Filed under: Travel Swellness

Travel Swellness: Road tripping in a 2019 Buick Envision to Montreal

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I think the Buick slogan, “That’s a Buick” is pretty clever, because the brand has truly changed my (and I’m sure other people’s) perception of what a Buick is.

Thanks to Buick Canada, I had the opportunity to test drive a 2019 Buick Envision to Montreal in April. And I comfortably drove for 2.5 hours straight; this is the longest stint I’ve ever been behind the wheel ever since I started driving at the age of 18. And I felt comfortable (great ergonomic design), safe (thanks to features such as the heads up display making me aware of my speed and blind-spot detection system) and aesthetically, the car’s very sleek (appealing to my design sense — check out the dashboard in the photo below; and love the huge sunroof!) and the Envision we test drove was in the Galaxy Silver Metallic, which is the colour I would get the car in (although the Summit White is pretty hot, too). Oh, and the OnStar (which provides turn-by-turn navigation and if you know me at all, I have zero sense of direction) and 4G LTE WiFi hotspot (which I used aplenty when I was a passenger to catch up on work). And the car had Sirius and I was able to listen to all my faves:

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Plus there was plenty of space, both in terms of leg room (Billie Jean curled up in the floor area of the passenger side) and in the trunk (we drove back with several dozen bagels and loads of food that my mom cooked, and she cooked for days and days since she knew I had a car that I could load up).

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Even though I grew up in Montreal, it was great to have the Envision to try somethings I’d never done in my hometown. I got a chance to see the two apartments I lived in as a baby (which I’d never been back to before); we stopped for a sweet and creamy drink at Orange Julep (which I haven’t been to since I was a kid even though I have passed by it for years on the way downtown); and we hiked with Billie Jean on a trail I’ve never been to at Mount Royal, one just off of the observation deck area.

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Yep, that’s a Buick, and it’s a car I’d seriously consider when it comes time to get a car.

Thank you GM Canada for the test drive where I got to explore a bit of my childhood and discover new things to in the city I grew up in! I think Billie Jean enjoyed seeing where I came from!

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Leave a Comment June 4, 2019

Travel Swellness: Testing performance with the 2019 Ford Edge ST

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“Karen, how would you like to try something terrifying?”

Okay, okay, that’s not what the invite read. In April, Ford Canada approached me with a fun challenge. They wanted to know if I was up for testing my performance through a fitness performance adventure such as rock climbing or trapeze, while also testing the performance of the 2019 Ford Edge ST. And, of course, I said yes (hello, have we just met, I love semi scary adventures, hahaha!).

My gut reaction was to try trapeze…but then I got kind of nervous as I thought about it some more (I don’t mind heights per se, but I don’t like the sensation of free falling or being upside down much) and thought “Oh, I’ll just do rock climbing.” But I’ve done rock climbing several times (in CEGEP I did several rock climbing gym intensives (when you could get your gym credit completed in one weekend, so convenient!), plus I’ve been climbing since then both out in nature and at climbing gyms). And I knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t push myself to try trapeze, so I decided to go for it. And then I had to think carefully about which friend would be up for this as well, and sure enough, my friend Amanda, who’s always up for just about anything, said she was game.

I drove us out to the trapeze class in Scarborough in the Ford Edge ST, and we were laughing on the way there because we knew the teacher would think we were a bunch of injured misfits who’d signed up for trapeze: Amanda was having knee surgery two days after our class, and I have a pinched nerve in my neck that’s been plaguing me with a sore shoulder for weeks. Not exactly peak performance mode for either of us! Also funny: we both had to google to confirm what trapeze actually is. We watched YouTube videos and fretted about actually being able to do it.

After some quick instruction, we were apparently good to go. Even just climbing the ladder up to the platform was nerve-wracking, but that was nothing compared to when they tell you to grab hold of the trapeze with one hand. It’s so taut that it feels like you’ll be pulled right off of the platform. I very much thought “I don’t know if I can do this!” I might have even said it out loud. I was doubting the decisions I’d made that lead me to be standing on this platform. Then, I grabbed it with my other hand when they said to and then (gulp) stepped off of the platform…

Whoosh! Once I was actually in the air it was less terrifying. I had a hard time hearing the instructions being shouted from the ground on my first try and didn’t quite understand when I was supposed to do what (with the first swing out is when you start to try to move the trapeze bar to behind your knees). I entirely missed it my first try, got closer the second try and by my third try I completed the movement! And I am entirely hooked. It was such an exhilarating feeling to be smoothly flying through the air, and also so satisfying to be able to complete the acrobatic move of moving your legs onto the bar, hanging down upside down and then moving your legs off of the bar to flip off of it. I only managed half of a flip off of it the whole class (I think my dismount is too slow, so I lose the momentum that’s necessary to do the flip).

I wholeheartedly recommend trying a trapeze class if you’ve ever been intrigued by it, I think you’ll love it. I hope to go back some day soon! Amanda and I still rave about it!

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We left the class totally high on adrenaline and piled back into the Ford Edge ST, and since we were so pumped, we got the ST’s 12 speaker B&O Premium Sound System by Bang & Olufsen going with some high-energy music to match our mood.

That was Friday night, and I used the car over the weekend, too, and took full advantage of having some wheels in the city and took it out several times each day. Since I was out and about a lot, having a fully charged phone is always an essential. And the Edge is the first car I’ve test drove with wireless phone charging. You just place your newer phone (like my Google Pixel 3) in the designated charging space, and your phone gets charged. No wires to fuss with. That is truly a life-changing feature, in my opinion.

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The Ford Edge features a dial to change from park to drive, and I think that’s a new design that would take some getting used to (I would always automatically go to look for a stick over the days I had the car) but I’m sure after a week, it’d become the norm. I did test the car’s performance once by hitting the S to put the car into sport mode. Now, I was only doing a slowish drive of the car on the Gardiner (thanks Toronto traffic), but I did sense that the car sort of stiffened up and was ready to GO, but driving in the city didn’t really allow me to do much with the feature, unfortunately. I should’ve planned a drive on a less busy country road to better test drive the 335 hp, 380 lb.-ft. of torque,  and the 2.7L V6 turbocharged EcoBoost engine (but I’d have had to bring a more car-savvy friend to help walk me through how those features were contributing to our drive, because short of a car having good ergonomics and visibility, and maybe how smoothly I feel it drives on a basic level, I am not, as I have mentioned before, super knowledgeable about those details; I assess cars more on comfort, safety and lifestyle features). The Ford Edge ST, by the way, is the first SUV from the Ford Performance Team.

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Always a bonus in a car is an sizable trunk, which I got full use out of by doing errands and picking up bulky grocery items (namely dog food and cat litter, those pets require lots of heavy lifting!). And I threw in more fitness fun with a hike at Dundas Peak in Hamilton, and a few foodie outings with friends (and driving with the Edge’s GPS is such a relief for someone like me with zero sense of direction; it got us to our destinations every time with no issues). The car also features Ford SYNC 3 AppLink with Waze, which we put to use when we ran into traffic on way to dinner on the weekend.

Oh, and the steering wheel in the Ford Edge ST is heated, which was fantastic when I test drove this vehicle because as you may know, it’s taken a very long time for spring temps to arrive in Toronto, and in fact, it snowed on the weekend I had the Edge ST and that heated steering wheel warmed up my frozen hands after a long hike. What an ultimate luxury, right? I think once you go heated steering wheel, you can’t go back.

The Ford Edge ST is both slick enough for urban life but rugged enough for those fitness-fueled outings, which is essentially how I live. Thank you Ford Canada for nudging me to try new things and the opportunity to put such a sweet ride to the test.

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Leave a Comment May 27, 2019

Travel Swellness: Camping in Killarney with the GMC Terrain

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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

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