Posted by: rustymccain | August 7, 2011

A Last Thank You….for now

Well, it has been a little over a week since we finished our journey. The full magnitude of our adventure will not settle in for some time. This was truly an adventure of a lifetime. There were so many things that we did that were life-changing, life-affirming or life-threatening that it is going to take a while for it all to bubble to the surface.

I cannot thank all the people who have given us support. This started out as a bucket list thing for two guys. We had a very tight circle of friends and family who humored us to the point of unwavering support. However, over the eight weeks of the adventure, that circle grew immeasurably.

In the scheme of things, what we did was not a big deal. But, because we chose to do it, it became a big deal. One of the lessons driven home was the idea that, whatever you choose to do, should be done with all you’ve got.

Another lesson was that every day, every single person has a chance to make a difference in someone else’s life. I know that because every interaction we had, whether phone calls, email, texts, conversations or comments on the blog, touched us and helped us reach our goal. In essence, Ray and I did not ride alone. It seems that we were just on a really big group ride.

There are a lot of thoughts, happenings and lessons learned that I just didn’t have the time, or perhaps energy to write. I hope to record some of those things over the next month or two. I don’t know what the final product will be, but I look forward to reliving a wonderful trip.

For those who contacted us via the post or email, I will use the next month to contact you to thank you. For everyone else, please accept my thanks for being a part of a once in a life-time adventure. I only hope that I can pay it forward. I will try my best.

Posted by: rustymccain | July 30, 2011

Final Comments from Ray

I have not been able to write final comments, but will soon.  Ray has written some things that I would encourage everyone to read. Check out Ray’s page. Not only is he an animal on the bicycle, he has a really big heart.

Posted by: rustymccain | July 28, 2011

The Day After

Today was a day of withdrawal.

Due to traffic problems, Mary Ann and Gail did not arrive until well after midnight last night. It is really good to have them here. We would never have done this without their total support. Their support has been nothing short of spectacular and it is good for them to be here at the finish. Ray and I both stayed up for them, some 6 hours past what has been our regular bedtime. Even with that change, I went to breakfast at a little after 6:00 and sure enough, Ray and Gail walked in to greet me. While we need a big rest, it felt a little weird today for us not to ride.

In the Brine

We were going to drive over to Virginia Beach for a photo-op, but since the official end of the TransAmerica is the harbor at Yorktown, we decided to go back down the waterfront at Yorktown to dip our toes into the water there. Our reasons were two-fold. One, as mentioned, was that this is the official ending spot. The other, however, was that Carlie and Becky, our two young co-adventurers we met on the side of a mountain in Utah, were going to be cruising into the finish line this morning. These two have become a big part of our trip as we have shared a lot of the triumphs and tribulations with them. They have really been disciplined and tough. Their enthusiasm has helped us make it to the finish line ourselves. And, my guess is that they will be a part of our extended family for years to come. They are the best!

So, we all took a really interesting tour of old Yorktown and waited for the girls to arrive. When they did, the first thing they did was run to the beach and jump into the water. Carlie said, because it was salt water, it was like jumping into a sweatbath, but no matter, it is a sweet finish to an amazing adventure. We were all really proud of them.

Becky, Rusty, Carlie, Ray

The only thing missing for us was Phil, Dave, Pete and Gary, whom we first met as we headed up to Carson Pass on the first few days of our trip. As I have stated before, there is a certain connection that you get with someone when you are on a quest like this. I cannot speak for them and they may disavow any knowledge of us. However, I can speak for Ray and I. We have a tremendous amount of respect for them, not just for what they have done, but for the kind of people they are. We are headed home now, but the only regret I have is not being able to hug those guys when they get to Yorktown. I hope that our paths will cross again. My life is better, having met them and spent time with them.

I have a lot to process. I will probably make another post or two. There are a lot of people I would like to thank and a lot of thoughts about this experience. I will try to get those together. Some people have mentioned a book. I don’t know if that will ever happen. But, in the book of my life, every person who has encouraged us on this journey has their own special page. And for that, I cannot thank you enough. If you have made comments, emailed or in any other way helped us, I will get in touch with you, I promise.

My Finishing Prize!

And just so you know, we do have another adventure up our sleeve. We ain’t dead yet! Keep in touch….

Posted by: rustymccain | July 27, 2011


I really can’t believe this!

Today was an AWESOME day! Our celebration actually started last night. We found a Ponderosa Steak House that had a buffet. Paydirt! We figured, what the heck, a few extra pounds won’t hurt us. So we ate…and ate….and ate. Who knew that you could actually be asked to leave a restaurant. So, we left, called a cab to take us to our hotel next door and tried to get some sleep. I don’t know about Ray, but I actually was so excited that, even in my completely fatigued state, it was hard to fall asleep.

Ray woke up about an hour early this morning. He was like a kid at Christmas. He was up and ready to ride in 35 seconds. I, on the other hand, was like Dad at Christmas. I almost told him to get back in bed or all the presents would be sent back to Santa. But the excitement of our final day started jazzing me up as well, so I started what has become a daily routine of making sure I have everything packed, on my bike and ready to go.

Capital to Capital Bicycle Trail

I got my coffee and went outside to call Mary Ann. The day was already warm, but bright and beautiful. We had a quick breakfast at the motel. It appeared that we would have a lot of stops along the way, so we didn’t eat a lot. Due to the heat and a projected distance of over 100 miles we got an early start. Since we stayed in the Richmond vicinity last night, most of the first hour or so of riding was a little hectic, with lots of traffic.

It also was a little disjointed. We have pretty much had the same agenda every day. Today we didn’t. We were going through an area rich in history. The old Social Studies teacher here wanted to read every historical marker, and there seemed to be one around every corner. On the other hand, Ray had one goal and that was to get to Yorktown and the end of the TransAmerica trail! So, we played yo-yo for much of the morning.

Colonial Parkway near Jamestown, VA

The temps were hot, but the humidity was low as we circled the Richmond area and moved south toward the James River. So, with flat land and little wind, we were really enjoying the ride. When we got about 50 miles out, we hit the Capital to Capital Bicycle Trail and the ride got even better. The trail will eventually go all the way from Jamestown to Richmond. While only parts are now complete, the riding on it is nice.

We cruised down to the settlement of Jamestown, then hit the Colonial Parkway. This road, between Jamestown and Yorktown, is very much like our Natchez Trace so we again had beautiful, easy riding, much of it right on the shore of the James River. We hit colonial Williamsburg and got off the Parkway to cruise through downtown. I needed some food, so we found a cafe right near William and Mary University and I ordered a hot dog and fries. Ray just ordered a drink. I realized that his agenda was still intact. While I ate, he was like a puppy, pulling on his leash the whole time.

Giddy near the James River, VA

So, I ate pretty quickly and we got back on the road. We high-tailed it to Yorktown and rode into the historic little village as giddy as teenagers. We followed the TransAmerica course to its official end, at the base of the Victory Statue in Yorktown and let the celebration continue. As we looked out over the water toward the Atlantic, the good fortune we have had began to sink in even more than it already has. It was a sweet moment. And while all our friends and family couldn’t be there, we met a very nice couple there who were visiting from California. They got so excited about our trip and were so much fun, they became, to me, representatives of everyone who has been so kind and so supportive of us. It was a great end of the official trail.

Me with a very special friend

For the record, today’s ride was 105 miles. That gives us about 3,700 for the entire trip. The girls arrive tonight. Tomorrow we will ride the wife ferry over and dip our wheels in the Atlantic. I will have a report tomorrow, then within the next couple of days, post some closing thoughts and some words of thanks.

In the meantime, thanks for checking in. The whole thing has been fun. Today was awesome.

Posted by: rustymccain | July 26, 2011

Kicking Ashland!

Last night we stayed adjacent to the campus of the University of Virginia. Charlottesville is a special town for me. If I could choose one historical figure with whom to have dinner, Thomas Jefferson would certainly be in the running for that choice. And to be in the town where “his” university is and near his home was a treat.

George Rogers Clark near UVA

Obviously, we are in a historic area, so today we took what seemed another history tour on bicycles. I am including a picture of a statue commemorating George Rogers Clark. Convoluted thinking, but we think it is appropriate that we are near the finish and see a statue of the father of William Clark, of Lewis and Clark. For those of you who have followed our adventure, our first escapade was to Meriwether Lewis Park on the Natchez Trace. Fitting to us that we have that connection near the end of our ride.

The weather has become a “hot” topic of conversation in the last few weeks. From Kansas until today, just about everyone we have talked to has mentioned the weather. Just about all of the conversations end with something like, “This is the hottest summer we have ever had!”. Generally, people are very friendly, but they think we are nuts for being out in this heat. Today was no different as no less than 5 people expressed that sentiment on some part of our ride. We are beginning to side with their evaluation of us!

Near Charlottesville, VA

Today we started heading southeast. We had a bit of a hectic time getting out of Charlottesville, but soon we were on the rolling hills and making progress. We are dead tired but otherwise in pretty good shape. My buttitis has gotten somewhat better. By the way, for those who are interested, I got some samples of Chamois Cream from Britton at Gran Fondo. The brand name is Enzo’s Button Hole. It is a good chamois cream that has a touch of menthol. The first time I tried it the menthol gave me a bit of a “hello!”, but it has turned out to be a very good product. My butt and I agree that we would both recommend it.

Buttitis aside, we made good progress this morning despite the heat. Ray did make a good friend, but we never got his name, so Ray called him, “Highway”. I took a picture of him and Ray at a store. I think they got along well because Highway was old and friendly. Note, I did not say “also” to end that sentence. I am just saying there was a reason they got along well.

Ray and Highway

Later in the ride, we passed several old farms and churches. I was really thinking a lot as we rode today of how things must have been for folks when those farms and churches were first established. Then we rode by Scotchtown. Scotchtown is the house that was once owned by Patrick Henry and was the place where he lived when he made his famous quote, “Give me liberty or give me a at least a new bicycle!” Of course, Mr. Jefferson didn’t think that was dramatic enough, so I think they changed the final draft to something else.

Riding near Ashland, VA

Later, we cruised into Ashland, VA, home of Randolph-Macon College, where we will spend our last night before Yorktown. We are really excited that we have made it this far. Tomorrow, we do our final long ride. We think it will be about 100 miles from here to the official finish at Yorktown, VA. We plan to ride at a leisurely pace as the jerseys have all been decided. Ray has snared the White jersey of best young rider and the Green jersey for sprinters. I have secured the Polka Dot for mountains and we are tied for the Yellow. We have a gentleman’s agreement that we will share the yellow and cross the finish line together tomorrow. The next day, we will take the ceremonial ferry and ride to the Atlantic.

Wish us luck as we try to wrap up this great adventure!

Posted by: rustymccain | July 25, 2011

Up and Over the Blue Ridge

We have been seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains for a few days now. They have always been a little to the east of us, just looming. While we suffered over the rolling hills near the Shenandoah Valley, they seemed to just stand there, pointing and laughing. Little did they know that we had one more punch left in our legs. Well, not really a punch but more like a slap. Well, not really a slap, but we both still have 2 legs.

We left Lexington this morning into another day that promised heat, humidity and one last tough, steep climb. The fog was back, making the early morning not quite as hot early on. However, the course started with climbing, as the foothills of the Blue Ridge told us what to expect on the day.

After 5 miles, we turned onto a river road that was a steady, slow climb for about 10 miles. The slope was very gentle, the river was gorgeous and the fog kept the heat in bay, so the riding was really nice. We were able to ride side-by-side with almost no traffic. Knowing what was coming, we settled into an easy pace and saved whatever was left in our legs. We took the time to talk about trivia, since we have already solved all the world’s problems on this trip.

Conquering our last climb

We reached our first rest area and found no open stores. This was not a good thing as we were getting ready to climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and didn’t know when our next service would be. So, we found a local church and filled our bottles, hoping they wouldn’t mind or at least would forgive us for not asking.

We were in the village of Vesuvius. As soon as we left, the road turned up. The climb up to the parkway was tough, there were times our poor legs were screaming. I remember pulling so hard on my bars that my front tire came off the ground several times on the climb. The heat was building and occasionally I was thinking about looking for hand-holds. But, just like before, we kept turning the pedals over and we eventually saw the welcomed sign indicating the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The next 25 miles or so were on the Parkway. Not easy, but beautiful. We had guessed that the elevation being at around 3,000 feet would not affect the temperature. We were very pleasantly surprised! The temperature was several degrees cooler on the Parkway and the breeze was also noticeably cooler. We enjoyed the break in the heat.

Shenandoah Valley from BRP

As we got toward the end of the Parkway, we pulled into a Visitor’s Center. There we made some new friends. Steve and Tim were just getting started on an adventure. They, along with Carol in the support car, were going to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway to the southern terminus in the Smokies. They were experienced long distance cyclists and it was good to hear some of their stories and their wisdom. All 3 were such nice people and were great to talk with. We wish them well on their trip.

New Friends Tim, Carol and Steve

After that, we cruised on down the mountain and headed to Charlottesville. We finally found a store and stopped and I got what has become my favorite ride food, a convenience store hot dog! I just can’t figure out why, with such smart food choices, we haven’t lost any weight. From there we were chased into Charlottesville by a rainstorm, but we escaped it and made it in, high and dry, making a 70 mile day in the Blue Ridge.

Tomorrow we start heading southeast. We should be able to make Yorktown, on the Chesapeake Bay on Wednesday. Yorktown is the official end of the Trans-America route. Gail and Mary Ann will meet us there. On Thursday, we will ferry our bikes across the James River and do the ceremonial final day ride to the Atlantic, complete with Champagne.

We are not there yet, but, we are still in high spirits, feeling pretty good physically and continue to feel very blessed to get all the support we have been getting from friends and family. By the way, those people who have commented whom we have not met….we consider you in the “friends” category! Thanks for checking in.

Posted by: rustymccain | July 24, 2011

Washington and Lee and Ray and Me

Today’s ride got off to a great start. I mentioned yesterday that we (or I should say “I”) decided to try an interstate ride. Today was nothing like that. We got off to a little earlier start due to the excessive heat and long distance in the hills of the Shenandoah Valley. Our motel was a little off the mapped course, so we worked our way back to the course and enjoyed a flying downhill ride for the first mile. Life was good. Then we got to the bottom of the hill and it just didn’t feel right so I stopped Ray. After a 5 minute team meeting, we realized we were right on course. However, we were going toward San Francisco. Not a good thing, So we had to climb back up the hill we just rode to get back to mile 0. Not the best of starts, but we finally got it straight.

Riding near Christiansburg, VA

Within 5 minutes, we were in the country again. It was a very warm but another beautiful morning for us to enjoy. We are both totally worn out, so the going was slow and we settled into a pace that both could handle and just enjoyed the ride, knowing we would eventually roll into Lexington, our goal, some 90 miles away.

Sunday morning traffic was super light which made for a comfortable ride. We ran into a lot of cyclists. However, none of them were touring. They were all roadies. We figured that we were on one of the popular local courses. While we did not stop to talk, it was still good to see them all.

Farm near Catawba, VA

We had no services for the first 28 miles or so of our ride, but we did stop at the village of Catawba, just to rest for bit. While there, a lady drove up to ask directions and we made a new friend. Miki is a really nice person who was searching for the location of the wedding of a friend. We were able to help her because we had just been on the road she needed. She was very encouraging to us about our ride. She is a professor at Vassar College. What are the odds of meeting a Vassar College Professor on the back roads of Virginia on a Sunday morning while riding bikes? Great fun.

We rode on, eventually making it on to the village of Buchanan. Along the way we ran into several old farms that had signs that read like a history book; Circa 1778, Circa 1802, Circa 1848. It is amazing to see all of the history. One particularly beautiful home was Circa 1806 and it was right beside the interstate. I couldn’t understand that, with all the land available to them in 1806, why would they build right by the interstate? Go figure.

Near Dalewood, VA

The weather was heating up, clouds were building toward afternoon thunderstorms and we were dead tired, but we kept turning the pedals over. Soon, we were cruising into the town of Lexington. Lexington is a lovely, historic town and home to Washington and Lee University and VMI. Really a treat to see all the history there. It looks like a town to make a note for a re-visit and spend some more time there.

Ruggedly handsome dude I met riding

We made the long day. By taking a few chances and getting a bit off the map, we saved a couple of miles and ended up with 90 miles for the day. Tomorrow, we try to squeeze out one more huge climb up and over the Blue Ridge mountains. After that, we should be able to start thinking about…the next day. One day at a time. We are still in good spirits. Wish us luck tomorrow!

Posted by: rustymccain | July 23, 2011

A Weekend with Virginia

The Virginia countryside is really amazing. This part of our ride is more like a history tour than a bicycle tour. Every town and village has reminders of a very active past. This holds true from the tiniest villages that have been long since been slowly suffocated by the nearby interstate to the larger cities that have survived and thrived. Only on a bicycle will you see a lot of this history.

As I mentioned yesterday, it is humbling to see where so many others have lived their lives, some to a historic end that we may all know, but many others just living their lives. All of it makes you just that much more curious to know more. I have learned that someone could spend their entire life simply travelling and learning just small parts of the rich history of this country.

Wildflowers near Wytheville, VA

Enough commentary on life, I will move on to today’s ride. We kept the adage intact that “there are no easy rides.” Tomorrow’s ride we figure to be close to 100 miles. Then on Monday we cross the Blue Ridge with a massive climb. I am thinking the Trek electric-assist bicycle would be a great option for me at this point. But alas, pedaling is still the only option we have.

With two hard days coming up, we had hoped that today was going to be an “easy” ride of 55 miles or so. It was a beautiful ride, it was a fun ride, but it was not an easy ride! Looks like we are going to finish this adventure with none of those. I am not complaining, but it is one of the lessons we have learned on this trip. Riding day after day, not knowing the terrain, and carrying everything you need with you on the bike requires a much different mindset that preparing for the group ride on a weekend. I think we have made the adjustment pretty well, but it has been an adjustment.

Near Newbern, VA

Today was filled with rolling hills in the beautiful Western Virginia countryside. There was enough climbing to challenge our tired legs. We have gotten to the point where sometimes we simply say, “That hurts”. That is all the energy we can muster. The other guy usually just grunts agreement. However, we made some great memories. One was riding on a road that was filled with wildflowers on both sides and two mountain ranges in the distance. The other was riding for 3-4 miles right beside the New River into Radford, VA. And yet another was the Number 1 combo at Arby’s when we pedaled into Radford.

Thunderstorms were building as we cruised into Christiansburg, so we were anxious to find our motel. It was a little off route, so we had a little trouble finding it. You might say a lot of trouble since I caught myself riding down the entrance ramp into an interstate. I turned to tell Ray we had made a mistake, but he was at the top of the ramp. He is a little smarter than me.

Near Max Meadows, VA

We made it to our destination, a ride of 56 miles in dry weather. We had time to do laundry today. We needed that. Buzzards were starting to point us out to each other and dive-bombing our bags. The next two days will be a challenge, but then it’s all downhill to the beach! Thanks to all of you who are reading and commenting. We hope to be able to thank you individually in person or via email when this is all done. Your support has made a fun adventure a great adventure!


Posted by: rustymccain | July 22, 2011

Later Hayter

We woke up in a fog this morning. I know, I know, most of our friends would say that we wake up in a fog every morning! But we were in a fog in two ways. First, the cumulative fatigue had made us both a bit weary, so getting going was a little tough. Outside, there was a real fog. It was thick and a bit worrisome for us as we contemplated our day. On the one hand, a fog meant that the heat might be held in check. With heat warnings out over most of the eastern U.S. the thought of riding 70 miles in the mountains was troubling. Remember, I am Mr. Daunted. So, from that standpoint, we welcomed the fog. But the lack of visibility was scary. We were not concerned that we couldn’t see, but concerned that someone couldn’t see us.

Near Rosedale, VA

Luckily, the route we were riding started on a four-lane road, but turned off onto a country lane after only 2 miles. We have ridden on so many country lanes on this trip that you would think that it might get a little old. However, it seems like every road has its own personality and its own beauty, so it never gets old. Today was special because, as we were riding down this back-road, we saw several historical markers. Though none of them would have much significance to a large majority of people, it makes you think about all the history an area holds. Many of these markers date back to the time of the American Revolution. It is very interesting to think of all the people who have come before us and to see the same land they walked, and in some cases, the homes in which they lived.

The first part of the ride was relatively easy with rolling hills. It was refreshing to ride through the fog and see the countryside just open up as we rode. Then we came to our first big climb of the day near Clinch Mountain. It was a nasty wake up call. For those who ride, this climb was looked exactly like climbing 3 mile hill in Percy Warner Park. The only difference is that this climb was about 6-8 times longer. It was difficult but beautiful. Down the other side of the mountain, we were flying. It was really scary with lots of hairpin turns. Then we settled down into some more rollers as we pedaled into Hayter’s Gap. (All you Hayter’s out there, they have a gap named after you!)


The fog was lifted by the time we got to Meadowview. We got on a road that paralleled Interstate 81 for the last 45 miles or so of our ride. Though traffic was a bit hectic, long lines of visibility made things seem a little safer. We stopped in the town of Marion for a snack a little before noon. Then we hit the road again just as a thunderstorm hit. But it was just a baby and we rode out of it after about 3 miles, then about 3 miles later, we ran into another one, this one complete with lightning. It was a big dog. And you know me and dogs. We decided to sit this one out, found a store and had more health food. Most of you now know what that means…something that is 100% processed and has sugar in it. We sat and watched the storm pass over.

When the thunderstorm passed, the result was that the oppressive heat we had feared was held at bay. Therefore, our last 18 miles into Wytheville over rolling hills ended up being pretty easy and pretty fast. We cruised though downtown Wytheville, which is just another beautiful little hometown, and found a motel the has actually been updated in the past 40 years so we are back in the lap of luxury in Wytheville, VA.

73 miles for the day. Back on track to make it to the coast by next Thursday or Friday.I apologize for our lack of pictures, but internet access here makes it almost impossible to upload. We are glad the real fog lifted and we think the personal fogs that we were in yesterday have lifted some. We both felt better at the end of the ride today than we did at the beginning. Total mileage, 3,285 so we think around 500 miles left to go! This is fun.


Posted by: rustymccain | July 22, 2011

Dr. Ray and Captain Alpo

Dr. Ray and Captain Alpo woke this morning in an indecisive mood. We weren’t sure how my leg would be. We kept the wrap on it from last night since it was difficult to get the bleeding stopped yesterday, despite the best efforts of Dr. Ray. However, my biggest problem was not the leg, but the complete fatigue from 2 consecutive days of nearly 100 miles a day in mountains and heat.

We had a few options. One was to take a full rest day at the Breaks. Breaks is an interstate park right on the Kentucky/Virginia border. And, like state parks in Tennessee, it is very nice and would be a great place to take a rest day. However, we hate to burn a day with the Blue Ridge mountains staring at us. So we split the difference. We decided to ride about 40 miles today and see if we could make some progress, but allow time for some rest.

The Breaks, VA

The ride was great for the first 1.57 miles! We started at the top of a mountain and right from the start we were coasting. But what we have learned is not, “What goes up must come down”, but rather, “What goes down must go up twice as far”. At least that seems to be the truism of this trip. While the route was short today, it did not lack climbing. We remembered a really tough climb out of Berea called Big Hill. We were not encouraged when we saw the map today and saw that one of our climbs was up Big Mountain.

But, the morning clouds kept the temperature manageable and we were able to make decent time and enjoy our first full day in Virginia. During the first part of our ride, the countryside was very much like the area of Eastern Kentucky that we just left. The hills were steep, wooded and very tight. In other words, there were not expanding vistas and broad valleys. It is a very rough landscape with not a lot of land available for development, whether on a large-scale with a town, or for individuals trying to carve out a home place. This type of environment also makes the going tough for us and the traffic.

Countryside near Honnaker, VA

Then all of a sudden, beginning at the top of Big Mountain, a switch seemed to be flipped yet again and the Blue Ridge mountains could be seen in the distance. There were wide valleys and gorgeous long-range views. We flew down into the town of Honnaker, VA, then took a break before climbing the last little bit into the town of Rosedale.

Here, we are in a motel museum. It is a motel that appears to have been built in the 1950’s and has not been touched since. We found out after we checked in that it is listed as closed on our maps. It certainly would not do for most normal people. But Carson, the old fella who runs it is a really sweet soul. Just talking with him is a treat. Meeting him will make up for the lack of luxury and is another brick in the great memory wall we are building.

We are altering our original plan just a bit by staying here without adding a day. We still have that day in our back pocket in case we need it. We hope to make it the Wytheville tomorrow and will be right back on schedule if we can do that. It is hard to believe that we have only 7 rides before we hit the Atlantic. If all goes well, we will get there next Thursday. However, we have to focus on today, so right now, I am going to rest, consult with Dr. Ray, and get ready to rock on tomorrow!

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