Last week I was invited on a remarkable road trip – a drive through the Canadian Rockies with Ford. They invited several writers of all types – travel, automotive, lifestyle – to take their new 2016 Explorer Platinum for a ride through what I think is one of the most beautiful regions of the world. I’m not a car guy, far from it, so I’m not going to talk about anything technical in regards to the car. No, instead I want to share what the experience was like and how important a great road trip is I think to our very well being. Ford did not compensate me beyond the flight out to Canada and of course use of their car and daily expenses. They didn’t even ask me to write anything, but I wanted to share my travel experience because more than just the vehicle, it was a remarkably beautiful adventure that lit a fire in my belly.
I love different styles of travel, from cruising to independent trips to yes, road trips. I think that it’s essential to mix up how we see the world and to avoid getting trapped into just one style, or one conveyance. Different perspectives offer us different experiences and some parts of the world beg for one particular style over another. The Canadian Rockies are meant for road trips and I don’t think anyone could really argue with that. I joined the Ford team in Kamloops, British Columbia and the goal was a simple one. Over two days drive the 400 miles to Calgary, Alberta; spending one evening in Revelstoke, British Columbia. Along the way we were free to do whatever we wanted and at whatever speed (legally) we felt like. The trip wasn’t only about learning the technical ins and outs of the new car, at least it wasn’t for me. No, it was all about learning how the truck (Car? What do you call an SUV?) is a tool, an important one, in exploring and getting closer to the nature so many of us love experiencing up close and personal.
Leaving Kamloops, a town that I had never even heard of before this trip, my driving partner and I headed east, with a list of sights and experiences we wanted to include on our personalized journey. I’d been to Vancouver before, but never to the BC interior and like Alberta, I was immediately impressed by the fierce natural beauty seemingly found around every bend of the road. I think we all use the term God’s Country fairly often, but if the Canadian Rockies that straddle British Columbia and Alberta don’t qualify, then nothing does. Soaring mountains, lakes and rivers and pine tree forests that seem to go on forever. Everything seemed pristine, clean and untouched. That’s a rarity in many parts of the world, and to experience it at my own leisure, going where I wanted to and when was a special treat.
This part of Canada isn’t all about endless forestlands though, as I discovered there are plenty of fun and quirky spots to stop off at and pass the time. Wildlife centers, sites of dubious historical importance and farms featuring the delicious bounty from local farmers all played an equally important role in my road trip. The highlight of my time in British Columbia though was, fittingly enough, a very natural one near the small mountain town of Revelstoke. That’s where I entered the Mount Revelstoke National Park and saw for myself why people who live in British Columbia love living in British Columbia.
Taking the Explorer Platinum up the switchback mountain roads, it was hard to resist the temptation to stop at every lookout, even though the views changed only marginally. At those lookouts though I saw the wide Columbia River Valley with the small town of Revelstoke nestled in its embrace. Everything was green and alive, a relief to locals who experience about seven months of winter every year. No, this was the brilliance of summer in British Columbia, although the brisk temperatures and changing leaves foretold impending autumnal weather just around the corner. At the summit of the mountain though is where the magic happened. There I followed in the footsteps of the early European explorers, the first ones to find that all so important connection between the two coasts and it was up there that I experienced what they must have – shock and awe at the scene that delicately unfolded below. The broad Columbia River meandered its way through the valley in one of those moments that just seems perfect.
That’s what a great road trip is all about for me. It’s about getting out into the world, instead of just observing it from the sidelines. It’s about being a very active participant and surprising even yourself with the discoveries made. Even though they’re not real discoveries of course, they are to us and I think it’s that spirit that energizes so many of us. It rekindles a feeling of exploration that is all too rare to find in the modern world.
That was only the start though, entering Alberta I was reminded just how much I love this province. I had visited Banff and Lake Louise only once before, but it was in the winter and seeing this section of the Rockies in their summer glory is an experience everyone needs to try at least once. Taking the truck up mountain passes to quiet lakes away from the maddening crowd and along scenic driving routes completely unique in their beauty is something I know I’ll always remember. I think the region has a special kind of beauty in the winter, but summer can’t be beat and even though I felt a few snowflakes at the top of the Lake Louise gondola, the surrounding forests hadn’t received the winter memo yet and still enjoyed their full summertime glory.
At many points I felt like I was living inside of a car commercial. You know the ones, where the truck is improbably perched on top of a remote mountain peak with a cute (but athletic) couple and a Labrador running around. It seems unlikely, until you find yourself in the same situation, minus the dog sadly enough. These experiences are possible and they are accessible and they are a ton of fun. So no, this isn’t an advertisement for the latest and greatest Ford vehicle – sorry Ford. What it is though is a testimony to the spirit of adventure I think they’re trying to capture and the undeniable beauty of a well-done road trip. I’ve traveled to many parts of the world in a variety of different ways, but I think getting behind the wheel and setting my own course and direction may just be my favorite way to experience this big, beautiful world around us.