Monday, January 30, 2012
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)
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.
Posted by Sir Richard at 6:02 PM