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Old 04-30-2014, 10:26 PM   #1
GodfatherofSoul OP
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My Iron Butt is flat as a pancake

Why Ride?

Ever since I heard of the Iron Butt a couple of years ago, I'd thought of taking a shot at the Saddlesore and use the other rides to inform the longer trips I've been planning. I had only done trips a few hundred miles in length in good weather on my R1, so I knew I had some preparation ahead of me. On the other side of my adventuring plans is motorcycle camping, and I've been slowly building out my camping kit and setting up my bike.


My horse, less the sheepskin I sewed around the seat pad.

Another goal was seeing what it was like to ride long distances with my bike geared up for real touring. Life got in the way last year and thwarted my last launch date, so I wanted to knock out the Saddlesore as soon as I got the opportunity this year.

Prologue

As soon as the weather broke this year, I started building up ride lengths. I took the bike out with all of my camping luggage and partially loaded to get a feel for the bike under load for long periods of time. My final warm-up ride was a repeat of the most fun trip I've had on the bike; through the Ozarks, up Missouri Highway 19, and across Peel's Ferry in Arkansas.



This time I reversed the route, made sure my Garmin map uploaded correctly and treated the trip exactly like the Iron Butt Saddlesore with receipt collection and logs; even setting out early in the AM. The ride was fantastic and the hours whipped by. Blasting through rural twisties and highway 19 on roads with negligible traffic is what the R1 was made for and rarely do I get the chance to do so safely around Kansas City. I set the pace of +50mi/hour I was looking for with no fatigue or soreness. I cobbled together my own seat pad with a cheap Walmart waffle gel and a sheepskin folded around it. For the first time on a trip of that duration, my butt wasn't in pain at the end.

I strongly recommend a lengthy dry run for anyone considering the Saddlesore or any other Iron Butt ride. It helps you to work out all kinds of kinks, such as gas stops at old gas pumps and how to keep them efficient. For instance, I figured out that most of my stops were probably 10-20 miles too soon which saves me time over the long run. My dry runs also helped me to work out a routine for my stops. I created a checklist to ensure I didn't forget anything at stops and tucked it into my tank bag's map window. When you've got a good checklist, it will eliminate the chance for mistakes as well as grant you piece of mind when you get back on the road.


I would add bullets for starting and stopping my action camera as well as checking lighting conditions to see if it's time to swap from tinted to clear visor.

The Ride



I followed the recommendation to bracket my estimated riding hours to maximize daylight. That meant starting out at 3 am and getting up at 2. After a late night of final checks and only 4 hours of sleep, the alarm sounding literally shocked me right out of bed. Fumbled starts usually are bad omens which didn't leave me with a good feeling, but getting geared up and to my starting gas station after so much preparation got my adrenaline flowing. Apparently, the cashier wasn't feeling the same enthusiasm, so I didn't bother asking her to take a picture with me or the bike. Boy, did she looked annoyed to be at work.


Olathe to Council Grove, KS

I knew that for the first hour or so I'd be on familiar roads, and it wasn't until after familiar territory that the ride got more invigorating. One more hairy fat-footed step and I'd be the furthest I'd ever gone on that road, as a hobbit once said. There's something creepy yet alluring about night rides in Kansas; like a good horror movie. I always have a foreboding inevitability that some strange creature is going to dart out from just beyond your headlights. And the highway is surrounded with the more familiar among them. Everything from mice, skunks, possums, and deer hang out on or close to road sides and I saw just as many dead as alive which adds to your unease. It was shortly after Tax Day and who knows what suicidal financial regrets they might have rolling round in their furry little heads?

The worst part was the cold. Perhaps it was the morning drowsiness, but I didn't bother packing much more cool weather clothing assuming that the weather predictions would hold up. Unforgivable because I had a ton of free space. The minimums were exceeded by about 10 degrees which was more than enough to tickle my resolve with thoughts of bailing on the trip. But, with sunrise just a few hours off I knew there would be respite if I could hold out.

My first stop is always a bit premature as it tends to take a bit for me to get settled into the saddle. I was about to hop on the popular scenic road from Council Grove to Cassoday where fuel stops were an unknown. It seems sacrilegious to take a scenic road at night, but that's how my route panned out. The sun started coming up just as I cleared this section and approached Wichita and I didn't get to take any of it in under sunlight. I'd like to return to this road in the future.

The first hurdle was a GPS glitch that took me slightly off course into a rural town just as my fuel was running out. I've noticed that with Garmin map updates, if there are slight changes to road locations, your way points can cause reroutes that send you on bus stop-chicane like detours. One in particular sent me off the state highway and in the opposite direction from the nearest gas stations. In order to reduce stops, I'd made the decision to not start looking for gas stops until the fuel light came on. That's normally around 120-130 miles on a tank. I rode it out for a bit expecting a reasonable stop somewhere but after I started to get dangerously low on fuel (I still had a spare 1.5 liter can in my luggage as backup) prowling around a puny town with a dirt Main Street the GPS said had a gas station, I figured it was better to double back for fuel.



I started feeling a bit tired and the 4 hours of sleep had a lot to do with that. So, I followed recommendations and took an unplanned stop for breakfast. This was worrisome so early in the trip and I took my time eating a light breakfast to get as much rest as possible. Thankfully, that was the last of my fatigue for the rest of the trip now that the sun was raising temperatures.


Shorter ride from gas station to McDonald's. This would be the last video to survive VIRB bugs.

One of the pleasant surprises (well a surprise when you're forgetful as me) was rolling through Greensburg, Kansas. I'd added it to my route long ago when this trip was initially a sightseeing ride and not an Iron Butt ride. The, at first, anonymous town had a haphazard arrangement of buildings and trees that looked as though they'd been ravaged by an overzealous tree trimmer. It took a few seconds to realize this was the sight of the devastating tornado from years ago. Many buildings look quite new for such a small town and the area is surrounded by windmills that were a gift from the green energy guinea pig investments. Had I more time, this was a place I would have stopped for a good hour or more just to talk to locals and spread my dollar around.

Dodge City marked the beginning of a run of stockyards where cattle where packed in tightly behind rugged steel fences on ground trod to mud. The stench was overpowering and many of these I smelled long before I saw. Stockyards are a major departure from the free ranging cattle I'm used to seeing in Eastern Kansas and the sights and smells make one question the sanitary conditions our beef is fattened up under. Maybe that marbled t-bone isn't worth it's pretty appearance? I understand now why my boss was so interested in his grass-fed hobby cattle.


A large windmill south of Dodge City. There were probably hundreds here.

The long road to Elkhart was the most desolate and boring stretch of the trip. In all directions there was nothing but endless, monotone fields painted on flat terrain. Even the occasional town was nothing more than a grain elevator and a score of boxy houses, sometimes a gas station, and usually a run down bar my alcoholic grandfather would find beneath his discriminating tastes. The only incident of note was a small branch of tumbleweed that veered into my boot toe like a piggy-seeking missile. It wasn't all that large and it hurt more than I expected. That was the last time I treated tumbleweeds like drifting plastic bags.


This is a grain elevator. I still don't quite understand what these are for, but they spawn communities around them (and probably vice versa).

The flat, boring farms ended at the edge of the Cimmaron Grasslands which looked more like a desert speckled with sage brush and other strange plants. Just outside the the slightly larger, but equally boring town of Elkhart was the Three Corners junction of Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The 7 mile road from town was normal gravel which is always unnerving on my R1. I was surrounded by nothing but open ranch land, lowering expectations to about my odds of relocating to southwestern Kansas. So, I was surprised and pleased to see that the Three Corners had two landmarks besides the empty shells and bullet-ridden signs you'd expect.


The Three Corners road. It's all gravel except a few hundred feet paved by the intersection.

The first was a weather vane with arrows pointing to each state capped with a nifty buffalo.








The Colorado corner. I guess they don't like tourists.

I was so enthralled with the vane that I almost missed the plaque embedded in the ground.


The plaque says 1990.

I used the stop to snap plenty of pictures and a video, drink and eat, but I never saw any other visitors. The only company I had was a tiny bird and whatever creatures dwelled inside some angry looking burrows along the road banks. You have no clue how much restraint it took to not poke a stick inside. But, I was smart enough to suffer my tourist stop in solitude. I don't imagine travelers end up in Elkhart, Kansas without a damned good reason. Probably a good thing because it gave me an opportunity to piss on Oklahoma.

The next leg of my journey was open, remote, and well paved roads that let me make up some time. I should note that this trip was originally planned as a two-day ride to the only national park in Kansas to try out camping and my new hammock. One look at the satellite photos ruled out finding two trees in the same county much less close enough to hang. So, I was surprised to see this in a thirsty river bed.





It was a small rest area with some benches and a rusted tractor for kids to play on. I imagine if you make it this far with children, you're going to need more than abandoned farm equipment for them to de-stress. At least it was a prime hangin' spot.



My spirits picked up along these roads. It was much warmer now, the skies only had a veneer of the overcast predicted, and I knew I'd passed the halfway point. The farmland was also more scenic and familiar now with closer, residential houses and farmsteads. The winds started picking up and I even spied a dust storm ahead that was thick enough to cloud the horizon. We were about to get all Grapes of Wrathy up in here? Had my pee angered the Oklahoman gods? Was the Ghost of Steinbeck about to become the Neptune to my Iron Butt Odyssey? No Sooner was going to make ME later! So, I trudged on as the wind blew so hard from Oklahoma that my bike was in an almost constant lean. It was so strong the lean was perceptible on the VIRB's viewfinder. I thought I had jarred it off-level at the last stop!


This is dust, not overcast skies. Hard to see how thick it was with my camera.




The edge of the dust storm.

Out of the blue I ran into this landscape transition that was as abrupt as a fence.





Had I rolled back in time to ancient history? I was riding close to 88 mph. Nope, a Mustang whizzed past as I snapped pictures so time travel was out. Was it an alien terraforming operation? No, there was a house in the distance (how did he talk his wife into that move?). I want to figure out what these strange rolling hills and almost blueish gray desert scrubs were. After only a few miles the terrain ended and the pleasant rolling farmland returned.

Garden City brought more omens of doom. The Sooner gods would have their revenge.


Tumbleweeds ensnared a fence. They're not as cute as they look from a distance.

At my 6th gas stop, the wind caught a glove and blew it maybe 100 yards. I watched it in disbelief that something not intended to fly must eventually have to stop. But, it kept rolling and I kept watching, waiting for the laws of probability to take over. But, it never stopped. So, I sat my helmet on the gas pump shelf and trotted after it. The Ghost of Steinbeck knew this was his opportunity to strike. As I trotted back in my clumsy boots, I heard my helmet slam into the ground. I didn't see it, just that horrifying realization that my helmet wasn't on the pump anymore. Like when you walk out of your house and think your car was stolen because you forgot you parked in front of the neighbor's. Right on the SMH10's jog dial. Pads flew and parts flew, but thankfully there was no permanent damage. Steinbeck was sated.

Unfortunately, Sterculius, the Roman God of feces, was not. Garden City marked the beginning of 2 hours of brutal Southern winds and the wretched odor of manure. And, it never let up. Battling the wind and being sapped by the smells exhausted me and I ended up taking a premature stop in Larned, Kansas to rest my arms and snack, away from the fertilized fields.

I was at about the 800 mile mark and on any other ride, this would have been the end of my rope. I was physically fine, but mentally drained and discouraged. Shortly outside of Larnet, finally, the odors, winds, and light began to fade. I was clearing the larger farmlands and back into the grazing fields and rolling Flint hills. This was familiar territory again. Junction City was near Fort Riley, my dad's last duty station in the Army and the last route stop on my trip. From here was the short drive to Manhattan, Kansas, location of Kansas State University where I went to college. The rest of the way was well-known to my R1, but welcoming and not boring. All of my discomforts seemed to fade in the last couple hours of night riding home.

Final Stop Tallies

I left my starting station around 3:15 am and returned to the same station at 10:40 pm. The total distance traveled was 1057 miles by odometer and 1037 miles by GPS with 9 fuel stops including the terminal stop, one for breakfast, one for the Three Corners pictures, and few quick shoulder stops to snap some pics. I averaged 52 miles/hour total and 63 miles/hour while moving. Total fuel use based on receipts was 33.505 gallons for about 30.1 miles/gallon. These numbers cannot be correct since I rolled up more than 155 miles/tank a couple times (more than theoretically possible for my tank size) and I've observed mileage in the mid- to upper-thirties on shorter trips. Only the most aggressive riding has ever had me near 30. I suspect there was quite a bit of over-billing by gas stations.

By chance, the same cashier was on duty at my ending point, so I asked her to witness the ending out of posterity, though her cashier-mate was much more social, curious about the Iron Butt ("Did you set some kind of world record?" ), and even offered to sign on as the optional second witness.

Epilogue

I came away from the experience with a bittersweet feeling about riding, my bike, and the Iron Butt. Firstly, I'm glad that I took it on and met the challenge of the Saddlesore and I enjoyed the entire planning process. But, I have major reservations about the whole concept of timed challenges. It severely detracted from my enjoyment of the ride. There were all sorts of sights and detours I didn't have a chance to partake in. The specter of deadlines hangs over your head whenever you toy with an unplanned stop; the limitations of time and your endurance constantly wag a disapproving finger.

From the dead, bloated cow I desperately wanted to photograph (even the udders were bloated which still gives me a chuckle), to the two portly bicycle riders I saw in the middle of nowhere who I almost stopped to quiz in politest English "how on earth did two people in your physical conditioning make it way out here?", to several home towns of college classmates I would have loved to have made some connection with, to the cluster of ambulances and cop cars at a stockyard not far off the road. I look back on the Saddlesore more as missed opportunities than as a adventurer's experience.

This wasn't a problem on my last warm-up ride as ripping through twisties in sparse rural Missouri was an experience unto itself. And, I suppose that's the crux of my complaint with the Iron Butt. It makes the road the ride and flips the bird at the irrelevant world you're whipping through. I found my interactions with people at stops terse and rude; nothing like my other rides where I even had time to listen to old timers talk about their riding days (before SWMBO invariably squashed their senior cruises).

Even my body suffered more. I've never had considerable problems with the R1 riding position, but after 20 hours my lower back and neck were sore and I had a rawness in my palms from my gloves and on the soles of my feet. I had assumed my seat pad was owed the credit for my complete lack of crotch discomfort. But I think that might have had more to do with the combination of thermal pants, boxers, and a generous slathering of Aquaphor on my nether-regions. It took a day to recover my strength.

Finally, I started to develop regrets about my R1. I started touring on it with braggart's sense of novelty that I was the fool who would dare challenge the convention of coffee shop-threading. I rarely see other sport bikes out in the countryside which probably helped to inflate my ego. But, at a certain point the bike starts to feel like it's getting in the way of the riding. Not so much the comfort level (I'm fine for reasonable distances), but the complications of smearing touring lipstick on a track pig. The range is deplorable which sometimes enforced premature stops in deep rural territory. And, mounting gear presents its own challenges.

VIRB Failed Miserably

There was no way I was going to get a 20 hour ride on live video, so I chose the compromised time lapse setting of my VIRB Elite. I've had flaky performance from the camera from the get-go, but I thought that the last couple of updates had settled things down. Turned out my luck had settled in the downward position as well. I kept the VIRB plugged in and recorded everything except my stops. I even remembered to stop and start video each time. Unfortunately, I ended up with the same mangled video file problems that have corrupted every long ride I've taken it on. The first video recorded fine, but the second two actually caused VIRB Edit to crash and the final 10 or so videos are corrupted and unviewable. So, I got about 4 hours of real time as time lapse video. Had I not been so excited about the camera when it arrived and ripped open the packaging, I would have returned it long ago.

Michelin Pilot 4 Tires

I put these tires on about 1500 miles before the trip and pumped in Dynabeads in lieu of my tire weights. I felt far more confidence in these tires and never hesitated with lean angles. There were several times on my R1's stock tires that I felt the rear wheels kick out on turns as ordinary as roundabouts and exit ramps. Maybe it's a combination of my advancing riding skill, but I've been very happy with them. Tire wear on the rear does seem more advanced than after this many miles on the stock Pirellis and I can already see visible flattening.

Receipt Discrepancies

I noticed two discrepancies in my fuel stops. The first was a fuel quantity larger than the size of my gas tank; a reading that must have been a gallon more than I'd actually used. The second was an overcharge on gas at another stop based on the pump reading. I don't know much about gas station fraud or if calibration errors are common, but it's quite interesting that 2 of 8 stops produced overcharges. I wouldn't be surprised if there were other anomalies I didn't pick up on. These are charges I'd never notice with a car.

The Future

The Saddlesore has made an immediate impact on how I intend on riding in the future. My near goals had all revolved around Iron Butt challenges interspersed with camping, but I have no immediate desire to take on those kinds of stresses again. Right now, I feel the only way I'd attempt another is if life and the parameters of an Iron Butt ride through some fluke of fortune intersected. Maybe I'll have a post-pregnancy retrospective after my memories of the pain and misery fade. As much as I love my bike, I also feel that it's impractical for where my riding interests are taking me. That move to the KLR or F800Gs might be closer in the future than I'd imagined, but parting with my dream bike won't be easy. Money is also a factor.

Much to think about in the coming weeks!
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Old 04-30-2014, 11:33 PM   #2
CSI
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Great ride report !!

I have some aquaintances here in Kansas that have been discussing an iron butt ride......but their routing is taking them all interstate (70 to Denver, north to 80, then back towards Omaha). I would find that mind numbingly BORING.

I like how you did yours !! Scenery that is a trip thru history, and the chance to see small town America !!
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Old 04-30-2014, 11:40 PM   #3
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I enjoyed that. Especially your conclusions which were thought provoking. I have done a couple of Iron Butts and want to do more though I am at heart a tourist. For me the Iron Butt is a challenge and nothing stops me returning to enjoy those places later if I felt moved. However I generally stick to freeways for those rides and back country for touring. Perhaps I have higher tolerance for boredom!
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Old 05-01-2014, 08:22 AM   #4
GAS GUY
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Quote:
Originally Posted by conchscooter View Post
I enjoyed that. Especially your conclusions which were thought provoking. I have done a couple of Iron Butts and want to do more though I am at heart a tourist. For me the Iron Butt is a challenge and nothing stops me returning to enjoy those places later if I felt moved. However I generally stick to freeways for those rides and back country for touring. Perhaps I have higher tolerance for boredom!

Exactly.
You can do both.
Sometimes you may want to push yourself on an Iron Butt ride and another day you can go flower sniffin.
It is nice to have the discipline and ability to ride long distance because it often comes in handy when I am short on time and need to be somewhere,or want to spend more time at a location and then hammer home.
Its all good.
One thing is for sure,if you have any demons to deal with,after a thousand miles in the saddle they are likely to be perched up on your shoulder and jabbering in your ear !!!
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Old 05-01-2014, 08:06 PM   #5
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Nice report - thanks for taking the time to write it and post pictures. I like your report of the ride, but also your analysis at the end.


Quote:
Originally Posted by GAS GUY View Post
Exactly.
You can do both.
Sometimes you may want to push yourself on an Iron Butt ride and another day you can go flower sniffin.
Totally agree. you now know what it takes to do a lot of miles in a short time. A handy way to cross the country fast, and get to a new destination to explore.

You did your saddlesore well, and covered the ground with time to spare, so you can see that you can take a nice 3 hour break in the middle, rest, eat and continue refreshed. An alternative approach to the ride - not necessarily the only or a better way to do it - just another way.

Well done!
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Old 05-02-2014, 04:26 AM   #6
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Well done and great points in your reflections on the ride.

Cheers
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Old 05-02-2014, 05:25 AM   #7
The Lazy Destroyer
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Great report, well written, and very cool to see another sportbike rider cranking out miles on unconventional rides

I agree that something like a IBA ride is a different animal then riding around enjoying the day. For me, not worse but just different. I don't have many vacation days at work so I use endurance rides to get me far away quick where I can then enjoy the scenery and take my time.

And yes, very likely you'll have post-pregnancy opinion change and forget all about the tiredness and soreness, and remember only the novelty of doing so many miles in a single day. At least I get that way usually.

One thing is for sure, if you want to appreciate a "quick" 300 mile day... it only takes a 1,000 mile day to do it Cause after a 1,000+ mile day, rides that other riders seem to think are long really feel like a cake walk!
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Old 05-02-2014, 07:51 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by The Lazy Destroyer View Post

And yes, very likely you'll have post-pregnancy opinion change and forget all about the tiredness and soreness, and remember only the novelty of doing so many miles in a single day. At least I get that way

Well put. I now refer to two types of fun. Type 1 fun is fun NOW.

Type 2 fun is fun later on, when you look back.



Arguably, the difficulties are often what make a trip the most memorable. Not entirely true, but it's overcoming the difficulties that often make the best stories.
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Old 05-03-2014, 11:03 AM   #9
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I think you guys are right about the "Type 2" fun retrospective. By Thursday, I was ready to do another one! I'll definitely be doing more long distance and endurance rides.
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Old 05-03-2014, 12:15 PM   #10
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Excellent report, interesting well written, great style. Easy on the eyes.

Thank you for:
a) doing it
b) taking the time to document it
c) taking the time to write the report
d) taking the time to spellcheck and grammar check

:)
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Old 05-03-2014, 01:52 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CSI View Post
Great ride report !!

I have some aquaintances here in Kansas that have been discussing an iron butt ride......but their routing is taking them all interstate (70 to Denver, north to 80, then back towards Omaha). I would find that mind numbingly BORING.

I like how you did yours !! Scenery that is a trip thru history, and the chance to see small town America !!
The one thing you have to worry about in small towns is the ticket whoring. Drive through each town like you're on a driving test. Open roads are no problem.
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Old 05-03-2014, 01:59 PM   #12
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Thanks for the compliments all! This was my first ride report and I hope there will be more to come!
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Old 05-04-2014, 01:11 PM   #13
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Really enjoyed this report. I tried my first long ride two weekends ago and ended up dealing with so much traffic & construction I went home. I like your adventure much better and, the insights as well. I've already considered that my beloved Bonneville might not be the er, most appropriate, for touring.... but for now, she's what I have.
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Old 05-15-2014, 06:34 PM   #14
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Congrats!! The KS SS1K is on my to-do list!
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Old 05-15-2014, 09:09 PM   #15
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Really enjoyed your report. Very interesting detail and engaging narrative.
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