‘I Queue’: Gurn Blanston revisits ‘Red Dawn’

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Red Dawn
Year:1984
Director: John Milius
Writers: John Milius, Kevin Reynolds
Cast:
Patrick Swayze- Jed
Charlie Sheen- Matt
C. Thomas Howell- Robert
Lea Thompson- Erica
Jennifer Grey- Toni
Tag Line: The invading armies planned for everything – except for eight kids called “The Wolverines.”
Or
The Brat Pack goes to war. (OK, I made that one up)

I have always loved war movies. I can say that without remorse because I have now advanced to an age where self evaluation and moralistic self flagellation hold no sway over me. I lead a completely un-self-examined life, and I sleep much better. From “The Sands of Iwo Jima” to “The Green Berets”, “The Battle of the Bulge” all the way through to the 70’s blockbuster “A Bridge Too Far” I was always riveted to the screen, ready for every pointless charge into overwhelming enemy fire and every slow, drawn-out death scene. I ate it up, and then went out and shot at my friends with my plastic machine gun while they shot back with their toy cowboy rifle, and then we argued over who shot who first.
The thing about ‘Red Dawn’ is that when I first saw the movie in 1984, it kind of bought war to my doorstep. I am old enough to remember the Cold War, but young enough not to have felt very affected by it. I was too young to really understand Vietnam, at least at that time. The movies I watched were just entertainment, not reflections of real loss and sacrifice. ‘Red Dawn’ however was not distant; it took place in my front yard.
Not that this film was some great think piece on the vagrancies of armed conflict and its effect on the occupied peoples of a war-torn land, it wasn’t. It was poorly written and even more poorly acted; full of trite one liners and pseudo-patriotism, but it was entertaining. And when you see troops parachuting into the school yard of what could be your own alma-mater, and then you watch as the front of the school where kids have gathered to witness the spectacle gets strafed with machine gun fire leaving one child dead in the window, you have to step back and blink, “That kid looked like my friend Billy!” I was used to seeing troops parachuting into blown-out European hamlets or remote Middle Eastern towns, but not dropping down by the Piggly-Wiggly!
After the initial invasion by a Russo/Nicaraguan alliance, a group of teenagers, led by Patrick Swayze as the former all-star quarterback and Charlie Sheen’s older brother Jed, flee town in an exciting chase scene to hide up in the hills until the whole thing blows over. But it doesn’t just blow over, it turns into an occupation. And the kids, now styling themselves after their high school football team’s mascot “The Wolverines,” are forced into the role of insurgents. They tool about the countryside attacking convoys and stray troops, causing mayhem in the name of American freedom wherever possible. In one scene, they attack a group of Russian officers who have paused by the roadside to take pictures of themselves in front of a landmark, (flashes of Nazis posing in front of the Eifel Tower or the Pyramids), and as the officers flee the murderous group of teens they beg for their lives. The kids have to harden up and execute the last remaining Russkie so that he can’t radio in a warning. War is Hell.
Back in town, a concentration camp is up and running at the old stadium and executions abound. Harry Dean Stanton, as Swayze and Sheen’s father, implores them through the barbed wire fencing to “Avenge me boys!” The town Mayor, played smarmily by Lane Smith, is cooperating with the invaders in an effort to do “what’s best for my constituents”. He gets his son, one of the Wolverines, to wear a tracer so that the Nicaraguan counterinsurgents can track the group down. When the rest of the group find out about it from a captured enemy soldier they are forced to execute one of their own in what is probably the most powerful scene in the film. No one is able to shoot Daryl, the mayor’s kid and former class president played by Darren Dalton, until C. Thomas Howell’s character Robert, a former nerd who goes around the psycho bend after learning his entire family was executed, steps up and machine guns him down with a straight face.
At one point, an American fighter jet crashes nearby and Powers Booth, as salty Texan fighter jock Lt. Col. Andy Tanner, joins the group and helps to guide them along. He forms a quasi-pedophilic relationship with Lea Thompsons character Erica, which is a bit awkward, before being killed off in great B-movie tradition while saving the kids from a Russian tank attack.
Eventually the Nicaraguan counterinsurgency force catches up with the Violent Dumplin’ Gang and most die in a hail of bullets shot from a Russian Attack Helicopter. Howell’s character Robert has the best death scene, going out in a blaze of duel machine-wielding glory, America…F*ck Yeah! In my opinion, his is the most interesting character in the whole film, except for maybe the part of the counterinsurgency leader played by Judd Omen. His take on a reluctant military policeman forced to do things that he finds distasteful in the name of securing the territory for his forces is spot on.
Charlie Sheen is kind of a non-entity in the film, as are Jennifer Grey and Lea Thompson. They are always there but never make that big an impact. The wrap up at the end of the film showing the post war memorial to the kids and narrated by Lea Thompson, one of only two of The Wolverines to survive, feels kind of tacked on. On the whole, though, this film really made an impression on me. I have gone back and watched it again several times over the years. Once I watched it just to see the scene where Powers Booth’s character admonishes C. Thomas Howell’s character about how all the hate he carries inside him will eat him up, “it keeps me warm” Howell responds, classic!
If you haven’t seen it yet, do, it’s worth the rent and the two hours out of your life. They have recently remade it with a new round of fresh faces and so it will be worth seeing the original first to compare. I understand that since we are friends with Russia now they were going to make China the bad guys, but then we became friends with them and so now they are turning to North Korea. If Kim Jong-il shows up for dinner with Obama then the producers are in trouble, I guess they could use Gaddafi if they hurry.

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…and we’re back (and some updates!)

For all three who noticed we were gone for a little bit, thank you.

To ensure a more regular posting schedule, I would like to pose a question. As some may know, I also run a site Use Soap, that I use as a repository for my weekly review column at a local newspaper. I would like to propose that I run my reviews from that site on here, along with the regular features in Natsukashi. I still will post the podcast, as well as “Messing with Memories” and other various and sundry nostalgic movie morsels.

Please drop me a line and let me know what you think, I welcome any and all suggestions.

Also, you will notice a certain little logo at the top right of this blog. That piece of artwork is from none other than Flixster.com, one of the largest (and coolest) movie sites on the internet.

Our little blog has been invited to become part of the Flixster fam! Go us!

We are certainly excited about this move and hope that our incredibly inflated egos do not become even more drunk with power and end up snorting blow off the sweaty ass cracks of Malaysian ladyboys…again.

Sorry, where was I?

So we look forward to getting back into things, keeping everyone updated on upcoming remakes, hobnobbing with those in the industry who helped create the movie memories of our youth, and looking at films currently in release.

Thanks for sticking with us and, as always, your suggestions help keep us going, so please let us know what you think.

‘Deliverance’ with Christopher Dickey

Film:
Deliverance (R)
Year: 1972
Writer:
James Dickey
Director:
John Boorman
Starring:
Burt Reynolds as Lewis
John Voight as Ed
Ned Beatty as Bobby
Ronny Cox as Drew
 

 

By: Gurn Blanston

Memories: There are a few things that pop into most people’s heads when you mention the movie Deliverance: Dueling Banjos, inbred hillbillies, squealing like a pig, pretty mouths, but after not seeing it for many years we may be in danger of forgetting what a powerful movie this was, and still is.

I’m not sure when I first Deliverance, it couldn’t have been at its release because I was still too young, but when I finally did have the opportunity to view it, on HBO I guess, because it was an uncut version, I remember being riveted by the whitewater scenes and the brutal portrayal of clashing cultures set in the Georgia backcountry.

Now let’s get some things straight. I am a hillbilly. Well, I am the descendent of hillbillies anyway. On a farm in North Carolina ,I have a relative we refer to as Aunt Mamie who once let me help milk a cow, and my father still crumbles his cornbread into a glass of milk and eats it with a spoon. When I was in junior high, I played the five-string bluegrass banjo, which I thought at the time made me cooler. It didn’t. With all this to consider I was pre-disposed to be forgiving of the backwoods denizens, after watching the movie, not so much.

In the movie, four buddies, John as Ed, Ronny Cox as Drew, Ned Beatty as Bobby and a rugged, outdoorsy Burt Reynolds as Lewis, their erstwhile leader, decide that instead of a golf outing they will take a canoe trip down the fictitious Cahulawassee River in rural Georgia, wanting to see the unspoiled land before a dam is erected and the entire area flooded. The group encounters the locals and takes a rather condescending viewpoint about them. For their part, the hillbillies view the group as a bunch of stuck-up city boys.

As they travel down the river they get separated, Ed and Bobby in one canoe, Drew and Lewis in the other. Ed and Bobby run afoul of two of the good old boys roaming the back country and end up being beaten, tied up, and in Bobby case made to “squeal like a pig” before being stuffed like a turkey by an obviously sexually confused brain-dead hick. Lewis ends up killing the offending Redneck with a bow and arrow, and then the boys take off down the rapids trying to make good their escape, pursued by the kin folk of the skewered sodomite they buried back in the mountains.

After Drew is either killed or commits suicide, I was never sure which, the three remaining friends manage to escape, but not before running into the local sheriff, played by the author James Dickey, who warns them to “Don’t ever do nothin’ like this again…Don’t come back up here”. Good advice.

Growing up I’m sure that most of us have made the “squeal like a pig” or the “you got a pretty mouth” reference in jest. Or maybe that was just me and I have some unresolved gender identification issues, either way, if you go back and watch this film I think you will be struck by the realistic brutality of that and other scenes that can sometimes make the flick hard to watch.

This was an important film of the time, it was nominated for three Academy Awards:Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing, (it didn’t win) and was seen as a dark representation of mans dangerous struggle with adversity.

The film has stuck with me, certain scenes more than others, but all in all this is still one of my favorite all time films.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Deliverance’ podcast right here

or float on down to the on-site player

Our featured guest: Christopher Dickey

Award-winning author Christopher Dickey in the son of Deliverance writer James Dickey, documenting his time spent of set in the best-selling memoir Summer of Deliverance: A Memoir of Father and Son (Simon & Schuster, 1998). His most recent book Securing the City was published in February 2009, is the Paris Bureau Chief and Middle East Regional Editor for Newsweek Magazine. Previously he worked for The Washington Post as Cairo Bureau Chief and Central America Bureau Chief. Chris’s Shadowland column, about counter-terrorism, espionage and the Middle East, appears weekly on Newsweek Online.

Chris served as a technical advisor on the film, which he says is just a fancy word for “warm body,” but got to see his father’s words come to life directly in front of him. He also recounts the tumultuous legacy the film’s impact had on his father and his family.Chris’s books include With the Contras: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua (Simon & Schuster, 1986); Expats: Travels from Tripoli to Tehran (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990) and Innocent Blood: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, 1997). His most recent novel, The Sleeper, was published by Simon & Schuster in September 2004. The New York Times called it “a first-rate thriller.”
 
He has also written for Foreign Affairs, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Wired, Rolling Stone, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic, among other publications. He is a frequent commentator on CNN, MSNBC and National Public Radio, as well as other television and radio networks.
Chris is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he was formerly an Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow; of the Overseas Press Club of America; and of the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris. He is also a visiting professor at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom.

‘Vision Quest’ with its author Terry Davis

vision_quest

Film: Vision Quest
Rated: R
Directed by: Harold Becker
Written by: Terry Davis (novel), Daryll Ponicsan (screenplay)
Tagline: All he needed was a lucky break. Then one day she moved in.
Starring: Matthew Modineas Louden Swain
                   Linda Fiorentino as Carla
                   Michael Schoeffling as Kutch
                   Ronny Cox as Louden’s Dad

By Rob R.

Pre-screening memories: My genetic makeup ensured that wrestling was never to be a sport in which I would excel, much less even consider. Cursed with legs even chickens found sad and shoulders that extended out just past my ears, my physique was not one that would easily intimidate opponents above the age of 7.

That did not stop me from appreciating the sport in all its incarnations. From superstars such as Jerry “The King” Lawler, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka to the local meets at the area high school.

I participated in team sports — a stint in baseball here, a little lacrosse there —  but there was always something about the individual drive and focus from the sport that interested me (I would later find an outlet to put this interest into practice in the form of long-distance running).

vision-questLouden Swain was the jock I wanted to be. There was an earnestness, a sense of wonder, a sweetness to him absent from the jock stereotypes that populated many of the teen-oriented films of decade.  There was a sandpaper-like edge of realism to the film under that glossy marketing of it being “Madonna’s first on-screen role,” (though a certain soft-core porno later released would prove this to be false).

visionquestbookThe film prompted me to purchase the book on which it was based, only to find the pages held an altered version of what I witnessed on the screen. The book’s open-ended conclusion I actually found much more engaging, as it prompted me to fill in the blanks of Louden’s destiny.

madonnavisionNew memories: Red Rider, why you never made it big in the US, and yet Stryper went platinum will remain a mystery to me. Their haunting “Lunatic Fringe” (see video below) served as Louden’s reoccurring theme song with its ghostly synthesizer, punctuated with driving, staccato power chords. It was also great to see Madonna in her slutty-looking early days, with more curves and arms that did not look as though they were forged by a blacksmith.

Music aside, I realized that my memories of the book superseded that of the film, and as good as the film still is, I liked the fact that Louden’s fate was one that I decided.

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Download the podcast here: ‘Vision Quest’ with its author Terry Davis

Or stay on the mat here and listen to it below:

____________________________________________________

terry-davisOur featured guest: Author Terry Davis

Terry Davis hit the ground running as an author and has since seldom slowed down, as a wrestling coach, college professor, columnist, biographer and motorcycle specialist.

Though retired from teaching, he is currently penning screenplays and contributes columns to his local paper.

His novel Vision Quest won immediate accolades, including author John Irving, who deemed it “The truest novel about growing up since ‘Catcher in the Rye.” Davis had much to say about the transition of his work from page to screen, as well as his time spent on the set of the film.

A big Natsukashi “thank you” to Mr. Davis for joining us and for creating a character that resonated with us for so many years.

‘Westworld’ featuring Jared Martin

westworld

Title: Westworld (1973)
Rated: PG
Director: Michael Crichton
Writer: Michael Crichton
Starring:  Yul Brynner as The Gunslinger
                     James Brolin as John Blane
                     Richard Benjamin as Peter Martin

By Gurn Blanston

Pre-screening memories: I first saw this movie at a matinee showing with my father in the mid 70’s. We had a tradition of going on Saturday afternoons and seeing films that my Mom and sister would not have enjoyed, The Four Musketeers, Scaramouche, The Pink Panther movies. I truly believe that this is the only Sci-Fi flick my Pop would admit to enjoying.

You see, he is a cowboy at heart. He has two 22-caliber pistols and a leather holster rig to carry them in, and took horseback riding lessons a few years back, just in case there was a sun set somewhere that might need riding into. So the idea of a resort where you could actually pretend to be a cowboy and you could even shoot people – well robots that looked like people – was hugely appealing to him. I admit that the idea was not unappealing to me either, although I was more interested is visiting Medievalworld and waving my sword at the kitchen wenches.

shootoutIn the film, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin, who looks a lot like a young Josh Brolin, are two city slickers that head to a resort where they can play at being cowboys and drink, gunfight and carouse with a plethora of human-appearing robots and other guests; a shout out to Dick Van Patten who plays the meek banker turned homicidal gunslinger. There are three areas you can visit, Westworld, Medievalworld, and Romanorgyworld. I’m not sure why the Roman area didn’t attract a 13-year-old Gurn more then the Medieval one did, but I’ll work that out later with my therapist. Yul Brynner stars as the black clad gunslinger robot, the original Paranoid Android, and they all have a great time shooting him full of holes. Afterwards, they retire upstairs in the saloon with some robofloozys while Yul is carted back to the tech center to be repaired so that he can appear again to be shot up again the next day.

yul-robot-faceSimilar storylines are transpiring in the other areas, but it turns out that the robots are a little pissed about the abuse and turn on the vacationers. Mayhem ensues as Yul tracks Benjamin and Bolin across the park attempting to even the score. Good wins in the end, unless you were pulling for the mechanical shootist, and the robots are controlled and eliminated, only to appear in the sequel Futureworld three years later. Michael Crichton wrote and directed Westworld, not the sequel though, and I remember it being my favorite Sci-Fi movie up until Star Wars came out and blew everything else away. I have fond memories of those Saturday afternoons with Dad, just the two of us seeing films together was very important to me at the time, and Westworld will always remain one of my favorites.

yul

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Download the podcast: ‘Westworld’ featuring Jared Martin

…or, mosey over here to listen online:

______________________________________________________________________

Our featured guest: Jared Martin

jaredJared was the man in command when all hell breaks loose in Westworld, perhaps it was his character’s preference of ordering lunch while the robots began their murderous rampage. Regardless, Jared continue to make an impression on viewers on television, starring in series such as Fantastic Journey, as “Lusty” Dusty Farlow in Dallas, and, Martin’s personal favorite, as the lead in the popular syndicated sci-fi series War of the Worlds as Dr. Harrison Blackwood.

Martin is the co-founder and creative director of the Big Picture Allience in Philadelphia, a non-profit youth development media program which fosters an appreciation of film in underserved communities.

Martin has many a story to share, and we were grateful to have him do so with us in this edition of Natsukashi.

‘The Warriors’ with cast member Irwin Keyes

the_warriors

Title: The Warriors (1979)
Rated: R
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: David Shaber and Walter Hill
                         Based on a novel by Sol Yurick
Starring: Michael Beck as Swan
                   James Remar as Ajax
                   David Patrick Kelly as Luther
                   Deborah Van Valkenburgh as Mercy
                   Roger Hill as Cyrus
Tagline: These are the Armies of the Night

By Gurn Blanston (with guest appearance by Scott from He-Shot-Cyrus, naturally!)

Pre-screening memories: For this particular podcast, we’ve amassed our own group of social deviants. Gurn Blanston, who remembers wanting desperately to be part of a gang in his youth (unfortunately, the math club just didn’t have the ‘edge’ he so longed for).

So he sought solace with Walter Hill’s cinematic ruffians, imagining himself wearing makeup and wielding a baseball bat — at least this would give him a reason to wear makeup socially. It was a film that afforded him the chance to live dangerously (if only vicariously through the lives of those cool cats on screen).

No Warriors podcast would be complete without our resident Warriors guru, Scott from He Shot Cyrus, to keep us on task. As a lifelong lover of all things Warriors related, Scott brought his cache of knowledge to the proceedings.

We were fortunate to be joined by an original cast member, Mr. Irwin Keyes, who played the cop who smacked the stuffing out of Ajax.

Together, we took a return trip to the mean streets of New York City and recalled not only Gurn’s and Scott’s memories of the film, but also of Irwin’s tales from being on the set where it all went down.

Can…you…dig…it?

———————————————————————————————————————-

irwinOur featured guest: Irwin KeyesIrwin plays the small but pivotal role of Bad Cop, who gets to smack some sense into Ajax after he gets a bit grabby. Irwin has carved quite a memorable niche for himself in film since ‘The Warriors,’ one of his earliest big-screen roles. Irwin is most remembered in TV pop culture for his reoccurring role in The Jeffersons, in which he uttered the phrase “Hi! Remember me?”

He has since balanced his career in both television, film and stage, with roles of shows such as Married with Children, Laverne and Shirley, Growing Pains and Thirtysomething.

Irwin has worked with filmmakers such as the Coen Brothers and Rob Zombie. His comical role as Weezy Joe in the formers’ film Intolerable Cruelty has been noted as one of the big screen’s best death scenes.

Most recently, Irwin starred in Wrestlemaniac, a film of which he is quite fond. You may also want to check out Irwin’s non-speaking lead performance in this video from Prozak, called “Good Enough.”

Come out and play-y-yay with Rob, Gurn, Scott and Irwin right here, or listen to the player below:

Episode XL: ‘Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man’ (with actor Jordan Lund)

harley_davidson_and_the_marlboro_man

Title: Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991)
Rated: R
Directed by: Simon Wincer
Written by: Don Michael Paul
Starring: Mickey Rourke as Harley Davidson
                   Don Johnson as The Marlboro Man
                   Daniel Baldwin as Alexander
                   Vanessa Williams as Lulu Daniels
                  Tom Sizemore as Chance Wilder
                   Jordan Lund as ‘The Stagecoach Driver’
Tagline: “When the going gets tough…the tough take the law into their own hands”

By Rob R.

Pre-screening memories: The ’50s had their Brando and Dean, the ’60s had their McQueen, the ’70s had Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, and, to a lesser extent, Chuck Norris (sorry, Norris nerds).

But once the ’80s bounced in, things changed. It was tough for a young lad on the scrawny side to envision himself as any particular big-screen action star. All of the big box-office heroes inflated to such bulbous sizes, there were no legal ways to replicate their physique. And besides, I really did not want the veins in my forearms to resemble garden hoses under my skin.

Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme, Bosworth. These monsters of muscle paraded across the big screen like Macy’s Day floats. And for a kid who could barely hold a tether, it was all rather disheartening. It’s not to say that I did not enjoy these films, it’s just that I could never envision that my scrawny sack of skin could ever inflate to their levels of heroics.  (Sure, I had Dr. Jones and his archaeological adventures, but there were only three films of his released over the entire decade!)

These guys were loud and proud. All seething sinew and bulging biceps. Where were the svelte rebels? Where was the smoky mystique and normal physique of James Dean? The ornery playfulness of Reynolds? The normal human build of McQueen?

There was an actor emerging in this decade who seemed to rumble in like my cinematic savior. I first caught Mickey Rourke on HBO during a broadcast of Rumble Fish as the tortured Motorcycle Boy. He had but a few whispered lines, but each one mattered: “Blind terror in a fight can easily pass for courage.”

Yes, I thought. That’s me! I’m blinded by terror in fights! If he threw in a line about wetting one’s shorts, it would have fit to a ‘T.’

I loyally followed Rourke as the years progressed, though most of his films I had to sneak in late-night viewings of, like 9 ½ Weeks and Angel Heart. This was the guy responsible for the on-screen deflowering of the eldest Cosby kid! I’m sorry, but you do not get much cooler for a child of the era.

I can honestly say that I learned about international relations and poetry through his next films, Barfly, based on the life of street poet Charles Bukowski and his IRA assassin in A Prayer for the Dying. My devotion remained as his box-office dropped: the criminally underrated Homeboy (which he co-wrote, and featuring a killer Eric Clapton soundtrack), Walter Hill’s lovably grimy Johnny Handsome, the minor-but effective Desperate Hours, the sun-drenched sexcapades of  Wild Orchid (OK, perhaps even I cannot defend that one, but it still convinced me to buy the sexy soundtrack in the hopes that merely playing the CD for girls might get me laid. It didn’t.).

But for many, Rourke’s big-screen kiss-off was his role in Harley Davidson and Marlboro Man, which teamed him with Sonny Crockett.. er, Don Johnson in this wildly erratic mash-up of science-fiction, western, buddy flicks and motorcycle genres.

And for all the TNT Roadhouse devotees, you can have your Zen-spouting mullet master, give me Rourke and Johnson zipping down a desert highway on a hog and roughing up a gaggle of clichés dressed as bar patrons any day. I would call this a guilty pleasure, but I don’t even feel that guilty about my love for this film.

—————————————————————————————————

jordanlund_beard_small1Our featured guest: Jordan Lund: Star of stage and screens both big and small, Mr. Lund had one of the film’s most memorable lines (you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear what that was!). Roles include such projects as Lonesome Dove, Doc Hollywood, The American President, Law and Order, Firefly, ER, and The Bucket List, among many, many others. We were very fortunate to snag Mr. Lund to join us for this episode and please visit his site, as well as go check him out on stage in California in Circus Theatricals’ presentation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, February 21 through April 26 at the Odyssey Theater in Los Angeles. (You can get tickets here.)

Mr. Lund has many a story to share about the filming of Harley Davidson, as well as reflections of some of his other memorable screen roles. Thanks, Mr. Lund, for your time and tales. We welcome you back any time you wish to join us!

You can hear us all hit the open road right here, or shift down a little on the throttle and listen to the podcast below.

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