Month: June 2014

Day 50 – Park Rapids, MN to Detroit Lakes, MN

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Day 50 – Park Rapids, MN to Detroit Lakes, MN – 47 miles

We were so glad to be indoors, once again last night. Just after we walked back to our motel from dinner, I happened to glance behind me as we were going into our room & the sky was dark! Within 15 minutes, we watched a torrential downpour from our comfy, dry room! It rained like that for 15 minutes, or so and then the sun came out. This happened several times that evening and in between these rainstorms, we walked down the block & got groceries for the morning’s breakfast. Goodness! It’s been wet this June in Minnesota!

When we left our motel this morning, it was already 71 degrees (at 7:45 am) and overcast. It looked like rain and we checked our weather app, double-checking the radar. It indicated about a 50% chance if rain – most days have indicated this.

We only had one available food stop on the way to Detroit Lakes (the cool peeps all call it D.L.), a small convenience store in Osage & we talked to a few locals, both about hotels outside of DL and our route through ND. We thought if we had a good day, we might push past DL, but we had a night set up with a Warmshower host on Sunday, so the bonus miles wouldn’t help us much. Back on the bike and a few small rolling hills. We noticed a nice scenery change as we came into Smokey Hills State Forest. Nice tall trees to block us from the cross winds. We also saw huge patches of Lady Slippers on the side of the road, so pretty!!

We had a tiny bike mishap on the road (not counting the bike falling on Jim while he was stopped on the side of the road :-/). As we were coming down a good size hill, Jim spotted a foot long round piece of threaded rod ( or similar). Since the rod was perpendicular to the road, it was too hard to miss going at the speed we were going. When the bike ran over it, it picked it up and knocked off the timing chain.

We soon noticed the ominous sign of oncoming cars with their headlights on, the skies didn’t look too bad, but we started feeling a few drops, then a steady light sprinkle. We were fortunate it only lasted a mile or two. As it was raining we kept looking right and left for a hideout canopy in case it got bad. We didn’t see anything promising, but it was only barely sprinkling. It’s getting pretty desolate out here, we both decided that pushing past DL would not gain up much, and the downside of getting stuck in the rain pushed us to stay in DL for the night.

We had emailed a WS host yesterday but hadn’t heard back from them. Not wanting to be pushy, we thought we’d get a motel room tonight. But when we got to DL, we called around & found everything booked up. Apparently this is a popular resort area. With rain & more rain in the forecast, we called the WS host on the phone & she graciously agreed to take us in, even though they have another WS guest for the night.

This weather has been such a pain! It’s hard to know how far we’ll get each day, so it isn’t practical to make reservations. The WS homes have been flexible, but they’re getting fewer & further between. We had made an agreement that we wouldn’t camp in the rain, so we are so glad to be inside again because in the time we had lunch there were two big rainstorms that came thru!

As we were sitting in the coffee shop in DL, Jim noticed a guy ride by on a loaded up touring bike. Shortly after that, he walked in & came right over to see us. It is our fellow cyclist staying at the WS home! His name is Bala (“Bay-la”) & he is cycling from Ohio to California – and he is 17 years old! Bala said it took some convincing to get his parents on board with this trip. He said he’s been thinking about it since he gave directions to some long distance cyclists, 4 years ago. He seems well prepared and is doing great with his ride. We talked for a bit & then all got on our bikes and rode the last 5 miles to our WS home for the evening. It was quite windy and we had turned going south, right into the wind. Luckily not too far to go.

Link to Bala’s blog: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/index.html?doc_id=13768

Our WS hosts, Jean and Mike are so nice! They’ve put us up in their bunk house & Bala is in their guest bedroom. They put out a spread of cheese & chips & salsa as appetizers & then made a wonderful pasta hot dish for dinner. This was followed by a pontoon ride out on Lake Sallie. They are a friendly couple & we had quite a gang of friends out on the pontoon boat. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperative and another storm rolled in, whipping up whitecaps & nearly toppling the boat lift/awning until they got the boat under it / on it and weight of the boat held it down. After a little bit indoors waiting out the weather, we went back out on the dock to watch the sun set. Another great day with great new friends!

Lots of lady slippers along the road today! Beautiful!

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Bala:

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Detroit Lakes:

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Our hosts, Jean & Mike:

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Storm!

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Sunset:

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Day 49 – Bemidji, MN to Park Rapids, MN

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Day 49 – Bemidji, MN to Park Rapids, MN – 42 miles

It sure was hard to leave Bemidji this morning after the wonderful visits we had yesterday. Plus, we had a fantastic room right on the south shore of Lake Bemidji at the Doubletree Inn. We had considered staying several days, as we are in need of a rest day, however looking at the weather forecast, there is rain coming which would be a good time to take a rest day. So we rode out of town today.

Having rode into Bemidji on a rail trail, we were a bit surprised by the hills. But they weren’t too bad & each uphill eventually was rewarded with a downhill. At one point, as we were enjoying some speed, I spotted the Adopt-a-Highway sign for the stretch of highway that my cousins have adopted in memory of their parents. How cool! I wanted to get a pic but couldn’t get my camera out quick enough & we didn’t want to pedal back up the hill for the pic.

We rode into Lake George & had a wonderful lunch at a small cafe. The soup was fantastic! Riding out of town after lunch was a lot of uphill but before too long we were rewarded with downhills, followed by more ups & downs. It seemed that the wind was sometimes in our face but sometimes at our side and back too – funny weather. For the most part, we were protected from the wind by trees. We stopped for a snack break in Emmaville Population: 4. Had some conversations with several groups of friendly Minnesotans and one recommended a small motel in Park Rapids, so we set our sights on that place. About 4-5 miles from Park Rapids, we hopped on the Heartland Trail – another of these beautiful, fantastic paved rail trails in Minnesota – and enjoyed a quiet ride into town.

Rain is in the forecast nearly every day and evening lately, so we’ve been taking indoor accommodations lately. Tonight we took a room at the motel recommended by the guy we talked with in Emmaville. It’s a nice place, conveniently located in town for doing laundry and getting dinner.

Someone asked how we’re doing with all the flooding in Minnesota lately. We’ve had to reroute a bit – mostly it has been taking more roads and fewer trails. Luckily when we were near the Mississippi, it hadn’t crested – it is worse now than it was a week ago. The worst of the flooding is south of and in the twin cities. We’ve been watching the Red River, which runs thru Fargo, ND. The Red River runs north, so typically Grand Forks has more trouble than Fargo. So far, so good.

Someone else asked about the bike saddles we use and how we’re able to ride for so long. There are several factors in play here. First of all, we wear padded bike shorts. Next, we’ve both ridden with these saddles for years, so these are tried & true, comfortable saddles that seem to fit well to our anatomy. We take breaks every 45-60 minutes and get off the bike, stretch, whatever.

Lastly, a little lesson on bike saddles – notice I said, “saddle” and not “seat”. As Sheldon Brown said, “A seat is something you sit on and is designed to bear essentially your entire weight.” A recumbent bike has a seat. A conventional bike has a saddle. “A saddle is intended to carry some but not all your weight. The rest of your weight is mainly carried by your legs, and some by your hands and arms.” If you want to read more, see Sheldon Brown’s article titled, “A Comfortable Bicycle Saddle.”

How could we forget – yesterday, we officially went over the 2,000 mile mark for this trip! Woo hoo!!

Dinner in Park Rapids:

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Leaving Bemidji, the first city on the Mississippi:

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Glad we’re not camping tonight!

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Day 48 – Walker, MN to Bemidji, MN

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Day 48 – Walker, MN to Bemidji, MN – 33 miles

Wow! What a day it’s been! I woke up in a bit of a foul mood. Not sure of the cause – gloomy, overcast skies, fatigue, … who knows? It’s a strange thing about this trip – the darnedest things can make your day or can bring you down – and there is no predicting it and it can change so quick! Yesterday we had such a fun day riding the Paul Bunyan trail but then for the last 15 miles, suddenly I was just tired of it and just wanted to be done!

So, this morning we set out in overcast skies once again and on the Paul Bunyan trail once again for the last 32 miles to Bemidji. Maybe I was fretting over the spoke repair and whether or not it would get us to Bemidji. Maybe it was the annoying goose/duck squawk sound coming from the rear brake. Anyhow after a structural engineering lesson from Jim, I decided to just let go of my worry over the spoke and Jim disconnected the rear brake, so we didn’t have to listen to that.

We made great time on this stretch of the trail. This was mostly because we took very few and very quick breaks because the mosquitos were plentiful & tenacious! But we did get off a few times to take pictures and marvel at the beautiful lady slippers, foxglove and other wild flowers that were in blossom along the trail! Wow! So beautiful! Especially the lady slippers! Before too long, we saw approaching bicyclists and we crossed the US-2 overpass and I knew we had arrived in Bemidji!

My parents both grew up in this area and we had many family vacations to this area to visit family. I wasn’t sure how many of my relatives we’d be able to meet up with but I knew I wanted to visit my mother’s sister and her sister-in-law. I just wasn’t sure how the logistics would work out because my one aunt lives about 7 miles from town. We’d have to bicycle out there.

In a fortunate turn of events (and this becomes even more fortunate!) my brother and two sisters are on their way to Alaska and spent last night in Wisconsin with a cousin. When I told them we would be in Bemidji, they decided to swing north and visit our aunts too! I was looking forward to seeing them but this also helped us because they could drive us out to my aunt’s house!

So, when we got into town, we of course stopped first thing to see Paul Bunyan & Babe the blue ox. Then went right to Northern Cycles (we could see their sign from the Paul & Babe statues) to see about the needed bike repairs. They were great! They said to just leave the bike and all our packs with them, go have lunch & they’d have the repairs complete. So we walked over to Raphael’s – a favorite stop, recommended by my cousin, Carol on my last trip to Bemidji. We also went to the post office & mailed a package home. And sometime around that time, Jim realized he didn’t have his wallet. He went back to the bike shop & checked his pannier. Nope, not there. So, he called the hotel in Walker. Yup, that’s where it was. Now what?

I called my sister, thinking that one of several possible routes for them would take them thru Walker. Sharmin looked at the map and said it didn’t look like it was out of their way to stop & pick it up for us! Whew! That sure saved us a lot of trouble!

We went back to the bike shop but the bike wasn’t yet ready, so we talked about going up to the assisted living facility where one of my aunt lives. A guy who works at the shop said he’d be happy to drive us up there, as it was about a mile and a half from downtown. What a kind offer! We took him up on the offer, figuring we’d figure out a way back later.

We had such a nice visit with my aunt! She is 95 years old & doing so well! She looks great & is so spunky & fun to talk with! We weren’t sure when my sibs would get into town so we said our goodbyes and walked back to the bike shop. The bike was ready, so we took it for a test ride and after a quick brake adjustment, we were on our way to our hotel. My sibs showed up just as we were checking in. We went up to our room, changed our clothes and then headed right out to see our aunt before dinner time. Another visit with her and then we were on our way out to see our other aunt.

We picked up some KFC, as we were all very hungry by now, and descended on our other aunt. It was so great to see her – she is nearly 90 and also doing great! I feel so blessed to have such wonderful, strong women in my life! The life stories of these women – and my mom, as well – could be the subject of a great blog! My cousin, Kevin, came out for a visit too – so fun to see him! We had a great visit but couldn’t stay long (with either aunt), as my sibs wanted to make it to North Dakota tonight.

We returned to our hotel. My sibs brought their keurig machine up to our room to make coffee for the long drive yet this evening. (Who brings a keurig with them on a road trip???). We said our good-byes and returned to our room. Pretty soon, I got a text message from my sister that my cousin, Carol was stopping by for a visit. I couldn’t help but think how that came about but figured Carol would fill me in. This is where this day gets crazier!

Cousin Carol stopped at the gas station this afternoon and saw a guy that she thought looked like one of her Michigan cousins. Then she saw Sharmin get out of the same car & knew it was her cousins! (We have 50-some cousins on our dad’s side of the family.). They chatted a bit and Sharmin gave Carol our hotel & room number, so that is how Carol knew how to find us & visit us! We had a great visit! She’s so nice – I always enjoy visiting with her! What a fun surprise & bonus to this day!

So, here I sit, writing this blog, reflecting on what a wonderful, wondrous day it has been! I saw so many loved ones today and I am so very happy! This detour to Bemidji added miles to our trip but has been incredibly uplifting! After Carol left, Jim went downstairs for some pop – er, soda – and when he came back up, he told me to check out the sunset. I walked downstairs and caught a beautiful sunset over Lake Bemidji. A beautiful ending to a beautiful day! I am a woman abundantly blessed.

Re: My Wallet…To my dad: you were right, I CAN fall into a shithole and come out smelling like a rose. To my wife: thanks for putting up with my rosy stench all these years!

This was a very good day – I love being with Shawn and all her Fam. And thanks Boyce, Sherri and Sharmin for bailing me out! Love you guys! And to Boyce, thanks for the super bright, 1 dollar bike light AND I want a picture of you riding your garbaged picked bike, transported to Alaska on a three dollar bike rack, on the bike paths on Anchorage! Have a great trip!

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Lake Bemidji sunset:

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Day 47 – Brainerd, MN to Walker, MN

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Day 47 – Brainerd, MN to Walker, MN – 59 miles

We started out the day with coffee and conversation with our warm showers host Audra. We also enjoyed the antics of her new puppy, Frank. We said our good byes and pedaled away with an extra traveler – Frank wanted to join us! We circled back, so Audra could catch Frank, then slowly biked away while Frank was distracted. For sure this was our most exciting departure!

It was cool & overcast when we left. We rode off in long sleeves but stopped partway down the road to put on our jackets. As we went by a thermometer along the highway, we noted that it said the temp was 52 degrees. Later in one of the towns we passed thru, we saw that the temp had gone up to 62 at noon. It was grey, cool & overcast all day.

We rode to the Paul Bunyan Trail and hopped on the trail in Nisswa. The Paul Bunyan Trail is a paved bike path between Brainerd and Bemidji. When we joined the trail, it was our first time we were back on the on the Northern Tier Cycling route since we rerouted in Maine on day two. It was nice to be on the trail and Minnesota trails are well marked and signed. The trail is an old rail grade, so the grades were easy to pedal and riding without dealing with traffic or varying shoulder widths was very nice.

We spotted an assortment of birds, including a couple of scarlet tanagers (one that seemed to be in a tussle with a goldfinch), a bald eagle that flew just 10-15 feet over us, and a Baltimore oriole. We continue to hear the wrens singing and the laughing loon, as well as many other common birds.

We made some quick stops to take pictures of “babes” along the trail – part of the Brainerd Ox Trot. To celebrate the areas favorite former citizen, Paul Bunyan, the community has a bunch of Babe the Blue Ox’s painted up for show. Jim likes to take pictures of his Babe next to the Babes, so each required a stop. We also spotted Lucette, Paul Bunyan’s sweetheart. A bit of a Minnesota controversy here, as Lucette is said to be the mother of Paul Jr., yet is only Paul’s sweetheart. But who is to judge? We certainly won’t!

Back on the trail, the long and narrow road was getting to us a little bit. After a day on the bike path we started to feel a little claustrophobic (give us the open road!). To fight the monotony, we had to dig into the song vault to sing the “you can’t get to heaven” Boy Scout camp songs. All the verses are somewhat made up, ours started with…

Oh you can’t get to heaven
On Paul Bunyan Trail
‘Cause The Lord don’t want
….
Oh you can’t get to heaven
In the big big gear
‘Cause The Lord don’t want

We will save you the pain of the words we were inventing, but at the time, we laughed and thought they were pretty clever! Of course even an easy going team can only perform a few hundred rounds of the song before the brain is fried, so the singing on our last leg of the trail was (can you tell we were getting desperate?):

99 Bottles of beer on the wall,
99 bottles of beer…

We stopped for lunch at a Thai restaurant – “Udon’s” in Hackensack. (Fantastic Pad Thai, by the way!) The waitress was interested in our trip, she is 6 years new to the US, and struggled a bit with the location of Maine, but when she made the connection to New York (close enough!) she was all excited & wanted our autograph on the card we gave her. When we went outside and she saw our bike, she asked for pictures and she and the rest of the restaurant team joined in, as well!

The trail conditions were pretty good to excellent, for the most part. However there was a stretch of trail where we rode thru a swamp and there had been a good amount of cracking & heaving in the asphalt, which wasn’t terribly pleasant. At one point later in the day, we heard a funny sound when we got on the bike. We’re always tuned in & aware of these odd sounds, as they could be a broken spoke. We didn’t hear anything more so we kept riding, thinking maybe we hit a rock or twig funny. A few more miles and a few more songs and we had arrived at our nights accommodations. We were tired, so it was hotel night for us. As we rolled the bike into the room, we did realize that we did have a broken spoke. Time to break out the “string” spoke for temporary use. This is a Kevlar, adjustable spoke. We hope we can get to Bemidji on it tomorrow, where we can hit a bike shop for a new “real” spoke. Hopefully the trail is smooth tomorrow!

Brain Meanderings:
– We stopped at a shopping plaza that advertised “Pretty good shopping” – why set such high standards!!
– Swamp beauty is individually defined in the eyes of the beholder.

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Day 46 – Milaca, MN to Brainerd, MN

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Day 46 – Milaca, MN to Brainerd, MN – 72 miles

We woke up to cool temps, clear skies & sunshine and were on our way at about 7:30. We rode on a highway but the shoulder was nearly as wide as a lane and there was very little traffic. We easily covered the first 23 miles without a stop and it felt great to get so many miles behind us so early. We stopped for a second breakfast (we had a light breakfast at our hotel) and got right back on the bike. Within a few miles we were riding along Twilight Drive on the shores of beautiful Mille Lacs Lake, hearing the laughing of the loons out on the lake. What a gorgeous lake and a gorgeous day! Mille Lacs Lake is beautiful, clear water with a rocky shore. It’s very big, we could barely make out shore on the opposite side.

As we came into the town of Garrison, we were excited to see another big fish statue! So, of course, we stopped for a picture! Then we went across the street & had lunch.

The last 20-some miles were rather uneventful – slightly uphill, occasional gusts of a headwind but it was mostly not noticeable. When we got into Brainerd, we stopped at the grocery store & called our Warmshowers (WS) host, Audra to let her know we were close. She gave us additional directions to their house, which we found quite easily. We enjoyed some great conversation with Audra and she cooked a wonderful pasta meal for dinner. These WS evenings are really nice and these WS hosts are so incredibly kind – we are so grateful for these kind people who offer lodging and a meal to us weary travelers!

Audra has a new member of the family, Franklin, who is a 5 month old rescue puppy who is working to overcome some behavioral challenges. We got a kick out of his persistence with the cat, Puck, who is just as persistent in his efforts to put this pup in his place.

Serious, introspective thoughts from Jim: On many bike rides I’ve made a point of “counting” road kill I see on the side if the road. I really don’t count, but I keep tabs in my brain. The most hit species seems to vary from year to year, but that may be due to location or time of year, etc. One year I was amazed at how many porcupines I saw. This year the big winner (?) is Turtles, big and small, birds next, then frogs, deer, raccoon, lots of other unidentifiable things and one porcupine. So I’m not super attached to turtles, but the fact that they are winning is troubling to me. Because as wonderful as people have been to us on this trip, and as my general good feelings for mankind grows and grows…I can’t believe that these turtles, (and I’m talking very big ones!) are darting out in front of cars. Do people not see them?

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Day 45 – Andover, MN to Malaca, MN

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Day 45 – Andover, MN to Malaca, MN – 52 miles

We had the realization today that we have left most of the larger metropolitan areas that we will pass – for awhile, that is. It’s not that we will miss them, but it will mean that we have a lot of miles ahead of us with not a lot of variation in scenery for the next 500 miles, or so. We need to prep ourselves mentally for seeing a lot of the same thing for a very long time.

While the riding was rather nondescript, the route proposed by Shawn’s cousin, Adam was great – quiet country roads. Not much notable except we had fun talking to three different groups of people about our trip. We heard so many “no way”‘s and “I can’t believe it’s” to make the conversation very fun. It’s nice to get these little reassurances that we are doing something special!

Lunch was at the K-Bob Cafe in Princeton. It was a nice lunch and the blackberry rhubarb pie was fantastic. Oh yeah – they had hot meat loaf sandwich on the menu…

HMLS review – K-Bob Cafe, Princeton, MN: First, this HMLS gets bonus points for coming from a Restaurant with a very cool name! Hot, translucent gravy with a bit of a “fresh-from-the-can” taste smothering mashed potatoes without lumps, a disappointment. The bread was “Wonderbread” soft, but a bit lightweight, I was confused by the round shape. Nice flaky soft meatloaf, but it had a Ketchup topping – the red and brown clashed. (Actually, Shawn likes the red, but this is Jim’s thing) So far it’s the second place HMLS.

We had a decompression night at a Super 8 motel. Time to catch up on a World Cup highlights and HGTV episodes. We will also try to get an early sleep for an early start to hopefully miss some afternoon rain that is in the forecast.

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Day 44 – White Bear Lake, MN to Andover, MN

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Day 44 – White Bear Lake, MN to Andover, MN – 30 miles

This day started like many others with concerns about the weather. There were many small storms around, but it did look like we could find a window to get started. We didn’t have a very long ride today, it was a bit of a rest day, with a few miles to move us closer to the end point.

We headed out on a large suburban road that had a huge right shoulder. It’s nice to cruise through city streets when there is lots of room for bikes. After about an hour on the road, we noticed dark clouds to the west and we started doing a few more more weather checks. We also were checking the phone for a good “lunch” stop. (It was still a little early). Shawn was tracking the storms with restaurant locations and routings for the trip, all while pedaling away on the bike – quite a challenge for sure! We rode until we felt rain drops and made a quick left turn to a Subway restaurant for a sandwich and to watch the storm pass. We enjoyed our sandwich, but were disappointed there was no wi-fi. We’d have to make one more stop to get the blog updated.

The rain stopped and we got on our bike. It seemed like we only pedaled 50 feet before we spotted what we had hoped we could find for our rain stop – Caribou Coffee! Looks like we’ll make one more stop! Mmmm Coffee! And free wi-fi!

The rest of the ride to Shawn’s cousin Adam and his wife Anne’s house in Andover was uneventful. It sure was nice to be out of the threatening weather, and in for the day

The evening with family was wonderful! Adam and Anne have a charming, beautiful (and fun!) four year old son. We had such a fun time with their little one. Later, another cousin – Adam’s sister, Denise arrived at the house with her youngest son. Jim had a great time playing with the stomp rocket in the back yard with the boys.

Shawn enjoyed catching up on family talk with Adam, Anne, Denise, and their mom, Sandy. Having some family time on the trip is a nice thing for sure! We all enjoyed burgers on the grill and salad greens right from the garden! So good!

Adam & Anne:

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Sandy & Adam:

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