'ROUND THE BOOT
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.
12/17/2020 01:31:08 pm
Hi I was on the internet and saw this that is me Mike’s son it was so nice to see you and help you It was fun hope you have a good Christmas. Morgan Hickman
12/17/2020 05:23:42 pm
Hi Morgan! Thanks for checking out your story. I was SO grateful to you and your dad and grandad for helping me out that day! I loved Newfoundland and hope I can come back again sometime. You have a great Christmas too. There is a video for your mom's class after she contact me last year about using my trip in their explorer studies. If you want to check it out, it's here. http://www.exploremynation.ca/explore-my-nation/thanks-mrs-hickmans-class-in-newfoundland
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