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.

A mission statement of sorts

Actually, it seems that it’s the second blog entry that’s the difficult one.

One of the reasons that I’ve resisted starting a blog for so long — aside from sheer laziness, of course — is that I’ve seen far too many get bogged down in the mundane details of the author’s life and I wanted to be sure my own site could avoid that fate. The various incarnations of my web site over the last 13 years have been notable for their near-complete lack of detail about me and my life. I’d like to continue that tradition, so if you catch me writing about what I had for dinner last night or how fascinating I find the squirrels in my backyard, you have my permission to give me 30 lashes with a wet noodle.

That said, I intend this blog to be about all aspects of life in and around Toronto, with a focus on the city as experienced on foot and by bike. I realize that I’m not breaking any new ground here — there are at least a jillion Toronto-centric blogs — but I hope to be able to bring a slightly different perspective to this very broad topic.

Like most new bloggers, I have a handful of issues that I’d like to concentrate on. Either you’ll see the patterns starting to emerge over the next few weeks, or you’ll see the blog sporadically updated with short meaningless entries before I abandon it entirely. Your guess is as good as mine at this point.