While the rest of the world celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday this weekend, we are celebrating Mark turning 14 at the cabin.
He has been saving up for a DLSR camera for months. When I upgraded my Pentax K-x, he thought I traded it in for a new camera. Instead I took it upstairs and have been saving it to give him for his birthday.
After having the camera’s sensor cleaned, I bought him a new 16 GB memory card and cleaned all of the lens up perfectly (if you don’t have a Lens Pen, you are doing it all wrong).
Wendy and I had bought him a a new Roots sling camera bag and placed the camera in along with some of my older lenses. Along with the camera, I gave him this 18-55mm lens that came with the camera, a really sharp manual 50mm lens, a Pentax 100-300 lens, and a Takumar-F 28-80mm manual lens (that to be honest, really sucks) but it will give him a macro to play with. I have an older Sigma 70-210 lens that I may give him as well but I am awaiting a replacement for it. Until then he can borrow it.
To celebrate his birthday we are heading north from the cabin for a long nature walk along the shores of Last Mountain Lake where we will hopefully get some shots of some birds and someone can test out his new camera. I expect you will see some photos of the day as soon as we get back into the city.
Mark blogs about his birthday here.
Today mark’s my 40th trip around the sun without being tossed off. I guess it also means that I am middle aged. That being said, Time Magazine once said that 50 is the new 30 so I guess that makes me 25 or so. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
To celebrate my birthday, we have spent the last couple of days where it all began; in Edmonton. Yes I was born in Edmonton. I don’t like to talk about it because it wasn’t my choice and it is Edmonton after all.
We got up at Sunday at 5:00 a.m., left Saskatoon at 6:00 a.m., were in Lloydminister for breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and in Elk Island National Park by 11 a.m. After talking some photos of some bison, it was off to Edmonton. Wendy used some Airmiles to book a decent hotel, the boys have spent the last couple of days enjoying West Edmonton Mall and I got out in the warmer weather and took some photos around the city. I’ll post them online when I get back to Saskatoon.
I don’t really think of Edmonton as home. I was born there and only lived there a year before moving to Rainbow Lake and then settling in Calgary for a decade. Growing up as a Calgary Flames hockey fan, I used to despise Edmonton in the same way someone from Springfield thinks of Shelbyville. Since things have changed (and both Calgary and Edmonton can’t play hockey),it is nice to be back, even if it does mean wandering up and down a mall.
For my birthday, the boys gave me a Pentax WG-10 rugged compact camera while Wendy gave me a GoPro 3+ Silver Edition and a really nice Invicta dive watch. Maggi gave me a Denver Broncos sign that I will hang at the cabin. Two of the four gifts say, “get outside more often” and after this winter, I can’t agree more.
The plan is to have dinner with the boys tonight at a local restaurant and then head down to Winston’s for a Diet Coke with some friends.
My brother gave me a DeWalt cordless drill and a bit set. We are planning to build the deck on the cabin this summer and he included his ideas as well. A 10×10 deck out back and a 8×8 deck in the front yard. We should have it built in a day.
Mark playing charades at the Reimers on Christmas Day (as I try out my new 50mm manual lens)
After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman. They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place. We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents. The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker. The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.
- I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera. She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade. This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes. It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it. I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary. A nice bonus for her.
- Mark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch. Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off. The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it. So far so good but it is early yet.
- Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography. Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom. He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
- Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera. it was used but barely used. Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens. I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
- The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter. I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras. Story of my life.
- I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera. He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it. It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount. Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account. That’s quality parenting right there folks.
- Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone. Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them. He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes. The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit.
- Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
- The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
- Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie. He’ll never take them off.
- Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug. It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
- Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks. He is going to need them.
- I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars. He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well. As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies. Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code. I hear beeping in my future.
- Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them. Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting. It should be fun.
- Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS. Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin. Mark isn’t so crazy about that. We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head. Something to inspire him with.
- Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs. Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
- Hutch got him an art set
- Maggi got him a compact camcorder. It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver. He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots. The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it. At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days. I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
- I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades. Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me. The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
- The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk. It seems to sum both of them up so well.
- We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.
- Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
- Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.
- Wendy gave me an Apple TV.
- Oliver gave me a rather sharp used F 1.7 50mm lens for my DSLR. He also gave me a LowePro lens case to keep it in.
- Mark got me The Longer I’m Prime Minister by Paul Wells. (you can read a Toronto Star review here)
- Maggi collaborated with Oliver and gave me a Manfrotto compact tripod.
- Lee and Brittany gave me Battlefield 4. Now I have to go and fight the world myself.
- The dogs got me a lens! Err a coffee travel mug. Now I can pour myself a steaming cup of DSLR.
I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag
Well that’s enough from me tonight. We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner. Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.
I was given a 2013 Ford Focus ST to review. It’s basically a four door Ford Focus with horsepower and speed tucked into every conceivable corner of the vehicle. They found a lot of corners to add it as it has 252 horsepower in it and every single one of them is fun to drive.
The Focus ST is basically the Ford engineers wandering up to Volkswagen and throwing the gauntlet down at the Volkswagen GTI and then saying, “beat this!” and then watching the Volkswagen people slink away. It’s the new owner of the compact sedan performance crown.
The car was a lot of fun to drive. It was a six speed manual transmission that was easy to drive through the streets of Saskatoon on my morning commute. Unlike many of Ford’s other vehicles, it was nice to drive a car that was not equipped with collision detection, blind spot alerts, and rear view cameras. The car has one purpose and that is performance and it showed.
The handling was remarkabe as I zipped along through city traffic on my daily work commutes were the capable workings of the ST’s uniquely-tuned sport suspension which lowered its chassis by 10 mm, compared to the regular Focus. The ST’s stiffer suspension was combined with the Focus’ standard MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone system in the rear.
We took the car to our cabin for Thanksgiving. I had to work on Saturday and Mark had a football game so we left Sunday morning for the cabin. Since it was a demo car, we left the dogs behind which created some more space for us but we did manage to bring up three empty planters in the trunk as well as a lot of blankets that Wendy had washed at home. I was surprised at how much the trunk of the hatchback held.
The drive to Arlington took us along Highway 16 until the Watrous turnoff. A quiet Sunday and a lonely stretch of highway let me open the car up a bit and again I was surprised how quiet it was. Despite the increased speed, I was surprised how low I had ESPN Radio playing. There just wasn’t the need to compensate for highway noise. That being said, I don’t want to take anything away from the Sony 10 speaker stereo system. It was exceptional.
The one thing I didn’t like was on the 30 km stretch from the highway to the cabin is along a gravel road and I found the backend of the car was all over the place. While I normally drive 70-80 km/h down that road, even at 60 km/h, the Focus’ back end was moving more than Miley Cyrus’ and that isn’t good.
As you can see, it came with the basic Ford MyTouch, Ford Sync, and excellent Sony stereo system. The middle arm rest has USB ports to import music, upgrades, and power to charge your cell phone. We plugged in an iPod and were able to control it easily from the steering wheel. Apparently that worked too well as I drove Wendy and Mark crazy while flipping through a couple of playlists.
The car came with heated seats and as someone who had a sore back, you have no idea how nice that felt over a two hour drive. For those that see it as a frivolous winter feature, it seemed to be worth it this fall.
Size wise, it felt good. I am 6’4” and it had the leg and headroom that I need. The boys were comfortable in the backseat but adults would find it less comfortable; which is the same with any compact.
I loved the car. It was a joy to drive and fit our family well. If you are like me and approaching your midlife crisis point, it is a car well worth looking at.
- Model as Tested: 2013 Ford Focus ST 4dr Hatchback w/EcoBoost (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
- Vehicle Type: FWD 5-passenger 4dr Hatchback
- Estimated MSRP: Price: base, $29,999; as tested, $34,849 (includes $3,300 in options; $1,550 D&D charge; and a $100 Fed. excise tax; doesn’t include current dealer or manufacturer incentives)
- Engine type: Turbocharged, direct-injected inline-4, gasoline
- Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 247 @ 5,500
- Transmission type: Six-speed manual
- Track Test Results: 0-60 mph, mfr. claim (sec.) 6.5 (0-62 mph)
- Fuel Consumption: Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.) 14.5
- Seating capacity: 5
For more information, check out the Ford Canada website for the Focus ST or talk to your local Ford dealer.
On Sunday I decided to take the family along the backroads to Prince Albert. We explored the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Ascension, Fish Creek Church, and eventually the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam east of Prince Albert. Mark shot some video footage while there which you can see below.
Wendy wrote a little more about the day on her blog.
Apparently it’s name is Oliver.
Yesterday afternoon I was trying to get some work done when Oliver and Mark decided to go to A.H. Browne Park. As a change, I suggested that they walk to Ashworth Holmes Park and check out the paddling pool. They did and three hours later they came home with some video that Mark had shot on his camera. The next thing I knew he had his SD card out and was uploading it to my Mac rather than his PC.
So after dorking around for a bit, he found the movie trailer feature in iMovie and I know I wasn’t getting my Mac back anytime soon. After an hour of them arguing over which clips to use, Mark came up with this. Now I have to just sign him out of Twitter, Gmail, and figure out else he has done to my MacBook.
The night before Mark was getting packed and his over the ear headphones were busted. Mark takes good care of his stuff but the ear pad was off. He never asks for stuff to be replaced but I went out and picked him up some new Sony headphones that XS Cargo had. I left the box in the Ford C Max Hybrid and he was thrilled to find it in the morning.
So at 5:45 a.m. I heard Mark get up and take all of the hot water in the house. The kid was excited to get going to his first Ford event, even if he hadn’t quite figured out how he was going to convince Ford to let him drive a car on the RCMP grounds. He still had a couple of hours to work out the details. We drove over to Jeff Jackson’s place. We had been there once before and I was assuming Mark had paid closer attention to where he lived than I did but then I realized it was Oliver who was with me. That didn’t help at all.
Despite Jeff’s place being in the middle of Lakeridge, it doesn’t show up on Ford’s GPS. I kept hoping I would get ‘Samantha’ (Ford Sync’s voice) to give me a warning about driving into unchartered territory but nothing.
It’s a horrible drive between Saskatoon and Regina. There is no scenery at all. I am sorry Davidson but your large coffee pot does not classify as scenery. If only a town would create the world’s biggest hoe along the way.
When we got to Regina and I had Jeff, the guy with Apple Maps navigating for me. That worked out as well as Apple Maps got us lost, didn’t update in time to make the turns and was pretty much useless. We should have stuck with either the Google Maps or the Microsoft powered map in the Ford GPS. It was a loss for Apple, a win for every other map software in the world, including paper maps.
As we rolled into the RCMP Heritage Centre, Ford had a large tent set up and like the other Ford events that we have been at, there was food, information, and drinks everywhere. Believe it or not, the photographer below was photographing the cars and not us. I may be a big deal in Europe but not so much in Regina.
As we were chatting, we noticed Greg Johnson, the Tornado Hunter roll up in his orange F-150. It makes quite an entrance. Of course Greg was only there for a short time as he had to go out and chase a tornado.
To start of the morning we took part in a short presentation on the Ford electric vehicles and hybrids in a boardroom at the RCMP Heritage Centre. Ford presentations are short, information packed and their specialists can answer your questions very well. On this one we had a specialist joining up in from Dearborn, Michigan via Skype.
“We pride ourselves on offering customers the Power of choice, including 15 vehicles with EcoBoost engines and five new electrified vehicles,” said Scott Kuzma, Ford of Canada’s assistant marketing manager, cars. “We are absolutely committed to top fuel economy with every new vehicle we introduce, and the Power of Choice Tour is helping people learn how they can achieve that in their own lives.”
You can read more about the presentation by clicking on the PDF. Of course not only are Ford vehicles more fuel efficient but Ford is trying to cut back on the amount of petroleum products it takes to make them (which can actually use up more hydro carbons than it will to drive them). For anyone who has read Jeff Rubin‘s books or column in the Globe and Mail, you know what a big deal this is.
Then it was outside to test drive the cars. There was a 2013 Ford Escape, a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and a 2013 Ford C Max Energi. Each test drive was done with a Ford Product Specialist who was there to answer any questions that myself (or Mark in the backseat) had. While we were waiting to take some drives, there were other specialists to answer any questions.
I took the Ford C Max Energi and the Ford Fusion Hybrid for quick test drives. Both are great cars. The Ford C Max Energi is very similar to the C Max Hybrid I just had but like the (way more expensive) Chevy Volt, it runs first on battery and then uses gas. The transition from electric to gas was seamless. I had several questions about battery life as the last thing one wants to do is spend a lot of money on an electrified vehicle and then replace the battery pack. The battery packs on those last from 15-20 years which I think is more than acceptable and actually is quite exceptional.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid is also a great car to drive. I never really thought of the Ford Fusion as a luxury car but it is fantastic as a mid-sized sedan. For a lot of people running kids around town, it has the size to do it and the fuel efficiency to make the trips a lot less painful (which I was reminded when gas was $1.30 a litre on the way up and back.
They also had a 2013 Ford Escape but I have reviewed one previously and was going to drive another back to Saskatoon so I didn’t see the point in taking the SUV I love the most for another test drive.
At the Escape with Ford event from last year, they fed us about 8 times. This year we didn’t have the amount of stops but the quality was excellent with sandwiches, drinks and treats everywhere for us to eat. I found out an interesting thing about Mark in that he is unable to eat a chocolate cupcake without part of it going up his nose. I blame his mom.
As we left Regina, we took the 2013 Ford Escape back to Saskatoon with us. I stopped in Davidson to fill up the tank and while I was overtired, I made a horrible and inexcusable mistake. I stopped at the roadside gas station. Jeff and Mark went in to use the washroom and came out deeply scarred from the smell, sex toys being sold in the washroom and what Mark described as something oozing through the walls. I think both of them now have PTSD. That washroom alone is reason enough get a more energy efficient vehicle. The less you have to stop at roadside washrooms, the higher of quality of life you will have.
Sadly I didn’t get one of these for Father’s Day. I never quite get what I want
Wendy and the boys did get some nice stuff and my awesome wife blogs about the day here. The day would have been perfect but the garbage hound I have for a dog got into a bag and spread it all over the house. I had no idea Maggi had been bred with a racoon.
Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin, we have been picking up some gear for the trip. A lot of people have been asking us what we are taking so here is the quick list of gear that is going.
Backpacks: To carry the gear, we have some frameless backpacks with hip straps. You can spend a lot of money on these and after reading around, we think we found the right balance between comfort, durability, and price.
If I was walking the Appalachian Trail, I would definitely have purchased a more expensive backpack but it’s only a day and we are only taking so much stuff. I bought our bags on clearance for $30. They are 40 litres and have the external straps I want. They should do the job.
Tents: Wendy and I are staying in a three man tent we bought for $16 from Wal-mart. They had a loss leader going this winter and we got it then. It’s light and just big enough for the two of us. The tent opens up and hopefully we will be able to sleep under the skies rather than under the fly. If it does look like it could rain, we’ll be fine underneath it.
If I was going camping rather than backcountry hiking, we would have gotten something larger and higher quality. Weight and size are a factor. Also the price was insanely cheap ($16 on sale). If it doesn’t last, no harm done but the reviews online were pretty solid. It’s no where near as durable as a tent from the North Face but then again, it won’t be asked to do much more than keep the mosquitoes or drizzle off of us.
Mark is staying in a one person tent from Eagle’s Camp. It is small but it will be only him and his bag. I don’t know how long it will last him but once he gets to big for it, it can be used by Oliver at the cabin. Either way it is really light and since Mark will be carrying it in and out, he will appreciate the weight. We bought some ropes to add as guy wires which opens it up a bit. It’s small but it is light.
We did waterproof and seal the seams and upgraded the tent pegs to something lighter and more likely to stay in the ground. If the weather is miserable, we should be okay.
Sleeping bags: Mark had a sleeping bag but Wendy and I wanted new 1.5 pound sleeping bags. We picked up two at XS Cargo for $10 each. We will have sleeping foams as well. Walmart is charging $20 for their sleeping pads but we bought ours at a liquidation place for $3. We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.
For lighting, Wendy bought me a new headlamp for my birthday and both Mark and Wendy have headlamps and lanterns We also have a flashlight and Nite Ize LED zipper tags on our backpacks so if we wonder out in the dark, we can be seen.
For the kitchen, we have a Primus Classic Trail Stove and Primus fuel canisters. Stoves have their own fanboy culture which I understand but for the price, it can’t be beaten. I know this isn’t the stove to use when it’s winter but since we are doing the hike in July, we should be okay. It also has a five star review on Amazon.com so it seems to be doing the job.
Coleman also has a propane stove which uses their fuel. The big advantage was that you can get the propane at almost any store while you need to get fuel for the Primus at a specialty store like Cabela’s, MEC, REI. The disadvantage of the Coleman stove is the weight of the larger canister and the stove itself. in the end it made more sense to go with the Primus stove which is small enough to be tucked into our cooking gear. Of all of the things we have purchased for this hike, the Primus Classic Trail Stove is my favorite.
For backup we have a Magic Heat Stove and canisters. I picked them up because they were cheap, good for winter travel, and lightweight. I don’t expect to have to use them but we will take them depending on the weather forecast. If it is going to be nice, we will leave them but if there is a chance of rain and the idea of fighting with wet wood doesn’t appeal, then we will take the backup stoves.
As for the camp kit, years ago Lee gave Wendy a great camp set. We picked up three sparks and we are set to go.
As for water, I have talked to a lot of people who had drank right out of Kingsmere Lake with no side affects. There are giardia warnings about the water so we will have some water filters. It’s way cheaper using purification tablets but I am told they are disgusting. Since we are walking along side the lake, we will be using collapsible water bottles to keep weight and volume down.
Food: Basically MRE’s. We have been to Cabela’s weekly testing out one or two of them each time. We will eat some snacks on the way in, have a nice dinner (well away from the campground to keep the bears away) and then a big breakfast in the morning on our way out. Hopefully we get going in time to be back in Waskesiu for a late lunch before heading back to Saskatoon.
Clothes: I went out and invested in some decent hiking shorts and shirts this summer. As a friend of mine told me that chafing is not something that you will want to do while on the trail. We also went to Cabela’s and got tested by the Dr. Shoal’s machine for the kind of insoles we all need. While the custom Dr. Shoals insoles are right there, a row over are competitor insoles designed the same way for a fraction of the cost. They make hiking boots feel a lot more comfortable and will hopefully make the trip more pleasant.
Technology: We won’t be taking much technology along although we will have a GPS, binoculars, and some cameras. The idea is to keep the weight down as much as possible but at the some time we want to have some photographs and video. I don’t expect to have cell coverage on the hike but it won’t matter as our phones will be turned off. We will have our multi-tools and a hatchet with us but I don’t know if that is considered technology or not. In case we do get some rain, we have some gadget bags which are essentially waterproof zip lock bags for gear. It says that you can submerse them but I’d rather not. What they do a good job of doing is if a tent or bag does leak, your stuff will still be safe.
We bought everything local. While MEC had a good price on some stuff, by the time we calculated shipping, it was less expensive to get something at Cabela’s and Wholesale Sports.
The problem hasn’t been getting the gear that we want, it’s the issue of realizing that everything we do take is going to have to be hauled in and hauled back out. Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.