It couldn't have been just a coincidence i ...
Trip Start Jul 06, 2001
20Trip End Jul 22, 2001
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The poor weather actually gave me a reason to spend some time at the automotive center at the closest Canadian Tire store. I had already racked up over 5000km on this trip so I figured an oil change was in order. The theory was that I could wait out the storm while my car got its pampering. I decided to spend the extra twenty dollars on a tire rotation as well.
As I prepared for my trip to Newfoundland the one piece of advice I heard most often from people was to prepare for a flat tire or blowout
My little trip to Canadian Tire changed all that. While rotating my tires the mechanic noticed that one was on the verge of blowing. It was actually quite amazing that the exterior of the tire could be that damaged without it blowing. I would have to replace it. That was a travel expense I wasn't expecting.
Almost exactly two years earlier I had run over a nail on my way to Halifax. I had to replace my tire at a Canadian Tire store there as well. It turns out that the tire I needed replacing now was the exact same one I purchased in Halifax two years previous. Because it was a Canadian Tire tire I got a nice discount on this one.
This whole process had pretty much wiped out my whole morning. Now according to my theory the storm would be ending and I could go out and do my sightseeing unfettered. Wrong. If anything the rain was coming down harder
The Fluvarium is located inside Pippy Park and is an interpretive center for a freshwater river ecosystem. The highlight of the building is in the basement where glass windows look out into an actual trout pool in the river that flows through the park. The fish in the river are not captive. Although the pool itself is man-made, the flora and fishes within it are natural. Apparently there was an occasion when a moose wandering though the area decided to have a soak in the pool and munch on some of the lily pads.
Other than the trout pool everything else here can be skipped as the displays and information are geared toward grade school students. Do catch-up with a guided tour while in the basement though because the guides have lots of good stories about the various characters that habituate in the pool.
The rain had let up a bit while I was in The Fluvarium. I desperately needed some lunch so I caught a cab to the corner of Freshwater and Long's Hill to investigate the fish 'n' chips shops further
Lunch at Ches's was awesome. Naturally, I had the fish 'n' chips. The only complaint I had was that the tartar sauce came in those crappy plastic packets. Considering that the majority of your customers will be ordering fried fish why wouldn't you have squirt bottles full of tartar sauce? It's a minor quibble though. If you're in St. John's you've gotta go to Ches's.
From Ches's I walked down to the waterfront. There was a big Russian research ship in port and there were a couple of cool-looking mini-subs on it that you could check out from the dock
I walked along Water Street where you will find most of the touristy shops and restaurants as well as the larger office buildings in St. John's. Duckworth Street, which runs parallel to Water, also has a lot of retail business and restaurants as well. I strolled up and down these streets a couple of times and poked my head into a few souvenir shops. The proprietor of one of these shops told me that this horrible weather would continue for most of the week. Then she expressed dismay that I might not see St. John's in the sunlight during my short stay.
I grabbed another cab back to the campsite and busied myself with cleaning up my trunk and trying to stay dry. By the late afternoon the rain had let up enough that I decided to drive out to the south side of the harbour. St. John's has a remarkable harbour. The opening to the ocean is only a few hundred feet wide and it's known as The Narrows. On each side of The Narrows the land rises up quickly, pretty much cliff-like, to form a very imposing entrance to the harbour. On the north side is Signal Hill where Marconi received the first wireless transmission across the Atlantic. On the south side is Fort Amherst where a lighthouse guards the entrance to The Narrows.
Driving along the south side you also pass the big oil terminals for Irving and Petro-Canada. This is the industrial part of downtown St. John's but it's nicely tucked away so that it isn't a blight on the scenery. Right above the Irving terminal you get a very good close-up view of the whole downtown area of St. John's. That is, on days the weather allows you to see across the harbour. Once past here you come to the boat slips for the locals to use then to the little village of Fort Amherst. There is lots of room to park your car and then you can walk through the village onto the lighthouse. Also at the lighthouse are some old gunnery positions built to defend the harbour during World War II. At this point it was so foggy that you couldn't even see across The Narrows. You'd never know that Signal Hill was looming a couple hundred feet above you.
I headed back to Water Street where the street parking is free after 6pm. I had parked and decided to head over to the liquor store to pick up a souvenir/birthday present for my dad (hint: it comes in a bottle and rhymes with leech). The store was already closed and just when I turned to head back to the car the rain started to pour worse than ever. I was already wet and cold and now this. I thought of the last image of Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's book "On The Road" - chin to his chest walking into the wind and rain in an old moth-eaten coat as Sal Paradise pulled away in the back of a Cadillac.
I managed to drag myself to a pub called the Westminster. I sat back and relaxed with a book and let their excellent seafood chowder warm me back up. As I was enjoying an after dinner tea I looked out the window and there it was... a shaft of sunlight bouncing off a puddle in the gutter and right into my eyes. I couldn't believe it. I got back out to my car and drove up to the top of Signal Hill to finally get a good view of the city from above as the sun slunk behind the horizon. It was kind of like sinking a long putt on the 18th hole of a terrible round of golf. No matter how bad things were previously, everything felt great now.