When people ask me what there is to see in Saskatchewan, I don't know what to tell them. This isn't because there's nothing to see in Saskatchewan, but because I'm not sure where to start. Although I've lived here for over 20 years, I've only seen a small fraction of it. Thankfully, that's why we have the Saskatchewanderer.
In an earlier blog I introduced Ashlyn George, Saskatchewan's fourth Saskatchewanderer. The past year Ashlyn has been driving around the prairies going on a plethora of adventures both above ground, below ground, in the water, and in the air. From mining underground for potash in Vanscoy to raising the dead in Indian Head, Ashlyn is on her way to breaking over 38,000 kilometers driven by years end.
Although she's done just about everything, from snow kiting to wind surfing to air gliding to pizza growing, Ashlyn's favorite adventure hasn't been the scheduled time, but the unscheduled time – the time when she had the "freedom to wander".
Every town in Saskatchewan has a story, and every town has something unique. She found the best way to really discover a community is to ask the local residences what there is to see. It was the unexpected adventures and spontaneity that created the best memories. One of these was her unexpected bump in with the jiggers just outside Shaunavon.
Ashlyn was also able to spend the night in some pretty extraordinary places, like the teepees of Grasslands National Park, the yurts in Flora Bora and the Water's Edge Eco Lodge in Meadow Lake.
When she wasn't waking up to some of the most gorgeous landscapes our province has to offer, Ashlyn was getting her hands dirty with geologists up at Axis Lake by Stony Rapids, archeologists in Wanuskewin, picking berries in Bend on the River Berries, feeding the cows at Rayner Dairy Research and even catching herself a 25 pound, 43 inch northern pike.
Ashlyn even had the opportunity to fly with the mesmerizing Snowbirds, and took an incredible selfie while flying with the Saskatoon flying club, 3,000 feet into the air!
Unfortunately, Ashlyn's incredible stories of being the Saskatchewanderer are coming to an end. Her final day is December 18th, a little over a month away. Thanks to Ashlyn and Tourism Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewanderer program has blossomed, with over 5,000 followers on Instagram, 6,000 followers on Twitter and 17,000 likes on Facebook. Her inspiring travels have shown corners of the province people knew very little about, and have brought lesser known stories to light – like the fact that Indian Head was once the national capitol of baseball from the 1940s to the 1950s.
The end of Ashlyn's adventure ushers in a new Saskatchewanderer, one with very big shoes to fill. People can apply for the position, but only until November 9th at noon. The position runs from January to December 2016, and you are paid between $55,000 and $60,000 a year.
The website description of the role is: "[To] promote our province to the world, showing what it's like to live, work and play in our province. Some of your responsibilities will include: choosing locations and events to explore, setting up and conducting interviews, shooting and editing video, writing stories and populating a blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with high-quality content that shows off the best of Saskatchewan. You will need to be able to work well independently, since most of the time you'll be on the road on your own."
Whoever gets in, Ashlyn has some advice:
"Just be you. Have your own personality."
When asked if she could go back and give herself any advice, she responded:
"I wouldn't do anything different. The summer was really busy... but, there's no way around it. There's just so many great things to write about, so many stories to tell. You want to make sure the whole story's there. I wouldn't change anything I did.
That's satisfying saying that, knowing that. I did the best I was capable of giving all year. I gave it 110% all the time!"
And all of Saskatchewan thanks you, and will miss you.
Several months ago Ford Canada approached me to review their 2017 Ford Explorer. I wanted to see how it handled grid roads, so I took it to a variety of ghost towns, abandoned houses and empty villages around Saskatchewan. I had a lot of fun with the article, and I guess Ford liked it too because a few months later they invited me to go out to the Sunshine Coast to try out a few other vehicles.
There were a few differences between this trip and the one I did around Saskatchewan. The first difference was that this was in the wooded forests of British Columbia and not the flat prairie of Saskatchewan. Instead of having the vehicle for a week, this would be a 2-day trip from Vancouver to the Painted Boat Resort and back again. Also, instead of traveling solo, I'd be travelling with several lifestyle and travel bloggers from across Western Canada – including the 2015 Saskatchewanderer Ashlyn George from The Lost Girl's Guide to Finding the World.
The vehicle we got on the way up to the resort was the same red Ford Explorer I tried out earlier this year. This worked out great for me as I was already very familiar with the vehicle and its quirks. On the way back Ashlyn drove a white 2017 Ford Edge.
I recently had the opportunity to test drive a 2017 Ford Explorer. I grew up learning how to drive a Ford Windstar so I figured an Explorer shouldn't be that much different. Sure, one is an SUV the other is a van, but a Ford's a Ford, right? Well, not exactly. From the moment I sat down, I knew it would be a very different experience from what I was used to.
There were things about the Explorer I liked, and some that I didn't, but it was overall a very nice vehicle. It drove smoothly, turned nicely and handled grid roads very well. I found the brakes to be a little touchy, but by the time the week ended, I mastered how to brake without awkwardly lurching myself forward.
Beyond the learning curve with the brakes, here are my positive and negative experiences with the 2017 Ford Explorer:
Love poutine, Justin Trudeau and just about everything Québécois? G Adventures had the right idea including Montréal in two of their Canadian tours, but Montréal isn't the only noteworthy place to visit in Québec. Now, this tour doesn't give Québec the justice it deserves either, but hopefully it inspires you to take your time to explore the wonders it has to offer. Québec is a beautiful province with a long history, stretching back over four centuries, so this tour is dedicated to the incredible history and culture of French Canada.
Our fictional tour starts in Montréal. If you've read my Five Historic Canadian Cities article last week, you already know Montréal is one of Canada's most lively cities. Packed with some of Canada's most impressive scientific museums, Montréal is also home to an archeological and historical museum, Pointe-à-Callière. Inside one of the most unique buildings in Old Montréal, this museum ventures deep into the history of the city and explores its foundation, its struggles and its changes. With 375 years of history, to uncover this museum starts off with the discovery of Hochelaga and showcases various sections of the original sewer system. The museum also has several illustrations showing the plagues and fires that once decimated the early city. The museum also has an interactive section about the pirates that once terrorized the St. Lawrence River. This museum is one of my absolute favorites, so if you love museums as much as I, you'll want to check it out.