Day 3 – Wednesday, June 6th
I woke up on the ferry’s floor about four hours later when I felt we were no longer rocking. I looked outside and saw it was light and I could see a rocky coastline beside us. Looks like we had reached Newfoundland!
Soon after waking, they announced we would be docking in an hour. Over the night, I had dried out and was no longer damp. I went to the cafeteria and bought a coffee and sipped on it while waiting to dock. Soon thereafter I saw the three guys on bikes from Toronto were in general seating. I went over and talked to them for a bit. One of the guys, who appeared to be the older of the bunch (they looked like they ranged from their late twenties to forties), asked me if I was in the military on account of my high and tight haircut. I told him I was in the army National Guard. He then asked me if I had been deployed. I told him I was in Germany, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He then asked me if I had been to Kandahar. I told him I had passed through, but was actually at FOB Mehtar Lam. Upon hearing this, he said yeah, I know the place. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has heard of that place who wasn’t deployed to Afghanistan. It turned out he was stationed at Kandahar with the Canadian military. He used to be active duty and was now National Guard. He was actually the equivalent of a brigade sergeant major (I forget the Canadian rank equivalent he told me) currently. We shot the shit about the military for twenty minutes or so. It’s amazing how similar our two country’s militaries are.
They called for us to go down on deck to get our vehicles ready. When I got down there, I was the only biker who didn’t already have all his gear on. I scrambled to put my gear on (it’s a slow process with the leathers, then the wet-weather gear on top) and got my bike loaded up. I was warm and dry at this point… However, as soon as I put my nice warm dry feet into my boots, I was immediately reminded of the cold, wet misery of the last two days. My feet were again cold and soaking wet. Ugh, what a start to the ride today! I just got the last piece of gear on as the crewmember waved us off. I headed off the boat behind about four other bikes. As they got off and into the parking lot, they pulled off to regroup. I gave them a quick honk and wave and headed out of the parking lot onto the Trans-Canada Highway, route 1. At least it wasn’t raining… yet.
After setting up my tripod and getting the picture of me in front of the welcome sign, a car pulled up behind me. It was a husband and wife with their teenage son. They had the same idea as me. I offered to take their picture for them, so they could all be in it. After taking their picture, they were quite eager to talk to me. They asked me where I was from and where I was going. The wife was originally from Newfoundland, so she was all too eager to tell me the must-see sights… and I was all too eager to pay close attention, as I didn’t really have a real plan of what I wanted to see, aside from a few places.
At this point I must stop and make a comment about the people of Newfoundland (and move into the present tense, as I’m sitting at a campsite typing this ride report out on Microsoft Word to be posted later). I had heard that Newfoundlers are some of the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet by many sources. I was told that you will be hard-pressed to make a single stop here without at least one person striking up a conversation. Wow! I cannot believe just how true that is. I’ve only been here one day thus far and I have to already wholeheartedly agree. The people here are extremely friendly and love to ask about my bike (and why in the hell I’m out in this weather riding!) and where I’m from. Once they find out I’m from the states and this is my first time here, they are quite excited to give me advice and answer my questions. As beautiful as the scenery is here, thus far the best part of Newfoundland are the people.
After leaving the welcome sign I headed about a quarter mile up the road and stopped off at the welcome center to pick up a map and travel guide. As soon as I pulled in, the rain started up again. It was also very cold; much colder than it had been the last two days. At the welcome center, the woman behind the counter told me it was currently 4 degrees C (39.2 F) and they were calling for a high of 6 C (42.8 F). To top it off, the wind was terrifyingly strong on the bike. Although it had started to sprinkle and it was cold, the scenery was beautiful.
When I got off the bike at the welcome center, I forgot to unplug my heated gloves (which are routed through my jacket and plug in behind my seat). I do this all the time and it just unplugs itself… But today it pulled the controller from the double sided tape on my rear fairings. No big deal. I zip tied it to my rack I have my waterproof bag mounted to. I should say that up until this point, I hadn’t used the heated gloves because my waterproof overgloves won’t fit over them. However, it was so brutally cold that I forced the overgloves over them. They were so tight that my hands started aching… But the aching beats losing feeling in my fingers from the cold… Well, it turns out that when I pulled the controller off of the double-sided tape that I broke it. It could no longer turn it on and I had no heat. So now my hands were cold and aching from the overgloves being too tight. It was absolutely pouring outside and the wind was blowing me all over my lane. I was only able to go about twenty to thirty miles at a time before my hands and soaking wet feet were too numb and painful to continue. I would then pull into a gas station and fill up (well, top off) and then hang out inside for twenty minutes. I also pulled into two Tim Hortons and one McDonalds to get coffee. I was absolutely miserable. I thought I was miserable the first two days… But they were nothing compared to this day.
My goal was to make it to Gros Morne provincial park by the end of the day. This should have been an easy task, as it was only about 200 miles from Port Aux Basques (where the ferry landed) to Gros Morne… But I had been on the road for three hours and only made it less than 100 miles. I was seriously considering pulling off the highway and finding a place to put my tent for the night. I wasn’t sure if I could make it another hundred-plus miles today. I just kept with my short bursts and then long rests schedule until I had finally made it to the park. Between the rain, cold temps, and moose warnings, I kept my speeds pretty slow, which meant slow getting there.
As soon as I got to the park, the rain stopped and the roads were even dry! It didn’t really help me much though, because I was already wet, and I wasn’t exactly drying off quickly. I discovered that many of Canada’s provincial parks aren’t free to enter. Gros Morne costs about $10 for one day. For $46 you can get the Viking pass which gives you entrance into five or six parks/historic sites up the northern peninsula for a week. I was just about to get this one when the park ranger told me that I could buy a one year pass for $68 that would be good for any park or historic site in Canada for an entire year and I would get the discounted rate on campsites with showers (which would then basically cost the same as the ones without showers). To me, this was a no-brainer. I bought the year pass and then headed to the closest campsite in the park with showers (and I made sure to ask if they had hot water!).
I got to the camping area and set up my tent, lubed my chain, and tried to trouble-shoot my heat troller. I took off the seat and immediately found the problem. I hadn’t broken the controller… I had just unplugged it from underneath the seat! Great news! That was a quick ‘fix.’ I only wish I had decided to take the time to do this while on the road. After this was all done, I finally headed to the shower. It had been three long, cold, wet, miserable days with no shower. I literally spent about forty minutes in the shower under the hot water.
The camping area was almost empty. I saw one other tent on the other side of the area. Sounds good to me! I hate busy campsites with a bunch of noise and screaming kids. When it’s that busy, I feel like I might as well just stay in a hotel, because it feels just about as wild as a crowded campground.
Some ominous clouds
After the shower I came back to the picnic table and started working on writing this damn ride report! I also decided to have a few drinks. I bought a bottle of KRU vodka before leaving. I was looking for any vodka that wasn’t in a glass container. The only reason I went with this vodka is because of the cool container it came in.
The bottle cost $15 and the aluminum bottle itself is very well built. It’s not like those thin aluminum beer bottles. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was a purpose-built drinking vessel retailing for $10 or $15. After preparing a tang and vodka mixer, I boiled up some shells for ‘shells and cheese’ for dinner.
The campground didn’t have any potable water, so any water out of the faucets or water pump had to be boiled before drinking. This was no problem though because I brought along my Katadyn water filter. I found a pool of water close to my campsite (looked like fresh rain runoff) and pumped out a couple of liters of water… I needed something to make my tang vodka mixers with! (I need to come up with a fancy mixed drink name for this. It’s actually quite good and packs well)
Total mileage for the day: 212 miles (though this felt more like 2012 miles)
Day 3 route: