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  #1  
Old 31 Aug 2009
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Trans-Labrador Highway.

The Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH): Not what I had expected. I had planned to tackle this trip with a KLR 650, but at the last minute, because I just couldn't get all my camping gear on the bike, I came up with a Plan B: take the H-D Road King instead. I can now say that this highway can definitely be done on a cruiser or a touring bike. Most of the road is just great!

From Baie-Comeau, I headed up North to Manic 5, where gas, decent food, and motel rooms are available. The 389 taking me there is worth the detour. What a road! All decent quality pavement, and all hills and curves.

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100 KM after Manic 5, Relais Gabriel let me fill up the gas tank and stomach. I didn't sleep there, but they do have accomodations available.

Fermont, 255 KM after Relais Gabriel, is fantastic. All services in one building, including a grocery stor, liquor store, "club de danseuses", and other essential services. Labrador City was just a few kilometers away with its Tim Horton's (no kidding) waiting for me. Between Manic 5 and Fermont, I did about 100 KM on pavement (from Gagnon to Fire Lake). I didn't expect that at all, but it sure was nice!

Churchill Falls, 280 KM after Fermont, was a much needed rest between Fermont and Goose Bay, but besides the hydro-electric plant visit, not much to do there. I missed the plant visit by the way, because they have no tours on Mondays... The Midway Travel Inn is definitely the best bet, as I found out, sleeping at the Black Spruce Lodge. The Lodge is OK, just too expensive for what it's worth.

Another 300 KM took me to Happy-Valley-Goose-Bay. It felt like a victory! And yet, another Tim Horton's!

Overall, a bit of pavement around the cities of Gagnon, Labrador City, Churchill Falls, and Goose Bay, and the rest of the road was gravel, but excellent gravel roads I must say. I was often cruising up to 90 KM/H, and the only reason for not going faster was my fear of seeing a moose jump in front of me.

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On to the ferry, taking me from Goose-Bay to Cartwright. I then took on the Labrador Coastal Drive (LCD). Half of the distance was on great gravel surface. The only challenge was the last 200 KM, from Penny's Pit Stop (see map) to Red Bay (TLH fin - Red Bay). This 200 KM was made of lots of large gravel, deep sand, and wash board, often all 3 at the same time. I did this part of the trip at an average speed of 30-40 KM/H. But 2 travelling companions (Ghislain and Scott) met on this journey earlier on, riding BMW's GS, went blazing through.

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Before crossing over to the island of Newfoundland, I checked out the 138 highway heading West from Blanc Sablon. Over 60 KM of great pavement, amazing curves and hills, and landscaping from another world. Simply amazing! Definitely worth the ride. Another 12 KM or so of gravel took me to the end of the 138 in Vieux Fort. That park bench felt like the end of the world.

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I did the whole trip in dry conditions, which probably had an impact on the surface of the gravel road, but then the dust was challenging at times when meeting cars or trucks. A gas mask would have been nice, but it was nothing that coudn't be handled.

Soon, Cartwright and Goose-Bay will be linked by a road that has been under construction for some years now. Whenever it opens up, I will definitely go back, this time doing it from East to West, all the way from Blanc Sablon to Baie-Comeau. Probably on the KLR, this time, though.

Trans-Labrador Highway.-__tlh_phase_iii.jpg

Delightful ride!
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Old 26 Sep 2009
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Good ride report buddy.

I was up there mid-may last year in nothing constant rain (KLRing). What an adventure though!!...I actually hit snow on the road (it was very cold). The ferries to NewFoundland where not running yet so I ran the 389 route up and down...it definitely compliments the TLH.

I remember seeing signs like that outside Goose Bay...however they read Completion Scheduled 2008...I guess they're running late. The 2009 looks like a sticker.

Just want to mention that the road get's really ugly in the rain...there's no way an HD type bike would make it through the gravel under wet conditions.

When I set off for Churchill Falls from Lab City at 18:00hrs in the pouring rain, I came across the only cop on the highway who proceeded to pull me over only to ask me what the hell I was doing.

The Two Seasons Hotel in Lab City will provide you with a Rental Satellite Phone, free of charge, for your adventure along the TLH. It can be returned back to Lab City or in Goose Bay for those heading out on the ferries. It only works for 911 calls but it is a good security measure as there is nothing on the highway.

Ride Long
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Old 30 Sep 2009
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Hey Nic! Thanks for the feedback. My first idea was to just make this a posting saying "If you feel like doing the TLH, just go for it, no matter what type of bike you have!". And this turned out into a story telling. Yes, I do realize that things could have been very different under the rain. I was lucky to have such beautiful weather. Then again, I rode so much under the rain in the last few years that I figured it was my time to get a share of nice weather!

I didn't know about the Rental Satellite Phone, and it sure is a good idea. Mind you, I was surprised how much activity and life there is along this road, and how often you see houses. I never really felt isolated on the TLH, which was a bit disappointing. Highway 109 going to Radisson is not as long, but much more isolated.

About the KLR, it's crazy how the rain suit is almost useless on this bike! I can ride the Road King for hours (literally) with my rain gear and remain dry. On the KLR, 20 minutes of rain and my clothes are getting wet! I have a Gore-Tex suit and a FirstGear rain suit. What do you wear under the rain on your KLR? How good is it?
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Old 1 Oct 2009
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Are you sure you didn't just pack the KLR650 into that enormous trunk, just in case? How much camping stuff did you take???
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  #5  
Old 22 Feb 2010
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Trans Labrador Highway

Sounds like you rode the TLH at about the same time that we did. Glad that you had a good ride, your write up suggest a brilliant trip on the TLH. Barbara and I tackled it at the end of August last year (09) two-up on a 1200GS, as part of a journey from Vancouver BC to St John's Newfoundland, then onto Halifax NS, which I was researching for GlobeBusters. We were accompanied by three other bikes

I've read loads about this route, but the experience never seems to be the same for two people - nothing we read beforehand matched our experience. I would go as far as to say that personal experiences make for a nice read, but aside from info about fixed points such as towns and fuel, they aren't the best indicator of what the TLH is like.

So for us, we had the following experience.
Baie-Commeau to Manic 5. Fog and damp, lovely ride on poor tarmac. Some lovely views and a lot of nice curves. Memorable
Manic 5 - great breakfast!
Manic 5 to Relias Gabriel. Great. Dry. Nice hard packed dry mud. Normal road speeds, plus some
Relais Gabriel to Gagnon ghost town - Still easy hard packed mud, but more gravel starting to appear. Nice easy ride at more moderate speeds, trying to ride the ruts.
Gagnon to Fire Lake - Poorly maintained tarmac
Fire Lake to Fermont - torrential rain. Sand and fine gravel piste. lots of switchbacks over the railway line. Treacherous, but still able to crack on at a good pace. The wet kept the dust down. Two lots of grading going on. Speed down to almost nothing where they were working, as the newly graded piste was like soup in the wet
Fermont to Labrador City. Tarmac. Two Seasons Hotel is great.
Lab City to Churchill Falls. A hug mix of surfaces from good packed mud to incredibly treacherous gravel and newly graded shite. Kept a good pace and got to Churchill falls in a morning. We did not go fast.
The hyrdro facility is worth seeing
Churchill Falls to Goose Bay - lovely views, but miserable riding two-up. Miles and miles of brand new freshly laid and graded piste, with few ruts to ride, a nasty camber and oceans of new deep gravel. Just awful. It was at this point that we both decided this would be the last long piste that we'd ride two-up (B has since bought her own GS). We chose to take it very easy, enjoy the amazing vistas and stop lots for pics. Beautiful part of the world. Got to Goose Bay at 2pm. Later that day we discovered that of the nine bikes known to be on the piste that day, two riders were hospitalised after serious crashes on this stretch.
Took the ferry from The Goose to Cartwright. Fun, but a wierd experience.
Cartwright to Mary's Harbour - very old piste with lots of mixed conditions. Fairly unremarkable and easy enough to ride, though the two-up issues applied. Good speed maintained.
After Mary's Harbour, we ran into the tail end of Hurricane Bill. Conditions were truly dreadful. We encountered the same pink granite gravel mentioned, but in howling gales and driving rain. Speed wasn't an issue because we weren't really doing any. The piste deterioated into a kind of deep pink 'porridgy' soup. One of our number crashed and we didn't get into Red Bay until dusk. Incredible experience.
So: Can you do it on any bike? Yes, though I think you'd need to take a lot of care on a plastic covered heavy tourer.

Whatever pre assumptions that folk may have about the Trans Labrador Highway and whatever has been put on the internet, this piste is unpredictable for much of the time and can be highly dangerous if not treated with respect. A good, fast and trouble free ride is really a matter of conditions on the day and how much grading or other work is being done at the time. The accident rate for motorcyclists on this road is fearsome and weather changes are sudden and sometimes ferocious.

However, treated with respect and ridden at a sensible speed, the Trans Labrador Highway is one of the world’s classic motorcycle rides and is enjoyable and personally fulfilling. For Barbara and I, it represented a ‘life landmark’ ride. The area is among the most stunningly visual on the planet and the TLH should be properly enjoyed, not treated as an off road race. This is not a place for ‘gung-ho’ idiots (we met some. They later crashed).

Our life was made vastly more difficult because we were two-up. We're currently organising a trip for GlobeBusters in 2011 and are very much looking forward to going back to the Labrador - this time with two bikes!

Craig
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Old 22 Feb 2010
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TRans Lab Phase III

Oh, and the final section - Phase III of the Trans Labrador - is now open. It goes from Cartwright Junction to Goose Bay via the Mealy Mountains, an area that's supposed to be stunning.

Craig
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Old 2 Mar 2010
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Hi Craig!

It's nice to read on others' experience of this great highway! Indeed, I agree with you that the TLH is a classic ride.

I'm planning on going back to do this new part of the road, and this time I'll go from East to West. Also this time, it will be on the KLR, as I am now finishing getting it ready for touring, with paniers and all the crap you see on old guys' bikes nowadays

Did you ride West on the 138 all the way to Vieux Fort?

My friend, do you have any idea how lucky you are to have your life partner ride her own bike with you? I don't have that luck, and I'd give a lot to convince her to ride her own bike. Must be simply awsome!!

Ride safe! Ride far!
Dan
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Old 8 Mar 2010
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Thanks for the reply Dan, much appreciated.

The hurricane that gave us so much trouble on the pink porridge section after Mary's Harbour, left us stranded in L'Anse au Claire for two days. The ferry couldn't run. We spent time chilling out and going to the ferry port at Blanc Sablon every few hours for an update.

We then headed for St John's Newfoundland to celebrate crossing the continent. We started at Vancouver and rode across, including the final ride down to Halifax at the end, in 22 riding days.

At the start of the trip, we went up Vancouver Island and took the Inside Passage ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert before heading east. That ferry is amazing and takes you through some of the most stunning scenery that it's possible to see. A full sized ocean going ro-ro ferry, piling up 100 metre wide 'fjords' at 'Full Ahead'. Some experience!

Craig
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Old 15 Mar 2010
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So the TLH was just a small part of a long ride, wasn't it? Crossing the continent is my next goal. I've been as far as Winnipeg with the Road King (from Ottawa). This summer, I'll be heading north-west all the way to Alaska, and then down along the West coast, so I'll keep a note about this ferry you mentioned and will try and catch it.

I'll be leaving July 1st, and my first stop will be Churchill, Alberta. For this ride I'll be on the KLR. Then I'll see how it goes, but I'd really like to stop at Yellowknife and White Horse, on my way up (or down), but then again, riding season is very short at this latitude, so it will depend on how long it takes me to get there.

Maybe we can meet for a when I reach Vancouver, Craig!

Cheers!
Dan
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Old 16 Mar 2010
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Very nice

Thx to all of you for writing about the TLH.

Can't wait to go in September on a solo trip

If I ever ride to you nick of the woods Gato, might I drop in for a coffee?
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Old 19 Mar 2010
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Yes, it was only part of an entire Trans Canada journey. A landmark ride.

I'm repeating the jouney in summer 2011, leading a GlobeBusters expedition. Vancouver to St John's.

Regards

Craig
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Old 23 Mar 2010
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Absolutely Serge, it`d be great to have coffee and talk about the joy of the wind, dirt, dust, and rain on the road. The girlfriend just doesn't get it! Drop me a line a few days ahead of time ('cause sometimes I don't connect for a few days in a row). Hopefully you'll enjoy the TLH too! You'll be among the first bikers to experience the new stretch too.

Hey Craig, will you be doing the TLH again? And what are those GlobeBustesr expedition?
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Old 23 Mar 2010
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Check out GlobeBusters.com

Next Trans Canada Expedition in July 2011

Regards

Craig
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Old 31 Mar 2010
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Hey, maybe we'll meet in Manitoba, as we'll both be there in the second half of July, you heading east and me heading west. I'll be stopping in Churchill (Manitoba) by the end of the first week of July, and then I'll continue west after a couple days relaxing by the Hudson Bay.

That GlobeBuster sounds interesting! If you're leading, I guess your expenses are paid for, right?
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