This post is the result of an invitation to attend the 3 night/2 day #LetsGOMaple event in beautiful Ontario’s Lake Country, as guests of Casino Rama Resort. A special thank you to the organizers of this event, SJ Consulting.
As a young girl, I did not know the meaning of the word adventurous.
I was a kid who grew up afraid to try, afraid to put myself out there, afraid to risk making a fool of myself.
I grew up afraid of so many things.
So. Many. Things.
As someone born with a disability, life for me was always about being cautious and careful.
It wasn’t the fault of my parents, my doctors, my teachers, or any other adult in my life. That’s just the way life was back in those days.
Doctors did not understand a lot about my health problems, so their advice always erred on the side of caution.
After all, I was lucky that I ever stood up on my own two feet and walked. And when I mastered walking, I was lucky to be able to stay balanced on two feet (something I don’t always do well, as you will read later).
I think, no matter who you are, and what you have been through, we all come to a point in our lives where we realize that, despite our limitations, our absence of certain skills, or our lack of abilities, life is meant to be lived.
Life is meant to be experienced.
No. Matter. What.
Sometimes we just need to take that leap and try.
So when I was offered the chance to take part in 2 days of adventurous outdoor experiences with 15 fellow influencers up in Orillia and Ontario’s Lake Country, that I had never done before, I knew I had to take that leap…and try.
Who knew how it would all turn out. I sure didn’t.
All I knew is that I could not let this opportunity pass me by.
So as I speed toward my 50th year later in 2017, my time with the #LetsGOMaple team ignited something within me.
An urge to experience 50 “firsts” – things I have never experienced ever before – all within my 50th year.Life is meant to be experienced. #LetsGOMaple #50FirstsAt50 Click To Tweet
And so, after this incredible #LetsGOMaple event at Casino Rama Resort in Ontario’s Lake Country, I bring you my starting line up.
My first 11 incredible “firsts”.
And yes, I have created a hashtag for this – because, darnit, I can!
I give you…
Casino Rama Resort/Orillia/Ontario’s Lake Country ~ Who knew this part of Ontario was so amazing? I didn’t – until now! We encountered beautiful scenery, incredible adventures, exquisite dining experiences, and amazing hospitality around every corner that we ventured during our time in Ontario’s Lake Country. And I’m not just speaking of our hosts (although they were spectacular!). I’m talking about all the people we met along the way. The people who had no idea who we were, and that we were there to write about the area. Orillia, and Ontario’s Lake Country, you are full of wonderful folk. This was my first time staying and playing with you, but it sure won’t be my last! As for Casino Rama Resort? My time with you was so wonderful, you’re getting your own post!
The Green Room ~ Because…who hasn’t wanted to see what’s actually inside one of those infamous “green rooms” that celebrities hide away in before the big show?! I know I did! And so our behind-the-scenes tour of Casino Rama Resort’s entertainment complex was a thrill for me. After all, Casino Rama Resort hosts some pretty big names in entertainment! The entertainer who had just played there the night before we had our tour, Andre-Philippe Gagnon, still had his name hung on the door. Ever seen him perform? I did in the 90’s. He is incredible!
So, about the Green Room. There was something magical about walking around the room some of my favourite stars had spent time in. Then there’s the story about Gene Simmons of KISS who almost caught his big hair on fire. More about that later.
A Visit To A Real Sugar Bush ~ Believe it or not, this lover of maple syrup had never visited a working sugar bush until our group visit to Shaw’s Maple Syrup Bush. Since 1904, five generations of Shaw’s have lived and worked this sugar bush, with the sixth generation up-and-coming. What a phenomenal history Shaw’s Maple Syrup Bush has! Boasting 4500 maple trees, and 30 km of tubing, Shaw’s knows maple syrup. Our pancake breakfast, with WARM and fresh Shaw’s maple syrup, was simply mouth-watering! It’s no wonder the locals form a long line each weekend for pancake breakfasts and visits to this cherished Ontario Lake’s sugar bush! Open Feb 18-April 16 every year.
Fat Biking ~ I must admit I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Fat Biking before I attended #LetsGOMaple. I actually had to google this activity when I received my itinerary. We had the pleasure of riding with Ride Guides Cycling Adventures at Horseshoe Valley Resort. I don’t think this novice (me!) could have been in better hands. The Ride Guides team was well-organized, quick, efficient, and wonderful with their instructions. We were out on the trails and feeling like pro fat bikers in no time! Well, maybe not pro but, it didn’t take us long to get comfortable riding through the gorgeous snow-covered trails. The consensus? We ALL loved it! Would I do it again? You bet! Fat biking may just be my new favourite winter sport! Next to…
Snowshoeing ~ It’s hard to believe but, I had never been on snowshoes until slipping into a pair at Horseshore Valley Resort. Being one that is not terribly steady on my feet, I always had this pre-conceived notion that I could never walk properly in snowshoes. Was I ever wrong. Well….HA!….sort of. I did manage to take a spill while walking in my snowshoes. I laughed…made everyone else laugh…got up and carried on. I adored our time snowshoeing at Horseshoe Valley Resort! I would do it again in a flash. This was another new favourite winter sport for me! Next to…
Snow Tubing ~ At first glance, the snow tubing hill at Horseshoe Valley Resort looked terrifying. Really terrifying. What I did not realize was that the part of this adventure I needed to be worried about was the “scary” magic carpet ride up to the top of the hill. Stick an almost 50-year-old woman with poor balance, on a “conveyor” belt, on a steep incline, holding onto a big tube, facing the wrong way because she is looking at her friend…and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Yes, I fell again. In fact, this was my third fall. My second fall happened on some slippery ice as I was transporting my tube from its storage place to the magic carpet. Again, I provided the comic relief and had an absolute blast snow tubing a few times down that wonderful hill. Never tried snow tubing like me? Don’t let that big hill scare you. The ride down is fantastic and nothing to be scared of! Snow tubing at Horseshoe Valley Resort is fun with a capital F! I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
Oh and…my wonderful friend Ann, from Kickass Living, managed to catch my magic carpet ride fall on video. The ever-thoughtful Ann caught my initial spill, but then cut the video short. She didn’t think it was appropriate to continue to film me as I struggled for what seemed liked minutes to get back up on my feet. That’s a true friend. Especially since, at one point, I nearly took her down with me. Next time, I told Ann, keep filming. I have a feeling the rest of my ordeal would have been even funnier than the spill!
I think I deserved a yummy margarita and some delicious food from Horseshoe’s Crazy Horse Sports Bar And Grill after all this, don’t you?
Table Game Lessons ~ When one stays at a resort with a fabulous casino attached to it, one must experience a little fun in that casino. And I did. Responsibly. I’m someone who prefers to stick to the slot machines. I had never played any table games before. The table games scare me. Or at least they did until we were lucky enough to spend an hour enjoying some table game lessons. The focus for our lessons was on learning how to play Blackjack and Roulette. Let me tell you, it was a hoot…but then again, we weren’t playing with real money. And thank goodness. I discovered I’m rather horrible at both games, so you won’t find me laying my money down on those tables any time soon! I stuck to the slots from that point on!
Love the idea of playing some table games but aren’t experienced enough? No problem! Stop by Player Services and inquire about their free learn-to-play classes. Playing the slot machines and table games should be fun. If you have trouble sticking to your personal limits, or suspect you have a gambling problem, please seek help! At Casino Rama they are big on responsible gaming. They take this VERY seriously. You may visit the Responsible Gaming Resource Centre, open 11AM-2AM daily, for assistance. I set myself a limit of $50 while at Casino Rama, and stuck to it. Sadly, I lost my $50 but, when I did, I walked away.
Horseshoe Valley Cold Water Clear Lager ~ I am a huge believer in trying local beverages, beers, and foods when visiting a new destination. This from a girl whose choice of meal when eating out used to be chicken fingers, fries and a coke – almost every single time. At my most adventurous, maybe an order of the house club sandwich. Not any more! Stick me in front of a display of a local cold craft beer, like Horseshoe Valley Cold Water Clear Lager, and I will eagerly await my tasting! Paired with that fabulous Rustica pizza I speak of below, this Horseshoe Valley Brewing Company lager was a cold, crisp, delicious beer that I will most definitely purchase this summer – if I can. Rumour has it that Horseshoe Valley Cold Water Clear Lager is only sold in local area LCBOs in and around Orillia, however, you and I may be able to order it from LCBOs in other cities and towns. I’m definitely going to try!
Eggplant on Pizza ~ Yes, this definitely counts as a first for me. I have never had eggplant on my pizza, nor would I have ever dared order eggplant on pizza. Rustica Pizza Vino changed that for me. Their Eggplant Pizza is divine. In fact, each variety of Rustica wood-fired pizza I tried during our dinner there was divine.
When in Orillia, if you love pizza, you really must enjoy a dinner at Rustica Pizza Vino. Really. You don’t have to enjoy the eggplant pizza like I did but, I dare you to tell me you don’t like any of their other pizza varieties – or their crust.
Oh. My. Gosh. The crust.
Hey, Orillia! Would you mind if I tried to convince Rustica Pizza Vino to move to Ottawa? Pretty please?
If you go, be sure to try the Arugula Salad and the Pizza Doughnuts. I’m still trying to figure out how to bribe the owner of Rustica Pizza Vino to hand over the recipe for the dressing on that salad. It’s spectacular. As for the pizza doughnuts…I’ll just say this.
Warm, sugared dough…and Nutella. Is your mouth watering yet?
First Big Trip On My Own Since Mum Passed Away ~ Now, I don’t mean to bring things down, and I’m really okay with this but, this was a first I can’t ignore. This was my first trip as a motherless daughter, one that was full of so many incredible things that, I just wanted to pick up the phone, call mum and tell her every single detail of my time in Ontario’s Lake Country. Because…mum would have wanted to know ALL about it. So that part hurts. But it’s ok because I know mum would be happy I got to do this, and got to experience all these “firsts”. I also know that, somehow, she does know about all my #LetsGOMaple shenanigans…and she’s laughing right along with me.
Getting My Own Hashtag ~ When you spend a lot of time with the same group of people, especially social media influencers, and you do something that you become known for, inevitably someone creates a hashtag in your “honour”. Created by Craig of Big Daddy Kreativ, that hashtag for me was “SandiFalls”…for obvious reasons!
My very first hashtag!
Thanks to Alexa for hanging on tight to my foot! She helped me avoid fall number five!
So…back to Mr. Simmons.
According to the lovely Jenna, who took us on the behind-the-scenes tour at Casino Rama Resort, said Gene, who is a tall man, was once making his way down one of the hallways backstage, in full KISS regalia. Think platform boots, elaborately sprayed and styled, “tall” black hair, and some “hot” ceiling pot lights. Poor Gene almost had his own Michael Jackson, hair-on-fire moment! Luckily disaster was averted, and Gene went on to rock and roll all nite!
A huge thank you to Jenna, Natasha, Lisa, Jenn, Julie and Stacey for organizing this unforgettable event! Thank you for pushing me way outside my comfort zone in so many ways!
And lastly, a huge thank you to you, my readers, for actually reading to the bottom of this 2300+ word post. I truly hope this has inspired you to get out there and enjoy a whole lot of your own “firsts”, no matter your age or ability!!
Have you ever spent time in Orillia and Ontario’s Lake Country? What are some of YOUR favourite things to do in the region? I’m taking notes because I just know I’m going to have to go back and experience all the things I didn’t get to do this time!
Want to read more about our #LetsGOMaple adventures? Read what my fellow Canadian bloggers had to say: