this is the first of many scenes from our recent 7k mile trip to the canadian maritimes and back through the national rally in Ohio
The Biggest Moose in Canada:
I had hit the wall. We had lost track of how many days of rain it was
or the last time we actually saw the sun for more than a few minutes.
Living in Dallas spoils you on weather and my mesh gear hadn't been out of the saddlebag since Nashville. The ferry from Nova Scotia had
gotten in three hours late to Port-a-baux, Newfoundland, so we were dumped from the bright, warm and humid car deck into a midnight of darkness, rain and fog, making for a provincial park just out of town.
I on my rockster and Jill on her new K1200R left the ferry's hold in single file as an ambulance pulled in to rescue what was probably an ill passenger.
We headed out west on a road labeled Trans Canadian 1 East with eager drivers, highbeams on behind us and a black road with worn stripes and markings ahead of us, headed towards Cheeseman Provincial Park, southwest Newfoundland. After a hellish half hour, we finally found the turn off from the main rain, to a few short feet of pavement and then a stretch of dirt, heavily potholed. And these potholes were deep, splashing large amounts of liquid ice onto my boots.
But back on the ferry, it had been warm, and people actually lined up to eat ships food, on the par with US Navy shore rations. All the motorcyclists seemed to end up in the bar to drink Dark Horse Beer (a local Newfoundland brew, owned by Molson) and listen to live local music. We noticed that the caf?® tables and chairs in the bar were bolted to the floor and thankfully the sea was calm. The crew was functioning well, despite being on duty for 33 days straight. Not quite sure how I would be functioning after 33 days at sea, on duty 12 hours of every 24.
It hadn't been your normal ferry boat either. 579 feet long, 18,000 tons displacement, two car/truck transport decks, two decks of passenger staterooms, one of crew quarters and a main deck that could hold 1,200 passengers in comfort. When commissioned it was the largest ferry in North America. I was used to coastal ferries that were mainly steel plate and rust, with a snack bar that had hotdogs rolling endlessly and bins on the single car deck to drop your luggage. We had dinner, talked to the other bikers, listened to native live Newfoundland music, a mix of sea shanties and arcadian, with a few US rock and county covers thrown in.
But now we were in Cheeseman Povincial Park, making camp in the post-midnight rain. We wanted a campsite near the front, to be easily found by our traveling companions, John and Peggy, who were to join us later. They hadn't fared very well on the trip thus far.
John and Peggy are old friends of mine who we picked up as we came through Connecticut. Unlike our stripped down naked sport bikes, with only a Helen2wheels bag and stock saddlebags for this long trip, they were on a gigantic Valkyrie Interstate and had with a fairing, radio, CB, travel trunk AND tow behind pop-up camper trailer. (They didn't do so well on the dirt roads.)
Two days before Cheeseman Provincal Park, we had split up for the ride from Peggy's Cove, south of Halifax to the Northeast corner of Nova Scotia, just south of the crossing into Cape Brenton and the Cabot trail. We wanted to ride the coastal highway, HARD. One of the roads was described in the guide book by the writer, who was NOT a motorcyclist, wishing for a large and powerful motorcycle. John and Peggy wanted to do some touring on their own, so we decided to meet at a campground up the Nova Scotia coast at the end of the day. But they had trouble in Halifax's confusing highway markings and Canadian traffic light placement, missed a signal and bent the forks and front rim against an Accord. We they showed up at the campground that evening, they were in a rental car. John's ankle was colorcoded and Peggy's helmet had a small divit in it. But they were determined to finish the trip in style, selecting a convertible as their rental car.
Now, finally in Newfoundland, the tent got pitched in the rain and dark and we slept fitfully though a night of storms. Sometime about 8 am, the rain finally stopped, for a while. We emerged to a landscape of coastal bog and fen, with stunted trees covered with moss, reminding us of Hobbittown from Lord of the Rings. It was an incredibly beautiful place. We walked on a trail to the sea to enjoy the morning.
John and Peggy were not to be found in the daylight of the park, though. Luckily our gear stayed dry, but the tent was left on top of the H2W bag under a cargo net to dry, if it was possible, in the eternal wet and gloom. At the first gas station we stopped for hot coffee and a packaged Danish. Two GS riders who had ridden the NEXT boat were there, wet, cold and no more talkative than we were. While our coffee cooled, a shiny provincial pickup truck pulled up and a mechanic in filthy coveralls gets out. I teased him about the clean official truck and his ragged work clothes. He told me it was his bosses truck and he will bring it back with a few more dents. We found his crew a few miles up the road doing major reconstruction and turning the trans-canadian into 20 miles of one way rutted dirt.
After a while, in the drizzle, signs for Stevenville start appearing.
What we didn't realize that these were for the Stevenville exit, and the town is actually 30 miles or so off the main road. But we wanted a hot lunch and the main highway was pretty empty. We gassed, parked and asked a local where to eat. Unfortunately, he points to McDonalds featuring McLobster. Instead, we find a place in a nearly-abandoned mall serving "homestyle" food. Lunch ended up being a slab of gray, a slab of brown with peas and mashed potatoes on the side, run through the deflavorizing machine, twice. Now we knew why folks were lining up for ships food on the ferry the night before.
We kept heading north, cold, tired, demoralized into the eternal grayness, but the scenery was beautiful. As we approached the major highway junction in west central Newfoundland we now started seeing signs for the biggest moose in Canada. It turned out to be a plastic moose at an Irving station! We took a long break, got a six pack of beer to go, took our picture with the plastic moose in the backgrouind and headed towards Gros Marne National Park, one of the most beautiful places on earth.