Canada 2000 ~ May 22-June 1

A noble experiment in RVing

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cn2000-map.jpg (234764 bytes) Geneseo, 
Whitby (pick up RV), 
Darlington PP, 
Presqu’ile PP, 
Silent Lake PP, 
Algonquin PP (Rock Lake, Mew Lake), 
Whitby (return RV), 
London (Powells), 
Geneseo.

5/22/2000 (Victoria Day, CN)

We headed down the drive around 6:30 am. Although it didn’t make much sense, the Map’n’Go (MnG) showed the quickest route to be Buffalo, Peace Bridge, and QEW. So we headed out on our now normal route to the Powells: back roads paralleling 20A until we get to the beginning of I-190. There was almost no traffic, for which we were very grateful. We crossed the border and arrived at the "?" place at exactly 8:05. Oh, the "?" place is the CN Information station where we usually stop to pee. This time we were going to inquire about routes to Whitby. Ah, the sign on the door says "M-F 8:30 to …" Damn, we were too early. So down the road we go looking for a place to eat and pee – not necessarily in that order. Janie read about a little restaurant just off the QEW called Betty’s. Well, Betty’s did not seem to exist, but there was a brand new Tim Horton, so we stopped, peed, and purchased six doughnuts, because six is cheaper than 4. It seems Canadian marketing bears a remarkable resemblance to US marketing. Oh, while we were looking for Betty’s we saw this little store with a most interesting sign: Factory Outlet Antique Market. Yep, the good ol’ USofA marketing has invaded CN.

The traffic got worse in the Toronto area. As usual, we were doing the speed limit and everyone was zooming by us – on both sides. Eventually the traffic was bad enough to require speeding up just to avoid becoming a hazard. There we were doing 120 when the limit was clearly (and repeatedly) posted at 100. Oh, that would be km/h, by the way. You know that conversion thing is a real bummer. We had to recreate the F to C conversion on the fly. The speedometer already has the km to miles right on it: 60 m/h = 100 km/h. As we passed through the various towns, we noticed they announced themselves with a population value. For example, Waycross population 7,600. Now, do you suppose that is metric? If so, what is the conversion?

We arrived at Owasco RV around 11:00 am (209 miles). This was Victoria Day in CN, so the place was officially closed. We didn’t see anyone around, so I wandered around toward the back of building. Actually, I was looking for a place to pee, if the truth were known. Eventually we found a guy who later turned out to be Willem. Well, he was always Willem, I suppose, but we didn’t learn that until he gave his name when he answered the phone while we were filling out the paperwork. Willem was pretty cool. All he wanted to do was get us out of there so he could go home and plant flowers. It turns out that the smaller 170 RV we thought we were renting had a problem, so we ended up with a brand new 190. Smaller means 17 foot whereas the 190 is 19 foot. Oh boy, going from our Outback to a 19 foot van that stands nearly 9 feet high is daunting. I asked Janie if SHE wanted to drive. Nope, no luck there.

000-darlington-camp.jpg (233939 bytes)  Darlington PP Campsite #173 

After completing the paperwork, we transferred our stuff from the car to the RV. We just threw it in, so it didn’t take very long. We were out of there around 12:00 and headed East on Crown 2, then back on the 401. Yep, a big ol’ RV hurtling down the 401 at 100 k/h is my idea of fun. Fortunately, all the truckers were busy planting flowers like Willem, so we didn’t have anything bigger than us to contend with. You know, being the biggest dog in the pound is kinda neat. We decided to stop at the first possibility: Darlington PP (Provincial Park, not pee-pee). That is only about 30 minutes from the RV place, but we wanted to read the manual, repack the stuff, eat lunch, and basically just lounge around. That is exactly what we did. Well, that and a 7.9 mile bike ride. You see, the bigger van allowed us to put the bikes inside. We couldn’t have done that with the 170. They will not rent RVs with bike racks because that would require installing a hitch. If they install a hitch, someone will try to tow their boat AND their car. That would not only be bad for the RV, but also for any traffic that happens to get in the way. Nope, no hitches allowed.

001-darlington-lunch.jpg (135676 bytes)  Janie with a knife ... to cut the smoky cheddar from VT. 
003-darlington-bogwait.jpg (107764 bytes)  Bog waiting patiently (?) to be served.

Part of the bike ride consisted of what is called the Waterfront Trail. It begins at the GM Canada Headquarters and continues on to the East for some distance. Well, of course it is some distance, but I don’t know the distance, so it will just have to be "some" distance. Deal with it. Oh, my brain just informed me. The Waterfront Trail is exactly 325 km (195 miles) long. So there you go – some distance, eh? We saw swans, swallows, and some rolling terrain that terminated at the lake. There was a nice little nature trail just outback the GM building. It was called the Dogwood Trail. There were bunches of signs and all of them had explanations in regular words and Braille. They also had bird poop on ‘em, so one wonders about the people reading the Braille. Hope they remembered to wash their hands.

We arrived back at the RV hungry and tired. No, the bike ride didn’t wear us out. Neither of us slept particularly well the night before and it had been a long day. So what are we going to eat for dinner? Mary Kitchen Hash, that’s what. Janie fried it up nice and crispy on the handy-dandy gas stove in our mini-kitchen. Oh, as I said before, it was Victoria Day, which is the last day of what our landed immigrant friends Mikey and Beth referred to as the May Two-Four weekend. When we entered the park, there were signs announcing that alcohol was prohibited over the weekend. What’s up with these Canadians, eh? Being the law-biding people that we are, we quietly sipped Burgundy from our Tim Horton mugs in the relative seclusion of our RV. Tired and drunk, we turned in around 8:30. Ah, but it was Victoria Day, so there were fireworks. All we could hear were the low booms they emit as they explode from the mortars, and the much larger boom as they explode in the air. Well, that isn’t all we could hear. We could hear the roar of the 401, which was less than a mile away. We could also hear the train whistle, although these days (or nights) the whistle is much more like a horn, as the train announced itself at each crossing down the line.

We did get to use the toilet a few times that evening. I gotta tell you, it is much better than hauling your aging ass out of the tent in the misty rain. Yeah, having a built in toilet may be worth the $60k these RV things cost.

002-darlington-dinner.jpg (136264 bytes)   Janie frying up some hash in her kitchenette. 
004-darlington-bogsleep.jpg (129941 bytes)  Bog relaxes after dinner.

5/23/2000

We awoke to clouds, mist, rain, fog, and cool air. We unmade the bed. I guess if you can make a bed, you can unmake a bed. It is like setting and unsetting the table. We packed up the bikes and went rattling down the road (Crown 2) toward Presqu’ile PP. Once we got to the park, Janie got in the back of the van and tried to find the source of the annoying rattle as I rumbled down the park road. Ah Ha! It was the microwave. Most of the rattle was caused by the glass turntable … the rest was the ill-fitting door. Remove the turntable, and put a paper towel wedgie in the door. Damned thing. Probably won’t use it anyway. (Nope, we never used the microwave, but the turntable made a damned nice serving tray for beer & hors d'ouevres).

We set up camp on the shore of the lake around 10:30. I mean THE SHORE. We are about 15 yards from the water – a little over 15 meters for those of you who prefer metric J. I watched a tern catching minnows within two feet of the "beach". We leveled the van and settled in for some lunch: cheese and crackers (again). Then we took a 6 mile bike ride. It would have been twice that long if not for the rain. We were just about done with a boardwalk trail through the marsh when the skies opened. We headed back to camp where we had a snack of canned fruit.

005-presquile-camp.jpg (169594 bytes)  Presqu'le PP campsite #61. I told you it was near the water.
006-presquile-dune.jpg (176912 bytes)  Janie posing on a dune just off the road we biked.
007-presquile-dune2.jpg (181274 bytes)  Close up of my darling bride. She is so easily amused.
008-presquile-gbh.jpg (134705 bytes)  Great Blue Heron up to his/her giggy in marsh water. 
 We saw a marsh wren too, but it was too small and flighty to get anything but a blurry dot.
009-presquile-h2oflower.jpg (213887 bytes)  A water flower that we have not been able to identify. It is still neat, however.
010-presquile-bentcedar.jpg (181518 bytes)  There were several of these bent cedar trees in this area. I suppose they get a lot of ice damage in the winter.

I edited the pictures we had taken while Janie planned our activities for tomorrow and beyond. You know, this digital camera is a marvel. You can just snap off as many pictures as you want, delete the bad ones, enhance the good ones, and BAM, you are done. No waiting for the developer, no guessing if it turned out right, and, most importantly, no guilt for wasting money on that picture of a mouse jaw you found half buried in the sand. Hunh? Hey, it could happen. So we spent the rainy afternoon in the van – just like those old people we always made fun of. Hey, it was a hell of a lot better than being in a tent. We could pee whenever we wanted to, and we did.

Well, it is now 7:07. It seems to have stopped raining, and now it is just foggy. I suppose I should step outside and see what it is like. Ah, I’ll just open the door. You know, it doesn’t seem to be that bad, and there go a couple people walking their dogs. Hey, maybe it is clearing. We decide to take the bikes and go around the loop on the other end of the peninsula, which we had planned to do before the rains came. Off we go. We had gotten maybe a mile when it started raining again. Stop? No, we are going to do this no matter what. Now this is one thing that we can do because we are in an RV. We would never voluntarily get soaked if we were tenting. We did the 6.3 mile loop in about 45 minutes, and we were pretty soaked when we were done. However, the lighthouse at the end of the road was really nice in the fog and rain, AND there was no one else there. Go figure. Janie made spaghetti while I drank a beer – men, you can’t live with ‘em, pass their beer nuts – then we turned in around 9:30.

5/24/2000

We woke to the very same weather we had when we went to bed. Maybe the fog and rain is related to the lake. We decided to head N to see if we could find some better weather. Touring on some progressively smaller back roads – even a mile or so of sand road. Fortunately, it was wet enough to not be dusty and dry enough to not be muddy. What luck. We stopped to pee at a road cut where there were nice exposures of granitic gneiss. On to Bancroft (the mining capital of CN, no less) where we stopped to get gas and some lunch fixins. The tank was just about half empty (or was it half full?). The hit totaled $44.61 CN ($20 US) for 61.2 L (16.16 Gallon). Okay, that means the tank is something like 30-35 gallons. We had gone 328 Km, which equals about 203 miles. Ok, 203 miles divided by 16.16 gallons = 12.6 mpg. We should be able to get 400-500 miles on a tank of gas, which would cost about $56 @ $1.60/gallon. Now, this is a brand new vehicle, so I would expect the mileage to get better once it is fully broken in. Whew, I wish I had let you do the math.

011-tobancroft-roadcut.jpg (85362 bytes)  Granitic gneiss at a pull out where we stopped to pee. 

The IGA was a pleasant experience. We went to the deli where they had free samples. Why pay for what you can get for free? (Remember that, girls.) Well, just too much turkey and not enough pepper salami and roast beef, which we ended up buying – about 200 g of each. We picked up some Cheese & Garlic rolls and a loaf of Italian, which we had sliced by the nice lady in the bakery room – she needed a break from digging muffins out of the muffin pan. A roll of paper towels and we were outta there. Of course, I peed in the parking lot. Well, in the RV in the parking lot.

We stopped at a nice roadside park just 3.5 km north of town (Bancroft, remember). It was sunny and breezy. The park was very clean, with a little stream flowing along the western edge. Now I would expect the beautiful Ohio or beautiful (name of your river here) once looked like this. The trees were growing down to the very edge of the water so everything looked nice and neat. The only problem was the little gnats that pestered us whenever the breeze died down. Yep, this is the exact respite we needed after a leisurely morning of back road driving. Ha! Well, Janie has served lunch, we have consumed it, and now she has it all packed up. Guess I better get ready to drive toward our next destination.

012-bancroft-park.jpg (66374 bytes)  Sparrow Lake picnic area just north of Bancroft.
013-bancroft-stream.jpg (96890 bytes)  The stream flowing through the picnic area. Kinda neat. 

We decided to backtrack about 30 km. The problem, as we saw it then, was the next PP did not open until June. There was one just SW of Bancroft that said it had biking and showers. Okay, off we went. While we drove past the gas station and IGA, we observed that Bancroft was quite a nice little town. The sign announcing its presence gave the population as 2400. Now Geneseo is supposed to be over 6000, and you could put Geneseo inside Bancroft with room to spare. So now I know that CN populations are in metric and the conversion between CN and US population units must be about a factor of three. Ah, science ain’t it grand?

Alrighty then, we arrived at Silent Lake PP. Janie discovered that it is called silent lake because they don’t allow motors on the boats using the lake. We were so happy. It was sunny, warm, and quiet. There were no park attendants – registration was on the honor system. We picked up a pay envelope and some literature and headed for the campground. We are clearly in the north woods. We crossed over from Ordovician Carbonates into Precambrian Canadian Shield stuff several km south of Bancroft. These harder rocks erode into rolling terrain with little soil. Apparently, the soil is good enough for trillium, because they seem to be very common along the roadside. Silent Lake is nestled in some hard rock knobs that are covered with hemlock and maple with an occasional goosefoot maple sticking out in a clearing. We sought out a campsite that was level and dry. Ah, we found one that is easy to get into, but it will be hell to back out in the morning. A little adventure, eh? So I got out to check it out. BZZZZZ: a stampede of mosquitoes came roaring from the deep woods. Just as we were tempted by the fresh meats at the IGA, they are tempted by fresh meat in the campground. Hey, what did we expect? At least there were no deer or moose flies – yet. Oh, Janie, do you want to give blood here or should we go on down the road to do it? Looks fine here.

014-silentlake-camp.jpg (95610 bytes)  Silent Lake campsite in the heart of the north woods. BZZZZ. Can you see 'em?
 Can you see Janie giving a "Mandy Wave"? Nope, she's not just shooing mosquitoes away. 

Okay, now we have to register. That means going back to the entrance to put our pay envelope into the metal post. Hey, we could bike back and check out some of the bike trails we passed on the way in. Great. How do we get the bikes out without letting the mosquitoes in? Quickly, very quickly. Bikes out, bike packs on, ankles covered and sprayed, we are ready. Getting back to the entrance was nearly all down hill. As we zoomed down one of the steeper hills, we realized that going back would be uphill – duh. Oh, well, we were planning to take a shower anyway. Just as the entrance building popped into view, we heard a rumble of thunder. Ah, yes, the sky is very dark and angry looking just ahead, and it appears to be moving this way. We couldn’t really tell where it was or which way it was moving because we were in a tunnel of trees. I had planned to call mom from the phones at the entrance station, but we had just dried out from yesterday, so we decided we better get back to the RV. We peddled up the hills and it started raining just as we go to the loop for our campsite. Inside we go to write up today’s activities. Total distance on this bike trip: 3.12 miles.

So now it is 3:00 and the sun is shinning on my feet. I expect we will wait a few more minutes for the rain to drip off the trees, and then we will try some of those bike trails. More adventure. Yay, us!

We went down to the comfort station where we could get a better look at the sky. Ah, a rumble of thunder to our south. But BLUE sky to our north and west. The clouds were moving west, so we concluded that it would be safe to try another bike ride. We headed up to the bike path and took it down a long hill where it took a sharp right. We passed some really beautiful little ponds. The north woods ponds are all exceptional. They look as though they were planned, planted, and maintained by a landscape artist. Maybe this is where landscape artists come to "study" landscape artistry. We looked down the trail and saw a very large mud hole. We concluded that this trail would be mud hole after mud hole. And then THEY came. All you have to do is stop, and there they are – the little blood suckers. There must be one under every leaf just waiting for an inviting target. I heard that they are attracted by carbon dioxide. We quickly turned around and headed back – back up that long hill. Lots of carbon dioxide was exhaled. Now we had three choices: we could go back down the road to the next bike trail and try it, we could take the road the other way and see what’s at the end, or we could wimp out and go back to the van. We decided on number two, so we went down the road to see what was at the end.

We discovered a canoe livery. There was a little shack with a sign posted on the door: "Put your canoe on the rack, and put your life jackets and paddles in the chute." To the left of the sign was a little door with the word "Chute". I opened the chute and I could see the life jackets all hung in there like so many hams a-curin’. Once the chute door was open, I could see a neatly lettered "Thank You". Ah, the marvels of the simple life. A life where you can trust people to do the right thing. The simple life like I suppose it used to be. We sat on the canoe rack for a bit. It was very breezy, so the bugs were kept at bay.

Enough north woods lake scenery, we were off down the road on the bikes. It had been a very steep descent to the lake. There were signs warning motorists about the steep hill. We were not looking forward to the return. Up the hill we went. We were both in low-low, which is basically pole-climbing gear. Actually, we were both amazed when we got back. It really wasn’t that bad at all. Now what do we do? I thought we should try number one (see above). So we headed on down the road to the other bike trail. It looked like a road, so it held promise. Well, the road ended at a maintenance yard. Over yonder, we could see a muddy trail heading into a dark woods. Not gonna make that mistake again. Back to the paved road we went. To my surprise Janie wanted to go on down the road to the entrance building where we had peddled to register earlier. It was almost all downhill, which means uphill coming back. She was planning to take a shower and eat a hearty supper, and she wanted to deserve both.

We had noticed a little trail off the road that seemed to lead to a foot bridge over a babbling stream. No, not a brook. I’m not too sure what a brook is, but this was too big for a brook, I think. Once we got to the bridge, we could see a second bridge just up ahead, and beyond that an open grassy field. Hey, that looks like it should be investigated. The grass field turned out to be the entrance to "The Beach". It was beautiful. We sat on a picnic table and looked out over the lake. There were a gazillion little gnat-like things buzzing around us. No mosquitoes, and the gnats didn’t seem to be biting, but they were annoying just the same. This would be a great place to take a sunrise picture. Maybe we can try it tomorrow morn. Let’s see if we remember.

I started fantasizing about the bugs. As I said earlier, I think the mosquitoes are attracted by the carbon dioxide. Now think about it. A mosquito is a very small object. There are a lot of parts to that small object. A very small part of that small object is the carbon dioxide detector. Think about how small the detector system is and think about how very efficient it is. Now that is an amazement. Do you have a carbon monoxide detector? Do you know how big they are? There is one in this RV, and it has the cross-section of a 3x5 card and is about an inch deep. How many mosquitoes would fit in a 3x5x1 box? The mind boggles.

We went to the entrance station and tried to call mom. This was a thoroughly modern phone. You could put your Visa in it and make a call. Maybe that’s only new to us. We don’t even have an answering machine. Mom didn’t answer (no answering machine for her, either). Hope she is just out with one of the "girls" for dinner. Maybe she was watering the tomatoes. We headed back to the van. After the uphill climb out of the mud hole-infested bike trail and the very steep, but paved, road from the canoe livery, the climb back was actually not that bad. Total distance on this excursion: 6.2 miles. Total for the day: 9.22 miles. Hope we deserve a couple beers and garlic & herb pasta with ham. Oh, that is a "bag of dinner" thing, not a real gourmet dinner. Janie is good, but, alas, not THAT good (at cooking).

Back at the campsite, we decided that we should take a shower while we were "heated up". Although the brochure clearly states HOT showers, I could not get even warm water out of the spigot. Now I have to admit there was a difference between the "hot" and the "cold" settings: the "hot" was cold and the "cold" was damned cold. We stripped and started showering. Now I know what those people on the Titanic must have felt like when they found themselves in freezing water. If you keep it off your chest you are okay – cold, but okay. If it is on your chest or back, you literally cannot breath. Strange. I now have a theory for surviving in very cold water: do a tail walk like a porpoise. Yeah, like I could get my aging ass to do THAT. It was actually much warmer outside, so I toweled off out there. I suppose there were maybe a total of 5 other campers in 144 total sites. What the hell!

So here I sit in the RV, in the north woods, looking out the window while drinking beer and writing this log. Oh, neat light. I jumped out and took a couple of pictures. Bugs! Back in the van. The air is marvelous. The scenery is superb. The bugs are death on wings. What would we do if we were tenting? We would be IN the tent. We could not even watch the setting sunlight dabble the trees. Yeah, this RV thing is looking better all the time.

5/25/2000

We got up, loaded the bikes and headed to the beach for our morning coffee (me) and tea (Janie). The grass was very wet, so we had to high step to one of the benches. There is hardly anything funnier than someone high stepping through tall, wet grass. Fortunately, there was no one there to see us.

015-silentlake-morning.jpg (60256 bytes)  Silent Lake beach in the morning light.
016-silentlake-morning.jpg (72054 bytes)  A little rocky island festooned with trees catching the early morning light. 

We headed back toward Bancroft where we picked up a road heading east toward the old mining district. We passed Sodalite Joe’s Rock Show and Factory Outlet, which was all we saw that related to what was once a booming mining industry. Geologically, this is the Hastings highlands, which is a plateau of Precambrian metamorphosed material. Some of the exposures look like pulled taffy. These rocks were deeply buried and subjected to high temperatures and pressures while being contorted and they deformed plastically under the stress. Janie managed to piece together a couple three-digit roads, so I could experiment with touring at 45 mph. I like little-traveled roads where I can go slowly enough to be able to look at something other than traffic and the road. It also conserves fuel. This vehicle doesn’t have a tachometer, but when we tool along in the Outback at 45 mph, we are turning just over 2000 rpm. That would be our maximum gas mileage, and it is an all around pleasant speed to travel. Yep, touring mode is good. Unfortunately, the little roads don’t actually go anywhere, and that is exactly why no one else is using them. And in this part of Canada, one is lucky to find any road at all.

036-mewlake-gneiss.jpg (148017 bytes)  A nice Gneiss. These rocks have had a long and contorted history. Doesn't it look like taffy? 

We stopped at Carson Lake PP, but it is not yet open for the season. There was a little pull out right by the gate, so we used it for a lunch stop. Well, it was 10:00, and we had not had breakfast, so I guess this was more of a brunch stop. So there we sat eating our roast beef and horseradish mayo on Italian while looking at yet another one of those north woods lakes.

We arrived in Algonquin PP around noon. There was a little welcome center at the main gate, so we allowed ourselves to be welcomed by the young rangerette. We asked some questions and picked up some literature. Ah, a 10 km bike route along an abandoned RR. Not just any RR mind you, this one was the busiest in CN – around 1918. Okay, we decided to try the camping area at the southern end of the bike trail.

We arrived at Rock Lake CG around 1:00. The rangerette was amused by our registration routine. You see, Janie does the registering while I look around for interesting literature and stuff. It isn’t always obvious that we are together. When the registration person asks for her name, Janie replies, "Jane Boger". At that very moment, I step toward them and say, "Hey, what a coincidence. My name is Boger, too." When Janie gives her address, I reply "Hey, I live in Geneseo, too". By this time the registration person is either laughing or pulling a gun. This particular rangerette was laughing. She actually got into the act. Finally, she asked how long we had been married. Then she said she had just met her "soulmate". Earlier she had told us she had a four-year old daughter. Hmmm. We started a discussion about how sometimes you think things are good, but they really aren’t. Then when you do find something that is really good, you think back and say "What was I thinking then?" We concluded that people often do what they think they should rather than what they really should and it takes a certain amount of maturity to distinguish between the two. Ah, philosophy right there in the ranger station.

We set up camp. Hmmm, that used to mean unpacking the tent and bedding and putting it all together. Now it means leveling the RV and taking the bikes out. It was around 2:00, so we decided to have another sandwich and a cookie. Then we put the bags on the bikes and headed out for the RR bike trail. The trail went along the edge of a couple lakes. After about 4 miles, we came to a little bridge. It was a new bridge for the bike traffic, but the old pilings used for the RR were still there beside it. The crosspieces had rotted away, but this one had lasted long enough for a birch seedling to take hold. Now the roots of the adult tree had replaced the crosspiece and the trunk of the tree rose skyward from the center. It was like reincarnation. Unfortunately, the next bridge had been built on the old RR pilings, and recent rains resulted in washing it out, so a 20-foot segment of the RR bed had been replaced with a swiftly flowing steam. The washout had drained about 3 feet of water from the now adjoining lake. It must have been pretty spectacular when it first happened. Alas, we are forced to turn around and head back to camp. The round trip plus some side excursions netted us 9.5 miles of biking.

018-rocklake-camp.jpg (100923 bytes)  Rock Lake campsite #114. Yep, right on the lake, again.
017-rocklake-bike.jpg (68257 bytes)  Washout: the end of the bike trail for today.
019-rocklake-clouds.jpg (41650 bytes)  Rock Lake, clouds, and a spit of rain. You can't see the wind, but it is there.  

Back in camp, I did some bike maintenance while Janie washed the van windows. We had parked so the rear of the van was facing the lake – yep, another north woods lake. We sat on the bed and read and wrote logs – and had a cup of hot chocolate. You see, it has been cloudy (strata cumulus) and windy all afternoon. It even started spitting rain a couple times. It is only 65 inside, and I’m guessing it is around 55 with a 45 wind-chill outside. Not bad for March or April, but this is late May.

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