Looking Glass Falls

Cardinal Drive In 2What an amazing three days in the mountains! The first day we started out at lunch at the Cardinal in Brevard, Transylvania County. The food was a good value for the price but nothing to brag about it. It reminded me of a Sonic with inside seating. The service;  well, they were a little grumpy toward the tourist that didn’t know what they were doing. But everyone should order food thru a red phone at least once in their life. It was worth the stop for the atmosphere.


We then went a little out of town to PARI (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute). Here, we had a program where we learned about radio astronomy, toured the facility and each student was able to operate a satellite. It is interesting and fascinating to have this facility in North Carolina. It was good but the Challenger Learning Center in Columbia, SC has them beat as far as programs. They have some interesting artifacts from space shuttles and they have a large mineral collection with the highlight being cupcake the dinosaur egg. I thought it was particularly interesting that they told us that the scientists were off on the timing of totality for the eclipse after all. And did you know the atmosphere is in trapped in bubbles in rocks? Fascinating!

Claire Sliding Rock

We went back through Brevard to get to Sliding Rock where the kids spent about an hour or so sliding down the rock. I hear the water was cold. Maybe next time I will join in but someone had to take photos. We ended up in Brevard for dinner at Jordan Cafe. The food was really good. Cobey and I had really good burgers and Claire had a wrap. The service was very slow. They messed up three of the orders and really didn’t try to make up for it. So, over all disappointing but I would try it again.

20170824_104400The next morning after a quick stop to Looking Glass Falls, we went to Cradle of the Forestry which is a National Historic Site. (Tip- It is free if you have a National Park Pass) First, please do not miss the movie. It gives a great background on the history of Forestry and its connection to Biltmore Estates. The museum is very interactive and then there are two walking trails with related buildings and a train. I debated between this and a new military museum in town. I am really glad we ended here because it was well worth the two and half hours we spent there. I highly recommend you stop in if you are in the area.

Kobe BurgerAfter the museum, we headed to Hendersonville, Henderson County for lunch at Flat Rock Wood Room. The lunch turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. It was epic! Our waiter set the stage by explaining everything so well and literally making us want to have everything on the menu. He built the food up so high that I was worried we might be disappointed but I can say it was an outstanding experience. We started with chicken wings which were probably the best I have ever had in my life- just amazing. Cobey had the special Kobe Burger that he said was the best burger he ever had and he knows burgers. He also tried the pizza which he loved. Claire had the Fork and Knife Sandwich which she is still talking about the sauce. I had the brisket with the best bacon cheese grits I have ever had. There were seven of us and we were over the moon satisfied. It was one of the best restaurants we have been to in NC.

Hendersonville BearsAfter lunch, we had a nice guided tour of the Henderson Historical Museum which is housed in the Old Courthouse.  Afterward, Claire enjoyed walking downtown and getting photos with all the bears. They have some quaint little shops including an ice cream shop, hard cider shop, bakery and Mast General Store. After hunting down all the bears, we headed to the cemetery to see the angel from Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel. By this time I don’t know how but we were hungry again and went to Hot Dog World. This is one of those local been there forever dives.  I had the pimento cheese burgers which was truly amazing. Henderson County has the food thing down pat.

20170825_092752On the last day, the first quick stop was the horse in quaint Tryon.  They use to make toy horses in the town and pull a giant wooden horse like this one down the street. We then headed to Columbus where we saw the Doughboy Statue and where we had one of the best-guided tours ever by Robert Williamson. We spent three hours at the House of Flags Museum and it was fascinating. It inspired Cobey for a history project and gave us an all a totally new appreciation of flags and their meaning.  You need to go just to find out about a Liberty Cap. Who knew you would find one of the best museums in the state in little Polk County?



20170825_130405The last stop of the trip was at Tryon Internation Equestrian Center where we had lunch at Roger’s Diner. The food was very good and decent service. The center is very well laid out and impressively done. There are several restaurants, shops, general store and a large arena. I can see why horse folks love this place. Top Notch!

Three days and we found one of the best restaurants in the state and one of the best museums. I would call that a successful trip.

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Historical Harpers Ferry

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday Aug 24, 2015 Under Civil War Sites, Claire, Cobey, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Kid's Corner, Travel


We were blessed to have a tour with Scot Faulkner the President of the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.  This was our second visit to the area but through the eyes of a local historian was more than we could have imagined.  We started with a great overview at Bolivar Heights.  Mr. Faulkner told story of the Great Train Raid of 1861. He did a brilliant job explaining the strategic importance of the area and painting a picture of what occurred.


We then headed to Murphy Farm. This is where we saw some great views. In 1862, General A.P. Hill forced the surrender of 12,000 Union troops here which concluded General “Stonewall” Jackson’s siege of  Harpers Ferry.  This was accomplished with a flanking move on Bolivar Heights. The area has great views and trails. We then headed down to the town.





In the town, we learned more about the story of John Brown through a great exhibit there. We visited the Lewis and Clark exhibit, the General Store and John Brown’s fort. We learned about the different floods and saw the water line for each one.  We also let the kids wade in the river.  I knew there was a possibility of that not ending well and it didn’t. I let Claire go out one last time and she slipped and fell. She was soaked.  A purchase of an over sized T-shirt at the Bookstore saved the day.  The bookstore is phenomenal so don’t miss it if you are in the area.  We learned about the St. Peter’s Church and how it was saved from being burned during the war by Father Costello raising a Union Jack flag. We then stopped for some great ice cream at Scoop’s Ice Cream. This was the fuel to tackle our last stop – Jefferson Rock.


Jefferson RockThomas Jefferson wrote about this place in his book – Notes of the State of Virginia.  The book was like a travel guide.  He stood on the rock October 25, 1783 and wrote “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic”. The rock used to rest on a natural rock formation that  you could rock but over the years it became dangerous and supports were added.

We then had a great dinner at the Anvil. They had a great variety of food and everyone was able to find something they wanted. Cobey got the suicide wings which were very hot. The waitress was surprised he finished them and said grown men sent them back saying they were too hot. The food was good and great service. Great ending to a wonderful afternoon and evening in Harpers Ferry.

To top off the day, Scott Faulkner was kind enough to sign Cobey’s book. He is the author Naked Emperors- The Failure of the Republican Revolution which is a great read.




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11987104_10206301221544128_466116147548740139_nBecause of scheduling issues, we ended up doing  Yancey County in two parts – Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning.  We arrived in Burnsville at lunch time on Sunday. We soon figured out Sunday may have not been the best day to visit. We had a hard time finding a restaurant that was open. We finally found Sam’s Regal Beagle and decided to give it a try.  After we sat down, we began to hear a table in the next room loudly complaining. They complained about how long it took to get food, the waitress, and the quality of the food. The restaurant ended up charging them very little for a large party. We couldn’t help but wonder if this was a bad decision.  We stuck it out and ended up pleasantly surprised. They were out of some items but we were happy with our orders. Our waitress was the same one and she was friendly and attentive. Our food came out in a timely manner. It was not great but good.  Glad we had a better experience.

We then rode around the town looking for something open without much luck. We did enjoy looking at the quilt squares and the many murals in the area. The photo above and the photo to the right are all from the area.


11902497_10153453222548950_1943773066144332891_nOn Tuesday morning, we had a foggy but beautiful drive to Mt. Mitchell.   It gave the background about the tallest mountain not only in North Carolina but the Northeast. The mountain is named after Elisha Mitchell who measured the mountain three times. The last time he fell to his death. There are several great trails.  We split up into several groups and tackled several different trails. Cobey had a great time and Mt Mitchel helped saved Yancey County from the bottom to closer to the top. Claire and I went on a shorter hike and then went to lunch at the Mt Mitchell Restaurant. I had a burger and Claire had soup. It was a good lunch with a nice view.  Mt Mitchell makes Yancey worth the visit.

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Downtown Fayetteville

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Thursday Feb 26, 2015 Under Claire, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

Lafayette Statue We have not officially done Cumberland County yet but we have been spending some time downtown working on Claire’s history project.  First, let me say if you have not been to the Cape Fear Regional Theater- check them out. We have been to several play there and we are NEVER disappointed.  I have really been surprised with downtown  and growing to really like it. They have some great restaurants, interesting history and  it is relatively clean. Claire is still not over the condition of the Lafayette statue. Take another look at photo above.  The first place we ate at was across the bridge from downtown at Riverside Grill which is attached to a bait shop. Claire got a hot dog and chili fries. I got a cheeseburger. The food was quick and good and we were pleased.

Circa 1800The next time we were in the area we ate at Circa 1800. It was opposite end of the spectrum from the grill.  Claire and I split a salad and crab cakes. We also got bruschetta. It was all delicious. The service and atmosphere were great. We really loved this place and would go back for sure. The last place we have tried is The Sweet Palette. We took home mini cheesecakes, cake pops, and cupcakes. They were all delicious.



Caesar Salad Crabcake

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French Broad Chocolate Lounge


Treats at Frenchh Broad Chocolate Lounge Cobey went to the beach with his grandparents so Claire invited a friend and we headed to Asheville for the Downton Abbey Costumes. We got to town in time for an afternoon treat at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It took a little searching because the place has recently moved and the website took us to the old location. We walked around the corner and up the street and Claire spotted.  I had chocolate creme burlee. Claire had chocolate mouse and a chocolate truffle. Alana had milk and cookies ice cream and chocolate truffle. They were all yummy. We then went to the factory and did a self-guided factory tour. They do guided tours on Saturday which I think would be better but they have done a good job with the self-guided. They have a great sheet spelling everything out and signs to mark everything.  Don’t forget to taste afterward.

Basilica  of Saint Lawrence The next stop was the Basilica of Saint Lawrence. The architect was Raphael Guastavino, who came to work on the Biltmore House in mid 1880s. The church was completed in 1909.  The style is Spanish Renaissance. The outside is interesting but the inside is amazing. If you are any where close, you should take the time to go inside. It has beautiful stain glass windows, statues and carving. I can’t believe I have never been in this place. They have a great brochure inside with the history and information.


Window at Basilica of Saint Lawrence Cederic's CollarWe ended our day with a bite to eat at the Cederic’s Tavern at Biltmore Estates. The girls had soup which they both enjoyed. We had pimento cheese that was quite good. I had a Bison burger which was delicious. The service was excellent and the atmosphere was nice. The girls loved the dog collar and all the photos of the dogs throughout the restaurant.  I would go back for sure.

The Biltmore Inn

Claire has been wanting to stay at the Biltmore Inn so when they offered a  special for passholder’s we took it.  The room was very spacious with two double beds,  two chairs, small breakfast table and chairs, large closest and a desk. It is beautiful place but  would not stay again without a similar reduced rate. You should always check to see what rate they are offering.

The Moment Alana saw Biltmore for the first time.


This was the moment that Alana saw the Biltmore House for the first time. The expression was priceless. The girls were up all night watching old Downton Abbey episodes. They were eager to get inside and see the costumes.






10361331_10204813506512182_7832790773665421654_nThe girls did the kids audio and I did the adult. I am so glad we did. The kid’s audio is based on the Cedric the dog. It tied in perfectly with dinner last night and they loved going through the house searching for the lost bone. The costumes were wonderful and in almost every room. They had descriptions about each one and information about the time period. It is well put together and we loved it.  We are looking forward to our next visit in the spring.

Biltmore House

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Rick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar – Snead’s Ferry

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Feb 1, 2015 Under Good Eats/Not So Good Eats

Rick's - Sneads Ferry


Last night the girls went out for dinner while we were enjoying a weekend at the beach. It was fantastic.  We started with a mix drink and none of them disappointed.  We had a  Mango Martini, Sun City Sunrise (like Tequila Sunrise but add midori) and then Snickers (has Godiva liquor). We had crab dip for appetizer which was good. The main dishes were awesome. I had a steak with their specialty rub and crab cake. My friends had a Salmon Florentine special and Shrimp Scampi. We took home M and M ice cream pie home for dessert. It was good also but the drinks and main dishes were the best. Oh and our waitress was a hoot!  Her quote of the evening- Thankfully I am not  drinking anymore but lately I have been. …

The previous night  we ate Riverview Cafe.  We had a while before a waitress came over but once we did the service was great and food came out fast. The hush puppies may be the best I have ever had.  Our main dishes were just okay but I think we ordered the wrong thing. I had peel and eat shrimp and my friend had grilled tilapia. We also had the crab dip which was just okay. I suggest sticking with fried seafood. I hear that is great there.

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Five Days in DC

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Jan 11, 2015 Under Claire, Cobey, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Politics, Travel

Arriving DC at Union Station We had the most fabulous time in DC.  I have decided it was a great week because even though it was bitter cold and it snowed, the museums were empty.  Also, the hotels were a lot cheaper.

Triple Chocolate Bread PuddingWe stayed in a Hilton Garden Inn on First Street. It was a newer hotel and the staff was some of the best we have experienced. We ate several times at the restaurant for breakfast, dinner and snacks. The service was good and the food was very good. We loved the triple chocolate bread pudding.  There is a Harris Teeter attached so you can easily pick up anything you may have forgotten or some snacks.  I highly recommend the hotel.

We used Uber for the first time and we also loved that. It was easy and cheap and kept us from freezing. Most of the time it was cheaper for the three of us to take Uber than to take the metro. They were fast, friendly and professional.

The only disadvantage that I found for that time of year was worrying about travel to get there. We solved that by taking the train. The train worked out well for us. We didn’t have any long delays. We ended up getting to sit together. We ended up saving money when you factor in gas and parking in DC.  I would do it again..

Day One  

National World War II Memorial When we arrived, we were picked up at Union Station by Brian with Bi-Partisan Tours for a private night time tour of DC. If you can only do one thing in DC, do a tour with them. It was fabulous. We saw all the monuments, the White House, US Capitol, Ford’s Theater and more.  We got great information that was interesting and fun.  It was the best overview in the shortest amount of time.






Day Two


Swearing In of Thom Tillis

The Crowd


Cobey and Senator Thom Tillis

We spent the day watching and celebrating the swearing in of our newest Senator Thom Tillis. It was a wonderful ending of two years of hard work. We started out with a tour of the US Capitol which was interesting and the rotunda is just beautiful.  After watching the swearing in, we then had time before the evening party. We dropped in the Botanical Gardens with our friends the Mixons. The gardens were just beautiful and worth a stop in, We loved the statues of all the monuments.

Cobey at Botanical Gardens


Day Three 

We started the day at the National Archives with a tour and possibly future appearances on 60 minutes. (They were filming a show) We really didn’t have a long time there but it was interesting and Claire enjoyed the Kid’s room. We had lunch at the cafeteria which was good not great.

National Cathedral Creche Exhibit

10891533_10204606208129852_1856787978464719168_nThe magic of the day started when Claire and I went to the National Cathedral for Tea and a Tour. We arrived a little early for our tour so we were able to visit the Creche Exhibit.  Since I collect them, it was probably my favorite exhibit in DC.  It is an annual exhibit and so worth the visit if you are there at the right time. They are from around the world and all very unique. Afterward, we had the best tour of the cathedral. It is so beautiful and has so much history. Our tour guide was awesome..  We ended our visit with a very special tea in the tower. It is not overly pricey and so worth it.



Hudson and the BoysWhile the girls where having tour and tea, Cobey was with friends having another tour of the Capitol. He said the tour was fabulous. It was set up by one of our favorite people, US Congressman Richard Hudson.  They also got to sit in the gallery and meet with Hudson.  That night he told me he wished Hudson was our representative.

We all met up and had dinner at the Matchbox which was really good and a great ending to the day.

Day Four 

Rail Car in Holocaust MuseumWith two days left, I let each child have a day to decide what they wanted to do. Claire got to pick this day and she started us out at the Holocaust Museum. She has read a lot of books on the time period and had been wanting to go. She liked the section geared toward kids – Daniel’s Story but she was disappointed in the rest. She thought the one in Richmond was better.  We had lunch at the museum cafe which we really enjoyed. They had several Jewish dishes that were different and good.

After lunch, we went to the Museum of History.  We  could have spent a lot more time there. They enjoyed the food and transportation exhibit but Claire’s favorite was the First Ladies’ Inaugural Gowns. She absolutely loved this collection and wants to go back. We then rushed over to the National Postal Museum. Brian on the first night had told Claire about Owney, the postal dog and she really wanted to go.  It is a smaller museum but one of our favorites. I highly recommend trying to fit it in your visit.

We had dinner across the street at Kelly’s Irish Times. The food was good but the service was terrible. I got the feeling we were not welcome at all. I am not sure whether it was because we were not local or because I had the kids.

Claire and Owney


Day Five

Berlin Wall

National Building MusemThis was Cobey’s day and he made some great choices. We started out  at the Newseum  This was my first time at this museum and I loved it!! It had great interactive and interesting exhibits.It is like seeing history thru the lens of news reports.  This museum needs to be on your list. We stopped in at the National Building Museum. You should at least go in and take a look at this magnificent building. It is one of the most beautiful in DC. You can walk around for free but there is a cost to go into the exhibits. I would say skip the exhibits and enjoy the beautiful building and great gift shop.

Our last stop and Cobey’s favorite of the day was the International Spy Museum. It is a very interesting and fun museum. You start by getting a spy identity which the kids really got into. It was neat seeing history through the perspective of spying. The museums ends with a James Bond exhibit. We left the next morning to come back home. We could have easily stayed another week and can’t wait for our next visit.

International Spy Museum

Cobey’s Favorite – Tour of Richard Hudson                                                                            Honorable Mention – International Spy Museum

Claire’s Favorite- Bi-Partisan Tour                                                                             Honarable Mention Owney at the National Postal Museum, First Lady Gowns & International Spy

My Favs- Bi-Partisan Tour, Tour and Tea at the National Cathedral, Creche Exhibit, Newseum.

Favorite Place to Eat- Matchbox


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Jeff’s Boat- OIB


We have decided to partake in a travel challenge. Our plan is 100 NC counties, 50 states and 15 countries before Cobey graduates in 2020.  We have a few rules. We are not redoing states or countries. Driving through a state does not count. You have to eat something and do something. The same goes for the counties. The kids will be ranking the counties as we go and they can consider things we have done in the past in the county. I hope you will follow along with us on the adventure.

We started with Brunswick County because that is where my brother lives and we were in town for his birthday. We have been to many good restaurants at Ocean Isle Beach and Oak Island. We have also been many time to the Museum of Coastal Carolina at Ocean Isle Beach. It is a great small science and history museum. We have even climbed the scary lighthouse at Oak Island and explored the Fort Caswell. For this trip we decided to focus on Southport.  We started at the Visitor Center which is at Fort Johnston. After checking out the small museum which has some cool movie artifacts we decided on a golf cart tour.


We went with the Southport Fun Tours which lived up to their name. The tour had a lot of information about movies and TV shows have been filmed in the area. The tour also had a lot of information about the history of the area. There is history back to the Native Americans and lots of Civil War history. It was a great balance and kept us all entertained. I highly recommend this tour. We headed for Provisions for lunch but the line was too  long and we were starving so we ended up at Fishy Fish. I really love the decor and atmosphere but the service and food were not great.  I had the worse peel and eat shrimp that I have ever had.  Cobey and Claire liked their meals better but it was not over the top. I guess we should have waited for Provisions. We walked around downtown and took a photo with a tree that the Native Americans used to mark a trail. We then headed back to OIB. Southport is a really cool quaint town that is worth a visit. Check it out!

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Apples on Parade – Winchester

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday May 19, 2014 Under Claire, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Homeschool, Kid's Corner

World's Largest Apple

1557577_10202921609015927_3712239658793744621_nEvery time we go somewhere that has themed statues around town , Claire wants to go see them all.  For example, the Outerbanks has horses and New Bern has Bears. We never seem to have time to search them out. Today was a down day, Cobey wanted to work on his online class so I thought it was the perfect chance. We set out this morning to find the 14 apples in Winchester. We accomplished the goal several hours later with a stop at Target and lunch in between.  Who knew driving around town searching for apples could make you so tired. I am glad we had the best driver and tour guide- Sue Selznick. Now that is DIAMOND service.

We had lunch at Piccadilly Public House which was scrumptious. I had the Martha Washington Salad with Shrimp. Clare had a crab cake sandwich and black bean soup. She did not care for the black bean soup but I love she is trying new foods. Sue had a burger and fried pickles. They had several gluten free options.

We love the Pineapple one because it reminds of us of how we always feel in Winchester- Welcome! Here is a link to the all.  http://www.visitwinchesterva.com/PDF/ApplesonParade.pdf The number 6 one is missing. It blew away in a storm.

Welcome Pineapple

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Alaska Trip – Land Tour

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday May 29, 2013 Under Claire, Cobey, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Kid's Corner, Travel



We went on a five night land tour after the cruise. Every one on our bus was part of the homeschool group except for a group of four people. I am really glad that we did the land part and encourage anyone doing the cruise add land. This was our first group bus trip. We liked when luggage magically appeared in our room and we liked not having the stress of finding places. Claire loved having the Johnson girls to hang out with and of coarse Stormy or was is Smokey. We did not like having to be on someone else time schedule. It is a definite trade off. Overall, I am glad we made the choice to do the land tour so we could hang out with cool people.

Day One- Seward to Alyeska

We first went to the SeaLife Center. Claire liked the huge Harbor Seal and the touch tank. It was good but I think it would have been better with a special tour or encounter. We have been to much better aquariums. We then went on a Resurrection Bay Wildlife Cruise was fabalous. We saw  orcas, sea otters, harbor seals, birds,  humpback whales, porpoises and dahl sheep. It was truly mazing and a highlight of the trip. We also had lunch on Fox Island where kids tried to skip rocks. The lunch was okay but nothing special. We then boarded a glass-domed train to Alyeska. The scenery was beautiful and I really enjoyed this part of the trip. The kids did not seem to appreciate the train ride.


Fox IslandIMG_1501











Day Two- Anchorage

On our way to Anchorage we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  They had bears, eagles, moose, caribou, buffalo. It is a great what they are doing to help the animals. But it was not as nice as seeing them in the wild and reminded me of other backyards zoos. Claire really like the hurt bear and wanted to buy something in the shop to help him. In Anchorage we meet up with my friend Molly. I got to see her new baby and we just walked around the city. It was great to be able to spend sometime with her. We then spent some time in the Anchorage Museum. The kids liked the hands-on Imaginarium. Claire loved making a video.


Day Three and Four Denali

On the way to Denali, we got to stop for a great view of Mt McKinley. We had a clear day and a great view. When we got to the park we has a guided tour. Our tour guide was very informative and told lots of fun facts about the plant and wildlife. While at the National Park we checked out a back bag of activities. It was very well put together and the kids got to do lots of cool activities. They loved making molds of tracks. They tested quality of water, made prediction and more. The next day was a free day. We booked a combination tour of a flightseeing with glacier landing and a  ATV. Both ended up being one of the favorites things of the trip.  The scenery of the flight was absolutely beautiful and surreal. The ATV riding was just fun. We ended the day having the best meal of the trip at the Salomon Bake. They had great service and great food. It was one of the best days of our trip.









Day Five- Fairbanks

The last day was spent in Fairbanks which was my least favorite town. At this point I was ready to be home. We went to the El Dorado Gold Mine were we learned about gold mining and about the Alaskan pipeline. It was really neat that Claire made a necklace out of the gold she found.


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