When I woke up this morning at 6am, I could hear that nasty sound of water running down a drain pipe. We were staying at a lodge that had seen better days and paying handsomely for it. How do you know you’re in a boom town? You pay $30 for a $7 buffet and I’m being generous at $7. In fact from Fire Lake to Fremont to Labrador City you get a sense of shit happening and money being made with a strong undercurrent of fuck the environment. When you look at the horizon and every mountain you see is brown on its sides and has a flat top, shit ain’t right. You can tell there’s a real roughneck population happening here as every pickup is souped up and brand new and if it isn’t a pick up it’s a muscle car, also fully loaded and not bought on payment. But hey, who am I to judge, if you can stand the life long enough to make some bucks go for it.
Anyway, knowing it was going to be a wet day, I dressed accordingly and started to pack all of my stuff down from the fourth floor to the parking lot. Richard and I had agreed to meet at the bikes around seven. It takes me a good fifteen minutes to get the bike altogether as I’m packed for three weeks where Richard is packed for a little over a week. He was a little late getting down as the previous night’s buffet had caught up with him. Strangely for me, the fish pie did not tear my guts out, I guess I chose wisely or the gun of food poisoning had fallen on an empty chamber.
The worst part of a wet day is that as you add layers and then seal it all in tight under rubberised nylon, you start to get hot and it isn’t until you get moving that you can regulate the core temp a bit better. As I knew I’d be ending the day with soaked gloves, I put on my trusty Joe Rocket Gauntlets. They’re thin and unlined and they get wet in a heartbeat but they dry out fast and the heated grips keep them pretty comfortable. My Klim Expeditions were still damp from two days ago and it makes them a bitch to get on.
We stopped and gassed up. The leg to Churchill Falls would be okay range wise for Richard but the leg from CF to Happy Valley was at the extreme point of his range so we worked out that he’d swing out front when he started to get into a, “Bingo,” for fuel situation. At the gas station, the attendant told us we’d face a 60Km dirt section just after Churchill Falls. Richard had been told it was all pavement to Happy Valley from Lab City, so that was a bit of a surprise. Not totally unwelcome but on a wet day, not great news to hear.
“Oh yah, it’ll be shit.”
So the tarmac from Lab City to Churchill Falls is miles and miles of miles and miles. It’s hard to appreciate the natural beauty when you’re staring out of a rain spattered and fogged piece of curved Perspex. I did see a Fox though, he was huge, the size of a Coyote. He trotted across the road and by the time I passed him he was behind a bush cleaning himself. Weirdly enough the road kill is very sporadic here. Though there was a sign saying the disposal of Caribou remains within fifty feet of the road way is illegal. I guess you need the fifty one foot tape measure to make sure everything is okay.
The Lab City to Churchill Falls section just became and endurance test of, “Where’s the water going?” and, “Is it really that cold?” with a bit of, “I should have grabbed some breakfast,” thrown in for good measure.
Oh it was capped off by crossing a metal decked bridge over the original path of the Churchill River. which felt like I was riding across ball bearings. That simply sucked balls.
Churchill Falls is a bit of a wasteland but it does have gas even though there’s only one pump working. The rain had settled into a light drizzle so no worries about water in the fuel.
About a hundred Km out from Churchill Falls we hit the dirt section. It wasn’t 60Km more like 75Km and while it looked like more of what we’d hit before the previous day, this time it was wet and those potholes in the washboard were now full of water and you had no idea how deep they went. I got up on the pegs and discovered right away that the previous day’s fun had come at a price. My feet and legs were sore and my hands weren’t much better. The bike was also a lot more mibile under me in the softened conditions. The posted speed is 70, we were lucky to get up to 60.
But it was doable. Richard stayed back from me. How he managed on his Tourance tires is beyond me, I was having a tough time on my knobbies. The hard part came when we got to the first grader. The fresh scraped layer looked flat but the line generated by the edge of the blade was this saturated slurry. Turns out some of the fresh scraped stuff wasn’t much better. Lucky for me I was in first gear and down on the bike when the back end just slid out to the right. I chopped throttle and got my foot down and kept her up but it was a close and scary thing. Panniers have a bad habit of breaking legs when you go down like that. I probably said a bad word as well at the time. I got back up on the pegs and took it slow. When we got up to the grader I signaled Richard about my intention to cross the slurry line and that I’d be going straight over it, because any other angle would not end well and splashed through the slop onto the cleaner cut on the other side. But still not trusting the surface, I crept along until we were back on the regular washboard. As some of the softer stuff out to the edge of the road gave me better grip, I’d hover in the danger zone trying to find a better line that wasn’t going to shake my bike to bits. Today was Richard’s turn to lose a bit of his bike. He lost the retaining bolt on his chain guard. At least it’s not a serious thing.
Like all things, the dirt section ended in glorious tarmac and other than the weather really kicking in it was a decent if not long ride to Happy Valley, where the wet turned off like a spigot the second we got into town. Richard made it on one tank of gas from CF and set a new personal best.
Unfortunately it doesn’t look like there are too many revalations of family history to be had here so I’m going to press on the Mary’s Harbour tomorrow morning. Not sure what the Wifi will be like out there so this might be the last post for a few days until I get back from Battle Harbour and head to Blanc Sablon for the ferry over to Newfoundland.
But you can follow The Rough Track to see where I’m at in the meantime.