Creating a Cross Canada Overland Route
A group us started to create a route across the widest country in the world. We've been working hard on it for the last two years and anticipate it's completion in the fall of 2012. It will be distributed as a set of gps files from our web site at no charge.
Gravel Travel :: Home
I am cross posting this from other forums as I thought some of the readers here may enjoy the tale and the pictures. Maybe some day you'll come to Canada and ride the route :)
Ever wished there was a route across Canada? A group of us have decided to do just that. Seems simple, or so we thought. I've started this thread to chronicle the making of a cross country route.
I hope you enjoy reading about our "making of" story as it unfolds.
Where to begin? Canada is huge.....9.9 million square kilometers! The population of Canada is only about 31 million and the bulk of that is spread across the southern strip of the country that borders the United States. What does that mean to us? There is a whole lot of wilderness up here and some damn fine riding. Given the scope of this project and the reason I suspect it hasn't already been done is that taking on a project like this is.... well a bit overwhelming. We've decided to take this project on in two phases. Phase one will be the Eastern half of the country. Our goal is to have this half completed by the fall of 2011 (yikes that less than a year and a half away). The other reason to start this thread is as a motivator. It will make it much more embarrassing and shameful to back out now that we've made it public knowledge :)
The goal: To make a route across Canada that can be ridden by dual sport bikes that are loaded with gear.
The route will primarily be gravel back roads. Some days will have sections of off roading and some will have sections of pavement. Wherever possible we are trying to have as little pavement as possible but it becomes unavoidable at times.
Where to begin? We've been working on this route now for the better part of a year. Good progress has been made. I apologize ahead of time as the posts I make will not be in the same order as the route will eventually follow. Also some of the posts and sections of the route will be done heading the wrong direction from the intended route. Just the way things have worked out as we explore new area's.
Lets start with the province of Labrador.
Looks like there are about 8 of us who will be riding together for the next week or two. A couple of guys from south of the border that I haven't met yet and are on their way north to meet us Thursday in Ottawa Our plan is fairly loose but riding the Trans Labrador Highway is the first "tick" on the list. The TLH will more than likely be a part of T-Cat . Our thoughts are that having a nice "relaxing" 3-4 days of long gravel with little too no navagation will make for a nice break between Newfoundland and the Quebec/Ontario sections of the route. The TLH works with what we want this route to become, remote wilderness. Aside from a few towns there's not much up there
After the TLH we plan to take a ferry over to the island of Newfoundland. There are a few trails that we have researched and look forward to trying out. Newfoundland has a bunch of double track old rail lines on it. From what we can tell a few of these will make up a part of the T-Cat. Skibum69 will ultimately be creating this section of the route but we're hoping to ride as many of the possible sections he plans to add to it. The main rail trail is called the T'Rail and runs for about 900 km's across the middle of the island. We have a few other trails to try out (Burin ATV trail and a couple of other rail trails) while we're over there. Throw in some touristy stuff and some "pubbing" and it looks like a fun 17 day ride
Here's our proposed route for the next few weeks.
In typical fashion I'm scrambelling to get the bike and gear ready. While changing my oil the other day the threads to the oil resorvoir came out with the drain plug. I tried a self tapping oil drain screw but couldn't get it to catch. I've now inserted a helicoil in it but it's still leaking (didnt get the hole drilled exactly straight ). Dan's coming over tonight and we'll try adding one or two brass crush washers and maybe some jbweld to try and seal it. New tires need to get spooned on then we're off. I had a bunch of other maintenance task scheduled for the bike (wheel and steering head bearings, wire in a usb charger and an inverter, etc) but it looks they'll have to wait until August when we get back along with the wife's never ending honey do list.
Last minute email are flying around in typical fashion. Who's bring what, where and when to meet, which route to take out of the city, etc The weather looks ...well ....not bad. Rain is a part of the scenery on the Atlantic coast and I'm sure we'll get our fair share
One of the things I'm looking forward to seeing is how Pelvis (Brian)makes out with his hammock From what I've seen in the north country the tree's are SMALL and we plan on cowboy camping for the most part. How the heck does someone use a hammock in a gravel pit? This could have a few funny stories. Quotes like " no I read on the web you can string it up between two ski poles " just makes me laugh. A 200 lb + guy who likes to sleep on his side, has back pain currently, heading out for 17 days of camping with a hammock. I can almost guarantee this will be good for a few laughs
I won't be updating the this report while we're gone (I hate the idea of sitting with a laptop while on "vacation" instead of meeting the locals and being in the moment and just enjoying where I am. Kudo's to those who do update their ride reports while on the road, but it's not for me). I will however do my best to take as many photo's as possible and update this thread when we get back.
Well here I sit at work in my cubicle instead of hitting the road with the other 7 guys for the two week trip A series of mechanical mishaps have delayed me.
Had surgery two weeks ago which prevented me from working on my bike for a week and half (drugged and flat on my back). Started late last week to work and prep my bike. While doing an oil change I removed the drain bolt from the oil resorvoir and the threads from the resorvoir came out. Tried a few approaches over a few days and finally got it to work 3 days later (keep in mind I was/am still in some considerable discomfort and have a full time job and a crazy honey do list I promised to take care of before leaving on "another damn bike trip" ). A heli coil and a couple of crush washers combined with ALOT of loctite and finally got the drain plug to stop leaking. A quick test ride revealed that the countersprocket bolt was stripped and loose and the washer (with inside teeth?) was bent way out of shape and missing half the teeth. Jerry rigged something and got into town all packed up this morning and dropped by a fastner shop and got a new nut for the counter sprocket, yehaa I'll be good to go after working on the bike during my lunch break at work and ready to leave work early to meet the guys for our pre arranged meeting at 5 pm. But no! Rear tire is flat Okay I can deal with this ........ got the new nut on after bending the washer this way and that to get a couple of the teeth to stick (less than ideal but heck it's only got to work for 9000 km's). Got bike into a local shop to look at the back tire. Whats that weird grinding noise ? Damn I have no front brake pads left and the last bit just wore threw and is now grinding my rotor Callled local dealer and yes they have them in stock, Dan picks me up and we drive across the city where the cute young girl says oh I thought you said rear pads, we don't have front pads in stock, ARG ordered them and "guaranteed" they will be in tomorrow.
Emailed the group of guys that I will be a day behind and will catch up on Sunday in Churchill Falls (half way up the Trans Lab). Looks like a couple of long iron butt days for me (and Dan, thanks Dan ). Haven't heard back from them ..... hope they get my emails and don't wait around too long waiting for me
My fault? YEP To be honest I had written down and planned on some extensive maintenance on the bike, and was to do it 3 weeks before leaving so I didn't run into this kind of a situation. But being flat out on my back up until a week ago and under some crazy oxy cotton pills for a week and a half kind of phased me out a bit. Sorry ahead of time to the lads, I WILL be catching up and WILL be in Churchill Falls on Sunday at 6pm at the gas with Dan. So a couple of long days in the saddle ahead of me...gonna hurt like hell, still open wound from the surgery (still changing the dressing on it every 4 hours).
So...the adventure begins. A case of MANY very COLD beers tonight, a leisurely start tomorrow then ride like hell for a few days. Anyone ever done the Trans Lab rally style
Vroom vroom !
Wish me luck
Back home a week early. Pelvis and myself came back with our bikes in a Uhaul (long story and it'll get told:) ) Martin, Chris and Renauld are on their way back now (scheduled, they were only going to be doing a week), heard from Dan last night by telephone. He's stuck in Corner Brook New Foundland. 6 fuel pumps later and he says he thinks he has the issue resolved. He made the earliest ferry reservation he could get (10 day wait) and is going to head to St Johns for the music festival.
The Trans Labrador Highway did not disappoint. A great ride, lot's of stories to tell and several pictures to show. This road will make a great addition to the route !
Give me a day or two to unpack, tie up some loose ends, upload some pics then I'll post a recap of the trip.
Lost rad cap in engine
Lost all electricals on bike
Broke key in half unlocking seat to get at tools
Fuel pump blows
Exhaust pipe brakes in half near rear cyclinder
4 sets of rear brake pads wear threw
Crash resulting in no headlight, no more master cyclinder for front brakes, turn signals and a busted up front fairing
Another crash resulting in some cracks and scratches
A Chain streched beyond useable
A few tip overs
A case of mild hypothermia
Eatin alive by blackflies
Several rewarding cold beers
Flirting with a gay guy in order to get on a ferry
Rain, sun, wind, good people, fun road, great riding .....
And another chapter begins in creating this route; a group of us had been planning this trip for some time. Every year a groups of us from Ottawa do an expedition type trip on our bikes. This yearly trip gets organized through our web site advcanada.com. Last year we went up into Northern Quebec and rode the Rue Du Nord and the Trans Taiga Highway. We had a great time and it was kind of decided that this year we would go and ride the Trans Labrador Highway across Quebec/Labrador. We've been waiting a few years for the road to get completed and it looked promising for 2010 to be that year. After committing to creating a route across the country this trip just sort of worked out two fold. One for our yearly trip and two to be a recon trip to see if the Trans Lab would work for the route. I was a bit sceptical due to the long paved sections before, during and after the TLH that would have to become a part of the route.
8 months of emails, a couple of pub meets and the group was finally made up. A handful of folks wanted to come, new job won't let me get away, family commitments and health issues prevented some familiar faces from joining us. Next time guys Half the folks who were coming were going to make a one week trip out of it and three of us intended to spend an extra week riding some trails around Newfoundland. Some guys from a local NFLD dualsport forum ( www.ridetherock.com ) helped us out with some route suggestions for the island. Kudo's to the members of this forum, a very helpful group of people who seem very passionate about sharing their part of the world. A great resource for anyone heading to NFLD. Because we intended to ride lot's of double track this had some impact of how our bikes would get loaded. Fast and light became the buzzword for the three of us as we planned our different packing strategies. Soft luggage for Dan and myself and scrapping a sleeping pad and tent for a hammock for Pelvis. What don't we need or what can we split and share between us became the topic of more than a few emails and pints over the winter months.
I choose a Gaint Loop system for my bike. A Great Basin bag and Fandango tank bag. The concept of keeping heavy items low and snug seemed wise. The narrow profile also was a huge draw for me, I've caught panniers on tree's, etc while riding double track and trails before and choose not to do that again. Nothing like having your bike ripped around 180 degree's while you take a header into the ruhbarb. The added bonus of no luggage rack (weight) and their products being waterproof made it a done deal for me. Dan choose a Giant Loop tank bag and a Wolfman setup for his bike. He wanted the luggage racks to help distribute weight off of the subframe of his ktm 950 se, this bike has a known weak subframe. Brian choose to go with hard panniers for his 800 gs but kept his weight down by minimizing his gear. I'll let them speak to how their setups worked out for them as the report gets going.
The other three members of our group were all riding 1200 gs's. Chris I know from several local rides as well as from last years trip to Northern Quebec. Renuad I had only just met while planning this trip. Martin hails from Toronto, bought a 12gs adv last Novemeber and had never ridden on gravel before. So there we are, 6 of us with different bikes/setups and varying degrees of riding skills and experience. To say everyone was keen/excited/nervous to get going is probably an understatement. We all have jobs, families, etc and are just working type folk. Getting a week or two off from our lives is not always an easy task as I'm sure most readers of this forum can relate to.
Day one had me and Dan driving around town doing last minute preps to our bikes and gear. Sadly after crossing many obstacles to leave on time my brake pads were not going to be in until early afternoon the next day. Bummer! Last minute emails and the result was Dan and myself would leave a day later than the other four guys and we'd catch up along the way. I like to ride fast and so does Dan so this didn't seem like it would be an issue. Fast you say? Ya I know it's not for everyone but it's the way I ride. I love the enjoyment of being "in the zone". Riding gravel roads requires concentration, add speed and it demands more concentration. This is what I find relaxing oddly enough. One thing to focus on, what's in front of you. Your movements become automatic, 4,5,6,5,6,5,4th gear becomes reflex. No thoughts of home, job, kids, etc. Some folks ride bikes as a means to explore and see new places, I ride bikes because I love riding bikes. I enjoy the road as much as the scenery and people. Sounds odd to write but heck it needs explaining I think. When I see something out of my pheripheral vision I stop and enjoy the moment. I don't race to get places, more like I ride fast between breaks. I'd rather sit with my bike off and enjoy the silence that the wilderness has to offer and then giver like crap to the next place that grabs my attention. I don't think one way is better than another, just preference and personality that decides how we ride. So the four guys headed out while Dan and myself enojyed a few cold beers and one more night in town. After all of the stress of trying to get my bike up and running over the last few days, a good nights sleep might be just what the doctor ordered.
I got an email that night from Pelvis that they covered a few hundred km's that evening and had setup camp East of Montreal amd that all was good with them
Well it was day two of the trip and I'de yet to twist the throttle. I drove my car into the city and meet Dan and we loaded up our bikes, again.
"They'd better have my damned brake pads in or I'm going to freak" kind of mentality going on. Thought I'd get a bomber sleep the night before, instead I lied in bed worrying that I'd get delayed again. A quick call to the dealership ( Wheelsport in Orleans, Ottawa) and they said they were sitting on the counter, yehaa !!! We hauled over to their shop, and changed the pads in their parking lot. Like anytime you have a fully loaded bike in a public place, we answered some questions from folks going and coming to the dealership. "Where to","where from", etc
Dan and myself finally hit the road at 1:30 pm. The forecast showed rain behind us but blue skies where we were headed.
Following the Ottawa river on our left for a while. It felt REAL good to finally be on the road. Bike was running well, we were both smiling and it finally sunk in, we're off ! Cranked the beatles in my mp3 and started to put some miles down. Damn hard not to be cheerful with Paul McCartney singing about yellow submarines. The Fab Four go down for me as the best sing along, happy go lucky road tunes.
A quick stop jusy before crossing the border into Quebec. Of course at a Tim Hortons for a quick shot of the bean. Ask any Canadian, they must put something in there because it IS addictive.
Not much to say about the afternoon. We were flying. Rode past Montreal and Quebec City, dodged some traffic, applied the "any road is twisty, some just need more speed" philosophy. Once past Quebec the scenery improved dramatically. For me Quebec has a very European flare to it, every town seems to have a beauty of an old church in it, streets are narrow and of course everyone is speaking a language I know nothing about except a one liner "many large beers please". This is the same line I know in spanish and both have done me well over the years. More than one fun experience and a good story have been the result of knocking on a door and presenting the person on the other side with a large goofy looking white guy repeating his "line" and smiling. Maybe another time I'll take a trip down memory lane and share one of these experiences, lol
About 100 km's short of Tadasoucac we stopped at a campground. It was about 7 pm, we'd made about 650 km's, good start for our first day. The campground was a petting zoo slash campground. All sorts of odd animals, deers of various sorts, lama's and a bunch of ones I have no name for. I have REAL mixed thoughts about caging up a wild animal but I'll spare you my thoughts ;) Got our tents setup, lit a fire, drank some beers and wine and just enjoyed being underway. Spirits were high, it was a warm night, zero bugs and things were going well. A great day on the bikes :)
The Quebec flag "fleurdelisé". Folks from Quebec, for the most part, seem real proud of their heritage. By the time you get out here it's not uncommon for people to speak zero english. Most Canadians speak rudamentary french, if you don't a french/english dictionary may make your stay more pleasant. It's always more enjoyable when you can converse with the locals.
We setup camp in the sunlight and got everything put together just before dark. I always prefer to get off the bike at least an hour before dark. Setting up camp, cooking dinner, getting a fire going, etc just plain sucks for me if it's already dark out.
The tent I am using in the Tenere from Nomad Tents. It's freaking fantastic It weighs in at about 11 pounds so it is certainly a bit more weight than I am used to for a tent. It does pack small though, I store it in the grey dry bag on my rear rack. I'm 6'2 and it's just....well....humane to be able to stand in a tent. The vestibule is big enough for others to hang out in during inclement weather or to work on your bike. Can't say enough good things about this product. If you have a bike with good suspension then a few extra pounds doesn't become noticeable.
A few pints and a bottle of wine later and the day ended. We got an email from Pelvis and the gang. They were camped out at the Manic 2 dam along the Trans Labrador/Quebec Highway. Yehaa, they are within striking distance Maybe we'll catch up tomorrow.
Did I mention the nice scenery today? This area of Quebec is called the Charlevoix region. Highway 138 (which these pics are from) follow the north shore of the St Lawrence River. This wasn't the first time I'd been up this road but the scenery doesn't get boring. If you have the time there are a few cool things to do along this road. Some of the towns make for nice stops, there's whale watching trips, tons of art galleries and so on.
In the above photo you can see a ferry. It cuts across to the Gaspe Bay area and makes for a different approach to this area. If I'm not mistaken there is also a ferry from Baie Comeaux over to the Gaspe. Depending on which direction you are coming from or heading too these ferries might make sense to take.
Along this road there is a "free" ferry, well I suppose our tax dollars pay for it, you must take. It drops you off in the small town of Tadoussac. This town has a few small restaurants and a gas station. Worth the stop in my opinion, pretty cool little town.
It was in Tadoussac that I decided to check the level of coolant in my bike. Red lights, etc had been causing the bike's heat to sky rocket. Well this is normally a 2 second procedure. Remove cap from coolant resorvoir, check level and fill if needed. Well it needed but my butter fingers screwed me again. The freaking cap goes flying off my "nub" and into the fairing somewhere with an obvious "ping" sound. Nub? Ya I'm missing a finger and I'm going to use it as an excuse. I don't get a handicap sticker to park or any other perks from it so I'm going to use it now as an excuse. Well there is one added benefit to only having half an index finger, when using a drive through I balance a dollar or two dollar coin (loonie or toonie for those non Canucks) on the nub and put my hand out the window. Each and every employee go for the grab then pull back, then go for the grab again then pull back again. Small things amuse me So we thought the cap was in the upper fairing, took it off and no dice. Behind the gas tank...nope Then Dan spots it, I get a skinny little stick and almost reach it.....then `ping` off it goes and you can here it ricochetting around the inside of the bike. Finally found it in the sump guard. Unneeded BS. Always happens during the hottest part of the day, and ALWAYS with a crowd watching.
I think during this next stretch both Dan and myself hit the wall. I was trying real hard not to fall asleep at the bars. Maybe the build up of the last week, the high speeds yesterday that came to a crawl today with having to go through small towns and red lights Who knows but we made Baie Comeaux and we were both beat. Energy drinks and coffee, that`s what was needed before heading north up the Trans Lab
And finally what we came for. The first 200 km's of the Trans Lab is paved sadly...BUT it is some seriously fun twisty roads. A great ride from the beginning to the Manic 5 dam where the gravel begins
Manic Two dam. This is where the other guys had camped the night before. Our goal was to make Lab City today and potentially catch up to them. The sun was shining and we were making good time, enjoying the scenery and really enjoying leaning the bikes over. Very little traffic and 200 km's of twisty roads.
The land of electricity. The reason for most of these northern roads
Starting to feel like your getting somewhere when you see these signs
Made it to Manic Five dam around 5 pm and decided to call it a day. Rain was just around the corner and the temps began to drop. 300+ km's of gravel just wasn't on the plate for the evening, heck this is supposed to be a vacation. Asked the lady at the pump where the camp ground was and she pointed to a field Then she says for an extra 20 bucks each we could have a room Room it was, hot shower and some good eats.
I decided to take the sheepskin of the bike to keep it dry. Well...the key broke in half in the lock My spare key is twisted on a 45 degree angle and barely fits into the ignition and the key is butter soft, no biggy except i need to take it out to open both of the gas tanks every time I'll need fuel. What are the chances of this key not breaking ? Really? ANother dam issue to worry about. Can a locksmith even copy a key that's this bent out of shape.....
Woke up to rain We knew it was coming and here it is. Ah well, less dust right. Today the gravel starts...finally I've been looking forward to this road for a few years now, seems like every year they were saying that this is the year the road gets completed, well 2010 and it's finished.
Just around the corner from our motel is the Manic 5 dam. It's BIG
It always seems odd to be in the middle of nowhere and then to see something man made. Mines or dams.....the scale of these operations in the north country always blows me away.
Hit the road and it wasn't dissapointing. Fast and fun. The rain would come and go. One valley would be dry then the next one would be hammering rain. Every time you'd come over a rise you'd be crossing your fingers.
The shoulders were VERY soft. Almost got caught a few times hugging the inside corners of some turns. Took a while to break the habit.
About 50 km's in I had a HUGE pucker moment. Coming down into one of the dips (valleys) I just about went down at speed. The sand builds up deep in the dips. The water then turns the sand into very thick concrete like stuff. The bars got yanked left and right a few times before finally getting stuck at the stop on the right side while the bike kept going straight, front wheel plowing through the stuff. I had to stop and let the old ticker slow down.
Approximately a 100 km's from manic 5 is a middle of nowhere gas station. We stopped to fill up and have a quick coffee. Spirits were high, we'd learned to slow down in the "dips" and Dan had himself a religious moment. He cranked his new to him steering dampner up and was nothing but grins. I NEED to get one of those. He'd just straight track right through the stuff that was trying to rip the bars from my hands, I was very jealous.
Filled up, helmets on and ready to go. Turn my key, everything lights up, hit the start button and hear a whiz, pop, whiz, zap then everything goes dark. WTF !. Turn the key again and nothing. Wave Dan down and explain I'll need his tools as mine are "locked" away under my seat with a broken key stuff in the lock. I take the skidplate off and get access to the battery (please keep in mind this is in the rain, lieing in the mud ). Tighten up the terminal post nuts and a few other odd's and end's. Reach up, turn the key and everything lights up, yehaa, something must of been loose. So we repack the bikes, get geared up, high five and jump on the bikes to leave. Turn the key, everything normal, hit the start button and whiz, pop, whiz, zap again. ARG! take off gear, remove gear, get Dan's tools, remove skid plate, get acess to the battery and sit and stare....hmmmmm.....I'm no electrician and I'm not really sure what to do. My gps is hard wired to the battery, it's the only electrical item not being run through the bikes charging system. Remove the battery leads and gps wires and the bike starts right up. I suspect a wire got rubbed one too many times and was exposed and coming into contact with something metal somewhere. Who cares, bike is back up and running. Bit of a pisser as I was hopeing to make a nice gpx file for the route but that can be done after the fact I suppose. When the weather gets better I'll take a few hours and try to properly find the issue and rewire the gps.
Back on the road. The weather was adding a cool factor to this part of thre road. The clouds were hanging down real low. As you'd cross a "mountain" you'd be up in the clouds, coming down the other side you'd either break free from the clouds or have a valley that was pissing rain.
Quick rest stops in area's where it wasn't raining. Drying gloves off One more advantage to an uncorked exhaust.
Out in the middle of nowhere we were surprised to find a beauty of a stretch of smooth pavement. Normally I'd be dissappointed but in today's rain it was a nice welcome relief. If memory serves it was about 80+ km's long. The sun even came out at one point, weird weather.
The section after the pavement leading to Labrador City was a fun ride. The road criss crosses the railroad tracks and the road was FUN. Up, down and side to side.
And we made it, finally out of Quebec and into the province of Labrador. A first for me and Dan. There's always something exciting about getting somewhere new.
A classic :victory:
I'm not going to cross post all the babble and what not from other forums from the others on the ride. Once I catch up to real time with this thread I'll begin to include some of their stuff as I post into this thread.
I will include some of their photo's though as they were having there own ride which included some memorable moments for them. Some good some VERY scary.
Chriss does an endo and crashes at 50 mph :Wow1:
Flat tires, black flies, tons of rain and a couple of crashes. The fellows ahead of us were having a great time :ylsmoke:
Rolled into Lab City and fueled up the bikes and went searching for somewhere to have lunch. Somewhere with real food, you know the type, something hearty and healthy, fuel for the body type of food.
After a couple of quick cell phone calls to our families and friends we hit the road again. On a side note, only Bell phones work in Labrador, Newfoundland and northern Quebec. Fido, Rogers, etc get zero coverage.
The ride from Lab City to Churchill Falls is approximately 300 km's. The 50 km's outside of Lab City are paved and the rest was a nice fast and fun gravel section. We made short work of this section, really flying along, foot out around the corners type of riding. I had a blast The rain was intemittant and the low clouds and fog made the scenery kind of spooky.
We were to meet the rest of the group at the gas station in town at 6 pm. We were half an hour early and went and explored the town. No offence meant but Churchill Falls is ****. Compared to Lab City with it's clean look and facilities Churchill has nothing. One crappy gas station, one over priced hotel, one bar that was empty, etc This town only exists to house people who work on the hydro facility. If you have the choice stay in Lab City or Goose Bay and only use this as a gas stop. Anyways.......we waited and the guys didnt show up, it started raining hard so we checked into the local hotel and looked forward to a warm meal and a couple of cold beers. The restaurant doesn't sell alcohol SO a hot meal and wet ride down to the gas staion for a six pack and we retired to our room. Got an email from the other guys saying they were making real slow progress and had pushed on to Goose Bay. no worries we'll catchup tomorrow sometime.
The gas station runs an accomodation business. 88$ for an apartment, beds for two but you can crowd in and the rate stays the same. Maybe a good option for larger groups?
We drove around in the rain but couldn't find thids place but might be worth looking into if you plan on spending a night here. No campgrounds in town but you can camp out on the church grounds. Didn't look appealing to us in the pouring rain though.
Well that finishes off day four of this ride. Roads were fun and demanded concentration. Scenery was excellent and all in all we had a great day, made good mileage and had a few good laughs and a few moments of frustration as well.
Woke up early the next morning and eager to hit the roads. The rain was still coming down with moments of only drizzle and fog. Stopped by the gas station and filled up my aux fuel solution. I had a 10 liter Dromedary bag with me. The next stretch was to Goose Bay and was approximately 300 km's. We were hoping to get there by 11, have a Tim's lunch then push on down the new section of road. Plans never work do they
Today we had planned to ride a gravel road up to the top of the Smallwood Resorvoir (280 km return) and see how far north we could get up some atv trails we had heard about.
I was a bit bummed the guys hadn't waited for us in Churchill, but on the other hand given the weather, atv trails would probably not of been a good idea in the middle of nowhere with loaded bikes. Dan and I discussed why they wouldn't have stopped. At first I was a bit pissed off, heck we'd just busted our butts to make the meeting time, stood around in the rain for an hour waiting and all that crap. After a warm shower, hot food and a cold beer the frustration had disappeared. Maybe they are really struggelling with the road conditions and or weather. Better safe than sorry I suppose, if they were having a hard time with the main road (TLH) perhaps a day of backroad exploration wouldn't be a wise choice. I tried to put myself into their shoes and came to the understanding that they most have known we would be disappointed but thought it was still the better choice to push on and try to make the ferry in Blanc Sablon. Turns out they did make the good choice.
So dan and I headed off down the TLH hoping to make quick work of this section and both mumbeling about the Tim's that is three hours away.
Well after about 70 km's I catch up to Dan and he is coasting and hitting the start button on his bike, clutch in. He comes to a stop and I ask what's going on. He shrugs......I can tell he looks pissed off and grumpy...hmmm....
We try to start his bike but it won't catch, well it does once, idels real low then stalls. I notice dan was driving with his choke part way on. Hmmmm...does this mean it would have flooded or ? Well we decide it's flooded, so what to do? We try the regular approach to a flooded bike, twist throttle hit starter for a few seconds, then release throttle and let it turn over until it catches. Well it doesn't catch. We should pull the plugs to see if they are fowled. Dan has a spark plug wrench (CJ Designs I believe) but we don't have a socket wrench to fit it We try using vise grips and other odd contraptions to get it to work but no go. A few more tries of the start button and the battery fails. Cables? nope
So we wait, and wait and wait. A nice drizzle to keep us company. Black flies are out in full force and they seem very pissed off. Not much traffic at this time of the day. We take turns flagging down the vechicles as they pass asking for a boost, no one has cable or won't admit they have cables. One dude in a truck says "ya but they are buried in the back and it would be an inconvience to get them" and burns off leaving us in a spray of gravel
I'm not sure how long we sat there for, a couple of hours at least. I spent alot of that time with my jacket pulled up over my head, lieing in the ditch and waiting. I must have left an ear exposed at one point because it got bitten to heck. Swelled right up nice and puffy. Black flies EVERYWHERE, in your ears, nose, etc. I will NEVER live somewhere with blackflies like this.....EVER!
Finally an older guy pulls over and says he doesn't have cables but can help us out. Says he will be back in a bit and takes off up the road. About 20 minutes later he shows up, with no cables....BUT says he told his mechanic to come see us with his tool truck The guy must have been a big wig on the road crew to have pulled that off. I forgot his name but cheers to you man
The tool guy shows up and we discuss what's been happening. He let's us use his tools and we get the spark plug off and were very surprised to see it was bone dry. WTF not what we were expecting to see. Hmmm....so starved of fuel. We charge the battery and turn the key, hold on I didn't hear the fuel pump pressurizing. Sweet! Dan has a spare fuel pump he got for free from someone on the web just for such an occassion. Hells Bells baby we're back in business
Me...sick of the black flies and tired out and we have barely gotten going.
I had a nice chat with the mechanic. 35 years old and having a tough go of life. He's from Newfoundland and says there isnt much work there. Alot of his buddies went of to work in the oil patches in Alberta and all but one came home broke and with a mean drug habit, he says he'd rather live on welfare than go that route. I can't blame him. Keep in mind this fellow is a master mechanic, licensed and all that other stuff. He works 28 days on, 6 days off. They charge an arm and a leg for him to share a trailer with a bunch of other road crew guys. no tv, no staellite reception, no phones, etc He's married and has a kid and doesn't get to keep in touch for a month at a time. They work 16 hours a day for 6 days a week. Sunday is a rest day, you only work an 8 hour shift. CRAZY His take home pay is just under a 1000 bucks a week. He tell's me his wife told him just before leaving for this "tour of duty" that she is leaving him and taking the kid. Imagine that brewing in your head for 28 days. I guess the fellows that don't work and sit around on welfare scoop up the other guys wives while they are away. My freaking heart was going out to this guy....BIG TIME. Through all that he was happy and chiper. He wasn't complaining just telling me the way it is up there. The guy even gave us a few tools fwe might need from his truck....solid guy indeed. Dan gave him a bit of green backs to have a pint or twenty that night and we bid him bon voyage and hit the road again.
And it started to rain...big time rain..cold rain driving in sheets. It had been raining for some time but not like this. The kind of rain that soaks threw any type of rain gear in seconds. Bummer I don't have alot of photo's from the rest of the day but I'll do my best to tell the tale.
The rest of the ride to Goose Bay went by fast, no lolly gagging, just riding hard with next to no visibility at times. It's hard to enjoy yourself when the weather is like this. The road was in decent shape, a bit muddy at times but nothing that really slowed us down.
When we got to the pavement stretch near Goose Bay you could feel your spirits rise. We hadn't ate breakfast and left at 6:45 am. We thought we'd be at a Tim's within a few hours and had decided to hold tough. SO when the pavement came I gave her some good throttle, yehaa...warmth and coffee on the horizon The speed limit dropped from 80 km/h to 50 all of a sudden and sure enough there's a police car coming the other way. We make eye contact...damn.....what to do, a quick look shows I'm doing about 130 km/h in a 50 zone.....hmmm.....hmmm...crack the throttle and let him hear the roar from my exhaust. Bold choice, quick decsision. Play dumb and say I didn't see him if he spins her around or he'll just say screw that I'm not chasing this guy. Yehaa he didn't chase........but....Dan is behind me...sorry Dan What was I to do, turn around and pass him to get to you to warn you? No sir. So on I pushed into town and found the Tim's. It was 3 in the afternoon. Instead of three hours it took us over 8 hours to get here, no food, no coffee. Soaking wet and very cold I stripped down and order lunch. Half an hour later dan shows up......again sorry Dan. Yes he got a big ticket, the cop informed him half of it was for "your buddy on the white bike". Dan happy? NOPE
The obligatory sign coming into Happy Valley
Rain rain and more rain
SO me and Dan have a serious non fun chat. Our ferry leaves the next day at 3pm, we need to be there by 2pm at the latest. If we stay in Goose Bay for the night there is no way we'll make it tomorrow. Not the end of the world but it means we won't catch up to the other guys and Pelvis was to join us for a week of riding around NFLD. I can't do that to him, we'd both been quite excitied about the trip and we'd had many garage beer nights talking and planning the trip together. So the only we'd make it would be to push on and do at least half of the new section of road in order to have a fighting chance of making the ferry. It was raining VERY hard and it was very cold. Dan wanted to stay in Goose bay and I wanted to push on. a wee bit of tension between friends So we came to an agreement, we'd push on and do the new section of road (about 400 km's) and not stop until we came to a motel. No way did Dan want to camp in the rain in the middle of nowhere and I kind of agreed with him. We'd had a long day already and both wanted a warm shower and a hot meal. So at 4 pm we left Tim's and headed to get fuel. Filled the bikes and my aux fuel bladder and made our way out of town and found the new road.
The new section.......
It was in great shape, fast and smooth for the most part. There is a bridge that is worth mention ing shortly after beginning. One of those metal grated surfaces that makes the bike a challenge to keep going straight.
We came across the section that was still under construction, about 18 km's long. It was in rough shape, very muddy. 1st and 2nd gear type of terrain.
After this we started making good time again. A quick stop to fill up my fuel tanks and we were off again.
The more it rained the bigger the potholes became. Some were about 6 feet across and the depth varied. Due to the muddy water you couldn't tell if they were 2 inches deep or 18 inches deep. As we were racing along up on the pegs the deeper potholes would rip your legs right off the pegs. A few pucker moments indeed.
All in all the new section is in good shape, had it not been so slick from the rain it would have been a nice ride.
My fuel light came on.....well we must be almost there. I get about 40 km's out of reserve on my bike, I know I've run it dry before (another story for another time ). After 10 km's of being on reserver I see a sign post that says 94 km's to Port Hope Simpson. I stop and wait for Dan. He asks what's up and I relay the sad info, I'm not going to make it. Dan says his fuel light has been on for the last dozen km's as well. Dan "guesses" that his will go longer due to the shape of gas tanks which are aftermarket and says he has 2 liters of spare fuel on board. With no choice in the matter this becomes the plan. I'll ride until I run out, Dan will continue on and IF he makes it to town and IF the gas station is still open he'll come back and bring me gas. This will mean a couple of hours sitting on the side of the road wondering if he'll come back.
Did I mention it was cold? Dan was getting concerned for me. He has a heated vest and grips where as I have notta. I was wet right threw and freezing. My lower lip started to go blue, my teeth were chatterring and I couldn't use my fingers anymore. Dan had to do my zippers up on my coat as I couldn't make a fist anymore. I was using only palms on the grips as I couldn't get my fingers to bend anymore. "**** Dan this isn't looking good". When I run out I'll quickly setup my tent on the road and get my cook stove out and try to warm up the inside. I have one change of dry clothes left and my sleeping bag should be dry.
So off we headed, it was starting to get dark. Why did our bikes get such crappy fuel mileage I can only guess. We knew fuel was going to be an issue but our math showed we would have some to spare. Other than the construction zone I had been keeping the bike in the bottom of 6th gear the entire way, low on the revs trying to limit my fuel consumption. This meant riding pretty darned fast around corners in the mud with bad vsisbility. I think maybe all the potholes and loose mud created drag, also the front/side wind that was gusting played a major role as well.
I think you can imagine what was going on in my helmet. It wasn't pretty at all I rode, crouched down behind the windsheild staring at my odometer. I saw Dan run out behind me along the way and thought "crap no way is 2 liters going to get him the rest of the way". My bike just kept going and going. Doing the math every 30 seconds in my head trying to keep my frozen brain concentrating on how far I was from town. I saw 85 km's on my odo, 85 km's on reserve ! I may just make it ! Now I am not a religious man, more of a Darwin fellow but I prayed to God. First time in my life outside of funerals. "Come on buddy, I don't ask much, 5 more km's is all I need" kind of a prayer. No sooner had I said amen then I ran out of gas. Lights out, almost dark, hadn't seen a car in a long time and don't suspect I will until morning. Dan is somewhere behind me probably out of gas as well. SON OF A B&TCH, you've got to be kidding me. How far to town? 5-8 km's based on my math. 2 hour hike in mx boots in the dark and freezing cold. Do it or set up camp? By this time it is dark and I am very, very cold. Body going into shivering spasms, will my fingers even work to setup my tent? What if it's longer than 8km's to town? Setting up the tent means doing it right on the road as the ditches are 20 feet deep...
The new section.....did I mention it was a bit SLICK
Well I'd decided to setup camp. I was simply to cold and tired to push on. No sooner had I came to this choice when all of a sudden I see headlights coming from the North. Hell I hadn't even see a road back there. This real nice fellow drives up in a truck and says he saw my headlight go out and thought I'd maybe had an accident. I asked if I could siphon a liter of gas from his truck and he says he can do one better, he has a gerry can with 4 liters in it.
Yehaa! I put a liter in my bike and explain that Dan is back behind me somewhere. No worries he says. As he's heading back to give Dan some gas Dan's headlight comes around the bend. Unbelievable ! After getting such crappy gas mileage both our bikes go the distance on the last couple of liters. An honest offer to buy this guy beers at the hotel later that night and we're off.
One more turn in the road and voila ! The lights of Port Hope Simpson across the bridge at the bottom of the small hill. I can't believe I was going to camp a 15 minute walk away from town.
Damn were we stoked. High fives and loud cheers !!!
Got to the hotel and the lady says she is full but to hang tight for a minute. A few minutes and Pelvis comes out of the restaurant. Hells bells baby we're warm and food and beers are only minutes away :)
The small hotel was full so I threw my thermarest of Pelvis's floor, spread my gear out to dry, got changed and hit the bar. Damn fun night. Got to meet the guys I had barely met and in Martin's case had never met. Did a bit of bench racing, had some average at best food that went down as if it was fine cuisine. Beers and whiskeys and beers and more whiskeys until only Pelvis and I were left. Eventually they got sick of us and closed the bar.
Pelvis is a tequila guy and I'd brought a special bottle just for this occasion. A friend brought the bottle to me from his home town in Mexico. It did not dissappoint ! Thanks Huey !
A bit of background. Pelvis is on a personnel quest...to get drunk in every province and territory in Canada. Seriously. He's even flown into Nunavut with a case of beer for a day. Well, Labrador was the second one left and I feel we didn't disappoint :). Late night doing shots until it was empty and then I passed out with a big warm smile on my face....or something along those lines I think ;)
Woke up the next morning and had the first relaxed start of the trip. Breakfast, repack all my gear now that it has dried out, even lounged around drinking coffee. The hotel in Port Hope Simpson is...well.....really....a bunch of portable's strung together. Warm and dry ? Yes Cheap? Nope
I think some of us were feeling a bit groggy this morning
Chris, eager and keen as always
Martin...if I was a betting man I'd say he was looking forward to the end of the gravel
A look in the daylight at the hotel. It looked like paradise the night before
Had a look at the damage the beemer bike's had occured. Scratched, dented and broken but still rolling along
Now....I am not sure how to even approach this subject without offending anyone. The folks of Labrador and Newfoundland (from what little I saw and I hate to generalize but this needs to be said) are some of the kindest and most friendly people I have ever met while travelling. Real salt of the earth type of folks. BUT.......a percentage of them have what I can only describe as "The East Coast Glaze". I sincerely am not trying to be rude or to offend anyone but it seems like a small percentage of folks out this way have a "far away" look in their eye. The staff at this hotel seem to have this unique characteristic. Like when they put a menu in fornt of you then just stare off into outer space for...well forever until you snap your fingers and get their attention. Something in the water? Not enough gene's in the pool ? This seems to only affect a small percentage of the population from what I saw but it seems to come in clusters. Go and have dinner and a night's stay in Port Hope Simpson and you'll see what I mean, it's kind of spooky, like a weird sci fi movie or something Stephen King would better describe in one of his books. On the ferry, on the rock, heck even in Nova Scotia we encountered these clusters of folks. Again, not trying to offend just felt it needed to be said. The majority seemed like real quick, smart everyday folk.
Perhaps someone local to the area could add some input here? was it just us who noticed this? Is it a real issue and just never spoken of? Were we dreaming...was it too many miles in the cold rain that messed up our heads and we were the odd ones?
We all fueled up and hit the road. First day in a while that it wasn't raining Still damp and misty but not raining.
It was good to finally be riding with everyone. No more rushing to catch up, no more dakar rally speeds, just cruising and enjoying the vista's. This section of the road was my favourite, I suppose I'm biased based on the weather and whatnot but finally the tree's started to dissappear and the views were what I was hoping for. Very rugged terrain, rocky and windy. Really felt "out there" and "up north".
Renaud packing everything but the kitchen sink
The winds REALLy picked up for a stretch. A strong cross wind only added to the feeling of being out there. It was quite strong and from other ride reports I've read of the TLH this wasn't unique for us to encounter.
Don't buy whatever gloves Pelvis had
Yehaa First view of the Atlantic Ocean. Mixed feeling for me, excited to get to the coast but a bit bummed that the gravel was going to be over.
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