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Old 09-29-2010, 06:12 AM   #16
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Thumb Nice adventure

Too bad you could not find someone to ride with. I always find that a ride of two or more makes for a fun filled trip.
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Old 09-29-2010, 05:56 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by BOOGIEMAN
Too bad you could not find someone to ride with. I always find that a ride of two or more makes for a fun filled trip.
Well... that depends. I always miss the company for the evening, the time to relax, to B.S., to have a drink.

On the road, though, I actually prefer a solo ride. That way I can do things and change my mind at the spur of the moment, be impulsive, stop here and there, explore at a whim. Even simple things as stopping to take pictures or to put on additional riding gear are more flexible for a single rider.
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Old 09-30-2010, 09:25 PM   #18
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Day 4.

September 18: Lake Boisrobert to Radisson - 378 miles.

Woke up to a soggy morning. I hate to break down the camp in rain; at least, I got a chance to set it up in the dry.

Yesterday's perfect hardpack changed to wet snot. The dirt or clay in the roadway became very slippery; the Anakees could not bite in. I was glad that I camped near the end of North Road: I was ready for the pavement. Here it is: where Route du Nord joins James Bay Road at kilometer 275.

I entered James Bay Road pavement and rode north. In a little over an hour I reached the location of almost mythical significance on that highway: Relais Routier 381. This stage stop is the only place that provides fuel along the Road - and it is 381 kilometers from the southern terminus in Matagami.

First task, then, was to fill up the bike. Dutifully, I waited for my Gas Boy (!?), then went to the shop building to bring my tires back to normal pressure - I dropped about 10 psi for the gravel. There is a lot of high speed riding on James Bay Road - I did not want to risk overheating the sidewalls. The shop was closed, but thoughtfully an airline was stuck through the doors.

I do have to say that I never heard the term "Gas Boy" before - this was a source of continuous entertainment for the rest of the trip.

While I was pumping up the wheels, a white Honda sedan pulled up. The driver got out and we talked for a while - even though his English was very broken (and my French none). Apparently, he saw me taking pictures at the North Road junction and tried to chase me since, but I was too fast for him.

Now that the bike was taken care of, I went to the cafeteria. There was only one choice: linguini with meat sauce. A hearty dish! While I ate, my new friend joined me and told me most of his life story - I think. From what I understood, he lived in Chicoutimi (in Quebec's pretty Saguenay region) and was going up to Chisasibi as well.

In the time I spent indoors, the clouds were blown out and a bit of sun peeked out. Beautiful conditions for the remaining section north.

Open road, excellent pavement, blistering speed.

That's a reminder what James Bay Road is about: power plants! Just before the turn-off to Trans-Taiga Road, this sign points out nearby locations. "Centrale" is a generating station.

More of the ever-present power lines. Notice that the one on the right has only two conductors: this is the 450kV (900kV line-to-line) high-voltage DC feed that runs from Radisson to Sandy Point in Massachusetts. This gigantic interconnect carries 2000 MW over almost a thousand miles!

Of course, the AC lines (with 3 conductors, in the center and left of picture) are no slouches, either. Six of those lines carry power from the James Bay project south, at a voltage of 765kV.

(In case you did not notice - these technical factoids do interest me).

At kilometer 544 of James Bay Road, there is a junction with another route of adventure. The gravel Trans-Taiga Road is about 700km long. Along it, there are no settlements, except for some private Hydro Quebec encampments and a few outfitters catering to hunters.

The entrance to Trans-Taiga is quite unassuming, but this sign announcing rest areas show the promise of its remoteness.

A bit further in, this distance marker s quite impressive. Actually, Trans-Taiga continues past Brisay, to Caniapiscau - 666km total.

Wow, I find that exciting! A future destination, maybe?

I finally reached the Chisasibi turn-off. It was early afternoon, the clouds were just gathering - I decided to ride to the waters of James Bay, about 100km away, before returning to Radisson to overnight.

Just as I was turning, the warning indicator lit up: low fuel! What? I used up all the gas from Relais 381? How could that be?

Apparently, running at Autobahn-like speeds... ahem... carries a penalty. My fuel economy dropped to mid-30's mpg. Normally, US-style riding pace results in about 40 mpg for the GS, when fully loaded with travel and camping gear. Interestingly, traveling on gravel of North Road (and of Trans-Lab in the past) yielded about 50mpg: running with light throttle at a very steady speed does wonders for fuel consumption.

No problem. That's what the fuel cans are for, right?

A little side trip took me to the first of the power plants here: La Grande 1. Rather than looking at the plant, I was searching for a whiteboard where visitors to LG-1 do sign in. Donnymoto threw a challenge to fellow ADVriders to sign up near his name.

Too bad - even though I came prepared with a permanent marker, I could not find the board. I visited all four "belvederes" (over-look points) around LG-1, to no avail. As Throttlemeister posted above, apparently the board was in a parking area off the main road and I must have missed it. Oh well, it looks like I have to go there again...

Past Chisasibi, the paved road ends. The last stretch going west crosses a fairly flat terrain.

And here we are! Done it! Did it! This is it: the shore of James Bay. Arctic Ocean!

A great feeling of accomplishment! My high spirits did not even suffer when the gale-force wind blew my helmet off the bike while this picture was being taken. The retractable sunshield was shattered - oh, well...

When you look at Chisasibi on Google Maps' satellite view, while zooming in very closely, you can see some oblong white-silvery shapes on the shoreline.

These are the "freighter canoes", used by the Cree. Here they are, in real life.

To complete the celebration, walking into the frigid waters was required. Had to do it!

This is actually a location of historical significance. About 2 miles north of where I was standing, on the Island of Fort George, was a trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company. The company was formed in late 1600's by an enterprising Frenchman - a certain Pierre-Esprit Radisson - who could not interest the French government and thus obtained a British royal charter for "The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay".

Don't you just love this name? Adventurers? An early ADVrider? ADVsailor?
Needless to say, the town of Radisson was named in his honor.

And, in case you are wondering: yes, the Radisson hotel chain is also named after good old Pierre.

Hmmmm. What the heck is that? Apparently, rubber over-boots work great as long as there is no big hole that lets in water. That would explain why my left boot was completely filled with water when riding during heavy rain earlier that day. Duh...

I figured out the system, though: I punched holes in the rubber soles of the booties. That way, any water that got in could drain out, albeit slowly - rather than creating a deep puddle inside.

Last commemorative picture of the freighter bike with the freighter canoes. Time to head out - bad weather was coming in.

On the way back, a brief stop in the town of Chisasibi.

As someone wrote here, the Cree must be very much into Christmas: their alphabet surely contains a lot of candy canes.

I took a quick ride through the neighborhood, intrigued by the teepees in backyards of many of the houses. Even the arena / assembly hall was shaped like a teepee.

A quick stop for some Pimiiukimikw. I think.
Can't complain, though: this was the only high-test fuel in James Bay region.

Now it was getting dark and I raced back to Radisson. I did not feel that hot: the linguini with meat sauce from Relais 381 was beginning to give me a god-awful indigestion. I was badly distracted; I could not wait to be able to have some Alka-Seltzer.

When I finally reached my destination for the night, I was cold, tired and very unhappy. The receptionist at Auberge Radisson was very nice and let me park on the sidewalk. But: she was just finishing dinner at her desk - and it was linguini with meat sauce! That was almost too much!

First task upon getting into the room was to spread out all the wet camping and riding gear. What a mess.

Now, time for a well deserved hot bath - and a double Alka-Seltzer. As a final source of smiles for the evening, I read a warning note in the bathroom, asking to run the exhaust fan while taking shower. The English was pretty good, not machine-translated, but someone must have been using a dictionary too much: wrong word for "sensitive" was used. 'Our fire alarm system is very fragile'. Huh? I hope not.

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Old 10-01-2010, 09:42 PM   #19
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Day 5.

September 19: Radisson to Matagami - 393 miles.

And another wet morning. Walked out of the Auberge to check out the surroundings. Radisson is as much of a company town as you can get: Hydro-Quebec runs the show.

The flags are of the company, of Municipality of James Bay and of the province. Even the bus belongs to the company.

Parking lot is full of employees' vehicles. These building house their technical offices and staff. I was told that it is a tough and lonely outpost, but the good money cures a lot of ills.

As I was readying the bike, a familiar face showed up: my friend from Relais 381 resurfaced. We continued our conversation without really knowing each other languages. I understood that he did work on the construction of one of the La Grande power plants and often crosses Canada in search of work and excitement. He said: a bohemian lifestyle... Interesting guy.

Being in Radisson, I hoped to see the largest plant here: La Grande 2, now named after Robert Bourassa. It's a monster, one of the largest stations in the world.

Unfortunately, there is no more direct access for individuals. According to what I read on the Web (so it must be true!), some journalist pulled a stunt during a facility tour claiming he could get to sensitive areas. In the post-9/11 hysteria, Hydro-Quebec did not want to take any chances and limited visitor access only to group tours pre-arranged in advance.

I decided to take a chance and drove up to the guardhouse, asking how does one get in. The guard was very polite, but turned me away nevertheless. Too bad - this is all I've seen of the facility.

Time to go home. Before departure a last commemorative picture: proof of having reached the Municipality of James Bay.

A good riding day ahead, going south on James bay Road. Temperatures steady in low 40's, light rain. Do you like my high-tech waterproofing of the satellite radio receiver?

The enlightment of this trip: silk gloves in the rain!

I have been always using silk liners in low temperatures and found them to be very effective. However, just a few weeks ago, 'xmagnarider' on BMWLT forum pointed out another great idea: using the liners in the rain. As you all know, there is no such thing as waterproof gloves - sooner or later they'll soak through. Then, they become almost impossible to put on wet hands: the interior liner sticks to the skin.

This is where the silk gloves come in: even when wet, they will allow the riding gloves to slide on smoothly. Amazing discovery! I was a happy camper! It helped me with taking pictures in inclement weather, too: I no longer dreaded taking off the gloves to operate my camera in the rain. It's the little things in life...

Just like on North Road, users of JBR are asked to check in by radio - here with Hydro-Quebec. The triangular marker shows channel number; channel numbers were changing as I continued south.

Power lines everywhere. This forest of pylons is part of Poste (substation) Radisson.

Local airport is not too busy. I tried to walk in, but found everything locked tight.

Of course, a Hydro-Quebec company plane on the runway.

Once can always fly with the locals: Air Inuit.

Following down James Bay Road, I crossed Eastmain River. It looked pretty nice, so I stopped on the bridge to take this shot.
Only later in the day I remembered that this was a very significant bridge, reportedly winning architectural awards. It's not visible from the roadway, however; I have been planning to hike down to the river - but I've forgotten!

Again, I arrived at Relais 381 - the otherwise dismal place that offers only fuel on James Bay Road. I topped off the bike and went to get a bite in the cafeteria. After prior day's excitement, I just had a salad.

Like the day before: while I have been in the cafeteria, weather cleared and the sun came out. A great ride became better yet.

I reached Rupert River. Just as at the North Road crossing of the river, the falls were very impressive, but one could see signs how much bigger they were before the diversion.

I am rewarded with a pretty rainbow over the southern bank of the river.

And another one. Notice the old scars from forest fires.

And more dead trees. When the fires are burning, it must be very exciting there.

And more rainbows. The interesting aspect of long distance travel is the variable weather - often changing from rain to sun and back within a few hours.

Rainbows appear when the sun is approximately behind the observer while water droplets are suspended in the air ahead - and are particularly visible against dark background, such as that of dense storm clouds. On this trip, I saw a whole wonderful collection.

Another pretty phenomenon is the sight of rain spilling out of the clouds. With good lighting angle, it can be spectacular. Here, the rain is falling out of the backlit cloud directly ahead.

For an afternoon break, I pulled into one of the many rest stops, this one at a picturesque lake. Ibis was the last refill from gas cans - and the reason I brought them with me in the first place. According to my calculations, the two cans should have given me plenty of reserve for the 381km section without services.

Chastised by the high consumption on the way up, I have been running in "fuel economy mode", maintained a steady and smooth 65-75mph pace.

Did I write that the weather was variable? In the fifteen minutes of working with the fuel, the conditions changed from these:

To these:

Yet another rainbow. This one adds an extra treat: the second-order rainbow is clearly visible to the right.

Primary rainbow is the result of a single internal reflection of light in water droplets. The second-order rainbow is the result of a double internal reflection, therefore the incidence angle is wider and the colors are reversed.

More burned-out forests along the road.

The pavement is generally in very good condition. The occasional bumps or frost heaves are marked with a warning diamond sign.

The real mark of a bump is quite interesting: almost always, there is a line of black "smudges" across the road, as it can be seen a short distance past the diamond.

This is how it looks close up. What happens is that the big trucks, when running unloaded, will raise the third or fourth unused axle from the rear trailer carriage. The tires are suspended only a few inches away from the pavement. When coming across such bumps, they will often come into contact with pavement, leaving these black tire marks.

Here, the emergency phones are located ever few tens of kilometers and marked with this red sign.

The provincial telephone company, Telebec, operates microwave relaying towers and the emergency phones are patched into the traffic. The actual emergency phone is in the glass booth right next to the generator building.

Notice the height of this tremendous antenna mast!

And this is it! All good things come to an end - so does James Bay Road in the last rays of the setting sun.

Ahead lie Kilometer 0 and the town of Matagami.

Just before the very end, at kilometer 6, is the check-in post. Travelers going north are supposed to register with the guard. I came onto James Bay Road from the side, via the North Road, so the guard took my information now. Seeing me on the bike, he was all excited: twice called me back inside, offering local tourist brochures and marking up maps with pen, to show locations of fuel and of hotels in Matagami.

Kilometer 0. And the nighttime-riding theme continues.

I have been a good boy and rode from Relais 381 in a fairly economical and sensible mode, making sure that the fuel in the tank and in the two gas cans lasts me safely to Matagami.

About an hour before the end of JBR the remaining fuel looked good, so for that last stretch I reverted to some really high speeds. After all, I do not get such opportunities too often.

The level indicator was going down fast. Amazingly, exactly at the kilometer 0 sign, my fuel warning light came on. Thirty-something miles left - perfect timing! Just plenty enough to get to Hotel Matagami for the night.

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Old 10-02-2010, 05:33 AM   #20
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Nice RR. I road the JBH in late August of this year and was fortunate to have only one day of rain on the ride back south to Matagami. Brings back great memories to relive the adventure.
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Old 10-02-2010, 06:15 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by OldSilverFox
Nice RR. I road the JBH in late August of this year and was fortunate to have only one day of rain on the ride back south to Matagami. Brings back great memories to relive the adventure.

Tis a good RR fvor sure... looks like quite a few of us road the JBH this year!

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Old 10-02-2010, 07:02 AM   #22
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Maybe we should have a JBH reunion ???
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Old 10-02-2010, 07:07 AM   #23
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Thanks, guys. Finale is coming soon.

Originally Posted by OldSilverFox
Maybe we should have a JBH reunion ???
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Old 10-02-2010, 08:49 AM   #24
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Ah, memories

I did the exact route last year, but clockwise... We even stayed at the same place in Chibougamau.
For La Grande 2, you can take a guided tour, which we did - 16 generators in line are a sight!
We camped on your first Roupert river crossing, on the North road. Just before the bridge, there is a turn to the left, and we had a rustic site, with wood, and all that was super memorable. Shooting stars, and some small Northern Lights.
Another fun thing we did was to take the small ferry over to Fort George. Some Cree still live there in the summer for some of their festivals, only to go back to their houses when winter comes.
Very nice area which I am planning to visit again next year, there is something about the trans-taiga that I can not take my mind away from...
Nice report!
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Old 10-02-2010, 09:00 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by chilango
... Shooting stars, and some small Northern Lights... there is something about the trans-taiga ...
Yes, I was really hoping for the northern lights. Next season, then... And Trans-Taiga... sounds so inviting...
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Old 10-02-2010, 09:01 AM   #26
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Day 6 and a half.

Last installment.

September 20: Matagami to Northern NJ - 873 miles.

Morning in Matagami. The bike is relieved of at least some weight: the gas cans are not needed any more. Next fuel is 180km south, in Amos - and from then on, in normal, civilized intervals.

As I was unloading at Hotel Matagami (visible behind the pumps) the night before, I left the cans in front of an empty parking space. I went upstairs to write a note that the cans are "Free To Take" - but they were gone by the time I came back down. That was fast. Needless to say, I felt better when the receptionist let me roll the bike almost up to the office window, for more security.

Along the road from Matagami to Amos, the change of scenery was quite perceptible. The stark, lonely, forested landscape was slowly giving way to rolling hills and an occasional farm.

Along some southern sections of James Bay Road - and even more now, below Matagami - I observed a curious scene: it looked as if the land with fallen or harvested trees was plowed under. As if I was a Lilliputian in Gulliver's land and a humongous plow of the giants went through, breaking and plowing tree trunks like some grass stalks. Weird.

I pulled over to take the above picture and almost dropped the bike right there. By then, I was used to the well-graded and firm shoulders of JBR and did not realize that this was a soft gravel trap. Luckily, I almost finished my braking while still on tarmac - the instant I rolled off pavement, the front wheel dug in. My boots sunk as well, as I fought to regain balance. Wow, that was close.

I am guessing that such shoulder, in the same area, got the better of RockyNH earlier this season and caused his crash.
It certainly did surprise me.

Rolling into Amos. A feeling of re-entering civilization. Complete with an incongruously oversized basilica in the middle of town.

The main street featured a few cafés - finally, the first decent cappuccino of the trip!

I was definitely returning to civilization. About an hour south of Amos, I drove into a very busy town of Val-d'Or (Golden Valley). It is a big industrial center, with several mines operating in direct vicinity.

I parked in the main street to have a look around. While I was getting ready, a car pulled into the spot behind me. The woman driving it was extra cautious maneuvering around my bike, so I smiled at her in appreciation. Once she got out, the usual conversation ensued: where from, where to.

It must have taken a while for my story to sink in, while she stood in line at Tim Horton's across the street. Returning, coffee in hand, she walked up again and said in her broken English that she must have misunderstood what I told her. Where from? Chisasibi? We talked a bit more.

As she was driving away, she rolled down her window and exclaimed: "I would like to go with you!" Then, pointed at the camping gear strapped to the bike's passenger seat: "But there is no room!"

Wow. Wow! One of these once-in-a-lifetime chances, when an unknown, attractive female spontaneously volunteers to get onto the pillion seat and join you on an adventure! And it could not be done... I smiled back, nodded and replied: "Next time!"

In a great mood from this cute encounter in Val-d'Or, I continued south on Autoroute Transcanadienne.

It is my experience that Quebecois are very European in that respect: they do love motorcycles. Surprisingly many of them do ride and even the general public is very friendly. Apparently, there are not too many loud-pipe pirates around to piss them off.

After about three hours of riding through picturesque forests and water reservoirs, I came to a decision point. Should I continue southeast and return home via Montreal - where I visit quite often, most recently only a few weeks ago? Or, should I turn right, southwest, and go through Ottawa, which I did not visit in last two years?

Ottawa won - it's only a slightly longer route. Besides, what the heck is Montcerf anyway? I could not find it on my map.

Well, Montcerf was a tiny settlement on a great side road. Enjoyable ride. It was interesting to be entering the Anglophone area of Quebec. Signs were bilingual and, suddenly, I noticed a Canadian flag in front of a house. Only then I realized that in the past few days I have seen plenty of flags along the road - but these were always provincial white-on-blue fleurs-de-lis, not the federal maple leaf. Not even on the Hydro-Quebec office building in Radisson.

Route 105 into Ottawa was still picturesque, but now getting busy. I rode into Canada's capital by sundown.

As usual, Byward Market area offered a choice of places to eat (and drink... not this time, though). After a pleasant seafood dinner, I walked into Timothy's, just behind my parking spot, and over a big bowl of café-au-lait contemplated my choices.

There was no point in staying in Ottawa for the night anymore - I decided to press on, at least to Watertown, NY.
When I arrived there about midnight, I still felt good on the bike and the soulless collection of chain hotels and shopping strips did not make a great impression. Well, how about Syracuse, then?

Nearing Syracuse, I was effectively committed to continuing home overnight. I elected to ride on the NY State Thruway via Albany - instead of the 50-mile shorter route through Scranton - to have the rest stops with coffee and fuel available at all hours.

"Press on" was indeed the theme of this trip. Bike ran well and I did not feel uncomfortable. However, I started getting sleepy and wound up stopping at every second Thruway rest stop to stretch out and to doze off momentarily.

I reached my house in the morning and went straight to sleep. In the afternoon, as I unpacked the bike, I proudly read the trip meter: 873 miles, directly from Matagami in a day.

Of course, it was total insanity - but, just like the whole James Bay trip, gave me a great feeling of accomplishment.

A great ride!

rdwalker screwed with this post 10-02-2010 at 09:56 AM
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Old 10-02-2010, 09:44 AM   #27
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Nice pictures and great ride report.
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Old 10-02-2010, 10:17 AM   #28
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Glad to see you made it home safely. 800 plus miles in a day is a long ride by any means of travel. I have enjoyed you report. Thanks.
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Old 10-02-2010, 11:28 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by rdwalker

Next stop: kilometer 238 of Route du Nord, the famous Rupert River. A part of the James Bay Project, it was diverted late last year (2009) and now carries only about half of its original flow. The rapids are still impressive - they must have been spectacular before.

Summer of 2008, similar perspective....

and from the "observation point" along the James Bay Road, again July 2008

You have been warned.
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Old 10-02-2010, 11:43 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by rdwalker

Next stop: kilometer 238 of Route du Nord, the famous Rupert River. A part of the James Bay Project, it was diverted late last year (2009) and now carries only about half of its original flow. The rapids are still impressive - they must have been spectacular before.

Big difference and even when I was passed through last year I'd heard some diversion was occuring at that time. Circa 09/2009:

Kinda sad to see progress sometimes:

raging boiling mess of water!
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