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Archive for October, 2009

October 29th, 2009 - And that’s how it goes

Every generation needs a new revolution. —Thomas Jefferson

I have an addition to this famous line; to have a revolution, we first need an evolution.

We live in a time in which the world has never been healthier, wealthier, or more advanced; but absurdly, the conditions for the world’s poor has not improved for centuries regardless of our advancements. With blood-sucking organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund leaving nothing for the poor and only caring for their own power, Leonard Cohen’s song keeps ringing in my head, “The poor stay poor and the rich gets rich, and that’s how it goes, and everybody knows…”

Does everybody know?

November is bladder-control awareness month! We have a month dedicated to not pissing our pants but shamefully and shockingly, there is no month or even a day dedicated to the number one cause of human death in the world: Hunger. No pretty pink or yellow ribbons, no merchandising propaganda, no bracelets to be sold at gas stations.  And sadly, no one seems to care.

Hunger-associated disorders kill 36 million people each year worldwide. This is more than coronary heart disease, stroke and other cerebro-vascular diseases, lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, tracheal, bronchial, and lung cancers, road traffic accidents, and premature or low birth weight, COMBINED.

Let me rephrase that because it is vaguely important. Despite the fact that hunger-associated disorders kill more people than the 10 major causes of death in the world, our government is more concerned with banning artificial sweeteners because of the increased rate of bladder cancer in laboratory rats that were fed large doses of saccharin!

The question remains: Why should we care?

Remember the hurricane Katrina victims? They had faces. They had media coverage. They had the whole world watching. We still failed to give them their most basic needs. Now imagine a family in Ethiopia or Haiti with no media coverage, no Wal-Mart to bring water, and nowhere to turn. Their story could be YOUR story. All it takes is one heavy cloud, one strong wind, one earthquake.child-deaths

I don’t have unrealistic expectations. I know that change won’t happen overnight but I also know that if we all sit around and do nothing, nothing will ever change. It takes one step, one dollar, one person at a time and you can have a share in it. The first step is raising awareness and every single one of you is capable of doing so. Spread the word. Send this message to everyone you know, whether via Facebook, MySpace, forums, or email. It takes less than a minute of your time to care and the result is undeniable.

You can refer them to my website at www.motorcyclememoir.com. To make donations to reach the goal for the month of October, please visit the donation page on this site and make it a reality.

Revolutions start with evolving our resources and ideas. We are far away from revolution. Let’s evolve for now; revolution will follow.

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October 26th, 2009 - Coast to Desert

If you are enjoying these updates, please support the cause by making a donation. As I have mentioned before, I will pitch in $2000 out of my personal travel funds if the collected donations surpass the $1500 goal for the month of October. All donations for this month will go to the “Centro de Recuperacion Nutricional Infantil Bethania” in Jocotán, Guatemala. It is a private medical center that treats about 400 malnourished children each year. They are desperately underfunded and your help is a matter of life and death.

I’ve been in need of a set of practical riding gear which would be waterproof, light weight, comfortable, not too flashy and most importantly 4 season. San Luis Motorsports had just the thing and after 5 hours of trying on different gear, I narrowed it down to Tourmaster jacket and riding pants. Steve Myrack, the owner of San Luis Motorsports, was generous enough to provide the gear for a deeply discounted price. If in San Luis Obispo, don’t miss this shop, they have a great selection.

The weather is changing as I travel further south, it is getting dryer, warmer and the population seems to grow by the mile. Now I know why so many people move to California. You can’t find nicer weather anywhere else.

I left SLO for Bakersfield on Friday and rode the Hwy 58 west. In 3 hours, I went from deep blue waters of the Pacific to the barren outskirts of the Mojave Desert. It reminded me of my beloved birth place Shiraz. There is something about the solitude in the desert that is hard to describe; the sunsets, the wind, the ever-changing sky line… I’m in love with it all over again.

I met Bill Rea, another GSer in Bakersfield, and stayed with him for two days. For the last 4000 miles, I’ve been trying to find a place where I could do my valve adjustment. I was getting more concerned every day, and I turned out to be right.

Out of 8 valves, 5 were so tight we couldn’t get a feeler gauge in to measure the valve lash (i.e. gap) and the other 3 were out of spec as well. We measured the shims a few times and got 6 of the valves to spec with what we had but we needed two more shims. After calling around and a look around the city, all we found was one shim and were out of luck on the second one.

It might sound horrifying to some “By the Book” mechanics but we had no choice other than to grind one shim down, fractions of millimeters at a time, to get the perfect clearance on the #2 Exhaust valve.

A Dremmel, a cutting disk, and patience like Bills did the job as he made the meticulous cuts and fixed the problem. We also fixed my wandering speedometer, tightened the steering, fixed the kickstand switch, and re-routed the throttle cable behind the forks. Bill also is a great cook – hence his username “Chef1366”. It was an honor to be their guest and I appreciate their hospitality.

I have a lecture in Barstow so I will be heading South/East for a while, stay tuned…

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October 20th, 2009 - Monterey, CA

I would like to thank Thomas D’Acquisto and Garrett Dulaney for their generous donations. Please make a donation of any amount for the month of October and let’s reach this month’s goal.

Andy Pogany, another GSer invited me to visit him if my travels took me to Monterey. Monterey is a small town just north of Carmel, on the coast of California. Famous for its fisheries from the years gone by, it was also the first capital of California.

I met Andy and his friend Dennis around 6pm at a shopping center near his house. Since it was getting dark, we exchanged a few words and started heading back towards his place. The road kept getting narrower and I started to doubt whether there was actually anything at the end of the path but sure enough, at the end of the road stood a beautiful house on top of a hill surrounded by oak trees.

After a great Hungarian dinner and lots of wine, we played Crokinole, a Canadian board game which was a lot of fun. You cannot beat Andy in that game and I was glad to be his partner. I went to bed around 2:30 and that set the precedent for the following nights.

The next day Andy took me out for a ride around Monterey and showed me much of the town. From fisherman’s wharf to local hotspots, we covered anything that was worth seeing and did some shopping for the bikes. We spent the rest of the night working on our rides, turning wrenches while listening to country music (according to Andy, a necessary activity).

We wired up a coil relay for Andy’s GS750 and fixed his broken mirror mount and later took the rear wheel off of the 850 and greased the splines which was overdue after 8000 miles of hard use. One thing led to another and when I looked at my watch it was already 4 am and we were still talking about cars and our various fruitless attempts to re-invent the wheel in our pasts.

My plan on leaving the next day came to a halt when I woke up at noon and could barely stand straight, so Jollene and Andy offered me to stay another night so we could see the State Parks and the town of Carmel.

We left for the coast rather late waiting for the morning rain to clear but still managed to see a lot of the places we intended. We toured the Carmel area in Andy’s old (1996) Porsche 911 which I was privileged to drive. Now I know what all the fuss is about when people talk about this German beauty. As Andy puts it, it’s a classic car with 6 angry Germans pushing in a trunk. My camera died when we were in Point Lobos and we were bummed that we couldn’t take more pictures and we felt really stupid later when we realized we both had our camera phones with us and didn’t even think of that.

After having dinner in a little Italian restaurant in Carmel (with a horrible “100 year old family recipe” garlic bread – Andy forced me to add this) we headed back to Monterey and made a promise to go to sleep early that night. It was all going as planned until we started talking about guitars and the last night of my stay turned into a jamming session that lasted until 3am. Andy pulled out his guitar collection and hooked up the Amp and we played everything from Persian folk songs to old blues. What a great night.

My stay in Monterey was memorable and although seemed like a vacation with no progress on the mission, it laid out a lasting friendship with a great couple. The exciting news is that Andy will be proof reading my journals which will save you some headache trying to figure out what I’m trying to say. Andy and Jollene, thank you both for your hospitality, I had a fantastic time.

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October 16th, 2009 - San Jose, CA

First off, I would like to thank Chuck Williams and Hari Crowder for their generous donations. The month of October is almost over and the donation goal has not been reached. If you are enjoying these posts, please take a little time to donate a few bucks for the cause.

Under the torrential rain of San Francisco, I walked through downtown wearing my rain suit and 75 liter pack. I could see a stream of water coming down from the top of my hood every time I stopped moving. A black guy approached me and offered me a sandwich, I was dumbfounded. I realized I looked like a homeless person standing in the rain shouldering a backpack with no umbrella.

The rain finally stopped and after farewells to Elizabeth and Harrison I left for San Jose. In San Jose, I met Jessica Cover and stayed with her for the next two nights. Jessica was one of the most interesting people I have met on this trip. At age 27; she is an accomplished young lady with a bright future as a chiropractor. Even though she was preparing for her exams, we talked for hours and had a great time.

As I have mentioned before, Rob Eberle the owner of Cycle Recycle Parts II has sponsored this expedition and generously shipped some much needed parts to Tom Murphy’s house in Berryessa. Located in Indianapolis, Cycle Recycle stocks an impressive inventory of used and new parts for classic Japanese motorcycles. Shipping is cheap and fast and Rob is a knowledgeable guy to talk to. It is nice to find a shop these days where you can actually talk to the owner rather than answering machines. The box consisted of a new high chrome fender, valve cover gasket, oil filter, inner tube, clutch cable, speedometer cable and a set of progressive fork springs.

At Tom’s house, we changed the front springs, made the new fender fit and fixed the kickstand on the bike. Chuck and Ray, two of Tom’s neighbors, and Bob, another GSer, showed up and the party started. Over some beer and pizza, courtesy of Tom Murphy, we speculated on the best way of fixing the stand. Ray brought his welder over and welded the top surface of the bracket to raise the stand. In the mean time, Tom looked for his missing 14mm wrench for two hours and accused everyone of stealing it. It turned out he had it last and left it on his own shelf!

Tom, Chuck, Ray and Bob are all great guys and their help was tremendous. We had a great time and lots of fun, but I had to be in Los Gatos for the night so I said my goodbyes and made plans for the next day to meet up with them in town for a ride in the mountains.

Chuck rode out with me on his Harley to show me the way.  I was enjoying my new fork springs until we got to the exit ramp. I tried to lean the bike but nothing happened. I pressed on the handle bar and almost wet my pants from what I saw. The handle bar was moving but the front wheel wasn’t! Somehow, between four “Certified Mechanics”, we forgot to tighten the fork pinch bolts and all that was holding everything together were the headlight ears.

I got off the curved ramp god knows how, and tried to catch up with Chuck (I had no idea where we were heading and didn’t want to lose him), but I couldn’t go as fast for the fear of losing control of the bike. Finally I caught up to him and flagged him to stop and we pulled over at a restaurant. Out of 6 bolts, 4 were finger tight and the other two barely hanging on. I escaped yet another fatal mistake…

I met up with Tom and Chuck in town the next day and we rode up on a twisty road going to the top of the mountain to kill some time at the Alice’s restaurant. This biker bar was a cool place and there were hundreds of bikers from all over. The ride was great and besides witnessing a motorcycle accident scene on the way, was without a glitch.

Tom treated us again to burgers and beer and we basked in the sunshine, talking and enjoying the view. Bob and Chuck took off for San José and Tom and I rode on highway 1 south for Santa Cruz. We said our goodbyes and I headed south as usual and Tom north back to San José.

I had a great time staying in Silicon Valley and made some amazing friends. California has been good to me so far. Next stop:  Monterey and Carmel…

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October 13th, 2009 - The Unfettered Life

First off, I would like to thank fellow GSers Rob and Lisa Hayward for their generous donations. The GS resources website has been a great help on mechanical issues and is still holding first place on donations. Thank you for everything guys.

My reunion in Ashland with Gib was bitter sweet. I stayed with him for 3 nights and left for California on Sunday. He gave me my last million-dollar haircut with his Hikari scissors which are unbelievably sharp and expensive. They are handmade by the Samurai people and the smallest scissors they make are sold for around $600!

He wanted to buy a laptop and I wanted to get a smaller one so we made a deal and I exchanged my 15.4” Dell for a 10.1” HP that he paid for. This machine is very compact and portable but it’s like an “Etch A Sketch” compared to my old one. We flipped a coin for the farewell lunch and after feeding me for the last time, I was on my way to California.

I took Todd’s advice to take the California Hwy 96 and what a great route it turned out to be. California has the best roads in the world in my opinion, and 96 was no different. With all its twist and turns, it passes through the Klamath National Forest which is breathtaking. I was hoping to camp somewhere along the way but I kept on pushing toward Eureka. At around 8pm I decided I had enough and wanted to camp but there was no camp spot around and I was approaching more populated areas. In Hoopa I found a campground that was closed but I figured I would poach it anyway.

Hoopa is on an Indian reservation and the whole place looked kind of iffy but it was already dark and I had no choice. Plastic bags and trash all over the place, this campground was a true dump but if that wasn’t enough, two Indian guys in a truck rolled in and stopped where I was going to camp. They shouted something that I didn’t understand and drove off and parked about 100 yards away. They started howling and making war noises (I used to watch a lot of western movies so I know what that sounds like). After a while they got in their truck and started approaching my site still making noises. It was pitch dark and no one else around so I didn’t take their noises as a friendly gesture. I got my hatchet out, opened my Kershaw knife and got the bear spray out of the sheath. I turned on the bike headlight and stood with an axe in one hand and pepper spray in other behind the light, waiting.

The truck stopped right in front of my campsite and the guy in the passenger side started putting on black gloves! At that moment I knew I was in it for more than a friendly talk. I gripped the axe handle harder and stood still, but he never came out of the truck.

The driver stepped on the gas and the truck took off with a screeching noise and they left the area. I really wanted to camp there but I didn’t want to be surprised in the middle of the night by a truck full of angry Indians so I rode off on my bike like I stole it.

For the first time since the start of this trip, I rode at night and the Hwy 96 became my nemesis. With my crappy headlight ,I could barely see the turns let alone the flat spots off the road to pitch my tent and the night dragged on. I was getting pretty tired and my eyes were hurting from concentrating on the road and looking for but not finding a single spot to camp.

I got to Eureka at 10:30pm and went straight to a Super 8 Motel and checked in for $59. I was mad at myself for getting in a situation like that and risking my life when I could have easily camped out at 6 pm for free in day light. Never again.

The next day all hell broke loose and Northern California experienced its first storm of the year (it was on the front page of the San Francisco news). Rain came down in sheets and oily roads turned into one big skating rink. I took it easy all the way and stopped to check out the giant Redwoods of the Northern California forests along the way. Ranging from 500 to 2000 years old, these threes are about a size of a submarine! Standing next to them I felt like one of the little people in Gulliver’s Travels.

That night, I stayed with Harrison and Elizabeth, my couch surfing hosts and was out of the rain. I had a great time staying with these two love birds. Both smart and athletic, we talked about climbing, current politics, stupid things and drank some fine scotch out of Harrison’s collection. He gave me a lock-picking tool and a practice lock and lectured me on how it works, but as much as I tried, I never even came close to successfully picking the lock. But I’ll keep trying.

I’m staying here for another night, then meeting Tom in San José for some bike maintenance. Stay tuned…

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October 8th, 2009 - Rogue Wilderness Crossing

When I was in Beaverton, I asked Todd if he knew a road that went from the coast to Medford avoiding major highways and he said “Yes, there is a road, but you don’t want to take it with a loaded bike like that”.

The road that goes from Gold beach to Merlin is indeed a challenging road. I know because I rode it. It passes through the Rogue Wilderness and Kalmiopsis National Forest and is 50 miles long. It is a one lane road with two way traffic, and with blocked sections due to slides and loose gravel patches. It is a gorgeous ride through some the oldest forests in Oregon that goes from sea level to 4500 ft at the Bear Camp Pass. The wind was so strong that at times I thought I would get blown off the ridge and the temperature dropped by the minute.

To begin with, at the junction in Agnes, I took a wrong turn and I was officially lost. After riding for 40 minutes, I came to the conclusion that there was something wrong. The map showed that the road was paved and heading east but my compass kept on pointing north and the road I was on had turned into single tracks.

For the only second time since the start of the expedition, I fired up the GPS. (I used it once to tell Todd where I was in Portland but I wasn’t lost that time). My GPS is not a mapping unit so I had to match the coordinates to the map and figure out my location. The problem with the map that I have is that the latitude markers are not very precise and had to be divided into minutes and seconds so I could get an exact fix on my position. With no ruler to measure, I did a good job of dividing the degrees latitude and to my horror, I found myself about 12 miles north of my intended route. My compass was right, I was going north indeed.

I backtracked to the junction and found the sign for 23E to Merlin. At Bear Camp Pass, my thermometer showed 29 degrees Fahrenheit in full sunshine. My hands where frozen in my summer leather gloves and I could swear I had an icicle hanging from my nose. All I wanted was to get to lower elevation quick and be out of the wind but the road didn’t go down. Instead it kept on going at 4000 ft for another 5 miles before finally descending down. It was getting late in the day and I had to find a camping spot but I had no water.

I saw a truck camper in the woods and approached it to ask the guy for drinking water. The man in the camper was John Scullion and he turned out to be one hell of a nice guy, and in all strangeness, he was from South Carolina, where I lived for few years. We knew the same fishing spots and beaches and had a lot to talk about so I pitched my tent next to his camper and got down to talking.

I made chicken cacciatore with Basmati rice for dinner over the fire and he told me what gold mining was all about which I found very interesting. He even showed me some of the gold nuggets he found and we got along pretty good. The next morning, after a mushroom omelet (regular mushroom, that is), I hit the road to Medford. In Medford, the Rogue Regency Inn sponsored my accommodation for two days while I went around the town looking for sponsors. The hotel was clean with indoor pool and spa and friendly staff.

Motorcycle Superstore headquarters is located in Medford and I wanted to get those guys on-board. They have not call me back yet but I hope they do. While in Town, Kurt Beckman from Bike Barn Motorcycles did sponsor me and Medford was all good again. Bike Barn is on the N. Pacific Highway in Medford and their focus is on dirt bikes but nevertheless, it was a cool shop. He had some Husaberg dirt bikes which you don’t see around very often, along with some cool Moto Guzzies. Thank you Kurt for your support.

I left Medford this morning and will stay in Ashland tonight with Gib (we finally caught up again). I will head south tomorrow towards San José to meet up with Tom, another member from GSresources to do the final adjustments to the bike before crossing the border into México.

P.S.  I have not received a penny in donations for Centro de Bethania. Get moving guys. I’m counting on you.

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October 1st, 2009 - Oregon, The Beaver State

This flu took a lot out of me as big city traffic, rain, and popping pills don’t really mix. There were many people who sent me get well emails including Debbi Matte, my battery sponsor (Batteries Plus), who looked after me like a mother hen and sent me jokes to cheer me up. Thank you guys.

I made Portland a little after 4 and started looking for a rack to replace the broken one. The only place I knew that carried the same rack was Wal-Mart, but since Portland is anti Wal-Mart, I had one hell of a time locating one and when I did, they were out. After riding for another hour, I found another Wal-Mart on the other side of the town and luckily they had one left. I called Wade and got directions to his house and was home free.

Wade had read my posts on ADVrider.com and offered me his garage and sleeping quarters which I desperately needed. After a couple glasses of wine, we got to work and replaced the old rack with the new one and mounted the solar panel that Debbi gave me on the right rear aluminum pannier. I stayed with wade for two nights and reorganized my gear, shifting the weight backward a little.  Back while I was in Seattle, I had stopped at Touratech USA.  Tom, the owner, was kind enough to supply me with a great Ortlieb dry bag which has made my life easier. No more garbage bag over my backpack for water proofing!

Another member of GSresources in the Portland area named Todd had offered his garage while I was still back in Prince George (BC, Canada), so I called him and met up with him in Beaverton. He took me out to lunch to a Hawaiian joint and I stuffed myself with kalua pig. Man that was good. He performed some surgery on the front forks to straighten the bend I had in them along with drilling another hole in my broken windshield and I was on my way. Todd is a canny navigator and all the directions he gave me were right on. Thanks to his gift, I found my way out of the wine country and toward the coast quickly but wetly.

The Oregon coast is a phenomenal place- 800 miles of sand and giant rocks coming out of the ocean, with little towns scattered all along the way. Speed limit is 55 at most and I don’t like it, but the scenery makes up for it. After Beaverton, I stayed with my CouchSurfing host Corrina in Otis for two nights. She was the only person in the area on the web site and I was lucky to be her guest. A non-profit environmentalist, she lives in a cute house nestled in the woods of the country side with 13 chickens and a cool cat. She made a killer dinner of fish and pasta with fresh vegetables and I devoured a whole skillet of it.

The next evening I worked with the Lincoln City Food Pantry to get more familiar with the food bank system in Oregon. My impression was mixed as it was very much like the other food banks I’ve visited and volunteered for:  it lacked an educational infrastructure.

With shelves full of food, it is sad to witness people coming in and stocking up on unhealthy garbage while passing up the fresh produce that was also offered. There was only one lady who picked up an apple in the 3 hours that I was there and I had to take a picture of it. Feeding without providing education is wasting resources. As simple as that. Food education is something we are lacking and there has not been a serious attempt to make it a reality. Let’s try cooking sessions in churches one Sunday out of the month. I’m sure God would be fine with that.

In the year 2009, the obesity rate finally caught up to the hunger figures. According to United Nations, there are 1.1 billion people worldwide who are suffering from hunger and that exact number holds true for obesity. Of course there is “no relationship whatsoever” between these two phenomena and you would be labeled a communist if you ever tried to make one.

In our own country, we have an obesity rate of over 30%! That means that out of every 3 people, one weighs as much as the other two, and what do we do? We switch to Diet-Coke instead of the regular Coke! These are the two ends of the same spectrum of poverty. Have you ever wondered why George Clooney doesn’t weigh 400lbs but the guy in the trailer park down the road does? Education and healthy diet is the answer. When you are on food stamps, you don’t pick the healthiest food, you pick the most filling one.

Sometimes I think that human race is not as evolved as other species. We care more about our lawns and Halloween costumes than we care about our neighbors. I read an article on vampire bats not long ago that made me shiver. Vampire bats, which primarily feed on the blood of mammals and birds, must obtain a blood meal at least every 3 days or face starvation. On a given night, there are individual bats that do not successfully feed. Fortunately for them, those who do get their share of blood, regurgitate some of their meal to feed the unsuccessful ones. This behavior has evolved over time, and the bats have developed a level of recognition to where they will refuse to regurgitate blood to feed those bats who have not participated in food sharing in the past.

With our IPods and million mega pixel cameras, with our triple over-head cam engines and Mars Rovers, we still don’t possess a decency of sharing our meals with those who need it desperately. It wouldn’t cost us much.  Maybe if we didn’t buy another $18 stupid gadget that ends up in a box in our 19 door garage; maybe if we cooked a meal once in a while instead of stuffing our guts with shit shiny Chinese food from a buffet, or buying a 50 gallon drum of mustard from Costco, we could scramble up 20 bucks to feed a family of 4. And get them educated so they don’t have to eat fat and sugar when they do get to choose their food. Maybe I’m a visionary or maybe I’m just talking to my god damn self or maybe both. Perhaps that’s the problem.

This month is a month of giving. Spare that ugly orange walnut turkey that you put on the kitchen table to bring a “Holiday Feel” to your home; instead, bring joy and life to a family by giving them their very basic need: food. Scroll down and take a good look at what a “Mechanically Separated Turkey” (this was on the label, I didn’t make this up) looks like in a Food Share freezer, then compare it to what your Butterball will look like on Thanksgiving Day.

For the month of October, I’ve chosen a well-deserving and unique organization called “The Centro de Recuperacion Nutricional Infantil Bethania” in Jocotán, Guatemala. It is a private medical center that treats about 400 malnourished children each year. They are desperately underfunded and your donations are matter of life and death.

Children that are being treated in this facility are extremely malnourished. Antonio, the boy pictured on my donation page of this website, was the weight of a 6 month old baby although he was 3 years old at the time the picture was taken. Every recovery costs $900 per child; that’s in a nation where 75% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.
Please make a donation of any amount (think of it as a second turkey for thanksgiving dinner) and I will pitch in $2000 out of my own personal travel funds, even though it will make the expedition more challenging for me. Donations can be sent by check, cash, kisses, hugs and/or credit cards. Please visit the Donation Page for more information.

Let’s not be human for a while, let’s be vampire bats…(if you make a bumper sticker out of that, I want royalties :P)

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