When COVID-19 forced him to temporarily shut down his stunt business in 2020, Hans Wolter found himself distraught. As Wings and Slicks Stunt Driving’s chief adventure seeker, Wolter had been teaching neophyte precision pilots how to drift, perform J-turns and inverted 180s since 2009.
But the pandemic had put the stunt school on ice, so Wolter and creative director Phillip Reilly began dreaming up new adventures where people could seek thrills from a distance from each other. Just before Halloween 2020, the inspiration came: they would organize a ghost walk. Part treasure hunt, part car rally, the ghost adventure would see groups of people – families, bachelor parties, friends – solving clues to banish a ghost, all from the safety of their own cars.
“That was really our selling point,” Wolter said, “that you can come and do this fun activity with your family or ‘bubble’.”
Wolter and Reilly mapped out a route around the Niagara Escarpment in the Milton area, combining scenic country driving with local history. “One of our goals is to introduce people to new places they’ve never been to,” Reilly said. “The number one comment after the ride is, ‘We had no idea these places existed. It’s nice to inspire people to drive to new places and see different things in Ontario.
The ghost release took off and a new company Wings and Slicks was born. Adventure Drives has now expanded to offer even more ghost car rally adventures across Ontario, as well as scavenger hunts to search for Viking treasure, chase down the Sasquatch, or stop the aliens from invading the province.
Each adventure revolves around a story, some of them story-based. For example, if you opt for the Milton-based Ghost Adventure, by the time your route takes you to the community’s town hall – the site of Ontario’s last public hanging – you’ll have learned all about Thomas. Corner, the real criminal at the business end of this noose.
On all adventures, teams are encouraged to lean into the experience with costumes, creative renditions of treasure hunt items collected along the way, and in-car karaoke. “There are many layers to the adventure,” Reilly said. “A big part of that is the activities we’ve built in to create interactions between your group members. That’s really the key.
It’s these in-vehicle interactions that set the experience apart from a scenic country road with a few pit stops. As Wolter said, “The more fun you have with it, the better” – the journey is the reward.
It evokes multi-generational families, some with initially sullen teenagers, who after composing songs together and shooting team videos come out of the adventure earning points for team spirit.
That a group of friends or family can have fun roaming the countryside singing songs and getting creative is hardly surprising. Whether on purpose or by accident, the guys at Adventure Drive have exploited a specific pandemic shift when it comes to our relationship with our vehicles.
COVID-19 has forced us to change the way we spend time in our cars. Sure, they always take us from point A to point B, but over the past two years they’ve also become portals to adventure, music, movies, and immersive experiences.
Think back to the summer of 2020 when the pandemic sparked a renaissance in cinema. We’ve seen the return of the drive-in theater with initiatives like DriveInTO: a partnership between the City of Toronto, eight local film festivals and four theaters to screen recently released films. Downsview Park has adapted its Friday Night Lights summer screening series for vehicular audiences. Shopping centers have transformed their parking lots into outdoor drive-ins.
It wasn’t just the movies we saw through our windshields. In its first performance in nearly a year, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra gave four live performances last spring at CityView Drive-In, as audiences sat in their cars and watched the musicians on an LED screen. massive with the music playing in their vehicles. Live Nation launched Live from the Drive-In, where audiences could still listen to their favorite bands, albeit contained in their cars.
On Halloween 2020, when in-person trick-or-treating was canceled in many municipalities, haunted drive-in tours sprang up with immersive experiences where motorists could weave through courses filled with spooky animatronic ghouls as stories ghosts were playing on their car radios. Swap the monsters for decorated evergreens and dancing lights, and in December many of us got into the holiday spirit from our cars at the Christmas Drive-In Shows.
We also climbed into our cars for charity. Corporate and community philanthropic drive-thru services have allowed us to raise money for a variety of causes. April 30, for example, marked the second annual Discover Innisfil car rally and scavenger hunt, which was launched to raise money for the Innisfil Food Bank, but also to give the community an opportunity to reconnect. during difficult times.
Wolter and Reilly believe it was this element of connection that contributed to the success of their Adventure Drives.
“Of course, it’s people driving around and finding things, but that’s not really what it’s about,” Reilly said. “It’s about getting together as a family or a group of friends, laughing like you’ve never laughed before, and spending time together.”