Joined: Jan 2005
Location: The Badlands (of NJ)
Day 6 and a half.
September 20: Matagami to Northern NJ - 873 miles.
Morning in Matagami. The bike is relieved of at least some weight: the gas cans are not needed any more. Next fuel is 180km south, in Amos - and from then on, in normal, civilized intervals.
As I was unloading at Hotel Matagami (visible behind the pumps) the night before, I left the cans in front of an empty parking space. I went upstairs to write a note that the cans are "Free To Take" - but they were gone by the time I came back down. That was fast. Needless to say, I felt better when the receptionist let me roll the bike almost up to the office window, for more security.
Along the road from Matagami to Amos, the change of scenery was quite perceptible. The stark, lonely, forested landscape was slowly giving way to rolling hills and an occasional farm.
Along some southern sections of James Bay Road - and even more now, below Matagami - I observed a curious scene: it looked as if the land with fallen or harvested trees was plowed under. As if I was a Lilliputian in Gulliver's land and a humongous plow of the giants went through, breaking and plowing tree trunks like some grass stalks. Weird.
I pulled over to take the above picture and almost dropped the bike right there. By then, I was used to the well-graded and firm shoulders of JBR and did not realize that this was a soft gravel trap. Luckily, I almost finished my braking while still on tarmac - the instant I rolled off pavement, the front wheel dug in. My boots sunk as well, as I fought to regain balance. Wow, that was close.
I am guessing that such shoulder, in the same area, got the better of RockyNH earlier this season and caused his crash.
It certainly did surprise me.
Rolling into Amos. A feeling of re-entering civilization. Complete with an incongruously oversized basilica in the middle of town.
The main street featured a few cafés - finally, the first decent cappuccino of the trip!
I was definitely returning to civilization. About an hour south of Amos, I drove into a very busy town of Val-d'Or (Golden Valley). It is a big industrial center, with several mines operating in direct vicinity.
I parked in the main street to have a look around. While I was getting ready, a car pulled into the spot behind me. The woman driving it was extra cautious maneuvering around my bike, so I smiled at her in appreciation. Once she got out, the usual conversation ensued: where from, where to.
It must have taken a while for my story to sink in, while she stood in line at Tim Horton's across the street. Returning, coffee in hand, she walked up again and said in her broken English that she must have misunderstood what I told her. Where from? Chisasibi? We talked a bit more.
As she was driving away, she rolled down her window and exclaimed: "I would like to go with you!" Then, pointed at the camping gear strapped to the bike's passenger seat: "But there is no room!"
Wow. Wow! One of these once-in-a-lifetime chances, when an unknown, attractive female spontaneously volunteers to get onto the pillion seat and join you on an adventure! And it could not be done... I smiled back, nodded and replied: "Next time!"
In a great mood from this cute encounter in Val-d'Or, I continued south on Autoroute Transcanadienne.
It is my experience that Quebecois are very European in that respect: they do love motorcycles. Surprisingly many of them do ride and even the general public is very friendly. Apparently, there are not too many loud-pipe pirates around to piss them off.
After about three hours of riding through picturesque forests and water reservoirs, I came to a decision point. Should I continue southeast and return home via Montreal - where I visit quite often, most recently only a few weeks ago? Or, should I turn right, southwest, and go through Ottawa, which I did not visit in last two years?
Ottawa won - it's only a slightly longer route. Besides, what the heck is Montcerf anyway? I could not find it on my map.
Well, Montcerf was a tiny settlement on a great side road. Enjoyable ride. It was interesting to be entering the Anglophone area of Quebec. Signs were bilingual and, suddenly, I noticed a Canadian flag in front of a house. Only then I realized that in the past few days I have seen plenty of flags along the road - but these were always provincial white-on-blue fleurs-de-lis, not the federal maple leaf. Not even on the Hydro-Quebec office building in Radisson.
Route 105 into Ottawa was still picturesque, but now getting busy. I rode into Canada's capital by sundown.
As usual, Byward Market area offered a choice of places to eat (and drink... not this time, though). After a pleasant seafood dinner, I walked into Timothy's, just behind my parking spot, and over a big bowl of café-au-lait contemplated my choices.
There was no point in staying in Ottawa for the night anymore - I decided to press on, at least to Watertown, NY.
When I arrived there about midnight, I still felt good on the bike and the soulless collection of chain hotels and shopping strips did not make a great impression. Well, how about Syracuse, then?
Nearing Syracuse, I was effectively committed to continuing home overnight. I elected to ride on the NY State Thruway via Albany - instead of the 50-mile shorter route through Scranton - to have the rest stops with coffee and fuel available at all hours.
"Press on" was indeed the theme of this trip. Bike ran well and I did not feel uncomfortable. However, I started getting sleepy and wound up stopping at every second Thruway rest stop to stretch out and to doze off momentarily.
I reached my house in the morning and went straight to sleep. In the afternoon, as I unpacked the bike, I proudly read the trip meter: 873 miles, directly from Matagami in a day.
Of course, it was total insanity - but, just like the whole James Bay trip, gave me a great feeling of accomplishment.
A great ride!
rdwalker screwed with this post 10-02-2010 at 09:56 AM