Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

BM2022: epilogue

This business of transitioning back to the real world has been rather more taxing than anticipated. Not that I have anything to complain about since most of the rest of the team are on a three day drive back to Toronto. Nevertheless, it’s been interesting. Here I am being dropped off at Reno airport by Danny. All smiles at this point since the worst I thought I had to deal with was a six hour wait for my flight.

photo by Danny

Regrettably, my flight kept being pushed back due to a delay in inbound equipment. It become apparent that I would not catch my connection in SFO, and so I got on the horn with United to try to get onto a later redeye. Eventually it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to catch any redeye and that I would have to spend the night at SFO. I got booked onto the first flight out on Monday morning, and then I thought I was being clever by prebooking a room at an airport hotel. Getting off of the plane, I phoned the hotel, only to learn that the shuttle was not longer running (thanks La Quinta). At that point I went out to the curb to the taxi line, and was confronted by this:

But wait, isn’t this the land of rideshare apps? So I reluctantly opened Lyft and saw that the lowest fare was $170 which was about the hotel room rate, and this for a ride of less than a mile. An interesting case study in market dynamics, since the rise of Uber and Lyft probably killed off a lot of taxis…. So I ended up sleeping in the airport, something I haven’t done in a while. I occasionally woke up due to a slight ground tremor, but they all seemed to be heavy trucks going by, or perhaps the tram. Understand that I lived in the area during the Loma Prieta earthquake back in 1989.

BTW food here is more varied but quite expensive. These sandwiches fare poorly in comparison to the equivalent item from Port O Subs in Battle Mountain.

At any rate, the flight back was painless, and I am now sorting through ten days worth of work emails. The bike team is hiking in the Tetons on the way back to Toronto. I wish I had one tenth of their energy.

See you all next year.

Sept 22 update: the team is safely hope after their long drive.

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Back in 2019, I rode the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver plus Party (RSVP) put on by the Cascade Cycling Club. However, due to a blow out and various difficulties sourcing a replacement tire for my Brompton, I had to stop just north of Seattle, and then I was very kindly driven up to a point where my bike buddy Steve and I could rejoin the ride. As a result, we covered only 61% of the total mileage. This resulted in an unslightly gap in my bike travels.

The gap extended between Woodinville and Mt.Vernon.

To top off a visit to Seattle, Steve and I arranged to be dropped off in Woodinville so that we could fill in that gap. Here we are at the starting point.

Here we go.

Nice vista just a little south of Snohomish.

A little snack break at Proper Joe in charming downtown Snohomish.

Just a bit north of town, the route joins the Centennial Trail.

It is lovely, wide and paved.

Once you reach Arlington, it becomes a generic multi use path that doesn’t pass through the most interesting parts of town.

However, it does hit this historic downtown.

Had lunch at the Bluebird Cafe. Food was filling and the service was great.

The trail continues out of town, including this nice trestle.

Around mile marker 25, the route was directed onto Route 9, and then up a side road. Just as the road steepens, there is this strategically placed stand with ice cream.

Crossing into Skagit County.

Past the county line, there seemed to be a lot more clear cutting.

At this point we had already done our big climb of the day, with many sections without shade, and it was discouraging to go over rollers before the descent that we had earned. Still some sections were pretty.

Today was really hot, with temps above 30 degrees, and Steve picked up a bit of road rash, so he decided that it was wise to call it a day about 15 km short of our goal. Here are our dedicated sag drivers for the day.

Here I am soldiering on in the heat, but at least I got a brief view of Baker.

Passing through the outskirts of Mt. Vernon. 98F = 36.6 C!

Happy to cap off the ride with ice cream at Big Scoop.

Here is what the ride profile looked like. The interesting thing is that the smaller climb and descent around the midpoint was all on the Centennial Trail, and so the grades were very gradual.

And now my red stripe goes all the way from Vancouver to Portland. Now I can say that I’ve cycling across Washington state from north to south, or that I have biked from Vancouver BC to Vancouver WA, all on my trusty Brompton.

Thanks to Steve for good company, and to Peg and Midori for shuttling us around to be able to do the ride.

This year, Cascade has replaced RSVP with a ride from Redmond to Bellingham and back (R2B2). It will be interesting to see if they revive RSVP once we enter a true post COVID era.

Here are a few random shots around Seattle earlier in the visit. Here I am crossing I-5 on the new pedestrian bridge that connects to the Northgate light rail station.

Bioswales separating the bike lane to the right from the roadway, just at the U-District station. Oddly, I don’t see any marking on the bike lane.

A rental e-bike for those who can’t decide between a scooter and an e-bike. Not a big fan of this layout since it is clearly designed to be used with feet up and just the throttle control.

I was told that using these bike racks on light rail can be tricky.

Does this sign make you feel safer? Note: Washington is an open carry state.

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We have spent an extended weekend in Woodstock NY, exploring the town and also enjoying going to concerts, and squeezing in a bike ride or two.

We were actually here to see a concert given by Nexus, a percussion ensemble marking their 50th year of playing together with a show in Woodstock, at a unique venue called Maverick Concerts. The concert hall is hidden away in the woods, and is pretty much what you might expect of Woodstock.

This is the stage where 4′ 33″ was premiered.

In this setting it makes a lot of sense, since the piece is actually not about silence; it is about experiencing the sounds of the ambient surroundings, which in this case includes the rustling of leaves in the wind, and many bird calls.

After the concert, we were lucky to have dinner with the performers.

I got to hear some war stories from Paul Winter, and there was also an incident where Phillippe Petit pulled a coin out of my wife’s ear. Didn’t know that he was a magician in addition to being a high wire artist.

But where is the bike content? Well, the first ride was on the Ashokan Rail Trail which runs along the north shore of the Ashokan Reservoir. Here is the trailhead near the midpoint of the trail.

Off we go.

Most of the trail was in the woods, with only intermittent views of the water.

A bridge near the Boiceville end of the trail, which is the western end.

The Boiceville trailhead.

The next day, I decided to do something a bit different. I rode out to the same trailhead, but I wanted to ride around the end and travel along the south shore as far as the Reservoir Road bridge that roughly bisects the reservoir. Here is the connection of the trail to Route 28A.

I wasn’t thrilled to see that 28A has no shoulder. However, it being relatively early Sunday morning, traffic was light.

A free library that is an entire building!

The turn off for the west end of the causeway on the South shore.

This looks promising.

Stellar views.

On this narrower section, you get a better sense of how much work it was to create the berm defining the south shore along this stretch. I was told that after 911, this road was closed to car traffic for security reasons, since the reservoir is an important source of drinking water for NYC. No swimming or boating allowed, BTW.

Now approaching Reservoir Rd.

So apparently it is also a source of hydroelectric power. This bit reminded me of the Crystal Springs reservoir south of San Francisco.

Looking back west at the stretch I just rode.

Beyond this point, motor traffic descends and connects with 28A, but you can continue along the causeway.

The eastern end, with parking and portapotties.

Now headed back to the bridge across the reservoir.

Some fellow cyclists enjoying the weather and the spectacular views.

Across the bridge to the north shore.

This was my route for the day.

In all seriousness, if you only have a short time to ride in the area of the Ashokan Reservoir, rather than taking the rail trail, I would recommend driving to one end of the causeway on the south shore. It is only about 5 km end to end, but the views are great, and it is car free except for the crossing at Reservoir Rd.

I usually don’t drink beer at lunch, but after a ride I imagine it is OK.

I’ll close with two more shots of things seen in town. One is some memorials for local people who died of COVID.

and finally this: “All dogs that don’t eat wax are welcome”.

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A lightning quick trip out to the west coast to attend a wedding in Vancouver WA. Here I am using my Cycle Toronto bandana for a head covering, since it was a Sikh wedding.

I had a bit of time off between the wedding and the reception, so it was time to partake of bikeshare again to visit two other bike shops that I missed the last time I visited. I was staying near the airport in NE Portland, and on the way south I was biking along this greenway. Biking along it, I was reminded of the many such off main arterial bike routes in Vancouver (BC).

You can see that there are speed bumps and sharrows. Also, most of the smaller cross streets had stop signs which made for speedy biking along the greenway. I can’t imagine how many local ordinances in Toronto would be violated by a semi permanent installation of a basketball net like this one.

At more major streets you had to stop, but there were some green markings across the intersection. Although drivers on the cross streets were not required to stop, about 50% of the time they did. Also fans of kid lit should take note of the name of the street that I was biking along!

The first shop was Clever Cycles, which is known for stocking Bromptons, city bikes and cargo bikes.

I was told that they sell through these Gazelle e-bikes very quickly.

The widest selection of Cleverhood products I’ve seen in one place. I guess it rains here 😉

Saw this heavily laden cyclist on SE 7th Ave.

Next up was Splendid Cycles, a shop that specializes in cargo bikes and e-bikes.

Cargo bike heaven.

I had a nice chat with Joel, co-owner.

They had these locally made custom boxes of varying widths for Bullitts.

These come with dog doors.

I can’t resist including one picture from the wedding reception. Spectacular dancing, with various aunties coming forward and throwing bunches of bills at the dancers. They obviously came prepared with a lot of singles. This is something that wouldn’t work in Canada since it would be dangerous to throw handfuls of loonies.

A few momentos from the trip: Brompton reflective shoelaces from Clever Cycles, a shop T shirt from Splendid Cycles, and a 12 year old block of Tillanook cheddar from the airport.

A lightning quick visit, a great wedding for the happy couple, and a bit of bike content for good measure.

Update: a NYTimes article about transportation funding in Portland. In my wanderings, I passed within a block of Harriet Tubman Middle School, as well as within a mile of the intersection on NE 82 Ave where two pedestrians were killed. Interestingly, transportation access is perhaps a reason why NE Portland has a super hub where bikeshare bikes can be parked anywhere without extra charges. A lot of discussion about how less wealthy neighbourhoods are less pedestrian and bike friendly. Sounds familiar.

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This past weekend I found myself in Portland. Technically this was the third time I was in town, but the first two times were at the end of the Seattle to Portland ride, and both times I was there for less than an hour before being driven back to Seattle. This was the first time that I had time to explore a bit.

One of the first sights was this sign at the airport.

Bike share

The bike share system is 100% e-bike. It requires that you download both the Biketown app, and the Lyft app. The bikes themselves are scattered about the downtown area either at an official station like this:

or you can drop off or pick up at any bike rack. However there are additional charges associated with picking up or dropping off away from one of the orange stations.

Open either app, scan a QR code, and then you can unlock the bike.

A locked bike.

After you unlock the bike, you stow the short cable like this and off you go.

The bikes themselves are tanks with wide 26″ wheels, but the weight really isn’t much of a factor since they are electric.

A bad picture of the rear nuvinci hub.

Bafang motor in the front.

I thought that this control on the right was for throttle, but it was just for the Nuvinci hub. The assist is pedal actuated.

Overall, they worked really well. One quirk is that you have to use the app to see the battery level, and you only get to see the battery level (in terms of an estimated range remaining) once you unlock a bike, but if it is low, you can immediately relock a bike without charge.

River City Bicycles

Although Portland has many bike shops, I wanted to visit River City Bicycles because I had one of their wool jerseys that I bought off of eBay about 20 years ago when I still lived in Michigan.

Lots of good stuff to look at.

Many interesting bikes hung from the ceiling. Here is a Teledyne Titan, one of the first production Ti bikes.

An Exxon Graftek, one of the first carbon fibre frames.

A Rigi, which has two thin tubs for the lower part of the seat tube so that the rear tire can overlap where a normal seat tube would be. Hence the super short wheelbase.

The highlight was a Naked Bicycles Baba Ghanoush by Sam Whittingham, a variation of the bike that won best of show at the National Handmade Bike Show. The original was a one speed.

I couldn’t leave empty handed. They were clearing out the last of their wool jerseys with the stripes (I already had the short sleeve version). I also got their current jersey with 40% wool content made locally by Anthm Collective.

If you’re in the area, you might as well have a meal at Afuri Izakaya.

Robata-yaki i,e, grilled stuff.

yuzu-shio ramen. Really really good.
the custard pudding on the left was to die for

Bike infrastructure

A quick glance of downtown with the bike routes toggled on Google Maps shows a pretty dense network of bike routes. That combined with very courteous drivers made biking around town a pleasure. Also, many of the bridges across the Willamette had bike bikes. Take a look at this spiral off ramp for cyclists and pedestrians on the east side of the Morrison Bridge.

Riding north on the east bank, part of the route is a pontoon bridge.

Heading west on the Burnside Bridge.

I’ve never seen a passing bike lane before (headed west on the Hawthorne Bridge).

Liking this bridge over the 405.

Beyond the intersection, you can see that this one way street has parking on both sides, one car lane, and one bike lane of equal width. Amazing.

Sadly, there are a large number of homeless encampments, especially in the Old Town area.

The perpetual line at Voodoo donuts.

and just across the street is this famous sign.

which I first saw in this video.

A fun couple of days in Portland. I’ll have to go back when I have the chance.

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I’m spending a few days in the Bay Area, visiting some old haunts, and also covering some new ground by bike.

Today I wanted to check out the shoreline area of Mountain View, and I saw from a map of bike friendly routes that it was possible to follow some trails on levees on the edges of the the bay itself.

Leaving Mountain View along Evelyn, and crossing towards Sunnyvale, you have to cross the Mountain View – Winchester light rail line. Here is a bike and pedestrian only crossing.

Maude Ave is a bike friendly road, but the crossing underneath HWY 237 could use some work.

I headed towards the bay on Borregas, and as you can see from the map below, there are two bike bridges that cross 101 and 237.

Here is the ramp up the bridge across 101.

The north end of Borregas terminates at this point, and there are signs directing you to the Bay Trail.

Turning left, here is the entrance to the Bay Trail.

Rather than heading straight onto the Bay Trail, I decided to follow a loop on one of the levees. The surface was packed gravel of varying quality, but still perfectly passable on the Brompton.

Wearing an appropriate wool jersey for the occasion.

After the loop, I started on the Bay Trail proper. It had finer gravel of a different colour, and it was a better surface than the levee trails, some of which had been torn up by motor vehicle traffic.

Brompton portrait, with NASA Ames and the Google domes in the background (picture location shown on the earlier Strava map above.)

A closer picture of the new Google complex under construction.

This section of the Bay trail intersects the north end of the Stevens Creek trail. This is the point at which I headed back towards Mountain View.

Another shot of the Google site. Interesting that the Googleplex is on land that will almost surely be under water by the end of this century.

The Steven’s Creek trail has a whole series of bridges that cross the various highways and rail lines, making it a very easy way to get back to the downtown Mountain View area. Here is the underpass under HWY 101.

Here are some pictures of the bridges across Central Expressway.

Crossing this bridge, you see also see the Caltrans rail line, and HWY 85 running parallel off to the left.

The fact that the Stevens Creek Trail runs along a (domesticated) river bed makes it somewhat analogous to one of the ravine trails in Toronto (such as the Don River trail network), but the urban density of the Bay Area is high enough that there are many connections to this trail to various city streets, making it a valuable commuter corridor.

The ride was a nice way to spend the afternoon before Christmas, on what will probably be the last longer bike ride that I’ll have this year.

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Flooding in Japan

Japan got hit by one of the largest typhoons in recent memory, and this picture really brought it home for me.

It is an image of a playground on the banks of the Arakawa River in Tokyo, in Adachi-Ku. A little sleuthing on Google brought up this image from 2013 of the same area. Note the public washroom building in both pictures.

The banks of the Arakawa serve much the same function as the ravine parks that run through Toronto, providing public open space and a chance to get a little distance away from the surrounding city. Last summer I biked in this area, and when I surmounted the levee that flanked the river, I didn’t think much of it.

Now I realize that major sections of Tokyo east of the centre are in fact below sea level, and it was only due to this levee that they were saved. Other parts of the greater Tokyo area were not as fortunate.

At any rate, hoping that all my friends and extended family in Japan are doing OK.

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East River to Chester Basin

If you want to explore west of the Aspotogan Peninsula, a convenient start point is where the trail intersects Hwy 329. This is the point at which I turned south when I biked around the Peninsula.

A very short bike ride west from this point lead to the beginning of the Chester Connection Trail.

I thought that since the trail went inland for a while, it would be boring. It turns out that the next 8 km was one of my favourite sections of the entire trail since it was uninterrupted by roads or driveways, and had nice lake views.

Labrador Lake

Otherwise, it was the usual well groomed and wide gravel path.

As we approach East Chester, we get more trail crossings, and part of the trail are close to Hwy 3.

After about 13 km, you reach the outskirts of Chester, where there is another restored train station and just past this point you cross Hwy 3.

The trail nominally goes up the switchback, but it is more convenient to just take the driveway to the right.

This section of trail allows ATVs. I realize that correlation does not imply causation, but the more ATV tracks, the less packed down the gravel.

Today’s ride ended at Chester Basin, and at this point I turned around to head back to Chester.

Marriot’s Cove.

Chester Harbour

Beautiful downtown Chester.

This mailbox definitely looked out of place, and a little post ride googling revealed that the stated zip code was not exist. Some workmen were inside and they said they were putting things back to normal after a film shoot.

I bought a bakery snack at the Kiwi Cafe. Recommended.

One last lake view before I got back to the starting point.

Chester Basin to Mahone Bay

The next ride segment started at Croft’s Rd, just off Hwy 12. This is a convenient starting point as it is a very short drive south from exit 9 on Hwy 103.

About 2 km west of the starting point you reach a trestle bridge over the Gold River. This is the single longest span on the entire Rum Runner’s Trail.

View from the middle of the bridge.

At Martin’s River, the Chester Connection Trail ends, and the continuation is the Dynamite trail, but there is no signage indicating it at this point.

Heading further west, this is the first signage that I see with the Dynamite Trail markings.

There is another trail access point on Clearland Rd, and in principle you could turn left here and go down to Mahone Bay. I wouldn’t recommend it as it turned out to be a gravel road in worse condition that the rail path.

Instead, bike just a bit further and then you will reach the intersection with the Bay to Bay Trail which goes to Lunenburg. The rail trail also extends further west to Bridgewater and on to Liverpool, but that will have to wait for another day. Turn left to go to Lunenberg.

At least the first section of this trail is much narrower than the rail trail proper.

After a short distance, the trail intersects Main St where there is this kiosk. I decided to turn left to explore Mahone Bay. For the record, I actually rode just a bit further and then rode into town on Kinburn St, which had much less traffic and took you straight to the water.

Had a bakery snack at La Have Bakery. I asked if the carrot cake had nuts, and then said no, but I was warned that it had pineapple. Excellent in any case.

Mahone Bay really takes their Hallowe’en decorations seriously. There were scarecrows and dioramas all over town.

In summary, the Rum Runner’s Trail is a rail trail that extends from Halifax to Lunenburg. It is very well maintained, and is pretty much dead flat. What a great way to explore the coast and to do some very pleasant biking totally away from traffic. Highly recommended. Also the fall is a great time to do this ride as the leaves are starting to turn, and the locals say that by September, the bugs are down.

What I could fit into my schedule was a series of shorter rides of about 50 km each. I didn’t make it to Lunenburg this time, but I’ve been there in the past, and I found Chester and Mahone Bay to be equally charming and much less crowded.

My ride for the week was a 2017 Opus Spark 2, rented from Train Station Bike and Bean. I saw mostly MTB’s and hybrids on the trail, but this bike with 34 mm wide tires was great, and I much prefer riding on the hoods of drop bars.

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Upper Tantallon to Halifax

Once again, my starting point is the Train Station Bike and Bean at the head of St. Margaret’s Bay.

The total mileage to the end of the trail that we will follow is about 25 km.

If you go to the Rum Runner’s Trail website, you will see that the trail changes names a few times on the way into town.

After a slow, barely perceptible climb heading east, at the 6.5 km you cross Route 3, where the St. Margaret’s Bay trail ends, and the BLT trail continues.

Some nice lake views.

Otherwise, much of the trail is wooded on both sides.

Passing through a Halifax exurb, I see this sign. “Second prize is a set of steak knives”.

The BLT trail ends in an industrial park. This is the end of the trail, looking back west.

Looking the other way, the path is now the Chain of Lakes Trail, and it is paved. The first section is not so nice is you are in an industrial park.

You still get some lake views, but now there are houses present.

After this view of First Chain Lake, the trail turns to the north and becomes wooded on both sides for a while, even as it cuts through outer Halifax.

This is about as far as I got on that day. The overpass for HWY 102 is ahead.

Beyond this point, you can see that the trail continues as a regular separated multi use path, and from the way finding, it extends about another 1 km. I was not interested in riding the last section, so this is the point where I turned back.

I saw quite a few cyclists today, since it was a beautiful sunny day. The round trip from Halifax to the Bike and Bean would be a nice, flat 50+ km ride.

One other Halifax note: I dropped in on Martin Beaver, who is affiliated with Cyclesmith bike shop. He is the frame builder from which I ordered my Tamarack almost 20 years ago. He was pleased to hear that it is still my main road bike. He and his former frame building partner did PBP this past summer for the nth time.

For the final entry in this series, I’ll be exploring points further west, to Chester, Mahone Bay, and perhaps Lunenburg.

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This week I’ve had the opportunity to explore the Rum Runner’s Trail, which is a rail trail that goes from Halifax to Lunenberg. I’ve been using Tantallon as a base, and I’ve completed two rides thus far: out and back to Hubbards, and around the Aspotogan Peninsula.

Upper Tantallon to Hubbards

Train Station Bike and Bean is a converted train station that now houses a café and bike shop. They also rent bikes, and this is where I rented my whip for the week.

You can see the trail to the right of the picture. This section is called the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail. Out and back to Hubbards is about 50 km.

The trail is wide and well maintained, and is wooded on both sides for the most part.

You do get intermittent views of the ocean to the south, but for the most part, the best views are at some of the bridges that cross various creeks and streams.

At about the halfway point, there is a purpose built bridge that spans a highway exit, and you get some of the best views of St. Margaret’s Bay.

This section of the trail ends at HWY 3, where it continues as the Aspotogan Trail. There are a couple of sections nearer Hubbard’s where the trail was marked for repair. Some very coarse gravel was laid down. One hopes that this does not reflect the final state of repair.

Even though I can’t see the ocean from this spot, I am reminded of its presence 😉

Aspotogan Peninsula

The Asptogan Peninsula forms the western shore of St. Margaret’s Bay. I was told that it was popular with cyclists since it has relatively light traffic. This is in comparison to the road between Upper Tantallon and Peggy’s Cove, which is plenty scenic but has many blind corners, no shoulders to speak of, and plenty of car and tour bus traffic. One lap of the peninsula is about 50 km.

The Aspotogan Trail section of the Rum Runner’s Trail makes it possible to do a loop ride. I chose to do it in the counter clockwise direction. This is the trail entrance at Hubbards.

Pretty much wooded, but there are a few views of interior lakes on the way to the East River end.

Here is where the trail reaches the highway that goes south around the western shore of the peninsula. The trail itself continues westward, but I turned south here.

Nice to have this sign to remind motorists to keep a 1 m passing distance, but points off for the implication that all cyclists should wear safety vests.

Pleasant riding but not too many ocean views until you reach Upper Blandford.

The view from the Deck Convenience store in Blandford.

Bayswater is very scenic. There are washrooms at a small provincial park here if you have the need.

There is also a memorial site for Swissair Flight 111. I knew about the one near Peggy’s Cove, but apparently this site, the other, and the crash site form an almost equilateral triangle.

There are a few other pretty villages on the east side, (just as Northwest Cove) but I was too busy biking to take pictures. For the most part, the east coast of the peninsula has ocean views to the right, but you are on a bluff some height above the ocean. There are more rollers on this side as well.

In summary, the Aspotogan Peninsula is a nice detour from the rail trail if you want to see some ocean views on roads with very little traffic.

I’ve been told that other sections of the railtrail itself are also scenic, and I look forward to trying out the section towards Halifax as well as the part between Chester and Mahone Bay in the remainder of my time here.

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