Vietnam and Australia Combo in 5 weeks

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by muf722, Nov 2, 2019.

  1. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    So I asked my employer to combine the last of my vacation days with compensation days to do a bike ride in Northern Vietnam and a visit to my sister in Australia. And I was surprised when I was given 5 weeks off. Then came the idea to combine two rides, already carrying my bikegear to Vietnam.

    Back in 2013, I did a 2 week ride from south to north i Vietnam and I wish for a return visit. I plan for another 15 day adventure which is the max number of days I can stay visa-free in Vietnam.

    I have rented motorbikes in Australia 6 times before with rides around Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne and the Tasmaia-loop. Now I want to see Western Australia and if possible go swimming with the Whale sharks at Ningaloo reef. And while doing that ride, why not continue across the whole continent?

    The planning could only begin 2 weeks prior to departure. That's how late my company will let me know the exact dates off work. The rides took place Feb-Mar 2019.

    Pictures from the 2013 ride. From Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. I rented a Chinese Lifan 125cc at 35$ a day for the route. Vietnam is great and so I wanted more.
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    The 2013 route was 2500km. The new one is slighly shorter, but have more mountainous terrain. I plan with paper maps and transfer key points to my phone app Maps Me. I will not bring a designated GPS.
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    Finding a suitable bike proved a little harder than expected. I sent out emails to 4 rental companies in Hanoi and only two answered. They did not have any of the bikes requested available and suggested a later rental period. I found a 5th company with poor reviews and secured a Honda CRF300L at 50$ a day. The poor review was from a guy who felt abandoned when his bike broke down. In Vietnam, the rental contract will specify that you are responsible to return the bike if broken. No recovery service offered. Anyway, mechanics are easily found and if the bike is unfixable then it's cheap and easy to hitch a ride on a truck or bus to Hanoi (with the bike). So I'm not concerned.
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    My route takes me to Dien Bien Phu near Laos. Then up to tribal towns in the north. A visit to Ba Be lake and then back close to the Chinese border down to Ha Long for a mini-cruise. Loop back to Hanoi. 2300km (1400miles)
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    In Australia, I contact the rental company BikeRoundOz. I have used them several times before and rent a high milage BMW R1200 GS at 145AUD (100$US) a day with a rental period of minimum 14 days.
    They have oneway offers, but nothing fitting my time period. Instead I have to pay a oneway fee of 645AUD (440$US)
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    My plan is to start in Perth and head east to Sydney and my sister. I thought that Ningaloo reef was within a days ride north of Perth, but looking at my maps, I realise the great distances and mark it out as a 3 day ride. Despite the cost and time constraints, I still think 14 days is possible, but this ride will be very different to the Vietnam route. 8.300km (5.200miles) planned. It turns out that all bikes are unavailable in Perth because a group of riders headed by Charlie Boorman have taken all the bikes there, and my bike will be in Sydney. I simply reverse the route and add one day rental to a total of 15 days. That way I can stay two nights in Karijini Park and two nights at Ningaloo Reef.

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    Planning complete. Lets go!
    #1
  2. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    After overnight flights via Bangkok, I arrive in Hanoi Friday morning. Fast entry at the border since my Danish passport allows for a 15 days visa-free stay. I have booked a hotel for 2 nights to combat jetlag before my planned departure on Sunday. I want to have a clear head to handle the crazy Vietnamese traffic.
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    Last time I was in Hanoi, it was mostly dark. Arriving at 7pm and leaving for home the next morning. Now I have a few days to explore Hanoi in daylight. Street markets close to the big Dong Xuan Market.
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    Street in Old Town Hanoi.
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    First meal in Hanoi is a favorit. Hot Pot.
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    In the evening, there's a lot of life around Hoan Kiem Lake in center.
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    Saturday and I walk to the office of the rental company. The rental process is easy except they can't find the key. Instead of money, I leave my second passport as collateral. This map on the office wall, highlights the roads in the area
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    The Flamingo Travel Garage. They have to dig out 10 bikes to get to my Honda.
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    Honda CRF 300L. The national cc limit in Vietnam is only 175cc. This being a 300cc is therefore unusually large and requires a special permit. I'm given a small spare parts package in case of enroute repairs. Parts would otherwise be impossible to find for this rare bike.
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    I take the usual photos from all sides of the bike to document dents and scratches.
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    First fuel stop. It should hold about 8 liters. Fuel price is 17750 VND per liter. (3$US per gallon)
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    #2
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  3. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    61800km or 38000miles. Is that high for a small capacity bike? Anyway, I thrust the reliability of the Honda. IMG_3634.JPG

    Spare parts package have tools, tubes, wires, brake pads and a sparkplug. Excellent. I did bring some of my own tools for this trip, after a mechanic destroyed some bolts with worn tools in Laos. I will leave any excess bagage with the hotel untill I return to Hanoi.
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    I have the bike, but I will stay as a tourist in Hanoi untill tomorrow. The Old Citadel. There are also some modern military facilities in city center and when I try to walk past an entrance, I'm asked to use the sidewalk on the other side. Very similar to last time, I tried to walk past Trump Tower in Manhattan.
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    Flag Tower of Hanoi. When I was here last, it was dark and closed. Now I can explore the exhibitions.
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    Art from war wreckage
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    Bomb rain over Hanoi.
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    A-37. Very similar to the T-37 I trained on in Texas.
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    An F-5, MiG-21 and a MiG-17
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    And an Ilyushin.
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    This rail track through Hanoi center looks shut down, but carries the 5 daily trains to Ho Chi Minh in the south. IMG_3647.JPG
    #3
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  4. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    The selection of great restaurants in Hanoi is endless and I enjoy the food. The sign tell of the New Year Sale. I have arrived in Vietnam at the end of the New Year celebrations also known as TET. The dates are not fixed as the New Year follows the lunar cycle. The celebrations last for minimum 14 days and many will travel to family get togethers. I was afraid that everything would be closed, as I have experienced in China, but most places have been open so far. IMG_3648.JPG
    Everything here is "Made in Vietnam" A new North Face Gore-Tex jacket is less than 40$.
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    End of a long day on foot. A bicycle rickshaw back to the hotel.
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    Departure. Two waterproof bags, Airhawk Seat, small tank bag and my phone as GPS
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    Guests from my hotel wish me luck on my travels. They praise me for my full riding gear as the locals ride with nothing but a plastic helmet if any.
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    Start of season 2019. February 10.
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    Traffic is relatively light, and I have a simple route planned out of Hanoi. Green helmets are the company "Grab". Vietnamese version of Lyft/Uber
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    Right lane is blocked and we must find space in the opposite lane.
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    Traffic not as bad as I remember. Maybe due to the celebrations.
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    Ahh. My mistake. He signals and then he turns. He has the right of way according to the vietnamese cone of attention. You can see his annoyed face when I continue my overtake of his family vehicle.
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    #4
  5. TropicalDale

    TropicalDale The Adventures of Peter Pan

    Joined:
    May 29, 2013
    Oddometer:
    287
    Location:
    Cleveland,Ohio
    :lurk
    #5
  6. crashkorolyk

    crashkorolyk just happy to ride

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    233
    Location:
    vancouver island
    Looks like a brilliant trip,thanks for sharing!
    #6
  7. Seth S

    Seth S Will _____ for _____

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2004
    Oddometer:
    5,477
    Location:
    sanity?
    For future reference I had really good experience renting from Tigit in Hanoi.
    #7
  8. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    Tigit was my preferred rental company in Hanoi. With my late planning they could not help me.
    #8
  9. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    Todays route is mainly road 32 towards the Laos border. Some minor roads in the middle. I plan less than 200 miles a day and this is only approx 140 miles. The general speedlimit in Vietnam is low and you rarely reach 40 mph.
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    Go slow, be predictable and never stop. It feels strange at first, turning into oncoming traffic, but this is the way to go.
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    Rural roads
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    Coffee break
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    Coffee is brewed at the table. It comes with some additional hot water and ice cubes if you should prefer iced coffee.
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    Many roads are decorated for the new year celebrations.
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    A new year and the rice fields can be planted yet again.
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    Rice patties
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    #9
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  10. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    Cultivating the rice patties. A wave to my drone.
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    It was the noise from the cultivator that made me stop.
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    Here on a bridge in silence except for the faint noise from the two stroke.
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    Many shops are closed for the new year.
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    Early spring in February.
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    Strange rock formations and a rare KTM.
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    Some young people have collided without injury. The only accident I witnessed during my stay in Vietnam.
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    I have reached the mountains.
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    My lunch is Pho. The local noodle soup for less than 2$.
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    Cooked ricepaper springrolls.
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    #10
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  11. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    Arrival Nghia Lo. Busy town without tourists and hotels. IMG_3662.JPG

    Nice clean homestay. Rooms with private bathroom, air conditioning, wifi and free clothes wash. She included a large free dinner with a beer due to it being the last day of the new year celebrations and all for less than 6$.
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    Ah. The troubles of the modern traveller. Charging powerbanks, drone batteries, phones (2 cell and a sat-phone), ipad and a laptop.
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    Small towns heading west.
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    Mountains in the morning. Crossing The Da river. Then more mountains to Dien Bien Phu.
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    Young guy with his girlfriend wearing traditional tribal clothing. We sat at the same table during lunch.
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    All gas stations have full service. Large interest in my bike and route.
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    #11
  12. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    I'm able to slowly ride amongst the water buffaloes. They stay calm as long as the calf is not seperated from the cow.
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    Traffic is low i Vietnam. You will rarely see a car outside larger cities.
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    In the mountains, it's still too early to plant rice.
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    I'm very happy about the performance of the Honda. The luggage rack fits all my stuff.
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    Cave
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    I've stopped at a high viewpoint and enjoy the view as many others.
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    I notice that some snap a photo of me instead of the view.
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    Being a traveller in rural areas will atract attention and they ask me to pose in pictures with them.
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    The "rock star" effect.
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    The roads are in fine condition, but of course some road works are to be expected. No signs and only insignificant delay.
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    #12
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  13. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    Fish farm on the Da river. IMG_3302.JPG


    A day with many great views.
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    After check in, I just have time to visit the war museum in Dien Bien Phu.
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    The museum is about the 1953 French war and Dien Bien Phu was the scene of one of the major battles.
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    French forces and the foreign legion captured the area in 1953
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    4 months later in 1954 and the Vietnamese army had recaptured Dien Bien Phu. Model of a soldier digging a trench under fire.
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    Much of the equipment used by the French were U.S. made in the U.S. aided campaign.
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    The signal tower in Dien Bien Phu is clearly inspired by the Eiffel tower and built by the French. Gustave Eiffel himself did design and built a few bridges in Vietnam.
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    Sunset over Dien Bien Phu. The mountains are the border to Laos.
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    My street side buffet dinner that night.
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    #13
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  14. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    My hotel doesn't have a restaurant, so breakfast if found around the corner from 5-6 in the morning. Pho again.
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    If you need a mechanic, then look for the sign "XE MAY". Even the smallest town will have several shops. G0016504.jpg

    I use hand gestures to indicate that I want him to lube the chain. I plan to do that every second day.
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    Dien Bien Phu to Sapa via Sin Ho.
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    Village
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    The winter months are the driest in Vietnam, but in the mountains, everything can happen. Even snow. So I pack the long underwear and heavy gloves being prepared for the worst. Luckily the weather is fine and some mud is as bad as it gets.
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    Busy traffic in Vietnam.
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    I need to refuel before going up to Sin Ho. The towns only gas station is dry, and I know to look for a street vendor.
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    Same thing happened on my 2013 tour.
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    Sin Ho 21 miles
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    #14
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  15. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,618
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Very cool. :clap
    #15
  16. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    They are not in a hurry to move. G0017802.jpg

    Basic roads
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    It's considered courteous if you beep the horn before overtaking.
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    The Honda in its element.
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    The Hmong tribe.
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    Arrival Sin Ho. High mountain village
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    Lunch is a sausage noodle dish, served in the pot.
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    Many loose dogs. They are well behaved. I was not chased once.
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    Pregnant pig. A near miss.
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    High roads in the clouds.
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    #16
  17. MazztheSpazz

    MazztheSpazz Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Oddometer:
    94
    Location:
    Steamboat Springs, Co
    Wow. I want to go back. Thanks for posting.
    #17
  18. muf722

    muf722 Muf

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Scandinavia
    Getting down the mountain. Children on the sidewalk. G0028841.jpg

    Back on tarmac and finding some speed.
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    Another refuel.
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    Nice view and sound. You can hear an engine miles away.
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    Heading for Sapa.
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    "Chuc Mung Nam Moi". I had memorized this phrase before travelling to Vietnam. It means Happy New Year and was the perfect icebreaker when meeting people.
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    This corner of Vietnam have the highest mountains in the country.
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    Street markets shortly before Sapa.
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    Down into the fog. Many drive without any lights on.
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    Loose surface roads in dense fog. With moisture on my visor and glasses, I see even less than my gopro.
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    #18
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