Filed under: Travel Swellness

Travel Swellness: Camping in Killarney with the GMC Terrain

Killarney with Billie Jean

At the end of the summer, I fit in one last camping trip up to Killarney (where I’ve been wanting to check out for camping for quite awhile). With a GMC Terrain (thank you for letting me test drive this, GM Canada!), we set out for the longish drive (I consider anything more then two hours long, especially for a weekend).

gmc terrain

The Terrain was spacious for the two of us plus Billie Jean plus so much stuff (no matter how much I try to minimize gear, camping calls for hauling a lot of stuff!), and it had all the features I’ve come to love about the GM vehicles I’ve had the opportunity to drive (that’d be the Apple Car Play, a great GPS system and the little light on the side mirror letting you know if someone’s in your blind spot). What was different about this car than any other car I’ve driven is that it was a diesel engine.

Thankfully, GM let me know when I picked up the car that it was diesel (although it is clearly marked on the tank), and I was instructed to only fill it with diesel or else the car would just shut down if I fllled it with regular gasoline.

What’s the difference between diesel and gas? I had to do a little research online about this: fuel mixes with air in the engine and it combusts, which is what makes the pistons move done and turn the crankshaft, which is connected to the transmission, which then makes the car’s wheels turn. The piston moves up into the cylinder, pushes out of the engine and the tailpipe the burnt gas. More cylinders in your engine, the smoother the engine runs and the more powerful it is.

Where diesel and gas differ is in how they’re ignited in the engine. With gas, the gas and air is compressed and a spark plug ignites the combo of the two. With diesel, there’s no spark plus but rather the diesel and air is squeezed tightly enough that it just combusts from that action of being compressed. Since it runs on this combustion system of no spark plugs, diesel engines are often more simply and solidly built in comparison to a gas engine. And while I always thought diesel equaled more pollution compared to gas, from what I understand technology has come a long way and diesel runs cleaner than ever before.

OK, and if you like me thought only loud big rig trucks use diesel, that is clearly not the case, and with regards to the noise, advancements mean that the noise level is no longer a factor.

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Diesel contains more energy per unit than gas. So it often costs more but you’re getting more energy out of it. But over time, the fuel cost will end up being close to the same.

Hopefully, I’ve got all that info right (car buffs, please let me know if I’ve misunderstood what I researched!). This is all new to me and I confess that this is the most I’ve ever read about how an engine works.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, driving a diesel car didn’t feel any different. Oh, and in case you’re wondering where you can fill up with diesel,even though I’d asked if diesel is available at all gas stations and was told yes, the first one we went to fill up at in downtown Toronto did not have diesel.

Our rugged Terrain got us safely up to Killarney to starry skies at night and beautiful hikes, and I learned a little bit about car engines and diesel and gas in the process. If you’re thinking of camping in Killarney, here are my 5 tips I gained from my camping trip there:

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Hike the Chikanishing Trail. This trail is far simpler and more beautiful than the Crack and it leads you to beautiful Georgian Bay. The terrain is mixed (I like variety!), including some smooth pink boulders and towards the end, the path is narrow and the trees tower over you.

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Eat the famous fish and chips at Herbert Fisheries. We stopped at Herbert’s for lunch before the drive back to Toronto, and there is outdoor seating by the water (which was great since we had Billie Jean with us). The batter is light and delicate and it was a satisfying meal that tided me over for the trek home.

Killarney the Crack

Hike The Crack and bring lots of water and snacks. The stunning views at the peak make the long hike and the rough,jagged rocks for much of the trail (not my personal fave) worth it. Note: I don’t find the path that clearly marked and in fact went way off course at one point and thought me and Billie Jean were going to have to have search and rescue come save us. This hike will take you about four hours, so bring plenty of water (I didn’t pack enough for me and Billie Jean and it was a very hot day and we’re lucky we didn’t pass out from dehydration).

camp food

Pack delicious foods for your trip. This goes for any camp trip but I truly appreciated having non-typical camp food for this trip (we kind of went OTT as you can see). Sure, you can survive on only hot dogs and trail mix, but I love camping because we always eat great meals. This time we brought burrata and champagne and charcuterie. And it was awesome. Do prep as much as you can in advance, though.

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Be kind to your fellow campers. At one point one our first night, we got lost in the dark making our way back from going to see the lake and ended up on someone’s campsite and a very furious woman was simply a really awful human to us (even though we were clearly lost and not purposely trespassing on her site for kicks). Having witnessed this woman’s horrid treatment, the people on the next campsite broke the tension when we encountered them and their kindness helped make up for this horrible encounter. Thank you, you kind campers. As for the beastly lady, I wish you are treated more kindly in life going forward so that you can learn some grace yourself.

Until next year for more camping adventures! If you have any camping recos (any sites you love or great camping recipes), let me know! Camping is pretty new to me (my first trips were last summer to Rondeau and Killbear!).

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Leave a Comment December 3, 2018

Travel Swellness: The Porsche Experience

Porsche Experience 1

Um, drive a Porsche on a track? Hell, yes! As I’ve only ever been in a Porsche once before, when I was invited out to a track day with Porsche Canada at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, I couldn’t pass up the chance because this isn’t an opportunity many people get to have!

We arrived bright and early on an surprisingly windy and somewhat chilly day. I was glad I’d grabbed an extra layer before I left the house (from my last day on the track—getting on a track appears to be a regular thing for me now!—I recalled it being rather drafty on there track. Maybe I need a full-on racetrack jumpsuit…does Tibi make one? I’d want an ultra chic one…must research…

We started with some lessons on what we’d be putting into practice that day. I found out what a friction circle is (the amount of grip a tire gives you) and that we would be learning how to get the most out of the driving dynamics by managing how the vehicle’s weight is transferred. Don’t forget that the track conditions and also that water, snow or ice affects the tires’ grip, too.

I also learned what oversteering and understeering is: understeering is when you turn the steering wheel and the front loses traction and slides, and oversteering is when the rear loses traction. When you oversteer, the idea is to countersteer and turn into it, and to look in the direction of where you want to go.

When driving the track, you should be looking to make the track as wide as possible for yourself; always be looking ahead to connect the dots (which on the track is indicated by orange cones) and this way, by looking ahead, you have more time to be in control of the stability of the vehicle.

Porsche Experience 2

 

This all makes sense when they’re explaining it, but putting this into practice once on the track is a challenge for me. For our first drives through a course outlined with cones, I was never quite able to manage coming to a hard brake sufficiently enough that the hazard lights came on as we were instructed to do (I was pretty nervous to be going hard on the gas with one of the instructor’s right in front of me, and braking hard when he indicated to go left or right—this little exercise is daunting, you feel like you’re going to run him over!). Also, maybe it’s just me but when a course is outlined with traffic cones, I don’t find it that entirely obvious (you may recall I have gone the wrong way on such a course in the past).

Porsche Experience 3

My favourite part of the day was when we drove a Porsche with easy drift tires on. It’s funny because you feel as though you’re driving a decent speed in a circles but it’s actually only about 10-15k an hour. I’m not sure if this experience will help me if I were to ever oversteer in real life (but hopefully so!), and I definitely won’t be starring in the next Tokyo Drift flick but it was hella fun.

We did another challenge in which our goal was to make it through the course as quickly as possible without knocking any cones down, and I didn’t even check the results as I’m sure I was last! This just simply isn’t my forte.

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I skipped doing my last few individual laps around the track because I felt a bit nauseous from the track time and I also had my glasses on for the day (rather than contact lenses), and this always makes me generally feel less at ease plus having my glasses on with the helmet is also not comfortable.

I’m not a car geek but I think doing exercises such as these all help to making me feel more comfortable behind the wheel and builds my knowledge of how to be in control of a car. Now having a chance to regularly test drive different cars, I enjoy the experience of seeing and feeling what one vehicle feels like over the next. Even if I may not know the technical driving terms, I think it rounds out my understanding of how to evaluate a car’s performance in my own way.

Thank you Porsche Canada for the informative and fun day on the track in your beautiful cars!

 

Leave a Comment June 25, 2018

Travel Swellness: Ford Explorer adventures in Toronto with Billie Jean

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When it comes to my schedule outside of work, most of my time is spent making my sweet rescue pup, Billie Jean, happy. Yes, I’m now one of those people.

So with the opportunity to get a Ford Explorer from Ford Canada and show Billie Jean parts of the city she has not yet seen, I jumped at the chance. She’s only been in Canada a year, so there’s so much she hasn’t experienced yet and even though dogs are permitted on the TTC in non-rush hour times, there are adventures that are so much simpler to do with a car.

Ford Explorer at Bluffs

Let’s first talk about this vehicle, though. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t driven in a few months, but the Explorer is one big SUV. I thought I’d get used to it the more I drove it over the four days, but I have to admit I didn’t. However, while it made it nerve-wracking for me (the infrequent driver) to park — I think I spent 20 minutes in my underground parking trying to get it into the only available spot, which was the worst spot of the whole parking garage — I always felt safe in it. The blind-spot assist function is something I appreciate as well as the easy to use GPS (this is a must for me given I have no sense of direction and being lost is a huge stressor for me). In terms of comfort and how easy the car is to use, I liked the Billie Jean hopped right into the backseat (that’s her ultimate seal of approval, I have had vehicles where she seems unsure of what to do with herself), and things like the button to shut the trunk door and to lower the last row of seats (making it easier for me to view out the rear window) make it a relief to drive. And while I’m no expert on driving, from my perspective, I felt like it handled smoothly (braking is nice and smooth, accelerates how I’d expect it to based on how I much I’m stepping on the gas, and even just  how the actual steering wheel feels in your hands; the simple things you may not notice when the car runs smoothly like this one did, but are glaringly obvious when they’re not comfortable to the touch or driving experience, in my experience anyhow).

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I learned how well it drove over the course of a few days, and first up was a spa day for Billie Jean. We rolled up to Park9 in the Distillery  District, where Billie Jean enjoyed a massage bath, she get a mani (well, her claws were trimmed) and best of all, she got a blueberry facial. How cute is that? She came out smelling so fresh and clean and her fur was absolutely brilliant!

Sherwood Park

The rest of our time was spent visiting friends and going to parks we can’t access simply. This included Sherwood Park, which is a lovely park to trek around with a large off-leash section, and also Sixteen Mile Creek in Oakville, where Billie Jean got to sport her adorable new Nordic sweater.

Sixteen Mile Creek

Before stopping into Oakville, we went to make a small pit stop in Burlington as I was keen to try Sunshine Doughnuts (where Billie Jean wasn’t very pleased that she did not get a doughnut for herself).

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And for our last dog-fun outing? A visit to Scarborough Bluffs, which was blissfully quiet and serene on a weekend morning. If you’ve ever met Billie Jean, you can easily tell when she’s having the time of her life, and I know that she felt like she was living her best life on these adventures in the Ford Explorer.

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I took advantage of having the Ford SUV to also do a little exploring of my own, too. Namely, a food adventure. I picked up friends (did you know the Explorer seats six people?) and we headed to Fishmans Lobster Clubhouse, which I have long drooled over when I’ve seen posts of lobster towers on Instagram (and you may recognize the restaurant as it was recently featured on David Chang’s Ugly Delicious). It’s a set menu so my friend in the know insisted we go with a big group of people, so with the Explorer, we were finally able to make our lobster tower dream come true.  And it was so worth it. I can see this becoming an annual trek to Markham.

Fishmans Lobster Clubhouse

I reluctantly returned the Explorer and handed back the keys, but ended our explorations around the city with one happy dog (and one full and happy belly myself). You can check photos on Instagram with the hashtag #FordDogDays! And I’d love your recos of where to go on future outings with this pup!

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Leave a Comment May 1, 2018

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