Captain Rat Chronicle 85

A Motorcycle Trip

July, 1985
Beginning odometer: 32444
Had to stop in Mesa to replace a manifold clamp: $1 from Unauthorized Harley, plus 3 pennies to make it fit right. So far, so good, otherwise. I can tell my ass will be the tiredest part of me, or else it'll get tough and I won't feel it. The bola-bags work fine for water, except it's hot. Maybe if I wet the outside next time?
Superior, AZ
Crossed the first mountains after the 60-89 junction. Ahead of me, sunlit from the west, was a rocky mountain that, from a distance looked like a fantasy--set off beautifully among the surrounding hills. The highway ran almost to the mountain, then around it to the east, and I descended into a valley. As I went down, I saw the rain ahead, smelled it, felt the humid gusts. I kept riding, down and into the valley of the rain, and the air around me grew darker, more restless. Finally, at the bottom of the valley, I entered Superior, and the rain hit. I looked for the nearest bar, and found it. It even had an overhanging roof to shelter the bike. A Mexican bar. People were friendly to a stranger stopping to get out of the rain.

Silly Mountain
Passed that a while back. That made me smile. Must be a story behind it.

When the rain stopped, I rode on, but ran into sprinkles that made me cold enough to dig out my leather jacket, and I continued to feel the droplets smashing into my face at 50 mph, which stings. Up the road a bit it dried some, and I hit Miami and Globe, which seem to be twin cities. Both apparantly owe their existence to copper mining, surmised from the fact that half the businesses in them have 'Copper' in their names. Some nice mountain scenery in this area.

I stopped at McDonald's in Globe for a burger and coffee as it began to sprinkle. The sprinkling continued as I left, so I resolved to find a bar and drink to dry weather. A teenager outside McD's asked me to get him a 6-pack, so we met at circle-K where I procured some Michelob Dark for him and his 2 friends.
Then I went to a bar called Bronco's, bartended by the friendly owner, but frequented by almost nobody. I asked him when the people came; after all, it was Saturday night. He said it would be packed by 9:00. It wasn't. An old trucker named Cowboy bought me a beer and advised me not to be a trucker. 'There's no future in it', he said. I asked him if he'd do it again if he had it to do over again. He said, 'Definitely. I love it. There's good money in it, but no future.'

Next I tried the Drift Inn, which was supposed to be the biker bar of Globe. No bikers there. There was a blonde who, when I asked her how she was, replied, 'Fucked up.' I believed her. There was a cute curly brunette, but she left. By this time, though the rain had stopped, it was dark, and I thought I might allow myself to be seduced by some local lovely lass, who, I hoped, would have her own place. So I tried the Shamrock, where, I was told, everyone was. Again I meet the curly one, talk a bit, and just when I seemed to be making headway, she said 'Be right back', and she wasn't. So at closing time, I headed on up the road. Alas and alack, the lack of a lass...and a bed.
But it didn't rain on my sleeping spot, behind a tree off the road.

6:00 am
Show Low, Arizona. Odometer 32,660. 3.4 gallons. 63 mpg.
Almost as soon as I started out, it started raining again. Cold and wet; I thought I'd get hypothermia, but I made it to Show Low. Put on dry jeans and moccasins at the first coffee shop I saw. Glad I brought the mocs. Almost left them to save space. I was still shivering half an hour later after several cups of coffee. Then the sun came out. My boots, jacket, and bandanas are drying in the sun, and if it stays this way, I'll get back on the road.
A clear run from Show Low to Springersville, though a few drops hit at the Springersville city limits. Stopped a a coffee shop for coffee and food. The waitress had beautiful eyes. I wanted to tell her so, but somehow couldn't work it in. I think about much more than I say or do. Sometimes I regret that. She wore a wedding ring, but that wasn't the point. I should have told her anyway. When I came in she had asked, 'Is there only one of you?' I told her that was an interesting question, though I knew what she meant.
Bought some new vinyl gloves to replace my leaky wet ones, and stopped at a laundromat to dry my wet clothes. No serious rain yet, so maybe I can make some more distance before night.
Majestic rocky peaks and breathtaking canyon views. I would have enjoyed Salt River Canyon a lot more without the rain. An Apache ranger I talked with told me the landscape changes colors as the sun moves. The rangers were looking for a family believed lost while hiking on the White Mountain Apache reservation.

The Landscape Turns Female

East of Springerville are some green roling hills and smooth grassy mountains. They are the Earth at it's most female. Their curves are feminine, sensuous; almost erotic. Riding admidst such landscape is almost like letting one's fingers search the lush curves of a woman's body. Crossed into New Mexico and the Continental Divide uneventfully; a few brief splashes of rain, but not enough to get me soaked.

Pie Town, New Mexico

There's a cafe there that specializes in home made pies. It's owned and run by an oriental lady, very cheerful and chirpy. I ordered coffee and peach cream pie. I asked her if these pies were the pies that Pie Town was named after. She said, 'No, those pies were eaten 80 years ago--these pies are fresh!'
It was delicious, and there was a great view of the sunset and western landscape out the window. The lady gave me two apples and a couple of plastic garbage bags in case I had to sleep in the rain. It was getting dark and cold, so I hoped the next town, Datil (pronounced as in 'Dat'll be 98 cents plus tax'), would have a motel. I'm catching a cold, and sleeping in the possible rain didn't appeal to me.
I entered Datil about 9:00 pm and almost missed the town--everything was dark. There was one dark building that said 'motel', but when I asked, I was told it was closed, and that it was the only place in town. Oh, well--on to Magdalena.

June 29

Stopped under a tree on US 54 east of Vaugn New Mexico to see if it's going to rain or not. These trees afford some protection, and I could camp here if it doesn't stop sprinkling. Stood back and looked at my bike parked between the trees, and it occurred to me that I'm just as picturesque as the rest of my travel environment. I look at the quaint little villages I pass through, and the quaint villagers look at me passing.
Actually, one could question who's moving-- I'm going east, but the Earth is moving that way, too...well, this theory would work a lot better if I were going west. I could suspend myself in midair, then come back down, and i'd be further west as the earth turned under me.
I haven't covered Magdalena yet, but I think the clouds left-- time to move on.
I discovered I wasn't on 54 after all; I was on 289. I'd taken the wrong turn in Vaugn, and there were NO highway signs to tell me what highway I was on. When I stopped to adjust the chain outside of Mesa, New Mexico, someone told me. So I took 20 north, almost out of gas, but made it to Ft. Sumner just as I went on reserve. This bike gets excellent gas mileage, but is poor on oil.
Ft. Sumner. Odometer 33,126 miles. $5.00 gas at $1.20. 4.2 gallons 66 mpg.

June 30

Breakfast at Billy-Bob's Drive-in in Bovina, TX. They serve the greatest french fries I've ever tasted--leave the skins on, too. Delicious. Camped at a rest stop just west of here last night. Not bad, but that damp canvas sleeping bag sure is funky. Woke up to a warm sunny morning.
Went through Clovis, New Mexico last night, and thought I'd try a local bar. Stopped outside the Copper Penny, a C/W dance joint. Cops pulled up and said 'Just thought we'd warn ya-- you're fixin' to go in a redneck place.' I asked him if this was a violent town. He said, 'No, but...stereotypes, you know.' Well, I suppose. He suggested a place called Boot Hill, so I took his suggestion. Also a C/W dance place-- no hostilities, but frequented by old couples, mainly. Had a beer and left.
The cop had also asked me, 'How many times you been run?' I looked at him questioningly, and he said, 'You know-- NCIC.' [National Criminal Index Computer, or something like that] I said, 'Not in New Mexico.' He said, 'You're not going to Missouri, are you?' I said, 'Why?' He said he'd heard there was a big 'meet' there. I told him 'No, I'm going to Kansas.'

Alarming noises

Strange grinding, clattering noises. I pull over worriedly. It's my generator trying to fall out. I knew one of those bolts was too short, but I'd never replaced it. The other one, and some wire to support the weight, seemed to hold it, once retightened. When I get to Amarillo, which has a Harley dealer, I could replace the bolt, and get some Harley oil. Good oil is hard to find. Some AMA group ought to look into ways of distributing Kendall 70-weight at 7-11's, or something.
Had lunch at the Grand Burger, which consisted of some crumbly hamburger on top of a layer of salad on a bun. Not grand at all. Now to find I-35 north out of Amarillo and see a lake.
Amarillo, Texas.Odometer 33,311.4 miles. 2.4 gallons.
Went by the lake. Couldn't see it. Oh, well.
Plains, Kansas. Odometer 33,519 miles. 2.9 gallons.

Liberal, Kansas

Ask most young people in a small town how they like it, and they'll say 'boring'. There ought to be a way to make life more interesting anywhere.
On the Oklahoma side, just before Liberal on US 85, there's an establishment called the B and D Social Club. Kinda makes you wonder.
A girl in Liberal said Liberal isn't very liberal. It's conservative. You'd think the name would do something. Maybe it makes them react the opposite. A sign says this is the 'Land of Aahs', with a picture of Dorothy and her dog tripping down the yellow brick road. In Liberal you can visit the Wizard of Oz museum and tour Dorothy's house. Probably not during a tornado warning, though.

No More Rain

Since I got soaked in Arizona, I've been missing major rain with uncanny accuracy. People keep telling me I just missed a downpour or a storm. Of course, I watch the sky and don't charge right into rain, but mostly the timing is not mine. Maybe God decided I deserve a break. I'm waking up just east of Greensbury, Kansas, in a nice little rest stop. Looks like a little over 100 miles to go to Roxbury.
Breakfast in Haviland. Seems that some of these small-town cafes are becoming concious of their own country image. Mason jars for water glasses-- now, I think a real country attitude would be to buy glasses, which are cheaper, and use the Mason jars for their intended purpose. Breakfast was good in form, but lacked substance. The biscuits were big and fluffy-looking, but were too light and crumbly. Needed more shortening or something. At least the waitress, a cute, well-fed country girl, believed in keeping coffee cups full.
Found Kendall 70 weight for the first time in Pratt, Kansas
Hutchinson, Kansas. Odometer 33696 miles 2.5 gallons 1252 miles so far


I'm here to visit a woman called Gypsy. I will be stopping for a few days.

August 6, 1985 On the road again. Council Groves, Kansas. Odometer: 34,136. Rainy weather, but not heavy. Cheese and bananas at the IGA. Food stamps were a good idea: thanks, Gypsy. I'll bet I'll eat better stuff.
Maybe you were right, Gypsy...I should have waited till morning to leave, but somehow I felt it was the time not to stretch the goodbye out any farther...I don't know how long this goodbye will be for...I have a lot to think about concerning you and other parts of my life. I feel somewhat at loose ends. Neither person nor place ties me tightly. I am aware of being tempted to make an alliance with you. We would, after all, be of great help to one another. We have similar approaches to lifestyle. We're very compatible in lots of ways. Yet I am not sure that is enough. Perhaps because I am more guarded in my feelings than I used to be, perhaps because I am not yet sure who I am to be, I am not sure if I could return your love as freely as it is given. It will take time for me to figure that out. I know at least that you're a remarkable woman, and that I will always count you as a very good friend.

If this had been a practical vacation I would be traveling in a pickup truck instead of a motorcycle. As it is, when it rains I get wet, and I can carry very little with me. I have things in Hannibal and Austin that I'dlike to collect. But that will have to be on a future trip. This is an adventure; an experience; an impractical journey; a way to get in touch with people, not things; a way to pick up concepts of myself and my relationships with others, not my scattered possessions. Perhaps it is also a test of myself. Am I as resourceful and independant as I think I am? Perhaps I won't do this again, but so far, I'm glad I did it this time.

Just before Burlingame, KS, the wind started to blow with such severity that I determined to seek shelter. Fortunately there was a tavern in the town, called the Swamp, frequented by pleasant, friendly types. If the town had any bikers, they might go there.
I was right about the storm-- it was replete with sound and fury, so I consumed 3.2 beer until it had abated. The road was wet and the air cool, but it was tolerable, and I made good time to Olathe, and a Denny's, there to plan my next move. Olathe is 20 miles from Kansas City, Kansas, and it's 1:45 am. Should I look for a motel, or keep drinking coffee at Denny's till early in the morning?

Lee's Summit, Missouri August 7, 1985.
Odometer 34136 A visit with my son Opted for the coffee in Olathe, so as to catch Kay before work in the morning. I'd forgotten some of the details of Kansas City, but they have started to come back to me A matter of a shift in thinking.
Geoff and I played computer games (he's good at them), catch, and later went out to eat and see a movie. He's very aware and understanding of all that's going on/ I'm glad I had a small part in his creation.

Independance, Missouri. Odometer 34323 miles. 1 gallon

Hannibal, Missouri August 8, 1985
Geoff rode behind me the 200 miles from Lee's Summit. His rear and legs were getting tired and sore, but he didn't complain--didn't even mention it till I asked. We stopped every 50 miles or so, once to eat in Moberly. He really reminds me a lot of me at his age, but maybe better.
I'm not at all sure how to entertain an estranged son. But I don't think he needs entertaining, or impressing, or teaching. I should just be myself around him.

Seeing Donnie and Mervin Sharkey after all these years was a trip. Mervin hasn't changed a bit--same mannerisms, same posed, superior-intellectual look, which, compared to his brother seemed almost effeminate, but which was offset by his robust farmer side. Counselor at Hannibal Junior High. Good for him. And Donnie I wouldn't have recognized with his beard and grey hair, but he looks good, healthy and happy.
They told me Sandra and Deborah had both been divorced 3 or so times each. That gave me the rather egotistical thought: too bad they missed out on me.

The knight on the red Harley rides back to sweep up old loves and save them from mediocrity...
Carolyn, Phyllis, Yolanda, Christine...I wonder what happened to them.
Phyllis was a little bit tweaked, and a year older, but she was aggressive enough to let me know I could actually get a date with a girl. Then came Carolyn, a pretty blonde with a dazzling smile. That was enough for quite a while, but she didn't realize when it was time to start making love. Otherwise she might have me today-- and I might have her. And I might wish I didn't; who knows?

When I go in stores in town I search the faces for familiarity, and find none. Time travel can be frustrating-- especially when one is not prepared for it. But I suppose it might make for some interesting scenarios:

The throbbing Sportster stopped outside BJ's Bar in downtown Hannibal. The mysterious rider backed it to the curb and cut the engine. Hanging his goggles on the mirror, he entered, walked to the bar, and ordered a beer. Peering about the dim smoky barroom, he spotted her, at a table alone in the corner. In his smiling gaze, her eyes widened, her mouth opened in astonishment, and then that familiar dazzling smile lit up her face. He walked over and said, 'Hi, Carolyn.'
'Michael', she sighed, 'I could never forget your eyes.' He grinned. His eyes lowered to the gold chain that disappeared between the tops of her milky white breasts, then to her hands pressed upon her lap. Only the right one bore a ring. She whispered, 'Oh, Michael...I've missed you all these years.'
He took her hand and squeezed it tenderly, looking into her sky-blue eyes. 'Don't worry, beautiful. I'm here now.'
'Can you ever forgive me?' she whimpered, her wide eyes and moist lips telling him silently that she'd earn that forgiveness, and then some. Smiling again, like a woman imagining ecstasy, she purred, 'Please come home with me. I want you.'

Ah, well...past fantasies can be as much fun as future ones.

The Step Mother
The Hannibal sojurn has gone on long enough. My stepmother, Sue, does not seem happy about my visit, though I've tried to make it a pleasant one. I don't know whether her hostility comes from not being able to control me (I notice that she orders Geoff around very strictly; she does not act grandmotherly at all) or from a general feeling that life has given her a rotten deal. She's always been a bit of a martyr, taking care of her mother till she was nearly 40; then, when she finally married my father, he died about a year later, leaving her with me and a pregnancy. That was bad luck indeed, but one can't use the status of a tragic heroine indefinitely That does not buy happiness nor does it buy control of others.
You can't pin your own happiness on your ability to control other people. I think she hasn't realized that. It isn't easy to learn that the behavior of those close to you might not follow your plan, and that is not to be taken as a personal affront. But we must learn that, and sometimes relearn it, or live in constant frustration and resentment.
August 14, 1985
I never expect that kind of behaviour from Sue. Sometimes I just can't please anyone, it seems. I travel hundreds of extra miles to spend a week of my vacation visiting her, and now she says I don't care about her, so she's partially disinheriting me. She spouted some bullshit, but she slipped her true feelings in there, too. The only thing she didn't say is it's partly because she doesn't like the way I am.
The way I am, to her, is based on my appearance, it seems. She doesn't know the kind of person I am. My hair is long, and I ride a motorcycle. That's enough for her
She told at length the little story about how my sister Pat was so hurt because Brian, who had been like a grandfather to her, had promised her his ring, and just before he died he changed his mind and gave it to his niece. Not the monetary value, but the broken promise was the hurtful thing.
So now she springs the little will change after 30 years of promising, 'I've divided everything equally between you two kids, because I love you both the same.' Well, I don't begrudge Pat anything. After all, she is her natural child, and I am only the adopted orphan that came as a package deal with my father. But she is the only mother I've known, and till now I've had a lot of respect for her better qualities. Now, perhaps, I will have to respect the memory of them instead.
No child asks for his situation. He or she must just do as well as possible with the reality of it. I have had to accept a lot that I didn't like for 18 years, and tried, usually successfully, to believe the intent was loving and kind.
But, when I live my own life, and build my own values, to find love and spirituality in my own way, then I am not accepted by my own parental figure. Well, who says life is fair?
I had planned, after returning to Phoenix, to save about $100 and send it to her so she could have something extra she wanted, and to have a nice 8 x 10 picture done of me, framed to hang on her wall. But after this, she'd probably misinterpret the money, and she probably wouldn't hang the picture.

On to Austin
Aside from the fact that it's obviously time to leave here, I am feeling restless; anxious to get on to the next part: Austin Jill, maybe. What could happen there? Can something be put back together there that couldn't elsewhere? Can I at least lead Jill out of the jaded drug-love trap she's cornered herself with?
When you've painted yourself into a corner, the only thing holding you there is your unwillingness to get footprints on the floor and paint on your shoes.
I've learned too well that I can't MAKE Jill do anything. But she has asked me for help, and I'll try.
Often I've been too monogamous for my own good. When I am, I expect it from my partner, and when I make one woman all women, I expect too much from her. Goddesshood, even. It becomes too serious, and fun suffers.
August 15, 1985
Monroe City, Missouri. Odometer 34551. 3.8 gallons
August 16
Lewisburg, Kansas. Odometer 34795. 3.8 gallons
Miami, Oklahoma. Odometer 34942. 2.0 gallons
Stopped to sleep at Rocky Point, north of Muskogee, Oklahoma. It cost $6.00 to get in the park, but the light show, by God, was free.
Slow going today. I didn't get started till 1:00 pm, and I haven't felt too great in the heat. I hadn't been eating enough. The bike's a little tired, too, but it keeps going.

August 17, 1985
McAllister, Oklahoma. Odometer 35125. 2.7 gallons
The bike stopped with a series of backfires in the middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma. The battery was dead, too. I think I may have found the charging problem, but I still couldn't get it push-started. Night fell, so I slept just off the side of the road in a little clearing. Woke, cleaned the plugs, and started holding up a sign that said 'Need Jump'.
A couple of people stopped who didn't have cables. Finally a cowboy in a pickup truck stopped and tried to jump it. It turned over, but no run. So we, with considerable work, got it in the back of his truck and took it to Atoka, about 15 miles down the road, to a truck stop. I ate there, and investigated further on the bike. Opened the ignition module cover and found the electronic distributor had been trying to grind itself up. Broken bolt, shear pin, and springs. No Harley shop in Atoka. No auto parts store open on Sunday. Went to Pizza Inn, but they sold no beer on Sunday. I was directed to the local bars. I started walking. It was hot and humid. I stopped at a store along the way, and I was told the bars weren't open either on Sunday. I walked on, considering a motel. I asked at one. The clerk, with a worried look, told me $18.00. I walked dejectedly away. It was hot.
Then I was rescued. She said I could crash at her place. She likes Harleys, and doesn't like to see anyone stranded in Atoka. Just a nice person, and more trusting than is probably good for her. Fixed me steak for dinner, too. Yeah, it IS a friendly universe, and now I know what it meant when, as I leaned over the bike in the sun, my crystal pendant projected the rainbow on the tank. There are good people in all places, usually when you least expect them. Thank you, Vivian Layton.

August 19, 1985 On the Road Again?
Off the road again.
Just outside Atoka my carefully improvised repair took a dump. While I was sorting out the pieces, and old pickup with a Harley sticker pulled up. Terry, a Harley rider from Durant, had the parts I needed. However, I had to wait around while he fixed a couple of refrigerators, his line of work. Actually, he does anything that will make a buck, and he charged me $25 for the part, which was a fair price. By flashing the generator, we even got that to charge
When I finally got going, it only made it 50 miles and quit again, this time for unknown reasons. No more charge, either. Oy, vey.
Got a jump from a guy who'd also jumped me in Atoka on the way out. He followed me into Dennison, the bike running on one cylinder. When I got to American Cycles in Sherman, I found it was only an oil-fouled plug that refused to start firing. Replaced by a new one, it ran fine. The generator stopped charging again. A new regulator is too expensive, so I'm getting a full charge and pressing on. The proprietor of American Cycles, like most Harley people, had been helpful and fair.
Across the street there's a blind shop (Venitian) called Blind Alley.
Sherman, Texas. Odometer 35230. 2.5 gallons.
Waco, Texas. Odometer 35378. 1.6 gallons.

August 20, 1985
Finally, Austin. And Jill was waiting for me at Glenda's like she did 6 years ago when she had come to Austin for the same reason. This time it's more serious, though, and more vital that she come here to stay for a while.
Bob, despite his reluctance to write, is still my friend, and has been great to me. My things are still here, most importantly the old notebooks with writing I want to use. The next step, I am thinking, is to get a truck, gather all my things, and end up in Austin.
Things seem to have improved for Bob, too. Julie, I think, is far better for him than Robin, and the complication of his custody struggle over his daughter is resolved. He seems more relaxed, more cheerful; more free. It has been a pleasurable sojurn here, seeing old friends--Bruce, David, Kelly, and Sue... Now it's time to head for Phoenix. Back to work.
August 27, 1985
Austin, Texas. Odometer 35673. 3.7 gallons.
Sonora, Texas. Odometer 35878. 2.9 gallons.
I am writing in the dark.
Was this trip worth it? It isn't over yet, but for all its troubles there were some real good times, some learning, and experiences I won't forget.
Someone in a bar in Sonora offered to let me crash in a trailer later, if I wanted to stick around and have a few beers. It was too early, though. I continued to a rest stop just east of Fort Stockton, Texas, where I slept.
Ft. Stockton, Texas. Odometer 36035. 2.7 gallons.
I was questioned for the first time yesterday on the food stamps. They wanted to see my ID, and refused to accept my $10 stamp. So, I said 'Well, I guess I can't afford to eat, then.' The cashier GAVE me the food. Today I had no problem. They did ask to see the stamp-book, which I have.
El Paso, Texas. Odometer 36283. 3.7 gallons. 66 mpg
August 28, 1985
Evening at the texas-New Mexico border. Odometer 36312 miles. Nice view from this rest stop. It's up the side of a hill. You can probably see Mexico from here, as well as Texas and New Mexico. El Paso reminds me of Phoenix, except more Mexican. I went into the Safeway there to get food, and as I was coming out, two young girls were taking a picture of my bike. When I came over to it, they asked if it was mine; they wanted to take my picture beside the bike.
I asked them how El Paso was. They said 'Slow'. Too bad they were too young. I got my battery charged at a small Mexican garage. No charge for the charge-- that was nice.
August 29, 1985
Wilcox, Arizona. Odometer 36548. 3.6 gallons.
The last day's travel was about 460 miles. It's 1094 miles from Austin to Phoenix. From Phoenix to Hutchinson, Kansas is 1253 miles. In 15 days actually on the road, I averaged 288.2 miles per day, a total of 4323 miles altogether. I arrived home about 8:00 pm on August 29.

This entire chronicle was written in a tiny notebook that fit in the pocket of my leather jacket, while I was traveling. As I re-read it and transcribe it 19 years later, I am keenly aware of how much I needed that trip then. I like to think the universe needed me to take it, too.
Riding a motorcycle is like living, only more so.
It doesn't matter whether it rains, whether you have breakdowns, where you go, or why you're going there. It's what you do with the experience that counts. And that comes from inside you.

This is the first of a series of Captain Rat Chronicles I plan to publish here. Anyone who wishes to comment is invited to email me. This is not fiction, and it is not written for a particular purpose. If it has meaning to anyone but me, it is purely coincidental. But, sometimes, coincidences happen. Peace.
October 30, 2005: Twenty years later, Vivian of Atoka OK saw this story and emailed me. Coincidences happen, it would seem.
~~captain rat.

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