The Collingwood Beer Scene

Scott visitis Collingwood Ontario to try out some local brews.

10 Tips For Your First Portage Trip

Sam and Ed went on a portaging trip this summer and leave you with some excellent tips and advice to survive your own trip.

Checking out Toronto from the Edge with Ford Canada

Ford Canada invited Scott out to experience Toronto in a truly unique way.

5 Tips to a Successful Homebrew

Scott and Sam; our resident home brewers, offer their top 5 pieces of advice to get on your way with homebrewing.

Packing for a Weekend Canoe/Camping Trip

Ed shows off one of the many ways you can pack up your gear for a weekend getaway into the wild.

Date Night: Athens

Chris takes his lady for a night out on the town in the historic city of Athens where they enjoy some sight-seeing, local dishes and dancing!

Simple Ways to Outfit a Canoe

Scott offers up 5 simple ways to outfit a canoe for comfort and usuability.

The 19th Hole: Varadero Golf Club

A continuation of the 19th hole series; Ed takes in a round on a sweltering day at the beautiful Varadero Golf Club.

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Outer Banks, North Carolina: In Pictures

Last year, my girlfriend, her sisters, brother and I all packed into a Ford Explorer and drove for 15 hours from Toronto, Ontario to The Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was probably the most relaxing vacation I've had in quite a while. Probably because instead of partying I made this trip all about unwinding from the day to day grind.

We would spend all day on the beach reading, cooling off in the water on our tubes or hunt down some of the best sea shells I've ever seen. We'd spend the evening watching sunsets, having some hearty meals and partaking in a few adult beverages by the pool or in the hot tub. We'd cap everything off with a few competitive games on the billiard table and then hit the hay to repeat it all over again the next day. The Outer Banks is a hell of a good escape if you just want to keep things quiet and relaxing.

Here are a select few photos of the hundreds I took on that trip:

The beach has a mix of small grassy dunes and flat spots to set up camp for the day.

I love the way the homes were painted to be bright and give off that beach town feel.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It's pretty crazy that they actually moved this lighthouse due to land erosion. 

Just one of the many different sunsets we experienced over the sound. The colours change so frequently and so quickly it is best to grab a seat and enjoy the entire process wherever you are.

One of the best reasons to visit The Outer Banks; the beach!

There is very little light pollution once you're off the main land, so all the stars come out to play!

Day or night, this is the spot to catch some fish!

Another sunset over the sound. 

With a proper permit you can drive and camp on certain sections of the beach. This has been added to my bucket list!

Stunning beach homes everywhere!

I spent the majority of my time lounging on the beach, sipping on some cold ones and enjoying my time off work and let me tell you, I cannot wait to head back next year!

If you've ever been, or are lucky enough to live there be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Drinking Beer in Niagara

Tourism and craft beer seem intimately entwined as the explosion in interest in the microbrewery marketplace continues. Aspiring brewers are tapping and cashing in to travel destinations where flocks of tourists seem to guarantee a market for their wares.

The Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada is a fascinating mix of tourism, spectacle and agriculture. Niagara Falls, long known as the Honeymoon Capital of the World, attracts millions of visitors each year who swarm to casinos, haunted houses, arcades and resorts; not to mention the falls themselves and the various adventure and exploratory activities offered both in and around them.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, in stark contrast, maintains a quaint, small town feel with a main street that offers wares-of-interest to the modern weekender. Less than 30 minutes from the falls, NOTL is surrounded by the area’s celebrated wine region, one of the prides of Ontario and another hotspot for tourism.

In an area awash in wine a burgeoning beer scene is emerging. I took a stumble around the area a few weeks ago in search of gems, here is what I found!

A beautiful brewery found along Niagara Stone Road, housed in “the Beer Shed.”  Everything about this brewery oozes quality and respect for brewing tradition, with even the name, oast house, being that of an old style kilning shed for drying hops. I consider Oast House a required destination for any trip to Niagara. I was fortunate enough to arrive just as they were finishing off an eisbock seasonal, a beer that is actually frozen in order to remove water and increase the alcohol content and associated characteristics. Quite an experience!

Saison Farmhouse Ale

Not the traditional session ale some expect from saisons, this 6.5-7% ABV offering brings surprisingly bready notes with a balance between citrus and pepper flavours most expect from saisons. A hint of bubblegum also comes through while the hops remain tame but present. Available at many LCBO stores in Ontario and highly recommended.

Barn Raiser Country Ale

A distinct, while slightly subdued, American pale ale, and the breweries flagship brew, Barn Raiser is made for social events like the one after which it is named. Flavours of straw and honey are quickly overcome by delicious sweet citrus fruit like tangerines from the hops. Due to the brewer’s dedication that it be served fresh, Barn Raiser is generally only available at the brewery and on taps at select bars throughout southern Ontario; though fortunately, we did catch wind that new cans may be available in stores soon.

Another lovely location along Niagara Stone Road, Silversmith is housed in an old church built in the late 1800’s. Like Oast, you can feel the passion for beer when you walk through the doors.

Bavarian Breakfast Wheat

Very light and effervescent, banana shines through this yeast-forward entry. Not heavy or overly filling like a traditional wheat, we could certainly see enjoying this with brunch on a sunny spring day.

Black Lager

A great entry in the schwarzbier category which is picking up steam in Ontario. This beer brings mild coffee and dark fruit flavours to the fore with woody hops backing them up. All this is wrapped in a light bodied, easy drinking package.

Dropping this nano brewery in the heart of the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake was a bold move, a boldness that is matched by the stark, modern design and décor of the brewery itself. The Exchange has only been open for a few months and while they have their branding brilliantly forged, their beers are somewhat unrefined. I look forward to seeing what they put up as they mature.

#1 American Wheat Ale

This beer brings some nice tartness and spice to a style that can be, at times, a little hop forward. The Exchange manages a nice profile, bringing clove flavour with notes of grapefruit and tart kiwi.

Located at the base of Clifton Hill, the notorious tourism/entertainment district of Niagara Falls, Niagara Brewing is a lively location for beer and stylish pub food. There are a few misses on their beer menu, along with some so-so seasonals like their novel Ice Wine Beer and Peach Radler. Nonetheless, a neat stop when you are taking in the neon on “the Hill.”

Beerdevil IPA

Sweet caramel highlights the malt profile and gives this beer a somewhat non-IPA characteristic. Moderately hoppy with citrus and grassiness dominating.

You might think a teaching brewery would produce sub par brews, but with their focus on getting their name, and their beers, out there via festivals and other beer events, Niagara College actually has some wonderful products.

Butler’s Bitter

An exceptional example of this traditional style, NC manages to pack bold malt and hop flavours together to produce an incredibly satisfying experience. If you can find it, get it. 

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Christmas at Home Thanks to Ford Canada

Christmas is undoubtedly my favourite time of year. I love the feeling that surrounds it. People are friendlier, extended family makes themselves more available, friends host parties and of course children light up at the thought of Christmas morning.

A present under the tree
To tackle all my Christmas shopping and to make it home to celebrate with my girlfriend’s and my family, the fine folks at Ford Canada supplied us with a Ford Explorer Platinum to #GoFurther for the holiday break. The Explorer came in handy quite a few times over the holidays as we were able to load up all of our gifts, our Siberian Husky and a friend (her gifts too) with plenty room to spare. We were all quite comfortable in the roomy cabin, but my girlfriend and I were pampered with massaging seats in the cockpit.

Ford Explorer parked at my girlfriends parent's house.

I was excited to have the Explorer which made it possible for me to make it up to my parents’ house this year for Christmas Eve. I love seeing how my mom has decorated the house, she is quite the artist when it comes to decorating the Christmas tree. This year was no exception as she used bronze, copper and brown ornaments on a white tree (the only thing white about this Christmas this year!). I woke up a little bit earlier than everyone and quickly filmed it in all its glory. Check that out below:

My dad ended up gifting me and my girlfriend engineered hardwood flooring to spruce up our kitchen floor. Thank the stars we actually had the Explorer or we never would’ve got that home with the sub compact car I would’ve rented to save money. Unfortunately though I now have a project to complete on my next day off…thanks Dad!

Hardwood flooring, padding and laundry. It all fits in the Explorer!
The holidays are spent with family, so we didn't just visit mine. In the morning of Christmad Day we loaded up the gifts into the Explorer and drove over to my girlfriends parents' house. My girlfriends mom is a great cook and baker, so we had an amazing spread of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, yams, turnip and veggies. Afterwords we had some home made treats and a cheesecake so delicious words wouldn't do it justice. What I love about her family is that similarly to mine they also give it all they've got to decorate the house. After a gift exchange we unfortunately had to hit the road, pick up our pooch and head back to the big city.

My girlfriends family's living room all decked out in Christmas decor!

Between both parents' homes and back and forth to the city for dreaded boxing day shopping, we put this truck through it's paces. One thing I noticed was how smooth and quiet the ride was, unless of course we were blasting Christmas Carols and singing along. The other little perks available in this model actually saved our butts a few times, particularly the park assist feature. Parallel parking with any vehicle in Toronto can be a pain, let alone a big SUV. The parking assist made it a piece of cake by doing it for me! All I had to do was hit one button and apply or let go of the brakes. While this terrified my girlfriend the first time we tried it, there was no denying it was incredible.

The controls of the cockpit, and a heated steering wheel!

As hard as it was to get in the spirit with it being a green Christmas, I am extremely glad I was able to make it home to see family and friends thanks to the good folks at Ford Canada. I hope you all were also able to get home and see your friends and family. If you have any interesting stories from your holidays please share below in the comments, I'd love to hear them!

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

5 Winter Themed Beers to Try This Holiday Season

With the cold weather looming, snow threatening to fall at any given moment and fireplaces begging to be used, it is the perfect time of year to consume winter themed beers. In no particular order of awesomeness, here are 5 brews to check out!

*Please note all of these may not be available outside of Ontario*

Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout (2015 batch)Muskoka Brewery, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
Winter Beard Cranberry Stout Bottle

$14 CDN

750mL Bottle

ABV: 8.0%

Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout looks dark brown almost black, opaque and has a light brown head. The aromas match the flavours you taste with dark chocolate notes and a slight hint of the tartness of cranberries. The mouth feel on this brew is lighter than I anticipated, but is smooth going down. You have two choices with what to do with this bottle. The easy decision is to drink it all up right away. The harder decision is to let it age for another 2 years. I’d recommend buying two and seeing what happens from a fresh batch to an aged one.

Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer Ale Wychwood Brewery, Witney, Oxfordshire, England

Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer Bottle
$3.50 CDN

500mL Bottle

ABV: 5.0%

Bah Humbug! If you’re feeling grumpy about the season, have a glass of Christmas Cheer. Wychwood has produced a Christmas brew with a translucent, dark copper colouring. They have jammed in many flavours and aromas to remind you it is the Christmas season. Cinnamon, darker fruits, brown sugars, vanilla and more come out in this beer with each sniff and sip. The mouth feel is thin with little carbonation. Overall this is a great beer in small doses. Maybe one or two to get you into the Christmas mood.

Lions Winter Ale – Granville Island Brewing, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Lions Winter Ale Can
$3 CDN

473mL Can

ABV: 5.5%

I'm not too sure how a lion would fair in a Canadian winter, but I know us humans can use this Lions Winter Ale to warm up around a fire. The beer pours a nice burnt copper colour with a foamy, creamy looking head. The aromas on this one are vanilla and cocoa. The taste however takes on more of a chocolate, malty, caramel flavour. While that may sound like a disaster of sweetness, it is all fairly balanced to be quite enjoyable. The feel is exactly like the pour, smooth and creamy. Bring a few of these to your next Christmas party and pass them off to those who normally avoid beer like the plague. It will surprise them!

Great Lakes Winter Ale Great Lakes Brewery, Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada

Great Lakes Winter Ale Bottle
$7 CDN

750mL Bottle

ABV: 6.2%

It gets cold around the Great Lakes, so why not warm up with some Winter Ale from a company who gets it! The ale pours a chestnut brown with a head that dissipates fairly quickly. I pick up strong scents of cinnamon and gingerbread with some butterscotch. The taste is that of winter spices: cinnamon, cloves and ginger but also has a dark bready taste with a hint of citrus. This one has a medium to low carbonation with a dry finish. I found splitting this bottle with my girlfriend while watching the fireplace channel (yea I do that from time to time) had some weird enhancing feature. I suppose atmosphere does have a major impact on your senses!

Winter Welcome AleSamuel Smith’s Old Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England

Winter Welcome Ale Bottle
$4 CDN

550mL Bottle

ABV: 6.0%

Winter is coming and you either run from it or you welcome it. I always like a reason to drink to a few brews, so I will welcome it with open arms and this Ale. The beer pours a rusted bronze with an off white head which leaves that mouth-watering lacing on the glass. I pulled out light spices with caramel, bread and warm applesauce as its aroma. For the taste I was getting more of a toasted nut, malty bready taste with a hint of the cinnamon. I craved the warm applesauce that I picked up from the aroma, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite there in the taste. This is still a solid brew to try, especially for those looking to practice picking out aromas and tastes.

There you go! 5 new beers to try out on your next day off, next weekend off or even to bring to a Christmas Party. If you end up loving one, two or all of them then I’m glad I could help. If you hate them all, well I apologize, but be sure to check them in on the Untappd app and you’ll at least earn a Winter Badge!

Remember to consume all of these adult beverages responsibly and have a safe and happy holidays!

Photos of each brand were pulled from the LCBO website.  

Friday, 4 December 2015

Toronto Christmas Market - 2015 Update

December is finally here, which means Toronto is in full swing with Christmas. Shops have their decorations up and carols playing. People are running around trying to find the perfect gift with winter themed coffee cups in their hands. Office and work party season is in full gear and there is a general niceness towards everyone that only exists this time of year.

Main Road in Christmas Market
The main road/vendor section of the Christmas Market
One major draw for the Toronto scene this time of year is the Christmas Market in the beautiful Distillery District. The Distillery District is a historical site that is rich with Victorian industrial buildings, just steps away from the Downtown Core. The 47 buildings that make up the Distillery District were once owned by Gooderham and Worts (formerly the largest distillery company in Canada) and were deemed to be a historical site in 1976. Cityscape Holdings purchased the site in 2001 and imagined it to be a place where a blend of artisans and entrepreneurs could have a space to showcase their creativity. In 2003, the Distillery District was opened to the public and since then has been an area famous for its cobblestone streets, clothing and craft shops, creative businesses, Mill Street Brewery and of course the Christmas Market.

Christmas Market Tree
The huge tree in the Christmas Market
The Toronto Christmas Market pulls from historic European traditions and offers the people of Toronto and surrounding areas a romantic celebration of everything Christmas. There are local vendors who occupy quaint huts and sell their artisan crafts, clothing and food. There is a large "Wintergarten" where everyone can meet and socialize outside with cups of cheer by one of many fire pits. While this Christmas tradition has been modernized and is essentially another business to gain money, you can't help but get wrapped up in the feeling of the cheerful people, old buildings, twinkling lights and Christmas decor. The Christmas Market is intended to romanticize the feeling of Christmas, and it does just that. Visit here and you will fall in love with Christmas again!

The market runs from November 20th through December 20th. To combat overcrowding the market is now $5 per person on Saturday and Sunday and free Tuesday through Friday. More information can be found at the Toronto Christmas Market website. Below are some pictures from my visit earlier this week!

Naughty or Nice Sign
Are you Naughty or Nice? Find out in the Wintergarten!

Alternate view of Christmas Tree
Alternate view of the beautiful tree

Girls and Snowman
The girls getting cozy with one of  many statues to pose with at the Christmas Market

Christmas Market Ferris Wheel
Get a view of the entire Christmas Market on the Ferris Wheel!

Sleeman Dark Chocolate Lager
Indulge in some spirits and brews! Sleeman Dark Chocolate Lager readily available for all those of age.

Vendors huts after hours.

Ed Eating a Turkey Leg
Me crushing a Vanilla Porter from Mill Street Brewery and a massive turkey leg (totally worth the $13 price tag)!

Main Street After Hours
The main street after hours. 

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Real Man Travels: Wine Tasting 101

Wine Tasting 101-

When I was a young man, at the ripe age of 19 , I thought Coors light was a good beer....I also thought wine was awful. Thankfully, as I have matured so has my palette and I find myself enjoying the wide variety of beers available. Unfortunately as my beer knowledge has expanded, my knowledge of wine has remained at a standstill. As I creep ever so close to thirty,  I feel that now is the time to put on my big boy pants, take a seat at the grown ups table, and learn how to enjoy wine.

Earlier this year I tried to educate myself by simply reading the small "vintages" flyer available in my local LCBO. I found a few I would label as "not terrible"  before being distracted by a new craft beer I'd yet to sample.

Determined to explore this new horizon, I set off to beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario - One of Canada's premier wine regions- to quench my new found thirst for knowledge. With some guidance from the great folks over at Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, I would know just where to begin.

Inside Diamond Estates winery. Wine as far as the eye can see!
Diamond Estates winery is home to many great wines, producing wines under 10 brand names, with grapes from 25 Niagara region farms.  It was there that we were introduced to Diamond Estates On-Site Wine Expert, Brae. After getting a feel for our knowledge about wine, Brae thought she would start us off with the simple 5 steps of  wine drinking.  You can follow along at home, start by pouring a glass and then follow along.

Step 1: Look at the wine. Simple enough place the wine glass against a white background,  or a sheet of paper if available. "the colour of a wine will give you some clues to what the wine might taste like" Brae remarked. A golden colouring could indicate a toffee, or buttery taste. Where a lighter yellow (straw coloured) would indicate citrus flavours. With red's the darker the colouring the more bold the flavouring from the grape will be.

A pure white background can be handy when decoded the characteristic of a wine.
Step 2: Swirl it.  This actually accomplishes something more than making you look like a pompous ass, it oxygenates the wine. Pulling air into the wine helps to smooth out the flavour and opens up the aromas.  Brae further punctuates the importance of aeration to wine with this equation - "pouring your wine through an aerator has the same affect as one hour in a decanter. One hour in a decanter is equal to one year in a cellar"

Step 3: Smell it. Your nose and mouth aren't close together on your face for nothing. By taking a big whiff your pre-programming your brain to what tastes might lie ahead. The average person has trouble readily identifying most scents listed on a wine tasting notes.  "You can start off smelling more items on your trip to grocery store,  or if you are just trying to seem cool to your friends  you can just make it up"

Grapes continue to ripen on the vines surrounding Diamond Estates.
Step 4: Cheers!  Often overlooked in wine circles is the social aspect. As with beer share the experience with those around you, and as we know from history it ensures your enemies have not poisoned your drink.

Step 5: Taste it. Brae suggested doing this in three sips to let the flavours cover your entire palate. I say just don't pound it back like a shot.

There you have it, an easy to follow five step guide to wine tasting. This process allows you to experience a wine as it was intended. Additionally important is sampling from a wide selections of wines to find a style of wine you enjoy. For me it was barrel fermented Chardonnay, it has a smooth oak flavouring that reminds me of scotch or whiskey. Please feel free to share your own favourites in the comments below!
Stay tuned for more from my recent travels in Niagara-on-the-lake, next up, Wine pairing!

Real Man Recipes - Thanksgiving Dinner Part 1: Turkey

Real Man Recipes - Thanksgiving Dinner Part 1: Turkey

It’s that time of year again when turkey’s everywhere (well mostly just in Canada) start running for their lives. I’m talking, of course, about Thanksgiving. And the crew here at Real Man Travels has got you rookies covered with some easy recipes to make sure you can knock the big dinner out of the park.

traditional thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving in Canada is just like in the USA, just earlier, and without NFL games.

A lot of people go to great lengths to try and take their turkey to the next level. News flash! Turkey is pretty damn good just the way it is. Here is a great, basic recipe to make your bird sing.

Go to the grocery store and buy a frozen turkey when they start going on sale. Make sure it’s a Grade A turkey, but don’t shy away from the utility turkey label. This usually just means it’s missing a wing or a leg or something superficial. Thaw the turkey out. Keep in mind that this might take a number of days. Thawing in the fridge is safest. Now, most turkeys come with the neck and giblets, which are usually stuffed up inside the abdominal cavity. I’m not a huge fan of the giblets, but hold on to the neck (queue the Christmas Vacation ‘Save the neck for me for Clark’ quotes). Throw the turkey into a roasting pan and put the neck in the pan beside it. Roughly chop 2-3 medium size onions and put those in the pan too. Pour some chicken broth into the pan (I make mine with chicken Bovril) so that there’s about an inch or so in the bottom of the pan. Now take a healthy dose of room temperature butter and start massaging your bird. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover that bad boy with foil (or a lid if your roaster is big enough).

male turkey
"You want to put what, where???"
Preheat the oven to 350 and pop him in for 15 minutes a pound. I like to crank up the oven to 400 and uncover for the last hour or so to get that nice golden colour on top; plus the crispy skin is most definitely where it’s at. Get yourself a meat thermometer and double check the internal temperature before taking it out. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 180 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh.

When your bird is done, pull him out and let him rest a good 20-30 minutes before carving. For the love of all that is awesome, don’t get rid of your pan drippings. That’s where the sweet, sweet gravy lives. Check back later this week for the gravy recipe.

roast turkey
enjoy, and then nap,
Now I know what you’re thinking; where’s the stuffing? I don’t stuff my turkey because I make what we call ‘stuffing balls’. And you’ll have to check back later this week for that one, too.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Drinking Beer in Collingwood

Once strictly viewed as a winter destination on account of the incredible Blue Mountain ski resort, Collingwood, Ontario has transformed itself into a haven for day-trippers and vacationers alike during all four seasons. Home to attractions like the Blue Mountain Village (complete with shopping, restaurants, hotels and an adventure park featuring the Ridge Runner mountain roller coaster, a ropes course with zip lines, the Apex Bagjump, and gondolas to the top of Blue Mountain), Scenic Caves, Scandinave Spa and a variety of other attractions, there is no shortage of ways to fill you days.

The town also features an incredible trail system. During our stay we trekked along the Heather Pathway which does a loop through the better part of the town and starts and ends at two magnificent lookouts over Collingwood Harbour.

With the development of four season tourism along with a strong community of both seasonal and full time residents, an array of beer, wine and spirit manufacturers have also found their homes in Collingwood. The town is home to three breweries; Canadian Mist Distillery, makers of the excellent Collingwood rye whiskey; and an array of wineries.

Never missing the chance to try local beer, I visited two of the three local breweries during my visit and found the following gems. I look forward to checking out Collingwood Brewery on my next visit.

Formally known as Denison’s, the brewery re-branded and are now named for the method of launching ships used in Collingwood for generations. Side Launch has experienced impressive success in the Ontario beer market. Their lineup is focused and features mainstays that are quality approaches to traditional beer styles, along with a revolving selection of seasonals.


One of the brewery’s three mainstay beers, and likely their most popular, Side Launch’s wheat is a German Hefeweizen, and likely one of the better efforts at the style amoung Ontario breweries. Banana predominates on both nose and flavour and is backed with strong yeast character. Coriander and other mild spices round out the flavour.

Dark Lager

I’ve been drawn to this style (traditionally called German Dunkel), of late. The beer is pure malt on the nose with the flavour of light caramel, bready malt and a little bit of brown sugar. The beer leaves you smacking your lips long after your sip.

A brand new entry into the Ontario beer market, Northwinds opened a little over a year ago and offers a great selection of food and beer at their brewhouse. You won’t find these beers in major retailers, but the variety of beers on tap is astounding. While there were a few misses, the following beers really grabbed my attention.

Brew Mountain SMaSH Series (Centennial)

A great entry in the American Pale Ale category. Thin body with plenty of citrus on nose and flavour. Grapefruit and floral/piney notes predominate with the centennial hops really coming through as advertised. Great for summer.

Old Baldy Farmhouse Ale

With so many saisons on tap I feel brewmaster Andrew Bartle must have been a homebrewer. While lacking the usually yeast forward character of many saisons, this entry brings the hops to the forefront with the hot taste of rye malt coming through. Unique and tasty.

Side note! If you are looking for a truly unique place to eat while around the Collingwood area, check out Hai Sai in Singhampton (20 minutes south of Collingwood). Managed by restaurant legend Michael Stadtländer, Hai Sai is completely and utterly surprising. Both food and décor are out of the ordinary and definitely worth the trip off the beaten path.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Bad Axe Summer Nights with the Ford #Fusion

When Ford Canada asked if we wanted to spend one of our summer nights throwing sharp objects across a room, and putting the Ford Fusion Energi through the rounds of Toronto life, I had to think about it for an entire second before a simple "Yup" fell from my mouth. I will, however, admit that I had to ponder the connection between throwing axes with the fine folks at Bad Axe Throwing and the 2015 Ford Fusion Energi. It came to me later that Gamification was the key. More on that later.

First let's get to the axe throwing. Axe throwing is a hot new activity sweeping the nation like the next One Direction song (or the Backstreet Boys if you're over 25), and its brilliance lies in its simplicity. Take a sharp axe and throw it at a piece of wood. Then naturally it progresses to: "Take a sharp axe and try to hit the centre of a piece of wood. Suddenly, it's a game, a competition, a sport.

Toronto Axe Throwing
We here at Real Man Travels excel at throwing sharp objects. It is known.
That's me. Capturing a quick selfie with one of many bulls eyes our crew mustered over the hours we spent hurling objects of destruction towards unsuspecting plywood. You might be thinking: "How did you spend hours simply throwing axes and still look so happy about it?" The answer, again, is gamification. Our hostess led us threw a few quick lessons on the proper technique. Once all of our members had a handle on the sweet science we were lead through various games with different scoring methods. Each game rewarded a slightly different skill, and this kept the evening enjoyable for the members of the group that found the bulls eye on a much less frequent basis than our Real Girl Travels team member Alison (she beat me, I will own that).

Bad Axe Throwing Toronto
Our friend Dante was a natural. He seems destined for a career in the pros.
When our time was up we ventured back downstairs to our Ford Fusion. As a car guy at heart I always look for what makes a car stand out from the crowd. It sat parked in a long line of cars hugging the curb that night in the Junction of Toronto, yet the sporty lines stood out amongst the sea of bland mid sized sedans. A quick press of the remote start button brought the first stand out moment.....there was silence. No "vroom" noise, just the lighting system awakening as we walked towards it.

ford fusion interior
The stylish space aged cockpit.
After adjusting the controls and finding The Highway on Sirius/XM, I was ready to see how the Energi system adapted to my driving style. A brief pause for the technical jargon: The Fusion Energi offers the best of both worlds, providing the capability to be driven as an electric vehicle for short trips and as a hybrid for longer trips, boasts Ford. I found it did one better; it made me a better driver. It was only a few short blocks before I found myself watching the SmartGauge measure my driving efficiency. Within minutes I was growing new leaves (a smart way of showing the driver how well they are doing) and finding the right times to let off the gas to maximize my regenerative braking power (the car captures energy every time you coast, and stores it in the on-board battery pack). My competitive nature had taken over... I needed to own the high score!

A few sweet benefits to the green vehicle: Free reign of the HOV lanes and being able to plug in to any household outlet to charge using the supplied charging cord.
Thanks to gamification this Ford taught me how to win at the gas pumps, and how to survive the pending zombie apocalypse with my newly discovered axe throwing skills. Women still like guys with skills right?

Friday, 14 August 2015

Lessons Learned: 10 Tips for Your First Portaging Trip - Part I

Hot off our very first portage trip Sam and myself learned some valuable lessons and want to share them with you. Here are 5 things I learned about what to do before, after and during your portage trip.

1. Ditch the Packaging and go All Ziploc

A bear canister fills up fast with less food than you’d imagine. My recommendation is to take any food that has air in it and put it into a Ziploc bag. This will save you a ton of space. After repackaging use a marker or painters tape and label each bag to easily identify your food. 

Bonus Tip: Load the canister or bag in order of your consumption plan (day 1’s meals at the top and your last days meals at the bottom). That way you don’t have to dig deep to get your eats or repack it daily.

Transferred food from original packaging to Ziploc bags
Food transferred from store packaging to Ziploc bags. Saves a ton of space in your bear canister.

2. Baby Wipes over Toilet Paper

Ditch the toilet paper and jump over to baby wipes. Not only do they pack up smaller but they can also get wet and are multi-purpose (washing your face, hands, wiping your butt, etc). The only concern is their scent, so save some room in your bear canister or bear bag. Trust me your butt will be much happier after crouching in the bush with these!

3. Invest in the Right Gear

Too often people buy an inferior product because of the price tag. The truth is you get what you pay for; you don’t need to run out and buy a $4000 tent. But think about this, do you want to spend $300 on a tent now that is built to last 20 years or do you want to spend $80-100 every 3 to 5 years on one at your local big box? The way I have approached gear is that I am slowly building up to having exactly what I want by making key purchases every season. I’m spreading out what I can deal with and what I need to purchase in order to maintain my budget. Make one big purchase (tent, sleeping bag or pack) and add on one slightly less expensive item and within 3 summers you will have a superb set up without breaking the bank.

Ed's Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent set up with a starlight sky background
Ed's new Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent. Lighter and easier to assemble than his old tent.

4. Aim to Pack Less but Pack Smart

Less is more, especially when you have to carry everything you will need on your back. The keyword there was what you “need”. Reduce clothing to items you can stretch out for the duration of your trip and pack layers. On a recent 4 day portage trip I wore the same shirt, shorts and sweater for the entire trip; I’m not trying to impress anyone. Also make sure you have only essential items that you are able to comfortably carry. Real Man Travels recommends laying out all of the gear you think you’d need on the floor of your home. Then start to pick out non essentials until you are left with about 60-75% of what you had. From there load up your pack and see how it feels. If it is still too heavy think outside of the box on how to reduce, or give weight to a partner that has a lighter load. Just remember that walking around the house for 2 minutes with a full pack is not the same as a trail for an hour or more.

Bonus Tip: Pack a bag with fresh underwear and other clothing and leave it in your vehicle for when you re-enter society. Fresh clothes will go a long way for the ride home, or that pit stop at a pub for a much needed beer.

5. Portage with the Right People

This may be an oversight but if you are going to be canoeing and camping out in the wild for an extended period of time, you better like the people you are going with. Let’s face it, a trip can be make or break depending on the people attending. Positivity is key so eliminate anyone who will be a negative strain; the last thing you want is a Debbie downer moaning and crying when the day is filled with bugs, rain or some other undesirable element. If you are blending groups of friends, choose wisely who can attend. Look for similar humour styles, similar attitude towards the outdoors, similar interests, etc.

Sam and Derek shore fishing
Fishing with a straw hat is an automatic in with our group. Sam and Derek doing some shore fishing. 

Those are my 5 things learned from this portage trip, be sure to come back later and check out part II when Sam will reveal what he has learned.