Portland Onward

The incredible journey rolls on!

After our hole up nights in Spokane we ventured onward to Portland for our first ever Life is Good conference. Passing the Multnomah Falls for our first ‘real super tall’ falls sighting was a blast! We also enjoyed the other beautiful sights right around that state park area. 20170525_192210Oregon is just breath taking, in so many ways. The falls, the mountains, the river, and then the ocean! We landed in Portland a few days earlier to spend with a sweet friend from the Peace Corps. She generously hosted us for two nights and we got some nice perusing of Mt Taber where we could spot Mount St Helens and Mt Hood as well. Such a gorgeous day we scored trapsin’ around there. We also visited this cool little bird sanctuary/gardens called Rhododendron Garden. Tons and tons of some really cool ducks, and the greenery ain’t to shabby either.

It was a blast cooking in a real kitchen! Made some Domoda (a West African dish) that is just sooooo fun too cook with/for people who appreciate the dish. The kids and I had been craving it for some time. Being on the road alters you intake quite drastically. We’ve been super healthy. I can count on one hand the number of times we have eaten out in the last months, but that said, if you’re camping stove is tucked away…. you alter what you eat quite a bit. I think I’m about to go completely raw just to alleviate thinking about it any more 😉

Any rate…. we enjoyed cooking on the stove! And next day headed to our LiG conference. It was hosted at an Embassy Suites which you know is like living in luxury. The made-to-order breakfast omelets and the free happy hour are incredible…. but my all-time-favorite is the insanely huge king size bed and blackout curtains! Even my early risers were not waking before 9am every day! We had lots of fun meeting new people, expanding our growing tribe of cool people. It was fun to be amongst this long-standing conference and enjoy their activities. We had lots and lots of fun! Even got swimming and hot tub soaking in too!

20170528_131213It was another amazing birthday at the end of the conference! D turned 13 on us! I can’t believe how much the time has flown. For her birthday, knowing we would be on the road when she decided, she requested to visit San Francisco to visit Japan Town and also a favorited Kawaii shop of a YouTuber she knows and follows. It’s been high on the list for a very very long time, and since we knew were doing the conference in Portland I told her it’d be possible to make the visit. She was ecstatic of course. The store she wanted to visit was not open except for weekends, so for her actual birthday we headed from the conference to the Oregon coast. We stayed in a yurt for two nights at Umqua Lighthouse State Park and spent endless hours on the ocean side. Beach combing, fishing and seal lion spotting. It was such a magical time. It was just so beautiful, and the weather cooperated with us the entire time. Plenty of campfires and cooking, which made us all happy. Super great sleeping, and the yurt was so fun! (Our first experience in a yurt!)

In the midst of all of the conference and birthday hoopla, we celebrated another lost tooth!20170601_115421 Somehow in the mix of adventure, life is still happening! :) From Umpqua we headed down the coast to CA. San Francisco bound we passed this most incredible rest stop…. I was just driving along thinking we would not make our first stop for another hour and a half or more, and then I spot all these people turning off the road, and I glance over at these masses of amazing rock, a climbing hill, and gi-normous waves lapping to the coast. I pop a quick U-y and head back to see the sights. We climbed out and all gasped…. it was such an amazing spot. We trekked all over the place, made some sandwiches, cut a watermelon, and at least two hours later we were ready to depart again.

That evening we made it all the way to the Avenue of Giants. I just had to pass through one of my most favorite spots before arriving in the big city. We ended up boondocking on the Avenue and waking to the Giants early in the wee hours of the morning. It’s such a magical place to visit. Awe-inspiring. Breathtaking. We took the Avenue straight to 101 and ended up on 101 to SF….. which was so cool cause the last time we did this trek we were on 1, right along the ocean. That is an amazing drive as well. 101 was super cool to experience cause we could see a whole new part of the country, and you get to experience Redwoods for miles and miles. At one point, we pulled off at this super cool gift 20170603_175652post/shop and we were the first people in for the day…. the cool owner let the kids feed the fish their breakfast. I purchased some super cool bumper stickers to add to the bus, and we toured his amazing wood sculptures. It was a treasure trove for sure.

Since we had left so early we arrived in San Francisco by early afternoon. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, we landed in Japan Town for a little poking around, and then cruised over to the Kawaii shop. Nothing disappointed! Everything exactly as she anticipated and she thoroughly enjoyed her extended birthday. We enjoyed some Chinese food (another birthday wish) and headed to a hotel. Fortunately, I had a hotels.com credit to use for our hotel this time around cause MAN! SF is expensive! Not to mention…. ‘holy California gas prices Batman!!!’ I will not be sad to depart from the state, merely due to the cost of being here! But happy we got to hit all of our favorites before doing so.

Today we depart the comfort of the hotel and make the trek to LA to visit my brother and family for the evening. From there the trek through AZ and finally to NM. We are all kind of excited to have a spot to land for a few weeks. And to have time to plan future treks. But I, for one, am already relieved that the trek has taken a slower pace and the trek is ours to command now. Time is on our side and we can venture at our own pace.

AND…. sunshine!!! I’m welcoming the warmth and long-overdue sunshine! (Never enough if you ask me 😉 )

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Onward!

It’s been a very busy winter’s end and start to spring! Conclusion to it all however is that we are now onward and excited!

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February brought about a very magical Unschoolers Platform week! This year was such a warm, heart-felt group of truly amazing people. It was a wonderful week of connecting, supporting, loving. I simply can’t put words to how fabulous our second annual conference went this year!

Proceeding the conference it was full-on-sell-RV time!
I had the Class C advertised most of the winter, but as you can imagine, the response during the winter was pretty minimal. No one quite serious enough to pull the plug. As the summer weather was coming about, dozens of people came out of the wood works! It was fabulous. Lots of calls, emails, texts, and showings. I even had offers coming in, but I was holding out for the right offer. March 31st we are just so lucky to have the right family needing, wanting, and able. The whole thing went just smoothly and perfectly. And it was then we quickly said goodbye to our 2nd nomadic home in just a very short while.

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The intent after leaving brick and mortar in our mini van was to have the Class C. Once having the experience of the Class C and realizing with kids it would work ever-so-better to be able to separate house and motor…. *and* have a wee bit more space for the stuffs. There is just kinda a lot of stuff, even in the minimalist’s world, to carry along with 5 kids. So we learned quickly with our Cobra that we’d like to have a separate motor and home and that was the end goal with the sale of our then 2nd nomadic home.

We were fortunate to find exactly what we were looking for. We landed inside a 2016 Ford Transit 350 XLT which only had about 21K miles on it when we purchased it. It is a 12-seat passenger van with the tow capability to pull a travel trailer if/when we decide to purchase and tow one. But the brilliance of this vehicle is that we can maneuver the country very swiftly in it as the space is incredible. So we feel so-so-so lucky to have scored this great deal.

So yep…. conference in February, RV sale in March, and car purchase in April! It’s been busy. We’ve celebrated a 15th birthday, lost a tooth, shaved long curly locks, braces removed, explored gardens, forests, said goodbye to a dear sweet guinea pig, watched our dear sweet puppy grow, and all the while finishing up swim team, virtual job hunting, and enjoying the fluke warm days Chicago was willing to grace us with. We’ve had quite a few fun adventures (pics enclosed below), but the biggest, most obviously, was the prep to hit the road once again. We have all be itchin’ for quite some time now. We set a departure date and set all sights on the when. The biggest thing happened upon purchase of the car was that I opted to sign up to be a Lyft driver. I have spent the last three weeks working pretty much full time for Lyft to pack some money away for the numerous adventures we have in store for this summer. It was a massive change for all of us. I have never ever been away from the kids full time for employment, and they rallied and then some. I hated being away from them so much, and they did not care for me to leave. But we made the agreement that we’d see this three weeks through because the income was so immensely beneficial to all we wanted to do and see this summer (and fall).

After a very successful three weeks, I closed out my Lyft career last night, we packed up the car today, and hit the road. We celebrate a 9th birthday tomorrow and this little gentleman wanted to explore the Indiana Dunes for his birthday…. so we are not all that far from home. Which ended up being a good thing as it took a great deal of time to get the car packed up and ready to go today. And then, on top of the length of time we took to depart, it was pouring rain and dark, so we ended up choosing a hotel nearby and move into our camping spot tomorrow morning for a full few days of exploration.

It’s amazing to be back on the road! Looking forward to sharing the adventures with you here! Meantime…. here are some fun pics from our past few months!

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Illinois Beach State Park

If you caught the last post, we are putzin’ around Chicago for a spell and awaiting the ability to make a few upgrades (namely new tires) our rig so that we can continue on our journey. I have to say that Chicago is truly the least RV friendly city I have ever (ever) experienced. There are few-to-none places you can boondock and certainly RV facilities far and few between. We’ve been fortunate enough to have a friend here and there host us in their driveway which has been super amazing. But in effort to regain some sort of ‘normal’ life, we needed to escape the city for a spell. We decided Illinois Beach State Park would be a cool…. and most affordable…. escape. We booked 5 days, four nights up there and headed up for a long-extended weekend.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t give Illinois the credit it deserves. When I am wrapped up in city life, I will easily admit to ‘nature’ in Chicago not necessarily going hand-in-hand. But of course, once you escape that, or find it’s alcoves, you will come to appreciate just what Illinois has to offer really. Same holds true for Illinois Beach State Park.

Now, this was our first experience at an RV park as well! We had been boondocking, or staying with friends. We had not utilized a park yet, and so this was our first. I successfully had our first dump, which was quite an amazing feat in and of itself. I had been holding the kids off from ‘fully’ using the facilities other than the emergency pee simply cause I did not know how to to actually empty our tanks AND I did not know where we were actually going to come across our first opportunity. So this was great timing. It was definitely time to get it done, and it was in a non-busy, non-rushed atmosphere where I could put all of my newly acquired YouTube knowledge to good work. After our first, I felt far more comfortable and knew I could handle it all now 😉 .

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We drove around the park when we arrived and the office was closed with a note that stated “go pick your spot and come back at 4pm.” So we did just that. We drove around to each of the various sections and truly picked the most beautiful one. It was a longer hike to the playground, but right across from the bathrooms and showers, and just steps from a beach pathway. Within the first hour of us being there we were greeted with a pair of deer, a few raccoons, a snake, and skunk (fearful of us thank goodness…. off he ran). We also could hear many owl and eagle calls through the trees as well. We were quite happy to have landed in a nature-heavy area with RV season seeming to be tail-end. There were very few spots filled in the park. A few showed for a Friday and/or Saturday night, but even then it was quite an empty park and perfect time to be there.

We had an electrical hook up which was perfect. Little-to-no wifi connections though. But with the amount of time we were outdoors, that did not seem to matter too much. We did several hikes a day and the park is close to a business district as well, so a mere mile walk westward into town and you could grab something if you happened to need it.

Several bonfires during the day and evening as the temps were quite cool. We were quite thankful for the working RV heater we had, and had strong empathy for those tent campers that showed up on those cool, cold nights!

Being right on the beach we had several beach walks and collecting of rocks, which also lead to rock art designs with sharpies. That was a super fun activity to do with the teens. The little did lots of widdling of sticks and collections of various nature items. Oh yeah, and we finally got our map up on the outside of the RV. We had been talking about how to track our travels and this seemed like a super duper fun way! You’ll see the kids have already been *all* over the place! It was fun to reminisce each of the trips when we did it!

It was a super great time, and after the 5 days we were sad to depart. Definitely a place we’d return to again!

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New Home

I swore to myself, namely for the kids, that I would be far more diligent about keeping updates on this massive life transition. I have failed at doing so since this process started. Namely…. I think….. cause I have been on such an emotional ride that I have failed to put words to it all. As I begin to come out the other end I am feeling 100% better and realizing how much this process has impacted me profoundly and forced me to grow in even more ways I never knew existed.

So… let’s see I think last I left off we had found our next home. We had left our home of twelve years, packaged all that was important to us in a 5 x 11 storage unit and took off for Alabama 4-H to attend the Rethinking Everything gathering. At some point in time in the packing process back in August, it dawned on me that my focus was so heavily placed on where we were going and not what we were doing at the present moment. I was stressing big time about finding the right rig for us, and then it hit me… We had traveled dozens of long, extended road trips in our van before. Why would this be much different? Of course we’d be incurring a bit more cost for a few hotel stays along the way than we would have otherwise had to if we had our RV, but if it meant being in the present moment and actualizing this move, then the wee bit more cost was worth it.

So we packed up into a storage unit and a mini van to hit the road. As mentioned, heading to the RE 2016 gathering which, I might add, was also a life-changing experience. Having left our home of twelve years, converted ourselves to a nomadic family, and then ending up at RE was truly *exactly* where we needed to be at that very moment in time. To be welcomed with open arms, embraced, loved, cherished…. To be cheered on as people heard our latest endeavors. To be encouraged by the dozens whose stories we heard and also embraced. The kids all made new, beautiful friends who also included them right off the bat. It was a most memorable experience that even now, still fills each of our hearts.

As we gathered there, it was also my intent to track down and view Class C RVs along the way. I figured being out of Chicago I’d more likely find exactly what we were looking for with the money that we could afford to spend on it. In Indianapolis there was one but the water damage was extensive. In Birmingham there was another by the gentleman was very challenging with setting up an appointment to see it. Once I Chattanooga was in pretty dire straights. On our way to Louisville we were messaged that it had sold just an hour before our arrival. As we headed to Cincinnati the same happened…. It sold just before our arrival. All of this was leading me to believe we were on the right track. I was getting a wee bit discouraged, but I did know that our time was coming.

After and amazing tour of Mammoth Cave in Cave City, KY and then two nights in Cincinnati to just chill out and not drive like crazy, we  headed to Fort Recovery where checked out a converted bus. The bus was pretty cool. They did a great job converting, but there was just way too much left for us to do. I knew I was becoming overwhelmed at the process and not really looking forward to putting hours and hours into still converting further to the standards in which we’d like it. Not to mention the fact that driving this seriously huge diesel engine scared the bajoobers out of me. I told the kids, “yep, it is super cool, however you all are my life and I would not put my life in that machine and drive it down the highway.”

Onward…. We had one more appointment set for a Class C in Antioch, IL. We headed to a friend’s home just outside of Chicago and crashed with them. Then made the drive out to Antioch to see it. Upon seeing it I was super pumped. It was structurally sound, it appeared. We drove it and seemed great. Received a very decent deal on it, which included a generator as well. All was great…. Till we hit the highway with it with our own plates on it to take it as our own…

Duh. Duh. Duuhhhh.
We get on the highway and the darn thing is struggling to get above 50mph! Eeek! We were headed straight to CarMax to appraise and sell the mini van. It felt like we were barely going to make it there. The engine was struggling big time. I was quite worried as you can imagine. What the heck happened between the day before and now? Its feeling like the gas is struggling to circulate when it reaches higher speeds. It does just fine at lower speeds, but over 50mph, forget it.

After the deal at CarMax is done, I feel a bit relieved to be rid of one about-to-be-headache. There were many things about to really go wrong with that van that I was quite relieved to have rid of it prior to having to deal with any of it. There was an exhaust/emissions issue, and electrical issue to name a couple. I had also had it appraised by folks prior to this sale and both appraisers were saying the transmission was about to go as well. So, that was one headache off my plate, though that car was so immensely great to us! We had some super amazing trips in that car, so we are ever so grateful to it for its perseverance.

We head to Evanston to have our mechanic look at it. He says that he can’t get it into his garage so he can’t service it, but he recommends someone else who is able to take a look at it. We take it over there, but being as it was Saturday they were closing shop early that day. Blech. I have to now drive from Rogers Park to Downers Grove via local streets cause I don’t want to danger any of us on the highway not going up to speed. After a bite to eat I’m feeling better about everything. We’ll just head back there first thing Monday morning and have it serviced and then we can begin the move in process.

That evening back at our friends’ house we start cleaning it up. It’s quite dirty from sitting around for a year to a year and half. So as we clean and clean and clean K finds that under the top bunk there is 100% complete rot. It’s not just a “little water damage” as the gentleman who sold it to us says as he lifted the mattress to show us. It’s complete rot through and through. The entire wood bed is smelly and falling to crumbles. It’s a disaster. Takes us the whole night to clean it out and get it to a point we’re ok with it. As we are digging it out I am concocting a plot to build a new bed up there. Shouldn’t be too complicated. We will leave there the next day, build a bed at Home Depot and then head out to K’s 48 Hour Film Festival premier (the whole reason we were back in Chicago to begin with)!

Sunday rolls around and we do a pretty decent job. We drive locally back to Evanston, park at Home Depot and get to work. I seal all of the open cracks I can possibly find, and run in and buy cut wood before we head downtown. Things seem to be a-okay and all is working out fine.

48winnerThe 48 Hour Film Festival is AMAZING! K’s film premiers and he has hoots and hollers. People loved it and laughed and congratulated him afterwards. After the film there was a brief Q & A and K gets a standing ovation for being a 14 year old homeschooler. People truly dug his work and it was quite the highlight of the week….. until just a day or so later that week when….. he receives an email that he should return to the award ceremony! Later that week he is awarded an Audience Choice Award for his group! What a truly amazing accomplishment! It blew him out of the water! We are all super duper proud of him.

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, so bed gets built, we head to the mechanic the next morning and they deem that a carburetor and new plugs need to be put in. We agree to the service and pick up our home that evening. Immediately the car seems to be running better so we are thrilled we can begin the move in process. The next day, however, is the plan to have a beach day with friends for the girls birthdays. C turned two on the 12th and M turns six on the 25th, so we opted to have a little gathering with friends on our most favorite beach in Chicago. It was the perfect break to the chaos we’ve been dealing with. And, a super amazing weather day for our potentially last beach day in Chicago for quite some time. With watermelon and cupcakes in hand we head down for a truly amazing afternoon and evening. Closing out the beach after sunset.

Next day begins move in day. That was trying and exhausting. We had just had this massive move from home to storage and now we had to move once gain from storage to camper. The stuff we had we still needed to sort, purge and donate because we had far more than we ever needed. So it took several hours to go through everything in the storage unit first, then move it out to the RV next, and then figure out what was staying in the RV, what was again up for purging or donation, and finally whatever else needed to return once more to storage. It was an all day thing. I believe we arrived there by 11a or 12p and we did not return back to our boondocking spot till about 830p that night. Long day.

Now the camper is a disaster once more and we need to begin organizing and creating new spaces for storage as well. But we do this over the next day or so…. And frankly, is still in process now. We have more to attend to and it will happen in due time. That same evening we run into our first boondocking problem ever. It’s late at night, I’m sweeping out the home and there is knock at the door. A police office telling me that we can’t park there because it’s private property. I’m at a Walmart, which in the numerous times past has never been an issue. I’ve never had a Walmart have an issue with this and, in fact, many folks nationwide know that Walmart is the place RVs are allowed to boondock.

Any rate, he’s saying we need to leave. So, I pack up and we roll out down the street to the other Walmart who never really seems to have a problem ever. Next day I see that the other RV that was parked there is still sitting there, so why we were asked to move but everyone else boondocking there (including the semi’s) were still parked. But whatever. What I do know at this point, it is crazy hard to be boondocking in your own home city. Especially when that city is Chicago and they are truly just anti-RVs anyway. The week was stressful. And I was always worried about parking or moving around that I truly could not wait to leave town.

That said, it was during this last day or two that I noticed the car was driving a little fun. It felt like gas was just cutting out at low speeds. The engine would not drop if I gave it more gas, but it felt like it was cutting for a brief second before it would continue. I decided before we left that Friday that I would take it back to the mechanic to look at it, and then to the RV spot to hook up the generator for us, and check out the propane and such.

Mechanic sees that hoses were bumped when he did the last repair and so he adheres some sealant to them and reattaches everything. He feels we are ready to go. I head to the RV service center to see if they can help with some things before we leave for Ohio. As I arrive there I realize it’s quite late in the day so perhaps I’m not going to get done what I need. My big things were the generator and appliances. I wanted to be sure everything was in working order, and get the generator connected. The guy who runs the place was really kind of a jerk. Even when I prefaced everything with “I’m a brand new RV owner” …. “never done this before” … He was quite obnoxious in my opinion. What I did come to conclude on my own was that everything is a-okay. They checked the propane level and we were full, so we were good. I was hoping the generator could be attached but they are giving me this spiel that it would be $500-$1000 to connect it and a minimum of 3-4 hour process.

Well…. Not money I have at the moment, nor the time, so I leave that for another time. We take off for OH. The RV is running really pretty good. It’s a bit noisy, but overall seems okay. I’m relieved to be leaving town now and to be moving on a new location, as are the kids for sure. They are looking forward to seeing friends in OH, and enjoying a new adventure. Day one is pretty uneventful, that is till we pull into a Walmart to sleep for the night. It’s wee hours of the night after several hours of rain and I hear D say, “Oh no, Oh my gosh!” I could not bare to know what the heck was going on. I was SOOOOO exhausted from the past several weeks, I did not know if I could take one more. But alas, there it was, water, down pouring on my daughters head from the light socket above. Ugh. We grab towels and a bowl and start catching it. We move her to another bed with S to spend the rest of the night. I lay restless listening for any other leaks and down pours as the rain moves on. I’m so frustrated at this point. Not sure which was to go…. Home or onward?

Next AM we opt to get a huge tarp. It fits the whole roof. That way when we are stopped we can have rain protection, at least until we find a solution to the leaky roof. We are cruising to OH and all of sudden the choke light flashes at me and the oil pressure gauge seems to be dropping. I pull over and fill it with oil as it appears to be quite low. I drive onward….. it happens once again. I add some more and we continue on. This time, however, I’m feeling like perhaps this old cruiser just does not like super high speeds. In my mini van I cruise right around 73mph on most highways that allow for 70mph. And driving this big huge mobile is a whole new ballgame. I realize it’s quite massive, it’ takes up the highway lane, and it’s quite wobbly. It does not seem to dig cruise control, not to mention the high speeds. So  tone it down to about 60-65mph and it’s seems happier. We finally arrive. Ahhhh…. Relief to be among safety.

While we are here everyone is jumping to help. I’m beside myself because I really just feel like throwing in the towel. I’m beginning to wonder what the heck I’ve gotten myself into?!?!

But friends check it out and help as they are able. We get connected to the electricity and have running water for the first time. Two gentlemen take a peek at my generator but determine they do not know enough to get that going for me. I will need to have someone else look at it, and hopefully someone who knows what they are doing and will not charge me an arm and a leg. The propane is deemed working and the fridge is cold. The only two remaining concerns at the roof top and the oil leak (if one exists).

Since it seems obvious at that point that we will not be leaving by the intended Tuesday for Arizona, I decide to order some roofing materials via Amazon and do the roof before we leave. A truly amazing neighbor takes me to another mechanic to have the oil issue checked out and not only does this guy feel that everything is a-okay and there is nothing notably wrong with the engine at this time, but he does not charge me anything for his time either. Everyone here has been over the moon supportive and helpful. It’s helped me pull my head out of my butt and realize…. I purchased a HOME. Something I never ever said I would ever do in my life!!!! I swore I’d rent till I die! And here I am owning a home. And this home, just happens to have an engine, but otherwise, it is really the same exact thing to owning a home. I purchased a fixer-upper. And if I were buying an actual physically standing home, I’d have all of these same things to contend with. I may need to fix a roof, or leak. I may need to repair a wall or a bed. I may need to redecorate or redesign. THIS is what I bought into and so I need to get over my pitty party and step up to bat here!

Yesterday, I get my butt up and clean house inside and out. I get up on that roof and clean and prep it for the new rubber roofing I’m about to put on, and I google how to store water on this damn thing, and work the pump and dump the shit. I’ve educated myself and empowered myself and so now I’m ready to take on this adventure head strong. I am now equipped and with the correct mindset. I was not there at the time of purchase, nor up to recently. I figured all roses and lilies were to follow. But when you take on something this magnitude, you put in the work to get it where you want it. And when something breaks, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just what it is and we move on.

With much better attitude I have an afternoon of roofing to do. The second coat will be put on tomorrow. And then we will enjoy the local Pumpkin Festival with everyone here before we being our westward trek to Arizona. I’m looking forward to it now. I can’t say that was always the case, but sometimes you need a swift kick to get back up and try try again. What is now home is beginning to feel more and more like home and that feels really great!

 

 

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