the following:

  1. They build and sell cars in a way that is not economically sustainable.
  2. Their labour costs are completely out of whack with the value the jobs deliver.
  3. Management has utterly failed to lead the companies by fighting the forces that weaken their viability.
  4. Management makes large bonuses to maintain the failing status quo.
  5. The quality of their product is weak.
  6. The unionized environment enriches workers, but destroys any possibility of a culture of innovation, improvement and efficiency.

The talk of a bailout is rampant, and it’s become clear to me that the politicians are absolutely going to give billions of our dollars to the same managers and union bosses that got us into this mess.  There is less political risk if the Big 3 go bankrupt if you voted to give them billions of dollars.  He can say “well, I tried”.  It seems to me a cowardly and reckless way to lead and manage my tax dollars.

So, back to my missing Christmas gift…

There are moments in history, usually brought on by crisis, and real risk of loss or devastation, where the political will to really impose change exists.  Some changes were good, others bad.  Unfortunately, the bad ones are usually really bad.  But things improve when there are bad headlines, and widespread outrage, fear or anger.  Planes are safer because of terrible crashes, as are cars.  The healthcare industry changes when pharmaceuticals or tools are proven to be dangerous.  Our planet, according to many, is trending towards a very dangerous outcome due to the impact of greenhouse gases.  There is no universal consensus about this amongst the scientific community, but there is rarely consensus where billions of dollars are at stake.  As a rational person, I’ve looked at the data on both sides, and have agreed with the YES side.  Having traveled around the world, I’ve seen the impact that humans have had on their environment.  You don’t think mankind can significantly impact the planet?  I suggest you travel to Beijing in the summer and take a deep breath.

The reliance on oil as the basis for our transportation is hitting us on 3 levels:

  1. The emissions are destroying the atmosphere.
  2. The massive transfer of wealth from the west to the middle east is a dangerous threat to our national security.
  3. Oil will eventually become very scarce.  The “easy” oil is gone, and now we’re digging deeper and in areas that were previously “off limits”.

So, let’s review.  We have an industry (automotive) on the verge of collapse.  Without massive change, and taxpayer assistance on a previously unprecedented level (unprecedented until the TARP funds), the “Big 3” will fail.  We have an environment being damaged globally by the products these very same companies are mass producing.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

There has never in history been a more prescient moment to change the automotive industry.  I propose the following:

Taxpayer money will be made available in the form of loan guarantees, as well as grants (let’s call them “investments”) to the “Big 3” and the related fuel infrastructure players, provided they meet the following conditions:

  1. Immediate R&D into Hydrogen based propulsion system.  If they need help, ask Honda about their Clarity model.
  2. No R&D funds will be spent on any petroleum based engine technology.
  3. With the exception of parts to support the vehicles currently on the road, all manufacturing facilities will be used to produce Hydrogen fuel cell based vehicles.
  4. Fund the Hydrogen distribution/retailing infrastructure.  Incentives to stations who will provide Hydrogen refilling stations.
  5. Fund the creation of clean Hydrogen generation stations.

Taking these steps will result in a transformation of the automotive industry that will set up our children and grandchildren for success.  They will have great vehicles, that run on a clean and sustainable fuel that is not driving wealth out of our economy, and pumping poisonous emissions into our air.  As an aside, I think that if the “Big 3” want to continue to build the vehicles in the same way they have previously then the bailout funds should come directly from Exxon, Shell, BP and the rest of the oil companies.  I think the oil companies should look at this as a marketing expense, since it will be ensuring the channel through which they derive the vast majority of their income survives.

It’s concerns me greatly that this isn’t being discussed by the government and environment leadership in North America.  This is an opportunity we must seize.  It’s not our only opportunity to make changes.  We’ll get another final chance when the actual supply of oil starts to reduce (in the next 10-20 years).  But if you think the current situation is difficult, imagine what things will be like then.

So, please help me get my Christmas gift.  Talk about this idea.  Tell your friends, colleagues, and family.  And then talk to your MP, Congressman, Senator, Prime Minister and President-elect.

There is no easy way out of this mess.  If you think I’m a tree-hugging automobile-hating kook, then read more of my blog.  I’m a passionate car guy.  I have had a lifelong affair with cars, and I always will.  The hardest problems usually come with the potential of having the biggest upside.  I’m tired of half measures and pointless  compromises.  We owe it to our kids.

mJm

I’ve just landed in Brussels, and am sitting in the arrivals hall at a coffee shop awaiting the arrival of BD145 from LHR.  I’m in Belgium to attend the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa with Hans and Wido.  Hans and I are repeat F1 offenders, but this is Wido’s first GP.

I didn’t sleep on the flight, so I’m expecting to down a few Kwak’s (Belgian Beer) and pass out early today.  Hopefully I’ll be able to write and post some pix from our hotel near the circuit.

mJm

Today I had yet another life-changing experience.  I had my first instructor-in-car track day at the Shannonville Motorsport Park just east of Belleville.  The day was being organized by the new owners/management at BMW Waterloo, who also own Parkview BMW.

I have done lots of driving in my life.  I spent lots of time in parking lots when I was getting my license learning how to control understeer and oversteer (thanks, Dad.  That wasn’t just fun, it was a very valuable skill for winter driving, as well as collision avoidance).  But I had never had the benefit of an instructor sitting in the right seat helping me with my technique.  Today, that changed.

Before I get to the fun at the track, I’ll recap last night.  We had a driver’s meeting with head instructor Ian Law.  Ian has forgotten more about advanced driving than I know.  He’s an engaging speaker, and someone you can learn alot from.  He took the group through the basics of advanced driving.  We were going to be separated into 2 groups:  beginner and intermediate/advanced.  The beginner group would not be allowed to pass, and would be lapping at a slower pace, while the advanced group could pass when signaled on the back straight, and drive to their individual limits.  I *really* wanted to be in the advanced group.  My wish was granted after a conversation about my car and driving history.

So first off, the beginners took off for 40 minutes of lapping, while I sat on the pitwall watching excited waiting for my turn.  The skies were grey, but it wasn’t raining, although the track was wet from the earlier rain.

Soon enough, the “advanced drivers to your cars” call went out.  I got in my M5, and took position near the front of the pack.  I really wanted an instructor with me for several reasons:  I wanted the driving feedback, he would have “the line”, and I’d learn alot more.  I was lucky to have race driver/instructor Cam jump in with me.

The first few laps were a bit rough.  I was having trouble with braking, and wasn’t yet comfortable with really hammering the brakes late before a corner.  Add to this the rain that had fallen on the track prior to our stint, and you can imagine the challenge.  But once my confidence in the car (yeah, as dumb as that sounds driving this incredible car, you need to build up that faith by testing the limits of braking at 180kph).  With Cam’s great feedback, each corner was becoming smoother and faster and I was starting to get closer to my “Best Lap”.  The back straight is a place where you can get up to speed quickly if the tires will grip.  The right-hander at the end of the back straight is a tight one.  Imagine flooring your car, getting up to 160-180kph and hitting the brakes as hard as you can at a point 125m before you ease off the brake and turn into the corner.  Exciting stuff.  I can tell you than when you’re doing this, you are thinking of absolutely NOTHING other than the road well in front of you.  Cam and I felt that the braking in my M5 was working very well, and we should attempt to brake at the 100m marker.  So, on the next lap, at somewhere between 160 and 170kph I let the 150m marker fly by my window.  I what seemed a nano-second, the 100m marker was upon me, and I stiffly and quickly pressed the brake pedal.  The ABS went into “I’m in charge” mode, and it became clear to both of us (although Cam verbalized it) that we were coming in too hot for the corner.  Fortunately, we had discussed this situation ahead of time, and I used the long, paved runoff area.

We pulled into the pits, where Cam wanted to check my tire pressures.  He felt that we weren’t getting enough of a contact patch on the track, so he wanted to see if we could drop a few PSI.  We did that, and waited for our next outing.

As my M5 sat parked it was making some very interesting sounds.  I’ve never heard the brake disks pop and crackle before.  This is normal.  It’s the thermal expansion/contraction of uber hot brake disks cooling in the moist air.

Our next stint was on a pretty dry track.  This was a TON of fun.  I really got a great sense of what the M5 is capable of.  It is a tremendously forgiving car when the driver’s aids are on.  As long as you don’t overreact and try to fight the car, you’ll end up pointing in the right direction.  I had several “moments” where you react without thinking, but just to the feel of the situation.  If you have to think about what to do, it’s too late most times.  Got some understeer?  Reduce the slip angle of the front tires by straightening slightly the wheel until you get grip, while gently easing off on the throttle.  Got some oversteer?  Look where you want to go, steer in that direction, and ease off on the throttle.  Easy-peasy.  Ha!

We couldn’t tell if the PSI reduction Cam did was making the car more drivable because the conditions had changed for the better, but we definitely had faster (it felt faster) and more controlled laps in this stint.

For the 3rd stint, I swapped seats with Cam for a few laps.  He was giving me great advice and I wanted to see him put my car through some hot laps.  He was smiling the same way I was when driving.  He commented on how much torque there is all the way to redline.  It’s true that from 4k to 8k the car just wants to rip the road apart.

He gave me back the wheel, and off we went for some more laps.  It had started raining again, but I was in pretty good control through each corner.  Cam must have felt I was “competent” because he asked me “do you want to turn off TC?”.  Now for those of you who don’t know what TC is, it’s an abbreviation for Traction Control, and it’s the feature that keeps your rear wheels from spinning wildly when you are accelerating.  This usually isn’t a huge issue, but when you’re driving “in anger” on a wet track, TC is definitely your friend and guardian angel.  Formula 1 cars were using TC until this year when the technical regulations banned it.  Really great drivers don’t need TC.  Weekend lappers (like me) are often saved from embarrassing “offs” by it.  I was taken a bit aback by his suggestion.  Wasn’t he the instructor who was supposed to stop testosterone-filled drivers from trying to live a Michael Schumacher dream in the rain?  At the same time, I was flattered, because the absolute LAST thing I thought I’d hear from an instructor would be “let’s turn off TC”, especially since the head instructor told us that nobody should disable any of their driver aids.

So, I said “sure, let’s try it and see what happens”.  So Cam hit the button, and the HUD on the windshield showed the ominous “Warning DSC Inactive” Icon.  We were just before the hairpin turn.  I braked as normal, but knew I’d have to be very careful with the throttle accelerating into the back straight.  Well, I wasn’t careful enough.  The back end started getting jiggy, and I eased off on the throttle and gott us pointed where we needed to be.  No harm, no foul, just another “moment”.  But I was driving my M5 like a REAL MAN and in the rain, no less.

We continued to build up speed, albeit more carefully, as there were pools of standing water that we would aquaplane through.  It’s a fun game of “no steering” and “no rear traction”.  Fortunately, those puddles lasted for a split second, and going straight is pretty safe.

The right hander at the end of the back straight fast approached.  I braked well, and made a good turn into the corner.  As I started to accelerate into the “esses” (which was my favourite part of the track) all hell broke loose (as well as the back end of my car).  The esses were a great right left combination of corners that I was taking at around 115kph, but this time, I lost the rear under acceleration, and we started to spin.  I’m beyond proud to say that I recovered from this moment, kept the car on-track and pointed in the right direction.  Having that happen while cornering at 115kph in the rain is something you have to experience to understand.  It all happens so quickly.  I think the ability to feel what to do and do it is critically important in situations like that.

In any event, after recovering, I said to Cam “experiment over, let’s turn the TC back on”.  He agreed completely.  But I was pleased that we had at least tried it, and that while I did lose the back end at speed, I nicely recovered.

I had another break while the beginners were on track.  It was clear I would need more gas.  I’d gone through a tank already.  That’s 60 litres gone in about 60 minutes of driving.  Wow. So I headed out to the nearby Sunoco with the driver of the M6 that I was driving with for many of my laps.

After refueling and prepping for my final stint, I thought that I should bring the video camera out.  I really wanted a lap or two recorded for posterity (or abuse).  We were once again asked to take our positons in the pit lane.  Cam jumped in, and I asked him if he thought he could hold on while filming.  He was very complementary of the M5 “Holy Sh*t Handles”.  They’re solid!  He said “sure, I’ll give it a try”.  Well, he recorded the entire session.  I have some great commentary from him, as well as the fun “cat and mouse” game I was playing with my new friend in his M6.  He would always pull away on the straights (the M6 has the same engine as the M5, and about 200lbs less weight).  But I was catching him on the corners.  I’m so happy he filmed this.  If you’re curious, you can watch some of my last laps on YouTube right here.

Well, that’s pretty much all I have to say about the day at Shannonville.  I’ll definitely be back, and am looking forward to sharing this kind of experience with Sophia.

One final note.  I refueled (again) for the drive home, and the heavens opened up.  The 401 was crawling from Bowmanville all the way to Toronto.  I was tired, and wanted to get off the road and enjoy the fresh memories of this great day.  So I pulled off and am writing this from the Holiday Inn in Oshawa.  Part of being a safe driver is knowing when you’re done.  And I was done.  But I was still smiling, and I’m pretty sure I’ll wake up still smiling.

mJm

When we last left off, Helen and I were finishing breakfast and heading for the FCA 2008 Meet track events at Mosport.  I’ve never been there, but have known about the track since I was a little kid.  It used to host the Canadian Grand Prix until it moved to Montreal 30 years ago.

Our drive from Niagara Falls to Toronto was pretty uneventful.  We had the roof down, and drove through fog.  We contributed smiles and waves to numerous point and shoot and phone camera owners photo collections along the way.  You know, you really have to be careful what you do when driving in a 360 with the roof down.  It’s as private as the grounds around 10 Downing Street.

We had some excitement as we passed through Toronto.  It was intermittently foggy along the way, but as we got to Pickering, it started raining.  So I had to move us from leftmost lane to rightmost lane to reach the safe shoulder.  We accomplished that, and God bless the guys in Maranello for building this fully automatic and fast roof deployment system.  Up it went, left turn signal, shoulder and mirror check, then press left foot hard and go through the gears.  No worries there!

Since neither of us had been to Mosport, we programmed it into our TomTom GPS.  But, the damn thing took us to an exact point in a farmers field that was most definitely NOT a world renowned track.  Crap.  So, back to Bowmanville we went, as Helen consulted the printed directions the folks hosting the event gave us.  We now knew where we were going.  I made a couple of passes, because I absolutely HAD to make it to the track by 12pm to do my laps.  On my last pass, I caught up to what I saw in the distance was a black Ferrari.  As I closed in on it, to my delight, I saw that it was the Texas F430 Scuderia!  Thank you TomTom for screwing up and putting me in this spectacular spot.  We followed her into Mosport, and parked with a stable of other beauties.

We met up with some new friends and some folks I know from the Toronto area as we strolled through the venue.  Ferrari of Ontario had a huge display (including Remo’s F430 Scuderia and Schumachers F1 car).  I picked up a couple event shirts, and then we got ready for our laps.  It was $50/person and all for charity.  At 12:10 we were heading off, so me, not wanting to be late, had Sophia warmed up and moving towards the starting area at 12:00.  My eagerness paid off, because we were right behind the escort car, driven by one of the many instructors.  It was a beautiful yellow 599.

After a few pix, we were off.  Now nobody gave me a “do’s and don’ts” document, and it was up to my common sense and conscience to figure out what was appropriate.  But put me in a Ferrari on a spectacular track, and somehow my frame of reference shifts.  Luckily, riding in the right seat was the other half of my conscience!

Mosport is really a fun track, and I can see how challenging it would be when driven “in anger”.  Our leader was letting us have “reasonable” fun, but we were not going to see 100+ MPH today.  But that was fun enough.  Taking corners at 70MPH and feeling understeer was more than satisfying enough.  I decided well before we started the engine that I was leaving the traction control engaged.  Spinning the car and likely damaging it was not going to be something I wanted to happen.

So we did 3 laps in total, one “out lap”, one “hot lap” and one “in lap”.  It was all great fun, and Helen took some great pix during our drive.

Well, that’s it for now.  We’re back at the hotel in Toronto (after another rain-induced fast lane-change-pitstop-roof-raise.  It’s the awards dinner gala tonight, then up early and home tomorrow.  We’re driving the kids to Washington DC on Monday morning!

mJm

Yesterday morning, Helen and I started off on our first Road Rally.  I’ve never been on one, and Helen told me last night that the last time she was on one, she was in an accident (totally NOT her fault, BTW).

We, well actually, I, enrolled us in the “non-competitive” rally.  I thought that for our first, we should just enjoy the drive.  God knows what happens when my competitive fuse is lit, so I quite maturely, I think, decided that we’ll do that “nice drive to Niagara” challenge.

Well, funny enough, it’s Helen who put an end to that nonsense.  While queuing in line for the ladies restroom, Helen spoke with some women who had picked up their “Rally Forms” for the competitive drive.  She looked at ours, and said “this is lame, no clues, or challenges, just a drive”.  So we decided to improvise – instead of doing the lame drive, we would take the competitive challenge, but not be timed, and not actually compete for the prizes.  Sweet.

It actually made the drive alot more fun.  And, unfortunately, slowed me down, and kept me at times going SLOWER than the traffic behind me.  Hey, you try finding the “copper mailbox” at 70MPH.  We started the rally at Legendary Motor Cars in Halton where we were treated to a continental breakfast, and a fascinating tour of their restoration facilities.  And their showroom, Oh My God.  Helen doesn’t know this, but I smuggled out one of their current offering/price lists in my underwear.  And they have a beautiful F40.  It’s also the home to the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame.  Will I see Matthew on the walls there one day?  Who knows!

It was a bit rainy as we started off (at 9:57am, according to my “we’re not really competing, but I just want to know” wife).  The first challenge was “Something a giant chocolate Easter bunny would leave”.  No fricken clue.  Ok, confession.  I hadn’t quite grasped the “slow drive == better observation” concept, as I headfaked my traction control through my first corner.  Sweet start, IMHO.

I won’t take you through the whole adventure, but a couple of key points need to be made.  First, I have found, thanks to this rally, some INCREDIBLE roads around the Halton/Niagara Escarpment area.  Wow.  You have to experience this stuff for yourself.  I’m going back often.  Second, when I see “Road Closed” at what I believe to be the “first opportunity to turn left”, I’m assuming the Rally organizers know about this closure.  <insert ASS U ME reference here>.  That “little” issue had us driving down  HWY 8 looking for a stop sign (the obvious idiocy of that task didn’t make itself apparent to me as I was driving).  So anyhow, we had a wicked backtrack involving U-turns and Queen E runs.

The rally ended at Vineland Vinyards, a beautiful setting.  Vineyards surrounded by Ferraris is a site to behold.  We were all enjoying the food and wine sampling, and touring the production facilities.

Alas, time was marching on, and I wanted to get us to Niagara Falls before the weather turned again.  We took the scenic route through Niagara-on-the-Lake, and eventually arrived at the Sheraton Fallsview hotel.  Did you know that every Friday and Saturday night there are fireworks over the Falls?  Neither did I, but don’t tell Helen because I have her convinced that I did ;)

Our room was right at the top.  Penthouse level.  There are only 2 rooms there, and it’s so exclusive that not even the elevators go there!  When I made the reservation, all I asked for was a Falls view room.  I will attribute the complementary upgrade to Sophia!

So, we’re now finishing breakfast, and getting ready for Track Day!  Sophia will enjoy the legendary turns and hills of The Mosport International Raceway today.  I can’t wait!

mJm