Day 41 – Gander to St. John’s, NL

Route map

Distance = 333 km    Gas = $29.47 ($1.32/L in Gander)

After driving more than 8,000 km on the Trans-Canada Highway, taking two ferries and a crazy long bridge along the way, I’ve finally made it to St. John’s, Newfoundland, the “other” mile 0, (which, for some reason, they call Mile One) and the “other” ocean. Tomorrow I will dip my toe in the Atlantic and cross off another item from my bucket list!

So last night I decided to splurge on a stay at a B&B and I’m so glad I did.

Travel tip: If you stay in Gander, be sure to book a room at the Inn on Bennett. There’s a reason it’s rated the number one B&B in town on Trip Advisor. The rooms are beautifully kept and impeccably clean, and the hosts, Tonya and Dwayne, are super friendly locals who are also caterers and serve a breakfast that alone makes staying with them worth it. I left stuffed after a granola parfait with local partridge berries, French toast with bacon, juice and coffee. To book a stay, call 1-877-256-4560.

Leaving Gander around 10 a.m., I had a lot of time to kill because from there it takes only about three hours to reach St. John’s, so I stopped for a hike in Terra Nova National Park. So worth it. The Coastal Trail – about a 4 km there-and-back – runs through a lush wood along the bay, and on sunny day like today is (almost) equal to the beauty found on the trails in southern British Columbia. Of course, I’m biased, but everywhere you go in Canada people rave about how our license plates speak the truth.

Anyway, if you have the time, do a hike in the park. I was the only person there, and spent some excellent introspective time on the beach at the end, skipping rocks and just sitting in the hot sun listening to the kind of quiet so hard to find these days. It was pretty magic. That being said, I was clapping my hands and trying to think of tunes to whistle on my way to the beach because I found somewhat fresh bear scat, and very fresh moose scat on the trail, and wasn’t in the mood to have one of those life-defining moments of terror on my own in the woods.

This evening I arrived in St. John’s just before the sun started sinking and asked a friendly construction worker to take my photo at the (totally pathetic) Mile One marker downtown. As MacLean’s writer Mark Richardson noted on his cross-Canada trip last year, the sign is downtown, and not actually at the end (or is it the beginning?) of the Trans-Canada Highway (known here as the TCH). Anyway, I got it and then found the place where I’m staying after asking a gang of neighhours out on their porch smoking and drinking beer where I could park my car without getting towed, and I somehow found a spot despite having almost no idea what they had said to me. The Newfie accent, to my ear anyway, sounds like a cross between an Irish lilt and an Alabama drawl; but however you’d describe it, you’d have to agree it’s unique.

I was then warmly welcomed by my host, Chad, and his roommates and his friends who live across the street (who immediately offered me salad from their garden) and made me feel so welcome. Chad is a self-described “gentle hippie” who lives in a three-story apartment that’s crammed full of furniture, bikes, the sound of downtempo electronica and the lingering smell of weed. If I closed my eyes, I’d swear I was in Vancouver. I’m pretty sure this is what you would call a commune. I think four people live here, maybe five. The door is never locked and people come and go. I’ve been asked if I’d like to go dumpster diving tomorrow night for free food. When in Rome…

I can’t believe the “other ocean” is right here, and this is end of my eastward momentum. Tomorrow,  I think one of the folk living here is going to lend me a bike and we’re going to check out the town. Then, depending on what else there is to do, I might just take a break from the road and be here for a few days. Maybe I’ll even kiss a cod and become an honourary Newfoundlander for a time.

NEXT POST: End of the road

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