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Old 08-17-2013, 10:42 PM   #1
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Colorado BDR Family Trip (or, Ma & Pa take the boys on vacation)

Yep, time for that time-honored tradition, the Family Summer Vacation.

Some teaser photos:




































Dramatis Personae:



Me, 4Rider, your host, Susie, fearless Adventure Partner of 30+ years, sons Mike & Sean


Steve (our first time riding together)


Matt, aka Snooker, X-Country Guru, Enduro Rider, Colorado Local



The Lead-up to the trip:

Last winter my wife and one of my sons took me to one of the premier showings of the Colorado Backcountry Discover Route Documentary at BMW Motorcycles of Riverside in Southern California. At the end of the showing Susie flatly stated that we should plan a ride on the COBDR sometime later in the year, like maybe when the weather was agreeable. Mike agreed. Sounds like a plan, right?

Well, we did have a few minor details to sort out, like acquiring a couple of more suitable bikes, outfitting them, upgrading panniers, GPS units, riding gear and a few other small, little things. No problem. Let the research begin.

First, when to go. So, history suggests that the high Colorado passes don’t reliably clear of snow/ice and open until mid-summer (remember, we are from So Cal where summer generally starts in mid-February and ends sometime around Thanksgiving). There is also this pesky little “Monsoon Season” we’ve heard about that means rain and mud. Fortunately, the monsoon rains “dependably” end by late July. So a plan is born…..a family trip to the COBDR in early August when we can depend on good weather, temperate conditions and a dry route.

We mentioned our plan to a number of riding friends, many of who expressed interest, but in the end it’s only our family of 4 (4Rider, get it? Never mind) plus one acquaintance committed the trip. A Colorado Inmate, Snooker, also told us that he would try to meet us somewhere along the route for a day or two

No boring details, so fast-forward to July. Prep almost complete. Much money spent, bikes ready, gear ready, credit-cards ready, what more could we need?

Jump-off day, August 5th, give or take a day or so. Weather check…..still some lingering wetness in Colorado, but all looks good for the week of our trip.


The plan-

Tarmac to Colorado to check out a friend’s house in Salida (another story all in itself), more tarmac to the 4-corners area, meet Steve in Cortez, ride, camp, eat, photograph, and ride some more. Stay on the dirt (rocks, talus, mud etc). Find Wyoming

Coming into and crossing Colorado we seem to be skirting a wee line of thunderstorms and encounter quite a bit of rain for the supposed dry-season. Torrential rain. Canoes in the streets, cars floating by, head-for-high-ground kind of rain.

More rain on the road down, but, Cortez is dry, and the forecast suggests improving weather. Cool. We are first to arrive at the hotel, and Steve arrives a few hours later. Early departure scheduled for tomorrow!

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Old 08-17-2013, 11:23 PM   #2
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Wow! Great shots, Mark!

Can't wait for more!
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Old 08-18-2013, 02:27 PM   #3
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First day on the trail

Monday morning and time to get off-pavement and into the heart of the COBDR. Up early, bikes loaded, breakfast done, Lets go. I think I mentioned that this would be our first time riding with Steve. We have been riding as a family for quite a while.





Susie and the boys when little






A few years later





Sean then






Sean now





Mike then





Mike now

Suffice it to say, we've been riding together for quite a while. Poor Steve had to figure out how to fit in, and elected to ride at the back of the herd.


The COBDR leaves Cortez on pavement, winds through Delores, then turns off-road and almost immediately into an area named “Boggy Draw”. Now, some places have a name that is just a name, but Boggy Draw is named because it is, well, its a bog located deep in a draw



The start of Boggy Draw & different packing philosophys

While I imagine Boggy Draw is generally a little soft, humid and spongy, after 3-weeks of daily rain Boggy Draw was a real bog


Yup, its a bog

The first clue should have been the OHV/ATV signs at the trailhead. The mud was deep, gooey and frequent as Boggy Drawn wound its way through the forest. We encountered lots of cattle, some more cooperative than others, and several gates to open and close as we passed, all in the mud. Fortunately, the true bog didn't last too many miles, and the track soon popped out onto a utility right-of-way that, if steep, was blissfully rocky and mostly dry



Utility right-of-way

The route climbs over a number of small ridges, into stretches of forest and open meadows, frequently with mud and standing water



After a steepish descent through another stretch of boggy forest, the track pops out onto a nicely graded gravel road and heads towards Groundhog Reservoir.





The road wends it way through ranch land for a number of easy miles, complete with sweeping vistas.





A welcome break after Boggy Draw



We never saw a road grader, but they had obviously been at work recently as the road was nearly perfect.



Notice the scowl. Some people are just hard to please.......


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Old 08-18-2013, 02:42 PM   #4
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OK, gotta answer a couple of questions about our gear



In the photos you may have noticed quite a difference in how our bikes are packed. Susie, Sean and I are using the Walter Colebatch
(Sibursy Extreme fame) designed Magadan Panniers as shown above. Susie's are mounted on a frame I custom made specifically to keep the bags as close to the bike, and as low as possible, keeping her bike as stable as possible. She is using a Wolfman Tailbag, mostly to carry snacks and food for the group, as shown below.



My bags are mounted on a set of racks from Erik Bok of Hot Rod Welding fame, another Colebatch-influenced/proven design purpose built for the BMW X-Bikes. You can also see the Hot Rod Welding X-Tank auxiliary fuel cells on both bikes. I have a Wolfman Mini Beta bag across the back to carry a tent, Kermit Chair and a few other essentials.

Sean's Magadan bags are mounted to the stock KLR 650 racks, and fit very nicely. The bags hug the bike, mount low and proved very secure and stable throughout the trip. He also has a Mini-Beta across the back



Mike is using a set of "Dirt Bagz" Ranger Panniers on a combination of a standard Dirt Bagz rack on the left, and a custom rack on the right side that I fabricated to allow room for the auxiliary fuel tank. Again, he is using a Mini-Beta across the rear



We had not seen Steve's arrangement before he arrived in Cortez. I am not certain who manufactured his racks, panniers, tailbag or other luggage, and to be honest, I'd not seen anything similar to what he had ever before. Perhaps he will comment on his luggage arrangement



Steve also had three Contour HD video cameras, one on his helmet, and one each hard-mounted facing forward and backward, and would attempt to record the entire trip in Hi-Def.


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Old 08-18-2013, 02:59 PM   #5
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Ground Hog reservoir and beyond

Ok, we are headed to Ground Hog Reservoir and PB&J's for lunch (wonder if the DVD/Documentary spiked her sales of Skippy, grape jelly and wonderbread?)

As I mentioned, the views were magnificent, but as you can see, the clouds are building and some thunder storms are starting to pop.




We stopped a mile or two before the reservoir for a photo op, keeping a wary eye on the build-ups. No worries though, right? This is the Colorado dry-season............



We saddled up and headed to the reservoir. A short time later I noticed that Mike, bringing up the rear, was no where in sight. U-turn and ride back, and I find him with a dead bike. Turn the key, the computer starts to boot up and then shuts down. We decide to tow him to the reservoir and sort out the problem there while everyone else has lunch. Sorry, no photos, but we use the foot-peg to foot-peg off-set towing method, and had no issues towing him the mile or two to the lake.

The X-bikes have a known issue with occasional poor quality solder joints on the ignition switch, so we thought we knew where to look for the problem, but the solder joints were intact. Some dis-assembly, some tinkering and experimenting, and we determine that the ignition switch is positional, but can be coerced into working. Back in business, and head on towards Telluride.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:18 PM   #6
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On towards Telluride

Leaving Groundhog you climb back up into the forest, across some ridges and head towards Telluride. As the day progressed, the storms continued to build, and the sky, while threatening, was magnificent





Yeah, I know, those photos are almost the same, but I could not make up my mind which one to post, so you get them both.

The road and riding conditions were very good, with only the occasional water hole or muddy area to contend with.



The tracks takes you from forest to meadow, and back into forest.



There were increasing signs that it had been raining in the area



There was one last climb up and over a minor pass before Telluride. Near the top the skyline views opened up, and if possible, became more spectacular







Even Sean appeared awe-struck and unable to contain his enthusiasm

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Old 08-18-2013, 03:33 PM   #7
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End of the day

Its hard to make progress when you have to keep stopping to get that perfect shot



The terrain and views start to change as you approach the descent into Telluride



Descending into the valley take you back into the forest, and the trees start to change as well



As we arrived in Telluride it was obvious that the storms were almost finished building, and about to dump out. We grabbed some fuel and headed back up into the forest to looks for a campsite, having been warned that mere mortals simply cannot afford lodging in Telluride. Our intent was to primitive camp, but as rain and lightning were imminent, we pulled into a forest service campground, grabbed a couple of sites, and scurried to get tents up just as a truly massive thunder storm dumps down on top of us.

The storm eventually passed, dehydrated meals were consumed, and day one was complete. But not before Sean issued Thor his "is that the best you can do" challenge.



In retrospect, I'd tell Sean to be more careful what you ask for.
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Old 08-18-2013, 08:52 PM   #8
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On to the Ophir Pass, a short report

After a night of rumbling thunder and just a bit more rain, we woke to somewhat cloudy skies. Confident as last night's weather forecast called for dryer conditions and improving weather, we packed up the bikes and headed out. A quick trip down towards Telluride for some provisions, and then on towards Ophir Pass, intending to ride a series of the higher passes culminating in California Pass at just short of 13,000 feet, with Lake City as the destination for the night.

As we turned off towards the hamlet of Ophir the weather appeared to be closing in somewhat. The partly cloudy skies had become almost totally overcast.

Above Ophir, the route climbs sharply up into the mountains, following what I'd best describe as a rugged jeep road. The conditions were quite wet, often muddy, clearly affected by last night's torrential rain. On the way up we ran into several groups of Adventure Bikes, but none of the riders seemed interested in stopping or chatting, and all clearly appeared to be intent on getting down the mountain. Eventually we broke out of the forest road and the famous Ophir Pass climb began to come into view.



The ominous clouds added to the strangeness of the terrain to us lowlanders, and I was starting to have doubts about the weather-guesser's forecast of last night.

We continued to climb, and came to what appeared to be the meat of the Ophir Pass climb



The COBDR film and all of the photos I've seen, including my very humble efforts in this report, just completely fail to convey the steepness, ruggedness and incredible scale of the mountain passes, the pass roads and the terrain in the Colorado passes.



Mike, Sean and Susie look barely larger than little rocks in the photo above, and perhaps give you some idea of the scale of the terrain on Ophir Pass



Now, we'd been warned to avoid the San Juan's on weekends, especially late in the day, when the trails can become clogged with rental Jeeps and ATV's from each and every town in the area. Here early on a Tuesday morning we had hoped for a quiet, traffic-less journey, but such was not the case. As we continued upwards we encountered a steady stream of vehicles coming down the hill, and began to notice vehicles in the distance behind us.

The trail steepens as you near the summit of the pass, and we broke out of the top of the tree-line. The ruts and talus stones in and on the road get bigger, deeper and more daunting, and you really begin to feel like you are "out there" in the mountains.




In the photo above you can see some kind of 4x4 close on Steve's heels. The last three "pitches" up to the top of the pass are even steeper and more rugged that the rest, and this is where things went bad for Steve.

Now, I have to apologize as I have no photos to share of most of the rest of the day, so I'll try to be brief in explaining what occurred over then next few hours. On the third pitch from the top of the pass, a large hole was excavated across the road, surrounded by piles of large talus stones and loose scree. As we climbed that pitch, a large group of Jeeps stopped at the next switchback to give us room to pass (the trails is barely one vehicle-width wide in this section). At the next switchback a large group of riders on pure dirt bikes, KTM XC-W's and the like, had also stopped to watch. We all had to stop mid-slope as we negotiated the rutted hole one by one. Mike and Sean made it up to the last switchback, and I assisted Susie through as well. I looked up, half-way expecting to see the Jeeper and other riders to be holding up score cards rating our efforts.

As I started up to ride through this stretch, Steve asked me to wait a short ways up as he didn't know if he could get moving in the loose scree. I rode up to the next switchback and parked, and turned just in time to see Steve astride his bike, sliding backwards down the hill apparently unable to brake and stop, and then saw as he fell heavily. By the time I walked down the hill a couple of Jeep occupants had walked up to assist Steve, and that was when I realized just how heavily his KLR was loaded, as it took 3 of us to get his bike back upright. After a few minutes of re-attaching bags and gear, Steve got back on the bike, but could not get traction to proceed, and needed a couple of us to push to get him moving.

And the next pitch looks to be much more steep and rugged........
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Old 08-18-2013, 09:51 PM   #9
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Why we carry JB Weld

Again, sorry for the lack of photos. Once up to a flat spot, Steve stopped to regroup, and I rode up the next pitch to meet up with the rest of the group. We stood and talked with the dirt bike riders for a while, a nice group of gents from Missouri and points east as I recall, and enviously eyed their ultra-light bikes considering the conditions.

After a while, Steve rode up the hill, made the switchback and continued up the final pitch, a long, steep, narrow talus grade. As he headed up, several Jeeps started down from the top. About 1/2 way up, maybe 400 or 500 yards up the pitch, we lost sight of Steve. Moving to a better vantage point it appeared that he had gone down, but we could not seem him above the bank of the road. One of the descending Jeeps stopped by Steve, got out and appeared to be helping him get up. With the Jeeps blocking the single-lane, we could not ride up to assist, and waited for one of the Jeeps to come down to fill us in on the details. When they did, we learned that Steve had gone down on a rock pile, and had holed his engine case, and was losing oil.

Mike rode up to check on Steve and render assistance. After a bit, Mike waived us up the hill and we rode up, stopping briefly to check to see what tools, parts or assistance was needed.

Long story made short, Steve had cracked his Stator cover, lost an unknown amount of oil, had stripped the luggage off his bike, laid it over and was starting a field repair with JB Weld, the tube kind, not the two part putty stick type. We parked at the top, walked back down and began hauling his luggage up the hill by hand Always the thinker, Susie sweet-talked a passing SUV driver and secured transport of the heaviest of the bags, and scored a ride for herself as well.


Parked near the top of the pass, working on lugging Steve's bags up to the top


We talked to other travelers and took a couple of photos while waiting for Steve's JB repair to set up



Family Photo. Did I mention that it was getting breezy and just a bit chilly?


Steve's repair took a while. A long while, close to 2-hours. By this time the weather had further deteriorated, yet another thunder-cell was approaching with ugly looking rain beneath, and it was time to get off the top of the mountain. I made a strategic decision and decided to head down the backside of Ophir Pass, to the highway, and towards Ouray to find accommodations and a suitable place to assess Steve's bike and make repairs.


The other side of Ophir Pass


We rode down the back side of the pass to the highway without incident, and began the ride into Ouray. About half-way down the hill to Ouray, Steve pulled to the side of the road and stopped. I stopped to check on what was up, and he told me that it appeared that his bike was having electrical problems and not charging. It would start and run, so we continued on to Ouray. Susie found perhaps the last hotel room in town for Steve, and a sympathetic hotel clerk directed her to a friend's in-home B&B for the rest of us.

While we had not planned on visiting Ouray, it turned out to be one of highlights of the trip. The town is scenic, the people friendly, and the B&B owners directed us at a nice, cozy, warm and dry Irish Pub for a hearty dinner. The B&B owners turned out to be the most hospitable, welcoming and accommodating hosts you can imagine. They made room in their garage for us to spread out our soaked gear to dry, didn't bat an eye at our wet, muddy appearance, and did all they could to make us feel welcomed and at home. They even invited Steve to come over to join us for breakfast in the morning, and what a breakfast it was.

Grand Marnier French toast, a huge tray of egg, vegetables, ham and sausage scramble, and freshly prepared, whipped-cream, strawberry and blueberry stuffed crepe's greeted us in the morning. Our hosts, Connie and Greg, really went all-out, and I highly recommend you stay with them if you make it to Ouray. They welcome motorcycles and adventure riders and will take care of you during your stay. You can find them here:

http://www.bridalveilbandb.com/



Connie and Greg

At breakfast Steve informed us that he needed to head back to Montrose to the Kawasaki dealership to try to sort his bike out, and would be leaving us for the time being. If the bike can be repaired, he will join us later in the trip.

I know Steve was very disappointed as he headed off towards Montrose.

Stuffed from the breakfast, we packed up the bikes, donned our somewhat drier gear, and prepared to head back up the hill to rejoin the COBDR track to tackle the highest passes of the trip. This is the part of the trip I think I'll call "Thors revenge"...........
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Old 08-18-2013, 10:29 PM   #10
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Great report Mark and very nice pics.
I get the idea though, that that list you sent me with the best times of the year (weatherwise) to come over for a ride, can be scrapped

Eagerly awaiting the rest of the report
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Old 08-19-2013, 07:13 PM   #11
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Great report Mark and very nice pics.
I get the idea though, that that list you sent me with the best times of the year (weatherwise) to come over for a ride, can be scrapped

Eagerly awaiting the rest of the report
Thanks Erik. And if you can find the time to come across the pond for a visit, we can always find somewhere to ride with agreeable weather. I'd think that a little rain, sleet and snow would only serve to make you feel right at home anyway....
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Old 08-19-2013, 09:07 PM   #12
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Thor's Revenge

Having cut short our ride yesterday on Section 2 of the BDR, our plan for the day was to pick the route back up and head over the remaining series of high passes, including Corkscrew, California, Cinnamon, and then on to Lake City. The folks in Ouray suggested that we could expect good weather until early to mid-afternoon when we should expect the usual afternoon thunderstorms, so we hopped to make good progress early and to be down off the passes by mid-afternoon. Well, part of the plan worked.

Leaving Ouray you are on Colorado 550, climbing through spectacular country on curvy tarmac. The photo opportunities are almost limitless, but we only stopped once intending to get back onto dirt ASAP.


Imagine how this image would look with a little sunlight shining down!


Despite the assurances we had received regarding having good weather 'till mid-afternoon, no sun showed through the heavy cloud cover. If anything, the clouds appeared to be darker, lower and more ominous that yesterday.

Soon we reached the mining relics that mark the turnoff from 550 onto the BDR route, and we began climbing into the high country. We passed several groups of Jeep and other 4x4's as we headed up, but saw only a couple of other motorcycles all morning. As we climbed higher and neared the treeline, we noticed that the cloud bases were starting to obscure the higher terrain




We had ridden through some scattered rain, but the conditions were good and spirits were high




Sean is our "emotional lightning rod" on family adventures, and you can usually judge the group mood with a glance at his face





The scenery was still magnificent (running out of adjectives here) and we were getting our first views of the oh-so-colorful ridge lines that we anticipated to be one of the true highlights of the trip



The riding conditions were still very good, and completely dust-free



No one was interested in turning back, so we committed to continuing on to Lake City


Ready? Steady, lets go!


Enter Thor, God of Thunder.

Despite his challenge to the mythical deity a few nights earlier, Sean is actually a big fan of Thor, and has declared that he intends to name his first-born with that name. Of course, In Norse Mythology, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning and storms, hence Sean's challenge, one he should soon be rethinking.

Shortly after the photo above was taken, Thor returned to visit us with a vengeance. It began to rain, lightly for a while (about 1 minute), then intensifying to a steady downpour. This marked the end of the photos for the day as we were down to our last two cameras, and I was really not willing to expose the D200 to the elements.

For the rest of the day the weather steadily deteriorated. Or perhaps we just continued riding further and further into the worst of it. The temperature dropped slowly but steadily, and it was quite cool on top of corkscrew and the subsequent passes. As we approached California pass the sound of the rain on my helmet noticeably changed, and I realized that it had turned to hail, fine hail at first, but soon to pea-sized and larger. Near the top of California the noise of hail on helmet softened although it was still clearly falling. What is this? No, it couldn't be, but it certainly was.......falling snow.......in August........in the Colorado Dry Season.

While we were all wearing good rain-proof gear and layers of insulation, it wasn't long before we were feeling the chill. Remember, we are So Cal folk, hearty in nature, and generally comfortable anytime the temperatures are anywhere between, oh say, 68 and 78 degrees, but the very cool temps took us by surprise.

Sincerely, it was cold. Wet and cold. We stopped briefly at the markers on each of the passes, but the rain was relentless and we didn't risk a camera to take any images. The base of the clouds also continued to lower, so our views of the incredible scenery was often limited to a murky circle 100' or so feet in diameter. There were times when we had trouble keeping the rider ahead in sight, and had to stop and group up at each intersection in the trail.

We continued on to the Animas Forks Mine Ghost Town where we stopped to change gloves and have a snack. We took shelter in a little shack on the side of the road looking up at the famous Victorian House above. While it was still raining steadily, it appeared that there were workers up on top of the Victorian house, possibly installing a new roof? Definitely some kind of preservation work was going on.

The riding over the passes had been a little intense. Maybe even challenging at times. Fortunately most of the track is quite rocky as riding over wet rocks is infinitely preferable to riding through mountain mud. There was a lot of erosion along the road, mini-streams running down the center of the road in places, and a few minor wash-outs in places, but all-in-all the conditions were quite good considering the steady rain. I have to put a plug in for the Michelin T63 and Heidenau Scout tires we were using on the X-Bikes. At no time did I feel that traction and grip were a big issue throughout the ride, and Susie and Mike felt the same way.

The ride from Animal Forks down to Lake City was more mellow, mostly nice fairly well maintained and well-traveled gravel road, and our progress towards town was good. Our intent was again to camp somewhere near Lake City, but nothing was available around Lake San Cristobal, and by the time we reached Lake City the idea of riding back through the rain up into the forest to find a primitive camping site just wasn't appealing. We asked and checked what we were told was the only camping site in/near town, but they had no available spaces. We were directed to the Matterhorn Motel, described as the nicest place in town, and probably the only place that accepts one-night guests, and took the last available room.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening trying to dry out some of our sopping gear, had a surprisingly good dinner at the Lake City Cafe, and called it a day.
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Old 08-19-2013, 09:41 PM   #13
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Sweet pics!
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Old 08-20-2013, 04:48 AM   #14
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Old 08-20-2013, 05:12 AM   #15
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475+ Bridges in Illinois,
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PAVED ROADS...... ANOTHER PERFECT EXAMPLE OF NEEDLESS, SPENDING BY THE GOVERNMENT"
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