Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hitchhiking off the Rock (Part 2)

I forgot to mention that the my journey off Newfoundland was bound by a certain time constraint: I desperately wanted to make it to Bathurst, New Brunswick, for Thanksgiving. After spending time on the road, I was beginning to feel a longing for familiar places and faces, and so I knew if I could make it to my Auntie Rita's place in New Brunswick I would be all good.

So the truck driver Larry gave me a lift all the way to Deer Lake; a town which lies only a few hours from the ferry terminal in Port aux Basques. By the time we got to our destination, the world was dark and it was raining pretty hard. Larry kindly dropped me off at the Irving Bigstop, an sizable gas station/truck stop/diner complex on the side of the highway. Parked in the vacant gravel lot behind the garage were a couple dozen big rigs. Larry figured I could sleep in the back lounge (a spacious room outfitted with sofas, payphones, and a tv) until morning then find a driver going to Port aux Basques. I figured I could do better than that: I hauled my bags into the lounge, pulled out the rabbit-eared phone book, and looked up my old friend Edna's number. After all, she said to give her a visit if I was ever in town again...

I first met Edna when I appeared on her 'bridge' on my second day on the rock, querying if I could spend the night in her yard. Conversation flowed as easily as the tea we poured, and I ended up back at her place around sunset a couple nights later when I was returning from my adventure through the mountains of Gros Morne national park. A little surprised to hear from me at 9:15 on stormy Thursday night, Edna came in her husband's big blue pickup truck to pick me up. By 9:30 I was drinking tea and watching the hockey game with Edna, her husband, and their friend Eddy. During the commercial breaks I shared with them my wild escapades over Newfoundland landscape, stopping abruptly when the puck hit the ice and then taking off again with a gusto once the ads resumed. I slept soundly, tucked under a hand stitched quilt in the basement, the dull roar of the furnace in the next room lulling me to sleep. Waaaaaaay better than a night at an Irving Bigstop.

The next morning Edna and I drank three cups of tea before she dropped me back off at the gas station on her way into town. My plan was to find another lift with a trucker, putting me in Port aux Basques with time to kill before the evening ferry. I began to ask around (btw: it does feel weird to wander up to burly men in lumberjack shirts and boots, strike up conversation, then ask for a lift. But, like all things in life, after a few runs it becomes normalized), and quickly learned that the trucks were parked behind the station first, because of high winds in the Wreckhouse, and secondly because the ferry schedule was out of wack. Rough seas and two out of four boats in the service yard totally threw off the scheduled sailing, and most of these trucks were going to be parked at the Irving for quite some time.

Realizing that none of these guys were going anywhere today, I bought a $1.24 coffee and strode across the road to thumb a ride. A couple of young fellas in over sized hoodies wandered past me, half halfheartedly leaning their thumbs out toward the passing highway traffic. I was picked up in 10-15 minutes by a fellow named Jerry driving a Honda with black leather interior. It turns out he was mayor of a small town not too far from Deer Lake, and although he was only going to Cornerbrook, I welcomed the ride. The scenery on this section of the journey was spectacular; gigantic rock cuts, smooth blue lake water, and the fiery colours of fall maples. We listened to Newfoundland music and talked all the way to Cornerbrook, where we stopped at Timmy's for more coffee, and Jerry hooked me up with a bus ticket to Port aux Basques. It seemed like my lucky day :)

The hitch was that the bus didn't leave until five pm, and it was hardly noon. Jerry dropped me off at the Plaza (a shopping mall way up on the hill), not far from the bus terminal. I abhor shopping malls. And after spending so much time surrounded by the fantastic wonders of nature, I find my repugnance towards such an artificial setting has grown. But, I figured that spending an afternoon in this deplorable place was a sufficient trade off for a free bus ticket. So I took up residence on a wooden bench not far from the entrance and commenced to make bracelets, read Farley Mowat, and write in my journal for the duration of the afternoon. I felt like a hobo; my bags strewn out on the floor beside me and my lunch spread across the bench. I had a few random conversations with the elderly, and was rescued by Jerry who stopped by after his meeting to take me sightseeing around the bay before dropping me off at the bus depot. The bus was filled with college kids traveling back to the mainland for the long weekend, and it was an hour late.

A few hours later we exited the bus at the terminal. When I bought my ticket for the ferry, I was informed that the boat was going to be a couple hours late as well: instead of the 10:30pm scheduled departure time, it was to leave at 1:00am. Unfortunately, the boat failed to depart berth before 3:30am, giving me plenty of time to descend into madness as I waited in the florescent lit terminal.

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