TransLab in Two Weeks

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by mystery jig, Apr 22, 2018.

  1. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine
    I don't want to spoil anything but we were not chased by wolves in any odd numbers.
  2. fastredbike

    fastredbike back on the loose

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    639
    Location:
    Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
    been waiting a while to read this, so far most satisfying.
  3. Bill 310

    Bill 310 Poser Emeritus Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2002
    Oddometer:
    4,790
    Location:
    Hopefully Upright
    Hmmmm... sounds like "Double Trouble"

  4. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,013
    Location:
    Inverary, Ontario, Canada
    Excellent video. You guys have a really good presence. Looking forward to the next.
  5. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine


    Relais Gabriel to Labrador City - 173 Miles

    May 29, 2018 -- The next day dawned clear and cold. The sky was a painful blue. Sunglasses were a must. After a hot breakfast, and a farewell in French, we headed north on a paved road.

    Our thermometer said it was in the 50s but it felt colder. An icy wind chased us, blowing in gusts. The road was slightly raised and unsheltered. We passed no buildings as we sped along. The regular roadside evergreens dwindled into smaller, gnarled black spruce and we saw a dark fox scuttle across the road ahead of us.

    Rushing water was everywhere. Trickles seeped from hillocks. Gushing streams squeezed under bridges at regular intervals.

    About and hour out of Relais Gabriel, the roadside sprouted battered curbs and sidewalks. There were no houses, or buildings of any kind, beyond them. Just a brown tangle of bracken, flailing in the wind. Then an esplanade split the pavement into two lanes. Dry grass rippled down its center. Brown manhole covers marked portals to a long-forgotten sewer.

    We’d come to the ghost town of Gagnon on the shores of Barbel Lake.

    The Quebec Cartier Mining Company started building Gagnon in 1957 to house workers digging iron ore at the nearby Jeannine Lake Mine. A few years later, 4,000 miners, and their families, called it home. Gagnon had churches, a town hall, schools, an arena and even a hospital.

    There was no road, however, and everything had to be flown in and out.

    René Coicou, a mechanic at the mine, was elected mayor of Gagnon in 1973. Born in Haiti, Coicou was the first black mayor in Quebec history. He was still in office in October 1984 when he had to call a special town meeting to tell residents the mine was shutting down and their town would be razed to the ground the next year.

    The last residents flew out on June 30, 1985 and the town vanished from the map. According to an article I read, the cemetery was never relocated. I didn’t see any graves. But even now, Gagnon has a definite melancholic air.

    Two years after the town was dismantled, the Quebec government built Route 389, connecting Baie Comeau to Labrador. They used Gagnon’s main street as part of the route. That’s where we were.

    We looked around, trying to imagine the town, kids playing, people shopping. I couldn’t do it. All I heard was the moaning wind. All I saw were the remnants of a town, long gone.

    [​IMG]
    That's where the village of Gagnon used to be. They tore it all down in 1985.

    The smooth, straight road gave way to dusty, dirt twists and bends just south of Fire Lake, where there’s still an active mine. Our path snaked to-and-fro over a rail line a full dozen times as we rode past gargantuan slag heaps, dug out of the Earth over decades of mining. You could see the piles of pulverized stones far away in the distance, where they looked like mountains. Mile-long trains with open ore cars, waiting to get filled, idled on the sidings.

    I thought about sprinkling some of Fishbones’ ashes on the rail line but decided against it. It was windy and desolate and nowhere a hobo would want to be left beside the tracks.

    About 10 miles shy of the mining settlement of Fermont, I realized I had to go -- right now. It was an emergency. I radioed to Dean and we pulled over. Grabbing my TP roll, I dashed over the top of a small pile of dirt beside the road. I almost stumbled down the other side but caught myself. It was a good thing because it was a long way down. The dirt pile had been left on the edge of long, steep gravel slope dotted with boulders and twisted hunks of old steel culvert.

    I went down a little way, dropped my drawers, turned my back to the slope below, grabbed a large rock and held on tight. I was just in the nick of time.

    It didn’t take long but it took a lot of TP. When I fished the cleanup operation, I dropped the wad. I’d intended to kick some dirt over the evidence before I left, but while I was getting my pants on, a blast of wind raced up the slope from the valley below. It got hold of the soiled TP and rolled the wad up the slope. As it summited the dirt pile, it mounted to the sky and unfurled like one of those banners towed behind a plane. The message read: Don’t go down there.

    [​IMG]
    Route 389 in northern Quebec.

    Leaving the road a few miles later, we looped into the town of Fermont. It was, originally, a company town, owned by the mining company. There was a smattering of houses and buildings to one side of one enormous structure. The huge building houses apartments, stores, schools, bars, a hotel, restaurants, a supermarket, a swimming pool and -- we heard -- a strip club. It’s the better part of a mile long and acts as a windbreak for the buildings on the leeward side.

    We stayed in town just long enough to get Dean some gas and take a picture by the biggest dump truck I’ve ever seen.

    A vast blue road sign let us know when we finally hit the Labrador border and the start of Route 500, the Trans-Lab Highway. We took a picture of that, too. From there, it wasn’t far to Labrador City where we checked into the Two Seasons Hotel. It wasn’t cheap but the local Blue Star beer in the bar was priced just right.

    To see more pictures, and other stories of adventure, go to my website at www.mysteryjig.com.
    ArdenLoneWolf, GotFog and GravelRider like this.
  6. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine
    [​IMG]

    Labrador City to the Raft River - 142 miles


    May 30, 2018 -- We left Labrador City in the cold sun after a breakfast of eggs, toast, bacon and coffee. Riding west on good pavement, we started to see serious patches of leftover snow mixed in with the unchanged landscape of rocks, black spruce, water and low-rise hills. A steady trickle of trucks rumbled past us, headed east. We also pulled over and let a lot of them go by us on their way to Churchill Falls.

    The wind blustered enough to keep us chilled all day. Our cure was more readside coffee. We brewed one batch on a gravel shoulder next to the Miron River. A good many of the bridged water courses were marked with signposted names. Otherwise, there’d be no way to tell them apart, they’re so regular and numerous. I’d guess half the land in Labrador is actually water -- stream, river, bog, lake or pond.

    We sat by the Miron River bank, drank the coffee and puffed our briars. Out of the wind, in the clear-skied sun, it was a kind of heaven. The sound of the water was mesmerizing. The taste of black coffee and pipe smoke were a comfort. In those moments, I didn’t care if I ever saw television, a smartphone or a computer screen again. Complete contentment was achieved.

    Those kinds of moments never last for long. It’s in our human nature. Thoughts creep in, more complicated desires and entanglements take over. Lovely as it was, we knew we had to keep moving west. And we did.

    On our bikes again, we said goodbye to the Miron River.

    A few hours later, we started to get close to the company town Churchill Falls and its giant hydroelectric power station. After talking it over, we decided we didn’t want to sleep there for the night. Instead, we thought we’d knock off early for the day and find a place to camp, west of town.

    [​IMG]
    Our campsite on the Raft River in Labrador.

    The roadside spot we found was a lot like the Miron River. It was a gravel turnout on the south side of the road next to the Raft River. A row of bushes next to the road sheltered the spot, a little. On the other side, a low, tree-capped hill kept the wind at bay. The main draw was the sound of the water.

    We spent the next hour setting up camp and collecting firewood. There was plenty of deadfall on the edge of the hill. Heaps of dried brush lay beside the road, too, where bushes had been cut back the year before. Across the road there was a small dugout sand pit with some ancient, dry logs and stumps. We hauled some of those over, too.

    Soon, we had a merry fire. We sat for a long time, smoking and drinking Molson beer we’d brought from Labrador City. Snowbank remnants by the treeline kept it cold for us. The wind died down. It clouded over and warmed up a bit.

    The light was still lingering when when I finally crawled into my tent around 10 p.m. I fell asleep fast, with the sound of the rushing water filling my ears.

    To see more pictures, and other stories of adventure, go to my website at www.mysteryjig.com.
    jlambo, bkendig76, Muscongus and 2 others like this.
  7. bkendig76

    bkendig76 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2016
    Oddometer:
    410
    Location:
    Conestoga PA
    Excellent videos and story. I will be looking forward to reading/watching the rest.
  8. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine


    The Raft River to Happy Valley-Goose Bay - 213 miles

    May 31, 2018 -- I woke to the sound of rain pattering on my tent. It wasn’t torrentail. I got up. Dean and I huddled around his Jetboil, not talking much, till the coffee was ready. The rain let up and we packed our things.

    Before we left, we went down to the river and, kneeling on a large, flat rock, washed our faces and hands. The water was bracing. It couldn’t have been more than a few degrees above freezing. Then, I gave Dean Fishbones’ bottle. It had been a perfect hobo campsite. Dean said some words and sprinkled him into the Raft River. The water carried him down stream and into the ages.

    Around 50 miles down the road, we hit Churchill Falls. It’s a funny name for the town, since there’s no falls -- not anymore. In 1970, they diverted the Churchill River into a series of giant tubes leading to power generating turbines. Once the water has done it’s electricity-making, it’s spit back out into the water course. The river diversion leaves the 245-foot “falls” mostly dry.

    The town is one of the last truly company towns in North America. The Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation Limited owns everything. It’s got a humungus, central building, like Fermont in Quebec, though not nearly as large. It did have an eatery, hotel and supermarket inside.

    We made our way there, first. Inside, we found the bathroom and the restaurant. I had fried chicken and onion rings. Dean had an open faced turkey sandwich with a surprise bone in the middle. We were the only ones there. During a lull in the conversation, I heard something like nails on a chalkboard.

    It was the sound of Donald Trump’s voice.

    I got up to see where it was coming from. Around the corner, it turned out, was a wall-mounted television tuned to a Canadian news channel. The big story was new aluminum tariffs and tension between the United States and Canada.

    Tension between our two countries -- for no good reason -- is bad enough. But to have to endure the sound of political pundits and politicians that far from home, after a night on the Raft River, was too much. I lost my appetite and almost didn’t finish my o-rings. Needless to say, we didn’t linger in the restaurant.

    Wandering around the colossal building, we found a gift shop and post office. I sent a card home and Dean bought tchotchkes. Then, after a return visit to the restrooms for good measure, we went to the supermarket for road snacks.

    As we were stowing our snacks, a four-door work truck parked next to us. Inside, was a load of hard-hatted men, smoking cigarettes. They asked where we were from. We told them. Then, they asked us to tell our president to drop the steel and aluminum tariff shenanigans before someone got hurt. They were good natured but not joking.

    We promised to phone Trump with the request as soon as we got home. It sure is embarrassing to be lumped in with American politicians when traveling abroad.

    [​IMG]
    Labrador’s Route 500, which is the actual Trans-Labrador Highway, stretches into the distance just outside Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

    We got gas from a friendly young station attendant, who asked us a lot of good questions about New England, and left town.

    For three hours we rode over the same, snow-patched landscape as before. Then, after more roadside coffee and cigarillos, our path started to descend. The rocks and stunted spruce gave way to leafless birch tall evergreens and glacial sand. It got warmer, too. We were coming into the Happy Valley.

    Then, without ceremony, Route 500 -- the true Trans-Lab Highway -- came to an end. At a junction, Route 510 went left, toward Northwest River and the Hamilton River Road led right, into Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

    Pausing just a moment, we turned right. Before we got into the town, proper, I stopped to make a phone call. We’d been given Liz and Mike’s number by a friend of a friend with assurances they’d take care of us.

    I got Liz on the phone and she gave me directions to their house. As we tooled into town, I noticed a bike pull out of a side street and start tailing us. It was blue, maybe a Suzuki V-Strom, and followed us clear across town.

    When we pulled off the main street, into the Mike and Liz’s residential neighborhood, the bike stayed with us. I wondered what was going on.

    When we stopped, just in front of our destination, it pulled up alongside of me. Just then, Mike came striding out of his yard to welcome us. Before Mike reached me, the man on the bike asked us if we needed a place to stay. He’d heard about our trip on the advrider.com forum. When he spotted us, he figured out who we were.

    I just had time to tell him that we were meeting folks just now. I turned to say hello to Mike as he reached me and the man on the blue bike left. I never got his name but I don’t suppose I’ll forget his friendly gesture. It was impressive.

    Mike and Liz could not have been more welcoming, giving us lots of wonderful food and plenty of beer. We went from strangers to old friends in about two hours. After dinner, it was decided we’d stay a day with them and rest a little. Mike had the next day (Friday) off and would show us around.

    Dean and I went to sleep that night in a finished room above the garage. It was a palace. We had no trouble dropping off to dreamland. Mike and Liz’s energy, conversation and amazing hospitality had left us fat, happy and a little dazed.

    [​IMG]
    Liz, Dean, me and Mike.

    To see more pictures, and other stories of adventure, go to my website at www.mysteryjig.com.
    Muscongus and bkendig76 like this.
  9. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine
    [​IMG]

    Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Happy Valley Goose Bay - 0 miles

    June 1, 2018 -- Our first stop on a daylong tour of the town was the E.J. Broomfield Arena and the 7th annual Guardian Hamilton Drugs Junior Labrador Soccer Cup. We watched teams of kids and teens from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Churchill Falls and Labrador City kick the ball around, arena football style, in a converted hockey rink.

    It was pretty awesome way to play soccer with no out-of-bounds, a short field and plenty of banked passes off the boards. The games were short, too. A big crowd of folks were in the stands watching the truly community event. All the teams were sponsored by local businesses.

    I could have stayed there all day but Dean is not a sports fan. He was itching to see some other stuff, especially a museum up in Northwest River. Mike drove us up there to the Labrador Interpretation Centre.

    The impressive museum was at the end of the line in the largely Inuit town of Northwest River. It was about a 40 minute drive up Route 520 from where we’d watched the soccer. The exhibits covered the history of Labrador, including the three indigenous peoples (Innu, Inuit and Metis) and white settlers who came later. It was fascinating stuff.

    There was also a temporary exhibit I liked a lot by Inuit photographer Jennie Williams. I’m a sucker for good black-and-white photojournalism -- and she’s the real deal, documenting her people and their community in Nain, way up on Labrador’s northern coast. Williams has also done projects photographing native peoples who have moved to the city in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

    On our way back to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Mike spun us through the Innu community of Sheshatshiu. It’s very different from tidy Northwest River with its museum and hiking trails. Looking through the truck window it seemed desperately poor and disheveled. Trash-strewn yards encircled dilapidated homes where ragged kids played. The community center seemed tired and neglected.

    As a tourist, just passing through, I can’t begin to understand the complicated social and economic forces at work in the two towns, separated by a thin strip of water. But the difference between them is one of the most startling things I’ve ever witnessed.

    Back in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Mike drove us to every corner of the town and all over the military base. The base is the reason there’s a town. Started in 1942, it was a refueling stop for transatlantic flights during WWII. It was named Goose Bay because there was already a Gander in Newfoundland.

    Throughout the Cold War, all sorts of NATO countries had planes and forces based there. The United States had the largest bunch, including secret nuclear weapons. These days, only Canadian forces remain.

    Our last stop of the day was at the famous Northern Lights general store. They had everything from bras to bullets -- including hunting supplies, camping gear, foul weather clothing, lingerie, and handmade art. I bought a little soapstone carving of a whale tail for my wife. To top it off, there’s a small museum of Labrador military history in the basement.

    By the end of the day, Dean and I were exhausted. Sightseeing, it turned out, was hard work. Mike and Liz treated us to another fabulous meal and we went to bed rather early.

    [​IMG]
    You could see the wide Churchill River from atop a hill in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. We crossed the bridge the next day.

    To see more pictures, and other stories of adventure, go to my website at www.mysteryjig.com.


  10. damurph

    damurph Cold Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 2, 2012
    Oddometer:
    3,299
    Location:
    The far east of the far east of North America
    Bill 310 and nick949eldo like this.
  11. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine


    Happy Valley-Goose Bay to the Hobo Chateaux - 109 miles
    June 2, 2018 -- The next day started out cold and dreary. It was raining before we finished packing. We spent a fair amount of time checking various weather apps over breakfast. Some said it would continue to rain, others said it would snow. I was convinced, looking at the temperatures, that it would just be a cold rain. All the forecasts agreed the precipitation would end by mid afternoon.

    I was wrong and so were the forecasts.

    It started to spit snow as we waved goodbye to Mike, Liz and their warm house. I’m sure they thought we were nuts. Ahead of us, 250 miles along Route 510, lay Port Hope Simpson. With the weather, we knew we probably wouldn’t make it all the way but camping after the rain stopped didn’t seem all that daunting. It seemed like adventure.

    As we gassed up at a station in town, we met a guy named Leo. He thought we were just getting into town and told us he had a lodge if we needed a place to stay. We said we were just leaving and he asked us if we were crazy. I said I wasn’t sure, myself.

    It alternated between snow and rain as we rode the first 50 miles on a paved road. The snow was melting on contact and not piling up. When the pavement turned to dirt, the sky juice changed to just snow and started to accumulate. Dean and I stopped to make coffee. It was all we could do.

    Continuing on, it was clear the temperature was dropping. Everything on us that was wet began to turn to ice -- including my helmet shield. Visibility was terrible. I had my heated jacket and gloves running full bore. Soon, we were riding through ruts of slush and crusty mud, no faster than 25mph.

    After another couple hours, we stopped for more coffee. When we were done, my bike wouldn’t start. The battery was flat. It dawned on me that I was drawing a lot of juice with the heated gear but not turning enough enough RPMs at my slow pace to keep the system charged. I had to remove the seat and get at the battery so Dean could jump me.

    From there on, I kept my heat turned off and really began to feel the cold. My leather Aerostich boots began to leak, too, despite the meany coatings of waterproofing I’d put on before I left Maine. The thermometer on my tank bag said it was 29 degrees. Misery began to set in.

    [​IMG]
    Dean makes roadside coffee on Labrador Route 510.

    We’d set out for Labrador on the early-ish side of the riding season. We’d known that and done it on purpose, trying to avoid the notorious, unmerciful black flies every travel blog warned us about. We’d certainly succeeded in that. We’d also run right into a raging, freakish June snowstorm.

    At just about the 100-mile mark, from the 510 turnoff in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, we came upon a roadside cabin. It wasn’t much to look at, about 10 feet square, wooden and built on an old trailer frame that looked like it hadn’t rolled in a long time.

    We decided to pitch our shelter tarp and tent on its leeward side. It offered a small bit of protection from the wind and now driving snow. Getting off our bikes, I tried the doorknob, just in case. It was locked.

    There was a window, and the door didn’t look all that sturdy but we thought it would be wrong to break in and do damage. We didn’t want to be over-privileged, ugly Americans who thought the world owed them a debt. We’d get by on our own, without commiting a crime in a foreign country. Nobody had forced us to be out there. If we were uncomfortable, it was by our own doing. We’d suck it up and do the right thing.

    Besides, we were prepared to camp. We had insulated pads, decent tents and thick sleeping bags.

    Dean set up his tent, which was bigger than mine, and I strung a tarp between the trailer and one of our bikes. Under the tarp, we made a meal and had a nip of Scotch from Dean’s flask. We knew we probably shouldn’t eat that close to our tent. It was not good bear safety protocol but there was no other place to string up the tarp.

    I got out my radio to see if we could get a weather report. I couldn’t tune in a single AM, FM or shortwave station. I still don’t know why. We felt completely isolated. We hadn’t passed a truck in hours and there was nobody on the road now.

    The wind began to dart in all directions, flapping our tarp like a bedsheet on a clothesline. I was cold and my feet were wet. There wasn’t much else to do but get in my sleeping bag and go to sleep.

    [​IMG]
    Pitching our shelter and tent in the lee of the cabin seemed like a good idea.

    In my bag, I still couldn’t get warm. I started to shiver. What we were doing started to feel dangerous. I knew the shakes were the first signs of hypothermia.

    In my mind, I could see the online newspaper headlines: Dumb Americans freeze to death outside perfectly good cabin in Labrador. I imagined the vicious comments under the story about what idiotic numbskulls we were. What were they doing out there in the first place? Why didn’t they just get in the damned cabin?

    I could hear the smart-assed cable news anchors: And now, in today’s “news of the inexplicable,” Canadian authorities ay they’ve found the frozen remains of two American motorcyclists outside a cabin on a remote stretch of road in Labrador. They seemed to have died from exposure and over-politeness.

    “Well, I guess they won’t make that mistake again,” the anchor would say before introducing the weather lady.

    It wouldn’t be enough to be dead, we’d be mocked as well.

    We had a Spot satellite emergency beacon with us. I could press the S.O.S. button but then first responders would mount a dangerous rescue operation. Once they found us they’d want to know why in hell we hadn’t just knocked the cabin door down. Then they’d give us a big, fat bill for thousands of dollars.

    I could feel a scream welling up inside.

    Instead of letting it out, I said, “Dean, we gotta’ get in that cabin.”

    He didn’t argue. Five minutes later, I was boosting him through the window. It turned out to be plexiglass and popped out without much effort.

    Then Dean unlocked the door saying, “There’s a stove in here -- firewood, too.”

    It was full of water but, using a handy red Solo cup, Dean bailed it out. I lit a fire while he took the tent down and threw all our gear in the cabin. Ten minutes after that, we had it so hot in there, I had to open the door.

    The cabin was painted battleship gray inside. The stove was a homemade affair. It looked like half a barrel with legs. The pipe went straight through the roof. There were three bunks and a table.

    On one wall were shelves holding cans of Vienna sausage and a large assortment of cold medicine and painkillers. They all expired around 2010. A calendar on the wall showed March 2008. Written in pencil, on the 22nd, was. “going home.”

    It didn’t seem like anyone had been back since.

    We felt relieved. We broke out some cans of Coors Light that Mike had given us for the road. We sipped a few and smoked our pipes. We’d gone from miserable to contented in less than an hour. The tiny cabin felt like a life-saving oasis in a cold desert of snow and spruce. We started calling in the Hobo Chateaux. Dean went to sleep and I read for a while, listening to the wind whistle around the eaves.

    [​IMG]
    The cabin, with a nice fire, was way better than the tent.

    To see more pictures, and other stories of adventure, go to my website at www.mysteryjig.com.
  12. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine
    The Hobo Chateaux to Nowhere - 3 miles

    June 3, 2018 -- Dean woke me early with coffee. He was antsy to get going. The snow had stopped. Blue skies had returned with the dawning light, still low and golden.


    The road was covered in patches of wind-blown snow. There were no tracks, no one had gone by in the night. Dean was convinced we were on a kind of high spot in the landscape and there’d be less now once we went down toward Port Hope Simpson on the coast.


    If I’d been alone, I probably would have sat tight there for a day. But having a partner gives you confidence, so we packed up. I left a note of thanks and a few bucks for the firewood on the table, in case anyone ever came back.


    Dean’s bike started easy. I couldn’t get the key to turn in my ignition. It was jammed with ice and snow. I used Dean’s tiny blow torch of a lighter to heat it enough to free it. Thankfully, I didn’t melt anything important. It started right up but didn’t idle very well. Everything was wet or under a glaze of ice.


    We set off, riding in first gear. I thought for sure I’d go down, plodding through the snow. I didn’t but my rear tire felt like it was wallowing and fishtailing. It felt wobbly, too, just like I had a flat tire.


    Which I did.

    [​IMG]
    Busted flat, with a flat, in Labrador.


    We only made it about three miles when I realized it. Pulling to the side of the road, I got off my bike and swore a blue streak. I blurted a full tilt tirade for several minutes. Dean, trooper that he is, did not freak out and let me have my wild, fist-shaking say at the universe.


    As if in response, the sky clouded over. The warm sun disappeared.


    After I calmed down, we made a plan to take the tire off, bring it back to the cabin, warm it up and put in a new tube. That proved harder than we thought. My rear brake assembly was caked in thick ice and the cold was making my hands less than coordinated.


    We modified the plan to just go back to the cabin and get the fire going again, first. Maybe we’d push the bike back there and work on it, or maybe the sun would break out and melt the ice. We also thought we might flag down someone with a truck who could take my bike to Port Hope Simpson. Surely, we could find someone there with a garage we could borrow.


    Dean took some of my stuff to the cabin on his bike and I walked. I needed to blow off some steam. He had the Hobo Chateaux all toasty by the time I got there.


    We decided to wait by the road in 10 minute shifts. While one of us got warm in the cabin, the other would try and flag down a likely truck headed east.


    The first one to come along was towing a trailer. My heart leaped. The trailer was full, though. The older gent driving said his name was Wayne Finlay. He was going to Port Hope Simpson but had no room for us. He did say there used to be a guy there with a flatbed tow truck but he thought maybe it was currently broke down. He might be able to find the guy but it would cost beaucoup bucks to get him to come 150 miles to where we were.


    We said thanks but decided to just wait and see what happened. A couple cars came by, going the wrong way. One lady stopped and told us to be wary of a huge, hungry-looking bear she’d just seen crossing the road. It had probably just woken up for the season in a bad mood.


    She wanted to help us somehow, so she gave us the only things she had in her car: Two bottles of water and a box of tissues.


    I tried to stay focused on what we had going for us. We had plenty of food, coffee and snow to melt for water. We could have sat there for a week without starving. The cabin had plenty of firewood, if we were careful with it, to last for days.


    After the bear warning, we decided to both stay in the cabin for a while. I read and Dean cooked some egs he had in a pan he found hanging on the wall.

    [​IMG]


    Maybe an hour after the lady left us, a large four-wheel-drive truck pulled up next to the Hobo Chateaux. Out stepped a mountain of a man, probably a head taller than me, with a long, jet-black beard.


    He shouted hello and said he’d seen my bike down the road and was hoping he’d find us OK. The man said his name was Aaron. He and his partner -- her name was Kendall and she was still in the truck -- were forest firefighters stationed in Port Hope Simpson. They were headed to Happy Valley-Goose Bay for some training.


    Something about them made us feel comfortable at once. Aaron offred to take us back to Mike and Liz’s house. It was not the way we wanted to be going but we accepted the kind offer and started packing.


    Before we left the Hobo Chateaux, we sprinkled some of Fishbones in the stove. That little shack had been a perfect hobo hideaway, sheltering us poor, unfortunate strangers in that strange land. The fire wasn’t quite out yet and I imagine some of him went up the chimney, out into the Labrador sky. Still, more of if him will sit in the bottom of the stove till someone else lights it up and gets warm on a cold day in the unknown future.


    Aaron told us there was a foot or more of snow back the way he’d come and we probably would have had to turnaround when we got to it anyway. It seemed that no matter what, we weren’t going to get to Port Hope Simpson that day.


    The three of us lifted my bike into his truck and we set off. Dean rode his bike in front of the truck and I rode in the heated cab. We traversed the 100 miles in less than two hours while I chatted with our saviors.


    Aaron and Kendall were from St. Anthony, Newfoundland but spent each fire season in Labrador. They said Wayne Finlay had actually flagged them down on the road because they were in a big pickup truck. Wayne had told them we needed help and a ride to town. So, they’d been on the lookout for two Americans holed up in a cabin.


    During the ride, Aaron asked me a lot of questions about my KLR. He’d been looking at some used bikes -- liking the KLR prices -- and was interested in getting one. I did my best to sing its praises. On the way, the sun started shining again.


    Without cell phone coverage we were unable to let Mike and Liz know we were coming. Instead, we showed up out of the blue. They were astonished but as welcoming forever. The six of us chatted in their driveway for a while and it turned out the two couples had some friends in common. It’s a small world, even though it’s so big.


    We waved them goodbye with a hundred thank yous. I changed the tube in the comfort of Mike’s heated garage while Dean sipped more Coors Light and warmed up, sitting in a sunbeam like a cat. He’d hauled some serious ass on the way back and was chilled and tired.


    We thanked Mike and Liz many more times and treated them to some takeout pizza for supper. We were asleep before our heads hit the pillows.


    To see more pictures, and other stories of adventure, go to my website at www.mysteryjig.com.
  13. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,013
    Location:
    Inverary, Ontario, Canada
    Im with you guys. Great attitudes in adversity. Bravo. Keep it coming.

    Nick
  14. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine


    Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Port Hope Simpson - 252 miles


    June 4, 2018 -- Before we left Happy Valley-Goose Bay (again) Dean and I stopped at the highway department headquarters to get a report on the road conditions.


    The receptionist sent us upstairs to a man’s office. We told him our story. He was quite entertained. I noticed his wall calendar sported a photo of Portland Head Light in Maine. I pointed it out and he related a comic story from the last time he was in Maine.


    He was helping his brother-in-law move and got off at the wrong exit. He had no GPS, no cell phone and no map. Some nice folks in Maine helped him find his way again. Suddenly, we didn’t feel so stupid or ill-prepared. We all laughed but maybe for different reasons.


    To answer our questions about road conditions, he made a phone call to a highway department garage in Port Hope Simpson. What we heard on our end, went something like this:


    “Yeah. Hi ray. This is Bob.” Pause. “Not bad. You?” Listening. “Good, good. Say, I’ve got a couple of motorcyclists here. They want to know if they can get through to your end.” Laughing. “No, I wouldn’t be trying it either.” More laughing. “But they can get through OK? Uh-huh. All right. Talk to you later.” Hangs up the phone. “He said you’re good to go.”


    We had egg sandwiches and coffee an A&W restaurant and stopped at a gas station before attempting Route 510 again.


    It still wasn’t warm but the sun was bright. I was also able to keep up decent speed and RPMs to keep the heated gear on. Still, we needed roadside coffee to stay alive. On one stop, about 100 miles in, we realized there were a lot of Canadian jays sitting on the ground and in the nearby trees.


    All the little birds were looking at us, almost like they were begging dogs. I fished a bag of nuts out of my tank bag, crushed a few and held out my hand. Almost immediately two birds flew down and perched on my motorcycle. Then, they took turns landing on my upturned palm, scooping up cashew bits and flying away.


    I gave Dean some and they landed on him as well. It was fun. We scattered a fistfull of nuts on the ground before we left the little dirt pull out.

    [​IMG]
    Somewhere on Labrador's Route 510, west of Port Hope Simpson.


    The wind picked up after that and it got colder, down around freezing. I’m sure Dean would have liked to put the hammer down for the final 150 miles to Port Hope Simpson but my bike seemed to handle the sometimes deep gravel at 35mph. It was warmer going a little slower, too. Like I’ve said, Dean is an excellent traveling companion. He didn’t complain.


    We didn’t stop for coffee for the final four hours. There was just too much wind and no shelter. The snow from two days before was gone and the road was alright. It alternated between deep gravel, loose pea-sized stone, to dried mud and potholes. That 250 stretch was the longest dirt stretch left on the Trans-Lab route.


    My KLR can go just about 300 miles between fuel stops. Dean’s Triumph is not as good on gas and has a smaller tank. We stopped once to give his Tiger a drink from our fuel cans. It was so cold and windy, we didn’t even take our helmets off.


    As he dumped the gas in, we could hear a metallic clang and rumble coming up from behind us. A moment later, we caught sight of a school bus jouncing along the road. It pulled over and turned out to be Leo Donald, the man we’d met two days before when we were leaving town the first time.


    Inside Leo’s bus was a small living area and a drag racing funny car. A sticker on the window read “Bush Man Drag Racing.” He told us he was headed to St. John’s for some racing. We wished him luck on the drag strip and then he went on ahead. His chariot didn’t look like a very comfortable ride but I was envious of his heated bus just the same.

    [​IMG]
    The friendly birds of Labrador.


    We pushed on, slow and steady. A lone caribou crossed the road in front of us before vanishing into the spruce on the other side. The sun got lower and the wind got bolder. The trees lit up in the dying light and the sky went from blue to violet. It was beautiful but too cold to stop and take pictures.


    At one point, not far from Port Hope Simpson, the road went up a steep grade. Dean was riding ahead and was silhouetted for a moment against the lilac-colored sky as he crested the rise. A few stars were poking through the night veil above him. The sun setting behind us cast a golden glow on the gravel under his tires and the dust cloud behind him. I’ll carry that picture in my mind for the rest of my days. It, alone, was worth the cold day’s ride.


    On the other side of the hill, with our destination just up ahead, I had a small scare. Road crews had laid a surface of two-inch stones on top of the road. Maybe to prepare it for pavement, I don’t know. My handlebars jerked side-to-side as the front wheel slipped off the sides of the round-ish stones. I was cold, tired and stiff. I just held on to the tank with my knees and gripped the bars loosely. I got through and we finally got into town, just after dark


    To our left, the land fell away, down to the waterfront and most of the town. To our right, up a short hill, a gas station shone like a beacon. We stopped there and filled our tanks.


    Inside, in the warmth, we chatted with the ladies behind the counter. They were surprised to see us coming from the west. We gave them the brief version of our story. Just as I got to the part about Wayne flagging Aaron down to tell him we needed help, I glanced down at the counter by the cash register. Right there, looking up at me, was a picture of Wayne.

    I shouted, “And that’s the guy.”


    His picture was on the cover of a CD. Turns out Wayne’s a singer of the folk and country sort. He’s got a warm, friendly voice and the disc is a sweet collection of mostly mellow love songs. The album was titled “Camp 12 Favourites.” The liner notes say their songs he and his friends play at cabin parties at Camp 12. I imagine them, guitars in hand, singing away inside a snug little hideaway not much different than the one that kept us warm on the road.


    The cashier said Wayne comes to town twice a week to buy lobsters. Then he takes them back to Happy Valley-Goose Bay to sell.


    As we were asking directions to the town hotel a man in the store said he’d lead us there. We followed his truck tail lights down the hill and into town. The Alexis Hotel was right on the water. As we pulled in and waved goodbye to the man, a woman was just unlocking the front office. She told us she was on her way home when she saw us pull into the store. She guessed we’d be looking for a room.


    She checked us in and sold us some sandwiches. In our room, we celebrated with hot showers, the last of Mike’s Coors Lights. Outside, the wind howled and the sea tossed. Inside, we slept with all the blankets over us.

    Port Hope Simpson to L’Anse-au-Clair - 139 miles
    June 5, 2018 -- Morning came and we went downstairs for breakfast. The wind was still up. The same lady that checked us in the night before was working solo, waiting tables, cooking and checking people -- mostly truckers -- out. It took two hours to order, receive and eat breakfast. The coffee was the worst I’ve ever tasted. I’d guess they made it with sea water.


    Dean and I spent the rest of the day on a miserable ride across the coastal highlands, down to the south coast. It was, by far, the most unpleasant part of the whole trip. The stunted spruce and low hills that had greeted us since Quebec were gone. The land was flat and open with no trees or even bushes. Nothing stopped the Arctic wind from lashing us at full speed.


    My KLR650 shuddered in the headwind. I couldn’t keep in in high gear. It wobbled in the crosswind, too, making me dart into the wrong lane.


    I fell into an awful mood and even snapped at Dean a few times. The wind was deafening as it blew across my helmet. Its icy fingers found every gap in my clothing. We didn’t stop for coffee or pictures even once.


    The dirt section of Route 510 came to an end just outside Port Hope Simpson. With the wind, against us, we made terrible time even though the road was smooth all the way to Red Bay. When we got there, we stopped for coffee at a little tourist dive next to a small museum.


    I called the Newfoundland ferry up ahead in Blanc Sablon. It was just over the line in Quebec, and therefore, we thought, in the Eastern time zone. We thought that would give us an extra hour to get there and make the ferry. But it turned out that sliver of Quebec is in the Atlantic time zone, just like Labrador. What’s more, the ferry actually operated on the special Newfoundland time zone, which is a half hour ahead of Atlantic. That meant we had a half hour less than we thought -- instead of an hour more. Even if we hurried, we couldn’t catch the afternoon boat. We were stuck in Labrador till morning.


    Since we couldn’t leave, Dean and I took time to see the museum. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Red Bay was an important Basque whaling station. It gets its name from the pink granite cliffs surrounding its excellent natural harbor. The bay itself is an important historical site containing many shipwrecks.


    From there, the paved road was bad. It was patched and re-patched, rough and twisted. There was some shelter from the wind, though. I was grateful for that.


    As we came down the road near Pinware we caught sight of an iceberg out in the water. It was far off but it brightened my mood. It was the first I’d ever seen. To celebrate, we stopped and had coffee.


    Finally, mercifully, we stopped at the Northern Lights Hotel in L’Anse-au-Clair. We located some Molson at a nearby store and found a sunny spot on the porch, out of the wind. There, we smoked cigars and relaxed.

    [​IMG]
    Our first iceberg.


    Later we had a mediocre meal in the dining room. Through the wall, I could hear some musical entertainment in the bar. By the time we got over there, the singer was just packing up her guitar. There was nobody there but a man and a tipsy lady at the bar. Dean said he could use a shot of scotch. The closest they had was Johnny Walker Red Label. It tasted like mouthwash.


    As we grimaced, the tipsy woman said we looked like Yogi Bear and his sidekick Boo Boo. We chuckled and played along, doing our best cartoon impressions. Then she asked us what we were doing in Labrador.


    We gave her the short version of the Hobo Chateaux story.


    “You two deserve the dumbest-people-of-the-year award,” she said, with a drunken sneer.


    “You know,” I said. “Ever since we got to Labrador, people had been so nice, we weren’t sure there were any assholes in the entire place -- but now we know there are. Thanks for clearing that up for us.”


    We were early to bed that night. We had an 8 a.m. ferry to catch in another time zone just down the road.

    To see more pictures, and other stories of adventure, go to my website at www.mysteryjig.com.
  15. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,013
    Location:
    Inverary, Ontario, Canada
    “You know,” I said. “Ever since we got to Labrador, people had been so nice, we weren’t sure there were any assholes in the entire place -- but now we know there are. Thanks for clearing that up for us.”

    It's not often I laugh out loud while reading something on ADV when I'm alone in the house - but you got me there.:rofl
    Your text descriptions blend perfectly with the videos for a wonderfully immersive story. It may be a year since you were there, but I bet you're enjoying even the parts when you were suffering retrospectively.
    Keep it coming - not home yet.

    Nick
  16. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,538
    Location:
    North by South
    Fantastic RR and videos! You two have a great presence in the videos and tell a great story. Thanks for taking the time to put them together.
  17. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine
    You're very welcome. Had a ball riding and editing it all together.
    GravelRider likes this.
  18. davesride

    davesride Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2012
    Oddometer:
    59
    Location:
    Camridge On Ca
    Loved it all!!! doing that trip this summer...3 weeks actually, better start planning!
  19. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine


    L’Anse-au-Clair to Rocky Harbour -- 148 miles

    June 6, 2018 -- The ferry was called the MV Apollo and it had seen better days. Caked in rust, it had a pronounced list to the port side, I thought. It did have a cheap, hot breakfast and plenty of coffee on board and that made it OK in my book.


    It rumbled away from the Labrador coast and we started to make our way across the Strait of Belle Isle toward St. Barbe on the coast of Newfoundland. As the boat wove its way among the floating ice chunks, I Googled its history via the onboard WiFi.


    The first thing I discovered was that the boat was older than me. It first went into service in Sweden in 1970. Since then, it had barely had a day off, ferrying people and cargo in Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, England and the Bahamas before landing in Labrador.


    Also, I learned it got stuck in the ice the year before with 70 people on board. Right about then, there was a deep bang and the boat shivered as we hit a particularly large piece of ice. I stopped reading and turned my phone off.


    It was notably warmer when we rolled off the Apollo in Newfoundland. The sun was out and the wind had mercifully died down. The first thing we did was gas up at a little store. The delightful ladies tending to things inside said “me love” at the end of every phrase. It felt great to finally be in Newfoundland, though a little sad we only had a two days to get to the ferry at the other end.

    [​IMG]
    Dean juggles.


    The rest of the day was a welcome respite from the high drama of the previous few. We had a good lunch at a quirky roadside bar, we stopped and looked at some funky sea arches, we snaked through the dazzling hills of Gros Morne National Park. Nothing went wrong. I wasn’t cold.


    We stopped for the night in the little tourist enclave of Rocky Harbour. We checked into a cabin situated next to a bar. After we unpacked, Dean and I strolled over for a bite and a pint. It was a pleasant joint, as tourist cantinas go, but a little too tidy and ordered to be authentic.


    After a few rounds, a woman asked if we were staying for the show. If so, we’d have to buy a ticket. It turned out there was a kind of traditional music and storytelling cabaret going on that night. We didn’t feel quite up to it, though. We opted for Molson cans and cigars around the fire pit by the cabins.


    Later, I fell asleep reading.


    To see more pictures, and other stories of adventure, go to my website at www.mysteryjig.com.
    chudzikb and Muscongus like this.
  20. mystery jig

    mystery jig Van Gogh's Banjo

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    205
    Location:
    State 'O' Maine
    [​IMG]
    Gros Morne National Park.

    Rocky Harbour to Port aux Basques - 220 miles


    June 7, 2018 -- More fair weather greeted us in the morning as we rode south, through the last of Gros Morne, toward west coast metropolis of Corner Brook. There wasn’t a ton of sun but it wasn’t raining or freezing, either. In the park, we saw budding trees and a moose.


    In Corner Brook, for lunch, we finally had some of Mary Brown’s Chicken and Taters. Everyone who’d heard of Dean’s love for St. Hubert’s chicken had been recommending it. It seems like there’s a little inter-province chicken rivalry between Mary Brown and St. Hubert.


    In any case, Ms. Brown did not disappoint. Dean had the three piece box and I had a sandwich. In the interest of keeping the peace, Dean refused to say whether he liked it better that St. Hubert’s chicken, though.well


    Most of the day was spent with our hands on the handlebars, trying to make the evening ferry to Nova Scotia. We did stop for coffee in Stephenville Crossing but that was the sole excitement of the afternoon. After that it was just a long, deserted stretch of Highway 1 running the length of a semi-scenic valley.


    We got to the port in the fading light of late afternoon. The road came down from a high overlook to the ferry terminal. It was quite lovely for an industrial scene. Maybe I was just happy to be done with the long day’s ride, but the sky was a striking, deep blue.


    We ate a small meal with the truckers in terminal cafeteria before we loaded into the boat. We found our cabin without much trouble and then headed for the bar.


    I heard singing coming from an outside deck and went to investigate, finding a young man with a guitar. He was entertaining some bikers from Nova Scotia. I joined in, singing some harmony on a couple songs I knew. Then he handed me his guitar. I think I sang “Proud Mary” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”


    Later, well belowdecks, Dean and I turned in for the night. I didn’t sleep very well. The ferry slowly rocked and creaked. I wondered how far we were from where the Titanic sank.

    [​IMG]
    The motel manager in Windsor, Nova Scotia talks with Dean.

    Port aux Basques to Windsor - 263 miles
    June 8, 2018 -- We rolled off the overnight ferry in North Sydney, Nova Scotia right into a weekday traffic hell. It was not pleasant on my KLR650. We took Trans-Canada Highway 105 to the west side of Bras D’or Lake and the town of Baddeck. Dean, ever the history buff wanted to see the Alexander Graham Bell museum there.


    Bell is most famous for inventing the telephone, which he did in Boston. The museum in Nova Scotia is dedicated to the things he tinkered with while at his summer home. There was some interesting stuff about hydrofoils but it was not the most scintillating museum I’ve ever seen. Museums are like movies, you can’t tell if they’re worth your time and money till they’ve already got your time and money.

    After the museum, we stayed on the big Highway 105 till I nearly got killed.


    It’s a highway, with highway speeds but it only has one lane in either direction. Passing isn’t allowed except for odd intervals where the lanes split in two. At those points, there’s a mad rush for the passing lane and lots of jockeying for position. At one spot, where the lanes merged back together at the top of a hill a trailer truck forced me out of the right lane, into a narrow strip of breakdown lane between its man-eating retreads and the guardrail.


    I told Dean I’d had enough. Let’s pick a destination and I’ll meet you there later via the back roads. He agreed and we Googled a motel in Windsor. Dean got there way before me but I had a pleasant afternoon and didn’t come close to dying even once.


    The motel was called the Downeast. It was awesome, clean and had a classic 70s vibe. The manager said he used to live in the United States in the 60s and he was in a jug band. Nearby was a gas station, a breakfast joint, a Chinese restaurant, a car wash and an auto parts store. The spot had everything.


    As we sat in front of our room, enjoying cigars and Molson Canadian, a party broke out in the room next door. A young man was just returning from a boxing tournament where he’d won his match. We toasted him and wished him the best.


    Later, we ate some pretty bad pizza and watched TV -- regular motel behavior, no matter what country you’re in.

    [​IMG]
    My bike on the beach in Nova Scotia.

    Windsor to Yarmouth - 199 miles
    June 9, 2018 -- After decent breakfast we decided to split up for our final day in Nova Scotia. Dean wanted to head to Yarmouth via the south coast and I was interested in the north. We picked motel and promised to meet there at the end of the day.


    I dubbed around on the backroads all morning and found a little place called Harbourville. The famously large Bay of Fundy tide was out when I got there so all the tied up fishing boats were sitting on the harbor’s gravel bottom. I looked around, bought a soda at the store and ate some jerky I’d made and brought from home.


    Before I left, I climbed a ladder on the pier, down to the bottom of the harbor. It seemed like a good place to leave some of Fishbones’ ashes behind. I poured some into the trickle coming through from a creek on the hill above. I wished him fair winds and following seas.

    Who knows where those big, powerful tides will take him.


    Back on my bike, I took the slow roads around Annapolis Royal, Digby to Weymouth. From there I took sleepy Route 1 around the western arc of the Nova Scotia coast. I found a little shingled beach in one small town where an older gent had driven his truck right out onto it.


    His tailgate was down and a row of plump, pumpkin-sized stones was lined up on it. He was leaning there, smoking a cigarette. I said hello and he greeted me back.


    “What are you up to,” I asked.


    “My wife’s collecting for a rock garden,” he said, waving his hand toward the water.


    I looked in that direction and saw a matching older lady bent over, inspecting stones. He and I chatted for a minute or two and I took a picture of my bike in the golden, failing light.


    When I got to the motel on the outskirts of Yarmouth, Dean had been there for hours. I tried to get him to come into Yarmouth town proper for eats but he was too pooped. I got takeout and brought him some instead.


    The man at the pizza joint where I procured the food saw my Portland Sea Dogs hat and knew it was a Boston Red Sox farm team. We talked baseball while his crew made my food. With the sandwiches in my saddle bags, I took a long loop around the town. It looked pleasant, like I’d want to spend some time resting there. It wasn’t to be, though. We had tickets for the early morning ferry back to Portland and the end of our journey.

    [​IMG]
    Getting on the ferry in Nova Scotia.

    To see more pictures, and other stories of adventure, go to my website at www.mysteryjig.com.
    chudzikb and Muscongus like this.