For lovers of summer, Newfoundland is not a brass ring location as hot days and warm nights are all too few. Nevertheless, summer along the Exploits is amongst the tops on this island.
Boyhood memories include hillside picnics (Gilbert St. ridge and eastward). Plain biscuits and cheddar cheese from the Cash and Carry or Leo Ryan's Store, potted meat sandwiches or lassy bread and a bottle of lemon crystal (occasionally the heavenly treat of Brookfield Dairy's chocolate milk) were joys of the day.
Summers past are full of memories of haunting still nights with the sound from the mill yard of towering clickly-clack stackers that dropped logs to bounce into mammoth wood piles; it was our lullaby for sleep.
As for family outings, jaunts included the Fox Farm (far west end of Bishop's Falls) Peter's River, Phillips Head and Sandy Point. The latter meant crossing the Exploit's on a scow - a flat bottom barge - that ferried three vehicles at a time.
The scow (near Bond Bridge sight), had double-attached side cable to fight off the rushing current of the Exploits.
A most memorable outing took us about 40 miles from here on the Hall's Bay Line (now the TCH). Sitting in the back of an open truck, eating dust (once past the golf course) from the dirt road was bearable; the bumpy ride was much less bearable. However, the warm, shallow, roadside brook with its wee waterfalls made the trip a tremendous day for us children.
I have passed that spot a gazillion times. The wee waterfalls are still there. Oh, so tempted to stop and venture in and soak up those boyhood memories. Someday, some time, it will happen!
Most memorable about those family outings was not just the joy being in the place, nor the food but being with adults who were enjoying themselves like children.
The cycle of family outings has been going on with our own family now for over three decades with picnics and holidays to nearby parks, Salmon Cove Sands, Port Au Port, St. John's, Gros Morne, L'Anse aux Meadows, Fogo, St. Brendanâs, Bell Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Maine.
Never forgotten is a trip to St Brendan's. The ferry was out of service thus we went over on a cabin cruiser. But a day later return was in a fisherman's speedboat - no life jackets â with the sea as calm as riding on glass. However, our youngsters were squeamish at the sight of dried fish guts up and down the insides of the boat.
St. Johnâs lives well in our memory banks: walks in Bowring Park; the variety of fish and chips; great pizza; up in Cabot Tower; museums; touch tank at the Marine Lab; walks along Water Street; Bowring restaurant with its great view of the harbour. And music everywhere be it at the Bannerman Park Folk Festival, Murray Premises or George Street.
St. John's, more often than not, meant a run to Bell Island to visit the Power family homestead that, over the years, has gone from an open meadow toa mini forest.
Bell Island's museum with its walk down the slope of a mine is most worthwhile to do. Its mine is so huge compared to the coopy down coal mine we once visited in Glace Bay, N.S.
Our visit to Gros Morne, with its stunning beauty, was an eye opener. Canada is privileged to have such a paradise set aside as a National Park. But an up-the-coast beach with loads of broken glass was too dangerous; we left. Shamefully, litter is still an island wide problem.
âI have passed that spot a gazillion times. The wee waterfalls are still there.â
Our approximately 30 trips to the mainland have been with Marine Atlantic. Its good, bad and ugly service we have experienced. Many rated the Max Mols (2000) as ugly, but a morning drive from here, an afternoon crossing and bedding down in Antigonish was an astonishing feat the likes of which we may never see again.
The ferries prior to the Caribou and Smallwood, I hardly recall. Once aboard those ferries we had our favourite pitching spots. The enjoyable features of the Caribou and Smallwood are not to be found on the Leif Ericson, Blue Puttees or Highlanders. The latter two ferries are delightful, but upgraded copies of the Caribou and Smallwood, sadly, they are not. Higher fees and inconvenient crossing times are killing the run. Is it the plan?
As for accommodations, most unforgettable is the time we arrived in North Rustico, PEI, late at night (hadn't eaten) and raining, only to find no vacancy and no record of our down payment. We ended up in a private cabin called the Leprechaun Chalet.
Two other PEI stays had us in stinky still water inlets. They were outdone by a new cottage near Point Deroche beach and an older house, (near Cabot beach) with its shower in an outside building. In the evening, far down the field at the owner's house we, at times, heard one of his daughters play the bagpipes.
Surely, a gold medal for worst accommodations was a cabin in Saint John, New Brunswick; definitely a converted hen house.
Our biggest room ever was in Quebec City. But we quickly moved to a pricier, upper level, as biker gangs showed up. In our haste, the head count had one absent. As I went back to the unit and opened the door, there was our Margaret, less than two years old, staring up at me with an "ET call home", look on her face.
From Quebec City we set off to Maine where a customs official leaned in my window, counted, and asked if the seven children aboard were mine. I wanted to say, "No! I am driving around the eastern seaboard with a station wagon full of youngsters, not my own, just for laughs". But I thought better to say yes as he and his buddy seemed to be totally humourless and too well armed.
In Maine the Americans were wonderful, but the food portions (and waste) were over the top. Make no wonder they have obesity problems!
Never forgotten was a walk around the state legislature building in Augusta; we didn't encounter a living soul in the place at midday. The drive to the Canadian border included a gas station stop that had red, hot dogs - two for a buck. Delicious! Miles later, I was so tempted to U-turn and head back for more.
As we venture out this summer, please dear Lord, no more testing our stamina with shocking downpours at Wreckhouse. And please spare us of any blunders or bloopers by Marine Atlantic.
Happy, safe summer motoring! And cherish those memories whatever you do, and wherever you go.
Andy Barker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org