For awhile now, my dad and uncles have been taking these fly-in fishing trips. If you are not familiar with these, the way they work is you drive to some place in Canada that hosts a float plane base, some lake or river that is large enough for planes to take off and land in the water. From there, you park your vehicle and fly to a lake that is only accessible by plane. The Canadian wilderness has several lakes where this is the only way to get there. The plane dumps you on this lake where a cabin and boat docks have been constructed along with some boats and enough fuel to keep anglers happy the length of their stay. At the end of your trip the float plane picks you up and flies back.
On my dad's last trip, they talked about organizing a father-son expedition. Now that most of us grandchildren have wives and children of our own, we very seldom get together, and a "guys only" experience never happens. So they thought it would be fun for a bunch of us to take one of these trips together. I will be forever grateful they did.
This brain-child came to fruition last June when my dad, brother, and some uncles and cousins, eight of us in all, met just North of Fargo and set out on a trip I will treasure the rest of my life. Here we are at the Cenex station in Harwood. This was the most convenient place for us to meet up with those coming from Minnesota. From your left you have my uncle John, my cousin Eric, my uncle Rick (the only non-Meissner of the bunch thanks to his marriage to my dad's only sister, Lois), as you can see, he likes to talk with his hands. Then you have uncle Dave (Eric's dad), my dad Jim, and my brother Jeremy. I happened to be taking the picture and my cousin John Allen (John's son) must have been in the rest room. Not to worry, both of us will be coming up later for your viewing pleasure.
I apologize for the cell phone pictures again. I was not allowed to take our expensive digital camera lest it come to some harm on the trip. If you knew my history with expensive items, this was a reasonable precaution.
The plan was for us to take 2 vehicles into Canada, spend the night in a motel so we would be ready to fly out the next morning at 10:00. We gassed up and proceeded North. We got to Grand Forks around lunch time and Eric had to get some blank CD's for his digital camcorder. We found a Best Buy right off Interstate 29 and looked around for someplace to eat. Jeremy saw a Jimmy John's Sandwich place nearby and said they were pretty good. They were indeed, a little more expensive than Subway but they make a bigger and much better quality sandwich in my opinion. I had the VITO sandwich with hot peppers which is kind of like Subway's Italian BMT. Delicious, but make sure you have Rolaids or forgo the peppers if you're prone to heart burn issues.
Our hunger and technology needs satisfied we proceeded to the border crossing at Pembina. I was driving and my dad was in the back. He was taking an insane amount of pleasure asking, "are we there yet?" every few minutes. Obviously getting back at me and my brother for all the years we spent going to Minnesota visiting grandparents. He succeeded very well, perhaps too well.
If you haven't crossed the border in awhile, you are in for an experience. My dad assured me it would be quick, easy and that they'd never had any trouble. We were about to learn that it would be neither quick nor easy.
You pull up to this drive-through area and come face to face with the most cranky expression imaginable. Every single one of the border guards looked this way. They either really dislike their jobs or "angry-eyebrow" expressions are part of the necessary qualifications. My dad said it most accurately, you cannot help but feel guilty when you drive up.
The lady in the window subjected me to a brutal interrogation. Had I not been so nervous, I probably could have answered the questions more smoothly. I just knew I sounded guilty every time I opened my mouth. Where are you going? (Pine Falls), what is the reason for your visit? (fishing), where are you fishing? (Black Lake), how long will you be staying? (a week), do you have any alcohol? (just a little), any meat or animal products? (no), any firearms? (no), any knives? (well yeah, you need something to clean the fish and we are camping after all), what kind of knives? (the fish cleaning kind and various camping and pocket knives). Then she went through all the same questions again. She was probably trying to see if I would answer differently the 2nd time. As I couldn't remember anything I said I prayed I was giving the same answers.
After this relentless questioning we were instructed to pull over and go in the building. We did this only to be subjected to the same series of questions again with someone else. After doing this, the new person took our passports and went into a back room somewhere. Probably to make sure we weren't on someones "most wanted" list.
My uncle Rick had an even worse time. Every so many vehicles are subjected to a more thorough search. Rick was one of these lucky drivers. He had to pull into this archway that looked kind of like an airport x-ray machine for vehicles. Then guards proceeded to empty out and go through every piece of luggage and equipment they had. To their credit, the guards did put everything very carefully and neatly back where it was. We expected they would just leave everything sprawled out for us to re-pack. We did thank them for this act of kindness. This is why you would never want to give your border crossing guards a bad time. They can very easily make your life even more miserable.
Then Rick and his passengers had to go into the building and go through the same process we did. Interestingly enough there was a John Meissner somewhere that was not to be allowed into Canada and my uncle John was subjected to even more questions and was cleared only after he showed that his hands were free of any scarring. Evidently the person they were looking for had scars on his hands. Being scar-free, my uncle was allowed through. My cousin, John Allen was also allowed after giving up some wrist bands he was wearing that might have been considered weapons. He was told he could pick them up on our way back.
This was an excruciatingly long process. It was hot, it started to rain, but not hard enough to keep away the massive-sized mosquitoes. We were getting a little frustrated and I commented that if this hassle keeps a terrorist out of our respective countries then I am more than willing to be a little inconvenienced. Our border crossing people have a very thankless job and they do it very well so we do need to try to be patient. They are just doing their job.
Eventually, we were allowed in, welcomed to Canada and wished a pleasant trip. We proceeded to Winnipeg and a small town about 90 minutes to the Northeast called Pine Falls. I took great pleasure in pushing the kilometer converter button on my digital dashboard. This was the first time I'd ever had the occasion to use it. After the shock at seeing my vehicle which now has over 197,000 miles on it suddenly switch to 317,040 KM on the odometer I chuckled at my seemingly faster speed. I don't believe I've ever seen a speed limit sign with 100 on it so that was a novelty. Too bad that was only a little over 60mph.
Finally, after many hours of driving, fun conversations of our childhood years and absolutely hilarious stories of my dad and uncles growing up together, we arrived at the Papertown Motor Inn at Pine Falls, Manitoba. Blue Water Aviation was going to fly us to the lake and this was where their base was located. I was a little disappointed that karaoke night wasn't until Saturday and by that time we hoped to be snug in our cabin after a busy day of fishing. It was probably all for the best as I get addicted to those things and don't know when to stop. Some people have said I have a good voice, but most would rather not listen to it all night long.
We got checked in and had an excellent meal at the Motel restaurant. I had a delicious barbecue bacon cheeseburger. I would like to shake the hand of the first person to think of the idea of putting bacon and BBQ sauce on a cheeseburger. In my most humble opinion, that is a very winning combination and I'm happy to say Canadian beef is every bit as good as American.
Manitoba's official slogan is "Friendly Manitoba" and it is very well deserved. Everyone from the person at the gas station, to the servers at the restaurant were extremely nice and hospitable. After supper we tucked ourselves into bed. I was happy to share a room with Jeremy as he has proven to be a pretty quiet sleeper. However, sleep was still hard to come by as all we could think about was the exciting time we were going to have.
So ends day 1, stay tuned for more.