Caught my eye… a blackfly that is…

August 7th, 2008 by becky

72 km and 6h 30 ride time.

Today we began something of a crazy journey, riding our bikes from Port Hope Simpson to Cartwright. The road is 195 km long. The only sign of civilization along the road is Paradise River, which is 40 km outside of Cartwright and has a population of 18. Per usual, we started late. We didn’t leave Port Hope Simpson until 1:00 pm, after visiting more with Cyril and Barb. The weather was sunny and hot – a bit of a challenge when you need to cover up to avoid the flies.

The road continued to diverge dramatically from what Google and the Topo Maps told us. We have no idea where they got their information, but it was clearly incorrect. See the GPS track below if you’re interested in where the road actually goes…

Update:The road shown below is from the Google Maps API, which uses TeleAtlas data. It turns out to be much more accurate in this instance than http://maps.google.com, which uses NAVTEQ map data. Here’s some commentaryabout the differences.

Our progress was slow. Becky used the excuse that we spent most of the day climbing – but the road also didn’t help. It was a nice gravel road without much loose gravel. Most of the time we found a solid track, but gravel is still much slower than asphalt.

A few kilometers outside of Port Hope Simpson, Isabelle (who we met in Battle Harbour) passed us. She and her daughter Katie were headed to Charlottetown and just stopped to say hi. Her son David and his friend are riding their bicycles from St. John’s to Vancouver, but they weren’t foolish enough to ride the Trans Labrador Highway.

Once we passed the Charlottetown turnoff, there was very little to distinguish one section of the road from another. There were a few muddy trickles which crossed under the road, various mounds of dirt and quarries from the road construction, and one logging road. We were excited to see a trailer parked on a small side road at one point, but no-one appeared to be home. The only other sign of humanity was a road Grader parked in a pullout.

The sun and heat made the road a bit dusty, but fortunately most vehicles slowed to pass us, and there was enough wind to blow the dust clouds quickly off the road. We were only passed by 20 vehicles or so – not much traffic.

Late in the afternoon, Becky broke the elastic strap in her head net, which made it much less effective. Now, instead of keeping all the bugs away from her head, it kept most away, but then trapped any that did get in, so they were stuck close to her head. It was an interesting experiment, and verified that Labrador Flies will indeed bite more than once. (Not an experiment we need to repeat).

At about 7 pm, we stopped at the side of the road for a food and rest break. The bugs were so bad that we needed to set up the tent just to eat. We did a quick setup and climbed inside for a snack. It was good that we had lots of prepared food, so we didn’t need to cook.

We were back on the road for 8 pm and rode for an hour. By 9 pm we had to stop, as it was starting to get dark. We found a flat mound on the side of the road and set up our tent for the night. We were surprised by how quiet it is here. Back home, we would have heard birds and animals scurrying around in the night. It was pretty close to silent with the only sound being the swishing of trees in the light wind.

Unfortunately we discovered that a fly had bitten Becky right on the edge of her eyelid, and it was starting to swell. It was itchy, but not bad enough to prevent her from sleeping.

When Becky got up for a mid-nighttime bathroom break, the sky was still clear. There were many more stars than we can usually see and you could clearly see the Milky Way. You could also see the clouds starting to form … it wasn’t to remain clear.

Elevation Profile
GPS Track

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