Follow us on the road of life….

Spring Break 2017

Our spring break this year was a little different than our normal ones. Jake’s school went to a “balanced calendar” (it used to be called year round school but they found people to be more receptive if they called it “balanced calendar”. I still call it by its actual name–a shitty schedule. I want our summers back). He now gets two weeks for spring break and wanted to go to Daytona Beach this year since several of his friends were going to be there.  Only problem was my spring break was the second week of his spring break and all of his Daytona bound friends were going to be there the first week.  

Sigh….spoiled middle class kid problems.  

So for the first time ever, Jake started spring break without us. We had to wait until my spring break started to leave. He left on a Friday night with his friend’s family. A wonderful family I might add….but this momma bear was a hot mess.  I did wait until I dropped him off to cry and blubber about how I was going to miss him.   This is what I posted on my Facebook:

For the first time ever, Jake is starting his spring break without us. He is going with a great friend and a wonderful family but this momma is still a little worried. I don’t think he’s ever been away from me this long. And definitely not this far. So I laid down a few ground rules so everyone can safely enjoy themselves. 

No girls. No staying up late. No swimming in the ocean (sharks..obviously). No swimming in the pool without supervision. Adult supervision. No swimming right after eating. No running around the pool deck. No horse playing. No wrestling. No fighting. No crossing busy streets. No ice cream. No wandering off by yourself. No junk food. No messes. No complaining. No spending money on stuff you don’t need. No taking dares. No talking to strangers. No going without sunscreen. No ignoring my texts.

If he follows those few simple rules and wears the “I’m only 13” shirt I packed for him, he should really have some fun. 

He’s so lucky to have such a cool mom.

He made it to Sunday before he trashed his phone. He claims it got wet “by accident” but I’m fairly certain that isn’t the whole story.  He’s been convinced since he got the phone that it’s waterproof “just like the commercial” despite us repeatedly telling him otherwise.   I’m going to guess instead of it “accidentally” being splashed it was being used in an attempt to capture an underwater fart in the deep end of the Holiday Inn & Suites pool or some other extremely worthwhile endeavor.  

Not even gonna lie. I think him being without a phone was way rougher on me than on him. Not because of his lengthy texts to me (see below) but more so because  I had been tracking him on google maps since the moment he left.  

Jake’s lengthy text messages. 

Matt and I left last Wednesday after I got out of school.   Momma Bear wanted to drive straight through so she could see her baby but Papa Bear only rolled his eyes and said he was too old to drive straight through and Jake would be okay for one more day. 

Matt and I heading out.  

We made it as far as the Kentucky/Tennessee state line before we stopped for the night.  And as always. Matt took me to a classy hotel.   I think he looks for the one with the most work trucks parked out front. 

A true sign of a 5 star hotel—boot brushes permanently installed by every outdoor staircase.  

We took a new route to Florida.  Through Asheville, down through South Carolina.  We were a little nervous to use a rest area in North Carolina.  We know they take their bathrooms seriously.  We actually walked into the wrong building at the rest area. Ended up in the welcome center not the bathroom building. Matt apologized to the welcome center attendant on duty because we were fully aware trying to urinate in the wrong place in North Carolina could get ya a criminal record.  

Photographic proof we didn’t commit a crime. #nobathroombill #worryaboutREALmonsterswillya
We finally made it to Daytona by early evening. While stuck in traffic on the way to our condo we were lucky enough to listen to the Space X “used” rocket launch on the radio and actually see it.  

First successful launch of a previously launched (“used”) rocket.  

Reunited!  Although he didn’t exactly say it, I think he missed us too. 

Now it’s just going to be a bunch of our pictures with entertaining captions. Please hold your applause until the end. 

Jake and Matt watching the cars driving the beach.  For two complete gear heads a beach you could drive on is probably what they hope heaven is like.  And they are probably hoping heaven has Oreos too. Since Nabisco shipped Oreo production to Mexico so their CEO could pocket a few more million, we haven’t had an Oreo in our house.  Been a few years now. I think they are both hoping heaven will have their own Oreo production facility staffed by a union work force being paid sustainable, living wages with benefits, including vision and dental plans, so they can, in good conscience, enjoy eating Oreos again. 

Speaking of gear heads, Old Gray developed a slight problem.  Right before we left,  she started spotting a little oil.  Matt thought he had tracked down the problem and fixed it before we left but by the time we hit Tennessee we were throwing down enough oil to chip and seal the main drag of Radiator Springs.  Matt and Jake finally figured out we needed a new turbo pedestal so after ordering the part at the local Napa (seriously, Napa you should totally sponsor us—we religiously visit a store on every single trip we’ve ever taken) they changed it out in the Napa parking lot. In record time I’ve been told. 

Can’t complain too much.  Old Gray just rolled 310,000 miles and has taken us all over the country.  Since 2009, she’s taken us from the Grand Canyon, to Tampa, to Copper Harbor Michigan to New Orleans and everywhere in between.  She’s family.  Maybe the kind of family that now needs to wear a diaper and use a walker, but she’s still family. 

Sunday we spent a beautiful day on the beach with our friends Tiffani and Noah and Jake’s friend Caleb who stayed on with us after his family headed back north.   
All of us. 
Somehow Caleb got us all free daiquiris from the hotel tiki bar. Either that or he stole them. He even got some random lady to help carry them out to the beach.  

Tiffani hanging out under the canopy with Skin Cancer Cathy.  
Jake and Caleb, who never willingly pose for a picture for me, suddenly had no problem posing with Tiff before she left to head back to Tampa. Gee. Wonder why.  

Jake and Caleb waiting on some food. Two teenage boys can consume some food.  We contemplated finding an all you could eat buffet and dropping them off there for the day. 

We spent our days enjoying the beautiful weather either in the pool or on the beach.  Or in my case, under shade because I’m trying my best to avoid round 3 with skin cancer.   So that’s why I look like one of those freaky eyeless pale salamanders they find at the bottom of caves despite spending a week in Florida.  

However I did enjoy the cake section at the local Publix.  They had some mighty fine cakes. I did really well until the last day.  Then I broke down to score a cupcake. 

It was as good as it looked.  

Just like Spring Break.  

Grateful for another fabulous trip with family & friends.   Until next time…..

Detroit Auto Show 

Ever since Jake was old enough to play with toys, his toy of choice was always some kind of car. He would spend hours upon hours playing with his cars and trucks. We even had to carry “emergency cars” in our coat pockets, purses and vehicles in case we forgot to bring one with us.  
He had all his cars memorized and once he figured out how to look up videos on the iPad, it was nothing but car videos. Now our days are filled with the latest in automotive technology and news and hours upon hours of videos of speeding cars, pulling trucks and diesels on dynos.  
Automobiles have been his language since birth. 
He was the reason I entered a contest with the Detroit News for a chance to be a People’s Choice Judge for the 2017 Detroit Auto Show. And he was also the reason I was beyond excited to learn I was selected. 
So today Jake and I hit the road to Detroit to judge the North American International Auto Show. Me in my “official” capacity as judge. And he as my “selected guest”. 
Jake Bramel in Motor City….that’s going to be pretty awesome.

Nashvegas, a birthday & lots of pictures. 

The other day in class I was discussing with the kids a real life writing scenario.  I told them to write an email to a teacher expressing concerns over a low grade. (I got some interesting responses by the way) One kid said to me “I bet you write crazy long emails.”  I responded I kinda do but I love to write and told him I even started keeping a travel blog for my family several years back. He then said “Why?  Who would read it?  Like you and maybe your mom?” 

I had to laugh.  Mostly because it’s true. So mom, and maybe the one other random person who accidentally stumbles across this blog, this is for you. 

I have a big birthday approaching this year.  Been bothering me. Never thought 25 would bother me this much but it does. To help ease the pain, we left Jake at home and met my friend Rachel, my cousin Angela and her husband Mike and Angela’s friend (who is now my friend because I said so) Meagan in Nashville for a weekend celebration.  

Warning. Picture overload. 
On our way to Nashville. Matt looks thrilled. 

We got the exact same room as last time.  I think they are going to name the room after us. 

Matt and Brett. Brett is a high school friend of Matt’s. He and his wife now live near Nashville. 

Me and Rachel. 

Dinner with Matt, Rachel and our good friend Dan. Dan lives near Nashville too. I’m noticing a theme here. 

Me and Dan. I just love this guy. 

Me and my cousin Angela waiting on the shuttle to take us downtown. 

Meagan having a little trouble staying upright in her shoes. She told us a few minutes before “I love these shoes but I can’t walk in them.”  

Me and Meagan at Wildhorse
Wildhorse Saloon. 

Rachel heading to the dance floor.  I have literally never seen anyone dance as much or as long as Rachel. She’s like the energizer bunny. 

Our friend Tiffani couldn’t make the trip this time around and we missed her!  

Hanging out on the deck of the bar and grill next door to our hotel.  

Mike and Angela waiting for the FSU game to start. 

Brett came back and brought his wife Lori. We had a great time! 

Me and Lori. 

Here’s to my 25th year. 😉

Thanks Nashville.  

Well that didn’t go exactly as planned. 

I think that title could sum up most of our travel adventures. But this time around it definitely applies. 

After leaving Jake and Matt in Nashville, I drove on to Orange Beach, Alabama where the temperature was so hot I was sweating more than the time I tried on a romper in H & M’s dressing room and couldn’t get it off. 

That was actual temp. Can’t imagine what the heat index was. 

It ended up being 981 miles from my front door to the condo in Orange Beach. Not exactly a Sunday Drive but worth it to see my cousin Angela and have some fun at the beach. Unfortunately, there was just one small problem—I had no where to park my jeep. 

The condo only gave one parking pass. I tried nearby hotels, u-store places, I even called the local towing company to ask where they tow from the least. I ended up leaving Chili (That’s my jeep’s name. Got a problem with that weirdo?) at a supermarket about 3/4 mile from the condo for the night. Not willingly I might add. Besides the fact of driving a vehicle with easily interchangeable stolen parts, Matt’s stellar driving this year wasn’t exactly friendly to our car insurance premiums. We couldn’t afford another claim in any way shape or form. So the next morning I walked to get Chili and reluctantly packed up to head back north. I think it was the right decision since Chili ended up with a gouge in her windshield. If it was there before abandoning her overnight, I didn’t see it. 

I hope she didn’t cry too much when it happened. Especially since she was all alone. 

Thankfully I got one night at the beach before I left. We had a blast at Flora Bama. 

My friend Megan and I had opposite good sides for pictures. So we had to compromise. 

Of course I had to try the nachos. First time ever for crawfish nachos and they were delicious. I would say a solid 8.5 on the CNS (Crystal Nacho Scale). 

My cousin Angela and me. Probably my very first friend in this world. 

Signed the bar at Flora Bama. 

Angela and I, along with our other cousins, grew up having the best times at my Granny and Grandaddy’s house. They lived in a house behind a Texaco oil field yard & I can honestly say the days I spent there were some of the happiest days of my life. It was and still is, hands down, my happy place. I can close my eyes and see, smell, hear and touch every inch of that place. All kids should be so lucky. I’m not so sure my granny would approve me signing a bar in her honor (I think she would think the whole thing was “ugly”) but I hope she wouid be honored that 19 years after she left us, Angela and I are still BFF’s and the thought of her, granddaddy and the happiest place on Earth can bring tears to our eyes. 

I got as far as I-10 the next morning when I decided that instead of heading back to Matt and Jake in Nashville I would head southeast to Tampa and visit my friend Tiffani. She claimed she would love to have me visit when I called her but I was also already heading her way when I called. Telling me no at that point would have been a little awkward. Am I right?  

Tiff and me in Tampa. 

Tiff’s dog Olli always wants to take selfies with me. You would think this would get old but every time I visit, more selfies. 

I think he wanted to go home with me. Either that or he was trying to help me pack so the crazy selfie lady would leave. 

I determined the 16 hour drive back home was too much for me to make straight through by myself so I stopped back in Nashville on the way home. 

Florida sunrise the morning I started back home. 

Our friend Dan graciously gave me a place to stay in Nashville and I had a good evening visiting with him and his dad.  They even bought me dinner. Such great guys. ❤️ 

I can’t be sure but I’m thinking I may have captured Pupper Dan’s first selfie.  Love that smile!!

Other than a debit card issue (my bank shuts off debit cards in certain states with absolutely no warning–they claim its fraud protection, I can’t tell you what I claim it is because it would involve at least one four letter word…probably with “bull” as a prefix) and a toothless trucker offering me a free cup of coffee if I came out to his truck, my solo road trip adventure was a success.  Made me realize I have been blessed with some pretty awesome people in my life and even though it didn’t go as planned, I enjoyed every single mile.  


A little of this, a little of that

Let’s see. Where to begin?

Matt’s job put a damper on our traveling ways this summer. He spent the whole month of June in Detroit for training. Got back in time for the big county fair where Jake shows his pigs & then once that was over we realized summer was basically gasping its last breath for us. Jake goes back to school August 1. 

So we decided to try to get a trip in. Somewhere. I was originally supposed to meet my cousin & some of her friends at the beach for a girls trip but I found out earlier this summer I have more skin cancer so laying and baking in the sun was kinda like smoking a pack of cigarettes while using oxygen for my emphysema.  But Matt convinced me that I could just hang out indoors & that some boy time for him and Jake would be good. So last Wednesday we headed out convoy style–Matt and Jake in Old Gray pulling the camper. Me following in Chili the Jeep. Headed to Nashville where I would hang with them for a night before heading on the next day to the coast. 

I use the term “following” loosely. Chili and I safely follow the speed limit.  Matt tries to be the first person to break the sound barrier in a diesel truck.  

We had a little excitement before we even hit the state line. A low speed police chase heading northbound ended up affecting the southbound lanes as well when they shut the interstate down to deploy stop sticks. Jake and Matt made it through before they shut it down but I got stuck for a little bit. 

The old ford ranger was the car being pursued. Not sure how it all ended up but Jake learned a little bit about our great American history when Matt mentioned it was just like OJ Simpson and Jake asked “Who is OJ Simpson?”
We had dinner Wednesday night with our friend Dan and his dad Pupper Dan. (We discussed how this whole Pupper Dan nickname came about–although we can trace the origin we still don’t why). We had a delicious dinner at the Log Cabin Restaurant in Hurricane Mills. Excellent food & service. Afterwards we were standing around in the parking lot & got to watching the semis roll in the truck stop across the street.  If they cut the entrance too short & had just enough speed, their trailer would roll up on this hill & shift their loads. It was actually more exciting than it sounds. We stood around watching for a long time, like a panel of Olympic ice skating judges.

  The judges.

You know Cletus, the difficulty of that manuever is going to increase the overall score….

We all took home pie from the restaurant. I’m not typically a pie person (however I have never met a cake I didn’t like) but the pies looked so good we couldn’t resist. 

This is buttermilk chess pie. I have never heard of chess pies before but apparently they are pretty popular in the South. 

Jake enjoying his chocolate chess pie. (Side note:  the shirt is my brother’s business. Jake literally has 20 of these t shirts & wears them constantly.  As soon as I hit 7 readers on this blog I think I’m gonna hit up my brother for product placement fees).

The next morning I woke up early and was beach bound. Not going to lie, made me sad to leave my guys but they promised they would be okay.  Jake said to me “You need girl time. All you ever have is boys.”  I think he was being sincere or perhaps he just wanted my pie.  

More pictures and stories to come…. 

Happy Birthday Merica! 

Our camping adventures began in 2009. Matt’s employer filed for bankruptcy in late spring 2009 and by early June we had bought a diesel truck and headed West. We theorized that with the future so uncertain, we may never have the funds and resources to accomplish one of our bucket list goals. Looking back it was kinda like when Cousin Eddie traded his house for an RV. 

That there Clark is an RV…

We spent two weeks camping our way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and back. Our main goal was to make it to Yellowstone. And we did. And it was just simply incredible. But one of the highlights of the trip, an unexpected highlight, was Mount Rushmore. 

Jake had just turned six and had the recent presidential election and vacation bible school still fresh in his mind. He called Mount Rushmore the “Three Wise Men” and informed us the “old guy on the end was John McCain”. 

Pardon his ice cream mustache. And beard. Kid has always been crazy about ice cream.  
Someone at our campground told us to make sure to visit Rushmore in the evening for the lighting ceremony. Each summer evening, they present a patriotic program explaining the history of the monument, why the four presidents depicted were selected and lower the flag for the night. 

The crowd starting to gather in the outdoor amphitheater for the ceremony. 

After a park service ranger presents a short program over the history of the monument, they play the National Anthem and as the entire crowd sings along, they are gradually illuminating the face of the monument. 

Then they ask for any and all veterans in the audience to come down and join them on stage for the lowering of the flag.  At first, many veterans are reluctant to do so and after a lot of encouragement, they start to trickle down to the stage.  Some need assistance. Some are in wheelchairs. Some use crutches. Some use canes. Some limp. Perhaps caused by the sacrifice of war and service or perhaps caused by the passage of time. But I don’t think there was a dry eye to be found as we watched these men and women make their way to the stage.  

And then one by one, each of them was handed the microphone to say their name, branch of military and years of service.  There was even one gentleman there from the Battle of the Bulge.  

Each evening a different Boy Scout troop lowers the flag under the watchful eye of veterans. 

It truly was an experience of a lifetime.  As tears stream down your face you realize you are truly living in the greatest country in the world. No matter the politics or the complaints or the things we think are wrong in this country…it’s still the greatest country in the world.  

Happy Birthday America!! Oh how I love you!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

The Motor City 

In April we got some exciting news that was a long time coming. After waiting fifteen years, Matt was finally given an apprenticeship at work! We were beyond proud of him. 

The only thing not so exciting about this news was the fact Matt had to spend a month out-of-state for training.  

So other than an unfortunate incident where I dropped my iPhone into a random, unexplained sinkful of water (ahem….Matt) his time away has been fairly uneventful but we have missed him terribly.  I mean I had to single handedly (well I did have some wasp spray) killed the ridiculously aggressive black,furry spider in the mailbox. If Matt was home I would ask him to kill the spider. He would roll his eyes and I would then refuse to get the mail.  It’s hard doing it all on your own. You know what I’m saying? 

After Jake got out of school we decided to hit the road and go visit Matt in the big Motor City.  

Jake got introduced to frappes recently. To say he’s hooked would be an understatement. All he needs now is a pair of leggings, a messy bun (which really isn’t easy I’ve discovered) and a pair of ugg boots and he will officially be a suburban teenage girl.  He’s growing up so fast. Sniff…

Jake and I made it to Detroit before Matt was out of training for the day. So we took advantage of the absolutely gorgeous weather & hung out in the hotel courtyard.  Jake brought his hover board & loved all the concrete. 

Reunited and it feels so good 🎤. I promise Matt was glad to see us despite his happy face here. And I promise we never hold him hostage while taking pictures even though it obviously looks like it. 

After Matt was done for the day we went to Gator Jake’s for dinner and we tried actual alligator for the first time.  I’m very picky about meat, like I hate steak, won’t eat chicken unless it’s boneless breast, I would totally die by Day 2 on an episode of Naked and Afraid, but even I had to admit the alligator was pretty good. 

After dinner we sat out in the courtyard again laughing like hyenas at some of the new snapchat filters.  I think they are pretty funny….or maybe we need more excitement in our lives.  

Jake and Matt face swap–kinda creepy. 

The next day, while Matt was in class, we drove over to the outlet mall. Not necessarily because we are just great shoppers but more so because exploring metro Detroit isn’t for the faint hearted.  I just read last night that police discovered a body under the I-75 overpass at 7 Mile Road.  We went past there.  

I am colorblind. Which makes shopping a little difficult. Well at least when I try to pick out something other than black or gray. This top was pretty risqué for me in terms of color. So I had to rely on my color committee to help me. My color committee consists of a couple trusted friends, my cousin and Matt. They are so used to getting pictures like this sent to them with the question “okay?” Bless their hearts.  I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. 

Jake’s accommodations for the trip. Cute little hide-a-bed couch. He said it slept well but I think that kid could sleep on a bed of nails. 

We only stayed a couple days.  My parents kept Piper for us and my father-in-law kept the 4H pigs alive and well. We swung by and picked up Piper on the way home. 

I think she missed us. 

Good to be home. Matt rejoins us today. 

Final push home & that traveling shirt 

We left yesterday to start the trek home. We planned to take our time since Old Gray was pulling back probably something heavier than her. 

  Old Gray and her precious cargo. 
We only had a couple minor mishaps yesterday. And I mean minor. Especially for us. 

  Matt went to open the tailgate during our very first stop and the latch broke. This is actually our second latch. We’ve already replaced it once. So while Jake googled YouTube videos on how to break into tailgates, Matt used a couple screwdrivers and was able to get it to pop. We also lost a ratchet strap on Jake’s show truck. Luckily we noticed before we had a catastrophe. 

We were making fairly decent time until Atlanta. I feel like that seems to be everyone’s famous last words. Atlanta was especially bad this time around. Took us about 3 hours to totally clear Atlanta. 

  Lovely Atlanta. 
We were hoping to make it to the north side of Nashville before we stopped for the night but once Matt started using some extremely colorful language to describe his fellow drivers we knew it was probably time to park it for the night. He started the day out graciously waving people over, thanking them for letting him in and such and by 8:00pm everyone on the road was a dumb ass and the only person who even remotely knew how to drive was him. It’s kinda like recognizing when your toddler needs a nap. 

  Orange sky sunset over Chattanooga. 
We stayed the night in Monteagle, Tennessee. Jake was all worried about someone breaking into his truck. I’m not too sure why. Even if they could get the jammed doors open there isn’t anything for them to take. Except save me from having my yard look like a salvage yard. 

  Not exactly a magnet for thieves. 

Matt wore his traveling shirt yesterday. We have been married almost 17 years (Yes I know what you’re thinking. How could someone as young as me have been married that long?) and since we’ve been married he has wore this shirt on every trip we’ve ever been on. From our honeymoon to our excursions out West and everything in between. 

  It’s a County Seat shirt which should give you some idea of the age without having to perform any carbon dating tests.  It’s stretched out and worn thin and has a hole in one shoulder and even has a seat belt wear pattern but he proudly puts it on every trip. This morning as we were packing up I think he could see me eyeballing the shirt laying over a chair in our hotel room. I did briefly think it could be accidentally left behind. He picked it up and said “I’ll take care of my traveling shirt because I don’t think I can trust you.” He can be so perceptive sometimes. 

Heading north and freezing our tushies off. Apparently spring has left the building up this way. Looking forward to my own warm bed tonight. Spring break 2016 is officially ovah—peace out. ✌🏼

It all has to end sometime…right?

We spent our last full day here on the beach. We went back to Fred Howard Park. We just loved the beach there. 

  That’s the park, the island on the right. 

  Jake and I met a friend. I use the term friend loosely. He was not very friendly. And could move surprisingly fast. 
  They were filming on the beach today. I quickly googled to see if I could find out what was being filmed. Apparently some scenes from Magic Mike were filmed here back in 2012 so I was getting kinda excited then someone told us it was a commercial for some airline. Still interesting. Especially to see the amount of people involved.  Security. Make up. Concessions. Lighting. For a brief moment security thought Jake was an extra in the commercial. 

We joined our friend Tiffani after she got off work for dinner. Started out at Rum River Bar & Grill where we had….you guessed it. Nachos. 

  They were okay. I would give them 2 out of 5 stars on my carefully calculated nacho rating scale. ⭐️⭐️
  Teaching Tiffani the art of being a nacho connoisseur. 
We weren’t real impressed with their menu (or their nachos) so we decided to head down the road to Wing House.  It’s like a knock off of Hooters. Except the waitresses at Hooters at least try to cover their booties a little. And Hooters has pickle chips not spears.  Even though I’m not a fried pickle connoisseur, I do know the whole chips versus spears issue is an important one. 

 The nachos at Wing House. A solid four stars.  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  Jake and Tiffani. 
We are heading back home today. We are taking two days heading back since we are now transporting another truck home. Makes me nervous. But of course most things make me nervous. Like tornado warnings. We had one here this morning. I woke up to an emergency alert on my phone just before 6 AM. And while Matt stood out on the porch to ensure he would be the first to be blown away, Tiffani, Jake, me and Olli the dog stood around in her bedroom, ready to jump in the interior closet as soon as Matt started swirling around the funnel with the all the other debris. 


  Thankfully we just got some heavy rain and strong winds. I’m all for letting us know about tornados. I just wish they would let us know later in the day. After we’re awake. And our hair and makeup are done. So when we get interviewed by the TV reporter about what the tornado sounded like we will look on point. You know what I’m saying? 
Northbound today.  Praying for safe travels. 

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