What was supposed to be an overcast, rainy day dawned bright and beautiful as Fury and I bade farewell to our newfound friends. I didn’t need to be at the ferry until 3 p.m. and it was only a 2-hour ride, so I slept in a bit and then had breakfast with Heather. Afterwards, Heather and Junior took me down a little trail behind their house to see “the pond”. Fox trotted along with us to make sure we didn’t get lost. The trail is short and ends in a lovely little lake where the cares of the world would melt away in an instant.
With this idyllic scene in mind, I finished loading up Fury and said goodbye to my amazing hosts. The run to Argentia for the ferry was uneventful. I took advantage of having lots of time to top up Fury’s tank before heading onto the ferry with the hope that I can dart out of the worst of the traffic off the ferry tomorrow morning by not having to stop for fuel. There were only 3 other bikes on the ferry – all from Ontario! Had a bit of a chat with the other riders before we were called to load up. They load the bikes well before sailing time and give us lots of time to secure the bikes and unload our gear before they start loading cars around us. Hoping I have secured Fury well enough from my memory of the trip to Port aux Basques, I took what I needed for the night and headed up to find my berth. Knowing that I have a significant riding day ahead of me when I get off in the morning, I thought it best to be well-rested. There were only 4-berth cabins left when I booked over a month ago, but it will be well worth it. I suppose I probably could have sold at least one of my beds to other travellers, but I’m happy to be on my own. I even have my own little bathroom and the beds up top can be folded against the wall for easier navigation in the room.
There are 5 vehicle decks on this boat, then the passenger deck with restaurants, bar, leisure areas, and gift shop, then 4 decks of cabins and 1 for kennels. It is a huge boat and I wandered it for a bit before the buffet restaurant opened for supper. I might have actually eaten my money’s worth for once, not having stopped for lunch on my way down. I met some folks in line while waiting and had a wee chat, which reminded me I didn’t have blog cards on me. I went back to my “room” to get some. At dinner, I was seated at a small table beside Dora and Ruby. We had a grand time chatting! One thing can be said for a trip like this – where you have pretty much ignored the news and opened your heart – it restores your faith in humanity. I have met so many great people.
I will do my best to retire early tonight. After all, there’s not a heck of a lot to do but sleep. Then off the boat in Nova Scotia to make my way to the RCMP detachment that has my purse. Then on to Prince Edward Island for more exploration!
Today I packed up my stuff and checked out of the Capital Hotel in St. John’s a day early. I can’t recommend this hotel highly enough. The price is very reasonable for the high quality of the hotel, the staff is amazingly friendly and helpful, and they have an in-house restaurant and lounge. Their wifi handled my webinar sessions with clients very well and the bed was so awesome I didn’t want to leave, though I wasn’t sure what to do with it all. The bed was so big, that out of curiosity, I laid smack in the middle of it and star-fished as hard as I could and still couldn’t touch both edges of it! I didn't see my new buddy Glen on my way out, but I did see Boyd and said farewells.
Having achieved my goal of completing the Irish Loop yesterday, I was a bit at loose ends for my last full day in Newfoundland. So I thought it a good day to take up the offer of Ed to visit his home on Random Island. It turns out that everyone who knows Ed actually calls him “Junior”, so he will henceforth be referred to as Junior, because…..well, now I know him. And his lovely wife Heather, who would charm the skin off a snake. As Junior predicted, Heather and I got on like a kerosene-doused house on fire. On my way up, I was earlier than planned and was about to stop in Clarenville to have lunch so I wouldn’t arrive too much ahead of what I had told them. When I stopped, I had a message from Junior asking if I liked cod and could I be there in time for lunch. For fresh cod?! Absolutely! So I fuelled up Fury and we made tracks for the last 20 minutes to their place.
I was welcomed warmly and while Heather and I got acquainted, Junior prepared a fresh fish and chips lunch, which was amazing. We talked about how great our kids are and all kinds of things. Their son, Nathan, is studying graphic design in St. John’s. Like Junior, Nathan has ridden bikes and done motocross since he was a wee lad and still loves it, though is current decompression tool is skateboarding. Junior showed me his little collection of bikes, which included the tiny Honda 150 that was Nathan's first bike and a classic Kawasaki 650 that is under construction.
Given that Heather has been under the weather with a case of Bell’s Palsy, which has left her with pain and some paralysis in one side of her face, I thought it extremely generous that they were willing to host me! This condition is something that can show up for those of us that have had chicken pox (shingles virus) and is probably the culprit in her case. Fortunately, it is a temporary condition. I am happy to report that she is beginning to feel better and the next few weeks will banish the last of the symptoms for her. Having had chicken pox myself, I am very grateful to have learned about it and to know what symptoms to watch for.
By the time lunch was over, I had accepted an invitation to stay overnight and accompany them to Heather’s parents’ place for a family dinner.
After lunch, we jumped in the truck and went for a tour of Random Island. Random Island is the second largest island off the coast of Newfoundland and is now connected to the community of Clarenville by a causeway. There are 11 communities on the island. Its massive beds of red shale and limestone were mined for bricks and slate tiles from the 1800s. In fact, Random Island’s slate has the highest quality of slate and limestone in the world. Junior said lots of churches in Quebec City were built with it. Unfortunately, the plant is no longer in production, though there is still lots of supply and the jobs are much needed. Much of the industry of Random Island now is fishing and lumber. As one might expect, the views are beautiful and the peacefulness of the island saturates you.
Around 1965, a re-settlement program began in Newfoundland. With all the remote, far-flung locations people were living, it was impossible to deliver equitable services to all residents (health, education, infrastructure, etc.). So the government offered monetary assistance to residents who would relocate from remote locations to larger centres. As it made sense, many people took advantage of the offer, but, feeling very connected to lands that had been in their families for generations, still retained their properties on islands such as this as summer homes. Some never left at all. This story explained why I have encountered some pretty rough roads in locations like this and Random Island is no exception. As you tour around, you can see why people didn’t want to leave, but they are the last priority for upgrades and improvements to infrastructure.
I finally got an answer to the question I have had about the “wood teepees” I have been seeing since New Brunswick - where the logs are stacked in a teepee shape in everyone’s yards. Apparently, there are a couple of reasons, one being that the wood dries faster that way. The other reason is that most people have a wood horse to cut the lengths into logs for burning and it is easier to have the wood in a standing position so it can be tipped onto a wood horse, rather than bending over and hefting it up. Makes sense. Junior said that some people will also stack their lengths in a lattice formation so the air moves through it to dry it faster.
I also commented that people all over Newfoundland wave when you pass, but on the southern peninsula, they kind of twitch their head at you. This, apparently is "the nod and wink" greeting. I'm going to have to practice that. If smiling a people in Vancouver makes them nervous, imagine the consternation I can cause with the nod and wink!
Having taken my pictures of fishing boats and island views, we headed back to the house. Heather was responsible for dessert for dinner and I had been wondering what I could do to contribute to all of this hospitality I was receiving. So I asked if I could make Grandma Curtis’ chocolate cake to take. They accepted this offer with alacrity and Heather and I took turns in the kitchen making our desserts. She made a raspberry almond coffee cake and I made the chocolate cake with my coconut icing, using walnuts instead of pecans. By 6:00 p.m. we were ready to head over to Violet and Joe’s. I had to take a picture of Heather's bobble-head moose! Too funny, and another first for me.
Arriving for dinner, I met Heather’s sister Jennifer, and her husband Robert, and Heather’s brother Brad. Robert’s daughter Rhiannon was also there and unfortunately had to leave early. Violet and Joe are clearly accustomed to a houseful and enjoy it! An extra chair was slid in for me and steak, potatoes, corn, greens, fried onions, and pickled beets were passed around. Everything was delicious and yet we left room for dessert. Grandma’s chocolate cake was a hit – she would have been proud! 😊 Junior claimed that with a story of adventure to tell and that chocolate cake, I might not be permitted to leave “the rock”.
After dinner, a guitar and bodhran materialized and I was treated to singing by Junior, Robert and Jennifer. Such a fun and entertaining evening! I had a hard time not doing a treble reel for those rhythms when they came up (that darn dance will never leave my head – nor the slip jig either). Brad's paintings hang around the house and Jennifer is an artist as well. Heather has been knitting the most gorgeous scarves and apparently cooks like a rock star. What a talented bunch of people. We also discovered during this visit, that Fox (Heather and Junior's dog) has the perfect ears for a comb-over. The time flew by and it was time to head back to Junior and Heather’s. We had another bit of visit after getting home, but now it is time for bed.
My last full day in Newfoundland could not have been better spent than with these fine, down-to-earth people who have made me feel like family and shared their extraordinary hospitality and joie-de-vivre with me. If that does not restore one’s faith in humanity, you are a heartless cur!
Tomorrow will find me back on the road, heading for the ferry to leave the beauty and friendship of Newfoundland. Sigh.
Fall asserted itself today by throwing a temperature of 8 degrees at me. I haven’t had a riding day that chilly since I left Vancouver! Had to pull out some warmer gear that I haven’t used in a while.
I got up in good time and once again enjoyed being able to do a day trip without having all the gear on the bike. Leaving about 9:00 a.m., I headed for the Irish Loop. This area of Newfoundland had a large influx of Irish settlers in the 1800s and the Irish influence in the culture and music is strongly evident throughout the Avalon peninsula.
I didn’t have breakfast at the hotel as the restaurant was busy and I wanted to get some road behind me. So I thought I would ride for a bit and see what showed up for breakfast along the way. In spite of the morning being a bit chilly, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Fury ran along like she was glad to be out for a spin again. We arrived in Ferryland about 10:00 a.m. and stopped at the Irish Loop Drive Restaurant for something to eat. It was a delightful place – lots of windows so diners can appreciate the million dollar view they advertise, Irish music playing in the background, and great local artwork on the walls and for sale. I loved the painted salt and pepper shakers. If I wasn’t so busy being “anti-stuff”, I would definitely have found a place to tuck a set of them into my gear!
Restored by 2-eggs-and-toast-and-coffee for $6.00, we set off down the road another kilometer to the Avalon Colony. This historic site is believed to be the first settlement in North America. It is also one of the richest archaeological sites of its kind in the Americas. While fishing had been going on in the area for a long time already by the French, Portugese, English, etc., it was a “migratory” business – fisherman took their catches to Europe and did not settle. Around about 1621, Sir George Calvert brought a dozen settlers over to establish a colony. Discouraged by French attacks and piracy, and dismayed by the cold, harsh winters, he didn’t hang around for too many years, abandoning the colony in 1629. I assume the governor he put in place, Captain Wynne, kept things going because Ferryland was a happening place for trade and commerce. In 1637, Sir David Kirke took it over and turned it into a very prosperous community. Over the years, both the French and the Dutch attacked the colony and levelled it, but the colonists came back and rebuilt and the community persevered. After the death of David Kirke, his wife continued to successfully run the plantation and is respected for being a pretty savvy entrepreneur.
The admission to the museum, which displays these stories and the fascination discoveries from the dig site, also includes a tour of the archaeological dig and the 17th century kitchen replica. I didn’t want to use 2 hours for the guided tour, but they had a booklet that I could take over to the site for self-guided, so I went over and had a look myself. The reason this site is such an amazing dig site is due to the old adage “anything worth doing is worth doing well”. The streets and walls and buildings were so well done that they have discovered amazingly well-defined structures and items around the site. The kitchen reproduction is beautiful and the staff member, in period costume, will be happy to show you around her kitchen. She handed me a “puzzle jug”, to see if I could figure out how to drink from it when the wine was poured in the bottom, but the top of the jug was holes. I had ideas about what it should do, but didn’t figure out the how. Not telling, either!
It was after 12:30 by the time we headed back out on the road. The day had warmed to a tolerable 16. The road was a bit rough, as I had been warned it would be, so I kept the speed down and just enjoyed the scenery. Again, riding through some areas I would have sworn I was back in Rankin Inlet – vast expanses of rocks and water and no vegetation except low grasses and bushes. Like I was in the middle of nowhere, with a little hut here and there that may or may not be occupied. Then, after a few kilometers, we dropped down a steep hill into a valley and all of a sudden there are trees and ocean and people. It’s the oddest sensation.
Can’t tell you what little village I had passed last but as I came over a causeway, I saw the prettiest old wooden bridge down a stretch of gravel road. I decided I must turn in here, in spite of the sign warning me that the road was not maintained by the department of transportation. It was rocky and rough, but didn’t look TOO bad. We managed to skirt the worst and joggled our way over it about halfway before it started to get worse yet. So I stopped Fury and took a couple of pictures and then just sat and enjoyed the view for a bit. It was not so easy getting her turned around to go back out and I thought maybe I was going to be in trouble yet. But with some care, patience and perseverance, we got turned around and back out onto the highway.
A bit further on, I rounded a curve onto a lovely vista and rode into St. Vincent shortly after. St. Vincent has a long, broad stretch of beach that looks almost out of place. I drank in the sight, but due to the ATVs tearing around on the sand, I didn’t stop to take pictures. Until I saw the fish hanging on the clothesline! That was a first for me, though I had seen pictures of it before. My phone didn’t do a very good job of it, but I thought it would be rude to go right up to the person’s house and take one, so I took what I could. We didn’t stop again until St. Mary’s where I stopped for a water and a washroom break.
After that, it was time to get headed back to St. John’s. I felt very satisfied with the day, enjoying the ride in the sun and the minimal traffic. Arriving back at the hotel, I cured my helmet-head and went across the road to Fionn’s for supper. I was just finishing up and had paid my bill when 2 women came in. I saw them indicating at the table I was at, and figured they were hoping to sit there, so I got up to go. Walking up, I said “Were you wanting that table?” They said it was their favourite table and I said maybe I would just join them then! They thought that was a grand idea and it was cemented with a hug from Jackie. Shirley and Jackie are mom and daughter and come to the restaurant often. We had a great time yakking and having a drink. Clearly a couple of girls I could get into trouble with. We generally behaved ourselves, though, and feeling like old friends, carried on our way. What an amazing day! Again! Now it is time for sleep to see if it can be repeated tomorrow.
Not much to report for yesterday as it was another work day. It's not a bad place to be in terms of having work days though. 8:00 a.m. in BC is 12:30 p.m. in Newfoundland, so I get up and have the morning to do whatever I need to. Yesterday it was getting my laundry done.
Found a laundromat a couple of kms up the road and since everything in my very limited wardrobe was in need of it, I went down there and got it all washed up. There were two other ladies there, as well as Ruth, who was running things. We had good talks while getting our laundry done.
I also met Jerry, who used to ride motocross and was stunned that it was me that was riding and had been doing so for 3 months. I was going to find something to eat while waiting for washers to finish, but ended up listening to Jerry's life story! That was ok though - he was an interesting character and sometimes a person just needs to tell their story. Clearly the bike was exciting for him and brought back a lot of good memories.
By the time I was done visiting with Jerry, my washers were done so I chucked everything in the dryer and went a couple of doors down to where the little food place was. They had these amazing little turkey pasties that were $1.60 each! I would have paid $5.00 for it in Vancouver! Took it back to the laundromat and enjoyed it while waiting for things to finish.
On the way back to the hotel, I got caught up in some construction and it ended up taking almost an hour to get back - good thing I had given myself lots of time. But get back I did, had my scheduled web session and then finished up the day with dinner. Met Boyd in the restaurant and we had a visit over dinner. He and his colleague, Glen, install headstones and countertops and travel all over the maritimes doing it. After dinner, Glen showed up and we had a drink in the lounge. The bartender, Sheldon, make me an Almost Blue Monday cocktail. Dangerous stuff, of course, because it is just the way I like alcohol - doesn't taste like alcohol. But I only had one, because today is a riding day! Time to get cleaned up and go exploring.
So I've really got nothing fun to tell you. Work today and tomorrow, hopefully find a laundromat somewhere close by and be ready for some more exploring on Saturday. The ferry from Argentia only departs twice a week, so I have to hang out a couple of extra days for it. Oh darn......
Here's an updated map of what I have seen of Newfoundland so far!
It is the nature of the universe to be in balance, which is why every mis-adventure has an upside.
The upside of being tarred and gravelled is that I got to meet Mike Hickman, his son, and Sim, of Corner Autobody Ltd. I am unbelievably grateful for their help today. The treated me like they’d known me all my life and turned my worst situation yet into a very agreeable experience.
Mike had already heard about the tar/gravel fiasco on the highway and now got to see the results of it first-hand. Being a rider, he agreed that it would be foolish to ride in that condition. He had some wax remover and degreaser that he thought would be less damaging than other products might be and sprayed some on Fury’s front tire to see what it might do. It softened the tar enough that it could be scraped off. Yay! Feeling badly that he should spend much time on such a mind-numbingly tedious task, I asked if I could use his stuff and work at it myself and he said sure, whatever I wanted to do.
Deciding that this task was going to need to be fuelled, I took Mike’s suggestion and went to Sharon’s Nook for a quick breakfast. The recommendation was a good one and I had a delicious breakfast of French toast and coffee and a conversation with a whole coffee shop full of locals, all of whom had heard about the tar mess from others. I’m thinking that construction contractor is likely to get an earful.
Upon returning to the shop, Mike shuffled things around and made a spot for Fury inside the garage - away from the strong wind and misty rain. I unloaded some gear and got her up on her center stand so the tires could be spun. Sim was there and found some cardboard to lay down to catch the tar bits and to sit on. Then he began scraping away at the tar. In the end, Sim and Mike did all the hard work of patiently spraying and scraping the tar off the wheels while I held the tire steady. Mike’s son (I forgot to get his name ☹), came by on his bicycle to say hi to dad and supervised us for a while. I would have been at it all day trying to do it myself. As it was, I was on the road shortly after 11:00 a.m.
I took the “round the boot” road, which is how the locals refer to Hwy 220 around the southern tip of the peninsula. I was warned that it could be a rough road and sometimes windy. It wasn’t long before a blanket of very dense fog surrounded us and visibility was reduced to a car length in front of us. I put the hazard lights on and kept my speed way down, mindful of the warnings of a rough road and the potential of our four-legged monster moose appearing suddenly in my path. Every now and again, the fog would life and visibility would improve and I would see that I was travelling right along the ocean and didn’t even know it.
Just after rounding the tip of the peninsula (not that I knew I had at the time), I saw a sign for Allan’s Island. Since the road was paved, I thought I would just follow it, and arrived at a little fishing village, connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of road. I rode around it, waving at everyone as is the custom here, and stopped to take a picture here and there. The ocean was heavy today and I was glad I wasn’t a fisherman out on that foggy, heaving expanse. Instead, I was on solid ground, experiencing the feeling of wildness and power conveyed by the ocean.
Getting back on the main road, we were soon enveloped in fog again and I saw nothing of the scenery I knew was there. Riding into a little community called St. Lawrence, I saw a mining museum with a restaurant attached. Having passed it, I decided I should turn around and check it out. Was I ever glad I did! I headed into the restaurant for some lunch and had the best chili I think I have ever had, with a fresh, homemade roll which was so good I had to ask for another one. Everyone was friendly and kind and I walked out with 2 chocolate chip cookies to keep me happy on the road.
Next was to check out the museum, which is called the Miners Memorial Museum. I expected this to mean that there had been a major accident here, like at the Springhill coal mine in Nova Scotia. But this story was very different. In the 1930’s a mine was opened to extract fluorspar. With the depression going on, it provided much needed jobs and the locals worked hard to get it into operation. However, over the years, the mining of this silicate mineral without protection resulted in nearly 200 miners dying young of silicosis and cancers caused by radon emissions in the mines. This museum commemorates these miners and has an excellent display of the processes and equipment used over the years the mine was in production. There is a special memorial area that lists the names of the miners who died as a result of their work there. A woman who was also visiting from BC was there with her husband, and she showed me where her father’s name was on the lists. It reminded me yet again how cheap life was in the face of the almighty dollar.
This museum also had a section about an ocean disaster where three US navy ships were lost just off their coast. One of the lovely ladies from the museum staff told me the story. This might seem an odd thing to see in a mining museum, but the stories come full circle. The ships ran aground and the miners who were changing shifts when a member of the crew finally found them, all headed out to bring dories and rope to try and save as many men as they could. They rescued something like 186 men of the more than 400 sailors that had been on the ships. There was a photo of a young sailor in his uniform, framed with the last handwritten letter that his family had received and the telegram sent, notifying them that he had been drowned in the disaster. This was presented to the museum by the young man’s brother, who had learned of the story and came to St. Lawrence to learn as much as he could about what had happened.
Perhaps the most touching story, though, was that of Lanier Phillips. Like all the other sailors rescued, he was covered in oil that had spilled from containers on the ship. He was taken in and the women were all helping to wash them. Despite their efforts, they could not get it all off for him. Hearing them talk about it, he finally had to tell them that they couldn’t wash any more off because he was Black – that was the normal colour of his skin. The town had never seen a black man and so did not know. They cared for him and he was put up in a home with the family. The woman of the household came the next morning to ask him if he was feeling better and would he join them for breakfast. He couldn’t believe his ears that he was being asked by a white person to join them at their table, with their family, for a meal. Given that there was forced segregation and worse in Georgia at the time, he couldn’t get over this and said it was the first time in his life that he felt human. It has a profound effect on Lanier and he spent much time telling his story in interviews and promoting humanity, regardless of race.
This marine disaster happened in 1942. The story comes full circle when the US military hears of the miners dying of silicosis and having to go to the US for treatments. Wishing to repay the hard-working folk of St. Lawrence for their courage and kindness in saving their sailors, they built a hospital in St. Lawrence to treat and care for the miners who were sick and dying of diseases caused by working in the mines. And so, once again, tragedy brings out the best in humanity. I finished up my visit with a nice chat with the staff before carrying on with my travels.
I didn’t stop again until Swift Current (no, not the Saskatchewan one). As I was riding through, I saw Vernon’s Antique Car Museum and had to pull in to take a look. Wow! What a collection. As ever, my favourites were the 60’s muscle cars. Everything was pristine and many awards have been won for several of these rare beauties. What a treat.
Seeing the dark clouds gathering, I thought Fury and I had better make serious tracks for St. John’s. Strong cross-winds kept us alert as we sped towards the junction for the trans-Canada highway. Aside from a brief fuel top-up somewhere along the way, we didn’t stop again. About 30 kms out of St. John’s the sky suddenly went black and the temperature dropped. It didn’t pour on us but began to rain and the winds became outrageous, doing its best to throw us around. We hung in there, knowing there wasn’t far to go and finally arrived at our hotel about 7:30 p.m. Ironically, we rode out of the weather as we pulled off the highway onto the exit to the hotel, so unloading and checking in was easy.
On my way to the elevator, I met Glen, Ed and Boyd. We had a grand time talking like we were old friends and once settled into my room, I met Ed and Glen at the lounge for a drink and some food. Great visits all around and Ed has foolishly invited me to visit at their home a couple of hours away. If I achieve what needs to be achieved in the next couple of days, I might take him up on it. But for now, it is off to bed as there are a couple of days of work ahead. TTFN, my friends.
“Where ya to?”, my host inquired
“Off and awa’”, was my reply
"I know not where I’ll wander to
But I ‘spect I’ll get there by and by."
Today was one of those perfect riding days. Perfect weather and no agenda. The day felt curious, free and joyful. It was full of discovery and delightful surprises.
I got up just before 6:00 a.m. expecting the morning to be quite cool, but it was very mild. Despite the fog over the water down the street, I threw some clothes on and woke Fury up to go and see if we could find puffins.
I found the site described to me by Rashid with no difficulty. The fog was dense enough that I didn’t see the sun rise, but the light that it cast over the landscape with the fog made the green of the vegetation and the colours of the rocks so vibrant it was rather surreal as I walked the short trail to the puffins. And find them I did! Hundreds of them on a rocky outcrop across a narrow chasm of ocean. Only a stone’s throw away from the rocky outcrop I was standing on. They are funny little birds and quite fascinating to watch. Much smaller than I expected, they were about half the size of a big seagull. Like the northern murres, their wings look too small for their bodies, so they flap them like crazy when they fly so their wings look like windmills. But then they skim over the water smooth as silk before diving for fish. When they come in for a landing, they look like miniature penguins. I saw them much more clearly than the pictures from my phone achieved and I spent a good deal of time just sitting in the quiet morning watching them. Couldn’t help but think how Tracey would have loved these quaint little birds.
The fog made for some pretty scenes and I took several pictures on my way out to the puffins and on the way back. Elliston is also known for its root cellars, and there was one to see at the head of the trail as well, so I investigated it. With the lack of soil for gardens in Newfoundland, people made compost from all sorts of organic waste to produce soil to grow things in. At harvest, they would store the produce in the root cellars created in the rocks of the island. If rocks were money, Newfoundland would be the richest area in the country!
Heading back to the B&B for breakfast, I had a visit with a couple of other guests that were there from Ontario. I also had a nice visit with Maila as I was loading up the bike. We have similar philosophies in life and so it was fun to be smarter than the rest of the world for a while. 😊
Riding towards Cape Bonavista, I stopped briefly at the lighthouse, but was more curious about the Landfall Memorial Park that was right beside it and I had not known about. It has a striking statue of John Cabot and a plaque that states the case for believing that this is where he first made landfall in North America in 1497. I suppose after several months at sea, even this rugged, inhospitable shore must have seemed welcome. There is no questioning the beauty of it. Whether in blue skies or fog, the rocky coast is magnificent – so beautiful and dramatic it makes my heart hurt to take it in.
I travelled back towards the small community of Bonavista. This little town has the biggest cemetery I have seen in such a small place, spanning both sides of the road, headstones of all ages and styles. It is very striking and oddly reassuring. The folks there must be content. I filled up with gas and toodled around the town a bit. It has so many erratic, windy little roads that I think you could wander around it all day and never figure it out. It reminded me of what Maila had said about the older areas of Ontario – that the houses were just built wherever and footpaths were used. When roads came, they were built around the houses instead of the houses built around the roads, with the result that nothing is on a grid and the town seemed all higgledy-piggledy and labyrinthine. For someone like me, with an appalling sense of direction, it could spell disaster if it were any larger than it was!
I made my way out of Bonavista and headed down the coast, peeking into little side roads along the way. I rode into Upper Amherst Cove which was very pretty. This was my first sight of massive table-style rocks jutting out into the ocean. Leaving there, I continued along Hwy 235 until I arrived at the sign for Tickle Cove. Maila had said to go in there and see the Arch Hole. It being only about 8 kms off the highway, I took her advice. What a treat! About halfway down the road, I was surprised by vast expanses of startling pink rock! My photos don’t even capture the “pinkness” of it. I continued to Tickle Cove and followed the road to the end of the pavement and then a bit further up a mildly sketchy gravel hill. I was rewarded at the top with a view of the ocean with a large outcrop of this pink rock jutting out into the ocean – with a hole in it like a door. Very cool. Fury, being a girl, insisted on stopping on the way out to have her picture taken in front of the pink rocks. 😊
Having dawdled the day away into the early afternoon, I stopped at Round da Bay Inn for lunch. Had an amazing lunch of fish cakes and salad and pickled things, and dessert of apple torte with caramel sauce that was to die for. Still undecided about my final destination, I had a couple of conversations over lunch. Eventually, I decided to head for Grand Bank, determining that I should arrive by about 6:30 p.m.
I stopped briefly in Clarenville for a drink of water and while there, a lady returning to her car noticed my license plate and the ensuing conversation made me smile for a long while after we parted.
(Insert the more Irish-sounding of the Newfie accents for her part).
She: "You never travelled all the way here by motorbike?!"
Me: "I have, and logged almost 24,000 kms visiting every province and territory of Canada".
She: "You never did! And by yourself?!"
Me: "I have".
She: "God love ya girl, you've got the nerve!"
I laughed and thanked her for the compliment. It was the emphatic statements in this fabulous accent that kept replaying itself in my head and making me smile.
The ride south had more beautiful landscape – reminiscent of Prince Rupert, BC and of Nunavut in places, but all its own personality. Mountains to flat lands with low vegetation and vast expanses of water. No matter what any of the other provinces say, I’m pretty sure Newfoundland could take them all in terms of water per square kilometer. Strong crosswinds accompanied my ride, but nothing unmanageable. Pulling off for a quick break, I met half a dozen guys out for a ride. We chatted away for 5 minutes or so before I carried on to finish the last hour and a half to Grand Bank.
Arriving in Marystown, I stopped at the Visitor Centre and met Marianne and Betty. Very friendly ladies, we talked about all sorts of things and decided that all in all, people were pretty decent. I enjoyed our visit very much and probably should have taken that as my cue to stay in Marystown. But I filled up with gas and continued on to Grand Bank.
The ride to Grand Bank was uneventful until the last 15 kms or so. Construction. “Well, so what – you’ve seen that before”, you are saying. The signs said “Fresh tar”. I had seen that before too – lots of it. Fresh pavement with recently dried tar. So the signer waves us forward, telling us to carry on, but go slow. Ok. Off we go. I’m about 3rd in line and the tar is a bit wetter than I’ve encountered before. And then it gets really wet. The whole road is tarred – both lanes – and traffic is travelling normally in both directions. I’m thinking about the mess this is going to make of Fury, but there’s no help for it – we can’t turn around. This goes on for at least 3 kms and we can finally see clear road ahead. We get to the clear road, but there is still construction and they have torn up sections of the highway – clear across! – and laid fresh gravel down across the entire width of the road!!! Predictably, this is not much fun with a motorbike because now my tires are covered in tar and heavily marbled with gravel. The few kms remaining into Grand Bank did nothing to improve their condition. Finally arriving at the hotel at 7:30 p.m., I unloaded Fury and checked out her shoes. Confirming my suspicions, there is a layer of tar around the entire circumference of both tires and gravel embedded into it. So instead of touring the south peninsula tomorrow, I will be engaged in attempting to remove the tar from my tires so Fury is safe on the road. I’ve identified a shop in town that I will go to first thing in the morning and ask for their confirmation on my course of action to remove it. I might even get lucky and they will do it for me so I don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of stuff that I won’t want to take with me.
In the end, my perfect day ended somewhat less perfectly than it began. However, as I review the pictures and think about all of the days’ captivating moments, I can’t let the last hour of it be what is left in my mind. So, thanks to all of you for engaging with this blog and giving me the chance to re-live the best parts - after all, those are the only ones that count!
Mostly a riding day today, so not a whole bunch to tell a story about. Honda One in St. John’s had taken very good care of Fury and she was ready to go by about 10:30 a.m. I packed up all my stuff and called a cab to go and get her. Loading up, we headed out of St. John’s around noon. Even thought I was feeling a bit hungry by then, I wanted to get some road behind us, so got out of the city.
The landscape here is beautiful. It often reminds me of the tundra in Nunavut, with its low-lying vegetation, frequent expanses of water and rocky topography. Stark and rugged and peaceful.
The riding temperature was quite nice and we sailed along for a bit more than an hour before my tummy started to complain about its lack of attention. We took the exit for Dildo, NL because…..well, why wouldn’t you?! It’s a pretty happening community and I chose to stop at the Dildo Brewing Co. and Museum for lunch and a tour. Struck out on both counts as there was a 1-hour wait for lunch and the Museum part was closed. Continuing a bit further down the road, I pulled into the Dildo Dory Grill. And they are closed on Mondays. Bordering on cranky, a local guy told me that the Boathouse across the other side of the water was good. So I rode back the way I came and sure enough, the Boathouse was open. Upon recommendation of the waitress, I had the hot turkey sandwich for lunch and it was blissful! At the table next to me were 4 women having a grand time visiting. They were all related and, from their conversation, have all done a good bit of travelling. I took a couple of pictures for them and we chatted a bit about my trip too.
Getting back on the road, we rode for another hour and a half to Clarenville. Fuelled up and pulled out of the gridlock of traffic to a parking spot. I figured there was still plenty of time in the day, so I searched accommodations and called ahead to Meems Elliston Bed and Breakfast. Then fired up Fury and made for Elliston. We only made one detour along the way, which was to follow a side road to Trinity, NL. A very picturesque little village, they have restored, rebuilt or kept their buildings in historical presentation. The cemetery beside St. Paul’s Anglican Church was my favourite though. What interesting tombstones! I couldn’t make out dates on any of them, but clearly they have been there a long time.
Arriving in Elliston about 6:30 p.m. I was greeted by my B&B hosts Rashid and Maila. Maila is a Canadian that went over to India and ended up staying 20 years! While there, she met and married Rasheed and they have recently returned to Canada for a quieter lifestyle. I’m not sure a B & B meets that goal in the summer as they have been booked steady since June. They invited me to have a bite with them as they were just sitting down to supper. I accepted the invitation and we had a good visit over moose soup. 😊 After that, we walked down to the local store where I was able to return the favour by buying the ice cream. Maila told me there are some beautiful sunsets down at Cape Bonavista and how to get there, so when we got back, I jumped back on the bike to see if I could ride down the sunset. It was falling fast, so I stopped along the road to take a quick picture in case I didn’t make the destination in time. It was a good thing because a fog bank was rolling in too and by the time I got down to the park, there wasn’t much of a sunset. There was some stunning, rugged coastline to drink in though, and I thoroughly enjoyed the little junket. As I returned, the fog was beginning to roll steadily over Elliston, cloaking the streets in mystery. That was my cue to get back to the house to my lovely colourful room. I can say without hesitation that it is the most colourful room I have slept in so far and, being a colour girl, I love it!
Stay tuned for more stories tomorrow. In the meantime, don’t forget to read the Trivia Bits for your Newfoundland history lesson!
After a good night’s sleep and a brain less sun-washed than yesterday, I’m hoping I can tell a decent story about yesterday’s adventures.
The day was warmer than is usual for Newfoundland, apparently, with a high of 27 expected. A high level haze persists across Newfoundland, which, apparently, is due to smoke from the British Columbia fires making its way into the jetstream! So, even on the east coast – over 6000 kms away, the BC fires are making themselves known.
Having slept in and had a leisurely breakfast, we headed out to make Signal Hill the first stop of the day. Arriving there, a young woman named Jeehea offered to take a picture with the Cabot Tower of Signal Hill. This task completed, we chatted for a minute and found out she was from Vancouver! So, we chatted some more. Being curious about my trip, I dug up a blog card for her. By this time, her husband Ian had come up with their children and we had a great talk about travels.
Signal Hill was originally constructed as a defensive position for St. John’s. The huge stone structure is the Cabot Tower and was constructed to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Cabot’s landing in North America and the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign. So the original story of Signal Hill is interesting, but not particularly unique, there being many similar locations throughout Canada. Still, it was cool to see the barracks and cannon. There are a number of trails over the site that are good for a bit of a workout and wake-me-up. If you visit Signal Hill, be sure to go inside the tower and climb to the top. The panoramic view of St. John’s is amazing!
Signal Hill, however, has one outstanding claim to fame. I love the story as it demonstrates the persistence and ingenuity of humanity in the face of stubborn opposition.
In 1897, Guglielmo Marconi began the Marconi Wireless Company. While wireless communications had been established as a viable form of communication, everyone believed it had a very limited range. The belief was that because the earth was round, the sound waves would get to the curve in the earth and just project outwards to space.
Marconi determined to prove that it could be used long distance. After making successful attempts for longer distances across Europe, he decided to attempt sending a signal across the Atlantic Ocean. He called it “The Big Thing”. The sites he originally selected for the transmission were Poldhu in Cornwall, England, and South Wellfleet in Cape Cod, USA. In the first year he was to attempt the transmission, the antenna stations were both destroyed by crazy storms. Marconi simplified his antenna design and then chose a location in North America that was a bit closer – St. John’s Newfoundland.
On December 6, 1901, Marconi arrived in St. John’s with his assistants and his equipment and chose the location of Signal Hill as the place to receive his message. The Morse code letter “S” was decided as the test message that would be sent as it was more easily distinguished from other messages amid the static of transmissions. He used a phone receiver to listen for the message. Despite some setbacks of lost balloons and kites that were carrying the antenna wires, shortly after noon, on December 12, 1901, the message from Poldhu came through – a distance of 3468 kilometers!
Marconi’s discovery not only transformed communications, but rocked the scientific world, forcing them to acknowledge that the commonly held belief was wrong. Eventually, science would discover that the earth’s atmosphere has a layer that is electrically charged by the sun. This ionosphere bends electromagnetic waves and refracts them back to the earth, resulting in Marconi’s success.
Marconi’s attempts to set up shop in Newfoundland were thwarted by the Anglo American cable company, who worked hard to discount his discovery and viewed it as a threat to their cable communications system. Instead of trying to fight “the big boys”, Marconi headed to Cape Breton as the behest of politicians in Nova Scotia and Canada who believed in his discover and chose to support a Canadian site for transatlantic communications. The Dominion Coal Company at Table Head in Glace Bay gave Marconi land to establish a station and the Canadian government committed funds to build it. Marconi, in return, committed to charge $0.10 per word for transatlantic messages, which was 60% lower than rates from the cable company. Needless to say, this enterprise was a resounding success and Canada has a proud role in the birth of wireless communications.
You would think from the length of that story, that it was the end of the day, but no such luck for you! On the way back down from Signal Hill, we stopped at the Johnson Geo Centre. There were some gorgeous rock samples displayed outside the Centre and labelled. Newfoundland, like Nova Scotia, has all of the possible rock types that are known, so it was interesting to see these samples. In particular, the peridotite, which is a rare igneous rock – a piece of the earth’s mantle shoved into the continental crust by some cataclysmic force of nature. Always astounds me to think of it. Getting a bit hungry and sun-worn by now, it didn’t feel like we had the attention span to fully appreciate the information on offer at the Centre. Regretfully, gave it a miss and carried on.
The next destination was Cape Spear, which turned out to be a very busy place. Cape Spear is the easternmost spot in North America. The square lighthouse for which it is known, was under construction, but I got pictures of the other lighthouse on the site and we wandered the trail around the property, which roams by the ocean. The whale-watching boats were cruising around as there are humpbacks, fin and minke whales in the area. If you are there in the spring, you can also see icebergs that are brought south by the Labrador currents.
Cape Spear also has a military history. Like the site at Gaspe, there was reason to build a defense site at Cape Spear when German u-boats began hunting and destroying supply ships in the Atlantic. The gun locations and ammunition storage bunkers can still be toured at Cape Spear. It is well worth the stop for the history and the beautiful views of the coast (even with the smoke haze).
Quidi Vidi was the next stop as there was food there! This area of St. John’s is a fishing village area. If you visit Quidi Vidi in the summer, take a small car, lots of patience, and turn left to find parking instead of continuing down the hill into the village area. It is worth the visit, but cramped and challenging to navigate. The Quidi Vidi Brewery is down there and it is one of the local breweries (along with Yellow Belly). Right in front of it is Quidi Vidi Fish and Chips (QVFC), which is a little red food trailer that makes really great fish and chips. Taking longer than expected with sight-seeing, it was getting into mid-afternoon, so we controlled consumption in anticipation of supper later. Still, it was delicious. Seeing Birch Beer as an option for a drink, I tried one – pretty sure it’s cream soda called birch beer…..
Headed back to the hotel and spent some time on a reconnaissance of the inside of my eyelids. Feeling refreshed, it was time to head over the St. John’s Fish Exchange for supper. Lobster was on the menu and Peter had his fix before leaving Newfoundland today. Having eaten so much rich and fatty stuff over the last few days, I opted for the shrimp appy and the French country salad which was all very delicious. And so ended another successful St. John’s Day!
After a bit of a sleep-in, it was a busy day touring around St. John's - Signal Hill, Cape Spear, and Quidi Vidi. However, I have only finished going through the photos for the day and feel like I don't have the wherewithall to tell the proper story. So, for now, I'm posting a a quiz of Newfie phrases so you can see if you can translate. 😊 I'm posting a few pictures in between so you can't cheat right off the bat!