how to start this one... how about this:
do you want to have a photo with a mayor of the most northern town in quebec, canada? and get a plaque that you were the first madman, oh sorry, the first adventurer who arrived to the town that year? well then… below is the story about how to do just that :)
this is about a ride up to the last town in quebec, the most northern place you can reach on a road on the eastern side of canada. and the only way to get there is one unique road.
the james bay road
i was hooked at 'remote wilderness'. those were the keywords for my trip
i have to tell you guys. when i arrived back home, parked hemingway in front of the garage and turned the bike off - it felt very bizarre. it looked like any other 'came home' moment before. but this one was so different.
all the cold days, all the miles are in the past
the dust from the road,
the wind, rain, snow (in my open face helmet :D)...
and i missed it. all of it
step # 1
it’s important for me to have some meaning for each ride. it makes it more special in my book.
feels more like a ‘mission’. in this case – i had a name for the trip way before the trip :)) after watching the riding travel movies ‘long way round’ and ‘long way down’ with ewan mcgregor and charley boorman i was annoyed a bit by the good names of the movies. i though – there is nothing left! whats left?! they left only short way up, damn it! :))))
BAM, done! what a good idea just no time to do trips then. forgot about it, had other things to take care of. but it was there in the back of my head for at least a year
get burned out by your job so much that the only way to fix you up is – a big ride. you will need something that wakes up your senses, makes you feel alive again. need something different. and crazy. if your plan is called crazy at least by 3 out of your 5 friends – you are doing it right.
if 4 out of 5 – that’s helluva thing you are planning :) and you found the gold mine of a trip when it’s 5 out of 5. this way of living makes for good memories, trust me
now it’s time to open that google map thing with the old idea in mind. let's draw a line up north and see where it leads us. when you do that you might end up with something like the picture below. and that looks like a nice trip up to me, my friend. at first i thought radisson is just the last town but not the end of the road. but that is it. that is the end of going north in this part of canada. it’s called radisson because there is a big radisson hotel. when thinking about of naming things this way – there are a lot of big holes on the roads in new york. hmmmmmmm.
big hole i love you, you know it! :))
you are not packed yet?
day 01 - 355 miles to redwood
the trip starts now
all is packed, hemingway is warming up and thumping quietly. one last check on the straps, last goodbye and promise that we will be careful and we will (try) come back in one piece (me and the bike). last photo and the stand has to go up. it was almost 10 am. it took me an HOUR to get out of the f..ing city. to put it in perspective for non-newyorkers - we talk about 10 miles in 1 hour. stuck in a traffic jam like a mothe... big normal 'morning jam'. you want to feel the wind! excitement from the day 1! sadly all i got was hot as heck because i dressed for the cold more up north. i was stuck in that dumb traffic and breathing the dumb fumes while i was still kind of sick. i was praying for a warm day, it was supposed to be around 55-60F. that’s a summer day compared to quebec weather those days. but every road to glory has the first tough miles. i got out of the gotham traffic hell and the road starts to work its magic.
i did a mileage test for hemingway on the way up. something i should have done a long time ago. i got me a fuel can which was recommended for the canadian ride. so i planned to make a test and ride till hemingway starts to cough that he is out of gas. if i remember correctly i did 156 miles when the light was constantly on. I pushed few more miles, got to one lovely town and filled up the tank. to know that i can do safe 150miles on a full tank was good enough for my calculations
the ride north was beautiful, really enjoyable until.. like 4pm. I planned to be at my airbnb around 8pm. I think first plan was 7 but as I progressed I saw I will be late. it got damn cold as i was getting closer to the border-ish area. had to use the winter jacket but i feel anything i’d have on that day would not be enough. i was sick-y, felt under weather, body core temperature was compromised. almost at my final stop, i couldn't take it anymore to just push to ride and freeze. the pizza slice at the gas station felt like heaven. hot tea did another much needed warming up. body felt better, tired like a donkey and i still had to go like 40 min somewhere.
the finish was a lovely looking place on airbnb. arrived in pitch darkness, tired as if i pushed the bike the whole 300 miles. unloaded the bike and wanted to eat something. find a nice little pub with the owner and his buddy sitting inside. always the best to talk to the locals while processing the biggest philly cheesesteak ever. yum stuff. but tireder and tireder with every bite :p (get used to my made up words). back to the house, shower, medicine, bed, adios world. oh and i have allergies to some animals - everywhere i go, there is some hairy creature and they love me and i just pray not to sneeze :) love you back hairy creatures but cannot touch you much, allergies are sh*t. the cat was chillin' in the bathtub
then i woke up and... you know when you see a foreign, new place for the first time at night... the morning daylight can be very different. this place was… beautiful. lot of rooms for airbnb purpose, to accommodate travelers. but they welcome people who want to help out for food and room. with the animals, fixing things, building things, taking care of thins. mostly i mean everything and anything around the animals and the farm. then MIKE made breakfast and i think i was trying to hide my surprise. i never in my life tasted anything better. the man is either a magician or the eggs straight from the chicken (as i had the chance to see later) are really that different. from the store-purchased ones that is. why am i leaving this beautiful place where you get the best breakfast i ever had? let me staaaay :))) naaah slovak, hemingway needs his chain lubed so get to it!
i really enjoy the people i meet. while i was doing the little chain maintenance – i had to chance to say hi to the other guys who stayed over. chris, a ‘duck dealer’ :))) first time ever i saw that usps delivers little ducks. so that’s a new on my list. plus there is a radio station that is run from the house. at the end MIKE gave me full walk around in his farm. enjoy the photos and hey if you wanna visit them, or go and help out – here is the link.
day 02 - canada, here i come
i was sure i'll meet some other bikers at the border. madmen like me on their adventures crossing to canada. i feel canada has that adventure ring to it. but nobody there. lonely biker on his way north
‘reason for your visit?’ – hmm look at me man! :))) ‘motorcycle travel, officer’
‘do you have any weapons with you? bear spray, knives, guns?’ – ‘no sir, no guns, just a camping knife, camping shovel, ax.
i had the impression they didn't see many bikers this time around. i was sent to go inside for further talk, canadians don't let just anybody in
i got one officer lady to talk to. no smile, serious look, cold approach compared to my friendly traveler attitude.
it wasn’t a match. we went through it all again – what, why. and then to my surprise - how can i prove it?
i showed everything i had, i think the best part was – facebook account with announcing the trip, the blog with my old trips, my bitchin' good looking blog cards i give to people i meet :) she wanted to see it all.
one thing i regret. big time. the office lady asked ‘why, what is there’ when i said i’m traveling to radisson, quebec, the most northern town reachable by road.. well north east canada…
and me, being a dumdum, guys i literally answered ‘nothing’…
NOTHING??????? for real??
the ride you plan for so long, the amazing adventure ahead of you, the bears, wolfs, penguins along the way (i know i know), the most awesome time of the year – and THERE IS NOTHING??? WHAAAT THE HELL SLOVAK!
so ma’am, if you read this – there is everything! there is sanity at the end of the road, there is the pinnacle of my super adventure, there is something i want to prove myself that i can do, that my bike can do!
there is so much! there is my adventure of the year
i spent more time at the border than planned. way more than planned. i knew i won’t make it pass ottawa. it was supposed to be first stop after the border and go further but i felt when i get there - that will be it. a beautiful side road as opposite of going on some big highway. it was amazing. i felt so canadian :)))
just the feeling of being there felt amazing. roads good, not many cars, classic beautiful ‘not on the highway’ scenery. pure pure joy. oh – one note – i didn't meet ONE biker the whole day and a half so far. well since i left new york actually.
i got to ottawa.damn, guys, you never stop riding there huh? it was a nice but chill day, but bikes left and right. went to visit one big bike shop.
funny story. with riding like this i felt that enfield is designed somehow that the wind from riding ends up a lot in my … privates. you really feel that when you ride in 30-40F all day. so i had this thought that maybe if they would have a sheepskin... i just might get it. for 100 bucks i really would buy that. absolutely worth it in my mind… i asked for it and the girl laughed :) she never heard of that. after we googled it she said she never saw anybody riding in canada like that. i was expecting ESPECIALLY in canada would people have it / use it. i mean guys, you are not exactly riviera up there, right? she called her friend at harley davidson dealer and this was his answer :)))) ‘this is the second time i heard somebody ask for a sheepskin. the first guy was 10 years ago’ :))))))) ok, i get it. no sheep in ottawa, you guys don’t believe in it.
now let’s find a place to stay, airbnb again the choice of the day. found a lady with a room, she accepted my request at 6 pm – a godsend. but i had to cross the river and people were warning me that the situation with the floods. it was kind of over but the delays for crossing the bridges were not. traffic jam left and right but to be on bike is a good thing. there is always a little space for a bike between the cars . after dropping things off at the host, went for dinner in area that i actually stayed on my other canadian trip! i walked into it from different 'side' this time and after bit of walking i start to feel like 'i remember this, i remember that! it’s amazing with not knowing i was so close to the hostel i stayed at the last time. dinner, bed. to shop for sheep skins in english and able to order me dinner in ‘my’ language felt good. after i cross to quebec, there will be less english around and imagine me explaining cold privates and sheepskin in french. i mean sign language :))) could go very wrong
day 03 - direction wilderness-ish
it’s another day on the road. excitement grows! let’s get out of the big city and start to get lost on the adventure roads. ok, that’s what i thought, i was still far-ish from the remoteness i craved so much. there was some big greenery on the map ahead of me and to get through it one had to hop on the 'Route Transcanadienne'. that sounds amazing. the plan was to get to somewhere around Val-d'Or and we decide there. very enjoyable ride
before i even got to the transcanadian route i found a sign in a little town i was passing through. i never saw 'it' up close so how about today is the day. i didn't regret that little stop. and i told you - puppies everywhere i go!
the hydroplanes were beautiful and majestic
it's the time to get serious and do some serious miles. after bit of nice riding i connected to the transcanadian and went north. the area i had to cross had one gas station in the middle. i met young fella there, had a nice coffee break. and he knew english. it was great not to pretend that i can speak any french :) i asked where he learned to speak english, if in school and he said he learned it from listening to new york rappers :) (i forgot if he said brooklyn or bronx haha)
the ride was nice and not knowing it yet i got a taste of the look of the road for all those many many miles ahead of me - long straight road, trees left, same trees right :))
arrived at val-d'or. nice little place. probably the biggest up there north. trolled around a bit and decided to stop at still opened bike shop. it was a cool store 'bibeau motosport'. mrs bibeau spent some time with me chatting about my mad trip, about her store and we snapped a pic. lovely stop