Cod Tongue for Dinner
ÔÇ£The specialty of the house is cod tongueÔÇØ said the restaurant owner, a 40ÔÇÖs something, handsome woman. And the table was silentÔÇª IÔÇÖm thinking cowÔÇÖs tongue, a cold cut I ate as a child, and now doesnÔÇÖt seem to be easily available outside the Kosher delis. And I havenÔÇÖt found one in Dallas yet, nor a decent bagel, a good knish or even a pastrami sandwich. Brisket is however cheap, available and good on the grill. But I digress.
ÔÇ£How big is a codÔÇÖs tongue?ÔÇØ I ask. She goes on: ÔÇ£it includes cheeks, lips and other head cuts.ÔÇØ I donÔÇÖt think I am going to try the Newfoundland version of fish heads and instead go for the pan grilled cod, which was fantastic. We all ate well that night. In the morning Jill and I were going further north, and John and Peggy were at their turn around point, needing extra time to deal with their bent motorcycle, 700 miles south, in Halifax.
The restaurant was a low slung cottage across the street from a commercial fishing dock, full of old nautical items and photographs. There was no doubt the fish was fresh or that the cook knew the sea. We were in a fishing village in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, known for the mountains and fjords, and we were eating dinner on the only fjord that was still open to the sea.
We had left the parkÔÇÖs interpretive center around five and stopped for an early dinner, we had been pitching camp first. Normally, we think of fjords of being in Norway, but there are some in North America. They are a product of glacial meltdown, glacier after glacier, and form steep V shaped valleys with rounded U shaped bottoms. We got to see a dry one from the side the next day. I like to think of fjords as where the mountains meet the oceans.
Then, full from dinner, we walked the waterfront. The Cape Islanders (fishing boats) set up as sidedraggers and the kids playing on bicycles both got a good eyeballing. Then a beautiful double rainbow appeared against the heavily wooded fjord. It was the first we had seenÔÇªin fact, since we left Texas two weeks earlier, it was the first clear night past Nashville. We felt blessed.
Jill and I mounted our faithful steeds, a new K1200R for her and a R1150R Rockster for me. John and Peggy still had the rental car, a sharp looking Chrysler convertible. Not much use for a convertible or a motorcycle in the Canadian Maritimes. The winters are fierce and the summers short. We heard stories on the ferry about being stuck for days in the pack ice even with the modern ice class boats.
We were told about a nice place to camp on the other side of the same fjord. Half an hour on twisty mountain roads, heavily forested, then five miles of dirt got us to a former lumber town. There were only about 25 sites total, no utilities and no generators allowed, so it was tents or small pop-up trailers. This was camping heaven. The other campers were well spaced and quiet and some of the tent sites were on wooden platform cut into the hill side.
The bathhouses were special too, they had restroom and shower facilities, plus wood cook stoves, sink areas and picnic tables. A few feet further was the shore, so clean you could barely tell where the beach stopped and the water started. Jill and I took a walk down the rocky shore, skipping stones until we came to the only remains we could find of the old lumber operation, the foundations of the sluiceway. We could only imagine what life must have been like for a lumberman a hundred years ago working these virgin forests, long before mechanization and modern insulating fabrics.
Then, for the last night together as a group, we dug out the a few cold beers, a bottle of excellent 10 year old rye we found at a lunch stop on the Cabot Trail and JohnÔÇÖs Martin Guitar, which survived the bike wreck better than John did. No slur on the residents of the Canadian Maritimes, but the liquor stores often appear to be largest structure in town, larger than even the grocery store. The beer was expensive, but the domestic rye whiskey was priced on par with bourbon in Kentucky, but of much higher quality. I suspect that many a long winterÔÇÖs night was passed in these parts with song and drink. Finally, after a few favorite folk songs, we turned in to a dry tent, to bright starts and another boat ride in the morning.
The furthest fjord north in Newfoundland is now fresh water and closed to the sea. A two mile bog separates the west end of the waterway from the road, so one has to park and walk. The only other motorcycle in the lot belonged to a couple we met on the ferry, touring two up on a big Kawasaki sport bike with just a tank bag. They were doing a different type of trip with hotels or B&B and restaurant meals, and like us, were having a lovely time.
At the end of the bog, often full of moose, we come upon a small dock with a tour boat for what is billed as the parks ÔÇ£must doÔÇØ activity: a two hour boat tour of a pristine land locked fjord. It stays pristine due to restricted access and of course, remoteness. We are the last to board. A sign for gas lead us on another long detour, so we missed getting a seat on the upper deck. Two well spoken, attractive young women were our tour guides, one in English, and the other in French. They were cute beyond reason, wearing neoprene looking fleece jackets which we coveted. It seems like we hadnÔÇÖt brought enough warm clothing for the middle of summer. Later, the jackets were found is a shop in Jacksport at almost $100 each and we rejected them as being too delicate for motorcycle touring use.
The boat went the entire distance of the fjord and dropped off hikers at the far end. They had to come back over mountain and valley, no trails to speak of, so they encouraged either going with a guide or being REAL good with map and compass. We were jealous of the backpackers. A few days walking through high country would have been fantastic.
The hiker drop off point was an emotional event for us. It was OUR turn-around point. We had planned to go further, and would have with more time. The constant rains had drained us as did the challenges of traveling in a group of four. St. AnthonyÔÇÖs, St. John with the street of 100 bars, the Viking camp and Labrador would have to wait until our NEXT trip. We had to make it to the national rally in Ohio next, then back to reality.