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Reflections & Surprises-The Middle East

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Reflecting then. Reflecting now. Egypt’s rich history overshadowed by its present.

For those of you who follow my Facebook page or Twitter feed, you know over the last couple weeks I’ve been posting a few photos and thinking about the time I spent through Egypt in 2008.

First, I still haven’t connected with my host in Cairo, Mohamed Magdi. During the height of the demonstrations, the email bounced back to me several times. I still await to hear from him. Certainly I am happy for Egypt and though the road ahead will be rough and potholed, I do wish for a smooth transition to a solid democracy that will pave a smoother road for the country’s future and destiny as a mid east leader.

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Ana, Gregor, Ana and Borut are from Slovenia taking a couple week journey to Jordan on their V-Strom and GS1200.

As protests and uprising spread through the region I also thought about Jordan and Syria, two of my favorite countries in the region. Just as Mubarek was about to step down, I received an email from a motorcyclists I met at the entrance to Wadi Rum, the legendary desert where Laurence of Arabia led a growing group of Bedouins to Aqaba where they singlehandedly toppled the Ottoman Turks and captured the city. Wadi Rum is vast desert of other worldly rock formations, rich umber and brick colors and lots of sand.

Gregor, Ana, Borut and his wife were on a two week tour of the region when I spotted their bikes at the Wadi Rum visitors center. To be sure, I didn’t see many foreign motorcyclists in the Middle East. Curious and intrigued the four of us shared lunch and stories of the region. I’ve never visited Slovenia, but have always wanted. Detailing their route around Slovenia, Turkey, Lebanon and such, Gregor explained that Slovenia can be described as shaped like a chicken. He pulled out his maps and detailed the shape. Forever I cannot think of Slovenia without thinking of its chicken shape.

Gregor and Ana were planning on riding two up to Egypt this spring. But the questionable stability in the region caused them to rethink their plans. So, they’ve decided to visit the United States. With such short time to prepare, they realized the shipping the bikes would be too costly and the cost of renting similar bikes here, much too expensive. So they’ll land in Los Angeles in early March and take a couple weeks to tour California and the western United States.

In Jordan I was intrigued by the panniers that Borut and Gregor had on their bikes. Turns out, Gregor owns a company that manufacturers an automatic oiler for chain driven motorcycles. He also made the panniers on their bikes. Even more, the company that provides some of the machining tools is US-based in Oxnard, California—just a 30 miles north of Los Angeles. So their trip will include a visit to the factory in Oxnard, and after they’ve made a loop which will include Route 1 to San Francisco, the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Grand Canyon and more, they’ll stop here at my place before heading back to Slovenia.

I’m sure we’ll pull a couple corks of some good wine, though I understand Slovenian wine is very good yet not widely available here. If the timing works I’ll try to interview both of them for an upcoming edition of the long-lost WorldRider PodCast series—if you’ve never listened, it’s fun to go back and check out both the stories and the production.

Gregor, Ana and their friends have toured dozens of countries in the region—including Iran, a country I was repeatedly denied a visa for entry. Here’s what Gregor told me about his trip to Iran:

“Iran was a beautiful country and the people are realy great, they are inviting you in your homes all the time. Must say that Iran was the best country we everer visited.”

Gregor, Ana and friends continue to push their boundaries and tour on motorcycles to places we all like to dream about. You can see some photos of their adventures here.

Stay tuned, I look forward to sharing more about Gregor and Ana when they visit.

Feeling Part of the Family With Friends Old & New in Rochester, New York.

Since July of this year, I’d been in contact via phone and e-mail with Lyn Elting, who along with her husband Art own the Rochester are BMW dealership, Country Rode Motowerks. Eager to host a presentation for their customers, she was surprised that I had decided to ride my bike, given the unpredictable weather in the Great Lakes region. And with my propensity to ride the tiny backroads to wherever I travel, it would be hard to estimate my arrival time in Fairport, a smaller town just southeast of Rochester. With my presentation scheduled for 2pm, I thought I’d be there by noon. But the slow roads and occasional traffic, when I finally rode in around 12:45pm I could see the look of relief on Lyn’s face—I made it!

Country Rode is a family-run dealership where customers make up a loyal community, many choosing to have coffee, use the WIFI and hang out with the regular gang and share stories of travel, bikes and dreams–better here than the local coffee shop. More modest in size than the two Max dealerships I presented weeks earlier, but equally professional and with an alluring energy where locals make you feel welcome, regardless of your bike or background.

One customer who showed up to see my presentation actually spends more time in Chile, than in New York. I was able to practice my spanish and share stories of my Patagonian escapades in southern Chile. The crew helped wheel my bike into the showroom so customers could gawk at Doc, my the hard ridden, if not abused, motorcycle that exhibits more than its fair share of scars.

The presentation this Saturday afternoon at Country Rode Motowerks was perhaps the best attended presentation of this tour. With more than 75 guests, I was amazed to see three French men show up in a Citroën Deaux Chevaux (2CV) which they’ve been traveling around the world. I remembered seeing many of these odd looking cars in Buenos Aires. Citroën stopped producing the cars in 1990 after 42 years of production. which was powered by a simple air-cooled 375cc engine—quite a bit smaller than the 650cc water cooled Rotax power-plant on Doc.

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As the crowd gathers for my 2pm presentation, many check out the bike that took me around the world — and to chilly Rochester in late October.

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Country Rode is a gathering place and caters to a passionate and strong community of riders of all types.

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Lyn and Art took me in and share their home, cats and delicious cookies!

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I’d like to say these guys rode from France via Kabul and Saigon to come see me speak at Country7 Rode, but alas it was merely a serendipitous coincidence that they were visiting a Country Rode customer who happen to also own a a Citroën Deaux Chevaux (2CV) as well as a BMW. So he brought them to see my presentation.

As usual, the question and answer portion of my talk was quite lively and at the end a lucky Canadian female motorcycle rider won the AirHawk Seat Cushion which we give away at each of my presentations. Many customers wanted to hear more, so we agreed to host another presentation sometime in the next year or so—ideally after my book, Tasting Adventure, is published and available.

Lyn & Art were kind to offer me dinner, homemade cookies, the company of great cats, including Murphy and Curly, and a warm bed in their 19th century ‘cobblestone ‘home a few minutes from the dealership. Cobblestone masonry is a regional technique of of using regional building materials and set in what appears to be a linear manner and probably painstaking style. Homes between Syracuse and Buffalo were built by local artisans between about 1820 and 1850. The stones were brought by glaciers to shores of Lake Ontario. Stones gathered when clearing fields for farming were used to build homes, barns, churches and other buildings. Art and I stayed up and talked about old classic bikes, travel and the motorcycle business, while Lyn packed up some of her infamous cookies, some for me and some, at his special request, for Bob Henig, the owner of Bob’s BMW in Jessup, Maryland outside Washington DC and the last location for my WorldRider east coast presentation tour.

As I noted earlier, another bonus of this east coast mini-tour has been the connections and reconnections made with friends old and new. So in the spirit of taking advantage of every opportunity to reach out, I arranged for friends to join us early Sunday (Halloween) morning for breakfast. Elizabeth Lane (Liz) Lawley is a fellow tech blogger (check out my other blog The Digital Tavern) and Rochester Institute of Technology professor. We’ve known each other since 2002 in the early days of blogs and over the years have met at tech-related conferences after we discovered we shared similar passions like blogging, Macintosh, technology, travel and even friends and acquaintances like Doc Searls and Joi Ito, sadly she was in San Francisco the day before so she couldn’t see my presentation. But her husband Gerald, who also followed my WorldRider journey, was able to make the trip to Country Rode and check out the presentation. This morning Liz showed up with the entire family including Gerald and their two sons Alex and Lane.

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Art stands outside his cobblestone home near Rochester, New York.


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Notice the cobblestone construction, a popular masonry technique used by early settlers to the region from the early to mid-1800’s. And below he tries to convince Murphy, the cat, to perhaps join us for a morning ride?

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The Lawley Family joined us for breakfast on Halloween Sunday. (l to r) Alex, Liz, Gerald and Lane.

With the clock ticking and more weather advisories, I packed up Doc, reviewed maps and potential routes with Art and after a bit of nudging, convinced him to join me for a ride at least to the Finger Lakes, if not further. Later, Country Rode Motowerks sales manager, Ron showed up and rode with us until about the snow started falling. Art and I took cover and a warm cup of coffee near Keuka Lake in Hammondsport at the Crooked Lake Ice Cream Parlor. With the temperature dropping and clock ticking, Art headed back home while I make my way toward Watkins Glen and ultimately south toward New York City.

By the time I rode into Binghamton, the skies were dark and my body appropriately chilled, so I took cover at a local motel.

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Ron took off after we stopped high on the western bank of Keuka lake, while Art led me into Hammondsport for a cup of coffee and fresh apple pie.

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Art and Ron outside Keuka Lake near Hammondsport, New York

Friends & Family: Ludlow, Vermont in the Shadows of Okemo

With the temperature dropping and skies threatening, I only hoped that I would make Ludlow before nightfall and, ideally, dry. Per my standard riding practice (SRP), I do whatever I can to avoid interestates and multilane highways, I found myself skirting around and then riding through Concord, the capital of New Hampshire.

Sporting a glistening gold dome like the capitol buildings of its neighbors in Massachusetts, Vermont and other New EIMG_0079 - Version 2.jpgngland states including Connecticut, the New Hampshire Capitol building was completed in 1819, seven years before the the first dome, made of copper, was set on our nation’s capitol building in Washington, DC.

For the first time on this journey, I wondered why I was riding. As cars passed me on the slick roads, young children pressed their nose against the cold windows or their parents’ cars seemingly giggling at me in my bright yellow rainsuit. Perhaps they thought I was Big Bird riding away on some wet adventure. Hunched over and and in a rhythm like that of a metronome gone haywire, I wiped the drops of sheeting rain from my face-shield wishing I was in a warm car.

I did arrive in Ludlow just as the sun dipped behind Okemo Mountain. While the rain-suit did I good job keeping me dry, my numb toes and soggy cover to my AirHawk seat cushion provided the evidence that today’s ride was the most physically challenging of the trip, so far.

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Ludlow Vermont was chartered as a city just 15 years before Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence in 1761 and is also the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States. Though it wasn’t the rich history, notable historic village nor the ski resort which brings hordes of New Englanders here in the winter that brought me to Ludlow. No I rode through whipping rain, nasty wind and biting cold to visit The Timber Inn Motel.

Well, even that’s not entirely true. Actually, I came to visit a friend who not only attended my high school, but also my college, Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Glenn Heitsmith and I also served the Syracuse University Ski Club, organizing weekend trips to Vermont ski resorts. Yet like others I’ve encountered on my east coast tour, I haven’t seen Glenn in more than 20 years — perhaps longer. But he, his family and the infamous Inn he owns were sponsors and supporters of my WorldRider journey and for this trip, he graciously offered accommodations.

While familiar with Ludlow and Okemo Mountain, I’d never skied or visited. And until Glenn brought it to my attention, I had no idea that I had family living and working in Ludlow. I guess because I come from a fairly large extended family, there are many relatives I’d never met. While I’d heard of Joe Karl and his family, and my father had met him on a few occasions, I’d never met. So with a warm motel room and my friend Glenn in Boston for the weekend visiting his son, I arranged to meet Joe and his family–his wife Kathleen and their three lovely daughters.WorldRider 2010 cut.JPG

Glenn not only arranged me to meet long lost relatives, so to speak, but also to deliver my WorldRider presentation to the local community Rotary Club. An article in the local paper as well as a broadcast to other Rotary Clubs, the room was packed at one of Ludlow’s finest restaurants, D.J.’s — even three Rotarian motorcyclists from elsewhere in Vermont showed up to be inspired by my adventures.

Before making tracks toward Syracuse and Rochester New York, Glenn took me on a hiking tour over the Healdville Trail which winds through Okemo State Forest and to an historic fire tower which offers vast views of Okemo Mountain and the surrounding forests and mountains. Glenn is working to gain support to maintain the old fire tower which was built by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s. We then worked out way to the summit of the mountain and the ski area before making a muddy trek down a few grassy and muddy ski runs. We noticed hoses and other plumbing fittings indicating that the ski area was preparing to make snow very soon.

With more foul weather and rain on the forecast, I packed up Doc and after an excellent lunch in nearby Proctorsville at Singleton’s General Store, where not only can one find a fresh and tasty sandwich, but all the whiskey, guns and ammo you could ever desire.

I only rode as far as Saratoga Springs the day I bid my friends and family farewell in Ludlow. Next stop? Syracuse New York where I’m hoping to connect with former professors and walk in the shadows of my younger self.

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My cousin Joe Karl — after all these years, I finally meet him and catch up in Ludlow, Vermont

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Joe’s beautiful twins, Brigid and Paige sporting fresh vegetables from the family garden. A great homemade dinner at the Karl residence — everybody helped!

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Joe’s eldest, Riley had to work on a little homework before dinner.

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View from Timber Inn Motel in Ludlow, VT toward Okemo Mountain

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Climbing the historic fire tower in the Okemo National Forest. Glenn is hoping to bring it to full restoration.

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Historic village and town of Ludlow Vermont from atop Okemo Mountain’s historic fire tower.

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Rushing waters and plenty of fallen leaves as Glenn tours me through the state forest.

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Hiking the Healdville Trail with an ad hoc snowball fight thrown in.

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Glenn’s wife Donna holds her cards tightly after a wonderful meal and fun with the kids.

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Erik was the ringleader of the evenings card game. Seems the rules changed either to suit his hand or extend bedtime just a few minutes later. I couldn’t argue!

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Patrick Chadburn prepared my last meal in Vermont, but with the bike loaded enough, I passed on any whiskey, guns or ammo. Maybe next time!

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Hoping both the temperature and rains hold off until I get to Syracuse.

MAX BMW – North Hampton, New Hampshire – many reunions

I know I’ve been slow on the update to worldrider.com — but one thing is for sure, I haven’t been slow to keeping busy. So at the risk of filling the e-mailboxes of my followers and subscribers, please humor me by allowing me to catch up with a handful of posts and pics of my recent east coast tour and then some.

While I grew up in New England and still cherish fond memories of fall colors, back roads and historic buildings and cIMG_3548 - Version 2.jpg harming old houses, it’s easy to remember the good of times past, and while caught up in the romance of revisiting old stomping grounds is also easy to forget many of those reasons I was drawn to the California Coast: cold, gray skies, rain and even snow. Don’t get me wrong. I love weather, the biting cold of chilling wind, sheeting rain and snowflakes on the tongue. But on a motorcycle? Sure, why not?

The idea of riding New England and the East Coast in October was incredibly alluring. The mere suggestion by Bob Henig of Bob’s BMW in Jessup, Maryland convinced me.

The ride from a tiny no frills motel just a few miles from Max BMW in North Hampton at about 8am in the morning was a sudden slap in the face of just what 39 degrees feels like at 40 mph. And it’s not that I’m averse nor unprepared for changes in weather. Geeez, I think my bones are still thawing from my days in Patagonia in southern Argentina and Chile. I’ve got the layers, the Held winter gloves and liners and a heated vest. But I have I become soft by living in Southern California since returning from my trip just two years prior? Not a chance. I think the issue is simple: I just need to warm up to cold weather.

I love seeing my breath first thing in the morning. And of the nearly 80 people that warmed the seats of Max’s showroom turned temporary multimedia theater at 10am that morning some 25 percent showed up on their bikes, including Nate Katz (aka PackMule), a fellow ADVrider who I’ve been in touch with since beginning my journey some five years ago. During the Q&A session of my presentation, Nate and others asked the usual and unusual questions that typically followed my prepared presentation. Nate rolled into North Hampton that morning on his new GS800 sporting the usual cadre of weather fighting and electric apparel. It’s no wonder before I got back on the road that Max Apparel Specialist Rose Marston convinced me to shell out dollars for a pair of heated Gerbing gloves. Me. Soft? Nah, everyone out here seems to wear them.

Perhaps the best part of this tour, other than the opportunity to share my journey and stories from the road with new and old friends, is the number of coincidences and reconnections I’ve experienced. Not only did I finally meet Nate, I was surprised to learn that the brother of a very good friend, Ken Hauck, from my high school days lives in Exeter, a short hop from Portsmouth and North Hampton. Peter greeted me at my motel and took me to dinner in the historic town of Portsmouth, which sits on the Atlantic coast and on the southern border of the Piscataqua River. Earlier that day I crossed that river over the classic truss lift Memorial Bridge to Badger island in Kittery Maine — marking the ninth state I’d visited so far on this journey.

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Along the Atlantic Coast just south of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

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Market Square @night, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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Perhaps even more amazing, after the presentation and Q&A a big guy sporting a mischievous smile sticks his hand out to greet me and says, “Allan Karl, it’s been a long time. I’m Brian, Kevin Skeith’s brother.” He squeezed my hand with a firm shake and we reminisced how some twenty-five years earlier when he was studying in college in the mid-west, he visited his brother Kevin, who at the time was my next door neighbor in Balboa, California.

Even weirder, Brian certainly was the only person in the room who’d ever been on the back of a motorcycle with me at the helm. The details of why and where we were going are perhaps fogged by the years, but what will forever be ingrained in both of our memories and those of his brother and my friends who were following in a car close behind, is when the light turned green at the intersection of Newport Blvd and 17th, I pulled a wheelie for several seconds, until gently resting the front wheel of my Yamaha Turbo Seca motorcycle.

Make no mistake, this was a completely unintentional wheelie. Throughout the week that Brian visited, remarking that he should be a linebacker on his native Chicago Bears team, I coined a nickname that would stick for the week: “Tiny.” With the mass of Tiny as he rode pillion, the force of the engine and his weight caused physics to take over and to both of our surprise, I’d done my first, and last, two-up wheelie on a motorcycle. It was quite appropriate that we’d meet so many years later where I was able to share more stories of motorcycle adventures.

At Max’s I learned how the passionate motorcyclists in northern New Hampshire won’t even let ice get in the way of riding bikes in the winter. Max Service & Parts Specialist Joe Warner gave me tour of the exceptionally clean and organized parts and service departments, I was treated to a unique one-of-a-kind custom-built motorcycle ice-tire, looking like an oversized spiked and studded collar suitable for perhaps a wildebeest, the Mad Max team here in New Hampshire took a highly-tuned BMW S1000RR on the ice. Interested in seeing the tire built and what kind of traction it holds on a frozen lake. Check out this YouTube video from Max’s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHPOw-Xmm4o

After the service department at Max’s were kind enough to check out of few minor issues I was experiencing, I hopped on the road and headed to Vermont, hoping to make it to Ludlow before the impending rains–or could it be snow?

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Owner Max Stratton runs two very successful BMW shops in New York and New Hampshire. I was lucky to present and meet the staff and customers of both during my east coast presentation tour 2010. I hope to be back next year!

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A standing room only crowd filled the big showroom at Max’s in North Hampton, New Hampshire.

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Max Service & Parts Specialist Joe Warner demonstrates the super ultra-studded ice tire used on the BMW S1000RR for racing and riding on ice lakes in New England.

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Max BMW doesn’t have just one female technician, but two! I was lucky to have one these smart and pretty ladies work on Doc. Here Zena Foster diagnoses an issue of a neutral light and side stand safety switch problem that’s been nagging me since Aswan, Egypt.

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On the way to Vermont I was able to find some dirt roads just so Doc could experience some sort of adventure! The rain helped!

East Coast Presentation Tour – Come Join Me!

ZZ701676BE.jpgAs many of you know, I have been working with BMW on setting up a schedule of presentations, slide shows and speaking at many of the top BMW dealers in the country.

I will be riding my bike, yes the same motorcycle from my world tour, to each of the Fall 2010 presentations. So take a nice fall ride and let’s meet. Also, I do have some time between scheduled dates. So if you know of a dealer that may be interested in a sponteneous event and would host my presentation, let me know.

My presentation combines some of the best photography from my three-year journey around the world with music, some video and some amazing stories from the road. And I always include a Q&A period after the primary presentation and will stay as long as they let us hang out.

In addition to the east coast tour, I will be speaking in Southern California in Riverside on November 20, 2010.

I will soon announce presentations in Northern California, Oregon and Washington for late January and early February 2011. Finally, I’m looking to schedule central USA and the southern states for Spring. If you’re interested or know a dealer who’d be interested in hosting a presentation, drop me a note here and we’ll see if we can get it on the calendar.

For further information contact any of the dealer shops listed here.

October 16, 2010 – Saturday 10am – Albany/Capital Region, New York

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MAX BMW MOTORSPORT NORTH AMERICA
845 Hoosick Rd.
Brunswick, NY 12180
518-279-3040

– Map & Directions –


October 23, 2010 – Saturday 10am – North Hampton, New Hampshire

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MAX BMW MOTORSPORT NORTH AMERICA
209 Lafayette Rd. – US Route 1
North Hampton, NH 03862
603-964-2877

– Map & Directions –


October 30, 2010 – Saturday 2pm – Rochester, New York

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COUNTRY RODE MOTORWERKS
286 Macedon center Rd
Fairport, NY 14450
(585) 421-0480

– Map & Directions –

November 6, 2010 – Saturday 6PM – Jessup, Maryland/Washington DC area

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Contact Bob’s for specific details and show times

BOB’S BMW

MOTORCYCLES
10720 Guilford Rd
Jessup MD 20794-9385
301.497.8949

– Map & Directions –

November 20, 2010 – Saturday 2PM – Riverside/Inland Empire, California

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BMW MOTORCYCLES OF RIVERSIDE
7740 Indiana Road
Riverside, CA 92504
951-353-0607

– Map & Directions –

PodCast #19 – Breaking Out of Bolivia: Welcome To Chile.

Podcast IconFinally after enduring a broken leg, badly sprained ankle and ligament strained and twisted knee, WorldRider, Allan Karl, finally takes the road out of Bolivia. From the largest and highest in altitude salt lake in the world, Allan takes a dirt road out of Bolivia. In search of better roads, Allan is quite suprised to learn that in this part of Chile the roads are more challenging yet the vistas and the isolate desolation taxes his riding skills and mental acuity. (Total Time: 26:28)

Podcast Breaking Out of Bolivia: Welcome To Chile – WorldRider PodCast #19 (Time: 26:28)

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