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Old 06-18-2012, 09:31 AM   #1
nick949eldo OP
Beastly Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2010
Location: Inverary, Ontario, Canada
Oddometer: 1,048
DEAD RIGHT THERE - James Bay Road, northern Quebec

This is a cautionary tale of personal incompetence, good fortune, endurance, isolation and the kindness of strangers.

Let me set the scene. Over the last few years I have been using my 1972 Moto Guzzi Eldorado for increasingly long trips to the middle of nowhere. If you are interested, you can read about some of them on my web site ( This year, I decided it was time to tackle the Trans-Taiga Road ( - a 600+ kilometre gravel road into the centre of northern Quebec.

40 year old bike, aged rider, thousands of kilometres of virtually unserviced empty road in the middle of bear, wolf and blackfly infested wilderness - what could possibly go wrong?

The Trans-Taiga Road branches east from the James Bay Road ( ) about 80 kilometres south of Radisson, but to get there you first have to ride most of the James Bay Road. I won’t bore you with the technical details here, since you can read about it on the web site link above, but let’s just say, it’s a long way.

My journey started just north of Kingston, Ontario, through Perth and Calabogie, crossing the Ottawa River into Quebec at Portage du Fort, just north of Renfrew. From there, it’s a pleasant ride through the wooded hills and lakes of the Pontiac District to Maniwaki.

Covered bridge south of Maniwaki

Could this be an Omen?

As always, at the start of one of these journeys, I’m tuned in to the bike, listening for any rattles or knocks which might spell trouble. I had adjusted the valves the night before I left, and if the ticking from the upper end of the motor sounded a trifle louder than usual, I put it down to the generous clearances stipulated in the manual. Old Guzzis have loud valves - that’s just the way it is when your jugs are hanging out in the air on either side of the gas tank. I like to hear them while I’m riding - like the constant chirping of crickets. As long as you can hear that mechanical cacophony, all is right in the world. What I didn’t know at that time was that the slightly heightened chirping was caused by a loose generator mount, adding its own vibratory message to the chorus.

Beyond Maniwaki you join Quebec Highway 117 heading through the Réserve faunique La Vérendrye (La Vérendrye Park) for the best part of 250 kilometres until Val D’Or. This is the most scenic portion of the journey, the road winds between granite hills, past massive lakes and moose pasture. Although it is a well travelled, nicely paved route, there are few services and one starts to get a sense of the vastness of Quebec.

Lake - Didn't record its name - there's lots of them....

The Eldorado was running well, maintaining a steady 60mph (indicated 70, courtesy Veglia Instruments) at a comfortable 3500 rpm. Other than stopping occasionally to add gas or check the oil, it was just a case of droning along in the sunshine. I like droning. It becomes a meditative state where the lizard brain takes over the mundane stuff of keeping the bike between the gravel shoulder and the centre line, while the other parts go off to some other place. Don’t ask me what I think about on long rides - everything, and nothing.

I spent the first night in Amos, settling down in a motel with a few beers and some nasty orange corn chips - the kind that old married guys like to indulge themselves with when they are out of reach of their more health conscious spouses.


stay tuned for more...........
Beyond the Coffee Shop: Riding 1970's Moto Guzzis in Northern Canada (Kindle Book) Buy it - it's cheap and good! All my adventures and disasters in one place.
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