Because I spend a lot of my "at home" time in front of my computer, I don't watch a lot of TV. And when I do, whatever's playing better be awesome or else I'll just find something to do at the 'puter, or go outside if the weather is nice enough (which has been hard this year... watch a review of the Canadian Grand Prix and you'll have a good idea of the weather we've been having). But lately one of my friends gave me a chance to catch up on something I had missed, and it gave me a renewed sense of respect for the actor playing General Obi-Wan Kenobi. In the spring and summer of 2004, McGregor and his friend and fellow actor Charley Boorman decided to give their love of motorcycling a new meaning by taking quite a ride: from London to New York, the long way round, by way of France, Germany, Tchekoslovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Russia again, Mongolia, more Russia to the city of Magadan. From there they flew to Alaska and resumed riding to Yukon, Alberta, Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, to finally arrive at the Big Apple. 19000 odd miles. Holy shit, watching TV does NOT get any better !!!
But what watching Long Way Round has given me is a serious case of the Wanderlust. No, I don't own an adventure-fit motorcycle, or even a motorcyle license for that matter. And no, I don't plan on visiting Siberia and the Road of Bones any time soon, though this would be awesome in every sense of the word. But I am known to ride my mountain bike for some nice distances, but those are usually on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Still, a 50-75km round trip does not faze me too much. But in my long-distance riding there was always something that's been missing in my Curriculum: riding North. Starting from Montreal, I've always wanted to ride a good distance, say to Mont Tremblant, roughly 150km away. Of course life is cushy there and it really is no huge challenge. You'd be surprised how many people do it every year. But after watching LWR my view of a long ride has changed. And today it dawned on me what would be the mountain biking equivalent: riding North, but ever so slightly farther. To Fort-George on the shores of James Bay, at the mouth of La Grande Rivière. A 1500km ride. Now we're talkin' !!!
Google Maps says 3 days 10 hours. I don't believe this one iota. Well, maybe if you ride non-stop without even a lunch or bio break... yeah, right! The road may be paved, but only just. And it's so remote you can bet yer ass that road work doesn't get done there very often. It's possible to tour Quebec by car via the Chibougamau road (Letrange would know, having lived way up there), but my intended trip would take me from Abitibi straight up for 1000km; with only a single gas station at kilometer 381 of Route 1055, this is one of the most remote places one can get to in North America. There is a road there only because the majority of Quebec's electricity comes from the dams at La Grande. So 3 days? PFFFFT! More like 2-3 weeks if one crazy enough to try it would like to enjoy it. And you know what? I think I'm crazy enough! Not without a whole lot of preparations of course. As we say here, this is not a beer run to the dep. But I'd say with a couple years' planning, and the fact that I have a lot of vacation time from work, it's totally doable. Not quite sure I'd do it solo though, and I have yet to find riding mates... any volunteers? :)
The first part of the preps would be to gather up the necessary bike and camping gear required to pull off such a crazy stunt. Then a decision has to be made: round trip or one-way? This would be after the most important part of the preps: find some hardcore nutcases who have done crazy shit like this, have a couple of beers together and take in all the advice they can give.
Hey I'm not saying I'll be doing this next month, this year, or even next year. But the seed has been planted and Wanderlust smells damn good. I'm 40 years old now and not in too bad a shape, and even though I'll probably die an adrenalin junkie, if I want to do some crazy trips now is the time to think about it. So thank you Ewan and Charley for waking me up to the fact that I haven't travelled enough, and if I am to travel it's better to do it the hardcore way; it beats waiting hours in line at the airport, getting crammed with 300+ people into a pressurized tin can, and catching La Tourista in the middle of a humongous tourist trap.
To hell with flying... ride like there's no tomorrow
The proposed ittinerary o_O
James Bay Road website