Defining /’epik/

Words Cooper Quinn
Photos Cooper Quinn
Date Aug 2, 2016

ep·ic

epic

Everyone has heard the term. Friends whisper about an epic(!) ride coming up. A Triple Crown. Quadzillahellamega. The King’s Crown. The Seven Summits. The Big F’n Loop. Peak to Peak. Century Rides. The description must include the word sufferfest.. 

To some, these whispers invoke images of stunning peaks, multiple passes, and hours of hike-a-bike. Others think of dozens, nay, hundreds of miles of unbroken ribbons of singletrack in rolling hills. Glory.

An epic steed? With a full flask and good weather,

An epic steed? With a full flask and good weather, “That’ll do, Pig.”

Others have feelings of trepidation when they hear the word whispered; epic… They think of chamois chafing, unprecedented vertical, distances better suited to monthly totals, and they fear what will be unlikely to surpass Type II, or God forbid Type III fun. 

I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be like that. Shortly after I tell you about a ride that was just like some of that.

Morning light on the way to the trailhead. We'd have a wide variety of bikes on the ride, hardtails, FS XC race whippets, all the way to 160mm #enduro sleds

Morning light on the way to the trailhead. We’d have a wide variety of bikes on the ride, hardtails, FS XC race whippets, all the way to 160mm #enduro sleds

At 5:05am the first alarm went off. Why? Isn’t it the weekend? What’s happening? Why is my phone making such a racket on Saturday?

Oh. Steve. Right. Goddammit, Steve. 

Rewind the clock to 12 hours and I’m sitting around in the office at the end of the day, thinking of the weekend and having planned very little. After firing off a few “Hey, riding plans this weekend?” messages, I get a couple of slightly cryptic but enticing messages back from Steve, “Big ride in Bellingham tomorrow. Four peaks. ~70km, >2,200m.” I have almost no time to prepare and no additional information other than the meeting time; Zero Dark Thirty. I’ve had one too many Friday Afternoon Adult Beverages and this sounds like a good idea. I sign myself up.

I swear I also made a nice cheesy, eggy breakfast sandwich at this point in time. I may have also poured a healthy lug of Jameson in to my coffee. Thanks for driving, Mark!

I swear I also made a nice cheesy, eggy breakfast sandwich at this point in time. I may have also poured a healthy lug of Jameson in to my coffee. Thanks for driving, Mark!

By 7:30 am all twelve of us (What would ‘The Dirty Dozen’ have become if I hadn’t signed up?) have trickled into the parking lot in Bellingham. As we crossed the border and the ‘coffee’ kicked in I’ve had a chance to pick Steve and Mark’s brains about what we’re in for; a ride they’ve dubbed The Quad Tetons. (Sidenote: being from the Tetons, I’m mildly miffed on their choice of French words to name the ride, the more crude among you have already figured out where this name came from)

We’ll ride four of the major mountains around Bellingham: Galbraith, Lookout, Blanchard, and Larabee while spending an impressive amount of the time on singletrack.

On the way to Galbraith, we're a cohesive group. Chatting, laughing on fresh legs, complaining about how there's never enough coffee for 5am.

On the way to Galbraith, we’re a cohesive group. Chatting, laughing on fresh legs, complaining about how there’s never enough coffee for 5am.

6_Garmin

At the end of the day the Garmin would read 9.5 hours from parking lot to parking lot.

Spirits at the top of Galbraith were high. Steven Seagull would be the only other hardtailer, and maintain his enthusiasm throughout the ride.

Spirits at the top of Galbraith were high. Steven Seagull would be the only other hardtailer, and maintain his enthusiasm throughout the ride.

 Up Three Pigs, down Waterfall. Galbraith was dispensed with in short order.

Up Three Pigs, down Waterfall. Galbraith was dispensed with in short order.

It rained a day or two beforehand, and trails are in great shape. Hero dirt, with the occasional axle deep mudhole. Galbraith comes and goes quickly, with a burped tire being the only issue. Onwards. And upwards. According to The Strava Machine we’d spend just over 60% of our time climbing, a figure I find unrealistically low. We climbed for days.

Hike-a-bike sections were found on 50% of the major ascents. This one might have been rideable in the dry.

Hike-a-bike sections were found on 50% of the major ascents. This one might have been rideable in the dry.

As the day wore on and the miles racked up, the group would start stringing out on climbs; everyone monitoring their pace alone with their thoughts.

As the day wore on and the miles racked up, the group would start stringing out on climbs; everyone monitoring their pace, alone with their thoughts.

Flask notably absent at the top of Lookout as it did the rounds. We'd be out of whisky far too early.

Flask notably absent at the top of Lookout as it did the rounds. We’d be out of whisky far too early.

The descent from Lookout was steep: really steep. I am glad to not be on the RS1 that’s in the group. But, as an added bonus, trail conditions alternated between grease and peanut butter. I crash. Hard. A nasty OTB in a full No Fall Zone… somehow I’m 100% fine. I’m confused. How am I OK? I laugh nervously, push it to the back of my mind, and proceed to finish the ride without thinking about it until we’re on a gravel path on the way back to the parking lot. That was close. 

A small pedal from Lookout to cross I-5 somewhere around the ride’s halfway mark, and we found an oasis. A well located and planned oasis. Snacks. Salty Snacks. Sweet Snacks. More water. And thank God for America the gas stations have beer. Everyone who rides epics often, or takes them too seriously, will have an opinion on whether you should stop and refuel mid-ride. I, on the other hand, do not have to be talked into snacks and beer.

 Climb three, we're recharged. Back as a group, chatting, laughing, and complaining, this time about muscles that cooled down and stiffened up.

Climb three, we’re recharged. Back as a group, chatting, laughing, and complaining, this time about muscles that cooled down and stiffened up.

We knock the third climb out a pace that can only be described as ‘definitely slower than the first two.’ It’s a long grind up a doubletrack road that seems to only get steeper. Fortunately it eventually ends; we’re rewarded first with some killer loam and then some screaming fast moto trails that were far more fun than expected. 

In no time we’re back to climbing. And this last one is gonna hurt. It’s less vert than the rest, but what it lacks in amplitude it more than makes up for with grade. Bike, meet shoulder. My sit-bones couldn’t be happier to hike.

Small sections of pedaling as we ascend the backside of Larabee. An ugly climb in a beautiful place.

Small sections of pedaling as we ascend the backside of Larabee. An ugly climb in a beautiful place.

I prefer to shoulder my bike, some prefer to push. Either way, as a geologist, I can confirm that’s a very large rock.

I prefer to shoulder my bike, some prefer to push. Either way, as a geologist, I can confirm that’s a very large rock.

Sighted in the parking lot during the first round of frosty beverages, this would be as close as we came to a 'major' mechanical all day. Not bad for a dozen riders and 65 km.

Sighted in the parking lot during the first round of frosty beverages, this would be as close as we came to a ‘major’ mechanical all day. Not bad for a dozen riders and 65 km.

The first round of refreshment tastes the best.

The first round of refreshment tastes the best.

So that brings us back to the beginning; what is an ‘epic ride?’ Does it need to be stupendous? Or can it just be something fun, something different, something interesting? The ride above was the biggest ride I’ve ever done; does that make it epic?

This, after the better part of 10 hours on the bike, was one of the best things I've ever seen. We destroyed 6 of them in roughly the same number of minutes.

This, after the better part of 10 hours on the bike, was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. We destroyed 6 of them in roughly the same number of minutes.

I’d say no. Epic is whatever you want to make it. If you’ve only ridden Bobsled and make it up to Expresso, maybe that’s your epic. A day in the bikepark can be epic, I have no doubt. Your first 45-minute ride in Moab can be an epic. Any day on the bike can be epic because of the company you’re with, the trail you ride, or the adventure it takes to get through a ride. What is “particularly impressive or remarkable” is up to you. 

The Quad Tetons (no, the Tetons still aren’t in Bellingham…) was epic simply because it was a great day on bikes with great friends, most of whom I didn’t know at all at 7:30am. I know ’em all now. 

It was a remarkable day, but the most important part was the pizza and beer.

 

 

ep-ic

For more bikes, a dog, adventure, and whisk(e)y, follow along @cooperquinn_wy


How epic is epic for you?

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Comments

cooper
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Cooper Quinn  - Aug. 3, 2016, 11:10 p.m.

Reading all the discussion, especially @peteroggeman:disqus @es7ebanlv:disqus and @disqus_2ov20KOKH5:disqus …

I don't really mean to take away from the "IMBA epic" or "alpine epic" in any way. Its almost as if (and apologies, this is currently basically stream of consciousness) those should be a proper noun Epic. I'm speaking more to the adjective epic, which is thrown around with wreckless (comic?) abandon these days and I actually think that might be a good thing?

My kind of…. thesis, central point, whatever the hell you want to call it is that

A) Its a silly word.
B) The term 'epic' gets thrown around like some sort of hallowed thing. We mountain bikers can be a bunch of elitist…er…. folks, and this can frighten off people who just enjoy rolling around in the woods.
C) Epic is what you make it. Just ride your damn bike, you don't have to set out to make an event of it. Suddenly you'll find yourself on and adjectiveepic ride that you didn't even see coming.
D) Plan a propernounEpic, but YOU define what BROEPICBRO is. Maybe you've never ridden for 2 hours. Get 'er done. Then drink beer.

Go ride your bike, and have some fun, ya know? Did I make any sense?

/stream

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drewm
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DrewM  - Aug. 4, 2016, 9:24 a.m.

Absolutely. Mountain Bikers take ourselves WAY too seriously.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Aug. 3, 2016, 10:27 a.m.

Wait, Copper… where are your frame bags, bar bags, and 3-foot long seat bags!? I though this was an "epic" ride lasting at least 1.5hrs?! You're never going to get a Blackburn sponsorship at this point!!!

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cooper
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Cooper Quinn  - Aug. 3, 2016, 10:59 p.m.

1.5 HOURS? Do you know how much planning I'll have to do for that, bro?

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aj
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AJ  - Aug. 2, 2016, 9:32 p.m.

As part of the dirty dozen who mounted the Tetons gotta give a shout to Stones Throw Brewery and Fat Pie Pizza in Fairhaven for said beer and pizza…an epically good finish to an epically good ride!

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cooper
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Cooper Quinn  - Aug. 2, 2016, 10:41 p.m.

Heck yes!

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Aug. 2, 2016, 6:33 p.m.

Nice work, Cooper!

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esteban
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Esteban  - Aug. 2, 2016, 4:25 p.m.

To me, the epic ones are: alone, long distance, with a bit of swimming in the middle.

The only times I've had an epic one with friends is when the last part is a long descent and it ends at the parking lot.

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extraspecialandbitter
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ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Aug. 2, 2016, 3:03 p.m.

I smell a new standard coming.
Epic wheel size for your Epic bikes! Boost spacing 26.7″ wheels help maximize the Epicness of your Epics on your Epic wheeled Epic bike. Introducing the Epic World Series. Enduro was so last year, everyone is switching to Epic racing. It's going to be Epic!
(sorry, I couldn't resist)

On that note. Would events like the WORCA 52 Pick Up be considered Epic style races? I think Cooper is onto something… We're already there and we didn't even know what to call it. I'll have to eat crow for making fun of this.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Aug. 2, 2016, 6:32 p.m.

I would say 52 pickup definitely qualifies as epic. Was really bummed to not be able to make it - looked like a rad format.

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extraspecialandbitter
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ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Aug. 2, 2016, 10:41 p.m.

Sigh. I was trying to poke fun at the use of epic… and bike standards at the same time. I tend to shy away from it since it always seems to be overused in everyday life. e.g. "that breakfast burrito was epic", "I rode this epic line", "I had an epic poop".
Was the 52 card pick up epic? No. I feel like epic is one of those things that will survive generations and be told as stories and people will go, "Did that actually happen? It seems impossible." Sort of like the origin of the word being a long drawn out fable.
Again, sorry. I'm being a bit of a curmudgeon. Cooper's ride looks fantastic and it provides inspiration to go visit these same places.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Aug. 3, 2016, 9:45 a.m.

That was loud and clear on the first paragraph, just not the second 😉

I hear you about the word epic. Language changes over time and Cooper was shining a light on this one. Summer solstice gives way to new 'epics' every year, and he went in another direction. I agree that epic should be preserved for uses such as you describe, but that would also eliminate this discussion.

Similarly, EVERY athlete pull quote uses the word 'stoked' - this has been going on for over a decade and I can't believe that marketing managers don't pull it out more often. We don't even allow the use of extreme anymore, whereas the euros still cling to that word like a handrail on a cliff band.

Game changer. Another one that has lost all meaning. "These new pedal axles are game changers", No they're not. The game is the same. It's still mountain biking, and your pedal axles aren't going to make you any more likely to win/have more fun/impress your friends.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Aug. 3, 2016, 10:21 a.m.

I don't know bro, I'm wicked stoked about the game changing possibilities behind this EPIC new way to enjoy extreme bicycles and look forward to all the new offerings for this specific type of riding.

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extraspecialandbitter
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ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Aug. 3, 2016, 10:29 a.m.

It is interesting how words become popular and through popular use their meaning appears to change over time. Is this evolution of the English language? maybe.
I will be the first to admit that I say "stoked" way too often. That and "rad" and "gnar".

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cooper
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Cooper Quinn  - Aug. 3, 2016, 11 p.m.

But I like the word gnar. Save the gnar.

(Where's Lee when you need him?)

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drewm
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DrewM  - Aug. 2, 2016, 11:46 a.m.

Entertaining read Cooper!

Re. your, and David's, take on "Epic" rides it would seem, at least this summer, that there are too broad categories of epics going on:

1) Epic Adventures: Measured in Experiences.

2) Epic Marathons: Measured in Distance, Riding Time, and of course Length.

Nice when the two overlap some.

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biggles604
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Steve  - Aug. 2, 2016, 12:25 p.m.

This ride had absolutely no type 2 fun in it. Type 1 the whole way. First time for me. It was definitely epic by length, but the crew was well matched, in good spirits and the route was relatively mellow and enjoyable. Only a couple of 'oh shit' moments, like Cooper's OTB.

I've had my fair share of the type 2 epics; getting turned around in the chilcotins, trying to ride all 5 local peaks (Burke, Eagle {2nd narrows} Seymour, Fromme, Cypress), I've bonked on road rides, suffered hypothermia on trail runs, and for the longest time believed that suffering was part of what made it epic. This ride proved that theory dead wrong, it was simultaneously one of the most enjoyable and memorable rides I have ever done.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Aug. 2, 2016, 3:28 p.m.

Sounds truly 'bromantic'…

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cooper
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Cooper Quinn  - Aug. 2, 2016, 2:29 p.m.

Distance, riding time, and length are relative. We're all snowflakes (or some such thing).

And that, perhaps, we should focus more on the experiences than the ahem measuring contests that so often prevail in action sports.

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david-mills
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David Mills  - Aug. 2, 2016, 11:16 a.m.

I dunno… All my epic mountain bike rides involve getting lost. For example:

BITD, all the really good rides were backcountry excursions requiring paper maps and 300-page guidebooks. One such ride was Around the Misty Range. Described as a 31km point-to-point, if you shuttled it would take 4-6 hours. Without a shuttle, you had to ride the 20-ish km ascent up the south side of Highwood Pass first, which added on a couple of hours. Back then, we didn't shuttle anything - nobody did. Riding the full loop should take 7-9 hours - we'd be home in time for dinner!

That Saturday was perfect - bluebird, forecast in the high 20s in mid-August, all the snow should be gone from Rickert's Pass. My memory is fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure it was me, Vince, Lisa, Chatty Kevin, Ryan and Aaron. Ryan and Aaron are maybes on this one - it could have been Don and Ryan. Regardless, we got out to the Mist Creek trailhead just before 9 and started up the road toward Highwood Pass. I had something like 4L of water with me, loads of Powerbars, tools, patch kit, etc. and I thought everyone else did too.

The climb on the road was uneventful. A few km from the top, we passed by a dead porcupine that was lying in the ditch. It had ballooned up to the point that its legs were sticking out into the air - it looked like a black pufferfish in full puff. And it stank. We were fairly exposed on the road, and by the time we were at the top of Highwood it was in the low 20s. The 2km blast down the other side to the start of the trail was brisk, and sweet relief from the unrelenting 2-hour slog we had endured.

Consulting the Bible [Lepp and Eastcott's "Backcountry Biking in the Canadian Rockies"], we got ourselves onto the right trail and started toward Elbow Lake. The bugs were light, and spirits high. By the time we turned onto the Sheep Trail, we were really moving, dancing around the babyheads and ripping down the doubletrack, our hoots and hollers echoing down the valley.

After what must have been the dozenth creek crossing, the trail dipped down and the lads really started to pin it, as fast as their hardtails and 2″ travel forks would take them. I hung back with Lisa, but she too had thrown it into the big ring and was charging. Lisa and I popped into a clearing, and the there was a low, black hill off to our right - the Coal Pile! That was the turnoff to Rickert's. I looked around for the others, but I couldn't see them. I could hear them though - still yelling as they continued on the long descent.

Shit.

Lisa and I pursued as best we could, but Chatty Kevin had put the hammer down and was probably a km ahead, with the others chasing. I think we reeled in Vince, but we had to keep going until we got everyone. Down and down we went, through washouts and steep pitches until we caught up to the others. Kevin was laughing and asking why we took so long.

"We were supposed to turn at the coal pile. Like I told you before the ride and once we got onto the Sheep Trail." [Literally, it's a very large pile of coal, at least 15′ high, 50′ wide and jet black - you can't miss it.] I consulted the trapezoidal map sign that CK was sitting beside. There was a screw in the sign that indicated where we were, and we were screwed indeed. It was at least 8km back to the Coal Pile, all uphill. When the realization dawned on the others, it was like a switch being flipped off. As we turned our bikes around to go back the way we came, Chatty Kevin said that he had finished his water, all 1.5L of it, and told us to give him some of ours.

We rode what we could, but there was lots of hike-a-bike, and it was slow going. Kevin scrounged water from the others, but he was starting to show the effects of dehydration by the time we got onto Rickert's Pass. At that point, it was push and carry to the top of the rutted horse trail [avg grade 22%] before we could start going down. I'm not sure how long it took to reach the saddle, but it was almost 8pm by the time we started down. Kevin was really starting to fade by this time, even with the extra food and water we shoved into him.

The 10km descent back to the cars was sketchy, to say the least. CK crashed at least twice, and there were a couple of flats to deal with. The sun had slipped behind the mountains and we were riding by feel for the most part. Nobody had brought lights, given that we were supposed to be off the trail by about 4 pm, and our 5W BLT systems were really heavy. I was on autopilot by the time I reached the highway. We got everyone sorted into vehicles and on the road by about 9:30, and ordered pizza and KFC when we got to the Pink Bungalow.

We talked about the ride [and through a silent exchange of looks, agreed to never ride with Chatty Kevin again], and ate about half the food before everyone except me fell asleep on the living room floor. I think it was after midnight when I kicked people out. Good times, and our 69km [according to my Cateye] qualifies as an epic ride in my book.

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esteban
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Esteban  - Aug. 2, 2016, 4:23 p.m.

That moment when a coment is better than the post.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Aug. 2, 2016, 6:32 p.m.

Let's be fair to Cooper, his was good and had pics, but that was one epic comment! David, if you have pics to go along with that tale, let's get it formatted!
Either way, thanks for sharing, that was definitely Epic.

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cooper
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Cooper Quinn  - Aug. 2, 2016, 10:42 p.m.

The post above is definitely a hell of an adventure!. Pretty much makes my point though.

Epic means different things to different people.

[shrug]

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david-mills
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David Mills  - Aug. 3, 2016, 10:35 a.m.

Pics - I wish! That particular adventure was… 17-19 years ago, I think. The only camera I had back then was a Praktica SLR, and I didn't take it on rides.

Regardless, Cooper's ride looks like it was way more fun, and I agree that epic means different things to different people.

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esteban
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Esteban  - Aug. 3, 2016, 8:39 p.m.

I didn't meant to say your post wasn't epic, Cooper, sorry if it came out that way! It did sound like a great adventure!

It's just you don't expect to find such a comment after!

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cooper
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Cooper Quinn  - Aug. 3, 2016, 10:58 p.m.

No offence given, and certainly none taken.

All good!

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