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Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Long Lonely Road, Marbles, and Bear Spray Attack on Pete's Genitals

I am standing on the side of a very long lonely gravel road, watching Pete with his hands in his pants desperately trying to stop his "frank and beans" from frying. Oh the burn! I feel like I should help in some way. Really a friendship only goes so far, and this is not Brokeback Biking. So instead, I decide to get it all on video, Hemmings will love it.

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. 

With our tanks full of the precious liquid, known as regular gas, we started our journey to The Goose, on what Pete calls "our Road of Bones". Might be a little dramatic, but it was going to be a long day in the saddle with nothing between us and the Goose, but endless kilometers of gravel road.

Road conditions were good for the most part. The well worn sections of the road were like concrete with some loose stone on the sides. We made pretty good time to the Cartwiright 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 road is not techincally hard by any means, however it demands almost constant attention, and can go from easy riding to sketchy marbles in a matter of meters.

When I mean marbles, I mean that's what is like to ride on. Loose stones on a hard road bed. The bike starts to dance around underneath you. Standing on the pegs helps, and despite what your intuition tells you going faster helps. Remember Dwights words of wisdom "when it gets sketchy....gas it"

Unfortunately for us, we end up on a 100km section of marbles, with gusty sidewinds, and dust. Lots and lots of dust. It was a mentally hard section of riding with a couple heart in the mouth moments.

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.

Remember Pete's burning genitals? Bear spray. The can of bear spray rattled around so much in his sidecase it essentially exploded. I just hope we don't run into any bears from here on in, or all we have is an empty can to throw at it. 

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.

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.

Twenty kilometers out of Goose Bay we run into some heavy construction. The workers said they are repairing the road bed because of frost heaving. Before long we are crossing the bridge over the Churchill River and back on the pavement.

Finally made it, started at 8am and arrived in Goose at 4:30.

Gonna need a wash when we get home.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Oxley's Account of the Wind, Rain, Ferries, and Gravel Road

After a great  night with Terry's relatives in St. Anthony - Shout out to Liz and Garl the best hosts north of Saint John. We packed our rides in Garl's huge shed and made our way to Terry's Mom's home port of Raleigh where it seems Terry is related to most of the folks standing and interned. In fact his 5th cousin Marina served us up a great cup of Jo and family history. At one point she dipped into the back room and produced a family tree from a manila envelope that had been compiled by another relative living in Fredericton. After a great visit we made our way to the Ferry at St Barbe which would usher us into the BIG LAND.
The Ride from Raleigh (Once known as Ha Ha Bay) to St Barbe was anything but Ha Ha. It was blowing 60KM per hour off the sea with rain. At points I was literally leaning into the wind at 20 degrees just to keep moving. My visor was always fogged up and my "water proof" boots ironically branded as Reign leaked like a holed dory. Some how on this hour and a half hell ride the wind managed to change direction 180 degrees and reek havoc from the other side. When we finally arrived at the ferry terminal I was spent. We popped in to a nearby restaurant and grabbed a bite. After a while we noticed a couple bikers. One an older guy on a Harley and the other a younger guy on a BMW. These guys were Oliver the German on the BMW and Darryl the Floridian on the Hog. Our new bad assed biker gang boarded the ferry, strapped our bikes down (remember the 60KM winds) and retired to the cafeteria for coffee and chat. The guys turned out to be great guys. We checked into the same hotel in Blanc Sablon and continued telling motorcycle stories until late in the evening.
The following day Darryl had to take off back to Florida by way of the grand kids in Pennsylvania. Good luck Darrel it was a real pleasure to meet you. As we would say on the East Coast - Real Good Guy!
We asked Oliver if he would like to join us on the Big Land campaign and he agreed. I know Terry and I both felt Oliver was a good egg and would be great to have along. Another Good Guy!

When we finally made it to the dirt road (AKA Highway 510) at Red Bay we hit the real Trans Lab. None of this tarmac crap for us. We are adventure bikers and we crave dirt. The ride to Port Hope Simpson from Red Bay is really no more than a dirt road with marble sized gravel and basketball sized pot holes for 130 plus KM. We cruised at 50-80 km/h and passed a few cars and a guy from Montreal on his mountain bike. The thing that struck me was how expansive the vistas were (The Big Land). You would look down a valley for what would seem 20 KM and not see anything but scrub brush, rock and water. It really is awe inspiring. Tomorrow we tackle the hardest part of the ride - the 400 plus KM's of gravel to Goose Bay.

The N'or Easter and Arrivng in La Belle Province

Where the old Burt homestead once stood. Another lovely day in St. Anthony. 10 degrees, rain and blowin' a gale.

Remember that "calm before the storm" statement I made in an earlier blog post. Well we were in a right good rain storm now, I'm watching Pete leaned over into the wind, fighting to keep the bike on the right side of the yellow line. The winds are gusting to 60 kph with sheets of raining falling sideways. The sea was angry this day my friends as we headed towards the ferry for the Labrador.

The previous day, after my family history lesson and the homecoming of the young Elliott boy from New Brunswick, we left L'Anse aux Meadows for St. Anthony, our home away from home for the night. My mom's cousin Garl and his wife Liz foolishly agreed to take two weary travelers in for the night. 

We were treated like royalty, steaks on the BBQ, cold beer, fresh potatoes picked from the garden, bakepples with ice cream, and two warm beds for the night. Not to mention a great evening of yarns(stories and tales to you mainlanders) and a guided tour of St. Anthony. Plus a nice dry garage for the bikes. Garl called it a shed, so we were picturing a 10x12 shed, not the 20x30 garage posing as a shed.

Liz and Garl Budgell

The shed

The next morning after a fabulous breakfast we headed south for St. Barbe, with a small stop in Raleigh to see where the Elliott clan came from. We stopped into this place for a coffee to warm up,
and ended up meeting my fifth cousin who gave me a run down on the family tree. Damn this is just getting weird, apparently most of the residents of Raleigh are my cousins of some sort.

I would have loved to have stayed around for the family reunion but we had a ferry to catch, it was time to get our asses to the Big Land.

The ride was interesting, gusty crosswinds, sheets of rain, and the temps were falling towards 5 degrees. Shit, this is still August right? Did we miss about 2 months of time? It was like a wet windy November day in Saint John.

The best part of the day was meeting Oliver and Darryl at the ferry terminal. We sat together on the boat, and all wondered why it seemed to be listing to port the entire time??? The crossing was loppy, but not too too bad, we hit a couple of waves that made us question our bike tie down abilities. Thankfully all were upright after the 90min crossing.

Oliver is in the yellow shirt, he rides a BMW 1200GS, and is from Germany, now living in Toronto. Ya it's odd to see a German on a BMW. Darryl is the guy who doesn't look like Pete, rides a Harley Ultra Classic Limited and is from Florida. Ya he's freezing his nuts off and no he's not taking it across the gravel.

I would have loved to say the weather was better in Quebec, but it wasn't. In fact it was worst, almost sleet. We all decided to call it a day since it was close to 5pm, and checked into the Four Seasons.

Not the Four Seasons next door to the Marriott either.

It was more like a boarding house or B & B, and was perfect for the night. Supper was great and Pete managed to find some beer, Darryl had some rum and coke. We sat around and got to know each other and tell some more yarns into the night. We also met Francois, who was another very seasoned biker who had just come the opposite way thru Labrador. 

Great hotel/ B&B, very clean, great food.

 Thursday morning we woke up to this, a fine day for riding. Oliver was traveling alone and was on the same route and schedule as us, so we all decided to ride together. Safety in numbers, and he was a good guy, that fit in well with Pete and I.

Darryl rode up to Labrador briefly the day before.....big ride from Blanc Sablon, must be a whole two or three kilometers. Anyway he was carching the ferry back to the Rock to start his long journey back to the Sunshine State in an effort to finally get warm again. He can at least say he was in the Big Land, plus who in their right mind would take a sweet Ultra Classic across that road.

We were finally gonna make the Big Land.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Shipwrecks, French Bicyclists, Norsemen and the Elliott Fishing Barons

I'm sitting at the Four Seasons hotel, and no it's not the fancy hotel down the street from the Ritz-Carlton, it's one of maybe two hotels in Blanc Sablon, Quebec. We hit the Big Land tomorrow, it's just a few miles to the east of us.

The last three days have been surreal, stunning, educational, and I think life changing, for me anyway. 

We rolled off the ferry around 0745 on Monday morning, and it was absolutely beautiful, the weather was more than perfect, sunny, warm and not a breath of wind. The calm before the storm as they say. Remember that for later.

Timmie's was jammed with people off the boat so we made a quick diversion across the grass, and over the curb to the Irving for the first coffee of the day, which was well needed. I'll let Pete pick it up from here.

After the marathon day of day 1, day 2 recharged the "love of adventure" battery. We disembarked from the ferry and popped into the Irving for a coffee and a muffin. At this point I was feeling like a great explorer. I was Magellan circumnavigating or Polo finding gunpowder and noodles in the orient .Then I met the Man from Lyon. This guy was riding his bicycle into Newfoundland via Japan and the USA. Wow did that ever deflate my adventure balloon. We had a long discussion with our friend and shot some video. We also offered him a Big Land Adventure film tee shirt, but as a cyclist the extra few grams would mean more pain. He politely declined.

The man from Lyon, Aurelien (no don't ask us to pronounce it)

After this meeting we rode the west coast of Newfoundland from Port au Basque to Gros Morne National Park. I will end with this statement. The west Coast of Newfoundland is one of the most beautiful places I have even been!

We made our way north stopping briefly in Stephenville for gas and a little visit at the beach on a fine Monday morning. We must have missed rush hour on the west coast because the roads almost void of other vehicles.

Humber Valley

The Big Stop restaurant in Deer Lake was calling our names, so we stopped in there for a fine bowl of pea soup, chased down with some lemon pie, and a pot of coffee.

It was unseasonably warm, probably close to 25 degrees, so it was a day of riding jackets void of liners, with the vents set to full open to try and stay cool. It stayed warm all the way up Route 430, better known as the Viking Trail enroute to Gros Morne National Park, our destination for the evening. 

The park is truely spectacular, everywhere you look is one amazing view after another. If we stopped everywhere to get videos and photos, we'd still be there now. I'd be riding along saying "that'll be a good shot, need to get that for Hemmings, oh wait what about that one" before long I realized we had only gone two kilometers.

The actual Gros Morne, a big friggin' rock. Part of the reason the whole island is called The Rock.

Rocky Harbour

Call Fred 

Wreck of the S.S. Ethie

We made our way north thru the park, at a really slow, "hey I'm a tourist pace", which worked well since everyone else was a tourist, except for the odd local from the Northern Penisula that was in a much bigger hurry and was far less impressed with the scenery than we were.

We decided to camp out in Cow Head, at the Shallow Bay campground. Being the studly adventure riders that we are sleeping in a tent in the wilds of northern Newfoundland was a must. Except this campground has hot showers, real toilets, and wifi. Really......people need wifi to camp? Actually I did so I could send out the first blog update.

Campsite #59
Supper, nuttin' but da best for us ol' man.

I'll let Pete pick it up from here again,

Day 3 of the ride was a study in juxtaposition (like I really know what that means). Terry and I spent the night at the Shallow Bay Campground. We camped and I want to plug a product very quickly. If you are a reluctant camper like I am buy a Thermarest sleeping pad. They pack very small but offer huge comfort. I found in the past when I camped I would wake up with my hipbones drilled 3 cm down into the earth. With the Thermarest you actually have a comfortable sleep and the thing is only about 5 cm thick when inflated.
Back to the day. The highlight was the sight of L'Anse aux Meadows, which I think roughly translated is a "60 KM wet and windy bike ride from the nearest coffee shop". We rode into the site and immediately were greeted by the enthusiastic staff at the interpretation centre. The centre was a modern building set above the Viking long house. We quickly looked at the artifacts and made our way down the walkways to the Viking structure. As soon as we walked into the ancient structure a staff member clad in period Viking wear pipes up from his shaggy beard and says, "you must me be the Elliott" referring to Terry's lineage to a famous Fish Baron from the area. We spent the next half an hour sitting on sheep skins in a sod hut beside a fire listening to the history of the Elliotts. And I thought the Vikings were a big deal.

Ok, before we get to the L'Anse Aux Meadows story, and my family, we awoke under rainy skies. The forecast said showers starting at noon. Noon must mean 1:30am, because that's when the sound of "rain drops keep falling on my tent" woke me up. 

Actually it wasn't too bad, just the odd shower, but not enough to keep the swarms of killer mosquitos away when we broke camp. Where's the Afterbite stick again, I feel a welt or twenty coming on. We bailed out quickly in search of a coffee shop. Ya, no Starbucks here b'ys.

Along the way we passed a shipwreck I'd seen in previous Advrider posts, so we stopped for a wee look see.

All her endevours are all over now.
Then we swung into the Arches a little bit later

Still no coffee shop. So while Pete is off videoing the interesting rock formations, I'm getting invited over to a motorhome in the parking lot for a coffee. Yurg and Ruth are visiting from Switzerland, and thought that the cranky arsehole by the bike need a caffeine fix and were so kind to pour me cup. I yelled to Pete who was down on the beach, and raised my coffee cup. He broke the record for the 400m dash across beach rocks, in full riding gear and boots record. Coffee will do that to ya.

So while I am talking to Yurg about his career as a Swiss border police officer, Pete has wandered off again like a curious school boy, and is chatting up two ladies and a film crew. Turns out they are pretaping a bunch of stuff for the national morning news show Canada AM, and are being shown around by a National Parks employee, Ms. Taylor, who knows of my family from Raleigh. We say good bye and head for L'anse aux Meadows.

In Hawke's Bay, great place for breakfast. Stop in, homemade bread and pies. Wicked good.

The skies are getting darker, so far it's been relatively dry.....so far.

The temps are starting to head in a cooler direction and we head into a heavy drizzle, which turns to full on rain at the turn off to go to see the Norseman, and we arrive in L'Anse aux Meadows with soggy boots. 

The Olympia riding gear has been awesome, it has kept us cool when it was hot, and warm and dry through some heavy rain, and I'm not saying that because they are a sponsor, the kit works good. My 7 year old Joe Rocket boots have given up some of their water repellency, time formnew one's, whichnis a little late now. Pete's brand new Icon "waterproof" boots on the other hand, suck, and suck big time, they are crap. Hear that ICON, they suck, his feet were soaked. His boots didn't even dry out over night on a drying rack above a heater.

Sod hut, this is a re-creation.

Pete getting his Viking on

The original grass mounds, all that's left after a 1000 years.

Unknown to us Ms. Taylor,the Parks employee has told the fine folks here about me, the grandson of Simeon Elliott. Soon as I step foot in the sod hut, I get the "you must be the Elliott, you look just like an Elliott, we were told you were coming here". Never knew I was that popular. Never knew the Elliott's were fish barons either. Gonna have to get a bigger helmet soon. Shit, maybe I'll move back to Raleigh  and take over the family baroning again.

Next post........a great night at my mom's cousin's place, finding a fifth cousin, a family tree, riding sideways in the wind and rain, and meeting new friends, and a new riding partner on a rough ferry ride to Quebec.