Francois Cross Canada Adventure 2005 : Trip Diary

June 29, 2005 at 02:07PM
From: francois
June 29, 2005

Rest Day in Thunder Bay, ON
Todays Photos: there are none

Not much to report today. I decided to stay another day in Thunder Bay and do very little. I got up at 8am and had breakfast at the university cafeteria then I took a bus over to the Intercity Shopping Centre so I could pick up a few supplies like contact lens solution.

I also stopped in at a bike shop called Cyclepath which happened to be near the mall. I've been having a bit of a problem with my right hand during my trip. After long rides I end up losing the ability to move my fingers in the lateral direction. My grip strength is actually fine but if I hold my right hand fingers straight I can't actually make them touch side-to-side. From doing a little online research I've found that this is a fairly common thing and is likely due to pressure on a nerve. I mentioned my problem to Christian, a very helpful employee at Cyclepath, and he gave me some suggestions. One of those suggestions was to try gloves with gel padding but unfortunately they were sold out of my size. Another suggestion that Christian made was to try something called a Grippo which is basically some extra padding that I can secure to my handlebars. I purchased the Grippos and I'm looking forward to trying them out tomorrow. It turns out Christian is very interested in cycle touring and is going to embark on a cross Canada cycling trip as well sometime in 2006. While I was at Cyclepath I also purchased a yellow Livestrong wristband for $1.50.

For lunch I went to a place called East Side Marios, which is a chain that all Ontario folks should be familiar with. Each booth in this restaurant actually has its own television so I enjoyed watching the show 'How its Made' on Discovery Channel while I ate some macaroni and cheese and a big salad.

The East Side Marios restaurant which was next to the mall also happened to be near a Silvercity Theatre so I decided to go watch a movie. I watched 'The Longest Yard', which is Adam Sandler's latest movie and I enjoyed it. Its not his best movie, but was certainly entertaining.

I'm back in my Lakehead University dorm now and I'm going to catch up on work for a while before I head off for dinner.

June 30, 2005 at 02:14PM
From: francois
June 30, 2005

Thunder Bay, ON to Nipigon, ON
KM Travelled Today: 111 KM, Total So far: 3323 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050630/

I woke up at 8:00am today which was a little later than I had planned. My excuse is that there was big thunder storm in the middle of the night and it kept me up for a while around 3am. I did a little packing but before finishing I got dressed and walked over to the cafeteria to have some quick breakfast. Although it was not raining, the sky was filled with dark clouds that looked like they could release wet fury on me at any point. After breakfast I finished packing and managed to get on the road by 9:30am.

My first stop today was the Terry Fox Memorial located approx. 15 KM east of Lakehead University right on highway 17. The location of this monument is about 12 KM west of where Terry was forced to give up his Marathon of Hope . I was only 10 years old when Terry started the Marathon of Hope but I still remember seeing him on TV and being amazed at what he was doing. Today as I read the plaque below the Terry Fox monument I was overcome with emotion and I wept. I thought of Terry during most of today's ride and I wondered how someone as young as he was could be so brave and so wonderful to do what he did.

My second stop of the day was at a nice little restaurant called 'Missing Horse Restaurant', located about 30 KM east of Thunder Bay where I enjoyed a BLT and a coffee. The service in this restaurant is a cut above the typical small restaurant that I've visited during my journey. My impression is that the owner takes pride in this establishment. The food was good and the prices very reasonable. Discovering gems like this has become a great source of enjoyment on this trip. Just outside the Missing Horse Restaurant there is a fantastic view of Lake Superior which I captured with my camera.

Before lunch I had a slight headwind, but after lunch the wind had shifted to a tailwind and my level of happyness increased accordingly. Over the next two hours I managed an average speed of a little over 30 KM/hr and I then stopped at a restaurant roughly 12 KM west of Nipigon and downed a huge plate of perogies and ham. Unfortunately it started to rain and so I had to put on my rain gear to ride the remaining way to Nipigon.

I arrived in Nipigon around 4pm and found the Birchville Motel, which is apparently the only motel in town with high speed internet access. Perfect! After a shower, some phone calls, and a short nap I went to the Husky restaurant down the road and had some tasty meatloaf.

Weather conditions for tomorrow are forecasted to be very favourable: tailwind and little chance of rain. I will sleep well knowing this.

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June 30, 2005 at 09:00PM
From: francois
July 1, 2005

Nipigon, ON to Terrace Bay, ON
KM Travelled Today: 109 KM, Total So far: 3432 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050701/

I woke up at 8am and was out on the road at 8:45am. I wasn't hungry yet so I decided I would eat breakfast after an hour of riding.

The sky was covered with dark clouds, the temperature was cold but at least the winds were at my back and it wasn't raining. To keep myself warm I put on my fleece sweatshirt and eventually my jacket as well. The views of Lake Superior along this route are fantastic and that made the ride pleasurable.

About 1 hour (and 25 KM) into the ride I pulled over to rest and to enjoy the wonderful views which I captured with my camera. I now had an appetite so I ate a ham and cheese sandwich which I had purchased the night before.

Near Gravel River, roughly 50 KM into today's ride I found a motel with an adjoining restaurant and I decided to stop in for lunch and to warm up. I ordered eggs, bacon and pancakes and some hot coffee. After finishing the meal I immediately ordered another one much to the delight of the owner. While eating, the owner of the restaurant explained to me that I had three big hills to climb before getting to Terrace Bay. I had already climbed two hills today and there were both about 1 KM in length with a 7% grade.

The restaurant owner was indeed right about the hills. The first one I conquered after leaving his restaurant was 3 KM long and the grade was 7%. The descent made it all worthwhile though. While 'Shattered' by the Rolling Stones played on my iPod I reached speeds of almost 75 KM/hr and the grin on my face was a big as it could be. After the descent I was in the Pays Plat Indian Reserve and I stopped to have a coffee and a cookie at a gas station.

Shortly after leaving the Pays Plat Reserve I reached the 2nd big hill. Once again a 7% grade greated me. A 7% grade translates to a climbing speed of about 9 KM/hr for me. This particular hill was approximately 2 KM long and once again I had a fast descent with incredible views of Lake Superior which the sun had just begun to shine on.

The third hill was much longer, about 10 KM in total and several sections had 7% grades. I was very happy to reach the summit and start descending into the Schreiber. I was even more pleased when I noticed that I was only 15 KM from Terrace Bay, my intended destination for today.

The rest of the way to Terrace Bay was relatively flat and I arrived there at approx 3:30pm. My first stop in Terrace Bay was at the tourist info centre where I learned that none of the motels in town have high speed internet. Well, at least they have phone lines in the rooms and I'll be able to use dial-up access.

From the highway where my motel is located, a 2 KM ride downhill will get you to the beach and I decided to ride down to have a look and to take a couple of photos. Riding back up wasn't as much fun since my legs were tired but overall it was worth it.

I'm writing this while having a huge bowl of pasta and some beer in the pub adjoining the Imperial Hotel where I'm staying. I've just found out that there are no laundry facilities in this town which is suprising given its size.

Happy Canada Day!

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July 02, 2005 at 03:47PM
From: francois
July 2, 2005

Terrace Bay, ON to Marathon, ON
KM Travelled Today: 81 KM, Total So far: 3513 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050702/

Today was another cold day with the temperature at only 9 celcius when I first started riding at around 10am this morning. At its peak I think the temperature only reached 12 celcius today. Prior to entering Ontario I kept hearing about the heat waves here. I guess those are gone for now.

The road consisted of essentially one hill after another today. Some of the hills were small and easy to climb while others were longer and had the usual 7% grade so common around these parts. The views of Lake Superior and several other lakes I passed fantastic and certainly help make this part of my journey one of the most enjoyable.

After riding 25 KM I stopped alongside the highway and climbed onto some large rocks to enjoy the view, a muffin and a cranberry juice. It was a good spot and I ended up relaxing there for much longer than my typical rest stop.

My next stop was a small restaurant approximately 25 KM west of Marathon. There were three other ladies enjoying some food in the restaurant and I admit I often listened in on their conversation. When one is alone, one finds ways to entertain ones self and sometimes that entails eavesdropping :-) These three ladies seemed to truly enjoy life and especially food as they ordered up a tremendous amount of it. When I ordered my food (big cheeseburger) I noticed a sign on the wall that said "Never trust a skinny cook". If the sign is true, then the mother-daughter team cooking behind the counter should be most thrustworthy. The burger was delicious.

The town of Marathon is about 4 KM off the highway, towards Lake Superior. I did pass three motels which were located on the main highway just prior to the turnoff for Marathon but I decided to go right into town as I needed laundry facilities and because I also found out that there is a hotel with high speed internet in town. I've checked-in to the Harbour Inn.

I was originally planning on getting riding to White River today, which is an additional 100 KM from Marathon, but after climbing all those hills I had a change of heart. So tomorrow I will plan on riding to White River and on Monday I will stop in Wawa.

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July 03, 2005 at 07:07AM
From: francois
July 3, 2005

Rest day in Marathon, ON
Today's Photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050703/

Work up at 0730 and checked out of the hotel at 0830. I checked back into the hotel at 0845. Before stepping outside I already expected the strong wind and the cold temperature but I wasn't yet aware of the rain. As you know from my previous posts, I really dislike cold + rain together, especially in an area that has very few, if any services (ie places to warm up), between towns. So rather than have a miserable day on the bike I have decided to stay put.

I took a little vide clip showing the wind here. I believe the wind speed is around 45 KM/hr at the moment. Right-click on the link below and save it to your hard drive before playing it.

Video Clip of Wind (file is 1.7 MB, mpeg format)

1:30pm update: I spent most of the morning walking around town. There are approximately 4400 people living here and thats large enough to support a mall, and some larger stores like Canadian Tire, and even a small movie theatre. I followed the main road, called Peninsula Road, down until I was near the lake. From there I could see the large pulp mill and a few run down apartment buildings. I travelled back up Peninsula road and stopped at the mall where I found a nice cafe where I enjoyed some lunch. I lounged in the cafe for almost 2 hours as I read a magazine and slowly ate my food. Afterwards, while walking back to the Marathon Harbour Inn I noticed the wind was even stronger. Sure enough I just confirmed that the wind is now gusting to 65 KM/hr. I took another short video clip:

Another video clip of wind (file 1 MB, mpeg format)

2:15pm update: I was just doing a little online research and I discovered some data that shows that overall there is more climbing to do in Ontario than there is in BC. Although each hill in Ontario is smaller than the typical BC mountain, the sum of all those Ontario hills amounts to more climbing. To see what I mean, visit the following URL:


Looks like things will be relatively flat after Ontario though.

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July 06, 2005 at 07:00PM
From: francois
July 4, 2005

Marathon, ON to Wawa, ON
KM Travelled Today:
178 KM, Total So far: 3691 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050704/

I was up at 0700 this morning and out the door by 0800. But before cycling I ended up chatting with two motorcyclists who were sitting outside of the hotel. We did introductions but after a long day of riding I can no longer recall their names. Originating from Whitby, Ontario these two bikers sported handsome Harley Davidson motorcycles which they were riding to Thunder Bay. I asked them several questions about motorcycle touring and in turn they quized me about bicycle touring. And while I'm on the subject of motorcycles I should mention that there are many of them on this highway. The route around Lake Superior is known as the circle tour and is quite popular among motorcyclists. A lot of the passing motorcyclists actually wave to me which is quite nice.

In order to get back on highway 17 I needed to climb the 4 KM hill out of Marathon and that turned out to be a nice way to warmup since it was actually quite cool out this morning. I was wearing two cycling shirts, a fleece and my cycling jacket to stay sufficiently warm. The wind today was not too strong but it was tail wind for the first 95 KM of my ride and then a cross wind for the next 82 KM.

The 95 KM ride from Marathon to White River was uneventful and went by rather quickly. There were several hills along the way but many flat stretches as well and overall a much easier ride than other recent days. I did make one stop for food on the way to White River and then I stopped again for a good lunch when I arrived in White River just before 1pm.

After my lunch I noticed there was a tourist info centre across the street and I also noticed a bicycle with trailer there as well. Its always fun to chat with other touring cyclists so I went over to the over side of the road and the owner of the bike that I saw called me over to chat. His name is Ted, he's 61 years old and he's from Chilliwack, BC. Ted started his journey on May 15th, not long before I started my journey. We had a wonderful chat and talked about other cyclists we'd met along the way. Turns out Ted met Denis (the cyclist who had been in a coma) back when he was going through Osoyoos.
Ted and Denis even cycled together for a few days. Ted also recently met the Feldmann family as they passed through White River a few days earlier.

White River's claim to fame, incidentally, is Winnie-the-Pooh.

I wanted to make up some of the time I lost yesterday due to the bad weather so rather than stopping in White River as was my original intention, I continued on for an additional 82 KM where I stopped at the Northern Lights Motel. I unfortunately cannot connect to the Internet from my room. There is a phone but whatever system is in place doesn't allow computers to dial up for some reason. Other than that its a wonderful motel, and its obvious the owners take great pride in it. They have so many nice little touches, such as books and magazines in the room, a check-out time of 1pm, a cribbage game, two free bottled waters, and lots of funny little notes posted around the room and bathroom.

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July 06, 2005 at 07:10PM
From: francois
July 5, 2005

Wawa, ON to Montreal River, ON
KM Travelled Today: 115 KM, Total So far: 3806 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050705/

I slept like a baby last night and awoke this morning at 0730 totally refreshed. The first order of business was to acquire breakfast and fortunately a stay at The Northern Lights Motel includes a free continental breakfast. And what a continental breakfast it was. In fact it was hands down the best free breakfast I've ever enjoyed at a motel. The selection was vast: several kinds of bagels and bread, several different muffins, cookies, cereals, oatmeals, boiled eggs, fruits, three different kinds of juices, and last but not least, coffee. The owners of The Northern Lights shouldn't be running a motel. They should, instead, run a school and teach other motel owners how to run motels. Before leaving the motel I filled out the comment card with very positive feedback and one complaint - the inability to connect to the Internet.

I cycled about 10 KM until I reached a gas station where I acquired sufficient supplies to avoid starvation during the next 100 KM which are devoid of any restaurants, stores, or services of any kind. The cashier at the gas station told me of the many hills that I will encounter today and she also let it slip that she thinks I'm crazy. Ok, noted.

How can I sum up the next few hours? Lots of climbing. Today's route took me through the 83 KM long Lake Superior Provincial Park which is filled with many different lakes, hiking trails, camp grounds, etc. Approximately 40 KM into the ride I reached the park headquarters which include an information centre, some washrooms and a pop machine. A sign in the washroom mentioned that the water was unfit for drinking unless it was boiled first so I avoided refilling my water bottle and hydration pack which was ok since I was well stocked anyway. I sat down on the deck outside of the park info centre and enjoyed some snacks as well as a juice that I acquired from the pop machine.

My next major stop was a scenic lookout located near Agawa Bay. The views were fantastic. While stopped I ended up speaking with a fellow from Sault Ste. Marie who was playing tour guide for his friend from Finland. I also spoke to a motorcyclist who had ridden from Seattle to Toronto via US highway #2
and was now making his way back via the TCH. This particular motorcyclist had an appreciation of cycle touring and adventure in general and plans to one day do a hike that spans Mexico to Canada.

Several more hills were conquered and I finished the day with a wonderful descent which I knew I was approaching when I saw a sign with blinking lights that said "7%, use lower gear". In defiance I used a higher gear, put on 'Shattered' by the Rolling Stones and fired down the hill and arrived at the Twilight Resort which has a camground and cabins right by Lake Superior. I'm staying in one of the cabins and am enjoying the wonderful view of the lake as I write today's journal. The round-pebble beach is just a few steps from my deck and the views remind me a little bit of Whitecliff Park back in West Vancouver. There's no restaurant here but I do have a kitchen in my cabin and there are a few food items for sale in the office. I purchased two boxes of Kraft Dinner and a package of wieners, some gatorade and some apple juice. Hopefully that will last me until morning.

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July 06, 2005 at 07:15PM
From: francois
July 6, 2005

Montreal River, ON to Sault Ste. Marie, ON
KM Travelled Today: 116 KM, Total So far: 3922 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050706/

I was up at 0700 today and out on the road at 0800. It was actually warm this morning which was a nice change from the past several days.

The first three hours of the today's ride almost finished my legs off due to the non-stop run of hills. But a lunch stop in lovely Batchawana Bay, consisting of a syrup-drenched stack of pancakes recharged my batteries and I managed to keep going.

The roads were much more reasonable during the second half of the day. The hills were spaced apart instead of being back-to-back and this allowed me to travel much more quickly. A few people had warned me of a hill they referred to as 'Mile Hill' which, I was told, is located shortly after Goulais River about 25 KM before reaching Sault Ste. Marie. It looked daunting but it wasn't that bad. The hill itself consisted of 1.6 KM of 7% (I think) grade, followed by 300 metres of flat, followed by an additional 500 m of 5% climbing. The other side wasn't as dramatic - just a very gradual descent which actually seemed to last until Sault Ste. Marie. Apparently this 'Mile Hill' is the last big hill I'll have to tackle in Ontario. I hope thats true :)

I arrived in Sault Ste. Marie at approx. 3pm and I checked-in at the Comfort Inn as it has high speed Internet access and lots of restaurants nearby. I quickly showered and had some food at the Swiss Chalet across the street and then I took a cab downtown. I stopped in at the casino and managed to win $40.50 playing video poker for 20 minutes. I then walked along the path next to St. Mary's river and decided to board a boat for a tour of the river and of the locks. The boat tour started by going through the locks on the US side. The locks, incidentally, allow vessels of many types and sizes to safely traverse the 21-foot drop in elevation of the St. Mary’s River between Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan and Huron. I took several photos of the experience which show the actual drop in elevation that our boat experienced. After passing through the locks our captain took us past the Algoma Steel works and explained the general process by which steel is created. We returned to the lower level of St. Mary's River by passing through the Canadian locks and completed the tour shortly thereafter. I'm leaving out a lot of detail here as I will let the photos tell the story. The tour lasted two hours and there was narration throughout most of it so I learned a lot in that time.

Sault Ste. Marie is certainly on my list of places to visit again.

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July 07, 2005 at 05:55PM
From: francois
July 7, 2005

Sault Ste. Marie, ON to Blind River, ON
KM Travelled Today: 141 KM, Total So far: 4063 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050707/

I was up at 0700 again today and on the road by 0815 after enjoying a free continental breakfast at the Comfort Inn.

Today's ride was over relatively flat roads with only occasional rolling hills. The weather was perfect - not too hot and not too cold and the winds were almost non-existant. I passed through some farm lands, areas with small lakes and areas which had lovely views of Lake Huron.

I didn't actually speak to anyone today except when ordering food or checking-in at the motel. Usually I get approached by curious onlookers a few times each day and that usually leads to some nice conversations. But I think that today I probably looked like I wanted to keep to myself, which I did and that likely kept people away. I just didn't feel very social today. It happens once-in-a-while and today was just such a day.

I also didn't feel like taking photos today so I didn't actually take any until after I arrived in Blind River at about 4pm. The beach by my motel was so nice though so I snapped a few shots.

So basically it was a rather uneventful day and I'm ok with that :) I'm counting down the days until I see my family on Sunday when I arrive in Barrie, which is about 450 KM from here.

On a differente note, I thought about all the food I've been eating and I thought I would share what today's menu contained:

0730: 1 bagel with cream cheese + 1 muffin + 2 cups of coffee
0845: 1 banana + 1 bottle of gatorade
1100: 2 turkey salad sandwiches + 1 bowl of soup + 2 cups of coffee
1330: plate of vegetable fried rice + 2 fruitopia
1600: apple juice + apple fritter (tim hortons)
1730: huge chicken fajita + coke
2000: large piece of fish + mashed potatoes + green beans + bowl of soup

I also consumed about 6 litres of water today.

Tomorrow I'll try to make it to Manitoulin Island. Good night to all.

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July 10, 2005 at 06:48AM
From: francois
July 8, 2005

Blind River, ON to Tobermory
KM Travelled Today: 213 KM, Total So far: 4277 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050708/

I was up at 0730 this fine sunny morning. In order to save some time I had an in-room breakfast consisting of two bananas and a pastry. I was on the road with my tired legs by 0830.

By 0930 I had travelled almost 25 KM and was almost in Spragge when I noticed a young couple walking on the opposite site of the road with a pitt bull dog. The young lady, whose name I later learned was Cat, flagged me down asking if I had any extra water. I told her that I did and I stopped and offered her some water from my water bottle. Apparently Cat and her friend have been walking for four days and they were short of water and food. Her male friend stayed on the opposite side of the road with the dog and didn't come over. I'm not sure if he was shy or just didn't want to ask for help. I gave Cat six bananas to take with her and I continued on.

A few minutes later I was in a small town called Spragge and I stopped for a proper breakfast. While eating I met Brian Horeck who is the author of a best selling sci-fi book called Minnow Trap. Brian used to run a B&B in Blind River with his wife but he shut it down after his wife passed away a few months back. Brian described his book as redneck sci-fi which is a genre I've never read before but I think I'm going to have to check this one out.

I continued on passing a small town called Spanish, and then stopping for lunch in Massey. There were a few hills along the way but nothing to sweat over. At the junction of the highway #17 and highway #6 I stopped at Tim Hortons for another snack before turning south and heading down highway #6 towards Manitoulin Island.

Shortly after starting my path down highway #6 I passed a nice looking town called Espanola which is home to a big paper mill. After Espanola I started encountering a lot of hills and that slowed down my pace. Shortly thereafter I noticed a cyclist having a rest on my side of the road while at the same time another touring cyclist passed going in the opposite direction. I waved at the cyclist travelling in the opposite direction before stopping to meet the resting cyclist that was on my side of the road. The stopped cyclist's name is Ryan and he's also travelling across Canada having started in Comox on May 29th. We exchanged stories for a few minutes and then decided to ride together for the rest of the day.

Ryan and I continued on, taking turns drafting every 30 minutes. When we crossed the bridge to Manitoulin Island we arrived in Little Current where we stopped for ice cream and gatorade. It was about 6pm at that time and I had already travelled 145 KM so far. Ryan and I decided we would try reaching South Baymouth, 65 KM further, before dark.

Manitoulin Island was a lovely place to ride. We encountered very little traffic and we passed through some farmlands. At one of our rest stops we enjoyed majestic views of Georgian Bay and the several islands located within it. Riding with Ryan made the ride more enjoyable and time passed quite quickly. He's a strong rider and one of the nicest fellows I've had the pleasure of meeting, always offering to share whatever food/beverage he pulled out of his paniers, including some delicious huge cherries.

Ryan and I reached South Baymouth at approximately 9pm and we had a decision to make. We could either stay in South Baymouth for the night and catch the first ferry to Tobermory the next morning at 9am, or we could catch tonight's last ferry at 10pm and stay the night in Tobermory. We decided to catch the 10pm ferry which will allow us to get an earlier start the tomorrow morning and we also agreed to share a motel room. Prior to boarding we fired back some food and I made some phone calls to secure a motel room in Tobermory. The first five motels I called were all full but I found one 3KM from the Tobermory ferry terminal which had a room and I booked it.

The one downside to taking the 10pm ferry is that we didn't get to the enjoy the views. I'll just have to come back and visit this place again someday. Ryan and I both ate more food on the ferry and then we worked on our journals. The ferry arrived in Tobermory at 11:45 pm and we let the ferry traffic pass by before riding the 3 KM in the dark to our motel. By the time we checked-in, showered, and hit the sack it was around 1:30 am.

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