Dodgeville’s fifth

Mural on a garage overlooking a parking lot

I published my first public post on this blog five years ago today. Writing a blog always struck me as kind of a funny thing to do, so I always wanted to have fun with it. My work largely requires me to fix problems (occasionally of my own creation) on relatively short timelines so I’m used to quickly identifying issues and researching solutions to the various technical absurdities and contradictions that I encounter. I suppose that mindset translates into my Dodgeville ramblings as well. In a lot of ways, updating Dodgeville is a release valve, a way to get something off my chest or to put aside some other problem for a few minutes while I slap together a post. Although I write primarily for my own enjoyment, I greatly appreciate that you, my loyal half-dozens of readers, accompany me on my journeys through the city, the countryside, and the boxes in my basement.

The topics I cover are frequently hyper-local and the posts often more detailed than necessary. Indeed, something as minor as repaving of a road around the corner from my house merited a grand total of six posts (so far) examining the results. A big empty field has been the subject of three recent posts. And on days when I’m too lazy to go outside, I just write about random things I pull out of boxes in the basement. I’ve sometimes thought about resubtitling Dodgeville from “Random wanderings and wonderings” to “Stuff within a five-minute walk of my house and sometimes not even that far.”

One of the eternally frustrating things about blogging is having too many things to cover and not nearly enough time to write about them all. So my digital archives slowly fill with clippings, links, pictures, snippets of potential posts, research reminders, and large projects that just haven’t come together yet. Some of those projects have been hanging around on my to-do list since 1994, waiting for technology to advance to the point that I’ll be able to do justice to my vision. One project idea that I had in 2006 will finally be coming to fruition this summer. Many others continue to bide their time, already born of my 1% inspiration and awaiting my 99% perspiration. Still other posts await because they were no longer timely when I finally got around to writing them, but will almost certainly be topical again at some point. Yet more ideas never made it into the serious consideration stage, including Bruise of the Week, Grave of the Month, and The Daily Sock. Consider yourselves lucky.

It’s been three years since I did one of these anniversary posts, so rather than going back and picking out my favourite posts since then, I’m going to put up a short gallery of a few interesting pictures that never made it into full posts for one reason or another. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you accompany me for another year of wanderings, amusement, outrage, and signs. Always more signs.

Check out the random gallery below the fold.

Read More …

Dodgeville, now bigger and better

New and old Dodgevilles

Those of you who read Dodgeville directly rather than in an RSS reader may have noticed that the site looks a little different today.  It’s now running a theme based on Panorama with a few minor tweaks. The most noticeable change is that images and galleries in new posts will be larger than they have been to this point. When this incarnation of Dodgeville launched almost five years ago, images were limited to being a mere 500 pixels wide. That was updated within a year to 640 pixels, and is now being upsized again to 800 pixels. Images in galleries may be larger yet, up to 1024 pixels wide. The changes will allow room for more detail in images. The new theme is cleaner overall and it should hold for another couple of years.

Other changes include several new banner images at the top of each page and some backend modifications that won’t mean much to most of you. When I first put together this site, I wrote that no one ever asks me questions, but I’d post a FAQ as soon as people started to inquire regularly. Well, I now have enough genuine FAQs that a FAQ in order. You should see it under the “About” menu above in a couple of days.

I’ll be making several additional updates to the site over the next few days, so let me know if you notice anything amiss.

Dodgeville expands east

Rice Lake lit by the full moon

Rice Lake lit by the full moon.

Following a decades-old dream, Dodgeville expanded to the northeast last week, annexing a plot of land on the north shore of Rice Lake to be used by all Dodgeville residents for year-round recreational purposes. Risa and I just spent our first (cold!) weekend there, unpacking and fixing and getting things into order.

With a door-to-door non-highway route totalling just 110 km, it’s well within my single-day cycling range, even pulling a loaded trailer. That said, I’d be travelling with both wife and cat, neither of whom is likely to appreciate such a long ride, so we’ll be sticking to the car for now.

Of course, there are differences between this cottage and the old family cottage from my youth: TV, phone, high-speed Internet, running water, and an indoor bathroom chief among them. We’re looking forward to visiting the local towns, exploring the local backroads, hiking the local trails (both the Ganaraska and Oak Ridges trails pass nearby), and just generally relaxing.

Meet the new Dodgeville, same as the old Dodgeville

The old design gives way to the new

If you visit Dodgeville directly rather than through an RSS reader, you may have noticed that the site has gotten a minor redesign. The old theme, originally based on MistyLook, had served me well, but I thought it was time for a change. The new look is based on MagicBlue, a fully GPL‘d theme. The layout remains basically the same, but less dead space at the top of each page means that more content is visible on first load.

There are still a few kinks to work out, but I doubt that most people will notice. Please let me know if it displays hideously in your browser. Among other things, the new theme supports tags and makes posting galleries much easier. You’ll be seeing more of them in the future.

The Globe visits Dodgeville

Roads to nowhere, paths of discovery

For those of you who didn’t catch it, Dodgeville was featured in Dave LeBlanc’s Architourist column in Friday’s Globe and Mail. Mr. LeBlanc (to use the Globe‘s house style) and I spent a sunny Sunday afternoon last month exploring three abandoned bits of Toronto infrastructure: old Don Mills Road, Pottery Road, and the DVP on-ramp at York Mills. Good times.

Another year in review

An old streetcar has seen better days

Although Dodgeville has been around in one form or another for close to fifteen years, this fourth incarnation celebrated just its second anniversary yesterday. My informal goal when I started this blog was to produce interesting, varied, and somewhat unstructured content on a regular basis. I like to think that I usually succeed. Dodgeville’s tagline, “Random wanderings and wonderings,” was originally intended to be a placeholder while I thought of something better. I never did, and it seemed as appropriate as anything else I could come up with to cover my mix of ramblings. I do try to make this blog less about me and more about the world around me, but I did occasionally bring my half-dozens of readers a little deeper into Dodgeville this year to follow our kitchen renovation. It was finished two weeks behind the original timeline, which was well within our expectations.

Classic car hoodDodgeville’s sophomore year was quite productive even though, as with its first year, most potential posts never quite made it beyond the idea or initial draft stages. You may consider it a blessing that a tiny fraction of the 5500 pictures I’ve taken in the past 12 months have made it into the blog. As with last year’s wrap-up, the pictures accompanying this post are a few of the many that I’d set aside for posts that I never quite got around to developing.

I changed workplaces around this time last year and much of my sights-of-the-city reporting changed venues with me: instead of watching red-tailed hawks and urban wildlife in and around E.T. Seton Park, this summer I tracked red-tailed hawks and urban wildlife in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Mount Pleasant has also been the source of some of my griping this year, but mostly I really like exploring the cemetery. You’ll be seeing more of it in the year ahead, too.

Lurking in the hallway

Following up on the previous year’s explorations of old Pottery Road and Don Mills Road, I paid visits to Indian Line, an abandoned DVP on-ramp, and Passmore Avenue.  Every time I think I’m running out of abandoned roads, another one pops up onto my radar. I hope to spend more time exploring hidden and neglected corners of the city this coming year.

Some of my favourite finds this year included a colourful garage door, notes to the cleaning crew, a leet car, a poorly-designed intersection, Eddie Shack Donuts, the city’s best bike lane (courtesy of the TTC strike), and a traffic camera watching the Don River.  I posted a number of my discoveries on Torontoist instead of here; they included a readymade on Merton Street, a very Toronto display of passive aggression, a touching neighbourhood notice, and a grossly inaccurate official notice.

Torontoist was also home to one of my most ambitious blogging projects yet, The Travails of Mr. Stickman. I spent about three months obsessively examining every commercial vehicle and piece of heavy machinery that I walked or biked past to compile the three dozen photos. It was a lot of fun, but I was happy to turn my concentration to something else shortly afterward. I also contributed about a dozen business names to the Great Torontoist Pun Hunt including my personal and long-time favourite, “Bin There Dump That.”

Relaxing at the fountain

One of the things that continues to surprise me about the city is how much of it lurks just out of sight. For the curious, there’s always more around the corner or a block away. It’s the primary reason why I continue to vary my commuting and walking routes. Although my schedule has put a crimp in my wandering for much of the last year, I should be coming out of the worst of my overcommitments just in time for the spring hiking and cycling seasons.

Old caboose in the woods

So what’s up for Dodgeville this year? Many more random discoveries, for sure. A couple more abandoned roads, I hope. More explorations in Toronto’s outer suburbs and rural surroundings, thanks to the extended day-tripping range I get out of the combination of the GO train and my new (incredibly zippy!) road bike. Some new Supermarket Finds are on deck in the next few weeks. And of course, there will be celebrations when the Chester Hill bike lane is finished early in the spring.

Dodgeville will also be getting a redesign with support for those newfangled tags and some other new content. For those of you who read the site directly instead of through an RSS reader, one of the improved features is already visible in the sidebar to the right. In addition to the cycling mileage counter of previous years, I’m now keeping track of my walking, public transit, and automobile mileage. In the first seven weeks of the year, an unexpected result is already emerging: I fully expected the car and walking totals to be inverted. I think I travel about 2000 km by car in an average year and I’m on pace to walk around 1500 km this year, so we’ll have to see if the numbers hold.

Anyway, thanks for reading for yet another year. Stick around; there’s lots more to come.

Kitchen reno part 3

Old kitchen

New kitchen

Before the renovation started


The contractors finished the floor yesterday and the cabinet crew took over today, installing all of the cabinetry. There’s not much left for them to do tomorrow other than putting up the moulding and doing some finishing work. It’s almost beginning to feel like a kitchen again. We’ll get measured for the countertop early next week. After tomorrow, we’ll be at the halfway point in the schedule.

Kitchen cat

His Highness, displaying two of seven shavings from his recent trip to the Veterinary Emergency Clinic, tries to look unimpressed by all the fuss as he lounges on the new floor.

Kitchen reno part 2





The old floor and tiles have been ripped out, and the relocated electrical and plumbing roughed in. In the last few days, the contractor installed the new subfloor and finished and painted all the walls and ceiling. The bulkhead that ran along the length of the wall above the old cabinets has been virtually eliminated, with only a small plumbing vent that ran through it remaining in place. It’ll be hidden inside the new cabinets.

The new cork floor is to follow this week, with the cabinet installation scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Sometime after that, we get our appliances, counter, and sink. With any luck, we’ll be fully kitchened again on schedule by mid-September. With even more luck, the worst of the dust is behind us.

Kitchen reno part 1

Step One: Out with the old.

The calm before the storm

Lined up, waiting to go to a new home

Where’d the kitchen go?

The contractor carefully removed the old cabinets, appliances, and fixtures, which we donated to Habitat for Humanity. The load filled up about half of a cube van. In contrast, with the exception of a couple of studs and a length of 4″ duct, the rest of the first day’s demolition detritus fit into three bags. Who needs a big ugly disposal bin?

And thus begins a scheduled six weeks of life without a kitchen. Tomorrow, the floor.

(No, we’re not doing any of the work ourselves. Knowing when to call in the professionals is a key to a happy marriage.)

Year in review

Post and Rings in the snow

After months of behind-the-scenes work, countless design overhauls, seemingly endless sessions with focus groups, and three mass firings of my marketing teams, I made my first post on this blog one year ago today. I got a total of four hits in my first week: one MSN crawler, two from Yahoo, and one bot looking for a security hole. My first confirmed human visitor was still more than two weeks away.

That initial article was followed a few days later by my second post, in which I boldly declared that if I ever wrote about “how fascinating I find the squirrels in my backyard, you have my permission to give me 30 lashes with a wet noodle.” Exactly two months and twenty-two posts later, I wrote about the fascinating squirrels in my backyard. I held out as long as I could but those damn squirrels always get the better of me. I lasted almost an entire year before breaking my other vow and writing about what I had for dinner last night. Oh well. Otherwise, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to Dodgeville’s founding mission statement.

Filling up the Leslie Street SpitA few of my favourite posts and adventures from my first year include finding the old Martin Goodman Trail, taking a look at the abandoned monorail at the Toronto Zoo, chronicling my bike ride home from Niagara Falls, uncovering the Ontario government’s crackdown on street racing, exposing the moose that time forgot, finding a rock balancer in the Humber River, seeing a potential Christo project in Toronto, looking at the development of York Mills over a 20-year period, being hoisted into the air on the end of a very long stick, walking along the entire length of old Pottery Road, and, yes, watching those naughty squirrels. You really should see them going at it.

A number of those posts also appeared on Torontoist after I started writing for them in June. I’ve contributed almost 50 posts to Torontoist so far, only about a quarter of which I’ve reposted on Dodgeville. If you’re not reading Torontoist, you really ought to. Not just for my posts, but for all of the other great writers churning out heaps of local content there every day.

The funny thing about blogging is that you never really know what’s going to stick until after you throw it at the wall. I wasn’t planning to write about the abandoned Toronto Zoo monorail because I figured that a picture of an old concrete slab wouldn’t really interest anyone but me. And yet that article is among the most consistently hit week after week, and the version I wrote for Torontoist became my first contribution to be referenced by a Wikipedia article. Who knew?

Old family cemetery in PickeringAnd then there are the dozen posts that are forever in the queue, but which never quite make it out for some reason. And don’t forget the dozens that are still just scribbled notes and haven’t even made it into the official queue yet—almost a hundred ideas in waiting at last count. All in good time.

The pictures that accompany this post are a few of the hundreds that I’ve wanted to incorporate in posts but haven’t (yet) been able to. Since I started this blog, I’ve taken almost 5000 pictures of the city around me; you should be happy that I don’t post about everything I see.

Yet I still mourn some of the articles that got away because I couldn’t get a picture or didn’t have my camera with me. Among these, I’d include a plane we saw being towed down the highway (within a few weeks of our Suzuki and a half sighting), a bicycle decorated with a lion-like fairing (including full mane), and an awesome homemade cargo bike. Although I carry a camera with me at least 90% of the time I’m out of the house, apparently that isn’t enough.

Of the 135 articles that did make it out of the queue in the first year, the five most-viewed represent a pretty good cross-section of the site’s content:

  1. The Dark Knight. People love a cat in a uniform. So much so that in just a little over three months, this post has garnered twice as many hits as the next most popular article. The picture itself is hit even more, thanks to numerous direct links.
  2. Cyclist’s revenge. People also love a tale of vengeance with a heart-touching ending that will reaffirm your faith in humanity. Or something.
  3. Promise versus practice: Canadian Tire. It amuses me to no end that a lot of people seem to reach this page when looking for the store’s address. It’s fallen way down the Google listings recently, but it was really popular until a couple of months ago.
  4. Highway Traffic Act roulette #1. In which the provincial government tackles the scourge of street racing.
  5. Bike Train II: The long way home. What I didn’t mention in this post or subsequent comments was that I trained all spring and summer long to ensure that I could tackle the ride. I pushed myself farther and faster almost every weekend so that I had a decent shot at making the distance. I added an hour to my standard weekend ride each month from April through July until by I was up to almost six hours in early August. Still, the ride almost broke me. After taking my final snack break in Mississauga, it took me half an hour to talk my ass into getting back on the saddle. I’m glad I did, but it was close.

No, that’s not my keyboardSo that’s been my first year of blogging; I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far. I’d like to thank my millions dozens of readers—at least three of whom are not related to me by blood or marriage—for coming along with me as I’ve explored the city, uncovered various curiosities, seen various sights, and thought various thoughts. There’s much more on deck for this year.