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Old 09-28-2014, 06:29 PM   #1
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Going to the Dogs, chasing my tale through Labrador and Newfoundland

Much like the trip itself, I've struggled to get this ride report started because a title and a theme were both lacking.
I would've loved to have come up with an absolutely brilliant title. One that would convey a sense of how fantastic this trip was.
A title that would foreshadow how awesome the countryside I rode through was.
A title that would proclaim and how helpful, friendly, generous, and warm the people I met along the way were.
A title that would also hint at the minor and major travails I (minor) and other riders (major) sufferred.
A title that on its own, would earn the thread a 5 star rating.
All in a dozen words or less.

All my efforts along these lines have come to naught, mirroring much of the success I had with the three goals had I hoped to achieve setting out on this recently completed 38 day jaunt to the north. I had hoped to see an iceberg, aurora borealis, and whales. A whale, check. The others, goose-eggs.
However, during the trip, my girlfriend Clare, who adores goggies, tasked me with getting pictures of the two titled breeds in their place of origin. Something gave me 'pause' and I suggested that she check to confirm whether or not Labradors came from Labrador. Turns out that they originated on Newfoundland as well, and were given the other place name to distinguish the two breeds. I'm happy to say I had better luck with her goals than mine. Looking through all of the pictures that I took, there are a great many canines (but alas, no Great Danes). So my muse has barked, time to start scratching.


Beau:



Nieves and Sebastien:

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Old 09-28-2014, 06:48 PM   #2
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The Days Before: Beginnings (Chicago Transit Authority)*

* On most days of the trip, a specific song title or lyric came to mind in response to stimuli at some point. If I were a multi-media savvy kind of guy (something else I'm not likely to be mistaken for), I would hunt up a clip of the particular lyric and embed a link to it. But I'm not, so hit the play button on your mental Wurlitzer, or google up a u-tube clip if you're interested.

T-minus 214 days and counting (Feb 8):
"Congratulations" said Mike, my cross-cube-aisle co-worker. I had just concluded the details for purchasing a Trimph Tiger 800XC over the phone with a friend, also Mike, who also happens to be the general manager of Motohio, a Triumph, Duccati, BMW, & a few scooter brands dealership in Columbus. I was working away from home and had come into the on-site office on a Saturday to catch up on personal business. Phone conversations are not actively easedropped upon, but close proximity means that bits of any long conversation will always filter through, so Mike was the first to know that I had found a new mount for my long hoped for trip.
I can't recall exactly when the intention to ride the Trans-Labrador Highway across the "Big Land" first formed, but it was within a few years after a 2-1/2 month, 20,000 mile y2k trip to Alaska.
I bought a used KLR several years ago with the plan of using it for the ride, but a 3 day trip from Charleston, SC to home revealed that my right wrist was not at all compatible with a big single cylinder engine.
I contemplated taking the ferry to NF as part of trips on my VFR in both '09 and '11, but the time budget wasn't generous enough to allow doing it right.
Last year I made a trip to California (ride report link in the sig line) that forced me to realize that it was time to put the VFR into semi-retirement. The accumulated mileage meant that a major part failure was becoming more likely and the ready availability of replacement components was drying up. So something with long distance capability (for me) and on the lighter side of the equation was on the shopping list. Having ridden a Tiger 800 roadie (the non XC stablemate) a couple of years ago, I was comfortable with choosing the XC and conversations with Mike, the dealer, answered my outstanding questions. So I pulled the trigger, even though I wouldn't be able to pick up the bike until April. Triumph had a promotion going, free heated grips, larger windscreen, and a top box (that I will never use and have to get around to selling sometime) that was set to expire at the end of March, so I sent the check so they could process the sale before that expired.

T-minus 127 days and counting (Mar 28):
As it turned out, I was able to get home and get a ride out to Columbus to pick up the bike at the end of March.

Here it is with the happy seller:

 
And with the pleased owner (it will never look so clean again):

 
The inaugural ride was slightly damp, cool, tentative given break-in rpm limitations, new tires, and lack of familiarity, and great!
 
 
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Old 09-28-2014, 09:19 PM   #3
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Trip Preps

Sorting out how to load up the new bike took more effort than I anticipated.
I decided against using the Triumph hard bags that I bought because they were more weight than I wanted to carry, so I opted for the Ortlieb waterproof, soft, saddlebags that served me well on a trek to Alaska.
Modification 1 was to create a bracket to keep the left bag off of the exhaust. The Triumph bag lower mounting arm provided a great anchor point for my Erector Set inspired solution:


Blacked out looks better, but I wasn't trying to put lipstick on a pig, I taped the metal straps to minimize wear/chafing on the bags:


I could use my trusty dry bag for camp gear, strapped to the rear seat.
But I couldn't mimic the long polished packing routine of the VFR mainly because I couldn't use my 'go-to' tank bag. I've loved my MotoFizz bag because of its oversized map case on top and a mid section that held my netbook perfectly.
Fortunately, the map compartment can be used solo. I opted for a tail-bag that I've used for short trips to make up for the lost tank bag space, but that begat its own set of issues. The drybag for the camp gear cut down the availble space to securely rest the tail bag on. So it was off to Lowes again. The extension created from some 3 sided aluminum channel stock bolted right to the top of where provisions for mounting a top box provided easy anchor points.
A couple of weekend camping runs served as shakedown runs.

This was the launch configuration:


...in 3 - 2 - 1
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Old 09-30-2014, 08:02 PM   #4
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Day 1 - Mexican Radio* (Wall of Voodoo)

* I passed by Mexico, PA

8/2/14 Home to Succasunna, NJ - 408 miles

The first three days of the trip would be spent reaching the real start of the trip. The real start being when all the roads were new to me. Today's destination was the home of long time friend, fellow ex-nuc', former co-worker, riding partner, name-giver, and funniest ride commentator that I know; BrotherPat.
Life too often gets in the way of maintaining frequent contact with good friends, so I touched base with him earlier in the week and upon confirming his availability, set my sights for Succasunna, NJ.

Starting odometer:


In between starting and ending slab stints I managed some marvelous mountain macadam and linked a few county roads in the middle of PA that were new to me.
At the first stop at an overlook along U.S. 30, a few other riders were taking in the sights. Getting the helmet off and extricating the ear plugs allowed time for the others to observe the loadout so, the first question proffered was, "How long have you been on the road?" "About 2 hours."

At a refreshment stop at a gas station in the afternoon, just before jumping on I-80, I met two MA riders on mismatched BMW's (new R1150ish type and an '81 R100) who had just finished tanking up. Fred walked over, noted the home state plate, and said, "Maybe you can help us figure out were to go in the Pennsylvania Wilds region?" Pleading guilty to the accusation as I was getting out of the 'stich, I confessed my ADV identity and offered counsel. I think the words to his buddy Matt as he walked back to get his map were, 'We just struck gold!'

NJ overlook:


Got to Pat's in the early evening. Wings, beer, pizza and eye candy at the Barn and some great conversation made for an enjoyable night.

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Old 09-30-2014, 09:45 PM   #5
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Day 2 - Woodstock (both Joni Mitchell's original and CSN's)

8/3/14 Succasunna to Kingston, NY - 320 miles

Noj was happy to keep the bed warm after I got up:


While there is some very nice riding to be had in NW NJ, I had a brunch date with future mission definer Clare in CT this morning, so another slab session started the day.


Being a pleasant morning, we ate outside which allowed me to observe the Tiger observers. Had a couple nice chats with guys curious about it.
 
I had two days to get to the vicinity of Montreal and the weather forecast for tonight wasn't a promising one, so I had hit MsLizVT's tent space listing and contacted her before starting out yesterday. It turned out that she was going to be in Kingston, NY tonight at her friend Jeanie's place. They were both doing motocrew duties for a bicycle race out of Tannersville, NY in the Catskills today. Jeanie, via Liz, said come on over. I was early enough to loop around county roads finding the back way into Tannersville and met them at the parking area where the motocrew would debrief.


While waiting for things to wrap up, I gave a lost tourist directions to Cooperstown and another motocrew rider a route past Hudson.

Talk about a bike rack!:


We were behind the Last Chance Shop:


I liked the carving:


We rode through Woodstock on the way to Jeanie's place where I met her Schnauzer Teah (taya) (there were a couple cats around too ):


I think it was Liz who asked where my gps mount was. I quoted BrotherPat, "GPS stands for Greg Pointing System", he goes where I point.
It was very interesting conversation over dinner and desert, running the gambit from Lifesavers holes to Higgins' boats. We might have talked about motorcycles a bit as well.

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Old 10-01-2014, 05:42 PM   #6
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Old 10-01-2014, 06:49 PM   #7
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Hi Barb,
How's school and my camp gear provider of unfortunate choice?
(He said he was back to normal, 'stiff and grumpy', but I don't believe him.
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Old 10-01-2014, 07:05 PM   #8
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Day 3 - Fleeing the country

8/4/14 Kingston to St. Julie, QC - 435 miles

When the worst problem of the day is a brain cramp first thing in the morning that only costs a little bit of time, that's a good day's ride.
About 10 minutes into the ride, the thought struck that a couple of maps might have been left behind. When I pulled over to check, I didn't see the cover I was expecting (cause some dumb idiot had refolded them ). So I got to pet Teah one more time.

A Japanese Smoke Tree in the neighborhood caught my eye:


Breakfast a the Village Diner in Red Hook, one of my favorite road food spots, filled me for the day. A countryfied eggs Benedict was the special - poached eggs, Canadian bacon, and sausage gravy over biscuits. After my arteries loosened up a bit, I proceeded more or less northeasterly. Duchess County, NY never fails to reward me when I go hunting for the less direct option. County roads 56 and 50, with a dash of Columbia County 2 wiped out any residual mental ass-kicking over the morning start and the rest of the day through VT and into QC with a detour to NH was a very nice one.

The brief jog into NH was to stop at the Fireside Inn in West Lebanon. Two motives: one to confirm my reservation for next month's return, and two was to get a picture for trolling purposes.
For the past 14 years a small VFR based gathering has been staged out of this town the weekend after Labor Day. Its less than serious title is the "We Don't Give A Hoot" rally, spoofing on the now defunct Honda Hoot. The end point of the trip was based on attending this year's edition before heading home. As it turned out, a reminder was posted to the group list about it being the last day to book a room with the gruup rate. So I had a perfect response to post with the picture, "I'm here, where is everybody? Oh, wait, .... never mind."



Re-enforcing the botany lesson of the morning, another Japanese Smoke Tree was in it's glory - left side of pic.

Tonight's aim point was St. Julie, QC and the home of a fellow VFR rider. John had made a trip to California in the spring of 2012 and I provided a lot of routing assistance. When I mentioned this trip to him at another small rally in WV this spring (COTU - Center of the Universe) an invite to visit and road recommendations were immediately offered. So after my diversion it was time for a direct back country ride to the border. Northern VT was in fine form, route 14 was a bit rough, but not to the point of disturbing the Tiger's prowling and the scenery impressed as always. Further north, 105 was very nice.
(Road conditions in New England are subject to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principal, so don't make any planning decisions based on the assessments given here.)

I like to use the small border crossings out of the desire to hit all of them eventually. Today's outpost of choice was between East Franklin and Frelighsburg and netted only a minor grilling.
Made it to John's before dusk, met Christina and pooch Scoobydoo (sorry I was still learning that the smart phone is not all that great at capturing canine images). I enjoyed the first beer on the back deck before the heavens opened up and doused the outdoor cookout. Timing is everything.

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Old 10-02-2014, 09:35 PM   #9
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Day 4 - Stranger in a Strange Land (Heilein)*

*No song today, I'm sneaking a book title in on you.
 
Not counting a brief stint on the same slab I came in on last night, today was the first day of entirely new-to-me roads. I savored the novelty.
Poked along south of the St Lawrence passing through a mix of variable sized towns and farm country. Waiting at a construction stop, I watched the mayhem of a MotoGP daycare recess. Several boys were on plastic motorcycle push toys, lapping the swing set and slides. One was buried in a turn by a hard charging competitor coming up on the inside. No quarter given.

The only minor fly in the ointment today was that heavy rain in the area led to the abandonment of the highly recommended Parc Mauricie loop. Guess I'll just have to come back. The rain began as I crossed the St Lawrence around lunchtime and cleared as I got north of the park area, leaving a long, scenic ride on 155 up to the Lac Sainte Jean region. It got warm and sunny and I struggled to stay alert for a while. Coffee or a Monster stop was desired, but it was a long time coming. Eventually I got caffeinated and continued pleasantly meandering around the north side of the lake.

Yesterday's evening finish did not lead to any interactions with Quebec strangers, so today was my first attempt at apologizing for not speaking French, in French.
Je suis désolé , je ne parle pas français
I picked this phrase up from a comment posted to another TransLabHwy ride report (http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=984421).

The initial utterances did not go well, but it got easier as the days passed and most people began to understand what I was trying to say. It did seem to make the interactions more pleasant then they were on a trip around the Gaspé Peninsula a few years ago. I think not so much because of the feeble attempt at their lingo, but from the implicit acknowledgement that I was the inferior one in this exchange. That or they were laughing too much to be in a bad mood.
To me, the definition of an ugly tourist (of any nationality, American's do not have a monopoly on the concession) is one who expects, or assumes that anyone they meet should be able to speak their language.

Approaching Dolbeau-Mitassini I realized that my timing was now off a bit.
I was two days late for the blueberry festival in the area, but enough signage was left to permanently etch a new bit of Quebec-French** into my limited reading vocabulary, bluets (just don't ask me to pronounce it).
I wasn't too late to check in at a tourist info center and located what turned out to be a great campground.

Des Chutes indeed:

 

 

 
**Writing this, I discovered that in France-French, bleuts would be cornflowers rather than blueberries. I give up!
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Old 10-03-2014, 09:33 PM   #10
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Day 5 - Dolbeau-Mistassini to Sept-Iles

8/6/14 449 miles. 435 yesterday (for some reason any attempt to edit that post wipes out the content )

Mist over the falls, a beautiful day, good breakfast stop in Alma; it doesn't get much better.






 
 
The morning's route was 172 down the north side of the Saguenay Fjord:


 
But the water wasn't in sight very often, so I turned off the main road for a stop in St-Rose du Nord and was rewarded with some pretty nice views.





Wharf Dogs!:







 
The serene riding continued and aqueous views of the now Gulf of St. Lawrence unfolded regularly on the starboard side after I reached QC Route 138, aka the Jacques Cartier Hwy, aka Route des Baleines, aka Corset Stay Road.











Lots of bike traffic along the coast, predominantly Harleys, but a good number of Honda STs, and a lot of street ski-doos stood out.
A short stop for gas in Baie-Comeau, and I checked in with Clare since I had good cell coverage there. For those of you thinking that I was about to be out of coverage for the next 365 miles to Labrador City, nay-nay. A left turn was not in the program.
After all the effort to reach this neck of the woods, I wasn't going to start the haul north before checking out what lay to the east. Far to the east. Kegaska was the aim point for this segment.
Progress in that direction was held up for a bit by a construction zone timed light that was counting down from 440 seconds when I pulled up behind one car. I have no idea how many vehicles were in the queue when we finally got the go light. It wasn't a heavily travelled road, but that was a lonnng stop. As the traffic sorted it self out behind me, a couple hard charging cars came to the fore and once those rabbits were running well ahead of me, it became a very spirited run over a moderately swervy and heavily heaved road. I had to rein in the cat when I noticed that my dry bag had shifted to the left far more than desirable.

Just before reaching Sept-Iles, I had to stop to take some dam pictures:









Reaching Sept-Iles late in the evening, I stopped at the info center and discovered that they had camping right there. But only for VRs (sic) as the very cute girl with far better English than my French put it (the transposition makes sense). I couldn't talk her into letting me setup my tent in a far corner, but she did tell me about the free beach camping east of town. The only problem was that the skeeters were out in force as I tried to set up without letting any of them get into the tent. An effort that was not totally successful as evidenced by the four I killed when I woke up the next morning. No prizes for guessing where the blood in them came from.

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Old 10-03-2014, 11:17 PM   #11
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Old 10-05-2014, 12:28 PM   #12
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Stranger in a Strange Land *No song today, I'm sneaking a book title in on you.
I know this one - read it years ago. But the author's name is "Robert A. Heinlein".

Interesting ride report!
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Old 10-05-2014, 08:41 PM   #13
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I know this one - read it years ago. But the author's name is "Robert A. Heinlein".

Interesting ride report!
Dayum, I phat phingered and I can't edit a post title. What's worse is that I did that after checking the spelling for the e-i or i-e sequences in his name.
Well spotted, I'll have to fire my editor.
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Old 10-07-2014, 09:12 PM   #14
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Day 6 - Sweet Mademoiselle* (Styx)

*In honor of the cute girls manning the Info centers - must be a hiring requirement.

8/7/14 Sept-Iles to Kegaska and back to Harve Saint-Pierre - 394 miles

After eliminating 18 billion future unborn mosquitoes, I got out of the tent and beheld the view that was too dark to enjoy last night:

 


The Neighbors - I hate overcrowded campgrounds ;)


The above tent was the abode of Norman and his wife (sorry, forgot that name), from Ottawa. They came by with their dog Zara. Last night Mrs. Camper had walked Zara by the tent as I was setting up and the dog gave me a good yip-yipping. I had a chance to make nice with her this morning and gave her a good skritch while chatting with her keepers.

A beautiful start to the morning:




But that distant fog bank wasn't so distant after I stopped for breakfast in Riviere-au-Tonnerre, the afternoon was cloudy and the evening was drizzly.
The sights were still very good:

 

 


I encountered English capable folks today at most every stop. The further east I went the more common this was. I read or was told that a lot of Newfoundlanders have migrated to this coast through history. I would hazard a guess that having more non-Quebec traffic is also an influence. During the previous days, riding around the Lake Saint Jean region, I only saw one non-Quebec license plate. After reaching the coast, it has not been such a rarity.

As rugged as the countryside appeared, it's certainly lot a pristine environment, as evidenced by this sign I saw at a pullout:





Kegaska's welcome mat:

 
It's definitely the end of the main road:


That's not a sea-serpent under the "FIN" sign, people actually swim up here :

 
Of course I had to check out both directions from the "official" end.
A left turn led to the airport and a sandy dirt road went beyond. While I got the Tiger to do the rough roads that this trip would entail, at 475 pounds it is most certainly not a dirt bike. So this was far enough for me:


Backtracking into 'town', I went out onto the pier.
Here's an absolute end to the road (I'm not aware of any amphibious motorcycles):

 

 

 

 

 

 
I stopped at the store/restaurant in search of a souvenir patch, but had no luck with my quest, so it was time to start the return.
The road out of town looked surprisingly similar to the way in:

 


Coming in to Kegaska, I didn't know how high the km markers would go, so I grabbed this shot on the way out:


Even if converted to miles, that's a long-ass road!

Some pictures of the river that required the main bridging effort for this segment:

 

 

 



Now that I knew I wouldn't be by here again anytime soon, I had to get a pic of one of the large versions of the signs that I'd been seeing for the last 500 miles:


 
After that it was backtracking time. Tried to make it to Sept-Iles again, but the evening marched along faster than I could keep up, so I stopped in Harve-St-Pierre and found a gite (b&b) for the night.

Coming in to safe harbor for the night:



When I got settled, I was too tired to go out for beer or food, so I settled for the last of my beef-jerky and peanuts. Not a bad dinner actually.
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Old 10-08-2014, 11:10 PM   #15
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Day 7 - "I Can't Drive 55" (Sammy Hagar)

8/8/14 Harve-Saint-Pierre to Manic 5 - 424 miles

Rain was in the forecast, but that's where it stayed for the most part. A short stretch of wet road approaching Baie-Comeau was the only evidence of direct precipitation I saw today.
However the indirect evidence was overwhelming. There are rivers galore and with the extended coast run, I pondered the different ways by which they end their existence in the sea.

Some are resigned to their fate and gently flow into a shallow tidal basin and slip serenely into the salty realm of Neptune.






Some tumble down rocky ravines vainly resisting gravity's demand, dragging gravel and sand with it to its briny berth.










And others defiantly cling to their freshwateriness until finally making like Thelma & Louise, breaking up into ever smaller droplets and mists and by evaporation, cheating the ocean of the full measure due.




 

Went along the waterfront in Sept-Iles, viewing several of them:







And observed some of the second of the only two types of ships in the world - targets:


The first type are submarines (says the former MMC/SS knuckle-dragger )


I also noticed a street with the French spelling of my name:



Of course I had to make that turn. It was kind of old and cracked, but with a nice ess kink to shift you off vertical. (Any resemblance to the author is purely intentional.)

A fun ride into Baie-Comeau was only a prelude to later merriment, and I took the waterfront route though there as well.

Another target:









The street was too narrow to stop for a front shot of this statue of Robert McCormick. He was the owner of the Chicago Tribune and established a paper mill and associated dam to power it, bringing a lot of development to the town.



 
This marker, near the McCormick statue has me puzzled:



Translated it reads:
"Here died Quebec democracy June 23 1982. Murdered by the government of the party Quebecois. History will judge."
My research was inconclusive. Anybody?
 

After the short sight-seeing excursion it was time to point north, but as soon as I started out on 389 I had to stop for this picture:



The next 22 km to Manic 2 were a fabulous frolic and the source of the Song-of-the-day.


 

I'm convinced that when Canada went metric and shifted from mph to kph, they saved money by only changing the units on the speed limit signs.

Manic 2 momentarily muted my motions.




The road beyond opened up a bit and was rougher, but still kept a wide smile behind the visor. I took the side road to Manic 3, but a gate barred access before that dam view.

I couldn't believe that there were no ADV or other stickers stuck on this sign:




Made it to Manic 5 in the evening and after gassing up (at $1.60/l - OUCH - it would get worse before it got better), a couple of southbound KTMs pulled in. I forget what model, but the plastic molding on top of these side cases were pieces to a truck that the rider discovered and needed for his own similar vehicle.



They were pushing on, I got a couple of beers and headed up the hill to a dam overlook for the night.



Post trip, WIki reading revealed that Manic Cinq is the name of the generating station and what you're seeing in these pictures is the "Daniel-Johnson Dam, formerly known as Manic Cinq." I got news for them, it's still known by the latter.
 
Figuring that others may come up in the evening/night to have a fire at the overlook itself, I set up camp down in the parking area. Lubed the chain, aired down the tires for tomorrow's dirty doings, and was enjoying the view when a couple dam workers arrived.





Paul and Daniel drove up with a load of wood from a burned out house. It was a good evening chatting with them, they offered me a beer (my two were already gone) and we got a fire going. They were just coming up for a couple of hours to enjoy the view. Paul's a surveyor and Daniel's a driller (of rock/concrete for dynomite or anchor bolts). Both were from Quebec, Paul spoke very good English and I got a couple more French lessons while watching the night settle in.









It was getting chilly, so I went back to the tent to get a sweater, Paul said to bring back some girls. As it so happened.... (dayum I'm good!)
A mini-van pulled into the parking lot and three girls got out. I was already on the path back to the overlook and I didn't want to creep them out by waiting in the dark for their approach, so I just went back up to the fire and said "Mission accomplished." I wish I could have seen his face as he then heard the girls coming up chatting in French, the rest was up to him.
He never did go over to them while they were at the railing. Daniel did when they were taking pictures and offered to take one of all three of them together. They chatted briefly and then left. I was dashed, the makings of an epic tale lay in the ashes of the fire. Called his bluff I guess, I'm never going to go through all that karmic effort again. ;)
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