Waning of a northern summer: the Trans-Lab and beyond

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by markbvt, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    Or maybe I should have just called this thread "yet another Trans-Lab ride report." There've certainly been quite a few of them lately, and they've all been great... so I may as well throw my own onto the pile. As it unfolds, whenever possible.

    I'm starting this thread a few days early for one basic reason: the next couple nights I'm going to be madly getting the rest of my shit together. I suppose it's lucky that I didn't start a thread a long time ago as these plans started to come together (instead I just littered other people's Trans-Lab threads with my posts). Because this trip has been a long time coming.

    The seed was planted probably two years ago by my friend Henning, who spoke of this long-ass dirt road that went through the middle of nowhere some 700 miles to the Labrador coast. I started thinking about it more seriously last summer as I started reading other people's Trans-Lab ride reports. Also, I had such a great time on my two Canadian trips last summer (linked in my sig below) that the idea of a longer, more remote Canadian trip appealed to me.

    Planning for this trip began in earnest about nine months ago. Henning still wanted to do it, and now I did too. At some point I mentioned it to my friend James, a Brit who doesn't ride but upon moving to Vermont promptly let his redneck flag fly, bought a Jeep, lifted it, took great joy in shooting guns since he wasn't allowed to at home, etc. The idea of a long, remote road trip was as appealing to James as it was to Henning and me, and the Jeep would be a good vehicle for it. Never mind the convenience of being able to put most of our luggage in the Jeep instead of on our bikes.

    A short time later, I invited my friend/ADV inmate Questor along on the trip. And he in turn invited his girlfriend, MotoAdventureGal.

    Fast forward to July, with trip prep now thoroughly underway.

    Questor and MotoAdventureGal rode the TAT this summer, and somewhere along the way someone told them about the Continental Divide Trail. They made the eminently sensible decision that as long as they were going to be out west anyway, they should seize the opportunity to ride the CDT. I would have done the same thing. So anyway, our group of 5 was reduced back to 3.

    A week or two later, Henning received word from his boss that his vacation request had been denied. He was pissed, but there was nothing he could do about it.

    So it was down to just James and me. But in short order Dan (vtbeemer) caught wind of the trip and signed on with us... and soon thereafter, Keith (keithmckenney) did the same.

    And so our group of five that got depleted to two was now up to four again, and so it remains now with three days to go before we leave.

    If the trip is as eventful as the planning was, it ought to be quite an adventure. :rofl

    --mark
    #1
  2. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    Now then... Enough lengthy history of a trip that hasn't even kicked off yet!

    Fresh tires are on the bike...
    [​IMG]

    Skidplate is installed...
    [​IMG]

    Lasercustoms' nifty case guard is in place...
    [​IMG]

    Clarke 4.7-gallon tank and Renazco seat are installed...
    [​IMG]

    Rear rack is installed...
    [​IMG]

    ...which necessitates moving the tool bag...
    [​IMG]

    Heated grips will keep my hands comfy in the cool Labrador temps, and the switch tucked out of the way very nicely...
    [​IMG]

    Accessory power socket fit perfectly on the other side...
    [​IMG]

    And here's the XRL, ready and willing.
    [​IMG]

    The next couple evenings I'll be busily packing. James and Keith are meeting me at my house at 6am on Friday, and we're meeting Dan in Derby, VT, just shy of the Canadian border, at about 9.

    I can't wait to get this show on the road so I can finally stop driving myself (and presumably James, Dan, and Keith) crazy with all my planning and obsessing. I can't help it, I'm full-blooded German, and the planning/logistics gene kicks into overdrive whenever the opportunity presents itself. Thank god there are no small countries nearby to invade.

    --mark
    #2
  3. XS500RUS

    XS500RUS Been here awhile

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    Looking forward to reading this! :lurk
    #3
  4. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    For some time now I've been playing around with Garmin's Road Trip software to work out a potential route for this trip. Here's what I ended up with.
    [​IMG]

    That's not to say that we have to stick to it, but I wanted to inform myself and get a feel for where we might want to go and how much time it might take. Also, since we've got the Jeep coming with us, we don't have the luxury of being able to squeeze a few bikes into whatever space is available on a ferry, so we've had to make reservations for the major ferries. Unfortunately this limits our flexibility a bit, but such is life. Small price to pay, in my opinion -- I'm glad to have James along on this trip, first because he's my friend, and second because having a support vehicle for the bikes is going to be fantastically convenient.

    Also, this map is Mark-centric as it begins and ends at my house in Burlington. Dan lives in Quechee, VT, and Keith in Rockville, MD. (Keith's trip actually begins today as he sets off to Connecticut to visit family, then tomorrow he'll be heading up to Vermont.)

    I guess I'll talk a little about preparation, in case anyone cares. I debated for quite a while whether to ride my XR650L on this trip or my V-Strom 650. I decided that the conditions on the Trans-Lab were enough of an unknown quantity that the XRL makes more sense. It's an easy bike to ride on dirt/gravel roads, even very loose ones. The Strom is much more of a handful, not being as well-suspended, not to mention a good 150lbs heavier. And I want to be able to enjoy the scenery on the Trans-Lab, not spend all 700 miles of dirt focusing solely on the road ahead. The Strom would be more fun once we get back to pavement in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, but the XRL is no slouch in the twisties either.

    Dan, Keith, and I were all considering bringing spare tires on the trip (since we have the luxury of being able to put them in the Jeep), especially after reading Sakurama's RR in which he had to install nine plugs in his rear tire in a 150-mile stretch. But I think we've come to the conclusion that bringing a few pairs of spare tubes should be sufficient.

    I'm bringing a small assortment of spare parts for the XRL, plus a good selection of tools should roadside repairs be necessary to any of the bikes or even the Jeep.

    More later...

    --mark
    #4
  5. matts1050

    matts1050 WAs a Tiger Rider

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    Hey Mark, good luck. Looking foward to your posting. Bring dust masks as the other group who are riding the Trans Lab now say it's pretty dusty on the gravel roads!
    #5
  6. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

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    Always happy to read another Trans-Lab report - it keeps the memories of my own TLH ride earlier this summer all the more fresh. Have a great ride!
    #6
  7. MotoAdventureGal

    MotoAdventureGal Motorcycle Vagabond

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    Gearing up to ride...
    Even though Questor and I are in God's country here at Mesa Verde (CO) we're envious of your trip...and wishing you the very best and sorry we invited ourselves, then uninvited ourselves...

    Happy trails! (Don't let the bugs carry you away!)

    M&Q
    #7
  8. Nice_Rumble

    Nice_Rumble Long timer

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    Another local rider does the TLH, cool.
    #8
  9. VTbeemer

    VTbeemer Traveler

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    Hi everyone,

    This is Dan one of the fearless fouresome on this most excellent adventure. Keith is on his way to staying at my home tonite so we can get an early start tomorrow to meet up with Mark and James at the VT Canada border.

    Not to start too early with the drama, but my F650gs developed a ABS error condition and the speedometer suddenly crapped out. After sorting through it the last two days the requisite parts are on their way here via overnite courrier. It is not my policy to wrench on a bike the day BEFORE a big trip but I am glad I found it here in the warmth of my garage than on the Trans-Lab Hghway. [​IMG]

    Turns out an axle bushing went missing and this shifted the ABS ring over to grind on the sensor. So the diagnosis was apparent when the rear wheel was removed. So with hours to departure it looked like this.[​IMG]
    Stay tuned...

    Many thanks to Mark B. for organizing and planning the routing on this trip, and thanks in advance to James for tagging along with his jeep. This will be an uncommon luxury to have the jeep along to help the Sherpa duties.:thumb
    #9
  10. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    Well kids, in about ten hours James will be showing up, we'll be loading up the Jeep, and off we'll go.

    I can't freaking wait.

    I'll post an update when I can.

    --mark
    #10
  11. VO1MX

    VO1MX Been here awhile

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    Looking at your route and I see you will be very close to us here in Gander. If you get a chance drop by for a quick visit or need anything while in the central Newfoundland region drop me a pm.

    The Targa Newfoundland event will be going through our region on Sept 15th and is a must see if you are here.

    www.targanewfoundland.com
    #11
  12. bikerjarrel

    bikerjarrel AutumnRider

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    Very excited for this crew. I'll be staying tuned for sure. Saying good luck, is bad luck, so just enjoy the ride.
    #12
  13. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    are we there yet? :D

    :lurk
    #13
  14. VTbeemer

    VTbeemer Traveler

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    People's Republic of Vermont
    So with Keth sheparding the part here I got it in with hours to spare. After a quick test ride we are good to go. Here we are packing up and waiting to get going.[​IMG]
    #14
  15. Nice_Rumble

    Nice_Rumble Long timer

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    I assume the Street Fighter is staying in the garage?
    #15
  16. matts1050

    matts1050 WAs a Tiger Rider

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    Newtown, CT
    So, WTF Mark-where are ya?
    #16
  17. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    Sorry for the lack of updates, everyone. No Internet access till now.

    We just pulled into Churchill Falls and are about to have breakfast. No major issues on the way here, aside from one of Dan's panniers falling off (it's in the jeep now) and Keith denting his front rim on a big pothole yesterday. It wouldn't hold air anymore, so we installed a tube and all's well.

    I'm planning a big RR update tomorrow from the ferry. I'm typing this on my iPhone, which is a pain.

    Until then...

    --mark
    #17
  18. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    Here's a minor preview: James (left) and Dan Skyping on the free wifi in the Churchill Falls restaurant.
    [​IMG]

    And here's the view from the restaurant window.
    [​IMG]

    --mark
    #18
  19. alcontrast

    alcontrast at least I'm trying

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    hey Mark
    I just sent you a pm last night. In Newfoundland you should definitely check out some of the Trailway that runs parallel to Route 1 most of the way. Essentially old railbed that was turned into an ATV route. the whole corridor is a provincial park so it's no deadends or missing bridges and you can jump back on route 1 very often if you want to get back on the pavement.

    Also there is a nice ride from Badger Newfoundland to the south west (route 370) that goes north of Red Indian Lake and eventually meets up with the Bourgeo Highway (route 480) that connects to Route 1 on the west coast of NF. there's something like 60+ miles of gravel road there that is just a little rougher than the TLH (more washouts, washboard surface, etc) but was a great ride.

    [​IMG]

    looks like that.. The only tricky part is when you turn off route 370. It's a left turn about 5-6km before Buchans where there is a sign for some Adventure Camp.. Then take your first right turn. There are a few other intersections in the dirt area but they are either signed or just stay on the road that looks like the more traveled route.
    #19
  20. MZcountryboy

    MZcountryboy Long timer

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    :lurk
    #20