LETíS SEE NOW - 11 DAYS, 2100 MILES, 4 RACES AND A WHOLE LOT OF FUN ON A RARE ROAD TRIP FOR THE WAGS!!!
September 11, 2018
Every year I try to go to Calidtoga because, simply stated, it is a great adventure and racing event. Now that I am retired, seeing the people is more important to me and the annual Vermeil 2-day show fits the bill. Forget that I have different requirements and goals now. In my race chaser days, it was always planned around where the races were, who would gather along the way, where we would eat and how I would present it to the Wagtimeís readers when I got home. I always tried to get it out as soon as I could, but today, itís already out there, so my speed these days is unimportant. I miss the story telling about what I saw with adding pics from my camera. In todayís world there are no writers out there telling me what happened behind the scenes when I am not there, and thatís sad!
Here are the trip pics click here to view. For Steve Lafond's Banquet and other Caistoga fotos Click here to check it out.
Today I have to make sure my back is ready to travel before making plans. When I first injured it a few years ago, it took a while to get them to fix it (with a ďblockĒ shot that kills the sensors that send the pain message to the brain). Now when it gets cranking, I usually can manage with Aleve for a while. If it gets bad again, I go get another block shot. Itís been 16 months since the last shot and thatís unusual they tell me. Anyway, I canít travel when itís killing me, so I manage it best I can. Losing 30 pounds has probably helped.
My plan for Calistoga each year is usually to go by Menden, NV to visit the Darliní Dils and former CRA driver Buster Venard, if he is around. But, Darleen suffered some serious injuries recently, enough she couldnít button her blouse one handed, and so I did a different plan and will see her later. My electric scooter has been a pain the last two years after replacing the batteries back then, so my first stop was a 600-mile jaunt directly to the Scooterland store to find out why itís a problem since they were the one that replaced the batteries. Last year it quit on me at Calistoga after the Sunday night race and Don ďTheĒ Barber pushed me to my car to load it up and that was embarrassing. I was up and on the road at 5 AM Thursday before the race and was at the scooter shop in about 8 hours. It took 2 hours for them to tell me the batteries were fried and the genius who would prove it wouldnít be there for 2 more hours. EGADS I had some time on my hands!
The next part of my plan was to go visit with Steve and Kim Lafond and do dinner and start the trip off right. Yes, Steve was home doing some work on his pictures, so we chatted until Miss Kim came home. We went to Henryís Hi Life restaurant which was a short trip from his house. I have been there before, and the steaks are awesome, so it was good to reacquaint myself with their New York Steak that is a favorite of mine. Steve ordered me a beer and I could take 10 minutes explaining it, but letís just say it is the best beer I ever tasted! It is a Milk Stout with Nitro and pretty tasty. They shoot nitro in the glass of beer and I will be scouting out Vegas for more of this stuff, what a beer drinker am I?
We sat in the bar so the two lovebirds could have fun with the bartender and we had a great dinner and a lot of jabbering. Steak, baked potato, mushrooms, a spot of broccoli with some great toasted bread dipped in a red sauce that made it all good. Afterwards, it was back to their home for more visiting and getting ready for the weekend. I got a call from the scooter shop and they confirmed I would be buying about $ 380 worth of batteries, no surprise there? And they said it was my fault because I didnít use it enough, charge it enough or some excuse you get when you have no clue about right or wrong. I could have picked it up then if I wanted, but my imbibing said the next morning would be soon enough.
Since Steve and Kim would be heading to Calistoga also, they took off as I left to get my scooter. We had plans to meet for lunch, but the shop didnít open until 10, and they were late opening? It took a while for them to move all the other bikes that they packed in the room for overnight. Oh, and surprise, it wasnít ready, so another 30 minutes to bolt up the thing and I was on my way. Do you sometimes feel like youíve been taken for a ride? I certainly did that day. There are few places to get this scooter serviced, so Iíll have to look hard for my next check-up.
The trip to Calistoga was easy with my Garmin moving me along in heavy but not too bad holiday traffic, yet I was late for lunch, so I grabbed a bite before I got there. I arrived and went directly to Dick and Sue Fryís rig where I always park my car and charge my scooter when it goes low and hang around when dinnertime comes as they feed a bunch each night. Dick has taken care of me on Calistoga tickets for years, and also did the Chili Bowl tickets until I quit going there a few years ago. We visited for a while as a few came by including the Lafondís.
My night was planned at the Calistoga Banquet and Hall of Fame Induction that was happening at 5 pm. When I headed over there, it was time to mingle with a lot of racers and other involved people that attend every year. It is a big crowd and first you mingle, maybe have a drink and chat and check out the auction items and old racecars lined in the building. I got in some time with Jimmy Oskie, Shane Carson, and a bunch of other famous guys. What Oskie has done for the CRA for many years is amazing as he is available to any drivers who need his help, and heís always given them that since he retired. He says itís giving back in his case, and he is right! Shane Carson is connected to the WOO and is always on the road and doing his own ďgiving backĒ routine. Shane is a special person always on the go and happy to be there.
They inducted 11 people into the Calistoga Hall of Fame during the evening. There were lots of patting backs and educating us to what those people did for their club, which is NARC, back in the day. The acceptance speeches went from Kenny Woodruffís very, very, very short thank you to Darrell Hanestadís extended 30-minute collage of stories about his racing days. In between they all were pleased to be recognized, except Steve Kent who couldnít make it. Even though I am out of my realm with these heroís, I still enjoy watching them feted and will keep coming back. Others inducted in addition to those above, were Cliff Blackwell, Tom Brazil, Rich Forsburg, Augie Grube, Norm Paul, Bob Pool and Gary & Fred Ponsini.
I was able to visit with a lot of familiar faces and enjoyed their responses. Joy Paulson was in the house and since I donít get to see her very often we had a good visit. She looked great and was here to see her grandson Gary race. The food was very good with beef and chicken that tasted great as we chowed down. I even had a few words with Dick Vermeil who is a key part of this event. As the night wound down, it was time to park my scooter at Dicks, and they were asleep, and head to the Barberís house in Petaluma. Over the hill I went and he was waiting for me as he watched a football game during the evening.
Don was off to work in Artís barber shop in the morning, so I had a little cooler work to do. You need to replace the ice you know, so a quick run to the store. I was able to empty the melted ice water without taking my large cooler out of the car and get ready for later when drinks are at a premium in the warm wine country at the racetrack. ďTheĒ barber was home before noon. We went to his Saturday feed place, a hot dog place that has a large variety of hot dogs and even Chicago style. They were good and we headed to the track Jack!
It was wine tasting day and I scooted over there and soon learned there were not near as many faces that I recognized like past years. Donít know why, but I still visited and had fun. Long time Wagtimerís Tina and Tom showed up as they made a last-minute decision to come for the weekend when Don said they could stay at his place after motels were too much and too far away for them. Dick Fry helped them with tickets. It wasnít long before Big Steve and Maggie showed also as they were on a racing vacation too! A lot more visiting before I went and had dinner with the Fryís and it included deer meat and more. Dick parks his motorhome outside turn 2, so the cars were warming up close by as we ate. I was soon in the grandstand as qualifying was going on. Damion Gardner set fast time and the night started.
Surprisingly, the track was a little dry (?) and narrow as racing began. Brody Roa, Cody Williams and Colby Copeland won their heats and the midgets ran their deal. Only about 17 midgets as Keith Kunz stayed in Indiana so the troops were glad for that! I think Shane Golobic won both nights winning $ 6000 each night.
They worked the track before the main and it was marginally better and wider. The feature started out with Danny Faria Jr taking the lead and holding them back for 21 laps. Behind him Ryan Bernal, Austin Williams and Damon Gardner gave chase. Every time Danny looked vulnerable, he would kick it up a notch and pull away. Gardner then closed on him and after a yellow Danny didnít need, and the race for the lead was on. Lapped traffic had something to do with the finish and the scramble showed Damion taking the lead and winning his 91st CRA event with Ryan getting 2nd and Danny still on the podium at 3rd. It wasnít the usual Calistoga excitement, but another race day and we were done. ďTheĒ Barber and I headed back to his house and got some sleep.
Hereís the data for the September 1 FEATURE: (25 laps) 1. Damion Gardner, 2. Danny Faria Jr., 3. Ryan Bernal, 4. Austin Williams, 5. Max Adams, 6. Brody Roa, 7. R.J. Johnson, 8. Austin Liggett, 9. Logan Williams, 10. Matt McCarthy, 11. Cody Williams, 12. Geoff Ensign, 13. Cody Jessop, 14. Jace Vander Weerd, 15. Johnathon Henry, 16. Billy Aton, 17. Jake Swanson, 18. Chris Gansen, 19. Shayna Silvia, 20. Richard Brace Jr., 21. Austin Ervine, 22. Chase Johnson, 23. Zack Lynskey, 24. Colby Copeland, 25. Nick Larson, 26. Tanner Thorson.
Sunday was a little foggy in Petaluma, but normal as we got up and hit breakfast at one of his favorite places, Saxís Joint, where the biscuits are huge and the jam is the delicious. Great breakfast and no going away hungry there. After breakfast we went back to the house where Tina and Tom were just leaving for thier morning feed. Don and I took off for Calistoga again and the whole thing started over. It was beer tasting day and thank goodness the temps this year were under 90 this weekend unlike last years over 110.
More action with the beer gang as the afternoon went on until time to eat at Dicks again, and I did. No Steve Lafond tonight as he went home after last night. I settled into my lower terrace row 5 seat and relaxed. That is until the beach ball bingo happened. One of THOSE balls landed on me and when I went to knock it away, I dropped my phone and it slid under the grandstands. We got a security guard to go look for it, but he came back with a phone, and it wasnít mine. I went with him for a second look and imagine my surprise when we went under there it was cluttered with rolls of wire, stacks of wood, crates, covered equipment and much more, all covered with an inch of dirt! We wandered around with him calling my phone number, but after 20 minutes of rooting around, I thanked him and we left.
Back in my seat I thought what if I dangled a sleeve of my sweatshirt thru the hole to give me reference when Iím under there, and off I went to find the guard again. As I got out of the grandstands, Cal Smith, long time CRA driver, caught me and said he had a friend who dropped her phone down there, too! So, I went to find security and he took off. I got Lauri Hunt involved and before she could help me, Cal came smiling and yelling Wags, I got yer phone! Fran Herdrich had been calling mine and Cal found it and the ladyís as well. Mystery solved and it was back to racing. Thanks Cal, I needed that. Imagine being on the road without your lifeline?
Damion was fast time again, and since some water got into the track overnight, the time was nearly a second and a half quicker, imagine that. The racing was much better as the track widened and Austin Liggett, Ryan Bernal and Jace Vander Weerd snagged heat race victories. There was more passing and opportunities for the racers than the first night, for sure.
Over the last few CRA races, as Brody and Damion fought for the point lead, there had been some incidents. I wasnít there, but Jack Jory was sitting behind me and he said it was great when those two had their squabbles because twice they banged wheels and one of his drivers, Austin Williams, won both races! Anyway, coming into the Sprint week Brody had a narrow 3-point lead over Damion. On this night it would go up a bit as things got hot on the track again.
On the start of the feature, with Brody following Damion around turn three and heading into turn 4, Damion began to spin to his left and it looked like Brody might have touched him? Some observers said he didnít but itís too far from our vantage point to call that. So, Damion spun around but did not stop and continued on with his own plan and I surmise he thought he was spun out on purpose. He chased after Brody and caught him on the back stretch with the yellow flying. Damion pushed him around turn three and gave him a shove into the wall as Brody spun to a stop facing backwards. Damion continued on as the black flag waved for him. Ignoring that, the race had to be red flagged to get him off the track. They announced he was done for the night and some conversation over that happened.
That was all the excitement in this one as Colby Copeland started on the pole on the restart and never gave up the lead as he won his first ever CRA race. He is a good wing driver, having won the Trophy Cup as one of his victories. Brody rolled up to second with Chase Johnson tailing him as the night ended after some pretty good racing. We didnít hang around for any fireworks and headed back to Petaluma to rest up.
Hereís the data for the September 2 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Colby Copeland, 2. Brody Roa, 3. Chase Johnson, 4. Austin Williams, 5. Ryan Bernal, 6. Danny Faria Jr., 7. Geoff Ensign, 8. Austin Liggett, 9. Cody Williams, 10. Jace Vander Weerd, 11. Max Adams, 12. R.J. Johnson, 13. Logan Williams, 14. Chris Gansen, 15. Zack Lynskey, 16. Matt McCarthy, 17. Shayna Sylvia, 18. Cody Jessop, 19. Nick Larson, 20. Austin Ervine, 21. Jake Swanson, 22. Richard Brace Jr., 23. Damion Gardner.
Monday morning Don and I were up and off to breakfast as Tina and Tom slept in again. IHOP and pancakes were order of the day and then we headed over to the track to put the blankets down for the nights racing. We hung around his house watching baseball until it was time to meet Tina and Tom for dinner at the Habit. After that we went straight to the Petaluma Fairgrounds and settled in the grandstands. We had Tina and Tom, Fran and Jim, Carl Lattner and daughter Teresa with Big Steve and Maggie in our area so fun was the game plan until the racing started.
Damion again set fast time on what was a nice wet track. Ryan Bernal, Max Adams and Brody Roa won the heats and after some ďotherĒ types of race cars, the CRA feature rolled out. Unfortunately, unless you were a Bernal fan, Ryan ran non-stop 30 laps for the victory. Behind him Austin Williams and Danny Faria Jr put on a good show and we were done again. Tina and Tom were headed back home after the race because she had to work! Don and I were at the house by 9:30 and soon off to sleep.
Hereís the data for the September 3 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Ryan Bernal, 2. Austin Williams, 3. Danny Faria Jr., 4. Damion Gardner, 5. Brody Roa, 6. Cody Williams, 7. Chris Gansen, 8. Logan Williams, 9. Max Adams, 10. Geoff Ensign, 11. R.J. Johnson, 12. Richard Brace Jr., 13. Shayna Sylvia, 14. Matt McCarthy, 15. John Clark, 16. Nick Larson, 17. Chase Johnson, 18. Ricky Brophy, 19. Gary Paulson, 20. Jake Swanson, 21. Shawn Arriaga.
Don was off to work before I rose in the morning, so I packed up and headed south to Campbell, CA to visit with the Lafondís for another night. Traffic was moderate on the way and I was in his dojo by noon. We had a chance to visit and eat up an Italian dish Kim made earlier for lunch. I spent the afternoon stealing fotos from him and we met Kim for dinner at a Thai place that was pretty good. We spent the night laughing and playing an obnoxious game to end our visit. In the morning we said adios and I went down the street to Trophy City.
When I parked, Trophy Dave was just arriving with his dog Lacy and I had a fun day talking with him about racing and the upcoming Trophy Cup. He had his trophyís all setting out for the event and they are amazing. The purse this year is $ 200,000 with the winner getting $ 25,000! Next year, and it appears there will be a 26th annual race, the winner will get $ 26,000. Make a wish will get a check for, Dah Dah, $200,000! Dave has given them nearly 2 million dollars in the 25 years! Now thatís a commitment.
These days Dave isnít interested in working too hard at the trophy shop, just keeping busy as he opens Tuesday thru Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm. He still does some small orders for old time customers, but doesnít look for any new stuff. He likes keeping busy and works on his race all year long. The weekends are spent in his Placerville house by a lake where he and Muriel, and often a lot of family, go riding in their pontoon boat for fun.
We left the shop and went to his house where the three of us visited the night away. We did go eat at a restaurant nearby in Willow Glenn and had outside seating for a refreshing meal. A lot of racing and family talk as I enjoyed my annual visit with them until it was late. It feels like home whem I go visit them. I was up early Thursday morning, but Dave was sitting in the kitchen already. After a short visit, Dave and Muriel sent me off with a smile as I headed towards home.
At Calistoga I met Dick Woodland and he encouraged me to visit the Estrella Warbirds Museum where his Auto museum is located. It took only a couple of hours to get to Paso Robles and I parked and went inside. The first room as you go in has model planes hooked to the ceiling. There are various items for sale, an old antique race car on a turntable and more stuff to look at. There is a big war room off to one side, but I was directed ouwhat do I know, but I shuffled along to enter his auto museum.
He wasnít in the house that day, but another man was there to show you around and answer questions. I told him some stuff about a few of the cars as they were familiar to me. The first thing you see upon entering was a line of cars on each side of the walkway. I saw a 1951 Jaguar XKE just like the one I had and was excited to see it. A few other cars like a Mercedes and a Morris Minor were there. A 32-hardtop hot rod was on the left and Iíll post the pictures I took on the tour elsewhere.
The big room with the race cars had some super modifieds, a few cars Billy Wilkerson drove, a JFK Jimmy Oskie car, a Dean Thompson Bromme car and more youíll see later. I enjoyed my walk around, but I ran out of stuff to see, so headed back to the car and on towards Las Vegas.
I got home about 6 PM and had a nice chicken dinner ready for me. Terry had smoked some chicken on the Traeger and it was good. We caught up on everything I missed before it was sleepy time for this old geezer. Morning came too early and I had to go get blood work done for my annual physical this week. Then I was back on the road to the Ellis Hacienda and the 3rd annual Lealand McSpadden Classic on Saturday. The first two Classics were wing shows, but this one wasnít, so I had to be there to support the man. Joe and Ellen greeted me like always with open arms and stories of racing. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant, whose name I canít remember, and then settled in for the night.
Race day was a bit warm at around 110 degrees when we got to the track later, but it was not bad in the shade. We met the Thrasherís at Biscuits for lunch and had a great time visiting and eating. After that we hung around the house and watched a football game before it was time to go out to Arizona Speedway.
We got parked and walked inside and found the McSpadden t-shirt booth. The Classic shirts were great and I got me one! Visiting with his wife Janet, son Jeff and his ďnot so little anymoreĒ kids was fun as we told stories until ďThe ManĒ showed up. Being honored is still a busy deal so he had things to do. Like always, Lealand just lights up the place and I am always glad to be around him. We had a good visit and I noticed he had on a Darrell Dockery shirt with Mickey on it. Luckily, they had a few of those and I now have one!
Lealand was simply the best, on and off the track, and watching him visit with fans and friends who came by was fun to watch, as heís still got it. It got pretty busy around him so the cars were on the track and we grabbed a burger before going up. The crowd wasnít exactly packed, but around him it was.
There were 15 sprint cars racing plus dwarf cars and some bombers I think they called emí. The sprints had two heats and I only knew about 5 drivers, but they hustled. The feature went 30 laps nonstop, so that was good. On the start, Charles Davis Jr came from 7th or so to the lead in a few laps with Mike Martin moving up to challenge. They ran one/two the rest of the race with Charles up top and Mike down low. Mike showed his hand later in the race and Charlie noticed and went down to run that groove. Lap traffic was the difference in the end. Mike couldnít get by one lapped car fast enough and Charlie was long gone and won. In the winnerís circle he said he didnít like to run the bottom. but Martin was showing him too much wheel so he adapted. It was fun to watch as Lealand was honored. Next year we need to get some of his old competitors out to be there like the Gasman, $human and plenty more!
On the way back to the house, we had an In-N-Out stop for a snack and spent time visiting at the house until after midnight. I was up at 6 am, as was Ellen to send me off, and another great trip was almost over. I was home with a washed car before noon and was greeted by family not long after that. I discovered the Boulder City bypass on the way home and it cut 20 minutes or so off the drive time.
Hereís the data for the USAC SW Arizona Speedway racw - 1 #50 Charles Davis 2 #16 Mike Martin 3 #5 Tye Mihocko 4 #15 Chris Bonneau 5 #7K Bruce St James 6 #11C Michael Curtis 7 #13 Dennis Gile 8 #34 Sterling Cling 9 #17 Joe Scheopner 10 #3 Tyler Most 11 #88 Tyler Merill 12 #68 Colton Maroney 13 #25AZ Rick Shuman 14 #19 Andy Reinbold 15 #98 Matt Lundy 9/9
My analysis of the three Sprint Week races I saw is not much to get excited about this year, but the time spent was fun. Any racings good, but unfortunately, Iíve seen better. Calistoga wasnít ready and the first night wasnít much to see. It was better the second night with some better track prep, but still strung out with not a lot of passing. Petaluma was pretty good with a racy track and some passing except for the non-stop winner. Overall it wasnít as good as the past and a big part of that was no USAC drivers came out and the low car count hit us pretty hard. The first night was 26 cars and we went downhill from there. There were 3 first time CRA winners and that was fun, but we missed the USAC boys to juice it up. Chase Johnson impressed me and could have done better if he had a little luck.
The rumor mill still pounds a sour note about Calistoga closing and I donít want to hear it. That is a premier event, but it is suffering with fair board noise and additionally David Abreuís not there to help. The man that spent millions on the track a few years ago making it better and safer and is not involved anymore? I know he doesnít like that, especially after what he did for that track. Abreu was very giving and yet he was pushed out, or so I hear, yet they should have had a compromise because he could still be a big help. I hope the race continues on, but we need more cars and yes, even more money for the racers. They can get rid of the midgets for me, because number one, I donít like them on that track, and two, it eats those expensive little motors. I hope Tommy Hunt continues to keep it going, and I know how hard he and his family work to make it go. I look forward to next year, letís make it grow. What Steve Howard and Greg Sowers did to make the purses bigger and create this a special event can still be done by others who could step up, think about it!
It was a 2100-mile-long voyage and I had a great time and proved this old geezer can still do a road trip solo, even though I donít really like going alone anymore. Once I get there, I can have fun with friends along the way. Thanks to my hosts The Lafondís, ĒTheď Barber, Trophy Dave and Muriel and Joe and Ellen, I couldnít have done it without you! Of course, I kinda missed my diet a little and gained a couple of pounds, but Mrs Wags will take care of that. My next solo run is the trophy Cup and Iím priced out of the hotels there so Iím looking for a roommate to share the cost, or Iíll be sleeping in the barn over the weekend. One way or the other, I canít miss the 25th annual Trophy Cup. I know its wings, but they invert the field and itís pretty awesome seeing wing cars passing other wing cars! Try it, youíll like it! That weekend also features the Bakersfield reunion drags and itís one of my favorite go to things every year. I love the old cars and seeing Walt Stevens and his High Speed front motored fueler run is fun, too!
Brody Roa was the California CRA Sprint Car Champion and leaves the tour with the points lead. I hope he can win the CRA Championship, but the 7 time champion will have something to say about that. Right now, Terry and I are planning to see the CRA two night show at Arizona Speedway at the end of this month, if the creek donít rise and we get a dog sitter. We will be at The Western World the first weekend in November and will still be collecting money for the hard charger award to be awarded on that Saturday night. We didnít do well collecting at Calistoga, only getting $50 from Carl Lattner bless his heart, so some of you could step up to match him. My usual Calistoga helper was busy with other responsibilities. Just so you know, we will not be going to the Ovals. The only way this trip could have been better, was if Mrs Wags was with me. See ya when I see ya! < P>Here are the results from the last three Sprint week races.
September 6: FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Chase Johnson, 2. Brody Roa, 3. Colby Copeland, 4. Koen Shaw, 5. Logan Williams, 6. results Austin Williams, 7. Michael Faccinto, 8. R.J. Johnson, 9. Jake Swanson, 10. Max Adams, 11. Damion Gardner, 12. Ryan Bernal, 13. Cody Williams, 14. Geoff Ensign, 15. Shayna Sylvia, 16. Chris Gansen, 17. Cody Jessop, 18. Gary Paulson, 19. Ron Laplant, 20. Richard Brace Jr., 21. David Johnson, 22. Matt McCarthy, 23. Nick Larson, 24. Danny Faria Jr.
September 7: FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Brody Roa, 2. Ryan Bernal, 3. Chase Johnson, 4. Max Adams, 5. Austin Williams, 6. Danny Faria Jr., 7. Jake Swanson, 8. Cody Williams, 9. Damion Gardner, 10. Logan Williams, 11. Billy Aton, 12. Koen Shaw, 13. Geoff Ensign, 14. R.J. Johnson, 15. Chris Gansen, 16. Shayna Sylvia, 17. Joel Rayborne, 18. Austin Ervine, 19. Austin Liggett.
September 8: FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Jace Vander Weerd, 2. Damion Gardner, 3. Danny Faria Jr., 4. Brody Roa, 5. Jake Swanson, 6. Austin Williams, 7. Max Adams, 8. Cody Williams, 9. Chris Gansen, 10. R.J. Johnson, 11. Koen Shaw, 12. Logan Williams, 13. Cal Smith, 14. Joel Rayborne, 15. Shayna Sylvia, 16. Ryan Bernal, 17. Geoff Ensign, 18. Chase Johnson, 19. Austin Ervine.
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