77 km, 6 h 30 min ride time
We awoke to a few isolated bouts of rain and a collection of mosquitoes clinging to the outside of the tent at about 6 am. It appears that Labrador has mosquitoes in addition to black flies! It wasn’t nearly as warm as yesterday. Scott hoped that the rain would make the bugs go away – Becky knew better. The flies began to swarm us the moment we got out of our tent.
We gobbled down a quick snack and jumped onto the bikes. We were riding by 7 am – a record for us. Once we were moving the flies released their grip on us, and it was quite pleasant. Becky was still getting bitten occasionally under her head net, so Scott offered to trade. That only lasted about 30 minutes before he decided to actually fix the net, rather than suffering as Becky had been doing. Just after he stopped, another car stopped to take photos of us, and a lady with much nimbler fingers helped him re-feed the broken elastic through the channel. Re-tied, it was good as new.
We had been told by Cyril and Barb of a spring by the side of the road at around the 90 km mark, and were starting to run low on water, so starting at 90km were keeping a close eye. At 100km we were afraid we’d missed it, but fortunately Scott spotted it – signed by a rock with a white hardhat and orange spray paint. (for future reference it’s at N53.03909 W57.43160). We filled up all available water containers, since we weren’t sure if we would be camping tonight. This added an extra 8-9 litres to Scott’s load, which helped to slow him down on the climbs.
By 11 am, we were hungry and in need of a break. We came upon the intersection of the 516 and 510 (where the road will go to Goose Bay when it is complete) and found ourselves a flat place to set up our tent and have a cooked breakfast. Scott boiled the water while Becky set up the food inside the tent. It was nice to escape the bugs for a few minutes. Scott even found some ripe blueberries, which made a nice treat.
During lunch we had an animated discussion about how to proceed. Becky suggested that this really wasn’t fun and that we should hitch a ride with the first truck that could take us. We had only been passed by 3 vehicles all morning, so the options were limited. Scott wanted to keep riding, thinking we might make it to Cartwright if the road leveled out, and if not, at least we had enough water to camp and make dinner and breakfast, leaving a short ride tomorrow. At this point, Cartwright was still 90 km away, so we had a fair ways to go yet. We agreed to keep riding until 4:00, and keep an eye out for vehicles which could pick us up – leaving things to chance.
After our lunch break, the wind picked up and the flies fled. It was nice to ride without the bug nets over our heads. It didn’t get any flatter though, so riding to Cartwright today looked pretty unlikely.
At one point Becky said to Scott “I feel like Paradise River has been 10 km away for the last 5 km”, Scott replied “That’s because it is still 11.5 km away”. At that point, Becky almost lost it, she was exhausted and getting frustrated with the slow pace on the dirt road, and the inaccurate road signs.
At 3:30 pm we passed a grater on the road. The fresh grade took the good road and made it not quite as nice for us on bikes. The road was smoother, but it meant that the road was more uniform and the soft spots and hard spots were not distinguishable. It still wasn’t as bad as the road yesterday, but further dispirited Becky. At 4:00 the grader operator caught up with us in his pickup truck. Once Becky spotted him in her rearview mirror, she stopped her bike and stuck out her thumb. “Peter the grader guy” stopped and was happy to give us a lift into Cartwright. Paradise River was still 10 km away and Cartwright was an additional 42 km from there. In his pickup truck we didn’t make it to Cartwright until 4:45 (just before the gas station closed). This was Peter’s last week as a grader operator, since the company he is working for lost the contract for road maintenance. He’s hoping the new company will need to hire him – there aren’t many people living here year-round who can drive the heavy equipment, but it’s the company building the road to Goose Bay who won the contract, and he hasn’t heard anything from his application yet. Good luck Peter!
Peter dropped us off at the hotel near the ferry, where we hoped to get a room for the night. Cartwright is a rather spread out town, covering more than 5 km of roads. There are two hotels, one near the ferry and the other a full 5 km away at the airport. Unfortunately, Kraig and Kara (folks from British Columbia on their honeymoon) took the last room just before we arrived. We called around to the B&Bs, but they were either closed or full. The other hotel only had 1 smoking room left. After our experience with a “just cleaned” smoking room in Oswego, we figured sleeping in our tent was a better option.
After an OK dinner at the Mug Up café, we hung around town visiting with various people and talking about our bikes, trying to kill time until it was late enough to set up our tent in the ferry terminal parking lot. When we mentioned our plans to Adrian and Joy, they invited us to camp in Adrian’s family’s backyard (now his brother Brian’s home). We were happy to accept a place that was a little more private than the ferry terminal and gave us a shed to store the bikes and some of our gear for the night. As an added benefit we had tea and a delightful visit with Adrian, Joy, and their little daughter Madison.