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Old 09-18-2012, 10:49 AM   #1
stfmkr OP
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The 2012 Canadian North East Late Summer Loppet

There is no adventure that is more adventuresome than taking off for a period of time with all your gear, cookware and camp setup on a motorcycle. We all love and enjoy this, it’s what we do. If you really love EXTREME adventure then I suggest you do what I learned to love to do...take your wife on the pillion.

Nothing will challenge a marriage quite like taking your significant other cross country through the woods and vast landscapes on a gravel and tarmac sojourn for weeks on end. This is what we recently did and we both loved every minute of it, and yes we are now home safe and still happily married. Fighting, arguing and then making up is the glue that makes the marriage stronger. Doing it on a bike away from home is what makes it fun and worthwhile.

This year we chose to go North East because of the call of “The Big Land” Labrador. It has always called me from afar and this year we both answered with a resounding yes. I have always wanted to experience the waters of Lac Manicouagen in person and see the bright blue water captured by the Manic 5 mega dam. Labrador City, Churchill Falls, Goose Bay, Red Bay, the Rock, St Johns, the Cabot Trail, Halifax, small towns along the Bay of Fundy, West Point PEI and the rural roads of New Brunswick were all on the list.

For this trip we decided to go without a GPS as we wanted to meet people along the way and to ask about the road ahead and this is the greatest way to do it. Everyone loves to speak about the road in their neck of the woods. I’ve always maintained that there is no such thing as riding to an exotic place in this world as everywhere you travel to is just someone else’s home and they always seem to love to tell you about it.

We looked at Google Maps for a few nights prior to leaving to see where these places were in relation to each other. We also know that plans are made so that you can have something to change. Through experience we know that “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see”-G.K. Chesterton

Our trusty ride is a 2010 R1200GSA who’s name is Myrtle the Iron Turtle which we really love for two-up full gear luxury camping. Without a doubt there is no other machine better suited for us to do what we do with it; grinding away the center stand and foot pegs through the twisties is a thing of beauty when fully loaded.

For you gear mavens, our full setup includes everything one would need to live on the bike indefinitely. This includes a full toolset and spares for the bike including tire repair gear and inner tubes as well as bedrolls, sleeping bags, full size goose down pillows (very important), full size tent with huge vestibule, camp stove and fuel, utensils and cookware, kettle, mugs and dishes, wash basin, water bucket, water dromedary, cooler for food and ice, food for 2-3 days, first aid kit, toiletries, electronics and camera, clothing, super comfy camp chairs and other sundry gear.

New camp gear was purchased for this trip (and many others to come) as the old gear had it’s run around the block one too many times and was long overdue to be replaced. The old gear was suited to me riding and camping alone which I have done for many years and this was my wife’s first big adventure and my first time traveling long distance two-up. This trip was purposed as a learning experience as to what it would take to live on the road and to see if we would like to make a round the world trip in the future together.

We weighed all our gear upon our return and were surprised to find we had decided to take 189 pounds of gear including a tankbag, 3 dry bags and 3 aluminum boxes. Whilst this sounds like a lot to carry it certainly weighs less than our house, car, pickup truck, ATV and garage which is what this setup represents in its most minimalist form. The bike is certainly capable to carry it so it is what it is, no regrets. With our weight including suits, helmets, boots and gloves the bike carried a full 632 pounds. It was really an interesting exercise for me to find out that my suit, helmet, boots, gloves and underclothes were 24 pounds just on their own. I had no doubt that the stiff and gnarly Deutsche Heidenau Scout tires were up to the task and with 14,000 kms on them today they still look 40% good! They are the most overbuilt tires I’ve ever seen and they match the Iron Turtle perfectly.

pics to follow...
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Old 09-18-2012, 11:15 AM   #2
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Preparations

First the stock bike was prepared by farkleizing it. I had been bumped twice in one day from the rear by overzealous cagers at stoplights on a recent trip to the city so I added the Skene lights that get you noticed, no more excuses.A Mudsling and a front fender extender were added to keep the dust and muck at bay...thanks for the many dust warnings from other ADV ride reports! Some Pivot Pegz, Altrider headlamp guard, oil cooler guard and potentiometer guard, some electrical sockets and a prefilter sock were also added and that’s about it. The bike comes well enough equipped for this type of trip seeing that it is already the “Adventure” Winnebago model.

We did a dry run to test the new camp gear in Algonquin Park a couple of weeks beforehand which really helped. We learned alot through packing, repacking and then some more repacking till we got things securely stowed away. Through the process we ditched a lot of stuff and even found ourselves with extra room so that we could bring our hiking shoes.

Now you must realise that my wife is unused to motorcycling and the weird mindset that goes with it. She came into the garage to see what I was doing and was somewhat concerned that the bike was scattered around the garage in pieces just a few days before scheduled departure...that was a fun day. I did an oil change and valve inspection and put everything back together, loaded the bike and waited for take off.




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Old 09-18-2012, 11:22 AM   #3
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Let's try this computery picture uploading business again. One thing I've learned in life...keep trying to keep learning.

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Old 09-18-2012, 01:13 PM   #4
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pics

The pics are HUGE..you have to scroll all over the screen. Maybe smaller is better??

I look forward to your report.
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:16 PM   #5
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As soon as I figure out how to I will...nuking and retry!
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:40 PM   #6
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I am sure you will get it!! I just put everything up with Picasa..then use the link to post them here. Works great for me. I will wait to see your trip!!

Andrew
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Old 09-18-2012, 06:49 PM   #7
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Huntsville to Hawkesbury

So here we are, actually departing. It took awhile (to say the least) to get going, we left at 12:30 in the afternoon! I was grumpy because of it and she was a bit nervous because of that and this was to be a bit of a feature of the trip and we learned a lot about each other and ourselves because of it.

With about 450 km to go the trip starts in Huntsville and goes through Algonquin Park, Golden Lake, Renfrew, Ottawa and onwards to our first camp at Domaine Chartrand Camping on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River.

The riding was hot, humid, fast on the curves and slow on the straights with lots of sight seeing stops along the way. The riding around Algonquin is absolutely magic. After a quick stop to clean visors and have an espresso we re-entered the the heavy traffic on hwy 17 and just as I got up to speed...WHAM, pelted by an exploding stinkbug right on the mustache! I really didn’t want to pull over as we needed to make some time and distance so I just dealt with it as best I could with my glove and some spittle at speed..let’s not do that again shall we?...mental note....close visor one more click. It was so hot that the visor had to be kept open a little for fear of drowning in perspiration especially in traffic.

After a bit of dull slab running through the western suburbs of Ottawa we made an impromptu stop downtown on the steps of the Canadian Parliament. As far as cities go, Ottawa is always been a favorite for us and it was worth the stop. There’s a guy there who’s an icon; the sausage and hotdog man who feeds Canada’s political elite (if there were such a thing). We had a quick bite and we were off again to our campsite, happy in the knowing that we were going to see a part of the country we hadn’t seen together before.

We arrived at the campsite hot, tired, sweaty and terribly happy that we did what we said we would and make it to this spot and take a bit of time for ourselves along the way to actually experience the different areas we were traveling through...and we arrived before dark to set up camp and have a shower to boot. All this even after a very late start. A couple of wobbly pops and we hit the sack with rain in the forecast for tomorrow, hopefully it will cut out some of the oppressive humid heat.

Tail waters of Lake Opeongo in Algonquin...maybe we shouldn’t leave!


Flatland of Renfrew


Myrtle the Iron Turtle waiting for rider and passenger at LCBO on Ottawa River


First night, camp at Domaine Chartrand Camping on the Ottawa (pic taken the next morning)
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Old 09-18-2012, 06:56 PM   #8
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Looks good so far.


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Old 09-18-2012, 09:07 PM   #9
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Hawkesbury to Quebec City

We spent last night tossing and turning, cooking in the humid tent listening to someone’s dog bark incessantly at the all night partiers. Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep and to top it off we didn’t get much sleep for the entire week previous to this either, this did not bode well for the upcoming gravel roads.
We weren’t happy about the circumstances that loomed as a huge thunderstorm was within sight and fast approaching...this was at 6am. We started packing quickly, made some coffee and had a light breakfast. It started thundering and raining so we put the bike in the tent and went back to sleep whilst the leading edge of the storm passed through. We were very lucky that most of the storm was to the north of us. It rained and the wind whipped up pretty good, it was a good test for the new tent. The advertising of the Redverz Expedition2 tent does actually live up to the marketing hype and it is every bit as good as they say it is. We were dry and enjoyed the ability to roll up the pillows, sleeping bags and thermarests and finish packing the bike without being cramped or wet, we didn’t even have to take the boxes off inside.
The rain passed us by in a few hours so we ate while we packed up the tent and finally got going around 11:30 am.
We crossed the Ottawa River in Hawkesbury and we were now in Quebec riding along chasing the storm just in front of us. It was a great sight to see ominous clouds to the north of us and in front with clear blue skies in the mirrors. We took our time and made some stops along the way. We bought some strawberries at a roadside fruit stand and ate them while riding along in the Quebec countryside, very nice.
We slabbed it past Montreal and then took Hwy 40 to Quebec City. We won’t do that again. That is a very tiring straight road with no redeeming or notable features along the way, I get tired just thinking about it.
We arrived in the old part of the city and sat at a table in an outdoor cafe wondering where we were going to stay. We phoned some places but everything seemed to be full or way out of our price range. We got a tip from the desk clerk from another hotel that there were rooms at Hotel Sepia in the west end of town. We checked in and went to one of the nicest rooms we’d seen in ages, just perfect. The clerk told us that Cirque du Soleil was having a show downtown and it was free! Bonus!
We stripped the bike, freshened up and headed out on the town for a spectacular show en plein air under the highway overpass, just outstanding.
We like Quebec so much that we stayed another day doing some sightseeing and visiting the local BMW bike dealer for a quick computer message deletion (Thanks for the quick service call Moto Vanier!). The bike was trying to tell me to change the oil and check the valve clearances within the next 800 kms. Obviously Myrtle hadn’t noticed that I did it already.
We rode the bike into the old city behind the walls to the center where we parked and had some lunch. A well intentioned Grandma warned us in her own charming Quebecois way that we cannot bring the bike into the walled portion of the city. I quickly dug out the smart phone and it turns out that there is a law with a hefty fine for doing just that. Whould’a thunk it? We ordered lunch and ate slowly just to spite the powers that be. I thought if we had to pay another $500 instead of going to find parking at the bottom of a very big hill and then climbing back up to the restaurant in the sweltering heat and humidity then so be it! It turns out the law is left over from the noisy pipe bike gangs of old and since it seemed to work they just kept the law in place. Too bad they didn’t outlaw the loud diesel mega tour busses and RV’s too.
We retired to our room smiling in the knowing that tomorrow would be a long ride and that we now had cooler air and enough of a buffer between us and the storm which had now gotten much bigger gathering water from the St. Lawrence and all the lakes between here and Labrador.



Camp


That's a big tent!


Rest stop on Hwy 40,..they should provide pillows


Quebec City


Old church reborn,...Rue d'Eglise


Cirque du Soleil


Old City


Old City
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Old 09-18-2012, 10:13 PM   #10
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Quebec City to Baie Comeau

We started the next day by sleeping in, slowly packing, a bit more relaxed and enjoying life. We packed up and were on the road by 11 am, another late start but an improvement nevertheless.

It was much cooler and overcast so we stopped along the river to add a layer of wool and change gloves. We took Hwy 138 to Baie Saint Paul (nice town) and then Hwy 362 to La Malbaie where it turns into Hwy 138 again. This section has many great features for riding, up and over a mountain range, lots of hills and curves on relatively decent pavement following the St. Lawrence. This is an excellent route and I would recommend it, you’ll just have to watch out for the police as there were a few lurking in the bushes. Speeding tickets have no rhyme or reason here, it just depends on the mood of the officer.

Lots of great views all the way to the Saguenay River where we took the ferry. There is no wait time or fee for this ferry which is absolutely great. We got rained on quite a bit but were dry and in good spirits due to our rest the previous day. Even though it was getting late and very cold we decided to press on to Baie Comeau. After Tadoussac the road becomes quite desolate but hauntingly beautiful. Just before Forestville the road heads away from the river onto a desolate plateau where things changed dramatically, the treeline changes to short spindly black spruce spread intermittently across a barren landscape, were were now in the Boonies. It had been raining for a while and now started to pour.

We stopped in Forestville and had a coffee, a small dinner and added a heavier wool layer, we now were wearing full weather gear. My wife had gotten a chill in the last 20 kms and she was shivering. It was a good lesson for the both of us, we couldn’t afford that in a more remote setting. We promised ourselves to carry a wool layer in the tankbag for quick access if things got iffy again. It was probably around 12 degrees and raining, not so bad really it’s just an extreme difference all of a sudden coming from the last 100 days or so of oppressively hot and humid Ontario weather. As we ate we caught a break, the storm pushed forward a bit more and we were able to ride to Baie Comeau without much rain or anything else for that matter, this was a desolate road except for the big trucks that we saw every so often.

It was dark when we pulled into town and we found a room at the first motel that we pulled into, serendipity strikes again. We unloaded the bike and went to the IGA to find provisions for the long day ahead tomorrow. We had no idea what to expect heading into Labrador so we stocked up with food and very glad we did as it turns out. The Quebec diet is much closer to our own than the Labrador diet. The next leg of the trip is completely unknown and a good chunk of it will be remote and on gravel. We’ve ridden on gravel roads and bush tracks around home but never with 170 pounds of extra weight. I thought to myself, maybe we should have had a practice run or two to see how the big bike handles on the rollie pollies, I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.



Construction over the mountain pass Hwy 138


Riverside park just outside Baie Comeau
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Old 09-20-2012, 01:04 PM   #11
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Baie Comeau to Labrador City

We had a good sleep after yesterdays ride and were greeted with the knowing that today is going to be an adventure, riding to Labrador. We had seen the pictures on this website, did a bit of research on the net but nothing had really set in except that some of the road was paved and some of it was gravel with big dust stirring trucks that we need to watch out for. No big deal right?
We had a good breakfast, packed up, loaded the bike, put some air in the front tire and filled up the tank. It was hot and humid again with a very strong sun cooking us medium well, and off we went in a bit of a rush. It was already 11:45 by the time we were ready to roll. Not good to rush as it turns out as we were happily barreling along towards Sept-Iles when I noticed that things just didn’t feel right about this road. I stopped the bike, fired up the smart phone and looked at the satellite map, oops, wrong road, nice road to ride but just the wrong way. We backtracked and restarted at the beginning of Hwy 389.

I had heard that this was a curvy hilly road with poor pavement. While true this is a bit of an understatement, the pavement is actually folded into itself like a washboard dirt road. This was upsetting the suspension on the bike to the point that the traction control and anti lock brakes were kicking in on the dry hot pavement. We tried a few different settings on the electronic suspension adjustment and ended going back to the comfy 2 up mode which is where it is almost always set for us. The trick here was to turn the traction control to the dirt setting and let the bike slip a bit when it needed to and to detune the anti lock brakes at the same time. This worked well and we were able to have a bit of fun riding the twisties. Along the way we passed a spot where a truck obviously went off the road missing a corner. There were long skidmarks on the road and the truck tractor and presumably trailer cut a huge swath out of the forest way down the mountainside. We slowly realized that this is a very difficult road for trucks, almost every guardrail was either freshly repaired or mangled along its full length and many corners had those long huge hopping skidmarks that cross into the oncoming lane. I am assuming that this road will be straightened and repaved one day soon so better to come now before it gets boring.

The really curvy bit of the road is only for the first 100 km or so and then the road gets rather straight so we turned it up a notch to make up some time. Not a good idea. There are huge compression bumps every so often that will bottom the suspension in a big way. We were heavily loaded and it was just too much for the bike to handle. It was better to just enjoy the scenery that was changing fast. Northern Quebec is a desolate place and the road is here for one thing only, to get to the resources.
It started raining about a half an hour before Manic 5 and we were wondering where this huge dam was and if the campground we read about was any good. We made no plans on where to stay that night so we were getting antsy as there are few options for this stretch of road. We crested a hill and there it was, larger than life and an engineering marvel, very impressive indeed. We had a bite to eat in the parking lot of the tourist centre at the base of the dam and carried on wondering about the accommodations at Relais Gabriel further up the road. The blackflies were plentiful and still hungry even this late in the season so there would be no camping around these parts.

We hit the gravel right away after the dam and had to stop after about 10 kms to take air out of the tires, the bike was wallowing in the fresh deep gravel. This was a new experience with this much weight and we now had to put our trust in the engineering of tires that were unfamiliar to me. We went from 36 psi and 42 psi down to 20 psi and 26 psi. I didn’t dare to go any lower as the load was just too much and I couldn’t risk overheating them. The tires performed amazingly well with no overheating problems at all and we were even able to get up to 130 kph with no issues. I can definitely recommend the Heidi’s to anyone, you just have to air them up every second day as they do bleed some air out after heavy use as reported elsewhere on this site.

We made it to Lac Manicouagan and stopped to marvel at its beauty. We will definitely come back as it is another magic place, maybe something left over from the meteor that created it. Another snack, some good conversation and we were off to find some fuel and see Relais Gabriel.

A short time later we pulled in to the gas stop, this is it??? It is a building that houses a small canteen, an outbuilding and a garage building to fix truck suspensions, 2 gas pumps and that’s it. I don’t know but I was expecting something a little more. The staff and the resting truckers were very helpful and obliging but no firm details about the road that was ahead. A few conflicting stories as only one guy had seemed to have been further up the road. The only consensus was why would you want to go? My francophone skills were not up to the task of explaining, CeaCea tried as her Parisian french is closer to Quebecois. I am always amazed that this type of riding is not understandable to most people, I should be used to it by now I suppose. We filled up and headed out into a setting sun knowing that we had another 270 kms to go before civilization.

This was probably the best part of the ride, the road was well watered from the rain so no dust, the sky had been clearing and the humidity and heat were gone and with our woolies back on we were toasty warm and happily rolling along in the Quebec wilderness. Near the Fire Lake mine the road goes from a relatively straight gravel highway into a gnarly twisty turny mess with potholes and soft shoulders zig zagging across a set of train track that service the mines. The terrain changes again to bog lands and marshes for the most part. Not easy riding especially at night with the trucks barreling along down the centre of this narrow road. We had to pull off into the soft shoulder and almost come to a stop each time.

After a great challenging night ride we pulled into Labrador City and got a hotel room at Twin Seasons Inn at 10:30 pm. This was another great day for us as we experienced so much and to top it off we passed by 3 signs that read 50th, 51st and 52nd parallels which was pretty cool. We also got to meet Tilly the bartender who welcomed us in the warmhearted way Labradorians are famous for. We shared stories and laughs and had a wonderful night.

Beginning of HWY 389, the road is open, no snow!


Washboard ripple road


switch gear


Hwy 389


Manic 5


Road to top of dam


Manic 5 and Lac Manicouagan


Big Rigs


Rainbow Road


Lac Manicouagan



you are here


small bridge HWY 389





Labrador City with mines in background

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Old 09-20-2012, 02:24 PM   #12
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In! Next year for me and the missus.
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Old 09-20-2012, 04:10 PM   #13
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You'll love it!
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Old 09-20-2012, 04:25 PM   #14
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Labrador City to Goose Bay

After 2 night’s sleep and a full rest and explore day at the Twin Seasons we were ready to do the morning dance; eat, pack, repack and load the bike, gas up, check the tires, air up for the pavement, get grumpy, kiss and make up and settle into a great ride.

During the morning packing and loading adventure we met Hellcat650 (another Inmate) who graciously helped us with our luggage. He took the 65 lb pannier and did so with a smile even though we were at the very end of a long hallway. We spoke about our trip so far and looking forward to our respective adventures. I like the camaraderie between inmates along the road and we were to meet a few more along the way.

I just figured out why it’s called luggage, because you have to lug it around every morning and evening while traveling. One thing we discovered about ourselves is that we like camping better, just park the bike and no lugging and we usually feel more rested the next day. Mind you the soft bed right beside the clean toilet and shower is why we like hotels too so the answer we came to is that if we are going to stay for 2 nights or longer, we’ll camp. If we want to make time and distance we’ll ride later into the day and hotel it. Over time we’ve learned what works best for us. This trip riding 2 up was a huge learning experience and now we have a better foundation to start with for our next adventure.

We left at around 10 am and couldn’t figure out how we had our best start yet, we just thought that practice helps a lot. After our first rest stop we figured out that there was a timezone change so really we were right on our usual time. We had a good chuckle and carried on. The road was fresh pavement for the first 150 km or so and I wished I had an SS1000RR with no luggage. Sport bike riders will most probably be able to do this ride in the very near future as the road keeps getting wider and smoother by the day. Now the rub,.. the speed limit is 70 kph which is very unreasonable to say the least.

It was a Sunday morning and there was no traffic at all except for a couple of pickups pulling camper trailers heading back or to somewhere. We came to the end of the pavement and a lot of construction activity laying fresh tarmac. Once we were let through after a few minutes we sailed along through the uneven roadway having the experience of a few days ago under our belts. There was no problems and we enjoyed the scenery and the many sightseeing stops along the way. Just before Churchill Falls there was some serious road widening going on and we had to inch our way through the huge dump trucks and graders for about 10 km. This part took quite awhile as the road crew had our safety in mind for sure. Some of the boulders they were pouring out of these trucks were bigger than a dog house. There was a fresh surface of pit-run or blast-rock for us to ride on. In some spots there was a soft jelly-like sand that was being layered into the road bed which was very interesting to ride on.

We made it to the company town of Churchill and had lunch at the restaurant there after gassing up. It’s the only place between Lab City and Goose Bay. After lunch we had an uneventful yet very fulfilling ride as the road was amazing. No graders or trucks or traffic of any kind, just us skimming along at whatever speed we chose. We stopped a few times to check out the snowmobile trail that criss crossed the highway. I’m thinking that this trail will be the new adventure trail in these parts and it looks to be very do-able. I’m wondering if anyone knows of someone trying it. We certainly didn’t have the time on this trip but maybe someday.

Labrador is a majestic land and well deserving of the name “The Big Land” and I salute the people who try to tame it (mostly for feeding the blackflies). The section of road getting close to Goose Bay is freshly paved and curves its way through the mountains at the edge of the plateau that we’d been riding on for the past few days. We came to a spot where we could see the huge river that flows into Lake Melville at Goose Bay. It certainly is worth taking in the view. The road then runs alongside the river in the valley and is again quite straight. I was surprised to see that the same drought has afflicted the forest here as it has in the rest of the country.

We rolled into town at a reasonable hour and had dinner at the Hotel North 2. It was a pretty dusty day and it was our first completely dry day. The storm that we’d been following since leaving home had finally moved out into the ocean. The bike was flawless, CeaCea was really getting used to riding pillion in the loose gravel at speed and I was starting to get into a Zen-like rhythm that I promised myself to try to keep. I’m used to 1000 mile day rides from the before times and a part of me misses it. I think that during this part of the ride I was able to speak to that part of myself and let it know that as I get older the challenges will change and making miles is not the only adventure.


Caribou carcass etiquette - did we mention we love Labrador?


Big vista


Big water, big sky


The end of the paved road, finally!


Some mountains and hopefully curves with elevation changes too!


The empty river...I hope someone is enjoying their kilojoules


Construction, dust and a wider road day after day


more dust


pouring boulders in the bush


these guys....


this is heaven


soft shoulder meat grinder Labrador style


Lookout near Goose Bay
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Old 09-24-2012, 12:45 PM   #15
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Oddometer: 39
Goose Bay to Red Bay

Today would be our last day of gravel and it was to be glorious. It's the longest unserviced section of road on this trip and we were really looking forward to it. So far the best parts of the journey was the gravel roads and we found ourselves to be somewhat disappointed to see the pavement each time. The road from Goose Bay to Port Hope Simpson is over 400 km and there is nothing to let you know that civilization exists except the few other vehicles that may pass by, or the occasional grader smoothing out the whole mess.
I packed and loaded the bike while CeaCea had breakfast with an acquaintance at another local hotel. The day was perfect for riding with crisp clear air and very sunny skies. The winds had died down too and it was as if Labrador was going to give us a pleasant stay on our last full day.

We rolled out of town without taking in any sights as we were here for the road, traveling for the sake of traveling.The gravel was quite a bit deeper on this section of the TransLab and the road really did look considerably newer. The shoulders were butter soft and there was no way you could get near them without feeling the suction-like pulling effect on the heavily loaded machine. The center of the road was well packed and every so often we would hit a soft patch which upset me more than the bike, it wasn’t possible to tell what was soft by looking as the sun was shining in our eyes the whole way. The bike handled the challenges of the road very well and without any concern. This is a good bike.

At one point we came across an SUV that had crashed very recently and it was demolished. I had hoped that the occupants were ok but I thought it unlikely. Hwy 510 is only 2 years old and the road is still settling and every so often there are large depressions that can drop the road a few feet for short sections. That SUV had been caught by one of these and it flung the vehicle off the road like one would discard a candy wrapper. The gauges in the road were quite evident and that would not be the last one we would see today.

The road is mostly straight with few elevation changes except for the few times where it crosses large river valleys. We were told that the road was built from gravel from the roadside gravel pits that contained rare earth minerals that are used in electronics. A study is being completed to measure the viability of mining the road surface and replacing it with valueless gravel from pits that are much farther away! I’m not sure if this is true but just the thought of it boggles the mind.

There were more graders at work here than on any other stretch of the highway so far and they really dug into the road to turn it over. It looked like they were pushing dark slushy snow and at the speed they were moving it wasn't easy to get onto the oncoming lane fast enough. They come at you head on so that they can see you, or so goes the theory of it. They are so busy looking down at what they're turning over that they don't notice you till you're right in front of them. The bike plowed through the center mound that they'd left fairly easily as the sand gravel mix was very soft. Running on the freshly graded sections was interesting as it was very uneven in its composition. It was hard and smooth where there was moisture in the road and super soft when dry. On the dry sections the front tire would push the gravel out of the way to find the hard parts which of course wasn't there.

At around 100 km before Port Hope Simpson the road turns really ugly and that section is notorious for it’s potholes and poor overall condition. It’s like a minefield of holes and there were so many that either we slowed down to steer around them or suffer the consequences of a large hit every few seconds. For the first few minutes we tried to steer around but it was pointless, I brought the speed back up to 80 kmh and we just sailed through putting our trust in the BMW engineers who designed the suspension. AS we went banging along we heard a new noise from the bike. I t didn't sound bad and kinda sounded like the centre stand popping up and down against its bumpers. We would find out later that the rear fender bolt had sheared. I knew that was a weak point and should have left the fender at home. I couldn’t help wondering what the expensive Ohlins would feel like because these shocks will be trashed if we keep going like this.

We filled up at Port Hope Simpson and we asked if the road ahead was any better than this last bit. There was a chuckle from the woman who tends the counter and she said that it only gets worse for at least the next 100 km. Great, onwards and upwards we say! We had a coffee, a bite to eat and a very pleasant conversation with the folks who run the place. The whole family rides and their playground is the Translab, I think they are very lucky. The store they operate has everything you need to live; snowmobiles, food, chainsaws and spare parts for everything, it feels just like home.

The scenery on the next leg was fantasticly breathtaking. We were doing the pothole dance whilst following a big truck when we had to put the binders on. The truck had stopped in the middle of the road for an accident that had just happened. There were 3 people standing beside their upside down SUV looking a bit shaken. Another casualty of the road. They were ok. The officer who just pulled up had this expression like “oh, here’s another one”. We gave thanks to the road angels and slowly passed by and proceeded with caution.

Riding through the potholes was exciting but we’d had enough and welcomed the road surface transition to a hard packed red clay type surface that was smoother than the paved roads of Quebec some days earlier. It was clear that this journey through the Big Land had an effect on us as we crested the Labrador plateau just before Red Bay. We saw the ocean in the distance and slowed down to second gear and just idled along feeling the joy of accomplishment. For us this was a milestone as the gravel was finished and we would change to paved roads for the rest of the journey.

We pulled in to Red Bay and serendipitously found a room right on the water where we could park the bike at the front door. There was a restaurant at the main building and we had our first real oceanside fish and chips with a nice cold local craft beer A perfect end to a perfect day. Absolute bliss.



Here we go!


Good bye Goose Bay



Crossing over to the new road, Hwy 510



A little ways to go yet



Oops, watch your wheels!



Caution, graders at work



Leave no one behind, bringing back the dead



Soft!



Beautiful and pristine



Rare earth metals road



This doesn't look good, SUV upside down



They're ok! whew!



intrepid travellers



Red roads



Changing scenery



Red Bay and the ocean



Myrtle at rest after a great day!



Red Bay sunset

stfmkr screwed with this post 09-24-2012 at 09:51 PM
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