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Old 09-28-2009, 11:50 PM   #1
Scalpel 3000 OP
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Joined: May 2009
Location: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
Oddometer: 181
The International Donut Debacle (Seattle to Canada on a scooter, to get a donut)

Part 1, in which we meet our narrator, philosophy is discussed, a plan is conceived, and preparations are made

Our narrator, looking like a proper idiot.

The beginning of a story is an awkward thing. The reader and the author both know that the narrator must be introduced and the stage must be set for the story that is to come, but the author often fancies himself above the simple vulgarity of laying all that out on the first page of the book. And so it is often some time before the reader knows the name, face, or age of the main character in the story, and must scramble for little bits of information like a rat after scraps of food.

I, however, do not consider myself above the occasional simple vulgarity, and so I'll just state plainly who and what I am. I am in my mid-thirties, live in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A, and I am married to a wonderful woman who is just starting on her two-wheeled experiences. For the purposes of the story and the signature at the end of it, my name is Scalpel. It is not my real name of course, but that's how everyone knows me in the local scooter community.

That brings us to the first shocking revelation: I do not own a "proper" motorcycle. Instead, I ride a 2007 Genuine Rattler 110cc called “The Courier”. It is unmistakably a small scooter. It will hit 50 mph on a very good day, and is much happier at 40-45.

The Courier

I've never owned a "proper" motorcycle, and have only ridden two: once on the tank of my uncle's motorcycle when I was 10, and for two days during the Motorcycle Safety Course last winter. I've only been riding for a year, but I have read Proficient Motorcycling and More Proficient Motorcycling front to back. I have also logged several hours on a sports bike in Grand Theft Auto, although I suspect that the actual controls of a sports bike do not match up exactly with the buttons on the XBox controller. I’d like to think that I am more educated about motorcycling than the average scooterist, but after a year reading the scooter forum here and on Modern Buddy, I suspect you might be surprised by how seriously some scooter enthusiasts take their riding.

Of course, none of that has much to do with a ride report, so I’ll cut right to the one line summary of my plan:

Seattle to Canada on a scooter, to get a donut.

I’ve wanted to take a long ride to South America or through Asia since I started reading ADV, but I have neither the money, nor the vacation time, nor the motorcycle for such an epic undertaking. All I have is a two-day weekend, a not-safe-or-legal-on-the-highway scooter, and a desire for adventure. I decided that rather than trying to tart up some short ride as an epic undertaking (earning the instant derision of the ADV community), I would instead work within my limitations to come up with a ride so stupid, it would be clear to ADV that I wasn’t trying to claim that my two-day trek was on par with some of the great adventurers on these boards. I would be up front and honest about my ride being short, non-epic, and a bit silly. Of course, I could try to still push my bike and myself within those two days, and hopefully have some tiny speck of “adventure”, even if I was the only one who felt that way about it.

I decided that I would have breakfast in Seattle on a Saturday, and then ride to Canada for the express purpose of visiting Tim Horton’s and getting a donut. Maybe I’d get some poutine too. Maybe not though; I didn’t want to get too ambitious… I’d stay the night in the dangerous but magical land of Canada, and then ride back to Seattle the next day. That’s it. The End.

Not really worth a ride report, right? Wrong! I’m firmly of the belief that for me, a first-year rider who’s never rode farther than the next county over, this was going to be an epic test of my very minimal skills. And isn’t that what an adventure is, really? Well, maybe not, but if I succeed, I get a donut, so there.


As it turns out, my busy summer didn’t allow a free weekend for the adventure until September 26th, which puts it dangerously close to the dreaded start of the Eternal Rain of Washington. On the other hand, I’ve lived here forever, so a little rain wasn’t going to scare me off. I also had the good luck of having a dry run of the trip preparation a month prior to my planned start date, on a local scooter rally called “Monkey Run”. It involved some overnight camping, so I knew by the end of August that I would be able to carry the gear I’d need in the wilds of Canada on the back of my scooter. I made sure that the oil was changed, the tires were inflated, and the gas tank was full, and in true Douglas Adams style, I checked under the seat to ensure that I knew where my towel was. I made a note to watch “Strange Brew” again before my departure date, to practice my communication skills with the exotic inhabitan
ts of that savage yet majestic land.

I was ready… maybe.

Bigzoner MF, English Chapter: Member 066.5
"Keep Brotherhood Till Die"
Author of The International Donut Debacle

Scalpel 3000 screwed with this post 09-29-2009 at 02:41 AM
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Old 09-28-2009, 11:54 PM   #2
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Location: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
Oddometer: 181
Part 2, in which Scalpel sets off toward the Great White North

I chose Café Racer as the start of my weekend of adventure, for two important reasons. First, it has always been very friendly to motorcyclists and scooterists, and is just a generally great place to hang out. Second, it has the best corned beef hash in Seattle.

There to see me off was my lovely wife, Tesla314, who took some pictures of my slow ass heading off into the realm of adventure.

Heading off into the realm of adventure!

The "realm of adventure” consisted of a quick detour back to our house to grab the directions I had printed out and then forgotten. I had carefully prepared a set of Google Map directions, spanning four pages, with turn-by-turn guidance all the way to Canada and back. I had stapled them together, and punched a hole in the corner, so that they could be affixed to the handlebars with a twist tie. That way they could slide into the open-top glove compartment, but if they fell out, the twist-tie would keep them from blowing away. I left the engine running, ran inside the house for the directions, and affixed them to the handlebars. I headed off!

The ride out of Seattle was really enjoyable. I chose to head up Highway 99, which is as familiar to me as the back of my hand. The Courier was running perfectly, my gear was all fixed securely to my Rubbermaid bin top case, and my MP3 player was full of riding music and old episodes of “This American Life”. The plan was to follow 99, continue on through Everett, and then follow the coastline all the way up to the border. It was smooth sailing, and with all my preparations, I was confident that nothing could possibly go wrong.

Two miles outside of Conway, things began to go wrong.

I found myself on a stretch of road called “Pioneer Highway”, that suddenly began to feel less like a playfully old-fashioned nickname, and more like a proper highway. The speed limit shot up to 55 mph, and being a proud fellow, I decided to just tuck in and punch it. My speed climbed steadily: 45, 47, 49, 52… and that’s about where it left off. I knew with a sinking feeling that my speedometer is about 10% generous in its reading, and I was going to have to swallow my pride and pull off to let traffic pass. I came to a stop next to a fallow dirt field, and then realized that my precious directions were gone. GONE. Not even the twist tie remained.

Bigzoner MF, English Chapter: Member 066.5
"Keep Brotherhood Till Die"
Author of The International Donut Debacle

Scalpel 3000 screwed with this post 09-29-2009 at 03:32 PM
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Old 09-28-2009, 11:58 PM   #3
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Location: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
Oddometer: 181
Part 3, in which Scalpel falls in a ditch, breaks down, and reconsiders the journey

My directions had vanished into the wind, my scooter was clearly not up to some of the roads I would have to take to get to Canada, and I was feeling the first glimmering of an unthinkable idea: maybe riding a few hundred miles in two days wasn’t going to be without a few problems…

I rode back a half mile, scanning both sides of the road. No directions. In a moment of stupidity, I decided to walk along a strip of wild ankle-high grass next to the field bordering the road, since it gave me a great view down into the deep ditch next to the road. Perhaps my directions were in the ditch? A hundred yards into my hike, a hole hidden by the ankle-high grass caused me to plummet ungracefully onto my face. Dusting myself off, I returned to my scooter. This was nothing like the triumphant and awesome life I was led to believe would be mine merely by purchasing and then standing next to something with two wheels. Damn that salesman!

I decided to ride on to the next gas station to fill up, get a Diet Coke, and consider my situation. Two miles up the road, I gassed up, purchased my beverage, and sat down to think.

Here are the natives of Conway, watching me think.

My thinking did not take long, and can be summed up as follows: my situation was not that bad, Nathan and Dot overcame more before breakfast each day than I was going to face all trip, and I was being a big wuss. In addition, it occurred to me that the convenience store might have some sort of portable Google Maps tool for sale. In fact, they had a map detailing everything between Everett, Washington and Whistler, BC. The only problem was a lack of a “zoom” feature. No matter how many times I double-tapped the surface of the map, it would not update. I suppose the default view would have to do.

I was off!

Four miles down the road, the bike suddenly began to hiccup and lose power. I pulled over and quickly realized that in my distress at the gas stop, I had overfilled the gas tank, causing vapor lock. Thinking quickly, I pulled out my tool kit and drained a small bit of gas out of the tank by way of the bowl on the carburetor. As I worked, I looked up to see a big group of bikers heading to their bikes, clearly ready to set off again for Oyster Run, a big biker event taking place the next day in Anacortes. They looked over at my tools spread out on the ground, and… kept walking.

Oh well, it’s not as if they carry tools on a Harley anyway. I secretly wished for one of them to break down, so I could pull over and help them with my amazing kit of tools. This was not to be.

I started up the Courier again, let it run for a few minutes to burn off a little extra gas, and hopped on.

I was off!

Three miles later, the bike started losing power again.

Bigzoner MF, English Chapter: Member 066.5
"Keep Brotherhood Till Die"
Author of The International Donut Debacle

Scalpel 3000 screwed with this post 04-08-2010 at 11:25 AM
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Old 09-29-2009, 12:02 AM   #4
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Oddometer: 181
Part 4, in which Scalpel learns to accept his limitations

Coasting to a stop next to the road, I had a momentary urge to turn back, and viciously stomped on that urge with my boot. Instead, I decided to be logical about the problem. As my wife had pointed out, I rode the Courier every day to work, and this trip was really nothing more than two or three weeks worth of commuting all at once. So what was different today, and had this sort of thing ever happened before?

I hopped off the scooter and started my mental troubleshooting. Had this ever happened before? Yes, on rare instances when I was riding home from work, I would momentarily lose power on a long uphill stretch of 99. Okay, what commonalities existed between those times, and today? Weather might be a factor, but then I realized that once or twice in the past, this mysterious stalling had occurred in the winter. What about weight? No, I was usually carrying a much lighter load when commuting, and it still stalled then. Was it the gas? No, I varied my gas station stops based on convenience, so I knew any brand would do. What else? Speed?

Bingo. Every time it had hiccuped in the past, I was pushing the Courier to the limit to keep up with traffic going up the hill. Today, I was pushing the Courier to the limit to make good time to Canada. The problem wasn’t the bike, the problem was me. I was trying to force the scooter to drive like a much bigger bike. My machismo was hurting my ride.

I headed off again, and avoided twisting the throttle all the way. Instead I brought the speed up gradually, and cruised along happily for a while. Just to test my hypothesis, I twisted the throttle a little more, and held it there. A mile later, the Courier started to hiccup. I pulled over, let it cool down for a few minutes, and then headed off again. I silently thanked my grade school science teacher, who had insisted that the Scientific Method could be applied to almost any problem in the world. Thanks teacher!

A little stream in Conway, Washington

With my new-found top speed of around 40-45 mph, I found myself slowly beginning to lean back and relax, and enjoy the trip. I was also a little bit proud of myself. I knew that my difficulties were pathetically small in comparison to many of the stories I had read on ADV. However, they were big enough to make me doubt my abilities and consider quitting. Instead of turning back though, I took comfort in the perseverance of the other riders out there, and I took my time and worked out how to fix things. It seemed a bit silly to think that a lost set of directions and a minor breakdown would derail a trip, but I realized that the important thing was that I found myself in a moment of panic and doubt, and chose to overcome that and press on. It was a little victory, but I was riding a little scooter on a little trip, so that made the victory seem more to scale.

Bigzoner MF, English Chapter: Member 066.5
"Keep Brotherhood Till Die"
Author of The International Donut Debacle

Scalpel 3000 screwed with this post 01-04-2011 at 01:23 PM
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Old 09-29-2009, 12:10 AM   #5
Scalpel 3000 OP
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Location: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
Oddometer: 181
Part 5, in which many miles are traveled, and Scalpel and the Courier enter into the mysterious Canadalands

Samish Bay, Washington

Once I worked out the kinks of riding the Courier for long distances, I settled in for a fairly steady ride. I pushed on toward Canada, and was soon riding through the scenic and winding Chuckanut Drive. Apparently I wasn’t the only two-wheeler who found the twisty road memorable, since I saw a ton of motorcyclists going in both directions. One thing I noticed right away was the odd trade-off between my Courier and the Harleys. Outside the corners, the Harleys rapidly pulled away from me, their relatively massive engines utterly outclassing my 110cc. Once into the corners though, I actually had to slow down for the Harleys. I had just finished reading “Total Control” by Lee Parks, and was messing around with his cornering tips. I found that in the corners, a rider on an overburdened 110cc scooter can go a lot faster than a Harley if that rider slides off the seat and leans off the scooter into the turns. I’m sure I looked like an idiot to the proper bikers, but I was having a blast, and finding that my cornering kept getting better around every turn.

In what felt like no time at all, I was through Bellingham and headed to the border. However the sun was also heading down a little faster than expected, so I cut a few of the bits off my planned route to make a more direct approach to the border, and soon found myself handing over my passport to Customs.

“What brings you to Canada?”

“A donut.”

After a few clarifying questions, I found myself on Highway 15 in Canada, heading toward a camp site that I hoped was still open and still had spots to camp. As the shadows got longer and longer, I pulled into Dogwood Campground & RV Park. It was not exactly the wilds of Canada, but since I couldn’t see the freeway, I could pretend that the sound was a waterfall rather than heavy traffic. I quickly set up my tent in the fading light, and then realized that I had not eaten since breakfast.

Base Camp

Looking at my map, I noticed that Highway 1 was right around the corner, and I vaguely remembered that there was food right across the water. I also seemed to recall that Highway 1 was fairly sedate, like Highway 99 in Seattle. I jumped on the Courier and soon found myself merging onto Highway 1.

As it turns out, I had made an near-tragic mistake. You see, Highway 1A (otherwise known as the King George Highway) is fairly sedate, like Highway 99 in Seattle. Highway 1, on the other hand, is more like Interstate 90 in Seattle. I very quickly found myself in a full tuck, pushing the Courier as hard as I could and hoping no one would plow into the back of my little scooter. I hopped off the first exit I came to and had a few deep breaths to relax.

I soon found food at a place the Canadians call “the Burger King”. Apparently their fondness for the Queen causes them to favor royalty-themed burger joints. While eating my Angry Whopper, I wondered quietly to myself why I thought it would be a good idea to pay extra for a burger that apparently hated me and everything else around it. Food should not generally have emotions. Luckily, I had also paid extra for poutine, which enveloped me in warm, comforting love and affection. After finishing my emotionally charged meal, I washed it down with a refreshingly emotionless Diet Coke, and tried to find my way back to camp.

On the way, I noticed what appeared to be a very popular establishment. Happy people were coming and going, and I thought it was high time that I took a risk and tried interacting with the exotic and mysterious Canadinians. This is the place that I entered:

The Paramount in New Westminster

Once inside, I found that people in Canada are very friendly indeed, and they welcomed me to their exotic land with open arms and legs. Mysteriously, bottled water and other water-based drinks are very expensive in Canada, which I attribute to the fact that fully 98% of all potable water in Canada is turned into Molson Beer. On a related note, 53% of all non-potable water in Canada is turned into Wildcat Beer.

After discussing scooters and scooter licensing with a lovely girl named Jersey, I took my leave of the place and headed back to my tent. As the Courier turned onto the King George Highway, I braced myself for breakneck speeds and ultimate terror. Instead, the road was broken up by stop lights, and lined with fast food restaurants and adult bookstores. I almost wept. I had found the rumored “Northern 99”! I suddenly felt very at home in Canada, and easily made it back to camp. I curled up inside my tent, and fell asleep with visions of strippers on scooters racing through my head.

“Not… wearing... enough… gear…”

Bigzoner MF, English Chapter: Member 066.5
"Keep Brotherhood Till Die"
Author of The International Donut Debacle

Scalpel 3000 screwed with this post 09-29-2009 at 12:41 AM
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Old 09-29-2009, 12:22 AM   #6
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Part 6, in which our protagonist eats a bit of childhood, and then returns to America

Scalpel and the Courier, heading home

I woke up cold, and soon realized that my dreams of being cold were actually non-dreams of actually being cold, in real life. As it turns out, I had not slept well. I blearily packed up camp, strapped everything down, and headed out. There was one major piece of business to deal with before I headed home.

There has been some question as to why I would travel all the way to Canada to eat a not-particularly-special donut and a not-particularly-special cup of coffee. The unspoken question is “why would you travel to Tim Hortons to get a donut and coffee, when you live in what is arguably the coffee capital of America? In addition, you have places like Top Pot Donuts, who make a better donut than Tim Hortons every day of the week!”

Mission Accomplished

There is not a good quick answer to that, so I will instead avoid the question by explaining my theory as to why Tim Hortons holds such a fond place in the hearts of many Canadians. It is a theory I have presented to many of my friends in Canada (not Jersey; real friends who wear clothing). They usually mull it over in their heads and then nod slowly, realizing that I might be right. Or maybe they're just being polite. Canadians are very polite.

Almost two years ago, my wife and I showed up at Niagara Falls two days after the worst snowstorm Ontario had seen in years. Chunks of ice flowed over the edge of the Falls, the sidewalks were piled with snow, and the base of the Falls was actually choked with giant sheets of ice, meters thick in places.

Niagara Falls, 2008

After an hour of taking pictures and being stung by the spray of mist and ice, we were cold, worn out, and hungry. We went to look for lunch, but the only thing open was a Tim Hortons. We sullenly bought our coffee and donuts. As we sat there with our hands warming around the coffee cups (my wife Tesla got hot cocoa), I realized that all over Canada, little kids were coming in from a day of playing, cold and shivery. Their moms or dads were sitting them down with a warm cup of something and a warm treat, and they were soon warm and happy and loved. And then those Canadians grew up a little, and left home, and got cold and shivery. And Tim Hortons sat them down, gave them a warm treat, and even mixed the cream and sugar into the coffee for them. Soon they were warm and happy, and in some primal part of their brain, they felt a little stirring of that old memory of home, just like I was feeling as my hands warmed and my weariness dissipated. My theory is that in the deep subconscious brains of many Canadians, Tim Hortons = warmth, comfort, and care.

The donuts aren’t bad either.

I finished my coffee and donut and geared up. On my way out to the Courier, I noticed this ”RV” in the parking lot. Canadians do not mess around when it comes to camping.

Camping: it's serious business

Tucking some very special cargo into my back case, I geared up and headed out. Soon I found myself at the border, trying to explain to the American border guard why I had entered Canada. It always seems weird to me that it’s easier to leave my country than it is to get back into it. Is it the same for everyone else, or is my homeland trying to tell me something?

Like a Roger Zelazny character walking through Shadow, I pressed on through the blur of roads and lanes and local streets, ever southward. Everywhere I went, I found bikers riding through the countryside. Some ignored my wave, and one fellow in full pirate gear literally turned up his nose as he rode by, but most riders were happy to wave back at someone else enjoying the open air.

Behold! Corn

I was soon on Highway 9 heading toward Lake Stevens, pulling over from time to time to let cars pass. As the day wore on, the traffic from Oyster Run began to pile up, and soon Highway 9 was moving slow enough for me to just ride along with everyone else. I reached 96 and headed west. Originally my plan was to make a full loop back to Café Racer, but now I just wanted to get home to Tesla. We hadn’t been apart for more than a day the entire time we've been married, and I missed her a lot. What made it worse was the knowledge that soon she would be good enough on her bike for both of us to travel together, and I briefly regretted not pushing the trip back until 2010 so she could come along. On the other hand, I loved her all the more for letting me run off to Canada on my own, and I couldn’t wait to see her again and thank her for being an amazingly understanding and caring wife.

I finally pulled onto Highway 99, and suddenly “The Ride” was over. I was home, or near enough. The rest of the way back was deeply familiar ground, and although I warned myself to not make mistakes so close to home, I took a few moments to consider the trip. Was it worth it? Did it matter? Was it really a RIDE, or was it just a quick jaunt that deserved no mention at all? As I said at the beginning of the report, the ride itself was shorter than many ADV riders manage in a day. It was no Iron Butt, it was a tiny blip on the map in comparison to the Postman’s epic trek, and it was all over in two days. My total distance traveled was 333 miles, which in comparison to most rides posted here, seems puny and vaguely embarrassing.

On the other hand, I accomplished what I hoped to achieve at the beginning. I pushed myself, I pushed the limits of my scooter, and I rode farther than I have ever ridden before. Although I hadn’t planned on overcoming adversity, I did so, albeit on a minor scale. Most importantly though, when given the opportunity to sleep in and then go play video games, I instead hopped on the Courier and set off on a completely pointless quest for a cup of coffee and a donut. I did it because I wanted to do it. I didn’t ride farther or faster than anyone, but I rode my own ride. After making it back, I know that the next journey will be farther, and then farther still, and someday I’ll post a picture of Tesla and I atop some remote and foreign ridge line, sitting on big proper bikes, looking stoic and impressive.

When that day comes, I’ll try to remember that the first ride is really the most important one, if only because it shows you that you can, and you should, push beyond what is comfortable and necessary. The International Donut Debacle mattered because it was my first time, and we all remember our first time.


I finally pulled into our driveway, and as I was pulling off my gear, Tesla was suddenly there with a big hug, a long kiss, and a warm welcome back. She laughed in delight when I revealed my "very special cargo": a box of Timbits I brought back for her. That laugh made the whole trip worthwhile.

Ride safe, inmates

Bigzoner MF, English Chapter: Member 066.5
"Keep Brotherhood Till Die"
Author of The International Donut Debacle

Scalpel 3000 screwed with this post 04-08-2010 at 11:46 AM
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Old 09-29-2009, 02:14 AM   #7
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Talking Yeah!

Congratulations on dipping your toe into the, sometimes murky, waters of riding just for the Hell of it

These days I have an 1100cc monster that will swallow miles at an alarming rate without effort and it is great! But.... I first started riding those long distances on small bikes, first a 125cc two-stroke scooter (1952 vintage) and then a variety of bikes up to 250cc. None of them were capable of keeping up with todays traffic speeds but things weren't so hectic back then and 45mph was good enough not to get you killed

I miss those days so, you have started at the right place to enjoy your rides and the time they take, all the while getting to really see the country that you are travelling through. The memories of your early bike days will be with you forever.

Again, well done on completing your first big ride and thanks for taking the time to write it up

Looking forward to your next one

"Enough Robert Pirsig-esque philosophizing. My bike didn’t need maintanenece and my Zen was around the next corner. Time to ride." Sly-on-2
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Old 09-29-2009, 02:34 AM   #8
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Love the way you write. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-29-2009, 03:14 AM   #9
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Made me laugh more than once.

"Camping, it's serious business"

Oh lord. If you are what I think you are... then that's scary.
Originally Posted by A_Vasiliev View Post
Please, stop acting like a child.
Originally Posted by NJ Moto View Post
Not going to happen.
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Old 09-29-2009, 07:15 AM   #10
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Thank you Scalpel, that was a fun RR to wake up to!
Almost makes me want to write somethin'...
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Old 09-29-2009, 08:26 AM   #11
greetings from Wa state
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great report !

now, an idea for your net adventure.....
Butte MT to pork chop john's
“I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.” .....Steve McQueen
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Old 09-29-2009, 08:45 AM   #12
thumpety thumpety
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Well done!
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Old 09-29-2009, 08:49 AM   #13
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Brilliant stuff mate, glad you decided on sharing the trip even tho its a "small" one.
Your use of words makes up for the lack of miles by far :)
That is how my first accident happened. I was driving a pickup. 16 years old. I was cruising the strip in Reno and was staring at this absolute hottie. I tapped the car in front of me, at about 5 mph. The guy got out and was about to kick my ass. When he saw the woman I was staring at, he gave me high five, said everything was cool and drove off."

Current garage:
`08 Ktm 990 adventure
`00 Ducati 996
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Old 09-29-2009, 09:43 AM   #14
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Well done, babe. I always love your writing.

Thanks for the Timbits, and welcome home.
Dakar! F5'ing for... Annie 2015 Manuel 2013 Pyndon 2013 Jonah 2011/2012 Ned 2012 Jenny 2011

The Border2Border Trip
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Old 09-29-2009, 09:59 AM   #15
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Great stuff. You Scooter Pilots have my respect, as well as a firm grip on my funny bone.
"...he wondered if a God subtle enough to invent quantum mechanics would really be intrested in having people deliver rote prayers and swing incense pots in His direction." - Jack McDevitt
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