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Posts Tagged ‘River Run’

That would be the 30th Laughlin River Run.

The earliest inhabitants of this Colorado River Valley town were the Mojave people, but this past weekend the valley was full of Harley-Davidson riders with all the necessities (read $$ in wallets) to create a prosperous event.

With 2012 marking the 30th anniversary of the River Run there was plenty of denim and leather on display and Casino Drive even had a fresh layer of asphalt and stripping!  And not one, but two law firms specializing in motorcycle accident cases attended the event with vendor booths.

The official stats have not been released yet, but early indicators from the Laughlin Tourism Board indicate that there was a 40% jump in attendance at the annual motorcycle event and was expected to give the town a $40M boost to the local economy.  In fact, the River Run is the city’s single biggest revenue-generating event and accounts for approximately 10% of the revenue for many hotels, bars and restaurants.

Yep, law enforcement was out in force during the event and at times seemed to outnumber the motorcycle enthusiasts.  There was a stepped up “no colors” policy which was highly visible through-out the valley on electronic reader boards and on signage at the casinos.

I was a day-tripper this year and the weather couldn’t have been better with temperatures in the mid-80’s.  Besides communing with other bikers our group attended the annual “pimpin shrimp” and “pig-from-a-pit” BBQ in Needles where Dave and Manny impressed everyone with their cooking skills.

It was good people, cold refreshments and lots of fun!

Photos take by author.

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Death Valley

I can see it now…

A big room in the basement of a church.  Lots and lots of folding chairs.  Even more Styrofoam cups, the smell of badly burnt coffee in the air.  A platter of cookies that are hard as a bricks.  No one is making eye contact.  A lot of shifting feet and uncomfortable twitching of fingers that have nothing to do with themselves.  A big sign at the front of the room announcing to silence all mobile phones.

Then a person stands up:  “Hi.  My name is [fill in the blank], and I’m addicted to Facebook.”

Yeah, until last Saturday it’s been 187 days since the temperature hit 70 degrees with sunshine in Oregon!  As a result there’s been a lot of folks tethered to the “book” indoors and it’s time to ride.

This week is the Laughlin River Run (30th Anniversary) and nothing’s cooler than riding in some warm fresh desert air.

Clearly I’m due for some good weather riding and luckily I’ll get a chance to take advantage of nature’s air conditioning in Laughlin Nevada later in the week.  Due to work constraints I won’t be riding down and reporting on the trip like last year, instead I’ve had the bike shipped on a transport truck to Las Vegas and will be riding in and around the local area. We’ve got some L.A. buddies who have a place on the Colorado River outside Needles and can throw a sleeping bag unless we opt for plusher arrangements.

Every year it seems like the River Run attendance is getting smaller, but we’ll see if the 30th Anniversary brings an up-tick in people or if gas prices have riders staying closer to home.  They have Ted Nugent as a headliner which is a darn good start to any motorcycle event!

Hope to see you at the event.

Photo taken in Death Valley.

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Cold Creek Inn - Mt. Shasta (Background)

Day 1: (PDX – Mt. Shasta City)
The posse departure date for Laughlin was April 25th. Unfortunately, that morning rain came down in sheets and the wind blew like a hurricane. It is spring in the northwest after all and with the instability…showers produced a mix of rain and small hail with an occasional snow flurry back to rain.  So, rather than enjoy t-shirt riding, we enjoyed getting to know our rain gear and re-learning how to use heated gloves!  Scattered showers continued through the valley off and on, but it got warmer (maybe we were just getting use to it?) as we made our way south.

We rode straight down I-5 and it was an uneventful trip until we hit the Siskiyou pass where snow flurries started.  Fortunately nothing was sticking to the road and we continued on to Mt. Shasta City where we overnighted at the Cold Creek Inn.

Hwy 207 from South Lake Tahoe

We grabbed some dinner at Strings Italian Café and spent the evening re-packing rain gear and warming up.

Day 2: (Mt. Shasta City – Minden, NV)
Temperatures continued to be cold (sub-freezing) when we woke, but the sun was shining which helped thaw out the heavy frost on the bikes.

We plugged in and headed south down I-5 to Red Bluff.  In the first hour we crossed over Lake Shasta.  Bright blue sky with deep blue water made for some awesome photos unfortunately I never stopped to take any pictures.   I’ll add that to my bucket list.  The lake for all practical purposes look full.  And there is still a lot of construction on the I-5 roadway in and around the bridge.  After arriving in Red Bluff we took Hwy 99 South to Los Molinos and Chico.  We proceed south on Hwy 99/162 past the Oroville Wildlife Area to Yuba City then toward Lake of the Woods State Wildlife to Sacramento.  We did a bit of looping in the area and finally made our way east to Folsom on Hwy 50 or the El Dorado Fwy.

Minden, NV - Looking at South Lake Tahoe

We rolled thru Pollock Pines then the Eldorado National Forest via Hwy 50 then Hwy 89/50 thru South Lake Tahoe.  The temperatures remained cool through the 4500-5000 foot level of the national forest and while the road was dry there remained large amounts of snow in the ditches.  We fueled up in South Lake Tahoe and proceeded onto Hwy 207 which runs up and over the mountain after plenty of switchbacks to Minden, NV where we overnighted at the Holiday Inn Express.

Minden is located near the center of Carson Valley and about 15 miles south of Carson City.  We grab dinner at the Carson Valley Inn (Katie’s Country Kitchen) after learning that the CV Steak house closed shop on Tuesdays.

After dinner we were still chilled to the bone with a couple days of electric gloves so we hit the hot tub in the hotel and that seemed to permanently correct the “chilled” situation for the rest of the trip.

Mono Lake

Day 3: (Minden – Las Vegas)
The next morning continued on a bit of a warming trend as we picked up Hwy 395 and headed south.  We meandered along the valley floor and crossed back over the state line into CA., near Topaz Lake.  It was early but fishing boats dotted the lake I suppose to take a shot at capturing another trophy trout.

Bridgeport was the first fuel stop of the morning and where we paid about $25 to fill a 5-gallon motorcycle tank!   Not well know, but Bridgeport hosts the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC).  It’s one of the most remote and isolated military posts and conducts training exercises for military personnel headed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The base is located about 21 miles from the city center on Hwy 108 at Pickle Meadow, but we chatted up some guys in a non-descript white standard issue military van.

Sierra Mountain Range - Hwy 395

As we rode on it wasn’t long before we caught our first glimpse of Mono Lake.  “Mono” means “beautiful” in Piute and besides being an oasis in the great basin it is an awesome sight.  As we continued around Mono Lake we quickly climbed to another 8100-foot ridge where aspen forest dotted the landscape and then we started back down the to the valley floor.  We continued south and near Crestview is a turnoff on Hwy 203.  For many in southern CA., this is the road to Mammoth Lakes and a ski resort.

We ate lunch at a local Denny’s in Bishop, the unofficial capital of Owens Valley and the biggest town on Hwy 395 south of Reno.  The town sits at about 4000 feet, but just a few minutes prior to arriving we were nearly at 9000 feet.  On the way into Bishop I remember looking off east and seeing a large radar array.  I didn’t recall seeing any information and always on the lookout for something new I researched it on my return.  It’s the CARMA Deep Space Satellite Dish Array Complex and turns out to be one of the largest university operated radio observatories in the world known as the Owens Valley Radio Observatory.  Who knew?!

Death Valley

We continued on and arrived in Lone Pine which is between the highway and the Sierra range and was popular for filming western movies.  In fact we passed the Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film history and enjoyed a spectacular view of Mt. Whitney (14,494 ft) which is the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states.  We took Hwy 190 east which runs though Death Valley National Park.

We entered Death Valley from the west entrance on Hwy 190 and traveled east.  The 3.3 million acres of spectacular scenery with sculpted hills and shifting sand dunes.  We went from high level vistas to the below sea level and enjoyed the hottest place in N.A.  About 20 miles into the park we stopped at Father Crowley Point and ran into a group of riders from Germany.  It seems to me that we end up chatting with folks from Germany about every year in the desert because they ride rented H-D’s with Florida plates.  Last year we met a group riding in the Grand Canyon with snow.  We made another stop at Stovepipe Wells village and another photo opportunity of Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes then headed east on Daylight Pass Road to Beatty, NV., as we needed to make some miles after meandering around in the park.

Below Sea Level

At Beatty we headed south on Hwy 95.  About an hour outside Las Vegas near Indian Springs I saw a big shadow roll over me from the sky and at first I was thinking it was a bird.  I looked back over my left shoulder and it turned out to be a Predator drone making circles in a landing pattern at Creech AFB.  The base use to be called Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, but was changed a few years ago and it’s now home to the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and the 432d Wing “Hunters.”

We arrived in Las Vegas and bedded down in the “Hangover Suite” at the MGM.  I kid you not the hotel gave us a mid-week deal on the suite that cost the same as a normal room. We were living life large… at least for one night.

Laughlin Aquarius Hotel/Casino

Day 4: Laughlin
We hit it a bit hard the night before… some a lot more than others… and as a result we made a leisurely mid-day departure out of Vegas and headed toward Laughlin on Hwy 95.  At the Boulder City/Laughlin junction we did an inventory of fuel thinking we could make Searchlight without any issues.  We hadn’t planned on the fierce headwind and as a result my bike ran out of fuel about 7 miles to soon.  We leveraged a tube from one of the tool kits and used a water bottle to transfer some gas from one of the newer bikes which have 6+ gallon fuel tanks.  According to H-D the “check-engine” light which was triggered by the lack of firing due to fuel issue will re-set after about 50 starts and work normal.  I may need to go in and just have them reset it… assuming the cost is minimal to free?

After approximately 1200 miles we finally arrived at the Laughlin River Run and Aquarius Hotel/Casino in time to park our bikes, grab a refreshment and take in a few vendor booths.

The BBQ Crew

Our original plan was to crash at a buddies place in Needles on sleeping bags, but on a whim we decided to check room availability at the Aquarius.  They had rooms, be it 5X the standard budget rate on any other week, but our age group isn’t fond of sleeping bags and hard floors so we opted for plusher surroundings and paid the elevated rates.  Yeah, we’re lame, but showers are nice every couple days!

Summary
Over the next couple days we meandered around the local area, hit the pool once and chatted up the new motorcycle products with vendors and attended a couple of BBQ’s put on by one of our buddies friends from L.A.  First came Big Ed’s BBQ in Bull Head City with authentic Mexican dishes, Fajitas, Spanish rice and other seasoned food that melted in your mouth.  Then there was Big Dave’s in Needles on the Colorado River…   there were dry rubs, spicy pastes and marinated flavor that permeated the meats and provided a wonderful taste.  The shrimp was a killer with the wide range of heat from differing chilies.  Major shout out to the L.A. posse for the awesome hospitality!!

The "Van Down By The River"

Due to work constraints I had to have my bike shipped back to Oregon and caught a flight home late Sunday (May 1), but other members of the posse did a two day return.  Back-to-back nearly 600 mile days means they get the tired butt award!

I would be remiss if I didn’t make a comment about attendance or the Mongol MC.  The Aquarius seemed to be ‘home base’ for many of the members and the valet area had a number of tables with a mini-bar set up to refresh patrons.  The Aquarius had implemented a “no colors” policy that prohibited members of any biker club from displaying their membership patches while in the casino. And some “guests” apparently weren’t aware of the policy and wore colors but, they agreed to comply once they were informed by casino staff.  Indeed there was a large and very visible Metro Police contingent at the hotel as well.

Full On Shrimp...

I’m pleased to report that while motorcycle clubs of all dispositions turned out for the River Run, none caused any major problems for either the casinos or the police this year.  Sure the Aquarius management made the call to restrict casino access to registered guests only from about 6 pm- to-midnight Saturday, but rumors were overblown or simply untrue that motorcycle clubs were the issue.  The hotel made the decision earlier in the afternoon after observing that guests were having difficulty accessing parking lots, games and restaurants due to the sheer volume of visitors and put up the restriction.  As a guest I can tell you it help moved people in and out of the property and performed much better than previous years I’ve stayed at Harrah’s where arm badges and motorcycle passes wasted a lot of time getting off property.

Looking Back At A Great Road Trip

It’s true that attendance was observably down.  Yet, it felt plenty busy vs. jammed up or crowded.  I’m not sure if it was the weather (cooler/windy than normal) or economic as fuel prices approached $5/gallon at many locations.   In my viewpoint the cooler weather helped keep people in the vendor booths — buying — as you weren’t looking for shade or AC to avoid the heat.  If you attended and have some ideas on why attendance was down let me know.

The official stats from this report indicate that arrests were down (31 arrests vs. 34 in 2010).  Six were arrested and charged with felonies including drug possession and grand larceny.  Police issued 199 traffic citations vs. 229 in 2010.

All in all it was a really successful rally/weekend.

Photos taken by author.

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Riding Through Death Valley

You might not know, but the Laughlin River Run in Laughlin, Nevada is also the location of the first giant coal-fired power plant (Mohave Generating Station) to shutdown.

The closure created economic distress to the Navajo Nation, which supplied coal to Mohave through a slurry line at the Black Mesa Mine.   The motorcycle rally hangs on the skirts of the Colorado River and features large numbers of motorcycle enthusiasts wandering through vendor booths, casinos/resorts all setting next to the river’s edge.  I’m working on a detailed post for the ride down, but thought I’d post up a brief summary on some of the highlights:

  1. Our morning departure out of Portland found rain coming down in sheets and the wind blew like a hurricane.
  2. At one point it cost $24 to fill up a five-gallon Harley.
  3. My first motorcycle ride through Death Valley.
  4. The ‘River Run’ had all the built up energy for a spring rally, but the vendor “cha-ching” wasn’t quite as loud as in some years.
  5. Walked into the Aquarius Casino Resort and had no problem getting rooms without reservations.  Lucky?
  6. Room rates were 5X the typical standard pricing ($39.95 vs. $199.95/night).  Anyone who has made it through Econ 101 knows that the scarcity of a commodity drives its value, but this clearly qualifies as gouging (yet we paid it?!).
  7. The large presence of the Mongols MC members at the Aquarius made for some interesting moments entering/exiting the hotel.
  8. The Aquarius temporarily restricted access to the casino floor Saturday night at the height of the River Run, however, they deny rumors that the restriction had anything to do with the presence of “outlaw” motorcycle clubs.
  9. There was a large, well armed and highly visible Las Vegas Metropolitan Police presence at the River Run.  No major problems were reported.
  10. On Friday, April 29 we witnessed a 45mph+ sustained wind storm.  Number of show-class motorcycles damaged by flying debris.
  11. H-D was absent from one of the largest west coast rallies and relinquished customer goodwill to Polaris and Yamaha.  Why?

We’ve had so much nasty weather in Oregon during April that I’m confident about anything May throws at us will be better.

Photo taken on trip in Death Valley.

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I didn’t watch it.  Living in the U.S. we typically recoil at the concept of royalty, but it reminded me of my own wedding.

It happened 3 weeks ago!

I know what you’re thinking… “aren’t you of that age where walking down the aisle once again with hope and opportunity in front of you… isn’t that a concept for the youth?”   It’s not exclusive and although I have a bit of the Joni Mitchell school of relationships in me… do you really need a piece of paper from the upstairs choir keeping us tied and true… there is something to be said about standing up to testify in front of family and friends that seals the deal and causes you to cast aside your old kit bag and start anew.  It’s revived a feeling of optimism that life is in front of me instead of behind me.

Don’t despair,  it won’t affect my opinions and rants, however, in the last month time constraints have taken a toll on the number of blog posts.  The wedding, a road trip to Laughlin and working the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual trade show — not necessarily in that order – meant little keyboard time.  And if you haven’t been to NAB, it’s worth a visit. Unlike your typical consumer electronics show, content takes center stage.

L to R: Paul Maibaum; Kurt Sutter; Anthony Medina -- "SOA"

And speaking of content, I had an opportunity to sit in on a session (short video clip HERE) called “Sons of Anarchy: Grit and Texture in Small Town America” where Kurt Sutter, along with the “Sons” director of photography Paul Maibaum and production designer Anthony Medina shared information about their creative vision and techniques as to how they capture the gritty stories of the outlaw club.  It was an interesting session that illuminated real-world examples of filmmaking and television production.

Then it was buckle up as our small posse rode to Laughlin, Nevada for the 29th “River Run.”  Yes, you read that correct.  In April, we decided on a whim to ride the 1200+ miles to the rally and it was an utterly fascinating experience.  On the day of departure snow levels were down around 1500 feet and rainfall was the 3rd highest in 71 years.  Average temperature in April was 47.8 degrees.  Needless to say there wasn’t much chance of t-shirt weather as we headed south to the drier and warmer desert.

I’m working on a trip summary and will post it shortly so that anyone interested can re-live the experience.

Photo courtesy of NAB.

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Tropicana Express - Laughlin, NV

“High on a mountain, wind blowing free
Thinking of the days that used to be”

Riding from Las Vegas to Laughlin reminded me of that Stan Ridgway song of “Mexican Radio” fame.  We felt the hot wind on our shoulders as the group rode through the Mojave Desert, and this number is stuck in my head, perfectly fitting the experience.

We arrived at the Laughlin River Run prior to the rally hitting full speed.  The streets were eerily absent of motorcycles and the few open vendor booths didn’t have a large parade of people yet.  It could have been mistaken for just any other day along Casino Drive.  Our plans didn’t have us staying but one night in Laughlin as we had a lot of far reaching scenery in Arizona to cover.

A quick scan after returning indicated that attendance was around 35,000 people who showed up to take in the festivities which was slightly up from last year.  The economy did make an impact as there were about half the normal number of vendors in the casino parking lots.  And other than four DUI arrests and a new 2010 H-D motorcycle catching fire due to an oil leak it was largely an uneventful weekend.  Certainly different from the 90+ arrests back in 2007.

THE GRAND CANYON
I like to try and think up biker quotes.  You know the type.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a dead battery.  But I don’t have anything for thirty degrees and snow which is what we hit!  On Thursday we were only on the South Rim for a couple hours.  Deployed at the Bright Angel Lodge and the weather made it down right uncomfortable.

Grand Canyon

Someone in the posse stated they hadn’t been there since the ‘70s.  Needless to say, the Grand Canyon hadn’t changed.  It’s vast!  Far larger than you can imagine, almost too big to comprehend.  A huge hole with giant mountains amidst the vast valleys.

After taking in the frigid panorama scene, our plan was to limit the viewpoints and return to warmth.  Fog prevented any visibility for the first 30 minutes, but then the views turned awesome with the sheer walls nearby emblazoned red.  One could get out on the edge and look straight down.  And that’s what it is, straight down.  A cliff.  The sides of the Grand Canyon don’t slope they are vertical.  You’re just feet away from an abyss.

Posse At Grand Canyon

Then suddenly there is a realization that you’re standing in snow and could slip.  And did you really want to go this way?  This isn’t how it’s supposed to be in America.  The land of helmets, seatbelts and airbags, where we release our children into society in bubble wrap, worried they might get bruised by the slightest of contact.  America is safe, we’re protected.  Clearly they didn’t get the memo at the Canyon.  Angled and uneven paths meant that a stumble or a slight slip and you’re a goner!  We stepped away from the cliff and made our way to the restaurant to warm up. In route we stopped to talk with some riders who traveled from Germany and couldn’t believe the snow.  We overnighted outside the canyon park in Tusayan and watched the snow fall during dinner.

Skull Valley Arizona

RIDING SKULL VALLEY
On Friday we were looking to ride in some warmer weather and wasted no time in making our way south.  We had a chili dog lunch at the famous Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner in Kingman then it was off to Lake Havasu.  We arrived to witness a large number of people and performance boats in town for the Desert Storm races.  Complete with stereo and shoot out contests for the fastest boat in the west.  On Saturday morning based on some local feedback the night before we decided to back track to Highway 93 and head south toward Phoenix then take SR97 and SR96 through Skull Valley.  There we were amidst the lonely cacti and occasional sage brush riding through sweeping canyons on highway 93.

There is a captivating beauty on this road along with solitude as few cagers venture out this way.  Then we turned onto SR97 which provided plenty of curves and twisty tarmac.  With quick elevation changes it was a great escape as the broad sweepers brought us face-to-face with the so-called “Arizona motorcycle experience.”

We got a taste of history in the small town of Skull Valley.  It’s home to the Prescott Pandemonium Motorcycle Rally and we grabbed burgers at the local diner which as luck would have it opened only a couple days earlier.  We were rewarded with some good food and great service!

We continued riding up to Prescott on AZ 89A and then through the Prescott National Forest.  The small town of Jerome reminded of Virginia City, NV as it has a very similar mining history.  Our view of the town was from the motorcycle seat and I hope to visit again when I have more time to take in the scene.  We continued on 89A to Sedona hoping to find a motel.  Unfortunately with Sedona being the second most popular tourist destination after the Grand Canyon we had to push on to Flagstaff because rooms were full.  The 45 minute ride up through Oak Creek Canyon was a cool sub-50 degrees, but the sun setting provided spectacular photo’s of the red sandstone formations.  We roared right past the Mogollon Rim rest area and view the valley, rather headed directly to a Best Western on Route 66 and jumped into a hot shower!

Sedona, Arizona

On our final day of travel we had to ride back to Las Vegas and drop the motorcycles.  Heading out of Flagstaff on I-40 becomes a little “boring” with about a 2000 feet drop in less than an hour and nothing but scrubland as far as eye can see.  The 75MPH speed limit kept us alert especially trying to dodge the numerous ruts and pot holes made from so many semi-trucks.  This is the worst interstate road I’ve traveled and maybe the worst highway in Arizona?  At Kingman, we rolled onto highway 93 toward Hoover Dam and the scrubland became most flat from Grasshopper Junction until we got within 10 miles of the dam.  We rolled across the dam and made our way into Las Vegas for the motorcycle drop with KGM Motorcycle Transport who did a great job and a shout out to Mike!

With bikes loaded and temperatures nearing 90 degrees the snow in the canyon was a distant memory as refreshments in the Hard Rock came to our minds.

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Happiness is doing what you love and given the northwest rain, gale force winds and cold weather means – I’m not feeling the motorcycle love! So, what else is there to do, but look ahead to the new year and map out some rides?!

A couple of trips that I’m hoping to budget for:

  • Drive a portion of Route 66 – Ideally this trip would include a large chase truck which is better suited to bringing back memorabilia collected on the way to wherever, but the route being considered is Phoenix to Flagstaff and Grand Canyon.  Then on to Kingman with a drive-by in Laughlin for the late April River Run.
  • Ride the ferries – British Columbia offers up remarkable scenery and where else do you go during the U.S. July 4th holiday?!   Nothing is more spectacular than a ride through Olympic National Park, catch the Port Angeles Ferry to Victoria then Buchart Gardens with dinner and libations.
  • Make a return trip to Sturgis – we’re 202 days out and this year marks the 70th anniversary.  It was just a couple years ago several of us rode to the Black Hills.  It wasn’t the first time, but it did celebrate the inaugural Black Hills State University dorm room in Spearfish, SD.   The Sturgis rally defines the term “cluster” so I’ll likely settle for a day well-spent in and around the little South Dakota town…followed by a hot shower and a soft bed before quickly departing to enjoy more of the ride.
  • Oregon State H.O.G. Rally – 2010 marks a combined Washington and Oregon State H.O.G. Rally.  It starts in Pendleton, OR on August 24th and ends in Coos Bay, OR on August 27th.  A week of riding and nearly 1500 miles with 8 dealer stops.  The current ride route is  through 4 states.
  • Good Rockin’ Tonight – I’m talking Street Vibrations in Reno, NV (September) and the reference is to cover bands playing rock hits from the classic acts back in the day.  We’ve got a new culture these days as folks go to dance clubs and move to the bass-heavy productions of studio wizards…but, back in the day it was Montrose (some of you are old enough to remember this exact performance!).  The 19 year old Sammy Hagar stood on stage and rocked the crowds.  However, Street Vibrations is where the cover bands imitate the greats.

What’s in your future ride inventory?

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