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Old 09-28-2013, 07:19 AM   #1
~wsrock~ OP
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Joined: Oct 2008
Location: Maine
Oddometer: 47
No Bugs, No Bears, No Bikes Trans Lab Sept 2013 Alone

Yeah, yeah, another report on the Trans Lab. Hopefully I'll include new and shiny tid-bits to help those who want to make this trip.

For myself, I kept hearing it’s all going to be paved soon so you better go! So, well, I did. I couldn’t go in July or August so I decided to make it happen in September. I repeatedly was told of bears, wolves keeping you up at night, black flies and mosquitos carrying you away, a multitude of tire changes, running out of fuel, and the whole gamut of dangerous (and worse) mishaps. I was warned of being stranded because of ferries leaving without you and the constraints of meeting those ferries. People warned me of the GSA being too big, the systems too complex, and not being able to pick it up and the perils of driving alone.


 photo creatures_zpsaa4ebf60.jpg

Anything could happen everyone warned!

First I needed to scratch out a weather window. Not for the trip mind you, but for my work. This is Hurricane Season and I’m in the boat business. When a Hurricane comes it’s a zoo. On Sept 5th I could see Tropical lows forming off Africa yet it didn’t look like it would amount to much. Green light. I packed and repacked, got some Canadian cash and on Sept 7th I was off on my BMW R1200 GS Adventure.

Late start at 3:00 PM EST.

In this report I hope to point out things I didn’t glean from reading all the great Trans Lab reports circulating out there. Also, I would be tracked with a satellite transponder and a GPS the entire trip and have good data to share with distance covered, speeds, fuel economy, etc.. My proposed track was the equiv of driving from New York, NY to Guatemala. The paper maps showed 1.8 million square miles of territory. The general route was over 3000 miles. I had ten days to do it.

I'd leave from and return to Maine. This map is 1600 miles wide x 1200 miles high. The longest ferry ride would be almost 300 miles.

My choice was to run the trip clockwise from Maine through Quebec, Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick back to Maine. I have never been to Labrador, Newfoundland, or Nova Scotia. The clockwise decision stemmed from my concern the tires might wear too much before reaching the gravel. I was careful to put minimum pre-trip miles on the TKC 80 on the front and the Heidenau K60 Scout on the rear.

Day 1 Begins

At 3:00 PM I headed towards the Canadian border. I wondered what I forgot and what was onboard that was superfluous. It felt good to finally make the break. The bike felt good. The stuff was holding together, and I was the only bike on the road.

Driving at night was something I wanted to avoid if possible. My GS is equipped with freight train lighting facing forward if needed. I can light up the woods on either side looking for the Tapetum Lucidum eye reflection of deer, coyote, and other creatures. But still, since I’ve hit deer with cars, I preferred not try that with a bike. So I had just barely enough time to make the border before or just after dark.

The Garmin Montana GPS wanted to take me up right up to Rt 2 across the border and hug the border on the Canadian side in New Brunswick until Quebec. I wanted to stay in Maine until Van Buren as I have not seen Houlton, Presque Isle, or Caribou yet. So I overrode the Montana and went paper all the way to Houlton. It was raining when I got close, getting dark, and dropping into the forties. I found two motels and checked into Iveys Motor Lodge.

I hadn’t really had the time to map out the journey as of yet and took the opportunity to do so in the motel bar. There was a large screen TV playing a “sexiest country music video” count-down. The other screen was a Nascar event. The two went together. Everyone was drinking Budweiser. I ordered Harp. The middle aged bartender seemed to like me because I said “thank-you, yes ma’am, and please”. My observation was that women in the videos were attractive girl-next-door-happy-to-be-in-the-pickup types and the men wore cowboy hats and three day beards.

The kitchen was being rebuilt so dinner was a container of stew from the reception desk shelf. I was allowed to heat it in my room’s microwave and then eat it in the bar. With maps spread out I figured I needed to leave no later than 8:30 AM to make the ferry at Matane, Quebec.

DAY 1 9/7/13 162.46 miles travelled 41 MPG Average Avg Speed 42.08 mph Trip Hours 4 hrs 30 min.

Day 2

Morning found the bike to be outside in the cold rain. I had put the cover on the night before in part to hide it but also just give me something dry to assemble with the bags I brought in the night before.

Yuck. Cold Wet Yuck.

A "free" breakfast.

At a quick refuel at the local Irving station I met up with 4 guys from Fredericton, NB. They had their sport bikes in the back of pickup trucks and were headed off to Louden Race Track in NH. One had done the Translab on a BMW 650 and warned me of dumping in the gravel right out of Manic Five Dam. This is the second person to have told me about their personal experience with the bike off its tires.

The US Canadian Border in Van Buren, Maine. You can't use the Garmin Citimaps for the access road as it has been changed with new construction. Just follow the traffic. There were no obvious signs when I was there. Customs was quick. "Got guns? Got Pepper Spray? Got $10,000 or more on you? No? Here's a map of Tim Horton's locations!"

I was concerned about making the ferry in Matane, Quebec. My GPS was showing an arrival time with some buffer. Once I crossed the border I saw an hour added to the arrival. Later I discovered the GPS switched to Atlantic Time from EST. I also wanted to take Route 17 directly to my destination and the GPS was constantly trying to reroute me to Rt. 2 which I knew to be longer. I eventually had to stop the navigation until I was much father down the road. I was taking the most direct route possible through New Brunswick to Matane, Quebec.

Quebec wins for the prettiest border sign.

Moving through dramatic hillsides once in Quebec I saw huge log yards. At one I estimated perhaps 500,000 logs sitting at a lumber mill stacked three stories high by several city blocks in area.

On the final run moving at speed about 20 miles outside Matane I heard a loud thud and scraping noise. My left pannier fell off! A quick glance to confirm and to see if anyone was going to hit it. I circled around facing south and went back as cars whizzed past. I brought the now scratched pannier back to the bike and I noticed one of the clamps was missing on the bottom. I figured I could strap that section on. As I went to place the heavy pannier on the bike I pushed to hard and the bike fell right over. It was balanced to much on a vertical on a very slight slope. The wheels were practically sticking up in the air. Great! I have only a 15 minute buffer now to catch the ferry! I unloaded everything and made several attempts to get the bike vertical. It was simply on too much of a slope now. This was going to take quite awhile without a second person. As this is all happening, with my bike right on the side of the road with the wheels nearly vertical at least ten cars went right by me without even a thought of seeing if everything was all right. No one had any inclination to help. About a quarter mile away a house had people gathering on a raised deck watching. There was no movement of anyone making their way over to see what was going on. It was essentially a reality TV show for them.

Normally I'd make some props and raise the bike up to a good position but I knew I didn't have the time. So with my best "poor me" look I stared at a few cars coming at me. That worked! A mini van backed up with a woman inside and a small sedan with a guy and a gal also stopped. Within one minute the bike was up thanks to this one fellow in the sedan. So, the key in Quebec, is to make yourself completely pitiful, then you will get some attention! I should have known this as this is my French speaking strategy too.

I arrive to be second to the last in line to board. I had no reservation. Other than being late, I really didn't need one this time of year.

In front of me were five bikes and dozens of cars. Two guys on street bikes were from Lewiston, ME and were off to Quebec City. Two other bikes were Harleys with French Canadians, and in the front was a KTM 1000. More on that one in a bit.

Onboard and near the door.

There is one thing I forgot about Quebec and that is the inclination for women to dye their hair oxblood red and wear form-fitting leather . The guys on the other hand wore silk or sported Harley apparel. The men glared at my ballistic nylon while the women commanded a gaze longer than I’m to accustomed in the land of Potatoes.

Flying proudly from the masthead and boldly emblazed on the smoke stack of Camille Marcoux Ferry was the Fleur de Lys. The Canadian ensign was too small and wrapped around the flagstaff.

My schoolboy Provincial French was just enough to get the on board restaurant staff to take pity and answer me in English or carefully re-pronounce my French. Surprisingly they were pleasant to the English-only patrons who figured if they spoke English louder and repetitively they would get their French fries and gravy. I don’t think that would happen on shore though…

The fellows from Lewiston, Maine had approached and told me that the rider from Labrador with the new KTM 1000 was planning on riding straight to Labrador City upon arriving in Baie Comeau. They had wondered if I could accompany him at least as far as I was going that evening which I thought might be the Manic Five dam.

I think because my bike kind of looked like the bat mobile down there on the garage deck I might be more Charlie Boorman than Walter Mitty. I mean, it ‘looked like’ I was half way on an around the world journey. Little do they know I just pushed my bike over and completely upside down!

There in Baie Comeau I had my first encounter with chip reading gas pumps reading cost per liters. My credit cards do not have chips so I needed to go into the store to use it. Being a convenience station I stocked up on some canned food and one of the items I found that turned into one of the most cherished items on the trip which I repeated often and that is an extra large Snickers bar to stuff into the tank bag. I can’t tell you how important that candy bar stash was in the middle of nowhere.

Brad was concerned about staying awake on the trip to Labrador City (which he gauged to be about 8 hours or an overnight ride out). He found some two liter Pepsi on sale and wanted to get two bottles to bring and it turned out the sale wasn’t so good so he settled on a six pack of Pepsi Max. I suggested Red Bull as that was smaller. ***Correction: Brad says it was either a 12 or 24 pack and that's how I could be offered one every 30 minutes!

 photo IMG_2466-1_zps51dab57c.jpg

Brad sporting one of the Pepsi Max's. Brand new bike, bags, and gear on the way to home near Labrador City. Brad has been thinking about this bike for over two years.

With full fuel in both bikes, some canned Turkey Dinner, and snacks we were off to find the subway to get a sandwich to bring with us. Upon locating the Subway (Brad knew just where it was) I got one foot long, ate half, and Brad got two and ate one. I began to think how stinky they were and wondered about bears sniffing them out later.

Off into the sun heading west. I figured we had 1 hour plus a bit of sun light. I knew people tracking me on the OnReach would start seeing I was starting the trip driving in Moose country at night.

The road out of Baie Comeau towards Manic Five was full of twisty mountain switchbacks with good vertical and descents. We had just enough light to enjoy that first section of it. Temperatures went down with the sun. Brad was leading. As the headlight patterns started showing up on the roads we slowed down especially in the hollows where moose could be just over the hill or around a corner. As the dark of night reached pitch black I noticed Brad to be flicking his lights on high and low often in front of me. It wasn’t foggy. I think he was having trouble seeing. Turns out the stock lights on the KTM suck just like the stock lights on the BMW do. He pulled over and I cam up along side. Brad was surprised how bad the lights were. He could tell my lights were better and asked if I could lead. He was also lamenting that his heated grips were still to be installed and in the trunk. I think he was also getting hypothermic. We took the opportunity to put on more clothing. I hooked up my heated gear only to later find it wasn’t working.

I led the way and turned on the LEDs and everything else. I drove about 40 mph in 31 degree F temps. Near swamps, lakes, and anything not protected by a guardrail or sheer cliff I scanned for moose and deer like a Cylon in the Battlestar Galacta TV series.

No, not this kind of Cylon.

This Kind.

I was careful not to look back for Brad other than to know there was a head light reflecting in my rearview mirror.

The moose I’ve seen in Maine have usually been just standing there. We had the advantage of decent visibility with me lighting up the night like a baseball field. The deer were more of a concern. They could come out from nowhere. There were times I’d slow down to 30 mph or less if the terrain supported the ability to allow deer or other animals to travel from the side of the road. That meant slow cold going to Manic Five. Occasionally Brad would disappear behind a corner behind me. I knew once he lost my tail light he couldn’t see. I was also concerned he was getting too cold. The windshield on the KTM was minimal and his Harley Davidson cloth jacket wasn’t super hi-tech and his gloves and helmet weren’t particularly arctic rated. I pulled over in area that felt in the middle of nowhere. The stars were peppered overhead in a dome of deep space. Brad commented on the Milky Way. He put on more clothes and I fiddled with my heated clothing. The GPS said another hour…

Scanning for this.

Or this.

I’m 6’2” and when I first got the GSA the air from the windshield would offer turbulence and buffeting at anything over 30 mph. I out a Wunderlich winglet on top of the windshield and you’ll notice in the photos that it is installed upside down. It actually changes the wind flow enough to allow me to run without the visor down. I do run with the visor up mostly except I wear clear shooting glasses or sunglasses for the bugs or other projectiles. This night I had the clear on of course. This combination allowed no reflection and maximum visibility, as if I wasn’t wearing any glasses at all. This helped with the aforementioned Cylon scanning.

[IMG] photo manicfiverun_zps46d4bbc3.jpg[/IMG]

Dark ride to Manic Five

Manic Five was ticking closer and closer. Brad had decided to camp with me and not run at night on dirt on a new bike pre-hypothermic and tired with just 4 Pepsi Maxes left to keep him company. He asked where I had in mind. I described something that looked like a small traffic circle or cul de sac I saw in a ride report. He didn’t recall it. I knew we’d be searching in the cold and dark for it when we got there.

[IMG] photo IMG_5707-1_zpsfa4e1056.jpg[/IMG]

 photo IMG_5710-1_zps35c00fa6.jpg

We arrived at the gas station/motel/restaurant at 11:37 PM local time. After a fueling and a a warm coffee (I tried to get less caffeinated Hot Chocolate but the machine gave me coffee anyway). We rode to the dam and pulled over in the parking lot across from the service housing trailers. I studied the parking lot and recognized that was were I saw the previous posters position. Now there were Jersey barriers there. We found a corner inside the barriers and I pitched my tent in the tall grass and Brad his right on the asphalt. Next was the concern for bears smelling those Subway sandwiches. We ate them away from the campsite. Brad asked if the trash cans nearby were bear proof as that would be indication if there were problems in the past. The cans were actually cement and there were lids that would be hard to lift with paws. Sort of bear proof. Stupid bear proof maybe but not black bear proof we thought. Brad parked his onion smelling KTM about 100 yards away. It was 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

[IMG] photo IMG_5716-1_zps64845f43.jpg[/IMG]

 photo IMG_5721-1_zpsc7b3e845.jpg

DAY 2 9/8/13 394.87 miles travelled 41 MPG Average Avg Speed 33.75 mph Trip Hours 14 hrs 42 min Temperatures 55 deg F to 28 Deg F

Stay Tuned for Day 3 "Trouble at the 51st Parallel"

~wsrock~ screwed with this post 09-30-2013 at 06:36 PM
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Old 09-28-2013, 09:43 AM   #2
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Joined: Jan 2010
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Old 09-28-2013, 10:16 AM   #3
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Location: Kingston, Ontario
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Red Bay

Save some time for a long stop in Red Bay at the museum, UNESCO site.
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Old 09-28-2013, 10:50 AM   #4
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Joined: Jun 2013
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I'm so jealous!

beautiful pics and sounds like a great time.

ride safe brother..
Heading out on a ride with no destination in mind.
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Old 09-28-2013, 12:58 PM   #5
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Looking forward to more of your ride. Great pic’s, especially the Cylon’s! lol.
The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and self restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. Theodore Roosevelt
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Old 09-29-2013, 09:35 PM   #6
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Joined: Oct 2008
Location: Maine
Oddometer: 47
No Bugs, No Bears, No Bikes Trans Lab Sept 2013 Alone Day 3

Day 3

The next morning was gray and cold. We got up at first light and luckily had no visits from bear or more of a concern some hard hat wearing guy in a white pickup telling us we violated the law of the land by camping within site of the world’s widest dam.

A sleeping bag inside of a sleeping bag. Not wearing "everything" I had. That would come later...

This is before sunrise. The blue tinted early morning light went well with all the concrete.

Brad happy not to be in some bear's digestive system.

Notice the frost in the foreground and the Subway Sandwich Equipped KTM way in the background.

We had the tents down quickly and it took a bit over an hour to repack everything.

Almost packed.

We were told the night before the restaurant opened at 4:00 AM. With that tidbit I knew that we were in a territory that meant its occupants were hard workers. Breakfast was Omelet Jamon et Fromage, sausage, juice, and coffee. The Jamon et Fromage was a reoccurring theme in Quebec as I could pronounce it.

Wildlife at last! This little red squirrel was the company pet I think.

This guy broke the language barriers with all the restaurant staff and diverse customers.

The bikes, a narrow dark blue KTM with side panniers, a small trunk, and two white garbage bags with clothing tied on the seat and a black & silver BMW GS Adventure looking like a gypsy caravan were sitting outside our window.

Sitting across the booth was a nurse coming in from Goose Bay. She got to the motel just after we left to find the mysterious camping spot. She also got the last room at the motel. And that would be the room we never took. That was fortunate as she slept in her car in Goose Bay. It was also fortunate because Brad and I snored loud enough that we would have been driven out of the motel. I think that is also why we had no ursine visits in the middle of the night.

I never got the name of the lovely lady pictured here. I'll call her “Marie”. She talked of driving the road from Port Hope Simpson, where she served as a temporary emergency room nurse. Driving for days completely by herself she said she had “GPS” or “God’s Protective Service”. Marie said; “You are all alone out there. Really alone.” And she then added; “And I like that”.

Brad left for Labrador as I stayed to explore the dam a bit. He was to be the last motorcycle (with one 2 second exception I’ll explain later) I’d see until Red Bay on the other side of the TransLab 1,415 kilometers later.

Manic Cinq (Five) as seen from the bike's video camera. Pardon the rain drops.

Required Photo

I received and read of warnings of the gravel right out of Manic Five. It was to be a deceiving surface camouflaging a soft underbody that will send you on your butt. I found a reddish graded surface with crushed stone over finer gravel.

The asphalt ends here.

201 Miles to the first turn (near Fermont, QU)

Yumm! Grader Dirt!

It was squirrelly. I drove it slow. I let any traffic, mostly trucks, pass me by pulling a bit to the side, slowing down to maybe 15 mph and putting on my blinker. I wanted to have no concern of people following me. All my concentration was to be in front of me.

A couple of miles in I lowered the pressure in the TKC 80 in the front and the Heidenau K60 Scout in the rear. That helped quite a bit. The road was a mixture of just graded or not. I preferred the non-graded. The air was wet, the trees were aromatic and somewhat taller than expected.

Soon I was to surpass my earlier 100 mile gravel practice run (shown here in Maine) and I was feeling reasonably confident.

Pulled over to lower tire pressure.

The asphalt suddenly reappeared 30 miles into Rt 389.

And disappeared a few miles later.

All had been "just ducky" as they say in my part of the woods that is until I pulled over for a photo at the 51st Parallel. I confidently stopped and... forgot to put the kickstand down! Here I was with not a human within miles and 700 lbs of bike and gear on its side. I twisted the handle bars inward, sat my butt on the bottom edge of the seat and pushed with my legs. My boots dug nto the soft gravel and pushed outward and the bike slipped further towards the side of the road. Wonderful. I re-configured, dug in my heels, and puuusssshed. Bingo, up came the bike. I put the kickstand down and snapped the following photo. You can see the scuffle marks in the gravel. The advantage I had here was the very slight incline actually in my favor this time (vs. before on the way to the ferry). The incline is why I didn’t have to remove all the bags and gear. Lesson learned. Last time I’d do that. Onward and outward to Relais-Gabriel.

My confidence was increasing. But so was the weather. Rain beset the next few dozen miles or more. An advantage of sorts as there was never any dust as of yet.

The silence is what tells you you're somewhere near nowhere. They say you can hear a highway ten miles away. There's a slight noise even from overhead high altitude aircraft. On the nature side you can heafr the wind, or birds. Many times when stopping and shutting off the engine I could detect no noise whatsoever, no wind, nothing man-made, no birds or bear charging through the bushes. Nothing.


I pulled into Relais-Gabriel properly dirty and about the same color as the Hydro trucks (and that was camo-dirt) sitting at the little restaurant gas station in the micro settlement .

A good & welcome restaurant along Rt. 389 in Relais-Gabriel (one of the few buildings there alongside the road)

I half staggered in with lock-jaw knees from the ride. Again, the only bike. The other patrons were French speaking construction workers. I got a few “who the f**k are you looks” but respected, because, you know, being an American biker, I might just go Quentin Tarantino on them for sport. The girls behind the counter were nice. Again, I butchered the Provincial language and received smiles and a response in English. I got a bowl of soup and a sandwich and re-loaded on candy bars. I was told I could get wifi if I stand near the stairs (I couldn’t but didn’t really need it). I didn’t need fuel either so I was blasting down the road to find Gagnon, the abandoned mine town.

There are sections of tar extending quite far out now from Relais-Gabriel. It’s not going to be too long where the entire road from Manic Five to Goosebay will be asphalt. I was glad I still found some gravel.

Remnants of the fire earlier in the summer.

The abandoned town of Gagnon. Once home to 4000 people.

I wondered of the town, the school, the school kids, stores, community of Gagnon. I wondered if it would be re-established. Would there be a string of towns along this road once all asphalt? Onward to Lab City. But first a long stretch to the Iron Ore mine at Fermont, Quebec.

Long straight sections pushing towards the border with Labrador.

Emergency Telephone.

About 41 miles to the mine the roads are again gravel.

A large man made hill to the left of mining tailings. It was covered with the only grass I saw nearly the entire trip.

The only words to describe how big the Champion mine was is "Gimongous"

At first I noticed the bright green grass of to the left in the distance. This is after endless crossing of railroad tracks and Ruta 40 type crosswinds over 30 knots. Holly sh*t. Is that green grass a giant hill of mining tailings? Wow, look at the lake, it’s all red. The trains, how many cars on the friggin’ thing? It’s two miles long. Wait, there’s two of them. Two trains with umpteen ore cars. The mine, huge. Just HUGE. Entire mountains moved. I’m not exaggerating. There are mountains of rock that are entirely man made. And a mountain missing was there once was one. Giant dump trucks running everywhere. And those tires you see everyone taking pictures of on the Trans Lab ride reports, well there a lot of them making a sand barrier. And they are in reasonably good condition. Used, but not shot, but used enough to justify the giant process it must be to replace them.

A big dirt pile

A red lake from the mining activity.

This train (and another along side it) are about 2 miles long equipped with ore-cars.

I noticed the practice of trucks having a big orange bicycle flag flying off the rear bumper. This must either be for the big mining vehicles to see them or for the rescue crews to see the little flag sticking up after the truck runs off the 6’ embankment of doom at the edge of all the roads on the trans lab.

I caught a rush hour of an armada of buses leaving the mine for Fermont to possibly Labrador City. They don’t fool around and drive at warp speed (as does anything with eighteen wheels). I decided to see where everyone was going and drove into Fermont. This is a mining town pure and simple with about 3000 people. Big building holding all the essentials “downtown”. Workers had decent vehicles and plenty of the national favorite form of transport, the veritable Ford F150. Yep, the F150 is everywhere. Out numbers GMC/Chevy and certainly Dodge by a large margin.

I noticed the heliport to be a muddy parking lot. Must be nice on the blades.

Labrador was right around the corner. Asphalt from the mine all the way to and a bit past Labrador City. I was curious to see how Labrador faired compared to Quebec Corporation. Quebec, in this area, was great expanses of untouched wilderness, and then sudden concentrations of very touched wilderness be it lumber mills with millions of board feet in the form of logs stacked on site, moon like mines, endless gravel pits, hydroelectric dams only to be rivaled by China. All, kind of, in the middle of nowhere.

Notice the wind in the flags.

It was starting to get late. Approaching Lab City I wasn’t sure what to expect. Coming over the hill and around the corner I could see the city off to the right. Brad, who is from Labrador City, told me of the entire self-sustained community of 10,000 people. I could see it was sizeable in terms of layout. The city borders Ashuanipi River. There is a suburb to called Wabush. There is a Tim Hutton’s, a McDonalds, a few hotels, small shopping centers, and carefully planned neighborhood of what looks like mostly manufactured housing. Everything is low maintenance vinyl sided. Yards are grass and neat and tidy. Cars are mostly of a recent vintage. Family toys included snowmobiles, ATVs, and some aluminum skiffs. Usually there is a pickup for him and a sensible 4 door sedan for her. Kids were on bikes and hanging around in the spots kids usually hang around in. Catholic Churches were among the tallest structures. Not too many trees, perhaps none downtown? It was cold and gray when I was there. I went into a McDonald’s for a sandwich and coffee. Basically the same as those in the states. They had wifi. A patron warned me of snow. Also told me that if you were in Lab City you had to have something to do with the mine. Brad worked in the mine. Everyone worked at the mine or with someone that supported the infrastructure.

Brad had told me to look for a billboard downtown that had his wife’s business on it. I asked a couple of kids and some other teenagers where it was and they pointed me in various directions. I couldn’t find it and ended up Googling it. I called but no one was there. Brad’s wife had a B&B and I thought, it was late and I might just try that out. But since no joy I set to just out of town after asking the guy at the gas station about places to pull off on the road ahead and there was to be plenty.

A few miles down the road a I found a turn off that looked like it has not had traffic on it recently and drove up a hill to a secluded spot. A bit too secluded perhaps because it looked kind of like someone was creating trouble there. There was a burned out structure, evidence of party fire pits, and a trashed car. In a way it may have been used for local bad boy human sacrifices. However, it was late, getting dark and I needed to set up camp. The spot was in the lee of the trees because it was still windy. I pointed the bike outwards for quick packing in the AM and settled in for the night.

To me it looked like bear territory. I didn’t see and prints or scat but just had a feeling about it. I set out my hatchet, knife, and air horn within reach just in case. It was windy and cold. The tent has a fly on it and it deflected most of the wind. Occasionally the inner tent would move a bit with the wind.

DAY 3 9/9/13 218.79 miles travelled 42 MPG Average Avg Speed 26.31 mph Trip Hours 9 hrs 28 min Temperatures 55 deg F to 40 Deg F

And then sometime around 2 AM the fabric tent wall was suddenly pushed inward near where I was lying... Day 4 Coming Up.
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Old 10-01-2013, 08:40 AM   #7
Studly Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2010
Location: Inverary, Ontario, Canada
Oddometer: 955
Keep it coming

"Driving for days completely by herself she said she had “GPS” or “God’s Protective Service”. Marie said; “You are all alone out there. Really alone.” And she then added; “And I like that”. "

That's the spirit - now sadly in short supply. Too many damn lawyers, insurance companies, tossers and softies!

Except, of course that you can hardly slow down to take a pee on these northern roads before someone slows to check to see if you OK. Try that in the urban centre of your choice.

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Old 10-01-2013, 10:13 AM   #8
Joined: Sep 2013
Location: Lethbridge, Newfoundland & Labrador
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Great RR and pics so far, Looking forward to day 4!
2003 HD Heritage Softail
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Old 10-01-2013, 05:31 PM   #9
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Joined: Sep 2013
Location: Gotham City - underground
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Don't keep us in suspense already!
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Old 10-01-2013, 06:48 PM   #10
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Good to see you made it back from "The Far East".
R1150 GSA, KLR650, K75s, RD350, PS250 (Big Ruckus), R65, 990 Spyder
If I still had every dollar I spent on motorbikes I would be a richer man but a poorer person.
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Old 10-01-2013, 07:34 PM   #11
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Nice report so far keep up the good work. Can't wait for more.
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Old 10-01-2013, 08:34 PM   #12
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No Bugs, No Bears, No Bikes Trans Lab Sept 2013 Alone Day 4

Day 4 (early AM)

It's been blowing all night. I was behind a screen of dark scraggly trees, which absorbed the brunt of the wind yet there still seemed to be a switch in directions every few minutes. During the night occasionally the inner tent would punch in and punch out as the gusts circled the campsite. I was sleeping OK except for the cold. I now had on hi-tech and heavy duty long underwear, extra shirts, a light sweater, heavy socks over wool boot socks, a down vest, a hat, and a balaclava. My sleeping bag was inside of a sleeping bag liner I brought. I had a thermo pad underneath and a bean bag pillow wrapped in a sweater.

Around 2:00 AM there was a subtle change in the tent fabric movements. This time the tent punched in and stayed there. It wasn’t the general floppy rounded shapes like before. This one was more pointed and purposeful. The shape was right by my head. I reacted instantly and punched the side of the tent and said; “GIT!”. I turned on an LED light. Whatever it was, if anything, never came back. I knew black bears and wolves to be somewhat shy. And even if something wanted to attack the tent they would be befuddled by the layers for a millisecond. That, hopefully, would be enough time to utilize one of the nasty (and I mean nasty) edged tools I had inside lying at the ready alongside. As a precaution I moved more to the center of the tent for that extra advantage...

Only three things could have that nose height. This one or ...

or this one...

or that one!

The AM brought the sun rising through the trees. Like the previous morning there was heavy frost on the tent fly and the bike cover. I cooked some coffee and ate a pastry I had (in a Ziploc bag) in the trunk. I was told by a friendly fellow in the McDonalds parking lot that there was only 90 km of dirt road left between Labrador City and Churchill Falls. He was right. Progress was almost complete for Western Labrador. I re-inflated my tires. The camping location was a bit precarious for the bike. I made sure to take my time getting rolling. I was on the “highway” quickly and on my way for Churchill Falls.

About 29 Deg F here. Beautiful color at sunrise.

Early AM Time to take it apart.

Frost on the cover.

The "highway" out of Labrador City towards Churchill Falls. This is the Trans Lab running east.

After lots of basically nothing up came this. A boat ramp complete with sign, a dock, and several boats on moorings!

Around 8:00 AM the temperature started dropping.

And drop it did! Snow!

The blue sky told me this was just a squall.

Certainly not this as posted by Newfiebullet the day before near Cartwright Junction.

Making some progress!

The dirt section required me to deflate my tires a bit.

If you are a good Boy Scout and have prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse you'd a have a truck/camper that has a 1000 mile fuel range. You've got one right? Well, if you drove that truck exactly and precisely 1000 miles Northeast from where I live this is where you'd be starting your new life.

Approaching Churchill Falls was new asphalt. Completed right before I got there!

Hurry boys and girls. Soon it will be who rollerbladed the Trans Lab first.

I used this pump often.

Que es mas macho?

The only motorcycles I saw on the entire Trans Lab. Three 1200 GSAs at speed heading west. The second one turned more than the others and telepathed "Wait! That's a cool photo op! Let's stop!" But they didn't... It was a one second encounter.

In planning this trip I sort of expected to see motorcycles in the middle of nowhere and stopping to say hi. Or perhaps come into whatever outpost town and gather with other adventure brethren. Nope, it was just me. And it seemed I was a singular oddity when I talked with people.

I saw more helicopters than bikes actually. I would have liked to have taken a better one here however the guy in the blue pickup was giving me a suspicious look. I think the one aircraft at the Churchill Falls Airport was sufficiently guarded.

Churchill Falls Airport.There was a nicely dressed woman coming out of the administrative building. She got in a clean recent car. It was kind of odd as I still expect to see ratty cars (and people) this far from anywhere.

Churchill Falls has two entrances. I took the first. I drove past the Police Station, a school with kids being marched outside, a few pre-fab neighborhoods, and made my way to the Midway Hotel and Restaurant.

In Churchill Falls I drove around a bit. The streets and buildings were neat and tidy.

This is the view from...


I was in the Midway Hotel and Restaurant section of the big building featured in the ride reports. It was being re-faced when I was there and was covered in a blue material. It actually was a decent modern look. The inside featured the school, shops, a pool, a very modern and well stocked grocery store, a hotel, restaurant. I gathered from signs in the restaurant that they’ve had problems with people getting rowdy as signs said people were responsible for wrecking the furniture.

I talked with a group of contractors I think from Montreal. One asked if I could speak French, Instead of my usual “Je Parles un petit peu Francais” I simply said “no”. I thought that a bit “quick”. But he didn’t seem to mind and in basic English he told me he was a GS rider and we discussed the technicalities of riding the Trans Lab.

I bought a box of Ziploc bags in the store as well as some lunchmeat and other basics. I only needed a few of the bags to seal up food and approached a lady leaving the building if she wanted the others in the box. She didn’t run and scream but rather graciously accepted them and hoped that I later wouldn’t have need for them. People in Churchill Falls work for the Hydroelectric industry there. I should mention when I first rode into town I was snooping around (actually looking for an outfitter to buy bear pepper spray) and wandered a bit too close to some industrial buildings when a guy in another blue pickup asked if he could help me find something. I asked if he knew of a gas station (which I already knew where it was) and he guided me there.

It was a little convenience store with a couple of pumps in the dirt parking lot. There was a twenty something lady there pumping fuel. She let me do my own as she was a bit freaked about putting gas in a motorcycle that large. I went in and they had some bear pepper spray inside a case along with a bunch of pellet pistols which I thought strange promoting handguns as they are illegal in Canada. The boxes all had images of the great gangsta' gun battles you could mimic with these placid replicas. I asked how much the spray was and she told me $40.00. I though, hmmm, and she said;” You don’t need it for our bears. Just yell at them.” She proceeded with a couple of anecdotal stories to support that. Also, this store is the first place I met indigenous inhabitants. I wanted to say Intuit but I’m sure that was not quite correct. *NunatuKavummiut or Inuit-Metis is closer I later discovered* The local white population called the Metis aboriginals. I’m sure that’s not correct either. The particular people in the store I met looked a bit subdued. (Later that changed markedly.) Everyone was pleasant with one another, but stood in their own groups. One fellow was with his buddies in a car with canoes on top. He was local (that is from somewhere within 1000 km) and was visiting all the rivers he could throw the canoe in. Everyone was extremely helpful.

Traditional and Prevalent. More Churchill Falls.

The Now. More Happy Valley Goose Bay.

Goosebay was 311 kilometers away. The road was all asphalt. Times were a changing.

Older asphalt on the way into Happy Valley-Goosebay

Notice the hills beginning.

And the curved roads starting.

500 km since the beginning of the Trans Lab.

I was surprised that the terrain was as mountainous as it was. You would expect from the ride reports all scrub pines as you see in the pictures but instead it looks more like West Virginia.

On the way in I passed the entrance to Route 510. That would be the road I’d want to take the next day to Red Bay and the longest and most precarious stretch of gravel yet.

I saw the sign everyone stops at and decided I’d get the photo tomorrow. I needed to find a camping spot before dark as I wasn’t going to pay the $165 I heard of for motels in Happy Valley Goosebay. I got some intel from a friend who ran the loop in July. He recommended a spot on the lawn of a big building in town. I found a secluded spot in a sand pit near the hospital. Like before, I was in late and out early to try to be as invisible as possible when camping.

DAY 4 9/10/13 300.84 miles travelled 41 MPG Average Avg Speed 35.21 mph Trip Hours 10 hrs 41 min Temperatures 28 deg F to 62 Deg F

Next: The day of reckoning. Stay Tuned for Day 5.
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Old 10-01-2013, 08:44 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by damurph View Post
Good to see you made it back from "The Far East".
Hi Murph!

You're coming up in the next couple of days!
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:52 PM   #14
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No Bugs, No Bears, No Bikes Trans Lab Sept 2013 Alone Day 5

Day 5

A bit chilly this AM. But a couple hundred yards away was this...

I dragged my feet a bit too long here. I recharged batteries both literally and figuratively. I called and reserved the Ferry from Argentia, Newfoundland, and took a look at this...

I asked the nice lady at Maritime Atlantic what they thought they would do if they canceled the ferry from Argentia. She thought they *may* run it a following day. The ferry ride I booked would be the last one for a week. If I got there and missed it that would mean I'd have backtrack 862 km to the other ferry to Nova Scotia in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.

I wanted to explore Happy Valley (the town) and Goose Bay (the complex near the airport) Mindful that I had a ferry to catch about 1000 miles from here in Argentia, Newfoundland Sat. I didn’t want to dawdle.

I rode around town and also headed out to the airport hoping to see some military aircraft. I saw civilian and several helicopter charter companies.

It was interesting that the helicopters were all state of the art and expensive versions sitting next to very basic buildings with five to ten year old pickups sitting in the parking lots. They were there to service the mines and hydro projects. There was enough business for three to four small companies to have more than a million dollars worth of helicopters each.

Looks like you could get a good deal on this hanger.

Time was ticking on so I had to make tracks for Route 510. Take the picture seen here.


The Access to Rt 510 Labrador Coastal Route (it's only coastal the last few miles) is right behind the camera.

Soon after entering the turnoff I got to experience the bridge that was designed with absolutely no motorcycles in mind. In fact, I think it was put there to discourage them. It turned out to be the hairiest part of the trip to date. That friggin’ bridge! They built it with straight grids running the length-wise. That was really difficult to drive with knobby tires. The bike was all over the place. And to make things more exciting I think they have trucks waiting up on the hill to barrel down when a bike is spotted. On the rear of the truck there also must be bags of dust in a spreader. Oh, and their windshield should be encrusted with red mud too.

I encountered several metal grate bridges later but none were built like this one.

Curving up the hill I passed gravel and rock pits being used to construct the roads. This would become commonplace. Use the local geology for the roadbed. The first road covering was shattered granite. These were sharp rocks by the millions laid out as gravel.

This is where the tires pop.

Here’s the secret for miles and miles of this stuff. Drive fast. If you drive below 42 mph it will be squirrely. If you drive the speed limit of 70 kph or 47 mph you glide over the top of it. I travelled 47 mph to 50 mph. I didn’t want to go faster as it would be more dangerous with the sides of the roads dropping six to eight feet with a bolder substrate (remember the orange flags on the trucks?).

The silence is what tells you you’re somewhere near nowhere. They say you can hear a highway ten miles away. There’s a slight noise even from overhead high altitude aircraft. On the nature side you can hear the wind, or birds. Many times when stopping and shutting off the engine I could detect no noise whatsoever, no wind, nothing man made, no birds or bear charging through the bushes. Nothing.


You’ve seen the photos of roads infinitely traveling into horizon. The American west comes to mind. The roads here can stretch miles front to back. If it’s dry there may be a dust cloud way ahead moving like the Tasmanian devil. Behind you approaching head lights could be seen as far as the Earth’s curve would allow. Generally you had good warning if someone else was approaching or you them.

My philosophy on the entire trip was to let people by me. I’d make up for distance needed by duration not speed. When approached by a dust truck I'd close the face shield over the goggles. Generally you have a good snapshot of what the road looks like without the dust. If I didn't have a good picture I slowed down to a crawl.

I heard in Labrador City and Goose Bay of a person on a motorcycle getting killed last year near Goose Bay. The Labrador people were genuinely upset about it and concerned enough to offer it as a heads up. I think it's possible that upcoming traffic remembers this and slowed down a bit on approach.

Later in the trip I was to learn more of that accident and meet people who were friends. I'll backtrack when we get that part of the report.

I made it a habit to wave at every grader and road crew. I generally nodded at passenger cars. Trucks were more difficult as you needed to be on your game for flying stones, dust, and the more limited road choices as they flew by in the other lane.

When driving on this stuff your mind must go into autopilot. You seek the section of the road “less graveled”. And, here’s the tire saving technique, you avoid all sharp rocks in those sections. Now, you can’t do that consciously. You need to do it automatically. And you must do it 1,002,322 times over the next 542 kilometers.

The above link is raw video for about 3 min.

The road changes as quickly as the geological formations change. Some sections are brown clay with gravel, some are silver clay with gravel, tan rock, sandy rock, and so on. Still, though, is the secret of speed. Unless…you encounter dust. And without rain you will. You see it ahead of you and you see it behind you. You know when a vehicle is coming at you or are approaching one such as the carnival trucks I had to do my first “dust storm navigating” in. Here’s the secret there. Unless you want to enter a dust cloud not knowing what is in front or under you, you need to position yourself in clear area behind the truck, car, or ferris wheel on a trailer in front of you. Then you wait for it to start climbing a hill. They’ll slow down just enough to do make it happen. You’ll have the opportunity to see up the hill before you get there. When the behemoth starts climbing you take him. Always turn on your signal lights as this is Labrador and people are polite.

Bridge with honey comb pattern. No Problemo.

This is actually a 30 kph construction zone. The red truck was doing 70 kph.

Pile of Dirt for you.

A little bit like a ranch road here.

Clay bases were easier.

Hours and hours and hours...

Activate shields!


Once you're off the road good luck!

Sandy area.

250 km to the next Snicker's Bar.

It's been about 10 hours or so and 456 km and I needed to decide on riding in the dark a few more hours to Red Bay or find a campsite. There were no offshoots from the road to even drive on. It's been raining and getting foggy. The roads were sloppy and the sun has just gone below the horizon.

And then came Mary's harbor.

(Day 5 to be continued...)
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:08 PM   #15
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Mary's Harbor. Sounds like a magical place. Looking forward to the next chapter!
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