She Said, He Said – Muskoka River X 2014

Muskoka River X 2013 - 5 Minutes After Start

Muskoka River X 2013 – 5 Minutes After Start

Last year, Hap and Andrea took part in first ever Muskoka River X with a finish time of 23:46:00.1, and this year the results for this world class expedition race showed exactly how challenging this marathon can be… Even more so than last year! Racers must complete a 130 KM route with 20 portages and all in less than 24 hours. Plus they are do do it completely self-supported. However, this year the gruelling adventure took place during some unseasonably cold and wet Ontario weather and, out of the 64 teams that started, only 44 arrived at the finish. Here is Hap and Andrea’s Muskoka River X 2014 report, starting with (the Queen of the Dreaded Portage) Andrea Wilson… 

She Said:

I heard the rain coming down hard on our steel roof when the alarm went off at 5:00am. I groaned and rolled over, dreading the next 24hrs. Hap, already up, brought me in a coffee (as he does every morning – I know, I’m a lucky lady!) and announced that we’d be leaving for the race in half an hour. No time to doddle but enough time to shove a third pair of wool socks and fleece zip-tee into our dry bag.

The rain had let up by the time we reached the start line and the Huntsville docks were full of eager paddlers and their friends and family. Thankfully, this year Hap didn’t hang back at the start and take photos while I froze in the bow seat. When the air horn went off, we slowly followed the masses under the bridge and then set into a strong and steady stroke. The morning was overcast…maybe it wouldn’t rain like it was forecasted after all???

No such luck. While paddling on Lake of Bays and admiring the many beautiful cottages along the way, the rain began again and remained on and off for the better part of the day. The wind picked up, creating swells on the big lake, which precipitated more steering and bracing the canoe than paddling forward. By the time we hit checkpoint one in Baysville we were absolutely drenched. As soon as I stopped paddling, I started to shake so I immediately changed into a dry shirt and second rain-jacket. Being used to paddling in all kinds of weather our spirits were still high, regardless; but, the looks on many of the other paddlers’ faces were grave.

Screen shot of the MRX 2014 Livemap - Team EcoTrailbuilders

Screen shot of the MRX 2014 Livemap – Team EcoTrailbuilders

The ride down the south branch of the Muskoka River was a blast – high water and lots of current; we were in our element! Not long onto the river, however, I felt a twinge in my left wrist but tried to ignore it. I’d slipped on some wet rocks while carrying lumber over a portage to our cabin in Temagami this summer. At the time, my wrist had bruised up within an hour. However, like the trooper I think I am, I decided to ignore it…chalking it up to building more “character.” The wrist hadn’t bothered me since the week I’d injured it…until now. Much of the way from Baysville to Bracebridge, I found myself gritting my teeth as we changed paddle sides…which is about every 10 strokes with a bent shaft paddle! So I knew by the time we hit the Mathiasville Dam that I was aggravating a relatively important joint in my body. If I pushed myself, I was afraid that I might cause permanent damage.

We paddled a little further before I got up enough courage to tell Hap that I thought maybe it best if we didn’t proceed past Bracebridge. Much to my (egotistical) relief, he too was feeling pain in the opposite wrist to mine. We agonized over pulling out of the race in Bracebridge – we’d never quit anything before…it’s not in our characters.

I think scratching from the race in Bracebridge was one of the most difficult decisions we’ve had to make. We were 2 hours ahead of our last year’s time and we were feeling strong, well fed and hydrated…and, of course, had another dry set of clothes for our evening paddle. We could have finished the race and reached our goal of knocking off a few hours from last year…but we were both in pain. I like to think it was wisdom that kicked in (and not the lure of a hot bath and a shot of scotch at home 😉 ) that made us pull out of the race. The remaining 45km out of a total of 130km would have to be traveled by us next year.

I think the Muskoka River X Challenge is a terrific adventure – rain or shine. Many thanks to Mike and Rob and their team of volunteers – they put on a top-notch event, which we always enjoy being a part of.

~Andrea Wilson

And we will end with Hap’s report…

He Said:

Having done the race last year we knew well what to expect this time. It was cold (but not freezing!) and strong winds would course broadside the long length of Lake of Bays. I had misgivings about entering this year because of joint injuries and an arthritic shoulder (not to mention I had just contracted our son’s sinus cold!). Not that I’m whining about it, we still have a very busy fall and direly need our faculties intact. I could put up with the pain, to a point; after all, having guided expeditions for over three decades part of the guide mantra is to be stoic in the face of adversity, right, like fending off polar bear visits, running Rocky Defile on the Coppermine and personal injuries or discomforts…fear or pain not to be worn on your sleeve in front of clients (in this case my wife…who had to also deal with her own injuries). That being said, we dove into this insane race with bated optimism and some angst, tagged on to a liberal dose of ego (we don’t quit anything, or so we thought).

Hap at the start of Muskoka River X 2014, captured by Andrea.

Hap at the start of Muskoka River X 2014, captured by Andrea.

 

It is, nonetheless, what one would consider a ‘compact’ adventure, or a weeks’ canoe trip rolled in to one 24-hour blitz as one friend had remarked to us. Rob and Mike are top-notch organizers who do not leave out any details, concerns or personal care. It is impressive to see the dedication to both the Big East and River X races by these guys, coupled with great sponsors and almost fanatical volunteers. And it’s good to see the race growing in popularity (there are more crazy people out there and that makes me feel good because I know I’m in good company!).

By the time we reached Bracebridge after pealing two hours off our last years’ time, still warm, well fed and hydrated we had to make a rather tough decision – to perhaps pull out early and prevent further damage to old wrist injuries that flared up. After 85 km. and an estimated time of completion computed at 19 hours, we decided to quit. For us that took more courage than paddling the remaining 45 km. to finish…as I said, we don’t quit at anything we put our minds to.

Andrea, my wife and paddling partner, never fails to astound me. Even though she had more anxiety about doing the race again than I did, she was the first to say “okay, next year, we can do it again, maybe get a faster canoe” and her enthusiasm is contagious. We are trippers first and always, as are the majority of racers, and it’s good to see such eclectic crazy canoeheads getting in to this masochistic competition; also great to hear of the ‘good Samaritan’ misadventures that befall the course, where canoeists/racers stop to help those in trouble.

Next year – for sure…we’ll be there again, injuries or not, maybe ramp it up to a faster canoe so that we can sneak into the top run category. Denial works well with getting older too. Maybe we’ll see the likes of Kevin Callan out there on the course next year – I understand he likes challenging canoe routes (but he once told me he doesn’t like paddling in cold weather…that’s just our secret, okay?)

~Hap Wilson

Read Hap and Andrea’s Muskoka River X accounts from last year here: She Said, He Said: Muskoka River X 2013 or view Hap’s 2013 Canoeroots feature on this epic race here: Hap, Muskoka River X, and Canoeroots Magazine. To find out more about the Muskoka River Xvisit their website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Finding The PITPC Rewards: Cabin Falls EcoLodge Paddle OFFICIAL CLUE

As you are probably aware by now, Hap agreed to be part of the much talked about Paddle In The Park Contest (PITPC) again this year, as did Andrea. Both were named official “paddle-hiders” for 2014, with Hap hiding the Cabin Falls EcoLodge Paddle and Andrea being specifially chosen to hide a special Algonquin Outfitters GIRLS PORTAGE Paddle, to help celebrate women in the outdoors. But what you might not know that that each time a paddle is found and claimed, more prizes are given away to the “paddle-finder” and the paddlers following along from home. There is even a Nova Craft Prospector Canoe up for grabs!

Cabin Falls EcoLodge Paddle by BADGER® for the PITPC

The reason behind the PITPC is an important one. Its aim is to get more people aware of the scientifically proven rewards of spending time in nature. They even listed 9+1 reasons to do so on their website. So get out there and try to find those paddles and you will be sure to receive all the rewards and benefits that spending time in the wilderness can bring. There are only 4 paddles left but still lots more prizes to be won! Not sure where to start? Well here is a clue for Hap’s Cabin Falls EcoLodge Paddle* that was hidden somewhere in Temagami. There are more clues and hints for this paddle and the others archived on the PITPC website, to help you find what you may be seeking “Out There”.

CABIN FALLS EcoLodge PADDLE – OFFICIAL PITPC CLUE

2014 PITPC CLUE CABIN FALLS EcoLodge Paddle

The great trees of Temagami are known to be ancient.
Their true value has no price.
But to find the Cabin Falls paddle you must think much older,
Back to a time of fire and ice.

 For more information on the Paddle In The Park Contest, visit their website paddleintheparkcontest.ca or find them on Facebook and Twitter. Good luck!

*This is the second clue that has been published for the Cabin Falls EcoLodge Canoe Paddle for the PITPC. Find the first hint via the PITPC archives. A special thanks to all the sponsors for helping to make such a great contest available to those who spend time in the back woods. Especially Mike and Fiona of Badger Paddles and Preston and Nancy Ciere of Portageur.ca, who have made it their passion to get you paddling and portaging too.

 

Bala Falls Portage – A Much Broader Issue

Hap Wilson on the Bala Falls Portage Ban Controversy:

Ontarians should be outraged – at least those who value Canadian historic and prehistoric public lands. The Bala Falls Portage issue, recently covered by the Globe and Mail, is a much broader problem that needs serious investigation. Last winter I was called on by Swift River Power Corp. lawyers to stand as an expert witness for their team. I refused. I then became an expert witness for the Township of Muskoka Lakes who are fighting to stop the power development.

In my Wild Muskoka guidebook I had put an alternate portage on the north side of the falls predominantly for those beginning trips down the Musquash and Moon Rivers. This is the portage Swift River (and OMNR) prefer, of course, because they want to develop the historic portage site still used by local camps and paddlers. I was then grilled by Swift River lawyers about my choice of portage locations but I maintained that the historic portage was still in active use. Local historians (Shnier et al) proved the historic use of the portage by Thompson in the early 1800’s; I also maintained that from my own extensive travels on rivers, that the portage is located in the most likely place south of the falls.

 

Portage Ban - Ontarians Should Be OUTRAGED!

OMNR & Swift River won the first round in the courts and we all know that the appeal won’t look any better. I told the Globe and Mail in a short note that they need to look deeper into this issue. This has been happening across Ontario in a multitude of ways, i.e. OMNR placating to the whims of big business at the expense of self-propelled recreation interests.

Recently I talked with a spokesperson at the Culture & Heritage Ministry in Toronto who informed me that each OMNR District in the province is basically self-regulating; ha, no surprises there! That means they can stretch, or ignore certain aspects of the Public Lands Act or Heritage Acts based on current industrial or impact-tourism needs. OMNR closed off the Bala Falls Portage because of safety reasons…how absurd is this when you can easily name a hundred other similar locations exist on other rivers in the province. Does this mean that OMNR will shut-out paddlers from other locations based on liability fears (or big business interests)???

The township will lose the Bala Falls court appeal because, hey, the Crown-based Canadian legal system won’t want to compromise the peoples’ faith and trust in the present system – that the ministry overseeing our natural resources and Crown Land make the best collective decisions for the People…and we all know how well our fisheries and forests have been managed in this country!

OMNR can’t afford to lose this fight and the Crown judges know this. This is actually a huge precedent setting case in Canada but most people haven’t picked up on it yet. The Crown can’t lose because there would certainly be investigations and court cases pop up across the province – if not the country….and if you think Ontario Crown Lands are run by a bunch of bandits, you should see the internal machinations within the Crown ministries in Manitoba!

••••••

Written by Hap Wilson :: July 13, 2014, submitted via email.

For more information, visit savethebalafalls.com.

Talk canoes with Hap Wilson at the Spring Cottage Life Show

Summer is (supposedly!) just around the corner and there is no better way to gear up for the upcoming warm season than to partake of the annual Spring Cottage Life Show in Toronto.

 

Photo by Hap Wilson

 

With Hap’s guidebooks having been sponsored by Swift Canoe for about 25 years now, Hap is a longtime friend to owner and paddler, Bill Swift Jr. So it is only natural that you will find Hap and his “beautiful Canadian Sherpa wife” Andrea at the Swift Canoe & Kayak booth (Booth #2022) this March 28th and 29th*, where Hap will be available for book signings as well as questions. This will be your chance to “talk canoes with Hap Wilson” before the season starts and he and Andrea disappear into the wilds again for the summer!

*Note: Hap and Andrea will be there for the Friday and Saturday only but the Swift crew will be there for all days of the show, including Sunday. See you there!

Spring CLS FloorplanFor more information about the Cottage Life Show, visit their website or “Like” their page on Facebook.

 

Hap, Muskoka River X, and Canoeroots Magazine

Canoeroots Cover

This past year Hap and Andrea, along with a number of other brave adventurers, embarked on what is known as the longest (and most challenging) one-day canoe race in the entire world. It’s called the Muskoka River X. Hap recently wrote about thier experience in a piece just published by Canoeroots Magazine.  You can read or share it online (http://goo.gl/JitKGu) or with the Canoeroots app on an Apple (http://goo.gl/A7ouhl) or Android (http://goo.gl/MTrQ8K) device. Or find it in print at your favourite paddling store.

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Muskoka River X by Hap Wilson

Muskoka River X by Hap Wilson

Muskoka River X by Hap Wilson

Muskoka River X by Hap Wilson

 

Muskoka River X by Hap Wilson

The Wilson’s To Take On Big Adventures This Season

 

Happy Family

Hap, Andrea, and their children Alexa and Chris at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show

The above photo was just emailed to Hap’s social media team from Bill Swift of Swift Canoe & Kayak with the subject line “Happy family”. It was taken at the Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto this past weekend. (Thanks Bill!) But interestingly enough, Christopher and Alexa don’t only accompany their parents to the shows. They are taking on the Big East X challenge this year along with Hap and Andrea as well. Put on by the adventurous folks of the epic Muskoka River X, the Big East X marathon/adventure race is considered a warm up to their big River X event. Which, by the way, Hap and Andrea are also signed up for, plus they are planning to take on the North Bay Mattawa Canoe Race this year too… Revisiting the very same race they took on together over 20 years ago. But that’s a whole other story!

Hap To Speak At WCHA Convention

Another date to mark your calendars for! Hap has been invited to speak at the 35th anniversary of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association Convention, Saturday July 19th. at St. Paul Smith’s College in the St. Regis Wilderness Paddling Area in New York, USA.

2014-Assembly-artwork-for-web-262x300

Hap’s talk will feature the latest news about the Path of the Paddle project and the Canadian adoption of canoe/water trails into the National Trails Heritage. Book signing and tall tales told! For more information, visit the WCHA website: www.wcha.org.

Don’t forget, Hap will be presenting this winter at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show as well!

Hap A Featured Speaker At Outdoor Adventure Show – Toronto

For those of you who wish to see Hap speak in person this winter, be sure to mark your calendars for February 22, 2014 for the Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto. Hap is featured as a “Special Guest” this year with the plan, so far, being for him to present “Favourite Canoe Routes of The Canadian Shield” on Saturday, February 22nd at 1:00pm, where you will find him on the Adventures in Paddling Stage.

 

Outdoor Adventure Show Screenshot

 

But that is not all! The Outdoor Adventure Show starts on Friday, February 21st running thru to Sunday February 23rd, 2014 and has lots to offer for the outdoor enthusiast.

Canoe, kayak and SUP demonstrations will take place all weekend, in their interactive 30′ x 50′ heated pool, where you are welcome to watch the experts and learn some new maneuvers and techniques. Some demonstrations include: kayaking rolling & skills, SUP Yoga and more.  In fact, we hear that a fellow paddle hider, Preston (and Nancy) from Portageur.ca may also be there to share their tips on canoeing with dogs and a few other things too.

Plus Paddling legends and experts, Hap included (as noted above), will be sharing their unforgettable paddle trips, tips and must hear paddle adventure stories – all on the Adventures in Paddling Stage.

There will also be a Paddler’s Paradise Pavilion, which will showcase everything from cutting edge equipment and gear, clothing and accessories, to tour operators, and education for a full range of paddle sports. Other themed areas include Scuba World, the Adventure Travel Pavilion, a Camping Showcase, a Health & Fitness Pavilion and more!

Hap Wilson Coupon for Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show

Also, be sure to look for Hap and Andrea in the Swift Canoe & Kayak Booth. They will be hanging out there for part of the weekend and are looking forward to meeting you. Hap will have some books available for sale and will be available for signing books as well. Visit the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show website for more information or to buy your tickets in advance online using promo code HAPWILSON (and save a few dollars!).

LINK TO TICKET PURCHASES: https://secure.e-RegisterNow.com/cgi-bin/mkpayment.cgi?state=1772

See you there!

 

She Said, He Said – Muskoka River X

Hap and Andrea just completed the epic challenge of the Muskoka River X. It’s a race like no other. It turned out to be 130 KM, 20 portages, 4 lakes and 2 river systems, completely self-supported, all to be paddled in a mere 24 hours.

After just one training session, Hap and Andrea (Team Ecotrailbuilders #206) took on the challenge, and not only finished but also came in 5th out of 13 co-ed entries, and placed 20th overall out of 51 teams. Oh yes, and they took home the prize for carrying the most and the heaviest gear! The following email interview about their experience in the Muskoka River X race gives the point of view of both teammates, individually.

Note: Normally, the title phrase would be written as “He Said, She Said” but Hap, who is ever the gentleman (especially when it pertains to his beautiful wife) believes in the old ideology of women first and not necessarily because he likes to have the last word.

She Said, He Said – Muskoka River X

What was your motivation for taking in the Muskoka River X?

Andrea said: Our motivation for taking part in the Muskoka River X was to support the local paddling community and to give ourselves a personal challenge. Hap and I have paddled in the North Bay to Mattawa Race together…but that was 23 years ago! We do a lot of expedition paddling, so we thought this adventure, which included paddling lakes, rapids, rivers, portaging and night paddling, was “right up our alley.”

Hap said: I compiled a guidebook for Muskokan wild places that included the Muskoka Rivers. That was thirteen years ago and I felt that the local bureaucrats have lost the initiative to maintain or promote canoeing the way it should be, and to support the canoeing culture in Muskoka. The race was a good concept and I felt that I should support it. Secondly; I wanted to challenge myself and I felt that the two of us could do this even though we didn’t train for it. I ran the North Bay to Mattawa race for 10 years straight; a 65 km. race and my best time in a beat-up cedar canvas was 7.5 hrs. Andrea and I did the race in about 8 hrs. That was half the distance of the Muskoka River X…we should have been able to do the race in 16 hours had we trained but we just wanted to finish within the 24 hr. mark.

 

What was the hardest part of the challenge for you?

Andrea said: The hardest part of the challenge for me was staying awake during the last 15 km. We’d set a relatively relaxed but steady pace, with many coffee breaks at portages up until the end of Mary Lake. However, after 115km, we both started to fall asleep while we were paddling! It was a scary feeling, like nodding off while driving a car. There were a couple of times we each nearly rolled out of the canoe!
We were also suffering from injuries. I’d crashed off my mountain bike a couple weeks before the race and bruised my ribs, which were still feeling quite tender but that was mild compared to the osteo-arthritis pain that Hap was suffering through in his feet and shoulders (a by-product of many years of paddling and portaging).

Hap said: The hardest part of the challenge was dealing with the pain in my feet with no cartilage left between my big toes, and the osteoarthritis in my shoulders – I didn’t want to let my partner down so there was a lot of teeth gritting on the portages.

 

Andrea at start point 6:30am 0 degrees Celcius.

Andrea at start point 6:30am 0 degrees Celcius.

 

What was your favourite part about the event?
Andrea said: My favourite part about the event was the support we got along the way from family, friends and people along the river. It was energizing to be cheered on by folks at their campfires along the river at 2:00 am! Also, the route itself…it was so beautiful…and to be paddling along under shooting stars on a clear September night, well…it just doesn’t get any better than that!

Hap said: My favourite part was being in the canoe for 24 hours straight with my sweetheart, paddling under the moon, smootching at each portage.

 

How did you manage paddling and portaging at night?

Andrea said: As previously mentioned, Hap and I have had the good fortune of paddling on many expedition canoe trips over the years. There are often times when the only way to travel across a large body of water is at night(when the wind is down), so night paddling is part of our repertoire. We also find ourselves paddling 30km up the Lady Evelyn River at night to return to our vehicle after spending time at our cabin in Temagami because we find it too hard to leave our beautiful piece of paradise on a sunny day :-); however, we are often beyond the portages before nightfall and have a good sense of where the deeper channels are in that particular river. Portaging unfamiliar trails on a dark and foggy night certainly added to the adventure of the race. Hap and I are a good team, so we have our portaging down to a relatively efficient system (despite carrying WAY TOO MUCH gear!)…but the headlamps came in handy, as well as cautious steps around roots and rocks. We were told that at check-point 3, we were the only team to still have dry feet!

Hap said: Night paddling for us is secondary; we do a lot of this with our guiding work. What was hard was the fog and trying to locate the deep upriver channels when we hit the swifts.

Muskoka River X - 5 Minutes After Start

 

What advice would you have for someone wishing to take on the Muskoka River X next year (or an event like it)?

Andrea said: My advice? Look at it as a personal challenge and come prepared for all weather conditions. There are some awesome paddlers out there whose skills are speed and endurance – it might be difficult for the average paddler to compete for a podium finish. However, there are many canoe trippers who would enjoy the challenge of the Muskoka River X and not should shy away from it. We had great weather this year, so we were lucky. The sun and the wind as well as the fog on the river at night offered up a certain amount of challenge but rain or sleet, the latter being possible this time of year, could have been devastating for anyone not properly equipped to deal with these elements. We won a prize for “carrying the most and heaviest gear” in the race, which was fun and rather funny, but had the weather turned, there may have been some very uncomfortable paddlers out on that course and possible cases of hypothermia due to minimalist packing. This being said, however, I think next year, Hap and I will try to cut down the weight we carry…maybe pack one less thermos of coffee ;-).

Hap said: There are paddlers and there are racers; Andrea and I are paddlers and we knew we couldn’t compete against a race mentality…we have to stop and just look around, enjoy the serenity of the river. You can’t enter an event like this and think you can compete against the pro’s without marathon training and light gear. We went heavy but glad we did as conditions could have become much worse and we were totally prepared. That slowed us down considerably but we got the opportunity to see a special place in Muskoka. It’s a great race but paddlers should only enter it to challenge themselves, perhaps as we did, and not look at “losing” as a stigma to not go in it again next year. Andrea and I will enter again, certainly train more for it and challenge our time again. It’s important to support events like this as we have the perfect environment, and cultural heritage, to play in and appreciate.

 

Any other thoughts, comments?
Andrea said: I found the race to be remarkably well-run and organized. It was a pleasure to be a part of the inaugral Muskoka River X.

Hap said: I appreciate all the fanfare and accolades, about the race and my work, but I also want people to remember that Andrea deserves as much credit as I do; we work as a team, a devoted partnership braced on respect for each other and for our friends. She certainly deserves the same notoriety and kudos, more perhaps, because she does it solely out of love.

 

Halfway point at Bracebridge Falls gorge (dinner and break...yes, way too much gear!).

This photo was taken at the halfway point at Bracebridge Falls gorge (dinner and break…yes, way too much gear!).

 

To learn more about Muskoka River X, visit their website: www.muskokariverx.com or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Chris & Alexa’s “Beat The Parents To The Car” Trip

As many of you are aware, Hap has countless talents, skills and accomplishments under his belt, and thus is known to wear many “hats”. However there is one hat he wears rather proudly above the rest – the one of “Poppa”.  And he has a lot to be proud of! Take for instance the recent and very impressive accomplishment of his two children, Chris and Alexa…

Chris, only 14 and 1/2 yrs old, and Alexa, who just turned 13, have been travelling the route to their Temagami home (Cabin Falls) together before they could even crawl – always with the guidance of their father to get them to their backwoods lodging and destination.

However, they undoubtedly impressed their Poppa and Mum just this past week when they spontaneously requested permission to paddle the 30 km route upstream on the Lady Evelyn, and back to the car from the cabin – without guidance.

 

Chris & Alexa - Beat The Parents To The Car Trip!

With a just a 2.5 hr. headstart, they had to portage/line and hump canoe and gear around 15 portages, rapids, chutes and falls… Oh yes….AND stop to pick a litre of blueberries along the way!

Amazingly, Hap and Andrea caught up with them only 5 km short of the end.

As Hap tells it, “the headwind was fierce and they were ‘bone-tired’ but in all – very proud parents and a job well done!”

Yes, a job well done indeed! No wonder “Poppa” is so proud!

Note: Chris is a skilled wilderness canoe tripper and has done independent trips before this, however this is Chris and Alexa’s first “Beat The Parents To The Car” Trip together.