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  • Life in the Sonoran Desert

    Our new home since February 1 has been at the QYB Ranch in Marana, AZ. We found out about this Hipcamp venue from Scott Shackelford our mobile RV Tech. What a gorgeous place to enjoy the Arizona sunset and sunrise! We traveled the 2.1 miles on a dirt road but it was relatively easy to get to the ranch and we were welcomed immediately by James. The spot is a flat sand/gravel base off the main dirt road and the full hookups make this a great stop. We set up the gas fire pit, solar powered torches, colored blue lights under the rig at night and enjoy the views of the night sky surrounded by multiple Saguaros. Sabrina, our hostess was very understanding and responded quickly when we explained our freshwater tank issue and worked with us to get the site scheduled. We've been in constant communication with Alliance RV back in Elkhart, IN regarding the needed repairs to our trailer. The big problem is the replacement 98 gallon freshwater tank is on backorder, and according to Tim at Alliance the Parts Department, the rest of the parts on the order will ship out Wednesday 2/8. So they will get to us about 2/15. Some of the minor parts were shipped to Scott, our amazing RV Tech, and arrived today Friday, February 3. Scott, is under the rig right now prefabricating a serious upgrade to the stringers that will hold the new tank. He showed me the material he's using and it is beefy steel angle iron! Scott has been awesome and he's a surprise blessing from God.. We're fortunate to have his craftsmanship and work ethic. Lippert, the manufacturer of the trailer frame purchased by Alliance, did a crappy job welding the stringers and used some wimpie materials on the undercarriage supports. Scott's solution will guarantee we never have this problem ever again. For now we are in the Tucson area for another two weeks, probably until Friday, February 17. Fortunately, we can still live in our rig while we wait for the repairs to be completed. We have no out of pocket expenses associated with the repairs. Alliance is paying for the parts and labor. Unfortunately, we will miss our first RVICS assignment in Texas. Karen and I were looking forward to participating with our fellow RV'ers. That said, we have other RVICS opportunities in the queue to do later this year. The weather in Tucson this time of year is lovely. For now it is time to enjoy the beautiful desert scenery. We have all year to see the rest of the country once repairs get completed.

  • Seeing the Desert Come Alive

    The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a 98-acre zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, natural history museum, publisher, and art gallery founded in 1952 that we visited on Monday, January 30 with our friends Greg and Tina Meals. Located just west of Tucson, Arizona, it features two miles (3.2 km) of walking paths traversing 21 acres of desert landscape. It is one of the most visited attractions in Southern Arizona. We enjoyed an informative one-hour docent guided tour on a short section of the extensive trail system within the outdoor grounds. I was fascinated to learn that the Sonoran desert has five seasons! The Sonoran desert, covering a large part of the southwestern US and Northern Mexico, basically divides its summer into two parts. “Fore-summer”, occurring in May and June, is very hot and very dry. “Summer monsoon season” follows it from July to mid-September and brings the region soaking rains. It is considered the major growing season. Surprisingly lush by desert standards, the Sonoran Desert is one of the wettest deserts in North America. This is due to the fact that winter is considered a second rainy season. While the precipitation that falls between December and January is generally not as intense as during the monsoon months, it tends to be more widespread. Overall, the region averages between 3 and 12 inches of rain a year. Spring and Fall are generally warm and dry. Along the way we were able to examine a variety of regional cacti, trees and succulents that live in the desert here in Arizona. Some of the indigenous animals in the museum included a beautiful Mountain Lion, a small herd of Javlinas, which is a peccary, a medium-sized, pig-like hoofed mammal (New World pigs), a Mexican Gray Wolf and a Coyote located in enclosures. Karen and I were thrilled to get to see Greg and Tina Meal, old friends from Santa Rosa, CA who recently transplanted to Tucson, Arizona. We spent over four hours enjoying the museum, eating lunch and catching up on our new lifestyles. We would recommend visiting this museum when in the Tucson area. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is beautiful and well laid out. Plan on doing some walking, so wear comfortable shoes and bring a refillable water bottle. Water stations are conveniently located throughout the facility.

  • Doomsday Machine Visited

    The Titan Missile Museum is the only remaining Titan II site open to the public allowing you to re-live a time when the threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union was a reality. Officially known as complex 571-7, this is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987. We visited this one-of-a kind museum on Saturday, January 28 and got a rare look at the technology used by the United States to deter nuclear war. What was once one of America’s most top secret places is now a National Historic Landmark, fulfilling its new mission of bringing Cold War history to life for millions of visitors from around the world. We went underground and back in time on the 45-minute guided tour. Descending 35 feet into the missile complex, visiting the launch control center, and experiencing a simulated launch of the missile. Then we journeyed down the cableway to level 2 of the missile silo to get an up-close look at the Titan II missile itself. This tour lets you experience Cold War paranoia and American ingenuity while walking in the footsteps of the brave men and women who operated America’s largest land-based missile ever deployed. The Titan II was capable of launching from its underground silo in 58 seconds and could deliver a nine megaton thermonuclear warhead to its target more than 6,000 miles (approximately 10,000 km) away in less than thirty minutes. For more than two decades, 54 Titan II missile complexes across the United States stood “on alert” 24 hours a day, seven days a week, heightening the threat of nuclear war or preventing Armageddon, depending upon your point of view. Each site consisted of a missile silo, a launch control facility, and an access portal. The sites were staffed 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, by 4-person missile combat crews who deployed to the missile sites for 24-hour shifts, called alerts. Each crew pulled an average of 8 to 9 alerts a month, meaning they often worked the equivalent of 5 weeks in a 4-week month. Crew members consisted of two officers — the Missile Combat Crew Commander (MCCC) and the Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander (DMCCC), and two enlisted personnel — the Ballistic Missile Analyst Technician (BMAT) and the Missile Facilities Technician (MFT). While in the launch control center during the tour I got to play the role of the Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander (DMCCC) in a simulated launch sequence. Sitting in that seat gave me a sobering sense of the weight these young people had on their shoulders. As we received the coded message by radio to initiate the launch procedure, my voice actually trembled as I spoke to the acting Missile Combat Crew Commander when we turned the launch keys simultaneously. Imagine the psychological pressure they would have had to actually go through? No amount of training could possibly prepare you for the reality of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers! This wasn't a movie set, this was the real deal! As a Navy veteran who served from 1972 to 1976, seeing this site truly drove home the reality of that period of history. I came away from the tour appreciating the literal miracle that we avoided a nuclear war or accident during the cold war era.

  • Making the most of our Extended Stay

    It's been a week since our abrupt arrival in the Tucson area. While waiting on a replacement freshwater storage tank for our RV we're making lemonade out of lemons. On Monday, January 23 we went on a scavenger hunt in Old Tucson with a good friend, Mary Johnson who drove up from Rio Rico, AZ for the adventure. It was a fun way to see some of the sights downtown and learn a little Tucson history. Tuesday, January 24 we joined Odie Hudalla and John Ontiveros for lunch at the Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain in Oro Valley. Odie has known me since I was 10 and was a co-worker of my mother and close personal friend of both my parents for over 50 years. They are still both sharp and active. John (88) and Odie (94) live in their home that is part of an active adult community with a golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool and many more activities. It was good to catch up and reminisce. Wednesday, January 25 we had to move our rig from the Valley of the Sun RV Resort to the Pima County Fairgrounds. Karen stayed with the rig after we moved to get set up and I took our truck to the RAM dealership in Tucson to begin the process of replacing a leaky rear timing gear gasket under warranty. From the dealer, I walked and took the local transit bus to Davis Monthan (DM) Air Force Base for my VA credential clearance to get on base, then took another bus to the Enterprise Car Rental office to rent a vehicle while the truck was in the shop and returned back to the fairgrounds to pick up Karen for our dinner date with Thom and Peggy Rooney. Thursday, January 26 we both returned to DM to get Karen's pass for the base. We drove to the on-base family RV Camp to check it out. Guess what? No RV sites available with full hook-ups and there was a waiting list. God had our backs in providing us the only full hook-up site left in the Pima County Fairgrounds! Out of 400 sites!! While on the base we stopped at the Exchange to do some shopping and get lunch. During our errands Jesse, the RAM dealer service advisor, called to tell us the repairs were finished. We shot back over to pick up the truck, no charge with the under warranty work, returned the rental truck and paid $47 for only one day. We killed the rest of the afternoon with a visit to the nearby Saguaro National Park. Fascinating place to see and visit. We ended the week with a bang! Oh boy, on Friday January 27 we took a road trip to Tombstone , AZ. We parked the truck and began to explore the town's three blocks of history. What did we do, you may ask? Paid $20 to see the re-enactment of the "Gun fight at the OK Corral", got a photo with Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan Earp and Doc Holiday, "I'll be your Huckleberry" on the dry, dusty street of Tombstone, and did an ole time photo in appropriate attire with Karen. What a blast! On the drive back to the RV we even stopped and tried some Arizona wine. Whew, what a week!

  • Biosphere 2

    Today, Sunday January 22 we attended Christian worship services at Casas Church. We were warmly welcomed and encouraged to relax, be yourself and freely connect with God in a meaningful way. We felt right at home and certainly had a heart full of gratitude and thanksgiving. We heard about the church from Scott and Holly the day before and got to say hello to them when we attended. After church we journeyed out to a very interesting venue just north east of Tucson: Biosphere 2. Here are some facts about the origin of the Biosphere project: • In the 1800s, the Biosphere 2 property was part of the Samaniego CDO Ranch. After several changes of ownership, it became a conference center in the 1960s and 1970s, first for Motorola, then for The University of Arizona. Space Biospheres Ventures bought the property in 1984 and began construction of the current facility in 1986 to research and develop self-sustaining space-colonization technology. • Two missions, between 1991 and 1994, sealed Biospherians inside the glass enclosure to measure survivability. Behind this highly public exercise was useful research that helped further ecological understanding. Several first-person accounts have been published by former crew members that provide different perspectives on the experiment. • In 1994, Decisions Investments Corporation assumed control of the property and Columbia University managed it from 1996-2003 and reconfigured the structure for a different mode of scientific research, including a study on the effects of carbon dioxide on plants. Columbia also built classrooms and housing for college students of earth systems science. • The property was sold June 4, 2007, to CDO Ranching and its development partners who then leased the property to UArizona from 2007-2011. The enclosure now serves as a tool to support research already underway by UArizona scientists. As a laboratory for large-scale projects, such as the Landscape Evolution Observatory, the university's stewardship of Biosphere 2 will allow the UArizona to perform key experiments aimed at quantifying some of the consequences of global climate change. A self-guided tour cost $23 each (with the senior discount!) and was well worth the money and time. If you're ever in the Tucson area we strongly recommend you take the time to see and experience this facility.

  • Arizona Adversity to Overcome

    Friday morning, January 20 started with a beautiful sunrise at Kim's home in Prescott, AZ. It had snowed during the night and our rig was covered with a light layer of two inches. We'd planned on a 9 AM departure, but getting the snow off the three retractable slides of the trailer was required before bringing them in. The extra time to accomplish this sweeping delayed our departure for Tucson, AZ. We said our goodbyes and were on the road by 9:20 AM carefully pulling the fifth wheel down the icy road. Once we made it to the more heavily traveled State Route 69 heading south to US Interstate 17, the road surface greatly improved and we made great time to Phoenix, AZ. The traffic was manageable through the city and the 17 eventually hooked up with US Interstate 10 as we continued south towards Tucson, AZ. Our trip was proceeding smoothly and we were making good time for our next overnight stay at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. We stopped for diesel fuel at a TA Fueling station in Eloy, AZ. About 12 miles north of the town of Marana, AZ , and just south of Picacho Peak State Park we observed a male driver in the left lane pass us frantically attempting to get our attention. Oh no, was our ladder or portable sewer tank loose? He changed lanes to get in front of us, so I followed him keeping a safe distance. He slowed and pulled off the highway on to the shoulder. We stopped and he runs back to our truck and tells us something was dragging from under our rig throwing out sparks. Not a good report. I thanked him for getting our attention and he proceeded on his way. It was almost 2 PM. I reluctantly walked back towards the rear of the fifth wheel to investigate the cause of his concern. What I found made my heart sink. The fresh water tank was on the ground behind the undercarriage on the passenger side of the trailer. The two supporting steel brackets, front and back had snapped off the frame. causing the source of the sparks. The underbelly liner was torn off under the tank and water was freely flowing out onto the asphalt. Karen got out of the truck to see what the calamity was all about and found me unhappy but calm. Now what to do? Karen got on the phone with AAA and I tried calling Alliance RV customer service back in Indiana. By the grace of God we were able get a message to the Alliance customer service department during business hours and 10 minutes later Leslie phoned to start our case file. Within 30 minutes she had Tim, an Alliance technical rep, calling to arrange for a local mobile RV Technician named Scott to come out to help us. Scott called and told us he was en route and would arrive within the hour. So we waited on the side of the highway in our beach chairs and ate cookies... because we deserved some comfort food! By 4 PM we were on the road again with our fresh water tank removed from under the rig, dangling equipment components strapped up for travel and Scott following us from behind as we limped into the Valley of the Sun RV Park 12 miles down the highway. Destination plans now changed and at a different RV park with full hook ups, we started counting our blessings: no accident, quick discovery of the problem, RV still drivable, prompt response by Alliance and the local RV technician, an available RV site at the last minute, and many more. Scott, our RV Tech and his wife Holly were God's provision for us. These two helped us get settled Friday evening and he returned Saturday morning to rewire the broken electronic leveling jack motor damaged by the dropped water tank. He took some additional photos and sent in the parts request to Tim at Alliance. Now we wait, spending some unexpected additional time visiting friends and sightseeing. God is keeping our hearts peaceful as we trust Him for the timing. We are learning to surrender our plans and embrace God's presence through these trials!

  • Sedona, AZ and The Palace Saloon

    We spent three days exploring with extended family in the Prescott area. Wednesday we visited with my cousins Ron and Linda Ross and had a great lunch at Rosa's Italian restaurant in Prescott, AZ. After lunch we added a quick visit to see my cousin Barbara's widow Bob Rose in Chino Valley, AZ just north of Prescott. Sadly, we lost my cousin Barbara (Ron's twin sister) back in December 2021 and it was important for us to stop by and see Bob. Thursday, January 19 would be our last full day, so Kim, Karen and I took a 2 hour road trip to Sedona, AZ to do some sightseeing. Kim got married to Bob Switzer in Sedona but hadn't been there for 10 years. She drove us in her Audi Quattro "Mafia Car" so we could enjoy the views. Sedona is as beautiful as advertised. We drove to the visitor center to get some information then to the Sedona Airport to have lunch at the Mesa Grill restaurant. We took photographs and drove around gathering information for a future trip to stay longer in Sedona and the Verde Valley. We headed back to Prescott for a dinner date with Kim's sister Stacy, her niece Dori and her three grand nephews Cayden, Everett and Ronin at the historic Palace Saloon on Whiskey Row. Although Whiskey Row was known for its many saloons, The Palace opened in 1877 and was much more than a fancy "watering hole". Men came in to check for notices of work available; it served as an election central for several political races and cattle spreads; and mineral claims were bought and sold over the bar. The Palace is still the oldest frontier saloon in Arizona and the most well-known and historic restaurant and saloon in the state. In the late 1870s, Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday were patrons of the Palace. Virgil and his wife Allie lived in Prescott where Virgil owned a saw mill at Thumb Butte and was Town Constable. Wyatt and his other brother, Morgan, visited Virgil in Prescott before they left for Tombstone. Doc was on a winning streak on Whiskey Row (possibly at The Palace) where he won $10,000 playing poker. He joined the Earps eight months later in Tombstone. On July 14th, 1900, The Palace was destroyed by the Whiskey Row fire. The ornately carved 1880s Brunswick Bar, which is still in use, was carried to safety across the street to the plaza by patrons.

  • Snowy and Cold Prescott, AZ

    We arrived at my cousin Kim's property in Prescott, AZ on January 17 in the late afternoon. The weather was predicted to get down to the high 20's at night so we didn't hook up water or sewer lines due to the possibility of them freezing. She has 50 Amp service which we did need to keep everything warm through the night. This was going to be a good test for Trinity in the cold. We had a lovely dinner Kim had prepared, and together caught up on life since our last visit in March of 2021. Karen and I got our "dog fixes" visiting with her two four legged companions Buddy and Chelsea. Kim offered her spare bedroom, but we opted to try sleeping in the rig in the cold weather and make sure everything worked right. We turned on our tank heaters and used both the gas furnace, fireplace heater and bedroom space heater to keep us warm through the night. I got up at 7:45 AM and the bedroom temperature was 60º F ,the main room was at 59.5º F and the battery compartment was at 43º F. Outside it was chilly 28.6ºF...burrr! The water system in the rig works fine. No frozen pumping. However, I think I'll shower in Kim's house instead of filling up our gray water storage tanks. Our rig is supposed to be four seasons and so far, so good.

  • RV Mecca in Arizona

    Quartzsite, AZ is a well-known meeting place for RV nomads from all over the country. Snowbirds enjoy the warm winters while camping in over 70 RV parks and 11,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA), plus five 14-day free dispersed camping areas. Thousands of acres of dispersed BLM camping draws upwards to a million visitors a year. From New Years until even after the RV Tent Show and Rock and Gem Show, the desert is littered with every imaginable recreational vehicle out there. We arrived in Quartzsite at 4 PM yesterday after losing an hour from the time zone change while heading east on Interstate 10, exiting at Highway 95 south. We turned east on Kuehn Road which turns into East Dome Rock Road. We pulled off onto BLM land and parked the rig in an area we had visited some years ago. Karen and I had passed through Quartzsite in the past but never during the peak RV season of January to March. We wanted to stop and experience the energy and scale associated with Quartzsite before continuing our journey east. Today is Monday, January 16 and MLK Day. Last night it rained again in the desert and the temperature has been in the high 50's at night and low to mid 60's during the daytime hours. Karen and I went exploring through the Tyson Wells show area south of the town where many of the exhibitors have their spaces. We did find some RV items we needed but nothing we couldn't get on Amazon or maybe Camping World for less money. Between the wet, cold weather and the fact that we are in between 2 big shows here, there aren't nearly as many people as we expected. Honestly, I don't get what the big deal is about this place. Sure you can camp for free up to 14 days with no hook ups and even stay longer at the LTVA venues, but the whole scene is like a giant, crowded flea market. Well, we can now say, "been there, done that" if anyone ever asks. I'm thinking that the appeal might make more sense with a group of RVer's traveling together. There's plenty of room to create your own compound and put the "wagons in a circle". I can see a big family group or a bunch of friends hanging out here, eating together, exploring the area and ending the day with a big camp fire at night. On Tuesday, January 16 we will journey to the Prescott, AZ area to see some of my extended family that live in the area. We're planing on mooch docking for three days at my cousin, Kim Penman Switzer's place.

  • We Say Goodbye to the Pacific Ocean

    After spending a week at the Del Mar Beach RV Resort we said goodbye to the west coast and traveled east to Anza-Borrego State Park for a couple of days. Bob and Gail Conrad were staying at the Palm Canyon Hotel and Resort so we booked two nights next to them in the RV park. The fee, $90 per night was too high in my opinion. They pulled a bait and switch by advertising $76 a night but don't disclose a $12 per night "resort fee" until you check in. Hummm! By the time you've paid the taxes, well you get the idea and this game they're playing. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a California State Park located within the Colorado Desert of southern California, United States. The park takes its name from 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, a Spanish word for sheep. With 585,930 acres that includes one-fifth of San Diego County, it is the largest state park in California. We arrived on Friday, January 13 by noon so after setting up we all took off to do some sightseeing before sunset. We drove out to Font Point to see the "badlands" looking towards the Salton Sea which lies 230 feet below sea level! It was an ideal vantage point to view this impressive expanse. The desert is an amazing place to visit. During our short stay we observed the earliest of flowers starting to blossom. The rain has come early but it will be at least a few more weeks before the spectacular "desert bloom" event occurs that brings thousands of visitors to witness. We were sufficiently fascinated with the variety of cacti and the impressive geologic scale of Anza-Borrego. After the two night stay we said our goodbyes to the Conrads and left Sunday morning, January 15 at 11 AM for our next destination: Quartzsite, AZ.

  • Living in a New Reality

    I slept great last night and woke up this morning realizing that even though we couldn't continue traveling on the schedule I created for this trip it was ok. Yes, we lost one nights reservation fee at Anza Borrego State Park but that might even be reimbursable with our truck repair extended warranty. After years of living by a calendar, a daily schedule with deadlines and a lengthy list of thing to do I fell into an emotional morass because we couldn't keep going to the next location on our trip. Today is a new day and the Lord reminded me as I was laying in bed that our trip plan is man-made and an artificial deadline. We're RETIRED.... more or less. We can go where we want, stay as long as we want and change our plans anytime we want. This new reality obviously is taking some getting use to and yesterday was a wake up call for me. We are learning how to live in this new flexibility and freedom to be spontaneous. Weird to think it would be so hard to accept but after years of a disciplined and scheduled lifestyle I think many of you might understand what this might be like. So Thursday, January 12 began with a cup of coffee, a banana and the view of the Pacific Ocean outside our back window watching the early morning surfers riding the waves offshore. Today it cleared enough to see both Santa Catalina and San Clemente Islands offshore. Not a bad way to start your day, right? We got a call from Bob at MasterTech around 12:15 PM informing us the alternator finally arrived. His technician would need a couple hours to install it and road test it before we could come by. So I stopped by the RV guest services office to extend another day here. We relaxed and did some revised trip planning with the expectation we would get the truck back in time to leave Friday morning. Karen spent part of the day working out details on the phone with Allstate regarding the rental car expense reimbursement procedures. MasterTech called us shortly before 4 PM to tell us the truck was ready to pick up. Yeah! The final bill for all the work came to $1370 and change. We paid $243.66 for our part and Allstate paid the balance. Thank God we purchased the extended warranty service coverage. So "Rambo" and "Trinity" are together again and we couldn't be happier. Tomorrow we will finally hit the road for the Anza-Borrego desert to spend two days with our good friends, the Conrads.

  • Change of Plans

    Six days ago I posted a blog titled, "Trifecta of Trials" where one of the issues involved a low voltage warning on our truck. While in Oceanside, CA I started contacting some local mechanic shops to inquire their availability to address this issue. On Monday, January 9 I was able to find a local mechanic who could do the diagnostics to evaluate what was wrong. On Tuesday, after getting a rental car (notice we can't tow with this), we dropped the truck off at MasterTech and waited for the call after the initial evaluation. We headed to visit Karen's Aunt Jean who now lives with her daughter Laura and son-in-law Vincent in neighboring Carlsbad. We had a great visit and it was good to see Jean who is 92 years young! While we were there, I heard from the shop at noon that our truck had a bad alternator and it would need to be replaced. The good news was the shop located a new replacement. The bad news was it would cost over $800! With our departure from Del Mar Beach RV resort scheduled for the next day we explained our situation to the Service Manager and he immediately ordered the part to arrive the next day. We were hoping the new alternator would arrive around 10 AM Wednesday morning and the repairs could be completed by noon. This would require a late checkout which we got lined up with the RV office, no problem. Wednesday morning we called Allstate Truck Warranty. When we purchased the truck we paid for the extended warranty anticipating this kind of costly repair might make it worth the cost in the long term. We spoke with a Rocky at Allstate and he helped us navigate the process. He informed us that the repair would be covered, less our deductible, and our rental car cost would be reimbursed. Great news and great service so we were encouraged! The bad news came later in the morning when Bob at MasterTech inform me the alternator was not on the parts delivery truck...serious bummer. We needed to cancel our two day reservation at Anza Borrego State Park because we would be stuck in Oceanside at least one more day, possibly two. Fortunately the Del Mar Beach RV resort could accommodate us, so we'll take it one day at a time. I guess if we have to be struck with this view out our back window, I shouldn't complain too much. Better than a shopping center parking lot next to the freeway in the rain! I was looking forward to camping with our good friends Bob and Gail Conrad in Anza Borrego with their new trailer and that still might happen. We're hoping and praying the alternator arrives tomorrow morning, the repairs get completed and we continue on to the desert. Stay tuned for more of the adventures of Trinity!

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