I got up around 0700 this morning after another great night’s sleep in the fresh, crisp Newfoundland air. I squirmed out of my sleeping bag and, bladder full, fumbled for the zipper on my tent. I crawled out, stood up, rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and saw this:
Jeff had already been up for a while and was preparing to head to Western Brook Pond to take the cruise and go on the hike (as seen here). I knew there was no way that my ankles would manage the 45 minute hike, and accepted once again that there are new limitations to my adventures, and a great many things that I can no longer just go ahead and do. Like climbing down into Lomond Sink Hole, this hike at Western Brook Pond is something that I now have to enjoy and experience vicariously.
Now don’t get me wrong – I am not complaining. I am fully aware of just how lucky I am to even be alive, let alone walking – and riding – after the accident. But having said that, I am self-aware enough to say that the condition of my ankles, and my limited mobility, fucking sucks!
My friend Brian2Tall can attest to the fact that climbing rock faces and scaling drop-offs was second nature to me as recently as 2013, evidenced by my scampering out among the boulders and crevices at the Agawa pictographs site on Lake Superior.
But hey – we were discussing the beauty that surrounded me early Wednesday morning . . .
After a camp-stove breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries and a coffee I took a quick shower and decided to ride west and north to Trout River. I wanted to check out the Parks Canada Discovery Centre, and that meant riding along a good stretch of Newfoundland Hwy 431.
My god, what a road. Certainly one of the prettiest roads that I have ever ridden on.
To start with, it runs through Gros Morne National Park, so there are some pretty huge hills. Couple that with the fact that it is a coastal road running up the western shore of Bonne Bay and you can well imagine the twisties.
Steep grades; wicked twisties; mountain and bay views; the Gulf of St. Lawrence stretching out before you; awesome, right?
Now factor in the fact that this is Newfoundland. At the bottom of virtually every big hill is a tiny cove, with brightly painted houses on the water’s edge and dozens of fishing boats and dory’s, likewise brightly painted, bobbing on the swells.
God, I do love this province.
After leaving the Discovery Centre I headed back to the campsite and guess who rode past me . . . yup, Mike had made his way to Gros Morne and like me, wanted to check out the Discovery Centre and the surrounding area. We had a quick chat, took a short ride up a really sketchy and steep, boulder-strewn path that led, well, to the top of a hill, and then continued on our separate ways.
Mike wanted to continue north. I wanted to ride to Corner Brook to see if I could locate the area that my mom grew up in.
It took me a little less than an hour to get to Corner Brook, and as I approached along the Trans Canada Highway I was once again forced to pull over to the shoulder to allow myself to gaze in wide wonder at the majestic panorama before me.
Approaching Corner Brook from the east, the Humber River is flowing on the right, and as you round a long, sweeping bend to the right you will find yourself nestled between towering bluffs on either side, the river flowing majestically between them.
Small pleasure craft were motoring along the Humber, and the throaty rumble of a more robust speed boat could be heard churggling across the water.
I snapped off a couple of pictures, but as usual they really do no justice to the scene that lay before me.
After coming out of my reverie I found myself understanding a little bit more about the woman whom I am so very fortunate to have been birthed by.
Mom’s beauty, both inner and outer, were surely somehow products of where she was born. I do not think that it could be possible to be from a place so beautiful as Corner Brook and not have that imprinted on your soul, forming, naturally, the person that you are likely to be in life.
The entire area is open and inviting and beautiful. I could almost hear something inside of me go ‘click’ in the place where my mom still lives.
Grateful for the moments – and the message – I hopped back on my bike and headed into town to find the long-gone area that my mom was from.
Known as Buckles Valley in the early 1900’s, it – like so many other small communities across Newfoundland and across Canada – has all but disappeared.
A victim of growth, and amalgamations, and politics.
I followed a small service road along the Humber, thinking that if I stuck to the older parts of the city I may have more luck in finding a local who had some knowledge of the areas that no longer exist.
I came upon an old railway museum and learned a little more about the history of the railroad in Newfoundland, but gained no knowledge of Buckles Valley. So I continued along the road, avoiding the newer 4-lane and sticking to the secondary arteries, and eventually rode past a funeral home.
Now, it may not be first on anyone’s list of places to seek information on the history of a community, and that struck me as being kind of a missed opportunity. I mean really, who would you expect to know more about the local lore than a funeral director, right?
Less than 5 minutes later I was on the hunt, directions in hand. And I made it to the right general vicinity – but the trail went cold.
I had been pointed towards Valley Road – which I found quite easily – but then what? It’s not like there was going to be a historical plaque or anything.
So, I put plan ‘B’ into action, and began lurking and creeping the smaller side streets in the area.
I eventually pulled up beside an aging, stooped gentleman slowly shuffling up a hill with a bag of groceries in one hand, and asked him if he had ever heard of Buckles Valley.
“Y’er from away, arn’chya?”
“Yes sir. All the way from Ottawa, Ontario. My mom was born in Buckles Valley in the ‘30’s and I would like to visit the area where she was from.”
“Aye, the Buckles. Big family, that. Still some in the area too. What’s yer mom’s name?”
I told him mom’s last name, and he again lit up with old, forgotten memories flowing through his mind.
The old fella told me how to find what I was looking for, and in due course I was on a tiny little street just off of Valley road, small single-family homes standing shoulder to shoulder along it’s length.
Buckles Valley was 2 streets wide, and about 60 homes deep in it’s glory. A glory that has all but vanished, no longer drawn on any maps of Cornerbrook or Newfoundland; not even searchable on Google. But if you ask the right questions of the right people, you can almost always find what you are looking for.
And in my case, that sunny afternoon, I found a little piece of family history.
“Lockyers, a’yup” the old codger had smiled . . .”I knew Don – he’s dead now. And Bob, he was a son . . . urrmmm . . . a brother maybe . . . yup, Lockyer’s was around here sure as the Buckles”
I am so very happy to realize that I feel even more connected now to my mom, and my Newfoundland heritage, even though I have been only a mere short-term visitor.
I could most definitely feel a resonance within me. The song of Cornerbrook was playing in my soul.
“Y’er from away, arn’chya?” is something that I have heard frequently on this adventure.
“Yes, but my mom was born and raised in Cornerbrook”.
“Oh, y’er one of us then son. Welcome home” was a response that near brought me to tears on several occasions, and filled my heart with joy every time that I heard it.
Hey mom – I love you. And boy, oh boy do I miss you.
Up next . . . Wet Feet and Riding to St. Barbe Newfoundland.