How did we get here?
A year ago, I started looking for a place that was remote. I don’t like cities, people, traffic, noise and light pollution. I moved from Florida to San Francisco in 2008, gained 70 pounds in 2 years and worked myself to death. I moved to New Hampshire and haven’t been happier. Being 3 hours from the nearest airport, 2 hours from a theatre, without cell phone service is heaven to me but even here in remote New Hampshire, I still have the desire to go away further. To be a hundred miles from the next humans and to sit alone in silence and read without any chance of someone finding me via a cell phone tower.
I found that the northern most inhabited areas in my latitude were in Labrador Canada. There were roads going up there and it was then I found this is a popular route for people on motorcycles. I was far from the first person to think of this route and that made me have doubts about taking on the journey. I don’t do well following other people’s routes in hopes to find something new and unique in mine. Knowing someone has witnessed, photographed and philosophized this journey before was discouraging. Yet, in November of 2017 I still couldn’t get it out of my mind.
Throughout Winter, with my new bike I continued to do things in the name of the Trans-Lab, some way to justify my irresponsible spending during a time of year when I generally save up money for next year’s adventures. I kept buying little gadgets to make the trip easier on me, shopping for deals on used gear, backpacking gear and planning out some small camping trips to test everything out.
In April, I was still doing this trip solo. No one I knew was crazy enough to go with me or they had kids and a job that wouldn’t allow them to be gone for 2 weeks. I continued planning with the assumption I’d be doing this all alone. In fact, it was pretty appealing.
I started talking to someone on ADVRider who had tried to do the journey last year with their brother but the trip was cancelled. He wanted to join me. I said okay, I was nervous for all of the reasons you’d be. Do we have the same driving style? Can he ride 15 hours in a day? Can he work on his own bike, change a tire if needed? Do we get along?
At the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Vermont Puppy Doug Route camp-out at Silver Lake State Park, I saw the familiar faces of my close friends from Quebec. I shared my plans, “we’re doing the trans-lab as well..just one day after you”
Hmmm… could I push things back by a day?
A call to @bb82bird, a talk with my boss, okay we can make this work. The only risk is missing out on a beer festival in Vermont that I volunteer for every year. It takes place exactly 2 weeks after we embark.
I started a trip planning thread and received a lot of good feedback and it shows how invaluable the community is here. Google Maps’ recommended route was simply not even close to the best route. It skipped out on some of the most beautiful sites around Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. I’m so glad you all are here to lend advice for free.
July 15th, I changed my oil, air filter, oil filter and final drive fluid. Tested the battery, updated my devices and put on a fresh pair of tires that eventually let me down every day compared to my riding partners who had all picked Moto-Z Tractionators. My Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR Tires were great in twisties but they flexed to much, didn’t clear water or mud fast enough and weren’t pliable enough to make gravel tolerable.
Friday July 20th:
4AM, Alarm goes off, everything is packed up on the bike. I hate my bike when it has shit all over it. I throw my leg over, do a side to side test and feel disgusted. The weight is necessary. Everything on the bike has a use and when this trip is over, I’ll have used over 90% of everything I brought. It doesn’t mean that a fully loaded up bike is any fun.
Look how clean these bikes are!
My first ride of the day was just down the road to the boat-ramp. A few photos and video clips shot. I start a podcast (25 total I had backlogged for the last 2 weeks so I’d have plenty to listen to) and I take dirt roads the first 2 hours of the ride until I hop on the interstate for the Newport VT border crossing. I told him I had bear spray, I didn’t tell him about the leatherman surge despite him asking if I had any knives. He let me through quickly and I got off the main road again, this time to appreciate some of the Quebec mines and farmland that separates Montreal and Quebec City. I have never taken up this route before. The bike was handling great, this ride from NH to Quebec City I’ve done a dozen times but not via this route. My iPhone had been in airplane mode since Newport. It would remain in this mode for the next 11 days. My butt started to hurt and the temps reached 83F by the time I hit traffic. With all of the vents open, I started regretting wearing an $1800 Klim jacket. Okay, I paid $400 for it but still, why wasn’t the airflow enough? damn gore-tex.
A stop at a Petro-Canada to spend $4.34USD a gallon to fill up my tank, my 1 Liter MSR bottle and a gallon RotoPax. The 1 gallon and 1 Liter of extra fuel I never needed on this trip.
The Garmin powered BMW Navigator said I had arrived at Moto Vanier. I looked around and nothing. I work at TomTom so I know how much work goes into APTs (address points) and HNRs (house number ranges) so when a geo-coder gets an address wrong, I’m okay with it. I understand. However, Garmin (Here Maps) was a full 4 miles off from the actual place. I opened TomTom on my iPhone which has offline maps for Canada downloaded. I typed in the address, it took me to Moto Vanier within 10 meters. Good job Canadian APT team :)
Moto Vanier was the single best experience I’ve had at any BMW dealer. I’ve had friendly dealers, fair dealers who don’t charge for the little stuff or charge appropriately or cover something under warranty when it shouldn’t have been. Moto Vanier wasn’t like that, they were just very fast, very professional, very open and honest and their rates were fair. I really enjoyed my experience there.
I paid 175 CAD for a front & rear brake flush, torque check on all of the safety components of my bike and new rear brake pads. Even though I was early, they brought my bike in early and got me out early. Great job team! I was disappointed to see though that gear in Canada wasn’t cheaper than USA. In fact, it was pricier so even though the CAD to USD exchange rate is generous right now, the price of gear was not. Everything at this store was more expensive. Being a rider in Canada is not cheap.
BB8 shows up having experienced the same geo-coding issue I did where Garmin took him way off-track. We hang out for an hour until my bike is done. I watch three employees at Moto-Vanier struggle to get my bike off the center stand. Sorry guys. I had a lot of shit with me. I offered to help “we’ve had heavier GSes here”
We head out into downtown to our hotel. Our last hot shower for a few days or so I thought. As bb8 learned, I don’t really shower much..every 3-5 days at most so no big deal to me. The parking garage at the hotel didn’t accept motorcycles. We called someone to let us in, they opened the gate, BB8 got whacked in the head by the gate. Getting out the next day at 4:30AM proved to be just as difficult but getting someone on the phone was even more difficult.
We unpacked our stuff, fussed over the likelihood everything on our bike would be stolen and I tried to find a place to have dinner.
There was a local micro-brewery with Poutine. I had that and a few beers. BB8 had never been to Quebec city “You have to go to the city wall” I said. We found a taxi and went into old-city. Had a few more beers (well I had Rose wine) and we really hit it off. jWe had a similar sense of humor and got along really well. I was obviously nervous. Despite trying to consolidate our packing list, he brought many of the things I did. We didn’t need two jet-boils, tool rolls, tire plug kits, GS-911 diagnostic dongles or visor cleaner among many other things. goes to show I wasn’t the only one afraid we’d have a problem seeing eye to eye on this trip.
It was 9PM, we got a cab and headed back to the hotel. Each of us passed out immediately with the sounds of the city.
Today’s Video Portion of the Ride:
- Saturday July 21st:
We had to meet our Canadian group at McDonalds at 5:30AM. We woke at 4AM as the meeting point was only 5 miles away.
Checkout required a Q&A with the front lobby, exiting the parking garage took two phone calls and we ended up just barely making it out of the garage. After loading everything into our bikes, we arrived at McDonalds at 5:35. I was certain we had been left.
Nope, everyone inside was waiting for and we had time to have some breakfast. I can’t remember what I had only that it was very salty. First time at a McDonalds in a while. Not very impressed. We went outside, took a few photos and we were off around 6AM.
It took an hour along the water before we finally left the hustle and bustle of the city and this was the furthest east I had ever been in North America with Bangor Maine being the previous record for me. We entered Baie-Comeau around lunch time and my pronunciation of the French menu items made the clerk laugh.
The group kept a very good pace when on the road. I don’t usually go over the speed limit. We were averaging 30KM above the limit passing cars and trailers every few miles. Then we’d stop and have a leisurely break with food, snacks, etc. “Hurry up and wait” sort of became our trip. I don’t speak french so when I saw one person get their jacket on, I rushed to do the same because if not, 30 seconds later I’d look around and they’d all be sitting on their bikes waiting for me. I experienced this during the North Carolina Trip as well. Best to be sweating in my suit than hold everyone up.
Overall, our first real day on the trip was tame. We headed North from Baie-Comeau along a road that took us to the Hydro-Quebec Dam system. This route was 414km (257 miles) Manic 3, a very small Dam was where we ate lunch. There were some fun twisties, the road was great, paved with a few 60 foot long packed dirt sections with plenty of warning that the road was going to get choppy. We skated over these with ease except one where I first realized how squirrelly the Rally STR tires were on anything but hard pack. A little bit of gravel and these tires really get unhappy with me.
Temperatures peaked around 93F on my bike’s computer. Just in time, we found a pond nestled under some power lines. A nice guy from Quebec Hydro escorted us down to the water and everyone had a swim. I didn’t dry off, just put my suit over my mesh thermals (Klim 1.0 Mesh) and let the warm air cool down my skin over the wet fabric. It worked for about an hour.
This was one insanely long day. We stopped at Manic 5, the big Dam and took some photos then it was back to the group’s first camp-spot of the evening.
We had ridden 610KM (379 miles) It was here that I reminded our Canadian friends that BB8 and I would continue north another 74 miles to Crater Lake. The accommodations were quieter, cleaner and the view couldn’t be beat. Aside from wanting to get just a little bit further North, the group was going to spend 4 hours the next day touring the Dam. We were more keen to get to Fermont/Labrador city and take in the culture before reconvening with the group. While this decision wasn’t taken well by our companions, I’m so glad we pushed further north. We set our own pace, came head on three times with huge trucks heading south around corners and slept at one of the most memorable camping spots I’ve ever experienced. The view was outrageous.
The name of this place was Station Uapishka, (Km 336, TNO, Route 389, Rivière-aux-Outardes, QC G5C 2S9, Canada). No reservation needed although it doesn’t hurt to call in advance.
BB8 was snoring by 9:15PM. I was reading until 11 when finally my body realized I had been awake since 4:00AM and nudged me off to bed.
Sunday July 22nd:
Re-hydrated Burrito Ingredients in a bag paired with my first morning in years skipping coffee and having tea instead. I spent all Summer trying to make coffee work. Jet-Boil, Scale, Vacuum sealed beans, hand-grinder, french-press attachment for Jet boil. The water was too hot, the immersion without a proper stirrer was just off and what to do with the grounds when I’m done? Do I waste precious water to clean the grounds? do I just throw them in nature?
Tea was my compromise with little packs of cane sugar. We slept until 7:30, had food and while Bb8 was packing up his sleeping cot, I walked down to the river to take a bath. I had my camp-towel, soap and my undies. The water was around 55F, the rocks were sharp, I cut my foot open in two places and my knees were clean but the rest of my body was still dry unless you count all of the generous mosquitos that offered to clean me off.
Back at the camp – site, I grabbed the first aid kit and cleaned my tow and wrapped it with gauze. Praying out loud “please don’t get infected” knowing that when you have 10 more days on the road, a foot infection is one of the top things to avoid. “Protect your feet” when traveling like this.
After breakfast, we packed everything up. It took over an hour. don’t worry, we get faster at this as we go along. I check out and write my credit card number on a slip of paper. they don’t take cash, no weird charges my card yet but we’ll have to keep an eye on it.
The route to Labrador City via Fermont was 252km or just 165 miles. Truly a light day so we took our time heading North. I found some detours that went nowhere, we followed some power lines, checked out the huge mines and stopped quite often snapping photos and really appreciating the quiet desolation we had entered.
After riding about 10 feet alongside a fast-moving freight train which was really an amazing feeling, we followed some dust storms into Fermont and found the huge dump truck I’ve seen photographed many times before. The information staff person on her way to work stopped to check the lights at the installation. BB8 asked if he could park his bike under the truck “sure” she said in a passe way almost as if why does he have to ask?
We toured Fermont’s 6 streets and began our dialogue that stayed with us the next 4 days, “why are the women up here so hot?” Seriously, I sit back thinking, the dudes up there..normal dudes, nothing out of the ordinary…like every other meat eating beer swilling New Englander I come across. The women…were they imported?
After our tour of Fermont and a quick stop at the information booth, we decide to head up to Labrador in hopes they had a real restaurant. It was about 2PM and we were starving. The Jerky and water I had been nursing all day wasn’t satiating anymore.
We stop at “the big land” sign for a photo op:
Five miles later, there’s a sign for Tim Hortons as we cross into Labrador from Quebec. BB8 throws his hands in the air with excitement. We mooch off their wifi and I have my first Tim Hortons. I get a blended fruit smoothie like a weirdo. It was very sugary. We speak to two women who appear to have perfect english. Having heard only French Canadian the last 2 days I introduce myself and ask where a good bite to eat is around here, “Jordan’s is the best” and they gave me directions. I looked it up on my phone..closed 2-6PM. We were hungry now so I asked if there was a fall back “Pizza Delight” sigh. In New Hampshire, every town has a pizza place and a Chinese place, neither are any good. I imagined this would be something similar.
We roll in at 4:05PM local time..don’t forget our clocks pushed forward an hour going from EST in Quebec to Atlantic time in Labrador.
I had to order the stuffed crust pizza with feta. Tasty enough, more sodium than I needed but I saved half of my pizza for dinner. I think BB8 had a sandwich? I can’t remember.
By 5:13PM, we were at Corby’s, one of two bars/pubs in town. A nice woman poured us each a beer, they had fries and other pub-fare, we talked about our trip and just chilled there for a bit.
It was 6PM so after a quick tour of Labrador City, it was time to head back to Fermont and reconnect with our companions. As we got off the highway and made our way into town, a very low and dense fog was sitting off the road. I saw bits of ice and snow scattered on the wilted saw-grass around us which was causing a gorgeous fog against the humid and warm ambient temps. Pretty amazing to see bits of ice in July. Supposedly it had snowed in Fermont while we were eating in Labrador City.
After a lot of hunting, we found the municipal camping. $30 a person I think to camp which was quite high as they put us at a shared camp site.
Once settled in, a downpour started. This was Florida-rain, you know the kind. just brutal rain that didn’t let up. The tent held up but some water managed to creep in via my open vents. The wind was blowing tents over and the visible erosion in the hills from the rain was easy to spot followed by two gorgeous rainbows. I ate my pizza, drank some Crown Royal we bought in labrador city and was in bed early that night. Another great day riding.
Monday, July 23rd:
I warned the Canadians as this was our first morning camping with them that I’m incredibly slow at putting away my tent “I need at least an hour just to get the bike ready” so RIP to me if zombies end up being a thing. Seriously, how many tents do survivors in walking dead go through? One minutes you’re asleep and next minute you’re surrounded by zombies. See ya later, $600 Big Agnes tent..gotta go $500 sleeping bag!
I get up half an hour before I tell them I plan on, 6AM instead of 6:30. They’re already up and nearly packed. Sigh…don’t worry, this recurring saga gets better.
I scramble, skip tea, skip breakfast, skip my vitamins and barely get packed up in time to throw on a jacket and get to the gate with the group.
We once again stop at “the big land” sign and take a few photos. Then it’s off the Labrador City for a stop at Canadian tire, I buy some water shoes because the last two days, I’ve gone swimming and both times, had a slight or major foot cut from rogue objects.
While BB8 and I waited in the parking lot for our group, three locals came up to chat with us in succession. The third, Jerry was a rider himself, he had ridden much of North America on his cruiser but he didn’t ride anymore for some reason. Life has a way of keeping us from the things we love sometimes. I asked Jerry where we can buy Moose, Elk, Deer, things like that. I figured Queensland would be a bit lax on those laws. Nope, can’t buy that but, “fuck it I have some moose in my freezer if you want” I declined but he insisted. 5 minutes later, we followed him to his place, BB8 and left the group to collect 16 sausages, 12 medallions which were minced moose steak wrapped in bacon and two jars of moose fat with bits of pork and moose meat “just add boiled potatoes” he said “and it’ll fill you right up” I tried to pay him. my money was no good there.
After a chat with jerry, we head to IGA to meet the group. It was around 10AM we finally left Labrador and began our Trans-Labrador Experience
Jul 23rd Continued, The Trans-Labrador Highway: Route 500 East
Many people talk about this route, the single road which goes west to east in our case, this is route 500. It’s fully paved, boring and only scenic for the first 50 miles. If you were to tell me I could do that road again and skip everything around it, I’d take a hard pass. Like those weirdos who want to ride the entirety of Route 66. It’s not a breath-taking road. You leave Labrador City and it’s flat, not very twisty, not too many inclines and most of the same kind of vegetation you’ve seen since Manic 3. There are a lot of off the grid homes that were not cheap to build. I’m talking large, eccentric homes with lots of toys outside, bright colors, home-gardens, solar panels, wind-mills and no power lines to speak of. Getting setup like this in the middle of nowhere isn’t cheap. These have to be vacation homes because the average salary in this area isn’t too high.
After 150 miles of passing people going 40-50KM over the speed limit and averaging about 25-30 over, we do get a bit relaxed and just mellowed out. BB8 and I pass each other a few times, take some photos with our cameras while in cruise control and occupy both lanes. We rarely saw any oncoming traffic. Only once did someone pass us. Impressive!
We stop just west of Churchill Falls for lunch. Everyone had their packed grocery store meals, I re-heated another de-hydrated burrito. This was an hour long break and we head into Churchill Falls.
After the airport, there’s one right hand turn into town and a shiny police car hanging out as the speed limit goes from I think 120KM or maybe it was 90KM down to 35. Nice. I give him a wave, he doesn’t wave back. We turn into town and fill up with gas. BB8 and I didn’t need any but the F800s did. They were bone-dry. High speed + small fuel tank will do that to you. On the way out of town, we passed the cop car going the opposite direction. we were going 40 in a 35, he high beamed and lit up his lights and hit his boop-boop siren for each opus individually. I gave him a thumbs up assuming best intentions. He was probably just being a dick.
The rest of our day, the only real highlight was seeing the changing geology around us. Trees got lower, more moss and green painted rocks, more rock-faces on each side of the road, lone hills made up of various sized boulders, we were no longer along a river, just passing over random streams. It got slightly more coastal for a bit and then an hour from Goose Bay, the high trees returned out of nowhere and more of the rolling hills showed through.
Half an hour outside of Goose Bay, we stopped at I believe Muskrat Falls Dam. The area was fenced off well kind of, you could just go around the fence if you wanted to ride in the sand (which we did without going around the invisible fence). Supposedly the project is on hold due to legal battles. I didn’t read the notice, just joined BB8 on the sand for a bit while we battled 900 pound adventure bikes on street tires.
It was nice to have the GPS showing an ETA of 30 minutes. Having gotten up at 6AM, eaten one de-hydrated meal and endured many hours of flat terrain, it was nice to be close to our resting spot.
July 23rd Continued, Happy Valley-Goose Bay:
Traffic increases, road signs get more frequent and the road gets a little bit bumpier. We come to a stop sign. Left, Happy Valley. Right, Goose Bay.
We never go to Goose Bay. Chalk this up to this just being a fast-paced first leg mostly by our riding companions. I wish we had taken a bit more time here. The first hour of being in Happy Valley was following our riding buddies around who were looking for a camp-spot. We booked a night at the local hotel as we had camped the last 2 nights and also couldn’t find a camp-site in the area that appealed to us so our friends eventually ended up stealth-camping at the city park by the water fending off beggars all night, we stayed at the swanky (it was bad) Labrador Inn. Advice, stay 50 feet away at Hotel North Two. Much nicer!
BB8 and I locked down our bikes, disk lock, bike covers, removed all luggage and hoped for the best. I don’t know Happy Valley’s crime-rate at all, only that we were begged quite a bit and asked by hitchhikers for a ride despite having no room on our bikes at all. Seemed to be a depressed area.
Later that night, at an empty bar, the bartender gave us the low-down of the locals (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheshatshiu ) and their story and the Wiki page, while small gives a good insight into why the area seemed depressed. It was and unless you worked at the mines or dam, you were going to live in poverty.
We ate at Jungle Jim’s at Hotel North Two, BB8 had a huge beer, I had a small one. Blue Moon in Canada is called Belgian Moon. Still a miller-coors product but for some reason the name Blue moon must be taken? So they call it something different. Tasted identical to me.
We were back in our hotel by 10:00, I assembled my table of tech goodies to charge and luckily, didn’t blow any fuses and slept like a baby.
July 23rd video:
Tuesday July 24th, Route 510 South – Trans Labrador Highway and my crash
Up at 6AM to meet the crew at the gas-station at 7AM. We get there at 6:45…they’re waiting for us. I’m always the early one. Not cool…I once again had to skip caffeine and breakfast. Seriously, not cool. Of course I was welcome to get food but this coming from a group that was completely geared up and ready to go. No thanks, I’ll just get something later.
Now that I look back at my trip notes and photos, I did grab a small red bull and drank it later during lunch. Gross.
The temperature was nearly 80. By 9:30AM, it was 59. What an odd turn of events, we pulled off at a bridge just after the road turned from tarmac to hard packed dirt with scattered gravel to close up our vents and some switched over to warmer base-layers.
Since I was in a Klim Adventure Rally Jacket, I was already hot so I closed 2 of the 6 vents and my helmet vents and raised my windscreen and hand guards. I have the Ztechnik windscreen for the GSA. the tall model. at the lowest setting it’s at my chin, highest is eye level. Amazing. the machine art moto hand guards have a raise and lower wind-stopper which is great for cool weather. This setup + my Klim gear means I’m sweating above 65F. It’s amazing and luckily in New England, 90 degree days are pretty rare.
Route 510 made me truly appreciate 500 not for how amazing 500 was but for how uneventful it was. 510 started as pavement then it moved to hard pack dirt, then little bits of gravel showed up and then lines of gravel an inch deep and finally we were skating across what seemed to be a McDonald’s Ball-Pit of gravel, a cheesy cartoon where somehow marbles make everyone fall in a dramatic fashion. I have no problem with gravel. It wasn’t muddy, quite dry actually but my tires were simply not cooperating. I’ve spent the last 7K miles on knobbies and now I’m running longer lasting blocky street tires for this trip and there’s no flex, no give, no compromise they just take gravel and spit it out the sides which causes a constant wobble no matter how fast I’m going.
Our group was very spread out, close to a mile apart with dust plumes only barely settling by the time I arrive at where the leader was just 90 seconds ahead of me. We do this for hours. Stopping just once for a quick breather before getting back at it. Everyone waves on this road, it may be the last human you se for 20 miles.
250 miles into a 350 mile road of gravel, I crash.
Forgive me if any of this appears to be embellished. This is my first serious crash. I’ve dropped my bike off-road many times, 15mph crashes on mud, zero speed tip-overs, etc. I hate crashing, I don’t like it but I am used to it. It’s a reality of life on a 600 pound ADV bike on roads that you really have no business being on. Tackling a wild trail on a GSA takes a credit card for the repair bill, training and a pretty massive frame to control the bike when things go hay-wire. Maybe being tall and wide doesn’t help but I feel it does.
Grating was actively happening on this road. We pass a grater, we wave, no big deal. We pass a dump truck dumping gravel. All peachy, I had a few wobbly moments though on this road and I’m on camera saying “don’t crash”. I pull in my mirrors so they don’t brake off in a fall, I keep my knees close to the bike, I stay mindful of where the bike is going, try to lighten up the front tire on squirrelly stuff and I keep the bike suspension on hard so I can feel every bump but Road mode so I benefit from some traction control and quick responding ABS if I need it. I pass another grater, I wave, I look behind to see how far back BB8 is in the dirt and I veer left into a multi-inch tall pile of gravel, a line behind a dump truck that’s out of site way up the road. It’s a long thin line that may have been a foot tall, I don’t remember. Now that it’s all behind me, I regret not recording but it would have meant a 128GB SD card every single day and that wasn’t possible in my budget.
I make it over the bump as the tire starts to dig in to the left. I’m going to low side, I put pressure on my left foot, I straighten the bike up and this puts me smack dab in the gravel pile again. My elbow hits the dirt, then my shoulder, then my knee and side. My bike had a similar crash. right hand-guard, right crash bar, right jesse box (pannier). I’m under the bike, sliding on my back for maybe a dozen feet. the bike is facing left was this a high-side? I think so!
BB8 says he saw the huge dust pile fly up in the air. He knew exactly what happened.
30 seconds later, he was upon me, I was yelling Fuck, fuck fuck over and over. I was on my feet, the bike on its side. I knew my trip was over, squandered by 5 seconds of negligence, of mindlessness of drifting and forgetting that I was going 55 miles per hour on deep gravel on street tires on am ADV bike with me + 150 pounds of shit. I start trying to pick up the bike. He helps, I start to saddle up and he stops me “go check yourself out” I walk over to the edge of the road, thinking if I look back, I’m going to see a bent handle-bar, oil everywhere, box sheered off the luggage rack. he gets the bike facing in the right direction and puts down the side-stand and asks if I’m okay. I grew up fighting, not professionally but I’ve been in many situations where all of the blood remains in your head and chest, pain is numb, distant, disembodied and while you think you’re super focused, you’re actually scatter-brained. I spent 2 hours on the ground grappling with an Army Ranger once in a controlled environment, it felt like 2 minutes. This was like that. I was so far outside of my body.
Still, as I’ve done dozens of times before, I looked for everything on the GS that could be broken. Does the luggage rack shimmy around? is the box peeled off the rack? Is the bike leaking oil, is my brake lever ripped off, is my handlebar loose, windscreen cracked, brake lever intact and are my spokes sound enough looking, does the final drive look straight (you need a string for this test but I could tell if it was horribly bent and member, this is a single-sided swing-arm bike.
Everything looks good. I can’t remember if it was me or BB8 that started the bike up. It started. Wow.
“How do I look? how’s my gear?” I ask. “Fine, it looks okay, how do you feel?” “Adrenaline is rushing, I have no idea. I feel okay. let’s just take it easy” I do a few jumps in the air, move my body around and hop on the bike after I reinstall my Sena unit (headphones, mic and main controller) that came completely loose in my helmet.
…we ride on, the others never noticed our delay. I’m glad I wasn’t last in the group, I’d be waiting for the grater to come pick it up with me. The ride to the next service station, 30 miles was long. Every jitter of gravel under me sent me into a minor PTSD episode. my white knuckle grip and staying glued to the seat going way too slow for gravel only intensified my margin of error. Still, I changed nothing, I was in a fight or flight feeling. still disembodied and staying focused on the goal. I can still recount that feeling of “gotta get there” while my hand guard flapped in the wind. The brake lever was scratched but working. That’s what matters.
We got to the gas station, another 50 miles of dirt lay ahead. I removed my hand guard that had broken, tightened up mirrors, repaired the Delrin mount on the jesse luggage which brought it back up flush with the mounting rack when re-installed, I checked bolt torques on a few things quickly and chugged a water and ate this shitty pimento sandwich from the gas-station.
My heart sank when two guys, who we met 3 days earlier on two street bikes, a V-strom 600(?) and another similar bike pulled up to the gas station, “rough road, huh?” one of the guys asked. He was on standard dunlop street rubber. Me, covered in dust and potentially thousands in repairs to my crash bars, hand guards and luggage box. the bike doesn’t make the rider, I fucked up and I only hoped the bike would still get me home.
A quick message to my girlfriend via InReach about the crash. She typed my location into Google Maps and replied, “you’re literally the farthest away from home you can be for this trip. Perfect time to crash.
This was 30 minutes from home in Port Hope Simpson NL.
We have to make it to Pinware River Provincial Park that evening which was another 103 miles. The remaining ride on dirt wasn’t any easier. While my mind was more at ease, I feared that my helmet, body, boxes and bike couldn’t sustain another serious crash like that. I tempted fate by crashing so far at home at such a high speed. The rest of the day until we reached tarmac wasn’t any less stressful and I truly celebrated when we saw smooth surface again.
The rest of our day was such a beautiful scenery, far nicer than what Newfoundland had to offer. You were surrounded by long flowing hills covered in exposed rocks, zero trees, high winds, cool breeze, we even saw some ice up in the hills that still had not melted. It was coastal with the aroma of salty air and some may say the terrain was cold and uninviting, I find happiness in desolation and the small villages along most of the coves were gorgeous. all picturesque. It would take days to stop and photograph all of them and truly do the justice.
We arrive at Pimware about 2 hours from sun-down. I don’t know where the rest of the group us but we check-in setup our camp-site and chug water. The black flies at Pimware were worse here than anywhere else. The constant intrusion of them on the edge of my face-net, I just wore my full riding suit with a huge net over my head and it kept them at bay. Down by the ocean, they subsided thanks to the wind. I got a few photos, took a time-lapse, it was peace-full. We were on the edge of where the freshwater rivers feed into the sea. It was a great spot. Very quiet, nice bathrooms and showers. the Wifi was weak and I spoke to Heather on the phone for the first time since I left New Hampshire 5 days earlier.
We finally grill up the moose from Jerry. it was delicious! I sipped some whiskey, chugged more water, Pierre gave me a back rub and I was still amazed that I had not had any pain from the crash yet. I re-bandaged my toe and cleaned up the wound a bit more. The skin that was sheered off that I re-attached had not taken back to the foot but it was acting as a nice buffer to allow healing. I was able to remove that dead skin and scrub things down, the pink forming skin was coming along nicely. I re-wrapped it before going to bed. the wind that night was brutal. I had been putting my 3-season Big Agnes Foidel Canyon 2 tent down with just the 2 rods + 6 stakes. It has 6 additional string tie-downs for high winds. I had to get up at 2AM and stake those down as well. I woke up to the tent wanting to blow away with me in it.
Wednesday, July 25th: The start of the bad weather
From a day of gravel and self-defeat, I’m up at 6:30AM again. Our group, only needing about 45 minutes ride to get to the Ferry taking us from Blanc-Salon Labrador over to Newfoundland boarded at 11AM. There was a stop planned at the lighthouse, some breakfast, etc but I decided this was the day I had breakfast. I was going to sit down, enjoy my tea, eat a protein bar and sit on the beach for a bit. I was nearly packed up, it was 7:30 and BB8 had just gotten his things inside of his tent packed but still in his underwear. Lucy rides up on her F800, “ready to go?” BB8 later told me the look on my phase wasn’t pleasant. I personally could not hold back my disappointment. I flatly replied “It’s 7:30, we have until 9”
“Well, everyone is up and ready to go and we want to beat the rain”
I’m amazed at the swiftness BB8 got everything together but later he was unable to find anything in his boxes because it was far from organized in a functional way. Piled in and rushed. No shower, no breakfast, no tea, just a quick pee and away we went.
The ride this morning, we were rained on. Not crazy just a little drizzle and we rode past the ferry depot and into town looking for some friends of our friends who would be joining them on the rest of their journey. We passed a breakfast place that was open. After some riding around to nowhere, I finally said “We’re going to have breakfast back by the ferry” They agreed but I don’t think they knew there was a choice in the matter. I led the way there, walked in and it was a kind older man who had a small hot-plate in the back of a building that connected to his house. coffee for $2, and three menu choices for around $7 each (CAD). I threw him off by asking if he could add french toast to my eggs. This was a discussion and he finally agreed for an up-charge instead of the initial plan of simply charging me for both plates.
After breakfast, we came back to our wet bikes and made our way over to the ferry.
Picking up our tickets was painless, we paid the remaining balance ($18) less our deposit and for an hour, waited for the ferry to arrive and passengers to disembark. This was my first ferry ride with a motorcycle. I was nervous. I did bring two soft cloth straps that wrap around my frame and the provided straps hook into these. It was just a little bit more secure. In retrospect, I didn’t need to bring these.
We board, I get some help from the seasoned experts to strap down my bike, feeling it wasn’t secure enough, I walked away thinking “at least I have crash bars”
The ferry was brutally rocky. I don’t get sea-sick but others did. Choppy water, rain, wind, a quick jaunt to the upper deck was fun but the sea was unforgiving for a vessel this large.
We were first to disembark in Newfoundland, it was pouring rain, visibility was bad and we headed directly for St. Anthony.
I heard in broken french we were looking for food. We drove about 90 minutes past the Viking RV Park we had booked and after a lot of turning around, dead-ends in small remote villages, I again had my patience wearing thing. “Pierre is the king of detours” was funny on the first day but I was completely soaked, cold, wet, not wearing proper thermals for 55F 15 MPH winds and rain and my Sena headset was crapping out from the water.
It turns out, we were looking for a small ice-berg. Going to different inlets looking for it. Pierre found it and we snapped a few photos.
BB8 and I discussed cancelling our reservation at the RV Park and getting a hotel. Hotel North’s St. Anthony location, 15 miles away was 120 a night. We could split it 3 ways with BB8 on his Cot and it’d be the same price as the Camping at the RV park. I was pleased to hear the canadians propose to us a hotel. Thank goodness. Everything in our boxes is wet from the night before. This was welcome news.
We had our first sea-food of the trip in St. Anthony. A small restaurant at the Haven Inn hotel. Fish-cakes, amazing cole-slaw and some other veggies sides paired with 6 glasses of water washed down with half a bottle of house white wine split 2 ways. Our riding partners decided to eat at Jungle Jims. Having eaten at one of these 2 days prior, we were happy to get real sea-food. The service could have been better but one server was serving 15 tables. Not fair to call her out really. she was swamped.
Back at Jungle Jims, a couple of beers then everyone retired and I grabbed my iPad and read the news until midnight.
A very friendly hotel manager invited me out for a drink after trying to start conversation with me all night. *his* shift was ending and I declined. Sorry dude, I have a woman back home who misses me and I haven’t been on the road THAT long
At dinner with the canadians, I warned we would be sleeping in the next day, getting a warm breakfast and taking our time. We all said our goodbyes and while we had similar plans the next day, Viking Park down to Gros Morn, their 2AM wake-up plans (sarcasm) would interfere with us getting 8 hours of sleep and a damn egg sandwich.
Thursday, July 26th
We awoke, the Canadians were long gone, we took an hour to get our bikes perfectly packed up and headed next door to Tim Hortons. This is my 2nd time at Tim’s and I asked the very friendly cashier “what’s your favorite breakfast sandwich and I hope it has cheese” she built something custom for me. It was amazing. I wish I knew how to order it again but I think it was a cheese covered bagel with lettuce, tomato, extra cheddar, mayo on both sides butter, egg and a sausage patty. I could barely finish it. Delicious!
This is the 2nd morning I’ve woken up after the crash. Day one, I had a slight discomfort in my right shoulder and some bruising on my legs around my shin. Today, my neck was extra stiff, the rear muscles were tight, my back popped a bit more than usual and my ankles were a little bit inflamed. I took a few pills for inflammation and continued my water routine of a gallon a day.
While at Tim Horton’s, BB8 struck up a conversation with a local who said, “if you guys aren’t on Harleys, there’s a cool trail by the lighthouse you should take” We did. Wow!
The lighthouse has a mountain next to it, a cliff I guess you could say a few hundred meters high. There’s a 500+ step stairway up to the top. Or you can go around behind it and ride a pretty gnarly (for ADV bikes) trail up to the top. When you get there, hikers in full North Face gear will stare at you like you just walked into Heaven without having to earn it. It was awesome. You can see all of St. Anthony from up here. The iceberg from yesterday was in the distance although I swear it was just a little bit smaller.
This was our 2nd day of terrible weather. We headed north to the Viking Park operated by Canada Parks. $11 CAD to get in, there’s a real life recreation of what the Viking homes may have looked like based on some stuff they found in the ground. I was unimpressed. Oh well, we went. We ran into the canadians on their way out the door and once again said goodbye. They had found their way on to a ship at port and bought a few kilos of fresh shrimp fresh from the sea. That was to be their lunch..I was a little jealous.
We depart and BB8 and I make our way south. The wind was rough…it continued to get worse throughout the day. We were riding west along the northern coast of Newfoundland in dead center of our lane because the wind continued to push us left and right often into traffic or off the road if we weren’t paying attention. I hunkered down behind the windscreen, strained my neck to look forward and observed my real-time fuel economy dip down to 21 MPG. That’s how awful our headwind was.
As we make the move to head back south on the west side of the island, we stopped for lunch at L&E Restaurant and takeout at 2:03Pm. We were starving, their menu was vast, “what’s the local favorite” I asked and was pointed to a menu item specifically called “local favorite” It was a hamburger (you could do patty or loose which I just consider to be a sloppy joe w/o sauce) and it comes with hand cut french fried potatoes..more like steak fries with the skin and they call this tater tots and a fried chicken breast. Truly heavenly for about 7 CAD. WOW.
I aimed to get some ice cream after but couldn’t make that a reality. I had to check out and we hopped back on the bikes around 3PM. The ride to Gros Morne continued to be brutal wind, rain and over-cast. We stopped for fuel, stopped at the arches park which was cool even though we were being rained on.
Finally, around 5PM, we arrived at our camp-site for the evening at Green Point CampGround. this was a fantastic facility. While we were a little tired of buying day-passes for the 3rd time on this trip for two separate bikes at $10 each, the camp site was nice, lots of families, the facilities were awesome. Clean, bright, well lit bathrooms and showers, decent Wi-Fi and an enclosed common area with a kitchen that became our 2nd home for 12 hours while the rain poured outside.
No booze allowed so we re-heated some of our food. BB8 had chili / potatoes and I had re-hydrated shepherds pie. We hid our whiskey under our hats and sipped it and just chatted. People came in and out throughout the night and we had some decent conversations with other travelers. Lots of young people on Summer holiday taking road-trips. I slept really well that night and my cut up foot was almost healed but I re-bandaged not anyway. The bruises on my legs were fully showing up now and we got rained on all night.
BB8 made some friends:
The wind and rain was painful. I was so happy to be in a tent sleeping and no alarm set for tomorrow.
Friday, July 27th: Gros Morne to Corner Brook NL
I’m up at 7AM, I read for a few minutes, holler over to BB8, no response. He’s still asleep. I read a bit more. Finally at 8:30, I start to get dressed. We had discussed last night staying at Green Point for 2 nights. Our ferry to NS, once scheduled for the 29th during the day, we moved it to the 28th at night. It’d save us a hotel /camp site fee but allow us a travel day we had given in to Nova Scotia. Green Point was nice, we needed a rest-day. I was looking forward to it.
Unfortunately, the camp-ground was booked that evening. We made it back to camp after breakfast and packed up departing just 10 minutes after check-out time at noon. Today was going to be easy…and it mostly was save for another crash.
Our route took us from Gros Morne to Corner Brook NL. This was only 52 miles, the rain had started again and we were going to take a few detours. We did some off-road sections, stopped in Deer Lake for lunch even though I was craving a pastry of some sort, we once again saw the Canadians finishing their lunch to head East to St. Johns. I said goodbye to them once again and we had lunch at a local spot. I can’t find the name in my notes but we sat with a guy who struck up a conversation outside of a grocery. He had an ’09 GSA and on a similar trip as us just in the opposite direction. I believe he was from New Brunswick. We had a good chat about bikes, I had the special which was a Newfoundland thing I’ve found.
It’s thick cut fries with gravy and instead of cheese curds like the Quebec tradition, they use mozzarella cheese and then top it with cooked and marinated ground beef (more sloppy joe knock-off). it was about 2 pounds of food. I ate every bit of it.
After lunch, BB8 led the way down to corner brook. We stopped at a lighthouse, took some back roads and finally around 3PM, the clouds parted and we had some sun-shine. Finally able to appreciate the beauty of the Newfoundland landscape, this was a great part of the ride. It was so great to not be rained on for the first time in 3 days.
BB8 had seen via aerial imagery a small rail-road trail that leads to Corner Brook. We pulled off the trans-Canadian highway to check it out and asked a few locals if it goes straight through. It does. This was a two – track road but it was used so little that all of the vegetation was encroaching and turning this into a single track. If you pick a side, you’re going to be slamming into tree branches. I couldn’t ride on the right side because I had no right-hand guard which meant every 5 feet, a branch would hit my brake lever and throw me off the road If I rode the let side, the margin of error was slim as it was a 10 foot drop into a river so no falling on my left side. Gravel was thick, 2-3 so you’d sink down if you weren’t careful. BB8 pulled away from me on his fancy Moto-z Tractionators and i just danced on marbles far behind him, i hit a rut, bounced to the left and into a tree. Well I passed the tree and my left Pannier caught it around 25 MPH and kept my bike from sliding down into the river which surely would have required a tow-truck. My upper body, helmet and left side of the bike were siting in glorious pine branches and everything was sticky to the touch for the remainder of the trip. Pulling the bike back onto the trail required taking all of the luggage and extra liquids off the bike. I mananaged to get the bike back on the trail about 10 minutes later about the time BB8 rolled up. He had dropped his bike turning around. Sigh. We hop off the trail at the next exit. We really had no business on that trail. Smaller bikes, more grooming and knobbies were the ticket.
Corner Brook was nice It was our first real city since Labrador City and significantly larger. We stayed at the Corner Brook Inn for $120 split 2 ways. It was a shit-hole. That’s okay though, we fully embraced this by bringing all of our wet tents and sleeping bags inside and hung them from the interior piping carrying water sprinkler aqua carefully not disturbing the sprinklers themselves. It was tent-city in a hotel room and this whole process of drying all of our stuff, doing laundry and re-charging every device was therapeutic. BB8 brought me some ketchup chips and we just sort of vegged out on WiFi that was actually usable.
I use iCloud photos on my iPhone and for the last I guess 7 days, I had 200 videos / photos that were trying to go to the cloud. They finally all uploaded that night. It was nice to know if my phone was broken, I’d have all of the memories there backed up. We called our family, I watched some YouTube videos. it was nice.
Dinner was this restaurant that specialized in Thai food + Fish & Chips. I ordered a spicy chicken dish which nearly killed me. BB8 ordered Pasta with Fried fish. The “what do we charge him?” conversation went on for a while. They settled on 11 CAD which is in the middle of pasta and the fish & chips cost.
Before dinner, we headed to the only micro-brewery within 50 miles, Bootleg. The beers weren’t great but as the fattest hipster in the world, I enjoyed the decor and overall hipster-ness of this place. No Wifi though C’mon hipsters you can do better.
…and after dinner and drinks, it was over to the pub next to our hotel for more drinks. We spent the evening talking with the very nice bartender, drank 4 glasses of Guinness each at around 10PM, we were exhausted and it was off to bed. Tent City was still going strong, our things slowly drying out and I read the news until midnight on the iPad. I slept like a rock.
Saturday July 28th
There were two cafes in the area that may have pastries. I unfortunate picked the wrong one which was housed in a bicycle shop. I still got an espresso shot and observed how dual sport touring was very similar to bicycle touring. A lot of the same gear overlaps from the socks, hydra-packs, base-layers and compression sacks.
We left this silly place of skinny people peddling themselves on bicycles (don’t they know we have motors now?) and headed to the other cafe. What a home run. Harbour Grounds! A nice English woman owned it, she made me a tea and croissant sandwich with tomato and bacon with hollandaise sauce. Delicious! I grabbed one of her blueberry muffins to go and ate it later that day.
BB8 had the good fore-sight to take us down to Lark Harbor NL. This was a great detour. It had the potential to get us down to the ferry off-road but if not, it was still going to be a good ride. It was 11AM, and a 120 minute ride down to the ferry straight shot and we had to be at the ferry at 9PM at the latest. We had some time!
One road out to Lark Harbour. We stopped for photos and drone footage, BB8 was no longer behind me on one stretch. I stopped assuming he was snapping video of the waterfalls. A white car pulled up, “your friend is half naked and dancing. I think he’s in trouble”
I turn around and he was getting dressed. A stinging bug (well two of them) got him good on the back of the neck. Squeeling stop, full dress-down and he tells me he’s allergic.
I give him some benadryl. It’s all I have and we are against time of him getting drowsy. We push on to town, don’t do too much sightseeing and chat with some kids on dirt bikes about the ATV trail he saw on Google Earth that would take us down south. IT looks very well groomed on satellite but again, street tires, heavy ADV bikes and a nervous rider who doesn’t want to crash again. Not very good odds. We start out on the trail, up a hill, I hit a rut and crash. My shield was open so I banged my nose against my windscreen and cut it open
I take everything off my bike, pick it back up and BB8 shows up again to help me. Too late. We follow the trail for a few more miles, It eventually will come back out for our route home but I’m tired, BB8 is getting drowsy from the meds and it’s lunchtime, the guys in the side-by-sides said we could keep going but there were a few hills that were 100% sand that take a long running start and might be impossible on bikes of our size.
We back-track to corner brook and stop in a diner for more diner food. Shepherds pie and a chocolate shake. Healthy stuff. I ask them to refill my hydration pack and we set my garmin to windy roads and head down to Channel-Port aux Basques.
I find a few detours, we go down to Stephenville, hop on a few more ATV trails, although way less gravel than before and take a gorgeous road for plated vehicles only along the ocean in Camp Ray. The pot-holes in the mud were perfectly separated for a full mile where it was just up and down of our bikes without bucking us off or getting air.
This started out as very sandy but it’s one of my favorite rides of the entire trip. So much fun being right along the ocean hauling ass down a fairly well packed road inside of pot holes. (today’s video really is worth your time)
Later at the ferry they ask, “are you bringing any soil with you?” I say “well, my bike is covered in it” They didn’t seem to mind.
We arrive at the ferry at 6:20PM. A little bit early. I order another NL specialty but this time the gravy on top was from a can, not home made. Still filling but you can see from the video, this was an inferior platter to what I had in Deer lake.
We spent a lot of time just tinkering with our bikes, checking things out, re-organizing and getting a go-bag assembled to take with us on the ferry for the evening as we are unable to access our bikes.
Also, i got crapped on by a seagull:
Every other bike around us was just day-trippers, a GS without any dirt on it at all that has never left Tarmac showed up. Nice guy. A few ADV bikes and cruisers and a 2 generations old Goldwing. Everyone was nice, likely 10 bikes in total would join us as we board the ferry above every other transport. I am slowly becoming a pro at strapping my bike down. We head up, get seats at the front of the boat and I grab a Guinness for BB8 and a Balvenie dram for myself. I stupidly mix this whisky with Advil PM and 45 minutes later, I passed out.
Sunday July 29th:
I woke up at 4AM freezing cold on level 8 of the ferry. We could have brought our sleeping bags up, BB8 could have brought his cot, we could have been more prepared. I even left my Klim jacket down by the bike so I was totally frozen. I couldn’t feel my fingers. I go upstairs and outside, it was 80F and humid. 50F inside from my estimate. I manage to get another 2 hours of sleep and we await docking in Nova Scotia’s Port North Sydney.
Off the bike was painless, we find a Tim Hortons with 30 miles of range left on my bike and I try to re-create the meal I had in St. Anthony a few days earlier. They screw up my order, someone takes mine and I’m stuck with a Sausage muffin. Looks like that was 7:46AM according go my notes.
I trust Garmin on the windy – route to Meat Cove via Cabot Trail. We find out the ferry isn’t running in Englishtown so we have to take the long way and spend the next 3 hours passing RVs and lookie-loos going 10 under the speed limit and mixing in some off-road / dirt tracks that I could find which was nice. Oh and by the way, we were rained on the entire time.
We arrive at Meat Cove which is a bit out of the way off the Cabot Trail. Completely worth the trip You’re at the northern most settlement on Nova Scotia, they have pretty decent food though not my favorite fish cakes of the trip and the road to Meat Cove, with proper tires can be a lot of fun. It alternates from mud to paved for miles with cool twists, dips and vistas.
Meat Cove itself, it’s a private establishment, not a town although people do live there. Their restaurant was decent, not too expensive. We passed a woman on a bicycle on our way there and she was finally arriving. She’s doing 500km around NL/NS on a bicycle. Impressive. I extolled to her the beauty of motorized travel. She didn’t find humor in this. A man in a trash-bag of a rain suit rolled up from Quebec on a CBR650? Full street tires, he looked miserable. Did he just ride the same road we did? Impressive. And finally, we were joined by an Africa Twin. Everyone was camping there for the evening except for us. The muddy roads were beckoning us back. After a full meal, we headed back south a bit to rejoin the cabot trail and continue its twisty beauty down the west-side of Nova Scotia.
We still had 100 miles left that day when we rolled into a town with a hotel I had already picked out for us. The rain turned into a downpour and we stopped so BB8 could put on his rain suit again. My Gore-tex gear just wicked it right off.
After a stop for ice cream, we took back roads down to a campsite around Antigonish. This was a 507KM day (315 miles). Not a huge mileage day but this was 7AM to around 6:30PM with stops. Long day on the bikes mostly in the rain and 100% wet roads and mud. We really didn’t get to push our bikes on the Cabot trail like we wanted and most of the time was spent behind vans that couldn’t keep up with the speed limit on hills.
Camping was chill. We met a woman from Ontario on a solo lighthouse tour of NS. Three men from Massachusettes riding the cabot trail on naked bikes and we chilled with those guys that evening and told them pretty much what most of you have read here so far with some advice that they should go to labrador, the women up there are very good looking. I was tired but couldn’t fall immediately asleep. there was more noise in this area, more humidity, more light pollution. I felt removed a bit. My crash soreness (all 3 of them) was still ever present but the whiskey helped to put me to bed.
Air filter change:
Monday July 30th, from NS to NB to Maine on Interstate roads
We had a decision to make. BB8’s son’s birthday was on Thursday. If we went to Halifax, we’d be backtracking to our current position to head home or we pay the $200+ per person for the ferry from Yarmouth down to Portland Maine. Less miles but it’s a lot of money after being on the road for 10 days.
It didn’t take long for us to decide…it was time to head home. We had skipped St. John and now we were skipping Halifax. Both are an easy 4 day trip for me from New Hampshire so I vowed to go back one day straight there versus the Labrador route. I thought we’d ride to Fundy NB that day, BB8 called and reserved a camp site at Bar Harbor maine. He and I have both wanted to check out BH and while camping in Fundy or Bangor would be a more direct route home, he wanted to get lobster rolls the next day so this slight detour would be okay.
I did the math. 455 miles to Bar Harbor. This would actually be our biggest day ever once I factored in an extra 60 miles of off-highway detours. We were on the bikes by 9AM and would roll into Bar Harbor at 6PM. We had a good pace. Stopping for an early lunch at Tatamagouche at a deli there and also hitting a brewery for some bottles that I brought home with me. We crossed the border in Calais Maine after 2 hours of Interstate which really wore us down. Our front tires were light from the heavy luggage behind us. The speed limit I believe was 70 and we were still passing some people going 75. We made solid time and I did regret not hopping over to Prince Edward Island to camp…another trip perhaps.
I think we filled up our gas tanks twice that day and I thought I lost my wallet when we found ourselves at a gas station outside of Bar Harbor. I found it. It was in one of the 12 pockets on my Klim jacket.
highway days are boring and we are at 12,200 words on this ride report so let’s cut to camping and dinner after a small note that to be around people, traffic, noise, bullshit after 10 days in isolation. It felt uncomfortable. Maine in the Summer is unbearable. We were in Bar Harbor. I hated it. We arrived at the campground which had over 100 sites. We were surrounded by people without any privacy, RVs everywhere, kids squealing, dogs barking. BB8 and I rode into Bar Harbor and he made fun of me for taking all of my gear inside. Back in civilization, who can I trust?
We had to wait 2 hours for a table on a Monday night after the dinner rush. We sat at the bar at one of the places and ordered food there. We’re not rich. We ride GSes but we’re both normal guys. We had to be in ear-shot of 3 couples sitting around the bar community table talk about their 3rd and 4th homes and the trouble of dividing their time in Maine versus Colorado and Connecticut. Oh how horrible that is.
I learned Bar Harbor is a town for old people or rich people or a little of both. It’s expensive hotels, some hiking and expensive seafood. I paid $30 for a seafood plat that was just boiled assorted shelf-fish with steamed squash. the same thing 600 miles away in Newfoundland would have been 14 CAD.
I had a mojito, let that absorb itself and we hopped on the bikes and headed back to camp around 10PM. A quick whiskey drink at our table and we were bed. A simple day with a lot of miles.
Tuesday, July 31st: Home.
BB8 is in central-NY around Syracuse. He could have made it home in one day but instead, we took our time, fighting more stop and go traffic down the Maine coast to get lobster rolls at reds. For the 2nd time in a row, he goes to Reds, looks at the line and walks across the street to the other place. I’m talking to myself in my helmet saying “I hate people, I hate maine in the summer, can we please get out of here?” I don’t like lobster. I stomach the cold lobster on a hot dog bun without any condiments or flavors that BB8 generously bought for me and we head out. We head east, back roads, some dirt, twists, just staying off the main roads and passing people going under the speed limit.
I wanted to get through the full day without dropping my bike. Thank goodness I made it through that little success.
The last day, once we were out of traffic and Summer tourists was really easy going. Back in my home-turf, I knew the roads, we took some detours and a a 294 mile (5.5 hour) ride took us about 6-7. We stop just before my house to take a photo of our bikes, much dirtier than when we started (before pics in the first post).
It was pretty somber overall to be done. BB8 would get home to his kind the day before his birthday, I’d have a day off before going back to work early which I really needed since I had a whole slew of things going on and my girlfriend and our dog were both very happy to see me.
I left New Hampshire on the 20th with 9,463 miles on the ODO and got home with 12,727. 3,264 miles which is short of the 4,000 I estimated but I think we would have gotten close if we had taken 3 more days and hit St. John and Halifax. I could have done it but I’m glad I’m saving those for a future trip where I can appreciate those cities more.
While a trip like this isn’t to be taken lightly, over-planning can work against you. We should have taken a rest day.
I realized around Goose-Bay that I wasn’t reacting quickly enough, day-dreaming a bit more and some aches and pains began to really wear me down. I didn’t have any near-misses, crashes or tip overs until the 5th day of the trip and every day since then, there were little things that were avoidable if I had been on my A-Game. I think every week, you need a complete day off. Go see a movie, hang out in a library, just relax and don’t ride any significant amount of miles. Let your brain chill.
It was impossible to plan for the weather we saw. Gore-tex gear totally has its place and I was so happy to not be putting rain gear on and off 3 times a day for half of our trip.
The people of labrador were amazing. Everyone we spoke to made the time to really talk with us and hear our stories, questions and give advice. Newfoundland people were 2nd in nice-ness followed by Quebec and then finally Nova Scotia. Maine was too much like NH for me to tell how people were or weren’t but I would go back to Labrador just to talk to people and hear their stories…and look at the girls.
BB8 and I are already talking about where to go next. i don’t think a trip next year is realistically possible but maybe the year after. A two week trip every 2 years is pretty good. By the time I’m 60, I’ll have seen the whole world :) I’m only 31 now.
Don’t ignore bike maintenance. Part of what made this trip so enjoyable was we had zero mechanical issues on this trip. I used the tools to change my air filter after our day of dust and my tools were used to make adjustments after the crash. I didn’t need extra oil or the tire pump/patch kit but I would have been glad to have it if we got a flat or I leaked some oil out in my crash.
I think that covers it. It took me two days to write this ride-report, 8 evenings to edit all of the videos and 2 evenings to edit all of the photos I took. Add another 2 days of un-packing, washing gear, charging devices and getting foot rubs from my girlfriend. It took 14 total days to assemble this ride-report after getting home. I know people were asking for it and I’m happy to finally be able to deliver that. Thanks for your patience to those really itching to see the final form of this.
I know it was a long post. sorry. Final stats:
- 14,654 words
- 1 hour and 13 minutes reading time
- 895 Sentences
- 14 total hours of videos
- 9.5 hours of GoPro video
- 650 photos taken across out devices
- 3,264 miles
- Average spent per day, $90. That’s lodging, Food and Fuel in CAD (sorry, didn’t do the conversion).
Keep in mind, 7 of my meals on this trip were re-hydrated. water was free and my breakfast was packaged bars so I was only really buying 1.2 meals per day + fuel and splitting camp-sites or hotel rooms at least 2 ways.
Map of our route via Garmin InReach:
If you have any questions about the Trans-Labrador, let me know.
What a great time. Where do we go next?