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post #1 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-23-2018, 07:44 PM Thread Starter
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Taming the Tail of the Dragon



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Have you ridden the Tail of the Dragon? Tail of the Dragon has been on my bucket list for a while, I didn't think it would happen so soon. Last December, a group of friends from the Philadelphia area invited me to spend a week with them at Deals Gap during the month of June of 2018. I guess I was more than due for a vacation, so why not ride my bike to the Dragon, hang out with my Philly friends, relax and kick back with fellow riders and explore the area. Finally made the room reservations to the resort last January, I figured the round trip would be just over 1,500 hundred miles.

In anticipation of the trip I decided it was time for new rubber, which I didn’t want to make on tires with borderline tread. As a side note, I am glad I bought the ThrottleMeister cruise control in conjunction with a Crampbuster that I used on this long trip. My wrist and my arthritis were very grateful, these two accessories were truly a lifesaver.

Although not an OCD person, for months ahead of the trip I was obsessed checking out the weather reports, religiously, multiple times a day. I hate riding my bike when it rains; as you know, riding a motorcycle in the rain can get dangerous real quick. I kind of went into panic mode about 15 days before the trip when tropical storm Alberto brought heavy rain and flooding, then a second storm system hit some areas of Tennessee where severe weather and flash floods were possible due to the heavy rain. So to say I was worried about a rained out vacation was an understatement. But I digress.

My friends left for the trip to Deals Gap a few days earlier, they also transported their bikes on a trailer: a Suzuki SV1000s, a Suzuki V-Strom 1000, and two BMW R 1200 R.

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Sunday morning, while it was still dark, I packed my saddlebags and tail bag, stopped for gas and headed down I-95 on my 2010 Kawasaki Ninja ZX14. Before hitting up the interstate I had to turn around and return home. Oops! Just realized I had forgotten to pack my raingear. The weather forecast for Sunday and Monday indicated mostly cloudy with a chance of showers.

Four and a half hours into the ride, I was right on schedule. About one hour and 45 minutes out of Washington DC merging onto I-81 all of a sudden the sky became dark and all hell broke loose. I’ve been caught in the rain before, but this felt similar to what Noah experienced when the earth flooded. I pulled up under an underpass to put on my raingear; the storm dumped buckets of water, thunder, and lightning. I had to pull off to the side of the road four times, the storm blocked my visibility of the road. Intermittent torrential downpour for the entire trip to the hotel in Roanoke, Virginia. I was so glad when I arrived to the hotel, two hours later.

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It wasn’t raining anymore when I woke up, but the clouds hovered overhead. Monday morning was an uneventful ride. Practically no traffic on I-81. It was a dull dreary overcast day, the sun shining through the rain clouds. Noticed 18 wheelers transporting loads of livestock (live pigs and chickens) heading west on I-81. The nauseating stench kept me alert for several miles. I counted my blessings though, at least it wasn’t raining; wore my raingear all the way to Deals Gap, just in case.

An issue I wasn’t counting on was finding ways to eat healthy. How can I resist eating junk food while traveling on a long trip? For the first time in 6 months I regretted not eating healthy on the road. I felt guilty about it; to think I had to go to Virginia to wreck my diet having breakfast at Bojangles.

I knew I was getting closer to my destination when I noticed the Knoxville and “Welcome to Tennessee” sign on I-81, and the traffic congestion before the US 129 exit.

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Once I saw the “Motorcycles High Crash Area Next 11 Miles” sign on US 129, before the Tail of the Dragon scenic overlook, I realized I was almost there.

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I pulled over and took a picture from the Tail of the Dragon scenic overlook. Rolling into the Dragon, it’s easy to see why it draws its fair share of motorcycles each year.

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On my way down to the resort I also noticed the photographers on the Dragon, sitting in lawn chairs taking pictures. As you can see on this image, just to be on the safe side I was still wearing my raingear.

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Talking about pictures .... some good news .... When I arrived at Deals Gap Resort and tried to edit some of the pictures I took earlier during the trip, I learned we had free access to the internet from the rooms. The bad news…..I also realized that I forgot to bring my laptop power cord .... in a matter of hours my laptop battery went dead. Since I am a half glass full kind of guy, I reckon it means I’ll have more time to ride and explore the area than spending time editing pictures.

My very first morning at Deals Gap, I spent some time during breakfast enjoying the atmosphere and the camaraderie among new found biker friends. A friend had warned me about the Dragon, years ago. He said: “be very careful and do not push your skill level. Simply ride your bike and enjoy the experience”. This piece of advice became more real when two guys from Canada arrived to the parking lot, unloaded their bikes from their pickup truck and by the time I finished breakfast, one of them crashed when he was unable to negotiate a turn.

Some people fail to realize that the Dragon requires skill and lots of concentration. I think the most challenging part of the road is watching for oncoming vehicles getting into your lane. I don’t shy away from the twisties but I am no knee dragger, I have no desire to fall off a cliff either. Especially since my bike have to be in tip top shape to take me home. As Clint Eastwood said in the movie Dirty Harry, “a man has to know his limitations”. Besides, the speed limit is 30 mph and is strictly enforced.

My friends invited me to ride to the border of North Carolina and Georgia. I declined and remained behind to relax a bit and wash my bike after riding hundreds of miles the previous two days. Deals Gap Resort offers a place for a quick bike wash, and provides used rags to clean up your bike.

Afterwards I headed to the Dragon (US 129). In my opinion, this is a very challenging ride, it would take me lots of practice to be able to maneuver my ZX14 in these tight turns. Personally I think the Dragon is perfect for 600cc and supermoto motards.

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Most places I visited were deserted, I had the road all by myself. I heard from many people that the best time to visit, whether is the Dragon or any of the classic roads that surround the area, is during the week. They say that during the weekends there is a lot of traffic, and racer wannabe’s who use it as a racetrack.

I spent most of the day riding around, exploring the area, taking lots of pictures and planning my future rides. I stopped by the Cheoah Dam, used for the "jump" scene in the movie "The Fugitive". It is only 7 minutes away from Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.
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To unwind, after my friends returned from their ride, we went to Tapoco Tavern Restaurant and Lodge for dinner. The restaurant is just a few minutes from the Cheoah Dam. Had dinner sitting outside by the river. The Iceberg Wedge Salad was the best healthy meal I had since I left Philadelphia. You can check out the restaurant menu HERE.

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Wednesday was the day to visit Cherohala Skyway. The Cherohala Skyway with its sweeping curves and breathtaking views is a very relaxed fast ride, often patrolled by law enforcement. I actually preferred riding the Cherohala Skyway than the Dragon. The road climbs over mountains as high as 5,390 ft, with stunning mountain views. It was virtually deserted. No gas stations, restaurants or other facilities (except restrooms and picnic benches) are available for 36 miles. So make sure you have enough gas.

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My last full day at Deals Gap, my friends planned to ride to the “Road to Nowhere” in Bryson City and visit the tunnels. I had decided to visit the Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum on my way back from The Rattler. So I followed them through the twisties of Moonshiner NC 28 to Bryson City, then split up and continued on route 19 to Maggie Valley and NC 209 “The Rattler”. The exit to NC 209 is not far from route 19 and the Wheel Through Time Motorcycle Museum. It’s about 2 hours from Deals Gap to the entrance of The Rattler, so it was time to fill up the gas tank.

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Unbeknownst to me, walking into Ferguson Supply to pay for gas was like entering a walk-in time capsule. The store is like a social hub of the community. I also got to meet the owner of Ferguson Supply, James Ferguson who happens to be the Chairman of Southwestern Conservation Council and a local celebrity. The man and his family have been involved in the community for over a hundred years. Tons of family pictures, awards, plaques and pictures of him with famous politicians decorate his office. This mom and pop store provides unparalleled family service, and the staff makes you feel welcome.

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I went in for gas, and ended up having lunch and chatting with Mr. Ferguson about his family pics, including a 50 year old pic in his office of people making/distilling moonshine. Unfortunately I stayed chatting with Mr. Ferguson longer that I had planned. Talking to him was like getting into a travel machine, and getting free 20th century history lesson. You can read more about Ferguson’s Supply impact in the community HERE .....

Before leaving, Mr Ferguson gave me directions to the old country store & gas station located in Luck, North Carolina. The Pink J. Plemmons Groceries and Feeds old gas station has been closed for the last 50 years.

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I had such a long day riding that I skipped going to the Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum. From The Rattler (NC 209) I went straight back to US 74, NC 28, US 129 and to Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort. Took a quick shower and hang out with some of the guys in the parking lot. It was a great time to talk bikes and share stories with them. The people I encountered were pretty cool, you will meet folks from all over the globe. All my expectations about the trip were exceeded.

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It was early Friday morning when I headed to the hotel in Petersburg, Virginia. My friends stayed at the Dragon until Sunday. In my opinion, one week is not enough time to get to most roads, and to do other activities that don’t involve riding, like hiking, kayaking, and canoeing.

I arrived home to Philly Saturday afternoon. I was fortunate to encounter excellent weather both days. I rode 1,801 miles in total. My Kawasaki Ninja ZX14 performed flawlessly.

This is my first time at the Tail of the Dragon, I hope is not my last.

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Just Another Motorcycle - PhotoVlog Blog
Check out my blog @ https://koflaolivieri.blogspot.com/

2010 Kawasaki ZX-14
1984 Kawasaki GPz-1100
1978 Kawasaki KZ-1000 LTD
1977 Kawasaki KZ-1000
1975 Kawasaki Z1-900
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
1972 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple

Last edited by KoflaOlivieri; 06-26-2018 at 06:24 PM.
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post #2 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-24-2018, 03:52 AM
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Nice ride Thanks for sharing

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post #3 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-24-2018, 05:07 AM
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Excellent story and pics

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YOU'RE F - KING AWESOME!!!
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post #4 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-24-2018, 10:43 AM
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Thx for posting...felt like I was with you the entire trip; sure wish I could find guys our age around here to ride with...

Just curious, after reading the list of bikes you've owned, I'm wondering if (at any point during this particular trip) you found yourself pondering the vast-differences in technology & ride-quality between your 14 and the 84' GPz-1100 (ZX1100-A2 ?) you once owned ?

I had an 83' A1 (the mount which carried me across the nation to my 'new life' out here in the west in 93') ...and there are times that I definately miss her...alot...
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post #5 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 02:58 AM
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Great pics, KO. Was supposed to be in that area the weekend of my off in Arkansas, but rain caused a change of plans....

It may be a pig, but it's a pig with a rocket in it's ass!
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post #6 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 05:39 AM
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Wow serious riding, great post and photos Kofla ! Glad you had a great time at Deals Gap. Man how many total miles? When I visited Tail of the Dragon a few years ago, I took a flight to Knoxville, rented a bike and rode to Deals Gap.

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post #7 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 06:16 AM
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I live in Eastern NC. I have made a point of visiting deals gap every summer. For over 15 years. It is a very cool place to ride. I have ridden a number of bikes there. My all-time favorite was a DRZ 400sm. It had super sticky tires and the speed limit was still 55. My ZX14R SE is a bit over the top. Too bad you missed going to Wheels Through Time. I don't have any special fondness for the HD brand and still very much enjoyed my visit. It will just have to serve as a reason to return.

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post #8 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 09:09 AM
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Stopped there on my way back from school in Arizona. Unloaded my bike and took a quick ride up and down the Dragon. Great ride, and the roads to get there are just as beautiful. My trip there was done in early April before most people think of going there so it was nearly empty. Also the trees still had no leaves so you could see more.
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post #9 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 06:05 PM Thread Starter
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Nice ride Thanks for sharing
Your welcome!

Just Another Motorcycle - PhotoVlog Blog
Check out my blog @ https://koflaolivieri.blogspot.com/

2010 Kawasaki ZX-14
1984 Kawasaki GPz-1100
1978 Kawasaki KZ-1000 LTD
1977 Kawasaki KZ-1000
1975 Kawasaki Z1-900
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
1972 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
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post #10 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 06:05 PM Thread Starter
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Excellent story and pics
I had a great time!

Just Another Motorcycle - PhotoVlog Blog
Check out my blog @ https://koflaolivieri.blogspot.com/

2010 Kawasaki ZX-14
1984 Kawasaki GPz-1100
1978 Kawasaki KZ-1000 LTD
1977 Kawasaki KZ-1000
1975 Kawasaki Z1-900
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
1972 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
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post #11 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 06:16 PM Thread Starter
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Thx for posting...felt like I was with you the entire trip; sure wish I could find guys our age around here to ride with...

Just curious, after reading the list of bikes you've owned, I'm wondering if (at any point during this particular trip) you found yourself pondering the vast-differences in technology & ride-quality between your 14 and the 84' GPz-1100 (ZX1100-A2 ?) you once owned ?

I had an 83' A1 (the mount which carried me across the nation to my 'new life' out here in the west in 93') ...and there are times that I definately miss her...alot...

Of all my previous bikes, nothing compares to the ZX14. When I was younger, I rode from Brooklyn, NY to Phoenix Arizona and a year later back to Brooklyn on a Kawasaki Z1-900. As much as I miss some of my older bikes, especially my blue 1972 Kawasaki 750 triple, I am glad we now have this type of performance with touring-class technology and comfort.

Just Another Motorcycle - PhotoVlog Blog
Check out my blog @ https://koflaolivieri.blogspot.com/

2010 Kawasaki ZX-14
1984 Kawasaki GPz-1100
1978 Kawasaki KZ-1000 LTD
1977 Kawasaki KZ-1000
1975 Kawasaki Z1-900
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
1972 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
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post #12 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 06:19 PM Thread Starter
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Great pics, KO. Was supposed to be in that area the weekend of my off in Arkansas, but rain caused a change of plans....
It rained a lot the weeks prior to my trip.

Just Another Motorcycle - PhotoVlog Blog
Check out my blog @ https://koflaolivieri.blogspot.com/

2010 Kawasaki ZX-14
1984 Kawasaki GPz-1100
1978 Kawasaki KZ-1000 LTD
1977 Kawasaki KZ-1000
1975 Kawasaki Z1-900
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
1972 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
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post #13 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
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Wow serious riding, great post and photos Kofla ! Glad you had a great time at Deals Gap. Man how many total miles? When I visited Tail of the Dragon a few years ago, I took a flight to Knoxville, rented a bike and rode to Deals Gap.
I rode a total of 1,801 miles in seven days.

Just Another Motorcycle - PhotoVlog Blog
Check out my blog @ https://koflaolivieri.blogspot.com/

2010 Kawasaki ZX-14
1984 Kawasaki GPz-1100
1978 Kawasaki KZ-1000 LTD
1977 Kawasaki KZ-1000
1975 Kawasaki Z1-900
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
1972 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
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post #14 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 06:31 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by John In NC View Post
I live in Eastern NC. I have made a point of visiting deals gap every summer. For over 15 years. It is a very cool place to ride. I have ridden a number of bikes there. My all-time favorite was a DRZ 400sm. It had super sticky tires and the speed limit was still 55. My ZX14R SE is a bit over the top. Too bad you missed going to Wheels Through Time. I don't have any special fondness for the HD brand and still very much enjoyed my visit. It will just have to serve as a reason to return.
Saw several guys on dual sport bikes and supermoto motards, those bikes are perfect for the Dragon. I am already planning my next trip to the Dragon. I regret not visiting the bike museum, but if everything goes well, there will be hopefully a return visit to Deals Gap.

Just Another Motorcycle - PhotoVlog Blog
Check out my blog @ https://koflaolivieri.blogspot.com/

2010 Kawasaki ZX-14
1984 Kawasaki GPz-1100
1978 Kawasaki KZ-1000 LTD
1977 Kawasaki KZ-1000
1975 Kawasaki Z1-900
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
1972 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
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post #15 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 06:32 PM Thread Starter
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Stopped there on my way back from school in Arizona. Unloaded my bike and took a quick ride up and down the Dragon. Great ride, and the roads to get there are just as beautiful. My trip there was done in early April before most people think of going there so it was nearly empty. Also the trees still had no leaves so you could see more.
Did you attended MMI?

Just Another Motorcycle - PhotoVlog Blog
Check out my blog @ https://koflaolivieri.blogspot.com/

2010 Kawasaki ZX-14
1984 Kawasaki GPz-1100
1978 Kawasaki KZ-1000 LTD
1977 Kawasaki KZ-1000
1975 Kawasaki Z1-900
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
1972 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
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post #16 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-26-2018, 06:06 AM
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I rode a total of 1,801 miles in seven days.

Wow, some serious miles there.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Last edited by WillZX14; 06-27-2018 at 03:14 PM.
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post #17 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-26-2018, 09:08 PM
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Did you attended MMI?
Yes, I did.
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post #18 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 08:56 PM Thread Starter
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Wow, some serious miles there.
At 62 I thought my body would be affected by it, but in reality these bikes are so comfortable my butt is not even sore.

Just Another Motorcycle - PhotoVlog Blog
Check out my blog @ https://koflaolivieri.blogspot.com/

2010 Kawasaki ZX-14
1984 Kawasaki GPz-1100
1978 Kawasaki KZ-1000 LTD
1977 Kawasaki KZ-1000
1975 Kawasaki Z1-900
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
1972 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
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post #19 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 08:59 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, I did.
I graduated from MMI Phoenix in 1986, lived in one of the student apartments complex right on Deer Valley Road. Would love to go back and visit the school, I am sure lots have changed since then.

Just Another Motorcycle - PhotoVlog Blog
Check out my blog @ https://koflaolivieri.blogspot.com/

2010 Kawasaki ZX-14
1984 Kawasaki GPz-1100
1978 Kawasaki KZ-1000 LTD
1977 Kawasaki KZ-1000
1975 Kawasaki Z1-900
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
1972 Kawasaki 750 H2 triple
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post #20 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-29-2018, 08:27 AM
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Man i loved those pics. Thank you for sharing your story!!!

"I love this damn bike" Me ---ZX-14
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