Meet Zeke: Entrepreneur, Motorcycle Man and Night-Time Performer
Apr. 25, 2016
Meet Zeke Carlson. This Arizona entrepreneur who built a bathroom business by hand visits Aikens Lake each summer to join his Harley Davidson buddies for fishing, raucous times at Big Molly’s Bar and even impromptu guitar performances at night.
Zeke’s part of a group of friends from the U.S. and Canada who head south in the winter to ride motorcycles, and head north in the summer to relax at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge, the five-star, Manitoba getaway In-Fisherman editor Doug Stange said is “still the finest all-around experience I’ve ever had on a fly-in trip.”
For Zeke, the “all-around experience” at Aikens isn’t something to observe as a spectator, rather, it’s something to jump right into and liven up––much to the delight of Aikens’ guests and staff.
“Zeke is a tremendously funny entertainer,” said Aikens co-owner and general manager Pit Turenne, who grew up at the lodge while his parents owned it. “One night after our ‘house band’ of guides and staff members had played some songs in Big Molly’s Bar, Zeke asked us to use one of the guitars. He proceeded to make us all laugh with some funny, fast-paced songs.”
Turns out Zeke is not only a successful entrepreneur, but also a talented musician. He plays guitar and piano, and used to play in an organized group. These days he plays only to entertain himself … and others.
“I’ve got a good repertoire of filthy, dirty songs so it’s perfect for the bar,” said Zeke, who owns Ace Portables out of Tuscon, Arizona. “You wouldn’t expect a remote, fly-in place like to have this awesome bar, but they do and it’s a great setting.”
The first year Zeke played at Aikens he borrowed one of the guide’s guitars. Pit and the Aikens team are famous for pulling out all the stops to delight their guests––stories abound of them sending out a plane just to fly in a guest’s favorite type of whiskey––so they were prepared for Zeke when he returned the following summer.
“Pit bought an acoustic guitar for me to have up there so I could play whenever I wanted,” Zeke said. “So now I play it every year. It was pretty cool that Pit got the guitar.”
Of course, Zeke doesn’t wait until the night’s end to let loose and have fun. Each day begins with coffee delivered to the cabins, a hearty breakfast in the main lodge and then a carefree day on the water with Aikens’ pro-staff guides taking care of whatever you’d like with fishing, sight-seeing and preparing a freshly caught shorelunch.
“The Aikens Experience is really about making your time off-the-water as enjoyable as your time on the water,” said Pit, whose wife, Julie, works tirelessly with the entire Aikens team to accommodate any guest request, ranging from scavenger hunts for kids to surprise birthday cake for groups celebrating a special milestone. A few years ago, Julie even became an ordained minister to officiate a wedding on-site.
“My favorite part of being at Aikens is doing something special for a guest and seeing their reaction,” said Julie Turenne, co-owner and general manager. “We’re able to plan anything if we know in advance. I pride myself on doing those extra little things.”
Zeke enjoys the little things as well as the entire experience, not just the fishing aspect.
“Our group goes out fishing in three boats, and then our guides plan where will all meet up for shorelunch,” Zeke said. “It’s a lot of fun on the water. We’ve seen moose and eagles, we saw a marmot on the shore one time, and another time we saw a caribou swimming across the lake. But the whole day is a blast, with happy hour, dinner, usually a really nice evening at the bar.”
The camaraderie with Aikens staff is an element Zeke especially appreciates.
“Everybody there is really friendly and helpful. The staff will drink in the bar with us at night, so you’re having a good time hanging out with the same people who are serving you during the day,” Zeke said. “One of my favorite stories is when Pit broke the screen door between the porch and Big Molly’s.”
Zeke’s group was hanging out at Big Molly’s with Pit late one night, and when Pit excused himself to use the restroom, someone got a flash of inspiration. The bathroom is just outside the bar in the adjacent hallway, so someone decided to lock the door to Big Molly’s so Pit couldn’t get back into the bar.
After pounding on the door once or twice, Pit realized he could walk around outside and re-enter via the porch on the side of the bar. Once he got in the porch, he thought he’d make a dramatic entrance by jumping from the porch into the bar. The only problem was he didn’t realize the interior, screen door between the porch and the bar was closed.
“Pit came crashing through the screen door,” Zeke recalls, laughing at the memory. “He landed on the floor with the door kind of wrapped around him. The whole porch is screened in, so you don’t really need that door anyway. But Pit was funny, he wanted to go out and burn the door in the bonfire that night so there wouldn’t be any evidence left for him to get into trouble. Of course, Julie knew all about it by the next morning anyway.”
Who knows? Maybe someday that story will become fodder for one of Zeke’s famous Aikens Lake singing performances. It’s all about having a good time and relaxing with friends in the unique, beautiful setting of the Canadian wilderness.
“I always tell people back home it’s hard to describe just how nice this place is,” Zeke said. “Even though you’re way out in the middle of nowhere, the accommodations are on par with a first-rate hotel anywhere. The service, the meals, the guides––it’s all fantastic.”