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Old 09-14-2010, 09:39 AM   #1
markbvt OP
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TLH2010: Return to the Trans-Lab and Newfoundland

Ever since I finished my first trip to Labrador last year (see the RR linked in my sig below), I've been plotting a return to experience it again, and of course to ride the newly-completed Phase III section. As MZcountryboy said in my ride report last year, Labrador has a draw, and I couldn't get it out of my mind for months after I got home. I was eager for more.

So I started planning my return -- but this time, since my buddy James wouldn't be able to come along again, there'd be no support vehicle, and I opted for my V-Strom instead of the XR650L for its superior ability to carry supplies and operate at highway speeds on the paved portions of the trip.

Originally the plan was to ride the Trans-Lab to Blanc-Sablon, then take the Relais Nordik coastal ferry along the St Lawrence to where Rt 138 begins in Natashquan. But this ferry turned out to cost nearly $500 once factoring in bike, rider, cabin, and food -- too expensive. So the route went back to the standard one through Newfoundland and Cape Breton.

I also started talking to several other friends about the trip. It quickly caught the attention of my friend Roman, who had been wanting to do a long trip up into Canada. My buddy Jason, with whom I'm planning to ride to Alaska next year, was interested as well. And eventually the group was joined by Martin, an ADV inmate from New Jersey who found out we'd be doing the trip at the same time as him and asked if he could join up with us as far as Newfoundland.

So over the summer, bikes got prepped, supplies were ordered, and plans were finalized. The evening before departure, I packed the bike and tried to go to sleep early.

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'11 Triumph Tiger 800 XC / '03 Honda XR650L / '01 Triumph Bonneville cafe

My ride reports: Missile silos, Labrador, twisties, and more

Bennington Triumph Bash, May 30-June 1, 2014
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Old 09-14-2010, 09:40 AM   #2
markbvt OP
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Day 1: Saturday, 28 August 2010

We set off bright and early, meeting in Essex, VT, at 7am. Jason, Roman, and I headed up to Derby, VT, to meet up with Martin, who'd started his trip the previous day and ridden as far as southern Vermont.

We stopped off for gas...


Then rode over to the arranged meeting spot to pick up Martin.


From there we crossed the border into Quebec and took back roads past Sherbrooke.




Approaching Thetford Mines, we got into some heavy rain, but it cleared up eventually. By the time we'd passed Quebec City and were on Rt 138 heading northeast, it was beautiful out again.




We reached the Saguenay fjord and boarded the free ferry. Here's Jason and Martin; in the background are some unrelated riders we'd end up following through the twisties later on.


The Saguenay area is beautiful.


On the other side of the fjord, we followed those other guys for a little while...




...then turned off at Camping Paradis Marin and set up camp.


And Martin and I grilled steaks for dinner.


Stats for the day:


Track for the day (fully interactive -- zoom in as much as you like; also note that using the toggle menu in the upper right-hand corner, you can change the type of map that's displayed):
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'11 Triumph Tiger 800 XC / '03 Honda XR650L / '01 Triumph Bonneville cafe

My ride reports: Missile silos, Labrador, twisties, and more

Bennington Triumph Bash, May 30-June 1, 2014
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Old 09-14-2010, 10:09 AM   #3
markbvt OP
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Day 2: Sunday, 29 August 2010

We got up early Sunday morning, cooked a tasty breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon, and hit the road. Heading east, Rt 138 passes through numerous small towns and various kinds of countryside.






We made it to Baie Comeau and turned onto Rt 389. Of course we had to stop for the mandatory pics at the sign announcing the start of the Trans-Quebec-Labrador road.




We headed north on the paved road to Manic 5, enjoying the twisties along the way, and eventually stopped for lunch. Through no planning on my part, it ended up being the same spot I stopped last year -- just a convenient spot, I suppose.


Jason.


Fun road.


We continued north to Manic 5 and stopped for gas and a snack.






Then continued on to the Manic 5 dam itself.


If that dam ever breaks, those buildings down there might have some problems.


The road climbs up to the top of the hill, and the fun begins!


On the gravel.




It had rained heavily earlier in the day. We kept coming across mud holes in the road. For the most part these were no real problem... or so we thought until one of them claimed Roman. His front end augured in (Martin and I suspected that the F800GS's undersprung forks contributed to the problem), and he went over the handlebars. Headlight/instrument cluster broke off.


We duct-taped it back on.


Roman's luggage was banged up too, but serviceable, and the bike started up fine. Roman himself was a bit bruised and his shoulder a little tweaked, but otherwise okay. The bigger issue was that Roman's confidence was badly shaken by crashing only 35 miles into the gravel. But once the bike was cobbled back together, he agreed it made more sense to continue on to Relais Gabriel, since it was closer than backtracking to Manic 5, and by the time we got there he felt a good deal better.

We ended up camping at a primitive site about a kilometer past Relais Gabriel.






The night was clear and beautiful.


We built the mandatory campfire, and Roman opened the bottle of tequila he'd brought.




Eventually I turned in and slept soundly... until I awoke in the middle of the night thinking a bear was walking around our campsite. But then I heard a tent zipper and realized it was just someone getting up to pee.


Stats for the day:


Track for the day:
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'11 Triumph Tiger 800 XC / '03 Honda XR650L / '01 Triumph Bonneville cafe

My ride reports: Missile silos, Labrador, twisties, and more

Bennington Triumph Bash, May 30-June 1, 2014
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Old 09-14-2010, 10:46 AM   #4
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Wow.

Nice job on the Strom Mark! It looks rugged!

I look forward to another excellent report.

Q~
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Old 09-14-2010, 11:56 AM   #5
markbvt OP
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Day 3: Monday, 30 August 2010

I awoke just before dawn, as the clouds above were being painted in deep reds.


We broke camp as it began to drizzle lightly and headed over to Relais Gabriel for breakfast and expensive showers. While we ate, it began raining more. Great.

As we sat around waiting for each other to shower, a fascinating bike rolled up to the gas pumps -- a stripped-down Ninja 650 with Versys forks, a V-Strom front wheel, and knobby tires. Astride this custom ADV beast was David, aka jdrocks, who would become a recurring character in this story. We chatted for a while, then he set off down the road as we waited for the last of our group to get showered.

Finally we got going. We kept the pace pretty slow as it was still drizzling and the road surface was variable. Eventually we made it to Gagnon.




From there the road was paved to Fire Lake, and thankfully the weather improved. At Fire Lake, the road turns back to gravel, and the section known to locals as the Mini Trail begins. We took a short snack break.






Jason.


Martin.


Roman.


We headed up the Mini Trail, which is a twisty road of loose gravel and lots of railroad crossings. It was slow, sketchy going, made more difficult by the trucks that would blow past and stir up so much dust that we were momentarily blind. Naturally this happened most often on blind, uphill, tight left corners. But we all stayed upright and stopped occasionally to catch up to one another.

Most of the way along this section, I rounded a bend and found David (jdrocks) snapping a photo of me from the side of the road. So I stopped and chatted with him while waiting for the others to catch up.

Here comes Jason.


Beautiful land up there.




David geared up and went on his way.


We took a short break, then followed. Soon made it to the big mine shortly before Fermont.




Here comes Martin.


Big tires!


Soon after the pavement began, and then, of course, we made it to the Labrador border. Time for another mandatory pic.


We grabbed a quick lunch in Lab City, then thoroughly enjoyed the 50 freshly-paved miles of Rt 500 before once again hitting gravel. I have to admit -- once the Trans-Lab has been paved, I'll go back just to enjoy the sweeping turns and the awesome scenery that I'll actually be able to look at when I don't have to keep my eyes glued strictly to the road in front of me.

But soon the pavement ended, and we were given loose, marbly, mostly trackless gravel to enjoy. It made for stressful riding as our bikes squirmed around beneath us. We stopped to take a short break at one of the easier spots along the road.




When there were tracks like that in the gravel, it was easy to ride. Trouble was that those tracks kept quickly running out.

We stopped to camp at the same place I did last year -- happened to be a convenient clearing a little more than halfway between Lab City and Churchill Falls.








Stats for the day:


Track for the day:
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'11 Triumph Tiger 800 XC / '03 Honda XR650L / '01 Triumph Bonneville cafe

My ride reports: Missile silos, Labrador, twisties, and more

Bennington Triumph Bash, May 30-June 1, 2014
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Old 09-14-2010, 12:10 PM   #6
MZcountryboy
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Great story so far.........




I missed out on Labrador this summer - glad you got to enjoy it.

eagerly awaiting more....
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Old 09-14-2010, 12:23 PM   #7
markbvt OP
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Day 4: Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Sometime during the night it began raining, and was still at it when I awoke shortly before dawn. But as I lay in my tent needing to pee, the tapping of raindrops on my tent slowed, then stopped. I crawled out of my tent and said, "Oh, wow!" The rain that had just moved past was catching the dawn light and put on quite a display as the sun came up.






We packed up and headed east. The road continued to be sketchy until about 30 miles before Churchill Falls, at which point it changed to hard-packed dirt, nearly as good as pavement. We enjoyed the easier ride, then stopped in Churchill Falls for breakfast.


Here we wound up running into Marty (aka lakota) and his buddy Jack. They ate faster than we did and were soon on their way again.

Eventually we gassed up and got going too.


The road from Churchill Falls to Goose Bay was more loose gravel. The graders have been busy this summer. The whole road was much easier when I rode it last year.

The scenery along the way is desolate and beautiful.




Tires were wearing okay.


Eventually we reached a freshly-laid-down ribbon of pavement. It was still soft.




The ground around here was covered with this whitish stuff. I'm not sure what it is. I'm also not sure what gorse is, but it sounds like what this looks like, so I'm going to go out on a limb and call this stuff gorse.




Jason was ready to get going again.


The pavement ended after 10 miles or so, we rode another section of gravel, then the paved road into Happy Valley-Goose Bay began. We stopped at the sign for the mandatory photo.


Then we rode into town, went grocery shopping, and rode up to Gosling Lake Park and camped on the beach.

Martin expressed his disappointment at not having seen any moose yet, although we had seen some wolves on the side of the road earlier in the day. A construction crew had started feeding them, so they didn't bother to run away in the presence of humans. One of them apparently looked like it was about to lunge at Roman as he rode by. So it was with thoughts of wildlife that we drifted off to sleep that night.

Stats for the day:


Track for the day:
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'11 Triumph Tiger 800 XC / '03 Honda XR650L / '01 Triumph Bonneville cafe

My ride reports: Missile silos, Labrador, twisties, and more

Bennington Triumph Bash, May 30-June 1, 2014
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Old 12-30-2010, 02:17 PM   #8
Rotten Ronnie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markbvt View Post
And Martin and I grilled steaks for dinner.
This is an awesome Ride Report, and I'm doing this route next year.

What did you guys think of the collapsing grill, and would you buy one again?
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Old 01-03-2011, 06:49 AM   #9
markbvt OP
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Originally Posted by Rotten Ronnie View Post
What did you guys think of the collapsing grill, and would you buy one again?
My only complaint with it is that the rods that make up the grill are weak. They quickly sagged under the weight of the food once heat was applied, and stayed that way once they cooled down.

Still, it's a really convenient contraption to have along, especially since it takes up almost no space when disassembled and packed.

--mark
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'11 Triumph Tiger 800 XC / '03 Honda XR650L / '01 Triumph Bonneville cafe

My ride reports: Missile silos, Labrador, twisties, and more

Bennington Triumph Bash, May 30-June 1, 2014
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Old 01-29-2011, 10:28 PM   #10
shaweetz
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Great report Mark, shitty about the wrist. See you in June.
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Old 01-30-2011, 02:22 PM   #11
tedmarshall
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Nice Report

Hope your hand heals up like mine. i use mine as a weather gauge now. I can sense a low pressure system 2 days before it arrives. I cannot get over the weather you enjoyed. Maybe I should try a late summer trip.
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Old 09-14-2010, 02:05 PM   #12
RunLongVT
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Great report so far, Mark! Looks like you guys had great weather for the most part.

Labrador was crawling with motorcycles this year!

I was planning on heading up on September 21, but haven't been able to find any riding partners. Anyone planning to head up there next week?
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Old 09-14-2010, 05:03 PM   #13
bikerjarrel
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Gorgeous report Mark

Can't wait for more. Beyond jealous. I've spent about three weeks in Alaska. Toured it mostly by foot, canoe, and air. Touring it via Motorcycle would be spectacular, but bring a gun. The locals thought I was nuts for hiking without one and they were right. My brother and I got stuck between a cub and its mother. Nothing happened, but we were very lucky. I would consider flying out and renting a dual sport, I just don't have the time for the trek to Washington State, which is where you'll probably pick up your ferry. Amazing report. Keep it coming
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Old 09-14-2010, 08:29 PM   #14
bikerjarrel
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How did the Tiger 1050 do?

I see the semi dual sport rubber, but they still look more street than off road. Was he okay with the 17inch front wheel and was the suspension stock?
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Old 09-15-2010, 06:18 AM   #15
markbvt OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bikerjarrel
I just don't have the time for the trek to Washington State, which is where you'll probably pick up your ferry.
No ferry. We're riding to Alaska, not taking a boat. Why take a ferry when you can ride the Cassiar Highway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bikerjarrel
I see the semi dual sport rubber, but they still look more street than off road. Was he okay with the 17inch front wheel and was the suspension stock?
Stock suspension, although the Tiger's suspension is pretty good and Jason had it set up pretty well (the rear got chattery on washboard though, as did my Strom's). He did fine with the 17" front wheel and Pirelli MT60R tires, which are a bit more aggressive in person than they look in the pics -- though the rear was very worn by the end of the trip.

Also, Jason's a small guy, so wasn't working the suspension and tires as hard as if I were riding the bike, for example.

--mark
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'11 Triumph Tiger 800 XC / '03 Honda XR650L / '01 Triumph Bonneville cafe

My ride reports: Missile silos, Labrador, twisties, and more

Bennington Triumph Bash, May 30-June 1, 2014
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