08/28/2014 11:57 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Zen and the Art of Ford Fusion Maintenance: Canadian Odyssey on the Looney Front - Part 8

Millennia before Leif Eriksson came to Newfoundland from the east, about four or five millennia to be exact, a people archaeologists call Maritime Archaic Indians came from the west to a limestone spit of land in the centre of the Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula.

It is thither now, five or six millennia later, that Yours Truly is trying to betake himself, despite the frigging confusions of the frigging rental Ford Fusion.

Now called Port au Choix, a Frenchification of the the name Portutxoa (little port) given it by Basque fishermen, it was rich in fish, seal and berries, providing all that these ancient people needed to lead a healthy life. The Maritime Archaic buried their dead in elaborately furnished graves which archaeologists began excavating in the 1920s.


Port au Choix

The skeletons they found, now kept in Memorial University Museum in St. John's, show the people to have been very healthy, living long lives, while some of their artifacts on show here reveal expert craftsmanship in making stone tools, weapons and harpoons.

The Maritime Archaic weren't the only ancient people to frequent this food-rich area. They were followed by Palaeo-Inuit and other peoples from further north, then by the ancestors of the Beothuk who were here when the Europeans began colonisation in the 1500s.


Maritime Archaic grave middens

And most recently they are being followed by Yours Truly who, despite the best efforts of the Ford Fusion to outwit, snooker and checkmate him, has managed to arrive at Port au Choix in rare foul mood on the way south to Gros Morne National Park.


Limestone arches near northern entry to Gros Morne Park

I still can't get the Fusion's doors to lock. It's the same old story of it clicking locked, waiting 10 seconds, then clicking open again. I hazard another dekko in the 454-page (Con)Fusion Owner's Manual. Aha, page 58: 'When you electronically lock your vehicle, the power door lock switch will no longer operate after 20 seconds. You must unlock your vehicle with the remote control or keyless pad, or switch the ignition on to restore function to these switches...' What the hell does that mean.

'If you press the unlock button on the remote control and do not open the door within 45 seconds, your vehicle will lock and the alarm will arm.' How does that help my present dilemma? Aha, they must mean me here: 'Do not leave children, unreliable adults or animals unattended in the vehicle.'


Sea at northern end of park

Worse, I'm running out of fuel, I've got to get more petrol, and they're all self-service, and I still haven't worked out how to open the petrol cap. Back to the 454-page Newest Testament. Aha, on page 148 and 149: How to refill the Ford Fusion - or the joys of sex.

OK, that latter part's me but it does sound like it: 'Press centre-rear edge of fuel filler door and release to open; slowly insert fuel filler nozzle fully into fuel system to open both doors. Note: hold handle of fuel filler nozzle higher while you insert nozzle for easier access; leave nozzle fully inserted until you have stopped pumping fuel.'

And there's no screw-on screw-off cap, just those two doors to penetrate. I do at last manage to refuel the beast, though, albeit within a dribble or two of running dry.


Gros Morne National Park view

But back to the Maritime Archaic. The cemetery on the limestone barrens is not particularly impressive. You can see grassy middens, but if any Maritime Archaic were to time-travel forward, they'd be horrified. They might recognise the sandy bays and spits even though the waters were higher in their day, but they'd gape in disgust at the dirty great fish processing plant that looms up in front of their sacred burial site.

I've reached an uneasy truce with the frigging Ford Con-Fusion. It can do what it bloody well likes, flash dotted green lines at me, scream driver alert warnings, ring bells (for whom the bell tolls indeed), play music, Beethoven's fifth for all I care, honk at me, hoot at me, double-wink at me, hoodwink at me - I don't care, I just ignore it.


Another park view

Well, I do still shout at it a little, curse it a bit, tell it to f... itself, kick it a little, but that's more out of habit than conviction. It just ignores me - it didn't even make a murmur, not even a whimper, it just stopped sounding its usual siren when I forgot to put the seat belt on - mandatory here under pain of a massive fine. Why the bloody hell would it forget that, yet toll away bells of doom for everything else?

I no longer expect it to behave properly. I still cannot lock the doors; the same old same old - the click of the lock, a 10 second pause, then the click of the unlock.

As for the 'entertainment system' with its array of dials, buttons and arrows, I don't dare even touch it. It would probably blast out Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries, Holst's Planets and Elgar's Land of Hope and Glory, all at the same time.

As the guy with the apparently golden touch, this little item on page 299 of the 454-page (Con)Fusion Owner's Manual doesn't nurture my confidence: 'The MyFord touch system controls most of the audio features.'


And another

I'm hoping a dirty great antlered male moose will turn up and butt it - when I'm not in it, of course - but they seem to have gone on the wrong sort of strike because when I pass the moose accident toll board again it still stands at 07 despite the three-day interval.

Some 450 million years ago, give or take a day or two, two super-continents collided, forcing up the crust of an ancient ocean and parts of the earth's mantle into what is now the Tablelands of Newfoundland's Gros Morne National Park. Rich in a mantle rock called peridotite, plants do not grow here. It's a barren place, reddish-brown due to the presence of iron.


The Tablelands

But its very barrenness produced a rich harvest for geologists, for it was here that Canadian Harold Williams found the proof he needed to back his theory of plate tectonics, the movement and collisions of huge separate segments of the earth's crust and upper mantle, one being subducted under the other.

It was one such subduction that forced up the Tablelands and other mighty crags whose layers reveal the former presence of ancient oceans, allowing UNESCO in 1978 to proclaim Gros Morne National Park a World Heritage Site.


Another Tablelands view

Back even further into my childhood, some 1.2 billion years ago, give or take a week, Mother Earth belched up the Appalachian Mountains, stretching right up into what is now Newfoundland. The eroded Long Range Mountains here in Gros Morne are a remnant, but their loftiest peak is now only 2,644 feet.

Add to this that between 25,000 and 10,000 years ago the most recent ice age cut out a dramatically monumental landscape with the vast pressures of its enormous weight and the cataclysmic wrenchings and lacerations of its withdrawal, and you get the idea: precipitous fjords, indented coasts, rocky coves, bays and inlets, lakes, and many more than 50 shades of green and grey.


Gros Morne scene

All of which Yours Truly is now enjoying despite the best efforts of the frigging Ford Confusion to see it otherwise, and the change in the weather from brilliant sunshine to deep overcast.

The little hamlet of Rocky Harbour, the largest in Gros Morne with a year-round population of 1,000, curves round a delightful bay with a green mountain backdrop, and it is here that Yours Truly parks himself for three days to enjoy the pleasures of Gros Morne.

To reach Woody Point on the opposite side of Bonne Bay takes about an hour in the frigging Fusion as the road twists round deep inlets, but only 10 minutes or so by water taxi from Norris Point, just a few minutes from Rocky Harbour.


Rocky Harbour

From Woody Point to Trout River further south takes you past the reddish mass of the Tablelands, whose barrenness is even further accentuated by the lush green of the meadows and groves below.

The villages are idyllic with their narrow lanes and wooden houses and unfolding landscapes of meadows, rivers and sea.


Woody Point

The Fusion has just given me an extra loud honk as I get out with the door open and the engine on. Screw it! I'll enjoy the scenery! Zen indeed!


View from Woody Point


By the same author: Bussing The Amazon: On The Road With The Accidental Journalist, available with free excerpts on Kindle and in print version on Amazon.

And Swimming With Fidel: The Toils Of An Accidental Journalist, available on Kindle, with free excerpts here, and in print version on Amazon in the U.S here.