Amblin' Through Arizona, the Sweet Heart State
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|We left later than usual this time. We had planned to leave Friday about 6:00 or 7:00, then decided to change it to Saturday at 4:00. By 6:30 we were on our way to Arizona, a trip we had to cancel last year and then switched at the last minute to Utah. We headed north on Highway 14 to Mojave and turned east. At Barstow, we caught I-40 and continued, passing an experimental solar energy plant in Daggett, stopped for gas in Newberry Springs on a section of old Route 66, and crossed the state line into Arizona a bit before Noon. We were so far behind schedule (and it wasn't helped by a speed limit of only 60 for most of the way, but this changed to 75 when we entered Arizona) that we skipped everything we had hoped to do along the way, such as London Bridge at Lake Havasu and museums in Williams. We drove through Williams and got gasoline and decided to try to come again when we had more time. We headed north, passed the eastern branch of the Chino Air Museum and a Flintstone themed campground. About 4:00 we used the annual pass we bought last year at Zion to enter the park at no cost.|
|We found our lodging, about 200 feet from the Grand Canyon rim as promised. It was a nice but simple room in keeping with old time ways that are maintained at the park. We were parked some distance off so we carried in a few things and went to dinner in the Arizona Room at Bright Angel Lodge. We hurried to the shuttle loading and waited in a long line for the shuttle. Everyone wanted to see the sunset from Hopi Point and the man loading promised that we would all make it to the point by sunset. We arrived about fifteen minutes before sunset and waited. A cheer went up from the large crowd as the sun finally set although I would have like to have been there sooner as the light and shadows change in a dramatic show. Once the sun was down we all shuttled back to the lodgings. We hauled in the suitcases and settled off to a much needed sleep.|
|We set a wake-up call for 3:45 and were waiting at the shuttle bus stop when the first bus arrived at 4:30. By 5:00, we were the only two at the tip of Powell Point waiting for the sunrise which was about 5:30. Unlike the evening before, we enjoyed the sunrise and then the light, shadows, and colors change as the sun rose higher over the rim. We walked the short distance to Hopi Point to continue watching the light display and then returned to our room. We enjoyed breakfast at El Tovar, an old and historic Grand Canyon hotel. My wife was under the weather and she rested an hour before we left for El Cristo Rey Chapel. The chapel is a simple building that looked like a classroom with stained glass windows, but church is the people not the buildings and the service was done well. It was now close to Noon and we wanted to be at our next stop by 2:00, so we had to hurry along our way east through the park without stopping.|
|After exiting the park, we continued east on Highway 64 through the Navajo Reservation. The drive did provide for views of the Little Colorado River Gorge with opportunities to buy Native American arts and crafts at most of the scenic turnouts. We connected to US 69 south and then passed two sites we had hoped to see, Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater National Monument, because we simply didn't have time. As we approached Flagstaff, the San Francisco Peaks loomed ahead of us, still crowned with a dusting of snow. We caught Interstate 40 at Flagstaff and traveled east about 35 miles.|
|Finally we turned south at Meteor Crater Road and continued about six miles to Meteor Crater, the first identified and best preserved meteor crater on Earth. Although it has landmark status, it is not government owned as one might expect for a natural wonder. A mining claim was filed in the late 1800s and it has been in private hands in the middle of a ranch ever since. The crater was formed in 10 seconds when a 150 foot diameter meteorite crashed into the Arizona desert at 26,000 miles per hour about 50,000 years ago. We parked and rushed in just as the last tour was starting at 2:15. The tour covers a fraction of the 2.5 mile circumference but does show several points of interest including the ruins of the first museum converted from a home and was lost to fire. The wind was impossible to ignore as it swept across the desert and increased as it hit this mound. At the bottom of the crater is a piece of wreckage of a small airplane that ran afoul of the wind currents. Back at the building complex, we had a Subway lunch, then watched the film, toured the museum, and the outdoor observation platforms, one of which extended out over the edge. In the museum was a display of a stolen meteor that was later returned. An outdoor area had an Astronaut Wall of Fame with an Apollo test capsule, a tie-in with Apollo Astronauts training at the crater. I had wanted to visit this place for as long as I can remember, now if a meteor destroys the world, it's OK.|
|We headed back to Flagstaff and found our motel and checked in. It was now 5:30 and there was only one thing on our list we could do at this hour. A short drive on Route 66 brought us to the turnoff to Lowell Observatory where the former planet Pluto was discovered. There were several observatories and I enjoyed studying the observatory where Lowell studied Saturn, Mars, and the Moon. It was a flat topped wood structure that rotates on Ford tires. There was also a 30-minute educational program with music by Mannheim Steamroller. There were three telescopes available for public viewing that night and we saw Saturn before the show while still dusk, but opted to return to our motel after the show. Aside from a window that took some effort to close against the sound of the trains across the highway, it was a restful night in Flagstaff.|
|We awoke about 5:30, enjoyed our continental breakfast, checked out, and were on our way by 9:00.|
|We stopped at the railroad station in Flagstaff which has a Visitor Center in one wing and is still used by Amtrak in the other. The station was built in 1926 and was the third station here. The first station, built of wood and said to have been a beautiful structure, lasted about six months before being destroyed by fire. The second station was built on the same site in 1886, this time of coconino sandstone. Today the second and third stations stand across the street from one another alongside the tracks. The man in the Visitor Center offered many good suggestions and information for this and future trips. Beyond the east end of the older station is a steam locomotive and a logging car.|
|We continued along old Route 66 a few miles and transitioned to Highway 89A heading south through Oak Creek Canyon toward Sedona. We stopped a short time at Oak Creek Canyon Overlook where I noticed that the highway we were about to travel on was far below us and wondered how we were going to get there. A few minutes later we were on a steep and sharply curving road to the bottom of the canyon. Finally the canyon opened up into Sedona.|
|Sedona is a popular tourist center with shops, restaurants, spas, off road tours, and much more, all surrounded by beautiful rock formations. We wandered the town, talked with one of the off-road tour companies (Red Rock Tours), photographed several street art javelina sculptures and other sculptures, and bought some fudge. We followed a suggestion and drove to a viewpoint at the top of Airport Road which offered a spectacular view to the west. On the way out of town, which was hampered by construction adding traffic circles at several intersections, we stopped at Chapel Rock, a church built into a rock. We followed Highway 179 back to I-17. Later I was told that this same route in a beautiful approach to Sedona.|
|It was only a few minutes until we exited to see Montezuma Well, a sink hole filled with water and a few cliff dwellings along the edge. From here, we got back on I-17 a few more minutes and exited for Montezuma Castle, one of the better preserved cliff dwellings. It is not a large site with many structures like Mesa Verdi which we visited a year earlier, but is one well preserved tower built against the cliff with a few smaller ruins near the base.|
|About ten minutes later we arrived at Fort Verde State Park where four buildings of the old fort have been preserved. I wandered about 45 minutes, which was all I had before closing. The end building was undergoing renovation but still partly open. There had once been over a dozen buildings with a large parade ground. A tent camp was established in 1865 to protect settlers. The name and exact location changed over the years but is now considered the best preserved Indian Wars period fort in Arizona.|
|We now drove back to Highway 89A and in Clarkdale, stopped to look at Tuzigoot high on a hill top. It was closed for the day but I got some good shots from below of this stone community of long ago. We passed through the historic town of Clarkdale and would have liked to have stopped, but it was getting late. The Jerome State Historic site was closed for the 2008 depression and we were still running too late to stop in the town of Jerome, considered the largest ghost town. Jerome is filled with old buildings lining the sharply curving streets and we later learned that the following weekend there was an historic house tour, but by then we were too far south. I've driven windier roads, but never in a town. The narrow streets, sometimes one-way, ran back and forth up the hill. Old and crumbling buildings were everywhere as we climbed the hill out of town.|
|We had been warned that it was a winding road south, but I've been on worse. Never-the-less, my wife was happy when we hit flat land for about 20 minutes. Then one last down hill and we finally arrived in Prescott shortly before dark and settled in.|
|The museum we planned to visit today in Prescott didn't open until 10:00, so for the first time on this trip, we had time to catch up. We checked out just a bit after 10:00 and within minutes had arrived at Sharlot Hall Museum. Like Bolton Hall in California, Hall does not refer to the type of building but rather a last name. This Hall was Sharlot Hall, the first paid public office holder in the Territory of Arizona, that of Historian, from 1909-1912. She recognized the importance of an old log cabin which had been the Governor's Mansion for the Territory of Arizona, the only Governor's Mansion of any kind in Arizona. The building is the oldest building in Arizona still on its original foundation. Sharlot gathered other important buildings to the site which is now a museum with almost a dozen buildings. Inside the buildings are a number of historical exhibits and a wonderful gift shop where my wife bought a humorous book about cats.|
|We made one quick stop on the way out of town. I walked once around the Courthouse and along Whisky Row. Whisky Row was where the saloons were lined up and were lost in a major fire long ago.|
|We jumped onto Highway 89 and twisted and turned until we reached the flat lands about 3000 feet lower and pulled into Wickenburg. We parked beside the Visitor Center which was a historic train station with a train and I photographed everything and got information about the walking tour.|
|We were only a block from our destination, Desert Caballeros Western Museum, so we began our walking tour by first walking to the museum. The main changing exhibits gallery was being changed, but the rest of the museum was open and informative. The staff was nice and helpful and we enjoyed our visit. We continued walking a few blocks and photographing and posing with the various statues along the route.|
|The drive to Phoenix was uneventful and we found our motel and settled into a nice room.|
|We started the day by meeting with an old coworker friend and his friend for breakfast. They are both instructors at Art Institute of Phoenix teaching film making classes.|
|Many years ago, I had visited the Phoenix Zoo with my family and had always remembered how impressed I was. Our next stop for the day was to discover that I was still impressed with the Phoenix Zoo. There is not a large collection of different species of animals, but rather, there are usually large enclosures with mostly animals that naturally live in a similar climate to Phoenix. On a hill top above the zoo I noticed a pyramid but didn't know what it was for. That will be explained in the next paragraph. The zoo is laid out approximately in three overlapping circles. My wife and I walked one circle, then she returned to a nice shady spot looking out over an African Veldt type enclosure. I continued on the further circle and we skipped the center circle. It was quite hot, but we enjoyed our visit.|
|In our quest to visit all the state capitols, we found the State Capitol and parked in a two hour visitor lot. We were just in time for a guided tour of the capitol which we enjoyed. In contrast to the Texas Capitol last year, we were the only two on this tour. Our guide began with a temporary exhibit featuring the battleship Arizona and its loss on December 7, 1941. The House and Senate are now in new buildings on either side of the forecourt but we visited the original House which had also been the site of the 1910 Constitutional Convention. Several times during the tour, our guide pointed our something that was never finished because there wasn't enough money at the time, such as an ornate elevator shaft with no elevator. We visited an office that was set up as the office of Governor George Wylie Paul Hunt, the first Governor of Arizona and the person berried under that pyramid I saw while at the zoo.|
|After leaving the Capitol, we crossed to the park on the east side which has several monuments and memorials, including a flag pole and anchor from the Battleship Arizona.|
|I was surprised when it took an hour to reach our next stop. We drove past Sky Harbor Airport where only about two hours later the president would land and then Sun Devil Stadium where three hours later, he would be giving a commencement address. Finally after an hour, we arrived at Taliesin West. This is the western branch of an Architecture school established by Frank Lloyd Wright and it still carries on his work. It is at 12621 North Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard in Scottsdale. The last tour was at 4:00 and we arrived a little after 5:00 and it closed at 5:30, so I took a few photos and we headed back to Phoenix where we enjoyed our dinner and settled in for the night. A few days later, too late, we learned that the Arboretum was open until 8:00 and we would have had time to visit.|
|We checked out of Phoenix a little before 8 heading south toward Tucson. We made a side trip to Gold Canyon, a candle and other scented products company for which my wife recently started selling. It had a beautiful reception area with a small display area. I photographed my wife in front of the building and we continued south.|
|Not too long after we exited I-10 and stopped at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. As we approached, I was curious about what looked like a well built shelter over bails of hay in the distance and though it might be the monument until the road continued past. Then we turned the corner and eventually entered the drive to the monument from the east which took us close to the structure. What at a distance looked like hay bails was actually the adobe remains of a three story Pre-Columbian structure built about 1350 C.E.. Hohokam farmed this land for about one thousand years ending about 1450. Because adobe is not water resistant, this large shelter should protect the structure for many years. We wandered the site for about an hour, looking at the large structure and several smaller ruins. The interpretive signage was good and we came away thinking of these people who tamed the desert long before the Europeans arrived. We continued south and rejoined I-10 south.|
|We drove through Tucson and continued south on I-19. Near Nogales, we exited to take the old highway into town. A quick stop at the Chamber of Commerce Information Center had us on track and we explored this border city for a short while. The Courthouse (Santa Cruz County) was beautiful and just a short distance from the old commercial strip which was still flourishing. We bought a Subway sandwich, drove by the border, and returned north on I-17.|
|Our first Mission in Arizona was at Tumacacori National Historic Park about 10 miles north of the border along Highway 19.The park is in three separate units with a mission in each unit, but what wasn't clear from my research was that the other two missions are only viewable during special tours, the last of which for the season was about a week earlier. Tumacacori, established in 1691, is not in ruins, but it also isn't restored. There is the church, cemetery, frier's residence in addition to Museum and Gift Shop. The old stone church was quiet and peaceful with only a few visitors this hot afternoon. There was one last thing to see before leaving and that was the lime kiln. While photographing it, I saw the long pink tail end of a Red Racer snake disappear into a hole. I was glad that my wife hadn't followed me on this trail.|
|A few miles further north on Highway 19 brought us the Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac, established in 1752. The historic park is in back of the present day town of Tubac. There are a few historic buildings and ruins. The exhibit I found most interesting was an excavation, roofed over, accessible through a stair. It felt like we were going underground to discover something.|
|We still weren't finished with the day. We arrived late at Mission San Xavier del Bac which is considered by many to be the most beautiful mission. For several years the Mission has be receiving a careful conservation and restoration. The left bell tower is bright and sparkling, restored while the right is in desperate need of restoration that would start in just a month or two. We were lucky that the only scaffold was on a back corner. It was closing time and we were only able to see the church before we were ushered out. It was OK, this was a bonus visit, we were originally planning to visit a few days later.|
|We found our motel, which was very nice, bought some groceries, and settled in. We were lucky to get a Jacuzzi suite and my wife took full advantage.|
|We got off a bit later than planned, but arrived at the Pima Air and Space Museum in time to sign up for the AMARG Tour at 11:00. The Pima Air and Space Museum has over 300 aircraft over a large site with indoor and outdoor exhibits. We started walking the site but despite the early hour, it was already too hot for my wife who retreated to one of the hangars to wait for me. I continued wandering the site until almost time for the tour. Among my favorites were the Flying Guppy, B-52s, and F-4s. I found my wife and we boarded the bus for the tour. The museum has the contract to run tours of the Air Force Boneyard, officially named, 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, a storage and disposition location for mostly Air Force aircraft that are no longer needed. Some may fly again, some are for parts, some will be destroyed. There were hundreds of obsolete F-4s, B-52s being destroyed, parts, and the occasional one-of-a-kind aircraft. There is a Row of Fame row with one each of many aircraft. The space for the Stealth was empty because, of course, you can't see a stealth aircraft. After the AMARG Tour we began to tour the hangars and interior displays on our own. As soon as I started to take my first indoor pictures, I noticed something wrong. My camera, 1 year and 6 days old, had broken the shutter, so I switched to the older spare camera for the rest of the trip (Canon did repair the camera under warrantee). We finished with the museum and returned to the motel.|
|A half hour of rest and we were off to visit with my long lost cousin who has lived in the Tucson area for about 25 year. We enjoyed the visit, observed various wildlife in his backyard, and learned a bit about the area. Back in our room, I did my best to resolve my camera problems before getting to sleep much later than I wanted.|
|We needed to get off early. Months earlier, I had reserved a special tour of the Titan Missile Museum and we needed to be a half hour south of Tucson by 8:30. The museum offers several levels of tours, the regular tour several times a day tour lasting about 45 minutes, several Beyond the Blast Door tours a day but only one day a month lasting about two hours, and occasionally the Top to Bottom tour lasting about five hours and limited to about six people. The Top to Bottom tour requires the use of several ladders which my wife didn't think she could handle, so I arranged for her to take the Beyond the Blast Door tour which started an hour after my Top to Bottom tour and they let her tag along until her tour started. So this left her waiting only two hours for my five hour tour to finish. She enjoyed her tour and I enjoyed mine. While the Beyond the Blast Door tours take you quickly around the above ground area and then to the control room and one level of the silo, my tour spent more time above ground, then visited the crew quarters above and support level below the control level, and seven levels of the silo, top to bottom. The technical information had my head spinning, four-foot think walls, tons of concrete, isolators, pumps, cables - you just need to go yourself or buy the book that our guide, Chuck Benson, Archivist, wrote. All other Titan silos and missiles have been destroyed and this one has been rendered inoperable in several ways easily verified by Russian spy satellites. One way is two large blocks of concrete that block the path of the blast door so it can only open half way. This allows for a glass cover over the open half permitting a good view of the missile. After the tour, I bought Chuck's book which he autographed and my wife and I headed for lunch. The Titan Missile museum is about a mile west of Highway 19 on Duval Mine Road.|
|After lunch at Two Girls Pizzeria, a few hundred feet west of the Titan silo, we headed north. I had noticed an old mine head stock just off Highway 19 with a sign about a mine tour. I pulled in expecting some cheesy mine tour but it turned out that I would have like to have gone on the tour, except the last tour till Tuesday had just left. The ASARCO Mine is a huge open-pit copper mine that has been operating for over one hundred years. Tours are Tuesday through Saturday, exit Highway 19 at Pima Mine Road. Maybe next time.|
|It was about 4:15 when we arrived again as San Xavier Mission hoping to see more than we did a few days earlier. As we walked into the museum at 4:25, we were told the museum closes at 4:30, so we took a quick look, bought a book at the gift shop, and left planning to return tomorrow to try again. At least both of these short visits were along the way.|
|We had gotten in late the night before and the last two evenings I had camera and computer problems, so we made it an early evening and returned to the motel.|
|We got off a little after 7:00, heading south to Mission San Xavier. We were 7 minutes early for Mass and got the last two seats in the last row. Plan to arrive an hour early. After the service, we finished where we left off the day before. I walked up Grotto Hill which is not officially part of the Mission. There is a path half way up that circles the hill with a grotto / shrine on the north side. There is a cross on top, but no path to it, people were climbing the rocks. The mission was founded in 1699 by Jesuit Eusebio Francisco Kino who also founded several other Arizona Missions and I saw his statues in several locations. The Missions is only about 10 miles south of Tucson, so it is an easy visit while in Tucson.|
|From the Mission we drove to Old Tucson Studio but decided to see it during another trip. I felt that we needed more time and it was quite hot. Old Tucson was once the site for many western TV and movies but westerns have fallen out of favor and the studio survives with tourists and special events.|
|From the studio it was only a few minutes to Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. While I enjoyed this visit, we were a little caught off guard. Because it says museum, we expected that we would escape the heat while inside, but it is more a zoo and we were a bit warm in the 100 degree plus weather as we wandered the paths and trails out in the desert. I would like to go back, but when the weather is cooler. Just as we were leaving, a storm started rolling in and it cooled off, but by now we were ready to move on.|
|Our last stop of the day was to the Visitor Center at Saguaro National Park. We got some information and then drove through several of the roads. I took many photographs, but most now had storm clouds in the back ground. The park is full of the saguaro cactus that are so iconic for Arizona. We slowly drove through the park, stopping only for a minute now and then to take a photo.|
|We got back early to our motel and relaxed the rest of the evening.|
|Our last full day in Arizona began early. We were a little concerned when at continental breakfast, the news on the TV reported an earthquake back at home, but it didn't hit our neighborhood hard, so we hoped all would be OK until we got home. We headed east on I-10 and arrived at Kartchner Caverns in time for the first tour of the day at 9:00. Kartchner Caverns had been known for many years, but only as a small cave misused by locals. Then in 1974 some cavers discovered a small passage to a small room and then another smaller and longer passage into three large rooms. Today, two tours visit the three rooms, the Rotunda Tour takes visitors to the Rotunda and Throne Rooms all year and the Big Room Tour takes visitors to the Big Room, but only during winter because the bats are breading in summer. The first disappointment was when I was told I could not take my camera. Then once inside, I was starting to think it was not pretty, then we took Imaginary Passage into the Throne Room and that was impressive. The discoverers of the caverns made sure the cavern would be protected before they told the public where it was and it may be the most protected cave open to the public. We visited early on a weekday in summer, any other time you need reservations.|
|We considered Fort Huachuca Historic Site but were told we should allow more time than we had, so we went back to plan A and drove to Tombstone. As we drove east, I noticed smoke in the distance toward the south and wondered where exactly is was. I also stopped a moment at Fairbank Historic Site, but it was a half mile hike from the parking lot and we were anxious to get to Tombstone.|
|Finally we arrived in Tombstone. We first visited the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park which was the old Courthouse converted to a museum. We enjoyed the museum, but the people elsewhere in the town were nicer. We next wandered the town until we discovered the Good Enough Mine which was about to start a tour - with several dozen school children. It seems that the children were bound for a similar mine tour in Bisbee (a tour that we had considered taking ourselves), but that smoke I had seen earlier came from a fire that had the Bisbee area closed, so the school children had to change their field trip. We decided to take a later tour.|
|We enjoyed a nice lunch at the Nellie Cashman Restaurant, the oldest building in town. Nellie was an Irish woman in the mid-nineteenth century who brought meals to the miners. Later she brought medical care, moved to Alaska doing the same thing, and was respected and sought after throughout the west.|
|After lunch, we had another hour before our tour and visited the Bird Cage which is a historic site where single women entertained men. There was a multimedia presentation of the OK Corral and a museum featuring the largest rose bush. Unfortunately we didn't have time for all these small museums but we did report on time for the mine tour.|
|The Good Enough Mine produced large amounts of silver and to me seemed more than good enough. The silver was discovered in 1877 and the ground under Tombstone is filled with mine tunnels. We donned our hard hats and we were lead through several hundred feet of mine tunnels. It was so much cooler inside the mine we didn't want to come out after the tour. Our guide told us about mining and showed us equipment. We were assured that the shoring timbers were safe and that nothing had moved in many years.|
|After we finished the tour, we headed out of town after first stopping at Boot Hill which I think most people have heard of.|
|We returned to our room after first stopping at Waffle House for dinner. I've seen these restaurants all over in recent trips and just wanted to try one. The food was good although we felt we were in a sit-com. We packed for our return trip tomorrow and drifted off to sleep.|
|We were on the road for an hour before they started serving continental breakfast back in Tucson, so breakfast was ham and cheese sandwiches. I had considered taking I-8 around Phoenix and decided not to. When I saw signs recommending I-8, I changed my mind and took it to Gila Bend, then north back to I-10. I made a quick stop to photograph two old military aircraft at a small airport in Gila Bend and continued north.|
|We made only two quick stops on the way home, the first was at Quartsite where I had hoped to see Tyson Wells Stage Stop with its museum and stone miniature buildings, but it was on summer hours and not open this Tuesday. We continued west into California and exited at Cabazon where there have long been two huge concrete dinosaurs. During our previous trip we had noticed that a dinosaur park had been added, but it was raining that day and it was closed. Today it was open and although we didn't have time to visit Worlds Biggest Dinosaurs, the gift shop inside the giant Brontosaur was open and for the first time and many attempts, I was able to go inside. The park opened last year and has not yet gotten the word out so consider it as a nice day trip from Los Angeles, which we hope to do soon.|
|We arrived home about 2:00 to three cats who clearly had missed us and we started getting back into the routine of life. Unlike our trip to Utah last year when we saw parts of six states, we only saw two, including California where we live. Arizona has 14 counties and we visited 7 in this trip and three others within the last year, leaving only four unvisited counties in the eastern edge. We visited Grand Canyon, the three largest cities and countless smaller, Native American ruins, a cavern and a mine, an aircraft museum and a Titan Missile silo, two Missions, the best preserved meteor crater and best preserved cliff dwelling, the observatory where the now not-planet Pluto was discovered, two zoos, the state capitol, and a lot more. As always, as we drove home, we started planning the return trip which may be combined with neighboring New Mexico. And why is Arizona the Sweet Heart State, it became a state on Valentines Day in 1912.|
|Note:This is not the official site for any of the places shown in Places Earth. Places Earth is not responsible for accuracy of the information. Hours of operations, prices, exhibits, and sometimes locations are subject to change without notice.|
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