First things first. I like Newfoundland. They, just like Quebec, sell beer in the gas stations. Not that I’ve bought any, but still, it shows that the province is forward thinking and doesn’t fall into silly liquor laws like some of the rest of the country. I’ve been in the province for 4.5 days so far and it has been a blast, and I’m glad it is I saved this area for last. With 570km to go until St John’s (I’m actually going to go a bit further) the kilometres are just disappearing faster and faster, and my trip will soon come to a pause – Again, I’m spending far too much time thinking about the end and trying to find ways to stall somehow – Old man weather seems to think otherwise for me.
When I arrived onto the “Rock” on Monday night from the ferry, I had little to no time to check out the town of Port Aux Baques. I scrambled to find a place to stay, not feeling comfortable with pitching a tent in a school field, or behind a mall so opted for a nice area close to the ocean on top of some rocks. For the 5 minutes I had before the sun disappeared it was a grand view. I started setting up my tent, while resting my bicycle on big rocks, with the terrain reminding me like the Northwest Territories. That being said, it’s near impossible to setup a tent when you’ve got rocks underneath where you need to put your tent pegs. I figured out a way and setup the tent in a very loose fashion before plucking dry food out of my panniers and just heading to sleep well before 7:30pm. I needed the sleep after many late nights on the weekend and knowing that the weather was not going to work well in my favour in the coming days. I slept in until 8:45am before heading off to find some food and groceries for the trek north. It was raining just like the weather man had forecasted which made for some pretty ugly riding for the 1st half of the day with many climbs. My bike was making a clacking noise while riding, and I must have jarred the derailleur while camping in the bush the night before and fears of braking down were running through my mind most of the day. I stopped for lunch on the side of the road in a path and checked it out, gave it a little wack with the butt of my hand and everything was ok again. While I was stuffing food in my mouth I heard a funny sound – a helicopter coming my way. I looked up and what I thought was a correct – a huge yellow helicopter was circling around me, so I stopped, waved with one hand and snapped a photo of it at close proximity before it flew off. Little did I know, they sent an ambulance and police to the area, due to a report that I was lost! This happened within about 20 minutes of the chopper leaving and I assured them that no, I’m perfectly OK, my knees hurt, but I’m just riding my bike – yes, at the end of October. The paramedics said I had a lot of courage and I continued to ride forward, before finding a gas station with a restaurant attached to it. I chatted up the attendant asking if I could pitch a tent in the back area and was warned that there were bears roaming around the back area due to the restaurant dumping their grease in the bushes to give their buckets away to people, but I camped anyways. My feet were soaked and my tent was still wet from the night before and I quickly setup camp to warm up in the restaurant until about 9pm chatting a bit with locals and others enjoying meals.
Sleep was broken throughout the night by some bizarre dreams, and then a feeling of bitter cold trying to seep its way through the tent – and it was doing a good job! I got up, opened up one of the zippers (with two hands, as it was seized) and took a leak, realizing that the entire tent and ground was covered with frost. This was about midnight, and I awoke multiple times when the temperature dropped a few more degrees finally going down to -5. It was bloody cold, and when I woke up my boots, tent, and bike was completely frozen. I wasn’t able to engage the brakes or shift gears on the bike, or even tear down the tent properly as the poles had frozen at the joints. I did the best I could and dragged everything over to the front of the restaurant and hung out until the sun was well up. Thankfully it was a nice day with sun peeking in through the clouds and I was off and riding on the toughest climbs I’ll be seeing throughout all of Newfoundland. Up and Down with a tonne of trucks passing by me sapped a lot of my energy out of me, determined to get to my destination of Corner Brook, a fairly big city of 20,000 people who are involved with the local mill, government, or the University. I stopped a few times talking to locals, and kept hearing them saying the word ‘courage’ about what I’m doing. I’m not sure thats the correct word in my head, maybe crazy, but glad they see it this way. Some truckers stopped to have a chat with me while I was breaking for a coffee, they said their radio had been buzzing all day long by the other truckers talking about this guy riding on a bike. Now I know why they were all honkiing at me all day long.
I caught the sunset while riding into Corner Brook and stopped in amazement at the picturesque view of the city nestled deep in a valley surrounded by mountains and water before stopping into my Couchsurfing hosts house for the night. The host had just moved to the area all the way from Oregon, USA and I had a few good chats before I headed off to bed and stuck my nose in a book until far too late in the night. It was raining pretty hard and I decided to take a rest for the next day and take care of some errands and check out the city a bit more. I went for a small hike with a man named Simon who pointed out some areas of the city for me and loaded up on groceries for the days ahead. The weather was just fantastic for the end of October reaching a high of 15 celsius, and I thoroughly enjoyed zipping around the city in just a T-Shirt and pants, a major shift from the multiple layers I’ve been wearing all day long (including the night).
I left Corner Brook late in the morning finally heading outside the perimeter at 12 noon, riding past Marble Mountain, a ski hill that seemed like it would be fun to snowboard down during the winter months, so may have to make my way back into the area for a weekend and hang out a bit more with my new friends. Shortly after leaving my food pannier flew off my bike while riding on the Trans Canada Highway, nearly getting run over by a passing car. I didn’t notice until I stopped tonight that I managed to put a 2 inch tear in the front of the bag due to a can of pasta sauce that poked through during the impact so did a quick repair to hopefully get me through the final part of the trip with electrical tape. Once I stop I’ll find two pieces of rubber and use some heavy duty glue to make it permanent – Ortlieb has a patch kit for panniers however I figure I can do it for under a dollar rather than fall into the trap of their $25 branded kit.
Riding for the remainder of the day went fairly easy with minimal climbs, cloudy weather and no rain, surprising me as the forecast called for some in each part of the day. It’s likely to come tonight and give 20mm in the next 24 hours which may make for some frustrating moments. Oh well, at least it’s not snow. That doesn’t come until Monday – where 2-4 cm is scheduled to come down, with Tuesday and Wednesday bringing more of the white fluffy stuff. I might have my wish of stalling my trip after all, although it would be nice to be in an area where there is a roof over my head, amenities such as power, and some warmth. I’ll take it as it comes I suppose. Almost every car that passes me now is honking and waving during this fairly desolate stretch of 250km of no major towns. I’ve heard rumors of gas stations/restaurants along the way, which will help when I run out of water or need to shield myself from the elements.
Check back soon to see if I make it to the end!