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Old 07-10-2010, 05:53 AM   #31
Squidmark OP
a.k.a. "The Colonel"
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Joined: Feb 2009
Location: The banks of the mighty Nissitissit River
Oddometer: 285
Day 9

Tuesday, June 15th

Our motel:

After a quick breakfast at McDonalds next door, we headed off to Churchill Falls
and ... a fair amount of road construction.

You don't see many signs like this around where I live:

Even when you had to wait for construction vehicles:

it was nice to chat with the flaggers or the other folks in line waiting to
proceed. At one point, where I found myself in the middle of an active
construction zone because the flaggers had screwed up their signals, I had a
nice long chat with two Newfies who were there on contract. I wish I'd taken a
picture of them, because they fit a certain stereotype: One was tall and gaunt,
with floppy jowls and the other was short and heavy with big round eyes behind
thick, heavy black-framed glasses, and both were exceptionally jovial. Like
Laurel and Hardy with hard-to-understand accents. And they told me all about
life working on the road in fifteen minutes. Like how much each type of job
paid and where they lived (temporary trailer camps) and the good and bad things
about their contracts (good pay, three-year committment, not much time off). On
the other hand, there was this guy, who wouldn't even turn around to look at me
for the whole five minutes we waited at this halt:

These guys could be friend or foe:

If they were scraping off some hardpack and creating berms of soft sand,

they were evil incarnate.

If they were spreading dirt over/beween big loose rocks and stabilizing them to make an
otherwise damnably wobbly road surface semi-passable again,

they were your friend.

These guys were always your friend, packing loose stuff down and knocking pointy rocks
onto their sides:

When they weren't working on the road, it was reasonably passable:

although stretches of it were pretty loose and marble-y:

or even golf-ball-y:

When the road surface didn't require your total concentration, you could look
around and see black pines and swamps going on forever:

and the occasional always pristinely clear river:

and, as you got higher up on the mid-Labrador plateau, mountains, some with snow
still on them:

But mostly you saw black spruce forest, going on forever.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped by the side of the road for a saddle-bag

and as we were finishing up, a van pulled up from the other direction. Two guys
got out and asked us if we'd be willing to be interviewed by the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation! Thus we met Mike Power and Jeremy Eaton from the
Labrador Morning radio and TV shows, respectively, who were on a mission to talk
to all kinds of people about the Trans-Labrador Highway. They had gotten the
impression that it was becoming increasingly popular with adventuresome
travelers on motorcycles and found an opportunity to talk to some right there
out on the road. Thus our five minutes of radio/TV fame for this trip. You can
hear the radio interview by clicking here. Of course, Dennis and I both failed to take a picture of them.

Most of the construction was toward the Lab City end of this stretch of the TLH.
In fact, toward Churchill, the road was quite smooth and mostly free of loose
rocks. We got up to 60 mph in places, always wary of hitting patches of loose
stuff, though.

Eventually, we crossed the Churchill River channel. Somewhere upstream, most of
the water has been diverted into the reservoir that feeds the Churchill hydro
plant. This is all that's left:

Ten miles later you arrive in the town of 700 souls, all of whom work for the power

It was about 5:00 in the afternoon. Now, I was not about to pass through
Churchill Falls without getting a tour of the hydro facility. They have them at
9:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. year-round. We got the phone number of the
person who was currently doing the tours and called her and discovered that she
still had slots left for both the 7:00 p.m. tour that evening and the 9:00 tour
the next morning. We opted for the evening tour, since taking the morning tour
would have added half a day to our schedule (and I was trying to be conservative
with our time since I was not going to miss that boat!). But that
created a dilemna: We wouldn't get out of the tour until ~9:00 p.m. and then
would still have to find a place to camp (if there was any nearby at all), make
dinner, etc. So we chickened out again and (especially after finding out the
restaurant was open until 10:00 p.m.) got a room at the Midway Travel Inn.

Karen Noel picked us up at the motel lobby and drove us to the plant entrance in her van:

There were six of us altogether and Karen: smilin' Dennis, a power-plant
operator from Newfoundland (the smaller guy with glasses), a couple of
Montrealers who seemed to know a lot about the politics of hydro power going on
between Newfoundland/Labrador and Quebec, and one other guy I never found out
anything about. Anyway, we first got a lecture on the whole deal at the
security building:

then wandered over to the visitors center on top of the power house, which is
1100 feet below the surface and practically right below the three 765-kilovolt
lines emanating from the plant, crossing the river and heading off to Quebec,

the nifty real-time generated power display (it was 3217 megawatts at this moment - they
can generate as much as 5500),

one of the reservoir dikes (this hydro system doesn't depend on any large dams,
just a series of dikes, a really huge reservoir (the Smallwood), the 1100 foot
drop to the underground turbines/generators, and the natural lay of the land to
dump the water back into the river two miles away),

the intake dam where the penstocks draw water down at a 60 degree angle into the
turbines (there are 11 penstocks, turbines, generators, and primary
transformers, each good for 500 megawatts, here),

some of the power combining and distribution network,

and the rock where the politicians of the day had buried some time capsules:

At the visitors center, a little more lecture on the history of the place and
then into the elevator for a ride 1100 feet down. The display indicates number of
feet up from the floor of the power house.

Everyone had to wear hard hats, protective goggles, and ear plugs (and Karen had
to use a portable PA system) 'cause it's really noisy down there.

They carved three huge and enormously long parallel tunnels into the rock. This
is the transformer gallery:

which has eleven of these monster transformers in it:

Each of these up-converts the 15 kilovolts coming from the generators to 235
kilovolts, which is then sent in thick cables inside shafts up to the surface,
where they are further combined/transformed into 765 kilovolts for long-distance
transmission. They are oil-cooled and they must be tremendously efficient,
since each is rated at 500 megawatts. If they were 99.99 per cent efficient,
they'd be still be dissipating 50 kilowatts each!

At the end of that tunnel, you come around to the tunnel that runs to the
surface, when they bring the turbines and generators and transformers in and out
when needed and park a school bus capable of carrying everyone who might be
working in the plant out if there's an emergency. The keys are always in it.

If it doesn't look like they'll make it out of the plant on the school bus
during an emergency, they will gather everyone and hole up behind these doors,
where there is a sufficient supply of food, water, and so forth to sustain 37
people (I think that's the maximum number that are ever down there at one time)
for a month and separate air shafts to the surface from the ones that feed the
rest of the plant. At the end of that chamber are more giant air-tight doors
that open onto the discharge gallery (or whatever it's called), which is where
the water draining out of the turbines is pooled before being sent down two
large tunnels to be discharged into the river bed some two miles away. This
chamber regulates the discharge water level for optimum turbine performance and
acts a bit like a water hammer preventer as well.

Then you get to go into the last, largest gallery, the powerhouse itself. It's
freakin' enormous, the second largest underground powerhouse in North America
(Grand Coulee, I think, is larger).

It's hard to get a handle on how large this room is from pictures. Here's the
best I can do:

The eleven turbines and eleven generators are all in here. Each one of the
colored boxes in the second picture previous is just the top of a
generator. There are two overhead cranes, each capable of lifting 200 tons:

When they need to lift out a rotor, which weighs 350 tons, they hook the two cranes
together with this thing and heave:

I hope I haven't bored you with too much of this stuff. I'm an electrical
engineer by training and am generally fascinated by large industrial plants of
any kind. Dennis thought it was pretty cool too. Karen was a wonderful tour
guide and rightly proud of her community - she has lived there for 25 years.
Imagine that.

Back at the motel, we had a serviceable dinner at the restaurant (beer-battered
shrimp, fries, salad for me):

and called it a day.

158 miles today.

More to come.
Back Roads. Period.
6/10 Labrador Trip Report:

Squidmark screwed with this post 07-10-2010 at 03:58 PM
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Old 07-10-2010, 07:01 AM   #32
Dartmouth, Massacusetts
Joined: Aug 2004
Location: Dartmouth, MA
Oddometer: 1,578
Thanks! I love that technical stuff...........

I spent a week in Churchill Fall back in February of 2000. Hunting Caribou on an experimental winter hunt. It was brutal. Never got above 40 below zero F for the whole week. Gasoline in the snowmobiles turned to jelly. We used us a full case of heat packs in our boots and gloves. Rifle action froze solid if you didn't totally degrease them by boiling the action before the hunt.

We had a pickup truck and a van to get to the hunting areas from the camp we used. Each truck towed a trailer with four snow mobiles. At night we had to drain the oil from the vehicles, remove spark plugs and batteries. In the morning we heated up the oil in a big pot on top of the stove, put the spark plugs into the oven and got them good and hot. We then installed the red hot spark plugs and poured the oil into the engines and started the trucks. Kept them running out in the woods all day until we returned in the evening.

We were the only group to try this nonsense. They canceled the remaining four weeks of the hunt when we recounted how life threatening it was.

But it was a great adventure!

I want to do it again by motorcycle............

"I now return you to your regularly scheduled program"....
Roy B
Dartmouth, MA
2007 BMW K1200R Sport abs,2007 DL650 V Strom abs
2004 Honda VFR abs,2001 Moto Guzzi Rosso Mandello
1971 Honda Trail CT90
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Old 07-10-2010, 08:56 AM   #33
Beastly Adventurer
Joined: Sep 2007
Location: Georgia, Vermont (that's one town, not two states)
Oddometer: 2,789
Originally Posted by Squidmark
It was like onarock says a couple of posts after yours. But the paved part you don't remember is forgettable
Huh, strange. Maybe it was so thoroughly covered with dirt that I didn't notice the pavement underneath.

BTW, your Trans-Lab ride report was useful when I planned this trip. Thanks.
Glad you found it useful!

'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 29-31, 2015
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Old 07-10-2010, 02:03 PM   #34
captain crunch
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Joined: May 2006
Oddometer: 793
Great report and great photos. Glad you recovered your camera.
“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks” : Daniel Boone
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Old 07-10-2010, 02:40 PM   #35
Squidmark OP
a.k.a. "The Colonel"
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Joined: Feb 2009
Location: The banks of the mighty Nissitissit River
Oddometer: 285
Day 10

Wednesday, June 16th

The entrance to the "everything is in here" building in Churchill Falls:

Typical housing in Churchill Falls. Reminds of me of the movie Fahrenheit 351,
but the people are happy here, according to Karen. Oddly enough, or perhaps
logically/egalitarian enough, housing is allocated on the basis of how big a
family you have, not on how and mighty your position with the company is.

I had time to pack up leisurely and take these pictures because Dennis had left
his GPS on all night, resulting in a dead battery in the morning. Some kind souls
about to start a work shift at the power house stopped and gave him a jump.
Good thing we were in town and not at a primitive campsite somewhere "out

By the way, I'd like to shout out to a guy named "Bahama John," (AdvRider
moniker) who we met briefly the afternoon before and saw leaving this morning
from the restaurant window. I hope you are enjoying your travels through Canada
and on to Alaska and back on your GS. If you missed a tour of Churchill Falls
(and I think you did), you're a dork.

The "everything is in here" building from a distance. On the left is the
school, on the right the motel, with the restaurant on the upper floor. In
between, the supermarket, the library, the post office (I shot off a quick
postcard to my wife that arrived three days after I got back), the hockey rink,
and probably one or two other amenities I didn't note. When you live in a town
of 700 people in the middle of nowhere, it's nice to have whatever you can get.

We left Churchill Falls and continued heading east:

A couple of miles out of town, I realized I had left a souvenir mug I had bought
at the motel, so I left Dennis by the side of the road, turned around, went back
and got it. When I got back, I waved at Dennis as I passed him and we took off
east again. But ... he didn't:

He'd just momentarily lost his footing and tipped over.

With all the stuff he had strapped to the bike, there wasn't any convenient way
for both of us to grab it to yank it upright, but we managed to do so and went
on our way. He'd scratched up the right side fairing and bags on a previous
dump, so this drop fortunately wasn't particularly painful in the "nice paint"

Seen along the way. Self-explanatory.

Who else lives here?

And there's another one of those damned trucks! (Head for the shoulder! But
don't bury yourself in that loose sand there!)

At a spot about half way across to Happy Valley / Goose Bay, the provincial
authorities had whimsically decided to dump about six inches of fine dry sand
into a 200-yard valley and line it with guard rails as a trap for unwary
motorcyclists. I found it, the hard way.

I had been traveling in the oncoming lane tire track, and I simply didn't
discern the transition from whitish marbley gravel to the deep white sand on the
cut. Someone on AdvRider has the great .sig (paraphrasing) "When in doubt, gas
it. You may not get the results you want, but it will definitely end the
suspense." Brilliant advice, and I've applied it often, but that tactic really
only works for short stretches of weirdness. In this case, if I'd jumped on the
throttle hard, I'm pretty sure I would have simply crashed further on at a
higher speed resulting in worse damage to me and the bike.

So, I knew I was in trouble going in. After rapidly alternating sessions of
heroic man-handling and "let the bike go where it wants to," followed by a final
sickening awareness that the front wheel seemed to have become completely
disconnected from the handlebars, I dumped it. The front wheel went right; the
rest of the bike and I went left. And down, into the sand.

I landed on my chest and face, probably with my left arm folded up beneath me.
I laid there for a while, analyzing my condition, and after some stretching and
poking and prodding, decided that I probably hadn't broken anything (or at least
not anything important), although my ribs hurt under my left breast. My foot was
stuck under the bike. Patiently digging for a couple of minutes freed me, and I
got up to assess the damage.

Eventually, a nice young couple from Newfoundland came by (on their way home
joyfully for a two-week vacation from construction contracting) and he helped me
pick the bike up. I didn't take a picture of the bike while it was down (a
psychological thing, perhaps?) so I can only offer these simulations of the

Before the cut, merrily riding along on the hardpacked gravel:

In the sandy cut:

Here it is after we picked it up. Thankfully, I had not hit the guard rail:

Here's the rut I had made plowing through the sand:

Damage to the bike was limited to the left front turn signal and a piece of the
left-side fairing punched in around it:

But that was OK, since both had been previously damaged in a minor tip-over back
in 2005. "That'll buff out." Well, yes it would, more or less. I gathered up
the broken bits. ABS glue, "close-enough" auto paint, and some elbow grease
with the sander/polisher would cover up my sins when I got back home. After
several tries and waiting sessions between tries, the flooded bike finally
started and I was on my way again.

What was not OK was that my riding partner had disappeared. Dennis was ahead of
me at the time, having passed me when I briefly stopped to take a picture. He'd
made it through the shallower sand on the right side of the road (and had even
wondered, "Gee. I hope Mark made it through that OK," he told me later)
and continued on. When he finally decided that I wasn't catching up with him,
he simply stopped and waited. I found him more than half an hour
after the accident. Now, I was in the lead 99 per cent of the time on this
trip. Whenever Dennis disappeared from my view for more than a couple of
minutes, I turned around and rode back to see what had happened, if anything, to
him. That had already happened at least a dozen times. And here was the one
time on this trip when I had a problem and could have used his help, indeed
expected help from him, and he was off taking a break. I was ripped and I laid
into him about it. To his credit, he understood and apologized and we're still
friends, but take this message to heart: When you're traveling with others,
especially in remote country, look out for them as you would have them look out
for you. Otherwise, you're just isolated individuals who happen to be going in
the same general direction. Maybe you should state this explicitly at the
beginning of a trip, but I don't think you should have to.

Anyway, we rode on to HPGB. The road was marbley and we probably averaged only
35 mph all day. We had a late lunch in a rather desolate turnoff:

Beautiful rivers continued to provide breaks from the nearly continuous spruce
forest. There were so many I couldn't keep track:

About 15 miles from HVGB the road becomes paved again. Shortly after, I found
the side road that goes out to Muskrat Falls. Muskrat Falls is on the Churchill
and the advice I'd gotten was, "Go see it while you still can." The power
company has plans to divert the water here (and at another spot, Gull Lake,
further upstream) into a hydro plant just like they did at Churchill Falls, and
if and when that happens, Muskrat Falls will be no more.

So I took the dirt road out to the falls. Dennis took a look at it and decided
to wait on the paved main road.

When you get out to the end, you get a nice view of a wide spot in the river:

The falls are behind that hill on the right - you can see some turbulance, but
not the falls. A couple of teenagers hanging out there told me you had to hike
about 45 minutes to get to them. That was disappointing. It was getting late
in the day and my ribs told me they wouldn't appreciate hiking right then, so I
bailed and didn't get to see Muskrat Falls. Perhaps on another trip.

I rode back to the main road and found Dennis peering at this:

Hundreds of miles of riding on gravel roads with lots of sharp pointy rocks and
a simple common nail finds him on a smooth paved section. Bad luck.

Fixing it necessitated taking everything off his bike to get to the repair kit
under the seat. And then attempting to use the miracles of modern German
engineering that they provided: Weird figure-8-shaped plugs that hadn't a
snowball's chance in hell of being forced through such a small opening and which
broke when he tried, glue, two CO2 cartridges and the adapter for them. And
then taking everything off my bike to get at my kit so he could try using
a good old-fashioned automotive sticky strip. Just as I finished advising,
"Don't push to hard - you'll push the string all the way through!" he pushed it
too hard and all the way through. So he tried a second string and that seemed to
hold. The CO2 cartridges went "Pffffft!" and nothing else (I have yet to see
these work, ever), so he got out the little compressor he'd bought before he
left but hadn't tried out and sure enough, the power connector was incompatible
with the accessory socket on the bike or something. So we got out mine, clipped
it to his battery terminals and filled the tire successfully with air. All in
all, we successfully completed the 10-minute job in less than an hour and a

Back on the road, we passed the turn-off for the new road south and came into
HPGB late in the day. The obligatory sign picture:

A couple of miles later, we came to the main drag (520) between Goose Bay and
Happy Valley, arbitrarily turned left toward Goose and got some gas. When
Dennis asked the kid in the store about campgrounds, the kid said, "There aren't
any." OK, well ... A guy out excersizing his wife's misfiring Japanese cruiser
pulled up and after he'd gotten gas and paid, I hit him up for advice. He had
just moved there recently, but suggested we check out a B&B. He said they were
cheap relative to motels there. Who knew? - that certainly isn't the case in
New England. So we cruised up and down 520 through the Goose Bay end of town
and stopped at this place:

which turned out to be a great find. Most of the first floor was the B&B. The
owners, Gord and Hanna, live upstairs. They had five bedrooms ... and we were
the only guests that night. $65 for the two of us and all ours. Really
roughing it, eh?

Gord told us he couldn't get us breakfast since we were walk-ins and he hadn't
had a chance to arrange for someone to cook for us, but we were welcome to take
whatever we could find in the fridge and he brought us some fresh bread to
boot. "No problemo!" we said. "Can we make dinner here too?" "Sure," he said.

Dennis wasn't real happy during cocktail hour, suffering from a chronic bloody
nose that was acting up in the dry air:

but as we made dinner, partly from their supplies:

and the fluid level in the wine bottle dropped, he cheered up:

Gord's and Hanna's gorgeous fat talkative friendly cat (whose name escapes me)
kept us company:

We were pretty bushed by the end of the day and slept about nine hours that night.

204 miles today.

More to come.
Back Roads. Period.
6/10 Labrador Trip Report:
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Old 07-10-2010, 02:59 PM   #36
Squidmark OP
a.k.a. "The Colonel"
Squidmark's Avatar
Joined: Feb 2009
Location: The banks of the mighty Nissitissit River
Oddometer: 285
Day 11

Thursday, June 17th

Dennis made us bacon and eggs and toast for breakfast and I cleaned up. Gord
showed up to get paid and go off to work in a Canadian Army uniform (he was in
the reserves). He told us where the spare key was hidden if we accidently locked
ourselves out and had to get back in. I thought that was charming.

It was ominously overcast and the Air Force was dropping bombs on the neighbors:

(OK, it was only a group of old trainers coming in for a landing.)

But it began to clear up:

We rode into Happy Valley to get gas and groceries. I watched Dennis sail right
by the supermarket and go off for an unexpected 20-minute tour of Happy Valley.
He eventually showed up but the comedy of errors continued as we left town
heading back on 500 toward the 520S turnoff. We missed it. Entirely. The only
side road of any size anywhere for miles, with huge signs, and neither of us saw
it. I think I was looking at a big sign on the right at the time, and Dennis
was probably watching me, and we just missed it. We rode another 7-8 miles
until we came to the turnoff for Muskrat Falls before it registered.
Consequently, we had to go all the way into Goose Bay to top up again, since the
next section was the longest stretch between gas stops on the trip.

I mean really, how could we have missed this:

The road wasn't too bad at all, at first:

The new(?) permanent bridge across the Churchill:

The river is pretty wide at this point:

The obligatory once-a-trip over-the-shoulder shot:

(Hey, I took it, I'm gonna use it.)

I wish I had written down the names of some of these rivers. This one shot down
that gorge in the back and there was a smaller one feeding into it from a
waterfall on the right. It was a beautiful scene.

And we were still up there in altitude:

But enough of that touchy-feely nature crap. Let's go right on to ...

Doo-doo-Doo-doo. Doo-doo-Doo-doo. (That's the Twilight Zone theme.)


There were two of these temporary bridges toward the HVGB end:

The approaches and wooden bridge surfaces would have been really snotty-slithery
if it had been raining, but at the time, it was dry and they didn't require any
serious effort to get down, across, and up.

The road surface continued to be fine until here:

"Ha! We laugh at signs like that!" said Macho Mark and Macho Dennis!

Well, we didn't laugh for long.

(That's nice gooey mud up there on the left.)

We came across someone's idea of a joke:

Yeah, right. We spent the next three hours going 15 kilometers.

And that was an easy bit since it was short and trucks had at least
pounded the big rocks into the ground a little.

But there were stretches like this:

and this:

and this:

That last doesn't look so bad, does it? And it wasn't, as long as you stayed in
the truck tire ruts and ruts from other equipment didn't cross back and forth
over them too much. But several similar sections were fresh - those all still
had a layer of soft deep sand that hadn't been packed down yet. And those were
the worst to pass through as far as I was concerned.

Dennis didn't make it through one rocky section entirely upright:

Another shot that better shows what he was working his way through when he went down:

In fact, Dennis fell in another, tougher, rocky section a bit further on.

And again in another bad rocky section after that.

Yes. He managed to have three crashes in about a 5 kilometer stretch.

On one of them, he landed pretty hard and banged up the ribs on his back right
side. He also cracked his helmet - he'll probably have to replace it when we
get home, but better that than his head - and thinks he may have even been
knocked out for a moment.

I don't have any pictures of his last two get-offs, but they would look a lot
like the pictures above. This grader operator helped us pick up his bike after
one of them:

Passers-by helped with the other rightings. Good thing, too, because two of us
alone couldn't do it because of the buried-under-stuff hand holds and Dennis's
sore ribs.

This was one of those times in life when you have to either go back or go
forward. You can't sit in the middle of nowhere forever. Fish or cut bait, yada
yada. Dennis sucked it up and plowed his way through to where the road got
better again. We were encouraged by workmen who said, "It gets better further
on!" (although I was muttering, "Thanks, buddy. Where? Blanc Sablon?" each time
I heard it.)

I made it through all the rough parts without falling, but it was a lot of work.
On the rocks, I rode the ZX6 like it was a trials bike, in gear at just above
stalling speed, on the pegs and wishing I had wider handlebars. In the deep
sand, I just gave up and paddled my way through, slipping the clutch and using
my legs as outriggers. The rocks ripped a section of my bottom fairing off and
bent the support bracket for it back 180 degrees. They also whacked the exhaust
header hard enough to misalign it and caused a crack or a leak somewhere in the
4-into-1-into-2 system. It isn't obvious where, but for the rest of the trip,
the bike sounded like Ricky Squidboy rather than it's usual quiet self.

Data for TLH trip planners: The construction zone was about 50 kilometers long.
The ends were further along toward completion than the middle. The outer 10
kilometers at each end were just rougher versions of the "standard"
Trans-Labrador road surface we'd been traveling on all along, with few
construction vehicles - maybe a little more golf-ball-y and looser. The
next-most 10 kilometers were under active construction but in the later phases,
so they were alternately packed-down medium-sized rocks and dirt and the
occasionally un-graded crud. The middle 10 kilometers were where the raw giant
rocks and deep loose sand were, with occasional loose muddy dirt and ruts from
quite a few active construction vehicles.

Some good news: I will bet you that even as I type this, only three weeks later,
the condition of the road is already much better. They were goin' at it with
lots of men and equipment and I would guess that the awful parts we went through
are now merely bad, and the merely bad parts are finished or nearly so. So
don't let this report discourage you from taking the Trans-Lab!

(Having said that, I should also tell you that no less than 3 construction guys
we talked to while we were fighting our way through the worst of it told us,
unsolicited, that the road should not have been opened in the first place.)

The photo that I used in the intro that defined this part of the trip:

The rest of the ride off the Labrador plateau was easy. A bit loose in some
stretches, but a relief to ride on after the construction zone:

I was in the drone zone, generally riding in the tire tracks on the on-coming
traffic side, which for some reason were generally freer of loose junk. A
couple of pickup trucks in a hurry passed me on the right, which was a bit

Eventually, we came to Cartwright Junction, which is nothing more than the spot
where the new part of the Trans-Lab hits the road connecting Cartwright (80 km
or so to the north) and Blanc-Sablon, Quebec.

Looking back toward where we had come from:

and toward where we were headed:

Saw a large bear, but despite his size, he was pretty quick getting off the road
and out of the picture. Maybe he was just camera-shy:

The obligatory once-a-trip late-afternoon artsy shadow-of-your-bike shot:

With great relief, we came to the bridge just before Port Simpson:

where that precious commodity, gasoline, was available at long last.

OK, that was overly dramatic. In fact, my bike made it there on one tank. I
didn't have to use any of the spare six liters I had brought with me at all.
259 miles were on the trip odometer I use as a gas gauge. Dennis, with his huge gas tank, was unimpressed.

Being late in the day, and feeling beat up, and after discovering we'd lost another half
hour because somewhere along the way we had wandered into the Newfoundland time
zone, we gave up on the idea of camping for the fourth day in a row and found
Campbell's Place B&B to crash:

It was late enough that the restaurant across the street:

had closed, and a phone call to the only other restaurant in town went
unanswered, so in conversation with the B&B's owner, we noted that his sign said
Campbell's Place B&B and Cafe and a light bulb came on over his head. He
said, "You know, I could make you some sandwiches. And I have a little soup
left over from lunch. Would you like that?" Whereupon we gave each other a
"DUH!" look and said, "Sure!" Shortly after, we scarfed down sandwiches made on
thick homemade bread and downed big bowls of his excellent chicken noodle soup
and even polished off some leftover spaghetti from the night before that we'd
brought along, washing it all down with the usual red wine and crappy expensive
Canadian beer. By then it was 11:00 p.m.. It was still light outside, but we
were gone, crashed, burned, sayonara, snore-city, dead to the world long before
darkness descended completely.

We did about 295 miles total today. That's an estimate because I failed to note my
odometer reading, as I usually did, due to a mishap the next morning.

More to come.
Back Roads. Period.
6/10 Labrador Trip Report:

Squidmark screwed with this post 07-13-2010 at 06:35 AM
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Old 07-10-2010, 03:47 PM   #37
East Coast Rider
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Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Stuck somewhere in motorcycle Purgatory
Oddometer: 4,031
Originally Posted by Squidmark

In the sandy cut:

Squid, sorry you binned it...but this is a hilarious graphic representation! I am glad you are able to look back at it with a sense of humor. A buddy and I (along with his son) are planning this same trip on a trio of KLR650's next summer....looking forward to more!

just added this thread to my favorites due to all the rgeat pics and info
Txt msg with Dan right after he was paralyzed:
Me: Hey Dan-O. Just wanted to say howdy and Love ya!
Dan: Howdy and Love you too. Doin' good and feeling good.
Me: Give 'em hell, little Bro!
Dan: Roger that.

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Old 07-10-2010, 05:31 PM   #38
Squidmark OP
a.k.a. "The Colonel"
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Joined: Feb 2009
Location: The banks of the mighty Nissitissit River
Oddometer: 285
Day 12

Friday, June 18th

There were a few other people staying at Campbell's that night and we saw them
all in the morning at breakfast as Cyril (Campbell) made us bacon and eggs and
toast from his delicious homemade bread. We chatted with a couple coming up
from the south in a car. They had planned to drive up to Cartwright and take
the (M.V. Bond) ferry from there to Happy Valley / Goose Bay, but discovered that
the boat wasn't going to be running until several days later and were thus
"doomed" to take the new road. They were naturally interested in what we had to
say about it. Without dramatizing our adventures too much, we told them they'd
probably do OK if they took it really slow in the worst parts. We, on the other
hand, were interested in the condition of the road south. They said, "It's OK,
but there are lots of pot-holes. Lots!"

Pot-holes? Shoot. What do a couple of nervous cage drivers know?

It was cloudy and gray and cold and drizzly as we packed up:

Dupe of previous pic there, because ...

Dennis pushed on something the wrong way and knocked his bike over.

Which fell into mine, knocking it over too.

(Fortunately, mine missed that car parked next to me.)

I walked off to gaze at the bay and imagine Dennis's head flying off as my
samurai sword severed it from his body for a minute or so, then calmly went back
to help right the bikes and finish packing. (I wasn't calmed down enough to
take a picture or note the odometer reading, though.)

The drizzle turned into rain and the rain was cold - the thermometer on my tank
bag read 32.001 degrees F. The land turned into gentle rocky hills, with bare
tops at times. Here are three threads of the Mumblefratz River gathering
together to flow into a giant culvert under the road, and what it looks like
when it continues on:

You can stop at all the little fishing villages along the way:

but today wasn't the best of day to play tourist.

One of the complaints about the Labrador Coastal Road is that it was built too
near the coast. Cuts through the hills clog with snow from coastal storms during
the winter, requiring frequent plowing and making travel difficult. Even in
mid-June there are vestiges of the problem:

In the winter, folks take their snow machines and sleds off into the back
country to harvest wood and bring it back to the road so they can cart it home
with the truck, eh? They leave the snowmobiles and sleds right there for the

And, oh yes indeed, there were potholes. One minute you'd be tooling along at a
nice clip, even though it was raining and the surface was a bit slick, and the
next minute you'd find yourself in a minefield:

It was like an arcade game.

[Smoooooooth sailing]
[Swerve, swerve, swerve, BAM!] (Nuts!)
[Swerve, swerve, swerve, swerve, swerve ...] (Gettin' good at this!)
[Swerve, BAM!, BAM!, BAM!, BAAMMM!!] (Damn!!)

[All your gear falls off - you LOSE!]

OK, that last didn't happen, but more than once I wondered if everything was still there.

Regularly hitting pothole minefields became pretty tedious after a while. The cold and
wet didn't make the experience any more enjoyable.

We stopped at Red Bay, not to play tourist, although it's an interesting
historical site (Basque fishermen settled here a zillion years ago):

but because we could warm up and use the bathroom at the visitors center and get
ready for the final run to Blanc-Sablon on ...


Yes, from here on down, the road was paved.

The only dirt road I hit from Red Bay down was a side excursion to see the
lighthouse at Pointe Amour, sans Dennis:

I couldn't pass that up simply because of its name. My wife gave me a
big smooch when I showed her the pictures of it.

We passed back into Quebec and arrived in Blanc-Sablon much earlier than we
needed to be, got some goodies for the boat ride at the local market, and had
lunch at a tiny spot right where the road to the dock meets the main drag (now
Quebec 138):

There wasn't a whole lot on the menu, but when the owner said she had made
herself some cod cakes that morning and was willing to sell us some for lunch,
we jumped at it:

and damned good they were, too. I even managed to weasle the secret recipe out
of her, which of course I won't share with you out of professional courtesy.

(Aside: I guess I was expecting everyone to suddenly be speaking French when we
got back into Quebec, but everyone we talked to spoke English. Turns out the
area is more closely culturally associated with Labrador, which makes sense
given its proximity to Labrador and isolation from the rest of Quebec. In fact,
Quebec and Newfoundland/Labrador have been feuding over ownership of the area
for a long time. Google "Quebec Labrador border" some time and check it out.)

We had hours to kill, especially since we were back on Eastern time, which
netted us a full hour and a half of time-zone change time that day, and I was
quite happy about it. Wandered into Lourdes-de-Blanc-Sablon to the south,
filled up on gas, shopped for souvenirs, took photos, etc. Look! An iceberg!

As the instructions we'd gotten from Relai Nordik directed us to, we showed up
at the dock at 3:00 p.m. to check in. And got told to bring our bikes out on
the dock at 8:00 or 8:30 or whenever it looked like they had gotten most of the
unloading done and looked like they would be ready to start loading new cargo.
So, we had lots of time to kill.

The ferry from Newfoundland came in:

loaded up, and left again:

I happened to be parked up the hill by the ferry terminal when the boat arrived,
and most people coming off waved at me. Trucks, cars, and even a couple of
loaded-up adventure-style bikes. If you were one of them, drop me a line and
let us know how the rest of your trip went.

It rained on and off again and finally quit for good around dusk. Dennis went
off to do a little shopping and managed to leave his VISA card somewhere.
Trying to figure out where and what to do about it occupied lots of his time
while I spent a bunch of it sitting in the waiting room reading, chatting with a
German kid bicycling his way around Canada, and going outside to look for whales
and dolphins (didn't see any) and the arrival of the Relai Nordik.

We had dinner at the cafe in the ferry terminal building, up the hill on the right here:


The arrival of the Relai Nordik:

The front half carries the people and the back half carries the cargo.
Practically everything is in containers and it has its own crane to load and
unload them. And its very own crew that travels with the ship to help.

For the next four hours, that's what they did: loaded and unloaded containers.

This is a working ship. It delivers needed stuff to all the little towns along
the north shore where there aren't any roads, and it delivers stuff those little
towns produce, mainly (frozen) fish and seafood, back to the "civilized world."
Everything is packaged into standard shipping containers and if something isn't
already in one, like cars and motorcycles and odd equipment, it's rolled into
containers at the docks and loaded. The seafood containers have built-in
freezer systems which get plugged into ship's power after they're loaded.

While they were unloading, we went aboard, checked with the purser, and found
our economy-class room deep in the bowels of the ship:

Cozy, eh?

Eventually, they brought an empty container out and had us ride our bikes in:

where cheerful Jacque here strapped them down securely:

After another long wait, they finally loaded it:

(Aside: I thought that big yellow thing was pretty cool and an elegant design
for the job of loading and unloading containers. Each time the crane dropped it
on a container, those paddle-like things hanging down would bang against the
sides until the cradle aligned itself with the top of the container. When the
cradle was lowered, that lever arm in the middle would go down and when the
cable started pulling up again, the lever arm would rotate a cam that locked the
cradle to the container at the corners. The crane would then lift the
container, move it, and set it down. The lever would go back down and up again
as the crane operator lowered and then raised the cable, rotating the cam and
this time unlocking the cradle from the corner connectors. So, grab and lock,
set down and unlock, look ma, no hands! If they got out of sync for some
reason, all the operator had to do was lower and raise the cable again.)

By the time they were ready to depart, it was past midnight.

We flipped a coin and I got the top bunk:

I should have put my earplugs in, because the ship's engines made noise,
expecially when manuevering into a docking space, the crane made noise as they
loaded and unloaded cargo from the two stops they made in the middle of the
night, the containers made noise as they banged against each other during
loading, and the three roomies we picked up at 4:00 a.m. (mom, teenaged son,
and a little girl) made noise as they jammed themselves into our cozy little
cabin. So I didn't sleep all that well.

Dennis can sleep soundly anywhere.

Only about 174 miles today. (And most of it in lovely freezing rain.)

More to come.
Back Roads. Period.
6/10 Labrador Trip Report:
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Old 07-10-2010, 05:55 PM   #39
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Joined: Apr 2004
Oddometer: 589
Nice ride! Great pics, sure you were not in some 3rd world country?
Thanks for sharing.
You helped me stay inside glued to the computer, since it is 110'ish outside.
Finish up the report when you have a chance
LC4 Rider
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Old 07-10-2010, 07:52 PM   #40
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Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Kitchener - the one in Canada
Oddometer: 323
Love your report

We're headed out there in late August... Love your report. Keep it coming. I tried to get on the Relais Nordique back in May and they were already sold out so we're going out to Natashquan before backtracking to Baie Comeau to start the TLH. Then off to the Rock. Looking forward to reading your impressions of the Natahsquan -Baie Comeau leg.
"I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list."
'15 Ducati Multistrada 1200ST, '14 KTM 1190R, '10 KTM 530EXC
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Old 07-11-2010, 06:08 AM   #41
Squidmark OP
a.k.a. "The Colonel"
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Joined: Feb 2009
Location: The banks of the mighty Nissitissit River
Oddometer: 285
Day 13

Saturday, June 19th

Dennis jolted me awake to make sure I was up before breakfast was over, and a
good thing he did, too, otherwise I might have missed it:

That's a chunk of pate there - how French, eh?

This was a pleasant surprise. I guessed from all the industrial hubbub and the
rather stark accommodations that meals would be pretty basic, too, but they were
all great!

It was a gorgeous day for a cruise, cool and windy but clear. Having stopped
overnight at Vieux Fort and St.-Augustine-Saguenay, we continued upstream to La

(I just liked the boat transporter there.)

Had lunch (carrot soup, white fish in a white wine cream sauce with
accompaniments, a yummy raspberry cake roll for dessert):

Stopped at Tete-a-la-Baleine (Whale's Head), got off and walked around:

You can see that this isn't particularly hospitable land. There are few trees,
lots of islands, and it's probably windy and cold most of the time. It reminded
me of the Maine coast, but even more desolate.

Dennis didn't join me on this walk because he was hurting. Whatever he had done
to himself when he crashed had developed into randomly occuring and very painful
muscle spasms in his back. Whenever one hit, he would be incapacitated with
pain for a few seconds. It was distressing enough that we sought out some
medical care at the next stop, Harrington Harbor:

The purser called the local nurse and we met her at the clinic in the grey
blocky "everything-is-here" building up the hill. There wasn't a whole lot she
could do, but after feeling around a bit, said he probably hadn't damaged
anything too severely but that if he wanted to, there was a larger clinic in
Natashquan that could X-ray him. He was somewhat cheered by her answers:

We came back and had dinner in the dining room while still in port:

Dinner include a yummy smoked salmon salad,

and a slighty curried fruit-de-mer casserole main course that was outstanding:

I do not remember what dessert was, but have no doubts it was delicious.

Some passengers:

The little girl that was one of our roomies, shown here on the top deck. Mom
spoke not a single word to us, teenaged son grunted once that I remember, but
the little girl was all over the place chattering away until you said something
to her. Then she got shy and clammed up.

Animals were not allowed inside, so poor Fido here spent his trip in a cage on
deck. Smaller pets were in those locker things behind him.

Michael, the young German finishing up his bicycle trip around eastern Canada, behind me:

With my earplugs in, I got some solid sleep as we chugged further up the Saint
Lawrence that night

0 motorcycle miles today.

More to come.
Back Roads. Period.
6/10 Labrador Trip Report:

Squidmark screwed with this post 07-13-2010 at 02:26 PM
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Old 07-11-2010, 07:39 AM   #42
get in or go in
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Location: GB-Wisconsin
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looks good, thanks for the update..heading there soon
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Old 07-11-2010, 08:46 AM   #43
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Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Team Canoodia
Oddometer: 6,699
Thumb This is just...

An Awesome Report!

As someone who travels every year with a friend, I can understand those moments when you want to cleave the other's head from his shoulders with a Samurai Sword! My Dennis is named Larry...and on our annual trip this year, he only made me made mad enough to want to kill him one day. That's when I left him 60 miles behind me until I pulled the pine cone from my ass.

And then apologized.

Waiting for the next installment...

Originally Posted by Mr_Gone View Post
C-Stain is wise.
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Old 07-11-2010, 09:35 AM   #44
Squidmark OP
a.k.a. "The Colonel"
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Joined: Feb 2009
Location: The banks of the mighty Nissitissit River
Oddometer: 285
Day 14

Sunday, June 20th

It had rained overnight and into the early morning

but it had stopped by 8:30 as we got further west.

We arrived in Natashquan and disembarked along with a zillion other people, many
of which were Innu that the ship had picked up at the two overnight stops. Few
of them apparently had cabins - there were people sprawled out in rows of chairs
all over the ship that morning.

We stood around watching the hustle and bustle and admiring the fishing boats:

until they drilled down far enough to pull our bikes out:

then packed up our overnight stuff and said good-bye to Michael and other random
people we'd talked with:

Dennis still wasn't feeling great. In fact, we queried the purser about the
possibility of him staying on the boat all the way to Rimouski so he'd have more
time to heal up. There was room for him but the purser made it sound
like a major pain in the ass to juggle the cargo around to take on an
unanticipated extra container, so he decided to forge ahead and leave Natashquan
with me.

That turned out to be a good choice. For one thing (I realized only later), he
might have had to foot the bill for an entire container if he had stayed. And
then, while planning the trip, I had somehow gotten the idea that the first part
of the road west from Natashquan was gravel - and Dennis had had enough of bumpy
dirt roads at that point. But it turned out to be paved and quite smooth. And
it was a lot warmer than we had experienced recently, making for particularly
pleasant riding.

And another bright note: Dennis found the credit card he had lost - in
the pocket of some clothing he'd checked twice before - but he found
it none-the-less, which was a relief.

We headed for Havre-St.-Pierre.

The Aquinish River was particularly pretty:

In "downtown" Havre-St.-Pierre, we found the Mingan Islands Archipelago National
Park headquarters and hoped to get a tour of the islands. We chatted with the
lovely young sort-of-English-speaking Parks woman manning the desk and found out
that the tour that best fit our schedule and interests (the odd rock formations
on some of the islands) wasn't running due to boat problems. We went into the
hall and jabbered in pseudo-French at people manning each of the three boat tour
booths anyway (including one cheerful old guy whose idea of trying to improving
communication with us was to simple jabber more voluminous French at us, whether
or not we had gotten the last round of it. We concluded that we were probably
not going to get to visit the islands unless we stayed over another whole day,
and the fact the the tours were all only given in French and cost $52 per
person kind of finished off the idea. Maybe on another trip.

We got directed to Restaurant a la Promenade, a seafood place which was a
five-minute walk down the street, and had a tasty but overpriced Pizza Fruit
de Mer Blanc
for lunch:

Here is the restaurant, taken while our waitress was returning the VISA card
Dennis had left inside:

So this is as close as we got to the Mingan Islands:

Continuing on toward Sept-Iles, we enjoyed the views and the various
watercourses we crossed. Don't ask me what this river emptying out into the bay
is (we were getting a little scenery-saturated after a while), but we liked it
because the island looked like the continent of Africa.

This waterfall (don't ask me where this is either) was spectacular:

We didn't see many campgrounds or signs for them. We got to Sept-Iles, which
was bigger than I had thought, and a lot industrially uglier than I expected,
and got groceries. Dennis's GPS told him there was a campground 15 km south of
Sept-Iles, but if so, we never saw it, and we rode about 50 km to Port Cartier
before finding Camping La Paradise Plein Air, another campground that initially
appeared to be all motor homes, but which had great facilities and a nice quiet
area in the back for tenting:

Another fashionably late meal at the campsite. Appetizers:

and a dinner, a "snobby greens" salad and chipotle Rice-A-Roni with canned turkey stirred in:

276 miles today.

More to come.
Back Roads. Period.
6/10 Labrador Trip Report:

Squidmark screwed with this post 07-13-2010 at 02:28 PM
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Old 07-11-2010, 09:50 AM   #45
Squidmark OP
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Joined: Feb 2009
Location: The banks of the mighty Nissitissit River
Oddometer: 285
Day 15

Monday, June 21st.

There was a pleasant roaring noise at the campground that came from the
Rivier aux Roches, invisible behind some forest between it and the
campground. We left the campground and turned left, and left, and left
again, and came to what was making all the noise:

If you look real hard at the last photo, you'll see a guy fishing. Turns out a
large number of rivers are Riviers au Saumon and Quebec takes managing
them seriously. We spoke wih a woman who's son was there fishing. You can only
fish on a few designated spots on the river and he had had to reserved a slot
for this day way back in January.

(But, mmmmm, I'll bet it's good!)

Salmon, salmon, salmon, even in the parking lot:

We stopped at Pointe-aux-Anglais's Halte Municipal for a pee break and a
walk along the lovely beach there:

Surprisingly, the water didn't seem very cold, although there was no one else on
the beach or in the water.

Wonder who made this?

As you enter the vicinity of Baie Comeau, you pass this ginormous Alcoa Aluminum plant:

which goes on and on past where that picture was taken.

We stopped for lunch on the far side of Baie Comeau where there was a picnic
table and a nice view of the river and Pointe-aux-Outardes peninsula:

Somewhere after Forrestville, this catches your eye (and has no doubt been
photographed by every traveling motorcyclist who has ever been by it - I'm sure I've
seen it in AdvRider):

And if that's not weird enough for you, the same "artist" had these sitting nearby:

If you pull into his/her driveway, you get to see their backyard:

I wondered how I could get one of those home with on the bike, and what my wife
would think of it, and decided not to buy one.

When I pulled the U-turn to go back and take those pictures, I first
deliberately stopped in a parking lot right next to the road, perpendicular to
it, with nothing else around, where Dennis couldn't possibly not see me, so he'd
know that I had stopped to take a picture.

He sailed right by, oblivious.

When he didn't see me and didn't see me and didn't see me, he figured it out and
went ahead to the ferry at Tadoussac 20 miles away to wait for me, which is
where I found him.

The Saguenay River is pretty big and they were rotating three ferry boats
between the two terminals in a big circle, a sort of ballet by elephants. BTW,
this ferry is free.

On our boat:

And a look at the other two:

Interestingly enough, all three boats were different.

The dock on the far (south) side:

and a look back as you climb the hill away from the river:

It was getting late in the day, so it was time to go hunt up another campground
and that took awhile. Finally, I saw a campground sign as were entering La
Malbaie. 3 kilometers off 138, we found Camping des Chutes Frazier. After some
jabbering at the gate (I though they wanted us to park there and
walk, we figured out that they just wanted us to check in, which we did,
got a map showing an ominously large motorhome-oriented campground, but went
where they told us to and found a pleasant tenting only area with a nice spot
next to a small river:

where, after our usual crackers/cheese(s)/pate/bread appetizer, we pigged out on
a most excellent dinner of red clam sauce over spaghetti with fully half a bag
of lettuce each for salad (we were generally keen on eating green stuff as much
as possible - hard to do when camping):

292 miles today.

More to come, but not a whole lot.
Back Roads. Period.
6/10 Labrador Trip Report:
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