Exotic Eastern Canada-Northern Latitudes 2010. Trans-Taiga, Trans- Labrador & beyond.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jdrocks, Sep 15, 2010.

  1. Weiner127

    Weiner127 Entertainer

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    Funny how the conditions can change on those roads from month to month, when we through from east to west mid July I was amazed at how good the road from Red Bay to Port Hope Simpson was, 110-130kph the whole way, Great report and sure does bring back great memories!
  2. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    i could have run 130kph below the Cartwright turnoff, but below PHS the road hadn't been graded for awhile and you can see in the photo that the subgrade material is now on the surface making for a rough road through there...then into the reddish coarse aggregate below that.

    the trans taiga in the rain was much tougher riding than anything i saw on the trans lab.
  3. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    Day 13: Thursday 9/2/10-Blanc-Sablon, QC. to Burnt Cape, NL, 181 miles

    I still didn't have a ferry reservation because the reserved space was already taken, 75% of normal capacity. That left the remaining 25% to be fought over starting two hours prior to departure, better get there early. I was out the door before 5AM because of the time difference and wanted to be first in line, no I didn't want to spend any more time in Blanc-Sablon. I was the early bird when I got there, no one else around and the doors were locked, first in line.


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    Quebec is a "No Smoking" zone and this is what you see so many places that don't have a place for butts, the ground was covered.

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    Slowly additional people drifted in and now there was a crowd, mainly men, and an orderly group. Truck drivers, commercial fishermen, salesmen, and all the rest. The doors were unlocked at the appointed time, and a newly arrived elderly couple elbowed their way through the waiting crowd without a word, darted through the door, and were now first in line. Round little man with an unpleasant looking wife who had applied her eyebrows with a black magic marker just that morning. Rude behavior has no age limit, and it would be a shame if someone didn't get on after that long wait. Try that move in the States and there would be gunfire, kinda tends to make the line cutters think twice.

    I was second in line, got my ticket, some ridiculously low price for a ferry crossing, now we just need the ferry and it was running late. I was faced with a long wait in the staging line, and that's when it started to rain. There were some commercial boats coming and going at the side of the wharf, scallopers by the way they were rigged. I have always liked the commercial waterfront, something of interest going on constantly.


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    No other bikes in line, once again, where is everyone? This ferry is on the route, both CW and CCW for the Trans Labrador, but no bikes get off the ferry either. Onboard, and I used I own straps for the tie down, plus chocked the wheels.

    You can get a good look at the headlands that mark this rugged coast, unchanged since first occupied by indigenous peoples or Europeans.

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    Even today, it appears an unlikely place to settle, but with L'Anse aux Meadows across the Strait of Belle Isle, it was chosen despite it's unforgiving nature. The ferry ride to St. Barbe is a short one and it's raining on this side also, although not hard. The bike survived the ride and I'm off and riding north on 430, rain or no rain, I wanted to get up to the end of the peninsula to take a look at the Viking site, although I didn't plan to take the tour. The road north through the small spruce and low vegetation looked just like some of the bush roads except paved.
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    Small ponds were everywhere, water captured in rock bowls. This is moose country, I won't mind if I don't see any.

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    Looking out across the country, I keep thinking, why this place? Why not farther south? Maybe those early settlers did go south and we haven't been able to prove it.

    Lunch at Timmies in St. Anthony were I meet the Stihl salesman again after talking with him at Blanc-Sablon. He lives in Nova Scotia, but his sales territory is all of Labrador and Newfoundland, quite an area to cover. If you see how much spruce was cut for firewood around here you would know he's got himself a good deal going. He says "Yeah, I do ok", and when I laugh, he does too. When a salesman says that, it means they are printing currency in the basement 24/7.


    Around the corner and up the road to L'Anse aux Meadows, the end of the peninsula. Some small groups of houses and waterfront sheds, but otherwise rock and water.


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    I can understand the need for color in this environment, although the natural colors have their own stark beauty.
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    The actual site of the Viking settlement is slightly elevated, but appears surrounded by low wetlands. I wouldn't have picked this place, but then nobody asked me.
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    The parking lot is full, people wanting to see the reenactment, I'd rather read the book and use imagination. Now that I have seen the lay of the land, I can pull the whole picture together.

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    (To be continued)
  4. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    Day 13: Continued

    The rain had eased, and I wanted to camp at the park close by so I was riding south, west, then northwest. A quick stop at Griquet for some spirits and I get a guided tour through the wine and liquor selections by the owner, finally selecting some scotch in a brand I’'ve never heard of.

    I'’m about to get back on the bike when a local guy walks up and asks whether I'’m on my way to see the show at L'’Anse aux Meadows. In the States I would describe him as an unreformed hippie, but up here he might just be one of the Viking cast members. I said "“Nah, just comin'’ from there, don’'t care to see the show"”. Shouldn'’t have said that, my Viking buddy was wild eyed, evidence that he thought controlled substances should be used as condiments. Thirty minutes of rant later, I got the history of Europe, Vikings, early ship building, indigenous natives, archeology, ancient tools …and in every scene, he was the central character, as in the present tense. I'’m glad I kept my money in my pocket, I got the whole freakin'’ show standin'’ there in the parking lot, forget that stuff up there at the visitor’s center. He got up close to me to make his closing, and I could smell the weed smoke in his hair. When he said “"Your President is a great man"”, I knew right then that he had way more than weed in his system.


    I went back in the store to get rid of my pop bottle, and find everyone looking at me, they had been watching the drama through the windows. When I said “I hate to be the first one to say so, but I think that guy has been smokin'’ something out in the bush”, that brought the house down, everyone laughing. I have to go find a place to camp, and drink up some scotch.
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    The Pistolet
    Bay Provincial Park was my destination, easy to find off a connecting road to the coast. The kiosk at the entrance was empty when I rode in, but soon a young park ranger drove up, someone had called him on the radio. A long conversation started about my travels, Canada, and Newfoundland, he was interested in what I had to say, while he answered my questions like only a local could. When I mentioned that I still haven'’t been able to find an official map, he gave me his desk copy. It pays to be nice.

    I picked a nice spot for the tent and set up right away, it still looked like rain.
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    Can'’t forget my scotch, “Golden Wedding”, now there’s a name for liquor. Drink much of this stuff and there wouldn'’t be a wedding, period.

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    Camp is set up and no rain so far, let’s ride to the coast, maybe find some dinner. Moose country again, I need to be back to the Park before dark.
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    The coast has scattered homes, some grouped together, others standing alone. When I pass a small cemetery, I have to stop. The crosses are unmarked as if the occupants are unknown, the circumstances puzzling.

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    The coast in this area has the same rugged feel as the rest, each scene unique, each scene compelling.
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    I find a small café and get the waitress to make me two big sandwiches to go, I don'’t have time to sit down. Dark was coming on and I still wanted to look at more coast.

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    Just twilight now, I had lingered too long. I can'’t blame myself, who the hell knows when or if I’'ll ever be back. Speed is tempting, moose encounters aren'’t. I'’m surprised when a 12GS passes in the other direction, where the heck was he going?, there’s not much out here. Back at the Park safe, a cloudy but mild evening, I can sit at the picnic table to write in the journal… and drink scotch with a touch of iceberg water.

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    I'’m thinking of Vikings on this ancient coast as the day ends, …my travels are nothing.


    (To be continued…)
  5. Vikingtazz

    Vikingtazz Will ride for food.

    Joined:
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    Prescott Ontario, Canada
    Ugh, I can't believe they let you leave the store with Golden Wedding.
    You didn't try asking in french did you?
    That might explain how you ended up with lighter fluid.
    May I recommend a nice Dalwhinnie, or perhaps a Glenmorangie next time?

    You must have a cast iron stomach, since your RR is living proof you survived with little or no permanent brain damage! :clap

    Keep it coming, I'm enjoying every line and photo!
  6. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    can't remember...
  7. yellowknife

    yellowknife Is In Canada

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    JD - loving this RR even without drinking the GW. :wink:
    I am sure there is a story behind the name. If you have a map of this trip done up please post it. (mainly interested in Taiga)

    Yellowknife
  8. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    how was i to know GW was lighter fluid, the guy at the store said it was his best seller by far...then again, that might explain some of the things i saw around there. so i drank two new beverages, never had iceberg water either. tasted like tap water.

    Trans Taiga is easy to find. google maps should show it off the Baie-James. interesting road, tough in the rain.
  9. BigFeet

    BigFeet Banned

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    Cool bikes; excellent RR! Thanks!

    BigFeet
  10. MTrider16

    MTrider16 Ridin' in MT

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    Actually, it is a little tough to find on Google maps. There are several locations with the names you give, and the roads only show up when you zoom in. If you zoom out for a larger view, the roads dissappear. I haven't tried in another map software yet.

    It is a good ride report.

    David
  11. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    thanks. everything shows up on garmin, including Longue Pointe if you zoom in.

    overview maps and road guides to the northern quebec roads here. 389 not included.

    http://www.jamesbayroad.com/index.html

    know your range if on those roads, not much for fuel.
  12. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    thanks. i'm about to tear that bike down and start over. bike ran really well on those roads, but i have some other things i want to try.
  13. MTrider16

    MTrider16 Ridin' in MT

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    Okay, I'll quit whining and do some leg work myself. Here is what I could find in Google Maps.

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    I couldn't find the North Road on Google Maps.

    From your link, there is a map of Quebec that has all the roads you've been talking about.

    http://www.jamesbayroad.com/maps/carton_Le_Quebec_11M.pdf

    David
  14. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    from the intersection of the Baie-James/Chisasibi road, the Longue Pointe road starts at the dam which is about half way to Chisasibi. i didn't go into Chisasibi, preferring the bush road instead out to the coast of James Bay.

    the Rout du Nord intersects the Baie-James about 175 miles above Matagami and from that point runs generally southeast to the intersection with pavement above Chibougamau, about 250 miles.

    it doesn't look like all that much on an overview map, but there's some miles there, and some of those riding days are all gravel, or mostly gravel.
  15. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Ageing Enthusiast

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    Excuse my ignorance, but what is the bike - I can't recognise what make/model it is? Cheers from a curious Kiwi...:confused
  16. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    it's a kawasaki 650R, with some changes made. outside the States, it would be called an EX650, or ER6F.
  17. MTrider16

    MTrider16 Ridin' in MT

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    There's lots of miles on that map. Its just not an accurate map. It was a quick search of the towns in google to give an overview of the area you were talking about.

    David
  18. yellowknife

    yellowknife Is In Canada

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    This is what I came up with too. The detail is crappy, so I would suggest contacting Quebec Tourism and NL tourism for better maps. I feel this is a great trip for someone to do, with a major detour to Fogo and chain island, and then St Johns, NL a must do add on in NL and Havre Saint-Pierre looks interesting too.

    There are new (to me) detailed road map books in Nova Scotia with every little back road and nook and cranny on them. These would be available in other provinces too.

    Thanks again for the RR JD. You are providing valuable info for the many who will come behind you.

    Yellowknife
  19. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    i never did get a proper paper map for any roads in Quebec above Amos, the 109 and north. my paper "map" was the little overview map from the James Bay & Eeyou Istchee Tourist Region advertising handout that i got at the Baie-James gatehouse. i rode 1800 miles on that "map".

    I did get the official Labrador/Newfoundland map from that park ranger, but by that time i was obviously already in Newfoundland, so i had crossed Labrador with no paper map.

    it's hard to get lost when there's only one road.

    plenty to see and do in the maritimes that i didn't get to on this trip. i tried to ride around all cities, i'd rather see the countryside.

    glad you're enjoying the ride. hurricane coming over the horizon...
  20. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    Day 14: Friday 9/3/10-Burnt Cape, NL to Baie Verte, NL, 382 miles

    I got up at 5 eastern time, but it already 6:30 local, I still don'’t know about that extra 30 minute deal. The only comment I'’ve heard about it so far was “"Those bastards over in St. John’s did it”", but that wasn'’t an explanation of why. The day is clear this morning, the sky as blue as it gets, and will make a great start. When I strap the spare TKC on the back, I realize that I'’m sick of this stupid tire. One way or another I’'m getting’ rid of this thing today, I ain'’t carrying it around no mo even though the mounted rear has some miles left on it.


    I backtrack down 430 and find time to stop to look at some things I couldn'’t when I was northbound in the rain. The 430 points to at least two activities peculiar to this road. One is the unbelievable quantity of firewood that is cut and stacked along the road. It’s all spruce and cut free on Crown land, an economical way to heat if you don't count your time

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    The second is the highway garden, small plots along the road, usually fenced, and sometimes a good long ways from the nearest house. I'’m not sure why these small gardens are out there rather than next to the house, but they’re plentiful.
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    Traffic has started very light on this sunny day, but builds gradually as the morning progresses. The road passes through a series of small towns dotting the coast, the towns all having a connection to the water. Conspicuous in all of these towns are the new homes, some with designs straight from the pages of Stateside magazines, indicating money coming home from the Alberta oil and gas operations. I was never able to get a handle on how many Newfys moved west permanently, or are working out there and flying back and forth, but it must be a significant number.

    There are lobster pots stacked along the road, some guys are still around working the water. The land between the road and the water seems to be used as a general storage area for pots, firewood, and equipment.
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    Some old wooden skiffs have survived the transition to aluminum and fiberglass, but most were probably burned when they got in the way. You rarely find the graceful lines of these old boats in anything new. Back in the day, no waterman wanted to work out of an ugly boat, but now most are utilitarian designs so that issue is not as important.
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    Not all the small towns have fuel, so when I find an open station, i't’s time to stop. Three ADV bikes go by in a blur northbound and I don'’t get a good look at them, could be the Vermont boys, but missing one of the crew. Two older fellas are running the store, and we get a good run of stories going out at the pumps. One of the guys asks “"Do ya have another pair of boots on under those or are those your feet”?" Now hold on a minute here, what are these guys trying to tell me? “No boots, just feet and socks”, and they both start laughing, I guess they haven’'t seen size 14s lately. We move story hour into the store, drink a bunch of their coffee, and try to outdo each other in the lies department. It was two agin’ one, but I was holdin'’ my own. One of the old guys was a rider and complained that all the Harley riders around there would only give the low peace to other Harleys, except that some of those bikes were Jap look-alikes. Couldn’'t say, most everyone waves to me. Gotta go my friends, and I'’m southbound.

    This is a scenic bike road and follows the coast closely enough to see the water most of the time.

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    Some small lakes are east of the road if you get tired of looking at the ocean.
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    The ocean to the west is spectacular on this sunny day.

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    The topography becomes more rugged again the farther south I get and closer to Gros Morne National Park.
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    Fishing shacks are clustered on level ground with access, but some don'’t look like they’'re used much or at all anymore, too many men gone.

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    In the distance are huge headlands that must be landmarks for those at sea, but impressive by land also.
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    More fishing shacks and lobster pots as I move south…along with more traffic, and it’s getting less convenient to stop.
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    (To be continued…)