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L’anse aux Meadows

We’re getting ready to pack up the bikes and pull out of St. John’s. What an experience… 

Meanwhile, here are some shots from six days ago — it seems like a lifetime ago — of L’anse aux Meadows. This is the oldest confirmed site of European settlement in North America. The Norse were here about 500 years before Columbus accidentally stumbled upon the islands in the West Indies.

Standing on this point, Keith and I were farther north than the southern tip of Labrador. Put another way, we were actually closer to Greenland than we were to our homes.

It seems like more than five days ago, but here are some pictures from our ride from Port au Basques to the Lomond campground in Gros Morne. Though it started out cloudy, this is the beginning of our three days of nice weather.

This is just a photo dump from our first two days on Newfoundland

What a ride.

The 116 miles from Clarenville to St. John’s was grueling. The rain. The wind. The kick-up of road grunge from tractor trailers nearly blinding you. God awful stuff.

If there’s any scenery to see in that 116 miles stretch — any breathtaking panoramas or awe-inspiring vistas — I couldn’t tell you. I could barely see in front of me let alone to the left and the right. All I could make out were shadowy phantoms of rock formations and stoney tundra deeply veiled in the choking fog. Occasionally the shores of a nameless lake or pond would lap the edges of the highway, but how far and wide these waterbodies spanned I couldn’t say. I just kept wiping the face shield and concentrating on the road ahead of me.

We made reservations the night before for a room in St. John’s. Good idea. Tired, rain-soaked, and a little rattled from the ride, we checked in and unloaded the bikes. It’s only then that the sadistic weather gods decided to turn off the water works. Thanks a heap.

It felt good to take a hot shower, put on some clean clothes and sip a hot mug of coffee.

It’s not that the internet and Wi-Fi are unknown in Newfoundland, it’s just that they’re pretty much unknown in the nether regions of the Northern Peninsula, where we’ve been traveling for the past several days.

We spent four nights between Gros Morne National Park and L’ans aux Meadows. If Peter Jackson had come from Newfoundland, he would have filmed Lord of the Rings here instead of New Zealand. And I say this with the authority of someone who’s never been to New Zealand, so bear that in mind. Still, there’s an other-worldliness to landscape. Bogs and tundra. Rocky morains and rough, glacier-cut mountains. The fog… the mist, the oceanscapes…. 

There’s one road up to L’ans aux Meadows so this doesn’t really require the assistance of a GPS. Coming back down you could choose to ride through St. Anthony’s — which boasts a Tim Horton’s and a “mall”– and take a slightly alternate route for about 30 miles or so before merging with “the road” back down. We took a pass on the mall.

The roads in Newfoundland, for the most part, are arranged like a tree with branches rather than a web or a network. You ride the main trunk, branch off to a smaller provincial road, and finally turn down a small road to one of the innumerable coves, points and harbors. From there your only option is to either to swim, or turn around and back-track your way to the main trunk… most likely the Trans-Canada highway. There are painfully few loop routes on the western 3/4 of the island and this can eat up a lot of time.

In the five days since we’ve been on Newfoundland, we’ve had two days with truly nice weather. Blue skies. Puffy clouds. Views far and wide. The other three days have been much like the first three days we took to get here. Either in-and-out of rain — maybe a spot of sun — or more often than not, a perpetual misty twilight were it’s impossible to tell east from west or the time of day, as the sun is completely hidden by the clouds and the entire cloud-covered sky is a uniform gray.

While we feel huge temperature swings as we ride, the actual temperature has been remarkably consistent; between 60ºF and 64ºF. What changes is the degree of humidity, or the dew point. Our experience is that the dew point in the mountains has been very nearly at the ambient temperature. This gives us not only a sense of warmth, but also that nasty, misty, drizzle that’s so irritating on a helmet’s face shield. As the humidity goes down — but the temperature remains the same — we feel much cooler. We’ve found our selves adding or removing layers and adjusting jacket-vents while the thermometer barely indicates a change in temperature. Riding in a pelting rain, however, can be downright bone chilling… Regardless of humidity.

As I type this, I’m sitting in a fine 1½ star motel in Clarenville, Newfoundland. It’s clean enough and large enough and it has WiFi, so I really shouldn’t complain. Looking out the window I can see torrents of wind-blown rain power washing the bikes. Oy! This is gonna be a fun day. But at least this will wash off some of the 18 pounds of bug guts I have decorating the cowling of my bike.

We’re killing some time in hopes the weather at least dials the intensity back a notch. But we’re only 160 miles to St. John’s and a dry room in the city. We’ll spend a couple of days there exploring the area, then it’s a day-ride to the ferry followed by an eighteen hour transit and back to continental North America.

Newfoundland!

We left New Glasgow, Nova Scotia with a full tank of gas, blue skies and balmy temps. Balmy for Nova Scotia anyway. That all started to change about twenty minutes into the ride and it went down hill from there. By the time we rolled into Baddeck, Nova Scotia it was raining, cold, and so foggy I could barely see Keith out in front of me. 

We rolled into North Sydney around 3:00PM. A full ten-and-a-half hours before our ferry was scheduled to depart. On a lark we rode right to the ferry terminal to see if we could just hop on the next ferry. A long-shot, we figured, but it’s free to ask. And besides, the weather was improving so maybe fortune was starting to smile on us.

Sure enough, we got on standby for the next ferry and an hour later we were the last two vehicles to roll onto the MV Caribou. We actually saw the sun on the crossing. 

Six hours later we disembarked in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. It was pitch dark and we were a little disoriented, but we were on the island.

Oh, yeah. As far as roughing it goes, that’ll have to start tomorrow. ‘Cause tonight we’re staying in the Hotel Port aux Basques — the swankiest joint in town!

 

The extended forecast is looking like the Gods are just messing with us. It’s rain, or chance of rain, for the foreseeable future. Argh. 

We had originally planned to leave two weeks earlier than we are, but Bonnie “strongly suggested” we move the date out a couple of weeks to better accommodate the kids’ summer schedule. This would have given us a week and a half of childless couples-time. So I dutifully followed Bonnie’s “suggestion.”

As it turned out the kids’ schedules got all tossed up. My trip was postponed and we never did get that childless couples-time. The weather, however, was beautiful… at home and in Canada.

So here I am, sitting in an over-priced hotel room in New Glasgow, typing this post and stairing out the window at my rain-soaked motorcycle. 

It should be a shorter riding day today. We just have to get into North Sydney, Nova Scotia and wait for the ferry. It’ll be a long wait since it’s not scheduled to leave port until 1:30AM Sunday morning. So we’ll wait. In the rain.

Photos

We left Merrimack, New Hampshire on Thursday morning and drove straight through to St. Stephen’s, New Brunswick. The weather was a drag, but not miserable. That is, we didn’t get stuck in any downpours. Instead, we were in and out of drizzle for most of the first day. 

Things brightened up a little once we got into Canada, but it looks like the foul weather is right behind us. We ride eastward and it starts to improve. We stop and the bad weather catches us. Still, we camped out in New Brunswick. The Eureka tent, LL Bean sleeping bag and the EMS crash pad (thanks James) worked great.

We rode into Nova Scotia on the second day. It was a long day. The sky was ominous and it was starting to rain as we pulled into New Glasgow so we opted for a hotel. So much for roughing it. There will be plenty of time for that in Newfoundland…. what start too early.

Here’s some shots from the road. No opportunities yet to take any serious pics… just some snaps.

Last gas before the Canadian border