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Old 07-02-2013, 01:33 PM   #31
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Day 8 - Ruèras to Flachau

The next morning we woke up to blue skies and no forecast of rain after one of the best sleeps I'd had in a long time.

After a traditional Swiss breakfast of breads, meats and cheeses we packed up and headed towards Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

Morning view—no HDR required.



A quick rest in the shade.



Arriving in Liechtenstein.



The roads in Liechtenstein are very similar to Switzerland with the same type of signs and the same speed limits. It is such a small country that we were in Vaduz within 20 minutes of crossing the border.

We parked illegally on the pavement to nab a shot of the art museum—a perfectly rectangular building among all the old-world architecture.

Obligatory shot in front of the Kunstmuseum in Vaduz.



The castle overlooking Vaduz.



We did a 50/50 mix of autobahn and backroad riding since we had a considerable distance still to cover to reach Flachau where we were invited to stay with some friends. By chance we ended up going through the Arlberg Road Tunnel, Austria's longest tunnel at a nose less than 14km in length. For most of the length there is a slight curve but it gets to the point where you almost get hypnotised by the overhead lighting and is not for the claustrophobic among us.

Coming out of the tunnel on the Tyrol side we paid the €9 toll and exited the autobahn to carry on through some of the Alpine villages and towns.

Tyrollean Alps.



Being Sunday everything was closed but that didn't stop us using the car park of the local Spar for another break.



Charly's Hundefriseur for Fido's short back and sides.



And another stop.



Near the bottom of the last pass before Flachau—Hochkönig—like a complete divvy I decided to see how hot the brakes were by touching them after 10km of 18% grade… no more needs to be said.



Looking down the hill toward Mühlbach am Hochkönig.



We arrived in Flachau at roughly 8:30pm and spent the evening sharing photos and catching up with our friends in their gorgeous new Austrian-style chalet home surrounded by the juicy green landscapes from The Sound of Music before checking out for the night.
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:43 PM   #32
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Day 9 - Flachau

Usually a shower is a daily routine to keep from being offensive to others, but this morning it was an occasion with clean modern Austrian design in the wet-room style and a view of the Alpine hills out of the window. The lights come on automatically when entering the room and the fan switches on when it detects a decrease in air quality. I love 'invisible' tech, with each item going about its business on its own accord.

Wet-room style shower.



Clean Austrian architecture with solid wood cabinetry (no MDF here).



Suitably clean we intended to do a 45km loop of villages near Flachau including Filzmoos, Ramsau am Dachstein, Haus, Schladming, Pichl and Radstadt. Doing a quick once over of the bike I realised I had less than 1mm of brake pad material on the rear. The BMW Navigator has the full BMW Motorrad dealership network programmed in so I chose the closest one and pointed the bike in that direction.

The closest dealership ended up being Autohaus Kaufmann KG, 64km away in Kaprun—or to put it another way nearly halfway back to Innsbruck. Fortunately the route ran through some roads seemingly made for bikes with perfectly banked corners and not much traffic.

Arriving at the dealership they had a main garage for both cars and bikes, and a smaller, almost tent-like structure just for bikes. I spoke with the service adviser/technician who asked for the paperwork for my bike which was back in Flachau. No big deal, they pulled it from the chassis number.

Not 20 minutes later the bike was in and out, new brake pads installed and I was presented with a reasonable €66 bill for parts, labour and 20% tax. German/Austrian efficiency at its finest? I'm sorry to say I could never see that happening in the UK where the usual routine is to call ahead and then book it in for the following week. And despite my distinct lack of German language skills they provided a tip top, warm and friendly experience. Plus one for Autohaus Kaufmann KG.

Heading back to Flachau with a balmier 26°C showing on the instrument panel we foiled several hiding police trying to catch speeders (they are ALL over Austria, this is not a country where it's advisable to break the speed limit).

Fresh off the lay-by of Europe's Sankt Johann im Pongau—this year's rage in warm weather, high-flow functional underclothing for the motorcycling world… can be wetted for additional air conditioning properties. Rippling muscles optional. Yes—you saw it first here.



Back in Flachau we thought we would have little rest and then do the village loop after all, but it wasn't meant to be since we both ended up in siesta-mode, waking up in the early evening just in time to go to dinner at Pinocchio Pizza (we are less than 2 hours from Italy after all).

A group shot courtesy of our server's photographic prowess.



Italian food with Austrian style.



After dinner we went inside to the bar and had hazelnut schnapps followed by a pine schnapps from a specific pine tree which only grows between 1,200 and 1,800m. It was a perfect end to our time in Austria, and we went back to the chalet for a good night's sleep before tomorrow's journey to Germany.
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Old 07-02-2013, 04:04 PM   #33
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Any more issues getting gas on a sunday, now you're outside of France?

Your bike will rejoice: zurück ins Mutterland.
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Old 07-03-2013, 12:08 PM   #34
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Day 10 - Flachau to Wemding

We had a traditional Austrian breakfast at 10am and packed up to head to Munich.

No alarm clock needed with these cows outside.



Our friends' beautiful traditional Austrian style home.



What a luxury to have a view like this from the sitting room.



By the time we'd finished saying our goodbyes it was nearly noon. We decided to slab it to Munich to make up some time and so we would have a chance to visit BMW Welt.

We both agreed that Austria was a fantastic country to ride through, let down only by the enormous police presence for speed checks, plus countless speed cameras, particularly on the autobahns. Fortunately no flashes on this trip.

We entered Germany about an hour after leaving and gave the bike a chance to stretch its legs on a few sections without speed limits. With panniers and a full load on half-worn Heidenau K60 Scouts I didn't push it beyond 160km/h but it still had plenty more to give.

What amazes me about the F800GS is how stable and forgiving it is, no matter what the speed or load. It has torque like a freight train in every gear but at the same time it's easy to keep at the speed you wish without constantly having to make adjustments to the throttle.

From the cracked single track lanes and dirt roads of France to the snowy hairpins of the Grimsel Pass in Switzerland to the Autobahns of Germany nothing catches it out—BMW have done well to make a true all-rounder bike.

Munich really is BMW-land and it seemed that one out of two vehicles on the road carried the blue and white checkered flag. We arrived at BMW Welt around 2:30pm and parked underneath in the sterile car park, every surface clean enough to eat off.

After a quick lunch at the sandwich bar we had a wander through the atrium.

The new Rolls Royce coupé.



Tempting.



On the terrace.



Bikers' Lounge.



The new vehicle delivery area.



BMW headquarters from BMW Welt.



The chap was suspiciously silent about his adventures.



Suspended F800GS pimped out in Touratech toys.



BMW M display.



Round-the-world Mini.



After we finished at BMW Welt we paid a reasonable €2 for parking and slowly made our way out of Munich during evening rush-hour. Stop and go traffic isn't particularly pleasant in 27°C weather in full gear so it was a relief once we came out of Dachau and were on the open German B-roads.

The Autobahn is a novelty for a little while with its lack of a speed limit in some sections but Germany's B-roads were made for motorbikes. Apart from 50km/h speed limits in towns and villages, and the odd 80km/h section at higher-risk junctions, the speed limit is 100km/h which means good progress through the countryside and long sweeping curves among the fields and rolling hills.

The Germans are also exceptionally skilled drivers on the whole as evidenced when we were passed by a Volkswagen Transporter and then had difficulty keeping up through the curvy bits. The drivers certainly enjoy a bit of speed.

By 8pm I was tired and my bottom felt like it was about to prolapse so I fired up the booking.com app to see what was around. About 10km away was the very reasonably priced Hotel Ambiente in Wemding so we headed over to have a look.

The hotel was right on the corner of the town square in a medieval German village and full of old world charm. We keep having rooms on the 2nd floor of hotels which means lugging the panniers up several flights of stairs after long and tiring days, and today was no exception.

After a quick shower to freshen up we headed down to the restaurant and were treated to proper German pub fare with fantastic local beers and ice cream sundaes to finish off. A perfect end to an enjoyable day—well maybe with the exception of the young chaps trying to impress their girlfriends by tearing around the town square on their 50cc hairdryer scooters during dinner. But we've all been there one way or another.

Just as we were heading to sleep lightning started in the distance—fingers crossed for a dry day tomorrow.

View from the window.



Fountain in the square.


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Old 07-03-2013, 12:11 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rango View Post
Any more issues getting gas on a sunday, now you're outside of France?

Your bike will rejoice: zurück ins Mutterland.
Oddly, my card worked in every pump I used it in... no problems at all in any of the countries we visited.

We'll be in your area tomorrow evening with any luck - are you around?

Other than a new set of rear brake pads in Austria, the bike has been ploughing on, even stretching its legs briefly on the autobahn in the mutterland

Considering the full load and brick-shaped panniers, 160km/hr comes MUCH too easily...
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Old 07-03-2013, 01:18 PM   #36
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Old 07-03-2013, 02:35 PM   #37
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Day 11 - Wemding to Urberach

I came down with a nasty cough/head cold which kept me up with hiccups and heartburn much of the night. With breakfast running only until 9am I had no choice but to get myself up but couldn't face anything more than a yogurt and some melon.

Hotel Ambiente looking fantastic despite the cloudy skies.



Feeling less than myself I could barely bring myself to carry down the panniers, sweating like I'd run a marathon. We got underway and the cool air helped matters considerably with the odd rain shower actually refreshing as we rode toward Kitzingen.

Petrol station colour matched to the bike.



We arrived in Kitzingen around noontime—having been 14 years since I was last there, I couldn't remember where to go to find the cemetery where Vlad (Dracula) the Impaler was buried.

The tourist information office was closed between noon and 2pm so I stopped by the local police station where I was buzzed into a rather stark and intimidating office.

However, I was greeted by a smily and rather round older policeman with an enormous German-style moustache and his colleague who looked about 12 years old. I'm quite certain it wasn't the first time they were asked about this as they had a good old laugh when I told them where I wanted to go. Nice to see the Bundespolizei actually have a sense of humour as they always look so serious and suspicious when you see them in the open.

We got to the cemetery which is just over the road from the town's crooked church spire which, through the years, has leaned directly toward Dracula's grave. The spire has openings in the shape of inverted crosses so that at nighttime the light inside will fall on the ground the correct way up in relation to the spire itself.

The crooked spire.



Dracula's grave protected from vandalism by the wrought iron gate.



On the ceiling above the grave are angels throwing up on the bodies of people Dracula killed in battle.



Close-up of one of the skulls.



A shot of the rest of the cemetery.



We carried on toward the village of Giebelstadt where I stayed with friends in the (now disused) US army barracks in 1999. Along the way we stopped to have a bite to eat at a little bakery in Fuchsstadt where I accidentally knocked over the bakery's sandwich board with my right pannier.

The bakery in Fuchsstadt.



Unfortunately I couldn't find the barracks—it seems they were knocked down after the US army abandoned the base so we topped up with petrol and started moving in the direction of Aachen.

Still not feeling my best we stopped more often than usual, in one place on the side of a farm road where we were approached by a very excited black dog and a farmer woman who spoke German with the strangest accent I've heard. I don't think she saw tourists often and was interested in hearing where we'd been and how long we'd been travelling.

Happy pup.



Rural farm road.



By 5pm I was done for the day, finding it increasingly difficult to focus on the road so it was time to find a place to spend the night. My phone picked up the Urberacher Hof 20km away in Urberach which was favourably rated and only €50 for the night.

When we arrived I have to admit I would have taken the room even if it was lined with cockroaches but it was a wonderfully quirky and slightly kitsch mum-and-daughter operation with a homely atmosphere.

The owners allowed me to park in their back garden for added security.



We had dinner at the gasthaus which specialised in pub-style food.

The gasthaus.



Perhaps boring to look at but one of the most delicious salads I've had recently.



Half a deep fried chicken with chips—this is what holidays are about.



The view from our table.



Bellies full it was time to get some sleep and hopefully shake off my nasty cold.
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Old 07-06-2013, 07:40 AM   #38
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Day 12 - Urberach to Antwerp

The Urberacher Hof was another highlight of the trip—Gisela and her mother Margarete were fantastic hosts. We were treated to a full classic German breakfast and then personally seen off when we left. Definitely worth a stay.

Milka muffins for breakfast.



A bit of memorabilia from a Canadian icon—in central Germany!



The weather was threatening to rain but fortunately never followed through and before long the clouds parted. I said it before, but Germany is made for motorbiking, the roads are excellent and the speed limits are realistic enough that you can have fun without risking your licence.

A mum-n-pops petrol station.



Splashy.



We soon headed off the main road onto a twisty, narrow route through the forested hills.

During the climb, a beautiful cathedral appeared.



We stopped in a tiny farming village for a quick rest. Maybe being used to dirty old London our standards are low but Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany were shockingly clean everywhere, no rubbish to be seen.

Old tudor style farmhouses, some in better condition than others.



Around 5pm we reached Würselen (near Aachen), the unassuming home of FC Moto—and known for its excellent European mail order service selling all sorts of motorbiking gear. Indeed there was an overwhelming selection of everything from helmets to full body rigs.

Out front of FC Moto.



We slabbed it from Aachen across the bottom of the Netherlands, stopping briefly in Heerlen for chocolate sprinkles (a Dutch/Belgian thing) and on towards Antwerp.

We met up with Rango at a motorway exit just before Antwerp and followed him through some beautiful Belgian villages to his home where we met his wife and were treated to a delicious home cooked meal and local specialty beer. We stayed until late talking about our travels and life in general. It was a real pleasure and a great way to spend the evening—thank you Rango for inviting us to your home!

We rode the short distance to Antwerp where we stayed in our first chain hotel of the trip—the Scandic Hotel Antwerpen. But the price was right and the night manager let me park underneath the hotel for security in the staff area. Even the chain hotels can be accommodating when you travel by bike.

Still not over my cold I didn't even unpack the panniers, it was straight to bed for the night.
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Old 07-06-2013, 09:05 AM   #39
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Day 13 - Antwerp to London

I'll say one thing about the chain hotels—they do good international breakfasts. We were presented with a buffet-style spread (smorgasbord?) covering everything from fresh fruit to salad to scrambled eggs.

During breakfast the woman at the next table loaded up on two full plates of breakfast, and then made herself an enormous sandwich which she wrapped in a napkin and hid in her handbag. Naughty.

Our Eurotunnel ticket was for 6:20pm so we decided to taken the rural roads back to Calais since the journey would have only taken 2 hours by motorway.

Someplace between Antwerp and Ghent.



The same place, looking the other way.



Along the way we stopped in Brugge for lunch at an Egyptian restaurant I've been to a few times in the past—Toet Anch Amon—located 30m away from the Friet Museum (and free motorbike parking). It's interesting how owners of small restaurants remember people who have come in before, as was the case this time. The last time I ate there was more than a year ago.

A museum all about chips!



London was calling so we slabbed it the last hour to the Eurotunnel terminal and arrived nearly 3 hours before our scheduled departure time. The Eurotunnel operates a flexible system allowing people to depart up to 2 hours before or after the scheduled time at no charge. The theory is to prevent people from driving dangerously to make their crossing.

With motorcycles it's even more flexible, as the people directing traffic simply radio ahead to the train and squeeze you on the next available crossing regardless of the schedule time.

After speaking with an extremely cheery border officer we made our way to the shuttle and crossed 2 1/2 hours early.

View from inside the shuttle as we left Calais—train yards are not exactly eye candy.



In situ for the crossing.



A panorama of the carriage.



Coming out on the Folkestone side we beelined it straight to London dodging the sloppy UK drivers most notably in South East London. Unscathed we arrived and got straight on the phone for takeaway before checking out for the night.
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Old 07-06-2013, 10:12 AM   #40
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Gear and how it held up

Mechanical:
  • BMW F800GS Trophy with OEM aluminium panniers and usual bits - new rear pads €66 at BMW Motorrad in Kaprun Austria (nearly ready for replacement at the start of the trip)
  • Heidenau K60 Scouts - about 50% tread at the start, now about 20% tread
  • various tools + tyre irons/spare tube - not used
  • DRC mini foot pump - not used
  • chain lube - used daily 1–2x
Electronics:
  • GoPro Hero3 - no issues (but battery life is horrible)
  • Nikon D-SLR + 2 lenses, polarising filters and speedlight - no issues, excellent battery life (at 75% after 500 shots)
  • SPOT Connect - absolutely rubbish, see below
  • BMW Navigator IV GPS - no issues, but software really needs a 'navigate to route' function to join up on pre-programmed routes... currently the only option is to navigate to start of route so you are on your own to find your way to a point along the route
  • Sena Bluetooth SMH-5 intercom - no issues, see below
  • iPhone 5 - no issues, Booking Tonight app was immensely useful
  • iPad 2 with camera connection kit and compact bluetooth keyboard - no issues, although not really needed along with laptop
  • DIN to 3x USB adapter with device cables - no issues, only used once as devices charged each evening in hotels
  • Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries + USB charger - not used (see below re SPOT Connect)
  • MacBook Air (work laptop) - no issues
Misc:
  • bike documentation/insurance - required, but not used
  • passports - only used to re-enter UK
  • St Christopher talisman - clearly it worked, we got back in one piece!
  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) - required, but not used
  • bank/credit cards + driving licence - see below
  • emergency map - not used
  • personal hygiene items + ear plugs
  • carrier bags - for dirty laundry, wet gloves etc
  • small gifts for friends/family
Me:
  • Icon Patrol waterproof jacket/trousers/gloves + Variant helmet and spare visor - see below
  • TCX X-Desert waterproof boots - no issues, dry feet all the way!
  • Caterpillar shatterproof safety sunglasses - no issues
  • CamelBak 1.5l hydration pack - apart from a plastic taste to the water for the first few days, this was much more used than I thought it would be, wouldn't travel without it now
  • spare non-waterproof gloves - no issues
  • t-shirts/vests, shorts, cargos, trainers, underwear, socks
Zev:
  • BMW Boulder 2 jacket with waterproof liner/City 2 trousers - no issues, whomever BMW commissions to make their gear does it well and it is up to the task
  • Hein Gericke gloves - no issues
  • Shark S500 helmet - no issues, although not a particularly quiet helmet
  • Icon Patrol waterproof boots - no issues
  • waterproof over-suit - cheap and nasty and performed as expected at its price point
  • shirts/vests, shorts, jeans, shoes, underwear, socks

SPOT Connect
The biggest disappointment of the trip with respect to gear—YES I know it says on their website that they recommend using special Energizer Lithium batteries but what they don't say is that other batteries either don't work at all, or only last an hour or so. The special Energizers are virtually impossible to find anywhere in Europe. Top that off with constant Bluetooth connectivity issues (phone and device stop talking) and a stupid app on the phone which needs to be in the foreground or the unit stops sending tracking points, and you have a product that would do better smashed at the bottom of a rocky Alpine chasm than on my next trip. Infuriatingly disappointing after wasting a shitload of cash on this plus another shitload of cash on the subscription fees. And the map sharing function on their website works like something from 1999. In 2013 devices should not be such a struggle—are you listening SPOT? Built-in battery, USB charging and up-to-date software should not be too much to ask for a 'premium' product.

Sena SMH-5 Bluetooth headset/intercom
This was the quiet star of the show—from hot to cold, and rain to snow these little units never stopped, never gave any problem at all. They are the least expensive units in Sena's range but well-featured and support multiple bluetooth connections, so GPS instructions, mobile phone, music player and intercom functions all work as expected. Battery life is fantastic, with the intercom open all day they last nearly 2 days on a charge, and charge via USB. This is an example of a device that does what it should do without any fuss. Are you listening, SPOT?

Icon Patrol Raiden gear + Variant helmet
Couldn't be more pleased, it's not particularly expensive gear compared to some but it is well constructed, fits me perfectly and works as advertised. I've shelled out a bit extra to replace the stock, unremarkable pads with D3O versions (CE Level 2) but otherwise it is as shipped. I stayed completely dry through all sorts of rain, with one exception—a bit of dampness seeping through the undersides of the trousers after 2 hours of downpour including an hour on the French motorway. The Variant helmet shape is also great in rain as the airflow combined with the peak keeps the visor clear of rain, and in hot weather it is the best ventilated helmet I've had to date. A lot of people seem to have an aversion to brighter coloured gear but to be blunt I don't and whatever makes people see me means one less person to plough into me on the road. Too bright for you? They make their gear in black also. And the hood is great when you take off the helmet on a rainy day. Doesn't flap at speed either.
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Old 07-06-2013, 04:50 PM   #41
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Good knowing you made it back to base all right.
And timely: saturday was a hellish day as all roads were congested with sun and fun seekers, aka traffic jammers.


Some serious debriefing there.
The issue with SPOT is alarming, especially as it is supposed to have an emergency function.
Not good having a problem with that equipment alone on an Alp with a breakdown!


The Frietmuseum.
That is the "official" one. The other one, more informal is in Antwerp.
Even cooler: it is above a friterie and you can have your frites upstairs wandering through the exhibition.
A tip for the future
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Old 07-06-2013, 05:46 PM   #42
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Stunning report! Thanks so much for posting this. There is much to be learned from your trip ... I'm gonna take a bunch of notes!
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Old 07-07-2013, 06:12 AM   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rango View Post

Good knowing you made it back to base all right.
And timely: saturday was a hellish day as all roads were congested with sun and fun seekers, aka traffic jammers.


Some serious debriefing there.
The issue with SPOT is alarming, especially as it is supposed to have an emergency function.
Not good having a problem with that equipment alone on an Alp with a breakdown!


The Frietmuseum.
That is the "official" one. The other one, more informal is in Antwerp.
Even cooler: it is above a friterie and you can have your frites upstairs wandering through the exhibition.
A tip for the future
Thanks and it was such a pleasure to meet you. Thank you also for such a delicious casserole also!

I've had a chance to calm down a bit about the SPOT Connect - I still stand by what I said but the experience would have been far more favourable if I'd stocked up on the correct type of battery before my trip. Apart from the annoying bluetooth connectivity issues, when it was working it did its job, but as you mention, it's not helpful if you can't get it powered up when you really need it.

Next time I'm out that way I will definitely take the time to see the museum!
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Old 07-07-2013, 06:13 AM   #44
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Stunning report! Thanks so much for posting this. There is much to be learned from your trip ... I'm gonna take a bunch of notes!
Thanks - glad you enjoyed the report! Although I wish I was still travelling (experiencing post-holiday blues at the thought of settling back into everyday 9-5 life from tomorrow). Looking forward to the next one.
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Old 07-07-2013, 06:21 AM   #45
Osprey70
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Joined: Jun 2013
Location: Switzerland
Oddometer: 9
Thumb Thanks for useful report!

Makes me want to ride out. Thank you!
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