Quebec, Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont
Hello Everyone. Between August 17th and September 2, 2012 my fiancee and I completed a ride through Quebec, Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont.
Here is our trip route:
I suppose most people would be most interested in the road conditions for the gravel sections of the 389 in Quebec and the Trans Labrador Highway so I'll mostly comment on that. The 389's gravel section past Manicouagan 5 was not too bad to start off with and was good until close to Relais Gabriel, where they are doing lots of paving work. Unfortunately for us, what that means is a lot of grading and loose gravel up/down steep hills with curves and lots more dust along with all the construction traffic. For those running knobbies, this probably won't be the worst surface in the world but for those that aren't, it's pretty much terrible.
Once you get past Relais Gabriel, the road is newly paved for a little while and you eventually get back onto the more or less packed dirt until you hit the abandoned town of Gagnon and its lovely pavement. Once the pavement ends, the road condition was more or less fine with packed dirt and pretty good traction overall. You stay on this until you get to Fermont, Quebec. The road is paved all the way through Labrador city and past for approximately 1-1.5 hours. This is some of the most beautiful road I've ever seen. It's remote but brand new and immaculate. From my understanding, the entire section between Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay is scheduled to be paved and is probably about 20-25% complete as of August 2012. Unfortunately, the pavement does end and you're tossed back into the loose stuff. They are working heavily around Churchill Falls and the road conditions are extremely poor much of the time. It's probably more survival/get there type riding than enjoy the scenery for most. The loose stuff is definitely challenging. Immediately past Churchill Falls, you're on loose stuff until you get about an hour from Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The road becomes paved as soon as you reach a huge hill and valley diving down towards the coast. This pavement is also beautiful and is some of the nicest riding I've done.
The 510 from Happy Valley-Goose Bay is a brand new road. The metal grate bridge across the Churchill River is very grabby and will make your bike shimmy around pretty good. I'd recommend very low speed for this, pretty much idling along. Once past, your mileage may vary as to the road conditions. Some sections are totally bare and you can fly along at divided highway speeds without a sweat. When I was there, I would say about 85% of the road had been freshly graded with a mixture of a fine talcum powder type sand and loose pebble gravel on top. It's like marbles on top of sand - your bike skates around like crazy. Around many corners, the pebbles (marbles) were multiple inches deep. I wanted to stop and personally disable every grader I passed (dozens) on the side of the road if only so people could enjoy this beautiful landscape more than be fixated on not wobbling off the road or into oncoming traffic. The packed stuff is super easy, even when potholed and rough because you are assured traction. Unfortunately it seems the graders won this battle covering almost all the packed stuff and it took us 8 hours or so to do 400kms/240 miles to Port Hope-Simpson and we were exhausted both physically and mentally.
At this point, we ran into a couple of members of this site (sevenpointsixtwo and markbvt) and somehow managed to stalk them all the way through to Five Islands campground in Nova Scotia. We must have ran into them half a dozen times at different locations throughout the trip and it was great to chat with them each time.
The road from Port Hope-Simpson to Red Bay was challenging overall. The section to Mary's Harbour was pretty similar to the rest of the riding we'd just done with loose stuff being the dominant feature. From Mary's Harbour to Red bay was about the same for half of the distance but the last half of that leg threw all of the toughest aspects we'd encountered at us all at once. The coastal highlands of Labrador have no trees and thus allow the wind from the open North Atlantic ocean to sweep in and blow you around pretty good. The road through the coastal highlands is quite curvy with enough steep sections to command your complete attention. Combine this with comparatively busy traffic, the awful sand/pebble mixture, the resulting dust from all the traffic and fatigue from hard days of riding and you have a recipe for some hairy stuff. The scenery is unreal though and it ended up being one of my favourite legs of the entire trip. I just wish they'd pave the road. We got onto the paved stuff at Red Bay and it remained that way all the way to the ferry at Blanc-Sablon.
The rest of the ride was pretty much all paved and I'll let the pictures tell the story (with brief captions). If you're debating whether you're up to the trans Labrador highway, the biggest thing you have to consider is whether you're up for multiple days of mental and physical endurance challenge. I can't say enough for the beauty of Labrador, but it's a very tough place to ride through (until it's all paved, that is). I'm not in a rush to go back to the gravel, but I'm sure glad I saw that land. It is the true Canadian North, unspoiled and beautiful.
Nice pics, Mike! But they're frigging huge -- might be good to edit your posts and link in smaller versions of the pics. Would make the RR a lot easier to read!
Great meeting you guys up there!
Ride report from our American friends.
Baie St-Paul, Quebec.
Gulf of St Lawrence in low tide.
Our bikes against the Gulf of St Lawrence.
Massive turbine at the Manicouagan 2 dam/hydroelectric plant.
Huge field of transformers en route to the Manicouagan 5 dam.
Magali cooking some freeze dried chicken gumbo by our motel room after a long day's ride.
Manicouagan 5 dam is an arch and buttress dam. Here is a view from up close of one of the arches.
View from the top of the dam.
Here is the Manicouagan 5 dam. It's very large.
The Quebec 389 north is about 2/3 unpaved past Manicouagan 5. The gravel begins and so does the epic scenery and sense of complete remoteness.
Our bikes crossing over a mining railway on the 389.
This train is being loaded up for processing.
We have reached Labrador through Quebec successfully!
The black spruce trees here are beautiful and scrubby looking. There is an almost unlimited amount of them as far as you can see in Labrador.
Crossing over the Valley River past Churchill Falls.
Muskrat falls about 20 miles west of Happy Valley-Goose Bay. In less than 2 years this will be all dammed up.
The road just outside of Happy Valley-Goose Bay is in fantastic condition and is absolutely gorgeous. This part of Labrador is all scrubby trees on top of huge sand dunes. It's wild, very remote and incredible.
Sunset outside of Port Hope-Simpson, Labrador.
The coastal highlands of Labrador. Cue the music from Braveheart. Pictures cannot do this place justice. The riding here was very difficult. They had freshly graded the road with the sand/gravel mixture that makes your bike skate all over the place (it's like marbles on top of sand). The road twists and turns through hills with incredible open ocean crosswinds and there is traffic everywhere raising dust that can blind you for 30 seconds. While the scenery was incredible, it felt even better to complete the gravel section of the trans-Labrador highway which must have been approximately 1200kms of gravel along a 1417km leg from Manicouagan 5.
Cliffs on the coast of Labrador.
Lighthouse at L'Anse L'Amour, Labrador.
Fishing boats by the ferry dock in Blanc-Sablon, Quebec.
The new day of riding was mostly overcast and periodically rainy, but we found some nice scenery on the way from St Barbe to Gros Morne National Park.
The arches provincial park in Newfoundland.
We took a boat tour of Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne national park. This trail leads to the boat.
This is the view inside of Western Brook Pond.
Rock face in Western Brook Pond.
Pissing Mare Falls at the end of Western Brook Pond. What a silly name for such a grand place.
With the absence of any significant source of lights, the stars out in the park are pretty visible on a clear night.
Gros Morne mountain. We decided it'd be a fun idea to hike up here. It is about 7-8 hours round trip and a bit brutal on the way back since you're scrambling over loose rocks, primitive rough trail and with little energy left. It was great to do it but I'm not in a rush to do it again next week.
The view from the summit of Gros Morne mountain.
Overlooking Baker's Brook Pond on the north side of the mountain.
The colourful houses in St John's, Newfoundland.
The port of St John's.
Overlooking the harbour of St John's from Signal Hill.
Our bikes at the easternmost tip of North America - Cape Spear.
The islands by the ferry port in Argentia.
The next day of riding was from North Sydney, Nova Scotia up the Cabot Trail. There was some nice scenery along the way.
Most people think of this particular section of road when planning to do the Cabot Trail. It's brief, but beautiful.
We camped at Five Islands, Nova Scotia. The tides on the bay of Fundy are the most extreme in the world and made for constant entertainment at the shore.
Sunset along Route 1 in Maine.
The cog railway on Mount Washington. Pretty wild engineering here.
Here is the view from the top of Mount Washington. We had perfect weather. It definitely felt like we had reached our goals - and then some.
Our bikes on top of the world.
Muskrat Falls in Labrador.
Great pictures! I'm definitely bringing a nicer camera next time.
Nice meeting both of you on the trail!
I am due for a trip back there.Was on my 1977 Honda 750 first time in 1978.. then in 1984 on my 1981 R100RT. What camera equipment are you using? I just bought a Fuji X-100 for a PNW trip I took. You have posted some very nice pictures on your RR. I am from Nova Scotia if you have any questions or would like some suggestions feel free to ask OK. Have a wonderful trip.
Wow. Fantastic Scenery!!!:clap:clap:clap
This is on the list in the next 2 to 3 years. I've saved you map route (to save me the trouble:rofl)
Keep the thread going.
reminded me an old moive highlander :D
Thank you so much for the fond memories...great pictures and of course pictures do no justice to this place; must be seen, felt, embraced. Am surprised at the pace of pavement improvement...; when I rode it, it was much graveled.
Thank you again for your wonderful RR and hope for more in the future :clap
very enjoyable, thanks for the great pics.
I'm planning a similar route June 2013 and would like to know what you packed like gas?, water?..any info wold help..this will be my first adventure type trip - solus - and i'd like to be prepared..I heard there were two gas stations along the way. was the gas clean?..could you get premium?..I will be riding a bmw 2012 r1200gsa...planning to put karoo 2's on it..good choice?...let me know what you honestly think..looking forward to your recommendations..
I haven't run the Karoo 2s, but I think they would be fantastic on the gravel. I was running some Tourance tires that were nearly at the end of their service life at departure, so anything will work better than that. I am now running some Michelin Anakee 2 tires and they look like they would hold up better, but there's not much question the knobbies would be better in the gravel. It's a matter of if you're comfortable having the knobbies for the extended pavement sections to/from the TLH, as well as the ~300k or so of that road that *is* paved already. Make no mistake though, there is 4-5 times as much unpaved stuff that can really suck as is paved currently.
I will advise you to be prepared not to have any real amenities on the way.. if you have an opportunity to purchase a hot meal and use a bathroom, go for it... it's really a wild and remote area which is part of the appeal, but you need to come prepared for that. If you do stop along the road and are planning on spending time wilderness camping you may want to invest in some bug netting to wear as those tiny black flies can really become overwhelming after 5-10 minutes at the side of the road. It's so beautiful up there though, I can't say enough good things about it. Certainly the most amazing and challenging riding I've done.
Good luck and safe riding.
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