Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:18 am

Well after a few days of work craziness, time to return to our irregularly scheduled program already in progress!

So, when last we left off we were leaving Drumheller, heading down towards Calgary and then onto the Trans Canada - towards BC.

Calgary was just plain nuts - traffic, massive highway construction - and half the signs for the Trans Canada highway had vanished somewhere leading us to miss the exit and have to backtrack.

I'll spare you the pictures - mostly they're on the blurry side from the tears of frustration and assorted spots of sweat and blood from fighting nasty nasty traffic. Fortunately living in Toronto, I'm fairly used to evil psycho commuters - it was only a shock after a few days of Prairie "See a car about every hour" side highway driving.

So we get out of Calgary, heading west. After a bit... something showed up on the Horizon....

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And those somethings got bigger....

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The temperature was a bit cool as we rose up into the Rockies - clinmbing from the foothills to the... err... ankle hills? Calve hills? Eventually reaching something I'd describe as the lower thigh mountains.

We turned south, heading to our nightly destination in Radium Hot Springs.
I figured anyplace named after hot water and a radioactive substance had to be worth spending the night in!

Plus I no longer need a nightlight!
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(Not the actual place we stayed, the Lodge was closed for renovations unfortunately.)

The next morning, we rode out and headed towards Kimberley, BC

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The thing I found interesting about taking a bike through the Rockies is just how much of a sensory overload it is. The sights that are constantly changing from deep blue sky to boiling clouds pouring out over mountains like a waterfall in mist. The scents - pine and crisp air. The temperatures that change as you change elevation - thousands of feet in minutes often on the steeper grades.

Even the character of the mountains themselves changes - every valley is a little world of its own. Before the highways and the passes - you had to think how isolated some of these would have been - and it is reflected in the preserved heritage and unique mini-cultures you see in the small towns nestled beneath these sleeping stones giants.

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Take Kimberley for example - a town very much Bavarian in heritage, and it shows both in the food and the buildings.

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We stopped off at the Platz for lunch (an open air mall lined with inns, schnitzel houses, a strudel bakery and more.)

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Now you're probably thinking "That can't be as good as it looks."

And yep... you're right. It was better actually.

My wife's meal -

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Great borscht, home made sausage, bread - excellent sauerkraut.

Err... excuse me while I wipe the excessive amounts of drool off the keyboard.

There... I suspect that particular food porn shot is likely illegal in at least 4 countries.

After Kimberley, we were planning on making our way to Toad Rock Campground (as featured in Lornce's ride report)

But things..... would not go according to that plan.

Remember how I mentioned the GPS tried to kill us once or twice?

Well this was where it started....

We'd picked the route out on the GPS - confirming it with google maps.
We basically assumed that it was June, that any road the GPS would take us on should be fine - and that even if it showed up as being a dirt road it shouldn't be any kind of issue on the Ural.

Err... yeah. Apparently we had the switch on the back of the GPS set to "Evil" instead of "Good".

The road started well enough - pavement that turned eventually into gravel, nothing at all unusual.....

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Then it turned and went over a small bridge - and we saw a sign saying "Grey Creek Pass" - ok no big deal.


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Though after a few KM along the way - we began to realize that signs of civilization had.... largely vanished. Still, we continued on. We just had 30 clicks to go - and how bad could it be?

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After all, nobody was nearby holding my beer and I wasn't saying "Watch this!"


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Though... it had been QUITE a while since we had seen any other vehicles... at all.... but there were recent tire tracks....

Still... the road was beginning to.... rise.

And the dropoff at the side was.... dropping off.

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(continued...)

SidecarDan
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by SidecarDan » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:39 am

Great ride report. Please don't keep me in suspense any longer and tell me the rest of the story.
Thanks.
Dan Cholodylo

2012 Forest Fog Gear-Up

Gummiente
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by Gummiente » Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:40 am

Jamie can be a bit of a tease sometimes. ;) :)
Mike "Gummiente" Palmer
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http://www.curdforum.net

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07 HD Road Glide/Ranger

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Tue Nov 13, 2012 8:51 am

Crazy week last week - but I will get more (if not all) done today :)

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:39 am

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The road began to get a bit rougher. Big tire ruts appeared - and we almost grounded at least once when the front tire dropped into one. (Scraped the bottom of the oil pan - thats how deep the rut was) After that I did my best to drive with the wheels avoiding the worst of them.

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Still, nothing at all the Ural couldn't handle. Though we DID keep climbing.

And I was discovering that the Ural was losing a wee bit of power as it got higher. And higher.

The scenery was spectacular though... unspoiled wilderness as far as you could see. Just the road, the rockies, and our Russian rig running the dirt.

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The road began to get a bit rougher. Big tire ruts appeared - and we almost grounded at least once when the front tire dropped into one. (Scraped the bottom of the oil pan - thats how deep the rut was) After that I did my best to drive with the wheels avoiding the worst of them.



Still, nothing at all the Ural couldn't handle. Though we DID keep climbing.

And I was discovering that the Ural was losing a wee bit of power as it got higher. And higher.

The scenery was spectacular though... unspoiled wilderness as far as you could see. Just the road, the rockies, and our Russian rig running the dirt.

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There was the odd.... little... concerning sign or two along the way....

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The road kept climbing. It got colder. The road got steeper, and muddier.

Oh and after a bit.. snow began to appear. It appeared we were climbing above the snowline as well.

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Eventually we came to a spot where the Ural, heavily loaded, wouldn't make it up. And my wife, the trooper she is, got out and walked up the hill while I gunned the engine and slipped and slid my way up the mud incline - the boxer engine screaming in an echo that bounced across the valley

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Trust me, the photo does NOT tell you how steep that was. Or just how slick the mud/snow combination made the surface - the Ural plowed on, losing power but refusing to give up. Complaining in it's tick tock high pitched rattles and squeals, but still moving forward.

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And THIS is just about where the GPS just.... died. No signal.

The roads... just kept getting rougher.

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Finally we had to call it. No GPS, Ural losing power, no cell signal of any kind and we hadn't seen another vehicle in a couple of hours. Plus, the road was STILL climbing.

We turned around - we didn't want to spend the night on the mountain.

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The ride back was faster - being all downhill.

Somewhere on the way back, my wife "Accidentally" lost the GPS out of the sidecar. Personally I suspect she tossed it out, knowing it would simply try and get us killed by directing us along train tracks. Or possibly undersea.

Right now, near Grey Creek Pass, there is probably a bear clutching a GPS and walking straight off a mountain. Cursing us as he falls.

It was a very long drive back out.

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All in all we spent half a day - on a 50km total shortcut. That turned out to be a 100km scenic - but somewhat nerve wracking - ride back to where we started.

We finally reached the highway again... pulling to the side to consult a paper backup map. (Since our GPS was now somewhere close to the top of a mountain, killing local wildlife and giggling insanely to itself no doubt.)

When, just walking out of the woods - barely 30 feet from the sidecar and completely unconcerned - we saw these walk out of the woods.

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If we'd still had the GPS, I have no doubt the first voice instruction would have been "Sharp right. Accelerate. Ride through deer."

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We ended up missing the Toad Rock campground - by the time we finished the detour that wasn't, it was simply too late to get over there. So we phone in to let them know we wouldn't be showing up, and found a no name hotel along the way to stop at.

Sleeping like coma victims, grateful for the warmth. And finally relaxing a little from the multi-hour adrenaline rush.

(To be continued.... )

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:42 am

Ok... so by this point we've nearly been wiped out by a high speed house.

We're burned holes in a pair of pants, lost one jacket, ruined another jacket and two pairs of gloves.

We have a pair of glasses repaired with electrical wire, I've had to fix a turn signal that imploded on the inside (just came apart and when I opened the outer shell all the separate pieces came a tumbling out) and I have the rear light held together with a combination of black silicon goop and copper wire.

Oh and we've had electronics try to kill us in a very terminator-esque kinda way.

What could top all of this?

Jack of course.

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(Granpa Jack with my aunt and his hand restored motorcycle)

I think it's time for the story of.... "The speech".


Now by this point you've probably gotten the idea of just how much Jack loved both family and a good story - preferably one with a punchline to it.

And he was good at them - he'd know when to stop, when to turn into a sideways alley in the narrative and keep you guessing about just where he was going with the whole thing.

The occasion was my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary - not something that happens every other day. Everybody was packed in the living room at the back of their little house in Victoria - friends, family, and more. Half the neighbourhood was in there. All there to celebrate my Grandpa Jack and my Grandma Joan.

There were jokes - speeches - loving memories from children and grandchildren. Everyone got up to have their say and congratulate them.

For you see - Jack and Joan truly were eachother's sweethearts. Oh you might not know if if you saw them banter back and forth - she'd whack him with a wooden spoon and he'd bluster and swell up and attempt to act all macho and manly.

Failing miserably of course to convince anyone.

But you couldn't miss the way even after 50 years he'd get his cup of tea from Joan and say "And how about some sugar?" And he wasn't talking about the Tea.

So finally, after story and speech - hours of everyone eating and reminiscing - it came time for Jack to stand up and make his grand speech.....

We all got a little frightened when we noticed he had prepared cue cards.

And then we noticed... just how MANY cue cards he had prepared.

And he began what shall everymore be known in family circles as "The Speech."

Nobody was safe. If you had the dog pull down your pants when you were 6 - it was in the speech. Teenage indiscretions? In the speech. Locked your car keys in the car with the parking brake OFF? In the speech.

He had us laughing until we cried. Laughing until we had to lean against the wall for support. Laughing until we were on the verge of turning blue and passing out.

It was a grand slaughter of humour, a sheer showpiece of mayhem in merriment.

And then.... he paused. And everyone was quiet... hanging on his every word.

He turned towards Joan... his eyes shining just a little.

He told the story of shortly after they met and began to date - how she had lent him the money for his first motorbike.

And that, ever since then he'd put aside just a little bit at a time to pay her back. Coins scavenged when they had almost nothing but eachother, a family and love.

Coins saved to pay back his love he said, to pay her back for loaning him the money to buy a bike that he had treasured very much.

And with this, he turned and unveiled several water bottles - all filled with coins. Thousands of them. Massive weights of copper and nickel.

And he turned to Joan... and said.....

"And now, after all these years.... I can finally you back... and tell you......"


"WOULD YOU GET OFF MY BACK WOMAN?????"

Joan was the first to laugh. But not the last. And there were no more words for a very long time as the laughter filled the room, filled the street, and no doubt had neighbours blocks away thinking some lunatic comedy convention was happening nearby.

That was something else Jack taught me. Treasure those you love, and keep them laughing.

Right along with you.

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jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:52 am

Ok... so back to the ride.... almost there.

And that's the sad part - after a week on the road, we're almost to the sea. Almost to the end of the chase.

Almost to the island, where we're hoping to find Jack.

But we're not quite there yet.

We're still going through southern BC - to Creston where we stop for a truly excellent lunch at the "Otherside Cafe" (Can't recommend it enough if you happen to be passing through)

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Then continuing on, up and down from valley to pass to valley - warm and then cold.

It's an unusual experience - popping your ears as you climb and feeling the temperature change within a short span of minutes. Only to repeat it all on the other side.

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This pass was almost 6 thousand feet up - and you felt it. The Ural struggled the last bit up the steep incline, and we shivered with the cold.

It's a strange experience - like summer and winter all within a span of a very few minutes, and almost as many vertical miles as horizontal.

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It also doesn't help when you start thinking that the big rigs need to check their brakes... and that the long road down is 1 lane... and that those rigs are behind you at least some of the way.

We didn't touch the throttle for a good dozen KM. Just basically coasted down at 70-80kph (less on the stretches around curves... you didn't fool around with fast turns when the guard rail (if it even existed) was the only thing between you and a few thousand feet of air.

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It was all climbing, then short dashes through valleys (all beautiful... and we don't have nearly enough photos of them. After a while you just stopped and stared and kind of forgot you were supposed to be taking pictures from the sidecar.)

We neared Osoyoos, our dinner stop.


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Coming down into Osoyoos was an experience - hairpin turns back and forth with a speed limit of 20kph. And you needed to keep it slow (especially on a sidecar rig.) Very few guardrails, and a steep dropoff on the side kept you a little bit... tense.

The pictures don't quite tell the story - but the hairpin turns are among the most memorable bits of road in the entire trip.

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Trust me, if you go on that road down into Osoyoos, you won't be concentrating on taking pictures either.

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Osoyoos is a beautiful little down... with a very desert, warm environment. Almost entirely unlike the climate just a valley away. A little world, all to itself.

We had indian for dinner - then started the climb back out.

Only to run into a motorcycle accident just a few minutes after it happened.

We stopped, several people had stopped before us - some were already down with the rider (so we didn't add to the crowd) but we did make sure someone had gone to call 911 (no cell signal) and then we sent down one of our sleeping bags to cover the rider.

He'd low sided off a turn, hit a barrier - his bike kept going along the barrier but he went over.

And then dropped 60 feet down a cliff, landing between two boulders.

He was apparently still conscious when they got down there - and it wasn't too long before police and ambulance and fire vehicles arrived.

We stayed long enough to make sure there was nothing more we could do. (Except get in the way) - leaving our sleeping bag behind (since they were still working on getting him out from the bottom of the cliff) we went on our way... a bit more quiet, and a bit more respectful of those mountain roads.

Later we checked the news, but we don't really know what happened to the rider in the end.

Stopping pushed back our arrival time to our planned nightly stop - and we rode into the sunset, and the gradual fall of night across the mountains.

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We stopped for the night. Katie took the time to send an email or two to my daughter.

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Then it was off to sleep.
Last edited by jleonard on Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:27 am

The next morning was the final few passes before we dropped down out of the mountains, and reached Vancouver/Richmond area.

The last pass was literally an experience in driving down through the clouds - clouds boiling and rumbling down the mountainsides like a waterfall in mist.

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And then a lot of high speed (for the Ural anyways) driving along the flat, straight.... and thoroughly boring stretch to the Ferry terminal which would take us to Victoria.

Taking us to family, old friends, and Jack.


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We had dinner on the ferry. We decided due to the time we would stop before going all the way into Victoria and stay at a hotel.

I think also, we just weren't ready to be there. We weren't quite ready to have arrived.

We weren't quite ready to stop the chase.

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So we pulled off the ferry - grabbed a hotel room.

And slept.

Knowing we'd wake up to a very few miles... and the end of the trip.

But we're not quite at the end of this story.

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:32 am

Time for a bit more about Jack.. before we finish the trip story.

Over the years - Jack made it into the papers more than once. He was quite well known in the community (and quite active in several community organizations.)

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These days we don't get involved with the place where we live in the same way - not most of us. With Jack, family came first - but community came a very close second. And friends frequently became the same thing as family.

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:39 am

So it was to family we went - waking up at the hotel and going to my aunt and uncle's place in Victoria. (My uncle, like most of my family is a bit.... eccentric in his hobbies. Including building a functional steam railway on his property)

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That's some of the track behind the bike - I didn't get time to shoot the engines themselves, but they're all entirely handmade, running from steam and powered by propane.

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Jack's influence I'm sure. He was a hands on builder - this was his home made diagram of a bike he was making. (One of a few I've set aside)

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I looked out at my uncle's bridges and roads... and thought about the trip we had just made.

And thought about Jack too.

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Because we had a couple places left to ride. And a few things left to remember.

The first place was a small, family memorial for Jack.

It was only fitting - he wouldn't have wanted the dark suit and limo approach, so my wife and I drove the motorbike and sidecar there. Dressed in a tie and dress clothes yes, but still the same dusty riding jacket that I had worn all the way here. Something with memories of dust and wheel beaten into it.

Something appropriate to wear right here.

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The family gathered - tears were shed yes, but there was a great deal of laughter and stories too.

We ended with the family singing his favourite song "I'm a bum". Which is one of those songs where the lyrics would change every time he sang it.

A little less traditional than a dirge, or organ music or some sad thing piped out of a boombox.

But sad wasn't really Jack's style.

After that came the big memorial... in a style I think was fitting. A block party.

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There was food, there was music, there was stories told and people gathered.

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The Ural was there - decorated with a "Chasing Jack" magnet, and quite the hit with the kids.

Jack would have loved that too.


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The party lasted most of the day - we left right from there, riding to the Ferry, heading out to Richmond and the airport area, and then riding to where the Ural would be picked up by the transport company to be brought back to Toronto.

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My wife even said that she wished we could ride it back. You have to know how lucky you are when you drag a loved one across a continent, almost get them killed with a house and a rogue GPS, drench them in rain and freeze them with cold and choke them with dust.... and they end up saying they want more.

We went to the airport, waited for our plane.

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I thought about this trip - about dedicating it to Jack. Remember I said I had reason to know he'd have appreciated it? Well while we were out there... I found a few things in his papers. The papers that were left over when the famiyl divided various keepsakes.

Like these - from the infamous 50th wedding anniversary in which Jack made "The Speech." A picture of Jack and me. (God where did that skinny guy go.... I think I must have eaten him at some point.)

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The poem I wrote as my gift (not having much money at the time)

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And I found something else... something that surprised me.

Something that let me know, Jack was still laughing at the irony of it all.

Because I found these among Jack's papers.

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These were from before I had even really considered buying the Ural. Before Jack's health got a bit too fragile - and I think he was seriously considering buying a Ural at the time.

So that's it.

Trip is done - we chased a ghost across the country. We found memory, family, and more than a few surprises.

We found Jack.

But in the end..... I really think he's still out there somewhere. I think he's on two wheels, telling stories, telling jokes both good and bad and singing "I'm a bum" to whomever will listen.

And I think next year - I'm going to have to chase him some more. East to the sea.

Because when someone has that much of an impact, that much memory and love - you chase them every step, of every day.

I'll be putting a few more miles in his memory yet.

See you later, Jack.

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