Friday, 25 July 2014

Wed, 23 July 2014 - End of the trip, time to go home!

This was not a Good Day for me. The campsite was surprisingly quiet for being in the city, but there were vehicles coming and going at all hours, often shining headlights right into my tent. So I didn't get much sleep.

Then, it was time to make arrangements to go home. I had pretty much written off my first option - riding back through the US. It would be expensive, and I was tired of riding, especially dodging thunderstorms.

Second option was to ship the bike home. OK, call a moving company. No luck. Call another one. No luck. Another and another and another. The only company that said they could ship a motorcycle said it would cost about $3000 - more than what the bike's worth!

OK, try the third option: sell the bike for what I could get for it. The only bike shop that would touch a 30-year-old bike did not sound promising ("I'll call you back" and he never did). I posted an ad in Kijiji, but after what I heard from the bike shops I was not optimistic, even at a price of $1500. (Which turned out to be correct: the only responses I got was one scam and two asking for "my best price" and commenting that a 30-year-old bike must be in pretty rotten shape.)

My Lady came to my rescue and found a place that would ship my bike back for $US 950 - but it was from Dartmouth. So I'd have to take the long ferry back to Sydney, ride (probably in the rain, according to the forecast) to Dartmouth and send it from there.

Depressed, I checked out how to send the rest of my stuff (mainly the camping gear). Greyhound doesn't go to St. John's, but UPS said they would ship it for under $100 (turned out closer to $130 once the dust settled).

But the sun was coming out, so I decided to do one more thing I wanted to do: go to the Easternmost Point in North America: Cape Spear. On the way, the bike started coughing and losing power - NOW what? But it had simply run out of gas - I managed to duck-walk her into a gas station and fill her up and she was back to her reliable self.

After going down a miriad of back streets, some INCREDIBLY steep, I ended up at the End of North America:

So, this marks the Official End of my Epic Journey, so I recorded Herr Garmin's statistics for posterity:
I covered about 9500 kms over 117 1/2 hrs. Comparing that to Google Maps which said the journey would be 7500 kms, I guess I did a LOT of side trips!

Now, it occurred to me I hadn't eaten anything yet today, so I searched for a pizza place. Again, winding down side roads, busy streets, detours... but no pizza place! I guess Newfies don't like food they don't get out of the sea. I finally settled on the ONLY Boston Pizza in the area. And they dropped my pizza - the end of a perfect day.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Tues, 22 July 2014 - on to St. John's!

The weather forecast was for a couple more days of sunshine, then rain. So it's time to get to St. John's and a nice dry motel room. But first, a REQUIRED side-trip:

It turned out that Dildo was pretty much my favourite town in Newfoundland: great harbour, lots of boats, not too small, not too big, and this place:
that had the WORLD'S BEST fish and chips. Actually the chips were un-spectacular although they did have the sense to have real malt vinegar at the table. But the FISH was the best I'd ever tasted. Local cod, they said. I could get used to that.

Then there was the harbour itself:
I was a bit disappointed that the outboards had taken over the East Coast as well - I would have loved to see an old chugger with an Easthope inboard (that apparently were made in Vancouver!).

Then, back on the TCH for the final leg into St. John's. Now, like Vancouver, St. John's has a nice park right in the city, but unlike Vancouver, you can camp there. So camp there I did, along with dozens of HUGE motorhomes and fifth-wheels from exotic locations like Florida and Texas. Tomorrow, start setting up how to get home and explore the city.

Mon, 21 July 2014 - "...From Fortune he did run"

Another song, another destination: this time "French Perfume" by Great Big Sea, and the smuggler from Fortune who "made for Spanish Room". So South it is, to Marystown and around the bottom of the peninsula.

The way was barren and desolate, but there was a big rock farm:
I hear they supply most of the rocks for the entire island. Looks like they have a pretty good crop this year.

There were "ponds" - what we'd call small lakes, but I do think pond is more appropriate:
There MAY have been some trout in these waters, but I didn't get a license so I did no "casting practice".

Finally I got to Spanish Room, and was sorely disappointed:
I guess not all harbours in Newfoundland are "quaint". Marystown proved to be a continuation: very commercial and industrial. So, on around the point to search for quaintness.

St. Lawrence was somewhat quaint, but appeared to have a hydroelectric plant on the river. Finally I find some quaint at a little village called Lawn:

Then things went from quaint to downright desolate: the town of Lamaline. It was COLD, the wind was screaming across the barren land, there was little shelter that I could see in the wide bay open to the south. Why anyone would live here is a mystery. Unless... the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon are VERY close to here - perhaps the chief occupation here is smuggling? At any rate, it's on my List Of Places I Wouldn't Want to Live.

On to Fortune, where a few trees blocked the wind and made life a bit more bearable, and then to Frenchman's Cove Provincial Park. At first I was wary of a campsite right beside the water, but this was a lagoon so there was little wind, it was quite warm, and since it was salt water there were no mosquitoes.

I was just making dinner when a nice French-Canadian guy came over, offered a glass of wine, and we chatted (in somewhat halting English) for a while. He certainly helped change my opinion of Quebecers!

Sun, 20 July 2014 - "Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton's Harbour, All around the circle!"

The thought of visiting the legendary towns from the song was too great, so I pointed my scoot North and headed up.

Here, finally, I found what I've always thought Newfoundland would be like. Quaint little fishing villages surrounding a rocky harbour, a little dock with half a dozen fishing boats moored, and directions from friendly folks that were completely

For instance, I asked a local biker at a gas station where I could get good lobster. After three attempts, I got that there was a cafe just up the road with a sign that said Lobster Something. I'm not sure if I ended up where he recommended, but this is where I ended up:
It did indeed have very delicious lobster-burgers and deep-fried squid. I ended up spending some time talking to the guy running the fishery next door, as well as some kayakers from North Carolina. A very enjoyable, relaxing time!

Then off to Twillingate:

And on up to Long Point Lighthouse:
Where I saw icebergs:
I had to think of the Far Side cartoon where the cries of the penguins on the berg and the crew on the ship were mingled together: "I-I-I-CE-BERG-SH-I-I-I-I-P!"

Then back down south, past dozens of rocky harbours:

The road was... well, we'll cal it "fun". It was quite a challenge to weave the bike around the miriad of "potholes", and I had to laugh out loud when, after dodging potholes for 30 kms I come across a sign that said "Danger-potholes". YA THINK???

But back down to what is locally known as the TCH, and on to Terra Nova National Park to spend the night.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Status Report - how's it goin', b'y?
 So... how is the trip so far? Am I achieving what I set out to do? How's the bike holding up? Is there anything I should have brought, should  have not brought?

Well, the bike is holding up great. She's 30 years old, but running like a top. The only problem is the starter is starting to act up again - it sometimes takes 2 or 3 tries to get it to engage. And of course one front fork is leaking oil, but it seems to be leaking less now than in Ontario.

As for gear, the camping stuff is working out great as well. The tent is large, non-claustrophobic and easy to set up. e stove is working perfectly - the large-ish frypan seems very stable. I checked the fuel and there's still enough for a few more days. And the big mattress,  little pillow and down bag make a very comfortable and warm bed.

I guess the only thing different I should have brought is a short-sleeved shirt or two instead of all T-shirts. And I find the leather pants are not getting much wear either - it's easier to just pull on the Plastic Party-pants over the jeans.

As for my Quest... I'm finding my aversion to people is getting in the way of meeting local folks - in general, I'd prefer to be by myself and I have to force myself to engage someone in conversation. I mainly interact with public-service people: waiters, gas station attendants, Info Center People, and the occasional other biker I meet at the gas stations.

But even without meeting a lot of people, I am finding out a lot about the country I was born and grew up in, especially the one province I've never visited. While I haven't heard the legendary Newfie Accent, I have seen some spectacular scenery, eating some local food, seen towns and harbours, and have at least started to get a feel for the area.

Where do I go from here? I'm so close to Twillingate I feel I should head up there (and see Dildo Run Prov Park!), staying either at Dildo, back here in Lewisporte, or possibly Tera Nova National Park, 200 km East. Then I think on to St. John's and see if I can kiss the cod.

How about the return home? While part of me would love to ride the scoot back, and doing anything else feels a bit like giving up, I think I will fly back from St. John's. It would cost about $2000 less than riding back, and my Lady is making sounds that she misses me...(and I miss her and the West Coast and my own bed).

What do I do about the scoot? First I thought I would just sell it for whatever I could get for it, probably to a bike shop. But I've grown attached to the Old Girl, and I think I'd like to ship her back if it's not too expensive. I will look into that when I get to St. John's.

So, conclusion? Not yet ;)

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Sat, 19 July 2014 - Exploring the Rock

The weather did indeed get better - much better except for the omni-present wind. I head north, on my way to some campsite near Gander, but first I have to take the obligatory "Entering Province" shot:

Then I decide to stop in at one of the many Travel Information Centers Nfld has. Now, EVERYONE I talked to back home told me I had to go to Gros Morne National Park, but I had thought it was out of my way and not in the area I wanted to see. However the Info Person ALSO told me I had to go, and I finally caved in (partly because the weather forecast for Gander was not looking that good).

So, off to Gros Morne I go. The scrub bushes around Port Aux Basques slowly change to trees and the scenery starts to look like Northern Ontario. But once I get more into the park, it turns to more like the West Coast: "mountains" (hills actually ;) ) everywhere, lakes and inlets from the ocean.

I get to a small town inside the park called Rocky Harbour, for good reason:

The Info Person said there was a band playing in the local pub Mon, Wed and Fri that shouldn't be missed, but apparently tickets were sold out days before. So I made myself comfortable in a nice campsite virtually in the town. The fact that it was the LAST campsite available on a Fri should have warned me...

I did a quick tour of the town, looking for a grocery store, and found my first Official East-Coast lighthouse:

Next day, I set out at a leisurely pace since I had only 300 km or so to travel. The weather forecast was good for the next couple of days, then predicted showers. So the New Plan was to do some camping and exploring while the sun shone, only getting to St. John's and a motel when the weather turned bad.

I met a nice couple at one of the viewpoints. The woman was from St. John's and she  told me lots of places to see once I was there, including a park right in the city that you can camp in.

I made a side-trip to Pasedena (NL, not CA!) to get a gift for my Lady. I will add more after I return home and find out if she likes it. HINT: it's something from Newfoundland/Labrador that I can fit in my pack (so it's not a moose).

I stopped at another Info Center and the Info Person said the Provincial Park was just up the road, and Lewisporte was just up the other road, where I could get something to eat. We also looked at "Fogo, Twillingate, Morton's Harbour" but we couldn't find Morton's Harbour. I'd like to go there, but it was too far out of my way.

 I decide to go to Lewisporte first to get something to cook, then decide if I'm going there anyway, might as well stay at the campsite there instead of coming back to the Prov. one. BUT... the campsite was full-up completely! Disappointed, I started back to the highway for the Prov. Park. But if that campsite was full, would the Prov. Park have any? I decide to stop in to an Inn right in Lewisporte and at least see if they have a room and how much it would cost.

Yes, and $99 plus taxes. I decide on the bird in the hand, take the room and have a delicious prime-rib steak at the restaurant.

Friday, 18 July 2014

 Thurs 17 July 2014 - Finally, the Rock!

On Wednesday the forecast is for clouds, some fog, and 40% chance of showers. Time to move on. I  put on my raingear and head out, up the "scenic route" of the Eastern Shore. I'm sure it's very scenic, but all I saw was white - while it wasn't raining, it was quite foggy and cold and I couldn't see much of anything, especially out over the water.

I had breakfast at the Fairmont Motel and Restaurant at Sheet Harbour, and I'm SURE it's the same motel I stayed at 30 years ago, when it was a "motel and marina", complete with a rickety 50 ft dock with a rowboat tied to it.

I fueled up at Sherbrooke ("Oh I wish I was in Sherbrooke now...") and got my first taste of a good East-coast accent. Then inland, and the fog disappeared and the weather became quite nice. Except for the wind, of course, that today was mainly behind me.

I had reserved a spot on the Newfoundland ferry for Thursday, and they insist that you show up 2 hours before sailing, so I wanted a motel close to North Sydney. I rode past the Bra d'Or lakes, and stopped at a lookout.

and there was this BIG bridge:

I'm sure glad I'm not crossing that one: you can see the whitecaps from here and with 30 knots blowing up that inlet, it would be a VERY scary rie!

Guess what, boys and girls - I DID have to cross that bridge. And it was certainly a white-knuckle ride. The wind was thankfully pretty constant, but the structures gave momentary protection so the wind dropped, then rose again as I travelled across.

Once across, I was 20 km or so from North Sydney and decided to take a nice, inexpensive hotel there on the highway.

Next morning, bright and early (or at least early ...), I headed for the ferry. The fog lifted as I got close, and the weather looked quite pleasant at the waiting area. I had a nice breakfast and before too long we were asked to board.

Now, how do you ensure a motorbike doesn't fall over and slide all over the place on a ferry going across open ocean? This is how:

Strap it down like King Kong - it's not going anywhere. And once again I was the smallest bike there. There were others from Ontario and Alberta, and even a guy in a beautiful Alpha-Romero.

Here is my last sighting of land on the south side - the next land I see will be Newfoundland.
And oh, look: another wind farm! They're indeed everywhere.

The trip across was quiet and uneventful, and I read my Kindle-book and watched the waves go by.

Finally we reached Newfoundland, and it looks pretty much like all the pictures you've seen:

We sheep go down the stairs when we're told to, unstrap the bikes and I'm off onto my ninth and final province. And just as I get to the hotel, the heavens open and it POURS with rain - I hope the weather's better tomorrow!