February 2017 Universal Orlando Trip Report - Day Two

We spent the afternoon at Islands of Adventure on Day One of our Universal Orlando trip, so we decided to spend the morning of Day Two in Universal Studios Florida. We got to the park gates just as the park as opening at 9:00 a.m. 

Getting to Universal early in the morning - especially as the parks are first opening - can be really helpful if you want to avoid heavy crowds. The wait times are short, even for the most popular rides, and smaller stores, such as those in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, aren't as crowded as they are later in the day. 

We spent most of the morning enjoying the theming, riding rides, and window shopping in some of our favorite stores. 

Rides at Universal Studios Florida

Our first stop was Transformers: The Ride 3-D. Jeremy is a big Transformers fan, so this ride is among our favorites at Universal Studios Florida. The posted wait time was 5 minutes, but we were able to breeze through the queue and get straight onto the loading platform and into Evac, the ride vehicle, with no wait. (Note: If you want to ride Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, we recommend heading to that ride FIRST when the park opens. The wait times for that ride typically hover around 60 minutes for the rest of the day, even when crowd levels are low.) 

We went to The Simpsons Ride next. This ride was closed for a refurbishment during the second half of January, so we were keen to get back on it. The posted wait time was 10 minutes but we only waited about 6 minutes before we were ushered into the pre-show area. I realized about 30 seconds into the ride that I forgot to take my Dramamine, which made me feel a little panicky. Even with the Dramamine, I tend to feel slightly nauseated on The Simpsons Ride as well as my favorite ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. But for some reason, it wasn't so bad this time. I don't know if I'm getting tougher or if I benefited from an empty stomach or if the refurb helped with the screen-induced motion sickness. In any case, I can still brag that I've never thrown up at Universal. Yay!

We walked around in Springfield for a bit while we waited for E.T. Adventure to open. This ride usually opens about one hour after the rest of the park. E.T. Adventure is kind of like a slow-paced bicycle ride through an LSD-induced dream world. It isn't considered to be among the most thrilling rides in Universal Studios Florida, but it is a classic, and we thoroughly enjoy it each time we ride. The posted wait time was 5 minutes, but we were only in line for about 2 minutes before Steven Spielberg came on screen to explain our mission. The ride was awesome. I got a good seat: E.T. was in the basket of my bike and I heard him say my name loud and clear at the end of the ride.
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 The Transformers Ride is located in the Nonbiological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty (N.E.S.T.) base in Production Central. A 28-foot statue of Optimus Prime stands above the ride entrance. The ride has 13 HD screens.

The Transformers Ride is located in the Nonbiological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty (N.E.S.T.) base in Production Central. A 28-foot statue of Optimus Prime stands above the ride entrance. The ride has 13 HD screens.

 Scorponok is a Decepticon that was sent to seek and destroy a unit under the command of Captain Lennox in the first Transformers movie. Scorponok lost his tail early in the movie. You can see it the queue for the Transformers Ride.

Scorponok is a Decepticon that was sent to seek and destroy a unit under the command of Captain Lennox in the first Transformers movie. Scorponok lost his tail early in the movie. You can see it the queue for the Transformers Ride.

 A shard from the AllSpark is in the queue for the Transformers Ride. The Decepticons (the bad guys) are after the AllSpark. As a N.E.S.T. recruit, your job is to make sure they don't get it.

A shard from the AllSpark is in the queue for the Transformers Ride. The Decepticons (the bad guys) are after the AllSpark. As a N.E.S.T. recruit, your job is to make sure they don't get it.

 Video screens in the Transformers Ride queue play briefings from General Morshower and various Transformers.

Video screens in the Transformers Ride queue play briefings from General Morshower and various Transformers.

 The Simpsons Ride is located in the Springfield area of Universal Studios Florida. This motion simulator ride takes guests on a trip to Krustyland. All of the action takes place on an 80-foot IMAX dome.

The Simpsons Ride is located in the Springfield area of Universal Studios Florida. This motion simulator ride takes guests on a trip to Krustyland. All of the action takes place on an 80-foot IMAX dome.

 The Simpsons Ride queue is primarily a large collection of switchbacks. There isn't much to see. Most of the entertainment comes from video screens that play animated clips.

The Simpsons Ride queue is primarily a large collection of switchbacks. There isn't much to see. Most of the entertainment comes from video screens that play animated clips.

 E.T. Adventure is located in Woody Woodpecker's KidZone. The ride takes guests to E.T.'s home planet (the Green Planet). You'll see more than 300 characters, plants, and trees when you visit this attraction. 

E.T. Adventure is located in Woody Woodpecker's KidZone. The ride takes guests to E.T.'s home planet (the Green Planet). You'll see more than 300 characters, plants, and trees when you visit this attraction. 

 Look for E.T. in E.T.'s Toy Closet & Photo Spot (the gift shop) when you exit the E.T. Adventure ride. You can take a picture of E.T. for free, but a picture with E.T. will cost you money. 

Look for E.T. in E.T.'s Toy Closet & Photo Spot (the gift shop) when you exit the E.T. Adventure ride. You can take a picture of E.T. for free, but a picture with E.T. will cost you money. 

New Stuff in the New York Area of Universal Studios Florida

In the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie, Newt, Tina, Queenie, and Jacob visit a 1920's New York speakeasy called The Blind Pig. The entrance to The Blind Pig is found behind a painting designed to look like an ad for lipstick. If you're recognized as magical, the painting will come to life and allow you entry into the speakeasy. The Blind Pig painting was created for the movie by graphic designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who also designed the artwork for many of the props in the Harry Potter films. 

Universal added The Blind Pig painting into the New York Area of Universal Studios Florida shortly before the Celebration of Harry Potter in January, so we stopped by to see if this painting was still there. It was! We're not sure how long this painting will remain in the area. If you want to look for it, we suggest starting your search near The Film Vault store in New York. 

We also visited The Tonight Shop, which contains a wide range of Fallon related merchandise, including pants, shirts, jackets, hats, glasses, keychains, and much more. You can also purchase NBC merchandise that we haven't seen in any other store. A small stash of Universal merchandise, such as shirts, hats, and hoodies, rounds out the selection. We didn't buy anything in The Tonight Shop, but we did have fun looking around. 

 The painting on The Blind Pig door was created by graphic designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima.

The painting on The Blind Pig door was created by graphic designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima.

 Technical rehearsals for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon began at the beginning of March. 

Technical rehearsals for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon began at the beginning of March. 

 The Tonight Shop is located next to Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. You will exit into this store when you get off the ride.

The Tonight Shop is located next to Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. You will exit into this store when you get off the ride.

 The Tonight Shop has lots of merchandise related to bits on The Tonight Show, such as Hashtag the Panda shirts, Ragtime Gals' hats, etc.

The Tonight Shop has lots of merchandise related to bits on The Tonight Show, such as Hashtag the Panda shirts, Ragtime Gals' hats, etc.

 Tight Pants merchandise in The Tonight Shop.

Tight Pants merchandise in The Tonight Shop.

 NBC merchandise in The Tonight Shop.

NBC merchandise in The Tonight Shop.

Shopping at The Film Vault

The Film Vault, which opened in the summer of 2014, is one of our favorite stores in Universal Studios Florida. This store is full of merchandise based on classic properties like Jaws, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, The Breakfast Club, The Godfather, The Big Lebowski, and Scarface. You can also find merchandise based on Universal's classic monsters and more recent films like Sharknado and Pitch Perfect. Merchandise includes, but is not limited to: posters, t-shirts, blankets, film cells, and collectible figures and toys. 

 The Film Vault is located in the New York area of USF on the corner of Delancey Street and 7th Avenue. 

The Film Vault is located in the New York area of USF on the corner of Delancey Street and 7th Avenue. 

 Slimer from the Ghostbusters franchise is for sale in The Film Vault for $900.

Slimer from the Ghostbusters franchise is for sale in The Film Vault for $900.

 E.T. and Jaws merchandise in The Film Vault store in Universal Studios Florida. 

E.T. and Jaws merchandise in The Film Vault store in Universal Studios Florida. 

 Universal classic monsters merchandise in The Film Vault store in Universal Studios Florida. 

Universal classic monsters merchandise in The Film Vault store in Universal Studios Florida. 

Lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Most of the restaurants in the park and CityWalk open at 11:00 a.m., so this is when we like to eat lunch. If you wait until noon, the restaurants start to fill up, and if the park is really busy, you may have to wait to get a seat depending on where you dine. We've only been to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. one other time, and we enjoyed the experience, so we decided to go back for another meal. 

The restaurant was practically empty when we arrived at 11:10. We were immediately seated and greeted by our server, Patrick, who offered to answer any questions we had about the menu. We weren't hungry enough for appetizers, so we just ordered two drinks and two entrees. Jeremy had a Big and Frosty, a non-alcoholic frozen drink in a souvenir glass ($8.99). This drink had a tropical flavor and was very tasty. However, it was on a special menu insert, so we think it may be a temporary offering. I ordered a soda ($3.89) because I was craving a Mountain Dew. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is one of the few places on Universal property where you can get Pepsi products.  

We also had:

  • All-American Cheeseburger and Fries ($13.49): The starting price for this 1/2 pound burger is $11.49. We paid an extra $1.00 for cheese and another extra $1.00 for the burger patty to be made from grass-fed Angus beef from 44 Farms. For another $2.00, we could have had the burger topped with BBQ sauce and frizzled onions. The burger was cooked as requested, and the meat was tender and juicy. This is the second time that Jeremy has gotten this burger. He really liked it both times and would definitely get it again.    
  • Captain's Fish and Chips ($16.29): This entree includes three large pieces of beer-battered cod, French fries, coleslaw, and homemade tartar sauce. For an extra $5.00, you can get an even bigger portion of fish. This dish was almost sharable (I could only eat two of the three pieces of fish), so if you paid the extra $5.00, it would definitely be shareable. The fish was cooked perfectly. The batter was crisp, with no undercooked or mushy parts, and it was nicely seasoned and really tasty. The coleslaw was also some of the best coleslaw I've ever had in a restaurant. I would definitely get this again.

Our food came less than 15 minutes after we ordered it. We spent a total of 40 minutes at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. The service from Patrick was really good throughout the meal. He was friendly, helpful, and efficient. 

One of our favorite things about eating at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is the server system. Each table has two license plates on it. One says Stop Forrest Stop, and the other says Run Forrest Run. When you don't need anything, you display the Run Forrest Run license plate, and when you need something, you display the Stop Forrest Stop license plate. This ensures that you never wait too long for your server to stop by if you need a drink refill, more tartar sauce, or anything else. 

 Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is located in CityWalk. 

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is located in CityWalk. 

 Shrimp Louie is the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. mascot. 

Shrimp Louie is the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. mascot. 

 One of several seating areas inside Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

One of several seating areas inside Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

 The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. has Forrest Gump themed decor and movie memorabilia. 

The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. has Forrest Gump themed decor and movie memorabilia. 

 All-American Cheeseburger with French Fries from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

All-American Cheeseburger with French Fries from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

 Captain's Fish and Chips with French Fries and Coleslaw from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Captain's Fish and Chips with French Fries and Coleslaw from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Poolside at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort

After leaving Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., we felt like we needed a break, so we took the bus from CityWalk back to Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The bus ride took less than 7 minutes. Jeremy headed to our room to take a nap and I went outside to spend some time at both of the hotel pools. 

Cabana Bay Beach Resort Pool #1

The first pool at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort is the Cabana Bay Courtyard pool. It is surrounded by the Castaway, Thunderbird, and Starlight buildings, which house the family suites at Cabana Bay. 

 The Courtyard pool is a 10,000 square foot pool. It has an old-fashioned (decorative) diving platform.

The Courtyard pool is a 10,000 square foot pool. It has an old-fashioned (decorative) diving platform.

 The Courtyard pool has a 100-foot water slide. 

The Courtyard pool has a 100-foot water slide. 

 The Courtyard pool features a fenced-in kids' splash area with interactive features.

The Courtyard pool features a fenced-in kids' splash area with interactive features.

 The free water cannons at the Courtyard pool can be used to spray people down below. 

The free water cannons at the Courtyard pool can be used to spray people down below. 

 You can rent one or more private cabanas near the Courtyard pool. Each cabana includes seating, a refrigerator, television, fan, and the ability to get food and drinks delivered from Delizioso Pizza.

You can rent one or more private cabanas near the Courtyard pool. Each cabana includes seating, a refrigerator, television, fan, and the ability to get food and drinks delivered from Delizioso Pizza.

 The Atomic Tonic is located near the Courtyard pool. The menu features cocktails, mocktails, smoothies, wine, beer, and soda. 

The Atomic Tonic is located near the Courtyard pool. The menu features cocktails, mocktails, smoothies, wine, beer, and soda. 

 The Beach Pavilion near the Courtyard pool.

The Beach Pavilion near the Courtyard pool.

 The Bay Pavilion near the Courtyard Pool.

The Bay Pavilion near the Courtyard Pool.

 You can play table tennis and other games on a beach near the Courtyard pool. 

You can play table tennis and other games on a beach near the Courtyard pool. 

 There is an outdoor billiards table near the Courtyard pool. 

There is an outdoor billiards table near the Courtyard pool. 

Cabana Bay Beach Resort Pool #2

The second pool at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort is the Lazy River pool. It is located between the Americana and Continental buildings, which house the standard rooms at Cabana Bay. 

 The Lazy River pool is a 6,000 square foot zero-entry pool with a white sand beach.

The Lazy River pool is a 6,000 square foot zero-entry pool with a white sand beach.

 The kids' splash pad by the Lazy River pool is not as cool and interactive as the one at the Courtyard Pool. 

The kids' splash pad by the Lazy River pool is not as cool and interactive as the one at the Courtyard Pool. 

 The Lazy River pool gets its name from the lazy river that winds around the pool. It takes about 5-7 minutes to float down the river (you must have a tube). You might get splashed by waterfalls or water canons. 

The Lazy River pool gets its name from the lazy river that winds around the pool. It takes about 5-7 minutes to float down the river (you must have a tube). You might get splashed by waterfalls or water canons. 

 You can buy a tube for the lazy river from the Lazy River Tube Shack. You can pay with a debit card or credit card or charge your purchase to your room with your room key. Cash payments are not accepted.

You can buy a tube for the lazy river from the Lazy River Tube Shack. You can pay with a debit card or credit card or charge your purchase to your room with your room key. Cash payments are not accepted.

 There are several fire pits near the Lazy River pool. Fires are lit at night.

There are several fire pits near the Lazy River pool. Fires are lit at night.

 There is a small beach area near the Lazy River pool with games and other poolside activities. 

There is a small beach area near the Lazy River pool with games and other poolside activities. 

 The Hideaway Bar and Grill is located near the Lazy River pool at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The menu features appetizers, salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, desserts, and beverages.

The Hideaway Bar and Grill is located near the Lazy River pool at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The menu features appetizers, salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, desserts, and beverages.

 The Hideaway Bar and Grill is a quick service restaurant. You order food at the counter and choose your own seat. If you purchased the Cabana Bay Unlimited Refill Drink Package, you can refill your cup here.

The Hideaway Bar and Grill is a quick service restaurant. You order food at the counter and choose your own seat. If you purchased the Cabana Bay Unlimited Refill Drink Package, you can refill your cup here.

 Lower level seating at The Hideaway Bar and Grill.

Lower level seating at The Hideaway Bar and Grill.

 Upper level seating at The Hideaway Bar and Grill.

Upper level seating at The Hideaway Bar and Grill.

Rides in Islands of Adventure

After our midday break, we were ready for more park time, so we headed to Islands of Adventure and into Marvel Superhero Island. Before we talk about the rides we experienced, I should probably explain a little bit about how we tour the park. We don't like to wait in lines, and we typically do not have an Express Pass, so our entire touring plan revolves around choosing what to ride based on wait times. 

We check wait times with the free Universal Orlando App. This app will show you wait times in real time. You can even set up alerts that will notify you when the wait time has dropped below a specific time (such as 10 minutes) for any ride in the park. Touring the park in this way can result in more walking, but it does ensure that you do not spend your entire vacation waiting in line!

The wait times for each ride in Marvel Superhero Island were marked as 10 minutes or less, so we knew that this was the perfect time to hit Marvel and ride all four rides. 

In the end, we were able to ride all four Marvel rides in just 35 minutes. We even stopped by the Crimeline to get an update. During Day One (which consisted of just a couple of hours in the park) and Day Two, we were able to ride 10 rides and we waited less than 20 minutes total for all of them thanks to careful timing and the Universal Orlando App. 

 The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster in Islands of Adventure. On this ride, you reach speeds as high as 67 miles per hour as you travel the 3,700 feet of track. The accelerated launch is the best part. 

The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster in Islands of Adventure. On this ride, you reach speeds as high as 67 miles per hour as you travel the 3,700 feet of track. The accelerated launch is the best part. 

 Doctor Doom's Fear Fall in Islands of Adventure. This ride propels you 185 feet into the air with a thrust more powerful than a 747 jet engine. The ride is short but fun.

Doctor Doom's Fear Fall in Islands of Adventure. This ride propels you 185 feet into the air with a thrust more powerful than a 747 jet engine. The ride is short but fun.

 The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man in Islands of Adventure. This ride has 3D effects and a virtual 400 foot freefall experience.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man in Islands of Adventure. This ride has 3D effects and a virtual 400 foot freefall experience.

 This is one of the Crimeline Update Phones in Marvel. There is another one down villain's alley (on the way to the Doom ride). If you lift  the receiver of the phone and put it to your ear, you'll to hear a message.

This is one of the Crimeline Update Phones in Marvel. There is another one down villain's alley (on the way to the Doom ride). If you lift  the receiver of the phone and put it to your ear, you'll to hear a message.

Shopping in Port of Entry

Before leaving Islands of Adventure, we stopped by Islands of Adventure Trading Company store in Port of Entry. This store is sort of like the Universal Studios Store in Universal Studios Florida. The Islands of Adventure Trading Company store is near the entrance/exit of Islands of Adventure and has a mishmash of merchandise from every property featured at the park: Seuss, Harry Potter, Marvel Superheroes, Kong, Minions, Transformers, etc. You can also find general Universal Orlando merchandise. We really like this store because it is a good place to get a snapshot of the merchandise available in the park. You can also see some expensive collectible merchandise, such as Dumbledore's robe (can be purchased for $700).

We also stopped by Ocean Traders Market, located next to Islands of Adventure Trading Company, so that I could buy a Panama Jack hat ($19.95) to protect my head from the sun. We visited the Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe to browse the selection of holiday ornaments, and then went to the Port Provisions store, also in Port of Entry. Port Provisions is an excellent place to find discounted/clearance merchandise. For example, Port Provisions was selling a Universal hoodie exactly like the one I purchased at Islands of Adventure Trading Company in 2015. The hoodie was marked down from $59.99 (which is what I paid in 2015) to $39.99. Finally, on the way out, we stopped at the Last Chance Fruit Stand for bottled drinks. It's really important to stay hydrated while you're touring the parks!

 The Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe in Islands of Adventure

The Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe in Islands of Adventure

 The Islands of AdventureTrading Company store in Port of Entry in Islands of Adventure.

The Islands of AdventureTrading Company store in Port of Entry in Islands of Adventure.

 Port Provisions in Port of Entry in Islands of Adventure.

Port Provisions in Port of Entry in Islands of Adventure.

 The Last Chance Fruit Stand in Port of Entry in Islands of Adventure.

The Last Chance Fruit Stand in Port of Entry in Islands of Adventure.

Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida

On Mardi Gras nights, the French Quarter comes alive. You can hear live music performed by New Orleans bands, interact with performers from the Mardi Gras parade, and eat special Mardi Gras themed food like Beignets, Cajun Shrimp, Jambalaya, Po Boy Sandwiches, Gumbo, and Andouille Sausage. 

We were hanging around in the French Quarter listening to music when a Universal Team Member approached us and asked us if we wanted to ride in the parade and throw beads from one of the floats. We immediately said yes! The only thing more fun than watching the Universal Mardi Gras parade is being in the parade! 

We were sent to the Barney Courtyard in Woody Woodpecker's KidZone to get registered. This involved signing paperwork and learning how to throw beads (underhand or Frisbee style). After being strictly instructed not to take any pictures, we were led backstage, dressed in a Mardi Gras themed smock, and sent aboard our assigned float. 

We rode the Rise of Garuda float. Garuda is a birdlike creature from Hindu and Buddhist mythology. The phoenix is thought to be a contemporary representation of Garuda. There were 25 people on our float (including us). We were all instructed to have fun and throw as many beads as we could along the parade route. There is not an endless supply of beads on board, so we were also encouraged to ration the beads to ensure that everyone along the route got some. 

We were sent to register at 5:30 pm. The parade started at 6:45 pm. And we got off the float at about 7:30 pm. We really loved the experience and encourage you to ride a float in the Universal Mardi Gras parade if you ever get the chance. 

 Queen and King of Universal Mardi Gras in the French Quarter of Universal Studios Florida.

Queen and King of Universal Mardi Gras in the French Quarter of Universal Studios Florida.

 Rise of the Garuda Float in the Universal Mardi Gras parade.

Rise of the Garuda Float in the Universal Mardi Gras parade.

Dinner at Cabana Bay's Bayliner Diner

By the time the parade ended, the park had closed. CityWalk was packed with people, so we decided to head back to Cabana Bay for some dinner at Bayliner Diner. This diner is set up like a food court with various stations, including:

  • A Taste of the World: International eats
  • Delizioso Pizza: Pizza and pasta
  • Sizzlin' Good: Burgers and other items off the grill
  • Delicatessen: Sandwiches, wraps, and soups

You can also make your own salad at the salad bar, get frozen yogurt from the self-serve frozen yogurt machine, or visit one of the many coolers for prepackaged items like salads, sandwiches, desserts, and snacks. 

We were so hungry that we forgot to take a picture of our food (sorry!) and didn't remember until our plates were so demolished that a picture would have been a little pointless. But here is a description of what we ate:

  • Daily Changing Roast from A Taste of the World ($13.50): This entree came with a fresh-carved piece of pork loin, mashed potatoes and gravy, and corn on the cob. The pork slice was very thick and juicy, and the mashed potatoes were tasty. The corn was a little rubbery. 
  • Side Salad ($3.99): This salad was prepackaged and came out of one of the coolers. The greens were fresh. The grape tomatoes looked okay but some of them tasted a little sour. 
 The Bayliner Diner at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

The Bayliner Diner at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

 A World of Taste at Bayliner Diner.

A World of Taste at Bayliner Diner.

 A World of Taste menu featuring main dishes with prices.

A World of Taste menu featuring main dishes with prices.

 A World of Taste menu featuring sides and kids' meals with prices.

A World of Taste menu featuring sides and kids' meals with prices.

Annual Passholder Savings

We used our Preferred Annual Pass throughout our trip to get discounts on our hotel room, food, beverages, and merchandise.

On Day Two alone, we saved:

  • Hotel room: $59.00
  • Food and drinks: $5.23
  • Merchandise: $2.00

Total Annual Passholder Savings for Day Two: $66.23
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