(For those reading this for the first time, you might want to look at “About” before continuing)
Well, we’ve landed in Newfoundland in one piece. The ferry ride convinced me of one thing . . . we’re not taking the long ferry ride home on the way back. When we got to the ferry this morning we found out they had a ‘NO SHEEP’ policy for the passenger deck so they stuck me in the kennels for 6 hours with a bunch of yapping, stinking dogs. It will take me a week to get the smell out – I might even need a shearing!
Meanwhile, the Man and Lady are above decks listening to live music, watching a movie, having a great breakfast and lunch, using the free wireless Internet and lounging in the bar/lounge. When the Man came to rescue me I told him it was the last time that was going to happen. I managed to convince him that if he drove one way across Newfoundland he would probably get his usual butt picture of a moose BUT if he drove back the other way he would get the head and then he could Photoshop the two together. Now he’s all excited to do that instead of sitting 14 long hours on the ferry. Whewww!
So . . . the Lady’s first impression of Newfoundland. . ., “Where are the trees”? The Man had to explain that there are no trees because they are blown off in the winter gales. That didn’t go over too well. We were all quite amazed though at how the landscape had changed after travelling not that far east and north. The coastal area is very rocky and there are only small trees in the wind protected nooks and crannies. The rock is covered with stubby salal, juniper and grasses. Lots of wild flowers still blooming here everywhere – wild rose and iris, clover, evening primrose, fireweed, buttercup and daisies.
The Man decided that Port aux Basque, where we arrived, would be too busy after the ferry disgorged us and that we would find accommodation in the next major town, Stephenville. We knew we were in trouble when we saw road signs saying, “Stephensville Exit 115 km” – not many towns in between. Road signs seem to be a major industry for Newfoundland. We first saw a “Bump 1 km” sign, then “Bump 500 m,” “Bump 100 m – Slow to 50″, “Bump 50 m – Slow to 20” and then the slight ripple in the road. Three minutes later we’re jostling through unannounced potholes.
The Trans Canada here is actually great with lots of double lanes and hardly any traffic.
Our limited view of the countryside has been amazing. Driving out of Port aux Basque you have the ocean on the left with green bog like fields running down to the shore. For miles on the right are high 1500+ foot Long Range Mountains in amazing geometric shapes – cones, flat topped parallelograms (sp? – I’m only a sheep) and triangles. Deep glacier hewn valleys running through them and all free of trees but completely covered with short shrubbery in beautiful shades of green. Later as we moved inland there were small blue lakes surrounded by yellow peat bogs. There is more soil therefore more trees and taller – a soaring 10 feet (3 metres) high BUT they are trees – spruce and deciduous.
Nearing Stephensville we again approached the shoreline and saw beautiful sand dunes and long, white sandy beaches. The short, stubby spruce and juniper trees on the shore are all at a permanent 45º angle due to the wind. The rock is black and igneous and the water so clear it has that aqua blue quality we saw in Lake Superior. It all looked very tropical and beautiful.
However . . . when we arrived in Stephenville, the town the Man chose as our final destination for the night, things did not look as good. First, driving into town the Man of course got lost then found his way again. We drove by a huge, now closed pulp mill and then some shut down warehouses, then some large blacktopped areas surrounded by barbed wire filled with piles of old tires, then an actual US fighter jet (?) on a pedestal, barrack like apartments and then we started driving down streets call ‘Ohio Avenue’, ‘Minnesota Street,’ ‘Florida Avenue,’ etc. Very strange! We finally found a little better section of town and found a nice place to stay.
It turns out that in 1941, as part of the Lend-Lease Agreement between the US and Britain, the US was given the OK to build an air force base in Stephenville. It was to become the biggest US air force base outside of the continental US. It lasted until 1966 when the US pulled out leaving a hundred million dollars worth of buildings and a world-class airport.
The other claim to fame for Stephenville, as reported by Walter Winchell in 1949, was that the US Air Force had photographed three UFO’s over Stephenville and had tried to pursue them but the UFO’s outran the US jets.
AFTER we got settled the Man read his guidebook to see what it had to say about Stephenville – “Stephenville is possibly the least appealing town in Newfoundland and, festival time aside, there is no compelling reason to stop.”
Well, it looks like it’s all uphill from here – I’ll let you know!