Dirt versus gravel

August 6th, 2008 by scott

54 km, 5 hours ride time

We left Battle Harbour with some sadness, since it has been a very relaxing respite, but it’s a bit expensive for our budget, and if we ever hope to get back to Newfoundland we need to tackle the Trans Labrador Highway again.

We discovered today that there is a significant difference between a freshly gravelled road and a dirt road. In the towns along the coast, there are many dirt roads (hard packed dirt with a bit of gravel), which are usually quite pleasant to ride on – all you need to do is avoid the potholes, and at the speeds we are going this isn’t a problem. Fresh gravel is an entirely different challenge. All of the of the Trans Labrador Highway is gravel once you get north of Red Bay.

The gravel today is better than the stretch from Red Bay to Mary’s Harbour, but in many parts has been recently resurfaced, which makes it nice for cars, but not so pleasant for bikes. The resurfaced gravel means there are no “tracks” where the road is dirt, rather it is all loose stones. That made for a slow and bumpy ride.

The road from Mary’s Bay to Port Hope Simpson is very scenic. The landscape completely changes a few times as you approach hills or corners, which helped keep us entertained as we rode.

At one point a car passed us, then stopped. A couple of people got out and quickly took a few pictures of us. We were both rather amused and happy to oblige people with a pose for a picture.

We had been warned about the big trucks on the road and the dust and rocks they throw, but every big truck (in either direction) slowed right down before passing us and usually honked or waved hello (of course we’re usually waving too). We did have a couple of smaller cars pass us a little closer or faster than they should, throwing rocks and dust at us. Everyone else, including the pickups were very polite. Fortunately, there is very little traffic on these roads – just enough to feel safe, but not so much that you are breathing dust all day.

We are staying at Campbell’s Place B&B, which was new, clean and had private baths – a nice luxury. Becky was tired and went to bed early, but Scott had a nice visit with both Cyril and Barb (the owners) and played with their 9-month old daughter Serena. Barb is of native heritage, and she had some interesting things to say about growing up in this area. She grew up in Paradise River, was 100+ people, now about 18, since many people moved out after the road went in. She has taught Caribou Tufting and Grass Weaving at the Friendship Centre in Goose Bay, which we’d like to go see when we are there. She also recommended checking out “Moulder of Dreams” – a pottery program in Port Hope Simpson, which we may try to do tomorrow.

We also met Dave, a guy from Moncton who owns a freight/logistics company. The job he’s doing now is moving a bunch of logs from the area down to the pulp mill in Cornerbrook, and he has rented a barge which can hold 4000 cords of wood (that’s a lot of wood!). He also has his own plane, which he uses to fly his guys back and forth, since it only takes 3 days to load the barge, and his crane operators are from New Brunswick. Interesting fellow. He offered to let us ride down to Cornerbrook on the barge, and we were definitely tempted. It would have been an interesting transit – 40 hours on the barge, but we are looking forward to seeing Happy Valley-Goose Bay and visiting with Susan’s cousin Joanna.

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