The We Work for Food Construction Company (WWFFCC) – 11
We’ve Been Rebranded!
Technically speaking, rebranding is a marketing strategy in which a new name, term, symbol, design, concept or combination thereof is created for an established brand, with the intention of developing a new, differentiated identity in the minds of consumers, investors, competitors, and other stakeholders.
With respect to the WWFFCC, it was far less complex than all of that, with our rebranding being in order for two very good reasons. The first is that we like to fish, with the second being - we like to fish.
But more on this later.
As you may recall from WWFFCC – 10 - Down for the Count – But Not Out! - we sold our camp in north western Ontario last year, and while we made a promise to keep the band together and set aside the same period of time, the challenge would be to find something analogous to what we had been doing in order to keep us occupied, and otherwise out of trouble.
Fortunately, Eric Lund owner/operator of Esnagami Wilderness Lodge came to the rescue.
We had visited the lodge on several previous occasions after wrapping things up at my camp, both to help out with whatever construction/renovation work Eric needed doing, and with any luck, squeeze in some fishing on one of the finest Walleye and Pike lakes Ontario has to offer, so when he offered to “host” us this year, there was no need to ask twice.
When going to the camp we were always on a very tight schedule, with a lot of work to do, and a finite amount of time within which to do it. This year, and while Eric had a couple of projects he wanted to see completed, meaning we would still be on the clock to some degree, we left Toronto a day earlier than usual, with the intention of breaking up the trip, and stopping to see some of the sights, and points of interest we had just blown by in the past.
It was therefore against this backdrop, that the NEW - well sort of - adventures of the soon to be rebranded WWFFCC began.
On the Road Again – But Which One?
Our day started with Lou and I taking a leisurely drive to Roman’s cottage, which is located just outside the tiny village of Torrance in the Muskokas, where he promised to have breakfast waiting for us upon our arrival.
The trip had certain similarities to journeys past, in that I had just picked up a new vehicle, and had to keep telling Lou to stop pushing buttons and trying to change all of my preprogramed settings. I finally relented somewhat, and let him play with the switch that retracted the power shade on the sunroof, but constant vigilance was required, because I knew he would soon get bored, and start looking for something else to mess with.
We also enjoyed reminiscing about all of the various building centres and such we had stopped at on previous occasions – of which there were many along the way. The fact is that between Toronto/Whitby and Geraldton, you would have been hard pressed to find one we hadn’t visited for one reason or another.
Roman pulled out all the stops, and prepared an excellent breakfast, that included some great tasting sausage that he and his daughter had made. After eating our fill, we set out along Hwy 169, turning north where it joined the 400 extension, with the intention of making our way to Sault St. Marie, where we would spend the night, and if time permitted, see some of the sights both en route, and in the City itself.
In keeping with our goal to actually stop and look, rather than just drive on by, we toured the town of Bala, checking out the Kee to Bala, a famous summer concert venue that has been around since 1942, hosting such acts as the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Louis Armstrong, George Thorogood and the Destroyers and Aerosmith, together with a few other places, such as Don’s Bakery, that we were familiar with, but hadn’t visited in years.
It was a very pleasant drive, and even Roman, who is usually asleep before his butt hits the seat, stayed awake for most of the trip. It’s too bad that Lou didn’t “pull a Roman,” and have a nap, because it would have saved a lot of wear and tear on the power shade, and don’t even get me started on what Roman and I had to put up with when he discovered that the backup camera still worked while you were driving.
We hit the “Soo” around 2:30pm, and as there was no rush to check into our hotel, decided to tour the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. It’s well worth visiting if you have any interest in seeing, and learning more about the types of aircraft that were used to by and large open, and map much of northern Canada.
Having flown in many of the aircraft on display, I enjoyed learning more about how they were designed and built, as well as reading up on some of the people who first flew them.
After checking in, and having a couple of cold ones to wash away all of the road and propeller dust (lol), we made our way over to Giovanni’s, one of Sault St. Marie’s best Italian restaurants (SSM has a large Italian community, and not surprisingly many restaurants serving up fine Italian fare), where we enjoyed an excellent meal, and had a nice chat with “Elvis” the waiter who, in case you haven’t already twigged to it, is an Elvis impersonator in his spare time.
Back at the hotel, as tradition demands, it was now time for brandy and Montecristo’s, but I have to say the hotel patio was a poor substitute for the nightly campfire, and star filled sky we had enjoyed for so many years while at the cabin.
Did We Miss Something?
Part of the plan to change things up this year, was to take a different route either to, or from Nakina, rather than sticking with Hwy #11 in both directions.
We opted for the route through Sault St. Marie, because that would take us along Hwy #17 across the top of Lake Superior, which has some of the most spectacular scenery Ontario has to offer.
Our flight into the lodge was scheduled to leave the float base in Nakina at around 3:30pm, and because the drive would take about 7 hours, in order to give us plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, after grabbing some breakfast at the hotel, we were on the road by 7am.
During the first hour the weather was overcast, with some spotty showers, but when we hit the beginning of the stretch where it really got interesting, the skies cleared.
Stunning vistas notwithstanding, if not for the fact that I kept poking and/or yelling at them to wake up and look around, my 2 “Rip Van Winkles” would have slept through the entire stretch.
Oh well, so much for taking the scenic route.
It started to cloud up again around Wawa, and pretty much stayed that way until we hit White River which, in case you didn’t know, is the home of Winnie the Pooh. It was bloody cold there, 7 degrees Celsius to be exact, and after filling up, it was time to change horses, so Roman, who was mostly awake by now, took the wheel, and drove the stretch from White River, through Hornepayne and Long Lac to Geraldton.
Lou also woke up, so to keep him amused, whenever we acquired cellular service, asked him to look things up, such as the history of Hornepayne. As always, these trips can be quite informative, and we found out that not only had they filmed a few episodes of some survivor type “reality” show that Lou was familiar with around town, it was also being considered as a possible site to store nuclear waste.
We were starting to get a bit peckish, and because we had plenty of time to make our flight, stopped at the Crown and Anchor in Geraldton for a bite to eat. Lou decided to have a “second” breakfast, and when ordering his bacon and eggs, asked the waitress if they happened to have any HP Sauce, which apparently he likes on his eggs, but is rarely available in most restaurants.
I told him he had a much better shot at getting truffle shavings on his eggs than finding HP in this remote location, but damned if they didn’t produce a giant size squeeze bottle of the stuff, which made Lou very happy, and put me in my place.
We flew to the lodge in style aboard Nakina Air’s Cessna Grand Caravan, and after tying up at the dock, and exchanging greetings with “Turkey” Dave, Dakota, Codey, and Eric, we all pitched in – Lou supervised – and loaded a snowmobile onto the Caravan, that will no doubt come in handy next year, when the time comes to open the lodge in the spring.
Someone had obviously given this a great deal of thought, because we would be bunking in Cabin #1, which just happened to be the very same cabin Eric wanted us to work on, thereby ensuring that no extra travel time was required to get to the job site, nor would there be any risk of getting lost, or caught in traffic on the way to work - just roll out of bed and get right to it!
Chef Troy served us a delicious prime rib dinner that evening, and fortunately for the guests who were in camp, Eric let us eat in the kitchen with the staff, rather than in the dinning room with the paying customers.
After dinner “Turkey” Dave, who likes to experiment with making different types of snacks – he makes the best caramel corn you have ever tasted – decided to have a go at manufacturing some potato chips, and while the first batch was a bit on the crisp side, likely because the oil was a little too hot, each successive batch came out better than the previous one.
Because it was going to be a cool night, Roman had his mind set on turning the barrel stove in our cabin into a blast furnace, but under my watchful eye, got it just hot enough to make the cabin comfortable, rather than tropical, which was no doubt his original goal.
While those stoves are reasonably efficient, they don’t stay hot all that long unless you continue to stoke them at regular intervals, so we decided it would be a good idea to throw on some extra blankets. All of the extras were in Lou’s room, and he willingly handed them out, until it finally dawned on him that there were none left over for him.
Sorry Lou, no take backs…
Spooky Doesn’t Even Begin to Describe It
Do you know what a doppelganger is?
By definition, it’s a non-biologically related look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a ghostly or paranormal phenomenon and usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck. Other traditions and stories equate a doppelgänger with an evil twin.
Well, let me tell you they do exist, because Lou and Roman met ours at breakfast this morning.
Cheech, Mort and Steve, who were also joined this year by Steve’s brother Bob, and are otherwise known as the Cheech & Co. Construction Company, are a really solid, and fun bunch of guys that I've have known for quite a while, that had been coming to the lodge for years, initially as guests, and then in later years as carpenters and handymen. Hailing from Michigan, they usually come up in the spring to help open things up, and often times return later in the year to take on various reno/construction projects, and more importantly – to them at least - fish.
Sound somewhat familiar?
Let me just say that the similarities between our 2 groups was so spooky, that it bordered on the paranormal (see above definition of a doppelganger). I’m talking about skills, abilities, temperament, and to some degree even physical appearance, and if you think I’m exaggerating in any way, just take a look at the picture of Cheech and Lou below, and then tell me I’m talking through my hat, or for that matter, which one is which!
Eric was somewhat concerned, as he should have been, about what might happen to his lodge by turning both the WWFFCC and Cheech & Co. loose – particularly when there were still guests around – but at the end of the day all, or at least the bulk of the work was completed to his satisfaction, a few fish were caught, and without question, a damn good time was had by all.
We had 3 jobs sites on the go between us, with the WWFFCC working on Cabin #1, and Cheech & Co. split into 2 crews, with Mort and Cheech constructing a wooden walkway leading down to the main lodge, and Steve and Bob doing some flooring work in a couple of other cabins.
The initial clash of the titans didn’t actually take place until this morning at breakfast, because Cheech & Co. had been out fishing when we arrived the previous day, and didn’t get back until after we had retired to our cabin/job site.
I knew that first encounter was going to be interesting, because while Cheech, Mort and Steve were generally fairly chipper and talkative first thing in the morning, Lou is anything but, and having to be on the deck by 7am if he wanted to be fed, was going to be a challenge for all of us.
Fortunately there was no need to worry, and although Lou mostly stared around and blinked while making some odd noises when he first arrived, by the time his second cup of coffee was down, he wasted no time in getting acquainted, and before you knew it, him and Cheech were tossing barbs at one another regarding among other things, the proper way to frame and install windows.
And while Cheech, much like yours truly, wouldn’t have the first clue how to frame, never mind install a window; it didn’t stop him from trying to convince Lou otherwise.
So let the games begin!
It turned out to be kind of a crappy day, so we were happy that our job was of the interior variety, involving the installation of paneling in one of the bedrooms and hall closet.
The job was finished by mid afternoon, and happily passed inspection, and although we saw Cheech & Co. heading out to chase some fish around, given the weather, we decided to give fishing a miss, and instead have a cocktail, while making up our materials and equipment list in anticipation of our next job, the installation of a new laminate floor in the kitchen and lounge area of our cabin.
Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner!
It was chicken dinner night, and we were the winners, because Chef Troy served up some very tasty leg/thigh combos. They had what I would describe as a Middle Eastern flair, because prior to being roasted, they were marinated in a rub of his own making, which included a liberal amount of cinnamon, and other spices often times featured in Middle Eastern cuisine.
I’m usually not a fan of chicken thighs, but they were so moist and flavourful, not only did I eat 2 for dinner; I had another for lunch the following day.
Cheech & Co. were still somewhere out on the lake, so we meandered back to our cabin for brandy and cigars, and just as we were about to call it a night, Eric’s son Luke, who was up for a few days with his buddy Jarred to do some fishing with his dad, knocked on the door and asked us if we had seen his dog.
“Not since this afternoon” we replied, so off he went, only to return a few minutes later with both the dog and Jarred in tow, and asked if we would be interested in playing some Euchre.
I’m not much of a card player, but Lou and Roman were all over it. Luke and Jarred were not the best card players, but they sure liked our brandy, and Lou took full advantage of that, keeping them loose and lubricated by ensuring their glasses were never empty.
It was like taking candy from a couple of babies, and while Eric and Dave popped in to watch the fun, I guess Eric could no longer stand to watch his son being pummelled by those 2 sharpies, and after about a half hour, he and Dave just shook their heads and left.
Although they may have lost at cards, Luke and his buddy were the big winners, because when the fat lady sang, while Lou and Roman had won a total of $3, it cost them about ¾ of a $50 bottle of brandy – or about $38 - to win those 3 bucks.
Now you tell me who the “sharpies” really were…
If the weather reports were in any way accurate, today was going to be the best day of the week, so by our way of thinking, and that of Cheech & Co. - great minds you know – it was obvious that we should all take the day off and go fishing, although in retrospect, someone probably should have told Eric.
The thing was, when coffee break rolled around, Eric had made a fresh pot of coffee, and when no one turned up for break, he went looking, only to find all 3 job sites abandoned.
It was a beautiful day, with plenty of sun and light winds, all of which was topped off by the fish being in a cooperative mood.
Because the lodge was still in full operational mode, Eric and the staff would be preparing a “group” shore lunch this afternoon, so the boys would now have the opportunity to experience the full on Esnagami Wilderness Lodge experience.
Lunch was as always exceptional, and featured “Buffalo” Walleye Nuggets, Lemon/Wine Walleye (my personal favourite), fried rice, onion rings, garlic bread, homemade cookies and plenty of cold drinks.
After stuffing ourselves, we headed east, and caught a bunch of fish at Pike Island, Tuna Fish and Cemetery Point, and while at Cemetery, we were treated to something as rare as bumping into a snowbird in hell.
Cheech came up along side our boat, and rather than offer us a standard type greeting, decided instead to moon us. In my opinion it was more like a total eclipse, because the sky and surrounding land mass was completely obscured from view, even though Cheech was at least 20 yards away when he did the deed.
Luke and Jarred obviously didn’t have enough of either loosing or our brandy the previous night, and after dinner, caught up with us in the kitchen and demanded a rematch. Lou and Roman we eager to oblige, making short work of them, and winning another couple of bucks, but at least this time they didn’t have to spend more to get less, because I made sure that the bottle they had with them, was only about ¼ full.
Its Only Cheating If You Get Caught
Cheech & Co. had returned from fishing, and were watching the game with considerable interest, and immediately after the rookies had been dealt with, Cheech and Mort challenged Lou and Roman to what may have been this years first international euchre showdown.
But before all that happened, our friends from south of the boarder put out a very nice cheese tray (btw - thanks for the cheese and horseradish pickles guys!) and Cheech, who thankfully is a much better cook than he is a card player, prepared some really delicious, sweet/spicy Walleye nuggets, that he had named “Bang Bang Walleye.”
Until today I didn’t realize that euchre is potentially a contact sport, because the intensity level got jacked up several levels once the cards were dealt, and speaking of dealing, can anyone tell me why a country that has the capacity to put a man on the moon, can’t figure out how to deal cards properly?
Apparently when playing euchre in the US of A, rather than deal one card at a time, you deal each person 2, or something like that, and notwithstanding their explanation that it was all according to Hoyle – whoever the hell he is, or was – our boys were not convinced that any of this was completely kosher.
Therefore, in order to keep the game going, and avoid a potential international incident, an accord was struck to deal each hand according to the accepted rules in the dealer’s country of origin.
And I thought getting NAFTA sorted was tough!
The game attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd, with the score all but even in the early going. And speaking of the crowd, I feel the need to point out that Luke and Jarred, who clearly should have been cheering for the Canadian side, could not hide their excitement every time the other guys recorded a point. Sour grapes if you ask me.
Part way through the game a question arose as to whose turn it was to deal, but when Cheech made a grab for the cards, Mort reminded him that he had just dealt. Honest mistake? Hmmm.
But when all was said and done, funny rules, and attempting to double up on the deal aside, the WWFFCC would not be denied, and rode to a decisive victory on the back of Roman’s lone hand.
This impressive victory was immediately followed by a rousing rendition of the chorus from Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire by the Canadian contingent – well most of them anyway - just to drive the point home.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Cheech immediately demanded a rematch, so the stage was set for:
The WWFFCC and Cheech & Co.
In Association With Esnagami Wilderness Lodge
Euchre Slam 2
The Burning Ring of Fire
Would Someone Please Take Out the Trash?
You would have needed a front-end loader to remove all of the trash - trash talk that is - that was being tossed around at breakfast this morning!
While I fully expected a few cracks from Lou, Roman in his own subtle way, also got off a few good ones. Mort to his credit was extremely gracious about it all, while Cheech on the other hand, made it known that he was already planning a victory parade for later that night, after they had dispatched these upstart, loud mouth Canadians, who didn’t even know how to deal the cards properly.
The flooring job, while it took the bulk of the day turned out nicely, and really cleaned up and brightened the interior of Cabin #1. Cheech & Co. had finished the walkway and flooring jobs earlier in the day, and as a result, managed to get out on the water a bit earlier than usual.
For the evening meal, Chef Troy prepared a Cesar salad (with homemade croutons), garlic cheese bread, and spaghetti smothered in a robust tomato sauce, into which he added pieces of spicy Italian sausage.
Cheech & Co. returned from fishing somewhat earlier than we had come to expect, no doubt chomping at the bit to exact their revenge, thereby setting the stage for a game of euchre that none of us, or the staff at EWL will likely soon forget.
The way Lou and Roman tell it, they let Cheech and Mort take a slight lead, thereby making them think they had things well in hand, and just at the point when Cheech was about to start picking out floats and ordering balloons for the parade, they finally, and decisively, put the hammer down.
It was déjà vu all over again, because not unlike last night, our friends from the great state of Michigan met their Alamo as a result of a soul crushing lone hand, this time administered by none other than Goombah #1 himself – Lou.
All Good Things…
…become even better if you get to talk trash 2 days in a row - and brother did they enjoy themselves.
When it was all said and done, Cheech & Co. were very gracious loser’s – LOSER being the operative word (ok, I finally got my little dig in) – although I’m absolutely sure that if we all meet again next year, as I hope we will, and should the 2 Goombah’s loose even one game, I can’t even begin to imagine the ride we are in for, because payback ain’t no lady – she’s definitely a bitch.
Truth be told, we could not have had a better time, and Eric, you have our sincere thanks – and I suppose to a certain degree our condolences – for taking the plunge, and bringing the entire lot of us up at the same time.
After saying our goodby's we were on the first flight out right after breakfast, and in keeping with our plan to see some of the sites along the way, stopped in Hurst at the Rheault Distillery, the makers of Loon Vodka, that is apparently one of the finest of its kind, having won several international “best of” awards.
What’s makes this distillery entirely unique, is that it’s the only licensed still in the entire country operating out of a private residence. In fact the still itself is in the owner/operators living room, as the picture below will attest to.
It was an interesting and informative tour, and if you ever find yourself in the area, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Once the tour was over, and a few samples tasted – including a very nice apple liqueur – it was off to Kapuskasing, where we would be spending the night at the Advantage Motel.
The very pleasant, and accommodating folks who run the place remembered us from years past, which may or may not have had something to do with Roman inadvertently leaving all of his take home fish behind one year, which they no doubt subsequently enjoyed, but nevertheless, it was nice to be greeted like long lost friends.
After cleaning up and chilling for a couple of hours, I hosted cocktail hour, followed by dinner at Papa Franco’s, a very good Italian/Canadian restaurant located only steps from the motel.
In typical fashion, Lou started kidding around with our servers, one of whom, who was a real character in her own right, after bringing us our frosty, ice cold mugs of Stella, sat down in the empty chair at our table, took a look at Roman and me, then focused on Lou and said:
“So what will you have Pumpkin?”
When Roman and I finished choking, and could finally see through the tears that were streaming down our faces, we noticed that Lou had turned a kind of orangish/pink colour – and did indeed appear to resemble a Ctrouille to some degree - and for the only time in recent memory, he was momentarily speechless.
I say momentarily, because while you may get the odd one past him, he is damn quick to recover, and after a brief pause, made some sort of crack, the substance of which currently escapes me, but that in no way phased our server in the least.
Having put Lou in his place, and not wanting to incur her rath, each of us quickly ordered one of their very tasty homemade pizzas, which we washed down with a bottle of the vin de la maison, which if memory serves, was not at all bad.
Our server came by a bit later, and after clearing our table, cautiously asked if we would like dessert. After going through a rather impressive list of options, Lou asked what kind of poutine they had.
“For dessert?” she said.
Well, if there was even the slightest doubt that we were not from around there, that sealed the deal, and after running through the choices, he ordered the “classic,” consisting of fries and cheese curds, smothered in gravy. Roman and I on the other hand, opted for something more traditional, and each had a dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce.
The last thing I remember before leaving the restaurant was our server standing at the bar chatting with some of her colleagues, all of who were looking at our table with a mixture of smiles and puzzled expressions.
Done Like Dinner
Lou had to be back by mid-afternoon, so in order to make it on time, we left at 6:30am or thereabouts, and after a quick breakfast at McD’s, where the guy sitting at the next table talked me into buying a $20 calendar in support of the local snowmobile club – hey, maybe they will need the money to buy some snow – we began the 8 hour drive home, stopping only for fuel, and in the finest tradition of the WWFFCC, at the Thornloe Cheese Factory, where we loaded up on – you figure it out.
Thanks as always to my Goombah’s, not only for all of the outright fun and laughter, but for setting aside the time to keep what has become a tradition like no other alive, and that I sincerely hope will endure for many more years to come, because as some guy who goes by the name of Gustav Mahler was heard to say:
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
We also gave some thought to the possibly of taking the train to Nakina next year, assuming of course we’re invited back, but at this point that would be in a manner of speaking, akin to putting the caboose before the engine.
And finally, with respect to our rebranding, that honour fell to Eric, who proclaimed that the former WWFFCC would, from this time forward, be hereinafter known as the:
We Work for Food and Fishing Construction Company
And who are we to argue with that…
An finally, finally:
In Association With No One In Particular
The Euchre Song
(Sung to the tune of: “We Are the Champions”)
We made it trump
Time after time
Then led with the right
And the tricks were all mine
And bad mistakes
We’ve made a few
We’ve had our share of euchres thrown back in our faces
But always came through
We beat the Yankees, my friends
And we'll keep on winning 'til the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions of the world
We’ve won lone hands
And taken curtain calls
You brought us fame and bragging rights and everything that goes with it
We thank you all
But it's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise
We consider it a challenge before the whole state of Michigan
That we ain't never gonna lose
We beat the Yankees, my friends
And we'll keep on winning 'til the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers…
- Esnagami Wilderness Lodge
- Esnagami Lake
- Nakina Ontario
- Sault St Marie ON
- Hornepayne ON
- Hurst, ON
- Loon Vodka
- Rheault Distillery
- Canadian Bush Plane Heritage Centre
- Advantage Motel, Kapuskasing ON
- Key to Bala
- Bala ON
- Papa Franco's Kapuskasing ON
- Thornloe Cheese Factory
- Crown and Anchor Geraldton ON
- Geraldton, ON
- Nakina Air Services