So, the story of Newfoundland - It actually starts a long time ago but in the interest of your time I'll start in Nova Scotia. After my arrival in Sydney on August 29th I connected with Lee-Anne from the Sydney Sunrise Rotary Club who my sister had contacted about my ride. We met at Boston Pizza and had some much needed food after another long day of riding the hilly and windy terrain of Nova Scotia. After a nice conversation we headed out to meet her husband at the armory (the oldest continuously occupied military base in Canada) to swap vehicles so that she could take me to the bingo hall where I would meet Mr Weaver (another Rotarian) who I was giving me a place to stay. He was volunteering at the bingo hall as part of the Rotary club's fund-raising efforts. I had no idea that bingo was such big business - the Indian reserve in Sydney has a huge facility dedicated completely to bingo. The evening wouldn't be over until 10pm so I waited in the entrance of the building and caught up on some of my writing.
The next morning (Aug 30th) I had arranged to meet with Anita and Babsi who I had met with Andreas at the hostel in Pleasant Bay. After a stop at the store to replenish some minor supplies I rode my bike (without the weight of my gear) the few km into town meet up with girls. They were heading south toward Halifax and wanted to get an early start but it was almost 11am by the time we finished breakfast and headed out on our own new adventures. After breakfast I went to find the local bike shop to see if I could figure out why the pedal on the left side of my bike was creaking. The store owner suggested that I needed to pack some new grease in the pedal and gave me a small packet of grease so that I could make the fix. My next errand was to get a haircut as I was starting to look a little rough. After a quick chop here and snappy trim there I was back in shape and off to Mr. Weaver's house again to make the final maintenance and cleaning operation of my bike for Newfoundland.
There was a lot of grease and grime on my chain and Betsy wasn't shifting as smoothly as when I first started the trip - I later discovered, half way across Newfoundland, that my shifting cable had been wearing thin. A couple of hours later as I was finishing the operation I had a shiny new bike and Mr Weaver came home from work. A side note: Mr. Weaver works at the Sydney tar pond clean up where, for a long time, there was a steel plant that didn't use the most environmentally friendly practices. Now there is a major effort to clean up the area and lots of government funds have been appropriated for the clean up. Ultimately, the area will be made into a park. For dinner we went down to the other house on his property where his daughter Elyse lived with her baby Mason. She made us some dinner and we hung out for a while on the back patio. She invited me to come back later as she was planning to have a bonfire with some friends - when I returned for the bonfire Mason was fussing a lot and I only spent a short time visiting before going back to the main house to get some sleep.
Aug 31 - Newfoundland bound! I woke early to wish Mr. Weaver a good day at work and to thank him for letting me stay at his house. He arranged for Elyse to give me a ride to the airport to pick up Erin who I had met a couple months prior riding through Lake Louise and who had the adventurous spirit to join me for the final two weeks of my ride across Newfoundland. Erin arrived right on schedule with her bike and her gear and Elyse drove us back to her house where we made the final assembly of Erin's bike before heading off for the ferry. It was about 20 km of cycling to the ferry. Arriving at the ferry terminal, nearly an hour and a half before the scheduled departure, the woman at the gate said "you better go straight to the boat! They're closing the doors and are ready to go!" We found this strange given how early we were. So we booked it down to the boat, past all of the not-so-apparent security, to get on the boat. It seems they were in the middle of a shift change - while loading the boat ??? - and we were quickly sent back to wait at the big yellow line until they scanned our tickets and until they told us to get on the boat. While we waited another cyclist, Jake, rode up behind us. He was riding to St. John's from Halifax to start school. We shared an apple and some plums I had picked up at the grocery store before they called us to get on the boat. As we were setting our bikes up and collecting our gear to go up to the main cabin from the lower level one of the workers came to us - with a thick Newfoundland accent - and tried to help us understand the schedule - "the boat gets all closed up by 4 and we leave the port at 4:30" .... so, we go up to the main deck and get situated in the very colourful lounge area. I notice that the boat is moving out of the port, look at my watch and see that it's only 3:45. It seems the ferry operates solely on Newfoundland time which is 30 minutes ahead of the rest of the eastern provinces... It's not much help though when they dock in Nova Scotia and expect your watch to be programmed for Newfoundland. It's funny too because we've spoken to several other people across Newfoundland who have not-so-positive things to say about the ferry system between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. In any case, we made it on the ferry and over to Newfoundland with no incident. Upon arrival, it was about 9pm and the sun had fully set. We decided that the best option for the first night would be to find the nearest hotel to minimize our riding time in the dark. It worked out well and the hotel let us store our bikes in one of their meeting rooms. Jake had bid us farewell upon leaving the ferry and had plans of finding a couple of trees to string his hammock for the night.
Sept 1 - The first day on "The Rock" was a lot of fun as the wind was at our back and the sun was mostly shining. The terrain quickly became hilly and our fascination with Newfoundland quickly grew. When I was originally talking with Erin about the ride she said "I'd be comfortable with 100km per day". Given the good wind our day turned into 150 and Erin got to break her previous record of 125km... and on a loaded bike no less! Half way along we ran into our friend Jake who had stopped to check the pressure in his tires. Turned out his pump had failed and let all of the air out of his tires. I let him use my pump to get fixed up and then the three of us were on our way. Jake moved on ahead of us when I stopped to wait for Erin and we didn't see him again. We stopped for lunch a long the side of the road and then proceeded on the hilly path along the trans-Canada highway to Barachois Provincial Park. It was a nice park on a lake close to some big rocky hills. As we were setting up our tent a woman on a bike came over and started talking to us. She asked if we were part of a big group of riders she had seen earlier that day. Then she told us about a 14 day bike trip that she took with her husband around the Avalon Peninsula and how it was the worst 14 days of her life. As she was finishing the story, her husband (who reminded me of Albert Einstein) rode up on his bike and proceeded to tell us about his 14 day trip around the Avalon Peninsula and how it was the best 14 days of his life..... we laughed a lot. He also told us about the super expensive and strong string (used for towing US submarines) that he had 'borrowed' from his employer and used to replace a spoke in his bike. Funny guy.
Sept 2 - Barachois Provincial Park to Corner Brook - another nice day with the wind at our back. Half way to Corner Brook we stopped for lunch on the side of the road. It was a hilly ride and our plan was to reach Deer Lake. As we rode toward Deer Lake we decided to stop for groceries in Corner Brook. Corner Brook is very hilly and nestled in a valley. We rode down a lot of hills to get to the grocery store and I was afraid we would have to climb them again to get out. It turned out to be very flat out the other side of town, but before we got back to the Trans-Canada Highway we had a little break down. I heard a bang and looked in my rear view mirror to see if Erin was still riding - she was, so I continued forward around the corner and out of sight. Turned out her tube had blown and had torn the tire. We we changed her tire out with the spare she was carrying and went back to town to find a bike shop. The shop we found was closed but as we were deciding what to do the owners wife Becky came up to us to see if she could help us. She called her husband, Peter, who came over and opened the store for us to get us fixed up. Then he asked where we were staying and offered his house. We accepted and went to find our new home for the night. Peter and Becky were great! They looked after us really well. If you're ever in Corner Brook and need a bike shop go to Cycle Solutions.
Sept 3 - Corner Brook to Wiltondale - Peter and Becky fed us breakfast and had to leave before we were ready - they said just pull the door shut when you leave. They were great! On the way out of town we stopped at Tim Horton's for some coffee and a snack and then continued on our scenic way toward Gros Morne park. When we got to Deer Lake as I was climbing a long hill my derailleur cable broke and I could no longer shift gears. Luckily I had planned for such an event and had a spare cable. While I fixed my bike, Erin pulled out some of the food we had stocked and put together some lunch. Continuing on we finally arrived at the turn off toward Gros Morne park and stopped at the service station for another snack and to check out a little gift shop. The ride into Gros Morne was mostly up hill. It was another humid day and the wind was blowing across our noses. Halfway up to the park we were stopped by Yuri and his sister Meghan who happened to have a cabin close to Gros Morne. They invited us to stay at their place and we accepted. The cabin was on Little Bond Bay Pond and was set up nicely. We cooked up the pasta with pepers and mushrooms in our sauce. Then we played cards with Meghan and her boyfriend Phil and learned some of the finer details of Newfoundland culture - like Skreech and card game etiquette. We had a really good time with Meghan, Phil, and Yuri. In the morning, Yuri had to leave early for work and mistakenly took my flipflops instead of his, but Meghan caught up with us in St. John's and I got to see her once more and recover the displaced flip-flops.
Sept 4 - Wiltondale through Gros Morne and the Table Lands to Rocky Harbour - after our fun evening with Meghan, Phil, and Yuri we headed off on our break day to explore what we could of Gros Morne Park - it was a hot muggy day as we awaited the arrival of Hurricane (now tropical storm) Earl. After some wonderful scenery and hills we arrived at the table lands and encountered my backpacking friend Andreas from Germany who I had run into now for the 4th time. We hiked in along one of the trails to get a good look at the distinct hills that jut out of the ground producing a very contrasted landscape - on one side of the road the hills were green and lush and on the other side of the road it looked like Mars. We were operating a little slow this day and weren't in a big hurry - since it was supposed to be a day off. After our visit to the table land we continued on to Woody Point where we stopped for food and then caught the pedestrian ferry across to Norris Point where we would continue on to Rocky Harbour. By this time the weather was looking very sketchy with the arrival of Earl and we decided to skip out on our camping reservation and find a more solid structure for accommodation. We found a B&B that had vacancy and the woman who was looking after it was very resistant to letting us do any laundry, but she did let us store our bikes in the basement beside the laundry machine :) We were very happy to be indoors as the storm arrived very shortly after we arrived at the B&B. Once settled we met Hannah and Til who were visiting from Germany. They were very nice and we had a fun time hanging out with them and sharing stories. The next morning we got up and packed. At breakfast we met the other couple who was staying at the B&B. Everyone was really nice. With the passing of Earl the wind had made a nice shift from the west but we wouldn't get to enjoy it until we got back south to the Trans-Canada Highway.
Sept 5 - Rocky Harbour to Birchy Lake - there was a really stiff cross wind as we pedaled south out of the park. Then, when we arrived at the TCH we stocked up on food at the service station and headed east. The sun was shining and the wind was super strong and happily at our back. When we got to where the campsite should have been - it wasn't there. This is were we met Grete and Foss who looked after us really well. We found the dirt road where the campsite was suppose to be and Erin was tapped out from riding. This meant we found a campsite or just set our tents up on the side of the road. Luckily we met Grete and Foss' son in his pick-up truck who suggested we stay at his parents' cabin. When we arrived Foss came out and, in a thick Newfoundland accent, offered a spot down around the corner almost on his neighbors property. When we got to where he was going to put us we found that it wasn't very good for a tent site so he took us back and offered a spot on the grass close to the water. Shortly after we had started setting up our tents his wife Grete and her friend Marion came out and offered us salad and dessert to go with our planned meal of canned Irish stew. When they heard that we were going to eat Irish stew they laughed and decided that we needed something better - so we got potatoes, turkey, and mixed vegetables. Then, as if feeding us wasn't enough, they called their neighbor who's cabin was not being used and got us set up with electricity, running water, and a comfortable bed. The funny thing was that our tents were already set up and they came down with their car and quickly piled our things in the car to move it all over to the other cabin. It was a fury of motion and out of form for my normally organized mode of operation. We went to sleep with full bellies.
Sept 6 - Birchy Lake to Grand Falls / Windsor - Grete had invited us over for coffee in the morning and ended up giving us a full breakfast. They set us on our way with rhubarb jam and canned moose meat. A stiff wind helped our pedaling efforts for the first 40km until we turned south into the wind for about 50 km before turning east again toward Grand Falls - it was a long day and we got in at dusk. We stayed at the hostel in Grand Falls - they gave us a motel room for the price of the hostel and given that we paid cash the tax mysteriously disappeared too. Prior to arriving in Grand Falls, on a short stop for food in Badger, we met Linda and Wayne Hardiman who we had initially met in Gros Morne park - they invited us to stay with them at their house in Gander and, if we could make it by noon the next day, we could go to the Rotary meeting to share about Huntington's and my ride. Linda gave us her number and we told her we'd see what we could do - it was still 100km to Gander and the wind and terrain would have to be right if we were going to do that much riding before noon. As we rode in to Grand Falls the sun and temperature were setting fast. We found the hostel and got set up in our small, but comfortable room. We had decided to shoot for Gander by noon the next day. I had been battling a cold for the past few days and nights - I suspect, the result of my interaction with baby Mason in Sydney. Happily this was the most comfortable sleep I had in several days.
Sept 7 - Grand Falls / Windsor to Gander - We didn't get on the road as early as planned, but we were rolling by 7:45. This gave us just over 4 hours to tackle the 100km to Gander. We pushed hard and managed to arrive at Linda and Wayne's house at about 5 minutes to 12. Linda was running a little late and came to pick us up to take us to the meeting. The meeting was very close by and ran like a clock. Lunch was great! Turkey diner followed by the best creme puffs I've ever tasted. It might have been the fact that we had ridden over 100 km before lunch that made the food so good - but it was all really good nonetheless. I was given a few minutes to speak about my ride and the cause and in the end the club donated $200. Now we had the rest of the day to be tourists and Wayne was our tour guide. He took us to the Gander aviation museum where we learned about the history of the Gander airport, some stories about World War II, stories of aviation sabotage, and stories about the events of September 11, 2001. Gander's population nearly doubled in a few hours with the grounding of all air traffic. Linda and Wayne even put a few of the people up while air traffic was sorted out over the next three days. After our visit to the museum we went to the site of the Arow crash of 1983 in which nearly 200 US service men were killed when their plane crashed off the end of the runway. They have a nice memorial on the site - it is quite serene. After our tour and history lesson of Gander we drove by the airport before going back to the house to do some laundry and eat some dinner.
Sept 8 - Left from Linda and Wayne Hardiman's in Gander - sunny cool day. rode through Terra Nova national park, had lunch at info centre, went to Port Blandford, getting cold and dark, stayed at B&B
Sept 9 - left from B&B toward Jack's Pond at Arthur's cove. Rainy, cold, windy day. Stopped in Clarenville to meet reporter and have lunch at the Clarenville Inn. Continued on toward Jack's pond - had a hard time finding the campsite - lots of rain. Finally found the campsite which had only a few very rocky campsites. The comfort station was a public hazard and we found shelter in the game room to make dinner. They let us stay in the game room after their normal closing hour and part way through dinner a man came in and said "the boss wants to talk to you". I went to the door where it was pitch black and the rain was pouring down and a big guy in a white hummer bellowed "you gonna shut the lights and lock the door when you leave?". I said yes and he was on his way. I sat in a big purple Dino (from the Flintstone's cartoon) ride and Erin sat in a 1990 Atari racing game eating the pasta we prepared on the air hockey table. It was a interesting evening.
Sept 10 - Left from Arthur's cove (campsite) - rain, rain, wind, wind. The next morning we woke early to the sound of rushing water - the brook that was barely flowing the night before was now a wildly flowing rapid. Erin had left her coffee mug out over night and had collected over 5 cm of rain water. There was a short reprieve from the rain for us to get packed up and on the road. We stopped to prepare our breakfast at the gas station close to the campsite. The woman there let us set up in the little diner attached to the gas station which wasn't scheduled to open until 11 am. The rain was holding off for the most part, but it would rain and stop, rain and stop, so we kept stopping to change in and out of our rain gear. After about 50 km of riding we stopped for lunch at a gas stop with a restaurant (about 75 km from St John's now). Jim Ryan, who has a connection to the Huntington's group in St John's and who we were going to be staying with, came out to find us at the restaurant. He showed up and introduced himself and I said "how'd you find me?", forgetting about the nifty little GPS tracker that I had so cleverly mounted on my bicycle. At this stop we also met a group of motorcyclists who were riding their bikes across Canada to raise awareness and money for blind children. After lunch we were on our way again and Jim helped Erin out by taking a bunch of her gear to lighten her load. I was being a purist and insisted on carrying all of my gear to the end. By now the rain was really coming down and the motorcade of motorcycles passed us, each tooting their own distinctive horn. Mom and Dad and Laura who had flown out to meet me at the end caught up with us on the road and stopped to see if there was anything we needed. We were soaked but the temperature was fairly warm so it wasn't that bad. I passed the 9000km point and stopped to take a picture and do a little dance. After some more hills and a little break in the clouds we finally arrived in St. John's. Jim came back out to direct us in and we met Helen and her mother Mary who looked after us like their own for the next few days.
Sept 11 - I hadn't planned to arrive at Cape Spear until 3 or 4 pm, so we went sight seeing with my mom and dad and sister in the morning. We went to Signal Hill and took the hike down the hill along the coast in front of Signal Hill. It was a nice sunny day to this point and we had a clear view of Cape Spear across the bay. After our tour of Signal Hill we went back to prepare for a meeting with the Mayor of St. John's and for the ride up to Cape Spear. The weather was holding out, but the clouds were moving in. We got to city hall early hoping that the mayor would show up early too. He didn't, so we had a snack at the patio/pub across from city hall. When he arrived we found him to be very personable and accommodating. He joked with us for a while and then invited us to come to the city council meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon. We then headed out toward Cape Spear. The road out to Cape Spear is quite hilly and the first few kms were very steep. My bike was still fully loaded so it was a challenge to keep up with Erin and her unloaded bike. As we got closer to the end the Atlantic Ocean came into view and the lighthouse of Cape Spear was visible. Climbing the last hill to Cape Spear I could hear the people who had gathered to cheer me in. There were about 50 people from various places who had gathered to meet me at the end. A couple from Vancouver who had heared about my ride back in June just happened to be at the Cape when I arrived and recognized me. What a great coincidence for them to arrive on their vacation at the same time as me - they had been together for nearly 30 years, but he had been accused of not properly proposing, so he brought her there to set it all straight :) Congratulations to the happy couple! My dad brought a bottle of Champagne and we shared it with everyone who wanted a taste. It was a great finish to my 9000km trek across the continent.