Date: July 28, 2012
Start Location: Central Square, NY
End Location: Lac de la Vielle, Quebec
Miles Travelled: 299 miles
We all met at Good Golly's restaurant in Central Square at about 6:00am. We first topped off the gas tanks and the extra MSR fuel tanks, then we had a big breakfast while we talked about our plans to the Canadian border. We got back on the highway at around 7:00am. The trip down Rte 81 was uneventful. We stopped to top off the tanks before going into Canada. We also stopped at the Duty Free to pick up some "stove fuel" and went to customs check-in, where we were grilled and questioned, but the unflappable trio was ready for any attack and was eventually allowed to proceed. The trip to Lac de la Vielle (north of Ottawa) was also uneventful. We just stopped to refuel when needed. Gas in Canada was over $4.99 per gallon, yowsa!! We arrived at the campsite at about 2:30pm. Keith had a way too long discussion with the campsite queen that spoke just enough English to totally confuse him. He just nodded to everything and we were in. While traveling back to the assigned site we passed a huge barrel on a trailer with a trap door. Appeared to be a bear trap, mmmmmm. Set up tents, had a snack and took a tour of the park. Keith and Ed later set out on the bikes in search of more "stove fuel". Found a few cans and headed back to camp. Fred had started a fire and started cooking dinnerɢaked potatoes, biscuits and of course ribeye steaks. We ate dinner (delicious) and sat back and smoked some cigars. We then decided to hang the food not in bear canisters in a tree. After 15 minutes Keith gave up on trying to throw a rope over a branch, then Fred took over. It was all quite comical (just an observation) but Fred was eventually successful. Chilled out the rest of the night telling childhood stories of pyromania and bomb construction. Keith did a little demonstration of the Conger pyromania skills and fortunately we didn't get booted out of the park nor burn it down. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous.
Date: July 29, 2012
Start Location: Lac de la Vielle, Quebec
End Location: du Lac Matagami Campsite, 37 miles north of Matagami, Quebec
Miles Travelled: 320 miles
Ed was first up this morning at about 6:30am. Ed was pretty bright eyed, but Fred and Keith were a little hazy this morning. Must have been all the "stove fuel" fumes. Ed started up the stove and coffee was made first while Fred made some milk for our cereal. After breakfast, we decided to have a nice hot shower, then we packed up camp and headed north. We stopped at MacDonalds in Val-d'Or to get wifi, where Keith moved our blog and pictures to the webpage. We also couldn't resist the temptation to get a little MacDonalds food. We traveled up Rte 117, 111 and 109 to Matagami and stopped a number of times to take in some sites and rest. Pretty much trees, trees and more trees. Did see more FJ Cruisers than I have ever seen on any one road. We also had several discussions about how much gas we needed for the next two legs of the trip. At a gas station in Val-d'Or a bicyclist stopped to talk to Keith about our travels. He was the one that told us to go to MacD's for wifi. He warned us about the problems getting gas on the Transtaiga Highway. He said that Cree Indians run the gas stations and they are not very reliable about being open. Pretty much they work when they feel like it. We stopped in Matagami to pick up some more food and "stove fuel". We also stopped at the local gas station to fill the bikes and carry-on tanks, enough to make it to our next stop tomorrow. There another gentleman walked over to inquire about our travels. Coincidently, he too was traveling the Transtaiga highway in a jeep and warned us about the lack of gas. He says that there is no official gas station at the end of the highway and that we would need to carry enough gas to get us 600 km. In any case, tonight we will be doing some calculations, but roughly we will need to carry approximately 12 additional gallons on the back of the bikes. Fred as 2-2gal bladders and Keith has 2-1gal Rotopax. So we'll be looking for some cheap gas cans when we get to Radisson. Traveling Molotov cocktails. That should spice up the trip. There is an outside chance we can get gas at the float plane station at the end of the road for like $2.50 per liter (double yowsa). After we fueled up, we found the du Lac Matagami Camping Grounds and set up camp at about 6:30pm. Tents up and dinner started. Tonight Fred is cooking spaghetti with italian sausage and Pita garlic bread. Ed tried to wash dishes but was abruptly scolded by Fred for doing it wrong. Imagine that, Ed doesn't know how to wash dishes. What rock has he been under for 58 years. After dinner we again discussed the issue of fuel for the Transtaiga highway. Then Fred comes up with a brilliant idea to strategically cache the extra fuel along the side of the highway traveling north so that we can fill up the bikes on the way back. In addition we would run Ed and Fred's bikes dry so we know exactly how many miles we can get on a tank of gas. Then we can calculate how much gas we need to carry. So that's settled. By the way, we will be traveling north on the Transtaiga Highway to the last kilometer marker 666. Now isn't that scary!!! The locals call it "the garden at the end of the world". It being the most northern road in eastern Canada. We had visit from the Jeep guy that we talked to earlier in the day. He offered us some 12 year old Scotch and talked about his motorcycle rides here and in Europe on a BMW 1150. All very interesting. Just after sunset we walked down to the beach, not really expecting much. This beach was amazingly beautiful. It must have been a mile long. You would have thought you were on an ocean. We decided we would come back in the morning. Another absolutely gorgeous day. Who'd a thought it would be 86*F this far north. Most amazing has been the lack of bugs so farɮice.
Date: July 30, 2012
Sart Location: Matagami, Quebec
End Location: Radisson, Quebec
Miles Travelled: 363 miles
Ed was first up again today at about 6:00am. A beautiful sunny morning again. Breakfast was coffee and oatmeal. We took showers again and loaded up the bikes. We did our re-walk down to the beach. Looked the same. We left at about 8:30am. Again the plan was to rune Ed and Fred's bikes dry so we would know exactly how far they could get on a tank. We also know that Keith can make it without refueling. As we travelled north, the sky got cloudier and it eventually started raining. We stopped to don our rain suits. The black flies were so thick, you couldn't help but eat or snort a few, disgusting. We stopped at a few scenic spots along the way and took some pictures. Lots of trees, lots of water. We finally came upon a moose. A dead moose along the road. Just as we turned around to take a look, a bear crosses in front of us. The moose was a fresh kill. Something or someone had gutted it. One oddity though was o Canadian 2 dollar Tooney (spelling?) was setting on the head. Ed grabbed it for a souvenir. Back on the highway. Fred ran out of fuel at 223 miles and Ed ran out at 230 miles. We added enough fuel to get us to the next gas station, where we also had some lunch, cheeseburgers and poutine mmmmmmm. During the last leg of the days trip, nearing Radisson, a wolf darted out in front of us, but Keith was unable to stop in time to get a picture, even though it stopped to look at us for quite a few seconds. Damn!! It rained on and off all day. Well we finally got to Radisson and found the campsite at about 5:30pm. Again the black flies could carry you away. Lucky for us, there was a bathroom with showers, kitchen and dining room. We decided we would hang out here, make dinner and just sleep at the campsite. So while we were setting up camp and getting groceries, someone locked the doors. After several inquiries around the campsite, scored us the door lock code to the bathroom house. Sweet Jesus. Chile and bread tonight for supper. We did have a few visitors during dinner. Good conversation. After dinner we ran up to a motel to get wifi. It has been very difficult to find wifi, so our updates will be slow in coming.
Date: July 31, 2012
Sart Location: Radisson, Quebec
End Location: Radisson, Quebec
Miles Travelled: 164 miles
Last night when we went to the hotel to get wifi, we ran into two French Canadians on bikes. One was a BMW 1200GSA and the other a Suzuki Vstrom. They were waiting for a tire to be delivered for the BMW. The rear tire on the bike had threads showing and they couldn't risk a blowout. They had been waiting three days. We talked with them for awhile, then went back to camp and to bed. Fred was up at 6:30am followed by Ed, then Keith. No shower today. Went directly to the diner for breakfast. You cannot hang around the camp at all because the black flies will drive you crazy, even with head nets. While eating breakfast, a Cree couple came in, sat down and ordered two coffees and two beers at 6:30am? Today we will be traveling Northwest to Longue Point to touch the Arctic Ocean AKA James Bay. Along the way we crossed Centrale La Grande-1 Hydro Plant and stopped for pictures. Massive. Just after the dam the road turns to gravel, which always makes the ride a little more tense. As we approached the end of the highway, you could smell the ocean and sure enough there it was. Ed was the first to touch and taste the ocean. There were numerous very large ocean going canoes and snowmobiles just laying around. We parked the bikes and walked along the shore of a small inlet to have a snack and get pictures. Keith and Ed took off their boots and waded in the water, very, very cold. While we were there a Cree Indian couple came by. The guy started telling us stories, we offered him a beer and BAM, a friend forever. He then told us we could give him a hand untangling his rope. Simple, but the he asked Fred to walk one end of the rope to the other side of the inlet. Of course Fred obliged, after which they tied their nets to the other end of the rope and pulled it across the inlet. Apparently, when the tide goes out, so do the fishɲight into the net. Our new found friend then asked us to come over to their camp to give him a hand with his teepee. So we walked along the shore to an area with two small cabins and a teepee. The guys name was Stewart (sounds like an alias) and he told us many stories. Many about the stupidity, wastefulness and greed of the white man. Lets see, we outnumber him three to one. Stewart then shows us how to disassemble his teepee. We made short work of the task. Now we are thinking about starting a new business, Teepee Construction. What do you think? Stewart finally decided that these white men did enough work so he let us go. Although he did hint about helping with his fish net. After that, we walked to Longue Pointe for more photos of the ocean. What a gorgeous view!! Then back on the road. Just before the dam coming back, we spotted another wolf. This time Keith got pictures. Cool. Back to the camp. Fred changed his oil, Ed did some laundry and Keith went after some more "stove fuel". Then we met at the bath house to cook supper and chill out. While there, we met a young couple from Minnesota. We chatted with them awhile. Actually, they were the same couple we camped next to at du Lac Matagami. We were like old friends. In the Matagami campsite, we were so close to them that Fred overheard her say while everyone was asleep "for God's sake, it's three-thirty in the morning!". Wonder what she was talking about? Dinner was turkey stew. good stuff. The next destination will be the end of the Transtaiga highway, kilometer marker 666, "the garden at the end of the world". It'll be at least a three day trip. Looks like lots of rain tomorrow, so we may hold up on our start down the Transtaiga, since it is all dirt roads. We may take a tour of the hydro plant tomorrow instead. We'll know better in the morning. By the way, we did buy two 2-1/2 gallon gas containers, so we'll have enough gas to make it between gas stations.
Date: August 1, 2012
Sart Location: Radisson, Quebec
End Location: Radisson, Quebec
Miles Travelled: 0 miles
Last night Keith and Ed went to the motel to connect to wifi and update the website. There we ran into the two motorcyclists from Montreal. The BMW guy had attempted to go to Longue Pointe, but his rear tire got much worse on the gravel roads and had to turn around. His buddy did make it to the Pointe where we met earlier that day. They also said that the new tire did not arrive and that they were told that maybe on Friday. The town gets only two deliveries a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Apparently, the garage owner they had been working with to get the tire, offered to load the BMW on their truck and carry them to Amos, about an eight hour drive. They took him up on his offer. We sat and chatted while loading the website. The BMW guy was quite the character. Sounds like he drives fast and takes lots of chances. He's gone through several shocks already. Says he likes jumping the big BMW fifteen feet or more. That's tough on shocks with a 650lb bike! They called us geeks (for about the third time) because we had all the technology with us. They highly suggested that we purchase a shotgun to protect us from the bears on the Trans-Taiga highway. They commented that the trail was very, very remote. They said that Caniapiscau is considered the most remote town in North America. We also had read that somewhere. Again "garden at the end of the world". We had some more laughs and headed back to camp around 11:30pm. Keith and Ed were gone quite awhile. Fred was pretty toasted by then. Too much sniffing of the "stove fuel". Fred then gave Ed and Keith a lesson on stars, astrology, astronomy and meteor showers. The guy is a walking encyclopedia. One hot night in the tent awhile back, Ed had asked Fred "How many BTU's does the human body put out?". Without hesitation he says "342". He said he used to have a job where he would calculate loads for chillers (air conditioners). We'll have to check that out to see if he's making this stuff up.
We got up at about 7:00am and immediately went to the bath house for coffee and oatmeal. We had decided not to start out on the Transtaiga because of the weather. Sure enough it started raining. Ed washed the dishes in accordance with Fred's instructions and Keith and Fred went to the visitor center to sign up for the power plant tour and get some more cigars. Fred is quite the stove pipe. So we got signed up for the 2:00pm tour (the only one that is in English). Longue Pointe and the power plant tour is about all there is to do in Radisson. We will chill until then. Fred is looking for lost brain cells from last night.
Went to the Quebec Hydro information center for an introduction, then off to the plant. The plant was absolutely huge. The guide told us that the La Grande 2 was the largest underground hydro plant in the world. The tour was very interesting and the we were amazed at how much stone and gravel had to be moved to build the plant and the massive dikes. Keith and Fred got some great pictures. The guide also told us that Hydro Quebec pays the Cree Nation $252M over fifty years. That's not what Stewart told us. Must be the Chief got it all. After the tour we went back to camp to eat, gas up and pack the bikes as much as we can. We need to have an early start tomorrow, so to bed early tonight. Will be passing on the "stove fuel".
Date: August 2, 2012
Sart Location: Radisson, Quebec
End Location: Transtaiga Highway Marker 380, Quebec
Miles Travelled: 282 miles
Last night we ate dinner with our new friends from Minnesota, (remember the young couple that seems to follow us). As Ed was typing in the blog, she had asked if he was documenting our travels. Ed replied "yes" and that we had a website. After saying that Ed was sure she was going to ask for the link to our website, remembering that the couple had a special place in our travels "for God'd sake, it's three thirty in the morning". Fortunately, she didn't ask.
We got up at around 6:00am just as planned. It was only 45 degrees this morning Brrrrrrrrr! Packed up everything else and headed to the diner for our last good meal for awhile. We headed south and then east onto the TransTaiga Highway. A gravel road with pretty much no communities at all. If you have ever driven a bike on gravel you must know that its like trying to ride on concrete covered with marbles. It requires one hundred percent of your attention and you are pretty much white knuckles all the way. All three of us had numerous scares along the way, where the rear of the bike starts swaying uncontrollably to either side. You swear you are going down for the count. But each time so far we were able to pull out of it. We did see another wolf that should have been caught in Keith's video. Also, some kind of bird or duck swooped in front of Keith at headlight level and followed along for a few moments. Should be neat on the video also. We got to highway marker 284 to gas up and wouldn't you know it, the station was closed. I guess it was a good thing we were carrying so much extra. We refueled and headed down the road again. Next stop would be highway marker 358 to refuel everything. We are going to need every drop plus the eleven gallons we were carrying. Very little room for error. Then to find somewhere to set up camp in the wilderness of Northern Quebec. We found a seemingly nice spot along the road right next to the lake. We set up camp and then tried our luck with the fishing pole. Thought we could catch dinner. No such luck, so it was black beans and rice. Fred did make blueberry muffins made from berries we harvested right in the camp. In our searches around the camp, we did discover many, many piles of bear and wolf shit. I mean a lot! We are all sleeping with bear spray and knives tonight. Oh, and the black flies are so bad, they drive you crazy. It's hard to eat or drink anything without them getting in under your head net. We talked about bring a small screen room if we ever were to come back. We had several different kinds of bug spray and Ed even tried tea tree oil (something he read) nothing works. We don't know how the locals stand it. We would be happier to have it cold with no bugs. We had to eat our dinner while walking to stay ahead of the black flies. We do not have wifi tonight but hopefully we can make it back to the the gas station tomorrow with wifi.
Date: August 3, 2012
Sart Location: Transtaiga Highway Marker 380, Quebec
End Location: Transtaiga Highway Marker 358, Quebec
Miles Travelled: 394 miles
We were up bright and early at about 5:30am. No wolves or bears last night, so we all slept well. Ate cereal while walking because of the black flies, again. Packed up the bikes and on the road by 7:00am. The gravel roads were treacherous and typically got worse as we neared the end. Stopped for photos and rests occasionally. Had to don rain suits a couple times. Pretty uneventful stretch of road. Didn't see any wild animals other than a small bird that looked like a Road Runner. Finally after five hours we were at the end of the Transtaiga Highway, marker 666, "garden at the end of the world". We all pissed on the Devil, took some photos and gassed up the bikes from our gas cans. We had the gas calculated perfectly. Then we were back on the road for another five hours. Stopped at the Outpost for more gas. We debated getting a room for the night but decided against it at $95 per person. We did eat supper there. A buffet with a variety of entrees. After dinner we were back on the road to find a good campsite, hopefully without wolves or bears.
Date: August 4, 2012
Sart Location: Transtaiga Highway Marker 358, Quebec
End Location: Route du Nord Marker 381, Quebec
Miles Travelled: 389 miles
We left the Outpost in search of a good camping spot. Along the way we came upon a large brown fox that ran up the road alongside for several yards. Unfortunately, Keith didn't have the video turned on. We found a site in an abandoned gravel pit. Fred dropped his bike trying to turn around on a hill. Keith got his bike stuck in the sand and laid down his bike. It took all three of us to get him out. So now all three have laid their bikes down on this trip. We're sure it won't be the last. We set up tents and talked about strategy for the next day. We are out of water and food is getting down. But we have plenty of gas. It was a grueling day driving ten hours on gravel, so we were all pretty tired, so right to bed we went.
In the morning, no food or coffee. It was very cold, which meant no black flies, nice. We went right to packing up the bikes and headed out at about 6:30am. We stopped at the float plane port but the diner was closed. We then traveled to highway marker 208 where there was a nice rest area and campsite. Keith pumped and filtered water from the lake and Fred made beef stew over mashed potatoes. Bugs were bad!!!!! Back on the road shortly after lunch. We definitely have improved our skills driving on gravel. We traveled west on the Transtaiga Highway at over 100K/h. Faster is actually easier on gravel. Problem is when you lose control it's real scary. Ed went into a death wobble. A death wobble is when the from wheel starts oscillating back and forth and it seems like the handle bars are banging against the gas tank. It's about as scary as it gets. All three of us have been through a death wobble at least once. Then we slow down a little, but soon we get our courage back and off we go.
The dust was terrible today. Fred ran out of gas twice and Ed ran out once. We saw two moose (video was turned off), four bears and another fox. We also talked to another motorcyclist from Ontario. He road a KTM 950, nice bike. Him and his buddy were heading for marker 666. They had a ways to go, at least two days!! We finally came to the end of the Transtaiga highway (really the beginning) and headed south on James Bay Road. Next stop will be a campsite on the Route du Nord. We set up camp and then it started raining. Fred made Tangquila. Tangquila is tequila and tang. No supper tonight, just beverages. No wifi available either. Raining like cats and dogs. We need to invest in a new tent. Something that sheds rain!!! Keith's feet stink real bad. He's still on his first or second pair of socks. Makes the whole tent stink. Keith and Ed decided to go down to the lake and bathe. Fred passed but he sleeps in his own tent.
Date: August 5, 2012
Sart Location: Route du Nord Marker 381, Quebec
End Location: Chibougamau, Quebec
Miles Travelled: 256 miles
It rained all night with high winds. Keith and Ed woke up early but stayed in the tent until the rain subsided. We quickly started packing up the bikes. Everything was soaked. Helmets, clothing, mattresses, sleeping bags, everything. Keith and Ed decided to forego coffee and breakfast since there was a diner just 30km from the campsite. Fred got up soon after Keith and Ed, sporting a nasty hangover from the Tangquila. Oh, I mean "stove fuel". He ate some pita bread to keep him from puking in his helmet and then we left. We got to the Cree settlement in short order only to find out everything is closed on Sunday. The only store open was a gas station where we gassed up for the ride south on Route du Nord. The attendant told us there was a diner just 14km south. Fred was off and running, never saw him until we were there. He needed to get coffee and food, quick. We had breakfast and then back on the road. The gravel road was nice for the bike for the most part. It seems that the more unmaintained the better. Maintained roads with loose gravel are a killer. Several hours later we were in Chibougamau. We decided we needed to get a hotel room to clean up and dry out our gear. We asked a local about food and headed to a nice pub. Reminded us of an Irish pub. Fred had the last rack of ribs and Keith and Ed had brochettes. It's always a challenge ordering from someone that only knows French or are they just faking? All was good and we went back to the rooms for a good nights sleep. Gear hanging all over to dry out. Watched a little TV for the first time in a week. We have about eleven hours on the road to get home. Two more days. Just hope the weather is nice for the last two days.
Date: August 6, 2012
Sart Location: Chibougamau, Quebec
End Location: Lac de la Vielle, Quebec
Miles Travelled: 370 miles
We woke up at about 7:00am. There was a slight drizzle outside, so we went into the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Fred told us that he had gotten sick last night, maybe from the ribs he ate. He was fine now and we all ate a good breakfast. We talked politics, healthcare, welfare, and the Martian Lander. By the time we were done eating, the rain had stopped. We loaded up the bikes and got on the road a little before 10:00am. Being all paved roads, we made good time. Nothing exciting happened along the way, no animals, accidents, nothing. The weather was gorgeous. So we road to the first campsite we had stayed at on the first day of the trip. We did stop along the way to get ribeyes, potatoes, radishes and cigars. We'd been out of cigars for a few days and Fred was going into withdrawals. We ended up getting the same exact site, right next to the bear trap again. The last night we were going to eat good, smoke cigars and tell more stories (probably tall stories of exaggerated events). NO BLACK FLIES SWEET.
Date: August 7, 2012
Sart Location: Lac de la Vielle, Quebec
End Location: Home
Miles Travelled: 299 miles
We woke up at about 6:30am, anxious to get on the road heading towards home. Just coffee and oatmeal this morning. Back on the road. Gorgeous day for riding. Stopped at a Tim Horton's for coffee and snacks. Fred got a sub at Subway. Pretty uneventful ride. As we got closer to home, we separated ways. Ed got off route 81 at Mexico, Keith at Parish and Fred continued on. Fred ended up running out of gas but was able to coast off an exit to a gas station. Another great adventure completed.
We traveled a total of 3136 miles and very minor bike problems. Keith's rear mud guard came loose, broken bracket and Fred's windshield came loose. All fixed or removed along the way with no hold-ups. All three bikes ran perfectly on both the highway and gravel. Riding gravel is always a challenge and I believe we've gained much experience from the two trips into the wilderness of Canada. The Canadian wilderness continues to amaze me. It's so vast, miles and miles of trees and lakes.
We had expected bugs, but the black flies were unbearable. If there is a next time, we need to make some adjustments in that regard. Maybe a screen tent. We also need a new tent, one that doesn't leak. Possibly something larger to protect our gear from the weather. Everything getting wet was a real pain. Although we never plan on hotels, it ends up a requirement every two to three days to clean up, maybe do some laundry and get some good rest.
This was another great trip. A well planned effort by Keith that was completed in the ten days that he had estimated. Not nearly as exciting as the TransLabrador trip, but that's probably a good thing. We completed everything that we had set out to do. I waded in and tasted the Arctic Ocean. We traveled to the end of the world, the most remote point in North America and the northern most point in eastern Canada. We saw moose, bear, fox and wolves. We really wanted and expected to see caribou, but I guess that wasn't in the cards. I have seen and been to places most people will never have the opportunity. Best of all I spent a great ten days with my son. And of course there was Fred. He taught me how to wash dishes. I guess that was something I needed to learn before I die. Seriously, Fred has an immense amount of knowledge which certainly helps on trips into remote areas such as this. He's a very interesting guy and a great companion on a wilderness trip.
In any case, I have a few more items I can cross off my bucket list.
Another successful trip! We accomplished everything we had set out to do and then some with no injuries to us or the bikes. This time around I decided to not to plan everything so rigidly and to wing a lot of it. I think it worked out well, it was less pressure and offered us much more flexibility. I think this is how I will continue to plan the trips in the future.
Canada is an amazing place. Its still so desolate and wild. We saw a lot of wild life along the way. The most striking thing I noticed was the fact the wolves don't seem to be scared of us at all. They will stop and stare at you, its actually kinda of spooky. Also I never imagined black flies could get so bad. Theres nothing like looking down through your bug net to see 100 black flies crawling on you. The most common reaction we got from locals when they found out we were from New York was, "Why did you come here?" Its funny because I would ask them the same thing if I met them in Syracuse.
In the end it was a great trip. Weather was better than I had expected. No injuries! And got to spend some time with my Dad and good friend. I'd also like to thank my wife for always supporting me on my adventures.
PS. I HATE black flies!