Going Coastal - Scoutin' Vancouver Island

Discussion in 'Canadian Indian Riders' started by EPOCH6, May 10, 2018.

  1. EPOCH6

    EPOCH6 Well-Known Member

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    This Canadian Indian Riders board has been hiding under my nose the entire time, I had no idea it was here. I will take this opportunity, as indianrider.net's current Chief (without a Chief) of Canada, to present to you some of the most glorious scenery I have ever experienced in this marvelous province.

    You may as well grab yourself a drink and a snack, this'll be a long one. So long in fact that I'm going to be doing this in multiple parts, separating each day into it's own post. I simply don't have the time to share this all in one sitting, nor am I sure if the forum rules allow such a high image count per post anyway. Bear with me, the story gets better each day, culminating with a risky & rewarding evening on Day 3 that I'll never forget.

    Each year I make at least one trip over to Vancouver Island to visit the numerous friends of mine that have fallen for the allure and moved there over the years. Last year I did it on my KLX250S, and while the destinations were equally or more ambitious and I enjoyed every minute of it, this time around was magic. There is something about travelling solo with your dream motorcycle that is simply intoxicating, where every single time you lean it over onto the kickstand, walk away, and turn your head you have to stop and pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming. Turns out I'm not dreaming and that the last 10,000 km I've spent with the Scout have been everything I had hoped for and more. But anyway, enough gushing, there's a story to tell.

    This year I found a way to turn a business trip into an all-inclusive paid vacation. I'm not sure if it has come up here before but I'm a wireless communications technician by trade, that means industrial radio systems, cellular communications networks, remote monitoring systems, public safety and emergency response systems etc etc. Part of the fun of this job is being flown around the country to set up specialized custom systems or to train, or be trained, on new technologies or specific applications. This month our customer was the BC Coast Guard and I was to travel to Vancouver Island to attend a 2-day training session at their facility. As soon as I got the memo the real plan became clear: work some overtime and bank the hours, book off the days between the weekend and the training, tell my colleague that I'll meet him there, leave on the weekend, and turn 2-days of job training into an all inclusive 4-day coastal road trip (excluding fuel costs).

    So I fired up Google Maps, did some Googleometry, and this is what I came up with:

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    After accounting for numerous detours, wrong turns, and impulsive nightly outings I ended up clocking in somewhere between 1800 and 2000 km in total by the time I made it home. About 500 a day, not bad considering how often I stop to snoop around, take photos, top up my gas WAY before empty, bullshit with locals, and sit down for a bite to eat. Throughout the entire trip I made sure to continually remind myself of a word of advice passed down by our own @Papa Lar:

    Do not let the route take over your trip, let the trip decide the route.

    And that, I believe, played a central role in making this one of my greatest trips to date.

    Day 1:

    Sunday morning I've packed my backpack, devoured some leftovers, fired up the Sixty, and have hit the road by 5:30 AM, determined to catch the first ferry out of Vancouver to a series of islands called the Sunshine Coast, giving myself as much time as possible to meander my way north across each island toward the beautiful coastal town of Campbell River.

    I arrive at the Horseshoe Bay terminal in Vancouver with half an hour to spare.

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    There is a single Street Glide (or Electra... or Ultra... still haven't figured out H-D baggers) parked at the front of the motorcycle lane, no rider in sight. By the time I've got my helmet and backpack off the owner has walked over to investigate the new arrival. "A new Indian, interesting bike." My default response to Harley riders is always the same, "Yeah it's a lot of fun and a great daily bike, I also have an '81 Shovelhead rigid". It seems to be my ace in the hole, once they know I'm not there to play hardball for Team Indian they tend to relax and allow the conversation to move beyond brand preferences. Turns out he has 6... yes... six Shovelheads in various states of construction at his shop back home on the Sunshine Coast and is a friend of the man who built the frame that my father used in my Shovelhead, a notorious "Gus Tail" conversion that is very popular among chopper builders in BC. We hit it off, shoot the shit for 15 minutes, a GS1200 and what appeared to be some sort of custom Dyna show up, we all board the ferry, and off we go to the Sunshine Coast.

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    GS guy and I hang around the bikes and chat for a while, he's very intrigued by the Scout and immediately dives into a game of 20 questions. I make sure to inform him, as I do all BMW riders, that we've stolen back their lead motorcycle designer with the intention of developing Indian beyond the cruiser market. He's glad to hear it and believes that there is a bright future ahead for American motorcycles. 20 odd minutes later we arrive at the Langdale terminal, the ramp drops, and we all hit the road. Dyna guy, a whippersnapper about my age who hadn't said a single word to anyone the entire boat ride over, cranks his throttle wide open, spins the back tire, veers over into a vacant car lane, and peels ahead of all of us, clearly intent on provoking a race, I don't take the bait, I've already gotten my first speeding ticket on the Sixty (kept that one quiet, happened about a month and a half ago) and would prefer to keep my insurance rates from breaching the upper stratosphere. We all ride our separate ways and I quickly realize that I'm on my own and appear to be the only motorcycle getting an early start riding the full length of the Sunshine Coast Highway. It starts raining lightly, I barely notice, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking and time has slowed to a stand still.

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    An hour passes, though I've seen so many lakes, rivers, and quaint villages along the way that it feels like several, and I arrive at the next terminal in Earls Cove. The government runs much smaller ships between the less populated archipelagos of the Sunshine Coast, these ships are free to travel on with much fewer sailings per day. If you miss one, you'll be waiting multiple hours for the next. A family is tossing around a football at the front of the line, a young girl is doodling on a sketch pad in the waiting room, a lady and her husband are walking their corgi in the picnic area, a staff member rear ends a colleagues car while attempting to reverse stall park their service truck, they talk it over and shrug it off. We hear the bellow of the ferry horn in the distance. It pulls into the harbor and the cars begin to unload. The first four vehicles to drive off are a series of identical vintage coupes, looooooong and stylish with massive trunks and exaggerated wheel arches, probably 1930s, each one beautifully restored, near showroom quality. 3/4 of them double-take as they drive past my Scout, I think about how many Scout 60s each of their vehicles must be worth and chuckle to myself. We board the ship, this time there are no other motorcyclists to chat with.

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    I arrive at Saltery Bay and depart toward Powell River. The window between the arriving and departing ferries on this island is narrow, not much time to explore unless you're willing to allocate 5 hours before the next ship arrives. I only managed to snap a single photo on the way to Powell River:

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    I made it onto the ferry to Comox with 5 minutes to spare, the last vehicle on board. One of the many perks of travelling coastal BC by motorcycle is that you NEVER have to wait in line. You pay less than half the price of a car, you are redirected around the entire lineup, whether it's 5 vehicles or 100, and are ushered onto the ship immediately upon arrival and tucked into a corner away from the cages.

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    I arrive in Comox and begin travelling north along the coast, an absolutely gorgeous stretch of highway with countless public beaches loaded with driftwood, small and tidy public fire pits, and curious landmarks...

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    ... like this massive rock sitting in the middle of a roadside beach in downtown Campbell River:

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    I'm ahead of schedule by a few hours and decide to detour west, inland along the actual Campbell River, the town's namesake, toward the tiny village of Gold River. The views are vast and the roads are twisty, paradise.

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    I pull into Gold River to gas up and grab a bite to eat, gas station pizza and a bottle of cola. There's a printed note on the gas station door warning of recent cougar sightings downtown. While sitting on the curb outside, stuffing my face with an unusually delicious pizza for a gas station, a couple of older employees walk outside and start asking about the Scout. "I heard they were makin' these again, that's liquid cooled, eh? Very cool.". I give em the spiel, they love it and joke about being unable to ride motorcycles for long without crashing. I finish my dinner, hop back on, and begin heading back the way I came toward Campbell River to meet up with my friend.

    About halfway back to Campbell River the weather takes a bizarre turn for the worse and I find myself caught right in the middle of a violent hail storm. It lasts all of ~5 km before I shoot out the other side of it. Of course the poor Sixty is now absolutely filthy, covered in road mud head to toe. I pull off the highway and follow a steep trail down to the edge of the river. I pull off my backpack, open er up, pull out two emergency microfiber cloths, and begin bathing my filthy Scout in the clear blue waters of Upper Campbell. I can see a group of people leaned up against a Tacoma in the distance watching me, surely bewildered by the sight of a lone stranger polishing his street motorcycle off-road with lake water in the middle of nowhere. My buddy has been itching to see a Scout in person for years, there are no Indian dealerships on Vancouver Island and any Indians he has seen on the road since 2015 have been 111 models only. I owe it to him to show up shiny, 15 minutes later she was spotless.

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    I pull into his driveway just before sundown, him and his wife greet me with a bottle of homemade wine and dinner, I tuck the Scout into his garage for bed, we head out to his backyard and shoot the shit about racing, motorcycles, and music until it's dark and cold.

    Day 1 down, 3 to go.
     
    #1 EPOCH6, May 10, 2018
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
  2. sidecarsam

    sidecarsam Gold Member
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    Wow! What a Great Trip. Looks like weather was nice for you too. That is Awesome! :)
     
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  3. EPOCH6

    EPOCH6 Well-Known Member

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    Day 2

    Monday morning I wake up at 7 AM to the wet nose of a husky pressed against my face. My friend's dogs, both huskies, couldn't have more opposite personalities. One is a Jekyll & Hyde monster that will nudge up against you for pets and then go ballistic as soon as you direct your attention elsewhere, the other is the sweetest little googly eyed knobhead I've ever seen. I mow down some french toast and coffee for breakfast, pack up, say my goodbyes, and hit the road for Cumberland, a small coal town of a few thousand about 50 km south.

    As I follow the scenic coastal Highway 19A south I remember a post that I read on another forum about a century old structure nearby that locals call "Drac's Castle", an abandoned lumber mill in the middle of the Merville community woods. Fortunately, as I usually do when I come across something both local and interesting, I've added the coordinates to a long list of targets for future rides. I pull over, punch the coordinates into my phone, and turn off of the highway toward Merville for a quick detour. A few minutes later I turn onto the logging road and it's not long before I can make out the massive stone walls through the trees ahead.

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    I park the Scout along the edge of the road next to the structure and begin taking off my gear. Across a short bridge I notice a man with a small dog walk out from a trailhead, he turns towards me, squints, and yells out "NO SHIT!". I mentally prepare my usual excuse of "Howdy sir, just passing through looking for the highway, couldn't help but notice this unusual building". Before I get a chance say it he strolls over with a huge smile on his face and goes "I just ordered in my Scout Bobber! I should have it before summer!". I laugh and let out a "NO SHIT!?" of my own. We get talking, he introduces himself as Vic, he owned a V-Rod for 9 years and says it was love at first sight when Indian announced the new Scouts in 2015. Two more locals appear from a trail behind Drac's Castle, Vic goes "You wouldn't believe it guys! Look what just rolled up!", they look through the trees toward us and one of them goes "NO SHIT!", she continues "Vic has been obsessed with these for years! This is the first time we've ever seen one in person". I fire it up for them, let each of them sit on it, and we bullshit about the similarities and differences between the Scout and V-Rod, Indian history, and the recent flat track victories for about half an hour. One of them is a bit of a history buff and fills me in on the true identity of Drac's Castle. Officially it is known as the Headquarters Saw Mill and was built in 1912 as part of a deal between the provincial government and a local logging company. It was abandoned the following year during the recession of 1913, not a single log was cut within its walls. Nowadays it has been retired to occasional summer night raves thrown by locals. I ask them if they'd mind me poking around inside, they say go ahead, and we go our separate ways.

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    It's barely 9 AM at this point and the day is off to a great start. I hop on the Scout and take off down the road, holding my foot out like a flat tracker in the corners and awkwardly slipping the rear tire in and out of traction, in my head it looks really cool. About half an hour later I slide into Cumberland, back on track, and I chuckle to myself as I pass the welcome sign and notice that they've used the same "Lengendary" tag line as the modern Indian Motorcycle ads.

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    On my way through town I notice a sign pointing toward Comox Lake. Sounds nice enough, so off I go.

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    As nice as it is, I don't stick around long. It's a nice feeling knowing that the gorgeous blue lake before you is only the 13th or 14th most beautiful view you'll see today. Next stop, Lake Cowichan:

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    It's noon and knowing that my next stop in Port Renfrew is an unknown distance away through a remote logging route I decide it's time for a break, I pull over in front of the Cow Cafe & Cookhouse and head in for a glass of water and a bite to eat. I pull out my phone and realize that as of noon, I'm technically on the clock travelling to the Coast Guard. I call up a couple of colleagues to warn them that I'll be out of cellular range for at least a few hours as I pass through the mountains toward the west coast of Vancouver Island, reassuring them that I've gotten more than enough of a head start to beat my colleague to our hotel on the opposite coast. I finished my meal and set my sights on Port Renfrew via Pacific Marine Rd. Another colleague of mine specifically recommended this route to me, claiming that it's the most beautiful road he's ever driven in all of British Columbia.

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    And good lord.... what a road it was.

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    I dropped the Scout for the first time shortly before taking the photo above. Classic rookie mistake, it's hard to tell from the photo but the ground is slightly sloped downward in that pull off. I lean the bike over on the kickstand, pulled out my camera, turned around, began walking away, and then CLUNK, I turn around and see my baby laying there asleep in the gravel, a couple of seconds later I hear the tip of my clutch lever hit the ground about 15 feet away. "Well shit..." I say to myself, expecting the worst for my turn signals, fenders, and tank. I lift the bike up, absolutely astounded by how easy it was even compared to my 350 lb dual sport, and to my relief there isn't a scratch on the thing other than some light scuffing on the mirror and handlebar grip. I'm not exactly sure how I got away with it, but I think my stiff leather swing arm bag actually soaked up the bulk of the impact and slightly elevated my rear fender and turn signals off the ground, saving them from certain death.

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    This route was so gorgeous that it took me 2 and a half hours to travel 60 km. I could barely stay on the bike for 10 minutes at a time without slamming on the brakes to investigate a trail or snap another photo. This is a road to remember, one that I will be returning to over and over again for the rest of my life, one that I will feel compelled to share with every rider willing to follow me.

    Pacific Marine Rd, remember it, if you ever visit Vancouver Island on two wheels or four, this is a must.

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    Port Renfrew was much smaller than I had anticipated. Barely a soul in sight beyond the small crowd of tourists at the Port Renfrew Hotel watering hole. Still buzzing from the overwhelming beauty of Pacific Marine Rd I wasn't ready to sit down and take a break, but I figured I better inspect the bike a little closer to make sure I didn't miss any damage. The swing arm bag theory held true and clearly suffered the most significant damage in the fall, the rear seam had torn and burst apart from the stress. I pulled some electrical tape out of my backpack and did my best to temporarily patch it back together, not bad in the absence of an emergency sewing machine. Satisfied with the roadside repair I fired her back up and continued on my way back toward Victoria and the east coast.

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    As I pulled into Jordan River, about halfway to Victoria, I remembered the old vacant beachfront home that I was unable to explore last year due to time restraints. With a few more hours of travel time to spare I headed on over to take a look.

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    Jordan River is a peculiar town and is mostly abandoned these days, probably more than half of its buildings are now vacant. Jordan River was originally established as a logging camp in the late 19th century, only accessible by sea until 1912, a year after construction of Vancouver Island's second power plant was completed, a structure that still stands in the woods behind Jordan River today and one that I explored last year on my dirt bike. During WWII Jordan River served an important role as the location of Vancouver Island's Low-Flying Early Warning Radar System, designed to detect a Japanese attack on the west coast of Canada. In 2014, a BC Hydro study revealed that the Jordan River Diversion Dam (the highest dam in Canada at its time of construction in 1911) is now at a "high risk for seismic failure", they quickly bought up every residence in the evacuation zone, leading to Jordan River's very recent transition from small town to ghost town.

    Finally I was beginning to feel exhausted and decided it was time to head into Victoria to meet a high school friend of mine for dinner at a local comedy club. He moved to the island after high school in 2011 specifically to pursue a career in comedy. Tonight was a casual open mic night, an opportunity to try out a few new jokes on a small audience to gauge their effectiveness before using them in a longer performance, they were winners. We hung out for an hour or two catching up and shooting the shit before parting ways.

    About halfway to my hotel in Sidney I reached my first metric milestone:

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    Part III, the most exciting chapter of the week, may have to wait a few days as I may not have computer access until the end of the weekend.
     
  4. JayFL459

    JayFL459 Silver Member
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    Excellent Pictures of a Great Ride ..
     
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  5. NorthernVandal

    NorthernVandal Well-Known Member

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    You need to keep riding so I can keep reading. Excellent detail and story telling.
     
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  6. EPOCH6

    EPOCH6 Well-Known Member

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    Day 3

    A hotel bed sure feels great after two long days in the saddle. Woke up Tuesday morning feeling well rested and ready to tackle the job at hand: training the Canadian Coast Guard's technical team on how to use our communications logging system. I was expecting it to be difficult to focus, knowing that another night of riding and exploring was only a shift away, but the fellas at the Coast Guard made us feel at home. Good people, great facility, and overall a fantastic place to work. We were quite impressed by their hospitality. Spending a couple of days there seeing how they operate from the inside was an interesting experience.

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    Time flew by and next thing I knew it was time to hit the road once again. My colleague invited me for dinner but I had to politely decline, withholding my actual plans but knowing that time was of the essence and that if I didn't go now it would be another year before I'd have the chance again. So off I went, bound for Metchosin Village.

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    I wish I had taken pictures of the roads beyond that welcome sign, but on my way there I was having too much fun carving the corners to stop and on the way back my nerves were too shot to focus on anything else but returning to my hotel a free man. Metchosin Village is a hidden paradise on Vancouver Island, a small community on the south coast of the island, not far from Victoria. The roads are twisty, the properties are vast and beautiful, seated upon rolling coastal hills dotted with staggeringly gorgeous arbutus trees, a very unusual sight in British Columbia, native to Vancouver Island's coastal regions but very uncommon where I'm from.

    Eventually I managed to peel my eyes from the land around me and zero in on my target. This place has been on my bucket list for years, a hidden gem that I've read much about, spoken with locals about, and have had every intention of visiting each time that I've traveled to the island. Last time there were pieces of the puzzle missing, I wasn't entirely sure where exactly it was or how to get to it, but this time I had coordinates in hand. I spotted the gate out of the corner of my eye, hammered on the brakes, and swerved in, tucking the Scout as closely toward the fence as possible to remain out of immediate sight from the road.

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    And this is where I should add a disclaimer:

    Yes, this is trespassing. No, I'm not a vandal, nor a thief. For several years now I've been putting together a private book on hidden locations and curiosities around the Canadian Southwest, recently extending as far south as Death Valley and parts of Nevada. It's an addiction first and a hobby second. I have a great deal of respect for the historical locations that I've found, take nothing but pictures, and ensure that the exact location of these places is only revealed to those that I know personally or those that I've known long enough remotely that I have complete trust in their intentions. There are many of us out there, with a tightly knit community online, addicted to sticking our noses where they don't belong in the name of historical curiosity, bringing home a good story to tell, and the adrenaline rush that goes with it, to the point where about half of my extended daily commute is dedicated to checking up on vacant businesses and properties.

    Anyway, welcome to what's left of the Mary Hill Battery, a reinforced artillery bunker that was deactivated in 1956, originally armed with two 6" MK7 breechloading guns in 1939 as one of the many sites included in the Harbor Defense of Victoria.

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    The road to the bunker was long, steep, and painfully beautiful, a 30 minute hike through a poorly fenced off old growth forest full of mature native arbutus trees and plenty of wildlife. About three quarters of the way up I came across the old bunkhouse, though time was ticking, and every second that passed was pushing my luck. I was there to see the battery, take my photos, and split as quickly as I came, so I moved on. Not much further up I came across the first structure:

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    The view down into the harbor was breathtaking, I couldn't help but stand there for a minute, soaking it in. It's always a hell of a rush standing within the photos you've been looking at for years, the research and anticipation finally paying off, the intense sensation of walking back in time.

    I stood up upon the structure and looked further up the mountain, spotting the rest of the battery in the process, another hike... I left my gear down along the overgrown service road and began climbing, not many strangers or thieves to worry about up here.

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    The warning sign claiming that the structure is used as a hibernation by a rare bat species should have deterred me, but knowing that this would likely be my one and only visit, I didn't want to miss a thing.

    I took my final photos, hopped down the mountain, grabbed my gear, and headed back down the service road toward the main gate. The entire way down I couldn't shake the paranoia that at least one crew member from the base down the road MUST have noticed my bike shining through the bushes. What if they immediately called it in to have it towed away and impounded? What if they're making their way up the mountain towards me, right around the next corner? What if a local found my bike and called the police? These are the usual thoughts in my head when exiting a vacant property and to date, except for maybe a couple of tense encounters, I've been exceptionally lucky.

    I turn the final corner toward the main gate and the first thing I see is the sharp glisten of my pipes. My quiet tip toe immediately develops into a full jog. I dive between the opening in the fence, hop on the Scout, fire up the engine, and burn rubber out of Metchosin in half the time it took me to get there.

    That concludes the trip. Day 4 was another training session with the Coast Guard (unable to share with them my lovely evening in the battery for obvious reasons) and the ferry ride home.

    Hope those of you with the patience to skim through this tome have enjoyed it. I have a 7 day trip to Utah coming up next weekend, at this rate I can't even begin to imagine how I'm going to post that trip report without breaking the forum in the process.
     
  7. geewago

    geewago Well-Known Member

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    Bring-em pictures on buddy. You won't wear us out.
     
  8. Warlock

    Warlock This space for rent.
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    Great story and pics! :smiley::smiley::smiley::smiley:
     
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