Newfoundland — There’s Something . . .

I was excited as I drove onto the MS Highlanders, the ferry that would take me to Newfoundland. The seven hour, 111 mile, $344 crossing from North Sydney to Port aux Basque was mill pond smooth. Spent time chatting with bartender Sherry, watching a couple freighters cross our rhumb line, and making some vitamin D on the boat’s sun deck. When we arrived in Newfoundland it took me some time to figure out it was now a half-hour later, making the province 2½ hours ahead of Texas.

Disembarking was quick; I was off the boat and headed toward camp in less than 15 minutes from the time we tied up at the dock. And as soon as Trans Canada Highway left the port town, it climbed into the seaside hills, offering beautiful views of the mountains, lakes and coastline. I already knew there was something about this land.

Alice, owner of Grand Codroy RV/Tent Camping, welcomed a couple other ferry travelers and me so warmly. Alice and her husband Dennis have owned the campground since it was passed down from her family after being privatized in the late 90s. This is the best campground I’ve stayed in on this trip. The facilities are great; the people are awesome. Alice is also a great ambassador for Codroy Valley and Southwest Newfoundland . . .  so good, I knew I was not just staying one night before heading north. When she asked how long I’d be in Newfoundland and I told Alice just seven days she said, “that’ll never do.” I knew she was right. There’s something about this land.

That night I joined several other campers at the community fire pit, where we chatted and enjoyed Susan’s guitar and Newfoundland ballads (short video). It was so cool, so fun enjoying the warmth of the fire and new friends, surrounded by trees and hills and brilliant stars breaking through the clouds. I’d heard many times about how friendly Newfoundlanders are and the reports were spot on. I’m convinced you cannot meet a stranger here. Their friendliness must be contagious because all the CFAs I met were so friendly too. After I tossed out a wise crack, Susan laughed loud and said, “oh, you’re a corker!” I considered it a great compliment from a Newfie to a CFA (Come from Away) like me. I had decided to stay another day and was already looking forward to the next night at the fire. There’s something about this land.

(Note: My posts from Newfoundland will pretty closely align with the tourism brochures that break the province into geographic areas including Southwest Coast, Gros Morne, Great Northern Peninsula, Humber Valley, etc. Hopefully that makes sense and will accommodate what I’m sure will be tons of pictures and narratives about exploring this beautiful land.)

Newfoundland — Southwest Coast

In the morning I unhooked B and headed back to Port aux Basque, stopping at the visitor center to get some info. Roberta was so helpful, pointing out what I absolutely had to do, recommending sites and routes and restaurants. A cod lunch at Seaside Restaurant in the tiny fishing village of Margaree was great. I continued eastward on coastal Route 470 passing more fishing villages, many lakes and streams until I arrived at Rose Blanche. The granite lighthouse there is so picturesque, my phone camera fails doing it justice, as I’m sure will be the case throughout this adventure.

Returning to Codroy Valley I meandered it’s few roads, beaches, farms, and river. Back at camp, I pulled out the map and guidebook and started to plot my course north and east. Having decided to stay as long as I needed to to more fully enjoy the island and culture, I found myself planning to spend the next week just on the west side of the rock (as the locals sometimes call it). I rescheduled a campsite reservation and made a couple new ones to carry me through the upcoming Labour Day holiday weekend. With the map now in front of me and with recommendations of locals and other travelers, I was starting to wonder whether I’d be ready to leave the island when the last ferry of the season makes its crossing September 22. Due to the season-ending schedule of the Argentia/North Sydney ferry, I had to either leave by the 15th or on the next boat, a week later. I’ve got some driving, site seeing and route planning to do.

Needing to move on from my favorite campground, I hooked up and headed out for the couple hour drive to Kippens, where I’d drop the trailer and then make the 100 mile circle tour of the Port au Port Peninsula, aka the French Ancestors Route. It was a rainycloudyfoggy day but still a nice drive. I envied the people living on the shoreline with gorgeous views to Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Glad I didn’t bypass this little side trip. I wrapped up the day with a quick provisioning stop at Coleman’s grocery store in Stephenville and a Rickards Red ale at The Bar & Grill. Back at camp, I took advantage of a rare fast & reliable internet connection to catch up on email, upload pictures & videos, write this post, and do some trip research. The brisk wind was clearing out the clouds. Tomorrow promised to be sunny and cool!

Video from the Lighthouse Point

So in the morning, I’m off to Gros Morne National Park, a few hours away. Can’t wait! Yes, there’s something about this land.

Newfoundland — Gros Morne

Rare Rock

Soon after I entered Gros Morne National Park I headed up the road toward The Tablelands and Trout River. Beautiful drive, if you like mountains, trees, rivers, streams, lakes, bays, meadows, broad valleys … and the stark, stunning beauty of our planet’s inner geology. The Tablelands is one of the very few places on earth where the mantle of the planet has pushed itself up through the earth’s crust to expose itself, so to speak.

It. Is. Beautiful.

The short, 4 kilometer hike to the primary viewing platform provides spectacular views of the stark, vegetation-challenged terrain. I felt so wonderfully blessed I could experience such a dramatic display of God’s creation. Truly amazing. I’ve been very fortunate to see so much of this world’s great sights — this rates among the highest. My attempts at photography fail the landscape. It. Is. Beautiful.

Harbor Towns

Saturday I kicked around the harbor towns of Norris Point and Rocky Harbor, enjoying the air, the scenes, the people. The Cats End Pub, where the catamaran ferries dock in Norris Point, is a cool little joint on the water. Bar food, very friendly staff, and at 4pm live music on the deck. I shared a table with a couple from nearby Deer Lake whose friend was playing guitar and signing at the Cat this night. We talked about Newfoundland things and eventually US politics. Pete is in the same camp as me regarding President Trump: he’s a quirky bird but is doing good things for the US—even despite the impact on Canadian trade relations. I found it refreshing to hear that viewpoint. Enough politics.

After the music ended and running on diesel fumes, I filled up—at $4.14 per US gallon—and headed back to camp. Pretty lazy evening in anticipation of tomorrow’s visit to Western Brook Pond.

A Fjord that Once Was

Being 2½ hours ahead of Texas is messing with my Sunday trailer church schedule. The early service doesn’t get started here until 11:45. So I decided to later look in on the Grapevine 5pm service, hoping the iffy 4G signal here doesn’t peter out by then. I got showered up and dressed in a couple layers (one a heavy long-sleeve knit shirt) and headed to Western Brook Pond for the two-hour boat trip to view the fjords.

Apparently the Accuweather forecast of 70 degrees and sunny in Rocky Harbor doesn’t take into account the micro-climates of Gros Morne. By the time I got to the parking lot just off the Viking Trail highway, the wind was blowing at 30 knots and it was cloudy. I found a windbreaker from my Verizon International days in the truck and stuffed it into my pack. Good call.

To tour the fjords, you park in a lot off the highway and walk 5.6 kilometers/3.5 miles (round trip) to the boat dock. This gravel service road winds through scrubby forest, skirts a white-capped pond, crosses meadows of tall grass & earth-hugging shrubs until it drops into Western Brook Pond. I like that you kinda have to earn the privilege to experience the pond and its high cliffs.

Time for a bit of geology I learned: Western Brook Pond used to be an inlet of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, way back in glacier days. But as the glaciers advanced and eventually melted, they depressed the land at the mouth of the glacial canyon below sea level. Eventually the land between the depressed area and the sea lifted, cutting the inlet off from the sea creating an isolated pond. Now the only connection between Western Brook Pond and the ocean is the brook itself which, given the size of the pond, essentially trickles into the gulf. So, while the area once was a fjord, technically it now is not because it’s all fresh water. Water so fresh and pure that it doesn’t properly conduct electricity! Ya, I know. Anyway, Western Brook Pond looks like a fjord, once was a fjord, but now isn’t. But that detracts nothing from its beauty.

The boat ride across the broad expanse of the pond was windy but as soon as we entered the narrows, we were protected from the wind by the high cliffs and the ride was nice. Beautiful waterfalls, rock slides, canyons & cliffs. Really pretty. The day was cloudy & showery so, again, my pics don’t convey the grandeur; I doubt they would if it was a brilliantly bright day. Trust me, it’s beautiful.

Return trip to the dock was blustery—no, make that raw. I was under-dressed. Strong wind and rain showers had me shivering me arse off. But I’m glad I was able to experience this rare geological “freshwater fjord.” Another awesome display of the Creator’s beauty.

Yep, Newfoundland. There’s something about this land.

Newfoundland — The Great Northern Peninsula

Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula extends some 200 miles beyond Gros Morne National Park. The sole highway, Route 430, hugs the western coast for most of that distance. It’s a gorgeous drive on two-lane blacktop. At Eddies Cove the road takes a right curve and crosses the land until it reaches the Pistolet Bay Area where it splits, one road turning south to Saint Anthony while the other heads north toward L’Anse aux Meadows. I continued north.

A short while later I checked into Viking RV with my choice of sites, as the summer season was essentially over. By evening maybe ten percent of the sites were occupied. I uncoupled the trailer and headed to the National Parks historic site at the meadows. Very cool learning about the first Viking settlement in North America. Another really pretty site, too. Mom would’ve loved the setting and learning about the Norwegian culture 1000 years ago.

After checking the area and nearby St Anthony out, I headed back to camp and found Clode and his family, other travelers I’d met the first night back in Grand Codroy. We are on similar itineraries and will both be in St. John’s at the same time and on the September 17 ferry back to North Sydney.

Dinner was at a local pub, chatting with the bartender about moose hunting, fuel prices, and upcoming winter. Such friendly people up here. In the morning I’m headed back down-peninsula and will probably shoot for Bishop’s Falls which is about mid-point on the island. That’ll set me up for a good amount of time in Terra Nova National Park, on the Bonavista Peninsula and in Saint John’s. Despite the surprising lack of craft breweries on the island, there are a couple out east that I want to visit. And Saint John’s just looks like a fun place. I’ve got nine days left here (unless I change that!).

On August 1st I had gone as far west as I’d go when I was in Duluth, Minnesota. Today I’ve been as far north as I can go and in a few days I’ll be in St. John’s, as far east as this trip allows. I’ll have hit the furthest west, north, east and south points of Newfoundland. I’ve decided not to visit the mainland of Labrador because the ferry schedule just doesn’t fit and locals have said the terrain is much like this side of the Strait of Belle Isle. Plus, since Labrador was once known as Markland, I’m afraid I’d really love that place and never be able to leave! But I added touching the waters of the Labrador Sea to my touch-points of the Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean, the Panama Canal, and all five Great Lakes. Might be weird; it’s just a thing I do, lol.

The next day  I retraced my route down the penisula’s only north/south road on a rainy, windy morning. But about an hour into the drive the clouds cleared to put the blue sea, white waves, green meadows and red-brick, yellow, white and purple colors on vivid display. I especially liked the areas where the road crosses high bluffs overlooking the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The drive was phenomenal, despite the stiff onshore winds constantly trying to push me into the oncoming lane and the pervasive potholes that required lots of weaving & dodging. Needed amped up diligence and a bit more fuel to manage the windy drive but I arrived safely at my camp for the next two days in Lewisporte in central Newfoundland.

Check the pictures of the Northern Peninsula. Everywhere I go captures my heart. There is something about this land.

Newfoundland — Central

Kittiwake Coast

After wrestling the rig off the Northern Peninsula yesterday I was ready for a semi-lay day. Took care of some business in the morning then headed out (sans trailer) toward Twillingate and the New World Island(s). Nice drive on potholed roads. Twillingate and Moreton’s Harbor are very picturesque and are certainly worth the 90+ minutes to get there. Tried—again—to get a moose burger for lunch but had to settle for decent fish & chips. Beginning to think I’ll need to wait until I get back to DFW and Twisted Root Burgers to try moose. But I’ll keep asking…

Headed back to camp after refilling my DEF and hitting the grocery store. Chicken seems to be a rare bird up here. Last few stores have had just remnants of the tasty fowl: wings. No breasts, no thighs, no legs. Just wings. I don’t even wanna know what that implies!

Terra Nova National Park

Weather was nasty: rain &wind. After stopping by the visitor center I decided there was no compelling reason to hang around during this “shoulder season.” So I kept on keeping on. Geez, did the wind arrive! Somebody estimated 50-60 MPH winds. I believe it. Finally wrestled the rig onto slightly less exposed side route 230 onto the Bonavista Peninsula. Less than an hour later I was enjoying the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had and a couple brewskis at Port Rexton Brewing Company which makes a very good Baycation Blonde and a good Horse Chops west coast IPA.

As it was still pretty breezy and now past 4pm, I figured I should get my happy camper ass to camp. In 30 minutes  I settled into a pretty site overlooking a white-capped pond at mediocre Paradise Farms RV and, having decided to stay just the night, stayed hooked up. I’ll drag B to Elliston in the morning to hopefully see a few puffins. If this wind keeps up the slides are coming in tonight…

No Puffins. Sealers.

Elliston is a quaint village with very friendly people. The puffins have moved on, dang it, but I did spend a good amount of time at the Home from the Sea Sealers Interpretation Center, a very informative, very well-done museum that covers sealing and the 1914 sealing disasters in Newfoundland. I was impressed. Bought the book by  Cassie Brown; I like true stories like this.

Continued through Bonavista and down the west side of the peninsula on the 1½ lane road, compromised by deteriorating shoulders and many many many potholes. Arriving at 2-4 lane TCH was a huge relief. An hour or so later I arrived in Green’s Harbor, ditched the trailer and headed to my latest favorite brewery in the tiny village of Dildo.

Dildo Brewing Co & Museum is a great place with an unreal view of Trinity Bay. Yesterday I’d found Port Rexton and today Dildo. My faith in craft beer in Newfoundland has been restored! Dildo’s Blonde Route 80, Stout Dildo and the I’se da bye PA are all solid brews. This news article does a nice job of introducing the brewery, which opened earlier this summer. I’m probably gonna squeeze the trailer into the tiny village tomorrow on my way out of town. Grab lunch and another “taste of Dildo” as their tagline says!

With most of Newfoundland in my rear view mirrors, I’m now headed to Saint John’s, where I’ll hang for seven nights, waiting for the next southbound ferry. The week will give me a chance to get the truck’s oil changed (I’ve gotten 9,358 miles on this oil, even with all the towing!) and tires rotated, check out the Avalon Peninsula, George Street in town, and simply hang loose for a while before I make the turn for home. I’ll spend a week in Nova Scotia and probably a couple days in New Brunswick before re-entering the States. Gonna be hard to leave Newfoundland. There’s something about this land.

Newfoundland — Saint John’s

In keeping with my theme of titling these posts after Newfoundland tourism, I was going to title it “Avalon” after the east side peninsula. But since I never really traveled outside of St. John’s, well, here we are.

Sunday I sniffed out a great sports bar to watch football. Big TVs, game audio, harbor views. Perfect. If only the Cowboys had showed up in Jacksonville. What a turd of a game. At least I met a couple Air Force guys from Fort Worth so we cheered and jeered our hapless hometown team.

Monday I ran a few errands (Costco, Canadian Tire, scheduling oil service) and washed the trailer windows and screens—much overdue.

Tuesday I first dropped off any Nike (the dumbasses) clothing I had at the local Salvation Army, along with a 22″ LCD TV that had gotten in the way one time too many. I then went cultural and visited the Cape Spear lighthouse & fort and then Signal Hill. Both interesting places with cool histories. Until now I didn’t realize Newfoundland played such a major role in the development of radio service. I might’ve reached my tolerance on lighthouses, though! But at Cape Spear I reached the easternmost point of land in North America. Pretty cool. Beautiful shoreline. Strong & dramatic. Touching that geo-point also meant I’d reached each of Newfoundland’s furthest compass points. I’ve seen most of the massive island. It’s about one-sixth the size of Texas but due to its rugged coastline and significant backtracking you drive a lot to see everything you wanna see. No complaints. I’ve loved it.

Morning for some reason came quick and I had to get to the local Ford dealer for an oil service and tire rotation. That didn’t come particularly cheap in Newfoundland but as a CFA, I have faith in the dealer shop. I was also hoping they could fix an irritating rattle on the passenger door area but their body shop was slammed. I am about to pour a gallon of superglue into the door guts. It only rattles up to about 25 MPH but I hate rattles & squeaks.

For lunch—and I was famished after not having dinner last night (just wasn’t hungry then) and had only a protein bar for breakfast—I found Yellowbelly Brew Pub on Water Street, where the Margherita pizza was very good. A lady near me at the bar had the fish & chips which she said was the best ever, except for the soggy chips. Interesting… that’s been my experience everywhere here too. The fish is always crispy and excellent while the fries are always soft & soggy. That’s actually an ok thing: keeps the fries outta the gut!

Writing as I sit here in Yellowbellys, I’m gonna hobble up & down George Street and check out the night spots to see if there’s anything I can’t miss over the next couple nights. For some reason my knee has flared up in a big way, the lil’ bitch.

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Welp later, by sole chance I found my way into Christian’s Bar, one of a few “authentic” places to get Screeched-In. And they were having a screech-in so I joined in on that and became an honorary Newfoundlander. With a taste of Newfie steak (bologna), a kiss on the lips for the cod (fish), a shot of Screech (rum), and reciting the oath I’m now more than a welcome CFA (Come from Away), I’m a non-native Newfoundlander!

The master of ceremonies asks, “Are ye a screecher?” We replied, “Deed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!” (Translated, it means “Yes I am, my old friend, and may your sails always catch wind.”)

Very cool tradition in a very cool place with very cool people. There’s something about this land.

Newfoundland — Long May Yer Big Jib Draw

I arrived in Newfoundland August 28 planning to spend six days here. Quickly learned that wouldn’t work, so now, eighteen days later I’m on the MV Atlantic for the 306 mile, 16 hour, overnight sail from Argentia to North Sydney. It’s been a phenomenal 2½ weeks! Here’s a few stray observations of Newfoundland.

  • Beautiful country. I hope God incorporates some of Newfoundland into heaven.
  • Wonderful people. I guarantee you will not find friendlier, happier, more outgoing people anywhere. Even a couple homeless guys I ran into were genuinely nice.
  • Interesting history and culture. From its contributions to radio technology to progress in the sealing trade to the fun screech-ins, Newfoundland has so much to offer.
  • I believe fish & chips are available in every restaurant except for the Tim Horton chain! The fish is always very good, the fries are usually very not good.
  • They claim to have lots of moose but I didn’t see any. Finally found frozen moose burgers and sausage in a grocery store.
  • I did see a small bear cross the road 30 yards in front of me. That was cool.
  • I guess the atmospheric conditions or time of year weren’t right but I missed out seeing the Northern Lights. Rats.
  • The Trans Canada Highway (TCH) is a solid road (for the most part). Secondary and tertiary roads… ya, not so much. Lots of potholes and shady shoulders.
  • I missed the puffin colony too. Kinda sad about that; they’re cute birds.
  • The craft beer industry is just getting started here, which is surprising since it’s strong in the other provinces. The Port Rexton and Dildo breweries are excellent exceptions!
  • Don’t emphasize “found” in the name. It’s pronounced newfunland, like you’d say “understand”.
  • Common responses are “no problem” and “perfect” (usually pronounced purrfect).
  • The music is great, fun, lively. I could’ve sat around those community campfires all night. Best of times!
  • Moose is very tasty.
  • Never mustered the courage for cod tongues. Mainly didn’t wanna shell out $30 for something I thought I wouldn’t like much.
  • The people are Newfoundlanders. For the most part, the term Newfies is used by only natives and seems to be dying out.
  • Getting screeched-in was interestingly a cool, important ceremony to me. It makes one feel more than a CFA (Come from Away).
  • Saint John’s is the oldest city and Water is the oldest street in North America.
  • NF is the first country (back then) and province (now) to respond to the Titanic’s distress signal, the first to have have wireless communication in the world, the first place to prove continental drift, and one of just a few places where God has revealed the earth’s mantle. It’s rugged and beautiful.
  • It’s said, you can always tell the Newfoundlanders in Heaven, they’re the ones who want to go home!

All-in-all, Newfoundland is my favorite province of Canada and of the many countries I’ve been blessed to visit. Don’t get me wrong, other places have been awesome. Newfoundland is just awesomer. Even as far away as it is from Texas, I think I’ll be back. Since Newfoundland held back a few things I was hoping to experience, I think the land wants me back too!

So it’s with a little sadness but much more gratitude I leave Newfoundland for now. It’s been great! There’s something about this land.

A Newfoundland Welcome
Our door is open, please come in
And sit and have a chat.
We’ll spin some yarns and have a laugh
And a cuffer ’bout dis ‘n’ dat.
I’ll break out the lassie buns
And we’ll have a cup of tea.
Make yourself feel at home
And ask a question, please feel free.
We’re so glad you paid a visit
To our Island and our home.
Now you are no longer strangers
And we’ll miss you when you’re gone.
Please tell your friends to visit
Whenever they come this way,
Our door is always open
And we’ll sure enjoy their stay.