Wednesday, September 27 – Day 29
We began the day under cool rainy skies,…… figures, washing our trucks changed the weather from sunshine to rain. So much for clean trucks.
The 7 am 6-kilometer drive to the North Sidney Newfoundland ferry was quick, no traffic, allowing us plenty of time before boarding.
Atlantic Marine requires vehicles to arrive a minimum of 2 hours before sailing. When we booked the ferry the fee of $950. (determined by the length of the rig up to 60 feet) was paid all we needed was the booking number and picture ID.
Soon we were in line waiting to load sitting in our vehicles staring through the huge doors into the empty belly of the ship. Just like catching a plane, once through security one can relax and wait for boarding.
The ferry MV Highlander was named in recognition of the distinguished military and peacekeeping service of the Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Highlanders.
I checked Trip Advisor and other reviews about the Newfoundland Ferry and of course, there was the usual full range of descriptions, from horrible seasickness, terrible food, and accommodations to a fantastic ocean cruise over smooth pristine waters.
I didn’t announce the negative comments to the others, especially the seasickness to Lynda, she easily turns green on the water.
Once we boarded and parked on the car deck the staff directed us to an elevator that took us to the passenger area, deck seven.
As a precaution, Lynda supplied the group with a Gravol pill, if you have ever experienced seasickness as I have, a horrible experience that can last for hours or days or until you set foot on solid ground.
The ferry rules, dogs must stay in the vehicle or spend the 6 to 8 hours sail in a kennel on one of the decks. You may not return to the car deck at any time while the ferry is at sea.
Poor Buddy had to stay in the truck……….. again.
The ferry didn’t depart North Sydney for Newfoundland until 11:45 so it’s necessary to have lunch and dinner on board.
The ferry is more like a small cruise ship, over 650 ft. long, 96 cabins, 1000 people, 425 cars and 280 larger vehicles including RVs semi-trailers and buses.
Despite its size, the Highlander rolled and pitched while pushing through the swells of the North Atlantic causing strolling passengers to sway like drunken sailors.
While on the ferry I needed to use the bathroom, as I entered I saw the strangest sight, the open stall doors swayed in perfect unison with the ships roll, like a group of perfectly choreographed dancers,….. funny.
The seven-hour ferry ride was pleasant, despite the raging storm and heavy seas and only a thin sheet of glass between us and the storm.
The group enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the dining room, a good way to pass the time. Everyone was happy with their meal.
For dinner Lynda and I enjoyed the best and biggest hot dog we’ve ever seen, a full foot long swollen member in a fresh heated loaf, filled with melted cheese, bacon, onions mustard, relish, and ketchup. The only downside was the cost, almost $8 after all the toppings are added and heartburn for days.
We arrived in Port aux Basque, the southern tip of Newfoundland on schedule, 6:45 local time losing another half hour.
We were greeted by fierce winds and torrents of rain. Darkness dropped like a rock as we made our way up the hill from the ferry terminal toward Stephenville our stop for the night, 160 kilometers away.
Henry leads the group and unexpectedly pulled into the visitor’s center after seeing a video sign reading high winds. He missed the part that read ‘semis and high profile vehicles adjust speed’.
A quick conference over the radio and we continued through the fierce winds. Our thoughts of poor weather in Newfoundland had been confirmed.
The black rainy night made it hard to see and the newly paved road with no lines compounded the problem. Henry dropped to the second position asking Ralph to take the lead into the black night.
Sometimes driving at night is difficult for us old folks, especially a black rainy night.
The drive to our destination Walmart in Stephenville should have taken less than 1 1/2 hours only 160 kilometers but it was over 2 hours later by the time we arrived.
The rain seemed to increase as we pulled into the Stephenville Walmart. I quickly dropped the landing gear on the trailer and retreated inside. Lynda powered out the slides, turned on the furnace and fed the baby (Buddy).
The group convened in our trailer, even though it was early, just past nine, the group was tired after the white-knuckle drive, a glass of wine and a winding down session was in order.
My glass was hardly sampled when a stern knock at the door caused us to jump and Buddy to bark.
I opened the door, there stood a drenched Newfoundlander waving his security credentials in my face. “Yous cannot stay here bouy!’ The guy looked more like a vagrant than security with his raggedy dirty clothes unshaven face and old beater truck.
After a brief discussion ‘Henry exclaiming that we’ve been indulging in the juice of the grape and are not fit to drive,’ the security bum reluctantly permitted us to stay till morning, ‘but yous mus be gan be de crak of 8 shap’.
Soon the others returned to their respective rigs for a tormented sleep under torrents of rain and wind.
Thursday, September, 28 Day 31
Heavy rain woke me often through the night thankfully it tapered off by morning. We left Stephenville by 8 am as per our instruction from the security guard.
During happy hour the night before we decided a change to the itinerary was necessary. Originally the plan was to head north to the Viking settlement of L’Anse aux Meadows, (doesn’t sound Viking to me), however after a discussion, we thought it prudent to head to St. John’s first, the highlight of Newfoundland and possibly head north on our return if time permitted.
We drove through the morning under a blanket of low cloud and mist, intermittent rain and cool weather. By noon we arrived at Gander the location of a heavily used Canadian Military Airport during 911 when US airspace closed.
The group’s mood was low, the cloud and rain blocked any scenery and a boring drive over rough highway didn’t help. This was certainly not what we expected, where was the amazing scenery?
We decided to carry on to Terra Nova National Park campground and spend the night. The drive was better in the afternoon as clouds lifted slightly providing glimpses of scenic ocean bays, lakes and tundra meadows.
The terrain is much more rugged than the mainland with stunted evergreens surrounding green meadows, giving a sense of alpine meadows, strange considering the highest point of the highway was only1000 ft.
The sun appeared as we entered the post-card-perfect forested campground, a welcome sight after the overcast drive.
The campsite was deserted except for the jovial Parks Canada attendant who did her best to make us feel welcome.
Our plan was to spend the night and drive to St. John’s the next morning, the provincial capital and largest city in Newfoundland.
We opted for un-serviced sites for $18.60 versus $23.50 for full hookups no need for hookups for one night. The attendant informed us that many of the campgrounds are closing for the season and we would be wise to phone ahead.
We settled our rigs for the night enjoying happy hour around the propane fire and a delicious Chinese feast deliciously prepared by our lovely wives, we are fortunate to have such great cooks.
Light showers passed periodically through the evening, growing heavier at times through the night.
Tommorrow’s destination, St John’s.
Thanks for visiting.