Young Chronicles XXII: Fortune to Port-Aux-Basque, Newfoundland

The Young Chronicles detail my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the initial Toronto to St. John’s, Newfoundland leg of the journey, this section covers the return trip back across Newfoundland.

June 16, 1983 Mileage 35 miles

Ride One: Fortune to Grand Bank, Newfoundland. Old turquoise pickup truck. 23-year-old man with toothy grin. Wants to get out of Fortune.

Ride Two: Grand Bank to four miles down road. Old pickup truck. Toolbox. Nice man.

Ride Three: To Marystown. Pickup truck. Young guy, moose hunter, works on the oil platforms, six months on, six months off. Off to fish in Gander, Labrador soon.

Stayed in Mariner’s Lodge run by an old guy. “Been everywhere and know everything.”

June 17, 1983 Mileage 418 miles

Ride One: Marystown to Clarenville. Old car. Squeaky 200-pound moose hunter.

Ride Two: Clarenville to Trans Canada Turnoff. Blue pickup truck. Middle-aged guy with no right hand index finger. Electrician moose hunter. Loves screech and special mild cigarettes.

Ride Three: TCH Turnoff too Gander. Old Blue car. Old lady who told story of mongoloid children from a little red bible. “God bless you.”

Ride Four: Gander to Corner Brook. Old Buick. Young guy who took pictures and hunted moose. Quiet except about moose.

Stayed in Bridgeway Motel with two beds. Upcoming Red Rider concert advertised heavily on radio. Ate a hamburger at an old diner. Still cold. High of 24.

June 18, 1983 Mileage 137 miles PLUS ferry trip back to mainland

Ride One: To “a better exit”. Small car with a guy and girl. “I’ll show you a better exit.”

Ride Two: Corner Brook to Stephenville. Canadian army truck. Guy looked a cartoon character with lips jutting out. Moose hunter

Ride Three: Stephenville to roadside bar 25 north of Port-Aux-Basques. Three guys on a multi-day bender. Doug (groom-to-be, bearded, driver, calm, scar on cheek), Pat (married two years, former speed user), Brian (married three years drinker, mustache) and Tefel (fellow hitchhiker, insecure, loves high speed driving).

Doug, Pat, Brian and Tefel holding the spare tires that acted as back seats.

These guys are all moose poachers and have been jailed four times each. No back seat in the car. Spare tires instead. Shared bottles of beer. I had four. They took us to dump to look for bears and threw empties into the garbage pile. Left them at the bar.

Ride Four: Roadside bar to Port-Aux-Basques Ferry Terminal. Light brown sedan. Mustache and overweight. “Keep all your lanes open in music.”

Overnight ferry to Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Writing Process: Virtual Junk to Myself

My family had many Christmas traditions. Presents were not put under the tree until Christmas Eve. The living room door was kept closed until after we had a proper breakfast. Christmas cards were used as decorations around the house. And after receiving our gifts, we had to write thank-you notes to everyone. It was an onerous, yet vital task.

Thank-you notes are a thing of the past; now children just call aunts and grandparents, or worse, send texts and posts. A quick word with an emoji or two, and they can go back to their games and chats. The same goes for notes and letters. Indeed when was the last time you received a postcard?

Postcards from camp to my parents in 1973

It’s not as if I’m pining for the days of writing thank-you notes but that, as these artifacts go, so do our memories. The Young Chronicles series detailing my 1983 Cross-Canada hitchhiking trip would not exist if not for my hand-written notes.

Original notes for Young Chronicles

While these sophomoric scribblings are not vital to living my life, they are key to reminding me of where I’ve been.

I wrote a piece twenty years ago on the poor state of sports journalism. I interviewed many sports people including Allen Iverson, Mark Messier, Cito Gaston and the sports editor for The New York Times. It was a solid bit of writing which The Globe and Mail considered publishing but ultimately rejected as being too controversial because I named names – including Stephen Brunt and Gary Mason, godawful writers still working today. The story is gone, lost because it and all of the notes were on a floppy disk that vanished in the years of transition. And so I only have this picture from Gary’s Instagram.

I rarely write on paper anymore. I text myself my notes. I do this so much that my Gmail account has flagged me (the same Gmail account) as junk, junk unto itself. Yes, even my computer is sending the message for me to get back to paper, maybe even print out these posts so that I can reflect and share on whatever platform is to come.

Young Chronicles XI: St. John’s to Fortune, Newfoundland

Young Chronicles is my record of a 1983 Cross-Canada hitchhiking trip. This section details my first few days in Newfoundland.

June 11-13, 1983 St. John’s

Stayed at Will and Helen’s house. (Will was my ride into St. John’s.) They insisted that I sleep in their son’s room who moved into the living room. Sat in the kitchen as Helen rolled cigarettes with a small machine and Will did the crossword. Incredibly friendly people who left me on my own during the day and had dinner with me every night. Treated me to fish and chips on my final night.

Went to Signal Hill where I photographed an iceberg and mused: The massive shiny white behemoth silently watches the land as its turquoise blood seeps ever so slowly into the sea. It knows its time is limited yet continues its silent vigil with its very own evaporation. Its powers is incredible, its size immense, yet it is unable to combat the pleasant rays of the sun. The beast sinks to its mother. A gull glides past and defecates upon its melting brow. The mortal evaporative wisdom of an iceberg, never understood, yet always cursed. The giant melts, and I do not. Does the shining beast acknowledge my presence? I say nay. (Yes, indeed, I really did write all of that.)

June 14 St. John’s to Marystown

Ride One: To Trans Canada Highway. Mother and young girl

Ride Two: To Kelce Goose Turnoff. Brown Rabbit. Old guy. Hair all over back seat.

Ride Three: To Argentia Turnoff. Military man from Maine. No talk by his request.

Ride Four: To Marystown Turnoff. Red LTD. Cool Scottish guy with wife and kid. “Watch yourself down there. It’s backwood-sy.”

Ride Five: To Swift Current. Three guys. Quiet times.

Ride Six: To Marystown. Avis Rental. Money-minded Oil jerk.

Ride Seven: 45 Kilometers short of Fortune. Silver car. “If you don’t get a ride, drop out.”

Ride Eight: 30 kilometers short of Fortune. Chrome pickup. Local who loved Red Rider.

Ride Nine: 10 kilometers short of Fortune. Red car. Man named Schneider; hates Toronto.

Ride Ten: Fortune. Young couple from Toronto.

Stayed in Seaview Lounge and Motel. A dump. Cheap curtains, chipped walls, ugly lamps, semi-intact luggage rack and rude inhospitable staff. Went to see the capelin run where many were out with buckets to catch them on the beach. “Hey, kids, out of the water. Let ’em come in!” A number of teenaged boys approached me. One thought I was an undercover cop. He was a bootlegger who dealt acid. Another boy, Corry, was formal. “When you address him, do it politely.”

The ferry to St. Pierre/Miquelon, France was cancelled. I tried to get a ride with a fishing boat but they left without me. Cold and foggy. I went to camp in the bog the second night but was too cold and freaked out by all the bog noises. Went back to Seaview Lounge and Motel and watched Butterflies are Free with Goldie Hawn.

Young Chronicles X: Prince Edward Island to Newfoundland

The following excerpts are from my journal from hitchhiking across Canada in 1983, heading out east from Toronto to Newfoundland and then back across to British Columbia.

Day Nine Mileage 1345-1507 (Includes PEI-Nova Scotia Ferry)

Ride One (Cavendish to Hunters River) Ford Granada. Nice old farmer. Talked about weather, bugs, gas, cars and tourist season.

Ride Two (Hunters River to Charlottetown) Beat-up brown pick-up. Sailing fanatic. Said that the “Hey Hey” song originated in Chicago.

Ride Three (Charlottetown to Georgetown turnoff) Old Chevy. Older woman with daughter and son. Many stories of getting out of the jailhouse.

Ride Four (Georgetown turnoff to Harbour Island Ferry Terminal) Sports car. A continual interrupter who talked about drugs, including snorting coke and shrooms in the school yard.

Ride Five (Caribou Island N.S. to Westville) Old green two-door. John Lennon look-a-like and attractive girlfriend.

Ride Six (Westville to Port Hawksbury) Company van. Terry, a native of St. John’s, an oil rig inspector. Very little conversation.

Ride Seven (Port Hawksbury to North Sydney, Ferry to Newfoundland) White Cougar. Clive on his way home to Newfoundland from Toronto. Very tired. Did some weaving and shoulder sliding. Prefers female hitchhikers “because you never know”.

I learned the following Newfie expressions from Clive on the ferry: Proper Ting (affirming a proposed action), Mare (tomorrow) and Nipper (mosquito). Ferry cost: $10

Day Ten Mileage 1507-2207 (Includes Newfoundland Ferry)

Ride One (Portes-Aux-Basques to Grand Falls) This terrain, flat and deserted, is much better suited to Clive’s wild style of driving.

Ride Two (Grand Falls to Clarenville) Old manual pick-up, slow on the upgrades. Very friendly moose hunter. Average moose gives 1000 pounds of meat. Stories of the Screwdriver Murders. Belief in capital punishment.

Ride Three (Clarenville to St. John’s with a stopover at Finney’s Pond) Small white pickup. Will and Bob. Very friendly guys took me fishing in mostly frozen pond. Bobby appeared in the film Orca. Will loved junk food. Truck couldn’t make it back up the hill. We had to leave the truck behind and hitchhike together to St. John’s with a drunk van driver who nearly had several accidents on the drive.

Young Chronicles IX: Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island

I spent three days on Cavendish Beach, PEI in early June 1983, eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I wrote the following at the conclusion:

Solitude is a necessary state that all should experience for some extended period of time. It must also be noted that man should not be in this state for too long lest he lose his sanity. Man is an insecure beast. So be it. Not only is he dependent on other men but also on external imaginary forces. It is man’s brooding mind that entrances him upon such a state. .

The fact that we are aware of our existence does not prove our existence; it only clarifies our insecurities. Does a bird brood upon its existence? Nay. It is because it has no reason to, as it concentrates its attention on the day-to-day. Man, in his comfortable and unnatural state, is cursed with his awareness. He cannot enjoy life as it is because he worries for the future. And so do I.

This I write to my future wife. The skies may cloud, the seas roughen, the days grow dark, but we will walk upon the crimson dunes of time (sic) together with the swallow at the glimmer of first light. Let us dig in our footholds together.

Remember: I ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Young Chronicles IX: Halifax to Charlottetown

June 6, 1983 Dalhousie University, Halifax

Construction worker tearing down house in Dartmouth, “God knows why the’re tearing it down. I don’t think they’ve decided anything yet.” He used a blow torch to cut through a solid beam.

Big-breasted, purple garbed woman, a typical lunch-hour secretary, fed the ducks in the public gardens. Sleazy, sultry and of an inefficient nature, full lips pouting and omnipotent (in a sexual sense), eyes watching, obviously dedicated to some rich jerk. Ducks meditate on the luxurious summer in harmony with the crude coo of pigeons.

June 7 Mileage 1172-1243

Ride One: Halifax to Bedford, brown Cadillac, middle-aged man, “Fuckin’ Toronto.”

Ride Two: Bedford to Fall River, Department of Nova Scotia Transport, big hippie with a red headband.

Ride Three: Fall River to Amherst (Al’s Camp), blue Trans Am (or Firebird), Al Smith, balding, excessively friendly. Al invited me to stay at his cabin in the woods. He talked about not wanting to work, man’s self-centered nature and the sanctity of human life As he got more comfortable, he said that he wouldn’t mind if his daughter was a lesbian or did porn. He went on to show me a giant stack of porn in the woodshed. The cabin was just one room, my bed a few feet from his. I did not sleep well that night. (Editor’s note: I now realize that I might have avoided being raped and murdered on this night.)

June 8 Mileage 1243-1320

Ride One: Al’s Camp to Amherst, blue Trans Am (or Firebird)

Ride Two: Amherst to Carleton, PEI, Custom Deluxe Truck, Dwaye with a strange mustache. “Potato farming is a bigger gamble than Las Vegas.” In 19 car crashes over his life, one where an old woman was killed.

Ride Three: Carleton to Charlottetown, red Oldsmobile, a Charlottetown resident who supplied food to eight schools.

Self-realizations in Charlottetown: a) bird chirps equal freedom b) I am an external viewer opposed to a tourist c) My photographs are artistic, not materialistic d) Hobbling is apparently our way of saying we’re sorry.

Young Chronicles VIII: “Hey You!”

Cross Canada Hitchhiking Trip, Day Two: Montreal to Halifax (Mileage 344-1116)

Ride One: West to East end of Montreal; Brown bakery van. “You’ll get murdered.”

Ride Two: Across St. Lawrence River; early 70’s car. Spoke only French.

Ride Three: To Boucherville; 2-door escort. Man with crumbs on sides of mouth.

Ride Four: To Victoriaville; forgot make of car (too tired). Belgian chef who loves Canada.

Ride Five: To Quebec City turnoff; VW Rabbit. Saw a moose.

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Ride Six: To St. Jean Port Joli; large old car. The driver was a woman in her late 20s with her mother and grandmother, also another hitchhiker names Clairmont. No one spoke English, but all very loving and Catholic.

Ride Seven: To Riviere Du Loup; blue Chevy van. Told stories of his hitchhiking days including “being fucked by horny broads” and the tale of hitchers on bad acid in Wyoming who ate their ride.

Ride Eight: To Hwy 17; Camper van. WWII veteran who once drove border to border across Ontario in one day.

Ride Nine: To Truro, Nova Scotia; red Mack truck. All-night drive with non-unionized driver named Ed Haggerty. Married for 39 years to woman from England who “never said boo to anyone.”

Ed Haggerty

Harassed waitress at diner because she was new. Intentionally mumbled, pretended not to understand, changed his order, complained about the service and then gave her a 25-cent tip. I saw signposts turn into cyclists. I stayed in the sleeper of the truck. Ed prepared a full breakfast and then drove me into Halifax. I wandered around and then stayed at the hostel.

Young Chronicles VII: Der Schinken Isn’t Chicken

Young Chronicles I-IV details a 1972 school trip to Northern Ontario, while Young Chronicles V-VI offers a brief account of a family car trip to Prince Edward Island in 1974. This section of Young Chronicles jumps ahead nine years to my hitchhiking trip across Canada. The adventure took 71 days, covering over 10,000 miles in 110 different cars along with two extensive bus rides. I made copious notes, much of which is embarrassingly trite, but that’s the point of this, right? Anyway, I aim to share the most interesting and amusing bits and see where that takes me.

I had just finished my first year at university and I thought I knew everything there was to know and decided to set out to discover “The Canadian Soul”. Yes, I wrote that phrase down. My aim was to ask everyone what they thought about Canada, what it meant to them, where the country was going. I think I asked a total of five people in the end. That said, I did document every ride and many of the things I saw and thought (ad nauseum) along the way.

Day One (June 3, 1983) Mileage 0-344

Ride One: Toronto to Ajax in Rally STX van (blue) with John Hulme, who told me that picking up hitchhikers was “against company policy”.

Ride Two: Ajx to Hwy 115 Turnoff in VW Rabbit (beige) with Buecklie, originally from West Germany. He gave me a Medallion cigarette and told a long anecdote about ordering what he thought was a chicken sandwich because the word “Der Schinken” sounded so much like chicken. It turned out to be ham. He and the waiter thought this was very funny and later became friends.

Ride Three: Hwy 115 Turnoff to Ottawa Turnoff in 1977 MGB with a large red-bearded man. His daughter did Pepsi commercials but hated the stuff.

Ride Four: Ottawa Turnoff to Cornwall in a 1979 Thunderbird with Eugene Bugala who was a Catholic priest. He liked Canada because it was free and nice with a European flavor. He also considered the maple leaf a satisfactory symbol for the country.

Ride Five: Ottawa Turnoff to Montreal 1977 Dart (brown) with Tim Paquette. He lit a joint, played Peter Gabriel’s San Jacinto on his car stereo and then explained his video concept for the song which involved blue spotlights and children running through the jungle. He took me around the neighborhood as he delivered pizzas and then picked up his girlfriend Cathy before heading out to The Maples Tavern. It was a low-key place that was later busted by the Quebec police who were arrogant, their thumbs in their pockets and hats tilted back. I stayed the night at Tim’s house.

Canada’s Soul: Vancouver to Toronto

August 6, Ride One: Vancouver to Winnipeg (Brown van) Shared cost of gas with Obie (van’s owner), two English guys and Steph. Left at 10 am, Wednesday, arrived in Winnipeg at 3 am, Friday, August 8. August 8, Ride Two: Outskirts of Winnipeg to highway turnoff (Pickup truck) Driver asked me to open the glove box where there was a hardcore porn magazines. He said, “You know, I like to look at the guys as much as the girls.” I tried to be witty. “That’s very open-minded of you.” He asked me if I wanted to come back to his cabin for a blow job. When I declined, he asked if I’d like to come back to his cabin for a sandwich. I declined that too. “I know a lot of guys who aren’t gay but like to be sucked off.” I nodded that I understood.

Ride Three: Highway turnoff to St. Anne (1955 pickup truck) Driver got me high and gave me sunflower seeds.

Ride Four: St. Anne to Falcon Island Park (Small blue car) Two girls, both nervous about picking me up. I told them about the hardcore porn, the offer for a blow job and a sandwich and then getting high, all of which made them more nervous.

Ride Five: Falcon Island Park to Toronto (Dodge car) Wax and Di, coming from a military base at Portage La Prairie. Overnight drive of almost 1,500 miles, right to my house. I should have invited them in but didn’t because I just wanted to go to sleep. I felt bad about it then. Still do.

Canada’s Soul: Whitehorse to Vancouver

I took a bus up to Whitehorse, Yukon. (I didn’t hitchhike because I was scared of being left in the middle of nowhere and getting eaten by a bear.)

July 20: A 24-hour delay seems possible due to the massive bridge washouts – sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Throughout the journey, women – making up the majority of the population – sleep, smoke and drink without complaint. So I’ll smoke my way to sleep.

The silhouettes of the great mountains dominate the scenery. A dark black storm cloud approaches; hell is bound to break loose. The trees await in silence as the silver bus rushes on.July 22: I hiked alone up Grey Mountain, on the outskirts of Whitehorse, and wrote at the top: Humanity – a definition. Impossible. It is so assorted. There are some with no legs, some with no eyes – mentally and physically – and some with no heart. Some cloud their eyes with darkened glasses and some wear not what they need but what others say. (It goes on.)

July 24: I took a 26-hour bus ride down to Vancouver. Graffiti on Pink Mountain Inn: #1: Why did God give seagulls wings? So that they’d be able to beat the Indians to the dump. #2 Toking is like working here. The harder you suck, the higher you get.

Arrived in Vancouver where I stayed at the hostel for five days and saw Peter Gabriel and David Bowie and the newly-opened BC Place Stadium.