First Steppe: Mongolia

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Joe Motocross, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    Little break in the Mongolian ride report. Had to get Minxter re-acquainted with her bike.
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    More Mongolia tomorrow.
  2. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    Day 14
    GET TO THE GOBI!! We had visions of riding double humped camels in vast sand dunes. It was still raining and the wind was still blowing strong from the north. After two days of nothing too notable, things were about to get intense, although we didn't know it yet.

    Buuuuurrrt and Minxter put on their rubber gloves. I purposely didn't bring any because I had no intentions of doing any serious rain riding. We didn't want to hang out in the manky ger all day and we were really pumped up on getting into the desert. So, I improvise with a couple of plastic bags and we start riding. We don't even get out of town and Minxter goes down in a mud hole. I announce that I think it's too greasy and unwise to leave town in these conditions. My partners are amped up to go and it doesn't take much to convince me to go along even though I know better. We take off in the rain.
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    We are actually making good time considering the rain and the mud holes we are having to dodge. Then we see the first herd of double humped camels!! We figure we are officially in the Gobi now! We are excited and press on.
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    We stop for a quick break. The rain continues along with a very stiff tail wind. It was not the easiest riding but not the hardest. We were still moving along pretty good at this point.
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    Then things start to go bad. The ground is more and more saturated with mud holes all over. Our front tires are getting locked up with mud stuck in the fender.
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    It's officially a greasy mess at this point and the rain and wind continue.
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    Here's Minxter trying to get the mud out of her front tire/fender so it will roll again.
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    The one thing that we learned was that you only sank so far when riding through the water puddles unlike some mud holes I've experienced in the deserts in the western U.S. which can swallow whole bikes. So we ended up riding through the water rather than trying to avoid it. This kept the front tire from getting clogged.
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    Up on some high ground we came across a couple of trucks that were waiting out the bad weather. They would just wait until it stopped raining and dried up enough to continue. This is a smarter approach than ours.
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    We were shooting for the town of Bogd where we figured we could find a ger to rent again and get out of the weather. We were still quite a distance from Bogd at this point but we kept battling the mud, rain, and wind. At least the wind was at our back. We were completely soaked at this juncture.
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    And there it is. The stopper. This is a wash that's running that's too deep and swift for us to cross. For those not familiar with these, washes are dry stream beds that only run like a river during storms, otherwise they're dry. We are very familiar with how washes can halt your progress because we ride so much desert terrain in the States. Our eagerness got the better of us.

    When we came up to it, I walked across to check it to see if it was at all possible. It was almost too difficult to even walk across and I even fell down but was able to regain. We were only 14km from Bogd here but could not cross the wash. It was very late in the day. The strong north wind would be a head wind if we tried to retreat at all which was not an option considering the mud holes were only getting worse. We had to face the music and hunker down and try to keep the dry gear that we still had on the bikes dry so we wouldn't get cold. OH BOY!!! Keep it together!!
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    89km of mud running for the day.
  3. RedRockRider

    RedRockRider Long timer

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    That's some nice lookin' mud! :huh Almost looks like the AZ strip after rain.

    Great ride report. Thanks! :thumb
  4. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    Day 15
    We were officially PINCHED!! It was still raining the next morning and it was cold. We still wouldn't be able to make it across the wash that was blocking us and it wouldn't have been wise to try to back track through the 89km of mud. Plus, we couldn't risk getting our dry gear wet if we decided to break down camp and make a move. So we hunkered down. We were dry and warm for the time being.
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    It becomes a game of patience when you're in a situation like this. Your mind starts coming up with ways to get moving but you know you should just stay put until it clears. So we continue to chill into mid day.
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    It's still raining. We are having to ration our food and water a bit as we don't have an unlimited supply. We can stay put for another day no problem and we start getting our mind set for that.
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    We all move over to Buuuuuurrrrts quarters for a couple rounds of "Pigs", a game where you throw two small plastic pigs like dice to score. It's mid afternoon now and we think the rain is letting up.
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    Sure enough, we get out of the tents and the clouds lifted just enough to reveal the aftermath of a fairly significant Siberian low pressure system. Yup, snow down to the lower elevations.
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    The storm breaks enough for us to start drying our gear. The north wind is still blowing but has slowed significantly.
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    It breaks some more and we can see the full effect of the storm. The peaks are over 10,000 feet. We continue to do damage control by getting all of our gear dry and stowed away in case it decides to rain more. We're feeling pretty good about attempting a move the next morning.
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    A while later we conclude that the storm has moved through and it's going to continue to clear. Buuuurrrt and I decide we need to go do a little 'recon' mission and check out the wash we couldn't cross the day before. The ground is already starting to dry by this time.
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    We were able to cross the wash and ride the 14km to the town of Bogd where we stocked up on food, water, BEER and VODKA!! Things were really coming back around for us.
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    There were other folks who got pinched by the storm like this group in a mini van stuck in a mud hole. We tried to help push them but it was futile. At the wash, which we had to cross again to get back to camp, there was a truck stuck. Two guys tried to cross it after us and didn't make it. Looks like they'll be hunkering down until it dries some more also.
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    Back at camp, it was cold but we were comfortable and happy. We'd found some olives that we randomly picked up somewhere and were mixing martini's. This consists of popping an olive in your mouth and taking a shot of vodka.
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    All of a sudden, we notice this guy walking up to our camp. It was like he came out of nowhere!!
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    He offered us a smoke and we offered him a shot of vodka. He took the bottle and put the "Mongolian choke hold" on it and killed the last 1/4 of the bottle in one pull!!! Of course, no english.
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    We were milling around and just like he appeared, we notice that he's already walking off. Crazy.
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    At this point we have a nice buzz and we're totally enjoying our camp. The features all around us are stunning!!! We had no idea when we rolled in during the storm the day before.
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    Time for Gobi Goulash.
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    Unbelievable!!! Perfect sunset.
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    This wasn't exactly what we had in mind for a rest and recuperate day but we ended up really liking this day a lot.
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    28km for the day, to Bogd and back to camp.
  5. kahlgryndiger

    kahlgryndiger Been here awhile

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    Perfect ride report!
  6. Katoom119

    Katoom119 Mmmm....Orange Kool-aid

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    I get the impression that people out on the steppe just come up to your camp for a bit of human interaction and don't stay very long. That seem to be right?

    Now you've got me wanting to to go Mongolia...
  7. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    That's what it seemed like to us Katoom. Hard to say since nothing was really spoken most of the time. Our impression was they were nice people and were curious.
  8. mabuz

    mabuz Adventurer

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    Wow, amazing adventure you guys had. I don't post much, just read for the most part here, but had to comment...amazing!

    I spent a few months time in Mongolia over two summers for work a few years back, and this brings back some memories, although I was there for work, nothing like the adventure you guys had, living in a ger for weeks on end in the mountains was still an adventure in itself.

    Great RR too, inspiring to those of us that don't get out to ride in places like that.
  9. ata

    ata expat in the jungle

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    awesome pics

    riding in mud is hard.............. but this ...........is....................adapt and survive

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    :lol3




    :beer
  10. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    I feel lucky to be able to travel to remote regions of the world occasionally to ride motorcycles. The key to this is enough money AND enough time. These two things are hard to have at the same time I find. I feel my limited time on this earth is worth more than money to me. This means I don't make extraordinary amounts, but it allows me some freedom. The trade off is always going on a small budget. However, I find that the small budget route often makes for some of the best experiences.

    Why do we do things like try to ride around Mongolia or ride up the steepest hill or try and cross a river on a motorcycle? Because there's the chance we won't make it and that's what the adventurer thrives on.

    Things got a little tight there in the Gobi because not only were we wet but it was COLD. This throws in a more serious factor to the whole thing. I admit that I was a bit nervous when we had to face the music and hunker down but this type of situation challenges you to do your absolute best to make it through ok, and I do like the challenge. This little escapade only lasted about 36 hours, hardly enough to call it an "epic" but it was challenging.

    After being in a few tight situations over the years and making it through with a little work, I find myself double checking that I'm not taking it too far. It's easy to get cocky after you pull off a couple stunts because you get practice. You get better at crossing deeper rivers, you get better at knowing exactly what gear you'll need and how to keep it dry better, you get practiced at changing a tire in the dark on a dirty and busy 3rd world country road, you get better at reading people in those dark streets. You really have to have some foresight and truly understand what you're willing to deal with before making a decision you may regret. If you think it through, a lot of times an unpleasant situation can be quite tolerable and I find that I often don't regret the decision making that got me there in the first place.

    We didn't regret leaving the dry shelter of the ger to get caught in the rain, cold and mud at all. This stuff isn't for everyone, but for those it is for, I look forward to riding with you.
  11. HairBear

    HairBear I'm a Grandpa

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    Boy, I'll bet you were glad to have the female or you would not have had the tent to hunker down in.
    Eager for the next installment. Great RR!!:clap
  12. kfcz400

    kfcz400 dirt track maniac

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    calif delta,,,
    great report..how does the shneray compare to the ktm?:rofl
  13. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    Sorry for the philosophical rant. Back to the story.

    Day 16
    Things were right back to normal with nice weather and a beautiful morning at our camp. We had to face the facts that we didn't have enough time to push any farther south and we would have to alter our intended route to make it back to Ulaanbaatar on time. We weren't giving up on the camel rides though. The herd we saw a couple days back gave us hope that we could still get a camel ride. All this talk of camels of course brought up the term "camel toe" and we were curious if there was any relation at all to a camel's foot and a pair of really tight female blue jeans worn in a certain way. We were going to try and find out.
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    We had to back track up the 89km that we rode in the rain two days before. Things had dried out significantly but there were still lots of mud puddles around. This little single track section got us off on the right foot though.
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    We were making good time where the route wasn't all that bad. We stumbled across this herd of camel. There weren't any nomads around so we figured any type of camel ride was out of the question.
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    These beasts are some wild looking animals!! We were hunting for clues to the camel toe and trying to document it with photos but we weren't too lucky.
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    We start to encounter some areas that were still pretty wet and Minxter got her front wheel locked up and went down.
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    We were not going to screw around trying to unpack the mud so we got rid of Minxter's fender for a while.
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    This truck was stuck in this spot 2 days ago when we first came through going the other way. This was a challenging mud hole for us that day. This day we were able to squeak through with little effort. The truck driver was out wandering around talking on his cell phone, waiting for things to dry some more.
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    We spotted another herd of camels near this ger and Minxter really wanted to try to pull off a camel ride, so we stopped in to see what might be possible. Their fierce dog came running at Buuuuurrrrt and lashed out trying to bite him but missed and bit a hole through one of his side bags! The owner scolded it off. Whew! Close call. This family was just hanging around the ger. We brought along stickers and tattoos that we were handing out to all the kids. This was always a hit with the parents.
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    They had recently made a batch of cheese (camel cheese?) which they were drying on the roof.
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    We were finally able to communicate the word camel with them. The term is "temee" pronounced timay which could only make us think of the mentally handicapped character in the TV show South Park who can only yell his own name. Well, it turns out that this cat that we're trying to communicate about riding a camel has been pounding vodka so he is equally as handicapped as Timmy in South Park. We're pointing to the herd and doing charades trying to show we want to ride one of the camels. This cat hops on his chinese bike, dumps the clutch and roars off toward the herd with us in tow thinking we're going to need to pick up the pieces after he eats shit! He's LOADED and is just pinning the bike, swerving all over the place.
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    As this scene unfolds some more, we start to realize he and his family have nothing to do with herding camels. He's trying to help us anyway by sneaking up and trying to grab the reigns of one of them. These animals are massive and now we're thinking he's going to get trampled and we're going to have to go back and tell the family! He actually gets a hold of one of the reigns but, THANKFULLY, the animal jerks it out of his drunken clasp. At this point we decide we gotta put an end to this and keep moving before Timmy gets hurt by a temee.
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    Just as we're leaving, Buuuuurrrrt spots a huge clue to our mystery about "camel toe". We're pretty sure it's not just a myth that the two are related.
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    We were able to navigate through all the mud holes and we arrive back in the town we were in two days ago. We stock up, boil some eggs, and draw the usual crowd of curious Mongols.
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    We start heading onto our new route out of town. We'd given up hopes of riding any camels when, WAIT, another herd and a very nice nomad couple bringing them home. We decide that trying to ride them is not going to happen so Minxter decides she just wants to pet one! (Yeah, yeah, we're pretty naive when it comes to camels!). After saying "temee" and doing our charade gig, the nomad couple understands and they try to wrangle up a couple of camel. The women gets one of the reigns but almost gets yanked off her feet when she's trying to handle it. The guys gets one also and we start to approach but the camel starts reacting by shifting sideways and showing it's teeth and hissing. Ok, ok, no petting the camels. These beasts are much more distempered than I would have guessed.
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    At this point we have a nice smooth section of single track and we're making good time when Buuuuurrrrt flats out. I can't remember the flat classification on this one but is was nothing more than a class 2 single hole. No big deal. He repairs it and we're on our way again pretty quick.
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    Then he flats out again! This time it's a class 2 patch failure. The patch was right over a seam that we didn't get sanded enough and the initial hole got bigger under the patch. We threw in our spare tube in hopes of continuing our good pace.
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    Now it's Minxter's turn to do battle with a vicious dog only he actually gets a hold of her leg!!! Luckily, she's got enough gear on that the dog's teeth didn't break through the fabric and puncture the skin. He left a nasty bruise though.
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    The dog bite took place in a town that we came to where we were able to replenish our patch kit and get another spare tube.
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    We ride out of town for a while as the sun gets lower and really lights up this awesome two track we're riding.
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    We pull over in the middle of nowhere and settle in. I fill up the fuel bottle with gas in preparation for our Gobi Goulash.
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    We drink vodka, cook our goulash and reminisce about the last few days which were quite entertaining at this point.
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    147km for the day. We were happy with our progress considering we had to battle mud for a portion of the day.
  14. LC4Dakar

    LC4Dakar Been here awhile

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    NOT funny. Rabies is big in Mongolia, and there are lots of stray dogs with it. A lot of people going there get the Rabies vaccination, just in case.
  15. booger1

    booger1 Been here awhile

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    Great report. Loving the pictures.
    What time of year did you go in?
  16. dieselcruiserhead

    dieselcruiserhead Long timer

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    This is great. I liked the philosophical rant, personally.. Right up my alley...
  17. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    Day 17
    The date was September 13th, 2012. Minxter has a nice bruise showing from her little "Fido" run in. Quite lucky that's all it was.
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    We had no idea what the day would bring. We were heading toward Ulaanbaatar on an alternate route that we hoped would pan out for us. We really didn't have any high expectations for anything really noteworthy this day.
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    Then we spot one more herd of camels (yeah, here we go again!). We decide we are not going to try and ride or pet them. We are going to herd them and get to the bottom of this "Camel Toe" myth.
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    Camels are actually quite easy to herd and we'd had a little experience now with a few different herd. We were easily able to round them up using the all terrain mopeds. The plan was to get them together and then get them going one direction. Someone would go out in front of them and try and shoot photos capturing the "Camel Toe" as the herd was coming at them.
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    There was one "White Camel" in this herd. Quite stunning!! Somewhat rare as well.
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    And there it was!! The "Camel Toe"! We'd done it. We'd proved it more than just a myth. Herding the camels, seeing the white camel and then sleuthing out the myth really made good closure to our camel saga.
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    At the next town we stocked up and enjoyed a frozen goat yogurt.
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    The locals were getting ready for an event and were putting up a few 'ger' while we were patronizing the stores. This was really cool to see how they assembled these things. First the frame of lattice and the crown with roof beams coming off it and the door.
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    Then some sort of membrane on the roof, I suspect to keep water out.
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    Next, the insulation.
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    Now, the exterior.
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    Cinch the thing tight all the way around and add the roof flap, and you're done in about 40 minutes.
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    Right out of town we had a fairly good sized river to cross. This dude showed us how to do it "2 up" (no shoes).
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    We followed his lead with no problems.
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    It was about time for us to clean up again and it was a nice warm day so we took some time to bathe in the river.
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    Continuing on, we found the municipal "hutag" in the next village and filled our water containers. We had quite a bit of gas still so we didn't feel the need to fill up. It seems like you should always fill up when you have the chance.
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    We attracted the usual crowd at the next town. We were starting to think about selling the bikes in a few days and thought it would be wise to call some of numerous people who were interested in the bikes. Everybody has cell phones in Mongolia. They must be very inexpensive because basically anyone we asked would let us make a couple of calls. We tried to fill up in this town but the power was out. Uh oh.
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    More excellent riding.
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    More spectacular birds.
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    We had a really nice ride this afternoon.
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    We found another perfect camp and had some vodka. We were out of the Gobi now so it was back to Steppe Stew for dinner.
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    We were definitely back on easy street again.
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    172km for the day.
  18. trackhead

    trackhead Utard Wankster

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    A worthy and noble quest indeed.
  19. Moxy

    Moxy Adventurer

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    thanks for the thread! jealous!
  20. DSlag

    DSlag n00b

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    What a great RR. Thanks for sharing.:clap