Biking Across Canada Day 65 — Notre Dame to Port Blandford: The World's Largest Joey Smallwood

The view from Joey’s Lookout

After staying up late burning off my extra camp fuel (I can't fly with it, and I can't dump it), I slept in a little past sunrise. A grey jay came to visit me as I was packing up. I suspect it's used to getting fed by other campers. Today was nice and sunny for a change. Rain is coming tomorrow, so I feel the need to cover as much distance today as I can. That'll also reduce the amount of riding I do on my last day, which is only a couple days away now.

I rode for a few hours, then stopped for groceries and coffee in Gander. This is the biggest town between here and St. John's, so I'm stocking up for a few days here. My mom was stationed here for six months in the seventies, and speaks fondly of it. Sadly I didn't get to check out the international terminal at the airport, where celebrities from your grandparents' days used to wait for their planes to refuel before flying across the Atlantic.

A ways past Gander is Gambo, home to Joey Smallwood, the man who helped convince Newfoundland to join Canada. There's a lookout named after him, an interpretative centre about his life and Newfoundland's joining of Confederation, and a larger-than-life statue of Joey himself. You can even hold his hand! I took some selfies with Joey, then toured the museum. It was interesting. Lots of information on his life as a journalist, union organizer, and broadcaster before he became "the only living father of Confederation." There were artifacts from his life, and handsets you could pick up to hear excerpts from his "Barrelman" radio shows. I had a good time here, spending almost an hour reading the displays.

Joey’s trademark silver shovel, used for groundbreaking events

As I left Gambo, Mark (the cyclist I met two days prior) was waiting for me at the onramp to the Trans Canada. We'd been texting our location to each other throughout the day in the hopes we could meet back up. He started the day in Grand Falls-Windsor and still managed to catch up to me—he's fast. We ended up riding together for the rest of the day, and will likely ride all the way to St. John's. Mark let me set the pace this time so there was no danger of me falling off the back today.

Sometime after Gambo we came to Terra Nova provincial park. My wife and I did a brief backpacking trip here as part of our honeymoon driving across Newfoundland, and had a memorable encounter with a moose who insisted on sharing our campsite. No moose today, though. I had thought I might camp here, but we were making good time and decided to press on. It was hilly, scenic, and beautiful. Challenging but rewarding cycling.

As we reached the other end of the park we passed by another cross-Canada cyclist named Jon, who Mark had met earlier. He's taking a much slower pace, and won't reach St. John's for another week, so it was a brief reunion as Mark and I were riding faster than him.

A typical Terra Nova view before a big descent

We reached Port Blandford as the sun was setting and found an ATV trail to ride down until we found a small clearing just off the highway. As we were setting up our tents I found a pleasant surprise—our site was surrounded by wild blueberry plants. This drastically slowed my pace of getting my gear set up as I was forced to take frequent foraging breaks. We went to bed as soon as we can. Tomorrow is calling for rain in the late morning, so we want to get an early start and ride as much as we can while it's dry.

Today's distance: 166 km

Cumulative distance: 8272 km

John Kyle @JohnKyle