|02-20-2012, 01:00 PM||#1|
Joined: Mar 2011
Location: Shediac NB
Trans Labrador Highway twice in one Summer
I have been meaning to write this ride report about my twice across Labrador ride this Summer, for months. I haven't had time to figure out how to post more than one picture at a time on this forum. Armed with a tip, kindly provided, by another inmate, here is a test picture.
That's me on the left, my son Bryn, then my buddy Tom and last but not least Bryn's friend Jeff.
It was July, great weather, we had a plan to ride the Trans Labrador Highway, prompted by reading the many excellent posts on ADVrider. Bryn, Tom and I all ride KLR 650's Jeff has a Suzuki 650 street bike, maybe a Bandit, possibly a V-Strom. I should know, but that's what happens when you get to your mid 50's you still have a good memory it's just short.
Bryn lives in Fernie BC, he had just purchased his brand new KLR in New Brunswick, he was home visiting for the Summer. Jeff and Tom both live in Saint John, NB and I live in Shediac, NB (The Lobster Capital of the World) We were all leaving from Shediac with a plan to ride counterclockwise through Nova Scotia to catch the ferry at North Sydney, NS to Port aux Basques, NL. From there we were to ride up to Gros Morne National Park, where Bryn and Jeff would spend a few days hiking camping before returning to the Maritimes to meet other friends. At Gros Morne Tom and I planned to split up from Bryn and Jeff and continue on to Labrador.
The picture above was taken moments before our departure. Just after this breakfast at home
We rode the Sunrise Trail of Nova Scotia on a beautifully clear day as far as Pictou NS and from there picked up the Trans Canada fighting a crazy strong crosswind to Cape Breton for a quick stop in Baddeck
We had coffee and snacks across the street from this Inn and Bryn's bike fell victim to the wind and was blown off it's kickstand. Not much damage but the first scratch in a new bike is a heart breaker. Sorry I don't have a picture. I was busy trying to fix the throttle on Bryn's bike. It had stuck the granite curbing and became semi seized up. It was like he had cruise control. Were were getting late for the boat and Bryn limped his bike, with a sticking throttle and a slightly mis-aligned front end to the ferry. We just made it, spending about a half hour waiting in the line up and then boarding immediately.
We had an uneventful trip over to Port Aux Basque, NL. We had a beer or two, ate, it was good food and we slept in a cabin that was very affordable, around $10 for each of us on the evening sailing. We arrived in Port Aux Basques near midnight and took two rooms at the Hotel Port Aux Basques which is nothing fancy but is clean and easy walking distance to Tim Horton's, the coffee chain with a cult like status in Canada.
The next morning it was foggy and cool, we had a coffee at Tim's and and tried to fix Bryn's handle bars and throttle, borrowing a large wrench, screwdriver and hammer from a helpful mechanic at Canadian Tire. No luck. We rode on with a plan to stop at the Kawasaki shop near Corner Brook NL to have them repair Bryn's bike.
The ride from Port Aux basque to Corner Brook is on Trans Canada Highway, wide two lane blacktop for the most part that is quite hilly with three lane sections to allow passing on the hills. There is a section known as Wreck House only about 20 miles from Port Aux Basque. Wreck House can have absolutely vicious winds. It is named for a telegraph house, the railway maintained beside the railway tracks through this section to warn of extreme winds and even report wrecks when a train was blown off the tracks by the wind. It can be that windy! The tracks are long gone now, part of a deal the NL government made with Ottawa for better highways in exchange for removing the tracks. We rode through a foggy crosswind but nothing severe. By the time we got to Corner Brook the sun had reappeared and all was good.
We stopped at Rapid Power Sports, Corner Brooks' Kawasaki Dealer which is actually located in Little Rapids about 10 miles east of town. They were excellent. They had Bryn's bike fixed within an hour without any appointment! Great service!
We continued on through Deer Lake, where we ate at Mary Brown's fired Chicken, which is the best fried chicken anywhere, to Gros Morne National Park our planned stop for the night. The ride from Deer lake to Rocky Harbour in Gros Morne Park is awesome. Twisting, hilly two lane blacktop with views of the water and mountains that are spectacular.
As mentioned Bryn and Jeff intended to camp, while Tom and I looked for a Hotel, the boys went to set up camp. In our search we met Iggy
Iggy is from the Netherlands and rides a 750cc Yamaha Super Tenere.
Here is a picture of Iggy's Bike
Iggy had shipped his bike from Europe on a Roll on Roll Off ship into Halifax, NS with the intention of spending the Summer in Canada and riding the Trans Labrador Highway. He got the bike to Canada for the reasonable price of $1100 westbound and the eastbound trip back to Holland is only something like $400.00.
Iggy flew to Halifax, picked up his bike and discovered on his trip from the port to the nearest gas station that lane splitting is frowned upon in Canada. He had been riding as he would at home, splitting lanes but when he stopped for gas a passing motorist screamed "WTF is wrong with you you &*^%$'ing nut!" Duly Noted!
When we met Iggy he had already found accommodation at the hostel in the old Hospital in Norris Point. It is a nice reasonable place to stay only 10 kms from Rocky Harbour which is the largest town in the Park. Tom and I however opted for a motel in Rocky Harbour where we had arranged to meet Bryn and Jeff after they had set up camp. We invited Iggy back to meet us all and have some supper and beers. Here is the view from the roof deck at the Hostel.
We went to the Ocean View Hotel, checked in and headed to the Bar/dining room only to find out we could only sit there until 8PM as they were having a comedy show of some kind with a $25.00 Cover charge. Yikes! 25 bucks for a show in Rocky Harbour! Didn't matter if you were guests of the Hotel it was still $25.00
We took the much cheaper option of buying a case of beer between us and a big pizza and heading to Tom's and my room. It wasn't too long before the hotel called the room and grilled us as to whether there were actually five guys staying in the room. Jeff fielded the call and his explanation seemed to satisfy them and they left us alone to eat our pizza and have a couple beer.
Tom got an unexpected call that there was a family emergency that would require his presence back in Saint John. He had to make plans to turn back the next day. Bryn and Jeff were staying in the Park, Iggy and I decided we would continue the Labrador trip together, Why not? We had known each other almost two hours by now. We called it a night early, were respectful of the Hotel's other guests.
Rocky Harbour is very small, but very beautiful
The next morning, we had a great breakfast at Fisherman's Landing, a small restaurant next to the hotel before we parted ways. Tom, southbound, the boys hiking, Iggy and I headed for Labrador
Iggy and I got as far as the Northern end of Gros Morne before it rained. It rained on and off all the way up Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. what a "Great" ride it is. Sparse traffic, awesome views of the Gulf of St Lawrence on your left and the snowcapped (even in July) Long Range Mountains on your right.
We stopped for a packed lunch somewhere along the way on a nearly deserted beach.
The sun was out but rain still threatened, hence the rainsuit
Eventually we made our way to Hawkes Bay where we saw this huge deteriorating steel building that dominates the village skyline.
It must have had some industrial application at one time. Likely storage for something they were mining in Hawkes Bay or nearby. This building was near the water and there were the remnants of a wharf behind it. Sometime in the past it had been converted to a hockey rink (how very Canadian) but it had fallen into complete disrepair. It looks like one of the teams that used to play there was the Pirates.
The Old Wharf at Hawkes Bay
After satisfying our curiosity at Hawkes Bay we pressed onward, Northbound toward Labrador enjoying amazing scenery
And deserted beaches and Cabins
We pressed onward until we finally reached the Ferry Terminal
This is the young lady who sold us our tickets to Labrador. Tickets for the ferry were amazingly cheap, like $13.00 for rider and bike if I remember correctly for a trip that takes at least a couple hours.
Here is a look at the Ferry Terminal Lobby and we met this rider from Yarmouth NS on a KLR650. He was soaked to the skin.
The Ferry is owned by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the former Premier, Danny Williams chopped the fares in half a few years ago because people on the Labrador Coast view the Ferry as a vital part of their highway system and they use it to access Hospitals and other necessities on the Newfoundland side of the Straight of Belle Isle. It's not often any politician voluntarily chops any tax or rate but Mr. Williams did and he is viewed as a hero for doing so.
We boarded the Ferry to Labrador, the Apollo
Here is the Lounge
It's not a bad boat, no "Love Boat" but not bad and it was nearly empty. Iggy had a serious case of Deja Vu and we found out that he had likely been on the Apollo before. It used to be a European Ferry before NL bought it. We relaxed in the Lounge for our crossing and then we were excited to get our first view of Labrador.
Here it is.
Pretty Foggy Eh!
The Ferry actually lands in Blanc Sablon, QC a few miles from the QC/NL border. If you are taking this ferry be careful of departure times. Labrador, Blanc Sablon and Newfoundland are in three different time zones. I believe all ferry schedule times are printed in NL time but just be mindful of that when riding to meet the boat.
In any case we got off the ferry that evening and rode in thick fog through the town of Blanc Sablon to a large general store. It was pretty much the last spot in Quebec. They sold beer like it was going out of style. (not to Iggy and Me but just generally speaking) because the price of beer in the Province of Quebec is about half of what it is in Newfoundland and Labrador. The store had huge cases, 36 cans 56 cans etc. Here is a picture of some of the stacks and the store. Barney's
Iggy and I were tired and hungry by this point and we only bought a 6 pack that we split between us for later that night.
We left Barney's store and almost immediately crossed into Labrador. We had made it! The Big Land.
It was getting dark fast and Iggy and I rode up the coast though small villages over winding, bumpy, steep roads in a fog so thick we could barely see the ground let alone anything else. I stayed glued to Iggy's tail light and that was all I could see. I swear if he had ridden off a cliff I would have followed him. I don't know how he did it. I couldn't see a damn thing. The headlights of approaching cars would appear out of the gloom about 100 feet from us and look like they were a sickly yellow green, almost like they were under water the fog was so dense.
Iggy had made a reservation at a Bed and Breakfast in L'anse-Amour prior to our meeting up in Gros Morne, of course that reservation was for just himself as he had been travelling alone up until that point. The lady at the B&B had recommended a restaurant between the ferry and her place. I wish I could remember the name because the food was awesome, once we found the place. Check this plate out!
After that great meal we continued on in the dark and somehow found the B&B where Iggy had made a reservation. It was at the end of a long dirt road right on a small cove in L'anse-Amour. As luck would have it they were full and she didn't have a bed for me. The owner was very kind though and called a friend with a B&B about ten minutes up the road and arranged a spot for me there. She and the friend were afraid I would never find the place in the fog and I have to admit i wasn't that confident I would either.
This illustrates how kind and helpful the people of Labrador are. I dropped Iggy off at his place made my way back up the dirt road to the main road turned right and continued north. I tried to pick out landmarks that had been described to me but I was looking for a car on a side road. The lady at the place where I was to stay actually got in her car at about 10PM drove from her pace out to the main road and waited for me, so I wouldn't pass her side road in the fog. How nice is that?
I followed her to her place, a nice fairly new bungalow, and was so glad to be off the road. What a long day. We sat and watched the news together, her only other guest was a young chinese girl who was in Labrador buying fish to go to China. She had been stranded for two days waiting for the fog to lift so she could get a flight out. I drank two of my three beers and crashed. I slept like a rock.
The next morning I was treated to a full breakfast, the fog had lifted to reveal a beautiful if kind of chilly day. 12C or about 54F. That didn't stop the local kids from riding their bikes in shorts and T-shirts. It was summer on the Labrador Coast after all.
Here is a pic of the B&B and her sign. I highly recommend it.
I'm sure you can Google this place if you are looking for decent accommodation on the southern Labrador coast.
As you can see the next day was a good one weather wise. I woke up fairly early and after that great breakfast I rode back to collect Iggy at the place he had stayed. Iggy is a little slower to get going in the morning than I am but no worries we had a relatively easy day planned. We were riding as far as Port Hope Simpson that day. It's about 200kms or 120 miles to PHS and the last 140K is gravel. The gravel starts at Red Bay, NL from there there is about 750 miles or 1100kms of gravel across Labrador until you get to the site of the Manic 5 Dam in Quebec. Portions have pavement and Labrador is rapidly paving more each year. They paved some 100 kms or more this past summer. Soon this remote highway will be filled with RV's I'm sure. If you want to ride gravel across Labrador do it soon.
What a great day we had. Iggy and I poked along the scenic Labrador Coast.
We crossed the Pinware River, where people come from around the world to fish for Atlantic Salmon. What a stunningly beautiful river! An angler's paradise
We reached Red Bay. Red Bay has been a small fishing village since the 1600's Basque fishermen came there for centuries to fish and for Whaling. There is a Basque museum in Red Bay complete with a recently recovered Basque whaling boat, dug out of the mud along the shore. They said this boat was about 400 years old! Imagine hunting whales in a boat this size along the Labrador Coast 400 years ago! No thanks!
Iggy was fascinated by the museum. He has a family connection to the Basque area of Spain and even has a Basques sticker on his bike.
After checking out the museum we ate at a restaurant just past the museum. I can't remember the name of it but it is a reddish place with a gift shop attached and I had one of the best cheeseburgers ever with delicious home made fries.
After Lunch I noticed this excellent poster published by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador's Department of Tourism
Here is a snap taken from near from The Red Bay Museum of some abandoned houses that were fisherman's residences many decades ago. A look into the past.
And here is a short video clip, a look around windswept Red Bay Labrador on a July day.
Having looked around Red Bay, eaten and taken in some local culture it was time to ride on. Here I am at the start of the gravel in Red Bay.
It was cool in Red Bay around 12C or 54F but they had told us at the restaurant to expect it to get much warmer as we headed inland on the gravel. They said it was 30C or 90F just 20 miles up the road and they were right. Everything changes when you leave Red Bay, the weather, the temperature and you begin to encounter the Labrador air force. Blackflies! and another lovely bug, a huge Horse Fly or Deerfly the Newfoundlanders call Stouts. They will take a chunk out of you and they are thick! Every time you stop you are engulfed in clouds of flies instantly! I don't know what they eat if unsuspecting motorcyclists don't come along. Bring lots of bug dope, the flies love it!
Here is look at my bug spattered helmet, can you see I have a black eye from bug bites? Iggy had one too. We looked like quite a pair every time we walked into anywhere. I think this picture was taken in the rain in Wabush a day or so later. Rain doesn't stop the flies.
Anyway, leaving Red Bay we saw this sign. The TLH is a long road.
The geography changes immediately from the hilly headlands and beaches of the coast to glacier gouged rock as you leave Red Bay.
We passed a couple two up on a BMW who were travelling in the opposite direction. I'm not sure I ever got their names but I believe they are from Ontario.
They told us they had ridden in Africa and several other destinations two up. They had a pickup truck load of gear on that bike. Amazing. Where we stopped to talk to them there was a crew of men working, using big pumps and hoses to spray the soil off of the rock in preparation for core sample drilling. They told us they were looking for rare earth minerals. Apparently China supplies the world with these minerals, essential to electronics now and there is some concern that prices may go through the roof. It is thought that Labrador may contain some rare earth minerals and the hunt is on. The water spraying and the disturbed soil had the flies in a feeding frenzy so we didn't talk long.
We continued on to Port Hope Simpson. We had reservations for the night at the Alexis Motel. Port ope Simpson isn't very big but we stopped two kids at the side of the road to ask directions to the Alexis and the flies nearly carried the two kids away. They quickly spit out the directions and then ran to get some relief from flies.
We found it. The Alexis doesn't have a sign. Here it is.
We got a pretty basic room complete with a bare light bulb and dumped all our stuff all over it, got cleaned up and had a very good dinner in the Alexis dining room.
I took a few pictures around Port Hope Simpson. It is in a beautiful setting on a saltwater inlet. It is and it feels very remote. It's a long way from niceties like lawns and landscaping but it is starkly beautiful. Here is a look around.
Behind the hotel there was a group of German tourists camping in this big camper bus
And this cool Hovercraft. I guess you never know when a hovercraft might come in handy in Port Hope Simpson.
After taking a few pictures, we crashed for the night.
We were anxious to get going the next morning. It is a long stretch from Port Hope Simpson to Goose Bay. We figured it's 405kms from gas pump to gas pump and just to be sure we'd make it we took along a spare two gallons of gas. We never needed it but it was nice to have. Both bikes went on reserve within about 10kms of the pump in Goose.
Before we left we signed out one of the Newfoundland Government's complimentary satellite telephones. We picked it up at the Alexis front desk by simply asking for it and providing a credit card imprint. You are only charged if you use it or if you don't bring it back. There is no cell phone coverage in Labrador except in populated areas. The security the sat phone provided in case of emergency was nice. Thankfully we never needed it and we turned it in at the Wabush Hotel in Lab City/Wabush.
It was raining that morning, I ride slower than Iggy on the loose stuff but I'm sure 99% of riders ride slower than Iggy on the loose stuff. He has a lot of experience on deep sand on the beaches in Holland and his Super Tenere is a super bike.
I struggled in the early going. Iggy was patient with me and offered adivce. The advice consisted of:
It's easier if you go faster.
When the bike gets loose, go faster
When the front end starts to wash out, go faster
When you hit deep gravel, go faster
When you think you are about to lose it altogether, go faster
After several frustrating miles I began to take Iggy's advice. It works. We blasted up that gravel at 100 to 120kph with rain running down the barest spots, the spots we would prefer to ride in in rivers. It poured. If you are going to ride in Eastern Canada you will hit rain. We pressed on. My KlR on a crappy stock front tire did not feel any too reassuring and it certainly doesn't handle like the RM125 I had when I was a kid, but it worked.
By the time we were really soaked in spite of rain gear (why does it always leak in the crotch?) and we were getting cold and miserable and feeling sorry for ourselves we met this gentleman on his bicycle!!!!!
If I recall correctly we were about 138kms out of Port Hope Simpson when we saw this guy. He had been riding for something like 10 days on the gravel. He was travelling opposite direction to us and had done the vast majority of the TLH. We asked if he had enough food, water etc and talked for a few minutes, he planned to make it another 40kms to a road service depot that has a gravel parking lot where he would camp for the night. We didn't feel so sorry for ourselves after meeting this guy.
We rode and rode in rain that was heavy at times and steady. The TLH between PHS and Goose is a long lonely road and I estimate we only saw about 30 cars and pickups in that entire 400kms. I don't remember passing a single Big Truck. People are good though and they would normally slow down so as not to blast us with gravel. If we were stopped they would nearly all slow down and look for a thumbs up signal from us before proceeding on.we saw a lot of road like this.
Deserted Gravel Highway in long straight stretches through stunted black spruce.
We pressed on until about thirty miles out of Goose we saw a bear.
This bear had been injured. He had a a distinct limp in left hind quarter. Not a bear to be anywhere near. We sat and waited, and waited for several minutes for him to walk away but he just stayed on the road. He didn't seem to interested in us but he just hng out until an opposite direction pickup truck came along with a big dog in the backseat of his crew cab. The dog barked at the bear and the bear finally limped away.
We blasted by the spot. It was only then that I thought of the bear spray Tom had left with us when he returned to Saint John and it is only now that I think of that poor guy on his bike by himself camping.
Well after the bear I shot this short video to give riders a look at the road surface we were on. The base is hard like concrete, with loose gravel on top. TKC's seem to be the tire of choice for those in the know.
More to follow...stay tuned!
Continued below...scroll down...
Kedgi screwed with this post 02-23-2012 at 05:46 AM Reason: Continuation of Ride Report
|02-20-2012, 07:55 PM||#2|
Joined: Aug 2011
Location: Central MAss
Not sure if you/ve seen this, hope this helps.
How to post an image
Learn How to Embed a Video Clip Here
Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes...in the middle of nowhere you find yourself. -author unknown
|02-21-2012, 12:33 PM||#4|
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: Port Kennedy, Western Australia
Well done guys. Great ride.
'13 Triumph Sprint GT; '14 BMW G 650 GS
|02-21-2012, 12:59 PM||#5|
Joined: Mar 2011
Location: Shediac NB
Lots more to come, stayed tuned.
PM me if you want a place to stay in Shediac, NB. It's no problem. We have a spare room, a hide a bed and beer in the fridge.
|02-21-2012, 02:19 PM||#6|
Joined: Mar 2011
Location: Shediac NB
Thanks Ride Up and Down
|02-22-2012, 06:45 AM||#7|
Joined: Mar 2011
Location: Shediac NB
TLH Twice in one Summer Continued
Shortly after filming the video of the road surface conditions Iggy and I arrived in Goose Bay. Here is the mandatory photo in front of the welcome to Goose Bay sign. This is about as far north-east as you can ride in North America.
When we rode into town it was like re-entry into another world. There were cars, stores, gas stations, restaurants, hotels, an airport and yes even pavement, none of which we had seen for a while.
We spent the night at either the Hotel North or The Hotel North II. I get the two confused, they are both owned by the same outfit and very similar. Both are OK.
We had the most expensive hot chicken sandwiches in the world, two sandwiches and a beer each with a tip came to close to $50.00 Yikes!
We had a very brief look around Goose and then crashed for the night. The next day was going to be a long one.
|02-22-2012, 02:00 PM||#9|
Joined: Mar 2004
Location: Memphis, Motorcycle Purgatory
one day I'll go, maybe this summer...
Good writing by the way.
God. Family. Motorcycles. Guns. Music. Books. Dogs. Beer. Baseball. Work. That about covers it.
|02-22-2012, 03:36 PM||#10|
Joined: Jan 2008
I made that trip in August and had beautiful weather all the way.
One difference tho, I turned around at Goose Bay and came back down to NFL and toured all over.
Also I made the trip on a goldwing trike, two up
Had some "bakeapple" preserves, really good.
Also caught the Appolo ferry and stayed at the Alexis hotel, really good food there.
Your report sure brought back a lot of memories, so had to go look at my pictures again.
Thanks for such a good report.
|02-22-2012, 10:33 PM||#11|
Joined: Oct 2007
Location: Almeria - Bilbao
You're doing a very nice job on this report, brings back good memory's
Balls said the queen, if i'd had two of 'm i'd be king
|02-23-2012, 04:55 AM||#12|
Joined: Mar 2011
Location: Shediac NB
Trans Labrador Highway twice in one Summer
The next morning was bright, sunny, clear. I was up at 6am eager to start our next long segment from Goose Bay to Labrador City. It was going to be nice not to ride in the rain. I know I get up earlier than most, I always have. As I write this there is no one awake on my street except the salt truck driver who went by an hour ago. I hate Winter!
I got up got showered and told Iggy I was going for a short ride to check out the Goose Bay Airport. I was an Air Traffic Controller in Gander, NL many years ago. As such I had cleared many aircraft into Goose Bay but had never seen the airport. I checked it all out and rode around the city streets that offered a view from the perimeter fence and I saw all the aircraft they have on display in front of the terminal. I had a nice ride in the early AM and then went back to the hotel to collect Iggy and get some breakfast before departure. It was then I discovered that we really operate on different schedules.
He was still struggling to get going. I went for another ride and bought some oil for my bike at the local Yamaha shop. The bike was relatively new, a 2008 I had purchased in 2011 with only 3kms on it. It had been used as a display bike at motorcycles shows by an aftermarket accessory company. I bought it at a show in Moncton, NB
I came back to the hotel, it was now 10am and Iggy was still not ready, I suggested I start out and he catch up, he does ride faster than me. he expressed concern that his bike might not start and it has a very cold blooded tendancy. I waited. (my 1st mistake that day) Iggy got ready, we met two riders, brothers from Deer Lake on Triumphs. They had just had breakfast at Tim Hortons and were heading out toward Lab City.
The Brothers said they planned to ride for a couple hours and stop and have a "boil up" on the side of the road and have a cup of tea. They figured we would catch them then and declined to wait for us they wanted to get going. They departed, it was around 11am and we went for breakfast. In the end it was 12:30 before we left Goose Bay.
I can't blame Iggy. He had planned to do this trip by himself after all and can fly in any conditions but this was way too late in the day for me to start out on a 534kms ride on mostly gravel. I remind you Iggy and I had only met and teamed up a few days before. I learned a lesson from this, we should have discussed our departure plans the night before and stuck to them.
In any case we headed out at 12:30 and rode the first 100kms or together on the pavement. We hit the gravel and that was the last I saw of Iggy for a while. I was struggling that day, no doubt tired for the long day in the rain before but also I found this section really difficult.
Newfoundland and Labrador have new found oil wealth and they are spending some of that paving the TLH especially the section between Goose and Lab City. July is prime construction weather and they were hard at it. Deep gravel was the name of the game that day. I hit that first section at speed and my front tire washed out so and I scared the poop out of myself about five times in the first five miles. I blame the front tire. It was the stock Dunlop, with about 4000km's on it and it could not cope in the gravel. I had put a new Mefo on the back and it had good grip and it just seemed to push the front, that had no idea where to go, all over the place, when the gravel got deep. Try as I might I could not get up to the speeds we had ridden the day before on the section from Port Hope Simpson to Goose.
It was a frustrating plodding on for me in dust, which made me miss the rain. There was a lot of traffic on this section and a lot of people drive crazy fast in their pickups and minivans etc. They tend to crest hills right in the middle of the road at about 75 miles an hour and then they see your bike and touch the brakes instinctively and immediately get loose. Yikes! I had one young guy in a pickup miss me, opposite direction by about an inch. He was looking to pass a tractor trailer and had stuck his nose out when I came out of the dust. Scary!
I pressed on hoping to find the Newfoundland Brothers. After a at least a couple hours I passed an opposite direct BMW rider and we stopped and talked. He asked me if I was the guy travelling with Iggy. He told me Iggy was about an hour ahead of me. I asked if he had seen the Brothers. He had and he said they we only maybe 15 minutes in front of me, so I knew I was gaining on them. He went on to tell me that the brothers had been having their boil up on a pull out at the side of the road when Iggy caught up with them....Sort of!
The Brothers are having their tea when they hear Iggy coming. They run to the edge of the road so he will see them. Iggy goes by at what they estimate was 140kph (about 85 miles an hour) up on the pegs, head over the headlight, flying, and he doesn't even see them waving and disappears down the road. Iggy later explained he gets "hyperfocused" and things slow down for him at speed. I guess! So as far as the BMW rider knew Iggy was still looking for the Brothers even though he had passed them.
I continued on in the frustrating gravel. It is hard to believe they could spread so much gravel in one summer. That's what they do too they just spread gravel and never roll it they just let the traffic beat it in, preparing the base for pavement. When I returned in August, conditions were so much better it was like night and day. The car and trucks had pounded that new gravel in over the month.
I am somewhat colour blind. As colour blind as you are allowed to be and still be an Air Traffic Controller. In the deep gravel all I could see was a sea of gravel, like a carpet. I had no idea what was deep and what wasn't or why my bike was in a two wheel slide. Crazy! I pressed on.
Just before Churchill Falls still riding on my own I hit an area where they have a jobsite equipment storage yard for all the dump trucks, graders, pick up trucks etc, involved in road building. It was Friday and it was quittin' time. What a zoo! I never saw so many dump trucks doing 70mph go flying by me racing to get to this yard and then they would drop the equipment of and blast out of their in their own pickups headed out for the weekend. Lines of trucks, dust, gravel flying and no one slowing down but me. It took me an hour to do 15 kms.
I finally made Churchill Falls and found the gas station and all the guys, Iggy, the Brothers and another opposite direction rider. I gassed up and got shit from the attendant saying one of the bikes hadn't paid for their gas. I told her I would mention it but had no idea who it was explaining I had just arrived. I told the guys. I don't know if it was an over site or the attendant's mistake, I don't think anyone was stealing gas but at least I told them. When I got home and saw my visa bill the attendant had charged me twice for my gas. Visa kindly reversed one charge.
There isn't much in Churchill it is a small company town for the big hydro dam that is there. I was bagged. I had been up since 6AM and now it was 5PM. The others had had a break I had missed out on and all wanted to continue to Lab City. I expressed a desire to spend the night right where we were and in the end reluctantly agreed to pressed on. Peer pressure I guess, and there was some suggestion the conditions were better up ahead. They were but not much. We pushed on. The Brothers left right after I got there and Iggy and I left about 30 minutes later with a plan to meet them In Labrador City. (My 2nd mistake that day) I never should have let myself get talked into continuing I should have found a room and called it a day. It is 244kms Churchill to Lab City and by the time we left it was close to 6PM.
Conditions were just marginally better, Iggy and I road together and I felt bad for holding him up but I just couldn't go any faster. I was really happy to finally make the pavement that stretched east fro Labrador City about 70kms just about the time the sun was going down. We only stopped a couple times for a short break and I remember telling Iggy, "The next time I do this trip I'm doing it in my Jeep" By the time we hit the pavement I was so exhausted I go only go about 80kph. I was seeing things running out of the woods in front of me, Stupid to be on the bike that tired! Then it rained. Perfect end to a long day.
We got to Labrador City just before 11pm in a dark cold rain. We found the Brothers sitting in the McDonalds. They told us there was not a room to be had in Labrador City. They had called everywhere.
Lab City is in a construction boom. There are no rooms in Lab City at the best of times. If you plan to stay there make a reservation well in advance. I wish we'd known that. There is a brand new hotel, across the street from McDonalds that the mining company has booked solid for the next three years. The hotel chain didn't even open to the public.The Wabush Hotel is booked solid a year in advance. I figured we were doomed to spending the night in McDonalds and sleeping the next day, when we knew we could get a room at the Carol Inn. We reserved that room! The Brothers went looking for a long lost cousin, and they weren't even sure of her married name, but they must have found her because we never saw them again.
Iggy went in search of a rental car, thinking we could sleep in that while I ate a double Big Mac. He found a Ford Dealership, just around the corner that incredibly was open at 11:30PM, working on mining company pickups. The General Manager of the Ford shop was even there. When Iggy asked about a rental, which they didn't have, the GM asked about why we wanted one. When he heard our plight he stepped up to help.
The Ford GM told Iggy he had a small office that they used to use as a used car office that was empty and we were welcome to. He even pulled two mattresses he had out of a storage container and had his guys set them on the floor for us. It was warm and dry and we were saved. Iggy rode over and got me, we returned to Ford and we both thanked the GM profusely for his kindness. I asked the boys in the Ford shop what the GM liked to drink, Crown Royal, made a mental note!
It was 1AM when we crashed. The forecast was for heavy rain the next day so we decided to sleep in, spend the next night at the Carol Inn and get some rest, then go the following day when it was supposed to be dry. It was a good plan. I think we both learned a lesson. We were lucky, and that's what we did, screwed around Lab City the next day, turned in our satellite phone, visited the Yamaha shop and met the owner, John, who is a very nice guy, I'll mention again later, we ate, had a couple beers at a local bar and got some much needed rest. Here is a picture of the Carol Inn. It doesn't look like much from the out side but the rooms are actually quite nice.
And here is a look at our great accommodations at the Ford Dealership
They day we left Lab City it was a bright sunny day, we were well rested and we rode over to Fermont QC on the 25kms of pavement that connects the two towns to buy gas. We had completed Labrador.
Fermont is a very unique company town that I'll show you some picture of later. Iggy and i wanted to make time and all we did that day was buy some gas and take this picture of Iggy vs a large mining company dump truck.
I found conditions on this last 344km section of gravel to be much better. Thinner gravel and beautiful scenery. Interesting twisty road just west of Fermont that crosses the mining company's rail line 17 times I think or at least I've been told. They rail the iron ore down to Baie Comeau.
We made good time. We enjoyed the scenery. There is a long paved section it must be at least 60 miles long that runs from Fire Lake down to the mining company ghost town of Gagnon. You can blast along here. No traffic to speak of and probably not a cop with radar for 300 miles. It's cool to ride into Gagnon, where there is nothing left, on a 4 lane paved boulevard, complete with manhole covers, driveways and curbing in the absolute middle of no where. Here's Gagnon.
We ate at a gas station called Relais Gabriele which is almost in the middle of nowhere
And somewhere along the way I made this movie of Iggy at speed. 158kph or 100mph on the gravel according to GPS. See what I mean? He can fly!
I just read back through this ride report...sorry for all the typo's...I'm not the world's best typist....
When you ride the TLH you see so much, and so many beautiful spots but somewhere near Relais Gabrielle was a little river called Riviere Beaupin that was one of my favorites.
What an awesome spot this would be to set up in a pickup with a camper back, a screen tent, and a fishing pole.
Iggy and I continued on and continued to make good time and eventually we reached Manic5 Dam, the end of the gravel. We had done it!
From the spot where I took this picture we rode about two miles to the Energy Motel, which is a cool little place. Very basic rooms, affordable considering the remote location, clean, with a very good restaurant. We had a celebratory cold drink, bought gas and planned to continue down 389North for a couple more hours now that we were back on pavement to catch the evening sailing of the ferry from Baie Comeau, QC to Matane, QC, our third ferry of the trip.
We filled up, spoke briefly to two couples from Quebec who were about to set out on the gravel, the next morning on their 1000cc V-Stroms. Just as we were pulling out of the parking. I got a flat rear tire. How ironic. 1100kms of gravel and get a flat in the first paved parking.
We tried to change the flat in a hurry with an eye to still making the boat. Haste makes waste as they say. The Motel's airpump wasn't working, we had a hand pump, we pinched the tube, fixed it again, found a guy with an air pig in his pickup who inflated the tire the second time but by the time all that was done we were too late to make the boat. We knew enough to call it a day.
We checked into the motel, had some supper with our new Quebec friends, drank some cold beers, and watched a wierd movie calledLittle Miss Sunshine on the one English TV channel. It was funny one about a family struggling on a road trip, we could identify!
The tire repair
Our Quebec Friends
The bikes at Energy Motel
The next morning we had a great breakfast with our friends from Quebec, we wished each other well and were on our way to catch the 2PM ferry, the third ferry of the trip. We left the parking lot at the same time a white van did. Iggy and I went out in front and Iggy set a fast pace. I was a little more relaxed on my newly patched tire, which held up well in the end, but I was still much faster than the van.
Route 389 is one of the twistiest roads in North America I'm sure. The Quebec guys told us that there are 301 turns in 200kms. I believe it. It's bumpy but not a problem for an adventure bike and it is a wonderful ride. Only about 10 miles south of the hotel, I came over a blind hill, there are lots of them and saw a huge black bear standing in the middle of the road. I stopped on the side and waited. He, like the last bear we saw, paid little attention to me. I knew the van was coming behind me and when he showed up that bear took off like a shot. I passed the spot where the bear was and the van turned into a woods camp there. The bear must get in their garbage and they must chase him with the van because he was sure afraid of it.
I continued south stopping for a construction flagman about an hour farther on. He told me Iggy was about 20 minutes in front of me.
When I got almost back into civilization and was seeing the first scattered buildings I had to stop at a construction project light. Some of the first vehicles I had seen joined the waiting line behind me. On the green light I took off and figured I'd lose the cars. After about 3 or 4 miles I realized a kid in a Honda Accord was tailgating me and I mean tailgaiting. he was so close I couldn't see him in either of my mirrors on the few straight stretches. He was inches from my tailight. That's when Iggy catches us out of nowhere, blasts by the nut in the Accord and spays gravel all over the place as he passes the car on a foot wide gravel shoulder at about 90 mph. The car backed off and left us alone! I had passed Iggy without seeing him as he rested on a lawn at the last construction project. We made it to the ferry in lots of time.
This is the best picture i could get of the ferry from the parking lot.
This was our third ferry of the trip. We enjoyed the sail across the St Lawrence and ate good Poutine on the boat.
We docked at 5PM and rode to Campbellton, NB, a few hours away in spotty rain and spent the night at a nice hostel in the old lighthouse in the downtown area near the bridge.
The next morning I got up very early and snapped this shot of the sunrise
I was anxious to get home and help my wife get the place ready for an anniversary party we were hosting for her Mom and Dad and for a couple from Chicago who share the same Wedding Date to the day and year. The Chicago couple are good friends we met while on holidays in Key West Florida years ago. We were very excited to see them.
I blasted home that morning in three hours arriving before 11AM
Iggy spent most the day following NB's north shore and stopped at our place later that night. Our trip was done. It was great having Iggy ride the trip with me and we are good friends as a result. He's back in Holland hoping to come to Canada again this Summer.
The Anniversary Party a couple days later was a success and my buddy Tom who had started out on this trip with me was one of the guests. He felt bad that he had missed the trip but family comes first for him like most of us.
In talking about the trip over the following couple weeks, I said to Tom we should do it again, in the opposite direction in August with the provision that we stop overnight in Churchill Falls and break up that long stretch from Lab City to Goose Bay. Also we needed reservations in the Lab City area. Tom was in! The second Labrador trip in one Summer was on!
More to follow stay tuned........
Kedgi screwed with this post 02-23-2012 at 12:43 PM Reason: Continuation of Ride Report
|02-24-2012, 02:47 AM||#13|
Joined: Dec 2009
Thanks for your excellent RR. It was very well written. My brother and I and another friend (we all have roots in Moncton) are planning on taking that trip in August this year, so I've been reading all the RR's I can find. I was interested to learn that the Nfld. government lends satellite phones to travelers on the TLH. That's a good idea on their part.
On another note, I can really relate to the issue you had with Iggy with regard to riding rhythms. I too am an early riser and often find I am waiting around a lot in the mornings for the other guys to get ready. It can feel like I'm wasting what for me is the best part of the day. It's a compromise I make to travel in a group sometimes.
|02-24-2012, 04:24 AM||#14|
Joined: Mar 2011
Location: Shediac NB
Thanks and stay tuned, I'll be writing the second half of the ride report as time allows, probably next week. My buddy Tom and I made the trip again, clockwise this past August.
|02-24-2012, 09:24 AM||#15|
Too Old for WHAT?
Joined: Oct 2011
Location: Central Connecticut
Thanks for putting together such a great report. Funny how things just work out sometimes. Meeting other riders (from other countries and backgrounds) has always been a highlight for me.
I'm a big fan of riding in Atlantic Canada and am planning to do the same trip this summer with a little more time in NF. Probably go counter clockwise after taking the longer ferry from Sydney. Looking forward to the "rest of the story." Well done Sir. Good luck to you.
I don't drink much, smoke, or do drugs........but I have a motorcycle problem
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