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Old 09-05-2012, 02:16 PM   #1
markbvt OP
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Location: Georgia, Vermont (that's one town, not two states)
Oddometer: 2,642
Two Yanks explore Labrador and Newfoundland

Foreword

Those of you who've read my previous ride reports are no doubt thinking, "What, he went to Labrador again?" Yeah, I admit it, I've developed a fondness for the place. As inmate MZCountryBoy commented in my first Trans-Lab ride report, Labrador has a draw. The place is fascinating and beyond easy description. Furthermore, I made each trip different by taking a different bike and a different group of riding partners.

And this time, the root of the plan was primarily to explore Newfoundland. On the prior trips, I only saw the western end of the Rock, so it was high time to ride across the whole island. My friend David, whom you'll recognize from a couple of previous ride reports, and I had been throwing around the idea of doing a longer trip, and several options got thrown about for discussion, but the one we kept coming back to was Newfoundland. Initially the plan was to just take the ferry over from Cape Breton, in which case the trip would be all pavement and David could ride his SV1000, and I'd throw a set of street tires on my Tiger. My friend Jason, who came along on the last Labrador trip, was interested as well, as was my friend Jeff.

Thing is, it was hard for me to fathom going that far north without riding the Trans-Labrador Highway. I've been wanting to try out my no-longer-quite-so-new Tiger 800 XC on the wildly variable conditions of the Trans-Lab since I got it. On the last trip, my V-Strom 650 was not a fun ride on the gravel -- felt squirrely no matter what speed I went, and I white-knuckled it all the way from Manic 5 to Red Bay. I really wanted to see how much better the Tiger would be... and I was also very curious how the paving project was coming along.

Meanwhile, David had picked up a well-used DR-Z400E, and when at some point I mentioned the possibility of getting to Newfoundland via Labrador, he apparently got intrigued and the idea took root. Jason and Jeff were both interested as well. So in early July, we made the decision to route to Newfoundland through Labrador, and we started madly getting our bikes ready.

Or at least, David and I did. Jason and Jeff both ended up having to bail on the trip due to work concerns. Oh well, I'm used to that -- it's happened with one or more people on every trip I've planned. Anyway, David's a good friend of mine and we've ridden thousands of miles together, so I was totally comfortable just doing the trip with him.

So, we busied ourselves with bike prep. My Tiger already had a decent setup for touring, but I wanted a better one, so to the Givi racks I already had I added Wolfman Expedition Dry panniers. I installed a CJ Designs tail rack with Rotopax mount and a two-gallon gas can for that 260-mile stretch from Goose Bay to Port Hope Simpson.


At the last minute, I also got paranoid about flying gravel and tipovers, so I installed a headlight guard and a pair of rigid hand guards in place of the Triumph ones that would just bend out of the way and let levers get broken if the bike were to go down.


I was also worried about a piece of sharp gravel possibly punching a hole in my oil filter, so rigged up a filter protector out of a tomato can lined with rubberized shelf liner. Fit great, cost essentially nothing.


And on top of the Rotopax went the Twisted Throttle DrySpec tail luggage system, which complements the Wolfman panniers perfectly. All my crap fit in the luggage nicely, complemented by the Oxford four-strap tank bag I'd already bought years ago to hold my camera and other quick-access stuff.

I mounted an IRC TR8 front tire and a Full Bore M-40 rear -- the IRC is very similar to a TKC-80 in the 90/90-21 size, but the tread is spaced ever so slightly wider, and the tire costs about half of what the TKC does; and the Full Bore rear, while similar to a Shinko 705, also has slightly wider-spaced tread lugs and wears a lot better than the Shinko, yet works far better off pavement than it looks like it should. I debated getting a rear TKC-80 or Heidenau K60, but the Full Bore is literally half the price, and considering the gravel would only account for about 15% of my trip, I settled on the Full Bore as the most sensible choice.

So finally, all prep work done, here's the Tiger ready to go.


We were scheduled to leave on Saturday, 8/18. David set out from Boston on Thursday morning to spend some time visiting his family before we headed out. He'd only just finished the work to his DR-Z and hadn't had a chance yet to take it out for a good long shakedown ride, so the ride up to Vermont would be it. I told him to text me when he made it to his mother's house, and I knew he'd left in the morning, but I didn't hear from him all day. By the time I left work, I was starting to get a little worried.

When I got home from work, I checked my phone, and sure enough, there was a text message from David saying he'd had a flat tire a short distance south of Warren, Vermont. Between texts and broken phone calls due to very spotty cell service at his location, I learned that he'd contacted AAA, but they were having trouble finding someone in the area who could pick up bikes. So I called our mutual friend Adam, who lives 15 minutes away from me and owns a motorcycle trailer, and he wasn't busy, so we drove down to Warren to rescue David. (For the record -- tire changing tools did come along with us on the trip, but I'm the one who has them.)

After sitting on the side of the road for nearly four hours, he was not a happy camper. But we loaded up his bike and managed to settle his mind at ease a bit. I kept reminding him that the DR-Z400 engine, even the E model, has a great reputation for being bulletproof, and it would do fine despite the small oil leak he'd discovered. And as for the flat tire... it was the Kenda that was on the bike when he got it, with a tube inside it that was god knows how old, and there were fresh tires and tubes waiting to be put on the bike the following day.

We headed to my house, put the DR-Z in my garage, and thanked Adam profusely. I made us a couple of stiff martinis, and David's spirits lifted.

Friday we dug into the DR-Z. Changed the tires, searched for the source of the oil leak, ran some other errands, and I finished packing the Tiger. David headed off to his mom's house Friday evening, and we agreed to see how the bike was doing Saturday morning before deciding whether to depart immediately or spend another day working on the bike.

And so, here we were on the eve of a 4000-mile trek through eastern Canada that we would eventually come to call the Great Canadian Gear-Redistribution Project...

Note to readers: David and I alternated posts for this RR, doing one day at a time, so the ride report in its entirety spans four pages. And warning to those with slow internet connections: it's VERY image heavy.

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

Bennington Triumph Bash, May 30-June 1, 2014

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Old 09-05-2012, 02:33 PM   #2
YJake
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I have been thinking about a trip like yours, this will be very interesting!

In!

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Old 09-05-2012, 02:34 PM   #3
sevenpointsixtwo
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Another perspective:

A lot of hype has been pumped into the term “adventure riding” in the past few years, as that particular segment of the motorcycle market continues to grow. It sounds easy; bolt some Touratech boxes on your GSA, throw in a tent and a stove, and head off to the desert/jungle/insert-remote-area-of-the-planet-here to have yourself an adventure. But I’m not so sure an adventure is something that will just happen to you, while you sit there on the back of your machine. Rather, I think an adventure is something that’s made, built from the ground up like our homes, our motorbikes, and our lives. Even before we swing a leg over and point the handlebars to the horizon, we start putting together the adventure with the bikes we ride and the gear we wear, the sights we see and the people we meet along the way.

I have to take a moment here to thank my friend and riding partner Mark for his infinite patience and for being the best-ever guide, sherpa, and cook over the last two weeks. He has ridden the TLH twice before, as well as parts of Newfoundland and the rest of the Maritime provinces. I’ve only been as far as the North Shore of the St. Lawrence on a motorbike, and haven’t been to Nova Scotia and PEI since I was a kid.

We set out to make an adventure, Mark and I-- unsure of exactly what kind of experiences awaited us en route. There were a lot of variables; not least of which was that we hadn’t actually made the final decision to ride the Trans-Labrador Highway until 5 weeks before our departure date. Mark had a route planned, and a plan B if that fell through. It all depended on one thing: whether I would have a bike capable of the Trans-Lab ready to go by our mid-August go-date. Mark has his Triumph Tiger 800XC, fully equipped with racks, luggage, etc. No worries there. On the other hand, my options included a fully-faired Suzuki SV1000S (it hurts to even think about riding it on the TLH), and a decrepit, 12-year old, non-street-legal DRZ400E that I had bought cheaply in January with the intent of fixing up and turning into a more economical commuter bike. I had ridden the DRZ a total of about 30 minutes when we made the decision to ride Labrador; suddenly, I had a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time in which to do it.

How I bought the DRZ in January before taking her home:


Everything fit in the back of a Subaru:


I’ll save the details for later, but suffice it to say that in about a month, I transformed the DRZ from a rusty, barely-running, unregistered dirt bike to a rusty, slightly-better-running, somewhat-street-legal adventure-dual-sport. It was mostly stock before, with a few add-ons like a skidplate and case savers to mitigate engine damage. Afterwards, it was kitted out with an IMS 4+ gallon tank for a ~200 mile range, a custom Adventure rack built by inmate Jackpiner57 which would allow me to carry way more luggage than the subframe and shock could handle, and other odds and ends that would hopefully make the trip catastrophe-free. Still though, my Vermont registration was only a week old, and I hadn’t ridden more than 10 miles on the street.

A big part of the adventure, for me at least, is the equipment you bring along. I have no doubt that the Trans-Lab would be an easy ride on a well-equipped 990 Adventure, but I was starting to think I was nuts for attempting it on a mercurial thumper with a 2x4 where the seat used to be. After swapping wheel bearings, +1/-6 sprockets and a new O-ring chain, and rejetting the FCR carb, I was starting to feel a bit more confident. Nothing for it; this is supposed to be an adventure, right?! Let’s get on the road and see what happens.
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Old 09-05-2012, 02:35 PM   #4
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Day -2: An Easy Ride; Quincy, MA to Georgia, VT
The bags were packed; I was ready to go. I said goodbye to my girlfriend and prepared the bike for an easy day’s ride through Western Mass and up VT Route 100 through the Green Mountains to Mark’s house, where we would spend the next day on last minute preparations. I threw the Motopak soft panniers over Tom’s DRZ-E Adventure Rack, strapped on the Twisted Throttle Dryspec bags and an 8L jerry can, and was on my way. Of course, one of the first tests the DRZ is made to endure is traffic on northbound 93. I was riding on Kenda Trailmasters, because my tires and the changing equipment were at Mark’s, 250 miles away. Luckily, traffic was moving slowly enough at that time of day that I was able to cruise at 45-50 without too much squirreliness from the tires. Off the highway, out Rt. 119 across MA and NH, and meet up with Rt. 100N in Brattleboro, VT.

This was turning out to be a nice ride! I was just starting to enjoy myself along the gentle curves of the Green Mountains when, of course, things start going wrong. A flat rear tire. Shit. Who knows how old these tubes were, and of course I managed to forget to check pressures that morning. With one bar of cell service flickering in and out sporadically, I was able to put a call in to AAA for assistance. Figures, I had brand new heavy duty MSR tubes in my panniers, but no levers or pump to get them on. AAA: “wait 45 minutes for a truck.” 45 minutes later: “we’re still trying to find someone who can do bikes.” Another half hour goes by: “You’re on your own, or wait 3.5 hours until we can get you a flatbed.” These messages, of course, relayed via voicemail as I never got their calls when I was supposed to. I put a call in for help from a friend, 60 miles away. After 4 hours at the roadside, Adam and Mark pulled up with a trailer. “Anyone want to buy a DRZ?!” I yelled, frustrated with how things are turning out so far. I had also noticed a fair amount of oil spilling from the engine cases and pooling in the skidplate; not a good sign.

I picked a really scenic spot to get stranded:


An hour later, we’re unloading the ‘Z at Mark’s place, where I crashed for the night so we could get an early start prepping the bikes in the morning. So it begins.

Day -1: Down to the Wire; Georgia, VT
After an early (delicious; thanks Mark!) breakfast, we stripped down the ‘Z and got to work. Off came the Kendas, on went the Shinko S700 130/80-18 and IRC TR8 Battle Rally 3.00-21, along with the new HD tubes. A quick inspection of the engine cases led us to believe that the acorn nuts holding the oil filter cover were bottoming out and had vibrated loose. We replaced them with standard nuts and loctited the studs, our fingers crossed that that was the only leak.

Out with the old, in with the new:


I also rejetted the carb and replaced the spark plug; calculations on the transit from Mass the previous day yielded low-40s fuel milage- not enough to make the transit from Happy Valley Goose Bay to Port Hope Simpson with the 6+ gallons I had on board. The bike seemed to run fine after replacing the needle, but I left the main and pilot jets as-is. I was hoping the street-friendlier tires and new jetting would net improved milage, but I bought an additional 2.5 gallon jerry can, just in case.

I was starting to get paranoid about the trip; I really didn’t want to be left stranded on the side of the Trans-Lab, hundreds of miles from anything, with a broken bike and no hope of finishing out the trip. Every little issue turned into a trip-ender in my head, and I had a gloomy outlook on the whole concept of riding a dirtbike to Labrador. I had no doubt that a well-prepared DRZ could handle Labrador and Newfoundland with no issues; I just wasn’t that confident in my DRZ. Mark’s patience and sunny disposition were invaluable in lifting my spirits and restoring my faith that we were, in fact, going to be problem-free and have a hell of a time. Hakuna Matata!

My $10 replacement Wally-world “tank bag”, after realizing that my Rapid Transit wouldn’t let me stand up:
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Old 09-05-2012, 03:11 PM   #5
markbvt OP
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Saturday, 18 August 2012: Georgia, VT, to Tadoussac, Quebec

I got up at 6am Saturday to go over the last few odds and ends and make sure I wasn't forgetting anything, and at 8 David showed up. The DR-Z had made it to his mom's house and back without issue, and the new tires were making it far more pleasant to ride, so he was in a much better mood. We looked the bike over and agreed that we may as well get going, since there were no obvious problems. If anything did come up as we were riding through Vermont, we could always turn back.

But nothing did come up. We headed northeast in gorgeous weather.








We gassed up in Derby before crossing the border.


Then we rode through the countryside of southern Quebec, past Sherbrooke and Thetford Mines toward Quebec City.




We crossed the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City and rode along the northern shore on Rt 138.






Finally we made it to the Saguenay fjord, where we boarded the ferry that takes Rt 138 traffic across.






David seemed to be enjoying himself after the pre-trip frustration he endured.


We camped in Tadoussac that evening and enjoyed our last restaurant dinner for a while.

Stats for the day:


Track for the day (fully interactive -- zoom in as much as you like; also note that using the toggle menu in the upper right-hand corner, you can change the type of map that's displayed):
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My ride reports: Missile silos, Labrador, twisties, and more

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Old 09-05-2012, 04:41 PM   #6
sevenpointsixtwo
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I apologize in advance if any of these photos are duplicates or of the same thing as Mark's! We're compiling these independently and may have taken some similar shots. Enjoy them twice!

Day 1: On the Road; Georgia, VT to Tadoussac, QC

Having slept at my mom’s house the previous night, I showed up at Mark’s doorstep early the next morning, ready to finalize the bike packing and get on the road. We had debated pushing back our departure time until later that day or the next in order to get the DRZ fully sorted, but there weren’t any more obvious issues to be fixed, so we decided, “may as well be on our way!”

The DRZ loaded for bear (loaded with bear, if you consider that thing on the seat!):


We rode up through Northeastern VT, which is always beautiful:


We’d get bored behind slow drivers and just snap pictures:


My view for the next 4000 miles:


Goodbye gallons, hello (expensive!) litres; stopping for gas in Derby, VT:


It was at this gas station that I calculated that I was getting about the same fuel milage as Mark’s Tiger (MPG in the high 40s)! Looks like we might not need that extra fuel after all.

Onwards into Quebec. Apparently Mark had too much stuff to carry on the bike, so replaced his head with another Wolfman dry bag:



Thetford Mines is kind of a strange little town:


Crossing the St. Lawrence into Quebec City:


This is my stoked-to-be-on-the-road face. Don’t I look happy?


Lots of Rt. 138 is under construction, but we made excellent time:


I’m sure Mark’s pictures are better, but the obligatory shot down the fjord during our short ferry crossing to Tadoussac:


Our lovely campsite for the evening:


After setting up tents and discovering my bike was already very low on oil, we wandered over to a nearby restaurant and I feasted upon steak poutine. It’s been too long, Quebec my old friend!
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Old 09-05-2012, 05:27 PM   #7
markbvt OP
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Sunday, 19 August 2012: Tadoussac, Quebec, to Relais Gabriel, Quebec

We had a good breakfast Sunday morning before heading out, then set off along Rt 138. Once again, we lucked out with the weather.






There's some amazing scenery along the northern shore of the St Lawrence.


We wanted to stop off in Baie-Comeau at the legendary sign welcoming people to the Trans-Quebec-Labrador road, but they've taken it down! So we rode on. Rt 389 is a lot of fun on a bike with good suspension.


We passed Manic 2.






They've actually repaved a few short stretches of Rt 389.


Eventually we made it up to Manic 5 and gassed up.


The dam itself is enormous.


At the dam, the gravel begins. We stopped to lower our tire pressures (I experimented a bit but found that around 25psi in the front and 28 in the rear tire worked great), then set off on the gravel. The conditions were fairly good, and the Tiger handled the gravel a lot better than the Wee-Strom did on my last trip.

About a mile or two before Relais Gabriel, the road bed became much better; they'd obviously done a lot of work in preparation for paving. We gassed up at Relais Gabriel and asked where the pavement began; the woman told us it was about a kilometer north, and would be past Relais Gabriel by week's end.


On my first Trans-Lab trip, we were allowed to camp on a lake behind Relais Gabriel, but the second time they wouldn't let us. So I politely asked if there were any place nearby we might camp for the night, and the woman told us that we were welcome to set up our tents down by the lake as long as we didn't build a fire. We happily agreed, because this campsite is spectacular.










Stats for the day:


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

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

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Old 09-05-2012, 07:18 PM   #8
sevenpointsixtwo
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Day 2: Tadoussac, QC to Relais Gabriel, QC

After a quick breakfast at the same restaurant in which we ate the previous night, we got on the road, continuing north on 138 toward Baie Comeau along the St. Lawrence. Already, the scenery in the area was spectacular, and I was starting to feel like we were approaching the frontiers of civilization. On a trip last year on street bikes, Mark and I had ridden up this way and I vividly remember desperately wanting to return with the intent of continuing up Route 389 and beyond to the Trans-Labrador Highway, but entirely unsure of when or whether I would ever be able to do so. It still amazes me that, only a little over a year later, here we were again, following the trail in the right direction.



As we stopped for some photos and a snack, I began to notice a few things: the DRZ felt like it was working hard up some of the steeper hills on the road, and was making some quite loud mechanical clatter, audible over the incredibly loud exhaust note from my badly-in-need-of-replacement FMF Q (for “quiet,” ironically) canister. Mark convinced me not to worry about it, that all thumpers sounded like a bag of rocks. Additionally, sitting for miles on miles at a time was getting to be a real pain in the ass, literally. Evidently, stock (?) seat, plus Walmart ATV seat cover, plus Alaska sheepskin pad is not enough to make the DRZ a comfy bike.

Unfortunately, the issue wound up being none of the above, but rather a problem with my riding pants. The designer of the Speed and Strength “Coast is Clear” waterproof(ish) pants decided it would be a brilliant idea to add a zip-off ventilation panel from the side of the thighs around the back of the pants. Great, except for the fact that you sit directly on one of the zippers/seams while you ride, which makes any extended sitting a very unpleasant experience! Ah well, notes for next time.

Also, who says Arai XDs are known to whistle at speed? I can’t hear a damn thing!


After breaking for fuel in Baie Comeau, we split off onto Rt. 389 Nord. The official “Start of the Trans-Labrador Highway” sign was missing, unfortunately. Off we go:



I love this road. The whole thing is gorgeous and was a lot of fun on the DRZ. The pavement is rough enough that it because a nuisance on the street bike, but a dual-sport handles it perfectly, even with knobbies.


We gassed up at Manic 5 before hitting the gravel:


The very beginning of the gravel; a mere taste of things to come:


The sandwich I had picked up in Baie Comeau survived my high-tech lunch retention system as we stopped at the foot of the dam for a break:


This thing is HUGE. I was totally blown away by the sheer enormity:


The first stretch of gravel between Manic 5 and Relais Gabriel was pretty easy. I had confidence in the DRZ and the tires, and felt immediately comfortable, even in the looser deep stuff. A lot of the road surface was scuffed off into hard-pack dirt, which made the ride go pretty quickly.



The road was quite dry though, and the huge clouds of dust being kicked up by passing trucks and even Mark’s bike, a few hundred meters ahead, were bad enough that I had to ride with goggles. The only downside of the goggles with no faceshield is the epic dustache I found awaiting me at Relais Gabriel:


The ladies there laughed at me for that, but were nice enough to let me wash up and gave us an absolutely amazing camping spot for the evening:




This obviously excites me greatly:


This being evening #2 of the trip, we of course resorted to eating one of our “emergency” meals. Mmmmmmm:


I think one of the heinous Canadian blackflies that found this campsite so appealing must have gotten in Mark’s eye:
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Old 09-05-2012, 07:21 PM   #9
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Sweet!

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Old 09-05-2012, 08:06 PM   #10
markbvt OP
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Monday, 20 August 2012: Relais Gabriel, Quebec, to somewhere in Labrador

We awoke bright and early the next morning. Showers were available (at a price) at Relais Gabriel, but David, being a poor starving grad student, decided he'd rather take a bath in the lake, with the aid of that wonderful biodegradable Dr Bronner's soap.


I opted for a shower at Relais Gabriel. We also had a delicious breakfast there. Then we got going up Rt 389, and sure enough, after about a kilometer we came to the start of the new pavement. Word is Quebec is paving their entire stretch of Rt 389. Locals later told us that instead of trying to pave the infamous "mini trail" section (the twisty part between Fire Lake and Fermont where it repeatedly crosses the railroad tracks), they're actually building a bypass.

The fresh pavement included the previously-paved section in the former town of Gagnon.




For now, however, the mini trail section is the same twisty gravel it has been for years. Conditions were pretty good for us though, with lots of exposed hardpack base to make riding easy. We soon made it to the mine shortly before Fermont.




There the road turns back to pavement, and we soon made it to the Labrador border.




From there it's a short ride to Labrador City, where we stocked up on a few provisions. Then we stopped off in Wabush to pick up one of the emergency satellite phones the Labrador government makes available. While there, a nasty storm cloud caught up to us, and we high-tailed it out of there and got on Rt 500 heading east, the Trans-Labrador Highway. We got rained on, sometimes heavily, for a good distance out of Lab City before we outran the storm.




On one hand, it's unfortunate that the adventurous aspect of the Trans-Lab is going away; but on the other, I found myself enjoying the pavement because I could actually look around at the stunning scenery instead of concentrating intently on the road surface. After my first trip, I could have described 50 different kinds of gravel in detail, but I couldn't have told you anything about the scenery except in the spots we stopped. It's nice to get to actually see the area!

We stopped to camp at the same spot I stopped on the last two trips, a clearing a little more than halfway between Lab City and Churchill Falls.




It's a fairly nice spot, and very convenient. But unlike my previous trips, which were a little later in the season, we had to deal with black flies. Miserable little bastards. I resorted to the headnet.


So did David, though he took occasional breaks from it.


Stats for the day:


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

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

Bennington Triumph Bash, May 30-June 1, 2014
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Old 09-06-2012, 07:31 AM   #11
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Day 3: Relais Gabriel, QC to 53.41N -65.36W (Ranger Lake, Labrador)

After waking up fairly early, Mark and I started packing up camp and re-loading the bikes. He decided to shell out $10 CAD for a shower at the restaurant. Extortion! I, having had a shower the previous night, opted for a quick dip in the northern-most lake in which I’ve ever swam. Due to all the tannins in the water, it was very tea-colored and dark, but I wound up feeling extremely clean and refreshed (read: cold!)

During breakfast, I chatted in broken Franglish with a trucker who claimed that he had seen a couple BMWs at Manic 5 the evening before. I wondered if we’d run into any other riders en route?

We got on the road, and promptly ran into smooth, fresh pavement:


Which turned back to dirt in sections:


but was overall very rideable and made for quick going. The rain the night before kept the dust down, but was still looming by the time we got to Fire Lake:


The beginning of the “Mini-trail”:


We endured heavy rains in the Mini-trail, and arrived at Fermont soaked and dirty, but happy to have ridden some fun roads:


Labrador welcomed us with a double rainbow (well, ok, a single rainbow that runs twice through the spectrum). What does it mean?


Stopping briefly in Labrador City to pick up some food and motor oil to feed my DRZ’s nasty addiction, we got caught in another storm cloud and had to high-tail it out of town before getting too soaked. Too late; my ancient Sony camera was the first victim of the rain, despite being stashed in a “waterproof” pocket in my jacket. Sadly, this means no more pictures from the road for me; I was only able to snap shots with my phone when we stopped.

We made camp on the paved section of the road between Lab City and Churchill falls at what a sign was calling “Ranger Lake.” It was pretty well in the middle of nowhere and I was happy to be so far out of civilization! That came with a price, though: the black flies were so bad that we resorted to headnets and Deet, which promptly melted my flipflops.

Pretty nice spot, I’d say:


Mark finds an ingenious way to drink coffee while wearing a headnet:


The DRZ makes a pretty good drying rack. Too bad it was too humid for anything to really dry:


Plenty of “gorse” to feed Mark’s obsession:


I fell asleep very early, looking forward to getting back on the gravel the next day.
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Old 09-06-2012, 09:07 AM   #12
markbvt OP
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Tuesday, 21 August 2012: Onwards to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador

Next morning, we set off on the fresh pavement. It finally stopped about 100 miles east of Lab City and was gravel the rest of the way to Churchill Falls. However, the ten miles or so heading into Churchill Falls were under construction, and the road surface was rocky and uneven. Furthermore, there was a lot of truck traffic, and it was crawling along at a painfully slow pace. We actually couldn't go that slow in first gear without lots of clutch feathering, so we kept stopping and waiting for the traffic to get ahead of us.

We had another great breakfast in Churchill Falls, where we met a crew of guys from Montreal who were riding the Trans-Lab on a trio of Honda NC700X's and filming an episode for a TV show they produce. Then we kept heading east on the gravel.




About 65 miles before Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the road turned back to pavement... and it started raining. We ended up riding through a serious downpour that was heading east itself. Eventually we emerged on the other side into nice weather, but the rain stayed in our rearview mirrors looking like a wall of death. We stopped off at the Welcome to Happy Valley-Goose Bay sign...


...then high-tailed it to the Tim Horton's in Happy Valley to wait out the rain that was close on our heels. It arrived soon after we did.


Once the rain had passed again, we headed north through Goose Bay to set up camp for the night. We considered camping by the lake in the abandoned state park like I did on previous trips, but decided instead to camp in the nearby actual campground that the Montreal guys had told us they'd be staying at. We got a campsite nearby them.


David got a chance to ride one of the Hondas around the campground.


He reports it's actually a surprisingly nice bike and feels much lighter than it actually is. The Montreal guys had set the bikes up with Pirelli MT60 tires, and they reported that the bikes actually handled great on the Trans-Lab.

Stats for the day:


Track for the day:
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Old 09-06-2012, 09:19 AM   #13
sevenpointsixtwo
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Day 4: Ranger Lake to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL

Most of my pictures from this day (already limited, due to dead camera and general raininess) are similar to the ones Mark has already posted, so I'll make this a short post.

It was very nice to stop in Churchill Falls and get breakfast at an English-speaking establishment! The guys from Quebec were super nice, and invited us to check out the bikes. For all you Francophones, keep an eye on http://www.leshowdemoto.tv/ for the Trans-lab episode to drop. Thanks for the hospitality Ken, Patrick, and the rest!

Before the rain, between Churchill Falls and Happy Valley-Goose Bay:


The Honda NC700Xes and camera truck:


Ken let me ride one of the Hondas; it felt surprisingly light and easy to ride, as most of the weight is extremely low in the frame. I only putted around the campsite for a few minutes, but I could imagine with adequately sized wheels and some engine protection, that it would make a nice all-road tourer. Testament to the ease of riding was that the camera guy in their crew, who had never ridden a motorcycle in his life, didn’t even stall the thing as he circled the campsite!
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Old 09-06-2012, 10:19 AM   #14
markbvt OP
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Wednesday, 22 August 2012: Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Port Hope Simpson, Labrador

We headed out the next morning before the Montreal guys were up and about, stopped off at Tim Horton's for breakfast, gassed up, and headed off to the Phase 3 section of the Trans-Labrador Highway. This day would be gravel all the way to Port Hope Simpson.

This is what a lot of Phase 3 looks like.


The Tiger was doing great on the gravel. David was having a great time on his DR-Z too.












The front IRC tire was wearing really, really well.


At some point I made some comment that I wish I could take one of the black spruce trees from up there home with me and plant it in my yard, so David decided my bike needed decoration.


While riding Phase 3, I finally discovered the speed the Tiger really likes on the gravel. We'd been riding around 55mph or so, and it worked pretty well, but I had to pay close attention and stick to tire tracks as much as I could. But once I increased speed to 65-70mph, everything smoothed out and the Tiger stopped caring what was underneath its wheels. It rode solid and handled well, and I had a blast the rest of the way.

After some time we made it to the point where the new Phase 3 section joins the older Phase 2 part of the Trans-Lab.




Eventually we made it to Port Hope Simpson and gassed up. At one of our rest stops along the way, David had noticed that his taillight and license plate were missing, evidently torn off by a stray rock somewhere on Phase 3 (and unfortunately, his Alaska Sheepskin seat pad, affectionately known as Chewie, which David had strapped to the back of the bike to dry out, had also disappeared en route). So at the gas station/general store in Port Hope Simpson, we found him a taillight, and he scrounged a piece of cardboard to use for a license plate. From there we rode into town and down to the campground on the waterfront, which has a very nice view.


David wrote his license plate number on the cardboard and taped it to his DrySpec bag.


And then busied himself wiring up the new taillight and sealing it with RTV gasket maker.




He mounted it with zip ties and duct tape; it ended up lasting the rest of the trip.


Next we cooked dinner. David found that his spoon didn't work too well on spaghetti noodles, and he couldn't find his fork, but he did have a convenient wrench nearby.


The evening light made everything photogenic.




Stats for the day:


Track for the day:
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Old 09-06-2012, 10:34 AM   #15
sevenpointsixtwo
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Day 5: HVGB, NL to Port Hope Simpson, NL

We left camp early enough that we didn’t run into the Montreal crew. Thanks again guys! Breakfast at the Timmy’s in town was great; Canadians always amaze me with their unending and overwhelming openness and warmth. No matter where you go, someone will strike up a conversation with you and be genuinely interested in your story. Of course, people who wind up in Labrador have some pretty cool stories of their own. You really don’t get that in the States and, in writing this, I already miss the demeanor (and overall lack of the American attitude) that sets our Northern Neighbors apart.

We gassed up the bikes and the jerry cans and set off onto Phase 3.

It amazes me how new the road feels, having only been completed in 2010:


We were finally getting lucky with the weather, after having been rained on two days in a row.




Despite being quite a bit south of the “top” of the Trans-Lab, Phase 3 really felt like the most deserted stretch; less construction traffic and other trucks in general. We passed a group of 4 BMW GSes headed the other way as we were stopped to fill up the tanks from the cans, who slowed down to see if we were OK. Otherwise, everyone you pass gets a wave as there are just not that many people on the road!

Mark picked up a hitchhiker along the way:


The gravel was a little sketchy at times, but the DRZ felt incredibly confidence-inspiring at speeds ranging from 50 to 80 MPH on the rougher stuff. The potholes were more of a challenge at high speeds as I had less immediate throttle response to try to lighten the front over them, but once Mark figured out “The Speed” on the Tiger, we cruised at around 65-70 for most of the way.

As we pulled over for a break somewhere on Phase 3, I noticed something was missing:


The washboard plus gravel had managed to tear my brakelight and license plate clean off! I remember hearing a ‘thunk’ somewhere on the trail and looking around; jerry can still attached, satellite phone still attached, hmm.... must have been nothing. Oops!

Phase 3 ended and we continued onto Phase 2:


We made it to Port Hope Simpson without getting pulled over and set up camp:


Stocked up from the local gas station and service shop, and with Mark’s help (in photodocumenting the process), I was able to bodge together a replacement plate and light, as seen in Mark's post above. Legal? Close enough.
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