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Stubble's Death Valley tale, pics and videos! (at last)


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The following ride tale is drawn from journal entries written during and after DVD. All photos are clickable to view larger versions, and all my photos (including many more than shown here) are here in the ride gallery. Hope it was worth the wait. Enjoy!

 

 

Wednesday: Toll follies

 

Well I blew through the Golden Gate toll plaza at 75 MPH, riding a wheelie and thumbing my nose at the fuzz. Okay, no, not really. But I've somehow managed never to have to cross this bridge on a bike before, and I did have a rather minor brain fart involving failed logic like “2 axles = $5, 1 car = 2 axles, 1 motorcycle = ½ a car's axles” and didn't exactly realize that a motorcycle needs to pay the toll like anyone else. So I pulled on through like I owned the place, without offering any tithing. The loud buzzer erupting in my ears as I accelerated made me rethink my actions, but too late. As I picked up speed, I watched my mirrors for the telltale flashy lights of five CHP cruisers bearing down on me.

 

Nothing.

 

Subconsciously disappointed that I didn't even rate a single pursuer, I began considering the size of the ticket they would mail me, most likely paper-clipped to a high-res photo of my retreating back.

 

So I got off at 19th and turned around, went back across the bridge, turned around again, and headed back to the scene of the crime. I pulled up to the same booth, and the fellow looked at me in surprise.

 

I opened my helmet and related that I had just been through, and didn't pay, and what do I do now, oh cheerful tollbooth chap.

 

His response was quick: It's commute-hour, don't you know, and you don't have to pay, seein' as how you're on a motorsickle.

 

"What was that noise then?" I asked, "The buzzer."

 

"That's the buzzer we ring to let you through," (you stupid bumpkin).

 

"Really?"

 

"Yes. See?" And with that he hit the button and sure enough, the horrible BUZZZZZZZ rang out.

 

So I thanked him, dropped my face shield to cover my red cheeks, and THEN I tore out, up on the back wheel with a big "YEEHAW."

 

It's all true but that very last part. GOD what a dumbass.

 

The rest of the ride down to Morro Bay was uneventful. I took Highway 1 from SF to Santa Cruz, but it was getting dark and foggy and I headed inland to 101 for the rest of the way south, hoping for drier air. It was a cold run down 101, and I began wishing, not for the last time this trip I'm sure, that I owned some electric gear. Dinner was a turkey sandwich at a little place in Paso Robles. I pulled in an icicle, and the red neon lights were a veritable oasis in the night.

 

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Finally a quick jaunt down to the coast, the only notable event being the goat trail that the GPS suggested I take to get to Morro Bay. Thankfully I noticed the sign proclaiming "Landslide ahead. Local traffic only" before I got too far down it.

 

So, after a 300 mile afternoon, I now sit in a very nice hotel room a block from the ocean, and I'm off to check the weather reports for my next leg tomorrow.

 

 

Thursday, Friday

 

Well I'm here. Thursday's ride was long, but very enjoyable. The weather was great overall, although cold and windy. My gear worked great, and I had no complaints about being too uncomfortable. I left Morro Bay around 10, heading South on 1 to meet up with highway 58 East. Before Bakersfield, 58 is a fun road, with a couple of long, wonderful twisty sections, separated by a few arrow-straight areas amid flat, dry plains. In those parts, the only variety you get are periodic tight, roller-coaster-like rolling hills, and dodging crazy ground squirrels. Barely saw any other traffic for the whole stretch of 58 until I crossed 5.

 

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After Bakersfield the road rose to the only objectionable section of my trip, over Tehachapi pass on highway 58. It was socked in with freezing fog, I was having trouble keeping my visor clear, so I was forced to slow way down and put on my flashers while I crept along in the right lane. It's a short trip up and over though, and it only took about twenty minutes to reach clear air on the far side. My visor was so bad that I didn't notice the fog was gone for a few minutes!

 

Coming down into the Mojave was like being reborn, the skies were crystal clear and visibility was good for many, many miles. Strange, spiky Dr. Seuss trees appeared, and there was more sand than dirt on each side. The wind came up with a vengeance on the desert floor, and stick with me for the remainder of the trip. Fortunately it seemed to be mostly at my back a lot of the way, and it really helped my gas mileage on one stretch in the process!

 

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After bombing across the Mojave desert for a couple of hours, I turned North at Baker, fueling up again and leaving the freeway for the classic desert road: Long, straight and empty. I was finally completely alone, and for the next sixty miles I saw only a few other vehicles. As I skirted the Southeast end of Death Valley the rock formations closed in and provided the perfect setting for one of the most incredible sunsets I've ever seen. I was overcome, howling into my helmet at the top of my lungs and grinning with joy.

 

Trying to beat darkness, I didn't stop, but pushed on through to Pahrump in the East. Arrived at the hotel around six, not long after full-dark. Steve, aka Beagler, showed up just after I'd checked in, he'd been close behind me much of the way from Bakersfield but of course neither of us knew. We had a nice dinner together and turned in for some rest.

 

After a good night's sleep, I woke to 26 degree air outside, although it was still clear. Spent the day resting and exploring the immediate vicinity including a store run for basic supplies, and a nice walk out the east side of town a bit. Like a lot of desert towns, it just sort of peters out, and if you keep walking you're soon alone among the dirt, hardy flora, and jackrabbits.

 

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We had a high of 36 this afternoon. The wind is strong, and the skies are clear, although scattered clouds have already left their mark on the surrounding hills, and it's supposed to snow lower down later. I'm not holding my breath, it looks pretty darn clear.

 

Tonight most of the others will be arriving, and there's a reception for us to meet up and share our intrepid tales of frozen woe. Tomorrow will hopefully bring some riding. I'm itching to get back out and see some of this incredible country.

 

 

Friday Night Reception

 

After a day that found me wandering town and relaxing, Friday evening the bikes began filling the gazebo and spilling down the halls. We convened at the bar for drinks and introductions, and even Matt made it through the snow from Utah. Tom made arrangements to use the bingo hall rather than the forbidding outdoor reception area, so we enjoyed a cozy private party with great food, a gracious hostess, and good company all around. Highlights were singing happy birthday to Leslie, who had just come out of appendix surgery in San Diego, Bill's delicious salmon, the most excellent disco light show, and of course the many new people I met.

 

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Saturday, Time to Ride

 

Saturday broke cold, but like the others I was itching to do some riding. I found a few of the guys finishing breakfast and we retreated to get ready to head out together, with a vague destination in mind of Scotty's Castle via Badwater.

 

After negotiating a little parking lot ice without too much issue, Steve, Dave, Jeff, Bill, Rob and myself gassed up and took off on 178, through Shoshone, and on into the south end of Death Valley. My first time there, and I was unprepared for the scale of the place. I was mouth-agape as we descended, taking it all in. My mind was busy matching up what I was seeing with what previously I'd seen only in photographs and satellite imagery. The satellite pictures make the huge flows of rock and minerals look almost like water, but on the ground, the perspective is of course very different, a long flat basin edged with stark mountain ridges. It took me a moment to consciously realize that where the road bent in wide, sweeping curves, it was actually winding around the bases of those immense rock flows.

 

Our first stop was at Badwater, on the eastern edge of the huge salt flat, 282 feet below sea level. We stretched our legs and took some photos. I was surprised at the consistency of the salt, almost like a coarse breakfast cereal. And the water, true to its name, didn't look very inviting.

 

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(Above photo courtesy of Crazy_Canuck)

 

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After getting back on the road, we continued north up the valley, eventually passing Furnace Creek, (and the Chevron there, more on that later), and fifty miles after that we arrived at Scotty's Castle, a.k.a. Death Valley Ranch.

 

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I enjoyed the tour. The historical society gives you a really good feel for the eccentric personalities that collaborated to create such a unique place. Advanced water-driven electricity, active and passive evaporative cooling systems, one-of-a-kind china and furniture, all in an intricate, sprawling Mediterranean villa, and colored by tales of an unlikely friendship between a con-man, Walter Scott, and his former mark, Albert Johnson. One definitely gets the impression that each was a colorful character in his own way.

 

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As we left, my "gas puckering" began in earnest. Upon arrival we'd seen that that although there was once fuel available at Scotty's, there was none now. My RS has a smaller tank than the others' RTs or Steve's Triumph, and while they can go 200-plus miles without issue I've only pushed mine to 175, and even less during normal city riding. With the nearest fuel over 40 miles away, my odometer now reading 160 since the fuel stop that morning, and my gas light yelling at me, I was getting a little nervous. Fortunately it was mostly downhill, and I tucked in tight in the hopes of squeezing out an extra mile or two while we sped south. About ten miles out the last bar on my fuel indicator flickered out. Another fifteen miles or so and I could see the sand dunes and Stovepipe Wells beyond, off to the southwest. The bike kept purring along, but I envisioned it flaming out at any moment. After an eternity we hauled up at the stop sign at 190, and we split up, two heading to Furnace Creek, while I hung a right with the others, west past the dunes and breathing a relieved sigh as I swung into the gas station at Stovepipe Wells. The boxer didn't cough, even after a little dose of 87 octane.

 

On the way back to rejoin the other two we picked up two more, and together we fired up a spirited run back to Pahrump along 190 and Ash Meadows road. Some really great roads; gorgeous sweepers amid dramatic scenery.

 

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Sunday: On the Road

 

Sunday morning I slept in, and by the time I got out to breakfast most other bikes were gone. Didn't see anyone in the restaurant either, so I ate a light brekky and headed back to the room to pack up. By the time I got the bike loaded Richard was out there loading up his sexy GT. We chatted a bit before saddling up and heading our separate ways, Richard southwest to pick up 58 and on to 5 and home in Benicia, me northwest to cross Death Valley. A late start, but is this a vacation or isn't it?

 

Having enjoyed the prior evening's ride through Ash Meadows, not to mention it being a more direct route, I returned that way. I regret not taking the time to explore Ash Meadows preserve, and I'll be making that a goal next time around. But, even without leaving the main road, it's a gorgeous area.

 

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I took the turnoff for Dante's View, and found a fun road winding up the side of the mountain, following a small, steep canyon. The already cold temperature was dropping fast with every turn. Coming out on top, the road edges out onto a bluff, and there suddenly was the entire valley stretched out. Vertically speaking, I was now very close to where we had stopped on Saturday morning, nearly six thousand feet below at Badwater.

 

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The view is incredible there, standing on the eastern rim of Death Valley, over a mile above the lowest point on the Western hemisphere. Directly across the valley, the Western rim is taller, 11,049 ft. at Telescope Peak, and was topped with snow. The whole valley stretched out to the north and south, and visibility was pretty good. Because there is no geological outlet from the valley, all the minerals washed down from the mountains are there to stay, forming the amazing salt flats and other features below.

 

This is the sort of place that inspires reflection. Standing alone above this valley, overlooking a few million very visible years, one can't help but be filled to overflowing with awe, reverence. To borrow the sentiment Mark Twain wrote of, I wondered why anyone would want to go indoors to speak with God? Certainly a wide open place such as this is where I feel most connected to, and inspired by, that higher power.

 

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Before too long, I could no longer feel my fingers, and I wished for a thermometer on the bike to tell me how crazy I was. Reluctant as I was to leave, I was also happy to put the gloves back on and get back on the bike.

 

I motored down to Furnace Creek in the middle of the valley, filling up my tank and buying a couple of t-shirts to support the rangers there. It was warm, I might even have given it low forties if I had to guess. I was soon on my way again, headed northwest to Stovepipe Wells and another photo stop, this time aimed at the sand dunes there. For some scale, look closely and notice the group of people standing on the tallest dune.

 

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This was my last stop in Death Valley. I made the climb out the west side of the valley on 190, amused at the periodic signs offering radiator water to my my un-water-cooled bike in such cold weather, and finally descended into Panamint Valley on the other side. It too is pretty spectacular in its own right, long and barren, with stark mountain ranges on either side, and huge sand formations visible to the north. From there, 190 climbs out west and turns into a fine twisty mountain road before gradually topping out among clusters of Joshua trees and beginning the long descent to Owens Lake in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada. I saw only a couple of other vehicles between leaving Death Valley and finally meeting up with 395 in Olancha just south of Owens Lake, definitely a lonely stretch of road. The loneliness was enhanced a bit when at one point the bike dropped out of fourth during my ascent. It happens once in a while when I don't make a shift quite firmly enough, but still was unnerving, so "way out here". I rode on of course, in fact having a hell of a grand time working my way up the mountain, a swell road, a great bike, stunning views, and nowhere else to be but right there.

 

At 395, suddenly there were people again, a two-lane road with a steady stream of fast traffic in both directions, comprised mostly of tractor-trailers and weekending snowboarders heading home. It was late afternoon by this time, and here it was colder, the sun cut off from view with the road nestled up against the sheer mountains jutting up out of the desert floor. Time to fill the tank again before injecting myself into the fray, so I stopped at the one gas station I could see. Some water for me, some fuel for the bike, and I was off again. Flying south with the throng, two lanes became four, and after awhile 395 became 14 as I followed the mountains' edge to my right. The mountains became smaller as I moved further south towards Mojave, and there were odd fields of ice on each side of the road, perhaps from broken irrigation pipes of some sort. Eventually I turned west toward the mountains on good old 58 and headed up into Tehachapi to get over the pass. Big chunks of ice here on the shoulders, fallen off some passing vehicle, and snow on the hills close by. With the sun now definitely gone it went from pretty-darn-cold to chattering-teeth-OMFG-cold in a jiffy. As I berated myself for leaving late and for not owning any heated clothing, I contemplated slowing down to reduce the wind-chill, or speeding up to reduce the time. Rightly or not, the latter seemed to make much more sense at the time, within a short time I was dropping down into the flatlands where it was a nice cozy 36 according to the signs I passed in the night.

 

Things got decidedly less exciting after Bakersfield, after a brief stint on I-5 I settled in for a long, dark slog across the central valley on a brutal two laner they call Highway 46, with many of the signs of danger I look for: Narrow, fast heavy traffic, rumble strips on the centerline and on the shoulders, the works. So I didn't sleep, but instead nestled up behind a pickup, hugged the right track, and watched the oncomers like my border collie watches our cats.

 

By the time I reached the hotel in Paso Robles, I was acutely cold and uncomfortable, but a hot shower and a steak at good ol' Margie's Diner improved my outlook considerably. And the bed, well, it was sublime.

 

 

Monday: Coast Dancing

 

I checked the weather when I woke up, it was only 19 degrees out at 7:30 am. So I decided to take my time getting ready to let the sun do its thing, since the weather forecast called for mid-fifties on the coast. Sure enough, it was soon warming up, and after a great breakfast at Margie's I loaded up and beat it.

 

From Paso Robles down to 1 offers a beautiful view as you come over the hill, well worth the price of admission. Down on the land's edge I settled in for a gorgeous ride north. From Morro Bay up the coast starts out low, with lots of accessible beaches and tidepools. After a while it steepens up and begins to look at bit like the northern Sonoma County coastline above Jenner, with the road twisting along steep grassy bluffs. Not quite as precarious, but it's definitely similar. The sky was clear, the air comfortably warm, the wind quite mild, and traffic light. Perfect day for riding! I took some video here too, but have yet to process it, so you'll have to wait for that one smile.gif

 

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The bike makes a passable, if expensive, tripod smile.gif

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I continued up through Big Sur, and on through Monterey, Santa Cruz, and eventually winding my way into San Francisco. A hell of a ride, I was a happy guy. A quick trip over by the Legion of Honor to get a shot of the bridge in the last light of the setting sun, then across and up 101 for the last leg home.

 

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My arrival was a dramatic affair, with my wife greeting me as though it had been a month, my son talking a mile a minute, and the dogs vigorously wagging all over. My oldest dog was particularly relieved to see me again. I think she thought I had run out!

 

All in all a terrific trip in great company, and I enjoyed myself hugely despite the cold temps.

 

Big thanks to Tom and to everyone else who helped make it possible!

 

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More pics here in the ride gallery.

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Wow!!

 

Truly a remarkable ride with a remarkable tale! And some amazing photographs to boot!

 

Very well done.

 

Thanks!!! clap.gifclap.gif

 

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I think I'll go get more lurker.giflurker.gif and watch again!!!

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great photos for sure, and inspiring to this east coaster... so, when's the next DVD trip?

 

As soon as you complete youe E to W 50CC!! grin.gifgrin.gif

 

 

lurker.giflurker.giflurker.gif

 

Bring your Huzband!! lmao.giflmao.gif

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Great ride tale and enjoyed the pics...I'll have to check out the vids later.

 

Your picture of the sand dunes on your ride home reminded me of my first ride to LV through DV. Got a laugh out of seeing and had to take a nondigital pic of the sign "Sand Dunes" with an arrow pointing at them.

 

Again, much enjoyed your tale.

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great photos for sure, and inspiring to this east coaster... so, when's the next DVD trip?
Pick the coldest weekend next January - that'll be it.
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thanks much...really enjoyed the tale and pics. thumbsup.gif

 

Worthy Tale and I am really glad I got to meet ya! Wait till we start taking pictures in Torrey man.

 

Kaisr thumbsup.gif

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Wait till we start taking pictures in Torrey man.

 

Kaisr thumbsup.gif

 

I shall not be victim to your pictures of Richard. YEEEEECCCCHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! lmao.giflmao.giflmao.gif

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AdventurePoser

Great ride report! I'm ashamed of myself that I didn't take more photos as you did. I was so cold I couldn't stop riding-figured if I did, I'd not get back on!

 

Great pix, and it was also tremendous getting to meet you in person. See you on the road again...

 

Steve in So Cal

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Loved your ride tale and pics. Almost makes us want to go back this weekend but think we'll wait until it's a tad warmer. grin.gif

Gar and I got to explore Ash Meadows Saturday and it's quite interesting. Hope you get a chance to do the same sometime.

(My camera refused to work in the cold crazy.gif)

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No way, I don't want to bring Danny, I want to have fun!!! thumbsup.gifgrin.gif

 

Well, if I do my 50CC in time for the coldest weekend of next year, that should get me all together for Phil and Bob, not to be confused w/Neil and Bob! crazy.gif

 

Danny, you wanna go? We could do VSTROMs over America.... whatchoo say mang?

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That was a great write up of the DVD trip with great PICS!

 

I too enjoyed meeting you and also riding with you. Hope to see you in Torrey. thumbsup.gif

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Wow. bncry.gif

 

 

Beautiful pics. bncry.gifbncry.gif

 

 

Poetic descriptions, too. bncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gif

 

 

Very captivating narration--I felt almost like I was there. bncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gif

 

 

It almost made up for having to miss the ride . . . almost. bncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gif

 

 

Dang, Sebastian! That was GREAT! Way to rub salt in a guy's wounds! We're SOOOOOOOO bummed we couldn't ride with you guys and it's literally painful seeing all the smiling faces of the intrepid/foolhardy souls--the real hardcore bikers who braved the cold to ride and commune in one of the most beautifully unique places in the west. Dang, I wish we could've gone. The group shot really got to me . . . such wonderful people. bncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gif

 

 

We'd been looking forward to this trip for SO long. Hell, I posted about it LAST January!! I'm going to go cry myself to sleep now . . . . bncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gifbncry.gif

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Fantastic ride tale!!!!! Thanks for the imagery (written and photographic). thumbsup.gif

 

Crappy appendix!!!!!!! frown.gifcrazy.gifbncry.gifbncry.gif

 

Yea, but did you see his Table of Contents!!!!

 

Oh, opps, wrong appendix!!!! My bad. lmao.giflmao.giflmao.gif

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Great pictures Sebastian! I enjoyed reliving the weekend. Those videos were fantastic. I felt like I was on your bike leaning into the curves with music piped into my helmet. On your video of leaving the valley, I noticed the camera shaking a bit more and the dashed yellow centerline stripes moving faster. Are you sure you didn't have it set on fast forward? wink.gif It was great riding with you.

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I heard wild unsubstantiated rumors that the guy at the bridge/toll made a mistake, and they want you back ........

 

Nice story...........waiting for the next one!! Good job.

 

Pat

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Fantastic narrative and pictures! Really enjoyed it. I had a great time (other than the cold). You helped me relive it. Thanks thumbsup.gif

 

SHHHH It wasn't cold...nothing to read here....carry on

 

 

KlondikeKaisr thumbsup.gif

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Fantastic ride tale!!!!! Thanks for the imagery (written and photographic). thumbsup.gif

 

Crappy appendix!!!!!!! frown.gifcrazy.gifbncry.gifbncry.gif

 

Yea, but did you see his Table of Contents!!!!

 

Oh, opps, wrong appendix!!!! My bad. lmao.giflmao.giflmao.gif

 

LMAO!! lmao.giflmao.gif

 

I thought the same damn thing and was like, "What the hell is she talking about?" 017.gif017.gif

 

Then it dawned on me - DUH!!! dopeslap.gifdopeslap.gifdopeslap.gif

 

I think I'll go to bed now..... peepwall.gif015.gif

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... I noticed the camera shaking a bit more...

Damn camera. Musta just been malfunctioning a bit. You were on one of the bikes in that video, Jeff, so I know you can vouch for our sedate pace over the hill...

 

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Thanks all, I sure enjoyed putting it all together, almost as much as I enjoyed gathering material thumbsup.gif

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