James Bay Road & North Road Solo Blitz, September 2010

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by rdwalker, Sep 27, 2010.

  1. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Yet another "me-too" Ride Report...

    Still, preparing the posts is fun and I hope that this will be of interest to some inmates here, especially those who are planning the ride or recently finished it.
    So here it goes: my ride to Chisasibi, Quebec.

    First, acknowledgements. Thanks to all others who posted their reports here, especially
    donnymoto and RockyNH - the advice and info was invaluable. XMagnaRider from BMWLT forum: silk gloves in the rain - brilliant! Deadly99 - thanks for the encouragement to take the North Road. It was fun!

    Let's start with some teasers, boys and girls.
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    You, too, can have your own GAS BOY.
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    We're goin' in.
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    Make room for the king of the road.
    North Road, that is.
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    In slippery snot.
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    Done it! Got there!
    But - boy, the Arctic Ocean is really frigid!
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    More power, Igor!
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    Time's ticking away - still 368 ticks to go...
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    We're not in Kansas anymore.
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    More to come.
    #1
  2. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

    Joined:
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    I have been thinking about riding up the James Bay Road for quite a while now. I became aware of it when preparing for my &#8217;08 Trans-Labrador ride: Walter Muma&#8217;s site, www.tlhwy.com, the "basic reading" for Trans-Lab travelers, has a parallel section devoted to James Bay Road and to North Road.

    James Bay is one of the few exotic adventure locations available within a reasonable driving distance from the US East Coast.

    OK, so it certainly is not in the class of Charlie&#8217;s and Ewan&#8217;s "Long Way" ride, nor Colebatch&#8217;s Siberian Extreme - still, I do find it a challenge to battle distance and elements in order to reach the Arctic Ocean.

    Getting to James Bay would give me the satisfaction of having ridden a bike to the shore of every ocean in Earth: Arctic, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific. Well, maybe with the exception of the Southern Ocean - though I have been a mere 5 degrees of latitude, 300 miles away from it in Ushuaia.

    Nevertheless, the idea of this trip remained a "nice to do". I did not go on any big rides this season and did not even plan on any more, until I realized very recently that the remaining weekend schedule is very booked. Effectively, I had only one weekend open before the end of northern riding opportunities!

    Suddenly, the trip was on and the preparations went into high gear. I secured a few days off before and after that free weekend in late September and laid out the route.

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    * North via Montreal toward Chibougamau, Quebec (point "C" on the map).
    * Access the North Road and travel east on gravel to join James Bay Road about midway.
    * Continue northbound past Radisson toward Chisasibi to reach James Bay ("D).
    * Return trip would be all-paved: south to Matagami, then home via either Montreal or Ottawa ("F").


    I checked out the bike and realized that the front Anakee has 11,000 miles on. Quick! - get a new one ASAP!

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    A week before departure, my dining room table became the preparation area. All the gear was collected and packed, then taken down to the garage.

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    September 15: Northern NJ to Plattsburgh, NY - 285 miles.


    Finally, the departure day arrived. I was still working, but my itinerary called for putting in a good number of miles in the evening, to give myself a nice distance advantage for next morning. I sped home from work, changed into riding gear and pulled the bike out from garage. It was getting dark &#8211; a long night ride was ahead of me. Little did I know: it was a portent of things to come throughout the whole trip: night travel all around!

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    Riding at a steady pace, I went past the Adirondacks in surprisingly good conditions: dry and fairly warm for a night that season, in low 40&#8217;s. Just before midnight, I was bedding down in the Plattsburgh, NY Econolodge.
    #2
  3. RockyNH

    RockyNH Older Than Dirt!

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    Been Looking for this one Robert!!!! Signed up to ride along!

    Pat in NH
    #3
  4. ct-ktm

    ct-ktm Long timer

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    In..:D
    #4
  5. lakota

    lakota Geeser

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    I'm in:lurk
    #5
  6. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Looks good.. thanks for the intro :thumb

    :lurk
    #6
  7. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

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    Hate to see you missed the old sign out at LG1
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    Little tricky to find here before you cross LG1 dam:
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    From what I've read it looks like they change it out once a year or so.

    Nice times up there, thanks for sharing
    #7
  8. billhig

    billhig n00b

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    Sounds like a great ride but I for one am glad he didn't finish his comment with "I haven't gone any long rides this seasons ------ because my dumb ass riding buddy fell off a ladder"

    :D

    Not that I know why he would say that.

    Bill
    #8
  9. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Arrrrgh! Grrr!
    And I was so prepared! Even had a permanent marker, still packed back home. All for nothing! Now I have to go there again.... how awful. Awful? :evil:rofl

    I bet you that the titanium plate in my buddy's wrist is custom machined by a CNC mill - and beautifully anodized.
    #9
  10. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    OK, here we go.

    September 16: Plattsburgh to Chibougamau - 516 miles.

    First full day of riding ahead. Getting up in the morning, I was elated: only half an hour to Canada.

    As usual, I got off the Interstate about 2 miles before the border, to avoid the Northway crossing. In my experience, the little customs posts on side roads are much quicker and, very often, much more pleasant: the staff will talk to you at leisure and not hassle you with the officialdom.

    This is my "secret" crossing when going to or from Montreal: Lacolle. It is located between the two busy border points (I-87 and Rouses Point) and is not well marked - perfect.

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    As expected, there were no other vehicles at the checkpoint. The Canadian customs agent conversed with me for a while - she was very amused and intrigued by my destination. In short order, she wished me Bonne Route and sent me off.


    First order of the day: Canadian Tire. While preparing for the trip, I was surprised to find out that nowadays - at least in NJ and NY - only so-called "spill proof" gas cans are available, with a whole valve contraption in the outlet. First of all, I never spill as much fuel as I do with these "spill proof" pieces of crap; they are so cumbersome to use. But, more importantly, I have been worried about dropping the bike and breaking the valve. Instant disaster.

    Guess what, Canadians can still buy the old-style reversible funnels! Quick run into the store and I was well equipped for the road with the good stuff. At first I thought that one container should be enough, but I bought one more just in case. A wise move in retrospect: the GS would not have made the 381 kilometers on James Bay Road without the 2.5-gallon reserve.

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    Back on the road! I followed Saint Lawrence River on Autoroute 40, and then turned toward La Tuque. Now it was for real. Pretty views, winding road.

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    Stopping for a moment at Riviere Mekinac to just savor the moment. I really like being here again - Quebec is a great destination for motorcycle rides. I come out this way for several rides every year.

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    In the southern part of the province (that is, along St. Lawrence River and south of it) one can ride quite late in the season - although last year, mid-October, I had a bit of a snow fall around Quebec City en-route from Natashquan. In the northern sections, the season is basically limited to May through September.

    Quebec roads are in very good shape (at least when compared to NJ!). The crews are working on them diligently in the short construction season, so one needs to be prepared for the frequent construction zones and the possibility of having to ride long stretches on gravel detours.

    Guess what. Here it is - another construction zone. Everyone is stacking up patiently.

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    Many of these sites are controlled by automatic traffic signals. The cycles can be very long and, therefore, the remaining time is displayed. This one had well over 7 minutes indicated when I pulled up (!); by the time I decided to pull out the camera, it was down to 381 seconds. A good omen? As in Relais 381? Let's hope.

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    By the evening, the weather was clearing out. I was nearing Lac Saint-Jean - the lake is just peeking from behind the treetops.

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    As I entered Saint-Felicien in another 20 kilometers, I saw a curious apparition in the clouds. It was very bright and very distinct. Yet, it was not a regular rainbow - these form when the sun is behind the observer (for you anal types: at an angle of 42 degrees). In this case, the sun was shining from the side. My guess was that the phenomenon was either created by sun's reflection in the clouds or was a reflection itself. Unusual - another good omen?

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    It may have been good omen for the whole trip, but not for finding a place to stay that night.

    I was going to overnight at La Dore, just a bit up Route 167, but found that all accommodations in that town were closed for the season, including two upscale auberges that were supposed to be open year-round. I was faced with the choice of backtracking some 25km to Saint-Felicien or biting the bullet and continuing up north to next town, 200km away (next town, indeed!).

    So, of course, I rode up. It was actually a very nice run. Temperatures were swinging about 40F - I was well bundled and heated, even though the electric vest kept kicking off for some reason. The road was actually quite busy; I could follow the logging trucks. These were big and fast! I liked having them in front of me, to guide me and to hopefully clear any critters ahead.

    The route took me to Chibougamau, the entry point into the North Road. Even though this was much, much further than planned, I did not mind - it gave me more time for next morning.

    By 10:30 pm I checked into Hotel Chibougamau and, still before closing time, managed to sit at the bar, having a glass of red wine and using their Wi-Fi, listening to bartender's iTouch hooked up to the PA system - headbanger music...

    Chibougamau is a real town in the middle of nowhere: strip malls, a bit of main street. There was even a taxi waiting in front of the hotel - and the bike was parked in the courtyard. Not like the Spanish courtyards, though - more like someone's construction shed.

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    #10
  11. Francis P Monaco

    Francis P Monaco n00b

    Joined:
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    I'm enjoying the trip report so far. The pictures are nice and it sounds like you had fun on your journey.
    #11
  12. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Thanks, Francis - fun is just beginning. Read on.
    #12
  13. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    September 17: Chibougamau to Lake Boisrobert - 268 miles.


    Morning exploration took me into the town. Chibougamau is somewhat western in feeling: wide streets, utilitarian buildings. In a sense, it is a frontier town; it was constructed in the 1950's to service the region's mines.

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    Hotel Chibougamau looked much better in daytime than upon my arrival the night before.

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    I fueled-up the bike and my brand-new gas cans, then stopped at a supermarket for some food and water for the upcoming night. As usual, I got involved in conversation with bystanders - them using broken English, me smiling and nodding a lot. It was pretty weird, though: a cabbie was strenuously trying to convince me to avoid the North Road and take the paved route to Matagami instead. He even took me to his taxi, to show the shattered windshield from his recent foray onto gravel.

    My itinerary was calling for only a bit over 450km (280 miles) of gravel and remaining 2500 miles on tarmac; therefore I decided to run on the Anakee 2 tires. I have been a bit concerned: should the gravel be very soft, I'd have a lot of trouble. Initially, I have been even thinking about skipping North Road, but Ted (Deadly99) reassured me. Needless to say, the taxi driver was not helping...

    Oh, well... I left the town, winding my way through pretty, hilly landscapes.

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    About 10km out of Chiboumagau is the entrance to Route du Nord. Exciting! The adventure was beginning for real.

    The lights were not flashing - therefore the road was open (that's what the sign was about).

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    One of the fist things to notice was a reminder of the purpose of the road. It ain't no tourism - it is to haul timber. "TRUCK BIG. VERY BIG".

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    This sign warns of entry of the trucks from a logging road on the side. There were plenty of these, for sure.

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    Sure enough, very soon one of these monsters appeared over a crest of the road.

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    Growing larger...

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    And larger...


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    I do have to say that I had no problem at all with the trucks on North Load and James Bay Road. This mirrored my experience on the Trans-Labrador: the truck drivers were always very considerate, slowing down and pulling to the side to reduce the dust and gravel spray. It was the occasional maniac in a pickup or SUV that one had to worry about - passenger cars rarely seemed to care about my well-being.

    I really lucked out with the road conditions here. Quite possibly, the maintenance ended as the season was coming to a close. I only encountered one or two graders and for most of the run the surface was smooth, hard-packed dirt with very little lose gravel.

    For most of the route, I rode at a comfortable 45-65mph.

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    However, it is a remote, desolate stretch and safety is of concern. This was the first season I have been riding with the SPOT messenger. As a routine, I'd send a check-in-OK message each morning and evening to the relief of people back home.

    On the North Road, at certain spots, signs encourage drivers to check in, announce themselves over CB. I am guessing that these were spots with good propagation and someone was monitoring the channel - maybe over a repeater.

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    There are also a few sites where the conditions are just right for a whiff of cellular signal. These are marked with a sign; a graded shoulder allows the drivers to safely pull to the side of the road.

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    Of course, my own phone did not work: the sparsely populated areas of Canada appear to be only covered by CDMA systems (such as Telus, Bell Mobility or Telebec).

    Rogers Wireless, the Canadian GSM operator, seemed to be present only in the busy corridor along US border. Once I left Trois-Rivieres on Saint Lawrence River, I had no signal on my AT&T phone - until nearing Ottawa five days later.


    Along the gravel roads, such as Route du Nord, parking is a problem, not only just to make phone calls. The drainage ditches are very deep and steep; even worse, the road surface at edge of roadway can be very soft and treacherous. Very often, the vehicle is virtually imprisoned on the road - and, with the fast and heavy trucks, stopping in the middle is not advisable.

    Fortunately, there are frequent rest stops with picnic tables, sometimes even dry toilets and garbage containers. I rode into one of these for lunch: a piece of fresh baguette with half a bag of fruit-flavored gummy candy. Health food, eh?

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    Next stop: kilometer 238 of Route du Nord, the famous Rupert River. A part of the James Bay Project, it was diverted late last year (2009) and now carries only about half of its original flow. The rapids are still impressive - they must have been spectacular before.

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    An information panel shows the layout of the James Bay hydroelectric installations. The size of the area covered is just immense. To get a sense of scale, consider that James Bay Road (shown as the busy vertical stretch on the map) is about 600km (400 miles) long - and so is Trans-Taiga Road, shown horizontally following a string of lakes. Tremendous!

    The area is incorporated as the Municipality of James Bay (Municipalité de Baie-James) and contains the 9 operational generating stations of the La Grande River Complex - plus two more under construction. Even though there are only some 1500 permanent inhabitants, it covers almost 300,000 square km - about the size of Italy or Poland, larger than the UK.

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    There is no free lunch and there is certainly no free power. Hydro installations come at a significant environmental and social cost. But, I very much do appreciate the engineering here. This is a section of the informational panel showing the Rupert River diversion. The audacity of scale of the project just boggles the mind. Hydro Quebec not only dammed the river, but also a whole region of lakes, using a system of dozens of dams and tunnels. The water is diverted over a great distance into the La Grande River, adding there to the flow that powers several generating stations.

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    And this is the product of the area: one of the many ultra-high-voltage power lines, crossing the land - here just above Rupert River - carrying electricity from one of the La Grande stations down south. It is very likely that we use it here right now: a lot of Hydro Quebec power is sold to New England and to New York State.

    This style of pylons (towers) is quite unique. They were invented by Hydro-Quebec during the construction of the James Bay project. Technically known as "cross-rope", but popularly called "chainette" (little necklace), they suspend the 735kV insulators on a cable, rather than a traditional support beam. The guyed tower-legs require relatively small foundations, minimizing environmental impact. Most importantly, chainettes use only about a fourth of the steel required by traditional tower systems for the same line length.

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    Hidden in the woods at kilometer 258 is Poste Albanel transformer station (substation). Notice the dead trees: during my trip, I encountered great swaths of land succumbed to forest fires. Apparently, it is a frequent occurrence in the region. These trees were burned several years ago; further up along the North Road there were very fresh burns, with tree trunks still blackened and the ground cover completely destroyed.

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    Kilometer 290: a construction camp run by the Cree Construction Company. Not much more than an equipment yard with a few storage containers and some mobile homes. There was a cafeteria and the most important feature: gas pumps. Once filled, the bike was much happier...

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    Just a short distance further, a turnoff leads to the Cree village of Nemaska, about 10km away. Here the gravel was laid down more recently and I almost dumped the bike in the soft stuff, on the causeway across the lake. Adrenaline time!

    Nemaska is not exactly your photogenic tourist destination. Its importance is due to the fact that it houses the Grand Council of the Crees, but the village basically consists only of municipal buildings and residential structures.

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    Back on the road. I pulled into the last campground on Route du Nord: kilometer 381 (that number again!), Lake Boisrobert. I hastily set up camp to beat the oncoming darkness.

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    The dinner was in the spirit of the region: cheese with remainder of the baguette, washed down with red wine. For desert: gummy candy, of course!

    I was hoping to have a nice view of the night sky, with almost-full moon - maybe even some northern lights - but instead, clouds raced in and in short time rain droplets started thundering against the tent. Good sleeping weather, though.

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    #13
  14. RockyNH

    RockyNH Older Than Dirt!

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    Robert, Great report!! Looks like you camped the same spot we did on the North Road..

    Pat in NH
    #14
  15. Kyler

    Kyler Confused Hack Nut

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    My brother and I rode to James Bay a few years back - I wish we had also covered the North Road - I'm enjoying your RR very much! I wonder if I can talk him into another trip...
    #15
  16. BOOGIEMAN

    BOOGIEMAN Been here awhile

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    East Greenbush,N.Y.
    Too bad you could not find someone to ride with. I always find that a ride of two or more makes for a fun filled trip.:freaky
    #16
  17. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Well... that depends. I always miss the company for the evening, the time to relax, to B.S., to have a drink.

    On the road, though, I actually prefer a solo ride. That way I can do things and change my mind at the spur of the moment, be impulsive, stop here and there, explore at a whim. Even simple things as stopping to take pictures or to put on additional riding gear are more flexible for a single rider.
    #17
  18. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    September 18: Lake Boisrobert to Radisson - 378 miles.


    Woke up to a soggy morning. I hate to break down the camp in rain; at least, I got a chance to set it up in the dry.

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    Yesterday's perfect hardpack changed to wet snot. The dirt or clay in the roadway became very slippery; the Anakees could not bite in. I was glad that I camped near the end of North Road: I was ready for the pavement. Here it is: where Route du Nord joins James Bay Road at kilometer 275.

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    I entered James Bay Road pavement and rode north. In a little over an hour I reached the location of almost mythical significance on that highway: Relais Routier 381. This stage stop is the only place that provides fuel along the Road - and it is 381 kilometers from the southern terminus in Matagami.

    First task, then, was to fill up the bike. Dutifully, I waited for my Gas Boy (!?), then went to the shop building to bring my tires back to normal pressure - I dropped about 10 psi for the gravel. There is a lot of high speed riding on James Bay Road - I did not want to risk overheating the sidewalls. The shop was closed, but thoughtfully an airline was stuck through the doors.

    I do have to say that I never heard the term "Gas Boy" before - this was a source of continuous entertainment for the rest of the trip.

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    While I was pumping up the wheels, a white Honda sedan pulled up. The driver got out and we talked for a while - even though his English was very broken (and my French none). Apparently, he saw me taking pictures at the North Road junction and tried to chase me since, but I was too fast for him.

    Now that the bike was taken care of, I went to the cafeteria. There was only one choice: linguini with meat sauce. A hearty dish! While I ate, my new friend joined me and told me most of his life story - I think. From what I understood, he lived in Chicoutimi (in Quebec's pretty Saguenay region) and was going up to Chisasibi as well.

    In the time I spent indoors, the clouds were blown out and a bit of sun peeked out. Beautiful conditions for the remaining section north.

    Open road, excellent pavement, blistering speed.

    That's a reminder what James Bay Road is about: power plants! Just before the turn-off to Trans-Taiga Road, this sign points out nearby locations. "Centrale" is a generating station.

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    More of the ever-present power lines. Notice that the one on the right has only two conductors: this is the 450kV (900kV line-to-line) high-voltage DC feed that runs from Radisson to Sandy Point in Massachusetts. This gigantic interconnect carries 2000 MW over almost a thousand miles!

    Of course, the AC lines (with 3 conductors, in the center and left of picture) are no slouches, either. Six of those lines carry power from the James Bay project south, at a voltage of 765kV.

    (In case you did not notice - these technical factoids do interest me).

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    At kilometer 544 of James Bay Road, there is a junction with another route of adventure. The gravel Trans-Taiga Road is about 700km long. Along it, there are no settlements, except for some private Hydro Quebec encampments and a few outfitters catering to hunters.

    The entrance to Trans-Taiga is quite unassuming, but this sign announcing rest areas show the promise of its remoteness.

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    A bit further in, this distance marker s quite impressive. Actually, Trans-Taiga continues past Brisay, to Caniapiscau - 666km total.

    Wow, I find that exciting! A future destination, maybe?

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    I finally reached the Chisasibi turn-off. It was early afternoon, the clouds were just gathering - I decided to ride to the waters of James Bay, about 100km away, before returning to Radisson to overnight.

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    Just as I was turning, the warning indicator lit up: low fuel! What? I used up all the gas from Relais 381? How could that be?

    Apparently, running at Autobahn-like speeds... ahem... carries a penalty. My fuel economy dropped to mid-30's mpg. Normally, US-style riding pace results in about 40 mpg for the GS, when fully loaded with travel and camping gear. Interestingly, traveling on gravel of North Road (and of Trans-Lab in the past) yielded about 50mpg: running with light throttle at a very steady speed does wonders for fuel consumption.

    No problem. That's what the fuel cans are for, right?

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    A little side trip took me to the first of the power plants here: La Grande 1. Rather than looking at the plant, I was searching for a whiteboard where visitors to LG-1 do sign in. Donnymoto threw a challenge to fellow ADVriders to sign up near his name.

    Too bad - even though I came prepared with a permanent marker, I could not find the board. I visited all four "belvederes" (over-look points) around LG-1, to no avail. As Throttlemeister posted above, apparently the board was in a parking area off the main road and I must have missed it. Oh well, it looks like I have to go there again...

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    Past Chisasibi, the paved road ends. The last stretch going west crosses a fairly flat terrain.

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    And here we are! Done it! Did it! This is it: the shore of James Bay. Arctic Ocean!

    A great feeling of accomplishment! My high spirits did not even suffer when the gale-force wind blew my helmet off the bike while this picture was being taken. The retractable sunshield was shattered - oh, well...

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    When you look at Chisasibi on Google Maps' satellite view, while zooming in very closely, you can see some oblong white-silvery shapes on the shoreline.

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    These are the "freighter canoes", used by the Cree. Here they are, in real life.

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    To complete the celebration, walking into the frigid waters was required. Had to do it!

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    This is actually a location of historical significance. About 2 miles north of where I was standing, on the Island of Fort George, was a trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company. The company was formed in late 1600's by an enterprising Frenchman - a certain Pierre-Esprit Radisson - who could not interest the French government and thus obtained a British royal charter for "The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay".

    Don't you just love this name? Adventurers? An early ADVrider? ADVsailor?
    Needless to say, the town of Radisson was named in his honor.

    And, in case you are wondering: yes, the Radisson hotel chain is also named after good old Pierre.

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    Hmmmm. What the heck is that? Apparently, rubber over-boots work great as long as there is no big hole that lets in water. That would explain why my left boot was completely filled with water when riding during heavy rain earlier that day. Duh...

    I figured out the system, though: I punched holes in the rubber soles of the booties. That way, any water that got in could drain out, albeit slowly - rather than creating a deep puddle inside.

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    Last commemorative picture of the freighter bike with the freighter canoes. Time to head out - bad weather was coming in.

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    On the way back, a brief stop in the town of Chisasibi.

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    As someone wrote here, the Cree must be very much into Christmas: their alphabet surely contains a lot of candy canes.

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    I took a quick ride through the neighborhood, intrigued by the teepees in backyards of many of the houses. Even the arena / assembly hall was shaped like a teepee.

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    A quick stop for some Pimiiukimikw. I think.
    Can't complain, though: this was the only high-test fuel in James Bay region.

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    Now it was getting dark and I raced back to Radisson. I did not feel that hot: the linguini with meat sauce from Relais 381 was beginning to give me a god-awful indigestion. I was badly distracted; I could not wait to be able to have some Alka-Seltzer.

    When I finally reached my destination for the night, I was cold, tired and very unhappy. The receptionist at Auberge Radisson was very nice and let me park on the sidewalk. But: she was just finishing dinner at her desk - and it was linguini with meat sauce! That was almost too much!

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    First task upon getting into the room was to spread out all the wet camping and riding gear. What a mess.

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    Now, time for a well deserved hot bath - and a double Alka-Seltzer. As a final source of smiles for the evening, I read a warning note in the bathroom, asking to run the exhaust fan while taking shower. The English was pretty good, not machine-translated, but someone must have been using a dictionary too much: wrong word for "sensitive" was used. 'Our fire alarm system is very fragile'. Huh? I hope not.

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    #18
  19. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,568
    Location:
    The Badlands (of NJ)

    September 19: Radisson to Matagami - 393 miles.

    And another wet morning. Walked out of the Auberge to check out the surroundings. Radisson is as much of a company town as you can get: Hydro-Quebec runs the show.

    The flags are of the company, of Municipality of James Bay and of the province. Even the bus belongs to the company.

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    Parking lot is full of employees' vehicles. These building house their technical offices and staff. I was told that it is a tough and lonely outpost, but the good money cures a lot of ills.

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    As I was readying the bike, a familiar face showed up: my friend from Relais 381 resurfaced. We continued our conversation without really knowing each other languages. I understood that he did work on the construction of one of the La Grande power plants and often crosses Canada in search of work and excitement. He said: a bohemian lifestyle... Interesting guy.


    Being in Radisson, I hoped to see the largest plant here: La Grande 2, now named after Robert Bourassa. It's a monster, one of the largest stations in the world.

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    Unfortunately, there is no more direct access for individuals. According to what I read on the Web (so it must be true!), some journalist pulled a stunt during a facility tour claiming he could get to sensitive areas. In the post-9/11 hysteria, Hydro-Quebec did not want to take any chances and limited visitor access only to group tours pre-arranged in advance.

    I decided to take a chance and drove up to the guardhouse, asking how does one get in. The guard was very polite, but turned me away nevertheless. Too bad - this is all I've seen of the facility.

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    Time to go home. Before departure a last commemorative picture: proof of having reached the Municipality of James Bay.

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    A good riding day ahead, going south on James bay Road. Temperatures steady in low 40's, light rain. Do you like my high-tech waterproofing of the satellite radio receiver?

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    The enlightment of this trip: silk gloves in the rain!

    I have been always using silk liners in low temperatures and found them to be very effective. However, just a few weeks ago, 'xmagnarider' on BMWLT forum pointed out another great idea: using the liners in the rain. As you all know, there is no such thing as waterproof gloves - sooner or later they'll soak through. Then, they become almost impossible to put on wet hands: the interior liner sticks to the skin.

    This is where the silk gloves come in: even when wet, they will allow the riding gloves to slide on smoothly. Amazing discovery! I was a happy camper! It helped me with taking pictures in inclement weather, too: I no longer dreaded taking off the gloves to operate my camera in the rain. It's the little things in life...

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    Just like on North Road, users of JBR are asked to check in by radio - here with Hydro-Quebec. The triangular marker shows channel number; channel numbers were changing as I continued south.

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    Power lines everywhere. This forest of pylons is part of Poste (substation) Radisson.

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    Local airport is not too busy. I tried to walk in, but found everything locked tight.

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    Of course, a Hydro-Quebec company plane on the runway.

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    Once can always fly with the locals: Air Inuit.

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    Following down James Bay Road, I crossed Eastmain River. It looked pretty nice, so I stopped on the bridge to take this shot.
    Only later in the day I remembered that this was a very significant bridge, reportedly winning architectural awards. It's not visible from the roadway, however; I have been planning to hike down to the river - but I've forgotten!

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    Again, I arrived at Relais 381 - the otherwise dismal place that offers only fuel on James Bay Road. I topped off the bike and went to get a bite in the cafeteria. After prior day's excitement, I just had a salad.

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    Like the day before: while I have been in the cafeteria, weather cleared and the sun came out. A great ride became better yet.

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    I reached Rupert River. Just as at the North Road crossing of the river, the falls were very impressive, but one could see signs how much bigger they were before the diversion.

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    I am rewarded with a pretty rainbow over the southern bank of the river.

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    And another one. Notice the old scars from forest fires.

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    And more dead trees. When the fires are burning, it must be very exciting there.

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    And more rainbows. The interesting aspect of long distance travel is the variable weather - often changing from rain to sun and back within a few hours.

    Rainbows appear when the sun is approximately behind the observer while water droplets are suspended in the air ahead - and are particularly visible against dark background, such as that of dense storm clouds. On this trip, I saw a whole wonderful collection.

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    Another pretty phenomenon is the sight of rain spilling out of the clouds. With good lighting angle, it can be spectacular. Here, the rain is falling out of the backlit cloud directly ahead.

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    For an afternoon break, I pulled into one of the many rest stops, this one at a picturesque lake. Ibis was the last refill from gas cans - and the reason I brought them with me in the first place. According to my calculations, the two cans should have given me plenty of reserve for the 381km section without services.

    Chastised by the high consumption on the way up, I have been running in "fuel economy mode", maintained a steady and smooth 65-75mph pace.

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    Did I write that the weather was variable? In the fifteen minutes of working with the fuel, the conditions changed from these:

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    To these:

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    Yet another rainbow. This one adds an extra treat: the second-order rainbow is clearly visible to the right.

    Primary rainbow is the result of a single internal reflection of light in water droplets. The second-order rainbow is the result of a double internal reflection, therefore the incidence angle is wider and the colors are reversed.

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    More burned-out forests along the road.

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    The pavement is generally in very good condition. The occasional bumps or frost heaves are marked with a warning diamond sign.

    The real mark of a bump is quite interesting: almost always, there is a line of black "smudges" across the road, as it can be seen a short distance past the diamond.

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    This is how it looks close up. What happens is that the big trucks, when running unloaded, will raise the third or fourth unused axle from the rear trailer carriage. The tires are suspended only a few inches away from the pavement. When coming across such bumps, they will often come into contact with pavement, leaving these black tire marks.

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    Here, the emergency phones are located ever few tens of kilometers and marked with this red sign.

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    The provincial telephone company, Telebec, operates microwave relaying towers and the emergency phones are patched into the traffic. The actual emergency phone is in the glass booth right next to the generator building.

    Notice the height of this tremendous antenna mast!

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    And this is it! All good things come to an end - so does James Bay Road in the last rays of the setting sun.

    Ahead lie Kilometer 0 and the town of Matagami.

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    Just before the very end, at kilometer 6, is the check-in post. Travelers going north are supposed to register with the guard. I came onto James Bay Road from the side, via the North Road, so the guard took my information now. Seeing me on the bike, he was all excited: twice called me back inside, offering local tourist brochures and marking up maps with pen, to show locations of fuel and of hotels in Matagami.

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    Kilometer 0. And the nighttime-riding theme continues.

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    I have been a good boy and rode from Relais 381 in a fairly economical and sensible mode, making sure that the fuel in the tank and in the two gas cans lasts me safely to Matagami.

    About an hour before the end of JBR the remaining fuel looked good, so for that last stretch I reverted to some really high speeds. After all, I do not get such opportunities too often.

    The level indicator was going down fast. Amazingly, exactly at the kilometer 0 sign, my fuel warning light came on. Thirty-something miles left - perfect timing! Just plenty enough to get to Hotel Matagami for the night.

    [​IMG]

    #19
  20. OldSilverFox

    OldSilverFox Let's Go!

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2010
    Oddometer:
    470
    Location:
    Southern Ontario CAN
    Nice RR. I road the JBH in late August of this year and was fortunate to have only one day of rain on the ride back south to Matagami. Brings back great memories to relive the adventure.
    Thanks. :clap
    #20