It was pouring today as we said goodbye to this part of NFLD and headed off down the TCH for the west. Because we had done all the side roads coming east we decided to take the quicker though far less scenic option on such a miserable day.
Stopping in Gander Wayne went to see the aviation museum and it was excellent. The history of this place is amazing. It was built in the late 30’s chiefly because it was a flat piece of land near the railroad with a lake handy to land sea-planes on. At the time it was in the middle of nowhere as close as possible to Europe so planes could fuel up for the, at that time, treacherous crossing to Britain. It was carved from bog and forest and was the largest airport in the world. A huge contingent of men worked to clear and build the airport, living in tents at first as there were no other people or even a road into the area. Once operational there were 10,000 people working and living on the base, both civilians and military with a large US contingent stationed here during the war years. As transcontinental flights became popular the airliners would all stop to refuel at Gander which meant the passengers would deplane & wait in the terminal. They had the only bar in Canada which never closed - open 24 hours every day and the list of celebrities and famous people hosted here was impressive. From Ali to Elvis whenever a big celeb was there news would get around and locals would flock out to see them. As air travel changed the huge Gander airstrip became redundant and few jets stopped here. However that changed on 9-11 when 42 jets landed here in the hours after US airspace closed. Locals rallied to feed and house their unexpected 6,500 guests who dropped in! Striking bus drivers returned to work and every available space in Gander and surrounding towns was used as dormitories and feeding stations. Many folks just headed to the airport and took passengers home to care for them. The video showing this is touching as it depicts NFLD hospitality at its finest. The amazed passenger’s stories are heartwarming as they describe the way locals welcomed them in their homes, treating them like family.
We made it to Deer Lake by 6pm and the sun came out to greet us. It had been a long driving day but now that we were on the west coast we were looking forward to exploring Gros Morne and beyond for the next few days.