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Old 07-13-2013, 05:05 PM   #1
mcgarrett OP
Gnarly Adventurer
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Joined: Apr 2012
Location: Golden Isles, GA
Oddometer: 165
My First Adventure: Trans Lab, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia on a BMW G650X-Challenge

ad-ven-ture noun - an exciting or remarkable experience (Merriam-Webster)

About me: I’m a fairly new rider, having hopped on a bike for the first time in April 2012 for the MSF course and getting my license right afterwards. I’ve accumulated about 13K miles since then commuting into Washington, DC, first on a Ducati Monster 696 and then BMW R1200GS. My only real off-road experience was the BMW two-day enduro riding class a few months ago.

About my bike: 2007 BMW G650X-Challenge

Purchased in February 2013, I’d only put a few hundred miles on it. Bike modifications include:

- Various Touratech protection farkles
- Touratech pannier racks and steel subframe
- Hyperpro rear shock and fork springs
- X-Tank
- BMW Navigator IV GPS
- Rotopax 1-gallon gas container
- BMW low seat
- John Deere tool tube (manual canister)
- Pro Screen Dakar windscreen
- Woody’s Excel A60 wheels
- Continental TKC80 front tire
- Heidenau K60 Scout rear tire
- Adventure Spec Magadan pannier bags
- Kriega US-30 tail bag
- Giant Loop Diablo tank bag
- Sea to Summit compression dry sacks

About my riding gear:

- Arai XD-4 helmet with pinlock visor and standard visor as spare
- Sena SMH10-11 Bluetooth
- Klim Badlands Pro jacket and pants
- Klim Hydrapak
- Sidi Adventure Gore-Tex boots
- Held Air N Dry gloves
- Held Warm N Dry gloves
- Gerbing’s GLT5 heated gloves
- Gerbing’s heated jacket liner
- Buff neck cover

About the trip: I’d been wanting to do a multi-day adventure ride that involved unpaved surfaces, challenges, scenery, and an opportunity to use the X-Challenge. I originally envisioned riding up to Nova Scotia and back and then began reading ride reports about the Trans Lab Highway, which stimulated my interest in a bigger trip. I expanded on the TLH idea to include the full loop of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, as well as a number of Cold War relic sites in Maine and the ghost town of Centralia in Pennsylvania. I could only be away from work for just over two weeks, so I knew I was pushing the envelope of what I could reasonably do and see in that time frame.

I solicited riding partners on Advrider and saw that Chris (Monnomania) was also trying to put together a similar ride. Chris is Canadian, and had just returned home to Fredericton, New Brunswick, after two years on the road driving to Ushuaia in his 4x4 minivan (quite an adventure).

I would be hitting the road on June 22, 2013, and working my way up to Maine. Chris and I planned to link up at the Riviere-du-Loup ferry terminal on June 26 for the 2:45pm ferry to St. Simeon. From there:

- June 26 - Overnight in Tadoussac or Forrestville
- June 27 - Overnight in Relais-Gabriel
- June 28 - Overnight in Churchill Falls
- June 29 - Overnight in Goose Bay
- June 30 - Overnight in Port Hope Simpson
- July 1 - Ferry from Blanc Sablon to St. Barbe, Newfoundland, overnight TBD
- July 2 - L'Anse aux Meadows and Hawke's Bay, overnight TBD
- July 3 - Grose Morne National Park, overnight in Corner Brook
- July 4 - Ferry from Port aux Basques to New Sydney, Nova Scotia, overnight TBD
- July 5 - Cape Breton Island and Cabot Trail, overnight TBD
- July 6 - Ferry from Digby to St. John, New Brunswick, overnight in Calais, Maine
- July 7 - Overnight TBD in New Hampshire
- July 8 - Overnight in Scranton, Pennsylvania
- July 9 - Centralia, Pennsylvania, and then home

Chris and I would ride together until some point in Nova Scotia. I also heard from Matt (Ms2uared), who was interested in meeting us in Nova Scotia for the Cabot Trail.

Research and planning took a few months. We did reserve ferry tickets ahead of time, so those were the only semi-inflexible travel considerations. Overnight accommodations would be worked out on the road, and we both carried camping gear if needed. Although we had a general sketch of each day’s ride, we built in some flexibility. I did a dress rehearsal camping trip with an almost fully loaded bike the previous weekend, and before I knew it, I was pulling out of my driveway for this first adventure.

Did the adventure live up to the definition? Stay tuned.

Day 1 - June 22, 2013
Manassas, Virginia, to West Grove, Pennsylvania
~141 miles

Day 1

I packed the bike the night before departure, but I was having some issues coming up with a good packing solution for my camping food and snacks. I settled on using two compression dry sacks from REI that I’d mount against the sides of the Kriega tail bag. It sounded good in principle, but in practice it was turning into a hassle. I finally got everything secured, looked around the house for anything I’d forgotten, turned on my Spot Messenger, and hit the road.

This was intended to be an easy day, and for the most part, it was. My cousin and his wife were putting me up for the night, and it would be nice to finally visit their house. The ride was superslab for the first half and secondary roads for the second half, and since I left later than intended, the temperatures were quickly climbing into the upper 80s and low 90s.

I stopped for a Gatorade break at 80 miles and made the final push to West Grove.




Day 2 - June 23, 2013
West Grove, Pennsylvania, to Miller Place, New York
~248 miles

Day 2

I hoped this would be a fairly easy day as well. The plan was to ride on back roads that kept me far away from Philadelphia and then superslab over to Long Island. There didn’t appear to be any good way to get to Long Island, so I opted for what I thought would be the least painful. I was going to stay with one of my college roommates and his family, who I hadn’t seen in far too long. On the following day, I’d take the Cross Sound Ferry to New London, Connecticut.

I got an early start and enjoyed the back roads through rural Pennsylvania. I saw a few (presumably) Amish buggies on the road, and I stopped for gas and a snack break outside of Allentown. That was the easy part, because the superslab was ahead of me. The traffic came to a standstill at Staten Island and really crawled along for about an hour getting across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Only one lane was open eastbound on the upper level, but I was able to get over for the lower level lanes. Getting through Brooklyn on the Belt Parkway also took forever in sweltering temperatures, and I made the mistake of getting off the highway near JFK Airport for a drink break. The GPS sent me on a very convoluted route to get back on course, and I finally pulled into Miller Place around 2:30pm. Almost 7 hours on the road and not even 250 miles covered.

These first two days were a prelude to the real adventure and gave me a chance to get more comfortable riding on the fully loaded bike and spending several hours in the saddle. Speaking of which, the low seat was proving to be extremely uncomfortable, and I was worried about how I’d manage on the really long days. It was almost like clockwork that my butt would begin to hurt after 30 miles, and things became unbearable after 80.



Full set of pics for Days 1 and 2:

Don’t spoil the suspense by skipping ahead to the other photo sets yet.

I promise to post new installments as quickly as possible.

mcgarrett screwed with this post 07-14-2013 at 06:44 AM Reason: Bigger pics!
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Old 07-13-2013, 07:24 PM   #2
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Ok..... out with it..


Originally Posted by Mr_Gone View Post
C-Stain is wise.
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Old 07-13-2013, 08:35 PM   #3
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I'm in.
07 XChallenge
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Old 07-13-2013, 10:54 PM   #4
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Joined: Nov 2012
Location: Middle earth
Oddometer: 172
Thumb Two lists....

Two lists and this is on the short list of places to go when I'm out of here . Long list I might do some day, short list I will do if at all possible. Been wanting to make this trip for a few years and work has gotten in the way for most of that time. Ride on and enjoy and keep us parked inmates in the loop on how it's going.
I'm in.
Stay safe man...
Anywhere is home
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Old 07-14-2013, 06:38 AM   #5
mcgarrett OP
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Location: Golden Isles, GA
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Day 3 - June 24, 2013
Miller Place, New York, to Freeport, Maine
~300 miles

Day 3

I had a ticket for the 9am Cross Sound Ferry from Orient Point to New London, Connecticut, so I hit the road a little after 7am. My original plan was to take back roads through Connecticut, cut across a small part of Rhode Island (since I'd never been there), and pick up the superslab in Massachusetts, keeping far away from Boston on my way to Bath, Maine. The week before my trip, while watching one of my favorite TV shows, "Chasing Classic Cars," I realized that Wayne Carini's shop was only about 45 miles out of my way. So, I e-mailed Wayne and asked if I could stop by for a quick visit. He said it would be fine, so I modified my plan.

As I rode through northeastern Long Island, I was surprised at how rural it was. Lots of farms and wide open spaces. Of course, on Long Island, those were probably very expensive spaces. I made it to the ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare, rode onto the boat when it was my turn, and settled in for the 90-minute cruise.

First in line

Ferry arrives

Smooth sailing

I rode off the boat in New London and headed towards Wayne's shop in Portland. Once I got onto Rt. 9, it was a nice and scenic ride. The temperatures were rising, and I hoped I wouldn't be a sweaty mess when I got to Wayne's shop. Wayne was in the middle of painting a car, but he generously took some time to chat with me about two topics we both enjoy: cars and motorcycles. I'm very glad I made this detour, and I hope to see Wayne again sometime.

My new BFF

Wayne's shop, where I can only window shop

I still wanted to cross Rhode Island off of my list of states, so I picked a spot near the border and hit the back roads. After a brief 2 mile incursion into Rhode Island at the Buck Hill Management Area, I worked my way over to I-395 to get around Boston.

Try saying that five time fast

The weather was still very hot, even as I crossed into Maine. It was getting late, I was hot and tired, so I decided to stay overnight in Freeport, about a half hour short of Bath. This was the first night I wasn't staying with friends or family, so I felt more comfortable bringing everything from the bike into my hotel room. A big hassle, but worth the peace of mind.

The plan for the next day was to hit several Cold War relic sites in Maine.

Full set of pics for Day 3:

Don’t spoil the suspense by skipping ahead to the other photo sets yet.
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:45 AM   #6
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Day 4 - June 25, 2013
Freeport, Maine, to Caribou, Maine
~310 miles

Day 4

My first stop today was the now-closed Brunswick Naval Air Station, which is in the process of being redeveloped for commercial use. A lot of folks don't realize that Maine used to have a significant number of military installations during the Cold War. They're almost all closed now, in various states of disrepair and redevelopment, and I wanted to see what remained of these historical sites. Special thanks to Dave Dauphinee, whose website ( is a wealth of information on this topic.

Access to Brunswick NAS was wide open, and I took almost an hour to explore the area, sticking to those places that aren't fenced off or otherwise restricted.

The "gate guard" at Brunswick NAS

Mark Harmon was nowhere to be found

Advanced Undersea Weapons Shop

Bunkers at the Advanced Undersea Weapons Shop

Weapons Storage Area at Brunswick NAS

An artist sketches a static display P-3 Orion, which has seen better days

From there, I made my way over to Rt. 1 and rode along the coast for a while. I planned to take the scenic route to Bangor, where I'd visit a few other Cold War sites.

You know you're in Maine when...

Coastal Maine

Some folks on the "beach"

I was listening to music on my iPhone using the Sena Bluetooth, and as I was approaching Bangor, the song "King of the Road" came on. It's an older song, with the lyric, "Third boxcar, midnight train, destination Bangor, Maine." I paused for a second to consider whether my iPhone had achieved sentience, or whether it was just a coincidence.

The first site near Bangor was the Weapons Storage Area for the now-closed Dow Air Force Base. It's been redeveloped as self-storage units, though many of the bunkers are still there. Since it's private property, I recommend stopping in the management office as a courtesy before exploring.

Weapons Storage Area at Dow AFB

Just down the road was the now-closed BOMARC missile site that was part of Dow AFB. It's been redeveloped into an industrial park, and many of the original buildings are still in use.

BOMARC Industrial Park

Former missile assembly building

I got back onto I-95 superslab and rode until exit 276, where construction had forced a detour onto secondary roads. It wasn't a big delay, and I enjoyed the change of pace. The detour lasted until exit 291, and then I went a little while longer until hitting Houlton. I got onto Rt. 1 heading north to Presque Isle, where I had another site to visit. Presque Isle used to have an Air Force base, as well as a Snark missile site adjacent to it. The base is now the regional airport, and the missile site is mainly used by the local Department of Public Works.

Any guesses about what used to be on this street?

One of 12 former Snark missile launch pads

One of six former Snark missile assembly and construction buildings

From Presque Isle, I continued on Rt. 1 into Caribou, where I planned to stay overnight. I checked into the hotel, which turned out to be rundown and a bit sketchy. There was a disheveled man sitting the lobby (who I later learned is the "town schizo" as he was being cuffed and stuffed the next morning), and the parking lot was empty. I didn't have any other viable lodging options, so I paid for my room and grabbed some supper. It was still light out at 7pm, and I rode north to visit two more sites about 10 miles away.

As I got further down the road, ominous-looking storm clouds began to move in. I decided to press on and was soon greeted with heavy rain and wind. It didn't last long, but when I turned onto the road that would take me to the now-closed Louis Blotner Radar Bomb Scoring Site, it was completely under rushing water. As much as I wanted to see it, I wasn't taking a fully loaded bike upriver.

I didn't bring any paddles

I got back onto Rt. 1 and headed to the now-closed Connor Nike Missile Site, which was more accessible.



Connor Nike Missile Site

More clouds were moving in, so I decided to head back to Caribou and call it a day.

The sky opened up just as I got the last of my gear inside. The parking lot began to fill up with highway workers, who seemed to be the only other hotel guests. I noticed several ongoing road projects in and around Caribou, and it's probably more efficient to have the crews stay nearby.

Tomorrow I'd be crossing into Canada and linking up with Chris for the Trans Lab Highway.

Full set of pics for Day 4:

Stay tuned for the next installment.

mcgarrett screwed with this post 07-14-2013 at 07:56 AM
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Old 07-14-2013, 08:20 AM   #7
One day at a time!
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Joined: Jul 2009
Location: MN. (summers) AZ. (winters)
Oddometer: 713
Great photos!

Those are some nice photos.....thanks for taking the time....stay safe.

Gary "Oldone"

Grampa’s Lake Superior Ride
Grampa’s National Monument Ride

Oldone screwed with this post 07-14-2013 at 08:39 AM
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Old 07-14-2013, 12:03 PM   #8
mcgarrett OP
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Joined: Apr 2012
Location: Golden Isles, GA
Oddometer: 165
Day 5 - June 26, 2013
Caribou, Maine, to Tadoussac, Quebec
~186 miles

Day 5

As I was loading my bike, I saw two local police officers carting away my friend from the lobby. Apparently, he had overstayed his welcome at the hotel yet again.

The weather had changed dramatically overnight. Yesterday it was in the low 90s, and this morning it was in the 50s and misty. I headed towards the now-closed Loring Air Force Base near Limestone. For many years, Loring AFB was a major bomber and aerial refueling base, until its closure in 1994. My first stop was the former Weapons Storage Area, which had been transformed into the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge. The aerial views on Google Maps looked like a lot of the bunkers were still intact, but upon arrival, I found the gate locked and visitor center closed.


I was able to see the former alert facility from the other side of the fence. This is where B-52 bomber aircrews used to stay during alert stints, and you can see the tunnels they would run down on their way to the bombers.

Loring AFB alert facility

The main base is adjacent to this area and is in the process of being redeveloped for commercial use. It's a work in progress, as many of the former facilities remain untouched except for the ravages of time and weather.

I'm sure there was more traffic when the base was open

Available for sale or lease

Unused hangar

From Loring AFB, I approached the Canadian border in Limestone and headed north to the now-closed Caswell Air Force Station. Caswell was a radar site that supported the Air Defense Command network up until its closure in 1980.

Access road to the now-closed Caswell AFS

The site might be mistaken for a big junkyard, with deteriorating buildings, structures, and equipment. I saw a young man working on a tractor at what appeared to be a mechanical shop and asked if I could ride around to take photos. He said it wasn't a problem, as long as I didn't steal anything.





The now-closed Limestone Nike Missile Site is right before the border crossing, but I was running short on time, and from the Cold War Relics website, there didn't appear to be much left there.

I went to the Limestone border crossing and was promptly directed to pull over for a secondary search and screening. I think the border officer didn't understand the notion that I was meeting someone in Canada for the ride, and I'd made all the arrangements over the Internet. I had a nice chat with the officer who was sent out to search my bags, and I was on my way.

By then, the temperature had actually dropped and would continue to drop most of the day. Also, I temporarily gained an hour crossing into New Brunswick, which I would lose again crossing into Quebec in a few hours.


Lots of road construction along the Trans-Canada Highway, though traffic was fairly light. I stopped for a quick snack break, and when I went to start the bike, it began to act a bit funny. The instrument lights came on, then went off. I turned the key a few times, and it stayed on. I didn't have a good feeling about this.

I made my way to the Riviere-du-Loup ferry terminal and arrived a little after 1pm. Chris was there waiting with his 2003 F650GS Dakar, which he was advertising for sale.


By this point, I was frozen and shivering, and we walked to a nearby restaurant for hot tea and pizza. I quickly learned that anyone traveling to Quebec needs to speak French or have a French speaker with them, because no one we encountered spoke English. Fortunately, Chris does speak French, and I greatly appreciated his assistance.

While we were waiting for the ferry, I mentioned to Chris that my ignition was acting strangely. I turned the key, everything came on, then it went off. I turned it again, lights on, Chris jiggled a wire, then it was completely dead. At first, we thought it might be a blown fuse. It was getting close to the ferry departure time, and if I unloaded the bike, we'd almost certainly miss the ferry. The next one was in about four hours. The alternative was to try pushing the bike onto and off the ferry and deal with the situation in St. Simeon. We decided to deal with it now, so I unloaded everything from the bike to access the fuses under the seat. They were fine, and we tried to figure out how to drop the ignition cylinder to examine the wires.




It took a while to get the cylinder out and open, but we found that one of the connections had corroded and the wire was broken.

This was actually good news, because the bike started when we held the wire in place. Now we just needed a mobile soldering tech. Chris made a few phone calls, and Sebastien showed up to fix the wire. The other wire looked ok, so he only needed to repair the broken one. Maybe he should have preemptively re-soldered the "ok" wire. More on that later.

Sebastien saves the day

All smiles and clean bikes and gear

The 6pm ferry showed up, and we were on our way.

On the ferry

The ferry was about 90 minutes to cross the St. Lawrence River, and we were greeted with dark clouds on the other side in St. Simeon. It was getting late, and we decided to gas up and eat there. Supper was pretty bad, and then things got worse when it started to rain hard. Our plan was to push to Tadoussac and get a hotel. It started getting dark, and the rain kept coming. We made it just in time for the very short ferry on Rt. 138 and finished up in Tadoussac.




Tomorrow would be a long day, because we didn't make it to Forestville, and the forecast looked like more rain.

Full set of pics for Day 5:

Stay tuned for the next installment.

mcgarrett screwed with this post 07-14-2013 at 02:21 PM
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Old 07-14-2013, 01:11 PM   #9
Frozen Adventurer
Joined: May 2012
Location: Great State of Maine!!
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Thanks for the great photos and info on Maine. I've been here for 40 years and haven't seen most of that stuff. You've inspired me to get up there and check it out!!!
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Old 07-14-2013, 01:45 PM   #10
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Excellent RR. What did you do for overnight accommodations? Did you Camp?
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Old 07-14-2013, 01:57 PM   #11
mcgarrett OP
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Originally Posted by Kainic View Post
Excellent RR. What did you do for overnight accommodations? Did you Camp?
The plan was to stay in hotels and camp if the situation presented itself.
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Old 07-14-2013, 02:21 PM   #12
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Day 6 - June 27, 2013
Tadoussac, Quebec, to Relais-Gabriel, Quebec
~315 miles

Day 6

It rained pretty hard overnight, and there was still some drizzle and mist in the morning. Temperatures were in the upper 40s, so I opted for my heated gear. We headed north on Rt. 138, with plans to reach Relais-Gabriel for the overnight. The ride along the coast is very scenic, and traffic was generally light.

Suiting up


Along Rt. 138



We stopped in Baie-Comeau for lunch and picked up some chain lube at the local motorcycle/ATV shop. From there, we turned onto Rt. 389 heading towards the Manic 2 dam.



And then my bike wouldn't start. Nothing when I turned the key.


Blown fuse

Of course I had spares, right? Rookie mistake: Turns out I had spares for all but that one. So, Chris was kind enough to save me again, this time riding 10 miles back to town to pick up some fuses. I plugged in the new one, and we were off again. Two hours lost to my idiocy.


The ride to Manic 5 is fun, challenging, and scenic. And there wasn't much traffic at all. We gassed up at the gas station near Manic 5, and then things got a whole lot harder.



The gravel starts at Manic 5, and the truck traffic is heavy as well. I'd ridden on some gravel before, but nothing like this, and we had about 60 miles of it until Relais-Gabriel. The sun was starting to set, and the shadows made it difficult to find the best groove in the gravel. I eventually got into a good state of mental focus, and we cruised along at around 40mph. No music on the Bluetooth; this required every ounce of concentration.

We pulled into the gas station/restaurant at Relais-Gabriel well after 8:30pm.

Taken the next morning

They had a room available in the guest house above the restaurant, so we decided on the creature comforts of indoor hospitality. A quick bite to eat, shower, and I was asleep very fast.

Tomorrow would bring us into Labrador with an overnight in Churchill Falls, or would it? Stay tuned.

Full set of pics for Day 6:
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Old 07-14-2013, 02:47 PM   #13
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I chatted with you at the Wreckhouse just before Port au Basques. Glad you made it home safe and sound.
If I still had every dollar I spent on motorbikes I would be a richer man but a poorer person.
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Old 07-14-2013, 03:44 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by damurph View Post
I chatted with you at the Wreckhouse just before Port au Basques. Glad you made it home safe and sound.
Great to hear from you!
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Old 07-14-2013, 04:16 PM   #15
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Day 7 - June 28, 2013
Relais-Gabriel, Quebec, to Labrador City, Labrador
~170 miles

Day 7

When we arrived at Relais-Gabriel the previous night, we heard some folks in the restaurant talking about a big wildfire near Labrador City. I'm a bit of a news junky, and this was the first I'd heard about it. Chris was also surprised by the news. Apparently, the Trans Labrador Highway was closed in both directions around the fire, though escort convoys were bringing vehicles through as the situation permitted.

In the morning, one of the truck drivers mentioned that he'd gotten through, so we were optimistic about our prospects. We headed north on Rt. 389, which is a very scenic ride, with generally good pavement. The weather since yesterday morning was really nice, but the bugs were out in force.





The road now goes right through the old mining town of Gagnon, and in hindsight, I wish I'd explored the old streets and airport. A recurring theme of this trip was my self-imposed pressure to keep moving forward, given my somewhat limited time available for the ambitious itinerary.

Ghost town of Gagnon

Chris takes a break

Around Fire Lake, the gravel begins, and this was a much more difficult stretch than getting to Relais-Gabriel. The road had a lot of curves, railroad crossings, big trucks, and generally sketchy conditions.


I had a little "off" and put the bike down in a shallow ditch. Chris was well ahead of me, and I was able to get back on the road before he noticed my absence.

Concentrating after my minor mishap

More gravel

Chris hit a nasty and deep section of gravel, and I watched him put the bike in a ditch. Very scary to see happening, but thankfully, he and the bike were fine. A vehicle stopped to help, and the four of us extracted the bike from the ditch.



"Chocolate" lake at the mine

After about 40 miles of the toughest riding I've ever done, we hit pavement near Fermont and posed for the requisite photo op.



We saw two adventure riders heading towards us, away from Labrador City, and we assumed they'd come through the fire zone. More on that later.

We stopped for gas in Labrador City, and the folks there said the TLH was still closed in both directions. They'd run one convoy through early that morning, but the second one had to turn back. The smoke was visible in the distance, and you could even smell it. We headed to the roadblock and chatted with the emergency services personnel. Things weren't looking good.

Chris gets the bad news about the TLH

We regrouped at the local Tim Horton's to eat and consider our options. It was still early in the afternoon, and we hoped they might run another convoy. We definitely didn't want to go back the other way. But when we went back to the roadblock, we knew no one was getting through.


Water bomber

We found a room at the Two Seasons Inn, did some bike maintenance, showered, and walked down the street to Pizza Delight for supper. Our plan was to get to the roadblock by 7am with hopes of getting through in a convoy. There was no Plan B.

Did we make it through the Danger Zone to Churchill Falls? Stay tuned.

Full set of pics for Day 7:

mcgarrett screwed with this post 07-14-2013 at 06:33 PM
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