Monthly Archives: April 2018

My father never stopped

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

My father never stopped at the Grand Canyon.  My father would not stop.  Never.  Ever.  Never-ever… unless of course he had to use the bathroom and then it was a Whiting Brothers gas station to fill up and find relief.  Cruising down Route 66 twice each year I would drool, yearn and whine that we might turn on Route 64 from Williams, Arizona to see the hole in the ground that I’d been told about in school, read about, and wished to visit.  Didn’t happen.  Not once.  The 120-mile round trip would add almost ten percent to our drive to Eastern Oklahoma and the visit with family.  His last trip through was to move there, the destination of all of our trips.  He died a few years later.

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As the sun rolls past the colors change, just like they are advertised to do.  Fabulous.

Well…, not really never-ever.  I do remember one side trip.  We did stop at Meteor Crater after I had hounded for several hours.  I wore them down, I guess.  That’s another story, however… That was when my mom made a statement that would place a bookmark on my eighth year of life… “It’s nothing but a big hole in the ground.”  She actually used an expletive somewhere in the sentence.  However, you think about it, she’s right.  But, oh, what a hole in the ground.  I was hooked on large, naturally excavated terrain with that viewing.

But I digress.

 

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Meteor Crater, just a big… hole that I find fascinating.  More to come in another blog.

Fast forward fifty-plus years… Okay, make that almost sixty-plus years.  But, I am finally here.  As always, time is short, and to make it worse the Beckster and I have some kind of bug.  I do not feel like touring, I’d prefer to lay in the motel and whine.  But, the road calls.  Time dictates and demands, “See it now ‘cause you may not be back for a while… or ever.”  So we go.

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An odd, pockmarked rock on the south rim.

We leave Sedona in the morning heading out on route 89a and up its famous switchbacks that I dubbed, The Hairpins.  The road reminds me of a shoe string.  It twists and turns and loops, so crooked that, as my father used to say, “You can see your tail lights as you round the bend.”  This road is definitely bendy and loopy, not for the faint of stomach.  The Hairpins climb from the junction of Pumphouse Creek and Sterling Canyon then past 6,639-foot, Mexican Pocket Mountain then dumps you onto the long plateau that leads to Interstate 17 and Flagstaff.  At Flagstaff we follow US 180 to Arizona 64 and we are here – two and one-half hours later.

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Mather Point Overlook.  Nice  folks, but one must look beyond the spilled drinks and crowds because the beauty is there.  It’s worth it.  One look and you forget your immediate surroundings.

We are here.  Yes, we are.  Along with what appears to be half the population of the Western Hemisphere.  At Mather Point we park at the Visitors Center lot.  A short walk and we on the overlook.  People are scrambling everywhere… I mean, everywhere.  Hanging off of the rails to pose for pictures, on outcrops of rocks to our left… posing for pictures, off of the overlook a few hundred yards to the west… posing for pictures.

Selfie sticks flash in the sunlight looking like a rerun of the battle scene on Braveheart.  And, children running everywhere, climbing on rocks, climbing on rails.  My inner-parental-self stands, stunned and silent.  Coffee, or some other brown runny substance rolls from a coffee cup on the concrete path ahead.  The aroma of coffee wafts up, affirming the contents.  I hope that the Beckster doesn’t get a whiff.  We’ll be searching for a McDonalds, because, as you know, they make the best coffee.  It’s a Beckster thing.

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Looking north from Mather Point Overlook.  A man in a red shirt hangs near the edge for a prank photo.  It HAD to be a guy in red.

Then it hits me.  Blamm!  The view.  It’s 10 a.m. and past the “sweet” light of morning and it’s beautiful.  No, bad example, exquisite.  No, not enough, still.  Wow!  That works, just, wow!  Clouds cover the Northern Rim.  Rain falls from the patches of blue and white fluff.  The red-orange banding along the mass of mesas, cliffs and side canyons are like a light show in rock.  Grab a camera.  I alternate between DSLR and smartphone.  It’s hard to get a bad shot.  I am impressed.  I am really impressed.  I wish my parents were here.  They should see this.  They would have liked this big hole.

We no longer feel ill.  Somehow the bad has been erased so we point our pickup east along the rim drive.  As the sun climbs and the clouds move the scene changes.  I had read how the colors change with the day.  Oh, my God, what have you done here?  This is beyond words.  Each turnout and overlook has its own phenomenal view.  At one stop, a raven poses for me, then squawks a rebuke when I’ve overstayed my welcome.  We move on.   If I were shooting film we would have burned through several hundred dollars in emulsion and processing fees.  Man, I love digital.

Navajo Jewelry shop Navajo Reservation

Navajo Jewelry shop Navajo Reservation

Before we know, we arrive at the Desert View Visitor Center, the end of the line.  The views and the images are still great.  Just one more picture and we need to head back.  We’ve burned through the entire day.   Down the road we make one more stop, a Navajo jewelry stand.  Here a Viet Nam veteran and his wife offer beaded jewelry, dream catchers and pottery.  As the sun drops low it is cold so we keep moving, but after buying gifts for the kids and grandkids and earrings for the Beckster.  Oh, and something for me, a stone circle pendant.  I like it.  It’s made by nice people, or at least sold by them.  I wish we had time to stay and talk but the road calls.

Mary Colter's Desert View Watchtower

Mary Colter’s Desert View Watchtower marks the end of the view sites on the South Rim Drive.

It is a great day.  I am ready for a nap but we still have to drive the Hairpins after dark.  The Grand Canyon?  I will be back.

Too bad Dad couldn’t be here.

 

© J Byous Company 2018, All rights reserved

 

 

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Beaufort, it’s a view to dine for.

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

Beaufort, South Carolina is Southern, small and sophisticated…. it’s a view to dine for.  The deck where we sit once jutted out over the water.  Today the water is two-hundred feet away, separated from the restaurant by yards and yards of twentieth-century fill dirt.  Since Gus, The Travel Dogg blogger is with us, we’re invited to the umbrella-covered tables in back of the eatery… and the best views.

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The pet-friendly deck at Beaufort’s Panini’s Restaurant is a pleasant waterside venue.

The 1919 Beaufort Bank Building, now Panini’s On The Waterfront Restaurant, still has one of Beaufort, South Carolina’s best vantage points of the harbor.  From our table, past the hoagies, Frogmore penne, and crab cake salad, the boats list lazily as the spring breeze flows in from the ocean to the east… sleep inducing.  Tourists and locals rest in strategically-positioned porch-swings that deliver leisured views from Henry Chambers Waterfront Park.

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Clams and Rigatoni in the center, Chicken Salad Panini on the left with a Meatball Parmigiana Hoagie on the right.  All with Southern sweet tea.  Life’s good.

The scent of the brackish water and marsh mud accent the aroma of clams and rigatoni that wait in front of me.  Dog friendly and a gluten-free menu…  I am in heaven.  Usually they bring a doggy menu for the pups, but today they are out of the pup-centric treats.  Gus doesn’t mind a few nibbles of people food.

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The harbor next to Henry Chambers Waterfront Park.

The spot is fantastic… but the history of the town is even better.  Beaufort was founded in 1711.  James Oglethorpe and the original settlers of Savannah and Georgia had stopped here on their way to start the new colony in 1732.  Though first settled by the English in 1670 , the southeastern corner of what is now the United States, was still a frontier.  The reason for Oglethorpe’s visit was to create a new adjoining colony to prevent the Spanish from moving up the coast from Florida, a welcomed buffer for the Carolinians.

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Bay Street in the downtown section serves as the main thoroughfare in the historic district.

Previously, in 1566, the Spanish created the nearby town of Santa Elena and stayed for 21 years.  Oglethorpe’s actions would act to nullify the Spanish claim to the area.  Before the Spanish, in 1662, French explorer and Captain Jean Ribaut brought a group of Huguenots to the same spot, creating the first Protestant settlement in what is now the United States.

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Greek Revival architecture is common among the homes and businesses in Beaufort.

Ribaut left a few soldiers and sailed back to France to gather reinforcements.  The left-behind troops went to work and built their own ship which took them back to France as well.  Unfortunately, without a compass, they wandered their way eastward and resorted to cannibalism to finish out the trip.  It was the first ship built in America to cross the Atlantic Ocean… eventually.  The location of the town was found under a Parris Island Marine Base golf course.  The Spanish had built their town over the ruins of the French, which is… I am told… par for the Spanish.  A stroke of genius.

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A iron-willed flamingo stands guard at the front of a Bay Street business.

The site is a short trip down the waterway from Beaufort toward the ocean.  Parris Island is a place where US Marines are proud to have been… and graduated… from.  Basic training there has hardened thousands of Leathernecks, both in times of peace and in war since 1915. As a result, Marine Corp caps and bumper stickers are easily found along Beaufort’s Bay Street which serves as the main thoroughfare and attraction in the Historic District.  On the other side of town is the Marine Corps Air Station.  This is a Marine-centric town.

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The chief of Bay and West Streets soaks in sun while waiting for the next tourist to pass.

It’s always been a military town.  The British had just finished barracks for soldiers in 1732 when Oglethorpe dropped in with his hundred-or-so settlers.  The travelers were given the new facilities to stay in while Colonel William Bull accompanied Oglethorpe on a scouting expedition to establish Savannah.  They joined their leader a few weeks later in 1733.  Soldiers and Sailors occupied the location until the end of the American Revolution when they were asked, not too politely, to leave.

In 1861, during the American Civil War, the city was captured by Union troops who held it to the end.  At that time the town was said to be void of white Southerners, leaving it to the black population before the Federal’s amphibious landing.

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The John Cuthbert House, now known as the Cuthbert House Inn, was built in 1811.  During the Union occupation in the Civil War it was owned by US Army Brigadier General Rufus Saxton. (Wikipedia)

One rebel resident had been in the thick of fighting before.  William Henry Cory had been born in Chapham England near London.  Before emigrating to Beaufort he had survived the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade made famous by poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson who wrote,

“Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward…,

and continues later,

“Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die.

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.”

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The 1855 painting by William Simpson, “The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava,” depicts the battle and cavalry charge in which William Cory participated.

In Cory’s new homeland he served as an officer in the Virginia Infantry in the Confederate Army.  He is buried in the St. Helena Episcopal Churchyard.  Beside his headstone are two flags.  One is he Union Jack, the other is the Confederate Battle flag.

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How much is that Piggy in the window?  I fell in love with the swine.

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I love the rocking horse too… but it won’t fit in a Ford Focus.

Today the town is a favorite of tourists from Hilton Head and Savannah.  Art shops, restaurants and odds-and-ends stores line the main street.  They hold some very good art, great food and interesting treasures that I can’t live without but can’t afford.  There’s a rocking horse and pig that I have my eye on.  They won’t fit in my Ford Focus… oh, well.  I’ll have to pass.  Ooohh!  Ooohh!  It’s an Irish shop.  Irish tweed hats and shillelaghs.  Do I need them…? No… but I gotta look.

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I’ll have to pass on the Irish hat.  Wool is too warm any time of year in Savannah… But the Beaufort hat on the basket head…  it’s mine.

We’ve also “gotta look” at the architecture.  Especially the old styles.  The Verdier House stands on the northwest corner of Bay and Scott Streets.  The Federal-styled home was built in 1804 by a French Huguenot planter and businessman named John Mark Verdier.  To me it looks to have a lot of Greek Revival features, but the former is listed in the guide books.  It was the Union Army adjutant general’s headquarters during the occupation.  Today it is a museum that displays the history of the town as well as household items of the era.

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The vernacular Regency/Greek Revival home of Huguenot,  John Mark Verdier, was built in 1804.  You can find it at the corner of Bay and Scott Streets.

A few blocks to the north is The Arsenal that serves as the Beaufort History Museum.  Built in 1798 it houses paintings, uniformed draped mannequins and docents eager to tell the stories of the area.  On the east is the Old Point neighborhood where antebellum homes sit among moss-covered oaks beside narrow, walkable lanes.  It’s worth the stroll.

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Hint: For real Southern iced tea you must add the sugar to boiling hot tea, stir it until it dissolves, then cool it and add the ice. At Panini’s it’s an unofficial umbrella drink.  Photos don’t lie.

If you like the South, sweet tea and old South charm, this is the place.  Sit back on Panini’s deck, watch the boats bob on the river, and enjoy a cool Southern iced tea.

Y’all come back.

 

 

 

© J Byous Company 2018, All rights reserved

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Oatman:  Threading the Needle’s Eye

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

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Oatman, Arizona was once the gateway to the promised land – California.  Today it serves travelers and tourists searching for the past.  It fills the bill.

 

It is legend.  This stretch of Route 66 runs like a thread, winding through the hot desert hills, twisting, rising and dropping in the dry, rocky, near-depleted-gold-bearing mountains between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona.  I have not seen it in the six decades of my life.  I’ve always wanted to.  Now I am.

My wife, Becky, aka “The Beckster,” rides shotgun as we leave our motel in Needles, California.  It is just before the morning sun creeps over the horizon.  Across the Colorado River we can see Boundary Cone on the opposite side of the Arizona state line.  It is already getting hot.  Thank God for air-conditioned pickups.  Our time is short, appointments in the Phoenix area dictate a “flyby” view of the town and route without a scheduled stop.  Now that we live in the Southeast – on the other side of the continent – it is compulsory that we see the legend… the road and the town.

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Boundary Cone peaks above the skyline beside the route from Needles, California to Oatman, Arizona.  It is a sacred place to the Mojave Tribe and has been a landmark for travelers over the years.  Below it are the row crops of the fertile Mojave Valley on the Arizona side of the state line.

I remember the stories told by my parents and grandparents of traveling to California in the years before I was born.  “I don’t like threading the needle’s eye,” my grandfather, Mark Covey, would joke while telling of this road.  “Don’t want to go back.”  He didn’t.

In the 1940s he had crossed the snaking stretch of Route 66 in a cut-down 1931 Hupmobile.  A makeshift “dog house” replaced the back seat and trunk, an alteration designed to carry and cover bored, sleeping kids and grandkids during the long, sun-baked and dangerous trip from Eastern Oklahoma.  Over the previous two decades he and others, who are now called “Steinbeck’s Okies,” journeyed to join my parents who were working in the bean fields of California’s Central Valley. 

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This Arkansas family rides in a truck with a “dog house” on the back.  Mark Covey’s Hupmobile doghouse was much smaller during its trek across Arizona’s southwestern desert.  Library of Congress photo by Dorothea Lang.

But, the gateway to the promised land lay along the twisted, narrow highway through the minaret-shaped rhyolite plugs of the Needles region and the near-abandoned gold town of Oatman, a town that was saved from extinction by supplying the needs of the traffic on Route 66.  As in my grandfather’s time, today the town survives by selling food, drink, and trinkets to travelers and tourists who follow their dreams.  In times before they searched for a new life.  Today they search for the past… just as we are.

Every year in my childhood our summer vacation was in Eastern Oklahoma the place our family called “home.”  We rolled through the Needles area in the warm season, in the pre-auto-air-conditioner days.  On those occasions my brother and I could be seen passing by, holding wet washcloths out of the car window in an attempt to grab a fleeting ration of cool for our faces.  One of our primitive swipes at cooling took place in Needles during an 11 P.M. passing in 1960.  The outside temperature measured 109 degrees Fahrenheit.  Somewhere along the route the cloth slipped from my brother’s hand and swirled off into the desert sticking to a distant, dry tumbleweed.  Mom was not amused.  Neither was I.  I had to share my cloth.

Route 66 had changed by that time, bypassing Oatman and diving straight into the Mojave Desert on the way to Kingman.  Each year, passing the turnoff to the “needle’s eye” my mother would laugh and quote her father’s rebuke of the area.  It was an annual ritual in oral tradition.

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Entering Arizona’s Black Mountains a short distance from Oatman on the Old Route 66.

Now, as we approach Oatman the first rays of sunlight touch the surrounding hilltops.  It slowly creeps downward, crawling across the rocks, rooftops, and road as the town fills our windshield.  The hamlet is quiet, the kind of quiet that seeps into your head the way heat soaks into a Mojave rock formation – slowly and intensely.  The sound of our motor reminds us that we have not lost our hearing.

Nothing stirs; not bird nor dog nor human.  It’s eerie, but oddly inviting.  It feels lonely like the loneliness heard in the howl of a wolf on a dark wilderness night.  The smell of dust and sage hangs in the air as the temperature rises.  The occasional scents of burro dung and automobile oil waft upward from the roadway through the truck’s ventilation system.  

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Oatman from the north at sunrise.  The town is quiet, still sleeping.  No-one is stirring.

The Beckster and I grab our cameras and click away, some from the truck, but other shots require stopping to compose and capture.  Time is short.  We must hurry.  I hate it.  I love this place.  I can feel the history soaking up out the ground and from the wooden framed buildings that surround us.  This place is filled with hidden stories, hidden secrets.

This tiny mining town gained its name from a nearby 1860s mine that honored Olive Oatman, a member of a Mormon pioneer family who died in an Indian raid in 1851.  Her story of capture, enslavement and eventual adoption by the Mojave tribe was well known when the town was settled.  Ironically gold fever exploded the population of the town shortly after Oatman’s death in 1903 when new veins were discovered.  The short-lived boost helped the town survive during the early years of the century.

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The Olive Oatman Restaurant and Saloon.  The place to get ice cream and booze, in one trip.

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Olive Oatman in 1863.  Her fame was widespread at that time.  The mine bearing her name was recorded around the time of this photograph. Wikipedia

Her likeness, which includes Mojave-face-tattoo highlights, is displayed on the façade of Olive Oatman Restaurant and Saloon on the eastern edge of the main street.  The eatery serves sodas, chili and ice cream to sun-parched tourists during the season.  A long banner above the porch boasts, “Air Conditioned.”  Next to it is another sign that reads, “Open.”  But, the eatery is not ready for the day, the business doors are locked.  They are in fact, closed.

Across the street is the eight-room, Oatman Hotel.  It was the honeymoon spot for actors Clark Gable and Carol Lombard when, in 1939, they eloped to Kingman 30 miles across the Black Mountains to the northeast.  Stories are told of the couple’s secretive escape out of Hollywood in an effort to avoid the press of the day. 

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The Oatman (Durlin) Hotel was established one year before Olive Oatman’s death in 1903.  Film stars, Carol Lombard and Clark Gable, shared their honeymoon here and were reported to have stayed here several times in their short tragic marriage.

Old timers told of card games with Gable into the late hours and his enjoyment of the townspeople that drew the couple back to the inn on numerous other occasions.  Apparently he and Lombard didn’t mind the ghost who is said to haunt the place.  The old establishment that they enjoyed has survived several disasters in the town’s history.  But in 1921 the hotel and many of the surrounding buildings weren’t as lucky and were destroyed by fire.  It was rebuilt in 1924.  Some reports say that the adobe walls remained intact and were reused for the current structure. 

As we pass through, the famous burros of Oatman are nowhere to be seen.  We will find them later trotting between the rocks and clumps of sagebrush a short distance down the road.  These locals were introduced to the region in the 1860s when gold was discovered.  Some are descended from pack animals used by The California Volunteers, troopers who moved from the nearby post, Fort Mohave, to search for gold. 

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Burros are protected by the BLM.  They think… or rather, know, you are on their turf.

Over time other “booms” of gold-hungry immigrants would lose or release animals.  Today there are several hundred wild burros in the area that are protected by the Bureau of Land Management.  Some are offered for adoption each year in the Bureaus’ Wild Horse and Burro Program.

 

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The view from Sitgreaves Pass northwest through the Black Mountains.

Onward we drive, competing with the clock.  The hairpin road seems to spiral as we climb.  To the left, just before the summit, is the Gold Road Mine.  It is currently under study for reopening, giving hope to the owners that they might soon take advantage of the rising price of gold.   A few more turns and switchbacks we are on top of 3,550-foot-high Sitgreaves Pass.  Stopping is a necessity to take in the view toward the northwest.

Three-hundred yards below us is a short, loop road.  We had missed the dirt turnoff to a panorama site with views of the Mojave Valley, the Colorado River and California beyond.  The site is covered with small crosses and monuments to the dead.  The ground is too rocky for graves yet crosses and memorials dot hillside below the overlook.    A local custom is to scatter ashes of loved ones at the site, usually due to a last request by those who passed and had loved the area.  

I would love to study this Sitgreaves site, but we can’t turn around.  Time on this leg of the trip is dominating our plans.  A short photo op and again we are rolling past the sage, rocks, and sand.  Thinking back, I had seen a similar cross-covered site a few weeks earlier above Cripple Creek, Colorado.  There the cross-on-the-hill placement started on the prominent point after cars plunged over.  Families would place memorials to those who died.  Later, as on Sitgreaves, loved ones would scatter ashes because of the beautiful vista from the point.  Both places pique one’s interests and suggest a need for learning more.  Both bring on sadness.

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Onward along Old Route 66 to Kingman, Phoenix and home.

On we drive – the clock commands us.  Another visit will be planned and we will return to this place and to the town and the ice cream in Olive’s Oatman’s Restaurant.  The history and the legends demand it of us.  Plus, there are the burros.

 

 

© J Byous Company 2018, All rights reserved

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