This morning, Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I piled into the 2015 Ford Focus. We tossed my L.L. Bean canvas duffle bag, go bags, and some camera gear in the back and headed south towards Moose Jaw. The drive was pretty normal until we came to Chamberlain.
For those of you not from Saskatchewan, let me explain Chamberlain to you. The highway from Prince Albert to Saskatoon is four lanes. The highway from Saskatoon to Regina is four lanes, except when you go through Chamberlain and then it goes down to two lanes for about three kilometers. There is absolutely no reason it has to do this but it does and it drops to 60/kph as it goes through town.
Today the speed was 0 kph. It was at an absolute standstill. My first thought was that there was an accident on the highway but no, there was a really long convey of about 20 Jays Moving trucks all pulling out of the roadside turnout and they were blocking traffic. First of all I have no idea why they were blocking traffic and secondly, why was there a need for 20 Jay’s Moving semis to be travelling together in a convey? It was weird.
We turned east at that point until we got to Keeler, Saskatchewan. Keeler is home of the Cooper’s and is a town of about 15 people. My grandparents house (and the post office) had been torn down but the bar I used to hang out when I was six was still there.
I am also pretty sure that this was the garage that my grandfather used to run. It has been moved but it’s still there. The ball diamonds I used to catch gophers in are still there. My grandpa’s dog Tip used to hide in the long grass beyond the outfield until a ball came near. My memories were of a lot of ground rule doubles as Tip took off with the ball.
From there we drove to Moose Jaw and checked into the Temple Gardens Hotel and Mineral Spa. Our room is small, not that well maintained and some disturbing looking stains on the carpeting. We didn’t stay long because we wanted to check out the Claybank Brink Plant.
The Claybank Brick Plant is a National Historic Site about 30 minutes out of Moose Jaw. I don’t know how to describe it. The organizing committee says they are $2 million into a $6 million project and I kind of think the $6 million is low. It’s really dilapidated yet really awesome at the same time. I totally you recommend you go.
The website mentioned that Google Maps has the wrong location and it does. If you can get to Claybank, you can see the plant but getting to Claybank was hard enough with Google Maps.
Google Maps says it’s turn by turn directions are in beta but when my iPhone is plugged into the car and connected to Sync via Bluetooth, it muted the turn by turn directions entirely which is kind of annoying when you are driving. To make a long story short, I missed my turn and had to go back… where I missed the turn again… There was good signage and I am old school, I always have a map but I was thinking the bug has to be with the iPhone and Google Maps working together and then being connected to the Ford via Bluetooth. Hopefully Google fixes it.
When we got to Claybank, I couldn’t help but notice this church steeple off in a distance.
No signs outside but a quick Google search told me it was St. Joesph’s Catholic Church. It’s obviously been made by bricks from the plant.
So as I am taking this photo, my Google Maps finally starts to talking to and I think was telling me to go in two different directions at once. Of course it is supposed to learn from correct routes but since we detoured into Claybank to take this photo, I didn’t exactly really help the situation. Sorry about that.
We finally drove into the plant. Part of it goes through a farm yard. I wasn’t totally sure if I was at the right place but I realized, “It’s Canada, if I took the wrong turn, three farmers will politely correct my and then offer to have us over for lunch.”
So the plant is a step back into time. They say it is essentially unchanged from the way it was in 1914 to 1937 and I believe them.
There are tours that you can take earlier in the summer. Today we were given a map and sent on our way. We explored all of it in about an hour and it was a nice way to spend the afternoon.
Here is the Focus with the plant in the background. It’s a little dusty (both the plant and the car).
This is the restored bunkhouse. It is now a gift shop, coffee shop, and where you pay to start the tours. It was one of the first things to be restored.
This is where the magic started. The clay was brought here and stored. It’s the start of the assembly line.
While today was hot even for the tour, I can’t imagine what it would be like to work in here.
This is one of the furnaces.
These furnaces were all hand laid. Inside there was no mortar because the bricks would expand so much during heating and contract during cooling. They would put 70,000 bricks in there and heat them for a week. Then it would take about another week to cool. Then a week to unload them.
They still are aggressively fundraising. While our entry ticket helps out, I also plan to make a donation. It’s a great site and I hope they are successful.
We then headed back to Moose Jaw and parked the car for the night. We made sure we left it a nice view overlooking downtown Moose Jaw.
Then we took the boys to the mineral spa. The pool is quite nice and we spent some time up there on the roof top spa today. Supposedly the waters have the same minerals as the one in Bath, England does. That being said, I have read that about almost every mineral spa that I have ever looked up online.
For dinner, the plan was to go to Smoke’s Poutinerie but it looks like they were shut down last night. So that didn’t work out as we had planned.
Instead Wendy and the boys went to Deja Vu, a place that specializes in chicken and milkshakes. If it sounds familiar, it has been on The Prairie Diner and You Gotta Eat Here! before. We walk in and the Saskatchewan Roughriders are losing 14-7 when Smith throws a pick that makes it 21-7 for the Blue Bombers. The place is full of people wearing Rider gear and no a single person reacts. Not even a single grimace. We are still fans but we are at the same where we aren’t going to let what happens on the field affect us. I think this is what Chicago Cubs fans go through.
My thoughts on the 2015 Ford Focus. They are mostly positive.
- I love Ford’s 6 speed transmission. I can’t say enough positive things about it. It makes the car a joy to drive.
- It is more than big enough for us for a weekend road trip. The sedan has more space then the hatchback but even the hatchback would be adequate.
- There are a lot of drink holders which is nice as you start with a travel mug and then stop for a bottled water or a soda later in the day. .
- The car is quiet on the highway. You hear very little road noise.
- All of the Ford vehicles that I have reviewed have all had the Sony stereo upgrades. After tweaking the standard Ford stereo for my tastes, the factory Ford stereo is excellent. The one thing that is frustrating with it is that the user interface is brutal. For some tasks you have to use the upper buttons while other similar tasks you need the lower ones. It’s not a deal breaker and you definitely get used to it but it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t need to be annoying.
- From the first time I reviewed a Ford car to this time, Sync continues to be tweaked an improved every year. It’s not a big thing but it is nice to see that Ford’s commitment to quality goes to everything. The nerd in me would love to see the upgrades in software and processing power that has made this possible.
- I’d seriously think about buying this car. It’s not perfect but I like it a lot. So do a lot of you since it is the best selling car of all time (passing the Toyota Corolla). The only non-factory upgrades I would get would be the bars on the roof so one could add a rooftop storage container.
Tomorrow we continue south to Ogema where the boys and Wendy will take the Southern Prairie Railway for a ride and then it is back home. You’ll see more photos and some final thoughts on the Ford Focus tomorrow.