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Old 07-09-2008, 07:23 PM   #15
rdwalker OP
Beastly Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2005
Location: The Badlands (of NJ)
Oddometer: 2,545
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.
Robert in Northern NJ __ '09 R12GS, '03 R1150RT, '01 F650GS

-->> James Bay & North Road Solo Blitz -->> Patagonia / Tierra del Fuego Cappuccino Tour
-->> Trans-Labrador Highway Solo Blitz --->> South African Cappuccino Tour

rdwalker screwed with this post 07-09-2008 at 11:06 PM
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