Reclusive Labrador

Text: Anne Brooks • Photography: Anne Brooks, Bob Brooks

We have every intention of riding to Alaska someday, but since we aren’t prepared to take that much time off work a ride on the Labrador is calling our names. We chat with our riding buddy Glenn Parker about it, and he says it’s one of those roads every tourer should experience.

Our jumping-off point is Quebec City in June. Glenn, who tags along, arrives from Oregon, and we come up from Florida. Our BMW bikes don’t arrive until early afternoon, giving us a chance to walk around Old Quebec. The weather is perfect – warm with blue skies. We explore the Citadelle and pop into some of the small shops. Last but certainly not least we hop into a taxi to check out Moto Vanier, a BMW motorcycle dealership. The cordial staff shows us around, and we find out that they store more than 200 motorcycles in winter. We tell them that any time they need a break from the cold they’re welcome in Florida! We end the day at Aux Anciens Canadiens, a restaurant with outstanding food and a warm atmosphere. Tomorrow we leave for points north.

On Saturday we get an early start, following route 138 toward Baie-Comeau. The sky is gray and threatening as we ride on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Our destination is the Manic 5 hydroelectric dam and generating station, about 400 miles away. It rains off and on as we cruise through such small towns as Sainte-Anne de Beaupre, and our ferry ride across the Saguenay River near Tadoussac takes 15 minutes. We stop in Baie-Comeau for last-minute provisions and a bite of lunch, well aware that this is the last big town we’ll see until we reach Goose Bay. Glenn thinks ahead and fills a small gas can, which he attaches to the back of his 1150 GS. We have Touratech external gas tanks on the 1200 GS, which hold four gallons. 

We arrive at the Energy Motel, a remote location and a critical gas stop for all travelers. Reservations are recommended because of the popular tours at Manic 5. The multiple-arch-and-buttress dam is the world’s largest at 700 feet high and 4,300 feet long. This stop is also where we meet our tour nemesis: black flies! They may be tiny, but they bite at every opportunity. It looks like we’ll be filling our packs with bug spray!

On Sunday we repack, refuel and give our tires a good going over because the road is mostly packed gravel from here to Goose Bay. Our next stop is Labrador City. Signs warn us to keep an eye out for moose and logging trucks, and we do spot one moose and a couple of porcupines. We pull off at Relais Gabriel to warm up with hot chocolate and fill our gas tanks. Near Gagnon, a mostly deserted town, there are 40 miles of hardtop, much to our delight. Our 45-mph pace was starting to bore us! Closer to Labrador City there are railroad crossings, where the gravel seems bigger, deeper and looser. This is definitely the worst section of road, and we have to remind ourselves to breathe at some points. We begin to approach the vast mine just south of the city where we see a huge crater filled with red oxide water, running off into a red lake at the Iron Ore Company of Canada. Just past the mine we arrive in town and pull into the parking lot of the Carol Inn, ready for a shower and dinner.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2011 back issue.