Bicyclists see more buzzing since Ironman

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Most cyclists will tell you that close calls with cars go hand-in-hand with the thrill of an open road.

A cyclist talks with an Aiken County sheriff's deputy at the M4 gas station on Sandbar Ferry Road about a pickup that "buzzed" him.  Special
Special
A cyclist talks with an Aiken County sheriff's deputy at the M4 gas station on Sandbar Ferry Road about a pickup that "buzzed" him.

"It's just part of the game," said Glenn Hogan, who's been pedaling the back roads of Aiken and Richmond counties for 25 years.

Until recently, instances of cars "buzzing" bicycles were rare. Hogan said that changed in the months before the ESi Ironman 70.3 when large groups of bicyclists practiced on the route and took up more lanes of traffic than was normal.

Hogan said that ramped up the tension between cyclists and motorists, especially in the area of Beech Island in South Carolina.

"I knew it was going to aggravate people," he said. "It's been really bad since Matt."

Hogan was referring to Matt Burke, one of five cyclists struck by a Dodge Durango on Oct. 1. Burke, a U.S. Army major and surgeon at Fort Gordon, has been transferred to Eisenhower Army Medical Center.

His condition has not improved since he was struck, family said.

An investigation by the South Carolina Highway Patrol is ongoing; troopers say the Durango's driver, Daniel Johnson, told them he was distracted before he hit the cyclists.

Another group of cyclists was buzzed in that area Saturday. Richard Swann said he was in a group of seven riding single-file on Sandbar Ferry Road near Cary Drive when a white pickup truck came within eight to 10 inches of the cyclists.

The cyclists confronted the truck driver when he pulled into a nearby gas station and called the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.

Brett Audrey, the owner of Outspokin Bicycles, said the driver didn't say much but mumbled that he didn't know he was that close. Three deputies showed up and gave the driver a warning, Audrey said.

Swann said Saturday's incident is especially frustrating because Sandbar Ferry is a four-lane highway, and he thinks there was plenty of room for the driver to pass safely.

"All he had to do was touch somebody and the whole group would have gone down," Swann said.

South Carolina's Bicycle Safety Act states that a driver must maintain a "safe operating distance" between the vehicle and a bicycle. It also says it's illegal to "harass, taunt or maliciously throw an object" at cyclists; motorists who do so face fines of at least $250 and up to 30 days in jail.

Audrey said he is meeting with Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt next week to discuss the law and make sure both deputies and cyclists are acting responsibly.

Laddie Williams, who averages 150 miles a week on bicycle, agrees that buzzing has become more common. A lot of times it's just careless motorists who don't realize how close they're getting, Williams said, but you can tell when it's intentional.

Cyclists are comfortable riding virtually shoulder-to-shoulder and it takes a lot to make one nervous, he said. But when the car comes close enough to tap you with a mirror, "it spikes your adrenaline."

Williams made a cross-country trek in 2007 to raise money to honor the nine Charleston firefighters who died in a furniture store fire that year. He made it as far as Gainesville, Ga., before a car deliberately veered off the road to buzz him.

The car's mirror struck his elbow hard enough to make him swerve and crash. The car didn't stop. Williams wasn't badly hurt, but it was a close call he couldn't ignore.

"It was enough to make me just go home and see my wife," he said.

Arnold Barrett has strong feelings about bicycle buzzing after witnessing a cyclist struck and killed by a car 20 years ago.

"I freak out when cars do something weird," he said.

Barrett said the spot where Burke was struck is the most common spot for buzzing on Beech Island Avenue. Typically what happens is that a car or truck will come up close behind a group of cyclists and honk loudly or rev the engine. Other times, a truck will swerve directly into the path of the lead cyclist.

"They want to show you who is boss of the road," said Barrett, who, like others interviewed, has been hit by objects thrown from cars.

Barrett added that he also has been threatened by a homeowner wielding a baseball bat on Beech Island Avenue.

Megan Scott has been commuting to work by bicycle for 32 years. She echoed the sentiment that generally motorists and cyclists get along, but said there are bad apples in both groups.

"Most experiences are moderate or good," she said.

Some intentional buzzers have driven close enough to punch Scott in the arm. Others have driven too close and apologized. Scott said cyclists have just as much an obligation to be visible and try to stay out the way.

She keeps two flashing rear lights on her bicycle and a quality light on the front, especially this time of year when darkness falls early.

"It's just my responsibility," Scott said.

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Sandpiper
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Sandpiper 12/03/10 - 04:45 am
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Part of the thrill of "on

Part of the thrill of "on road" cycling is the threat of danger from a vehicle many times your size moving at many times your speed. The risk is tremendous, but the Matt Burke incident really brought it home for so many cyclists.
A simple look at the numbers will show that there are hundreds of vehicles for every distance cyclist in this area. When cyclists group up, as is common, this ratio increases. On a fifty mile ride, it's not uncommon for a couple of thousand vehicles to pass a group and out of this number zero or one or two will be buzz drivers, accidentally or intentionally.
My point is that out of the tiny percentage of drivers dangerous to cyclists, sharing the road is a huge risk since it only takes one.
As long as cyclists and multiple-ton vehicles share the same road, the potential will always exist. Cautioning and reminding drivers about cyclists, and having flashing strobes on the bikes, and wearing bright flashy colors are all good additional defenses, but there's always going to be the aggressive or distracted driver in a two ton vehicle going 70mph that's going to be a terminal risk. I think distance cyclists know this and they continue to take the risk.
What is the recent increase for danger to the cyclists in this area? Did it move from a .02% of a likely buzz to a .026%? (for example) While the numbers don't look so threating, it only takes one driver per group of riders to mess up a ride.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/03/10 - 07:13 am
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There is something inherently

There is something inherently dangerous about that "thrill of the open road." A vehicle can be passing a group of riders in what would be considered "a safe operating distance" and if the wind or whatever causes one rider to fall or move toward the vehicle, catastrophe can occur. As the rider in the article says, they can all go down... and possibly into the path of vehicles.

There is something nebulous about the term "buzzing" that may not mean the same to riders and motorists. Motorists may not realize they are "buzzing" riders when they pass withing this undefined "safe operating distance." To report a group of riders were buzzed by someone may not mean anything other than they passed them in the same lane which is legal apparently.

What is needed are separate bike paths beside roads to keep the riders safe. There is no safe way larger trucks and bikes can safely move in the same lanes without eventually having terrible accidents such as what happened recently. The benefits of the open road can be found without cars a couple of feet away.

CLEAR VIEW
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CLEAR VIEW 12/03/10 - 07:24 am
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1) I think a motorist who

1) I think a motorist who hits a cyclist should be treated as though he hit a pedestrian.
2) I won't take a bike on the road. I feel unsafe having cars pass within a few feet. It's an unacceptable risk.
3) Recently while driving on Walton Way near a bicycle store, a group of at least 20 riders crossed the road in front of me in a long angle forcing me to stop completely. Several looked back waving and saying "Thank you" which I found only more annoying.
Attention cyclist: you're not the train at 13th or 6th Street; you won't win the battle.

augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 12/03/10 - 07:35 am
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I feel so sorry for Dr. Burke

I feel so sorry for Dr. Burke and his family. I have and will continue to pray for his recovery. Everybody (vehicles and bikes) work hard to keep everyone safe.

Riverman1
87149
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Riverman1 12/03/10 - 08:14 am
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Augusta Citizen, me too. I

Augusta Citizen, me too. I know Matt Burke. He's a beautiful person in every sense of the word. The world has lost a talented surgeon who would have helped many over his life.

Boo-Hoo
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Boo-Hoo 12/03/10 - 09:12 am
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I pray that Matt Burke makes

I pray that Matt Burke makes a full recovery. I also hope that Daniel Johnson will be dealt with in strict accordance with the law. Both men and their friends and family have suffered greatly. This was a terrible accident and I hope we all learn something from it. I travel this stretch of Sand Bar Ferry Road on a daily basis and, while it is four lanes, it is also very heavily traveled, sometimes bumper to bumper, all four lanes. Quite often I encounter groups of bicyclers, sometime several abreast and they are usually unwilling to yield any ground to motor vehicles. These people are taking a great risk and at the same time, place average drivers in legal jeopardy as they pursue their hobby. I think that even the name of Brett Audrey’s business, Outspokin Bicycles, says a lot about his attitude and point of view. Owners of motor vehicles are required to pay taxes and buy license plates and insurance in order to travel on public roads and the operators are required to have a drivers license. These roads are designed and built for motor vehicles, not pedestrians and bicycles. This road also has sidewalks; that’s where the bicycles and pedestrians belong.

itscapt
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itscapt 12/03/10 - 09:22 am
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I am getting very tired of

I am getting very tired of reading this reporter's one-sided drivel about this issue. I too wish for Dr. Burke's recovery, but I do not like this continuing condemnation of the driver who was involved in the accident. He has not been charged. There is no evidence of wrong-doing.

ACIEBRWNM
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ACIEBRWNM 12/03/10 - 09:54 am
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No evidence of wrong-doing?

No evidence of wrong-doing? Really? The LAW says that motorists must pass cyclists with safe clearance. How can hitting 5 cyclists from behind not be breaking this law? Pretty much any time a vehicle hits another vehicle (and bicycles are vehicles, like it or not) from behind, the driver is at fault. If Mr. Johnson had run into the rear of a car that was going more slowly than he was, would you still have a hard time seeing evidence of wrongdoing? Any responsible citizen should be asking why Mr. Johnson has not been charged, and why the "investigation" has dragged on for so long. What is being investigated at this point?

ozarkalien
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ozarkalien 12/03/10 - 10:02 am
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itcapt; I agree I wish the

itcapt; I agree I wish the best for his recovery it is a terrible accident and it appears that is exactly what it was an accident. I promise all of you that if the police had a case the driver would of been arrested. I imagine the driver is living a terrible life having to deal with what has happen.

megnarn
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megnarn 12/03/10 - 10:16 am
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I can assure you that the

I can assure you that the driver is not living as terrible a life as Dr Burke and his family.

Jeepnman
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Jeepnman 12/03/10 - 10:59 am
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I agree that drivers need to

I agree that drivers need to pay more attention while driving, but some cyclists are just arrogant in thinking that they have the right away. By law maybe, but by law of physics, no way! I see cyclists all the time riding on the main road of Evans to Locks road. There is a nice multimillion dollar paved sidewalk that they refuse to use.

kmb413
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kmb413 12/03/10 - 11:13 am
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In most traffic accidents one

In most traffic accidents one or both drivers are "charged" with causing the accident. In saying the driver has not been charged, does that mean they are saying it was the cyclists fault? I really doubt it is a no fault accident. If the cyclist dies is the driver responsible then?

Iamacyclist
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Iamacyclist 12/03/10 - 11:48 am
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Was Saturday's driver just

Was Saturday's driver just not paying attention? What are the odds that the same driver nearly drove off the road three cyclists riding at the end of Beech Island Blvd toward Atomic Road (just past where Dr. Burke was critically injured); and ten minutes (or one mile) later doing the same thing again to a larger group of cyclists on a four lane road with a suicide lane. One cyclist commented that the trucks right wheels even touched the roadside grass.

The female police officer stated that she could not issue a citation because the police did not see it, no one was injured and no bike was damaged. All the driver got was a warning citation just to pacify the cyclists.

I find it odd that no citation could be issued when no one was hurt; and no citation has been issued when a father, surgeon, husband and incredible guy was put into a coma by a "inattentive" driver going over 50 mph in a 35 mph speed zone. Wasn't Dr. Burke and four others injured and their bikes damaged?

Would a legal expert explain to me under what circumstance(s) can a motorist be cited, either civilly or criminally (whether misdemeanor or felony), when the motorist hits a cyclist or even a pedestrian? I find the above contradictions puzzling.

My thoughts and prayers continue to go out for Dr. Burke and his family. I am also glad that many of my cycling friends were not hurt by the driver in that white pick-up truck.

daphne3520
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daphne3520 12/03/10 - 11:38 am
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"itcapt; I agree." And, as a
Unpublished

"itcapt; I agree." And, as a safe driver of OVER 50 years, I have to say, those bycyclists on 5 Notch Road in North Augusta are wayyyyy to profane and they obviously think they own that road.

megnarn
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megnarn 12/03/10 - 12:02 pm
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We don't own the road!!! No

We don't own the road!!! No one does, car or bike!!! We have a right to use the road!!!

Rob Pavey
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Rob Pavey 12/03/10 - 12:03 pm
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there are good and bad

there are good and bad bicyclists, just like drivers and reporters and anything else. I would never ride a bike on a highway or allow my kids to do so. Too much risk. Some cyclists can be rude - I've had cyclists fuss at me on the canal towpath because they have to go around me if my little boy and I are walking side by side, but it is not a high-speed bicycle-only path. It is designed for everyone. Drivers can be awful too and much more dangerous. I used to walk or jog on Blanchard Road. Even with plenty of room and a straightaway, some drivers wont move over an inch and whizz past you just a foot or so away going 50 or 60 mph. Sometimes they are being butts - sometimes they just arent paying attention. If you get hit and killed, the reasons dont really matter. All drivers should pay attention and move as far over as they can safely go whenever they approach a bicyclist - or a pedestrian, animal or a fellow motorist who has stopped to change a tire.

paulwheeler
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paulwheeler 12/03/10 - 02:58 pm
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A much greater degree of of

A much greater degree of of cooperation and respect will be required in the not too distant future as gasoline becomes prohibitively expensive and more and more human powered and other alternatively powered vehicles appear on the roads. The days of the two ton fuel glutton vehicle are numbered. Be kind to those pickup truck drivers when you see them on the highway pedaling THEIR bicycles in 10 years.

Caretaker
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Caretaker 12/03/10 - 05:04 pm
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Really Kyle? Alen, We know

Really Kyle? Alen, We know that you are a bike/ironman fan but is this what you choose to fill the pages of the Chronical with. So many more important topics to choose from that could inform the public about & you want to prioritize 'Bike'n'. I would bet that half of 1% of people in thes county are as interested in 'Bike'n' and less are interested to know what your personal hobbies. If you allowed stories in the paper that effect more of the people in this area maybe you would sell more papers.
Don't get mad, i'm just say'n...

Iamacyclist
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Iamacyclist 12/03/10 - 05:34 pm
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Caretaker, I assume you think

Caretaker, I assume you think that a solder who has served valiantly in areas of conflict, an orthopedic surgeon who has improved the quality of life of many injured vets returning from their tours of duty, and a great husband and father of a 8 month old child, has not had an "effect on the people in this area".

I would beg to differ; his life has touched not only this area but the lives of many throughout America and other regions of the world. These articles are not about "Bike'n' "; they are about a human tragedy, a call for proper justice, and about cycling/motorist safety and etiquette.

Caretaker, maybe the "Chronical" should do some articles on human compassion specifically for you; heck they might even throw in some spelling lessons.

nchawk
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nchawk 12/03/10 - 05:38 pm
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Jeepnman: "I agree that

Jeepnman: "I agree that drivers need to pay more attention while driving, but some cyclists are just arrogant in thinking that they have the right away. By law maybe, but by law of physics, no way!"

So by law, even though pedestrians have the right of way in a crosswalk, should they fear every car since it has the "physics" advantage? You're an idiot.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 12/03/10 - 05:49 pm
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Here is another sad cyclist

Here is another sad cyclist story:http://www.thekathrynreport.com/2010/12/us-navy-pilot-hit-while-riding-bicycle.html

Clux99
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Clux99 12/03/10 - 05:54 pm
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I would like to emphasize

I would like to emphasize that 'Share the road' applies to both cyclists and motorists...drivers, please provide adequate clearance when you pass us cyclists...cyclists, kindly move single file or temporarily pull off the road when you notice a line of 20 cars following behind you unable to pass...thank you.

Safe4all
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Safe4all 12/03/10 - 07:08 pm
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Many of the comments above

Many of the comments above seem to be missing the point. Simply stated the act of "buzzing" using an automobile is at a minimum an illegal act. If due to inattentiveness the driver is negligent. If intentional the driver is a cowardly criminal. Regardless of a driver's emotional or mental state, personal preferences and peeves, he or she has assumed responsibility for how the vehicle is operated and where it travels. South Carolina has laws which govern automobile operation and ignorance of those laws is no excuse from living within them. If laws need to be changed to improve public safety that would be the function of the legislature not some hot head behind the wheel.

dougk
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dougk 12/03/10 - 07:22 pm
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Since I did not grow up in
Unpublished

Since I did not grow up in these parts, someone please inform me as to whether there has always been such contempt expressed for cyclists in this area or if this is something more contemporary. In my day, that was the only mode of transportation for kids under driving age and beyond....to get to school. to Little league, other extracurricular activities. To hear such comments about how bicyclists need to stay off the road and cars/trucks own the road, is totally foreign to me.

dougk
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dougk 12/03/10 - 07:59 pm
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wow!!
Unpublished

wow!!

dougk
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dougk 12/03/10 - 08:08 pm
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Welcome to the South where
Unpublished

Welcome to the South where politeness and gentility is a way of life, Y'all come back now, ya hear??

paulwheeler
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paulwheeler 12/03/10 - 08:39 pm
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I agree dougk, some of the

I agree dougk, some of the ignorance expressed in some of these posts is quite embrassing to the real Southrons out here. I promise you, they are in the minority however loud and obnoxious they are.

Linthead
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Linthead 12/03/10 - 08:53 pm
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It's too bad it takes someone

It's too bad it takes someone getting killed or narrowly escaping getting killed for the road cyclists of the CSRA to unite and try to do something about it.
Better late than never. Good luck, I'll take my chances with the trees in the woods. At least it will be my fault instead of getting hit while JRA.

Caretaker
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Caretaker 12/03/10 - 09:04 pm
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Bike commuting instead of

Bike commuting instead of driving a car or taking public transportation is an easy way to make your daily commute greener. Bicycles do not produce pollution and don’t consume fossil fuel. The exercise, plus the fact that road rage is not a concern among bicyclists, are just two of the ways a bike commute can benefit your health. You may be concerned that you cannot get where you need to go by bike commuting, but luckily that problem can be solved too. Many forms of public transportation now have bike racks on their vehicles for the convenience of their customers who wish to ride a bicycle on part of their destination. Many cities also have bike paths, allowing bicyclists a safe place to ride. Bike commuting allows you to avoid high gas prices, expensive car payments and traffic delays. There are even special commuter bicycles being manufactured that are specially designed for bike commuting. Bike commuting has economical advantages as well. Depending on where you live and how far you travel daily you can save up to seventy-five hundred dollars a year by riding a bicycle instead of driving.

After speaking to the county commissioners office in my district on the subject it's admitted that although there are plans to expand roads in many districts there are no plans for any bike lanes or paths. Many cities across the nation has seen the benefits of placing bike lanes on roads or bike/walk paths to help promote cycle commuting. Even The energy conservation act of 2005 was designed to promote dependable, affordable and environmentally sound energy production and distribution & gives tax benefits to incorporated cities that install such bike paths. In some districts bike paths could promote more than a eco friendly commute but also a opportunity for a healthier life style. people will certainly take advantage to the safe road side lane for jogging or walking, but yet as good as an idea it is there is no chance to experience it in Columbia county.

Caretaker
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Caretaker 12/03/10 - 09:06 pm
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Iamacyclist, is that better?

Iamacyclist, is that better?

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