After only one night in Labrador we crossed back onto Newfoundland and rode up to the northern tip of the island. One thousand years ago the Norse had a settlement there at L’Anse aux Meadows; we spent two nights just a stone’s throw away. That beautiful green rolling land might be the Vinland of the sagas; those bulges in the ground might be the remains of Thorfinn Karlsefni’s failed colony. I can believe it; it’d be a fine place to live.
Three days ago we left to begin the long burn home with less than full enthusiasm. I’d left my head behind me somewhere; minor miracles and people met. It seemed like a beautiful day, warm and sunny, until we got out into the wind. I’ve never had to ride in a wind like that before — there were times we could hardly get over 40 mph. It slapped me from side to side with such vigor it was all I could do to stay in my lane; when a truck or tour bus would appear going the other way I ‘d concentrate: “DON’T HIT THE BUS. DON’T HIT THE BUS.” Even on straightaways my bike was canted into the wind as though I was going around a corner. My head flopped from side to side and my face was mushed around into surely entertaining expressions, even behind the visor. At one point my engine cut out; mystified, it took me several minutes to realize that I’d run out of gas after only 90 miles instead of the normal 120. It was like wrestling with a motorcycle-shaped animal, or how I imagine it must feel to ride a jet-ski in heavy surf. The wind could do anything it wanted up there because there was nothing to stop it; I was grateful for every moment that it didn’t simply flick my wheels out from under me. This continued for 200 miles.
We watched three movies consecutively on the ferry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia. We heard so many stories about the ferry: the boat is designed to make the passage in three hours but the ferry company didn’t make any money from the cafeteria on such a short trip, so they lengthened it; the ferry leaves at odd hours to insure that you miss a meal and thus have to buy food on board; the day boat only takes four hours but at night they shut off one engine so the trip takes six or seven hours and the crew can receive more night pay. If these stories aren’t all true, they’re at least an example of our human need to explain and assign blame for our suffering.
The ride back across the middle of Cape Breton Island was slow as we arduously leapfrogged past long caravans of campers and trucks on the hilly two-lane highway, so after we crossed back onto the Nova Scotia mainland we left the highway to look for an alternate route. Ofcourse we failed and rode around in circles for a while, then got back on the highway an exit or two down. Now the road was smooth and fast, a four-lane divided highway- Heaven! We rode in oblivious glee for ten minutes before it occurred to us (simultaneously) that we were the only vehicles on the road; we hadn’t seen a single car or truck going in either direction. Laughing hysterically we exchanged gestures of bafflement, then pulled over and looked at the map which told us nothing. Still silence on the big beautiful highway. We rode on and about five minutes later came to where the blacktop ended and the construction crew began; this was a new highway being built to replace the old one and for whatever reason the exit we’d got on at just hadn’t been blocked or marked. The construction people directed us back to the old road.
At dark, after riding all day from North Sydney, we crossed back into Maine, took off our helmets and then rode all night toward places called home; 22 hours by the time we got back at dawn on Friday.
Behind us, from Manchester to Red Bay, lay 1350 miles of road.