Hacking My Way to Tierra del Fuego & Ushuaia

Discussion in 'Hacks' started by mikepa, Jan 26, 2009.

  1. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

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    Ideally, I suppose I should be posting this in a Ride Reports forum, but ya' gotta' plant yer' flag somewhere, and since I are one, I'm hoping the powers that be allow me to continue this thread in the Hack Forum.

    Mikep here, as some of you may know, part of my "retirement" activities include being a guide for GlobeRiders. It's a lot of fun guiding tours to foreign destinations, but sometimes, it's nice to not have to worry about anything, and join a guided/supported tour as just a client.

    Thus, I signed up with MotoDiscovery's Tierra del Fuego Expedition. Two months ago, I shipped "UberHack 2.0" to Valparaiso, Chile, for the start of the tour, and am now anxiously waiting with the rest of our 8 bike, 9 participant group for our bikes to clear Customs.

    I hope to post more scenic/cultural/hack-oriented pics as the tour unfolds, but so far, all I have are a few stories of our flight south. Here we go . . . .

    Our Seattle group (Frank Leonard, Jerry Ivy, Dan Mclaughlin, me) have arrived safe and sound in Santiago, the closest international airport to our departure city of Vina del Mar, well, except for Jerry (more later). It’s sunny, clear, 80 degrees, perfect weather, we have confirmation that the bikes are here, all in all, an auspicious start for our trip.

    We spent over 34 hours door-to-door getting here, a rather convoluted itinerary: Seattle to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Lima, Peru, Lima to Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires to Santiago, so even before setting foot in Chile, we have crossed the South American continent twice – by air anyway. This was fortunate, as we were able to view the Andes Mountains from 30,000 feet in daylight, quite a sight!

    We’re forever in Frank’s debt, as he used his frequent flyer miles to obtain First/Business class tickets of us all the way down, and I must admit, the service, flight crews and equipment of LAN Airlines are all top shelf. Our seats had more controls than all those in my Sprinter combined, and the food was amazingly good. The drinks were also endless and free, which led to Jerry spending his 6-hour layover in Lima like this, as he had an unfortunate collision with a fifth of Chivas:

    [​IMG]



    We spent our first night at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Santiago. First impressions of Chile, laid back people, friendly and helpful staff, a clean and modern city, good drivers. Should be fun riding as we’ve arrived just after the finish of the Dakar Rally, so I *assume* everyone is hyped-up on “motos” (as motorcycles are called here). Our cab in from the airport proudly displayed the following sticker on the windshield:

    [​IMG]


    After an overnight in Santiago, we chartered a Mercedes Sprinter for the 2-hour drive from Santiago to Vina del Mar, the official start of our tour. Modern tollways all the way, winding through the Chilean vineyards, looking amazingly like northern California. We stopped at a winery en route for lunch:

    [​IMG]


    Jerry is noticeably lacking in the photo as he was out “guarding” our luggage in the van, from a position sprawled across the rear four seats in the Sprinter. Although they didn’t get the order quite right, we had a flight of 3 wine samplers, and I opted for the “sampler” plate of shrimp/cheese filled “fingers”, goat cheese with toasted walnuts on roast zucchini, octopus ceviche, avocado blended with limes, and a tuna/pineapple salsa, all for about $20.00. The exchange rate is about 600 Chilean Pesos to the Dollar:

    [​IMG]


    I forgot to take a picture until I was half-way through the plate!

    There’s a chance we can reclaim the bikes tomorrow, though the schedule has us doing so the day after.

    More coming at ya’ as things develop.

    Best,
    #1
  2. tony the tiger

    tony the tiger Long timer

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    I was gonna' gripe... about the weather. :lol3
    Have fun YFF! :lurk
    TT
    #2
  3. AceRph

    AceRph Affluenza Free!

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    This is a good spot for this report Mike. Safe travels!
    #3
  4. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

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    T-Cubed, AceRph et al -

    Thanks for the kind wishes. Not unexpectedly, it's hurry up and wait day, and we're now hoping for customs clearance tomorrow. I could send some pics of the lovely chicas (our hotel is one block off the beach), cerulean blue blue skies, but it's too early for a deluge of "FYYFFs" just yet, so no new fotos :evil.

    Instead, though the image is rather small, here is our route. We received our GPS download this morning, and this is what it looks like exported to Google Earth. For some reason, the full route isn't displaying, but the waypoints all show, so I think you can get e general idea. Yes, we will be doing a significant portion of Ruta Quarente. In looking closer at the "live" stream from Google Earth, the resolution/quality of the aerial/sat view is amazing. There will come a day soon, when you'll be able to "fly ahead" real-time as you roll along, and dispense with Garmin's poorly implemented MapSource utility, and the new and unwelcome "locked to one GPS only" software license - was that a rant?:

    [​IMG]


    Should have also noted in the original post that (you've seen it here before) this is the rig I shipped for this trip:

    [​IMG]

    Best,
    #4
  5. Abenteuerfahrer

    Abenteuerfahrer Deaf on Wheels

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    Atta Boy Mike...am following your travels. Hope you keep posting!

    So you're using the Ueberhack 2.0; did you also put a ceramic clutch on that one?
    Got my ceramic clutch for my 1200 gs, plan to install it when the weather improves here in SE North Carolina. Good luck and take care..don't forget to report technicals of your U-2 rides as well. CHEERS:clap
    #5
  6. Kyler

    Kyler Geezer

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    :lurk
    #6
  7. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

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    This R11.5GSA only has around 13K miles on it, so I didn't put a ceramic clutch in it yet. Hope I don't live to regret that decision!

    Unlike some of the hexheads, the oilheads didn't have a "limited production problem" of an oversize bore for the clutch's shaft seal, so I *don't* expect to have that failure on this oilhead (which was the reason I put a ceramic clutch in the hexhead, as the dealer was in there anyway under warranty to replace the seal and clutch plate - did any of that make sense?).

    I know there have been some major grumblings from at least one rider about the Touratech/Sachs ceramic clutch. It's worked extremely well in my hexhead rig (U'Hack 1.0), even when the seal failed a 2nd time (on the first repair, they only replaced the seal, thinking it was the culprit. On the 2nd failure, they replaced the engine/tranny casings, plus the seal, when they found the bore had been machined oversize, allowing the seal to spin and eventually fail!). Even coated in oil, the ceramic clutch worked just fine.

    I have "pre-installed" a ceramic clutch in U'Hack 3.0 (which is also an olihead, which had a lot more miles on it when I acquired it).

    Best,
    #7
  8. JohnTM

    JohnTM I suck toes

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    Hiya Mike!

    I'm still waiting! I'm told my bike is shipping in the morning, will be here tomorrow night. I'm expecting more Mañana. :D

    I hope y'all have a great ride, and nice meeting you in the hotel lobby!
    #8
  9. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

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    There are the intrepid riders who travel the world solo. There are a wealth of moto-touring companies, and with these, all you need to do is show up with a credit card, and they’ll supply you with riding gear, bikes, guides, and a guided tour. In between, there are companies like GlobeRiders (who I guide with), and MotoDiscovery (who I am currently on tour with) who go the distance, and deal with the problems and complexities of shipping client motorcycle to the start and end of overseas tours.

    Needless to say, one of the highest points of any tour like this, is the clearing and reclaiming of one’s bike from customs in a foreign port. The bikes were loaded into a container weeks or months ago, put on the water, sometimes transshipping through different ports, on different vessels, in the hope they’ll arrive undamaged with all shipped gear intact.

    LOCATION: Valparaiso, Chile

    Yesterday, we received welcome news at lunch - the bike were ready for pick-up at a broker’s facility near the port of Valparaiso, Chile, just a few klicks from our start point in Vina del Mar. After another superb but heart-stopping “mixed grill” BBQ, a happy group boarded a fleet of taxis for the freight yard. When we arrived, the container had already been staged:

    [​IMG]


    It’s a magical moment when the US Customs tamper-proof security seal is sheared with a set of bolt cutters, and the doors opened. Standing in the waft of oil and gas fumes, we peer in for the first time, usually having to look over the shoulders of yard workers who are even more interested in our “motos” than we are (that’s Skip Mascorro, Pancho Villa/MotoDiscovery Founder, with his back to the camera to the right):

    [​IMG]


    For reasons I’ll go into later, I was more relieved than any other to see my rig roll out. A turn signal was broken (most likely by the US-haulage company that trucked the rig from Seattle to the shipment port in Houston, as there were no pieces of turn signal on the floor of the container). It got a few scratches, but hey, it’s all “war paint”, and to be expected. More will accumulate along the way I’m sure:

    [​IMG]


    All the bikes but one started. After checking tire pressures, horns, turn signals, clutch and brake lever movement, and adjusting mirrors, we hit the road back to the hotel. All in all, the total process took less than two hours. I’ve been on tours where it took a WEEK of hurry up and wait, usually in a hot, dirty yard, to clear bikes, so this was a minor miracle, and a credit to the authorities and freight broker that MotoD has built a relationship with. I’m liking Chile more and more every second.


    LOCATION: Vina del Mar, Chile

    After a hurried breakfast the next day, the bikes are loaded and lined up in front of the hotel. We have a Suzuki 650 (think), a KTM 535 (I think), a KTM 990, a Kawasaki KLT 650, a Honda TransAlp, two BMW R1200GSs, one of the new BMW F800GSs, and my BMW R1150GS/Ural hack in the pack:

    [​IMG]


    Like many “long-haul” tour operators, MotoD partners with local companies to provide “ground support”: guides, drivers and chase vehicles. We’re lucky to have Klaus and Marco of Bariloche MotoTours as our support team. Their 4x4 diesel pickup carries a ton of tools, water, spare tires, over a 100 liters of spare fuel, and hauls a very robust dual-axle trailer for recovery.:

    [​IMG]


    Our departure was delayed a bit as the KTM 535 wouldn’t start, though it fired off and ran just fine for the ride in from the port the day before. After several spirited attempts at a bump start, it was declared DOA, and quickly loaded on the trailer, as today’s ride included the first of several border crossings into Argentina, and the group wanted to arrive as early as possible.

    Such was not the case for me ;<( . . . .

    They say doctors make the worst patients. Apparently, I have the dubious honor of showing guides can make the worst clients. I have guided several tours now for GlobeRiders, and created one from the ground up. I think I normally do a pretty credible job at managing all the details and logistics. Imagine my horror, the day before we’re to clear customs, to discover I had sent THE WRONG TITLE to MotoD and the freight broker! After months of anticipation and considerable expense, my planned vacation had turned into an adventure of the “worst nightmare” category. In most ports, my “ride” would be over, and I would have wound up having to pay the expense of shipping the bike home, and doing 2 Weeks in a 4x4 Chase Vehicle. An arrogant US customs might have simply impounded and crushed the bike. Instead, Skip and his team swung into action.

    My brother-in-law, Rick, back in Seattle, found the correct title, scanned it, and got it in the hands of DHL Express. He then forwarded the scans to my mentor and friend Helge Pedersen, who formatted the scans and sent them as email attachments to the authorities and brokers in Chile. Without having to grease the skids with US Dollars, the Chilean authorities released my bike into Chile, on the promise that I had the title in my possession before crossing into Argentina. With this gift from the gods, I was able to ride back to the hotel with the rest of the group, and embark on our first riding day.

    LOCATION: Los Andes, foothills of the Andes Mountains, 130+ klicks from the Argentine border.

    We set out on our first riding day. There still plenty of hype here from the Dakar Rally. A lot of smiles, cell phone fotos of our motos, waves and the occasional flash of high-beams and honks as we ride along. The group headed for the border crossing into Argentina. Skip’s Plan B was for me to ride only as far as Los Andes, then check into a hotel there, while the rest of the group headed on. Frank Leonard, a good friend from two GlobeRiders tours, volunteered to stay behind with me. As we rode out of Vina del Mar, the my title processed though the Washington, Ohio, and Florida DHL gateways, bound for Santiago, Chile. The title was sent out on Monday. We cleared customs on Tuesday. The group headed out on Wednesday (today, as I write this). The freight broker intercepted the title at Santiago, then had a courier drive to meet us at the Plaza Hotel in Los Andes. I must be living right, at 7:42PM today, a smiling Senor Vargas and lovely Margerita handed me my title:

    [​IMG]


    As they say, I’m “golden” and am now “go” for Ushuaia. It’s Miller Time (and thank the fates they have much better cervezas (beers) down here than that). It all worked out magnificently. The group’s first stop is a two-day layover, so Frank and I will catch-up with them on the morrow, and we’ll be right on schedule.

    For those interested, here is a screen dump of today’s ride, from Garmin’s MapSource GPS utility. Vena del Mar to Los Andes, Chile, a short 128km long blast along excellent tollways, and decent national highways. Our GPS track is in cyan, our GPS waypointed-route in magenta:

    [​IMG]


    Tomorrow, a ride through (and under) the mountains, a border crossing, and reunion with the group at a hot springs resort outside of Mendoza, Argentina.

    Saludos,

    MikeP
    #9
  10. LoCat

    LoCat Time it's a bitch

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    Subscribed with great anticipation....

    Ride on....

    LoCat
    #10
  11. kootenay kid

    kootenay kid Lets Ride

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    Awesome bike and ride!
    #11
  12. Warfield Rider

    Warfield Rider Purveyor of Smiles

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    I may miss work tomorrow just to read the next entry. Ride safe.
    #12
  13. TouringDave

    TouringDave Tri Moto Veritas

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    :lurk :lurk :lurk
    #13
  14. Mr. Fisherman

    Mr. Fisherman Back in Black!

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    Glad you got that sorted out :clap

    I am in for this one... and I might have about a billion and two questions later...

    :lurk
    #14
  15. JohnTM

    JohnTM I suck toes

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    Wow, Mike! That's a horrible tale that ended well! :knary

    I lucked out and got my bike yesterday finally, and I'm in Mendoza right now. I'm heading north tomorrow. Where? I dunno. :dunno

    Happy trails, and I look forward to hearing more of your adventure! May the tire tracks on Route 40 fit the width of your rig...:thumb
    #15
  16. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

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    LOCATION: Los Andes, Chile – Day 05

    As noted in my previous post, because we had to wait for delivery on my title (can you say “Bone Head Award”?), Frank and made an unplanned overnight in the town of Los Andes, Chile, while the rest of the group forged head. In retrospect, I’m glad we did. We had a restful evening in a quaint town; the group didn’t arrive at their destination until 10PM that same night.

    We got an early start, and found an immediate “photo op” when I we spied a suspension bridge across a river:

    [​IMG]


    Riding once again through vineyards, we made our approach into the Andes, heading for the Chilean/Argentine border crossing at Puerto Bermejo, via Puente Inca, Upsallata (the shooting location of the move “Seven Years in Tibet”, starring Brad Pitt).

    With my point and shooter, it’s impossible to capture the grandeur of the Andes:

    [​IMG]


    As we wound our way up to our max elevation of 10,512 feet, the multi-faceted nature of these ancient peaks revealed themselves. At time, there were snippets of Eastern Washington, or Northern California. We saw bits of the Dolomites, and of the Alps. The rapid ascent required some work piloting a sidecar, as the road wrapped into a series of switchbacks:

    [​IMG]


    For those of you who are GPS geeks, here’s what a zoomed-in view of the track looked like:

    [​IMG]


    For those who are not, here’s what the track looked like, overlaid onto satellite imagery from the Google Earth server, resolution high enough to see individual vehicles on the road:

    [​IMG]


    As the altitude began to drop, we came to the border crossing, and left Chile:

    [​IMG]


    LOCATION: Puerto Bermejo Chilean/Argentine Border Post

    Apparently, the lead group had problems at the border posts. Documents didn’t get properly stamped; some documents were not even issued, requiring our guides to make a run into Mendoza to get matter sorted out. Frank and I sailed through, and had a lot of fun in the process.

    The general rules at border crossing are, have your documents ready, no screwing around, no pictures. Often, the officers are taciturn to downright rude (US Customs comes to mind). As we processed through each station, all experienced prompt and courteous assistance, smiles, and totally casual attitudes. Frank’s brand-spanking new BMW F800GS (a new model) and my rig were the center of attention. People processing through got out of their cars to come over and take photos, of us, the bikes, sitting on the bikes, always asking permission. Cell phones snapped photos to send off to friends. One agent brought his son over, and asked if I would give him a ride in the sidecar. I pointed out I didn’t have a spare helmet – “No problem”. He just motioned around and told me to ride around INSIDE the covered customs area, riding through the various lanes and stations, going against the lane markers, with a grinning father snapping photos each time we made a loop. Behind a couple of happy kids, a sober reminder of how important it is to not cross over the centerline:

    [​IMG]


    But, it’s all about documents, forms, and stamps. Our E-Ticket for a fabuloso ride into Argentina was all properly stamped:

    [​IMG]


    So after another photo op of Frank doing the signage pose as proof we were there . . . it was Welcome to the Republic of Argentina!:

    [​IMG]


    As we passed through the first “tourist trap” on our way down the Andes, I saw a heavily-laden BMW parked in a lot. We U-turned backed, and I figured our exhaust note would draw the owner over. Sure enough, out came Gerald Ulrich, from Ansbach, Germany (small world, Gerald’s home town was my company’s headquarters when I was stationed in Germany during my stint as a missile tech there with US Army Air Defense):

    [​IMG]


    Gerald is in advertising. I guess he’s good at his job. He told his firm they could either give him the time off to do this trip, or he would quit. He was given the time off. Gerald shipped his 1992 BMW R100GSPD to Buenos Aires, and rode to Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America, where he did a solo summit! We met him just after, and he was on his way to Santiago, Chile, to meet a friend who was also bringing a bike in, them they, like us, were also heading to Ushuaia. Gerald’s bike has so much gear, as he is a photographer, and also had to bring his climbing gear with him. We hope to meet again on the road to Tierra del Fuego. Safe travels my (new) friend!:

    [​IMG]


    Now, with three adventure bikes in the parking lot, another mass photo session was taking place. Once again, a phalanx of cell phone, video and still cameras appeared, and always asking permission, a hoard of people we’ve never met took their turns posing and sitting on the bikes. Some of them smelled better than Gerald (just kidding mi amigo):

    [​IMG]


    Taking our leave, we continued down into the town of Uspallata, where we found both a cash machine and a long-anticipate lunch. We chose a sidewalk café. Across from us were a line of open-air BBW/mixed grill stations. Frank spied this one. I know that “comidas” can mean “food” or “cooking”. GlobeRiders Guide Dan Townsley emailed me to inform that "Para "Llever" means "to go" or "for take out". So, if you mash it up, ParaLevers to go - might need their cell number down the road:

    [​IMG]


    From there, we headed to our destination for the day, the Terma Cacheuta Hotel and Hot Springs Spa, located about 40 klicks due west of Mendoza. The amenities were pretty nice, and an included massage session, mud baths, thermals and sauna were all included with our reservations:

    [​IMG]


    We had now caught up with the group, were back on schedule, and had yet to find anything to complain about throughout the tour thus far, so it was time to kick back and:

    [​IMG]



    LOCATION: Marlague, Argentina – Day 06

    Freshly pounded, scrubbed, and par boiled, today was our first riding day on the famous (infamous?) Ruta Quarente Sur, (Route 40 South), the main “highway” that we would take all the way down to Ushuaia. My riding buddies today were good ol’ Frank, and also Dan Mclaughlin on his KTM 990 Adventure. Not wanting to wait until the Spa served breakfast, we headed out as soon as it was light, destination, Marlegue, around 360 klicks away.

    The route was through flatlands for most of the day, and we were disappointed to find tarmac roads:

    [​IMG]


    Aside from the wavering line of mountains to our west, there wasn’t much to see. Fortunately, we finally got onto our first gravel roads. At this point, Ruta 40 Sur is a fast, well-maintained highway. Once section was being graded and rollered, but the perfect speed along this stretch was the same as the posted speed limit on Interstate 5 South through my home town of Seattle, 60 MPH or 100KPH. There’s a special joy in motoring along a gravel road, raising a dust plume behind:

    [​IMG]


    Time for another photo op!:

    [​IMG]


    Even with a total of around 2-1/2 of “stop time” for a breakfast of croissants, toast rounds and a Pancho (hot dog with all the trimming, Argentine style), we made it to the hotel at around 2:30PM. Go thing, as this gives me the time I needed to capture the past two days, and shoot it out to you via the free in-room WiFi.

    Our track thus far:

    [​IMG]


    Saludos,
    #16
  17. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

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    As you might imagine, I am also sending most of this thread's content to family and friends, and a local GS list I'm on. Part of the payback for the hours it can take to put some of these ride report pages is more than paid back by replies from those have received my missives. Life can be stranger than fiction, sometimes, you just can't make this stuff up. Here's an example:

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    From: Bill (full name withheld to protect the not so innocent)
    Sent: Friday, January 30, 2009 9:44 PM
    Subject: This is Entertainment?

    Mike, I'm so envious of you guys. The pictures of Vina del Mar brought back memories, although very foggy. GlobeRiders Dave "W", Curtis "W", John "M" and I have the distinction of being thrown out of yet another bar. This one was in the southern hemisphere.

    Do I see a trend here?

    The story goes like this: Dave said if he got drunk enough he'd show us how he could put a condom over his head and inflate it like a top hat. Well, we got him liquored up in a fancy place frequented by uppity teens. I found flavored and glow-in-the-dark (?) condoms in the restroom. The rest is history.

    Dave started his patented condom stretching technique, kinda like making a pizza, and a crowd started to gather around us. Before you know it, he pulls it over his head and below his nose. He takes a deep breath through his mouth and with one large exhalation later through his nose, he&#8217;s got a top hat! (Unfortunately, my old camera cycled too slowly to capture the final &#8220;top hat&#8221;.)

    I admire a man that can do that. But the ladies and girly-boys in the bar didn&#8217;t.

    Have fun, ride safe and anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

    Bill Kamps


    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    That's a hard act to follow, so I won't even try. But, here's the proof:

    [​IMG]

    Saludos,
    #17
  18. Abenteuerfahrer

    Abenteuerfahrer Deaf on Wheels

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    Que história, Mike!

    Been following your travels. Love your narratives...keep it coming. Do add a few technicals about your Hacks performance. You mentioned that it takes some good piloting for the Hacked bike to ride these switchbacks. Does the trail reducer help? Brakes on the Hack make any difference? Clutching without the ceramic disc doing OK...?
    Cheers.....:clap
    #18
  19. JohnTM

    JohnTM I suck toes

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    Glad to hear you all got hooked up, Mike. I'm the "John M" that Bill Kamps mentioned, and for once it wasn't me trying to do parlor tricks with inflatables. :lol3

    Tell him HI for me!
    #19
  20. SunnySideUp

    SunnySideUp O hell, I'll do it!

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    I'll be there in just a few weeks! The bike is on the boat and on its way!! Anxiously reading your report and taking notes!

    Thanks!
    :lurk
    #20