You never know when skills from a previous job are going to come in handy….
Monday, September 11th (cont.)
Our story left off with the video of me wandering in the rail station parking lot. I had no sooner put my camera away when a couple of Native ladies drove up and offered me a ride. They spoke a little English, but were obviously more comfortable in French (and probably a couple of other languages too). In trying to tell them about my plans for the night, the word “hammock” did not seem to mean anything to them, so I used the French word for tent. They gasped a little and advised me to be very cautious. I thanked them warmly in English and as well as I could in French.
Originally, my plan was for Schefferville to be my first hotel stay of the trip (or at least, technichally, the first one I would pay for). I then found out that a room for the night is around $200. I couldn’t justify that. I had a couple of plans, though niether of them were too specific. I thought I could find a safe-ish spot for my hammock. All I need is a couple of trees. Worst case scenario, I figured I could stay up all night working. I had lots to get caught up on anyway. This way, niether bear nor human could sneak up on me.
So…..neither of those were great plans. I think that I spent all of my planning on getting to Schefferville. What to do when I arrived was scarcely an afterthought.
My three Newfoundland friends from the train had recommended a restaurant called Bla Bla’s, specifically saying that they had wifi there. I don’t know why I thought wifi would solve my problems, but decided to make that my first stop.
It was almost 9 pm when I entered, close to closing time. I was their last customer of the day. I talked to the waitress/hostess/cook (she did all of them quite well) about my plans and asked if she could think of a good spot for a hammock. She instantly seemed really worried, advising me that bears will just walk right into town at night and that there are often malicious drunk people out and about.
I ordered a cheeseburger and she advised me to talk to someone at the store across the street while she cooked. They were of no help, so I crossed back to Bla Bla’s. The wifi was not working, which my w/h/c said happens sometimes. Since it was the end of the night, she loaded my plate with fries and later came by to sneakily hand me a little something for breakfast.
“I just feel so bad for you” she said repeatedly. I tried my best to not seem worried myself, informing her that this was pretty much a normal Monday night for me. While that’s true, the sincerity of her concerns did make me a little uneasy.
I left around 9:30, feeling very well taken care of. I never even learned her name, but her genuine care was really special.
So….what now? Wander the streets? Well….what else is there to do.
My wanderings were at least fractionally purposeful. I knew I would have less than two hours of daylight in the morning to take pictures in Schefferville before I needed to head for the train at 7am. I was hoping to scout the town well so I could be efficient with my use of the sunlight.
I didn’t have much of a usable map, so my wanderings were not very effective. At one point, I ended up walking in a large circle, having no idea how I’d arrived back where I began. I have decent directional sense, but being in the dark on roads I’d never traveled was disorientating.
I was tired, but didn’t want to sleep somewhere unsafe. I was reluctant to let go of my consciousness.
I was starting to feel very alone and insecure. Darkness has a way making any place seem ominous, so I tried not to make any judgments about Schefferville. That said, I was definitely not enjoying myself.
My circular route ended on a street where something had caught my eye earlier…well two somethings: School buses. As I’d walked by them the first time I had observed that they looked quite bear proof, but going in one would be wrong. Upon my second go round, I was getting more desperate and the prospect of being surrounded by a yellow, metal cocoon was too alluring to pass up.
This was a great decision strategically, but it was poor one morally. I often tread in moral gray areas in picking nightly spots, but this one definitely crossed the line. It was trespassing and it was wrong. I will not defend the moral grounds of this decision.
But buses are locked, right?
Some of you may know that my last job before this adventure began was as a bus driver. It was the perfect part time gig, which allowed me to devote time to the planning of this trip. I drove for Lincoln Public Schools and for a company called Windstar Lines. I got to operate a plethora of different models and machines. Luckily, I was well familiar with the one sitting in front of me.
It was a Blue Bird transit style (48 passenger, I believe), but unlike most transits it has the engine in the front. This style is preferred for a bus that does a lot of driving on dirt roads. It also has a shorter wheel base than other buses of similar length, making it a great choice to shuttle around drunk sorority girls in the tight confines of downtown Lincoln. (Yes, I’m also kind of surprised I did not find a wife one of those late nights)
Getting in this type of bus is really simple, but I do not feel it would be prudent to broadcast such information over the internet. Ask me in person sometime. 🙂
So I was in. But I still did not feel totally secure. The buses were parked right around some houses and there had been foot traffic within about 20 yards as I waited for an opportunity to enter. I could not use a light, for fear of attracting attention to myself.
These buses were not abandoned. I could tell they were still in use. For what, I did not know. If they were used for transporting school students, I knew I would probably be safe inside until about 6am, you can’t really drive out into the country to pick up kids (no roads), so any route this bus would take should start close to school time. If this bus were used for a different purpose, it might leave at any given time in the morning.
So how is one to find out? The same way you find out anything else: Dig through the trash. I did not find any name tags, worksheets or important notes addressed to parents; so it was safe to assume this bus was not used for school. There was no way to know its purpose. I could tell that it was filthy with dust, but that didn’t mean much to me.
I decided to set my alarm for 4:45. I set the one on my tablet as well for backup. I tried to think if I had ever had a more important alarm in my life? Oversleeping would cost me four days.
Thus my September 11th came to a close. I was feeling lonely and even a bit hopeless.
My thoughts were clouded with old memories of the terrible things that had happened years earlier on this day and new memories of the hardships that I had endured to get here. A positive thought entered my mind: Look for the helpers.
Take it away, Mr. Rogers:
I thought about all of my helpers, by now a countless number of them. I was not here by my own strength, wisdom or cunning. I was here because of those helpers. Perspective can easily change perception and mine was changed as I searched for sleep.
Finally, mercifully, I lost consciousness.
Tuesday, September 12th
The night was restless but I did sleep some. Many sounds around the bus had awoken me in the night.
But now there was a sound on the bus.
The front door opened and on walked the driver.
It was 4:15am.
So what are my options here? I could bail out of the rear emergency exit or I could announce my presence. Having been in the drivers position many times before (stepping into a dark bus in the wee hours of the morning), I chose the latter. I began babbling and apologizing in English.
He showed very little interested, chuckling a little and asking in a thick French accent, “You pass all night in here?”
I had strategically placed my belongings around me and had been sleeping with my shoes on, in a case a “throw and go” exit was necessary. As I stuffed my belongings into Gord’s big back pack he turned on the dome lights to assist me. Within about 30 seconds, I was ready to go.
I began my walk of shame towards the front of the bus and he asked his question again, “You pass all night in here?” I’m not sure whether he thought I was “passed out” or if he was porting over the French verb “passer” into English. As I came up behind him he reached out to the door lever and opened it for me. I had no idea what to say so I just told him to have a nice day.
It appeared that this was just a normal Tuesday morning for him 🙂
So where was this guy going? Had I been able to inspect the color of the dust on the bus floor, I should have known instantly: The mines. My jeans picked up a bunch of the red dust.
Real time update: And they still have a reddish hue at the knees!
No pics of the bus unfortunately. 😦
Even though I was now out on the streets, I was very thankful. First of all, I had gotten some sleep, enough to last me for the day. Secondly, the interaction with the bus driver could have gone any number of ways. I could not imagine it going much better.
The forecasted low for the night was 48 F, but it felt colder than that. The wind was blowing steadily. However, mid 40s is unseasonably warm for a night time low in Schefferville. Pouncing on a mild weather pattern was one of the reasons I had rushed up here. I was about a layer or two deficient, but I would survive. I ate some sweets that Gord and Bev had sent along to try to kickstart my metabolism.
Well, what now? I figured that there was at least an hour until sunrise, when I could take some pictures. I knew that a picture of the airport, which probably sports the biggest “Schefferville” sign was a must. I began my march to the east side of town.
Schefferville is home to a lot of stray dogs (maybe more of them than people). Some of them are nice, some….not so much. I had a pack of three of them try to execute a move left over from their wolf DNA: Two of them barked and distracted me from the front, while a third silently circled around and approached me from behind. I just sort of laughed and reminded them that they were not wolves.
I never really figured out how to greet people in Schefferville. Hello? Bon jour? Konichiwa? Language seems to be rather fluid, even judging by their street signs.
(pic at top of article)
It was not uncommon to see French street signs (Rue des Laurentides) with an English stop sign. I guess they just use what they can find.
I made it to the airport safely.
There was not much else to do except try to stay warm. I ran some wind sprints and did some other calesthenics to stoke my internal furnace.
…..and we aint done yet!
Soon the sun will rise upon this tiny community in the wilderness. That will change everything.
Real time update: Still in Nova Scotia. Tonight will probably be my final one in Canada. I’m really looking forward to having cellular data again! I’ll visit Bangor and Waterville in Maine and then head to the NY/Quebec border to get my long awaited new rear tire.