September 14, 2007 GMT
Chain Reaction

Sitting in the beautiful Rotunda at St. Anthony’s hospital, with its black and gold ceramic sculptured walls, I was thinking ‘How ironic, I was told to come and see this, but had decided not to, now here I am looking at the work of art that is dedicated to a NFLD doctor who pioneered the medical services to these northern folk.

The taxi arrived, a bit old and beat up, gasping and wheezing, definitely seen better days, but then again his taxi was in about the same condition, they were a matched pair. We wallowed out of town in a great lumbering pre-energy crises car, it’s almost like we sailed out in a boat what with the rolling suspension, chug-chug of the exhaust, creaking leather seats and slow steady beat of the huge engine.

Warren had struck my tent for me and stowed it safely with the rest of my gear at the Raleigh Provincial Park. I soon had the tent up and rode a very sick and sorry looking bike to my campsite. The windshield in pieces, front faring in half and panniers ripped off of their carrier frames, smashing the locks off, the speedo and rev counter dead. But, and a big but, engine, gearbox and wheels all appear ok.

Over the next few days I stripped out the front of the bike, and placing the pieces together like a jig-saw puzzle, stitched them together using a hot cross-head screwdriver. Then, drilling holes through the thermo-plastic with a suitably heated small screwdriver, I placed a couple of tie-wrap straps near where the screw holes were damaged. The instrument binnacle mount should have looked oval, but looked decidedly crooked so, with the aid of my hammer and a rock as an anvil, that got bashed to almost its original shape. I sawed the damaged windshield in half and again with my hot screwdriver, drilled and mounted it to the front of the bike. Good job I replaced the indicator light bulbs with orange LEDs, because with the rights front indicator smashed I would have no other way of appearing street legal.

A couple of modifications to the GPS mounting, and setting the Magellan to read kilometres per hour, and I also had a working speedo. More tie-wraps to the pannier locks and they are secure, but permanent features of the bike.

I was constantly monitored by the staff at Raleigh Provincial Park to check that I wanted for nothing, and Warren, John and the rest of the guy and gals are cheerful, caring and knowledgably bunch, go see them if your ever up that way and tell them I say ‘Hi’.

Three days after leaving hospital I am on the road again. The weather is hot and the roads almost empty. There are one or two motorcyclists about, and as I pass the first couple I raise my left arm to give them a wave, as you do. My arm flaps about in the slipstream like a wet fish. I do not have enough control to get it back on the handlebars, nor can I stop one handed. I heave my whole torso round once or twice and my hand lands on the tank. Since I have full control of my fingers I walk them like a spider up the tank, across the bar and back to the handle grip where I can control the clutch. Other riders will just have to put up with a quick flash of the lights.

I have decided that the gravel track to Labrador City will be too much for me with a frozen arm, so regretfully pass the turn off leading to the ferry port of St. Barbie. Dan told me during my hospital stay that since it had been raining so much the graders would be out levelling the track, so it would be loose and not too good for a motorbike.

Arriving once more at Green Point, in Gros Mourne National Park, I set up a bivvy with my flysheet and the picnic table, as I want to get away early to see if I can reach the ferry at Port aux Basques. During the evening a fellow camper takes interest in the bike and I invite him to take a closer look.
‘Now check out the other side,’ and he sees the Frankenstein like stitches there.
I apprise him of the circumstances and the doctor’s observations.
‘Can you touch your little finger with your thumb?’ he asks, demonstrating with his own hand.
I do as he asks.
‘What about your thumb and first finger?
Again I do so.
‘Grip my hand.’
I do so.
‘Ahh, that’ll all come back, if you had ripped the nerves out you wouldn’t be able to do any of that. I’m a Chiropractor, so should know.’
I thank him profusely for boosting my moral.

Next a young man enquires if I have a pump for his bicycle wheel on which he has just put a new tyre. It seems to me that a bicycle pump should be the minimum equipment to carry, especially as there are two or three in his group, but what do I know? I loan him the electric pump I carry and he tells me he has just crossed Canada from West to East. I am impressed, and tell him of my plan. His turn to be impressed.
‘Will you go south yourself, now you have done the Tran-Canada route?’ I ask.
‘No way, that would be far to dangerous!’ he replies.
I can’t quite believe this reply, but after a few more prompts it seems obvious that he thinks that everywhere except Canada is a dangerous place. The tyre inflated he returns to his mates and I cook an evening meal and get an early night.

The next day is bright and clear and I’m soon off heading south again. Pulling off the min road at St.George, I encounter members of the Muise family and friend who invite me to their house for a cold drink on this hot day. I ask them about the dock here, and the heaps of crushed rock. They tell me that the huge new warehouse is where the lorries have to dump the real loads because they must not get wet. Even if a bulk ore carrier is waiting at the dock, the cargo has to wait if it is raining, sometime a week or two. What the ore contains know one is certain, it’s all very secret, but somewhere inland they are digging out a mountain. It occurs to me that the ore has something toxic in it that will leach out if it gets wet, but I keep my thoughts to myself.

At the ferry terminal, I was told that due to unavoidable delays I could not book a stand-by tonight. It was 7.30pm and the next ferry was at 6.00am the next morning. However the ferry terminal was open, so at least I could get a meal and a drink, so I headed for the terminal building. There a lorry driver told me that he had been waiting for a trailer of cargo to arrive since 2.00am that morning. The problem was a labour dispute at North Sydney, and someone had phoned in a bomb threat that kept the ferries out of the harbour for most of the day, and completely disrupted the timetable. Hence, even those with firm bookings were still waiting at the dockside. As we spoke a Harley, with the most kit I have ever seen laden on a bike, drew in. peeking from between the handlebars was a small wire hair terrier. Enter Murray and Angel. After a few ‘wows’ and ‘boy oh boys’, each at the others bike, Murray went inside and came out brandishing a ticket. I went straight in and was told at the desk to go back to the kiosk at the ferry gate where I could get a stand-by. I did so immediately.

Murray, Angel and I spent time together telling our stories; not Angel of course, she was content to curl up on the bench beside Murray. Murray had ridden across Canada and was now on his way back home, not sure if his job was still waiting for him or not. He had a pretty rough deal following an industrial accident involving radiation, but was cheery, but bitter that his life savings and pension had been all used up fighting the corporation that nearly killed him. The Health and Safety people in North America are not nearly as diligent as they are in Europe!

We separated and chose our benches to sleep on, and sometime in the early hours the cargo ferry arrived stuffed with trailers for the fleet of lorries that had been waiting for the last 24hrs.

The next morning I managed to get aboard and we headed back towards Nova Scotia.

I said farewell to Murray and Angel as we unshackled our bikes, he to head by the fastest route back to Vancouver, me to try and pick up the trail that I planned, somewhere on the north side of the St. Lawrence.

That night I camped at the picturesque Provincial campsite of Whycocomait, overlooking Lac D’or. I was privileged to get a spot high on the hill overlooking the lake, but it was a mixed blessing as I found it difficult to find a flat spot to safely park the bike.

The next morning was drizzly and I took the road to Port Hawkesbury and the causeway that leads to the southern part of Nova Scotia. The next thing I remember is waking up in an ambulance!! The paramedic tells me that the chain on the bike had snapped, wrapped around the back wheel and thrown me into the road, I was doing about 60mph at the time. He also tells me that he thinks I have a broken collar bone, as we head to the hospital at Baddeck.

Posted by Derek Fairless at September 14, 2007 12:27 AM GMT

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