First Time in OBX

First off I would like to thank all the people who reached out to me publicly and privately to tell me my latest post either spoke to them, or to give me encouragement.  I heard from people who I didn’t even know were reading the blog and it was so nice to hear back from people, especially on a post that really opened up about my insecurities.  It gives me courage to not censor myself but keep telling my truth..so thanks again.  It even surprised Lee, which was interesting.  I mean, he lives with me so I thought he would have known, but apparently I am a better faker than I gave myself credit for. Plus it sparked some great conversation between Lee and I which is always a good thing.  While I was gone on one of my work trips, Lee added this amazing lettering to our rig with the blog address,  and part of the lyrics from our favorite song “The Way” which has become our anthem.  Made me so very very happy, I truly have the best husband ever. (It’s true, she really does. – Lee)

Our Anthem

Our Anthem

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Our blog address on the back of the camper

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Our blog address on the front of the camper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week we also finally finished the process of becoming State of Florida residents.   I sent my Letter of Domicile to the voting board and received a letter back that I was all set to vote, so that was good.  We also worked with this absolutely amazing woman Cheryl (at the DMV in Green Cove Springs) and she was a life saver.  The truck title came in quickly, but the RV title took a really long time (Bank of America really needs to get their act together) so Cheryl said we could fill out all the paperwork and she would process and mail us the tags when the title came in.  Talk about going above and beyond, and this allowed us to leave on our scheduled day of Sunday.  Came down to the wire (we were filling out papers Friday at 4:30pm) but we made it.  I was so grateful when Cheryl called on Monday and said the title had come in and everything was processed that I sent her some flowers to thank her.  Yes I know that’s a little weird, but people should be thanked for going above and beyond.  Here’s a picture of the bouquet I sent below. I called to make sure she got it and it made her day. (This was way more hassle than it should have been, by they way. In this day and age, documents should be electronic and easily transferred from anywhere to anywhere. We were able to prove Tracy’s identity to the state of Florida using her passport, a birth certificate, and, get this, a W-2 from 1989 that just happened to be in the bottom of an old taxes envelope that we thought was empty, and used to carry all the docs to the DMV to keep them all together. I’m not sure what we would have done to prove her SSN if it hadn’t been for that ancient W-2. But! Bank of America needed three weeks to get a certificate of title from Jacksonville to St. Augustine. On the plus side, Cheryl was the best, and it’s always fun to give someone flowers. – Lee)

Flowers we sent to Cheryl at the DMV

Flowers we sent to Cheryl at the DMV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday we finally  left Florida and I will say we were both happy to see it go.  We loved Florida in January and February but the weather kept getting hotter and muggier and we were both more than a little uncomfortable towards the end.  (Technically I’m always a little uncomfortable, but the heat and humidity made it worse. – Lee) Plus it was incredibly congested with spring break season and although we really liked Anastasia State Park Campground (see review below) we were both very excited about heading back up north to the Outer Banks (OBX). We did get to have an up close and personal experience with Rascal, our resident raccoon, before we left.  I know they don’t generally come out in the daytime but he didn’t appear sick; just really curious.  Both Lee and I got some great pictures before he decided we were not that interesting after all and wandered off. (This little guy definitely has a route that he follows. The first night we were there, Trace and I were just hanging out outside under the awning by the light of our Tiki torches and Tiki pots, and we heard a little rustling in the bushes, and he just strolled out. He seemed surprised to see us there, and scampered away. He came back several times, but on the second to last day we were there, he decided to try his luck during the day. – Lee)

Lee's picture

Lee’s picture

My pic...Rascal climbed on a tree and posed for me

My pic…Rascal climbed on a tree and posed for me

 

Because we had scheduled our route to stop in Ebenezer Park near my sister Wendy we had about 6 hours of driving ahead of us. Normally we would try to split that into two days, but decided to try to knock it all out on Sunday.  Turns out that was not the best decision, because of crazy heavy traffic it ended up taking us a full 10 hours to drive and the roads were extremely congested which made it much more stressful for Lee.  Since he drives the truck and rig (and I follow in my company car), he sets the pace and it really is not the same driving a truck and fifth wheel as driving a car.  You need to go slower for one thing (Lee tries to drive between 60 and 64 to help conserve fuel and maintain better control) and you are limited in what roads you can take due to a need for high overhead clearance. Well I won’t dwell but those who have done it know what it’s like and suffice it to say when we rolled into the campground at 6:30pm we were both tired and a  bit on edge. (I’m happy to do a little dwelling. It’s been two days and I’m still annoyed at those people who caused a 6 hour day to be a 10 hour day. Yeah, a little “on edge”. So here’s a pro tip, for all you assholes that don’t know how to drive (present company excluded, of course): when you see a sign that says “Lane Ends 1 Mile Ahead”, go on ahead and get the hell over while everything is flowing smoothly. Waiting until the last possible second so you can have a little more time without a car in front of you DOESN’T WORK. We sat in stop and go traffic for over an hour and a half at the Georgia-Florida line and again outside Columbia S.C., because: people. They’re the worst. – Lee) 

What happens next proves to me that God has a sense of humor.  After writing about how comfortable I was in my little home and how the claustrophobia was practically a non issue, one of our slide outs refused to slide out.  Let me say we’ve been having some minor issues with our desk slide out for a while and finally it decided enough was enough.  This is the first truly major issue we have had with the Open Range since we bought it and it’s interesting it is a slide because that was one of our biggest concerns when we bought the rig.  The Open Range is significantly less expensive than the same Montana and has a motor/gear/pulley system slide out versus the more traditional types on most rigs. The company passes those savings along to its consumers and we saved more than $10K on almost the same rig as the Montana.  Lee likes the slide out system because it’s open to inspection and has a back up manual option to bring slide outs in with a hand drill and a tool they provide if the motor fails or there’s no electricity. In this case though, the gearbox is the problem, so the drill solution would not work. (I’m actually a big fan of this type of slide mechanism, because the workings are easily accessible, and you can visually inspect the entire system any time. And the parts are not that complicated, and relatively easily replaced. (Stay tune for more detailed information on that, which should include rare photos of me laying on top of the slide out box.) However, there really should be an option to bypass the gearbox, and manually bring in/out the slide. – Lee)  Luckily it was stuck in the “in” position though because we could in theory live with this issue indefinitely.  Lee called Open Range and described the problem over the phone and the gear box definitely needs replaced.  He’s working with them to coordinate service when we are in OBX.  I will say here that this situation really didn’t upset us too much.  Everyone we know has had a major issue at some point or another and truly it’s a question of the levels of difficulty they cause, and if can you function while you are waiting to get it fixed.  Since we have a two-year manufacturers warranty and another five years extended warranty on top of that, we know we are covered, it’s just a matter of getting the parts and the labor to do it.  Since Lee is a certified tech they are going to send him the part so he can do the repair himself.   I am just thankful it’s not a “stop everything” emergency.  I am working at the kitchen table for the time being…hooray for laptops… and I will definitely be spending more time outside which is why I said God had a sense of humor. (As an added bonus, since she’s at the kitchen table, I get to use the desk, because I have no claustrophobic tendencies, which will come in handy when I’m crammed between the slide out and the ceiling. Anyway, the desk is where the computer is, so I get to actually use the computer in the daytime, so that’s something. If she didn’t know better, she might wonder if I had somehow sabotaged the gearbox on purpose. And it would be a shame if it took weeks and weeks for the part to get here and she had to continue working from the kitchen table. – Lee)

My slide "in" rather than slide "out" lol

My slide “in” rather than slide “out” lol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went over to see Wendy Monday night and I couldn’t believe how much Abram (the child she is in the process of adopting) has grown.  He didn’t remember us at first, which was a bit sad, but warmed up quickly and we got to watch him do all kinds of cool things.  He is an active crawler now, sits easily, and eats real food with a ferocious appetite.  Seriously, that boy can eat, and we had a lovely time catching up with Wendy, Josh, and the kids.  She made us dinner and if I haven’t mentioned it before Wendy and her husband Josh met in cooking school and wow, can they cook.  She made homemade chicken pot pie from a rotisserie chicken which was to die for.  She tried to explain the steps but I glazed over at some point and she said “You know, like when you make a regular pie.”  She looked a bit horrified when I admitted I have never made a pie in my life.  One great piece of budget advice she gave that I wanted to pass along to my friends on a budget is she looks for the sale day for rotisserie chicken and buys the maximum of 2 when they are $4.99.  She then cuts them up and uses them all week in other recipes like chicken enchiladas, etc.  Really smart, and as she said, that price for well cooked chicken is cheaper than the non cooked price per pound.  My sister is super smart and I’ll be trying that tip out next time I see those chickens on sale.  Wish I could post some pics of Abram but because of the adoption process we have to be careful.  Lee crawling on the floor with him was absolutely adorable.   (In addition to being ruggedly handsome, I am also adorable. It’s a hard balance to maintain, but I manage. – Lee) So here’s aside shot of us and Abram and a picture of Wendy’s chicken pot pie.  Just looking at the picture of the pie makes my mouth water. (For scale, that stone dish is like 14″ across. That’s a big damn pot pit. And Abram ate the whole thing all by himself. – Lee) 

Wendy's Chicken Pot Pie

Wendy’s Chicken Pot Pie

 

 

 

 

 

Abram, me, and Lee...can you tell we love our newest nephew

Abram, me, and Lee…can you tell we love our newest nephew

 

We left early Tuesday morning and drove a few hours to Raleigh which was the halfway point between OBX and Rock Hill.  We are getting pretty good at packing up and rolling out with minimal fuss and the traffic wasn’t too bad along the way.  There wasn’t much in the way of campgrounds in and immediately surrounding Raleigh available, so we stopped at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. It’s not really a campground in the traditional sense, it’s basically a large field with a hundred or so full hookups that the vendors stay in during fair ground events.  It’s open to the public, but there are no amenities at all, and they don’t take reservations, and they only take cash. Currently it was almost filled by people working on a new power plant and the state employee who let us in was very nice.  It’s $25 a night though (way overpriced for what you get) and cash only, which is always a pain.  I wouldn’t stay here again unless I didn’t have any other choice since it really had no redeeming qualities other than a strong ATT signal. (I completely disagree here. I would rather stay in a place like this for a half day/overnight, because it was cheap, had full hookups, was easy to get in and out of, and close to the interstate without being within earshot of it. – Lee)

Again, got up early the next morning and drove to the Ocean Waves Campground in the Outer Banks.  I have never been here and I was so impressed by the wildness of it.  After the carefully coiffed beaches of Florida it was cool to see the wild and untamed dunes.  Our campground is absolutely amazing with its own little patch of dunes and beach less than 100 yards away.  We checked in and quickly got set up for our month-long stay.  So glad we won’t be moving for a while!  I enjoy staying in one place and there is so much to do here, I can’t wait for the weekend to do some exploring. We are spending the month here with our friends Jo and Craig, Kelly and Bill, and Cori and Greg.  And then later Sue and Guy, Eileen and Gene, and Red and Pam may drop in as well.  I’m excited about being with RV-Dreams folks again and looking forward to catching up with everyone and exploring this beautiful place.

Campground

Ocean Waves Campground

 

Morning on the beach

Morning on the beach

Lee staring at the sunrise

Lee staring at the sunrise

Campground Reviews 

St. John RV Park and Flea Market   2493 State Rd St. Augustine   3 out of 5 pine cones

The site was well maintained with full hookups and with the Passport America discount only $17 a night, unlimited.  The people that worked there were extremely friendly and helpful and they had strong and free WiFi.  I liked having the flea market next door as it was very large and fun to walk around on the weekend.  It also had easy access to the freeway (the road to the entrance is literally next to the interstate ramp) and wasn’t that far from St. Augustine proper.  The only problem with the campground is there were quite a few permanent trailers that look really trashy because they are just not well maintained. It’s a shame, because it has a lot of potential and I vacillated between a 2 and 3 but finally gave it a 3 because it was quiet, I felt very safe there, and the price was so good.

Anastasia State Park Campground  300 Anastasia Park Road St. Augustine 5 out of 5 pine cones

Deep, well wooded sites with 30 AMP electric and water.  The facilities in each loop are extremely clean and the park has a huge beach, walking trails, and bike paths for those who stay there.  Getting on and off the island can be a bit time consuming if you use the Bridge of Lions. We recommend using Rte 312 instead. It’s the same distance from the park entrance. The amphitheater next door played some particularly loud music one night, but overall it was a great experience.   They have no WiFi and ATT cell service was a little low but strong enough to work.  There is a free boat launching area and a vendor that rents boats if you don’t have your own.  If you have a large rig be careful about what sites you reserve.  There are not very manage that can handle the really big rigs. We stayed in #72 which was a bit tight width wise but very deep.   Definitely a must try if you are in the St. Augustine area for any length of time, but book in advance because they fill up quickly and it’s tough to get a spot.

North Carolina State Fair Campgrounds  1025 Blue Ridge Blvd, Raleigh NC 2 out of 5 pine cones (+1/2)

Large field where vendors stay.  The fair grounds are not in the best neighborhood and it was a little hard to find the actual campsites.  Cash only and $25 a night for full hookups which is high for a field.  The website says free WiFi but it doesn’t actually connect to the internet and although the area is gate controlled and protected by state employees I didn’t feel super safe, not unsafe exactly just not very comfortable.   The sites were full of construction workers working on the nearby power plant.   There was a noisy train that ran close by and even though it was for one  night not a place I would return to.  In a pinch you can make it work but I wouldn’t recommend it. (Pay no attention to her, she drinks. This is a perfectly serviceable overnight spot. – Lee) 

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Hanging with Deb and Steve

The very next day after we landed in Rock Hill, Steve and Deb came to visit!!  They had rerouted themselves to spend time with us, which was so sweet, and a wonderful way to start our adventure.  We made chili for them and once they got situated we went over and spent some time eating and getting caught up.  Steve works from his rig and we spent some time talking about how he makes that work for both of them.  It was a great conversation and it’s interesting to talk about the similarities and differences between what we are experiencing.

I promised some pictures of Ebenezer State Park in my last blog so here we are.   Our “back yard” looks out on the water and it is a very short walk down to the water’s edge. They have sites that can be reserved for two weeks as well as “drop in” sites that are day to day.  The campground is broken into two sections; a wooded area and an open area with lake views and the rangers are very nice. The price is right at $28 a day for full hookups, including city water, and fantastic water pressure.  They have free wifi which is on the weak side but we had no trouble getting cell signal here.

I was dying to try out my new camera a Canon Rebel T5 so I walked down to the water and took some pictures.  My one big splurge before going on the road was this camera.  I have been using a point and shoot for many years, but I couldn’t stand the thought of missing out on a great shot because I didn’t have the right lens.  It was pretty darn intimidating at first, but Lee hooked me up and set the settings at a simple point and shoot mode.  I will get more fancy later, but for right now I loved  how simple it was to use.  Plus I felt like a professional with my fancy camera and strap!!

Campsite in Ebenezer State Park

Campsite in Ebenezer State Park

 

 

Our Camper :)

Our Camper. (Comes complete with handsome and witty man.-Lee)

 

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View from our back window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebenezer State Park

Lake Wylie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebenezer State Park

Ebenezer State Park beach area

 

Lakw Wylie

Lake Wylie has beautiful houses across the shore

Lake Wylie

Lake Wylie has many small islands you can land a boat on

The next night Steve and Deb cooked.  They made chicken breasts wrapped with bacon, new potatoes, and salad, and it was amazing.  Here’s the thing about swapping meals…what’s normal to the people cooking is super good to the invitees.  We all tend to make the same meals over and over so it’s a great opportunity to eat something new and get some fresh ideas.   Deb’s potatoes in particular were awesome.  She medium boiled them in salt water to fork tender then drained them and added butter and a sprinkle of parsley.  So good.  The skins were super soft and it was easy.  I added the recipe below

Oh, and the funniest thing happened.  We have two pretty brazen squirrels hanging out at our site (Rocky and Adrian).  Lee put some birdseed on the ground and now they are our best friends.  Well Rocky did the craziest thing.  He jumped on our chair and then climbed up on the metal hand rail next to our door.  Then he sat there and swiped at the door with his paws as if he was trying to get in.  Crazy.  Couldn’t get a pic when he was on the rail, but he stayed there for a really long time before he jumped down and wandered away.  Never seen anything like that.

Rocky

Rocky  (picture taken by Lee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next night I made my Grandma Betty’s Meatloaf.  She passed not that long ago and throughout this process I really have felt she was watching out for me, so it was nice to make her signature dish and get to share it with our friends.  Steve and Debbie really liked it (I gave Steve the leftovers for a meatloaf sandwich the next day)  and I have posted the recipe below.   Then we played Cards against Humanity and Steve crushed it even though they have never played before.  I do want to warn you: the game is definitely for adults and can stray into the raunchy.  (That’s not true at all. It starts in the raunchy and quickly devolves into the downright offensive. I love it. – Lee) Luckily they definitely got it and there was a ton of laughter.   Who knew Deb had such a wicked sense of humor 🙂  Deb also showed us how she routes them.  She is the planning master and is an expert at finding campgrounds and routes.  She uses a website called Road Tripper (they also have an app) and Lee really liked it.

The next morning we went to this little hole in the wall breakfast place my sister recommended called Anna J’s.  I love the mom and pop places and luckily it’s what our new budget can afford.  I got silver dollar pancakes, bacon, and coffee for $5.  Can’t beat that.  Deb got the catfish and eggs because she had never seen it before.  I love her adventurous spirit.  The catfish was unbelievably good and the portion was so large we all had a piece.

Look at this piece of catfish...unbelievable and I think her breakfast was $6

Look at this piece of catfish…unbelievable and I think her breakfast was $6

Steve and Deb at Anna J's

Steve and Deb at Anna J’s…they are so cute

 

So what do you do after going to a diner for breakfast in South Carolina?  Well, you go to a gun range of course!!  Let me start by saying I am a huge fan of all of our amendments including the right to bear arms so I have no problem with gun ownership at all.  We never had guns (although Lee grew up with them) because of the kids, and for us personally the potential risk was not worth it.  However now that it is just the two of us we have been rethinking that strategy and since Steve and Deb have a gun in their rig we decided to go to a range and shoot it.  If you are a gun owner, I think it is incredibly important that both members of the couple are comfortable enough shooting it to use it in a dangerous situation.  That means being able to load, cock, and fire the weapon with some level of certainty.  In order to make that work for me (who has very limited experience) it would be important to find a handgun that I felt I could grow comfortable with over time.  Steve’s was not too bad but had a bit of a kick for me, so I rented (for $7) a Smith & Wesson 9MM.  I liked shooting it and found it reasonably easy to cock and load, but I am not ready to “pull the trigger” and buy one.  Sorry couldn’t help myself 🙂  It was fun though and only cost $18 for Deb and Steve who had their own gun and bullets and $57 for Lee and I who rented one and bought 100 rounds. Kind of pricey for an hour’s entertainment but it’s also research so I didn’t feel too bad about it.  Plus of course we got some great pictures and had a really good time.  Although Deb has been shooting since age four, she has never been to a gun range so it was a new experience for her.

Shot him right in the junk. I was not messing around :)

Shot him right in the junk. I was not messing around 🙂

Deb is one heck of a shot. She's been shooting since she was 4 years old. Don't mess with her.

Deb is one heck of a shot. She’s been shooting since she was 4 years old. Don’t mess with her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve's a goofball

Steve’s a goofball.  He was simulating a man coming at me to get me in the shooting mood. It worked!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and Deb. Do you believe she's older than me?? What I wouldn't give for that Italian heritage

Me and Deb.

 

Lee was into it

Lee was into it

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went over to see my sister briefly after the gun range.  Needed to pick up our new heated fresh water hose. (Even though the daytime weather is quite nice, sometimes the nights can get down below freezing, and there’s no protection from the cold for the fresh water hose that goes from the campground’s water supply hydrant to the camper. It’s a pain to go out and turn it off every night, and then drain it, so it doesn’t freeze up. This hose has a built in heating element that runs the length of the hose, and a thermostat, and keeps the water above freezing, down to well below zero. One of the nicest features is that it is female on both ends, so you can use it whether the power source that you are plugging in to is at the supply end, or the demand end. It comes with a male-male adaptor to use that feature. – Lee) It’s nice to be able to send things to my sister while we are here and we are taking full advantage to get our last minute items from Amazon.  Then we took some relax time in the afternoon and just hung out in the beautiful sun. The weather has been beautiful all week…clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid 60’s.  As I watched my friends in Buffalo and other parts east deal with nasty weather, I felt so very grateful to be in a place where I could walk outside with just a light jacket.  One thing we hadn’t done yet was have a campfire, so we took advantage of our last night with Steve and Deb and made one.  It was great, and just what we needed to take off the night chill and the first campfire of our new life together.  So glad we had friends there to share it with us.

Our first fire of our new life. It was a good one

Our first fire of our new life. It was a good one

Deb and Steve bringing us Stew and biscuits...yummy

Deb and Steve bringing us stew and biscuits…yummy

Deb made stew and biscuits and we sat around the fire and talked until pretty late.  Even though we are going through similar things today, we took advantage of the time to learn a little about each others pasts and since Deb has 4 kids and I have 3 shared our childbirth stories…hey, it’s what parents do.  (No pictures, because….ewwww. – Lee) The best story of the night though goes to Debbie when she told us how Steve passed out in their Lamaze class.   He says it was the heat, but they were playing the C-section video at the time so you be the judge!!!  Steve is a big guy, and he passed out cold in the hallway and they had to carry him into one of the doctors’ offices and use smelling salts to revive him.  The picture of that is still making me smile and it was so nice to get to know each other better.

We had a great time this week and feel really blessed that Deb and Steve changed their travel plans to meet up with us.  They are headed to Charleston, Savannah, and all parts of Forida, but we hope to meet up with them again before they head out west.  I know I keep saying it but it bears repeating…you meet the nicest people in this lifestyle and we are truly grateful for it.

Recipes

Tracy’s Chili

  • 3 packages of chili seasoning (I like McCormick but any brand will do)
  • 3 lbs hamburger
  • 1 – (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans (drained)
  • 2 – (15 oz) cans dark red kidney beans (drained)
  • 3 –  (14oz) cans petite diced tomatoes (no flavoring and do not drain)
  1. Brown hamburger
  2. Add tomatoes, kidney beans, and seasoning packets to large pot
  3. Add cooked and drained hamburger
  4. Cook over medium heat until comes to a light boil
  5. Simmer (stir frequently so it does not burn)
  6. Let sit several hours on no heat or overnight
  7. Eat one or two meals then freeze the rest

 

Deb’s Tiny Potatoes

  • Small bag of white or red new potatoes
  • 1 stick of Butter
  • Parsley
  • Salt
  1. Boil potatoes in salt water until fork tender
  2. Drain
  3. Add 1/2 to 1 stick of butter (use generously)
  4. Season with parsley
  5. Serve

Grandma Betty’s Meatloaf

  • 2 pounds hamburger
  • 1 package Lipton’s onion soup mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup crumbled Saltine Crackers
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Glass or metal baking dish
  1. Place hamburger in a large mixing bowl and add soup mix, crackers, milk, and egg
  2. In a separate small bowl mix ketchup and BBQ sauce
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  4. Mix hamburger and ingredients VERY well using your hands (yes it’s messy but it’s the best way!!)
  5. Shape meatloaf into a loaf in a baking pan (I try to not make it too thick or the middle does not get done)
  6. Cover top and sides of meatloaf with sauce mixture (saving 1/2 for second basting)
  7. Cover pan with aluminum foil
  8. Cook 1/2 hour at 350 degrees then remove from oven
  9. Drain grease, baste with remaining sauce, cover with foil, place in oven
  10. Cook an additional 1/2 hour
  11. Remove from oven and check the middle to make sure it’s down
  12. Place in oven for an additional 10 minutes uncovered to lightly brown the sauce on top
  13. Serve

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