The Canadian URal/Dnepr Riders Group



JUNE 6th-13th, 2009

My story of a trip from Halifax to Goose Bay and back, by Tony "Tud" Verberk.

Photo by: Al Kay

Day 1:  Halifax, Nova Scotia to Matane, Quebec

Day 2:  Matane, Quebec to Baie Comeau, Quebec

Day 3:  Baie Comeau, Quebec to Manic 5 Damn, Quebec

Day 4:  Manic 5 Damn to Labrador City, Labrador

Day 5:  Labrador City, Labrador to Churchill Falls, Labrador

Day 6:  Churchill Falls, Labrador to Happy Valley Goose Bay, Labrador

Day 7:  Happy Valley Goose Bay, Labrador to Churchill Falls, Labrador

Day 8:  Churchill Falls, Labardor to Manic 5 Damn, Quebec

Day 9:  Manic 5 Damn, Quebec to Campbellton, New Brunswick

Day 10:  Campbellton, New Brunswick to Halifax, Nova Scotia


I believe it was a year ago or more when I thought to myself, "Self, you should ride your Ural to Goose Bay, Labrador."  I decided that I would in fact do this, and mentioned it on a couple Ural message boards. Suddenly I had other Ural owners thinking that they wouldn't mind doing that too, so I put a website together to outline my plans and gave some information for anyone interested in joining.  I looked up some info on the roads up there, distances, accomodations and the like, but wasn't really organizing anything other than a start date and a loose itinerary.  We were to meet in Baie Comeau, Quebec and go north from there and then turn right at Fermont, Quebec and head east to Goose Bay.  I had a bunch of people say they'd like to join, but over the past 8 months I got busy with school and kind of let things slide, not that there was much to let slide, I knew I was going and when, and that was enough for me.

There were times in the last half a year when I would have liked to back out, but I started this and I was going to see it through, and I also knew I likely wouldn't get another chance.  By the time the trip rolled around I was really looking forward to getting out on the road.  I've spend about $600 the two weeks proceeding the trip on Ural parts, mostly on new tires, plus a new gas can bracket and air filter.  I was at the dealer a day before I was to leave and he was there packing up a brand new 2009 special edition Ural.  I asked what he was up to and he was going to join us for Coffee in Baie Comeau and was going to leave Wednesday to get there for Saturday morning's meet.

I only had two other bikes confirmed, so with me and the dealer meeting in Baie Comeau, that would be 4 Urals in total.  A nice, small, easily manageable group, made up of some people I've never met before, and none of whom I've ridden any distance with.  I've hooked up with lots a people from online motorcyce newsgroups before, but only a few of those are people that I've hooked up with to go for an extended ride at the time of first meeting them.  I believe the runs up to Cape Breton are the exception.

I recently changed all the fluids in the bike, the bearings were repacked and tighetned to the proper spec, cylinder head bolts and valve clearences were adjusted, and the bike was packed.  Everything was good to go, and I couldn't wait to get on the road. 

Any photos that aren't attributed to someone else where taken by me. All photos taken by Al Kay and Derek and Shelley belong to them, if you like one and want to use it for something, pleasecontact them first.

Day 1

Thursday morning and my bike is packed and I had already learned my first lesson a few days earlier, don't get two new earrings shortly before going on a bike trip where you'll be wearing a balaclava and a full face helmet. Fortunately it usually only took a few minutes for the uncomfortable pain to subside, but it meant that I rarely took my helmet off once it was on, unless we were stopping for the day.

Annnnyway, my departure time was 7am and I got off more or less on schedule. Lutz (my local Ural dealer that was planning on meeting us for coffee in Baie Comeau) had left the day before in order to take it easy because he was breaking in the engine on the new bike.  As usual I took advantage of the sidecar and packed way to much, including my spare wheel, a spare tire, copious amounts of tools, tent, sleeping bag, camping pillow, 12 bottles of water, lots of clothes, two jackets, sneakers, notebook computer, rented satellite phone, camping chair, 2 extra pairs of gloves, bottle jack, full metric and standard socket set, etc. 

My plan was to be in Baie Comeau, Quebec for Friday night and I wasn't sure how long it would take to get to Matane, where I would need to catch a ferry to Baie Comeau.  It was about 700km to Matane, which I planned on doing solo.

My first stop was about 75km out of Halifax where I needed to top off my gas tank and the 4 gallon spare tank that is mounted to the back of the bike and tied into the cross over tube on the main tank.  A simple turn of a switch and it starts gravity feeding into the main tank.  I took this pit stop for a picture of the bike across the street from the gas station, just so you would know what parallel I'm starting out at:

The bike looked clean at this point, a far cry from where it ended up.  After fueling up and getting the picture I headed out.  I was doing mostly highways for the first couple hours and the bike was running well.  I missed my turn off for my trip north to Matane and after I filled up in Moncton I backtracked the 12km to my exit and headed north.  This was a slower road and one the bike enjoyed more than the highway.  Traffic was light and I enjoyed riding on my own with my thoughts to myself.  Turns out that when I was travelling on my own it was the only time I could actually think about personal things.  When I was with other people, and on roads that weren't quite as good as these ones, I had to concentrate on other things.  My solo trip didn't last long.  Outside Bathurst (Is anyone actually going to look these places up?  I didn't think so.) I saw a tan Ural coming towards me.  I was a bit surprised, I was only about 3.5 hours into my trip, and here was the dealer that left the day before coming at me.  He really was taking it easy if I already caught up to him.  Turns out he had just passed a rest stop and turned around to take a break.  Turned out he stopped a lot, which isn't my riding style when I'm alone, or even with a group, but it didn't bother me too much on the first day.  I decided to snap a few photos during the rest stop.  I was still fresh and everything was clean and dry.  I got less inclined to dig the camera our when I was wet and dirty, which turned out to be quite often.

This is Lutz by his bike:

We got back on the road and stopped for gas and a bite at Tim Horton's in Bathurst and then again for a bite in Campbellton, where I took these pics.  One stop for gas before meeting Lutz and now three stops in the same amount of distance, but like I said, it didn't bother me, much.  :-)

This was the last stop before leaving New Brunswick for Quebec, which meant leaving Campbellton and taking the bridge.  It's not easy to dig the camera out, turn it on and take a picture while riding, which allowed Lutz to get further ahead of me than I wanted for the picture.

I practiced a few more times, including some of me.  For the most part these were taken because of the scenery.

The weather wasn't bad either.

Our next rest stop.

Like I said, with the new earrings I wasn't quick to take the helmet off.

Lutz and what was a brandy new Ural at the time:

So Lutz says to me, "I want to show you something." and he hurries over to his bike.  I thought it was going to be some cool new feature on the '09 bikes, but with a great amount of pride he pulls out a folding camping chair.  I had to burst his bubble and grabbed my chair as well.

We actually made fairly decent time, and with the sun still up we made Matane by 8pm and got a room in a hotel next to the souvenir boat, with rooms in a hotel on the beach of the St. Lawrence River.

After dumping our stuff in the rooms we headed over to the hotel bar next door and had a couple drinks before ending Day 1, and 725km of riding.

Day 2

It was around midnight when Lutz and I called it a night and wondered back to our respective rooms.  I had been on the road for 13 hours that first day and could have used a good night sleep.  It was at 5am that I realized that I left my phone on vibrate when I got an email from someone, looks like I was going to get an earlier start to the day that I anticipated.  Problem was, the ferry didn't leave until the afternoon.  I'm not disappointed about the email that woke me up, it was from someone I was hoping to talk to before the trip so we exchanged a couple emails and then I just ended up calling them.  I made the call from the beach on my cell, it was a beautiful morning and by the time I was off the phone there was no getting back to sleep.

The first day of riding was good, but we were heading further north so Lutz wanted to get his heated vest working, which meant hooking up the leads to the battery.  So he got out his chair and tools and got to work.

One thing I like about the new models, the access to the battery is fairly easy, four bolts and the seat mounting plate comes off.

As opposed to earlier years when the plate was welded on.

We had the clerk at the hotel get us reservations for the Matane to Baie Comeau ferry while we were having breakfast, and since we didn't have much to do we headed over to the dock where we could check in 2 hours early.  I still had a cellular connection at this point so I used the time to get some work done via email.  This is us arriving at the ferry terminal.

A bad shot of Matane, QC.

The bikes safely tucked away on the ferry.

On the ferry we had two different guys stop to talk to us about the bike. It seems like the bikes always draw a crowd and people don't hesitate to strike up a conversation.  One of the guys lives in Baie Comeau and told us to follow him when he gets off the ferry and he can lead us to our hotel, which saved us a bunch of time because I don't think I would have found it very easily.  The other guy repairs hydraulic equipment and lives outside Halifax and as it turns out, he knows the guys at my shop at work through our companies.  He's on his way to Churchill Falls to repair some equipment and will be up there for 2 weeks.  I don't recall his name, but for the sake of the story, we'll call him Steve for now.  Talking to these guys helped make the 2.5 hour ferry ride to Baie Comeau go by a little quicker.  Near the end of the ride we moved over to where the movie was playing.  Explain this to me, it's a ferry crossing, on water, and the movie they show is The Guardian.  WTF?  A movie about boats sinking being shown on a ferry crossing?

Lutz and I were loaded first, so we were the first off the ferry and pulled over to wait for our escort to the hotel.  We didn't wait long before we saw him coming and he lead us to where we needed to be, with a brief stop to show us where to turn to get to the road north that we needed.  We passed a small steam engine along the way, perched up on tracks, so I made a mental note to come back tomorrow for a quick picture with it and the bike.

When I arrived at the hotel Derek and Shelley from Ottawa were already there with their 2007 Patrol, and shortly after (and apparently on the ferry with us, although we didn't know it) were John and Anne from Mass. showed up.  I knew Derek and Shelley were coming, but John and Anne were a surprise. Apparently John's 2006 Ural holed a piston about 35 miles into their trip, so rather than cancel the trip they just threw all the gear into their minivan and made the trip anyway.  It was nice having a four wheeled vehicle bringing up the rear for emergencies.

Here's Shelley and Anne with Derek and Shelley's Patrol.

And here's John (Joao actually), Derek, Shelley, Anne and my bike on the left and Derek's on the right.  Derek and John are apparently admiring my 16 liter Tourtank. It's mounted using the passenger seat from mount and then bolted to the back fender where the top bolts are for the tail light.  The seat needs to pivot since the suspension is under it, so the bolt allows the rack holding the tank to pivot as well.  The means if I take out the two bolts on the fender I can lift the rack up off the fender.  Keep this in mind for later.

Another surprise was Al (posts as Jazzpartol on the CURD forum).  That's him to the left of Derek as they check out the 2009 that Lutz brought.  Al may have mentioned he was coming, but I likely forgot, I was only expecting Derek and Fred at this point, so John, Anne, Lutz and Al were a bonus.

Here's Al's 2008 Patrol.  It's funny, the bikes all look so fresh at this stage of the trip.  That certainly didn't last.

Three of the 5 bikes to make the run, with Al, Derek and Lutz to the left. The red gas tank strapped to the sidecar step was a popular accessory on this trip, and a much needed one.

Me with mine and Al's bikes.

Photo by: Al Kay

We were checked in and hungry, but rather than hop on the bikes and go somewhere we just looked around and something across the street caught my eye.

A closer look confirmed my suspicions, sure enough it was a restaurant/bar, and within stumbling distance from the hotel.

                                                                                     Photo by: Al Kay

We enjoyed some good food, ordered some beers with our combined broken French and got to know each other.  I restrained myself and had a Salade Combinee (too many fries the day before).  The salad was good, but the waitresses were even better.  Obviously there wasn't much riding on the second day for us, in fact we put more miles on the 63km ferry ride than on the road.  At this point we had the minivan and 4 bikes, with a message from Fred that he would be arriving in time for our 11:30am start the next day. After a few beverages we decided to call it a night before heading out into the wilderness.

Day 3

The plan was to meet at the Tim Horton's just down the street from the hotel at 11:00am for a 11:30 departure time with out first night to be between the Baie Comeau and Labrador City.  I was up a bit early and joined Derek and Shelley for breakfast at Tim Horton's.  Since there was still lots of time and  I passed a small steam train on the way into town from the ferry, and since I have 2 young boys and thought they might enjoy a picture of it, I road the 10 miles down the road and parked beside it for a couple shots:

When I got back to Tim Horton's people had started to show up, including Fred from Montreal with his "hack monkey".  Here is a picture of Derek, Chewbaka (sp?), John and Fred.  I still get a little chuckle out of how pristine the bikes looked at this point.

Four of the five bikes to make it on the trip.  It's just not a Canadian bike gathering unless you're at a Tim Horton's.

One of our first curious onlookers in the black on the left.  Any time you stop on one of these bikes there always seems to be someone that wants to ask you about them, within the "community" this is called the UDF, or Ural Delay Factor.  It's the amount of time you have to add to your stop at the store/gas station/stoplights/where ever to answer questions.

Here's a shot of John sporting his 3 piece "Russian Iron" patch.  Yes, I have one. Nno, I don't have it on anything.

You're not seeing things, the small dog only has three legs.  It's Anne's"service dog", which helps her keep her balance (she could have used it in the restaurant in Churchill Falls, heh, "Falls", but I digress).  There were two dogs on the trip and both behaved extremely well.

Eventually Lutz showed up, rounding out our 5 bike group.  Lutz was apparently not too concerned with the helmet law on his ride to Tim's.

We're all here, but sticking around until the official start time in case anyone surprised us and showed up before the scheduled 11:30am start time.

If you haven't found your way to Al's website, you should.  His pictures are amazing and make mine look like a 5 year old took them with a toy camera. The other side of that coin was that he carried all his gear in his trunk and had to dig it out to get pictures, whereas I had mine in my jacket pocket and could pull it out while riding (the camera that is).  Did I mention it's a 21MP camera he's using?  Damn!

One of the people that stopped reversed the trend and had me looking at his bike.  I know most of you have seen these, but I don't get a chance to see one in real life very often and it's still a novelty for me.  Odd that I see more Russian made Urals than Canadian made Spyders.

I suspect that she is the most photographed member of our group.

While we were sitting there this sweet young thing came up and told us (in French) that they were having a car wash down the street to raise money and that it was $10 a car, but for us only $5.  It was the first time I got a sense of who could speak, or at least could understand French, since they were the ones that weren't standing there with a blank stare.  She was a cute little French bit o' allll riiiiiiiight, giggity, giggity.

Eventually 11:30am rolled around and with no more people showing up we mounted up and by 11:45 we were pulling out of the parking lot.  The first leg lasted all of 15 minutes before we pulled over for our first photo op.

211km isn't that much between gas stops, but for these bikes, which don't have great gas mileage because of the sidecar, we would at the very least be hitting reserve before reaching the gas station.

Here's an over the shoulder shot.  This 211km of road was paved but patchy, and a lot more twisty in parts than this section would indicate, but it's hard to take pictures over your shoulder on the twisties.

I'm not sure who instigated this stop, but if you look closely you can see that Lutz already had his camping chair out.  Both Lutz and I added some oil during this stop, not sure why I just didn't do it while waiting at Tim Horton's.

This little fella couldn't get over the guard rail.  Typically I only see these as road kill around here, so it was kinda neat to see a porcupine waddling up the road, all healthy like.  I think they only come out at night around here, but I had to have seen at least a dozen on this trip, all alive and well.

And off we go again.

About 30 minutes outside Manic 5 (the gas stop 211km from Baie Comeau) we ran into rain, which continued until we got the Manic 5.  By this point I had taken off from the pack.  I was told that the motel was 215km from Baie Comeau by Steve (the guy on the ferry) so I went by the 211km mark after stopping breifly and kept going just to make sure there wasn't another stop.   I reached the actual damn and went another km or so but there was obviously nothing beyond that, except for a dirt road, looks like we'd reached the end of the asphalt.  here's the Manic 5 stop, the first real buildings we've seen in a couple hours.  The sun was just starting to come out again when we got there.

It was in that little shop that we checked in and got rooms.  We still had a ways to go until we got to Lab City, but with the rain we didn't feel like going much further since it would have meant camping in the rain.  It was in that building that I heard the quote of the trip.  Al asked for a non-smoking room, but the old gal at the counter only spoke French, so Fred translated.  She seemed confused and Fred translated her response as "If you don't want smoke in your room, don't smoke in your room."  Seemed logical to me.  Here's shots of the "motel" (and low clouds), and the only rooms available between Baie Comeau and Labrador City (about 588km).

We went to the little restaurant for a bite to eat, which was palpetable but not great, then Al decided to take a run down to the damn for some pictures and Fred, Derek, Shelley and myself went for a walk to see if we could see the damn.  Having ridden there before going back to the motel I knew it was a couple miles, but that didn't seem to phase anyone, and since it stopped rainging it wasn't a bad walk.  We got Al after he went around the switchback towards the damn.

Derek, Fred and Chewbaka.

We finally caught site of the damn, then turned around and walked back.

                                                                                    Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

After the walk we went back to the office/store, grabbed some beer and headed back to my room for a couple beverages.

It was our first day of travelling as a group and things went quite well. For the most part we stayed together, but we also knew that there was a minivan with us that wouldn't pass the last bike.  I pushed the bike pretty hard that day and left the rest behind for a bit, but nobody seemed to have a problem keeping their own pace and not worrying about what other people were doing.  On these roads it's not hard to meet up, so we'd just say that we'll all get together when we get to "the gas station", since there's only one.

Day 4

As mentioned, we spent the night at the motel at the Manic 5 Dam.  Manic is short for Manicouagan, which is the crater that was formed by some sort of space projectile.  When they built the dams around it the crater began to fill in and you can really see it from above:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

I filled up in the morning, the trip meter was at 244km and total kms on the bike was 28053.  I think I mentioned this after my trip to Vermont on the bike, it's about 10% off.  After fueling up I headed over for some breakfast where Derek, Shelley and I ran into Scott, a guy from Vermont on a BMW Dakar that was planning on doing the same loop I was.  OH shit, did I forget to mention this in the Day 1 section?  My plan was to catch the ferry to Cartwright out of Goose Bay and continue down to Newfoundland.  Well before leaving Tim's, once everyone was there and I knew who needed reservations for the ferry, I called up the ferry company to book for the Tuesday afternoon departure.  As it turns out the ferry wasn't running yet due to ice conditions at the mouth of the bay and they didn't expect it to run until Saturday.  So much for doing the loop, there's no way I could wait around in Goose Bay for an extra 4 days and still get back to work on time. So when we were talking to Scott we mentioned this to him, and he was obviously disappointed, but still determined to make it to Goose Bay, solo.

Shelley took some more pictures of the location that morning.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Everybody packed up, checked out of the motel and we headed out to our next destination, a gas station 107km from the dam.  There was nothing else there, just a gas station, but it wasn't too far so this was our next planned stop.  Shortly after passing by the dam we hit our first section of dirt road, but were surprised to find that it only lasted a short while before we were back on tarmac, very straight tarmac:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Hard to take a clear picture will all the bumps once we hit the dirt road again, but I can make out my extra tank, so that must be me ahead of them:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

And Fred

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

One of our many rain showers

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

The tarmac lasted for about 20 or so kms and then it was back to dirt roads, where we still managed to maintain 80-90kph.  The problem with this was that we could be sailing along on a smooth section of dirt road, then slam into a rough patch with little or no warning.  Eventually I picked up on some of the subtle signs of a rough road ahead, likely just recalling things from my days as a kid on a dirt bike.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Fred wasn't necessarily passing, we tended to hog the whole road...

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran you can see.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Overcast and drizzly was the typical forecast for the trip.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Not sure what prompted this stop, and as the trip wore on I found that people would stop when others stopped based on their mood, if they felt like riding with the group then they'd stop, if not then they might just keep going.  The bikes look in their element on these roads.  I'm sure a lot of these pics are just to show the dirt on the bikes, or just because we were stopped and I had the camera out.  This section of dirt road was as straight as the paved section, which was quite a change from the twisties we encountered from Baie Comeau to the dam.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Derek bought some $10 rubber boots to go over his regular boots and they saved him from getting wet, cold feet.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Remember the crater, here's a shot from ground level:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

As you can see from my front tire, the dirt on the side of the road could get a little soft.  In fact the day before both Derek and I had to put the bikes in two wheel drive to get our bikes out of some soft stuff on the shoulder.

We reached our next gas stop and my trip meter was reading 97.8, even though the distance was supposed to by 107.  Apparently this is a common issue with Urals, because everyone was reading 97 point something, and we're fairly certain the road signs are accurate.  I'm wondering if the calibration from the factory was done with 18" tires and not 19" tires.  I think they used to use 18" tires ages ago, but I could be wrong.  Al had stopped to take some pictures along the way and pulled up a few minutes after we got there.

This is a little fuzzy, but here's John, Shelley, Al, Fred, Lutz and Derek. Fred and Lutz didn't have breakfast at Manic 5 so they grabbed a little something here, with some help in the translation from Fred.  I loved seeing all the bikes lined up.

This picture was taken after we crossed the bridge.  It was a one lane wooden bridge with the center about 2 inches below the side, as you can see. You can also see the puddles, it had been raining and the wood was like ice. This caused a couple major puckers.  I realize there's a stop sign there, but we were pretty much the only ones on the road for the past two days, so we didn't pay it much heed.  This meant hitting the bridge too fast and Derek, who was right ahead of me, slid off the track and the two wheels on the bike went into the center and rubbed along the side of the board.  This slowed him down quite a bit and when I hit the bridge I had to brake, which was pointless on the wet wood as all it did was make the bike start to slide to the left and towards the rail.  I eased up and Derek was still moving fast enough for me not to hit him and we made it through in one piece.  We got off the bikes for a "holy shit, did you see that?" session.  We then took some pictures after pulling the bike seats out of our arses.

After the bridge we eventually reached Gagnon.  Gagnon USED to be a mining town, but the company shut the mine down and removed all the buildings/house/etc.  The paved road is still there and about 80-90km long, in addition to some sidewalks, and the sewer system.  We planned on camping here the first night if it was going to be nice, but when we hit the rain before Manic 5 we decided to stop.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                   Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran


Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                          Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran           

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                   Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Chewbaka looks safe at the moment, but a second later Fred almost sent her out of the sidecar with his donut.

After the end of the tarmac at Gagnon we ran into another new type of road. Each section had it's own personality and required different riding styles. Once turning the next bend we were on a twisty section of loose gravel which criss crossed some railroad tracks for a while.  You would come over the tracks and then have to turn hard as you came down the short hill and had to follow the road to parallel the tracks again before crossing back over.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

If you'll recall I mentioned the UDF earlier, well apparently it can happen in the middle of nowhere.  We were pulled over and a truck with some line workers in it stopped and talked to Fred (in French) about the bikes.

This stop was prompted by A) a screw that backed out of Derek's windscreen and B) my need to take a leak.

Here's Derek taking off the windscreen.  Additionally, at one point I couldn't understand where the leaves were coming from, but as I drove behind Derek and Shelley, every now and then a leaf would come blowing by, as if kicked up by their bike, but there were no trees with leaves on them.  Turns out, the green plastic poncho Shelley had on, which you can see in the second picture below, wasn't holding up well to the wind and was starting to come apart.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran 

And here's were I took a bio break.  It looked like snow from the road but it's just moss.

Al catching up.

We were close to Fermont, QC at this stop, because what turned out NOT to be mountains across the lake were actually pilings from the iron ore mine.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                   Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                    Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Fred took advantage of the stop to check his tire pressure and add a bit more air.

The wetness around my shock made me think that it wasn't holding up to well to the abuse.  Eventually they both looked like that, and unfortunately aren't serviceable. 

Also at this stop Fred asked why the front of my sidecar was leaking. WTF?  What could be leaking up there.  As it turns out, the mount I bought for my jerry can the day before I left didn't hold up to the abuse either, and once it broke it allowed the jerry can to rub against a screw head, which in turn wore a pin hole in the can and gas was leaking out, so I emptied the can into my tank and strapped it to the back of the bike.

Photo by: Al Kay                      Photo by: Al Kay           

Photo by: Al Kay                        Photo by: Al Kay 


This was our last stop before hitting Fermont, QC, where we told everyone we'd stop for gas before finishing the last 20km to Labrador City, our stop for the night.

As we got closer to town we passed part of the mining operations, including this pink lake, ewww.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                     Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Yea!  Tarmac as we enter Fermont.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                    Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

This little fella was parked in a small park on the edge of Fremont.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran 

Fermont is a mining town that is completely contained in one large building with some covered parking in front for most of the residence.  One of the strangest things I've ever seen, and not quite how I would want to live. The building had to be 2 km long.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                    Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

We waited at the gas station but Lutz never showed.  After about 25 minutes we decided to push on and Fred asked the lady at the gas station to let anyone that showed up with bikes like ours that we were there and then left. We stopped again shortly outside of Fermont before we reached Lab City to mark out next milestone.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                    Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

It was a short haul from the sign into Lab City.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran 

Lab City in the distance.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                    Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

We got to Lab City and stopped at the first gas station in town and looked around, but there was no sign of Lutz or the minivan.  Fred and I waited at the gas station and Derek and Shelley went into town to seek out accommodations.  They found two hotels, the "Two Seasons" which had lots of rooms but didn't take dogs, and another place that had limited rooms but took dogs.  With no sign from the others we decided that Fred and Derek would go book some rooms at the different places (across the street from each other) and I would wait at the Tim Horton's.  As they started to pull away a truck pulled out of the Tim's parking lot and there, sitting in broad daylight, was a very familiar looking tan Ural.  They had been at the Tim Horton's next to the gas station the whole time and we just couldn't see their vehicles.  I stopped Derek and Fred and we all went over to get Lutz, John and Anne.  Turns out Lutz didn't hear the plan to stop at the next gas station and figured he could make it to Lab City.  Lesson learned, and next time we won't wait so long.

When we got to the hotel Fred pointed out that my drive shaft running to the sidecar seemed loose.  Sure enough, the u-joint on both ends was shot and could move around.  I didn't want to run the risk of having it come apart on the road, and I didn't need really two wheel drive, so we decided to remove it, after supper.

While checking in we were all in the lobby and I saw someone that looked very familiar walk by, so I called over "Hey Ian!".  Sure enough, it was one of the Project Managers from work who was up here for a grading job our company was doing.  He invited us to stop off at the company camp about halfway between Lab City and Churchill Falls for a coffee, just tell the cook, Gary, that Ian sent us.   Cool.  After checking in we followed the directions of the clerk to the restaurant, but when we got to the location we couldn't really see it, just an industrial looking building.  While standing there wondering if this was the place, I saw Ken Brown come out of the building, another guy I know from the office at home.  So's I call out to him "Hey Ken, where's the restaurant ?"  He looks around, a little confused, then picks me out of our group and seems somewhat surprised to see me up there.  Turns out we were in the right spot, the restaurant was in the industrial looking building, so in we go for a bite to eat.  While in there one of the people asked "So, you've NEVER been up here before."  I confirm that this is my first time in Labrador and this part of Quebec, so the inevitable follow up question comes, "So why do you seem to know everyone?". <g>

We enjoyed our supper, and then enjoyed a shot of vodka, courtesy of Lutz.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                    Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Lutz and John stayed for a few more drinks while the rest of us went back to see what kind of damage we could do to my bike.  Now to be honest, none of us knew how to take the u-joint apart, but we knew there were circlips involved, and while we didn't have circlip pliers, we did have needle nose pliers.  I called Ken and asked if he had any, but he didn't but said that if we need help to let him know.  The hotel was kind enough to let us park the bikes under the awning in front of their main doors, but I don't think they anticipated that it would become our garage.  Now like I said, we didn't know what we were doing, but if you look closely you'll see that I was at least prepared to utilize a big hammer. (Don't know who the guy in the ball cap was)

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                    Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Al Kay               Photo by: Al Kay

We got the circlips (or should that be C-clips) out of the left hand side and then I thought we could pound the caps through (stop laughing).  That's when Ken showed up again and rather than the rubber mallet he grabbed a regular hammer and started pounding on the drive shaft, and while this made me terribly uncomfortable, I did have to drive this home afterall, it seemed to work and the caps popped out, allowing him to disconnect the driveshaft on the left hand side.  The other side, that was a different story.  One of the clips broke, the caps were corroded in place, and no amount of hammering worked.  Unfortunately I was too distracted by all of this to take pictures, but Al snapped a couple. 

That's Ken in the jean jacket:

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Al Kay

One of the caps working it's way out:

Photo by: Al Kay  

On to the other side:

Photo by: Al Kay                Photo by: Al Kay

Not quite sure what Fred's doing to my bike here:

Photo by: Al Kay

Derek was going to check the wheel bearings while the wheel was off.

Photo by: Al Kay

Watch the paint!!                               Ken doing the dirty work.


Photo by: Al Kay                                  Photo by: Al Kay

After what felt like a couple hours we gave up and Ken said that we could go to the shop and cut it off with a torch, but we already had one side off, so we had to come up with a secure way to prevent the shaft from spinning out of control.  Red Green would be proud.

Photo by: Al Kay

Hell, it worked.  I was the only one that went to the shop with Ken and I didn't take any pictures of him cutting through the innards of the other u-joint, but he got it off and I strapped it securely to the back of the rig.  We got back to the hotel at around 10:30pm and he was leaving for the drive back to Halifax at 3:00am.  :-)   The broken parts are starting to accumulate on the back of the hack.

Photo by: Al Kay                                                           Photo by: Al Kay

I now had one less thing to worry about, and Fred had become the official bike inspector, and that's how we ended my day 4, and day 2 of the group trip from Baie Comeau to Goose Bay. 

Day 5

As previously mentioned, while removing the drive shaft for the sidecar, Derek took the opportunity to tighten the wheel bearings.  The bike was a little squirrely and I wasn't sure if it was the gravel roads or something with the bike, but when parked I could wiggle the sidecar wheel, so I knew there was a bearing issue, so he dealt with that while the wheel was off.

We set a departure time, and as I recall it wasn't anything terribly early given the short day we had planned.  Derek, Shelley and I headed next door to the golden arches for some breakfast, not sure what the others did, then it was time to start packing up the bikes.  The truck in the edge of the picture is one of the many that pulled in, looked over the bikes and then carried on.  We noticed, and you can't see it here, that a lot of the trucks had small orange flags on them, atop tall flagpoles (like CB antennas).  I wasn't sure why until we were heading out of town and there was a hill ahead and I saw this little flag coming.  I realized then that it was to give oncoming traffic a heads up that there's someone coming down the road in the other direction, so if you're hogging the road, move over.

I'm sure the hotel was happy to get us out of their entry way.

This section of road was in pretty decent shape (I guess I have to say that since our company is doing the grading).  The worse thing is when we reach a section that is being graded, the grader will result in the road being covered in loose gravel, as well as making a small ridge down the road that we have to cross in order to get around them.  But when there hasn't been a grader by, the road looked a lot like this:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

The weather was like this for most of the trip, overcast with showers.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

At this point my bike was starting to feel squirrely again, so when we reached the 120KM mark out of Lab City I decided to take Ian up on his offer and we pulled into the camp.  I pulled up to the containers where I found a relatively dry spot of ground in order to jack the sidecar up while the others went in and met Gary and got a bite to eat and some coffee, gratis. I figured I'd put the other wheel on and then check the bearings at a later time, and I had spare bearings so if replacement was necessary it wouldn't be a problem.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Those tires behind mine kinda dwarf the bikes a bit.

That mud could have been fun if we weren't concerned about disabling the bikes so far from home:

Some shots from Al:

Photo by: Al Kay                                                         Photo by: Al Kay   


Photo by: Al Kay                                                                                      Photo by: Al Kay   


Photo by: Al Kay                                                                                      Photo by: Al Kay   

Photo by: Al Kay                                                           Photo by: Al Kay   

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          

We left camp and at this point we didn't know where Fred is, he stayed behind to take his dog to the vet because she wasn't eating that morning and we had carried on not knowing how long a stay that could be.  The vet wasn't going to see him without an appointment, but what self respecting vet would send a cute dog like that off in that condition, so after an hour and a half they saw her and gave Fred some antibiotics for her, a visit that set him back $300.  We lost site of the minivan shortly after pulling away from the camp, but weren't too concerned since THEY were the chase vehicle, and Fred was still expected.

I think I mentioned it before, but seriously, go look at all Al's photos, they're really quite good.  Here's one of me.

Photo by: Al Kay                                                           Photo by: Al Kay 

Not sure if you can tell, but there's ice on that lake.  Brrrr.  It rarely got above the single digits during most of the trip.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Another road side stop, apparently to take pictures of the frozen lake, no wait, it was for people to top up their gas I think.  Regardless...

Here comes Derek and Shelley.

With Lutz and Al bringing up the rear.

You probably noticed that the tan Ural is still with us.  Lutz wouldn't commit to the trip, he had originally said he was just coming to Baie Comeau for breakfast, and it seemed like every morning we weren't sure if he was going to come along or turn back, but he kept coming.  I think the short days on the way up helped.  He kept a slower pace than a few of us but still made it.

Shortly after that stop we had reached our destination for the day:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Here's the hotel, school, store, library, curling rink, restaurant, etc. Churchill Falls is a company town, with the bar being the only privately owned establishment.  All the residents are employees of the hydro plant, and if you retire, you move, you don't get to stay in the company owned house that you've been paying $50 a month to live in.  We couldn't camp here because they have bear issues, which apparently are in aboundance around here and attracted by the dump.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

I'm glad the hotel wasn't one of those uppity places that let you track your bloody boots in all over the place:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

We checked in, asked the clerk about tours of the hydro plant and booked a tour for 7pm that night for the eight of us, then sat down for a bit to eat. Fred, John and Anne still hadn't arrived at this point and it wasn't another 2-3 hours before they finally arrived.  In addition to the time spent at the vet, Fred had to stop for John and Anne, who's minivan broke a shock mounting bolt.  They had Fred travel back and forth from the van to the company camp were we stopped earlier to see if they could get another bolt and the necessary tools to fix the problem.  They never got it fixed but decided to carry on, although the ride was likely a little rougher.  While eating we ran into Steve, the guy from Halifax that was in town for work.  It's kinda neat to run into someone you don't know for the second time on one trip.

Just before we got to Churchill Falls we passed over the Churchill River, it was quite dry compared to what it would have been like before they diverted the water.  Al snapped a few, including this guy that he saw while there:

Photo by: Al Kay                                                                 Photo by: Al Kay

A vast majority of the houses are the same design, with a roof that slops towards the back.  Also, they're only built on one side of the street, this facilitates snow removal and avoids the issue of the snow plow plowing snow into your driveway.

The van for the tour (free by the way) picked us up at the hotel, Fred and Anne weren't up for it, but another elderly couple was, so they took their place.  I'm not saying that John doesn't always think before he talks, but if you talk to him long enough you get the sense that he's had more jobs that Homer Simpson, and when you're about to go into a power station, is that really the time too point out, in your foreign accent, that you used to be a demolitions expert? It got a few raised eyebrows, but that was all.  I'm sure I took pictures of the tour, but I don't see them so maybe I just didn't upload them.  So these are all Derek's:


Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                

This is the world's largest underground hydro plant, we got on an elevator that took us down about 1100 feet underground.  The walls are left as bare rock in most areas.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran        

OK, I'm getting tired of cutting and pasting.  Go to the start of Al's photos of the plant and scroll through them by clicking on the image below.

Photo by: Al Kay  

There are 11 generators as part of the plant, but I think only 4 or 5 were actually running at the time.  When the plant was built a contract to buy all the power from the plant was signed between the plant and Quebec for some ridiculously low amount, and for a ridiculously long period of time.  I think the contract runs until 2042.  The government and the plant have tried to find a way out of it but have been unsuccessful.  My understanding is that the company makes about $30million a year and Quebec resells the energy in Quebec and makes about $1billion a year.

We were told that the life preserver in this picture is just for looks and that if you actually fell in you'd be dead.  They didn't elaborate, but on the right hand side are the outlets back to the river that run for a mile and the assumption is that you'd be sucked in, and the water is likely quite cold as well.

Photo by: Al Kay 

Upon entering the damn we ran into the guy in the picture below and John asked him if he had a bolt that would fit the shock for his minivan.  When we returned to the hotel afterwards he was there waiting with a bolt.

Photo by: Al Kay 

It was about 9:45pm when we got back from the tour and John and Lutz retired for the night, Anne was already in her room and Fred was no where to be found, so Shelley, Derek, Al and myself walked over to the bar.  If you don't count the guy playing the video lottery machine then we were the only one there on that Monday night.  Derek ordered the first round and when he heard that it was $13 for the four beer we knew we were in the right place. We ordered up some finger food to share and a few more rounds, traded some stories and eventually wondered back to the hotel.  It was a short travelling day but the hydro tour and the bar stretched it out a bit.  I think Fred was probably a little frustrated at having to go to the vet and then running back and forth to help John and Anne, but the next morning he seemed in fine spirits.

Well that's it for day three, a wheel swap at the company camp and a tour of a hydro plant were the highlights, and we were all sure to get the blood off our boots before going in the hotel.

Day 6

So, on to our final destination, Happy Valley Goose Bay, Labrador. Churchill Falls to HVGB (as the locals write it) is our longest stretch with no gas stops (or anything else), 294km.  My bike is currently getting shitty mileage, and this pushed me to my limits, and a little beyond, but we'll get there.

We're getting along and details are starting to fade, so I'm not sure what time we got underway, but I don't believe it was too early or too late in the morning.  Most of us hadn't gassed up (if you don't count our stop at the bar) the day before, so our first stop was the gas station.  John and Anne must have been ready a little sooner than us and waited patiently by their van.

After gassing up.  I still shake my head when I think that Fred did this trip with an open face helmet.

Starting to understand the concept of "Middle of nowhere."

Say cheese!

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran 

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 

One last stop before hitting the final leg of the trip to Goose Bay:

Photo by: Al Kay 

and then it was back on the road.  This section wasn't too bad, and as we approached Goose Bay we actually saw blue sky.  The problem was, there was one REALLY rough section for about 25kms.  This section was also a lot dustier than the other sections.  At one point we were coming towards a grader and we were doing about 90kph and they must have just done our side of the road because it was pretty loose gravel.  On these bikes, doing 90kph on loose gravel  means you have next to no steering, and applying the brakes just makes the bike veer a little to the left, so I held my course and played chicken with the grader, fortunately I won and he moved over.  Some shots from the road:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Al Kay

Fred enjoying himself

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Al Kay

The four bikes and the minivan, Al's not in the pic because he's taking it:

Photo by: Al Kay

The rough roads eventually became too much for my aftermarket windscreen and one of the bolts that mount it to the bars snapped.  So far Derek had a screw back out on his windscreen and he replaced it with a couple wire tires, Al had a stem running from the bars to the windscreen snap and he just adjusted the screen a bit lower, and now my mounting bolt snapped.  So I took mine off and added it to the other parts I've pulled off so far:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

We had to keep an eye open for the odd rock on the road, some of them were a little bigger than others:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Max Speed 111kph, on a Ural no less.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Remember Scott, the guy from Vermont that was making the run to Goose Bay? We met him at breakfast at the Manic 5 dam.  Well he made it to Goose Bay in one piece, but since the ferry wasn't running he decided to turn around and head home.  In addition to Scott, this picture shows what the graders do to the road, they add this really nice hump of loose gravel to the middle, which is fun, if not a little scary, to cross, and that's on 3 wheels.

We stopped for a break at one point, not sure what it was for, take a piss, top off gas, whatever.  But we picked a bad spot on the road and we had these things rolling passed us every couple minutes.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Al Kay

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Al Kay

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Al Kay

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Al Kay

Photo by: Al Kay

This picture makes me think this was where I took the windscreen off, since it's sitting on the side of the road.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran  

And put on a sweater.  In case you couldn't tell from how we were all dressed, it was cold.

Photo by: Al Kay


Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Al Kay

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Al Kay

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Dust on the windscreen of Derek's sidecar

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran


Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                   Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

About 15km outside of Goose Bay I ran out of gas completely.  My main tank was empty, my auxiliary fuel cell was empty and reserve was done.  It was about 4pm at this point and we pulled over and I got some gas from Derek.  I suspect the dust was clogging the air filter a bit and the gas mileage was suffering for it.  This section was also the roughest section we'd been on and it took it's toll on my bike.  Shelley asked me when we stopped if the gas tank on the back is supposed to bounce up and down.  Of course not, so I took a look and it wasn't a good scene.  The front mounting point is the same as for the rear passenger seat when it's on, so it's able to pivot up and down (as mentioned earlier).  The back mounting point is directly on the top of the fender where the tail light bolts on.  This part of the fender is apparently not strong enough to support the weight of the rack and full tank when being pounded by bumps.  I assume that first the bolts gave way, allowing the rack to bounce up and down and subsequently smashing a big hole in the top of the fender.  The only thing stopping the rack from landing on the tire was the cabling for the rear lights.  I got on the phone and called our office in Goose Bay and asked the guy I know there if they had a welder on hand.  They did, so I told him I'd be heading straight there and got some directions from him.  I also noticed during this stop that the sidecar fender broke free of one of it's mounting points, making it vibrate badly and threatening to let go at it's other mounting points, so I babied the bike into town, as we passed this (we didn't stop, but Al did for a couple pics):

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Al Kay

At this point in the trip it was Fred, Derek/Shelley and myself together, with Al, Lutz and John/Anne somewhere behind us.  The three of us drove straight to the shop and then Al and Derek/Shelley left to go find accommodations and to find the others.  This will have been the third time I've taken advantage of facilities provided by the company I work for, and I can't help but think that this could have been a much more expensive trip if not for the free shop time and labour.  Here's one of the head guys bending parts of the fender back in place after I removed the rack.  He had hosed it off a little but the bike was still filthy, and apparently he's more concerned with I am about the paint.

The hole left by the broken sidecar fender:

At one point there were at least 4 mechanics and 2 welders poking around the bike.  The bill for their time hasn't hit my department yet, but I did give them a GL account to charge it to. :-)

Part of the fix, 1/8" steal plate to reinforce the fender:

The guy in the blue is the controller up there, and is likely complaining about the labour being used up, since the guy welding is one of the head shop guys from the office at home and typically doesn't get his hands dirty anymore.

The other part of the fix are these new struts coming down off the rack to another mounting point on the frame, this will keep the weight off the fender:

Photo by: Al Kay 

Sidecar fender

Photo by: Al Kay 

Rear fender

Photo by: Al Kay 

While all this was going on Derek arrived back at the shop to tell me where they'd be.  I was there for a couple hours, and I'm sure kept a few guys there past quitting time.  They saw the u-joint and wanted to fix that as well and said that they had the parts that would fit, but I was tired and didn't want to impose anymore than was necessary, and 2WD wasn't necessary. Oh, but while they were working on the bike they had another guy back the broken bolt out and replace it, so I had a windscreen again.  As I left I asked that they leave a waste oil container outside the shop fence, along with a couple of rags.  I know Derek and Fred wanted to change their oil before heading back the next day.  Here are some shots from the hotel after Derek and Fred found Al and the rest.

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Al Kay 

Photo by: Al Kay 

Derek and Al heading out to change their oil:

Photo by: Al Kay 

I grabbed a bite to eat with Lutz, John and Anne while Fred and Derek went to change their oil and Al and Shelley took a rest in their rooms.  Derek, Fred, Al and Shelley had already eaten while I was at the shop.  Once we finished our meal I hopped on the bike and ran down to the shop just as those guys were finishing their oil changes and then we headed back to the hotel and walked over to a local bar.  John and Anne retired for the night but the rest of us enjoyed some drinks, including a bottle of Champaign that Fred brought with him.  Here he is opening the bottle in the bar, something I'm sure the bar tenders wouldn't have been keen on.

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                   Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

We drank far too much that night in celebration of our successful journey from Baie Comeau to Lab City and across the Trans Labrador Highway to HVGB.  We weren't the only ones, I wasn't expecting 2 bar room fights on a Tuesday night, but I guess there isn't much else for the locals to do.  We kept to ourselves in the corner and drank our drinks and reminisced about the journey thus far.  Al and Lutz had decided to wait until Sunday for the ferry, while the rest of us had commitments to get back to and were going to leave in the morning for the return trip to Baie Comeau.

Day 7

Well, I got you all to Goose Bay, I suppose now I should get you back.  It was Wednesday morning and my original plan was to catch the ferry the day before, but ice in the bay meant that it wouldn't be coming until Sunday, and I had to get back to work.  Lutz and Al didn't, so they were going to stay behind and wait and then continue on to Newfoundland.  I was a bit jealous, but that's ok, I was looking forward to the ride back.  It also meant that our pace would be quicker, we were going to do the run back to Baie Comeau in 3 days instead of the 4 it took us to get up here.  I was a little sore in the morning from a couple too many vodka's the night before, but I didn't let on. 

The plan for the morning was to pack up and meet at the Tim Horton's down the street, and from there we were going to drop in to the Labradorian, a local paper, so that they could take some pictures.  I think it was about 10:30am by the time we were at Tim Horton's, and I took a few minutes to buy a couple boxes of donuts and deliver them to the shop for the guys that worked on my bike the day before. 

Getting ready to leave the hotel:

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Al Kay 

No, they didn't spell CRUD wrong, CURD is the Canadian URal Dnepr riders group.

Photo by: Al Kay                                                         

A hotel that doesn't take dogs, an open window with the screen removed, and a very obedient dog, hmmmmm....

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Al Kay 

Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Al Kay 

John was probably telling Lutz about how he holed a piston after leaving home on the trip, again. :-)

Photo by: Al Kay

Trying to get some fluids into me to get rid of the hangover:.

Photo by: Al Kay  

We finally left the hotel and rode the 3 km's to Tim Horton's, I was feeling a little like Choubaka:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                   Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

(she sees fine out of both eyes, in case you were wondering)

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                  Photo by: Al Kay


Photo by: Al Kay                                                          Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Really John?  This is what you're wearing in the minivan today? <just messing with ya>

Last shot before we head down the street to meet with Chelsie from the paper:

Photo by: Al Kay 

The newspaper was just about 1KM away, that's Chelsie taking the picture.

Photo by: Al Kay                                                         Photo by: Al Kay 

Photo by: Al Kay 

Can you guess who the star was?

Photo by: Al Kay                                                        Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

                                                                                   Photo by: Al Kay 


Photo by: Al Kay                                   Photo by: Al Kay                                     Photo by: Al Kay 

Photo by: Al Kay 

After chatting with Chelsie from the Labadorian, we headed for our last stop before separating as a group, the welcome sign which we passed at separate times the day before.  This was the only time we got a taste of the mosquitoes we've been warned about.  They're definitely bigger than the ones around here, but they weren't exactly monsters.  Nevertheless, they were out and we weren't keen on sticking around too long.

                                                                                  Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Photo by: Al Kay                                                         Photo by: Al Kay


Photo by: Al Kay

Backing into position:

Well she carried me this far, now I had to ask her to carry me back.

At this point we said our goodbyes to Al and Lutz and the remaining 3 bikes and the minivan headed back to Churchill Falls.  Like most trips, the novelty of it all has worn off a bit for the return trip, the newness of it is gone a bit, so there were a lot less photos taken.  This one, however, was still worth taking:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

I think that's the one bear we saw that didn't take off as soon as the bikes approached.

We made it back to Churchill Falls in fairly short order and planned on spending the night here due to the late start we got in Goose Bay.  On the trip up I had replaced one of wheels on the way up because the bearings seemed to be shot.  On the way into Churchill Falls the bike started getting squirrely again, moreso than the gravel roads would account for, so when I got to the hotel I gave my credit card to Shelley and she checked me into the hotel as Derek and I went to work on the bikes.  He was swapping tires because his tread was getting low, and I ended up pulling my main tire because all, and I mean ALL the spokes were loose.  This was causing it to act squirrely, but surprisingly none of them were broken.  Three years of winter riding had pretty much made it impossible to tighten them (I still need to put some penetrating oil on them to see if I can loosen them up) and the spare I was carrying had the bad bearings.  This wasn't a major issue since I had brought spare bearings along, it was just a matter of pulling the wheel and old bearings, repacking the replacements and getting it all back together.  A bit of a greasy job for a parking lot, but we managed. Oh, and Shelley was kind enough to bring me the can of Diet Pepsi perched on the rack.

After getting the bikes back together we hit the restaurant where I ate more than necessary, but tonight we didn't bother with the bar even though it wasn't far away.  Our goal was to cut a day off the trip and get back to Baie Comeau in three days instead of 4, so we retired early with the plan of getting to Gagnon and camping there for the night.  That's it for Day 7, nothing stands out in my now fading memory of the ride from HVGB to Churchill Falls.  Oh wait, I almost forgot.  The road was extremely dusty during this leg of the trip.  Derek has an aftermarket air filter setup that makes it easy for him to get to the air filters, whereas Fred and I have the stock setup.  Derek decided to clean his air filters to get all the dust out, but Fred and I decided to check the plugs and see how they looked. They were a nice tan color so we figured we weren't running rich, which means the dust either wasn't being that hard on them or there wasn't that much dust on them, so we left them untouched.  Try to keep this in mind until I get to Day 8.

Day 8

Day 8 was going to be our longest day of the group ride, we planned on going from Churchill Falls and stopping in Gagnon in order camp for the night, something we haven't managed to do yet on the trip.  It would be about 400km, not all that far if you don't consider the road conditions.  The day started out similar to how the previous day ended, dry and dusty, and as you can see there was nary a cloud in the sky.

The remaining team of vehicles, being inspected by Fred.


We left Churchill Falls and planned on stopping at the construction camp halfway between Churchill Falls and Labrador City to return some tools that were borrowed by John on the way up.  This worked out well for the people at the camp since they were having issues with their wireless internet setup and I was able to offer some small amount of assistance.  We only stayed for a short time and then hit the road again.  It was around this time that the weather took a turn and we soon found ourselves riding in the rain.


Here's a nice shot of the coverage provided by the lap blanket, which has pretty much in tatters now after 3 years of constant use.


Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran


By the time we got to Labrador City my bike was feeling really sloppy again, and sure enough one of the wheels had way too much play.  I don't recall the issue, not sureif the loose spokes were from the previous change or being addressed now.  I don't think it was loose spokes, I think that was the day before, since I was just moving the rear tire to the sidecar.


The attendant at the Ultramar station wasn't keen on letting me swap the tire out under their canopy, so it was done in the parking lot in the rain, which, as you can tell by the photo, didn't dampen the spirits.  The nice thing about everyone bringing a jack is that I could get both the pusher (rear wheel) and the hack wheel off at the same time.


Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

This is where things got interesting.  Aside from the bike getting sloppy, we were now riding in rain after a couple hours on dusty roads, not to mention the dusty roads from the day before.  As we were leaving Labrador City with Fred in the lead followed by me and Derek, my bike started cutting out quite badly.  If I eased up on the throttle I could keep it going, but for the most part I was down to one cylinder.  Eventually even that stopped and I found myself on the side of the road (still paved on this section) being passed by large trucks coating us with road spray and sitting on a dead bike.  I wasn't sure if it was a fuel delivery problem, but Derek's suggestion was spot on, the dust on the air filter when combined with the water from the rain turned to mud and prevented any air from getting through to the carbs.  No air, no combustion, no movement.  Fortunately I had a spare air filter, and had I taken the time to clean my filter from the day before, like Derek did, I wouldn't have ended up on the side of the road replacing a filter in the rain.  Once the filter was replaced we were back on the road and the bike was running proper again.


After Fermont, Quebec (no, we didn't stop at the border in the rain for pictures of the Quebec sign) we hit that section of road that followed and criss crossed the railroad track for a while.  It was raining and we were on the return leg of the trip, so I wasn't slowing down as much as I should for the tracks (even though there as a stop sign at each one).  I hit one set particularly hard and all of a sudden the bike got a lot louder.  I thought to myself that I must have punched a hole in one of the exhaust pipes.  Oh well, nothing I could to about that on the road, so I carried on.  It wasn't for several kilometres later that I noticed Derek wasn't behind me anymore.  I slowed down but he never caught up, so eventually I stopped and turned around.  I finally met Derek coming the other way.  He asked how the bike was running and I told him it was running great, but that I must have put a hole in one of the mufflers because it was a lot louder.  He just laughed and asked me to take a look to see if I could find the hole.  I'm pretty sure that, even if you're not familiar with motorbikes, you might be able to spot the problem.


Quiet bike:


Loud bike:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran


That's right, usually there's a muffler attached to this section of the pipe:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran


Apparently when I hit the tracks I sheered off the bolt that was holding the mounting bracket for the muffler.  Derek was behind me and said he saw the muffler come off and all he could do was laugh.  He said he watched me drive off thinking that I'd stop for it, but I was oblivious.  Once the muffler cooled down they grabbed it and put it in John's minivan and then started off again. 


While we were stopped Fred had apparently began to wonder what happened to us and he doubled back as well, not always a good idea given the lack of fuel stops.  The extra mileage isn't a good idea.



There was a place to pull off just before we hit the paved section at Gagnon, so we stopped there to put the muffler back on with a new bolt provided by Derek.  I think the best shot during this stop was the one where it looks like we're trying to figure out exactly what this thing was for, Fred appears thoroughly confused:


Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran


This was where we pulled over to fix the muffler, which was just before the 90KM of paved road through Gagnon, something I was definitely looking forward to, what could go wrong on the paved section?



I hadn't put much thought into the plastic leg shields, but when I saw the hole a rock made in one I was kinda glad that we had them.  This shot also gives you an idea of how dirty the bikes were getting.



Time to get to work:

Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran


Once the muffler was reattached we pretty much hit pavement for the next 90kms, unfortunately my day of wrenching wasn't done.  Once again I found myself with a broken windscreen mount just before we reached the end of the pavement.  I made short work of removing the remaining mount and strapping the windscreen to the back of the bike before anyone could get their cameras out, it was cold and wet and I don't think anyone was in the mood to hang around, and we certainly gave up on our plans to camp in Gagnon for the night and instead were going to push on to the Manic 5 dam again.  The next 200+ kilometres would be wet muddy roads with no windscreen.


Shelley snapped a couple shots of Fred along this stretch of paved road (I think I'm back there too):


Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran                 Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran


I assume it was while we were stopped for me to take the windscreen off that Fred kept going, I don't recall exactly, but our next stop was the gas station 107KM north of the Manic 5 Dam.  Along the way we came upon Fred on the side of the road.  Apparently his bike had quit on him and the assumption at first was a clogged air filter, the same thing that stopped me on the side of the road.  We decided to leave Fred on the side of the road (nice of us, eh?) and go to the gas station where we would call ahead to get some rooms at the motel.  It was a solid plan, or at least would have been if the satellite system at the gas station was working, but it wasn't so there was no way to call ahead for rooms.  We waited for what seemed far too long for Fred, so John got in the van and headed back up the road.  The two of them returned a short while later.  It wasn't necessarily the air filter that stopped Fred, it was a lack of gas, but because it ran out so soon, in a much shorter distance than Fred was expecting, the assumption was a clogged filter.  Due to the filter being clogged the bike was getting really crappy gas mileage, causing it to run out well before normal.


Fred was in no mood to take a minute to warm up at the gas station, instead he filled up and decided to head out right away in order to see if he could get us rooms.  We followed shortly.


During our last 100km of what would be a 600km day we came across a guy in a pickup that waved us to a stop, indicating that a wideload truck was coming up the hill around the bend and we had to stop until it went by.  So once again we found ourselves stopped on the side of the road, along with the truck that was coming up behind us:

                                                                                   Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran

Did I mention 200km of rain and dirt with no windscreen?  You could really smell the dirt on the road when a truck would come by in the opposite direction and spray you.


After about 5 minutes we saw a truck coming that was carrying what looked like a huge arm for some sort of giant excavator.  The guy in the pickup was long gone, so as soon as the truck went by we headed out, turned the bend and headed down the hill.  Much to my chagrin, that was the first of 4 wide load trucks that were coming.  I hit the brakes and just started sliding down the hill towards them.  There was no stopping, and as long as I was breaking hard there was no turning, so I eased up on the brakes, headed for the shoulder and we managed to weave our way through the remaining three trucks.  Shelley took a picture of one of them:


Photo by: Derek Mildenberger/Shelley Baran


Yes, that's a white plastic bag on Derek's hand, he was using those to keep his gloves dry.


The next section of road was unbelievably slippery, the mud was getting deeper and while we could get up to about 80kph, the bikes would loose almost total control as the rear wheel lost grip or the front didn't respond to direction.  This was an amazingly fun and scary ride.  There were several times when I was sure I was going off the road, and other times when the bike felt like it was going to get sideways.  Not a good thing at the speeds we were going. I would have thought that we would have caught up to Fred when he had to stop for the trucks, but when we caught up to him at the motel we learned that he just drove by the guy with the pickup that waved us down to stop.  That gave him at least a 5 minute lead on us, plus the few minutes he had on use when he left the gas station.


Turns out that when he reached the motel he was told that there were no rooms available.  I don't think any of us were looking forward to turning this into a 800km+ day, but Fred managed to talk the person running the motel into giving us 4 rooms that were booked for people that were supposed to be there about 2 hours earlier.  I think the fact that Fred spoke French was a huge help, there's no way us English speakers could have talked the French lady into giving us the rooms.


We were thankful for the rooms and we took the time to peel off the wet stuff and hang them strategically by the heaters in our rooms.  Everything was pretty much soaked through.


We were all pretty knackered at that point, but the night wasn't through yet.  It happened to be Derek and Shelley's 5th anniversary, and John and Anne had actually purchased a cake and had Happy Anniversary put on it while in Lab City, along with buying a bottle of wine.  With this, we had a surprise anniversary party for them in Fred's room (although this shot is from my room before we went to Fred's).


That's how we ended that day.  600km from Churchill Falls to the Manic 5 Dam, about 480Km of that in the rain.  Stops for gas, wheel changes, air filter changes, muffle repairs, windscreen removals, and wide load trucks.  This was by far the most challenging bit of riding I've ever done.  The road at times was unbelievably slippery and muddy, but we all made it through unscathed and with some great memories to carry with us.  By far my greatest day of riding.

Day 9

Well it's Day 9 and we're down to just my pictures, since this is the day I parted ways with the rest of the crew and wouldn't get another chance to download Derek and Shelley's photos. 

The view from the Manic 5 wasn't too bad this morning, clouds, but no rain on the forecast, so it's all good.

There was no more dirt roads left to ride.  The 211kms back to Baie Comeau was twisty, but paved.  This is a good thing considering all the things I've already removed from the bike and strapped to the back.  This shot gives you a good indication of how dirty things were on that last day of dirt riding.

I'm beginning to see why people are so surprised when they ask what year it is and I tell them it's an '06.

I did a quick job of washing out the air filter (actually, if I think back on it, it might have been Derek that washed it out for me).  You can still see some of the mud from the day before, that stuff was coating the oil air filter when I took it out to replace it the day before.

Fred's bike was pristine when I first met him about a week earlier at the Tim Horton's in Baie Comeau, but now it wasn't looking much better than my badly neglected beast.

Derek's bike after many days on the dirt roads.

Fred packing up before we head out from the Manic 5 motel for Baie Comeau.

It was nice to be back on paved roads (although I'm itching to get back onto roads that are a little more adventurous as I type this), and I don't think we stopped much on the way to Baie Comeau.  About the only time I stopped was at 186km out of the Manic 5 dam, pretty close to Baie Comeau.  I didn't stop for a mechanical problem, to look at the scenery, or for a bio break, but rather to take a quick picture of a milestone with the bike.  It passed the 30,000km mark on route 389 between Baie Comeau and Manic 5.

I was a little ahead of Derek and Shelley while taking the picture when I heard what was becoming a familiar sound coming up the road.  The first shot also gives you a view of how twisty this road was.

If you look closely you can see that Derek lost a bungie cord and Shelley is holding onto the gas can on the side of the hack.  At this point we were about 15-20 minutes from Baie Comeau where we stopped at the first gas station and we all topped off.  I suggested that everyone head down the street to the Tim Horton's while I run down to the ferry and book a spot on the 5:00pm ferry heading to Matane, Quebec.  I got there at around 2:00pm but was told there were no reservations available and that I could park my bike in the line and wait.  Not wanting to miss the ferry, I decided to rush back to Tim Horton's, say my goodbyes and then head back and wait at the ferry terminal and hope that I could get on.  Our goodbyes were all to quick given the ride to Goose Bay and back that we had just done together, but I didn't want to drop back in the line and have to wait until the next day for a ferry. 

On the way back to the ferry I was driving through the quaint little downtown part of Baie Comeau when the car in front of me jammed on it's brakes in order to avoid some large rodent that was scurrying across the road.  I hit the brakes and the weight of the sidecar, combined with sand all over the road, caused the bike to veer left and into the on coming traffic's lane.  No one was coming in the other direction, which was a very good thing, and my front wheel was beside the car that stopped by the time that I came to a complete stop.  It was a good lesson in always being aware of the road conditions, like sand on asphalt. 

I made it to the ferry terminal and parked in the lane that I was told to park in when I had stopped off earlier.  Turns out I was put in a different line as the cars and trucks that were waiting without reservations, so I ended up being at the front of that line, and the only vehicle in it at all.  I had to wait for a couple hours for the ferry so I snapped a couple shots while waiting, and yeah, the bike draws a crowd even when waiting for a ferry.

A view from one of the boats from my picnic table.

The ferry, with it's nose open.

A view of the shore from the ferry, which I managed to get on, and was the last vehicle loaded.

I got off the ferry in Matane at about 7:30pm and knew what route I needed to take to get home.  The sun was still up but getting low on the horizon so I decided I'd take the road I needed straight out of town from the ferry terminal and would stop at the first motel I saw, and if I didn't see one I'd keep going and stop in Campbellton, New Brunswick.  I got off the ferry behind a transport truck and started following him out of town.  As it turns out there were no motels along this road until about 30 minutes out (which I didn't feel like stopping at), and I knew it would be dark long before I made the approximately 200km trip to Campbellton.  This part of Quebec/New Brunswick is notorious for Moose, and riding at night was not something I was looking forward to, but I tucked myself in behind the truck and decided to make the ride to Campbellton.  I figured that if I was behind the truck I'd be a little safer from hitting a moose.  The ride was pretty nice, great roads, twisty and smooth, and the truck wasn't hard to keep up with on these roads.  This worked well for about an hour, which is about when the sun was gone and things started to get dark.  Still, with the truck in front of me I wasn't too concerned. 

And then it started to rain.  It wasn't raining hard, but with the truck kicking up spray from the road I had to back off quite a bit and soon the truck was out of site on the twisty roads and my moose blocker was gone.  The rain at night is much worse than the rain we hit in the daytime because the water on the faceshield at night makes star burst patterns and it gets very hard to see through.  I found myself constantly wiping off the shield while trying to keep an eye out for any dark shapes about to step out on the road.  It was probably the combination of these distractions that caused me to drive by the turnoff for Campbellton.  I had seen a sign saying it was something like 15km, and when I hit 20 I decided to turn around and take another look for the turnoff for the bridge.  I found it on my way back and rolled into Campbellton at around 11:00pm and hit the first hotel I found, checked in, pulled up to the room and called it a night.  I typically don't have a problem riding in the dark, but the rain combined with the threat of moose made it a much more interesting ride.

I was on my own now and just had one day left on the road.  The thought of being alone on the road was appealing, the fact that I only had one day left was much less so.

Day 10

Day 10, the last day of my trip from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Happy Valley Goose Bay, Labrador and back.  This day came a little earlier than I had expected.  Originally I was to catch the ferry to Cartwright out of Goose Bay and continue on through Newfoundland, but unfortunately the ferry wasn't running yet due to ice and I had to turn around and come back.  We made the trip back to Baie Comeau in less time than the ride out, and I lucked into the ferry in order to get across to Matane, Quebec and down into New Brunswick, now I just had to ride home.

I figured if I got up at 5:00am I could make it home by noon, but when 5am hit I decided that getting in at 1pm was just as good.  Turns out that when 6am came around I decided that getting in at 2pm wouldn't be all that bad either, so at 7am I finally dragged myself out of bed, checked out and hit the road.

My first stop was the gas station to top up, I hadn't filled up since Baie Comeau and was running on the backup tank at the moment.  I took a couple shots of Quebec from the gas station, great roads just over the river, and I was finally looking at some sunny riding.


I hit the road and was glad to be riding in the bright sunlight for a change. About an hour out of Campbellton I was passed by a red Honda Civic, and within a few minutes of him passing me he slowed down to a stop in the middle of the road.  I was too busy cursing him out for passing and then slowing to a stop to notice why he was stopping.  It wasn't until I had come to a complete stop behind him that I noticed a huge moose step out onto the road in front of him.  For all the talk of moose, and having not seen one the entire trip, I really wasn't expecting one on my last day.  I'm glad this guy noticed or I would have cruised right by.  Chances are I would have been passed by the time the moose stepped out, but it was still cool to see one.  Man are those things huge.

I think it was in Bathurst when I decided to stop for something to eat at Tim Horton's.  It was sunny but wasn't real warm, I was still dressed in my winter riding gear and the coffee and soup helped warm me up a bit.  The rest of the trip was pretty much highway, running along at a modest 55mph.  I had a nice talk with an elderly lady at a gas stop who told me all about her old BMW that she had toured extensively on, and still had since she couldn't part with it for sentimental reasons.  She finished up by talking a couple pictures of the bike before I hit the road again.

I knew I wasn't ready to end the trip when I hit Nova Scotia and opted for the road through the Wentworth Valley rather than taking the toll road.  It's a much nicer ride but as with any road that gets replaced by a faster bypass, it's starting to be neglected.  The rest of the ride home was pretty uneventful, the bike ran strong, the traffic wasn't bad and it was highway the rest of the way.  I got home at around 2:30pm, it was a Saturday and the wife and kids were home.  The bike was filthy, I was filthy and tired, and at the same time I felt that I could have just kept on riding.  Unfortunately, as with so many of us, work, family and other responsibilities often outweigh our immediate desires.

Well, that's my trip.  Obviously hitting familiar roads on the way back through Nova Scotia didn't lend itself to much picture taking, and while I would have loved to have taken a picture of the moose, the camera was packed and not easily accessible at the time.  I hope you all enjoyed the ride report, and if you actually read through the whole thing then you have much more patience than I do.

This trip also received some media coverage, including The Labradorian newspaper, Trek Magazine and from what I've heard there will be a write up by Al Kay for Cycle Canada.

So the question remains, after having ridden the bike from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Goose Bay, Labrador and back, about 4000kms, much of which was on dirt roads, what's next?  If all goes well with planning and financing, I'm hoping that this will be my next challenge:

Follow my own planning for the 2011 running of this race at this site.