Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Archive for April, 2012

I’m Going To Stop To Take A Picture (Part 3)

When you are out adventure riding, there are certain moments that beg to be recorded.  The problem is that the timing may not appear to be right to take a picture or a video.  You are too busy enjoying yourself, you are angry about a situation that has occurred (the 4th puncture of the day may be such  a time), you may be very sad because of a sight you’ve seen or been part of someone’s plight.  But the recording of such events, while at the time appearing to be too maddening, too difficult, or almost inappropriate (and there are inappropriate times I would suggest), in the fullness of time actually call to be recorded.  Who will remember these times?  How will these times be shared without such recordings? 

Do yourself and the world a favor and record the happenings.  And…  once recorded, share them with others so that they too can experience what you have done, seen, and experienced and they in turn pass it on to others.  Such times do are short in duration, but can be made to last forever if you just take the time to record them.

 

Lastly, record what’s important to you. Don’t let others tell you what is and is not important. It’s what important to you that matters. Because what’s important to you reflects who and what you are, and that’s what you want to share now isn’t it? So let’s find out who Kim and Mike are from some of their moments, but believe us, there are thousands of them that we could put here. If you’d like, send us some of yours and we’ll post them here as well.

Now come on now, send us some pictures to post! Send them to Ride2Adv@gmail.com and we’ll see what we can do. Remember, to shrink the planet, you must share yourself.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size. 
Ride2Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Transiting The Trans Labrador Highway & Canadian Atlantic Provinces (Part 2)

Having snaked our way up the side of Manic 5 we were underway for real on our TLH adventure.  It had been a beautiful ride so far, but it had been an all pavement ride up to this point and we were really looking forward to a bit more challenging terrain to ride.  We were about to experience some and find out what the TLH had in store for us.

As we made our way northward, the rain decreased in intensity and the low clouds began to lift a bit.  We were able to see a bit more of our surroundings and enjoy the very green forests that encroached from all directions.  The rain could do little to dampen our spirits as we soldiered on deeper into the forests of Labrador.  Yes, we were really heading into the wilderness and we were loving it.  The gravel road undulated and swooped up and down, sometimes with fairly steep grades.  The gravel varied from hard packed to loose and piled, so we had to stay alert, but it was not hugely difficult riding.  In fact, the rain was doing us somewhat of a favor and keeping the dust to zero.

After about two hours on the road and not a single car coming from the other direction, we were really in riding nirvana.  All this to ourselves, lush green surrounded us, the grey misty skies embraced us and softened all the features to a gauzy dreamlike condition.  If you could ride a motorcycle and enter a trance at the same time, now would be the time to do it, it was just that peaceful.   Just when we thought that we were the last two people on earth (or at least in Labrador) as we crested a hill, we were reminded that we were still surrounded by “civilization” no matter how isolated we thought we were.

To the right side of the road atop an orange pole stood tall, thin, blazing red beacon with unlit yellow and green lights.  It stood there silently with another square little box counting down the minutes and seconds as if it were waiting for something big to happen.  Could this really be?  A traffic signal in the middle of nowhere on the TLH?  Indeed it was and it was the first of its kind seen by this city boy.  It was a time controlled traffic signal and it was waiting for us and telling us to wait until it counted down to zero.  But it was quite strange.  Ahead we could only see sodden gravel road and varying shades of green trees, for what appeared to be a half mile.  We still didn’t know what it was doing there but we waited somewhat impatiently for the countdown to end and the light to turn green.

In fact, it took so long that a car pulled up beside us and turned off its engine to wait as well.  It’s occupants rolled down their windows and offered us some of the nuts they were munching on and we chatted a few minutes about our trip and where were from and where we were headed.  They told us that up ahead, we would find some construction where the road would narrow to a single lane and that’s why we were being held, so that traffic coming the other way would have time to pass the construction and pass us.  After the allotted time had passed we would be free to go and the folks on the other end would have to wait until we had passed by the timing of the traffic signal.  When the light finally turned green, we wished our new friends well and let them go first since we were in no rush to get anywhere and they were headed for Labrador City, quite a distance away.

One of the “highlights” of the trip was to pass through the vanished town of Gagnon, Quebec.   Gagnon provided us with one of the most eerie feelings we’ve ever had.  Gagnon was founded by the Québec Cartier Mining Company to mine iron ore at Jeannine Lake. Construction of the pilot plant began in the winter of 1957.  By August of that year, the plant had processed a thousand tons of ore. On January 28, 1960, the town was incorporated as Ville de Gagnon and named after Onésime Gagnon, the first Minister of Mining in Quebec. Thereafter it grew rapidly to 1300 inhabitants and by the end of that year, Gagnon had more than 4000 residents. It had an airport, churches, schools, a town hall, an arena, a hospital, and a large commercial centre, despite being isolated and only accessible by aircraft

In 1974, mining began at Fire Lake, some 80 kilometres (50 mi) north-east.  By the mid-1980s however, the mine was no longer turning a profit and the mines were closed.  More startlingly, the town fully was fully dismantled in 1985. All buildings and nearly all of the streets were demolished.  The town’s main street is all that remains and it became part of Route 389 two years after the town’s closure.  Eerily, that section of road retains a boulevard configuration, complete with a median, sidewalks, and sewers, despite being deep in the wilderness, hundreds of kilometres from the nearest active community,  It was  a very strange and unsettling feeling having traveled many miles on damp gravel to arrive at a paved section of road, complete with dividers and sidewalks, and see nothing around you but brush and trees.  You could only stare and wonder, “What happened to all the people who used to live here and where are they now?”

We stopped for a brief time but needed to move on since we had planned a fairly long day and had planned to bed down in were bedding down in Labrador City.  As we headed further north, towards Fermont, the mining town that led to the closure of Gagnon, the road began a set of twists and turns and multiple rail crossings.  Despite the fact that you are many miles from any large city, there are plenty of trains traversing these tracks and you must be very careful at the crossings to ensure that there is not a train coming.  While we completed this section in a single day, three separate trains passed by us.

Another hazard of the TLH is the “dreaded” road grader.  Traveling at low speeds, the transit the TLH for hundreds of miles evening out potholes and adding a slight crown to the road to assist in drainage.  While this is excellent for the four wheeled variety of vehicles, it can lead to more difficult riding for the two wheel variety.  The graders often leave an in or two of soft mixed soil in their wake as well as very significant mixed gravel berms that can make negotiating the road quite difficult.  The graders have gained a significant notoriety among the two wheeled adventure riding community and although their wake is not generally deadly, it can bite the unsuspecting if you turn your back on them as we’ll find out in Part 3.


I’m Going To Stop To Take A Picture (Part 2)

Since I posted Part 1 of “I’m Going To Stop To Take A Picture (Part 1)” (which has been our most popular post by far to date) I’ve been mulling over exactly what constitutes “scenery”.  Having been going through the selection process of many of our pictures this afternoon, I’ve found that there’s a very definite question of interpretation.  Are we just talking about landscapes when we talk about scenery or can it be more?  Can people be in a scenery picture or do they distract the view from the overall viewing pleasure?  Well, having thought about it for a good part of the day I’ve come to the conclusion that…  I don’t know.

One thing I do know is that I’ve found that I have a lot of pictures that could be classified as scenery, so I’m not sure how I’m going to present them to you or how to best sum them up to you.  Hmmm…..  Will it just suffice to say that they recall beautiful or memorable scenes?  Is that too broad a definition?  I really don’t know.  So here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to show you some nice pictures and call them scenery.  The only rule is that there are no people in these pictures and then I am going to let you decide whether they constitute scenery or not.  Perhaps after you’ve looked at the pictures, some of you will care to comment on what constitutes a scenery picture and what you thought of the pictures I chose to post.   How’s that?

Oh and a last confession.  I must have as Carl Sagan used to say…  “Billions and billions” of pictures that could qualify as scenery and I have not posted them all in this post.  So if you are not careful, I just may post a Part 2a.  You have been warned.  I sincerely hope you enjoy these pictures from all over the world where we have been.

By the way, just in case you don’t know, clicking on one of the thumbnail pictures will open it to a full size picture and you can then click through the whole gallery of photos if you like.

I’m Going To Stop To Take A Picture (Part 1)

The left ear speaker in my bike to bike helmet intercom crackled with a monotone voice I thought I’d already heard fifty times today.  “I’m going to stop to take a picture.”  Arggghhh!!!!!  No, not again, please, not again.  We were just making some decent time and now we have to stop again?  But you know what?  That voice in my left ear was my riding buddy, Kim’s Dad Dick.  He was the smart one that day and he taught me something as well.  Riding, especially adventure riding is a special experience and if you can capture it so you can re-live it later, you’ve done yourself and others a great service.  Because remember, your adventure isn’t all about you, it’s about the others that you meet and what we exchange when we interact.

When you capture that experience particularly in pictures or video, you share the experiences not only that you had, but potentially the impact that you had on others.  So take the time to not only experience your journey, but also record it for you and others to share later.  The sharing of these experiences on film or video can be almost as good as experiencing it first hand and if you can convince someone else to take an adventure ride, you will have made the planet a smaller and more sharing place.  Congratulations.

Now you may be asking how do these picture and recordings let me enjoy my adventure over and over or make the world a better place?  Well let’s take a couple of moments and figure this out together.  You can generally remember that the trip you went on was a lot of fun and that you had a good time, but will you remember all the individual scenes during your adventure, perhaps with someone you love, or care about, the gorgeous landscapes, the people you met, the weather you experienced and dealt with, or that you saw something that effected you.  How about all the action scenes, riding through water crossings, over logs, through sand, mud and… snow.  When you have pictures or video, these things are brought back to life.

So let’s break these down a bit and see what we can see, eh?  We’ll do this in several parts so for the first part, let’s look at personal one on one photos.  Ones that capturing the essence of the riding experience, fun or the adventure itself.  How do we do that?  Well it can be different for different people, but when you are really, really having fun or if there is a difficult situation, if you just take a picture right then and there, you will likely have captured the essence and spirit of the ride.  What do I mean by that; and who wants to stop and take a picture just when you are having fun or really ticked off?   I mean literally just take the picture.  Here are some of my favorites in this regard…

Capturing the person…

Here capturing some of the fun…

Perhaps the not so fun times…

And finally some reflections on riding…

With each of these pictures, a memory is renewed or an experience potentially forgotten forever shared.  Don’t let them get away, keep them forever.  Next time, in Part 2 we’ll take a look at scenery.


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Transiting The Trans Labrador Highway & Canadian Atlantic Provinces (Part 1)

As native New England adventure riders, we were looking for a ride that would be a bit more off the beaten track but doable within the 2 weeks we had off.  Something that was not your garden style ride, but something more.  We wondered where we could ride that would take us off the pavement and into the wilderness a bit, but still put us in touch with some different local flavors.  Something that we were not used to and would be new, interesting and exciting.  After thinking about it for a while, we thought we had come up with the only conclusion possible for us.  The Trans Labrador Highway (aka the TLH)!  At the time, a little traveled gravel road known for its changing conditions, pea sized gravel, significant distances between towns and nice people in them.  Then we thought, while we were at it, we may as well visit Newfoundland and Nova Scotia!

Done!  The deal had been struck, we would leave in the middle of June and head generally northeast up through Quebec, into Labrador, to Goose Bay, where the TLH ended, hop a ferry to Cartwright, get back on the TLH and ride to Blanc Sablon (actually in Quebec) hop another ferry to Newfoundland, ride south down the west coast of Newfoundland and once again jump on another ferry to Nova Scotia, ride the length of Nova Scotia and then board one last ferry to Maine and ride back to New Hampshire.  What a great trip!

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The machines for this trip were a KTM 950 Adventure for me and a BMW F650GS for Kim.  Although we planned to stay in hotels or B&Bs each night, we loaded them up with some extra supplies and gear in case of breakdown along the TLH.  We had emergency food, water and shelter and fuel just in case, and we were still loaded within reason.

So off we went on a bright and sunny afternoon headed towards Magog, Quebec.  Once reaching the Canadian border, signs in both English and French reminded us that we were indeed in the French speaking province of Quebec.  Ahh…  a different culture flavor to enjoy.  As the day wore on, the skies turned a bit more ominous, but luckily for us, we made it to our first stop completely dry and were able to enjoy a nice French Canadian dinner.   Yum!  We hit the rack fairly early in hopes of getting an early start the following morning.  We hoped that the good weather we had encountered all day would continue into the next.  However, we were not so lucky this time and the skies decided to open, shedding their grey and misty burden upon the surrounding green landscape.  On went our rain gear and we made our way north.  All morning we encountered rain and wind, but by the time we had made it to La Malbaie, the rain had stopped and the sun occasionally peeked out between thick layers of heavy grey clouds.

We continued on in increasing sun and drying roads.  By the time we had made it to Baie Comeau it was downright sunny.  A few miles later and we were ready to board our first ferry of the trip, a very short jaunt across a river but the only way across it.  There was a short backup of cars and trucks and everyone was patiently waiting their turn.  While waiting, we chatted with several people who wanted to know about the bikes and where we were headed.  When we told them we were about to traverse the Trans Labrador Highway, many were impressed, some wished they were coming along and all were very friendly.

In the increasing sun, we passed our first of several large dams that would mark our progress along the TLH.  All of these dams are named with the precursor name “Manic” short for the Manicouagan reservoir that feeds the dams managed by Quebec Hydro.  These dams are very important powering large portions of eastern Canada as well as the Eastern United States.    We did a bit of the tourist thing and stopped for a few pictures at Manic 2 and Manic 5.  All of the Manic dams are impressive structures, the most impressive being Manic 5 where the gravel of the TLH begins.  We had hoped to take a tour of the inner workings of the Manic 5 (more formally known as the Daniel – Johnson dam), but we were two days early for the start of the tour season, so we missed out.

By the time we reached Manic 5 and the Energy Hotel where we would stay for the night, we were pretty tired so we unloaded our gear and piled it into our converted mobile home room.  We walked past several other converted mobile home units and into the small cafeteria for some dinner.  We noted that all of this was created not for the tourist trade, but to put up traveling workers who service Manic 5.  As we sat and ate our cafeteria food, we looked around and noticed that we were the aliens, the outsiders.  The real  inhabitants of this place were the workers who kept the beast which was Manic 5 alive, fed and healthy.  We were merely outsiders, observers, not doers involved in keeping this mammoth beast alive which in turn made so many other people’s lives easier and literally, full of light.  It made me feel small.  However, in little over an hour, we had finished our meal and we walked back to our room in gathering darkness and mounting drizzle.

As morning came, it was raining and raining hard.  But the TLH called and we were anxious to be under way and start the beginning fo the gravel portion of our adventure.  We loaded up our bikes and made our way over the last short portion of pavement.  Prior to arriving on the gravel, you weave your way past several corners as Manic 5 looms in front of you.  Several giant arches equally spaced with a single giant arch in the middle face you looking like tressels to a giant bridge.  As you get closer, the immensity of the structure strikes you, this beast is large and it is powerful.  Its size and power become more evident as you ride the road that climbs beside its concrete face.

Suddenly the road turns to gravel and it is steep.  You make your way up the road and as you make it to the top on this new to you gravel surface, you can look down and see that you have climbed over 700 feet from whence you started.  This dam is indeed spectacular.  We stopped for a few pictures and began our TLH adventure in earnest.  We’ll tell you more about our journey in Part 2.


Alaska – Gravel, Grandeur & Goofy Grins (Part 6)

We enjoyed being in Dawson City so much that time was vanquished much more quickly than the setting of the sun in Dawson’s 21 hours of daylight.  Suddenly it was time to leave this wonderful place.  With quite a bit of disappointment, we the loaded the bikes and headed for the ferry and back up the mountain to the US border via the Top of the World Highway.

The trip to the border was fairly easy going with great scenery, good gravel and bright sun.  We did unfortunately encounter some people in motorhomes who were driving recklessly.  Very slow up the steep grades they would not let you pass and when you finally did pass, they would come down the steep grades very fast at the risk of burning out their brakes and tailgate until the next upward grade.  Other than the motorhome issue, you couldn’t ask for a much nicer trip to the border.  Once there, we were greeted by the residents of the town of Poker Creek Alaska, population 2.  The residents?  The two border guards that live at the house on the border while the highway is open.  They were very friendly and even assisted us with the motorhomes we had encountered on the highway.  The let us through very quickly and determined that the motorhomes merited a much more significant inspection.  Ahhh… payback.  Thank you guys!

Past the border we headed back toward Chicken and made a stop at the Chicken Creek Cafe for lunch again.  We met a few travelers while there and discussed off road riding and our journey so far.  Many expressed a desire to ride with us or make the journey on two wheels instead of four, so they too could enjoy the adventure as we had been doing.  They all said… “Someday.”  We were so glad that we had made “someday” arrive for us.

One of the travellers asked us which of the bikes was better and I remarked that they were both good bikes  He said he thought the KTM was probably the better bike because it had glasses.  I wasn’t sure what he meant until I turned around and looked at the headlights of my KTM and then I saw what he meant.  The lens covers on the KTM did indeed look like glasses!  (see pictures).  Very dirty glasses, but glasses nonetheless.

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On the way out of Chicken, we stopped to see Chicken’s own dredge, the Pedro dredge.  It was being restored and was smaller in size than dredge #4 in Dawson, but you could get much closer to the Pedro dredge.  We walked around and took a few pictures and once again we were reminded of the toiling that took place over a hundred years ago in search of gold.

After the pictures, it was time to get moving again so we could get to our hotel for the night at Tok.  As we had  related earlier, for us Tok did not represent anything special so it merely became a waypoint and a disembarkation point for our next stop at McCarthy, Alaska.  McCarthy had special allure to us for numerous reasons.  First, while we were researching this trip, we found the Kennicott Glacier Lodge which is located directly beside the Root Glacier that we intended to walk and which was only a short hike from the old McCarthy Copper Mine which we also intended to tour.

Having found the Kennicott Glacier Lodge with all the surrounding areas of interest, we excitedly called to make reservations.  We told them we would be arriving on motorcycles and the assistant suddenly became very concerned.  Did we know that they were located at the end of a 60 mile gravel road?  Why yes, yes we did, and that was precisely one of the reasons we had decided to come and visit them.  With a bit of hesitation, the attendant booked us and were all set to go to McCarthy.  We couldn’t wait to get there.

After a few hours sleep in Tok, we tried to get an early start but we ran into two separate mechanical problems.  First, one of the pannier bolts had broken on the KTM and the bolt was broken off inside the mount.  Damn!  There was no way for me to get the broken bolt out of the mount myself.  The first thing to do was to totally unpack the bike.  Then find a shop where I  could get an extractor to remove the bolt.  Ultimately I found an ATV shop where I spent several hours disassembling the pannier mounts so we could get at the mount to extract the broken bolt.  Once we had extracted the bolt, I reassembled the pannier mounts and headed back to the hotel.  By this time it had started raining.  Nice.  It was a short ride to the hotel where Kim was patiently waiting.  We rushed through loading the bikes quickly as time was wasting.

I fired up and jumped on my bike and immediately knew something was wrong.  The bike felt all mushy and it felt like I was riding on iron rollers.  It was immediately clear what the problem was.  I had a rear tire flat.  Damn!  Again!  But the tire still had enough air to get back to the ATV shop without ruining the tire.  Once there, we checked the tube and found no punctures.  Now what?  Believe it or not, it was just that the valve core was loose.  Double damn!  But it was an easy fix and another short ride later I was back at the hotel and packed for the ride to McCarthy.

As we made our way to McCarthy first on paved roads to the Kennicott mine with its rich history as the biggest copper deposit ever discovered, our anticipation and excitement grew as did the sight of the Wrangell – St. Elias mountain range and the glaciers it held.  There were beautiful vistas filled with mountains and trees and nothing else.  They continued to grow and grow as we approached, but forward motion did not seem to exist.  We knew we were traveling at around 50 mph, but the size of the Great Land and the distance to the mountain ranges nullified any feeling of forward progress.  We felt suspended in time and space.  Although we were moving, the landscape and the surroundings really didn’t change other than to witness the increasing size of the mountains in front of us gradually got closer.  Mountains changed from smallish bumps to taller peaks and finally to towering monoliths directly in front of our eyes.

By 5:30 PM we arrived at the turnoff of the pavement to the beginning of the gravel to get to Kennicott.  We’ll take you there in Part 7.