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Old 05-03-2009, 04:49 AM   #61
Douf OP
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Talking Alaska!

Day 5: Whitehorse, YT Fairbanks, AK.



A tip of the hat to our route planner, Gary. I started to notice when making these maps that some prior knowledge was definitely required in order to plot the actual tracks since, (as can be observed from this shot) you can't even see that there are any roads on the map unless it's zoomed in to a pretty high resolution (< 1 mile). If I'd done the route, I would have been completely ignorant of the Top of The World Highway and would have missed one of the best sections of our journey and, the Dempster Highway - which I mention later in today's write-up - took quite a bit of finding, even though I already knew its' general vicinity.





Yesterday's excellent day's riding had definitely got the three of us in the mood for a repeat performance, and so it was with a healthy dose of continued enthusiasm that we awoke bright and early at Whitehorse's River View hotel and headed out towards the day's destination in Fairbanks. This was the first day that we'd be winging it in terms of the evening's accommodation, but since this was a mid-week proposition, the general consensus was that finding suitable facilities in a place as large as Fairbanks ought not to be particularly difficult.

In preference to continuing along the remainder of the Alaskan highway, our intent was to head towards Dawson City, where a ferry would take us across the Yukon River, at which point the route would intercept the Top of The World highway. In pre-trip consultations, Gary's Ironbutt connections had rated this particular stretch of road as a must-do section, but in any case, the portion of the Alaska Highway which was being omitted at this stage, was to be completed upon our exit from Alaska. So with variety being the spice of life and all that, we headed out in the general direction of Dawson City.



The beginnings of this particular morning's travel however were marked with the first ominous signs of mechanical discontent in our machinery, or more specifically, the assemblage of mechanical schizophrenia that was responsible for my continued progress - namely the KTM. Upon pressing the ignition button, something from within the bowels of the motor was making such a horrendous grinding noise as the starter attempted to coax the engine into life that women and small children immediately went running for cover. It was the worst kind of clatter you could possibly imagine, sounding like two angrily combative gear wheels that were in a desperate confrontational duel with the ultimate purpose of ripping away the teeth from each other. Surprisingly though, when the engine did at last fire, all within sounded fine, with not a whimper to be heard from the offending items; and so since on this particular trip, time was definitely of the essence, I decided - in a rare moment of optimism (or more likely desperation) to hedge my bets and hope for the best.





Thankfully, without any further incident the three of us completed the journey to Dawson City and rode on down to the waterfront to meet the boat. The George Black Ferry (as it is called) connects Dawson City with the Top of The Road Highway which is situated on the other side of the Yukon River (at the bank of which we were now waiting) and apparently the round trip crossing operates 24 hours, seven days a week (except for 5-7am on a Wednesday morning when the vessel receives its' weekly dose of maintenance). The best thing about the ferry though, is that flying in - what for me is - the acceptable face of capitalism, the trip is absolutely free. Socialism, eh? - gotta love it! And, although not in the remotest sense an arduous crossing, I must admit that the very act of even loading my trusty two wheeled steed onto an actual boat did give the whole journey just a touch more cachet in my mind :ymca - some folks are easily amused, apparently.



...........and they still had hosepipe bans.



'Yeah, If we can run at 120 over the Top of The World, we'll keep up our 60mph overall average' - Gary does the math and is still a happy camper.

Once over on the other side of the river, the subsequent two wheeled progress was also pretty remarkable itself. Even given all the static I jokingly give the Ironbutt mentality, I must wholeheartedly concede that - if nothing else - this one recommendation alone is worth the association that Gary has with them. Immediately departing from the waters edge, the road, which was a mixture of regularly graded dirt and gravel, snaked steeply upwards away from the river and once reaching a decent altitude, cascaded wonderfully along the mountain ridges - the generally treeless landscape giving uninterrupted views of the magnificent terrain and leaving no shred of doubt in any of our minds how this particular road had gained its' name. Quite exhilarating and highly recommended. And fortunately for our heroic daily mileage aspirations, even though the road surface was unpaved, it was still predictable enough to maintain an acceptably rapid rate of progress and, once again I found that on anything as non technical as this stretch of road turned out to be, I could maintain a extended standing position by occasionally switching my feet to the rear pegs (in order to take some weight off the base of the spine). Sounds ridiculous but it works for me. YMMV and I expect it will too.



Top Of The World - don't miss it

Presently however, after a memorable stretch of riding, the U.S. border appeared in the distance. Given the utterly frustrating experience that Joe and I had encountered trying to get into Canada a few days ago, as we approached the Alaskan frontier I'm sure he was filled with as much trepidation as I, who, for the record was worriedly contemplating just what peculiar delights awaited up ahead. However any concerns we harbored were ultimately entirely unfounded as, after taking a few photo's of the border's administrative buildings and getting our documents checked in as straight forward a manner as could reasonably be imagined, all three of us were shortly back on U.S. soil and happily rolling into Alaska. Yippee!



Joe - contemplating his second cavity search (that I know of) in three days

After the elongated build-up to this moment (with all the pre-trip planning, not to mention the actual riding itself), a major sense of accomplishment washed over me as we spun our first tires on Alaskan soil. For the record, the Alaskan US/Canadian border crossing at Poker Creek is the most northerly land port in the U.S. and, as I suspected at the time, given the type of terrain necessary to access the area, it is only open for a short period of each year (mid May to mid September actually).



Our continued progress into Alaska consisted of maybe a couple of hundred yards at the most though, before making the first stop at the Top Of The World Gas and Gift Shop, where, at the hands of the store clerk in the gift shop, we had our first experience with what I can only describe as the enigmatic portion of Alaskan society. Let's just say he was quite an unusual individual - at least judged by our collective suburban dispositions, but nonetheless the ambiance provided by the gift store was sufficient to provide enough motivation for a couple of quick snaps before remounting and continuing with our journey.





Yes - Gas, Gold, Gifts and a certain 'Je ne sais quoi' from our helpful store clerk

Over the border, the Alaskan side of the highway initially continued much like the previous stretch in Canada and indeed in this area we spotted quite a few species of wildlife (mainly mule deer and the like, but apparently nothing remarkable enough to cause any of us to contemplate recording the sightings for our particular posterity). However a few miles further along we came across a couple of humans who, appearing to be somewhat disorientated, were wandering down the side of the highway, both of whom were paying particular attention to the ditches and the real estate immediately off of the highway. It turned out that they were looking for pieces of the tire which had de-laminated from the rear of their loaded up BMW. From the details that I can recall, apparently this couple (both of whom were in the teaching profession) were on a summer long voyage across Canada and Alaska, which had originated around Montreal. They had recently traveled the Dempster highway and with the abrasive nature of the road, encountered continuing problems with repeated flat tires. They must have been running the tires sans tubes because - as I recall - they'd received a handful (maybe 7 or 8) mushroom plugs from a fellow rider at a campsite on the Dempster and had pretty much had to use them all on the ride back down to Dawson City and The Top of The World Highway. When we encountered them, the rear tire was just about starting to disintegrate and, being miles from the nearest civilization and not having any tubes available, they were in pretty bad shape.



A number of grissled old artifacts

After considering our options, we decided to lighten the load in the bike (1150GS) as much as possible, and then escort them down to Tok (the nearest settlement of any size) where they would hopefully be able to resolve this unfortunate predicament. We loaded the luggage on the back of Gary and Joe's bikes, then the pillion (who probably weighed not much more than the luggage anyway) jumped on the back of my bike (which was the only one of our three configured with extra available seating anyway). After what seemed like - especially in contrast to our typically urgent progress - an excruciatingly slow descent into Tok, we eventually found someone to give them a lift to a nearby settlement where they hoped to source a tire. Even though this little incident helped to delay our progress, it felt good to help out our fellow travelers in whatever way we could, and at least I felt that we'd deposited a little positive karma in our biking bank accounts (and for what it's worth, in subsequent day's write-ups I'll detail two withdrawals that I personally made before the end of this trip). anyway, after dropping of our wounded travelers, we resumed our previously high velocity mission towards Fairbanks.



Once again the scale of our surroundings appeared to swell in dimensions and, as before, the rivers were most impressive. With the amount of ice melt flowing in them, the typical Alaskan rivers were indeed absolutely breathtaking in both their size and physical power, and it certainly provided a sharp contrast with the summer drought conditions that had been plaguing my home state of Georgia for the past few years. The distances we were covering also took on otherworldly dimensions too. Looking at the maps in Alaska it often became an easy mistake to consider a distance between two places to be, say 50 miles, when in fact it would be closer to 350. I always tended to look at Alaska (and I assume most other people do too) as that little state at the top of the map, but when I actually got in amongst it and had to pay attention to the scale of things, it was indeed a great surprise.



More Top Of The World

Ultimately though, our trio of helpful adventurers did eventually arrive in Fairbanks and as expected it was with no great difficulty that a suitable hotel was located for the night. Even though we'd been delayed significantly by our assistance of the Canadians (and as a consequence it was already fairly late), the bikes still got a little cosmetic TLC courtesy of the hotel hose pipe since, at our current northern latitude sufficient daylight was not to be a cause for concern at any time for the next few weeks. Consequently, by the time the three bikes had been cleaned up and our belongings had been relocated to the hotel room, all of the nearby eating establishments had closed for the evening, so Joe and I wandered a few blocks up the road with the purpose of finding a few snacks. This brief sojourn exposed us once again to the strange social etiquette apparently prevalent amongst Alaskan retail society.



'Eat my dust, RV'

We found some strange folks loitering around Fairbanks and it appeared to me that the almost otherworldly parallel reality of this place acted like a honey pot for the weird and dispossessed (walking around in broad daylight at midnight certainly didn't feel that normal, even for a day or two). I got the impression that since Alaska was physically so far removed from the rest of the U.S., its' inhabitants didn't generally feel much of a common bond with the 'mainlanders' and often marched to the beat of their own drummer. The social graces that most of us - for better or worse - take for granted in the rest of the U.S. don't seem to translate particularly well to a population that spends half the year in the dark, and - at a number of the retail outlets around Fairbanks, we encountered quite a few instances of being stared at by what - in my obvious position of societal superiority :ymca- I would refer to as the social misfits of society. Coupled with this behavior, were numerous moments of awkward silence as we attempted to conduct fairly elementary matters of small business with members of the regions retail staff. For what it's worth, my son, who was actually on a hunting trip in Alaska in the two weeks preceding this little sojourn, remarked on exactly the same experience - so it's not just me then!



Upon exiting the gift shop, I noticed Joe, who for some inexplicable reason was trying to cram himself into my fuel cell

But even having landed on planet strange, it was a pleasant end to a good day's adventure; we'd covered well over 700 miles since this morning including our delay with the Canadians, and finally the three of us hit our respective cots in a collectively upbeat state of mind, excited and optimistic about our prospects on tomorrows planned assault along the famous Dalton Highway and the Arctic Circle.

As usual - If anyone's got anything to add - have at it.


Douf screwed with this post 05-03-2009 at 06:37 AM
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Old 05-05-2009, 05:24 AM   #62
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just got back from another holiday (with kids this time....no bike and no Wimpy ) and it's great to see more of your work! Certainly puts things in perspective, considering the relaxed stroll we took you on here

I'm in for the duration, so get typing, you bugger!
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Old 05-05-2009, 06:52 AM   #63
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I haven't read any of the AK RR's yet and this one's great! I appreciate the orange text, great idea to make it stand out as the "Meat and Potatoes"! Keep it coming!
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Old 05-05-2009, 07:25 AM   #64
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Originally Posted by Beaze
I haven't read any of the AK RR's yet and this one's great! I appreciate the orange text, great idea to make it stand out as the "Meat and Potatoes"! Keep it coming!
In that case, can you please have a word with 'Camas' (post #51)?

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Old 05-05-2009, 07:47 AM   #65
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Orange text works fine for me!
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Old 05-05-2009, 07:55 AM   #66
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Old 05-05-2009, 10:02 AM   #67
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For everyone that has trouble with "orange text", in IE, go to: tools/internet options/accessibility/, and check "ignore colors specified in webpages".
Background will be white with black fonts.


Oh, and about the ride report,
Thanks and carry on
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Old 05-05-2009, 06:53 PM   #68
Douf OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nukeman
For everyone that has trouble with "orange text", in IE, go to: tools/internet options/accessibility/, and check "ignore colors specified in webpages".
Background will be white with black fonts.


Oh, and about the ride report,
Thanks and carry on
Hey 'Stealth work mode' thanks I need to spend less time writing ride reports and more time figuring out how this damn computer works

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Old 05-05-2009, 07:02 PM   #69
Douf OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Splat_SA
just got back from another holiday (with kids this time....no bike and no Wimpy ) and it's great to see more of your work! Certainly puts things in perspective, considering the relaxed stroll we took you on here

I'm in for the duration, so get typing, you bugger!
Yes General I'll get write to it! (arf, arf)

BTW (I'm naturally assuming the only possible explanation for a Wimpy-less vacation is that you took the kids out of the country).

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Old 05-06-2009, 12:16 AM   #70
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Originally Posted by Douf
Yes General I'll get write to it! (arf, arf)

BTW (I'm naturally assuming the only possible explanation for a Wimpy-less vacation is that you took the kids out of the country).

Douf
Actually no - was local. I suggested it a couple of times but the kids didn't want to go near the place ....and there I was, so near yet soooo far from my MEGA .
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Old 05-07-2009, 03:37 PM   #71
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Laugh Smackdown: Gary vs Flag Lady

Day 6: Fairbanks - Arctic Circle - Cantwell







Once again, with the exciting prospect of the Dalton Highway ahead of us, our early morning departure time didn't feel that unreasonable and consequently with a significant sense of anticipation the three of us saddled up and headed out at our usual hour. The first section of the journey was essentially all black top from Faribanks to Livengood - a distance of just over 70 miles - which marked the beginning of the Haul Road. At the exit to the Dalton, we stopped and got a few shots of the signage that marks the start of one of the most (in)famous stretches of road in all of adventuredom. As we rolled out over the first few hundred yards of - what was in my mind legendary terrain, it felt almost like meeting with royalty - we were finally on the Dalton!. I tried to take it in as much as I could - one of the rare moments in life that you spent so long dreaming about, but so little time actually doing.



Before Dalton = Clean bikes

As we collectively set off towards the Arctic Cirlce (and hopefully ultimately to Prudhoe bay), apart from the usual concerns about the difficulty of the road conditions which - undoubtedly like most travelers in this area - we had mixed emotions about due to the wildly varying published opinions from previous road users that we had eagerly digested before setting off, there was also the issue of tire wear to consider. Gary's research in the long distance community had convinced all three of us to mount Metzeler ME880 Marathon tires in the belief that the entire trip would be possible on a single set (which I must admit in my own experience of typically getting not much more than four thousand out of a sport touring rear seemed extremely optimistic on the face of it).



..............and this one



This 'un looks OK too

In reality though, at less than half way into what was intended to be a 12000 mile journey, and with the abrasive surface of the Dalton dead ahead, the remaining tire wear available to each of us suggested that this was becoming an increasingly remote possibility. Gary's bike definitely looked the worst of the three, with Joe's showing the least wear and the KTM being about midway between these two extremes. Also worth pointing out is that these are a road based tire with nothing like the luxury of knobby tread to assist the bikes over anything worse than the luxury of a paved surface; however given that previously reported journeys have apparently been done on anything from Goldwing to Harleys and upward, at the time it seemed like a pretty safe assumption that three large dual sport bikes on road tires would be up to a task.



............and here we are

And indeed that's the way it seemed to play out, at least in the first few miles where we motored along well above the posted 50 mph speed limit (given the well known tales of high speed trucks running up and down the Haul Road, I think the three of us were more concerned about going fast enough rather than too fast). In fact we maintained a pretty good pace right up until we literally ran into the first construction zone.



The flag lady - Gary was lucky not to get a colonoscopy with that sign



Hi Y'all

As we motored along a water truck appeared in front of us and after a short period of following along behind it, the vehicle started to dampen down the road with its' watery load, which immediately turned the dry dusty conditions into a wet slop. Obviously not wanting to endure this any longer than possible Gary who was at the front of our trio, made an effort to pass the vehicle just as we came across a flag lady. We all skidded to an abrupt halt, but to say this woman was unhappy would be an understatement of the greatest proportions. In fact, if 'ripping someone a new one' was listed in a dictionary, you would probably witness a replay of the reaming she gave Gary as we waited at the stop sign. Since the delay was quite elongated, the two of them got into a pretty heated argument and it took quite a while for the pair of them to cool off. Wisely Joe and I kept a safe distance and I secretly consoled myself with thought that - should we be unfortunate enough to encounter a Grizzly, Gary would merely berate the living s%^t out of the poor unsuspecting animal until it ran off. When we finally managed to escape from the killer flag lady, we had not only the seriously unpredictable road surface of the construction area with which to deal, but also flag lady's confrontational equal, namely 'homicidal pilot car lady'. Before we had even started the perilous procession through the roadworks, she had ordered us - in no uncertain terms - to stay well back from her vehicle but, even though in my opinion we kept a fairly safe distance, on two separate occasions she actually stopped her vehicle, got out and, seemingly apoplectic with rage, screamed at us to stay even further away from her. I wondered whether someone could maybe make a fortune selling PMS medication in Alaska, which apparently was thus far unheard of in the state. Anyway having escaped from the evil clutches of the dogmatic duo, conditions within the construction zone itself still had the potential to throw an innings worth of cuveballs into the batting rotation of our progress.

Being somewhat reminiscent of that scene in The Terminator where the machines crunch remorselessly over the skulls of thwarted humans in a post apocalyptic landscape, we nervously guided our steeds over a razor sharp layer of rock that would form the foundation layer of a future section of highway, with battalions of heavy equipment moving unpredictably all around us; and as we did, I nervously considered the ramifications of getting a puncture in the middle of this extremely hostile environment. Presently however, the three of us emerged thankfully unscathed, accelerating onto more predictable terrain and with a great sense of collective relief watched the comforting sight of our tenaciously lovely pilot lady and her vehicle disappearing reassuringly in our rear view mirrors.



And on top of all this, there was always the unpredictability of the weather to contend with, which alternated between uplifting and depressing over every rise but, generally seemed to contain an ominous air that certainly gave the three of us cause for concern. However, undaunted we persisted northward, with subsequent stretches of road being mainly gravel and dirt, with the occasional further section of roadworks and surprisingly - at least for me who had done very little research into the quality of this highway (apart from being prepared for the unpredictable) - even the odd stretch of blacktop. The further we got from civilization the more desolate the landscape appeared, culminating in the final push to the rest stop marking the Arctic circle which, even though it contained nothing more than an out house, a sign and a couple of other vague signs of commercialization was a strange man made oasis in a sea of nothingness. Pulling up at the sign was somewhat eerie in itself: it felt so commercial, but once we'd turned off our bikes there was not a sound to be heard. The weather at this stage had closed in even further, but worst of all Gary's rear tire was showing serious signs of deterioration and looked extremely questionable for the entire trip to Prudhoe Bay. After a brief period of discussion it was decided that this was as far North as we'd go on this trip, a decision that I don't think either Joe or I were particularly happy with at the time, but myself, I felt that it was Gary's trip - he'd put all the real effort into the planning, the scheduling and the preparations - and if I really had a problem with it, well I had my own atlas and would just have to plan my own assault some other time.



1 of 345



2 of 345

As this location had suddenly morphed into essentially the turn-around point, it was with great fanfare that our collective presence was recorded at the sign - we took such a ridiculous amount of cheesy pictures that I started to feel like a damn wedding photographer: Each person with the sign, each bike with the sign, group shots of bikes, group shots of people, group shots of people and bikes - we had every freakin' permutation of bikes, sign and us that you could imagine. Anyway ultimately the batteries went flat in the cameras and the picture taking was over! Apart from the monotony of the picture taking though, a couple of other features at the location added a little in the way of color to the proceedings.



The back of the sign: apparently there's a grizzly bear in the area that's quite adept at fellatio - call 777 121 6969

For one, upon the sign someone had tacked a hastily written note that warned of a wolf in the area which apparently had attacked a lone hiker who, in a state of considerable panic had taken refuge in the nearby outhouse. Unfortunately however, when she emerged from the stall over an hour later, the animal attacked her again - and that was as far as the tale went. Given the absence of a corpse, I'm assuming that no harm ultimately came to the poor women, although maybe the wolf was just really hungry. Apart from the perceived threat of a wolf attack, certain smaller members of the wildlife fraternity were causing the three of us significant discomfort even as we stood there. I refer of course to the Alaskan mosquito. When people tell you to take plenty of bug repellent into this area, they are certainly not being overly dramatic, as those biting little bastards are by far the most aggressive of the species I've ever come across. Maybe it's the stunted length of the summer months that's to blame, but even though at all times I was covered with a full oversuit and had sprayed a heavy layer of repellent on every square inch of exposed skin, I still ended up covered in welts on any part of my body that wasn't defended by messrs Arai, Aerostich and Alpinestars.





This gentleman was (at this stage) surprisingly quite civil to the three of us as I recall



Lunch - sorta!

With a certain sense of anticlimax then, we turned the bikes around and headed back towards civilization and Fairbanks. Before getting back there though, a refueling stop at the Yukon River service area would be necessary, which confused the issue somewhat since when we pulled up, they were out of gas. Another lesson for the 'mainlanders' was in the making - the tanker might show up today, it might show up tomorrow, it might show up next week. I thought it was the height of irony that the damned Alaskan pipeline was in spitting distance of this place, yet we couldn't even fill our bikes up. Of the three, my bike had the longest fuel range and a quick calculation revealed that I'd probably make it back to Fairbanks on fumes, where I be able to get enough gas to rescue the other two; however as we resolved to put this plan into action, the tanker rolled into the parking lot and the current fuel crisis was over. Flush with more fuel that we knew what to do with, it was a spirited ride that took us back to Fairbanks. Joe, who had hardly ever taken the lead on the trip thus far, set out ahead and remained there until returning to the blacktop at Livengood. At one stage, having ridden pretty hard and still not caught the GS, I was even convinced that he'd taken one of the spur roads and got himself lost. Our rapid progress was briefly halted however, when a contrite Gary insisted on stopping and apologizing to our friendly flag lady.







Gary - looking all contrite - post flag lady

Present and accounted for back at the relative safety of a predictable road surface, the three of us rode back through Fairbanks with the intention of heading towards Anchorage. At the northern end of the Denali National park, with the hour in the day getting fairly late, suitable accommodation was starting to become a concern, along with the first food since before lunch and, as we rolled into Cantwell, collectively we put our empty bellies ahead of any overnight comfort concerns. After getting a quick meal, the prospect of finding somewhere to sleep at 10pm presented itself and, after a brief search we settled on the Lazy J cabins, which unfortunately had only a single room available. However since the next town was a couple of hours ride from Cantwell and was one of those dots on the map that may be somewhere significant, or may just be a gas station and a post office, we decided to cut our losses and take it - which was fine by me as, since I'd been lumbered with the cot last night, it was my turn for the bed.



Dirty 1



Dirty 2



Dirty 3

As usual - please chime in!

Douf

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Old 05-08-2009, 06:10 PM   #72
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What a trip. the orange is killing my eyes. Great pics!!!
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Old 05-09-2009, 09:05 AM   #73
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I couldn't resist

And these are just mine :ymca:ymca:ymca

































































Gary, Joe - feel free to add yours

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Old 05-09-2009, 07:35 PM   #74
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pictures

I think you covered it just fine.
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Old 05-10-2009, 09:02 AM   #75
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Great report...looking forward to the rest.
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