Icebergs and Motorbikes

The insert worked fine. I write from Manitoba [guess I should’ve put in a spoiler alert: as you can see, the blog is behind but no, I’m not walking across Canada – I’m actually halfway home and still biking] and it’s still good.

I got up early, ate at A&W and took off as fast as I could. There’s very little between here and PAB [Port Aux Basques]. A few gas stations and that’s it. Stephenville is 60K of the highway so despite an invitation by an army aquaintance to go cause trouble, I said ‘no way in hell’.

I’d hoped to catch the evening ferry but that was a no-go. After an unstoppable meal of fish and chips and good conversation with an older Ontario couple, I peddled on into the darkness, and near PAB the land revived a bit. It was saturday night and people were everywhere driving their ATV’s, drinking, shooting guns. All that stuff we imagine hicks doing. It’s all true.

I was going good, almost at the ocean now, but had a blind moment against some headlights and hit a rock in the middle of the shoulder and blew an instant flat.

At three in the morning I arrived in PAB, another place I’ve been. I saw the rise where I’d camped in 2006,out of view of the town, but right on top of it. Remembered three days consuming nothing but orange juice and thinking about God and wondering about life and girls. Went hiking one day and found an old graveyard near the high-school which looked like a massive gray lego brick forgotten by a baby Godzilla at the top of a fortress-worthy hill.

There were graves from more than hundred years ago. Six foot graves and and three foot baby graves. The weathered white crosses were lilted, and many of them unreadable and un-maintained. Erosion was carrying them into the sea. The earth was eating its dead.

I ate at Timmy’s again. I’ll never get tired of Timmy’s but I’ll never love it like I used to. Fifty meters off the parking lot the land sank and grass was everywhere. I could lie there and someone would trip over me before they saw me.

At 0600 I woke up. Talked to some guys who’d just come off the boat with motorbikes. The ferry left at 0700. I climbed up on the deck as we sat at the moorings waiting to go. I was wearing the gray wool sweater that I got in Kerrisdale for eight bucks. War and Peace was tucked under my arm.

The crossing takes six hours, give or take and I spent most of it writing and answering emails over the on-board wifi.

Forty five minutes to the port at North Sydney I was engaged by a Kevin from the States. He’s been reading the blog, so Kevin, fear not, I’ll do you justice.

This is a middle-age man with a beard. A landscaper by trade and photographer by calling who lives in a renovated barn in Connecticut, rented out to him by his divorce lawyer. Who wouldn’t want that? I’d love to live in barn. That way I could finally stop giving police my standard ‘no fixed address’ answer when they wake me up for sleeping on lawns. It could also make a good funny if I ever left a door open and someone asked if I was raised in barn.

Anyway, Kevin wanted to know about my Ortliebs, the waterproof bags I got for the bike.

A stand-up guy who knows stand-up gear when he sees it, I took one look at Kevin and thought,’Here’s a man worth time and conversation.”

Seats were found and talk fell from our tongues without the need for un-profound filler [weather talk] between real topics. Kevin and I seemed to be very much of the same fabric: Travellers of the ethic that the more you know the less you need and all that life should really require is a set of good boots and a backpack, or perhaps in Kevin’s case a camera, and in mine, a journal. He was currently at the tail-end of a four month photography tour which had been mostly spent in the American deserts but had somehow ended in Newfoundland. In his lens he was now the proud owner of icebergs and other northern articles and he told me about a short but meaningful episode where he had found himself on an iceberg-watching boat.

It had been storming out that day and the only people up top were him, the captain and two adventurous ladies, one who brought out a bottle though it was only ten in the morning. The normal people, on vacation from their cars, dogs and 2.4 children all huddled below in the shelter of the cabin while the souls who were living life felt the spray of the wild waves and saw lightning rip the sky that Kevin, in his own words, described as something so magnificent that it threatened to draw tears. Sincerity is a virtue and for the half-hour I knew him Kevin was full of it. His description of the deep blue ice, the white of rougher surfaces, the green sea alive beneath them and the lightning searing the backround of low gray clouds and dark distance was writerly and beautiful. All I could think was, I know the place and feeling, and don’t you think we’re lucky that something gave us the will and guts to live in this full way while others huddle below?

Other discussion included a brief visit to my time in the Stan and more of Kevin’ travels including motorcycling on Route 66 and bringing dust and mesas to life through the aperture.

His mode of travel was now a van, one of these fully equipped ones, and I was jealous but not jealous all at the same time. Before coming up here he’d done Cabot trail, where I was going next and he had some good points concerning my route, the main idea being that I take a certain one-minute ferry from English Town to Jersey Cove to save myself a day of biking.

Shortly, N. Sydney came into view at the window and the engine noise changed. An announcement was made about vehicles and thence we parted ways.

Below deck I unlocked the bike. The mouth of the ferry, the whole front of the boat, lifted like a drawbridge. The air was different. Warmer and summer-like. Gone was the mist of The Rock.

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