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Old 04-26-2009, 05:53 PM   #46
Rhode trip
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Yep, he might look all innocent and all, standing around with his hands in his pockets, But those Canadian customs officials know a real desperado when they see one!
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Old 04-27-2009, 07:10 PM   #47
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Day 3: Regina, SK - Dawson Creek, BC





'Shut the f$%k up you beeping son of a BITCH!' was one of the few more printable thoughts that went through my head as the alarm belted out its' rousing chorus at an even 4am. I felt like my head had barely hit the pillow which, since Joe and I had arrived at the hotel well after midnight was hardly surprising really. Half falling out of the welcome repository that had been my sleeping quarters for a brief and unsatisfying few hours, I stumbled towards the bathroom kicking my legs away from the entangled sheets with a semi comatose listless venom; my eyes winced as I turned on the light and burned even more when I attempted to kick start the day's consciousness by repeatedly splashing cold water over my face. As I weakly attempted to complete the various tasks in the daily grooming ritual, my face stung with the familiar pain emanating from skin that more often than not is used to leading a coddled indoor existence. From previous extended trips, I was aware that after a few days, my face seemed somehow to acclimatize to outdoor life, but in the interim, a ruddiness from the incessant wind blast, coupled with other discomforts, such as chaffing from the helmet strap was something I'd just have to put up with. Then there was the rest of my body to take stock of. Every bone, muscle, tendon, ligament plus other body parts that I didn't know I even had, throbbed with a dull ache that rendered the thought of another day on a motorcycle - doing exactly the same thing that was causing the current discomfort - to be a distinctly unappetizing proposition. Walking was painful; I wanted to sit down, but my aching a$$ was making a very strong case against that sentiment too. The usual stiffness that is the familiar orthopedic soundtrack to the mornings of many a middle aged desk jockey was unbearably magnified on this particular day and, hoping to minimize the distress, I fumbled through my luggage with an immature agitation as I attempted to locate the ibuprofen bottle from which to provide the source of my relief. Grabbing a handful, I used a mouthful of water from the faucet and eagerly swallowed them down; nothing solid to chase them with right now, but we'd soon be exposing ourselves once more to the uncertainties of a gas station breakfast, so that was no problem - although whether ibuprofen without food or what I would presently eat to negate the food less problem had more chance of screwing my stomach up was anybody's guess.

By this time all three of us were at least conscious, but although we grunted our cognizance of each others presence and moved around with a minor degree of urgency in order to expedite the imminent departure, our collective body language betrayed the thoughts of three individuals who would be much happier remaining in a world of dreams and slumber for a few hours longer. Actually in situations like these I think a certain unfamiliarity with each other is a good thing - which was definitely the case between the other two and myself - since I'm fairly certain that had all three of us been family members in a similar scenario, and given our collective level of exhaustion, we would have been tearing each others heads off within a few minutes of getting out of bed. Having all made the numerous back and forth trips to our bikes necessary to load them up, we left the hotel and headed out to find the nearest gas station/breakfast stop. Reflecting the level of fatigue at his stage, not only do I not have any photos of the accommodation, my recollection of what the place even looked like is zero. I can half picture where our bikes were and the general parking lot vicinity, but that's about it. As the bikes were filled with gas, we each gulped some coffee and choked down whatever breakfast fare was available. Our plan was to leave right at 5am every morning, not 5:10 or 5:15, but gassed up, fed and rolling at 5 o'clock sharp. With the time that we typically left ourselves between hotel departure and travel, inevitably breakfast merely became an exercise in calorie disposal, without any real pleasure attached to the entire process. More often than not we'd be quickly swallowing mouthfuls of food whilst running around the bikes doing last minute pre departure checks: not a very satisfying experience.



Another sign and, slightly more predictably.................Gary (that's his bike as well - lovely, eh?)

Anyway despite the fact that at least two of us were barely even running on fumes, after everything/body was packed, fed and gassed, we did indeed depart on time and our delirious trio hit the road, bound for Dawson Creek - the start of the Alcan Highway and mercifully only a relatively sane 856 miles away.



A sign - earlier today - inexplicably without some goober parked next to it.

The plan for the day's ride would take us in a generally west north westerly direction traveling through the remainder of Saskatchewan, across the whole of Alberta and just over into British Colombia and the night's destination in Dawson Creek. Looking at the map, it appeared that the majority of today's riding would also be firmly in the 'dues paying' category with the predictable plains of the central portion of the country only starting to give way to more interesting scenery as we neared day's end; and indeed that was the case especially in the initial mileage through the flat lands of Saskatchewan. However, on a positive note - given the our fatigue level from yesterday's ride, once we had mastered the art of merely remaining conscious, the undemanding nature of the route at least required little in the way of lightening reflexes. And talking of staying awake, I was happy to subsidize my natural powers of concentration with regular doses of caffeine and taurine, courtesy of Gas Station Starbucks and - the strictly non-ironbutt approved Red Bull. In another nod to IBA wisdom, I also planned on employing sour candies as a means of staying alert. However, having previously confirmed - a few years ago during an incredibly tedious Computational Fluid Dynamics seminar - that merely sucking them was of precious little use in terms of remaining awake, my strategy would involve carrying a couple of cases of 'em on the bike and then remaining conscious by utilizing the concentration required to constantly unwrap a series of the awkward little buggers.



'I loves me a good sign. Ooh, they're great.' (and BTW get out of that circle on foot, ya wonka)

Additionally, In between fighting with the tubes of candies, it was also possible to digest the ever evolving stream of ride data being generated by the GPS and furthermore - having the luxury of the auxiliary fuel cell, which only dumped its' contents after the flow valve had been turned - it was possible to get an accurate reading on the KTM's reserve capacity (which ended up being around 50 miles).



Mmmmmmmmmm............Lunch (Note Gary setting stop watch on bike for five minute break - I only managed to eat three french fries before the bastard yanked me out by my ear)



The Bikes took a break too



One for the ladies

Eventually, at the second gas stop of the day - at around 600 miles and approximately 80 miles west of Edmonton - our tenacious trio began to experience the crisp air consistent with the initial foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Indeed we were feeling confident enough with our progress (or more likely just wanted to get off the bikes for a while) that we indulged ourselves with the luxury of lunch break at the Rochfort Bridge trading post. It felt great to cast off the heavy shackles of our riding gear after having been on the road constantly for around ten hours and the combination of the slowly improving quality of our surroundings coupled with the relaxing effects of the restaurant soon had the three of us rejuvenated and before long, we were back out on the road to tackle the final 300 mile stretch to Dawson Creek. However although at this particular stage it didn't seem necessary to further bolster the Red Bull share prices, I wasn't taking any chances with my impressive Ibuprofen habit and eagerly gobbled down a handful of them with lunch.



The Dynamic duo

Once back out on the road though, with the exciting prospect - at least for some of us - of taking the considerable roadside furniture scalp of the Alaska Highway signs when we actually got into the city limits, the final miles didn't seem like they took that long at all, and before we knew it, we were circling the town - cameras in hand - like so many amphetamine deprived drug addicts looking desperately for a fix; only our drug of choice was photographic evidence of anything with 'Alaskan Highway' painted on it. Eventually - with shutter release fingers suitably blistered, we headed for the incomparable luxury of the Dawson Creek Super Eight Motel and, after removing the day's insect cull from ourselves, along with dumping our luggage in the rooms, we even went out to get some dinner which technically - if choking down a gas station burrito and gulping some coffee while checking your oil can honestly be counted as an actual meal - was the third meal of the day. Yes, life was indeed good; and as I walked back to the motel with a satisfying belly full of food, I was even starting to enjoy myself.

Douf

Anyone with anything apart from more signs to add to this stretch?





Douf screwed with this post 04-27-2009 at 07:52 PM
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Old 04-29-2009, 08:32 PM   #48
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Old 05-01-2009, 06:36 AM   #49
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Day 4 Dawson Creek, BC - Whitehorse YT









I awoke with a mixture of anticipation and excitement. After the last two days of high mileage and sparsely populated, but still familiar looking landscape, for me today was the start of the ride proper. It had taken a couple of hundred miles short of 3000 to get to this point, but now the immediate prospect was a full day on the Alaska Highway; no more junk miles, every revolution of our tires would be motorcycling pay dirt today and we were all rested up and ready to go. There was certainly an enhanced sense of cheerfulness about the three of us as we went about our morning pre-ride chores, especially compared to yesterday morning's semi comatose exercise in masochism at Regina. Right now though, that seemed like a distant memory; a couple of hours extra sleep mixed with a side order of enthusiasm contrived to fashion an unmistakably optimistic outlook in my mind - which had been all but missing since the start of the ride. Complementing this sunny demeanor, my physical well being was definitely in the ascendancy too.





Muscles and joints weren't crying out for mercy quite as insistently this morning; my skin had lost the majority of the stinging sensation that had plagued it for the first few days and consequently for the first time since I'd left Georgia, today the share prices of Advil would not be getting a significant boost on my behalf. Not intending to go completely cold turkey though, to be on the safe side I had a couple for breakfast, which of course was an integral part of the by now somewhat familiar pre-dawn cocktail combining gasoline, maintenance and a splash of last minute just-to-be-sure tire kicking before hitting the road.



Gary: loving life - or maybe just calculating average fuel consumption over the past four days





And what a road it was! According to my research, the Alaska Highway was started in order to provide a military supply route between Alaska and the lower 48 states and was initially commenced in response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 (at least something good came of that catastrophe). The highway starts at mile "0", located at Dawson Creek, British Columbia (where we are currently located), and ends at Delta Junction, Alaska. At that point the highway connects with the existing Richardson Highway, to Fairbanks, Alaska. According to website which documents this majestic roadway www.milepost.com, it is a total of 1390 miles long, although its' actual length is apparently subject to a fairly constant variation since regular maintenance initiatives serve to continuously reroute the original track.



Joe: Who was wearing a shirt with 'If you can read this my luggage fell off' written on the back



Within only a few miles of starting out on the highway, it was obvious to me that this was the Canada that I had imagined before setting out on the trip. The flat featureless countryside had given way to a more mountainous landscape and the ubiquitous presence of the fir tree slowly replaced the unattractive scrub of the flatland. As we rode further, the magnificence of the remotely beautiful landscape became truly mesmerizing and that captivating sense was further enhanced by the weather, which mixed some clear skies with periodic spells of drizzle that portrayed a sense of foreboding which can only be experienced in this particularly desolate kind of landscape: if things went south in a hurry, there'd be no running for shelter; it was vast expanses of nature's finest in every direction and you'd just have to deal with it. With the limited outcrops of civilization evident, I was once more giving thanks for the convenience of the fuel cell as, even though the refueling opportunities weren't terribly far apart, with a standard 200+/- mile range, I'd definitely have spent a good part of the current portion of the journey stressing over the whereabouts of the next gasoline laden oasis.



Presently however, we crossed over into the Yukon and once more we got a taste of one of those Canadian province signs that is the absolute anathema to its' surroundings, and would definitely look more at home in a suitably large modern center of human population rather than in middle of endless miles of natural windswept beauty. Even more than British Columbia, the level of remoteness in the Yukon was truly startling, and the predominant environment possessed a stillness that was quite serene. I had noticed as we'd progressed that the scale of the things we saw had progressively become much larger too, which was especially true of the water features along the route. The lakes seemed to be endless, with reflections of the towering mountainous surroundings glowing brightly in their shimmering depths; but in particular the size of the rivers in the region and additionally the unbelievable amount of water flowing in them was utterly breathtaking. I felt very insignificant indeed as my little motorcycle and I made almost imperceptible progress through the vastness of this magnificent landscape, but the further we traveled, the more this journey seemed to make sense, as the concept of my own miniscule proportions ('Hey, no snickering at the back') relative to this endless terrain could
only being realistically crystallized by the mechanism of an overland journey - the best part of 4000 miles and still going west: it was difficult to get your head around, but undoubtedly this experience conveyed a reality that I'd have been completely ignorant of if a plane had suddenly dumped me here.



However, breaking the continuity of this kaleidoscope of mother nature's finest poetry was the occasional outcrop of frontier-like human settlement, that inevitably boasted some unimaginatively manufactured attraction with which to briefly ensnare an unsuspecting traveler (quite why they bothered was beyond me though, as a gas station would usually be a welcome enough sight to elicit at least a brief pause in the journey's progress). Anyway, one of the more remarkable of these infrequent tourist traps was the signpost forest at Watson lake, which for a trio of serial road sign photographers like us was at least in keeping with the general theme of our particular journey.



Note to Canadians: The tourists would appreciate it if you put a bit more effort into your road signs. .....and before we left, Gary broke the end of that 'mountain' off and took it home as a souvenir.

The town of Watson Lake (Yukon's Gateway as they like to call it), is located at the 635 mile marker along the Alaska Highway. It is seven miles from the southeastern tip of the Yukon , and 274 miles east of the capital city, Whitehorse. Signpost forest is apparently famous enough to have its' own website - but these days, what isn't? - http://www.signpostforest.com/



Signpost Forest: Note - The trip was delayed for two and a half months at this point, since Gary disregarded his entire Ironbutt ethos and insisted on getting a photo taken with every last one of the little buggers.

According to the website, the tradition of placing signs at this location was started in 1942 by Carl Lindley, an Army Engineer. While building many signs in the area, he added a sign to a sign post which stated, 'Danville, Illinois, 2835 miles'. These days there are reported to be well over 50,000 signs at this location.





We did see a limited amount of wildlife too. Got a few shots of these little guys.





We also saw some buffalo hiding in the grass



........and an altogether much rarer sight - on this trip - the extremely elusive lunch-stop. 5 star all the way, baby. FWIW those concrete blocks felt very similar to the foam that Mike Corbin uses in his saddles.



.......you just never know when the next food stop might be. So I packed some extra 'to-go'



.....and by the looks of Joe's luggage, he wasn't planning on being marooned anywhere for at least six months. I never did find out exactly what he'd got in all those bags, but one time (at band camp ) - when he'd got the tote half open - I swear I spotted a KLR back wheel poking out.



Even creeks in The Yukon are impressive.



I must admit, compared to anything else I'd done previously in a motorcycle touring capacity, the terrain over which we currently traveled had the capacity to provide an illusion of true adventure, and I felt rather smug as the three of us rolled along. 'Hardcore' - that's what we were alright. :ymcaHowever, after a few hours riding along this desolate stretch of highway, our relative position in the thrill seeker hierarchy (and that's just on this particular road too) was comprehensively put into more than adequate perspective by a few of our fellow road users. To start with, we'd occasionally come across a lone motorcyclist: a lot of KLRs and BMWs, weighed down with everything but the proverbial kitchen sink and, even the odd KTM (in retrospect, if any of those riders were familiar with the potential maintenance issues on the 950 prior to the trip, then they were definitely at the pinnacle of the thrill seeker - or maybe stupidity - hierarchical tree ). 'Now that's really hardcore,' I'd think to myself as a lonesome figure would motor past, reliant purely on his own wits and the integrity of his machine for mere survival. At least on a motorcycle though - as long as it was mobile - you had a good chance of outrunning anything large and furry that wanted to maim/rape and/or eat you (unless of course you were riding a loaded to the gills KLR and the hairy beast in question was wearing dungarees, playing a banjo and driving a jacked up Chevy 4x4 - then you were really (figuratively and physically) f$%ked ). Once I'd got my head somewhat around the reality of motorcycling alone, the stakes were raised considerably by the appearance of an occasional lone cyclist, apparently riding the whole damn highway, or at least a pretty good stretch of it, because by this stage you could easily go over 100 miles without seeing anything in the way of civilization as the rest of us know it. 'Son of a bitch,' I was impressed/shocked/awestruck/envious all at the same time. There was certainly a very limited chance of out running one of the many native predators in these parts on a bicycle, that's for sure (reminds me of a sign I once saw in Swaziland: 'Cyclists, beware of Elephants and Lions!' ), and I spent quite some time trying to appreciate just what frame of mind an individual would need to be in before attempting something as extreme as cycling the Alaska Highway. As impressive as the few cyclists were though, in my eyes even they weren't at the top of the adventurous food chain. That dubious honor was bestowed on a frail looking girl/woman, weighing no more than 120lbs who, for all intents and purposes appeared to be running the length of the highway. I couldn't really believe it when we approached her and certainly did more than one double take as she ran past. In retrospect, we should have turned around and at least got her story, but by the looks of the two wheeled trailer/cot contraption that was strapped around her waist and was trundling along behind her, it definitely looked like she was intent on covering some serious mileage. Even being an avid long distance runner myself, at the time I thought
that, compared to getting me to even contemplate a crazy proposition like running the Alcan highway, you'd have more likelyhood of getting through Canadian customs drunk, with a three page rap sheet of prior DUIs and swigging from a half empty bottle of Tequila. Respect, indeed. Well, in retrospect then, I guess three guys riding around together on big dual sport bikes really aren't that adventurous after all.



Battered and exhausted, after another arduous day of death defying travel - our intrepid trio of hardened travelers arrive at the evening's makeshift accommodation.



'All his worldly goods'.......and from the looks of the number of bags, quite an impressive collection too.



As I recall, the last time I'd park my sweetie at the end of the day without directing some obscenity at her.

Ultimately though, after a truly memorable day of riding we rolled into Whitehorse, not a particularly large settlement by U.S. standards, but quite impressive in our current location and actually the capital of the Yukon. We had reservations at the River View Hotel and in high spirits we unpacked the bikes and got ready for some food!

Douf

Either I've made an unbelievably wonderful job of capturing the details, spirit and essence of this trip and have just created the definitive account of Alaskan Highway travel or, (more likely) - no one gives a rip. But for the sake of completeness: 'Anyone with anything to add?'

Douf screwed with this post 05-01-2009 at 09:32 AM
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Old 05-01-2009, 05:47 PM   #50
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soo....

What IS in all those bags?
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Old 05-01-2009, 06:02 PM   #51
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I'd love to read it but that orange text just kills my eyes. Nice pics though.
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:31 PM   #52
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FWIW those concrete blocks felt very similar to the foam that Mike Corbin uses in his saddles.
LOL!
Awesome trip! And a well written report! Looking forward to the details of the KTM/cursing...
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Old 05-02-2009, 04:07 AM   #53
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What IS in all those bags?
Mostly cosmetic products: mascara, eyeliner, lipstick - that kind of thing. Oh, and a lot of hair spray too - have you noticed how perfect Joe's hair looks even when he's just taken his helmet off?

Seriously - from the looks of it - nothing more than I'd managed to cram into a couple of panniers and a tankbag. I don't know what Gary and Joe's luggage heritage is, but I come from a long line of packing Nazis, and in retrospect all those years of head scratching, as I watched my dad pack his gear six months before a trip - and then repack it every two weeks thereafter - must have ultimately had some beneficial effect. And if you think I'm kidding: on my last sojourn, I even got into photographing my rage for order - which I'm alternately proud or ashamed of depending on my frame of mind. Ah, the delights of middle age!



......yes all that crap did indeed fit into the single duffel you see at the top.............once!

(Actually my bestest buddy Rex - who reps Eagle Creek luggage - was nice enough to hook me up with all the packing cubes and whatnot you see here, and consequently I feel it's my God given obligation to promote the stuff at every opportunity. It was an absolute revelation on the trip though and, while I will always use a similar approach in the future, it was with a sense of longing for a simpler time in my life, that I missed the daily fight (as the days passed) with a progressively more ungainly knot of clothing (clean and dirty), maps, tools and bathroom items every time the bag was opened.)

On second thoughts: don't ever buy any Eagle Creek stuff, as those evil bastards support the Sierra Club.

Douf

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Old 05-02-2009, 10:56 AM   #54
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I'd love to read it but that orange text just kills my eyes. Nice pics though.
I got the idea from a few other reports, where it was possible to differentiate the report itself from all the reply posts by the color of the text. In retrospect I guess it was a bit presumptuous of me to assume there'd be that many people who would be sufficiently motivated by my wonderful narative to bother replying though. As far as the orange is concerned: I thought it looked OK, but since my eyes are used to looking at the 950 for long periods, I suppose I'm not really being that objective about the color selection. Sorry!

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Old 05-02-2009, 01:00 PM   #55
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More please!

I've been looking at the big orange bikes but some of the things I've read don't sound too good. Are you about to tell us that yours developed personality?

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Old 05-02-2009, 03:09 PM   #56
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More please!

I've been looking at the big orange bikes but some of the things I've read don't sound too good. Are you about to tell us that yours developed personality?
Ha! Personality wise - she makes Jack Nicholson look like Dani Pedrosa

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Old 05-02-2009, 03:46 PM   #57
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Cool2 Nuthin' here

Either I've made an unbelievably wonderful job of capturing the details, spirit and essence of this trip and have just created the definitive account of Alaskan Highway travel or, (more likely) - no one gives a rip. But for the sake of completeness: 'Anyone with anything to add?'

I have nothing to add to your RR other than to say that I am enjoying the ride, so far, and await further updates

Cheers
Allan
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Old 05-02-2009, 04:27 PM   #58
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Old 05-02-2009, 06:00 PM   #59
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Ahhh.. always wondered who bought those cubes. At 4 am I would be in no mood to be organized.

After seeing your bike and the video of the Germans in the desert I was getting interested in the KTM ... are you saying that it isn't all that?
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Old 05-02-2009, 07:22 PM   #60
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Ahhh.. always wondered who bought those cubes. At 4 am I would be in no mood to be organized.

After seeing your bike and the video of the Germans in the desert I was getting interested in the KTM ... are you saying that it isn't all that?
I'm tellin' ya - those cubes are like electric vests - I never got them until I finally owned one either.

As far as the KTM is concerned: if you like a bike that you can just throw gas in and ignore, then it probably isn't the bike for you. As for the general ownership experience, it's got a number of things (water pump, fuel pump, clutch slave cylinder) that are considered wear items and - if you don't want to get stranded unexpectedly - have to be replaced every 15K miles +/- (depending on your personal level of pessimism). Having said that, if you bear all these things in mind and get all the TSB's done, there's no reason why it shouldn't be reliable in a capable pair of hands. I'll detail most of my personal issues with it (some of which will be in excruciating detail) as this report progresses, including the valve adjust - sorry, I mean oil change (they take about the same time so it's an easy mistake to make). I'd never sell it though - misery loves company and all that.

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