Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can't Seem to Get Newfoundland Outta My Mind

While I was able to leave the island of Newfoundland just before Hurricane Igor played havoc with much in the Province, I'm continuing with this and one other post about the island before moving on geographically with my blog. As you can see, my heart was captured by this beautiful section of the world.

Perhaps it is because I was raised in a small town that I am drawn to and most appreciate the slower pace of a rural community. In all my travels, I've found myself pulled towards the rural settings. More than cities, I think you can get an idea of what a place is like by stepping off the main roads and walking the streets of a small town.

Newfoundland communities are special. Many were built because their placement offered a cove - a protection for the fishing boats that supported the community's members. But, many of these communities are changing. With a decline in the fishing industry, the working numbers of the towns are dwindling as people leave for more populated areas to make a living. Some communities are seeing an influx in foreigners who have fallen in love with the beauty of the island, buy a home and often, live there only a few months of the year.

Some of the very isolated communities have been relocated. One such community, Grand Bruit (which means Great Noise, named for the sound of the waterfall in the center of the town), was moved this past year. Located on the southwest shore of Newfoundland, Grand Bruit is accessible only by boat and had a population of 30 people. With much sadness, the community members voted to take a buy-out from the government of $80,000 - $100,000 per family to move. For $1 a year, they can rent their home back from the government and return for visits, but they will have to get themselves there and there will be no services.

SO - other than the beauty of Newfoundland, and the lovely people. Why do I love Newfoundland?

First, you gotta love a place with the guts to be the only place, possibly in the world, to have its own time-zone. When it is Noon in Nova Scotia - Newfoundland is 12:30! Now THAT is a place after my own heart!

Then there are the names. Only peole with a sense of humor and a lot of self confidence would have towns or places with names like Cow Head, Farewell, Joe Bat's Arm or Tickle Cove.

Not being a romantic, I wasn't drawn to visit Heart's Desire, which is just up the road from Heart's Delight, but I went out of my way to stay at Dildo Provincial Park and was crushed when Blow Me Down closed before I could get there.

Some places speak to the ruggedness of the island: Shambles Cove, Savage Cove, Wreck House, and Deadman's Bay. Names like those would drive a PR man nuts! And, then, why compromise when you don't have to? There are two islands named Bell Island. One off the west coast, one near the east. I have no idea how they get the mail to the right place. Maybe postal codes were designed just for them.

My favorites? Well, Witless Bay is up there, as is Too Good Arm. Hares Ears Point is pretty cute, but if I could choose an address to get my mail sent to - I think I'd opt for a town with the name of Jerry's Nose. Now, how great is that!?

Photo: The small town of Trouty has been cut off from the rest of Newfoundland after Hurricane Igor destroyed roads and flooded homes last week. This photo, taken a week before, shows the peaceful community that it was.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sleeping in a Public John

I awoke to find myself curled up on the floor, lights shining in my eyes, the underside of a porcelain throne as my bedmate. I was sleeping in a public toilet. A crapper. A john.

It ran through my head that I could do something with this experience if I happened to be a country western song writer. But, where is the romance? I hadn't been sitting in a bar, drinking off the loss of some man who'd done me wrong. I hadn't even been in a bar drinking what is supposed to be a horrible Newfoundland Rum called Screech, kissing a very old cod. At least with that I'd have been dubbed an honorary Newfoundlander.

Do they write songs about 55 year old women who head off with a Newfoundland Dog in a Subaru to photograph and write? Better an old musician with a pick-up truck, a beat up guitar and a hound dog, I suspect. But then, you need to be in jail, not a campground.

So, has the the journey hit an all-time low when waking to the sight of a crapper in a public john?

Our life on the road was taking on a rhythm. Drive, photograph, camp, get wet, spend a day drying out, then start over again. You can increase the tent flooding experience by tossing in a 100 pound dog that likes to sleep on her back, leaning against the backside of the tent. Count on a pool of at least 4" of water in her corner following a few hours of that. Even without her help, I was waking up many mornings to a wet pillow and sleeping bag.

Arayo and I had spent the day driving my favorite piece of Newfoundland. A stretch of road along the southwest shore. The clouds were building and forecasters were predicting 3 or more days of rain. I looked at the forecast for Nova Scotia and decided that God was giving me a nudge to help me leave the island.

I called to book a ferry which a few hours ago had plenty of space available. Apparently God was speaking to a few others as well, and they were faster to pick up on the message. The ferry was booked. I'd have to do one more night in rainy Newfoundland.

By this time rain was beating down on the rock. I spoke with the guys at the Provincial Park and mentioned that half my campsite was already under water. " Perhaps I should move?" "We were just talking about you and thought it was time to move you," the ranger said, explaining that the dry creek behind my tent tended to fill quickly and the road in front of it could accumulate 6" or so of rain. He offered to throw on some rain gear and come help. I tossed on two extremely heavy jackets. Within 10 minutes we'd moved the tent but I was soaked to the bone.

"We may get 60mm of rain tonight," Ranger said. "Oh God….." I responded. (That's roughly 2 1/5 inches for we Americans. A lot of water but sounds even worse in millimeters.)

I was pondering to myself if I could get away with sneaking into the ladies bathroom and just hanging out there for the night. Apparently brilliant minds - or those in survival mode - tend to think alike.

"Why don't you do this. We've got a handicapped toilet. No one staying here is going to need it, so you take your sleeping bag in there, lock the door and no one will bother you." BLESS his heart! Fact is, other than one other couple in an rv, I was the only person in the campsite, period. Certainly the only one crazy enough to sleep in a tent in something like this.

So, while the lights continued to shine in our eyes, a rattling fan hummed and the rain beat down outside. Arayo and I were snug and dry. Though, in a slightly unorthodox sleeping locale at least it would make for a good story to tell.

Photos: After the rain, Arayo is forced to endure one more Newfoundland photo shoot at Cape Ray. And, summer cottages in Newfoundland are often simple but functional and dry. Someone built theirs out of an old bus and built a viewing deck off the back side!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Everyone Said You MUST Take This Drive......

You HAVE to drive the Irish Coast. It is beautiful. See the Irish Coast.

To drive the loop known as the Irish Coast would take 3 hours, maybe a bit more. So they said. So, with about 3 1/2 hours until darkness, Arayo and I headed towards the coastal drive, named for the people who initially settled it.

A series of small islands scattered just off shore at the beginning of the drive caused me to turn the car around and return for a few photos, then we quickly continued our southern journey. I noticed that towns were becoming further and further apart. I glanced a concerned eye at my gas gauge, another at my map. The landscape was beginning to remind me more of Western Kansas with every mile we drove. Flat. Nearly empty.

The sun was getting lower in the sky and I'd not yet reached what appeared to be the halfway point. The dwellings I passed resembled double outhouses more than homes. No cars were parked near them.

Ahead, another construction zone? I passed the scene and realized that the dozen or so vehicles parked along the roadside were all various forms of police cars, one ominously proclaiming "Homicide Unit". Shortly off the road in a field I spotted bright yellow tape, marking a crime scene.

I tried to recall the community that had been mentioned in the news all day. Two campers had come upon a body. I attempted to pick up a radio station, but I'd lost all reception about an hour ago.

The southern tip of the loop was getting close and I looked again at my map, concerned because the "Low Gas" light had been blinking at me for miles. "Honey, I'll feed you as soon as I can," I assured my little Subaru. I hoped she could hold out.

Trepassey City Limits. It was the sign I'd been watching for, but nothing gave me hope of finding fuel. At the far edge of the community, a small auto repair shop had a single pump in its front drive. Relieved, I filled my little car, then went inside to pay.

"How long is the drive from here to Harbour Grace?" I asked the young attendant. "Gungka ummmm" he testily replied without looking up. "Okay. Well, may I use the restroom?" "Uuumkpa." I took that as a yes. I was desperate.

I considered the crime scene playing out nearby, shut my mouth, took care of business. Would hate to think the individual or individuals in the field had asked too many questions at the one local gas station. As I opened the door to the restroom, I noticed several drops of blood on the floor. Fresh blood, not yet dried to a dark red. Another young man is wiping blood off his hands as I quickened my step, hopped in the car and promised Arayo she could have a bathroom break up the road a bit.

The remainder of the loop may have been lovely. I can't say. It was lonely. I was anxious. Why didn't I think to clean the salt spray off my windshield at the station of gas and smiles? Before I met the owner. The setting sun bouncing off of windshield was blinding me.

And I needed to see. With darkness upon us, we were driving at the worst possible time in Newfoundland. Don't worry about murderers of the human kind. Darkness is when the moose come out to prowl the roads. "Never drive after dark," was the local mantra. "You hit a moose with your car and the moose wins."

I drive on through the night. Through the end of the Irish Loop. Threats from the outside of flying moose and unknown murderers. From inside of the car, Arayo places her head on my shoulder and begins the breathing pattern that I know signifies she is car sick and ready to explode.

Everyone should drive the Irish Coast.

Photos: Arayo enjoys the islands nestled near the shore at the beginning of the Irish Coast. Much of the coast is lonely.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Company of the Winds

The Newfoundland wind is a constant companion. It is brutal, fierce and speaks in uncommon voices.

Alone, Arayo and I walk through a small fishing village. A few houses, a small dock, and a handful of vessels. Graves marked by white tombstones, sharing their eternity, are huddled in a plot together. The wind pushes around the hills, plays off the structures and talks to us in low, painful moans. It hums, like voices from a chorus of the dead. I look around for someone, but know it comes from the wind.

Strong and merciless, this wind. A drive up the Northern Peninsula is an exhausting battle against it. My trusty little Subaru struggles to hold her claim to her side of the road, and I find us blown towards oncoming traffic when I temporarily lose my battle to hold her in place.

I pity and am in awe of those who choose to drive an 18-wheeler here. I pass the remains of a truck that lost its battle with the wind and was blown off the road. Each time I see a big rig headed my direction I duck as I await the blow that will send it falling onto my car.

Along the western coast of the rock, nature has found its own ways of dealing with the wind. Trees resist the urge to grow tall. It is safer to huddle near the ground in groupings so dense that a squirrel would have trouble penetrating further than a few feet into the forest. Those trees that dare reach for the sky live permanently bent from the effort to grow tall.

I long to spend a night in Blow Me Down Provincial Park, but they close early for the season. I wonder why? The man on the radio says that wind has again closed the road around Wreck House. Arayo and I slow the car and take frequent stops to walk along the beach, feeling alive surrounded by the fierceness of nature rushing around us. The endless wind which has claimed and shaped this island of Newfoundland.

Photo: Arayo enjoys the feel of the wind through her fur on the Newfoundland shore.

Friday, September 17, 2010

At The Edge of the World

I have found the edge of the world. The wind is fierce here. And cold. I check that Arayo's collar is secure. Shorten the amount of play in her leash. Draw her closer. A strong blast of wind, a startling incident causing her to lunge, and our following moments would be a free-fall through the clouds. A landing on rock and water far below.

The edge of the world calls me. Insists I move closer to the edge. It is like flying. I hate flying. Except now, with feet on solid ground.

A piece of the edge of the world escaped. Years ago. Its rocks and crevices, a sanctuary for birds to raise their young. Lucky birds.

Hundreds of puffins, those cuddly black and white birds with giant, triangular orange bills, return each year to this piece of the end of the world. Lay eggs. Raise babies. Leave for a winter less harsh.

Today, as I peer at the cracked off piece of the edge, only Arayo and the seagulls keep me company. The puffins have gone.

I listen to the wind calling me forward again. Maybe another peak. Off the edge. It is so beautiful here that I don't want to leave.

Like the puffins, I know I'll return to this place. Where the world ends.

Photos: Arayo, at the edge of the world - Elliston, Newfoundland.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

MOOSE Madness!

Few creatures moved about, and those who did were shielded by darkness of night. When clouds crossed the sky, the full moon that peeked out revealed the movements of little more than slugs seeking shelter under tent tarps. Sounds of gentle snores were muted by the down of sleeping bags which campers burrowed deeply into against the cold of the night.

Suddenly, the night was filled with blood curtailing screams. I sat up, fully awake, and I restrained Arayo who was trying to break through the tent walls.

"A moose is out here!" yelled my travel companion. "I hear it!"

Not sure there was anything I could do to help against the ravages of a 1,200 to 1,500 pound moose that was probably pretty ticked off that a frantic woman had interrupted his early morning stroll through the campground, I opted to stay within my tent. Besides, on the outside chance that he was looking for a bed-time snack of a middle-aged woman, why give him two choices when one was already in the road at his mercy?

Actually, I wasn't concerned about a moose for myself or for her, but thought that the challenge of a 100 pound Newfoundland dog might turn the moose from ambivalent to challenged.

I offered her my helpful input instead of my physical presence. "RUN!"

"But I have to pee!" she replied.

"Well, forget the outhouse - just go next to your tent!"

I'm sure the other campers were thrilled with this 5 am exchange.

Moose are a big concern in Newfoundland, but, like my longing to see a Kansas tornado with the power to relocate entire cities to another state, I also want to come face to face with one of these giant beasts……. Preferably, my face will be sitting in my car at the side of a road.

Brought to Newfoundland from New Brunswick in 1904, probably as a practical joke on future generations, the 4 original gigantic animals have gone forth and multiplied to over 150,000. Signs along the road announce the number of moose involved in auto accidents both this and last year and big news on the radio this week concerns one Newfoundlander who is starting a movement to have the entire Trans Canada highway fenced to keep Moose off of it. He has written a protest song against moose and has developed a slogan: DAMM (Drivers Against Moose Madness) that he is going to print on bumper stickers and encourage everyone to post on their cars.

Perhaps with enough protest against these 4 legged terrorists, the moose will just hang their antlers in shame and go away.

Photos: So far, I've only seen one moose and she was more interested in snacking than attacking. A road-sign warns drivers that they will not win if it comes to an altercation between vehicle and moose.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

9/11 in Gander: Through The Eyes of One Who Was There

It was a normal day in Kindergarten. Tammy Mills was working with her students when she began hearing planes overhead. Lots of planes. She was used to the sound of an occasional airline as her school sits on the flight path for the Gander Airport. But, this was constant.

A mother showed up to pull her student out of class and whispered to her about an attack. Another mother arrived. At the lunch break, Tammy turned on the tv and watched the coverage, the horrible reruns of plans crashing into the Twin Towers and the towers crumbling.

When she returned to school, the principal called her aside. "We have people coming. Thousands of people have been brought to Gander. If they turn the school into a shelter, will you help?"

That evening they prepared every classroom and at about midnight they began to arrive. Hundreds of tired, scared people had been kept on the tarmac for hours until word was given to release them and to process them into Canada.

The school bus drivers were on strike but returned to volunteer their time driving people to the school and other shelters set up in town and around the area. They called Walmart for help. Pillows and blankets were needed for 7,000 people. The Walmart manager went to the store, opened it and told them to take anything they needed. Other stores did the same.

Citizens from the community opened their closets. They brought more blankets and pillows so that everyone would have one. A local dentist called and volunteers picked up cases of tooth brushes and toothpaste.

Once skies across the Atlantic were closed, the air traffic controllers showed up at the school and began preparing food in a tiny teachers' break room. There was no school cafeteria.

As passengers began arriving, they were given a room to call home, then taken to the school's tiny audio/visual room where they were shown the coverage of what had caused their flights to be diverted. Seeing what they had been shielded from until this point, the shock really set in.

A man came to the school office where supplies were kept and asked for a toothbrush. He was given one for himself and his wife, then he broke down crying. "It will be okay," Tammy assured the man. "No, you don't understand. I am on my honeymoon but my wife became ill so we decided to take an earlier flight out of New York City. Had we finished the week as we'd planned, we would have been on a tour of the Twin Towers when the planes hit."

As she was walking down a hall in the school a couple days later, she overheard a woman crying. Stopping to ask if she could help, the elderly couple explained that the wife was on blood pressure medicine and was only carrying a small amount with her. The rest was in the hold of the airplane and they were not allowed access. Tammy called the father of a student who was an MD. He immediately arrived and made sure the woman had enough medication to carry her through her time on the ground.

Locals opened their homes to the passengers. They gave them the keys to their car, directions to their homes and told them to go take a shower, a nap and help themselves to whatever was in the house to eat.

Thousands of stories of kindness filled the days while the passengers were in town. And the passengers joined together in a bond of friendship and support. The CEO of Hugo Boss was on a flight and found himself buying underwear at Walmart. Hugo Boss underwear was sent to him from St. John's, 3 1/2 hours away, but he refused to return to St. John's where he'd have a more comfortable stay. Except for wearing Walmart underwear, he was in this with his fellow passengers to the end.

As flights were given the green light to take off, Tammy and the other staff who were volunteering at the school around the clock got word that one flight was to leave in the middle of the night and they needed to find its passengers. Rather than wake some 2,000 people with a 2 am announcement over the intercom, they began making the rounds of rooms to sort out the passengers needed.

Tammy went to a room where she knew one gentleman was sleeping and gently knocked on the door. A huge man answered with a look of shock on his face - the man she was looking for. She took him to the assembly area, realizing he was terrified of something. As no one could communicate with him to assure him this was a good thing, that he was going home, they summoned an elderly woman of about 90 who spoke his language. Through several translators she explained to him that he was going home. He broke down sobbing. She explained that he could not get on the plane. He could not return to his point of departure. If he did, he would be killed.

Nine years later, Tammy admits that the events of 9/11, despite the horror of the day, remain a source of pride and joy to her. She and others were able to have an enormous impact on thousands of people who needed it. But. nine years later, the big man haunts her. She never found out if he had to return or what had become of him.

Photos: Many of the children at Tammy's school weren't born September 11, 2001. The crew members of one of the Lufthansa flights made a big thank you card for the students which is posted at the school and a memorial mural graces the walls in another location.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11 in Gander Newfoundland

As many in the world reflect on the horrible events of September 11, 2001, it is fitting that I should find myself in Gander Newfoundland this 9th Anniversary of the tragedy. For, perhaps some of the most moving accounts of the events following the hours of that day center around the town of Gander.

At one time the Gander airport was the largest in the world, as its location was crucial for refueling flights and staging those headed to Europe during the war. It continued to play a key role in travel until airlines with extended flying ranges were built and the need for a refueling point ceased for most flights.

With 200 aircraft over the Atlantic when the World Trade Center was hit, pilots were directed to land all aircraft immediately and to, as much as possible, avoid landing in large cities. So, the small town of Gander, with a population of 10,000, found itself with 39 aircraft and 7,000 frightened souls on its runways.

The people of Gander responded quickly and with open hearts. They set up shelters in schools, churches and any other place they could. They cooked for them, opened their homes so people could have a bed and allowed strangers to come to their homes for showers and a cup of coffee. They gave them clothing, loaned them vehicles, and sat and held the hands of those who had loved ones who might have been killed.

Several years ago I read a truly fabulous book about this event. Written by Jim Defede it is called "The Day The World Came To Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland". Unfortunately, it is one that my home library no longer has. A pity as it is well written, fascinating, and a real feel-good book. Worth picking up on Amazon or someplace!

As I continue my journey, finding myself so often in the company of and in the care of strangers - it is good to remember that, while the events of 9/11 are horrific, the positive is the way the world opened its arms and showed that we are, in many ways, all related.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Men of the Sea

I've always had a fascination with the sea. With her motion, her vastness, her calm and her ire. So, it is natural that I'd be drawn to those who make their living from her. Who spend their days close to her surface, setting traps, pulling nets, doing whatever it is that men and women do to pull the mysterious creatures from her that end up on our tables.

While tourist bureaus boast historical treasures - plots of land where Vikings lived 1,000 years ago, homes once owned by famous sea captains or paintings produced by noteworthy artists - I give them but a passing glance and make my way towards the local ports. There I can view vessels of various sizes and shapes, painted in cheerful colors, with gear and nets, anchors and lines, baskets and pots weathered by use.

Always, I'm on the lookout for the human factor, the - traditionally men - who have chosen this life I can only imagine, though, on this trip, most of the boats have been at rest. I've managed to arrive mid-season, so the fishermen are home, taking a break from the sea.

It was with delight that a truck pulled up shortly after I arrived in Port de Grave and a man got out to check on his little white boat with aqua trim. Bernaird owned the "K & Sons", though he couldn't speak to who K or the sons might be. The boat was thus named when I bought her some years ago.

A fisherman for 50 years, Bernaird can travel some 30 miles from his home cove and is supported by a crew of 3 or 4. When asked if he had experienced any close calls on the sea, he admitted to falling over a couple times but had been very lucky. "Someone noticed something out of the corner of his eye, looked and realized I was gone. If they hadn't noticed when they did, I'd have been a goner," he said.

Though his village is full of fishermen he proudly notes that they've been very lucky. "We've never known anyone from this port to die on the water." We hope the trend continues.

Further down the road, we were struck by the beauty of a cove, its red fishing sheds warmed by the setting sun. It screamed "photo op", and we turned around to take advantage of the beautiful moment. There we met two brothers, Wish and Steven, who had come in on a fishing vessel from Labrador. They allowed us to take a few photos of Arayo with piles of lines as a backdrop and shared a bit of their life on the water. The older brother, Wish, has spent 3 years working as a fishing hand. Steven, his younger brother, will finish this, his first season, then return to complete 12th grade and then study law, admitting that while fishing, can be a good way to make a living, it isn't something you can count on.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Party Dog

The dog show was over and friends were gathered at the home of renowned Newfoundland breeder, Megan Nutbeem. Forced to step back from breeding a few years ago due to failing health, Megan has retained her interest in the Newfoundland breed and her health issues haven't stopped her from hosting the event to visit with friends old and new.

The hospital bed in the living room was the social center from which Megan cheerfully encouraged people to help themselves to Dirty Martini dip and to pick up a slightly raunchy cocktail napkin.

Towards the end of the party, the cracker bowl was empty and guests were finishing their second or third drink. People were clustered in quiet groups. All of a sudden a banging began as Arayo raced around the room. Like the party guest who'd had a few too many drinks and decided to dance with a lampshade on her head, Arayo was smashing into objects with a metal trash can attached to hers.

Before anyone fully realized what was happening, she sent the can flying across the room. Further investigation revealed that someone had dropped a shrimp tail into the trash, and Arayo, thinking it had been abandoned long enough that she could claim it as her own, dove her head into the long narrow bin, then was unable to pry herself out without creating a scene.

Once she'd pulled herself together, she laid at the feet of a gullible guest and practiced the fine art begging. The remaining two shrimp were at his fingertips and he offered one to her. She gently accepted the treat, chewed on it a bit, then, jumped up, spit it to the ground and began rolling in it.

Some days you can clean a Newf up, but you shouldn't take her out……..

Photo: Arayo explores the nooks and crannies of Newfoundland's Coast.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Arayo Visits The Battery

Photos: Arayo visits The Battery in St. John's. Sitting at the entrance of the harbour, it was has retained the colorful houses typical of Newfoundland, it was an important area of defense for St. Johns during both world wars.

Black and white murals welcome visitors to The Battery, depicting scenes of earlier times.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dodging Earl?

The calm of Saturday took a turn Saturday night as winds picked up - the remnants of Hurricane Earl. By the time I took Arayo out for a 6m potty break, the wind was so fierce that road signs were really swinging and singing.

The question now is if the Provincial parks are open for business so I can proceed my camping journey!

We attended two dog shows Saturday. A big beautiful Newfoundland Dog, Ch Homeport Isaac Island, bred by Devon Nutbeem and owned by Douglas and Kaireen Chaytor of Halifax won Best of Show, so the after party at Megan Nutbeem's was truly a joyful affair for we Newfoundland owners!

Photo: On May 20, 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Her trip originated from the airport of the small Newfoundland town of Harbour Grace. We titled this photo "DOG is my co-pilot". Maybe she needed a good Newfy copilot on her later journeys. The landscape image was taken on the Irish Loop. I didn't notice it when there, but in the photos, I swear that is a giant grass covered woman's torso out in the water!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gypsy To An Artform

We passed it Saturday as we drove into St. John's. "What was THAT?"

Then, again on Sunday, there it was again. "HUH?"

Wednesday, the front page of the St. John's Telegram featured an article with the lead: “I don’t know if someone slipped me acid, or if I’m really seeing this.” (That echoed my thoughts exactly!)

I read the article. I had to meet the woman who owned this retired Canadian Post truck turned Gypsy Caravan. She needed a change of lifestyle and to see the world and she wasn't waiting until she had hit normal retirement age to do it. Michelle Kaiser, known as the Gypsy Mermaid, decorated her van with flowers, fork and spoon art, paintings, eyelashes over the headlights, a mailbox, and a mechanical fortune teller who will spit out your fortune for a buck. She's got this Gypsy gig down to a true art-form! I'm in awe!

She set out from Nanaimo Canada a year ago and has been touring the US and Canada with no apparent interest in settling down to a 9 - 5 job sitting behind a desk somewhere. You GO girl!

Arayo and I had to meet her so we looked her up on Facebook and sent her a message. Driving into St. Johns a couple hours later we spotted her van in a parking lot. (It is kind of hard to miss.) As luck would have it, the one empty spot was right next to her and we pulled in, got Arayo out of the car and walked around, admiring her creation. I set Arayo up for a few photos when Michelle walked up and agreed to pose with the Gypsy Newfoundland Dog before heading out. She'd had an offer. Someone wanted to teach the mermaid to scuba dive. She wasn't excited about breathing through a tube but was off to check it out anyway - game for whatever life was going to offer up next.

Hopefully we'll see you on the road again soon, Miz Mermaid!

Hurricane Earl Report

I've had numerous e-mails from people concerned about the dastardly Earl who is apparently making his way up the US coast, through Nova Scotia and into Newfoundland. I want everyone to know that Arayo and I are leaving St. John's today and making the drive along the Irish Coast, then we are meeting up with Jacky who is attending a dog show in the Harbour Grace area. We'll crash with her there, and keep an eye on what is happening before slowly heading back across Newfoundland to finish touring the West Coast, which is actually where the storm is expected to hit, if, indeed, it does make it this far.

Plans are being made to shut down ferry service between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and the island's parks will be closed. Jacky and Bob have assured me that if it looks like Newfoundland will be getting hit with the storm that I'm welcome to crash here until all has past.

One of my life goals was to ride out a hurricane, which I did with my mom two years ago in Houston when Hurricane Ike hit the city . Mom and I were kicked out of the cancer center hotel and into the arms of gracious distant relatives who put up with us for 5 days until the airport opened again. The frustrating thing was that we SLEPT THROUGH the hurricane! While being in a hurricane is back on my agenda, riding one out in a tent is NOT my idea of a good time.

Thanks to all for your concerns! Will keep you posted as to our where-abouts.