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Old 04-14-2012, 11:51 PM   #736
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Originally Posted by MaineScoot View Post
We're getting reports of an 8.9 earthquake off the Indonesian coast. I'm not sure exactly where you guys are right now but I hope you are safe and doing well. Please check in if you get a chance.
Actually, we were on Koh Lanta (a Thai island off of the west coast of the peninsula) in the Andaman Sea when the quake hit. We sat on the beach and waited for it to appear but nothing ever happened. We did have the keys in the bikes and our bags ready to go if it did, we were just about the only people who didn't evacuate to higher ground. Look for the full story in an upcoming post!

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Old 04-14-2012, 11:56 PM   #737
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It's been 11 days since their last post. I hope they are just testing us to see how much we miss them.

Anyone check RE's blog to see if she has posted? I couldn't find the link to her blog.
We actually just happened to book what must be the only bungalow on Koh Lanta that doesn't have wifi. We hate to book ahead but it was the Thai New Year (Songkran) so we were worried about not finding any rooms, especially cheap and beachfront. It also was kind of a self-imposed ban from the internet since I have been spending way, way too much time online and not enough time riding, relaxing, and spending time with Re. It was good to go cold turkey for a week, but we're back, tanner and happier than ever! I did take the time to do some writing so I should be posting some more, soon. Sorry that everyone was so concerned, but we are fine!
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Old 04-15-2012, 03:00 AM   #738
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4/2 One More Day in Georgetown

We decided that we need to get on the road soon, so tomorrow we ride. The issue is where. After another breakfast of takeaway coffee and roti, we worked on ride reports until lunch. After another great lunch of roast pork and bbq pork and rice at the Sky Hotel, we walked over to Komplex Komtar for ice cream and fruit. Suitably fortified, we returned to the room, where I finished another couple of days of writing. After I was done, I handed the laptop to Re so she could catch up on some blogging. While she wrote, I researched Taiping and the Cameron Highlands, our next two destinations. When Re finished writing, we also started pricing flights back to the States. We don't have a definitive return date yet, but we were interested to see how much it would cost. For dinner, we went to the pure vegetarian branch of Sri Ananda Bahwan and had a really delicious dinner. That it was delicious was not surprising, but the price was. I usually expect vegetarian food to be a little less expensive than non-veg, but dinner cost just as much as it would have for tandoori chicken. After dinner, we wandered through a few of the shops in Little India so Re could search for her favorite Indian soap. The sky was looking threatening, and when the lightning started, we decided to pick up some beers and head back to the room for laundry.
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Old 04-15-2012, 03:05 AM   #739
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4/3 Ride to Taiping

Having had our fill of roti, for now at least, Re got some coffee and sliced a pineapple for breakfast. While she was doing that, I started packing the room. In the week we've been here, we seem to have completely unpacked just about everything we own, so today's packing took a while. We finally pulled away from the Star Lodge at around 10:30 am and made our way south to the four-mile long bridge again. Between the calm weather and lack of rush hour traffic, our ride across the bridge was certainly easier than our previous crossing. We once again headed south on the E1 and eventually turned off for Taiping. It was an easy ride today, the weather was warm, but the ride was quick.

We pulled into Taiping and found our hotel from memory, since Taiping is not well covered by the maps in my GPS. We stayed at the Peking Hotel on our last visit to Taiping and again found it pleasant and cheap. We pulled our bikes into the portico out front while we unloaded them and carried our junk to our room. When we returned to the bikes a few minutes later, two postmen were admiring our bikes and talking to the hotel manager. The manager informed us that they would like to buy our bikes and wanted to know where they could get ones like them. We have had more positive reactions to our bikes in Malaysia than just about anywhere else. Many people have asked us where they can get one of their own. It's surprising that even though SYM sells many different models in Malaysia, they do not sell the Symba, or Wowow, here. After declining their offer, we walked out to Bismillah for lunch. We knew from a previous visit that Bismillah has tremendously good chicken biryani and even better coffee. We were happy to find that it was as good as we remembered, even if the restaurant is a little dingy.



After lunch, we walked to the local botanical gardens, here known as the Lake Gardens. The gardens are on the edge of town and apparently used to be a tin mine many years ago. Sometime in the late 1800s, they were turned into public gardens by the colonial rulers of the time.



There wasn't a whole lot blooming when we were there, but many of the trees are very old and spectacular. As we walked, the sky got progressively darker, and the wind picked up. We hadn't really planned on going walking after lunch, so we had foolishly left our rain jackets in the room. When the rain began to sprinkle, we were over a mile away from the hotel. Since these afternoon rains seem to come and go pretty quickly, we decided to seek shelter in one of the many small pavilions that are scattered around the gardens. The rain began gently at first, but eventually turned into a full-fledged downpour. The monsoons that effect the west coast of Malaysia start around this time of the year, and judging by the force of the rain, they must be starting now. We hid out from the weather for an hour or more but spent our time wisely, talking about our future plans. It's appearing more likely that at the end of this trip, we will return to the US and work until we have enough money to relocate overseas on a more permanent basis. The rain eventually stopped, or at least lightened enough that we could make our way back to the hotel.

Back in the hotel, we dried off and then later walked out for a banana leaf meal at Chetty Nad. We had a truly excellent meal here two years ago, but this time, the food wasn't nearly as memorable. In addition, we were also overcharged by about 3 ringgit for our meal. Disappointing. After dinner, we walked back to the Lake Garden district and to the nearby zoo. Our real reason for coming to Taiping this time is to go on the Taiping Zoo's Night Safari. For the Night Safari, the zoo reopens at 8:00 pm, and the habitats of the nocturnal animals are illuminated with light that is supposed to simulate a full moon. It was actually a lot of fun, since we had an opportunity to see many of the animals that are usually snoozing during the day out and about. The tigers were all out roaring, the lionesses were playing hide and seek, the owls were wide awake, and the general effect was kind of spooky. The bad news was, the rain returned when we were abut three-quarters of the way through. The good news was, we brought our rain jackets with us this time. The rain wasn't so heavy that it stopped us from finishing the tour, but we were a bit damp by the time we made it back to the hotel at 11:00 pm.



70 miles in 2.5 hours.
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Old 04-15-2012, 03:14 AM   #740
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4/4 Ride to the Cameron Highlands

After packing up the bikes, we walked out to the morning market for a delicious breakfast of vegetarian curry mee (a noodle soup with a thick, yellow broth, a couple of kinds of tofu (and sometimes chicken) and bean sprouts) and coffee.Then we made the short ride back out of Taiping, and were once again riding on the shoulder of the E1. Since we'd already ridden this stretch of highway before, it didn't seem quite as new and exciting, but after a couple of hours, we turned east towards Tana Ratah. This, on the other hand, was a fun road. The road twisted and turned as we slowly made our way up the Titiwangsa range (I laugh every time I say Titiwangsa ). The scenery was mountainous and green, with occasional dramatic, bare limestone patches. Along the way, we saw a four ft long monitor lizard trying to cross the road, but he wisely darted back. A short time later, we saw a similar sized lizard that wasn't so fortunate.



As we neared the summit, the hills were suddenly covered with vast tea plantations, miles of strawberry fields, and many greenhouses. Due to the temperate climate provided by the 5,000-plus ft altitude and the abundant rainfall (more on that later) the Cameron Highlands provide much of Malaysia's tea and produce. One of the downsides of the abundance of agriculture is the abundance of trucks. Traffic was a little busy once we neared Tana Ratah, and the roads were filled with dozens of old Land Rover pickups and other, larger trucks.

We arrived in Tana Ratah at around 1:00 pm and soon found a room at the Twin Pines Chalet (which really wasn't much of a chalet, but nice enough). Ronnie from Ipoh, had pm'd us to say that he would be in town today and we should let him know when we arrived. Once we got our bikes unpacked, we sent him a pm and a text, and a few minutes later, he appeared at the Twin Pines. Ronnie is a very cool guy. He not only has a blog about motorcycling in Malaysia, but he is also working on a guidebook to riding here.



Coincidentally, Ronnie's parents were also visiting from their new home in North Carolina, so he brought them along as well. It truly is a small world: though Ronnie's family is from Ipoh, his sister and parents have relocated to Havelock, NC. This was funny to Re and me because our first two-up ride, way back in 1992, was to the Dairy Queen in Havelock. Funny! We all went out to lunch at a place Ronnie recommended, and it was nice to have him along, as he explained some of the finer points of Malaysian food. After a long lunch, they needed to return to Ipoh, so we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet up again soon, hopefully in Ipoh next time.

Re and I decided to walk around the center of town and check out some of the dinner options for later. We had just walked out of one Indian restaurant when we spied two farang on Royal Enfields(?) stopped at the edge of the road. They appeared to be ready to pull out, so Re yelled across the street for them to stop. We introduced ourselves to Toby and Will and admired their Australian plated Enfields. They had just begun their trip from Singapore to London and had just arrived in town. We shared what we knew about accommodations and agreed to meet up for dinner.



After walking around for a while, we returned to the Twin Pines and found the Enfields parked out front. Will is riding a newer, Indian-made 500cc Enfield, while Toby is riding a 1960s 350cc. They bought the bikes in Australia and did a bunch of work to them in preparation for their trip. Their route is planned to be almost entirely overland (Burma being the exception) and is timed to make it over the highest passes through India and Pakistan, before heading into the 'Stans and beyond. It is certainly an ambitious trip, made more ambitious by their choice of mounts, so keep an eye on The Bullet Diaries to see if they make it. After chatting around the bikes, we all went out to dinner at a local Indian joint, where we introduced them to the joys of banana leaf meals. We sat around and talked over some beers for most of the evening before calling it a night.



110 miles in about 4 hours. We had a great time today!
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Old 04-15-2012, 07:47 AM   #741
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"It also was kind of a self-imposed ban from the internet since I have been spending way, way too much time online and not enough time riding, relaxing, and spending time with Re."

I'm glad you're keeping these priorities. Sharing your trip with us is appreciated but living in the moment should be one of the priorities of travel.
Love your culinary reporting. I couldn't find food like that in my one-horse Colorado town to save my life and I could move overseas just for the food.
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Old 04-15-2012, 08:42 AM   #742
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4/5 Touring the Cameron Highlands

It rained overnight, but we awoke to a sunny morning, and after a shower, headed out to look for breakfast. On our way out, we ran into Will and Toby. We discussed our plans for the day before continuing on. As we ambled up the street, we spied our favorite breakfast of roti canai and curry. We stopped for this and coffee before heading back to the room. When we returned, we found Will and Toby hard at work on their bikes. Toby's bike needed a new oil seal around the transmission input shaft, and Will had discovered that the backing plate on his rear brake was warped, and consequently, allowed the brake shoes to twist. Fortunately, they have a comprehensive toolkit and a selection of spares. Toby seemed to be having no problem installing his oil seal, whereas, Will was not having as much luck straightening the backing plate. While he worked on the oil seal, Toby also discovered that the tensioner for his primary drive chain was very worn. Lucky for them, a local Enfield enthusiast (!) had come to meet them yesterday and apparently had a cache of bikes and parts. While we headed for Gunung Brinchang and the mossy forest, Will and Toby were going to check to see if he had either of the needed parts.

Gunung Brinchang is the highest peak in the area, at 6,666 ft, and it was quite a beautiful ride. Once we turned off the main road, the ride got a little more challenging, as the road was quite steep. The last three miles were so steep that we found ourselves in first gear for about two of the three miles, and in a couple of spots, we almost needed an even lower gear. The mossy forest was supposed to be about a mile before the top, but we didn't see it on the way up. At first, the top of the mountain seemed a little disappointing, since all you could see were trees and cell phone towers. Once off the bikes, we saw what looked like a fire lookout tower. When we reached the base of the tower, we could see that it was open to climb. We scaled the four flights of narrow, steep, metal steps to the top.



The view from here was spectacular, out one side we could see the mountains covered in clouds, whereas on the other side were miles of tea plantations. We were soon joined on the tower by a German couple who were touring Malaysia in a rented car. They saw our bikes, and they (or really, he) wanted to know about our trip. We chatted with them for nearly an hour before climbing back down the tower, posing for a few pictures, and heading back down the hill. We looked for the mossy forest again, but didn't see any indication of where it should be. Our brakes got a thorough workout on the way down the hill but made it with flying colors.

Halfway down, there was a sign for the Boh Tea plantation and visitors' center. We pulled into the parking lot, parked under a tree, and walked through tea fields to the visitors' center.



The tea plants were neat to see up close, since they look much like bonsai trees. While they are low and compact, their trunks are surprisingly thick, and most of them were covered in moss. In the visitors' center we watched a short film about tea production, toured the displays of machinery, and walked through the tea processing plant.



The plantation has a beautiful tea room that is cantilevered out over the fields, so we stopped for a cuppa and some shortbread. While we were enjoying our snack, it began to rain gently. We decided to head back to the bikes and tried to beat the rain back to Tana Ratah. No such luck.

Shortly after we pulled out of the parking lot, it began raining in earnest. At the entrance to the plantation, we found a covered parking spot and pulled our bikes in to wait for the rain to stop. The sky grew increasingly dark and the thunder rolled through the hills. After 30 minutes or so, the rain lightened enough that we decided to make another attempt at getting home. We still had another three miles of twisty, narrow road through the plantation before we made it back to the main road, but unfortunately, it began to rain even harder just before the junction.



As we pulled onto the main road, the sky really let loose, so we nipped across the intersection and pulled under the awning of a closed business near a bus stand.



Soon, the rain became truly torrential, and the streets began to flood.



(click the above image to see a short video of the rain)

After another 15 or 20 minutes waiting on the bikes, we decided to take a seat in the bus shelter since the water around the wheels was getting deeper. Eventually, the rain slackened, and we decided to make a run back to Tana Ratah. We didn't get too wet in the final eight miles, but we were a little chilly by the time we parked the bikes. Our plans to go hiking this afternoon were obviously canceled, so we hung out on the porch and made plans to try hiking tomorrow. After taking a shower, we decided to warm each other up. Later, we went out for dinner and stopped for beer and cookies, which we enjoyed while doing some writing in the room.


24 slow, wet miles.
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Old 04-15-2012, 08:47 AM   #743
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4/6 Change of Plans

Yesterday's rainy ways started up again in the middle of the night. We both woke up several times overnight to the flash of lightning and boom of thunder. The rain drummed on the roof all night and into the morning, so clearly, our plan to get up early and hike in the hills needed to be changed. When the alarm went off, instead of hitting the snooze button, I simply turned it off and snuggled up with Re. Eventually, the rain seemed to lighten, so we finally rolled out of bed. After getting a shower, I pulled up the weather and radar on the laptop and saw that there was plenty of rain in the area and that the chance of rain for the next several days in Tana Ratah was 70% or greater. The major activity in the Cameron Highlands is hiking the many trails through the hills around Tana Ratah. Our fear was that they would be rivers of mud due to all the rain, so we needed a new plan. While we enjoyed another breakfast of roti canai, curry, and coffee, we discussed some alternate plans. We still have our Thai visas that we got in Phnom Penh and decided we would head north for some beach time and to be in Thailand for Songkran (the Thai New Year).

The rain had pretty much stopped by the time we returned to the Twin Pines. Will and Toby were just getting ready to leave for Penang, so we wished them luck and said maybe we'd see them there. While we loaded our bikes, another guest asked us about our trip and we spent about 45 minutes chatting with her and her son. This did delay our start, but miraculously, by the time we hit the road, the sky was nearly blue. We returned to the E1 on the same road we came in on, and it was an even better ride going back down the hill.



What had been an occasional slow chug up the hill turned into a fourth gear, 45 mph roller coaster ride back down the Titiwangsa (tee hee). Too soon we were back on the E1 riding north, back to Georgetown. We considered bypassing Georgetown and heading straight back to Hat Yai, Thailand, but considering the massive car bombs in Hat Yai and Yala town last week, we decided to stop in Georgetown instead. From Georgetown we can get through the troubled area and as far as Trang in one day, hopefully avoiding any possible unrest.

We crossed the bridge, made our way north into Georgetown, and pulled up in front of the Star Lodge, only to find that they had no A/C rooms. Bummer. Fortunately, the Star Lodge is affiliated with two other guesthouses, and the 75 Backpacker Lodge had a room available. The 75 is nowhere near as nice as the Star, but it was only for one night. Somewhere along the way between the Cameron Highlands and Georgetown, the funnel that hangs from my helmet lock broke. We use the funnel on a nearly daily basis to refuel the bikes, so we need to replace it ASAP. We walked to Mydin, which is Malaysia's version of Big Lots, and sure enough, found a new funnel for about 17 cents. We also picked up some detergent while we were there before stopping at a hawker stall for banana and Milo (like Nestle Quik) milkshakes. Good and good for you! Since dim sum is becoming our new favorite dinner, later that evening, we returned to our usual place for another fantastic meal. Since the dim sum place is halfway to the mall, we continued to McDonald's for an ice cream cone before calling it a night.


185 miles in 5 hours. Because we both find the name, Titiwangsa, so funny, we have decided to rename a certain sexual act in its honor. Henceforth, that activity will be known as, “Doin' The Titiwangsa.”
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Old 04-15-2012, 08:49 AM   #744
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4/7 Utility Day in Georgetown

Breakfast in Georgetown only means one thing: roti canai from Yasmeen. After a good night sleep, Re walked to Yasmeen to find that her roti man had missed her terribly. He wanted to know where she had been and was so happy to see her that he kissed her on both cheeks before making our roti. After breakfast we walked to Little India to a well-stocked motorbike shop, where we picked up another 2.5 x 17 tube to add to the collection and a couple of new spark plugs for good measure. One tube and two NGK plugs for 6 USD, what a bargain! On the way back to the room, we stopped in at the Star Lodge and found that they had a room for us, so we carried our gear to our new room at the Star.

After changing rooms, Re decided she wanted to try a sponge she bought in Nilai that appeared to be a type of “magic eraser” sponge. While the metal cleans up pretty well on our bikes, the white plastic leg shields and side covers are stained, and no amount of scrubbing with a rag seems to make any difference. After wiping the plastic off with a wet rag, Re went over the white bits with the new sponge. The outcome was amazing: the sponge removed nearly all the stains and seemed to work on the chrome too. So now she is riding around on a bike with shiny white bits.

After a shower, it was time for lunch, so we headed for our favorite Hainanese chicken and rice place and another delicious lunch. Re has decided that she needs to find a recipe for Hainanese chicken since it is impossibly juicy but still has a crisp skin. After lunch we returned to Mydin to get the toothpaste we forgot yesterday and to look for more sunscreen before we head to the beach. We found toothpaste but no sunscreen at Mydin, so we continued on to Komplex Komtar, where we searched the pharmacies but left empty-handed. They did have sunscreen, but it was extremely expensive: a five ounce tube of SPF30 was between 9 and 10 USD. Ouch! After picking up a watermelon and a pineapple, we returned to the guesthouse to work on some travel plans and relax. Later that evening, we went out to the hawker stalls for wonton mee and fresh juice. After walking around Chinatown and having some tea, we headed back to the Star so I could Skype with my parents. We ended the evening with a nightcap at the corner bar.
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Old 04-15-2012, 08:52 AM   #745
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4/8 One More Day in Georgetown

Since we had a spare day before we had to leave for Thailand, we decided to stay in G-town one more day to do some shopping and eating. You know the drill by now: roti from Yasmeen and their delicious coffee, too. A quick shower and then we walked up to the pharmacy to look for a wrist brace for Re. Since somewhere in India, she has had an on again, off again problem with her middle finger on her throttle hand. She has knuckle pain when she rides, and it cramps and locks in a circle when she's off the bike. She researched it on the internet a while ago, and found out it's referred to as “trigger finger,” and it's just a form of tendonitis. The recommended treatment is to wear a wrist brace upside down at night to keep the fingers straight and to take anti-inflammatories and put ice on it. Ice is hard to come by, so we've tried substituting cold beer bottles, but it's been acting up lately, so we're on the hunt for a wrist brace. Both pharmacies that we know of were closed today, perhaps because it's Sunday, so we once again walked over to Komtar and wandered through the drugstores there. Re did find a wrist brace and then went in search of a tank top. Both of us are getting awfully tired of the same three shirts so Re decided to buy something sexier and made out of cotton. She eventually found a couple of flattering ones and bought them.

After returning to the room to drop off our purchases, we went out in search of lunch. We walked to the Sky Hotel to get some delicious pork and rice. It turned out that everybody else had the very same idea today, since there were no tables and a very long line at the counter. We debated waiting around, but instead, walked across the street for more Hainanese chicken and rice. It was an exceptionally hot day, so we went back to the room, flipped open the laptop, and did some research as to which Thai islands we could take our motorbikes to. We lazed away the rest of the afternoon before finally walking out to dinner at around 6:00.

On our way to dinner, we spied two familiar Royal Enfields parked in front of a guesthouse on Lebuh Chulia. After two days in Batu Ferringhi, Will and Toby apparently came into Georgetown so they could hit the Thai embassy for their visas first thing in the morning. When we found them, they were chatting with a German couple who have just completed their one year motorcycle and scooter journey from Germany to Malaysia. We didn't get their names since they had to leave shortly after we arrived, but he rode a 650 Honda of some sort, and she rode a 300cc step-through scooter of some sort. Tomorrow morning, they take their bikes to the port to send them by ship back to Europe. It was too bad that we didn't get to talk to them more, because it sounds like they had quite an adventure as well. Will and Toby were also in good spirits, since some friends of theirs had brought a few items the forgot in Australia, and they met them in Batu Ferringhi. Both of them raved about the food in Georgetown and said the one thing they wanted to eat that they hadn't gotten yet was dim sum. Even though we just had dim sum two nights ago, it's never too soon for more. We said we'd show them the way, so they went to grab their jackets.

They returned with their jackets and two girls they just met in the lobby who also wanted to go for dim sum. One girl introduced herself as Celine, from France, and even though Will asked the other girl, who was from Belgium, to repeat her name three times, I don't think any of us ever understood what her name was. We all walked to the dim sum restaurant and found that it was packed. There was only one small table open, so we all crowded around it. Since Re and I were familiar with many of the dishes, we were elected to pick for everyone. Given our limited table space, we did it in three rounds, and all ate til we didn't want any more. The food was really good, and the company was even better, since both of the women had also been traveling for many months now. We finished off our meal with a round of egg tarts and one more pot of tea before paying the bill. Dim sum for six with dessert and five pots of tea came to a grand total of 50 ringgit (17 USD). I love Malaysia.

We had told Will and Toby about the corner bar before they invited the girls along to dinner, but we weren't really sure that they would want to go. We decided to leave it up to them, so I described it as best I could, including the rats occasionally scurrying along the sidewalks. I think they were lured by the promise of cheap beer and didn't really believe us about the rats, so they opted to come along. We found a table and some chairs and spent the rest of the night talking about travel and many other subjects. One of us finally noticed that it was 1:00 am, and since we are supposed to be riding 200 miles and crossing into Thailand tomorrow, Re and I decided to call it a night. It was a great evening. Hopefully tomorrow morning isn't too ugly.

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Old 04-15-2012, 10:28 AM   #746
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Howdy,, Glad you guys are back and all is well....
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Old 04-16-2012, 01:25 PM   #747
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Originally Posted by Underboning View Post
Re decided to buy something sexier and made out of cotton. She eventually found a couple of flattering ones and bought them.
Disappointed by the lack of an embedded link somewhere in this sentence, Otherwise this is a STELLAR ride report!
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:01 PM   #748
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Parts and Products in use.

Glad to have you back on-line. The trip reports are well written and compelling to read. (great adventure, occasional suspense, and great personal stories)

All that is icing on the cake, a major point of interest for this reader are your mechanical descriptions, repairs and experiences with the bikes. (I have a 2010 Symba, and have selected tires, spare parts maintenance strategies and other elements for the machine based on your reports)

I would appreciate it if you can comment on other accessories you have found useful, specifically;
  1. What is the make and model of hand air pump you are using for fixing your flats?
  2. What is the specific style of Dariens you have selected (They seem to be holding up!)
    I am looking at the DarienLight Jacket #260 but didn't know if that's what you are using.
  3. What kind of strap do you use to attach your fuel cans to the front rack? (I know about the Ikea Cutting Board)
    Give us a closeup if you have a chance! (Some of your readers call for Cheesecake photo's, I call for closeup of gas cans....it takes all kinds...)

Thanks so much for your great reports, both informative AND entertaining!

KYSYM...
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Old 04-16-2012, 09:08 PM   #749
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Subscribed !! You guys rock!!
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Old 04-17-2012, 04:37 PM   #750
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Great to have you back! Try not to feel too pressured by our incessant demands for more entries (and cheesecake!) Ride your own ride & get back to us when ever time & WiFi allow. Our pathetic attempts to live vicariously through your trip is not your responsibility!
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