Archive for Twillingate


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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