|06-12-2011, 09:42 AM||#1|
De Oppresso Liber
Joined: Jun 2006
Location: central Maryland
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada from Maryland
SOLO ADVENTURE FROM
MARYLAND TO LABRADOR, NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR, CANADA
I wanted to make this ride in 2009 but the remnants of a hurricane were due to arrive at Newfoundland when I was scheduled to cross the Cabot Strait and I was not about to sit on a dock and waste my leave so I canceled my reservations and went to Florida instead.
Planning was initiated again this Spring and everything lined up just right for this big adventure. My previous long distance adventures included Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and Death Valley, California. Canada always treated me very well, the people were friendly and not afraid to approach a stranger and ask how the trip was going so I decided it was time for an adventure to Labrador. Finally, this would still be a major adventure for a person holding down a regular full-time job and has major family responsibilities.
The Island portion of Newfoundland is about the same square mileage of Ohio so it is not a small island. When combined with the “Big Land” (locals refer to the Labrador portion as the “Big Land” and the island portion as “the Rock”) Newfoundland and Labrador are about the size of California, the third largest US state.
On June 1st I packed and repacked the bike and luggage. I finally got it figured out as best as I could hope for. I included a -20F sleeping bag and a 1 person tent for unplanned overnight camping, bear spray, cold weather riding clothes, maintenance and repair equipment, and a big fat BMW Motorcycles suitcase which would serve as lumbar support for the long hauls.
On Thursday, June 2, 2011 I loaded the “mistress” (better known as my 2005 BMW R1150GS Adventure Bike) and we made time headed up Interstate 95. I hade never been to Connecticut, Rhode Island or Maine so I would “bag” three new states for me. In addition, I had never ridden my motorcycle in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, or New Hampshire so I would add some new states for the bike too. ☺ I made great time until I reached Philadelphia. Things moved very well on the New Jersey Turnpike but slowed to a near stand still at the George Washington Bridge in New York. Riding by New York City was a chore but seeing the Manhattan skyline was pretty neat. By the evening of June 2nd I was worn out and I rested over night (RON) in Portland, Maine. The temperature dropped markedly around the Maine border with New Hampshire and things were getting chilly now. I even activated my motorcycle headed grips late this day!: I had an offer of free lodging a bit farther north in Maine but I just could not safely push that much farter north that day. Google Maps shows the distance the way I rode (through Rhode Island) to be 534 miles.
On Friday, June 3rd I installed the liner in my riding suit for extra warmth. Then I got moving and finally entered Canada through the Calais Port Of Entry. Canadian Border Services asked me if I had any guns and I replied “No.” I always feel naked without a gun in the USA. I told him I had bear spray but unlike the CBSA officer in Alberta he did not make me show it to him. He was very friendly and we chatted about my travels in Canada. He told me that some woman was killed by a pack of coyotes while hiking in Nova Scotia some time ago. I was VERY surprised to hear about that. Anyway, my passport made entry very easy. I was now in New Brunswick for the first time. It is roughly the size of West Virginia. It was nice to note the GPS automatically advanced the clock an hour to be on Atlantic Time. I was amazed at the frequency of French spoken there as I thought that was mostly found in Quebec. None-the-less, people did compliment my bike in English which was good for me because my French was limited to 2 years in high school plus some extremely limited French in Paris, Chamonix and Normandy, France. Not long after entering Canada the weather turned “maritime” and things got very overcast with fog and drizzle. I pushed on as far as New Glasgow, Nova Scotia before I had to pull over for the night. Nova Scotia is also roughly the size of West Virginia. Google Maps shows the distance traveled today to be 586 miles.
On Saturday, June 4th I arrived at the North Sydney Nova Scotia Marine Atlantic Ferry terminal and got a ticket to board. I had no reservations so I was a little nervous about getting on the ferry. It was a very easy process and the salesman was very friendly. My passport came in handy for identification there too. After a solid 2 hour wait I loaded the bike and secured it to the deck. The crew offered assistance but insisted that I know I was the only one liable if the bike fell. I had no problem with that and the bike was “anchored” in place. I had never been on a big ship like that that actually moved so I was like a kid on a new adventure. I walked all over inside and outside as I could. I was concerned about getting seasick but the water was surprisingly calm. I could feel the ship rocking but it was very tolerable. I decided to get a cabin so I could strip down and try to get in a nap but first I got brave and ordered a meal of cod wrapped in bacon. Afterwards went back to my cabin and watched television on the Newfoundland Channel which was showing MacArthur and Tuskegee Airmen. I frequently looked out the window and remained disappointed at seeing only fog. We crossed the Cabot Strait in about 6 hours and finally landed at Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador. I hurriedly found the Welcome to Newfoundland and Labrador sign and got the bike’s photo in front of it. I was surprised to notice my GPS automatically advanced 30 minutes to be on Newfoundland time! It was overcast and foggy and not long until dusk so I went to the St Christopher Hotel and bedded down for the night. It was an old hotel and I could detect traces of cigarette smoke from years gone by but I was glad to have a room because once again, I had zero reservations for anything on this trip. Google Maps shows the distance to be 156 miles of riding and I am not including the ferry portion. This turned out to be my shortest full day of travel on this trip but the 6 hour ferry ride, plus the two hours of waiting to board the ferry contributed greatly to this low mileage day. Never-the-less, it was still fun and adventurous which is FAR more important than making mileage in my opinion!
On Sunday, June 5th, I made my way north through some high wind areas toward the Northern Peninsula through the Gros Morne National Park. It was a long and hard push, especially having to watch for “moose on the loose.” Gros Morne National Park had some scenic glacially sculpted terrain but I didn’t spare much time to enjoy it due to my ferry time requirement and ever watching for “moose on the loose.” I was impressed with the plethora of roadside gardens and lobster traps on the side of the road north of Gros Morne National Park. Ultimately I made it to the St. Barbe – Blanc-Sablon Ferry on time. I was there with a solid two hours to spare and got my ticket. While waiting to board a German on a F800GS pulled up and I initiated the conversations. He was from Frankfurt, Germany and on 3 months holiday. He was going to ride the Trans Labrador Highway solo, making about 500 kilometers per day. I was making about 500 miles a day, but was not taking on anything as arduous as the Trans Labrador Highway solo. Besides, I only had 2 weeks of leave to do my trip in and in my opinion I am not “mechanically” up to a trip like his solo. We crossed the Strait of Belle Isle in under 2 hours and landed at Blanc-Sablon, Quebec. After a quick photo of the welcome to Quebec sign I made my way a few miles down the road to the welcome to Labrador sign, which is called the “Big Land.” I got my ultimate objective “trophy photos” and moved on to the Northern Lights Inn for the night. I went upstairs to change clothes and realized it was 20:58 and the restaurant closed at 21:00 so I made straight for the dining room. The server was not particularly pleased but I thanked her for staying open and I ordered some bay scallops. Google Maps shows the distance to be 364 miles of riding this day (does not include the ferry)
On Monday, June 6th I made my way back to Blanc-Sablon, Quebec with a quick detour to the Labrador War memorial. At Blanc-Sablon I waited in line for 2 hours to get a ferry ticket back to Newfoundland. I was getting a little worried there but I was able to squeeze on with little time to spare. I got across the channel in more fog and unloaded at St Barbe, Newfoundland. I took a lot more photos now that my primary objective was accomplished so I enjoyed the scenery a lot more. I had a salmon lunch at Cow Head and enjoyed a “tiny” wilderness museum in Rocky Harbor. When I got to a scenic overlook I pulled over in the park and simply laid down in the grass for 30 minutes due to exhaustion and a full stomach. I got up and pushed on to the main intersection…..and had to decide, head back to Nova Scotia or make a serious side trip to St. John’s, the capital. I decided on the latter and I pushed on east and finally bedded down at Gander, Newfoundland. I got the absolute last room at the Comfort Inn. ☺ Google Maps shows the distance to be 376 miles, not including the ferry ride.
On Tuesday, June 7th I pushed on for St. John’s. Almost immediately after leaving town I saw signs to the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division “Silent Memorial” but never saw anything more about it so I pushed on and the farther east I went the worse the weather became. Once I reached St. John’s the weather outright “sucked” and I was in dense fog and moderate rain to modest drizzle, depending upon the particular minute. Reading the GPS was challenging with the water droplets hitting it non-stop and my face shield fogging. Navigating and riding in city traffic like that is no easy task. I made my way to Signal Hill’s Visitor’s Center and discovered it is closed on Mondays and TUESDAYS! I rode up the hill took a photo of the mini castle in the dense fog and went back into downtown St. John’s. It looked like a pretty fun small city to party in but I could not get a hotel where I wanted prior to getting to St. John’s so I made my way back to Gander. This time I made an effort to find the 101st Airborne “Silent Memorial” and finally did so. It is about 400 meters down a dirt road near a gun club range. I paid my respects and returned to Gander. That was a long tough day in genuine “maritime” conditions. Google Maps shows this to be 413 miles of riding. Considering the weather and local riding within the St. John’s area is was a lot tougher that it reads.
On Wednesday, June 8th I finally added about 1/3rd of a quart of oil to the engine. Then I departed for Port Aux Basques to get the 17:00 ferry. I made good time albeit it was still a long hard ride. The weather was descent and I made it there and discovered the 17:00 ferry didn’t actually sail until 23:30! I decided to ride to the Rose Blanche Lighthouse about 45 minutes to the east. I came back into town and noticed a Newfoundland car sporting a Boston Bruins flag! I thought, “My gosh! What the heck ever happened to international rivalry in the NHL?” Later that night while talking to a retired RCMP worker he explained that Newfoundland had a player on the Bruins. He also explained that some of the old timers only cheer for the original 6 NHL teams and only Boston qualified under that criteria. Around 22:00 I loaded the ferry and went to my cabin for the night. Google Maps shows the distance to be 416 miles of riding today.
On the morning of Thursday, 9 June, Thursday, I rode off of the ferry once they got the ramp unstuck. I pushed on for Prince Edward Island which is their smallest province, being larger than Rhode Island and smaller than Delaware. En route in Nova Scotia I stopped at a cheap souvenirs store and the proprietor was quite the character! He asked where I was from and immediately showed me a flag from there! He asked if I was a good Republican and I stated yes, I voted for McCain and he showed me a photo of Mc Cain! The weather gradually improved as I rode west and then I got to the Confederation Bridge which is the only land route to Prince Edward Island. Looking at it I realized it is a LONG bridge, about as long as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge here in Maryland but it is only two lanes (one in each direction). I rode over and pulled over in the visitor’s center. I also found my “first-ever” Canadian Post Office and got 12 stamps for my return Amateur Radio pre-stamped envelopes since I am trying to get a QSL Card from each province and have about half yet to “bag.” Taxes seemed a bit higher there as there was a 10% general tax plus a 5% province tax on food and merchandise. I pushed on this very long day and reached the Calais Port Of Entry around 19:00 hours. After getting through I rode on for Bangor, hoping to get near my offer of free lodging there in Maine. About 30 minutes short of Bangor, however, I got caught in the worst thunderstorm I ever rode in. I was drenched like a “wet infantry rat.” Water was even penetrating my inner jacket liner which is supposed to be water resistant. Trying to watch traffic, read the GPS and negotiate two flowing torrents of running and pooling water was really checking my skills and abilities. I looked for a hotel and rode to it, past one area of Bangor that had the power knocked out. I got a room and watched the news. The next morning Bangor, Maine News confirmed that a tornado did NOT hit but it was a major storm! Google Maps showed the distance to be 660 miles of riding today. This turned out to be the farthest I traveled on any day of this trip and was more typical of my Yellowknife, Northwest Territories trip back in 2007.
On the morning of Friday, 10 June I departed from Bangor, Maine and rode south on Interstates. I was able to dry out most of my clothes with the heat and wind of the ride, but the boots were “hopeless.“ Since I did not need to “bag” Rhode Island my route was a little faster. I rode without gloves must of the time to let them dry out and considering the tollbooths which are a real pain for motorcyclists. I entered Connecticut and asked for a state highway map but they said they had none! I continued south until I hit Interstate 91 near Meriden where the Interstate was backed up pretty bad. I pulled over at the State Police Building area and rested there with my boots off, trying to dry out my feet, socks and boots from my ordeal in Bangor, Maine. I later tried going west via 691 but it too was choked to a standstill so I hung out at Dairy Queen with my boots off. Finally I tried again and made great time southbound on Interstate 91 to New York. The George Washington Bridge was slow moving but at least it was moving. When I arrived on the New Jersey Turnpike everything was full speed ahead and traffic was flowing amazingly! I kept pushing despite the dark and fatigue but finally I had to pull over in Aberdeen, Maryland and I got a room just before midnight. I noticed the backs of my hands were sunburned pretty bad from riding without gloves all day. Google Maps shows the distance to be 613 miles of riding today.
On the morning of Saturday, 11 June, I departed my hotel around 08:00 and made for home and made it there by 10:00. I sorted things out, got laundry going, loaded and labeled photos and otherwise settled in from a long adventure. Google Maps shows the distance to be 90 miles of riding today.
Google Maps shows the total distance that I rode on the trip was 4,208 miles. Of course miles alone does not tell the story but it does convey a portion of any “adventure.” Mileage cannot convey the pleasure of riding on open roads without a car in front of you or in your rear view mirror. Mileage cannot covey the adventure of being in new places and chatting with new people, experiencing new activities, or even waving to kids in cars that wave to you as you pass them.
Some general observations:
Three best things: (1) making it there and back without a single safety or mechanical mishap, (2) seeing new Canadian Provinces and US States for me and (3) riding on an adventure like this for so long a distance (a new distance record for me) and doing it solo.
Three worst things: (1) riding in a serious storm at night in Bangor, Maine, (2) the Signal Hill Visitors’ Center being closed on a Tuesday and (3) not seeing more wildlife in Newfoundland. I only saw two moose the entire time despite all of the warnings I read about and heard from the locals.
I have zero complaints about the maritime weather. I was visiting maritime provinces and what else should once expect? The roads were almost wonderfully open and uncrowded in all of Newfoundland except for St. John’s.
The people in Canada were very friendly and welcoming and engaged in conversation effortlessly. Their great attitude toward jocularity and banter was refreshing and made conversation effortless, especially with a retired RCMP officer I chatted with in Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland. All of the Canadians who owned motorcycles and spoke with me had Harley Davidsons. One even mentioned to me that he did not know BMW made motorcycles (and he did not seem to be joking).
The economy of Newfoundland and Labrador is doing well. People talked about available jobs, importing laborers from the Philippines, people able to purchase “toys” like ATVs, boats, motorcycles and travel some. I did hear a lot of comments about the lack of US tourists up there. All of the hotels that I visited had good occupancy levels and this was not the prime for tourist season. Despite the high price for gasoline there were cars out and about. The ferries had acceptable occupancy levels. Finally, the places that I visited looked nice and clean and not run down like a lot of places in the USA appear to passers-by.
Fuel on Newfoundland was about $1.40 a liter for premium. I could get premium everywhere that I tried except St Barbe, Newfoundland (ferry to Blanc-Sablon). Fuel in Nova Scotia seemed to be about $1.30 per liter. Fuel was a lot more readily available in Newfoundland and Labrador as compared to the Yellowknife trip. One must keep in mind, however, that even on this trip one must watch fuel levels as there are a few “stretches” where fuel is scarce.
I burned a bit less engine oil on this trip as compared to the Yellowknife trip but I averaged much higher daily miles and miles per hour on that trip as compared to this trip.
I saw several BMW motorcycles headed out on adventures traveling solo on the highways like me. I saw groups of Harleys but none traveling solo and packed for “adventures.” Adventurers are easy to spot because they have “cargo boxes” on the sides and are packed to the hilt.
I would like to take a minute to thank my friends in the San Diego, CA, Swanton, VT and Washington, DC areas for keeping me informed about weather and POE information via Blackberry.
Upon trip completion I made an appointment to get a new rear tire as my tread is gone, plus an oil and filter change so all of that is coming up within the week. Then I can hit the road again for more traditional local riding.
If you are a fellow adventure rider stop reading this and start riding…ride safely but have fun in the process! ☺
The link for the smugmug photos is:
|06-12-2011, 12:18 PM||#2|
Joined: Mar 2009
Location: Prince William County, VA
Nice ride. I am hopefully going to be riding from VA up to Newfoundland at the end of August. Will likely not go up 95, though as I prefer staying out to the west a bit more.
2003 Suzuki Bandit 1200S
|06-12-2011, 02:28 PM||#3|
Joined: Oct 2008
Nice report Maggot (lol, like the username); I noticed this as I was packing today, to take a very similar ride from northern VA starting next Saturday. Will go up to Newfoundland and back and will also check out PEI, need to get a plate of garlic mussels! Great info here, I popped in a new waypoint for the Rose Blanche lighthouse, would not have caught that if you didn't have such great photos of it.
|06-13-2011, 11:12 AM||#4|
Joined: Jun 2011
We will go there in July/August. Have been before in Nova Scotia before (6 day trip from NJ) and figured you need more time. This time we will have 3 weeks for Maine, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, PEI and Gaspe peninsula. Heard the last one is supposed to be very nice. Has anyone been there before?
|06-13-2011, 11:29 AM||#5|
Joined: Aug 2009
Location: Birthplace of the Revolution (MA)
The maritimes are always fun, and that ferry is always about six hours off schedule! Post those pictures up man!
I actually got zonked by that hurricane in '09 coming back from a ride to Newfoundland. pretty wild just south of cape breton.
Livin' on the road, my friend, was gonna keep you free and clean...
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