Downhome Magazine

Come Home Year 2022 with a Twist

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In June 2020 I retired from teaching after 22 years in Fort McMurray, Alberta. During our retirement years what we had planned was to travel to different places. Our first place to travel was across Canada from our home in Fort McMurray, to our previous home, 22 years ago, in Newfoundland. More specifically Central Newfoundland and the town of Grand Falls Windsor. But Covid had a different plan, we had to put on hold our travel for the summer of 2020. Like many other Canadians we caught the virus during that time and had to isolate for 10 days according to what the authorities were telling us in the early days and months of the pandemic.

So from June 2020 until June 2021 it seem like Covid was really putting a damper on our vacation plans. Then in the summer of 2021 in August we decided that we were going to begin to travel and with the restrictions still on we were unable to travel anywhere outside of Canada so we went back to our initial plan to travel across Canada. Visiting family and friends with plans to probably return to Fort McMurray in October 2021.

So on August 5, 2020 we left to drive to Ontario and then take the north shore route 138 from Quebec City to Baie Comeau, then to Labrador City and the Trans Labrador Highway. Eventually to Blanc Sablon Quebec and the ferry to Saint Barbe NL.

This route through northern Quebec and Trans Labrador Highway, route 510 would be the highlight of our excursion. Along the way we had one night stays in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie before spending a few nights at my wife's mother in Kitchener, Ontario. After that we left and we would travel the north shore of Quebec and then head to LABRADOR CITY. We were encouraged by family in Labrador City to make the northern excursion and we were not disappointed that we did. The first night after leaving Ontario we stayed just outside of Montreal and then the second, stayed in Baie Comeau before making the trek REALLY north in Quebec. This an area that we had not travelled before and we were somewhat unsure of where this road would take us.

This drive from Baie Comeau to Labrador City caused us a little bit of anxiety as we would be without cell reception or contact with anybody for between seven and eight hours and would encounter both gravel as well as paved highway on the route. Traffic was very light and I only counted 93 vehicles in the first 400 kilometers of the journey. We were, kind of driving blind so to speak, as we were using only the road as a guide. The scenery in this part of our great country is phenomenal and we felt blessed to be able to encounter it. Being able to see some of the MASSIVE hydroelectric developments especially the Manic 5 Development. Gas prices were significantly more than they were in the urban areas of Quebec and Ontario but this was due mainly to the remoteness.

The gas prices in the rural parts of Quebec and remote Quebec as well as the Labrador portion of Newfoundland and Labrador were significantly higher than they were in other parts of those provinces, but nothing like what would be experienced in the spring and summer of the following year as Covid continued to have a hold on our country and world.

We ended up spending about six days in Lab West with family looking at the sights and sounds. Then we continued our trip on the Trans Labrador Highway as the family accompanied us to Charlottetown where she spent most of her childhood. We did some visiting on the coastal routes of the TLH and spent time with her extended family, in communities now accessible by road unlike our first visit in the summer of 1996 when travel between communities in southern Labrador was by water or air. We had a very enjoyable time while there and we ended up going out to do some sightseeing in a boat, seeing some whales and visiting some settlements only accessible by water in the summer. Little did we know at that time that this would BECOME HOME for the winter of 2021 and 2022.

After we left Charlottetown we traveled the rest of the Trans Labrador Highway (about 250 km) the coastal route down to the ferry that connects Labrador with the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador. This also was the first time crossing to island by boat and then taking the Great Northern Peninsula, drove down and went to Central Newfoundland where I had spent the first 42 years of my life, including 22 years being married, raising a family with my wife Diane. After traversing the island from east to west we took the boat in Port aux Basques and headed back to Ontario to spend some time with my wife's ailing mom.

It was while we were there that our vacation took a little bit of a twist. What had started out as Come Home Year 2021, so to speak, I would end up with my wife making a return trip to the coast of Labrador and myself taking a teaching position for the coming year, October 25 - June 24 2022.

While we were in Kitchener at my wife's mom's home I ended up getting a phone call from a vice principal in Port Hope Simpson who was inquiring if I was available to come to work at their school as he had heard that I was interested in doing some subbing in Labrador. He was wondering if I would be willing to fill a position that was still unfilled at their school. We ended up talking for a while and I did end up applying for the position and was successful and began teaching there on October 25 of 2021. We have always wanted to do something in a different community and now the opportunity was being provided for us. We thoroughly enjoyed our next eight months in Labrador living in the community of Charlottetown with a population of about 250 people and I would travel 50 km each day to go to work in Port Hope Simpson as a junior/ senior high teacher. It was an enjoyable experience and one that we will not soon forget, meeting a lot of good people in that excursion and we will probably be back in Labrador for the coming year God willing. While in Charlottetown we were able to experience some of the Labrador ways of life and really came to appreciate the people that we would meet. We would leave Charlottetown on June 24 as we had to attend the graduation exercises of two of our grandchildren in Fort McMurray.

The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador had designated 2022 as Come Home Year and what started out as a summer and fall vacation in 2021, became COME HOME YEAR 2022 FOR THE CHAMPION FAMILY WITH A TWIST.

At the time of writing pictures were not able to be uploaded but can be provided if needed. Please advise.
Joe and Diane Champion

Fort Mcmurray
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