A Vagabond Life

Our view can change when we want it to!

Category: Family (Page 1 of 2)

August and On the Road

August was a road warrior month for the Vagabonds. We put in over 2,500 miles and drove from the North East to the Central South US. Our month began in Burlington, Vermont and ended in Bertram, Texas, along with a couple of side trips to St. Louis and New Orleans. Hurricane Harvey shut down Houston and that caused a 400-mile detour, but we are in Texas now and plan to stay through the winter.

We left the easternmost part of Maine in the first days of August, traveled across the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and on to the western edge of Vermont and the city of Burlington. The city sits on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain and is close to the location of the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Valcour Island in 1776 pitted 15 outgunned Colonial force ships against 25 British ships. The Colonial force was under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, who later defected to the British. Arnold’s armada didn’t win the battle and lost 11 ships, but the action did slow the British advance.

Lake Champlain Burlington, Vermont.

The Champlain Canal connected the lake to the Hudson River in 1823 giving Burlington an important international shipping route. The town became an industrial center for trade and specialized in lumber, boatbuilding, textiles and machine shops. The industrial revolution brought prosperity and wealth to the northeast and that lasted through the 1900s.

One of the beneficiaries of the nation’s industrial wealth was Electra Havemeyer Webb, wife of polo champion James Watson Webb of the Vanderbilt Family. Electra’s in-laws owned property on Lake Champlain just south of Burlington and in the early 1900s transformed it into a model country estate. The elder Webb’s collected paintings of Monet, Manet, and Degas, but Electra preferred Americana, and by the time she was 40 years old had established one of the finest collections of horse drawn carriages, weathervanes, pewter, circus figures, and just about everything uniquely American. She even acquired the steamboat Ticonderoga that had once cruised Lake Champlain and had it moved by rail to the property.

Electra’s Americana collection is housed at the Shelburne Museum on the Vermont property along with her in-law’s vast art collection. The museum and grounds are now owned by a non-profit organization and open to the public daily. We spent two days touring this amazing place.

After Vermont, we traveled south to Boston and spent a day seeing the historic sites. We had been to these sites several times in the past, but this visit was more meaningful because I had just finished reading Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick. If you’re into early US history, the accuracy and detail of Philbrick’s books put you there.

The next stop was RI for a cousin’s family reunion and celebration of Rose Marie Ferri’s 85 birthday – along with celebrating August birthdays for everyone in the family. My sister put on a wonderful spread and was a tremendous host, as usual. We all had a great time catching up with cousins, aunts and uncles and extended family. Rose Marie was thrilled!

After RI, Daria headed back to Texas by plane (cheater!) while I drove the camper with the dog west to St. Louis and then south to Texas. My reward was being able to spend time with Thomas, Jess and the three grandsons. I can’t get enough of those three boys! In the meantime, Daria was in Texas for Ashley’s baby shower. It won’t be long now until we meet Evelyn Rose!

I stayed in St. Louis long enough to see the solar eclipse, then hightailed it down to New Orleans to see a college roommate. Hurricane Harvey delayed my trip west to Texas by a few days. I managed to get to Texas by going north and across to Dallas, then drop down to the Austin area. It was an exhausting month, but Daria and I (and Angus) are all together in our little 19-foot trailer again.

The Land of Lobsta and Chowda

Last munth, we went to da fish maaket and bought lobsta, chowda and clamcakes. We took it back to ouwa campa and had a wicked feast!

If you haven’t guessed where we are, I’ll give you a clue. It isn’t Alabama. Okay, here is another hint. When you try changing lanes on the highway, putting your blinker on doesn’t help.  In fact, it causes the car a quarter-mile back to step on the accelerator and pass before you can move over.

We’re in New England – my boyhood home! I was born and raised in Little Rhody (Rhode Island). Yes, RI is small, but it has a lot of charm. We’re back visiting family, friends, and eating all the fresh seafood we can get hold of. For those who think I married a girl from Texas to compensate for growing up in the smallest state in the nation, you can forgetaboutit!

I’m proud of my New England heritage. Everyone knows it’s the Super Bowl Champion Capital of the World. Each season NFL teams compete to see who will lose to the New England Patriots. It’s also home to the famous Boston Red Sox and Fenway Paak, the oldest ballpark in major league baseball. We have Bruins hockey, the oldest NHL team in the US, and the Boston Celtics, who hold the most championships in the NBA.

Our first NE stop was on the border between Connecticut and Rhode Island. We had the distinct pleasure of spending the weekend camping with my cousin Mary Ann and her partner Dennis. My Aunt Elaine also came for a day (aunt is pronounced “au” like taunt, not “a” like ant). We had a blast catching up and telling old stories.

I reminded Mary Ann when I was a toddler she and my sister thought it was a good idea to leave me alone at a playground hoping someone takes me so they wouldn’t have to babysit anymore. I didn’t know what to do and started running around screaming until a neighbor stopped me and walked me home. The experience traumatized me for life! (not really).

Our next stop was Fourth Cliff Family Recreation Area about 50 miles south of Boston on the Atlantic Ocean.  This area was the mecca for shipping and shipbuilding in the 18th and early 19th centuries. During WWII, the area was part of the Harbor Defenses of Boston. It consisted of an early radar, fire control towers, and artillery batteries. Today, it’s a recreation area for military personnel and their families. The 270-degree water views afford some the best scenery and gorgeous sunsets on the east coast.

July 31 marks our one year anniversary on the road! We’re preparing a special blog in celebration.

 

End of May and on Our Way

The Vagabonds are heading due north after two months in North Carolina. It was a wonderful two months in the state we’ve started to call our second home. We lived in the Tar Heel State for three years while on active duty in the Marines; two of our children were born in North Carolina and the third just married a special young lady from New Bern. It all adds a little turpentine to the Ferri bloodline.

We were privileged to take care of our new granddaughter for two weeks in May while Nick and Ashley were on their honeymoon hiking the Appalachian Trail. Laini is six years old going on twenty-three. We had many interesting discussions with her about how things work. One concept she brought up was the difference between a woman who is pregnant and a woman who is going to have a baby. The two are quite different according to Laini. We decided to leave that one to her mom.

Virginia Beach was our first stop North. We stayed at an RV park on a Navy base situated on the ocean just south of Virginia Beach proper. Our campsite was on one side of the sand dunes and a beautiful sandy beach on the other. Staying on military bases along the coast is special because it’s restricted. That means the beaches are uncrowded on weekends and often deserted during the week. Angus loved being off his leash to splash around in the water and chase sand crabs.

The next stop was West Point, home of the Army’s military academy. We’ve never been to the academy and were excited to take the tour. The place is awe-inspiring. Words cannot describe how impressed we were. The manicured grounds and majestic granite buildings remind me of an old New England ivy league college.

Pride runs deep at West Point. The fortunate few that are accepted into this and any one of our nation’s military academies have a lot to be proud of, and a lot of responsibility ahead of them.  We were fortunate to meet up with my cousin and his wife and family. Stephen is a 1995 West Point graduate. He provided us with an insider’s view of life as a cadet.

The camping area at West Point is deep in the woods overlooking an idyllic round pond that’s stocked with rainbow trout. A few stone cottages dotting the pond’s perimeter brings out the charm. Some of the tall oaks and elms have been here since Washington’s time. It’s a peaceful and serene place. Who could ask for more?

Well, being an American, of course we want more. There’s no internet access or cable TV. How does the Army expect this Marine to survive?

April Wedding Bells

Nothing can be finer than April in North Carolina for a wedding!

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Ferri are proud to announce the wedding of their son, Nick Ferri, to the vibrant and beautiful Ashely Zaytoun of New Bern, North Carolina, on April 29, 2017. The ceremony took place on Wrightsville Beach and the reception was at the Ironclad Brewery in Wilmington. Family and guests traveled from as far north as Maine, as far south as Florida, and as far west as California.  There was plenty of food and wine and the DJ was outstanding!

The ocean provided a perfect backdrop for the wedding with clear skies and a gentle sea breeze that accentuated the romantic setting. Beachgoers were lounging about adding to the moment with many young woman wearing what passes for a bikini today, and a couple of fellows strolling around and posing briefly for the cameras in their brief Speedos.

Ironclad Brewery was an ideal receptions site for this down-to-Earth couple. The drinks were cold and plentiful and the meal catered by Mission Barbecue was superb.  Frankie Hill from BTA Entertainment was the best DJ we’ve seen at any wedding. She didn’t miss a beat, pardon the pun. We danced and sang and toasted the night away. Everyone had a great time! The adventuresome bride and groom are spending their honeymoon hiking about 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Wilmington is a charming port city situated in the southeastern part of NorthCarolina between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear river. The port was vital to the Confederate States of America and served as a focal point for resupply during the Civil War.

Fort Fisher lays at the mouth of the Cape Fear river and was a Confederate stronghold from 1862 to 1864. The largest sea to land battle of the war took place at Fort Fisher from January 13th 1865 – January 15th 1865. A massive naval bombardment from more than 50 Federal ships lasted for two days followed by the largest sea to land troop assault of the war with over 8,000 Union soldiers and Marines storming the fort and overrunning the Confederates. The siege of Fort Fisher was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

Today, the area surrounding Wilmington is a perfect blend of natural and social elements – great geo-physical location, a moderate climate all the year through with clearly distinguishable four seasons, the historic preservation district, annual festivals such as the Azalea festival and numerous other recreational activities, as well as a great place for a spring wedding!

 

Baby Announcement!

Rick and I are happy to announce that there is a bundle of joy on its way!  Our daughter Ashley is pregnant with our 6th grandchild.

Her due date is September 2017.

Happy New Year!

5 Months 12 Days

It’s 2017 and we’ve been on the road for two years! Not really. It’s been only 5 months, but those months cover part of 2016 and so far 1 month in 2017. The funny thing is it seems like only yesterday we sold our ranch and left the homesteading life.

At first we found it odd to say we live on the road. Now “We’re traveling full time” just rolls off our tongues. Most people are usually impressed with that answer and ask, “How is it?” We’re actually very fond of this mobile lifestyle. It’s low stress, low cost, there’s no mortgage, no grass to cut, we can change scenery any time we like, and we can visit people we haven’t seen in a while without the hassle of finding a hotel room. We’ve already met many wonderful people and made a lot of new friends. We’ve also had the time to stop at places we never had time for and can stay a few days, or not.

How long can we maintain this Vagabond life, moving from one RV park to another every few weeks? The people who camped next to us last week have been doing this for 18 years. We’re not sure if we’ll be on the road that long, but this could be just the beginning for us.

We’ve been camping in Tucson since November and have made several side trips. Last month, we visited Saguaro National Park, Mount Lemmon in Santa Catalina Mountains, the Airplane Boneyard on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, traveled to St. Louis where we got the entire family together, went to a Tucson Roadrunner’s hockey game, and rang in the New Year with 330,000 of our friends on the Las Vegas Strip.

East of Tucson is Saguaro National Park East. The park is home to the nation’s largest cacti, the giant saguaro. It’s the universal symbol of the old American west. These plants are large, tree-like columnar cacti that can develop branches (or arms) as they age.  Saguaros are covered with protective spines, white flowers in the late spring, and red fruit in summer.   These majestic plants are found only in a small portion of the United States, and although not a protected species, Arizona has strict regulations about the harvesting, collection or destruction of this species.

Mt. Lemmon is in the Santa Catalina Mountains within the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson. At its peak is the Mount Lemmon Observatory, which was formerly the site of a USAF radar base of the Air Defense Command, and the building that formerly housed a military emergency radar tracking station for landing the Space Shuttle at White Sands Missile Range. Mount Lemmon is 9,157 feet above sea level and receives approximately 180 inches (4.6 m) of snow annually, and that means snow skiing. Mount Lemmon Ski Valley has one lift and 21 runs. There’s no snow making equipment, so the ski season depends entirely on the weather. We were told the runs could be open as few as 2 days in a season and as long as 4 months.

The Airplane Boneyard on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is where military aircraft go to die. Officially called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, tours of the “Boneyard”/AMARG are offered daily by the Pima Air and Space Museum. I went on the tour, and it brought tears to my eyes. All the aircraft types I few in the Marine Corps from 1981-1988 are now sitting in the boneyard to be converted to scrap; the T-34C, T-2, TA-4, and the A-6E. There are over 4,000 aircraft in the Boneyard. Most will be used for parts and then scrapped. A few aircraft will make it back in the air after rework or end up as a static display.

Daria and I also experienced some local culture. Tucson is a growing city with an abundance of young and talented people. There’s always something interesting going on. We attended a Road Runners Hockey game, enjoyed the production of Fiddler on the Roof by the Arizona Theater Company, and strolled through a huge art fair called the 4th Avenue Winter Street Fair.

Christmas was a first for the Ferri family. All the children, spouses, grandchildren, and future grandchildren were there. Words cannot describe how wonderful it was for us! Thomas and Jess hosted the memorable event.

The month was capped off attending a party with 330,000 other people who took to Las Vegas Boulevard to ring in the New Year. There were so many people we literally could not move for a few minutes. I’ve never been concerned in a crowd, but I was concerned in this one. I managed to shove our way through to an open spot in front of Caesars Palace just as the fireworks went off – and they were great! Been there, done that – checked off our bucket list.

We’ll be in Tucson for another month before heading east again. We will try to write more…but then, where does the time go? Happy New Year to all!

Day 121: The November Blog

We intended to blog more often than once per month. Where does the time go? Here’s what we’ve been up to since leaving Corpus Christi in mid-October.

We first stopped at our old stomping ground in Medina, Texas, where we caught up with friends and attended the wedding of Tim and Gali Showell. It was a gala country wedding with Travis Klaassen performing the ceremony.

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Medina is also building a new fire house and we saw the building being framed. This was a long time coming. I was in the fire department as a board member five years ago when a new fire house was in the wishful thinking stage. Communities like Medina have no local government funding for their departments. All the money comes from the local community and an occasional grant from the forestry service. Kudo’s to Medina!

We headed west after leaving Medina. How far west was still unknown at the time. We needed to decide where to spend the winter.  Wherever we ended up was going to be on US soil, have a reasonably warm climate, and decent shopping. We turned the trailer toward the setting sun and off we rolled!

One of our favorite stops along the route was in Fort Davis, Texas. This mountainous area is a blend of drop-dead gorgeous scenery, frontier military history and recent space-age technology.

Fort Davis was formally a rough-and-tumble boarder settlement originally known as Chihuahua.  The military post of Fort Davis was established on the site of an earlier Indian village called Painted Comanche Camp. The National Park Service calls Fort Davis one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars’ frontier military post in the Southwest. From 1854 to 1891, the fort protected emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and on the Chihuahua Trail. This road was also used extensively by prospectors heading west seeking their fortune during the California Gold Rush. Now it was our stop west.

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Old becomes new about 20 miles northwest of Camp Davis at the site of the McDonald Observatory. The site is part of the University of Texas at Austin, College of Natural Sciences. Davis Mountains offered some of the darkest skies in the continental United States. The first telescope was erected in the late 1930s and much more has been added since.

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Today, the observatory offers a wide range of state-of-the-art instrumentation for imaging and spectroscopy; the 0.8 m Telescope, the 2.1 m Otto Struve Telescope, the 2.7 m Harlan J. Smith Telescope, and the 10 m Hobby-Eberly Telescope; 1 m node of the globally networked Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT), one of two robotically controlled 1.2 m MOnitoring NEtwork of Telescopes (MONET), a 0.51 m telescope dedicated to optical aeronomy, and one of four globally networked Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (ROTSE) telescopes. The observatory also operates one of the first and most productive lunar ranging stations. Don’t ask what any of this means but it’s all very impressive to look at!

Heading west for a few more days and we found ourselves in Tucson, Arizona. There is a lot to see in the area and we were told temperatures rarely get into the 30’s. So, we decided to say here for the winter. That being said, the last two nights have been near freezing!

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Another attraction of Tucson is that Las Vegas is less than a one day drive. The Arizona state highway from Tucson to Vegas goes through beautiful desert and mountainous terrain and the scenery is spectacular.  This makes visiting my parents very easy and we traveled to them over Thanksgiving week. The food alone was worth the trip (just joking of course!). The Care Package my mother gave us to take back only lasted a few days. We plan to bring a bigger cooler next time.

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Day 81: The Case of the Missing Bloggers

We have been delinquent in our duties as bloggers. Time has flown by so fast over the past three weeks we haven’t had a chance to put it all in writing.

After leaving Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky, we headed to Scott Airforce Base just east of St. Louis. From here we staged several trips northwest of the city to St. Charles to see our son Thomas, our daughter-in-law Jess, and our three grandsons, Tyson, Desmond and Brady. It was our first time meeting Brady.

It was an exciting visit and fun to see how the three boys are developing. Tyson has become a studious four-year old who loves to do connect-the-dots and play with his dinosaurs. Desmond is a talkative and extremely active two-year old who is into everything. Two month old Brady has a full head of dark hair and was struggling to figure out when to sleep and how much to eat. He was baptized the last weekend we were in town and it was nice to be there for the ceremony.

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We took a side trip during our visit to Lake of the Ozarks Army Recreational Area. This lake stretches for miles and is very beautiful especially at sunset. The military recreation area was ideal. The campsites were large and there were dozens of cabins of all sizes for military personnel and their families to enjoy. There weren’t many cabins being used at the time because we visited during a school week.

We started heading south after leaving the St. Louis area. Our next destination was Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We camped only for one night to see a friend but will definitely be going back to this area. The topography is really interesting with winding roads, waterfalls, and clear pools of spring water. The town of Eureka Springs is a collage of old brick buildings clinging to hills and cliffs that’s occupied by a very laid-back artist community. A Corvette convention was just finishing as we came in and classic vets were all over the roads. It reminded us of our old 69’ Corvette Stingray and cruising around town looking large. Those were the days!

Next stop Eisenhower State Park on Lake Texoma. This park is located north of Dallas on the Texas side of the Texas-Oklahoma border. It’s another big winding lake that’s famous for its striped bass and large catfish (up to 100 pounds!). We didn’t catch any. The campground was empty because we were there during a school week.

We then ventured to Inks Lake State Park near Burnet, Texas. This is another nice lakeside park that caters to families and fishermen. Burnet is also where our daughter Ashley and son-in-law Jeremy live. We had a great time spending a day at the lake with our grandson, Canaan. We spoiled him rotten, of course. Canaan experienced putting a worm on a hook, fed the fish a few worms, caught a fish, went for hikes, experienced his first paddle boat ride and helped with the campfire (played with the campfire).

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Our next camping spot was in Daria’s mother’s driveway down near Corpus Christi. We were there for Amanda Matlock and Jimmy Stewart’s wedding. Amanda and Jimmy’s vision of their wedding was well thought out and put together. It was a lively crowd composed of family and biker friends. Our stunning daughter Ashley was a bridesmaid.

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We’re now in the Hill Country for another wedding this weekend.  It should be fun!

Day 53: North Carolina Tour

North Carolina has a special place in our hearts.  It’s the state that has beautiful mountains, coastlines and memories! It’s where Rick and I first started our married lives together.  It’s also the state where Thomas was born, met his first best friend and started kindergarten. Nick was born in Texas and living in North Carolina before he was two years old. He also made his first best friend there. Ashley was born in the state and would have loved to have grown up on the coast because of her passion for surfing.

North Carolina is where we returned recently to spend some of our Vagabond days. Our arrival was Labor Day weekend. Nick has been stationed here for five years and owns a home in Wilmington where he lives with his fiancée Ashley and her daughter Laini. The Rains of Hermine and a broken air conditioner at our son’s house couldn’t spoil this reunion.
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This was a special visit because the two families were coming together for the first time to meet each other and celebrate Laini’s sixth birthday. The drinks were flowing, the food was great (have you ever had a tomato pie?) and the company was excellent. Later in the day, as the men were snoozing on the couch the women were gathered around the table talking wedding details. That left us thirsty, so we went to see the wedding venue to get drinks and come up with ideas for decorating. The reception is going to be at the Ironclad Brewery in downtown Wilmington. The location is ideal and it was decided only a minimal touch was needed for decorations.

Our residence for ten days was the military campground on Camp Lejeune’s Onslow Beach. It was right on the ocean with miles and miles of mostly deserted beach – a benefit of being on a military base. Angus went swimming in the Atlantic for the first time. He also chased a lot of crabs.

Ashley asked me to go wedding dress shopping with her and Nana, her grandmother.  Who could say no to that?  The first shop we went to had a dress on sale and it was off the rack. Ashley came out and Nana and I both said, “That’s the one!”  Ashley thought so too. Just to make sure, she tried on two other dresses at that store and then more at a second and third store.  Nothing compared to the first dress.  After lunch, we said goodbye to Nana and Ashley and I headed back to the store for Ashley to say yes to the dress and celebrate with a wine toast!
ash_dariaOur last few days at Onslow Beach were memorable because we took Laini on her first camping trip.  She loved it!  There was a family in the tent area across from us that had a little girl Laini’s age.  They hit it off immediately and became inseparable.  Laini thought our campsite needed more decorations so we all decorated clothespins and the girls drew pictures that were hung around the camp from a rope.beachbeachart

We also met up with Mike and Dotty Dolan. Mike and Rick served in the same squadron in the Marines and have a lot of similar interests. Visiting with the Dolan’s has become somewhat of a tradition whenever we’re visiting Nick. We always have an enjoyable time catching up with them.

The time had come to say goodbye to our family and friends from the North Carolina coast and head inland. We would be back in April for the big wedding.

Our next stop was Monroe, NC, where another good friend of Rick’s from the Marine Corps lives. We spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Donnie and Betty Jordan and got to see their amazing old home, The Henry Hall Wilson House.  They host many events at their fine historic home and were busy when we arrived getting it ready for a wedding that weekend.

Our last stop in North Carolina was near a state park called Chimney Rock. We didn’t go up to the rock that looks like a big…well, use your imagination, but we did walk around the tourist town and had a great campsite right on a river.  The views were amazing as was the whole Lake Lure area. This about sums up our North Carolina trip!

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Day 15: Two Miracles in One Day

August 14: A Day to Remember

Miracles don’t occur very often. When two happen in one day it’s a miracle in itself. Yesterday was one of those days.

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The first miracle was Brady Gene Ferri coming into this world. Brady was born to our son Thomas and his wife Jess early in the morning in St. Louis. Daria’s earlier blog has all the details. We’re looking forward to meeting Brady and visiting with Thomas, Jess, Tyson and Desmond in mid-September.

Accident

The second miracle happened upon Daria’s 85 year old mother, Marguerite Hoelscher. Marguerite was driving back from the market by herself on August 13 when she hit a curve and lost control. The car flipped 2 ½ times and ended up in a cotton field resting on the passenger’s side. The airbags deployed on initial impact, and she found herself dangling in her seat-belt when everything stopped.

Marguerite started dialing family members for help (she forgot to dial 911). A passing car stopped to help, made the 911 call and emergency vehicles were dispatched. Rescue workers had to use the Jaws of Life to cut her out of the car.

Miraculously, Marguerite had no serious injuries and was released from the hospital a few hours later. The Sheriff said a combination of a big car, airbags deploying, and a Guardian Angel saved her life.

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