Through the Taiga Solo - Pennsylvania to James Bay, Radisson, and Chisasibi

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by max384, Sep 13, 2014.

  1. max384

    max384 Bandaided Supporter

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    James Bay is a motorcycle trip I've been wanting to do for a couple of years now, but for one reason or another, I've never been able to. However, about two weeks ago the opportunity presented itself, so I decided to go for it. With only about a week's notice, nobody else could get the time off to make the trip with me, so I was going to do another solo trip.

    James Bay is the bottom portion of the Hudson Bay. It is considered to be the southernmost part of the Arctic Ocean. The only road access to the James Bay is by the James Bay Road in Quebec. This road was built to service the massive hydroelectric projects in the James Bay watershed. The road begins in Matagami and runs 620 km (385 mi) to Radisson, and is paved its entire length. Radisson is a small town built to service Hydro Quebec. There is one gas station the entire 385 miles, and that is at kilometer 381. This means that any vehicle traveling this road needs at least a 236 mile fuel range, though a comfortable margin is recommended due to the remote nature of this road, and the seemingly inexplicable reduced fuel economy often seen while traveling this road. The James Bay road itself is extremely remote and runs through the dense Canadian taiga forest. Besides the fuel stop at km 381 and a few Cree Indian villages several miles off of the road, there are no settlements along the road. Chisasibi is a Cree Indian community that is located where the La Grande river empties into James Bay, west of Radisson. It is the northernmost Cree village accessible by road.

    My goals this trip were to make it to Radisson and Chisasibi, dip my tires into the James Bay (thus making it the third ocean my bike has been dipped in), and ride a bit of the Trans Taiga Road (more on this road later) if time permits.

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    I already had two 2-gallon Rotopax fuel containers that I was going to use for the Trans Taiga Road last year (but this ride never happened), so I was good on fuel for the road. I looked up the weather and saw that I should expect 30s and 40s the entire time I was there, so I packed my warmer sleeping bag, and a set of thermal underwear. I was also doing this trip on a very tight budget, so I packed all the food I was going to eat during the trip with me. Between cold weather gear, my camping gear, and all of the food, my boxes were stuffed. I HATE strapping gear to my bike, so I decided to leave my heated gear home to save space, plus the forecast wasn’t calling for any rain during the trip…

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    My bike packed and ready to go!

    I had planned to leave Tuesday and be back Friday. Total trip distance was going to be about 2400 miles, which meant I had to travel an average of 600 miles per day. On most of my other trips, I usually average around 500-600 miles per day, so this sounded like a very doable plan. Leaving mid-September meant the possibility for some cold weather, but I wouldn’t have to deal with the black flies and mosquitoes!

    Day one coming up!
    #1
  2. JaxObsessed

    JaxObsessed RIP Wxwax. Too soon. Way too soon. Supporter

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    In.
    #2
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  3. max384

    max384 Bandaided Supporter

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    On the afternoon of Monday September 8 I decided to leave for my trip early. I had the bike all packed up and I was just pacing around the house. My plan was to get up at 3am and out the door by 3:30am. However, I figured that if I just left in the afternoon on Monday I'd be able to get a few hundred miles in and then I wouldn't have to wake up early the next day... Plus I'd be able to start my trip earlier!

    So at 3:00pm I hopped on my bike... and the first thing I realized was that with the CamelBak bladder in place, my back hit against the fuel tanks strapped behind me. A minor annoyance for a short trip, but for a longer trip, that would end up being miserable. I honestly didn't need an extra 4.5 gallons (I always keep two 1/4 gallon fuel bottles with me just in case), so I just took off one of the two-gallon containers and headed out. With an extra 2.5 gallons plus the 4.5 gal fuel tank, I had a total of 7 gallons of gas, which is 350 miles with my average of 50mpg. That's FAR more than adequate for this trip.

    I slabbed the first 225 miles to Watertown without stopping, so no pictures, but I made great time! I stopped to get gas in a Tim Horton's.

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    I also checked the oil level and was pleased when I saw that I had not burnt any oil. I should back up here and mention that I just installed this new engine a couple of weeks ago. My old one burned a massive amount of oil and then seized up, so I was a bit nervous about this one, since it was still largely untested by me. I only had about 300 miles on it since installing it. So for it to travel over 200 miles of 70+ mph without a hiccup was comforting.

    I then made it through customs into Canada without any hassles. I stopped at the duty free shop and exchanged $200 in cash for Canadian dollars. I got screwed on the exchange rate at the duty free shop, but I wasn't sure that any banks would be open this time of the evening, and I didn't want to waste time looking for them either. I ended up only losing out on about $10 over the official exchange rate anyhow, so not a big deal.

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    I wanted to make it past Ottawa that night so that I didn't have to deal with any rush hour traffic in the morning. I continued slabbing it until I hit a bump and one of my headlights went out. I pulled over and discovered it was an easy fix. One of the ground wires on my HID headlights came disconnected. I reconnected it and tightened up the bolt and all was good. I had a quick dinner out of my top box. Some trail mix and some beef strogonoff or some such crap out of a pouch...

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    Then I set off again to make time. I really wanted to stop by the Thousand Islands region just past the border. It was really beautiful there, but this day was only about making time, not stopping to see the sights... Besides what I really wanted to see still lay hundreds of miles north of me. I made it through Ottawa with no problems, and then traveled for about an hour past Ottawa until I found a place to pull off and get some sleep.

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    My home for the night.

    Total mileage for the day: 398 miles

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    #3
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  4. max384

    max384 Bandaided Supporter

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    I didn't set an alarm and slept in until I was tired of sleeping, which was about 8am. I got up and made some breakfast.

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    I took my time and enjoyed breakfast and a few cups of coffee. I didn't get on the road until about 9:30am. I then rode pretty much straight to Matagami without taking very many pictures. The scenery wasn't really all that spectacular, and there wasn't much to any of the towns along the way, so I just kept riding.

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    One of the towns on the way to Matagami. I honestly can't remember which one this is.

    Some of the scenery along the way

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    I stopped to make some lunch and get some water. I ended up spending about an hour and a half relaxing, eating, drinking, and watching part of a movie on my tablet. Life is good (but I wasn't making good time, that's for sure)!

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    Was this one of you FFs? :lol3
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    I brought along my water filter so that I didn't need to rely on stores to get water.

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    In Val-d'Or I stumbled upon this cool looking tunnel, so I pulled over and took a picture of it. Then I noticed that there was a bike path leading to it. I decided to ride through the tunnel... Turns out that was a mining tunnel! Whoops! I don't think it's still in use. I think it is just for tours now, but still not a place I should be taking my bike through! When I was pulling up to the entrance, I saw lights coming at me from the tunnel. A mine car and/or tour vehicle was coming out of the mine! I turned around and high tailed it out of here! lol

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    There was a LOT of construction today. I must have hit close to ten construction zones. In these construction zones, they would close one lane for many miles, and then have a lead construction vehicle take the line of vehicles from one end to the other, turn around and take traffic going the other direction through, and they moved at a mind-numbingly slow pace. So, as you can imagine, this was a major time-suck. It seemed to average about 20 minutes or so per construction zone, so that really added up throughout the day...

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    Between Val-d'Or and Matagami I pulled off onto a dirt road to have a bit to eat and take a leak. It turned out to be some fun riding, and there were tons of blueberries to pick. I ended up filling up with a large meal of blueberries!

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    Timing these shots is tough!
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    Some scenery along the way

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    A cool little mushroom

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    Finally made it to Matagami!

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    The town was a bit smaller than I had imagined. The way the town was put together and the style of buildings kind of reminded me of the towns in Iceland a bit, but with a more industrial feel.

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    Matagami is where the James Bay Road starts. So in reality, this is where I wanted to get to, as this is where my vacation really started.

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    View of Matagami from the James Bay Road
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    In order to get to the James Bay Road, you must stop at a security gate ran by Hydro Quebec at kilometer 6. You must sign in with your name and how long you plan to stay. They try and keep control of the vehicle traffic in and out in case you go missing (so they say). However, you can bypass this gate via the North Road, so either they also have a security gate on that road, or they kinda sorta keep track. Who knows.

    While there at the security office, I also called Hydro Quebec to schedule a tour of the dam in Radisson. It was fairly late, around 6:00pm or so, so they were closed and I had to leave a message to schedule an English tour for the next day. I had no idea whether they'd actually schedule me one, but I'd find out once I got there.

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    It was a long way to anything, so it was a good thing I had plenty of gas!

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    The scenery along the way was beautiful. There were tons of lakes and rivers. This is interspersed with bogs and forest. The forest here is known as taiga and is dominated by tall spindly conifers. There were vast sections where forest fires had destroyed the taiga and it was either very barren, or the regrowth was just beginning and the trees were still very short. Apparently these forest fires happen with some regularity here.

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    It was really buggy, and I had to pull over a few times just to clean the bugs off of my visor.

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    I don't think the video in this section turned out too well...

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    The road is all paved, and they maintain it fairly well. There were very few actual potholes, and those that were there were mostly well marked with cones. However, the road still sucked! There were tons of frost heaves, uneven (mostly filled) cracks in the road, and bumpy road repairs. This made for a very rough ride. However, I still flew through there! I was averaging about 90mph through most of it this night. Since this road is owned by Hydro Quebec, there is no police presence on the road monitoring speed. However, it was a lot of speeding way up, seeing a massive bump in the road, slowing way down, speeding back up again, and so on through the entire road.

    I pulled over about a hundred miles from Matagami to refuel, as I'd rather not have to carry all the extra weight of the fuel up high on these bumpy roads if I didn't have to. First thing I realized was that the Rotopax safety spout sucks! In fact, I never could get it to work. I twisted the piece to the 'unlock' symbol, and all that happened was that fuel leaked out of the sides all over my gloves. I fiddled around with the stupid thing for a few more minutes, all the while spilling more and more fuel all over the place until I finally gave up and just poured it from the jug into the gas tank without the spout. I spilled a bit doing it this way, but it worked. The second thing I realized is that I was getting TERRIBLE gas mileage. I had only gone a hundred miles, so those two gallons should have topped me off. However, I couldn't even see the fuel level in the tank after putting those two gallons in. Hmmm... Good thing I brought way more fuel than I 'needed.'

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    It was starting to get dark at this point, so I started looking for a spot to camp. I was planning on just pulling off down one of the many dirt roads and camping anywhere that was close to a water source, so I could fill my CamelBak and get some water for cooking and coffee as well. However, at kilometer 189 I saw a sign for a campground. I pulled off down the dirt road that ended in a parking lot with a few picnic tables and fire rings. Perfect! There was nobody else there, so I had this campground all to myself!

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    Gathering firewood...
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    I made a fire and started drinking astronaut screwdrivers (Tang and vodka - packs very well on a bike!) and watching a movie on my tablet. However, I was very quickly pushed inside by the sudden unexpected rain. The forecast wasn't calling for any. It ended up raining heavily all night....

    Total mileage for the day: 572 miles

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    #4
  5. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    :thumb :lurk
    #5
  6. Litespeed602

    Litespeed602 Going in Circles

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    :clap:clap:clap Sounds great so far, can't wait to hear more. I am enjoying your words and your photos. How often does the weather forecast prove to be wrong? :D
    #6
  7. divimon2000

    divimon2000 Been here awhile

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    Hmm, I may do this depending on how yours turns out! Good so far.
    #7
  8. Pabigwoods

    Pabigwoods Been here awhile

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    Great job Max! Looking forward to your next installment. Those are some serious bugs on your visor! I would hate to see it when it's "bad"
    #8
  9. r3mac

    r3mac Been here awhile Supporter

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    This is really cool. I've looked at this road a couple of times. It's amazing how much continent there is left above civilization.
    #9
  10. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    Actually, it's how little civilization there is below the best parts of the continent.

    Nick
    #10
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  11. max384

    max384 Bandaided Supporter

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    Thanks everyone for following along.

    I was busy this weekend and got behind on finishing this ride report. I'll try to have the next installment posted today.
    #11
  12. max384

    max384 Bandaided Supporter

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    I woke up to a soggy cold morning, but at least it had quit raining. The temperature in the morning was in the mid to high-thirties, at least according to the weather forecast. It certainly felt at least that cold… Here are a few better pictures of the campground:

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    There are several of these campgrounds along the James Bay. They include a picnic table and fire ring at each site plus an outhouse, and they’re absolutely free to camp at, though they do ask for an optional donation of $5. I was planning on just camping along the rode somewhere, so having picnic tables and a place to sit while shitting was great!

    I stopped at the end of the campground dirt road to take a picture of the Quebec stop sign, when I noticed my right turn signal was out. As it turns out, my exhaust was tilted a bit and pointing at the turn signal, melting the housing. When I had reinstalled the engine, I hadn’t noticed that I had the exhaust on a bit crooked. At this point, the turn signal was ruined, so I didn’t bother repositioning the exhaust. This was something I would wait to do once I got home.

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    Some scenery along the way:

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    There were a couple of very small sections of dirt. I’m glad they had signs far in advance warning of something in the road ahead. I would have hated to hit this dirt section around a corner going 80-90mph!

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    At kilometer 257 is where the James Bay Road crosses the Rupert River. In 2009, a large portion of the river was diverted to Hydro Quebec’s other hydroelectric dam projects in order to increase water flow (and thus more powaaa!). About 70% of the river flow upstream was diverted, which left about 50% of the flow left at the rapids. Nevertheless, the Rupert River was VERY impressive. I’ve read several other ride reports and seen the pictures, and everybody says how impressive the rapids are, but the pictures never look all that impressive. And truly the pictures don’t do this river justice. It is an absolute impressive show of power, and is surprisingly loud. This is definitely a must-see if traveling along the James Bay Road.

    On the bridge over the Rupert River

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    A walking path leads to a viewing stairway. This obviously isn’t supposed to be for motorcycles, but nobody else was here, so I rode down.

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    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Sl2k1e9pajg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Being mid-September, the temperatures were cold and the bugs weren&#8217;t bad, but even hanging around the Rupert River for a few minutes, and the mosquitoes started showing up in swarms. I couldn&#8217;t imagine how bad the bugs would be here during the heat of the summer&#8230;

    It had started drying up by late morning. It was raining on and off all morning, and the roads were wet with lots of deep puddles, so the roads drying were a welcome sight.

    Some more pictures along the way:

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    Some Indian hunting cabins

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    Lots of creeks, rivers, bogs, and lakes along the way

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    Crossing the 52nd parallel

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    More scenery

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    With the two extra gallons of gas I added to the tank yesterday, my low fuel light should have never come on at all by the time I hit the 381 fuel stop. My fuel light works by blinking when there is a gallon of fuel left. Then when there is only half a gallon left it goes to a solid light. I knew my fuel mileage was TERRIBLE when I got to the solid light and still had another twenty or so miles to go until the fuel stop. I wasn&#8217;t worried though because I still had a half gallon of fuel left in my two fuel bottles, but I was hoping to make it without having to resort to using those.

    I made it to 381, the only fuel stop along the James Bay Road without having to use my fuel bottles. At the fuel stop is fuel (obviously), some motel rooms, and a cafeteria. The place really is a dump. The motel looks like crap, the gas is expensive, there are dogs running around, and there is piles of junk laying around everywhere&#8230; But they serve hot food and have warm beds, so it&#8217;s a rather happening place.

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    Helicopter landing

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    The bastard dog on the left seemed nice enough as it came running over wagging its tail and sniffing me. As soon as I put hand out (and right after this picture), the little shit gnashed its teeth at me and growled. I quickly hopped on my bike and left. The one on the right was very nice though.

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    Soon after leaving 381 my speedometer started acting funky. The speeds were all over the place. One minute it showed me going 0, then up to 299, and all in between. Then it settled on about 1/7 of my actual pace. This meant that I now didn&#8217;t have an odometer. My speedometer wasn&#8217;t a big deal because there weren&#8217;t any cops up here monitoring speed and I still had my GPS on my phone to use as a speedometer.

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    However, within probably ten miles of the speedometer taking a shit my GPS quit working. It wouldn&#8217;t follow the road, the measured speeds were obviously incorrect, and it would reset frequently. Great. No odometer and no speedometer now&#8230; Since the odometer was based off the incorrect speedometer, I could figure out the correction factor on the speedometer by comparing the kilometers on the odometer compared to the kilometer markers on the road. I eventually found out that if I multiplied the speed on the speedometer by 7.5 I was reasonably close to my actual speed.

    So far there are three casualties of the trip
    -Right turn signal
    -Speedo/odo
    -GPS

    More scenery:

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    Every 40-50 kilometers or so there were these emergency phones connected to large antennas.

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    At lunch time I rode down a dirt road into a camping area by a lake and made a leisurely lunch with some hot coffee.

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    I also pumped some water from the lake. All of the water up here has a yellowish brownish color to it. I think it may be from all of the pine needles decaying in the water, but I&#8217;m not sure. It doesn&#8217;t look appetizing, but the water tastes great, so I&#8217;m not complaining!

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    More of my turn signal broke off in the meantime...

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    At kilometer 544 is the junction with the Trans Taiga Road. This is the most remote road in North America. It is 666 kilometers long and is unpaved its entire length. It only exists to service the remote Hydro Quebec projects. At the end of this remote road you are the furthest north by road you can be in eastern North America and also the farthest from a town by road anywhere in North America (745 km). This was the trip I actually had planned last year, which I had bought knobby tires for the SV, built a skid plate to protect the oil cooler from rocks, and mounted an extra 6.5 gallons of gas&#8230; But for a few different reasons, that trip never happened, and I didn't have the time, gas, or food to ride this road to the end this trip. However, I figured riding a few miles down the road wouldn't hurt!

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    Apparently somebody doesn't think too highly of the Mirage outfitters on the Trans Taiga road...

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    I was surprised how good the road surface was on this road. Despite only having sport touring tires I was able to maintain speeds of about 50 mph on the straights and slowed to around 40mph on the curves. Though, I only went down the road maybe 20 miles or so before turning around (fuel and time issues), so maybe this smooth surface didn&#8217;t continue the whole way.

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    This was a VERY remote road. Between stopping for a bite to eat, taking pictures and videos, and riding, I was on this road for about an hour and a half, and I didn&#8217;t see a single vehicle going in either direction. Wow! I really wish I could have taken this road to the end. Though if I was going to ride 800 miles of gravel road, I would really like to have proper knobbies, not sport touring tires. Although they were working, it would sometimes get a bit squirrely, since these tires had almost no grip on a loose surface.

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    I also discovered that my left HID headlight had gone out. I assumed it was the ground wire again, so I pulled over and saw that it was indeed disconnected. However, when I went to reattach it, it sparked when it was grounded, and the headlights didn&#8217;t turn on. So, this was a bigger problem. I still had one working headlight, my two low-beam auxiliary lights, and a VERY bright high beam auxiliary light, so I wasn&#8217;t concerned enough to fix it.

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    From here I continued north to Radisson. Here are a few more remaining pictures along the way

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    The massive electrical station outside of town

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    The Radisson Airport. I was surprised at how big the plane was here. It wasn&#8217;t a large jet by any means, but I was picturing Cessnas as being all that landed here.

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    I finally made it into Radisson!

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    Gas here was expensive at $1.60 a liter, which is over $6 per gallon!

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    This town had a very cold and industrial feel to it. There was a gas station, a couple of stores, a restaurant, a very small town park, which was really little more than a section of grass with a sign in the center, and then lots of dormitory housing, which I assumed was for the Hydro Quebec workers. It really was not a very inviting place, though the people there were friendly enough.

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    This was the cool sign in the center of the town park

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    A fox hanging around the edge of town

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    I was disappointed to find out there was no cell phone signal here. Before I left I bought a Canadian data plan through AT&T, and their data maps showed Radisson and Chisasibi as having 4G signal. There was nothing available here.

    I took my pictures and rode around town. It was getting late and I already missed my time for the tour of the hydroelectric dam. I heard this was a great tour, but it said it took about 3.5 hours. I decided to skip the tour (though I&#8217;m not sure they&#8217;d even make time for me anyhow) and head to Chisasibi and then to James Bay.

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    The road to Chisasibi was paved and in great condition, in fact much better than the James Bay Road.

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    It was about 50 miles to get to Chisasibi, and then about 10-15 miles past Chisasibi to get to the James Bay.

    Chisasibi was a much larger town than I had expected. The sign at the edge of town had the population listed at 5,000. Chisasibi is a Cree Indian community. The community was relocated from Fort George Island in 1981, presumably due to fears of island erosion from the increased water flow on the La Grande River from the Hydro Quebec projects.

    The town itself had a strange and depressing feel to it. Most roads in the town were still dirt, though it looked like they were in the middle of a project to pave a lot of the main streets in town. It was very dirty. There was trash everywhere, windows in the public buildings were broken and patched over, and dogs ran around all over town. The people were very friendly, but most of them looked sad.

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    The hospital

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    I was pleasantly surprised to find that they spoke English, not French, in Chisasibi. Their signs were in English, with some of them in Cree as well.

    I stopped at the large teepee building to look around, and when I entered, I thought I had entered a dormitory style building. I left and asked one of the town people what that building was, and they said it was a restaurant&#8230; It sure didn&#8217;t look or feel like a restaurant. I asked what the large building next door was, and they said that was where the general store and co-op (grocery store) were located. One thing that was surprising to me was that their stores and restaurants either had no signs on them, or they were very small. I'm sure the people living in the village know which stores are where, so they don't need signs, but it was very strange to me.

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    It was basically a very small and dirty mall. Although the people were friendly inside, I felt like I just didn&#8217;t belong there. I got some strange looks from many of the people inside, and just felt uncomfortable there. As I was walking through, I was reminded of the Mars space station on the original Total Recall movie with Arnold Swarzenegger. Obviously it wasn&#8217;t a space station, but it had that dreary industrial feel to it that reminded me of that movie.

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    One of the Cree youth giving me a thumbs up sign

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    From here I headed to the Ferry to take me to Fort George Island, the original Cree Indian settlement. I had asked a woman in town if the ferry was still open (as it was getting late, maybe 6pm or so at this point), and she said it ran until 9pm. Great!

    This was actually a major destination that I wanted to see on this trip. I wanted to see the original settlement, or at least what was left of it, and I wanted to travel into Nunavut. All of the islands in the James Bay are part of the Nunavut territory. Fort George Island is technically not in the bay; it&#8217;s an island in the La Grande River where it empties into the James Bay. However, the border line crosses over the westernmost portion of the island, so the western coast of the island is in Nunavut. When I looked at satellite images, it appeared there were trails that led out to the Nunavut edge of the island. Whether they were possible on my bike was unknown, but it looked possible. I would like to travel through all US states and all Canadian provinces and territories on my bike. The problem is that Nunavut is not currently accessible by road, so this was the closest I would be able to come to getting to Nunavut by bike without have my bike flown to a Nunavut town and then flown back, or put on a boat and taken to a James Bay Island.

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    The ferry launch was down a mostly washboard dirt road maybe five miles or so.

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    When I pulled into the parking lot, I was disappointed to see that the ferry was out of the water on the shore of the river. I asked a fellow from Ontario if it was running and he said it had engine troubles a couple days ago and hasn&#8217;t ran since. He said another guy was ferrying people across on a boat that could only hold a couple of cars at a time, but that the current was too strong and he hadn&#8217;t been ferrying people across all day.

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    I knew there was no way I was going to be getting to Fort George Island this trip, so I left and headed off to James Bay.

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    Getting to the water&#8217;s edge was a bit trickier than I had imagined. Actually, getting there was easy, it was getting back that looked tricky. It was a fairly steep decline to get to the rocky beach, and was all loose stone. On a heavily weighted down street bike with sport touring tires, I knew I&#8217;d have a bitch of a time getting back up, but I didn&#8217;t come all this way to park my bike twenty feet from the James Bay!

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    After getting down and parking my bike in the water, I hopped off to take the pictures. Right as I hopped off, the kick stand slipped off of the stone it was resting on and sunk into the sand. I just BARELY managed to keep it from falling over&#8230; Though the bike laying in the James bay probably would have made a better picture!

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    As I had suspected, getting out was tricky. I had no grip at all on the loose stones, and the incline to get out was a bit steep. I dug myself into the stones a few times before finally just gassing it really hard and powering my way up the bank, nearly dumping it in the process. The pictures don&#8217;t make it look all that bad, but it wasn&#8217;t easy (at least not for me!).

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    It was getting late in the day by this point, so I headed out, with the goal of making it back to the James Bay Road and finding a campsite before dark. Well, it was dark before I even got back to the James Bay Road. Oh well. I guess it will be another campsite put together in the dark. As I was riding back to the James Bay Road, I realized that I forgot to buy the one souvenir that I came here for&#8230; A James Bay sticker for my bike! It was too late in the evening to get one now, so I would have to wait around for the stores to open in the morning. It was Wednesday night and I needed to be home by mid-day Friday, If I went back to Radisson, it would be another twenty miles or so north, then I&#8217;d have to buy them, and then travel that extra twenty miles back, which once all said and done, that would add a few hours of time. So I begrudgingly decided to skip the sticker and just head south until I found a good campsite.

    I headed south on the James Bay Road until kilometer 574 where I saw a sign for a campground at Duncan Lake. As it turns out, it was 8km down a TERRIBLE dirt road. Most all of it was awful washboard road that felt like they were shaking the bike apart, huge potholes, and sections of soft sand that almost took me down&#8230;

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    But the campground itself was really nice. As usual, it was completely deserted, so I could pick whatever site I wanted.

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    I set up camp, made a nice big fire with all of the wood left lying around the campground, turned on a movie on my tablet, and then drank astronaut screwdrivers all night!

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    Total mileage for the day: About 480 miles

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    #12
  13. tjzondrz

    tjzondrz Non-Nefarious

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    6,999
    Location:
    Macungie,PA.
    Nice report Max.Keep us in touch,and be safe out there.Keep the pictures coming.
    #13
  14. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,885
    Location:
    Inverary, Ontario, Canada
    It's always interesting to read other people's perspectives on northern communities - especially what makes them feel uncomfortable. The rawness of the landscape, the big sky, the different cultures, the distances and the overwhelming presence of gravel can make everywhere seem a bit intimidating and austere. Thank God not everywhere looks like the Golden Mile!

    381 is what it is: a municipal road depot along a remote highway - not a resort for tourists. Gas is expensive, but imagine the cost to get it there. It will cost you less and you will get further if you reduce speed:baldy

    Radisson IS a company town and has no pretensions as a tourist venue. People like you and me who travel these roads for fun are accepted and tolerated but not especially catered to. Long may it remain that way.

    The condition of the Trans-Taiga road is highly dependent on when it was last graded. It's graded in sections: 20 miles can be good easy riding, followed by 20 or 200 miles of nasty loose gravel. The vandalism to the Mirage sign is new since May. Mirage is a fine place, with fine people, undeserving of such treatment.

    Enjoying the report and pictures - keep it coming

    Nick
    #14
  15. dtysdalx2

    dtysdalx2 Knowledge is horsepower

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Oddometer:
    20,561
    Location:
    Moneyapolis, MN
    Wow, what a trip! Talk about getting off the grid.

    I'd go nuts. Too much of the same, trees and flatness with shitty gravel roads.

    Very original trip and ride report!
    #15
  16. garbagekid0

    garbagekid0 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2011
    Oddometer:
    117
    Location:
    NY
    sv thread brought me to your ride report man. love your bike and great report. cheers
    #16
  17. max384

    max384 Bandaided Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    5,994
    Location:
    Eagle Rock, PA
    I woke up this morning really cold. I somehow worked my sleeping bag zipper open a bit last night, which let cold air in my bag. I must have tossed and turned. Even though the temps had been pretty cold during the nights, up until now I've been toasty in my bag.

    At this point I'll stop and talk about the weather here. So far every single day it rained at least a little bit, though so far nothing to write home about. On top of the intermittent rain, it has been cold. Highs during the day have been in the mid-40s and lows in the 30s. Waking up in the mornings has always been a chore to talk myself into getting out of my warm sleeping bag. This morning was a bit easier since I was already cold though.

    Some pictures of the campground in the day light:

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    I got up around 6:30 and packed things up and had some coffee and breakfast. I had hoped my propane tank would last the whole trip, but I ran it dry this morning. Looks like no coffee tomorrow morning! :eek1

    I also noticed that my left fork was leaking fork oil around the seal...

    I was on the road by about 7:30. The roads were dry, but it sure looked like rain. I headed down the bumpy sandy road to get back to the James Bay Road. By the time I made it back there, I felt like my kidneys were jarred loose with all the washboard on the road.

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    A few miles down the road I glanced in my mirror and noticed one was missing.

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    I'm usually pretty vigilant about checking my mirrors often, but with the traffic being so sparse here, and the road surface so patchy, I had gotten into the bad habit of not checking them often and paying closer attention to the dips and bumps in the road. This being said, I had no idea how far ago I had lost my mirror, and decided to just keep going instead of turning around and beginning the futile search for a mirror on the side of the road. As it turns out, from looking back through the pictures, I lost it on the bumpy washboard road (see the picture by the stop sign above).

    So, if I'm keeping track correctly, here is the list of what has broken thus far:
    -Speedometer
    -Odometer
    -GPS
    -Turn signal
    -Headlight
    -Mirror
    -Fork leaking oil

    It was really cold this morning, and I had to use a thin form-fitting t-shirt as a balaclava, which actually worked really well. In addition, I had my heated grips on high and my hands in were in the waterproof glove pocket (I have dual-pocket Held Air 'n Dry gloves), and I was still a bit chilly, though doing good.

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    I stopped at a small rocky hill to take a leak and get some pictures. I decided to hike to the top of the rock to get some great pictures of the remote landscape.

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    Along the way up, I saw TONS of blueberry plants up here. I stopped to eat a few and ended up filling up with more blueberries than I've ever eaten in one setting. I think every single day since I've been up here I've supplemented my shitty constipation-inducing camp diet with fresh blueberries!

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    I love the moss and lichen covered ground in between the trees here

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    This rock was a bit steeper than I had anticipated, and getting up was a bit tricky with the damp and slick moss on the rock...

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    After finally making it to the top, the view was totally worth it.

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    It was amazing just how remote it is out here and how insignificant it makes you feel in such a vast wilderness. I really wish I had an extra day to just take it all in...

    The wind up top here was fierce. I took my makeshift balaclava off just long enough to get a picture of myself, and my ears were already getting numb and stinging.

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    I made my way back down and hopped back on the bike heading south. Very shortly thereafter the rain started. At first it was just a light rain that I was hoping to pass through. However, the rain got heavier and heavier until I was riding through a full-blown downpour. Not only was the rain heavy, but the winds were ferocious and blowing me all over my lane. Very shortly after the rain started, my Aerostich AD1 pants started leaking at the crotch. When I say leaking, I mean they didn't slow the water down a bit. It was pouring into my pants. My thermal pants got soaked and then the water started running into my boots until there was a puddle in my Goretex boots (which did their job and never leaked).

    Here's a picture of when the rain just started lightly

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    and how I protected my phone/broken GPS in the rain

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    I was FREEZING. It was really cold outside and I was soaked and getting beaten with the rain and wind. And then another problem popped up. My visor kept fogging up from the inside, and the only thing I could do was to crack it open a notch and ride like that. So now I was also getting pelted with rain in the face and the COLD wind was blowing on my already cold face.

    I was more miserable now than I had ever been on two wheels. I was shivering uncontrollably, my feet were wet, cold and numb, my legs were wet and cold, my face was stinging, and the only thing keeping feeling in my hands were my heated grips, but they were barely able to keep up with the wet cold rain. Suffice it to say, there were other things I'd rather be doing at this point.

    However, I needed to get home, so I pushed ahead. I was going way faster than I honestly should have been, but I just wanted to get past the rain and make miles. I was averaging about 80mph or better (guesstimating with my broken speedo). The deep dips were covered in water and would surprise me when I'd hit them. I was going so fast that the spray from these deep puddles kept knocking my feet off of the pegs (probably didn't help that my feet were numb). I knew I should be going slower, but I just wanted to make time.

    I stopped to fuel up from my fuel container, and this is where not having a working spout on the Rotopax really hurt. The wind was blowing so hard that as soon as the gas came out of the container, the wind blew it and it sprayed all over my bike without any going into my gas tank. Shit. I put the fuel container away, hopped back on my bike, and stopped again at a place where was trees and rocks looked like they would block the wind enough for me to fill up. I managed to get it filled without losing too much more gas to the wind.

    I then kept pushing until I made it to 381. I fueled up and stopped in the store and asked about James Bay stickers. No luck. Damn.

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    From here to Matagami, both the wind and rain got worse, and I didn't feel the temperatures getting any warmer. I didn't stop to take any pictures because at this point my fingers were beginning to go numb and I was miserable. Periodically I would do math problems in my head to make sure my brain was still working properly to test for hypothermia. I don't know how accurate of a test this was, but it was good enough to make me feel like I didn't have to worry about hypothermia. lol

    I made it to the security checkpoint at kilometer 6 and signed in and asked about James Bay stickers. No luck.

    I then rode into Matagami a couple miles down the road, filled up with gas, and asked around about James Bay stickers. Everybody told me they were only available in Radisson. Well damn it!

    Oh well, I'd worry about that later. For now I needed to get warm. I was shivering really bad and just needed to warm up. I stopped into a local restaurant and ordered hot coffee and some poutine.

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    I've never had poutine before, and never though it sounded particularly good, but I loved it! It may have been because I was cold and really hungry, who knows...

    After about ten cups of coffee and a couple of wasted hours I was finally warmed up and shaky (from the caffeine this time). I asked the waitress about the weather and she said it was clear south of here, but still cold. She said it was currently 3 degrees Celsius in Matagami. That is about 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was probably a bit colder on the road on my way down. No wonder I was so damn cold!

    It was still sprinkling in Matagami, so I didn't bother changing into dry clothes underneath. I just sped down the road waiting for the dry weather to come. I was again cold, wet, and miserable. It would dry up for a bit, then I'd ride right back into rain again, so I kept going, waiting out the actual dry weather. Eventually it got dry enough that I felt comfortable pulling over and putting on dry clothing. I pulled down a little dirt road until I found a small clearing to get naked in.

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    My hands had also gotten wet and were quite painful

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    My feet were not happy either

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    I dried out my boots the best I could, put on dry socks and slid them right back into the cold wet boots. Ugh. At least there were no longer puddles in there though. As I was getting back on the bike, honest to goodness sun finally peaked out!

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    I rode through Val-d'Or and snapped a couple of pics.

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    Then I continued riding south. I skipped fueling up at a few different places in order to make time, and because I had plenty enough fuel to make it until the towns north of Ottawa, where plenty of fuel is available. I stopped to fill up my water at a rest stop, saving me the time of pumping it from a lake or creek.

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    I wanted to set up camp before it was dark so that I could collect plenty of firewood for a big roaring fire to warm up next to. I pulled into a large established campground called Riviere Des Outaouais, which is an island on the Reservoir Dozois.

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    The campground was huge with well over a hundred sites, but it was completely deserted. Not a single person there. There were no signs saying it was closed, and nothing even asking for donations to stay there. Perfect! A great big empty campground all to myself! Best of all was that there was tons of firewood all over the campground left over at a bunch of camp sites. I removed my top box and used my bike to collect firewood.

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    There were tons of piles of wood this size lying around

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    I had gathered a pile of firewood bigger than I'd ever be able to burn that night. I then set to work making a fire. Now I know how to make a fire, as I've been doing that all my life. However, when I'm on my bike I always have those two 1/4 gallon fuel bottles with me, so I get lazy and use gasoline. This saves me time looking for tinder, and I don't have to spend as much time piling up the kindling just right. Well, tonight for whatever reason, I just couldn't get this fire started. I piled up some twigs and sticks, dumped gas on them, and got it going, but it kept going out. So, I went back, collected more sticks, and made a proper fire pile, and dumped more gas on it, and I still had trouble getting it going. After a third attempt at making a fire with gasoline, I finally got it going. I ended up using half the bottle of gas. How embarrassing. I'm still not entirely sure why I had so much trouble. Oh well.

    The fire was made, and I could finally change into dry socks. I was REALLY glad I packed my camp shoes, so I could rest my dry feet by the fire.

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    This was the best pic I got of the campground, since I forgot to take pictures while it was still light since I was getting firewood.

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    I then heated up some prepacked crap by the fire, and enjoyed a movie on the picnic table before heading off to sleep.

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    Total mileage for the day: About 532 cold, wet, miserable miles

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    #17
    RevyRider and CavReconSGT like this.
  18. max384

    max384 Bandaided Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    5,994
    Location:
    Eagle Rock, PA
    There really isn't a lot to say about today, since all I did was ride home, so the last installment will be rather quick.

    I woke up early, around 4:30am. I ate a quick breakfast, packed up, and was on the road by 5:15am. It was still dark, so I kept the speeds pretty slow, since this was still moose country, and it was entering into their mating season.

    It was VERY cold and my feet were still damp from the wet boots. My feet went numb almost immediately, so I just kept plugging along, dreaming of a hot shower when I got home.

    Not soon after leaving my low fuel light came on. Now this was a surprise and I was really worried, because I knew I still had a long ways to go before the next gas stop. Before I camped for the night last night, there was a sign saying it was 176 km (110 miles) until the next gas station. Now I had only gone about 30, maybe 40, miles at best since that sign. This meant that I still had about 70 - 80 miles until the next fuel stop, and my fuel light was on. This meant I had a gallon of gas in the tank, plus whatever was left in my fuel bottles. Man do I wish I would have tried harder to make a fire last night so I didn't waste so much gas... I also wish I would have done the math better in my head last night when I was passing by fuel stations...

    The best tank of gas I ever got was just over 60 mpg. So, if I slowed down and was really easy on the throttle, I could hope to get 60 mpg. With a gallon left, plus about 3/8 gallon between the two fuel bottles, this gave me a maximum range of 82.5 miles, assuming I'm getting my best fuel mileage ever. If I figure on my average fuel consumption of 50 mpg, I've got a range of 68.75 miles. Whew, I was cutting this one a bit too close!

    So, I slowed down to about 50-55 mph and tucked in to decrease wind resistance, and then plugged away. The fuel light went from blinking to solid in exactly 30 miles, which means I'm right at about 60 mpg. I pulled over, added the rest of the fuel and kept on going. I was really sweating it 40 miles later when I knew I was running on fumes. However, around a corner I saw an Esso sign! Man was I glad to see that. I spent my last $30 in Canadian cash filling up my tank and spare.

    I then headed back down the road at a much higher rate of speed. :evil

    I made it through Ottawa with no problems and then to the Thousand Islands region. I had to pay a $2.75 toll... and it turns out I had exactly $2.75 in Canadian left. What luck. Looks like I traded in exactly enough money!

    I stopped at a tourist trap to get a few small souvenirs for my family.

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    If I had more time, I would have gone up into this tower, as the Thousand Islands region is absolutely beautiful, and I'd love to see it from the air.

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    From the gift shop, I headed back to the border.

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    I made it through without any hassles. I hopped right onto 81 south, only stopping once for gas.

    Before stopping home, I made one important stop in town for provisions...

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    When I was unloading my beer, I glanced at the back tire and realized I cut it way too close with my tire.

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    I guess I needed to add one more thing to the list of work that needs done to this bike after this trip.

    Total mileage for the day: 546 miles

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    Total mileage for the trip: About 2500 miles

    (I estimated over 2500 miles, so between the side roads and whatnot I took, and the odometer being broke, I'll just settle on about 2500 miles)

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    #18
  19. max384

    max384 Bandaided Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    5,994
    Location:
    Eagle Rock, PA
    Now since this was a bare-bones budget trip, I'll do a breakdown of what my costs and fuel usage were:

    Total fuel used (includes filling up my tank after I got home):
    49.3 gallons

    Total fuel cost:
    $241.43 (including the USD to CAD exchange rate)

    Average fuel economy:
    50.7 mpg

    Average cost per gallon:
    $4.90/gal

    Average cost gas per day:
    $48.29

    Total cost of food (includes estimated value of food I already had, plus what I bought for the trip plus restaurant):
    $58.38

    Average cost food per day:
    $10.48

    Total toll cost:
    $5.50

    Average cost tolls per day:
    $1.10

    Total souvenir cost:
    $21.51

    Total camping cost:
    $10 (donation, this could have been $0 if I chose)

    Total cost of trip (excluding wear and tear on the bike):
    $336.82

    Average trip cost per day:
    $67.36


    If you're willing to pack food instead of eating on the road, you really can travel very cheaply, even if you're going to be traveling relatively far. If you travel in the US where the gas is cheaper, this price can be cut down even further. I mention this, because I often have friends who say they can't afford to do these types of trips. Most of them can, they just don't realize it.
    #19
  20. damurph

    damurph Cold Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 2, 2012
    Oddometer:
    3,214
    Location:
    The far east of the far east of North America
    Good to see you made another whirlwind trip up north. As usual the financial breakdown is inspiring to us cheap bastards. Don't know many who can wear out an SV but good to know your trying.

    Take care.
    #20