Joined: Jan 2005
Location: The Badlands (of NJ)
September 19: Radisson to Matagami - 393 miles.
And another wet morning. Walked out of the Auberge to check out the surroundings. Radisson is as much of a company town as you can get: Hydro-Quebec runs the show.
The flags are of the company, of Municipality of James Bay and of the province. Even the bus belongs to the company.
Parking lot is full of employees' vehicles. These building house their technical offices and staff. I was told that it is a tough and lonely outpost, but the good money cures a lot of ills.
As I was readying the bike, a familiar face showed up: my friend from Relais 381 resurfaced. We continued our conversation without really knowing each other languages. I understood that he did work on the construction of one of the La Grande power plants and often crosses Canada in search of work and excitement. He said: a bohemian lifestyle... Interesting guy.
Being in Radisson, I hoped to see the largest plant here: La Grande 2, now named after Robert Bourassa. It's a monster, one of the largest stations in the world.
Unfortunately, there is no more direct access for individuals. According to what I read on the Web (so it must be true!), some journalist pulled a stunt during a facility tour claiming he could get to sensitive areas. In the post-9/11 hysteria, Hydro-Quebec did not want to take any chances and limited visitor access only to group tours pre-arranged in advance.
I decided to take a chance and drove up to the guardhouse, asking how does one get in. The guard was very polite, but turned me away nevertheless. Too bad - this is all I've seen of the facility.
Time to go home. Before departure a last commemorative picture: proof of having reached the Municipality of James Bay.
A good riding day ahead, going south on James bay Road. Temperatures steady in low 40's, light rain. Do you like my high-tech waterproofing of the satellite radio receiver?
The enlightment of this trip: silk gloves in the rain!
I have been always using silk liners in low temperatures and found them to be very effective. However, just a few weeks ago, 'xmagnarider' on BMWLT forum pointed out another great idea: using the liners in the rain. As you all know, there is no such thing as waterproof gloves - sooner or later they'll soak through. Then, they become almost impossible to put on wet hands: the interior liner sticks to the skin.
This is where the silk gloves come in: even when wet, they will allow the riding gloves to slide on smoothly. Amazing discovery! I was a happy camper! It helped me with taking pictures in inclement weather, too: I no longer dreaded taking off the gloves to operate my camera in the rain. It's the little things in life...
Just like on North Road, users of JBR are asked to check in by radio - here with Hydro-Quebec. The triangular marker shows channel number; channel numbers were changing as I continued south.
Power lines everywhere. This forest of pylons is part of Poste (substation) Radisson.
Local airport is not too busy. I tried to walk in, but found everything locked tight.
Of course, a Hydro-Quebec company plane on the runway.
Once can always fly with the locals: Air Inuit.
Following down James Bay Road, I crossed Eastmain River. It looked pretty nice, so I stopped on the bridge to take this shot.
Only later in the day I remembered that this was a very significant bridge, reportedly winning architectural awards. It's not visible from the roadway, however; I have been planning to hike down to the river - but I've forgotten!
Again, I arrived at Relais 381 - the otherwise dismal place that offers only fuel on James Bay Road. I topped off the bike and went to get a bite in the cafeteria. After prior day's excitement, I just had a salad.
Like the day before: while I have been in the cafeteria, weather cleared and the sun came out. A great ride became better yet.
I reached Rupert River. Just as at the North Road crossing of the river, the falls were very impressive, but one could see signs how much bigger they were before the diversion.
I am rewarded with a pretty rainbow over the southern bank of the river.
And another one. Notice the old scars from forest fires.
And more dead trees. When the fires are burning, it must be very exciting there.
And more rainbows. The interesting aspect of long distance travel is the variable weather - often changing from rain to sun and back within a few hours.
Rainbows appear when the sun is approximately behind the observer while water droplets are suspended in the air ahead - and are particularly visible against dark background, such as that of dense storm clouds. On this trip, I saw a whole wonderful collection.
Another pretty phenomenon is the sight of rain spilling out of the clouds. With good lighting angle, it can be spectacular. Here, the rain is falling out of the backlit cloud directly ahead.
For an afternoon break, I pulled into one of the many rest stops, this one at a picturesque lake. Ibis was the last refill from gas cans - and the reason I brought them with me in the first place. According to my calculations, the two cans should have given me plenty of reserve for the 381km section without services.
Chastised by the high consumption on the way up, I have been running in "fuel economy mode", maintained a steady and smooth 65-75mph pace.
Did I write that the weather was variable? In the fifteen minutes of working with the fuel, the conditions changed from these:
Yet another rainbow. This one adds an extra treat: the second-order rainbow is clearly visible to the right.
Primary rainbow is the result of a single internal reflection of light in water droplets. The second-order rainbow is the result of a double internal reflection, therefore the incidence angle is wider and the colors are reversed.
More burned-out forests along the road.
The pavement is generally in very good condition. The occasional bumps or frost heaves are marked with a warning diamond sign.
The real mark of a bump is quite interesting: almost always, there is a line of black "smudges" across the road, as it can be seen a short distance past the diamond.
This is how it looks close up. What happens is that the big trucks, when running unloaded, will raise the third or fourth unused axle from the rear trailer carriage. The tires are suspended only a few inches away from the pavement. When coming across such bumps, they will often come into contact with pavement, leaving these black tire marks.
Here, the emergency phones are located ever few tens of kilometers and marked with this red sign.
The provincial telephone company, Telebec, operates microwave relaying towers and the emergency phones are patched into the traffic. The actual emergency phone is in the glass booth right next to the generator building.
Notice the height of this tremendous antenna mast!
And this is it! All good things come to an end - so does James Bay Road in the last rays of the setting sun.
Ahead lie Kilometer 0 and the town of Matagami.
Just before the very end, at kilometer 6, is the check-in post. Travelers going north are supposed to register with the guard. I came onto James Bay Road from the side, via the North Road, so the guard took my information now. Seeing me on the bike, he was all excited: twice called me back inside, offering local tourist brochures and marking up maps with pen, to show locations of fuel and of hotels in Matagami.
Kilometer 0. And the nighttime-riding theme continues.
I have been a good boy and rode from Relais 381 in a fairly economical and sensible mode, making sure that the fuel in the tank and in the two gas cans lasts me safely to Matagami.
About an hour before the end of JBR the remaining fuel looked good, so for that last stretch I reverted to some really high speeds. After all, I do not get such opportunities too often.
The level indicator was going down fast. Amazingly, exactly at the kilometer 0 sign, my fuel warning light came on. Thirty-something miles left - perfect timing! Just plenty enough to get to Hotel Matagami for the night.
rdwalker screwed with this post 10-02-2010 at 09:38 AM