When we left Bonavista this morning it was parka weather and we spent at least at hour picking our way through thick fog. But by the time we got to Gander, the sun was out and we broke out the shorts. The locals have been telling us that this is the worst summer weather they have had in eighteen years and that they normally have summer temperatures. This is the first evidence of that we've had.
When you look at a large map of Newfoundland, it looks like a sponge. It puts the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota to shame. Our route took us from one lake shore to another with a bridge or causeway thrown in. Many of the forests are somewhat stunted looking. The rocky soil deposited here by the last glacial retreat combined with the nasty winters, makes for limited annual growth. The drive was beautiful, but there were few places to stop off for a photograph. Our shutter fingers are itching.
Our route took us through Gander, a small town of 11,000 whose name is more familiar to Americans than the much, much larger St. John's. It began as a British airbase in the 1930's and the location was chosen because of a low incidence of fog. Here we are about as close to Europe as you can get in North America, closer to Ireland than to the capital Ottawa. During World War II the Gander airport became hugely important for convoy escort and coast patrol aircraft as well as a refueling stop for military aircraft crossing the Atlantic. After the war the glitterati all stopped here to refuel, but once jets were invented, the number of planes landing here dwindled. It still is a major air traffic control hub. On 9/11 we heard a great deal about Gander when 42 international flights were diverted here as all flights were cancelled. The population of Gander suddenly doubled and the locals did a masterful job of feeding and housing their unexpected guests for the four days they inadvertently spent here.
We packed about eight rigs into the tiny North Atlantic Museum of Aviation parking lot and paused to see some exhibits on the history of aviation in this area. It was nice spot to break up the drive, but the exhibits were underwhelming.