Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mapalicious

This is how far I've come in the world and how far I've yet to go. 


So many questions


Truck drivers must be the most inquisitive people.
Why?
I’ve spent the past five days on the road, travelled 3105km, and I have questions, so many questions.
For instance:

1) How much does it cost to adopt a highway but more importantly do they send you letters every Christmas or on their birthday?
2) If you adopt it a highway, are you allowed to give it a new name? (I’d like to call Highway 11, Gary)
3) Who numbers all the highways and by-ways? What system do they use? Are they on LSD when they do it?
4) If you rent billboards along the road, is it illegal to plaster them with random remarks? I’d like take a short-term lease on signs and plaster them with words like “GIRAFFE” or “TRAPEZOID” or statements like “Paranoid? I think someone’s following you” or “Jesus Saves! It’s going to overtime”
5) Shouldn’t towns be held accountable if their slogans are erroneous? Chalk Village claims that it’s the “the village that cares” but what if it doesn’t? What if its residents go through a period of apathy?

Conversations from the Mazda


There are times when clich├ęs need to be rewritten.
For instance, the adage you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink should, for this trip, be updated to: you can lead a cat to a litter tray but you can’t make it poop.
It's impossible.
At least you can drown the horse but what can you do with the cat? Shower it in chunks of deodorized and bacterial growth inhibited clay particles?
Sir Richard's stoic refusal for a morning constitutional BEFORE we leave the motel has become a point of tension on the pilgrimage.
He's perfectly fine when you get to the motel for the night but he's just not a morning pooper.
He'll sleep for the first half an hour but when he rises he does so with the most mournful and harrowing meows possible.

SR: Daaad?
ME: No.
SR: Daaaaaaaaaad?
ME: NO.
SR: DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD?
ME: WHAT?!
SR: I need to poop.
ME: Hold it.
SR: But I caaaaaan't.
ME: Sure you can.
SR: CAAAAAAAAAAN'T.
ME: For the love of ...
SR: No need to blaspheme.
ME: But I never....
SR: You were about to.
ME: Since when have you cared?
SR: I've converted.
ME: From what?
SR: What?
ME: You said you converted.
SR: And?
ME: It means you must have been something else. You can’t convert from nothing.
SR: What?
ME: Look…
SR: POOOOP.
ME: Hold it.
SR: I can’t.
ME: You’ll have to.
SR: Just pull over.
ME: I can’t, we are on the Trans Canada. You can’t just “pull over”.
SR: They did.
ME: “They” crashed into a snow bank
SR: Let’s do that.
ME: NO.
SR: Please?
ME: Why can’t you just go before we leave?
SR: I have to be in the mood.
ME: Really?
SR: Oh yeah, it’s very emotional. You wouldn’t understand, squelchy.
ME: What does that mean?
SR: I can hear you, you know
ME: That’s different.
SR: Look, I need to be Zen. I need to be centred.
ME: So you’ve converted from Buddhism?
SR: What?
ME: Zen is a Buddhist construct. So if you’ve converted to Christianity then you must have been a Buddhist.
SR: I am NOT a Christian.
ME: Why stop me from saying God?
SR: Did I?
ME: You know you did.
SR: Why do we always have to argue?
ME: (Silence)
SR: Pooooooooooop.
ME: No.
SR: Fine.
ME: What’s that smell?
SR: What smell?


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day ?? Oh, I don't know anymore...


Today I broke the 2500km mark on my journey so in honour of that special occasion I wrote a country music song on the snow covered leg between Montreal and Ottawa. (For the record, I hate Ottawa)

Here are the early lyrics:

When the whiteness descends,
Blanketing the black
The spanners around me have clearly been smoking crack
It doesn’t take long for the white to turn to brown
But those crazy Mainland drivers refuse to slow down

CHORUS:
Slow down
Slow down
Put down the crack pipe and just slow down

I’ll be the first to admit it needs a bit of work but I have another four days left to hone the lyrics. Stay tuned….
***
Tomorrow I head for Cochrane, the birthplace of Tim Horton (and I had hoped Tom Cochrane but apparently not.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 4 -- 1770km of 5500km


Theoretically, if the entire road trip consisted of a single broken line down the middle of all the highways, I would, based on my calculations of 83 lines per kilometer (travelling at 80km/h), pass more than 456,500 little white dots.
They are the kinds of things you think of when you are driving 5500km across Canada.
The other thoughts surround the highlights for each town.
For instance, as hard as it is to believe I missed out on visiting Potato World Museum in Florenceville-Bristol, N.B., it’s harder to believe that such a museum exists.
The lack of punctuation left me wondering whether it was a museum about potatoes or a potato museum about the world.
Either way, it wasn’t the only attraction I had to bypass on my leg through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The giant blueberry at Oxford, N.S., was impressive but I would have loved to have visited  the world’s longest covered bridge in Hartland, N.B., Nackawic’s world’s largest axe and the thought of standing at the site of New Brunswick’s last fatal duel in New Maryland, intrigues me no end.

****

“Think they’ll mind if I dry my vamps on the fire,” I asked Aaron as we slouched in mass produced wooden chairs that were never meant to be lounged in.
The Piper’s Inn, located in the heart of Antigonish, was about as active as the Amherst wind farm.
“You’re Australian,” he replied, “they’d expect it.”
As we sat back nursing a pint of stout, feet resting in front of the gas fire place, pogie boots and their innards scattered asunder, their stench wafting through the bar, we tossed around theories about everything from newspapers to Russian oligarchs.
Later we moved back to Aaron’s attic apartment for a few more beers, more tales, more theories on world politics and before finally falling asleep in the unmade queen-sized bed – separated by Sir Richard, we spoke of the future.

****

My pursuit of blue sky across black bitumen ended about 70km from the New Brunswick border. The trip through new Scotland was uneventful expect for the odd slab of ice cartwheeling ever so briefly from the roof of passing semi-trailers. Picked up in its entirety with a sharp gust of wind, they float towards the road and shatter into car sized chunks before disintegrating on their second contact with the blackness. At one point an entire sheet flipped back straight onto the windscreen of a trailing semi causing it to weave across two lanes of traffic. There’s a real benefit in driving at 80km/h.

Day 3 -- Snow daze



There are two things you never want to hear when attempting to catch a ferry off the island of Newfoundland.
The first is a CFCB radio host describing the 250km drive to the ferry terminal as “treacherous”; the second is that the ferry is leaving two hours early.

****

On the Townie Scale – a 0-10 mathematical representation of a winter storm’s severity based on the number of calls to VOCM OpenLine by St. John’s residents decrying a lack of snow clearing multiplied by the number of school closures divided by Memorial University students who instead of using the day to finish an essay on Socialist Newfoundland instead head to George Street for a pint – Saturday’s storm was a 9.
On the Northern Peninsula scale, it was a five, possibly a four.
With no snowplows on the roads at 6am, ‘Steve’ cut fresh tracks along the highway like a concussed blindfolded snowboarder due to my distinct lack of spatial awareness on where the road started and the edge of the ditch began.
Whiteouts between rock cuts and the need to stop every couple of hundred metres to get out and scrape the snow buildup from the wiper blades made driving slow but Sir Richard helped by keeping the car from fogging up by rubbing his body up and down the passenger window. Truth be told, he seemed to quite enjoy the adventure.(I should say that there were snowplows on the road, it’s just that they were going in the other direction to me.)

After re-booking my ferry to Sunday I began the second leg of the journey between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques (Codroy Valley actually).
“RCMP are urging drivers to stay off the roads unless it is totally necessary,” the radio announcer suggested to me, “driving conditions are treacherous out there today so stay home if you can and I you can’t, be safe out there.”
It was a similar message tweeted by the RCMP I read on the iPad which issued the following: “Take extra precautions,” it read, “if you MUST drive, pack warm clothes, food and a cell phone.”
The radio announcement explained why there were no other cars on the road but that was a presumption on my part because the snow was driving so hard and the wind so strong that you wouldn’t see another vehicle until you were nose to nose, or nose to bumper.
Safe in my winter driving skills, I toodled on down the road thinking about my superior packing abilities and forethought.
Food: CHECK (bottled moose and caribou)
Water: CHECK
Warm clothes: CHECK (and I have the cat to keep me warm if all else fails)
Emergency candles: CHE…. Oh crap (I know I bought them, just not where I packed them)

****

“Be careful with all that weight in the rear, b’y,” a man, who I’d never met in the years living in St. Anthony, cautioned me before I set off on Friday.
“You could lose the back.”
“Nah she’s right mate,” I responded, “I have studded winter tires.”
Plowing through 10 inches of partially-frozen slob along Highway 1 soon after leaving Corner Brook for Codroy at the tail-end of a blizzard, there was a briefest of moments when the stout little man’s words appeared to be ghosting through the front speakers of Steve and drowning out Luke Bryan’s country ballad, I Don’t Want this Night to End.
At the point Steve’s rear floated past the front, I didn’t want this trip to end.
As much as ‘drifting’ sounds like fun to rev-heads, when you end up perpendicular across four lanes of the Trans Canada Highway in a snowstorm, you can’t help but think that producers made a sound decision in creating The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and not The Fast and the  Furious: Newfoundland Drift.
It was neither graceful nor subtle but when you start to lose it, there’s not much you can do but take your foot of the gas and use it to stamp down hard on the toes of the foot reaching for the break.

****

A few beers, pea soup and a night in the Thomas household in Codroy – 30 minutes from Port aux Basques ferry terminal – would have been made all the more perfect by a filling breakfast and fond farewells on Sunday.
Instead, at 8.50am, the iPad blinked: “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE I hope you get this message. Ferry leaving early. Go go. Be there by 9.30am.”
Had it not been for my rugby days I probably would have found bounding down a flight of stairs into the basement, scooping a 22 lb cat under one arm, rucking my way across snow covered front yard and passing Sir Richard into the front seat somewhat challenging.

Hugs and handshakes replaced bacon and eggs for breakfast; the trip to the terminal was… succinct.
“It’s better we leave early or not at all,” the lady in the Marine Atlantic booth told me when I aired my disbelief that a ferry could leave two hours early without the company updating their website or automated phone message.
“If we don’t leave now the ferry won’t leave today.”
The ferry did leave – with five cars and half a dozen semi-trailers.
There’s no way Marine Atlantic made any money on that day.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Let me peer into the future...

So this is what Nova Scotia's roads look like today.
http://www.theweathernetwork.com/index.php?product=hwycond&pagecontent=ns
Here's hoping tomorrow brngs better driving conditions

Didn't get very far...

What do they say about the best made plans?

I stayed in Pasadena last night with friends who treated me to a night of amateur theatre, a hilarious tribute to Monty Python, and woke this morning to find snow gently falling.
"That's okay," I thought, "I've seen worse on the Northern Peninsula." Turns out that I have seen worse but I also didn't need to drive 300km to catch a ferry. Still, in good spirits, I set out for Port aux Basques and made it all of 30km to Corner Brook in an hour and a half.
Turns out that NL is in the midst of a winter storm so I've decided against driving at 20km/h through blindng snow. For the time being at least.
Hilariously, I had very little choice but to take the Corner Brook exit because there was so much snow on the road that Steve was nothing more than a tiny little green train carriage coasting along the "railway tracks" left by the truck in frnt of me. Depressingly admitting defeat, I pulled into the closest service station and was greeted by a lass from St. Lunaire-Griquet on the Northern Peninsula.
She warned me that it was go going to get worst before it got better and being that I could barely see the end of my car on the first leg of the trip, I've decided to wait it out in Corner Brook.
She kindly allowed me to use tne phone to call Marine Atlantic whereupon a delightful chap told me the road was closed near Port aux Basques and tha none of the ferries had docked because of the weather. I've rebooked my ticket for the same time tomorrow but again it is all dependent on how many ferry cancellations there are today.
There is a good reason why people don't drive across Canada in the middle of winter.

So right now I am doing what any smart person would do and am sitting in Brewed Awakenings for a double shot capp. Still looks awfully messy out there. Might hunker down for an hour.

The good news is that Sir Richard is findng the car trip to his liking. He's made a fortress on top of the pile-o-crap n the back of the car and gives me directions when required. He was awfully helpful yellng at me in the snow storm this morning,bless him.

For now I will wait it out.





--
Sent from Steve, a 1999 Mazda Protege

Thursday, January 26, 2012

This is the worst kind of melon


Please bear with me for just a moment as I get all melancholy. I promise it won’t happen again (until next time of course).
****
This is it.
It’s over.
It’s the final night in the basement of St. Anthony’s “Milk Carton”.
Not sure how it all rolled around so quickly but it’s over.  
Done.
Naked walls bounce Paul Kelly’s Songs from the Sixteenth Floor around the Spartan living space which, until yesterday, was the home of donated furniture.
Perched in a top hat on the floral chesterfield we watched Will and Kate get hitched, the All Blacks beat the French, Socceroos escorted calmly from the World Cup, a Harry Potter marathon, and now, with the bed sold, it briefly became my nightly refuge.
The kitchen – now reeking of bleach – saw the birth of bread, baked treats, moose vindaloo, moose sushi and a pizza-fuelled tantrum that would have made Ramsey blush.
It’s been fun.  
Now, as I sit in my straw cowboy hat listening to Paul Kelly now telling the tale of Don Bradman, it seems so vacuous, except for the memories.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

This is Sir Richard's contribution to helping me pack. Sure, he can't do a lot but this is just taking the piss.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mega Road Trip --the opening scene



***sssshhhhh***

Scene 1

(Scene opens with a sock-wearing, beard-hoarding, bedraggled former reporter of a local newspaper crouched over his glass-topped kitchen table in a one-bedroom “flat” in northern Newfoundland)

Me: Are you listening?
Sir Richard von Pinkenbah Retractaclaw III: Meow
M: Seriously?
SR: What?
M: I knew we should have called you Gary.
SR: Fine
M: Good
SR: Get on with it
M: The plan is this:
SR: Thus
M: What?
SR: The plan is thus
M: (deep breath)
SR: I’m just pointing out that this and thus should be respected for their grammatical independence
M: Respected
SR: Yes. Respected
M: “ independence”?
SR: Yes?
M: Is this how the trip is going to go?
SR: Perhaps
M: Perhaps?
SR: Yes
M: Fine. The plan is thus:
SR: Better
M: We leave St. Anthony on Friday Jan. 27 and head to Corner Brook. From there we head to Port-aux-Basques to catch the ferry to Nova Scotia at 12:15pm on Saturday, Jan. 28.
SR: Ferry?
M: Yes
SR: You didn’t mention a ferry
M: Why would I?
SR: Courtesy
M: You’re a cat
SR: Speciesism still exists
M: (deep breath)
SR: Discriminator
M: From North Sydney we head to Antigonish in Nova Scotia. Should be there about 10.30pm
SR: I feel discriminate.
M: (deep breath) Discriminated
SR: What? Don’t my feelings count?
M: Of course they….
SR: WELL I DEMAND AN ANSWER
M: We are on an island
SR: And?
M: How do you think we are going to get off an island?
SR: First class
M: First class?
SR: Yes
M: I’m not flying you to Regina
SR: I want those seats, the ones that fold right back, the ones that have the little cup holders and a screen. I’ve missed Big Bang Theory ever since coming to Newfoundland. That lanky guy, the smart one, you know the one?
M: Sheldon
SR: Is it?
M: Yes
SR: Are you sure?
M: (deep breath)
SR: Ok, Sheldon. I like him
M: How about I show you the open road of Canada? How about a 5500km journey across Canada in nine days?
SR: Do I get my own TV?
M: No
SR: NOT ACCEPTABLE
M: You get your own TV
SR: Cup holder?
M: You can use mine
SR: Does that mean there are two?
M: Yes
SR: Can I have both of them?
M: No
SR: Speciest
M: Why do you need two?
SR: I may need to get drunk if I’m spending nine days with you 

Farewell Newfoundland


 I can’t believe I’m leaving a community that has a half-time and a full-time whistle.
 At 12 noon and again at 5pm, St. Anthony’s steam powered flute signals supper and the end of the working day. I’m convinced locals don’t hear it anymore; it’s like car horns in Bangkok or the rattle of a clapped out test tube on the Northern Line in London, it’s at the aural foundation of the community.
But, every time the kettle boils on the East Side of St. Anthony I know it’s time to take a break, or go home.
I’m going to miss it.
It’s not the only thing I’m going to miss.

****

“Just a quick question,” I said. (I’d like to add I was wide-eyed when I asked the question but being my eyes are always wide open when I speak, it’s probably superfluous fluff.)
George, on a Saturday no less, had already fielded questions about where two Australians could swap their licenses for Newfoundland ones, where was good to eat in town and – courtesy of our friend Mark who had driven us from Deer Lake to St. Anthony –  what kind of tidal fluctuations you could expect in the harbour and the Bight.

(Now keep in mind the following has been pieced together from notes written two years ago and contains a mixture of gibberish and journalism shorthand)

He looked at me from behind his desk willing to offer up any advice he could.
“Am I allowed to go fishing in the harbour?”
There was silence as he leaned back in his chair and sized me up from behind his moustache. His gaze suggested a concerted attempt to decide whether the long-haired bearded manchild who had stumbled into his office with two other Come From Aways was an idiot, ill-informed or naive (For the record, I am all three.)
“No b’y,” he said with a smile that over time I discovered was never far from his face, “even if you could you wouldn’t want to.”
It was sound advice.
I later discovered that A) unlike Australia where you can virtually wet a line anywhere you like at any time of the year, in Newfoundland, not even locals are allowed to fish; and B) what you’re likely to catch in the harbour isn’t piscatorial.
During our time we met many people like George. Happy and willing to give advice or tell a tale.

****

I’m never going to be able to quantify the ways I’ll miss this place but I’m definitely going to miss meeting someone on the street and hearing:
 “Whaddya at?”
It’s the question I will forever know the answer.
“This is it.”


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The mess...

I'll get it sorted. I have to.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stay tuned...

Wow, it's hard to believe it's been 18 months since my last blog post but time flies when you are living in northern Newfoundland. For the 1500 or so people who have viewed this page (I'm sure that I account for most of those numbers) stay tuned because Lost and Found is being ressurected. For a short time at least.

--
Sent from Steve, a 1999 Mazda Protege