newbie question about Trans Labrador highway

Discussion in 'Americas' started by TorontoDude, Dec 15, 2011.

  1. TorontoDude

    TorontoDude Been here awhile

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    Hello,

    I've gone over many trip reports, gone over the TLH website. I'm planning on doing the trip solo in 2013 (on a 08' Vee) starting in Baie Comeau and riding to Blanc Sablon.

    I cant seem to find which parts (starting in Baie Comeau, Quebec) are paved and which sections are dirt ?

    can anyone confirm?
    #1
  2. willys

    willys Long timer

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    Up to Manic 5, through Ganyon(?) IIRC a bit in Lab city, Churchill Falls, Goosebay, dock at Lablanc Station.
    The rest is anything from hard packed gravel to 6" of deep soft sandy gravel, almost unrideable....the section just before Lab City was the worst for me where it crosses the train tracks many many times.

    Great adventure all the same, will go back to do it both directions and not drop into NFLD.:freaky
    #2
  3. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Hey, don't wait until 2013! Do it this coming year. Why postpone? It is a fantastic trip that will leave you with a great sense of accomplishment.

    TLH site is a bit out of date. Willys described the situation pretty well: TLH is basically all gravel, except for the Baie-Comeau/Manic 5 stretch. Just to make sure you understand: the road is not dirt. It is a proper, well maintained gravel highway - which can still be quite treacherous, depending on weather, season and on when the grader went through. Picture below shows typical surface.

    The new section (Goose Bay to Cartwright) is completed and allows a contiguous run all the way across Labrador.

    I suggest making a loop through Newfoundland - to each his own, of course, but I find it more interesting than a out-and-back run.

    I also suggest hanging out on the Canadian subforum http://www.advrider.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=30, where the locals will offer you up-to-date information.

    Good luck, I wish you a great ride.

    [​IMG]
    #3
  4. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Truffle

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    Every year there will be more pavement (and traffic), so do it sooner rather than later if you can.

    The sand West of Lab City is like sugar and deep, and the road appears to have been engineered by a drunk dozer operator. The gravel East of Churchill Falls can be like marbles on glass (I'm not kidding) and absolutely treacherous. And, of course, often there will be a berm somewhere meandering across lanes, six inches tall and invisible at speed against the low-contrast gravel. Plenty of real eye-openers just waiting to wrap you and your bike into a ball if you're not on your toes (figuratively and literally) and anticipating surprises.. Or it's entirely possible that your timing will be such that it's the perfect long stretch of gravel and you'll be left wondering what was the big deal...

    I can't wait to ride it again.

    John
    #4
  5. CanadianX

    CanadianX Oh!? That is deep.

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    The section Willys is talking about is around Fire Lake, sand and gravel mix that will force you to slow down unless you feel the need for a nap. The final section of gravel coming into Red Bay was a bit tricky too although this may have had to do with the hard side winds blowing us all over the place. My wife and I went 2up solo but linked up with a group in Lab City and rode with them for the rest of the trip. In that group there were two crashes and one tip over on the soft shoulder. Shoulder of the road is another sketchy area to watch for. Big rigs are generally pretty polite and slow down but you're going to eat some dust all the same. A few of the smaller trucks where problems as they thought they were rally drivers. I have some pics of one on its roof in the ditch and a couple of us were almost taken out by another. If you get a chance to stop and chat with the grader drivers ask to take it for a spin, good fun. Much of the trip is about the road until you get into built up areas of which there are few. Take the dam tours at Manic 5 and Churchill Falls, when are you going to be there again? Interesting and impressive. It isn't a overly hard ride it just requires attention at all times because the gravel changes so frequently and nice clear hard pack become hard pack with marbles, then marbles and sand and then deep gravel. If you've ridden in loose stuff before then you'll know to keep on the gas and find that happy speed for your bike. Any tire choice will do but something with some off road tread will do better K60 or TKCs particularly if you run into rainy weather on the gravel. As a note to reinforce paying attention several riders were hurt on the Trans Lab this year, one killed. Not a deterrent as it isn't that bad, just keep a focus and stop frequently - oh and bring a bug net for those stops or stop in a very windy area, the bugs can get a little thick depending on when you go.
    #5
  6. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Hi, John, I have been away from the forum for several months - it's good to see that you are still hanging out here.

    My experience on the TLH was not too bad (maybe I got lucky), but your notes are worth considering. After all, picture below is of Dusty, who had a bit of trouble in the gravel and whom you helped out in Churchill Falls.

    [​IMG]
    #6
  7. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    This is spot-on! Labrador and Quebec gravel roads I rode so far were usually quite decent, but the shoulders were very tricky - ready to grab a wheel and toss the bike (see picture above).

    And I have to agree with your comments on other road users. The truck drivers are real gentlemen (/ladies?). Passenger cars, on the other hand, are frequently driven by inconsiderate nincompoops.
    #7
  8. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Truffle

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    How can one take a break from advrider? It's like crack for the pleasure centers of my motorcycling brain! :lol3 :deal

    When I rode it, if it was a pickup towing quads, expect to be run off the road. Everyone else (except for that one Chrysler New Yorker that was drifting a turn coming my direction) was exceptionally polite. The guys towing quads were all assholes, every one of them, sadly.

    John
    #8
  9. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    The conditions on the TLH are always changing rapidly.

    Rt 389 is paved from Baie-Comeau to Manic 5. There it turns to dirt/gravel (except one short section of pavement) up to Gagnon, where it turns back to pavement. That paved section lasts until Fire Lake -- 50 miles or so? 60? Don't remember the figure just now, but it's in that neighborhood.

    From Fire Lake to Fermont you're on a sand/gravel section known as the Mini Trail to locals. It's twisty and crosses the train tracks many times. It can be very treacherous, so be careful.

    At Fermont, the road turns back to pavement, and at the Labrador border it turns from Quebec Rt 389 to Newfoundland/Labrador Rt 500. It remains paved all the way through Labrador City to Wabush, and last time I was there (9/2010) they had just paved about 50 miles of Rt 500 east from Lab City. I would imagine that's been doubled by now.

    From the pavement's end to Churchill Falls is gravel, then a short section at Churchill Falls is paved before turning back to gravel.

    Last time I was there, we reached pavement again maybe 50 miles or so before Happy Valley-Goose Bay, then another fairly short gravel section, then pavement into HV-GB.

    Paving the entire Phase 1 section of the TLH (the section from Lab City to HV-GB) is a major project right now, due for completion in the next few years. I rode the TLH in 9/2009 and again in 9/2010 and was amazed how much progress they'd made in one year (the first year of the project). I would guess that by now another 100 miles or so have probably been paved, and I wouldn't be surprised if by the end of 2012 there are only a few relatively short gravel sections remaining.

    It should be noted, though, that part of the work that's going into paving Phase 1 is regrading the road bed in preparation for paving. What this means is that the sections that are still gravel are often considerably more difficult than they have been in the past, with lots of deep loose gravel with few or no vehicle tracks to follow.

    The new Phase 3 section of the TLH (HV-GB to Cartwright Junction) is unpaved. Expect conditions to vary from scraped-off hardpack that's as easy to ride as pavement to more of that deep, loose, trackless gravel. And Phase 2 between Cartwright and Red Bay is unpaved as well, with equally variable conditions, plus throw in a few sections with potholes so big you'd think the road had been shelled by artillery. In Red Bay the road goes back to pavement, and stays that way all the way to Blanc Sablon.

    I've heard rumors that the ultimate plan is to pave the Phase 2 and 3 sections as well, but god knows when they'll get around to it. For now, paving is limited to Phase 1. Also, it's an initiative of the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador, so has no effect on Rt 389 in Quebec. In other words, the entire Trans-Lab could end up paved, but the road from Manic 5 to Fermont could still be sketchy gravel. If that happens, I expect we'll be hearing about a lot of crashes on the Mini-Trail section, people on road touring bikes with street tires who think the whole thing's paved, or that they only have a little easy dirt road to deal with, and getting in over their heads. Of course, if the entire Trans-Lab does get paved, it'll put pressure on the government of Quebec to pave Rt 389 in order to open up the Trans-Quebec-Labrador road as an easy trucking corridor for getting goods to/from Newfoundland without dealing with the long ferry ride.

    It'll be interesting to watch what happens. But in the meantime, go ride the Trans-Lab as soon as you can to experience it before all that happens.

    Edit: some pics from my trips. This is from the 2009 one; conditions at the time were excellent, with lots of exposed hardpack making for easy riding.
    [​IMG]

    In 2010 conditions were looser. This is just before Fermont.
    [​IMG]

    And this is somewhere between Churchill Falls and HV-GB. Those kinds of conditions, with few or no real tracks in the gravel, were the most common conditions we encountered on that trip. Made for a pretty tense experience on the Wee-Strom, which just didn't respond well to the loose stuff.
    [​IMG]

    --mark
    #9
  10. kelsow

    kelsow Long timer

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    I can't add much to what others have said. I can however add my ride report http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=712319

    In all my years of riding, this was the best trip so far.
    I did it too fast so take your time and do some side routes if you can.
    I completely forgot about a side trip to Esker.
    I rode from St Anthony, NL to Matane QC in 3 days so it was over before I knew it.
    #10
  11. TorontoDude

    TorontoDude Been here awhile

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    thanks for all your feeback. I'm shooting for 2013 for a few reasons. Bike is still new to me, so Im doing La Route du Nord first (2012). I also need some mods on the bike, and some replacement gear. Id also like to be 100% sure I can fix tires and minor problems when on the road, still learning.
    #11
  12. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    North Road is fun, too! It really is like a shorter version of the Trans-Lab.
    Actually, I found its surface to be better than TLH, when dry: more hardpack. That of course, is never a constant; it can vary wildly, depending on season and on maintenance.

    Unfortunately, when wet, all that clay hardpack changes to awful slippery snot - much less fun, at least for my skill level.

    Nevertheless, it's well worth trying, because you can always extricate yourself if in trouble; after all, it is only 400km and fairly well traveled. Below is a typical surface I encountered last year.

    [​IMG]

    One has to watch a bit over blind turns - you do not want to argue with "Camion Tres Large" appearing behind a crest. Still, as always, truck drivers are very considerate.

    [​IMG]

    To whet your appetite: camping near Lake Boisrobert, close to western terminus of Route du Nord.
    Enjoy!

    [​IMG]
    #12
  13. willys

    willys Long timer

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    Love that last pic!!!!

    Great desktop material and inspirational for the cold winter months!!!:freaky
    #13
  14. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Thanks for the compliment.
    You know, I did not think about it that way, but you are right: desktop material. Will load it on my workplace machine tomorrow! :D
    #14
  15. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    The shoulders of the Translab and the Quebec section of the loop are not really the problem. Just learn to stay away from them by keeping the speed down and sticking to the travelled tracks.The KLR in rdwalkers post seems to have been loaded a tad too heavily especially with that chair dangling out the back. Is ther a kitcchen sink somwhere in the bundle..?The weight way out there does not make for precise steering and would make for some excitemnt if one hit the loose stuff

    If you slow down you also get a better chance to enjoy the details and sample the blueberries.

    WHOOOA>
    I dooo not know what I did but indeed I did it WRONG
    Somehow got a picture of blueberries way too big! so I deleted it and will try again later to slide it in here. When I put it in the post it looked normal size though. I just don't get it . Don't want to hog a lot of space. Sorreeee.
    #15
  16. willys

    willys Long timer

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    HOLY BIG pic batman!

    No bear pics, gald they didn't come into the shot at that size....lol

    I agree, the shoulders are soft and something to steer clear of for sure! I didn't think it was possible to overload a KLR.....lol:lol3 I take so much stuff I pull a single wheeled trailer too sometimes.....lol
    #16
  17. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Truffle

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    He was probably a little back-heavy, but not much. More bulk than weight. He's a camper, so all of his gear was really light hiking stuff. His fatal flaws were running stock tires and slowing down when he hit a squirrelly patch of deep gravel. I about lost it at that same spot later that afternoon, but twisted the throttle and things straightened up considerably. Part of it may have been knowing that it was a bad spot, so I was a little tense..

    John
    #17
  18. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    [​IMG] This size is not exactly what I had aimed for ,but it is a start:hmmmmm
    [​IMG] Try#2 does this make a picture...?Lets see...(submit)) YAAAAYY!!! The blueberries are delicious .

    [​IMG] Since the previous one went well ,here goes another attempt .Yesssss! =) This is a picture of the reindeer moss you will see on the ground in large sections of Labrador bush.
    But you have to just go slow and stop when you see some and then go for a long quiet walk off the road to let the quiet settle in.

    [​IMG] This is a picture on the Quebec section of the road south from the Labrador border to Gagnon .It is now a wide well built gravel road with lots of curves and some steep grades and it crosses the rairoad several times. But it is much,
    much less of a chellenge than 18 years ago when a great deal of this road was actually still just on the service frontage along the base of the railroad embankment.
    Notice, I stayed off the loose shoulder to park.
    [​IMG]

    This is the Relai on the highwauy south of Ggnon
    Gas up here always. And they have a good restaurant and comfy rooms upstairs .
    Now, all I need to do is remember how I got these pics here today!.... and hope the next time I check this post they haven't ballooned .
    #18
  19. 568V8

    568V8 Ontario Vstrommer

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    In the summer of 2011 we toured completely around the Gulf, but avoided the Trans Lab highway to be able to follow the coastline.
    If and when you survive the gravel get your tired arse to the UNESCO site at Red Bay and plan at least 3 hours time in the museum.

    http://s307.beta.photobucket.com/user/windtogo/library/Gulf of St Lawrence

    Space is very limited so book passage asap aboard The Relais Nordik, the supply ship from Blanc Sablon westbound. Great food. Stop and get off each time it stops in a remote village for a short hike.
    #19