2017 Top 10 ~ Camping Trip to Ottawa (#3)

To start July I celebrated my 45th birthday, and shortly afterwards I had 10 days scheduled off from work for a nice long vacation.  One I felt was sorely overdue after the events of the previous 11 months and the experience of separating, selling my house and moving on with my life.  I spent a lot of my down time trying to plan the perfect road trip with my kids…

One of my biggest fears was seeing this trip turn into something from the movie Vacation, where is something can go wrong will go wrong.  I also feared extended hours in the car with two teenage girls and the potential issues that might arise.  I had talked to the girls about what they wanted to do and the things that they wanted to see, and to be honest I didn’t quite get the reaction that I was hoping for from them.  They didn’t seem super excited as I was for this trip…

That being said I have learned so much about me, and my relationship(s) with these girls that next summer the trip of a lifetime will happen and it will become an annual tradition.  I was a different person back then as opposed to the man that sits here today.  At some point I decided to break this road trip into two seperate ones… a trip with my buddies (as I was planning on draggin my daughters to some US ballparks) and one with Emily and Megan.

So upon returning from the States (more on that later) I unpacked, and then repacked the Jeep and we were off.  The plan was to head towards Ottawa as I had booked a KOA campground for several nights, on all the back roads to explore this great country that we have.  One of the things the boys and I had talked about just a few days before was saving turtles when you would see one trying to cross the road, Ryan was telling the story about he rescues turtles and turns to me and says, “I am sure your the same Ed?”  I nodded politely and the conversation carried on.  In my head I was thinking that one I’ve never rescued a turtle, and two I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a turtle crossing the road.

Well wouldn’t you know it after only a few hours on the road, there right in the middle was the poor little turtle trying to make it across the road.

Hmmm, I love turtles.  Thanks for the rescue?  Nope I pee on you instead!

We immediately pulled over and ran out into the middle of the road to rescue the poor little guy, when I bent over to pick him up by the edges of his shell he did what all good turtles tend to do.  Pull his head inside of his shell and then proceeded to piss all over my left.  Thankfully my dexterity was up to the challenge and I was able to Tennessee two step my way out of the stream just in time.  We placed the turtle onto the side of the road, and facing in the same direction he was already headed, jumped back in the Jeep and we continued on the way.

Rescuing turtles will always be something that I will now be on the lookout for!

We continued to head North, stopping at not only the Candy Shoppe on the 400 North, we also hit up the Kawartha Dairy for a delicious ice cream cone and pulled over at several national parks to stretch our legs and have bathroom breaks as needed.

Once we got to our campsite in Ottawa and settled in, it was time for dinner.  Over the first few months of the this summer I learned how to cook over an open campfire.  Not the easiest thing to do as every single campfire will be different in terms of its intensity and distance from fire to food.  It requires constant supervision and adjustments throughout the cooking process as too not too burn anything.  Yes I’ve ruined a few hot dogs in my day but I pretty much have gotten the hang of it, and not once did I have to break out the Coleman stove that I bought as backup.

Nights around the campfire are my favorite.  Sitting there listening to good music, talking and sharing stories, roasting marshmallows and making smores.

My only disappointment with this trip was my inability to get Emily to re-engage with some family time each night.  She would retreat into the cabin with her headphones in, listening to her music and sending out an endless parade of SnapChats to her friends.  Megan was all in and I had just the best time with her playing frisbee, catch and other games around the campsite.  Emily was reluctant to join in on any of this family fun, she wouldn’t even go swimming with us at the pool and the lake.

The next day the weather was not the best and we did some shopping at the Tanger outlet mall in Ottawa and had some lunch while in town.  We did a lot of shopping over the summer, getting the girls some fun things along the way and I basically replaced my entire wardrobe and shoe collection this year.  I think this shopping trip was my last of this year in terms of clothing as my perception on money and how best to spend it was already starting to change… (more on the that in my #1 post for 2017.

I has asked the girls what they wanted to do while up in Ottawa and two common things come from this conversation, one was to go Zip Lining and the other was the chance to drive the Jeep.  Both of these were crossed off the list the next day!  I have a healthy respect for heights and was a little afraid of what the day might bring, but it was a beautiful drive over and across a large river dividing Ontario and Quebec that was a delight to see.

The zip lining course was at the top of a mountain and it was a long and winding road up to the top through some beautiful summer views.

We arrived on time, got all geared up and had the chance to watch the group ahead of us finish up with the final zipline back to the base camp.  We walked out into the woods, had our orientation and away we went.  My only other ziplining experience was in Jamaica and it was much different than what I experienced in Ottawa.  I figured it would be a guided tour through the trees with instructors in front and behind us, travelling in a large group.  Well that was not the case at all, we were pretty much on our own as the instructors kept watch from the safety of the ground.  Being the first three on the course we were able to go at our own pace, and with two adventurous girls leading the way we quickly were ahead of everyone else and having just the best time imaginable.

The course started off with several climbing in and around type obstacles to orientate one from being off the ground and to get more comfortable with the zipline to come.  It was actually a really fun time for me and I quickly got over my fear of heights to the point where it wasn’t even a factor.  Watching my girls hit each line ahead of me allowed me to see what I was in store for, how fast the line might move and to prepare for each landing.  The difference between an 80 lb girl and a 180 lb man are quite different in terms of speed and impact on each landing.  I was able to generate a lot more speed across the ziplines than either of the girls were able to do so.

We had so much fun this day, I was able to conquer some of my own fears and felt that I grew closer to each girl throughout the afternoon.

Up next on the agenda was some off road driving in the Jeep after searching for the right road to drive on.  With Emily turning 16 later in the year I knew that she would want to get some experience behind the wheel.  I didn’t want to just trespass in an open field or on private property so while drive around the water I simply followed a sign for an empty lot for sale.  The road turned from paved to gravel, and then eventually to no road at all and we ended up on an abandoned lot down on the Ottawa River.  It was perfect!

I drove the Jeep right up to the edge of the water and enjoyed a few minutes of sheer beauty and some peace and quiet.  Right up until the girls were attacked by a few wasps… hilarity ensued!

I was able to do some off roading across this lot and back up and down the “road” that led down to this cottage, and I even allowed the girls a chance to get behind the wheel of the Jeep for a trip themselves.  Both girls showed no fear and had a blast driving the Jeep with not another soul around.

After several trips up and down and back again we headed back to the campgrounds for another fire roasted dinner of deliciousness.  We would spend one more day in Ottawa before returning to the real world back here in Barrie.  I know personally I had a wonderful time and learned a lot about myself and what is truly important in life and spending time with my girls.  We would go camping several more times throughout the summer as I shared the wonderful world that is mother nature.

It was during this trip that I started to realize just what was important to me, the Summer of George has started with the idea of having the time of my life and doing a lot of crazy things that money could buy you.  Sitting in the best seats if you will, replacing a wardrobe, buying countless baseball jersey and matching ball caps, Star Wars battle drones, and many other things…  This extended road trip was the beginning of my understanding of what truly is important in life, my family, my friends.  Spending time with them, having fun, creating memories.  One that last a lifetime and are not easily forgotten or replaced, this thought process I would chase for the remainder of this year and wouldn’t fully understand until mid September.

2017 Top 10 ~ Jeep Wrangler “Willy’s” (#4)

abb60d4ef5_640I loved my 2005 Saturn Vue, a car line that was discontinued at some point when American motor sales were struggling and GM closed down this particular line of vehicles.  I drove two of them in a row, and would have continued to purchase this line of cars as I found them both fun to drive and very reliable.  My Saturn Vue was with me through my entire triathlon career, was driven down to Florida and back on more than one occasion and was my car when I went down to Kentucky and did my Ironman race in 2009.  I really wanted to see that car reach 300,000 km and it finally had to be retired at 296,000 km and change as it was looking at a costly repair bill.  That is when I got my 2013 Toyota Corolla as we needed a commutator car at the time and I was driving from Barrie to Vaughan and back on a regular basis.

The Toyota was okay, and during it’s time I racked up 135,000 km on it in no time, but I hated the sight lines on it.  I was used to driving up at a higher driving angle for over 8 years in my Vue, and now I was continually getting blasted my other cars right into my eyes.  One of the drawbacks to having laser eye surgery is slightly reduced night vision, and this became readily apparent when I started to drive the Toyota.  When the opportunity earlier this year presented itself to get a new car, I really started to think long and hard about what I really wanted.

I knew whatever this purchase was going to be, this car was going to be with me for a good long while.  I quickly dismissed the idea of a flashy sports car that screamed mid life crisis, and started thinking about a Jeep.  I’ve always wanted a Jeep as it represents to me a lifestyle choice and the freedom to go just about wherever you could possible want to go.

Driving is fun, pavement is optional.

So I began the shopping process and would endless build my dream Jeep on their website over and over again, never quite bringing myself to actually order it.  I believe initially I was waiting for the sale of my house to go through and perhaps the extreme cost of getting a brand new fully loaded Jeep Wrangler.

And for me the Wrangler was the only way to go, after all Jeep makes several different lines of Jeep but there is only one Wrangler.  The Wrangler, and its predecessor the YJ are the only Jeep that comes with the Jeep wave.  Yes there is such a thing as the Jeep wave, just look it up.  And it is only for those who drive the Wrangler model, we look down our collective noses at them other fake Jeeps as I like to call them.  All kidding aside, I wanted the Jeep that could drive through rivers, over mountains and go wherever I decided that I wanted to go.

I finally decided to do to visit a dealership, and with Austin along for the ride took one out for my first test drive and the first time that I had ever driven a car with that powerful of an engine.  To be honest I was a little scared, well very scared when I first got behind the wheel as it was powerful beyond imagination.  It was driving a tank at first, and seeing as there was still snow on the ground I engaged the 4 wheel drive and literally drove through snow banks, over snow piles and any other obstacle that I could find.  I was instantly sold and knew that I would be buying one in short order, so I started to search for the best deal that I could find.

I initially started at the Barrie Jeep dealership, and unfortunately for that salesman he didn’t think I was serious about purchasing a Jeep, wasn’t very knowledgeable about answering my questions and didn’t go out of his way to offer any kind of wow service.  Too bad as that guy ost out on a nice commision from me.  Next up was the Vaughan dealership as I had been in contact with a salesman there via email.

When I went in to meet him, I was forgotten about in the waiting area for almost an hour, and was literally about to leave in disgust when the head of the department asked if I had been helped, took me into his office and we started talking.  Small world as it turns out his wife’s brother was a manager at another Keg location and I immediately got the friends and family discount on my new Jeep. Win!

My Jeep on the left after 1500 km road trip through Chicago and St. Louis.  Parked right next to the smaller model that looked like it just came off the assembly line.

I had already done my shopping on the website, and knew exactly what model, colour and features that I wanted.  Turns out that this combination didn’t exist anywhere currently in Canada, usually when you purchase a new car that is not on the lot they do a vehicle search and will have it shipped in from another dealer, etc… Mine as configured didn’t exist, so they needed to order it from the manufacturer.  I cannot tell you how cool I would this concept to be, while I did have to wait several weeks for me Jeep it was being custom built for me and no one else (other than the Jeep that loaded and unloaded it from the truck) would ever drive it.

It had 3 km on the odometer when I was finally able to pick it up in April of this year.  Talk about building anticipation for something, every week or so I would email for an update on how things were going.  I didn’t know it at the time but when I placed the order Air Conditioning was added to it at no cost to me.  My mindset was, hey this is a car where the roof and doors come off, who needs air conditioning?  Right?  Well it turns out to be a blessing, as with four kids they are not always up for the wind blowing at them while zipping down the highway.

In the few months since I’ve owned this amazing vehicle I have already taken to many amazing places and seen some amazing things.  It was officially broken in during July as I was on a 10 day road trip down to Chicago and St. Louis with a group of friends to see baseball games at Wrigley and Busch stadium.  We camped along the way, and this trip was so enjoyable that it will become an annual tradition and might even appear on this Top 10 list rather shortly…  And immediately afterwards my daughters and I headed north to Ottawa for another camping trip where both girls got the chance to drive the Jeep on some abandoned country roads for the first time.

Dad even got a chance to do some off roading in it as well.

Everything that you could think about to put into an SUV, Jeep had it covered.  I had ordered both the Hardtop and Soft Top for it, the doors are so easy to remove when wanted and the upgraded Alpine sound system with eight speakers and all weather subwoofer absolutely rocks.  It was roomy enough for four guys, all the camping gear on our trip to Chicago.  It is lengthy enough that I can slide my kayak into the back with the rear seats folded down, and with the trailer tow hitch I was actually able to move into my new house simply y renting the 12 foot U Haul trailer.


I’ve been caught out in the rain with it before, which quickly turned into a monsoon and trying to put the doors back on when I get home was an effort in futility.  It actually collected several inches of water on the inside, and when the rain subsided I simply went out side and pulled out the plugs underneath the mats and quickly watched all the water quickly disappear.

I also had the misfortune of spilling an entire Jerry Can of gasoline into the backseat and floor one day while driving home not realizing the cap wasn’t screwed on properly.  The carpets were simple enough to pull right out, go through the washing machine a few times and simply placed back inside.  I have become that Jeep owner that will park his car wherever if no parking spots are available, case and point on December 23rd at the LCBO when the only spot left was the curb so I took it.


I laugh to myself hysterically every time I do something in my Jeep the average car owner just cannot do based on ground clearance, off road capability or just being plain dumb.  After all it why I bought the Jeep in the first place.  Not taking advantage of ALL that it can do would be a waste of all it’s features. no?  I have also discovered an old road that leads into an abandoned field our near Hilton Falls in Milton that I have driven in and around a few times now which always tests out just what the Jeep in capable of doing.

Next summer I need to go to the Black Mountain Off Road adventure park in Kentucky which has 500 miles of trails for 4 by 4 owners all laid out by a trail rating system similar to ski hills.  And now that we have snow, and a lot of it here in Barrie my Jeep slices through the worst winter storm just like a hot knife through butter just like I knew it would.  I love my Jeep as much as one man can love an inanimate object.  The neighbours thought I had issues when I first got it as I would wash it almost daily!  My mindset was that I am only going to own a new car like this once in my lifetime and i wanted it to look the part for as long as possible.

So if you ever see me in passing on the roads, give me the Jeep wave and I promise to wave back!