July 24, 2014
The fog rolled in as the ferry entered port, it started to drizzle which became heavy rain at times, and as I pulled out of the visitors centre to begin the 900km trek across my last province, I heard the foghorn in the distance; it was the most Newfoundland of welcomes. Every misty, foggy picture you’ve ever seen probably looked at lot like what I was seeing. It remained wet all day and even as the fog lifted in spots, the mountains I passed remained shrouded. As endearing as it all was, it does make for a very soggy close of day.
The inn by the highway at the end of the day in Saint George’s was full so I started for Stephenville which is really too far out of my way but the nearest town. Coming to a huge hill, I noticed a faded sign for another inn. I chanced a call and was told they were getting out of the business as they were converting the place into a rooming house for companies who send labour in for extended stays but they would take me for the night. It turns out to be this lovely, grand old house. I’m in the basement which has a number of newly renovated rooms but upstairs is a marvel. The walls are darkly paneled and much of the furniture looks like it has been around since the 19th century but kept up well. The phenomenal bit is that I’m in this grand old house by myself. I think I’ll tour around a touch in the morning before I leave. It’s a jewel of a place when you’re tired, soggy, and just thrilled pink you don’t need to climb the hill or the miles to town.
Lunch really inaugurated me into all that is Newfoundland and Labrador as the official name goes. It really began to pour when I finally spotted an Irving gas station and resturaunt. Irving by the way owns everything in the Maritimes. I walked in soaked, dripping from head to toe. If my loaded bike or Yankee accent weren’t dead giveaways that I was from away, asking what the special of the day, the Jiggs Dinner, was certainly betrayed me. The fact that it didn’t include a description should have been a clue. The waiter explained it was salted meat with boiled carrots, potatoes, turnips, cabbage, and I think it was mashed potato or something like that. The menu offered a juicy burger but I’m trying local dishes whenever possible so why not? I thought I noticed the hint of amusement when she deliver this huge plate of food. Salted meat for some reason sounded exotic and it didn’t click for me that she was talking about corned beef. Let’s just say that plate contained a lot of food not on my fabourites list. When she came around halfway through to see how I was doing, she was definitely smirking. And I was doing my best to shovel it in.
I think the chef gave me some particularly grisly beef just to see how I’d get on. Usually I find it very difficult to eat corned beef but today even that was surprisingly good. As my grandfather would have said in his soft spoken manner, “hunger triebs in.” It’s turns out that a Jiggs Dinner is the traditional Newfoundland Sunday dinner. The name apparently references the comics trip “Jiggs & Maggie.” At no other time on this trip have I been so thoroughly filled by my lunch; nevertheless, I think next time I’ll pass on the Jiggs Dinner whether it’s on the special or not.
Road Report: 156km
In Newfoundland the TransCanada has an excellent shoulder well over a meter wide. The exception is about 20km around South Branch that has huge potholes and generally terrible pavement. On occasion there’s that infernal rumble strip, which only leaves a few feet to cycle if it’s not covered in gravel. There are some hill but the really swell part is that the climbs are gentle and then a long descent that allows you to really gain some speed.