Newfoundland was the last province to enter the Canadian Confederation. The island juts into the Atlantic on Canada's east, at approximately the same latitude as France. It is famous for rugged coastlines, a more rugged interior, icebergs, the wreck of the Titanic, strong tea, stronger rum, hardy cheerful residents, howling winds, lashing rainstorms, moose, big rocks, small rocks, rounded rocks, gravel, sand, sharp rocks, ledges and boulders.
There's a little bit of muddy soil and millions of trees strewn over the surface for visual variety.
The island is likely the first place that Europeans made landfall on the North American continent. An excavated Viking settlement at Anse Aux Meadows on the northern tip attests to this.
Newfoundland is no place for the weak or faint of heart. Simply getting there is a challenge. As it is an island, practically everything must arrive by sea. Four ferries serve Port Aux Basques on the southwest, with a seasonal ferry to Argentia on the southeast. Another ferry connects St. Barbe near the northwestern tip to Labrador. Our trip was nearly scuttled because one of the ferries struck a rock in the Port Aux Basques harbor in early August, sending it to dry-dock in Halifax and throwing the schedule into chaos. Freight has priority on the service. Tourists are a secondary concern.
If one wishes to avoid the ferries, one can fly into various places, but this is not practical for motorcyclists, nor is it particularly cheap. A quick search reveals that a trip from Montreal to the capital, St. Johns, will set one back about $550. There's no rental service on Newfoundland, anyway, so if you want to ride, you have to come ready. The nearest motorcycle rental is outside Halifax, NS, and costs at minimum $150 per day.
I began planning a trip to The Rock nearly a year ago. Although I habitually travel solo, it seemed the better part of wisdom to put a group together for safety and mutual support. It was a good decision.
Initially, it appeared that eight riders would participate. Unfortunately, one broke a leg, another suffered from an injured wrist, and various others had to drop out for scheduling reasons. On the evening of August 18, the following riders met at the ferry dock on North Sydney, Nova Scotia:
Applicant_255, or Adam.
If you were casting a cowboy film, Adam would probably be known as "Slim." From New Brunswick, Canada, Adam is an accomplished rider, a talented photographer, and wastes few words. Although he was riding the heaviest bike, his polished riding skills took him up the roughest trails without a single bike nap. Not so for the rest of us.
AtlasEXP, or Anton
Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Anton is cheerfully vulgar, funny, and generous. If you are down in a mud hole, he's the first off his bike to help. His panniers hold a bewildering assortment of hatchets, saws, shovels and other technical gear. For Anton, there is no such thing as a small camp fire. He's a skilled wilderness mechanic. He rides hard, sleeps instantly, and is usually the last to be ready to go in the morning. Packing all that equipment takes time.
8GV, or Rich
From Connecticut, Rich is a pilot and entrepreneur, an inveterate consumer of junk food and fried clams, and often the voice of reason. He's a Swedish sex bomb. For some reason the ladies seem naturally attracted to him. While we were hunkered down for lunch one day, a particularly fine young lady walked over to our group and engaged Rich in conversation for a full 20 minutes, ignoring the rest of us. Us byse felt entirely left out and a bit sullen. Sadly we couldn't find any Icy-Hot to smear in the liner of his sleeping bag that evening.
Canuman, or Tim
Your humble narrator, from Vermont. Route planner, navigator, and documentarian. Thought by some to be a general know-it-all and a PITA. I'm glad that the rest of these guys had the patience and good humor to put up with me for a week. The photo is from another inmate on my RedNEK Rendezvous ride, as I rarely take pictures of myself.
This is a representation of our route. We stuck to the western portion of the island, and planned days from 150 to 200 miles. Although these may seem to be very short segments, it was at times difficult to even make the goal of 150. Conditions on The Rock are all-on.
And so it begins.
Men, hurrah for our own native Isle, Newfoundland,
Not a stranger shall hold one inch of her strand;
Her face turns to Britain, her Back to the Gulf,
Come near at your peril, Canadian Wolf!
From the Anti-Confederation movement, first penned in 1869 and revived in 1947-1949
A recent edit (Jan 9, 2014): As with many ride reports, this one comes with some meat and quite a lot of friendly banter. If you have the stomach to filter out the banter, you'll be rewarded with some world-class photography by other riders on pages 16 and 17. The saga continues.