Thursday, May 25, 2000

Goose Bay - Cartwright

This sign at the Goose Bay end of the new road to Cartwright means
it's 245 miles to the next gas, bathroom and candy bar.

These  inukshuks (click) beside the great Churchill River signify "this land is our land"
to aboriginals, those whose ancestors lived here for centuries before the Europeans came.

This shows a better piece of the 50 kilometer "obstacle course".

It took 3 hours for us to drive through that infamous 50 kilometer stretch, at speeds between 1/10 mph and 15 mph.   Some big rocks we had to crawl over were a test of skill and undercarriage durability.   I had to move one aside by hand.   When we got home to a garage in Maine I found the survival of the Prius oil pan was due not to my skill, but to its sensible location above the frame.

The road arc we drove through Quebec and Labrador included about 900 miles of gravel road, some of it very bad.  I had to inspect visually every foot of it ahead to avoid any rock which could burst a tire.  That's five million feet.   A small piece of metal on I-95 in Virginia had ruined a tire for us: here a hundred miles from the nearest garage the consequences would have been much worse. 

Two more views of the main highway from Goose Bay to Cartwright.

Linda Rumbolt in her domain.

That 245 miles between "facilities" took us over 8 hours.  Although Marge was dubious, I stopped at Road Camp Kilometer 145, where apparently all the highway workers were out working for the day.  In one of the big buildings I found Linda Rumbolt, the head cook, who was most hospitable to Marge, and invited us for coffee.  She is 69 and could retire, but so enjoys the work and the extra income from long hours,  she will return for the 2011 season.

Conversation with a 19-year-old flagman, an unskilled job, disclosed that we have mutual friends in Gagetown NB, that his job in this lonely place is very boring, and that he earns $13.40 hourly for 80 hours weekly, with no overtime premium.

The principal food of Labrador caribou is called, naturally, "caribou moss".
Where trees are stunted or burned this gives whole hillsides this bright color.

We saw several moose and bear between Goose Bay and Cartwright, and beyond.  The moose seem bigger and shyer than those in Maine.

It seems that on our arrival at each motel/hotel on this trip there are small problems, which get resolved.    We had reserved a room at the Cartwright Hotel by email with the owner.   When we arrived he had left for the day, there was no record of our reservation, and there was no room left.   I showed the clerk the confirming emails on our computer screen, and we got an adequate room, under construction.    I replaced the black garbage bag window cover when its Scotch tape support let go.   Staff and guests searched for our heater grill, and found it was under the uncut carpet.    The bathroom door was a half inch oversize, so it wouldn't shut.   The shower grab bar and bath mats were missing.  But although the restaurant had closed we were fed well and cheerfully, our room rate was reduced, and assistance by the manager, who was the owner's mother, was super friendly and helpful.

Cartwright, population 680 and shrinking.  If that snow didn't melt by September a glacier would have begun there.
Pack ice was 20 miles wide off Cartwright, so it seemed boat service might be delayed until July.   Polar bears that were downtown had headed north through the woods, they said.   They might not have survived.

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