Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A positive U-Haul experience!!

As I posted a few weeks ago we rented a U-Haul car trailer back in May so that we could pick up the "new to us" Festiva in Edmonton, AB, 300km north of our home in Calgary. I've heard so many negative stories about renting from U-Haul that I was really cautious about this transaction. 

I found the rental outlet, Kensington Auto in northwest Calgary, to be very helpful and was able to rearrange both pick up and drop off  times on short notice. The trip up to Edmonton was uneventful and we made it to our destination right on time. Loaded up the car, made a couple of stops in town and then headed out on the highway home.

This was about 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon with the usual traffic southbound on Highway 2, the Queen Elizabeth Highway, and we were only about 20 minutes out of Edmonton between Nisku and Leduc. Someone passed us, yelling and pointing at the trailer. We pulled over and discovered that one of the tires had blown and I thought we were going to be stranded overnight.

Here comes the good part... I called U-Haul's road side assistance number and arranged to have the tire replaced. That process only took 10 or 15 minutes... OK, so far so good. To cut a long story short, we were soon joined by a tire repair truck from Leduc. We were told that both tires on that side would be replaced so the repairman removed the tires, went to his shop and returned with the new ones ready to reinstall. From the time I first called U-Haul to the time we were back on the road  was only 2 hours and 15 minutes. I was most impressed considering that this was relatively late on a Sunday afternoon and we were about 20 minutes or so away from the tire shop.

Thanks to Kensington Auto for the great service and to U-Haul for the excellent road side assistance.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The final road trip

Well, it happened... the final road trip in our trusty red Festiva. With bike rack mounted on the roof, packed full with bags and bins we left Calgary just after lunch on the afternoon of Sunday August 29th headed for the first stop, Emerald Park SK. Most of this leg of the trip was familiar to us and I forgot to have pictures taken; oops. Other than a lot of bugs and a stiff wind  as we drove across the western half of Saskatchewan it was an uneventful start to this quick trip. We made it to our hotel in Emerald Park by about 8:30pm and settled in to our room for the night.

Car loaded up with the bike rack. Picture was actually taken in Dauphin MB.

We got up fairly early for breakfast, checked out of the hotel and hit the road. Rather than head directly east to Winnipeg along the Trans Canada Highway and then up to Arnes  we decided to take the scenic route. Travelling up the  Qu'Appelle valley to Yorkton SK, east across Saskatchewan, through Dauphin MB, across The Narrows and then south into Arnes. It rained for most of the trip as far as Dauphin where we drove out from under the clouds. Living in Calgary and doing most of our travels to the west we are used to more coniferous tress and mountains. This leg of the journey provided us with long views of rolling farm and park lands with lots of water and a much higher proportion of deciduous trees.

Heading into Fort Qu'Appelle

Manitoba welcomes you!

The only construction we ran into.

Out of the rain and under a clear blue sky!

Harvest done

Are those marshmallows?

Pense, Saskatchewan

In all our travels we have determined that every type of terrain, whether it be a mountain pass or a long stretch of dead straight highway across the Nevada desert, has its own beauty. The drive across Saskatchewan and Manitoba adds another perspective to our experiences.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

One last road trip!

Our trusty '92 Festiva is about to head out on what will most likely be its last road trip. We'll be heading from Calgary to stay overnight just east of Regina SK. The next day we plan to drive up the Qu'appelle valley, through Yorkton SK and on to Arnes MB. We will spend the evening in Winnipeg MB and then make the drive home in one go. Why will this be the last road trip you ask? Well let me tell you....

The bad news...

While replacing the gas tank a few weeks ago I discovered that there are at least three spots in the floor of my Festiva that have rusted through. The reason, I believe, that I didn't notice them from inside is that I had installed sound deadener throughout the car prior to our Festiva Madness trip in 2011. I decided to have a closer look over the entire car to see what other rust problems I could find. I already new that the rear wheel wells would need extensive repairs and had a couple of options I was considering for repairs as well as above the windshield. Other areas that I discovered were in the driver side front wheel well, the inner cowl panel where the wiper attaches, beginnings of rust around the strut towers and along the front of the hood. The passenger side front fender is done for as well but I already have a replacement for it. Also discovered that the bottom of the rear bumper beam was completed gone, all the little brackets that hold the bumper cover were hanging in mid air. I feel that the rust repairs necessary at this time would take up too much time and resources so we have decided to regroup. And by regroup I mean find a replacement Festiva....

We established a "best case scenario" list for that replacement:

1. It had to be rust free
2. It had to be a 1990 - 93 model
3. It had to be a standard transmission car
4. It had to be a Canadian car (no automatic seatbelts, thank you very much!) and preferably an Alberta car.

Now for the good news...
We found our car! It fits all the criteria, it's an Alberta car and it's body is very straight. It already had an engine swap done but had no exhaust or battery so had to be towed from its former home in Edmonton AB to its new one here in Calgary. That trip was not without its excitement, but I'll leave that for another post.

En route from Edmonton to Calgary

Our current car was being readied for a new engine... a turbocharged 1.6l DOHC from a 1988 Mazda 323GT. That engine, along with all the suspension, interior pieces etc on/in the red car will now find their way into the new car. Your can read about our current car on this page

In retrospect, our current Festiva has served us well. It was purchased in 2002 with 100,100km (62,200 miles) and it's been daily driven year round ever since. We've put over 400,000km (app. 250,000 miles) on it including our Festiva Madness trip in 2011 and our Festiva in the Park trip in 2012.

Check back soon for a report on the upcoming road trip and another on the on the new project.

Thanks for your interest and please let me know what you think in the comments section below!

Friday, July 31, 2015


Ford Festiva, econobox, red Ford Festiva, blue Ford Festiva
Just what is an econobox

I thought it might be interesting to see some different definitions of the term 'econobox'.  Here's a few...

Oxford Dictionaries:
A car that is small and economical rather than luxurious or stylish

Urban Dictionary:
Econobox is a term used to describe a cheap small car normally gas friendly with little to no factory installed options.  

Merriam Webster:
a small economical car 

Collins Dictionaries:
a small vehicle that is basic and fuel-efficient and has no unnecessary extras

Your Dictionary:
A small, economical automobile with few amenities 

What do you think? Are these what you expected? Tell us your definition in the comment section.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Westiva 2015... another great get together with fellow Festiva fanatics

We couldn't have asked for better weather for this year's edition of Westiva held at the usual venue, Wedge Pond Day Use Area in Southern Alberta's beautiful Kananaskis Country.

On Highway 40 southbound en route to Wedge Pond.

I drove up a bit early so as to be there before any of the expected attendees arrived. Claimed a spot, unloaded a couple of things, set up my chair and waited. First to arrive was Gary and his family in their 1990 Festiva LX. Gary is a Westiva regular, this being his fourth or fifth time. The LX the top of the line version of the Festiva with all the desirable Festiva goodies. Gary bought the car new in 90 and still uses it as his daily driver, mostly going back and forth to work. In the ensuing twenty five years he's put on just over 320,000km/200,000 miles and still boasts fuel consumption in the 47-57 mile per imperial gallon range.

Gary's 1990 Ford Festiva LX.

Chatted with Gary and family for a bit then our next attendee arrived. Ryan drove down from Leduc, Alberta a one way trip of about 360km/225miles in his 93 GL Sport. This was Ryan's first time to Westiva. His car is also his daily driver and has seen a lot of wear, tear and misfortune. How many cars do you know that have had scaffolding fall on them! On another occasion the hood has also popped open on the highway breaking the windshield and damaging the cowl. More misfortune arrived when a driver who had just picked up their loaner car from a body shop crashed into him!!!

Ryan's striped 1993 Festiva

Not too long after Ryan arrived Kevin and Damian showed up in "The Hamster", a shortened 1990 Festiva! Yes, I said shortened!!! Twenty two inches have been cut out of the length of a car that is less that twelve feet long to begin with. They were inspired by a couple of things... the shortened VW vans that were around a number of years ago and an episode of Monster Garage in which a Festiva was shortened and run in a very large hamster wheel contraption. The amazing thing is that they drove from Kamloops BC to get to the meet which is 575km/360 miles one way. Keep in mind that this is in a car with no roof and worn out rear springs! They camped overnight at Lake Louise and it rained quite a bit overnight so they were a little damp in the morning but still in great spirits. You can follow their exploits on Twitter (@DawgStrip) and YouTube.

No roof gives lots of headroom...

Seats are now located where the back seat used to be.

These guys have a sense of humor... stickers on both sides where the windows used to be!

Last to arrive was Brad and family with their1990. Brad is also a regular and travels from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. With a one way trip of 850lkm/530 miles, Brad earned the "farthest travelled" award. Although he's been to three or four Westivas and this is the first time he's won that prize! Brad's car is powered by a 1.8l DOHC engine sourced from an Ford Escort GT, features shaved door handles, custom hatch, along with a custom front bumper made from a modified aftermarket piece originally intended for a Honda Civic. I have to apologize to Brad as I didn't get any pictures of his car. The one below was taken last year just prior to leaving his home on the way to Westiva 2014.

Brad's custom 1990 Festiva
Unfortunately no other econoboxes made it this year. I had recieved a call from a Calgary gentleman who said that he and his wife each owned Geo Metro convertibles and were very interested in attending. Perhaps the forecast of late day thundershowers shaped their plans.

Here are a few more photos from the days activities....

L-R: Mine, Gary's, Ryan's

L-R: The Hamster, Ryan's, Gary's, mine, Brad's
Picnic time....
...at Upper Kananaskis Lake

Upper Kananskis Lake. Ryan is closest to the camera and that's where the water line should be!!!
Kananaskis Country not only has some beautiful scenery but is also home to lots of wildlife. Over the years I've seen moose, lynx, coyotes and more. Here's what we spotted today....

Mountain goats...

Young grizzly about 20 feet off the side of the road!
The goats were right at the corner where you turn off Highway 40 into Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. I spotted the bear just after leaving the upper lake just across from the road from where we had had ice cream earlier in the day! Ryan was behind me so I know he saw it too. Not sure if the others saw it as they were a few minutes ahead of us.

All in all it was a great day. Thanks to all who attended and thanks to Sharon for bringing out a wonderful picnic lunch for us all. Thanks also to Rockauto.com for the giveaways and gift certificate given as the prize for farthest travelled and to the Crowfoot Big Bucket Car Wash for the gift cards.

Looking forward to Westiva 2016. Tentative date: July 16th, same place, same time!!!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Afternoon drive in my 1992 Ford Festiva powered by a Mazda B6 SOHC

An afternoon run in my customized 92 Ford Festiva GL Sport powered with a modified Mazda 323 1.6l SOHC engine. This is just a short section of the drive northbound on Alberta Highway 762 between Millarville and Bragg Creek. I mounted the camera on the dash directly in front of the driver and was surprised at the amount of wind noise that was picked up in spite of the windows being rolled up. I'll have to try a couple of different spots.

The video is my first GoPro film and first YouTube post. It's pretty basic with no fancy editing or music. Hope you like it...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Westiva 2015: an event for econobox fans!

On July 11th we will be hosting Westiva 2015. This will be the seventh time we've held this event with the first being in 2008.

2008 attendees with 'The Wedge' in the background.
Westiva is very casual, informal event originally geared towards owners, fans and fanatics of both the Ford Festiva or Ford Aspire with invitations extended to owners of other econoboxes from the late eighties and early nineties such as the Dodge Colt, Chevrolet Sprint, Geo Metro, Suzuki Swift and Nissan Micra.

The meet is held at the picturesque Wedge Pond Day Use Area in beautiful Kananaskis Country. The "official" start time is around 10:00am. At about 1:00pm we’ll cruise up to the Boulton Creek Trading Post in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park for ice cream, about a 30km drive. From there we'll continue to Upper Kananaskis Lake.

2010 attendees (This shot was taken before the tenth car arrived)

When Westiva was first held in 2008 there were four attendees. Two from Calgary, one from the lower mainland of British Columbia and the fourth driving up from Worland WY. Our best year attendance-wise was 2010 when we had 10 Festivas show up with the furthest being from Ontario. This year we already have owners bringing the cars from as far away as Pasco WA and St. Albert SK.

In keeping with our expanded area of interest we had the owner of a Suburau Vivio RXR come to the 2012 edition. There was no event in 2013 due to significant flooding in southern Alberta

The 2014 event saw a couple of Suzuki Swifts in attendance, one from Calgary and the other from Spruce Grove AB.

Westiva 2014 attendees.

So consider yourself invited! I hope to have my new Festiva project car done in time for the meet.


When: Saturday July 11, 2014
Where: Wedge Pond Day Use Area, Kananaskis, Alberta

Who: Ford Festiva and Aspire fans and anyone interested along with owners, fans etc of other econoboxes from the era.

Why: Why not?

If you'd like more information either leave a comment here or check out the "Meets & Events" section at FordFestiva.com

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Another trip to add to the bucket list

While looking over some more road trip articles I came across another stretch of highway to add to the bucket list that's not too far from home. The Beartooth Highway is a stretch of US Highway 212 that runs from Red Lodge MT through the Absaroka-Beartooth National Wilderness, reaching elevations nearing 3350m (11,000ft), to Cooke City MT and the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

Charles Kuralt called this the most beautiful highway in America. It even has its own website which features a 20 minute video.

Red Lodge is about nine hours south of our home in Calgary. It would be quite the trip if we first headed directly for the Beartooth and then made our return trip up through the Going To The Sun Highway and southern Alberta's Cowboy Trail both of which I've written about in earlier posts. This makes for a 2300km (1400mile) round trip. 

I'll close this post off with another Charles Kuralt quote:

"Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything."

Here's to backroads and less traveled routes! If you've driven the Beartooth please leave a comment!

Friday, May 8, 2015

A 'bucket list' drive: Bow Valley Parkway

In an earlier post I shared a link to an article listing five great Canadian roads you need to drive one day. One of those drives was the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park. Here's a quote from that article on www.driving.ca that sums it up better than I can...

"Winding between Banff and Lake Louise inside Banff National Park, the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) is a remnant of a different time in Canadian motoring. The Parkway was built to be an enjoyable route to the glamorous Chateau Lake Louise hotel some 85 years ago. Today, it serves as a scenic alternative to the bustling TransCanada. The road actually splits the eastbound and westbound lanes at several different points for no apparent reason other than to send drivers along different curving paths. These “one lane” sections are delightfully twisty and fun." (Link to full article above)

My wife Sharon and I were on a mini vacation in the Banff/Canmore area and decided to drive the Parkway on a rather cool and damp afternoon. We took highway 1 west from Banff, past the eastern access to the Parkway to the western end at Lake Louise.

Approaching the eastern access to the Bow Valley Parkway.

Westbound on the Trans-Canada Highway Weather starts to close in near Castle Mountain.

Bow Valley Parkway entry sign

Me and the Festiva at the west entrance to the Bow Valley Parkway.

There are a number of spots along the way with exhibits of one sort or another. We chose to stop at Johnston Canyon and save the rest for a day trip of their own. Johnston Canyon is a short distance east of the mid point of the Parkway. It's a popular tourist stop during the summer with the parking lot overflowing and large crowds up and down the trail. Being off-season, mid-week and with iffy weather we found a parking spot very close to the beginning of the trail and very few people around. 

Some straight bits...
Some curvy bits...

The Parkway has a split personality....

Two lanes rejoin.

Johnston Canyon is a beautiful spot. If you plan to go on a weekend and especially during high season we would recommend that you either get there early, before 10:00am, or later in the day, say after 4:00pm. That way you should miss the bulk of the tour busses that have this as part of their itinerary.

One of many catwalks on the way up the canyon

Upper falls in Johnston Canyon, May 7, 2015

On the way down.

A beautiful afternoon for a stroll in the mountains....

A little bit east of Johnston Canyon you will find a gate! From this point to the eastern portal the Parkway is only open from 08:00 until 20:00. There is a major wildlife corridor in the area so the closure, along with the low 60kph speed limit, was implemented to reduce animal/car collisions.

Grazing elk spotted in a meadow just east of Johnston Canyon.

The weather co-operated while we did the hike to the upper falls in the canyon, with a little bit of sunshine and very little precipitation. Once we left the parking lot we ran into quite a bit of rain so didn't get a lot of photos. This trip down the Parkway reinforces my opinion that you don't have to go fast to thoroughly enjoy a drive.

Tree in the way? No problem, we'll just split the lanes around it!

So there you have it. One drive off the bucket list. We'll be trying to fit in a couple of close drives listed in the linked article over the summer.  For our Alberta and British Columbia readers please be sure to let us know what your favorite drive is. I'm hoping to put together a list of reasonably local drives, perhaps something that could be done as a day trip.

Thanks to Sharon for taking the photos.