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NORTH STAR

by John Jonelis

We catch 647 fish here in 4 days.  On average, that’s a pike every 2.8 minutes.  This place is wild, unspoiled, perhaps like this continent a thousand years ago and summer feels like spring.

Huge northern pike.  Gorgeous scenery.  What man can resist a fishing expedition?

I am visiting my favorite startup company—North Star Executive Outpost on Knee Lake, Manitoba.  It’s a paradise—a northern pike factory in the breathtaking Canadian wilderness.  No roads.  Accessible only by air.  Just one lodge on a 50-mile-long stretch of pure water where God and God alone stocks these hearty fish that grow to such prodigious proportions and feed so ferociously.

Six hundred forty seven fish.  Don’t believe me?  I assure you, we keep an accurate count.  Got to.  Boat bets.  Loop Lonagan and Jim Kren will skin me alive for lying about a thing like that.

On day #2, a pike manages to hit my lure before swallowing its previous meal and yes, I count two fish caught on one cast.  The bite is on!

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Shore Lunch

Every day we pause to catch a few fat walleye and then land our boats at a likely island to participate in a great Canadian custom—shore lunch.  The guide cuts wood, builds a fire, cleans, cooks, and serves the fish.  My favorite restaurant of all time.

So many wonderful ways to cook fresh fish.  Beer batter walleye, honey-garlic walleye, traditional walleye with all the trimmings.  A different dish every day, followed by desert.  If you have not yet experienced this wilderness feast, you are in for a treat!

Nothing tastes better than fresh walleye.  It’s a delicacy elsewhere in the world, but nowhere near as good as walleye up here.  These are fresh from of a cold clean body of water—live until cooked and eaten.  Up here, they grow big and thick, with luscious and flaky meat.  I have room for just one.

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Hunting Pike

We spend our days on these pristine waters in open boats, making long casts with stout rods, our heavy lures retrieved at speed.  Attacks by northern pike are sudden, savage, and frequent, with water churning at line’s end.  To our surprise, walleye also strike our lures with tenacity and vigor.

But on day #3, the air grows unusually warm for this far north, and the bite slows.  I put away my heavy tackle and slip out a fly rod.  We glide into a calm bay, looking for big ones sunning and digesting an afternoon’s feed.  We are hunting them.

My guide spots a monster pike 50 feet away and I cast a 10-inch fly at it.  It refuses my offering and paddles away ever so slowly.  “We’ll find it again!” says my companion.

And we do.  I tie on a bigger fly (it looks more like a mop), cast it past this fish, and draw it into the kill zone, then twitch it to entice the lounging lunker.  As I watch, the big fish gradually turns toward my bait and lazily moves on it.  With great care, enormous jaws close over my lure.  I set the hook hard, feel weight and life at the end of my line, and see the huge pike pull against me.  Fish on!

A shiver runs down my shoulder.  Then the big pike charges our boat and I strip line fast, spilling coils around my feet, trying to keep a load on my rod because any slack and that barbless hook can easily fall from a bony jaw.  The pike continues to charge and swims directly under the boat.  Plunging fly rod into water, I work around the bow.  The pike continues to run in the same direction, taking line at will—line that burns through my grip until it spools off the floor, pulls taught, and tugs at the drag on my primitive reel.  The reel gives me an advantage.

Powerful shakes and malicious tugs, then the pike’s 25 pounds rolls in my leader, but hook holds fast and this northern pike finally goes to bottom, still as rock.  The water is clear in this shallow bay and I see my fish and keep pressure on.

Eventually the big pike concedes, and perhaps more out of curiosity than fatigue comes to our gunnels.  My guide and I both gasp. There’s always something awesome about a thick, powerful fish measuring in the mid 40’s.

We net the pike, snap a quick photo, and the trophy goes right back in the lake to swim away and fight again. I can barely express the draining satisfaction of hunting, battling, and landing a pike this big.  Maybe I’ll catch him again next year.  Then primal shouts, a congratulatory handshake, and I relive the fight in my mind all the many miles back to our lodge.

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Revival

After a hard day fishing, this old man needs food and rest.  Management proves courteous and professional and refuses to let me suffer.  We sit around our beautiful log cabin in blissful comfort, sipping beer and telling stories with suitable embellishments while eating steak, ribs, and other satisfying fare.

Up here, summer nights don’t get entirely dark.  By eight o’clock in the afternoon, we’re playing at the pool table, shuffleboard table, and poker table.  Then we shower under deliciously hot water and sleep soundly under warm quilts, on firm and expansive beds.

On the appointed day, we board our bush plane at the lodge’s private landing strip and fly home for dinner.  If you live in Chicago, a true wilderness isn’t really that far away..

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THE PLACE:

North Star Executive Outpost

http://northstarresort.ca/

Check for a cancellation if you want to book this year.

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VERIFY MY NUMBERS:

Fish frequency calculation:

3 fishermen, 4 days on the water

less 1.5 hours/day for shore lunch

= 30 hours fishing and running around in the boat.

30 hrs / 647 fish = avg 2.8 min per fish caught

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Photography by John Jonelis

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READ “WILDERNESS”

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, Canada, Cleantech, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Fishing, fly fishing, Jim Kren, loop lonagan, new companies, pike fishing, Startup, startup company, vc, Venture

WILDERNESS

by John Jonelis

.In Chicago, we enjoy something few high-tech centers can boast—easy access to a primal wilderness—a vast paradise, ancient and unspoiled—unique in the world and very special.

Whenever I’m in this place, I love the world just as I find it.

A short commuter flight from O’Hare Field whisks me to Winnipeg International Airport. Then a short local flight delivers me to an isolated airstrip carved out of an untouched forest—hundreds of miles from roads and crowds. And I experience absolutely no jet lag. My destination is located within my own time zone! This amazing opportunity is accessible due to technology, and I intend to enjoy it as often as I can!

Canadian Shield shown in red

My favorite location is Manitoba at the 55th parallel—as far north as Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea—as far north as Omsk. North of that grow stunted trees in permafrost, but here tall Pine and Aspen surround the lakes. Uncounted and untouched waters flow through this region—a massive system of rivers and lakes, draining into Hudson Bay. Here it is not uncommon for the ice to measure four feet thick as late as May. I come in June.

Boreal Forest—the crown of the Northern Hemisphere

Mark T Wayne kindly explained to me the geology of this place that I love so intensely. This is the unique and magnificent intersection of the Canadian Shield, and the Boreal Forest. The Shield is a vast area, surrounding Hudson Bay, where, during the last ice age, severe glaciation removed everything down to bedrock. The Boreal (also known as the Snow Forest) is a predominantly conifer range that rings the northern hemisphere like a crown. (In Russia, it runs through Siberia.) Canada’s intersection of Boreal and Shield makes up the largest unspoiled wild area in the world.

Overstressed Chicago entrepreneurs need a place to burn off the tension of a high-risk high-reward lifestyle. Some find solace at the golf course. Others in spectator sports, television, or booze. I prefer the stunning spectacle of God’s creation in the raw. And I bring my fishing rod!

The great Northern Pike reigns in these waters and grows to enormous proportions! Nobody stocks these lakes, but the waters teem with these ferocious predators. Conditions are just as they’ve been for thousands and thousands of years, and unlike other regions of the globe, Manitoba means to keep it that way. No live bait. Barbless hooks. All fish returned to the water unharmed. That transforms an idle pursuit into a challenging alternate activity for budding business tycoons.

Vladimir Up Yours Putin finds time to enjoy the Boreal in his native Russia—that is, when he’s not busy overrunning free countries or thumbing his nose at our great nation. If he can get away for such activities, I think Chicago entrepreneurs can do the same.

I’ve experienced many good fishing lakes in Canada’s provinces. This is my favorite. Knee Lake is a 50-mile-long body of icy water punctuated by rocky reefs and 150 islands. Only one small lodge operates here. They call it North Star Outpost and to me, it’s as close to heaven-on-earth as you can get.

Loop Lonagan, Mark T Wayne, and Donatis Ludditis from my magazine surprised me with tickets for this excursion. And I am immensely grateful.

Here, a man indulges in the elemental fight against nature and—for a precious time— entirely escapes the Chicago rat race!

Here, a man lives off the fat of the land, and—in a delightful exception to the catch-and-release rules—harvests fat walleye for that exquisite tradition known as Shore Lunch.

Nothing tastes better than fresh walleye cooked over pine logs. This is beer batter—my favorite.

In this ecosystem, nothing goes to waste. After that wonderful meal, I’m back hunting big pike.

Without warning, a strong strike sends a shiver up my elbow and shoulder. I feel vital life at the end of my line. The weight of it leaves no doubt that this is a trophy fish. Then a sharp pull almost yanks the rod and reel from my hands and the water boils!

I catch my breath and strain against the fish. This monster goes through all the escape behaviors learned over a life of perhaps 50 years. It jumps clear of the water. It runs deep. It rolls in my line. It thrashes, tugs, and splashes the surface of the water. Every time I catch sight of this fish, it strikes me with awe. This one is strong and thick. As they say up here, it has shoulders!

It charges the boat and I reel fast to keep my line taught. A moment of slack and the prize will be gone. It swims underneath me and I plunge my rod deep into the icy water and then work it around the bow. When I finally bring this fish to the side of the boat, it turns away and peels line off my big round reel at will.

This battle repeats three times. A fish this big does not succumb easily and expends all its energy before surrender to the net.

Quickly, I lift him into the boat. The barbless hook falls from its mouth. A hurried measurement—46 inches! One snap of the shutter and my prize is back in the water.

A fish this size is delicate and often will not survive the fight without help. Holding it by the tail, I move its body back and forth, flowing water through the gills. A minute or two, and the great northern pike strokes its tail free of my hand and swims away with power. I hope to catch that one again next year.

But for now, I must catch my own breath. This primal battle in God’s wilderness leaves me stunned and in awe and immensely satisfied.

Read – BEST GIFT

 

This is North Star Executive Outpost on Knee Lake, Manitoba, a protected pike sanctuary.

Website – northstarresort.ca

Phone – Talk to Hope Levenhagen at 800-563-7151

Email – hopelevenhagen@northhavenresort.ca

 

Charts and Maps—Wikipedia.

Photography—John Jonelis.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under angel investor, Canada, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, fly fishing, Startup, startup company, vc, Venture, venture capital

BEST GIFT

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by Mark T Wayne

“Whaddaya think is da best Christmas gift o’ dem all?” Loop Lonagan puts this puerile question in a peculiar verbal form he calls the American language just as Donatis Ludditis and I innocently raise a Christmas toast at that notable Chicago landmark, Ludditis Shots & Beer. The place offers several distinct advantages.  Our host never presents a bill for our proclivities and the back room houses our magazine offices.

“I got best gift! Is this!” Ludditis states his case in his Lithuanian accent, and passes fancy boxes across the table. “This one for you, Mr. Wayne. Is Christmas!”

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Ludditis’ combo glass

I tear off the bow and wrapping paper, and then study the packaging a moment. Pictured on the exterior is a shocking freak of glassware—a combination beer and shot glass.

Ludditis quivers with excitement. “See, you must only wash half so many glasses! You like? Is good?”

“No.” This curt observation issues from the foul Lonagan creature.

I stretch a leg and carefully squash his foot under cover of the round Formica table and he instantly emits a mist of good whiskey from his tightly closed lips. Never permit a boot heel to go idle when the opportunity arises. Meanwhile, I ingratiate myself with our host. “Such a fine gift, sir! I accept it with profound appreciation and gratitude! This most excellent glassware shall fill a special place in my extensive liquor cabinet!”

Ludditis gives a little bow along with a flourish of the hand.

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Chicago landmark

“But,” I continue, “I believe the man that sits betwixt us hints at something on a far grander scale. Perhaps he seeks the ultimate gift that one can receive.”

The table goes silent, so I set about to stir the creative juices.  I clear my throat. “Before any serious hypotheses are put forth, may I suggest that we set some rules for the game?”

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Donatis Ludditis

Ludditis interrupts, spreading his arms wide. “American million-dollar bill! Five feet long! Good gift!”

Lonagan is massaging his injured foot. “I s’pose da greatest gift of all—what ever’body really wants—is da eternal salvation of yer immortal soul.” He looks up from his foot with a curious and piercing gaze. “Just a handful o’ faith unwraps dat package, ‘n’ it’s fulla God’s grace ‘n’ love. Joy on earth ‘n’ heaven in da hereafter.”

“Who amongst us can buy a thing such as that?” I bark the words. And quite privately, I am shocked! Shocked, I say! I never considered the execrable Lonagan capable of formulating such a deep and sensitive notion. Since when did the man get religion? As a confirmed atheist, this sentiment makes me itch like a boy wearing coarse woolen underwear.

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Mark T Wayne

“It’s somethin’ you ain’t never gonna unnerstand, ya old crank,” he says with evident conviction. It is Lonagan’s turn to pour shots from our dusty bottle of single malt and he proceeds to do so. “Nobody buys off God. Salvation is free! But ya gotta open da gift t’ own it.”

His words raise the hackles at the back of my neck and interfere with my normally placid demeanor. “What possible value, sir, is a gift that is free for the taking by any derelict off the street?” I honestly have no idea what this lout is driving at. I know of rumors that Lonagan took a first in finance at the University of Chicago’s graduate program, but to hear his vulgar turn of phrase, his vernacular of deeze and doze, one would take the man for a complete idiot. There may be something there that explains his secret to success—maybe. I will study the matter.

“I change,” blurts Ludditis. “I agree with Loop. Forever with Creator is better than million-dollar bill. Is Christmas!”

I quickly gather myself and recognize a need to set reasonable limits if we wish to come to a practical conclusion. “Gentlemen, I will delineate the rules of the game:

  • “The gift should serve some specific utility.
  • “It must require fervid imagination, and fevered preparation
  • “A large monetary outlay must be expended—but something of a size that one of us might actually be inclined to shell out.”

I fill the combo glasses and everybody downs another shot.

Without warning, Lonagan slams a meaty fist to the table.  Then he blurts out something totally inappropriate. “We gotta do somethin’ fer Jonelis.”

One never knows what to expect from this fellow.  “I fail to follow your train of thought, sir.  Perhaps you refer to the gift of which we speak.  Certainly I can think of no individual less deserving than Jonelis, unless we care to speculate about you.”

“C’mon, use yer brain.  I’m only here ‘cause o’ him.  Same with you, Don.”  Then he squints at me.  “But I dunno where YOU come from, MISTER Mark T Wayne, with yer mass o’ bushy white hair ‘n’ yer musty old white flannel suit dat never gets smudged. Ya crummy hack writer!  Whadidya do? Fall outa da 19th Century by accident er somethin’?”

I square my shoulders and look down my nose at the man. “I do not hail from your gutter, sirrah. Through my literary efforts, I enjoy the pleasure of knowing both King Arthur and Tom Sawyer, but never have I come across the likes of you.  Should you care to indulge further in personal invective, I may be excused for requesting satisfaction.  Pistols at dawn is the usual procedure.”

Ludditis cracks a walnut in his naked hand and then scatters the pieces on the table. “You want fight—go out in street! Not in my place! Is Christmas!”

Ludditis is an amazing fellow. Not only is he a powerful and possibly a dangerous Lugan, but the man is also pushing one hundred years of age.  He refills the diminutive end of our glasses with the skill of an accomplished bartender and we all consume our shots of single malt.  “I vote Mr. Yonelis.” Ludditis always pronounces it that way. “That make majority. What we give him, huh?

Lonagan runs a finger around the larger rim of his combo glass until it raises a faint musical pitch. “A monetary gift, eh? Well I ain’t givin’ da guy no Lexus with some sappy red bow on top. That ain’t worth nothin’ t’ him.”

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Lexus sales event

Ludditis: “Maybe we get for him hair transplant. That cost lots and lots of money. I think he look good with hair.”

Lonagan: “Naw, he likes his shiny dome. Brags he don’t even comb it. What Jonelis wants is t’ enjoy God’s creation.”

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God’s creation

Again Lonagan’s spiritual reference grates at my nerves, but his genius amazes me. I must seize his notion, build upon it, and bring this conversation back to the physical realm. I make another pronouncement: “Gentlemen, I have a satisfactory answer.”

They both turn to me like schoolboys.

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Jonelis

“I believe I understand the man’s deepest cravings.  He yearns to experience the wilderness, but not its inconvenience.  In this age, such a thing can be done!

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Wild nature

“I know a place where a man can immerse himself in wild nature—where no roads exist for hundreds of miles—a place dotted with thousands of pristine lakes rimmed with Jack Pine and Aspen forests. Populating the woods are bear, moose, deer, and untold numbers of avian species.

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Ecotourism

“The waters are teaming with an entirely natural and burgeoning population of gigantic Northern Pike, which by afternoon, lounge so thick in the bays that a man can walk across the water on their backs! Shall I continue?”

They both nod with eager and toothy grins.

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Island sactuaries

“In this place, a man indulges in the savagery of nature. Living off the land. Yes sir! Exercising one’s right as an animal at the top of the food chain—except, of course, for the great bear.

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Wildlife

“Such an excursion exerts a powerful pull on one’s primal urges and instincts, which lie hidden beneath that rumpled business suit. A brief experience of such raw pleasure will leave an indelible mark of satisfaction on a man—a feeling akin to bliss, followed by an insatiable longing to return to this wild paradise forthwith and forever. I believe the term ECOTOURISM is currently in vogue.”

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Shore lunch

Lonagan’s chin is cupped in both hands and he’s grinning. Then he breaks from his dream and inspects me with one eye. “Ecotourism—ain’t dat fer tree huggers?”

Ludditis returns from a quick trip to the bar with a fresh bottle. “Why you think this idea work so good?  John no hug tree—what he do?”

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Log cabin

“He lives in a log cabin heated by a wood fire! He drinks water straight from a virgin lake! He battles monster fish with hook and line. He wolfs down fresh meat for sustenance. That is what he does, sir!

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Heavy tackle

“I know a place almost inaccessible to most and untouched by human hands—unchanged since the last ice age. The largest unspoiled land mass in the world—almost entirely devoid of human habitation! A trackless wilderness of immense beauty and majesty!

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Trusty boat

“I speak to you of the Canadian Shield—a landscape of exposed bedrock, created by severe glaciation during the ice age. This is the ancient geological core of the North American continent—a place more than four billion years old!”

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Canadian Shield (in red)

The sharp intake of breath, the squeak of a chair, then silence. I continue:

“This planet’s Boreal Forest, rings the Northern Hemisphere, and a good third of it lies on the Canadian Shield! Yes sir! Canada’s Boreal landscape contains more lakes and rivers than any landmass in the world! It is estimated that the region contains over two million watersheds—the largest intact forest on earth, with millions of square miles still undisturbed by roads, cities or industrial development! Picture that, gentlemen!”

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Boreal forest

From their glazed expressions, I can only assume they picture it in their minds eye.

“In the northern reaches of Manitoba—at the 55th parallel—we find the perfection of conifer and aspen forests and an uncountable quantity of ancient lakes, some over fifty miles long, each with hundreds of rocky islands. That sir, is the northern fringe of the forest. North of that lies tundra!

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Boreal forest – Manitoba

“And fish, gentlemen—fish in untold abundance! I know a place where one can set out in a rude boat and catch a hundred fighting Northern Pike in a day by hook and line using spoons and streamers—some fashioned by one’s own hands!

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Trophy pike

“And this, gentlemen, is Jonelis’ favorite lake in all the world. Given a choice, he would live here.”

Lonagan rouses himself. “Hey, I love dat place too. Ever’body dats been there does.”

“Certainly, certainly. Not even a churlish cad could fail to express such a sentiment.”

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Trophy pike

“But it’s 50 below up dare now. Farenheit!”

Is the man deliberately obtuse? Any fool knows one must travel those parts during the proper season.

Ludditis appears greatly agitated. “I lose track. You put old man out in cold? Is Christmas!”

“Certainly not at Christmas!  No sir!  At this time of year, a man makes his plans and rushes to secure a booking, hoping one is still available.

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Another trophy pike

“No, I do not intend to be rude, Mr Ludditis. I speak of North Star Outpost on KNEE LAKE, Manitoba.  A luxurious wilderness haven, available during THIS lifetime.  A place where awe and wonder forever change you.  It lies due north of where we now sit—modern transportation whisks you away to this paradise in the space of a few hours.  There are no roads.  Airplane is the only practical access, and it can be reached, at most, three months of the year. 

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Accessible only by air

“What do you say, gentlemen? Shall we provide the means for our mentor, our friend, to taste and enjoy the delights of this earthly paradise?”

Lonagan lets out a deep sigh. “I wonder if he’s gonna ask us to go with.”

“Perhaps. Consider that if one wishes to wager at poker, it is necessary to bring companions.

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Nightly poker

“The same need serves us well if he longs for a competitive round of pool in the evening after a refreshing hot shower.

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Game room

“Gentlemen, I propose a toast!” Ludditis and I clash our combo glasses in a hearty cheer. “To the greatest Christmas gift!”

And Lonagan joins our toast.  “Dat money can buy!”

 

Read: WILDERNESS

Go to: HOW TO TREAT THE OLD MAN

 

Contact information:

North Star Executive Outpost

Knee Lake, Manitoba

Call Hope Levenhagen 1-800-563-7151 hopelevenhagen@northhavenresort.ca

General email info@northstarresort.ca

Address N28W23000 Roundy Drive, Suite 102

Pewaukee, Wisconsin 53072

 

Sources

Charts and Maps—The Manitoba Museum. Wikipedia. MS Office.

Photography by John Jonelis.

Glassware distributed by Samsonico USA

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Chicago Ventures

LIES ABOUT PARADISE

Canada 2014-8643ATas told by Mark T Wayne

I recognize a sharp character flaw among outdoorsmen of all sorts—an uncontrollable urge to exaggerate—particularly after an excursion to a wilderness such as northern Manitoba. Permit me to treat you to a few horror stories of the Great North Woods.  I promise to debunk them all.

 Mobs of Tourists

Multitudes of crude drinking-age folk and their dirty urchins shack up in run-down resorts and shabby private cabins. They dot the shores and pollute these once-fine waters. Long, loud lines form at boat ramps.  Rough individuals engage in open hostility.

Mark T Wayne

Huge speedboats, stinking of gasoline and oil, cut across fishermen’s lines. Meanwhile, high-speed suicide boats equipped with 150 horsepower motors shoot up rooster tails of greasy water as they propel themselves gunnel to gunnel at 70 miles per hour in a desperate competition for the rare undisturbed fishing spot.

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That may be true of many waters one might fish.  But my experience is entirely different. Ours is THE ONLY LODGE ON THE LAKE.  I am speaking of a body of pristine water almost FIFTY MILES LONG with close to 150 islands!  Dense forest surrounds us for hundreds of miles.  NO ROADS.  That is correct sir!  Our magazine staff and I have the place all to ourselves and for a span of four days, we OWN this vast stretch of wilderness paradise.

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Yes, I must congratulate Jonelis, no matter what anybody says about the man. He picked a plumb spot!  This is the NORTHSTAR RESORT on KNEE LAKE, MANITOBA—one of the newest of Chicago’s startups.

“Chicago Startup?” you ask. “Aren’t you gentlemen thousands of miles north of that distinguished metropolis?”

Canada 2014-8343pAPermit me to justify my claim:

  • Most all the patrons either hail from Chicago, once enjoyed that honor, or pass through O’Hare Field on their way here.
  • This is Northstar’s first full season.

I submit that they qualify as a Chicago Startup.

We are guests of the Cree Nation and they provide abundant hospitality. Canada 2014-8168AThis is Cree water—a protected Trophy Northern Pike Lake.  Professional management handles the lodge.  The Cree handle our boats, chop our wood, fillet and cook our fish.  Most important of all, they bring us to the best fishing spots.  My only responsibilities are fishing, eating, drinking, gambling, and indulging in the time-honored tradition of gross exaggeration.Canada 2014-8722A. 150jpg

One note—Manitoba Law: Barbless hooks.  Artificial lures.  All pike released unharmed. But consider—if we kept them all, our boats would sink from the weight of our daily catch.  These fish live to bite again and according to local lore, some of the largest pike have names.

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Pike Set Free

Harsh Conditions

I hear ugly reports of outdoor privies with no walls or roof whatsoever—one’s rump exposed to swarms of biting flies and mosquitoes, and interested bystanders.

My experience is entirely different. No pit toilets here.  The plumbing is all indoors—modern, new and clean.  Hot and cold running water.  Showers.  Facilities that rival fine hotels.

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Our Cabin

I have heard a typical base camp described as a set of rotting clapboard shacks or moldering canvas tents Canada 2014-8512Adating back to frontier times, swarming with biting flies, mosquitoes, and other vermin, and periodically overrun by man-eating bears.

Perhaps one can find such conditions if looking for trouble, but my experience is entirely different. I find solidly and exquisitely constructed log cabins gorgeously appointed with appropriate and tastefully rustic furniture.  Everything is meticulously maintained.  Tight-fitting screens grace all windows and the roofs do not leak.  We sleep upon firm new mattresses and choose between wood fire and electric heat.  The lodge generates its own electricity.

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The main lodge boasts a full commercial kitchen, bar, billiards, and poker tables. Yes, they spared no expense constructing this magnificent facility.

I must admit that a bear pays us a kind visit.Canada 2014-8138A The abundant scent of cooking explains the presence of this noble predator.  The kitchen staff wastes no time chasing the animal off with angry shouts and vigorous gesticulations.

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I hear agonized complaints of Black Flies so thick they crawl across your eyeballs and into your mouth. The Mosquito is called the National Bird and you are out of Deet.

Canada 2014-8600AThat is enough, sir! Permit me to address this repeated barrage of braggadocio regarding swarming insects.  Fishermen love to blather about such things in polite conversation.  I will set the record straight forthwith.  Canada has no national bird.  Manitoba’s provincial bird is the Great Grey Owl.  Canada 2014-8602AOur sightings of flying creatures include the Bald Eagle, the Golden Eagle, and the Blue Heron.

It is true that some fishermen who have not done their research arrive at these shores during Black Fly Season. Such is the price of ignorance!  But a well-designed lodge is strategically perched on a high peninsula where cool lake breezes waft away flying vermin.  I do not require insect repellent on this entire trip!

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Our Cabin

According to popular wisdom, there is no protection in an open boat. Exposed to the elements all day, one is cold and miserable.  You endure constant driving rain and sleet.  You are constantly wet from head to foot, your energy and spirits entirely sapped. 

Canada 2014-8380AIt is true that on this trip, we experience the full range of weather. One day reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit and finds me decked out in short pants, my pale hairy legs exposed for all the wildlife to see.  The next day brings wind and rain but in my Gore-Tex rain gear, it cannot touch me.  The next day is refreshingly cold, but the simple addition of an insulated sweatshirt turns my rain gear into winter garb.  I laugh at the weather, sir!  Laugh, I say!

 

I am full to the eyeballs with stories of leaky boats with motors that sputter, stutter, then die. Others tell of harrowing canoe romps, paddling until—I suppose until one cannot paddle any longer.  Your frail craft pitches in the waves miles from shore as you frantically bail water from the bottom. 

My experience is entirely different. Canada 2014-8805AWe explore this enormous lake in comfortable fishing boats—ample even for Bill Blaire, the Paul Bunyan of Chicago.  These boats are tricked out with carpeted casting decks and plush swivel seats.  Depth finders and live wells.  Ice coolers and communication radios.  Fine big motors and guides to operate them.

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Horrible Grub

I am told that for breakfast, a surly cook serves up execrable mush slopped into dirty leaking bowls.

Canada 2014-8135AUp here, we awake to the heady aroma of bacon and eggs, flapjacks with real maple syrup, Red River cereal, and piping-hot coffee. We congregate at the well-appointed main lodge and roll up our sleeves to punish that food in a proper manner.  Blaire asserts that bacon is a basic food group and I concur.  He didn’t attain such gargantuan stature eating boiled vegetables.

I am led to believe that, likely as not, we will catch nothing fit to eat. At noon, we may be 20 miles or more from the lodge and will go hungry till supper. “Bring sandwiches,” they say. Then they go on to suggest peanut butter and jelly or cold canned beans shoveled down the gullet in a pitching boat. 

Canada 2014-8153AFirst let me state unequivocally that we suffer no difficulty catching our lunch. The only delay in capturing fat delicious Walleye are trophy Northern Pike that grab our twister tails before the jigs can reach the bottom.  Many times, we hook two of these savage water wolves at once!  To be fair, I must admit that the Walleye grab the Pike baits too.

After a full morning exerting oneself in the raw elements, no food on earth tastes better than freshly caught walleye!Canada 2014-8210A   Walleye is a delicacy served in the finest restaurants but these are not anonymous fish—no sir, these are OUR walleye.  This is an important point if you wish to understand the joys of a wilderness excursion.  An intimate connection with the source of food is emotionally satisfying in a profound way.  I admit it is difficult to convey the feeling in words.  One must experience such a thing to appreciate the bliss it engenders in one’s whole being.

Canada 2014-8208APermit me to expound upon our lunch experience because it gives me a great deal of pleasure. Every day, our boats rendezvous at a different rocky island and we conclave among the jack pine and birch to tell lies and drink beer.  Meanwhile, the guides fillet our fish, chop wood, and start a bonfire on which they will cook our meal.  Yes sir—we indulge in that glorious, overwhelmingly delightful tradition known as SHORE LUNCH.  To those of you lucky enough to experience this ritual please indulge me while I explain it to the uninitiated.

.While the food cooks, we explore the island, beer in hand. Naturally, everyone is in jovial spirits.  Kren casts a line from shore.  Ludditis snaps a photo of Jonelis and Bill Blair.  For some reason they wear camouflage.  Strange.  Can it be that those two actually believe fish cannot see them when dressed in such garb?

Canada 2014-8592p Bill Blaire SMALL A

Jonelis and Bill Blair in Camo

The head guide calls us to table. Our first shore lunch yields deep-fried walleye with onions and potatoes, hot beans and corn. To my tastes, this represents the ultimate in wilderness cuisine.  I am subsequently proven wrong.  Canada 2014-8576AThe next day, we are introduced to Walleye with peppers and sharp seasoning.  The day following that, they roll out Honey Garlic Walleye!  I squeeze my eyes closed to concentrate fully on that exquisite flavor!  I will always remember shore lunch as the pinnacle of life as we know it.

On this particular day, Alexander Harbinger is first to spot a floatplane headed directly to our island. The plane lands on the water and taxies to a rock slab.Canada 2014-8201A  Out the door pops the manager, dressed in his Sunday best, balancing a platter high like a professional waiter.  Martinis in long stemmed glasses!  I tell you sir this is my idea of roughing it!

After a full meal, we lay about on huge slabs of rock, looking perhaps like beached whales. Jim Kren finds sleeping quarters more to his liking.  If this is the wilderness, we lack for nothing.

Canada 2014-8211A 300When traveling to remote areas of the world, one is frequently warned about the dangers of drinking the local water. Consequences are colloquially known as Montezuma’s Revenge.

On this lake, I bring a mug along on the boat and dip it in the freezing water whenever the thirst takes me—no ice cubes required. And I suffer no unseemly maladies whatsoever!

Lousy FishingCanada 2014-8261h 2X3A F-500b

I have it on competent authority that fishermen typically sit in boats all day and return perhaps with a small bass and a couple puny pike of no account. 

Canada 2014-8558AUp here, we are well beyond the habitat of the Bass and Musky. The great Northern Pike is king and grows to prodigious proportions not seen further south.  The lake is virgin.  They do not even stock it!  No sir!  Yet, a man can almost walk on water across the backs of these ferocious predators.

And indeed, our hearty crew experiences glorious fishing with a pike strike about every five casts.Canada 2014-8360A The only impediment to a man landing 150 worthy fish is overindulgence in Canadian beer.  There is no other excuse sir!  And I repeat—they do not stock the lake!  These fish are aggressive!  Large Pike attack anything we attempt to bring to boat, including their own kind!

Canada 2014-8403AThis is akin to pulling pan fish out of a favorite fishing hole one after another. But we are throwing heavy lures on stout lines and steel leaders.  We cast with rigid rods at toothy giants that savagely attack the bait with a jolt that sends a shiver down a man’s shoulder.  These fish splash gallons of water, jump and dance on their tails, roll up in your line, dive under the boat, and generally do everything possible to escape.Canada 2014-8356A  With barbless hooks, it requires only a momentary slack in one’s line and the fish is free!  Repeated tug-a-war matches such as these strain a man’s entire body.

No one can call a pike fisherman lazy!

Canada 2014-8836A

No Night Life

Friends who travel to the wild tell of returning after a day of howling rain to dark leaky quarters buzzing with biting flies and mosquitoes. In total exhaustion and utter defeat, the intrepid explorers crawl under inadequate blankets and share body heat with friendly field mice, marmots and perhaps a snake or two.

Canada 2014-8459A

.I have yet to see these vermin you continually reference, sir!  We are back in the shelter of our fine log cabin. Weary but satisfied, I treat myself to a warm shower and then slip into the white terrycloth robe kindly placed on my king-size bed by the excellent maid staff.

.We all indulge in cocktails while Jonelis grills thick steaks on the deck in full view of the lake.

Canada 2014-8500pA

After a satisfying meal, we repair to the lodge for a night of poker and aggressive wagering. You may criticize such vice, but in defense of the entire group, let me point out that cards provide scant diversion after the experiences of such a day unless real money is at stake.  We trade our petty empires back and forth across that table.  Seated around me are men who know how to live!

Canada 2014-8518A

Sweet Home Chicago

Such experiences often come to an end before reaching a climax. The return flight yields none of the drama of our journey to paradise.  Canada 2014-8883

Too soon we find ourselves in the magazine’s corporate offices—the backroom of Ludditis Shots & Beer where you find the best potato pancakes in town.  Jonelis raises his feet to his battered WWII Air Force desk.  I raise a jigger of Sour Mash and read the words emblazoned upon his shirt:  SURGEON GENERAL WARNING:  FISHING IS EXPENSIVE, ADDICTIVE, AND MAY LEAD TO AN UNCONTROLLABLE URGE TO EXAGGERATE.

.Ludditis Shots and Beer 3

Our Corporate Offices

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The Real Thing

Ludditis discovers an online video that shows, in slow motion, a Northern Pike attacking its prey. I place it here for your edification.

Pike StrikesVideo of Pike Strike [click here]

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Go to – HOW TO TREAT THE OLD MAN

Go back to Episode One – ROUGHING IT

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Northstar Resort on Knee Lake can be reached at northstarresort.ca  Northstar Resort makes no endorsement of the statements and views expressed in this article.

Photographs by John Jonelis and Donatas Ludditis

Video of Pike Strike from Underwater-Ireland.com

T-shirt text ©earthSUNmoon.

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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FISH STORY

Canada 2014-8780Atas told by Mark T Wayne

Fishermen are liars!

After a superb day of fishing in the Canadian Wilderness, I prepare to utter my first exaggeration when Jonelis comes in with this monstrous THING.  Look at it sir!  This stretches all limits of credulity!

Naturally I object and make accusations of foul play.  Just look at that fish!

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Fish Story JAJ

Jonelis and his “Pike”

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Catch and Release

I have no way to prove fraud.  Knee Lake is 500 miles north of civilization – a protected Manitoba Trophy Lake.  We must obey strict rules.  Catch and release, of all things!  Quickly lifting a Pike from the water for photographic purposes is as far as one can stretch it.  Then the fish goes free!

Since Jonelis followed the law and released that THING unharmed, the only souls who actually saw it are himself, his toady Jim Kren, and their Cree guide.  These witnesses all swear to it!  There is the picture, sir—right on the back screen of his Nikon—the appalling photograph that I share with you here.

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Mark T Wayne

Examining the Evidence

Speculation among our group runs hot and fast, yielding various methods by which Jonelis might pull off such an elaborate hoax, given his limited mental faculties:

  • First, there is the CONSPIRACY angle—Loop Lonagan calls it “Da Chicago Way”—influence, power plays, and deals under the table. Alexander Harbinger agrees and points to the “clout” the guide will enjoy in his circles. Yes, he may name any price for his services, sir! Nobody has seen a Northern Pike that big in a hundred years! But the photograph stands as mute evidence—a horrific image that cannot be ignored. No, we must refute it directly.  I adroitly reach to press the DELETE key but Kren holds the camera too tight and close for even the most skilled tactical maneuver.  The lot of us huddle around and commit to a meticulous study of the image on the screen.
  • Bill Blaire, the giant, speaks first, saying in a slow, deep rumble, “He’s holdin’ da fish real close to da camera.”   CLOSE TO THE LENS is the common practice among all men of our ilk. But no—I direct your attention to his hands. The digits do not appear oversized, as they would in such an amateur stunt and his arms stretch wide with everything in sharp focus. The answer must lie elsewhere.
  • Donatas Ludditis suggests in Eastern European English that the Nikon possesses a BIG FISH BUTTON hidden deep in some arcane sub-menu. In an age of useless technological advances, this seems plausible enough. But I do not know of any advertisement that makes such a claim. A camera manufacturer is bound to trumpet a revolutionary feature such as that! Imagine trying to keep it secret once an enthusiastic and slavering marketing department finds out. No, this line of thought bears no fruit whatsoever.
  • I conclude that the man brought along an INFLATABLE FISH in his luggage so he could finance the trip off the sweat of the workers.  Joe Perogi goes so far as to slip off and search his gear. He returns dejected.  To my quizzically raised brows he returns a brief shake of the head.  Jonelis must have sunk the thing in the lake where it will forever rest in peace under a fifty-mile stretch of icy water. Yes, this seems the most likely answer. But how can I prove it?

I cannot. I am stuck in the mud.

That excellent essay by America’s greatest author comes to mind, ON THE DECAY OF THE ART OF LYING, and I wonder if this man has singlehandedly reversed that long-term trend. With abundant clarity of thinking, I reason that none of us will ever catch a fish close to the scale of that THING and our money will be measured out by the inch. When we pay off our wagers, this joy ride might end in outright hostility. Yes, there is little doubt—we must pay the man!

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Record Breaker

Now those three reprobates are signing the official Manitoba Master Angler papers.  Each scrawls his distinct and individual X.  According to Jim Kren, the boat’s official measuring stick is insufficiently long for an accurate report.  That much is true.  They write up that fish at 70 inches and brag that it’s probably more! Do you, sir, have an inkling what a Northern Pike such as that weighs?  Of course not.  Nobody does.  No such fish exists–I think.

The end result?  Jonelis goes into the record books for a third time.  And I still say it’s a fish story.  Probably.

For his part, in the midst of our group’s raucous opinions and heavy drinking, Jonelis appears stunned and numb.  With glazed eyes, he stares at something seemingly far away.  Practically in a trance, he responds to questions with inarticulate mumbling, and only after long pauses–apparently for deep thought.  We get nothing useful out of the man except for his unseemly state of bliss.

We all turn to Kren for the exact location of the crime so we might repeat it.

With utmost cruelty, Kren stands mum on that one essential fact.  Then to my utter disgust, he relates a far-flung account of the three of them fighting the fish in shifts for hours and hours.  In his version—which seems highly suspicious to a man of my sensitive nature—the monster jumps clear from the water and then sounds fifty feet deep several times—peeling off line as if a big Ambassadeur reel possesses no stopping power!

When I object, the man shows real audacity and claims that the fish was taken on a fly rod.  One wonders why fishermen must embellish a yarn so far beyond reason.

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Fish Stories Grow

Then Kren zooms the display close to the fish’s flanks and points out lacerations on its hide.  In my outrage, I have overlooked this, but there they are!  Tooth marks!  Fresh blood, sir!  A significantly more massive fish attacked this lunker during the fight!  This is too much.  I blanch at the magnitude of such propaganda!

.Tooth Marks

Tooth Marks

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Up until now, old man Ludditis has behaved reasonably well and even held his liquor.  Now he whips out his huge Galaxy Note and searches till he produces a picture of a pike eating another pike at boatside.  Then he finds a video.  The infernal internet!  One cannot avoid that wicked web of deceit—not even in such a desolate locale.  I post those files below for your edification.

What conclusion can a thinking man draw from such events?  Let me say that it is not an opportune time to tell my own lies, which seem to me rather meager by comparison.

I might also mention that I brought my swim trunks along but WILL NOT take a dip in Knee Lake!  If invited, I will simply point to the fact that the water is too cold.  ♠

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Go to Episode 4 – LIES ABOUT PARADISE

Go back to Part 1 – ROUGHING IT

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Pike eats Pike www-northernpikefishing-ca 500

Pike eats Pike 

 

 

pike-eat-pike underwater www-fighnhunt-co-nz

WATCH YOU TUBE VIDEO HERE

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Photographs of Boat and Big Fish Copyright © John Jonelis 2014, taken at Northstar Resort on Knee Lake, Manitoba.  Northstar makes no endorsement of this story.

Northstar Resort on Knee Lake can be reached at northstarresort.ca

Photograph of “Fish Eats Fish” from www.northernpikefishing.ca

Video of “fish eats fish” from www.youtube.com/watch?v=K45YcVyAATw

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Go to Episode 4 – LIES ABOUT PARADISE

Go back to Part 1 – ROUGHING IT

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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CLOSER TO HEAVEN

Canada 2014-8843ATas told by Mark T Wayne

Danger and deprivation make up the joys of any wilderness expedition. Have you ever heard an adventurer speak of anything else? I have not, sir! Our bold band is bound for a rare excursion! Today, we hope to try our mettle against the Canadian Wild!

I wake early in a Winnipeg hotel eagerly anticipating the last leg of the trip to our remote outpost. To my disgust, this day again serves up low clouds, fog, and thunderclappers chasing in from the northwest. Time is running thin. If we cannot reach our destination today, we must return home, tails between our legs, helpless victims to the evil of modern air transport. So far, our party has lost two souls and a full day of fishing! We will not tolerate any more delays!

Bad news! Winnipeg International Airport is closed due to the perils of nature! I expect we will remain in this teaming metropolis until the weather lifts and we return to Chicago, discouraged, demoralized, and none the wiser.

Jonelis gets on the horn. I hear the name Loren Bukkett uttered and then John cuts the connection and announces he has arranged a flight! My esteem for the man moves up an inch—a mistake as events will reveal.

Mark T Wayne

A shiny new van arrives to haul eight hearty survivors to our bush plane. Bill Blair immediately crawls to the roof of the vehicle—a surface large enough to accommodate his enormous torso—and lies down for an opportune nap. We run a couple straps across his midsection, just as a precaution and the rain holds off, allowing Blaire a peaceful sleep all the way to the floatplane. His rhythmic rumble elicits rude hilarity from one-and-all. To appreciate the fidelity of his snore, one must grasp the scale of the man. Call him the Paul Bunyan of Chicago.

One wonders how a pontoon plane will break water with such a giant aboard.

That question becomes a matter of serious financial speculation among our rowdy crew. But Jonelis smiles knowingly and refuses to indulge in the wager. I admire integrity in an expedition leader. A gentleman never bets on a sure thing. And his refusal portends foreknowledge! Vision! On the other hand, he booked this trip and actually may know precisely what to expect.

I will outline the plan as I understand it: A bush plane will insert us deep in the Canadian Wilds. Our destination is 500 miles north of Winnipeg—far north of Musky habitat—a land where the ferocious Northern Pike gets its name and grows to prodigious proportions. No towns. No roads. Nothing but Jack Pine, Birch and Big Lakes for hundreds of miles! That is right sir! Our magazine staff is headed for a fishing excursion in the lake country of Northern Manitoba and maybe—just maybe we will survive the journey.

Pontoon Plane - Flintaero

 

Friends experienced in this sort of travel give me to know that it will require as many as three Cessna floatplanes and two fuel stops to haul the lot of us to such a remote locale. We will slowly wallow through the sky, each plane well over legal weight with barrels reeking of gasoline and cases of beer serving as passenger seats. Such a trip requires the entire day. We arrive near dark, our guts puked out, refusing food and barely able to walk.

I ruminate on the veracity of this horror story and whether our plane will make three trips, when our van abruptly stops at a private strip beside a neat King Air—the most lavish of executive turboprops—tricked out in soft leather seats. When Jonelis borrows an airplane, he does the job right!

This is his friend’s craft, but John betrays that it is essentially identical to one the lodge charters. Apparently, such luxurious transportation is the norm at outposts so far north.

Canada 2014-8863

Someone forgot to fit this plane with pontoons. After we untie Blaire from the roof of the van and jar him awake, I inquire.

Turns out, the typical floatplane route is impractical for such vast distances. Our outpost actually carved out a landing strip in the rugged forest, quarried their own gravel, and used the trees to build cabins. That is raw determination, sir! Perhaps in the lower States we have forgotten but the frontier spirit still lives in the North Woods!

This plane comfortably accommodates all eight of us—and by removing two seats, even Bill Blaire settles in without difficulty. He uses a convenient luggage tie-down in lieu of a seatbelt. This is real flying as originally intended. SPEED—wonderful SPEED is the order of the day, just as it was in the glory days of aviation. No execrable lines. No officious and probing security! No ground delay or gnashing of teeth! This ain’t Chicago, Mr. Mayor!

Rather than a full day, this trip will take under an hour and a half! We will be on the water and fishing by 10:00 this very morning! We are getting closer to heaven!

Bush Pilot

I have been told that I will meet a crazed bush pilot—one such as Brian Dennehy—Rosie from the motion picture NEVER CRY WOLF.

A Bush pilot’s job may seem dangerous to American sensibilities, but flight in the wilderness requires a combination of skill, intrepid resourcefulness, and dauntless courage lacking in our unionized flight crews and their innumerable regulations.

No pilot appears.

Jonelis hands a magnum of Grant’s whiskey to the vile Loop Lonagan, and while our group passes the bottle and indulges in coarse jokes and raucous laughter, my suspicions start acting up: How is it that our plane will depart when those at a major international airport do not?

Canada 2014-8091A

Once Jonelis sees us securely strapped in our seats, he personally slips into the cockpit and dons a set of headphones. I take that to mean only one thing!

No bush pilot is crazy enough to make the journey in this weather!

My instinct for survival goes into full panic mode. With wisdom born of a long life, I fumble with my seatbelt. I wish to disembark this flying coffin—IMMEDIATELY!

My hands shake and over my loud objections—before I can set myself free—the props are spinning!

Canada 2014-8852A

With no other airplane in sight, we immediately take off into the gloom!

I am now closer to Paradise than my original intention! Reversed is my strong aversion to all those meticulous safety procedures at O’Hare Field! I now favor the other side of the argument!

Dark cloud cover swallows us. Violent turbulence throws me about in the seat and I tighten my belt so as not to violently strike my head on the roof of the cabin.

Jonelis’ mad voice oozes from overhead speakers as if this were any other day. He speaks in that slow confident drawl common to all pilots. “This is your captain speaking. Due to favorable tailwinds, we will reach our destination at zero nine hundred. Please keep your seatbelts fastened in case of turbulence. In the event of a low ceiling at or destination, we will divert to Thompson.”

Canada 2014-8112A

Presently we dive then level off. Then without warning, we break free of the clouds. Our “pilot” has discovered smoother air, and indeed, the rugged ride abates—somewhat. I glimpse views of wilderness scenery.

Then that insanely calm voice again: “You may move about the cabin. Refreshments are located in the box at seat 2B. Please keep your belts fastened while seated.”

I crouch low and squeeze down the aisle to the front, where I help myself to delightfully hot coffee, a pleasant breakfast of Egg McMuffins, and five tiny bottles of Jack Daniels Sour Mash. I squirrel these treasures in my pockets and hold the rest tight to my chest as I return crabwise to my seat.

Canada 2014-8108A

While the rest of the passengers continue their wild celebration, oblivious to the danger, I speculate on the lunatic at the controls. Does he know how to land this thing?

In the space of an agonizing hour, Jonelis is circling.

Outside the little window, I spot an airstrip. Is it the right one?

As the madman shoots the approach, the aircraft again bucks and yaws like a bull at a rodeo and I spill sour mash across my fine white suit. A roaring wells up in my ears, and my head aches.

I utter my final prayers.

Canada 2014-8107

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Go to next installment – FISH STORY

Back to beginning – ROUGHING IT

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Photography by John Jonelis. except for Mark T Wayne, Patrick Dennehy from Tail Slate, and Pontoon Plane from FlintAero
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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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2 Comments

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ROUGHING IT

Clark Gableas told by Mark T Wayne

“Don’t you want to feel safe?” asks Rosalind Russell.  In response, Clark Gable knits his brows. “I never have. What’s it like?” *  Vigorous travel is a grueling sport! One anticipates deprivation and hardship on any trip of significance. One seeks adventure! Exhilaration! One does not select air transportation to wrap oneself in a safe cocoon. No sir! Air travel exists for one and only one purpose. SPEED!

On this particular excursion, I am bound to a Wilderness Paradise with some questionable individuals. Traveling alongside me is the entire staff of that rag colloquially known as Chicago Venture Magazine.  As uncomfortable as that may seem, I have no recourse.  I must tolerate their companionship to reach my destination and my urge to visit the North Woods is almost too intense to bear.

We arrive at magnificent O’Hare Field–the busiest airport in the world–to find ragged lines of citizens in full commotion spilling out doorways onto the steaming pavement. Some chew their nails, others their neighbors. It takes just a few steps from our taxi to join the rabble. I always find these little conveniences such a pleasure. It is so re-assuring to arrive at a scene of anxiety and anger with hours to spare and no particular thing to do.

We inch through the line like a pig through a python. Several times I catch sight of security personnel examining various members of our group with a penetrating gaze and frightening intensity. I half expect one of them to break ranks and open fire, but perhaps that’s wishful thinking.

Mark T Wayne

In due course, we approach the official checkpoint and I am aghast—aghast I say—that a group such as ours clears security!  I must admit to a few tight moments.  Bill Blair experiences an awkward time of it, fitting his body through the x-ray booth.  There is that strange incident of the uniformed lady and her execrable and aggressive probe.  Then we are through!  Unarmed and entirely defenseless–our lives willingly surrendered to the whim of anonymous authorities.  We are now free to wander the protected concourses.  Free from malicious acts of maniacs, including any mischief we may perform on our own.  First we must wait for that Lonagan fellow to return from a strip search.

The man finally shows himself, shirttail wagging, carrying his shoes and a tumbler of what smells like cheap whiskey. Where he found that, I do not know, but I promise myself the same pleasure at the next opportunity. I lick my lips and scan for a tavern as we head to our assigned gate amid throngs of travelers trailing wheeled luggage. How such small bags carry sufficient weight to warrant wheels is a subject for speculation. The idea of gold bars comes to mind.

Through expansive windows we note the skies prematurely darkening.  This is contrary to all weather reports. We now face a more significant danger than random acts of violence.  Weather.  Apparently, no matter how often such events occur, it always comes as a nasty shock to one-and-all that it rains in Chicago. We can depend upon the authorities to protect us from this terrible threat, and looking around, I see anxious people, desperately clinging to hope that they might escape this fair city before the onrushing clouds envelop us.  I wonder, if given a modern weather bureau, Christopher Columbus would ever have discovered the New World.

No sooner do we find chairs than a sweet voice oozes from speakers overhead, informing us with utmost kindness of a delay and change in our gate assignment. I am almost oblivious to the import of the message, dazed by the beauty of that voice until Jim Kren rudely pokes me. “C’mon, we’re movin’,” he says in Midwestern style.

Mark T WayneTwo of our party sense trouble and take action in a timely manner. Ethan Sobriety finds a connection through Calgary, British Columbia. Warren D Mink boards a plane to Fargo, North Dakota. Perhaps he plans to hitchhike from there—I do not know. We are never to see those two souls again.

That leaves eight of us. Take a good look at this regiment, sir: If you believe that Loop Lonagan is a troublemaker, my compliments to your instincts! Jim Kren is that little one with his face balled up in a strange brew of anxiety and spite. I truly wonder how long he can keep that up before the inevitable coronary. Donatas Ludditis and I wager on it.

Ludditis is a genial man who has seen almost a hundred years of good and evil. I catch a glint of humor in his eyes and believe we share a common sentiment about our situation. Except for the irritating habit of cracking walnuts with his biceps, I enjoy the company of that old goat.

That giant blocking your sight of half the crowd is Bill Blaire. His grand scale is something to behold and he always reserves two airplane seats, preferably adjacent ones. I do not mean to imply obesity. The man is huge in a profound way.  I’ve seen him on airplanes before.  He bows low to cram his body beneath an overhead compartment then slips in, filling every available cubic inch of space like a huge overstuffed steamer trunk. I cannot believe that serves to improve his posture.

Alexander Harbinger also stands tall but only six-foot-five. I have never seen him slouch and find that particular trait obnoxious and inherently suspicious. That and his heavy accent. Joe Perogi owns an amazing flair for conversation if you do not sit beside him too long.  Then there is Jonelis, our host. The less said about that one the better. I feel generous today because he invited me on this delightful jaunt. And everybody is having such a good time.

You may ask how I, with my elegant mustaches, resplendent in my stately white suit, can possibly be associated with such people. I must admit, if I were a customs inspector, I would not permit this crowd to enter my country. Mark T WayneThese men are clearly desperate! They share a single-minded objective! They are all bound for a fishing excursion deep in the Canadian Wilderness! Our allotted time in Paradise is tightly scheduled, dearly purchased, and non-refundable! We do not take kindly to those who might cheat us out of a moment of our idle pursuit!

As the day grows old, another announcer—I believe the shift has changed—politely informs us in a mild baritone of yet another gate change. We rise and obediently shuffle to a new resting place. I find a comfortable chair and claim it. I will not relinquish it. No sir!

Ah, the comforts provided travelers these days. During the next twelve hours, mannerly messages pleasantly drift from the public address system, each repeating the status of our flight.  DELAYED. Cursed is more to the point. But that leaves sufficient time to read another chapter of my book, so I slouch back in my comfortable chair. This particular novel is written by America’s greatest author. It chronicles a delightful stagecoach journey to what was then the American Wild West and I cannot help but draw parallels to our current state of affairs.

Then finally, long after dark, when it is too late for recourse, they CANCEL our flight! I see the man making that dread announcement and overhear his cussing when he clicks off his microphone. His frustration is understandable. Cancelling a flight is a cowardly act bordering on criminal. I picture him at dawn, fighting a pistol duel with whatever craven official doomed us to this fate. Dawn is not far away. Perhaps I will see it–possibly act as second!

Then a voice over the speaker requests that we vacate the concourse. Immediately.  By some herding instinct, a huge line forms at the only desk assigned for re-routing this mob. Jonelis adroitly snags a loose ticket agent and leads him to a vacant computer terminal. After a half hour of rigorous and creative effort, the clerk throws up his hands. Then John whips out his enormous Galaxy Note and attempts to book a charter out of DuPage. Those airplanes are all grounded. One would think war had broken out, but all that has occurred is a little rain. I secretly dream about the joys of travel by horse.

Then I discover an enterprising establishment that has remained open throughout the chaos. Indeed, they do a brisk business—a very brisk business. American ingenuity at work! Yes sir! I am delighted to sample the fruits of free enterprise and take this opportunity to sip a Sour Mash or two. As I watch people scramble in all directions and others pile into that enormous line, I sit at the bar and order another happy round. One can scarcely expect to buy advance tickets to witness a spectacle like this!

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No room can be found at the inn but the airport authorities thoughtfully set up thousands of cots, edge to edge, each furnished with a warm blue blanket. We all settle in for a fine night’s rest where the lights never dim and the public address system cycles through the same recorded doggerel—useful information regarding the smoking of cigarettes on the premises. These first-rate sleeping quarters are set up like magic within the concourse itself so we will not again suffer the indignities of the security personnel. That sir is what I call consideration! That is what I call luxury!

That night I wake to the horrible screech of rending aluminum as Bill Blaire’s cot collapses. His snoring attests to the fact that he, at least, loses no sleep over such trifles. I admire that in a man. A true woodsman, that Blaire—the Paul Bunyan of our group. That crumpled cot still resides somewhere beneath his great comatose body but I cannot see it so I cannot swear it. I nudge him with the toe of my boot. His snoring intensifies.

The police kindly keep their protective eye upon us until 4:00 am when security rousts every groggy being to attention with a commanding shout. It is a new day. As a seasoned traveler, I have already made necessary provision for my needs at the only privy in the vicinity. While the line to that vital facility grows, I march off in search of sustenance, and find it. Excellent bagels and lox, served ironically beside crisp bacon, with plenty of hot coffee. But presently, Jonelis whisks us away, back down the concourse to a waiting aircraft.

Two of our party get called by name for that flight. Then two more. We are standby passengers and Jonelis wrangles with the gate clerk as an officious woman with some sort of frequent flyer rights rudely exerts her authority to horn-in ahead of us with her entire party. That would mean the splitting of our group. I see the others flipping coins to determine who goes, who stays. But our host prevails. Another of life’s adventures conquered. We board a diminutive commuter plane and the broad shoulders of this city stack like spoons in cramped seats. Stinking in wrinkled, slept-in clothing, we finally escape this town. As wonderful as the experience has been, I am glad to move on to the next adventure. After all, we have lost a full day of wilderness leisure.

Canada 2014-8074

Ah, the miracle of modern flight! It takes twenty eight hours to board the plane in Chicago but a mere hour and a half  to reach Winnipeg International Airport!  In another hour, we clear customs. That sir is what I call FAST. That is what airlines are all about!  I gaze in admiration at our magnificent craft–its sweeping lines and powerful engines–so obviously built for speed and speed alone.  Yes sir!  That airplane looks fast standing still!

Meanwhile, Kren and Lonagan argue over the advantages of automobile transportation. Jonelis finds a Facebook page about a friend’s son who accomplished the amazing feat of skateboarding across the entire continent. That is an awesome adventure.  No officials coddling you with safety.  Picture yourself winding down a steep mountain road on a longboard. Such contraptions have no brakes sir! But that is a story for another time. ** I prefer the sublime comfort of the stagecoach bounding down a rutted road. On second thought, make it a train.

At this point we learn that the airline has misplaced all our luggage. That includes gear vital to the completion of our mission in the vast wilderness, especially our fishing rods! I overhear the customs inspector utter an unkind and unnecessary expletive regarding United Airlines.  That remark strikes me as unsporting after that brave entity has accomplished such a miracle–whisking us from Chicago to Winnipeg in an hour and change–and in such a painstaking cocoon of safety!

Grown men swear and gnash their teeth. After a dramatic display of emotion, our party repairs to the lobby for a meal.  Lonagan leads us to a place by the name of Louie’s Lotsa Pasta. But Jonelis vetoes that, and we enjoy exquisite repast at an excellent bistro named Stellas. I recommend it! Never take the pleasures of a good Jambalaya lightly.

Just a few hours later our gear arrives and we happily retire to our hotel. With precious fishing rods clutched in greedy hands, we head toward luxurious showers and soft beds.

We draw lots and I get Bill Blair’s room. That means another noisy night of it. But with customary forethought, I have purchased earplugs. Bill drops unconscious on one of the enormous queen-sized mattresses and uses all of it. The bed does not collapse and he starts snoring immediately–tired but safe. I must admit that I find it difficult to get the whole of him in the picture.

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  Bill Blair on a queen-sized bed

Our bush plane will depart early next morning for a 500 mile leg further North. Perhaps I will tell you about that next time. Maybe.

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Go to Next Episode – CLOSER TO HEAVEN

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* Quote from the motion picture, They Met in Bombay.

** Longboard America Facebook Page Longboard AmericaA

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Photography by John Jonelis, except for Clark Gable, Mark T Wayne and Longboard America.

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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