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Thread: Canadian Odyssey - James Bay Road

  1. #1

    Canadian Odyssey - James Bay Road

    Many of you have heard comments about my trip up the James Bay Road in Quebec, and many of you have probably seen some of the photos scattered on the forum, or on my website. When I woke up this morning it was less that 5 degrees out, and the wind chill had it in the negative zone. Too cold for riding... at least for me. Instead, I decided to finally type up a bit of a ride report of my trip to the James Bay. Hopefully nobody gets bored in the process of reading it. This is going to be pretty long. I have the time, I have the space, and it's my story. Each day is going to be one post. The riding on the James Bay Road starts at day 3. Picture this story as told over a few drinks next to a campfire. Imagine I'm pretty animated as I tell the story - because that's how I am. Enjoy!

    I've always been oddly attracted to remote places. I guess it's the explorer in me; I want to go where few have been, and where few will ever go. I've also fancied myself to be a bit of an "Adventure rider" type... though I had yet to go anywhere off the beaten path. It was almost six months before the MOA rally in Wisconsin, and I was beginning to make some trip plans for myself. I was blessed with an abundance of vacation time from work, some disposable income, and a week to burn between the rally and a yearly family camping trip in Ontario. Days and nights were spent pouring over google maps, looking for small remote places to visit. I quickly settled on areas north of Lake Superior; possibly Highway 11 down to Lake Huron and onto some of the more remote roads that lead into some of the small communities in the area. Still, it didn't sound that exciting, and I continued to look further east and north. Somewhere I stumbled across this "James Bay Road". It offered everything I was looking for - it was remote, lightly traveled, scenic, and somewhere many had never been. My location had been chosen, and my preparations began.

    The James Bay offers a few unique challenges to a motorcycle traveler. It's very remote. There is a section of road 233 miles long that offers no service of any kind, save for some emergency phones every 50km or so. This is the second longest stretch of service-free road in North America; and it's second by only 7 miles to the Dalton Highway in Alaska. Fortunately the James Bay Road is paved for it's entirety, though frost heaving leaves the road rather rough. Even in the "busy season", very few cars are on this road each day, so if anything happens you might be waiting a while for assistance. This isn't so much a "normal" tourist destination. The road was built when a large hydroelectric facility was put in years ago, and most of the traffic is to support the small employee population, native communities, and hunters who travel to the area. Second to the remoteness is the wildlife. This is an area that supports black bear, caribou, wolves, fox, moose, and the ever popular black fly. The black flies are probably the biggest problem, as they will gladly chew a hole in your skin to get some blood, and they are rather plentiful in July. Finally, weather is a wild card. It could be hot, it could be freezing, and it could rain the whole time.

    With those negatives, "why go", you ask? I went for three reasons; natural beauty (There are a number of large rivers that flow across the James Bay Road and there is wilderness all around you), the challenge of the trip itself, and the remote silence of the area. I wanted to get away from everything, from cell phones (which do not work even before you reach the James Bay Road itself), traffic, and people - save for a possible riding companion.

    Though I had a friend or two interested in taking the trip with me, I quickly found none of my riding companions would have the time to join me on the rather remote sections of road I wanted to cover - so I would be going alone. This wasn't a huge deal, although it meant I was going to be forced to carry all of my own supplies, tools, and gear (no splitting gear between two bikes). I spent a few months rebuilding my bike to make it as mechanically perfect as I could, and to increase my own knowledge in case I had a failure on the road. This included learning how to wrestle a tire and tube off and on a rim. Gear was purchased; a lightweight but warm sleeping bag, a 3-season windproof "expedition-style" tent, camp stove, cookware, spares for the bike, and a large can of pepper spray (for bears and other large wildlife) for peace of mind. I also had completed a tentative route and schedule. I had some long days planned, but I felt up to the task. I would leave the MOA rally on Sunday, head north to Minnesota, and then cross into Ontario, following Lake Superior. From there I would head east into Quebec, up the James Bay Road, and then back down. Finally I would ride further South to the North side of Lake Huron, which I would cross by boat before riding the last 200 miles west to meet up with my family for a few more days of camping. Perfect.

    By the time July hit, I was as ready as I was ever going to be. After a short weather-related delay, I pulled out and headed to the West Bend MOA rally; the first stop on my journey. As one would expect at an MOA rally, fun was had, friends were made, beer was drank, and sleep came in small doses. By the end I was ready to get away, and the REAL part of my James Bay trip began.

    At the rally: You can never be too careful when drinking!

    At the rally: Beautiful sunrise over a lake

    MUCH more to come...
    Last edited by Visian; 01-24-2008 at 10:32 PM. Reason: typos, of course.

  2. #2
    OK, the first post was just the setup - now the journey actually begins:

    Riding across Wisconsin over miles of smooth pavement through sparse traffic was a rather anticlimatic way of starting what was to be my ultimate trip for the year. The engine hummed beneath me in a way only an Airhead boxer at 75-80mph can. In the meantime, visions of the journey ahead swam through my mind. I stopped infrequently when the sudden stumbling of the engine reminded me we were short on fuel, and once switching the petcocks to "reserve" I would take the next exit - both to refuel the bike and myself. I settled for lunch at a gas station A&W - meal of champions. It had been a bit cool out, and I enjoyed being able to soak up some heat while I sat next to my bike in the sun.

    The highway eventually gave way to a state route, which led me through Duluth and onto Minnesota Route 61 - a two laner that meanders along the north side of Lake Superior through a number of small towns. As usual I found myself well ahead of schedule and I pulled off into Two Harbors, MN for a look around. This was the first time I had seen Lake Superior - the last Great Lake for me to see. Several small signs were followed to a lighthouse which offered some scenic views, even if the day had become a bit overcast.

    The lighthouse is now a Bed and Breakfast - and also claims to be haunted. I experienced no paranormal activities as I climbed to the top of the lighthouse, although the high-viz Olympia AST jacket I was wearing may scare off ghosts as well as it scares of women at a biker bar. I also walked out onto a nearby jetty and enjoyed the fresh air, as an ore freighter came past and deftly maneuvered into the small harbor. As I began to get harassed by a large swarm of flying bugs, I decided it was time to get back on the road and quickly made my escape back to the bike. I'm sure the locals were confused by the guy in motorcycle gear running down the jetty flailing his arms in the air like a madman. Note to self: take a shower.

    A long walk back - maybe I should have ridden out here?

    The rest of the ride was sadly annoying - slow traffic kept me from making much forward progress, and the two-lane road coupled with long strings of trucks pulling trailers made passing difficult. I settled back in and sang to myself for the next hour:

    Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'
    Keep that Airhead rolling!
    Why is traffic slowin'?

    (Yeah, I'm no songwriter)

    My only stop was to grab some dinner - fresh cut fruit and some smoked gouda to go along with the jerky in my tank bag. I continued on and finally pulled into the campground at Judge C.R. Magney State Park just past Grand Marais, MN. The place seemed to work on the honor system; nobody was working the front office, but there were instructions for filling out an envelope and making a cash payment. There was also a campground steward on-site to make sure you didn't freeload, and to get firewood for anyone who needed it. I quickly set up on my pine-needle covered site and set about having dinner. Some friendly neighbors took pity on the lonely biker and offered me a grilled hot dog and friendly conversation.

    As the sun began to set I built a fire for some ambiance, just as a group of motorcyclists came rolling into the campground and set up next to me. There was a friendly couple on a Harley, and their equally friendly companion on a 1978 Honda with a barn-door Windjammer fairing. After setting up, they brought their firewood over to my site and we shared some friendly conversation, jokes, and cola around the campfire before retiring for the evening. I also remembered to run off and get a good shower - I didn't want to attract any bears who were looking for human hands marinated in turkey jerky and smoked gouda. With my bear spray next to my sleeping bag, I quickly fell sound asleep to the occasional hissing and cracking of the fading campfire...
    Last edited by jdmetzger; 01-20-2008 at 09:17 PM. Reason: typos typos typos

  3. #3
    I was a little surprised when I woke up around 6am and heard my motorcycle riding campground neighbors already stirring. I guess dairy farmers aren't much for sleeping in. It was a bit brisk as I packed up my things - my anal retentive nature had me on a strict schedule - on the road by 7:00am. It's probably good I was traveling alone, as I wouldn't be annoying anyone with my schedule. As I rolled the tent and did my best to remove several pounds of pine needles, my neighbors offered me some free breakfast. They were trying to use up all of their bread before striking camp, and were busy toasting it over their Coleman stove. Nothing screams healthy, filling breakfast like dry toast. Scrumptious. I think I remember hearing that beggars can't be choosers...

    I managed to pull out of the campground a few minutes ahead of schedule, hopes high for another good day. It was slightly overcast, but the clouds were quickly burning off and a ray of sunlight peeked through the clouds and shone down on the road ahead of me - I took that as a sign of good luck. Immediately after, my bike went on reserve and I realized I had no idea how much further it was to a gas station. Luck was indeed with me, and I pulled into a combination general store/gas station/Indian Casino. How convenient! Again, fuel up the bike, grab a warm can of orange juice, and solve another issue. I purchased a blinding halogen flashlight for my trip, which I thought would make a great bear spotting device. The only problem is it requires a small fission reactor to power the light for more than a few minutes. Failing that, you can use lithium batteries like you would find in a digital camera. Sadly, I drained the batteries at the rally, and I had been having problems locating replacements. The general store had something that looked similar - the batteries were the same size and rating, but were sold as two batteries in a plastic case for some brand of digital camera. I grabbed them off the shelf and made my way back outside. In a moment that would make MacGyver proud, I got out my trusty Leatherman multi-tool and ripped the plastic shell away from the batteries, popped them into the flashlight, and... nothing. Hmm. I twisted the flashlight, played with the button, shook it, spoke some magic words (not forum friendly), and just like in a cartoon, it came on while pointed directly at my face. Well, at least THAT'S working again. After a few minutes my eyesight returned, and I got back on the road, stopping at a scenic lookout to snap some photos of the mountainous terrain around the Lake. This same view was played out again and again as I cruised along Highway 17 - really a beautiful ride.

    Crossing into Canada was as easy as ever. The border agent was friendly, didn't require me to remove my helmet, and only questioned me briefly about the bear spray. I happily cruised through Canada, although I was a little unimpressed with what I considered to be an overly low speed limit that I ended up challenging most of the day. Construction signs began popping up telling me I was going to be on an unpaved road for the next 17km. I was less than excited. My unpaved riding experience was probably less than one kilometer in total, and that made me nervous. With no way around, my only choice was to continue on. Luck was again with me as I noticed there was a fresh layer of blacktop that stretched for quite a while, although I began to see a nice layer of dirt on top of it, which quickly turned into a solid dirt road. Cue the rain, and cue oncoming traffic splashing muddy water on my faceshield. Great. As I expected, things got worse before they got better.

    I crested a small hill and 100 yards ahead I spotted some construction equipment, a worker holding a "slow" sign, and what looked like a roadway covered in river rocks. I had very little time to take that sight in as my front wheel started to plow into the rocks and gravel, and my bars began moving wildly from side to side. I had just enough presence of mind to slowly close the throttle as I waited for my eventual impact with the ground. In the meantime, the mysterious Canadian worker held out her hands in front of her like she was holding on to some handlebars and began to move them from side to side. There is nothing more enjoyable than being mocked as you are about to crash, I assure you. Luck was on my side and I somehow managed to bring the bike to a controlled stop next to the previously mentioned friendly construction worker, so I could see how much further this was going to go on. In a heavy Canadian accent, she was happy to tell me:

    "Not much further, eh? You know, you should be careful, we had a guy on a bike get hurt really bad a few weeks ago!"

    That was interesting information that would have been MUCH more helpful 100 yards earlier. I wondered if the "slow" sign was to warn me of the worker, or the road itself. I assume they hang "bridge out" signs in the center of the road halfway between each end, as well, so you have a chance to read it as you fall to your death. This girls sister is probably at the bottom telling people to be more careful, next time.

    I continued to slog my way through the next 100 yards of deep, smooth gravel, then through a bit of packed dirt, and finally back to pavement. Again on cue, the sun comes back out, and the rest of my ride is under bright sunshine and cloudless skies. A short distance down the road I start seeing gas station full of other bike brands. The owners are busy cleaning mud from their bikes with the windshield wash squeegee and bottles of water. I had to laugh to myself a little bit about that one; I guess it's more about the look than the ride, for some. I eventually pulled off myself for a refuel and got a good look at the damage. I was muddy, the bike was muddy, but otherwise things were fine, and I was sure to run into more dirt and mud before my trip was through.

    The next several hours were full of some truly beautiful riding; elevation changes, sweeping turns, and few police officers. Lucky for me the ones I DID see never moved to come after me; even if I was a ways north of the speed limit. The hours came and went as I would stop for the occasional break; lucking on to scenic Aguasabon Falls near Terrace Bay, ON.

    Brief video of the falls. Not overly exciting, but I felt like getting some mixed media in with this story to fancy it up. That's Lake Superior far off in the distance.

    I finally got to the small town of Wawa, where I stocked up on single use coffee (coffee in a tea bag), breakfast bars, and subway. The last 50 or so miles to the campground at Lake Superior Provincial Park were grueling, but there was a big payoff when I got there and ended up with an absolutely beautiful campsite. I immediately grabbed my Kermit chair and my sub, kicked off my shoes, and enjoyed an early dinner on the beach. An annoyingly bold squirrel who closely resembled the squirrel from "Ice Age" finished half of the sub I left sitting on the picnic table, but I really wasn't as hungry as I thought, anyhow. I took a relaxing stroll along the beach, climbed up a rocky outcropping, and enjoyed being off the bike for a while.

    Later, I relaxed at my campsite, wrote down some of the days happenings, and went off to bed just as the sun was setting across the lake. You would have thought it was a tropical paradise and not Canada.

    Around 4:30am I woke up to the sound of a lone timber wolf howling far off in the distance. I smiled to myself, and drifted back off to sleep for a few more hours, wondering what the day would bring.
    Last edited by jdmetzger; 01-21-2008 at 12:21 AM.

  4. #4
    Rally Rat
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Montreal area
    Excellent so far.Sitting here waiting for more.

  5. #5
    After a bunch of writing, I decided a lot happened on this day, so it's getting split into a two-parter. I'm leaving you with a cliff-hanger. The second half is on it's way! No photos in this one; but plenty in the next post.

    Waking up in my tent and seeing my breath in the middle of July was a little bit surprising. Then again, I was camped right on the edge of Lake Superior, so some cooler temperatures were to be expected. I quickly dressed inside my tent, crawled out, donned all of my riding gear (aside from the helmet and gloves) and paced around the campsite eating a breakfast bar until I warmed up a bit. From there I again quickly packed my gear and was back on the road by 7:00am; this time heading North on Highway 17 back to Wawa, where I would then be turning east towards Chapleau and Timmins, before turning north in Quebec to the James Bay Road.

    Sure, it was a bit cold when I was packing up my tent, but blasting up Highway 17 along Lake Superior at high speed made me glad I installed heated grips. I quickly switched them on and also noticed it was cold enough that my mirrors were fogging up. I wasn't too worried - traffic was very light, and I didn't expect anyone to catch up to me. Small lakes and bogs along the road were invisible under the collected steam hovering over the top of them.

    Midway through my ride I spotted a single headlight coming towards me. "7:00am, middle of nowhere, motorcycle... this HAS to be a Beemer". A minute later I was proved correct as we roared past each other; waving on our way by. I'm sure he was smiling as big as I was.

    I quickly came upon a lone semi who was slowing my forward progress. Many parts of the hilly and winding road are only two lanes and strewn with double yellow lines. There is plenty of space for a motorcycle (or lone car) to pass, but I think the lines were painted for the lowest common denominator of large trucks and tourists hauling trailers. I was just checking for a clear space to shoot by when the truck turned on his left signal... then turned it off... then on again. I had seen this a few times yesterday before making passes, as well. It finally sunk in that they were signaling to let me know the road was clear ahead. How nice! I wish truckers elsewhere would follow this same procedure. I blew past the truck, gave a friendly wave, and continued on; quickly reaching Wawa. Once in Wawa, I fueled up the bike and also grabbed a two gallon gas can. I was finally getting into more remote areas, and was pretty sure I would at least need an extra gallon for the James Bay Road. With the gas can filled up and secured to the rear rack of the bike, I veered off onto Highway 101.

    The next section of road was less that exciting, except there was very little traffic. Fear of wildlife kept me from going too fast, even though they kept the brush trimmed well away from the road. The air was still a little cool, but the sun was shining brightly and promising a good day. I would pass an occasional car, but more frequently I was seeing logging trucks pulling off of the many dirt roads scattered about - leading back into the wilderness. Houses would pop up from time to time, as well as signs for various campgrounds and hunting/fishing lodges. I'm sure this area gets a bit more traffic when hunting season is really open. I skirted Chapleau, and continued on this rather boring road until my map showed me I only had one decent place to stop for fuel before getting to Timmins; a distance that would be just beyond my reach. Off of 101, I turned into the small town (village?) of Foleyet. With a booming population of 350, I'm sure a new visitor is quite the talk of the town; especially a visitor on a BMW motorcycle, with a high-viz jacket on, with Ohio plates. I rolled past what is probably the only restaurant in town, and 4 or 5 locals stared as I passed them by and pulled into the gas station/general store.

    My first task was operating the nearly antique gas pump. This was one of those fun ones with the rolling numbers and the spinning ball inside a glass cover that showed you fuel was flowing. Far out. After fueling up I went inside to pay and grab a Red Bull, which I enjoyed outside on the covered porch. I felt like I was in the old west. I didn't find any tumbleweed; probably out of season. The whole time the locals at the nearby restaurant were eyeing me, and I started to hear that "Deliverance" music playing in my head. I didn't think my barnyard animal imitations were really up to snuff, so it was time to move on. Riding out of town they again followed my every move, and I gave them all a wave as I passed. One returned the wave; the rest just kept staring... I imagine they watched me until I was totally out of sight.

    I eventually made it into the booming metropolis of Timmins; population 43000, and home of Shania Twain (as advertised on the welcome sign). Rolling into a place this large was quite a culture shock for me, and took a bit of the "adventure" out of my trip. I stopped at a large grocery store to get something to clean off my face shield, I grabbed some junk food at a Burger King, and I felt great sitting outside in the warm sun. I pulled out my cell phone (now with excellent service) and started calling friends and family to relay my most recent hardship to them. Pretty rough living in Timmins, I assure you. I am an adventure riding god; look out Helge Pedersen, I'm coming for you, right after I finish my Whopper! With a huge smile on my face I rode out of the hustle and bustle of Timmins and in what seemed like no time at all I was celebrating crossing into remote Quebec as I had my gas tank filled up by the young "gas boy" who spoke little to no English. Ahh, beautiful day. I continued on east and then north towards Macamic where I noticed the sky began to get a bit darker off to the northwest. No worries; I pulled over in the small hamlet of Poularies, closed the vents on my jacket, donned my rain pants, and continued north. In my mind I spoke in my best French Canadian accent; "Rain? I worry not about rain!"

    Approaching my turn onto Route 111 in Macamic, there was a slight problem; the road was closed and the only detour was back south. Still no worries... until I noticed that "rain cloud" had turned into a thunderhead; full of very visible ground-touching lighting, now only minutes off to the East. "Mon Dieu!" I quickly hauled south and saw the posted detour sign. I turned back east following the detour, and all I could see in my mirrors was black sky and the occasional flash of lightning. I was determined to outrun this beast. WE were determined. I twisted the throttle open on the R80 and received an immediate response as we hit warp speed...

  6. #6
    Unavailable for comment
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Wolverines released

  7. #7
    Unavailable for comment
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Wolverines released

  8. #8
    Great story
    waiting for more..

  9. #9
    I was now barreling down Quebec route 390, crouched into a bit of a tuck on my R80; riding for my life. Anything on the road moving slower than warp speed was quickly passed by as I worked to get ahead of the approaching storm. Each time I would turn south I had an opportunity to look at the beast following me; to judge if I was making any progress. The storm itself was a flat wall aside from a small piece sticking out in front of the rest; like a hand reaching out to grab me. I would not go down without a fight. East, south, east, south; running across the countryside like a scared jackrabbit. East onto Route 111, following it's curves through tiny hamlets, past collections of houses, around the farm tractor making it's way slowly down the road. My riding would have made Ernst Henne proud. Now at the tops of my mirrors I was seeing something different; clear sky. I was winning! A short time later the sun actually came out, but I wasn't going to be complacent - I kept running until I hit Amos and turned back north on Highway 109; the road that would eventually become the James Bay Road. I stopped briefly in St-Felix-de-Dalquier for fuel; the last stop before reaching Matagami, and the start of the JBR.

    My fuel stop was brief, and I had no time to celebrate anything at this point; I could still see the monolith unflinchingly moving towards me across the fields. Looking north, I could see the edge of this beast. If I moved fast enough I might be able to outflank it. I remounted the R80, hit the starter, and jumped back onto the road. Things quickly went from small towns to remoteness; traffic went away, and the fields gave way to a solid forest of trees. The road cut back east and then finally turned for the long run north. Within a few minutes I knew I had outrun the storm. I smiled to myself. My French Canadian accent came back "I am not afraid of any rain storm! You come for me, but you shall never catch me! I am like the rainbow!" I settled back in for the next 100 or so miles to Matagami on this wide and well paved section of road; past a closed hotel, past mines, past small lakes and abandoned houses. Is that sky ahead a little bit dark? Possibly... stormy looking? Is that a hint of leather riding boot I taste? Maybe a bit of gore-tex, as well?

    Yes, I was riding directly into another storm cell, and the sky continued to get darker and darker as I approached. I thought about stopping to let it pass, but there was more off to the west of me, so that wasn't an option. My choices were rather limited, actually. I could pull off to the side and hide in the forest and risk a nearby tree being struck by lighting, I could pull off and stand on the road; the tallest thing around unless I decided to lay down and risk a logging truck running me down on a rain slickened road. I took the final option; I was going to ride through it as fast as I could. I ducked back down behind the small windshield, cranked open the throttle, and just as I saw a flash of lightning I was thinking of Hunter S. Thompson; "Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death." That thought didn't last long. I noticed my tank bag wasn't covered, and I didn't want my camera and gear to be destroyed by the rain. I quickly pulled off onto the gravel shoulder to put the cover on just as the rain started falling in earnest. With my head looking down as I scrambled to attach the rain cover to my tank bag, I was surprised at how loud the rain was, and how big the drops must be to make that much noise on my helmet. Then I caught something out of the corner of my eye. Rain isn't supposed to bounce, is it?

    I was being paid back in spades for my arrogance at outrunning the last storm as marble-sized hail fell on me. I stood there for a minute or two; there was really no place for me to hide, and at least my full riding gear was keeping me safe. Note to self; let Olympia and Arai know their gear works in hail. The hail continued, and suddenly my prayers were answered; a small, well-worn pickup truck came down the road, pulling off to the side across from my bike. I ran across the road and the passenger door popped open just as I got to it. I had no idea who the driver was, but for the moment he was my best friend - I dove in and slammed the door shut. Here we sit; three guys packed tight in a Chevy S-10 that had seen better days. The passenger window wouldn't roll up all the way, and small chunks of ice would come flying in and land in my lap. My two new friends were covered in mud and dirt - probably mine workers - I was never sure as they spoke no English, and I spoke no French aside from a heartfelt "Merci!" It didn't matter; the hail falling on the metal roof of the truck was deafening, and we would have needed to yell at each other. Eventually another van joined us on the side of the road, along with a bus I passed 20 minutes before. In the meantime, my R80 was leaning at an obscene angle as the side stand sunk into the gravel on the side of the road as streams formed and ran underneath. My GPS was still sitting in it's mount, and I wondered if the screen would be cracked. Eventually the hail subsided, and I stepped out of the truck to survey the damage. Just as the truck drove off I realized one of my warm, insulated gloves must still be inside the truck. He had no rear view mirror, so I'm sure he didn't see me waving at him. Merde.

    Road covered in melting hail.

    My unflinching companion, waiting to get going.

    Yup, that's hail.

    I approached my bike and set about getting things back in order. I grabbed a smooth rock to wedge under the side stand to bring the bike back to the right angle, then I repacked my tank bag, checked my GPS (undamaged!), and dug out one of my new mesh gloves so I'd still have a protected right hand. I had plenty of time to wait around as riding on the hail was going to be like riding on marbles. I stood there in the silence and watched the road steam, listened to rain dripping off of the trees, and tried to gather my thoughts. Eventually a car came past and cleared a path that I could ride in, so the helmet went back on and I rode off. Several miles later the hail cleared, and several miles after that the road wasn't even wet. It took about 10 minutes of me riding in a rather shell-shocked state to realize I never buckled my helmet back on. Not safe. I pulled off into a small picnic area and in the 20 seconds that it took me to secure the helmet I had 10 black flies buzzing around my helmet. Excellent. My spirits had never been higher. I rode on for a bit until I started to laugh like a madman. I really didn't know why; but it felt right. The situation was just too absurd. I'm all alone, in the middle of nowhere, on a motorcycle, and marble sized hail starts falling on me. I thought back to how I got involved in riding, and how I had planned this trip. Never had I even remotely considered something like this would ever happen to me. C'est la vie. I rolled on until finally reaching Matagami.

    Once in Matagami, I fueled up the bike (where is my gas boy??), and went inside to grab a fresh (I hope) made sandwich, some chips, and two bottles of water. I wasn't in the mood to make any food for myself. Back onto the road and to the official start of the James Bay Road. I pulled into the checkpoint set up at the start of the JBR. The road is remote enough that they like people to check in and tell them where you're going and when you'll be back, so if you turn up missing they have an idea as to where you might be. Comforting. The workers were rather friendly, even though I was sure I looked like walking death; I know that's how I felt. They were surprised I had encountered hail earlier on, as things had been rather nice further north. I wondered if I would have avoided all of that had there not been a detour for me earlier on.

    Isolated Route, 375km. The whole length is isolated, but the first 375km is the worst.

    Just a reminder there is no fuel for 375km. Do you have enough?

    A sign showing how far everything is. I was headed to Radisson, and also to Chisasibi - that's a lot of kilometers.

    I pulled out of the checkpoint and rode the last few miles to my stop for the day; Matagami Lake campground. There was a nice gravel path leading back into the trees to the campground. The shirtless man checking me in was friendly enough, and I was quickly on my way to my site. Things were adequate, although the campground was full of trailers and tents setup on wooden platforms. Apparently people leave their things here year-round as I saw hardly anyone moving about.

    Hopping of my bike and removing my helmet I was quickly surrounded by black flies, and not just a few. I dug in my tank bag for my UltraSuperSportsmandontletkidsevenlookatthis Deep Woods Off and sprayed any exposed skin; hands, face, and my hat before tucking my pant legs in. This kept the black flies at bay, although they would still swarm around me until I would get annoyed and walk into the bathroom for a few minutes until they dispersed. I had my tent erected just as one last rainstorm rolled though; fortunately it was rather light, and left a nice rainbow for me as I ate dinner and checked out the beach along Lake Matagami.

    Lake Matagami; storm just starting to clear, overhead.

    A rainbow over my campsite; good luck?

    It had gotten late but the sun was still shining pretty brightly; I was quite a bit further north than I'm used to. Sun or not, I was tired and went to crawl into my tent. Fortunately I noticed the hundreds of black flies on my jeans before getting in and a liberal spraying of my jeans had them all running scared. I ended up making it into the tent with only one uninvited guest, who was not long for this world. With the bear spray next to me and my BMW riding tights still on (it was pretty cool out) I dozed off to sleep; waking up once to pile my riding jacket on top of my sleeping bag for extra warmth. Boy is it ever cold for July.
    Last edited by jdmetzger; 01-22-2008 at 08:58 PM. Reason: Found a single typo.

  10. #10
    Unavailable for comment
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Wolverines released

  11. #11
    keep it coming mang!

  12. #12

    Thumbs up


  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by jdmetzger View Post
    Hopping of my bike and removing my helmet I was quickly surrounded by black flies, and not just a few. I dug in my tank bag for my UltraSuperSportsmandontletkidsevenlookatthis Deep Woods Off and sprayed any exposed skin; hands, face, and my hat before tucking my pant legs in. This kept the black flies at bay, although they would still swarm around me until I would get annoyed and walk into the bathroom for a few minutes until they dispersed.
    absolutely outstanding article, josh.

    in the northwoods, never leave home without this:

    you can spray the net with the deet and not have to get too much of that stuff on your skin. it works particularly well in conjunction with a brimmed hat. of course, you look retarded in it... but hey, the flies aren't biting you.

    can't wait to read the rest of your report.... and can you send me the campsite info so that i can list the good places in the CampSite?


    Go soothingly through the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon.
    __________________________________________________ ________________________________
    '67 Trail 90 || '86 R80 G/SPD+ || '97 F650ST || '00 1150 GS || '06 HP2e || '07 Xchallenge || '14 Grom

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Visian View Post
    absolutely outstanding article, josh.

    in the northwoods, never leave home without this:

    you can spray the net with the deet and not have to get too much of that stuff on your skin. it works particularly well in conjunction with a brimmed hat. of course, you look retarded in it... but hey, the flies aren't biting you.

    can't wait to read the rest of your report.... and can you send me the campsite info so that i can list the good places in the CampSite?


    I actually purchased one of those from Aerostich and took it with me, though I never used it. To be honest I didn't think about spraying that instead of my skin. Some would say I look retarded, regardless.

    I will collect all my campground info together and send it off to you after I'm complete. I was probably going to provide some of that in a epilogue.

    Next chapter is nearly complete; I just need to resize some photos and do some proofreading. Thanks for reading, all!

  15. #15
    It is what it is. Bud's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Long gone
    Well this is just too cool.

    I'm sitting on the edge of my seat and all of a sudden, I have to wait for the next installment.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write up your ride and provide the many wonderful pictures. Makes one feel like they are there with you w/o having to go thru the hardships.

    As for now:

    Ride Well

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