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The Poutine run - James Bay and the Trans-Taiga Road - September 2011

Early this summer, Adam started fishing around for a group to head into Northern Quebec and explore the James Bay area and the Trans-Taiga Road.  A small group (Myself, Pixelman, paydirt and transitwally) got together and decided to head out on September 1 with a general plan of a 10 day trip to the end of the Route de la Baie James and the end of the route Transtaïga.   There were a few others that were planning on going, but wimped out as know who you are..........

The Trans-Taiga road is distinguished by being a 666km gravel road which at its end is 745 km from the nearest town, Rasisson.  This is the farthest you can get from a town on a road anywhere in North America.

We used two main sources of information to prepare for the trip:  This Website and Deadly99's trip report on advrider.

From my house the entire trip was 5200 km and took us 10 days.  Below is the bread crumb trail captured by my Zumo as displayed on Google Earth.

Day 1

Since I live the farthest west, I left early in the morning on my R1150GS Adventure to meet Rob and his R1200GS.

As soon as we left his house, the deluge started.  It rained heavily for the entire trip to the meeting point in Barrie, but cleared up shortly after that for the rest of the day.  We met Adam on his R1200GS Adventure and Neil on his Honda Varadero and headed North.  Rob's brother lives in North Bay and has recently acquired an R1150GS, so we spent the first night there and and enjoyed his and his family's unparalleled hospitality.  Shawn only had a few days free, so joined us in the evening on his R1200GS Adventure and would ride with us for the next couple of days.  We gorged on a fantastic home cooked meal and enjoyed the conversation before slipping of to bed early.  Big thanks for puting up with us :thumb

Day 2

We were up early and all rode to the local breakfast house for a solid grease-up before heading into Quebec. Before we left, we posed the collection of bikes in front of the very old shed on the property.....old contrasted with new...

The morning was pretty uneventful until a Quebec police chick pulled us over and informed us that she clocked me at 121kph (90 limit), but everyone else was fine.  This is the down side of wearing visible colors.  I was in royal blue and everyone else was either grey or black, so I'm pretty sure that I was the only one she could single out by the time she turned around and caught up with us on the side of the road.  She just did a document check and let us go with no fuss, advising us to slow it down.   I also HAVE to mention that she was the best looking cop I have ever seen...even in the movies.   Vive Quebec!

After a lunch stop consisting of a club sandwich and poutine.....I have no idea how many of these combos we ate as a group on this trip...but it was a lot.....thus "the Poutine Run".  We continued on and the rain started again.  By the time we made it to Matagami, it was getting dark and we were ready to find a hotel instead of setting up tents.  The five of us split three rooms and we had dinner and beer at the restaurant.  Adam and I decided to go local and have the surf-n-turf platter - Caribou and Pickerel.  Not bad.   We also started in on the bourbon that I had packed.

Day 3

The weather looked promising in the morning and after a breakfast at the hotel we started north again.  We all topped up our tanks because this was the official start of the James Bay Road and the next fuel was at km marker 381.  Neil decided to fill up a couple of his gas cans since he has the shortest range, but the rest of us decided to wait.

Along the JB road at the  Rupert River we posed for a group shot with Adam's camera

After a little fishing at the Rupert, we headed out again.  We had been running a little faster today and some of the bikes were burning more fuel than they expected.  Shawn decided that he needed to turn around to make it home so he took the extra fuel that Neil had in his two extra cans and took off.  Shortly after that, Neil realized that he left his Camel Pack at the Rupert River recreation area.  He headed back and we agreed to all meet at the km 381 fuel depot.  Rob and I were running up front and we found out exactly what the range of his bike was that day.

13 km less than he needed.  I headed on to the fuel stop and filled my spare can for him and we waited for Adam and Neil.  While waiting , we foraged for the wild blueberries that were in full ripeness throughout the region this week.  I have no idea how many of these I ate during the trip, but they sure were going hungry, that's for sure.

Adam caught up with us when he gave up waiting for Neil, so we continued on to the 381 fuel stop.  We couldn't go back without risking running out of fuel ourselves.  The three of us filled up and had a club sandwich which with poutine while we waited.  We decided to back track to find our wayward Honda and just as were about to turn onto the JB road, along comes Neil with the two Goldwings who rescued him when he ran out of fuel.  He would have made it if he hadn't given up the extra 10 liters he was carrying or if he had run the speed limit.  He didn't do either....lesson learned and we kept our extra cans filled from then on.

The best thing about Northern Quebec is that they have really embraced bilingualism, so we had no problem communicating...................

We decided to carry on to the end of the JB road and camp by the bay.  Instead of heading to Radisson, we took a left and rode towards Chisasibi.  This is an Indian town right on James Bay.  We just kept on the gravel road until we made it to the bay and found a parking area with a few shelters and a whole bunch of what appeared to be abandoned boats, trucks, snowmobiles, etc.

We found an area to pitch the tents right near the beach just as the wind started to die and the goose hunters started retuning.  A few of them came by our camp site to check us out, but everything was cool.  We were respectful and I think they thought we were a little crazy to be out there on bikes.

This was our first camp meal of the trip and it was bit chilly.  Rob and I become charter members of the funny hat club.

Pixelman lives up to his name and insists on creating some cool shots of course.....great camp site to kick of our experience in the North.

Day 4

We woke up and just as we struck camp, it started to rain.  Since today was the day that we were going to start the TT, we decided to head into Chisasibi for a hot breakfast and fuel.  As soon as we left the gravel and hit the pavement in town, I could tell my front end had a problem.  I pulled over and found my front tire was nearly flat.  So I pumped it up and figured that I could fix it at the gas station after we ate.   We never found a restaurant, though the locals swore that that one place would probably open......sometime.  We headed to the gas station and saw that it opened at 0900, in 30 minutes.  I spent the time trying to find my leak and couldn't...puzzling.   The staff arrived promptly at 0900 and we filled up.  They had to manually add the tax, because we were pretty much the only non-Indians that ever bought fuel there before.  An exaggeration of course, but that's how they made us feel.

We decided to seek breakfast in Radisson and as soon as we hit the JB road, Adam pulled over with the same problem...flat front.  Neil checked his and found that he was at about half pressure as well.  As it turns out, we a were all running Heidenau K60's in tubless rims and they simply were not holding the air.  They were fine in the warm weather, but as soon as we hit the cold, every bump caused a little of the air to escape the bead.  The three of us had to fill our tires about every hour from then on until the weather warmed up.  The tires are well constructed, but poorly designed for this purpose.  They are probably fine with tubes, but the sidewalls are so stiff that they are a real bitch to lever on and off.  The rears have all performed well, but the 19" k60 Heidenau is thoroughly  unsuitable for use on tubeless rims.  I will avoid all of their products in the future due to my disgust, but I can only report real problems in this one case.

After a good warm breakfast in which we discovered "creton", we bundled up and headed towards the TT road.  By the time we reached the start, it had been raining for several hours and the road was nice and slippery.  It was dreary.

After lowering our tires to gravel pressure (~22 front, ~25 rear) the handling improved and we were able to make progress.  Much to our dismay, the first good place to camp was at km 203.  The good part is that as soon as we pulled in and picked out a spot, the rain stopped and we were able to set up in the dry....WooHoo!    Another great site on a river with fishing, firewood and great views.  

 Adam goes down to the river to see how Rob is doing with the fish.

We relaxed after dinner while our boots dried by the fire....

Adam brought some fire water from his homeland, that unfortunately caused Neil to have visions of bears and wolves so he had trouble sleeping :-)

Day 5

We awake to a beautiful blue sky and didn't see any more rain until we reached this same point on the return trip.  We make our way down to the next fuel stop, Nouchimi outfitters at km 283.  We arrive and there is no one around, but a sign on the door reads "return in 5 hours"...but in French.... When did the sign go up? : dunno

Neil was patient.......

We didn't want to pass up on fuel out here so we waited.  Eventually the attendant showed up, we filled and headed on.  After filling the tires, of course..............

70 km down the road, km 358, is the Mirage outfitters.  We needed to top up here because we needed just over 600 km range to make it to Caniapiscau and back as there was no guaranty of fuel at that end.

 Mirage is a great place.  It was getting ready for the Caribou hunt so was spotless and empty.  They rustled us up an early lunch of spaghetti that really hit the spot. On the way in, we noticed this sign....good advice on all occasion, I think.

Some higher rollers than us showed up while we were eating lunch

Further on, we crossed this river and Rob made us promise to stop for 30 minutes on the way back so he could get some fishing time in.   Typical view along the TT actually

This also was the spot that Adam had a negligent discharge with his bear spray.   I was close enough to get a whiff and tasted cayenne pepper for the rest of the day.   My bike had little oily red spots on it.  Never trust this man with a loaded gun.....

The last 100 km of the road gets real rocky.  We had to fill our tries several times as they were really loosing air every time we hit a rough spot.  Finally, about 15 km from the end, I had a total deflation and hit a rock hard enough to bend my rim.  It wouldn't hold air, even after we reseated the bead so we had to install a tube.  I had no problems after that.  Neil also dented his rim, but not severely enough cause a leak.

Unfortunately when we were working to reseat the bead on my tire, I was resting it against my knee while we pounded on it a few times.   I didn't think anything about it at the time, but that evening it stiffened up and it became obvious that I had sprained it or stressed it in a similar fashion.  For the entire return trip, I could not flex my left leg for more that a few minutes at a time without it becoming unbearable.  I was able to stand up in the loose sections and my crash bar makes a wonderful highway peg, so I was able to make it.

We finally made it to the end of the road and made camp on the beach near the boat launch on a huge reservoir.   Another fantastic camp site and yet black flies.

The moon kept waxing

Day 6

We were a little worried about getting our bikes out in the morning, but it proved to be no problem.

It turns out that the camp (Red Leaf  Outfitters) was open and had fuel ..a bargain at 1.956 per we trucked down to the dike at the end of the road before filling up.

..and the obligatory group shot

After breakfast at the outfitters, we headed back...all down hill from here so to speak.   We stopped at the river as we promised Rob and he had his most successful fishing of the trip...what a whopper!

Others waited................

The road condition was such that it had a hard under-layer with fresh marbles all along the top.  It was like walking on ball bearings for 200km.  By the time we reached Mirage, we were exhausted and ready for a rest.  We took private rooms, dinner, lunch, full tanks for ~$150 and had the entire place to ourselves.  Great place to stop...the only place to stop...but still nice.

Day 7

With full tanks we took the road early.   By the time we hit km 203, it was raining again and the roads started getting mushy.  It wasn't as bad as on the way in though so we easily completed the Trans-Taiga...WooHoo!

We had enough fuel to make it to the fuel depot at 381 so we headed down there, filled up and had a club sandwich and poutine........pretty good actually considering they would still get business even if it wasn't.  We were beat, but made it to Mirabel lake to make camp.  Yet anther great site without black flies.

Day 8

The next morning we headed south to the start of the Route du Nord.  This road is better groomed and has a fair amount of industrial traffic so we ate a lot dust on its 406 km.  It was something we set out do, we did it.  Adam ran ahead and took some good shots of us riding:


Scott - in my typical pose for the return trip..................

and Rob

We made our final camp just past Chibougamau ... no black flies the entire trip

Day 9

We made our way through Quebec to once again end up in North Bay here Rob's brother and family hosted us one last evening

Day 10

Motored our way home were we all arrived in the early afternoon.

Fantastic trip........