More of a watcher than a reader? Catch my Instastories from the entire trip with Ford Canada here:
If you follow along with me on Facebook, you’ve seen my car. And you’ve seen the lengths I’ll go to fix it – all in the name of saving money for travel.
But lately, I’ve been thinking a new vehicle might not be a bad investment. Particularly because our winters are so long, dark and icy. An all-wheel-drive SUV or a truck would be a perfect upgrade for the climate in Canada and my adventurous lifestyle.
So last week was fantastic timing when Ford Canada invited me out to the West Coast for a little adventure to test out their line-up of 2017 SUVs.
It was a whirlwind trip as I was only there for one night, but it was a fantastic 36 hours exploring the Sunshine Coast.
At the Saskatoon airport by 5 AM, I landed in Vancouver just over two hours later. I made my way to the Fairmont Hotel to meet 15 other bloggers from across Western Canada. We arrived east to west, and I happened to meet up with Regina-based blogger Kenton de Jong.
The day was gloomy with heavy skies pouring both a mixture of rain, hail and snow onto the tarmac. I lamented the fact that I left my umbrella at home as our itinerary had a few outdoor stops. But by the time we ate breakfast and received the keys to our vehicle, a red Ford Explorer, the weather forecast was looking a little more promising.
I was teamed up with Kenton and we hit the road right away. Thankfully the built-in GPS easily guided us out of Vancouver. I’m not sure we would have made it following the maps provided. (I’m not always the best navigator as I’m too busy either talking or taking in the scenery).
The only way to access the Sunshine Coast is to take a forty-minute ferry north of Van City across to the town of Gibsons.
Once the entire entourage had made it, we stopped for some fresh seafood at Smitty’s Oyster House.
The seafood is sourced from multiple locations along the coastline. I even got the opportunity to shuck a few oysters after a quick lesson on how to properly pry them open.
The meal prepared for us was such a treat since Saskatchewan doesn’t have access to fresh seafood like the coast. From halibut fritters to steamed mussels and shrimp sautéed in a coconut sauce, the seafood paired perfectly with the vegetable, cheese, and bread platters.
Admittedly, I overate. But thankfully, the team at Ford had planned a light yoga session for us at Robert’s Creek. A short drive north of Gibsons, we gently stretched our muscles (and our stomachs). Then we had a bit of free time to explore along the pier. And, if you can believe it, we stopped for an afternoon coffee and more snacks at The Gumboot Cafe.
Back in the vehicle, we headed further north along the coast to our final destination for the night, the Painted Boat Resort Spa and Marina. On the way, I spent a bit of time exploring the interior of our vehicle. To my surprise – and delight – I discovered massaging and heated seats. Yes – you read that right! The front passenger and driver seats have a seat massaging function. Now that’s one perfect way to help aid in digestion!
At the resort, expecting a fairly standard hotel room, I was floored when I walked across the grounds and opened the door to my villa. Set-up like townhouses, the suite was fully equipped with two bedrooms, a kitchen, en-suite laundry, a dining and living room and loft office. There was not one or two patios, but three with a full patio-set and barbecue on the main floor. This resort would be perfect for a week-long getaway with family.
After snapping some photos and Instastorying the incredible villa (and view), I headed down to the Lagoon Restaurant to meet wildlife photographer Jess Findlay. He explored the grounds with us and offered some helpful tips to think about when photographing the vehicles.
When I flew in earlier that morning, I caught a sneak peek of all the Ford vehicles lined up out front of the airport. Immediately my eye was drawn to the shiny red F150 next to all the SUVs. In my head, I secretly thought “please let me drive that vehicle!” As we were discussing each model of SUV, I asked about the truck. Because, well – Saskatchewan. The Ford team kindly shined it up and parked it out on the lawn for me to snap some photos with.
It seemed like a small gesture but born and raised on a farm, trucks are more than just a dependable vehicle. We had numerous trucks – grain trucks, farm trucks, the “good” truck to take places that weren’t on the farm. I even took my driver’s license exam in my dad’s pickup. Trucks are part of the way of life and culture in Saskatchewan. So although SUVs are convenient and the fastest growing segment globally as well as in the Canadian automotive industry, a truck is what I dream of upgrading to one day. It’s a perfect fit for my adventure lifestyle: throw a canoe and kayak on top, a mountain bike, paddle board and all my camping gear in the back and I’m ready to go ANYWHERE.
Checking out the features of the flashy Ford F150, my craving for adventure was getting the best of me. Thankfully the resort had complimentary canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards to take out into the marina and connecting bay. I happily headed out for a kayak before supper.
The skies had lightened somewhat throughout the day. I had a moody view of low-hanging clouds over the mountains with a peach sunset poking through along the horizon. The water was perfectly flat and calm. I paddled around an island in the middle of Gerrans Bay (which someone privately owns and has a house on. #lifegoals).
On my way back to my room, as if on cue, I spotted a deer and two fawns feeding on the grass. I almost wanted to ask if the staff at the resort had planned the perfectly timed encounter.
Ready for the evening, I headed down to the Lagoon restaurant patio for some Prosecco, craft beer, and caviar tasting. This particular caviar was sourced from B.C. sturgeon. Flavourful on its own, the fish eggs had a buttery, nutty flavour that was only slightly fishy. It paired perfectly on top of a hard-boiled egg.
Off to the restaurant, we had numerous courses awaiting us. With five options in each of the two courses and two desserts each, I don’t know how I managed to sample a little bit of everything. The chefs expertly created meals ranging from grilled octopus and braised beef to steamed mussels in a red curry, lemongrass, coconut and ginger broth.
My favourite moment occurred when we went back down to the patio for a late-night astronomy lesson. Nothing pairs better with the stars than a bonfire, a Ford-version of a snuggie to stay warm in, and an entire ‘bar’ devoted to creating the most delectable s’mores possible.
Toddling off to bed with a more-than-full stomach, I chose to relax in the large soaker tub and replay the day’s memories in my mind.
The next morning, I woke before sunrise. The hotel manager had kindly left a paddle and lifejacket in my villa so I could take a paddleboard out before breakfast. No better way to start the day than amongst nature. I watched a little sea otter hop into the water, a bald eagle carry its breakfast back to the nest, and spotted a few jellyfish and starfish beneath me.
Packing up, Kenton and I swapped vehicles and spots. I climbed behind the steering wheel of a pearly white Ford Edge for the drive back to Vancouver. I admit the smaller size of the Edge was convenient to drive along the winding roads of the Sunshine Coast. It was so easy to park – as my car doesn’t have a backup camera. I was curious to learn about the collision sensors and blind-spot information system that alert you to an oncoming vehicle or cross-traffic vehicle that’s a little too close. The subtle vibrations in the steering wheel were a gentle yet effective reminder when driving too near the painted shoulder lines on the highway.
Back in line at the ferry, we all said goodbye. Kenton and I headed into Vancouver for an afternoon of exploring with another Saskatchewan friend in town.
That night as rolled into the airport, I received an alert on my cell phone for northern lights. Seated on the south side of the airplane, I begged the check-in attendant to swap my current window seat for a northernly facing one. Successfully landing one of the remaining seats, I was completely disheartened to board and discover there was no window at my window seat.
But, persistence paid off when I inquired about the availability of yet another window seat. I was granted one further back in the airplane. The window at this seat was located at the side of the seat and almost into the seat behind me. But by reclining my seat, propping up my laptop vertically on the armrest and wrapping my Joby tripod around it then hiding under my jacket to block the light around the window – it sort of worked to watch and try to take photos! And happily so, as the northern lights danced the entire hour and a half flight back to Saskatoon.
I even asked if the flight attendants could dim the lights in the entire airplane to help reduce the reflection in the window. I probably looked like a crazy person hiding under my jacket the whole flight but I got a view of a lifetime, a not-too-bad photo considering the conditions and got to strike another item off my bucket list!
A very big thank you to Ford Canada for such an epic whirlwind trip to the West Coast. This post couldn’t have been created without their invitation to come explore their 2017 SUV fleet.