Newfoundland/Labrador Day 15: Back to Newfoundland
On travel days there often isn’t much to write about and on travel days in the rain and fog and wind there seems to be even less to occupy my typing fingers.
What I can do, though, is relate last night’s events that occurred after I posted the blog (early for a change). After participating in the Canada Day revelries in Red Bay, I thought my Canadian patriotic fervor had run its course. But no. I was wrong, much to my delight. The town of Fronteau had its traditional come-one-come-all evening bonfire and fireworks celebration and it just so happened that the festivities took place just across the road from the historic B&B where I was staying. So I and several other B&B guests strolled over and joined the fun. It was as small-town traditional as you can get.
Residents had gathered wooden pallets into a pile that was stacked well above my head and just as dusk was setting in, they set some of the ablaze. For the next two hours they added more pallets every time the roaring flame began to burn down. But wait, there’s more.
They also had another small fire going where townswomen were toasting bread, then smearing it with butter and encouraging everyone to have toast and homemade jam with tea (or hot chocolate). I chose the partridge berry jam and it went quite well with the burnt toast. But wait, there’s more.
The men folk, when they weren’t talking hunting or fishing, were steaming vat after vat of mussels and grilling a small fish called a capelin, which they carried in large pans to a serving table where more townswomen served huge plates of the seafood delicacies. Not wanting to hurt their feelings, I tried a mussel. Then I tried about 20 more which made me a piker compared to the multiple plates some of the folks were eating in a Canada Day feeding frenzy. I missed the capelin, though. And throughout all this, the townschilden were engaged in age-appropriate play: wandering away from parents (ages 2-4), running around the fire (ages 5-12), ignoring the opposite sex (ages 13-14), flirting with the opposite sex (ages 15+). But wait, there’s more.
About 11 p.m., when the only light available was from the bonfire and the cooking shed, the pyrotechnics began with a couple of half-hearted Roman candle bursts and concluding 10 minutes later with a crowd-pleasing, multi-rocket, star-bursting, cascading firefalls finale.
Last night’s activities seemed better to me than any extravaganza about to be put on at great expense in cities across the United States on July 4. Those of us who “weren’t from around there” were made to feel at home, and we joined in the celebration with mussel-eating gusto and a real sense of common pleasure. Community rituals are growing more rare, yet they are crucial to maintaining a sense of self and communal identity in a complex and confusing world. Small towns across Canada (and the United States) may be struggling to survive adverse economic fortunes, but there is a very real reason why I hope they succeed in their struggle. That reason was in full evidence on the beach at Fronteau, Labrador, on Canada Day night.
So, Happy Canada Day, everyone, and Happy Fourth of July, too.
I woke this morning to fairly heavy rain and thick, hanging fog and 50 degrees, which meant I wouldn’t do the on-the-road sight seeing in Quebec I had planned. Instead, I suited up in rain and heated gear, said goodbye to my gracious host at the Genfell Louie A Hall Bed and Breakfast, and putted slowly through the forlorn mist to the ferry landing about 15 miles away at Blanc Sablon. There, I waited through the mizzel until the ferry arrived, disgorged its automotive load, and then swallowed up the cars, truck and lone, filthy motorcycle waiting in the que for their turn to enter the belly of the beast. The boat ride back to Newfoundland was considerably rougher than the ride to Quebec/Labrador two days earlier, though my vast nautical experience 45 years ago in the Naval service of our county served me well as I kept my breakfast where it belonged while others were losing theirs.
The rain had stopped when we landed in Newfoundland but the fog was still there and the wind, blowing south across the cold Labrador Strait, had gained in intensity and made my ride down the western Newfoundland finger more exciting than it otherwise would have been. Imagine trying to dodge potholes while an unseen hand grabs your handlebars and tries to countermand your efforts. But by the time I approached Deer Lake, my current location and site of the Lakeview Bed and Breakfast that really does have a view of a lake, the winds had been blocked by the Gros Morne mountains, the clouds had begun to part and I could see blue skies and the sun peacefully setting over the mountains. Not really a bad day after all.
Tomorrow I’ll travel east to Twillingate. (Twillingate, Twillingate, Twillingate, Twillingate: I like the sound of that town. That’s why I chose it as my next destination. That and the fact that there appears to be multiple historical and adventurous things to do there.) I can’t wait to get on the road again.
Watch out for the slick spots and I’ll do the same.