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Iron Butt Rally
Iron Butt Rally 2017 Journal
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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 10:39 am
7:45 AM on ready to go and head out, with a slight tick coming from the front wheel. I?m crossing the peninsula south of San Francisco to CA-1. Even at 8 AM on a Sunday morning traffic was backed up going to the coast, but at least it is moving. The first bonus was an old caboose turned BBQ restaurant in Half-Moon Bay, an easy fun bonus. The next bonus is 15 miles south, the post office in Pescadaro. This is another quick in an out bonus. Having decided to skip Yosemite I?d head south to Porterville and the Bonus at ?Norris Furniture.? I had two options leaving Pescadaro back track on CA-1 to take I-205 to CA-99 or wind my way south on CA-1 and take CA-152 to CA-99. Once again having ridden both routes previously was a good advantage. I opted for the longer but easier and faster route on I-205. I really dislike back tracking but it seemed to be the wiser choice this time.
While riding South of Fresno on CA-99 a Honda Odyssey immediately in front of me plowed into a retread that was in the lane. Traffic was heavy at this point and there was no shoulder to my left and traffic to my right and behind me. Not a lot I could do other than ride it out, as bits of rubber and steel thread were bouncing up around me. A large chuck of it hit the bike low bouncing off my boot as I continued forward. Several small pieces bounced off my helmet. After I passed through the debris field I assessed how the bike was riding ? it was fine. I continued on with just a bit of excitement to make an otherwise quiet ride more interesting.
I reached Porterville at 1:30 PM after the mostly quiet ride. Downtown Porterville on a Sunday afternoon was quite empty. Norris Furniture was a bit of a tricky bonus. It sat right in front of a crosswalk with no shoulder. I made my first pass slowly assessing my photo opportunities, made a U-turn on the empty street shut the engine off and rolled the bike on to the sidewalk. Several folks walking wished me a good day as they strolled by. I rolled the bike back into the street to head to my next bonus the city jail in Randsburg.
Randsburg wasn?t that far about two and a half hours. I was doing well a bit ahead of schedule. After some quick figuring I determined that I would be able to get a set of optional bonuses at Big Bear Lake. Getting these bonuses would make up for dropping the Yosemite and CA-41 bonuses. While traveling up the Tehachapi grade on CA-58, about seven miles west of Tehachapi, I experienced a significant power loss. A quick down shift ? still no power, my speed had dropped to 40, downshift again no power, speed 35, again speed 30. I reached a slight downhill and my speed picked up to 50. Another quick glance at the gauges and the coolant temperature was well past really hot and into over heating. Crap, last time this happened I was climbing out of White Sands New Mexico and melted an exhaust valve. I had been running the Intel-A-Jet mostly lean and jumped to the conclusion that I had melted another valve. I called my lovely wife to discuss options of having her meet me somewhere, she?s great and dropped what she was doing to pack the truck and come to my rescue. I called the rally master to let him know that I was having issues. After speaking with him I made the decision to attempt to finish the rally the bike was running but without a lot power it?d be slow going and the fuel mileage would be bad. I needed fuel soon or I?d be in the Mojave with a wounded engine and no fuel. I exited the freeway at Tehachapi and made my way to a gas station. The bike felt a bit odd as I put the side stand down, but I didn?t think much of it as I had been recalculating the shortest route to Blythe. I filled up on gas and water and pushed the bike off the center stand for the long slow ride to Blythe, it?d be close but mostly down hill I should be able to finish the rally. The bike sank well beyond where it should have, something was defiantly not right. I looked at my rear tire. It was flat as a pancake. Super I have a flat, I feel a bit foolish but this is something that I can fix. I?ve got gummy worms and my pump, better yet I?m at a gas station and they have a pump. I pushed the bike over to the curb and set up to fix the tire. It took several rotations to find the culprit, a piece of steel about a half inch long right in the center of the tread. The location for a repair, gummy worm in place I inflated the tire and hoped it would hold pressure. It did for the most part a slow leak. I didn?t do a great job with the worm and choose to replace it with a second. Much better, no leak and I was off. I sent a text to the Rally Master to let him know I was back on the road. I recalculated my timing. I still had plenty of time to make Randsburg but the 90 minutes I lost meant that I would need to drop the Big Bear Lake bonuses.
The trip to Randsburg went quickly, more quickly than I remember, arriving via the back road. It may have something to do with my watching my tire pressure monitors and wondering way I didn?t get a low pressure alert even though it read 0 PSI when the tire was flat. Randsburg is a semi-ghost town it?s an interesting desert town with interesting desert residents. Today a group of residents had purchased a small fleet of surplus Army Humvees and were making some plans at a garage as I rolled past toward the jail. I got the bonus at 5 PM. Blythe was three and a half hours and a gas stop away. I had some margin, but I also had to traverse I-15 and the Las Vegas traffic returning to Los Angles. Turning south on US-395 in Mojave the traffic is light until you reach the intersection with CA-58. From that point until I-15 you?ll only move as quickly as the line of traffic ahead you. Attempting to pass is pretty useless as the line is continuous. The sun was set and twilight in its last few minutes as I merged onto I-15 at the top of the Cajon summit. Traffic here was also a mess. Speeds were between 30 and 0 mph fortunately this is an area where drivers expect to lane share and I was able to maintain decent forward progress. Traffic thinned when I reached I-215 and was moderate by the time I merged onto I-10 East. At this point it was a straight uneventful shot back to Blythe to for the final bonus. I arrived with one hour to spare. Right on my planned schedule through I defiantly didn?t follow my planned route. Still I was satisfied with the my riding of the rally, best of all my lovely wife was at the end to meet me, even if I hadn?t finished seeing her made the whole ride great.
BMRx is a fun, fantastic event, with a great group of riders and a ton of work behind the scenes and I?m lucky and grateful for everyone?s efforts in making my ride a fun one.
Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 5:12 pm
I was up early, again as I wanted to re-verify my plan for the day. It?s now that I realize the extent to which I?ll need to double back to collect the bonuses and I get a feel for the technical aspect of reaching these spots. At least I?ve got time for breakfast and a once over on the motorcycle before I head out.
My first bonus is on CA-3 in Hayfork. CA-3 is great riding road with lots of 15 mph curves, but before I can get there I need to go through a major construction area on CA-299. I?m hopeful that Saturday morning the road will be open before the crews get there. I arrive about the same time as the crews do, and with light traffic riding glass smooth asphalt is a pleasure. I should mention that as is typical in Northern the morning is misty and the roads are wet, this is going to slow me down a lot. The Hayfork bonus is on the side of the road and is relatively easy to complete. After Hayfork is the mega-bonus in Hyampom. It?s 24 miles to Hyampon, given the road conditions and the road; I?m planning on 90 minutes to get this bonus 45 minutes out and 45 minutes back. The road is very technical additionally, it?s narrow 1.25 lanes and the surface transitions from perfectly maintained to a surface that is essentially just pothole repairs. All of this combined keeps my speed under 40 and I?m using my front brakes heavily. One of the corners is covered in loose sand, which I don?t see as its wet and the same color as the road. As I enter the corner leaned over and starting to apply throttle, I feel the front tire start to float out from under me followed by the rear. I quickly straighten the motorcycle upright and roll off the throttle and regain control as my heart skips a beat ? luckily there?s not a car coming the opposite direction as I?m on the opposite side of the road by the time I?m back in control. I make the Hyampom bonus really watching the corners. I don?t relish the ride back out, but it has to be done. By the time I make it back to CA-3 the sun is up and for the most part the road is dry. My confidence is back. I can make good time into Eureka picking up another bonus on the way.
When I arrive in Eureka, I realize that my bonus photos haven?t been sending. My first thought was that because I was in a ?no service? area that I just needed to force them to go. After get a second bonus in Eureka and check again. Nope still stuck and I?ve got a couple of notes from the Rally staff about being lost in the wilderness. Something is defiantly not right, maybe if I connect to Wi-Fi that will correct the problem. I stop for a quick bite at an establishment with WI-FI and try again. Nope I?m getting configuration error from the email service, crap again, technology is kicking my ass. I call the rally master and he reconfigures my account for an alternate email and the mail slowly starts to send. Yea! There are a lot of hero?s in the BMRx today the rally master is my hero. But I lost an hour messing with technology and that?s going to impact my end of day plan. On to the next bonus.
I?m all set for a pleasant ride on the coast along Mattole Rd. Not so fast; there are no straight sections on Mattole Rd. it?s tight curve on tight curve all potholes and random sections of loose gravel (aka no road), some of those on downhill curves. By downhill I mean downhill 14% grade with switchbacks and gravel. I am quickly reminded that when on gravel go easy on the front brake, use the rear brake. The road is mostly one lane wide in some places less than that. It?s good that this is not a well-traveled road. I only had one car pass me going the opposite direction and that was on a fairly wide section of the road. Again the front brake is getting a heavy work out max speed here ~20 MPH. After I reach the bonus the road gets better until I reach Honeydew. Honeydew is a very small isolated town, population? not a lot. There is a school and post office/bar/store in town but that?s pretty much it. Mattole Rd. tightens up again heading back up the mountains to US-101.
Next stop the Shelter Cove bonus. It?s another technical road, back up and over the coastal range. Compared to Mattole Rd, the road to shelter cove is a highway, completely paved two lanes and only a moderate amount of potholes. Still the road requires heavy use of the brakes. Shelter Cove is a comparatively large Airport Community (that is most the residents own airplanes and fly in. The runway is the center of town. Back to US-101 and on to CA-1 to Fort Bragg. This is a section of road that I?ve ridden several times. It?s a beautiful section of road smooth winding through the redwoods. The only problem is it?s usually backed up with campers. It must have been my lucky day, I only came across two or three campers and they found a place to allow me to pass. I arrived in Fort Bragg just before sunset to get the bonus, a cup of coffee and reassess my ride for the evening.
The Fort Bragg bonus was the Skunk Train Depot. The train is a collection of privately owned train cars and is named after an engineer named Skunk. It?s a pretty cool location. I had a slight issue with the bonus which was to find ?The Skunk? and wasn?t obvious anywhere near the site. I called the rally master we talked about it and I submitted the bonus ?Skunk Train.? I?ve since reviewed the Google Earth of the bonus and ?The Skunk? is clearly visible in Google earth. My photo was taken immediately in front of that location and the window sign is not there. It was good to spend some time off the bike and looking around.
It was dark by the time I downed a cup of coffee, a power bar and cleaned the bugs from my visor. I had a bit of time to review my route and decided to add the Middletown bonus to my route headed to San Francisco on US-101. The route was CA-20 to CA-29 only a slight detour and I?ve ridden these roads before. They were a blast to ride in the day light, I was guessing they wouldn?t be has much fun at night. I headed out of Fort Bragg slowly on CA-20 which was fairly busy and the on coming traffic made the corners slower than I would have preferred. It all worked out as I rounded a corner and a deer was trapped on the road between my lane and fence. I slowed even more and cleared the deer before picking up a bit of speed, now extra cautious of critters on the road.
CA-29 was like I remember it. Busy with traffic but full speed, not many curves which suits my night riding just fine. The Middletown bonus was easy to find on the side of the road. CA-29 south of Middletown gets both busy with traffic and technical but the road is well maintained and the traffic minimizes the critters. I was able to make decent time as most of the traffic was headed my direction.
The San Francisco bonus was the ?Golden Gate? Baptist Theological Seminary. Again the sign had been removed. I?m not sure if the seminary has sold the property or not but I snapped a photo of where I thought the sign should be, later Google earth confirmed that this was the obvious signage, it was midnight, I had spent the day riding roads that varied from fantastic to craptasic but none of them were easy most were really fun, a few were white knuckle-rides.
My plan for the next day was to start in Yosemite. I was hoping to make Sacramento for Rest Bonus Two. A quick calculation showed my rest stop was two and half-hours away or a 3 AM arrival. That wasn?t a huge issue but if I started my day at 9 AM I wouldn?t be able to make the CA-41 bonuses. I really needed to find a place to rest for the night. Thinking though the bonus locations I remembered that there were two good bonuses south of San Francisco. New plan, drop Yosemite, pick up the points south of San Francisco, which would allow me to clear the city early, before there was serious traffic. I planned on finding a hotel near SFO ? not easy after mid-night on a Saturday. South I headed. First I got fuel and did my normal chain maintenance. The first two hotels were booked solid. I got my second wind crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I felt fresh and ready to go. Thinking through my options decided the rest bonus was the most points and the best option; I couldn?t do better by continuing. I got a room at the third after making a couple circles on US-101. It was 1:40 AM and I had to stay put for 6 hours. Preparing the bike for the morning I discovered a noticeable tick in the rotation of the front wheel. The front brake was defiantly rubbing at one point. A quick look at the rotor it was an off shade of blue. Most likely it had over heated and warped a bit. My assessment was that the warp wasn?t terrible and it would be ok until I was able to change it at home. All in all it was a great day.
Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 2:16 pm
I had set my alarm for 2:45 AM to allow myself time to make a cup of coffee and prep everything before the bonuses arrived. I was awake 10 minutes before the alarm went off. I?ll take the extra 10-minute hard start. I was at my computer when the optional bonus?s arrived, with Basecamp open and ready for the import. Importing and sorting the bonuses was done in less than 10 minutes. Generically, My plan was to reach the first corner, Gerlach no later than sunset, the first day and to make the rest bonus somewhere in Northern CA. I was aiming for Redding, but wasn?t sure that I?d make it that far. That was a fairly aggressive timetable and would mean that I really couldn?t make much deviation from my base route. Basically, I wanted to ride the miles on day one to allow for chasing optional bonuses days 2 and 3.
The bonus?s played nicely with my pre-rally plans. On the route to Gerlach there were three bonus clusters; Oatman AZ was a single large point bonus which meant it was pretty much mandatory, A cluster of three NW of Las Vegas, and a cluster of four in the Pyramid Lakes area.
There were lots of bonuses in Northern CA and Central/Southern OR around the second corner Eureka CA. The higher point bonuses in Northern CA all had one thing in common, they were about 30 minutes down a path that almost all required you to back track the way you came in. The rally master had stated in the pre-rally if you were going to get the optional bonuses you?d need to earn them. He was right, the bonuses were set up to force you to pick which ones you wanted to go for ? these weren?t simple ride up and get the bonus locations. The rides to these locations were technical and challenging. My first two days basically planed and jotted on my kneeboard card, all I had to do was transfer the bonus list to my GPS easy. I plugged the GPS into the computer and waited for it to show up in Basecamp ?. no GPS in basecamp. I checked the GPS, it?s on and indicating it?s connected. Error #1 (poor planning). I didn?t bring my Garmin data cable. To save space I brought a ?free? multi-USB connecter that I had picked up at a trade show. Turns out that only the power pins were connected in this magnificent, connects anything device. Well crap what am I going to do now? I?m pretty much sunk if I can?t get the bonus locations loaded to my GPS. Well Oatman is my first stop. I?ve been to Oatman previously and it is in my GPS. Las Vegas is between Oatman and my next planned bonus ? so I?ll head there and buy a data cable.
The departure bonus was right around the corner from the hotel. I get the departure bonus after several attempts and fiddling with the lighting a bit, and then start toward Oatman. I was hoping that the previous days wind would have slowed, it hadn?t and the direction changed to a head wind. At least there?s not a dust storm, but it is windy enough that bits of sagebrush and other light material is airborne. It?s not a lot of fun on a light low power bike, riding in heavy wind, but I?m optimistic that the wind will ease as the day progresses. Oatman goes like clockwork. I?m in and out quickly as the town hasn?t been overrun with tourists at 6:30 AM. I?m off to Las Vegas for a data cable. I arrive there a little ahead of schedule at about 8:50. My first large chain store option, which I was hoping would open at 9 didn?t open until 10. Crap again. Option 2 was to ride north until later in the day, but the only other large city on the route was Fallon. Getting to Fallon with out having my bonuses loaded wasn?t ideal. There were several slightly off track bonuses that I was considering chasing. Specifically there was a bonus on the Gabbs cut-off that looked like it was doable. I made the decision to stick to Las Vegas until I had the data cable issue solved. Fortunately across from option 1 chain store was option 2 chain store. Option 2 chain store is open 24 hours. With a bit of searching and great help from the staff, I?m sitting in the parking lot with my computer GPS and a Data Cable loading waypoints. Waypoints loaded everything is looking good again, but I?m 45 minutes behind, off track and headed into Las Vegas at 10 AM. I made the decision to drop my second bonus in Pahrump, NV in favor of a more direct route to Pyramid Lakes.
As the sun came up the wind had died down which was great. However, by 11 the wind picked up again and was blowing at a steady 15-20 mph. I knew the wind would impede both my MPG and forward progress. The anticipated delay lead to a decision to drop the optional, Gabbs cut-off bonus. I it made to Fallon and Fernley with a couple of hours of daylight left. I was roughly on track and on time. I rode into Pyramid Lakes for the four bonuses, this was the first of the ride-in-ride-out bonuses I aimed for the higher bonuses first as I wasn?t sure that I?d have time to capture all four and make it to Gerlach before sunset. As it turned out I got the three higher point bonuses and opted to drop the fourth. I was watching my arrival time to Gerlach and it was at sunset when I departed my last bonus in the area. I passed several other riders heading into the area as I headed out. I waved assuming they were triangle B riders coming from Gerlach. I made Gerlach 2 minutes before sunset. Got the bonus and fueled up.
The next bonus was close by and I was hoping to make it before I lost all the twilight. Up to this point all of the bonuses were located exactly where the GPS coordinates were. At the entrance to Plant X Pottery is a great sign that met the bonus criteria. However, the GPS coordinates were several hundred yards from here and down a short dirt road. To be sure I?m getting the correct bonus I head down the road to what I can only describe as a small artistic community (aka hippie commune). I spend a bit of time searching and conclude that the sign by the main road is the right bonus location. The bonus is compete as the sun and the temperature are going down.
I head north on NV-447 into the night; the wind had also died with the sun. The road is devoid of any traffic and the area is very sparsely populated. That is except for the thousand suicidal rabbits that run straight for my wheels. I had learned on a previous BMR not to attempt to avoid rabbits on the road just hold your speed and line, if one hits you it?s just a small bump. I also came across a large coyote. Not surprising given the amount coyote food that was running on the road. Running a coyote over would have been another issue altogether. I?m headed into Alturas on 395 about 9 PM when a pass a rider on a Gold Wing headed south. I figure they?re also a BMRx rider and think to myself that they?ve got a long ride ahead of them unless they stop in Gerlach for the night. The bonus in Alturas is well lit and an easy shot but the temp has dropped into the 50?s so I find a convenience store with coffee and add glove liners to my three season gloves. Before I head out a couple of locals warn me about a black cow on the side of the road near the summit and caution me to be careful. I continued into the now very cool night confident that I?d make my goal of Redding about midnight. The night air was damp and was filled with the smell of cedar as I climbed in to the higher elevations. With the wind gone my MPG had improved from 55 to 68 MPG. My next bonus was close to Redding on CA-299. The road was dark and cold but this bonus was also well lit and easy to get. I was ready for a shower by the time I checked into the hotel around midnight.
After a quick shower I spent a bit of time catching up with the BMRx and detail planning for day 2. I was curious where Ken and Jack were, wondered if they were stopped for the night. I learned that they had both had bike problems pretty much straight away heading out of Blythe and were out for the rest for the rally. The Gold Wing headed in the opposite direction was Tim A. also riding the A-triangle. He had started in Eureka and spent the day collecting bonus points in Southern OR and was set up to collect bonus?s on his return to Eureka. One of the unique things about a rally is that while you?re riding you really don?t have any idea what else is going on in the rally. From that perspective Rally?s can be a lot of fun to watch as speculation is made to what riders are thinking and why the F-would they do that.
Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:38 am
I actually didn?t do much to prepare for the rally. I had been putting off a 6,000 mile service on the bike so the weekend prior I completed that service. On the bike I had installed two new items, the Intel-A-Jet and the tire pressure sensors that pairs with the Garmin 595. I had done a little riding with both but nothing significant. The rest was my standard rally packing minimizing everything to the bare minimum. I unpacked everything and repacked it adding extra flashlights in anticipation of a good number of night bonus photos. Basically, everything I need for any extended multi-day ride fits into the two small saddle bags, tank bag, camel back, or my gear pockets. I spent most of the time wrapping up work items and letting everyone that I?d not be responding to them on Friday.
Blythe was my selected start and end. A 3.5 hour trip, it was the closest to home and I had a flight to DC Monday evening that would make getting back to San Diego relatively early important. The ride to Blythe was pleasant always a good sign for a rally. The route I selected was easy I-8 to CA-78. Descending into Imperial County from the Tecate Divide the wind picked up as it normally does. It was strong but not unusually so. There was just enough wind to keep you guessing and on your toes as you make the decent and it pushes you around in the lane. Once I reached Ocotillo the wind was at my back and stayed there all the way to Blythe. I did notice a rather large dust storm over I-10. I had ridden through that area several weeks earlier and was glad not to be in it again.
At the hotel I met Jack W at check in. he was changed and fresh looking. The hotel had an evening reception beer, wine and nachos. I headed to the room to unpack and meet Jack in a few minutes. When I was done Ken C and Jack were both chatting. Interestingly enough we had all booked the same hotel, not planned just a happy coincidence. Both Jack and Ken had come through the dust storm and were glad to be clear of it. We enjoyed some good conversation covering the basics of our route plans. The three of us had similar plans, we had each planned a counter clockwise base route specifically to avoid San Francisco Friday afternoon and evening traffic. We then headed off to get some rest before the optional bonus pack would be delivered at 3:15 AM. I was planning on 4:15 start, both Jack and Ken were taking a bit more relaxed approach and would depart at a more gentlemanly hour.
Posted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 10:05 am
BMRx Practice Rally
BMRx write up
GPS Miles Riden - 2474 (D1-1066 D2-670 D3-739)
GPS Elapsed time - 59Hrs (I finished 60mins early and the GPS was off while I was asleep)
GPS Avg Speed - 42mph
Important things that I learned/re-learned
1. know and test what you've packed and where it is, even if you've packed it before & check it before you pack it again.
2. more throttle is not a substitute for the correct gear choice.
3. Sometimes the best route is back the way you came.
4. Your GPS doesn't know what the fastest route is no matter what the routing preference is.
5. Your GPS sometimes classifies ?roads? as stretches of terra-firm-a that no one would recognize as a road, path or trail.
6. if you're ridding a multi-day rally there is no substitute for just spending time riding to prepare yourself.
7. If you're not thirsty - drink anyway
8. If you're not tired - rest will still be better than continuing.
9. Put sun screen on before you get sunburn
10. maybe only applicable to the southwest ? use body lotion every rest to help stay hydrated and fresh.
Goal #1 for the BMRx was to sort out the Intel-A-Jet and ensure I had enough experience with it to understand both where the best setting was and when I should change it.
I should start by saying that I'm very pleased with the systems performance in general. Once I figured out that changing the fuel mixture is not a substitute for ensuring you?re in the correct gear.
As you may recall I started with a #100 main jet.
Day 1 - I was constantly fiddling with the fuel mixture, mostly while operating with a fully open throttle, riding up-hill into a strong head wind. The results were disappointing. My fuel average was roughly 57MPG and the bike lacked power to maintain speed on inclines.
Day 2 - I decided to set the control on a single setting for a day and just see how the performance was. I selected 1/2 turn rich, from a full lean setting. I was a bit concerned that this might be too lean but I seemed to get the best performance at full lean on day 1. The results were excellent. The result was a 16% increase in MPG over my avg with out the system and power delivery above half throttle was seemed better allowing me to reach highway speeds quicker and sustain them with less throttle.
Day 3 - I left the system alone and achieved identical results to day two.
- The system seems to start delivering fuel around 6000 RPMS. If I was cruising and the engine speed was approximately 6000, the engine seemed to surge in short spurts. I could change the surging by adjusting the Intel-A-Jet but preferred to leave it at a single point and adjust my gearing. To correct for the surging I changed gears to ensure my RPMS maintained 7-8K at which point I was much happier with both throttle response and power delivery. I like to maintain the engine speed below 9K RPM to reduce the natural oil scavenging that occurs with the transmission lubrication system.
- Garmin integrated TPMS. I generally like the system as it allowed me to check my tire pressure prior to each days ride easily. It failed to alert me when I had flat 0PSI so that's something that I'll need to work on. Actually, I think it may have provided an alert, but the 595 provides alerts for everything and I may have just missed it. lesson learned. I need to reduce the frequency of alerts that I have configured.
More to follow on the actual rally.
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