MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. – Elisa Bernstein was surrounded by familiar faces and people she knew and loved. All were enjoying lunch, their final meal together perhaps, to honor her pending retirement from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
There were gifts in boxes scattered about and well wishes aplenty. There were tears too. After 30 years of service in Canada’s world-renowned law enforcement brigade, Elisa was leaving.
It was a Thursday afternoon, Nov. 30 to be exact, and though she may have wanted to hang back in Ottawa and swap memories with her Mountie colleagues, Elisa had new horizons ahead.
She and her eldest son Sam Lauzon left Ottawa directly from the farewell party and headed south in the family’s Toyota Rav4. Their old Triton bass boat was trailing behind it.
That’s a lot of weight to carry behind a vehicle that small, but Elisa is used to heavy loads.
An admitted tomboy as a girl in northern Ontario, Elisa didn’t flinch when she signed up to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – a historically dedicated police force if there ever was one. She worked her way through the ranks and by the time she retired a couple weeks ago at age 53, she was director of the RCMP’s National Operations Center.
She’s also a single mother of three boys, which any single parent can tell you is no easy feat.
And as proof she really likes a challenge, Elisa is an avid scuba diver.
“There’s no scuba diving in Canada,” she said. “But I go places where I can scuba.”
There is bass fishing in Canada, however, and both mother and son are proficient in their sport. Since 2014, they’ve fished competitively on the Renegade Bass Team Trail which is one of the premier bass fishing organizations in Canada. Elisa and Sam didn’t have the best showing on the 2017 Renegade circuit, but a few teams ahead of them in the season standings couldn’t make the trip to Mountain Home, Ark., to represent the trail in the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship which was held Dec. 6-9 on Norfork Lake.
Elisa and Sam could however. After all, Elisa had just retired and had nothing but time in front of her. And Sam, 24 years old and recently graduated from the University of Ottawa with a bachelor of science degree in psychology, had some free time too.
So south they drove, for 1,308 miles and nearly 24 hours.
When Elisa and Sam travel throughout Canada for tournaments, the driver always gets control of the radio dial. Elisa opts for the 1970s and 80s classic rock she grew up listening to – Billy Joel, Styx, REO Speedwagon.
Sam likes country music. He and his mom’s tastes don’t always align.
Elisa and Sam stopped someplace in Indiana the night before arriving in the heart of Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains for 2 1/2 days of practice. When the team championship began on Dec. 6, they sported jerseys they designed. The shirts featured the B.A.S.S. shield and a Bassmaster Team Championship logo, as well as the bright red letters “RBT” which signified the duo’s allegiance to Renegade.