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The Prodigal Dakar: Helen Beyond


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(My apologies: some of the photos are in the wrong place. Figure it out :thumbsup: )


North Georgia and North Carolina


Sweeet! The roads here twist, turn, and swoop through verdant greenery. Vegetal aromas of freshturned

earth and deep woods. The trees still have the delicate, varying greens of spring. Clear streams

dive over smooth rocks and old mill-races. Weathered, ancient barns, some collapsed and engulfed in

vines. There are fields of daisies.


Barn, North Georgia

There were clouds and sun breaks and pavement wet where it had rained, but we didn't get rained on.

And the new moisture just drew the smells fresh and pungent out of the woods.

There are dozens and dozens of motorcycles. This is two-wheeled heaven. Young people on sport

bikes, bearded Harley riders, sport-tourers in thousand-dollar riding suits. They all come from near and

far to – as Peter Falk put it -- “do the serpentine”.

There's plenty of new construction here, too. This north Georgia country has become the recreational

go-to place for people from Atlanta. Before the good roads it was a vacation place. Now it's a weekend

trip. There are lovely houses and developments, mostly hidden off the main roads.


Cashier Valley, NC, from Road Scholar's shanty

And the roads. The roads are two-lane and well-maintained. Thursday they were sparsely traveled.

Today, Friday, the back roads were still pretty free riding but the arterials were busy.

The poultry industry has long been big in this area as evidenced by many old, decaying poultry barns

along the roads. For a while I was behind a huge truck loaded with live chickens and swam through a

miasma of chicken stench and a flurry of white feathers until there was a break in the traffic and a

dotted line where I could squirt past.

North Georgia was home to the first American gold rush. Gold was discovered in Dahlonega in 1836

and mined until the 1950's. In Dahlonega, Selden and I saw a Harley Davidson with gold prospecting gear.


A Harley kitted out for prospecting. Selden Deemer marvels!

Riding the twisties is so sensual. It is like skiing, the balance of the centrifugal forces, the delicate

dance of directional change, the constant interplay of forces on one's body, the demands that place one

completely in the moment. Add to that the rush of wind, the changes in temperature and light and the

immediacy of smell.

Riding back into Helen, Georgia, this afternoon there were all the tourists doing what tourists do in this

faux-Bavarian pastiche. A young couple walking past the shops were in animated discussion, the young

woman smiling at her man. What drew my attention was that he was white and she was African-

American. In Georgia. In the Deep South. And no one was paying attention. As far as I could tell, no

one seemed to care. And that, I thought, is just fine. One hell of a difference from 50 years ago.

In Helen, I got to be with the people who had put my motorcycle back together after it broke down on

my ride west back in October, 2011. Chris Kinney and Randy Etheridge went way above and beyond to

help a stranger.


Randy Etheridge: Not as grumpy as he looks!

And there were old friends (Raaaaaan!) and some new ones.


Bill and Colette and I picked up sandwiches and scrunched through a bunch of gravel roads down to a

small bridge across a clear, tumbling stream. A light breeze ruffled the delicate new-leaf greens of the

spring trees and the deep greens of rhododendron and mountain laurel. We sat on a rock in dappled

sunlight and the white-noise of water cascading over the rocks.

And I thought, this place is paradise. The Cherokees used to live here and got “removed” in 1838 by

Andrew Jackson's racist policies. I never comprehended just how terrible the Trail of Tears must have

been for them until I sat on that rock and saw how beautiful their country was. How harmonious their

life must have been. Over the centuries, they would have adjusted to a certain level of morbidity and

mortality. There must have been some malaria and maybe some TB. There would have been

mosquitoes and chiggers, just as there are now. And perhaps some wars with neighboring tribes, but

there was plenty of game and fish and the soil must have been productive for their farms. They would

have known how to cope with their environment from long usage. They would have been deeply and

spiritually rooted in that land where uncounted generations of their ancestors had been born and were



Cherokee paradise

Then came.....us. No, I don't feel guilty. I wasn't around. Neither was my family. We were busy getting

beaten up by Russians. I just feel sad for them, resentful of the injustice. How hard it must have been. If

I were Indian, I'd be pissed!


We stopped at an open-air church up in the mountains. And a small, family cemetery adjacent. There

were some interesting gravestones.






There was a fine supper that night back in Helen



Bill Ferran, Colette, Chris Kinney









North Carolina backroads


Next morning I was off early, headed north with Kenny Haynes. We took gravel roads through the



Beautiful country and good learning for me. At one point we passed a clearing, deep in the

mountains. There was an old travel trailer up on blocks with a plastic tarp strung along one side up it.

Under the tarp was a family of about ten people. At least four of them were men with full, bushy, white

beards. They looked like real mountain people. I waved and they waved back, and I wished I could stop

and say hello, but Kenny was far ahead and I had to keep up. I wondered if there were any traditional

fiddlers in that bunch.

We kept winding up through motorcycle heaven, to the Cherohala Skyway. The Skyway is 50 miles of

North Carolina road built – at a cost of $100 million – specifically as a scenic highway. There are no

restaurants, no filling stations. Just mile after mile of sweeping curves and vistas over the hazy valleys

of the Blue Ridge. We rode from late spring in the valley to trees just beginning to leaf at the crest; a

complete change in climate, and descended into the town of Tellico.

There, we stopped at Motorcycle Outfitters, a small store stocked with well-considered merchandise.

The owner, Michael Dozier, a compact, friendly guy wears an automatic pistol on his belt. I asked him

about it.

There are people in town, he said, who don't like outsiders, and he'd had some harassment from them:

dead animals left on the doorstep, etc. Why? Well, these people – KKK members – think his shop is

responsible for attracting motorcyclists (they ignore the fact that Tellico is at the north terminus of the

Cherohala, one of the premier motorcycling roads in America). Some of said motorcyclists are Asian,

or Islander, or – God forbid – Black! So, the owner of Motorcycle Outfitters went to these Neanderthals

(No, I take that back. It's insulting to the Neanderthals.) and he told me he confronted them. Since then,

he has worn the pistol and has had no trouble. I hope it lasts for him. I'd like to know what he said to


Kenny and I split, he heading to Knoxville, and I to Murfreesboro, 50 miles south of Nashville. Twolane

meandering up and down through Tennessee towns and then, damn! Oil light went on. I pulled off

the road and started to try to figure things out. Oil? OK but maybe too much. Coolant? Hard to check

without taking things apart. So, I took things apart. And found the radiator cap wasn't tightened all the

way; no coolant.

Meanwhile, cars and motorcycles had been going by. A few waves but nothing else. Then, a big, shiny

cruiser pulled up. The pilot was a scrawny, grizzled little guy in patched jeans, with a white beard and a

deep V for a left hand where the long and index fingers were gone. He wasn't really a bad-looking

specimen for a man of 65 with tuberculosis. The cruiser was immaculate.

On the pillion, his girlfriend or wife was at least double his size and wearing nothing but bib overalls

from the top of which both her ample, pink breasts were overflowing. Her smile showed a lot of empty

territory between each tooth.

“Everything OK?” he queried. I told him the problem and asked if they had any water. They gave me a

bottle of water and the girlfriend reached into her purse and gave me a package of baby wipes. I wasn't

sure about those baby wipes seeing as I wasn't carrying one and didn't see any babies around.

Later, however, I was happy to find a lady with a baby and proceeded to wipe her baby vigorously. The

lady was a trifle put out at having a stranger just jump out and wipe her baby, so I showed her my

package of baby wipes. Then she relaxed. I finished wiping the baby and gave her the remainder of the

package. I think the Harley guy and his girlfriend would have been proud of me.

Anyhow, I eventually did find a farmhouse and got some water to fill the radiator and got to

Murfreesboro without any further problems and without encountering any more babies.

Stayed with Rich and Anita Jeffreys.


I had met Rich at the BMWST gathering in Helen, and he'd

offered to put me up overnight. He's an interesting man and Anita's a live-wire! I slept like the blessed.

Did a 600-mile oil change and replaced the coolant in the morning in Rich's garage. Rich had to get

some work done on his Guzzi. The agency where the work was done is the biggest I've ever seen, with

a nice collection of old bikes.


1940 Indian Chief


Then Rich led me to the Stones River Battlefield. Union soldiers under Rosecrans and Braxton Bragg's

Confederate army slaughtered each other for three days over New Years of 1862-63. Pure butchery.


Confederate troops were mowed down by artillery crossing this field.

A few yards after we rode through the gate I felt a heaviness in my chest and body. An oppressive

feeling. Maybe I'm getting soft in the head. I don't know. I've been a Civil War buff since I was in my

teens and I've walked many a battlefield, but I've never felt like this. The older I get the less I can

handle be in places of suffering. Are the spirits of the men who died there still haunting that place? It

felt like it; an oppressive sadness.


Cemetery, Stone's River Battlefield

To St. Louis. Stayed with Phil, the ex-boyfriend of a female riding-buddy. I collapsed into bed early

and we were both off and running – he to work, me to the road – before 7, so I really didn't get much of

chance to get to know him. He did give me some maps that proved very valuable.

Thunder and lightning storms all the way to Hannibal. I parked the bike next to Mark Twain's house but

the side stand must not have been all the way down. The bike rolled forward and slowly lay down on

its left side. No damage. A fellow ran down from the Best Western motel up the street and helped me

get the machine back on its feet. “Hey! Come on up for breakfast”, he invited. I had OJ, a couple of egg

McBestWesterns and coffee, thank you.


The Twain Boyhood Home, Hannibal, MO, after the bike fell over!

Then Route 36 across Missouri from Hannibal to St. Joe. Highly recommended. It's as fast as the

Interstate and the traffic is negligible. No curves, but rolling enough not to be mind-deadening. A short

side-trip just off the highway took me to Laclede, Missouri, birthplace and boyhood home of John J.

“Black Jack” Pershing. The town boasts less than 500 people and the center still looks much as it did in

Pershing's day. Graceful, tree-shaded and charming.


Laclede, MO, birthplace and boyhood home of Gen. Pershing. That's the house in the background.




Nebraska, the only one of the Lower 48 I've never been in. I feel like I'm in the Cohn Brothers' movie“Fargo”. I stayed with a couple my age, the Sawyers. Cliff is a Marine Vietnam vet. Combat engineers.

He had some great stories to tell and is happy that he never shot anybody. The two of them are serious

Christians and he is an eminently gentle man. Dee, his wife, teaches visually impaired kids and showed

me a machine for “typing” in Braille. Sweet folks.

Severe thunderstorm warnings tonight. We'll see what tomorrow brings.




Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'...across Nebraska. A lot nicer than I had anticipated. Not flat at all

but lots of low, verdant hills and draws and a big sky overhead. Old towns that time has bypassed. It

looks like Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton country. Once I got off I-80 at Grand Island and

started on Rt. 2 the massive truck traffic disappeared and I had the roads to myself.

There were lots of little dirt roads leading off into the hills. I did take one of them, just to test the

Dakar's off-road capabilities. It handled well and had plenty of power. That is, until an erosion rut

tripped us and the bike decided to lie down and take a rest.


Thanks for Rok-Straps! Popping the

waterproof duffle on and off the bike is a cinch and I was thankful for the workouts I've been doing at

the gym. It didn't take too much doing to get the machine back on its feet.


Country roads, Nebraska-style.

A minute later, a man on a 4-wheel came putting by. He's a 3rd generation rancher, raising Angus cattle.

He said they'd been worried this spring. There hadn't been much snow over the winter and things were

touch-and-go until this spring. Lately, there had been good rains. “Greened things right up,” he said.

Nebraska was once Plains Indian country, par excellence. I could easily imagine small parties of

Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Pawnee searching the hills for buff, or for each other and some horses

to steal on a raid. The further west I got there was more ranching and less farming. Toward the western

part of the state is the Sandhill country. It was all unfenced government land – after we stole it from the

Natives. Farmers who tried to turn the sandhills to agriculture generally failed. It was and remains beef

cattle country.

I turned off Rt. 2 at Ellsworth and stopped at Morgan's Cowpoke Haven to ask route advice and inquire

as to some gasoline. I was greeted by the biggest, rottweiler dog I've ever encountered, barking at me

and the motorcycle. He didn't seem aggressive but wouldn't come near to sniff my proffered knuckles.

The store owner came out on the gallery and told me it was my helmet. I took it off. The dog came

over, gave my hand a lick and we were friends. Come to think of it, from looking at the picture, maybe he isn't a rottweiler. Maybe he's a bloodhound!



The store doesn't look very big from the front, but it goes awaaaay back. Founded in 1890, it belonged

to a rancher named Spade who illegally fenced much of the land thereabouts, driving squatters out. He

was convicted of the crime of fencing federal land and sent to prison for a year, where he died at the

age of 49. The ranch is now owned by the Baxter family and is legally fenced.

The current store owner is Wade

Morgan, who kept up a running, mostly one-sided conversation the whole time I was there. He showed

me back past the jewelery, buckles, knives, and a whole case of books by Mari Sandoz, the prizewinning

author of Cheyenne Autumn, Crazy Horse and Old Jules, to show me a letter handwritten by

Old Jules himself, and a framed, original photo portrait of Sandoz, herself. He likes to stock books that

come out of Nebraska. Oddly, he'd never heard of John Neihardt, former poet laureate of Nebraska and

author of Black Elk Speaks. I forgot to write it down for him. (For some real fun reading about

Nebraska: http://www.happystinkingjoy.com/tag/morgans-cowpoke-haven/ )


Morgan's Cowpoke Haven

There was a big room full of Western wear, boots, tack, duster coats, cowboy hats, lariats and bandanas.

Further back was a well-stocked gun shop. Not the sort of firearms I'd expect to find in the West,

though. No Henry repeaters, or Winchester Yellowboys. No .44-40 Colt Peacemakers or rabbit-ear

shotguns. There were Uzi clones, a multitude of iterations of the M-16, AK-47s, Glocks and even a

Barrett. The Old West has gone high-tech, and high-paranoia, not to mention high cyclic rate.

Nowadays, the gunfight at the OK Corral would last about 4 seconds.

Working our way even further back Wade showed my his Harley Night-Train, a monument to chrome,

several cars, including a vintage 60s Mustang, and yet another room with more stored cars and boats.

You just never know what you'll find when you ask an innocent question.

In the northwest of the state I dipped briefly into Fort Robinson, an Army post from the Indian Wars. If

I'm not mistaken, it was the place Crazy Horse was taken after his capture and where he was murdered.

It was to Ft. Robinson that Dull Knife's band was taken and imprisoned after their escape from the

reservation in Oklahoma where they had been exiled and that they so despised. They were desperately

trying to get back to their home country when they were again rounded up by the army. Some did

manage to escape again but they were hunted down. The Cheyenne managed to elude the army for

some time but were eventually cornered. Sixty-seven Cheyenne and eleven soldiers died in what came

to be known as the Cheyenne Outbreak.

It was getting late and I was getting tired as I gassed up in Lusk, Wyoming. No need risking a deer

strike. I decided to call it a night. There were no BMW people listed in that part of the state so I put up

in a motel.




On the road at 8 am Thursday. North from Lusk to Newcastle, which boasted rail yards and a refinery.

And a wonderful old, golden-domed courthouse. Just down the street is Donna's Cafe, where I was

greeted like an old friend and everyone I saw leaving had a smile. Donna, with garishly red hair, was

inking the day's special on the white-board. It was lasagna.

“Ah,” I said. “An old cowboy tradition!”

“I make it myself from scratch,” said Donna. “Ready made? Yuk!”

I'm sure her lasagna is good, but I wasn't waiting around. I liked the breakfast, though. It came quick

and hot and the hash browns were done just right.

Ranch country. Cattle and horses and a herd of pronghorn antelope.


I worked my way west to Gillette,

Buffalo and north again to Sheridan. If you are ever in that country, take Route 14 over the Big Horn

mountains. The mountains were spectacular and I was nearly alone on the road. Historic markers

pointed out the Bozeman Trail and the famous battles that took place. The Fetterman Fight. The Wagon

Box Fight.



Buffalo had a great old hotel, The Occidental, made famous by Owen Wister in his book The Virginian.


All the way from St. Louis I'd been assailed by a steady southwest wind. I've always wanted to have a

more masculine neck and I'm pleased to tell it is now an inch thicker than when I left from fighting that

wind. But only on the left side. When I got out of Gillette I rejoiced when I ran into a stiff breeze from

the EAST. The muscles on the right side of my neck were finally getting some use, but wouldn't you

know, it petered out in 25 miles and I was slapped with more southerly and southwesterly winds as

soon as I turned west.




I put up for the night in Livingston, MT, courtesy of John and Kathy Lundberg, a fellow BMW owner.

He's an interesting man. Owns several older BMW airheads, is a pilot, pistol instructor, history buff.

The Lundbergs run a campground in Livingston with RV hookups, tenting space and a nice little

camping cabin they let me have for the night. They give discounts to motorcyclists who stop in. Check

out Osen's RV Park and Campground (www.osensrvpark.com). Nice folks.

It rained during the night but it was sunny, cold, and delightful in the morning. About 17 miles east of

Butte and sheriff’s car passed me at high speed. Topping a rise I saw smoke in the distance. Thick, oily,

black smoke was coming from where a small road crosses under the interstate. I pulled off from

curiosity and to see if I could help. The sheriff was already out of his car with a fire extinguisher,

standing next to a pickup truck fully involved in flames. It looked like it had come off the interstate and

fallen, right-side-up, onto the road below. The driver was still inside, but even if the sheriff's fire

extinguisher had been adequate, it wouldn't have made a difference for the driver. The sheriff shook his

head and went back to his patrol car. I admired the sheriff for getting that close to the flaming vehicle.

The tank could have gone up at any time.

I headed west. Nothing I could do there.

Pulled in to Arlee, Montana, about two in the afternoon, where live two of my favorite human beings

(and three cats) in the world.


I met Frank in 1974 in Spokane. There was a Folklife Festival as part of

the World's Fair and I was performing. Frank and his father, who was a renowned expert on making all

sorts of moccasins, were teaching people how to do that. Frank and I became firm friends and have

been ever since. He has a PhD in psychology, has been teaching at the Salish Community College for

many years, and is just about to retire. Frank can build a building, fix a tractor, paint watercolors, cook,

teach students, play the harp, and make execrable puns. He's married to Carol Lynn, who is a

chiropractor but mainly does acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine and is a warm, loving,

woman; a wise-woman in the old sense of the meaning.

Before I met her I had actually heard of her family in Vermont from a song by Malvina Reynolds2.

The Ballad of Robban's First Ride

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1972 Schroder Music Company,

renewed 2000. A true story involving the singers John Roberts and Tony Barrand.

The winter came early in seventy two,

With a hell of a storm coming down,

And Mary and Tom bundled into the car,

'Cause Mary was hospital bound.

They didn't get far till the telephone rang,

It was Tony and John on the line.

"You'd better get over," said Tommy to John,

"'Cause Mary has come to her time.

A tree it has fallen athwart of the road,

And we're stuck here and cannot get by."

So our two British stalwarts start driving again

Right into the hurricane's eye.

They drove till they came to the Marlboro hill

And they helped Mary over the log,

They couldn't turn round so they had to back down,

It was nearly a mile to the road.

They leaned on the horn and they drove like the wind.

"You bastards get out of the way!

Cause the Toleno baby of Mary and Tom

Is due to be borning this day."

Said Mary, "I tell you the baby is here."

Said Tony, "Hold on for a bit.

Brattleboro is some two miles away

And the hospital's farther on yet."

But the head of the baby emerged into view,

And Tom took the shoulders in hand,

And Tony and John are as white as a sheet

And driving as fast as they can.

They wrapped the young creature in John's woolly coat

From his feet to his little round head,

And the baby said, "Ma, what you doing out here!

You ought to be home in your bed."

They pulled up the car at the hospital door

2 You may not have heard of Malvina, but you've probably heard some of her songs: Little Boxes, Turn Around, Just a Little

Rain, The Bankers and The Diplomats Are Going In The Army, and many other marvelous, funny, and wise creations.

And Tony he hardly could speak.

"There's a baby was born in the back of our car!"

Said the nurse, "That's the third one this week."

The doctor he was the philosopher type,

And his thinking was easy and large.

"There's many a kid gets his first start in life

In the back of a second-hand Dodge."

They rolled out the gurney and brought in the two,

Both mother and child doing fine,

When the nurse asked the question, "Whose baby is this?"

All three of the men answered, "Mine!"

Then Tony and John went on down to the pub

To get them a jug of the brew,

And they told all the folks who were drinking around

The story I'm telling to you.

They told all the folks that were drinking around

Of the babe that was born on the road,

And they all drank a toast to the health of the child

And the heroes who carried the load.

Robban Anthony John who was born in the Dodge,

That was the new baby's name,

And the bartender set up the drinks on the house,

And I hope you'll be doing the same.

So, what's the connection? I recognized the surname when I met Carol Lynn. “That's my nephew,

Robban Anthony John Toleno!” she told me.

This time, I got to meet Robban Anthony John's younger sister, Elizabeth, who is living with them and

doing a Masters in biological mathematics. (Yup, they're a smart family.)

Their home is a complex consisting of their house, Carol Lynn's small office and various lovely

outbuildings, some build by Frank, that have, over the years, been developed into workshops, guest

rooms, an art studio, and a new building that is part workshop and part housing for the goats Frank

wants to raise after he retires. (Just {yet} another interest.). All surrounded by thousands of tulips,

daffodils, and narcissus in full glory.


Back to reality! The left fork seal on my bike was blowing black gunk all over the left side of the bike

(and my riding gear!), so a trip to the BMW dealer in Missoula was necessary and I spent way too

much time cleaning out the forks and installing new seals. Time I should have been spending with

Frank and Carol Lynn.

That's one thing I've learned in Africa: what's important is not the STUFF we own, it's the relationships

we have. In our western society, somehow the greatest satisfaction has become translated to the act of

purchase and “pride” of ownership. We own too much and it often interferes with what should be our

real priorities: our family and friends and community. In America we have a tendency to make things

substitute for community, perhaps because so much of our society is so mobile. We are fragmented. We

barely know our neighbors. Our families are scattered all over the nation. Our economic system

bombards us with messages that value ownership over membership.

I headed west again on Sunday, May 6th, under skies that cleared and gave me a fine, but cold ride up

over Lookout Pass, through the mining town of Mullan and Kellog, Idaho, past Coeur d'Alene, the lake

shining blue on my left and an uneventful – uneventful is good!! -- journey home.

Today I take the embarrassingly loud Two Brothers exhaust off the bike and replace it with the more

gentlemanly and less attention-getting original equipment. If loud pipes save lives I must be a hero by

now! Well, I'm not saving any more lives. The old muffler goes back on. Today!

Many, many, many thanks to the folks who put my machine back in running condition. To Chris

Kinney and his wonderful wife, Nancy, who generously shared her husband with a stranger's machine.

To Randy Etheridge for all his time and help and the use of his pickup to haul the bike from Pelham,

Alabama, back to Atlanta. To Terry and Joan Ware of Terry's Two Wheel who gave advice, comfort,and

a crackerjack rebuild to a broke-down old Beemer rider and his machine. To Larry Kachadurian, who

seems to be able to “whip” up something out of nothing just because of the greatness of his heart. Bill

Ferran, the Road Scholar, and Colette: I hope we get to ride together again. Kenny Haynes – a delight

to ride with. Rich and Anita Jeffrey, Cliff and Dee Sawyer, and John and Kathy Lundberg, who

sheltered a stranger on the road: I hope I can do the same for you some day.

Link to comment
Glenn Reed

Doc, you write so vividly and so well, and this is no exception. Glad you had a great trip, and with wonderful people along the way.


For those who did not get the Peter Falk "serpentine" reference, click

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Much thanks, guys!

Aside from personal demons, positive feedback is one thing writers live for...



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Singl Malt

Wow, what an interesting trip. Glad you made it back safe.


This is a great paragraph:

"That's one thing I've learned in Africa: what's important is not the STUFF we own, it's the relationships

we have. In our western society, somehow the greatest satisfaction has become translated to the act of

purchase and “pride” of ownership. We own too much and it often interferes with what should be our

real priorities: our family and friends and community. In America we have a tendency to make things

substitute for community, perhaps because so much of our society is so mobile. We are fragmented. We

barely know our neighbors. Our families are scattered all over the nation. Our economic system

bombards us with messages that value ownership over membership."



A pic of Doc's bike, I don't think the Guzzi slept very well with two Beamers next to him.


Link to comment
Kenny Haynes

Very nice Doc. It was a pleasure riding through the woods up to the skyway and Tellico and a good lunch too. I only have a couple of pictures from that morning taken on Tusquittie road. That was really a really fun road.









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