Today the actual point of the whole exercise begins. We set the GPS units for Labrador City, the day's destination. They led us through Baie Comeau to a small side street that had this sign. It really doesn't seem to do justice to the task ahead.
This stretch of the Trans-Lab has several distinct parts. The first was a stretch of winding asphalt that would be a treat on a sportbike if not for the lousy condition of the asphalt.
At this point it bears mentioning the range of the two bikes. Ridden sedately, my Scrambler gets about 240 km to reserve. More usual is something like 215. Bruce's KLR is good for about 400km, so every opportunity to get gas would be a must for me. The gas can on my left passenger peg was not just for decoration as there was a 290 km stretch ahead with no services.
As we approached Manic 5, one of the largest hydro-electric projects in the world, the first gas stop appeared. 220 km to this point. A gas station, motel and restaurant, all from pre-fab buildings. Gas cost $1.30 a litre, as opposed to ninety-odd cents at home, with only regular and diesel available. This would be standard until until we got to Newfoundland itself.
As we rounded a corner, this presented itself:
A damned impressive structure, by any account. (couldn't resist)
Now the gravel began. The first stretch away from Manic 5 was so poor quality as to actually say "do you really want to do this?" A road of deep, loose and hilly over-sized stone marbles.
Conditions rapidly improved and we made it to the gas stop at Relais Gabriel, 96 km later. I topped off, and we had a snack. The first black flies showed themselves, and although they swarmed, they weren't doing much biting.
The dust for the next couple of days would be fierce. We rode up to a kilometer apart to allow the dust to settle a bit, otherwise it was like riding in fog.
Then, out of nowhere, a stretch of asphalt began. It shows on the map as "Gagnon", but all that remains are some town streets with curbs and sidewalks. Apparently there was a mine here that went bust, so when things closed down they packed up all the pre-fab buildings and removed the town. Very weird, really.
The poorest condition road of the trip followed the end of the pavement. Loose gravel, lots of turns and washouts marked only by road cones. We heard later on that a car had gone through a guard rail, down an embankment and the driver was airlifted to St. John's.
This train was at least a kilometer long, so a bit of an enforced break. Here the road was punctuated by multiple level crossings for the railway that carries out iron ore from the mines at Labrador City.
Eventually we came to the mine itself a huge, sprawling open pit on one side of the road, with what must be hundreds of acres of tailings on the other.
With this sign in sight we knew the end of the day's ride was near. 260 km from the gas stop at Relais Gabriel and we were nearing Labrador City. A total of 600 km for the day in 9.25 hours.