Day 5: Wednesday, 1 September 2010
September decided to start out cold. I had to crawl into additional clothes overnight because my 35-degree sleeping bag wasn't keeping me warm enough. When I got up in the morning, there was frost on my bike.
The cold air made for a very picturesque dawn.
We got ourselves moving, stopped by Tim Horton's for breakfast (where we ran into a pair of ADV inmates from Maine), gassed up and filled our auxiliary containers, then rode off to tackle Phase III.
The first 60 miles were hard-packed and mostly free of loose gravel. As good as pavement. We stopped so Martin and Roman could empty the first of their spare gas cans.
After this the road turned to more loose and mostly trackless gravel. We stopped after another 60 miles to empty more fuel containers.
After a truck passed, we had to wait a while for crosswinds to blow away the dust.
All the construction on Phase III was finished, but there was an awful lot of loose gravel. But we reached the end without any incidents (I spotted a large black bear running off as I approached, but it didn't attack any of us so doesn't count as an incident).
From there it was much of the same to Port Hope Simpson. Jason was having a much easier time of it -- he'd found a speed at which his Tiger smoothed out and cruised easily over the gravel, as I had on my XR650L last year. But I hadn't found a speed that worked well on the V-Strom, so there were plenty of pucker moments, though thankfully no crises.
We made it to Port Hope Simpson and gassed up, and everyone was appropriately smitten with Cindy, the daughter of the gas station's owner, who rides a KLR and has become something of an ADV celebrity thanks to past Trans-Lab ride reports.
Roman and Martin decided they wanted to sleep in real beds, and Jason and I didn't want to pay for them, so they got a room at the local B&B while we went off in search of the campground, which turned out to be the RV park just down the street from the B&B. We pulled in and got off the bikes.
While I went off to look for whoever was in charge of the RV park, an early-'90s F650 Funduro pulled in. The owner of the RV park came out, told us it would cost $15 each including a shower, and the F650 rider, Don, a 63-year-old retired schoolteacher from Cape Breton whose favorite word was clearly "fuck" as he employed it liberally, talked the guy into letting us sleep on the floor of the washroom trailer instead of outside in tents. Mission accomplished, Don rode off in search of beer while Jason and I began moving sleeping bags inside.
Dirty Jason. I thought it was funny that the vents on his helmet had allowed little dirt horns to form on his head.
Dirty Triumph. The Trans-Lab dust (I call it labradirt) has a way of getting everywhere.
It especially likes to cake onto rear wheels.
Tires were still wearing okay.
This is the RV park. We took over the white building to the left.
This is Don. He likes beer. In fact, when we (well, actually, he, with minor assistance from Jason and me) finished the first eight-pack, he sent me out for more. Also, Don complimented the mop behind him on her beautiful head of hair.
We sat around and chatted with Don for a while till he decided it was time to go to bed, whereupon he retired into the adjoining room, in which he'd commandeered a disused and suspiciously-stained mattress. Terrific guy. He graciously invited us to stop by Sydney on our way through Cape Breton and sleep in the cabin cruiser in his barn, but we wouldn't end up having the time. If you're reading this, Don, thanks for the invitation, and it was truly a pleasure to have met you!
After Don went to bed, Jason headed out to his bike to gather a few things while I unrolled my sleeping bag. I soon heard voices outside, and fearing an incident, went out to investigate. I found Jason talking with three local teens who'd been wandering by in the dark and yelled over to him. We ended up chatting with them (three brothers -- twins, about 18 or 19, and their younger brother, 16ish I'd guess) about what it's like living in Port Hope Simpson. The older two were clearly a bit bored by the place, but the younger one spoke at length (in that fascinating Scots-Irish accent native to Labrador and Newfoundland) about how much he loves going out in the boat and just sitting out there on the water, and his run-ins with fishery officers (his family's boat is the slowest in town, and the fishery guys like to pick on them because their boat's too slow to get away), and how ridiculous the fishing limits are (particularly six salmon a year for an entire family -- I agreed enthusiastically that that's an insane limit).
It was one of those unexpected encounters that reshapes your view of humanity, however slightly. Jason and I both had our guard up at first, assuming we were about to get fucked with, because that's the most likely outcome in this sort of scenario in the world we come from. But these kids weren't up to anything, they just felt like chatting with a couple of strangers on bikes. After fifteen or twenty minutes of pleasant conversation and laughter all around, they went on their way and wished us a safe journey.
Jason and I agreed afterwards that we were glad we'd chosen not to stay at the B&B with Roman and Martin, because if we had we never would have met these various people. I said it then, and I'll say it again now: the people in Labrador and Newfoundland are, generally speaking, among the nicest you will ever meet.
Stats for the day:
Track for the day: