Home time. Luckily, we had an afternoon flight because after yesterday, we weren’t exactly swift. Everything was packed up and stuffed into suitcases. Anything that didn’t fit, was “donated” to the van. We then said our goodbyes and headed to the airport, and ultimately, home.
“I need home for a rest…take me home!!!!”
Bright and early, we were up and rolling to MUN. At about 9:20 am, us and two hundred MUN engineering students piled onto party buses on our to the middle of nowhere Newfoundland.
They call it D-Day. The exact origins are milady questionable. But it is an event that has been happening every term for over twenty years. It is now secret. Despite it being a Friday, most profs just cancel class or do simple reviews, because they know whats going on.
So what exactly is it? Simply put, they drive 200 engineering students out to a campsite in the bush as 9:00 am. Then pick them up around 4:00 pm. Oh, and there’s also a U-haul with 350 cases of beer. Everyone gets a D-Day cup, which they then pour the beer into. This limits the mess of empties everywhere.
Along with the beer, there is the ten gallons of chilli that we made yesterday. 400 hundred hot dogs then round out the meal.
“Beer, beer, beer everywhere”
After a good night’s sleep, we were up and rolling. First, we stopped at the Newfoundland equivalent of ICBC to sort vehicle registration and to figure out how we were supposed to sell the van to our Newfoundlander friends. Luckily, this didn’t take too long.
Mr. David hadn’t shaved in a very long time and therefore was due for a haircut. Of course we wouldn’t be touching his beard, just trimming his hair. We started in the backyard as we didn’t want to cut his hair inside. Despite the combined years of engineering education, we still managed to blow the circuit breaker. So I have said before: Home is where the van is.
Next, we ventured down to Fort Amherst, which is just across the harbour from Signal hill. This point hosted the oldest lighthouse in Newfoundland. It also served as a WWII gun battery to defend against German U-boats. The fortifications are worn down, but still in tact and sporting some eery looking graffiti.
The evening was spent hanging out with MUN engineering society folk as they made chilli for D-day (tomorrow). They made about ten gallons of chilli. It was quite amusing to watch.
“Cocoa and beer are crucial ingredients in Chili”
Despite only following one highway for the whole trip, a significant amount of navigating was needed. This was the co-pilots job. But after being in the van with the same guys for days on end, normal directions were just too easy. Too boring.
All of the directions were given simple English names. And of course, once we crossed into Quebec, we had to make French equivalents.
There were no wrong turns that were directly a result of using these directions. You may think we went crazy in the van, or just had too much time on our hands…at least one or both of these is true. Oh well.
After a short recovery from last night, we were up and back in aerostat looking for a pool to relax in. The community pool next to the university was just the ticket.
That afternoon, we toured around the town and checked out signal hill. The location of the first trans Atlantic wireless broadcast. Also, the hill had an amazing view of the whole city and harbour.
Next, we wandered down to the bottom of the hill to check out Battery Village. It’s a bunch of houses that are miraculously attached to the side of rock face. They are right at the opening of the harbour.
We capped the night off by chilling in the tent and watching Smokey and the Bandit. “Eastbound and Down” is the song that plays as Burt Reynolds races across Texas. The song was played gratuitously as we raced across Canada. It was only fitting that we finally watch the movie once we got to St John’s.
“Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin’ ”
After a nice long sleep, we slowly woke up and got our day going. We were still pretty tired and sore from sleeping on floors and driving across the country, so one of our goals today was to find a pool/hot tub and just sit in it. After about an hour of driving around and googling, we determined that half of the pools on google maps don’t actually exist. The other half were either closed or busy. Rather disappointing.
Next, we made a quick stop at Walmart to buy some essentials and improve our lodgings. We bought some air mattresses and properly staked out the tents. It was like a home away from home.
For dinner, we had some authentic east coast lobster. This was followed by a night out on George Street, known for having the most bars per square foot in North America. That night, we were inducted as honorary Newfoundlanders and were “screeched in”. This was an interesting process that involved among other things, kissing a cod, and taking a shot of screech rum.
” ‘deed I is me old cock’, and long may your big jib draw”
Woke up to a beautiful view of a little pond outside St. John’s (there are no lakes in Nfld, everything is called a pond). We hopped back on the Trans Canada for the last time as we headed towards the end. The highway technically ended at a garbage dump near St. John’s. There was no marker or sign…kind of disappointing.
Next we drove out to Cape Spear, the eastern most point of North America. In less than 12 days, we driven aerostat 8462 kilometres from coast to coast. We made it.
We didn’t really sleep last night, or any previous night, so we called it an earlyish night and set up camp in a friend’s backyard.
We got a nice wake up call about an hour before docking. Then half hour before. Then 15 minutes before. Then once we had docked, we had to wait another half hour before we were allowed to go down to the car deck. Finally, we got off the boat and officially landed on the 10th province.
The morning was spent grabbing some breakfast and randomly driving around Port aux Basques (the ferry port town). Next, we drove up to Cornerbrook for some lunch and a shower. There was a small little pub which advertised home cooked food. We had plenty of time so we decided to sit down for lunch. It turned out to be really small and run by an older lady who personally cooked each meal for us. It took a while, but it was pretty cool.
Next, we stole a quick shower in the local university gym before hopping back in the van and onto the highway. A little way down the highway we decided to go for our daily 4×4 trip. We found a large empty gravel pit. Just some sweet burnouts and hill climbs.
About two hours out of Cornerbrook, the van started to lurch a little. About a minute later, she suddenly decelerated and we slowed to a stop on the shoulder. So the five of us stood around the hood of the van proposing different theories as to what was wrong. A kind Newfoundlander stopped to jump start us, but turned out the battery was perfectly fine. The next guess was no fuel (ie broken fuel gauge). To make matters worse, we were exactly between the nearest two towns and without cell coverage. (the big three cell companies complain so much, but they can’t even cover the national highway)
Trevor headed off with the Newfie to get gas, while the other four of us were left to contemplate the fate of the car on the side of the Trans Canada HIghway. With no cell service and left to own devices, we were able to come up with a lot of possible different outcomes. Of course all of them were pessimistic scenarios. About an hour later, Trevor returned with a jerry can. The Newfie had kindly driven him back to us. After about a minute of suspense, the aerostar rumbled to life and we were back on the highway.
After some more driving we finally made it to our stop for the night. A random cabin just off the trans canada near St. Johns. A couple late drinks with some MUN engineering students and the we were off to sleep.
“Is Newfoundland the arctic of Canada” “…no, the arctic is the arctic of Canada”
We slept in a little today and struck our campsite. We left a thank you note for the hospitality and drove into downtown Halifax. We spent the whole morning and early afternoon touristing around town. At a local brewery we refilled our growlers before hopping on the trans canada to Sidney, NS.
We found out very quickly that driving from Halifax to St. John’s isn’t really a common thing like driving from Victoria to Vancouver. Just to get to the ferry in NS is a 5 hour drive. Ferry is about 7.5 hours and then another 9-10 hour drive on Newfoundland.
First, we got to the ferry about two and half hours before the sailing. This was perfect, as you must check in at least two hours before departure. The ferry is about the size of a BC Ferries Queen, maybe a little smaller. But they start boarding cars over two hours before. Using no less than 12 deck hands on our car deck alone, it took them over two hours to load the boat.
The inside of the ferry was a whole different story. The “general” seating (ie cheapest) consisted of huge reclining chairs spaced out like an airplane, but with actual space between the seats. The chairs all faced a number of large flatscreen TVs. Of course, for an extra $100+ per person you could get a sleeper or a “reserved” seat in a special quiet section.
One of the other redeeming features was that they had a bar. So we of course grabbed a night cap before trying to sleep. It was a night sailing (11:45 pm), so they dimmed the lights and people pulled out pillows, sleeping bags in an attempt to sleep. The odd part though was after falling asleep awkwardly in my seat for about 20 minutes, I awoke shivering. They had turned off the heat in the cabin! It was about 10 degrees. I then resorted to bundling up more and grabbing a spot on the floor.
“They made BC Ferries look damn efficient”
We yet again woke up early, packed the van and headed off. Before leaving Fredericton we took a quick drive around the UNB campus. It’s quite an old campus, with a lot of bright red brick buildings.
From then we drove to PEI via the confederation bridge. At the beginning of the bridge we stopped to dip our feet in the ocean as we officially made it to the Atlantic ocean.
Next stop was Charlottetown for lunch before continuing to the other side of PEI and hopping on a boat back to the mainland and Nova Scotia. Rolling into Halifax we found out that our sleeping plans had fallen through. After about an hour of trying to contact people we threw in the towel and started looking for places to camp. We drove through random unpopulated roads for a bit looking for a clearing to camp in. On one of the smaller roads, we pulled over next to a field to let someone pass. She rolled down her window, asking us if we were lost. We explained the situation, at which point she said, “Just camp on the field there, it’s my backyard”. Through dumb luck and a nice stranger we finally found a place to camp for the night.
Fun fact: PEI produces 25% of the potatoes for all of Canada.