Final Morning on Newfoundland

August 4, 2019

Saturday night I stayed in the little town of Margaree, a short distance east of the ferry terminal at Port aux Basques.  When I finally arrived there, later than I had planned because I had been out to the lighthouse beyond Margaree, my hostess suggested that I also check out the town itself in the morning.  Her house was the second one on the road in to town and there was lots more there to see beyond that.

I was in the kitchen the next morning visiting with another Airbnb guest (she was traveling on a motorcycle and would also be on the same ferry as me) and we watched as our ferry arrived.  It had left North Sydney, Nova Scotia around midnight and was arriving just as it was getting light out.

It had rained overnight but had stopped for a short while.  It resumed raining lightly as I was taking my stuff to the car so these shots were mostly taken with the car parked on the left side of the road and the drivers side window down.

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If you look closely at the photo above you’ll see someone coming in towards the town’s harbor in a small boat (he or she had just turned to their right).  The harbor is outside the frame of the photo to the left.

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The next 3 shots were taken in the span of about two minutes, the second and third each about 100 yards further up the road that the previous one and with a similar but different view as the first.  You can see a lighthouse-like structure way off in the distance.

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Final Full Day & Evening on Newfoundland

August 3, 2019

Saturday I drove all the way across Newfoundland from St. John’s in the northeast to Port aux Basques in the southwest, almost 600 miles (although the road curves north quite a bit before turning back south so it isn’t a straight shot) which took about 9 1/2 hours (just driving time, without stops) on the Trans Canada Highway.  Of course I did make a few stops but tried to make them quickies.  I wanted to stop and visit a bit with the people I stayed with my first night on the island before going to my Airbnb for the night, this one located even closer to the ferry.

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The photo below was as I was driving over a long bridge.  To my left was this structure with both a seaplane AND a helicopter!  I presume they offer rides and tours of the area (or are very well-to-do Newfoundlanders).

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Further down the shore was this hangar for another seaplane (you can barely see a wing inside the hangar).

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The next shot is from a scenic look off which I had stopped at on my way east a few days earlier.  That photo had been taken in the morning, looking towards the sun.  The sun was now higher in the sky resulting in a much better photo.

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While I was in that overlook parking area I walked over to speak with the couple who were experiencing a delay in their travel plans.  A few miles back they had driven over a short bridge on the TCH, before and/or after which there is often a very rough bump (sometimes VERY rough).  Evidently it was enough to completely shear off the wheel studs on the back wheel of their big camper.  Help had already been summoned and before I left a young man arrived who thought he might actually be able to fix in on-site.  They were a  very nice older couple who live in Newfoundland, so at least they weren’t trying to catch a ferry – AND they had a place to stay!

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I stopped in Corner Brook to wash my car (Newfoundland wants to keep their dirt here  – seriously! – though I somehow doubt that the car wash I went to will separate the “wheat from the chaff” as it were and return the dirt to it’s rightful place…) and made it to St. Andrews with plenty of daylight remaining.  They even invited me to stay and join them for dinner!

They knew exactly where I was going to be staying that night and recommended that I drive all the east on that road until it ends at Rose Blanche, where I would find a lighthouse.  They also said it is a great road for photo ops, which another friend had also told me.  They were right!  I didn’t take many photos as it was shaded and starting to get dark, but I will return there on my next trip (probably early next year) and spend a whole day just going up and down that road.  There will be excellent morning and evening opportunities.  The landscape is amazing.

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Here is the lighthouse at Rose Blanche:

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Those were taken literally just 2 or 3 minutes before the sun was going to set.  I was going to come back early the next morning before checking in for the ferry but rain moved in overnight so I didn’t drive all the way back out.  I barely made it back to my Airbnb before it got dark.

 

 

North Sydney/Port aux Basques Ferry

August 4, 2019

Here are photos of the ship I rode on Saturday to sail from Port aux Basques, Newfoundland to North Sydney, Nova Scotia.  My seat was on Deck 9, the highest level passengers may go to indoors (and there is an open sun deck on top). I paid extra for a reserved leather recliner in a limited access area (next to window and with an electric outlet so I could use my laptop to draft posts to cut & paste into the blog – same thing I did coming north).

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My seat was right next to, but slightly above, the highest orange lifeboat (enclosed to protect riders from the cold water). I was on the opposite side of the ship and my seat was facing the back of the ship as we sailed.  When slightly standing I could see the top of the lifeboat but when fully seated I couldn’t.  The young man who had made my smoothie at the snack bar on our deck mid-afternoon told me that in the winter months they sometimes cancel the ferry if the seas are too rough (and this is a BIG ship).

A thunderstorm had just passed through Port aux Basques as we were leaving.  This was the view from my window as the ship began to move:

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And further out at we neared the open water:

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Here is a view of part of the private seating area from my seat:

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And out my window once we were at sea:

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Again, that orange lifeboat and white crane mechanism wasn’t visible if I was fully seated.

Once we were underway you could barely tell the ship was moving.  The ride was incredibly smooth, especially when we sailed north 10 days earlier, and Saturday the only time I really sensed movement was when I got up to walk.

Here is the view of the Leif Ericson, located at the next dock over when we arrived in North Sydney.  It is a slightly smaller ship and sails to Argentia, Newfoundland, which takes 16 hours.  The ticket costs more and many people book a stateroom (even more expensive) to sleep in while the ship sails.  The tradeoff is that Argentia is much closer to St. John’s, which is where most people want to go.  Those people have a choice – a less expensive and shorter boat ride but a 9 1/2 hour drive to St. John’s, or a more expensive boat trip and less driving time & distance.

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Going north my trip took 6 hours and coming back took 6 1/2.  Round trip cost $ 250 USD for me and my car.  The distance between the two towns is 114 miles.


Compare that with a ferry ride I took across Lake Michigan in the mid 80’s.  I had taken my mother and two younger brothers to central Wisconsin to visit my grandmother and aunt in the town where my father is buried (and now Mom, Grandma and Eileen are as well).  We drove out through Chicago, where I was born, but came back via ferry from Manitowoc, Wisconsin to Ludington, Michigan – a distance of about 60 miles, taking 4 hours.  Today it costs around $180 one way.  We made that crossing to visit a friend of ours, the guy that got me my first accounting job in Pennsylvania who, shortly after I started working, returned to Michigan with his wife and kids to be near his wife’s parents.

We sailed on an old, clunker, rustbucket workhorse of a ferry (ah, the memories…..) on what had to have been the highest waves on Lake Michigan EVER!

EVER!!!

Booooyyy was I sick!  I remember Dave was cooking BBQ chicken on the grill and I couldn’t possibly conceive putting anything in my mouth.  All I wanted to do was lie down and be quiet.

 

 

 

St. John’s area – Miscellaneous

August 1 & 2, 2019

Here are various things I saw while visiting the St. John’s area which I haven’t put in other posts.

This blue cargo ship was just arriving the first morning I went downtown:

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This big orange ship was already docked:

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Both of the ships above are short, snub-nosed cargo ships which, I presume, ferry small cube-shaped metal boxes to and from larger cargo ships which couldn’t fit in the harbor.  This is a model of one I saw in the Visitor Center downtown:

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And this is a large Coast Guard vessel, parked where the big orange ship had been the first day:

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This is one of the several Supreme Court buildings I saw while I was in St. John’s, which is the provincial capital of Newfoundland.

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I texted that photo to a friend in Durham shortly after I took it and was telling someone working in downtown St. John’s selling tickets for one of the Hop On/Hop Off transportation companies that I had to re-take it because there was too much street and not enough building.  Well, when I went back to do it again I learned that the photo I took was pretty much my only option since I was trying to fit the entire building, including the turret on the right, into the shot.  Here is the same building straight on from the front:

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Struggling with gift ideas to give someone or suggest for yourself?   How about this smart looking quilted vehicle cover…  It even has a screen sewn into the front panel so you can drive with it on and not overheat your motor!  Clever, indeed.  I bet it adds a lot of weight to the vehicle when it gets wet, though.

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Here are some pretty flowers I saw while taking pictures of some of the houses in town:

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This is the impressive Basilica of Saint John the Baptist, high up on a hill overlooking the city:

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The Railroad Museum on the south side of town:

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And this is a church I saw while descending the hill into town coming back from out at Cape Spear:

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A great name for a women’s lingerie shop:

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Oh look, people from Newfoundland & Labrador like to visit North Carolina, too!

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And finally, the view right before I turned off Torbay Road each night as I was going home.

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The second day I was downtown I had a problem with my digital camera while I was taking the shot of the big Coast Guard ship.  I went home to troubleshoot it on the computer and discovered that the tiny plastic slider on the SD card had come off and the card was “locked” so I couldn’t write picture to it.  The solution I found online (put a piece of tape over the empty space where the slider had been) didn’t work so I headed to Staples to buy a new card.  Evidently I’ll need to be more careful handling the card when I take it out every night to download the daily picture bounty to my laptop.

Also, I had discovered that I was putting way more miles on the car than I was expecting to during this trip and was due for an oil & filter change.  I saw a place on the way into town that provides that service and took the car in for the necessary maintenance.

Then I found a place which had all you can eat ribs (oh boy!!) and I enjoyed that for dinner, plus two beers (and entered a contest twice, once for each beer, from which I will be winning a nice barbecue grill courtesy of Labatt’s!).  This was at a chain called Montana’s and they were the best ribs I have had in a loooong time.  I really miss Oh! Brians.

 

 

Bell Island

August 1, 2019

Thursday was my first full day in St. John’s and I had a list of “touristy” things to see and do.  On that list was taking a ferry out to Bell Island, west of the upper right portion of the Avalon Peninsula where St. John’s is located.  From where I was staying in Torbay it was only a short drive to the ferry.  Many things downtown didn’t open until 10am or later so I decided to go out to the island first.  When I got to the ferry dock I could see that the island was socked in with fog.

I turned around and headed downtown to walk around until things there started to open, then up to Signal Hill, then out to Cape Spear (see separate posts for all three) and came back to give the island another try mid-afternoon.  By then it was clear and gorgeous so I took the 20 minute ride over on the ferry named Legionnaire.

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Legionnaire was different than the other ferries I had ridden so far, kind of a Mama Bear in that it was larger than the 12 and 18 open vehicle ferries I had ridden various places yet much smaller than the huge ferry I had taken from Nova Scotia up to Newfoundland (which had three parking levels, plus several passenger levels, thank you very much).  This one even had a platform that raised up in the air once cars were loaded on it so they could fit more underneath!

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Despite the relatively calm appearance of the water the ferry rocked back and forth from side to side during the trip, which I found rather unsettling. You’ll see evidence of that shortly.  Fortunately it was only a 20 minute ride.

This was as the ship was turning around after backing away from the dock (where it parks head-on for vehicles to drive on through the nose.  It then backs in to the dock on the other side and we drive off the back.)

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This is where we were going:

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And this is where we were coming from:

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Once I got out to the island I became very frustrated very quickly.  I hadn’t done much homework about the small island (my bad) other than knowing than that there was a lighthouse I wanted to see and a road that made an oval around the island.  I thought there might be good photo ops of the mainland as well.

There was no sign indicating where to go once I got off the ferry and I stopped at the Post Office to ask if there was somewhere I could get a map. The woman working there gave me the choice of two nearby places, one of which was closed (guess they weren’t selling many #2 Mine tours THAT day!) and the other was a dumpy little gift shop type place that wanted 2 bucks for a map of what was quickly, in my mind, becoming their silly little island.  I had already spent $10 for the ferry and paying more money for a map didn’t go over real well with me in this tourism driven area where things like that are generally free, so I stormed off in a huff and drove right back to the ferry dock to go back to the mainland.

I rode a different ferry back (two different ships go in opposite directions every half hour or so to allow time for loading and unloading) so going back east I was able to see Legionnaire in action.

Here were the waves hitting our ship almost sideways, causing it to rock back and forth. Note how the larger and more top-heavy Legionnaire is listing one way in the first photo and the other way in the second one.

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At least it was a nice day to be out on the water!

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Cape Spear

August 1, 2019

Thursday afternoon I drove out to Cape Spear, southeast of St. John’s.  It was a beautiful drive out and along the way I saw this gorgeous tree next to the road. I have no idea what it is.

UPDATE – I had no idea…  Now I do!! A good friend from back in Durham informed me that it is a False Acacia, which he learned from the lyrics of a beautiful song by an Argentinian folk singer.  My friend, who’s from Italy, is studying music and composes music.

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Once I made it out to the Cape (the easternmost point in North America) I enjoyed another twofer – there were two lighthouses, the current one which as you will see is still operational, and the original one, shorter but higher up on the hill, which has been recently restored.

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It took me a lot of tries to get the timing right and catch the green light.  Ah, the beauty of digital cameras where you can just click, click, click and then eliminate the bad shots.  That is one reason I take so many pictures in a day – many are duplicates to try and ensure I get a good one out of the bunch.

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While I was out there taking photos the big yellow Air & Sea Rescue helicopter I had seen up in Gander flew down the coast from the north and made a wide circle around the tall lighthouse (photobombing everyone taking selfies). It flew back north and made another orbit over the open water before flying away.

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Signal Hill in St. John’s, NL

August 1, 2019

 

Thursday morning I drove in to St. John’s, only about 8 miles from where I was staying in Torbay. After walking around town to get acquainted with the many restaurants and shops, and looking at some of the large boats in the harbor (including the blue one which was just arriving), I drove up to a large park called Signal Hill, high above the city. The structure at the top of the hill is Cabot Tower and is visible for miles away from town.

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As you would imagine, the view from atop the hill is spectacular.

This is looking down towards the downtown area and harbor:

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This is looking northwest, towards the airport and the town of Torbay where I was staying:

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I didn’t get a map of the park itself so I don’t know what all the various structures in the park are but you could see the lighthouse, way down close to the water:

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And a walking path which goes down to a huge rocky area, also close to the water:

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I didn’t go down to either one because I’d then have to come back UP.

Looking down towards the museum and Visitor Center (and the road I had driven up on) is an area where people were sitting on bleachers watching reenactments of various things. The people in period costumes (uniforms) would periodically fire off the big cannon or shoot their weapons (blanks, I’m sure).

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There was also an area where you could see cannons aligned to protect the harbor from intruders.

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And this was the “Powder Room,” I mean “Powder House,” where gunpowder was stored away from the main building:

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