Trans-Labrador Solo Blitz, June 2008
It is just a bit over two weeks since I returned from my newest big adventure: the Trans-Labrador Highway loop. As it is the tradition of this forum, I am posting my trip report here. It is not only for the bragging rights (although, that too...), but to encourage all of you to take this run.
If considering such ride, know that it is neither extremely difficult, nor overly dangerous. You will not be battling vicious elements or hostile natives. The main requirement for this trip is having equipment that is able to run on gravel for extended time and that can handle the vibration of the road. You will have to be able to spend long times in the saddle, both on and off-pavement. And, if camping, you should be able to handle the flies.
Most importantly, you will need time, as the distances are quite considerable.
The seeds for this trip were planted in my mind a year or so ago. During one of my long-weekend rides to Gaspe Peninsula, I crossed the Saint Lawrence River on a ferry to Baie Comeau, Quebec, to have a look at the Manic 2 hydro-power dam. At the entrance to Quebec Route 389, I spotted an unassuming billboard, weathered and slightly obscured by weeds and other traffic signs. It said, in French: "Welcome and have a good trip on the Trans-Quebec-Labrador". Above it, a small placard indicated 1100 km to Goose Bay, Labrador.
Wow! That sent a chill down my spine. The famed Trans-Labrador Highway! Wow! Beginning right here, within riding distance from my home! I was fascinated. I was hooked...
This vague idea became more of a reality when last fall I bought a 2006 R1200GS. I realized that my Trans-Labrador ride would involve some serious distances, a lot of them on interstates, and the KLR650's I had at the time were neither sufficiently comfortable nor fast enough for the required pavement pounding. The GS would give me the needed comfort, speed and luggage capacity. Also, I thought, it would offer me better reliability than the KLR, which seemed to be held together mainly by Blue Locktite. That was not exactly the case, as I discovered on the last day of my trip...
In the meantime, however, I proceeded with planning and preparations. As those who know me can attest, I am somewhat obsessive (please, no snickering here...). I must have researched every detail to death. Still, that was not a bad thing; the ride clicked together very well.
First, the route. I decided to follow a counter-clockwise loop, heading into the Maritimes, taking the ferry to Goose Bay and then continuing southwest on the Trans-Labrador Highway.
Ferries had to be scheduled and I felt that I should take all reserved crossings in a more controlled manner, where I had a better estimate of time and distance. Going on pavement to the ferries before reaching gravel would give me that ability: I could calculate and schedule all reservations with a high level of confidence.
Then I would find myself on the Trans-Lab without the need to rush to a reservation. If I were to have any problems, I could be delayed without ruining my trip.
The distances that had to be covered amazed me. Initially, when I looked at the map and then saw some ride reports on the ADV forum, I figured that one could run the Trans-Lab one-way in 2 days. Add a couple of days for access and you could have a nice long-weekend trip... No such thing!
I probably came up with one of the more compact routes and it still amounted to well over three thousand miles. Also, in order to reach Goose Bay, at least three ferries are needed - some of them taking a day (or night).
My route, in a minimum-time format, came out to just over 10 days. And it would be a blitz ride - no time to smell the roses, just to cover the distance. I have a hard time getting away for long periods and thus I do schedule accordingly, but a more reasonable Trans-Lab loop should be allotted at least over 2 weeks - if not three.
I laid out the route for shortest travel time by taking the long ferries overnight. I also felt that a set of dual-sport tires might not last the distance; I made an appointment at the BMW dealer in Moncton, New Brunswick, to install a set of TKC's.
This resulted in a following outline:
Another planning issue had to do with the ice packs in the Atlantic and Lake Melville (leading to Goose Bay). The official beginning of the sailing season for the ferry plying the route from Lewisporte to Cartwright to Goose Bay was set for June 6, 2008. However, it was dependent on the conditions of the ice packs and in previous year it became delayed by two weeks.
I wanted to ride as early in the season as possible, but did not want to risk being stuck. Just in case, I planned and reserved two identical schedules, one week apart, to allow me some leeway - even though it meant forfeiting one of the reservation deposits.
Fortunately, this year the first ferry sailed on time and my trip was on. Finally! It's a GO!
Wednesday, June 11.
Five days earlier, I confirmed that the Goose Bay ferry starts on time. The earlier one of my two schedules became a reality. The bike was packed over previous weekends; everything else was prepared the night before. I came home after work and changed into riding clothes. My wife waved me off - that smile was either the relief that she did not have to accompany me or that she did not have to listen to my incessant planning any more.
<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--> I am a bit superstitious and hate to talk about my planned trips for fear that it will screw them up. It was hard to hold down my excitement for such big adventure, however, and my wife had to bear the brunt of being the only one to be kept up on all details...
This evening's stage was simply to burn off some miles en route to New Brunswick.
I usually avoid riding at night - living in deer country, I do have a healthy appreciation of these and similar road hazards. An interstate is probably a better choice for night travel, presenting less of a risk and a better illumination than back roads.
A brisk pace got me to Seabrook, NH, where I checked into the Holiday Inn Express just before midnight.
Thursday, June 12.
The day started with a beautiful, peaceful morning. After an unrushed breakfast, the bike was loaded up for the 500-mile ride to Moncton.
I had plenty of time; all I had to do was to reach Moncton by the end of the day. The spirit of adventure was kicking in: I got off the Interstate in Bangor and followed Maine coast along Route 1.
It was still early in the season and the roads were quite empty. There was no need to dodge convoys of motor homes or sightseeing vacationers.
Just a few days before, a mid-90's heat wave lingered over my home area. Now, I enjoyed the sun and the lukewarm breeze - very refreshing. I still wore my mesh suit without liners - that would be the last time for quite a while.
I crossed the US/Canadian border in Calais and continued northeast on Route 1. In a little sleepy town called Sussex, I had a bit of personal excitement. The ATM in local bank decided to eat my debit card - not funny at all. Luckily, after initial shock, I remembered the PIN for a credit-card advance, but for a while I have been considering all possible difficulties caused by not having any cash on me (in particular, in the event of a breakdown on the Trans-Lab). Back home, I found out later that my ATM card was erroneously flagged as lost; this was yet another reminder to be prepared with multiple sources of money for any trip.
I arrived in Moncton by sunset - just missing one of the spectacles of the area. The river passing through town connects to Bay of Fundy and the tremendous tides there reverse its flow. This sign shows the time of tidal bores that day: in the park behind, one can observe eddies and whirls created when the water flow in the river changes direction.
I found Moncton to be a very pleasant town, with restaurants and pubs lining its main street. Patrons seemed to move from one establishment to another, enjoying the calm and warm evening. Unfortunately, my hotel was not in the area and I decided to skip the urban charm - I wanted a well-deserved glass of wine with my dinner, which precluded riding afterwards. Not all was lost: a very nice restaurant was within walking distance of the Holiday Inn Express. I parked the bike for the night, cleaned up and walked to enjoy the food and drink.
Friday, June 13.
Friday the 13th! But all in all, a very good day.
I have been concerned that dual sport tires would not last the whole length of the trip; some ADVrider members reported only 3k miles lifespan of their rear tires.
I wanted to install a set of Continental TKC80's to deal with the expected gravel - a good choice in retrospect. Also, I needed an oil change to last until arrival back home. All this required a service stop in the Maritimes.
The only remaining BMW dealer for all of Maritime Provinces is Atlantic Motoplex in Moncton, NB (actually, Dieppe, NB). There are independent mechanics throughout the region that could handle the tires and oil, but I wanted to stop at a BMW shop to assure proper service and parts in case I experienced any trouble on my way up. Did I mention that I tend to over-think my trips?
I scheduled a service appointment several weeks in advance, requesting a first slot in the morning. The hotel I reserved was just nearby; more research via on-line mapping services indicated that it should be just a short walk from the dealership.
Indeed, everything worked out very nicely. After a quick breakfast I rode the few blocks to the shop. They were just opening their service department and took the GS right away.
It was interesting to see that New Brunswick is truly bilingual. The service manager talked English to some technicians, French to others. Very impressive. Just as previous night, when I've been listening to the hostess in the restaurant: she started on the phone with "Eh, listen!", then went on in French, although peppering the conversation with English phrases.
While the bike was getting new shoes, I walked back to the hotel, with plenty of time to relax with another cup of coffee, catching up on emails and packing my luggage. When the time came to check out of the room, I left the side cases in reception area and hiked back to the shop.
The GS was just getting finished. I still had some time and explored the dealership. It is a sizeable establishment, much larger than those near my home. Besides BMW, Atlantic Motoplex handles Ducati and Yamaha brands, all neatly divided into separate 'stores'. The floor was packed with machines - bikes and ATV's, as befits the region.
I paid the bill, rode back to the hotel to pick up my luggage and finally headed out of town. It was almost noon and I had plenty of time to catch the late-night ferry in North Sydney, NS, 500km away.
I was excited; until then the ride was more or less a 'commute', but now the adventure was beginning for real. With good weather, I was reeling-in the miles quite fast, entering Nova Scotia and getting off the highway only to get gas.
Looking for fuel was to become one of the themes of the trip. With the long distances and a safe range of below 200 miles, I had to fill up a few times daily. For the Trans-Labrador Highway itself, where the distances between fuel stations are about 200 miles, I stored a small 1.25-gallon tank in the duffel. This would give me an emergency range extension of about 50 miles, hopefully enough to get myself out of trouble.
While refueling in a small Nova Scotia town, my eye caught some movement on an unattended bike standing at next pump. A dog!
Soon I saw that there were two bikes like that: cruisers, fitted with pieces of carpet mounted on their tanks, each carrying a small poodle hanging on with its claws.
I talked to the owners for a while - one of the pleasures of motorcycling is discovery of new and strange things, while sharing the community spirit of riders.
In the same town, I experienced my first mechanical scare. It was the first gas stop since service in Moncton, the first time since I slowed down from highway speeds. As the bike rolled to stop at a red traffic light, it shook violently, as if the boxer engine was lugging or misfiring.
This happened a few times through the town and I was getting convinced that either a spark plug was failing or I was having trouble with the electric brake assist pump. The GS is a rather complex machine and the possibility of breakdown is continuously on my mind - this strange vibration made me suspect the worst.
I was getting quite worried and already started planning to swap the plugs in the evening, when I finally figured out what happened: this was the first time since I was slowing down on the new TKC tires. At very slow rolling speeds the bike was actually falling down the widely spaced knobbies, causing this most unusual sensation. What a relief...
As the evening arrived, clouds covered the sky and the temperature dropped. It has been getting colder and colder, but - captivated by picturesque shorescapes - I did not notice it. Only when it started drizzling, I pulled into a gas station to dress into raingear and realized that I have been battling an onset of hypothermia.
I put on a few layers of warm underwear and the electric vest, set at maximum heat - and it still took a good hour of riding before I felt warm again. Heated vest and heated handgrips must count as some of the greatest inventions in motorcycle gear!
The weather continued to worsen. Heavy rain came and went and a violent crosswind pushed the bike all over the road. The side wind was often as powerful as any I ever encountered on my trips. But all was well: I arrived in North Sydney still at daylight, ready to check in for M/V 'Joseph and Clara Smallwood' the ferry to Newfoundland.
This is a serious-size offshore vessel, not your typical river-crossing ferry. As it is ice-capable, it operates the route year-round and can carry up to 1200 passengers and 1800 lane-meters of vehicles. That is a pretty neat terminology, meaning that all vehicles stacked end-to-end can take over one statute mile of length.
The ferry was scheduled to depart at 11pm. That gave me plenty of time to reach it after completing the service appointment in Moncton, but I have been really pleased to get there early. Riding at night in the Maritimes, with all kinds of critters ready to jump into the roadway, did not sound like a good idea.
Once checked in, all vehicles lined up in the loading area, awaiting clearance to enter the ferry. That was when we found out that due to some mechanical trouble the loading would be delayed by 4 hours. Most car passengers went to sleep in their vehicles.
There were only a few other riders. Roy and Dee (sp?), a couple from Saint John's, were returning home to Newfoundland from a long vacation on their Kawasaki Concours and Triumph Tiger. Their several-weeks long ride included a stop at Americade in Lake George. Ed, also from Saint John's, was bringing home his cruiser, bought earlier in the season elsewhere in Canada.
The wait was not too bad: we talked bikes, weather and computers, watched an episode of 'Top Gear' on Roy's video player and had grand old time. There was actually a silver lining to the delay: if on schedule, we would have arrived by 5am in Newfoundland, a bit too early to venture on the road.
Waiting with us to load, there was a group of ATV riders. They were planning to follow an abandoned-railbed trail to Saint John's. Also in high spirits, even rain could not put a damper on their good mood.
Finally, we were called up to ride up the ramp into the ship. Our little group was a bit tired and disheveled, but once the bikes were parked and the strapping tightened and checked, the party continued for a while in the lounge. We were making sure to be nice and sleepy for the seven- or eight-hour cruise on rough seas, while the ferry struggled against the strong wind.
- more to come as I am collecting my notes
Do I see a hint of a FD failure coming on this trip!?
Which reminds me: gotta call the dealer today to find out what was happening for the past two weeks.
I'm not liking the blurb in your signature about he FD... Hope you made the loop before it went.
Just got off the phone: my dealer says that the warranty company approved the repair - the bike is scheduled for work next Tuesday (I know it was a week of vacations for most techs, but still... 3 weeks in the shop?). Luckily, I am not stuck without a machine altogether.
Anyway, for those who care, the FD did not ruin my trip and I - just barely - made it back home. Unlike my K1200LT 2 years ago...
More pix coming soon - Newfoundland this afternoon!
Part 2: through Newfoundland, into Labrador
Thanks for your interest! Here is more.
Saturday, June 14.
The night on the ferry was quite comfortable. I had a four-berth cabin all to myself, able to spread my junk all over, take a shower and get dressed in peace. Considering that an overnight cabin substitutes for a night on a hotel, the extra cost is certainly worthwhile in my eyes.
A motorcyclist takes probably more things into a cabin than a car passenger: riding gear, helmet, all luggage needs plenty of room. A private cabin allows all that to be laid out and easily repacked. The ability to walk to ship's restaurant, locking all possessions behind, is great for the peace of mind.
On daybreak, the poor riding conditions of previous afternoon were easily forgotten: the wind and waves calmed down, high clouds let the sun peek through. Coast of Newfoundland appeared on the horizon.
In a short time, the ferry was closing in on the colorful buildings lining the harbor of Port aux Basques.
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador! A new land to me; the adventure continues!
All motorcycle and ATV riders waved goodbye to each other as we headed up the hills from ferry landing. Everyone assumed their own pace and very soon I was back riding by myself, working through the light car and truck traffic.
The first big town where I stopped in Newfoundland was Corner Brook. It was located in a valley, with snow-covered mountains in the background.
It was very strange to see snow, particularly just a few days after experiencing the mid-90's spell back home. A quite definite indication that the climate in Newfoundland is not the same as in New Jersey!
The town itself was an unmistakable center of logging or paper industry. It also appeared to undergo a sort of renewal based on governmental and educational institutions.
This was a good thing: it meant that I could find a café! And I did. As in all my trips, I immediately sampled local coffee. Ummmm... Good!
It is easy to satisfy me...
I continued north from Corner Brook, following the Island's west coast. While my new friends from the ferry battled rain and wind on their long ride east to Saint John's, I have been lucky to sneak underneath, experiencing only alternating periods of sun and clouds.
When I reached one of Newfoundland's treasures, Gros Morne National Park, the riding conditions were just about perfect for a long-distance tour: the right combination of cool temperature and sun, gently sweeping empty roads.
The realization that the trip is now 100% on is dawning on me. I am doing the BIG RUN! Beautiful vistas, good weather... Adventure! This calls for a double ADV salute!
I am also getting more and more impressed by the snow in the mountains - just a few days before the Summer Solstice. Isn't it exciting that in only a few days of riding one can enter a completely different climatic zone?
By now, with changeable weather and temps in the 50's, I have been wearing my rain suit for warmth. Underneath, I had the riding suit's liner zipped in, with two sets of warm underwear below. I left the heated vest in the side case - it is a bit bulky and uncomfortable with all those layers - but it was ready to be put on at moment's notice.
And yet, I came across a family collecting mussels in the frigid waters. It was warm for them!
This reminded me very much of our vacations on the Baltic coast. Good summer weather meant then a nice walk on the beach, wearing a windbreaker or woolen sweater. All kids wanted to hang out in the water as much as possible, of course, but after only a few minutes we would have to run back onto the hot sand, blue-skinned and shivering.
The day was setting; I followed down a coastal road to Rocky Harbour, stopped at (probably) the only motel in town and was relieved to find an available room.
The motel was actually much nicer inside than appearing from the street: modern facilities, good restaurant and Wi-Fi would charge me up with the feeling of comfort in advance of less sophisticated accommodations in upcoming days.
While pulling in, I noticed a Goldwing trike parked near the entrance. Very soon I became acquainted with the riders, an interesting couple from the UK - we talked across tables at dinner and retired together for some drinks in the pub afterwards.
Graham and Elaine are very serious about touring the world on their trikes; they have one back home for European destinations and store another one in the US for North American rides. Their travels took them all over Europe, to Africa and across almost all US States. I was pleased to find that we have been touring in many of the same locales worldwide and the rest of the evening was spent comparing our experiences. It was great to be knowingly nodding when the conversation turned to, for example, the British party-goers overrunning Riga, Latvia.
I was very impressed, in particular, by Elaine. The couple covered some tremendous distances in their months-long journeys, over all kinds of roads and weather - and yet she did enjoy the travels. I know how much more boring and uncomfortable it is to ride pillion; my hat goes off to her!
Sunday, June 15.
Still under clear skies, I continued north along the coast, stopping from time to time to enjoy the beautiful views. Although rather calm that day, these can be very difficult and treacherous waters.
This is all that remains from a steamship that ran onto the rocks almost a hundred years ago.
By midday the clouds thickened; a dramatic sky very much enhanced the feeling of vastness and desolation.
This is a beautiful part of the world. I have been following the Viking Trail; anyone with a more relaxed schedule would be well advised to reach St. Anthony on the northern-most point of the Island, for yet more spectacular sights. Nearby is another famous spot: L'Anse aux Meadows, site of Viking settlement from a thousand years ago.
Unfortunately, my blitz schedule did not allow for these side trips - I think I need to return here to for another attempt. Instead, I rolled into St. Barbe in order to board M/V 'Apollo', a ferry crossing the Strait of Belle Isle to Labrador.
While parked, waiting to enter the ferry with a small group of cars, I heard incessant barking. Pretty soon I discovered the source - or rather it found me. A large dog dropped a piece of wood at my feet and kept barking.
Then a realized what the game was: I was supposed to toss the wood into the cold waves. The dog ran down the rocks, into the water and retrieved the piece.
He would pester all passengers, but the people in the cars finally had enough, closed the doors and ignored him. I had no such luxury of hiding - the dog found in me a friend for the afternoon! I just wished he would not shake himself out right next to me...
Only after a while I made the connection: ferry to Labrador - Labrador Retriever. Took me a few minutes, but I did get it...
Finally, we boarded the ferry and departed Newfoundland. It takes only a couple of hours to cross the Strait, but as the weather worsened it was easy to see how difficult it had to be for the explorers and the fishermen. An iceberg served as ready reminder that one does not want to spend much time in the waters.
The ferry lands in Blanc-Sablon. This is just the very end of Quebec's northern coast of St. Lawrence, with a nominal section of Quebec Route 138. It pretends to be an extension of Route 138, following the St. Lawrence North Coast for many hundreds of kilometers from Quebec City - but in reality there is no land-based connection.
There are quite a few communities on St. Lawrence shores, accessible only by water or by snowmobile. A passenger/cargo ship, N/M 'Nordik Express', visits many of these little desolate harbors, arriving from Sept-Isles (itself a remote location, some 400 miles northeast from Quebec City). There are some tourist accommodations on that ship - it takes about 3 days each way, but the passengers can get on and off the boat to stay and enjoy the villages and local attractions.
Just a few kilometers northeast from Blanc-Sablon the road crosses the provincial border into Labrador. Although Labrador is a part of the Newfoundland and Labrador province, it is interesting to know that there is still a territorial dispute in existence with Quebec, which (occasionally) claims parts of southern Labrador since the days when Newfoundland and Canada were separate countries - prior to 1949.
This was an important moment for me: it took a lot of organizing effort and of travel, but finally I have reached the mythical Labrador! And the beginning of southeastern section of the Trans-Labrador Highway, called Labrador Coastal Drive.
The environment left no doubt as to the proximity to Arctic. It was by now June 15 and yet there were snowbanks by the road and icebergs floating along the coast.
Even more maritime wrecks bore witness to the dangers of this region.
After some 80km from Blanc-Sablon, near Red Bay, a sign announced beginning of gravel road. That was the real Trans-Lab now; no more pavement for over 1000km.
It was raining a lot by now. The road was covered in very loose, wet combination of sand and fine gravel, with a lot of water-filled potholes. I was having great difficulties, not being used to the front wheel continually trying to wash out to a side. I reduced the tire pressure to 28psi in both wheels and the feeling of control improved.
After 90km of struggling, I was nearing my destination for the night, Mary's Harbour. By now I was very tired from the long day since leaving Rocky Harbour and from the stress of riding in lightly packed wet sand for past two hours.
I knew the name of hotel in town. Pulling in next to an information billboard for directions, I made a classic mistake: I put down the sidestand while in neutral over soft surface and immediately dropped the bike on its side.
Disoriented by tiredness, I struggled a bit trying to lift the machine before I remembered to snick it in gear. Luckily, the soft sand caused no damage. I guess, this marked the official beginning of the Trans-Lab ride, eh?
Riverlodge Hotel offered a welcome relief. The restaurant almost closed by then - but I still managed to grab a bite. It was pure Cholesterol City - with fries to that - but, it seemed, I needed every calorie.
This is a tough land. Even the seagulls are trying to improve their chances with the fatty food - this one shamelessly begged for scraps at the restaurant deck.
- more to come as I am still collecting my notes
Great stuff! I'm waiting to see if you passed Josh and me on the 23rd, while we were down in the ditch with his bike which would have been invisible to you from the road. Whoever it was, we watched the bike pass by the Constable's pickup truck and knew the rider had to be extremely focused on keeping it upright on the marbles and not looking into the ditch! :lol3
No, it was not me - I went by Churchill Falls on the 17th. But, I was just as focused as the rider you saw - I have been asked, for example, about the moose some people spotted. Not me. Did watch gravel.
I did read your write-up here: nice job! Liked your route choice via New England ('cause I did a similar one :D).
What a shame about Dusty not completing the run, isn't it? I did correspond with him recently via PM; he is already planning on making another try. Excellent!
If you don't mind, I am going to link to one of your pictures of Dusty's messed-up bike in my further notes. It somehow seems appropriate to mention him.
Dusty is a great guy. It was truly a pleasure meeting such an interesting guy.
Feel free to link to any of that. I really didn't appreciate the severity of his biff until I saw the bike in the ditch like that. It's amazing he wasn't hurt much worse.
Anyway, great report! Keep it coming! :clap
Very nice report so far. Keep it coming!
what a great adventure!! thanks for the detailed report :clap
Thanks for encouragement. I should add that GB's ADVrider stickers were prominently displayed on my sidecases all the way through the tour!
Working on next installment.
Reaching ferry in Cartwright
Monday, June 16.
First morning on the Trans-Labrador! I headed out onto the road as soon as I could: there was a fairly long distance ahead of me and I wanted to make sure to be on time for the most important ferry, out of Cartwright.
As I began a descent toward Port Hope Simpson, the road improved a lot. There was significantly less loose gravel and fewer deep puddles. Clouds were still quite low, covering tops of surrounding mountains... a very mysterious effect.
Continuing north, I came across one of the 'evil graders', very much reviled by Trans-Lab travelers. Actually, graders are Good Things; the machines level the road to a perfect flatness and spread the gravel fairly evenly. Immediately after passing of the machine, the surface if very soft and requires caution, but in short time it is packed down.
There are two problems with graders that a rider must watch for; one is the possibility of being surprised by entering a freshly treated section while going too fast. Slowing down to a controllable speed may provide a good pucker moment. Worse yet, a grader may appear suddenly around a curve. Generally, in Labrador, the sweeping turns are fairly open and there is enough warning. The curves of northern section of Quebec Route 389 are much tighter and blind.
The other issue is that the machine runs on the road doing at least two passes, creating a foot-high berm in the center. A bike can get caught up on the wrong side and it will have to be guided very gently to cross this mound of loose stuff.
Running a grader is a lonely job - a whole day on the road, long distance from any civilization. When I stopped to take the picture, the operator was very happy with the company. He stopped, jumped out and we had a nice chitchat session.
He was very proud of his work. "Mine is the best grader on this road", he said. To which I replied: "Indeed, it is!" And it was; by now the road surface was very good and solid, allowing me to run 60mph at times.
The road is built to drain very well. Just a few minutes after rain stopped, I was pulling a small cloud of dust behind the bike.
The Labrador Coastal Drive section of the Highway is going to be connected to the interior section by year 2009. This "Phase 3" section is already under construction for many years; as I understand it, only a few bridges are missing. Once completed, that 250km stretch will connect Cartwright with Goose Bay and short-circuit the 14-hour ferry between the towns - most likely bringing an end to the ferry service.
Some members of the ADVrider forum are planning to try to ride the unfinished section this summer, hoping to be able to work their way across. Having seen the landscape in the area - all marshes, lakes and rivers - I think that the missing bridges still are showstoppers.
Nearing Cartwright, I saw this neat advertising billboard for a Bed-and-Breakfast. I thought that it conveyed very well how sparsely populated that area is: make a left turn on Main Road in 92km!
At this point, the weather was good, the road was smooth. I was happy and the bike was happy. It smiled with all its headlights - some of them especially installed for this ride, to light up the night if needed. I converted the low beam headlamp and the two fog lamps to HID, leaving the high beam and the two driving lights as halogens. I like the ability to "flash" high beams - something that cannot be done with the HID sets.
Welcome to Cartwright! Reached an important milepost: most northeastern point of my route and take-off for the Goose Bay ferry. Another instant of being totally elated. This was really exciting!!
A little bit up the road, the Cartwright skyline opened up. Actually not much of a skyline: just a few small utilitarian buildings, dominated by the ferry, preparing to depart.
I made a very good time and had a few hours to spare. The town was coming to life as the ferry departure neared and a small restaurant opened up - needless to say, for quite a while I was the only customer. Just as in my previous stops, I did enjoy the advantages of very early season.
I spotted 'poutine' on the menu. I have seen this listed all over in Quebec, but never had a chance to find what it actually was. This time I did ask the hostess/cook/waitress and ordered a small portion. A large bowl of fries, covered in grated cheese and doused with gravy arrived. Talking about rich! This was just an appetizer - I think, I'd hate to see the large portion - and I ordered some fried cod. The fish was very good. Of course, it came with its own fries. It was all manly-man food and I have been already wondering about my diet...
When the time came to load the Goose Bay ferry, all vehicles congregated on the small plaza in the harbor. For a while, I was watching a curious scene developing there: ships' crew chasing on foot after a small bird running around the open ramp, then bringing in some machines.
Finally, I understood: apparently, the bird lived in ship's innards and must have fallen out. After it was captured, the forklift brought the men to the openings in the structure, where they gently reinserted it. Quite peculiar for the manly-men.
About an hour before departure, we were called to load. Yet another exciting moment: I was in the most important ferry of the trip - Cartwright to Goose Bay - that was the center point of the route and that determined the timing of my whole schedule.
There was a lot of room on the vehicle deck. Truck trailers were backed in. All cars, even those pulling trailers, made a U-turn inside to allow them to leave though the same stern opening through which they entered. The GS was safely strapped down, all by its lone self.
This ferry seemed to be much older and not in as good a shape as the one sailing between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. It was also pulled from some Scandinavian routes, but showed much more wear.
The planned opening of the Phase III Highway connector will probably spell the end of this particular route and it seems that not much money is being invested in maintenance anymore.
I booked a cabin for myself, again, allowing me to spread and dry my wet clothes. There were only 29 passengers on board for this run and not much was going on. Even the bar counter seemed to be only open for a very brief time.
That was fine with me; I needed to get well rested for the very long riding day expected next morning. The whole cabin vibrated with the noise from the ship's engines, but - surprisingly - that put me to sleep even faster. I dove under the covers and completely zoned out.
- more to come, soon.
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