Day One in Labrador The beauty of northern Canada

The Route We Took: Rte 500 E - Driving the Trans-Labrador Highway (ok ok ... the only route available. Roads bumpy and dusty. Lots of construction. Slow going.)

Lodging: Midway Inn, Churchill Falls, NL, CA

Food:Restaurant within multi-purpose building in which the hotel is housed

Joke of the Day:

(Read each letter aloud.)






These are the jokes, folks.

Our First Day in Labrador: Driving from Labrador City to Churchill Falls

We had a leisurely breakfast, and did our best to plan portions of the trip. But it was back to work for me, and so I had to log on to participate in a portion of the workday.

After checking out, we decided to see what a bargain store in Labrador City was like. We’d seen one the day before, and headed back over. First, a nice lady yelled at us for driving the wrong direction in the parking lot. Again, not my mom’s strong point ... so we’re used to this. After turning around and parking, we found ourselves shopping in the bargain store when the power went out.

All the power went out.

Shops closed. Stop signs were dark. There was no power anywhere.

What were we to do?

We wanted to shop the bargain store (we were hoping to find a French / English dictionary), stop at the grocery store, visit the tourist center, and get more gin.

But there was no power, and so our only option was to visit the tourist center. We didn’t realize that the only Labrador tourist center was in L’Anse aux Clair, and went in expecting information on all areas of the province. What we found were documents to help us in Labrador City and Wabush, with some pamphlets for Newfoundland.

This wasn’t particularly helpful, and we didn’t have enough gasoline to get to our next stop in Churchill Falls. We drove to neighboring Wabush, and when I say neighboring ... I mean next door, across the railroad track Wabush. Their power was out, too.

Happily, we stopped in Sir William Grenfell Hotel, which was under renovation. So we groped our way through the construction debris, halted due to lack of power, and climbed the stairway in complete darkness before reaching the reception area.

Not only did they not have power, but they anticipated the phones to go out shortly, too. At least they always had before.

Afraid we wouldn’t make our reservation in Churchill Falls, we asked if they had a room for the night. While they didn’t, the very kind woman behind the desk called Fermont to see if they had power. They did. And so we back tracked to Fermont to fill up.

Naturally, when we returned to Labrador City ... all was fully functioning, including the bargain store and liquor store.

We were shocked to walk into the liquor store and discover prices had doubled and quadrupled from Maine to Labrador City. The 1.75 litre bottle that is $12.99 in NC, is $56.00 in Labrador City. Another startling example: a 12-pack of Bud Light Lime was $16. Yup. That was our reaction, too.

Gas in the tank. Groceries purchased. We were on our way.

All of this had taken some time, and so almost immediately we were on the road ... we decided to stop for a picnic. Fairly close to Labrador City / Wabush, we spotted a road that led to Smallwood Reservoir where we picnicked on a homemade boat dock grateful for the strong breeze that kept the black flies at bay.

A Day on the Water

Many small watercraft were found at the reservoir, including rowboats for use by those up to the task of getting them off the dock, into the water, and rowing against the wind. We opted for pictures and no boating, and were back on the road shortly.

We’d been lulled into relative confidence based on the condition of the road from Manic-Cinq to Labrador City. Little did we know the crappy roadbed before us.

The weather was dry, and the road was freaking awful and *MUCH* dustier. It gave new meaning to the phrase, “eat my dust”. It also incited something of a debate about the definition and use of the word ‘highway’. Mom proposes they rename it the Trans-Labrador Freaking Crappy Roadbed.

Our car is a mid-size car, but it is not a truck, SUV, or other all-terrain vehicle. The ride was fairly rough, and interrupted often by construction.

In conversation with a Canadian later in the trip, we learned that different sections of the road are being widened and paved by different contractors, which accounts for difference in quality of driving conditions.

So far, Labrador City to Churchill Falls was the worst.

Coming into Churchill Falls (finally!) from the west, we crossed a bridge that spanned a beautiful, red rock river, the Churchill River. We stopped briefly to take some pictures, and immediately were swarmed with black flies. I was swatting them away while photographing the river, and swatting them to death once back in the car.

On a discussion board somewhere we read, “Who would want to stop in Churchill Falls? Beats me.”

We laughed about this until we got there. Then we realized, they were right. It’s a company town. The only game in town is the hydro-electric plant built immediately following Manic-Cinq. I believe it is the largest underground hydro-electric plant in the world. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t get to take the tour of this plant.

The town consists of a bunch of trailers, some nicer homes, a petrol station / liquor store, the plant, and a large complex that acts as: hotel (the only hotel ... the Midway Inn1), grocery (soon to be managed by IGA), post office, library, school, exercise gym, and town hall.

The building has half-floors, and one elevator that serves all floors once you figure it out. The hotel rooms are adequate. If you, like us, wish to break up the drive, you will find this spot meets your basic needs, but we didn’t find it as memorable or rewarding as Manic-Cinq.

Once upon a time, there was a lounge in the hotel. The company purchased the all-purpose building, and shut down the lounge. Signage still exists all around save for the entrance to the lounge, where you can see that Lounge has been blacked out. (How many times can you use lounge in one paragraph?) There is a pub, but we did not check it out.

After dinner, we went to check out the library. We asked if we might borrow a DVD even though we were only hotel guests. Much to our surprise and happiness, the librarian said, “Yes.”

While selecting and borrowing the movie, the black fly as a constant nuisance was confirmed by a kindly gentleman, who reminded us of Robin Williams, with whom we chatted in the local library.

He said, “What are you doing here?”

We said, “We flew over it a couple years back, and it looked quite lovely.”

He replied, “Yes, it is. The haze you saw was the black flies.”

Mom replied, “So we noticed.”

After checking out a movie, we headed back to the room to settle in for the evening. Luckily one of the windows had a screen because the room was sans A/C. It did come with an oscillating fan.

Created By
Meredith Rendall


Papered Pixels Studio

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