A Baja Christmas

Today was an interesting day. It was Christmas Eve and we rolled out of San Felipe. Everyone we spoke to said the roads south were torn up from the hurricane in October, but Hans from Germany and Daniel from Switzerland both made it through this section as well as the many other riders I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting, so it is passable. The first 30 miles were the typical torn up Mexican roads and then it got worse. As I pedaled down the road, I saw a cone in the middle of the lane. It was ther for good reason. There was a pothole that was 3’ wide, 6’ long and about 3’ deep. That could definitely do some damage to a car!

 


Somewhere along the bumpy road, Giuseppe lost his tent. It slipped out of the bungie cord tie down. While I sit here typing, Giuseppe is riding his bike back a few miles to see if he can find it. Hopefully he does, but if he doesn’t, the lady who owns the campground has one for sale.
We’ve been told that the road ahead is worse than the the road we’ve traveled on so far. I’m definitely going to secure everything more so! I’ve already checked all of the nuts and bolts on my bikes to make sure nothing has loosened up so far.
Even though the hurricane has done damage to the roads, it has watered the ladscape and created beautiful colors. I’m seeing sand dunes covered in purple, yellow, red and new growth green. Absolutely amazing!

 


On the way to Puertecitos we passed the Valle de los Gigantes, a valley full of giant cacti. I’ve never seen cactus so big!
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I have to mention some of the people I’ve met along the way. Let’s start with Bob. Bob was our next door neighbor in San Felipe. He is 79 years old and still out exploring. He is a kayaker. His plan for his 80th birthday is to paddle 200 mile down the Columbia River to the coast and then back 200 mile to his home. I told him that I want to be like him when I grow up!

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Here in Puertecitos, we met up with a couple that were camping near us in San Felipe as well. To me, Miles and Meagan are a perfect couple. I see them at peace with each other. Last night between Scrabble moves, I saw Miles reading a book and Meagan flossing her teeth. Call me strange, but as the warm wind blew across the bay, I saw them in perfect harmony with each other on Christmas Eve. I cant forget to mention Moss, their 7 month old little boy. After staging some Christmas morning photos, I decorated the post of their Palapa for little Moss. Everyone deserves a picture of their first Christmas in front of a Christmas Tree. Considering everything is repurposed in Mexico, we can’t forget that even that post was a pine tree at one time, so technically, I’d say that counts as a true Christmas tree!


Thank you for following me on this adventure! Last year, I had no idea I would be spending Christmas on a beautiful beach in Mexico with no cell service, surrounded by new friends and natural hot tubs. Here are some pics for your viewing pleasure…

San Flipe at Last

As the sun was sinking behind the mountains to my right last evening, I continued to pedal forward knowing a hotel room wasn’t too far ahead. It was a long day, and other than a rash on my bottom from pedaling 78 miles, I was determined to move forward. Giuseppe and Yvan stopped to camp about 25 miles behind me. I started off before them yesterday, expecting them to catch up somewhere on the road, but they never did.

After checking in to a little place, I quickly headed for the shower and was welcomed by trickling water from the showerhead. Nice. Okay, get dressed, go to the office to get another room, move all my gear to the next room and then I basked in the warm water that showered away the sweat and road grime. Ahhh.
Afterwards, I walked to the little restaurant next door looking forward to a cold beer and a hot meal, only to find they don’t sell beer there. Wait a minute! This is Mexico! Oh well, I opted for a cold Coca Cola. I do not drink Coke in the states because the ingredient label has too many chemicals I can`t pronounce. Here in Mexico, they still use pure cane sugar. I keep telling people the food is healthier down here because they do not have the money to add chemicals, preservatives and hormones to their food. Organic living?

The garlic butter fish was delicious and only $6.00! What a deal!

By 8:30pm I could barely keep my eyes open and crawled into bed. The only thing that awoke me was the sound of a couple talking in the next room around 2:30am. Though I can’t understand Spanish fluently, I was able to understand that the talking must have been seductive because words led to moans and “Aye, aye, ayes” which led me to believe that their story had a happy ending. Lol.

So as I sit here typing away, waiting for the guys to catch up, I’m enjoying a cup of coffee and the company of the Frogster who always seems to be meditating. No wonder he`s always smiling. That, or he’s thinking about the sounds of last night.

Thank you for following me! 340 miles so far and about 800 to go! Yeah, I question myself too. lol. Have a Great Weekend!

Birthday Surprises

Yesterday was an interesting birthday for me. In the past, I’ve done various things such as snowboarding, motorcycling or spending time with family or friends. Yes, yesterday was different… I pedaled 27 miles from Ensenada toward San Felipe, and most of those miles were uphill. A butt kicking kind of day.

As I was pedaling away, many thoughts crossed my mind. Thoughts of people from the past, people from the present, dreams, goals and things to be done to create the future I’m manifesting. The question that came to me somewhere near the first kilometer mark was why I was doing this. While my legs were burning and I was questioning my place in this world, my thoughts turned to gratitude. At 56 years old, I am able to pedal mountains through little one-horse towns in other countries to challenge myself. How could I not be grateful for this ability?

Somewhere near the 20th mile, I saw something unusual for late December… a Monarch butterfly fluttering around me, making its presence known. I see these butterflies regularly – well, since my mom passed away. I tend to think it was her letting me know that I would crest that mountain road and not to worry about the vultures circling above. I know I was smelling fresh, but I didn’t think it was that bad! Good thing I have a terrible sense of smell!

As I came around one bend, I saw a street sign that got me very excited! It was a sign indicating a major decline ahead. I couldn’t help but think that it was all downhill from there and I would catch up with Giuseppe and Yvan. It was a wonderful period of time, feeling the cool wind blow over my sweaty body while clocking 34 mph on my bike speedometer…

until I approached another sign. It looked like the same sign, but as I rolled closer, I saw the differences… it was a Universal symbol for an incline ahead and there was a painting of the Virgin Mary praying on a rock right behind the sign. How should that spiritual sign be taken? Mary is praying I’ll make it to the top without having a heart attack? Or maybe it was just the sick humor of an artist who thought it would be fun to mess with the bicycle riders who are foolish enough to ride on these steep, shoulderless mountain roads?

All in all, I will go with the Virgin’s prayers as I did make it to the top and down the other side… without having a heart attack on my birthday! Speaking of my birthday, I was lucky enough to have Giuseppe and Yvan present me with a cupcake that had a fountain type firework on top and a picture of the unicorn I always knew existed. What more could I ask for?

Last night we stayed in a campground in Ojos Negros, translated as Black Eyes. We had no cell service and it was pretty damn cold, but we survived. Somewhere between the neighborhood dogs barking late into the night and the roosters signalling a new day long before the sun rose, I was able to get some sleep thanks to my Ipod.

After packing up, I enjoyed a cup of coffee and a couple of tacos for breakfast at a little restaurant that has Wi-Fi. A great way to start another wonderful day!

The day resulted in another 55 miles pedaled toward San Felipe. The last few miles were a pleasurable downhill run into Lazaro Cardenas. Giuseppe and Yvan opted to camp on a nearby ranch that overlooks the valley, but being the not-so-purist of a bicycle tourist, I opted for a room at a little hotel. I definitely needed a shower after two days of hill climbing. With my riding clothes smelling extremely ripe, I asked the maid if they wash clothing. They do – for $4. What a deal! Tomorrow, I won’t be offending everyone I come in contact with! How wonderful is that! But I did have to pull out my stove to have an all carb dinner for energy tomorrow.

Thank you all for following me. I guess we are all adventurers at heart, sometimes excited about the unknown and sometimes afraid of the unknown. Have a great day!

Rosarito to Ensenada without my road bike

After a day of rest at Billy’s and enjoying Giuseppe’ Pesto Lasagna, it was time to hit the road again. I’ve ridden the Rosarito to Ensenada 50 mile bike ride 5 times now, but all except for the first ride, those rides were on my road bike which is extremely light and wasn’t loaded down with full gear. This trip was different. I wasn’t going to break any records. Bike touring is slower. It’s taking pictures, stopping to talk to locals, enjoying the scenery, listening to favorite songs and trying to not think about how much weight I’m schlepping.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve seen many things while on my bike that I’ve never seen before while driving down the same roads in a vehicle. Such as this shipwreck that has been on the Baja coast for who knows how long. A beautiful sight along the pristine coast.

When arriving in Ensenada, we had to stop at the fish market for some ceviche and a cold beer before going to a Warm Shower home where Tomas was our host. The decorations in his courtyard were perfect for the many cyclists that roll through here.

Today, we will celebrate my birthday by climbing 4500 km into the mountains as we head toward San Felipe. It should take a few days to get there and I look forward to the star filled skies as we camp between rocks and giant cacti in the Mexican desert of Baja.

I’d like to introduce you to “The Frogster” our meditating mascot…

Again, thank you for following me on this adventure. I look forward to capturing the beauty along the road to share with you! Have a Great Day!

And so we roll…

There’s something about riding a bike long distances that can’t be described and can only be understood by those crazy enough to do it. That thought came to mind yesterday when I met Yvan, the Canadian that Giuseppe rode with in Canada before I met him in Washington. The first thing he said to Giuseppe was “It feels good to be on my bike again” after hanging out in San Diego for a week and a half, waiting for us to get there. I’ve heard that from other riders as well. There is a sense of freedom as you roll down the road, seeing everything around you, not having to stop at gas stations, feeling the warmth of the sun and the tightening of your legs. It’s a pleasure/pain kind of excitment.

For me, it was good to be on my bike again. Giuseppe and I hit the road Saturday morning and logged 60 miles to San Elijo State Beach. Yesterday, we hit the road around 8:00am, taking a few short breaks along the way with the first goal being to meet up with Yvan at the border. One quick stop was to see something Giuseppe brought up, that I had never seen before, the “Kissing Statue.” It’s officially known as “Unconditional Surrender,” a re-creation of the famous embrace between a sailor and a nurse celebrating the end of World War II in Times Square.

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Definitely a beautiful statue. She must have been a Jewel.

Here are some pics of the ride to the border…

 

And yes, we had to stop and smell to roses. One enjoyable thing experienced was the various cyclists who rode with us for short periods asking about our adventure. We may have inspired a few of them to try Bicycle Touring.

Although I’ve crossed the border into Baja countess times, riding my bike across was a new experience. The way across with a bike is through the pedestrian passage where we had to remove our bags and have them x-rayed. From there, we rolled through Tijuana and headed toward the coastal road. Yeah, we weren’t supposed to be on that road, but it is the quickest, most scenic route. In order to get on the stretch from the Tijuana beaches to Rosarito and avoid the toll booth, we had to ride through the Playas area until the edge of town and then take a dirt trail up to the highway. From there, it was smooth sailing.

 

After a couple of taco stops we made it to Rosarito where my dear friend Billy greeted us with a shot of tequila. Today is a day of rest after logging 126 miles over the past couple of days. The weather is perfect and the Pacific Ocean is 100 footsteps away.

 

Thank you for following me on this journey. My birthday, Christmas and the New Year will be spent somewhere between here and Cabo under the horizon to horizon stars of the non-light polluted desert skies of Baja. 🙂

One Week…

Giuseppe is north of Malibu, pedaling down the coast. He should be here in a few days. Our plan is to go through his bike and make sure it’s ready for Mexico, then head out next Saturday morning. He, like many others have brought up the caravan situation that is going on in Tijuana. Why am I the only one who sees that situation as a great photo op? What do you think? Should I take a gas mask to be prepared for tear gas? Should I have Giuseppe take a picture of me running for the fence? I can borrow someone’s dog for the photo! Decisions, decisions.

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Any which way, my bike is ready… for the most part. Thanks to John Bereza’s comment, I will take my snorkeling gear with me. I don’t want to regret it when I’m down in Mulege, Loreto or La Paz. Considering we will be riding through a lot of desert, water will be a cherished item. I added a larger water bottle holder that Daniel from Switzerland gave me because it can hold a 32 oz. water bottle and added a custom made double water bottle holder to the back of my seat. I packed everything except for clothes and food which will go in my front panniers and rode my bike around. This bike is definitely more stable than my Scott mountain bike which I used for the first part of this trek.

Speaking of Trek, I watched a YouTube video last night about a bicycle tourist who had a different kind of setup and it definitely caught my eye. As you recall, I started with a single wheel trailer that attached to my bike’s rear axle and ended up snapping my axle, then I changed over to a two wheel trailer that had way too much stuff in it, was very wide and felt like an anchor on the hills. Well… I think I’m going to feel a little lonely without a trailer behind me, so I’m going to try the setup I saw in the video….

This little Trek contraption is a tag-along kids bike. It will attach to the seat post of my bike. I used to have one of these some years ago when my favorite daughter Trina was a munchkin.

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After taking the picture, I removed the handlebars, pedals, crank and chain. But now, after looking at the picture, I may put the handlebars back on, cut them up a little and turn them so they give support to the large orange waterproof bag that came with the first trailer. This bag has my tent and snorkeling gear in it and is attached side to side over my rear panniers.

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There is a method to my madness here. I’ve spoken with a few riders who have broken spokes because of the weight placed on the rear wheel. I really don’t want that to happen, but I do want the ability to go down dirt roads in Mexico without worrying about spokes popping. By distributing the weight back onto the smaller wheel, I shouldn’t overburden the rear wheel of my bike. The only problem I see, is transporting this tag-along back to Southern California on the plane. If the airline charges too much, it’s going to stay in Mexico. Fortunately, I only paid $10 for it thanks to Richard from OfferUp, a great app for finding deals. Maybe I’ll be able to trade the tag-along for a couple of fat quesadillas and a cold beer!

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Thank you for following me on this adventure! I can’t wait to get back on the road, see things and meet people so you can see what I see from this out-of-the-ordinary way of traveling! Oh yeah, we’re going to need Santa hats for Christmas!

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All Good Things Come in Time

Hello Everyone!

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written. Two months actually. I have been preparing for the last leg of the journey to Cabo. Actually I’ve been prepared but taking care of business and getting things done while waiting for Giuseppe. He took on a short term job in Northern California and will be heading south soon. Apparently a young lovely from Argentina has distracted him. He probably charmed her with his thick Italian accent.

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While I’ve been waiting, I finished assembling my new and improved touring bike and made a few upgrades. My biggest concern after experiencing instability with my Scott mountain bike was frame strength and climbing ability. The Giant steel frame mountain bike is much stronger and stable. A new upgrade is a new crankset. The crankset is the front gear assembly on a bicycle. This bike came with a 28/38/48 tooth count set. After a little research, I determined that a reduction of teeth would offer a much better climbing ratio so I went with a 22/32/42 set. Yes, I probably should have done this to my Scott bike before undertaking Alaska, Canada and the Northwest, but this is one of those live and learn life lessons.

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Another upgrade to the new bike is a set of fenders. I looked high and low online, but all I found were plastic aftermarket fenders. I had my heart set on stronger steel fenders like the old beach cruisers had, so I set out to find and old beach cruiser at a steal of a price. Well, ask and ye shall receive. On my trip down to Rosarito for the Rosarito to Ensenada bike ride, I spent some time exploring an outdoor swap meet that happens every weekend. As luck would have it, I found an old, thrashed, rusted beach cruiser for $25. It had the fenders I was looking for but the owner would not sell me just the fenders. It was all or nothing so I bought the bike, removed the fenders and left the bike for the first passerby to claim it. I should have taken a picture of the old rust bucket, but I was too excited about those fenders that I forgot to click away.

Other additions to this bike are a new seat with a “relief area” down the middle to protect the family jewels, as well as an adjustable handlebar stem to move the handlebars forward. I also replaced the flag pole and Tibetan Prayer flags that I left on the bus outside of Portland Oregon.

At this point, my bike is ready to Rock and Roll. I’ve definitely reduced the quantity and weight of items to carry, but now my quandary is whether I should take my snorkeling gear or not. I keep thinking about the beautiful warm water beaches along the Baja gulf, full of large, colorful fish that may want to become dinner over an open fire some night. Hmmm. That or tacos and tequila as we roll south. We’ll see!

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I can’t forget about another addition to my bicycle touring gear – to not feel inferior to my European riding buddies, an Italian style espresso maker. Yes, I’m moving up in the world! lol. I did have to complete that addition with a cool little espresso cup as well. I am definitely ready for the desert and beaches of Baja!

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So as the colors of Autumn brighten Southern California, I will plug away on the spin cycle at the gym for the next couple of weeks until we begin the next 1,000 miles to Cabo San Lucas. Hopefully the Tijuana border will be open and the refugees from Honduras will be peacefully content with the decisions of the powers that be.

Giuseppe also mentioned that we will have a new riding buddy, Yvan from Quebec. Going by the photo I received, he may be our entertainment as we pedal through the deserts of Mexico.

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Thank you for following me! I’ve been looking forward to the next leg of this journey… the warm desert air, the pristine beaches, the star filled skies and the friendly people of Mexico.

And the Story Continues…

After heading back to Southern California to build a stronger bike, my first choice was a gravel bike that I ordered online and then had to return. A gravel bike is a relatively new classification. It’s a steel frame road bike with larger tires that can handle dirt and gravel roads. The first thing I noticed was how heavy the bike was. I fitted it with racks for my touring bags, but the down bars did not appeal to me for touring. I proceeded to order an adjustable handlebar stem to fit my butterfly bars on the bike, but I still had reservations about the bike and the unnecessary weight.

A little research taught me that the Chromoly steel frames from non-suspension mountain bikes of the 90’s are ideal for a touring bike foundations. Apparently Chromoly steel is stronger and lighter that the steel frame bikes built these days. And so the search began to find the right sized Chromoly steel frame to build from the ground up. Fortunately for me, there are many, many older used bikes that people get rid of for very little because they have newer, lighter bikes available at low prices.

Having a 29” wheel mountain bike, a 28” wheel road bike and another older 26” wheel mountain bike I picked up for $10 as a parts bike, I couldn’t help but notice the acceleration difference between the 3 bikes. The 26” wheel bike was much quicker! No wonder all of the riders I rode with were pulling away from me on my 29” wheel bike! And so it was settled, a 26” wheel bike was required for my bike build.

I ended up finding a 1993 Giant 22” frame, 26” wheel bicycle for $20. What a deal! Now it’s a matter of disassembly, cleaning, lubing and rebuilding it better than new!

Being in Southern California created another opportunity for me. The Rosarito to Ensenada 50 mile bike ride took place yesterday. I’ve ridden this ride 4 times previously and I’ve always strived to beat my finishing time from the previous year. This morning when I checked the finishing results I discovered that I beat my last finishing time by 12 minutes and 2 seconds! I guess all of the hills and mountains I climbed in the Northwest did pay off!

Another benefit to coming down to Baja, was the opportunity to see a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while. And as timing would have it, Johannes from Germany (who I met in Oregon) was in the area as well. I had the pleasure of showing him around town and meeting his girlfriend Yara who flew back to Germany Friday. Johannes took off this morning after a delicious breakfast at Acuas. He’s heading toward Hurricane Rosa, but like all of the bike tourists I met, dealing with the weather is simply the cost of doing business.

Thank you for following me! I too, look forward to getting back on the road when I’m done with my touring bike and Giuseppe reaches Southern California.

A Hatchback that gets Good Gas Mileage

Hello!

My plan on taking a train from Portland, OR to Oceanside, CA was immediately changed when I heard the trains were not running between Oregon and California. This was due to the raging fire that closed 45 miles of Interstate 5 which is the main artery between the two states. My plan changed to a rental car, but I still had to get to an airport near Portland to pick it up. Fortunately, a bus runs from Manzanita to Portland, so me and my gear headed toward Portland.

After cautiously riding the 6 miles from the bus stop to the airport, I loaded up my gear and realized that I left my road traveled flag with now beautifully tattered Tibetan prayer flags on the bus. I really liked that flag. I guess I’ll have to replace it for the Baja portion of this journey.

As I drove the rental car, I realized a few things. One… that I missed being on my bike as I zipped by some beautiful scenery that offered no place to park a car. Two… I won’t be able to eat as much as I was because I’m not burning it off as quickly. And, three… I sure can see the roads differently after being on my bike for so long. The road along the Oregon coast, which drops into the Redwoods along the California coast, is absolutely dangerous! Narrow lanes with no shoulders and shadows everywhere from all of the trees! I immediately thought about my cycling buddies who are headed that way. I can only warn them via texts, and pray for their safety.

My responses…

Having the rental car allowed me to enjoy the ride south a little differently. This part of the journey turned into a photo-op and fishing period as well as time to think about bike modifications needed to complete the Baja section. I know a road bike foundation would be fastest, a touring frame would be most practical, but the thought of converting my fat tire bike into a touring bike crossed my mind too! After all, it does have a steel frame! Hmmmmm.

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Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure. Click on them to see the full photo.

Thank you for following me!

Learn As You Go

When I started this journey, I gathered everything I thought I needed to be prepared. As I’ve traveled, I’ve come to realize how many of those things haven’t been necessary. Even still, weight is a constant concern when bike touring. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s best not to try and reinvent the wheel. I’m making reference to my bike, my stout, strong, Scott mountain bike. The thought of riding a 29” wheel bike was very appealing as they roll over all terrains much easier than smaller wheel bikes. While pulling the trailer, my bike did it’s job well. Now that I’ve sent my trailer back to Southern California, loaded the rest of my gear in the panniers and rode about 50 miles, I’ve learned that my high center of gravity, aluminum frame bike cannot handle the weight of my gear. Whether pedaling uphill or coasting downhill, the speed wobbles I’m experiencing feel like the frame is make of Jello. With the amount of traffic along the coast and every 4th vehicle an RV or logging truck, I realized that this is beyond unsafe when a logging truck created a gust of wind that pushed me into the guardrail. Fortunately I was in first gear going uphill slowly and nothing was broken or damaged.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I must change the game once again and build a touring bike, which is a smaller, steel frame bike. With the need to head south to help a client sell one home and buy another, I think it’s time to take a break from this adventure and then start again after taking care of my responsibilities and preparing a suitable bike.

I do have to say that the past few days have been wonderful. Giuseppe and I stayed with Jim and Vera, Warmshower.org hosts in Ilwaco, Washington and learned much about their 80 acre organic farm and the proper preparation of soil to yield the most delicious fruits and vegetables. They made an amazing dinner and breakfast for us using all of the things they grow and raise, including organic chicken and eggs.

After leaving Ilwaco, we crossed the 4 mile bridge into Astoria, Oregon. Fortunately we had a tailwind to help us, because the lack of a shoulder and the many vehicles crossing were intimidating.

I’d also like to acknowledge the guys at Bikes and Beyond in Astoria. My bags were delivered there and they helped me ship my trailer to Southern California at a very reasonable price with a shipper that specializes in bicycles.

From Astoria, we’ve come down the coast a ways, enjoying the beautiful scenery. I know I’m going to miss being outside all of the time, but I also know that will be temporary as I prepare for the Baja leg of this road trip. I can’t wait to reach Cabo and relax by the pool at a beautiful resort! With Giuseppe heading to Denver to take the citizenship test, we agreed to meet in Southern California and conquer Baja together. We have picked up another cyclist friend at this point, Jo-an from France. He’s headed to Los Angeles, but we’ve been telling him that he needs to experience Mexico with us since he’ll be so close… like Giuseppe has be telling me that I should continue the journey to Argentina. Hmmmm. 

And so today I must figure out how to get to Portland to take a train down to Southern California. Part of me feels real bad about not being able to continue down through Oregon and California, but the other part of me knows I’d be foolish to do so at this point. Thank you for following me!