Sixteen National Parks in Thirty Days

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JohnSnyder, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    This week I will join Country Roads Group Riding (http://www.countryroads.org/index2.htm) members for a National Parks Tour. We leave from Lebanon, TN on the morning of July 7, 2012. Information about the tour will be posted daily in the Forums section of the Country Roads website (http://www.countryroads.org/forum/) and on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/C0UNTRYR0ADS). Additionally, I will post here, recounting our exploits!! (You can read about my Alaska trip here: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=350058).

    Here is a map of our planned route.

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    #1
  2. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    I spent most of yesterday organizing what I was going to bring and packing my Gold Wing. It's amazing how long it can take to find things I haven't used in a while and to check to see if everything works (I had to use a backup GPS because my original choice informed me that the "maps are locked". Why that should happen with the unit sitting unused for a year or so is beyond me ...)

    Anyway, I got up shortly after 5:00 a.m., ate some breakfast, loaded the last few things on the bike, and left home at 6:30 a.m. It was cool initially, and it stayed cool in the mountains - in the 70s. Unfortunately, about noon, all that changed. The temperature rose to above 100 and I was cooking. And, unfortunately, I fear that's the way it's going to be for the majority of the trip! I always wear complete protective gear - boots, pants, jacket, gloves, helmet - so the hot feels even hotter!

    Having left early, I arrived at my motel at 2:00 p.m. after riding almost exactly 400 miles. It was almost all Interstate today - hopefully this will be one of the few days we ride primarily on these big highways. Tonight I meet with the rest of the group (there will be 5 bikes), and we head out for real in the morning.

    Here's a map of the route I travelled today.

    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    July 7, 2012 Lebanon, TN to Jackson, MS

    [​IMG]

    I got up at 5:00 this morning so that I could be ready to meet up with the rest of the group at 6:00 at a nearby Shell service station. One of the group members, a retired college professor from New Jersey, was anxious to make an initial good impression, so he got up at 4:00, left his hotel at 5:00 and arrived at the meeting place shortly thereafter. Unfortunately … he chose a wrong Shell service station! All that effort to make an initial good impression down the drain!! So we left a few minutes later than planned!

    Today we rode a considerable distance on the Natchez Trace (http://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm). This is a two lane limited access road that connects Natchez, MS with Nashville, TN. The speed limit is 50 mph. There are few elevation changes and only occasional, very moderate curves. It is billed as a scenic drive. In reality, it is a two lane road driven through mostly forest. All in all, I found it rather boring!

    We did stop at the Shiloh battlefield in southern Tennessee (Shiloh National Military Park).

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    There was a major battle early in the Civil War at the location of a church called Shiloh.

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    It was a two day battle – the South won Day 1, the North won Day 2. All told, there were 23,746 casualties – and there’s a large military cemetery on site.

    [​IMG]

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    There is an impressive collection of Civil War cannons scattered throughout the Shiloh National Military Park.

    [​IMG]

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    Today was our longest ride of the trip – over 400 miles. Additionally, it was HOT!! The highest temperature I saw was 99, and coupled with very high humidity, it made for an uncomfortable day!
    #3
  4. RageKage

    RageKage Adventurer

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    Edmond, OK
    Good stuff man.

    Keep it up
    #4
  5. lookatdirt

    lookatdirt Been here awhile

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    San Diego
    :lurk
    #5
  6. clekchau

    clekchau n00b

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    4
    I planned on going on the Natchez trace I think I'll pass now this is the third report I heard about how uneventful it was
    #6
  7. rebel346

    rebel346 Adventurer

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    Nov 27, 2007
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    Location:
    Bristow,VA
    I think the heat is going to follow you west. Stay hydrated and have fun.
    #7
  8. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
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    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    July 8, 2012 Jackson, MS, through Louisiana to Marshall, TX

    [​IMG]

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table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} </style> <![endif]--> This morning we left the motel at 7:00, meaning that I had to wake up at 5:30, have breakfast at 6:00, complete my packing at 6:30 and load the bike before 7:00. However, the good news was that it was OVERCAST!! Cloudy, even &#8211; with a forecast of possible rain. I am NOT being sarcastic! After the heat of yesterday, ANYTHING that made it cooler was welcome! So we set off, cool and in good spirits.

    It took us a little less than an hour to get to the city of Vicksburg, MS. We arrived at the Vicksburg National Military Park (http://www.nps.gov/vick/index.htm) around 8:30 a.m.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This Civil War battlefield is MUCH larger than the one we visited yesterday &#8211; there are 16 miles of roads over which one can drive to see the entire site.

    [​IMG]

    Consequently, because everything was so spread out, it was difficult to take a lot of pictures while walking, and impossible (for me) to take pictures while riding.

    Similar to yesterday, we started off by watching a video presentation about the battle. Once again, the incredible loss of life was simply unimaginable. It was somewhat comforting to see the cemeteries (again) &#8230; carefully maintained and treated with respect and reverence.

    [​IMG]

    There were several styles of headstones. Some rose well over a foot from the ground, others were little square markers on the ground. The bigger ones had names on them, the smaller had only numbers.

    [​IMG]

    The Park Rangers had recruited Junior High and High School students to help during the summer. These young people dressed in period-correct clothing and sat outside of (presumably) period-correct structures.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There was also a demonstration of firing a musket.

    [​IMG]

    This proved to be a complicated process, and the time it took from start to finish was well over 30 seconds. A soldier was lucky if he could get off two shots a minute!

    We also visited the USS Cairo Museum.

    [​IMG]

    The USS Cairo was a Union ship that sailed on the Mississippi.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #8
  9. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    July 8, 2012 (continued)

    The town of Vicksburg is strategically located, with high bluffs on the sides of the river. Confederate soldiers were able to stop Union ships from passing this location, and thus were able to control the Mississippi. A large part of the reason for the battle at Vicksburg was the desire of the Union Army to have free access to the entire length of the Mississippi. This ship was involved in the battle, sunk, and remained underwater for 90 years until someone remembered it, found it and salvaged it.

    We spent about 2 ½ hours at this battlefield and then left. We headed straight west, though the state of Louisiana and into Texas, stopping for the night in the town of Marshall, TX. The temperature got up to 97 degrees today, but somehow it didn’t seem as hot as yesterday. Maybe we’re getting more used to the heat; maybe it was due to a shorter day … who knows. What I do know, though, is at our gas stop in the midst of the heat I drank 32 ounces of cold water = so maybe prophylactically hydrating had something to do with it.

    Tomorrow we ride to the Dallas area. Our fearless leader wants to start at 4:00 a.m. in order to beat some of the heat. I’m all in favor of beating the heat, BUT … 4:00 a.m.?? Wow! That’s dedication!
    #9
  10. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    July 9, 2012 Marshall, TX to Fredericksburg, TX

    [​IMG]

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line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} </style> <![endif]--> This morning I got up at 3:15 a.m. in to be ready to depart from the hotel by 4:00 a.m. We had a 364 mile day planned (from Marshall, TX to Fredericksburg, TX), and we wanted to avoid the heat as much as possible. Fortunately, the other four riders were conscientious, nobody was late, and we departed at 4:00.

    At that time of morning in Texas, the temperature is 77 degrees. It stayed there for the next four or five hours, rising to 90 by noon and to well above 90 by early afternoon. So a good portion of our ride was in relative comfort!

    We rode on major highways all day today &#8211;there&#8217;s not too much to see in Texas! Although&#8230;that&#8217;s not entirely true, as there is an area called the Texas Hill Country (and I&#8217;ve ridden in it &#8211; and it&#8217;s very enjoyable). However, we were in this general area, but we encountered no twisty roads &#8211; with the amount we had already ridden and the afternoon heat, we probably wouldn&#8217;t have enjoyed it much anyway. We did ride right through Waco, where our granddaughter has lived for the last four years while attending school at Baylor University. I was there less than a month ago for her graduation!

    As we were approaching our destination, we encountered the President Lyndon B Johnson State Historical Park.

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    We took a quick poll over the CB and decided to stop. On this site was a visitor center with some memorabilia related to LBJ, the home in which he lived for many years, the Johnson family cemetery, and other historical sites.

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    We spent some time at the visitor center but decided against the complete tour, as it covered many miles, took a long time, it was hot, we were tired, and we had yet another place to visit before the day ended. It was interesting to note that President Johnson specifically instructed that no fees be collected at this site.

    We checked in at the La Quinta Inn and almost immediately left to go visit the National Museum of the Pacific War (http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org).

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    This museum consists of a number of components, including the Admiral Nimitz Museum, George H.W. Bush Gallery, Pacific Combat Zone, Japanese Garden of Peace, Memorial Courtyard and the Plaza of the Presidents. I had fairly low expectations of what I would find, and I was wrong.

    The Memorial Courtyard was VERY nicely laid out,

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    and it proved to me that there are at least some remaining in this country who still care, who still give a s**t. There was row after row of memorials for individuals who had perished in the war, and row after row of memorials for ships which had served in the war. I was stationed on Guam in the Marianas Islands from 1972 through 1975 with the US Naval Medical Corps, and I looked for ships that had served in that general region &#8211; Guam, Tinian, Saipan, Palau. I found quite a number.

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    It was really touching to realize that these ships and the men that served on them are still remembered 75 years later.

    The George H. W. Bush Gallery provided a detailed accounting of the war in the Pacific theater.

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    I likewise sought out the battles in the Marianas Islands. I have scuba dived on many if not most of these war zone sites in the Marianas Islands &#8211; and I saw those wrecks in a different light today.

    The Plaza of the Presidents was also very thought provoking.

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    There have been ten CONSECUTIVE presidents who have all been members of the military &#8211; from Roosevelt in the 1930s

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    through George H. W. Bush in the 1990s.

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    And now we have a president who won&#8217;t even honor the flag &#8230;

    Tomorrow it&#8217;s up at 3:15 a.m. again to prepare for a 4:00 departure on a 390 mile ride. Tomorrow night we&#8217;ll be at the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.
    #10
  11. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    July 10, 2012 Fredericksburg, TX to Carlsbad, NM

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    Once again the day began at 3:15 a.m. We had 400 miles to travel between Fredericksburg, TX and Carlsbad, NM, and we wanted to avoid the heat as much as possible. We left at 4:00 Central Time.

    Riding in the dark in a forested area can be somewhat dangerous. This morning we saw deer beside the road, deer crossing the road just in front of us, and rabbits crossing the road just in front of us. Fortunately, there were no untoward incidents.

    Today was not a hot day &#8211; the temperature got no higher than 82. However, it was a rainy day. We had to don our raingear twice and got wet anyway!

    When we crossed the border from Texas into New Mexico the time zone changed to Mountain Time. We arrived in Carlsbad at 1:00 after riding 10 hours. We couldn&#8217;t check into our motel this early, so we had to sit in the lobby for the better part of an hour before we could unload our bikes. And by then, the rain had started again &#8230;

    We rode out to Carlsbad Caverns in the rain and used our National Parks Lifetime Passes to get into the facility. We took an elevator 750 feet down into the cave and wandered around for nearly two hours. I discovered that the camera I had brought on this trip, while reasonably good when taking outside pictures, was singularly &#8220;not good&#8221; for taking pictures in very dim cave light. However, a gentleman named Peter Jones took photos for the National Park Service and has made some available royalty-free (http://www.nps.gov/cave/photosmultimedia/index.htm). So enjoy Carlsbad Caverns through the lens of Peter Jones!

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    #11
  12. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    July 11, 2012 Carlsbad, NM to Alomogordo, NM

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UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="31" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="32" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="33" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" Name="Bibliography"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading"/> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} </style> <![endif]--> Today was a short day of riding, so we left at 7:00 a.m. from Carlsbad, NM heading toward Alamogordo, NM.

    The weather was cloudy, and when we starting climbing up to 8000+ feet at Cloudcroft, NM, the fog and mist turned into rain and we had to once again don our rain suits. However, when we descended on the other side, the sun came out and we had to quickly take off the rain suits to avoid hyperthermia! The temperatures ranged from the high 50s to the mid-80s today.

    We went to the White Sands National Monument (http://www.nps.gov/whsa/index.htm)

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    but were unable to take the driving tour

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    because of missile testing today. We did learn, however, that the white sand is actually gypsum, and it has its own unique collection of plant and animal inhabitants. So we&#8217;re going to go back this evening and ride on the 8 mile long Dunes Drive which takes one on a tour through the area.

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    #12
  13. ArizonaRoadscout

    ArizonaRoadscout n00b

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    6
    Location:
    Arizona USA
    John,
    Nice RR. Your pics from the last entry do not show maybe my problem but previous pics came thru fine.
    Ride safe.
    Road scout
    #13
  14. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    ArizonaRoadScout - sorry about the pictures not showing. They show up for me - all I can suggest is to try again at another time or on a different computer. Sometimes flushing your Internet browser's cache (thereby forcing the browser to download a new copy of the page) is effective.

    John
    #14
  15. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    July 12, 2012 Alamogordo, NM to Tucson, AZ

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    I got up at 5:00 a.m., packed my belongings, packed the bike, ate breakfast and was on the road with our other group members by 6:30 Mountain Time.

    Today’s ride was about 360 miles, nearly all on Interstate 10 heading straight west into Arizona. We knew it was going to be hot – we just didn’t know how hot! Early on the temperature was in the 70s, but by the time we got to Tucson, it was about 105! We stopped nearly every hour for rest and hydration breaks.

    We arrived at our motel a 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time. We decided to tour Saguaro National Park (http://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm) a little closer to dusk. So, at 4:00 p.m., with the temperature still 105, we got on our bikes and rode to the park (less than 15 miles away).

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    This park is devoted to the protection of the Giant Saguaro Cactus plant. The park is divided into two parts, east and west of the city of Tucson. I believe we went to the eastern park which featured an 8 mile paved touring road. We rode through the park, stopping frequently to take pictures.

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    #15
  16. ArizonaRoadscout

    ArizonaRoadscout n00b

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    6
    Location:
    Arizona USA
    John,
    Welcome to our state- I ride it extensively and document the rides on my web site www.arizonaroadadventures.com. I hope you are able to avoid the rain- this is monsoon season so severe thunderstorms storms can be frequent.

    Your pics are terrific and come through no problem on my pc. No so on my ipad.

    Roadscout
    #16
  17. TheRoss

    TheRoss IBA# 522

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    354
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    This is a great ride report! :clap

    Thanks for taking us along with you!
    #17
  18. Sidney

    Sidney Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    69
    Location:
    Bloomington, IL
    If you can detour from your original map...visit Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, and Archs NP's. Looks like you're going to be close enough to hit all three and not detour too much.

    Sidney
    #18
  19. Yossarian™

    Yossarian™ Deputy Cultural Attaché

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    10,520
    Location:
    the 'Ha
    How can you experience a national park in one day?

    I can spend a week in any of them and still not see half of everything I'd like to.

    Americans spend too much time rushing around from point A to B to C.

    In any event, I hope you have a great trip.
    #19
  20. JohnSnyder

    JohnSnyder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    July 13, 2012 Tucson, AZ to Winslow, AZ

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    We left Tucson, AZ at 6:30 a.m. for an approximately 350 mile ride to Winslow, AZ. The temperature was 79 when we started out, but with the very low humidity, we were very comfortable.

    For much of the morning, we rode on two lane mountain roads. These were the first really enjoyable roads of the trip, and I had a LOT of fun riding on twisty mountain roads again.

    Our first (brief) stop was at the Biosphere 2. The stop was brief because the Biosphere 2 wasn&#8217;t open yet! However &#8230; at least we saw where it was!

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    Then came the twisty mountain roads and the mountain scenery!

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    The next stop was at the Petrified Forest National Park (http://www.petrified.forest.national-park.com/info.htm).

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    Since they lose (to thieves) a ton of rock each month, we were cautioned at the entrance not to take any petrified wood, and we were questioned at the exit gate as to whether we had followed instructions!

    We saw many examples of very colorful petrified wood.

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    In addition, Petrified Forest National Park has a lot of areas that look like the Badlands of South Dakota.

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    We also saw Newspaper Rock, a site where the ancient Hopi Indians left some cave writings.

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    Finally, it turns out that this National Park is a part of the Painted Desert.

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    #20