Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cox's Cove to Flat Bay... via Cape St. George

We awoke on Saturday morning to cloudy skies, heavy with the threat of rain.  Over a few cups of coffee a plan was developed: head toward Flat Bay through Corner Brook, stop in Corner Brook for breakfast and then head out toward Cape St. George.

With the bikes loaded, after a brief visit with Glen, we headed inland, leaving the beautful view of Cox's Cove behind.  The further inland we went, the less threatening the sky seemed.  In Corner Brook we motored around for a bit trying to find a place for breakfast.  Asked one fellow (a city street worker) and he suggested Tim Horton's - Al and I agreed - that's not breakfast.  Then he said, "dere's a place down at d'end of d'mall that you could try..."

And find it we did, after a tour of the back parking lot of the Corner Brook mall - Arom'a Plus.  We had a fine scoff - a full breakfast as they say in Newfoundland.  I had eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, ham and bologna - and ended up sharing some of my meat with Al who only had eggs and bacon!  We were set for the road!

Onto the Trans Canada we headed south with very little traffic - until we reached the turn off for Stephenville - then the northbound traffic picked up - boat traffic it seemed to be...

Cape St. George, NL
We turned off onto the RTE 460 and headed west through Black Duck Siding, Stephenville and Kippens.  As we reached Port Au Port West, the clouds broke open!!  At the turn off to RTE 463 out to Cape St. George we had to stop.  We pulled off at the little community centre and stood under the eve's of the roof and smoked a cigar - waiting for it to ease up.  After about 15 minutes we were good to go - and the sky seemed to clear the further west we went.  The south side of Cape St. George was quite enjoyable - lots to see - the north side less so.  After a steep climb up from the Cape and then a gradual descent, the land began to remind me of Prince Edward Island.

Just before we joined up with RTE 460 for the return leg, there was a restaurant on the left hand side of the road, up on a little hill.  I tell you this because I can't remember the name of it... but I can sure remember the food!  We had the daily special: pan fried salmon.  Al had mashed and I had fries!  Was it ever good!  We also had a little visit with a couple from Burlington, ON and another couple from Cascadia, Oregon.  They were quite intrigued that I had travelled through their community last summer on my Sabbatical journey.

With our bellies full we made our way to Stephenville were we stopped for supplies.  I needed some hearing aid batteries.  The drugstore in the grocery store didn't have any so we had to go to Wal-Mark - but not before we stopped for some adult beverages for the evening.  At Wal-Mart I got my hearing aid batteries, granola bars and some reading material for the boat.  New destination? Flat Bay.

Flat Bay, NL
Flat Bay barely registers on Google Maps.  It is not included on my GPS map - and I had added it manually using coordinates.  Now, you may be wondering, why all this trouble to go to Flat Bay?  Well, it was a pastoral visit.  One of the men that I work with at the prison, Hilroy, his family lives in Flat Bay and I wanted to connect with them again, as I had met some of them earlier and I felt that they might benefit from a visit and extended conversation.

Hilroy had told me to stop at the Ultramar on the Trans Canada and ask for directions to his brother's place.  So, leaving Stephenville, past Noel's Pond and through Stephenville Crossing we went, stopping at some construction on the bridge over St. George's Bay for a light to change.

We turned onto the Trans Canada and not long afterward we came to the Ultramar where we pulled in.  Al went directly to the pumps to fill up.  I parked and was headed in to ask for directions when I noticed two men in a blue pickup looking at me - expectantly - it was Walter and Ernie.  Walter is Hilroy's brother.  After greetings all around, Walter told us to follow them in - no need for directions!

15KM later we were parked in Walter's yard where we met his wife Melita and got a tour of their beautiful home - tucked into the woods on the edge of the bog.  We were prepared to tent in the area but they insisted that we stay in the house - and with the threat of moose flies and rain - we were quick to accept.  As we settled in, Walter took us on a tour of the community Flat Bay.  During this tour I learned about the closure of small costal communities.   Between the mid-1950s and the early 1970s, the Newfoundland government led by Premier Joey Smallwood closed 250 coastal villages. Thirty thousand people were uprooted and relocated to larger villages and towns - Flat Bay was one of these villages.  But slowly people started coming back!


Pitcher Plant
Bake Apple
Walter showed us some of the homes his extended family lived in, like the one he is renovating for his grand-daughter.  He took us for a walk along some of the shoreline trails and then out to the pow wow grounds - and it was here that I learned this his daughter, Liz Lasag, is the Chief of the Flat Bay Band - now known as No'Kmaq Village.

Returning to the house, the tour wasn't done.  A quad ride on the bog.  I found this experience so amazing as I'd never seen or ridden on such a spongy surface!  Step on it and it squished like a wet sponge.  Walter pointed out plants such as the ever present bake-apple and the pitcher plant (Newfoundland Provincial Flower).  As we headed back toward the woods on the quads I soon realized that riding a quad over this surface was much harder work then riding a motorcycle!  It took all your arm strength to point that thing where you wanted it to go - and there was no using your body to lean it!!  Thankfully we stopped for a few photo breaks!!

Returning to the house Melita had a meal ready for us: moose steak and vegetables with a lemon custard for desert.  It was delicious!!  All of it!!  This brought my count of moose sighting up to two - both on plates!

With our hunger sated Walter took us across the road to meet his daughter and show us her home - that he had built for her, based on her plans.  Its a beautiful home - so full of character and love.


The House that Walter Built
Walter tells the story of how one day he had a crew of men working and Liz showed up with pay packets for all the men.  In Walter's envelope there was Canadian Tire money... he laughs and you can see the love in his eyes and you just know how important his family is to him.  After a tour of the house we sat with Walter and Liz and Liz's partner and shared some stories about family, culture and faith - a enlightening and informative time with a bright articulate young woman!

Returning to Walter and Melita's home we settled in for more conversation.  Walter showed us family pictures, Melita shared some photos of sunsets taken over the bay and we heard story after story about life in Flat Bay, about people leaving and returning, about the various cultures that have married and intermingled, about the deep connection to the land and family...

In the midst of this, I turned on my computer to show Walter and Melita pictures of my two boys and while doing that I checked my email - it was here that I learned that Anna's cousin, Randy Czapalay, who had been battling a cancerous brain tumor had died.  His mother Joan had asked me if I would take part in a graveside service for him in Port Greville.

Al and I had been weighing what to do next.  I was filled with cold.  With our visit here we had accomplished to two must do items: the Trans Labrador and a visit to Flat Bay... we had thought about heading down to Burgeo on Sunday morning... but this news decided things for us.  We were heading for the boat on Sunday morning.

I called Marine Atlantic and changed our reservations, called Anna and told her we were heading home, emailed Joan and let her know I would be home on Sunday evening and then called the hotel in North Sydney and cancelled our reservation for Thursday morning.

With all that done, Walter brought out some snacks: chips and pepperoni and salami, and as I teased him, when we were full, he brought out the good stuff, homemade bottled salmon - yum yum yum!!  It went very well with the Black Horse - not so well with the Honey Brown.

Eventually I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.  I needed to go to bed.  I headed upstair to bed and left Al and Walter having "one more".

Our track for the day: 319KM

Our elevation profile for the day!

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