Monday evening and everybody making the trek to the Birchwood Motor Hotel, just south of Victoria Beach, is in a remarkably upbeat frame of mind. Traffic on the 59 is a nightmare, what else is new? Doesn’t matter. The weather has been spectacular, but at 8 p.m., it’s chilly by Manitoba’s recent standards and just about everybody here has their hands gripped around a cold sleeve of beer.
The Schwood usually does brisk business every evening, but today it is packed, in honour of a special guest - the Burger Connoisseur , Ryan Van Berkel, ELK-Ida’s “least active member”, who has done for Cheeseburgers what Colonel Sanders did for chicken, and put the delicious beef-based sandwich on the map.
Berkel, who mostly works days, admits to not being used to these late nights, but he moves from table to table, with a smile on his face. He is here on a weekday to host Burgs with Burks, an unlikely fundraiser that stemmed from Berkel’s admission, back in summer 2011, that he missed the entire windsurfing season because of back spasms, an injury that flared up just as he was digging into a “Sis & Me” at the moonlight.
Now, oddball injuries seem to be part of the vast Elk-Ida team landscape, and getting injured in a diner booth is probably no stranger than Chippers getting hurt, bending down to pick up a half smoked roach. Or the time that Ben Peterson went down because his dog, Buddy, mistook his hand for a ball of hash and chowed down, breaking a finger and severing an artery.
But Berk’s escapades - his burg fiasco, his banquet-gate - went viral, in part because his struggle to actually windsurf has been so great that he became an object of Internet ridicule. This was a patently unfair development, given that Berkel was making fun of the incident right from the beginning. But humour doesn’t always translate well into Cyberspace, so he is here, raising cash for the VBYC’ rainy day windsurfing fund in a good-humored attempt to change the spin on the story.
“It took me a while to, but to see all the people here, and how happy burgs make them, made it worth it,” said Van Berkel