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3 great Muskoka road trip ideas

3 beautiful fall road trips in Muskoka

Following months of hot weather, the temperature is finally beginning to cool down, meaning the beautiful autumn scenery is in full bloom around Ontario. If you want to experience some of the best scenery the province has to offer, head up north to Muskoka to witness autumn at its finest.

Here are several fun ideas you can try out over the next couple of months:

Gravenhurst

If you like options on your road trips, Gravenhurst is the place to be. From historic sightseeing to biking to checking out the local brewery to taking in the beautiful Lake Muskoka, Gravenhurst is an awesome place to spend a weekend during the fall months.

There are also plenty of antique and specialty shops where you’ll be sure to find an item or two for your home.

Of course, you can’t visit Gravenhurst without hopping aboard the Royal Mail Ship Segwun – North America’s oldest operating steamship. This ship offers sightseeing cruises along with lunch and dinner options until the end of October, so make sure to visit within the next couple of weekends.

Bala

Bala is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for a calm, relaxing spot to spend your weekend. Not only are there plenty of trails that showcase the beautiful fall weather, but there are also a number of places to canoe and/or kayak.

If you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan, you can even check out the Lucy Maud Montgomery Museum.

If you’re looking for a place to eat, consider checking out Don’s Bakery. This old-school bakery serves a number of delicious lunch items as well as baked goods that you can take with you on the road.

Huntsville

If a great view is what you’re looking for, you should consider visiting the Lions Lookout in Huntsville. While it offers a great view at any point in the year, Lions Lookout is at its best in the fall when you can witness the stunning autumn colours.

If you’re looking for some other fun activities, you can check out Sugarbush Hill Maple Farm, Muskoka Heritage Place, the Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery, or just walk along any of the trails that pop up throughout Huntsville. You can also visit Algonquin Outfitters Outdoor Adventure Store if you’re looking for bikes, canoes or kayaks to rent.

If golf’s your game, there are actually seven courses in the area, so you should have no issue finding a place to play.

How to get there

If you’re coming from Toronto or the surrounding area, the easiest way to get to Muskoka is to go north on Highway 400. As you approach Gravenhurst, you’ll need to prepare to exit to get to Highway 169. If you see the famous Muskoka Chair, you’ll know you made it.

 

Ontario road trips in Fall

5 Ontario road trips to go on this fall

It will soon look like fall outside as the trees begin to change colour. You really have no excuse for not experiencing some of the beautiful nature over the coming weeks, as there are plenty of picturesque spots throughout Ontario.

Read ahead for the five road trips you should go on this fall:

Dundas Peak

If you’re looking for something close to the GTA, head a little west to see Dundas Peak, which is situated just outside Hamilton.

Hike to the top of any hill to experience some of the most breath-taking views that this province has to offer. If you’re a fan of changing leaves, Dundas Peak it an absolute must-visit destination this fall. Also, since it’s so close, you’ll likely only need half a day to see everything.

St Jacob’s

If you’re willing to travel a little further west, St Jacob’s offers arguably the most unique experience on this list. You’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time due to the strong Mennonite presence in the area. Go for a horse-drawn trolley tour or check out St. Jacob’s Market when you’re there.

While it’s not as close as Dundas Peak, St. Jacob’s is just north of Waterloo, making it a perfect destination for a Saturday day trip. Of course, you can also check out the nearby Oktoberfest activities in Kitchener.

Niagara-on-the-lake

If breweries and wineries are your thing, head south to Niagara-on-the-lake during the next few weeks. Not only are there plenty of beautiful trails to walk in the area, but the views from the lake will be enough to make this trip truly breath-taking.

There are also plenty of pumpkin patches in the area if you’re interested in getting the full autumn experience.

Collingwood

If you want to have a little fun with your fall road trip, head out to Collingwood for a weekend. From beautiful golf courses to horseback riding to ziplining to mountain biking, you can be assured that there’s something for everyone when you go.

Of course, if you just went to take it easy, you’ll be happy to hear that there are plenty of relaxing spas throughout the area.

Prince Edward County

If you live further east, travelling to Prince Edward County could be a more realistic option for you. Prince Edward County offers plenty of fall celebrations and festivals from October to November, so you can be certain that something is going on during harvest season.

While the area can sometimes be a little overcrowded in the summer as Sandbank Provincial Park is nearby, the influx of tourists tends to die down in the fall, making the trip a little more relaxing and enjoyable if you’re going with your significant other.

 

Car Safety Features

Knowing the limitations of safety technology

There’s no question that the latest developments in car technology have made the road a safer place, as many of the innovative systems created have helped to avoid countless collisions over the years. However, there are also a number of drivers who may become too dependent on these features without understanding their limitations.

Read ahead to learn the drawbacks of some of the most common car safety technology:

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

While ESC can be an effective system, it still has its limitations. If the driver is going too fast or is driving along a slippery road, ESC benefits may become limited.

ESC can only use the traction that is already available. It cannot create traction on its own. Therefore, it may struggle to help in the wintertime when the roads are icy.

Blind-spot warning

While blind-spot detection can prevent you from sideswiping another vehicle, it can’t pick up on everything. Most systems struggle to detect motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians and also have a hard time monitoring fast-moving vehicles.

Don’t assume you’re in the clear when you change lanes just because your vehicle is equipped with blind-spot detection.

Forward-collision warning

While some forward-collision warning systems are capable of detecting animals and pedestrians, others are only able to spot other vehicles.

Additionally, many forward-collision warning systems struggle in inclement weather. They may not be as useful in extremely sunny weather or at nighttime.

If you’re driving down a long windy road to get to your cottage when the sun’s gone down, don’t rely on the forward-collision warning system to be able to detect any animals.

Automatic emergency braking

You should be aware that not all automatic emergency braking systems are created equal. While some are designed to avoid collisions, others were only developed to reduce the severity of crashes. Therefore, just because you have automatic emergency braking doesn’t mean you should be any less vigilant on the brakes.

Adaptive cruise control

This may come as a no-brainer to some, but many drivers aren’t aware that adaptive cruise control isn’t capable of completely stopping your vehicle. Also, it really only works when the road is straight and will stop working on a long, windy road.

Lane Departure Warning (LDW)

This system relies heavily on visible lane markings in order to do its job. If the markings are faded, covered in snow or missing altogether, the system may not be able to perform its job effectively.

Realize that in general, many of these systems work best in ideal conditions. If the weather outside isn’t perfect, you likely won’t get the same level of reliability from many of your vehicle’s safety features. At the end of the day, they are useful tools, but a level of danger exists when you begin to rely too heavily on them.  These systems are designed to assist drivers, however there is no replacement for being alert behind the wheel.

 

avoid the most common traffic tickets

Tips for avoiding common traffic tickets

Few things are more frustrating than getting pulled over for a traffic violation when you’re trying to get somewhere. Not only is it an added expense, but your insurance could also go up as a result.

If you’ve recently received a ticket and are looking for ways to lower the odds of getting another one in the near future, read ahead:

Buckle up

As a driver, not only are you responsible for ensuring you wear a seat belt, but you also need to make sure that everyone under the age of 16 is wearing one too. Drivers over the age of 16 are responsible for doing up their own seat belt.

Having a broken seat belt is no excuse, and you can still be fined for having one, even if it’s not in use. At the end of the day, you should always buckle up.

Slow down

It should come as little surprise, but the easiest way to avoid a ticket is to just slow down. The faster you go, the larger your fine will be, and could negatively affect your insurance rate. While it may be tougher to slow down when you’re in a rush, realize that it’s in your best interest to ease off the pedal.

Not only can you avoid speeding tickets by slowing down, but you’ll also just be a safer driver.

Give way to emergency vehicles

It’s your responsibility as a driver is to ensure emergency vehicles are able to make their way through traffic with ease when their siren is on. Failure to do so could cost you four demerit points.

When you’re on a two-way street, make sure you move to the right as soon as possible. If you’re in the middle of the intersection, go straight through and pull to the right immediately.

Come to a complete stop

Many people have the urge to come to a rolling stop when they’re in a hurry. While this may seem more time efficient, failure to come to a complete stop could result in a fine. Remember that it takes time to come a full stop. If you put on the brakes last minute, you could end up stopping after the stop line.

Look up rules ahead of time

If you’re driving outside of Ontario, it’s important to look up the local traffic laws prior to leaving. While many laws are similar across Canada, you could end up running into different laws if you’re travelling through the United States.

Keep a safe distance

If you want to avoid an accident on your trip, it’s vital that you keep a safe distance between the car in front of you. It’s generally recommended that you keep about a two-second distance, but that should be extended if driving conditions aren’t ideal.

 

5 safety tips for back-to-school driving

School is officially back in session and students will be excited, which means the roads and sidewalks will be crowded with children. Stay alert!  Since there will be an increase in pedestrians and vehicles on the road compared to the last two months, you should try to be extra cautious on your morning commute.

Here are some tips for staying safe during back-to-school season:

Watch out for new drivers

If you live near a high school, you’ll likely be sharing the road with a number of drivers who recently got their license. Since new drivers aren’t as experienced, they’re likely to make more mistakes behind the wheel. As a result, it’s important that you practice defensive driving techniques so you’re ready for anything that lies ahead. Make sure you’re wide awake before stepping into your vehicle in the morning.

Take it slow in school zones

It may be frustrating to drive just 40 km/h in a school zone, but you have to remember that the decreased speed limit is there for a reason. You’re probably used to dealing with taller pedestrians and could therefore have difficulty noticing a small child crossing the street if you’re travelling at a normal speed.

It should be noted that you could face a serious fine if you speed in a school zone, so it’s not in your best interest to speed through no matter which way you slice it.

Watch for crossing guards

Always be on the lookout for crossing guards whenever you’re driving near a school. Most crossing guards fortunately wear bright-coloured vests, so they shouldn’t be particularly hard to spot.  If you see one crossing the road, you must come to a complete stop and only proceed once everyone is safely across and the crossing guard has lowered their stop sign.

Always stop for school buses

If you see a school bus with its lights flashing, stop behind it and don’t try to pass it. Children can be very unpredictable crossing the street, and may not walk in front of the bus like they’re supposed to.

Be patient and wait until the bus driver has turned their lights off before proceeding. Too many children are victims of car accidents because other drivers aren’t careful around school buses.

Leave a little earlier

Since the roads and sidewalks are likely to be a lot more crowded in your neighbourhood, it’s not a bad idea to leave your house 10 minutes earlier to avoid feeling rushed.

Many drivers get into trouble when they begin to stress about being late and don’t exercise the proper caution behind the wheel. Leaving earlier can help to eliminate the fear of being late. Instead of stressing, you can concentrate all your thoughts and energy on the road ahead.

Final word of note… remember that children are unpredictable.  That unpredictability is only heightened by the excitement of their first days at school.  Be safe and alert.

 

Staying alert when driving

How to stay alert on a road trip

Road trips make for great mini-vacations, but they be tiring, especially if you’re driving back from a long trip. As a result, it’s important that drivers do everything in their power to stay awake.

Here are some tips for combating drowsiness on your next trip:

Get a good night’s rest

This should go without saying, but if you know you’re going to be driving for hours on end the next day, it’s incredibly important that you get a good night’s sleep.

Make sure you get between seven-to-eight hours to ensure you can handle the grind of a long drive.

Avoid fast food

Sure, fast food may be a tasty and convenient option when you’re on the road, but it won’t take long before you feel the effects of eating greasy food.

Instead, you should stick to a healthier option such as meat and vegetables to ensure you have enough energy for the long drive ahead.

Stay hydrated

You may have the urge to bypass liquids to avoid constant trips to the bathroom, but you’ll find yourself getting more and more tired if you fail to stay hydrated.

You should always have a bottle of water with you to avoid dehydration and the inevitable drowsiness that comes with it.

Stretch often

If you want to ensure your body stays awake, it’s important that you keep your blood flowing. You should try to take breaks on a regular basis so you can stretch your legs and move around.

Go easy on the caffeine

It’s alright to have a coffee before you leave for the day, but it’s a bad idea to rely on caffeine to stay awake on your trip. Caffeine typically only lasts for a few hours and will likely dehydrate you, which could cause problems once it begins to wear off.

Don’t drive alone

You should always make sure another passenger is awake with you when you’re driving on a road trip since you’ll have a hard time falling asleep if you’re deep in conversation.

Of course, if you do get tired, you can always let someone else take over for a bit.

Keep your vehicle cold

Lower the temperature in your vehicle if you notice yourself beginning to get tired. This will help to jolt yourself awake for the time being.

If the weather is a little cooler outside, you can also roll down the window.

Know the warning signs

If you notice yourself getting drowsy, it’s a smart idea to pull over and take a quick, 20-minute power nap. This will give you the rest you need to stay awake going forward.

If you notice your eyelids getting heavy or are having difficulty keeping your head up, it’s time to pull over. Otherwise, you could be putting yourself in serious danger.

 

Overcome Driving Anxiety

How to overcome your driving anxiety

For many people, driving is nothing more than a part of their daily routine. They get up, shower, eat breakfast, and drive to work without much of a thought. However, for others, driving can create a high degree of fear and anxiety.

If you’re someone who stresses over the thought of getting behind the wheel, read ahead for some helpful tips on overcoming your fear:

Stick to what you’re comfortable with at first

If you get nervous driving on the highway, then don’t drive on the highway. It’s simple. There’s no point stressing out. Instead, take a longer route to avoid the high-flying traffic.

However, unless you have unlimited time on your hands, taking the longer route every day won’t be an effective long-term solution. If highway driving is your issue, ease into it. Every time you drive, spend more and more time on the highway until it becomes second nature to you.

Don’t drive alone

Chances are, you’ll be a lot more comfortable behind the wheel if you have an experienced driver with you. If you tend to get anxious when you drive alone, you can always start a carpool at work to avoid being by yourself behind the wheel.

If you’re alone on the weekend, ask a friend or family member if they’d like to run errands with you.

Take some lessons

Even if you already have your full G license, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few lessons with a driving instructor to improve your confidence. If you’re nervous behind the wheel, you’ve probably developed a few bad habits that an experienced instructor can correct.

You can look on the Ministry of Transporation’s website to see which driving schools have been approved by the Province. You can also look at online reviews to see how others viewed their instructors.

Take a deep breath

If you tend to get super tense and anxious when you step into a car, take the time to relax before starting the engine. Spend a few minutes to sit calmly and concentrate on your breathing. Remember that if you can stop your anxious thoughts from taking over, you’ll have an easier time concentrating on the road ahead.

Avoid driving at night

Nighttime driving can be nerve-wracking for even the most experienced of drivers, so don’t feel bad if you prefer to stick to day-time driving only.

Unless you’re in a well-lit area, you’ll likely have a hard time seeing the road, which will only increase the chances of getting into an accident. If nighttime driving makes you uncomfortable, there’s nothing wrong with avoiding it whenever possible.

 

Is it safe to stay at rest stops

Is it safe to stay at a rest stop on a road trip?

Whether you’re driving across Ontario or on the Interstate highway in the U.S., you’ll likely come across a number of rest stops throughout your trip.

While rest stops can present a perfect opportunity to stretch your legs, do your business, and grab a bite to eat, it’s likely not in your best interest to stay at one for an extended period of time.

Safety danger

Many people tend to confuse rest stops with cheap hotels. They fall asleep without taking the proper precautions, and leave themselves in potential danger.

Many U.S. cities have outright banned sleeping at rest stops since drivers are so vulnerable. If you do want to stop at a rest stop for a quick nap, make sure to lock all doors and windows and drive away immediately if you sense any potential danger.

While you never want to be on the road when you’re tired, you should look for a nearby motel instead if you’re desperate to catch some zzz’s. You can even look for a cheap campground if you’re really not interested in spending a lot of money.

Due diligence

Before pulling your car into a rest stop, you should look at online reviews to get a feel for how safe the area is. Since you’ll be coming from out of town, you really won’t know what the reputation of the area is, so it’s important that you perform the proper due diligence beforehand.

Stay in the light

If you want to decrease the chances of having your car broken into, you should always make sure to park in a well-lit area. If you’re having trouble finding good lighting, consider parking closer to the building.

In general, it’s always better to stop at a rest stop during the day as opposed to at night.

Carry your cellphone with you

If something actually does go wrong, you’ll want to make sure you can contact the police as quickly as possible. Keep your cell phone charged and with you at all times, in or out of the vehicle.

Don’t stay if it’s not busy

The more secluded the rest area is, the higher the chance for problems. If possible, always park near other vehicles. A thief will be less likely to try to break into a car that’s in a crowded area.

Go to a restaurant instead

If you’re worried about leaving your car outside a rest stop, it may be in your best interest to avoid them altogether. Instead of stopping at a rest stop, you could always find a nearby restaurant if you’re looking for a quick bite or washroom facilities.

 

Tips for Driving Abroad

Tips for driving in another country

Most drivers have no issue being behind the wheel when they’re in familiar territory. However, stress and fear of the unknown can begin to creep in when they’re driving in a foreign area – particularly if they’re in another country with unconventional traffic laws.

If you’re planning on taking a trip abroad and intend on renting a vehicle, it’s recommended that you familiarize yourself with these helpful tips below:

Apply for an IDP

Before you do anything, you must ensure that you secure an International Driving Permit (IDP) prior to leaving for your destination.  An IDP allows you to drive in a foreign country without completing any further tests and will offer proof that you possess a Canadian license.

Contact the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) to apply for an IDP today.

Book ahead

If you want to ensure that the car you’re renting is suitable for your trip, you’ll want to make sure you book it ahead of time. Don’t wait until you arrive in a foreign country as there’s a reasonable chance that they won’t have a vehicle available that meets all your requirements.

If you want to play it safe, it’s probably best to complete your booking through a prominent international chain.

Do your research

Depending on where you go, the traffic laws could differ considerably from here in Ontario.  Do your due diligence beforehand and see which laws you’ll need to look out for. For example, you’ll need to know that in Italy, the speed limit is reduced by 20 km/hour in wet weather conditions.

Stay in the slow lane

If you’re not comfortable sharing the road with other vehicles, it’s in your best interest to stay in the slow lane. Sure, it may take you a little longer to reach your destination, but it’s important to you feel relaxed when driving abroad.

It’s possible that you’ll find the driving style of many locals to be more aggressive, which could make things difficult at first. Stay calm, and don’t rush into anything.

Bring a GPS system

Assuming you don’t want to spend money on data for your smartphone overseas, you should either bring your own portable GPS system on the trip or rent one with your vehicle.

If you’re driving abroad, you’ll want to focus all of your attention on the surrounding traffic and road signs. Worrying about where you’re going will quickly become a distraction and will likely increase your chances of getting into a collision. Leave the navigating to the GPS.

Only drive when necessary

If you’re not entirely comfortable with driving overseas, it’s likely a good idea to limit your driving whenever possible. Save your time behind the wheel for when you’re going from destination to destination. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with walking or taking public transportation when you’re exploring a new city itself.

Safe travels!

 

Driving on Old Tires

The hidden dangers of driving with aging tires are significant

Everyone knows that tires don’t last forever, but the majority of drivers don’t bother checking them for wear and tear as they age.  While it may not seem like a huge deal, driving with aging tires can actually be quite dangerous, especially in inclement weather.

Below are several things you should be aware of to ensure you’re not driving with aging tires:

Tread isn’t everything

Just because your tires still have tread doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe to use. Even if the tread looks fine, the rubber compounds in a tire can still deteriorate over time – even if your car isn’t being used.

Even if you haven’t driven a vehicle in a year’s time, the tires will have still aged during this period, which could turn into a safety hazard.

Hot weather plays a part

The average life span of a set of tires is roughly five years in length. However, they could wear out much sooner if they’re being exposed to the hot sun on a regular basis.

Don’t buy used

If you want to avoid the risk of driving with aging tires, it’s recommended that you always buy new. Even if your tires are just a year or two old, they can still be considerably damaged if they weren’t properly maintained.

Used tires may be cheaper, but new ones are ultimately a longer and safer investment.

Also, it’s important to note that even if a tire hasn’t been used on the road doesn’t mean it’s truly “new.” Some tires are sold as “new” tires even if they were actually made years ago. Make sure to check the manufacturing date prior to purchasing.

Checking the date

If you want to check the date that your tires were made, you should be able to find a four-digit identification code in the sidewall of the tire. The first two numbers represent the week of the year it was made, while the last two digits signify the year it was made. For example, if the number is 1014, your tires were made in the 10th week of 2014.

Inspect regularly

In addition to doing constant inspections on your own, it is highly recommended that you have your tires checked by a professional on an annual basis every year after the fifth year.