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Old 04-05-2008, 09:11 AM   #1
Sly-on-2 OP
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Amblin' about North America - half a year with a 2-wheeled home

For the second half of 2007, I called my motorcycle “home,” as I rode over 30,000 miles across 40 States & 5 Provinces.






The real-time RR was posted on my blog. But the ADV inmates who’ve taken time to post inspiring reports have compelled me to do the same for all my fellow riding fools. Many of us also enjoy reading about adventures while our bikes sits cold, waiting the next time when the two-wheels roll.

Before I introduce myself, I want to ask the GSA, KTM & KLR guys to take a look and not write me off quite yet, simply because I chose a 21 year-old Wing as my Adventure Sled. “Yes,” it can be an “Adventure” if you ride a road bike. Over 2,000 miles of gravel and virtually no superslab make this adventure the real-deal. (IMHO of course.) Not to mention, six months on the road changes the vibe of the adventure. One thing I took away from the trip is that I’ll never be able to recreate it. Two to six weeks just can’t compare with the life-changing experiences that seem to happen when one truly becomes a wanderer for so long. People began to react to me differently, and I to them. Realistically, though I’ll take big trips for many years to come, a multi-month trip is probably out of the question.

I’m so lucky to have been able to do it once. Hope you enjoy reading about it.






Introduction: Well, I turned 33 on my trip. I’ve been dreaming of riding to Alaska since I was 15. At 15, I bought a Yamaha RD 400. At 19, a Honda Hawk. After totaling it, I didn’t ride for a couple of years, but then bought an ’85 V-Max at 26. I put over 20k each on both the Hawk and the Max and took 2-week trips on both. I sold the Max at 30, after it had sat for a couple of years. I bought an 1100 V-Star on e-bay, and put over 5k on it during the summer of ’06 that I spent in Minnesota. I loved riding the back roads of MN and WI.












You crazy mo-fo’s inspired me to ride ADV style and I tried to ride that thing like a GSA. Here’s a link to the RR, if you care to see a cruiser buried to the frame.
http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=213654





On a whim, I bought the Wing on e-bay over Thanksgiving ‘06 and after a bit of maintenance, rode 3,000 miles in 5 days to Key West and back, just because. Then, I pulled the trigger and committed to taking a trip beginning in six months (May 2007.)






I’d gone back to school for two years and would finish at the end of April. Rather than get a job to start paying off the staggering student loans, I chose the FYFF route and loaded up the bike and headed out. Figured I’d ride until I either broke the bike or broke my savings account. Fortunately, the bike held up unbelievably, given the way I flogged it like a rented mule. My cheap a$$ learned quickly how to squeeze a nickel until the buffalo barked and I stayed rolling down the road for a long time, much longer than anticpated.

The beginning of the report won’t be as cool as the last four months, but I’m going to start from the beginning, so if you get bored, just skip ahead.

I’d read a few ride reports on ADV before heading out. Here’s a genuine “thank-you sir” to Kaneman. I’d made it through about 150 pages before I left and really liked hearing about his saga.

Since I got back, I’ve loved reading about CaveBiker, Rogue1, DKADV, Flanga and others.

Funklab is often in my thoughts. My soon-to-arrive Clayton RIP shirt will always make me think fondly of the ADV community and the genuine warm-heartedness that people exhibit, often towards people they’ve never met.

Thanks to all those who’ve inspired me with their adventures and ride reports. This is one hell of a cyber-place.

Cheers,

Sly

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Old 04-05-2008, 09:21 AM   #2
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After a build up like that I have high expectations for this ride report! I might just be a young rider, but I plan on taking at least one of these trips in my lifetime. I congratulate you for having the will to complete the journey.
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Old 04-05-2008, 09:33 AM   #3
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A ride report of 6 months on the road? Sign me up. However, I hold YOU responsible if I do not go to work Monday.

ok, im ready!
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Old 04-05-2008, 09:55 AM   #4
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*** Disclaimer ***
This section isn't your typical ADV RR and may be better suited to another audience, but please stick with me.


I'll keep the racing and Bike Week pics to a minimum.


I've read the thoughts of many guys on this forum with regards to NASCAR. Oh well... at least we all agree on motorcycles.





The preparation:
  • Timing belts
  • Radiator, flush and fill
  • Plugs, fuel and air filters, and battery.
  • Cleaning all the electrical contacts and some soldering
  • Remove, clean, grease, and reassemble the Final Drive and Drive Shaft.
  • Replace the front fork oil and swap the springs for Heavy Duty Progressive Springs.
  • New Tires
  • New Wheel Bearings
  • New cigarette lighter style accessory outlet in the fairing.
  • Remove the antanna and disable the pos tape player.
  • New Magellan RoadMate 2200 GPS with RAM Mount
Not only could I not afford to pay someone to turn the wrenches, no local shop will touch a bike that's older than 7 years.

















The morning after classes ended, I hopped on the Wing and left Winston-Salem for the Carolina Coast. While staying with friends on the beach, I used the daytime to click off a couple hundred miles of beautiful coastline roads.

I left Wilmington area and headed toward Richmond for the NASCAR race. Along the way, I stopped at a BMW dealer to check out a GSA for the first time. Hell, if I can ride the Wing, I can ride the GSA.

I’m a short guy. 5’7 and a buck-sixty. My Jeans are 32x30. Not only can I not flat-foot the GoldWing, I can barely get both tips of my boots on the ground. So I never put both feet down at once. Technique is my friend. At low speeds, if I try to put a foot down to correct a mistake, the bike will go down. Period. All I’ve got is the throttle to help me keep the bike shiny side up.

Anyhow, made it to Richmond and found a great place to camp, pulled the beer and bungee cords off my bike and trekked to the track for some great racing.















Next, I headed to Western North Carolina to meet a buddy and spend a week riding the mountains. Think “The Dragon” for a week. We only spent a day on The Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap, but we rode similar roads all week long. Just over 1,000 miles that week, but very technical miles. It was awesome to get my confidence up and know that I could lay that beast over until the metal screamed and it would still track through the corners and straighten back up with me in one piece.


















No need to comment on my line. I'd hung U-turns and was posing for Killboy taking pictures from the side of the road. On the Dragon, I hugged the white and watched out for double yellow-crossing sport bikes and dump trucks. I just increased my lean angle and drifted toward the center for the photographic effect.








My buddy on his new Scrambler.








My buddy hooked us up with a cool place to stay. No tent for a couple of days.













Tom, pretending to give a damn about where we're going next.







I'm a HUGE Evel fan, have been since I was 4. Me in front of one of his bikes at The Wheels Through Time Museum.

All bikers of all types will love this place. Check it out in Maggie Valley, NC. All gearheads will like it for that matter.












Then, I rode two-up with a friend of mine while camping at night near Asheville, NC. She had never ridden and we spent a few days on the Blue Ridge Parkway.



From the top of Mt. Mitchell









Given that I was about to say "goodbye" to my home for a longtime, and given that we'd agreed to say "goodbye" to each other, it was so nice to spend a few days riding the Blue Ridge Mountains and camping by the French Broad River with a great girl. Gotta make some sacrafices to hit the road for half a year. New chicks dig it, the "present" chicks... well... not-so-much.



Having swapped the Wing for the V-Star, I took off for a week of Racing and Harleys. I went to the NASCAR race in Darlington and then went to Bike Week in Myrtle, just to see what it was like.





My "neighbor" at Darlington taking a nap. He's a helluva guy and I had fun partying with him for a couple of days.












Loaded up and ready to leave Darlington... with a few beers to spare. "No officer, I haven't been drinking...yet."

A shovel-head under the kickstand kept the bike from taking a trip without me. A "shovel head" under a Yamaha, it's the little bits of irony that crack me up.







Bike week was nuts. I got there on Sunday and left on Wednesday, so the real crazy stuff happened when I wasn't around. It's just not my scene. I like riding, not sitting in traffic surrounded by people who often don't take riding as seriously as I do. It was a cool experience though, and I met some kickass people.

During the days, I clicked off about 300 miles each day riding the South Carolina low-country.








Even found some sand to ride. Heck yeah it's an adventure!!! (on bald street tires.)






At the end... a cool old historic plantation.





If money grew on trees, I'd have a jockey-shift Boss Hoss for sure. Since money is hard to come by, this is the closest I'll ever get to riding one.








Two V-Twins in one motorcycle. I wish I had that much free time. Oh yeah, I do... that's why I riding around the continent. Different strokes for different folks.







Riding with my neighbors from the campground.













Then, I headed north. Before this trip, Maine and Wyoming were the only two in the lower 48 that I hadn’t visited. For two weeks, I took two-lane roads from NC to ME and into Quebec, and to St. John.







I’ll break down that part of the trip with pictures and stories and then, I’ll move on to the westward journey that takes me to the Dakotas where the trip took on a new twist.
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Old 04-05-2008, 10:14 AM   #5
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Old 04-05-2008, 11:17 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E-man
Yea, can't wait to read more!
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Old 04-05-2008, 11:23 AM   #7
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With the Wing pointed North West, I took off toward Roanoke and then onto Covington, VA and then into Warm Springs in Bath County VA.







That night, I crawled into my tent just as the rain drops turned into a torrential downpour. My tent has an orange rain fly and the spectacular lightning strikes made a cool glow in my 10 year-old Eureka Apex 3XT. Having spent a year’s worth of nights in the tent before the trip, I knew it wouldn’t leak a drop. Unfortunately, I’d not properly staked it and the whipping winds pulled a stake from the now soft soil. Not wanting to get my clothes wet, I stripped down to my bare ass and grabbed my axe and went out to re-stake the tent. With the lightning, it was as bright as high-noon, but who would be outside in such weather to see me streaking?

I crawled into my tent, had a good laugh at myself and drifted off into the kind of sleep that only comes in a thunderstorm.

Before I’d parked the night before, I’d noticed a vibration and thought I’d warped a front rotor. So I used the rear brake more (something I never do) but with the linked braking system, there was still a slight wobble. I hadn’t gone too far when I noticed it had gotten worse. Inspection didn’t show anything unusual so I just kept the speeds down so I wouldn’t have to get on the brakes too much. After a couple of hours, it had gotten really bad. Every time I hit the front brake, the whole front end lurched into a frightening shudder. I was convinced it was a bent rotor. What a way to start the trip. Breaking down was my biggest fear because I just didn’t have the budget for it. The only thing that would end my journey would be mechanical problems (or crash induced breakage.) In Elkins WV, I saw a bike shop and pulled in. It was a KTM / Yamaha dealer but I hung a U-turn and nearly lost it in the process, the front end was FUBAR. Beside the shop-front was a steep ramp that led to the garage. Clearly not intended for customers, I rode up and stopped directly in front of the garage door. The mechanics were clearly not amused. They ignored me until I spoke, and then walked over coldly to look at my bike.

I’ll never forget the next 45 seconds as long as I live.



The mechanic’s expression and attitude changed suddenly. He turned white as a ghost. His hand started shaking and in a very different tone of voice he turned to his buddy and said: “This guy almost died.”

He turned to me: “You almost died man, you… you… I can’t believe it. You almost died. Holy… look at this” he said to the other mechanic.

One of the U-Clamps holding the axel to the forks had fallen completely off!!! The other was held on by only one nut which was hanging on by two threads!!!.

The remaining U-Clamp had lost three of the four nuts that held it on and the one remaining was unthreaded by a dozen threads, clinging to the forks by only two threads.

Of the eight screws, sever were gone. Of the two clamps, one was gone and the other was super loose and barely there.

One bump or seam in the asphalt and my front wheel would have fallen clean off.

You can imagine the ugly result of losing a front wheel while riding.

I was in shock.

On a side note, you’re the first people to hear this. I never posted the details on my blog for fear my parents and friends would freak. I left Elkins with a different perspective. If it had been my time, I would have been gone. For the next 30,000 miles, I never went long without remembering that moment. Even in scary situations, I felt like it wasn’t my time. Anyhow, back to the story.

The other mechanic was a big ass dude. A prison guard is his second job. Huge. His name is Angel. I couldn’t get over the “sign.” I was being helped by an Angel. This experience really shaped my trip, as you’ll read about later.

Angel makes some calls, and the soonest Honda can get a part here is a couple of days later. Then, he says “how about that guy that’s got the chopper shop across town, doesn’t he have some old Honda rusting out back?” Evidently, that guy doesn’t have a phone, so off Angel goes to track down an axel-clamp. He comes back with a clamp from a ’70 something Honda and says “close enough.”

He puts it on, and then puts a second nut on each of the eight studs for safety. Then, torque specifications be damned, he took that wrench and put them on such that I’d need to find a 250 pound guy to help me get my wheel off next time.

Total time at the shop, less than two hours. Cost: $50. The two guys said sincere goodbye’s and wished me well on my way to Alaska. It was hard to believe that I almost didn’t make it West of WVA. Rather than get on the highway and have time to really think about what happened, I went straight for the tiny mountain roads without painted lines. A bit of hard riding allowed me to focus on what I had to do, which was ride hard, ride carefully and keep going.

Next stop – Johnstown, PA

I rolled into Johnstown in the early afternoon. I’ve been a Johnny Cash fan for years and love the song “The Night of the Johnstown Flood.” I went to the memorial to fully understand that tragic night.







I knew the flood was deadly, but had no idea how many people died. Over 2,200 people died on May 31st, 1889.





From there, I pulled into Punxsutawney.








I stopped into a watering hole to take the parch off. It was a biker bar and I was out of place, but had fun nonetheless. After a cold Bud, I went out to gear up and hit the road. A guy came out and went up to the totally chromed out Road King parked next to my ugly Wing. A mini-van pulled up and out jumped a cute little boy. Grandpa lifted him up and put him on the Harley.

I turned and said: “That’s good, get him into motorcycles early. If you’re not careful, he could grow up and get a Honda!” They had a good laugh. Harley guys always treat me great. “It’s not what you ride, it’s that you ride.” I’ve heard a Milwaukee devotee say it a hundred times.





Even after the escapade in Elkins, I still got in over 350 miles, and spent time at the Flood memorial, all without the aid of the Eisenhower Interstate system.

In Marionville, PA, just before dark, I found a National Forest and rode a few miles of gravel to find a spot. I got there, and there was a fee, an honor system fee. I’d been told that National Parks charged to camp, but that Forests didn’t. I didn’t have anything but a $20 and wasn’t about to pay that to camp, so regretfully, I compromised my morals.





I broke camp early, just after daylight. Packed up, cranked the choke and hit the button.

Nothing. Not a click, not a single turn of the starter or the motor. Serves me right, must be the bad karma from stealing from the National Park Service. All the years of enjoyment I’ve gotten from the Park Service and then I screwed them out of five bucks. Now who has the last laugh?

I started trouble shooting. Not the ignition, not the starter, it’s got to be the starter switch. After 30 minutes, I hit the button for the hundredth time and it started. Sweet.

Today I decided to follow my new GPS to Niagara Falls. I packed up after routing to the Falls via the "avoid interstates" option. The GPS indicated a right hand turn when a left is what I expected. I followed the GPS and spent the next hour riding 15 miles of dirt roads. Nothing quite like riding a 21 year-old machine that weighs nearly half-a-ton down trails meant for snowmobiles.





The road went from gravel to deep graded gravel to dirt and back to loose stuff.















Notice the headlight is working... will make sense in a few days.


At points, the road was very wide, perhaps three lanes wide. I can only imagine flying down the road at 80 mph through a foot of fresh powder.





After getting out of the middle of nowhere, I knew I had to get to the nearest mechanic.







I made it three hours to Jamestown, NY. There was an older guy who specializes in Goldwings and rode up after a test ride on an old 1200 just like mine.

Merv grabbed a multimeter and ran some tests. Sure enough, the starter switch was shot. Honda doesn't make the part anymore and it's a huge pain to change. Something I didn't want to do in a parking lot. Merv showed me how to start my bike with a screwdriver and told me it would run like that forever. I was delayed less than an hour. Merv was fantastic. He answered my questions and didn't charge me a dime. Back on the road and off to Niagara Falls.





I took off the plastic cover that covers the battery and stowed it away. I kept a flat-head screwdriver wedged in my Crazy Creek chair. Turn the key, bridge the posts on the solenoid and wha-la. The bike fires right up. Amid a firestorm of sparks, of course.

My first stop for fuel was a bit sketchy. For the rest of the trip, I pulled as far from the fuel pump as possible and downwind. As I got better with starting the bike with a screwdriver, the resulting sparks got smaller. The screwdriver bridges the posts of the solenoid to complete the circuit. The sparkler-like sparks don't hurt anything, but are quite disconcerting while standing next to a gasoline pump.


After beginning the day with 15 miles of gravel, I couldn't resist the urge to take a jaunt through the fields for a change of scenery on the way to Niagara.





Wow!

























The falls were awesome. After seeing them, I was compelled to hit the road once again. ... without seeing Goat Island







From Niagara Falls, I would ride the coast of Lake Ontario all the way. Last summer, I rode along Lake Superior from Deluth, MN up to Grand Maris.

Since I was a kid, I've always wanted to see the falls. Mission accomplished.


I'd hoped to make Saranac Lake before nightfall, but that wouldn't happen. The coast along Watertown NY looked good, so off I went.

Since Merv had shown me how to start my bike, I grabbed my screwdriver and fired it up. The looks on peoples' faces are priceless.

I rode the Lake Ontario State Parkway all along the shoreline and it was fantastic.







I saw this sign and had to hang a U-Turn and chuckle.









Around 5:00, I was tooling around some back roads and saw some signs that looked interesting and then stumbled on a little coastal town with marinas and shops. I went in to grab a quick bite and a drink (if only there were sweet tea in NY.)






I walked into the bar and sat down to enjoy the lake view and the food. The people there all wanted to hear who I was and why I was there, so I obliged. A girl seated near me mentioned she had just ridden the Adirondacks on her Sportster, and that if I was headed that direction, she should advise me on my route. After 10 minutes with her and my Atlas, I had the next 6 hours of riding planned. She told me I'd never make my destination by sundown and that I should camp there in Sodus Point. After only riding 320 miles that day, I wasn’t ready to call it a day, but I also didn’t want to pass up a potentially epic night.

Next thing I knew, I was following her Jeep Wrangler down a dirt road through an apple orchard for a few miles until the road ended at Lake Ontario. The "secret spot" wasn't secret to locals, but a traveler would never find such a jewel of a camping spot. Along the gravel road, is the clubhouse of a local MC. They were all hanging out as I rode by and just gave a friendly biker-wave. I guess me riding by on a bagger, going so fast I left a huge plume of dust, they took me seriously as a rider and not some chump on a Honda who'se just out for a Sunday ride.










I set up camp and she gave me a lift back to Captain Jacks and then she took off and headed for home. We didn’t hang out for long, but she made my day for sure. A great palace to camp, and a great bar to hang out and spend the evening; I’d never have found either without her.



A bunch of cool people came in during the next several hours. I stayed until closing and partied with a whole bunch of rowdy folks. After closing, the bartender gave me a ride back to my tent. I expected her to drop me off at the end of the gravel road and leave me to walk a few miles. Nope, she took me down the road, through the field and all the way to the shoreline. She even turned her car to shine her headlights on my tent to give me a second to find my headlamp. When I set up my camp, I purposely put my headlamp in an easy-to-find place. After many hours of drinking at Captain Jack’s, I had no idea where to begin looking.

Thanks for the lift!


A little drunken nighttime photography.



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Old 04-05-2008, 11:48 AM   #8
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The road to the lake was clearly posted no trespassing, but the girl that told me about it knew the people that owned the land and assured me I would be ok. No one messed with me all night, as far as I know.

The view when I awoke was spectacular!






The panorama from my tent.



What a way to wake up at 7:00.










I walked down a hill to a beach that had amazing rocks which were smooth from the Lake's waves and multi-colored from some geological affect that I'm not familiar with.





A bit of whittling and subsequent discovery of driftwood yielded this sculpture.





I should leave the artwork to Mother Nature. Here is a fine example of her work.





When wet, the rock showed more brilliant colors than when dry. It was pretty cool.

With the cobwebs now cleared, time to hit the road... but first, a few miles of gravel.





I thought to myself: “This pattern of waking up to gravel riding cannot be healthy for a twenty-one year old Gold Wing. “ Oh how attitudes change!!! Stay tuned for the 70mph ass-haulin’ over The Top of the World Highway into Chicken. Stay way tuned though, it’ll be awhile. A couple of months’ worth of posts.

I headed into Sodus Point to take some pictures.






Here are a few. Perhaps you'll find them even more interesting without an explanation.






























I left Sodus Point and headed North East along the coast. I would explore the Adirondacks and go to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.

The ride along the lake was beautiful. I was surprised by how many modest homes lined the shore. Sure, there were huge lakefront compounds, but there were also many homes with amazing views that looked as if the homeowners could work at one of the nearby plants or farms. Very cool. After riding the gulf coast over Christmas, and the Carolina Beaches earlier in this trip, seeing something in between the beachfront mansions in beach towns and the beachfront shanty's in the impoverished South was really nice.


No sooner than I made it to the mountains than it began raining. The fog was so bad, that even during dry periods, visibility was terrible.

My cell phone had died and wouldn't charge. I decided to make Burlington before sundown to get to a Verizon store. Surely in Burlington there is downtown camping.

My stupid Magellan GPS sent me to a neighborhood rather than to a store (I should have listened to all you Garmin fans who warned me against the Magellan. You were right and I was wrong… saving a few pennies was NOT worth it.)

Working in their front yard, I saw a Dad and his teenage son and asked them for directions. They gave me none. Instead, (after hearing my story) the Dad told his son to get in the car and let me follow him to the store. It took nearly 20 minutes. What a nice guy! I wish I could send them a note.

I got a new phone as the sun set. My headlight had quit working so parking before dusk was paramount. I rode three miles past the University of Vermont and camped in a State Park on Lake Champlain and then walked downtown to eat dinner and drink beer like a civilized person. The craft beer was cold and delicious and the people friendly. I do like Vermont… a lot.

The beer really hit the spot. All eight of them. Pints of microbrew were much appreciated after the cans of Bud I've been drinking on the trip so far. Plus, I logged just over 500 miles today, and worked on the bike and dealt with Verizon and thier horse-shite customer service. Actually, the first couple of beers hit the spot. The last few served a different purpose. Mission accomplished. The walk back to camp could have been 10 blocks or 10 miles, either way, I didn't care.






In the morning, I broke camp and rode downtown to the Chew-Chew festival. It's a food festival on the waterfront; a food festival with a funny name. I met Gino and Sophia, he is from Boston and she’s from Montreal. They married two years ago and have been on the road traveling the country selling custom jewelry at festivals. They were among the nicest people I'd met. They'd just returned from Mt. Airy NC (aka "Mayberry" from The Andy Griffith Show.) Between his Boston accent and her French one, the three of us provided eavesdroppers with a cacophony of regional sounds. Mt. Airy is part of my “local loop.” On sunny days, I take off from Winston-Salem NC and ride a couple hundred miles on little country roads and usually end up in Mt. Airy for bar-b-que and hushpuppies.












The view from the downtown waterfront is fantastic.



After a great six-course meal from the Chew-Chew vendors, I left to roam the Great North Woods of Vermont.
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Old 04-05-2008, 04:58 PM   #9
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Awesome adventure indeed

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Old 04-05-2008, 05:09 PM   #10
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Dual sport not required. Awesome looking adventure
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Old 04-18-2008, 09:15 AM   #11
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Hey man,
It's not what you ride that's important. Great pictures and good luck.
Cheers
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Old 04-18-2008, 11:28 AM   #12
Paddygfw
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Good luck with your new job.....
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Old 04-18-2008, 12:16 PM   #13
100mpg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paddygfw
Good luck with your new job.....
Yeah, good luck! (wrkscs)
After you finish the RR, are you going to give us a DR of the trip to Colorado?
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Old 04-18-2008, 06:53 PM   #14
BikerGeek99
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Very Well Done!

Dittos on the cudos for your RR. This is damn near like crack to me!

Bummer about your friend. My condolences to you and her family.

I'm going to be in Denver in early June. My schedule is going to be 'active,' but perhaps we could meet. When the time gets closer I'll PM ya.

Keep it coming! (When you have a . . um . . job and all )

Later...
BikerGeek99
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Old 05-16-2008, 06:05 PM   #15
D-Mac
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There's no way this thread should be on page 3 of Ride Reports.....just bumping it back up

Please keep it coming Sly. This thread is LIFE CHANGING!!!
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