We love the "View Hotel" Monument Valley

Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
Trip End May 03, 2012

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View Hotel, Monument Valley, Arizona
Travelodge, Flagstaff

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Wednesday 4th April    Moab(Utah) to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park(Arizona)

   We're have accommodation booked at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal park tonight, but there is lots we want to see on the way, so it’s going to be another busy day.  We were hoping to see the Needles District of Canyonlands NP, but now realize we won’t have time.

Leave the Inca Inn at 9 AM, then down to  the footbridge over the Colorado River, hoping to photograph the beavers in the daylight, but no beavers, but some very sticky mud on the way to the footbridge. We circulate through town, and do a loop back through town to find some food, then continue on South on Highway 191.

   About 12 miles south of Moab we see a large painted sign for "Hole in the Rock". The name is familiar to Dianne, but she doesn’t remember why (there have been so many similar-sounding names around here with all the arches etc) so stop at an interstate rest area and walk through the bush,  then along the highway, only to find it is still another 400 feet away, so back to the car, then miss the turnoff to the actual place. Dianne then remembers that it is just a tourist trap. Hole-in-the-Rock is where someone lived in a cave, with a lot of 1950’s kitsch, so we didn’t miss much.

   We move on to Wilson Arch, a large arch visible from the highway, then to the Tourist Info at  Monticello, which has some interesting rural history, and useful information on the Muley Point side road and the Moki Dugway, a steep descent with a gravel road, both of which we want to take.

   We carry on through open range country with large snow-peaked mountain ranges on the horizon. Pass through Blanding, then off on Highway 95, a minor scenic road, heading for Natural Bridges National Monument. After about 10 miles on this road, Murray doesn't like what the petrol gauge is showing, and the lack of towns ahead, and we turn back for fuel.

   Back on Highway 95, we stop at Butler Wash Ruins, for a walk to a canyon with the remains of a Kayenta group of Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, abandoned by the Anasazi Indians in about 1300 AD.Weather was starting to warm up by now – was 11 degrees C when we set out this morning, but now as up to 18 degrees C.

   A few miles on we stop at Mule Canyon ruins, where there were reconstructed ruins which have been linked to the Mesa Verde Indians around 1100AD, in Southern Colorado. Not much to see here, so we continued to Natural Bridges National Monument ($6 entry if no pass), where there was a 9 mile circular route along the edge of a canyon to look down on a series of natural bridges across the White Canyon. The bridges were structurally pretty impressive, but in white to grey sandstone which was pretty insipid after the rich red sandstone of the other arches we’ve seen.

   Stop at Sipapu Bridge and walk around. At next viewpoint we look down on Anasazi ruins at Horsecollar  Ruin, at river level in a rock overhang. The name is unexplained. Also stop at Kachina Bridge.

   At Owachomo Bridge, Murray walks far enough down into the canyon to get a view from below the level of the top of the bridge. Later we get to a plaque which indicates the "Bears Ears" we have seen on signposts are actually two flat-topped mesas close to each others, possibly like the ears of a bear. We then backtrack a couple of miles to get onto Highway 261, going South.

   By 3 PM, we are at the top of the escarpment at Moki Dugway, and divert to the north along the rim of the escarpment towards the Muley Point lookout, stopping at a particularly rough side track to a rocky outlook, then moved on to Muley Point proper, where we parked more conservatively, to look out over the flat land of the Valley of the Gods toward Monument Valley and the canyon of San Juan River. We take a lot of photos of Monument Valley, the canyon, rock outcrops like zigurats and pyramids, and the escarpment down which uranium and vanadium ore from a mine on top at Cedar Mesa was hauled for treatment at Mexican Hat. We were a bit worried about whether we could take the hire car on this dirt road, but we were glad we did as the views were magnificent.  We then return on the same road, to drive down the Moki Dugway.

   The term dugway refers to a groove dug across a steep slope to restrain the uphill wheels of a wagon crossing the slope or negotiating a switchback. The road winds 1200 feet from top to bottom on 3 miles of graded gravel at an 11% grade, and was built in the 1950’s for ore trucks from a nearby mine.

   The actual road, although gravel, is wide, with a small berm on the outer edge, and is quite safe if taken carefully. One idiot, presumably a local, passes us at high speed in a cloud of dust, but everyone else is pretty careful. Like all steep switch-backed roads it is difficult to show in photos, and the average slope of 11 percent is pretty mild.

   More so on the side road at the top of the escarpment than the descent, we pick up a serious load of dust, on the rear window and hatch in particular, but all over the car in pockets which will make it pretty obvious to Dollar that we have been off-road, and it looks like a lot more than just a few miles.

   We cross the flat land of the Valley of the Gods towards Mexican Hat, taking photos of unusual pyramids and the volcanic plug of Alhambra Rock erupting from the flat land’ Turn off to Goosenecks State Park, which is unmanned, and hence free. The view of the "Goosenecks" of the San Juan River are impressive from the canyon rim, with the meanders almost touching at each bend, but the dark grey rocks, although finely layered, are not very pretty.

   Closer to Mexican Hat, we can see the colourful zig-zag patterns of the Raplee Anticline, and the unmistakable Mexican Hat. The town is less impressive, but has a low level arch bridge over the San Juan River. From here, the road leads fairly straight to Monument Valley, unmistakable in the distance and getting closer, and we take a series of photos of the impressive landscape on the approach.

   By now, the temperature is up to 75 F or 24 degrees C, even though it’s nearly 5pm. From Mexican Hat, Highway 163 winds south-west and enters the Navajo Reservation and (after 22 miles) Monument Valley, on the Arizona state line.

We book into the View Hotel  (US$167) within the  Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, and  up to our hotel room, where the view is everything we were hoping for when we laid out the cash for the expensive room. When Dianne had been googling information about the area, some had given advice to miss Monument Valley because of the expense, but we’re glad we didn’t heed this advice, as our stay here was one of the highlights of our trip.

   The afternoon has been overcast, with not a lot of prospect of a good sunset, so we took an early meal at the restaurant, having a go at the local specialty, a Navajo Taco, with a large soft tortilla, with an upturned rim, to contain the beans and meat. The special feature is that the tortilla is blue, made from the blue native maize. It was quite tasty.

   After, the sun drops below the layer of cloud and lights up the rock outcrops, and a lot of photos are fired away. After sunset, Dianne checks for recommended guides for the valley, and we end up booking with Navajo Spirit Tours (US$75 each – not cheap, but the only real way to see the area, because if you use your own car, you’re only allowed on the one 17-mile dirt road, which turned out to be too rough for our hire-car anyway). Tour starts at 9 AM and is about 2 and a half hours, so we have a conflict with our check out time of 11 AM, so Dianne arranges a 12 noon checkout, which should be enough. We set an alarm so we can see the sunrise on the mountains, then check out the full moon on the monuments, but there is not enough light for photos.

Thursday 5th April   Monument Valley to Grand Canyon and Flagstaff

   We are up with the alarm at 6.45am, for sunrise photos. It is bitterly cold, with a light wind. We take photos of the monuments, and around the hotel, then wait by th equestrian statue in the lobby for our tour to get itself together, a total of 9 people. 5 adults and four children of various ages.

   Our tour guide is Larson, not a Swede, and our vehicle is a Ford truck, 2WD, with a wide tray with three rows of seats and a high sunshade over the top. It is very cold, particularly when we pick up a bit of speed on the better sections of the track.

   The first stop is at the base of one of the close buttes, the "Mittens", named after the thumbs sticking up on each (West, East and Merrick)

   Nedxt we head for John Ford Point, where the film director, who often used this location, used to sit and think. An Indian horseman, hoping for a few tips,  lends a bit of atmosphere to the location.  The monuments fiery red spindles, sheer-walled mesas and grand buttes  have been in numerous movies and TV commercials.

   We get views of the 3 Sisters to the West, We can also get views back to our hotel from here. We pass the Rain God Mesa to enter the restricted area, open only to tours, then pass Thunderbird Mesa with the cleavage of the sandstone in a pattern resembling the feathers of a wing;  Sleeping dragon, resembling the dog-dragon out of Never-ending Story; and The Sun's Eye, a cavern with an eye-shaped hole in the roof, and rain stains looking like eyelashes (needing a bit of imagination).

   We look at petroglyphs on a flat, oxide-glazed rock face, then a cave with a distinct ear shape, called Ear of the Wind,  then pass into an area of red sand dunes between rock outcrops, very reminiscent of Wadi Rum in Jordan. There are scattered bushes, some pale green, others dark, and there is a close equivalent to the Australian Galvanised Burr, which looks like woven chicken wire. Our guide isn't too good on the local flora, so we have no idea what these bushes are.

    The sand is very soft, and the truck is only 2-WD, so we have to do some serious hoon driving to get through.

   Stop in a large semi-spherical cave with a hole in the roof, called the Big Hogan, a woman's hogan because of the shape, with a smoke hole in the roof. Using the cave as a natural sound shell, our guide plays a native flute, and a woman guide on a parallel tour sings a native song. Both performances are excellent, and really create a spiritual atmosphere.

   We pass the Totem Pole, then carry on to a watercourse called the sand spring aquifers, with flowing water, but it has a lot of algae in it. The track deteriorates dramatically here, and we have to hang on in the back of the truck as we negotiate some major bumps, and have to gun the engine to climb out of the watercourse.

   We are getting pretty close to our 12 Noon checkout, but the kids on board insist on climbing through the loose rock to the base of a butte above "The Cube", against their parents shouted vetoes.

   We get back to the hotel after our deadline. Dianne goes ahead to sort out the front desk, while Murray pays our guide the $150 fee, without tip, as his involvement was pretty perfunctory. He had said he would only answer questions, rather than offer information.

   The front desk is pretty relaxed, unlike Murray, and we check out quickly, but without problems.

   We have a look at the settlement off the highway, with the older opposition Hotel, Gouldings, which has good views of the monuments, but more distant than from the View Hotel, then head out towards the Grand Canyon, via the reasonable sized town of Kayenta, on the flat lands, very spread out and dry, with a large industrial/commercial/strip area along the highway, where we have a Burger King lunch and check out the large locals, many of Indian descent. We then continue on Highway 160 towards Tuba City.

We had originally decided not to visit Grand Canyon, as we wouldn’t have much time to spend there, and we’d already had a quick visit there in 1977, and we would come back when we had more time.  However since we’ve been touring all the other parks, we’ve decided we want to see it at the same time, so we can compare it with the other parks we’ve seen.

   The map here indicates the roads are scenic, but mainly distant escarpment views, with some volcanic plugs.

   Tuba City is pretty ordinary, and soon after we turn South onto Highway 89, then 17 miles later  turn West on a new, very flash road, Route 64 to Desert View at the East end of the Grand Canyon National Park. It’s now 2.30pm according to us, but we’ve gained an hour now we’re in Arizona, so it’s actually only 1.30pm and we have a long afternoon/night ahead of us, so stop for a 20-minute catnap, then continue on, passing viewpoints over the Little Colorado River, before stopping at the Desert View Overlook inside the park ($25 entry if didn’t have pass. We recouped our $80 purchase cost at the last park, so we’re now ahead by buying the pass). .

Our first action is to walk down to the rim of the canyon, which has a stone watchtower, now a tourist trap, and a view up the canyon to where the Little Colorado comes in. The view is spectacular, but the air isn't too clear, and it is blowing hard and quite cold.

   We drive along following the rim, stopping at all the view points including Navajo Point, Lipan Point and Moran Point, with the view becoming clearer as we went along. When we got close to the village, we parked in a major car park at the Visitor's Centre, and walked to Mather Point for good views. The walking path was excellent, with great views, so decided to keep walking west around the rim as far as the McKee Amphitheatre track back to the main road. Along the rim path, there are plinths carrying samples of the rock strata, arranged in chronological order, getting older as we go west, with the time in millions of years marked on the path.

   At some of the viewpoints we have the usual idiots out on the edge in spite of the gusty wind. There are good views in either direction and across to the North Rim, and down to the river where a suspension bridge can be seen. We end up walking past the side path to McKee Amphitheatre, all the way to Verkamp’s Visitor Centre, then down to the shuttle bus route and train station. It takes a while for a shuttle bus to turn up. It takes us around what is left of the loop, then to a number of stops to the Visitor Centre, where we find the car after a long search. It’s now 6.30pm new time, and we have to catch a plane in Phoenix at 3.10pm tomorrow afternoon, so we have to get a fair way down the road tonight.  We head onto Highway 64 heading South passing Tusayan 11 km away, then on towards Flagstaff, crossing some high mountains with snow, on Route 64, then turning off on 180 towards Snowbowl, through dense woodlands and lots of Beware of Deer signs. Contact with one of these would make our dust problems with the car irrelevant. There is virtually no traffic, it’s dark, and we have no idea what’s ahead, so are surprised when Snowbowl turns out to be at 8,046 feet and is a major winter ski resort.  We came into Flagstaff on a back road, and had no sign of accommodation or even a town centre. Seemed like we were almost out the other side before we found something like a strip, with some motels, so managed a U-turn on the highway, and checked in to a pretty ordinary Travelodge (US$69), where we got a ground floor room, and a pretty detached attitude from the staff.

    We are really tired, and not looking forward to heading out again to find civilisation in the dark, when we have a brilliant idea and order home-delivery Chinese, including some surprisingly good BBQ ribs. There is some Wi-Fi in the reception area, so Dianne checks our mail. We have a surprisingly good sleep in spite of more than 160 trains a day on the railway line right next to the highway we are on. We found out about the trains just after paying for the night, when a very noisy train went by.

Friday 6th April (Good Friday)    Flagstaff- Phoenix- Fort Lauderdale

    We have breakfast at the motel, and find out a bit about where we are and where we’re headed.  We missed the centre of town last night, and as we have plenty of time, we backtrack into the city centre to have a look at the historical area and take some photos, including Route 66 signs, as it passes through Flagstaff. We want to take the scenic Oak Creek Canyon Road to Sedona as it has been recommended to us. Follow the signs to pick up the 89A to Sedona while avoiding getting onto the Interstate 17. Murray would prefer to use a city street, but at Dianne's insistence we follow the signs to 89A on the main road, and are able to pick the right exit.

   Almost immediately we are into scenic areas, with the road entering the Oak Creek Canyon, with red cliffs, thick pine tree cover, and a river in the bottom. We stop at most available scenic viewing areas, while avoiding State Parks with entry and parking fees. Closer to Sedona, the valley opens out, with spectacular red cliffs and pillars.

   Sedona is actually quite a big town, prosperous looking, with architecture generally in the Tex-Mex style of earth colours, flat roofs, and lots of garden, surrounded by magnificent red-sandstone formations.

   We drive up a turnoff to the right, stopping at a school/swimming complex to take photos up the valley, then we headed up to the Airport Mesa, one of the "Vortexes" (swirling energy centres where the Earth’s power is said to be strongly felt) beloved of the touchy-feely New Age hippy's who find their homes here. There are good views from here, then we descend through some upper class suburbia, taking photos down onto the town.

   We head out of here, side tracking into the suburbs, then picking up a sign to the famous Chapel of the Holy Cross, built in 1956 on the side of the mountains. It is a pretty good bit of Frank Lloyd Wright  type architecture, up against the cliffs in a superb setting, but down below there is a horse of an entirely different colour. Amongst the tasteful Tex-Mex buildings in leafy gardens, there is a Mediterranean monstrosity with columns, fountains, statues and an artificial waterfall. 

    We head out from here, picking up the Interestate17 all the way to Phoenix, tooling down the interstate at 75 MPH, passing a fair percentage of the traffic, until the speed limit drops lower, when they all pass us again, ignoring the lower speed limit, but not game to keep up with the higher.

  We do a detour to Montezuma's Castle, an Anasazi relic, but it is a long, unsignposted distance from the main road, and when we get there can’t find parking, so don’t stop, and head on toward Phoenix, as we no longer have plenty of time to waste. Countryside is reasonably green, but by the time we go through Black Canyon City it’s quite dry, much hotter (27 degrees C) and cactus starts to appear. The road gets busier, as we get onto the flatland around Phoenix. We follow I 17 all the way, expecting to get signs diverting us onto I 10 which leads more directly to the airport, but we are 2 miles from the airport turnoff, still on I 17, when we get our first airport sign. We follow the signs, and about 12.30pm get to the hire car return, which is actually a long way from the airport.

   The hire car depot is an enormous multi-storey building, with the Dollar part alone accommodating hundreds of cars. The handover is very professional, and there is no comment on dust still lying in the inaccessible areas around the doors. The petrol is still about 1/4 full (you are supposed to bring it back empty, as you’re charged for a full tank when you start). We were happy to concede this, rather than worry about running out on the Interstate. We were very happy with the Dollar car hire, booked through DriveAway Holidays in Australia. The original cost for the Ford Focus for 9 days was A$387, and we paid another US$114 here for prepaid fuel (US$49) and roadside service, which we thought we might need in some of the isolated places we went to, though we had no idea how we could have contacted them anyway with no phone. We think we paid about US$180 for petrol, including the prepaid fuel.  We thought the car had gone 21,550 miles when we picked it up, but it shows on the docket that it was only 2,155 miles, and we returned it with 3,999 miles on it according to them, so we did 1,844 miles or 2,967kms according to the docket, but our figures show we picked it up at 21,550 and returned it at 23,246 doing a total of 1,696 miles. Not sure which is correct, but we were happy with the deal either way! We were very lucky that Dollar didn’t have a relocation fee for pick-ups in Las Vegas, with a drop-off in Phoenix.

   The shuttle takes us to the airport, where we check in, finding it is all do-it-yourself, but we don't fit the parameters, as we want to pay cash for our $25 per bag checked luggage. When we finally get face-to-face, we find our through-ticket means we don't have to pay, but it takes a while to sort it out.

    We get a window seat, see a whole lot of grey and brown desert for the first section, a lot of oilfield roads and drill sites as we get into Texas, and greener land further on. We pass over a major urbanisation which must be Dallas-Fort Worth, and it is night time by the time we pass Tampa on the coast, and by the time we land at 10.30pm local time, after a 3-hour time change, we have crossed large swathes of water several times, so we don't know where the hell we are.

   At the airport, we get a taxi from the taxi-line, and end up with a thoroughly unpleasant black guy, who hardly acknowledges we are there, won't listen to where we want to go, won't look at the map, and grudgingly turns down the loud hip-hop music in the cab so he can hear what we’re saying. We are surprised when we actually get to the right hotel, Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel ($177 per night including tax).  Not surprisingly, he doesn't get a tip.

   The hotel is OK, with some water views of a canal and large yacht. We don't want room service, so ask at the desk where we might get a feed, and how safe it is. We walk a fair distance up the main street, but everything is closed, so go back to the hotel via a local bar-restaurant, on the canal, but also closed.

   Back at the hotel, the kitchen has closed so we have to settle for whatever we can find in the pack, plus a packet of crisps and a chocolate from a machine.  Moral of the story is don’t arrive in town at 11.30pm on Good Friday and expect to get fed.  It is only pretty early by Phoenix time, but there is not a lot we can do, so go to bed.

Saturday 7th April             Fort Lauderdale to boarding Celebrity Constellation

  Up pretty early, pack our bags for instant book out, even though we have till 12. Decide against breakfast at the hotel, so walk East on SE 17th Street, climbing the walkway on the high level lifting span bridge to get views of the Intracoastal Waterway,and south to the cruise ships at the wharves on the Intracoastal Waterway. We can see the Celebrity Constellation, and the monstrous Oasis, among others. There are about seven cruise ships going out today!

    We want to catch the shuttle bus, but are not too sure whether it is free, or what price it is, and we have no dollar change with us, and only a few coins. We talk to a running woman about the shuttle and directions to the beach, cross the road to a bank with an ATM, but it is only giving out $200 at a time, which is not enough, as we have to pay steep charges on every transaction. We continue to walk, looking for somewhere to get a drink and some change, but end up near the beach, but separated from it by a waterway and a lot of private properties with no-trespassing signs. We accost a high-speed granny on roller blades, who screeches to a stop, and gives us directions. Get a photo of her on her return trip. Quite a sight.

    We see a bunch of people with beach gear crossing the road and entering a track toward the beach, but they are only going into the private grounds of a resort. We end up walking all the way north and east to where the main road meets the ocean at a public beach. We take pictures of the beach, people camped on tables and under trees to hold the fort for later groups, and locals, mainly ethnic, setting up drink and food stalls. The food and drink seem reasonably priced, but we push on, past the International Swimming Hall of Fame, looking for a cafe or convenience store to buy a drink and get some change. We don't find much, but Dianne gets a map from a hotel, and we find we are not far from Las Olas Boulevarde, where we expect to find a fashionable shopping and an eating area, where we can get food and drink, and change for the shuttle we know passes along Las Olas, as we have seen one going the other way.

   We walk through a suburban area, with a bridge over the extension of the Intracoastal Waterway, but can see no waterside dining, or any commercial activity at all. The time is passing, and we are glad to see a service station, where we can get a drink, change and information. The station owner and his friend don't know a lot about the shuttle, have probably never used Public Transport in their lives, but the young attendant thinks it is 75 cents.

   We walk to the next shuttle stop, just before a canal development, and Murray walks on a distance, and nearly misses the shuttle when it comes. The shuttle is only 50 cents, passes a lot of canal development suburbia before getting to the tourist precinct, and there ARE lots of shops and restaurants here. It is about here we find out that this is not the shuttle which does the loop past our hotel. It goes straight West before returning the way it came. We can't get the driver to even acknowledge a shuttle does go down SE 17th Street, but at least he takes us back into the shopping area where we should be able to get a taxi, as it is now getting too late to muck about with public transport or walk.

   We see a few taxis, but have no luck getting one to stop. Can't see into them to see if they have passengers, can't work out if they have to be hired at Taxi Ranks.

  With time running out, go to a nearby tourist hotel, ask at the desk if they can get a taxi, as we will miss our cruise. They are sympathetic, pass us on to an organiser type, who appears to be getting a car for us, but the dispatch area is crowded with guests from the hotel wanting taxis, or valet parked cars, so it takes forever. Finally after prompting, he organises a mini-bus to take us for a flat $15 charge. The mini-bus is either private, or being used for a non-official trip, but we don't mind. The traffic is pretty congested, and we end up on back streets, but eventually emerge at our hotel, and we happily pay $20, hurry in to tell the desk we are booking out, right on 12 noon.

   They don't seem too worried, but we don't push our luck by having a shower, and are back in the lobby with our bags by 12.15. We book a 12.45 shuttle, and are surprised when the people in front of us are charged $90 for what we think is a $6 shuttle, but they are going to Miami.

    Murray sallies forth to find cash, crossing the road to the HSBC Bank, which has always been good with the size of withdrawals. We have been advised not to go down back alleys, but the actual ATM is in an underground car park, ill-lit and deserted. They will still only give $200, so Murray takes the money and runs. Back at the hotel, we get out another $200, and decide to use the credit card if we run out.

   Murray is running late because of the ATM fiasco, Dianne is in the full shuttle ready to go when he gets there. It is not far to the port entrance, but a long and difficult path from there to the ship itself through the very big and busy port area. Definitely a difficult walk with baggage, assuming you would be allowed to go on foot.

This is the end of the USA section of our trip, and we’re now ready to start the Caribbean section.

Summary of our Thoughts on Our USA Trip

Las Vegas – was worth visiting, even if you’re not a gambler, for a look at the over-the-top architecture and the way the whole place is lit up at night.

National Parks -  The scenery in the National Parks was definitely world class.  There was so much wonderful scenery that you became a bit  blasť after a while. All were great and we thought Bryce was particularly scenic, especially with the snow around, but our favourites were the "Islands in the Sky" in Canyonlands National Park, and our stay at the “View Hotel” in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

We only had nine days, which isn’t enough to see this area properly (we had to fit it in between a family wedding, and the start of the cruise, which limited the days we could take). We also couldn’t visit the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon because it was too early in the season. Overall, though we missed some things we’d have liked to see, we were very happy with our choice of what we did see, and think we saw a representative sample of what was available.

Phoenix & Fort Lauderdale – didn’t see much of either, but enough to know that we didn’t need to spend much time in them, as nothing outstanding to see, though the waterways in Fort Lauderdale were interesting.
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Annette Crawford on

Those are so fabulous photos. Thanks for sharing, wish I was there too.
Love & laugh,

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