Damn you. Leaving us on the edge of our seats. Again.
I have to agree with everyone else. This is ON cover story material. Heck, you posted it here, they probably own it anyways.
Looking forward to the next installment and at the same time wishing it didn't have to have an ending.
Let's see, new career, riding to remote places, taking pictures, writing story about trip, collect them into a book and next thing you know .......
you are a published author.
Ride Well, Ride Often, Ride to
Charter Member "High Town" crew.
Josh, where is this all going?
This Canadian Odyssey Ride Report is absolutely superb!
400 of these -->
Can't wait - did you wind up sleeping in the broom closet, the lobby or the parking lot?
Let me guess they directed you to the flea bag motel down the road with the dirt parking lot. Thats what happen to us when we got there and were told we didn't have our reservations and they were booked solid. Maybe they have an unwritten policy of not allowing bikers to stay at the Hotel.
A light mist continued to fall on me as I ambled back out to my bike to dig into my tank bag. I knew I had my confirmation number for the hotel somewhere, and I was determined to find it. It took several minutes of digging around as half of the tank bags contents ended up on the ground. Finally, I pulled out a folded up piece of paper with the confirmation number I had received several months ago when the reservation was made. I walked back in to the hotel triumphantly; surely they couldn't turn me away, now. The receptionist looked worried as I walked back up the the front desk and handed her the slip of paper. A bit of typing on the computer and more confusion as she walked across the hall into her supervisors office. More talk, and out come both women to the computer. This was not looking good. I set my helmet down and walked over to the wall to check out the weather reports. No wonder I had been so cold riding in; the minimum temperature was in the mid 30's; with the high listed in the low 50's. It was nowhere near 50, currently. "Sir?", the receptionist beckoned me over. "This has never happened to us before; you have a valid confirmation number for our system, but it is linked to someone who stayed here months ago. I'm sorry, I have no idea how this could have happened. Unfortunately, we have no empty rooms for you, so there is nothing we can do." This wasn't the answer I wanted to hear. Keeping my building anger in check, I suggested I might set my tent up in their lobby for the night, but was told that wouldn't be possible. I decided not to press the issue; I didn't want to end up jailed in Radisson. I wasn't sure anyone would drive this far to bail me out. She quickly returned to her office to call the other hotels in town for me. Sadly, they too, were full. Both the receptionist and the manager were eying me wearily. You could cut the tension with a knife as I stood there staring at them in disbelief. I wasn't wearing club patches or any of the usual "scary biker" type of clothing, but I'm sure they didn't like the idea of having an angry, tired, cold biker on their hands. Realizing this was a fight I could not win, I grabbed my helmet and turned to speak with them once more. I think they both expected my helmet to come flying their way, as they both flinched noticeably. Who throws a $400 helmet? In a calm but sarcastic voice, I thanked them for all of their help and wished them a good day as I made my way back out into the drizzle. The sky looked grayer than ever. My spirits were at an all-time low. I thumbed the starter button on the bike and my old friend roared to life. My only friend.
I made my way across the street to the only restaurant in town and walked in, peeling off most of my gear and sitting down at the bar. I was the only patron at the time. A rather attractive looking girl came out and welcomed me with a smile. The beaten look on my face must have been obvious as she began to ask me about my trip; looking suitably concerned about my wellbeing. Note to self: tip well. I leaned back in my chair as I sipped on my can of Pepsi and thought about my choices. I could ride over to the only campground in town; I had plenty of warm clothing and gear, and I could probably pile everything on myself and sleep well enough to get back. My other choice would be to ride a few hours back the way I came and get a room back at the Kilometer 381 stop. I didn't like either option. On top of that, I was tired and cold, and failure was staring me in the face; I might not reach Chisasibi and the James Bay. I couldn't see riding the 150 or so miles to get there and back, it would be just too far. As the waitress ran back to put in my pizza order, the door swung open and two guys stepped in; stopping and smiling at me. Did they know something I didn't? Turns out they were two brothers from Hamilton, ON who also came up this way by motorcycle. All my gear piled next to me and the BMW parked out front made it obvious I had done the same. I joined them at their table and struck up a conversation; a welcome diversion to my current problems. Turns out they had been a few steps ahead of me and missed the rain and hail from the day before, and had ridden about half the distance I had, today. As we ate our lunches, an invite was made, and a plan was hatched. They were also planning on going to Chisasibi, so I would join them. They would allow me to unload most of my gear into their hotel room until we got back, so I wouldn't be riding with the extra weight through the gravel I knew we would encounter. My spirits began to lift. I still had no place to stay, but the company was doing me good, and I could still accomplish all of my goals. To add to the good luck, I stepped outside to find the rain had stopped. Although the sun wasn't out, it was definitely getting a bit brighter outside. Nice. We fueled up and made out way to Chisasibi.
Heading back a bit South on the James Bay Road, I was riding in the back of the group. They were running a bit slower than I would have, but it was a nice change to slow down a bit. Getting to Chisasibi is pretty easy since there are few roads up here. Just head back south on the James Bay Road until you see the sign for Chisasibi, turn right, and follow that until you get there. We ran up on the turn a little fast and had to slow down quickly to make the turn. I pulled in the clutch and began downshifting, except I got stuck between gears. Strange. I came to a stop and rolled the bike forward and back, playing with the shifter until it popped into gear, and then down into first. That was weird. I made my turn and continued on. There is very little to look at out here; just miles of scrub grass and the two bikes ahead of me. We picked up the pace and approached 130kph. Suddenly I felt the bike stumble briefly; like it missed a spark or two. Or did my hand slip on the throttle a bit? More strangeness. I swear the James Bay is cursed. We continued on. Suddenly I saw a brake light come on and immediately saw why; there was a wide section of road missing; going from smooth pavement to gravel for about 10 feet. I jumped on the brakes and downshifted. Again I got hung up between gears, but managed to get unstuck without stopping. I was growing a bit concerned about my transmission. Further down the road we came upon a road crew that required us to ride through some loose gravel in the birm; this time I made sure to double-clutch on my downshift; pull handle in, downshift, release handle. Pull handle in, downshift, release, all the way through the gears. That seems to be working fine - I could deal with it. We eventually rolled into Chisasibi; I had made it. In my mind I was already standing on the shore of the James Bay.
Once you get to Chisasibi, it's a bit hard to find your way to the bay. There are no signs, and no obvious route. The road we came in on dead ends into a 4-lane wide gravel road, and that seemed to be the only obvious route. We made our way a few hundred yards at a rather slow pace; none of us very comfortable riding on loose gravel. Rounding a bend, we saw the road seemed to continue on for miles and miles, so we stopped to consider our options. We could ride back into town and ask the way, we could continue riding on for a while, or we could walk over and ask some workers in a lot off to our left. We went with the last plan. Since I was outnumbered (two Canadians to one American) I was elected to be the motorcycling ambassador who would go ask directions. It turned out to be a good thing. The workers were very friendly, spoke English, and told me we wanted to take the first left turn we saw. Continuing down the large gravel road would not take us to the bay. Back on the bikes, we headed off and started to make our left turn as a Geo Metro came racing up to us. Turns out they worked for the tourist office. I felt a bit rude not having stopped in town before coming out here, but I was focused on getting there, and so were my new riding companions. They verified the route we were taking was the correct way to go (stay left!) and warned us it wasn't overly scenic and was littered with boats and snowmobiles. They also offered a boat ride out to some of the islands in the area; if I had the time I would have enjoyed taking that trip. Next time, maybe. Again, we ventured off onto the smaller gravel road and followed it for what seemed like miles, never quite reaching the bay. One of the Canadians stopped his bike, and discussions started as to continuing on or turning back. The gravel was making all of us a bit tired, but the sun was now shining on and off, and I was determined to go on. Checking out my GPS I could see we were less than a mile from water, and that was the information everyone needed to go on. Minutes later we crested a small hill and there it was; the James Bay. I was elated. I had done it! WE had done it. I patted the tank of my bike, thanked it, and then hopped off to get some photos. Now there was more blue sky than clouds, and it had finally warmed up. It was still in the mid 50's, but it felt like a heat wave. We all walked around and got our photos, I tested my Sidi's by standing IN the bay, and I made sure to get my hand wet. For a while I forgot all about my other problems; the fact that I still had no place to stay for the night, or that the bike was acting up a bit. Everything was perfect.
James Bay, dirty bike:
Our hero, and the guy who's been riding:
Not exactly a smooth, sandy beach... but there IS sunlight:
Standing in the bay; smiling, even (I'm not fat, I have 4 or 5 layers of clothing/riding gear/rain gear on!):
We stayed for a while before finally deciding to head back to Radisson. This time I was put in the lead position, and I wasted no time getting out of there. I had gotten a bit more comfortable on the gravel and upon reaching the pavement I had to stop to let the others catch up. One was close to me, the other was lagging back. Now on pavement, I cracked open the throttle and raced back to Radisson, making sure to watch out for missing sections of road. Again the bike stumbled on me once or twice, and the worry crept back in. The sky also went back to cloudy and overcast; possibly it was the James Bay Road itself that was cursed. My spirits began to sink as I got back to thinking about my lack of lodging; I was on an emotional roller coaster.
Slowing to make my turn into Radisson I double-clutched my way down to second gear and pulled back in to the hotel so I could re-pack my bike. I was met by a somewhat welcome sight; two Oilhead GS's parked directly outside my Canadian friend's room. I wondered if they were at the Wisconsin rally. As I began to gather my saddlebags, my Ortleib bag, and my gas can and re-attach everything to the bike, a door swung open and out came the two GS owners. They were very friendly guys who had indeed spent time at the Wisconsin MOA rally. They were Gene and Andy; both from Baton Rouge, LA. The group of us talked about our ride; again I was the only person to get caught in hail. I must be living a charmed life. Eventually I recounted my hotel problems and right away Gene and Andy suggested I grab my sleeping bag and set up on their floor. I gave them a sigh, a weak smile, and a heartfelt "thank you". I really should have been jumping up and down for joy, but the past two days had worn on me, and I was simply exhausted. I was beginning to feel like I was no longer in control of anything and just responding reflexively. I almost felt like I was watching everything happen as a spectator. Still, here was a glimmer of hope. I had a place to sleep that didn't require more riding, and didn't require erecting a tent. I perked up a bit, gabbed my stuff, moved it into their room, and pulled out some money for my second new set of friend for the day. They quickly declined; under no circumstances were they going to take my money. This must be that southern hospitality I've head so much about! A short time later we walked back to the restaurant for dinner and I decided to get myself a beer; the tastiest Labatt I ever drank. It was surely earned. Finishing dinner, my new friends again refused to accept my offer to pay, and instead paid for my meal. Unbelievable. It's possible I WAS living a charmed life. Walking out of the restaurant, all five of us stood outside in the hotel's gravel parking lot in the dark, wondering what ever possessed us to come to such a place. It was definitely a hard trip, and I know I was questioning my sanity.
Crawling into bed, the fog of exhaustion began to creep in as I tried to figure out the mysterious issues my bike was having. My transmission was acting up, the engine was occasionally stumbling, and I was a long way from home. For now I had a warm, safe place to sleep - I'd settle for any victory I could get. Tomorrow was another day, and I could worry then. My schedule had me heading back south to the campground on Matagami Lake. I wondered if I would make it.
I find it surprising that I'm not the first person this happened to. I make sure to suggest everyone book anywhere BUT that hotel. Then again, it made for an interesting (but stressful) trip...
One thing I forgot to mention (adding this 10 minutes later) through the course of my exchanges with the receptionist, I saw the confirmation number I gave punched into the computer, and I saw it come up as they said; linked to someone who stayed previously. I also saw the screen as they searched by name when I first walked in, and I wasn't in there. I'm not sure that they are anti-biker; it might just be they don't know how to handle reservations.
Keep it comin' Josh!
My only friend. I can just picture your pitiful expression at this point.
Makes me want to post my West Virginia trip report from this summer also, but I can only attach 1 picture per post. Besides, mine was not nearly the "adventure" that yours was.
'80 XS850 Special
'05 Rocket III
"Taking the reservation is the easy part..... keeping the reservation - now that's what you don't know how to do"
damn josh, this is really good stuff. you should make sure to post it over in the ride reports section of ADV as well!
What about the waitress?
Now, if anyone is going up there let me know, and I might go back to see if she's still there. Anyone for a new rally; the James Bay Rally? Hail and black flies are free!