When Brian Lynch's Ford RV rolled off the assembly line in the 1990s, his career with CN Rail was rolling to a stop.
For years he worked in the freight department, overseeing the delivering of goods by train all over Newfoundland — a career that laid the groundwork for a strange vacation years later: a 16,584-kilometre road trip that took 84 days, cost $4,989.54 in gas and allowed him to visit nearly every single one of those communities, many for the first time.
"If you go back in time, back to the '50s, CN was the only game in town," Lynch said Saturday from his cabin just outside St. John's.
Back then, every community in the province, no matter how tiny, depended on Lynch for their letters and packages.
"You had to know where they were," he said.
That knowledge helped when Lynch — who usually winters in Florida — found himself stuck at home because of travel prohibitions under the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I got the itch to want to move," he said. So he went online in search of a cheap motorhome, paying $7,000 for a 30-year-old rig.
On Aug. 8 he packed up the RV and — along with his cat, Edie — headed out for the trip.
"I didn't even say goodbye to my brother," he said. "When I left I didn't know I was going to be able to handle this for a two days, a week, or whatever.… I took my cat Edie with me, and I didn't know if she was going to get sick or the camper was going to break down."
Hitting the highway and heading west, Lynch made a plan to stop in every community on the right-hand side of the Trans-Canada Highway. On the way back he would stop in to say hello to the towns and local service districts on the other side.
"I didn't pass anything. If I saw a sign to a small place that's 50 kilometres of dirt road, I was going down there," he said. "I would not pass it by."
By the time he arrived in Deer Lake, he'd decided to head up the Northern Peninsula, stopping in every place along the way before crossing the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Blanc-Sablon, Que., and heading for Labrador City.
WATCH | Brian Lynch tells reporter Jeremy Eaton about how he visited almost every nook and cranny in Newfoundland and Labrador:
He spent a few nights with his friends in Labrador West and then decided to take the long way around to Port aux Basques. Lynch got permission to travel though Quebec and into New Brunswick before taking the ferry from North Sydney to the southwest coast of Newfoundland.
Lynch self-isolated with his cat for 14 days and then began the drive home.
He documented the journey on Facebook and in a journal, talking to people everywhere he went to learn about the community he was visiting, and posting pictures of places that many of his followers had never heard of, like Boxey or Calmer.
Lynch, a chatty, lively and likable fellow, has a share of funny tales to tell — like the time he forgot to pay his bill for dinner at Jungle Jim's in Old Perlican. An honest mistake, he said, but the manager — who followed his social media stories of the trip, including a post about his lovely meal at the restaurant — tracked him down to settle up.
Or the time he was desperately seeking accommodation in La Poile, on Newfoundland's southern coast. Despite numerous calls ahead, he hadn't found anywhere to stay. When he arrived he saw a few men chatting on a bench and jokingly asked, "Where's the Holiday Inn?"
"[One of the men] turned and said, 'Here it is right here' and pointed to his shed and he said, 'Put your tent up in there,' and that's what I done," Lynch said with a chuckle.
It wasn't just a man-and-cat road trip; Lynch's son Barry met up with him in central Newfoundland for a few weeks, getting a small taste of what the nearly three-month road trip was like for his dad.
After weeks spent sightseeing in places he'd only ever heard of, or seen on a map, he found his favourite spot of all — the community of Francois, on the south coast of the island.
"There is a fjord and the mountains are huge all around. It's an absolutely beautiful community," said Lynch.
Despite the epic journey placed on the wheels of the the aging motorhome, the RV held up. A few belts needed to be replaced, a new starting motor was put in, a flat tire retired and a new one put on, said Lynch — but he doesn't think it has many adventures left in it.
Visiting 758 communities on the island and 27 in Labrador, he said, he learned a lot about his home province. Due to travel restrictions he couldn't make it up the Labrador coast to see the five communities there — but he promises he will.
He's not sure what his next adventure will be but says the trip has taught him that no matter how long you've lived in a place there are still a lot of hidden gems in your own backyard.