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Old 10-11-2014, 04:34 PM   #1
Skippii OP
Hookers, my lad.
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Joined: May 2008
Location: Richmond, Va
Oddometer: 6,506
My 2014 Shenandoah500 Ride Report

2014 S500

After putting 7,000 miles on the front Dunlop Geomax knobby and 6,000 miles on the Trakmaster II, I decided it would be a good idea to put on fresh rubber before going to the Shenendoah 500. That and an oil change seemed to take up most of Friday – not the work itself – I've got the process down pretty well by now, but all the distractions in the world seemed to grab my attention and hold it while I tried to get stuff done. I wanted to leave Friday night and camp with VACommuter, but as the evening grew nearer, I decided to just leave the next morning. An alarm set for 4:40 would give me both the time I'd need to get to Mount Solon and the three hours of sleep I wanted to get at a minimum before doing 130 miles of highway followed by 150 miles of dirt. I didn't bother with breakfast – breakfast was included if I could get to Mt Solon in time. Before I left, I got my spare helmet and gloves and put them on my porch. I just couldn't make up my mind if I should invite my new friend to join me in camping after the event. She'd need a helmet and gloves, though, so at least if I left them out she could just pick them up as she went by my house if I did decide to invite her. I'd have a lot of time to think about it.
The commute was unexciting, and the sun slowly rising behind my back made for uninteresting scenery. That would change when I got into the valley, I knew.
I headed straight into the tech inspection. I thought I might have to explain that I wasn't really planning on riding the S500 with my tent and luggage strapped to the bike, but they never questioned it. As I pulled away from Tech, I saw VACommuter. He told me where the campsite was, and I dropped off my luggage and tent, and packed up my new Cycleworld bag with spare inner tubes and parts, and strapped that to the bike. For some reason, riders in the s500 seem to always get punctures—I've even seen one rider get three punctures over two days. So I bring the spare tubes with me for this event – just in case.
I chat briefly to another rider. He asks me with whom I'm riding. The question surprised me – After my trip this summer, I'd almost forgotten that people usually ride together in small groups. I hadn't planned on staying with anyone.
I head over to the rider's meeting. I've missed most of it – they're doing raffle drawings as I walk up, but having done this four times before, I've got a pretty good idea of how it works.
The meeting is dismissed, and bikes immediately fire up. I start to walk to mine, when I remember I still haven't eaten. Oops. I run over to the breakfast table, and stuff a single miniature bagel into my mouth as the staff cleared away the last of the remnants. It was quite dry and chewy enough to make my jaws ache as I masticated frantically, trying to reduce the bulge in my cheeks enough to get my helmet on. Without at least cream cheese, this breakfast was probably not worth the effort it took.
When I got back on the bike, it looked like about half, maybe 2/3 of the riders had already departed while rest were still putting on gear or searching their pockets, trying to find the keys to their bikes.
I quickly caught up to a group of riders that maintained a pace I considered adequate, so I fell in line behind them. I hadn't bothered to load the roll charts they'd given me at registration earlier that morning. I'd never used roll charts on any of the previous S500 rides, as the routes are usually quite clearly marked. Besides, I assume that at least a few people in any group in front of me knows the way.
We ride up by Flagpole Knob, and then the trail splits. I go to the more advanced option, through Meadow Knob and out Union Springs. Going down some of the steeper rocky declines, I notice both that they don't seem as bad as the used to, and that I'm shifting my weight as far back as I can. I guess I did learn something in those 14,000 miles this summer.

Heading up the big rocky section before the mud pits in Union Spring seemed just as ugly as ever. I'm not sure what the best line choice really is there. I've tried many different ones with mixed results. I elect to with my “safe” line choice this time. It involves riding halfway up the right hand edge, stopping next to the rock, backing about a foot and a half while turning, riding the ridge of the rocks perpendicular to the trail, and finishing up the left hand edge. It's not really smooth (you do have to stop and back up a foot) and it's definitely not something you'd do if there's anyone behind you, it's better than stalling out and trying to start again halfway onto a rock.
Just before lunch, the gas station at Brandywine was closed, and a sign said to take a right for Gas. I thought I remembered there being a gas station not too far away, so I turned right. It was a lot farther than I thought, and given that I have almost 160 miles of riding dirt before I hit reserve, I didn't really need gas all day and should just have skipped it.
As I pulled into lunch I saw VAC next to his hack. He had just finished lunch and was heading out again. I walked into the fire station where we had lunch. It was quite crowded, everybody in their little groups of people that they were riding with. Riding alone is one thing, but sitting alone in large cafeterias still makes me feel a little awkward, just as it did in high school and college. If I hadn't bothered with gas, I probably could have eaten with VAC. I thought about asking one of the groups if I could join them, but instead decided to ask on of the volunteers if I could just have three slices of pie instead of real food. She told me I was welcome to do so, but deep down inside I felt the judgment being passed on my health choices, especially as I hadn't eaten anything besides the mini bagel since yesterday evening, so I got in line to get chicken and mac & cheese before taking seat by myself.
The portion of chicken was huge, and it was very tasty. I tried one spoonful of the mac and cheese before I threw it in the trash and took a slice of pumpkin pie instead. And also a slice of blackberry pie. With those two slices in front of me, I didn't feel so strange sitting by myself.
As I started to dig into the pumpkin, a man walked up saying “You look like an interesting guy!”
“What makes you say that?” I asked, welcoming him to take a seat. Probably something to do with the orange mohawk and matching fingernails.
His name was Tim. We talked for quite a while about the trip I'd taken this summer, and since he'd just sat down, after 10 minutes or so I got a slice of chocolate cake so he wouldn't be the only one eating. By this point most of the riders had arrived, and there were still tables packed full of deserts, so I didn't feel too bad about eating more than one piece – it was clear there would be large quantities of sugar left over. After lunch, we rode together for the last stretch. It wasn't very long – maybe a quarter of the distance we'd done before lunch, and it was mostly paved. We did the more dirt-oriented option to sugar grove, although I'm really not sure why that was an option instead of just the normal route. There was a very large black snake lying across the road. I pulled over to see if it was okay, and a group of three other riders braked suddenly and stopped to avoid hitting it in the corner.

The snake seemed to be injured; it would shake its tail and stick out its tongue, but wouldn't move. Perhaps it had even been run over by a rider. I used a very, very long branch from a tree to move it from the road to the grass. It seemed to slither away from there, so hopefully it would recover. We got back on the bikes, and continued from Sugar Grove, where Tim got gas, on to Reddish Knob. There were a lot of other riders there, and it was very cold and windy.
We returned to camp, and after chatting a bit with VAC, I realized that I couldn't call this a real camping trip unless we had s'mores. I got back on the bike (because 250 miles clearly wasn't enough for one day) an headed to Bridgewater to get the necessary supplies. They didn't have any of the Halloween peeps, but they had giant pumpkin shaped marshmallows that would suffice, even if they disappointingly were not pumpkin flavoured. I got gas there as well, so that I'd be able to ride all day tomorrow without needing to refuel.
Back at camp, I set up my tent, and we discussed the idea of making a fire until 7pm, at which point I headed out to get dinner before they shut down the food at 8pm. After dinner, I talked with Tupperware John for a while. I mentioned that I really needed to adjust the rear shock on my bike as it was still pitching me forward over bumps and whoops, and he walked me over to a suspension expert at one of the vendors. I told him about my bike and my problems, and he looked me up and down, and told me to start with 12 turns out on the compression and 8 turn out on the rebound, and showed me where to find the appropriate screws on his own bike. He certinaly seemed to know his stuff. I went back to the fire at the dinner tables and continued tell John about my cross country trip. He was interested, and impressed that I'd done it. He said that he sometimes wished he could do stuff like that, but couldn't because of his job and family obligations – though he said he wouldn't trade his family for anything.
“Do you have any family?” He asked me.
“No. Actually, I haven't even dated anyone in over 10 years.” I replied.
There was a long silence while he thought about that. Finally, he spoke.
“You're going to regret those 10 years of not having sex when you're older.”

That wasn't really the perspective I was expecting.
I returned to the campsite, and discovered that everyone else had already gone to sleep. I applied the recommended suspension settings to my bike, and then I walked around a bit. After a while one of the neighboring campers invited me to join him and his son by his campfire. We talked about bikes and camping for an hour or so. He had a red KLX 250 – a bike I've always lusted over in green, but every time I see one in red, I get confused and think it's a Honda.
I headed back to my campsite to take my sleeping pills, and realized I'd left my Temazepam at home. I had some other sedatives, though, so I took them. I'd have to be awake in a few hours anyway, so I didn't want to sleep too deeply. Waiting for them to kick in, I started talking to Anh, and I again started debating in my head if I should invite her. I told her what beautiful scenery it was around the valley and how wonderful camping was. She appropriately responded “I hate you.” I asked if she wanted to come on Monday. She said she was very busy with work, but might be able to. We wished each other a good night, and I went to sleep.
In the morning, she messaged me saying she would come.
I went to the breakfast, which was much more satisfying than the previous morning. I was determined to ride Dictum Ridge this year, which meant I'd have to ride at a faster pace or take fewer breaks than usual in order to ride with other people – as the more advanced riders wanting to ride the AA option are probably the faster riders. It was pretty easy ride to lunch up Hall Spring Road, but I hit a large rock I never saw that kicked my front tire out and smacked me into the ground, hurting my left knee where the tank had landed on it. It wasn't a rocky section at all – just a nice smooth road with one large rock in the middle. I'd like to blame all the leaves for me not seeing it, but...sometimes you've just gotta admit that you messed up or weren't paying attention. I limped out from under the bike, and the rider behind me, who I thought was going to run over my head by luckily managed to stop in time picked up my bike. After a few stretches I could move my knee again, and I got back on the bike and continued to lunch. By the time I arrived my knee wasn't hurting at all. Before I went into the the building, I adjusted my suspension another two clicks, but even as it was before it had been a vast improvement over yesterday. Inside the cafeteria at Bergton, the volunteers told me that I was only permitted one desert item... and also pointed out that my bright orange mohawk would make me easy to recognize if I attempted to go through the line twice. I took my meal and took a seat next to some other riders with whom I chatted for a while, and unsuccessfully attempted to convince to ride Dictum Ridge. After sitting for that half hour or so, I was amazed at the incredible pain in my knee when I attempted to get up. I could hardly walk down the hallway. I realized I'd left my Tylenol back at camp. That was stupid. I still had some Percocet with me in my First Aid kit, but I wasn't sure it would be a good idea to take that before riding the most challenging part of the course. I asked if anyone had any Tylenol, and someone gave me a couple of pills.
After lunch it was relatively easy ride up Vepco to the intersection with Long Run and Dictum Ridge. I parked my bike and waited for others to show up to see who would ride Dictum Ridge. After a few people went by, two riders showed up. The first was on a Honda XR650. Before he turned off his engine, he maneuvered it onto a downhill section, saying that he didn't have an electric start and it was very difficult to kickstart. The other rider was on a DR350.
They said they would ride with me, but the rider of the XR said he couldn't stall out because he couldn't start it again unless it was on a downhill. I assured him it was almost all downhill. He also said he didn't think he could pick it back up if he went down. I told him I'd help him if he crashed.
He also said he couldn't go too slowly or his bike would overheat.
I suggested he go first.
He told me to lead. I did.
The first part of the decent wasn't too bad. It was rocky, but the trail was wide – plenty of room for jeeps to go through. When that part came to an end, there was a gate across the road, and a trail to the left labeled “Experienced ATV riders only.” We turned left. It was only as wide as an ATV, with sharp turns, but nothing as bad as the stuff I'd seen in Downieville or Hollister, California over the summer. Before too long the trail started heading up a hill again. I assume this is the part people called the “Valley of Death.” A short way up, there was a radio station and S500 staff members. They told us there were too options from this point: Continue on the steep uphill, or take a right through the woods to continue downhill. I couldn't really see a trail there. He told me it went through the dry river. I asked what the other guys wanted to do. The guy on the XR said his bike was at 250*F and he needed to get moving right away, and couldn't turn it off on this uphill with no place to turn around. I suggested again that he go ahead, and this time he did. The DR rider said he wanted to go up the hill, but had to stick with his friend, so we headed down, although I would have liked to go up the hill, too. Before I took my trip, I always found steep uphills a lot less scary than steep downhills, but now I feel more confident going down. I think it has to do a lot with the body positioning the guys at Downieville taught me.. After a few hundred feet we were completely lost, not seeing any hint of a trail. One of the radio staff walked down and showed us where we were supposed to be. I waved the DR rider on, so I could follow his trail, or at least blame him the next time we ended up cross country riding.
It was rough, but not too bad riding through. At the end, just before we emerged on 33, we had to cross over another dry river with large rocks on the edges. I was a little worried my front tire would just bounce off the large rock at the crest of the other side, but a little gas got me though pretty easily.
On my way back to camp, I stopped by a Walmart to get a few supplies, including a new cup for my stove on which to cook ramen noodles and oatmeal. While I was in Walmart, Nick650 sent me a picture of his bike parked next to mine outside.

I saw him in the store a few minutes later and we talked for a while before I headed back to camp. VAC and the others had already packed up and left by the time I arrived. I packed up all of my stuff, as well as a full propane bottle that had been left at camp, and headed to Staunton to help HPZ with some issues she'd been having with her bike. She bought me dinner at Sheetz, and then we started working on her bike. I was amused by her solution to the fact that she'd lost the side panel a few month ago when she'd removed it to change the battery, and forgot where she set it down: Lots of duct tape.

The bike started up fine when I tried it, although it would died whenever I gave it any throttle. Probably needed a carb cleaning as it had sat unused for a few months. There seemed to be some electrical issue with the starter – sometimes hitting the starter button would have no effect. Best I could tell it was an open circuit somewhere in the wiring harness, but I wasn't completely sure as it was very infrequently that I was able to replicate it. I taught her how to start the bike with a screwdriver on the solenoid, so she at least wouldn't get stuck out in the woods alone. We charged up the battery and went to sleep.
In the morning I headed North, with a spare jacket I'd lent to Rachel a year earlier for Anh, to Harrisonburg up route 11. Every time I ride through, it amazes me how much it's changed since I left four years ago. This time was no exception. On the outskirts of town, I noticed that that a shop that used to sell pornographic materials was closed, with a big sign that said “REDEEMED” outside. Hometown Music, where my roommate from freshman year had worked, was now part of a car dealership. I wondered if one of my favorite stores, the Russian International Food store where they had giant 10 pound slabs of chocolate and other baking supplies and salami would still be open. I was pretty sure I remembered where it was, but when I made the turn, it was no longer there. Instead... was Hometown Music. I went inside.
“Anything I can help you find?” asked the manager.
“Well, maybe...” I replied. “I was looking for salami and Russian food.”
He laughed and reached into a drawer to pull out a map. The Russian store was still open, it had just moved – across from the old location of Hometown, back from where I'd come. I asked him if he knew Rob, my roommate who had worked there 12 years earlier. Not only did he clearly remember him, but he said Rob had stopped by the store earlier that summer to say hi when he'd visited the area.
We talked a little more, and then I headed back to the Russian store's new location. The young hot girl with the sexy Russian accept I remembered so well wasn't there, but her not quite at attractive mother was.
I bought some salami, some bars of dark chocolate with almonds for s'mores, and a box of Italian ameretti cookies. There were many other items at good prices I would have purchased if I'd had room for them on my bike, but I was about at the absolute limit for what I could carry, especially with the extra propane bottle.

Especially interesting was the 1.5 liter bottle of black current syrup imported from Poland – rather difficult to find in the USA. Anh messaged me to say she'd picked up the helmet and gloves from my house and was on the way. With everything strapped to the bike in a way that I hoped wouldn't crush the graham crackers, I made my way west down 33 to a very secluded small free campsite on Kephart Run, a few miles from the West Virginia boarder. I set up my tent and unloaded all my gear before returning to Harrisonburg to meet up with Anh.
I stopped by the Sheetz on 33 to get some gas and something to eat, and called my bank as they had once again stopped my credit card because of suspicious activity. In this case, the suspicious activity was getting gasoline 120 miles from my house, which to me didn't seem that strange – especially given all my other trips earlier this year. They promised to remove the block on my card.
I tested it by getting gas, and then headed to the Walmart where I'd agreed to meet Anh. While she shopped for phone charger, we discussed where to ride that day. Originally, I'd planned to go to camp, ride the mostly paved road to Reddish Knob. Then visit Flagpole and Meadow Knob, and come out down Dunkle Hollow, which was just 2 miles from camp or so. I wasn't sure how long it would take us, though, as I'd never ridden that with a passenger before,, and knew I definitely did not want to do that in the dark. I thought it might be a better idea to just leave from Walmart, which would save us about an hour, and then pick the car up later. Alternatively, we could do the route I'd planned backwards, so that we'd start with the roughest sections and end with the easier stuff, watch the sunset from Reddish Knob, and have the paved ride back to camp in the dark. I wanted to ride the easier stuff first so I could get used to a passenger off road, but riding the rough stuff in the light was a bigger priority. We headed back to camp. Her Prius was not handling the rocks on Kephart well, so she parked her car half a mile down the road and walked the rest, while I carried a large bundle of USFS-approved firewood on my bike by sitting on it and holding it with my knees – of which the left one was still quite sore.
We headed out down Dunkle Hollow, stopping briefly at the lake to take a few pictures. We proceded up the hill, probably averaging about 18mph, and rarely getting over 20. Not exactly fast, but fast enough, and it wasn't too long before we arrived at Flagpole Knob.

I didn't want to head over to Meadow Knob, as it was pretty steep and rocky. We stopped for a while at Flagpole, but there wasn't much of a view today. I put in a few extra clicks of compression damping on the rear shock as it was bottoming out over almost every bump. We headed over to Reddish Knob. There was no hurry – sunset wouldn't be for over another hour, and we'd easily make it in 20 minutes or so.
We arrived about an hour before sunset, but the fog was so dense we couldn't even tell in which direction we should be looking.

We walked around a bit, but without any visibility, there was little reason to stay. Since we still had plenty of time before dark, we decided not to take the paved road back, and return to camp the same way we had come.
Since everything had been going so well, when we got to the turn off for Dunkle Hollow, I went straight and road down the rough path to Meadow Knob. If we didn't attempt to see that one as well, I thought I'd regret it. I assumed she felt the same, though I probably should have asked her anyway. We successfully navigated through the rocks and arrived at Meadow Knob, which unfortunately was equally foggy as Reddish Knob.

We stretched our legs and talked while wandering the field for a long time. We lost track of time and didn't notice that the sun had set and the fog had grown denser, until it suddenly dawned on us that it was dark. We got back on the bike and headed back at a swift pace, undeterred that the fog was now also thick on the trail, and the added weight of the passenger pointed even my low beam up so that it cast a blinding reflection on the fog.
A little before the base of the last hillclimb, I stopped and politely as possible asked Anh to get off and walk up. Perhaps not the best exhibition of gentlemanship, but I thought it the right think to do as I wasn't sure I'd make it up the hill even by myself without being able to properly see the rocks. I made it up to the turn off for Dunkle Hollow, and stopped to wait for Anh. I then realized that she was walking up the rocks with no light at all, and I'd forgotten to tell her there was a headlamp in the backpack she was wearing.
I started walking down the hill, but couldn't see her at all. I called out her name, and heard her response not too far down the hill. I continued down and eventually I met her, and we walked back up together, mounted the bike, and continued on.
After a mile or two the fog cleared enough to permit the use of my high beam, making it a little easier. We still hit one rock in the trail I hadn't seen and felt the bike deflect off it hard to the left, but we stayed on an powered through, catching up behind a pickup truck at the lake before emerging on route 33.
Back at camp, we started a fire and made some dinner, trying out the metal cup I'd bought the previous day. We got stuff ready to make s'mores, just as it started to rain.

We packed everything up again and retreated to the tent, where we discussed everything from relationships to octane ratings before finally going to sleep in the early hours of the morning.
When we awoke the following afternoon, we decided to go on another ride, so we got back on the bike and headed up Hall Spring Road, and then road along Gauley Ridge before turning onto Vepco.

When it ended on Long Run Road, we debated briefly whether we should take Long Run back to Hall Spring, go the other direction on Long Run back to Peak Mountain. They seemed to be about the same distance, but Anh was getting bruises on her back from the tool kit on the rear rack hitting her on bumps, so we took the smoother route toward Peak Mountain road. Back at camp we got everything packed up, and rode and drove into Harrisonburg for dinner at Taste of Thai – one of the best restaurants in the area. Before we went in, we did a little shopping at the Asian supermarket just behind it, where I got some Anise seeds and Anh got, among other things, some high-quality ramen noodles.
Dinner at Taste of Thai was excellent, and the portions so large that even I didn't want dessert – as tempting as their amazing Chocolate Pyramids are.
It was raining hard when we left, so we spent some more time in her car until the storm passed and we wished each other farewell. She took the helmet, jacket, and gloves with her, as we'd both had a wonderful time and wanted to repeat the experience again soon – perhaps even the following week, either at or after the BWDR campout.
"Umm be careful what you say, this is Skippii....
You may get it delivered in the form of a shake or some interperative dance routine that involves nakedness, pizza and a stuffed raccoon..." -DCrider
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Old 10-11-2014, 07:02 PM   #2
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Joined: Mar 2014
Location: N.E. Louisiana
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Nice RR.
2008 Yamaha Road Star
2008 Kawasaki KLR 650

Two lane blacktop isn't a highway, it's an attitude.
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Old 10-12-2014, 03:22 PM   #3
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Joined: Apr 2006
Location: North of Tampa, Fl., in Land O Lakes
Oddometer: 85

Nice job, thank you for sharing.
Lutz, Fl.
'05 DRZ400e Florida Titled and Tagged.
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Old 10-12-2014, 04:04 PM   #4
KillerSmileIHazIt !!
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Some of the best roads in the east..
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Thanks for sharing Skippii
Life is what you make of it~
If it don't fit make alterations

Check it from time to time as I'm always adding to it..
My Rides and life on the Farm
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Old 10-13-2014, 04:59 AM   #5
Dual Sport Armory
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Joined: Jul 2011
Location: Shenandoah Valley, Va
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Nice write up Skippii

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Old 10-19-2014, 06:19 AM   #6
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Joined: Aug 2009
Location: Shenandoah Valley riding wonderland
Oddometer: 5,326
Great memories. Congrats on your lucky find; Anh is a doll! May you enjoy each other long time.

The shock damping adjustments, well there really isn't all that much difference between all in and all out. If you analyze it objectively going back and forth under the same other conditions, you'll see. Yes it does make a little bit of difference with stock gear. Sorta. Dialing it in is largely a psychological satisfaction that it's optimal now. A bigger difference is the spring tension setting. When you plop your weight on the seat in your normal riding position, the spring should compress such that the distance between the rear axle and the frame directly above is reduced approx. 100cm. from what it is just being held there balanced with your weight off.
Let's ride!!! - No offense, but there've been a lot of people over time who were just as sure, yet got it wrong. - Una necedad, aunque la repitan millones de bocas, no deja de ser una necedad. - "you know that I could have me a million more friends and all I'd have to lose is my point of view" (Prine)
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Old 10-19-2014, 10:25 AM   #7
RushMoran....... :D
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Joined: Feb 2009
Location: From Alabama to Newfoundland it's all Appalachian
Oddometer: 11,446
I'm gonna take a wild ass guess and say, you like orange!

I wanna see your TAT story.
ADVers are out of control and that's their charm, they don't line up, they don't have standards they follow, each and every one does their own thing. They know how to ride free - BugSister.
Jax' mediocre photo thread.
Originally Posted by LadyDraco View Post
Dang ..That thing is huge!!! Jax
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