Archive for Newfoundland

I woke up early, excited by the prospect of seeing the medium pinnacle iceberg we knew was out there, what we’d come so far to see. And today, if everything went right, we’d see it up close and personal. Yes, an iceberg is just a hunk of floating frozen water, but Iceberg Fever had hit me, and hit me hard.

The fog still blanketed everything, but I had hope. And some time to kill, so I killed it my favorite way, coffee in hand, scanning the front pages of the small town newspapers I’d picked up along the way. It’s always fun to see what constitutes front page news in these smaller, more remote areas.

The hour arrived, and we were pleasantly greeted by Captain Cecil Stockley, the Iceberg Man himself, while his boat, the mv Iceberg Alley idled at the dock, it’s engine chug-chugging away. We were good to go!

Before departure, Unleaded and Sleeping Beauty feel the need to properly gear up for this tour.

A simple rain hat wasn’t enough for Fiona.

All on board, the Iceberg Man revved the engines, and the tiny ship eased out of its slip into the foggy harbor.

Unleaded and Abi (nickname coming soon…) settled in for the voyage.

I struck up a conversation with an older lady on the way out. Her husband decided that for his… get this… eightieth birthday he wanted to see an iceberg. He planned their travel for half a year, and when the time came, they drove from Maine to the ferry, then all the way up to Twillinage, where they’d holed up for a week, waiting for weather good enough to allow tours to go out. A week! Mother Nature might not like me much, but I think she is a fan of stubborn determination. It also makes me happy to think that we’re not putting these things off until we’re too old. Life’s too short to wait until eighty, and there’s still too much to do.

Half an hour later, our stubborn determination was rewarded. We found what we’d been looking for, our medium pinnacle iceberg, floating majestically in a small cove.

The Iceberg Man told us this particular berg had been floating back and forth between two coves for the last five weeks. In that time he estimated it’s lost half it’s size. Little chunks of iceberg, called ‘Bergy Bits’ or ‘Growlers’ depending on their size, had melted and broken away, surrounding the iceberg like little lost children.

With that little mission accomplished, Keith and Abi did their best Sleeping Beauty imitation. I’d say they both fell a bit short.

The inevitable had been avoided and put off as long as possible. It was time. Time to slog 400 miles back to the ferry. But, I have to admit, the extra wait and the upcoming long, high speed ride were worth the views and the experience.

On the way out of Twillingate, we passed this place. I have been absolutely forbidden from making *any* comment about it whatsoever. I will leave the caption up to you, dear reader.

The first half of the ride back to Port-aux-Basques was as cold and miserable as the ride out.

And the roads were just as torn up, wet and bumpy as they were on the way in. The winter took its toll on the roads, and I imagine the road construction season in Newfoundland must be pretty short.

About halfway back to Port-aux -Basques, Mother Nature called another temporary truce, and it went from late fall fog to early spring to the middle of summer, all within fifty miles.

Though we’d been warned numerous times, these were the only moose we saw in Newfoundland.

What’s the big deal anyway? For all the warnings, we were sure we’d see something. We looked and looked and looked for Bullwinkle, to no avail.

By dropping the hammer, the Expedition made the Port-aux-Basques ferry with time to spare, so, as a reward for our 400 mile sprint, we stopped in a small restaurant offering a delicious sounding treat.

And thus, Abi will be forever known as Dark Meat Snack.

Killing time in the ferry line, Fiona surprised me. Not only was she awake, but she jumped on Stormbringer, and she had that *look* in her eye. I could see the wheels were turning in her head. Perhaps the next Expedition, to claim more non-islands for my non-island Kingdom will include a forth bike?

The next installment of the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition can be found here.

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The G.U.N.S.E. – The Expedition Rests

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A day off.

It means different things to different people. To some, it means catching up on all the meaningless happenings in the world of professional sports, and riding a couch, remote in hand. Couch Potato almost became a nickname for the un-nicknamed Expedition member, but fortunately, a better nickname pops up later in the story. To others, a day off means going for a ride, taking a look around and exploring a new place. To all, it meant sleeping in late, and doing what we’d set out to do, namely taking a boat with Captain Cecil Stockley, the self-proclaimed Iceberg Man, to see a hunk of frozen water.

To Mother Nature, our day off meant she could inflict some really foul weather on the Expedition. Thanks to her nasty whim, our day of rest was cold, windy, raw, and worst of all, foggy. Perfect for sleeping in, not so great for iceberg viewing. Captain Cecil, the Iceberg Man of Twillingate couldn’t be persuaded to go out in the horrible conditions, no matter how hard I tried. I guess he’s seen the movie Titanic.

The Iceberg Man felt the fog would eventually lift, and told us to come back later in the day. Considering this day off was our only opportunity to see the frozen, floating gifts sent from Greenland with love, (Hmm… Greenland is an island too… Rhode Greenland?? Someday!) anyway, considering we had to head back to the ferry in Port-aux-Basques the next day, which would likely take the same ten hours it took for us to reach Twillingate, it was now or never. For this Expedition, never wasn’t an option.

So, we tried to find ways to entertain ourselves until later in the day. Unleaded, who is diabetic, had his blood sugar test kit handy, so we held the ‘First Annual Twillingate Blood Sugar Olympics.’ It wasn’t even close. I won with a low blood sugar score of 75. Abi came in second with an 86, and Sleeping Beauty was off the charts with a score of 112. We disqualified Unleaded for using performance enhancing blood sugar control drugs.

Bored with that, I wandered down to the ocean to take a few pictures.

Lacking enclosed four-wheel transportation, we wriggled back into our damp rain gear and putted over to the Harbourview restaurant for lunch, right across the street from the Iceberg Man. I had a local delicacy, called Fisherman’s Brewis – fish, salt, hard bread and other assorted deliciousness, all conveniently mushed together and served in a bowl.

Yum! Delicious! Our fine hosts, Cal and Mary were so friendly and so gracious; they made us want to stay in Twillingate forever. I wanted them to adopt me as their grandson. They rule!

Cal, who runs the Harbourview, told us what we needed to do. “Go down to St Johns. It’s only about three hours from here, see? Stay there for a few days, and check out George Street. There are more bars per capita on George Street than anywhere in the world! Believe me! I’m from there, and I’ve been in every single one. Anyway, once you leave there, then head over to the easternmost point in all of North America. Some people say that point is really in Greenland, but it isn’t. Greenland doesn’t count, see? Then, what you do is this. Get yourself a Mason jar from the store, and fill it with sea water. If you don’t want to carry it, you can just ship it home, see? Then, you have water from the easternmost point in North America, and you can take some smaller jars, write where the water is from on the label, and give that water away as a nice, cheap gift, see?”

Uhh… sure. But Grampa Cal, just so you know, I expect my adopted grandparents to give me better presents than water, see?

They let me use their phone three times, calling the Port-aux-Basques ferry port to explore alternate return options, in case we had to stay in Twillingate longer, if, say, the Iceberg Man developed cold feet and canceled his tours for the day.

Which, a half hour later, he did. Cecil walked in the Harbourview and informed us, “A strong wind is blowin’ from the North, it’d be way too choppy today, and ya have to respect the sea. Try tomorrow if ya can.”

Well, can we? We sat and tried to figure it out. “If we take the 9:30 tour tomorrow, then hammer hard all day, we *might* make the ferry, scheduled to leave at 11:45 PM. If not, I found out when I called that they can usually cram a few extra motorcycles in, so we could take the ferry the next morning. If that happens, to stay on schedule for the rest of the Expedition, we can just cut out the Cabot Trail. ”

But wait. Cut out the Cabot Trail? What did I just say? I’d rather cut off my… err… my… err… my favorite part of me than miss the Cabot Trail! It’s only one of the top five ranked motorcycling roads in the world. Fiona wholeheartedly agreed, no cutting out or off of anything. With that, it was settled. We’d try for the tour in the morning. We’d make that evening’s ferry, no matter what. We headed back to the cabins for some much needed post-decision day-off down time.

I work in television, so that’s probably why I hate it so much. I never watch it, figuring that when I’m old, feeble and doddering around in diapers, the reruns will be new to me. Until then I’ve got other stuff to do, like see icebergs. A few hours after lunch, sitting in our cabin watching bad TV when suddenly, the worst program of all came on. A ridiculous program called Celebrity Rehab or something… whatever it was, I nearly picked up my chair and smashed the idiot box.

Sensing my mounting frustration, Fiona looked outside, and noticed that it was raining harder. But, like magic, the rain had made the fog lift. “C’mon. Let’s go find an iceberg.”

I didn’t need to be told twice, though Abi, comfy and cozy on the cabin couch, arms folded tightly across his chest, did. In the end, after some persuasion, he geared up with the rest of us, and we headed out into the gloom to where I figured our best chance of seeing an iceberg would be, a place not too far away called Long Point.

In my haste to escape the boob tube, I might have forgotten to mention the lighthouse on the tip of Long Point to Abi. Ooops!

Though it had lifted by the cabins, the fog had evidently all moved over to Long Point, covering everything in a ghostly white veil. Icebergs are the same color as fog, which would make them almost impossible to spot. Unfazed by this, we strode to the edge of a dangerous cliff to have a look.

The fog blanketed everything. We couldn’t see squat. The realization hit that if the tour was canceled again tomorrow, we might not accomplish our Expedition Iceberg Mandate. Disappointed, we turned around and headed back for more mind-numbing Celebrity Rehab.

Suddenly, Sleeping Beauty started banging on my back. I figured she was just having a nightmare back there, but decided to stop anyway.

“Look! Look!” She jumped up and down, pointing wildly at the horizon. “It’s an iceberg!! LOOK!”

We all looked. In the fog, it was hard to tell if what we were looking at was an iceberg, just the fog, or an island. Unleaded climbed a hill for a better look.

“Hate to say it, but that’s not an iceberg, kids.”

All the while, to our left, where we weren’t yet looking, silently staring back at us out in the cove was this:

It’s hard to see, but it’s there, and it’s most definitely an iceberg.

And to think something as stupid as Celebrity Rehab nearly caused us to miss this incredible sight that we’d traveled so far to see.

Completely thrilled that we actually saw a medium pinnacle ‘berg, we rushed back to the cabins and, since the iceberg was too far out to cube up and put in our drinks, hoisted an unfortunately neat toast to what was the honest to goodness ‘Best Day Ever’ of the trip.

Unless the Iceberg Man came through for us the next day that is.

The next installment of the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition can be found here.

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The G.U.N.S.E. – Rhodefoundland

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“Ladies and gentlemen, due to engine trouble during the night, the ferry will dock one hour later than expected. Apologies for the delay.”

Abi grumbled, “Would’ve been nice to know that earlier.”

Keith replied, “I’d rather have engine trouble on a boat than a plane. In a boat, you just float around…”

“Good point.”

Making our way to the front of the broken but still running ferry, Fiona and I took in our first sighting of Newfoundland.

Two things are obvious from these pictures, one isn’t. The obvious things: Newfoundland is beautiful, and Mother Nature forgot her Midol, because the weather sucks. The not obvious thing is, while the weather may be lousy, at least it’s cold too.

The good news, according to Steve, the new Buell Owner is the weather forecast had been upgraded from “really shitty to partial crap.”

In the interest of keeping her on my side, on the expedition, and in my life, I gave Fiona my electric vest. Most people go to an island for vacation, can I help it if I’m genetically programmed to seek out the cold, miserable ones? As I said in the beginning, this may have been one of my stupider ideas, but what adventure has ever come from an un-stupid idea? None. And besides, the stupid things are always the most memorable. That’s what I tell myself when I am faced with a 400 mile ride in 46 degree rain. That’s also what I told Fiona. Abi already knows about my genetic miswiring, and Keith was having too much fun to realize the weather was crap anyway.

Everyone took the cold in stride as we rolled down the slippery deck and out in to the Newfoundland drizzle. My iPod mocked me, serving up Led Zeppelin’s Fool in the Rain.

Newfoundland! We made it! Only 400 miles to Twillingate, and a much deserved day off.

But first, the whole island-claiming business required attended to.

Welcome to the Kingdom, Rhodefoundland!

We planned to blitz all the way up Rhodefoundland’s Route 1, but first we heeded some sage advice: if you see an open gas station, fill up! You never knw where the next open one might be. I bought a map and took it over to show Keith as he was filling Stormbringer, managing to distract him enough that he pumped about two liters of gas all over the bike. The tank, the seat, the whole damn thing was now primed for a spectacular pyrotechnics display.

“Dammit, Frenchy! I’m easily distracted! Don’t do that!” Then, in a quieter voice he continued, “Well… actually, that’s not the first time that’s happened, it’s just the first time you’ve been around to see it.”

Fortunately for me, Abi was right there to get a picture this time. For that little incident, Keith will forever be known as Unleaded.

With all our tanks – and Unleaded’s seat – full of fuel, we blazed up Route 1 though the rain, heading for the Twillingate cutoff. About an hour later, I reached back to lovingly pat Fiona on the leg, and I startled her awake. Yes, though it was raining, and we were traveling at a fairly high rate of speed, she’d somehow managed to fall asleep, snug, dry and cozy in the electric vest.

We stopped again for gas another hour up the road, and when we were pulling in, Fiona yawned, then asked, “Whaa…. Are we stopping so soon? Why? How long were we riding? Two hours? It seemed like just fifteen minutes. I must’ve dozed off.”

Later in that same ride, she nodded off so hard her helmet slammed into my back. I started thinking about putting some Velcro on my back and her helmet, to keep her from falling off. For her narcolepsy, Fiona will be forever known as Sleeping Beauty.

Abi is the only Expedition member left in need of a nickname.

The weather tested everyone’s resolve, as the temperature dropped as low as 39 degrees. Mother Nature threw it all at us, rain, fog, wind, just about everything but a tornado hit us on the ten hour ride to Twillingate.

Why Twillingate? Simple. Twillingate is the self-proclaimed Iceberg Capital of the World, and we wanted our ‘Best Day Ever’ toast on the rocks that night, or at least see one of the floating chunks of glacier out in the ocean.

But that almost didn’t happen at all.

The next installment of the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition can be found here.

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The G.U.N.S.E. – Deeper and Deeper

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Four days in, it felt as though the Expedition would stretch on forever. Not one, but two ferries were on today’s ‘make-it-up-as-we-go’ plan.

Just like Abi and I found in Scotland earlier this year, Canada has Secret Cloud Factories too. And just like in Scotland, the Canadian Cloud Factory had been working overtime to make the skies dark, damp, and threatening.

Scottish Cloud Factory

Canadian Cloud Factory

Undaunted by this cold, wet, awful weather, once again everyone geared up to face the cold, wet, morning awfulness, then sped across the Prince’s still unclaimed island for the ferry to Nova Scotia.

Just outside the mv Confederation ferry terminal, I spotted another photographic gem, and quickly diverted, no doubt thrilling Abi, who’d no doubt seen it too. The Wood Island lighthouse, billed in a secret code as ‘La Pointe La Plus Au Sud De L’ Î-P-É’ which, after some careful deduction we cracked to mean ‘Southernmost Tip of PEI’, made me, Keith and Fiona smile and Abi sit there and sulk.

We rode up our first ferry ramp of the Expedition, and secured the bikes to the deck.

Keith and Abi switched themselves off to conserve their batteries, while Fiona and I went exploring.

As we approached Nova Scotia, we saw a beacon welcoming us to this new land. I’m sure Abi was sorry to have slept through that greeting.

A quick 75 minutes later, the Great Nova Scotia Expedition had finally made it to Nova Scotia! Much celebration ensued, and minutes after leaving the ferry, I claimed Nova Scotia for the good people of the Kingdom of Rhode Island. Rhode Scotia joins Rhode Scotland on the ever-growing list of territories I’ve claimed for the Kingdom.

(As has been pointed out to me by some of my less geographically challenged friends, Nova Scotia is technically not an island. But then again, the Kingdom of Rhode Island isn’t either, so it’s a wash in my book.)

From the looks of things, Rhode Scotians heralded my arrival by naming many places after me:

We couldn’t afford to waste too much time celebrating, as the North Sydney ferry terminal lay over 200 miles to our east. As this point, four days in, I was a little disappointed in the roads and scenery, which reminded me of Connecticut. Of course the temperature in Connecticut was much warmer, and not raining, but that’s just because Mother Nature has it in for me. I also didn’t like the pace – Rush! Rush! Rush! – but that was inevitable, because in only ten days, in addition to seeing Nova Scotia, we were trying to jam in an 800 mile round trip iceberg-viewing excursion to Newfoundland.

So hustle we did, and we made it to our next Love Boat ride with plenty of time to spare. While strapping the bikes to the mv Caribou ferry deck, we met brothers Robert on a BMW RT touring bike and Steve on his brand new Buell Lightning. Steve accompanied his brother Robert to Toronto to buy the BMW, and ended up impulse buying himself the Buell. They were going to ride from Port-aux-Basques all the way to Saint Johns, at least a ten hour trip! The smile on Steve’s face told me that he didn’t care at all that the weather was forecast to be colder and wetter still..

Our cabin on the ferry was cramped but cozy, and after toasting the addition of Rhode Scotia to the Kingdom as the ‘Best Day Ever’, we set our alarms for waaay too early the next morning, when a new adventure would begin on the shores of Newfoundland.

The next installment of the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition can be found here.

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The G.U.N.S.E. – Over the Border

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The next morning, my own personal adventure continued. My reasoning was sound, or at least seemed to be the night before. Crossing the border with a bottle of delicious Macallan would most likely result in a Canadian Border Guard taking it away, then toasting us from his home with our bottle. So I did what any civic minded American would do, I denied the Canadians the opportunity to drink my booze by finishing it all myself. Told you I am full of great ideas.

Hangover or not, the sun was up, and it was time to face the pain and drag my sorry carcass (and poor Abi) on one of my favorite side trips, to a lighthouse, in this case the West Quoddy Lighthouse.

Abi and Keith made the best of my forced field trip by competing to be ‘Easternmost Goofball in the United States’, the first of what would be many improvised competitions.

In the parking lot, we met a nice couple on a Harley. “We’ve lived an hour away from this place for thirty years. This is the first time we’ve been here.” After the usual sniffing around and story swapping motorcyclists tend to do, they left us with a warning that would be become a refrain echoed by nearly everyone we met. “Watch out for moose!”

Nevermind moose, my head was still pounding, so we headed off in search of breakfast. Thank God for Darleen and Tina at the Cobscook Bay Cafe. These two angels whipped up the biggest and best breakfast ever for us, all with honest to God down home sincerity.

Fiona just may have a little competition….

At some point in our ride, we crossed a really cool bridge. I don’t have anything exciting to say about it, I just needed an excuse to post the really cool pictures Fiona took of the really cool bridge.

Then it was time to trade in the comfort of the land I love, and take the Great Nova Scotia Expedition into the unknown wilds of the Great White North.

Border crossings always make me nervous, because you never know what kind of mood the guards will be in. Who knows, there *may* even be a body cavity search quota they need to fill. If there is such a thing, I’d hate to be the one crossing if the CQR (cavity quota report) happens to be due that day. Plus, with this group; Keith, the foulmouthed Sergeant in the US Air Force, Abi, who, he’s the first to admit, looks vaguely terroristic most days and usually gets questioned for it, and me, smelling, no, make the REEKING like one of the casks they make the Macallan in; the only one I wasn’t worried about getting across was Fiona, who is as pure as the driven snow (she is reading this too you know…)

Who gets hassled? Fiona of course. Since she’d never been to Canada before, we had to go into the immigrations office so they could decide if she was worthy of entry. They can be real strict about it too, when my friend Dan crossed into Canada on our way to Alaska a few years ago, the Immigration officer said, “Seems like you had some fun about twenty years ago. You have a DUI.” They were going to deny us entry because of A TWENTY YEAR OLD DUI!!! They finally let him in, but it took a while, and at one point they wanted Dan to purchase a $400 ‘pardon from the Queen.’

Unlike Dan, Fiona is only pure as the driven snow because she had her lengthy and heinous criminal record purged from the system long ago. Ha Ha! Take THAT, Canada! Trust me, ‘Pure As Driven Snow’ status cost more than the $400 the Queen wanted!

Canada was exactly the same as the US, except the mile per hour signs were now Kilo-mile per hour, which is different. I forgot this at first, and congratulated the Canadian government for allowing people to drive at 110 MPH.

Following our loosely defined itinerary, we debated where to go, that night. The Tidal Bore of St John was a hard sell to the group, mostly because of the name. If it was called the Tidal Thrill, it might have had a better shot. After some discussion, and some rejection, we decided, using the most scientific method available (covering my eyes and pointing at the map) on Prince Edward Island. The Canadian highways were exactly the same as the American ones, except there were more trees, fewer billboards, and it seems that Canadians have a strange tendency to not shoot their highway signs full of holes.

How sad for the Canadians.

My arch nemesis, Mother Nature, had a surprise of her own in store for us. The temperature, conveniently measured in a Canadian code called Celsius, started dropping. In less than an hour it went from a balmy 75 degrees Fahrenheit to about 10 degrees Celsius. (For all you scientists out there, the formula to convert temperatures is Tf = (9/5)*Tc+32; where Tc = temperature in degrees Celsius, and Tf = temperature in degrees Fahrenheit – me, I’m an audio guy that works for the WWE, that stuff is way above my pay grade. All I know is it was warm, but got really cold really fast.)

We pulled into a gas station to fill up and gear up for the changing conditions.

Canadian gas stations are exactly like American gas stations, except the price for gas is MUCH lower, or so I thought. Most pumps read 1.40 for the cheap stuff (which Rain Cloud Follows favors, though not by choice). Canada is the land of the plenty! It took me a while to grasp that the price was PER LITER, and there are A LOT of liters in a gallon. (Scientists, the formula goes something like this: U.S. gallons x 3.785 = liters) which means we were actually paying a PILE OF CASH for fuel. (Formula for translating cost in Canada is: Price in Canada = Price in America squared)

Fully geared up, the Expedition plunged deeper into the forbidding wilderness, aiming for the unsuspecting island owned by Prince Edward.

Five Kilo-hours later, we made it to the impressive Confederation Bridge, a 12.9 kilometer (you do the math) span that crosses the Northumberland Straight, linking New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. Just before leaving New Brunswick for the shores of PEI, a goodbye sign warned again of dangerous moose, but this time of gigantic, mutant ones that roam only at night.

The harsh winds pushed our motorcycles around like horseflies in a hurricane, but somehow we managed to keep ourselves out of the water, and arrived to claim the first island of the Expedition for the Kingdom of Rhode Island.

The Prince was no fool, however, locating his ‘Welcome to…” sign behind a fence in the middle of a highway. I had no hope of claiming his island for my Kingdom of Rhode Island. Damn you Prince Edward!!

But I did have other hopes, namely finding a place to sleep that would rival our first night’s accommodations. Another dirt road led to another diamond in the rough, a two bedroom oceanfront cabin for the unbelievably low price of $85 a night. The owner hadn’t even finished telling me the price before I accepted it with a huge grin. “Darn, I guess I should’ve said $100.”

I was thinking more like $200, but a deal is a deal, and, as Mom always said, “A dumbass is always to be taken advantage of!”

We did our traditional ‘Best Day Ever’ toast – albeit with cheaper whisky bought in Canada. Day Three flowed to an end as we watched the sun set on the Confederation Bridge, and smoked fine cigars by the fire as the ocean lulled us to a state of complete relaxation.

So far, it really was the Best Day Ever, but even better was ahead.

The next installment of the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition can be found here.

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