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Old 07-13-2009, 11:16 PM   #1
selkins OP
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Oh, Labrador!

“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the ranges – Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

“Never allow God or man to go north of 53°.”

- Rudyard Kipling (as quoted in ‘Great Heart’)


In the abstract, I can understand the appeal of an all-inclusive resort on some sunny beach, with a cool ocean breeze, and nothing to trouble the mind but whether to go for seconds at the buffet. But when it comes to deciding what I actually do with a chunk of free time, my mind goes in a different direction.

This time, it went north and east, to Labrador. Three weeks, alone, on my 2005 R1200GS.

Here is my story of this little adventure. I hope it entertains you. As in a past ride report, I did something a little different, asking people I met along the way the same two questions and recording their answers - a tool to help get me out of my own head, and to add a different dimension to the experience.

Question 1: "Tell me about something that concerns you."

Question 2: "Tell me about something that brings you joy."

Your faithful scribe



His bike, packed and ready to go



His lovely wife and her canine companion, just before saying goodbye




Day 1 – Friday, June 19, 2009 – Minneapolis, Minnesota to Naubinway, Michigan

I roll the bike out of the driveway, on to the familiar street, at the beginning on a long journey. Preparations complete, everything packed away, the day-to-day worries and burdens dropping away. I was grinning, of course, under my helmet. I had a good sense of my route the first day or two, but after that it faded. The days beyond were marked only by two ferries I needed to catch much further down the line.

I don’t use GPS, and while I carry a compass, I didn't bring any maps. I had faith in following a general direction, and relying on the occasional, surreptitious scanning of an unpurchased map at a fueling stop. I was well within my comfort zone.

That first day was mostly about distance. A brief stop at Franconia Sculpture Park, a nearby site I’ve often driven by, but never taken the time to visit. This time I did, spontaneously, and met Ali Della Bitta (click link for interview), an artist installing a piece at the Park. When we met she was sweating under a warm sun, shoveling and raking piles of dirt. She graciously took time out to help me break in my interview questions. Afterwards she describes the 'sculpture' as it will be - grassy berms with jutting dark marble slabs for seating, overlooking a stage and all amid a grove of stately trees. For now, it was an open grassy field with dirt piles and a rough wooden platform. She smiled wistfully – “You have to picture it in 30 years.”

After that it was back on the bike for 450 miles across Wisconsin on US-8, and then along US-2, well into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I set up my tent at a Hog Island State Forest campground, next to Lake Michigan. The mosquitoes were out in force, so I turned in early. A loud chorus of hundreds of birds that covered a nearby island sang me to sleep.

Franconia Sculpture Park





Ali Della Bitta and her two dogs



Wisconsin Scenery



Holiday Bowl (Michigan)



Day 2 – Saturday, June 20 – Naubinway, Michigan to Algonquin Prov Park, Ontario

Storms and lightening moved through in the night. At one point I wake up after a loud clap of thunder and wonder if I’ll feel my hair stand up on end before I get struck. The storms have passed on by morning. The air is still and there is a fog to ride through to breakfast at Big Boy in St. Ignace. Then it’s up I-75 and into Ontario.

The young border guard asks me the standard questions, and I’m grinning like an idiot as I answer. “So, how long will you be traveling in Canada?” “I don’t know, exactly!” The border guard’s eyes narrow. “Um, a couple of weeks?” She let’s me in despite my answers, and I cruise through Sault Ste Marie, following the signs that take me to the Trans-Canada Highway – east.

A couple of hundred miles further down the highway, and I find myself passing a unicyclist. I pull over to take a picture, and Philip drops down for a chat. Just graduated from high school, he’s decided to spend his early summer before college unicycling across Canada. He’s doing it to raise awareness of a vicious war in Uganda. (See Philip's website here.) I interview him and afterwards we chat about his plans to study engineering. “A person like you could do a lot of good in the world as an engineer,” I say. “That’s my plan,” he replies with a warm smile.

That evening I’m staying at a fantastic hostel outside of Algonquin Provincial Park, the Wolf’s Den. I sit down for dinner with five European university students, studying English for several weeks in Toronto. They’re chatting about boyfriends and girlfriends, and where they’ll travel next. I tell them about Philip. One of the women scrunches up her nose, “I wouldn’t spend my summer doing that!”

Misty morning



Mmm, breakfast. I generally avoid chains, but I gave Big Boy a pass.



The locks at Sault Ste Marie



Roadside scenery along the Trans-Canada Highway



Philip Schleihauf



Wolf's Den Hostel





Day 3 – Sunday, June 21 – Algonquin Prov Park, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec

Highway 60 passes through the lower quarter of Algonquin, a park primarily for canoeists and wilderness backpackers. I take my time and see plenty of other bikers before I turn off a dirt road that leads me several miles south to a hiking trail that takes me on a four-mile loop up a hill with a great view.

Then it’s back on the bike and out the east side of the park where I stop at a chip shop in Barry’s Bay and meet Gordon, on vacation from Elgin, Scotland with his wife and son. He was enthused about my bike and had a warm and comfortable manner.

The afternoon heated up and I enjoyed the cool rain as I rode through an early summer thunderstorm on my way, first to Ottawa, and then on to Montreal.

A concert was taking place in the central square of Old Montreal that evening, and as I wandered around on foot after checking into a hostel I was struck by the people. I won’t say that everyone in Montreal is beautiful, but there are a lot of them, and they make for great eye candy while enjoying a beer and dinner beside a cobblestoned street filled was strolling pedestrians.

Back at the hostel, and as I head to bed I meet my bunkmate. A native of the city, Christopher is staying the hostel after breaking up with his girlfriend and moving out of her apartment. “But it’s a good thing,” he says, shaking his head. “She’s crazy.” I mention being an American as my excuse for having so little French. He waves his hand dismissively and says there are many Montreal natives who speak only English. “There is a lot of racism with the English. They hate us French. We have too much soul. It’s like for you in America with the blacks. You hate them because they have too much soul.”

Roadside turtle in Algonquin Provincial Park



Video of view from Booth's Rock trail in Algonquin



Lunch at the chip shop. You bet, I'll have gravy on those chips!



Gordon, from Elgin, Scotland



Evening views of fountain in Montreal





Old Montreal architecture



Dinner!



Day 4 – Monday, June 22 – Montreal to Parc du Mont Orford, Quebec

I check out of the hostel, but I’m not quite ready to leave Montreal. So, I walk around the old city in the early morning and then ride into the newer parts of the city, and take a road up into Parc du Mont Royal, overlooking the city. I air out my still wet tent in the breeze, and then repack and motor down to the Eastern Townships, a collection of rural towns popular with day-trippers from the city.

I take a stroll around Sutton, one of the picturesque little towns, where I buy a pate compagne sandwich and some locally made chocolate. I dip down and ride through the northern tier of Vermont, eat my lunch at a roadside park, and then veer back up into Canada and into the town of Magog, before heading over to Parc du Mont Orford to set up camp for the night.

It’s not as easy to strike up a conversation in Quebec. While most people I speak to can converse at least tersely in English, there is an understandable reluctance. Similarly, while the signs in Ontario were almost all dual-language – in Quebec only the most vital signs are translated into English. The natural reaction of a culture surrounded on all sides, I suppose. But I continue to enjoy myself, and I find that a smile and a few French phrases go a long way to generating sufficient good will among the people I encounter.

Bunk room in the Alternative Hostel in Old Montreal



The dorms are co-ed, so don't go there if that gets your undies in a bunch.



Morning in Old Montreal



The hostel's breakfast bar - oh so European



Rebuilding a cobblestone street



Pastoral scenes (w/motorcycle) in Eastern Townships







Bar signage in Vermont

__________________
“How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.” - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO

selkins screwed with this post 06-19-2014 at 08:22 AM
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Old 07-13-2009, 11:21 PM   #2
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Old 07-14-2009, 04:02 AM   #3
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Nice work! Enjoying the piccies and narrative

I'll wait for some more

Cheers
Allan
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Old 07-14-2009, 04:37 AM   #4
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Old 07-14-2009, 11:24 AM   #5
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All I'm going to say is: fuck you



…not even a "boy I'm glad you made it back safely"(because I knew you would) or "hey, you got some great photos"(because I knew you would)...


I expect the ride report to be completed by the end of the day...no more sleep...or wife...or kid...or work...it's time to prioritize
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Old 07-14-2009, 11:34 AM   #6
DRglidarn
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Oh yes! take us to Labrador please
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Old 07-14-2009, 05:18 PM   #7
offthetrail
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Neat! Looks like a fun trip so far.
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Old 07-15-2009, 03:43 AM   #8
RockyNH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by selkins
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the ranges – Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

“Never allow God or man to go north of 53°.”

- Rudyard Kipling (as quoted in ‘Great Heart’)

In the abstract, I can understand the appeal of an all-inclusive resort on some sunny beach, with a cool ocean breeze, and nothing to trouble the mind but whether to go for seconds at the buffet. But when it comes to deciding what I actually do with a chunk of free time, my mind goes in a different direction.

This time, it went north and east, to Labrador. Three weeks, alone, on my 2005 R1200GS.
Selkins, great report so far... looking froward to following along as I was just in Labrador (left June 25th). We will see maybe how close we came (if at all)

Pat in NH
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Old 07-15-2009, 05:51 AM   #9
Ooobah-Moto
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Selkins,

I really enjoyed your mini-interviews with random people, brilliant!!!!

....glad you enjoyed your stay at the Wolf's Den next to Algonquin Park, there's certainly something magical about the place!
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Old 07-15-2009, 07:02 AM   #10
selkins OP
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From Parc du Mont Orford to Baie Comeau

Thanks for the kind comments so far, folks


Day 5 – Tuesday, June 23 – Parc du Mont Orford to Quebec City, Quebec

It had been a cloudy day, but I left the rainfly off the tent overnight anyway, and was rewarded when I woke up in the night and saw stars overhead. I get up early, pack up and work my way up to Quebec City. Like Old Montreal, it has an historic core, with winding streets, old buildings, great views, but this one is also surrounded by its old, fortified wall. My ‘Lonely Planet’ guide briefly states “Motorcycles are not allowed within the old city walls,” but they lie, though I’m guessing loud pipes might bring down the wrath.

It’s the day before Quebec’s national holiday, and as the evening comes on the tourists in the streets become heavily outnumbered by young people of all sorts. They’re decked out in blue and white, sporting Quebec flag face paint, capes, temporary tattoos, and one guy with full body paint. It’s reminiscent of the pre-game festivities for a big college football game, with lots of hooting and hollering and chanting. Cops wander around in packs, some sporting Quebec flags of their own. Traffic is heaviest around shops selling alcohol and as night comes on the crowd gets louder and rowdier.

Down by the water it’s still quiet. A harpist plays for tips while, a discrete distance away, his dog quietly bays for him next to the fence he’s tied to. In an open park above, amid the revelers, a man with a ragged beard picks bottles and cans from the overflowing trash bin and patiently drains the dregs on the ground before sorting them in bags – this is a goldmine for him.

My room is cheap and clean, on the edge of the walled city, just a couple of blocks from the center of the celebration; and as I go to sleep the volume of the crowd is only increasing.

Views of Quebec City













Great place for lunch



And the yummy apple/goat cheese sandwich



A small room, but inside the city walls and just $60 Canadian




Day 6 – Wednesday, June 24 – Quebec City to Tadoussac, Quebec

I wake up to morning sun and the sound of drunken singing under my window. Three young men are weaving their way down the road amidst broken bottles. Across the street an older man calmly sweeps the patch of walk and street in front of his house, stopping to chat with the neighbors. The remnant few from last night’s party are spread out on the shady grass under the city walls. Asleep or nursing hangovers, they sprawl out among cans, empty 12-pack cartons and cigarette butts. Meanwhile, tourists are swarming back to reclaim the city for their own, while street sweepers clear their path.

I get my bike out of a parking garage and take off up the north side of St. Lawrence Bay, stopping for lunch and a town parade in the art-town of Baie St. Paul, and then head on toward Tadoussac. The views are tremendous, as are the crowds of motorcyclists spending their holiday tooling around in the bright sun on winding roads.

Tadoussac is reached by a short ferry ride over the wide mouth of the Saguenay River. After crossing over I pull up Maison Marjorique – a cross between hippy-heaven and beach-bum-paradise. Cheap tent platforms are tucked among trees on a hill behind the hostel, while down at the main building people gather for a round of horseshoes, stilt-walking, and drinks from the bar. Meals are communal, with everyone pitching in to prepare, serve, and clean up. It reminds me of how hostels used to be, before the institutional ones started trying to act like cheap hotels.

I meet Philip Francois, a classically trained musician who tunes pianos by day to make ends meet. He’s travelling with his teenage son, and what they had meant to be a two-day visit in Tadoussac has stretched into nearly two weeks – though they’ll have to leave soon, “He’s missing his mother,” Philip whispers to me about his son. He makes a one-sided trade with me – I interview him, and he gives a homemade CD of his music. I don’t get listen to it until I get home, but it sounds great – jazzy and sincere.

The dregs of the previous night's party



Sentiment runs high in Quebec



A view of Baie St Paul



Quebec Holiday Parade in Baie St Paul





Lots of art galleries in town



Philip Francois and his son



Scenes from Maison Marjorique in Tadoussac







The evening's entertainment at the hostel - lots of townies came to the bar at night




Day 7 – Thursday, June 25 – Tadoussac to Baie Comeau, Quebec

I’m typically a late sleeper and a lazy riser; but it’s just a few days past the solstice, and the sun is coming up so early I’m finding myself up and about by 6:30am most mornings. I’ve got plenty of time to pack up my site and load up the bike before my 9am whale watching trip. A kind woman at the hostel clued me in on the tour operator with the smallest, most nimble zodiacs.

The pilot is a burly, good-natured guy, and he tells us that we’re at a disadvantage in the fog, but that on a calm morning like this a whale’s exhalation can be heard from a mile away. Sure enough, after checking some likely spots we eventually hear one, and after some darting back and forth and more listening, we’re soon following the path of a minke whale, as it moves through the water, rising up to give us a glance every couple of minutes, sometimes within just a few feet of the zodiac. A woman on the boat giggles constantly from pure delight, while others gasp and smile broadly each time the whale comes up. Even the pilot, who has been watching these whales for years, is still moved by the experience. I recommend it.

The ride up to Baie Comeau is three or four hours, over which the landscape changes dramatically, from high hills and dense spruce forests, to long flats and bogs. I see bare red fields with drainage ditches and tractors with what look like big vacuum attachments and large plastic bins. Peat farms?

Baie Comeau is largely a wasteland of strip development; but down close to the ferry there is a small patch of walkable development with the historic Grand Hotel. It’s like my icon of a place to stay. Comfortable rooms on a second floor with rich wood paneling, while below there is a busy bar with friendly folks and a wide range of local beers on tap. I let the waitress pick a different beer for me each time mine runs dry, as I while away the evening listening to the three piece band with a stand-up bass. It’s a small town, and most everyone in the bar is of a similar age, so they probably all know one another. It’s fun to watch as a group enters, disperse among the crowd, and blend in with the other groups, as they in turn shift and move among one another.

Tomorrow I head north, to Labrador. Rain is in the forecast.

Foggy morning out on the water



The whale watchers



Anchored lighthouse - this place is apparently for sale for $1 Canadian for those who really want to get away



Boat house view outside Tadoussac



Gardening...with a view

__________________
“How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.” - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO
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Old 07-15-2009, 07:08 AM   #11
selkins OP
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Originally Posted by RockyNH
Selkins, great report so far... looking froward to following along as I was just in Labrador (left June 25th). We will see maybe how close we came (if at all)

Pat in NH
Hey, Pat! Looks like y'all were maybe just a couple of days behind me following the same route. I hope y'all had as much fun as I did - your report is looking good
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“How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.” - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO
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Old 07-15-2009, 07:09 AM   #12
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Great stuff, keep it coming.
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Old 07-15-2009, 07:10 AM   #13
selkins OP
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Originally Posted by Ooobah-Moto
Selkins,

I really enjoyed your mini-interviews with random people, brilliant!!!!

....glad you enjoyed your stay at the Wolf's Den next to Algonquin Park, there's certainly something magical about the place!

You bet it is! I'm looking forward to taking my wife to stay there and do some cross-country skiing in the park.
__________________
“How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.” - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO
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Old 07-15-2009, 07:11 AM   #14
selkins OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkRider
All I'm going to say is: fuck you



…not even a "boy I'm glad you made it back safely"(because I knew you would) or "hey, you got some great photos"(because I knew you would)...


I expect the ride report to be completed by the end of the day...no more sleep...or wife...or kid...or work...it's time to prioritize
I won't be bullied by you, DarkRider! I won't!
__________________
“How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.” - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO
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Old 07-15-2009, 08:14 AM   #15
RockyNH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by selkins
Hey, Pat! Looks like y'all were maybe just a couple of days behind me following the same route. I hope y'all had as much fun as I did - your report is looking good
Greatly enjoyed the adventure we had... You had more insight into the local scene and people than we did after leaving Trois Riviere.. Its what I regret most about haveing a time limit..

Pat in NH
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