For many years I'd thought about riding the TLH but had never seriously gotten right down to it. Three weeks ago my manager came to me and said hey boss, you haven't taken a holiday in a long time and would you like 10 to 14 days off starting on Aug 1st? Since all staff would be present then, I'd be free to go. Sure, I said. On the ride home that night I started considering my options and one of them was the TLH. Could I really do it? Should I? At my age? (More on that later.) Most people doing the TLH had more time to plan carefully and to get riding buddies to join them. I was late in the game and in spite of posting messages here and on other boards, I wasn't finding anyone to ride with. Would I dare do this trip alone? For richer of poorer, for better or worse... Oops! Wrong solemn oath! I was going to do this! I started serious planning. That involved using Google Maps to plot out a route. (Duh, there's only ONE route across Labrador!). I read all the trip reports I could find (Thank you folks who posted them... You have no idea how many of us follow along, dreaming, planning and absorbing every little tidbit of info you've shared). Was I going to be able to handle the roads up in Labrador? Was the bike going to last? How about extra fuel which I'd need to carry to make the trip? I carry all the tools needed to change a tube should I get a flat tire, but gee, it's a really hard job! I sure hoped I wouldn't have to do that at the side of the road somewhere, in the rain, maybe in the dark, while being devoured by blackflies. I guess what scared me the most was the blackflies. I'd heard stories about how ferocious they are, that they're the size of hummingbirds and that they have the tactics of fighter pilots. I have childhood memories of being eaten alive by the things and as a child running out of the woods in tears as they devoured me. My fear of the blackflies was immense and they, more than anything else, made me wonder if I really wanted to do this trip. Reading all I could, I found out that only 100% Deet would be effective, but that it was such a strong and harmful substance that it melts plastic and rubber and destroys fabrics. I really didn't want to put that on my skin. Besides, you can't buy 100% Deet in Canada (only up to 35%). Then I heard about a chemical called "Permethrin". It's what is used on the insect repellent clothing that you can now buy in the States. You are supposed to spray your clothing with it and allow it to dry and then you "should have" protection for up to six months or a few washings. I needed that stuff! With only 10 days left before the start of my trip, I made a rush overnight trip down to Burlington Vermont because I couldn’t find the stuff in Canada, and found Sawyer's Permethrin at a Dick's Sporting Goods store. I rushed home and hung up all my clothing: riding gear, gloves, t-shirts and underwear, socks, boots, etc. Even the mesh screen on my tent. I then sprayed it liberally with Permethrin and allowed it to dry. Supposedly there is no ill effect on humans once it has dried, but while it's wet you're not supposed to get it on your skin or in your eyes. And you shouldn't inhale the vapors (but there really wasn't a strong smell). I also bought some 35% Deet, just in case. With that out of the way, I was feeling more encouraged. I wasn't at all worried about bears, at least not initially. Then I heard that currently around Churchill Falls the bears were particularly aggressive. And then a friend of mine, Chris Dodds, arguably one of the very best nature photographers in Canada warned me that I should take them seriously. Chris often leads photo workshops in remote areas to shoot (with cameras of course) bears, moose, birds, and other wildlife. http://www.chrisdoddsphoto.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=7452&Akey=HKP7BK55 Chris told me not to bother with bear spray, saying that it wouldn't do me much good when a bear was racing across a clearing towards me. Chris suggested I get three 45 minute road flares... the 15 minute ones wouldn't be enough he said. And ALWAYS keep one with me he said. If you get off your bike to go pee at the side of the road, or have lunch, etc. have one with you. And take them into your tent at night. Surely he was kidding I thought. Then I read a little more about bears, and the fact that you shouldn't even have your toothpaste in the tent with you. I knew that you keep the food far away, but toothpaste? And don't have any snacks in your pockets - ever! The residual smell of a chocolate bar or other snack would be enough for a bear to detect. I was going to be camping as often as the weather, bugs and bears allowed, and along the TLH there really aren't official campgrounds. Basically you find a clearing along the road somewhere and pitch your tent. So I started thinking that even if I used safe practices regarding where and how I kept my food, what about the previous people who camped there? Were they as careful as I would be? Did they leave garbage around? Bears are supposed to be very smart and are also creatures of habit. So if they found food/garbage in a place one day, they'd constantly be checking again and again. Maybe I'd better be more concerned about the bears. So I got the road flares (could only get 30 minute ones, and that would have to do). I didn't have a "bear banger" or bear spray, and still didn't really think I'd need it. I did go to Mountain Equipment Co-op and buy two "bear cannisters" (I didn't think one would be large enough to hold all my food, snacks, toiletries, etc.). These are large polycarbonate containers that supposedly a bear cannot get into. You put everything into those and store them far from your tent OR motorcycle at night. In the end, as I did my final packing, I found I simply didn't have enough room to take two bear cannisters along so I cut down on some of my food stuffs and decided to go with only one. Was my bike ready for such a trip? I changed the oil and filter, swapped wheels (I have two sets) to ones that had brand new TKC80 knobbies mounted. I checked all bolts and anything else that might vibrate loose and used blue loctite on things that might have. Gas would be an issue... the longest stretch without gas is about 450 km and my bike only has a range of about 300 km. I often travel with a 3.8 litre Rotopax gas container, but even that wouldn't be enough for the trip, especially since an emergency reserve really was necessary. Rotopax had a new design 6.6 litre model, unfortunately not yet available in Canada. I ordered directly from them and had it sent via FedEx to get it in time. It fit on the same mounting on top of my luggage rack as the smaller Rotopax did. I made sure I had appropriate tools for the trip and also a spare clutch and throttle cable. (I'd broken a clutch cable on the bike the first year I had it and that resulted in a low-speed dump of the bike as the engine compression caused the back wheel to lock up when I slowed down. And there was simply no way to ride the bike without the clutch.) Spare tubes, tire irons, Airman compressor and I was good to go. New TKC80's mounted and ready to go: Since there is no cell service along most of the Trans Labrador Highway, I was going to take my DeLorme inReach SE satellite communication device along. This not only lets me send and receive short text messages, but pairs to my iPhone to show me a detailed map (even more detailed than my Garmin GPS for that area) of where I am and the surroundings. I've had it for a few months and upgraded my service plan so that I could send/receive a larger number of messages for free (included in the monthly fee) as well as "tracking points". I could send my friends a link to a map site that would show my position via those tracking points, every 30 minutes that I'm moving. In spite of all this preparation, I must admit I was getting somewhat cold feet. My bike would be more loaded than ever, making it even heavier. And still the blackflies and bears were weighing heavily on my thoughts. And doing the trip alone probably wasn't the smartest thing either. Maybe I shouldn't be doing the trip now but should plan much better and find at least one other rider to do it with. So, with about 10 days left before my departure day, I visited with my accountant. He knows me very well and we've been friends for about 25 years now. One of his employees is a Canadian Olympic Gold Medal winning athlete and a wonderful lady, who's retired from competitive sport. She was sitting close by as my accountant asked me what interesting trip I had planned for this summer. I puffed up my chest and proudly told him of my upcoming TLH trip. I told him about the bears, blackflies, lack of cell service, doing it alone, camping as often as possible, etc. The athlete was listening. Finally she looked at me and said, "Eldor, you're so brave..." "Eldor, you're so courageous..." "... to do SUCH a trip..." "... at your age!" Wow! What could I say? But the gauntlet was laid down, the challenge was on. And I must say honestly that if she hadn't said that, there was a very good chance that I'd cancel that trip and do something easier, or at the very least, postpone it until I could organize better and get a travel partner. So thank you MB for your unintended motivational comment. If you hadn't said that, I might have chickened out. But now I couldn't! On the Wednesday night before my Friday morning departulre, I got a PM from fellow AdvRider member Ovidiu, who had riden his Honda CBF1000 to Montreal from Vancouver. His wife would be flying in to meet him, and together (2-up) they'd be following me on the TLH 2-3 days later. He rode up to my office to meet me and have a beer (or two). Here's my first look at him: The day he'd arrived he had ridden 1300 km!! Must have been tough without any cruise or throttle control. I guess it was our shared love of motorcycles and adventure (or maybe the beer) but we clicked right away and if we lived closer to each other I'm sure we'd be great friends. Ovi showed me some terrific photos and told stories of amazing motorcycle trips he and his wife had made. Please join me in encouraging him to post some ride reports. Thursday after work (I was still there tying up some loose ends before leaving in the morning) I got a panic text message from Ovi that he needed emergency brake service before leaving on Monday morning. He couldn't delay his departure because unlike me, he's been smart enough to make hotel and B&B reservations for every night along his trip and he had to keep to that schedule. I tried to call the local Honda dealer, Excel Honda, who is simply amazing. Their phones were believe it or not, out of order. So I jumped in my car and rushed over to see them (only a couple of blocks away). The service manager was already gone for the day but they phoned him at home and arranged that Ovi could be taken care of first thing Friday morning at 8am. We still didn't know exactly what kind of brake service was needed, and hopefully it wouldn't require parts that had to be ordered. It was arranged that Ovi would be there when they opened at 8am and they'd do their best for him. With that taken care of, I headed home to double-check my packing and hopefully get a good nights’s sleep.