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Old 09-20-2009, 10:27 PM   #46
markbvt OP
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Afterword

This trip felt to me like it had two distinct parts: the Trans-Lab, and everything else. The Trans-Lab is so epic that everything else sort of pales in comparison. As such, while riding in Newfoundland and especially Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, I couldn't help but compare the experience to the Trans-Lab, and of course it came up a bit short. This is a shame, really, because Nova Scotia and Cape Breton are fantastic ride destinations in and of themselves. But of course, I've been there before, so the lack of hundreds of miles of gravel and remote, desolate countryside was compounded by the lack of a sense of discovery, and unfortunately this rendered the whole of Nova Scotia sort of "meh" in my mind.

It would be wrong to call the latter half of the trip disappointing, or a let-down, but the Trans-Lab portion of the trip was just so astonishingly magnificent that it really would have been hard for the rest of the trip to compete. So please keep that in mind if at any point I sound less than enthusiastic. Perhaps it would have been better for me to do the trip in the opposite direction, so I'd get increasingly excited as I work my way through Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and Newfoundland on my way to Labrador. But to be honest, I don't think I'd do it that way even if I could do it over again. The desire for that sort of build-up is outweighed by the practical concerns of riding the Trans-Lab while fresh, with new tires instead of worn ones.

It's interesting what a toll this trip took on the vehicles. Dan lost a pannier and his rear fender broke off. Keith dented his front rim to the point the tire won't hold air without a tube, and he lost a pannier too. The rear window on the soft top of James's Jeep succumbed (or more accurately, the zipper did, but to be fair it was already in bad shape when the trip started). My XRL fared well overall but did need a new chain. And my rear tire is toast.

Interestingly, the shout-out for single most useful tool we brought along has to go to this plank of wood:


This multitasker came in handy for propping the bike up on its sidestand to get the rear wheel off the ground for chain lubing; tapping the chain adjusters for chain tightening; and myriad other small uses. It was such an important member of the team that James named it Philippe. Why he decided that my plank of wood is French I have no idea.

I also ended up using most of the other tools I brought along. If you're reading this thread in preparation for your own Trans-Lab adventure, I would strongly recommend bringing as comprehensive a tool kit as you can.

And while I'm giving advice, I'll talk briefly about the Trans-Lab itself.

I was a bit surprised to find it easier than I expected. If you're comfortable riding dirt/gravel roads, you shouldn't have any trouble with the Trans-Lab. That said, it demands attention. Keep your eyes on the road ahead of you. Don't let your attention wander. Also, I wouldn't do it without knobby tires. Sure, it can be done on street tires, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

I found that in most cases the gravel was easier to deal with at somewhat higher speeds. At 55-65mph, the bike felt more stable and in control than at 40-45. But YMMV, obviously -- just because it worked for me on an XR650L doesn't mean it'll work for you on a V-Strom or whatever. Experiment with what pace works best, then enjoy it.

MZcountryboy is right: Labrador has a draw. There's something about that place that captures the imagination. All I want to do is go back.

--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 09-22-2009, 10:06 AM   #47
markbvt OP
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Update: I've gone through all the individual days' reports and added interactive track maps.

--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 09-22-2009, 03:31 PM   #48
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Awesome trip, Mark + co.

I'm kinda wishing I was on a trip like it right now.

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Old 09-22-2009, 05:32 PM   #49
markbvt OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MZcountryboy
I'm kinda wishing I was on a trip like it right now.
I know exactly what you mean. I've only been home for a few days and I'm already wishing I were back on this trip. Already started planning another one for when Phase III is open.

--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 09-23-2009, 04:16 AM   #50
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Hey Mark.

I just finished reading the rest of your ride report.
Excellent job as usual.

I especially like the pictures of the map with the GPS tracks.

Q~
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Old 09-23-2009, 05:28 AM   #51
markbvt OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Questor
I especially like the pictures of the map with the GPS tracks.
In case you didn't notice, those aren't just pictures, they're fully functional Google maps. You can zoom in to see every little detour we took and everything. I'm kinda proud of myself for figuring out how to do that.

--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 09-23-2009, 07:43 AM   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markbvt
I was a bit surprised to find it easier than I expected. If you're comfortable riding dirt/gravel roads, you shouldn't have any trouble with the Trans-Lab. That said, it demands attention. Keep your eyes on the road ahead of you. Don't let your attention wander. Also, I wouldn't do it without knobby tires. Sure, it can be done on street tires, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.
Having done it on an 1150GS and 1200GSADV fully-loaded with street tires about this time last year, I think we'd both agree, knobbies are a more appropriate choice

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Old 09-23-2009, 03:22 PM   #53
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Great report

Next year......
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Old 09-24-2009, 10:57 AM   #54
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Good stuff man, thanks for taking the time to put it together and to give us your observations.
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Old 10-07-2009, 02:09 PM   #55
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Thanks!

Makes me want to go even worse now!
Just need to figure out how to take the time off from work.

You said you did it in 2-weeks???


Nice reporting!!
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Old 10-08-2009, 08:11 AM   #56
markbvt OP
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Yeah, my trip was 14 days total.

It could be done in less, depending on routing, ferry schedules, and daily mileage. I was limited by the on-road capabilities (or lack of them) of my XR650L. I'm thinking of doing some major upgrades to my Wee-Strom over the winter and doing another Trans-Lab trip next year when Phase III is open, and I think it would go something like this:
Day 1: Burlington to somewhere close to Baie Comeau, Quebec.
Day 2: Baie Comeau to Labrador City.
Day 3: Lab City to Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Day 4: HV-GB to Blanc-Sablon (via Phase III, Port Hope Simpson, Mary's Harbour, etc).
Day 5/6: Coastal ferry from Blanc-Sablon to Natashquan, Quebec.
Day 7: Natashquan to Tadoussac, Quebec.
Day 8: Tadoussac to Burlington via Chicoutimi (there are some really fun roads in the Saguenay region).

Alternatively, I might extend that trip by taking the ferry from Baie Comeau to Matane and ride the Gaspé peninsula for a few days before returning home.

We'll see. All I know is I can't stop thinking about Labrador, and I want to get back up there before the Trans-Lab gets paved.

--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 10-09-2009, 02:47 PM   #57
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I could go back next season, keep the flame alive, man - PHASE 3!!!!!

BOOYEAH!!!!!!
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Old 11-11-2009, 05:34 PM   #58
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I really enjoyed this ride report and am starting to feel pulled by the Trans-Lab myself. I would love to go to Alaska, but in the interim I think this would be a great trip on its own.
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Old 11-12-2009, 06:02 AM   #59
markbvt OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hulked Up
in the interim I think this would be a great trip on its own.
Absolutely. Do it before they pave it.

--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 11-12-2009, 09:32 AM   #60
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Great stuff............
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