(Written July 30, 2013)
It was an 8:30AM start for us this morning, which put us dead last (except for the Tail Gunner and that’s his job – to be last) leaving the RV park. The Paradise RV Park was 215 miles away, located on the Bonavista Peninsula. It rained last night and was gray and threatening more rain as we left. Gander, NF was about 70 miles away and had two potential stops. We could stop at the Newfoundland – Labrador Air Museum and the Silent Witness Memorial if we wished. We wouldn’t make the Air Museum in time for the 10AM guided tour so we elected to skip it. I looked on the Internet and saw that they only had five aircraft on display, four of them outdoors, and the weather was lousy.
We pulled into a Dominion (big supermarket chain up here) parking lot and Carol Ann went grocery shopping while I took the time to bone up on the Bonavista Peninsula from our tour guidebooks. I’m glad I did because I discovered that the little coastal village of Elliston, only 2 miles away, is having a Puffin Festival this weekend. Elliston is called the “Root Cellar Capital of the World” with about 150 root cellars. They even have guided tours. I’m not sure what could be the draw unless you have a thing for dark underground places. But it is called the Puffin Festival, not the Root Cellar Festival, so we are going hoping to see some puffins. If you don’t know what a puffin is you will have to look it up. All I can tell you is that they have a multicolored beak and walk around like penguins.
After our stop in Gander we also decided not to visit the Silent Witness Memorial because it would require unhooking our car. I do feel a little ashamed that I didn’t stop for I have a connection to it. It is the site of the chartered Arrow Air Flight 1285 crash in 1985 in which over 250 members of the 101st Airborne Division were killed when the airplane crashed moments after takeoff from Gander. They were on their way home from Egypt where they had been on a peacekeeping mission. The circumstances of the crash have fueled several conspiracy theories and talks of cover-ups plus a movie and at least a couple of books. It has even been linked to the Oliver North Iran-Contra scandal by supposedly carrying a supply of weapons, other than the troopers’ personal weapons. The Canadian board of inquiry was split 5/4 on the cause of the crash. The majority opinion was that the crash was a result of icing on the wings. The minority opinion was that there had been an onboard explosion (either from a rocket or a bomb in the baggage compartment) and fire. From what I have read I would tend to lean toward the explosion and fire. You can Google “arrow air flight 1285 crash” and decide for yourself. My connection is that I was a member of the 101st Airborne when in Vietnam during 1969 – 1970.
Most of the day’s drive, unlike most previous days was not along the coast. Rather we drove through miles and miles of Christmas tree forests and lakes. The air smelled so fresh and clean. There were also a lot of hills, many of them quite steep. We left Rocky Harbor at sea level and gradually climbed until we were at an elevation of approximately 1200 feet. We were still about 800 feet above sea level at the journey’s end, although we are less than 2 miles from the ocean. The peninsula has some very high cliffs, which are punctuated with cuts that the roads wind down to the coastal villages.
We arrived at Paradise RV Park around 2:30PM. Actually, we passed by it about 2:30PM, turned around, and arrived about 2:40PM. The RV sites are in a field of wildflowers and there is no sewer connection so we can’t wash clothes during the two days of our stay. Carol Ann and I have 30-amp electric service but some of the RVs have only 15-amp service. You can run air conditioners on 30-amps, but not on 15-amps. It was just luck of the draw as the sites were pre-assigned by the RV park staff.
Shortly, we will drive over to the Puffin Festival for the late afternoon and early evening for some live local music and traditional food (moose burgers, etc.). We will probably go back tomorrow if we enjoy this evening. I will let you know how it goes. However, you may not find out for a couple of days, as this RV park has no Wi-Fi.
Rich and Helen asked us to ride with them to the Puffin Festival about 4:00PM today. When we arrived in the small village of Elliston we could see no activity. It was a textbook “sleepy little village.” I went into the town’s information center, which was located in a small gift shop and got directions to the municipal park and to a place where we could see the puffins. We drove by the park and saw only a few cars and not much going on so we continued up the road to see the puffins. We had to park on the shoulder of the road and walk out a peninsula that was fairly narrow with high cliffs. The path came very close to the cliffs’ edges and I commented to Rich that if this were in the USA we wouldn’t be able see anything because OSHA would have fences set back ten feet from the cliffs’ edges and warning signs all over the place. Canada is similar to most of the European countries in that if you are stupid enough to get close enough to the edge to fall off and kill yourself then it’s probably good that you are no longer in the gene pool. If you are that dumb then don’t be looking to sue somebody.
We walked to the end of the peninsula and there was “Bird Island,” only a stone's throw from the end of the peninsula. It was covered with puffins and a few sea gulls. There was one puffin on the end of the peninsula and we got within about ten feet of him before he finally got tired of posing for us and flew over to the island. We stayed out there for over an hour and then drove back to the municipal park to check out the festival. There still weren’t very many cars there but we paid our $3 each and walked up the wooded path to a clearing in which was located a covered stage, bleachers, a beer garden, and food vendors. We didn’t see anyone on stage but music was being played. I joked to Rich that the band couldn’t make it so they sent a copy of their CD. We decided that we didn’t really want a moose burger and the music wasn’t that great so we started walking back to the truck. I happened to glance over at the stage once more and spotted a guy over in a corner of the stage playing the music we were hearing with a synthesizer keyboard. Why they didn’t have him stage front and center I don’t know.
We found an interesting looking restaurant called “Nannie’s Root Cellar Kitchen” (or something very similar) located in a historic old lodge called Orange Hall in Elliston. As we walked through the door we immediately noticed the temperature. It was very warm, too warm really, but we went on in and got one of the few tables available, which was on a small stage. As it was a little higher than the rest of the dining room it was also a bit warmer. My watch has a temperature sensor on it so I removed it from my wrist (didn’t want my body temperature to influence it) and let it acclimate to the room. Several minutes later I checked it to see that it was registering 87 degrees F. We debated leaving when a table near an open window became available and we moved off the stage. There was a slight breeze from the window that made a tremendous difference. We were glad we stayed because the food was very good. Rich and I each had hamburgers (ham- not moose-) while Carol Ann and Helen each had BLTs. After our dinner it had cooled off more outside and the sun was much lower in the sky making for some interesting lighting on some of the buildings and I couldn’t resist walking about with my camera.
After the photo ops we got back in Rich’s truck and drove out to Dungeon Provincial Park to see some really weird rock and sea cave formations as the sun was getting low in the sky. Then we hopped back in the truck and headed towards the lighthouse on the tip of the Bonavista Peninsula. The sun had almost set but there was enough light to get some shots of the lighthouse. I also got some shots of the almost full moon. On the way back to the RV park we stopped at the “Little Dairy King” for ice cream before driving through Bonavista and back to the park.