Category Archives: travel

Review of the 2016 Ford Flex

Ford CanadaA couple of weeks ago, Ford Canada was cool enough to lend me a 2016 Ford Flex for a week to review it.   We drove it in the city, we took it on the highway, and we took it on a road that was under heavy construction and kind of scary.   Here is what I learned about the crossover.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

Mark and Oliver liked it.  Especially Oliver.  The third row of seats is amazing when you have children.  There is no fighting, no arguing, just peace and quiet.  When they are sitting beside each other, it is like an uneasy truce both sides are trying to break.  When they are separated, it is peaceful, calm, and relaxing.

The second row of seats is large enough for myself and I am 6’4.  The rear row was fine for Mark and was large enough for Oliver to think he had his own apartment back there.  It is a legit third row of seating.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

I should say that the 2016 Ford Flex broke Mark’s heart.  I have been reviewing Ford automobiles for the last couple of years and each one of them, Mark has been too young to drive anything other than his mountain bike.  In his mind, when he turned 16, he was going to get behind the wheel and put it through his paces.   He just turned 16.   Then I told him he had to be 18.  He was crushed.  Devastated.  Forlorn.

So I asked him what he was going to do about it?  I suggested he tweet at Ferrari that he was kid in the middle of Saskatchewan and if they could lend him a vehicle for a week to review.  Mark was like, “Really?”  I then told him to compare his Twitter following to Kim Kardashian’s and evaluate his chances.  Yes, I troll my own kids from time to time.

Oh well, there is hope for him in 2018.

Driving Around Town

I took the Flex to work with me for the week and we pretty much parked the Chevy HHR.  It is pretty agile around town.  It has a tighter turning radius than you would expect and quite a bit tighter than my old Dodge Caravan which made it a nice commuter vehicle.  While I drove it pretty conservatively, I had to stomp on the gas once to avoid a careless driver and it unexpectedly tossed you back into your seat.  For a vehicle that long, you don’t expect it to handle and have the power of a sports car but does.

The kids liked it.  I had to drop Mark off at Bedford Road Collegiate for his school’s canoe trip.  The response was, “When did you get that SUV?” and “Is that a new Ford Flex?”  Not a huge sample size but it is approved by high school students who love to explore.

At least the 2016 Ford Flex looks stylish

If you want to take a moment to point out that Mark did up the hip straps on his backpack to load it into the car so I could drive him like three kilometers to his school, go ahead, I don’t know what he was thinking.  The Flex had a lot of room for his gear but could barely hold all of the geekness.   The design may be a bit polarizing but the shape means there is all sorts of storage.  if you get the optional luggage rails and then add a luggage rack or pod, you have a vehicle that begs itself to be taken for long road trips.

Driving on the Highway

We took the car to Prince Albert National Park where we intended to hike the trail along Kingsmere Lake to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

My sherpa, I mean my son loads the gear in the 2016 Ford Flex

There were four of us and the dog.  We had a cooler full of cold drinks when we were done and three and a three quarters expedition sized backpacks.  They all fit comfortable in the back even if the dog was confused why she wasn’t driving.   Check out Mark loading the gear in he back when were done.  There was lots of room.

Marley and her backpack

It was a quiet drive using the cruise control on the way up but it’s a great highway vehicle.  Lots of room, Sirius XM radio, nice sound speakers and heated and air conditioned chairs.  It was excellent.  A combination of a long wheelbase and Ford’s suspension made for a smooth and comfortable ride.

Years ago a friend of mine bought a Ford Grand Marquis when his father retired from work.  He picked his dad up, tossed him in and they drove the Trans Canada highway to the east coast, came back, went south and joined up with Route 66 and drove that from coast to coast before heading north to Highway 1 again and headed back to Saskatoon.  I always wanted to do that and have always thought of the Ford Grand Marquis as the perfect vehicle to do that with.  If I was going to do a trip like that, it would be the Ford Flex. 

I do have a funny story though about the Ford Flex.  As we were turning into Prince Albert National Park right at LT’s Food and Fuel, I heard a horrible sound from the Flex.

LT's Food and Fuel near Prince Albert Provincial Park

I immediately slowed down but the noise go louder, I pulled into the parking lot and was about to call Ford over the still going loud noise when I realized that it was a Diet Coke I was holding.  I hadn’t done the lid up tight and the road was rough which shook up the pop until air and fizz started to leak out making this noise that had us all convinced there was something wrong with the car.  For the rest of the weekend, every time something in the Flex would make a noise, Mark would go, “Dad, the Flex is breaking! Better stop.”  I deserved that mocking.

The Ford Flex was quiet on the highway and while I didn’t have a lot of traffic to contend with, when I had to pass, there was power to pass which is what is really important.

Leaving the Pavement Behind

The main reason we didn’t complete the trip was that Kingsmere Road was under heavy construction during the week and was closed.  In what we had hoped would be a three day hike instead turned into a two day one which was more than Oliver could handle.

The construction did allow me to see how the Flex handled off the pavement on some soft and sloppy roads.  Parks Canada warned us about the roads before hand.  She said that it was passable but unpleasant.  I took the warning seriously but despite the soft spots, the Flex handled it easily.  Even coming back from trailhead after a large storm the night before where the road was worse, I didn’t worry.  Well there was one part of the parking lot where there was a D6 Cat that looked stuck, I avoided that part of the road.

Final Thoughts

Over a week, I developed some strong opinions about the 2016 Ford Flex.  Let me share them here.

  • For a family like ours that loves to travel, the extra space was amazing.  Three rows of seats but the second one was large enough for the boys travel comfortably without them bugging each other.  It’s the vehicle you want when driving to Disneyland, the west coast or Waskesiu for the day.
  • ESPN Radio.  It may not be your favorite thing on a roadtrip but it is mine.  Sirius XM radio is worth the money and if the car you purchase has it built in and ready to go, you are one step ahead.
  • Heated seats / air conditioned seats.  When you just walk a bazillion miles in the Canadian Shield, things hurt.  Heated seats make that pain go away.  Air conditioned seats cool you down.  They are amazing.
  • Cup holders up front, in the back, on the sides…. Let’s see we had coffee cups, pop bottles, and water bottles all going on the way home.  There was room for all of them.
  • The front and rear sunroofs are a nice touch.  The rear one is split.  At one point Oliver had his one open and Mark had his one shut. 
  • Designed to seat seven adults, the Flex is equipped with large, plush, overstuffed front and second-row seats.
  • The third-row seat dumps into a well in the vehicle’s floor, similar to a minivan, and because the Flex has a nearly vertical rear window and a square roofline, it provides an impressive amount of cargo room even when traveling with a full house of passengers.
  • For the 2016 model year Ford gave us the company’s new Sync 3 infotainment system in the Flex. Sync 3 replaces the MyFord Touch infotainment system, and it represents a significant improvement.

    Highlights of the new system include:

    • Capacitive touch screen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability
    • Improved graphics, faster response to inputs
    • Upgraded voice recognition technology
    • Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
    • System updates available via Wi-Fi
  • Fuel mileage wasn’t bad.  You can check out Fuelly and see what other Ford Flex drivers are getting.  The average seems to be about 18 mpg.   I get around 25 mpg with my Chevy HHR but it is a much smaller and less powerful vehicle.

I am a fan of the Flex.  It’s styling isn’t for everyone but I have come to love it.  If you are a family who loves to travel or just wants a comfortable ride to the great outdoors, the Ford Flex is worth looking a closer look at, you will be impressed at what you see.

Exploring with the 2016 Ford Flex

As much fun as the 2016 Ford Flex is to drive around Saskatoon.  Today is why we have it.

Today starts the 20 kilometer hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

A couple of hours ago, we loaded the Ford Flex with a cooler full of ice and drinks (for when we are done the hike and get back to the Flex), topped up the tank with gas, tossed three loaded expedition sized backpacks into it and one smaller one for Oliver and a dog backpack for Marley and then headed out the door for Prince Albert National Park.

After we get into the park, we will register with Parks Canada and then head about 40km north of Waskesiu to the trailhead near Kingsmere Lake.  From there we are hiking 17km to the Northend campground where we will make camp before walking another three kilometers to Ajawaan Lake.

activ3_bi_2_thumb

After we check out Beaver Lodge, we will head back 3 kms back to our camp and call it a night.  Then its up and at it the next morning and back to the trailhead where that cooler of orange juice, Gatorade, Diet Coke, cold water and Coca-Cola awaits.  If we don’t make it back, you know we died a painful death at the hands of a bear in the wilderness.

A week

His sunglasses are packed somewhere

I took this photo of Mark today just minutes before we drove him to Bedford Road Collegiate and dropped him off for his school canoe trip.  He is headed to Sturgeon Lake and if all goes well, he will return Tuesday.  If it doesn’t go well, this photo will help search and rescuers find him.

As we pulled up to the school, other kids were walking up with full body pillows and big luggage.  It reminded Mark and I over every failed exploration documentary ever.

The Expedition brought along fine china and suits from the best tailors in London.

Provided he does get back, we will take another trip on Saturday with the 2016 Ford Flex (Thanks Ford Canada, we appreciate it) to Prince Albert National Park.  After stopping in Waskesiu, we will pick up our back country permit and then we drive north past the Waskesiu Marina until we see this sign.

Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Then we take a big gulp, tighten up our hiking boots, grab our bags, and then start to walk for 17 kilometers until we get to Northend Campground.  When we get there, we will make camp, store our food up high and then push on for another 3 kilometers until we get to Ajawaan Lake and see Grey Owl’s cabin.

Once there, we will check it out and then head back to the campground for the evening.  I am told that nothing beats smokies and Kraft Dinner after a long hike in the backcountry so I will put that to the test.  Personally I think perfectly barbecued steaks would be ideal but Wendy doesn’t want to carry the barbecue and Oliver is balking at carrying a full propane tank for it.  It’s obvious someone hasn’t bought into my vision for the ideal hike.

As for gear, Wendy, Mark, and I all have expedition sized packs. 

I get to carry:

  • Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2 Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Clothes
  • Camera gear (
  • Primus Classic Stove and fuel
  • Water
  • Coffee Press
  • Stanley Travel Mug
  • Mess kit
  • Food
  • Hatchet (Northend campground has firewood but I need to split up kindling)
  • Headlamp
  • Multi-tool and knife.
  • Wendy is carrying

    • Sleeping bag
    • Clothes
    • Pot for boiling food
    • Food
    • Water
    • Travel mug
    • Mess kit
    • First Aid Kit
    • Headlamp

    Mark is carrying

    • Eureka two person tent
    • Sleeping bag
    • Clothes
    • Water
    • Mess kit
    • Travel mug
    • Food
    • Lantern
    • Headlamp

    Oliver is carrying up

    • Sleeping bag (it’s fleece and a lot smaller than other sleeping bags)
    • Clothes
    • Mess kit
    • Travel mug
    • Water
    • Food
    • Headlamp
    • Flashlight
    • Bushnell Backtrack GPS (he won’t need it but he got it for his birthday and is super excited about it)

    Marley is carrying

    • Dog food
    • Dog dishes
    • Bear bell

    We also have some things like GPS’s (which aren’t needed as the trail follows the lake but it is nice to know how much further), headlamps, flashlights, and some reading material for Friday night.

    Food is pretty simple.  We are all a fan of Marty Belanger’s hiking videos on YouTube and he has this short video on how to pack food for a multi day hike (I just refuse to use instant coffee).   He pre packs his meals into zip lock bags which do for each of us.

    Friday Meals

    • Breakfast at home
    • Lunch
      • Tortilla shells
      • Broccoli and Cheese Rice to go inside of shells
      • Cliff bars
    • Dinner
    • Kraft Dinner
    • Smokies cooked over a fire announcing to all Black Bears in Prince Albert National Park that we have food they might enjoy.  We will cook these 100 metres or so from campground as suggested by Parks Canada and common sense.
    • Chocolate bars for dessert
    • Tea and hot chocolate
  • Snack
    • Oysters over the fire

    Saturday Meals

    • Breakfast
      • Oatmeal
      • Granola bars
      • Hot Chocolate
      • Coffee
    • Lunch
      • Sidekick pasta
      • Tuna wraps with tortilla

    Raman noodles as needed and we do have enough food in case there is an emergency.

    The only thing that concerns me is that we both have two person tents and the dog likes to sleep between Wendy and I.  That could be for a long night where one of us is sleeping in the vestibule.   That person could be me.

    If all goes well, we will be out by mid afternoon on Sunday and back in Waskesiu for supper.   The Ford Flex has both air conditioned and heated seats.  I am unsure at this time which I will be turning on first as we leave the parking lot.

    This expedition does have it’s own website here.    We’ll be posting much more once we are done there.

    Well this doesn’t look good.

    So the other day I was messing around with my photo project Bridge City and everything went wrong with the database.  My WordPress database was messed up.  The backup was less messed up but it was a mess.  I felt like hurling.

    For those of you know follow it, you know that I have uploaded about 750 high resolution photos of Saskatoon to the site, organized by neighborhood.  For the historical buildings in Saskatoon, I tracked down the architect and learned a lot about the city in the process.  There was David Webster the father and David Webster the son.  Many historical records claim David Webster as architect when he wasn’t and some historical records have contradictory information which often means the building construction is more complicated than we ever thought.  Personally I think at one point in our city’s history, if we didn’t know who the architect was, someone at the back at the room yelled out, “David Webster” and someone said, “sounds good” and that was it.

    The project has been a lot of fun as I have spent many a day off buried in archives and online tracking down a list of questions that I can’t find an answer for.

    Since the project is to document the important buildings in the city, it has gotten me off the couch and out in the streets, often with Mark and Wendy in tow as we try to capture the building.  This process has attracted building owners, neighbors, and even Saskatoon City Police officers to see what I am up to and then share some of what they know.  It’s been a lot of fun.

    The good news is that the photos aren’t lost but the information and research is.  For a couple of days I was torn between recreating the site or just posting the photos here.

    From a branding perspective, having my photography under my site and name makes the most sense but I really like being able to browse by neighborhood and creating a resource that is used by a lot of you.  For all intents and purposes my Flickr account does the same thing but I enjoy going through it, researching what I have captured and filling out the site.

    The plan is to upload and post 10 archival posts a night to Bridge City and of course one new one each day.  Hopefully the site will be back to where it was (and maybe even better) by late summer.   So if you are one of the people that checked it out and used it as a resource, thanks for reading, commenting, and correcting.  I love the input.

    I get asked all of the time why I spend so much time documenting and capturing the city.  Basically as a writer, I find myself writing about what is messed up with the city.  I write about social justice and City Hall.  I deal with politicians who look me in the eye and lie to me.  That kills one’s enthusiasm for the city you live in.

    Then I go out with my Pentax K-3 or a cheap point and shoot and I see the city in a different way.  The city slows down.  There is time for coffee and chatting.  I find myself falling in love with this city all over again.  In the end, carrying a camera and shooting some photos or video connects me to the city and it’s people.  That’s still kind of important to me.

    Heading back to Ogema

    By the time this publishes, I will be driving a 2016 Ford Focus (not the one below, this one is white) south to Regina where I meeting up with adventurer and author Robin Esrock.  He is a Ford Canada brand ambassador.  After meeting up (and I assume getting coffee at the Starbucks), we are heading south to Ogema, Saskatchewan (a place where I explored last year with Ford), testing out some food, riding the Southern Prairie Railway, taking in a museum, and then heading back to Regina.

    In Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with a 2015 Ford Focus

    Wendy and the boys are coming along for the trip.  Instead of heading south with us, they are going to explore Regina and in particular, Wascana Lake and the Saskatchewan Legislature.  I’ll post some photos from the trip to the blog tonight.  I assume they will as well.

    If you don’t want to read my account of the day, check out Elan Morgan’s blog.  It’s always a good read.

    There is a book signing with Robin Esrock in Regina at 7:00p.m.  at the Chapters.  If you come on out, I’ll be there.  I won’t sign your book but we could totally do a selfie or something over coffee. 

    (Ford) #ExploreSask

    Ford Canada is lending me a 2016 Ford Explorer to take to Swift Current tomorrow and take in some of the 2016 Ford World’s Women Curling Championship.  

    2016 Ford Explorer

    I don’t know if Ford knows this but the drive from Saskatoon to Swift Current is a lot of fun.  First of all you drive from Saskatoon to Rosetown which is no fun at all.  Then once you turn south, the drive gets better.  You get into some hills and curves.  The scenery is great.  There are giant wind farms.  There is Saskatchewan Landing.  Just thinking about taking that SUV down to Swift Current makes me smile.  I love driving that road.

    So why am I doing this?  Well let’s get this out the way.

    • I don’t work for Ford.  Nor am I paid for anything that I write about Ford vehicles.  They give me complete freedom to write what I think about their cars. Over the years when I have written about things that I may not like, I have been contacted by people from Ford asking for more feedback and ways I think it could work better.  That’s it. 
    • Basically the only restrictions that Ford places on me is insurance related and I am not allowed to smoke in the car.  Since I have never smoked, that isn’t an issue.
    • For this trip, Ford Canada is paying for my hotel (at the Motel 6 in Swift Current), gas, and some of the food.  I mention some of the food because I decided I wanted to pay for the red licorice I am buying tomorrow out of my own personal money.  That way I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.
    • Having thought long and hard about this but if I could own any car in the entire world, it would be a Ford Escape Titanium edition.  You have your favorite vehicle, that is mine.  I love that vehicle and every Ford I write about is compared to how it stacks up to that car. 

    Okay, so I mentioned Ford is putting Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I up at the Motel 6 in Swift Current.  The place looks like the inside of an Ikea show hotel.  I can’t wait to take some photos and show you.  I actually am nervous sleeping in it because I am afraid that someone is going to wander through and want to buy part a piece of furniture on their way to go and look at oversized coffee mugs.  The most cutting edge hotel in Saskatchewan is a Motel 6 in Swift Current.  Try to get your head around that. 

    There isn’t a lot to do in Swift Current but I will see what I can photograph and explore there.  Several locals have given me some suggestions on where to eat.

    Once we eat and are secured safely back into the Motel 6 with the NCAA basketball tournament on, I’ll post a review on how the 2016 Ford Explorer handles and a little bit about the trip.

    One last thing, Mark is in driver’s ed but doesn’t quite have his learner’s license yet.  In his (delusional) mind he was so close to test driving the Ford Explorer that he could taste it.  Then I told him that he had to be either 18 or 21 to be able to drive one which pretty much crushed his spirits, hopes, and dreams.  He was quite happy tonight to be able to ride in the front seat.  As he said, “all he had to do was picture being in the U.K. and it was like he was driving.”  I admire his spirit.

    Millennials Spending Power Has Hilton Weighing a ‘Hostel-Like’ Brand

    Hilton is making some changes

    Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., the world’s biggest hospitality company by number of rooms, may add a new brand that focuses on small, cheap hotels in big cities, Chief Executive Officer Chris Nassetta said.

    “There’s potential for something that has more of an urban flair, more of a micro-hotel,” Nassetta said in an interview in Berlin. “We haven’t made a decision to do anything in that space, but it’s certainly one of the things we’ve been exploring.”

    Hilton, owner of the Waldorf-Astoria and Hampton Inn brands, aims to meet increasing demand by young travelers seeking no-frills, affordable lodging. Large hoteliers face increasing competition for budget accommodation from online providers such as Airbnb Inc.

    The brand would offer “hostel-like” accommodation for younger guests, with lower prices and less service, Nassetta said. Hilton prefers to develop new brands itself, rather than making acquisitions, he said.

    Spending by young overseas tourists around the world is forecast to rise to $336 billion by 2020 from $230 billion in 2014, according to Stay Wyse. Half of millennials spend at least 1,000 euros ($1,100) during a trip, according to a November 2014 report by the company that represents the global youth-travel industry.

    So much for being impartial

    The second paragraph reads like something from Stevie Cameron’s On The Take.

    Antonin Scalia was the longest-tenured justice on the current Supreme Court and the country’s most prominent constitutionalist. But another quality also set him apart: Among the court’s members, he was the most frequent traveler, to spots around the globe, on trips paid for by private sponsors.

    When Justice Scalia died two weeks ago, he was staying, again for free, at a West Texas hunting lodge owned by a businessman whose company had recently had a matter before the Supreme Court.

    Though that trip has brought new attention to the justice’s penchant for travel, it was in addition to the 258 subsidized trips that he took from 2004 to 2014. Justice Scalia went on at least 23 privately funded trips in 2014 alone to places like Hawaii, Ireland and Switzerland, giving speeches, participating in moot court events or teaching classes. A few weeks before his death, he was in Singapore and Hong Kong.

    Here is some context

    In 2011, a liberal advocacy group, Common Cause, questioned whether Justice Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas should have disqualified themselves from participating in the landmark Citizens United case on campaign finance because they had attended a political retreat in Palm Springs, Calif., sponsored by the conservative financier Charles G. Koch. Mr. Koch funds groups that could benefit from the ruling. The disclosure report filed by Justice Thomas made no mention of the retreat. It said only that he had taken a trip, funded by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, to Palm Springs to give a speech.

    Over roughly a decade, Justice Scalia took 21 trips sponsored by the Federalist Society, to places like Park City, Utah; Napa, Calif.; and Bozeman, Mont. The Federalist Society also paid for trips by Justice Alito during that period, but not for any liberal justices, the disclosure reports show.

    “There are fair questions raised by some of these trips about their commitment to being impartial,” said Stephen Spaulding, the legal director at Common Cause. “They are dancing so close to the line with overtly political events.”

    Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for Teens | 2015 Edition

    What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list.  The easy way out is cash and gift cards.  We aren’t going to take the easy route out.  We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.

    Asus Zenpad 7” 16GB Tablet

    Asus Zenpad 7” 16GB Android Tablet

    • 7″ IPS Display (1024 x 600) with ASUS TruVivid technology for better visual experience
    • Intel Atom x3-C3200 Quad-Core, 64bit, 1.2GHz
    • 1G RAM, 16G Onboard Storage, Bluetooth 4.0
    • 2M/0.3M Dual Camera; 1 x microSD Card slot, support up to 64GB SDHC
    • Android 5.0 Lollipop

    $100 for a cutting edge tablet?  I’m okay with that.  The Asus Zenpad tablet runs a 1.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 5.0, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework.  It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera

    While you are at it, pick up a case, Bluetooth keyboard, Micro SD card and a Bluetooth speaker.

    Amazon Fire Tablet with a 7” Display

    Amazon Fire Tabet with a 7" Display

    For less then $50, you can get your teen a modern and functional tablet from Amazon.  If you get the $49.99 version, it comes with advertising on the lock screen but for only $15 more, it has no advertising, just a fully functional tablet.  It’s a great deal.

    Pentax K-50 DSLR

    We gave Mark my Pentax K-30 to him after I upgraded this summer.  The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality.  The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it.  This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs.  The other advantage is the amazing price.  At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.

    Pentax K-50 Digital SLR from Don's Photo

    The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.

    At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it.  This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see together.

    If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.

    Ricoh WG-4

    Ricoh WG-4 Ruggedized Camera

    If you have a smaller budget, this Ricoh WG-4 is a great adventure proof camera.  It’s waterproof, crushproof, and has a built in GPS to record where you are when you take the photo.  It has a quick f2 lens, 16 megapixel CMOS sensor.  It is the perfect option to take into the backwoods, on a long road trip, or just attaching to your pack for a day out.  Like all WG series cameras, it comes with a wide series of mounts so it can attached to your bike, car, or helmet.  Not only are you getting a great camera but with the mounts you are getting many of the capabilities that a GoPro offers.

    If you are looking seriously at a camera for your teen and aspiring photographer this Christmas, check out this post I wrote over at the Don’s Photo blog, it gives many more options than I listed here.

    Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

    Sennheisser HD 202 II Headphones

    There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already.  The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on.  Sennheisser headphones are a great bet.  The Sennheiser HD202 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones.  Sure they may be asking for Dre Beats but Sennheisser headphones offer superior sound at a far better price.  No wonder they are the number one best selling headphones this year on Amazon.

    Brainwavz Delta In Ear HeadphonesBrainwavz Delta IEM Earphones

     

    If you are on a budget (and who isn’t) this Christmas, here are some fabulous looking and sounding headphones by Brainwavz at an affordable price.   Already named the best sounding headphones under $40 by the audiofiles at The Wirecutter, they offer one of the best values of this Christmas season.  And who doesn’t like a great pair of headphones for a really good price.

    OontZ Angle 3 Ultra Portable Bluetooh Speaker

    OontZ Angle 3 Ultra Portable Bluetooh Waterproof Speaker

    One of the most popular and wished for items on Amazon.com.  Brought to you by Cambridge Soundworks, this Angle is the latest in a line of amazing and affordable speaker systems.   It comes in comes in many color options and is 5.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 3 inches deep. It weighs 9 ounces, which makes it a lightweight unit.  Not only that but it is waterproof meaning that it can go where your teen goes.

    Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

    Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

    Tucom is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,

    We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it.  It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.

    The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey

    The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey

    From Sean Covey, the author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this bestselling follow-up book builds upon the legacy of the 7 Habits and shows teens how to make smart choices about the six most crucial choices they’ll face during these turbulent years.

    The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.

    Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

    Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

    You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift.  You are opening up the wonders of the universe.   All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!

    Quest Super Cruiser Artisan Bamboo Longboard Skateboard

    Quest Super Cruiser Artisan Bamboo Longboard Skateboard

    Squier by Fender “Stop Dreaming, Start Playing” Set

    Squier by Fender "Stop Dreaming, Start Playing" Set

    If he wants to be a rock star, what better way to get him started than with a Squire guitar and amp by Fender?  It comes with an electric guitar, amp, bag, strap, cables, and picks.  Basically everything he will need to rock out in 2015.

    ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2 Person Tent

    ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2 Person Tent

    So many parents we talk to tell me that all their kid is sit inside and game all summer.  In part because that is where all of the money is spent.  Instead of a new Playstation 4 or a XBox One, why not get them some quality gear for the great outdoors?  This 2 person tent invites them to get outside, explore the world, and see what else is out there.  Whether it is a weekend at a nearby regional park or an overnight hike on a historic trail, give them the gear to go exploring in 2016.

    It is a roomy 2 person backpacking tent. It has a Hubbed Shockcorded Aluminum Frame that is strong and durable. The Full Coverage Fly will protect the tent from the worst weather and has 2 Doors and 2 Vestibules for stowing excess gear out side the tent. Each Vestibule has an Adjustable Vent to help with ventilation. And the no-see-um mesh panels on the roof and walls will help keep the tent comfortable. So much mesh that you could leave the fly off for stargazing should the sky be clear. Other features include fully taped Fly and Floor seams, aluminum stakes, sturdy #8 zippers,

    ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad

    ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad

    When you’re away from home and want to add extra comfort to your cot or sleeping bag, try this ALPS Mountaineering self-inflating air pad. Par of the lightweight series, this pad inflates and deflates quickly with the jet stream foam and rolls up compactly to fit into the stuff sack. The top fabric is tough, lightweight ripstop and the bottom is made of durable polyester taffeta. Another benefit of adding an air pad is that it will help keep you warmer, which is essential to a well-rested night at the campsite. A stuff sack, compression straps, and repair kit are included with every pad.

    Energizer 90 Lumen Headlamp

    Energizer 90 Lumen Headlamp

    If they are going to explore, they are going to need to know where they are going at night.  For this, they will need a headlamp.

    • Four LED headlamp with three white LEDs and one red LED
    • Three modes: White (high & low), red for night vision
    • Pivots to direct light where you need it
    • 80 lumens of light output
    • 8.5 hour run time
    • Packed with three Energizer MAX AAA batteries
    • Water & impact resistant to stand up to harsh conditions.

     

    Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition

    Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition

    Everyone has to start somewhere, and for beginning backpackers and campers there’s no better place to start than the Etekcity mini camping stove. There’s virtually zero setup and it’s extremely easy to use with no risk of fuel spills and no priming required.  We have one of these and it is the easiest stove I have ever used.  You just screw it into the fuel canister, turn it on, use the Piezo ignition system and away you go.

    Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device

    Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device

    Even if your teen does get lost, he or she can always find their way back home with the D Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device from Bushnell

    High-functioning GPS capabilities and a precision digital compass with latitude and longitude allow you to track any course by automatically keeping track of time, temperature, and altitude, along with route, length and speed. Once you mark one of five waypoints, it will also help you find your back to that place, whether it is a camp, a parking lot, or home.

    Garmin eTrex 20x GPS

    Garmin eTrex 20x GPS

    The best selling sports GPS unit on Amazon is the new eTrex 20x is our upgraded version of the popular eTrex 20, with enhanced screen resolution and expanded internal memory so you can download a greater variety of maps than ever. This rugged, dependable GPS retains the ease of-use and affordability that eTrex is legendary for, with an array of compatible mounts for use on ATVs, bicycles, boats and cars. The new eTrex 20x also has the ability to track both GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously. It supports geocaching GPX files for downloading geocaches and details straight to your unit.

    Other Christmas Gift Guides

    Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

    Southern Prairie Railway in Ogema, Saskatchewan

    Southern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanIMGP1465Southern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, Saskatchewan

    We took a weekend to go to Ogema, Saskatchewan and experience the Southern Prairie Railway.  The railway is a tourist one and offers different kinds of rides every weekend.  It is the only tourist railway of it’s kind of the prairies. After getting to Ogema a little early and taking a look around a truly charming town, we headed to the train station and looked around.  After boarding, we were off to the ghost town of Horizon, Saskatchewan. 

    Along the way, we were treated to entertaining local history and stories by the host of the trip who both shared a prepared presentation and interacted extensively with the audience.  Once to Horizon we were able to go inside a historic Federal Grain elevator while the train turned around and we headed back.  The entire tour takes about two hours in a restored Pullman carriage (the restoration of the carriage makes for a great story in itself).

    Starting with lunch in the community, the entire afternoon was worth the time and the money.  The boys, Wendy, and myself loved the trip and want to do it again in the future.

    We did learn one thing on the train and that is the back of the railcar swings quite a bit.  The difference in going to Horizon and then back was extremely noticeable.  Not a distraction but another neat part of the trip.

    You can find out more about the railway at www.southernprairierailway.com.

    Claybank Brick Plant

    Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I visited and explored the Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site.   The Claybank Brick Plant remains frozen in time, virtually unchanged from the day it opened in 1914.

    Brick manufactured at the plant graces the facades of many prestigious buildings across Saskatchewan as well as many other provinces. Face brick was produced until 1960’s, and adorns such prominent buildings as the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City and the Delta Bessborough in Saskatoon. Among many others, the beautiful Gravelbourg Cathedral is faced entirely of Claybank brick as are a number of court houses and other public buildings.

    The rare fire brick produced here lined the fire boxes of the CN and CP Rail line locomotives, and of warships in World War II. The fire brick was also used in the construction of the rocket launch pads at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Not only does the brick plant constitute one of the best preserved examples of early 20th century industrial activity in Canada, but is one of a small number of heritage attractions in Saskatchewan to have achieved formal National Historic Site designation status.

    The self guided tour cost us $25 and about an hour to complete.  There are also trails into the hills south of the site and I wish we had time to explore.

    Claybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteIMGP1359Claybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic SiteClaybank Brick Plant National Historic Site

    This was a lot of fun for both me but the entire family.  We explored for a while together and alone and found all sorts of fascinating sites and facts while on the site.   I think it is also a testament to the vision of the community which has worked very hard to raise the money and put in the elbow grease to slowly bring this site back and make it into a National Historic Site.  They say they are $2 million into a $6 million project so make sure you visit and then donate.  It’s a site that is worth preserving.

    Just a quick note for when this post is buried in the archives.  The weekend trip was made possible by Ford Canada who gave us a 2015 Ford Focus to use and review.  They also paid for a big part of the weekend.