We find ourselves with front row seats for a race! - Monday, September 15
I rarely sleep in until 8:00 but I did this morning. Nobody bothered us all night, and our freebee campsite was so quiet and nice - until I heard voices as I was making my coffee, and peeking out the curtain I saw three people in official looking vests getting out of a car parked a few feet from our bumper. Oh oh!
But they seemed to ignore us and they went about putting up a red ribbon across the driveway where we were parked. Yikes! They’re blocking us in! I reluctantly opened the door and went out, surprising them. They’d thought the RV was not occupied. I pointed to the ribbon and asked them what was going on and they smiled broadly and said, “It’s for the RACE!” It was then I realized they were wearing TARGA emblems on their vests, and they were volunteers for the race Madolyn’s hairdresser had told her about the other day. Apparently it was scheduled for today, and the route of the road race was taking the cars right past our front door! Talk about luck!
Another nice woman arrived to help direct traffic and they asked us if we wanted to move before the race. We said ‘no’ we were delighted to be able to watch it, so we struck up a conversation and a friendship, and before long we were having to talk between cars zooming by. The purpose of the race is a little confused, as was the route and the start. What we thought were time trials were actually the racers going by on the clock, and nobody seemed quite in control of the traffic because there were trucks on the track - but it was fun to watch, and about the time we expected to hear the starting gun the woman said, ‘well, that’s about it!’ and they were taking down the ribbon and setting us free. It did not appear that the girls actually knew what was happening and when. All they knew was that they were to guard that driveway and keep traffic from entering the roadway there. The others with them were set up at the next turn with tape across the road and arrow signs to direct the cars to turn.
It seems the racers (two to a car) were on a timed circuit where they had to meet certain specific time requirements - sort of like the old poker runs. They are racing all week all over Newfoundland, and whether anyone knows what they are doing or why they are doing it everyone is behind it and having fun. And isn’t that really what it’s all about?
We packed up and left our nice campsite and headed for Ship Harbour 20 miles up the road. Ship Harbour has the distinction of being the place where the Atlantic Charter was signed. This was the pact made between England and the United States to support and defend each other during the second world war. Winston Churchill came from England and FDR came from the U.S. and before it was over 26 nations had joined in the pact, which became the inspiration later for the United Nations.
We arrived at Ship Harbour, which is a small village on the water of Placentia Bay, and we found the road to the historic site, but it was gravel and did not look good. A man at the house on the corner verified that it was not a good road and that we probably didn’t want to take an RV over it. We asked him if we could walk in and he said it was about 2 kilometers round trip. That translates to about a mile and a half so off we went, trudging up the first steep hill on foot.
To make a long story short, the one kilometer in turned into a mile and a half, and the round trip was more than double what he told us, but we needed the exercise, and the scenery was nice. We picked wild raspberries along the way, and found moose piles but no moose. We finally arrived at the site and were surprised to find it run down and not in good shape. There were many protest signs taking Parks Canada to task and complaining about the road. I signed their guestbook and added my critique of the fact that the flags were all in tatters and the worst one was our American flag which had nearly a third gone to the wind.
The Atlantic Charter was drawn up and signed aboard a ship off shore and not here at the ‘historic site’ we had walked three miles to see. The whole trip was not what we expected it to be, but the scenery and the interpretive signs made the trip worthwhile and we got some well needed exercise out of it. We chatted with the old man for a while before leaving, and advised him to upgrade his distances to 5 kilometers round trip, and then we drove back to Placentia and found a nice restaurant to have a last Newfoundland dinner.
I had cod and Madolyn had cod and shrimp and scallops, and her dish had three cod tongues, a local delicacy we had not worked up the courage to try yet. They are fishy and ‘different’ but now we can say we have at least tasted them. We finished off with cheesecake with a great bakeapple topping, and it was a perfect way to end our visit to this Province.
We still had about 10 hours until the ferry departs, so we drove out to the old Argentia Navy base and parked where we could see the ferry terminal across the water. An oil tanker was getting ready to leave the dock and two tugboats were tied up to it. I got out to take some pictures - the whole operation lasted almost an hour. As the ship was clearing the channel a man who had been working nearby came over to his truck to go home, and we got into the most interesting conversation.
He grew up here and he told me all about the U.S. Naval Base. I asked him what kind of work he is doing there and he rolled his eyes and said, “It’s all remission work” - meaning that they are cleaning up hazardous waste sites after the Americans. Thousands of gallons of Bunker ‘C’ and aviation gas leaked into the ground and it has been years of work cleaning up the mess since the base was closed down in the early 90s. Once the base was closed down, all the housing and most of the infrastructure were removed. I said I hoped the U.S. was paying for it, and he assured me they are. He had a very positive attitude toward the Americans and the base, and we had a great conversation. He introduced himself as Steve Griffin, and we agreed that while we will probably never see each other again, we will both remember the conversation.
A short time later we saw lights and cars over at the ferry terminal so we drove over and got out tickets and went through their Agricultural Inspection. You’re not supposed to take root crop vegetables from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, even though the bag of potatoes we bought in Newfoundland came from Nova Scotia. We told the woman that and she winked and waved us through without confiscating them.
In the ferry terminal we had a snack and spent the next few hours writing this and playing Sudoku. The ferry finally arrived at 12:30 AM and after an hour unloading was ready to board. We squeezed in between the semi’s and another motorhome, and went topside to find our bunks. We wandered the Joseph and Clara Smallwood for a while but it was dark and cold on deck, and there was nothing to see in the departure, so we turned in and went promptly to sleep.