"Left to Live" - A 23-Day Motorcycle Adventure Around UK and Ireland...

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by TravisGill, Oct 28, 2018.

  1. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    327
    Location:
    Germany
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    Background story:
    We are two Americans, in our mid-forties, empty-nesters, who are currently living and working in Germany. We both love to travel and when an opportunity came up last year to move here, we jumped on it.

    Like most of you all, we still work. Although Europeans do have more vacation time, it is still difficult to break free and ride motorcycles for months on end. Someday, we will do this - I promise you! Until then, breaking free for three weeks will have to do.

    We've planned this trip for some time. In fact, it has been in the light stages of planning since almost immediately after we arrived in Germany from last years Iceland trip (CHECK IT OUT HERE). Trying to fit all of the countries of the UK and Ireland into a 23-day vacation, including scheduling most of the ferries, did take some planning, but in the end it was worth it.

    The "Left to Live" name of our journey was picked for two reasons:
    1. The most obvious... This will be our first time we've ever ridden on the LEFT side of the roadways. "Stay LEFT if you want TO LIVE!" We even went so far as to create a windscreen mounted, vinyl sticker to remind us of this.
    2. We've only got a finite amount of time in this life. We have both decided that we would like to have memories instead of dreams and we both dream of exploring this tiny, blue dot we call Earth.

    ...So here goes! Here is a small preview from our 23-day motorcycle adventure around UK and Ireland:

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    Our planned route. The red and orange colors signify a day of travel. Normally, I don't like planning this much, but fitting so many miles (er, I mean km, no wait, I mean miles) into a three week trip requires planning.

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    The Union Jack

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    Castles

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    Cities

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    Sculptures

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    Ocean views

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    Architecture

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    UNESCO World Heritage sites

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    It took some planning but we even got to experience riding on the world famous TT Mountain Course on the Isle of Man.

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    Our route kept us close to the oceans and bays which offered limitless views to some of the best scenery in Europe.

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    We rode most days until right before sunset.

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    Places I never imaged I would travel as a kid.

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    Unique sculptures and artwork along the way.

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    Some incredible scenery to ride through! Even in England, with it's population density of 400 people per square km, we found wide open roads.

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    Landmarks. We tried to see as many landmarks or sites as we reasonably could while still riding 200-300 km per day.

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    There are nearly 23 million sheep in the UK. You're going to see some sheep on this trip.

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    Many churches and grave-sights all over UK and Ireland. This was taken at a cemetery near the TT Grandstand at Isle of Man.

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    Good eats! Both Chantil and I love Fish-n-Chips! It turns out we are in the right country for this!!

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    Our two mules - Both BMW G650GSs. The red one is mine and is named "Apache", and the white one is named (White) "Chocolate"

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    I printed stickers of the flags of countries (or crown dependencies) that we planned to visit. After we arrive, I place them on my mule's windscreen.

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    Just a "few" of the waypoints that we would like to see on our adventure...
    #1
  2. Mr Head

    Mr Head Adventure Hippie Supporter

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    In.
    My wife and I are headed to UK for a couple of weeks on foot and trains travel in a bit. This is perfect to follow along.
    #2
  3. b4thenite

    b4thenite Been here awhile

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    Oh I missed most of England. Amazing photography, Sir!
    #3
  4. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Germany
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    Day 1 - Friday, Aug 24th:
    Our route for the day of 300km. Leaving Germany, through Belgium, and ending the evening in France. Three countries and three languages of German, Dutch, and French.

    We spent the last few weeks making sure all the maintenance was done on each of our mules. I estimate that my mule would need a rear tire and rear brake pads after this trip, however everything else was “good to go”! We had originally planned to leave on Saturday, but there was nothing keeping us from getting an early start on our vacation. We left our home in Germany at 2 PM and made decent time along the E42 and A25 through Belgium and France.

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    A brightly colored water tower between Villeneuve d'Ascq and Chéreng, France provided a short diversion from freeway riding.

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    This fish is reminding us not to waste water!

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    Near the tower was this unique apartment hotel with modern features...

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    ..including colored glass windows that complement the green vines clinging to the side of the concrete and brick walls.

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    Just down the road was this abandoned parking garage.

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    Without the unique organic metalwork, it would be just another parking garage.

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    There was a section of the A25 that was backed up. We weren’t sure if lane-splitting was legal in France, so we waited until we saw a group of four riders on BMW 1200GSs doing it. Monkey see – monkey do! We followed them for some of the most relaxing lane splitting I’ve ever done. The French drivers did a great job of leaving wide open spaces between lanes. Yeah France!

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    Once we reached Dunkirk, I saw this unique colored apartment high-rise and decided to stop and take some pictures.

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    The place looked a bit run down but the multi-colored exterior sure made it interesting.

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    We rode through Dunkirk and stopped for a little while at the old part of town...

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    ...where we snapped some photos of the Beffroi de Dunkerque...

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    ...and the Saint-Éloi Church across the street.

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    Chantil programming the GPSr which will guide us to Camping Zuydcoote Beach, our campsite for the evening.

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    Rain. After setting up camp, the rain rolled in. It rained all night but fortunately let up in the early morning.

    Tomorrow will be much more exciting as we learn about the “Miracle of Dunkirk” at the Operation Dynamo Museum and then make our into England via the Channel Tunnel, or what Europeans have nicknamed the “Chunnel”…
    #4
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  5. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

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    Hope it can be useful to inspire your own adventure!

    Thanks for the comment. We were in England for about a week and still feel like we missed out on a large part of it as well.
    #5
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  6. Vtrrookie

    Vtrrookie Look it's that orange Guy!!

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    Netherlands, Eastern part.
    In for the ride!
    #6
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  7. Operator7G

    Operator7G Adventurer

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    Sounds like a great trip ahead! Hopping along for the ride!
    #7
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  8. Dessert Storm

    Dessert Storm Dances With Drunks

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    Awesome. In.
    #8
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  9. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Germany
    Day 2 - Saturday, 25 Aug:

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    Our route for today of 283 km - Dunkirk, France to Beachy Head, UK via the EuroTunnel.

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    The rain stopped sometime in the early morning, so we awoke to a dry tent - It’s shaping up to be a great day already!

    Funny story from last night. As we pulled into camp last night, an excited couple approached us and started talking to us in German. Being in France, we wondered why?? Turns out they assumed we were German because of our German plates on our German BMW motorcycles. It’s funny what people assume sometimes. Nice couple though.

    Back to today... Since we had some time to kill before the museum opened we decided to go for a walk and try to find the pier used during the evacuation of the English and French forces during the 1940 operation often called the Miracle of Dunkirk.

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    It was early, and the breeze was cool, so we enjoyed much of the beach to ourselves.

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    A man-made ocean break wall made with large concrete cubes the size of cars.

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    I miss the ocean. Living in Germany keeps us from visiting it as much as we wish we could.

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    A uniquely colored beachfront apartment building.

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    Flag of Dunkirk, the European Union, France, and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region.

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    The boardwalk along the beach featured various styles of homes including many condominiums.

    The jetty used for the Dunkirk evacuation was further than we had time for, so we decided to make our way back to the campground and pack up the mules for the next day of riding.

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    #motorcyclelife

    On our way to the Dunkirk jetty we came across this...

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    ...large metal sculpture that stood near the Dunkirk break-wall.

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    At the base of the sculpture was this signature. How cool is signing your name with a welder!?

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    The Dunkirk Lighthouse

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    The mules parked at the foot of the jetty used during the evacuation.

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    A display marking the historic occasion.

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    Some happy faces of the soldiers who were evacuated.

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    The narrow jetty sticks out for quite a while. We walked the length of it until reaching a gated fence at the end.

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    A gull enjoyed the strong breeze.

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    These sailors were also enjoying the strong breeze. I miss sailing; especially close-hauled sailing where the sheets are tights, and the boat is healed over.

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    End of the road. Time to turn back and make our way to the museum which opens at 10AM...
    #9
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  10. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile

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    Thank you for taking the time to get some great Dunkirk evacuation pictures. Great stuff!
    #10
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  11. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

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    Fore sure! Museum to follow shortly...
    #11
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  12. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Day 2 - Saturday, 25 Aug - Museum Dunkerque 1940 Operation Dynamo:

    We enjoyed our time at the museum established to remember the miraculous evacuation of 338,226 soldiers over a 10-day period starting 26 May 1940.

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    A simple sign on a brick headquarters building marks the entrance to the museum.

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    Some of the money bills used during WW2.

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    A poster reminding people not to talk about military operations in public.

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    A military-issued gas mask.

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    The heavy radios used the 1940s.

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    Pictures of war. I’m grateful for these photographers so that we have imagery to remember the horrors of war.

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    Many soldiers waded through the surf and cold waters to reach the rescue ships.

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    Many of the allied ships (over 38 percent) were bombed or mined during the evacuation.

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    Although the number of private vessels used during the operation was difficult to estimate it is believed that nearly 850 boats were used. Many of these boats were strictly civilian crewed.

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    Rolls Royce Merlin engine from a British Spitfire recovered from the ocean. 3,500 sorties were conducted by the RAF in order to support the 10-day evacuation.

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    A model of a Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka as it begins it dive attack on allied shipping at Dunkirk.

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    A BMW logo hasn’t changed much since the 1940s.

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    I can’t imagine the relief many felt once they were on a friendly ship heading back to England.

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    A flag used to mark beach mines or unexploded ordinances.

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    A pair of German Maschinengewehr 34 machine guns configured for anti-air operations.

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    We spent about an hour in the museum and left with a newfound respect for those who fought so desperately for their lives.

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    In just a short time we’ll be on our way to the UK!...
    #12
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  13. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

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    Day 2 - Saturday, 25 Aug 2018 - A walk around the Lieu d’Art et Action Contemporaine.

    Just behind the Operation Dynamo museum is a modern art museum with a relaxing walking trail and many outdoor sculptures.

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    A recent sculpture nicknamed “The Hourglass”, is an analogy of the passing of time by the sand to the soldiers trapped at Dunkerque, who slowly trickled away as they were evacuated, and as an hourglass can be turned over and the sand brought back, reflects the re-arrival of the allied forces after June 1944.

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    The sun was breaking through the clouds promising to make for a great day.

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    The sculptures are beautiful, but nature provides its own version of “modern art”.

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    Draw your own conclusions... Is this art or just a pile of old anchors?

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    The large fish sculpture can been seen for quite a ways due to its bright colors.

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    Just near the museum of some exciting architectural homes. These apartments are styled with unique brown and grey tile work.

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    These homes have a very unique “pencil-head” design.

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    Since we had some free time we took the backroads through some canals and enjoyed the views and the great weather.

    Onward to the Chunnel and into the ENGLAND!! Are you ready?...
    #13
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  14. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile

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    Most excellent!
    #14
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  15. boristhebold

    boristhebold Been here awhile

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    In.
    (A quick link between your visit to the Isle of Man and Dunkirk is that in Peel harbour is one of the many small boats that made the crossing to rescue the troops )
    #15
  16. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

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    Day 2 - Saturday, 25 Aug 2018 - The Channel Tunnel:

    At 31.3 miles long and 380 feet below sea level, the Channel Tunnel moves you between France and the UK in just 35 minutes.

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    Directions to the Chunnel are clear to understand and are written in both French and English.

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    Ride up to the kiosk where you enter your confirmation number...

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    ... and get your ticket. We are in the “X” lane for boarding. After getting our tickets we rode to the customs window where we presented our passport, and then were on our way.

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    Here you can see the Eurotunnel Le Shuttles that will whisk us away to a new land. It’s basically a train that is fitted with rear loading ramps to load vehicles and freight. You drive in and then drive off. Easy peasy.

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    Almost there! Waiting for all the cars so the motorcycles can be loaded at the “back of the bus”.

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    Riding through the train cars to our car along with three other motorcyclists.

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    That’s it. We placed our bikes on their stands and stood around for the 35-minute trip. We talked to the other motorcyclists and put reminder stickers on our windscreen to ensure we stay “Left to Live” while in the UK and Ireland. Oh, there is also a time change of minus one hour.

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    The ride off was even easier! We road through about twenty train cars before exiting on a ramp and into the next three weeks of riding on the left side of the road.

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    The one way exit road quickly joins a highway and you’re on your way – on the left. No complicated switching network that converts right side driver to left sided ones – easy! At least until we get to our first roundabout or intersection...

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    In my excitement of being in a new country, I didn’t set the GPS waypoint to the Cliffs of Dover and we ended up getting on the wrong side of the highway. A bit of a diversion, and a tunnel later, and we were on our way to the English town of Dover.

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    In Dover we passed by a famous mural done by street artist Banksy showing a metalworker chipping away at a star on the EU flag. Brexit is definitely a subject of controversy here in the UK.

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    Brexit is especially controversial for Northern Ireland and Scotland who voted a majority to stay with the European Union. Time will tell as the UK is scheduled to leave at 11pm UK time on Friday, 29 March 2019.
    #16
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  17. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

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    Interesting. Thanks for sharing!
    #17
  18. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile

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    The roundabout will kill you! When in New Zealand, I kept looking the wrong way, almost died 4X in the first 5 minutes of driving!
    #18
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  19. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

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    Left to Live!
    #19
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  20. glasshousebc

    glasshousebc Adventurer

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    All the best on your journey... great photos already.
    #20
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