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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Adventure You Bet! The Staging Area (4th day)

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Float Plane moving smoke jumpers
The Relais Gabriel (general store) is the only sign of civilization around here. It is nearly half way between Baie Comeau and Labrador City. (about 187 miles) This is were the action is. This morning we counted 50 tractor trailers (TT’s) parked here because of the forest fire ahead of us. Down the road at Manic 5, there are another 50 plus TT’s parked. The motel down there is full of fire fighters. They are shuttled up here by “Beaver” float plane. Helicopters land here to refuel also. I guess we are lucky we have accommodations with our truck camper.

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Over 50 Trucks waiting for opening of road
No one seems to know how long the road will be closed. We do know that the fire has jumped the road and is heading north paroling the gravel roadway. We talked to a lot of people here and they all have different stories especially about the fire. One couple who live in Labrador City said that the road is also closed from Labrador City to Churchill Falls. Another truck driver told us it took a week to make it over to Happy Valley Goose Bay…because of road closers. The question is do we go forward or back track and alter our plans? The wind has shifted now and is blowing nearly in the opposite direction. This they tell me is going to help suppress the fire.

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Helicopter with water bag refueling
It is now 1:30 pm and the last Bell helicopter just came in and said the fire was getting close to a wooden bridge on the north side. If the fire takes this bridge out everybody will be forced to head south back to Baie-Comeau. Man!… it’s decision time for us. If they do open the road on this end, there are at least two more major fires between Labrador City and Happy Valley. I have said often that we are in a canoe without a paddle and we’ll see where the current brings us. I believe the canoe is telling us to head south from where we came. There are too many obstacles to over come if we go north! At 1:45 this afternoon we notified some of the people at the staging area that we were leaving for Baie-Comeau, a short 187 mile back track. We hope to take a ferry in Baie-Comeau over to the Matane, Gaspesie and drive to Nova Scotia reversing direction of our original plans. I am writing this post in the Wall-mart parking lot in Baie-Comeau. We arrived here at 6:45 pm.
DSCN3151 (800x600)I must say that being at Relais Gabriel, the general store/staging area was an experience that we will probably never be able to duplicate. We were able to talk extensively to a bunch of truck drivers both French and English. We were there nearly 24 hours to the minute. I was able to talk to the Huey helicopter pilot about the aircraft of which I was a Technical Inspector during the Vietnam war. Of course, he didn’t call it a “D” Model Huey. It is now a 2005  A-1 Bell. It is the same 40 year old aircraft with all new parts. The hourly rate for the fire water drops is $2,900.00. I could go on and on with wonderful stories from a to z, but maybe when I stop traveling long enough, I’ll write a book. Just another short foot note... we emailed our daughters about our situation, but with over a hundred people at the staging area it took me four hours to get on line to hit the send button. I hope that tomorrow I’ll be able to upload a few of the dozens of pictures of the staging area congestion.
That is what we saw and did! 

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