Pilgrim’s Purchase

Saturday June 2 : I had breakfast with Ann and the two boys before being dropped off at the airport. When I made the reservations I was deciding between two flights on two different airlines. I thought I was flying out on American Airlines when actually I was flying out on United which is a  different terminal. fortunately Ann was willing to come back and the airport is fairly small. The kit for the truck was 90 pounds and cost me an additional $260 to ship along with my duffel bag. The flight to Denver was forty minutes late and packed. The flight from Denver to Hartford was only 1/2  full. I arrived in my hotel room at 2 am.

So, I’ve been dealing with some hesitation about traveling that hit me the strongest while in flight. What I have concluded is that when I was traveling and homeless back in the early 1980’s the news media wasn’t everywhere all the time like today. after 9-11 and all these school shootings it is just that much tougher to put yourself out there in harms way to a great extent. When I was in my late teens early twenties the only real responsibility I had was to my self, my own safety and preservation. Today, being a husband and especially a father to two boys, that weight does have some bearing upon me.

Sunday June 5: In the morning I took a taxi from the hotel in Hartford to the bus station. Stations must have changed over the intervening years. I used to be able to stow my gear in the package portion of the terminal leaving me free to explore the town I was in. That was not an option in Hartford. I had to keep my 90 pound box and cart, thirty-five pound clothing/personals duffle, computer bag, cooler and flute at my side,  for a three hour wait for my bus.   I hardly dared walk away from it. I observed that the interior of the station was a bit stale, and yet everyone there was sitting inside .Mind you the temperature was 71 degrees F with 40% humidity, actually rather nice. I did strike up a conversation with a mom and her son. She was letting him go-to Iowa, by himself. He was eighteen and her baby. She had two older sons that were still living in town. I think there might have been a girl involved in his desire to go to Iowa, via NYC, Cleveland and Chicago. the mom reminded me of how hard it must have been on my mom when I was dropped off at the intersection of two state highways to send me off hitch hiking because, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The bus ride from Hartford to New Haven with a stop in New Britain reminded me of traveling in Virginia. Trees lined the highway obscuring any view of what lays beyond, punctuated only by power lines and the occasional church steeple.  In New Haven I caught another cab to the motel 6 in nearby Branford. I would be meeting  doctor Bob at around 9:30  tomorrow to go to the truck that I’ve decided will be named Pilgrim, perhaps prompted by the church steeples I saw while crossing the New England countryside. . What do you think of the title: Pilgrims Purchase? The word purchase meant to go much deeper than just  “to buy something”.

June 4, Monday. I met with Dr. Bob and the Pilgrim this morning. We went over some basics on the truck. I loaded my kit into the truck bed. It takes up about half the bed with everything installed. Using the electric fuel pump primer motor it started up on the second try. It then failed to restart. We put it on a charger and went to lunch. Upon our return Pilgrim roared to life. I drove him back to the motel. I repacked the truck bed. I am missing the magnetic sheets that would secure the bike license plates to the dash. More importantly I’m down to two bungees to secure the load and tarp in the bed. I will have to find a place that has some during the middle of my drive tomorrow. I took a nap and then a shower and cooked up some ramen noodles helped with Mrs. Dash. After posting I plan to get some shut eye. A big day tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Wednesday June 5th. Right on target for my planned departure. I arose early and after some oatmeal for breakfast I jumped into the truck and headed out on I-95 north for Rhode Island. While going through my “stuff” I came across a notepad that I had used when I was working on my masters program. One of the classes was a class writing project titled “A Sense of Place” and this notepad contained my notes on “The Rice Family Timberhouse”. was my contribution to that work.Far from being the best writer on that project my story did have an interesting family connection. You see, my mothers maiden name was Rice.  Northern Illinois University used to offer a program of Outdoor Teacher Education at a field campus on the Rock River in northern Illinois, near the town of Oregon. One of the programs that was offered was pioneer living. The program centered around the Timberhouse.

I’ve always been interested in pioneer living I still have a pretty good antique tool collection. So the timberhouse was a natural for me. As visiting school groups and their teachers would visit the site and practice pioneer skills I noted that the Timberhouse was very dark inside. I postulated that at one time the interior had a whitewash on the walls. I did some research and came up with a recipe that would have been available to early Illinois pioneers. I don’t recall the formula in detail anymore but it consisted of limestone, salt and milk. I had the visiting students apply the wash to the interior walls. It took about a week for the Timberhouse to be usable again because as the milk dried it also soured! Later, several local trees were cut using a hand saw, a pit was dug and boards were hewn with my pit saw and a loft was added using wooden nails or pegs. During the course of my renovations I discovered that the family that built the house were Rice’s. I was able to locate  the original cabin foundation and a family cemetery as well as visit the home from which the Timberhouse was removed. Why all this information about an Illinois Timberhouse in a travelogue? In my notes from back in 1991 was a mention of a W.I. Rice who farmed in Leaf River,  Illinois as well as Providence Rhode Island, born, March 22, 1807. today I am passing through Providence.
I stopped in Dayville, Connecticut for gas and a rest and the truck failed to start. I gave it a rest and it started. I asked for the nearest post office so that I could get a Rhode Island  postal stamping and discovered that I was still in Connecticut! Rhode Island was across the street. The truck wouldn’t restart and with the help of some passersby I was able to get the truck into the road and down the long driveway of a plastics plant. No start. The plant maintenance man came out and we pulled the truck back up the driveway with a forklift twice before calling AAA. I was towed back to the station where I got gas earlier. There I met Mark from Travelers Shell. We determined that the generator was still genning, and the distributor was still distributing while the starter was dragging a bit. The best solution we could arrive at was to purchase a second 6 volt battery. That gives me twice the amps needed to get the engine running. I headed back out to the I-95 north by mid afternoon.
Towards evening the freeway came to an end. I had made it around Boston. and decided to call it a day in Devens Massachusettes. First, I stopped at a sloping open area beside a fire station. The crew was home and I asked for permission to camp. They directed me to the back lot of two hotels in town where “truckers park there overnight all the time”. I found an open access road with a slope to it that turned out to be the front of a  Hilton Hotel behind the obstruction of a couple of trees. Amazingly no one came out and asked me to move the entire night. I guess the truck passed the presentibility test. I took a walk around and discovered that the area was all but surrounded by a tall barb wire topped iron fence with U.S. Government signs on it. I spent my first night sleeping in the bed of the truck.The next morning I drove by the front sign for Fort Devens Army logistics base.
Thursday June 6: Doubt didn’t creep in it screamed in as a lay awake for awhile last night. I finally decided that if the engine wouldn’t start or the oil leak I had noticed earlier in the day was severe that I would throw in the towel. My early morning checks revealed that the oil leak was very minor. By letting the truck roll down the slight grade I was able to get it started. I rolled along through some hilly country in New Hanpshire before crossing the state line into Maine where I stopped in Portsmouth. My first stop was for gas, Pilgrim restarted I found a longish sloping driveway at a mattress store to take a rest. After an hour Pilgrim failed to restart. There was an Autozone across the road and I went in and after some discussion went back and grabbed the battery for a free recharge. Two hoours later and after having some lobster rolls for lunch Pilgrim still refused to restart. Back at the Autozone they put me in touch with Twin City Auto and Electric. I was towed the short distance up to Biddeford, Maine. I placed myself and Pilgrim into the good hands of Gary at Twin City Auto.
The generator was working perfectly and so was the regulator once the 8 volt battery was removed. I traded it for a second 6 volt battery for more cranking amps. One thing to be considered is that the starter may have a 12  volt armature in it which would explain why it is having to work so hard to crank over. A set of heavy duty jumper cable was made up and the battery charged and with these tools on board I headed out of town and up north. I made it as far as a turnpike service center mile marker 59 north bound, which consisted of a gas station and a Burger King. After filling the tank the starter kicked the engine over but when I stopped to check out the Burger King, once again the starter would not turn over. I let the truck sit for awhile as it began to rain lightly and grew darker. I contemplated  having to spend the night in this glorified rest area and did not like my odds. lot’s of people coming and going and me not sleeping in the truck but in a tent partially hidden on the grounds of the rest area. The final straw was a family that walked past me as I was checking out the grounds for a place to sleep. They seemed in some distress and when I went back to sit in the truck out of the rain about twenty minutes later an ambulance and fire truck showed up. I really did not want to spend a night in this place and my prayer was answered when the truck started. I drove back to Twin City in Biddeford so that we could have one more look at the trucks electrical systems. The drive back was in a light to moderate rain and that gave me a chance to employ the wipeeer motor which worked great. I spent the night in the back of the truck in their parking lot. We went through the systems again and I purchased a second 6 volt battery. Back on the Road Again!
About 15 miles north on the I 95 the engine sputtered and died and I coasted to the side of the Maine Turnpike. I contacted a friend Bob Bolen for not so much mechanical advice but moral support. Turns out he has a friend that lives not far from where I was once again stranded. He was contacted and gave permission for me to have my truck towed to his home in Tasco, Maine. The tow was forty miles northwest. The remainder of the day was spent chatting with Pete,  setting up the tent and positioning the truck.
Friday, June 7:This is where Pete Weaver comes into the story. Pete was the post master in Moreno Valley not far from where I live in Running Springs, CA. He grew up in Maine and was setting up his new home there for his retirement. He knew a good mechanic and we paid him a visit. Larry came by and we checked for spark which there wasn’t. We also determined that the no spark was the result of the distributor not rotating along with the engine. it became clear that the problem was internal to the engine. If it was the timing gear it could be replaced without engine removal but the fan and other parts would need to be removed. If the camshaft was damaged or broken only a full engine overhaul could remedy the situation.
Saturday June 8: was spent contemplating decisions and options. Evgeny was contacted to let him decide whether or not he wanted to continue the pilgrimage by rental car with additional costs. I was invited by the Weavers to travel into Portland for the “Old Port Parade and street fair”. on Sunday- a welcome break.
Sunday June 9: Arrived at the Portland parade and fair mid morning. The parade was short and unusual.

afterwards, I wandered the street fair and managed to find my favorite, Indian cuisine and had a nice plate full of delicacies. Next, I Googled the nearest  Verizon store since my phone audio had stopped functioning. The salesman was dishonest and even though he could see on his screen that I had insurance he proceeded to sell me an $815  phone. i was not aware that I had insurance until Ann and Pete came to the rescue. Pete contacted the Verizon corporate office and we worked out a compromise where I could get my phone back for return and insurance for a new one at no charge. Thank you Pete and Ann.

Monday June 10: AAA was called and the truck was towed over to Larry’s shop where some checking was done. I had reinstalled the distributor correctly seated all the way down and it was not turning with the engine rotated by the starter. Conclusion: either the timing gear is broken or the camshaft or both. The timing gear can be repaired without removing the engine but if the camshaft is broken the entire engine needs to come out and rebuilt. Pilgrim is done for this season. he is being safely stored at Pete’s until I can figure out the next moves. Total distance driven close to 350 miles.

stubborn old truck, Pilgrim being left behind in central Maine for a time.

Tuesday, June 11: Some decisions had to be made. I contacted Evgeny and he chose not to travel by rental car with its added expense. So that closed the door on option two leaving option three the choice for further travel. I will be taking the Amtrak home. Always wanted to travel again by rail. The rail pass is a great deal. I have 15 days to travel with 8 segments (stops) and unlimited mileage.

I helped the Weavers out by trimming their Beech tree with a chain saw. We also made two trips to the dump. “To the dump to the dump to the dump dump dump!”

Wednesday, June 12: All rail pass tickets were sold out for this day but I was able to get tickets starting on Friday. Pete and I made their driveway look all pretty by removing needles, cones and larger rocks from the drive just in time for the backhoe to come in and finish preparing the slab for tomorrow’s delivery of their new mobile home.

Thursday, June 13th: The mobile home was jockeyed into place. It took most of the day.

Since I was packing up for an early departure I was the first one to stay in the home, sleeping on the floor but no mosquitoes and more importantly no ticks.

Friday, June 14: It was an early morning bus that needed to be caught from Portland to Boston. heard quite a few complaints about how dry it’s been but in the time I was in Maine it seemed to always be misty and overcast. A few stairs and walkways from the bus depot took me to the train station where I bought a sandwich wrap and a banana for lunch before boarding the train to Chicago. It would be a 22 hour trip. I found the train ride to be very enjoyable. There is a lot more leg room than on a plane and you get to see the countryside go by which more than makes up for the slower rate of travel. One change in the landscape that was very evident is the proliferation of solar panels both on individual homes but more noticeable in municipal ‘farms”of panels. i truly enjoyed seeing backyards with old cars, as well, as the rivers and forests that the train passes through.


I made the reservation by phone without the aid of a map or schedule which is something I regret. I discovered that the train not only passes through but stops at Elkhart, Indiana  where my mom’s remains are buried. it also passed through South Bend, home of the Studebaker museum.

Saturday, June 15: I arrived in Chicago at close to noon. My friends and guests Janice and James had a board meeting until mid-afternoon so I had some time to re-explore

downtown Chicago. I went past the now nearly empty plaza that once was Kroch’s and Brentano’s, once the largest bookstore in the United States. I worked there for a bit more than a year back in my youth. I also by chance walked past the old Ekhoff’s Dining Room with fond memories of early youth.

Having been on a train for almost a full day I was hungry and stopped at a Greek cafe for a plate of ethnic treats and then walked towards the lake finding my way blocked by what turned out to be a parade for Puerto Rican Pride. The portion I saw was entirely hopped up cars flying the flag of the recently beleagured territory.


I also walked past the memorable Picasso sculpture with fond memories of the past, wondering and guessing what it represented.


Sunday and Monday June 17 & 18I was able to get some well needed rest for a few days with some old friends and a few new ones. Janice and James are always gracious guests we partook of some healthful meals both home cooked as well as eating out. We saw the newly released “Incredibles” movie and I got to spend some good quality time with six cats and a delightful dog named Gracie.

Tuesday June 19: My hostess had a speaking engagement at the local rotary club so she dropped me a bit early for the train back into Chicago, at a local coffee shop and the owner, Bill was kind enough to give me a quick ride to the train when it was time. The “Empire Builder” left Chicago after a short delay. It traveled through Winona, St. Paul and other west central towns- old stomping grounds for me in Minnesota.

Wednesday June 20: In the morning I watched the sun rise over the North Dakota prairie land not far from the Canadian border. As far as Minot the land was flat farmland.

After Minot the land became progressively hillier with ranches and grazing cattle more dominant. The northern plains have been receiving record rainfall this spring.

There were quiet a few Amish on board, both young and old with the men decidedly more friendly than the women. They disembarked in two large groups in Glasgow and Shelby Montana. By evening I reached East Glacier National Park Village. It’s open only four months out of the year. I found a bunk at the Backpackers Inn behind Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant. I had a cabin mate named Scott from Scotland. Serrano’s served up some wicked hot Carne Asada Tampico.

Thursday June 21st: I arose rather late and walked around town before deciding to catch a shuttle bus into the park at the tune of $30. But it was well worth the fee as otherwise I would not have been able to see the park. The shuttle from the East Glacier Lodge took me to Two Medicine Lakes. thee, I chose to take the scenic Point trail. A very steep choice but in my mind being steep it offered great rewards. I don’t know if the pictures really do it justice.

The author at P—–Falls spur trail.

Lower Two Medicine Lake

The lower end of the Scenic Point Trail

1,800 feet higher in altitude near the top of the trail. I ran out of time to get any higher 6,240 feet.

Melting snow in a tributary of the Two Medicine River.

A pretty spectacular building with the bark left on the familiar Ponderosa Pine. 

 She’s a grand old dame started in the 1930’s.

Had a nice visit with the station master a Blackfeet Tribal woman. The train for Portland left at a little after 6 pm and traveled through the night to Portland Oregon.

Friday June 22: Although not my first Hostel stay the first one hardly counted as it was basicaly shared a large room with three other guys- all Americans. There was a locker room in the basement where I could store my gear since I was too early to arrive for check in. There is a cafe that serves a small but tasty menu and you get a $3 off coupon for breakfast. There’s someone at the front desk 24/7. If you taste a beer sample you get $3 off your first glass. The staff was very friendly. They were obviously committed to something that they believed in and not just employees

I did a lot of walking forst with a heavy gear load from the train station to the hostel. Then I went for a walk and found an Indian lunch buffet. Next, I walked to Washington Park. First, I found the Test Rose Garden. I’ve never seen so many roses in one place and it may be the world’s largest display as far as I know. mom’s favorite flower was the rose and I thought of her and happy memories.

Next door is the Japanese Gardens. They had an entry fee but considering the amount of upkeep the gardens require it’s completely understandable.

Saturday June; was a quick one hour and twenty minute run into the capital town of Oregon, Salem. The excellent public transportation system wasn’t running on the weekends so I ended up walking the 2.1 miles with close to 80 pounds of gear, to the motel beside the I-5, noisy. I slept laying still most of the next day. On Sunday I got up and walked over to the “Almost Home Diner,”  Had a great omelette. Went back to hte motel and slept some more- lazy.

Monday June 25: The bus rides back to the train station showed me a much better side to Salem. I qualified for the senior discount so the trip cost me $1.60. I was not overly impressed with the Willamette River Valley, seems overly built up. The area along the railroad tracks in southern Oregon and northern California were much more interesting and remote.

Tuesday June 26: Arrived in San Luis Obispo mid afternoon, dropped my gear at the hostel that was one and a half blocks from the train station. Walked downtown and around town before checking in at 4:30 pm. Then went to dinner a a Thai restaurant on the east edge of town. These were parked at a muffler shop:

These are called tear drop trailers based on their shape. They aree lightweight and you sometimes see even a VW bus trailering one.

These are retired postal jeeps from the 1960’s and 70’s. Once upon a time they could be found everywhere. On many of them the steering wheel was on the right side next to the curb so that mail could be placed in curbside boxes. When I was the summer camp maintenance man and off season caretaker one of these was my camp vehicle.

This is a bit of an abomination. It’s a 1980’s or 90’s car with the front and rear clips off of a 1951 Studebaker grafted in. NOT my cup of tea. Tomorrow, Wednesday June 27th is my final day of this portion of the pilgrimage. Decisions need to be made about how to proceed with the truck in Casco, Maine.  Stay tuned.

Arrived back in San Bernardino on June Thursday Juune 28th.

On Wednesday July 11 I had the Pilgrim towed back to Larry at L&S Auto. Today, Juky 12 we found that the timing gear was worn and made of fiber so that the engine ran quieter. a noisier gear made of aluminum and some gaskets are on their way to Larry and the truck should be up and running by Tuesday July 16. I had a pile of customers waiting for distributors when I returned and in ten days I have paid off most of the bills from attempt number one. I am seriously considering a second attempt for this summer. Maine to California is close to $2,000.

Thursday June 26th: The Shipping the truck shipping of the Pilgrim to California has been sorted. It will be here in seven to ten days. I will have time to drive the truck around and fix a few things before setting out again, probably next summer. When I first got home I had lot’s of distributor orders waiting for me and the funds generated went to paying off the credit card bill. distributor restorations have slowed to nothing for two weeks now and I have a shipping bill a small loan payment, a repair bill and some USPS shipping costs that need to be taken care of before I can register the truck and start using it.


I attached the two Studebaker badges to the sides of the front hood- some missing bling. I replaced the bad headlight on the drivers side with a 6 volt from my VW spares!  An exact match. I ditched the funky front turn signals with something a bit more vintage appropriate. The bulbs for the turn signals are an exact match to those on a VW, once again. I cleaned up the wires going from the starter motor to the starter solenoid. I attached the California 1953 mini license plate to the dash board.

at the new home for Pilgrim in California- sporting new old front turn signals.

Tuesday August 6: I’ve done a bit of work each day in the morning and then in the evening. It’s too hot by mid day to do much. I’ve disconnected and removed the starter solenoid for cleaning and then reinstalled, it helped a bit but the starter is still dragging. I will have to remove it and rebuild it as funds allow. While I was performing this work I noticed a loose wire, disconnected the switch and cleaned it up and in the process the lug for the low beams (headlights) broke loose requiring replacement. I also found that the spring shackle clamp bolts were only finger tight and so I torqued those appropritately. Lastly I replaced the two bolts holding the front license plate bracket to the front bumper. They were rusting and were an eyesore.

The brakes were a bit spongey so I adjusted the master cylinder push rod which turned into quite the chore besieds being sidetracked by the above tasks.I adjusted the rod too long and when I first stepped on the brake pedal the rod came out of the master cylinder bore rendering the brakes useless. I tried replacing the rod into the bore but the rod was too long. I adjusted the rod down and it was still too long. I disconnected the brake pedal return spring in order to get the rod back into it’s bore and then the problem became getting the spring back into its position. after more than an hour of trying one technique after another I finally straightened out the hook on the spring long enough to be able to hook it into it’s hole blindly before re-bending the spring so that it won’t come loose. The brake pedal is now much firmer. I will be adjusting the brakes in the near future.

Since I don’t have the funds to plate and register the truck yet I’ve kept the test drives and excursions to the backroads of town. it’s plenty challenging with sharp curves and steep grades in low gear.

A good friend of mine, Scott received a visit with the truck. He went inside and dug out a mirror that looks like it will fit the interior of the cab. it’s good to have friends. In the process of trying to bend the passenger side mirror so that it would actually be functional the arm broke off. Very cheaply made reproduction. I found the 1953 South Dakota truck license plate and it’s now attached to the inside of the cab with a magnet like the mini plates.

Distributor rebuilding has picked up again after a two week hiatus. I hope to have two more bills covered by the end of the week. ‘


Thursday August 16: Thanks to my friend and neighbor James Healey I had a rare opportunity today.

James works for the U.S.Forest Service and we went down to their San Bernardino offices for the day. There we found a 1924 Ford Model T. James had arranged for the needed repair of the spokes of the wheels called Felloes. The original ninety- five years old felloes had dried and shrunk to the point that they clacked as the wheels turned and were no longer safe. We greased the front wheel bearings and installed all four newly refurbished wheels and then tires. After some engine cranking “Gifford” (named after the founder of the modern U.S. Forest Service- Gifford Pinchot) came to life. I even got a turn at the wheel.

back home in the evening I did a compression test on Pilgrim. I’m still not sure how to find cylinder #1 so the readings are not in firing order.

fan cover, 93  95  90  70  93  65

since I am at nearly 7,000 feet in altitude and the air is thinner these figures can be modified by adding 10 pounds /sq inch to:

fan cover, 103  105  100  80  103 75

A new engine should have 120 for each cylinder. As expected Pilgrim’s engine is worn in. In two cylinders with 80 and 75 pounds are quite low. My next step is to check the valve lash particularly in those two low cylinders. If they are out of adjustment bringing them into spec will increase the compression and perhaps the engine will be judged healthy.

The following day I squirted oil into the low reading cylinders which did increase the compression readings to 80 and 93 pounds. This indicates that there is some where to the piston rings and the oil increases their sealing= compression. The next step is to verify good valve lash or spring gap. This necessitates removal of the exhaust manifold and carburetor/intake manifold which means purchasing new gaskets which are funds I do not have at the moment.

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KellyOval · June 12, 2018 at 10:10 pm

You made it!! I can’t wait to hear about day one with Pilgrims Purchase
We missed you at Prado, it was a great show, but I broke my arm- whoops.. so bummed I wont be able to drive Valentine myself for awhile

    admin · June 18, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    Ha! Got an email from someone who said they gave a distributor to me at Prado and wanted to know when they could expect it back! I had to break the bad news to him that it wasn’t me he gave his distributor too. Sorry to hear about your arm Kelly.

norv hermanson · June 18, 2018 at 4:39 pm

Quite an adventure! Your dealing with the truck reminds me of my nail biting times with my Opel GT. I was bound and determined that I would always do my own work on it. My insistence of doing my own work, however, resulted in the breakdowns occurring in the most inconvenient places. One time, I spent the night in a cardboard recycle area in the back of the GM car dealer in El Paso, Texas. Their parts store was closed at the time of the breakdown. I got the parts I needed in the morning…Anyhow, you’re getting to see some beautiful country. A trip of a lifetime! Stay safe!

    admin · June 18, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Norv, yeah I am on that adventure one way or t’other. You made me chuckle with your little anecdote. I am due to be back home on the 27th. Then to start saving funds to have the truck shipped, and engine rebuilt.

      norv hermanson · June 20, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      I’ve just got one question: when you mentioned having indian food. Native American food or from the country of India?

        admin · June 23, 2018 at 4:08 am

        indian as in Curry! again today too, in Portland OR heading home slowly. The Boys complained about working in the yard while their Pop is farting around. Ann got online and found a really good deal on four days on the Volcano Island of Hawaii. Hopefully that will make them feel better!

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