WELL, GOOD RUN, good run. There’s no such thing as a bad day on a motorcycle. Not even when you misread the terrain and get a little ho-hum on throttle control and end up flopped over in the weeds in the middle of nowhere. Did that twice. Okay, three times.
It was a quick run, 17 days. I slept on the ground in fields, in woods, on crashing salt beaches, on lakes with the Milky Way mirrored in them, and once in a parking lot when the light had been gone for hours and the day had nothing left.
The little piglet and I rode five states and six Canadian provinces in just under 4,000 miles. We rode ferries across the Fjord-du-Saguenay, the Strait of Belle Isle, the Cabot Strait and the Northumberland Strait.
Our longest day on the road was 580 miles, a good stretch on half a motorcycle. Our shortest day, about 30 miles of road and 100 miles of water.
Look how happy my shirt is, jumping up & down and shouting Yay all the time.
I crossed the Seaway in Quebec City and rode east of there along the water, camped at La Malbaie just west of the fjord. At Baie-Comeau, I headed north along the Manicouagan River, camped for the night at Manic 2, one of five hydro dams on the Manicouagan. I met a couple of Beemer riders there, R1200GS guys, Duncan from Massachusetts and Bill from Ohio. I wish I had pictures of them for you but I had tossed my cameras overboard here at the humble manse. The piglet isn’t set up to carry any amount of cargo with this mushy OEM suspension. Essentials only.
I did bring my GoPro and shot blind with it now and again. It doesn’t have a viewfinder, and I don’t have the smartphone app that serves as one.
I left out of camp before Bill and Duncan, rode up past the big concrete monolith at Manic 5, up past the 50th Parallel of north latitude, then the 51st. They caught up to me at mid-day at Relais-Gabriel on the eastern edge of the Manicouagan Crater. We rode together the rest of the day, up past the 52nd Parallel and out of Quebec.
Here’s the guys outside an iron mine in northern Quebec.
The view from my tent that night, 40 kilometers east of Labrador City. I set up in the sand on the water’s edge, Duncan was in the grass behind me, Bill was on the other side of the camp road.
I saw the northern lights over the lake that night. Saw them faintly, and without color. They were dark curtains of ionized energy waving in a breeze that wasn’t there. They seemed to brush the surface of the water and flutter on up to the apex of the dome. Then clouds came in and the eye of the sky closed and mine closed with it.
The next day we rode together to Goose Bay and camped there on a lake outside of town. Day after that we rode 100 miles of gravel before I got interested in talking with one of the road builders we met. He was a young Newfoundlander who works 20 days in Labrador, goes home to his family for 10 days, 20 on, 10 off, 20 on, 10 off…
There’s an army of road builders at work all along the Trans-Labrador Highway. They live in work camps carved out of the taiga. They’re drilling down through the old road cuts in the Canadian Shield, making them superhighway-wide, crushing the rock and making road bed out of it. Roll it, pave it, drain it where it’s wet. What makes this place interesting, the difficulty of it all, will be gone one of these years soon. Labrador will be red lights and dollar stores, like everywhere else.
I so enjoy the simple daily tasks of life on the road: Ride the bike, get off the bike, make grub, lie down on the ground, get up off the ground, make grub, ride the bike…
Ride the big rocks and the little rocks…
On the OEM tires I was running, three inches of these marbles on top will turn 60mph gravel into 20mph gravel right NOW. Don’t get hurt getting pitched out of the saddle, Moe. No one’s coming along for a while.
We heard stories of a young woman on street tires who was medevaced out about a day ahead of us. And in Churchill Falls we ran into an Indian gal from Maine who had lost control of her BMW thumper, bashed it up so badly she didn’t think it was worth transporting home. She wasn’t hurt, and was happy not to be. Maybe that’s what made her so admirably philosophical about riding in her group’s support vehicle. A delightful young woman to talk with. I figured her for Passamaquoddy or Maliseet, though I can’t say I really know why.
Duncan and Bill were planning to hold up and pull over after another 100 miles of gravel. I wasn’t that far behind. I caught sight of them once or twice about 70 miles from their next stop, and I saw their dust after that from time to time. And when I’m almost there myself I see a BMW headlight coming at me. It’s Duncan going back to look for me. Going back 100 miles! Man, don’t do that. He would have burned so much gas he couldn’t have gotten to a pump in either direction.
Bill had gone on ahead because the black flies were driving him nuts. He figured we’re all motormen, big boys who take care of ourselves, ride on. But Duncan had a feeling I might have wrecked or had a mechanical failure, so he was riding back to have a look. You would have done the same for me. And I said, uh, bud, I might have just assumed you were okay.
Duncan and Bill had more motorcycle than I, twice the motorcycle, more aggressive tires, they could cover the worst of the gravel faster. I suggested that Duncan ought to get on the wick and go catch up to Bill, I’d catch up myself by day’s end, or not. Either way, it’s all good. Maybe I’d see them on the ferry from Blanc Sablon to St. Barbe, or in Newfoundland somewhere, or Nova Scotia. He agreed to go and said they’d aim to camp at L’anse-au-Loup for the night. As it turned out, I rode until near dark and called it a day 110 miles short of there.
When I gassed up in Port Hope Simpson I could see a big rain blowing in from the Labrador Sea between there and Greenland. I wasn’t planning to ride any stormy gravel that night.
MORE COMING when I can…
Tony DePaul, September 8, 2015, Cranston, Rhode Island, USA