A DAD ABROAD — It’s a Ford. #FordSummer. (Checking out Ford Canada’s SUVs in Muskoka!)

If I learned anything from a recent trip to the Muskokas, it’s that Ford is great at making SUVs!

It's a Ford. #FordSummer. (Checking out the Ford Canada SUV Line in Muskoka!) — The Ford Escape
The 2017 Ford Edge in full effect!

Sure, the Sport/Suburban Utility Vehicle might not be everyone’s first choice when shopping for a new ride, but if they’re not, they are missing out! SUVs are growing in popularity worldwide as drivers seek more flexibility and utility from their vehicles, no longer content with options that do the bare minimum. We don’t just want to get from A to B anymore—we’re doing it with our groceries. Our furniture. Our ski gear. And our babies. We need vehicles that grow with us—not ones left behind as our circumstances change.

And perhaps that’s why SUVs stand as the top-selling vehicle segment in Canada and the US—heck; Ford sold 1.7 million of them in 2016 alone! As the #1 SUV brand for seven years running (with an eighth hot on their heels), I’d say Ford knows what it’s doing—which is why they’re introducing five new SUVs by 2020, including the Ford EcoScport compact utility and the all-new Ford Expedition! With Ford’s global SUV sales growing a staggering 80% these past five years, ain’t no stoppin’ ’em now!

It's a Ford. #FordSummer. (Checking out the Ford Canada SUV Line in Muskoka!) — Casey Palmer Chillin' in a Muskoka ChairBut that’s only part of the story—I could go blue in the face telling you about the thousands of features that go into making Ford’s SUVs top-notch, but you don’t want stuff you could lift from a spec sheet… you want to see how they work in the real world.

And that’s exactly what Ford Canada challenged us to discover this past summer!

#FordSummer — Because There’s a LOT You Can Do With 24 Hours in Muskoka!

Now it should come as no big surprise that you won’t see what an SUV can do in a city like Toronto. It may cover a mere 0.006% of Canada’s land mass, but with 8% of its population in a space so small, it means you get a whole lotta traffic!

No—what Ford Canada wanted was a bunch of influencers willing to get into the driver’s seat and see for themselves why their SUV line-up’s something to write home about!

Ladies and gentlemen—welcome to the Muskokas!

#FordSummer — The Candy Shoppe — Because You Can Never Be Sweet Enough!

Piling into a 2017 Ford Escape with Amy from Milk & Coco and a Forno Cultura soppressata sandwich in hand, our 24-hour adventure was just a couple of hours away up Highway 11!

But while the fastest route between two points is a straight line, it isn’t always the most fun, which is why Ford Canada made sure we stopped over at The Candy Shoppe on our way up!

It's a Ford. #FordSummer. (Checking out the Ford Canada SUV Line in Muskoka!) — The Candy Shoppe

Blink, and you’ll miss it—a colourful little shop just south of Webers that sells exactly what its name implies: a ton of candy! You might think nothing of it—after all, Toronto has its share of confectionaries selling sweets from Britain and back—but this is one shop you shouldn’t underestimate!

As Ford Canada let us run wild through The Candy Shoppeliterally standing behind treating us like kids in a candy store, I marvelled at the sheer selection of what’s available there! Japanese Green Tea Kit-Kats. Red Velvet Pop Tarts from the States! They source from 15-20 vendors across eight different countries, giving them access to sweets you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in Canada!

It's a Ford. #FordSummer. (Checking out the Ford Canada SUV Line in Muskoka!) — The Candy Shoppe — The HaulWe spent entirely too much time filling our baskets with every conceivable variety of the candy we liked, but we eventually got on our way to where it’d all go down—it was time we hit Lake Joseph. Time we checked out… the Sherwood Inn!

The Sherwood Inn — Where Much of the #FordSummer Magic Happened!

The Sherwood Inn is something else, y’all.

While the weather was definitely no joke by the time we reached Lake Joseph, torrential rain pelting us every step of the way to the main building, we could see as soon as we stepped into the inn’s main building that we could get used to it. It’s a harmonious mix of wood and stone that feels cosy as soon as you see it… and within awaited our hosts from National PR and Lauren More—Ford Canada’s Vice President of Communications! We spent a little time getting to know each other (we were the second group to arrive, after all, but then it was off to the room to settle in before we got into the bulk of the evening.

Oh, yes. The rooms.

When I first got to Pinewood West, I assumed it was a stand-alone cottage with some rooms inside to house its guests.

Little did I know the entire cottage was my room! I had a living room, fridge, fireplace, deck, what had to be a king-sized bed, and an air conditioner right above the desk… I only regret I couldn’t spend more time in it!

But #FordSummer wasn’t about enjoying fancy cottages at the Sherwood Inn—it was about experiencing everything the Ford SUV line-up had to offer, and there’s no way I could do that from the extremely comfy bed that I didn’t need to share with anyone!

*sigh*

But after my short interlude with an amazing room, it was back to the main building to get into the real meat of #FordSummer and everything this trip was about!

What Do You Get When You Cross Ford Canada with an SUV? One Great Experience!

Lauren More—always on-brand and on-point—got us started with the things we needed to know about Ford’s SUV line, but we weren’t just there to learn about them… we needed to experience them. Breathe them in. Get every tool to show others what we learned.

And to get influencers to do that right, you get someone like Michelle Valberg.

It's a Ford. #FordSummer. (Checking out the Ford Canada SUV Line in Muskoka!) — Sherwood Inn — The Ford EcoSport

One of only seven Nikon Ambassadors across Canada—and the only woman in the group—Michelle Valberg is a wildlife photographer who came in to teach us about technique and composition, setting us up for success when we went out to take photos ourselves. She was amazing to chat with, and the tutelage paid off—I won two tickets to see Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey at the Air Canada Centre! (Of course, we couldn’t go and wound up giving the tickets to my parents as anniversary/birthday gifts, but that story’s a post for another time!)

No—once we finished our photo shoot with Michelle and the new Ford EcoSport, we all realised how short we were on time before the local shops closed, so Amy and I hopped into a nearby Ford Flex and made our way immediately to our next destination—Bala’s Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh & Muskoka Lakes Winery!

But before I tell you about the marsh, I think it prudent that I kick a little game on the Ford Flex!

The Ford Flex — The SUV You Never Knew You’d Love!

It's a Ford. #FordSummer. (Checking out the Ford Canada SUV Line in Muskoka!) — The Ford Flex at Johnston's Cranberry Marsh

The Ford Flex is enigmatic—the SUV you’d never think to love. With a boxy look and feel, it doesn’t exactly scream “sexy” at first glance, but what the Flex lacks in sleek curves or eye-catching colours, it more than makes up for in utility and features! Excellent handling. Rear seats that reconfigure at the press of a button! Amy and Lauren fought to convince me of the Ford Flex’s worth as a man with a growing family, and I daresay they won—this thing is a beast! Check it out if you ever get a chance!

But I digress.

Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh & Muskoka Lakes Winery — Because You Don’t Just Fall in Love with Part of Bala… You Fall in Love with All of it!

Though we all feared we’d miss the opportunity to check the local shout out since we’d run so late, it wasn’t the case—they stayed open late to greet us, with Leslie and Shanna from Johnston’s telling us tons about the Johnston family and everything that goes into their products! Amy and I had a stellar time there, gorging on cranberry cider and a smorgasbord of local meats and cheeses carefully paired with the fruits of their labour! (#DadJoke!) If you’re ever near Bala, make sure to check it out—even The Mercer Report gave it a go!

So with a cornucopia of delights, including some Casey Blue Cheese—how could I not?—we went back to the Sherwood Inn to wrap up the night with some dinner, beer tasting, and great conversation with my fellow influencers.

And that, my friends, is how you do a #FordSummer!

#FordSummer — Because Ford Canada Knows How to Treat Their People Right.

It was over as quickly as it began. The uncooperative weather made it tough for our hosts, needing to change the itinerary on the fly, but in the end, we made it work. Sure, stargazing and nighttime photography might’ve been nice, but some things just aren’t meant to be.

After a decent night’s sleep, we were on the road again, SheDoesTheCity and I pairing up in a Ford Edge for the trek back to Toronto. It’d been one heckuva trip, but I wasn’t about to return to The Big Smoke without one last stop, grabbing some Don’s Bakery goodies for everyone back home.

So ultimately, what can I tell you about this trip? Well, I learned a lot about Ford’s SUVs—you’d think I’d have that down already, owning a 2011 Ford Edge, but there’s so much they’ve managed to do in a mere six years! And I have a new appreciation for the Muskokas—it wasn’t my first trip there, but easily one of my best!

It's a Ford. #FordSummer. (Checking out the Ford Canada SUV Line in Muskoka!) — Sherwood Inn — All-New Ford ExpeditionIt boils down to this—it’s great to take a scenic drive to a great destination. Especially when your vehicle is safe, reliable, and filled with enough features to keep you comfortable! (Never underestimate air-conditioned seats!) If you’re like me and love family travel, give Ford’s latest SUVs a try! They just might surprise you!

Until the next, I remain,

–case p.


Disclaimer: Ford Canada footed the bill for a 24-hour experience that blew my mind. And I wrote this post! Good times had by all!

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