With 2021 being chock full of trips and photo opportunities alike, it's been a very busy year to say the least. Late summer and fall were really intense - a weekend with the IAIS 6988, then just a few days later embarking on the Big Boy 2021 tour, and the back-to-back London/Drumsheds and MILW261 trips (not to mention the LS&I trip a month and some change before it all). It was just packed. So, of course, there has to be something to round it all off.
Well, in that case, I took another adventure up north to Wisconsin to see the Soo Line 1003, where I participated in the Trains Magazine photo charter with the little 2-8-2. Now that was quite a weekend, and quite a send off as my last trip for the year. Clocking in at three days including transit, this little outing would prove to be quite the experience indeed.
Coming off the heels of the 261, I'd shot three steam engines this year, all with varying degrees of success. The question was how the 1003 would stack up. I'd shot it last year, but as I was very much still getting back into manual shooting at the time, a lot of those shots didn't turn out quite as well as I'd hoped. This year, armed with a new camera and another years worth of experience, I hoped for a successful outing - and I think I got it, but not after a bit of stress to say the least.
The itinerary for this one was simple - drive up Saturday to catch the ferry move from Hartford to Horicon (it would go farther north, however it would get too dark to catch it moving any farther), do the photo charter all day Sunday, and drive home on Monday. Pretty simple, all told.
Well, in what's becoming an uncomfortable trend, my cars check engine light popped on the weekend prior to the charter. I was wandering around the Bloomer Line near Gibson City and heading home when the light came on. Thankfully I had more time than with the nightmare before the 261, and this one didn't even need any work - it seemed to be a false alarm, seeing as I was able to just have the light reset and burn off a tank of what my mechanic suspected was bad gas, and it hasn't come back on in the nearly 1500 miles I've thrown on since then.
With that squared away, I was able to get up to Hartford relatively fine on the Saturday. It wasn't flawless though, as I got out later than I wanted to thanks to having to double back home to grab my scanner that I'd forgotten after twenty minutes of driving already. So, by the time I arrived in Iron Ridge, I was "late," but only to a point. Thankfully, steam engines are never on time, so by the time I wandered into Rubicon, I was still ahead of it. Still, some unexpected stops and other fuckery really put a dent into the day. Not even worth detailing, but it just wasn't my day to say the least.
At any rate, I found myself watching the 1003 absolutely booking it, tender forward, out to Horicon. It appeared practically out of nowhere, and I had hardly any time to set up for a photo. Definitely not what I was expecting!
Asuaul, most photos in this post are screenshots of Bridge RAW previews, so the colours are muted looking even though in reality they're more vibrant, just keep that in mind!
It turns out they've really raised the track speeds since I was here last. Thing was going fast enough that I wasn't even able to capture a proper freeze frame...
The next place I was able to even catch up to it was the unincorporated village of Woodland, but with little time to work with and being generally out of it, I didn't get anything noteworthy. It's not nearly as photogenic when it's moving backwards, at any rate.
Chasing it through Iron Ridge and beyond was a losing battle, it was simply out pacing us greatly. The 25mph speed limit through town sure didn't help, either. While the chasing party was less intense than last year, it was still busy enough, and getting ahead wasn't the easiest task in the world. The last place I was able to beat it at was at a crossing outside Horicon, on highway TW. That became a fun location the next day, as it would turn out...
Well, as usual, tender forward and quickly falling light conditions with a cloudy sky. Less than ideal, to say the least.
While I didn't beat it into Horicon, I did make it there in time to watch them do some work. The train had been carrying the SOO caboose, Milwaukee Road boxcar and flatcar, but nothing else. At Horicon's yard, it would pick up some ballast hoppers to extend the photo freight for the charter. Horicon's yard also acts as a large wye, allowing the whole train to turn around if need be, and indeed some turning around was required, though that would mostly happen as it got too dark to shoot.
At Horicon though, I ran into some friends and met a few other folks, some familiar faces and some not, which was good. The less than stellar success rate of the chase and the generally sour day just hadn't been going my way, but finding some people I knew definitely brightened it up a little. We caught up, a few introductions were made, and we chatted about the excursion and other going ons.
As it got darker and colder alike, most of them took off, and I initially made to do so, but I ended up following the train to the north leg of the wye, where many others had collected themselves. The light was definitely not in my favour, but a streetlight or yard light or what have you did improve it a little bit, anyway.
I headed back to the eastern wye leg and watched them switch for a little while longer, catching them come up close once, before they retreated back into the yard to wait for a while. Earlier on the scanner, dispatch had informed them that a truck had gotten stuck on Swan Road - a location on our photo charter the next day - and wouldn't be removed for another few hours, so they had a bit of a wait ahead of them. They assured them it'd be cleared anyway, so I wasn't worried on that front.
With that, I returned to my car and headed to Beaver Dam, where I'd check into my hotel and shortly after that, check in with the photo charter and get my lanyard and packet and such. That process was nice and quick, and we got a good overview of what the next day would entail - a map with locations for our photoshoots, rough schedule, etc. There was even a little Trains Magazine pin in there, a nice little bonus. I ran into a few more familiar faces there, which was nice. I think I must've been one of the youngest people on the charter - this certainly attracts a certain demographic to say the least!
That night I did a little map research and just sort of tried to plan for the next day. I expected cold, and there was a chance of snow (not that I expected any though). It would be a long day no doubt, but I hoped it would go well. For whatever reason, sleeping that night just wasn't the easiest...
It would be an early day as well, that Sunday. Me personally, I'm a late sleeper, but for this, it was a 5am sort of day. It would be a half hours drive to our first photo location at the small town of Brandon, WI, and I wanted to top up on gas before I got there. Imagine my surprise when I woke up to see all the cars outside my window covered in snow.
Thankfully, that snow wasn't hiding ice, and so after appropriately layering up for the day - couple shirts, nice thick hoodie, my go-to jacket - I got on the road. I was a little later than I was planning for, but I got to Brandon in time all the same. The drive there had been surprisingly snowy - it wasn't exactly a white blanket over everything, but the snow was definitely coming down pretty heavily and doing its damndest to coat everything in its path. By the time I reached Brandon itself, the flakes coming down were huge - both in size and number!
But, that was stellar news. I've never shot steam in the snow, and now, I had my first chance!
Upon arriving, I met up with some of my friends and took a few shots of the idling engine - note how it's melted much of the snow directly around it! I was surprised to find I wasn't totally freezing to death - already off to a better start than last year for sure.
After a few minutes, our event organizer from Trains Magazine called everyone over and gave some brief announcements, mostly regarding the pacing and safety routine for the day. It all boiled down to just be sensible, keep your distance from the tracks, and don't go running and speeding around everywhere, as the train was there for us, we could tell them what to do in essence.
So, we got right to it! The first shot would be with one of the organizers velocipede, sort of a bike on railroad wheels with a third one to keep it stable, and our "model" as a crewman, set up with a period outfit and a lit lantern no less. The train would pose, do some runbys, and we'd have chances to shoot from various angles and positions.
As it turned out, that snow & cold really made it an interesting one.
I tried wide angling at first, but then switched back to my 18-135. As the train was backing up for its next runby, I happened to get one shot that just worked a little too well. Everything lined up - from poses to the beam of light, it was the perfect winter photo. It worked out almost too well!
We did a few more runbys, I changed sides for the last one, though visibility was limited there for sure.
Then, we had a quick runby through the park we'd all started at, complete with the station sign. I didn't get to a position early enough though, so my spot and shots weren't that great here. Still, lots of smoke, which was fun to see.
Our next shot would be the Brandon grain elevators, and we'd do three runbys here. For the first one, I moved to the road paralleling the tracks and the old squared off elevator, opting for a bit of a wider angle. The challenges of snow shooting appear here, with big flakes right in our face. Sort of the nature of the beast, though.
The second runby, I parked myself at the railhead of the paralleling spur. If it weren't for the cold and wetness of the ground, I would've gone full railhead on this one, but this was as far as I could crouch reasonably.
For the last shot, I moved over to this old barn or storage building of some kind, opting for more of a side view of the train as it roared through town - and it worked surprisingly well! A few others joined me and the one other guy who had already set up there. Interesting how people always follow the footsteps of others, myself included really. I had to think of what would make the most sense here, and decided that shooting practically behind the wall of the building would give the shot a little more depth - and it worked out nicely, I think!
With that, our time in Brandon was up, and it was off to Waupan next. For that, we had our choice of shot between towns. I opted for the wide field shot, just going for simplicity. While we certainly had a few minutes to figure it out, I didn't want to scramble around between our four recommended spots looking for the one that was "just right" - if we'd done more runbys here, I'd have done other spots, but a snowy field is a snowy field. I had a nice and brief chat with the "ground" here - the crew member who would be shooting with us and communicating with the train crew to give them instructions. We briefly talked about the inaugural 2019 Big Boy trip, the Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension, and such. I've said it before and I'll say it again, these trips do make breaking the ice pretty easy when everyone is there for a common purpose!
Side note, when I returned to my car, I found that my parking location had been perfect for the soot of the engine to rain all across it. My white car was looking a little less... well, let's say it wasn't much of a white car anymore. Still is, actually, hah!
Our next shot was in Waupan. There, we'd have only one runby due to the sheer volume of crossings, being too many to flag. I couldn't find anywhere that really stuck out to me, so I went to a spot near a grain elevator where a number of others were congregating, but due to the bonus onlookers and the wires and such, I don't think i got terribly much from this town. It's a classic case of just not knowing the area too well - if I'd been through this area before, then I'd be better equipped I reckon.
It would be here that a friend of mine from online - not a member of the charter - would meet me, but I actually didn't recognize him until later when he mentioned it online. I'd never seen him before then, and I'm pretty terrible at recognizing people (and not to mention, still pretty tired all things considered).
While Waupan wasn't stellar, our shot at Milligan Road was much better. The snow, which had been decreasing, had made a pretty solid return, and shots from both sides were full of the raining snow crystals - you'll see where I found the title to one of the shots from there. Not to mention, it is also a reference to a New Order track (that's been a common theme lately for sure).
The other side of the tracks didn't pan out as well, but it was still solid. I don't love the headlights especially - this is just one of those things I've struggled with for ages now, shooting headlights properly. Green "flaring" around them comes up a lot, and generally that seems to increase based on light sensitivety and how far in I'm zoomed on a given lens. I'm not sure if there's really a cure-all for it outside of going mirrorless, maybe, but that's just too pricey. I could be wrong and maybe it's just a settings thing, but I don't know. One of the effects I found was that sometimes, a higher f/stop could reduce the green flare, but then bring about some astigmatic looks at times. I guess it's just gonna continue eluding me for the time being.
With our two runbys complete, we all hopped into our cars again and headed to the next location, one Red Cedar Road, where we'd have three runbys on a curved track, giving us a few different shooting options. For the first two, I tried different long distance angles, hoping to maybe get a spiritual successor to Watch The Smoke Rise from the year before, but I'm not sure I really got it. I think the first runby was a bit closer to that, so maybe a little more work and deliberating will net me a product I'm satisfied with.
As I had my telephoto out for this, I had to get at least one shot of the line of cars and the many photographers. Hey, look at that green headlight flare from the car over there - that's what I was talking about earlier. Also, the fella in the dark blue hoody on top of that jeep - that's that friend I mentioned earlier. Hey, Colt.
I didn't know they were doing a third unby until the train backed up again, so when I saw that, I headed down to the crossing to get a shot there. I thought I'd be able to do a simple wedge-esque photo of it coming around the curve, bu the 1003s smokeshows surprised me once again by hiding the entire consist almost immediately. While that could work, it also shadowed a bit too much for my liking...
So I went wide instead!
With yet another New Order reference for a title, The Sirens Call mostly refers to the whistle being the one thing - the call - that always alerts everyone to the train, always makes everyone quiet down, and without fail, brings that simultaneous stress and calm - one part stress for trying to make sure I get the shot I want, from settings to angles, and one part calm in knowing that the wait was over and that it was time to focus, nobody would be bothering me or anything now.
Burnett was our next stop after the last runby, and the train would park just outside of the small town, where all 50 something charter ticketholders would wait alongside dozens of others for the train. Realistically, we should all have been in town for the car shoot, but a large chunk of us wound up at different crossings, like the northernmost one in town.
And then, it was time for the shots with the classic cars!
Wit a number of runbys and angles to shoot from, all of us crawled all over the road and tracks alike looking for the right spot. We had our model and classic truck from the year prior, but the Marquette car was a new addition, and it looked really smooth! That was an excellent surprise to find for sure.
Gota have a little caboose love, too.
This area was definitely harder to shoot because of all the people and cars hanging all around. Many times people would be in the way of shots but too far to ask to move. Then there's the difficulty of not being in the way of someone elses shot, which all ultimately resulted in not getting stellar photos here. But, the whistle post shot and this one of the old Milwaukee Road switchstand were highlights for sure. I knew I had to get that Milwaukee stand in there if nothing else. I got just lucky enough with some timing...
I had a shot from the trucks side, but that didn't pan out at all. The steam cloud enveloping our model, though, did certainly deserve a brief mention.
Of course, no steam trip is complete without a stop for coal, and so after plenty of shots with the cars and train alike, it was time for just that.
I found myself with some friends near the grain elevator waiting for 1003, but unbeknownst to us, everyone else would be leaving for the next shot already. Still, some "private" time with the 1003 and the swirling clouds of steam was nice.
Our next shot was Swan Road, and in fact, if we were quick enough, we could actually get it twice on the same road, as there are two crossings on it. Initially eastbound, the road turns southbound and crosses the tracks again. If I'd left during coaling I could have made both shots, but I got to the second one instead, which was where the actual scheduled runby was set for. The first crossing could've made for a nice shot, but I'm rather happy with the one I got at the second crossing instead. This was where the truck the night before had gotten stuck, and in fact there was a semi waiting right ahead of the crossing when I pulled up, which made me pause for a moment. But, the tracks were indeed clear, so hey, I wasn't gonna complain. Before long, we had our single runby - and compared to last year? This worked out much better for sure. That snow had come back again, even!
I had to pause for another moment on the way to that shot, watching deer leap across the barren fields. I have to say, I don't often see them, and I usually don't want to because I don't fancy accidentally slamming into one. I recently shot a train near Lodge, IL, and saw a bunch more there, too. Interesting how sometimes you see something and then start seeing more of it later. Is that why I feel like I'm seeing a lot more cops lately than usual? Hm, maybe it's just me.
With Swan Road done, it was onto Horicon. Being the literal midpoint for the day, it would house another scripted shot for us, plus our lunch break, as well as some maintenance time. Upon arriving, I found that overnight, WSOR had been busy and moving some power around. One of their new ex-UP SD60M "Triclops" motors, 6025, was parked alongside WSOR [WAMX] SD40-2 4187, and coupled up to HLCX SD40-2 6313. The 6313 is on long term lease to the WSOR, originally built from an NdeM SD40 8582, while the WSOR 4187 is ex-UP, nee-MoPac. Paired with the Soo 1003, it's quite an eclectic collection of power in the Horicon Yard!
Here, we'd do our recreation of the classic order hand off, where the engineer would grab train orders from a crew member on the ground who would hold them up on a big hoop. If the engineer missed them, well, that could be awkward - and that's what happened last year! The 1003s engineer accidentally grabbed the string with his elbow that time, but this time around, oh he made sure to snag that thing perfectly. Very nicely done, if I do say so myself.
Once the order hand off shot was complete, it was time for the 1003 to fill up on water and have some other routine maintenance taken care of, so it pulled forward and backed off down the wye westwards for a bit. In the meantime, the rest of us would have a break for lunch and whatnot. I rather famously don't eat terribly much on any chasing trip, and as usual, that stayed true here, but I did have something to snack on anyway.
I chatted with some friends for a while there, about everything from ridiculous chases along the Illinois Central (can you believe the IC6250 came barreling down here? It's been months and I still ain't over it) to weird people we'd all met on the road doing these sorts of things. Christian talked about a racist old guy who claimed he was a civil war vet, which was definitely one of the weirder ones I just couldn't match. There was some 'foamer drama' in there too, always a fun one.
After a while, the 1003 pulled up again, and most of the charter was either still off at lunch or scouting for their next shot. We opted to get a few shots here though - and I found there was a perfect angle to catch the WSOR GP38-2 3870 (also a former unit from Mexico like the 6313), the 1003, and the Triclops all in frame - with the depot no less!
What's up with the 13mph speed limit sign? Such an arbitrary number.
After a few minutes, the train would start to leave, and it was time to head to our next shot at Iron Ridge. Well, the train would be slow enough for us to beat it to a familiar crossing, so we angled for that one. I've shot this before (and posted a shot from there, Distant Travels) but never found an angle I really liked. Then I noticed a gentleman up on the hill where a fence was at, and I thought hey, that's a good spot, so I joined him. Made sure not to get in the way and then found smoke from the engine covering us very shortly! I wish the smoke had blown to the other side a bit more, but, well, what can you do.
Now, dear reader, I think it's prudent to mention that throughout this trip I was continuing a trend from my Drumsheds/London trip. My phone is a small old thing, and its battery is well on the way out, so in order to keep it healthy during such a long and cold day, I keep it tethered to a power bank that sits in my pocket. Normally, I just keep my phone in my hoody pocket, sometimes jacket, and it's all fine.
However, when I ran back to my car after getting the shot from the hill, I pulled the tether up to find it empty. Oh, one side was connected to the heavy battery in my pocket alright, but in absolutely none of my pockets, nor the other end of that cable, did my phone sit. You can imagine the icy grip of panic that comes with that. I need that thing if I'm going to get home at all, not to mention everything else it does.
I jumped out of my car and retraced my steps, knowing for sure it had to be near as I'd used it before the train had come through, but to my horror, it was nowhere to be found. Not on the hill, not on the slope where I'd expect it to fall off. However, thankfully, the gentleman I'd been on the hill with was still packing his camera gear back up in his car right next to me, and he offered to call my phone to hopefully find it. Lo and behold, there it was, sitting right at the edge of the grass and the road - completely invisible save for the touch of green from the "Accept call" button. Calling it an awesome wave of relief would be downplaying it by a country mile.
I thanked him profusely for that call - that seriously saved my life right there, though I probably lost a few years as a result! - and we jumped into our cars, heading for the next photo spot. I had basically forgotten where it was, but found the huge line of cars along the road to be a good indicator, anyway. There was just a few short minutes of waiting in suddenly very strong winds until the train got a move on for us.
Safe to say I triple checked my tether from then on. The return of the 1003 certainly helped to calm that adrenaline spike a fair bit, but I sure wasn't playing chances anymore.
We had a couple runbys here, which I used to my advantage. I was tempted to jog up the big hill behind us by a Menards distribution center for a high angle, but after what the last hill had been like... I stayed back and just switched angles. Turns out, that made a big difference.
Turned out alright, I think. More of those wonderful 1003 smoke shows, which I am all here for.
Now, Iron Ridge itself - turns out we actually had two runbys here even though I thought it was just one. So, I hopped over to the station sign and got a simple shot there, which was fine enough. There was one shot at a huge embankment that could've been pretty nifty, but I just wasn't feeling it. Not my favourite place in town, anyway...
I ventured across the tracks between runbys and noted the sort of gnarled up tree there. I did a little thinking, and decided oh, hell, why not? I've done enough shooting all day, I can take one weird and risky shot. I thought I had judged the heights right - and I did! That's one of the things I've never been great at, with scale for framing, so it was rewarding to see it pay off. A little more touching up to do and I think I'll be satisfied well enough. Definitely something a little different, to say the least!
Before I knew it, it was time for our last shots on the charter! I returned to Rubicon, passing up the wide-long-distance shot on one of the higher roads between towns (and I wouldn't have made it anyways, most likely, based on where that steam cloud was hanging...) and deciding to shoot what I didn't the year before. That curve at Rubicon is a nice one, and I had to try it properly at least once.
Unexpectedly, we had a guy with a chainsaw with us. That ended up being pretty useful, as he cut down some dead weed trees that were blocking the right of way. Some last minute "gardening" sure helps out! We all had a pretty good laugh at the absurdity of some guy just bringing a chainsaw with him for a train photo charter, and someone jokingly asked him to cut down that power pole in front of us. A tempting notion, to be sure...
Light was falling bit by bit now, mostly due to clouds, but also just because it's late fall and that's how it goes. It was a hard one to do, doubled up by the fact that the steam and smoke was just covering everything. Nothing truly stellar out of it, but I'm glad I did it.
Well, I'd then learn there were three runbys here! I stuck around for a second one at the curve, opting for a different angle, but decided to head to a spot in town the others there had been talking about.
Turns out, there's a cemetery with a nice sightline down to the tracks, and I just couldn't pass that up. A number of others did the same thing, and indeed some were sort of... in the way, as you'll note below. But, with half a dozen people crowding atop and around a statue of the virgin Mary to get as much height as possible, the 1003 made its last photo runby for the photo charter!
That's it, right? Well, not quite.
Most of my friends there were leaving for home right after, so I bid them farewell, and then went to Hartford. I hadn't made it to Hartford the day before, but this time, I'd get there no problem. The 1003 had some switching to do, dropping the ballast cars off and picking up the Milwaukee Road caboose it had been using for the Santa train the day prior, which gave me more than enough time to make it to the museum ahead of it.
A real handful - no more than three of us in the charter, plus a few locals, were there to greet the train when it arrived. The sun was falling fast now, and light was at a real premium. Still, the cold was there, so we sure got plenty of steam.
The way it works at the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, where the 1003 lives, is they do some light maintenance outside, then they start expelling all the steam in the engine. All of it. That boiler is chock full of the stuff, and they don't want it flying all throughout the museum itself for good reason. So, outside, they force all of it out.
The engineers side gets a massive jet of stream, hissing and screaming as it pours as much of it out as fast as possible. Not somewhere you want to stand, to be sure, but the folks there were fine with us getting close for a few photos.
Over the course of an hour, the 1003 dumped its steam chest while the handful of us hanging around chatted about the days events and a myriad of other things. Here and there, I'd go and snag a shot or two of the train and its huge cloud it was forming around it. With no light to work with save for mere wisps from beyond the clouds and the dimmed headlight, it wasn't easy. I was wishing I had grabbed my tripod from my car, as that could've made for some really neat longer exposures possibly.
Light dropped further and further, the steam chest emptied more and more, and eventually the faint locomotive lights were joined by an exterior light on the museum. Not enough for much, but every little counts.
Finally, that one loud and cold hour later, the engine had expelled enough steam to roll into the museum on just the last wisps of it. It's just barely enough to move itself and the couple of cars behind it up to its display position in the museum building itself.
And with that, the three of us who had stayed all this time, called it a day. The 1003 was done for the day, and so were we. The Mikado had its fair share of a workout for a weekend, and now it was time for a bit of maintenance, and then the crew would close up shop until the next run.
A few last goodbyes and I was off, heading first to a gas station then back to Beaver Dam for my hotel.
That was that - I warmed up, watched some stuff on my laptop, chatted with a friend about the day a little, and enjoyed the rest of my evening in solitude. It was a fine way to relax after a long, long day.
The next day was the drive home, about five hours after everything was said and done, which was extended since I headed over to the Bloomer Line to see if they were doing anything on my way back. They weren't, of course, but I did pick up a CN train on the Gilman Sub as I passed through Gibson City. Lo and behold, an IC SD70 was trailing second on it, so I raced ahead of it down to Parnell for a quick photo, got that and a few others, and made the short jaunt home.
Overall, it was a successful weekend. I was initially put off by Saturday just being sort of unlucky and not my day, but Sunday certainly went a lot better, and I'm glad I did the charter. It was a great change of pace from the high speed chases I'd been on lately, and being able to meet up with a bunch of familiar faces was definitely really nice, too. I got some photos I'm rather pleased with and learned a few more things about shooting in these environments, making it worthwhile for that alone.
As of writing this, I've finished and posted 7 photos online from the trip. So far, the results have been average for most, but Up In Flakes and The Sirens Call have both exceeded that norm, racking up 22 and 18 Flickr favourites as of now - definitely above my averages. Up In Flakes is now my fifth most popular photo, tied with Round & Round and The Race Of The Night. Instagram results were about average all around, interestingly. So, overall, a solid trip in terms of the photo results as well. There's a few more I'll be posting up at the end of the year most likely, so we'll see how those stack up too.
The completion of the 1003 trip also marks the end of my summer & fall trips. Totaling them up, I've gone to the LS&I, the Iowa Interstate for the 6988, all the way to Little Rock to St Louis to Kansas City for the 4014, London, England for Pendulum: Trinity, Minneapolis for the 261, and finally, the WSOR Oshkosh sub for the 1003. My, my, my, what an eventful couple of months. There's much more to say about this all in a years-end post, but it's gotta be said - this was one hell of a year. With the 1003 to cap off a long string of successful trips and adventures, it's gonna be hard to beat in the future!
That's all I've got for now, but before now and years end I've still got a short blurb on the QJ to write about. After that, it's all about wrapping up this whirlwind year - and that's gonna something hard to do for sure!
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