Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Escape and Discover: Thunder Bay Edition


I had been expecting a package from Ford Canada the other day; they were being weirdly secretive about it. I knew it had something to do with the new 2017 Ford Escape. When it arrived I tore into it and found a duffle bag emblazoned with the words, "Escape & Discover," along with a postcard telling me to "prepare for the ultimate adventure and an unforgettable night away." That and I was part of "Team Yellow," whatever that meant. I read it three times, trying to discern what this ultimate adventure was all about, but the only instruction was to be ready and waiting for 7 a.m. Then my mind did what it does best when faced with the unknown: it plays games. Where are we going? How are we getting there? What other team colours are there? Is it going to be a scavenger hunt, or perhaps some type of Hunger Games-style affair?


In truth, if I gave myself a rating on the adventurous scale, I wouldn't peg myself at the ultimate adventure end of the spectrum; I'm maybe... a medium adventure type guy. After dwelling on it for awhile I calmed down and became okay with the mystery of it all. All I had to do was get to sleep and find out in the morning.

Morning came and I was whisked away in the back seat of a black, unmarked car. I buckled in and the driver looked back and said, "Heading to Thorncrest Ford?" I give him a straight faced look and said, "Am I?" The driver looked confused and said, "That's what this booking says." I just smiled and replied, "Thorncrest Ford it is my good man."

When we arrived I was greeted by smiles and food. I mingled with the other people and met my teammates. Keeping with the mystery of the event, there was a huge curtain with the Ford symbol on it, and what appeared to be the shadow of an SUV conspicuously shining through. Maybe not such a mystery after all, so we thought. But after a quick welcome they pulled the curtain, and much to the shock of myself and the 11 other guests, there was no Ford Escape, just a table with four sets of three tickets. I grabbed my Team Yellow tickets and brought them back to the group, where we opened them together and found...

I was on my way to Thunder Bay!
So off we went like we were the McCallisters and we had slept in again! Arriving at Billy Bishop Airport on the Toronto Island, I was so happy that I thought I would grab an escalator selfie.


Our smooth flight featured an unexpected treat, an aerial view of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park! You may ask why is it called Sleeping Giant... well that is why they invented Google (that and to make heaps of money). Google it.

You might be able to tell why its called Sleeping Giant now.
We were picked up by Matt and Malcolm who had us cruising in style in the new Ford Escape we had been waiting to see. Ours was a beautiful pearl white with blacked out rims, the new Sync3 entertainment system and a sunroof that starts at the front seat and ends all the way at the back seat! I don't even know what you call that type of sunroof, but I do know that it is awesome.

Nice Ride eh?
Team Yellow's first stop was lunch at a waterfront restaurant called The Bight; a delicious meal with a superior view. Speaking of superior views, we snapped a couple of shots of Sleeping Giant from shore. I tried to point at it in a selfie and came close... and that calls for a "that's what she said."

Not even close to the giant.
After seeing our first bit of wildlife (groundhog), we spotted a fox. Well in Canada he is THE Fox. I was so excited to see the Terry Fox memorial but when we hopped out of the Escape I wasn't expecting the somber, yet enchantingly appropriate music that we heard. A gentleman was practicing his bagpipes at the memorial, and it made our experience a little more emotional and definitely a lot more memorable.

Bagpipes, the Canadian flag and Terry Fox. I think I've got some dirt my eye. Ya, dirt, that's it.
Then it was road trip time. Turn down the windows and turn up the music. (Aside: Do we technically turn down windows anymore? I guess not. Anyhow, back to my #EscapeAndDiscover Adventure, and yes, you should check that hashtag out). We were headed to Kakabeka Falls. If you have seen them before you know exactly what I mean when I say, nature is freakin' beautiful.

FYI, if you are planning to have a stop at the falls on your journey be prepared to pay a small parking fee of $3/hour, but it is worth every penny.


After we saw the falls we stopped into the Kakabeka Falls gift shop. We had a great conversation with the shop owner about how much he loves free advertising from the local bingo that runs six months of the year, so this shout out is for you gift shop guy!


Our next stop had us at the bottom of Mount Mckay looking way way up to the summit. You can get up to the summit somehow, but we never really figured it out. Mount Mckay is the highest, most northern and best known of the Nor'Wester Mountains.


That was our last stop of the day. We checked into the local Holiday Inn Express and had a small rest before dinner. We dined at a popular wine bar and restaurant called Caribou. I had a pairing of wood fired pizza and a Lake of the Woods beer named Firehouse Amber. C'est Magnifique. When we walked out to meet our driver we were blinded by sunlight, even though it was after 9 p.m.!

Lake of the Woods Firehouse Amber
The next morning I was feeling recharged, despite our whirlwind of a Saturday. We were taken to the restaurant Hoito, a Thunder Bay staple known for their Finnish pancakes. I had mine with bacon and, oh baby, was it good. If you go to Thunder Bay, it's a must.

Hoito has been in business for almost 100 years
After breakfast we were on our way to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. We finished our trip off testing out the impressive handling of our Ford Escape while winding through pristine Canadian wilderness, occasionally dodging the odd deer or stray rock. We found ourselves at the Silver Islet store that sits on the site of a former silver mining operation from the 1800s. 

Shhhhh. Don't wake the giant.
Silver Islets Store
Our last stop before the airport was at the Thunder Bay lookout right smackdab in the middle of Sleeping Giant. A perfect view for saying goodbye to Thunder Bay.


That's a wrap folks. Our #EscapeAndDiscover adventure ended on a very high note. It was nice to be in a place where cell reception was so bad but the nature was so good. It reminded me that we live in such a huge beautiful province. A big thanks to Ford Canada for including me in this awesome adventure.

Shout out to Team Yellow!!

About the Author

Chris Williams is the founder and creator of Real Man Travels. Connect with Chris on Twitter.

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