European Concerts - Third Stop: Switzerland, then home!

Sabbaticals rock and here's the gory details. Read along if you want to be a groupie!

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European Concerts - Third Stop: Switzerland, then home!

Postby Tawmass » Thu Sep 25, 2008 12:05 pm

(This is the next leg of my odyssey after being in Italy.)

Switzerland!

* September 25, 2008, morning, Wassen, Switzerland: I went to the hotel’s breakfast at 7:30am and had a great conversation with the owner. He has owned the hotel for 14 years. The hotel was built around 1901! He explained to me that the Swiss language is actually four: Italian, French, German and a French/German mix from a neighboring valley. Plus he knew a bit of English - crazy. Everything is in Francs here, which is 1.6 Euros, so my room was cheap at 32 Euros. I had a busy day to soak up as much Switzerland as possible.
-Tom

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Last edited by Tawmass on Thu Oct 02, 2008 9:00 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Postby Tawmass » Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:44 pm

* September 25, 2008, evening, Interlaken, Switzerland: I left Wassen heading towards Interlaken and over the first pass at around 9:30am. The switchbacks started immediately. If you can drive in the USA, then you can drive in Switzerland. The roads are about the same widths, and people aren’t quite as aggressive as Greece/Italy. One thing I’ve noticed is practically no stop signs. They have these white diamonds painted on the pavement, but no stop signs. The diamonds just mean stop if you need, otherwise roll through cautiously. Cool.

Wow, was it cold! I zipped up, buttoned up and was still freezing my patootie off! The higher I climbed, the foggier it got - dang! I’d heard before that the Alps weren’t necessarily higher than the Rockies, it’s just that they jutted straight up, where the Rockies went up and stayed there. I can now confirm that. The Alps are vertical - everywhere. But was just like all the pictures and postcards of Switzerland you’ve seen - only real! The fog got thicker, and I got slower. I started to get concerned at the 7,000 foot summit that it was icy, and a glance off the side of the road confirmed it. Brrrrr. Tunnel after tunnel and the heater sucked. I of course tried my hand at a few dirt roads too, but they were all gated at some point. There was even a tunnel carved into the rock for a hiking trail! And just lookit all those green pastures - beautiful. And almost every house has a beautiful display of flowers. At one point a group of fast cars came up behind me, so I quickly moved over and let them by. At the next village, I found out it was a Mazaratti Club - extremely nice wheels! Then I thought I’d take a back road to Interlaken and low and behold - another toll! A cute Polish girl came out and grabbed my three Euros and I was on my way. But after a mile or two, it was gated closed. What the ?? I went back, tried to find out what was up and some local guys said that the road was in fact closed and that I’d have to go back to the main highway to get where I wanted. The Polish girl didn’t offer to refund my toll - guess I should’ve asked. Then I went through another village and there was a herd of decorated cattle being directed down the main street. I finally got to Interlaken and it was a beautiful, modern city. I went ahead and reserved a room at a hotel, then went out to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, per suggestions by locals. Along the way was a hotel/hostel called the Funny Farm. Holy smoke, there was yet another herd of decorated cattle being paraded down the street! I finally got to both villages and it was unreal: trams, trains, people and hotels. It really was picturesque though. But it was so cold, I cashed it in about 6pm and called it a night. A bummer I was robbed of sunlight, but at least it wasn't raining. I have to start making my way back to Florence, Italy tomorrow - dang. All good things must end.
-Tom

Plenty of places target motorcyclists for business. Check out the permanent mount for the bike right in the middle of the steps.
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Even though that looks like a football helment, I think they're saying don't drive crazy.
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Switzerland is scenic! (somewhere) And what's that sign say?
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See, I told you it was bloody cold!
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Tunnels, tunnels, tunnels.
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Does this sign mean these vehicles can, or cannot, use this road? The gate was closed, otherwise I would've tried!
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Another switchback, plus finally descending out of the fog.
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A small hiking tunnel too small for the GS.
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Beware of evil sheep when out walking your pooch!
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Finally, I can actually start to see the postcard scenes! But it's still not the TOPS of the Alps.
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Some rustic, overnight cabins, which seem to be everywhere. Would be fun to overnight in one.
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Yes, the sun's actually starting to come out!
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The Maserati Club.
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The Swiss are very patriotic (Swiss flags everywhere) and proud of all their boys who've served in the military.
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Uh oh, did I make a wrong turn? (FYI, it's a tram)
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What, another toll? The cute Polish girl never gave me my three Euros back.
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Cows on parade. It was very mooooving and udderly a slow process.
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Looks like the Columbia Gorge, eh?
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Made it to Interlaken (a town between two lakes). Check out that glacier water.
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What the ????!! This isn't Loch Ness!
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"Hey Tom, that's pretty baaaaaaad."
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The town of Interlaken. I should've stayed at the Funny Farm.
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More bovine on parade! Check out the fancy ornaments on their heads.
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Yo Walt!
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This place sells -- Swiss Army Knives!
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Now up to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen.
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Info for my bud, 'Rocket' Rick Higgins, who does paragliding.
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Last edited by Tawmass on Thu Oct 02, 2008 9:28 am, edited 9 times in total.
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Postby Tawmass » Sun Sep 28, 2008 8:37 pm

* September 26, 2008, Albergo San Gottardo Hotel, Switzerland: I had the typical breakfast at the hotel, loaded up and starting making my way over the next pass, slowly heading back towards Italy. Check out how beautiful Interlaken is with the glacier-fed river running through it. I topped the GS tank and snuck a pic of a typical aisle of cereal in a store - some familiar, some not. Heading over the next pass ????, the scenery once again got more typical postcard like of Switzerland - it is so beautiful. Now I know where they got the design for so many cuckoo clocks! I then did more off-road exploring just up from a village. The road twisted up the side of a mountain (through a herd of sheep) and stopped. Not sure why, so I turned around and headed back down, then I saw the tunnel work - that’s why the road went up. It appears to be a huge construction or vent tube for one of the tunnels through their mountains. The Swiss are so expert and crafty with all their rock and cement work! Further up the road I pulled over at a statue dedicated to the construction workers and met two guys from Cologne, Germany - Holger and Hans. They were very nice and we had a great conversation about BMWs and riding. Holger spoke very good English, but Hans did not know much English, so Holger also translated back and forth. As we parted, they suggested I should stay at the hotel that they were at the top of the Tromel, which was the first road over the Swiss Alps in the early 1900s. That’s the photo that I wanted to be sure and get - it’s the windiest road in the entire Alps. I informed them that I had quite a few miles to do, if I was to make it back on time to return the bike, so not to count on me.

I continued over the pass (they were going the opposite way) and went by many dams and trams (I‘m a poet and don‘t know it). And check out those most excellent hiking/biking trails! More stacking of rocks. I was a bit disappointed that it was still foggy, and kind of felt robbed - heck, I STILL had not seen the full Swiss Alps! Then I crested the pass, and the sun started peeking through the fog - wow! I’ve seen pictures, but seeing the real deal is so awe inspiring! I pulled into a restaurant (that was motorbike friendly) for some coffee and just sat on their deck taking it all in. Stunningly beautiful! After coffee, I headed down the other side - just look at those windy roads! I elected to take a side route that would return me back to the bottom of this road. Man, it took me forever since I had to stop practically every 100 feet for photos and just to take it all in. Another thing about Switzerland - they have the most fat and contented-looking cows I’ve ever seen. And they’re just like the goats and sheep - big bells around their necks making for massive wind chimes. And check out that golf course - that tee is about 20 feet off the road (looks like a par three!). Once I got to the village and headed up the other road to return back, I tried confirming with a local that it was in fact open. He scratched his head, shook his head, and that’s when we both realized that the route I was trying to take (displayed on my GPS) was actually a small train track - doh! So then I had to suck it up and go back over the same pass again - shucks.

I have finally reached my zen, or coupe de grace of road biking: riding the Swiss Alps!

Then I headed down and up another pass that would take me to the Tromel area. Yet more stunning vistas! I could spend months in this kind of beauty! On the other side of that pass, I then started up the Tromel - wow - cobblestone even! But it was after 5pm and was getting COLD! I eventually made my way to the summit and the Albergo San Gottardo Hotel, found Hans & Holger, snagged a room (the last one!) and got cleaned up and settled in for the evening. One odd thing I realized was that the GS front brakes began to no longer work. Inspection showed that the brake fluid was low, so it was best I spent the night anyway. I would try to find some brake fluid in the morning. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and they suggested I try Rosti, which is a local, traditional food consisting of potatoes, ham, sausage and eggs - very tasty! We went through numerous bottles of good beer and closed down the place after midnight. I really enjoyed their European viewpoint of everything, including their thoughts on America. One thing I’ve noticed throughout the countries I’ve been in: everyone is very knowledgeable about world politics, especially America. I noticed that most everyone is very tired of Bush, and is extremely curious about how things will work out with the next president. Enlightening, especially since (it seems to me) so many people in America could care less about politics.
-Tom

Leaving Interlaken - a beautiful city.
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Another cool Honda tiddler.
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A convenience-store breakfast aisle. A few things different, and a few not so different.
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Up through the next pass.
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The Swiss really take care of their places and have zillions of flowers.
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Sheep, wondering what that two-wheeled thing is.
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Massive tunnel vents? For perspective, notice the truck at the bottom. A tribute to the construction workers.
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Hans, Holger and yours truly. Great guys. They were amused by my riding attire.
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Continuing up over the pass.
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Look close and you can see the two hikers sitting on the rock.
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The old roads are still cobblestone.
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Dam artwork.
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Another huge tram.
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People like to moto on the Alps!
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Check out the rock work on the hiking trail.
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Yup, there's a hotel out on that rock island in the middle of the lake.
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Fog, fog, fog, dangit...
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FINALLY - SUNSHINE! My first view of the Alps!
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Had to unload some cappuccino - I managed to score a few points in the soccer goal.
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Just around the corner, this is what I was presented with! Now things REALLY started to look incredible!
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WTF?
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The Alps like moto.
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Share the road, there's plenty of room, right? Oh, and don't go off the edge - it's a quick flight!
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Too many pictures, I know, but it was just too beautiful not to share.
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More happy, fat cows.
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Looks to be a par three! It was about 190 yards across the small valley and up to the green on the other side.
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My dashboard view is prettier than yours. Onward over the next pass.
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The newer Tromel Road, and the original, finely cobblestoned Tromel - awesome!
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Powerlines everywhere.
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Another hotel room view. Man, was it cold out! And my dinner of Rosti, along with friends Holger and Hans. And doesn't our waiter's hair look just like James Brown's?
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Last edited by Tawmass on Thu Oct 02, 2008 9:26 am, edited 10 times in total.
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Postby Tawmass » Sun Sep 28, 2008 8:40 pm

* September 27, 2008, evening, Florence, Italy (again): The morning had me up early to take a shower (community bathroom again), hit breakfast and beat feet to Florence. Everything outside was frosty cold. I decided to ride with Hans & Horger a few miles on the other side of the pass to check out the historic ‘Devil’s Bridge’, where France and Russia had fought each other centuries ago. We rolled away from the hotel and into thick, thick, cold fog. A lack of front brake makes a person a bit nervous! We ended up at the next village and must’ve missed the bridge. We bid farewell, I asked around the village for brake fluid, but none to be found in the morning time. I went ahead and risked going back over the Tromel anyway and just poked along. Never found the bridge going back again either. Once I got to the bottom (where the Gottard Tunnel entrance is), suddenly the brakes started working again. Good timing, since I was now on the auto strata. Not much else to say about heading back to Florence, other than it was typical, high-speed freeway of about 300 miles - ugh. But I now had earplugs - woohoo! Finally found some at a pharmacy in Interlaken - thank God.

I rolled into Stradanova’s Shop around 4pm and had a lengthy discussion with Ricardo about my trip and the GS. Erika was at a meeting, so didn‘t see her. She probably still thinks I’m serious about marrying her anyway! With too much luggage, I then strolled my way to the Hotel Victoria and got their last room. Wow, another adventure was done! No accidents or major breakdowns. I was pooped, so hit the hay early watching an old Paul Newman movie in Italian. I didn't realize until later that Newman had passed away.
-Tom


Morning at the hotel after breakfast.
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Descending down into the fog looking for The Devil's Bridge and brake fluid.
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The village with no brake fluid, but funny scooter displays.
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Finally broke out of the fog.
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The most awesome Tromel Road.
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The old and the new.
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Tilt your head like a dog, plus my custom 100mph-tape work. Hey, don't laugh - it worked!
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Ricardo looking rather surprised that I made it without incident, and liked my tape work. Great guy, and I need to go back to do some serious off roading with him and Erika!
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Here's the full route of where I went in Switzerland.
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Last edited by Tawmass on Thu Oct 02, 2008 9:34 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Postby Tawmass » Sun Sep 28, 2008 8:48 pm

* September 28, 2008, evening, Frankfurt, Germany: Getting the train situation figured out for the first time was very challenging, but I finally snagged one at 8:14am from Florence. My connections would put me in Frankfurt at end of day, where I’d hotel it, then catch the big plane home tomorrow. I must admit, riding by train is very comfortable and scenic. Not nearly as scenic as the scoot, but still it’s enjoyable and fairly quiet. This is the most I’ve ever been on a train, so all new to me.

On my way home - what an adventure that will last a lifetime!

The train rolled through Italian and Swiss villages, and even went through Interlaken again! It continued by Munich (high speed, by the way, at @230kph!) and eventually to Frankfurt. I sat next to an interesting fellow from Frankfurt, Claus Ooseman (sp?) who worked at the local university for 40 years and his specialty was deciphering diabetes in the labs. Again, it was interesting to get his take on our elections, Europe and Germany. At the train station I grabbed the first available hotel at the InterCity Hotel, then stepped out for something to eat. This tops off the trip: I was forced to eat at a damn McDonalds, since that's all that was open - how ironic! After all the great foods I've been eating, the Big Mac tasted like crap.

Now it's off to a marathon jet trip to Atlanta then home. Sigh... It will be nice to sleep in my own bed again though. Hope my house hasn't burned down.
-Tom

Florence's train station.
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Graffiti everywhere - some good, some not so good. It's not so creative or easy taking pix from within a train.
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Milano's train station.
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Hey, back at Interlaken again! Nice that the sun came out after I left!
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Somewhere in Germany, Munich I think.
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Ugh, I was forced to eat this crap as my last dinner in Europe - how ironic.
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Last edited by Tawmass on Thu Oct 02, 2008 10:09 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Tawmass » Tue Sep 30, 2008 1:16 pm

* September 29, 2008, afternoon, Atlanta Airport, USA: Met two guys from a rock band called The Freeks, Isaiah and Reuben, both from SoCal. They have a website and myspace account. They just finished their first three-week concert tour and were whipped. Isaiah (Mitchell) is from San Diego (works in a guitar store) and will be in Portland in two weeks playing guitar with another band called Lady Dottie and the Diamonds. Reuben is the lead singer and plays rhythm guitar, plus works in Rancho Santa Margarita at the Trader Joe’s. (Deb/Rick: you’ll have to stop by sometime and meet him)

At the Atlanta layover, I had a wonderful visit with Pablo and Cindy, but from Georgia, on their way to Puerto Rico. From Atlanta to Portland I sat next to Alexis and her daughter Katelyn - both very nice flying copartners, and we all had fun playing the plane's trivia game together.

It's great to be back home. Jet lag sucks.
-Tom


Reuben and Isaiah after boarding the plane, after a big concert in France the evening prior.
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Reuben and Isaiah at the end of the flight. Isaiah slept the entire way.
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Pablo and Cindy at the Atlanta airport, on their way to Puerto Rico.
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Alexis and Katelyn. Katelyn looks just like JD's daughter Natalie. We had fun playing the planes trivia game.
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"What a long, strange trip it's been!" -The Grateful Dead
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Last edited by Tawmass on Thu Oct 02, 2008 10:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby E-Ticket » Thu Oct 02, 2008 2:08 am

Wow. Your trip is really bringing back some great memories. I went over to Europe for 7 weeks on my first Sabbatical.
Rented a little Renault A5 with 90 miles on the odo -- and put over 5000 miles on it! <LOL>

Interlaken is very pretty - and yes, it was quite sunny while I was there. :lol:
It's too bad you didn't go up the valley to Grimmerwald and take the tram to the top. It would have knocked your socks off.
And up on top is the hilltop restaurant they used in the James Bond movie!

And I loved all the Alp/pass shots. I even recognized a couple of the pictures - I have the same ones in an album I have sitting on my bookcase. <g>

And the switchback roads? I almost completely burned out the brakes on the A5 playing rally car driver on one of them.
Started having smoke come out of all 4 wheel wells. Whhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Had to sit at the bottom for 20 minutes and let the brakes cool and start working again. :^)

Man, you got me stoked. I'm going to try and go over and catch the ISDE in Portugal next and do the mo-mo tour as well.

Glad you had such a great time! - RandyB
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Postby Ride » Mon Oct 13, 2008 4:37 pm

AWESOME.

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Postby YamaHead » Fri Nov 07, 2008 3:35 pm

Some absolutely incredible scenery there Tom!

Makes me wanna dig out my Ski's! 8)
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NO FEELIN' LIKE 2-WHEELIN'! 8)

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Postby Tawmass » Sun Nov 09, 2008 3:02 pm

You guys need to go - it's one of those life-bucket deals!
-Tom
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