When a ‘bowtie’ means much more than a dress code…

When 80-year-old Jim Collier was just 16, he was given a ’36 Ford — and that was the last Ford he ever owned.  He prides himself as a Chevy man, and not a casual one by any stretch.

His desire for cars that were readily accessible, reliable, and something he could afford within a low-income town, increased enough to grow a collection that he continued to enjoy for more than four decades.  A collection that has spanned an ownership of 60 cars throughout his life – with a remarkable 30+ currently parked in his home – and since 1953, ALL being of the ‘bowtie’ persuasion.

Born and bred on the farms of Georgia, Mr. Collier grew up in the ‘mule era’ and worked his way through the ‘machine era,’ always believing that technology would keep improving.  And when it came to automotive machinery, there was nothing more impressive to him than the Small Block Chevrolet – and specifically the 350 c.i.d. version of the engine – a design that in his opinion, based on cost and service, was the best powerplant ever made.

Collier’s entire collection began with and continues to be only Chevrolet – and each are in show condition.  And his garage holds a bundle of awards from numerous car shows to prove it, as well as five Platinum Certified Vehicles. 

But this year, for Mr. Collier, there’ll be something new, as he partakes in his own true debut by attending his first Concours with ‘his’ own collection.  In fact, he’ll be entering a scarce assortment of his own — five of the rarest Chevy models one can find — in the regional Atlanta Concours, October 19-20 at Tyler Perry Studios.  Each he’s considering showing have significance from an historical perspective, four of which are 1932 Chevrolets: 1932 Roadster; 1932 Cabriolet; 1932 Phaeton 4-door; 1932 Landau Phaeton; along with his 1958 Chevrolet Convertible.

Some of his favorites range from a 1925 Coupe and a ’32 Phaeton, to a ’63 Corvette split window, as well as his ’59 Impala convertible, (one of six ever made) – one that was a nut-and-bolt restoration that he personally completed — with a 4-speed stick.

“Witnessing the transition from the farm animal era to the machine era, I developed a knowledge early on that technology was going to take over the world — and keep making improvements,” said Collier.  “And what we see today is not even the tip of the iceberg of what technology is going to do for the world.”

And he also owns three of the rarest Corvettes made — each with under 70,000 original miles —

  • ’63 Corvette split rear window coupe (with a nut-and-bolt restoration; factory fueling and factory alloys; a/c; and less than 70,000 miles
  • ’64 Corvette coupe – very rare combo — with silver blue paint interior and exterior, all original and with approximately 60,000 miles
  • ’67 Corvette roadstser – a true ‘hot rod’ Collier refers to as “the tire shredder” – with 3×2 carburetors, an all-factory black 427, with 60,000 miles

But with that said, he and his collection are still a rarity, even in the collector car world.  As one of the few African-American car collectors in the U.S., Collier hopes his humble background will have an impact on the future of car collecting, especially as an inspiration to today’s youth. 

“For me, cars were always a hobby of value – I put any money I had in cars, knowing I could enjoy them and they would go up in worth – and that’s a big value to me.”  According to Collier, he’s put his faith in two key things in his life – his wife of more than 50 years, and Chevy cars – both giving him more pleasure than a perfectly tied “bowtie.”

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The “Little 356 Engine that Could” in a Field of 911s

Sometimes the very best trips happen, when you have no idea where you’re going…

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My friend Lily is an adventure seeker… she’s been a fire fighter, a paramedic, a nurse — heck — she’s even skydived! And when it comes to cars, thanks to her car collector dad and a ton of nationally renowned Concours events she’s judged along the way, she can teach any aficionado not only why a vintage vehicle is special, but she can find exactly what it takes to get it moving once it stops…and did I mention, that she drives like the wind – fast, confident and flowing.

So when I got a phone call inviting me to join her for a 1,000 mile drive through the Rockies, there wasn’t much time to think twice — especially when I found out we were going in her very ‘real’ 1959 356 convertible D… a tub by any other name would be just that, a tub. Yes, she’s a purist all the way!

 

But it wasn’t just her car that swayed me… though hers’ happens to be my favorite on the planet — and it wasn’t just the chance to make about 100 new friends with whom I have a certain two-syllable word in common (Por-sha) — it was when she mentioned that each year in late July, she finds something incredibly fun to do to honor the anniversary of her brother’s passing — and this year, she picked me to help make it fun.  And though I was a bit less daring than dear Lily, I knew I couldn’t let her down.

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So PCA – Rocky Mountain Region – as you prepared to celebrate your 60th anniversary, not so sure you knew what was about to hit you — a ‘thelma and louise’ type of twosome that weren’t about to let wind, weather, altitude or horsepower diminish a drive of a lifetime…1,000+ miles in 4 days in a state I’d never seen and with a very prepared friend who could handle just about any situation thrown her way — yes, I was ready… and not just to be a darn good navigator, but taking into account her goals for this particular trip, I was ready to be an awesome sidekick too!

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And off we went — leaving one Portia behind (Lily’s 19-year-old daughter) but making up for it with 40+ 911s along the way!!  Which btw, was also a beautiful sight, as our “little 356 engine that could” let its air-cooled 60 horsepower motor run all the way up more than 11,000 feet without skipping a beat — I dare say our two favorite hashtags for the weekend became #chasingthesun and #chasing911s — and we pretty much consistently caught them both.

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Having never been to Colorado before, and Lily being a longtime resident, it wasn’t hard for her to fill me in on all the wonders of her world — beginning in the foothills of the Rockies in Boulder, lunch in Gunnison, reaching our highest peak of 11,646 above the town of Lake City, through Grand Junction and crossing the famous Rio Grande, as well as the Continental Divide a mere six times!!  We enjoyed Durango, Ouray, and Palisade — even wineries and rest stops had great shopping in common — but it was the company throughout that will keep my memories in check…. that, and the other friends we made along the way!

PCA friends, winery friends, small-town store owner friends, dog friends, stuffed animal friends, real animal friends on the road and driver friends that simply liked our car and wanted to either honk/wave/or just tell us type-of-friends…all now friends that will make us smile when we remember this journey…

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So here’s to adventure… to expanding horizons…great scenic journeys… and most of all, good friends along the way.

 

And the best lesson of all — it’s the good friends that really come when one calls 🙂

 

 

 

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And what a milestone along the way!!!  #littlethings #crazyeights #356lover #girlslovecarstoo !!

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Why I care…

Having been in the car industry for several decades — blending cars and camaraderie has always been something of second nature – but when I lost my Mom to Parkinson’s in 2006, I realized there were meaningful ways to share friendships and the emotional bonds and gratification that driving can bring, to support the challenges others may face.

Drive Toward a Cure has been a real vision for me and creating our inaugural drive in the year my mom would have turned 90, and with a decade since her passing, was one of the most meaningful ways I could honor her and those in our profession and throughout the world, that have pushed to succeed despite their condition.

I’m hopeful Drive Toward a Cure can be the start of much more than a scenic journey – by taking these roads less traveled together, we can start a movement that begins with awareness and leads to a cure.

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For this first inaugural event, we learned that legendary racers like Phil Hill, David Love and Sam Posey are not the only individuals challenged by Parkinson’s Disease that have enjoyed a good drive!  The Drive Toward a Cure ‘California Adventure’ charity rally included 36 entrants vehicles, ranging from vintage to exotics and modern day luxury cars that took on nearly 600 miles of scenic California roads — but it wasn’t just the drive itself that made it meaningful.

The moment that stood out the most to me was our first evening dinner at the Allegretto Vineyard Resort in Paso Robles, when I turned the tables on the group and asked all to say why they’d come – listening to those that really appreciated supporting the cause, and especially the few there that had Parkinson’s themselves, really touched my heart and let me know we were on the right pathway.  Drive Toward a Cure was becoming more than my vision – it was fostering hope, and that to me made it all worthwhile.

In the beginning, I was pretty scared that once we planned it all no one would register – but when our very first entrant happened to have Parkinson’s and was bringing his 1960 Porsche 356 Super 90 (only my very favorite vintage car ever!)…I felt the stars had truly aligned and karma was on my side – and there was no way I could disappoint him!

And more so, he didn’t disappoint me — not only was he willing to talk to press prior, he reached out to his vintage racing friends and had them sign up too — and his encouragement was contagious – so contagious that he was awarded the very first “Spirit of Drive Toward a Cure” award – in recognition of his own spirit which never deterred despite the challenge of Parkinson’s.  He received a framed illustration of his racing car created especially for him by artist and friend Paul Chenard who contributed all the way from Halifax (Automobiliart)

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And there were other meaningful moments as well — in fact, two of the individuals that happened to have ‘early onset’ Parkinson’s and had never met each other before, were both speaking the exact same mission statement — noting that each could go forward in their life and remain active due to “hope” — with both stating that such hope was derived through programs like this.

Derek Torry was with me from the beginning – he’s a new friend I met through the Parkinson’s Institute and he’s one of the bravest and kindest guys I know.  He was excited about our program from Day One and it was his faith in what we could create that allowed our ideas to become reality — by introducing us to other professionals that led to our becoming a bonafide C-corporation and opening the doors to what we envision will lead us into our long-term goal of a true 501 (c ) 3 foundation — but that will be in due time.

So for now, it’s about gaining awareness, putting our pedal to the mettle as they say, and opening ourselves to new risks that we hope bring rewards.  The amount of support we’ve garnered in the automotive community alone has been heartwarming — organizations like Hagerty, Sports Car Market Magazine, Intelliga Communications and McLaren Automotive, all believed — and another 30 followed on their heels.  Yes, when they say it takes a village, I can’t tell you how proud I am that an entire city came forth.

As we tally our financials and finalize the follow-up with our new-found friends and partners, we are challenged to begin to create new traditions so our efforts in some small way can make an impact — toward more awareness, toward more research and toward more possibilities to bring hope to those that need it most.

Here’s to finding a cure along the way.

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Pura Vida! Journey for a Fresh Start….

Anyone who believes in numerology, might just concur that April 15th was the perfect date for me.

Or at least a date that would always hold some significance.

Sadly, in 1984, it was the day my best friend was taken from me, and the world, by a drunk driver — yet gladly, six short years later — and miles above on a flight from NY to LA — April 15th was also the day I met another best friend — the guy I would marry and with whom I would create a family.

And this year — more than 25 years later —  April 15th was also the day the door               re-opened, to better get to know my truest best friend of all — the one I have in ‘me.’

A coincidence?  Or not… Afterall, some say karma comes from where you’ve been, in order to reach your destiny…and we are where we are based on the choices we’ve made, leading us to where we will be…

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That said, for a while now, there’s an internal journey I’ve been seeking — actually, just really needing — so much, that when the opportunity came up to attend a yoga/life training retreat, I was “all in.” Not that I knew a single thing about it — not an itinerary, who I’d be rooming with, how many would be in the group, or if there’d even be anything more than yoga.  All I knew was that it would be in Costa Rica, and somehow, I was going to be there.

And while karma helped me believe it could have been the best of times… something inside me feared it could also be the worst of times…but just committing was all the action I needed to justify, that no matter what, this would be MY time.

So there I sat at LAX, the evening of April 15th, filled with excitement and just enough fear, to anxiously see what the next 10 days in Costa Rica might open up within me.

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Costa Rica 2016
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It’s easy to think ‘wow, what a vacation!’ – after all, it was indeed a magnificent setting and a world I’d never before had the chance to explore — but more important was the setting of trust and friendships created that opened the channels to think well beyond our daily existence.

Our challenges may have begun with the physical aspect of yoga, and the learning of correct breathing, flows and concentration — but each facet applied to a deeper realm and consciousness — the levels of thought and mindfulness that touch every part of our day, our relationships and the entire journey we as individuals are on, from sunrise to sunset. Taking heed of challenges within ourselves reflect a greater need to touch the world and its inhabitants, and to better understand how that world and the one beyond relates to us all.

While the commonalities among my new ‘Costa Rica retreat family’ surely included the practice of yoga, our practice is so much more than a stand, a stretch or a pose.  Our yoga has purpose…it can bring us peace and solitude, along with questions striving for answers that we may not fully comprehend.  Our practice allows us to #beinthemoment in everything we say and do.  And more fully, our practice reminds us that the world is so much bigger and meaningful when we understand and appreciate all that it provides, allowing us to minimize the attachments of ‘things’ to make us happy and realize that by simply opening our eyes to the beauty around us, we can better appreciate the beauty within.

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Many in our group are choosing to become instructors, and anxious to fulfill their 200 hours – but that path was never my intention.  I came to Costa Rica to find my own capabilities and determine if the internal strife I face can be rectified, redeemed or redefined.  I had the chance during these ten days to face my fears head-on, and through trust and reflection, I’ve obtained an inner peace that with continued practice, I’m hopeful can stay within me… it’s the type of reflection and confidence that will allow me to better understand my choices and determine the paths that are correct for me.

 

Yes, it sounds deep and serious — and parts were even emotional — but collectively over ten days I achieved the inner voice in me that is pushing me to take the path less traveled, a healthier route in all respects – and one of enjoyment — the one that I can reflect on and still gain perspective from, all the while seeking more.

 

I can also share that there was indeed a touch of ‘vacation’ involved — it began with smiles and friendship, deepening with familiarity of our group, and grew with intensity and trust in ourselves and our new found friends — to conquer that which we had not done before. Whether hiking in a rainforest, jumping off 20′ cliffs into an unknown pool of water below or sliding down 40′ waterfalls that awakened every thought and body part one held within oneself.  And all was achieved by the ability to believe — in ourselves and those we came to love, support and nurture — those we will never forget.

 

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 And a few more photo links to share:
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Some might think this was a pretty long distance to go to find oneself….but in Costa Rica, I found so much more than just me… I was enriched with the addition of 27 souls that have become my family, linking hearts and strength in areas that need little explanation.  All ages, all backgrounds, and from all over the U.S.

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And with their support, I found the ability to reach higher, jump further and dive more deeply.  I found reasons to think outside of me….to better begin to understand the universe, so in turn, I can now begin to better know me.

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Thank you ESY (http://electricsoul.yoga/training)– for every touch of training — and for every link in our circle — all of whom I keep a piece of in my pocket and heart… my reminder… yes, “that is so…”  So while these ten days too shall pass, the learnings, love and reflections will forever remain.  And we can say Pura Vida.. as we continue to live life to its fullest.

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52 things I learned in 52 hours….

Having a weekend away with “the girls” can be a very eye opening experience. Yes, it’s a given there’ll be chatty conversations, wine tasting (depending on your locale), and even a nostalgic trip down memory lane reminiscent of the 20 year-old-version of ourselves…

But of more importance for me this time, in this short window of opportunity, was an open door to the world and a chance to really take some “me time” and make it count – not just in furthering friendships that have endured for what has felt like a lifetime – but in re-affirming another relationship which I have had for much, much longer – that being the connection I have with ME.

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Recently my ‘little sister’ gave me a real gift – it was an invite to drive north 3 ½ hours, spend some time with several friends at a halfway point where she could drive down the same 3 ½ hours – leave our husbands, our kids and our cares at home, while blocking our minds to the outer world to be in the moment and just enjoy.

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Yes, sometimes a girl’s gotta do, what a girl’s gotta do….and taking a day on the road on my own was the best way to get it all started.

So here’s what I learned:

1. Driving 200+ miles with just me, didn’t feel like 2,000
2. Taking the coastal route replenishes your soul – no matter how many more miles you tack on
3. Singing out loud to oldie tunes in a Jeep equates to singing in the shower
4. Re-incarnation comes in many forms – but the best one I found, after a very long time away, was finally seeing and believing in “me”
5. A photo may be worth a thousand words, but those waiting for you to take it tend to talk in even longer sentences

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6. The road less traveled is definitely the better choice
7. After 30 years, the difference between ‘left’ and ‘right’ doesn’t really matter
8. Everybody has a “story” – and no stories should ever be judged
9. Sometimes you don’t really need to tell your story, in order to be heard
10. “Frog Balls” are certainly not what they seem – and definitely worth trying
11. As a well-defined ‘J’ girl all my life, I really do love the Christmas season – and the admission fee for the Cambria Xmas Extravaganza may well have been the best $5 I’ve spent in a very long time

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12. Every day we make very important decisions – and they all begin with a conscious choice to have a good day
13. Just as George Bailey realized, I may be ‘worth more dead than alive‘ — but days like the ones here in Cambria give me an awful lot to put in the bank
14. I’m thankful to William Randolf Hearst, not just for his profound inspiration for journalism — but for bringing his “zoo” onto California soil so Zebras can now run free

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15. Hashtags are key to life’s little pleasures, ie, #bestgirlsgetaway; #cantwaittoseetheocean; #centralcoast; #leftorright; #lovemymorningwalks
16. As much as I love cars, I’m way more enamored with the places my feet go
17. A near six-mile walk roundtrip for a pizza sets a whole new goal for MapMyWalk  http://mapmywalk.com/workout/813293395

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18. To me, the moon is the brightest star in the whole sky

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19.  I miss the days my son let me refer to the moon as ‘luna’ – now I just remain ‘over the moon’ for him
20.  Good friends really do know you inside and out
21.  And it’s a really good friend that understands your joys and sorrows without any words being said
22. Even after all these years, nice is still only a two
23. A really good chuckle, which becomes a laugh that just can’t cease, is certainly well worth it — even if it’s at my own expense!
24.  A good vineyard, like a good friend, can often help you find your true identity
25. Sometimes we have more in common with pets than one might think…

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26.  It’s so much easier to befriend a stranger, when we’re far from home
27.  Travel inspires me to live adventurously and intentionally
28. Thanks to yoga, I’m inclined to “breathe, dream and go.”

29.  Sometimes it’s really just a matter of pondering… 20141207_122131 (2)
30. I think the rush of the waves may just be the very best sound of all
31.  It’s the power of the ocean in which I find the greatest peace

32. The very best walks will always be on the morning after the rain
33.  Purple and green may very well be my favorite colors
34. Photography is in the eye of the beholder

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35. Just because you wiped the mud on the running board, doesn’t mean you left the car clean
36.  A good friend overlooks the ‘mud thing’

37. Its more than fine to go wine tasting on your own, especially when passing through a town like Los Olivos

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38.  Big tip – get to know the “wine club members” and you too can purchase the “special” pinot noir!
39.  Just because we want to get “out of LA” doesn’t mean others aren’t dying to get in…

40.  It’s definitely all about the journey

41. No matter how long it takes to get there, it’s that first peek of the sea and the burst of fresh tides rolling in, that make the miles all worthwhileIMG_2530

42.  Time doesn’t heal all wounds, it just makes it a bit easier to still remember
43.  Time does however make it a whole lot easier to smile
44.  I’ve decided to add becoming a bartender to my bucket list
45.  The best things in life really are free
46.  Forget the diet, I’d rather drink wine
47. All it took was a clipboard to make me feel 19 again
48. That, and being with friends I knew when I was 19…

49.  Helen Keller certainly had it right — “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
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50.  I could watch elephant seals forever — they touch another’s life in a more profound way than we can ever outwardly express

51. My sister truly is my forever friend…

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52. “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”

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We will remember…

Tonight I took a yoga class… and instead of leaving feeling relaxed and refreshed and rejuvenated, I felt despondent and depressed and disillusioned…feeling the weight of the world on shoulders that shook, yet persevered to be strong in the moment.

I worked harder in that class tonight than I ever had – drenched from more sweat than I would have thought possible to release from my body.  I struggled to hold each and every pose longer than I had the strength to bear, all the while imagining the massive power it would take others to simply survive.

But this was not a moment to feel pride in my personal accomplishment, it was an hour that shook me to the core as I realized that no act of discipline could have saved the three young men in Israel that lost their lives to the whims of terror and hatred – and during these 60 minutes, intended for one to release all outside issues and contemplations, this heinous crime remained the only thought I could invoke.

Today we heard the words no parent should ever have to hear – that their child had not just died, but was murdered – and it was three families that took this on as the world had waited in hopes of a positive outcome.  Innocent boys, not even soldiers… barely through childhood… at the pilgrimage of their future – but never to be.

This loss is not just a mother’s, grieving for a child —

Nor is it felt simply as a Jew, re-living our historic pathways and wondering “why?”

It’s not even the sorrow that is felt for humanity.

This loss creeps into our hearts and bones and fears for the retaliation that is sure to come, while an entire country and world pray for peace.  Unfortunately the days ahead may become more restless than the nights of waiting since June 12th for these boys to come home.

Yet, we pray for strength and compassion.

Tonight my yoga class embarked on loving kindness, preaching the ability to choose our reactions to life’s challenges in more thoughtful ways.  But tonight, as I light three memorial candles in my home, my head reminds me that we can’t always live through our heart.

Tonight I hope for extended peace – and I give my heart to the families that have lost their own.

we will remember

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Reflections on Maggie Thatcher and Other Women Pioneers

Thinking about my “influencers” today…

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I once had a drink with Margaret Thatcher… well maybe not completely with each other, but in the same bar and about 10 feet apart — I was near the fireplace and she was on the corner couch. It was the evening of Ronald Reagan’s funeral, and we were at what was then our “local watering hole,” the Bel Air Hotel Bar…she arrived without fanfare, and just with her friends — all seemingly close with the former President…with her were Lee Iacocca, Reagan’s children and two or three others, but the excitement for me on this day of sadness was in watching no one else, but the always well-coifed, Maggie Thatcher.

And while she clearly wasn’t always liked upon the worldwide stage, nor was she always socially correct, she did do something not many women could do — she consistently stood up for her principles, within a true man’s world…

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