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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

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Old 04-14-06, 09:31 AM   #1
johnnygofaster
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Touring: You picked it or it picked you?

I tried RV touring. Really enjoyed sleeping in my own bed, eating in my own kitchen, and still traveling. It was great. Now, at $2.50+ a gallon, too expensive.

Then I started backpacking. Saw incredible, beautiful things. After a few hundred miles, walking through "green tunnels" of brush, getting eaten by bugs, and getting a bit bored with it, I stopped (moving from the Rocky Mountains to Ohio helped that too.)

Then I tried car touring. Spent a few months from Ohio to Alaska and back. Great time, cheap gas, but the world flies by in a car. I'd see bicycle tourers on the ALCAN and think, "Wow, now THAT's travelling." They amazed me.

Motorcycle touring was next. Uncomfortable and coupled with all the isolation and the fast-pace of a car. The worst of all worlds it seemed to me coupled with the greatest danger factor of them all.

SO... I feel like bicycle touring is perfect. It's slow, like hiking. You get to enjoy rolling into little towns and then rolling away like in a car/RV. You're accessible; people come up to you. You're in the elements like a motorcycle and hiking, smelling the smells. There's still camping involved like backpacking, but a shower every other day is possible.

That said, I haven't done it yet. Getting my daily commuter fitted with a rack, some motorcycle saddle bags to start, and heading out for 3-4 days to see what happens. I feel almost like, after all these years, it picked me. Does anyone have an interesting story of how they came into bicycle touring?

Cheers,
Brian
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Old 04-14-06, 10:33 AM   #2
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It was between my freshman and sophomore years... in HIGH SCHOOL
I have no idea where it came from except it was 1971 and the bike boom was booming
rode a white Schwinn Varsity (the other 3 bikes were: a schwinn single speed, a Schwinn upright 5 speed, and another Varsity). We had canvas saddle bags and back packs and all sorts of crap, like head bands, bandanas instead of helmets, canteens instead of water bottles, and twine and bailing wire
We just took off... about 150+ miles
stayed a cabin that belonged to a friend's family for 7-10 days. Awesome. I remember that during the ride we stopped at a way station for a drink and read a newspaper... there was a small article, stating the Jim Morrison had died in Paris. I remember that clearly (note: I think the Doors suck anyway)

after that it was a no-brainer, touring at points every year until my mid-twenties. Evenone ride around the Great lakes thru Southern ONtario

NOw I do supported tours mostly in my middle years. It's just easier at this point. Get off the beaten track. Quiet. Meet people. Go slow. Discover the beauty of things close to home (instead of having to motor WAY out west or WAY up north)
'Course, this is Wisconsin and we have some nice hidden valleys and woods and lakes.
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Old 04-14-06, 10:45 AM   #3
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I come from about 2 1/2 decades of motorcycle touring. I got interested in bicycles, and a healthier lifestyle, and it just came natural to start touring on the bicycle. I'd love to go everywhere I've gone on a motorcycle, on the bicycle. But it would take a couple of lifetimes to do it I think. I'm working on it though...

I can't imagine why you would think motorcycle traveling is the worst of all worlds, or uncomfortable. Of course, you didn't mention what kind of bike you were traveling on, or how experienced you are. Not saying you were doing it wrong, just saying that I personally can't understand why someone would enjoy traveling in a car, or RV, more than on a motorcycle.
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Old 04-14-06, 11:31 AM   #4
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After 3 years of racing, I got into Randonneuring. Touring is just an extension of that. After all, if I'm going to be in France or Australia or wherever for a Randonneuring event, I might as well have a look around the place ... and I've got my bicycle with me ... so .....
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Old 04-14-06, 12:33 PM   #5
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I was heavy into BMX/freestyle riding when I was younger. When I ran out of health insurance I started backpacking, and fell in love with it. Eventually, I got a mountain bike that I used to get to remote trailheads that my truck couldn't get to. I remembered how much fun bikes were, and I had insurance again, so I started mountain biking. Started commuting to work a few years ago, then I went car free a couple of years ago, and now the only way for me to get out to the wilds on my own is by bike. I am just starting to get into touring, but it seems to be the perfect combination of my two passions, backpacking and bicycles.
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Old 04-14-06, 08:00 PM   #6
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it chose me. I had always rode my bike to school and mountain biked a little for fun. Then after college I kept riding my bike to work. It was only 3 miles, but it was fun. I found this forum. Read about slick tires for the MTB on the commuting board. Got cheapie slicks and began riding 20-30 miles after work. Found longer commute routes of 5-10miles. Bought a home 15 miles away from work, still commuted. Found touring forum. Though to myself, "Self, touring is kind of like commuting, but you commute somewhere different every day and you don't have to be bothered with that damn job!" Went on my first tour last year. 2nd tour is next week, and I'm hoping to be able to take a week or two later this year.

I really wish i could figure out how to go on a multi-month tour without quitting/losing my job. But what I really like about touring and biking in general is that there are lots of cyclists who cycle well into the later years of their life. It's something that I can see myself doing even after I retire (which is quite a while from now)
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Old 04-14-06, 08:08 PM   #7
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Two Decembers ago, I needed a new bike, so I went down to the local used bike shop and spent about $350 that I didn't really have on a bike and the various bits I needed for set it up to my satisfaction for tooling around campus in all weather. I started looking around the web to try and identify it, found that it was a touring bike (and a fairly reasonable one, even if it was the lowest in the Miyata Grand Touring series), and that got me to thinking...

Seven months later, my roommate/best buddy and I made our first-ever self-supported, completely self-planned tour up the Maine coast toward Canada. The unexpected return of an old knee injury forced us to stop about three days short of the border, around Bar Harbor, ME, but it was 330 miles of wonder. I'm addicted, and we're planning a second trip for the end of May, when school gets out - MassMOCA and southern Vermont. I can hardly wait.
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Old 04-14-06, 09:19 PM   #8
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Touring chose me as well, as I absolutely love it!
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Old 04-14-06, 09:45 PM   #9
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I just biked to school all the time because i didnt like the people on the bus haha. and the i decided to go visit some friends around canada, so i figured id take my bike, and now, as it turns out, im 16 days away from beginning to bike around the world. i think it chose me, or everything just worked out so i could do it. who knows.

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Old 04-14-06, 10:45 PM   #10
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I must had read something in a magazine or seen something on TV when I was a kid because I still remember spending hours at the librairy reading about touring, canoeing and hiking when I was barely over 10 years old. I did my first overnight 'tour' with friends at the age of 12 and my first long tour at the age of 13... I was hooked from a very early age. After doing a few tours in my teens, I stopped for a few years and travelled in various country with my backpack instead... I got back to it a few years ago... mostly after moving from bike-unfriendly-Toronto to bike-paradise-Ottawa.
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Old 04-14-06, 11:34 PM   #11
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i've been camping since i was 8, vagabonding since i was 16, bike touring since i was 18, and still going....
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Old 04-15-06, 12:54 AM   #12
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When my brothers and sisters and I were kids, my father took away our bikes. He thought they were too dangerous. It was like the death of freedom to me. So, as soon as I could afford one when I was on my own I bought a bike. In fact, I bought a bike before I bought a car. I rode the bike out of the shop and just kept on a-goin'.
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Old 04-15-06, 06:17 AM   #13
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Well, Brian, you've got the right idea. I have ridden motorcycles all my adult life, but unlike you, I loved touring on them. Have travelled all of the West and much of the country that way, and I still have a BMW in the garage, but I don't ride it much anymore. I love to bike more and need the exercise. On a motorcycle there is an inevitable conflict between enjoying the road and enjoying the scenery, and frequently the pull of a nice, twisty ribbon of highway wins. I can't tell you how many zillion times I knew there was an awesome view out there but I was just too involved in the riding experience to slow down and take it in. The 60 mph view definitely does not provide the clarity you get at 12 mph.

I also was torn between taking motorcycle trips and backpacking, another activity I love, partly because of the slow pace and ability to absorb the details of one's surroundings. It just never occured to me to take up bicycle touring, even though I have mountain biked for years. Only after I did the AIDS Ride from SF to LA in 1996 (on a mtb with slicks), did I see the possibilities. It was supported of course, but the enjoyment of the backroads, and sense of accomplishment from that trip was amazing. I wanted to do more, but the corporate world, a masters program, and other types of travel held it off for a while.

When I chose to leave that lifestyle a few years ago, I started to think about bike touring again, so I suppose I picked it. Since I love to bike and camp, it was the logical next step, and last year I finally enjoyed a few short tours on my 520. It is wonderful. I can go at a speed that allows me to fully absorb the details of my surroundings, yet cover some ground each day, and enjoy the pleasure of camping. Such a perfect combination of activities. I don't like biking on highways, so am limited in some the routes I am willing to take, but there are still lots of options. My big plan this year is to try some off-road touring and eventual goal is the GDMBR.

Good luck with your touring - I think you will find it most enjoyable.

Last edited by mtnroads; 04-15-06 at 11:02 AM.
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Old 04-15-06, 11:39 AM   #14
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I learned (taught would be a better word) how to bike when I was 3. However, I never got very seriously into it, I wouldn't do much more than a few rides in the woods every now and then. Thankfully my family would go on camping trips fairly frequently, and I found that I really loved the outdoors. And more recently I have gotten more serious with biking.
This fall I was going to a local state university and I was realizing that this was not where I was supposed to be, so I dropped out after the end of the fall semster last year (I am going back to a different university this fall). I had decided that I really wanted to do something interesting and something that I could do easier when I am young, because before I know it I'll be graduated from college (I guess that still is young, but it won't be long until I got a job, and before you know it, half your life is gone). So a bicycle tour seemed like the logical thing to do. I'll be leaving May 7th and I'll be going about 4500 miles solo (the first 500 I'll be doing with my dad) camping along the way.

So I don't know of touring found me or the other way around, but either way I am happy we met
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Old 04-15-06, 12:52 PM   #15
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There was this German guy who flew to New York City with his bike and cycled all the way down to the tip of Argentina while spending only $1 a day. He had cycled for three years and spent just about a thousand bucks. We were traveling on the same roads in our Volkswagen (spending considerably more) and we kept meeting travelers who claimed to have met him. Our paths never crossed, though we came close.

But my mind wouldn't let go of the idea of the thousand dollars. How long does it take to earn a thousand dollars? Not that I though we could travel that cheaply. No way. It made me think of all the people who have told me they could never save enough to live an adventurous life.

So, when we got back from our trip my wife and I talked often about that strange German we never met. Now, here we are poised to set out on our first cycling journey ourselves.

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Old 04-15-06, 08:43 PM   #16
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Wow... great stories. Much more than I expected when I posted.

To the motorcyclists: I'm a wimp. I rode 3200 miles in 13 days on a Honda Shadow without a windscreen and a BMW RT1150 which was amazing (a buddy and I would switch: comfort vs. the cruiser image). The BMW was an INCREDIBLE machine and I loved it. But I still felt like I was missing lots of good stuff. Blaming the motorcycle (on my part) is short-sighted. It's complicated. And it was Florida in July.

Maybe not complicated- just stupid.

But I digress. It's very interesting to hear everyones' stories.
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Old 04-18-08, 02:27 PM   #17
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I was looking for something else, and came across this thread ... and thought it might be interesting to hear some more stories of how we got into touring.
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Old 04-18-08, 02:56 PM   #18
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Two events triggered my interest:

1. In 1978 I was 22 years old and hitchhiking south through California. At a campground near Santa Barbara, I met a couple who were cycling all the way to San Diego. Until that point, bicycle touring did not even register on my consciousness, and for the first time, I remember feeling a twinge of envy for travellers on bikes.

2. The next year, in 1979, a friend bicycled across Canada, and stopped to visit me in Toronto. After being amazed by his stories, I knew what I had to do. I bought my first touring bicycle, and vowed to do my own big trip as soon as possible...

Although I did day trips in many countries, 19 years passed before I took the plunge. In 1998, I went to France and spent almost three weeks cycling through Alsace and Burgundy.

Now, at 52 years old with a family, I generally manage to find time for a week or two tour every summer. I am not sure where I will heading in 2008, but wherever it is, I am looking forward to it!
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Old 04-18-08, 06:05 PM   #19
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I picked it.
Then I asked two friends to join in my crazy scheme.
We were 16 and 17 years old.
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Old 04-18-08, 07:58 PM   #20
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I picked it and it picked me. I was about 21-ish. I was new the the workforce, fresh out of college, working in accounting. I hated it. I spent all my time daydreaming about backpacking, kayaking, and doing a through hike of the Appalachian trail.

Since becoming an adult i was just getting to know my father. I think he was just getting to know me. He worked all the time when I was a kid and I just never really knew him. I loved and respected him, but I didnt really know him as a man.

He had been riding bicycles out of necissity for years but stopped at some point. He liked to ride but had never done any touring. Having just quit smoking I guess he decided to start riding again to get in shape. Off he went on the weekends. He was a strong rider. At some point I started going with him on one of his spare bikes. He'd had back surgery and couldnt ride his brand new titanium litespeed so i got to use it. He rode a recumbent.
I remember barely being able to ride 7 miles without getting tired. Eventually we did centuries.
Somewhere along the way I got the idea to tour on the bike. It seems that I'm always trying to incorporate touring into my activities. I've wanted to go on days long kayak trips. I've driven a motorcycle across the country.

Back to my dad. We got the idea to bike tour. Our first tour we drove to our destination and rode around and camped. When we got sick of that location we drove somewhere else then road the bikes some more. It was a good trip but we wanted more.
The next trip we just left from home, no car, just the bikes and panniers.

Since then we've ridden from chicago to philadelphia, montreal to philadelphia, philly to virginia beach and back, and some other trips. Ever tour I've ever been on has been with my dad. In fact next month we're leaving from Tennessee give or take. Today I'm 31 years old and he's....mid 50's-ish.

Bike touring i really responsible for making my dad my best friend. Funny how things like that happen eh?

I guess I kinda went off on a tangent there eh?
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Old 04-18-08, 10:57 PM   #21
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I started out bicycle touring, mainly because I was both completely manic about cycling and too damned slow to succeed at racing. Started with whatever I had at the time and finally toured for years on a World Voyageur with first generation Cannondale luggage (back in the days when they only made luggage).

Got my first motorcycle, saw the immediate possibilities, took what I'd learned from cycle touring and transferred it over. Spent the next 25+ years doing all my long distance travel with a three bag setup on a motorcycle: BMW, Kawasaki and primarily (to this day) Triumph.

Got back into cycling and immediately embarked on three projects: The first bike to just get back into shape (did it's job and it's now a fixie), a modern road bike to pick up the 28 years of missed technology (9-speed Fuji Finest), and a serious touring bike in memory of that Voyageur. Ended up with two, the vintage/retro Magneet, and the heavy duty Bianchi Nyala.

Still love motorcycle touring, love bicycle touring, am bored to tears doing anything of those kinds of distances in an automobile.
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Old 04-19-08, 08:27 AM   #22
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After I blew out a knee playing basketball I started commuting to work on a bike to rehab the knee, loved it and started going farther and farther. My backpacking experience combined well with the bike so off I went on tour for my next vacation. Some addictions seem to be permanent!

Maybe I should thank the guy who cross body blocked my knee during that basketball game?
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Old 04-19-08, 09:30 AM   #23
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Bicycling has been part of my life my whole life. My dad was a bike commuter going back to the 1930s. Sunday was family day - ice skating in the winter and bicycling in the summer.

When I went off to college my parents bought me a 10-speed bike to "get around on" - an old Raleigh Gran Prix. I rode all over during my free time to explore and have fun without spending money (poor college student syndrome.) On my longer rides alone I noticed how therapeutic it was psychologically. It was as good for my brain and psyche as it was for my body. At the time people were seeking enlightenment. LSD, peyote, mushrooms, etc. were one pathway to possible self-awareness, but also people were spending a lot of money and time on things like Transcendental Meditation, Transactional Awareness, Biofeedback, Primal Screaming, and lots of other oddities. I felt by riding my bicycle longer distances I was "getting into a good space", or "attaining an alpha state" for free, and my body was benefitting too. Plus it was fun and I was seeing the countryside close up.

I don't remember my first tour. I remember all my tours from those days, I just can't remember which one was first. I was living in Bellingham, Washington. My first tours included a trip down Whidbey Island to Seattle, a trip out to Lopez Island, a trip to Seattle down Highway 9, and a great week up in British Columbia to Golden Ears Park. I loved them all. I've always loved camping. Bicycle touring combined biking with camping, and you didn't have to pay for gas! I mostly stealth camped in those days. The "poor college student" thing again. I could barely afford to live, so touring had to be done with as little expense as possible. My first panniers were ones I sewed myself out of pack cloth.

As I got more into it I read up on bike touring and discovered there were bikes that actually had three chainrings in front. 15 speeds! Wow! You could also buy panniers, and even put panniers on the front wheel!

I got busy for several years and didn't do any more tours. I graduated and got a real job. I moved to San Luis Obispo, California. I was browsing a bookstore and found a book called "Bicycling the Pacific Coast." An idea germinated - "I'd like to do that someday" - specifically, ride from my old hometown, Seattle, to my new one, San Luis Obispo. It took a couple more years before events in my personal life smoothed out and my economic situation got to the point where I could attempt such a journey.

I bought a 21-speed touring bike (Nashbar) with front and rear racks (Blackburn) and actual store-bought panniers (REI). I even bought a matching REI handlebar bag! I got a one man tent, a mummy bag, a pack stove, some pots and pans, a Thermarest, and I was ready to go.

That trip from Seattle to SLO turned out to be both an arduous trek and the greatest adventure of my life. Psychologically, I started to feel satisfied by the time I crossed the border into California, but there was still halfway to go. I questioned my decision to undertake such a long ride. I also started having problems with broken spokes. It finally got so bad I aborted the trip in Santa Cruz.

I didn't forget the arduousness of the trip, but I also couldn't forget how wonderful it was - the sights, the people, the accomplishment, the fun, the way it made my body feel (always tired but as strong as I've ever been), and I was hooked.

I've been touring ever since. In the futue I hope to ride across the country, do the Lewis and Clark route from St. Louis to Astoria, maybe the Underground Railroad, maybe circle one of the Great Lakes, maybe tour New Zealand, maybe Europe. We'll see. I'll retire someday, though I've got to pay off the house first, and both my kids will be in college next year so retirement won't come anytime soon.

Did I choose touring or did touring choose me? I can't really answer; I don't understand the question, but it has definitely become a part of me.
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Old 04-19-08, 09:35 AM   #24
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A good call on the revival Machka.

For me, it was the summer of 2006. I had been hitchhiking across the country and stopped in White City, Saskatchewan to visit a friend I met in the Katimavik program. I ended up staying there for two months. During that time I found a 50 year old single speed under the deck which I rode around. During one sunny day I decided to ride the 18km into Regina, and I think it was the smell of canola and pure yellow fields that gave me this great idea to bicycle across the country, so I could really get to see it.
Trevor Hennessy was the tour diary that I came across, which helped me understand it a little more.
Since then I have fully fallen in love with the bike again, and really wonder if I could ever purchase a car.
I'm not sure if we're biased or if it's true, but this really seems like the best way to see the country, if you're into that of course.
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Old 04-19-08, 07:42 PM   #25
The Figment
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It chose me,
I was living in Austin Tx and had gone to Boulder for the summer, (Texas summer heat and humidity just kills me) As with most of 'em my '71 VW Bus crapped an engine at the worst time it could. While I was living out of it! We stashed it at a friends place in Nederland,Got a Very well used Trek 850 Mtb outta the trash (This is common in Boulder,Dumpster Bikes Rule!) a very well used Mavic Wheelset, Also outta the dumpster and bought a Pacific Kiddy trailer for six bucks at a yard sale.
Spent a couple of days tuning,truing,greasing,wrenching and cleaning,Grabbed the dog,my gear,tossed them in the trailer and off I went.

Three weeks later I was standing under the Steven F. Austin Mural at 23rd and The Drag.

The thing about Bike Touring is that you Don't Just See the Country,You Live It!!

Last edited by The Figment; 04-19-08 at 07:51 PM.
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