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2019 MR340 Official Dispatches (Read 3329 times)
05/01/19 at 10:52:21

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
13X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8052
Dispatch #1

Welcome to the 14th Annual Missouri American Water MR340!

Time to start the dispatches!  We will send a couple of these each month leading up to the big dance.  These are designed to help get your minor details sorted and to help you game out some ideas to improve your chances at finishing. 

This race is HARD.  Getting mentally and physically prepared can never start too soon.  These dispatches will help you feel more at ease and more on top of your prep.  They will also answer questions you didn't know you had and will inspire other questions which you are welcome to ask us!

For Dispatch #1, let's focus on the basics.

DATES: July 15-19, 2019

Mandatory Check In and Safety Meeting:

Hilton Garden Inn, 520 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas
Monday, July 15, 2019

All racers must sign in between 2-6pm and pick up tshirts, etc.  Meeting starts at 7pm and is over by 8pm.  We call it the Mandatory Safety Meeting because attendance is MANDATORY.  It's part of our safety plan with the United States Coast Guard to conduct the training and to account for you being there.  So just be there.  It's actually quite fun to see all the paddlers and ground crews assembled in one place.  It's a huge group of over 1000 anxious, excited people.  We will go through some last minute instructions and review many safety bullet points.  It's a good time to get some last minute questions clarified and to talk to the many veteran racers in attendance. 


Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Kaw Point Park
Solo Start is 7am
Everything else, 8am

Parking the morning of the race is always crowded.  Many will have to hunt for parking outside the flood wall in the industrial park.  For this reason, it is best to stage your boat the night before. (Monday)  As usual, we will have security at the park starting Monday at noon.  You can leave your boat staged there anytime after noon and we will have folks there to watch over things.   You are ultimately responsible for the boat.  Our guys will have a roster and boat numbers and would question anyone they saw removing a boat from the premises.  They cannot prevent your boat from being damaged by someone running over it, sitting on it, tripping over it, etc.  Please don't leave paddles or any expensive items that can be walked away with. 

The meeting is at the hotel less than a mile away from the starting line.  You will get lost 4 times trying to get back and forth.  By the 5th time you'll have it figured out. 

Check the Roster:

Make sure your entry is correct.  Some of you need to choose a new boat number because the one you originally chose was taken.  I know this is disappointing.  Every year the classics like 8008 get snatched up early leaving only 9,999 other possible combinations to choose from.  If you need a new boat number, email it directly to me, scott@rivermiles.com

Your boat number must be a minimum of 3 inches high and be reflective.  Mailbox numbers work great for this.  Place these on your port and starboard bow.

Also, many of the tandem and team boats still need to get their partners registered.  Please get this taken care of asap.  We are trying to get shirt sizes, etc. finalized.  Also, it will help you assess the commitment level of your partner.  We've found that the longer a partner is TBD, the more likely he or she is of NOT racing and leaving you high and literally dry come race day.  Please get your partner registered by June 1st.

Training and Preparation Resources

MR340 Book!

Written by a veteran and can be either ordered in hard copy or electronic version.  This book will be a comfort and will help shorten your learning curve.  Preview pages below.


Chris Luedke's Training Videos

Wow, what can I say.  Chris is a multi year veteran with some great finishes under his belt.  His video series is crazy good.  Entertaining and very informative.  This will literally shave hours off a first timers finish time.  And also minimize a lot of anxiety.

Once you get started on these it will be hard to stop.  There are dozens of them in easy to digest sizes.  I will be highlighting several of these in upcoming dispatches.  But feel free to start early.  Here's a link to his channel.  Start anywhere.  Tons of great stuff.  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjTAGGN9ArvdwcofYeM1ZWQ

We are all grateful to Chris for putting this together.  Fantastic resource that has helped a bunch of folks.

Training Races

Once you've read the book and watched the videos, why not test what you've learned with some real live racing on the great rivers of Missouri?  It's the best way to test your boat, your nutrition and your racing strategy.  And maybe most importantly, your seat cushions.  Here's a calendar of upcoming races:


There is no substitute for being in your boat and learning what works and what doesn't.  Hop in and join a race before the 340 if you can make it work. 

We are closely monitoring the basin wide situation of likely flood risk all summer long for 2019.  This is due to the bomb cyclone runoff event of mid March.  This storm caused flash melting of plains snowpack over frozen ground.  This rapidly filled rivers and streams in the basin and also flood control reservoirs either by direct flow or from the restriction of releases to mitigate high flow downstream. 

Prior to this event, the system was in pretty good shape with all flood storage available in the mainstem reservoirs and average snowpack in the mountains that feed these reservoirs.  The one bad variable was the plains snowpack which was high but the hope was that this would be melted off in a more gradual fashion that lends itself to ground absorbtion and more manageable runoff. 

Instead, March broke records for runoff and 2019 is likely to be a top 10 year for runoff in the Missouri River Basin. 

We are now faced with releases from Gavins Point dam (the last dam on the mainstem Missouri) of 55,000 cubic feet per second for likely the entire summer.  Typical releases would be about half this. 

This raises the river along the race course and gives us less room for rain events that could delay the MR340. 

In addition to these high flows out of the Dakotas, there is a bunch of water waiting to be released from the flood control lakes on the Kansas River.  These lakes have been held back to lessen the damage to communities downstream of Kansas City.  These lakes will have to be drained eventually and so they will be keeping the river at Waverly, MO just above flood stage for several weeks. 

What does this mean for us? 

We insist on running this race only if conditions are safe.  We've completed 13 previous MR340s with 1000s of racers safely through the hard work of our volunteers and our paddlers. 

For the race to be safe, there has to be available shoreline all along the course for paddlers to exit the river in the event of storms, fog or fatigue. 

Flood stage is a metric decided by the National Weather Service in cooperation with communities along the river.  It is divided into 3 categories.  Minor, Moderate and Major.

As many of you know, the weakest link in the chain of river gauges along the race course is Waverly, MO.  Flood stage there is 20ft.  The river will likely be over 20 feet for most of the summer. 

At 20 feet there are farm field gravity drains that are submerged so that portions of some farm fields outside the levee can't fully drain.  This is what constitutes the minor flooding for that stretch of river.

Downstream from Waverly, the river can be much higher and faster as it flows by Glasgow, MO but be several feet below flood stage.  How can a higher, faster river be below flood stage while an upstream section with less water be above?  For minor flood stage, it's mostly to do with agricultural concerns in the bottomland behind the levees.  Like the gravity drains being submerged.

Our concern, as stated above, is that there be easily accessed bank egress for paddlers to leave the river.  This is usually available with water levels of 21.5 feet at the Waverly gauge.  That is 1.5 feet above minor flood stage.

All paddlers are past Waverly after Day 1.  Most of them before dark.  21.5 feet at Waverly usually means everything downstream of Waverly is below flood stage. 

We have cleared with our insurance company that we will use the gauges of Kansas City, Glasgow, Jefferson City, Hermann and St. Charles as our flood determination gauges, WITH the caveat that other conditions deemed unsafe (like Waverly above 21.5) would be factored in with expected weather on day 1, etc. to determine a go/no go for July 16. 

We had this arrangement last year and it worked out.  Last year they were releasing over 60,000 cfs from Gavins Point as well as significant releases on the Kansas River and Waverly was at 18 feet when we started the race.  Plenty of shoreline and a fast river.  The river would have been safe last year had the river been 3 feet higher through that stretch, with shoreline available. 

This year we will reassess the shoreline at 21.5 to verify this criteria is still valid.  We expect to complete this assessment in the next 10 days as the river again reaches this level. 

If you want to geek out on hydrology like we do, here are some links to let you watch it all unfold.

Gauges from Yankton, SD to St. Charles:  http://bit.ly/MR340Gauges

Best guesses from Corps of river levels for 3 weeks.  http://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc/reports/pdfs/GRFT.pdf

3 Day Lake Report for releases: http://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc/nwk/lakepool.txt

Basin Precip Forecast (factored into National Weather Service river forecast)  https://www.weather.gov/mbrfc/pcpn

Bagnell Dam releases for the Osage River (affecting Missouri River at Chamois and downstream.)  http://apps.ameren.com/HydroElectric/Reports/Osage/HeadWaterTailWater.aspx

I've got a dozen more but these give you a good start.  Very valuable for planning training runs or for seeing what levels will be like for other races.

What if we have to postpone?  Here are the scenarios invoked by an unsafe river.  These are directly from the registration form you signed up on:

Please pause a moment to absorb this.  We cannot hold the race if the river is in flood stage.  Sometimes, the river can touch flood stage for a day or two and then drop quickly.  For this reason, we are building in a window of days for the race to be held all within the week of July 16 to 21.  (Tuesday through Sunday)  You are signing up for a race which will take place in a 4 day window within that 6 day week.

Plan A for the race is July 16 to 19, Tuesday through Friday. If river conditions call for a delay, Plan B is for us to race July 17 to 20 (Wednesday to Saturday) Plan C is July 18 to 21 (Thursday to Sunday).   

No vouchers offered for these delayed start options.

I am signing up to race that week, Plan A, B or C. I will plan accordingly. *
I understand the race may be delayed 24-48 hours for flooding and will plan accordingly to race in that window.
Refund Policy

No refunds available for scheduling conflicts, injury, etc.  In the event the race is postponed beyond Plan C  (above) because of unsafe conditions, no refunds will be given.  Make up date is August 12 to 15.  (NOTE: This would be a Monday through Thursday window.) We hope you clear your schedule to race with us.  If you cannot make the August dates, a voucher for the next MR340 will be issued. *
I understand there are no refunds. Make up date is August 12-15.

We are hopeful for a race to be run as scheduled and we feel that there is a better than 50% chance that this will happen.  What we CAN promise you 100% is that this will NOT be a low water year.  Water will be fast.  Cutoff times will NOT be difficult to meet if you stay in the boat and let this muscular river do her work. 

Just in case you want to start planning your strategy, here are the cutoff times for 2019.  (same as last year)

Checkpoints and Cutoff Times

Checkpoints and Cutoff Times:

Kaw Point, mile 367, Race Begins, 8am (7am for solo) Tuesday, July 16.   
Lexington, mile 317, (50 miles) 5pm Tuesday   Leg avg.  5.56mph  Total avg. 5.56   
Waverly, mile 294, (23 miles) 9pm Tuesday  Leg avg. 5.75mph  Total avg. 5.62   
Glasgow, mile 226, (68 miles) 6pm Wed.  Leg avg. 5.14mph  Total avg. 4.15   
Wilson's Serenity Point at Noren Access (Jeff City), mile 144, (82 miles) 7pm Thurs.  5.14mph  Total avg. 3.78    
Hermann, mile 98, (46 miles) 10am Friday  3.07mph  Total avg. 3.64   
Klondike, mile 56 (42 miles) 6pm Friday  5.25 mph  Total avg. 3.79   
St. Charles, mile 29, finish line, (27 miles)  Midnight   4.50mph  Total avg. 3.85 mph

Average speeds are based on tandem start time of 8am.  Solos start an hour early and so have 89 hours to finish an 88 hour race.  Which means we have no sympathy for you missing a cutoff time by even a minute.  Because you actually missed it by an hour and a minute. 

It sounds heartless to have cutoff times but it's really the only way to do a race like this.  At our most stretched, we'll have a boat finishing in St. Charles while the last place boat is 195 miles back.  That's a lot of water for our volunteers to cover.  Without cutoff times that would probably be more like 250 miles between 1st and last place.  This is not billed as a camping trip or a float trip.  It is a very, very difficult race.  1/4 of entrants won't show up.  Of those that do show up, 1/3 will not finish. 

Not making a cutoff time is actually rare.  These are pretty generous for a race.  But they do force dropouts because folks will make a cutoff time with a few minutes to spare, but then linger at a checkpoint until making the next cutoff time is almost impossible. So they drop out. 

It is psychologically tough to be at the back of the race with nobody in sight ahead of you.  It's tough to arrive at a checkpoint and all the racers are gone except a few who are loading their boats onto their cars.  The energy is high among the pods of racers who are together and motivate each other when times get difficult.  So as you plan your strategy, best to think not in terms of barely sliding in to each checkpoint before the cutoff.  Rather, plan a strategy that banks up some time so you're not against the clock constantly.  We will talk about how to do this in a future dispatch. 

Spoiler alert:  There is no magic potion.  It's all about staying in the boat and taking advantage of those first 24 hours of the race.  A successful finish is born in those first 24 hours.  Have a good 24 hours and you can deal with almost anything in the next 48.  Come up short in the first 24 and you'll be dodging race ending sharks all the way to St. Charles. 

So bust out the maps and plan out some different goals.  You can probably add about 2.5 mph to your flat water paddling speed to get a good idea of your river mph.  I'm talking about your sustainable flat water speed over hours.  Not your sprint to the ramp because it's raining speed.  So if you're able to paddle at the lake all day at 4mph, you can probably count on that being about 6.5 mph on the river (depending on wind)  That's a 52 hour finish if you never stopped paddling.  But that leaves you 36 hours of cushion for all sorts of contingencies.

For the gal or guy that wants to finish, it's really not about a fast speed.  It's about hours and hours at a sustainable cruising speed.  Time makes up for a lot.  If you're willing to earn that iron butt award and stay in the boat you'll find yourself passing lots of "fast" paddlers in "fast" boats that are parked at checkpoints recovering. 

All the volunteers, partners and staff are pumped for this race!  We know you are too.  For many of us, it's what we think about before we fall asleep every night.  Or what we think about in a boring meeting at work.  It's an amazing adventure for one week of the year and our favorite daydream for the other 51 weeks.  We're glad you're going to be out there with us for the suffering and the misery and the beauty. 

More to come soon.  In the interim...

Note the dates and times for the meeting and start.

Read the book and watch the videos.

Check the roster and get your boat numbers and partners squared away.

Enter a short race somewhere or do some paddling to get your rigging sorted.

If you just can't wait until next time you can check out the 2018 dispatches and get a preview of what's coming. 

Let me know if you have any questions.
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Reply #1 - 05/14/19 at 13:04:11

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
13X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8052
Dispatch #2

Flooding Update

Since our last dispatch 2 weeks ago, we've had another basin wide rain event that brought the river up again and forced the stop of releases from Tuttle Creek Reservoir on the Kansas River.  The Missouri is slowly getting rid of this rain event and Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota, last dam on the mainstem Missouri, is still pumping out 55,000 cubic feet per second.  This is about twice normal output.  The Kansas River Releases should resume by Friday and will ramp up as the Missouri falls, equalizing at about 21.5 ft at the Waverly gauge.  As we said in the last dispatch, 21.5 is pretty close to what we can run at with all other conditions being good (minimal chance of storms, etc.) during day 1 of the race. 

We are waiting for the river to come down to 21.5 at Waverly to begin a survey of the Day 1 ramps and shoreline between KC and Miami.  This was our identified upper threshold last year when we did this survey.  I hope to have more information in the next dispatch.

Even if not a single drop of rain falls in the next two months before the race, the river will be high and fast.  Like last year, we expect the bell curve of racers to be far ahead of the cutoff times.  This is the only good side of our water situation.  Staying in your boat and letting the river do the work will buy you a lot of cushion which you can use for sleep or hunkering down off river in fog or storms.

Let's breakdown the first 105 miles from Kaw Point to Miami on Day 1.

Race Start at Kaw Point

Kaw Point will be crowded and parking has to be organized.  There are lines painted in the park and there will be parking marshals directing traffic.  The park will fill up quickly and overflow parking will be outside the floodwall.  This too has to be done in an organized way.  Please follow the guidance of the parking marshals. 

Solo start is 7am.  The gun will fire whether all solos are in the water or not.  Typically, the first solos start launching about 545am.  You can launch at the ramp (longest line) or out at the confluence.  When the gun goes off, you must be upstream of the boat ramp or you will be penalized minutes.  If you're still in line to launch, there is no penalty except the natural consequence of still being in line to launch. 

There will be about 300 boats in this first wave.  The KC fire department will be on the water just downstream of Kaw Point to assist you if there are any capsizes.  There are always 4 or 5 capsizes.  There is no disqualification for receiving assistance like this from a safety boat.  They will help get you back in your boat and on your way. 

Avoiding a Capsize. 

These incidents seem to happen right at the confluence where the slower Kansas River meets the faster Missouri.  It's easy to get panicked and miss a stroke and lose balance in what can sometimes be choppy water with some whirlpool action.  This is compounded by boats running into eachother as they corkscrew in the currents.  So, a couple things....

Don't be in a huge rush to paddle into a crowd.  It's a long race, take your time and stay spread out.  Also, it's a wide entry into the Missouri.  Usually, the roughest water is right in the middle of this.  Smoother water is generally found at the extreme upstream end and the downstream end.  At the Shoot Out race a couple weeks ago, with water levels about what we can hope for in July, the downstream third of the Kaw mouth was very smooth.  The middle third was quite rough and we had a couple capsizes.  The upper third was ok.  Every water level presents a different scenario and we'll have a good idea of what it's going to be at the safety meeting the night before.  But there is ALWAYS a smooth sailing option.  But not everyone takes it. 

All other boats start at 8am. 

After the adrenalin of the starts wears off you'll be going under the 5 bridges of KC in rapid succession.  Again, we remind you that with the high water, everything will come at you a little faster so get lined up between the spans and stay in the middle of each span.  Currents around the piers can be squirrely so give yourself room and allow the paddlers around you to have space to maneuver.  What usually forms fairly quickly is a conga line about 4 boats wide through the bridges.  This slowly morphs to a line about 3 boats wide... then 2... and then into a series of clumps of boats as the day wears on.

The fastest boats from the 8am start will start catching the slowest boats from the 7am start by about 9am.  These fastest boats will spend all day picking off most of the solos. 

Most racers will be in and out of Waverly well before dark.  Last year only a handful were there at sunset.  As a safety boat team, we were about 3 hours ahead of schedule with Waverly empty by 9pm.

The first checkpoint is 50 miles into the race at Lexington, MO.  It will be crowded and chaotic here.  There will be a food vendor and bathrooms available.  You are required to check in here but you are NOT required to stop.  Check ins take place via text message and can be sent with your phone as you float by.  OR, your ground crew can text you through.  IF you do not have a cell signal for some reason, you should stop and make sure one of our volunteers or another ground crew or paddler will send the text for you.  Failure to check in properly causes a search to be started and this pulls resources from the safety of other paddlers.  Please take the time to make this simple effort to keep the race safe and efficient for everyone.

Because Lexington will be so crowded, many veterans do not stop there.  There are other options where you can stop for resupply.  Here's a few for you to google between Kaw Point and Lexington.

La Benite
Cooley Lake
Ft. Osage (Sibley)

Stopping at one of these will usually get you to Waverly or beyond, especially if the water is fast. 

Cutoff time for Lexington is 5pm.  That's a minimum average speed of 5.56 mph for the 8am start.  Even slower for the solos.  If you don't make it you're out.  I promise you, if you can't make Lexington by 5pm with the fast water this summer, you are unlikely to make the subsequent cutoff times.  There are usually a few boats that don't make it.  Even in a high water year like last year we had some.  Here are the common denominators.

No ground crew (boat overloaded with gear)
Got a late start at Kaw Point
Stopped for extended period before Lexington
First time in the boat
Broken paddle/rudder/gunnel/etc
Sick, injured or otherwise unhappy partner.

If you make it to Lexington before the cutoff time, congratulations!  You've completed a big chunk of the race and you've built a cushion.  But now the mistakes we see is that entire cushion squandered as you sit at Lexington and rest while you eat, drink, etc.  You are sore and tired and the thought of getting back in the boat is dreadful.  But you're just making that next haul to Waverly so much harder.  If you want to get to Waverly, get in the boat.  You can eat, drink and rest while you move at 3mph.  Paddle enough to steer the boat and you'll be going 4 mph.  Paddle a bit more between bite of your sandwich and you'll easily be cruising the 5.75 mph you need to make the Waverly cutoff at 9pm.

Waverly will be also be crazy.  The advantage we have there is that Waverly is blessed with two boat ramps.  Both on river right.  One is just upstream of the bridge, the other just downstream.  Both will have bathrooms and both will have food.  You can't beat that.  So decide with your ground crew which one you will choose or have them send you a text with the one they've decided is best once they're parked and have scouted it out.  It's a short paddle down to the second ramp by boat but it's a bigger hassle to drive up the hill and around the bridge by car. 

Please note that there is a train track that runs right through both river parks in Waverly.  These are not protected by crossing arms.  If you have kids be especially careful to keep them away from the tracks.  The trains are very loud and you can certainly hear them coming.  But kids are fascinated by the trains and can't judge distance or speed quite as well as adults.

Special thanks as always to Robin Kalthoff and his Missouri Stream Team for the hard work they do at the Waverly checkpoint.  We will certainly need volunteers at ALL the checkpoints to assist the local volunteers in making this possible.  If you're interested in volunteering for the 340, please send an email to scott@rivermiles.com  We need folks at every checkpoint plus the finish line.

We always encourage all paddlers to vacate Waverly before midnight and press on.  Because of the train it's nearly impossible to sleep there and most paddlers are too amped up to sleep anyway.  AND, because the water will be fast we anticipate most folks getting there before sunset at 845pm.  If you're exhausted and need some sleep, obviously do it.  But the downside of this is when you wake up, the race will have mostly passed you by.  It's been 4 or 5 years now since someone camped at Waverly.  And if I remember correctly, they ended up quitting at sunrise.  They were the only boat there and the nearest boat was at Miami.  It was a psychological discouragement on top of their physical soreness that they could not overcome.  Had they paddled on to Miami, they would still be waking up sore... but they'd be surrounded by smiling paddlers getting back on the water and that would have pulled them along. 

Usually, we encourage folks to go at least to Hills Island, which is about 12 miles downstream of Waverly and has been a respite for paddlers after a long day who just can't quite make the next checkpoint without a break.  Our hosts there, Daryl and Kay Webery, usually have a fire going on the sand and 10 or 15 paddlers snoozing around it.

Sadly, I can pretty much guarantee that our patch of sand at Hills Island will not see daylight.   Last year Daryl and Kay were there but with no sand they stayed in the boat and floated, tied to a tree at the downstream tip of Hills Island watching over you guys as you went by.  Everyone was so fast last year that nobody needed a break there anyway.  So once you leave Waverly, count on Miami as your next boat ramp.  But we will have a safety boat at Hills Island available if needed.  You can paddle right up to it and let them know what you need. 

Miami is mile 263 and is about 31 miles from Waverly.  It is not an official checkpoint but is the first of what we call Paddle Stops which are little spots on the river where you can count on volunteers, food, bathrooms, etc.  Miami is among the best of these.  The town really goes all out to host us and there is food cooked to order all night of night 1 and into breakfast in the morning.  The town uses this as fundraiser for civic projects and have done things like fix sidewalks and pave the city hall parking lot with the funds. 

Because of the fast water, we learned last year that Miami gets very crowded starting about 8pm and stays crowded all night.  With few options besides pressing on to Glasgow, Miami is a logical choice if you need to get off the water and try to sleep.  Like all crowded checkpoints, sleep is tough.  Every patch of grass and gravel in the parking lot is taken up with cars and canoes.  It's noisy.  But if you're tired enough, you can sleep anywhere... and you should.  But if you're not head nodding tired and paddling safely with a group of other canoes, it's often expedient to keep going, saving your sleep time for the heat of the day rather than the cool of the night.  Weather conditions, fog, alertness and stamina all play into this equation and everyone makes their own choice.  If you've made it to Miami on Tuesday, you're about 105 miles into the race.  About a third of the way there!  You're well ahead of the cutoff time at Glasgow of 6pm Wednesday evening.  Paddlers face a choice at Miami of either resting there or pushing for Glasgow and resting a couple hours in the afternoon there.  Both choices are valid and it's good to plan for both with your ground crew.

Between Miami and Glasgow is an isolated boat ramp called Dalton Bottoms.  It's about mile marker 239 on river left.  We try to have a safety boat stationed here all night unless they are on a call.  Dalton is a good quiet spot.  Of course, you can get off the river anywhere in the wild sections but it will be thickly treed and most of the sandbars will be underwater.  But in the event of extreme fatigue or fog or storms, That patch of mud in the trees will look really good.

Well, we've marched you to Miami at least.  Still lots to talk about next time including sand dredges, barges, buoys, carp, etc.  For now check out more of Chris Luedke's great training videos here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjTAGGN9ArvdwcofYeM1ZWQ and keep praying for a drought. 


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