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Old 12-14-2013, 10:13 AM   #1
Sundog
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Default Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

I took a few weeks off this summer to ride the Tans-Labrador from Virginia, with a stop in NYC to visit fellow expatriate Alaskans. It was 5024 miles in 13 days of riding.

I started in mid August and had fantastic weather. Only two days of rain and those days were pretty miserable, but it could have been much worse.

The bike had no major mechanical issues, despite it's 50k mileage. The speedometer isn't accurate anymore; the dial adds ~10-20% to my speed depending on how high the RPMs are. My workaround was to take 6th gear RPM and divide by 50, which provided speed in KPH, according to the GPS.

I used new pilot road 3 tires which barely showed any wear at the end of the trip. No other real touring mods except for the Pelican hard cases.

I took a film camera, an old Canon AE-1, with a pair of prime lenses, 35mm and 135mm. The idea was to reduce bulk compared to my DSLR kit, and also the experience of taking film photos is more involving and interesting. Limitations on number of shots adds to the experience - when I have to get it right the first time, I'm a more thoughtful photographer. That said, I also had the backup of the phone camera. It's interesting to compare shots of the same subject from both cameras. It took me quite a while to develop the film, photograph the negatives, and process the files, which is the main reason I took so long to get around to this writeup.

Day 1 - 549 miles

After loading up the bike the starter clicked a few times before the engine turned over... but I was impatient and fully loaded and hit the road. An auspicious start. (It was just a loose battery lead) I rode up to NY state and was unable to find a campgound that wasn't full so I stopped at a expensive motel and had dinner at a really shiny diner.



Day 2 - 573 miles

I tried Rt. 1 up the coast of Maine, but progress was slow. There were occasional sea and harbor vistas, and the smell of the sea came and went. I witnessed three minor accidents at various times during the day. Waiting at a stop light, I watched one car slowly collide with the back of another in the next lane over. The recipient got out and we locked eyes for a few seconds... resignation and frustration. There were many, many Subarus. I saw one paper birch. I was behind an elderly couple cruising at ten under for a bit. One of their tires was flat, so I passed and attempted to communicate that with hand signs. I think my improvised hand signs probably came off as threatening more than anything. They ignored me. Shortly after that I abandoned the coast and cut up through the interior of Maine - it was great. Wide shoulders, empty of traffic, and wide sweeping curves. The sky faded to deep pink and I made it to the border at Calaise at 8:00 and got a room at the International Motel.

Day 3 - 413 miles

I crossed into New Brunswick early and the landscape was immediately beautiful, which happens every time I cross into Canada so I wonder if it's just confirmation bias. Pleasant riding up into Nova Scotia, and in Halifax I met with Mattias and his wife Taylor (sp? right name? I don't remember names) We discussed touring, the confederate south, and Brutalist architecture. I photographed some Halifax Brutalist architecture. Meeting with them was a lot of fun, and I wish we could have had more time. I rode on in the evening and stopped at Murray's Camp by the Ocean based on spotting the name on a sign. It was as advertised, my campsite was by the ocean. A raven made plenty of crazy croaking noises nearby and a hares ran around near the campsite. I ate steamed mussels around the communal campfire (somewhat risky, so delicious). The moon was almost bright enough to write by, and I slept in my hammock.

The view during dinner:




Campsite:










Day 4 - 304 miles

I listened in on the politics of eastern shore Nova Scotia in the morning at the camp office. Fish farming is not popular. The eastern shore and interior of NS along 9 has nice curves and little traffic. Similar to Rt. 1 in Maine, with fewer people. I had lunch at a little bakery with wifi, and then visited the Glenora Distillery, which makes Glen Breton can't-be-called scotch. It was a surprisingly sophisticated operation. They advertise it as a corporate retreat. Cape Breton was vivid green and blue. Gaelic influences, windy. I took 19 up the western coast and joined the Cabot Trail. The road through Cape Breton Highlands Natl. Park was one of the most beautiful roads I've ridden. The coastal road is like Big Sur in CA, but northern. The plateau reminded me of the Big Horn mountains in Wyoming -- crisp air, pine scent, peaceful. The road has unusual steep inclines, like riding into the sky, or riding a chute straight down into the sea. I camped at Meat Cove campgound, at the northern tip of NS. I could sea an island to the north, possibly Newfoundland.

Morning on the eastern coast:


Coastal fishing villages:






Cabot Trail, western coast:






















Meat Bay:











That covers Nova Scotia, I'll pick up with Newfoundland next time.
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Old 12-14-2013, 12:15 PM   #2
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Beautiful pics Mr Ben, looks like one hell of a trip.




BTW, SSS loves to visit Meat Bay.
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Old 12-15-2013, 06:47 PM   #3
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Fantastic use of black and whites. Makes me want to go walkabout on twos.
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Old 12-16-2013, 08:41 AM   #4
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Lookin forward to more pics and ride reports. Also need to get some Pilot Road 3's on my next bike.
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Old 12-16-2013, 10:44 AM   #5
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Stunning pictures--can't wait to see/read your report about Newfoundland and Labrador.

P.S.: despite the fact that you seem to have had a great time camping, you're welcome to our guest bedroom any time, if your travels bring you through these parts once more.
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Old 12-16-2013, 06:15 PM   #6
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Day 5 - 126 miles + ferry

I was up and on the dirt road out of Meat Bay before the sun rose, to catch the ferry MV Highlanders from North Sydney NS to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, a three hour ride.


The ride was beautiful in the morning, following the Cabot trail along the eastern coast of Cape Breton, but as I was needing to make time up I didn't take pictures. I descended out of the mountains by short twisty turns, like a slalom on a motorcycle.
I made it to the terminal on time, with enough to spare to take a quick shower.


Strapping down the bike:

During the morning ride, after I bought coffee and didn't have time to wait for it to cool, I discovered I had a coffee holder:

Leaving North Sydney:

I spent most of the 6 hour voyage talking to some fellow motorcycle tourers. One guy from Ontario rode a Yamaha Tenere and a couple from Alberta were on two BMW F800Ss. We sat out on the deck in the sun and compared bikes and riding stories. They were all retired, and were doing exactly what I'll be doing when I'm retired.








Port aux Basques was shrouded in fog as we sailed into the harbor:





No trees!



I unloaded the bike at Caribou Bed and Breakfast, and rode to a nearby village for dinner at the Sea Shore Restaurant. I had fish cakes and partridge berry pudding. Pudding actually means something more like bread, like in the UK.


Names of islands west of Port aux Basques: Isle aux Morts & Burnt Islands. These people know how to name things.

Day 6 - 270 miles

In the morning, after chatting with the other lodgers over breakfast, (Stan and Laura from Ottawa, originally from Ireland, driving the Trans-Lab in a minivan), I started up the western coast of Newfoundland.



A short ride up to Gros Mourne National Park:


I set up camp in Green Point campground, then rode back to see the sights of Rocky Harbor:




I met two boys who came over on their bicycles when I was taking this picture. They had the Newfoundland accent, the strongest and hardest for me to understand of anyone I'd met on the island. They wanted to know how fast the bike could go. I asked about what it was like to live there. They said they were visiting from a little village up the coast, and Rocky Harbor (pop. 1000) is considered the big town in the area.








I rode around and asked for tips on the best place for photos of the area, which led me to an overlook above Norris Point, with the Tablelands (upthrust earth's mantle) in the distance:








I'm sure there are really good restaurants in Rocky Harbor, but I didn't find one of those.


Camping at Green point:


Bug collection:


The beach:








Sipping scotch from the flask, I fell asleep on the beach as the sun went down. Then I woke up because it was cold, and I was sleeping on rocks.




Day 7 - 176 miles

I decided to hike the second tallest mountain on Newfoundland, Gros Mourne. This was a long rough day. It was definitely an experience. The park guides tried to talk me out of it due to the rain... I missed most of the rain, but fog at the top meant I missed the vista down the far side of the mountain. Also, I misloaded the roll of film, so my only record of the hike (and everything else until I was well into Labrador) is by camera phone. Luckily I did take plenty of camera phone pictures.




I had good views during ascent up a rocky gully:






And the fog started. Hiking in the fog was interesting in itself, it puts your focus on the near terrain and you have no idea what is coming up. The top of Gros Mourne is an arctic tundra reminant far south of the latitudes that you usually find this biome.







A mountain pond, which I'm guessing was pretty scenic:





The rain started when I made it back to the bike, and I had one very miserable ride up the coast to St. Barbe. The hotel attached to the terminal was full, so I had to backtrack to another, better motel in Plum Point. I spread out all my gear to help it dry, and my tent had picked up a bit of a moldy smell... that room did not smell good after I left. After spreading out my gear, I discovered a pair of pants was missing. No idea. When doing some laundry I met a Valkyrie rider from Chicago and helped him take some pictures of him next to his bike with an excellent sunset behind.



That covers Newfoundland, I'll pick up with Labrador next time.
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Old 12-18-2013, 10:22 PM   #7
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Awesome write up, Ben. Looks a lot colder than what I'd like to ride in though!

Some of those fog pics hearkened me back to a Swarm ride a couple years ago... One of the most frightening rides I'd ever been on.
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Old 12-29-2013, 04:39 AM   #8
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

These are so pretty! And the hike must have been quite an experience. The ascent looks quite treacherous with all those boulders lying around. I can't wait to see the pictures of the Translab.
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Old 01-13-2014, 02:17 PM   #9
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Awesome! Makes me jealous...All I ever get to do is work.
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Old 02-01-2014, 07:17 PM   #10
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Time for Labrador. I really wasn't sure during the first part of the trip if I would be able to do the Trans-lab, because my tires are not meant for mud and I was alone. Heavy rain at the worst parts would could have the road nearly impassible for me, and multi-day rain would be a serious hardship due to the chill. I did have one day of rain, and it was draining. And if I had gone down alone in loose gravel or mud... well, it was a risk.
Road tires got me through, but again, I was lucky that it wasn't raining on certain portions where the road would have turned to muck. I would do it again on road tires, but only with company. If anyone is considering the trans-lab, keep in mind that it's being paved fast, and in a year or two there might not be many dirt miles. This is a point of consternation for the adv-rider crowd, but screw those guys.

Day 8 – Ferry to Labrador + 237 miles

Up early to catch the St. Barbe to Blanc-Sablon ferry. The Apollo is a much older ferry than the one I took to Newfoundland. The paint was many layers thick and couldn't entirely hide the rust. Still a beautiful ship, though.









Porpoises sighted during the ferry ride. I took wonderful pictures with the film camera, but that was the roll of film that I loaded wrong. You'll just have to trust me.

Approaching Blanc-Sablon:



Before riding east, I took a detour through the easterly part of Blanc-Sablon. Over the Quebec border, the french is immediately strong. Which is amusing, because all these communities are so isolated that I would expect neighboring towns to have the same accent and feel – but no, there is a strong distinction across the Labrador/Quebec border.

I headed east.


At the visitor center in L'Anse au Clair, I asked about good places to camp by the sea as I made my way up the coast. He had some excellent-sounding ideas for places to camp nearby, but didn't have any suggestions for where to stop 200 miles or so down the road.




People were friendly – when I stopped to lubricate my chain, multiple people stopped to make sure I was okay.



The landscape reminds me of the area just north of where I grew up, at the southern hills of the Brooks Range in Alaska:



An outdated map of the coast (when I asked a waitress about why the roads didn't make sense, she explained that they were snowmachine trails, not roads, I mean... obviously):


A * really * outdated map:


Red Bay:



The dirt roads had a learning curve. If it was well packed like in the following photo, I could cruise along at 50 or 60. However, if I hit a patch of deep gravel, the front would get the shakes and start oscillating back and forth. Gripping the bars tighter doesn't help, you have to let off on the throttle and let your arms dampen the motion until everything stabilizes at a lower speed. Eventually, I lose my fear and my speed creeps back up until I hit the next patch of gravel. This sort of behavior was the most likely to lead to a crash, but I managed to control myself and made it though without damage.



I had a frustrating hunt for a camp site in the evening. I rode out to St. Lewis thinking it would have lots of boondocking camping options... not the case. There were no side roads, no remote turnoffs. It was a neat little town, but nowhere I could pull off out of sight. I think this is because the roads are relatively new... a network of backroads has yet to develop.




I headed up to Port Hope Simpson, the last source of gas before the long ride to Happy Valley / Goose Bay. At the gas station I was informed that the yellow water in my water jug meant I shouldn't drink it – a boil alert was in effect. The yellow was from a dye. The hotel back in Newfoundland didn't mention that, they passed it off as the color coming from the filtration system. I don't think they take it too seriously there. I bought a jug of not-yellow water. Just to be safe.

I got a tiny, expensive, dorm-like hotel room in Port Hope Simpson:

And discovered that my film camera was misloaded, and the last 36 shots were lost. I was not in a great mood. However, after a nights rest, it all seemed better in the morning. Occasional failure to achieve desired experiences increases the value of achieved experiences.

Last edited by Sundog; 02-21-2014 at 07:59 PM.
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Old 02-02-2014, 08:13 AM   #11
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Again, amazing pictures and a really interesting writeup. And, again, I'm still impressed you made it through there on the Hornet without a major incident. Much respect.
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Old 02-03-2014, 04:56 AM   #12
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unbeleavable write up, motivating for me to finally edit my last cali trip up. Also, i'm so TOTALLY jealous of your scenery so close to home. For the first 1k miles for me in almost any direction it would be sorta like "day one.. it's flat. i saw lots of dirt" "day two.. still flat. say a tumble weed and a trucker."
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Old 02-04-2014, 12:38 PM   #13
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Well, to be clear, it's mathias you should be jealous of, he lives close to this scenery. I have to travel a few days north to get up there. Not that the Appalachians don't have their own appeal.
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Old 02-05-2014, 06:35 AM   #14
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Ironically, I am planning an Appalachia trip for the summer of next year to see how many all-American highways and scenic byways I can hit on the way down. Seems like there are nine--and they all look gorgeous. So, there's definitely some reverse jealousy here.
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Old 02-06-2014, 02:57 PM   #15
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Incredible travel log Sundog!!! I felt like I was riding right behind you. Some of those tiny fishing villages looked like they could have been a hundred years ago. Did you haul tie downs for the ferry boats? Very cool that you did that dirt road adventure. Thanks again for taking the time to post and you're really riding a "599"!!!
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Old 02-06-2014, 07:59 PM   #16
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Bravo
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Old 02-21-2014, 07:27 PM   #17
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Day 9 – Port Hope Simpson to West of Happy Valley / Goose Bay – 377 miles
In the morning I was off to start the real business of getting across the interior of Labrador. I passed many logging roads that would have been great for camping, so free tip for anyone planning to camp in the area: look for camping closer to the southern coast, or look for camping up past P.H.S.



The black flies were insane – whenever I stopped I had a few minutes before they arrived, and then they swarmed. If I kept my helmet on they mostly couldn't get to me and I felt like an astronaut... except when one did get in.

I started to get more comfortable on gravel. I usually had a choice of riding in bumpy ruts, or riding in the deeper gravel where the bike would get the shakes.









I had a few close calls. Safe speeds were 40 to 60 mph. Gas mileage was pretty good at these speeds, my low gas light turned on at 200 miles, and I ran out at 235 miles.



Unfortunately this experiment left me frantically refilling from my spare tank in the middle of road construction, with massive dump trucks bearing down on me. These were the REALLY big trucks, the ones you usually see in quarries. No pictures, I was working too hard to get out of the way.

When I later filled up I calculated my gas mileage at 53 mpg, so the light came on at about 3.8 gal, and I ran out after using about 4.4 gal.

I crossed the Churchill River, and the road returned to pavement... riding the 599 onto pavement after all day on gravel was like a penguin on land diving back into the water.






Churchill River:






In the evening after a quick stop in the military town of Goose Bay, I rode a short distance west and found a side road left over from recent road construction, and camped. Dangerous concentrations of DEET kept the flies away, mostly. Pear sauce had exploded in one of my cases, marinating all my camping gear in sticky sweet slime. I spent most of the evening cleaning that up. No bears came around to investigate, which is just straight slacking on their part.





This is how real men prop up their bikes to lube the chain:


I slept on a bed of soft lichen, with the mesh tent open to the sky without the rain fly.






Day 10 – Middle of Labrador to Middle of Labrador – 241 miles

I woke to ravens clucking and cawing to each other, possibly plotting my death.



Between Churchill Falls and Labrador city I was on a nice straight section of paved road and wasn't paying much attention to my speed.. and a Mountie caught me doing 130 kph in a 80 kph zone. He was a pretty upstanding guy and took it down to 10 over, because, frankly, 80 kph is stupid slow for a straight section of paved road with no traffic, no approaches, and cleared banks that allow for spotting of wildlife before it reaches the road. I'd guess the pavement is so new that they hadn't gotten around to raising the speed limit.

I haven't paid that ticket.

Canadians, am I going to be arrested at the border next time I visit?

I finally hit rain, which was bound to happen eventually.





Pretty miserable riding. I cut the day short and got a room in Labrador City.

This is an accurate representation of Labrador City:


And this is me after 10 days on the road:


I aired out my mildewy camping gear. Stinking up Canada, on hotel room at a time.

Day 11 – 498 miles

I met George from Maryland heading the other way on the Trans-Lab, and I downloaded my place knowledge to him. As I headed south on the 389, I had way too much fun. It's a trucker's dirt road with hard banked turns and dips. I tried to get a picture, but they don't really represent it very well.











The road wound into rolling dark green hills, steep grades up and down, and very pleasant riding.



I stopped at Lac Manicouagan. Riding on the sand was a terrible idea. Downhill was easy.. getting back up to the road took finesse and luck.







And then Manic-Cinq dam. This is why “hydro” means electricity in Canadian. Awesome dams.







In Baie-Comeau, a man tried to speak with me in French, resulting in mutual incomprehension. I put it together later (after getting lost, briefly) that he was trying to tell me that I was pointing the wrong way when I was describing my destination of Quebec City. The exchange ended with him chuckling and patting me on the shoulder. If I had to guess, I'd bet his last words to me were something like “good luck kid, you'll need it.”

The road west along the northern shore of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which I found eventually, was picturesque. The roads were curvy, clear, wide, and had reasonable speed limits. I stumbled across a beautiful campground by the sea, La Paradis-Marin, had a shower, listened to my neighbors speak French, and slept in my hammock.







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Old 02-21-2014, 07:32 PM   #18
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Day 12 – 705 miles – Quebec to NYC

I woke early and set some time aside to watch the sun rise, and see the minke whales.





A little ferry ride in Tadoussac:


And then I rode. A long time. Past Quebec City, past Montreal, down through NY state and into NYC in the rainy night, into all the bright distracting lights everywhere. At one point in the city I took a fast corner and my stupid phone accelerometer flipped the screen sideways so I couldn't read the GPS directions. After some swearing, a little wheelie set it back upright.

Day 13 and 14 – New York stuff. Visiting old Alaska friends. Museums. Models of blue whales. Walking around a lot. Craning my neck upwards like a damn tourist. Taking pictures with an old film camera like a damn hipster.








Color film! I'm not good with getting the color balance to look natural. These look like instragram filters. If I was better at photoshop, they wouldn't.












My bike made a friend while I was away.


Day 15 – 521 miles – Home

The bike finished at 54098 miles on the odometer, for a total of 5024 miles. Damage: one turn signal broke, is traditional for my road trips.


I absolutely recommend anyone keep a journal on a trip like this. You will be spending all day in your own head as you ride, and it's good to have an outlet for your thoughts at the end of the day.

Music and podcasts help too, when you get tired of only your own thoughts for company. My playlist was a collection of albums that were new to me before the trip. Here are a few:

Gavin Coetzee – Orange Forest - Upbeat and friendly, acoustic guitar, rockabilly, sort of. This was pretty solid stuff for a trip like this one. Listen to this song and think about riding through rolling hills as the sun rises. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VX8j8N5iRS4

Doves – Kingdom of Rust – This album is made for traveling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFM0pUn4dcA&feature=kp

Carolina Chocolat Drops – Now for something completely different... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCM6fkZAkTs
Had this on repeat for a while on the Cabot Trail, now it brings me right back there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FstEhh0iTQ&feature=kp

The Glitch Mob – Drink the Sea. To help stay awake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3MH4l1-t_8&feature=kp

The Wailin Jennys – Firecracker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSsA5WUsFsU&feature=kp

And many, many hours of podcasts. I like Comedy Bang Bang, You Made it Weird, Judge John Hodgeman, The Pod F. Thompcast, and The Thrilling Adventure hour.
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Old 02-21-2014, 07:59 PM   #19
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Looks like a fine trip, Sundog! Thanks for writing it up and sorting, fixing and uploading the photos. That can be more effort than people know!
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Old 02-21-2014, 08:03 PM   #20
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Default Re: Ride report - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec

Quote:
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Incredible travel log Sundog!!! I felt like I was riding right behind you. Some of those tiny fishing villages looked like they could have been a hundred years ago. Did you haul tie downs for the ferry boats? Very cool that you did that dirt road adventure. Thanks again for taking the time to post and you're really riding a "599"!!!
I did bring my own tie-downs for the ferries. They had some available, but mine were better. They doubled as hammock straps so it was still efficient use of luggage space.
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