Labrador and Newfoundland

June 2006


Continuing the idiocy...


  

Wow, where do I begin.  How about at the end?  This was a spectacular trip for all the right reasons.  There are so many pieces to this trip and so many things that I want to write down, share, and remember for myself.  At the end of it, this was 2 ½ weeks well spent on the KLR with ups and downs, rain and sun, dirt and pavement, solitude and companionship – all the things that make a trip memorable.  It is, after all, the “little things” that only I know about that cement the sights, sounds, and miles of the trip together.  And there were plenty of little things.

 

The only difference from this trip vs. others that I have taken is that I actually had three reservations for this trip – not hotel reservations, but ferry.  So while I did spread the reservations apart as much as possible, so that I wouldn’t feel rushed trying to make one of these connections, I did in fact have some target dates and times that I had to shoot for.  There was no way I could miss the ferry in Goose Bay – else I’d be stuck there a week waiting for the next one.  The other two were less critical, but the good news is that I never did feel rushed.

 

I said that I had three reservations, but that’s not entirely true.  For some reason, and not just this year, I had reservations about taking this trip in general.  At first, I didn’t want to take it by myself.  I saw and still see Labrador and Newfoundland as one of “those places” – similar to Alaska.  Just saying the words imparts an aura of distinction, at least to me.  It’s not the distance that you must travel to get there that gives it this sense in it’s entirety, but that does have something to do with it.  It’s unexplored, it’s new. Simply saying the word Newfoundland perks up your ears.  I didn’t want this to be something that only I experienced, as I felt it appropriate to share this experience and not selfishly keep it to myself.  Over time I came to realize that seeing it solo would ultimately be the case.  On the other hand, traveling by myself for that length of time was sure to be amazing, but I couldn’t help think that maybe if I waited another year that Adam and/or Otter would be able to go with me.  I thought it was all going to work out with having Adam go with for the first week, just up to Goose Bay before he had to turn around, but that fell through.  At this point, I had to convince myself that the time was now and I needed to take advantage of the opportunity, but I still wasn’t convinced this was right.

 

Besides that reservation in going, I had other things holding me back.  It sounds stupid when you compare these things to taking a road trip, but they were there nonetheless.  I was leaving for almost three weeks in June – prime summer months.  As a general rule, I’ve been enjoying traveling in April, May, September and October more than the three summer months.  In addition to the cooler temperatures, and less traffic, the summer months tend to get crazy busy.  Taking three weeks away from that was sure to produce a backlog of crap to take care of – house crap, bike maintenance, etc.  It’s always difficult coming home from a trip and tackling the backlog of responsibilities that you’ve left behind, and I was a little concerned that the rest of the summer would suffer from my three week hiatus. 

 

I honestly wasn’t sure how long it would take me to put these reservations out of my head.

  

Jumping off point:  I don't care to listen to your blather, Tad...just show me the pictures!!

 

 

The Beginning:

 

The night before the trip, after making it out of work, I really didn’t feel like packing.  I needed to just relax, but having given myself plenty of time to make it to Goose Bay, I wasn’t in a rush.  So this was the overall plan – head across northern Ontario and Quebec, pick up the Trans Labrador Highway up to Goose bay, overnight ferry down to Cartwright, side the Labrador Coastal highway down to Blanc Sablon, hop the quick ferry to the island, ride around the island for a couple days, catch the Port Aux Basques ferry back to Nova Scotia, and then make my way home from there.  I woke up on Wednesday and packed up in about an hour or so…maybe a bit longer, I don’t really remember.  When the bags looked full, I figured I had everything I needed. 

 

Clear day for a ride through Wisconsin today, but lots of wind.  For being on the KLR, which isn’t highway-friendly, I made pretty good time.  Looking back at my journal, one entry that I had for today was the “Ottery Trucking Company” to which I thought: “Hmm, he hasn’t been very Ottery lately.  Is that really a word anyway?”  I know he’s doing his own thing these days, and I respect that 100%.  I know that if/when the time is right, we’ll get back out on the road again someday.  I hope that time is sooner rather than later.  I do miss those times – they were good.  I thought about this a lot today, and those thoughts were only amplified when I saw the name of the trucking company.  It had long since been on my mind.

 

One of the things I had never done before is camp along Lake Superior.  It’s not really the thing to do during ATL, and I found myself with the opportunity hitting me in the face, along with a few drops of rain.  I made my way to Lake Shore Drive where I thought there were some campgrounds, and I was right.  I found one right along the lake, and setup for the night, just a bit of a drizzle falling as I setup camp.  The sun was setting, and I kept sneaking a peek at the lake as I was setting up, but I wanted to make sure I got situated in case the rains came.  I made myself some hot chocolate, walked to the lakeshore and watched an amazing sunset.  The sky was filled with purple and red, and the sunset seemed to last for an hour.  Truly amazing.  Great way to start the trip.

 

(Sunset 1) (Sunset 2) (Sunset 3) (My Campsite)

 

Rainy Days:

 

It rained.  Then it rained some more.  OK, seriously, I broke camp at Lake Superior and made my way to the bridge in the morning, thoughts of the West Side Café for breakfast keeping me going through the morning drizzle.  It was clear at the Soo, and I had a great bologna and eggs breakfast at the café, another place that I hadn’t visited since ATL went from 4 days to 5, which was a number of years ago.  The West Side Café doesn’t line up as a place to eat breakfast anymore on that trip, but it was as good as I ever remember it being.

 

I didn’t mind at all having to turn right and leave Trans Canada 17 behind, after all, I was just up here two weeks ago for ATL.  I headed across towards Ranger Lake on the dirt road that Adam and I took on ATL a couple of years ago.  Spectacular weather this morning, with just a few white puffy clouds in the sky.  I had a big time “oh shit” moment on the KLR when both tires slid on me big time, and I honestly didn’t know if she was coming back.  She decided to right herself, I didn’t wipe out, and I kept going.  Quick check of the drawers showed that they were still clean, so it couldn’t have been that bad – my eyes must not have closed. 

 

(Dirt Road) (Lake) (Dirt Road) (Dirt Road)

 

Nearing the end of the road, I did start thinking about Adam, and not just how I was so much faster than him on the dirt the last time through here (only because I was on knobbies and he was on street tires…and that’s the ONLY reason, because otherwise I’d have caught up to him eventually).  I knew he had been dying to get on the road and I wished that this would have worked out.  We had originally planned to leave about three weeks earlier, which would have coincided with ATL and made for a great send off.  I was hoping that I could ride the first day of ATL, and then announce that I was leaving from there for Newfoundland, but they changed the ferry schedule this year and the first Goose Bay sailing wasn’t until June 9th, so that didn’t work out – and then Adam couldn’t do the trip later, so it fell apart, and here I was, riding a road that we had ridden together a few years ago.  I can understand completely that things aren’t always possible, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.. 

 

At the end of the road, next to the steel bridge in the gravel parking area, I wrote Adam’s name into the gravel before I left.  I also spent a long time down by the water skipping stones, and in fact, I broke my stone skipping record.  I counted 15 but that’s unofficial of course.

 

I’m not sure why I skip stones, other than to do it, but standing there I was flooded by memories like I often am.  For whatever reason, not sure if it was because of thoughts of Otter and Adam over the last two days, I thought of the Arctic Ocean…skipping stones on the Arctic – that was pretty cool.  What an experience to be up there.  Thoughts then drifted to the Atlantic ocean, a place I hadn’t seen since…hmmm, have to think about it, probably since Penny and I went to the outer banks.

 

Standing there on the lakeshore, it hit me that the KLR was about to become a three ocean bike.  I had it to the Arctic (and the Pacific in Alaska, but I don’t count the latter since the Pacific and California have such a close tie in to one another…Alaska is an Arctic ocean state in my mind), out to northern California two years ago, and now I’m heading to Newfoundland.  That’s a lot of territory to cover on a little KLR, and I caught myself smiling big time as that thought went through my head.  I don’t do this stuff to show off, or brag – I do it for the memories for myself first and foremost.  But for some reason, I found this a really interesting realization to have, and I was surprised that I hadn’t thought of it sooner.  I haven’t been to all 50 states (yet), nor to all of the Canadian provinces (yet), but this bike and I have been to all three oceans.  It was never a goal, nor something I purposely set out to do – it just happened.  If that’s not a metaphor for riding the road just to find out what’s on the other side of the horizon, I don’t know what is.  My last thought, as written in my journal that day, was “oh great, another bike that I can’t sell.”

 

(Lake at the end of the road)  (Bridge at the end of the road)

 

I said good bye to the dirt, hello to the pavement, and then welcomed in the rain.  Holy begeesus.  It started raining around Timmins, Ontario, and literally didn’t stop for three days.  Afternoon after afternoon, I kept waiting for the rain to stop so that I could setup camp.  I’m all for roughing it and enjoying the outdoors, but on a motorcycle with limited supplies, I’ll grab a room rather than setup camp in a downpour.  And downpour it did. 

 

(Boulder Lake in Northern Ontario)

 

As I rode along towards the Quebec border that same day, I had another vision.  In my Left Coast trip report, I wrote about the feeling of seeing a vision of yourself as you ride along, as if you were looking down from behind and above where you were riding, the surroundings completely dwarfing you and showing the insignificance of who you are, where you are, and what you are doing at that moment.  Well, today vision was a little different…OK, a lot different.  There I was, dusk in Quebec, rain hammering down on me so hard that I could feel the raindrops stinging against my biceps (through my stich, a couple layers, and rain gear), helmet visor fogging up, boots soaking wet (if you’ve ridden a motorcycle, you’ve been here yourself), and I saw a vision of myself.  I could see the headlight of the KLR struggling mightily to illuminate the path in front of me; the rider tucked in a bit behind the windscreen – why?  I don’t know, he’s soaked already, so what difference does it make?  This vision it seemed was from about 100 yards in front of me and at the tree tops, looking down on this rider on an ugly KLR fighting the wind, the rain, the cold, overwhelmed by the sheer number of pine trees that towered above him.  In a rainstorm this strong it’s hard to tell where the dark green trees and and the black sky begins, and the vision, that single headlight flickering in the rain, was surrounded by endless black.  I saw it clear as day through the stormy night, and all I could think to myself was “Man, I’m an idiot.”

 

So while that is absolutely what I thought – I mean, who wouldn’t in that same situation – I wasn’t miserable.  Sure, I was cold, tired, I kinda wanted the town of Rouyn-Noranda to arrive quicker than the kilometer markers were telling me, but it was right.  You don’t do this because it’s comfortable, or easy, or because the average person would look at it and say “Yep, that makes sense to me.”  No, there’s enough people constantly asking you if you’re cold, or hot, or wet, or does your butt hurt that you can’t help but be reminded that what you are doing is different, and in the case of these couple days, difficult.  There was a certain amount of motivation, drive, and determination that kept me going, but the thought of stopping never entered my head once.  With the rain, and the lack of stops to take pictures, these days were quite Ottery.  I just rode and rode and rode, and did some good miles.  With the right mindset, and for me, with a million memories thrashing around in my head, days like these can be comfortable, easy, and depending on the company you keep, the average person might just think that your actions “make sense” to them.  Having said that, I froze my ass off for three days…but like I said, I’m an idiot.

 

The next day, my boots were completely soaked through after 15 minutes.  I realized that I had ridden with these boots in the rain before, but not a hard downpour.  On the KLR, I just wear workboots rather than my good Sidis – workboots are better for camping and hiking anyway.  So I ran across a Wal Mart in Val-D’or and thought, “Sweet.  Dry boots.”  I bought a new pair, sprayed them down, and my feet stayed dry…for at least an hour.  But that was a good hour.

 

I can’t gloss over the forests and desolation of this area.  It continued to rain and the forest continued as far as I could see for three more days -  big forests, tall tall timber, mostly pine although I don’t know enough about it to tell you if they were white, red, yellow, or otherwise.  Route 113 up to Chibougamau (which is actually easy to pronounce – just sound it out) was way in the middle of nowhere.

 

Your mind wanders to some interesting places on days like this where it’s rain, rain, and more rain.  One of the thoughts was that this was Penny’s Dad messing with me, as he still likes to do.  I figured he would like this place – it’s quiet, clean, peaceful, just like the farm in Iowa.  Everything’s natural, he would definitely like this.  As I was thinking about him, I passed by the Dumas Mining Company, again, a nickname that Otter gave to me years ago, probably when we were in the town of Dumas, Arkansas.  I can’t make this stuff up.  One thing followed the other.  I could hear him laughing his ass off at me – it was perfect.  I would expect nothing else.

 

Besides the people who continually asked me over this couple day stretch questions like “What are you doing” and “Today isn’t a good day to take a ride” I did meet some nice people.  Sure, the cook at the restaurant in Chibougamau looked at me funny, as did the waitress at the café in Desmaraisville, but they were both cordial to me.  I met a guy at Breakfast in Val-D’or who was local, rode a Harley, and could completely understand how I was out there today.  He noticed my heated vest cord, and mentioned also to me that he was looking to get a Buell Ulysses as his next bike, and asked me how different the Ulysses was from my KLR.  We had a good conversation between us, and I only speak about 20 words of French.

 

Finally, after riding through Quebec for three days, the rain stopped.  I still wasn’t seeing the sun, but at least the rain stopped.  I know I mentioned it before, but the forests in Quebec are amazing, and throw in some mountainous terrain on the road towards Tadoussac and the level of intensity increases 10 fold.  Couple that with the fact that I’d been doing a lot of miles the last couple days, in the rain, without much else to see or do and the old think-box was pretty much useless at this point.  It had shut down a while ago, my head clear of any unpleasant thoughts, but millions of good ones lived on.  The reservations that I had were long gone, left behind somewhere in the endless rain.  I knew they weren’t strong since they dissipated to quickly and easily, especially when faced with a couple days of rainy riding.  It’s very easy to get down during days like this, but I couldn’t have been more towards the other end of the spectrum.  What was I concentrating on?  Besides the wonder of what lies ahead in Labrador and Newfoundland, I was also looking forward to revisiting the Cabot Trail, and absolutely looking forward to seeing Cape Enrage, although that was about two weeks away.  Regardless, these are and were very good things to think about on the road, and this mindset was definitely a bi-product of a couple days of rain.  So I guess it is good for something…just like Nebraska, right Adam?

 

(KLR) (Road towards Tadoussac) (KLR) (Covered Bridge)

 

What this mind shutdown leads to, for me especially when I travel solo, is the absolute inability to make a decision.  It happened the other night in Chibougamau where I rode back and forth between two hotels – twice – because I couldn’t decide which one to stay at.  I really didn’t care, but I couldn’t form any logical decision on why one would be better than the other, so I finally forced myself off the bike and just chose whichever one I was currently at.  The same thing happened once I got to the St. Lawrence River (or seaway, not sure what it’s actually called, but if it’s a river, it’s the biggest goddamned river I’ve ever seen in my life).

 

At the St. Lawrence river, things were apt.  Overcast skies, high waves crashing against the rocks, and a little drizzle.  Grey and dreary – perfect.  It reminded me of the opening scene in Hunt for Red October when they’re leaving the cold port in northern Russia.    I’m sure this place would be incredible on a day with blue skies, that is, if those days exist in this area.  As I made my way up the river towards Baie-Comeau, fighting a nasty but appropriate headwind the entire way, I noticed a lighthouse off on a point.  The gate was closed, and I couldn’t finagle the KLR around the gate, so I looked for another entrance via a snowmobile path.  I ended up at a small campground and parked along the shore for a bit.  I tried one more time to find my way to the lighthouse, but failed.  Needing camping supplies, I headed into the next town, about 5 miles away, and got water and a beer.  Yes, those are camping supplies.

 

(St. Lawrence River) (Barge) (Shoreline)

 

Here’s a classic example of brainless Tad, who is unable to make a decision.  This isn’t the first time it has happened – I wrote about it in my Left Coast trip report - and certainly not the last.  A perfectly good campground existed 5 miles back…but that would mean going backwards.  I literally sat in the parking lot for 5 minutes looking at the map, wondering what’s up the road.  Then I put my helmet on, got on the bike, started it, and looked at the turn signal button – right to go back, left to go on.  The KLR thumped at idle for a few seconds…the rider did nothing but sit there with a blank look on his face.  I turned off the bike and looked at the map more.  Sounds silly, right?  The thing is, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I really didn’t care either way.  I finally defaulted to “keep going” and let’s see what we’ll find, but about 2 miles up the road, I heard Adam’s voice saying “God Damnit, there’s a perfectly good campground just 5 miles back from here!!”  I tried arguing with him that the last time this happened and we kept going, we ended up camping near the Columbia Glacier and it snowed that night, which was awesome.  Who’s to say the same wouldn’t happen up the road? But his insistence continued. I turned around the headed back to the campground.  I picked out a spot right along the water (not too close, I learned my lesson at Fernandina Beach in Florida), setup camp, and took out my beer.  It was a perfect moment – sitting in a white wooden beach chair, beer in hand, waves crashing, and that same lighthouse now to my left off on the peak, the light flashing every 5 seconds.  I toasted those that I left behind on the trip, wished they were here with me, and that was the end of that.  After a few minutes, I made some soup and sat down to eat.  A few warning drops hit me before the skies opened up, but I was able to get most things stowed before the downpour began.  I made it to the tent and read for a bit.  As the winds picked up, the tent started moving, and I swore the poles were bending down far enough to hit me in the head.  This was going to be an interesting night of camping.

 

(Campsite)  (Lighthouse)

 

An hour or so later, rain still pouring down and me sleeping with earplugs in, I heard a loud thud.  I knew what it was immediately, but I didn’t want to admit it.  I thought, ehh, it can wait until morning.  The rain was pounding down on my tent, the rain fly now stuck to the tent in a couple places from the mass amount of water, and some nice drips were making an otherwise dry floor into Lake Tad.  When I smelled gasoline, I muttered the words “aw, shit” as if I were in a caddy golf tournament and had just hit my drive into the beach.  I got out of my warm, dry sleeping bag, put on the boots, donned the headband light, and opened the tent door to the rainstorm…which for some reason had died down for the moment.  There was the KLR, toppled over on it’s left side, the sidestand having dug itself a hole.  I righted the bike easily, moved it to another part of the gravel where there were some bigger rocks, and secured the sidestand again.  It was then that I noticed the lighthouse beacon.  As I sat drinking my beer, I saw the light flashing every 5 seconds.  But in the dark of night with a layer of fog all around, the light rippled through the fog forming a triangular pattern which then rotated around and around.  I stood there in the rain for a good minute or so, just staring at that scene.  It was like something out of a movie.  Had the KLR not gone over, I wouldn’t have been able to see it, and I’m glad the KLR fell over.  In fact, had  I not heard Adam’s voice yelling at me to turn around, I wouldn’t be here anyway, so I’m glad both things happened.  Thanks Adam.

 

Back inside the tent, I realized that my shirt was soaked, but as the rain had picked back up, I realized there was no way I was going back to the KLR to get a dry shirt…so off with it and back to sleep.  Luckily it was only about 42 that night, and the blue kazoo kept me plenty warm. 

 

By morning, and throughout the night, the tent floor got wetter and wetter, and I ended up moving further  and further away from the door and towards the still dry side, or dry couple feet, of the tent.  I realized last night that I was stuck, and I had to just grin and bear it and make it through to the morning.  It was still raining, although not as hard as I broke camp and continued  on.  All things considered, it was a heck of a memorable camping experience, another that I won’t soon forget.  The bottlecap from my Bleu is still in my stich pocket.

 

Heading up the Quebec-Labrador Highway:

 

Mental note for this morning:  I need to learn how to say “over easy” in French.  I had a good breakfast at a little café despite the over hard eggs.  My bad, I don’t speak the language.  Quebec is an odd place.  I can’t say I particularly like it, or dislike it.  While every other Canadian province has both English and French signs, in Quebec it’s French only.  Things look European as well.  It’s hard to describe, but the pitch of the roofs on houses or the shape of the windows, for example, just look more European.  Like I said, I neither like nor dislike it.

 

Back to yesterday for a moment, and  this is directly out of my journal entry from breakfast. 

 

The ride to Tadoussac was incredible.  The road reminded me of too many places to list, but it got me thinking…I’ve seen so many places that so many memories are sparked in my head when the ride turns “really good.”  Yesterday reminded me of West Virginia, Ouray, Colorado, TC-17, so many places.  In fact, the ride held it’s own to many a visited place so far in my journey though life.  I now have another place and another memory to be sparked the next time the ride turns “really good.”

 

It rained more than it didn’t today.  The beginning of the Quebec-Labrador Highway again went through some wonderful terrain with more abundant forests.  It was paved most of the day today, and when I arrived at the “town” up the way in Manic 5, I stopped for gas.  I was glad that I had stopped at the visitor’s center in Baie-Comeau since they had a pretty detailed map of the highway, and this was the first of two towns in this area, and there was little else.  Talking to a couple of people in the parking lot, they mentioned that the rain was supposed to blow out of here tonight, and they mentioned that this hotel was a lot nicer than the one in Relais Gabriel.  Even though it was only 5:30, I decided to not have a moment where Adam needed to intervene, and I got a room.  Plus, this way I could ride the hour to Gabriel in the morning and have breakfast there – the next town, Labrador City, was quite a hike, so this seemed fine.  I used the night to dry out my soaking wet tent and mattress pad, and had a bite to eat in the cafeteria with the mining and electrical workers.

 

(Quebec-Labrador Highway Sign) (KLR) (KLR) (Hotel)

 

The weather was better in the morning, and the sun did peek through from time to time.  I headed out north, and immediately stopped for a picture at the Manic 5 dam, a Froonch Canadian Beavis voice echoing through my head. “Oui!  J’ai une question??”  The road turned to dirt and the ride got really good.  There was this huge lake off to my left, and why is my temperature gauge spiked?  What the hell, this bike never overheats.  I pulled over and noticed (after I scraped away the mud) that my coolant overflow tank was empty.  That’s odd, it must have spilled out when the bike tipped over two nights ago.  I filled it with some water that I had, and continued on.  10 minutes later, the bike overheated again.  This time I took everything apart to check for pinched hoses, and any signs of leakage.  I removed the radiator cap to find a dry radiator…that’s weird, I wouldn’t think that all the coolant would have spilled out since it was only on it’s side for a few minutes before I righted it.  I do have to admit, it’s an interesting feeling being broken down roadside along the Quebec-Labrador highway, literally in the middle of nowhere.  It wasn’t frightening, as every passing car slowed to see if you were OK.  It was more a feeling of wonder.  I wonder what’s wrong with the bike, I wonder if it’s going to be fixable, and I wonder if the trip is going to continue.  I filled it with the rest of my water, and made it to Relais Gabriel for breakfast about 20 minutes later with out incident.

 

(KLR w/French Roadsign) (KLR) (KLR) (Crater) (Broken Down) (KLR w/Crater) (Relais Gabriel)

 

Upon arriving, an older gentleman started talking to me, and then joined me for breakfast.  He had been there for a couple days for work, and was obviously bored out of his mind.  He and I swapped stories over breakfast, and talked about the many places that we had both visited.  The owner joined us for a few minutes and explained that the huge lake over there was actually a meteor impact.  He told me a couple interesting facts about it – one, that the fireball from the impact devastated the landscape all the way down to New Jersey, and that the meteor had hit at such a direct angle that there were rivers flowing from the lake every 18 degrees on center.  I haven’t been out to Google maps to check it out for myself, but I’ll take him for his word.  Before I left, I filled my waterbottles with tap water in case I ran into trouble up the road.

 

The road reminded me of the Dalton, in that it kept switching from pavement to dirt, and back, but was nothing like the Dalton.  That’s not really a fair statement to make, because there are no roads like the Dalton, because there is nothing that can be compared to the Brooks Range.  The desolation and barren land is here in Labrador, and I can’t stress that enough, so that comparison is legitimate.  It also reminded me of the Dalton in the fact that it’s a utility road, not necessarily one for tourism or recreation.  There were about as many semis on this road as there was on the Dalton, which is to say that they outnumbered cars but were in no way plentiful.  I would maybe see another vehicle every half hour.

 

(Road) (Road) (KLR) (Pavement) (Lake)


Near an area where the road traced the railroad grade, and kept crossing back and forth over the tracks, I noticed some painted rocks, including one of Mickey Mouse.  That reminded me of the car dealer sign from yesterday.  Jean Dumas was his name, and I had a good laugh over that and decided to adopt that as my Froonch Canadian nickname.  I guess Mickey found that amusing as well.

 

 (Twisty) (Mickey) (Arret!)

 

Before the Labrador border, I made a quick sidetrip to Fremont, as the gentleman at Relais Gabriel had suggested, just to see the “town.”  The town consists of no more than a couple buildings, but the main building is about ½ mile long.  It’s an interconnected city, with inside hallway access between the residences, food store, theater, and everything else.  I can imagine why they wouldn’t want to go outside here during the winter.

 

(Road) (Tires) (Fremont) (Fremont)

 

I crossed the border into Labrador without fanfare, although I did enjoy a few minutes at the border itself, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment in standing there.  I had been thinking about coming here for three years, and I felt very content being here now.  I took the time to look at my map and I definitely wanted to camp tonight.  I was sick of staying at hotels.  I made my way to Labrador City where I stopped at the local grocery store to get supplies.  I had to keep myself from busting out with laughter, as there were at least 10 people that gave me the “jaw on the floor” stare as I walked through in my dirty ol’ stich.  What, you’ve never seen an idiot before??

 

(Border) (Border) (Sign)

 

One of the locals had told me about a campground just a few miles out of town, so I headed that way.  Upon arriving, I found a line of RVs and thought, “Nope, not here.”  Unfortunately, I had no idea what was up the road, but not even Adam dare suggest that I stop and camp there.  It was 150 miles to Churchill, and I figured worst case, I could stay there.  About an hour into the ride, I passed a little double-track into the woods, and figured  this was the perfect place to just camp roadside.  Seeing as I had passed that double-track, I decided that I’d turn off the road at the next one, wherever that might be and there was my fate campground.  The next one appeared at 99.3 miles, near a lake, and I rode up a little incline to get to a point where I was about ½ mile off the road.  This is the type of camping that I love, and that which I know makes both my wife and my mom nervous, let alone my mother-in-law.  I was not the first to camp there, as I found some firewood and a small table, just perfect for my camping stove - and I thought I’d be eating on the ground tonight.  I made myself some hot chocolate, and walked down to the lake to enjoy the evening.  When I stopped walking, I noticed it: Pure and complete silence.  I heard an occasional bird chirping, some very gentle waves hitting the shoreline, but mostly just the wind – a steady breeze, and nothing else.  The feeling of wonder that I felt broken down roadside doesn’t even come close to the feeling of wonder camping roadside in Labrador.

 

(Road) (Road) (Road)

 

It’s worth mentioning that the water bottle that I had filled up in Relais Gabriel had cracked inside my tail bag and spilled all over my sleeping bag.  What, you’ve never seen an idiot before?

 

(Campsite)

 

 

Labrador:

 

That had to be a really big owl that flew over my tent last night.  I could hear the air being pushed by his wingspan as I read.  After a great night of camping, I headed out for the last part of the Trans Labrador highway.  This ride is really nice, but is nowhere near what it must have been in year’s past.  Just like when Otter, Adam, and I rode the Alcan a few years ago and could see the old road at times, so too could I see the old road here.  I had read stories of difficult terrain, steep inclines, etc.  I kinda wish I could have ridden that road before they straightened it out, but on the other hand, when I get on technical dirt roads like that, I spend too much time concentrating on the road.  The way the Trans-Labrador is today, I could cruise along at 60 and still focus 75% of my sight on the terrain, so I guess I don’t mind. 

 

(River) (Churchill River) (Closeup) (Bridge) (KLR)

 

I found “the hotel” in Churchill and had a great breakfast, bumping into a couple that I had met at Relais Gabriel yesterday.  While the town of Churchill is much different than Fremont, the main city center is very much the same.  It’s a large building with everything interconnected.  The public library was open, and since I hadn’t called 1cent yet, I decided to drop her an email.  It was still early morning Atlantic time, and I figured she was still asleep.  I also tried to get a last minute tour of the generating station, but both tour guides were unavailable.  That’s OK, I still needed to make it the last couple hundred miles to Goose bay to catch the 5:00 ferry today.

 

(Breakfast) (Power Station Sign)

 

Sandwich stowed in my bag, I headed out for the last stretch of the Trans-Labrador highway.  The road was again pretty easy, except of course for the big grading machines that they had working the road.  They would pile up the dust into the center of the highway, which wasn’t a problem until you needed to cross it, but even that was pretty easy on the KLR.  I took my time, did a little bit of exploring, and had a great ride.  The scenery kept getting greener and greener as I got closer to Happy Valley/Goose Bay.  Really amazing terrain out here.  Desolate.  Beautiful.  Crisp and clean.  I’m glad someone built a road here.

 

(Road) (Road) (River) (Road) (KLR) (Happy Valley)

 

I arrived at the ferry terminal around 3:00 for the 5:00 sailing, and it went downhill from there.  Nah, just kidding.  I met up with four other motorcyclists in the parking lot, a married couple from Pennsylvania and two brothers from New Jersey.  We struck up a conversation right away – an idiot on a KLR tends to prompt a lot of questions.  On board, I saw them on the top deck as we were leaving port, and we continued our conversation in the lounge for pretty much the rest of the evening.  I learned a lot that evening talking to the brothers (Mike and Skip), as well as from Ike and Mary Ann.  The most important lesson was: Don’t drink Dark Horse beer first.  This beer is only to be drank after you’ve already got a buzz.  It is the P.B.R. of Canada.

 

(Skip, Ike, Mike, and Mary Ann) (Goose Bay) (Rainbow)

 

We learned really quick that you have to look out for Ike.  A retired Sgt. Major from the special services in the army, who is set to be laid to rest in Arlington, Ike had stories, and he liked to tell them.  What a sense of humor.  At first, we were all on the edge of our seat, listening to him, but after 2-3 punchlines, we learned to wait for the punchline before we got sucked in too much.  Between the 5 of us, it’s amazing that anyone got a word in edgewise.  We had all led really active and diverse lives, and we each had stories to tell.  They were all interested in Alaska, Skip and Mike had some great stories, and really Ike stole the show.  He and Mary Ann live like they’re 20, not 70.  They ride bikes and snowmobiles, and do it to the fullest.  Mary Ann told us of a story being somewhere in Quebec and having ridden 450 miles that day on sleds.  We were all impressed, and Ike killed us when he said “And dag-nammit, we’d ‘a’ made 500 miles if I could have found gas at 2:30 in the morning!”  Classic.  I can remember his punchlines like it was yesterday, like when he spoke of his first job out of the service as a sherrif.  “Well, it took them about 15 minutes to realize that I wasn’t fit to put in front of the public.”  So they made him a bailiff and he told stories about that and we were all rolling…except for Mary Ann who just smiled and rolled her eyes every so often.  After many many beers (did I mention that the Palmer brothers can drink??) we eventually turned in for the night.  I met up again with them at breakfast the next morning, and it was as if we never slept.

 

There’s a connection to be made somehow between running into these four and the fact that I didn’t get the chance to share part of this trip with Adam or Otter.  But I don’t think I’ll go there right now.  Let’s just say that had I met up with them for the night, shared a few stories and some camaraderie, things would have been great.  What was yet to come was unimaginable.

 

How to have a great day of riding, despite a major bike breakdown:

 

I’ve seen a lot of sunrises in my travels, and talk about another set of memories that tends to show itself on many occasions.  I can’t say that the “best” sunset I ever saw was in one place or another.  I’m not sure that’s possible.  How can you measure one point in time against another?  Sure, some memories are more vivid than others, some sunrises are more visually beautiful than others, but sometimes just standing there and accepting that feeling that you have in the front of your mind for what it is at that moment and that moment alone - that’s what counts.  So there I was, somewhere on the Atlantic, surrounded by water and islands, with a visually incredible sunset happening before my eyes.  But the entire moment, the entire surroundings, the drone of the diesel engines, the smell of the sea water, the feeling I had in my head of “Whoa!  Where the hell am I and how did I get here” – these are all the things that make up a memory.  How can you qualify the sum total of all of these occurances against an arbitrary set of other characteristics that made up a moment some time in the past?  I sure can’t, and memory by memory, sometimes I can better remember the rays of sunlight shooting through the clouds, and sometimes I can better remember that sense of awe I felt as I looked at my surroundings and wondered what I did that allowed me to be standing here and now.  I’ll put this memory into the old noggin and see when it decides to show itself again.

 

(Sunrise) (Sunrise)

 

After watching the sunrise from the top deck of the boat, we pulled into port in Cartwright, Labrador.  Small town.  What the heck is it doing here?  It’s surreal.  Exiting the ferry, I pulled over right away to get suited back up.  I had a dormitory berth last night, basically a bunk bed, and I needed to get back into riding gear.  One by one, Skip, Mike, Ike, and Mary Ann passed me by and I gave them what I thought would be one last fare-well.  I was glad this wasn’t the case.

 

 (Cartwright) (Cartwright) (Dock) (KLR) (Ike) (Mary Ann) (Cartwright)

 

Now heading south on the Labrador Coastal highway, well, let’s just say that this is a stretch of road that everyone should ride once.  This was amazing, and the gravel road simply went from fishing village to fishing village.  Why?  Did someone build this road so that I could ride my KLR on it, because that’s what it felt like.  The entire day, I don’t think I saw 15 oncoming cars.  What other reason would there be for this road to be here?

 

(Sign) (KLR)

 

About 20 minutes outside of town, I passed Ike and Mary Ann, and I remembered Ike showing us pictures of their adventures last night.  He had a bunch of laminated pictures in his wallet, but few of the two of them together because “we’re usually out in the middle of nowhere and there’s nobody else there to take a picture.”  So, I pulled over and got a couple shots of them passing by so that I could send him another for his wallet.  An hour or so later, I did the same with Skip and Mike, and we ended up taking the same spur road out to Pinset Arm, the first of many stops today.    Again, surreal little village, and it’s amazing that it can survive.  There couldn’t be more than 20 houses, a dock, and piles and piles of firewood.  I made it to the end of town and into the town dump, but I decided to keep going a bit, and I’m glad I did.  It was here that I spotted my first iceberg, which had run aground just near the mouth of the bay.  Heck of a nice view from the town dump, and I walked across the mossy, spongy ground to get down to the sea…my first handful of Atlantic seawater to splash onto my face.  The KLR and I had made it – all three oceans.

 

(Ike and Mary Ann) (Ike and Mary Ann) (KLR) (KLR) (Road) (Sign) (new Road) (Mike) (Skip)

 

(Charlottetown) (Charlottetown) (Pinset Arm) (Pinset Arm) (Pinset Arm) (Iceberg) (KLR)

 

On the way out of town, I saw Skip, and I knew he was really excited about seeing bergs.  I asked if he had seen the berg, and he hadn’t…it’s at the end of the dump…who else but an idiot would go there?  So I lead him back there to see it, and he immediately grabbed the camera and found the same beauty that I had enjoyed just a few minutes earlier.

 

(Skip at Pinset Arm)

 

I took off again, heading for the main highway (yes, even though it’s a gravel road, it’s still called a highway).  I hit a couple little dirt double-tracks on my way back, but mostly just cruised along.  Back at the highway, and waiting for Skip and Mike, my bike overheated again.  I had water with me, filled it up, still wondering what was wrong.  I figured it would be good for a couple more days.  It wasn’t.  Any time that I would slow down, go off road, or let the bike idle, it would overheat.  Skip suggested that it might be the thermostat not opening early enough, and that sounded like a good diagnosis.  Skip and Mike also insisted on not leaving me alone, even though I kept telling them it was OK, and I would meet them in Blanc Sablon tonight.  They were having none of it, and I appreciate them hanging with me that day to ensure I didn’t get stranded…it’s not like it’s desolate out here or anything.  Heck, I’m not sure I saw 15 cars on the highway all day.

 

(Road out of Pinset Arm) (River) (Mike) (Skip) (Mary's Harbor) (Mary's Harbor) (Road) (Road)

 

Carrying plenty of water, I continued on with either Skip and Mike somewhere behind me, or just up the road waiting for me to arrive.  We took a couple side trips to see different fishing villages, and were generally not in a hurry since the next ferry wasn’t until 8:00AM the next morning, and we only had 150 miles to the hotel today, about 250 total for the day.  It felt very nice not to be in a hurry, and when we got to Red Bay, we saw a couple of familiar Buell Blasts parked outside the town restaurant.  After photographing another incredible iceberg, we joined Ike and Mary Ann inside for a few minutes.  I decided that I better give Penny a call since I’d been on the road for, ummm, many days and hadn’t called yet.  She was very happy to hear from me, like she always is.  What?  You’ve never seen anyone that likes an idiot before?

 

(KLR) (Skip and Mike) (The Road) (Mike) (Skip and Mike) (Dust)

 

(Iceberg in Red Bay) (Red Bay) (Red Bay Harbor) (Rusted out Boat) (Red Bay) (Buell 1) (Buell 2)

 

So I need to say something that probably doesn’t need to be said, and certainly doesn’t need to be explained to anyone that has ever traveled on two wheels.  The motorcycling community is incredible.  I’m not talking about poker runs, ride for kids, rallys – those have their place and do a lot of good for a lot of people and I don't wish to take anything away from them or from the people that enjoy them.  What I'm talking about though are Motorcyclists.  Motorcyclists are a different breed.  Despite the fact that I bought them a few beers last night, and they returned the favor to me, here were two guys that I had never met before in my life going out of their way and insisting on helping me.  It was as if I was about to get into a bar fight and I knew that my friends have “got my back.”  They didn’t want anything in return, this was just something they wanted to do, and of course I would have done the same for anyone else…but that’s not what you think about when you’re the one broken down on the side of the road.  I didn’t want to hold them up and felt guilty about altering their day, but they would have none of it.  For those of you that don’t ride, I can’t explain it any better than that.  Karma works.

 

We talked to the attendant at the gas station in Red Bay, and he mentioned that there were two shops just down the road in L’anse a Loop.  I called one and got a vague answer on whether they could help, so we just decided to head there and see what we could do.  I pulled into town to find Skip and Mike waiting for me at the first shop, Normore Enterprises.  After a couple minutes, the young salesguy had located a new thermostat for me at a dealer on the island, and the mechanic had agreed to take out the thermostat to get around the issue.  At least 5 times I said to Skip “Hey, why don’t you guys go to the next town and I’ll meet you there in a few hours.”  They wouldn’t leave.

 

So we wheel the KLR into the shop, and the mechanic is amazed to see that I actually know how to take apart the bike – I yank the tank off in less than 5 minute’s time.  He locates the thermostat and we realize that it can’t be removed…but we can disable it. “Go” I tell him, and a couple rips of the hacksaw and the plunger is gone.  Wide open thermostat.  He puts everything together, and I’m amazed to watch him work.  Nothing is organized, tools all over, yet he knows where everything is at.  I’m wondering if he is going to remember to tighten that hose clamp that he loosened, and before I even think of mentioning it, he double-checks his work tightens it, and fills the radiator with new coolant.  This guy’s good.  It’s only appropriate that his name is Merlin.

 

“Whoops, I must have wasted some,” he said, as he noticed a couple drips of coolant on the floor.  Concerned now, he takes a good hard look at the radiator, but can’t find anything.  Pressure cap goes on, couple of pumps pressure, and bing!  A solid round stream of coolant squirts out of the front of the radiator.  We’ve got a hole.

 

I forgot to mention that in the bay there are two icebergs sitting there in plain view, and the whole time I’m changing focus between the KLR and these two magnificent bergs floating in the bay.  When Merlin found the hole, I was wondering how long I was going to have to camp out here.  He thought we could get it fixed…but “the welder” is at home having dinner.  They called him and he said he’d meet Merlin there in an hour – I finally convinced Skip and Mike to leave me there at this point.  I was in good hands, and they had done their duty.  They reluctantly left, Merlin headed to dinner, and I figured that I’d hang my feet off that cliff right over there and look at the icebergs for an hour – I would have been completely content doing just that.  Victor, the other shop mechanic, had another idea, and asked me to come over to his house for tea, which I politely declined.  He stopped in his tracks and looked at me like I was an alien being.  “No, why don’t you come over and have tea with my wife and me,” he said, not taking no for an answer. “This is what we do up here in Labrador.”

 

His house was right across the street, and as we walked in he yelled to his wife “Hey honey, I brought an American home with me.”  Seems he does this all the time his wife Doreen told me.  Tea is actually translated into tea and dinner, and we had a nice meal of fried chicken, homemade poutine, and tea.  They showed be pictures of the snow, we told stories of everything from travel to government, and I felt very much at home.  I sparked a really interesting discussion when I told them they had a 2 million dollar view out of their front window – the town slopes down towards the water, and their view was of the whole town, the bay, and those two icebergs still floating in the water.  There was definitely some good karma thing going on here, something that every day I believe in more and more.

 

After a while, we saw some activity over at the shop, so I thanked them and headed back over.  Tyrone, the young saleskid, told me that they couldn’t fix the radiator – the metal was too thin to weld, but he had just run down to the next town (about 20 miles away) to get a JB Weld type agent and Merlin was going to fix the radiator with that.  “Want a tour of the town,” he asked me, and I obliged.  We got in the truck and he gave me the $.50 tour, explaining all sorts of history, ancient and recent.  I loved how he told the story of Paul McCartney being there last year to protest the baby seal hunting, explained to me as a necessary step to control the population since there are few natural predators and overpopulation means a lack of cod in the waters…the way he said “They won’t be back next year” really emphasized how much pride the people here have in their community.  This town was about survival, and very much like the way Skip, Mike, and I are part of the motorcycling community and they would be damned if one of theirs was going to get stranded, the community here operates in much the same way.  Whether it’s gathering firewood, helping someone on the side of the road, or just being a good and decent person, this town does it right in my book.  It’s befitting that I should break down in a place like this, in fact, there really was nowhere else that I wanted to be at that moment.  I really appreciated what the town had to offer as a humanitarian.

 

Tyrone and I returned to the shop after he showed me the Point Amour lighthouse, just south of town and told me some really interesting stories of the shipwrecks that had occurred at that point over the last 100 years.  Merlin was just pressure testing the radiator, and it held 20 PSI, which was plenty.  He started putting everything back together, picking up nuts and bolts from exactly the same spot that he had put them earlier – like I said, he’s good.  I put the finishing touches on her with the tank and bags and all the crap I carry, and I was all set to go.  I tried to explain to them what a positive experience this had been for me, and I thanked them all as much as I could before I left.  Merlin put it simply “I hope someday someone goes out of their way to help me when I need it.”  He didn’t have to say anything more than that.  Karma is a good thing, so long as you’re a good person.  Buddah says that a little differently, but the overall message is similar. 

 

(The guys in L'anse au Loop

 

It had gotten quite late and quite dark by now, and I was glad that Skip and Mike offered up floor space in their hotel room.  I arrived at the hotel a while later and found their bikes parked across the street at a cabin – which they had gotten for the night instead of a room and ended up saving $15.  They still wouldn’t let me chip in for the stay.

 

I wrote a couple pages in my journal this night as I had so many thoughts that I needed to get down on paper, and ended it this way:

 

You can’t make up stuff like this.  You can’t plan it.  It can’t be repeated.  At the end of the day, I wouldn’t change a single event if I could.  I don’t know what else to say.  Today was incredible for all the right reasons.  I feel like a human being, part of a good and decent society.  Life is good.

 

The Highway between Cartwright and Goose Bay is set to complete fall of 2009.  I need to come back here in 2010.  Victor made me promise.

 

The Island of Newfoundland (a.k.a. The Rock):

 

I had been giving Mike a hard time about his BMW, specifically how clean it was.  He kept looking at the KLR and all the stickers on it, and I was razzing him that he needed to do the same to his BMW, but he’d have none of it.  He and Skip were both collecting stickers, and it sounded like Skip was going to put them on his panniers.  At the harbor master’s office, we checked into the ferry and I noticed a small gift shop where is just so happened they had a Quebec sticker (we were back in Quebec this morning) and Mike and Skip hadn’t thought to get one earlier.  Mike had a good laugh when I handed him a Quebec sticker and said nothing else.

 

“The sea was angry that day my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”  Overcast skies, a steady wind, and rough seas abounded as we crossed the strait to the Island.  The seas were so rough that it was actually difficult to walk around.  I needed a railing or something to hold onto a few times, else I’d have ended up on my ass.  I spent the majority of the crossing out on deck in the open air.  Leaning against the outer railing, about mid-ship, the mist created from the hull crashing into the waves wet my face, the taste of sea water dripping from my mustache onto my lips.  No hat this morning, unless you never wanted to see it again, my hair wet with sea water blown straight back.  This ship was a lot smaller than the Robert Bond, the vessel from Goose Bay to Cartwright, and these seas were really rough.  I could clearly understand why there were so many shipwrecks along these shorelines.  Skip, Mike, and I watched as groups of humpback whales blew in the distance, one group appearing after another every few minutes.  There had to be hundreds of them in these waters, maybe thousands, and we were lucky to spot about 20 of them.

 

Skip and Mike were meeting another friend of theirs on the island, and I figured this to be the best place for us to part ways.  I met them on the ferry two nights ago, we parted ways on the ferry this morning.  They made me promise that if I ended up anywhere near New Jersey that I would call them.  This came up in conversation when we were talking about accomplishments, and I mentioned that I was only 3 states away from having ridden through all 50.  New Jersey, Rhose Island, and Delaware were the only ones I was missing, and Skip promised to show me the good part of New Jersey if I made it to visit.  Skip and Mike headed down to the galley for some breakfast, but I was determined to find breakfast on the island.  There was a restaurant at the ferry terminal in St. Barbe where I ordered up my two breakfasts and set my mind on “absorb” mode.  When I finished, Skip and Mike were gone, headed north somewhere onto the Northern Peninsula.  I had a feeling I’d run into them again.

 

(Breakfast)

 

Right out of the box, the ride north was tremendous and it didn’t let down all day, or for the next 4 days for that matter.  I talked about Newfoundland being one of “those” places – revered, admired, hallowed.  Labrador certainly laid down the gauntlet, and now it was up to Newfoundland to step up.  What makes each of them great are both their similarities and their differences.  Labrador is desolate, feels unexplored, is tremendously clean and beautiful, and the people are unbelievably friendly.  Newfoundland has pavement.  Everything else is the same.  OK, so there are some parts of Newfoundland that are “built up” compared to Labrador, but you have to understand that there are only 28,000 people in all of Labrador.  I’ve talked a lot about Alaska being desolate, and the numbers (from memory) are that there are 525,000 people in Alaska which is 550,000 square miles.  Labrador is 28,000 people over 625,000 square miles.  It’s no wonder I only saw 15 cars on the Labrador Coastal Highway…I guess they did build that road just for me after all.

 

So besides the pavement, there are definitely more people on the island, and in many places, less distance between fishing villages.  I first headed north along the coast making my way towards L’anse aux Meadows, which I had seen on a map and was told to go see by many people, but I really didn’t know much about what it was.  There’s a particular view on the ATL trip as you’re approaching Glen Haven, where you crest a hill, see the blue water ahead of you with tree blanketed peninsulas and more islands than you can count (not really, I think there are 4), and it’s one of those times that you either A. scream. B. sigh and smile. or C. stop and stare.  As the ride this morning was very much the same, I found myself doing a lot of each.  Thousands of unnamed coves and bays lined the shore, even more islands, inlets, and peninsulas appeared around the bend, many with small fishing villages adding to, not detracting from, the landscape.  That’s important – this ain’t no Malibu.

 

I spent a few minutes walking around L’anse aux Meadows, which turns out to be the location of a Viking settlement about 1000 years ago.  They had restored some long houses, made mostly of wood and sod, and of course had the people dressed in Viking dress and explaining how they lived.  How they lived?  They were cold.  It’s June and the air is really chilly and bitter up here, and I can’t imagine how harsh the winters are.  They came here from Greenland looking for lumber and the settlement didn’t make it.  I spent a few minutes walking around the settlement, but again ended up at the waterfront skipping rocks.  The water was bitter cold as well, no wonder why the icebergs don’t melt.

 

(L'anse aux Meadows) (Berserker's Friends) (A Berserker Sighting) (A long house) (The shoreline)

 

St. Anthony is the only “big” city in this area and I headed there to find some lunch and gas up.  I can’t explain how rocky the shoreline is, and how many inlets, coves, etc there are.  I took some pictures, but you have to multiply those by a thousand – it wasn’t like I stopped at one place that looked like that, rather this was just one place I happened to stop to take pictures.  I did jam on the brakes pretty hard when I saw the huge iceberg just poking it's nose over the bluff near the town of Quirpon.  That one was pretty amazing, and absolutely huge!!  These rocky cliffs, inlets, islands and incredible shoreline went on forever and I ended up at a very nice point at St. Anthony lighthouse.  Just as I was sitting down to lunch (on the rocks of course) a fishing boat headed out to see, followed later by another.  The wind was still howling, but I found some shelter in the rocks – my favorite way to eat lunch while on the road.  Quiet, peaceful, and a million dollar view just beyond the tips of my toes.  I noticed an iceberg off in the distance, and I wasn’t even close to being tired of seeing them, so I decided I’d spend the rest of the day taking side roads down the coast to try to get close up to it.  That was the extent of my plan for the afternoon.

 

(Quiet Harbor Village)

 

Pictures from lunch stop: (Fishing Boat) (French Bay...distance iceberg) (Fishing Boat) (North View) (Lighthouse) (Bikes)

 

Before I left, I bumped into Skip and Mike one last time at the lighthouse, having also seen them earlier at L’anse aux Meadows.  I wished them a last farewell, and a “see you in Jersey” before I headed out towards Goose Cove.  I made it to the end of town without a really good view of the sea, and backtracked just a mile to a set of double-tracks that I saw heading into the mossy grove.  At the end of these double tracks was a rocky cliff and a great view of the sea – I was a little closer to the iceberg but still quite a distance to go.  I had one of those “top o’ the world, ma!” moments standing there, the quiet town of Goose Cove behind me and that same wind still whipping off the sea.

 

(Goose Cove) (Goose Cove) (Iceberg)

 

Further down the road, I took a gravel road out towards the towns of Croque and Grandois, the second of which being the place where I spotted the iceberg.  Now this was a quiet fishing village – even more quiet than Cartwright yesterday, and that’s saying a lot.  I made my way down to an old dock where a few wooden boats lie dormant, seemingly for 100 years, and I end up along the water, again and as usual.  Despite the fact that I’m in a town, there isn’t a sound to be heard other than the wind and the waves.  The iceberg lurks off in the distance.  I think it’s moving but I can’t tell for sure.  I took a ton of pictures at this spot, only a few making it to the web, and many being duplicates of a picture that I took just 5 minutes ago, but it looked “different” right now and I wanted another picture.  My plan for the afternoon was a success in that I found the iceberg, but that was only the tip of it.  The ride out here was incredible, the road being one of those that “Penny wouldn’t like” due to the lack of guardrails and close proximity to water or cliffs, and the view coming into town with the iceberg off in the distance goes beyond explanation.  As I sat roadside, not wanting to leave this town yet, a local pulled up in a blue Ford pickup, and said what most Newfie’s say: “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”  He was sure right, and was wondering what I was doing there.  The only way I could say it was “You see that iceberg?  You’re used to that, but not me – that’s the most spectacular thing I’ve seen in a long time.”  He simply replied “You should have been here two weeks ago when there were 5 of them out there.”  He smiled and drove away.

 

(Feet in the water) (Iceberg) (Iceberg) (Dock) (Town) (Road to Grandois) (Road to Grandois)

 

I put on some late in the day miles and made my way down the coast towards Gros Morne National Park.  The map that I had was very accurate, and I saw that there were a couple campgrounds along the way. I had hoped to find one right on the water, but the one I found was filled with RVs, so I went to the next.  The ride down the shore continued to impress, especially as the setting sun started to get low on the horizon.  I setup camp and turned in pretty early.  Oh yeah, note to self.  Don’t store your Dinty Moore beef stew next to your exhaust pipe.  It makes it coagulate and that doesn’t help with the taste.

 

(KLR at coastline) (Coastline) (Arch) (Gros Morne Mountains) (KLR) (KLR) (Campsite)

 

The best thing about going to bed early is getting an early start.  I broke camp early and headed down the coast in no particular hurry and without a plan for the day.  All I knew was that everything I read about and was told about Gros Morne meant I should take my time and explore.  I started turning off at overlooks and side roads and found a couple really nice spots this morning.  I wasn’t sure if/when I was going to stop, and I’ve already explained my lack of decision making ability – I was determined to not let that hinder me today, but I also knew I couldn’t stop everywhere, else I’d never make it home.  So I went on instinct and they were spot on today.  First stop was a turnout that was closed…so I went around the gate.  There were three baby red foxes playing on the path, and they scurried into the bushes as I approached, 6 reflecting eyes peering out from behind the leaves and branches and wondering “Hmm, who the heck is this idiot?”  After our staredown, I continued down the path towards the water and stopped myself in my tracks when I saw a big bird perched on top of one of the rocks.  I couldn’t quite tell what it was, so I took a picture first, and pulled out my onocular second.  When I focused, a beautiful bald eagle appeared in my sight window, his yellow beak and white head clearly visible.  I sat there staring at him until he decided to fly away.

 

(Small fishing village)  (The Bald Eagle) (Cove) (KLR where I saw the eagle) (KLR)

 

There are so many things that “just happen” on the road, not only on this trip but throughout my travels in general.  Whether you make a right or wrong turn, or misread the map, or end up exactly where you thought you were going to end up, it’s those unexpected things, like a bald eagle, that really cement those memories into my head.  It’s the unexpected nature of things that sticks out, because they’re just that – unexpected, out of the ordinary, surprising, etc.  You can be having the most normal of normal days, droning along on a two lane highway through Big Sky country, immersed in the middle of nowhere, not a car in sight, spacing out while the miles go by, not a cognizant thought in your head.  Sometimes there’s no real memory of those particular miles as there’s nothing that you just can’t ever forget about them that keeps you remembering those miles.  But a single instance can change all of that, such as coming around a bend to see a buck antelope standing proud and strong atop a rocky ledge.  All of a sudden, those miles that had been lost are grouped together by single incident, a spark that will trigger not only that moment, but the miles leading up to it and the next few minutes or few hours where your mind constantly drifts back to that spectacular moment.  This is proven by stories…rarely will I say “I saw a buck antelope” rather it’s “I was riding for a couple hours across Montana on this really desolate highway…there was nothing out there, it was awesome.  So beautiful, so vast, I felt all alone.  And out of nowhere, I saw a buck antelope.”  The unexpected does a lot for me, and true to it’s nature, you never know when the next unexpected thing is going to pop up and slap you in the face.

 

Then again, there are also those miles that are void of the unexpected that do and can create lasting memories that can create a spark in your head when you least expect it.  Usually there is something that happens that helps you remember these, or at least, that’s the case for me – a simple bee sting reminds me of South Dakota, droning through the sunflower fields, little else to be seen all day.  But there are certain days of riding that require no stimuli for rememberance.  A long, solo day of riding across US 12 in Montana and the Dakotas, plodding along just above the speed limit, weaving through and around the old town squares adjacent to this highway, in no hurry whatsoever but making good time on the backroads, a million memories from a week’s worth of miles cementing themselves into permanent memory banks, smiling all the day long – that can be a good day too.  But I digress…

 

Heading south again into Gros Morne, I spot another turnout and decide to see what’s at this one.  While completely different than the last, this one they got right.  Here lies a shipwreck from 1919, the S.S. Ethie.  A simple placard and a wooden staircase down to the beach are the extent of the convenience factors for this memorial.  The remains from the S.S. Ethie still lay on the beach and in the water, almost a hundred years of rust taking their toll.  Just a quiet beach with a rusted out ship.  Peaceful, respectful, the way it should be.  Another good stop this morning.

 

(S.S. Ethie Placard) (Shipwreck) (Small Pieces) (Small Pieces) (Big Pieces) (Shoreline)

 

Stops along the shore, looking at the moon:  (Picture 1) (Picture 2) (Picture 3)

 

Next stop, a lighthouse – what a big surprise.  Yeah, I like lighthouses, especially ones that exist on a cliff about a hundred feet above a clear blue ocean, with nobody else around.  They built these things on some of the most magnificent pieces of property you can find, so yeah, I’ll go out of my way to go see one, especially Lobster Cove Lighthouse.  The town of Rocky Harbor was just across the bay, and I decided to head there for breakfast.  I was treated to a pretty empty restaurant and a table near the front window where I could watch the dock workers load and unload supplies from a fishing boat.  I met a nice couple from Ontario at breakfast, and chatted about our travels for a bit, this time having no language barrier to overcome.

 

(Lighthouse) (View) (Placard) (Breakfast View) (Breakfast)

 

The ride from Rocky Harbor down to Wiltondale was just unbelievable.  I could write all about it, but it would be the same thing that I’ve been writing – incredible mountains, blue water, crest a hill and see the upcoming valley and melt into your seat…this is one of the nicest Canadian Parks I’ve been to.  I would almost (I said almost) put it up there with Jasper.  If Newfoundland is a notch down from Alaska, then Gros Morne is a notch down from Jasper…and that’s saying a lot.

 

(Road) (View) (View)

 

Filling up for gas, the attendant struck up a conversation with me, asking where I had been and where I was going.  I mentioned that I wanted to make it up to Twilingate today, and she asked and then insisted that I take the ride out to Trout River.  I was at that intersection and could go one of two ways.  The way she said it, “You have to take that ride”, convinced me.  I wasn’t in a hurry, but I also knew I couldn’t take every side road…but I took this one.  She was right.  The views of the mountains were slightly different, and the desolate area near the tabletops was topographically different from anything else I had seen this day.  Besides that, on the way back I found a small lighthouse at Woody Point, again on an incredible piece of property, and proceeded to spend a lot of time there staring across the bay into the mountains that I had just traversed.  I stopped by the same gas station on my way out to tell her that she was right and to thank her, but she had gone home.  The other attendant smiled and promised to tell her that the motorcycle guy said thanks.

 

(Road) (Tabletops) (Woody Point) (Lighthouse) (Lighthouse) (KLR)

 

Despite my constant stopping and side trip, it was still pretty early in the day, and I decided to burn some miles getting over towards Twilingate.  The Trans Canada highway 1 would take me pretty much all the way across to St. John’s if I wanted, but I definitely wanted to take some side trips and see more of the coastline.  I questioned my “plan” for a few miles and only a few miles.  I had a ferry reservation in 4 days down in Port Aux Basques, the opposite direction.  I was wondering if I should instead have reserved a ride on the ferry from Argentia, which is on the Avalon and in the direction that I was headed.  I would have to back track all the way across the island to get to my ferry…but it would be just fine with me.  The scenery along Highway 1 was very impressive, and I figured I wouldn’t mind seeing it in the other direction anyway.


The ride up to Twilingate is regarded as one not to miss, and unfortunately with the rain and fog that I ran into, not to mention the cold, I couldn’t see a whole lot.  What I did see was a twisty road hopping between small islands and inlets over dozen of small bridges and more of those same type of endless coves that I saw yesterday up at L’anse aux Meadows.  I made a quick stop at Dildo Run Provincial Park (I mean, who wouldn’t – I had to see it) and eventually found myself headed once again to the “end of the road” through the last town and all the way out to the point, where there stood another lighthouse.  The wind was howling, the lighthouse was fogged in, and I was the only one there, accompanied only by the sounding foghorn.  I would have liked to have seen this place in the daylight, but I can bear comparison with that of another spot, Lake Louise.  Otter, Adam, and I have been there twice together, both times overcast and drizzling.  We were able to stand on the shoreline without bumping into other people and experience a few minutes of peace.  At some point, we each wondered and maybe even asked “I wonder what this place looks like when the sun is shining.”  We each have very special memories of that place, and the grey overcast is part of those memories, as it the peaceful feeling, lack of people, and sense that this place is “pretty OK” because it’s not overrun with people.  The grey skies in this case are a good thing, as I was able to visit Lake Louise on a sunny day by myself on the way back from Alaska, and I didn’t even get to the lakefront.  It was jam packed with people, and I did an about face and remember clear as day saying to myself “Man, I wish it were overcast today” as I left.  The point being we didn’t lose anything by seeing it in the grey overcast surroundings, but we gained a whole lot more than we realized, and that’s the same way I felt about Crow Head lighthouse today.

 

(Placard) (View) (Lighthouse) (Fog)

 

I decided, after arguing with myself again, to do a few more miles today and head east on route 330 around the peninsula.  It was still raining off and on, and I decided that I’d try to find a small motel, hopefully with a seafood restaurant near by, but would definitely grab a campground if that felt right at the time.  After Gros Morne this morning, and Twilingate this afternoon, the ride across 330 was just OK.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t spectacular.  The landscape here is pretty flat, not nearly as picturesque as the other parts of the island I had seen.  Many a small village ended up in my rear view mirror, no hotels or campgrounds to be found.  Just as I was gearing up mentally to continue the trek down to the highway in search of accommodations, I made a wrong turn in a small town called Badger’s Quay and while finding my way back to 330, I ran across a small blue and white building – motel and restaurant, with fish and chips as the special.  No further argument was required, and it’s safe to say they had the best fish and chips in town.  I was  just happy that I didn’t argue with myself.

 

(Lobster Traps) (Hotel)

 

The Avalon Peninsula:

 

Clear blue skies after a day of rain is the best possible way to wake up.  A few shots of morning coffee, a click of the Givi bag onto the bike, and I was off in search of breakfast.  I did stop to take some pictures of Badger’s Quay.  A very interesting town, built in, above, adjacent to, and on top of the rocky shoreline that distinguishes it’s landscape.  Today was to be a miles day for the first part, and I had St. John’s in my sights.  I had spent some time last night looking at the map of Newfoundland, and having three more days before my ferry, I wanted to figure out a general idea of where I needed to end up two nights from now so that I could have a decent day’s ride to Port Aux Basques, rather than an “oh shit, I need to do 800 miles today to catch my ferry” ride.  So today, I wanted to hit St. John’s, Cape Spear, and then head south onto the Avalon Peninsula and end up wherever.  That’s actually exactly how the day ended up.

 

(Badger's Quay) (Badger's Quay) (Dock)

 

I rode straight thru Terra Nova National Park this morning, now happy that I was coming back along this same path to catch the ferry.  While not as incredible as Gros Morne, the park did offer inspiring views, the air clean and crisp.  After a breakfast stop in Clarenville, I continued on to St. Johns, making pretty good time on the KLR.  The town of St. John’s, the largest in Newfoundland, still maintains it’s quaint nature.  Making my way towards Signal Hill, the site of the first Trans-Atlantic wireless signal, I ended up driving down what seemed like State Street in Chicago.  Bars, bars, and more bars lined the street, and people were already frequenting these establishments.  I had heard about good nightlife in St. Johns (different from the nightlife that was described to us by the park ranger in Nova Scotia a few years ago) and I could see that those stories were apt.

 

(Breakfast)

 

Signal Hill was pretty spectacular, despite the fact that there were a lot of people there and it’s definitely a tourist location.  I can’t get over how windy it is along seemingly every shoreline in Newfoundland.  I also can’t get over the 360 degree view from this point, be it the bay to the east, the view of St. John’s to the southwest, or the view of the shoreline to the north.  An old gun battery sits atop an adjacent cliff, protecting St. John’s harbor and a small lighthouse stands at the entrance of the inlet.  Off in the distance is Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America, and my next stop.  I took a lot of pictures at this spot, inspired by the endless views that changes every few steps.  A lot of the pictures I took were of the same thing, but just different angles.  It was mesmerizing, and one of those places where there isn’t enough film (or in this case SDRAM) to capture it all…but I was determined to try.  From my journal that night:

 

The bluffs are incredible, the water blue as one can dream, and the vistas, well they make you want to sit and stare for days.

 

(View) (Lighthouse) (Signs) (Signs) (Cape Spear View) (Signal Tower) (Battery) (Lighthouse) (St. John's)

 

Heading to Cape Spear, I gassed up and grabbed some lunch and had a great ride out to the point, which is a lot further than it looks.  Now mid-afternoon, I grabbed my lunch and enjoyed a few minutes sitting on the rocks, feet dangling, England way off in the distance.  I can’t get any closer to Europe than I am right here.  I took my time here for a while, touring the old lightkeeper’s house, and snapping many a picture of the two lighthouses, the old and the new.  The clear blue sky and the deep deep (Jacques Cousteau deep) blue ocean water made for an impressive backdrop, the stark white new lighthouse standing proud atop the rocky cliff, the wind still whipping against my face.  I stayed my stay here, and could have stayed longer, but I was curious to see what was in store south along the shore.  I also had Cape Race in my mind, and while it’s not the furthest easternmost point, it is further away by road than Cape Spear, and looked to be very desolate, a dirt road being the only path there.  I just wasn’t sure if I wanted it to be sunny or overcast.

 

(Feet) (Old Lighthouse) (Lightkeeper's Journal) (Huh Huh) (Flags) (View of Signal Hill) (Signal Hill

(New Lighthouse) (New Lighthouse) (Cannon) (Easternmost Point) (KLR)

 

The ride down the eastern coast of the Avalon didn’t let up at all.  Every little village was a postcard.  The road tucked and turned along the rocky shoreline, up and down the changing elevation, the views…just incredible.  Just like the other day, I could have stopped every 5 miles, and sometimes I did.  There was a group of local bikers that I passed by multiple times as we were stopping in different places for the next couple hours.  It felt great this afternoon not to really care where I ended up tonight, and I was glad to have time to take my time.  I know that sounds strange, but it’s true.  I wasn’t in a hurry, had no destination, and had two more days to get back across the island to catch the ferry, so I could just take my time.  I really enjoy riding with this mindset.  There’s no stop that you can’t make, no side road you can’t take, no picture you can’t snap…you just let the day come to you.

 

(Tors Cove) (Placard) (Tors Cove) (Great view) (Distant Lighthouse) (Fishing Village) (Cove)

 

As I got further south, the landscape and the weather changes.  I was now in more of a high plains area, and the fog rolled in, as thick if not thicker than that around the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.  As luck would have it, Cape Race would be overcast today.  As I headed there on a gravel/dirt road, the ocean just a hundred yards to my right, a grey gravel road ahead of me, and surrounded by fog, it felt like I was on a different planet.  This was no longer Earth, or it was the end of the Earth.  I wasn’t sure which.  Eerie.  I kept thinking that there would be something or someone along this road, but there wasn’t, and yes, I had the thought of “I wonder what this would look like on a sunny day” in my head, but if that were the case, I wouldn’t be telling this story this way.  About 15 miles in, I rounded a bend and saw what appeared to be a lighthouse blanketed in the fog.  I guess this is the end of the world right here.  I really couldn’t believe where I was standing.  My face was soaking wet, because I had been riding the last 10 minutes with my visor up because it was completely fogged up, water now dripping from my eyebrows onto my cheeks.  Huge waves were crashing against the black jagged rock along the shore, having taken thousands of years to erode the deep crevasses.  Like at Crow Head, a foghorn sound somewhere to my left, the device hidden by the thick fog. I did what  I do – found a rock, copped a squat, and ate my dinner.  The waves and the foghorn kept me company, and again, I could have stayed there for a long long time.  Eventually someone would have found me, I think.

 

(Fog rolled in) (Road to Cape Race) (Lighthouse) (Rocky Shoreline) (Insert Tad here) (Lighthouse) (Oceanside)

 

As I was leaving, an alien spaceship appeared out of nowhere…OK, it was actually three headlights from three dual-sport bikes heading towards the lighthouse.  Surprised as I was to see them, they pulled over to see who I was and what I was doing there.  They told me of a bunch of trails that they had tried to take this afternoon, but it was really muddy and they kept getting stuck.  They also mentioned a place to camp up the road before you get back to the highway, but I never saw it or found it.  So when I got back to Portugal Cove, I stopped at the small grocery store for water for the night, and tried to have a conversation with a local fisherman.  This guy was the stereotypical Newfie – mesh fishing cap, big guy – been working on the dock his whole life, big swollen hands, and I didn’t understand a single word he said to me, although I know he was speaking English.  Twice I asked him to repeat himself, but of the three times he spoke, I honestly couldn’t pick up a word of the local dialect, so I nodded politely, and gave him a wave.

 

So here’s where I get dumb again.  Before I left, Adam’s last words to me were “watch out for the quicksand” in reference to me burying my front tire off road on an ATL ride a couple years ago.  As I’m riding along, I spot a double-track that heads towards the ocean, and though it to be a good place to camp.  About ¾ of a mile in, it turned to swamp, and I locked up the rear tire trying to avoid driving into the deep approaching puddle.  Great, missed that one.  Now I need to turn around, but I’m in a deep rut, and my rear tire is buried about 6 inches deep…letting out the clutch just causes it to spin.  I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into at this point, but I could hear that laughter from Chicago.  I took the Givis off the bike, and moved them back up the road.  Standing to the side of the bike, I pushed with all my might as the rear wheel spun, and managed to get it out of the muck.  OK, step 1: complete.  Now I need to turn around, which is easier said than done.  I tried rotating the bike on the sidestand to no avail.  I tried nagivating a 20 point turn in this small double track…no luck there, it’s too swampy.  I decided that I had two options – go back for help, or friggen go for it.  Figuring that either would lead to laughter from the peanut gallery, and knowing that the latter would mean not walking a mile back to the highway and waiting for a car to come…if one ever did…I decided to go for it.  The land outside the double-track seemed only partially wet, and I figured that if I could keep my momentum up, I could jump the double track, light up the rear wheel to spin the bike around, and then jump back into the double track, stopping about at the point  where my Givi bags lie, 100 feet or so back up the path.  OK, let’s do it.  All I can say is, I didn’t get stuck, but I also didn’t end up getting back on the path until I was way past my Givis…but I was out, and headed in the right direction.  Having listened to Adam’s advice for camping along the St. Lawrence about a week ago, I was glad to have listened to his advice again today.  I figured, I’m either due for something really good, or it’s going to rain cats and dogs tonight.  Ends up that I was right.

 

Back on the highway, I pass the only motel that I’ve seen in hours…screw it, I want to camp tonight.  (Yep, here we go).  There’s no camping marks on the map, so this is going to be a middle of nowhere camping night.  It’s OK, Adam would like this.  I pulled into a couple of clearings, but they weren’t far enough away from the highway to camp.  As I was headed towards Cape Freels, I spotted a faded sign that read “Cape Pine” with an arrow that pointed to single-lane gravel road that disappeared across the tundra-like landscape.  Perfect.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I noticed some oil on my right boot, a symptom of a blown fork seal that I know all to well at this point.  What do you do when you see that?  Why, take another gravel road of course.  Let’s get the rest of that oil out of there.  So having no idea where or how far it was to Cape Pine, nor having any idea what was out there, I headed out.  The one-lane road was in decent shape all things considered, with some ruts and puddles to navigate, but overall well maintained.  At the end of the road, I came upon a lighthouse, Cape Pine lighthouse which I believe was abandoned a number of years ago.  The fog was thicker here than it was at Cape Race, and while I could hear the waves crashing, I couldn’t see them.  A foghorn sound in the distance, and I was noticing a pattern.  Lighthouse, fog, foghorn, beautiful piece of property, nobody around, don’t feel like leaving…so let’s setup camp.  So after having ended up at a number of fogged in lighthouses above the crashing waves with a foghorn sounding in the distance, enjoying my time there and wishing I could stay longer, I did.  Falling asleep to those sounds is something I’ll never forget and will always cherish the memory of.

 

(Camping at Cape Pine) (Cape Pine Lighthouse)

 

Waking up the next morning, I decided, reassured mostly, that fate is a good thing.  It led me here last night, and so far on this trip and in the past, when I stop arguing with myself and just end up wherever I end up, it always works out.  Having said that, I know that fate showed me the way to the St. Lawrence seaway about a week ago where I thought the tent (with me in it) was going to be lifted off the ground and deposited in the sea…but it all worked out anyway.  Last night it ended up raining, but I was smart enough to make sure I setup the tent on high ground, and I was dry as a bone in the morning.  I had also bought some spray on waterproofing seal for my boots, and I used the remainder of it on the tent seams which seemed like a great idea at the time.

 

No camp coffee this morning, I headed out still in the fog (both mentally and physically) in search of breakfast.  I had hoped to see the sea this morning but it wasn’t to be.  The cape was completely fogged in and the rain picked back up by the time I met up with the highway.  I was a bit low on gas, but having gotten an early start, the gas stations were still closed.  It was Sunday, and I only knew that because my ferry departure was tomorrow, Monday at midnight.  I stopped at the first couple gas stations I saw to find them closed, and a local pulled in to tell me that they don’t open until after church, but that there was a station in St. Joseph’s that was open, just 20 miles up the road.  I was pretty wet by the time I got there, but for once, the attendant didn’t give me the third degree about it being wet…or cold…or how motorcycles are dangerous…she just asked where I was headed and commented that the weather was better to the north.  I talked to her and a local for a few minutes as I had some coffee.  They were interested in my travels, and commented that they get a few bikes through here each year, but not very many.  I told them about my foggy dinner and camping last night, and they guy said “Yep, they got a fog machine down there, and they leave it on full blast most every day” explaining how it’s always foggy down there but not up north where I was headed.  They pointed me towards the only breakfast place they could think of in Placentia, and I got there in no time, even finding a dirt road on the way.

 

After breakfast, I paid some attention to the blown fork seal on the KLR and to the mess it was making all over the bike. There really wasn’t anything I could do about it – I wasn’t going go stop on the island and have it fixed, since I’d rather go see more stuff.  At some point I figured all of the oil would be out of there, but it kept spitting more and more.  A little bit up the road, I looked down at my odometer and it read 9.9 miles…funny it read that 10 minutes ago.  It had stopped working and  I tried resetting it a couple times, but it would stop again on 9.9 miles.  This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that the KLR has no fuel gauge, so I wouldn’t know when to gas up, save for the “drop anchor” effect when it hits reserve.  More importantly, I wanted to see the damned bike roll 40,000 miles on the odometer, and it was stuck at 39,000 and change!  I was more disappointed about the latter.

 

I made a stop at Castle Hill before leaving the general area.  Nice view of the town from the hill, but the rain was starting to pick up and I didn’t feel like standing outside in the rain for long.  Once I got north and to the Trans Canada highway, the weather improved and it turned into a bright sunny day.  I still wasn’t in a hurry and I knew there was supposed to be a nice lighthouse at Bonavista point, so I made that my afternoon side trip, and a good one at that.  I had a great ride up there and got a sense of what Twilingate might have looked like in the sunshine.  There weren’t nearly as many inlets and islands along this coast, but the water was blue and the sun was shining, a nice change from this morning.  Once again, they built a lighthouse on prime real estate, and once again the wind was howling.  I sought shelter behind some rocks and ate some snacks that I had bought earlier, the backdrop of shoreline and blue water a thousand times better than anything a restaurant could ever hope to offer.

 

(Plackard) (Cannon) (View) (Castle)

 

It took a little longer to get up and back from Bonavista point, so once I hit the TC again, I decided to put on some miles.  That thought was thwarted by the views of Terra Nova National Park, and I found myself pulling over a few too many times for pictures.  I should say, a few too many times if I was looking to make time, but I guess I wasn’t.  The views through Terra Nova were nicer heading in this direction than they were yesterday.

 

(KLR Along the Trans Canada) (View heading to Bonavista) (Fishing Village)

 

(Bonavista Point) (Bonavista Point) (Lunch) (Bonavista Point)

 

I was really glad now that I had both gone to see the Avalon peninsula and that I was headed all the way back to Port Aux Basques.  Sure, it’s the long way to do it with some back tracking, but that meant that I had two times to see most stuff.  I figured that if I could make it to Gander today, then tomorrow would be an easy ride so I sat in the saddle for a few hours and watched the miles go by…that is, in my head, because my odometer wasn’t working.  I had been trying to keep track of miles today, and had been batting poorly so far.  I put 2.5 gallons in once, and the second time hit the “drop anchor” reserve.  I was keeping my mind partially occupied by counting kilometers, translating into miles, and trying to fill up at around 180 miles, or about 4 gallons of fuel.  My next gas stop I put 4.5 gallons in and smiled, knowing that I was just about to drop anchor again.

 

(Seaplane) (Bomber) (Placard)

 

I made Gander in no time and decided to press on to Grand Falls/Windsor, just an hour or so up the road.  Leaving Gander, I spotted a sign that mentioned the 101st Airborne division out of Kentucky, and surprised (I didn’t expect to see a US military anything up here), I turned off the road and found a memorial.  There’s more information here (http://www.screamingeagle.org/gander.html) but basically, there was a plane crash here about 20 years ago where 248 American soldiers and 8 crew died when a DC-8 failed to gain altitude after takeoff.  They were returning from, of all things, a peacekeeping mission in Egypt. 248 soldiers, most of them in their early 20s died here that day.  I had a sinking feeling in my chest as I walked around the memorial.  I think I remember hearing about this, but it doesn’t stick out in my mind as something I remember hearing as a kid.  To think of all that life lost, and then to be experiencing a trip like this myself, in fact living life to the fullest, left me both happy and sad.  As I stared at the names, I realized that none of them had even close to the opportunities that I have and I can’t imagine how many other things they, their families, and friends missed out on due to this tragic day.  I thought about what they might be doing today were they still alive.  So much loss…so very sad.  Had I been a military man, I would have saluted the placard bearing their names, but I could not and will not infringe upon their duty and honor by pretending to comprehend what a salute means to them.  Instead, when I got back to the bike, I said aloud in my helmet, “Guys, these next 100 miles are for you.  Look through my eyes and enjoy.”  Unfortunately, that’s all I could do.  The somber feeling as I rode on turned to more positive thoughts of opportunity, appreciation, and contentment.  I chose a long time ago to change the way I go about life, and it’s ironic that happening upon a memorial remembering such pain and suffering can and did actually lead me back to a very positive place.  I am so happy that I can live this life and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to me.  The next 100 miles were not without quite a few miles of somber thoughts.

 

At Windsor, I found a hotel but without vacancies.  The clerk called to another hotel on the other side of town to check if they had rooms.  They did and he had them hold one for “the guy on the motorcycle”.  I ended up at the Mount Peyton Motor Hotel, and the manager upgraded me to a suite for no additional cost…if he only knew.  Last night, I was camping in the rain at Cape Pine, tonight I’m in a really nice room with my stinky clothes laying around and my tent drying on the floor (which now had red dye marks all over it...I guess the waterproofing spray didn't dry overnight and the tent bled on itself in the stuff sack today.  Like I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time).  Best of all, they had a steakhouse attached to the hotel.  The waitress was a little cold at first, especially when I asked her what Cod Tongues were, other than the obvious.  She explained that they are what they are, and you want the smaller ones if possible.  They’re sautéed in butter and bread crumbs, and she said their chef does them up good, so I tried them…”and a big filet mignon, medium rare of course…and do you have a local beer?  Good, I’ll have one of those.”  I’m not sure if it was the week of eating soup, sandwiches, and Dinty Moore, but this was one hellova meal.  The tongues were quite tasty, and this was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.  I kept cutting it into smaller and smaller pieces so it would last, the marinade perfectly adding to the natural flavor but not overpowering it.  Good day, good night.

 

Last day on the Rock:

 

As I checked out, I made sure to tell the hotel clerk how much I had enjoyed my stay, and I filled out a feedback card for the manager as well.  These people run a very nice hotel…better than many of the business hotels I’ve stayed in.  If you ever find your way up to Newfoundland and are tired of roughing it, make sure you stay at the Mount Peyton…try the cod tongues.

 

Somewhere down the road I found a roadside café for breakfast and brought in the map to try and figure out what I could side trip to today and still make it to the ferry with time to spare.  I was in South Brook and it looked like the ride to Triton was nice.  I asked the waitress about it…you know, is it a nice ride…and she looked at me like I was from another planet.  I don’t think she understood that someone would ride to Triton just to ride to Triton. “Well, there’s not much to do there.”  That wasn’t what I asked…nevermind.  I’ll figure it out.  Along the way up there, I passed a marina with some big boats and on my way back, I stopped there for a few.  There were a bunch of people working on different ships, and a few of them waved to me like it was no big deal, and like everyone else on the island, wanted to be friendly.  I found it interesting just to observe their daily lives.  Honest work.  It’s so quiet up here you can’t understand it and I can’t explain it in words.

 

(Breakfast) (Road to Triton) (Harbor) (Robert's Arm Marina) (Big Boat) (Marina) (Propeller) (Small stack of firewood)

 

Back on the highway, I kept glancing down at the map trying to figure out what other side trips I could squeeze in.  I had less than 300 miles from hotel to ferry today, and the ferry sails at midnight.  It looked like the ride from Cornerbrook out to Lark Harbor would be nice, so I decided to make that my next side trip.  This was absolutely the right choice.  What a ride – the road traced the coastline all the way out, passing through a couple of very picturesque villages, and the views into the bay were jaw dropping.  Besides the fact that the road was carved into the side of the cliff and the water lie a couple hundred feet below, which is spectacular enough, there were these gigantic islands seemingly floating in the blue sea.  It looked as if someone dropped huge boulders into the middle of the bay, and just in the right spot too.  Every crest of a hill was met with a view of one of these islands, the whitecaps from the wind adding a touch of white to the otherwise blue and green landscape.  This is one of those times that the ride alone, without any truly different or unique happening was more than enough to cement an unforgettable memory into the old noggin.

 

(KLR roadside) (Frenchman's Cove) (Roadside view) (Waterfall) (KLR roadside to Lark Harbor)

 

At the end of the road, I found myself at Blow Me Down Provincial Park, and not only because of the name, I decided to pay it a visit.  I ended up being one of the only people there, found my way to the beach, and made a nice long lunch stop.  Off went the stich, off with the boots, and I spent the next hour walking along the beach, skipping a stone or two, feeling the mist hit my face from the wind whipping across the water, and mostly just standing there – looking at the cove, the surrounding cliffs, the blue water, it was all amazing.  I had experienced plenty of moments on the island over the last couple days, and there’s no way to rate one against another, but this one was simply damned good.  I’m a friggen lucky guy, I can’t believe I get to do stuff like this.  I walked barefoot through along the rocky shore thinking about that, and enjoying the fact that only I knew where I was at that particular moment.  I was completely isolated and alone, a spec of dust, a dot on a dot on a map, standing somewhere that if unlucky I wouldn’t be able to stand, surrounded by great emptiness yet feeling completely comfortable and confident, as if everything were just right if only for these few moments.  This is what it’s all about, and of course I couldn’t help think to Otter and Adam and wish they were here with me, able to see and share in this moment, but on the other hand, if they were there with me, I wouldn’t be standing in this exact place.  As fate had it today, I ended up here.  Were they with me, we might have ended up somewhere different, like the time we ended up in Canso in Nova Scotia, and somewhere in our minds, we were each at the same place that I attempted to describe in these words.  At some point in time, I hope that we can end up in that place together again.

 

(My boots on the shore) (My feet in the water) (View) (Shoreline) (KLR) (Park Entrance)

 

I was sad suiting up and leaving this place today.  Yes, I know that I can come back here pretty much anytime I want, but I also know that feelings like this can’t be replicated, and they rarely recur upon another visit.  It doesn’t work that way.  You can’t find that lake again.  It’s there, but the physical space is only about a tenth of what makes a moment a moment.  So, yes, I was sad to suit up and ride away, and with the engine idling, I took an extra minute to stare out into the bay…one last long stare, and then I’m off, not looking back again.  I figured that this was my goodbye to the rock, and if it was, man oh man…it was a good one.

 

(Roadside stop across from Blow Me Down) (View of the road

 

As I approached Port Aux Basques, the mountains off to the east continued to wreak havoc with my mind.  I was pretty much gone at this point.  Riding along, smiling, head spinning out of control with a million thoughts, but all the good kind.  There was nothing negative in there, only positive, peaceful, calm, quiescent thoughts of the last couple days.  I was sad to be leaving the rock, but I had zero regrets.  I had seen more than I thought possible, was impressed beyond belief, and had transferred Newfoundland from one of “those places” that I couldn’t wait to visit into one of “those places” that I couldn’t believe I actually got to see.

 

(Stop for a Snack near Maidstone) (Near a one lane bridge) (Mountains near Port aux Basques) (Mountains)

 

The sun was starting to go down as I came upon a sign that read Cape Ray – Ray, I think I remember that guy.  Sorry, just kidding.  We give Ray a lot of crap, mostly because we miss seeing him, but none of us question his motives.  It’s all about priorities and about being happy with yourself – and however you get there is fine with me, so long as you get there. 

 

Anyway, I come upon Cape Ray, figure out that it’s only about 7:30, and I’m 30 miles from the ferry.  What’s the harm in going to see one more thing?  I passed through another small village and again followed the road out to the point to where it ends.  Guess what?  A lighthouse.  Guess what?  An incredible shoreline.  Go figure.  With the Atlantic to the south came much bigger waves than I had seen anywhere else around the island, and they were crashing hard into the rocky shoreline.  I started off taking pictures as if I were on a short stop here, and then came to the realization that the sun was going to set in about an hour…not only that, the sun was going to set over the Atlantic.  That sounds strange…I’ve seen the sun set over the Pacific a couple times, but never over the Atlantic.  As my mind was mush already, it basically went into shut down mode.  I just sat there…staring…not thinking of anything other than, “Wow, this is incredible.”  I watched the sun get closer and closer to the horizon.  This was a totally different moment than Blow Me Down, and while that was about wrapping things up, and putting the proverbial bow on top of the gift, this moment was only awe.    I sat for so long on this one rock that my butt fell asleep, and I obviously didn’t realize until I stood up.  There is something befitting about watching the sunset on the rock just before I depart - the whole parallel of the end of the day transition to darkness, and end of a journey.  A few last quiet moments were well spent, and there are no words nor pictures capable of describing this moment in time.  I just had to be there.  So basically, I got to say good bye to the rock twice.

 

(Lighthouse) (Shoreline) (KLR) (Lighthouse) (Crashing waves) (Shoreline) (Tad) (Sunset) (Sunset) (Sunset) (Sunset)

 

I was there long enough and it was cool enough that I had to choke the KLR to get her started.  Once again, a long last look at the shore, and I’m off.  I made it to the town just as the ferry was pulling into port and grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading to the harbormaster’s office to check in.  There was one other bike in the parking lot and they staged me right next to him.  We struck up a conversation, and it ends up that he’s from L’anse au Loop.  We started piecing things together, and he realized that my KLR was the bike that he saw at Normore’s shop the other day.  I was glad that I ran into him (what are the odds) because I missed Victor’s last name, and I wanted to send he and his wife something for taking me in for dinner.  When I told him the story of Victor, he said the same thing that Victor said – that’s what we do in Labrador.

 

Nova Scotia, PEI, and New Brunswick:

 

I pretty much made a b-line to my bunk once on the boat – popped a couple Dramamine just in case, put in some ear plugs, and hit the sack.  When I awoke the next morning, I wasn’t met by a group of rioting villagers, so I guess I didn’t snore too badly.  I made my way to the top deck and into the fog, just about the time we were pulling into port in North Sydney.  The fog was pretty thick, and I figured that this would be another day of riding the Cabot Trail in the fog.  Been there, done that…they must have a fog machine too.

 

(Harbor Traffic) (North Sydney Port) (Ferry) (Bridge)

 

After stopping for breakfast at the “Clucking Hen Café”, an apt name judging by the proprietors, I headed north on Cape Brenton island and picked up the Cabot Trail.  Nova Scotia has a completely different look and feel from Newfoundland.  There’s definitely more money here, especially on Cape Brenton, and I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how to explain the difference, but I really can’t.  The best I can come up with is the people.  As I tried to explain, it seems that everyone on Newfoundland, and Labrador for that matter, is friendly, treats everyone like a neighbor, and is extremely if not overly polite.  As I wrote in my journal about Nova Scotia:

 

There is a noticeable difference between the people of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, as well as the overall feel.  Nova Scotia seems “busy” compared to Newfoundland.

 

Busy is probably the closest I can come to it.  While it’s not a metropolis like Chicago where everyone is 100% concentrating on themselves and nothing else, and Newfoundland is at the opposite end of the spectrum, Nova Scotia moves a couple steps towards Chicago.  I don’t know what percentage or anything, but it’s enough to notice and feel the difference.  People question first, and approach second – not the case in Newfoundland.  I should probably describe this as a Cape Brenton feel, as my experience with Otter and Adam in Canso and along the south shore a couple years ago did feel more like Newfoundland.  But here, on Cape Brenton I can definitely sense that I’m back in “the real world” a bit more…and even if it’s only a bit more and 90-some percentage points away from Chicago, it’s noticeable.

 

(Fishing Village) (View) (View) (Scottish!!!)

 

I recognized many of the coves and bays this morning from the last time I was here, and decided to hit a couple of those side roads on the map that we didn’t have time (or the right bikes) for last time through.  These side roads were really great – much like the trip out to Lark Harbor yesterday, the road was cut high into the cliff overlooking the ocean, but it was a lot more mountainy (yes, that is a word) here.  The small villages felt just that – small.  This actually looks and feels like Newfoundland, and it’s only 30 minutes off the Cabot Trail, so maybe I need to alter my findings and state that Nova Scotia feels more busy along the Cabot Trail, and not the whole of Cape Brenton.

 

(Bay St. Lawrence) (Road) (View) (KLR)

 

The remainder of the Cabot Trail was just as I remember it – absolutely spectacular on the north end, definitely a top ten road anywhere, and then it gets back into “suburbia” in an instant.  It’s not really suburbia per se because it’s not adjacent to any large city, but it gets touristy and busy in a hurry, and it’s actually not that enjoyable of a ride heading through Port Hastings and over to New Glasgow.  I wasn’t used to traffic – hadn’t seen any in weeks.  I decided to try my luck at the ferry to PEI and see how that worked out.  I had some silly thoughts in my head, one being that if I hit PEI on the KLR, then naturally on the way home I would also hit New Brunswick and that would mean that I had ridden the KLR through every Canadian Province, and every territory except for Nunuvut (to which there are no access roads).  I also still had the thought of tagging the last remaining missing states (RI, NJ, and DE) on the way home to make that “official”...but more on that later.  Mostly I was looking for a break from the Nova Scotia traffic and decided to let fate decide.

 

(Cabot Trail) (KLR) (Cabot Trail) (Cabot Trail) (Swing Bridge)

 

I got to the ferry dock and asked what the crossing costs…it’s free to the island, you just have to pay to get off the island, either via the ferry or via the Confederation Bridge.  The ferry was 30 minutes from departure, so by luck I had arrived at the right time.  I grabbed a quick burger before getting on board and heading up to one of the top decks.  I was able to find a nice quiet spot near the back of the boat and I looked backwards as we left harbor, the path of the ferry through the water completely visible by all of the chum and algae churned up by the propellers.  There were a series of buoys setup for the captain to navigate, almost like a small racetrack.  A single buoy near the exit would sound it’s bell with the influence of the waves…just like in a movie – same pitch and everything.  I can still hear the sound of that buoy today.  It was a nice crossing, and a nice hour of peace and quiet, with hardly a wave on the ocean.  Very calm.

 

(Ferry open) (Leaving Nova Scotia) (Lighthouse) (Lighthouse in PEI) (Wood Islands,PEI)

 

Exiting the ferry, they let me off first, and I made my way west towards a couple of provincial parks.  PEI was just what I wanted.  Quiet.  I was back to no traffic, no people, and again a completely different landscape.   Unlike the rocky shorelines of NFLD and N.S., PEI is sand.  It reminds me a bit of the north shore of Lake Erie where you’re riding along the shore, but about half a mile in, and you can see the water in the distance, and without any topographical altitude changes, you can see for seemingly miles.  The houses look different here too…I’m not sure how to describe it.  It seems older I guess.

 

I made my way to a park along a lake with a lighthouse off  in the distance, and setup camp.  This couldn’t be more different than camping at Cape Pine a few nights ago.  The mosquitoes were out for the first time that I can remember since Labrador, but when I made my way down to the lake, they were gone.  In fact, this was no lake, it was actually connected to the ocean.  Jellyfish were scattered about the beach and there was a good smell of sea water, as I had become accustomed to…not the bad smell that Otter and I found in Eureka all those years ago.  I realized that the sun was going to be setting, so I headed back to camp to grab my camera.  I saw two black animals chasing each other, just a few yards away from my tent…that one’s a cat…that one’s a skunk.  The skunk was pissed off and was chasing the cat away, and after about 5 tries, sprayed the cat really good.  The cat ran about 50 yards away, stopped, and laid down looking completely dejected.  His business with the cat done, the skunk turned his attention to me.  I was still a ways away from him, but if I took a couple steps, he would take a couple towards me, as if to say “C’mon boy, you’re almost in range.”  This went back and forth a couple times – I would run 2-3 steps towards him, he’d mock charge at me 2-3 steps.  Someone was going to win, and I feared it would not be me.  I was near a gravel path and I walked over to it and shuffled my feet loudly on the gravel, and that was enough to scare him off…for the time being.  I was just about to pick up my tent and carry it to the other side of the campground when he poked his head out from the woods again.  I made a couple loud noises, took a step towards him, and he retreated.  I moved to the furthest away point that I could, and that seemed to make him happy.  He was out there walking around for a few more minutes, as I headed over to the shoreline to watch the sunset.

 

(Sunset) (Sunset)

 

The next morning, I made a quick stop at the nearby lighthouse where I also spotted a fishing boat out in the water.  I had decided to head north and make my way to the bridge via as many backroads as possible…but really, they’re all backroads on PEI.  I decided that I really like PEI.  It’s quaint, clean, and quiet.  I really was enjoying the small homes and the way that they were well kept, as well as the fields of purple flowers all around.  I hit a bit of rain pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and was afraid I wouldn’t find breakfast, but out of nowhere, a lodge appeared.  This was way too nice of a lodge for my smelly-ass to be frequenting, but it was the only thing out there.  The wait staff didn’t seem to mind, and I had a nice breakfast of eggs benedict…that’s what you order in a place like this.

 

(Breakfast)

 

I continued along the north shore of the island, stopping at a small lightstation and a riding through some more quaint villages before making my way to the Confederation Bridge, an 8 mile bridge that I had ridden the CBR across many years ago.  The bridge appears out of nowhere, almost like the first view of the Rocky Mountains where you’re riding along and – Boom!  There they are.  Same thing this morning with the bridge.

 

(Lightstation) (Sandy Shoreline) (KLR) (Confederation Bridge) (Bridge View) (Bridge View) (Closeup)

 

It was at the gas station on the other side of the bridge that I noticed my rear tire.  The bike hadn’t been handling particularly well, it fely mushy and hard to turn…well besides the flat spot on the rear tire, the cords were starting to show through.  Here we go again.  I figured I could find a tire in Moncton and headed there in search of a dealer.  The first dealer, a Honda dealer, didn’t have anything but she was able to direct me to a Yamaha dealer down the road.  They had a tire, but told me they couldn’t mount it for me…no problem, I have my tools.  I was able to change the tire in pretty much no time – I think I was back on the road about an hour and 20 minutes later, having asked the dealer only to fill it up with air.

 

(Tire Changing) (Worn out tire)

 

About 10 days ago, I was thinking about Cape Enrage in New Brunswick, one of my places that I like to visit.  Earlier in the day, when I had tire trouble, I was afraid I was going to have to skip it since a shot rear tire wasn’t going to handle a gravel road very well, or at least it wouldn’t have been a smart move to do so.  I filled up again (remember, my odometer is broken and I’m doing a bad job of tracking miles) and headed south out of Moncton along the Bay of Fundy.  This is one of my favorite rides and I was feeling quite good about being able to find and mount a new tire so quickly.  I got to Cape Enrage about 4:00 or so, and they had made more improvements.


When I first visited this place, there was only a sun faded sign on the highway pointing towards a gravel road.  At the end was a lighthouse, the keeper’s station, and nothing else.  Today, I found a gift shop, parking lot, and was a little discouraged that it had become too touristy.  There was also a sign at the entrance stating something about this being a high school project, and I started talking to a couple of high school kids that were working the gift shop.  I mentioned that I had been coming here for 10 years, and I didn’t like the fact that it was getting touristy.  They completely understood, one of them more than the other, and also explained the story to me.  Apparently, the government was set to abandon and push this lighthouse into the sea.  A local school teacher lobbied for grants and gathered donations to save it, and had his students volunteer to do the work.  So, while the lighthouse and spot that I once knew is long gone, it could have actually been gone gone.  So what’s the lesser or two evils?  I thanked the kids for the info and made a purchase in the store to do my part in supporting the lighthouse, and then I went to my rock.  My rock is at the top of an adjacent hill where I ate lunch the first time I was here years ago on the CBR.  It was here, eating lunch that an amazing rainbow appeared, one end of the horizon to horizon rainbow reaching out from the middle of the bay.  I was the only one there, along with only the lighthouse and keepers house.  Sitting there today, I was the only one there, and the only thing I could see was the lighthouse and the keeper’s house.  I decided that I would send a donation to the Cape Enrage fund.  The lesser of two evils still has it’s merit.

 

(Cape Enrage Lighthouse) (Lighthouse) (View from my Rock)

 

An excerpt from my journal that night, which ended up being the last words I wrote while on the trip:

 

As I’m sitting on my rock at Cape Enrage, I’m wondering/thinking about whether the new touristy Cape Enrage makes this place less attractive, less meaningful, or no longer my favorite lighthouse.  As I’m thinking this, a bald eagle drifts by, soaring with the wind no more than 20 feet above me.  I’ve seen many eagles on the trip, and then keep appearing either completely randomly, or just when I’m thinking about a difficult topic.  This one set the mood just right, as had the others.  Eagles amaze me, the timing of this one baffles me still.  I need to come up with an object to which I will practice meditating – I’m not sure if it’s right, but mine might need to be an eagle.

 

It felt really good to be back at Cape Enrage, even though I was now getting into “I have to get home” mode, and had accepted without problem the fact that the trip was coming to an end.  I headed out through Fundy National Park, and even though I told the park ranger I was only driving through, I did stop for one picture at a turnout.  Most times when I’m here, it’s foggy or overcast, but with clear skies today, I was able to enjoy the distant view of Cape Enrage for the first time.  I continued on, taking backroads where I could, and headed back south towards the bay late in the afternoon to look for a place to camp.  The ride through New Brunswick was really beautiful – lots of rolling hills, trees, covered bridges…nice and peaceful.  I’ve been using that word a lot, but I don’t have anything else that I can substitute for it.  I really was at peace this afternoon. 

 

(Bay of Fundy) (Closeup of Cape Enrage) (Road through new Brunswick) (Bay of Fundy)

 

I found a campground with some RVs in it right along the water with a big open area for tent camping – right along the water.  Not perfect, but I’ll take it.  It did offer me the opportunity to watch the tide come in, and by the time I had setup camp, the tide had risen about 10 feet.  I made it an early night so that I could get an early start tomorrow.  I had three days to get home – plenty of time, but I did need to keep moving.  My timing had worked out really well – I could easily make it home from here without even having to do a 600 mile day, so I could continue to ride without feeling rushed.  This method had been working so far, and I knew it would continue to work.  I was glad I had the time to take the long way through Cape Enrage, and the ride down to this point wouldn’t have been possible had I been really burning out the miles.  I was glad not to be in a hurry.

 

(Campsite) (Bay of Fundy from Campsite) (View from Campsite)

 

Back to the USA

 

Early to bed, early to rise…I feel healthy, definitely feel wealthy, but wise?  I must not have woken up quite early enough…but it was early enough to watch the sunrise.  This was one of it not the only camping morning that it wasn’t overcast.  I made some coffee and made the long walk down to the water.  The tide was out, hence the long walk.  Tides in this area vary by 35 feet, the biggest in the world.  My morning coffee and I had to continue stepping backwards as the tire started to come in, just like the last time when Otter, Adam, and I were here.  It moves fast enough that you can see it, and it was a nice treat to watch this phenomena again.

 

I finished my coffee and walked back to my campsite to see a large crow on the ground, something trapped beneath his talons that he was snacking on.  Hmm, it’s something shiny…what could that be.  As I got closer, I realized that’s a ramen noodles wrapper…hey, that’s my ramen noodles that I didn’t eat last night!  I had left my Givi bag open, and this guy went in there and stole them.  As I got closer, he saw me coming, picked up the noodles, flew about 100 feet away and landed on a picnic bench…and continued eating them.  Why you SOB…

 

I packed up camp, and headed into the little town nearby to take a picture.  It was very early and the town was even quieter than it usually is.  The sun was just starting to shed light on the town, but most was still in the shadows, a very pretty scene.  I like towns like this a lot.  After stopping for a look at the lighthouse that marked the entrance to the cove by which I camped last night, I started heading west towards St. John.  I approached the town around the morning commute hour, and traffic was at a standstill.  Some road construction signs were to blame, so I took the first exit and headed back the other direction to the small town I had just passed, hoping to find breakfast.  I found a small café, and sat down, figuring I’d wait out the traffic.  The locals started talking to me, and they told me that I could take a ferry across the river and sneak my way around St John’s and avoid the traffic.  Sounded like a good idea, and that’s what I did.  They failed to mention that it was a spectacular ride.  I made the right choice not only for the ride, and the two quick ferry crossings, but also because I didn’t see a car the entire time.

 

(Town of St. Martins) (Lighthouse) (Covered Bridge) (On the ferry)

 

The last hour as I approached the border to the US found my mind wandering, but unlike how I was thinking forward to things to come as I rode across Quebec a week and a half ago, I was now thinking about all the things I had seen.  Fresh in my mind was the fact that I was so pleased to have gotten a new rear tire (and quickly) and was able to go visit Cape Enrage.  I can’t explain how much I like that spot, especially from my rock.  I smiled in my helmet as I rode along, trying to recount all of the happenings over the last week, but forgetting equally as much as I could remember.  I crossed the border with little fanfare and for the first time in two weeks saw gas stations displaying price per gallon vs. price per liter.  But it wasn’t like that was going to do me any good in figuring out my miles per gallon, as my odometer hadn’t worked in about 1800 miles.

 

I think that the Maine coastline, at least the area near Canada, is one of the more beautiful sites in the United States.  Black jagged rock with coves and inlets, not unlike those up at L’anse Aux Meadows, are interspersed along seemingly endless miles of shoreline.  Tall trees, presumptively hundreds of years old, line the right side of the road.  There are some small towns along the way, but nothing spoils the landscape.  Even the run down service stations play their part in making this scenery what it is.  It looks old and it is old.

 

Out of nowhere, the town of Ellsworth appears and you’re reminded that this is actually New England, where the land is plentiful and so too are the people.  Ever since I left the rock, traffic has been getting worse and worse…first Nova Scotia, then the traffic jam this morning, and now New England.  To make matters worse, I was headed to Acadia National Park, and while I knew I would hit even more population, a lobster roll and a view that you can’t put a price on would be more than enough to combat my feeling of resentment towards all the inevitable people…or so I thought.  After all, they haven’t yet gotten the message that these are my roads, and they are not supposed to be here.

 

Lobster roll safely stowed in my tank bag, I made my way into the park and towards Otter Point, a place that I hadn’t visited since 1999.  Right away, I remembered why I came down here – the ride is just plain worth it.  What I didn’t realize was just how many people would be here on a…ummm…I think today’s Thursday, but I’m not 100% sure.  I’m pretty sure.  Every parking lot was near capacity, and I was amazed at the number of people that were there.  It was higher than I would have or could have imagined, but just like at Cape Enrage, I climbed down onto the rocks, found a quiet place to sit, and everyone else disappeared.  Only the view of the bay remained.  That was one good lobster roll – I can still smell it.

 

(Acadia Shoreline) (Otter Point - low tide) (Otter Bay)

 

I stopped a time or two in the park again, but I mostly made a b-line back to Highway 1 and continued west.  The more I wanted and needed to make time, the more traffic increased.  I know this is what’s in store in New England – beautiful roads that twist through incredibly beautiful countryside, with a million two-legged cockroaches doing all they can to all but ruin it for you.  I found my times to enjoy a view, and enjoy a mile or two of peace before the people picked up, but it was evident that I was just delaying the inevitable.  I thought about the other times I’d been through New England, my first in April (yes, April) of 1999, and I remembered how much I liked it.  I remembered how much I didn’t like it when Otter, Adam, and I went to Nova Scotia a few years ago, mostly because of too many people…same thing on this trip through.  I shouldn’t say I didn’t like it, but I think I prefer it in April, even if the lakes are still frozen over.

 

(View across to Otter Point) (Acadia View)

 

I picked up the turnpike and headed towards Boston.  Somewhere in my head, I had the idea that Boston to Chicago was about 1000 miles, and I figured that would make the next three days really manageable, and maybe even get me home mid-day on Sunday.  I had a thought of breaking into the office and writing “Tad Was Here” on the bit whiteboard in the IT area, but decided that it would be a sin to go to work on a trip, even though it’s that work that affords me the monetary possibility of doing a trip like this.  I don’t want work’s ego getting any bigger than it is, so I decided to skip it, and grabbed a hotel room for the night in Milford, MA.  I grabbed a cold beer from the convenience store and toasted the TNDC guys before heading to bed.

 

The next morning, I took a quick look at the maps, found what looked to be a quiet ride through Rhode Island, and headed out.  Luck of the draw worked this morning, and I had a very enjoyable ride through basically the middle of nowhere (if that place exists in New England) all the way down to Wyoming where I found a place for breakfast, and a good one at that.  It’s safe to say this is my favorite breakfast place in Rhode Island.

 

Having checked off another state from the proverbial list, that left two.  Delaware and New Jersey, and Mike and Skip live in New Jersey, so I thought to take them up on their offer and go visit.  I hopped on the Interstate and headed towards NYC.  I know there are nice parts of Connecticut, but along the interstate ain’t them.  I really didn’t know how to get through New York City, and I had a small map with only a little detail, so I decided to wing it.  I’ve never been there, it was about 1:30PM on a Friday, so I figured traffic would be as light as it’s ever going to be.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was headed straight through the 5 boroughs.  I used the overhead Interstate signs to guide me to New Jersey, but also went with the “traffic bad that way, traffic good this way” mentality, which ended up working perfectly.  I saw the Manhattan skyline to my right, saw the stereotypical Yiddish Rabbi wearing the black hat, sporting the beard and curly hair as I rode through Brooklyn, and the views from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge were absolutely spectacular.  I had no idea the port of New York was as big as it was.  Oh yeah, I had been stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for at least two hours by this point, but I didn’t really care.  People were rolling down their windows talking to me – nice people, New Yorkers (please note sarcasm).  In all seriousness, a couple people did ask me where I was going and “have you been to all those places” in reference to my stickers.  I have to say that I really really enjoyed New York City.  It’s nothing if not impressive.  So while I still haven’t “been” to New York, I did see the Brooklyn Bridge.  What else is there to see?

 

I crossed Statten Island, got to Jersey, checked it off on my list (just kidding), dug around and found Mike’s number and gave him a call.  “Hey, we’re just sitting down to a couple of beers,” he told me (big surprise) and he gave me directions on how to get to where he and Skip were.  I met up with them at Mike’s business, and I have to say it was good to see them – kinda like visiting old friends, that I’d known for all of 10 days now.  Again, these are two very good guys.  We hung around talking, having some beers, telling stories, etc for a while.  Eventually, Mike had to run but Skip took me out for dinner and gave me a place to sleep that night.  I think he cancelled some plans with his wife that night, but he didn’t and wouldn’t have said anything about it.  I hope I didn’t impose too much, but again, he didn’t and wouldn’t have said anything anyway.  I can tell that’s the type of person he is.  He and his wife gave me the tour of the Jersey shore, making our way up to Sandy Hook, and grabbing dinner at a great seafood restaurant.  PEI mussles, and then the sampler platter for me, and everything was so good, so fresh, that I didn’t even use tartar sauce on the fish.  It was that good.  Despite his best efforts, I picked up the check, something I really wanted to do as another thank you, even though, again, I knew it wasn’t necessary.  They put me up on their sofa that night, and Skip volunteered to lead me across more nice parts of Jersey in the morning and to a bridge south of Philly that would take me into Delaware.

 

The next morning, we hopped in the car to head back to the factory, where we had left our bikes overnight.  A very nice setup they have to be able to leave their motorcycles in the loading dock…comes with the territory of owning a company I guess.  We grabbed an early breakfast on the way, and continued our conversation from last night, that were actually a continuation from the conversations we started on the Goose Bay to Cartwright ferry a week ago, or was it 10 days ago?  Skip then led me through some very nice back country in New Jersey, and even though I had already told him that I know that New Jersey is more than the city of Newark (the arm pit of the US), he reaffirmed those thoughts and without question.  Here it is folks:  New Jersey is very nice, and is aptly named the Garden State.

 

We parted ways at the bridge, and I crossed the Delaware river, thinking of General George Washington….c’mon, no I wasn’t.  Geez, you’re gullible.  I did cross the Delaware River, and again and as usual, with no fanfare, I checked off the 50th state.  Had Skip and Mike not been in New Jersey, I probably wouldn’t have ventured so far out of my way just to see NYC or hit the remaining three states on the list, but I was glad that I did for all of the reasons and all of the sights seen. 

 

(This makes 50...Hi, I'm in Delaware...)

 

It honestly hasn’t been that important to me to hit all 50 states for a couple years.  A wise man once said, “it’s not how far you go, it’s how go you far” and while I’m still not 100% certain what that means, I can take it to mean (among other things) that the ride itself is more important than where you have been.  Make the most out of every mile.  However you want to say it.  So hitting my 50th state, while cool, wasn’t what I set out to do.  It just so happened that I ended up in a situation where I could do it, and I took advantage.  That’s the same reason that I decided to go to Labrador and Newfoundland to begin with.

 

Having hit all 50 states now, while it gains me no membership into any club, is an accomplishment that I am proud of, but was not anything that I set out to do in and of itself.  That pride is felt more for how I did it rather than simply having done it.  As I mentioned, I only ended up in RI, NJ, and DE because I was going to visit Skip and Mike, and it worked out that I ended up there.  I haven’t ever looked a map and ever plotted a course with the sole purpose of “hitting” another state, rather I have always been interested to see what was there.  Sure, Otter will point out that in 1998, we rode ¼ mile into Kansas before continuing on, but I’ve also now ridden across the state multiple times, most of the time on back roads, and have enjoyed the ride there very much.  I like Kansas…yes, I like Nebraska too.  I like many many of the places I’ve been, and I’ve been to these many places on the map as part of a bigger picture, a bigger plan, a grander scheme to see something (or nothing) that happens to be in a particular direction.  The dividing lines on a map don’t determine to me “where I have gone” or how far I have gone – they are just a byproduct.  The memories of sunrises, sunsets, campgrounds, scenic overlooks, roads where I have almost crashed, roads where my mind has gone blank, roads where I was to wet and cold, or hot and tired and wasn’t sure I’d make it, places where I’ve met some of the nicest people in the world, and bumped into them a second time further down the road, places where I have felt a warming contentment that I cannot explain through the use of simile or metaphor…that’s how go I far.

 

I probably have to re-state that…I may have in my early years of riding been lured to certain places (like California) and thought crossing the border to somewhere would be the magical part, but I learned quickly that it was and is the places I go once I’m there that matter.  That’s why hitting all 50 states arbitrarily hasn’t been a priority of mine for a while.  Besides, I think I’m more proud of the fact that I’ve ridden the KLR in every Canadian province and territory….yes, except for Nunuvut, but for the last time, they haven’t built a road there yet.  But when they do…

 

I was in Delaware for all of 30 minutes before I crossed into Pennsylvania.  The only thing I really remember about riding through PA is that the speed limits are ridiculously slow, especially in Amish country.  Traffic was pretty bad, and I was probably riding too aggressively for a while, that is until I came upon a line of at least 30 cars, pretty much bumper to bumper in front of me, traveling at 45 miles/hour, and realized I wasn’t going anywhere quickly.  I did manage to get a couple glances at the map, and got off onto some secondary roads that eventually dropped me onto the PA Turnpike.  From there, it was drone away time.

 

I had thoughts to stop and visit some friends that live in Ohio, but fate wouldn’t have it.  I tried calling them a couple times from the road, but they were out.  It was decided for me that I’d just make it home tonight – I was in Dayton at 7:00PM, so I should be home before 1:00.  I gave 1cent a quick call to let her know, and headed out into the night, enjoying one more sunset in my rear view mirror.  I really enjoyed the ride at night, especially when the stars came out.  I don’t get much chance to ride at night, but some things never change – the moon, the stars, and the big dipper were all right where I left them.

 

Conclusion:

 

I have to say that I’m proud of myself for this trip.  I did what I set out to do, took my risks, laid down my cards, doubled-down at times, and took whatever came my way.  For whatever reason, part of me has that chest-puffing sense of accomplishment – I can’t believe I actually did this, but looking back, it wasn’t anything too terribly difficult.  In fact, the ride was quite easy, having factored in enough time to never feel rushed, even on my drone home.  I was able to stop and see way more things than I had imagined, and I have no regrets about anything that happened on the trip.

 

I do need to figure out how to combat my lack of decision making ability though.  As I described, I get into situations, usually at the end of the day, where I just don’t really care where I end up.  One part of me (the smart part) tries to get me to do the “safe” thing – i.e. stop here, you know it’s right here, and you can get camp setup…nevermind that it’s close to the road, or there are some people and/or RVs…it will be fine.  This is his argument.  The other part of me wonders what is right around the corner, and this is the guy that usually wins the argument.  I guess it’s not bad to have these internal discussions, and it’s not like I get burned by one of these guys more than the other, and no matter what – when I end up wherever I end up, it’s all good…I just need to figure out a better way to break the tie more easily...because I feel pretty foolish standing there, or sitting on an idling bike, making no movements while my two psyches argue with one another.  On the other hand, maybe I don’t, and maybe this is just fate’s way of challenging me or giving me options via a choice – but that choice has no clear cut reasoning behind it because I have no idea what's behind either curtain.  It’s like the show Let’s Make a Deal – you can have what’s behind door number one or door number two.  The thing is, I can make either of them work and that's why I don't really care where I end up...and now I'm back to square one.  So maybe this is exactly what I’m supposed to do, and the arbitrary decision that I make is all part of that grand scheme of things.  See, I can't even decide if I need to get better at making a decision...man, what's wrong with me?

 

As I mentioned at the beginning, I thought Labrador and Newfoundland to be one of “those places” and it turns out they are.  I really wanted to share this experience, especially with Adam, and were Otter still riding, with him as well.  There’s no two other guys that I will share the road with in this way.  Yes, I’ll ride with others, but there will have to be a number of contingencies in place…not so with Otter and Adam.  With them, I am comfortable letting things run their course, knowing that each of them share my thoughts and views on how the day should progress.  Riding with them is as if I were riding solo and I know that I’ll get as much, if not more, out of the trip as if I were solo.  Having said that, I was torn not having either of them with me on this trip.  I know times do and have changed, and I can accept that…but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

 

I don’t know if the other people that I met on this trip (Skip and Mike, Ike and Mary Ann, the couple at Relais Gabriel, the couple at Lobster Cove and again at Signal Hill, and the unbelievable people in L’anse au Loop, Labrador at the motorcycle shop) were somehow supposed to be the substitute for not having Adam and Otter along, but it seemed like that in some ways.  Substitute is the wrong word, as that’s not possible, but I have to say that for whatever reason, I bumped into more people than I usually do on this trip.  Last year, on my fall color run, I barely met a soul.  Besides the experience I shared with Skip and Mike, which is not to be glossed over and absolutely meant the world to me, twice did I meet other people at breakfast and then ran into them a second time either later that day or the next day…I find it very interesting that this happened, not once, but twice.  I don’t understand fate, or karma, or whatever label you want to put on the events of our lives to explain how and why they happen (if you even want to put this label on things…maybe you don’t, and maybe you believe more in chaos), but something was there on this trip.  By all accounts, I should still be sitting on the side of the road in Labrador, stranded with a bike that failed, but I was taken care of.  I could look at this happening, as well as the meeting of all the people that I did as thousands of individual chaotic events, I just choose not to. 

 

I read another book on Buddhism on this trip, and while I’m not comfortable stating that “I’m a Buddhist” I am finding myself more and more comfortable with Buddhist beliefs and values.  Help others if you can, but if you can’t, do no harm is a really strong foundation upon which to build a life.  I try every day to incorporate this thought into my actions, and some days I do better than others.  I find it extremely easy to practice on the road, and it gives me a better sense of self worth in doing so.  It feels good to help others, and even better when others help you…but receiving that kindness in turn only makes me want to help others more.  I think that’s the basic gist of what Buddha taught.

 

Worst case scenario, if it ends up that I’m a good and decent person and that’s it, I can live with that.