Star-crossed at McDick’s and sleeping in a hockey rink

Next we biked to Clarenville which is about a 120K from where we camped outside Brigus Junction. Between them is the bottle-neck of the Avalon Peninsula and we were up quite high and the weather was clear so the view was great. If you ever get depressed at the mowing down of trees in the Amazon, come to NL, or go to the Tombstones in NWT. This is what the world must’ve looked like before people showed up.

Most of the day I was way up front and getting a bit worried. It’s normal to bike quite far apart while making a similar pace but today I was way ahead and stopped a few time to look back. Johno’s knees hadn’t improved overnight and in the morning he was walking with a bit of an accent, if you know what I mean. Several times we stopped to rest and ate the bagels left over from yesterday, the Pringles, the dried mangoes. Its amazing how much you eat when you ride. I’d hoped my food budget would be at $25 a day but its turned out to be way more, like 30-35. Its not cause I’m stupid about it I just eat like a Walrus when I’m riding like this and Johno eats even more than I do even though he’s skinnier. An issue with food is how much you can carry at a time, which is not much. A bag of rolled oats is at the bottom of the pannier along with protein supplement, but aside from that the load is day to day. This means stopping a lot and taking on more, and unless you want to lose half a day to make a circle for Walmart you’ve got to hit gas stations and convenience stores [there’s a reason they’re called convenience stores] on the route which are usually way more expensive.

Clarenville is a small town by the water and is the site of the first trans-atlantic telephone line. Most of its modern infrastructure is up the steep land-rise where the highway runs. Population wavers at the 5000 line with a lot of it’s residents vanishing sporadically to AB for the employment opportunities.

We must have arrived around six, rode down to the water, asked for directions and went straight back up again. The question was food and the answer was McDonalds.

At the counter was a little blonde girl, no more than sweet-sixteen but quick on her heels. Johno had ordered a meal and I just asked for a McFlurry [which has since become the staple food of this expedition: every journey of mine must have a go-to food, usually nachos or fish and chips. But the new sponsor is Mcflurry]. Now Johno asks, why didn’t I get an Oreo one instead of Smarties and I retort that obviously because he’d try to eat it.

Lo and behold our new friend shows back up with an Oreo smoothie and says she made a mistake, would Johno take this for free and she’ll make another for his friend?

It took a minute and then as we were sitting down we finally realised, both at the same time, what had happened and burst out laughing. The gal even looked a bit like Tammy I tell Johno.

Very fast of her though, like I said. I was impressed.

That night we slept in a hockey arena.

Small town hockey is always something I feel I missed out on. In Canada its a cultural phenomenon and us Vancouverites got none of it. We’ve got the Thunderbirds at UBC, but that’s not small town hockey, no sir.

This cultural thing I’m talking about is something I’ve read about in books, saw on the new five-dollar bill and eventually experienced in a place you’ve never heard of called Amherst Nova Scotia. And its called small town hockey because the whole small town is involved. The entire mosaic shows up, young and old, male and female, the complete picture. Every night the benches are thronged and the red plastic beer cups, moving in nameless hands, look like blood-spray from a skate-cut jugular.

The boys of Triple A are the heroes and wherever they are you always find their groupies, pardon me, their puck-bunnies.

The shows I’ve seen make a pretty good night and there’s always a fist fight or two between dads. In every small place across Canada, from Vanderhoof to Regina to Barrie to Yarmouth, this is where amateur sports columnists get their start. And what do we in Vancouver see of this? Nothing, which is very un-Canadian of us.

Enough is enough.

In this particular place there was a 24 hour walk-for cancer relay going on with bands and different booths in the main rink which was very near the McDonalds. Outside we found a janitor who found a manager who found the owner who gave us his blessing, then sent us back to the manager who produced keys and let us in to the referees dressing room. The ploy at that point was to just a get shower and then set the tent up in a dark field, but the guy just left it open for us and vanished.

We’d brought the valuables down, minus the bikes, and after showering, heads cleared, I looked at Johno and he at me, and at the same time we both shrugged.

Upstairs we threw the lock on and left the bikes outside. The risk of thievery is pretty small in pace like this since everyone knows everyone and most are friendly [and an interesting side note is that in a little place like this, once you’ve arrived in town and got your shades off and your spandex replaced by regular clothing, that’s when people start talking to you, not a minute before. Maybe there’s something very big-city and intimidating about spandex, I don’t know. Mysterious forces are at work.]

The rest of the stuff was brought down and the sleeping gear unloaded. There was some really bad music coming in but that was about it. Cinder block walls and no mosquitos is something worth a noisy sleep.

One Comment to “Star-crossed at McDick’s and sleeping in a hockey rink”

  1. I guess your iron horse is not into those rolled oats in the pannier, so you can have them all to yourself. Rolled oats rules! I love them too!

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