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  1. #1
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    Group ride on the NorthEastern/Chaparral Trail

    Just read about this on the temporary DORBA site. I won't be able to ride along (wish I could); but, I wanted to make sure others knew about it.

    More info here: http://www.dorba.org/messages/boards/thread/25220792

    Have you heard about the Chaparral Trail or the NorthEast Texas Trail? Are you interested in a rail-trail that starts just NE of Dallas and extends 130 miles almost to Texarkana? Do you love riding? Would you like to learn more about the rail-trail project? HOW ABOUT COMBINING BOTH???

    What: Quarterly meeting of the NETexas Trail
    What Else: Ride to the meeting on a route that combines the completed parts of the trail and some FM/Country roads
    When: August 10, 2012

    I am planning to start out on Friday, August 10th from the Chaparral Trail trailhead in
    Farmersville, TX. I plan on riding the entire rail right-of-way from Farmersville to
    Roxton where the NETexas Trail meeting will take place. My planned course includes
    about 16 miles of the Chaparral Trail, another 24 miles of unimproved rail bed that is
    somewhat overgrown (read, some slow going, but rideable) and another 10 miles of a
    combination of Farm-to-Market and county roads into Roxton. The meeting starts at 1:00
    pm and will include a presentation from a representative of another successful rail-to-trail
    project as to some of the benefits a trail can provide the communities through which it
    passes. I am hoping to show the NETexas Trail organization that there is interest and
    support from riders in the Dallas area and thought riding there would be more impactful
    than driving!

    I would like some company! Right now, there are two of us and we are talking about
    logistics for multiple distance and pace options and for providing transportation back to
    the start (wherever that may be). If you are interested, please send an email to
    (edited out, see above link for email address) and we can start the discussion.

    If you are ďall inĒ, we are talking about a 100 mile excursion that will cover some sketchy
    ground (nothing illegal, all public land/no fences) and may be returning in the dark. The
    meeting is scheduled from 1-3 pm and will likely mean we may not start back until after
    4 pm. I am estimating at least 5 hours each way, maybe a bit more. I made this trip solo
    before and have mileage and time splits to various points along the course. If you are
    uncomfortable with the thought of a 50 mile ride before lunch, we can work out shorter
    optionsÖ THIS RIDE CAN BE FOR YOU!

    I am including Google map links that roughly outline the courseÖ two options:
    1) Almost all trail/gravel requires fat tires -https://maps.google.c...
    a1696a6532&msa=0
    2) Improved sections of Chaparral Trail and FM/County roads, cross/gravel grinder
    bikes would be great for this -https://maps.google.c...
    4a36052898&msa=0&ll=33.35462,-96.04248&spn=0.831629,1.229095
    Contact information: http://about.me/marpilli

  2. #2
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    That does sound like fun. Unfortunately I won't be able to join them either.
    "Your opinion may vary, but it's stupid." -Rich Dillen

  3. #3
    gran jefe
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    I went on the ride. It is a cool "trail". I had a mechanical and didn't get to see a lot of it though. I started in Farmersville. Apparently there are a lot of honey locust thorns farther up and they like to pop your tires. I got to outrun one set of dogs. The next set, I growled at them really loudly and they backed away. I also spent the night at the hunter camp in the caddo national grasslands just east of ladonia.

    Lynn, the guy who planned the ride, is a beast. Very strong rider. I think he ended up with about 106 miles on the day.

    The meeting was pretty interesting. Lots of dedicated people working on their own sections of the trail, trying to get them all connected up from Farmersville to Texarkana. The speaker from the Katy trail was very good.

  4. #4
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    Vet cool. I was just reading up on this trail today. Trying to find some good trails to ride my future cross/commuter/road bike on and thought this one would be a good trek. Is this trail finished from farmersville to Paris? I saw that only 56 miles were proposed. Farmersville to Texarkana is way more than 56 miles. Maybe my source was just really outdated. Any good info from the meet?
    "Your opinion may vary, but it's stupid." -Rich Dillen

  5. #5
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    Vet cool? Really iPhone? What a dummy.
    "Your opinion may vary, but it's stupid." -Rich Dillen

  6. #6
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    Bill, thanks for the update! I'm very interested in this trail and would like to venture out on it one day. For now, it'll have to remain on my "to-do" list.
    Contact information: http://about.me/marpilli

  7. #7
    gran jefe
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul.C View Post
    Vet cool. I was just reading up on this trail today. Trying to find some good trails to ride my future cross/commuter/road bike on and thought this one would be a good trek. Is this trail finished from farmersville to Paris? I saw that only 56 miles were proposed. Farmersville to Texarkana is way more than 56 miles. Maybe my source was just really outdated. Any good info from the meet?
    Farmersville to Texarkana is something like 132 miles, if I am remembering correctly. Fville to Paris is 56, and it is not complete. Fville to Paris is The Chaparral Trail, and the whole length is The Northeast Texas Trail. Along the way, several towns have done things to civilize their segment of the trail, whether by paving, grading, or whatever.

    From Farmersville toward Paris, my impression is that 35 miles or so is reasonably rideable. Beyond that, I hear it gets pretty overgrown. Ordinary overgrown would be fine, but apparently there are lots of honey locusts, which have massive flat-giving thorns, so it will take some work before even relatively adventurous people come out in large numbers. At this point, for simplicity, I would consider Pecan Gap the practical end of the trail.

    Is it rideable on a cross bike? I'm probably not the right one to ask. I mean, the section that I rode, if you went slowly, is pavement and packed gravel that could be ridden on a road bike. But, the trail is littered with rocks half the size of your fist that jump out at you, so you have to be ready for that. I hear that the gravel gets deeper, and that fat tires become a necessity, but I didn't see that part for myself. My day came to an end when I somehow kicked up a tennis ball sized rock that knocked my derailer into my spokes, which then snapped it right off, so consider that as a precautionary tale.

    If you wanted to do a beginner-level shakedown bikepacking ride, going from Fville to the hunter camp at Ladonia would be a nice little trip.

    As far as good info from the meet, I'd say that there are lots of committed people who want to see it done. They think a little differently than I do, but I can't say they are wrong. In some towns they have made great progress, and the town is very proud of the resource the trail becomes, and they are able to get money to make incremental additions over the years. In others, the townspeople are indifferent or even hostile. Overall, they seem to be picking up momentum and gaining support from the right kind of people, so I hope the rate of development will accelerate.

  8. #8
    gran jefe
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    here's my ride report:
    I had a good time with the whole adventure. I left here around noon Thursday and headed up toward Greenville. I got some last-minute supplies there, had a delicious meal at Whataburger, and then headed on up toward Ladonia.

    I spent the night at the hunter camp in the Caddo Grasslands just west of Ladonia. Being all alone in a quiet place is always an adventure. The camp is nothing fancy, but it has a few things going for it. It's close to Ladonia, which could be a good place to pick up supplies, although I didn't actually go into town. It's easy to find. It's free. It's so dark at night that you can see the milky way. The coyotes sounded great. And, it is very close to the trail. As such, I might use it as my home base for my next ride. On the downside, there's no bathroom or water, and cows moo randomly all night.

    My alarm woke me up at 4:30, since I had to meet Lynn down in Farmersville at 6. Wayyy too early. I ate, drank some nasty instant coffee, struck camp, and headed down to Farmersville.

    The trailhead in Farmersville was easy to find. There was a restroom and water fountain nearby. The mayor and a fan of the trail, Mark Vincent, were there to greet us and send us on our way. We took off and headed up the paved part of the trail. Jlynnbob is a bad, bad, man, and he rides realllllly fast. On the way out, we met the daily trail crew on their way back in. These guys are retired and they ride the trail every day. I guess during the summer they leave at 5 am? Anyway, there were about 4 of them out there bright and early.

    The trail surface was decent. For a while it was paved, and then it turned to fairly hard packed gravel doubletrack. The bridges are a little spooky because you can see down through the ties, but jlynnbob didn't leave me any time for thought. Along the trail, the weeds/grasses were really tall, and lean in toward the trail tread. On a dewy morning we would have gotten thoroughly soaked, but it's been so dry that there was no dew that I noticed. We hammered along (well, I hammered, jlynnbob pedaled easy) and were making good time. We got chased by a couple of sets of dogs. One was pretty persistent. We went fast enough to keep them from getting close, but I would have preferred to hit them with bear spray if I had had some.

    We met bergerandfries and bob murdoch in Celeste. The asphalt leading into Celeste really is as dangerous as everyone says, and serves as a good reminder to developers NOT to use asphalt. In Celeste, I realized I had lost the bag I had on my rear rack that had my food and water and spare batteries in it. Giant bummer. On the way back to look for it, a rock kicked up, hit my rear derailer and pushed it into the rear wheel spokes, and the spokes happily wound it up, snapped it off, and locked up my rear tire. Day-ending mechanical. I got a SAG from jtgryk (or whatever Michael's handle is) back to my car. He went out and found my stuff, which had fallen off my rack embarrassingly close to the start of the trip. I ended up with 22 miles ridden.

    I loaded my bike into my car and then drove up to Roxton for the meeting. The meeting was really good. Lots of people from different cities along the trail were there. It was encouraging to see how many people were working on their own section of the trail. The lady from the Katy Trail spoke, and it was very cool to see photos and hear stories of their trail. After the meeting I drove home.

    I am looking forward to trying again someday soon. Well, not too soon. I'd like for it to be cooler, and for the weeds to die back some. My idea for my next ride is to head back up to the camp in Ladonia, and ride from there to Celeste and back on the first day so I can cover the section I haven't ridden yet. On the second day, I'd like to go from Ladonia all the way to Paris, and then head back to Ladonia either on the trail or on the back roads.

    bergerandfries and jlynnbob were more successful than I was, but I will leave it to them to tell their stories if they choose to.

  9. #9
    gran jefe
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    thinking about trying again in October. no, actually i'm thinking about successfully completing the ride in October. Prolly drive up to Ladonia on Friday morning, and ride from Ladonia toward Celeste and then back on Friday, spending the night in Ladonia. On Saturday, I'll ride toward Paris, and see what happens. Hoping to make it all the way to Paris and back.

    Anyway, if that sounds like anything you guys would be up for, let me know. I have not asked the wife which weekends are okay yet. Just wanted to see if you'd have any interest.

  10. #10
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    That sounds like fun but I am maxed out for October. I am headed to AR for some Womble action.
    "Your opinion may vary, but it's stupid." -Rich Dillen

  11. #11
    gran jefe
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    Marps (or anyone else), whaddya doing on the 5th-6th-7th of October? If you'd like to get out on the Chaparral Trail and ride, let me know. Easy ride Friday afternoon, Looooong ride Saturday.

  12. #12
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    I'd like to but I'm kind of on-call 24/7 for the foreseeable future. Due to the staffing model at work, I need to be able to respond (via PC) within an hour. Once things settle down at work I'd be up for the trip.

    What's your planned schedule over those two days? I'd like to better understand what I'm eventually signing up for.
    Contact information: http://about.me/marpilli

  13. #13
    gran jefe
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    We need to get you a satellite uplink, then.

    Mobilize from here Fri AM, Arrive Ladonia 1PM.
    Ride from Ladonia to Celeste and return. Celeste was as far as I made it last time when I started in Farmersville, so I gotta cover that ground. This adds up to something like 30 miles.
    Camp in Ladonia at the Ladonia Lodge(or drive home and sleep in comfy bed for Dallas-ites) . Rooms available at the Lodge as well.

    Saturday morning, head for Paris whenever I wake up and get going, nominally 8AM. Ride on the trail, with all the thorns and fences that that entails.
    Arrive Paris by 3pm.
    Screw my broken derailer from the last ride to a post somewhere on the trail in Paris.
    Ride backroads back to Ladonia, arrive before dark. I'm not (mentally) equipped to be out after dark.
    This adds up to something like 62 miles.
    Saturday will be a slog.

    That's the plan. I have some people who are acting like they might go along for part, but I do not know them, and they sound a little iffy. The two studly riders I rode with up there last time are not available.

  14. #14
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    Bill, IF my wife is off that day, I would love to do the leg from Ladonia to Paris. She would pick me up in Paris. She could also shuttle anything you might want waiting in Paris. She's a nurse, so it will be a little while yet until we know.
    If ya ain't bleedin'...ya ain't ridin'.

  15. #15
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    Do you pack food and water for Saturday? Or, are there places you can eat/refill along the way?
    Contact information: http://about.me/marpilli

  16. #16
    gran jefe
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrisf_999 View Post
    Bill, IF my wife is off that day, I would love to do the leg from Ladonia to Paris. She would pick me up in Paris. She could also shuttle anything you might want waiting in Paris. She's a nurse, so it will be a little while yet until we know.
    That would be great. Let me know as soon as you can.

    Quote Originally Posted by marpilli View Post
    Do you pack food and water for Saturday? Or, are there places you can eat/refill along the way?
    There is food and water in Roxton, which is about halfway, but that could be 3 or 4 hours from Ladonia depending how well we are doing. I am asking someone about any other stops along the way. I can't tell if Pecan Gap or Ben Franklin has any kind of places to buy provisions, but a guy I know ought to be able to tell me. There is nothing between Roxton and Paris, which, again could be 3 or 4 hours. So, I will be carrying quite a bit of food and drink, since running out of calories would be awful. And I would like to reload in Roxton.

    Our biggest enemy will be flats from briars and honey locust deadfall. bergerandfries flatted twice in a short distance. jlynnbob runs tubeless and seems to do well - I haven't heard of him flatting. I'm not tubeless, but I'm running slimed tubes, will bring spare tubes, and my tires are easy to get on and off the rims. A good patch kit would be nice, but I do not have one.

  17. #17
    gran jefe
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    Update from the guy who has been all the way through:
    There is nothing in Ben Franklin. Pecan Gap has a feed store right on the rail right-of-way that has s vending machine in front, I am not sure but you may be able to get a bottle of water there. There are two restaurants in Pecan Gap, Delta Diner and The Fish Place. It appears the Fish Place is only open for dinner and the Diner is only open for lunch (closes at 2 pm, I believe). The Diner had bottled water in addition to a variety of menu items. Nothing between Roxton and Paris. The trail between Roxton and Paris is nuts...slowest section by far on our side of Paris.

  18. #18
    gran jefe
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    I hope I'm not scaring anyone off. This will definitely be better with more than one person.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill in Houston View Post
    Our biggest enemy will be flats from briars and honey locust deadfall. bergerandfries flatted twice in a short distance. jlynnbob runs tubeless and seems to do well - I haven't heard of him flatting. I'm not tubeless, but I'm running slimed tubes, will bring spare tubes, and my tires are easy to get on and off the rims. A good patch kit would be nice, but I do not have one.
    Both of my trail bikes are tubeless and I'll never go back. Slimed tubes (or some type of sealant) wold definitely be in order on that trip (and spares).

    I have a few bikes to choose from and I was wondering about the gearing you used. If you remember, what was the highest, lowest, and most used gear ratios while you were on the path?

    My 1x10 is my most trustworthy bike; but, I worry that I wouldn't have gearing low enough or high enough to handle the trip. My SS is out of the question on this trail. I'm not that strong. I could always get the 3x7 in shape for the trip. But, she's running tubes. I'd need to slime them up.
    Contact information: http://about.me/marpilli

  20. #20
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    If my wife is off, I'm definetly in.
    If ya ain't bleedin'...ya ain't ridin'.

  21. #21
    gran jefe
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    Quote Originally Posted by marpilli View Post
    I have a few bikes to choose from and I was wondering about the gearing you used. If you remember, what was the highest, lowest, and most used gear ratios while you were on the path?
    It's an old rail line, so there really isn't much elevation change. I was on the easiest part and stayed in my big ring because my middle ring was very worn (since replaced). jlynnbob is an animal, and was flogging me bigtime. Let me go count teeth on my rear der. brb. Okay, highest ratio I used was prolly 44x18, lowest was 44x28(yes, crosschaining).

    I'd expect to spend a lot in 34x18 to 34x24 on the trail. I mean, for low gearing, you want something you don't mind using to start from a standstill on a gravel road many many times. For high gearing, we just want to take a nice road tour back to Ladonia. I doubt we will feel like really hammering. I have a feeling that the 1x10 is prolly a great rig for this, unless you have a relatively bizarre set of rear cogs, or a goofy small front ring. Sometimes it's best to have the rig you love and trust, rather than one that a computerized selection would come up with. Oh, there will be lifting of the bikes over fences and briars (briers?) so lighter would be better from that standpoint. I can't help there. Mine will be heavy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrisf_999 View Post
    If my wife is off, I'm definetly in.
    Looking forward to meeting you.

  22. #22
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    Well, my wife is working, so I'm hanging out with my daughter... Hopefully next time.
    If ya ain't bleedin'...ya ain't ridin'.

  23. #23
    gran jefe
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrisf_999 View Post
    Well, my wife is working, so I'm hanging out with my daughter... Hopefully next time.
    NNNnnnnoooooooo! Okay, I'm okay now. Have a good time with your daughter.

  24. #24
    gran jefe
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    Quote Originally Posted by marpilli View Post
    I'd like to but I'm kind of on-call 24/7 for the foreseeable future. Due to the staffing model at work, I need to be able to respond (via PC) within an hour. Once things settle down at work I'd be up for the trip.

    What's your planned schedule over those two days? I'd like to better understand what I'm eventually signing up for.
    So are you coming? Please?

    Turns out Marps can't make it either. Anyone? Anyone want to come? I promise that it will be fun! No, scratch that. I promise it will be memorable!
    Last edited by Bill in Houston; 09-29-2012 at 10:27 AM.

  25. #25
    gran jefe
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    Ride report:
    I pulled into the Ladonia Lodge and unloaded my bike. The drive up had been good, and I felt ready to have a great ride. I rode around town for a few minutes to make sure everything was mechanically good to go, and then hit the trail at 12:57pm. My previous ride on the Chaparral trail had been on the Farmersville to Celeste segment, and I was pleased to see that the trail near Ladonia was similarly clear and smooth as I headed toward Wolfe City. So far, my hopes of covering the 17 miles to Celeste in 2-2.5 hours seemed easily within reach.

    However, the trail quickly became rougher and more overgrown. For the sake of posterity, I was recording my time and distance and taking a photo at every bridge and road crossing. I was able to duck under or bull through most of the overgrowth, but a couple of times I had to stop and duck paddle through a section. There were a lot of places where I ended up going very slowly and standing on the pedals to keep balance, and I dismounted for every bridge with exposed ties. In spite of the overgrowth, my bike and gear were working well, and I was feeling good about life.

    However, that was about to change. I was expecting flats, so I had my big pump strapped on my rear rack. Unfortunately, this made it a pain to get to my water and food. So I was gradually running behind on water, calories, and electrolytes. My fault completely, and a rookie mistake.

    By the time I covered the ~9 miles to Wolfe City I felt pretty beat, and was starting to get a cramp-twinge in my right quad when I would put my right foot on the ground. In Wolfe City I drank a lot of water. I should have hit the electrolytes hard too, but didn't. I had a little food, too. I saw El Arbol, and wished I had time to eat there, but time was ticking, and it was becoming apparent that my progress was much slower than I would have hoped.

    I set out from Wolfe City for Celeste, doing math over and over in my head to see if I could make it work out such that I was not riding in the dark on the way back. But, no matter how much I tried, it was obvious that I was going to have to ride part of the way home in the dark unless I cut my trip short. I considered it, but decided that shortening the distance was unacceptable. So I kept pedaling my way toward Celeste. Random thought: It must be a lot harder to throw away a TV than I thought, because that is the most popular item found discarded along the trail.

    I finally made it to Celeste around 4:20. Anyone wondering what kind of trail surface to use should definitely park at the Exxon in Celeste, and head northwest. I had no idea that cracks in a path surface could even look like that. If you do decide to walk out that way, let us know, and if you arenít back by dark, we will come looking for you. I got a 7up at the store, sat down to drink it, and pondered how in the world to get back home to the Ladonia Lodge. My GPS has all the little back roads loaded on it, so I used it to put together a path toward Wolfe City that was off the main roads, but still relatively direct. At 4:30, I headed back to the northwest, hoping to make good time. I met a few groups of dogs on the way back, but they were all friendly or understood the boundaries of their yards very well, so nobody got pepper-sprayed. I eventually made it to Wolfe City. A couple of kids were excited to see a person riding a mountain bike, and one of them directed me to the Quick Chek. On the way to the Quick Chek I went by the middle school, timeless and imposing in its classic dark red brick. It appears that Wolfe City must have been quite a bit bigger at some point. Anyway, at Quick Chek I bought some water, mixed myself a stiff electrolyte drink, and finished it off right on the steps of the store. No time to rest, though, because at this point the question was not whether I would be riding in the dark, but how far I would be riding in the dark.

    The wind really picked up out of the north. For a while I wasnít sure if I was getting chills because I had been pedaling for so long, or if it was actually getting colder. Eventually I put on a jacket and felt a lot better. The sugar and electrolytes I pounded at the Quick Chek seemed to be improving my function and attitude. Just north of Wolfe City, I looked for a road that was supposed to cut fairly directly from Hwy 34 over to Ladonia, but couldnít find it. I decided to stay on 34, figuring that if I totally bonked, I was more likely to get help on 34 than out in the sticks somewhere anyway. I donít like riding on roads, but I knew that 34 doesnít really see that much traffic anyway.

    I soldiered on, with the combination of headwinds, hills, and general exhaustion requiring me to use my lowest gears pretty often. I pedaled and pedaled and pedaled and pedaled some more. Eventually around 7:45pm (although it seemed much later) I rolled into Ladonia, where I made myself some dinner and fell into my hammock, where I dreamt of, well, where I dreamt of absolutely nothing as my body and mind recovered from 8 long hours on the bike.

    I was supposed to ride even farther the next day, Saturday, but a combination of factors compelled me to take it easy.
    -My body was thrashed
    -With the trail being as overgrown as it was even in unfenced areas where vehicles had obviously been driving through, I canít imagine what itís like in places that are fenced off.
    -The idea of riding 60 miles AND lifting my bike over several fences was not appealing.
    -As you ride, you are constantly in contact with some kind of vegetation. Even just 5 minutes of rain would wet the vegetation, and you would get soaked to the bone as you rode through.
    -I figured out that I really like to have someone else along on a sufferfest like this.

    Thatís all I have! Iíll do my best to answer any questions you may have.

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