NJLR James Bay Road Expedition: Driving Up the James Bay Road

After discussing this trip for a decade or so, it was strange to wake up and realize that this was the day we’d do it. The roads of Matagami were covered in a few inches of crunchy snow, and since we knew it’d be the same the whole way up, our winter James Bay Road dreams seemed fulfilled. The weather was chilly, in the negative teens Fahrenheit, but we weren’t looking at any blizzards or heavy winds. A Great Day for James Bay…

(We rejoin the James Bay Road trip log several months later, in July 2020, with the rest being written in retrospect. What have I learned? Day-by-day live blogs are too hard to keep on the road. Future trips on this site will be written up in thematic posts like this one, instead of blow-by-blow daily journals.)

We rolled out of Matagami early, just before sunrise. Since we were within but a few days of the shortest day of the year, we were already pressed for daylight; it’d be dark before 5:00 pm. We’d heard the conditions were decent on the JBR heading north, but we wanted to leave as little to chance as possible.

The Hotel Matagami was just a few kilometers south of the beginning of the JBR, so the first thing was to get a group shot by the entrance sign, creating whatever kind of fill lighting we could taking advantage of everyone’s high beams, without burning our corneas too much.

The first thing to do on a journey up the James Bay Road is to check-in at the booth a few kilometers up the road from the KM 0 sign. On such a remote road, there’s reason to take an interest in who’s on the road, where they’re going, and when they’re due back. The attendant took our information in a large ledger book, with prior returnees stricken out when they check in on the way south. The attendant also goes over safety and regulations and points out some of the more interesting spots to stop along the way.

The signs at the beginning of the JBR are intimidating, and really convey the scope of this journey. 375km — that’s 233 miles — to the first and only interim fuel stop, at the “KM 381” rest area. There would be no services in between. No food, no fuel, nothing but a hell of a lot of trees and some remote seasonal camps.

The topography actually changes quite a bit along the 385-mile stretch of the James Bay Road. As you move further north, you get deeper and deeper into true taiga territory. The trees spread out from each other, become shorter; there’s far less of a growing season up here. By the time we got to Radisson at the end of the day, the day would itself be a good bit shorter than it was in Matagami. Sunrise wouldn’t come until 8:30 AM, and the sun would be well down by 4:00 PM.

For how long we’d been waiting to come up here, I actually found myself zoning out on the scenery. It was certainly stunning, but it was also stunning in its monotony. The scenery was repetitive; Bogie, Ewa and I tried rough counting trees, before we decided there were millions of them and we were happy with that fact.

There aren’t many individual highlights along the JBR; the route itself is more a collective destination than anything specific. But the one natural feature that stands out above all the others is certainly the Rupert River, one of the great rivers of northern Quebec that has now been drained and redirected to power the massive James Bay Project to power the province. The JBR crosses the Rupert at the Oatmeal Rapids, once a massive, raging torrent of water. Now, redirected towards other uses, it’s somewhat more placid than it once was. This place had raged wild for millennia, but now instead its immense power is turned into electricity for Montreal and New York.

The Rupert is crossed by one of the larger public works projects of the entire road, a large suspension bridge. Simple in design, it’s no Golden Gate or Brooklyn Bridge, but still impressive in this otherwise stark landscape, and offering an interesting shot on Tri-X black and white film.

The drive from the security shed to KM 381 was about five hours, leaving us there right in time for lunch. I spent a lot of the drive in the backseat dozing in and out of sleep, the monotonous, peaceful scenery relaxing me and calming me after a hectic holiday season.

The JBR is plowed constantly, so a lot of our concerns on snowpack were pretty unfounded. This was something we really saw throughout our entire Canadian trip — plows everywhere. Following behind them was a dream…being in front of them in proper 4x4s could be fun. This road is so remote, but what we really realized was that the communities we were visiting were still pretty connected to the world. We thought of this as an expedition, and we had hoodies made up with the trip logo. One guy at a gas station laughed at the idea that we thought like this — to him, the JBR was just his commute. It really did hammer in that what a lot of us consider an “epic overland expedition” is just daily life to people with vehicles far less built than ours.

When you haven’t encountered much in the way of man-made attractions on a drive like this, a big rest area is pretty exciting. I mean, you can get gas!

And food!

And there’s a cafeteria!

And POUTINE, the great Canadian treat!

Katie made some new friends, too.

After KM 381, the remainder of the road was a relatively quick 239 kilometers/148 miles. At this point, the scenery was becoming much more stark and barren, as we marched on further and further north. One diversion we took was to the entrance to the Trans-Taiga Road, another road in the network up here and technically even more remote than the JBR.

There would be no time for the Trans-Taiga this trip. It’s even longer than the JBR, and there’s almost no services along it. It’s all gravel, as opposed to the paved James Bay Road. The last 84 kilometers are very rugged and rough, with a 4×4 vehicle recommended. It’s a good adventure for a summertime return one year — something we were all already talking about doing. For now, some photos at the entrance and dreams to return would have to suffice.

The sun got lower and lower, not that it had ever gotten all that high to begin with. The golden hour was a stunning, stark panorama of golden snow upon trees, silently beautiful and transfixing in a way I’d never seen before. Unfortunately, that also meant that darkness, and further cold, was coming. There was no time to dither to take photos; we had to get to Radisson and find our hotel for the night.

By 4:15 PM, the character of the road was starting to change. All day, we’d marched north in a pod of the two Land Rovers and the Jeep. Now we saw other vehicles, and the edges of civilization that made up the town of Radisson, where we’d be staying the next two days so we could explore the northern reaches of the Quebecois road network here. Then, with a bit of anticlimax, we turned left into the Radisson access road, and soon the town was in front of us, a collection of simple buildings that could more or less be any industrial village in the world.

We’d conquered the James Bay Road, after years of discussing it, and now here we were — Radisson, Quebec, a town that had taken on almost a mythical character in our late-night campfire talks. It was hard to believe we’d finally pulled it off.

Now, we needed somewhere to stay…

North to Alaska, Pre-Trip Part 1

Well, 2020 hasn’t gone as expected, has it?

I started this year off back in Montréal, thinking we had the fantastic new Roaring ’20s to look forward to. I had plans lining up for a great year…a week in Death Valley in late March, the Mendo_Recce Land Rover rally in late April, lighthouse trips across America, and maybe a trip to England to see Liverpool FC’s Premier League champions parade as that started looking more and more inevitable. The annual Maine Winter Romp was a smash hit and had me looking forward to a great Land Rover events season, especially with the iconic Series I 86″ Oxford travelling around America this year.

Then, on March 12th, it all collapsed. That was the last day I would work in a Manhattan office. My colleague thought he had COVID-19, and we shut everything down and sent everyone home. I got COVID-19; my mother did too. It was two weeks of what felt like a really crappy flu. We recovered, though, and then in the middle of all the physical distancing and turmoil, somehow, I got a bit of clarity.

Our company suddenly started working just as efficiently without an office as with one. Working from home agreed with all of us, most of all me — a natural night owl who was sick of short-sleeping and three-hour commutes. By May, the decision was made: we were moving out of New York City and going fully remote for the long haul. One month of working from home turned into a summer, and a summer turned into the rest of my life…because no matter what company I work for, I’m never going back to commuting. As much as I love being out and about travelling, I actually really enjoy a low-key home life, and this has more than given me that.

As I cancelled trip after trip this spring, refunds and United Airlines flight credits piling on, there was one trip that was still hanging in limbo. My lighthouse friend Fran and I had been planning a trip to Alaska this summer to take a helicopter to two lights offshore from the roadless city of Cordova. They’re some of the hardest lights to see in America, and vital for our quests to each see every one of the 715 or so lighthouses in America. The trip came together in the fall of 2019, before things fell apart, and since it was planned for August 2020, we held on tight to our reservations, figuring that there was no reason to cancel them months ahead of time.

As I continued cancelling or wondering about other trips in 2020, the Alaska trip remained out there as a question mark. It was far enough out, and things were somewhat calming down, at least in the New York area. Alaska was using the benefit of its exclave status to control entry and the virus in the state. Even more, with the cruise industry shut down for the summer and taking the coach tour industry with it, it’s looking like 2020 is going to be a quiet summer in the North — perhaps on par much more with 1979 than 2019.

So with a pile of time off having accumulated, cancellation credits from trips all year, and a feeling that if I’m going to sit on an airplane with a mask on for hours at end, I better make the trip damn worth it, I decided to extend my existing trip to Cordova to include an 11-day roadtrip from Anchorage to visit the three road system-connected national parks in Alaska: Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias, and Kenai Fjords. These are all places that usually take on a heavy tourist load, and my goal was to take advantage of the quiet summer to maximize my visits to them.

Certainly, going to Alaska in the middle of a global pandemic is not without complications. First and foremost, the state has a strict, and somewhat complex, COVID-19 testing requirement to even get in. Access is only by air or the Alaska Marine Highway from Washington right now, with the Canadian border closed. You need to come with a negative COVID-19 test in hand, or take a test at the airport and prepare to quarantine. After a week in-state, you have to test again, just to make sure you’ve remained clear of the virus. That means that on top of everything else prepping for a relatively complex trip, I also have to figure out how to get a test turned around within 72 hours of my departure for Alaska.

It’s all rather complex, but I also have come to realize that I have aspirations for complex, international overland trips in the future. If I can’t handle the logistics of travelling domestically in these times, I can’t handle driving London to Cape Town, or across Central Asia, or the Pan-American Highway. This is nothing compared to the logistics that those trips will require, spending hours in consulates across New York City and the world, dealing with paperwork in sextuplicate, and the dozens or hundreds of bribes that I’ll have to stave off.

But that’s all long in the future. For now, I have my priorities. Preparing for this trip, with its complications. The usual pre-trip chaos of organizing the photography gear, the camping gear, the clothing choices, and the luggage choices. The shopping, which seems eternally unavoidable before a trip. The reservations, the permits, the route planning and the fuel and food planning in a remote land. Figuring out what I want to photograph, scoping it out on Flickr and Instagram and deciding what lenses and bodies to take. Figuring out where I can get food, and what I have to bring with me. Dealing with a round-trip flight from Anchorage to Cordova in the middle of it all. Dealing with United constantly changing my flights to and from Anchorage as they realign their service to retain a semblance of profit in this period of record-low demand.

It’s not easy. But then again, is any trip truly worth doing easy?

NJLR James Bay Road Expedition: Gatineau to Matagami

Today would be the first day of new territory on the trip – heading north from Gatineau to Matagami, the town in the Baie-James region of Quebec that’s the southern terminus of the James Bay Road. The plan was to roll out of the hotel at 7:00 AM, with about eight hours and 400 miles of driving ahead of us.

The plan was to make it to Val d’Or around mid-day, to get lunch and provisions. The drive is about five hours, including a remote 157-mile leg through the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve. We killed most of the bottle of Fireball the night before, so the alcohol stores had to be replenished, and we needed to get some snacks. Of course, the night before, I couldn’t wait for some of my Canadian favorites – when we went to fuel up the trucks, I picked up a bag of All-Dressed Ruffles and another of Ketchup Lay’s. Canada comes second only to the United Kingdom when it comes to glorious potato chip/crisp flavors.

I rolled out of bed about 6:20 AM, jumped in the shower, put my stuff in the LR3, and walked the few hundred meters down the road to the Tim Hortons for a coffee, maple glazed donut, and Sausage B.E.L.T. Down here in Gatineau, there’s probably more English spoken due to the proximity to Ottawa, so I haven’t had the courage to totally go full-bore French. I have enough pidgin French to get by – I’ve done it in France and Quebec before – but down here “parlez-vous Anglais?” still nets me an Anglophone staffer to place an order with. The goal for today was to get more into speaking French as we head north, without falling back on my native tongue.

We headed west a bit on QC-5 and then north on QC-105, which winds along the Gatineau River’s western shore. The road was full of twisties, passing a vista reminiscent of some parts of upstate New York or Vermont. (Makes sense, I guess, since we’re topographically nearby.) The view changed from ravines to small villages as we wound north, with a smattering of trailer parks and farms in the mix. If it wasn’t so cold and potentially icy, and we didn’t have a chunky LR3 that was close to its maximum GVWR, this road could be seriously fun. The sun started to rise, slowly over a gloomy, grey sky. The snow cover built up as we headed further north. The first snow we saw sticking was a dusting at Syracuse, but here we were closing in on a foot of snowpack. Cows wandered past picturesque rustic barns hoof-deep in it.

At Kazabazua, a sort of misty rain came down. A decent-sized town, it had a few bars, a Benjamin Moore paint store, and a few signs for a horse pull competition. Just south of Maniwaki, we drove past the burnt-out remains of a house or barn, a few cops sitting in the driveway with some police tape. Instantly, my overactive brain started wondering what’s going on, and I got a bit of a vibe of a scene in Louise Penny’s Three Pines mystery novels.

 

 

We stopped at Maniwaki to re-Timmy, and change seats. Milosz and I swapped, with me taking some time with Jarek and Konrad and him hanging out with Bogdan and Ewa a bit. The ridiculous plushiness of the Rangie was a nice change, though honestly as the LR3 has heated rear seat bottoms, it’s not like it was much of a struggle.

We headed into the La Vendredye refuge around 10:00 AM, fog starting to close in as a cold drizzle fell on the windscreen of the Rangie. A sign on the roadside signaled 56km to fuel, with what looked like just four waysides on the road to Val d’Or. The various rest areas were shut tight for winter, the parking lots piled in snow. Moose-aware signs (“prudence!”) showed up on the side of the road. A tractor-trailer started riding our rear bumper, a risky move in the weather – and we had nowhere to go with a line of cars ahead of us. Roadside rock walls had turned into waterfalls of ice.

 

 

The road to Val d’Or got snowier and snowier, with a flurry reducing visibility. Val d’Or was a veritable oasis after a long stretch of nothingness. The first introduction was a line of car dealerships, followed by a centre-ville, where we stopped at the IGA for provisions.

I have a thing for foreign supermarkets, as do a few others in the expedition party, so this was an experience. The beer section was particularly interesting. It was packed with craft brews, but almost none of them were familiar – at that scale, breweries just can’t deal with exporting, I guess. Instead, there were hundreds of unknown Canadian beers, many in 330mL cans.

 

As a Tragically Hip fan, this amused me.

 

 

After about a half hour of provisioning, we headed to get gas, where the pump attendant was fascinated by our American-ness and was excited to buy an American $5, $10, and $20 bill off of us for his currency collection. We filled up with a snow flurry surrounding us and the bells of the Catholic church echoing through town.

 

The gas attendant shows Bogdan some of his foreign currency collection.

 

From here, the highway cut through the outskirts of Amos, the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Amos (which serves this Northern Quebec region), with the Cathédrale Sainte-Thérèse-d’Avila dominating the skyline. The road north cut through flat farmland, before turning into the seemingly-uninhabited thick forest. The road started getting slick, and Jarek did a brake test on the Rangie, with minimal impact. Smooth motions and spacing became the name of the game.

All of the rest areas on the road are closed this time of year, so it seems like the way to handle this function is in the classical outdoors manner; easier, of course, for guys. All day, we’ve passed people pulled over at the roadside taking care of business. It’s kind of funny to see people relatively cavalier about it, by requirement. We pulled over the convoy a few times for a pee break and to check the trucks. While I’m used to these kinds of inspection pauses driving an almost-26-year-old Discovery 1, at this point neither the LR3 or L322 are brand-new either.

 

 

The road is actively plowed, and we passed a number of trucks plowing and laying down salt. There are also lots of tractor-trailers carrying fuel and other supplies to the communities on the JBR. Also, considering we were convinced we needed full-tilt-boogie overland trucks for this trip, there’s a lot of Ford Focuses and Mazdas up here. (Mazdas seem significantly more popular in Canada than the USA.)

It got dark in the 4:00 PM hour, but the temperatures so far haven’t been as cold as we’d expected…they’re hovering around freezing, -2 Centigrade at the lowest so far. I’m hoping it’s colder when we hit the JBR tomorrow because I have a lot of cold-weather gear I bought for this trip. (Though, it’ll get plenty of use at the Maine Winter Romp in February.)

We got to Matagami around 5:30 PM, checked into the hotel, and found out that all of the restaurants in town are closed until January 6th. The options: snacks from the Esso, or snacks from Shell. Katie and I went to Shell, then Esso. Here are some things we found.

 

Back at the hotel, we made dinner on the camp stoves in lieu of a restaurant, or some of us just ate prepacked things. I had a very sad salad kit from Val d’Or, eaten with a titanium Snow Peak fork for some class. Jarek, Konrad, and Milosz went for soup in a can, while Bodgan went for Unibroue beer and cheese.

 

We ended the night with a driver’s meeting in Carl’s and my room, planning our assault on the JBR tomorrow. Tomorrow’s the big day: THE James Bay Road. We saw the big sign at the start today at the turnoff to Matagami, and it’s already hard to believe — it’s time! It’ll be 387 miles to Radisson, with a whole lotta nada in between. I can’t wait!

 

 

 

NJLR James Bay Road Expedition: Onward to Ottawa!

Sleep didn’t come easy; it never does when you’re excited about a trip. By 6:00 AM I was awake and getting ready for the day. The last things went in the bag as I finished using them, and then I paced the house waiting for the expedition party to arrive.

Bogdan and Ewa came first, and we started loading my stuff in the LR3. Jarek, Konrad, and Milosz pulled in a few minutes later, and we caught up while I showed Jarek my latest projects in the garage. Will and Katie showed up in the Jeep to fill out the expedition party, and after a lot of rearranging of luggage to insert Carl and me into the vehicles, we took some pre-departure photos and rolled out.

 

The expedition party prepares for departure.

 

We went to grab a Starbucks, but apparently I don’t know what stores are in which strip mall in the town I’ve lived in for thirty years, so we just got on I-78 west towards Pennsylvania. We messed around testing the radios as we headed west across the farmlands of Hunterdon County. We were across the Delaware by 9:15 AM and hooked north on PA-33 to I-80 and I-380.

The drive north was pretty quick. We burned some time on an extended tour of one exit’s various gas stations and restaurants, but other than that we kept a solid pace. After a bit more of that cheap American fuel, we crossed the border around 3:30 PM at the Thousand Islands Bridge. The line was only a few cars deep, the procedures were relatively simple, and then we were headed east on ON-401 and north on ON-417 towards Ottawa.

 

 

We came into Ottawa in the dark, and at some point, Will and Katie separated from us; we took a scenic (but not really, because darkness) tour of Ottawa while they took the fast roads to Gatineau. We met up at the front desk of the motel, where they were in the process of checking us in. Keys in hand, we unloaded the trucks, that sense of excitement in the air that comes with the first day of an adventure.

 

 

We headed to dinner at The Prescott, a landmark in Ottawa since 1934. It’s been the home of the Ottawa Valley Land Rovers’ monthly social for decades, so I wanted to see what it was like. Our friend Dixon Kenner, a long-time OVLR member who spends a lot of time in New Jersey, joined us for dinner. We spent a few hours over drinks and food discussing everything under the sun.

 

 

Back at the hotel, we spent a while planning the day ahead, before solving the problems of the world over a bottle of Fireball.

 

 

Tomorrow it’s off to Matagami, the southern end of the James Bay Road, via Val d’Or. It’s another 400 miles or so, via remote roads through La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve. Morning comes early ’round here.

NJLR James Bay Road Expedition: Pre-Trip Thoughts

There are certain trips that loom large in off-roaders’ collective dreams. Maybe it’s that trip to Moab, or that Pan-American expedition, or that African safari you saw in Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom decades ago. They’re the trips that linger over campfires and long days in the garage, fermented over beers and scotches across the years.

For my New Jersey Land Rovers group, that trip is the James Bay Road. A thread running north in Quebec, it serves the hydro-electric projects that provide power to a large swath of eastern North America. Built in the 1970s across ancestral Cree land, today it links the town of Matagami to the village of Radisson, 620 kilometers/385 miles to the north. It is one of the most remote places you can drive to in eastern North America.

Many have dreamed of the James Bay Road, or JBR. Our dreams had an extra layer, though: winter. Winter in Northern Quebec is unforgiving — temperatures in Fahrenheit start with a negative symbol and are usually double digits. A handful of Land Rover acquaintances have driven the JBR in summer; a select few have done it in winter.

Wikimedia Commons photo of the old sign at the start of the JBR. By P199 – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=615154

Thus, winter on the JBR has haunted our conversations for over a decade. We’ve almost pulled the trigger on this trip a few times, but never completely. In 2016, my friends Barbara and Jarek moved from New Jersey to Florida. We almost drove it on the way to their last northern residents’ Maine Winter Romp. Then Jarek and I discussed it this year as part of our “Mark IV Grand Tour,” when he delivered a 2015 Range Rover from New Jersey to Florida via the Eastern Seaboard. But it never happened.

This year, Barb and Jarek are coming north to visit family in New Jersey for Christmas, and from that seed, our date with destiny on the JBR grew. Jarek’s overlanding vehicle of choice right now is a 2011 Range Rover Supercharged, a 510-horsepower beast of a thing that’s already done three round-trips up the Eastern Seaboard this year. The JBR is paved, and even so it’s proven itself in an off-road jaunt we took to Uwharrie National Forest in September. The dreams always involved his “Medium Duty Expedition Vehicle” 1995 Discovery, but dreams adapt. He and his son Milosz would make this pilgrimage north in the Range Rover.

Next to sign up was our friends Bogdan and Ewa in their 2005 LR3, a veteran of many cross-country trips. I met up with them far away once already this year, in fact; I was in Moab with my friend Max and some of his friends from Atlanta, and we rendezvoused. Bogdan also has extensive winter travel experience, another benefit.

We made concessions to purity with Will and Kate, who are the life of the party at many NJLR events. Will’s ex-military Series III, a paintless wonder dubbed “the Battlewagon,” was not in shape for this trip, in that a 74-horsepower 2.25-liter engine could not keep up the pace with the modern V8s in the Range Rover and LR3. So, in the interest of having their excellent company in the party, while maintaining pace, we conceded for them to take Katie’s daily driver, a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It may well be the impure beast that saves us all at some point.

Shotgunning we are three more. Myself, because Duncan is in no state for this trip on this notice, and Butler is still…well, horribly behind schedule. (Who knew restoring a complex mid-1990s luxury SUV would take so long when you have other things going on in life?) Carl’s Discovery 1 needed work, and life got in the way with such short notice. No matter, his good humor and skills as a professional medic were valuable. Jarek’s friend Konrad from Florida rounded out the expedition party, adding new blood and experience with modern vehicles via his career as a BMW technician.

The Route

Over the next week, we will traverse 13 degrees of latitude and 2,500 miles. We will go from New Jersey to Ottawa, then to the northern town of Matagami. From there, we take the James Bay Road, a 385-mile journey with one stop at the halfway point — the creatively-named “Km 381.” We will spend some time at the northern terminus of Radisson, exploring the Cree communities up there and the Hydro projects. Then we reverse the route, coming to America again via Montreal for the New Year on the St. Lawrence.

The JBR is fully-paved, though it’s also snowy and icy. Hydro is the main reason for its existence, but there’s also plenty of truckers to be aware of. There’s just one fuel stop — the aforementioned Km 381.

Logistics

Wikimedia Commons photo of the JBR in winter.By Zulborg – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8320715

Usually, this is a camping crowd, but not at these temperatures. We’re getting hotels in every town along the way. None of them are the Four Seasons, but they’ll all do.

The three vehicles have all been serviced in the past few weeks. We’re running mud+snow or snow tires on all of them. The Jeep has a block heater; the two Land Rovers don’t since it’s extremely complex to install them in an AJ-V8. We’ll see how we do; temperatures are not as cold as we thought they’d be in the current forecast.

As for food, all of the villages we’re visiting have restaurants, and we’ll probably do dinner there. Breakfasts will be at the hotels; lunch on the road. With a bit over eight hours of daylight every day, we have to keep pace.

Preparations

I’ve been keeping our UPS and FedEx delivery crew even busier than usual this time of year. The weather in Northern Quebec is cold. The only question is how cold. I expect to have temps below -10F at some point in the trip, either day or night.

I’ll be taking photos on three cameras on this trip, using digital and film. Digital will be my usual Nikon D800. With film, I’ll have my Nikon N8008, my standby for the past year as I got into film. I also acquired an N90s last week, for the steep sum of $34. As my friend Quentin put it, the N8008 is “the best manual focus camera Nikon ever made,” because its primitive autofocus is very loud and largely useless. The N90s will offer a second body, better AF (it’s very snappy), and the ability to shoot two film stocks at once. I’ve been shooting Ektachrome E100 lately, but the landscapes here and low light beg experimentation. I’ll be using Portra 400 in the N90s and Tri-X 400 in the N8008.

Other than that, I’ve done a lot of shopping for warm weather gear. Extreme cold is one of the few circumstances my outdoors wardrobe isn’t equipped for. I’m hoping this is one of the last trips where I have a big gear spend beforehand that nears the cost of the trip itself!

We ride at dawn on Boxing Day, destination: Canada. I’ll try to keep the live blog up as much as I can along the way.