Taking the long way home - A scooter across Labrador

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by nick949eldo, Oct 11, 2018.

  1. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    Is this epic? I don’t know. Is it even ADV?

    Yes folks, it’s yet another darn Trans-Lab report. This time though, the Trans-Lab wasn’t the objective – I’d done that bit back in 2010 on my 1972 Guzzi Eldorado - it was just a slightly longish way to get home on my scooter. Unsuitable vehicle to the task in hand? Read on…..



    A fourteen year old scooter may not seem the logical first choice for a bike to ride across Labrador, especially since I had far more suitable bikes in my garage, so a little explanation is in order.

    After more than a hundred bikes and many hundreds of thousands of road miles, my friend Norm had started riding a Suzuki Burgman 650, finding it answered all his needs. With plenty of speed and comfort and almost endless storage space, it, or one like it – he still swapped bikes like underwear – found a permanent place in his garage. Despite numerous offers, I’d spent ages ducking his suggestion that I try his scooter. Even though I’d had scooters in the distant past, like many motorcyclists I had a negative attitude to what I thought of as small wheeled, underpowered, commuter vehicles for the elderly, fit for trolling along in the slow-lane, and not much more. Then I broke down and rode it. What a revelation. It was fast, it was comfortable, it had great brakes, the engine was turbine quiet and electric motor smooth, and although the handling took a little getting used to, it could be hustled around corners quickly.

    Burgman being delivered
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    Chris has ridden on the back of most of my bikes and is a confident and skilled passenger, but we have always found the accommodations cramped; fine for a short ride out, but not suitable for long distance rides. As her knees have gradually deteriorated, getting across the seat and into position was getting increasingly difficult. Norm suggested we give the Burgman a try. By sliding a leg through the low step-over in front of the driver’s seat, Chris was able to slide on to the front seat, then ease back on to the passenger seat with relative ease. Once there she found the high rear seat allowed her to see more of the road. She’d never liked looking at the back of my head.

    To cut a long story a bit shorter, after a few local rides we found the Burgman to be a wonderful two-up bike. The broad plush seats are comfortable, the bike has more than enough power even when heavily loaded, and best of all, we have acres of space. I can barely even feel she’s on the back. It was time for an adventure.

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    TO NEWFOUNDLAND

    The previous year we’d driven by car to Newfoundland and spent time exploring Gros Morne and the western side of the island, and loved it. When you look at a map, Newfoundland doesn’t seem very big. It’s just an off-shore island stuck out there in the Atlantic. Unless you study the map scale, you get little idea of just how huge it is. We had intended to explore the west coast then zoom over to the east to romp around there, but we quickly changed plans once we’d experienced the scale of things, promising ourselves that we would return again.

    This time we opted to take the scooter. We thought it would be the ideal vehicle for scooting around to the enormous list of outports, early settlements and museums that Chris had identified as ‘must see’ places. I like long distance rides and will happily sit on a bike for ten or twelve hours a day, only stopping for fuel and the occasional bite to eat. Oddly, Chris doesn’t see the fun in this: she chose to fly and spend a few days exploring St. John’s while I rode the bike (notice I’ve stopped referring to it as a scooter).

    It’s a long haul from near Kingston, Ontario to St. John’s Newfoundland. Over the previous weeks I’d packed and unpacked numerous times, getting the organization of things just right. The tent, one sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, tool roll, tyre repair goo, and sundry other things filled the cavernous space beneath the seats. Our clothes and the second sleeping bag filled the Nelson Rigg soft panniers I’d slung over the rear, while Chris’s helmet and riding gear filled the top-box. She only took hand luggage on the plane with the rest of her stuff on the bike.


    DAY 1: Inverary Ont. to Fredericton NB. (1122 kms (697 miles))

    “You take that thing on the highway?” I heard questions like that or observed expressions which suggested the same thing many times over the following few weeks. The answer, of course, was a categorical “you bet!” Leaving home at shortly after 5AM, I headed straight for Ontario Highway 401, heading west towards Montreal. The Burgman transmission is super-slick. As you pull on to the on-ramp and open the throttle, the revs rise and the bike charges up to highway speed in a flash. No really – it does! I had rented a V-Strom 650 in the UK earlier in the year and I found the Burgman to be every bit as fast and possibly a little faster, as no time is wasted changing gears.

    I soon settled in at ambient traffic speed. This equated to between 120 and 130kph (74-80mph), at which speed the Burgman’s engine was humming nicely at about 4500 rpm – far below the 8500rpm red line. There were numerous large trucks on the road at that hour, generally governed to around 110 kph, so I passed many. I got a perverse pleasure from seeing the surprise on many drivers faces as they realised they were being overtaken by a scooter.

    Beyond the Quebec border I crossed the St. Lawrence River at Salaberry-du-Valleyfield, skirted Montreal then headed along Quebec Highways 30 and 20. These are long boring highways with little to commend them other than being quick ways to move through the countryside. Instead of following 20 all the way to Riviere-do-Loup, I took a scenic detour along Highway 289 which parallels the international border, rejoining the Trans-Canada Highway at Edmunston, New Brunswick. It’s a testament to the comfort and relaxation of riding the Burgman that although I’d already ridden 849kms (527 miles) by that point, another 273kms (169 miles) to Fredericton seemed like nothing much at all. I checked in to a motel and slept well.

    Along Highway 289 - a nice alternative to the Trans-Canada
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    DAY 2: Fredericton NB to North Sydney NS. (638kms (396 miles)

    I had completely overestimated the time it would take me to get from Fredericton to the ferry dock at North Sydney Nova Scotia, so I arrived with far too many hours to kill. I was so early, in fact, that I couldn’t even park the bike in the ferry parking area. My boat didn’t leave until 11.45PM and the earliest I could put the bike in the line-up was 6PM. It didn’t take long to exhaust the attractions of North Sydney. Once I’d filled the bike and taken a couple of strolls around the town there was little else to do but pull out a sleeping pad and lie down for a snooze by the bike.

    Eventually hunger got the better of me so I drifted over to Tim Horton’s for a bowl of chilly, meeting a couple of local riders in the parking lot, who pointed me to a short, scenic loop which would help kill some time.

    By the time I got back, I was able to get inside the ferry dock gate and spent the remaining dreary hours hanging around the ferry terminal, being studiously ignored by the ‘real’ riders on their decked-out Harleys.


    DAY 3: Ferry to Port aux Basque, Port aux Basque to St. John’s (7hrs ferry + 904 kms(561 miles)

    In the belly of the beast, the deck hands pointed to straps hanging along the side of the vessel and left me to it. Despite its bodywork the Burgman was not as difficult to strap down as I anticipated. It has some substantial hand rails and these became my main points from which to strap to the divots in the deck. I added a second set of straps to the lower fork legs. These were more marginal, but at least kept the bike from shifting if the seas got rough (they didn’t). Still no eye contact or conversation from real motorcyclists.

    In the belly of the beast
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    I’ve taken this ferry before and usually any attempt to sleep is interrupted by people talking with no concern for the well-being of those around them. This time it was different. Many people almost immediately eschewed the lounge chairs, opting to sleep on the floor. I did too. I’d brought a sleeping bag and my ear plugs up from the vehicle deck, and while I can’t say the passage was entirely restful, I did manage to get a little sleep.

    The various two-wheelers on board were some of the last to disembark, trailing a lengthy parade of vehicles all heading in the same direction along the Trans-Canada Highway. As soon as I could I pulled off, partly to give the line of traffic a chance to sort itself out, and partly to put on my rain pants and jacket as the morning air was chilly and damp.

    Crossing Newfoundland is a lengthy trip. Mine was punctuated by the need to stop every 250 kilometres (155 miles) to fill up with fuel. The Burgman only has a 15 litre (3.3 Imp. Gals, 3.9 US Gals.) tank and by 200 kilometres the dash light would be starting to nag me insistently. Usually I was able to combine pee or food stops with refueling, but on longish rides, the need to fill up occurred with irritating frequency.

    It was well towards evening when I hit the outskirts of St. John’s, dialed Memorial University into my phone for directions and worked my way through town to the residences where Chris was staying.
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  2. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    DAY 4 to DAY 15: NEWFOUNDLAND

    This report is about riding the scooter across Labrador - I’ll get there eventually if you just hang in there - so I don’t intend to bore you with a day-by-day account of our holiday together. Suffice it to say that other than the first day, when we visited Signal Hill and Cape Spear and it rained hard all day, we had a wonderful time and the weather was acceptable. The Burgman was an absolute delight to travel on. It proved easy for Chris to get on and off, was comfortable and easy to manage, and provided us with that sense of ‘being in the landscape’ that you simply don’t get when you travel by car.

    We worked our way around the Irish Loop, explored the Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas, visited historic sites, watched endless seabirds, wandered around scenic villages, chatted to locals and generally had an exceptionally good time. If anyone is thinking that they might enjoy a visit to Newfoundland, don’t hesitate. It really is wonderful.

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    Before we were sated, it was time for Chris to fly home again and for me to make the long ride back.

    DAY 16: St. John’s to Plum Point

    Chris’s flight was scheduled for late afternoon, but she’s a big girl, perfectly capable of looking after herself, so I left early in the morning for the other side of the province. Long before we had started the trip I had been pondering the idea of taking the long way home through Labrador. It would add a few more days, and of course, I would be riding what some would view as a totally unsuitable vehicle, but that made it all-the-more intriguing. I wouldn’t be the first to ride a scooter on the Trans-Labrador Highway but it would be interesting to see how it (and I) fared.

    Day 16 was wet. That’s a bit of an understatement. Virtually the whole time I was riding – all 914kms (568 miles)- was through heavy rain, rain, road spray, and during the more pleasant bits, drizzle. Despite being well protected by many layers, by the time I got to the motel in Plum Point, just a short hop south of the ferry to Labrador, I was cold and wet to the skin. I’ve yet to find any combination of rain gear that can withstand that persistent and unrelenting soaking. Perhaps some of the new, high tech rain suits are impenetrable, but I doubt it, and anyway neither my budget nor sense of aesthetics lend themselves to the full Power-Ranger get-up.

    After a change of clothes and a shower (not necessarily in that order), I wandered down to the bar for some food and a couple of beers, falling into conversation with the only other guy in the cavernous room. I learned a lot about fishing the Straits of Belle Isle that night, most of which has now vapourized.

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  3. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    DAY 17: Ferry: St. Barbe to Blanc Sablon + Blanc Sablon to Happy Valley (619kms (385 miles)

    I was at the ferry dock ridiculously early, having left my room shortly before 5AM to ride the few remaining kilometres from the Plum Point motel. I hadn’t booked my passage in advance, so I wanted to be at the head of the line for a place on the 25% of the space they don’t book. You never can tell how many people are going to be wanting to cross, and I was eager to make sure I got on the first boat. I needn’t have worried. Only a handful of people turned up without prior booking and there was plenty of space available.

    Once I had my ticket, I moved the bike down to the loading area and, while I sat enjoying the morning air, a fellow from North Dakota ambled over to chat. Once we’d dispensed with the ‘did you ride that all the way from Ontario’ conversation (he’d noticed the Ontario plate), and I explained that it really wasn’t the little scooter he was imagining, we got along fine. He and his wife had been travelling in a medium-sized RV, towing his wife’s spotless new Audi. ‘Her baby’ as he described it. They had left the RV in Newfoundland and brought the Audi on to the ferry to explore the Labrador coast.

    I told him that as far as I could remember, paved road extended from Blanc Sablon to Red Bay. Beyond that the road was being paved at an alarming rate, and he could anticipate some gravel sections and roadworks anywhere beyond Red Bay.

    The ferry takes about an hour and forty-five minutes. The crew have unloading down to a fine art and I was soon riding past the hoards of cars, trucks and bikes waiting to board. I must admit to chuckling quietly to myself when I saw a small group of ADV bikes, decked out with extra sets of tyres and God knows what else. I didn’t notice whether they looked my way – probably not.

    Almost as soon as I turned on to the main road up the coast, the road turned to mush. Where there had been rough but serviceable pavement was now a horrid mess of chewed up asphalt, gravel and grooves, all turned to a nasty slurry by the recent rains. As I rode along letting the Burgman’s front wheel find its own skittery path, the wet gravel dust spraying over the bike, I thought about the lady’s poor Audi. I’m guessing they didn’t get very far in Labrador. Fortunately, the road works were patchy, separated by long paved segments. Not that I really cared. Chris and I had already experienced our share of potholed gravel roads in Newfoundland, and even two-up the Burgman had acquitted itself admirably. I had no real anxieties about the long sections of unpaved road which I knew awaited me.

    When I’d ridden the Trans-Lab in 2010, the stretch from Red Bay to Port Hope-Simpson had been a narrow, rough, red-gravel road clustered with potholes. It had actually been one of my favourite stretches of the whole route. It felt wild, remote, challenging and perhaps a little dangerous. Now, almost perfect pavement wound its way across the landscape, dramatically reducing the effect. Such was the perfection of the asphalt that there was a real temptation to speed. However, with no trees to slow it, the wind whipped across the tuckamore in erratic gusts, convincing me that maintaining a moderate speed was in my best interests. Its still a nice road to ride, but much of that sense of adventure has been lost – at least for me.

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    At Port Hope-Simpson the road turns inland away from the Labrador coast. Virtually the whole stretch between Port H-S and the junction with the Cartwright Road (516) was under construction. At the time I was riding it most parts had a broad gravel bed – the final stage of road preparation before paving. This was all very well, but it made a truly horrible surface for riding. The top inch of gravel was loose over a firm bed. I kept my speed down and concentrated on letting the scooter slither around wherever it wanted to go, only giving it a little throttle when things really started to get interesting. When road conditions are like this, you just have to focus on staying relaxed and upright. As soon as you start to clench up, that’s when trouble arrives.

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    By good fortune no trouble appeared and beyond the Cartwright turn-off the road reverted to being a normal northern Canada dirt and gravel road with hard-packed sections, some loose bits and plenty of potholes. Riding slowly on the loose gravel had eaten up plenty of time, so I plugged along, only stopping infrequently to take the occasional picture, relieve myself or add some fuel to the bike from my spare can. The section between gas stations is 410 kilometres (254 miles) so the extra 15 litres of fuel I was carrying gave me plenty of breathing room.

    By the time I hit the tarmac again, about 90 kilometres south of Happy Valley / Goose Bay it was well into evening and starting to cool down. And by the time I got to the bridge across the Churchill River, I was both tired and cold.

    Everyone who rides this route comments on the bridge. Whoever designed and welded the bridge base must have had a death wish for motorcyclists. Riding across on my old Guzzi was bad enough. The metal grid would grab the tyres and jerk you around. On the scooter, with its smaller wheels, it was diabolical. The bike would be wrenched from side to side in a most disconcerting and unpredictable way. It felt as though the bike was being thrown feet in either direction. In reality it was probably just inches, but it was very unsettling.

    Eventually I made it in to Happy Valley, found the only available room – a luxury suite at an eye-watering price. I was too tired to argue and not interested in looking to see if there was anything else available, so I just bit the bullet and settled in for the night. I was too late and too tired to even find a beer.

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  4. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    DAY 18: Happy Valley to Manic-Cinq (900 kms (559 miles)

    Even though my luxury suite came with the promise of a breakfast buffet, I couldn’t be bothered to wait until they opened and headed up the road to Tim’s. I’d broken one of my cardinal road rules – always fill up with fuel the night before – and was now stuck until one of the towns gas stations opened. As I sat over a coffee and doughnut I chatted with some of the other patrons, answering the usual queries about the scooter. It is always interesting seeing the looks of disbelief when I tell people that I’ve seen over 160 kph on the speedo and that it will cruise all day at 120. Eventually I asked one of the guys which gas station would be open first, and he said, “You’d better ask Jim here – he’ll be opening up soon”.

    Jim (not his real name – I’ve long ago forgotten it) was sitting nursing a coffee, but very generously swigged it back, and calling me outside, got me to follow him down the road behind his 4-wheeler. Within a few minutes he had the pumps turned on and I was able to fill the bike and the spare tanks before heading west towards Churchill Falls and Labrador City.

    When I rode this section in 2010, the only paved parts were short segments at either end of the highway. All the rest was gravel and dirt. Now it is all paved – a perfect ribbon of tarmac stretching right across the heart of Labrador. Once again, the immaculate road surface is an inducement to speed although I kept my throttle hand under control, partly because I’d heard horror stories of dozens of people getting speeding tickets (the road has an 80kph limit), and partly because a strong head wind made riding fast just too much hard work, even hiding behind the Burgman’s enormous screen.

    Empty roads, perfect pavement, lengthy distances - an inducement to speed
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    There is no denying that the nature and scale of Labrador is awesome, and that alone is reason enough to make the trip. The road goes on and on through stunted spruce, past endless swamps, across numerous rivers and streams, and across massive glacial boulder fields. In places, forest fires have burned the landscape for as far as the eye can see. The Burgman hummed along as I fell into my usual habit of playing the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie in my head while my lizard brain took care of riding the bike. Most of the time there were no other vehicles in front or behind, but somewhere east of Churchill Falls a Jeep had crept up behind, then sat, matching my speed, a respectful distance behind. After about half an hour I needed a nature break and pulled off into a flat gravel area which must have once been a construction staging yard. To my surprise the Jeep immediately pulled in too, its driver jumping out to ask ‘whatever kind of scooter is that?’ After following me for so long, he just had to find out what manner of scootery beast could maintain those speeds with such apparent ease.

    Interior Labrador: Rocks, trees and water - lots of each!
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    It’s a good job I had the ‘Lord of the Rings’ is my personal, internal DVD as I was beginning to find the Trans-Lab a bit ho-hum. When you are riding gravel roads you have to be paying attention all the time just to stay upright. With the gravel now buried beneath the tarmac, the perfect road unwinds before you. You are far more of an observer than an active participant. You are disconnected from the landscape through which you are passing. It is like being in a video game. You may as well be in a car.

    I briefly pulled in to Churchill Falls to refuel then headed back on the highway, reaching Labrador City by mid afternoon.

    Refueling in Churchill Falls
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    To be continued…………..
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  5. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    Apart from the paving which had changed the Trans-Lab dramatically, the other change which I couldn’t help noticing was the massive hydro corridor which now parallels the road for most of its route. There had always been a powerline near the road, but in the last few years this has morphed into a 100 metre wide scar across the landscape, with two parallel lines of metal support towers marching like giants from hilltop to hilltop. While the road swings around lakes, swamps and knolls, the powerline takes a straighter course, crossing the road from time to time. I understand that such things are necessary if we want to run our toasters and power our electric cars, but damn, do they have to be so ugly?

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    As it was Saturday, as I closed in on Labrador City I noticed that there were a few other bikes on the road: a couple of Harleys, a pair on an older Goldwing, an older airhead BMW with a full fairing. It must feel a bit stultifying to live in a town with only one paved road to ride, but if you have the bug, you have to ride, even if your choices are limited.

    I pulled into the Shell gas station in on Avalon Drive and filled my tanks before heading out to the Tim’s on the hill at the edge of town. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and with many more miles to ride, needed to stoke up. Tim’s chilli is a robust meal for the price. I’m always a bit suspicious that it may have been lingering in the heating pot for weeks, but so far I’ve eaten it with no ill effects. When I had arrived at Tim’s mine was the only bike in the parking lot, but as I walked towards the scooter it was no longer alone. Two bikes – a Victory and a Harley – were parked next to mine and the three riders I’d noticed inside were standing chatting.

    “Sorry” I said, “I hadn’t realised this was the real motorbike parking area”. They laughed. If you live in Labrador City, you know that if someone arrives on a bike they will have to have ridden hundreds of kilometres on gravel since there is only the one road in and out and there are long gravel sections in each direction. My dust covered scooter looked dowdy and travel worn compared to their immaculate cruisers.

    “What size engine is in that thing” one of the riders asked (the ‘650’ badge was covered by my bags) and was quite surprised to hear that it was a 650. He was thinking a 150, or perhaps a 200. We chatted for a while about this and that – typical motorbike road-side talk - then got going on road conditions. There is about 20 kilometres of paved road south of Labrador City before you hit the dirt near the Fermont mine and the road starts to criss-cross with the railway.

    Does anyone ride the Trans-Lab and not take a picture here?
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    When I’d driven this section in an SUV last year the road was in truly horrible condition: sloppy, rutted, potholed and dangerous. I was dreading it on the scooter so I asked them about it. To my great relief they said the road was in excellent condition: hard-packed, well graded, and treated with calcium chloride to keep the dust down. And they were right. It was in wonderful condition, with only a few short areas where fresh gravel had been graded over the hard-pack.

    Hard-packed well graded gravel. Perfect, delightful riding - yes, even on a scooter.
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    Coming gingerly around a corner on one of the looser sections, I found a rider parked at the side of the road and swung over to see whether he was OK. Of course he was, he was just taking a short break before the last little section to Lab City. I’m lousy with names so I’ll call him Jakub. Jakub was a young man – perhaps in his late 20’s - from the Czech Republic. He had been on the road in North America for months and was fresh back from Alaska. He described this trip as his big adventure. He felt that soon he would have to settle down, become a family man and become responsible. I did my best to convince him that he didn’t have to give up on life and excitement just because he was starting to get a bit older. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    His V-Strom was festooned with stickers from his travels and looked every inch as though it had seen some real adventures. It was tatty, scruffy and probably hadn’t been cleaned in months. While we chatted Jakub kept looking at the Burgman.

    “We have those in the Czech Republic” he said, in that annoying perfect English so many Europeans manage. “But nobody would think to take them on journeys like this. Perhaps to the seaside once a year…”.

    About 60 kilometres south of Labrador City (don’t quote me on this – these are approximations), the paving started all over again and continued all the way to Relais Gabriel – the first fuel source to the south. I had been thinking about stopping nearby, either to camp or in the accommodations at Relais, but there was still light, I had full tanks of fuel, and I had energy to burn. I pulled back onto to Highway 389 and continued south.
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  6. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    Between Relais Gabriel and Manic Cinq the road is mainly decent, hard-packed gravel. In my not-so-humble opinion this is some of the finest riding on the TLH. There is great scenery of high forested hills, frequent glimpses of Lac Manicouagen in the distance, plenty of bends and creek crossings – an engaging road with lots to keep the mind alive. Be warned though. There were many places where the road has been 'improved'. It is changing fast and who knows how long it will be before it too becomes just another paved road through the Quebec bush.

    This photograph is a cheat since it's from a previous TLH trip - but it conveys the beauty and scale of the landscape near Relais Gabriel
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    By the time I got to Manic-Cinq, it was almost 9PM, the light was gone, and I was thankful for the excellent Burgman headlights which had made nighttime riding a pleasure. As the light had faded I had flipped up my visor and ridden along with my face exposed to the fresh air. There were no insects to bother me, and few vehicles to stir the dust. Without the visor I had an unimpeded view of the road ahead. I skirted around the edge of the massive Manic-Cinq dam which looked ghostly and bizarre, the individual bays illuminated from below, then swung into the rest stop / gas station / motel. The restaurant was closed, but a room was available, there were some interesting beers on sale, and at least three channels of fuzzy French TV. I settled in for the night. It had been a long day.
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  7. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    DAY 19: Manic-Cinq to Home (1167 kms (725 miles)

    I’m one of those guys who’ll wave at anyone riding in the breeze, whether they’re on a motorbike, scooter, trike, Spider, four-wheeler, mobility scooter or lawn tractor – I’m an equal opportunity waver. I figure that if you’re out there moving through the fresh air it’s all the same game and we’re all having fun. I draw the line at side-by-sides though, they are a step too far removed from motorcycling. And I’ll chat to anyone, even if I personally find their choice of steed bizarre or uninteresting and struggle to find anything mannerly to say about it.

    When I arrived at Manic-Cinq, I pulled up in front of my room. Two bikes, BMWs – a K1600 and a smaller one I didn’t recognise, were parked next door, the two middle-aged male owners standing close by talking. It’s one thing not wanting to engage in conversation - I respect anyone’s right to keep to themselves – but these two prats consciously and deliberately avoided even the slightest indication that they were aware of my existence and cut me dead, even going as far as to turn away so they wouldn’t have to engage. When I left Manic-Cinq at around 5AM, I’d wished I’d been on one of my noisy Guzzis. I would have wheeled it close to their window and revved it up before leaving. They deserved it. The Burgman is so whisper quiet, so I doubt they were even aware that I’d left.

    The road is all paved from Manic-Cinq south to Baie Comeau. It is a lovely road – a bit rough in spots but wonderfully twisty, scenic and fun. Unfortunately, the road engineers are working fanatically to ruin it. Work was already in progress to straighten out corners and broaden the road bed. Even in the half-light of morning I could see where sections of bush had been measured and cut for new sections of road, and machinery was already in place to start removing rock and soil. It must be a terrible road along which to navigate a large transport truck, and I do understand the necessity of changing roads to suit their evolving uses, but darn it – another fine motorcycling road is about to be forever diminished. Within a year or two it will be just another big road from which to gaze at a big world through your windscreen.

    Quebec 389 - Lovely Road
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    After fueling up, once again, in Baie Comeau, I headed west for the long haul home. At the last light as I was leaving town, two Harleys pulled out ahead of me, and once past the built-up area sped to well above the 90kph limit. I suppose I should know better at my advanced age, and shouldn’t play games with people’s egos, but I pulled up behind them and matched their speed. I could see them eyeing me in their mirrors. They sped up. I matched their speed again, until they were rolling along far in excess of the speed limit. I figured that as locals they probably had a handle on what was permissible, and if we attracted the attention of the police they would be at least as likely to get a tickets as me. Eventually they moderated their speed to about 20kph over the posted limit and I allowed them a little breathing space, settling in a few hundred metres to their rear, trailing them for 200kms, all the way to Tadoussac.

    On the ferry across the Saguenay Fjord at Tadoussac
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    A few kilometres west of the ferry at Tadoussac it started to rain and didn’t really stop until near the Ontario border. Once again the rain eventually worked its way through my clothing until I could feel dampness next to my skin. My leather gloves were completely sodden, but I found if I turned the Burgman’s heated grips on, my hands stayed comfortably warm. Usually I will do almost anything not to have to ride through Montreal. This time though, I just followed the signs and worked my way through the city without major hold-up or incident. That it was Sunday probably helped. Traffic densities were no-where near what one would expect to encounter on a week day.

    Once into Ontario I continued plugging along, sitting between an indicated 115 and 120kph. At one point a group of riders on a variety of bikes, went past in the fast lane, travelling smoothly and comfortably at about 130, the lone woman on a Harley waving as they passed. I briefly thought about tagging along but decided that after eleven or twelve hours in the saddle, I was tired and it would be wiser to stay at moderate speeds and ride alone.

    By putting in long days it only took a single day longer to ride home from St. John’s via Labrador. Admittedly, these were long days. I didn’t spend any time sight-seeing and barely stopped, other than for fuel for me and the bike, and to take the very occasional photograph.

    You might presume that with its small wheels, the scooter would be a bit of a handful on the long gravel sections. I found it to be perfectly stable and predictable. Perhaps if I’d been riding some ADV machine I could have ridden those sections a little faster, but this was more than offset by the general level of comfort the Burgman provided. My backside never complained, my legs stayed flexible and my back was fine.

    I’m not suggesting that everyone rush out and buy a scooter for long distance rides and gravel roads. What I am suggesting is that the large scooters are excellent travelling companions, more than capable of multi-day, multi-mile rides to anywhere you fancy. In the final analysis, the Burgman will not replace any of my old Guzzis. They will always remain my first choice for long rides. There is an indefinable quality about the way they move me that can’t be replaced by mere efficiency and capability. Nevertheless, while I don’t think I will ever warm to the Burgman in the same way, its ability to carry two large people two-up in comfort, its long distance reliability and ease of handling have won it a place in my garage.

    Thanks for following along.

    Nick Adams

    October 2018

    plate7.jpg
    #7
  8. damurph

    damurph Cold Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 2, 2012
    Oddometer:
    3,335
    Location:
    The far east of the far east of North America
    Don't need no stinkin adventure bike.
    Good on ya for figuratively expanding the horizons of ADV.
    #8
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  9. Yellow Pelican

    Yellow Pelican Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Oddometer:
    35
    Hello, I am wondering if you know the leafman60? I did the Translab. Leaving from Saint Augustine Florida to New Brunswick, clock wise to Newfoundland, down through Nova Scotia and home, August 6th-30th. I road my 2014 Stelvio. When I returned home I spoke with David. He said he talked with a friend who also road the Trans-Labrador on a scooter. Thought it might be you?
    #9
  10. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Oddometer:
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    Inverary, Ontario, Canada
    Hi Yellow Pelican
    I know Leafman60 from the Wildguzzi forum and also from his very active Nuovo Falcone thread over in Old's Cool, so it could well have been me he was mentioning. There are not too many people odd enough to do the trip in a scooter :jack. The Stelvio would have been a fine steed for the trip - I hope you had a good time. I might have been better off on my 2000 Quota, but in the end I didn't find the scooter at all troublesome, and as I said in the report, the real reason for using the Burgman was because it is the most comfortable two-up bike in my garage, and easy for my wife to get on and off.

    Nick
    #10
  11. Yellow Pelican

    Yellow Pelican Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Oddometer:
    35
    Nick, weather from Hope Bay to Red Bay was raining, blowing about 42 to 48°. I had a grin on my face the whole time. Guzzi performed wonderfully, wish I had an opportunity to ride the road 10 years earlier, however still fun and better late than never. With that said my hat is off to you for riding a scooter, showing others that anyone can step out side of todays preconceived comfort zone and have an adventure no matter what they ride, JUST DO IT.
    Art
    #11
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  12. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    Having ridden it before, knowing what to anticipate was half the battle. And I had kind weather. In heavy rain and gravel slop it could have been a different story.
    #12
  13. MrBob

    MrBob In the Pines. Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2005
    Oddometer:
    18,964
    Location:
    Boulder CO and Tallahassee, FL
    Thanks for sharing your trip. These scooters have intrigued me for some time and now I'll give them a second look. Used unit seemed to be priced quite reasonably around here.
    Sorry you couldn't make it to L'Anse aux Meadows. Standing where Vikings once stood was a pretty big thrill for me when I rode my Bandit from Minnesota.
    I hoped to cross to Labrador but 20+ foot waves marooned me in Cornerbrook for three days with no ferries running until seas calmed.
    #13
  14. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    Hi MrBob - My wife and I visited L'Anse aux Meadows the previously year (car). We too got stuck by weather then - but on the Labrador side, before we were able to cross.
    #14
  15. Dan Alexander

    Dan Alexander still alive and well

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2003
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    Location:
    Montreal
    Nice report. I did the ride in 2010 and am kind of sad to see so much pavement there now .. oh well that's progress. I was thinking of riding it again with my RT but might be drawn back towards Radisson and the Trans Taiga.
    #15
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  16. meatshieldchris

    meatshieldchris Long timer

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    South of Winnipeg, Manitoba
    I often wave at scooters and get startled reactions back. Clearly we all need to wave more.
    #16
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  17. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    The perception seems to be that scooters are not 'real' motorbikes (whatever that means). Really, they're just step-through bikes - especially the larger ones, and capable of just about anything.
    It derives from the same dismal North American concepts of manliness that equate big and noisy with masculinity. You only have to look at the current range of grossy oversized, penis extending pickups from Dodge, Ford and GM to know what I mean.

    Nick
    #17
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  18. Fenianbastard

    Fenianbastard Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2014
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    Location:
    Princeton (the center of liberal hell in NJ)
    Brilliant report. If it has two wheels I will ride it, even with no engine. I just love the freedom, the sounds, smells and sights you don't get in a car. I have a PC800 which people think is a scooter>
    #18
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  19. griffo1962

    griffo1962 Long timer

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    Carrara, Qld, Australia
    awesome report, thanks for taking the time to write it up. :)
    #19
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  20. GrumpyStuart

    GrumpyStuart Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2017
    Oddometer:
    58
    Location:
    Logan Lake, BC, Canada
    I did Victoria, BC to St Johns, NL, back in 2005. I hope to do it again someday, and add in the ride through Labrador next time. Oh yeh, you need to go to sneak over to the Fortress of Louisbourg when you are in North Sydney.
    #20