Saturday, June 20, 2015

From Signal Hill to Johanna's Ride the Boot

The morning dawned with beautiful sunshine and I got busy packing up the bike because a couple of the guys were coming to take me up to Signal Hill, then we’d make a quick pit stop at Mile One Harley to get my hubby a shot glass of his collection. 

From there we would be heading to Goobies and then I would travel on my own to Marystown and the Johanna’s Ride the Boot Memorial. 

It was going to be a busy day. 

The guys came and grabbed me around 11am and off to Signal Hill we went. 

Signal Hill is the home of the very first wireless transatlantic communication. 

On December 1, 1901, Gugielmo Marconi received that first transmission from the abandoned Diptheria and Fever hospital, one of three hospitals that had operated on the Hill over the years. 

Before the advent of wireless communications, flags were waved by signalmen from signalling masts that were built on the top of Cabot Tower, and conveyed information about what the ship was carrying so that merchants could get ready to receive their cargo. 

It is also one of the most natural defense positions to protect and defend St. John’s Harbour. The last battle in the Seven Year’s War was fought right here in 1762. 

The French had captured St. John’s in June of 1762. They had hoped it would strengthened their bargaining position with the British, since they had lost Louisbourg and Quebec City. 

In September, of the same year, Lieutenant-Colonel William Amherst took St. John’s from Torbay. 

Standing on the ridge I swear you can hear the crack of muskets firing and the boom of canons. The place exudes the history it has experienced. 

We had to head out so that I could get to Goobies on time to meet with the Lys Unit of CAV and I still needed to stop at the Harley shop to get that shot glass for hubby, so off we went. As it turned out we were about a half hour or so late getting to the meet up, but everyone had waited for us! 

The weather was starting to turn overcast and cool and the wind was picking up, so after a cheque presentation to the Conga, some photos and a ton of hugs, I was off on my own to go experience the Johanna’s Ride the Boot Memorial. 

The time I spent with my brothers and sisters of the Newfoundland riding community so far had been top drawer. I enjoyed and will cherish every minute. 
They shared so much of their history, culture and the communities they live in, with me that I was already missing people, feeling melancholy and a wee bit blue. Yes, these people had gotten under 

my skin and invaded my soul. 

But, I had one or two more adventures yet to experience before my time here on the Rock was to be over and so with a honk of the horn I was off to Marystown. 

 I rode off with such mixed feelings, the wind was blowing pretty good and it attempted to rain, but it never amounted to much. 

I thought about how it came to pass that I was 
going to be attending one of Newfoundland’s 
largest events, and how a man named Tom Hollett had found out that I was coming to Newfoundland and contacted tourism to ask if I could change my travel plans. 

I was supposed to spend four days in St John’s and take the ferry from there on the Saturday. Instead, because I had agreed to attend the event, passage out of Port aux Basques on Monday morning was arranged as was a room and a truck that would haul me and the bike back the 900 KM’s to Port aux Basque. 

Travelling on a bike at night is not recommended on the west side of the island. 

I pulled into Marystown and headed to the Marystown Hotel & Conference Centre. I knew I was at the right place because the parking lot already had about 75 bikes in it. This in spite of the weather warnings. 

Reuben Noseworthy met me at the front desk and ensured I was settled in and had the help I needed. 

Reuben’s son Michael helped me to unpack the bike get my gear dropped off in the room. The wing of the hotel that I was in was under renovations, but for the rally all the work had stopped so as not to interfere with the gathering. 
The room was huge with full kitchen and I knew I was going to enjoy whatever time I got in it. 

We headed downstairs to the rally registration. 

What a well run meet ‘n’ greet and silent auction they had going on. After you registered, you were told about the meet ‘n greet just across the way, and filled in on the details of the next two days. Every rider got a really great shoulder pack filled with map, itinerary, a patch, some candy and water. 

Then you were invited to stop at the various tables to purchase raffle tickets for the bike, buy your tee shirt and bid on the silent auction items. 

I got to meet Barbara Noseworthy, what a wonderfully warm woman. Although she tended to tear up a bit at her daughter’s name being spoken, you could see the determination in her eyes that this year’s memorial ride for her daughter was going to be special. 

After spending some time chatting and snapping photos, I headed to go and find something to eat. 

I stopped into my room first and dropped off the shoulder bag. Next thing I knew a bunch from the CAV had invited me out to the back stairwell for a beverage and a gab. 
It was 11 pm before I finally hit the hay! 

I woke up and grabbed my cameras and the gear I’d need for the day and headed out to the bike to start getting it ready. It had rained over night and it was trying really hard to be nice, but just not quite getting there. 

I fuelled up, mounted cameras and then made my way in for the 8 am biker’s breakfast in the pub. By this time there were over a 100 bikes in the parking lot and the steady drone of bikes rolling in could be heard. 

The meal was enormous and the coffee was hot and strong! 

As we waited for people to arrive, I walked around and got bikers to pet or hug Rita my Beaver, it made for great laughs and a wonderful way to start the day off. 

At 11 AM, Reuben came on the bull horn and explained to everyone what was happening for the day. Then a padre gave benediction to the ride and pretty soon we were off, some 280 bikes heading for Smugglers Cove. 

At noon we were off. 

I was assigned an outrider named Sean who ensured that while I was filming all of the riders would stay safe. 

He and I worked out hand signals and we were able to roll in and out of the bikes easily. 
He also knew all of the places where I could park to get some great riding shots of the parade as it wended it’s way through the Burin Peninsula. 

We stopped at a variety of places, the most memorable being the stop in Grand Bank. We were treated to coffee and squares and all sorts of delights. We were right on the wharf too and it was an impressive sight with all those bikes and the lighthouse. 

Lots of little celebrations were going on, celebrations inside the greater one of the ride, like 
one guy proposing to his lady and she accepted.  Another gal was celebrating a birthday. 

Even though we had intermittent clouds and sun, the day stayed reasonably warm and the threat of rain never materialized. We arrived at Smugglers Cove, about 3pm. There were burgers on and it was like a stampeded! You’d have sworn all those bikers were not the same ones who devoured totes full of cookies and squares and sandwiches. 

Smugglers Cove itself is a unique gather spot being built by Tom Hollett. Tom is one of the biggest champions of tourism in the Burin Peninsula. 

He hopes to have the facility ready for the public in another year or so, but in the meantime, the crew of riders that show up for Johanna’s Ride the Boot get to be the guinea pigs for how the changes and improvements are working! 

Tom donates the use of the facility to the ride. 

The supper that was served that evening was ribs, salads, dinner bun and coffee, tea or you could purchase an alternate. 

The music had been playing all afternoon with a solo artist kicking it off and man could that guy sing. 

All throughout the evening there were presentations, even I was given the opportunity to speak to the audience about my Conga and the mission I was on to educate civilians about veterans causes. 

After finally getting to meet Tom Hollett, I decided it was time to avail myself of the shuttle service and head back to the hotel. 

I fell asleep on the bus and had to be woken up! A sweet couple offered to take me out to the breakfast the next morning and I was ready and waiting when they arrived. For the life of me, as I write this I cannot remember their names. 

I am sure that when I no longer urgently need to remember their names, they will come to me. A sign of growing old I guess. In the meantime, one thing I could never forget was their kindness and hospitality. 

We were served up the most satisfying pancake breakfast and took advantage of the brilliant blue sky by eating outside on the deck. 

Reuben and his gang took the stage, there were numerous speeches and presentations and then the moment so many were waiting for the bike draw. A guy from Calgary won it. 
I went and said my goodbyes to the Noseworthy’s and a few others that had been extraordinarily kind to me and pretty soon Black Betty and I were in a truck with none other than Tom Hollett himself. 

In spite of not riding and seeing Black Betty in the back of a truck, I passed a most pleasurable afternoon and evening with Tom. He is quite the man and I deeply appreciate the time he spent with me and doing what he did in rearranging my travel plans. Because of him and his love for the Burn Peninsula, I got to take part in an event that filled my heart with so much gratitude and love. 

Watch the video - it’s 4 minutes long and does far more justice to the event than my words can: 

We unloaded my bike at about 1 am. 

Cathy Lomond of the Port aux Basques Hotel had reserved me a jacuzzi suite. OH my word did I need that after all that travelling in a pick up. 

I had to be at the ferry for 4 am, I finally laid my head down at just after two. 
I packed up the bike and headed for the ferry in the dark. It was a strange send off to the island. 

After feeling like part of a family, being alone in the line up was truly strange. After tying down the bike I went to the check in desk only to discover there had been a 
problem with the cancelling of the ferry out of Argentia and re booking on this one and I now had no room. 

I was tired. Really tired and I was now very grumpy and I am afraid I wasn’t terribly polite to the man behind the counter. He did not seem to understand that I was supposed to be filming the room and doing a piece on the boat. 

Foiled from doing my job,I went and found a chair to curl up in and spent a few rough hours of cat napping. 

I had a hard days riding ahead of me... In Cape Breton...and I knew I was going to have to stay very cognizant of my sleep deprived state. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Saint John's - what a place!

My morning started out with glorious sunshine and nice warm temperatures.  I sat outside having my morning coffee and relaxing. For once I wasn't in a real hurry.

My plan for the morning was to do some laundry and get some writing done.

I was totally blown away to have the maintenance guy come to talk to me about my door lock at 8 am sharp.  He checked it out and sure enough the mechanism had failed.  He left for a few minutes and came back to tell me they did not have a spare unit and he had no way to repair this one, so he had already checked out another room for me with the front desk and offered to help move my gear to the new room.

The customer service absolutely truly, blew me away.

Once all my gear was safely stashed in my new room, I went down and threw some laundry in and then headed to the pub for breakfast.  The place reminded me of Coronation Street.

Rich wood, tons of photos and artifacts and more friendly staff.

I ordered a tradition Newfoundlander's breakfast of fried bologna, eggs and hash browns and a side of Toutons.

I had so many people tell me about Toutons and that I had to try them so, I did and my lord did I like them!  Toutons are bread dough that has been pan fried in a skillet and they are served with butter and your choice of maple syrup or molasses.  My one great weakness when it comes to food (besides the fact that I just love really good food) is breads.  I love good bread and Toutons are really good bread!

After I was done this enormous breakfast, I snooped around the pub and took some photos, then I headed off to go and put my laundry in the drier.  Back in the room I put on another cup of coffee and settled in to tagging photos and writing.

Debby swung by and picked me up at about 12:30pm. There was a funeral in town for a very young local rider that Debby and I were going to attend, but when we got there, there was no where to park for literally miles and a huge crowd was gathered in the parking lot as the church was full.

With plans to attend the funeral foiled, we headed out to the Newfoundland Bronze Foundry early.

Frank Gogos met us there.  Frank works with Morgan MacDonald, the owner of the foundry who is a brilliant sculptor.  Frank himself is a historian among other things.

I was invited to view some of the impressive sculptures and watch their first pouring of a bronze plaque in their brand new facility.

Frank expressed that it would be the most challenging pour as it would be their first with brand new equipment and processes.

While Frank and Morgan worked on getting the pour ready, one of Morgan's employees took Debby and I around to look at some of the previous work they had done and some of the sculptures that were in various stages of completion.

Morgan is so incredibly talented and the Newfoundland Bronze Foundry has done some impressive jobs both in concept and design and restorations.

Besides the pour that I was there to witness, the guys were proud to show me one of the largest restoration projects that they were going to begin working on,  you see the Caribou monument that had been damaged had just arrived for refurbishing from  
                Bowring Park.

The guys got geared up in special heat resistant suits and began the process of removing the molten bronze from the foundry and transferring it to the cast mould.

Here is the process in pictures:

It was an impressive thing to watch but it was also very hot and smelly, and while the pour didn't go exactly the way they had hoped, they now knew exactly what they would have to do when they re-poured the next day.

The parts the turned out well let them know that their mould was perfect and that the words and images were crystal clear and for this first attempt with new equipment that news made them very happy.

I thanked Frank and Morgan for the chance to see the foundry in action and all of the pre-pour work that goes into creating or refurbishing a monument.
I was totally in awe of the whole process.

Debby and I left the foundry to go back to the Guv'nor Inn so I could get ready for the evening ahead and then we stopped in to her place for the same reason.

Tonight was a big night for me. I was finally going to get a Jiggs dinner and get Screeched in.

Frank and Perry met Debby and I at the Big R Restaurant on Blackmarsh Road.  I had no challenges deciding what I wanted to eat!

When the meal arrived I dug in with some gusto and was rewarded with the rich flavours that are what make a Jigs dinner a staple in Newfoundland.

Salt beef, carrots, turnips, cabbage that have been all boiled together served with peas pudding, turkey with stuffing and gravy.

By the time I got done eating all I wanted to do was go to sleep but that wasn't going to happen anytime soon.  Frank and Perry rode their bikes over to Frank's place and everyone piled into Debby's truck.

We headed downtown to George Street.  We strolled down the street and Frank pointed out a monument that the foundry had made for the city.  The craftsmanship and the beauty of the finished product in the setting it was built for was breathtaking.

George Street is one crazy place!  Pubs all competing for the visitors business, music blaring, the sound of laughter everywhere and it was early yet!  I was told that by the time 11pm rolled around the street would be elbow to elbow!

We went to Trapper John's for my Screech In, and by the time the big event rolled around I had run into a guy from Cold Lake that I had missed when I was there for my Conga and a bunch of the gang including Tom Skelding and his wife Gaye had come down to witness my becoming an honorary Newfoundlander.

I was gifted with a CAV sweatshirt all because I commented that I would like know where could I get one...these CAV people are some generous and they were that way right across Canada.

All of us who had signed up to be Screeched In were called up to the bar and we were given this very firm and stern talk about the importance of being a

Newfoundlander and that we had to represent the province well.

We had to keep our hands off the bar and was tough let me tell you!

Soon the moment came when we were taught the official Creed just before downing the Demerara rum known as Screech:
"From the waters of the Avalon, to the shores of Labrador,
We've always stuck together, with a Rant and with a Roar.
To those who've never been, soon they'll understand,
From coast to coast, we raise a toast, We love thee Newfoundland!"
And it ends with:
"Deed I is me old cock, and long may your big jib draw!"
And you had to say it the way he said it...then we had to kiss the cod!

What a hoot! A little different from kissing the Sour Toe up in Dawson City YT earlier in the summer but not that much!

Before too long it was time to head back to the hotel and say some of my good byes because in the early afternoon I was being escorted to Goobies to meet with the Lys