CC Road Trip: Across the USA in a 2016 Ford Focus; Part 2 of 2

Welcome back, in yesterday’s episode we were in Wyoming approaching Devils Tower.

But, let us pause and discuss the car here.  By 2016 Ford was in its 5th year of making the Gen3 Focus, and since we also have a 2013 model at home for comparison we can point out some of the improvements:

Most obvious is the facelifted front styling, which looks Aston Martin-esque and is a big improvement over the catfish-esque original.  The rear is slightly changed as well, and importantly eliminates a brittle plastic trim piece that breaks off in your hand when opening the rear hatch in winter.


Inside we see the revised center cluster and Mrs DougD’s 80’s playlist.  The small screen now includes a back up camera and the revised heater controls which are harder to read than the old 3 dial setup in our 2013 Focus.  Also noteworthy is the more user friendly SYNC system, which easily connected to our cell phones without the blasphemous struggle of 2013.  What you don’t see here is the door unlock button.  Our 2013 has only one button, highly annoyingly located below the hazard light button in the centre of the dash.  The 2016 has them moved back to the doors, it’s amazing how much of a relief that is.  


I’d mentioned that our Focus was a write-off repair, I know the bumper and one fender were replaced.  By the marks on every panel of the rest of the car and the amount of dirt stuck in the undercarriage, I think this car had an off road excursion through a stand of small trees.  Some of the gaps in the front are a bit wonky, and I have been replacing hardware store screws as I find them.

The driving experience is much the same as our older Focus, although the 2016 now has an anti-rollback on the clutch.  This feels a little weird compared to our older car but it will surely be appreciated by our daughter in mountainous terrain.  The 5 speed is essential on these cars since the auto box was the infamously unreliable and expensive to repair PowerShift dual clutch transmission.  All in all pretty good for an eight year old cheap student car, now back to our trip:


Devils Tower National Monument was the high point of the trip for me.  It’s a volcanic butte that fractured into hexagonal columns as it cooled 60 million years ago, and is famous for its appearance in the film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind“.  Photos of this thing really do no justice to its magnificence.  Once again we were nearly alone as we walked the 3 km trail around the base.

We ended a spectacular day with a disappointment.  Little Bighorn Battlefield is the site where General Custer’s arrogant underestimation of the opposing indigenous warriors cost him and 262 other members of the 7th Cavalry their lives.  We arrived too late in the day, here the Focus faces away from the locked gate.

If only Custer had been able to hang on until 4:30PM, the place would have closed and everyone would have to go home.  The monument site was just visible from the gate and has a commanding view over the surrounding terrain.  By this point, Custer would have been fully aware of just how badly he had miscalculated. 

We had better luck the next day walking on the Continental Divide Scenic Trail where it crossed the Interstate, and at these higher elevations started encountering snow by the roadside.

When I bought the Focus it came equipped with brand new cheap Chinese Rockblade 515 summer tires.  We were not keen to test them in winter conditions.

We stayed in downtown Missoula Montana, and after Wall Drug the guys at Morning Birds Bakery restored Mrs DougD’s faith in American coffee and baked goods.  Missoula has a great downtown with lots of heritage buildings, we wished that we’d had an extra day or two here.

Our vehicle seemed to be on the small size for long distance trips.  Here in the hotel parking lot, the Ontario Focus is dwarfed by the California plated Expedition and the Tahoe from Florida.

Paul N had suggested we check out the Pulaski Tunnel Trail, which was near the Interstate in the very pretty town of Wallace Idaho.  This was quite an enjoyable half day hike.  If you’ve not heard of Edward Pulaski and the forest fires of 1910 you can learn more at this link.  Kermit and Fozzie came along, but without the Studebaker.

Arriving in Spokane we had a few hours to kill before meeting Erin at the airport.  Near our hotel I found this stripped out 1963 Mercury Comet.  As a salt belt resident, I was impressed by the rust free condition of the remains. 

Checking FB marketplace just now there is a thoroughly rusted out 1963 Comet local to me for only $500, just think of the possibilities!  Sadly for me I’ve got enough trouble dealing with my current projects.

Miss Erin D arrived on her Toronto – Minneapolis – Spokane flight, and in the morning the two engineers sorted out the 3-D puzzle of how to fit everything into the Focus.  Erin had arrived with an unexpected 2nd suitcase which made it a little more of a challenge.  As you can see there is very little room left for her, but there is still some visibility out the back window.  At the Canadian border the guard said “You drove all the way here just to pick your daughter up at the airport??

And so we arrived at our destination, and had a very nice couple of days getting Erin and Focus settled in the mining town/ski town that will be her home for the next few months.


Kelowna airport, 4am on May 5th.  Our adventure with the Focus ends here, but Erin’s is just beginning.  We did 4,804 km and the Focus averaged 6.0 liters per hundred kilometers (39 MPG) and gave us no trouble.  At the beginning of the trip we figured we’d only want to do this once, but at some point the car will have to come back to Ontario.  A different return route might be fun, we did miss Yellowstone and Grand Teton.  Hmmm….