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South Dakota to South America, and wherever else

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by SturgisChick, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. sraff

    sraff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    336
    Location:
    Detroit Michigan USA
    I just found your RR this evening and spent a few hours getting caught up with you vicariously, wish I was there riding instead of reading about it. Have fun and be safe
    #81
  2. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Thank you, SRAFF....wishing you happy riding!
    #82
  3. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    After spending a couple of days in the "compound" of our hotel, we finally decide to leave Maracaibo and head south around Lago Maracaibo and up into the mountains. We didn't venture out to see the city at all, which I hate to say. I always like to check out cities, villages, landscapes. But all the negative talk online and warning I was getting, including a strong one from a hotel employee, I decided to sit tight in the hotel and not walk around town. We had ridden through 10 miles or so of Maracaibo streets on our way to the hotel we had found, so I figured that would have to do.
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    We ride out of town and over the General Rafael Urdaneta bridge.
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    Brian leads us south around the east shore of the lake and through a few towns, and then we stop for a snack at some roadside gas station. It's still warm here but not unbearable. The roads are in much better condition the further we get away from the border and we see some construction going on.
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    We pass through Valera where we get stopped in traffic for a while waiting for a funeral procession to pass.
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    We follow the road south out of Valera through the small village of La Puerta. There is a single road running up the side of the valley on the mountainside and climbing higher and higher. I see kids peeking out of homes and watching us. Venezuelans so far have been a bit standoffish, but not rude. They just seem defensive or wary.
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    At the top of the valley past the village we turn and cut across the valley to the other side and next ridge and continue to climb and get back onto the Troncal 7. The views are incredible. These are steep mountains with deep valleys and at times you can't see the bottom, several thousand feet below, because it's almost straight down.
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    We are heading for Timotes and hopefully can find a place to camp/stay tonight.
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    It's still light enough when we get there we decide to keep on riding a bit further. We are climbing continually and the clouds are covering the mountaintops here. Just out of town we stop for gas. We had stopped and bought some in Maracaibo before leaving town this morning. It was a bit of a weird experience. There was a gas station on the main road out of town and there were long lines at each pump, but the bikes are waved ahead because they can be filled and weave in and out of parked cars without really slowing down the process. I didn't have any idea what the price of gas was, and had read online it was something like 6 cents per gallon. So when the attendant told me it was "3" or so, I handed over a 3 Bolivares note and he handed me tons of change....it turned out to be just under 4 cents USD to fill our tanks and I had given him way too much. We stop again past Timotes to fill up and this time I remembered to take a photo of the pumps.
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    It starts to rain and it's getting pretty cool. We are somewhere north of 9500 feet and still climbing, now into the clouds. It's getting late in the day and we haven't seen many places we want to stay yet. Then we get to Chachopo and pass the Finca Santa Barbara which has a sign for cabanas/cabins to rent. There's a for sale sign out front and the gate is locked but we decide to try it anyway. There's a small restaurant next door too and it's open. As we park, an elderly man comes out and asks what we want. I tell him we would like to rent a cabin for the night and he sends me to the restaurant. Thankfully they have one open...and in all honesty I think we were there only guests. We ride up the slippery, wet cobblestoned hill and into the finca and then out onto a grassy terraced lawn in front of a row of small cabins.
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    We unload in the rain and change into warm clothes and walk over to the restaurant for some German food. I love quirky things like that, German food in the mountains of Venezuela. We had a fire that night in the cabin and the view of the valley above and below was spectacular.
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    It rains so much during the night that there are suddenly thin silver waterfalls running down the mountains in all different directions. The elderly man who met us at the gate the night before is the farmer who owns this finca/farm. He leads his cows one by one on halter to a bar to milk them each morning. And this morning he stops by our cabana to see if we need any help or directions. He warns us that the heavy rains will be affecting the roads and to be careful. I think him, and appreciate his hospitality. No matter where you go, rural people are the best. Off we go then...and we do see water on the roads and overflowing streams and occasionally the water crosses the road.
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    We get moving fairly early and head further up the mountain. As we ride over the top of the valley we were in, we hit a highland section that twists back and forth and continues to climb in this treeless plateau. Despite the rain, it's gorgeous.
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    We will cross the top at Pico el Aguila (Pico is Peak) and stop there for a look. But it's socked in with fog.
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    This place reminds me of Switzerland....all the mountain waterfalls and green pastures. It's so beautiful and every where I look I want to take a photo.
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    After passing El Pico we descend and wind our way through the valleys on our way to Merida for the next couple of days.
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    This has to have been one of the most beautiful days of riding on the trip so far! Venezuela is stunning!
    #83
  4. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Merida's a great place to hang out for a few days, so we do. We catch the final two games of the World Cup and South America is a great place to be for a South American World Cup Final.
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    When we decide to keep moving along through the mountains we ride up onto the mountain ridge to the west of the city and can see it down in the valley below us.
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    To wind our way back down to the valley floor we take a single-lane road through a small village.
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    We ride on the 7 toward Lagunaillas.
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    After we pass through Lagunillas the road starts to climb and switchback along the mountain ridge. And the view up here is incredible.
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    It starts to rain and I'm treated to a couple of rainbows.
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    But then the clouds roll into the valleys below us and blow up the mountainsides to the ridgeline road. And it socks the road in with fog.
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    But then thankfully it clears up as we descend into the next valley toward La Grita.
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    We stay at a hospedaje above La Grita that night and cooked with our camp stove in the room. The next morning we rode down to town and had to buy more fuel. Our third fuel up in Venezuela. We didn't have a card to activate the pumps since we weren't citizens. So a couple of local people let us pump gas in with their cards after they filled their own tanks. We could shut the pumps off so they sprayed a bit of fuel out while moving from the car/truck to the bike. And when we tried to pay the people who helped us, they just waved us off. I guess it wasn't worth the 2 or 3 cents we owed them.
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    In the end we rode more than 1000km/600 miles in Venezuela over the course of a week and spent a total of just under 5 cents USD per bike. Insane.

    We rode from La Grita to San Cristobal and stay the night before crossing back into Colombia at Cucuta. Venezuela was great. And although we didn't stay very long, our week was a memorable one. I'd love to go back again someday.
    #84
  5. adventurebound9517

    adventurebound9517 Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,021
    Location:
    Lake Havasu City, AZ.
    :deal Great report here. incredible pictures and the price of fuel is too unbelievable. I had herd years ago how cheep it was is. :ear
    #85
  6. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Just wish it was that cheap for all of us! Wishing you happy and safe riding, adventurebound 9517!

    #86
  7. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    We cross back into Colombia from Venezuela at San Antonio/Cucuta. We have a little bit of the black market Venezuelan money left and I stop at a couple of exchange places to see what I can get for it, but its virtually worthless. So we spend what we can in a bakery, ha!, and then go buy a stamp for each of us which is required to enter the Migracion office, about a mile before the border.
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    The office is a small room in a big bland building.
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    We fill out our forms, wait in line, get stamped out...and then proceed to the Aduana located right at the border. We park and lock our gear up and have to walk around a big building in a few different directions until we get to the right person who can cancel our bike permits.
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    Then off to the Colombia side to do the reverse and get back into that country....
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    We ride south as far as Pamplona that first night and then on to Bucaramanga the next day via Berlin on Route 66. I find it funny that I can ride from Pamplona to Berlin on Route 66, cuz it sounds like a hodge podge of worldly roads.
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    It gets really cold as we climb higher in altitude toward Berlin and get into the clouds and mist.
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    So we stop for a coffee in Berlin to warm up.
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    Love these curvy roads....
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    And finally the clouds break for a bit...
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    Bucaramanga sits on a high plateau between two mountain ranges. It's spectacular riding into and out of the city. We stay in a small town nearby, Giron, and enjoy some street food in the town square that night.
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    Meanwhile my bike is tucked away in the hotel lobby since they don't have parking.
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    The next day we keep moving west over the mountains, heading for Medellin. We cross the central river valley of the country and it's a fantastic day for riding.
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    We just have to keep watching for traffic.
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    Medellin is enormous, sprawling all over its valley. We take a cable car ride up to one side of the valley to get a good view.
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    After a few days in Medellin we head for Guatape to see and climb the stairs to the top of the famous rock, El Penol. It's a charming little town.
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    El Penol is just a couple of miles from our hostel and we ride down one day to climb the 740 steps to the top....and the view is incredible!
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    #87
  8. Deadly99

    Deadly99 Fast and Far

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2008
    Oddometer:
    12,515
    Location:
    Merrickville, Canada
    What an enjoyable read, thanks for taking the time
    #88
  9. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Thanks for taking the time to read, Deadly99 - wishing you safe and happy riding!


    #89
  10. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    We ride south from Guatape and head for a HelpX job we have arranged. We will be working on a coffee finca/farm for a week. We trace along the mountains and valleys on our way toward Honda, where we cross the river and then climb up into another ridge of mountains near Guaduas. Apparently we need to watch out for anteaters around here...
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    The coffee farm is a lot of hard work, but it turns out to be really interesting and fun.
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    After a week on the farm we head back down the mountain toward Honda and across the valley and up the next ridgeline to the west. We are bound for Manizales today.
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    Manizales is like San Francisco on steroids in that it's a city built on a series of steep hills. We find a hostal in town for the night and make use of the parking a couple of doors up the street. Seems so weird to ride across the sidewalk and into the front door of an old shop that is now an indoor motorcycle parking lot.
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    Manizales is like the gateway to Zona Cafetera, or coffee country, where most of the coffee Colombia produces is grown. It's big tourist business too, and lots of people come to stay and get the full coffee experience. We ride south about 30-40 miles to a small town called Salento. We camp at a finca that has the best views I have ever seen for $15 a night. We wander through town and I shop a bit...it's a little touristy here. And then we take a Jeep ride up to the Valle de Cocora to do a 7-8 mile hike in the mountains and get to see the giant Wax Palms that are the national tree of Colombia. One night we go into town and play Tejo, a game like horsehoes but that involves small explosive...you try to land near the "mines" and make them blow up. Salento is magical.
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    When we leave Salento we ride south toward Buga to spend the night in a hostel in a microbrewery....sounds like fun and trouble all in one. We hit a bit of rain on the way.
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    After Buga we head further south and plan to get to Popayan for a couple of days. Just about 30 miles before that town we see a fellow rider and Stahlratte alumn, our friend, Tom aka Mustache South. What a great surprise!
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    We spend a couple of nights in Popoyan, the White City, and meet up with a Swiss couple traveling by Land Rover. We had met them before in Cartagena and again in Minca and it's great to catch up. And we run into a Russian Rider, Ruslan, heading north.
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    Next stop, Pasto. Big open valleys filled with crops, especially sugar cane, tomatoes and papayas....
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    Construction on the way south toward Pasto - construction workers and cops had a disagreement about whether or not we should go and the cops waved us all on....and then we got to the blocked area of the road. But then the road opens up again, to stunning landscape.
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    We stop for some soup at a café on the side of the road....and it turns out the chicken soup is a little different around here. Yes, those are feet.
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    We camp in a national park in Pasto just below a dormant volcano. It's really beautiful here.
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    We ride on toward Ipiales the next day which is the last town before we cross into Ecuador. We spend a night here and ride out to see the beautiful church of Las Lajas just west of town. On the way there we pass through a neighborhood where a café is selling fresh roasted guinea pigs or cuy as they are known here.
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    Las Lajas
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    Some fun shots of others bikes and scooters in Colombia.....
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    #90
  11. jowul

    jowul Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2014
    Oddometer:
    293
    Location:
    Cambridge, ON
    I have been following your RR with great interest and enjoyment. I grew up in Bogotá, Colombia and as a student did a lot of road cycling/racing. Risaralda and Quidio (Manizales) were always the toughest areas to race.
    You are already past Popayan. Hopefully on your way back up you have a chance to visit the area around the active snow capped volcano of Purace. A friend used to be the manager of the sulfur mine up there, which gave us the opportunity to ride enduro bikes on and around the volcano. Other areas not to miss are the Llanos S.E of Bogotá and the ride up through Villavicencio. Northern Colombia has stunning regions like the Guajira and the Sierra Nevada.
    Enjoy a safe and great trip.
    #91
  12. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    And thanks for taking the time to read. Colombia has to be one of my favorite places so far...the landscape is incredibly beautiful. And while we got to see some beautiful places, I know there are still a lot more to get to, so thank you for the list of places to add to my "someday" list. Wishing you well!

    Michelle
    #92
  13. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    We decide to slow down on the weekend and wait to cross the border on a Monday. That's usually how we do it, and we try to avoid staying in border towns on either side of the border, but this time we stayed about 7 miles from the border. It's a short ride and we find a small parking lot to the right of the Colombian border offices.
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    We walk around to the Aduana office on the south? side and go into the red double doors where we get our bike permits cancelled.
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    Then we head just across the street to the Migracion office to get our passports stamped out of the country.
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    Then we ride across the bridge and river into Ecuador land and park in front of the office that houses both the Migracion (on the right as you face it) and the Aduana (on the left as you face it).
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    The line in Migracion moves pretty quickly.
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    And then we head over to the Aduana for the bike's turn at getting permission to be in Ecuador.
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    The agent came out to inspect our bikes and take photographs of our plates, VIN numbers and bikes. We had to walk around back to a copiadora to get color copies made of all our documents since they wouldn't take our black and white ones. But it turns out to be one of the fastest borders ever for me, about an hour and 15 minutes. Then we ride into Tulcan and Brian has to buy insurance for his bike. I bought a package for all of Central and South America (except for a few countries that wouldn't honor it) so I don't need it.
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    We hit 3 or 4 toll booths the first day in Ecuador. I've been spoiled by the free tollbooths in Colombia and Venezuela. They have a narrow right lane at each one so bikes can go around the tolls. But you have to be sure your bike will actually fit in some of the skinny lanes they provide. Thankfully the tolls are only 20 cents per bike.
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    The roads are in great condition and have wide shoulders and actual painted stripes on them....wow. And even better, the view is amazing.
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    We stopped for some chicken soup at a roadside restaurant... and yes, I should have already learned my lesson with the feet in the last one, but I guess I didn't. Each bowl came with a chicken chest cavity in the center of the bowl, with a heart still attached. The broth was really good though.
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    Then more riding...
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    Just outside and south of Cayambe we see the monument for the Equator on our left. We pull off into the gravel lot and ride through it and onto the cobblestoned sundial around the monument itself. No one is around, so it's a great chance for a photo before the sun goes down. [​IMG]
    Crazy how long it's taken to get here. And just a few miles further on we stay at the Hacienda Guachala for the night. It's the same place Brian stayed when he rode north from Ushuaia toward Alaska 4 years ago.
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    So we celebrate with local Pilsner beer and steak and fresh local trout dinners. Welcome to Ecuador!
    #93
  14. LumpyOne

    LumpyOne Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2009
    Oddometer:
    355
    Location:
    WestSconnie
    Thanks for sharing! I have been enjoying your trip and the pictures are awesome. I dream of getting to Ecuador someday so take lots of pics. Stay safe and enjoy.
    #94
  15. Saralou

    Saralou Worldwide Rider

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    Feb 19, 2011
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    3,932
    Location:
    July 22, 2012 start RTW from Vancouver, B.C.
    #95
  16. WilderRider

    WilderRider Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,835
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Enjoying the report. Especially the Colombia section. I spent 3 months there last year (without a bike:cry) and am heading back for a little time in Cartagena soon, but it is so fun to see all of the pictures. I really want to see Ecuador too. Enjoy.
    #96
  17. adventurebound9517

    adventurebound9517 Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,021
    Location:
    Lake Havasu City, AZ.
    Michelle & Brian
    Where O where are you? You have been MIA for awhile, hope all is good. :ear
    #97
  18. UKbri

    UKbri Just a Rider

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    Oddometer:
    249
    Location:
    East Sussex. UK
    Just got back from an awesome week on the Galapagos islands. Saw lots of blue boobies.
    #98
  19. sraff

    sraff Been here awhile

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    Apr 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Detroit Michigan USA
    blue boobies.... musta been a cold front :D
    #99
  20. sraff

    sraff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Detroit Michigan USA
    Glad to see you back, even I was starting to wonder. I'd love to see some pics from the islands, when you have time. Just one of many places on my bucket list.