Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Travel With A Newf

Traveling with a Newfoundland dog in Newfoundland must be a bit like traveling in the US with your pet Eagle. You know how we Americans are about eagles. It doesn't matter how many times you have seen one, they always fill us with awe. When an eagle sits in a tree to survey its domain, the first spotter cries an alarm, then everything stops while people turn to watch. Carry that eagle around on your shoulder into a room and just imagine the response.

Much the same happens in Newfoundland when you show up with your Newfoundland dog by your side. Young and old alike gravitate to her. There is a reverence that you don't get from people when you walk around with your Newfy any other place. Children rush over, yet stand a few feet away, eyes bright and shinning with big smiles across their faces.

Two young girls of about 10 and 12 approached us at a visitor's center. After admiring Arayo for a time, they asked if they could please touch her and shared that they have lived their ENTIRE LIVES on Newfoundland and never seen a Newfoundland dog before!

A handsome white haired gentleman of about 70 or 80 departed a small tour boat. He had been born and raised in Newfoundland and had brought his wife and grown children back to the island for a visit. He reached out with excitement as he exclaimed "A Newfoundland Dog! We have been looking for two weeks for one!" Recognizing a true sucker, Arayo hopped up to kiss his face as I apologized for her being fresh and over exuberant. He laughed like a school boy, got down on his knees, tussled her fur and asked his kids to take his photo with her.

At the Viking village, Arayo drew attention away from the historical ruins and a tour bus of Senior Citizens took turns having their photos taken with this living symbol of the island. When asked where she was from, I shared we'd been on the road for over 6 weeks and had traveled from the Seattle area, "though she is originally a California Girl," I'd explain. "Doesn't every Newfoundland Dog need to make the journey back to visit her roots?"

State and National parks are scattered along the island's shores and tourists make the stops at many or all of them. Everyone wants a photo with the Newfoundland Dog but my photographer's eye disapproves of their choice of background or their camera angle. In the back of my mind, I think I should take Arayo to a location, select my background and wait. Charge $1 to use their cameras and take people's photos with the Newfoundland in Newfoundland. I'd pay for this trip in no time!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Arayo A Bigger Hit Than Newfoundland Tribute Statue

Photos: St. Johns Newfoundland has two larger than life-sized Newfoundland Dog statues which pay tribute to the Newfoundland breed and its use on the island.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vikings Lust After Arayo's Hide?

The Viking woman rushed to Arayo, dug her fingers into her fur and exclaimed "Oh, could I make something warm and wonderful out of you!" Looking at the various animal hides draped around the room, I think of the poor creatures who once lived within them and I pull Arayo closer to me and away from the woman's grasp.

Soon, we were joined by 3 other women. Dressed as the Vikings in this historical site, the women all begin picking through Arayo's fur, looking for undercoat that could be used for spinning. I recall the two evenings I spent just a few days ago, combing out bags full of undercoat and wish I'd put off that chore. These women would have made quick work of it and the fur would have gone to better use than filling a waste basket.

L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Park pays tribute to the Norse expedition that came to Newfoundland from Greenland 1,000 years ago. Searching for hardwood lumber, they brought along their slaves (mostly Irish), built homes and established this outpost to house roughly 60 - 90 people. Homes were constructed of sod and stone - the 6 foot thick walls providing more insulation from the weather than most homes have today.

This site at the northwestern tip of Newfoundland, was officially "discovered" in the 1960's and is the only recognized authentic Viking site in North America.

Photos: Arayo becomes part of History at L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Park in Newfoundland. As Arayo is a leaner, she managed to rest on one of the women who were attempting to harvest her fur and knocked her to the ground.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Diamond Cove Newfoundland

Like a Newfoundland Ghost town, the small cove was dotted with fishing boats moored to shaky docks. Paint of many of the aging boat sheds had lost the battle against the abuses of wind and water. If anyone belonged to the few cars scattered about, they were hidden behind walls and closed doors.

I felt like an intruder as I stopped my little Subaru by the water's edge and pulled Arayo from the car. Should anyone be watching, I hoped that the presence of a Newfoundland Dog would help establish a bond of commonality. "I have a Newfy. I come in Peace."

Unsure if I would be welcome beyond the road's edge, I stood beside the car and captured a couple of quick images when an old man came walking down the road. Bundled against the wind in a down jacket, he sported a week's worth of beard and carried a wrapped plate of lunch.

Explaining that I'd brought my Newfoundland back to visit her roots, I begged permission to venture closer to the water and the picturesque sheds.

"Help yourself, dear," he replied. He shared that about 70 families lived in his little town of Diamond Cove. Most, like him, were fishermen, though his days on the water were past. "I'm 76. Retired now."

"Fishing seems like it would be a hard way to make a living," I commented.

"No, there is no better way," he replied, and encouraged me again to make myself at home in his little piece of the world.

As he headed up the hill and out of sight, I was left to explore, while the wind kept me company.

Photos: The fishing village of Diamond Cove Newfoundland

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What An AMAZING Place

Arayo surveys Diamond Cove Newfoundland
Arayo and I are constantly astounded with the beauty of Newfoundland and the friendliness of her people. Have much to report but need time to type it in, so here is a shot of Miz A enjoying her homeland. Today we make the long drive from Gros Morne National Park to St. John's.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Finally Home......

The wind continued to whip around us, but the driving rain stopped long enough to walk the half mile or so back to the "Welcome to Newfoundland" sign. I looked down on her face and Arayo gave me a gentle steady gaze as I told her this amazingly beautiful and mysterious place is where she belongs. This is for her. The land is spotted with lakes, backed by rugged views of oceans and all is protected by rolling hills and mountains.

Throughout this, the grasses that cover the land are filled with wild flowers of purples, yellows and white. I've been here but an hour and this stunning land has already captured my soul.

I think Arayo understands and feels it is going to be special for her as well.

Photo: Arayo poses in front of Newfoundland. We may never leave here.....

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Bridge of Doom

We found a campground near the Newfoundland Ferry. The idiot who owns the place keeps bragging about their view of this bridge. The bridge from hell..... (If you know me - you know I have a bridge phobia.) Tomorrow bright and early we scale the puppy which, for me, will be like taking on Mt. Everest.

Photo: The bridge of doom. It is high, it is long, it is not my friend.....

Working Our Way North

I am having trouble finding WiFi so contacts may be few and far between for the next few weeks. We have a booking to cross to Newfoundland tomorrow, though reports of delays of up to 12 hours have been reported for the ferries so we'll see when we actually depart. I love Nova Scotia. It is beautiful and the people amazing. Arayo has 5 new playmates so life is good.

Photo: We're a bit behind. Sorry!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sacrifices Made in Nova Scotia For Us

We all wanted it, but only one of us had the guts to actually commit murder. Three of us hid inside, either openly, or passive-aggressively denying that lives were being taken just outside the door - leaving only Gloria to push them to their boiling deaths. She alone could stomach their cries for mercy.

It was party time for the Newfy Gals in Nova Scotia and lobsters were being sacrificed in honor of our visit. We LOVE Nova Scotia and it has welcomed us with warmth!

Even the stunning visitors center welcomed Arayo inside and at least 6 employees rushed over to greet Arayo, while others surrounded her and lavished her with pets and praise. What a life for a newf!

Photos: Aryao poses with yet another border sign - this one welcoming visitors to Nova Scotia. Arayo and near new pal Gracie play in the water with the beautiful backdrop of Cape Blomidon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Run Begins

It is official. It is a plan. The run for Newfoundland begins early tomorrow morning!

I have been holed up with new friends in Morrisville VT for the past WEEK, waiting on a package to arrive, getting the car serviced and completing a photo job while learning more about where our food comes from. I'll report more on that lter. It has been absolutely fascinating.......

More work today and we are going to run to Stowe, I believe, so I'll keep this short today.

Newfoundland - here we come!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vermont's Finest

Vermont is a beautiful state. Flowing rivers, rolling mountains, shimmering lakes and an abundance of farms just begging to be photographed to grace the covers of magazines. But, one mecca that few visitors can miss is the home base of Ben and Jerry's Ice cream.

I visited 10 years ago and, after my factory tour, picked up a bumper sticker that says "If It's Not Fun, Why Do It?" I loved that sticker and got lots of comments and smiles from displaying it. When I sold my 20 year old Subaru, the sticker went with it and I have been unable to replace it. But, sure enough, the Ben and Jerry's gift shop still stocks it, next to ice cream scoops, T-shirts about being groovy and magnets with cows on them. I now have THREE bumper stickers so I won't be without again.

Arayo was unable to go in the building but stayed outside in the shade while I did my purchasing. As soon as she and my friend, David, sat down, the Ben and Jerry's staff was there with a big bowl of water for her. (Unfortunately, though, no ice cream!) She was almost as big of an attraction as the line to purchase ice cream cones.

Photo: Arayo poses with cow and ice cream container at Ben and Jerry's.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Yesterday I posted about how I feel our society is, in many ways, off the mark when it comes to taking time to help other people. I say that, and in general, I believe it. But, I also have to say that I am in total awe of the people who have, in the past month that I've been on the road, reached out to me in ways I would never have dreamed possible.

When I first posted that I was hitting the road, nearly 50 people wrote to me and offered their time and their homes so that Arayo and I could have a break from campground living. People I've never met have set aside days to show me their part of the country, have introduced me to people they thought I'd like to meet, have fed me and given me a soft bed out of the heat and rain. They have welcomed Arayo and banished their dogs to another part of the house if there was any question that their dogs and mine would have any issues with each other.

I'm currently staying in the home of a couple I'd chatted with on a Newfoundland dog list, but had never met. When they found I'd be in their area they insisted I come by - and STAY until some mail that I need arrives from home.

In this society when we read about strangers breaking into someone's home to slaughter the owners - it is really mind-boggling to me that so many people have been willing to open their home to a weary traveler with a monster dog.

For all those who have made the offer, for all those I've been fortunate enough to meet along the way so far - I'm forever grateful. Before this trip is finished, I hope to meet you all!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Missed Opportunity

As I was folding my tent and taking down camp, they returned. The man and his sons were doing some male bonding - camping at the lake and getting up to go fishing at 6 am. While I applauded this, I was a bit put out that they left their 10 pound yippy dog in their RV to bark from the time of their departure to their return. I was reflecting on curtesy and kindness and how that has changed in my lifetime.

I was raised in a family with "old fashioned" values. As a child my dad and grandfather always made sure that when we walked down the street that I (or any woman) was on the inside of the sidewalk. What horrors it was to grow up and find that the young men somewhat interested in me lacked the basic social skills for walking down the street or opening a door for a lady.

Having a big dog, I have found myself pulled down as Arayo has taken chase after a cat that I hadn't seen and wasn't prepared for. Laying on the ground with what could be a broken wrist, the men (and women) around me didn't stop to ask if I'm okay, or to help me to my feet. When did this callousness take place? Are we just too busy these days to offer a bit of kindness to someone in distress?

Have I, too, become jaded and don't notice or help a stranger in need?

The road is winding and the shoulders non-existent. As I peak a hill, I notice a man with a big beard and straw hat walking. A few yards beyond is a broken wagon filled with lumber, and a horse tied to trees nearby. I drive on. I don't know the man, can't help with his horse and don't know if he would even accept a ride. Besides, I have to meet with someone tonight up the road.

Another hill, and I kick myself in the head. This journey of mine is about slowing down and getting back to something more real. I don't have time NOT to see what I can do. I turn the car around and pass the site of the broken wagon. A car is behind me so I slow and pull over so he can pass me, knowing I'm going to stop in a moment to offer the gentleman a ride. As we near the walking man, I'm saddened to see the car ahead of me pull over and the gentleman hop in with the driver. I bet the man with the cart had an interesting story to tell.

I flip the car around and head back towards my destination. I slow as I pass the horse and worry a bit about it - tied so closely to the road - but I assume the owner knew how to secure it. As drive on, contemplating if there is something I can do, red truck approaches from the other direction, pulls over and stops to check on the horse.

Maybe, at least in the farmlands of Pennsylvania, kindness is abundant after all.

Photo: I'm enchanted by the fields and beautiful barns I see as I cross this country.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

BUSTED in Vermont.....

.......or was it Massachusetts?

We stopped beside the freeway to photograph Arayo next to the "Welcome to Vermont" sign. I led her into a ditch, tied her to a road-sign just off the edge of the frame, and photographed Arayo as we entered our most recent state. Then, I looked across the freeway and saw a "Welcome to Massachusetts" sign. As the one we passed when we entered the state was so inconveniently located, I had missed photographing Arayo there and I figured this was my chance!

They had graciously left an "official cars only" turn around space in the median, so off we went. Again, I tied Arayo so nothing would spook her and cause her to dash in front of an 18-wheeler.

The traffic was pretty high so I didn't hear her arrive, park and get out of her van. But, from above and behind me, I heard the officer say in a very ticked off, official voice...... "You realize you are not allowed out here?" (Well, actually, officer, I realized I couldn't turn around here - only you can legally do that - but I didn't turn around, as you can see from my car parked up the freeway a bit.)

I kept my mouth shut - let me rephrase that. I controlled myself and responded "oh!"

Not 50 feet into a new state and already I'm breaking laws - what a couple troublemakers!

Photo: Busted or not, Arayo poses next to the Vermont Welcome sign. Vermont - so far they have the BEST rest stops - complete with free WiFi!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friends in the most unlikely places……

I planned to ask permission to photograph her barn, but when the woman opened her door and I saw the backdrop of old tools, leather straps, ancient mason jars filled with pieces of metal (parts of various kinds) my mouth fell open and what finally came out was "WHAT do you do here?" Thus began my friendship with Mary. With a masters degree in biology, she opted for a simpler life, living on the land, mending horse blankets and bridles, and restoring old carriages. Her picture-perfect barn was filled with pieces of the past - buggies and carriages of all kinds.

With a move and life changes, we drifted apart, though I'd think of her often and wonder how she was doing. She was surprised to receive my call that I wanted to drop by for a visit, but, as always, she welcomed us. The big yellow farmhouse, barn and outbuildings are now for sale. "Carrying 5 gallon jugs of water for the horses was becoming too much for me," she says. Beside it she has built her dream home; simple but perfect.

We sip wine from chipped coffee mugs on her porch as she tells me that she closed the carriage repair business and she is now selling antiques - mostly auto parts and baseball cards on e-Bay. (Though a surprise find of an old egg beater ended up being so rare it sold for over $3,000!) Last year she was struck with the Susan Boyle story and has now completed two books on the singer. I have never seen her happier.

The 90 degree heat and humidity that has plagued the day is dropping and a cool breeze floats across us as Arayo and I lay on her front porch in the night, awaiting sleep. My eyesight has been poor since I was in grade school but the stars above us are so big and bright that I can make out the big dipper without benefit of glasses. I ponder why we humans have chosen to lock ourselves within walls, closed the windows and depend on air conditioning when the majesty of nature is here for us to enjoy. All seems right with the world tonight.

Photos: Mary Sews - photo 1999

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Rest Stop

I pull into the rest stop and am surprised to see that I've parked next to a car with Washington plates. It has been over 3 weeks since I've seen a car from home. This state has received an over abundance of funds for rest stop signage so they have utilized the money to post the evils of allowing pets to set foot on their property. "No Pets", "Keep Pets off the Grass", "Take Pets to Other Side of Street", "No Pets in Building", the signs say. They stop just short of saying "YOU! With Your Evil Dog! Go Play In The Freeway!"

The urge to take Arayo onto the banned side of the street to do her business is overwhelming.

The gentleman from Washington State returns to his car as I am getting Arayo out of mine so I ask what town he is from. What follows is a life story. A 50 year old "dried up musician with no money and nothing to offer anyone", reconnected recently with a girl he had had a crush on when he was 15. "Classmates" is an amazing service, it seems. Turns out she had been in love with him all these years and she has always held a place in his life. She doesn't care that he has had a string of bad luck. She wants him just the way he is, so after 2 months of phone calls, he left 3 days ago and is moving back to the east coast to join her.

I've noticed another man watching us as I've carried on this visit with Mr. Romance. His big grin reveals two teeth and it looks like his last shower was last month but he gives me - okay, really Arayo - a big smile and waves. I ask if he would like to visit with her and he nearly jumps up and down with excitement as I bring her to him. (I nearly jump up and down with excitement, knowing I'm breaking the state's "No Pet" regulation, but I dare anyone to interrupt this "therapy" visit.) He and his wife (who has matching teeth) have 4 dogs of their own, but none as big as Arayo. We chat about the love and loyalty of a good dog, then I cross to the approved side of the road and let Arayo take care of business.

This big dopey Newfoundland is my magic act. Like pulling a rabbit from a hat, she always bridges the way for conversations and smiles with a wide crosssection of people.

Photo: Not all States have "welcome" signs n convenient places. We crossed into NY on Monday and have moved on to MA.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Low-Class Neighbors

Tonight I'm camping by the water's edge. I thought I'd selected a nice quiet part of the campground. The folks across the way have a toddler and brought more toys than should be legal to own - but they are quiet and seem like nice people. Up the road a bit, a family brought along their German Shepherd. They must have left it to take a shower and it howled as though it had lost its last friend. My heart started to break for it until I realized this was just a ploy on its part. It was quiet except for these few minutes so I know this is a scam by the 4 legged one and it had the desired effect.

But, the real riot in the neighborhood happened when about 50 geese waddled through my campsite. You have never heard such honking, squaking and carrying on. Good grief, such a ruckus! They strolled along both sides of the tent then got to the water and splashed on in. I'm surprised Miz A didn't have a fit but she didn't seem to notice.

Then, in the middle of the night, all was perfectly still when I heard them…… Kirplunk. Kirplunk. Something splashing into the water. I am a certified snake-aphobw so I was certain this was the local snake population, practicing its attacks - coiling up into strike mode, hurling off logs and then, at the last minute, rolling up into a cannonballs as they hit the water.

I checked that the zippers on my doors were closed tightly and pulled the covers up tight around my chin.

Photo: Taken about a week ago - full moon rising over Western Nebraska