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VW Atlas Road Trip – Newfoundland

This article will be a little bit of a change of pace from my normal technical articles about my 2 seater sports cars. I thought I would tell the story of my recent road trip to Newfoundland, taken in my 3 row seating VW Atlas, aka The Grandchildren Hauler.

First of all, you may ask, why Newfoundland? Basically, my wife’s idea. She is immune compromised and pretty careful about Covid. She felt that Newfoundland (NL) would be a low risk destination, both from a standpoint of contacting Covid while there and also from a standpoint of setting up a trip to a more obvious vacation destination that might suddenly become a Covid hot spot. And she likes rural scenic areas, versus big cities. She was raised on a cattle ranch, what can I say?

We had originally planned this trip for July. When planning for that trip, we found that yes, you can fly to NL but in the summer, all the rental cars are taken. So we adapted our planning to make a Bonzi run in our VW Atlas to NL, spend a week in leisurely touring of the island, and then a Bonzi run home. Well, I am embarassed to admit that one needs a current passport to get into Canada these days and I found out mine was expiring. You cannot get an expedited passport renewal if your urgency is “I have a vacation planned to Canada”. So I wound up getting a new passport about 5 weeks after submitting the paperwork. Not bad really, but not soon enough for a July trip. So we rescheduled to September.

I suspect you can get a rental car in September but I was motivated to keep this trip on the ground. So we planned a drive to NL, a week of touring, and a drive back. The VW Atlas is our newest car and thus most reliable. I liked the idea that if things really went south, we could put all the seats down and hunker down in some sleeping bags I took. I also took water, freeze dried food, and a small stove. Basic prepper stuff. Fortunately, none of this was required, but you never know.

Our ferry. It is a combination cruise ship and vehicle ferry. They load a lot of 18 wheelers on the top 2 vehicle decks. Our car was placed 5 decks down at Level 1, which was a little bit spooky to think about.

So to get to NL from NC, you drive up I-95 to the border in Maine. Google says that takes 18 hours. Well, we all know that is an absolute minimum number but I guess it is possible. In my case, I have a daughter in NYC and a daughter in Boston, so I split it up into a 3 day trip, which was fine. Once you get to the border in Maine, you drive another 7 hours through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, before you get to the waters edge at Sydney, NS and a car ferry to the island of NL. The ferry ride is 7 hours long. We reserved a cabin, which gets you two beds, and really helps make the crossing more relaxing. The ferry is enormous. I gather most of the commerce that occurs on NL involves trucks that go across on this ferry. It is a big deal. They have a restaurant, a bar, etc. All the basic neccesities.

Anyway, once we got on the island, we followed our pre-planned itinerary. We started with a visit to Gander and its aviation museum, which was quite interesting. Back in the days of propellor planes, almost all commercial flights to the UK and Europe had refueling stops in Gander. It was a very busy airport in its day. BTW, we stayed at a Comfort Inn in Gandor on September 12th. They had flowers in the lobby, which they said they received every year on 9/11 from some folks who were so thankful about their help when all the planes got diverted to Gander during 9/11. If you don’t know that story, Google it. It is quite heart warming.

We then went to the largest town on NL, which is St. John’s. I won’t go into detail. Pleasant, very colorful, good food. We stayed at the Rock’s Signal B&B, which I highly recommend. Near St. John’s is the eastern most point in North America, which we visited.

My wife standing near the eastern most point of North America, Cape Spear.

The remainder of the trip was spent in the western part of NL, which is very rugged. I equate it to being at the treeline in the Rockies, except you are only a few meters above sealevel. Very alpine topography. Winters must be tough there. I really liked it. In the summer!

My wife identified this as a carnivorous insect devouring pitcher plant. This is the flower. Down below are upward opening “pitchers” which collect water and have downward spikes that trap insects once they crawl in.

We ferried back and did our hard time in the Atlas getting back. All I can say is that the I-95 corridor has it traffic congestion challenges, which probably added 2 hours to our travel time. We survived. My total trip mileage was just over 4600 miles.

So it was a fun trip. After passing through Nova Scotia, I would say that would also be an interesting area to tour. Anyway, we are now pretty much done with driving trips for this year. Winter is coming!



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