Oodles of Noodles of Bagels and History

In the morning we got up way too late and hit the Bagel Place on Duckworth near Water St., right across from Timmy’s and kitty-corner to the TD building.

We rode from the Uni along Allandale to Bonaventure past cartoon-coloured rows of wooden buildings on the downward sloping streets that remind of a mini San Francisco. All they need is streetcars and enough Newfies back from Alberta to give a bit of ridership.

Rule # 1 is, you cannot go to St. John’s without going to the Bagel Place, because every perfect day here should end, [and begin, technically] on George St.

And you really cannot go out partying on said street without a bagel breakfast to fortify you. That’s almost as bad as drinking and driving and actually it might be worse.

A good thing is that this little locale gets better every time you go. There’s a poetic ode to coffee on the wall by one of the window booths and I forget how it goes but I’ve always maintained that this little blurb could make a solid argument as the 67th book of the Bible.

After the meal it was a bike store nearby to get some odds and sods figured out and once that was finished we took two long breaths and started the climb up Signal Hill. Johno’s never been before and I’m a bit like a dog who likes to make sure things are still where they should be. From the tower up top I looked out to make sure Cape Spear was still there so we wouldn’t try to bike there this afternoon and fall off the edge of the world by accident. Because you never know.

Fun fact: The Flat Earth Society considers Cape Spear to be a corner of the Earth. I kind of envy them for that. Once you have those kinds of questions sorted out, what else is there? Anything you want in life, you can do it.

This is also a great place to look down on the harbor. There’s only a very narrow entrance to this massive enclosed basin that’s deep enough for the large Coast-Guard icebreakers, naval vessels, and other ships that come in to port here.

Down from Cabot Tower where Marconi sent his wireless signal across the Atlantic there’s a battery of old cannon and a small barracks where the arty guys used to live. These cannon are aimed at the outside edge of the entrance to the harbor. Very persuasive.

St. John's as seen from signal hill. To the left, outside the photo lies the remains of Fort Amherst. On the knoll on the right sit canon that garded the harbor entrance and adjacent to them is a small barracks where the soldiers of the battery lived. Farther East is Cape Spear.

Looking across the canal you can see Fort Amherst, a lighthouse, and below it a sundering collection of concrete pill-boxes and gun-emplacements and ruined staircases that lead to nowhere. Your not supposed to go down there but of course I did, though not this year. If they’re going to make laws like that it’s their own fault.

Original fortifications from the 1770’s are no longer there, but the modern buildings have been installed on ancient brick foundations. The place strikes a cord with me. At the FOB in Afghanistan we had a similar thing going on at the top of a hill where the snipers lived. Buildings atop buildings atop buildings.

Two of the naval guns from the forties are still here, bent and rusting, their breeches open and the barrels clogged.

There’s a crap-load of history here and there’s no way I’m writing it all down, but I encourage you to Google it. Lots of battles etc.

After the hill we realized how much crap we’d forgot at the bike store, and after lunch which we found at a grocery store we went back. We’d wanted to bike out to Cape Spear that afternoon and the bike store boys to told us to leave the gear but be back by five. It was three by that time so we didn’t think twice and pedaled like crazy. It’s twenty K to the Cape, about an hour on average, and we wanted to actually have a look and see something while we were there.

On the way out, going down a 12% incline Johno got 79.9 on the new speedometer. Not bad.

Cape Spear is another one of those history-packed places. The second lighthouse in NL was built here in Sept 1836, after the one at Fort Amherst in 1810. A foghorn was added in 1878. There’s a large battery that was installed in the forties to protect the harbor and provide some cover for the convoy route to Europe. There are tunnels still open that lead to massive underground rooms and two of the guns are there as well, just the barrels, lying flat in their pits.

The guns themselves are huge and all I could think of when looking at them [and climbing on them] was Jules Verne’s Columbiad Space Gun. The kind of thing I’d want to get my ashes blown out of.

“You could really fuck someone up with one of those!” I say to Johno who laughs and says,

“Or a ship!”

Cape Spear is where the Trans Canada begins. The West Coast answer is the wooden peer at Tofino.

On the concrete a yellow line has been painted and marked as Km 1, and we get a picture of this. No tires could be dipped in the ocean. It would’ve been a hell of a struggle and I would’ve been willing, but the minutes were slipping ruthlessly by and the bike store was closing.

It was up to Johno to thwart Father Time. He’s a racer, used to light carbon-fibre bikes [which, later, was very possibly his un-doing] and flying at mach-3. So while I slothed along day-dreaming like I always do, Mr. Grease took off and made record time back to the city to save our belongings, which were being put out the door when he arrived [People like to say that Newfies are super-hospitable types, but the truth is wherever you go in the world you hear this same claim about people. And the second truth is, Newfies are just like everyone else – no wait – that not true at all. Okay. Hospitality-wise they’re normal, or even a bit aloof, to be honest. Kind of shy].

Having got our stuff back and completed the day’s mission, we headed for the campsite in Pippy Park.

Students run this place in the summer and we stood with them for while inside the cozy wooden shed and jabbered on a bit about prices, looked at each other doubtfully, then said we’d rather pay the extra five bucks and take the room at the uni again. Maybe the student guy felt bad for us. He finally told us to just go set up in the field for free. There was no one here anyways.

Just as I closed the door I heard him remark to a long-haired buddy who was siting on the wooden desk, “I give ’em to Port Aux Basques…”

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