Baie Comeau to Lab City...
It was an early start to the day… on the road at 6AM is not unusual for us when we travel – but usually it is planned – today it wasn’t. I was up at 4AM (Eastern) and wrote on the blog quietly – letting Al get his beauty sleep… when Al work up he looked at his watch, made coffee, got dressed and was packed all in the space of 30 minutes. He was ready to go at 6:00 AM (Atlantic)… trouble was it was only 5AM Easter… we left anyways!!
The road out of Baie Comeau was a joy to ride. Tight twisty road marred by some frost heaves – but all in all fun at any speed. There were signs galore warning you of sharp curves… for about 50KM and then the curves kept coming but there were no more warning signs!!
Manic 2 was the first hydroelectric dam that we came to. I thought it was big. I hadn’t seen Manic 5 yet!! Just past Manic 2 I passed Al and went ahead so I could get a photo of him in action. Let’s just say I had a little action of my own! I pulled off the road and as soon as I did the rear end started to sink. It was all I could do to keep the bike moving through what I could only describe as silt… I managed to get back on the edge of the pavement without mishap and caught a shot of Al as he roared past! All’s well that ends well!
As I got back into the groove over the next 20 KM’s or so I began to reflect on the yellow line and came to see it as a metaphor for life – travelling in parralell – called to walk with others side by side… and sometimes there are times of crises – times of opportunity, hashed lines if you will – and still the lines are in parralell… we travel with one another supporting each other along the way…
It was at about this point in my pondering that I was passed by a Baie Comeau taxi on a double solid line… and my warped mind incorporated this into my reflection as well: no matter how solid we are in our journey together, there will always be others who seek to get ahead – often on the backs of others…
Poetic justice though… there was construction – the first stretch of gravel and we caught up to the mad taxi driver and I even managed to get a picture of it!! I cannot imagine what the fare was for that trip… 220+ KM from Baie Comeau to Manic 5… I hope the passenger didn’t forget his wallet!?!?
Power lines as far as the eye can see – and they all seem to lead to Manic 5. Believe me, if I lived in Quebec and knew that the power I consume came from Manic 5 I would have a new appreciation for the engineering and human effort it took to build the dam transmission lines!
At the truck stop/restaurant/motel we stopped for breakfast - $10 for breakfast and gas at $1.51/liter… not bad considering how far we were from a large community! But who needs a large community when you have a large dam in your back yard!! Manic 5 is huge – and huge is an understatement! I can’t begin to describe the immensity of it. And its not just the engineering feat, the design and concrete that impresses – it’s the realization of the large volume of water that it is holding back and generating power from!
Leaving the base of the dam (unfortunately you are no longer allowed to drive across the top of it) we began the first 400 KM of gravel – and it was freshly graded – not a good thing on a motorcycle! We soon caught up to the grader and were able to pass it – only to meet another one coming toward us a hundred or so kilometers down the road! The grading is not the issue – it’s the berm they leave when the blade is angled to the center of the road. A couple of times we had to cross over the berm… very carefully!
Two hundered kilometers in we arrived in Gagon. “Honey! Where’s the house!?!?” There used to be a town here – but when the mine closed the town was picked up and moved away as well. It’s kind of eerie to drive down a street with sidewalks and curbs with driveways cut out… and not a house to be seen!
It wasn’t hard to tell that we were getting closer to mining company. Here is an ore train being loaded by a pay loader to be hauled to the processing plant by train… and here the gravel road was some of the worst so far – I guess because of the increase of the mining traffic – potholes and washboard… it was slow going – especially the road leading to the processing plants at Fermont! I had to stop. The sight on the horizon was shocking.
In the distance was the Fermont iron ore mine – an open red tinted sore on the landscape with a pool of rusty water in the foreground. I suppose it is a necessary evil as a result of insatiable desire for new cars and fridges and stoves and motorcycles and anything else that is made of one form of iron or another… perhaps is such sights were more accessible to our vision we might thing twice about our consumption?
By this point we were both running on fumes… as we passed the Fermont town site I noted that all was not in my rearview mirror… and just in front of me was the Newfoundland and Labrador “Welcome to the Big Land” sign. I figured all had run out of gas… so I stopped and emptied my little container into my tank as well – and used the opportunity for a photo shoot!!
With my tank partially filled I headed back to find Al – and there he was coming toward me. Soon we were both in the “Big Land” and hit the first landmark in Labrador City – Tim Hortons!!!
At Tim’s with coffee in hand, all connected with the manager who moved to Lab City in 1964 and knew two of the people that Al had known when he was here as a student working in the mining camp – collecting ore samples – ore samples that no doubt in part led to the eyesore of a mine we passed a while back… Al also learned that the mining camp he had stayed in was now long gone – in fact the whole lake was gone – mined for ore…
We attempted to find a room in Lab City – but the prices were a little hard to swallow: $145 for a single bed and double bed in a very small walk up room overtop of a bar: Carol Inn. We decided to press on to a campground that we were told had cabins that we may be able to get – well – there were no cabins, but there were some even better things in store!!
After rolling through the first significant rain fall of the day, soaked, we arrived at Grand Hermine Lake – a campground run by Ed & Cavelle Burke. We had no sooner asked for a cabin – to be told that floors had just been painted and could not be walked on – to learn that this was the summer home of Kym Burke’s mom and dad. Kym had been ordained a United Church minister at the Annual Meeting of Maritime Conference on June 1st! Ed & Cavelle had been in Sackville for the service and I had likely seen them at the meeting – not knowing who they were… and it turns out my friends Helen and Andrew (Helen had been an intern with me at Wesley Memorial United Church) was their minister and used to visit Ed & Cavel at this very campground!! It is a small world – our lives do travel in parallel and once in a while we are given glimpse of the awesome connection that is the mystery of the Divine among us!!
Ed and Cavel and their extended family invited us to join them at their table for supper. We shared a simple but beautiful meal – a meal rooted in hospitaility, openness and story telling – as we made connections wider and wider – naming people we knew in common and laughing at some of the things identify our uniqueness such as language and the words we use… “Where ya to?” “Cuffs vs. Mittens” Dinner or supper? And we laughed and laughed some more!!
It was a beautiful ending to a wonderful day! Thanks so much Ed & Cavel! I can’t wait to see Helen and Andrew and share some stories with them!!
Until then… on the Sabbath Road… in the “Big Land” riding the yellow line...