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Author Topic: 1994 - My parents 11,000 mile ride report from SoCal to the Old Dominion  (Read 1755 times)

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Offline Virginian

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I'm attempting to resurrect some old ride reports from my mom. It has been a challenge to say the least to get this posted because of technological difficulties transferring typed ride reports that were typed on a typewriter and scanned using optical character recognition (OCR) over to a PDF file. Some of the word separation happened during the scan and I fixed some of the blatant mistakes.

This trip takes place back in 1994 and my parents set out to bring their bikes from Orange County, CA to Virginia via Canada. Wow, 24 years ago now. Time sure flies... This was my parent’s last ride report for which there were many told through the eye’s of a woman in her 60’s traveling with her husband who was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Anyway, through some encouragement from DantesDame on st.n I posted this ride report there a long time ago. We're on the tail end of winter and riding season is right round the corner. It is my wish that some of you have something enjoyable to read on this day.

If it is well received then I will haunt her some more to write about other trips and scan old slides (when is the last time you saw a slide let alone convert it to a digital file?) Many of their pics got lost in the moves over the years so sadly I/we only have a handful to share. Anne is a much more eloquent writer then I'll ever hope to be...

Her comments: "Hi - if it is well received, I wrote up every tour we took - the Alps, New Zealand, Scandinavia, the UK etc.   They are all typed on an IBM, but can be handled like this story was.  Yours for the asking - momma'

Well on with the ride report! Meet Anne, a very accomplished rider, compassionate and strong woman...

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

WEST TO EAST THROUGH CANADA

On August 5th, Flip and I padlocked the garage, lifted our legs over the big packs on the back of the bikes, and gave each other a high five before pulling out of the drive. I think we both had a sense that it was a landmark moment in our lives, embarking on this trip we had talked of doing for years, and for which we had spent most of 1994 in preparation. Flip was on a 1991 BMW K1OORS with the hard bags, multivario, a big Rev Pak seat pack on the back of the Corbin gunfighter seat, and a large touring windscreen attached with Velcro to the stock RS pairing. He also had a gallon can of gas bungeed on the rear of the K because we planned on going to some remote areas, and I didn't have the range we would have liked. I was on a used Honda Magna selected for this trip, set up for touring with heavy leather saddlebags, a big sissy bar pack, a duffle bag encased in a waterproof rafting bag and bungeed across the passenger seat, a magnetic tankbag, and a Rifle Sport fairing up front. We both had dozens of small items squirreled away, not the least of which were duplicate 5" stacks of maps, an awesome first aid kit, and a lot of film. We had 7 watt Motorola radios to talk bike-to-bike, with microphone and speakers installed in our helmets, which were marvelous when they worked, but had some problems over the long haul. We also took along a cellular phone with it's recharging base - it was a nuisance and proved unnecessary, but it seemed like a good precaution. Both bikes were very heavy indeed, and I was thankful my feet were flat on the ground on the Magna. We had clothing to cover anything we might encounter en route from Nevada in August to Newfoundland in October; I layered it on and off, and Flip wore his Aerostitch for everything but sleeping and loved it. He had an REI compression sack which could reduce it to a small lump of 20 lbs that would stow in the Rev Pak, but he rarely took the suit off.

How do you begin to tell about a trip of two months and 11,500 miles? I can only rave about the highlights, snivel about the bad times, and philosophize that the former almost never come without the latter. But we all knew that, didn't we? We had no firm plans regarding the route we would take, but carried photocopies of past Rider magazine articles which reviewed great roads in every state and Canada, and which we reread as we approached those areas. There were also roads to avoid, and we knew full well that crossing the Nevada desert in August fell in that class; I had some doubts whether I could even do it. I took along an old sweat shirt, and by the time we reached Barstow I was already in a station restroom soaking it and donning the dripping thing. We carried a gallon jug of water and poured it over ourselves at about 50 mile intervals if a source of tap water wasn't available. The Cool Snake was a godsend, but dried out before 100 miles, and everytime we stopped for a cold drink I soaked mine in a ziploc bag of water. Flip kept the Aerostitch on over his wet clothing and found that okay; I wore leathers over my wet shirt and pants and finally even poured water into my shoes to put out the foot fire. We staggered into St. George and agreed we couldn't have gone further.

After that auspicious start I was wondering if Utah was going to be more of the same, but after 118 degrees, a drop to 105 feels downright nice. Utah was its usual wide, blazing red self - I don't have to describe it, most of you have been there. We moved like ants thru Zion and Capital Reef, overnighted in Green River, then half a day in Arches Nat'l Mon.
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I wish we could have seen more of Utah - another time, its close by. We cruised on to Colorado, passing thru Durango, Ouray, a side trip to Crested Butte, and over the 11,312' Monarch Pass...
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I began to lose track of the five digit passes we climbed. Marvelous scenery that makes you start thinking "we should move here" until you realize it's been a long time since you saw a Home Depot, or any store for that matter. There's more to life than grand scenery. We skirted Denver, headed north towards Boulder via Estes Park and some of the most rugged mountains I've been in outside the Alps. Blasted across Wyoming to Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons, then into Yellowstone where we had our first disappointment of the trip. The park roads are in a sorry state and it was brutal riding even with loaded bikes. The charred acres from the fires of some five years back are still ugly, none of it was worth putting up with the mobs of tourists, and we exited north towards Cooke City with relief through some gorgeous country we hadn't expected. Cooke City was an almost wild west town, and it's most exciting feature was it had a real Laundromat; at some point happiness boils down to clean clothes.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2018, 05:31:13 PM by Virginian »
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Offline Virginian

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Squeaky clean and eager, we tackled the Beartooth Pass into Montana in the AM in brilliant sunshine, and it was stupendous - true alpine riding, a must-do for anyone passing that way. We were headed for Kalispell, where we wanted to get both bikes serviced at the BMW-Honda etc. dealer, and we had called two days ahead to get an appointment. When we arrived at the dealer, he said he had given up his BMW dealership but still had the tools, however it would be a week before he could take either bike. We were amazed & disgusted - Flip bought oil and filters for both bikes, and we took them around the corner to an independent Harley dealer, who dropped everything, read the manuals and did the work. We spent a night with a friend, and he rode to the gates of Glacier with us the next morning, but turned back since it's ho-hum for him.
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The park was beautiful, but tinged with disappointment because multiple forest fires in that corner of Montana were filling the views with smoke. He says fires are the norm in August, they live with smokey skies. We took him to dinner the second night, along with our Canadian maps to get his choice of roads to Jasper Nat'1 Park.
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We had intended to go north out of Kalispell, but he sent us due west to enter Canada at Eastport, and two hours of highspeed sweepers up the Kootenay River were a treat you should all keep in mind.

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We rode into Jasper with a thrill of anticipation, and it was everything we had hoped for. It was a crystal clear sunny day, and fast riding on broad roads walled with snow capped vistas and glaciers at every turn all day. We quickly discovered that even good Canadian roads have some frost heave which keeps you awake for sure, and we lived with it the rest of the trip; I soon caught on that my big pack would be occupying part of my seat when we both landed, but nothing would fall off. We had intended to do a loop west to Kamloops, but were talked out of it by a local Wing rider who said it was nothing great. We'll do the best of B.C. over to Vancouver some other time from California, the season was marching on. Saskatchewan was a dull prospect, and we gave Saskatoon a wide berth by working north from Edmonton to Prince Albert, passing thru rolling farm land sprinkled with the onion domes of Ukrainian churches. Then wanting the challenge of more lonely territory, we struck north to Flin Flon, a town which appeared to be the northernmost settlement that could be got to by paved road. The locals assured us it was paved, and it was - sorta. We got our first hard rain on our riskiest road - ain't that the way. We went for hours without seeing anything but pine trees that grew more and more stunted as we went north. Spruce bogs everywhere but no gas until we finally came to a lodge that catered to snowmobile riders in season. Flin Flon turned out to be a copper mining town and a polluted hole, but it was still interesting to have seen how northern Canada lives - a lot of nothing up there. Ended that day in The Pas, an Indian reservation, in one of our many weird motels, and abandoned plans to take another lonely road to Winnipeg, in favor of more food and gas. Overnighted in an area called Lake of The Woods, scores of little lakes buzzing with seaplanes arriving and departing with sport fishermen.

September 1st and bill-paying time coincided with our closest approach to the U.S. border, so we dipped across into Int'l Falls, Minn. and used 800 numbers to pick up the balances & mail checks with U.S. stamps. Back in Canada again, we blasted off for Thunder Bay, where we picked up the north shore of Lake Superior and had a terrific ride to Sault Ste. Marie with picture perfect wooded lakes dotting both sides of the road all day. This is apparently a famous route well known to bikers in the area. Traveling well north of Toronto, we headed cross country to Montreal, our plan being to get a motel on the outskirts and spend a day or two touring the city. We couldn't make it happen - got sucked into a black hole of rush hour traffic, passed thru a macerator of tunnels, bridges and signs in french, and were regurgitated out the north side of the city at 7PM on the banks St. Lawrence river, where we lucked into an entire charming apartment for one night. Morning brought pouring rain and we decided to hell with Montreal, we'll press on to Quebec. Stayed on a road at the edge of the river for one of the great days of the trip - charming trench villages with beautiful homes backing on the river and deserted road because everyone else takes the freeway between Montreal and Quebec. The rain let up, we found the perfect motel outside Quebec, and life was good.

The afternoon we arrived we immediately located the BMW dealer, who very conveniently had a Honda dealer across the street, and arranged for both bikes to have new rear tires installed the next day; 85 mph day after day really eats up the rubber. We booked a tour of the city with pick-up at our motel the next morning, and took the bikes in that afternoon, waiting while the work was done. Flip had a couple of problems with the K bike, a crack in the exhaust where the header was welded to the mufflers, nothing to be done for that until we got to Virginia to order a replacement under warranty. And the tumbler on the locking gas cap was jamming in locked position, which was giving him considerable concern, as he was afraid he would end up in a gas station ripping the cap off with a crowbar to fill the bike. They swapped out the tumbler with a wrecked K they were cannibalizing. The entire encounter took place in French and sign language - no problem, but they're not kidding when they call it French Quebec. We spent two nights there, and could have lingered longer; it's a delightful city and a great jumping off place to ride the Gaspe Peninsula, our next undertaking.

Crossed the St. Lawrence and rode up the south side of the river all day, watching the far shore move away from us as it widened. This river is tidal, actually more of an enormous estuary than a true river, and with the tide out, the boulder-strewn bottom appears in many places. It was seriously cold, and even with electric vest and gloves I was barely warm, and I thought perhaps that this signaled the end of our trip was near.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2018, 05:17:02 PM by Virginian »
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Offline Virginian

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But it was a freak arctic front that gave way to warmer weather again. The Gaspe was fascinating - bleak, and blinding white fisherman's cottages at the water's edge, as was the road the whole day. Made it from Quebec to Fredericton, New Brunswick in a single grand day, and had an easy time getting a good motel at 6:30PM. Finding a room was only a problem on a few occasions - once because construction crews were working on a road in the area and had taken over every motel, and a few times because we were on such isolated roads there simply were no motels.

Riding over into Nova Scotia is when the real trials of this trip began heavy wind driving horizontal rain.
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We were feeling pretty we-can-handle anything by this time, but even our careful preparation for foul weather didn't keep us dry or safe in that kind of weather, and when my magnetic tankbag began flying into space on it's tether, we pulled over and agreed to cut the day short and hunt for shelter. It was a front that stalled and the next day was more of the same, so knowing when we were licked, we rented a car and carried on sightseeing; we talked of spending the day reading, but the riding season in that part of the world was drawing to a close and we still wanted to go around Cape Breton Island. After a day in the car, the filthy bikes cleaned up a bit and all our gear dried and repacked aboard, it felt great to get underway again. We blasted across Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Is. which is connected by causeway. It was a replay of the Gaspe Pen. without the French influence, and breathtaking views of the ocean actually became been-there-done-that.

At Sydney we had our moment of truth: we faced up to the fact that we really did want to cross to Newfoundland to ride the perimeter of that island, and in spite of the gray skies and constant threat of rain and wind, we decided to go for it. It was no minor decision - the boat fares were quite expensive, we didn't have maps, the boat got in at 11:00PM and we had no idea whether we could get a motel room when the boat docked (no doubt in pouring rain, it always rains when you put a motorcycle on or off a boat) We learned that from the boat landing to first civilization was 200 miles, which was intimidating because the Magna has an outside limit of 160 miles plus our gallon can of gas. So we went to a travel agency in Sydney, and asked them to book rooms for us the night before the boat went, the night it arrived, and the night before we would depart Newfoundland. We planned to go over on a Wed and catch the Sat boat back as it only ran twice a week, and we thought a full week might be more than we wanted. You arrive at the southwest corner of Newfoundland via a six hour boat trip, ride the single highway around the island to depart from the northeast corner via a 14 hour boat trip, weather cooperating. We booked the passages, and Flip bought two 30 foot pieces of heavy rope to tie down the bikes on the boats; we've learned from prior experience that nothing is provided for motorcycles but the same huge rusty chains with massive hooks used for trucks. Rode up the wet, greasy corrugated steel plates (yes it rained) into the boat, through the boat and out onto the open deck! We were a little alarmed, having heard wild tales of the crossings these boats make. Flip spent 45 min tying down our steeds - as you know, once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout. The boat might have sunk, but the bikes would have gone to the bottom standing upright.
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We actually found the motel in the dark, crashed dead beat, and got up the next morning to a full gale. The locals said it was blowing 60 km/hr which sounds even worse than mph, and a semi had been blown off the road we were planning to take. Had breakfast with a young man who was in Nfld for an eighth season to hunt caribou, and when he struck off into the wilds with a backpack we felt like wimps and decided to go for it. Also affecting that decision was the discovery that we could not rent any car in that town, and the weather was predicted to stay the same for four more days. We packed the bikes under the portico while the motel staff stood at the door watching the crazy Americans. The ride was scary, through barren, rocky scenery, on a blacktop road that had a river of water in each tire track, frost heave in the center, and that bad choice made more difficult by fogged visors streaming with water. We talked to each other on the radios, which was at least comforting. Never saw a car the entire trip, and finally came into a nice town called oddly, Cornerbrook, where we pulled into of all things, a Holiday Inn.

We were soaked to the skin, high on adrenaline, and damned glad to have arrived somewhere, anywhere. And then we had a most amusing thing occur three men 30-40 yrs old surrounded us as we climbed off the bikes, and began asking about our trip. They were Newfoundland bike riders, and so hungry to "talk motorcycles" they wouldn't let us go inside to even get a room. We stood there dripping, telling lies and kicking tires for an hour, while one urged us to come stay at his home, use his garage, etc. We got our first taste of the warm, welcoming Newfoundland personality. It was a unique experience, following on the heels of the awesome ride we had just taken. The weather the next day was a replay, so we rented a car and toured that corner of Nfld, a decision that was sound. We also changed our boat reservations for the return to a full week later. By the third day our gear had finally dried - a small rubber clothesline was a big help - and our morale was back up. We struck off in manageable rain and took on a peninsula, which is where all life can be found in Nfld. The small roads are punishing, and my arms felt like mush when we found a motel in a tiny village, sitting at the ocean's edge with waves pounding the rocks just outside the window of our room. Kind of a neat place, with a 6-table restaurant, the owner the cook for dinner and breakfast. He joined us at meals after serving, and we talked Newfoundland politics. He urged us to come back in the winter when the pack ice closed in just outside that bedroom window, or in July when the icebergs were floating past. I might just take him up on that.

We rode away from that lonely place in a downpour, and across miles of what can only be described as arctic tundra, actually glacial moraine barren of trees, the North Atlantic pounding at the edge of the road, very turbulent that day. I longed to take the camera out to capture it all on film, but that would have signed it's death warrant, and I didn't dare. By then the leaden skies and driving rain seemed almost appropriate for Newfoundland, and we had reached a point where we didn't expect anything else. I had developed a kind of siege mentality and I wasn't going to let it lick me; sunshine would have been downright dull. But when the only room we could get that night was very expensive and we dripped our way across the lobby dragging our sodden stuff, my stiff upper lip sagged and I pleaded for a rental car and a day of rest; the big effort it took each day to cope with conditions was getting me down. The radios had developed problems, and Flip bought a soldering iron and shrink tubing, and did brain surgery on the push-to-talk buttons in the motel room that night. Yes, there was a Radio Shack in Newfoundland - we were not too far from St. Johns at that point, and civilization was turning up.
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The car did wonders for us - the rain had let up, but the wind was fierce and it was very cold. We drove the perimeter of the Bonavista peninsula and had a neat day - huge seas crashing on rugged cliffs, a picturesque lighthouse with living quarters still furnished as it was in the 1800's. We poked into little villages on dead end roads that would have been hard to do on the loaded bikes, and it was a joy to disregard gravel. Flip said it was nice to walk into a restaurant incognito, dressed like the rest of the people, and not making puddles on the seats; the Aerostitch suit makes people wonder if they are having an encounter of the 3rd kind. We felt a little sad that our visit to Newfoundland was almost over, as we checked into the motel the night before the boat sailed. We boarded at 8AM (like Pavlov's dogs, I wore my rainsuit even though it was sunny) and hunkered down for the 14 hour trip - we had been unable to buy a cabin at any price, all booked months in advance, so we settled for arm chairs. The bikes were inside this time, a damned good thing because the crossing turned very rough, the ship rolled and pounded, and Flip visited the vehicle deck checking on the bikes which were securely tied with the rope he had faithfully carried for a week.
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The purser regaled us with stories of crossings where they had to sit out at sea for a day or two in a storm because they couldn't dock, but we landed only an hour and a half late at midnight, and went straight to the motel we had booked.
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Offline Virginian

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Back on Cape Breton and feeling weary, we departed in the rain once more for a loop around the southern part of Nova Scotia, which is as big as the state of Tennessee; it was our intention to take a ferry from N. Scotia to the coast of New Brunswick to cut a day off our trip. We poked around the lovely fishing towns of the south coast of N.S. in some welcome sun, and reached the departure port at 4PM, having intended to leave the next morning. However there was a boat going at 8PM, so we quickly reserved a motel room on the other coast, warning them we wouldn't arrive until midnight. Flip tied the bikes down again, complaining it was getting a little old, and we stretched out full length on some couches and went sound asleep. Debarking late, we had a less than fun time riding around the sleeping town trying to locate the motel - the radios had packed up again.

Next day we crossed back into the U.S. and rode along the coast gawking at the huge old Maine homes, so different from the small tight Canadian houses we had been seeing for so long. The traffic was a shock after so long without it, and we cut inland across Maine to New Hampshire, where we spent a night with friends. They looked a little appalled the next AM when we suited up and pulled out of their garage into what else - rain. The weather grew worse and worse, and even tho the leaves in Vermont were gorgeous, their slimy carcasses made the road dangerous.
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We routed ourselves up through the Catskill Mtns of upper N.Y. state the next day, and we were treated to a great ride in warm sun through a blaze of color - one super great day which helped us forget the miserable ones. But the final day of our trip carried us down thru Penna. and the worst roads we had ridden on anywhere.

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When I die I'm not going to hell, they're going to send me to Pennsylvania to endlessly ride from Allentown to the Maryland border in - what else - pouring rain. It was so heavy we had to park one time in the shelter of an underpass, sharing space with a couple of big semis.

When we crossed the Virginia border we felt like we were home. Gorgeous rolling green pastures of hunt country, the road bordered with woods just turning to gold, lovely old fieldstone homes, and our own little condo waiting.
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We pulled into our garage and the adventure was over. In spite of some tough times it was a satisfying trip, and Flip pronounced that he for one, could turn around and ride it over again, east to west.
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Offline Stripes

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 :thumbsup:
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Online Andrew

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Now that is a Quality Road Report  :clap: :clap:

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Online leeo45

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Great ride report.   Thank you and thanks to your Mom for sharing.   In addition to the ride report itself, it is great to hear about husband and wife adventures like this.    I rode a lot of those same roads and saw a lot of the same destinations about ten years after their trip. (2003 and 2004)   I may have even referenced some of the same old Rider magazine articles.   

Offline Skee

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Flip spent 45 min tying down our steeds - as you know, once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout. The boat might have sunk, but the bikes would have gone to the bottom standing upright.
But the final day of our trip carried us down thru Penna. and the worst roads we had ridden on anywhere.

Yup.  Them made me chuckle.

Great flashback - no not that kind - remembering the way things were.  Wife & I took the same ferry loop around Newfoundland back in 1995, in her Ford.  There was a lot more unknown in travel back then.

Your folks were very adventurous to attempt a trip like that.  Great photo scans
The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible,
but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.   Vincent van Gogh

Offline kneescrubber

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My mom never actually piloted a motorcycle. But I'm guessing she rode pillion for over 200K starting in 1977. I salute your mom specifically.
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

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Online viffergyrl

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Thanks for posting - thoroughly enjoyed the trip!
Don't argue with an idiot; people might not know the difference. -Anonymous

Offline squeezer

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Thanks for posting - thoroughly enjoyed the trip!

What she said.
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Offline Bryan.VFR

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Awesome reading about an awesome adventure. More, please!  :)

Offline Mrs. DantesDame

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That was great!

If you're up for posting more, they'd be fun to read!
www.Dantesdame.com <-- Rides! Rides! Rides!

Offline Virginian

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That was great!

If you're up for posting more, they'd be fun to read!

Colleen,

I may do some more but this was REALLY labor intensive. I have like 15 hours involved getting this one posted. Idk if you remember me reaching out to many years ago on st.n in the women's thread about whether to post this. Actually remember Notarian on st.n? He since has passed away but he was the instigator, I miss that guy :( My intent was to encourage gals to ride their own. She's 85 now and her health is failing, when she passes so will her legacy which is a personal loss to me.

Eric
« Last Edit: March 28, 2018, 12:16:23 PM by Virginian »
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Offline Black Hills

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very cool report. Thanks for taking the time.
the above are merely the ramblings of a hamfisted fuckwit who has broken too many helmets.

Offline Bryan.VFR

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I'd be fine reading the scanned typewritten pages, save you some time/trouble of scanning them with OCR software and editing them. Your mom has a way with words.

Offline tankhead

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Wow, just saw this report... Great job Eric!
Thanks for that.... Must have taken many hours to write that up..

Offline milosovichy

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Eric,

Thanks to both you and your mom - she has a wonderful gift in her writing. Please share as much as you can - like others here, I would echo the sentiment that puzzling over scanned images would worth it to learn of her adventures.

Thanks again,
Miles

Offline Virginian

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Wow, just saw this report... Great job Eric!
Thanks for that.... Must have taken many hours to write that up..

Thanks Chris!

Show up on time, do your best and don't grumble about the outcome.

Offline Virginian

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Eric,

Thanks to both you and your mom - she has a wonderful gift in her writing. Please share as much as you can - like others here, I would echo the sentiment that puzzling over scanned images would worth it to learn of her adventures.

Thanks again,
Miles

Miles,

Welcome to st.n and many thanks for your reply in kind. I'll see what I can do get a few more posted.

Eric
Show up on time, do your best and don't grumble about the outcome.