Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sun 9 July

We packed up our tents this morning for the last time and hit the Interstate West. After 2 days riding the flat plains of Illinois and Iowa we made it back to Omaha mid afternoon. It's been over three weeks and 6,700 miles since we left. We are all tired, suffer from bug bites and sore rumps but we achieved what we set out to do - ride Newfoundlands abandoned rail line and traverse the great gravel road that is the Trans Labrador Highway. Franks DL650 was the only bike that did not need some attention during the ride but all our bikes need servicing. Pete and I will change the oil and replace the worn out tyres over the next couple of days and repack for South Dakota on Wednesday.

Sat 9 July

I avoid cities of these journeys for all the obvious reasons but mostly because they all largely look the same and hold no appeal. Well Chicago is different in the extreme. Sure the traffic going into the city was a bit nerve wracking at 8 lanes and all going like a bat out of hell. And my first impressions of the skyline did nothing for me either. In the brown soup that hovered over the city you could just make out a single tall building with a couple of white masts on the top. Once in the city you were presented with trees and flowers and parks and grass verges every where. There were even flower baskets hanging of an overhead pedestrian walkway. We rode along a wide clean street fronting in to Lake Michigan. There were kids playing on the beach, sailboats on the lake and people strolling along the walkway. There were literally hundreds of high rise apartment blocks facing the lake. You have to wonder where they all worked. Even a couple of blocks back from the lake the tree theme continued. Suffice to say this was a really neat city and the folks I spoke to were immensely proud of their city. This would be a city worth visiting in its own right.

We found the BM dealer and Terry fitted his sprocket while we watched the mechanic assemble one of the new 1600 6's. This dealer has presold 25 of these bikes and we saw 6 sitting on the floor waiting to be collected.

More toll roads to get out of town as we head west towards Nebraska.

Fri 8 July

Terry has found a sprocket for his bike – at the BM dealer in Chicago. So we are going to ride into Chicago tomorrow morning. I'm not looking forward to that. This morning we had yet more examples of the income disparity of people – trailer homes vs 3-story ones with manicured lawns. In the afternoon and for all afternoon we took the Ohio Freeway towards Chicago. It was a bit tedious to say the least but we shore made some miles. Toll = $6.

Thur 7 July

We had a delightful ride out of the Adirondaks this morning through quaint villages and then the back roads (more like back blocks) to Rochester. The back roads were an eye opener for the number of derelict and abandoned houses. Those that were lived in were pretty crappy. The contrast with the lovely home in Rochester was incredible. Made it to Niagara Falls late in the afternoon and went back into Canada for the better view. The falls are quite grand and pictures don't do them justice. It was also teaming with tourists. In the early evening we rode out through Buffalo looking for accommodation. Buffalo was once a major industrial city but is in serious decline. There are abandoned industrial facilities every where you look. The abandoned steel mill looks quite Dickensian and one wall still bears the 'together we stand' logo of the steel workers union.

Wed 6 July

Rode the streets of Montreal. What a lovely city, though it could equally be Sydney or Melbourne. A huge number of apartment building close to down town. Later in the day we crossed back into the US from Quebec to New York state. Camped the night by a lake in the Adirondak mountains. It was a beautiful State Park with lots of families camping. It poured down for a bit in the afternoon – like the tropics – wind, lightening and heavy, heavy rain. We had to wait an hour at a gas station for the power to be restored. Terry's rear sprocket has died and he is looking for a BMW dealer with one.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tue 5 July

It's like being in a foreign country here in Quebec. All the signs are in French only and it's hard to find an English speaker. A benefit however is this mornings breakfast of crapes, fruit and syrup – delicious. We are stuck here in paradise while Terry goes back to last nights camp site to look for his phone. He later found it in his pants pocket. Our time was spent sipping a nice white wine in a cafe on the foreshore of this quaint town. The sun is out and we have a cooling sea breeze. Life is tough on the road at times. Early in the afternoon we took a look at this.

Later in the afternoon we drive through Quebec City for a look-see. It seems to be about the size of Wellington and has a lot of brown stone buildings. Seems a nice place with surprisingly little traffic at 5.30 PM. Tomorrow we will take a quick look at Montreal.

Mon 4 July

Still packing up wet tents. Toured Manic 5 and Manic 2 dams courtesy Quebec Hydro. There are 5 dams on this river, all built in the 60's and 70's so it was a huge project. Great tours but all in French so we had to be wowed by what we saw rather than what we heard. In truth it was a hugely impressive couple of tours. Manic 5 emphasized the dam and construction while Manic 2 explained the process of making the electricity. By nightfall we were transiting down the St Laurent seaway on the Route des Baleines to our nights stop at Tadoussac.

Sun 3 July.

Good bye Labrador and hello Quebec. The road we are on will lead us to Baie-Comeau and the St Lawrence Seaway and I suppose the start of civilisation. It rained most of yesterday and all last night and was still raining when we left for the last of the gravel. At least the road had some curves - a relief after the endless straight roads of the past few days. We were getting along at a reasonable pace on the gravel when a chap on a Ducati hyper motard went past us as if we were standing still. Step aside Barry Briggs. Seems he does the trip twice a week just for fun. As we get closer to civilisation the traffic is increasing. We are heading to a hydro project called Manic 5 and will do the tour tomorrow. In the meantime we will have to camp on the side of the road because there are no camp grounds around here and the motels are permanently booked by construction workers. The roads are still flanked by endless trees and the mosquito's and black flies drive us mad. We finished the gravel today after over 1,000 km of it. Every one here speaks French so getting anything done is a bit of a mission.

Sat 2 July

Pete's bike failed to start this morning (it was just a gummed up switch) and mine needs radiator repairs which we solved with JB Weld. Finally left Churchill Falls just before lunch time for the 250km ride to Labrador City. Rained all the way so tonight we are camping in a motel again. Labrador city is a coal mining town and is pretty much a company town as well. Again, one big building holds just about every thing, but over the years other business have established themselves as the city has grown. Met a number of other riders today heading in the opposite direction. Most were from Quebec and GS1200 mounted with all the gear and they were very keen to know what the road surface was like to Red Bay. Good luck with the marbles chaps – did we mention the marbles? - maybe not. Anyway guys ya got 400 km of it.

Fri 1 July

Today everything is shut because of Canada Day but we managed to find a tire for Pete. We decided to take it with us on account no one was keen to put it on in the rain. Trail bikes are not the favoured form of transport up here – ATV's and snow mobiles are it. We did the 300-odd km's of poor gravel road to Churchill Falls in fairly good time. Churchill Falls is a hydro town owned by the hydro company. We had intended to tour the dam but no tour today. The town has one large building which houses all services including the motel/hotel, supermarket and stuff. Only the gas station was elsewhere. I blew my radiator today – green goop all over my boot. No pictures today unless you want to see more gravel road and tree. Refer to yesterday.

Thur 30 June

Well the sun was short lived – it's gray and cold again (real cold). Toured an excellent Basque museum in Red Bay. The Basques were whaling from the bay here in the 16th and 17th century. Divers found a wreaked Neo (merchant sized ship) on the sea floor of Red Bay. According to Basque records found in the area, the ship was blown aground with a load of whale oil. A reduced scale model of the ship is exhibited in the museum. An excellent morning.

In the afternoon we started on the first leg of the gravel road – the Trans Labrador Highway – with the 136km to Port Hope Simpson. This is our last gas stop for the next 400 km to Happy Valley/Goose Bay. This latter section of road is the new bit opened last year. The surface is good but the grader has spread the marbles across the surface seemingly just for us to slip and slide on. Made Goose late in the evening and ended up putting the tent up in the dark. Terry rand out of petrol a couple of miles out of town so Frank towed him in. All up today was 535km of gravel road. And a lot more to come yet – one sign says we still have 800 km to go just to get to Labrador City.

Wed 29 June

We are in St Anthony and it's really quite cold so we cheated last night and stayed in a motel. This morning took us up to L'Anese Aux Meadows to visit the Viking site. Seems the Vikings spent some time here in the distant past so the locals dress up and re-enact events in the daily life of a Viking.

Sun at last in the afternoon for the boat trip from St Babe, Newfoundland to Blanc-Siblon, Quebec en route to Red Bay in Labrador. Still no tyre for Pete.

Tue 28 June

Another gray day today as we ride up the northern peninsular in the mist. We pass through small fishing villages, almost tundra like landscape with small ponds such that you see when the permafrost has melted. The roadside has the occasional garden plot each carefully tended by the unknown occupier and fenced to keep the moose out. There are also piles of cut firewood waiting for buyers – seems no one steals the stuff. The cutters are taking the dead trees from the forest.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mon 27 June

For the past two days we have been riding the abandoned rail trail of Newfoundland. The first 120 miles took us all day coping with woops, potholes and stuff. The heavy bikes bottomed out all the time. First night on the trail we finally stopped at a full camp ground on the edge of a lake. Today the trail headed inland no longer following the road. It got much better and we made good time to Deer Lake. Some deep gravel caught a couple of us out with a minor fall. Traffic on the trail consisted of mostly ATV's but oddly there was some guy driving a PT Cruiser despite little room available and signs forbidding cars etc.

We have ridden around 300 km on the trail and have seen parts of the island that most Noofies have not visited. Now we head towards Labrador. We stayed in a neat camp run by a mother and her son which had a bar. Entertained by the locals proved a laugh – if only we knew what they were saying. She's a strange dialect of english is this Noofy. Tomorrow we head up the northern peninsular to visit a Viking landing site.

Sat 25 June

We have traveled over 2800 miles and the transit portion is over. Disembarked at Agentia, Newfoundland - pronounced new fin land by the locals. Met a local couple, Dee and Barry, who took me to the local Kawasaki dealer where I got the chain and later we went to their place to fit it. They also showed us the sight of St John's, the town, signal hill and the furtherest easterly motorable road in Nth America. In the afternoon we rode to the start of the rail trail at Clarenville. Weather gray and cold. Tried some Noofy food – not good – cod tongues and refried pork fat. Yuk.

Fri 24 June

The tide thingy this morning was a but of a fizzer. It's getting colder but no rain as yet. Made it to Sydney, Nova Scotia and boarded the ferry for the overnight trip to Argentia, Newfoundland. It will be good to not tent for a night. My bike needs a new chain.

Thur 23 June

Took the coast road in New Brunswick and and stopped in a little village for lunch. It was seafood chowder and lobster all round. The tide rise around here is so great the fishing boats rest on wooden cradles at low tide. Last act before crossing into Nova Scotia was to have a McLobster at McDonalds. I kid you not – I even took a picture as proof. Tonight we are at Truro in anticipation of seeing the tidal bore coming up stream in the morning. We booked our boat travel to Newfoundland this afternoon.

Wed 22 June

Another relatively short day of 250-odd miles but it took us all the way through Maine. Maine might be nice by the coast but down around hwy 9 it's all trees and run down buildings. We crossed into New Brunswick, Canada about 8 PM. Nice (as in pretty) border control officer lady but her stab proof vest did nothing for her figure. She wanted to know whether I carried a gun and that was the formalities over.

Tue 21 Jun

This morning we rode through the Green Mountains in Vermont. What a delight – emerald green lakes with mirror glass surfaces or with the sole fisherman trying his luck in the early morning mist. This area is clearly a winter playground but the hills are covered in trees so quite where the skiers go is a mystery to me. In the afternoon it was the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We are camping for the night here in a little town called Lincoln. We are pretty much alone in the camping areas. It's either to early in the season or no one is traveling this year. So far we have ridden around 1700 miles since leaving Omaha.