Joined: Jan 2005
Location: The Badlands (of NJ)
Here are some planning resources that could be useful for anyone else considering a ride along the Trans-Lab.
--> Maps & Info:
Newfoundland and, in particular, Labrador is off most tourists' radar screens. Your typical maps will have very little detail on the area. North Coast of the St. Lawrence River is not shown on your AAA publications; forget about the Trans-Labrador itself.
Online mapping services, like Google Maps or Mapquest offer fairly good resources for trip planning (just ignore the outlandish travel-time estimates).
I love paper maps, though: nothing but an unfolded sheet offers the large scale overview together with the depth of detail. I always enjoy the sense of adventure when randomly perusing a map. The smell of fresh ink, the exotic names in faraway locations really do it for me.
The provincial government publishes a very good road map of Newfoundland and Labrador. It can be obtained just for the asking, together with some brochures, from their tourist offices at: http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/ .
JDMGeo (www.MapArt.com) publishes very good maps of Quebec, although the really interesting sections of Trans-Quebec-Labrador and of James Bay Road are not shown.
A big community at your service: www.ADVrider.com, of course.
Newfoundland riding : www.ridetherock.com/forums
Specific sections of Labrador:
Trans-Lab web page: http://tlhwy.com/
Immediately upon entering Newfoundland, my GSM mobile phone stopped working. In towns, I have seen a lot of people yakking away; judging by the pull-out antennas, they still had analog service. And of course, once out of town and in Labrador there is no cellular coverage. I did not re-acquire digital service until reaching Forestville on St. Lawrence River in Quebec.
In other words, be prepared for not having mobile service for many days. In order to communicate, you should have access to an 800 (toll-free) service that allows you to make calls from hotels or private land phones. AT&T is one provider of such service (although pricy). I also have Primus Communications' Global Access card (http://www.affinitytele.com/c-cards.htm), which offers toll-free call-in numbers throughout the world; I have been using their card extensively during this trip. Note that some payphones in Canada do block toll-free access calls.
For the main section of Trans-Labrador Highway, the provincial Department of Transportation provides free emergency satellite phones. These are capable of only dialing 911 and can be signed in and out for 24-hour periods in selected locations in the four towns between Goose Bay and Labrador City.
--> Time Zones.
On Ferries: all scheduling is done on Ship's Time, which is announced and displayed throughout. Make a note what time zone is in use, or you may miss breakfast or oversleep landing.
Quebec: bulk of the province, accessible by road from Montreal / Quebec City uses Eastern Time. North Coast section (Blanc-Sablon) runs on Atlantic Time.
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia: Atlantic Time (1hr ahead of Eastern).
Newfoundland: Newfoundland Time (another 1/2hr ahead of Atlantic, i.e., hour-and-half from Eastern).
Labrador: section immediately across the Strait from Newfoundland (L'Anse au Clair) in on Newfoundland time. All of the rest (Cartwright, Goose Bay and west) is on Atlantic time.
All zones observe Daylight Time.
Reaching Happy Valley - Goose Bay via the Maritime Provinces requires sailing on several ferries. I strongly recommend spending the night on the long runs: it saves riding days and substitutes for hotels. Booking a cabin is very useful; it allows for comfort, privacy and security for your belongings.
The ferry I took from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland was fairly modern; I understand that so are the other ones on that route. Cabins contained bathrooms with showers, quite convenient.
The Goose Bay ferry seems to be living out its days after retiring from service around Jutland Peninsula - even the signage is still in Danish. It is a bit rough around the edges; bathrooms and toilets are in a common area. I would not be surprised if this route is terminated once Phase III connector of Trans-Labrador Highway opens, between Cartwright and Goose Bay.
Reservations on all of them are a must if you desire a cabin. They are recommended just for the passage as well, although I do understand that a lone rider with a motorcycle is always somehow fit in.
The routes between North Sydney, NS and Port-aux-Basques, NL, as well as the seasonal connection to Argentia, NL, are serviced by Marine Atlantic:
Newfoundland to Labrador crossing and the Goose Bay ferry are operated by Labrador Marine:
On the other side of the run, in Quebec, there are several ferries crossing St. Lawrence River. These may be of interest if a side trip on Gaspe Peninsula is in your cards. Despite repeated announcements to the contrary, the Trois Pistoles - Les Escoumins connection seems to be gone for good, but the remaining routes are:
Baie-Comeau / Godbout - Matane:
Further west there is the Rimouski - Forestville route. Note that some English-language pages do not work too well on the ferry companies' Web sites. For schedules, just dig into the French sections - you should be able to figure them out. 'Horaire' is schedule, everything else is self-explanatory.
Finally, St-Simeon - Riviere-du-Loup:
Once in northern Newfoundland and through the whole length of Trans-Lab highway, there is no premium fuel (except, maybe, in Goose Bay and Fermont). Also, some rural stations in New England carry only regular gas. Your bike must be able to handle regular.
The longest distance between fuel stations is about 300km (~ 200 miles) between Goose Bay and Churchill Falls.
--> Repair Shops.
Atlantic Motoplex (only BMW dealer in the Maritimes)
950 Champlain Street, Dieppe, NB E1A 1P8
168 Main St., Dartmouth, NS B2X 1S2
Steve's Cycle Truro
1279 MacCallum Settlement Rd.,
MacCallum Settlement, B6L 6V4
Adrian's (x-BMW shop)
80 King Street, Moncton, NB E1C 4M6
(Mike) Milligans Cycle Works
2271 Mountain Road, Moncton?
All-Euro, Halifax NS
Procycle, Dartmouth NS
The Toy Box
St. John's, NL
On my blitz tours, I usually do not skimp but try to stay in fairly nice places. My trips are expensive simply because I pay for my own time off work - cost of a hotel is then not as significant.
When selecting accommodations, I prefer a hotel that has a restaurant on premises - unless in a city, where everything is within walking distance. I like to clean up in the evening, then have a nice dinner and some good wine; I do not want to be riding anymore.
Having Internet access is quite important as well. It's a valuable travel tool: not only to check email, but also to find out local weather, schedules, make or cancel reservations, and so on. Fortunately, Wi-Fi is becoming more and more prevalent in most establishments.
Below are places I used on this trip. I have been fortunate to be able to recommend them to all.
Planning note: all accommodations in Newfoundland and Labrador are very busy during the brief tourist and construction season. Reservations are essential. At the very least, keep a list of possible hotels and call ahead.
In most common destinations: Holiday Inn Express (www.ichotelsgroup.com). These are standardized, clean and comfortable locations, with good services and Wi-Fi. Dinner, however, may be an issue. On this trip, I used them in Seabrook, NH and in Moncton (Dieppe), NB.
Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland:
Ocean View Motel
Phone: 709-458-2730, http://www.oceanviewmotel.com
Good facilities, restaurant, pub, Wi-Fi.
Mary's Harbour, Labrador:
Here you are a bit off the tourist track; don't worry about Internet access. When planning on late arrival, check on dining room times - kitchen closes early.
Formerly a grand place, now very busy during road-building season, filled with construction crews. Still, has all the facilities and is the best (if not only) hotel in town. Reservations are a must! Wi-Fi spotty.
Le Grand Hôtel
48, Place Lasalle
This town-center hotel is being renovated right now and can be a bit disorganized. Still, the owner may himself guide you around the building to park your bike next to his Fat Boy. Wi-Fi spotty.
Québec City, Québec:
1220 Place George-V Ouest
(800) 463-4453 www.vieux-quebec.com
This is one of my favorite places to stay in Quebec City, a modern upscale hotel, yet often in CAD$170 range. Great amenities and Wi-Fi, underground garage. Just on the outside of Old City walls and next to restaurant strip of Grande Allee.
Note that motorcycles are not allowed in Old City; thank you, loud pipes.
Quite upscale - yet not expensive; nice restaurant and pub. Very friendly and helpful staff. Wi-Fi is advertised - but I was too tired to try...