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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Route 389, 600kms of Crazy Road, and Saying Good Bye to a Good Friend.

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.

(Photo taken from the internet)
I didn't want any of us to end up like this unfortunate, unknown rider who was killed last summer when he struck the back of another vehicle.

(Photo taken from the internet)

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.

It's also our last day of riding with Oliver, he will head west for Toronto, and we get on the ferry to cross the river for Matane and head south. It's a bit of sad day in that regard. Oliver has been a great rider and friend over the past six days, and both Pete and I are gonna miss him.

Oliver got into riding later in life, started on a Honda Shadow, I believe, then a 650 BMW, and is now on a beautiful 1200GS Ralley Edition. He is a good rider, toured throughout Europe and has taken advanced, and offroad training courses through BMW. His easygoing, friendly personality made him a joy to be with on the road.

So we scrape the frost off the bikes and start to head out on the final kilometers of the TLH, before it turns to Route 389 in La Belle Province. Hoping my clutch leak doesn't get any worst. 

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.

Good bye Newfoundland and Labrador, it's been amazing, especially the people, and the other adventurers we've met along the way.

Bonjour Quebec and Route 389

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.


It's rough pavement until around the Gagnon area, the abandoned mining town. Established in the mid '50's and was then torn down in 1985. It's weird to be riding through the middle of nowhere, and passing through an area with curbs, gutters, manholes,  and side streets that go nowhere.

I really wanted to camp here in Gagnon, but wasn't keen on the possiblity of waking up to cold rain or wet snow in the morning, and having a hard, muddy ride to deal with, plus my clutch was still leaking. Just get me to Baie Comeau or Matane where there is a bike shop.

The ride is beautiful, large hills nice new asphalt, as we start the gradual descent to sea level.

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.

Really......a traffic light in the middle of nowhere?

We saw a lot of these signs from Manic Cinq to Baie Comeau.

Before long we reach Manic Cinq and the huge dam. I mean dam it's big, so big the pictures do not do it justice.

Top of the damn

The road down, that has an 18% gradient in places. Must be fun in a tractor trailer in the winter.

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. Be even weirder to be riding without him tomorrow.

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