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Day 559 – USA (LOUISIANA): From Mamou to Shady Grove United Pentecostal Church
1�� 30th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (LOUISIANA)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 46.8 miles
Average speed / ????: 9.1 mph
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 07m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2138mi (plus 266mi)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N20.48.08.5, W093.09.29.2

On the road after a restful day in Mamou, I was feeling better about life today. The sun was shining, I had a stiff tailwind blowing…life was good. The rough 5 miles of road construction on LA104 didn’t even manage to dampen my spirits. The last four miles of LA104 before it hits LA26 is also under construction, so I had that to contend with.

Roadworks near Mamou, Louisiana, USA

This area is a great rice growing area. Big paddy fields abound. The fields are used for rice one year, and crawfish the next. In the photo below, you can see the crawfish pots in the paddy fields.

Crawfish pots in paddy fields near Mamou, Louisiana, USA

I arrived in the small town of Oberlin just in time for lunch. I stopped in at the Tiger’s Den Cafe, hoping to get some beans and rice. “We’re out of beans, sorry,” Marilyn, the cafe owner said. “But we can make you up a big plate of eggs and rice.”

When the big plate of rice was handed to me, the comment was made that perhaps I might need a doggy bag. I made short work of it however, and ate every grain. One of these days I am going to have to make a count of the calories I burn!

I asked how much I owed them for the rice, and Marilyn would have nothing of it. “We get lots of cyclists through here, but not any skateboarders breaking records!” Thank you very much, Marilyn.

With Marilyn at the Tiger's Den Cafe, Oberlin, Louisiana, USA

Big skies ensued for the rest of the day, evidence for the approaching thunder and hail storms forecast for tomorrow.

Open skies near Oberlin, Louisiana, USA

I was still skating after dark, when I spied a church. Wednesday night is a big church night in the US, I have noticed. Most churches will have some sort of service or bible study on Wednesday night. Shady Grove Pentecostal Church was no exception.

I was an hour early for the 7:30pm service, but I wandered into the church anyway. It was warm inside. It’s not every day that Pastor Phillips, Pastor Stevens, and Wesley Coon have a cross-country skateboarder attend a service. “We get lots of cyclists,” they said. “But you’re a first!”

After the service I asked if I could camp on the church grounds. Pastor Phillips would have nothing of it, and insisted that I allow the church to provide a motel room for the night for me. “It’s going to be a nasty storm tonight, what with that bad weather coming” he warned. My first motel room for over a year, I couldn’t say no.

With Pastor Phillips and Rob at Shady Grove United Pentecostal Church, Shady Grove, Louisiana, USA

Pastor Stevens drove me the 8 miles to DeRidder and got me set up at the motel. We arranged for him to pick me up in the morning and take me back to the church so I could complete those 8 miles from the church to the motel.

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Day 558 – USA (LOUISIANA): Rain and thunderstorms in Mamou
1�� 29th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (LOUISIANA)
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The rain was not at all unexpected. Todd had already offered for me to stay for the day, to avoid having to skate in the rain. I spent most of the morning in the library trying to update the website, however not only was Flickr.com and Youtube.com blocked, but I had forgotten to bring my USB card reader to transfer files from my camera to the computer.

I just researched my onward route for most of the morning.

For breakfast, Matt treated me to Boudin. Cajun sausage. Pork and rice encased in pig’s intestines. It was delicious.

Making boudan in Mamou, Louisiana, USA

For lunch, also Boudin. This time smoked. Great stuff.

In the early afternoon Todd and Matt drove me out of town to scope out roads for my onward route. LA104 was under construction, so we planned an alternate route that cut out most of the bad road surface.

I went for a one hour nap at 4pm and woke up at 6pm. Thank you to Todd and Susan and the family for a wonderful restful day.

With Ardoin family in Mamou, Louisiana, USA

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Day 557 – USA (LOUISIANA): From the Melville ferry to Mamou – Cajun country!
1�� 28th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (LOUISIANA)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 58 miles / 93km
Average speed / ????: 8.1mph / 13km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 7h 10m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2091mi (plus 266mi) / 3365km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.38.30.1, W092.25.07.5

Wow. Sooooo tired. I really did feel like I was wearing my legs down to stumps today (as Rob from www.chinawheelie.com suggested might happen).

Melville ferry, Melville, Louisiana, USA

I was woken by the ferry at the ungodly hour of 5am this morning. It was still well and truely dark, and jolly cold. Ice on the inside and outside of my tent. For some reason, the cold feels different here than in, say, Turkey. This time last year, I was holed up in an internet cafe due to icy snow. I prefer that to whatever is going on with the cold here in Louisiana. Brrrr.

Chilly morning at the Melville ferry, Louisiana, USA

The day didn’t improve much, with rough roads and sore legs. I am now on the Adventure Cycle Association route again. I abandoned the route in Alabama due to too much traffic. So at least I didn’t have to think about the route. Just turn left or right where the map tells me to.

Misty morning near Melville, Louisiana, USA

Just in case you were thinking about it, no, you can’t ride your horse through Pamletto, Louisiana. No. Naughty. You just can’t. Jamie from Slidell (who has moved to Florida), if you’re reading this, keep that in mind. No riding your horse through Palmetto.

No horses in Palmetto, Louisiana, USA

All the pain and suffering of today was forgotten however when I got to Mamou. This rather unassuming town of not quite 3,000 people is the Cajun capital of the USA. They have a Mardi Gras festival that attracts tens of thousands of people, even from overseas.

I asked directions to the local campground at the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store, and a guy that talked kind of funny gave me directions to the only motel in town. He thought that perhaps they would allow people to camp there.

I went to the ‘campground’, and found a seedy looking place complete with a slightly out of it looking woman sifting through the rubbish dumpster. US$15 a night for a campsite, was the going rate. I decided I would be better off sleeping under a tree in the nearby woods.

I went into town to buy some food, and was advised by a local to ask at Saint Anne’s church if I could camp in their back yard. Great idea, I thought, and a few minutes later was sitting at the church office desk working on the website, with a spot to camp all sorted out. Thanks to Father Bob for being so helpful!

Not long after however, the guy who talked kind of funny came wandering into the church. The guy from the Piggly Wiggly’s. Mat was his name, and he had come to find me to offer to stay at his place for the night. His dad, he explained, was cooking up a big pot of stewed duck, and I was welcome to stay. Say no more, I said, and off we went to his place.

Arriving at Mat’s place, it was apparent that this ‘talking kind of funny’ is just the way people talk around here. His dad Todd, mum Susan, brother Chris, and sister Olivia. They all talk different from the southern drawl that I have become accustomed to here in the south. It is an almost melodic, clipped accent that is easy on the ears. It really sets the area apart from the rest of Louisiana.

And the food. Mmmmmm. The food.

Stewed mallard duck and dove Cajun style in Mamou, Louisiana, USA Stewed dove Cajun style in Mamou, Louisiana, USA

Todd knows what he’s doing when it comes to Cajun cooking. He nursed that pot of duck and dove for more than an hour. Adding water when it needed it, adding spices…a Cajun delight. The duck and dove were shot by the guys of the family themselves, Todd apologising as he pulled out a bit of lead shot as he served up a bit of duck breast for me.

It was a great finish to a not-so-great day of skating.

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Day 556 – USA (LOUISIANA): From Livonia to the Melville Ferry landing
1�� 27th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (LOUISIANA)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 46.5 miles / 74.9km
Average speed / ????: 7.9mph / 12.8km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 51m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2033mi (plus 266mi) / 3272km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.41.13.6, W091.43.56.3

Joel, a long time 14degrees Blog reader and ex-coworker from Japan just posted a comment saying that my journal inspires. I am glad that someone is. I certainly wasn’t today. A massive 30 mile detour to get around the US190 bridge that crosses the Atchafalaya Basin was the name of the game today. I felt uninspired and tired for the whole day. Ugh.

The Morganza Spillway was nice enough.

Morganza spillway, Morganza, Louisiana, USA

And I got up to 2,000 miles on my GPS unit.

2,000 miles on the GPS near Morganza, Louisiana, USA

As you can see from the data at the beginning of this journal entry, there is actually another 200-odd miles that are not on the GPS unit. These are miles that were not recorded due to me not having a GPS unit right at the beginning of the skateboard leg of the journey in Switzerland. There are also some miles not recorded due to batteries running out.

Being Sunday, I had to camp at the ferry landing on the other side of Melville. The ferry doesn’t run on Sundays. Or Saturdays.

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Day 555 – USA (LOUISIANA): From Baton Rouge to Livonia
1�� 26th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (LOUISIANA)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 37 miles / 59.6km
Average speed / ????: 8.0mph / 12.9km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 36m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 1986mi (plus 266mi) / 3197km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.33.18.8, W091.33.53.9

I didn’t get away from Baton Rouge until almost 1pm today. I left Couchsurfing.com hosts Christina and Raphael’s place at 9:30am, and then spent an hour or so re-cleaning my bearings on the skateboard. I had tried cleaning them out last night with water, since they were full of water anyway from the deluge, but there was still grit in them. I stopped by a local hardware store, bought some electrical cleaner, and went to work in their workshop. I find that electrical cleaner is the best stuff for cleaning bearings, as it dries really quickly, leaves no residue, and is highly pressurised. It blasts the grime out of the bearings.

Skating through Baton Rouge, I went past the WAFB Channel 9 News station. What the heck, I thought, and rung the buzzer on the gate. A station reporter wandered out, and I explained what I was doing. Next thing I know, I am being interviewed in the studio live on the 12 o’clock news.

On the news in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

After the interview, it was well and truely time to get out of Baton Rouge. Enter, the Mississippi River. Big dirty old river. Wonderful.

Skating alongside the Mississippi River, Louisiana, USA

Getting over the big dirty river was not a very nice experience. I went over the US190 bridge. No shoulder, two lanes, lots of traffic.

I followed US190 for a few miles, but I soon got tired of the rough shoulder and noisy traffic. I took a much less traveled road (LA415 and LA620) that took me off the beaten track and through flat wet farm land for a while.

A country store wouldn’t hear anything of it when I tried to buy some sports drink, and even made a sandwich for me for the road.

Helpful slaughterhouse owners near Livonia, Louisiana, USA

When I got back onto US190, everything had changed. I was now on a new four lane highway with beautiful wide smooth shoulders. And despite the ever-present small stones and grit (as is typical here in Louisiana), I enjoyed this short reprieve from the terrible roads of Louisiana.

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Day 554 – USA (LOUISIANA): From Springfield to a very wet Baton Rouge
1�� 25th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (LOUISIANA)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 44.1 miles / 70.9km
Average speed / ????: 8.8mph / 14km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 59m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 1948mi (plus 266mi) / 3136km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.26.26.8, W091.09.32.6

At last the rain has cleared, leaving a beautiful day in its wake. Even better, I had a tailwind for most of the day. Thank you to the Martins for a wonderful two days resting at their place!

With hosts in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

I wasn’t expecting much in the way of smooth roads today, and I was seriously considering skateboarding on the Interstate highway, I-12. I was half way down the entry ramp when I decided not to, and continued down US-190.

For most of the way from Holden to Walker, there was no shoulder on US-190, and I had to skate very defensively. Traffic was light to moderate. After Walker, I had a smooth, passable 3-foot shoulder that would at least keep me outside the white line.

Typical stream colour in Louisiana, USA

Arriving in Baton Rouge at 4pm, I made it to the UPS Store just in time for the skies to open. It was a deluge. I had to go to the UPS Store to pick up a GPS data cable, supplied by Charlie Gonzalez of Pensacola. The staff were great, and I was able to put together another log book to replace the old one that was full.

Guinness World Record log book

I fill this log book in each night, and include as much information as possible about the day. It includes road conditions, weather, distances, food, breaks…

From the UPS Store to where I am staying tonight is about ten miles. One hour by skateboard. It is raining cats and dogs. Baton Rouge is a death trap for anyone on the roads, especially if you’re on a bicycle or a skateboard. There are no shoulders, and no footpaths. This time, I was not going to back off. The Interstate it is!

I covered my pack with a big bin liner, put on my waterproof clothing, and I set out. I kept more or less dry for the first half hour. Interstate 12 has wide shoulders, and I skateboarded towards east-bound traffic. It was rush hour, but no one was rushing. Traffic was bumper to bumper, crawling along. I felt safe.

The wind was miraculously still behind me, pushing me west to Christina and Raphael’s home. I passed three police cars, and they didn’t seem to care about the guy on a skateboard. I got to the junction with I-10 and had to cross two lanes of traffic to keep on the shoulder. It was pitch black, with only street lights and car lights to give me some direction.

I stepped across a short wedge of grass that petered out to a point as the two interstate highways converged. I-12 into I-10. I took another step, trying to time my progress so that I could dash through a gap in the slow moving traffic.

With the next step, I stepped into what I thought was going to be a shallow puddle. With the rain still beating down, there were puddles everywhere. This step was also my committing step to begin my dash across the I-10 exit ramp. With one great effort I planted my foot…into nothing.

I went down like a sack of bricks as my foot disappeared into the black water. My foot never hit the bottom, but my upper thigh took the brunt of the fall into the side of the ditch, sending me toppling towards traffic.

This time my leg hurt more than my pride, a great burning sensation welling up from the front of my thigh. The two closest cars stopped, and let me across. What a dimwit, I thought. That was no puddle, it was a deep drainage ditch or culvert, hidden under water.

I had no other option but to push on, my leg throbbing. In another 30 minutes I was at Christina and Raphael’s place. Sodden. Their place, you realise, is immaculate. Clean and crisp, there is a faint aroma of incense. And here I am dripping wet and covered in road grime.

Christina doesn’t seem to mind at all. Happens all the time, or at least you’d think so by her reaction. She pulls me inside and shows me to the bathroom where I can take a shower and get changed into my dry clothes.

Christina and her husband Raphael are Couchsurfing.com hosts. They open their home to travelers who need a place to crash for the night. They are both originally from Mexico, Raphael a PhD student studying fish farming. I had kept them waiting. Christina had made a large batch of pasta with a delicious asparagus and chicken sauce. Thank you for a great restful evening, guys!

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Day 553 – USA (LOUISIANA): Working on it
1�� 24th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (LOUISIANA)
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Ugh. Rain. I decided to wait it out till noon, and then go if it had cleared up. Todd took me out to the Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Thousands of wonderful calories. Grits, bacon, eggs, hashed potato, sausage…

By noon the rain had stopped. I jumped into action. Packed the bags. Combed my hair. Painted my nails.

By the time I was ready to leave, it was raining again. I chucked in the towel and decided to stay for the day. Todd needed me to help out at a work site he was working on anyway, and I needed the exercise.

So another day of no skating. Frustrating, but at least I got to hang out with the Martins for another night of raucous family fun.

The three misvits in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

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Day 552 – USA (LOUISIANA): Fun in Springfield
1�� 23rd, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (LOUISIANA)
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As I am sitting here, I am trying to figure out why I didn’t continue skating today. There was some talk of me helping my host Todd with a website for his building business…in the end that never happened, and I ended up being spoiled with far too much food and great times blasting around in the woods on a 4×4.

The day began with breakfast at Navarre Bakery. They make the most delicious King Cakes on the planet (granted, I’ve only tasted one other).

Navarre's Famous King Cakes in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

Navarre's Famous King Cakes in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

IMG_6004Navarre's Famous King Cakes in Springfield, Louisiana, USA Navarre's Famous King Cakes in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

The cakes are about 10% bread and 90% filling (cream cheese and strawberry jam). Such good badness, such bad goodness. The individually wrapped fillings are twisted together and shaped into a big donut shape. Topped with delicious frosting and coloured sugar, the resulting product is amazingly decedent.

After breakfast Todd and I did some sightseeing around the town, including Tin Lizzy’s Landing, a famous restaurant and bar that featured in a Hollywood movie, Roadhouse II. In the film, the bar was called the Black Pelican.

Tin Lizzy's Landing in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

Pirate in Tin Lizzy's in Springfield, Louisiana, USA Tin Lizzy's owner Scott in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

The whole Springfield area is surrounded in swamps. Despite their dirty image, the swamps are wonderfully peaceful and beautiful.

Swamp land in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

Swamp in Springfield, Louisiana, USA Swamp in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

That was of course until we got the 4×4 out and blatted around the forest on narrow trails, checking on motion triggered cameras that Todd has set up.

Checking hunting sites in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

Todd and his brother are very into their hunting. They have permission from a local land owner to hunt on a large tract of land, and do so at every opportunity. The cameras are set up pointing towards a pile of corn dumped on the ground to keep the deer in the vicinity. Lulling the deer into their sights, so to speak.

The land is accessible only by foot or 4×4. At times we were driving through thigh-deep water through the swamps.

4x4ing in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

Checking hunting sites in Springfield, Louisiana, USA 4x4ing in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

Evening saw a family gathering at Charlies’s restaurant, where everything is in gigantic portions. Even the onion rings were colossal. So big they needed their own plate!

Onion rings so big they need their own plate (at Charlies restaurant in Springfield, Louisiana, USA)

Today was an altogether unexpected day off. Great fun, and I hope I can come and visit again!

With the Martins in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

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Day 551 – USA (LOUISIANA): From Covington to Springfield
1�� 22nd, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (LOUISIANA)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 38.9 miles / 62.6km
Average speed / ????: 7.8mph / 12.6km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 58m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 1904mi (plus 266mi) / 3065km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.26.50.0, W090.34.11.1

A rather blase day of skating today. Weather was fine, but I spent the day feeling worn out and out of energy. Just one of those days. The roads didn’t help. Below photo is ’nuff said, really.

Loving the Louisiana roads (near Ponchatoula, Louisiana, USA)

I spent a little time in the Ponchatoula library updating the website, and made it to Springfield around 4:45pm. I stopped in at the Springfield town hall to ask directions to roads without much traffic and a shoulder and was given the bad news. “You’re in Louisiana,” the friendly staff said. “Not many of those kinds of roads around here apart from the Interstate.”

We did come to the conclusion that I should carry on along Highway 42, that being the lesser of many evils. Don’t be fooled by the ‘highway’ term. They’re all country roads. I left the town hall and headed in the direction I was supposed to.

A few minutes later a vehicle drove past me on the road, stopping ahead of me. It was one of the ladies from the town hall, Denise. “You realise you were supposed to take a left up there?” she asked.

Indeed I had mistaken the road and was heading along Highway 43 instead of 42. Turned out to be for my good however, and Denise invited me to her home to stay the night. “Don’t worry,” she reassured me. “I have a husband!”

So I am staying with the Martin family tonight. Miss Helen, Bill, Denise, Todd, Tracy, Heather, and Bethany. A lively household, a delight to be with. They introduced me to gumbo, a type of Cajun cooking here in Louisiana. Spicy gravy-like sauce with all sorts of goodies in it. Shrimp, crawfish, lobster…excellent…served over rice.

Thank you to the Martins for being such great hosts!

With Heather (left) and Bethany (right) in Springfield, Louisiana, USA

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Day 550 – USA (LOUISIANA): From Slidell to Covington
1�� 21st, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (LOUISIANA)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 51.7 miles / 83.3km
Average speed / ????: 8.9mph / 14.8km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 49m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 1865mi (plus 266mi) / 3002km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.27.21.8, W090.06.17.2

Anyone from this area will tell you it is not 51 miles from Slidell to Convington. They will tell you it’s about 35 miles. Where did the extra miles come from, you might ask. They came from going around and around in circles, trying to find smooth and traffic free roads. Back roads, side roads, main roads with shoulders…anything that I could skate on safely. None were to be found today however, and for the first time in the US, I seriously considered skating on the Interstate highway (big nastly expressway).

I began the day well, despite having to say goodbye to lovely Renee and Jamie who had let me stay for a couple of days and see the Mardi Gras parade in Slidell.

With Renee and Jamie in Slidell, Louisiana, USA

By chance, I stopped in at a huge strip mall in West Slidell, and leaving the car park, I noticed some signs indicating bicycles crossing. Investigating further, I found that I was at the beginning of the Tammany Trace, an awesome 31 mile cycle path from Slidell to Covington. Fantastic. The great thing about a cycle path is that I can listen to music at full volume and just switch off. No having to concentrate on staying within a road shoulder, no contending with stones and glass on the road…bliss.

I arrived at Covington at the end of the trail at about 4pm. From here I headed to US highway 190, but soon gave up on that one due to no paved shoulders and too much traffic. I took some back streets back to Covington, and ended up camping out at a public boat launch in Menetre Park in Covington. Just before I got into my tent a local police officer on his regular rounds passed by and asked what I was doing. They don’t get too many people camping out in that area, and he had to call another officer to see if it was OK. It seems it was, him letting me stay. I gave me the local police dapartment phone number to call if I had any troubles, and reassured me that officers would be coming by regularly on rounds and would keep an eye on my tent.

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