I had an UNBELIEVABLY busy and fun weekend in Canada. The reason for the trip was to celebrate my Nonna's (Italian word for grandmother) 90th birthday... 90! How cool is it to turn 90 and have everyone show up to your birthday party from all over North America? Just to put things into perspective, here is the breakdown of the matriarch's family:
20 great grandchildren
1 great great grandchild
Now, that is some vast progeny!
The whole clan arrived just in time for dinner. Have I ever mentioned that everything revolves around food in our family? Seriously, we often have conversations about what we ate last evening, what we are eating tonight, a good recipe, a decent restaurant. My wife and I are self proclaimed foodies whose favorite shows are Top Chef and Iron Chef. We arrived in Brampton, Ontario just in time for me to drop my bike off in the hotel room and head to dinner at 6:00
I forgot to take pictures of the two amazing antipasti plates that were already waiting for us when we arrived—thanks to my brothers who had the foresight to pre-order some appetizers for the hungry clan of little people and parents who were arriving.
Among the things I enjoyed was the beautiful grilled calamari plate over mixed greens:
It was all mine and Julian's. The wifey and Luca are not big fans, of grilled calamari. Although, to be honest, Luca will eat dirt if he is hungry enough, and he managed to steal a few bites of this as well. That kid has an appetite like a grown dinosaur. I can not even imagine what it is going to be like with five teenagers in the house. Girls eat less than boys, right?
For my main course, I had the pasta special—pretty much seafood in pasta with some fresh asparagus. I was so famished from our ride over the border that I actually ate the parsley as well. Who says garnishes can not be eaten?
Alaina had the penne vodka. We both noticed an unusual flavor in the sauce—cinnamon. It was good though.
|Janina at dinner finishing up her Caprese salad with her beautiful purple ballerina outfit.|
Stella was also very enthusiastic about the eats!
Love this one of Nonna and Luca!
We went back to the hotel after this. We got the kiddies in bed. I went to bed early—with the kids—so that Alaina could go down to the lobby and enjoy a couple of cocktails with the rest of the family. I also had a long bike to do in the morning. I was suppose to go riding with my cousin's boyfriend, but he got called into work that morning and couldn't ride. So, my Zio (Italian for uncle) Vico met me in front of my hotel at 6:30 with his Harley for a guided tour of northern Ontario. Unfortunately, I left the camera at the hotel this morning, thinking Alaina was going to use it to take some pictures of the bambini—nope. It was pretty cool—literally and figuratively—that morning riding down Steels Avenue at around 40km. My uncle rode up from behind me and said "Is this your normal pace? You are cruising!" I felt like Lieto leading the way in Kona as he sped up along beside me indicating where to turn before I got there. I felt good and fresh this morning.
Zio Vico cleaned up after the one-man motorcade.
Little did I know that I was about to get a history lesson along with the ride. He took me up Caledon Mountain. I am not sure how long or steep of a climb it was, but I was spinning around 8-10 m.p.h. the whole ascent. When I arrived at the top, I was excited to see a dedicated bike lane heading back down the mountain. My uncle had just gotten off his bike and was about to wait for me at the bottom when I pulled up right behind him. He was surprised to see me. I told him you can get down a lot faster than you can get up. On the way back, he said, I will show you the one room school house where me and you uncle Phil and Aunt Gina went to school. Then he said "Now, I'll show you where we use to walk from." You know how those old timers say things like "... and it was uphill both ways!" Well, I understand what they mean now. He showed me the farmhouse my grandfather owned. It was right in the middle of a hill. You walked down the hill, then back up another to get to the school. No wonder that Canada produces so many fine triathletes—you know—with all the snowshoeing and bear wrestling they have to do on their way to school. My riding time was only 2:45, but it was alright. I got something in. My uncle was a little worried that we were not going to get back in time (lunch was at noon,) but it was still only 8:30 by this time. I assured him that we could climb the mountain and head back down at least once more, maybe twice. He thought I was delusional, or perhaps getting high on the smell of methane gas coming off of all the cow manure in those Ontario farms.
Anyway, we turned to go back south, and I was rocking once again—pushing 26, 27, 28, 29 m.p.h. on those gradual downhills. I was not trying to go fast. I was just spinning, but after a couple of hours of gradual climbing and one steep climb, my legs felt really fresh again. I only managed to squeeze in 52 miles, but it was a quality ride and I got to spend some quality time with my uncle as race leader in my imaginary Ironman. I got to the hotel, met my family in the pool, and swam with them for a bit before we had to get ready for the party. The place we were staying had a really cool 2 and a half story covered slide. Awesomeness. I made much use out of this. I think Slip and Slide's should be mandatory at every triathlon. Instead of running to transition, they could just cover a Slipandslide with Jello, or GU, so you could rehydrate and arrive at transition much faster.
A pipe dream perhaps, but I intend on suggesting it to the USAT and ITU.
Can you imagine how fast you would hit T1 riding this puppy? I think we should start an online petition for Slip and Slide's
Amalia and Amalia
Love this one of Luca with Nonna!
It is great getting together with family. Even though we do not get to see my extended family a lot, it is amazing how we all bond and talk about our similar interests. Case in point:
Luca and Julia rocking the gameboy.
Julian and Ayrton rocking the crazy long straw. I am not sure if this was a cool engineering accomplishment, or just really, really gross. Julian later told me that "no vacation is ever complete without a crazy long straw." I AM NOT KIDDING!
Stella decided that, like her father, she would find the nearest fountain to jump into to train for IMLP 2024.
If that was not enough fun for one day, later on in the evening, after swimming for a couple of hours, we decided to take the kids to this giant, well... the only way I can describe it is a casino for children. It had video games, batting cages, go-karts, bungee jumping (not the really dangerous kind mind you.)
I will let the pictures do the talking:
Julian shooting hoops.
Amalia and Janina both rocking learning about gravity. They both managed to keep their dinners down.
Speed Demon Stella. Look out Danica Patrick!
"Zooming" around with Amalia.
Amalia struck it rich. 175 tickets later! She picked the right color on kiddie roulette. What are we teaching our children?!
Well, it was great fun, but we got back to the hotel late, and could not avoid a couple of meltdowns along the way. One was by me. I was hungry—REAL hungry. It was ten o'clock and we hadn't eaten since three. The wifey was fine, so she was in no hurry to get out of this place, which completely annoyed me and left me irritated beyond belief. When I get hungry, I get very cranky. I turn into this guy:
On the way home, we decided to stop at Niagra Falls and let the kids experience a dose of corporate greed and global capitalism amongst one of the most incredibly scenic natural wonders of the world. However, on the way, my wife and I found this sign especially amusing:
C'mon ladies. While you are getting your oil changed, why not stop
in for a little manicure at the car dealership. Genius!
Walking back to our car, I got a little nervous when I saw a slip of paper that appeared to be a ticket on our windshield. I said to myself "Puh-leeeaaase don't be a ticket now." We parked on the street and paid for parking with one of those automated systems. This is what I was left with:
Yeah, that's my wheel. It seems as in my hurry to get my bike off the rear bike rack
and into my car—so it was not stolen while we were visiting the falls—I completely
forgot to put the wheel in the car that was leaning up along the driver side body.
Luckily, Alaina and I noticed that the car behind us also tucked their Trek triathlon
bike into their car as well. Whoever you are—THANK YOU!
On the way home, we made sure to stop for gas:
We were confident this place had some:
Okay, that's enough fooling around. I had a self-imposed off day on Sunday, but I was back out there Monday with an hour ride, followed by an hour run. Headed to the pool here in a bit for a more serious workout. I love swimming. Really. I do. It's fun. Yay!