Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mr. Canoe

Today we had the pleasure of meeting Ralph Frese aka Mr. Canoe. Ralph started Chicagoland Canoe Base years ago after he began building canoes for his boy scout troop in his blacksmithing workshop. His enthusiasm and knowledge for canoeing has garnered him the nickname Mr. Canoe in the paddling community. This shop has grown into a unique historical space hidden away in northwest Chicago.  As we arrived at the shop, we spotted a fleet of enormous replica canoes of all shapes and materials.  Check out these monsters!

As soon as we walked in the door and started drooling over all of the canoes, we found a sign

"About time you girls got here!" Ralph said from the back of the shop. After a few handshakes we were soon off to lunch.  Over some tasty food, we talked adventure.  This man has been on some pretty epic adventures.  For starters, he likes reenactments.  In 1973 he reenacted the Joliet-Marquette expedition of 1673 in Ralph-Frese-Authentic-Fake-Birchbark canoes.  The trip was 3,000 miles long and was of course performed in traditional garb.

He also told us about other adventures and some famous friends. Francis BrentonBill Mason, and Verlen Kruger to name a few.  He also told us about his current project. Ralph is currently in search of Le Griffon! The "Holy Grail of the Great Lakes"(according to Ralph). It is assumed that Robert de La Salle's boat may be laying at the bottom of the lake in a known location and Ralph is keen on finding it.  Back at the shop, Ralph instructed us on some possible boat layouts and paddling techniques.  Video show and tell-

We toured the workshop and were able to meet some other canoeists coming in and out of the shop.

*tappity-tap-tap* "That's the anvil chorus."-Ralph
This is the old blacksmithing station where Ralph used to work with his dad.

We were thankful to meet some wonderful people today and learn a bit about traditional canoe construction. We'll see you on the water!

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