A to Z Challenge: The U Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

UThe U Towns

Uncertain, Texas

Uncertain, TX
Uncertain, TX
Uncertain Department of Tourism
Uncertain Department of Tourism
The Uncertain General Store and Grill
The Uncertain General Store and Grill
Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
The Spanish moss draped Bald Cypress of Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
The Church of Uncertain
The Church of Uncertain

There are not many towns in the country that begin with the letter U, but I have a couple of good ones here, especially the first one — Uncertain, Texas.  Though their website calls them a “city,” it is really not much more than a small community of about 150 people that live along the shores of Caddo Lake. Caddo Lake is stretched across the Texas-Louisiana border and is Texas’ only naturally formed lake and covers 32,700 acres of a maze of channels, meandering bayous, and sloughs within thousands of acres of Spanish moss draped bald cypress. Though out of the way, it was certainly worth the drive.  Check out my blog post from my February 2010 visit to Uncertain and a few other places HERE.

Uncasville, Connecticut

Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Sumoflam and Bronto at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Sumoflam and Bronto at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT

When we visited our son in 2015 to see our new grandson, we took a trip from the Hartford area south to Mystic, CT (See my M Towns post).  Along the way, we stopped in the small town of Uncasville on CT Hwy 32.  It is not really a touristy place, but we were in search of dinosaurs..namely Wells Dinosaur Haven. This is actually a person’s house with a huge backyard full of self-sculpted dinosaurs.  The brainchild and creation of Jeff Wells, this unique “haven” got its start in 1981. He has well over 30 dinosaurs, including a life-size T-Rex, most of which are made from welded metal fabrication.  Some are pretty realistic!! (See a detailed writeup about Jeff Wells on Roadside America.) You can read about our trip to Uncasville and Mystic in my 2015 post HERE.

Upper Lake, California

Welcome to Upper Lake, CA
Welcome to Upper Lake, CA
Upper Lake, CA
Upper Lake, CA
Old Town Upper Lake Antiques
Old Town Upper Lake Antiques
Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA
Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA
Hippie Joe's Gas in Upper Lake, CA
Hippie Joe’s Gas in Upper Lake, CA
A view across Clear Lake, one of the oldest freshwater lakes in North America
A view across Clear Lake, one of the oldest freshwater lakes in North America

Also, in 2015, I took a trip to California, which I have mentioned in previous posts (I mentioned this same trip in my N Towns post for Nice, CA and my S Towns post for Santa Rosa). Located on California Highway 20, it is a beautiful little drive. CA 20 is dotted with many small lakes and a number of scenic views.  It is MY KIND of back road highway, with a variety of things to see along the way.   Lots of beautiful scenery and vistas on this drive.  Upper Lake, is a rustic little place nestled in the upper reaches of Clear Lake. The town of Upper Lake is the gateway to the Mendocino National Forest and is a fun little town.  In the middle of town sits an old hotel and also a quaint little outdoor saloon/eatery. The Tallman Hotel was built in the 1890s and is now a 17 room luxury hotel/bed and breakfast place.  It fits in nicely with the rustic, old west style of the town.  You can see my full trip report HERE.

Ukiah, California (Honorable Mention)

Ukiah, CA
Ukiah, CA
California Strawberries! found near Ukiah, CA
California Strawberries! found near Ukiah, CA
Sumoflam enjoying an amazing California strawberry picked up fresh at a farm near Ukiah, CA
Sumoflam enjoying an amazing California strawberry picked up fresh at a farm near Ukiah, CA

I have now been to three towns that also are names of Doobie Brothers songs. The other two are Blackwater, MO and China Grove, TX. Yes, I collect (and visit) town names from songs.  Ukiah is on US Highway 101 and there are many farmer’s stands along the road.  We hit a Strawberry Stand along the way.  I think we stopped at Saechao Strawberry farm, on the Redwood Highway, another name for this portion of US Hwy 101.  These strawberries were AMAZING!!

Upton, Kentucky (Honorable Mention)

An old cabin in Upton, KY
An old cabin in Upton, KY
Sumoflam at Wonderland Rd. in Upton, KY
Sumoflam at Wonderland Rd. in Upton, KY
An old trailer on Wonderland Rd. -- not really a Wonderland...
An old trailer on Wonderland Rd. — not really a Wonderland…

Finally, on a back road trip to Elizabethtown for a concert in 2014, I set out to find Wonderland Road, which is in Upton, KY near Interstate 65 south of Louisville. I did find it, though most of the homes were trailers and old cabins. It really didn’t seem like a wonderland to me.  But, it is deserving of a mention here.

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A to Z Challenge: The N Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

NThe N Towns

Nicholson, Pennsylvania

Tuckhannock Viaduct - Nicholson, Pennsylvania
Tuckhannock Viaduct – Nicholson, Pennsylvania
Nicholson, Pennsylvania
Nicholson, Pennsylvania
The viaduct is dizzying when looking up from below
The viaduct is dizzying when looking up from below
Tuckhannock Viaduct towers over the small town of Nicholson, PA
Tuckhannock Viaduct towers over the small town of Nicholson, PA

Nicholson, Pennsylvania is a rather non-descript town in the eastern part of the state, close to New York. But, it does have one major attraction….The Nicholson Bridge (actually the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct) which is 2375 feet long , 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide.  Yes, 24 stories tall !!!!!  The bridge was built as part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York.  All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet (42 m) below ground level.  Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915. Amazing to think that this bridge is over 100 years old!! See more about the bridge HERE.

Nekoma, North Dakota

Welcome to Nekoma, ND
Welcome to Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
Sumoflam and Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
Sumoflam and Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND
A silo and wind turbine coexist near Nekoma, ND
A silo and wind turbine coexist near Nekoma, ND

Go north on ND Highway 1  from US Highway 2 in central North Dakota and it will take you to Nekoma, North Dakota, not too far from the Canadian border. Like Nicholson above, the town is rather non-descript and practically a ghost town except for a few wind turbines and one other major item – America’s largest pyramid.  In the middle of nowhere. Actually, the pyramid is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).  This complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. The Mickelsen Safeguard complex was deployed during the 1970s to defend the offensive Minuteman missiles based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in the event of a nuclear ICBM attack by the Soviet Union or China. The 80 foot high truncated pyramid “turret” of the MSR gave the radar its ability to see in all directions and is the only visible part of the MSCB. Nekoma is also the home of the Langdon Wind Farm which has 106 Wind Turbines, some of them right up on the Mickelsen Safeguard complex. In the middle of prairie lands, it offers unique views.  See more about northern North Dakota in my 2013 post HERE.

Natchez, Mississippi

Entering Natchez, MS
Entering Natchez, MS
Mammy's Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Sumoflam at Mammy's Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Sumoflam at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy's Cupboard Dining Room - Much bigger than it looks on the outside
Mammy’s Cupboard Dining Room – Much bigger than it looks on the outside

US Highway 61 in Mississippi is known as the Blues Highway.  From the Tennessee border near Memphis all the way to Natchez are historical towns filled with blues history. In the midst of all of this is Mammy’s Cupboard Cafe….the epitome of vintage novelty architecture. Built in the 1940s, this unique place is a MUST SEE and MUST STOP destination if anywhere close. All of the food is home made.  I had a nice sandwich with their wonderful homemade bread.  But their homemade cake was to die for!!  I couldn’t resist….  See more about southern Mississippi in my 2014 post HERE.

Neah Bay, Washington

Welcome to Neah Bay, Washington
Welcome to Neah Bay, Washington
Wooden guardians of Neah Bay?
Wooden guardians of Neah Bay?
Sail Rock in the Strait of Juan de Fuca
Sail Rock in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Pacific Ocean in NW Washington
A totem pole in Neah Bay, WA
A totem pole in Neah Bay, WA
On the Pacific Coast at Neah Bay, the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States
On the Pacific Coast at Neah Bay, the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States

In 2015 my wife and I flew to Seattle to visit our daughter and her family.  While there, we all went northwest to the small town of Neah Bay, which is located on the Makah Indian Reservation. It is a small fishing town nestled in a corner by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the east.  Much of the area near the Pacific is high cliffs over looking the ocean.  Lots of Makah Culture surrounds the town. It is a beautiful place that is a long, fun drive!  See more about our 2015 visit to Neah Bay HERE.

Nauvoo, Illinois

Family at the Nauvoo Temple under construction in Nauvoo, Illinois. Summer 2001
Family at the Nauvoo Temple under construction in Nauvoo, Illinois. Summer 2001
The completed LDS Nauvoo Temple in 2002
The completed LDS Nauvoo Temple in 2002
Another view of the Nauvoo Temple in 2002
Another view of the Nauvoo Temple in 2002

There are not many Mormon historical sites as important or famous as Nauvoo, Illinois.  As members of the LDS Church, my family has visited there a few times both before and after the completion of the current temple there. The town is full of Mormon history, many small shops, and folks dressed in period clothing doing things as they did in the 1800s, such as making soap, printing presses, etc.  Every year they also have a magnificent pageant that covers the history of the LDS Church including the storied history of Nauvoo.  See more about Nauvoo on their website HERE.

Newport, Oregon

Mo's Seafood - Newport, Oregon
Mo’s Seafood – Newport, Oregon
Giant Mural on outside of Mo's in Newport, Oregon
Giant Mural on outside of Mo’s in Newport, Oregon
Mo's Interior
Mo’s Interior
Mo's Halibut with their "world famous clam chowder"
Mo’s Halibut with their “world famous clam chowder”

Back to the West Coast, but in Oregon.  Along the famed Pacific Coast Highway (US Highway 101), Newport sits on the Pacific southwest of Portland and is home of Mo’s Seafood, which supposedly has the best Clam Chowder in America (and I can attest to the fact that it was amazing!!).  It is also home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which the mural above represents. See more about Mo’s and other unique eateries all over the US and Canada HERE.

Newark, Ohio

Amaree, Solomon and Seth at Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, OH Fall 1999
Amaree, Solomon and Seth at Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, OH Fall 1999

Want to see a HUGE picnic basket?  Visit Newark, OH, home of the Longaberger Basket Company.  Their headquarters building is shaped just like a picnic basket.  No Joke!

Normal, Illinois (Honorable Mention)

A Normal Water Tower
A Normal Water Tower
Am I Normal? Who knows?
Am I Normal? Who knows?
A colorful cow in sunglasses seen in Normal, IL
A colorful cow in sunglasses seen in Normal, IL

Not a lot to see in Normal, Illinois.  But I do like the town name. I have written a bit about Normal HERE.

Nice, California (Honorable Mention)

We all know who is really Nice!
We all know who is really Nice!

BeNiceorGoAway

Then there is a place in California I visited in 2015 called Nice.  Just stopped for a picture with the sign!  Be Nice or go away! See more about Nice and other central California oddities HERE.

New Salem, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)

Salem Sue Sign in New Salem, ND
Salem Sue Sign in New Salem, ND
Salem Sue in New Salem, ND - the World's Largest Holstein Cow
Salem Sue in New Salem, ND – the World’s Largest Holstein Cow

Finally…the humongous Holstein known as Salem Sue in New Salem, North Dakota.  Talk about udderly moooving roadside attractions. Read about our 2005 visit to see Salem Sue and a number of other GIANTS along Interstate 94 in Minnesota and North Dakota HERE.

Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.

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A to Z Challenge: The D Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns, some known for their names, other for unique sites in town. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

D The D Towns

Douglas, Wyoming

Large Jackalope - Douglas, WY
Large Jackalope – Douglas, WY
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye
My Official Jackalope Hunting License from Douglas, WY
My Official Jackalope Hunting License from Douglas, WY

As I travel across the US and Canada, I am always on the lookout for quirky things and big statues.  Well, Douglas, Wyoming provides plenty in that area.  Touted as the Jackalope Capital of the World, Douglas has jackalopes dotting the town, including a couple of big ones.  And “What is a jackalope?” you ask…  Check out my full posts on Douglas HERE and ALSO HERE.

DeForest, Wisconsin

Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI
Pinkie the Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI
Sissy the Cow in DeForest, WI. Playing a little "Chick-Fil-A" on Burger King!!
Sissy the Cow in DeForest, WI. Playing a little “Chick-Fil-A” on Burger King!!

Perhaps Wisconsin is the home of the most Big Things.  Throughout the state there are big cows (it is a cheesy state mind you) and big mice.  There is a big bulldog in Beloit (see here).  However, not much tops the big pink elephant at the Shell One Stop in DeForest, WI and the big cow named Sissy is also one of America’s biggest.  Read the bigger story and see more photos HERE.

Discovery Bay, Washington

Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty's in Discovery Bay, WA
Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty's
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty’s

The theme of quirky runs throughout the veins of this post.  I now move on to Discovery Bay, WA on US Highway 101 northwest of Seattle, (near Port Townsend, WA) home of the uniquely quirky Fat Smitty’s burger place.  Surrounded by a menagerie of interesting and colorful wood carvings on the outside and walls and ceilings plastered with dollar bills (and other denominations), this is a place to behold.  Oh, and yes, the burgers aren’t too bad either.  See my full post about my August 2015 visit to Fat Smitty’s HERE.

Dublin, Ohio and Dublin, Texas

At the "Filed of Corn" - Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH
At the “Field of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
My son Solomon in Dublin, Texas home of the Dr. Pepper Plant in June 2007
My son Solomon in Dublin, Texas, former home of the Dr. Pepper Plant in June 2007

I have never been to Dublin, Ireland, but I have been to Dublin, Ohio and Dublin, Texas.  The two American towns named Dublin are distinctly different, but both offer some surprises.

In Dublin, OH you can play amongst ears of corn at the “Field of Corn” is a publicly funded art installation in the city of Dublin, Ohio. The installation consists of 109 concrete ears of corn positioned in rows and standing upright in a grassy field.  Sculpted by Malcolm Cochran, a professor of sculpting at Ohio State University, the park was named the Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park, and was originally farmed by Sam Frantz, an inventor of several hybrid corn species.  This is not the only unique public art work in Dublin.  This is one of a few towns that has worked to bring in a plethora of unique, cool and sometimes quirky works of outdoor art. Check out the Dublin Arts Council’s website.

In 2007 I took a trip with my son to Texas and Arkansas (I noted our visit to Booger Holler in my B Towns post of the #AtoZChallenge).  On that same trip we visited the town of Dublin, TX, near Waco, to visit what was, at that time, the only remaining Dr Pepper plant in the world that made Dr Pepper with pure cane sugar.  The plant has eventually converted and the museum was moved to Waco.  But I note it here because, back then, they changed the name of the town to Dr Pepper, Texas once a year (and set the population at 1024 — if you are a Dr Pepper fan, you’ll know what the 1024 means).

Dragoon, Arizona

An example of The Thing billboards that dot Arizona, New Mexico and California
An example of The Thing billboards that dot Arizona, New Mexico and California
A myriad of souvenirs available at Bowlin's The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
A myriad of souvenirs available at Bowlin’s The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
Bowlin Resort's The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
Bowlin Resort’s The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
The Thing's Outhouse -- Great Seats Available
The Thing’s Outhouse — Great Seats Available
AssKickin
Ass Kickin’ nuts…super spicy hot. Made in Goodyear, AZ and found at many tourist shops. Great for munching on long road trips (as long as you have some icy cold liquid to wash them down)

I mentioned Bowlin’s resorts in my post on Akela Flats in the A to Z Challenge last week.  Bowlin has another fun touristy place in Arizona called “The Thing.”  This is one of those places that has billboards hundreds of miles away promoting the unusual site (other’s that I recall seeing in diverse places include “Where the hell is Wall Drug?” (South Dakota), “Visit Little America” (Wyoming), “Rock City” (Tennessee).  I’ll actually hit these places in future posts. ).  As for an explanation of “The Thing”, you’ll have to make your way south of Tucson on Interstate 10, pay the fee and go see it for yourself.  Make sure you visit the famed Outhouse and get some of those amazing Ass Kickin’ Peanuts!  They are available at many fine tourist trap shops around the southwest.

Denton, Texas

Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square in Denton, TX
Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square in Denton, TX
The Great Texas Supper Mural at LSA Burger Co, in Denton, TX
The Great Texas Supper Mural at LSA Burger Co, in Denton, TX

A well kept secret of a place is Denton, Texas.  Just north of the excitement of the Dallas metroplex, Denton sits quietly with its grand architecture, ghost walks and a unique burger joint that features a wonderful, yet controversial mural call the The Great Texas Supper, a play on the Last Supper painting but instead has a number of dead Texas musicians.  The LSA Burger Company also features a tribute to Willie Nelson, a Texas shaped “Texas Instruments” sculpture and bars covered with old record albums.  See my full post HERE.

Durant, Oklahoma

Sumoflam with Durant's Giant Peanut
Sumoflam with Durant’s Giant Peanut
Scrap Metal Horses - Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Horses – Durant, Oklahoma
Painted Horses in Durant, OK
Painted Horses in Durant, OK

Durant, Oklahoma is one of those unique small towns that brings me so much enjoyment in travel.  Home of the “World’s Largest Peanut” statue, it is also decorated with dozens of painted horses. Durant is in the Choctaw Nation and is currently ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.   Though Durant lays claim to the “World’s Largest Peanut”, its a title it shares with two other monuments in Texas and Ashburn, Georgia. This monument is for the peanut growers in Bryan County and I found it on the front lawn of Durant’s city hall.  See more about my trip to Durant and other locales from back in 2013 HERE.

Danville, Illinois

Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Lindley Sign Post Forest in Danville, IL
Lindley Sign Post Forest in Danville, IL
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl

I visited Danville, Illinois on a trip to Omaha in 2013.  This is one of those towns you can spend a good day in.  With dozens of wall murals depicting town history and town heroes, the art is great. But there are other unique pieces of art such as the Danville USA Brick Sculpture shown above.  But most interesting to me was the Lindley Sign Post Forest. The story is unique….Carl Lindley, one of the mural artists in Danville, has the same name as Carl Lindley (also originally from Danville, IL), the founder of the original sign post forest in Alaska (see here). This tradition started in 1942 by Carl K. Lindley, a U. S. Army Engineer, 341 company “D”. When building many signs in the area, he added a sign to a sign post which stated, “Danville, Illinois, 2835 miles”.  The Alaska version has over 47,000 signs.  I think the more mini version in Danville has about 200.  Read the bigger story and see photos in my 2013 post HERE.

Dallas, South Dakota (Honorable mention)

Welcome to Dallas, SD
Welcome to Dallas, SD
Water tower in Dallas -- in the middle of the road
Water tower in Dallas — in the middle of the road

In 2013 I trekked across the country to Idaho and, along the way, took a drive along the Oyate Trail in South Dakota, which covers US Highways 18 and 50. (See the full post HERE).  One of the unique little places I visited was Dallas, SD.  Unlike the huge metropolis of Dallas, Texas, this small community has no stop light but it DOES have a water tower right in the middle of the road!

Denver, North Carolina (Honorable mention)

Big Spider, Denver, North Carolina
Big Black Widow sculpture, Denver, North Carolina
Stacy's Restaurant, Denver, NC
Stacy’s Restaurant, Denver, NC

If I am going to include a Dallas, I might as well also include a Denver, this one in North Carolina.  Denver is a town of a little over 13,000 fine folk who enjoy the luxurious life on the west shore of Lake Norman, just off of NC Hwy 7.  I visited some friends there in March 2012.  We went downtown to dinner and lo and behold I saw a giant black widow!!  Creepy.  Sculpted by artist Dave Simpson, it apparently advertises a pest management company. The gleaming arachnid, with its eight-foot-long legs, perches on a boulder.  After that appetizing moment we had a wonderful dinner at Stacy’s Restaurant. It was a great local home cooked meal type of place.

Damon, Texas (Honorable mention)

I sent this to my friend Damon. The old clapboard style post office in Damon, TX
I sent this to my friend Damon. The old clapboard style post office in Damon, TX
There is Planet Hollywood and then there is Planet Damon...
There is Planet Hollywood and then there is Planet Damon…

Another town with a unique water tower and a fun post office is Damon, Texas.  A small place in southern Texas, it has one of the smallest water towers I ave seen and it boasts the name “Planet Damon.”  Fun fun.  See my full trip HERE.

Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.

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