Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hitchhiking off the Rock (Part One)

When I arrived in Cape Spear, I intended only to stay for an hour or so and then ride into St. John's to celebrate my achievement. I was thinking maybe a couple of shots at the bar, some ridiculousness out in the street, and perhaps kissing a codfish or two. Apparently that's something that they do around here. But once at the cape, I just didn't want to leave, and so I loafed around the lighthouse and the barracks and gun emplacements until sunset, then retreated to the community of Blackhead, only a stone's throw from the cape. It was a clear night and my fingers were numb by the time I reached the village. I knocked upon a kind woman's door, and began spouting off my story and queried if I could pass the night in her garden (that seems to be what folks call their yards round these parts). Of course, being a Newfoundlander and possessing the natural curiosity and generosity common to their kind, she invited me in for the night.

Her name was Margaret. Wearing glasses and a friendly smile, she told me that she was a widow, lived on her own, and had a lifelong love of the outdoors and a penchant for last minute travel. So instead of partying it up wildly on George Street or sleeping alone in my tent, I celebrated my arrival by sharing a cup of tea and some chocolate coated biscuits with Margaret and her friend Jerry. Life is so perfectly unpredictable.

I passed that night, and the one which followed, in the home of couchsurfing host Jenn and her fellow room mates: Nicki, Chris and Matthew. Aside from four artsy, zany, totally awesome individuals living together in a funky old house, there was also five cats and a couple of bunnies. I slept in the living room with the floppy eared rabbits; Peter and Big Mama. The sight of these cute carrot crunching creatures took me back to my childhood, and the fond recollections of long afternoons spent on our back lawn with bunnies hopping about, munching on dandelions and leaves of lettuce.

After I arrived in St. John's, I realized that I had to somehow make my way off this enormous mound of rock that has treated me so well for these past couple weeks. I hadn't really given this too much thought, since I was more concerned with making it to my destination than the aftermath involved in departing from it, but quickly decided the best way to make my getaway was to post my bike home and hitchhike off the island.

So I traded my panniers in for a brown vintage bag (I don't know how to describe it: it's neither a suitcase nor a duffel bag, and I bought it at the Sally Anne for $3.99) and bought some mittens in case my hands got cold from sticking my thumb out on the side of the highway. Oooooh, and since the thrift store was having a half price sale, I doubled my wardrobe by buying a few kids t-shirts and a retro ski jacket with a pink pop-top collar. And I invested in jeans! Ahh, sweet denim how I've missed you :)

While in St. John's I hung out with Jenn and her room mates, drinking espresso and being entertained by the silly peculiarities of our animal friends. Jenn and I went for cheap beers downtown at trivia night in a local pub, and then stayed up late, snacking and chatting in the dim light. The night prior to my departure, the four of us ran wild in the kitchen, preparing what is called a 'cooked meal'. This delightful feast consisted of a plethora of root vegetables (turnip, parsnip, carrots, potato and sweet potato), seasoned and cooked up in a big ol' pot with a delightful amount of garlic and onion. Since the house was composed of vegetarians/vegans, we cooked up a tofurky (my first!) and stirred up some veggie gravy. A variety of puddings, pickles, and pickled beets accompanied the meal. I was in heaven, once again surrounded by awesome folks and delicious food. Desert was apple crumble paired with vanilla ice cream. Then we strode off to The Rooms; St. John's art gallery/museum/archives, which happened to be free that evening.

My next ride was from a young guy with a pickup truck. He took me a little farther out of town, to Conception Bay South, and then tried to unload his bag of groceries on me. Sigh, I'm definitely going to miss this Newfie hospitality. So after I convinced him that I didn't have room for his cereal and spaghetti-os, I strolled into the Irving truck stop to buy myself a coffee. Only once I had my coffee in hand did I realize I had forgoteen my awesome handcrafted sign in the back of his truck. Bummer, man. I asked around the gas station for a ride going west, but with no luck. So I took up my post on the side of the highway, brown bag by my side, hands tucked inside my teal and white thrift store mittens, right thumb extended towards oncoming traffic.

The day was deteriorating fast, and what looked like a promising morning was quickly becoming a dark and gloomy afternoon. Luckily, I waited for no more than fifteen minutes before I was picked up by a big rig headed west, going all the way to Deer Lake. I thanked my lucky stars and jumped up into the cab, where I spent the next seven hours with my feet on the dashboard, singing along to old country songs and chatting away with Larry like he was a long lost uncle. Life was good. Every so often I would say, "and that's the spot where I camped on such-and-such date" or "I spent a night with some folks in that there town on the right". I quickly decided that although I still prefer bikes to motor vehicles, means of transportation with engines do have some noteworthy advantages over self-propelled locomotion. First of all, they get you there fast; what took me a week to cover on bike took less than a day in truck. Secondly, they provide protection against the elements. As the rain pelted down on the windshield, I sipped my coffee and smiled to myself.
I was going home :)

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