Rough Road and Rough Sleep on the Trans-Labrador Highway

If you aren’t familiar with motorcycles, then you should know there’s a style of bike called a touring bike. If you are familiar with motorcycles, then you know what we’re about to describe. It’s the kind of bike designed to be taken on the road not just for a few minutes of fun, but for the kind of long trips that people who value the open road really love.

They come equipped with saddle bags for everything you need, a trunk in the back, and the freedom that only a motorcycle can bring. When you’re determined to travel and you love motorcycles, you take a touring bike.

Our traveller had one: A 2001 Honda Gold Wing GL-1800. It went with him everywhere. It crossed the northern territories of Canada. It went to the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group’s annual meet at the Paris Fairgrounds, where our rider slept in cattle stalls—cleaned, thankfully. It saw paved roads and dirt roads. It had lone riders and passengers. It had 1832cc’s of displacement and a rider with the will to see the edges of the map.

The Road Less Travelled

The Trans-Labrador HighwayHe had put off travelling Route 500, the Trans-Labrador Highway, for years. It’s a stretch of road 543 km long that connects the remote communities of Labrador with the rest of Canada. Long stretches of the road might politely be called gravel. Less politely, dirt would be a better term. Hundreds of kilometers of road are rough, lonely stretches fit for the those who find that travel either necessary or an adventure.

But, as an adventurer with a touring bike, he decided he wasn’t going to put it off anymore. He had seen every provincial and territorial capital on that bike with the exception of Yellowknife, every stretch of road that wound its way across the nation, and this new one shouldn’t be any different.

So he—and the Gold Wing—hit the road. On one of those long, dirt stretches it started to rain. Rain and dirt can spell disaster quick on a motorcycle. Loss of traction, loss of vision, the irritating, distracting discomfort of being soaked to the bone are all major distractions for the motorcyclist. There aren’t many facilities on the Trans-Labrador Highway. Inns, motels, and the like can be hard to find in such sparsely populated areas.

When that happens, when the rain hits and you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you take shelter when you can. In this case, that meant a picnic table covered with a gazebo.

How did he sleep? “I have a self-inflating camping pillow. You don’t sleep well like that,” he says.

What Would Make the Ultimate Motorcycle Camping Pillow?

Those are about the same size as a Pillowpacker® down travel pillow, but not nearly as comfortable. Our pillows fit perfectly in your motorcycle’s saddlebags and trunk, making the best travel pillow you could want for motorcycle camping—just ask another biker and Pillowpacker® customer, Bill Mooney from Tennessee.

If you don’t have a Pillowpacker® pillow tucked away in one of your saddle bags or a trailer, you’re going to be sleeping rough.

Still, our biker carried on. He intended to rendezvous with a ferry farther down the road. It touches off from Goose Bay to the remotest communities not connected by the highway. If Rigolet, Makkovik, Postville, Hopedale, Natuashish or Nain were on your Labrador travel itenerary, you were hitching a ride on the ferry. That meant you had to make sure you were there when it showed up about once a week. And reservations had to happen well in advance to book yourself and your stuff—in this case, a motorcycle—as freight.

As night fell as he made his way towards the ferry, he was worried he’d have to camp out in another truck stop. As luck would have it, he met a friendly local who let him set up his tent in his backyard. As even more luck would have it, that local knew the ferry skipper—he set up a meeting and our biker made his way to the most distant of Labrador’s communities.

Some At-Home Comfort at Last

There he found a welcome break from the dusty Labrador roads: “They have a really nice restaurant,” he says, “with a Portuguese cook.”

A nice bit of home comfort, to be sure. Nevertheless, if you’re an avid biker or a recreational motorcyclist looking for the ultimate comfort to invest in your favourite hobby, we—and our friend Bill Mooney—happily recommend any of our Pillowpacker® pillows. They’re the perfect travel pillow for motorcycle camping, they’re the perfect pillow for motorcycle travel (you never know when you need one!), and we just think they’re the perfect pillow, period. If you’re going somewhere wet or like to pull over in a downpour, try our microfibre inflatable travel pillow. If you’re staying dry and want a home away from home on the rough road, go for one of our down travel pillows: duck down, white down blend, or goose down for ultimate comfort. Whatever your choice, you’ll hit the road refreshed and ready for more!


Beth Shepherd
Beth Shepherd

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