Monthly Archives: July 2011

Summer Games, halfway point

Well, it’s the halfway point of the LGRAB 2011 Summer Games. How are you doing with your events? If you need some inspiration, check out some of the submissions we’ve gotten so far.

Wendy and her husband took a group ride in Cleveland. As she points out, group rides are a great way to build confidence and learn from more seasoned riders. She also wrote a letter to the city council requesting a bike rack outside her local grocery.

Our friend Melissa is going gangbusters on the Games from her new home in Denver. She test rode a different bike and fell in love with the Electra Townie.

Melissa and the Townie

Looks like a good fit! She also commuted to her new job by bike for the first time. “I was definitely more awake during the day and the ride home helped me relax.”

A&P of The Notables also test rode a different sort of bike (I love reading about people doing this). They enjoyed the Giant commuter model they tried, but are talking about a trip to NYC to see what Adeline Adeline has to offer.

Daniel of La Pedaleada went on a group ride and performed a maintenance task—and videotaped them both! Check it out. I need to proofride MY Brooks…

Cathey decided to perform a maintenance task on her Globe—checking the tire pressure and filling them up. “I never thought I would enjoy doing work on my bike, but now, strange as it may seem, I kind of have my fingers crossed that a tube will need replacing or my chain will need work. I can’t wait to keep learning!” she writes.

Deb went on a group ride to celebrate her one-year anniversary of cycling. Her official mileage tally: 1,140.98 miles. Makes me wonder what mine would be if I kept count! Maybe in 2012. :) She also explored new territory by riding the entire width of her township in Michigan.

Reader Annie from Minnesota has already completed FOUR events. She, too, has logged more than 1,000 miles on her bike in the last year. “I made up a Tshirt that I wear often when I ride.  It says, “Bicycle Minnesota” on the front and “Ride, Fat Girl, Ride” on the back.  It makes me smile,” she tells us.

Keep the entries coming!

p.s. are you adding your photos to our Flickr pool?

 

 

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ATTN: Betty Foys in the DC area?

If you know someone who owns a Rivendell Betty Foy in the DC/Northern VA area, please respond here.  There is an obviously stolen “antique” Betty Foy being offered for sale.  If I did not live 700 miles away, I would rescue it myself.

Please pass this message on.

July’s Critical Lass Ride

With the temperature at 97 degrees last Thursday, I thought the Critical Lass turnout would be dismal.

Well, look how wrong I was!  A little blazing sun isn’t enough to keep a lass from her bike.

A few beat-the-heat tips from the lasses:

1) Play in water fountain.

2) Eat an ice cream sandwich, preferable from from an ice cream trike.

3) Grab a pop of yellow to rival the sun.

4) Adorn your bike with cute accessories, just because.

With all the above summer essentials covered, the group set out for the 6-mile slow ride.

Unfortunately, Ms. Chicargobike had a pedal that stubbornly insisted on falling off her awesome new trike, so the two of us left the group to stop by Rapid Transit Cycle Shop.  Once the pedal was secured, we had our own duo lass ride to the destination bar, where we met up with everyone else.

Despite the obstacles, it was a delightful evening.

Women of Chicago looking for a fun time: join Critical Lass the third Thursday of every month starting at the Polish Triangle!

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This means I’m turning!

Before I get to the main point of this post, let me mention that I was thwarted from riding my bike today.  Last night a severe storm knocked out power for about 18 hours.  No electricity meant my garage door opener would not work and my bike was trapped inside (a detached garage).  That’s something I never considered before.  I guess there’s some sort of mechanical opener on the inside, but figuring all that out early in the morning was beyond me.  So I took the L train instead.  Boo.

And now for something completely different.

Bike Snob recently mentioned (which means made fun of)  a Kickstarter project for creating a turning signal bike glove.  While the idea of a bike turning signal is…interesting, I prefer to use old fashioned hand signals that no one understands.  When I feel like increasing visibility, lately I’ve been using this slap bracelet that came in my bike-to-work week goodie bag.

That’s right – slap bracelet.  Remember those?

Makes me think of Smurfs and Fruity Pebbles.

When I’m not wearing the slap bracelet, I keep it slapped on the handle of my pannier.  I’m not really big on neon, but this thing is so easy and increases my false sense of security, so I haven’t found a reason not to carry it.

Do you do anything to make your turning intentions more visible?

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Nashville’s Tour de Fat was all that

On July 9, Nashville hosted the Tour de Fat for the first time.

It was a big deal for a lot of reasons, first of all because it was one of the first times the “no alcohol in Metro Parks” rule had been set aside for an event. Good news is, the chance the Mayor took was worth it: Nashville’s tour set records for both the number of parade participants and money raised for local nonprofits at a first time Tour — 600 parade riders and $14,000 for Walk/Bike Nashville and Soundforest.

Honestly, I didn’t know how much this ride was for me, since photos from Tours in other cities showed a lot of scantily costumed folks on tall bikes or cruisers, but any group ride in Nashville can pretty much count me in so I headed out. I did not have a summery costume so I wore a flounced, sheer overskirt over the smallest tank dress I could find and my trusty Jessica Simpson heels. Setting out at 9 am, alone on the street, I felt slightly ridiculous (ride of shame?) and got a couple of curious looks/honks, but once I arrived among the throngs of cyclists at Centennial I felt more at home.

me next to my beer, after the ride

The ride was a blast. Even though it was hot and we were very, very sweaty. Music was blaring and the carnival atmosphere at the starting line had the energy rising. I also liked the “this ride is pro-bike, not anti-car!” message that the “Rymanese Twins” were proclaiming from their platform at the start of the race.

Afterward I met up with Anna from Bike Skirt and we watched the shows and tried out some of the trick bikes they had in the corral. Anna was more adventurous than I.

Anna & me

Anna and Ross on a tandem

The moral of the story is: if the Tour comes to your city, hop on! It really is the best party on two wheels.

 

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In Search of the Most Peaceful Commute

While I wait for Chicago to be covered in gloriously safe bike infrastructure, I have to work with what I’ve got. As some mentioned in the comments to yesterday’s post, small side streets can provide a calm and safe way to travel through the city – no special bike infrastructure needed. Using such routes to get from one place to another may require practice, familiarity and extra time, but it can be well worth the trouble for those who value peacefulness above efficiency.

Over the past two years, when it no longer made sense to take the car-free Lakefront Trail on a regular basis due to the location of my new office, I have been adjusting my 5-mile commute route from the efficiency side of the scale to the peacefulness side of the scale.

Happy to be cycling on Chicago's peaceful side streets this week

I started with the most obvious and direct bikeable route: a left and a right and I was there (Lincoln to Wells). Most of the ride consisted of a diagonal street with either sharrows or bike lanes the whole way, popular with both bikes and cars. Unfortunately, vehicle traffic moved quickly and there were lots of trucks, buses and giant six-way intersections.  After a while I grew tired of the traffic and aggression, such as drivers shouting at me to get out of the way or just generically being awful. The stress was really getting to me.

Looking for an alternative, it occurred to me last summer to sacrifice some efficiency and try taking slightly calmer streets. The new route amounted to a right, left, right, left and right, instead of a straight diagonal (basically, Southport to Armitage to Wells). I still had to deal with congestion, often riding down the bike lane past grid-locked vehicle traffic, but the cars moved considerably slower, the intersections were smaller, and the bike lanes more consistent.

This route served me well for a year, but lately I have been craving a more peaceful commute. Participating in the super calm Critical Lass rides helped me realize that Chicago has lots of small, tree-lined, neighborhood streets to ride, as long as one is willing to meander: these magically quiet streets have a tendency to end or become one-way suddenly. For the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with different side streets, backtracking and exploring a lot.

As of today, I’ve finally discovered The Calmest Route from My Neighborhood to My Office (patent pending). My route is now: right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left. That is no exaggeration: I typed while visualizing my ride with my eyes closed.

The difference in my stress level from my first commute route to my current commute route is night and day, with my current route being virtually stress-free. Of course, this comes at a cost. First, it takes about 10 minutes longer than more obvious route. Second, the potholes are especially bad on side streets. Third, this route probably won’t be an option during the winter, when side streets are neglected by snow plows. Finally, I have to be extra cautious at each block’s four-way stop sign because drivers in neighborhoods love to roll through stops, unless there’s another ton vehicle staring them down. Despite these costs, the calmness of the route is worth it to me.

I wish I’d thought of adjusting my route like this a long time ago, but I guess such a paradigm shift is obvious only in hindsight.

I know this kind of meandering commuting is not for everyone, but I’m curious: does anyone else seek out the most peaceful routes possible?

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Optimism

As someone who rides my bike everyday, I get a lot of questions and comments about bicycling in the city.  When people tell me (so many people do, especially women!) that they wish they could bike BUT they do not feel safe and are afraid of being hit by a car, I do not launch into a stump speech about the benefits of bicycling.  I may say something like, “It’s not so scary once you learn the rules of the road and get used to riding in traffic,” but I always say something like, “Yeah, it can be scary, I know.”

Although I’m a passionate advocate for transportation bicycling, I have to be understanding and realistic during those conversations.  I don’t think it’s right to pressure or judge people when it comes to bicycling because the transportation system is not set up for us.  While bicycling may be safer than driving a car statistically, statistics won’t help people feel less afraid as speeding SUVs whiz by them.

All of this is to say – I am optimistic that the day will come when I can respond to people with something like, “Oh, you should try out the network of protected bike lanes.  Just take X street to Y street straight into the Loop and you’ll be physically separated from cars the entire time.”  Or, even better, I’m optimistic that the day will come when I won’t have to respond at all because the first reaction to the idea of bicycling in Chicago won’t be FEAR.

From whence does my optimism spring?  From the direction the city is going in with bicycle infrastructure.

Today was the ribbon cutting ceremony for Chicago’s first protected bike lane and the announcement of the next location to get a protected bike lane: Jackson Boulevard from Damen to Halsted.  This is all part of new Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan for 100 miles of protected bike lanes during his first term.  The Mayor is working with new Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein to get this done.  (Read an interesting interview with Commissioner Klein at Grid Chicago.)

I know I should not get too excited about this plan because it’s only the beginning and there will surely be opponents.  But I’m choosing optimism.

What do you think?  Do you feel optimistic for the future of bicycling where you live?  How do you react when people tell you they’re too afraid to bike?

 


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Enjoying Bike Summer at the Seersucker Ride

Lately it seems I’m posting more about group rides and events than about my daily biking.  While I continue to ride my bike to work and everywhere else, the high points of my biking life have been special events like Critical Lass, the Women-Who-Bike Brunch, my Cupcake Ride and the Tour de Fat.   There is simply no better way to enjoy Chicago in the summer than outside, under the sun, on my bicycle, chatting with nice people.

Now I’m adding  the Seersucker Ride to that list, which I joined last Sunday.  The ride was co-organized by the BBC (British Bicycles of Chicago), the Slow Bicycle Society and Velo-Francais.  Sort of like a Tweed Ride for the summer heat.

There was an excellent turn out of excellently turned-out folks.  :) We met at a neighborhood watering hole for starter refreshments.  I chose a summer shandy to deal with the heat wave weather.  (I refuse to listen to anyone who points out that alcohol dehydrates!)

Then we headed to beautiful Humboldt Park for a picnic.  By far the classiest picnic I’ve ever seen, with table cloths, mini strawberry shortcakes, and fresh mixed mint juleps!



Fun bicycle events provide such a friendly and relaxed environment.  I enjoyed chatting with old friends and meeting new people.

Everyone was dressed so nicely, very casual chic.




After the picnic, we meandered slowly to another watering hole, where I chose to remain for a couple of hours before heading home.  :)

Oh, yeah, and there was this: 

Take that fixies and BMX bikes!  He was actually only one of five penny-farthing riders there and three of them were women.  (I can’t believe I forgot to get a picture!)

Ash gave the Pennyfarthing a try, but I am too much of a chicken for something like that.

Many thanks to the organizers of the Seersucker Ride.  Everyone had a great time!

Who else is enjoying a bike summer?

 

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Tour de Fat Comes to Chicago

On Saturday, I went to New Belgium’s Tour de Fat festival during its one-day stop in Chicago. For those who are not familiar with the Tour, it’s basically a gloriously goofy celebration of bike culture and craft beer. It also raises money for bike non-profits local to each city – the highly deserving West Town Bikes for Chicago.

My festival story must begin with this sneaker bike. Yup, sneaker bike, a beautifully grotesque creature. Too much fun, right? Yeah, because after doing one lap around the ring, I wiped out spectacularly (kinda like that guy in the background). Totally worth it.

That was after Megan and I tried and failed to ride an extremely odd tandem – if you could even call it that.

I wasn’t the only one checking out the franken-bikes. Ash and Rico also took their turns.

Later at the main stage, there was a slow bike race. As in, whoever gets to the finish line last without stopping wins.  I think Coco and I could have been real contenders, but she was too lazy to try.

Apparently, she has nothing to prove. Instead we drank beer served to us by Stephanie (thanks!).

Jami twisted amazing balloon creations (not as deviously as she looks in this photo).

And others wore them very chicly.

Mr. Dottie posed for a rare photo.

Finally, a group of us headed to nearby Lula Cafe for lunch and drinks, which was the perfect way to end a hot day.

The Tour de Fat is always lots of fun, plus it’s an unusual and inexpensive way to spend the day outdoors while benefiting deserving non-profits. Highly recommended!

I plan to be there again next year, just like I was last year and the year before.

Check to see if the Tour de Fat is coming to your area. If so, you should put it on your calendar!

Stay tuned for Trisha’s story of the Nashville Tour de Fat next week!

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They’re here: The 2011 Summer Games

This Friday, the cycling event of the summer begins! We couldn’t be more excited about hosting the Summer Games again this year—and giving out some wonderful prizes for you players out there.

Things are a little different this year. Instead of three separate parts, we’re asking you to complete 4 out of 10 of the events from the list below between July 22 and August 8. Once you have completed your events, there are two ways to enter:

1) Email us links to your blog posts detailing the activities; or

2) Email us your story and photographs [LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com].

Please use the subject line [Summer Games]. At any time, you can also upload your photos to our Summer Games Flickr pool. By entering, you give us permission to publish your content here.

  • on vacation? rent a bike and go for a ride!
  • write a letter advocating for bicycling infrastructure (bike lanes, bike rack, etc) to your alderman/council representative, mayor, or a local business.
  • take a picture of something along your commute that says “summer” to you, and explain why
  • commute to work by bike or bike/transit if you don’t already
  • perform a maintenance task on your bike
  • explore a greenway or bike path in your city that you haven’t previously visited
  • test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride (road bike, mountain bike, etc.)
  • read a book about cycling
  • ride your bike somewhere new in your city
  • go on a group ride

We will draw for prizes from among the entrants who have completed at least four events. So start planning, and drooling over our prize page.

Major thanks to all the sponsors who are helping us spread the bike love!


 

Want a banner to put on your site to let others know you’re playing the games? Right click on any of the images below to download it — and be sure to link to this post.

 

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Blame it on the rain

Despite dispensing advice about riding in the rain, I try my best to avoid it.

But sometimes you just can’t. Such was the case on Monday night. When I left a restaurant during a light drizzle but pedaled the last six blocks home through a heavy rain.

when I got home, my dress was wringing wet

As you can see, I didn’t melt. But I did learn that plastic grips get slipperier in the rain. So do the bottoms of your dress shoes. Especially when they’re holding a few inches of rainwater.

I know Dottie was caught in a summer downpour recently. Anyone else experienced Mother Nature’s wrath lately?

Objectification

[7/21, 11:15 p.m. - I want to thank everyone who has participated in this discussion, especially the creator of the cut-out himself. I did not expect that so many people would have so many different reactions to the image - and to my reaction to the image - and I've learned a lot by reading everyone's opinions. My feeling about the image remains the same, but I understand and respect that others feel differently. No matter where you stand on the issue, I hope you agree that open discourse on challenging subjects is a good thing.]

Photo by John Greenfield

As I read Grid Chicago’s recent post about event bike parking this morning, I came across the photo on the right. It depicts the Chicago Reader’s bike parking for Pitchfork music festival. As you can see, the Reader chose to mark its bike parking lot with a naked, faceless woman stuck between two Reader banners.

If I were looking for bike parking at Pitchfork and saw this, I would have turned around and kept looking, feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome. Something as relatively minor as this is like a punch in the gut when it catches me off guard.

This sign showcases the sexism that exists in bicycling. And music. And the world.

Of course, not all depictions of the female form are sexist. If a cutout like this had been created as a personal project by a woman to represent the power she felt on her bike, that would be cool. But for someone to create it as a public sign, slap a Reader logo on it, and prop it against a fence on a street corner to draw attention to bike parking is icky and, I’ll say it again, sexist.

This is a classic case of objectification and the fact that it was done by hip, bike-riding, indie music-listening people does not make it okay.

If any women would like to enjoy guaranteed sexism-free zones, feel free to join the women-who-bike happy hour tonight (6-ish, Blue Line Lounge) and the Critical Lass ride tomorrow (6:00, Polish Triangle).

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Riding the Heat Wave

Temps are in the 90’s this week in Chicago – and many other places around the country.  Riding my bike did not feel much hotter than usual.  Maybe it helps that I recently spent a week in North Carolina, where it’s always 90 degrees.  And now when I feel hot, I can visualize myself back to the beach there.  :)




Seriously, I guess my one tip is to take it slow.  And drink water.  That’s two tips.

Stay cool, everyone!

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Fresh Bike Commute

Even though I bike to the same office at the same time day after day, my commute rarely feels stale.  Either the city throws something new my way or I take it upon myself to try something new.  Today my bike commute was a mix of both.  I enjoyed fresh air, fresh bike lanes, fresh cupcakes and a fresh route.

The cool breeze made it comfortable to bike in my work clothes for a change.  It was nice to go straight to my office without stopping by the bathroom to change.

Along the way, I noticed that the bike lanes along a large section of my route were freshened up with new paint and decals.  They are much more noticeable now.  Turns out, the Alderman re-striped all the bike lanes in his ward by making the project a budget priority.  Nice!

On my way home, the siren song of  Sweet Mandy B’s lured me.  I just had to stop to get a cupcake.  Or two.  They did not last long.

After my massive sugar consumption, I continued my ride on super quiet side streets.  I’ve been experimenting with a complicated route of small streets the entire way to and from work.  More on this new route soon.

See?  Never a dull moment.  My life is full of action and adventure.  :)

Anything new and fresh going on with your bike commute?

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July Women-who-bike Brunch

July’s women-who-bike brunch in Chicago on Sunday was a lovely little affair.  (I believe most of our ladies were resting up after the annual overnight L.A.T.E. Ride.)  We set up a picnic on the banks of a river just off a recreational bike path.  Everyone brought a little something to share and there were lots of fresh berries, homemade pastries, and refreshing spiked drinks.


The weather was a bit hot and there was a flat tire at the end, but nothing that the ladies could not handle.

It was so lovely to meet new people and to see familiar faces!

Are you in Chicago and interested in joining us?  Email me at LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike.com.  All women-who-bike (or are-considering-biking) are welcome!

More events coming up:

  • Women-who-bike Happy Hour: July 20, 6:00, Blue Line Lounge
  • Tour de Fat: This Saturday, July 16, Palmer Square
  • Seersucker Social: This Sunday, July 17, 1:00, Streetside Bar
  • Critical Lass: Thursday, July 21, 6 pm, Polish Triangle

Hope to see you there!

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A Chicago Welcome Home Storm

This morning I was excited to jump back on my bike after a week’s vacation in North Carolina.  I set out bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with the sun shining down on me.

A couple of miles into my ride, the air began to look strangely green.  Suddenly, all at once, the wind picked up massively, rain poured, lightening struck and thunder pounded.  A small branch fell down behind me.  It was freaky!

I was on a quiet neighborhood road and I started riding toward a bigger street in hopes of finding shelter at a coffee shop.  I didn’t get far before I had to dismount and scurry to the sidewalk.  I stood next to a wind-blocking building for about five minutes, getting soaked.  (Later I read the wind was up to 75 MPH.)  When the wind and rain did not let up, I scurried down the sidewalk to the end of the block, where I found a bank lobby to duck into (the bank was closed but the lobby was open for the ATM).  There I watched the downpour and lightening for 30 loooong minutes.

When the rain let up slightly, I decided to bike the 2 miles back home, drop off my bike, change clothes and take the L train to work.  I did not want to ride all the way to work downtown in the lightening.  I finally arrived at the office at 10:00 – a not-so-great way to start back after vacation.  Luckily, I have understanding co-workers.

I’ll take this morning’s “adventure” as a harsh reminder to CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST BEFORE LEAVING.  Also, as a WELCOME HOME, SUCKER, from Chicago.

At least I’m not the only one who got stuck in the storm.  Anyone else get caught by surprise lately?  Nah, I’m sure you’re all way too smart for that.  :)

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Ice cream ride

Not to be outdone by Dottie’s delicious-looking cupcake ride, a couple of weeks ago Whitney and I made an ice cream ride. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams was opening their first shop outside of Ohio, and the siren song of “free ice cream” was impossible to resist.

Whitney crosses the pedestrian bridge

So we rode to East Nashville to meet our friends S&T in line, where we discovered that we were far from the only ones who heard the call.

That last dark grey building on the right? That'd be the shop.

 

Sparkling conversation and a disinclination to hop right back on the bike for 7 miles back in the steamy summer heat kept me in the line. (The taste of an amazing macaron ice cream sandwich we were offered by a Jeni’s employee didn’t hurt either.) So we waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually* we were right outside the shop.


A little while after that, we could see the sign advertising the event.

And soon after that, we were actually INSIDE.


It smelled delectable. I think it was the freshly made waffle cones.

I tortured myself further by reading Jeni’s cookbook, which is full of tempting recipes.

But then we were at the counter and sampling the flavors. And eventually meeting Jeni herself, who was friendly and welcoming and flattered by the amazing reception her ice cream was getting.

brambleberry crisp and strawberry buttermilk

salty caramel & queen city cayenne

Verdict? Splendid!

 

*and by “eventually,” I mean and hour and a half later.

Photos in this post, with the exception of  the first and fourth, taken by T.K.

Big biking weekend in Nashville

Two bike events are happening in Nashville this weekend that you should know about.

First of all, New Belgium is bringing the Tour de Fat here for the first time on Saturday, July 9. The event benefits Walk/Bike Nashville and Soundforest, and Kermit Allegra and I will be marshals, so come on out. You totally want to see my costume (OK, I haven’t planned it yet, but that just means it will be even MORE awesomely random, right?). Things get started around 9 and the 5-mile, leisurely ride kicks off at 10. Kegs are tapped at 11.

Then on Sunday, July 10, I’m planning a bicycle brunch. If you ride your bike in Nashville, or if you want to start riding your bike in Nashville, come on out and meet others who do! We’re meeting at ChaChah on Belmont Blvd at 10:30.

Will you be at either event? Both? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

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Happy Independence Day!

I will be in North Carolina visiting family for the week, leaving Trisha to hold down the LGRAB fort. I hope everyone enjoys the long weekend!

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