On The Road Again With Ed 'Shevy' Shevlin
Last year Shevlin rode his Harley cross-country from Rockaway Beach, New York to Rockaway Beach, Oregon. He kept his own personal travel diary documenting his adventure and planned to do the same this year.
This year's journey, to Newfoundland by bike and ferry, began on July 23. Below is Shevlin's second week of entries from the road.
July 28, 2008, Prince Edward Island
Today was a day to do a little catching up. It can't be all fun after all and someone has got to do the laundry! It was raining again anyway so my morning was spent taking care of some of the more mundane things in life. A trip to the post office, the photo shop and the local Laundromat filled my morning schedule. Having completed my errands I headed back to my hotel and took a look at the Canadian version of the Weather Channel. Canadians will tell you that they are notoriously inaccurate and for that reason they watch the American Weather Channel whenever they can. Well, today the Canooks were the only game in town so I gave them a listen and I liked what I heard. The rain would end in the afternoon and the elusive sun would shine! I saddled up pronto and made a bee-line for the local Harley shop to buy a t-shirt. Red Rock Harley in Charlottetown is a typical H-D emporium. Over the years the Motor Company has sanitized the dealer network to the point where every shop looks the same. The only way that you can tell them apart is by the dealer's logo on their shirts. With my PEI shirt in my saddlebag and some good travel advice from the staff at the dealership I fired up my hog and lit out for PEI National Park.
The island is a small place and lends itself easily to the visiting biker. You can wander off in any direction and eventually you will find your way back to from whence you came, kind of like Rockaway! Heading due north out of Charlottetown I found myself at the front gate of PEI National Park in a mere 45 minutes. The $8.00 entry fee entitled me to visit any of the National Park locations on the island for that day but time constraints would limit me to just the one. Quality and not quantity would prevail as I soon realized. The north shore of the island was magnificent in its natural beauty with sand dunes and inlets presenting a vision of utter marine tranquility. The park was nearly void of people as my Harley sailed effortlessly among the dunes on either side of the causeway. A sign indicated the approach of Covehead Harbor in just a kilometer or so.
Crossing a small inlet I spotted the place in front of me. It was little more than a fishing camp with a few empty slips and a few occupied by fishing boats. Richard had his name on every building in the parade of shops at the wharf, 3 in total. Richard's Bait, Seafood and Gift Shop completed the shopping scheme. Not wanting any worms or plaster sea captains I opted instead for the seafood. I was rewarded with a pile of mussels the like of which I had never seen before. These things were as big as my fist and delicious beyond belief, what a treat! Waving goodbye to the friendly crew at Richard's I headed off down the road heading east towards the town of Souris.
With the sun still high and my appetite satisfied I got back into my sightseeing mode. What a beautiful place this island is, rolling hills, smooth roads and polite drivers make riding on PEI a distinct pleasure. Reaching the seaside town of Souris, I tanked up and had a cup of coffee. The road back to Charlottetown was better traveled in the daylight so I threw my leg over and headed back to the capital. Another long day on the road, therefore, I'll sleep well tonight.
July 29-30, 2008
As I loaded my gear onto the big Harley I did so with the knowledge that my adventure, while still in its early stages, was drawing me ever closer to my final destination of Newfoundland. Today's journey was divided into 3 parts. The first leg was a one hour ride to the town of Wood Islands where I would board the ferry to Caribou, Nova Scotia, the second leg was the ferry ride to Caribou and the third was the ride from Caribou to North Sydney, Cape Breton. I would be traveling all day and that suited me just fine. When it comes to motorcycle trips I prefer to stay on the move, thereby avoiding the feeling of stagnation.
The morning while dry, was overcast and gloomy. Perhaps an indication of things to come, I dare not say it, the dreaded "R" word! Motoring out of Charlottetown and over the road to Wood Islands I enjoyed one last peek at the picturesque PEI countryside and then it was on to the ferry and across the Northumberland Strait to Nova Scotia. The 75-minute cruise was uneventful and deposited us safely ashore in Caribou right on schedule.
After topping off at the local Ultamar gas station ($1.48 per liter) I began my migration to North Sydney. The day had turned out to be dry and somewhat sunny although there was a lingering threat of rain that never seemed to retreat from the Nova Scotia skies. Highway 105 rose and fell over the high hills and mountains of Cape Breton all the way to North Sydney.
The smooth road was replete with banked turns and signs warning of stray moose on the road. Recalling my near death encounter with a big moose in Montana last year, I cut my speed and arrived at my destination safe and sound at 5 p.m. Tomorrow morning I would catch the ferry to Newfoundland, but for now the only water that I was interested in was that in the hotel's pool. You Canadians ever see a real cannonball?
Wednesday morning 7/30. A soft bed and a hearty breakfast prepared me for a full day of travel and new experiences. The short ride from my hotel to the ferry terminal in North Sydney was refreshing and served to wake me up and sharpen my senses. The pine trees released their scent upon the morning and the morning dew amplified the sound of the road.
As the morning sun began to dry the pavement I was greeted by the smell of root beer and immediately rode past a stand of birch trees. This is why I love to ride my bike I thought, were I in a car at this same time and place none of these stimuli would have been mine on this glorious morning, "Live to Ride, Ride to Live" as the saying goes.
The gaping maw of the Newfoundland ferry looked poised to consume all that would venture in. These sea-going ferries are massive, nothing at all like the piddling little Staten Island Ferry with which we New Yorkers are so familiar. Four lanes of roadway demark the ship's beam. As deckhands direct the heaviest vehicles to the 2 center lanes I watch in awe as 18 wheelers, motor homes and tour buses roll benignly onto the spacious sub deck. The ship's bow stands open as if eating the tidbits made of steel, plastic and rubber. At the deckhands command we start our engines and ride our bikes up the steel ramp and into the cavernous hold. Ship's mates walk among the throng of wide-eyed bikers handing out tie down straps which fall to the floor with a clang that echoes throughout the cathedral-like Deck one. As we busy ourselves about the job of tying down our bikes the experienced help the inexperienced with the important work of securing the precious motorcycles on which all depends. With the bikes now secured the group of motorcycle riding strangers begin to introduce themselves to each other as they make their way topside and leave the industrial atmosphere of the lower deck behind. Argentia, Newfoundland is 17 and a half hours away and their will be plenty of time to relax.
As the ship pulls away from the quay I wonder, what did I get myself into this time?
July 31, 2008 Newfoundland
The rain lashing against my face felt like thousands of acupuncture needles being inserted and removed from my skin. Unlike many of the other bikers on the ferry I had taken the time to put on my foul weather gear and was reaping the benefits as I remained dry all over save my face. The road was swimming in the morning rain as I plowed a lonely furrow northward towards the Trans Canada Highway which would lead me to my destination of the city of St. Johns.
The signs on the road cautioned travelers about the ever present moose, so with poor visibility and a wet road this biker did not enjoy the morning's ride all that much. The promise of a hot breakfast and a shower kept me going through the maelstrom in spite of the adverse conditions. When the going gets tough the tough keep riding!
Turning onto the TCH I felt a little less apprehensive about hitting a moose on the highway. The road was wider (2 lanes) and the forest was cut back a bit which improved my chances of spotting any potential hazards. As I began to relax, my shoulders dropped and I loosened my grip on the handlebars. The country was beautiful, albeit wet and foreboding. Everything but the rocky outcroppings and the road was green. Medium size pines and soupy bogs defined the landscape as hills and mountains filled in the topography. The place is downright rugged I thought. No gas stations or other manmade structures marred the pastoral setting for miles and miles. Only the ominous warnings of moose revealed the presence of something other than the creatures of the great northern forest.
It was obvious that I was nearing my destination when I began to see signs of civilization. Gas stations and houses began to appear along the road as did shops, churches and schools. Before I knew it I was in St. Johns and shortly thereafter, in my hotel room taking a hot shower. God is good I thought! He had seen me through the wilds of Newfoundland and delivered me safely to my destination. The adventure had just begun though, and from what I had seen, I will need some more help along the way.
Lying a mere 1800 miles to the west of Ireland, Newfoundland or "Talamh an Eisc" (Land of the Fish) is the only location outside of Europe to have its own distinctive name in the Irish language. As early as 1536 the ship "Mighel" is recorded as returning to her home port of Kinsale with a load of cod and haddock caught in the Newfie fishing grounds.
As a student of history and all things Irish I have decided to spend this day exploring the history of this rugged, yet beautiful land. My destination for the day is the easternmost point in North America, Cape Spear. This windswept, barren protrusion is completely unprotected from the Artic blasts that assault her twin lighthouses on a daily basis. The appearance of the place is reminiscent of the Old Head of Kinsale in County Cork, or the Cliffs of Moher in Clare. On the day of my visit the wind blew relentlessly across the Atlantic allowing the seagulls to stay aloft, as if the sky was their place of rest. A small red fishing boat was visible off the coast, tossing on the rolling sea. A closer look at the vessel revealed the presence of a pod of whales swimming on either side of the red craft. I suppose that it was more of a whale watching boat than a fishing boat but I expect that it could be a little of both.
The lighthouses in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia may seem a little quaint to modern people like ourselves but they were a welcome and necessary sight for the ancient mariners. Cape Spear is the home of 2 lighthouses with the newer structure having been built in 1836 to replace the older of the two. Just below the lighthouses lay the remains of the WWII battery. The design elements of the battery are similar to those of Battery Harris in Fort Tilden albeit on a much smaller scale. When one considers that Fort Tilden's guns were meant to protect NYC and that Cape Spear's were meant to protect St. Johns it is easy to understand the smaller scale of the defenses.
After shooting a few photos and a short video I saddled up and headed back towards the town. I was getting tired of the snotty weather but I had given up hope of ever seeing the sun shine again, at least until I got back home. The people here are great, they are very open, honest and unsuspicious. They have told me that, "Newfoundland doesn't have a summer, just 2 weeks of bad skiing." That's just great! I hope that you are all enjoying the beach back home!