Joined: Jan 2010
Location: Inverary, Ontario, Canada
I was stranded about 60 kilometres south of Radisson; pushing the bike was out of the question, so I set about preparing myself. First things first - I rooted my bug net out of my tank bag. The little bleeders (and I use that term quite accurately) had already descended and were starting to rip holes in my flesh. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of encountering blackflies - I do not exaggerate. They land, bite a little piece of flesh invariably drawing blood, leaving their nasty toxins in the wound. Individually they are a minor irritation, but they descend in the thousands. My tank bag contained all the portable stuff, such as my cameras, phone and wallet, and I had barely pulled it off the bike when I heard a vehicle approaching.
The instant my thumb was in the air, the driver jammed on the brakes. I didn’t catch the gentleman’s name - let’s call him Pierre - but Pierre had immediately read the signals, and, well, you just can’t go past someone in distress on these roads. Within moments I was in the cab, negotiating a mutually intelligible language, and we were back up to Pierre’s normal cruising speed of 140+kph. We settled on English, since my French only extends to a few words, whereas despite his protestations to the contrary, Pierre’s English was fully functional. I could tell it was going to be a terrifying journey in either official language.
One thing you have to understand about the James Bay Road is the frost heaves. It was well built 30 years ago but has received little attention since. Every so often, very often, there are enormous frost heaves which extend right across the road and rise abruptly up to 6 inches or more from the surrounding pavement. Ironically they are relatively easy to manage on a bike but transport trucks, and as I was to find out, pickup trucks, are thrown around vigorously. And of course, the heaves always seem to be worst on the bends, especially when Pierre’s truck was already almost on two wheels and he was fiddling with his darn cell phone trying to find some reception. He must have been in control, but there were plenty of times I imagined us barrel rolling into the muskeg as the truck shook like a dog with a rat.
By the time we reached the edge of Radisson, Pierre had found a signal, called the local garage and we had been instructed to call CAA (Canadian Automobile Association), who would then call them back and authorize a tow truck. I had barely finished talking to CAA as we pulled in to the garage. It doesn’t take long to cover 60 kilometres when there is zero traffic and a maniac at the wheel.
The folks at the garage were equally helpful. Within a few minutes I had met my driver, let’s call him Etienne, pulled myself into the cab of the flatbed, and was heading back up the road. I had been worried about leaving my bike at the side of the road but I needn’t have - it was untouched on our return. Etienne and I loaded the bike, strapping it down with some monster straps. I’d thought the journey in Pierre’s truck had been bumpy, but it was nothing compared to the shaking and pounding we endured in the tow truck. Fortunately the bike didn’t move an inch. It was as if it was welded to the bed.
Once I’d checked in to the motel, I set about stripping the bike. If there’s one thing I am reasonably smart about, its making sure I have all the tools necessary to do most stuff on the road. I know which wrenches I need for each part of the disassembly and have become quite quick at it. With the tank and seat removed, the problem was obvious: the generator had been able to vibrate enough that a) the front stay had snapped, and b) the mounting bracket had been touching the oil line where it passes though a hole in the bracket. It had partially worn through the line, but more importantly, had been vibrating against it, causing the pipe to crack.
Here’s the confession part - I knew when I installed the alternator (replacing the original generator) I had done a lousy job of securing the main bolts that hold the bracket to the motor. Over the years the threads had become warn and were subject to loosening (the same had happened on the Trans-Labrador trip). I just hadn’t done a proper, permanent fix when I had replaced the generator with the alternator. Mea Culpa! Will I never learn that half measures don’t work?
Now, what to do about the split pipe? No Guzzi dealer in Radisson! I know - what about JB Weld?
As Pierre had humorously informed me, Radisson doesn’t have a Rona, a Home Hardware, a MacDonalds or much of anything else for that matter. It’s a Hydro Quebec company town with limited services and facilities.
Street view - Radisson
Imagine my shock then, when I found a hardware section (about 5 feet wide) in the general store and there, hanging on the panel, was JB Weld. I overcame my natural parsimony when I saw that the asking price was $15.99, with my unfounded conviction that here, indeed, could be the solution to my dilemma. Never mind that I have never once managed to do a successful JB Weld repair to anything - I guess I’m just serially optimistic. This time, I counselled myself, I will actually follow the instructions on the package, and do it right! The alternatives didn’t even bear considering.
Back at the motel, I cleaned the oil from the fractured line by dunking it the gas container on the back of the bike. I gave it a moment to dry off then went inside. By carefully reading the instructions, I learned that multiple thin coats are best, and that curing time could be accelerated with heat. It was 9pm. when I applied the first coat then hung it below the bathroom light fixture to cure. I applied a second coat at 3am. giving it a bit of encouragement with a hair dryer before hanging it up again.
Oil line repair (a bit out of focus but you get the idea)
The metal pipe was encouragingly warm when I checked it in the morning, and the JB Weld I had applied had become dry and no longer tacky. Still, not wanting to rush anything, I went for breakfast where my pathetic attempts to order oeufs and jambon were interpreted as eggs with jam-on until we got the language thing sorted out again.
I had noticed that the garage carried a few bits of automotive hardware so thought I would see what I could substitute for the broken front bracket. I also needed some oil to replace the stuff I’d spilled all over my pristine engine cases. The fellow behind the counter, I didn’t get his name so let’s call him Jacques, said that he didn’t have anything that would work, but perhaps his mechanic could make a replica? It turned out that his mechanic was Etienne - the flatbed driver - who was also his dad! I love the way small towns work.
It took Etienne less than half an hour to re-manufacture the bracket and I walked out of there clutching my new Guzzi part and three litres of 20/50. Life is good.
Back at the motel, the motelier (what do you actually call someone that runs a motel?) said that there was no need for me to rush the bike or to vacate the room - she wasn’t in any hurry. I double checked the oil line and carefully reassembled everything before gingerly starting the bike. My Eldo has a gloriously slow and regular idle, so I let it burble away while I looked for any signs of leakage. Damn. Almost immediately oil started pouring out - but not from the ‘fix’, but from the banjo bolt on the right cylinder head which I had forgotten to tighten properly. OK, let’s try again.
This time the bike started, with no signs of oil escaping from unwarranted locations. Even the worn out alternator belt (the shaking of the alternator had ground off all the rubber blocks) was doing its job. I left it to idle while I assembled my gear and put my tools away so that all the metal parts could get nice and warm. Still no leaks - could this be possible?
nick949eldo screwed with this post 06-19-2012 at 06:23 AM
Reason: Added Part 4