Biking Across Canada

Coast to Coast 8500 KM

Follow the adventures of Bryan Thorp as he lives his dream of riding across Canada from coast to coast.

 

Tour completed Sep 9 - Wed Carbonear, NL - St. John's, NL


Cape Spear, NL
Bryan's bike

 


British Columbia

BC | AB | SK | MB | MN | MI |  | ON | QU | NB | PEI | NS | NL  Photo Gallery

Day 1 - June 13 - Sat
New Westminster, BC - Parksville, BC - 117km

(Bryan is accompanied by friend Paul on the first leg)

   Bryan Thorp at the beginning on Alex Fraser Bridge, New Westminster, BC

   Bryan and Paul at the starting line New Westminister, BC

Left home at 7:35 Took Tsawassen Ferry to Nanaimo , Duke Pt. Stopped at grocery store at parksville long hot highways, noisy, dirty, tough slogging. Camped at side of hwy as we couldn't find a campground at Qualicum Beach. Nite was uneventful, although we woke up every hour.

Day 2 - June 14 - Sun
Parksville, BC - Robert's Lake, BC - 131km

   Totem pole near Campbell River, BC

Got off highway after breaking camp and stopped at Qualicum Bay and ate at Sandbar Inn. Had 3 large waffles with 3/4 container of syrup for carbos. Continued along coastal route - 1000% better than hwy! Bought apples from a farmers roadside store ... apparently his family had been there for 5 generations. Bought groceries in Campbell River, just across Quadra Island, where my bike was handbuilt. Just north of Courtenay, we made dinner in a cemetary! After a long 7km climb out of Campbell River, we started looking for a campsite. We came upon a B&B in the middle of nowhere and enquired as to nearby campsites. There was one 5mi down the road. Off we went and finally, after an uncharacteristically accurate distance of 5mi, indeed there was a resort of rustic cabins. We asked if we could camp, and the owner said 'sure'. We asked 'how much' and we were told "no charge". We slept beside Roberts Lake that night.

Day 3 - June 15 - Mon
Parksville, BC - Woss, BC - 100km

      Scott: Promoting peace

We broke camp around 07:00 and started riding. Today would take us thru a lengthy unserviced part of of hwy 19, in other words we had to carry a full supply of water and food. We did a lot of ascending and descending for the 1st half of the day. We ate lunch at a basic rest stop (toilets only, no water) about 50km into the day. At approx the 80km mark, while we were having a snack at roadside, I thought I saw something move on the other side of the hwy near the curve that we were at. I put on my glasses and it was a man pulling a large cart. He crossed over to our side and we introduced ourselves. He was Scott from Burns Lake, BC and he was promoting peace, possibly out of guilt for the grief he had caused his community when he was a young man. Scott was travelling fully loaded with his dog in a cage and a Mac laptop. As we talked, Scott mentioned in passing that today was his birthday, and that he was 55 years old! What? Scott had the exact same birthday as me! I don't ever recall meeting anyone with the exact same birthday so I made sure to get a picture of the Gemini twins. Anyhow, we eventually made it to Woss. We replenished our water and enquired about nearby camping. As it turns out, there was free camping about 5km thru town. After riding about 1.5km a WFP employee working on wfp property motioned us over his way and asked if we were going to the campground. We replied affirmatively and he then suggested that we just camp out in the local school yard about 1/2km away. We decided to do so and found space under sone trees as we got our first drops of rain. The wfp employee also came to the school to check if we'd taken his advice. This kinda freaked Paul out as he thought the guy was a bit TOO friendly/helpful. Think Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It did rain a bit that night but our tents didn't get very wet thanks to out tree cover.

Day 4 - June 16 - Tue
Woss, BC - Port Hardy, BC - 126km

   Camping in school yard.    Bike against abandoned gas station

We woke up around 06:30, broke camp and were out of the school grounds before the principal caught us. Paul mentioned to me that he had heard kids running around on the field around nidnight, but they didn't bother us. We spent an hour in the Woss Cafe drinking coffee and talking to another cyclist from Golden, BC, who had just come down from Cape Scott, on the north western point of Vancouver Island. He was planning on cycling the island for a month. We has our first day of rain but thankfully it was not heavy rain, as in Vancouver in November. The temperature was a cool 15C most of the way to Port Hardy. We stopped by the IGA store in Port McNeil to buy some cans of chili for lunch, along with bagels and peanut butter, dates, trail mix and apples. Our lunch setting was on the Port McNeil waterfront in the cold wind. It's my least comfortable stop yet, what with fingers numb from the cold. Our campground was on the turn-off to the ferry terminal just before Port hardy. We paid for camping for the first time tonight - $10 each. Since we didn't have enough food with us, we rode our bikes into town - a 16km round trip - to get ingredients and a few brews, as a way if rewardung ourselves for completing the 1st segment of our X-Canada journey. Paul made a great East Indian chickpea curry at camp!

Day 5 - June 17 - Wed
Port Hardy, BC - Prince Rupert , BC - 4km

   View from the ferry to Prince Rupert, BC

Today would be a built-in day off. I was starting to feel the effects of riding 475km in 4 days without a break, and had no problems taking it easy, whether I liked it or not. :-) So, our ferry for Prince Rupert leaves at 07:30, but for some reason BC Ferries wants you there 2 hrs prior to departure. That means we have to get up at 04:30 or earlier to break camp and ride to the ferry terminal. Yikes! We did it somehow, although we were a bit late. Apparently, they turned away a hiker last week who turned up late. I guess my magic smile and charm worked on the front desk lady. :-) Checking in, one is asked for identification - a first for me on BC Ferries. Our ship was the Northen Expedition, the brand new ship built for BC Ferries and delivered just months ago to replace the sunken Queen if the North. The new ship is very cruiseship like and definitely the nicest BC Ferry I've ever been on. As I write this, we've just steamed past Bella Coolla and have seen a whale repeatedly slap its tail fins on the ocean's surface and also seen orca whales skim the surface. Definitely a step up from the Vancouver Aquarium, albeit pricey ($150 for me, $5 for the bike). We arrive at Prince Rupert at 22:30 and ride to iur campsite a short distance up the hill.

Day 6 - June 18 - Thu
Prince Rupert, BC - Terrace, BC - 149km

No rain last nite, yeah! Appparently that's unusual for the rain capital of BC, but the forecast indicated our luck's going to run out for the next few days on the way to Prince George. We had a leisurely brekky in Prince Rupert at the Coast Hotel, about the only place I could find for a stack of pancakes (i got an extra pancake for a total of 4). For the 1st time in 30 years I'm adding sugar to my coffee, for the carbos. Paul got groceries around 11:30 and we departed about 12:30. We had an excellent ride along the Skeena River once we got out of the hills on the outskirts of PR. We rode about 150km for 8 hours with quite a few breaks. We had a very nice tailwind most of the way to Terrace. We saw bears and elk (?). In fact, we stopped about 200 meters away from a bear while a lady in car attempted to shoo the bear out of our way by blowing on her horn. That did the trick. This is definitely bear country and both Paul and I have bear spray with us. In Terrace we came across the Kalum Motel run by an East Indian family who charged us $8 each for our tents plus a hot shower and wi-fi. Nice!

Day 7 - June 19 - Fri
Terrace, BC - Hazelton, BC - 155km

Woke up to the pitter-patter of rain. I hate that. Grrr. Anyhow, we rode the 3 or 4km into downtown and I started off the day with a pile of 4 pancakes again. Again, this was at a Coast Hotel, but this time they just gave me a small container of syrup, whereas most places give you a whole Aunt Jemina container, which I may as well just hook up via an IV, since I use most of it. Can't get enought sugar. Actually, breakfast is one of the day's highlights ... We certainly make good use of the coffee refills. :-)

We left Terrace by 10:30. Btw, Terrace is Hockeyville 2009, for those hockey nuts out there. Again, we followed the Skeena pretty well all day long, plus we had a second day of tailwinds for another day of decent miles. The Hazelton Mountains are our campanions, too. Eventually we made a stop at the Kitwanga gas station where I treated myself to a double-scoop ice cream cone and a large Coke (think 'sugar' again). I am constantly reminded in places like Kitwanga, that I am a verfy visible minority, i.e., European white. The vast majority of people in the smaller communities along the Yellowhead Highway (16) or 'The Highway of Tears', are aboriginal.

I've experienced some heavy duty muscle pain today that I've not consistently encountered previously. It's normal for me to get about 2 minutes of lactic acid burn in my legs at the beginning of a climb, but I'm getting constant pain. I'm attempting to mitigate the pain with Ibuprofen. After numerous rollercoasted hills we finally decide to camp out in Hazelton at the aboriginal campground called K'san. First, we got groceries in New Hazelton and then went 8km downhill to our campsite. No signs indicated that it was going to be 8km down the road when we were on the highway, but by the time we figured it out, we were commited to camping there. In other words, it was too late to change our minds. The K'san campground includes a musem but we were too late in arrival to do that. The campgrounds were very nice and right at river level, which by the way, was running high and fast. There was also a warning about a bear on the loose. As we ate dinner, it started to rain. :-( We quickly cleaned up and went to our respective tents. Unfortunately, the campground's satellite link was down, so no wi-fi connection for me tonight. It's tough to live without a connection to the 'net these days!

For those interested, my touring bike was custom built by Sam Whittingham of Quadra Island, who is the owner of Naked Bicycles. I spec'ed out my bike in 2006 and Sam delivered it in Jan 2007. It steel, with stainless steel lugs, custom fork, custom stem, disk brakes, S&S couplings, Schmidt generator & LED light, Brookes saddle, Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires (almost bullet-proof!).

BTW, Hazelton, AFAIK, is the most northerly point on my trip. It is close to the same latitude as the bottom of Alaska. It gets dark after 22:00 and starts getting light at 04:00. That doesn't help my sleep much!

Day 8 - June 20 - Sat
Hazelton, BC - Ft. Telkwa - 93km

Oh man, it's raining again! I wake up about 06:30, and lay awake until about 08:00, but the rain doesn't let up. Guess we're going to have suck it in and deal with it today... We packed our soggy tents and left by 10:00. Then we 'pay the price' for picking this lovely campground and have to go uphill 8km back to the highway in New Hazelton. We had a selection of restaurants for brekky and went with the local recommendation of the New Hazelton Cafe. I ordered 2 plates of 3 pancakes, and gave 1 to Paul. By the time we left the Cafe at 11:00, the rain had subsided. I don't think we've ridden in solid rain all day long, yet, thankfully.

Although ,it was a sub-100km day, it was more of the same rolling terrain and my legs were screaming again. Yeah, I'm wondering about my sanity, at this point. Other than wondering, the best I could do was to pop a few Ibuprofens, which helped somewhat. We rolled into Smithers just before 18:00 and were able to get into the tourist info before closing. The knowledgeable young lady there, also a cyclist, recommended Ft. Telkwa RV Campground, about 20 km east of Smithers. She said the ride would be fine for us. Before heading out we bought a 1kg roasted chicken and a salad and ate dinner on a bench near a momument on the main road thru Smithers. I hope we're not scaring the locals. :-) Once dinner was consumed we rode the 20km to the campground and arrived about 2015. We were the only ones there that nite. We had free hot showers, and I paid $3 for wi-fi and caught up with stuff going on at home. We also got some laundry done. It was well worth riding out to this campground!

Day 9 - June 21 - Sun (Father's Day & Summer Solstice)
Ft. Telkwa, BC - Topley, BC - 79 km

Wow, we woke up to sunshine on our tents! Ah, the simple pleasures in life! :-) We only cycled 79km today, as we're planning to do a number of longer rides soon over the most desolate parts of my 8,500km journey. No muscle pain today, althought the hills weren't that bad.

In Houston, we met a female cyclist - perhaps 22 or so? - who flew from her home in Belgium to Vancouver, and then started her journey to Hope, Kettle Valley Railway trail, Coquihalla Hwy (yuch), Kamloops, Revelstoke, Banff, Jasper, Prince George, etc. She will soon be headed to Alaska. Not only that, but she's travelling alone - that's what I call 'brave'.

A bit further on at a rest area, we ran into a German couple who were in their 5th year of traveling North America. They go back home to Germany in the fall for a few months, but spent the rest if the time on our continent! They own a big Dodge Ram pickup truck and a huge trailer home. They had stopped at the rest stop due to a flat on the trailer - the local RCMP we're arranging to get it fixed for them. Anyhow, the German couple must have been quite wealthy to have travelled all over NA for the last 5 years. That's a testiment to our great country, eh? Anyhow, we stopped in Topley for the night and slept in someone's front yard!

Day 10 - June 22 - Mon
Topley, BC - Burns Lake - 59 km

Well, we woke up to sunshine for the second day in a row, but it was pretty cold during the night. The cafe owner said it went down to -2C. That explains why I shivered thru the night for the 1st time on this trip! Paul said he had frost on his tent! He was up a few hours before me, but I decided to stay under cover until 07:00 as the cafe didn't open until 08:00 anyhow. So we did beakfast. Again I got a stack of 4 pancakes and the usual coffee. It only cost $8.82, before tip. I think that's the cheapest yet.

For those interested in numbers, I thought it'd be interesting to track my expenses and see how much I can cross Canada on, per day. Well, the ferry from Pt. Hardy to Prince Rupert was expensive at $155, but so far we're at $50/day/person.

The hardest part of the day was a 140m climb shortly after Topley with 15+% climb - very steep and I was definitely in my lowest gear. We passed Rose Lake which is the Fraser River watershed... nice to know where all that water comes from when I see it in the Fraser in New Westminster! Another short day as we prepare for 3 tough days to McBride, BC. We were at our campsite 4km east of Burns Lake by 15:00. I did some minor bike maintenance as we passed the 1,000km mark today. Whoo-hoo! Only 7,500 to go...

Oh yes, I've been asked a number if times if I had a sponsor for this trip. Until about a month before my departure date, my answer was 'no'. However, I was in touch with Mark Rosal, owner of Ear Gear before my departure. I wear covers for my hearing aids that are made by Mark's company... these covers prevent sweat from damaging the aids. If these covers did not exist, I would not be able to talk to others while riding my bike, nor could I easily ask for directions, etc. So Mark kind if became a de facto sponsor when he sent me 3 pairs of Ear Gears just for my ride! The Ear Gear story is an interesting one, which you can read at www.gearforears.com

Day 11 - June 23 - Tue

Burns Lake, BC - Vanderhoof, BC - 126 km

Well, today was a pretty uneventful day. We woke up to sunshine, which was a bonus as the weather was supposed to be 'overcast with a 30% chance of showers'. We ate breakfast at camp: coffee, baked beans and a bagel. We were on the road by 09:00, with Vanderhoof, BC as our destination for the day, approx. 128km away.

We ended up riding for about 6 hours; there was some rain eventually for about 2 hours, and it was fairly cool. My bike computer showed an average temperature of 16C, making today the 2nd coldest day of the trip. We had some nice tailwinds again, and we often cruised along at 30 - 35 km/h. There wasn't much climbing, it was either flat or gently rolling hills - nice! No pain today. We didn't meet anyone at rest stops or elsewhere. Oh wait, Paul did talk to 2 other cyclists earlier at the beginning of the day who were heading to Alaska with a SAG wagon (cheaters!). We didn't see any other cyclists after those two! I'm sure things will pick up once school's out in a few days.

We pulled into Vanderhoof's tourist info around 17:00 and decided on a campground about 1km away on the river. When we arrived at camp we set up our tents right away as the skies were darkening. It rained right away, practically. We made dinner, and ate it, in the rain as there wasn't any shelter available. What a miserable way to eat dinner... I then had a shower, reviewed tomorrow's routing and then worked on updating my notes, etc. No wi-fi here. :-( I miss Susan and the kids, but I knew that'd be part of the deal when I undertook this adventure. :-(

Tomorrow, we wake at 06:00 and plan to ride 168km to Purden Lake, about 64km past Prince George. Here's today's 'interesting' numbers: My bike weighs 40 lb. without the 4 water bottles and a bottle of fuel (for our stoves); the 4 panniers weigh 45 lbs loaded. Add about 3 litres of water and a bag full of daily food, and I figure I'm pushing over 250 lbs up those hills!

Day 12 - June 24 - Wed

Vanderhoof, BC - Prince George - 104 km

I woke up to a wet tent around 06:00 and saw that it had rained during the night. My partner and I had agreed the night before that we would go out for breakfast, but he had started the oatmeal at camp already. While I appreciate someone else cooking, I cannot function on the few hundred calories that a bowl of oatmeal provides. All my research in the year prior to doing this ride asserts that I'll need upwards of 8,000 calories to do my daily rides. We did drop by Timmy's for coffee on the way out of town, but, of course, coffee has no significant nutrients; furthermore, Timmy's isn't known for its healthy foods, e.g., low cholesterol foods.

Anyhow, once on the road, I felt very sluggish and barely made it to Prince George. I had to stop at a number of gas stations to buy pop (sugar content) in order to supplement the Gatorade, trail mix and dates. Not once did my partner inquire as to how I was feeling that day. On top of that, we encountered the 1st headwinds since Prince Rupert. They lasted about 50km and forced me to gear down 2 or 3 steps. Finally, without going into details, my partner and I agreed to go our own ways once we reached Prince George about 16:00. This is a big relief for me as I can pretty well go at the previously agreed upon pace, 125km/day, and get a room once a week to relax and take a day off and explore whatever town were in.

So far, after 12 days, we have not had a day off, except for the ferry ride, plus we've camped out every night. I love to save money as much as the next person, but my body is suffering right now and needs to be pampered. OK, so I'm not cut from the same cloth as Simon Fraser. As Steve Martin and John Belushi of Saturday Night Live fame used to say, 'Well, excuse me!' (was that the 'Two wild and crazy American guys' skit?). Sorry for the digression... I enquired at the Prince George Tourist Info about cheaper hotels in town, and eventually chose the Prince George Hotel right in the old downtown. It was an amazing $46/night including all taxes! However, it's a pretty sleazy place but they did let me take my bike into the room, so I was happy.

I had a great pasta dinner at Cimo's - still in my cycling clothing - and then got groceries for tomorrow's ride. I then had a nice soak in the tub in my room. I forgot to mention that I saw the Google street view car shortly before arrival at my hotel. I'm not sure if it was the same one I saw in Vancouver a few weeks before my departure. Maybe I'm part of the Google street view for Prince George?!! If I can get a good night's sleep, I'll probably attempt the 220km to McBride tomorrow.

Day 13 - June 25 - Thu

Prince George, BC - McBride, BC - 208 km

Slept reasonably well compared to sleeping in the tent, where I'd typically wake up hourly. The activities in other parts of the hotel didn't wake me at all, but that's one of the 'benefits' of being hearing impaired. The room is a smoking room, and my eyes itch a bit. I can't remember how many years ago I've had a smoking room - 25 maybe? I actually thought they were a relic of the past. I remember waking up at 01:00 to go to the bathroom and when I peeked outside, there were 2 police cars in middle of the road in front of the hotel. With the drunks and druggies on the sidewalk, and people just hanging around in general, it felt a bit like Vancouver's downtown East Side not that I've got any experience on the Eastside, myself, so it's just a perception. :-)

Once I woke for good just after 06:00, I grabbed a buffet brekky at the Ramada across the street and stuffed my face (are we getting tired of that expression yet?) in anticipation of doing as much as possible of the 210km ride to McBride. I've set an ambitious goal for today: the PG --> McBride section. This segment has been known to me for being the most desolate stretch of highway in BC on my trip, perhaps the entire route to NF. This section is the sole reason I have 5 water bottle holders with 1 holder being used as a holder for my fuel bottle. There are supposed to be virtually NO services for approx. the entire 210 km. As it turns out, that wasn't quite true.

I planned to leave by 07:00 but the 'front desk' of the PG Hotel - actually the attached liquor store - didn't open until 08:00. Who heard of a liquor store opening that early? Apparently, it's not uncommon in the smaller towns, especially where the hotel also does liquor sales. So I hung around for an an hour to get my $10 deposit back for the room keys - probably not the brightest idea, in hindsight. I did leave shortly after 08:00, but the 1 hour delay did cause me to ride past sunset later that day.

Well, of course, it was raining. The weather this June seems to be pretty soggy, even in Vancouver, I hear. On the way out of town, there was a sign: 'Check your fuel: next services 202 km'. I sure wish I got a picture of that one, but by the time I thought of that, I didn't want to go back to take it. Cyclists hate retracing their routes! It was 9C and pretty wet for 56km to the 1st rest stop. The rest stop was very beautifully situated beside a fast running river. I had a snack and when getting ready to leave, found I could barely zip up my jacket and helmet because my fingers we so cold. Interestingly, after a short hill and about 5km I came upon the Purden Lake Resort which had a coffee shop AND did fuel sales - it did look like a 'summer-time' only operation, tho'. You can bet I stopped for a coffee!

Also, very curiously, by the time I left the coffee shop, the temperature shot up to 17C and the sun came out! Whoo-hoo! That lasted perhaps 30 - 40km and then I had a variety of weather, including numerous showers all the way to McBride. From what I heard from others, I missed some really bad rain. The weather Gods took pity on me today. :-) I did see a mama brown bear and her 2 cubs crossing the highway, plus a car stopped to warn me of another bear(s), which I never saw. I have my bear spray very handy with the safety OFF, as I won't have time to warm up my fingers if I need it.

All the way since Prince George, the mighty Fraser River has been my invisible 'companion' just a short distance away; I say 'invisible' because I didn't actually see it once all day. Fortunately, it's not completely dark until just past 22:00 or so at this time of the year. I had to turn on my generator-powered LED headlights and rear red flashers. I had no plans to ride at night on this trip but thankfully I had the foresight to be equipped for nighttime riding. Another bonus was that the last 25km or so to McBride were essentially downhill! Whoo-hoo! This is indeed a good day!

I rolled into McBride sometime past 22:30 with ham string cramps in one of my legs - a first for me, as far as I can recall. I booked a room at the McBride Hotel, just across from the historic train station. I bought a beer at the bar to take to my room. Man, that had to be one of the best beers I've ever had - I truly enjoyed that while soaking in the tub! Another of life's 'simple' pleasures!

At the end of the day, I survived the longest, unserviced part of the entire trip plus did the longest daily ride on my loaded touring bike. Btw, the ride included 1655m of climbing, the most yet in one day for this trip. I plan to take a rest day and explore McBride on Friday, then proceed to Jasper on Saturday.

Day 14 - June 26 - Fri

McBride, BC - Rest day

McBride is, of course, named after BC premier Richard McBride. My home town of New Westminster has at least a street and elementary school dedicated to the same premier. McBride is a Grand Trunk Pacific Railway town, surveyed and established as a divisional point in 1912. The town site was originally named 90 Miles, being that distance from Summit. In those days, the railway station was the social centre of town, with arriving trains providing entertainment. The McBride station even had a 24-hour beanery back then - that predates 7-11 quite a bit!

I spent the day exploring McBride, taking photos, replenishing supplies - and myself - and catching up with emails. Someday, I would like to come back to McBride and use it as a base to explore the Ancient Cedar Forest and the back roads from McBride to Tete Jaune Cache. The Ancient Cedar Forest are a recent discovery, and have 1,000+ year old trees that are greater than 3 meters in diameter! The forests may have had their beginning with the end of the last ice age. I did cycle past the forest site on my way into McBride yesterday, but didn't have time to do the walk, unfortunately.

I spent the evening preparing for tomorrow's ride. I plan to be up at 06:00, load the bike, stuff my face and be on the road by 07:30. I expect the 166km ride to Jasper to take close to 10 hours, depending on how lengthy my breaks are. The hostels are full in Jasper, so I'll try the campsites, but I'm not optimistic. School's out and getting campsites, especially in a world-renowned national park, is going to be challenging. Furthermore, it's illegal to guerrilla camp in Jasper National Park. Maybe I should cut to the chase and just ask the RCMP for a cell for the night? We'll see...

Day 15 - June 27 - Sat

McBride, BC - Jasper, AB - 171km

Got up at 06:00 and was at the restaurant a few minutes before the opened at 07:00. The McBride grill on Main has largest pancakes yet of my trip. They're bigger than what I make at home, so I only needed 2 to fill me up. I was on the road by 08:00 riding into some nasty headwinds. The temperature was not too bad at 11C. There were parts where I actually had to pedal downhill! I stopped at Moose Lake, BC, a place where our family has stopped many times previously on car trips to my sister's near Jasper. I have memories of the kids walking on the lake's ice when they were young.

I crossed the BC-AB border finally after taking the obligatory photos. Of ourse, we all know that the Bc-AB border is on the continental divide there, eh? :-) Shortly thereafter, I arrived at the Jasper National Parks gates and bought and annual pass good for the entire country for a year. Finally, I arrived at the Whistler campsite 4km south of Jasper, and was ecstatic that there were walk in sites available. I was so worried with school out that the place would be packed. I had very sore muscles but i didn't have any pain during climbs today.

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