Virginia / James Bay / North Road / Quebec / Mt. Washington

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by donnymoto, Aug 21, 2009.

  1. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    I heard the quote something to the effect that you don't take a trip, the trip takes you. This time the trip really took me. I'd planned a trip that takes me way up north 2 miles short of the 54th parallel, open landscapes and remote roads. That part of the plan I got. I didn't get the time I wanted though, unexpected things happen and sometimes the worst time, sometimes you get a break. I got a break and had a great trip.

    14 days and 4,000 miles, I traveled from Virginia to Ontario Canada, then up the James Bay Road to Radisson and the furthest point north, Longue Pointe. Coming back, I rode to Lac St. Jean and down the Fjord Road to Tadoussac. Then around Quebec city to ride up Mt Washington

    In December 2008, I found a spot, way up on the James Bay close to the Hudson Bay, a spot where roads go out to a point. On that point, boats and a couple of buildings. This Google Earth/Maps photo of large canoes is what I saw. This was very interesting to me. I really like open spaces, remote areas and of course riding, maybe this would be the place to take a 2-week ride?

    At that time I thought, "I will ride to this place someday". I'm not sure why I wanted to but as the people are asked why they climb mountains, "because it's there" seems somehow a good enough reason.

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    The other reason is because I want to do this on a single cylinder, dual sport motorcycle, and camp along the way. The roads will be more fun on this type of bike and 1,000 on this bike is like 2,000 on a big touring bike. More bang for the buck.

    It's far enough north that the days are longer, bugs are bigger, crowds are few, temperatures are cooler and northern lights will illuminate an August evening sky.

    So after a lot of planning, phone calls and emails, I got enough information, and time off work, to make this happen.

    Here's a little teaser of the trip. Camping on the Rupert River. Local cuisine, what the hell is Poutine?

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    Failures brought friendships. What these guys did not do.

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    Northern light show. I made it to the James Bay!

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    The fantastic North road. Prime parking atop Mt. Washington.

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    #1
  2. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

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    Says it all, doesn't it?

    Looks like a great ride. Particularly like the Northern Lights pic. Looking forward to more.
    #2
  3. Elkhound

    Elkhound Hunting Dog

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    Subscribed! Looks like a great trip report in progress.
    #3
  4. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    The day started out wet, I'll miss my Xterra OR but can't wait to put some mileage on the bike. I got over it pretty quick. A small window opened and rain stopped long enough for me to pack the bike. I pulled a muscle in my lower back a few weeks ago and it hasn't gotten that much better, I was worried about that. So when I loaded, I did so carefully.

    Was a rainy drive for the first part of the morning, through Leesburg, Virginia. It rains up there too, more than here. I brought a tarp and got a new tent that still packs up small but I can put my riding jacket, pants, helmet inside and I can sit up in case I need to hunker down through rain and bugs. Turns out I will need to do this. I stopped by the local shop for shield defogger, didn't work that well. From snorkeling I know that plain ol spit does the trick.

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    Cleared up for lunch in Thurmont Maryland. I though about how different the lands will look as I pass through the birch and cat tails that remind me of the Adirondacks, then to the "Taiga" which is more arctic in nature.

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    Needed a few supplies, no trip through central PA is complete without a stop to the mega store, but they didn't have small chord to repair a camp bag, only parachute chord which is too flexible. I later found some at a Walmart. hmmmm

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    After Cabala's, I went over to the Dunkin Donuts for coffee and... yes a donut. While outside a biker starts up a conversation, he's riding a sweet looking Harley with the cream colored gas tank, turns out he's drag raced bikes, etc. Traveling alone on a bike doesn't mean you're alone. People all over come right up and start conversations.

    The road to the campground from here is sweet, twisties and farmland. Was a real blast. I'm definitely in the riding zone now, the bike feels balanced, turns are coordinated with the weight, weather is great, cool and clear, planets aligned, etc.

    Stopped for the day at Locust Lake State Park in PA. This was a very nice campground, no other bikers today and the other campers eyed me a little strange, maybe I had really bad helmet hair? I did get a great spot. Quiet, moon was out, life was good.

    They say the ice cream is made with local dairy, was pretty tasty for sure...

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    Early bird catches the photo, the next morning.

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    My back had been bothering me. Pulled the lower left side a few weeks before the trip and was worried that it would sidetrack me. Last night, slept great and actually for the first time, woke up with no pain. Wow. Now I know what to do if my back acts up. Take a moto-camping trip. The morning camp consisted of cooked oatmeal, local figs and coffee. Loaded the gear and proceeded up a road that was very cool, this road had nice twisties that woke me up more than the first daily hit of java, wow!

    Got on a part of the Slab that I actually enjoy, Pennsylvania north to Wilkes-Barre. This stretch rolls over mountain ridges and highlands that feel the wrath of winter hard enough, the trees never grow that tall. Whenever I experience these places, the feeling of wide open lands and remote areas is a great thrill. Jeff Beck wailed his guitar with impossible licks as I sped along. The single cylinder Kawasaki engine settling in around 5,000 RPMs, seems to like this speed, vibration dampens and just purrs along. Also puts me at about 69mph which doesn't seem to set off any radar units.

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    I decided to take a sidetrip around 81. Some local flavor outside Wilkes Barr. The Huber Breaker.

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    A bar on every block, probably to help forget Huber Breaker is shut down and has no jobs...

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    New York: landscapes that feed the soul.

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    Closing on on Canada, 'Shallow' by Porcupine tree was playing in the iPod. I changed the words to Shadow as I hummed along.

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    1000 Islands bridge, crossing the St. Lawrence, I was getting stoked, the trip is really underway!

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    Will they let me in?

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    Of course, I bring $USD :)

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    #4
  5. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    So first thing I do in Canada, call deadly99 and get set for the night. He will ride out to meet me off the main road. I've got time to get to the ATM machine and get some Canadian dollars. My GPS steers me here. Money is now in my wallet.

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    I meet up with d99 and we head to his place outside Merrickville.

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    Parked for the night...

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    deadly99, what a hospitable ADVrider!

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    We got to a pub for drinks and food, then talk about biking and whatnot until lights out. Next day he escorts me into Ottawa where he works, his commute is through farmland, pretty nice indeed!

    d99 took this one, it's the only one I've got of me riding. Otherwise it looks like my bike took a trip by itself.

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    Ottawa, stopped to take a few shots.

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    Now, the next part of the trip takes me further out to the area called Le Domaine, and Réserve faunique La Vérendrye where I'll head off the beaten path and explore lakes and roads. Heading out of Gatinuea, Quebec.

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    Weather was perfect.

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    Small town of Maniwaki; I tried to score a fishing license, not much English here and I was sent around to 3 places before I decided to just pull off at the next gas station out of town.

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    Headed out of town, got weather forecast here. Rain is on the way.

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    Licenses sold here. I can understand French when it's a picture of a fish.

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    Scenic stop, also made coffee at these small falls.

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    #5
  6. Haroon

    Haroon RIDE for PASSION

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    I am enjoying your report and wonderful pics.
    Are you headed to the same Mt. Washington with the COG railway? I had been there with my family in May and it snowed real heavy on the summit.
    #6
  7. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    Thanks, glad you're enjoying it. I believe so, there's a train that goes up to the top, looks like this. Will get to this part in a day or 3 :)

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    #7
  8. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    Hey Dave, I'm not sure it was in French :1drinkWait, that's metric, about 1.05 per liter Canadian :lol3
    #8
  9. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Awesome ride.. nice to see Canadian landmarks through your eyes :thumb

    :lurk
    #9
  10. mica

    mica Weekend Adventurer

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    :thumb
    #10
  11. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    The road north of Maniwaki gets more rural and population diminishes. Now the fun stuff starts. I head west off 117 and start stringing roads together. There is traffic back here, more than I expected. I head into Réserve faunique La Vérendrye, an area with sketchy gravel roads and fishermen trying to get enough speed to launch their trucks and trailered boats into thin air, they were flying down these roads.

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    This is the type of place I get lost in, not literally (well most of the time :) but I just get off the bike and sit, have some water or something and really take it all in. I took a nap near here until the bug alarm went off. Just a peaceful place in between the truck/boat nascar races.

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    Some roads get less travel and are more fun on the bike. I rode for hours back here. It took longer than I expected but the ride was very nice. I smelled rain in the air well before I saw the clouds that were rolling in. Fresh air is a wonderful thing and it was plentiful up here.

    Riding through the last parts of my detour, the road went to hard pack dirt, speeding through the birch forest at 65 mph was exhilarating. Light rain started.

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    Another stop, rain let up a little and I needed dinner.

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    I'm getting closer to the main road. It's been several hours of gravel and dirt and I'm ready to pitch the tent. Then I come up on this, a town not on the map.

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    Was wondering if I was supposed to be able to ride over it or not. I see the tracks and head over. There were native kids fishing, I didn't get a shot. On the other side a village with what seemed to be all the residents out in the road. Again, I did stop for pics. They looked very surprised to see me. I waved and said hi, they waved back. Was a bit strange being surrounded by people on this dirt road so I didn't stop. Looking back I should have and asked about the village and what nation they were.

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    Setup camp at the first formal place around 8:30, it's already lighter at night than in VA. I like having a picnic table when it's wet for when I pack up. Only unpacked essential sleeping gear, the rest stays dry.

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    Say good night. I slept like a rock. Did NOT wake up until 7am, wow I slept in.

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    Morning coffee, a small break in the rain let me spend a little time with the bugs :)) Not bad though this year they say, I never once used the DEET I carried.
    Peets--the official coffee of this trip.​

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    One note:
    Camp suds are kind of the swiss army knife of detergents. I use it to clean dishes, wash clothes both by hand and in a machine, wash my hair, hands, etc, also it cleans up the bike well.\
    Mileage for the previous day;

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    #11
  12. tige

    tige Adventurer

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    Anderson, IN
    Can't wait to make a similar trip. Looking forward to seeing more updates.

    Tige
    #12
  13. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    Thanks Gadget Boy, yes I enjoy seeing others reactions to in my lands. Overall my reaction was, Fantastic!

    iDave, thanks!! We'll ride once I get some needed maintenance done on the KLR. Yes the Jetboil does as advertised, wow! The pan works well too. I cooked eggs a few times as well.

    Tige, yes it's the type of trip every rider probably dreams of. I was pinching myself the whole time. That also helped the itcing skeeter bites. :D

    Hello Mica! Still loving your new DS? Some of the roads on this trip would have been perfect for your bike.

    Hello Elkhound, also thank for the texts on KLR repair :wave

    Thanks, Selkins, come on back.
    #13
  14. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    I start riding to Senneterre. Not raining... yet.

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    In Senneterre, it's coming down. Look for breakfast inside instead of my camp food.

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    Breakfast was great, and only $5 Canadian!

    Now, I will say this more than once, road work for the 2 weeks I was out was everywhere and a real pain. This stretch was a bit slippery as well.

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    After the road work I noticed my fairing was loose. The previous days ride through 100 miles of rough roads took it's toll.

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    No spare bolt, but dug out a twisty tie.

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    The rest of the ride wound through Amos then up to Matagami.

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    Some photos along the way.

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    I'm here!

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    The ride so far was wet but fantastic. The landscape is slowly shifting and getting even more remote. I pulled over a few times to get dry and wrap up things that were getting wet like my wallet and iPod.

    Arriving in Matagami was a milestone. This is the final town before heading up the James Bay Road and where my eyes had gazed on a map for months preceding this trip. 234 miles to the next fuel stop. No cell phone service along the way.
    I stop to look at my GPS and a fellow stops to chat. He's a local and speaks a bit of English. Quite the resource of information although he was wrong that the info center was closed on Sunday, it was open and I visited there to get another weather forecast. Another day of rain, then, sunny skies for a while. Great!

    A check-in station for the James Bay Road is manned 24/7 so that if you disappear, they've got a record you were there, not just hearsay from frantic relatives. I give them my info, tag # and they give me info and an emergency number to use on one of several SOS call boxes. Today I was only going 20 miles up to the campground though. I'd be back to get fuel. The trip had other plans though.

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    Lake Matagami campground is 20 miles down the JBR from Matagami the town, and is a real fantastic place to stay. A beach, excellent shower room, laundry and full time residents that are very friendly. The host, Scott was a real fun person to talk with. His English was very good and didn't mind speaking with me about all sorts of things. I settled in and the rain continued into the night.

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    Drying out.

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    Some college kids speaking English and French setup camp next to me, they were night owls for sure. I dozed off listening to their funny observations on life, etc. Age and the experience that comes with it like it or not, might change a lot of those views. Was good for a chuckle or 2.

    Woke up to the sound of voices and saw flashlights lighting up my tent. The bike fell over! Oh no, I forgot to put something under my side stand and the rain saturated the ground, so the stand just ran into the ground. The boys were great, they helped me lift the bike up and got a large piece of wood for me. They wondered where I was from. Of course the further north I go, the more surprised people are to hear I'm from Virginia. I was probably good to them at this point for a chuckle or 2.

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    #14
  15. RockyNH

    RockyNH Older Than Dirt!

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    Don, great report so far... I have already subscribed.. I am planning a ride from NH Via North Road to Radisson etc... so I have a vested interest in getting all the details from your trip!
    #15
  16. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    Thanks, I'll get to the JBR and North Road soon, you'll be doing it reverse but same info applies, just backwards... :D
    #16
  17. AlanCT

    AlanCT The Byronic Man

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    I've become a James Bay and Trans-Lab RR junkie (until my time comes), so keep this coming.:clap

    Also, maybe you could throw in some comments about the gear and equipment you used?
    #17
  18. K75STER

    K75STER Been here awhile

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    This has everything I need......

    Jeff Beck on the Ipod, motorcycles, isolated locale, and the Aurora Borealis to boot!

    AWESOME!
    #18
  19. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    Matagami - The Breakdown

    Woke the next morning, the bike started well then, it wouldn't start. No power at all. Oh boy. This is the part of a ride report I like reading, but that's when it happens to someone else! Oh well, that's karma for you.

    Quickly located the problem, a fuse was blowing. Hey wait a minute, that's not the problem, it's just preventing a meltdown. :huh

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    Quickly setup the garage, rain had stopped but could start up like that. Unloaded and got out tools first, aarrggggg.

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    Thought maybe water had gotten into the ignition, nope. :dunno

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    Tried everything I could think of. Scott had some extra 20a fuses and I spent those troubleshooting. Then I walked around the camp looking for more fuses or ideas. I met a guy, Paul who runs a transportation company. He was bent on getting the bike running but couldn't find the issue. He called his wife in town to pickup a lot more fuses.

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    I ended up throwing in the towel about mid day, I was very glad this didn't happen just 1 hour later, I was literally ready to head up the James Bay Road, wow, only 1 service station 235 miles away. I mean I was packed and leaving the campground. :eek1

    Paul gives me a name who gives me another name and I get a lift into town with the local ATV, boat and motorcycle shop. Geoff shows up with his buddy and lift the bike on the truck. I helped a little but another rider camping there on a KTM 990 Adventure helped out. These bikes are popular up here, I see them everywhere.

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    Back in town, Geoff says his guy will look at it first thing in the morning. It's late anyway. I walk by the shop next morning and hear my bike running! WOW.

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    But, this was short lived and after looking over everything, they call the Kawasaki dealer for another schematic. Then the news, Geoff says they can't help me. I need to go 211km to Amos and the Kawa dealer who has diagnostic equipment.

    Here's Geoff (right) and Mike, the guy Geoff says is amazing with electronics.

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    Now to get me, the bike and my luggage about 130 miles, wow I call AMA for my tow insurance. I'm covered. Geoff finds what he calls a deal and within an hour I'm loading all my stuff into this delivery truck.

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    This is the driver,

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    The guy is INSANE! Drives fast and I was only one of many stops on his route. Over the next 4 hours, I'm riding with a chain smoking, non-English speaking, Pepsi chugging maniac wondering how my bike will stay in once piece back there. We stop every where, many times I need to get out of the truck and wait behind a fence because it's authorized only access. He would tell me "ohwe". I started thinking this means "out" in French. I got my dictionary out but couldn't find it. He stopped everywhere, lumber mills, mining facilities, you name it.

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    I try to explain to the guy that I need to get to the Kawa dealer before they close, so I can get my bike in the shop before they lock up. No comprend pas. I also was wondering what he was saying with "ohwe". He said this when cars were in his way, when he dropped something, when he saw a note for a pickup, he saw a pretty girl, turns to me smiles and says "ohweee". What is this word. I think it's the swiss army knife of words, means a little of everything. Pretty efficient.

    We end up getting to the shop at 6pm. They close at 6pm but tonight they were late closing so I lucked out! I stashed my stuff in a locked room, the bike was in the shop and first thing in the morning, a technician would look at the bike.

    Total cost for the ride: $40! Whew, even though it's supposedly covered, I was worried. I checked into a motel, didn't have a way to get camping stuff to the local campground.

    Spent the evening thinking about my situation, what was I going to do if they said, it's working, we're not sure why but it's OK. Or if something blew and they fixed it but weren't sure why. Would I take a bike on the James Bay and North Road like that? No.

    At least there was a cool coffee shop I could ponder these questions.

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    Saw a little more of Amos.

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    Sale on fishing gear... would I get to fish on this trip?

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    Next morning I arrive and good news, fixed! Was a bare turn signal wire! Man I was kicking myself, I had that wire in my hand. It was inside a small channel in front of steering column, not easy to find. Took Mathew about an hour and a half to find. This guy got me back on the road. Nice fellow as well, he drove me to the hotel the night before and we spent time talking about various things. He's been to West Virginia, loves Cabela's. I told him not to look for small chord there. Big thanks to Mathew :thumb
    (btw I get these big smiles from the French-speaking by saying "ok say fromage!", cliche joke but it works :D)

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    So now I would go back to Matagami, and start up the JBR. This was conclusive enough for me not to worry about the bike making it.

    While riding to Matagami, I did think about breaking down and getting stranded; the part I fear the most is my stuff getting stolen while leaving the bike for help. I thought about hiding the stuff then marking it on the GPS and getting it later. Or, just not carry any expensive things that I can't carry in my jacket and tank bag.

    Also noticed, my iPod is unresponsive! AHHH, that's almost worse than the KLR dying. I think the rains had gotten to it. My cellphone screen was fogged up and I txt'd wrong people a few times because I couldn't see exactly who I was texting. The passport and wallet in my "waterproof" pockets were wet. Anyway these things are behind me and now I run the JBR.
    #19
  20. donnymoto

    donnymoto Long timer

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    :thumb
    #20