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Old 07-14-2013, 05:58 PM   #16
mcgarrett OP
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Day 8 - June 29, 2013
Labrador City, Labrador, to Goose Bay, Labrador
~335 miles



We got up early with hopes of getting through the fire zone. When I looked at my bike in the morning, it was covered in ash from the fire.



Fortunately, the smoke around the fire seemed to have diminished, and I joined Chris at the roadblock. Already waiting there were the two adventure bikes we'd seen the previous day heading out of town: fully kitted-out KLR650 and Adventure 990. Some cars and big rigs were also lined up.









The riders were from Quebec and heading along the same route as us. When we saw them yesterday, they'd actually been turned away at the roadblock and were going to stay overnight with a friend in Fermont.

Depending on who you asked at the roadblock, things either looked promising or bad. None of the officials there would commit to any convoys getting through. The water bombers continued to take off for aerial surveys.




Blood blister from tense riding on the gravel

The CBC news team showed up and started to film some footage. I make a cameo appearance at the 1:10 and 1:59 marks:

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada...084542/?page=5

Around 9:30am, a convoy from Churchill Falls came through, and we saw this as a good sign. We talked to a few officials, and they said to get our gear ready. At 10am, we got the word to mount up and head out. The smoke hadn't looked too bad from the roadblock, but we were soon going through some thick stuff, and it lasted for about 10 miles.















The escorts pulled off after about 35 miles, and we were free to continue on towards Churchill Falls. The scenery was nice, and the weather was cooperating. The pavement was pretty good until about 16 miles before Churchill Falls, where it was sketchy gravel. There was a paving operation underway, and I wouldn't be surprised if that entire final stretch into Churchill Falls is completed by the end of summer.

We gassed up in Churchill Falls and went to the town center for lunch. There's a hotel, restaurant, and grocery store co-located at this central complex. We caught up with the Quebec riders and found some other riders who were trying to travel to Labrador City but couldn't due to the TLH closure. Three of the bikes were a bit unusual to find on the TLH: two Harleys and a Gold Wing.







The Gold Wing's front tire was shredded, and one of the Harley riders said the trip from Labrador City had been the roughest stretch of road he'd ever ridden. More on that later. One rider with them was on an R1200GSA that had taken a nasty tumble in the gravel. The rider was ok, but the bike was pretty well banged up.



We finished lunch and hit the road. Leaving Churchill Falls, it was about 75 miles of gravel and washboard. Not as bad as the Fire Lake section from the day before, but still pretty challenging. We'd been warned not to get too excited about a section of fresh pavement in the middle of nowhere, because after 10 miles, it was back to gravel for about 40 miles.


A brief 10-mile respite from the gravel


Lots of steel grated bridges




Back to the gravel


At least I had the right tires

About 35 miles outside of Goose Bay, we had both rain and smooth pavement. I didn't mind the rain and welcomed the pavement. The scenery was great.




Photo op for Chris

We pulled into Goose Bay, gassed up, and decided to get a room at the Hotel North 2. We even managed to get invited to the wedding reception being held there, but bike maintenance, showers, supper, and sleep took priority. It had been a long day.

Looking back at what the Harley rider had told us, the road to Goose Bay wasn't nearly as treacherous as he'd led us to believe. Of course, it's also a matter of perspective. Chris and I were on lightweight off-road biased bikes with good tires, so we were able to manage ok. I worried about how the Harleys and Gold Wing were going to handle the Fire Lake stretch of road.

We got really lucky by making it through the fire with the minimal inconvenience of an overnight stay in Labrador City. It was a holiday weekend (Canada Day), and I expect that many travelers faced disruptions to their plans. I mentioned previously that I didn't have a Plan B in case we couldn't get through the roadblock. I actually came up with a far-fetched idea of chartering a plane for bike and rider to get over the fire. Chris thought that sounded cool, but he'd either wait it out or backtrack to Baie-Comeau. Fortunately, it worked out the way it did.

The rain really started coming down overnight. What challenges would that create for our 250-mile ride over dirt and gravel to Port Hope Simpson the next day? Stay tuned.

Full set of pics for Day 8:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9861969...7634565409433/

mcgarrett screwed with this post 07-17-2013 at 06:42 AM
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Old 07-14-2013, 06:17 PM   #17
Oldone
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great ride report

Very entertaining RR....thanks for your time....


Gary "Oldone"

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Old 07-14-2013, 07:28 PM   #18
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...keep it coming..great pics
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Old 07-14-2013, 08:33 PM   #19
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Nice report.
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Old 07-14-2013, 09:02 PM   #20
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Just caught this one.. will be returning to Newfoundland later this summer myself.

Thanx much.
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Old 07-14-2013, 11:58 PM   #21
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Right on the Mark

Great RR Michael. You got it pegged, I have nothing to add yet. Well done.

except...it was really really cold through NB and Que up to Baie Comeau. After that, the skies cleared and then it got HOT.

We sure got lucky with the weather. We could not expect such great weather up north and through NFLD. The gods were smiling on you...

monnomania screwed with this post 07-16-2013 at 01:59 AM
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Old 07-15-2013, 07:09 AM   #22
markbvt
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Interesting to see how quickly they're making progress on paving. When I was up there last August, there was still a good 50ish mile stretch of gravel before Churchill Falls (and when I was up there in 2009, it was all gravel from Manic 5 to Gagnon, Fire Lake to Fermont, and Lab City to HV-GB except for the short paved stretch in Churchill Falls).

Damn shame that the forest up there is burning.

Looking forward to future installments -- curious to read what you thought of the gravel from HV-GB to Red Bay.

--mark
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Old 07-15-2013, 05:43 PM   #23
mcgarrett OP
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Day 9 - June 30, 2013
Goose Bay, Labrador, to Red Bay, Labrador
~342 miles


Day 9

I was happy that we were back on schedule and shouldn't have any problems catching the ferry in Blanc Sablon the next morning. I woke up several times overnight from the sound of rain hitting the window AC unit. It was still raining pretty hard at 8am, so we delayed departure for about an hour. A bit of drizzle and mist when we hit the road, with plans of making it at least as far as Port Hope Simpson.

Chris's father was born in Goose Bay, and according to GPS, his old house was only about a mile from the hotel. We drove by there first, but it appears that the original house is no longer there.

Day9a

From there we went back on the TLH and turned south on the Rt. 510 segment, also known as the Labrador Coastal Drive. The rain had created a bit of a mess, and the dirt/gravel road was wet and slippery.

Day9b

Day9d

Day9f

Day9g

We eventually reached dryer gravel, which allowed us to get up to about 50mph. There were still a few tricky spots, for me anyway.

Day9i

Day9l

Day9o
Still more gravel

Day9p
And bug bites

We stopped as needed for breaks and pressed on until I got my low fuel indicator at 232 miles on the odometer. I could have made it another 20 miles to Port Hope Simpson, but it made sense to empty the Rotopax and lose that extra weight. Chris also got his indicator after shutting the bike off and on, and he emptied his gas can as well.

Day9r

Day9s
Outside Port Hope Simpson

Day9u
Too many (slippery) steel grate bridges

Day9v
Chris gets artsy

We pulled into Port Hope Simpson and were greeted by a swarm of aggressive bugs. The young lady working at the gas station would don a bug jacket and hat when coming out to assist at the pumps.

Day9x

We learned that Mary's Harbour was about 32 miles further along, and Red Bay was an additional 55 miles. The pavement began at Red Bay and went all the way to Blanc Sablon. We weren't ready to call it a day that early, after about 255 miles, and part of me just wanted to be done with the gravel and not have to deal with any more tomorrow. So, we rode to Mary's Harbour and took a break. The weather was sunny but very windy, and we decided to make the final push to Red Bay.

Day9z1
Finally a wood bridge

Day9z3
Will this stuff ever end?

Day9z5

Day9z9
Back to steel grates

Day9z10
The water really was that blue

Day9z13
Mary's Harbour

Day9z14

Day9z16

Day9z18

The heavy wind continued, and the landscape really changed about 20 miles before Red Bay. There was a huge gray cloud hanging over the area, and the whole scene resembled something from Scotland or the northern UK.

Day9z21

Day9z22

Day9z24

Day9z28

Day9z29

After what seemed like forever, we got into Red Bay around 7:30pm.

Day9z32
Quite a relief after 340 miles of mud, dirt, and gravel

Day9z33

We rode into town and were greeted with the amazing sight of ice bergs floating by. The temperature had also dropped dramatically, and I was freezing.

Day9z34

Day9z38

Day9z40

We got supper at the waterfront restaurant and grabbed one of their cabins down the street for the night.

Day9z37

I found the ride from Mary's Harbour to be especially challenging, based on a combination of road conditions, weather, and fatigue. I don't think Chris found it as challenging, due to his many years of riding experience, but I still apologized for pushing us that far. We did the usual bike maintenance, showered, and caught up on the news and bad reality TV ("Celebrity Wife Swap" with Rowdy Roddy Piper and Nature Boy Ric Flair).

The good news was that we would have smooth sailing on the pavement the next morning for the short ride to Blanc Sablon, or would we? Stay tuned.

Full set of Day 9 pics:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9861969...7634565811473/
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Old 07-15-2013, 05:59 PM   #24
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I'm really enjoying the report and the photos.
Looking forward to the next update.
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Old 07-15-2013, 07:07 PM   #25
Trane Francks
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Totally enjoying this. The more Canadian ADV threads I read, the more homesick I get.
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Old 07-16-2013, 02:18 AM   #26
monnomania
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Mary's Harbour to Red Bay

Leaving Mary's harbour the weather was astounding. Sky super blue, warm but like Michael says the wind was astounding. We rolled along easily with very little opposing traffic, and the traffic along this section were kind enough to slow down to limit rock throwing events. We fairly cruised along on a super smooth gravel road - to the repeated astonishment of the locals - I suppose the unusually dry weather means the roads held up quite well.

We finally crested a hill and there was the dark grey cloud. We both thought that it was an ominous sign and figure we'd be in a heavy rain in short order. Then it got very cold. It was like the fog that rolls out of your freezer on a hot day that chills your feet. We rolled on chattering teeth into Red Bay and figured the natural ice-cubes in nature's drink was sufficient reduce the ambient temperature considerably.

We had driven enough, it was dark and getting darker but we were on the pavement, so this is a good place to call it a day.
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Old 07-16-2013, 04:32 AM   #27
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I did ran this same trip in late May/ early June. Looks like you're a bit warmer then I was.

The wind in the last section of from Port Simpson to Red Bay was crazy! and I wondered why no one took many pictures of that section and now I know!

When I came thru the TL they hadn't started paving yet, just long stretches of thick gravel. Made for a really long day.

I need to get off my ass and get my RR up too.
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Old 07-16-2013, 05:56 AM   #28
mcgarrett OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monnomania View Post
Leaving Mary's harbour the weather was astounding. Sky super blue, warm but like Michael says the wind was astounding. We rolled along easily with very little opposing traffic, and the traffic along this section were kind enough to slow down to limit rock throwing events. We fairly cruised along on a super smooth gravel road - to the repeated astonishment of the locals - I suppose the unusually dry weather means the roads held up quite well.

We finally crested a hill and there was the dark grey cloud. We both thought that it was an ominous sign and figure we'd be in a heavy rain in short order. Then it got very cold. It was like the fog that rolls out of your freezer on a hot day that chills your feet. We rolled on chattering teeth into Red Bay and figured the natural ice-cubes in nature's drink was sufficient reduce the ambient temperature considerably.

We had driven enough, it was dark and getting darker but we were on the pavement, so this is a good place to call it a day.
Thanks for sharing your observations on what proved to be a long and difficult day.

I'd like to offer a few more thoughts on the gravel stretches of the TLH. Even with ongoing paving operations, we still had over 550 miles of gravel, which I believe will provide a healthy amount of adventure for most riders.

As I'd mentioned, I had very little off-road experience going into this, and I had to develop some mental drills to get through the seemingly endless miles of gravel. My commute to work is 32 miles each way on mostly highway. As I was riding on the TLH gravel, I tried to divide the segments into distances that my brain could digest, like a 32-mile segment similar to my commute. While staying focused on the road, I'd use a small bit of my mental processing to visualize the ride into work, various landmarks, and the way I felt at different points. I'd also imagine I was on a short ride to run an errand or going to the gym near my house. It might sound silly, but this helped me when I'd look down at the GPS and see 200 or 80 or 30 miles of gravel yet to go.

I was also reminded of Neil Peart's advice to ride with "poise," regardless of the challenges, obstacles, and conditions. "Poise" became my TLH mantra. Looking back on it, that's really the best way to successfully traverse the TLH.

Day 10 recap coming later tonight...
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Old 07-16-2013, 07:23 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgarrett View Post
I found the ride from Mary's Harbour to be especially challenging, based on a combination of road conditions, weather, and fatigue.
Having ridden the Trans-Lab three times, I've found that section to be the sketchiest. The gravel there tends to feel especially unstable under your wheels, parts of that segment have a lot of sand mixed in with the gravel, and winds tend to be strong and gusty. Not a good combination.

But that said, something worth keeping in mind for your next gravel adventure is that it's often easier to ride at higher speeds than lower ones. I was on a different bike on each of my trips up there, and found that my XR650L settled in and stabilized at around 55-65mph, cruising over the gravel confidently. On my Tiger, the speed it liked was more like 65-70, but again, it stabilized and became more controllable than at lower speeds. It sounds counterintuitive, but the same would surely be the case with your Xchallenge. It's scary that first time accelerating through the sketchy zone, but I'm sure you'll find as I did that the bike will feel a lot more planted at the higher speed than it does at 40-50.

--mark
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Old 07-16-2013, 09:06 AM   #30
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Thanks for the report so far, including the latest updates on the conditions in the area.

It's neat to see your riding partner, Chris, is using the same rain gear as I do (same bike too) - the vintage MEC (Canada's answer to REI) Goretex cycling jacket.

Hoping to do part of this loop later this year.

Keep riding & reporting!
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