It started like it would be a great escape from regular life and a trip I've been tinling about for a long time: to ride all the way to a town named Natashquan where the road ends on the lower north coast of the St-Lawrence river. I would be driving through the TCAT/TNE for a while and when at Relais Gabriel (a little higher than Manic 5), I would dive toward the coast and ride up till there is no more road.
I started the bike at around 11am and got to the gas station to fill it up plus a 10 litres can I would be carrying aboard for the 380km stretch without fuel that Deadly and Shipwreck skipped when they came by.
As i got moving, I noticed that my lighter socket was not getting current and that my GPS was running on it's own batteries which would not be good enough. 20km from home. First stop. It was only a blown fuse that must have shorted out when I plugged back the battery two days before after changing the gearbox seal for the second time in two weeks since the clerk at the seal shop gave me the wrong one by 1mm the first time. Speaking of which, after two days riding the bike with no sign of dripping oil, the f**ker decided it should start pissing now that I was on the road.
Hmmm. I was getting seriously pissed off about me (for not testing it long enough) and the bike (for letting me down). I said screw it little f**ker, I'm going to ride the hell out of you until you spit enough oil to ruin the brand new clutch I've put in two weeks earlier (yes the marks on the clutch are 120deg apart for you oil-head aficionados-must be the gear box bearing). Note to self: buy an oil resistant friction disc next time around idiot.
And rolling I was again. I was going to ride from my place (Chicoutimi) to Labrieville, like Ted and Shaun did last time and then up north trying to get to Baie-Comeau before darkness. 710km of pure gravel travel. 7 hours to go before dusk. Place your bets.
Along the way the newly named Fab's hill (thanks guys). Pick your line:
Then I got pass L'auberge du 31 where there is fuel and lodging available. A nice river along the way:
I was in Labrieville at 2:45 nearly 4 hours after leaving the gas station. Only 380km to go and 4:15hours till the day is over. Let's go.
From Labrieville (for reference, Labrieville is located at about km 79 on this particular logging road), the road is REALLY wide and well maintained mainly because there is logging activity going on. You should always keep your right to avoid the big 14 feet wide (yes, wide) trucks that are using the center of the road as it would not support their weight if they'd go to far to the side of it.
Nice view out of Labrieville:
Nothing to declare until about km 174 or so where the road turns into something less wide but still decent with more crests and turns which make for an entertaining ride:
At this point, you are really in a remote place. If you think the TLHW is remote, think again; I did not see a living soul between 3:00pm and 6:15pm. No car, no truck, no cabin, nothing for 3+ hours straight. It never happened to me before and that was a bit freaky to be honest. The view:
After that point the km markers started going downward from about 180 so it meant that I would have to ride another 180 klics to get to the nearest town. No problem I thought. Bu this road was not the same animal as the one going up. Wide, but hardened and not maintained ie: full of 6-8 inches deep potholes.
At one point, the bike developed a strange noise when hitting potholes, like the rear wheel rubbing the fender kinda noise. I inspected the shock mounts and the rear of the bike but found nothing. The noise did not stop tho.
Later on the rear got all wobbly. I stopped to find the rear tire had a new hole in it. Easy. Take out the tool kit and plug it. 15 minutes later (I did not pack that well
) and I'm back on the road.
15km later, flat. Again. Plug's gone.
Find what was causing the funny noise; the aluminum luggage rack broke in 2.
By that time, it's getting darker and time is running out and I still have 80 klics to go to reach Baie-Comeau. Here's the next 2 hours in rapid RR mode:
Get running, loose a pannier. Luckily, I see it fly in the rear view mirror. Stop, turn around and replace said pannier. Re-pack 3 removed the dry-bag's weight from the top of the pannier so it now has a tendency to fly off the bike. Back on the road for about 40 km until I realize that the pannier is gone again. Turn around. Ride 20 km in opposite direction on high beems (it's dark now). No pannier. Turn back. Screw that pannier, that shirt, those shoes, that food, that etc..Roll 40km and another plug's gone. Flat. Change the plug in total darkness with strange noises in the wood behind me. Probably a beaver taping the water to scare me.. Back on the road for a while. Only 10km to Baie-Comeau. Notice something loose when I push my butt against the luggage. Dry-bag's gone with tent mattress, sleeping bag and daughter's Strawberry shortcake's pillow. Turn around. Find bag 5km up. Re-pack. Enough. First trail to the side and I pitch my newly found tent without having lunch and I go instantly to sleep.
6:00, feeling a bit cold, I get dress to find it's been freezing:
I get to Baie-Comeau shortly after to get fuel for me and the bike and decide that I'm going back home as the clutch started to slip and my bike is definitively not in shape for the ride I anticipated. Maintenance is required. 300km of slab and 4 plugs and I get home thanks to a 94 GS that will not leave me stranded.
I'm not sure whether it's my personal experience but I'm not 100% positive that every folk doing the TCAT would be advised to ride that particular 380km section. Shorting it to Labrieville is only about 150km vs the 380 and the road is spectacular too. It's definitely a challenging stretch tho. Your choice. I did it. Will I do it again? Maybe....