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Trans Labrador Highway solo on a WR250R

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by GravelRider, Feb 19, 2020.

  1. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,664
    Location:
    North by South
    This ride report is written about a trip that is a couple of years old by now, but I was going through Smugmug photos and realized I never did start my ride report, so here it goes.

    I was riding a 2014 Yamaha WR250R. Going solo. Camping the whole way, other than the first night. The plan was to ride from Pennsylvania through Quebec up to Labrador riding the route all the way to the end at Old Fort, Quebec, then to turn around and ride the exact same route back home. I know the idea of doing an out-and-back ride bores some people to death. I actually quite like those types of rides, as I get to experience the same route, but coming from two different directions, which gives it a feel of riding it twice. Others may disagree, and that's fine. I also had already been to Newfoundland before on my bike, so it's not like I'd be missing seeing this beautiful island. In addition to doing this, I wanted to ride the two main large dirt roads that are offshoots of the TLH: Esker Road and Orma Lake Road.

    To start the ride off I had planned to leave after work the first day and get a couple of hundred miles in and then do a big day day two with the goal of my first 1000 mile/24 hr IBA ride on the WR250R. I've done IBA rides before, but never on this bike.

    Some teaser pics

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    Day 1 coming up.
    #1
  2. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    North by South
    Day 1

    Northeast PA to Schenectady, NY

    218 miles, 0 miles unpaved

    I had a late day at work (of course!) and didn't get on the road until around 6:30 pm. I high-tailed it up to Schenectady and made it to a hotel there around 10 pm. This was to be the only hotel planned for the trip, and the only reason I was staying in a hotel that night was because I wanted a good night's sleep and an early get up and go for the IBA attempt. The ride was uneventful. I just took the interstate up with plans to keep going until dark, give or take.

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    At the gas station near the hotel

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    I promise all the days won't be quite this boring! Stay tuned for day 2.
    #2
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  3. Maggot12

    Maggot12 U'mmmm yeaah!!

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    18,892
    Location:
    Canada's ocean playground
    That's a very nice average on any bike.
    #3
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  4. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
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    Location:
    North by South
    Day 2

    Schenectady, NY to north of Manic 5

    773
    miles (Boo!), about 60 miles unpaved

    I woke up very early and left the hotel around 3:30 in the morning. I got right on the interstate and started making great time (well as great as you can on the WR250R, that is). The plan was to get past Labrador City before dark so I could get the IBA done and set up camp in the light.

    Smooth sailing through Montreal and Quebec City. I was well on my way to my goal until I got onto route 138 along the St. Lawrence. From there is was nonstop traffic, slow speeds, and road construction. I kept waiting for the traffic to open up and speeds to increase, but it just never happened. Although I was getting killed with time, it was a beautiful route through there with many quaint little towns along the coast.

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    Next came the Riviere Saguenay crossing. The only way across is by ferry or driving 90 miles up to the bridge, cross there, then 90 miles back down. I chose to take the ferry. The ferry was no cost, but came with about a 20 minute wait, plus the time to cross, plus unloading. All in all, it took nearly an hour to go a mile.

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    There are two ferries operating simultaneously, which significantly speeds the crossing up.
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    All aboard
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    Passing by the other ferry
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    From here it was one small, albeit scenic, town to the next with SLOW speeds and traffic and tons of construction!!!

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    and more construction
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    and more construction
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    Eventually I hit Baie-Comeau and then headed north on 389. Initially some fun high speed gravel roads, and then... Construction!
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    This particular spot of construction was a 40 minute wait. The RV ahead of me pulled out a table and had a meal and a bottle of wine ahead of me! I thought I took a picture of it, but I guess not. Needless to say, I was beginning to see my IBA attempt slip from my grasps. I assumed that riding the 250 would be my biggest issue with completing the ride, not the construction and traffic.

    As I was getting past the latest construction, I saw a dirt road I wanted to explore. Sure, not the best option for making time, but at this point I was tired of the constant stop and go and decided to explore.

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    Only a couple of miles down this road until the end at a radio tower
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    Then onto Manic 5 dam, also known as the Daniel-Johnson Dam. This is a large concrete dam built in the 1960s by Hydro Quebec. This dammed up the Manicougan River, which filled the Earth's fifth largest confirmed impact crater, the Manicouagan crater, creating Manicouagan Reservoir, the fifth largest reservoir in the world. According to Wikipedia, the dam is the largest of its kind. What its kind is, I'm not entirely sure. But regardless, it's massive and incredibly impressive. Pictures just don't do it justice.

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    In front of the dam
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    And a shot further away for perspective on the size of the dam
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    View from the top of the dam
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    I went another 50 or so miles past Manic 5 before pulling off for a bathroom and snack break. As I came to a stop along a small dirt road pull off, my clutch lever gave loose.I hopped off the bike and checked the lever and found the clutch cable had snapped...

    Before replacing the clutch cable I did a quick once over on the bike and discovered a tire issue as well...

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    Great! Behind schedule on my IBA ride, a broken clutch cable, and tires that are chunking off their knobs! Sooooo, the IBA ride attempt is done. Oh well. I've done several before. This is my first failed attempt. But still, disappointing.

    Fortunately the spot that I stopped ended up being a decent spot to pitch a tent. Looks like people were recently there, as there was a bunch of firewood and recently cut down small trees. I took advantage of this for the campfire.

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    I figured that I would worry about the clutch cable and tire in the morning. Time for a couple of beers (purchased at the last gas station several miles back when I thought the IBA ride might not come to fruition) and relaxing at the campfire.

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    #4
  5. ColumboNH

    ColumboNH Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2017
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    In! An IBA attempt is a feat on any bike, would not want to try it on my WR!
    #5
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  6. Fortech

    Fortech Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    65
    Location:
    NL, Canada
    Looking forward to the remainder...
    #6
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  7. 'Bob'

    'Bob' Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2015
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    245
    Location:
    Newfoundland
    In! Can't resist TLH reports:-)
    #7
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  8. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
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    North by South
    Thank you to everyone following along. Sorry about the delay in the rest of the RR. I'm on a long weekend family trip, and oddly enough my wife doesn't appreciate me typing out a ride report instead of spending time with the family. Lol.
    #8
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  9. TaZ9

    TaZ9 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    902
    Location:
    Northern Colorado
    For a fully loaded WR, you still made great time and speeds. Curious as to what gearing you were running. I've never had my WR below 4,000 ft. and while it does pretty good at higher elevation (over 12,000 ft.), I look forward to seeing how it does at sea level. Thanks for posting.

    Ride safe,

    TaZ9
    #9
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  10. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
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    Location:
    North by South
    Day 3:

    North of Manic 5 to Esker Road

    447 miles, about 100 miles unpaved

    I woke up this morning to a soggy tent to put away and rain. Perfect weather to fix a clutch cable and tire in. I always keep a spare clutch cable on the bike already routed and zip tied to my other one, so fixing that was an easy ten minute task, plus adjusting. I debated what I wanted to do with the tire. I had a spare tire, but I wanted to wait to use that until I had more miles under my belt since I wasn't sure if the rear tire would last the distance if I replaced it this morning, and I had no idea what type of availability there would be up north here. None of the spots where the knobs chunked off were down to tube or anything, so I kept the tire in place and just kept the speeds a bit lower (for the most part).

    A few miles down the road I stopped for fuel at Relais Gabriel. This was a pretty basic northwoods stop. Fuel, restaurant with only a few dining options, and I believe some rooms available.

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    I then continued up route 389 toward Labrador City to offically start the Trans Labrador Highway. The scenery along this stretch was some of the nicest of the entire trip

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    Along the way is the ghost "town" of Gagnon. This was an old mining town founded in the 50s and then when the mines closed in the 80s, the town was dissoluted. At its peak, Gagnon had more than 4000 residents. It had an airport, churches, schools, a town hall, an arena, a hospital, and a large commercial center, despite being isolated and only accessible by plane at the time. When the town closed, everything was dismantled and removed, leaving only sidewalks and the center road through town. You can read more about it here on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gagnon,_Quebec

    What it looked like in the 1970s
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    And now:
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    From there I continued up and stopped to play in the dirt and grab some pictures.

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    Some more pics of the area

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    A little further down the road, the surface changed from paved to gravel as I was nearing Fire Lake. The road also got needlessly twisty. Although I wasn't complaining, it seemed odd. The road twisted back and forth over the tracks, and the tracks must have passed over the road a dozen times over the next few miles. Made for fun riding, but I couldn't help but wonder why the road didn't just follow along the tracks?

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    Fire Lake is a lake and mining operation set up in the 1970s to mine iron ore. The mining runoff caused the lake to take on a reddish orange hue, hence the name Fire Lake.

    The mining operation is in the back with the lake in the foreground:
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    And the mining operation
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    From Fire Lake, it was only about fifty or so miles to Fermont. Fermont is the last town in Quebec on this road, and it is only a few miles from Labrador City, NL. Fermont is a planned company town that is completely reliant on the mining in the area for existence. The town has a population of about 2500, which is quite a large settlement for this remote corner of the planet. However, when I first got to town, the first thing I noticed was an absolutely massive building that dominated the town. This structure is over 3/4 mile long and over 150 feet tall. Within the structure are apartments, stores, schools, bars, a hotel, restaurants, a supermarket, a swimming pool, and I've heard even a strip club. However, I did not verify this. More interestingly, however, is that the large structure was designed both to allow the residents the ability to never leave the building during the long, brutal winter there and to act as a wind barrier to the rest of the town on the leeward side of the building.

    Here you can see in the background this large building, though it's not the greatest pic of it.
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    A closer view of it:
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    Some of the other buildings in town:

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    And they have a park in town that pays homage to the mining industry that keeps it alive:
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    A quick jaunt down the road and I made it to the border of Labrador

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    Not far from the border is Labrador City and Wabush. Labrador City is actually much larger than I had expected once I saw it in person. It has a population of about 7500. Wabush has a population of around 2000, so the region has a population of around 10,000. Again, a very large place for this part of the world. They have most of the modern conveniences that those of us from more developed areas expect. Wabush has an airport and Lab City has a mall, a Walmart, banks, restaurants, hotels, gas stations, grocery stores, parks, etc.

    The mall:
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    I believe as soon as I crossed the border into Labrador, route 389 became route 500, AKA the Trans Labrador Highway, but I think it really officially starts after leaving Labrador City headed to Churchill Falls.

    The TLH:

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    Traffic was quite sparse along this road, especially after getting a few miles outside of Labrador City. However, my last remote northern trip was the Trans Taiga Road, and although this is remote, it just doesn't have the same utter remote feeling the TTR had. Of course, this section is paved, and good pavement at that, so that does take a bit of the remoteness out of a road.

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    I thought I took more pics of the stretch from Lab City to Churchill Falls, but these were all I had!

    Churchill falls is a very small company town built by the company that runs the generating station. It was named for the waterfall just outside of town that was one of Canada's largest waterfalls. However, the flow was completely diverted and the waterfall that the town is named after no longer exists. It is a drab town with a central town complex with school, gym, stores, etc., a few company buildings, some houses, and a gas station. That's about it.

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    My plan today was to ride the Esker Road, which is actually about 25 miles west of Churchill Falls, however, I needed to fuel up, as Esker Road is roughly 90 miles until its terminus at a rail station. The rail station provides service south all the way to the coast and north to Schefferville, QC, the end of the line. I was hoping to make it to the Esker rail station at a minimum, though my true goal was to ride the train tracks up to Schefferville. Schefferville is another iron ore mining town. However, this town is only accessible by air or rail. There is no road access to Schefferville. As a result, not many bikes have made it there. There was one ride report on this site that described a group of guys riding the rails there, but all of the pictures are now gone. Besides the difficulties in riding 60-70 miles of remote and wild rail line, I had heard there was at least one major washout, possibly two, on the Esker Road that made the route impassible to motorcycles. I was hoping that the washout was either easy enough for a WR250 with knobbies to get through or that it had been fixed. Anyhow, I was all fueled up for worst case scenario (fuel wise), which was 25 miles to Esker Road, 90 miles to the Esker Station, 70 miles to the end of the tracks, and having to turn around and ride all the way back for some reason, which would be a total of 370 miles. This was an unlikely scenario, but one that I had to plan for. I have a five gallon IMR fuel tank, two half gallon fuel bottles in the back pockets of the Mosko bags, a 2 gallon Rotopax, and a 2.5 gallon Dromedary bags that I filled for this leg of the ride, for a total of 10.5 gallons, which was more than enough for the worst case scenario, but I also figured in terrible fuel mileage, as that was the case on the Trans Taiga.

    Anyhow, back to the ride.

    Entrance to Esker Road:
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    Views along the way
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    An empty hunting camp along the route:
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    Although I didn't see any vehicle traffic along the road, I was surprised at the number of hunting cabins along the road. It was much more built up than I would have anticipated. However, I think every single one of them was empty when I went through.

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    This was a fun twisty dirt road with good scenery. The potholes kept me going a reasonable speed, but there were a few smoother sections that I opened it up a bit more than I should have in such a remote place.

    I was surprised to find so many spots with significant amounts of unmelted snow this late. This was late June or early July.
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    The road started narrowing the further I went and hunting cabins became more sparse.

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    It was starting to get late and the sun was setting when I came across a snowmobile shelter that another inmate @John F had stayed in a couple of years prior. I had also talked to one of the locals in Churchill Falls about my plans of riding Esker Road and camping along it. His advice was to find one of these shelters and stay in it, as the bears are quite heavy this time of year, and nobody minds if a solo biker stays in it for the night.

    I found it
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    The mosquitoes were SO BAD this night. And unfortunately the cabin wasn't mosquito-tight, and I found there were TONS of them inside the cabin. It was so bad that I actually set up my tent inside the cabin to keep from being eaten alive at night. I also needed to dry out my wet tent and gear from rain earlier in the day. I don't think I encountered a full dry day all trip.

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    Power from the bike
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    My view from the cabin door:
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    Up next, on to see if I can make it to the end of Esker Road and perhaps beyond. Stay tuned.
    #10
  11. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,664
    Location:
    North by South
    Thanks!

    Not the ideal bike for it... But definitely doable with better luck than I had that day. I also have some comfort upgrades, most notably a Sargent Seat.

    I was either 14/50 or 14/51 on this trip. I honestly can't remember. I've had mine from sea level to about 7000 feet, and never noticed any difference at those elevations.
    #11
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  12. 'Bob'

    'Bob' Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2015
    Oddometer:
    245
    Location:
    Newfoundland
    We did this ride in late June 2010. I had a street plated WR450F and my buddy a KLX250. We carried the bikes in a pickup and rode the interesting stuff like Esker, Smallwood Resevoir etc. Nice ride to Esker, saw four bears.
    There's several of these warmup huts like you stayed in with one out close to the TLH and the last one in Esker itself. We spent two nights in the Esker hut.
    We rode to Esker to see if there was a ridable trail alongside the rail bed to Schefferville. We checked it out but it wasn't.
    Local railroad crew in Esker advised us against riding the track as it's 'policed' but told us we could ship bikes and ride the train from Esker to Schefferville if we wanted. We saw a couple of those pickup trucks that can ride on rails as well so I guleess that's who they meant by 'policed'.
    We checked out riding on the rail bed too but couldn't get both the bikes off the track in the time we figured we'd have according to the train speeds we saw. Also we walked the rail bed for a mile or so and noticed there were railway spikes buried in the bed pointy side up about every 500 paces or so. Dunno how far up the line these spikes extended or if they were deliberate or not.

    Here's an old RR about riding the rail bed to Schefferville if this is any help for future plans. The OP was still active here in 2014...
    https://advrider.com/f/threads/most...n-motorcycle-in-eastern-north-america.259475/

    You can also ship your bike and take the train between Sept Isles, Ross Bay Junction/Emeril Junction and Esker to Schefferville.
    Some contact info here: https://www.tshiuetin.net/an_informations.html
    and here: https://www.qnsl.ca/en/about-qnsl

    Looking forward to the rest of your RR:-)
    #12
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  13. John F

    John F Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Oddometer:
    437
    Location:
    South Windsor, CT
    I got turned around by the snow about 1:00pm and was in that cabin with a fire going by 2:00pm, and sat in that doorway for hours staring at that exact same view, sipping beers, and listening to podcasts until it got dark and was time to crash out for the night. 40 miles off the TLH all alone. Awesome.

    Probably the most memorable night of camping in my life. Of course, the bear knocking over my bike and biting and popping the tire might have had something to do with that...
    #13
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  14. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
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    Day 4

    Esker Road to HV-GB to North West River to road closure to camp spot

    381 miles, about 150 miles unpaved

    I woke up this morning well rested inside the tent inside the cabin. It was quite chilly which was very appreciated, as it meant the mosquitoes weren't swarming me and I could get packed up in peace.

    I headed further up Esker Road to see either the washout or to get to the rail station and beyond. The road actually opened up a bit at first

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    And there were some nice views

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    Then going around a right hand turn in the road, I noticed my rear tire was feeling very squirrely, kinda like it lost air. I pulled over and sure enough, a flat tire. I figured my luck on the tire with the chunked knobs had finally given out. However, on further examination I had actually just picked up a nail. But at this point, if I was pulling the tire off to patch the tube, I might as well just replace the tire.

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    The inner tube actually tore where it had the puncture. It could probably be patched in a pinch with one of my larger patches, but I just swapped it out for a new one. Because I was planning on riding the rails to Schefferville and back, I packed two extra tubes for the front and two for the rear. I certainly didn't want to use one up this early on, but I didn't want to put a questionable patch job back in when I had two new tubes ready to go.

    The road narrowed more and more

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    Until I got to the washout

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    The washout was quite substantial, but there was a trail that went down to the left. Hopefully this would be workable.

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    I walked it and the rocks were large and slippery and the water was fairly deep. Being so far from home in such a remote place, I debated back and forth, but eventually decided it wasn't worth it to attempt it. It was definitely worse than I had thought it would be. Sadly, goal number two of this trip was now out. Not exactly the most successful trip to date...

    I then headed back to the TLH and on to Happy Valley Goose Bay. I had heard there was a closure of the Trans Lab somewhere between Happy Valley Goose Bay and the junction to Cartwright due to a massive washout. I would be passing by Orma Lake Road, another place I wanted to ride on this trip, and I probably should have just ridden this before heading to HV-GB, but now I was perplexed that I would miss out on a huge chunk of the TLH, so I just headed straight there to see things for myself. I could always hit the Orma Lake Road on the way back.

    Back on the Trans Lab

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    I stopped into Churchill Falls to top off on gas and to see about disposing of the spare rear tire. The guy at the station told me to toss it in the back of his pickup and he'd take care of it. I tried offering him money for his troubles, but he refused. Very nice guy.

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    Along the way I crossed over a river that is now just a trickle. For the life of me, I can't recall the name of the river, but basically almost its entire flow was diverted by hydroelectric projects and what was once a stunning show of natural beauty and raw power was now quite anemic.

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    I did a little bit of mild offroading by the massive power lines.

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    I only road a couple of miles down the line roads before turning back. However, I later read that some of these roads may actually provide an alternate route from Blanc Sablon area up to Happy Valley Goose Bay. I have not confirmed this, but when I come back to ride the TLH in the future, I think I'll plan accordingly and find out once and for all if this is the case. I kind of doubt it, as that would require building bridges, which would be a huge expense, especially when it's not really necessary as the lines can be stretched over the water. But who knows, maybe they did build them to maintain the lines? Who knows.

    Some pictures along the route

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    Made it to Happy Valley - Goose Bay!

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    However, after getting into town, I found out the bad news was that the highway was definitely closed just past the Churchill River, and that it would be several days, maybe over a week until the road was fixed enough to let traffic through. Some debris got jammed in the large culverts that one of the creeks flowed through under the road and with all the recent rains, the creek had swollen and completely washed out the road. HV-GB was loaded with stranded travelers. So that was great. Just great. So far, the trip had been a disaster. Oh well, I wasn't injured. The bike was still running. And I was on a trip... So nothing to do but continue on and try to have fun along the way, even if the original trip plans were dashed.

    I stopped in to get something to eat at a place called Jungle Jim's, which appeared to be an Applebees type of chain. Food was okay. Nothing great. But it was warm and filled my belly.

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    A common mistake places make, especially outside of Quebec, when making poutine, is to melt the cheese curds. The curds should still be unmelted in distinct pieces as opposed to a melted mess than blends in with the gravy. This place definitely melted the cheese curds. Again, okay, but definitely not happy with the order.

    I then headed over the Churchill River to see for myself the road closure

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    On Satellite maps of the area, there looked to be some four wheeler or snowmobile trails north of North West River that could be fun to ride. Could be a total bust, but it was worth checking out, especially now that I had to make new plans.

    The road from HV-GB to North West River was paved and uneventful.

    North West River:
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    There was nothing really to this town. Mostly just a collection of houses that appeared to be not much more than a suburb of HV-GB. I then headed through town hoping to find a trail system. And as it turns out, the satellite maps were correct, there was a decent amount of good offroad trails. I thought about stashing all of my gear from my bike and really have fun tearing through the trails. However, I didn't want to go pissing off the locals ripping through their trails, and getting all of the bags dismounted and mounted back is a pain in the ass. Either way, some good riding, albeit at a sedate pace with the fully loaded bike.

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    I really enjoyed riding these trails, and should have found a spot out here to camp for the night in hindsight. However, I started heading back toward Churchill Falls with plans to find a camp spot along the way. Not far outside of HV-GB, I found a spot and set up camp.

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    Enjoyed a few beers

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    And made a fire

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    It's not how I had imagined the trip going, but life was good.

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    #14
    dtysdalx2, SoPaRider, 'Bob' and 4 others like this.
  15. John F

    John F Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Oddometer:
    437
    Location:
    South Windsor, CT
    To me, a good poutine is like crack. I was up near Montreal on business a lot in December and January, and one of my favorite spots was Dieu du Ciel in St Jerome -- a tap room with some tasty ales and a kitchen with good pub grub. Best poutine I've ever had. The fries and gravy were hot, and the cheese curds were cool and even squeaked when you bit into them.
    #15
    Gearhead1250GS and GravelRider like this.
  16. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,664
    Location:
    North by South
    I'm not familiar with a Smallwood Reservoir ride. Is that the same as the Orma Lake Road?

    The most trepidation I had about riding the rails was getting the bike off the tracks in time if a train was coming. I actually rode tracks at my house quite a bite before attempting the ride to see how feasible it is, and on the 250, it isn't hard to get it on/off quickly. I also had looked at the train schedule and had planned on riding the tracks right after the train headed to Schefferville so I knew there wouldn't be any oncoming trains, and fairly small chance of a train coming up behind me. In the end, it didn't matter, as I couldn't get there. The buried spikes are a big deal regardless!

    It was actually hot as hell inside that cabin when I got there. A fire was definitely out of the question. Definitely a cool place to stay the night. I'm just happy that I didn't have a bear taking a bite out of my tire though! I did see several bears on Esker Road, and along the TLH in general.
    #16
  17. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,664
    Location:
    North by South
    There's a casino in Ottawa that made a chorizo poutine that was the best I've ever had. Obviously not a traditional recipe, but it was out of this world good.
    #17
    ColumboNH likes this.
  18. John F

    John F Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Oddometer:
    437
    Location:
    South Windsor, CT
    #18
    'Bob' likes this.
  19. 'Bob'

    'Bob' Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2015
    Oddometer:
    245
    Location:
    Newfoundland
    #19
  20. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,664
    Location:
    North by South
    Day 5

    HV-GB to Orma Lake to Labrador City

    521 miles, 200 miles unpaved

    The plan today was to ride the Orma Lake Road.

    I slept in a bit this morning and took my time getting on the road. Once I did, I headed back toward Churchill Falls to fill up with gas. Along the way, I came across a couple of bears. Now at this point, I had seen a bunch of black bears on this trip, especially on Esker Road, but these two were actually photogenic and didn't run away as soon as I tried to take a picture

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    A random lake along the way that I thought would make a good picture
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    After filling up at Churchill falls, I then backtracked about 5-10 miles to the entrance of the Orma Lake Road. At its terminus, it is the furthest north you can get by the road system in Labrador. It's about 100 miles long, all unpaved, and ends in the wilderness by some dam projects. Naturally, the road is a hydroelectric dam service road.

    Orma Lake Road entrance:
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    The first few miles down the road were smooth, fun, high speed gravel. [​IMG]

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    There wasn't much scenery at first. Mostly just saw trees. However, as the road went on, the scenery got much better.

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    The further I got along the road, the more potholes and the worse the road conditions got. Nothing any bike couldn't handle, but my speeds definitely decreased.

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    The road surface was constantly changing. There were a few sections that were so potholed and bumpy that I was getting beat up on, then it would go to smooth well groomed gravel and back and forth.

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    I had encountered far more snow drifts than I would have thought in late June/early July, but this one really surprised me. Fortunately it had been plowed, because if it were over the road, I think it would have been a show-stopper.

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    From here, the road started to narrow a bit and it was not as well groomed, but, again, this varied quite a bit as the road went along.

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    I had been getting rained on off and on all day. Nothing terrible and soaking, but the threat of bigger rain was looming all day and there was thunder and lightning in the distance.

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    The views were spectacular on this part of the road

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    Eventually I made it to the end of the road. It was quite unceremonious. The road actually continued another mile or less further, but there was a washout past the culvert that didn't allow any further travel.

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    I did ride the dikes along the lake for a few miles until they came to an end as well

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    Storm clouds over the water
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    Some caribou sheds lying on the dike
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    I hung out here for a few minutes taking in the scenery when a loud crash and lighting strike on the water made me decide to get off the dike and start heading back.

    Rainbow along the way back:
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    Looking behind me at the storm clouds I appeared to be outrunning
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    I went back to Churchill Falls again for, I think, the fifth time now to fill up my fuel tank. I parked next to the local biker club's rides. They were a tough bunch. Actually interrogated me about where I was going and coming from. Fortunately they let me go without any trouble

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    From here I hopped back on the Trans Lab headed to Labrador City. The temperature really dropped, and I was FREEZING the entire ride back towards Lab City. I was also in and out of rain the entire way.

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    Once I got to Labrador City, I decided to just grab a hotel instead of camping. I was freezing, damp, and just not in the mood to camp. Well, turns out there wasn't a single hotel room available in the area due to some holiday or planned event or something, I don't recall now. But, looks like I was forced to stick with my original plan of camping every night!

    Just past town I spotted a pulloff where the locals could dispose of any leaves, branches, logs, etc. There was no trash dumping or anything (so no bear bait), but TONS of free firewood for the taking. Perfect spot to camp for the night! I set up my tent and collected up plenty of firewood to keep a bond fire going all night as I drank some local Labrador beers.

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    #20