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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Shipwrecks, French Bicyclists, Norsemen and the Elliott Fishing Barons

I'm sitting at the Four Seasons hotel, and no it's not the fancy hotel down the street from the Ritz-Carlton, it's one of maybe two hotels in Blanc Sablon, Quebec. We hit the Big Land tomorrow, it's just a few miles to the east of us.

The last three days have been surreal, stunning, educational, and I think life changing, for me anyway. 

We rolled off the ferry around 0745 on Monday morning, and it was absolutely beautiful, the weather was more than perfect, sunny, warm and not a breath of wind. The calm before the storm as they say. Remember that for later.

Timmie's was jammed with people off the boat so we made a quick diversion across the grass, and over the curb to the Irving for the first coffee of the day, which was well needed. I'll let Pete pick it up from here.

After the marathon day of day 1, day 2 recharged the "love of adventure" battery. We disembarked from the ferry and popped into the Irving for a coffee and a muffin. At this point I was feeling like a great explorer. I was Magellan circumnavigating or Polo finding gunpowder and noodles in the orient .Then I met the Man from Lyon. This guy was riding his bicycle into Newfoundland via Japan and the USA. Wow did that ever deflate my adventure balloon. We had a long discussion with our friend and shot some video. We also offered him a Big Land Adventure film tee shirt, but as a cyclist the extra few grams would mean more pain. He politely declined.

The man from Lyon, Aurelien (no don't ask us to pronounce it)

After this meeting we rode the west coast of Newfoundland from Port au Basque to Gros Morne National Park. I will end with this statement. The west Coast of Newfoundland is one of the most beautiful places I have even been!

We made our way north stopping briefly in Stephenville for gas and a little visit at the beach on a fine Monday morning. We must have missed rush hour on the west coast because the roads almost void of other vehicles.

Humber Valley

The Big Stop restaurant in Deer Lake was calling our names, so we stopped in there for a fine bowl of pea soup, chased down with some lemon pie, and a pot of coffee.

It was unseasonably warm, probably close to 25 degrees, so it was a day of riding jackets void of liners, with the vents set to full open to try and stay cool. It stayed warm all the way up Route 430, better known as the Viking Trail enroute to Gros Morne National Park, our destination for the evening. 

The park is truely spectacular, everywhere you look is one amazing view after another. If we stopped everywhere to get videos and photos, we'd still be there now. I'd be riding along saying "that'll be a good shot, need to get that for Hemmings, oh wait what about that one" before long I realized we had only gone two kilometers.

The actual Gros Morne, a big friggin' rock. Part of the reason the whole island is called The Rock.

Rocky Harbour

Call Fred 

Wreck of the S.S. Ethie

We made our way north thru the park, at a really slow, "hey I'm a tourist pace", which worked well since everyone else was a tourist, except for the odd local from the Northern Penisula that was in a much bigger hurry and was far less impressed with the scenery than we were.

We decided to camp out in Cow Head, at the Shallow Bay campground. Being the studly adventure riders that we are sleeping in a tent in the wilds of northern Newfoundland was a must. Except this campground has hot showers, real toilets, and wifi. Really......people need wifi to camp? Actually I did so I could send out the first blog update.

Campsite #59
Supper, nuttin' but da best for us ol' man.

I'll let Pete pick it up from here again,

Day 3 of the ride was a study in juxtaposition (like I really know what that means). Terry and I spent the night at the Shallow Bay Campground. We camped and I want to plug a product very quickly. If you are a reluctant camper like I am buy a Thermarest sleeping pad. They pack very small but offer huge comfort. I found in the past when I camped I would wake up with my hipbones drilled 3 cm down into the earth. With the Thermarest you actually have a comfortable sleep and the thing is only about 5 cm thick when inflated.
Back to the day. The highlight was the sight of L'Anse aux Meadows, which I think roughly translated is a "60 KM wet and windy bike ride from the nearest coffee shop". We rode into the site and immediately were greeted by the enthusiastic staff at the interpretation centre. The centre was a modern building set above the Viking long house. We quickly looked at the artifacts and made our way down the walkways to the Viking structure. As soon as we walked into the ancient structure a staff member clad in period Viking wear pipes up from his shaggy beard and says, "you must me be the Elliott" referring to Terry's lineage to a famous Fish Baron from the area. We spent the next half an hour sitting on sheep skins in a sod hut beside a fire listening to the history of the Elliotts. And I thought the Vikings were a big deal.

Ok, before we get to the L'Anse Aux Meadows story, and my family, we awoke under rainy skies. The forecast said showers starting at noon. Noon must mean 1:30am, because that's when the sound of "rain drops keep falling on my tent" woke me up. 

Actually it wasn't too bad, just the odd shower, but not enough to keep the swarms of killer mosquitos away when we broke camp. Where's the Afterbite stick again, I feel a welt or twenty coming on. We bailed out quickly in search of a coffee shop. Ya, no Starbucks here b'ys.

Along the way we passed a shipwreck I'd seen in previous Advrider posts, so we stopped for a wee look see.

All her endevours are all over now.
Then we swung into the Arches a little bit later

Still no coffee shop. So while Pete is off videoing the interesting rock formations, I'm getting invited over to a motorhome in the parking lot for a coffee. Yurg and Ruth are visiting from Switzerland, and thought that the cranky arsehole by the bike need a caffeine fix and were so kind to pour me cup. I yelled to Pete who was down on the beach, and raised my coffee cup. He broke the record for the 400m dash across beach rocks, in full riding gear and boots record. Coffee will do that to ya.

So while I am talking to Yurg about his career as a Swiss border police officer, Pete has wandered off again like a curious school boy, and is chatting up two ladies and a film crew. Turns out they are pretaping a bunch of stuff for the national morning news show Canada AM, and are being shown around by a National Parks employee, Ms. Taylor, who knows of my family from Raleigh. We say good bye and head for L'anse aux Meadows.

In Hawke's Bay, great place for breakfast. Stop in, homemade bread and pies. Wicked good.

The skies are getting darker, so far it's been relatively dry.....so far.

The temps are starting to head in a cooler direction and we head into a heavy drizzle, which turns to full on rain at the turn off to go to see the Norseman, and we arrive in L'Anse aux Meadows with soggy boots. 

The Olympia riding gear has been awesome, it has kept us cool when it was hot, and warm and dry through some heavy rain, and I'm not saying that because they are a sponsor, the kit works good. My 7 year old Joe Rocket boots have given up some of their water repellency, time formnew one's, whichnis a little late now. Pete's brand new Icon "waterproof" boots on the other hand, suck, and suck big time, they are crap. Hear that ICON, they suck, his feet were soaked. His boots didn't even dry out over night on a drying rack above a heater.

Sod hut, this is a re-creation.

Pete getting his Viking on

The original grass mounds, all that's left after a 1000 years.

Unknown to us Ms. Taylor,the Parks employee has told the fine folks here about me, the grandson of Simeon Elliott. Soon as I step foot in the sod hut, I get the "you must be the Elliott, you look just like an Elliott, we were told you were coming here". Never knew I was that popular. Never knew the Elliott's were fish barons either. Gonna have to get a bigger helmet soon. Shit, maybe I'll move back to Raleigh  and take over the family baroning again.

Next post........a great night at my mom's cousin's place, finding a fifth cousin, a family tree, riding sideways in the wind and rain, and meeting new friends, and a new riding partner on a rough ferry ride to Quebec.

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