Riding Newfoundland: St. Johns to Home

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The second time we rode through Tablelands, tacked on to our trip through Gros Morne, the weather was much better. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

This is Part 2 in a series about Zac’s tour of Newfoundland last summer with longtime riding buddies Matt, Glen and Scott—Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Disaster almost struck, on the gravel road between Grates Cove and Daniel’s Cove. Scott put his foot down as he came to a stop on his brand-new Tenere 700, not realizing he was putting his boot into the ditch. Alas, the rest of his body followed his boot, and Scott ended up under his new bike at the bottom of the ditch.

Thankfully, it was a slow-speed crack-up, because this freak incident could have resulted in either Scott or his bike with some memorable scrapes. As it was, we were able to get the bike off Scott, and we rode from our base in Carbonear to the city of St. Johns later that afternoon and found a replacement mirror before taking in a few of the city’s sights. Headed back to base, all was well again, and we packed up ready for an early-morning departure.

“How far to Dublin?” The town of Baie de Verde was an unexpectedly gorgeous stop. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

The trip had been great fun so far; after leaving Harbour Breton, we’d been pleased to discover the roads to Baie de Verde (Route 70 and Route 80) were perfect for motorcycling. We hadn’t had time to ride the Burin Peninsula or the Irish Loop like we’d hoped, but Newfoundland is a big island and we only had a small amount of time for this trip. About 10 days, in fact, and that stretch was more than half-gone. Time to head home; we’d intersplice some fun off-highway excursions with the slog of the Trans-Canada, and make the best of it.

We had to make mileage on the first day of the trip back, and slogged from Carbonear to Gambo as fast as we could, getting into a draft/pass/pull-over-and-pee routine that saw us more-or-less mixed up with the same group of vehicles all day. Get past a truck, and there was a good chance they’d catch up later as you took a much-needed bathroom break. The weather was fair, but the legendary Newfoundland wind was a factor to contend with; it made highway passing grades a chore on my little KTM 390, and at one point, just before Gambo, a vicious gust of wind coming down Freshwater Bay took every one of us and chucked us across our lane.

Every outport town had its own hidden reason to visit and its own unique scenery. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

We were lucky we weren’t in the middle of a pass when that happened. We were even luckier when, a few minutes up the road in the middle of New-Wes Valley, Matt’s V-Strom shifter came loose, and we didn’t lose it.

We were carrying a lot of speed at times, and if the shifter had come loose on the highway, bounced across a couple of lanes and then gone under a semi, I don’t know that we could have recovered it. This was a second disaster that was narrowly averted in less than 24 hours, and we were very happy to continue on our way after only having to re-attach the dangling lever, instead of bodging on a repair.

Wait, wot? A beautiful beach resort, in the middle of nowhere? Lumsden Beach was a surprise, and I would love to revisit for a longer stay in this cool little beach town. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

One more big piece of luck for the day: Riding through Lumsden, we decided to take a random jaunt off the main road, and were rewarded with something we never expected in Newfoundland: A beach resort. Turns out that locals were putting together a very cool getaway at Lumsden Beach, hoping to develop the beautiful white sand into a bit of a destination. It was a beautiful spot, one I’d definitely like to return to, and I felt like it was just one more evidence that things were coming together.

Things were coming together, after all. We had the comm units figured out, our gas stops were smooth and fairly quick. We were laying down fairly long miles in a short amount of time. We were in the day-to-day Routine Of The Road, and I was loving it. I’d been here before, in this glorious rut, but it was the longest trip that the others had taken, and I was happy to see us all coming together towards the common goal of smashing big miles.

When you go to Twillingate, you need to go on a whale-watching trip … unless you’re incredibly pressed for time, like we were. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Before the day was over, we’d also made it to legendary tourist destination of Twillingate and ended the day at the sprawling Mt. Peyton hotel in Grand Falls (thanks again, Newfoundland tourism staff!). Matt, the elder statesman of this trip (road code-named “Dad”), collapsed on the floor and was snoring within seconds. The rest of us weren’t far behind. Growing old isn’t for wimps, they say, and long days in the saddle don’t make it easier.

***

The next day would be another long one, especially since we wanted to see some of Gros Morne. The park’s views had been obscured by fog when we went through the first time; maybe we could enjoy it on our return trip?

Finally, Scott gets into some corners in Gros Morne. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Enjoy it we did, and it wasn’t just the views. The road itself, along the fjord, was a treat this time, without the usual summerload of RVs clogging up traffic. Scott thought this was the best street riding we’d found yet in Newfoundland, and he might have been right. Our good luck continued when it turned out the Snack Shack on the north end of the park was still open. I’d last eaten there two years ago, on my way back from Labrador, and figured it might be closed. We were in luck! It was open, and serving up massive scoffs of fishcakes (made of local cod), partridgeberry biscuits, and coffee. Glen even managed to finally get his order of eggs that the crabby Crabbe’s River eatery had denied him.

Everything was working out well as the trip started to end, and yet, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad as we took an “official trip picture” on the beach. This whole Newfoundland jaunt had been up in the air from the beginning, due to COVID restrictions, and to actually have it come together with no cancellations or disasters? I couldn’t have asked for anything more, but now it was back to the real world.

Supper in the grocery store parking lot? That’s what Gas/Food/Coffee mode looks like. Photo: Matt Peachman

It was fun to watch our group dynamic evolve. Supper that day was the grocery store  parking lot in Corner Brook. Tired of restaurants, and in too much of a hurry to find a discrete picnic table, we simply pulled out our camping chairs, put them in front of the bikes in our parking spot, and chowed down, boiling some coffee on our camp stoves. In other places, this might elicit a raised eyebrow, but in Newfoundland, we simply got approving comments from the locals.

This was it, the final full day on the island, and we had reached that vital point of not caring what other people thought about us. Our needs, at this point, were simple: Gas, Food, Coffee. All we spent money on were the items necessary to move us and our bikes forward.

A rare photo of all four of us: Glen, Scott, myself, and Matt, L-R. Not sure why the ferry worker put us next to the emergency wagon …

If you’ve done longer trips on a motorcycle, you know what I’m talking about, I think: This is when things really get fun, but sadly, we were just hitting our stride as we left. A couple of hours’ enjoyment of the misty west coast scenery again the next morning, after a night with friends in Stephenville, and we were sailing back on the ferry.

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The ride back through Nova Scotia was actually a lot of fun, even though it was sad to see the trip end. We had good rip down the middle of Cape Breton Island on a road that none of us had ever discovered before, dumping us out into Antigonish in time for a feast at Mother Webb’s just before it closed. The next day, we hit up the Mini-Cape run through Cape George, then the Sunrise Trail, and then we were back in New Brunswick and home in Saint John.

A big dinner at Mother Webb’s, and then Route 6 in the morning. I wish I was back there again; this winter, I’ve relived these days again and again in my head, as the snow piles up outside. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

And then, summer got busy, and we really didn’t ride together for the rest of the season. Who knows; the way life is, maybe we won’t be able to do another ride like this for years, at least not as a group. Kids, work responsibilities, property maintenance—most people don’t get to regularly take 10+ days to go riding in July.

But, I hope we can do it again someday—head out as a group and take a trip around two weeks’ length. I really miss that Gas/Food/Coffee mode, and I already miss Newfoundland; I’m pretty sure it’s worth burning a few vacation days to get there again.

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