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.