A snowy day in February is a good time to look at travel literature, order maps and check transportation schedules for an adventure in August. Consider details of planning a bicycle trip similar to our 11-day ride across Newfoundland in August l974.
We planned to pedal our trusty bikes from Corner Brook to St. John. Canadian Highway One had recently been completed across the rugged, infertile interior of this eastern Maritime Province. We four Gerards had sampled part of that by station wagon, 14 years before, while camping. This time we hoped to fly to the airport at Deer Lake and tackle the sparsely inhabited interior of mostly forests and non-fertile land.
Chub looked over my shoulder and said, "Coming back we could take a coastal freighter up north with the icebergs, whales and isolated fishing villages; then we’d fly back from Goose Bay, Labrador." He knew that those tiny settlements were carved out of solid rock; they had no trees, no roads, no cars - just radio communication, fishing shacks and foot paths. I had previously planned and led three European bike tours for Columbia College students, so I knew the value of making reservations early. This plan would not be simple.
We fell in love with Newfoundland in 1960 - the lumber industry, the coastal fishing villages, rows of codfish drying on clotheslines and beautiful scenery and friendly people. I requested free maps and literature from addresses listed in travel magazines and sent a deposit for bed and breakfast near Deer Lake’s airport because we would arrive at night. St. Johns would have hotels. We reserved a tiny cabin on a coastal freighter and flight from Goose Bay to correspond with the freighter’s arrival.
Our son Walt had outfitted many bike tourists and, remembering Newfoundland from childhood, said, "Buy the very best bicyclists’ rain gear." We did. Chub also bought a spare tire and front saddlebags with rack. I would carry our "tent" - a 12-foot-long, clear plastic tube of new design. By putting the tent’s long rope through the tube and tying each end to a stationary object such as a tree or a stone, we could shape the tent by placing saddlebags inside at the four corners. That "anchored" the tube. Our sleeping bags were under beautiful starry skies - and also frightening thunder and lightning!
To pack, I spread out necessary clothing, maps, tools, flashlights, camera, film - everything - in two piles on a bed; I’d often pick something out of the pile saying, "I can do without this," or I’ll sleep in my clothes." In three European tours with students, I learned to take more money, fewer clothes and to choose quick-drying shirts, slacks, socks and underwear.
On our way with wind at our backs we sailed along. When a sign warned, "No services for 63 miles," we bought supper and breakfast - candy bars and four workman-size sandwiches of country ham and cheese. The proprietor gave us a gallon plastic jug of water, which we strapped on top of the tent. The Canadian "Mounties" and truck drivers honked and waved each time they went back and forth. At the first restaurant after the 63 lonely miles, two Mounties came our table to say, "We can’t stand it any longer. How old are you, anyhow?" Chub was 64, and I was 60.
After 11 days and 500 miles, we pedaled into Newfoundland’s interesting capital city - in 5 o’clock traffic at the end of a 65-mile rainy ride. A hot shower never felt better, so we walked to get supper and then attended a local movie about polar bears. More about Newfoundland and Labrador can be found in my second book, which is coming soon.