History’s lessons from the road

Ken
Ken Simmons
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I’ve been away from the office for the past couple of weeks, taking a bit of vacation time and poking into a few places on the island. It has been an education, let me tell you.

If you have ever taken in any stages of Targa Newfoundland, you know the organizers do their level best to select roads that are entertaining, and they find them in some of the most beautiful country this province has to offer. More than once, my family has joined me in an adventure of discovery brought on by that experience — drawn into areas and towns I would not have seen, maybe even known about, otherwise.

And the rally’s necessitated rapid transit makes the windshield and lunch-break glimpses a tease that is, fortunately, easily satisfied in quieter times.

One such trip was to the Ocean View campground in Leading Tickles, at one time the jewel in the Targa route and one of the most stunning places on the planet. (Participating communities might like to know I ran into one-time clerk of the course Ross Wood at the end of a hiking trail in Leading Tickles. Two Targa tourists on one sunny summer’s day. How many more, you’d have to wonder.)

This year’s excursion took my wife and me through New-Wes-Valley, a loop from Gambo to Gander tagged either the Kittiwake Coast or the Road to the Shore by our tourism professionals.

I was drawn by the beaches, of course, and a desire to get out of the car at Greenspond. Beaches we saw. (Why hasn’t anyone started sand drags at Lumsden? If this was 1945, NASCAR would be looking at this expanse of sand. Beautiful.) Greenspond we visited, and took our time.

We also dropped in on the Banting Memorial Park interpretation centre (which really needs a coat of paint) and the Fishermen’s Museum in Musgrave Harbour. In both of these exhibits, the cold fingers of reality flicked me in the head, and I haven’t been able to shake the feeling.

Banting, or course, died when the plane in which he was a passenger crashed near Musgrave Harbour. It was February 1941, and ice and cold played a part in his death. A piece of the wrecked plane rests near the interpretation centre.

Hanging in the tiny fishermen’s museum, there was a small sled. It looked like it was made of barrel staves. The accompanying sheet told how two men set out from Musgrave Harbour one April day, walking to catch the train.

A snow storm slowed their progress, until they could go no further. The bodies were found a few days later.

My wife and I covered the distance that killed these men, but in the comfort of our car, it took minutes.

I’m not sure of the lesson here. Travel safety has surely improved, and yet there were several fatalities in the time I was away from our office, on the roads and on the water.  As those men did, we set out every day with a destination in mind, and the fervent belief we will make it there unscathed. Let’s do what we can to make sure that’s the case.

Ken Simmons, The Telegram’s new media editor, breathes exhaust and exhales clean, fresh air. Twitter @Ken_Simmons_NL/Tumblr

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Organizations: Ocean View, NASCAR, Museum in Musgrave Harbour

Geographic location: Leading Tickles, Targa, Musgrave Harbour New-Wes-Valley Gambo Banting Memorial Park Fishermen

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