Saturday, March 28, 2009

2009 Spring Ride, Gaspe

As I've mentioned before, I'll never try to run the Gaspe in February again. Last year we skipped it all together, and this year we were able to get in a perfect January ride. Since Gaspe conditions were excellent for late March, I struggled to get something together to run the Gaspe again. After going back and forth, I was lucky enough to meet and ride with lonriderss [Bob] and smclelan [Steven]. This was my first time riding with them, and my theory of if you ride more than 2500 miles in a year, you're probably a good rider, held true. Since Bob and I are in Southern NH, we decided to take his trailer and drive up through Maine and start from Pointe-a-la-Croix, a 9-hour drive for us and 4-hour drive for Steven. Since this was only going to be a ~3 day ride, we couldn't start from the North shore. After a ~9 hour drive Friday, we arrived at the Selectotel at about 11:30pm, just as the front desk was closing. Steven was up earlier in the day and did a few miles to run up to see Groomer. I was running the Etec, with the stock 1.25" track and 96 studs, newly installed. Of course, new hyfax also. Bob had an '07 500ss, newly rebuilt again, and Steven had his '09 Artic Cat Turbo 144".

Day 1: Pointe-a-la-Croix to Mont-St-Pierre
Conditions: +14/30F, Sunny. Very hard, flat trails. Plenty of snow, except Parking lots.
Trails: 5, 595, 5. 302 miles, 15.4 mpg, 40.6 mph [avg]. 7:30am-5:30pm.

A beautiful start to the trip, perfect weather...
and perfect trails...

After the hyfax problems with the 1.75" ripsaw in late February, it was refreshing to have new hyfax, with the 1.25" ripsaw, for these conditions. Till we hit 595, the trails were freshly groomed, flat, and very hard. 595 had some loose snow on top and was excellent. This time though, there were very few deer on the 595 New Richmond reroute, that was a surprise. After gas at LaCache, it was my first run up the North side of 595. What a great stretch, wide, flat, scenic, and two regions of extremely high moose traffic. Once at the relais at the top [which was packed], I decided to take a quick look at the hyfax...what a surprise, the section under the front wheels was down probably 3/4. Loose snow was a little scarce to start, but were fine after LaCache. I'll have to keep and eye on them again. The ride to Mont-St-Pierre was excellent again...

It was another beautifull day, with a great stop at Motel MSP. We were the only ones there on a Saturday night.

Day 2: Mont-St-Pierre to Murdochville
Conditions: +28/30F, Sunny with isolated flurries. Trails were hard and flat.
Trails: 5, 597, 5, 597. 300 miles, 16.7 mpg, 40.9 mph [avg], 7:30am-6:00pm.

Another beautifull start to the day. We started with a run past Riviere-la-Madeliene to see a waterfall Steven had found. It wasn't that exciting at this time of year. However, we were reminded of some of the other benefits of riding the Gaspe...

We took a detour to Haute Madeleine. No one was there, but it looks like a great stop. We then continued through Murdochville South, on a relatively rough stretch of trail. We then turned off to the local trail towards Douglastown. That trail is always excellent, so much so, Bob tried to make his decision on buying a new sled for next year, a little easier. We then continued on to Perce...

The ride up to the top was easy this time of year and conditions cleared/warmed up...

The ride up piston alley was perfect, and for some reason, my 2000+ mile belt didn't go. The isolated flurries started to add up around here, 3-4". We stayed at the Motel Copper, the first time for me.

Day 3: Murdochville to Amqui
Conditions: +24/30F. Cloudy to partly cloudy. 0"-10" of fresh powder over hard, flat trails.
Trails: 597, LT, 595, 5, 591, LT, 5. 263 miles, 15.4 mpg, 39.6 mph [avg]. 7:00am-6:30pm.

Not much new snow in the morning, but nice and cloudy. The 4" of snow to start, varied from 0-6" on the Chic-Choc trail to LaCache. An early morning fill up at LaCache, and it was back on 595 North. We saw 2 moose in the first stretch, then 3 on the second stretch, but one wouldn't get out of the way. Much like the 100-lacs experience, we keep following him for a few miles, but this guy was in better shape and didn't get tired. This went on for 3 miles or so, till the trail opened up and we were able to pass off-trail. He was flying on that trail, and it was down hill, who knew a moose could run that fast. A short ride, then we were the only ones at relais Saint-Paulin this time. On the North shore, it was still snowing, and we had maybe 10" of snow in some regions...

While heading to the gas stop in Matane, I hooked something with my carbide in a parking lot. I was riding near the snow bank, since the lot was dry pavement, then bang...I didn't see or find what I hit, but it hit good...

I removed it, and since it was on the outside, I didn't worry about it. The lower A-arm was bent back an inch or so, but seemed to have little effect. I've never liked how the carbides mate to the ski on the Simmons. I usually hammer the ends, but now I'll take more care.

After gas and lunch, we took some of the local trails around Amqui to get to Albertville to meet up with groomer. As always, the trails in that region were excellent, and snow totals were as high as any in the province. After meeting Groomer, we were off to Amqui for the night. The day ended seeing 5 moose on the trail, a few deer, a van with balloon tires/tracks, a pickup with tracks, and no sleds.

Day 4: Amqui to Pointe-a-la-Croix
Conditions: +26/32F, Sunny. Hard and flat trails.
Trails: TQ5. 70 miles, 15.5 mpg, 44.5 mph [avg]. 7:00am-9:00am

This was just a quick run back to the trucks, for the long drive home. Another beautifull start to the morning...

then up to another look out at PLC, much like we started the trip, and a great way to end the trip and season...

Another great late season ride. The Gaspe is a great place to end the season, and PLC is also a good starting place for a short ride. Hyfax on the XP appear to be a big problem in thinner snow. The snow conditions on this trip were better than the season ender where my 1.75" ripsaw was the blame for the hyfax. However, after ~950 miles, with one hard/icey half day, and a 1.25" studded ripsaw, they ended up being completely shot. Since they wore so fast, half way through the trip, I made an adjustment to the center shock and coupling blocks. Handling and the ride were much better, we'll have to see how it effects the hyfax. With early season conditions, and a 1.75" ripsaw, the hyfax made it to 3800 miles. In any lower snow conditions, they don't hold up, especially when compared to the SC-4 suspension. In all cases, I never had any heating issues, and could always see plenty of snow dust in the mirrors. Statistics for the trip were...935 miles, 15.8 mpg, 187 mpq [of oil], gas was $1.00 [CA] per liter mostly super, $1.24 exchange rate, fuel cost of $174 [US], using 59 gallons of gas, and 5 quarts of oil.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

2009 Season Ender

Due to the other shortened rides this year, we decided to try to make this season ender an 8-day ride. This is usually the best trip of the year, since days are longer, we now turn the clocks back early, and trails aren't nearly as crowded as February. Since we had Marty [aka Mary] with us, we had to break-up the trip at the mid-point, since he can't handle a real ride. We started in Shawinigan with four of us, John, Marty, Tom, and I. The initial plan was to head out West, and cross back to drop off Marty, and loop around over Lac St-Jean. There was plenty of snow, with a snow/rain mix for day one, then colder temperatures till day 6, with more rain, then a deep freeze. I had my '09 Etec, with 1.75" track, new hyfax, and all exhaust bolts. Starting mileage was 3672.

Day 1: Shawinigan to St-Felicien
Conditions: +30F, Snow changing to rain. 10" of fresh powder to start.
Trails: 318, 73, 83, 373. 289 miles, 13.0 mpg, 36 mph [avg]. 7:30am-5:30pm.

The site everyone likes to see in the morning...
much more snow than the forecast. Past LaTuque, it turned to rain, which everyone hates...

In case anyone ever wondered if the railroad bridge on the powerline [355] was still active, here's the answer...

We broke trail most of the way to LaTuque. The run from Relais 22 to Roberval was excellent. We ended the first day at Hotel du Jardin, usually an excellent stop, but the food has gone downhill over the years. Unfortunately, Friday was also the Chinese buffet, don't try Chinese in Canada.
Day 2: St-Felicien to Matagami
Conditions: +28/42F, overcast. Flat trails, with new snow, later wet snow mush.
Trails: 373, 93, 396. 404 miles, 10.5 mpg, 48.2 mph [avg]. 6:30am-7:00pm.
We never like to plan on a 400 mile day, but today we did, so we skipped breakfast and hit the trails at 6:30am. LaDore to the Sawmill was 59 miles, so there's no need to get gas at LaDore when leaving from du-Jardin. Marty had more electrical problems, then Tom did a snow depth test, followed by Marty, it was something like 4'. On the way to relais du Nord, my right ski slid off the shoulder and I was sucked into the powder. While shifting over to the left side, trying to stand, my gauntlet hit the kill switch, and it was game over...

a little shoveling, then leveling the sled, and off I help of course. Some people don't like shovels, I think they're priceless, especially when Marty is around. After gas in Chapais, it was time for the 80 miles of railroad bed, at least it was warm this was about -20F a few years ago. Like then, I also blew a belt at 4181 total miles, about right, since the first blown belt was on piston alley at ~1900 miles. I kept the throttle at about 80mph for the entire run. I was out of gas at 73 miles. Within 3 miles, the SDI and 800 were also out, while the Yamaha was already at the gas stop. We didn't run out a few years ago, so the warm conditions and mashed snow must have had a lot to do with it. We stayed at the Motel Matagami, a great stop, everything you need in one place, and breakfast at 5am if you want it.
Day 3: Matagami to Senneterre
Conditions: -10/+16F, mostly sunny. Hard, flat, some icy trails.
Trails: 396, 93, 83. 318 miles, 13.2 mpg, 45.7 mph [avg]. 7:30am-5:00pm.
After a good freeze overnight, the trails were solid, and flat. We took 396 out West, and took the opportunity for a 10 mile detour to Ontario...

of course, it's at this point, the farthest from the trucks, that Marty cries he wants to go home. Oh well, no choice now, we're already planning a direct route back of over 500 miles. Soon out of Ontario, trails on 83 turned to near ice, with enough powder for cooling, but little for traction and hyfax on my 1.75" ripsaw. After easing my sled into Senneterre, the new hyfax at the start of the trip were gone. John who had the 1.5" ripsaw, had no hyfax wear. We stayed at the Motel Senabi, essentially a room only. You need to take a cab for dinner, and can ride a few blocks to a good breakfast stop.
Day 4: Senneterre to Kanawata
Conditions: -2/+28F, mostly cloudy to clear. Icy trails to hard pack with snow.
Trails: 83, local 369. 321 miles, 15.6 mpg, 39.8 mph [avg]. 3:30am-7:00pm.
The day started with a hyfax change, more oil, and a replacement trail pass that fell off. This was my first run on this part of 83. The ice trails ate into the new hyfax again, till the trails loosened up later. Evidence of the fire was obvious, as was this dead groomer...
After gas a Balbuzzard, more bad trails and fire damage. It's amazing how they made it through the fire. Across the lake, was all fire damaged and on their side, it was untouched... A few miles later, the trails opened up and were good. The major reroute before Clova was good, and the gas stop at Monet was informative. Apparently, this reroute may become permanent. The rest of 83 was great, and the burned groomer from the last trip was still there. The local trail to Kanawata was freshly groomed all the way. We got a minor tongue-lashing at Kanawata for not making reservations. They also informed Tom not to start his sled before 7:15am. There were about a dozen or so people there on Summits. They had come from Beauregard using only about 15 miles of trail, that was an interesting conversation.
Day 5: Kanawata to Roberval
Conditions: -2/+29F, mostly sunny. Hard pack with snow, some excellent.
Trails: local 369, 83. 222 miles, 16.4 mpg, 40.0 mph [avg]. 8:00am-2:30pm.
The newly groomed trails from last night were frozen solid and continued to eat at the hyfax. Marty headed South, to go home. The run to Wemo was better than the February trip. The road out of Wemo had plenty of snow, and the trail to relais 22 was excellent. Out of relais 22, we planned a stop in Roberval for hyfax and exhaust bolts. After a quick hyfax change [they were about half gone], John noticed a busted suspension on Tom's yamaha, so he was off to Chambord while they fixed John's exhaust bolts, brakes, and chain problem. Given the problems, we decided to stay at Chateau Roberval. The new restaurant was excellent, much better than du-Jardin. All sleds were fixed and we were in the rooms by 5:30pm.
Day 6: Roberval to Jonquiere
Conditions: +30/40F, Cloudy, with light snow changing to light rain. Perfect trails.
Trails: local 373, 93, 367, 267. 337 miles, 13.5 mpg, 42.0 mph [avg]. 6:30am-4:30pm.
With a short day yesterday, we decided to get an early start and head to Monts Valin. Trails were perfect till Tom had a problem with a road crossing near 367. If it's not the yamaha, it's the driver. After regrouping, we headed to Jonquiere to get Tom into the shop. After checking in to the hotel, John and I headed to Chappelle for lunch. Once past 328, all the trails were perfect, including the run to bras-louis...
on the way back we tried 328, but it was junk, so we took 93 back to the rooms. Later, we had a chance to say hi to Bill and saw our friends from Maryland again. After the warm temps, it was back to a deep freeze again.
Day 7: Jonquiere to Shawinigan
Conditions: -2/+18F, Sunny. Hard packed, Ice trails.
Trails: 83, 355, 318. 294 miles, 17.1 mpg, 37.2 mph [avg]. 6:30am-5:30pm.

More hard packed and icy trails to start...

Then we passed this kayak course, that we've seen for years... but earlier in the trip, we saw people running the course this winter on TV, crazy stuff. Trails near Lac St-Jean were ice with little snow, causing some heating issues. Once to 355, it was freshly groomed all the way to Lac Edouard. The problem was, the trails were ice near the sides, and chopped up ice balls in the center, making for a very interesting and mostly rough ride. In addition, the trail was rerouted, adding about another 20 miles of junk. After Lac Edouard, trails were hard and good till after the pipeline. Then the lack of snow and warmer temps did a number on the trails, especially the roads. The 2-miles of dirt/mud on a logging road is just another problem to deal with this time of year...

Overall, a good trip, that actually lasted 7-days for some of us. Another two big warm ups that were unfortunate. The big lesson learned here was the track. After great luck with the 1.5" ripsaw last year, I tried the 1.75" ripsaw this year. After a great start to the year and 3700 miles with the first set of hyfax, I went through 3 sets during this 2180 mile trip, while John's sled with a 1.5" ripsaw barely wore the hyfax. As a result, I will be using the 1.75" track till February, then I'll swap to the stock 1.25" ripsaw, with a few studs. Statistics for the trip were...2179 miles, 13.5 mpg [avg], 155 miles per quart of oil, gas was $1.06 [ca] per litre for a mix of super/regular, $1.27 exchange rate, and total fuel cost was about $500 [us], using about 3.5 gallons of oil.