Big Land rolls on …

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Welcome to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Photo: Big Land ADV Films
Terry, Peter and Oliver get a tour around Goose Bay from local ADVrider Jimmy. Photo: Big Land Adventure Films
Terry, Peter and Oliver get a tour around Goose Bay from local ADVrider Jimmy. Photo: Big Land Adventure Films

It’s been a few days since we last checked in with Big Land Adventure Films’ expedition across Newfoundland and Labrador. Here’s what they’ve been up to.

Remember, their blog has more photos and details of their trip.

At the end of our last update, we said Peter, Terry and new team member Oliver were about to strike out across Labrador towards Happy Valley-Goose Bay, after crossing over from Newfoundland via ferry. Apparently, the trip was not without incident; not only did the riders have to deal with the usual loose gravel and high winds, but a can of bear spray also added to their woes. Says Terry:

Overnight accommodations in Labrador. Photo: Big Land ADV Films
Overnight accommodations in Labrador. Photo: Big Land ADV Films

“Friday we wake up under overcast skies in Port Hope Simpson, the forecast is calling for scattered showers in the afternoon. Not too bad. Campbell’s B&B was our shelter for the last night, nice place and pretty good rate, $75 for a double room and good breakfast.

The communities on the Labrador coast are like a throwback to past, gravel roads, dogs running around, small basic homes, and a hard working people. The one thing that wasn’t a throwback to the past was the price of gasoline. I filled my bike, a 10L container and another 5L container. Sticker shock was an understatement, $46. $1.59/litre.

… We made pretty good time to the Cartwright junction, cruising along at 70kph, the posted speed limit. Traffic was heavy this morning, must be the start of the Labour Day weekend, and we passed about five or six other vehicles.

The classic shot from any Trans-Lab expedition. Photo: Big Land ADV Films
The classic shot from any Trans-Lab expedition. Photo: Big Land ADV Films

The road is not technically hard by any means, however it demands almost constant attention, and can go from easy riding to sketchy marbles in a matter of meters.

… We stopped for a few breaks and to make sure nothing was rattling loose. I notice a dark brown substance splashed all over the left sidecase of Pete’s bike. Oh shit. So I’m thinking oil, and something catastrophic, it is an old KLR after all.

(On closer inspection, the leak turned out to be an exploded can of bear spray, leading to the following incident.)

“Pete cleans out his sidecase, washes his hands in the small brook by the road, and then decides to take a leak. Shortly after zipping up and remounting his bike, a burning sensation begins to form in his nether region. Before you know it Pete has his pants open again trying desperately to wipe the residual bear spray off his junk. Thankfully he never rubbed his eyes, because we’d still be on the side of the road with a blind man.

During one of these roadside breaks, the riders noticed Peter had a leak in his luggage. First they thought it was oil. Then they found it was bear spray. Then Peter got it all over his crotchal area. Sounds like a CMG expedition. Photo: Big Land ADV Films
During one of these roadside breaks, the riders noticed Peter had a leak in his luggage. First they thought it was oil. Then they found it was bear spray. Then Peter got it all over his crotchal area. Sounds like a CMG expedition. Photo: Big Land ADV Films

Pete grit his teeth, ignored the pain, and with his balls on fire we tore off to finish up the rest of the road. The last 100km was good riding, hitting 80-90kph very comfortably, with some light rain showers helping to keep the dust down.”

After getting a tour around Happy Valley-Goose Bay from an adventure riding local. Terry, Peter and Oliver were back on the road towards Churchill Falls.

“The ride to Churchill Falls was very pleasant. The road is freshly paved most of the way and of very good quality and like most of the slab up this way not too busy. The final 60 KM or so was still virgin gravel with the intention of dressing up in a suit of asphalt sooner than later. The lessons we learned on the 400km + gravel ride yesterday were not wasted and the three of us hammered the final 60 with more speed and finesse than the proceeding KM’s we clocked on the slab. I was actually having fun travelling 80-100 km/hr standing on the pegs with the back end flying around. Dwights words kept ringing in my ears. If you start to slip give it more gas. Truer words have not been spoken about the Trans Lab,” says Peter.

Terry's V-Strom 1000 developed a leak in the hydraulic clutch system mid-trip, which didn't make him any happier. Photo: Big Land ADV Films
Terry’s V-Strom 1000 developed a leak in the hydraulic clutch system mid-trip, which didn’t make him any happier. Photo: Big Land ADV Films

Once there, they ran into technical woes with Terry’s V-Strom 1000.

“You know that feeling when you operate something mechanical, like a motorcycle, and you go to do something simple like say, pull in a clutch lever, and it just doesn’t feel right, and you get that sick feeling in your stomach because you are in the middle of f’ing nowhere. Well today was one of those moments,” Terry says.

“I knew the clutch fluid level was kinda low, but not that low, not low enough to operate my clutch anyway. It worked fine the day before but overnight something went wrong. Pete ran off, or biked off to the gas station in search of brake fluid, and returned triumphantly. So in a few minutes the reservoir was topped off and we were mobile again.

Not a great place for clutch problems. Photo: Big Land ADV Films
Not a great place for clutch problems. Photo: Big Land ADV Films

Of course this just added stress to my day, I’m in Labrador on the long weekend, tomorrow I have 600kms of riding thru practically nothing to get to Baie Comeau. Not an ideal situation with a bike that is leaking …

I know a little about bike maintenance and the way things work, but not enough to diagnosis or fix a major problem. Hence the reason for bike mechanics. At one point I thought I may have an oil leak as well. The underside of the bike was such a dirty mess it was hard to tell what was what and what leaked where. With a little cleaning and the help from some friendly Wabush locals, which I will let Pete explain, it was determined I have a small leak from the clutch master slave cylinder. Also after some internet research, discovered that this is a common problem with Vstroms.

Oliver does his best Captain Morgan impression ... Photo: Big Land ADV Films
Oliver does his best Captain Morgan impression … Photo: Big Land ADV Films

Ya, I know, I should have learned more about the bike, and been better prepared, one guy on Advrider gave me shit for it, and as fragile as my ego is……he’s right. I figured I can do an oil change, repair a tire, etc, etc. but the other stuff I don’t know a whole lot about. I wish someone offered a course, Advrider maintenance training 101 or for dummies.

But, despite the setback, they were able to continue.

… The best part of the day was visiting Churchill Falls, or Hamilton Falls, or whats’s left of them, anyway. Truely spectacular, but makes you wonder what it would look like if they didn’t dam and reroute the water for hydro-electricity.

"If he makes it across, so can we." Photo: Big Land ADV Films
“If he makes it across, so can we.” Photo: Big Land ADV Films

… The ride to Wabush was all pavement, beautiful smooth pavement. Quite boring really. There was a good nip in the air, and the chill just never went away all day.

I was pretty stressed, grumpy and tired when we rolled into the Wabush Hotel. It’s amazing how a small problem can seem so catastrophic when so far from home.

The next day, they were off towards Quebec, heading south. At times, things got a bit hairy, Terry says:

“Pete is riding ahead of me and disappearing into a complete whiteout. The speeding transport coming around the blind corner is the kicking up a dust storm that is hiding the second and third big rigs behind it. In seconds I’m enveloped in the whiteout, not knowing what is in front of me, praying that Oliver behind me is slowing down like I am, and that Pete hasn’t completely stopped or hit anything ahead. Shit this is crazy.

Meet Tom. Tom slept in a ditch overnight and had nothing for supper but a granola bar. Tom sounds like definite CMG material. Photo: Big Land ADV Films
Meet Tom. Tom slept in a ditch overnight and had nothing for supper but a granola bar. Tom sounds like definite CMG material. Photo: Big Land ADV Films

Day 9, damn this trip is speeding by quite fast, hard to believe we’ve been on the road this long. We are all getting tired, but need to push on to keep ahead of the wet weather approaching from the southwest. It’s -2C this morning with heavy frost on everything, but the sun is still shining, and we have 600kms of riding before we reach Baie Comeau on the shores of the St. Lawrence.

… At the border of Quebec we pull in for one last look at The Big Land, and what do you know, along comes another rider on a BMW 1200GS heading in the opposite direction.

Tom is from Albany, New York and is traveling solo. He is frozen to death, shivering in fact. He hit the road at 6:30am, after camping in a ditch with nothing to eat for supper other than a granola bar and some scotch. Scotch must have kept him warm. Funny thing was, he said “there’s two guys filming a documentary up here somewhere”. So we talked about road conditions and what we can expect on the road later on. Tom really lit up when we told him there was a Tim Hortons just around the bend. Poor guy was hypothermic. Good luck in your travels and stay safe.

Those Quebecers - they're not like other road builders. Their road system may be crumbling, but they have stop lights in the woods ... Photo: Big Land ADV Films
Those Quebecers – they’re not like other road builders. Their road system may be crumbling, but they have stop lights in the woods … Photo: Big Land ADV Films

Here’s what Terry had to say about Rt 389, heading south into Quebec from the Labrador border.

“I think there were two guys who designed this road, one was sober and possibly a real engineer, he worked on the section from Fire Lake to Manic Cinq. The other was quite possibly a drunk, and former rally car racer, he “designed” the Fermont to Fire Lake and Manic Cinq to Baie Comeau.

In Fermont the road turns back to gravel, it’s pretty good gravel, but the road snakes back and forth across numerous railway crossings, and is a lot of fun to ride. It’s Monday on a Labour Day weekend so traffic is light to nonexistent. That’s a good thing because of the dry dusty conditions. I’m guessing its about 60kms to Fire Lake where the road turns to asphalt again.

The road to Manic 5 was a treat. Photo: Big Land ADV Films
The road to Manic 5 was a treat. Photo: Big Land ADV Films

… The first gas stop is about 294kms from Wabush in a little place called Relais Gabriel. It’s not even on the map. We met Ivan there, he was headed north on a KLR. Once again the travellers trade road reports. Ivan says we have another 100kms of gravel to Manic Cinq, and then that’s it. Easy peasy, or so we thought.

The last 100km of gravel was the most challenging and most dangerous of the trip, and I’m sure Oliver and Pete would agree with me. The road itself wasn’t the issue, but now the traffic has started to pick up and so has the dust. The big rigs don’t slow down, they just keep barreling through with little regard for a biker or the posted speed limit. Can you say “pucker factor”

The Sena comms we bought more than paid for themselves on this trip. Pete and I were able to warn each other of either traffic coming up from behind us, approaching us, and relay changing road conditions to the following rider.

After the standard stop at Manic 5, where they were duly awed:

“The road from Manic Cinq to Baie Comeau is paved, and is as close to driving a roller coaster as one can get. This would be an absolute blast on a sportbike, or even my bike, if I wasn’t following an overloaded KLR with a dust clogged air filter.

If any biker is looking for an amazing ride, head to Manic Cinq. From Baie Comeau its about 224km of twists and turns, climbs and descents. I’ve never seen or ridden anything like it before.

The fun however was starting to wear thin, after a long day in the saddle, Baie Comeau could not come into view fast enough. We were all pretty knackered the last 50km, and my clutch was starting to get soft again, I was hoping it would get me to the ferry where I could top off the reservoir again.

We rolled into Baie Comeau, and managed to secure ourselves a spot on the ferry to Matane. The skies were darking up and threatening rain. At least we won’t have to ride much anymore tonight.

We say goodbye to Oliver in the parking lot of the ferry terminal, with a lot of handshaking and pats on the back. We had conquered the Big Land together. It was weird to see him ride off alone …”

2 COMMENTS

  1. I passed the guys going the other way halfway between Lab City and Manic 5, stopped for a quick chat and a road report at a fuel stop, friendly, big smile kinda guys. Hell of a ride, In Nfld now for a day or two before heading to Nova Scotia and back to Ontario.

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