It was 6:07 pm when I finally took the left hand turn into the Ranger Canoe headquarters. I remember the time because it meant we were 7 minutes late. I’m not one to point fingers, but this misstep was on Apple Maps. They dropped me off a half mile away from the destination forcing Trent to try and track me down. While we’ll be sharing a canoe during this trip his work schedule that day required us to take separate cars.
Before we had even parked Mike (the owner of Ranger Canoe) and his trusty black lab had made their way down the steps of what looked like an old New England fishing cabin. Neither of them initially paid us much attention; the pup sniffed around a bit while his owner walked over to a pair of modest sheds. The first building was the storage unit, and it was there we initially laid eyes on our green (currently unnamed but taking suggestions) beauty. Before he pulled it off the rack he said he needed to go into his workshop to grab the pair of seat backs we’d also ordered. That’s when Trent spoke up, and asked if I could follow along for a quick tour. Without saying another word Mike waved us in.
(I took this before we went inside so the cops would know where to look if we didn't make it home).
Once inside we were immediately hit with what smelled like paint fumes. However, when we asked about this Mike corrected us and mumbled he was “burning” his latest hull. Or at least that’s what I thought he said, he still hadn’t really warmed up to us just yet. We took a look around the shop as Mike begrudgingly turned on the lights, and pulled out our wooden seat backs. He quickly looked them over, and then it was back to the storage unit. Which was fine by us. Paint fumes or not we figured we shouldn’t be breathing in these chemicals.
(Mike looking over the "burning" canoe hull)
There were three canoes currently in storage. Mike explained one was destined for a trip from Old Forge, New York to the Saranac Lakes (a measly 8-10 day jaunt our parents had previously suggested instead of the Mississippi). While the other was going to a retiree who planned to do a six month (slowpoke) Ohio River Mississippi River mashup.
Mike then helped us get the canoe on a set a benches for its final examination. Once secure he headed back into the shop to grab our pair of bent shaft FoxWorx paddles. As Trent and I proceeded to take a few air strokes I saw a smile creep across what had previously been an expressionless face. Turns out Trent had not done his research, and was holding the paddle backwards (which in his defense isn’t as stupid as it sounds). Mike then showed Trent the error of his ways, and from that point on I think he took a liking to us.
(Mike first unveils our canoe (bottom one) then looks it over)
Mike explained he’d been doing this job for over 40 years, and pretty soon wanted to pass it onto someone else. He jokingly (I think) mentioned we could take it over once we get back from our trip. If I can still stomach the sight of a canoe once we return, I’d genuinely consider taking him up on his offer. Try and tell me that’s not an awesome skill to have in your back pocket.
We chatted a little more, and then as quickly as he got it out of the shed our green behemoth was securely on top of Trent’s Honda Civic. The car doesn’t have a roof rack so we equipped it with both a cross rail system and canoe carrier courtesy of Malone. (John Malone that is, a guy Mike actually knows!)
(Call it multitasking, but I held the canoe while snapping this picture)
The hour(ish) drive back turned out to be the most stressful part. We were pretty confident in Malone, but (no offense) we had never used this before. I’m happy to report the canoe made it back without incident, and now just needs two adventurers to start this crazy trip.
(I think we made a friend!)