Trip update IV: To the end of the New World (2014)

2014-09-08 09.12.13On Monday morning, the 8th of September, Atlantic Vision sailed into Placentia Bay and made port in Argentia. The ferry pier is at the former US Navy seaplane base from World War II. Like many of the dozens of US bases built during the war to win control of the North Atlantic, NAS Argentia, with its long runway, remained in service for the Cold War. As far as I can tell, the shrinking of the Newfoundland economy actually may have started with the end of the Cold War, as the American bases were closed and the properties were turned over to the local communities. This left the province in a precarious position when the Canadian government had to shut down fishing at the end of the century. Today, oil is the new engine of the economy, and we could see construction up and down the old base, as oil services companies erected the buildings they needed for their operations. We would see the juxtaposition of old and new economies often over the next few weeks.

The wind was blowing hard from the southwest when we debarked. It pushed us all the way to Saint John’s, 135 km in one day. 2014-09-08 19.06.31I made a point of stopping for a picture for the record. The amazing Cheryl had crossed the continent – again.

The hostel could not accommodate us for two nights, but we were able to negotiate the usual routine of checking out and checking in, so that we could stay both days.

2014-09-09 10.02.35St. John’s is nothing if not colorful. It seems a natural reaction to the barren, cold land and the harsh weather to paint the houses in bright colors. The effect cheered us as we walked the steep streets.

We discovered delicious food, especially bakeries, cafés, and seafood restaurants. The outfitters were having post-season sales, and we found several bargains for ourselves and the bicycles. Cheryl stopped at Canary Cycles to have her brakes checked and the chain changed. She spotted a pair of Schwalbe Marathoner Plus tires on the wall. That was her brand. She decided to change out her tires early, so we went to have lunch while the mechanics worked on her bicycle.

We pushed her bike back to the hostel. I carried her old tires, so I could put them on my bicycle. Though they had more than 7,000 km on them, they were in better condition than either of my newer tires. I was delighted with the feel of having matching, 32-mm tires on both wheels.

It was sunny in Saint John’s, but we could feel summer checking out. When we left town on the 10th, the winds were still strong from the southwest, but they were cold. By lunchtime, we were still in the suburbs, eating at the tables outside a Sobey’s supermarket. 2014-09-10 14.22.47We battled the headwinds to Whitbourne, only to find no room at the only inn, a combination motel-convenience store. However, Ruby at the Moorland Motel called her friend Lu, who came down to check us out. A short ride north to Blaketown, and we found ourselves comfortably installed in Herb and Lu’s luxurious home. They had operated a B&B for years, so they were able to open their home again for the night.

We had a change in plans after breakfast. Lu and Cheryl were going over the map of Newfoundland when I came into the room. Cheryl abandoned the plan to ride the Trans-Canadian highway for a week of ferry rides among the peninsulae hiding the “isolated communities” of the south coast. We rode the 75 km of the T.C.H. to Goobies and turned south on Highway 210. We made camp in the Kilmory Resort at Swift Creek by sun down.

2014-09-11 13.34.14

The Barrens

A misty drizzle driven by crosswinds greeted us as we headed out the next morning. As we climbed to the mesa aptly called “the Barrens”, the crosswinds rose to gale force. Cheryl was having to walk to keep from being blown off the road. I was heavier, but I was listing hard to starboard, literally leaning on the wind as I slowly moved forward.

We finally started hitchhiking, something that seemed reasonable in a country where almost everyone seemed to drive a big pickup truck. An hour later, we were feeling pretty desperate, when a young community outreach worker named Jeremy did a U-turn and came back to us. He had a small hatchback, but agreed to take Cheryl and her bike to Marystown. I assured him that I could manage the rest of the way. It was cold and wet, and windy, but only 29 km, so I was sure that I could do it. I just needed to know that Cheryl would be OK.

2014-09-11 17.59.30

Placentia Bay from the Burin Peninsula

“I sure am glad I cleaned out the car last weekend,” Jeremy said, as we loaded her bike in the back. I hit the road as he made another U-turn, risking a wave as they passed me. It was both exciting and terrifying to climb hills and ride downhill while leaning on the wind. The gale began to abate about 14 km from Marystown, and I could even stop at an overlook to appreciate the beauty of Placentia Bay from the western side. Late in the afternoon, I finally reached the visitor bureau, where we had agreed to rendezvous. It was closed, but I found a note from Cheryl on the door. She had already checked into the Marystown Convention Center, which I was delighted to know, because it was close. By dark, we were settled in. We had been riding more than 100 km every day since arriving in Newfoundland, except for the day off in Saint John’s. It was time for a break. We decided to go to France for the weekend. The hotel offered to store the bikes in an unused conference room. We reserved a taxi for the next morning, and packed our panniers to leave with the bikes.

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