St. John’s, Newfoundland / August 21, 2019
Some of the best advice for true happiness came from a man named Wayne Newman as we made acquaintance on the wooden benches in front of Parlour Gelato + Coffee on Military Road in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
A large and boisterous man, he had rolled up just minutes earlier on his sparkling blue Harley Davidson motorcycle complete with black leather chaps, wrap-around sunglasses and a matching leather do-rag. As Mat and I sat in the August sunshine, sipping our espresso and staring out at the bustling Bannerman Park, I could hear his words reverberating through the cafe door.
“How are you Wayne?” the barista asked. “Well,” he said, “if you looked up the word ‘awesome’ in the dictionary, there would be a picture of me beside it.” She laughed. More of a half laugh than a real laugh, a kind of ‘I’ve heard that one before’ laugh. But I smiled.
He let out a loud huff as he sat down on the bench beside us and began to dig into his triple scoop container of freshly made gelato. He looked satisfied before he’d even begun. Mat and I were deep in contemplation of our next move. We’d been bike travelling Newfoundland for the past two weeks and had already experienced so much adventure.
We’d survived the famous Wreckhouse winds, forgone the gravel gnarliness of the Newfoundland T’railway for the scenic rollercoaster of the Route 1 Highway, soaked in the amazing hospitality of our new friends the Samms in Codroy Valley and ran a 10 kilometre leg of the relay ‘Race to the Sea’.
We’d revelled in the beauty of the babbling brooks, the National Parks and the majestic coastline and inland scenery that could be found everywhere we looked. I loved those stunted ‘tuckamore’ trees. We had savored every morsel of traditional Newfoundland ‘Lassy Bun’, fresh Atlantic lobster and the ‘it’s delicious because you’re hungry’ bacon and eggs at all the Irving Big Stops on the Rock.
When we arrived in St.John’s, we felt it customary to spend a few nights in a cheerfully coloured ‘Jelly Bean’ house but opted out of the late night ‘screech in’ ceremonies. We knew there was so much more to experience, but something about it felt complete, at least for now.
As we talked amongst ourselves, Wayne struck up conversation. “Nice pedal bikes,” he said, “Where ya coming from?” We told him about our arrival on the Marine Atlantic Ferry in Port-Aux-Basques and our journey across the island, our love for the people of Newfoundland and our hesitation to leave. We’d even considered moving there for a minute, until we remembered what East Coast winters can be like.
“Every summer I leave on a bike trip,” he said, acknowledging that we had more in common than initially met the eye. “I bring two weeks worth of clean socks and two weeks worth of clean underwear. I wear the same t-shirt and the same pants. If something gets a hole, I get it fixed or if I have to, I replace it. It’s smart, it’s simple and it’s the most fun I have all year.”
We nodded in approval of our sameness. We too, had adopted a minimalist approach to our bike travel, partially out of necessity and increasingly out of our love for how free it made us feel.
While fourteen pairs of socks was far too many for us to carry, we understood that he was relaying the idea that less is more. That when you bring the things you only truly need you not only appreciate them more but you take better care of them, too. Every item is essential.
As he scraped the bottom of his gelato container for the last bits of frozen treasure, he leaned over to us and in the most sincere voice that a Newfoundlander who just spent ten minutes telling hilarious stories and bad jokes can, he said, “You want to know the path to true happiness?”
We leaned in. “What?”
He paused, licked his spoon clean and said with a grin, “Don’t buy shit you don’t need.”