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Old 05-20-2014, 01:47 PM   #1
whitham_wannabe OP
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Meet in the Middle II : Nevada and Utah

It's time for Twisted Melon to go riding again.

Following on from our most successful format, Chris (Bondy) and I decided to meet in the middle, between our homes in Seattle and San Diego. The plan, such as it was, was to meet in Alturas, CA, two days ride for Chris and one for me, ride a week and end in Mono Lake. From here it would be a two day ride home for me, and one for Chris. Destination? Black Rock Desert, Bonneville, Moab and the Canyonlands.

Lets go!

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Old 05-21-2014, 02:05 PM   #2
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The Prequel - Ropey's story.

Officially I had allocated Saturday to the ride from Seattle to Alturas, but very soon decided to leave straight from work on Friday, put a few miles in and be first at one of our rendevous for once. Snuck my loaded Beemer into the line o' bikes in our warehouse, so at least it would be dry when I left.



Four o'clock rolled around, and I rolled off. Got caught in rain leaving Seattle (who'd a thunk?), and headed south. More rain and cold, through the gorge and rolled into Madras, OR, on fumes. By now it was dark and miserable. South through Bend, and I'm riding in a snow storm.Wait, this is May, isn't it?!

At La Pine I managed to fill up just before the gas station closed, and throw half a gallon of gas over myself in the process. Turned off onto 31, and didn't see another person for the next 125 miles - but then it was the middle of nowhere and 2am. By this point I was seriously cold, finally rolled out my sleeping bag by the side of the road near Lakeview, and spent a couple of hours getting warm, before drifting off to sleep for a while.



When I awoke it was light, and icy snow was falling on me. Time to move on before my sleeping bag got wet. Finally I arrived in Alturas at 8.30am, and found out Chris was just clearing San Francisco. After a spot of breakfast, I decided to ride up to our designated camping spot, just to check it out. And very bucolic it was too.



Tired from the night's ride, I decided to have a little cat nap on one of the benches. No sooner had I dozed off than I was woken once more by snow falling.



Very rapidly it went from picturesque flurry to accumulating nightmare.



By the time I got back into town, all the talk was of snow to the south. As this was the direction from whence Chris was coming I guessed he would be arriving cold and late, and with our campsite under snow, figured it was prudent to get a warm motel room, so our week could start off on the right (warm and dry) foot. I checked in, shed my cold wet boots, turned up the heat and settled in for a long wait.

Meanwhile, far to the south, Chris' journey had taken a turn for the worse, but I will let him tell that story ..
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Old 05-22-2014, 09:25 AM   #3
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Starting off interesting! I know your buddy was f'n cold!
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Old 05-22-2014, 06:12 PM   #4
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Time for me to leave

OK, so as Ian said, I elected to do the 2 day trip at the start of the journey. Kinda prefer it that way and hopefully Ian lets me get away with it on all the trips :)

So, on Friday morning I was loaded up and rolled out.... about to embark on 1000's of miles on a DRZ400.




As you can see, I knocked up a little dash for the spot tracker and GPS to sit behind a Bajaworx screen... Meet in the Middle 1 was a PITA with no wind protection :)

I'm not quite as adventurous as Ian so my route started with roads I knew ... so that meant up the west coast, through LA to Big Sur (A campsite called Limekiln to be exact). Looking back on it, going up the Left side of the state to get to the top right hand corner is not the smartest move. Anyhow, left at 7am, got there at 2pm ish and set up camp.



Saturday morning, and still having most of the distance to go (Stupid, stupid route) I went up through Big Sur, round San Fran and cut across to the I5 for a bit before heading across to Lake Tahoe on the 89. The laden DRZ complete with screen seems to attract wind and at one point I was pretty sure the front wheel was going to get blown out from under me. Still, the scenery was nice.



But that didn't last. As soon as I hit Tahoe it started snowing hard. And then the snow started to settle.With no option I pushed though and things got worse going over the 431. Alas, there are no pictures as my phone died and I didn't really want to stop. Frozen fingers, visors, riding though Slush ... I haven't even seen snow since leaving Detroit for San Diego let alone ridden in it!

But, once I'd got past Reno, the sun came out, bits thawed (although 2 weeks later and the end of my fingers still feel funny) and all was right with the world. Sure, it started hailing but by then I was a seasoned pro at this inclement weather lark :). By then I was all about the rendezvous so I pushed on up the 395 to Alturas and just squeaked into town on my last teaspoon of reserve.


Cold, tired and not looking forward to camping.... so bloody good job Ian got the Motel. Also, the Klim riding gear I shelled out for proved worth every penny!
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Old 05-23-2014, 01:29 PM   #5
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Feeling suitably refreshed from our trials and tribulations in just getting here, we were ready to start the ride proper. Though still cold, the skies had cleared and everything was looking far more rosy than the day before.

From Alturas we headed East to Cedarville, fueled up at the new gas station, then south to Eagleville and turned between the Alkali Lakes off into the hills. Great to be back on dirt again.



Looking back toward California, and plenty of snow still on the peaks.

We continued to head eastward, on whatever track looked to be the most promising.



We found the top end of the High Rock Canyon, and started descending down into the valley.



The road through high rock is a little bit technical in places, a little bit sandy in places, and a whole lot of awesome throughout.






A settlers garage just off the trail. Hell of a place to park your car.



Day one and the "had to lay it down" honours are even - Chris stalled out in the middle of a water crossing and half dropped the DRZ in two feet of water. This caused me to jump into the water to help, filling my boots and unnecessarily advising Chris "Don't drop it!". Err, yeah, thanks Ian. I then managed to attack a little rock step in 3rd instead of 1st, and went chug-thud when all I wanted was BRAAP!



At the second water crossing, we ran into Phillipe, who hails from France but now lives in Gerlach, working for the Burning Man group. What are the chances, two rosbifs and a frog, meeting in the middle of the desert in Nevada?



Phillipe suggested we walk the bikes through the next water crossing, a suggestion Chris was only too happy to take on board, after his so nearly soaking in the last.



High Rock Canyon drops down to Soldier Meadows Road just south of Soldier Meadows itself, and from here we headed south, towards the Playa.



We paused for a moment to read all the dire warnings about travelling on the playa ...



And then pressed on regardless.



Chris attempted to set the Land Speed Record for overloaded 400cc singles, but I believe 40mph did not achieve the required 5% improvement.

Land Speed Record? For those not in the know, two LSRs have been achieved at this site. In 1983, Richard Noble's Thrust2 achieved 633mph. Returning 14 years later with the monstrous Thrust SSC, driven by Andy Green, Noble's team destroyed his own record, raising it first to 714mph, and ultimately to 763mph, mach 1.01.



These hills are the only ones earth that have resounded to the sound of a supersonic boom from an automobile.



Chris was either overwhelmed by the significance of the place, or I bored him into a catatonic state with my LSR soliloquy.



The surface was okay, but felt soft in places and was not overly confidence inspiring to ride on. In Gerlach we met a couple of guys that had been playing on the playa, and had to abandon one bike after it broke through the surface and half disappeared into the mud below. Apparently, the playa has changed a lot in the last few years, and is no longer suitable for LSR attempts.



Regardless, we were happy to be there.



At Gerlach we refueled, and took off up the East side of the desert in the direction of Winnemucca, sticking to dirt roads. About half way along we passed a mine with striations of colours down it's flank, and soon after the road improved somewhat and the speeds increased, though we were faced by on coming mine traffic; trucks, graders and buses taking mine workers back to their work week isolation.



We paused in Winnemucca, and a local sage told us of nearby camping, so we fueled, ate, sourced some Cap'n and - after a brief and fruitless search for a rumoured yurt - retired to a free canyon campsite for the night.



All in all, just shy of 300 miles for our first day, 260+ off the pavement, some good remote off roading and got to ride at the fastest place on the planet.

I call that a success ...!
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Old 05-23-2014, 05:26 PM   #6
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Ahhh yes, the playa. By 'not inspiring to ride on' I would like to add 'bumpy as f**k'. My one piece of gopro footage from the whole week (really, I dunno why I take it) is a blast on the playa, followed by turning off onto a 'fresh bit' and then hitting a load of bumps. I think you can just about hear me go "arghhhh no no no no....".
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Old 05-26-2014, 10:59 AM   #7
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Day 4 (for me anyway)

Today started nice and clear. Sunny with just a little chill in the air. Perfect riding. One quick word about the sage's advice for last nights campsite though. His description made it sound like a quick blast up a dirt road to a little used campsite. Clearly he hadn't been up there for a while! First was the gate ("It's OK, you can just ride round that") which is fine if you're a mountain goat ... up the bank and round some rocks ... and then follow the trail up ...which got narrower, overgrown, looser and eventually blocked by fallen tree's so we headed back down to our eventual camping spot in rapidly fading light. 2 things becoming readily apparent ...1. My DRZ Headlight sucks and 2. Water crossings are turning out NOT to be specialty of mine. Unfortunately, the worlds smallest fire did no good drying out boots.



While loading up the bikes, Ian noticed that one of his luggage fasteners had departed. Where the hell can you get Metric fasteners in small town USA? Oh yeah, Fastenal.



We head in and purchase the right fastener .... well, what we thought was the right fastener! Ian has Jesse luggage on his fully metric Beemer with ... yep .... imperial hardware. My sniggering was cut short by discovering that my already marginal luggage was trying to destroy the back of my bike (and this is day 2! Needless to say I chose luggage very badly and as I type this it's been pitched and happy trails hard panniers are on the way). A quick bolt tightening session and application of loctite and we're on our way ... but 2 hours behind.

We hit the obligatory dirt roads and Ian's F800 hits 60,000 miles..







But when we hit tarmac we decide to make up sometime to get to Bonneville Salt Flats. This was a highlight of the trip for me. I've always wanted to see it, take a pic there and, well, just say I've been :) When we got there though it was a little damp with puddles and a little soft so we went out to take the obligatory pics but a second land speed attempt for an overloaded 400cc single was thwarted.









They were filming a car commercial there and Ian works in the Camera mounting/drone doohickey industry and so found someone who knew all the same people. He can tell you about that though ... I just wandered off and tried to imagine Burt Monroe doing his runs with the Indian :)

Soon we were on the move again though on the windy hell that is I80 across the Salt Flats. The DRZ seems to be permanently at 25 degrees fighting the wind unless being passed by a car (mildly amusing), a minivan (Bit wobblier, slightly horrifying) or semi (ARGGHHHH chop the throttle, use both lanes, I'm gonna die).

Soon though, we turn back off on the sanity of slower paced (for me anyway) Dirt roads and finds a campsite just outside Tooele. It's starting to get cold again though. We turn up right at dusk again so Cup O'Noodles is the order of the day.... and Captain of course :)

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Old 05-26-2014, 12:14 PM   #8
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Enjoying the read here at my desk. Keep living the dream guys. I'm putting in time here until I can furlough myself down the road.
Ride-On

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Old 05-26-2014, 12:58 PM   #9
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great report so far
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Old 05-26-2014, 01:56 PM   #10
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Running into Eric from Drone Dudes while we were at Bonneville was a trip - this was his first paid gig with his M5 gimbal, which I designed. Small world, huh ...?!

Bonneville is a very cool place to visit for a gearhead. Every LSR between '35 and '70 was set here (except Donald Campbell's record in the CN7), and many people have given everything in the attempt. You can really feel the ghosts of those that have come before, the big names Campbell, Cobb, Eyston, Breedlove, Arfons, Green and Gabelich have all rolled into the unknown here, lighting the blue touch paper and roaring off into the unknown. Love it.

The picture that hangs on my kitchen wall ..


It was a bit of a shame that we had to do a few hours on the freeway, but we knew that we would have to do some, because of the distance we were trying to cover. The first dirt section we did past Willow Creek Reservoir was most excellent on a big Dual Sport, and virtually deserted. There are so many options to work your way around Nevada on dirt roads, but they will have to wait for another time ...

1 1/2 Bondys ...
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Old 05-26-2014, 02:55 PM   #11
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Day 5

It's cold. Not epic cold but hovering around freezing cold. As a newly converted San Diegan where anything below 50 degrees is to be considered Arctic weather, I woke up buried in my sleeping bag with all my riding kit piled on top. Ian, being of hardier stock and the PNW gets up and declares it a tad brisk. But then he has to put on his frozen boots and isn't quite so cheerful. Despite having the bigger bike, Ian is more of a seasoned pro at this lark and takes the minimalist one man tent and stuff. I prefer a two man tent with room for all my kit so I don't have to worry about shaking critters out of my boots in the morning.







Utah, 2014 ..



We break Camp and head out. Ian has his heated grips set to high and I make a mental note to install then as soon as I get back.

With the occasional stop for scenic photography ...



....and a cup of coffee at an out of the way diner we soon get to the start of the offroad activities for the day. Only to find ...


Still closed by snow. Bugger. With no other option and a target of Moab by nightfall we hit the slab for a while. We pick up highway 6 and skirt round the mountains and just past Price, UT we finally turn off road and onto a portion of the Utah Back Country Discovery Route (Butler maps).

I'm a bit of a worrier and constantly thinking "What's that noise? Is it shaking more? I'm fairly sure it wasn't doing that before". This time though, I could see a damp patch on the side of the motor.... yep, a weeping petcock. Apparently it's a common DRZ issue with the CV carbs. All the more annoying that I didn't fit that FCR39 carb before the trip ...



That's more like it ...



But soon we reach a water crossing as marked on the map and it was pretty clear we weren't crossing at that point.



So after a brief consultation with the map (where once again I confidently point out our location on the map ... some 50'ish miles from our actual location) we head off again. One of the great things about this trip is that even when detoured the riding has been amazing (Obviously not the freeway mind you...). And so it was here. We found ourselves on a great windy single track with small climbs, dips and ditches. Just the right amount of technical to be fun without wearing you out. Alas, as is normally the way it was too much fun to stop and take pictures.

Did find a great idea that someone had for crossing fences ...





Obligatory ADV Salute...



Back into the scenic rocky stuff just North of Green River ...



Terrains starting to turn red ...





No team pictures on this stretch ... Ian's a lot more comfortable at speed offroad so while I pootle along at 30, he's miles ahead going a bit quicker ...

.

All good things must come to an end though and it's back on the 6, I70 and 191 to Moab

We get there and it's busy... really busy. Those little Razor things everywhere and the usual Jeeps. Last time Ian and I were here at the same time we were in Jeeps (albeit built Jeeps with 1 ton axles and 42" tyres). We had a look round to see if I could get a repair kit for the petcock but nothing was available. As it seemed to be intermittent we decided to carry on regardless ... although I took to parking my bike a long way from campfires. After a brief search we find a campsite with open sites and set up camp.



A Quick run into town to get a bite to eat, Firewood and, of course, beer.

.

All the luggage comes off the bikes as we are staying here for 2 nights and hitting the trails tomorrow. Removing the gear deepens my hatred of my luggage and seeing ian remove both panniers about 20 seconds just about seals it.

Tomorrow ... MOAB
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Old 05-27-2014, 10:00 AM   #12
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Ah, a full day in Moab's red rock canyons. But with only one day in town, which of the many options to choose?

We plumped for the magnificent White Rim Trail, a 100 mile off road loop around the Canyonlands National Park, just past Dead Horse Point.

After paying our pound of flesh for entering our National Park, we took Shafer Canyon Road and it didn't take long to get going. We will very shortly be on the road leading off across the valley floor, following a precipitous hairpin descent down the canyon wall.



Happy happy happy.



Shortly after joing White Rim, we stopped at a scenic overlook. As I am pulling away I hear a crash, and turn around to find Chris has dropped the DRZ reversing back from the overlook. There cannot be a more suitable backdrop for the following quick draw competition that followed, as I tried to get my camera out to record the evidence before Chris could pick up the bike. Quick draw Bond won the day.





The Big Yellow Pig, picking up it's Moab paint job.



The trail twists and turns it's way around the canyons that cut into the White Rim plateau, sometimes quick, sometimes rocky, a few steep sharp climbs and drops, and lots of sections of rough slickrock that had the bike rattling like it was falling apart. We lucked out in that it had rained heavy a couple of days previously, so dust and loose sand were limited.







The cacti were in flower.



One of the sharp descents ... the road disappears around the corner at left, and was more dramatic in person.





Admiring the view.



The F800 making a low pass over the White Rim countryside.



Just stunning scenery everywhere you look.



One of the less exposed switchbacks.



Eventually the trail takes you all the way down to the Green River.



Huge amphitheaters on the far bank.





Finally, it is time for another switchback climb out of the canyon. Who builds these roads, and why, I have no idea. I am just eternally grateful for their efforts.



One last look into the valley. The recommendation for driving this route is two days by car, but we did it in around 6 hours, with plenty of sightseeing along the way. Motorbikes are just better.



A chunk of mud that fell off my header tells the story of the trip so far ... the grey-brown of Black Rock first, then the white of Bonneville and finally the red of Moab.



Back into town for a much needed cold drink and a bite to eat. I was very happy at the thought of leaving Moab so soon ...



That was about it for the day ... we did make an aborted attempt to ride up to Hurrah Pass at sunset, but that didn't work out, so retired with a few beers around the campfire. One of the best day's riding I have ever done.

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Old 05-27-2014, 09:06 PM   #13
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Ahhh yes, the Hurrah Pass at sunset. As I think that these write ups are educational as well as entertaining I feel I should confess why the evening ride went a bit awry. We started off while the light was failing a bit and soon enough it was getting dark. I lost confidence a bit (combination of crappy headlight, offroad and a bunch of razors hurtling about) so I decided to turn back. What I SHOULD have done was just stop where I was, wait for Ian to come back and then make a plan as to what to do. That's our standard way of doing things. So unsurprisingly 10 minutes later when Ian came belting up to the campsite he was a little pissed having stopped to check every ditch and drop off for a missing DRZ. Crap ... my bad.

We cleared the air straight away (important bit of ADV Riding advice right there!) and all was well with the trip again. Lesson learned.
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Old 05-30-2014, 07:00 AM   #14
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After a glorious night under a full moon, that lit up the canyon walls with ghostly clarity, we made our exit from Moab. Our stay here was far too short, but I think if I stayed here a lifetime, the same would be true.



From Moab we headed south, through Monticello and Blanding. Our original plans went awry when I called the Bullfrog Marina, only to find out that the ferry at Hall's Crossing was out of action. This would require a bit of detour, but with a bit of quick rerouting, we were sorted.

First stop - Valley of the Gods.







From here, we rode up the Moki Dugway.



This time I had a little more success than when I was here last year (see here).





In 1993, a friend and I rode through this area on a cross country mountain bike trip. As I rode towards Hite Marina, I realised we were in the same place as a photo we took at the time. The photo has been up in my parent's attic for about 15 years, but my Dad searched it out and scanned it in. We were a little out, but pretty close - this is me half a life time ago, and again last week.




The ride up to Hite Marina on 95 was utterly stunning. At Hite we refueld, and the lady who worked there told us how the state had sold their water rights to other states, so Hite Marina hadn't had water in it for a few years now.



From Hite we cut back down towards Hall's Crossing, but now on the north side of the Canyon, and found some nice untarmac'd roads to do it on.



Surprise view over the red rock.





Riding through cow country.



Having finally dried his boots, Chris did all he could to keep them that way.



This route brought us to the South end of Capitol Reef.



Chris overshoots the turn for Burr Creek Trail.



Ah yes, Burr Creek Trail. A fine route through the canyons. Another box canyon hairpin climb to start. From the bottom ...



From the top ...



Soon the road becomes tar, but is still well worth the ride, over red sand mesas ...



... and through tight canyons.



We stopped for food and ginger beer and the Burr Trail Grill - best food of the trip so far.



It was now getting late on a Friday evening, and camping spots in the parks were scarce. We headed off into the woods and found a perfectly good spot, free, quiet and with all the Juniper firewood you could wish for. Perfect.







Goodnight Utah.
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Old 05-31-2014, 11:46 AM   #15
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In Moab, I got stung by something unseen in the night. Though Chris suggested it was a wasp, I think it was probably a scorpion, or rattlesnake or something deadly, I am just too tough to notice (except the girly screaming that I came out with at the time). My leg did swell up pretty impressively for a few days, though.



From our campsite, we headed up and over the ridge at the end of the valley. This is the view down to where our overnight halt was located.





Chris had never seen Bryce Canyon, so we headed that way for a look-see.





Ah, our National Parks. Pay yer money, park here, walk to this viewing point, do not step off the path, walk back to your car and move onto the next viewing point. Edward Abbey would be turning in his grave.



The road west from Bryce was very picturesque, so much so, I decided to do it three times, having left my credit card at the gas station at Bryce, and only realising 30 miles later.







From Panguitch we head towards Cedar City, over the Cedar Breaks National Monument.



We were a little surprised to be very cold, and riding alongside snow banks. A quick check of the altimeter showed us over 10,500ft, so I guess we shouldn't have been that surprised ...



Sadly, we exited Utah, cutting across dirt roads to the little town of Pioche, NV. We were now on a 'refuel at EVERY opportunity" schedule, and still nearly got caught out.



Our plan was to keep heading west on any track or dirt road we could find, and stay off the asphalt. This one looked promising to me ...



Chris wasn't so convinved, not being a fan of the sand.



After a few miles across the valley floor, the trail headed up into a valley, and got less and less defined.



A few sections of bushwacking, and a brief trip up a washout that most definitely was NOT the trail, and we were second guessing our choice.



Chris may have been up to his third or fourth guessing ...



But we should have had more faith ... it went through, and what had been rapidly becoming a Very Bad Decision became one the highlights of the trip.



The day was rapidly fading and with hundreds of miles to anywhere, we decided to camp at an old settlers cabin.



We quickly made ourselves at home. I'm not sure how old this place was, and was only marked as "Stone Cabin" on the map, but there was an inscription on the wall that said "Ernest Hunter - 1931".







A nice little one room structure, with a fireplace set into one wall, but too much rat crap on the floor had us sleeping outside.





I think Chris was ready to move in.



Juniper wood fire and a beautiful sunset over an utterly deserted desert landscape.



If only this place could talk, who knows what ghostly tales it would tell ...

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