“The jam was fly; oh my, now it’s over.” – Souls of Mischief
Memories. What wonderful and precious things.
Over three months ago, I boarded a flight for Vancouver, bicycle in tow, intent on making a few more. Now, over 7,000 kilometres later, as I sit and watch the boats come and go from St. John’s Harbour, memories of the past year come to me like the tide greets the shore: the climb through the Rockies, camping in Fort Qu’Appelle, bike breakdowns in Mattawa. It all seems so long ago.
I think back to my first visit to St. John’s, the place where Terry Fox dipped his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean and became a hero. A plaque reads, “I just wish people would realize that anything is possible if you try; dreams are made if people try.” Although he died before I ever lived, Terry’s story captivated me at a young age. I sat and lingered at the monument, wondering what was going through his head as he set off across the country. I didn’t know it at the time, but it wouldn’t be long before I had an understanding.
I’m transported back to Vancouver’s English Bay Beach, minutes from setting off on my own journey. The morning sun shone hot, as the ocean waves lapped against the shore. My sole possessions — bike, panniers, and dry bag — sat next to me. I thought of Terry then, too. I was nervous, excited, but most of all, alive.
I think of the long days and cold nights, the hot meals and warm beds, and the people all along the way. I think of the evenings spent wolfing down everything in sight, gorging on all the food I could find. I think of the prayers made by strangers on my behalf, and the instant bond forged with fellow cyclists on the road.
I think of family, friends, and neighbours who wished me well before I set off, offering donations, camping supplies, and encouragement. It takes a village, they say. I think of surprise visits and joyful reunions along the way. I think of how good it will feel to see everyone again.
I won’t have to wait long. Today, I’m heading home.
A few stories from the past while:
- Newfoundland has a certain magic to it — the kind that draws you in, pours you a drink, and begs you to stay for another song or two. My cousin and her then-boyfriend, now-husband cycled from Ontario to St. John’s four years ago, with plans of staying no longer than a month or two. They’re still here.
- To spend time on The Rock is to be engaged in a bit of myth-making. Perhaps the most popular one revolves around the green, white, and pink flag, otherwise known as the Newfoundland Tricolour. Legend has it the flag was created in the early 1800s as a symbol of peace between the Protestants (green) and the Catholics (rose). Later, it found favour as a symbol of independence. Some would even have you believe it was the inspiration for Ireland’s flag. In truth, historians say the flag comes from a Catholic Church society. Sometimes the myth is better than the truth.
- “Indeed I is, me old Cock, and long may your big jib draw.” Those words were all it took, along with kissing a cod and downing some screech, to be dubbed an honourary Newfoundlander, certificate and all. There was even Newfie steak to celebrate, although it’s less exciting than it sounds — you might say it’s a bunch of baloney.
Things I’ve seen:
1. Stunning shorelines, part 1.
You don’t have to venture far outside of St. John’s to find beauty. Topsail Beach is just a short drive away, with a beautiful backdrop of Bell Island’s steep cliffs.
2. One colourful city.
In truth, you don’t have to leave St. John’s at all to find beauty — it’s everywhere. This being my second time in the city, I enjoyed seeing familiar sights (Jellybean Row, Signal Hill, Quidi Vidi) and found a special joy in discovering new gems, like this view of town.
3. Stunning shorelines, part 2.
What words could possibly do this justice? Not mine. Some things are better experienced than described.
Distance travelled: 7,045 km
Time zones crossed: 6
Flat tires: 0
5 thoughts on “The Day We Hit The Coast”
Another piece of great writing! Looking forward to seeing you soon.
Great writing Martin! Can’t wait to catch up sometime when you’re back.