Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Great Unknown Land

Leonidas Hubbard, Moustache-wearer
"A great unknown land right near home, as wild and primitive to-day as it has always been! I want to see it. I want to get into a really wild country and have some of the experiences of the old fellows who explored and opened up the country where we are now."
-Leonidas Hubbard, November 1901

It's that time of year again, when I shirk all my responsibilities to head off for a motorcycle adventure. Some of you may have read the last installment, Across America By Motorcycle, wherein my intrepid companion Rod and I set off to trace the route taken by C.K. Shepherd in the book of that name. Well, the bike and I are a little older, not much wiser, and we're heading off to explore "the land that God gave Cain," exotic Labrador. I'll take the Trans-Labrador Highway, starting from Newfoundland, and looping through the sub-arctic back down to Quebec, where I hope meet up with Rod somewhere around Toronto. I'll be camping along the way, and taking time to see the sights. You can see the route I'll follow at the right, and above that, once I actually leave, there's a map that will track my position.

I am not the first tourist to make a sightseeing trip to Labrador. That honor goes to Richard Hore, who set out from England in 1536 with a boatload of young nobles to see the New World. Thirty of them signed up for the trip, along with ninety professional sailors and fishermen. They took two boats, one of which sailed back home laden with cargo. The other, which happened to be the one the young lords were on, grounded somewhere between Newfoundland and Labrador after being attacked by natives, or so they claimed.

The real story, it seems, came out after their return aboard a hijacked French ship. Contact with the Beothuk who inhabited the region had been limited (they had run away at the Englishmen's approach, leaving some bear meat on the fire). Unable to feed themselves, the gentlemen turned to cannibalism until the hapless French vessel landed close enough to be stolen. The nobles' straits may have not been as dire as they thought-- the French sailors fixed the boat up, and sailed to England to demand payment.

Hore set a high bar for incompetence (or at least bad luck), but Leonidas Hubbard, a writer for the outdoor magazine Outings, whose words begin this entry, took things to extremes, and I hope to capture some of his boundless enthusiasm. As he wrote in his final diary entry, found later by his companion, "I think death by starvation is not so bad."


  1. Do the bears sell motorcycle tires in Labrador? Chains? Spark Plugs? cuz it looks like ,by the time you get up that far, you may need these items...

  2. All are new. If any of those items can't last 5,000 miles, Imma be upset.

  3. Even the tires? You?
    See you in a couple weeks, assuming you fare better than Hubbard.

  4. Even the tires, Rolly. Just to keep it interesting, I switched brands this time, so there's still a little uncertainty.