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Old 10-22-2013, 07:11 PM   #31
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Old 10-25-2013, 07:51 AM   #32
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Riding in the clouds!

And we're back by popular demand ;). Too many photos, as usual, but what can I do, the landscapes there are so wonderful.



After three days of glorious sunny weather, the infamous Newfoundland rain and fog caught up with us. We woke up to a gloomy, wet morning, just as forecasted. Weather can be unpredictable near the coast, but for the time being it seems a large cloud descended over Gros Morne park and was here to stay for a while.

First things first, Sunbandit came out for some quick grocery shopping, since we did not have time to replenish our supplies the night before (FYI: there are no 24 hour grocery stores in Rocky Harbour). Having purchased some fresh bread and eggs for breakfast, he tried to convince Earle to send us a parcel of his moose meat, since we could not really carry too much on the bikes. Earle did not trust the postal service to handle the jars carefully enough and declined ;). After breakfast we decided to stay in for a while, and made a few phone calls to arrange for tire change on both our bikes in St. John's. Honda One in Mount Pearl promised to have them ready and reserved us a service spot.

The tires on the SV650 were getting worn to the wear bars and gaining the texture of an alligator’s tail:



But they will still need to last until St. John’s. ;) With that out of the way we headed out towards the Tablelands.


View from hwy 430 on the way to the Tablelands














There are quite a few lookout points along the highway, offering views such as thing.




It's always fun to pass a huge truck, stop to take pictures, watch it swoosh by, and know that in a few minutes you'll have to pass it again. On a wet curved road, no less.













The winds were high and the clouds numerous. Both the sky and the land were enveloped in mist, the landscape looked quite different from the previous few days. The main highway, 430 is all curvy in its Gros Morne section, with limited visibility, but the 431 that leads through the Tablelands has a long straight stretch that seems to reach into infinity. With the weather reaching for its local minimum, constant drizzle and lower temperatures, the area was almost empty, barely any vehicles on the road.




Views from 431

We stopped at the top of a small hill on the road, with long stretches of it visible in either direction and took a few photos. It felt a bit surreal to be there at that time, so empty and alone, as if we had the road all to ourselves. To the south, the bare brown earth of the Tablelands seemed alien. To the north, the lush green hills were the exact opposite. The rain and remaining snow meltwater was gushing from the hills into numerous streams, feeding creeks and ponds in the lowlands. The long slab of pavement separated the two sides in both literal and metaphorical ways. As we rode, we went in and out of the fog several times. It felt as if we were riding through the clouds on an alien planet.


The brown Tablelands with their soft cloud covers


The green slopes just opposite the Tablelands















Eventually the fog got thicker and condensed into constant rain. We got to Trout River, a tiny village at the end of highway 431, which faces the St. Lawrence Gulf on one side, and Trout River Pond on the other. The fog and rain felt somehow natural there, they did not detract from the quiet town at all. Everyone was going along their business, grocery shopping, out boating, chilling on porches, one of the kids was dirt biking around the town. It was perfectly fine weather for locals, although the tourists were notably absent. We went towards the pond and the dock to get some photos. The eponymous pond runs along the southern boundary of the Tablelands, so boat tours and hiking must be very beautiful there. Despite that, no one was out there having fun in the rain. I have already seen the effects of prolonged exposure to the elements on camera equipment, so the amount of photos we took was a little limited.


The village of Trout River




Trout River


Where Trout River Pond becomes a river




Trout River Pond







With no end in sight for the rainfall, we headed back to the cabin to dry up, warm up, and have lunch. We did not have high hopes for the remainder of the day, but surprisingly enough, the sky cleared out to the beautiful deep blue. We fried some potatoes for lunch and decided to enjoy the improved weather.


Rocky Harbour in the afternoon sun





Without any motorcycle gear we headed to the south end of the town on foot, towards the pier. This was our last evening in Rocky Harbour and it was great having a beautiful sunset for it. The ever evolving mix of golden, pink and purple was splendid over the town and surrounding landscape. We stayed out on the windy pier all the way until nightfall, enjoying the changing light and clouds over the Long Range Mountains and the sea.


Sunset in Rocky Harbour


Barn at the south end of the town






Lobster Cove Lighthouse




Sunset light display over Rocky Harbour




The pier with the lighthouse far in the distance




The red balls and the silver boat, as seen in purple light




A full rainbow of colours in the western skies as the sun hides behind the think clouds near horizon. You can barely make out the lighthouse light on the right.


Office.
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Old 10-26-2013, 08:51 AM   #33
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We brought some moose meat back home and it spilled out of the seal. I think the pressure on the airplane messed it up. Still not sure if I should eat it 4 months later. Love the pics! I'm seeing all these places that we were at as well.
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Old 10-26-2013, 08:57 AM   #34
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next best thing

Thank you for sharing your words and pictures - beautiful country, captured so aptly. This goes on the 'must ride' list.

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Old 10-27-2013, 07:11 PM   #35
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What kind of gear were you guys wearing? How did it hold up in the cold wet rain?
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Old 10-27-2013, 07:37 PM   #36
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What a great trip report. Thanks for sharing!

The pictures brought back so many good memories for me. I lived in Quebec for two years after high school. Then, I moved to New Jersey for 13 years. During that time I would frequently explore the Maritimes. I've been all over Quebec, as well as all the way around the Gaspe Peninsula. I've also explored New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI.

Seeing your pics made me feel like I was at "home" again.

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Old 11-03-2013, 11:12 AM   #37
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What kind of gear were you guys wearing? How did it hold up in the cold wet rain?
Each had waterproof pants and a jacket over jeans and a mesh riding jacket. It was warm enough for the summer. Sometimes we put the rain gear on just for wind protection on colder days, even if it was not raining. His jacket was a BMW made one, mine and both our pants were just generic lightweight rain gear from MEC - packs reasonably small. I might reuse the same pants in the winter as over pants for snowboarding. Two sets of gloves - mesh and warmer waterproof ones. BMW Allround boots for both of us, they took a beating on the hikes but stayed comfortable throughout all the temperature ranges.

It's a bit of a challenge to get a good seal between the jacket and the glove and the first few times I didn't do it right and water seeped in that way :(

I've been away the last week but now on my way home, will soon post another day's update AND will be working on another trip report (this time something nice and warm)! It's 30° where I am now and I hate the thought of Toronto's balmy 0°. People here put on sweaters when it's 27° 'cause it's cold, oh well.
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Old 11-04-2013, 09:53 PM   #38
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Wicked Beyond Expectations - Newfoundland T'Railway



One of the things that was on our to-do list while in Newfoundland was the T'Railway. Before the Trans Canada Highway linked St. John's to Port aux Basques and everything in between, the island's transportation relied on a railway, which was in operation for some long 90 years - from 1898 to 1988. As the paved highway replaced the railroad, the latter was disassembled and converted into a multi-use recreational trail, a provincial park to be precise. How nuts you have to be to attempt to go for it on a motorcycle is up for debate. Previous accounts of such adventurous trail riding included everything from plain gravel roads to knee deep water crossings with rocks the size of microwave ovens thrown in for good measure. What can one possibly expect with something like this?

The trail follows the highway fairly closely on the stretch between Port aux Basques and Deer Lake, and also does not veer too much between Gander and St. John's. With that in mind we thought that it would maximize the amount of fun to be had if we start at Deer Lake and head east by the trail from there. The further you are from the civilization, the less likely things are to seem familiar. And new is always better*. (* - some conditions apply.)




Looking south on highway 430, Gros Morne National Park

The day was cloudy, but the chances of rain were not too high. We said good bye to Gros Morne and headed south on 430 to Deer Lake. There we fuelled up, filled up a couple of small extra fuel canisters and got a few extra bottles of water. In the grand scheme of things, even though it was not going to be as remote as the middle of the Sahara desert, extra fuel and water never hurts. With the help of the GPS tracks other riders made available online (http://graveltravel.ca), we quickly found the trail and headed out, with the intention of making it to Grand Falls-Windsor by evening.



The trail greeted us with some large puddles every few metres. Fortunately, there hasn't been too much rain lately, or they could turn into full blown ponds. Excess water on the trail was my biggest concern. Newfoundland and rain go very much hand in hand, and you never know how much of the rainwater could stay in the numerous creeks and flood our passage. I did not want to get so deep into it that my waterproof boots would fill up from the top ;). This turned out to not be a problem, there was hardly anything bigger than just puddles. We figured you can cross those slowly on the edge, where the water is shallow or absent, but eventually I got more confident and just headed straight through the middle, picking up huge waves and having way more fun than I anticipated.


Views from the trail near Deer Lake


Lots of bridges on the trail!

We travelled at an average speed of 20-25km/h, which was unreasonably slow for the distance we planned to cover, but we hoped things would speed up as we got used to it. Then about 7km in we found our true nemesis - deep loose large sized gravel. This stuff is worse to ride in than sand. It's indescribable, but pictures tell some of the story. The SV650 took it a little too fast and slid to the side. That's what you get for having all that "power", laughed my 250cc engine.

After picking up the bike we found no major damage to fairings, lights or the rider, but the chain was kind of loose. In fact, it was off the sprocket. Make that two, it was off both sprockets. In preparation for the trip we carefully compiled a toolbox with stuff we might need to fix things on the road. Did we have the right sized socket to take off the front sprocket cover and put the chain back on? Yes. Did it fit into the narrow recess that separated one of the bolts from the outside world? No!


Slipping the chain onto the rear sprocket was easy... but not sufficient to get it going

After mucking around a bit, trying to put the chain on without taking the cover off, we decided that I would make a run back to Deer Lake and get the required tools. Thankfully there was an alternative road that intersected the trail just 50m from the incident site and lead all the way back into town. It was unpaved, but in much better condition than the trail we were on.

Just as I was putting my helmet on, we saw an ATV approach on that side road and flagged it down hoping he had an 8mm socket in a 1/4" drive (the nerve!). The man was not excited to travel in that fun gravel towards us and ultimately couldn't help us because he left his own tools at home and had nothing like that. He barely made it out of there himself after making an 8 point turn to head back to the side road. So off I went, back to Deer Lake.

The road was beautiful! It ran along a large water reservoir and was framed in typical Newfie purple and white wildflowers. On the T'Railway I was so involved in watching the road, I was barely looking around, but this ride could actually be enjoyed for the scenery.


Side road back to Deer Lake

In the meantime, Sunbandit pushed his bike to that road, and when I got back with the tools, we got on to fixing the bike. It took a while, and the local flies were trying to eat us in the process, but eventually we fixed the chain and put everything back as it was.


With all the necessary tools, it was only a matter of time before we could go on

Here I want to thank Bell Canada for making sure we had excellent data coverage throughout the trip. I don't think I ever saw my phone display the dreaded "No Service" message to me. The chain repair would not be possible without some very helpful Youtube videos on the subject , and accessing those videos would not be possible without a data connection. It took us a good 3 hours, including the head scratching and the extra trip to the parts shop, but we managed to do it, it actually worked and did not implode when test riding it. True story.


Up and running, back to the highway


Hard packed dirt - easy!







Seeing how we did not want to repeat the repair process again or gamble with a new issue on that stretch of the trail, we decided to stay off the T'Railway and head to our destination by the Trans Canada Highway. We made our way back to Deer Lake by the newly found easier road and continued casually on the highway. We could check out the coastal communities north of the highway with all the extra time we now have, says I. Ok, but there is this other entrance point to T'Railway from another town an hour out of Deer Lake, says he... You can see where this is going.

We turned off the TCH to highway 401 and found our trail in a village of Howley. This time there would be a stretch of about 100km before the trail meets another road. We took a look at it, and the thing appeared much better than the crash site at Deer Lake, so we proceeded. We got much better speed this time, around 40km/h average. This might just work out.



Back on the trail, back to the numerous bridges





This time we even stopped several times for photos. The landscape was very beautiful, and for much of the path it was fairly open and unobstructed. There was an occasional drizzle, but not enough to bother putting on rain jackets, which was great. The gravel was alternating between better and worse. The potholes, sometimes with water, sometimes dry were sprinkled liberally throughout, and worst of all, a huge section in the middle of the trail had a sort of "median" track divider made of loose medium sized gravel, which turned the fairly wide trail into two single tracks side by side. Switching between the two tracks was tricky, but sometimes had to be done to avoid particularly nasty obstacles. It was tricky enough that I dropped my bike a couple of times, but all of those were at low speed (and once when I was stopped to take a picture), so there was barely a scratch on the bike to show for it. Nothing that needed road side repair, so I rate that as a glowing success.


An old train car converted into a seasonal residence - with satellite TV and a terrace!





Somewhere in the middle of it all, there was a sign that said something about motorcycle being prohibited, and violators facing fines and prosecution. Too late.

It was by no means easy. In fact, it felt pretty damn challenging. But somehow, a certain amount of survival instinct kicked in and I just kept going. Somewhere in that middle of nowhere, bouncing up and down on my not-quite-optimal suspension and just trying to keep everything straight and loose and together, it occurred to me that there is probably nothing I can't do. Aside from the physically impossible things, like travelling back in time, there is not much a person cannot do if they only give it a shot. Sure, if you think hard enough you can probably come up with something you cannot do, but 99.9% of the time, the things we think are too hard or impossible are completely doable. 99.9% of the things we regularly come up with and dismiss are actually obtainable, they are just not easy. Those were the things running through my mind as I was dodging cantaloup-sized rocks, running through the middle of puddles, and looking in my mirrors checking if my luggage fell off.







The drizzle was making the rocks slippery, but at least it was no downpour. We should give a special sacrifice to the Viking gods for that. The scenery was very beautiful and quite unlike anything we saw on the Viking trail or in Gros Morne. Rivers, lakes, wooden bridges (in very good condition, especially compared to the road surface), meadows, marshes, big boulders scattered around the grass, a couple of rocky low mountains.














If you wander why so many photos feature bridges, it's because these smooth wooden bridges are much easier to stop on than the gravel before and after.



We eventually made it to Millertown Junction, a tiny settlement on the trail that did not look particularly inhabited. There we switched to another unpaved road, which, according to Google Maps, led to the highway. It was a shorter path that led to Badger, a town 30km away from Grand Falls-Windsor, but I'm pretty sure we travelled through the best parts of the T'Railway already, so I didn't mind dropping out early. It was hard packed dirt, much easier to handle.



On one of the hills we were coming up and saw a moose coming down on our side but in the opposite direction. There was a guy on an ATV with a big grin on his face slowly following it down and enjoying the lack of creativity the moose employed in getting away. Sunbandit was not in the mood to play chicken with a moose so he honked, the moose woke up from its trans, and went off into the bushes. The guy on the ATV proceeded to head in our direction and his wide moustache covered grin didn't change as he greeted us. All signs of civilization approaching.


Actual GPS recorded route. Note the overlapping back and forth trips near Deer Lake ;)


And then there it was - a paved highway 370, with 15km to go till the town of Badger, which is located right on the TCH. A high five and a nervous salutary scream later, we were on our last stretch.

We stopped at the gas station on the TCH in Badger to cool off and then headed to our hotel, which was conveniently just off the highway in Grand Falls-Windsor. More importantly, it had an onsite restaurant where we had a celebratory dinner highlighted by Twillingate blueberry blended wine. Oh well, who am I kidding - after skipping lunch, the real highlight was the pork tenderloin, not the wine ;) Off to sleep in a large soft bed, it was a day we will not soon forget.



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Old 11-08-2013, 07:28 PM   #39
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That last picture is a perfect end to your day.....Tired, happy, drinking, eating........adventurer. Love the photos...thanks for the stories.
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Old 11-09-2013, 06:04 AM   #40
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Stunning photographs. You have your 250 really nicely set up.

The mirrors on the SV look like they are adjustable for length? Is that correct and do you know what they are?

Cheers, Andy
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Old 11-09-2013, 06:18 AM   #41
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Stunning photographs. You have your 250 really nicely set up.

The mirrors on the SV look like they are adjustable for length? Is that correct and do you know what they are?

Cheers, Andy
The mirrors on the SV are Ducati Viper. They could be adjusted for length, but he always has them at their longest.
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Old 11-09-2013, 05:36 PM   #42
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Wicked North Coast at Last: Twillingate


Twillingate Lighthouse

This morning no one brought up the idea of taking T'Railway further. Even though from here on the trail passes through towns all the way to St. John's, we thought there way just no point. Perhaps it was finally time to explore the coastal villages of the northern shores.

Before leaving we cleaned our bike chains and did an overall inspection of the bikes. That's when I noticed that while my luggage rack was still hanging, it was hanging by one less screw than originally intended, and the rear bracket containing 3 of the 5 screws holding it in was cracked completely between two of the screws. I decided from now on not to tempt fate and avoid large potholes, especially at speed. And no gravel, either. So we headed up to Twillingate and decided to check that area out before rejoining the TCH near Gander and heading for Clarenville, our planned stop for the next night.

This area was different from both the west coast and the interior we saw along the trail. The first curiosity we stumbled upon was this odd location in the community of Campbellton, the original purpose of which is not quite clear to me.


Notice several odd objects in the background - was it for moonshine production?


There was a couple of these huge sections of concrete pipes there. One was all open and filled with empty beer bottles and other trash, the other was locked. We knocked, no one answered.








No idea what this is, but it's RED and looks awesome!





Now I know what's been missing in my life: a success grinder!


The whole place was overgrown with knee-high grasses





There were inhabited houses right across the road




Road 340 towards Twillingate passes through several islands over numerous causeways. The scenery was very interesting passing near Boyd's Cove, with lots of yellow flora in the water.





This style of stabilizing the electrical poles with a pile of rocks is used throughout Newfoundland.







Then there is the obligatory photo of the Dildo Run Provincial Park sign.


Further research suggests that great views can be found inside the park, but it's always the issue of so much to see, so little time.

It got colder passing near the ocean along all the small islands. I put my rain gear on for wind protection. Sunbandit decided it was warm enough for the mesh jacket alone and long story short, in Newfoundland you better put your rain gear on sooner rather than later, especially if it's cloudy. Not surprisingly, it soon started to rain.


Outskirts of Twillingate





Cleaning fish in Twillingate







Our breakfast consisted of cold leftover moose meat we originally bought in Rocky Harbour, and by the time we got to Twillingate, it was way overdue for lunch. Sophisticated travellers that we are, we were intent on picking a well recommended location for lunch. There were a couple of them we considered, but the unfortunate truth is that we could not find them despite there being only one main road in the whole town. The rain kept drizzling, Sunbandit kept getting soaked, the GPS kept playing tricks on us.


That's the road the trusty Garmin told us to take back to town when we strayed too far. It was in "car" mode.


Although not drivable, it's a rather pretty trail, with great views.


View from the top of the trail back towards the road.




Even after taking an alternative route we still could not find the restaurants we were looking for. Twillingate was very busy in general, full of slow moving cars, probably all tourists with a very faint idea of where they were headed (just like us). It was raining harder. Having soaked halfway through we stopped at J & J Fish Market for lunch. The place was right on the road and quite impossible to miss when you enter the town, so we decided to give it a try. Can't say it was bad, but after all the time spent eating seafood in the Maritimes and Newfoundland, it takes more to get impressed. Fortunately, the rain took a break as we came back on the road, so we spent a bit of time in the town taking photos. This time Sunbandit decided to play it safe and put his red rain jacket to some good use.


Making the lobster pose














A patch of blue sky - a false hope for sun


Fishing houses in Twillingate







We stopped at a souvenir shop and after long deliberations, picked up a pair of embroidered T-shirts. Made in Nicaragua. This really sometimes depresses me, but what can you do? The only place I visited where the souvenirs were actually made in the same country was Greece. You can also find some "Made in USA" goods in the States, but they will make sure to mark them prominently and charge you extra for the privilege, so it feels like an exception rather than a rule. I wonder what I will see in souvenir shops if I go to Nicaragua? Made in Canada, perhaps, part of a cultural exchange program :)


Steep cliffs near Twillingate

The last item on today's to-go-before-dark list was the lighthouse, in Crow Head, just north of Twillingate. It's a rather uniquely designed structure, surrounded by a large hiking area with tons of great views of the steep cliffs, small islands and the ocean. It's a popular spot for iceberg watching, but the season for that ends in June, and this was almost August.




















Not a good spot for cliff diving





Hiking trails around the area are quite extensive

As we headed out we spotted a few of Twillingate's many root cellars. They are dug into the sides of the hills and often are quite subtle. There are supposed to be over 200 of them all over the village, but you will not find them unless you look very carefully.


Root cellar, Twillingate

As we headed south towards the Trans Canada Highway the rain restarted. We stopped only once when we saw a creepy house. It may have been a church in its previous life, but looked abandoned. The crooked top of the red tower made it look like a witch's hat.



Rain was going on and off, and the light was rapidly decreasing. As we were riding through Terra Nova National Park, it was getting into the nighttime territory, and by the time we got to Clarenville, it was way past closing time for any decent restaurant (in other words, no dinner tonight). We stayed in a cute B&B and the hostess was apparently worried as to our whereabouts. I left only my home phone when booking, so when she called, all she got was the answering machine. She promised french waffles for breakfast and with that thought we called it a night.
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Old 12-02-2013, 05:07 PM   #43
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Bonavista Peninsula to St. John's

It's been a while since the last update, but I still hope to finish it all up before Christmas.



The B&B we stayed in Clarenville had a very small room for us, but it was enough to fit our stuff, and the bed was probably the most comfortable of all that we had slept on so far. As for the French waffles, there was that and much more waiting for us in the dining room. Aside from preparing a thorough breakfast, our hostess felt it was her obligation to make sure we were headed in the right direction today. She mapped out a route around the area that would pass through many of the interesting places in Bonavista peninsula, as well as suggestions for lunch, and finally a suggestion for a small fishing village that we would probably not visit that day, but perhaps on the way back from St. John's. Aside from all that, I had another spot in mind: Elliston, where you can observe Atlantic puffins from land.

Last night's rain got through to Sunbandit's mic and made it for the most part unusable. That left me in a radio DJ mode - I can talk, but would not get a response from my attentive audience. It would take a couple more rainfalls for us to figure out that a solution to this problem is simply to dry out the mic, and if natural forces are not able to do so in time, a hair dryer might.


A side road leading someplace unmarked on our maps. We stopped for some photos, but eventually turned around to continue to our planned destinations.


Pitcher plants


Lily pond




A tiny fur tree





Riding near Clarenville on highway 230a around the pond was quite scenic but after a while you get used to it and it becomes normal. We passed an Esso gas station with a old style oval sign and were wondering if we'd stop here to gas up later on our way back to TCH. But our first stop was not a gas station, it was the village of Elliston. There was nothing upon entering to tell you about the puffins, but knowing about them in advance, we stopped at the visitor centre and asked for more specific directions to the puffin viewing site. I suppose if it wasn't for the birds, they would not have that visitor centre in the first place.


In the village of Elliston


View of Elliston


The surrounding waters are full of small islands that serve as nesting grounds for a variety of sea birds.


These are not puffins, these are terns







Once we got to the parking area, Sunbandit was a bit concerned about leaving our helmets unlocked with the bikes (the comms units stick out in just the wrong place and prevent them from fitting into the locks). I was so confident with Newfie hospitality (and visitors' honesty), I actually managed to talk him out of lugging those helmets with us. A short hike took us to the edge of the cliff separating the birds' nesting grounds from the mainland. They nest on a small island which is only about 20m or so from mainland. What followed can be briefly described as an hour of surprising relaxation as we sat there on the grass and just watched them go about their lives.


Watching the puffins. This is why we brought binoculars, and it was definitely worth it.


Black Guillemots


Puffins, they are social creatures


There was a lot of taking off and landing happening.


These birds are built for swimming and diving, they look very awkward on land. They excel at high speed dives from the air, but are quite clumsy at descending on dry land, and walking on it.


Coming in with the catch for the chick.


View of the nearby islands (glorified rocks in the water) from the mainland.


Notice the seagulls. They spread out throughout the island and try to intercept the fish that the puffins bring to feed their chicks. There was a moment when I saw a couple of puffins trying to push a seagull out. One puffin made a head gesture to the other puffins to approach the seagulls and the other one proceeded a little but then took a good look at the seagull and shook its head and went back inside the hole. The puffins are strong in numbers, but the seagulls are still significantly larger birds.


A puffin guards the entrance to its nest as its partner goes in to check on the young.


The further they are from land, the more graceful they look.


A large number of puffins are chilling in the water. When the breeding season is over, they stay in the water for months at a time, only coming back to land to build nests and lay eggs.




Panoramic view of the observation area and the puffin island.

While we sat there looking at puffins the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm. So sunny in fact, I think I was about to have a mild heat stroke. Yet in the distance we could see fog and darker clouds looming in, so we figured we better keep going before the weather turns for the worse and cuts our sightseeing short.


There are many different seabirds in Newfoundland. These remain unidentified by me as of yet.


Fog over Elliston.




The trail back


I think everyone that comes here takes a photo in this cool chair.



Next stop: cape Bonavista. The local landmark is a historic lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula. As is true of many places, the way towards it was more fun than the thing itself. The sunny skies followed us to the lighthouse and made the surrounding landscapes appear very bright and joyful. The lighthouse itself is very unique, painted in thick white and red stripes. Many existing photos show it in a bright and shiny state, but when we came to it, it was clearly way overdue for a fresh paint job. The weathered paint was sad to look at, and as we later found out, it was a common case of government budget mismanagement.


Views along Cape Shore Road, leading to Bonavista Lighthouse


The shores off Bonavista Peninsula






Bonavista Lighthouse. It has had better days.

We heard a fog horn and realized that the scenic part of the trip was probably over for the day, as the weather was getting poorer and visibility lower. At the suggestion of our Clarenville hostess, we went looking for the Bonavista Social Club for lunch. Unlike most well regarded city-based establishments, this one was not in the middle of it all nor easy to find. It's located in a little cove off a tertiary road, but apparently its reputation is high enough that you better book ahead for dinner - people come from all over the area. It started raining as we were still looking for the right road to turn on, but once we got there, the skies temporarily cleared up and allowed us to enjoy a great meal on their outdoor patio. The patio overlooks the shore of the cove, a vegetable garden and a field with a small herd of goats. At one point someone's dog got loose and started chasing the goats around the field. It was fun watching two grown men run around in circles trying to catch that dog :).


The last minutes of fair weather in Cape Bonavista.


Onwards and upwards!




Gloomier skies in the town of Bonavista.


You can see the modern light station on the right. These have effectively replaced the historical lighthouses on the island, and most of the world for that matter. The numerous picturesque lighthouses only serve as historic landmarks and tourist attractions, not for marine navigation.


Ready to indulge in fresh pizza.


Amherst Cove


The Bonavista Social Club

If we wanted to make it to St. John's before sunset, we needed to get going. There was hope that we would beat the rain, but it seems we simply went from one cloud to another. Strong winds, thick fog and hard rain - all the principal components of Newfoundland climate. Keep your visor closed and you will hardly be able to see with all the water drops and condensation. Open it up and get the painful lashes of rain against your face (cold rain does not feel good on your skin at 100km/h). As we entered the Avalon peninsula, the fog became extremely thick, with visibility dropping to less than 10 meters. We reduced the speed and tried to keep together, mindful of a long train of cars that were piling up behind us. Nobody wanted to go particularly fast with such dense fog all around you. If you looked to the side, you could not really see anything past the highway. Only a couple of times the fog cleared up a little bit and we could see glimpses of the beautiful landscapes it was hiding. It's a shame, as on a clear day you could see many ponds and even sea shore from the elevated vantage points of the highway.

It all cleared up as we got close to St. John's, and after we finally got to the city we parked our bikes and headed out for a walk around downtown. It felt like a city, which I kind of missed after all this time spent in small villages and on the road. Despite all the dining and partying opportunities, we decided to retire early, but not before stopping to admire the large ships docked in the old harbour.


Sticking around in St. John's


Lots of huge ships from all over the world in the harbour


Downtown St. John's

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Old 12-02-2013, 07:40 PM   #44
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Old 12-12-2013, 04:29 PM   #45
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Wicked Rainy day in St. John's


The rolling streets of downtown St. John's

Our morning in St. John's started with a breakfast together with some of the other guests of the B&B we stayed at. It was interesting to talk about all sorts of random things while the breakfast was prepared, and this morning we were treated to some insights into shipbuilding. It was looking gloomy outside, but we still decided to get out of the city and check out Cape Spear.

We made a few calls first to arrange boat tours for next day and to confirm our tire change appointment, and then headed out. Cape Spear is advertised as the easternmost point of North America, though I find most claims of this nature to be fuzzy at best. If we are not sticking to the requirement for the point to be part of the continental mainland, then why are we ignoring Greenland?


Road to Cape Spear, with the two lighthouses barely visible on the horizon: new one to the left of me, old one slightly to the right.

After getting to the cape, the gloomy weather became rainy weather and turned on my moody mode. We sat on the rocks not too far from the cliffs and looked out into the ocean. From here on it really is open ocean with no land for a long while. The fog over the water covered up whatever we would otherwise see, and we had to entertain ourselves watching a huge tanker which for some reason was stuck just off the shore.


View near Cape Spear

When the rain got stronger, we went inside the souvenir shop to avoid soaking through. There was nothing terribly interesting there, with the exception of a large model of the Fresnel lens. The small shop was stuffed with people looking to escape from the rain, and it soon got way too hot and crowded. We went outside and decided to visit the nearby lighthouse museum.

It was right across from the souvenir shop, but its modest appearance did not attract any attention so it was free of any other visitors. This museum showcased paintings of over 80 of Newfoundland's historic lighthouses, created by a single artist over the course of over two years. It had everything from the famous lighthouses like Twillingate and Bonavista to less known towers on the small islands off the shore of Newfoundland. It was run by the Coast Guard and soon after coming in, we were greeted by a retired guard who talked at length about the origins of this collection, lighthouses and Newfoundland life in general. The diversity of architectural styles present in all these lighthouses was astonishing, tall and short, round and square (and polygon), bare brick walls, a variety of paint colours and patterns... It was definitely worth checking out.

Rain kept drizzling, so we decided to head back to the city and have lunch. We parked the bikes near our B&B, changed into more street appropriate clothing and headed out by foot. We set to try a well recommended spot on Water St called The Rocket. It is a quintessential urban food joint. Kind of hipster, opens early and closes late, pretty interior and very good food, including desserts.


Manhole cover in St. John's


They were closed, all out of sausage.


One thing about St. John's: it's not very flat, it's got slants in all directions.


Cat and beer, what more can a soul desire?

After lunch we circled around the downtown block looking for odd things and as the drizzle intensified, headed back for a cat nap. Woke up just in time for sunset and decided to take a ride in the city. It has been a long while since we've been out riding in a city at night, and it felt not entirely unlike Toronto, except way smaller ;). After a few minutes we ended up in the Battery, an area at the edge of the city with great view of the harbour and lots of steep inclines and hairpin turns. It was very quiet and beautiful there, so we spent some time taking photos of the night harbour and taking in the atmosphere.


St. John's port




Views from the Battery




Looking out towards the Narrows - a treacherous exit from St. John's harbour.







Next up: Signal Hill. The view of the night city from there is one of the best, contrasted by the total darkness on the opposite side - the ocean.


Looking over the city from Signal Hill

It was relatively busy at Signal Hill, so we went back towards the city and stopped near the port entrance on Harbour Drive. "Marsec Level 1" was prominently displayed there, and the security guard on duty came out of his booth and chatted with us for a while. Like some other Newfies we've talked to, this guy spent a few years working in Ontario before coming back to Newfoundland. He mentioned it's very common for people here, as work can be hard to find locally.


At the port entrance

As we came back to our B&B it was very quiet and empty, so we decided to make a little bit of noise by preparing fresh tea and sipping in on the sofa in the lounge. We did not turn on any lights so the room was only lit up by whatever light was coming from the street. There was a large painting on the wall that matched a smaller photograph on the table. It was a portrait of a person that looked strangely genderless, except for the thin pearl necklace that we did not notice right away, which pointed to it being a girl. It was a bit creepy being watched by two copies of that portrait on either side of the sofa, but I suppose whoever decorated this place, was going for that effect. Case in point: our room featured a reproduction of The Lady of Shalott, not exactly a joyful piece of art.


Our bikes parked in a quiet courtyard at the back of the B&B. If you want to stay in the city, you definitely need to make sure you have access to safe parking as few places in downtown core offer it.

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