New Orleans to Grand Canyon Road Trip

From the Gulf of Mexico to America’s most famous natural landmark, this New Orleans to Grand Canyon road trip will show you the country in a whole new way.
Written by Matt Terzi
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
This New Orleans to Grand Canyon road trip packs a whole lot of adventure into a week of driving. Along the way, you’ll encounter great food, incredible history and culture, beautiful scenery, a drive on Route 66, and aliens while exploring
New Mexico
, and
Hang on … did we just say aliens? Like, aliens from outer space? Yes, yes we did. 
This Louisiana to Grand Canyon road trip, brought to you by the
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This is a long road trip through areas with limited data reception, so you’ll want to make sure you prepare for the trek. Be sure to print out maps or download them so they’re available offline, have your car inspected before you go, and pack some emergency water.
You’ll also want to check out Jerry’s roadside assistance package, which covers things like fuel, tire, and battery services, lockouts, towing, and more!

Key Trip Details

Grand Canyon Village to New Orleans
Distance: 1,624 miles
Driving time: 25 hours (3 to 6 hours per day)
Suggested length of trip: 6 or 7 days


This New Orleans to Grand Canyon road trip will involve a lot of driving. To make this trip more manageable, it helps if you split up all of this wheel time with a second licensed driver. Never drive more than eight hours in one day.
This itinerary is designed to give you ideas of where to stop, where to stay, what to eat, and what to visit in each town along the way. 
The cities you’ll visit on this New Orleans to Grand Canyon road trip, in order, include:
This road trip doesn’t account for the time you’ll spend in Grand Canyon Village, nor does it tackle the time you’ll spend driving back. So make sure you plan days for that, too!
Pro Tip: Big road trips like this put a lot of strain on your car. Be sure to have it professionally inspected before you depart, and strongly consider investing in Jerry’s cheap, robust roadside assistance to be extra safe.

Start in New Orleans

This road trip kicks things off in one of America’s greatest cultural cities—the fascinating New Orleans. This vibrant coastal city is home to some of the best food, music, and cultural locales you’ll find in this beautiful country of ours. You should try to schedule as much time here as possible, too!

Where to Stay in New Orleans

Hotel St. Marie
(from $107): With tons of rooms featuring balconies overlooking the street, a perfect location in the French Quarter, comfortably modern rooms, a great pool, and an awesome onsite Cajun restaurant and bar, Hotel St. Marie is a surprisingly affordable and well-rounded choice for your stay.
French Market Inn
(from $125): This classic French Quarter inn dates back to 1722 when it started life as a bakery. Today, it’s one of the most unique hotels in the country. Many of the rooms have open wood and brick facades, and some of the nicer, more expensive ones even have balconies over the city’s famous thoroughfares. 
Grenoble House
(from $199): Like the French Market Inn, Grenoble House has rooms that ooze uniqueness but with nice modern amenities and great views from more rooms, this might be a better bet for many travelers.
Windsor Court Hotel
(from $312): A stunning five-star hotel with world-class rooms and amenities. If you can only budget for one really nice hotel stay on your New Orleans to Grand Canyon road trip, consider kicking things off in style here!

Where to Eat in New Orleans

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant
($$): This restaurant was founded by the legendary Treme chef
Leah Chase
, the “Queen of Creole Cuisine” who also inspired a Disney Princess. Sadly, Queen Leah passed away at 96 in 2019, but her legacy is alive and well in this famous New Orleans eatery.
Café Fleur De Lis
($$): Don’t be turned off by how busy this popular breakfast hotspot is—they serve up great morning meals quickly from the counter, and every last bite is scrumptious. Their $13 Big Easy Breakfast will easily power you through a day of exploring the French Quarter.
Jimmy J’s Cafe
($$): A super casual French Quarter eatery with an all-day breakfast and the best eggs benedict in NOLA.
Acme Oyster House
($$): You can’t talk about New Orleans’ food without bringing up Acme Oyster House. This famed seafood joint serves up some of the best gumbo in Louisiana, and it has been growing a regional chain of stores since 1910. Consider easing into their menu with their New Orleans Medley dish.
($$): Stationed in what was once a famous curio (or curiosities) shop in the French Quarter, Curio offers up surprisingly affordable Creole food in an upscale dining space. Their “Taste of New Orleans” dish will give you a great introduction to local fare.
($$$): Easily one of New Orleans’ most famous restaurants, Brennan’s is a legendary Creole cuisine staple that has been enticing tourists with its incredible scents since 1946. Their menu is a bit pricey but well worth every penny, and the seafood gumbo is nothing shy of an absolute masterpiece.
Pro Tip: New Orleans is highly regarded as one of the best foodie cities on Earth. We tried to include the top options in our food section below, but you shouldn’t take it as gospel. Explore the French Quarter and give the restaurants there a try. It’s difficult to have a bad dining experience here!

What to do in New Orleans

Visit Preservation Hall
:  Preservation Hall is America’s most important music cornerstone. It doesn’t look like much, though—it’s hot … there’s no AC. The building looks decrepit inside and out. But take a deep breath, and you feel the history of this important space. You hear and feel the music, which takes your soul out for an evening of dinner and dancing in the blink of an eye. And suddenly you get why it has retained its legacy all these years.
See their calendar
for details on upcoming events.
Take in the entertainment in Jackson Square
: Jackson Square is always a hopping spot, with artists and live performers creating a lively environment. Be prepared to leave carrying beautiful art—much of it made on the spot. This is one of those places kids don’t want to go initially, but then they won’t want to leave once you get there.
The Mardi Gras Museum
: While visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras isn’t exactly a family-friendly affair, it doesn’t mean you can’t take in some of this world-famous party’s sights and sounds here at the Mardi Gras Museum. Tickets for all-ages cost $15 each.
Go on a spooky ghost tour
: While Savannah, Georgia is famous for being the most haunted city in America, New Orleans is no stranger to ghastly ghosts or spooky specters. Ghost City Tours hosts a great all-ages ghost tour called “The Ghosts of New Orleans” most evenings at 8 p.m., with tickets starting at $10.59 per child (ages 6 to 11) and $26.49 per ticket ages 12+. 
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New Orleans to Houston

Distance: 348 miles, 5 hours and 15 minutes
The first leg of this grand New Orleans to Grand Canyon road trip will take you to Houston, Texas. Easily the most modern city on this road trip, Space City is home to NASA and has lots of fun activities for adults and the whole family.
This will be the first of three long, five-hour drives, taking Interstate 10 West on a lengthy New Orleans to Houston drive. 
Pro Tip: Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Beaumont are great places to make pit stops for gas, lunch, or leg stretches along the way.

Where to Stay in Houston

Studio 6 Houston
(from $80): Motel 6 has been undergoing an effort to rebrand with nicer, cleaner, modernized rooms, and this motel exemplifies just how good a job they’ve been doing. The Studio 6 Houston hotel is a bit of a drive from attractions, but the rooms are cheap and reliably nice.
Hilton Houston Plaza/ Medical Center
(from $92): The cheapest non-motel on our list is a reliable standard. The Hilton is located close to the Houston Zoo and within walking distance of the world-famous Texas Medical Center.
The Lancaster Hotel
(from $160): An elegant four-star hotel in a nice central location, this 1920’s hotel is frequently named the nicest hotel in Houston, featuring spacious rooms and a great bistro for lunch or dinner.
Hotel ZaZa
(from $203): This youthfully chic option is one of Houston’s finer hotels, including poolside villas and a great day spa. This hotel isn’t especially family-oriented. But if you’re traveling with other adults, it’s a very comfortable alternative to the Lancaster and the Hotel Granduca.
Hotel Granduca
(from $279): The Lancaster might be Houston’s most famous luxury hotel, but this five-star offering gives it a run for its money. The Hotel Granduca is a swanky establishment with heavy European villa vibes—and a wildly excellent onsite restaurant. If you’re looking for a luxury stay in Houston, it’s hard not to recommend Hotel Granduca.

Where to Eat in Houston

($$): There’s some debate over who invented the fajita, but most people give credit for the popular Tex-Mex meal to Ninfa’s in Houston. As you can surely imagine, their fajitas are some of the best you’ll have anywhere in the world.
The Breakfast Klub
($$): This hopping midtown breakfast spot is usually a bit busy, but their food is phenomenal and a great way to start your day. They have a great soul food menu for lunch, too! Try their “Breakfast Klub” sandwich for a super yummy breakfast.
Eugene’s Gulf Coast Cuisine
($$): World-class Cajun food with some of the best oysters and gumbo in the whole of the Gulf region, this family-friendly eatery is definitely worthy of a visit.
($$$): Looking for something a little more upscale? This Oaxacan restaurant features an exotic menu of fine dining bliss, with a special vegetarian menu on offer as well. You’ll have a difficult time naming many places with better Sangria.

What to Do in Houston

Houston Zoo
: Often listed as one of the top ten zoos in North America, the Houston Zoo is home to more than 6,000 animals. Tickets use flex pricing but generally go for $19 to $22 per person, and portions of the proceeds help 49 animal conservation programs all over the world!
Space Center Houston
: Houston’s “Space City” nickname stems from its critical role in NASA’s space exploration efforts. Space Center Houston is fun for the whole family with all sorts of interactive exhibits. Tickets are $24.95 per kid (4-11) and $29.95 per adult (12+).
Houston Museum of Natural Science
: This museum features dinosaur fossils striking action poses like no other museum in America. The planetarium and other exhibits are excellent, too! Tickets usually start at $16 per child and $25 per adult, but can sometimes vary.
Children’s Museum Houston
: A fun interactive learning experience billed as “a playground for your mind” that will keep kids captivated for hours! Tickets for everyone over the age of one cost $12 each.
Downtown Aquarium Restaurant
: Wait, why are we listing a restaurant under activities and not eateries? Well, the Downtown Aquarium Restaurant isn’t just a restaurant. It’s also an aquarium and a theme park. Tickets start at $22 for everyone under 42” tall and $24 for everyone taller than that. Their seafood-heavy restaurant charges separately for meals.

Houston to Abilene

Distance: 357 miles, 5 hours and 40 minutes
Your second drive will also be the second-longest. At nearly six hours of drive time, not counting stops, the trek from Houston to Abilene, Texas is a long one.
Abilene is a smaller city, but don’t let its size fool you. This is a great place to stop overnight on your New Orleans to Grand Canyon road trip. Steeped in history and Texas culture, Abilene has lots of fun activities for kids and adults alike!
The route from Houston to Abilene follows a series of US and State highways and Texas routes. It’s best to research this drive before you depart and, as we mentioned earlier, print out the instructions so you have them handy. Mobile reception will be spotty at best for most of this drive.
On the drive from Houston to Abilene, you’ll be taking US 290 West to Hempstead, then take Route 6 north (which becomes US 190). 
Just after the town of Hearne, get on FM 485 west, and turn left onto Texas Route 53 West
In Temple, take the Northeast H.K. Dodgen route (363) around the town to Texas Highway 36, which will lead you all the way to Abilene. 

Where to stay in Abilene

Whitten Inn
(from $53): A clean, family-friendly, locally-owned motel with a nice pool. It has a great centralized location. They’re pet-friendly, too, unlike the other two hotels we’re listing here.
Hampton Inn and Suites
(from $89): Wherever you are in the country, Hampton Inn and Suites are always reliably affordable, comfortable, clean, and safe. 
Holiday Inn
(from $96): Another dependable chain hotel, this one arguably has the nicest rooms of the three spots we’re listing for Abilene.

Where to eat in Abilene

The Dixie Pig
($): As Abilene’s most popular breakfast spot, the Dixie Pig is an old-school diner with walls adorned with all sorts of cute pig trinkets. They don’t have an official website, but they’ve been in business since 1931, and they’re a staple of Abilene breakfast eating.
Larry’s Better Burger Drive-In
($): An Abilene favorite, this locally-owned fast food joint doesn’t look like much from the outside. The business doesn’t have a website, and they don’t take credit cards. But their burgers are flat-out, no-nonsense delicious—and they’re cheap, too!
Lucy’s Big Burgers
($$): A great burger joint with excellent sides and world-class burgers. Try the Lucy with Cheese and consider picking up a side of beef chili.
Copper Creek Restaurant
($$$): A classy but casual Texas-style steak and seafood restaurant with a great ribeye prepped over an open-flame mesquite grill. Their menu isn’t especially vegetarian-friendly, but if you’re a steak fan, you’ll want to visit Copper Creek while you’re here.

What to do in Abilene

Frontier Texas
: A fun museum that teaches about the Wild West, without getting you quite as dusty as the next place on our list. They have a really great gift shop, too. Adults get in for $10, while children ages 3 to 12 get in for $5 each.
Taylor County History Center/ Buffalo Gap Historic Village
: A collection of historic buildings in nearby Buffalo Gap, Texas tells the story of Texas from the “Wild West” to a modernized region. You’ll go on a walking tour of the town and explore living exhibits that the kids will be talking about all the way to Roswell. Tickets cost $7 per adult, $4 per student, and kids 5 and under are free.
12th Armored Division Memorial Museum
: Known as the “Hellcats,” the 12th Armored Division drove their Sherman tanks across Europe during World War II and played a key role in the Allied forces defeat of Nazi Germany. The museum features all sorts of exhibits, from weapons to uniforms to vehicles, even a real tank! Tickets cost $5 per adult, $4 per student 13+, and $2 per child ages 7 to 12. 
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Abilene to Roswell

Distance: 309 miles, 4 hours 40 minutes
What’s a good road trip without visiting at least one classic American tourist trap? Thankfully, one of America’s best is just under 5 hours from Abilene, and not located in a galaxy far, far away.
Roswell is, of course, famous for being the site where—according to legend, anyway—a flying saucer from outer space crash-landed in 1947. Was it a UFO and space aliens? Or just a weather balloon like the Army insists? We’ll leave that up to you.
Whether you don’t believe in aliens or you’re already practicing making spooky sci-fi sounds on your theremin, this is a fun little town to visit, and your kids will love it here, too. 
Getting to Roswell will require some more complicated navigation. From Abilene, take Interstate 20 West, and watch for US-84 West past the town of Sweetwater. If you reach Roscoe, you’ve gone too far.
US-84 will eventually take you to the small town of Post, Texas, where you’ll turn left onto West 8th Street and follow that down to US-380 West. You’ll follow this for quite some time, eventually ending up in Roswell.

Where to stay in Roswell

The Roswell Inn
(from $72): The Roswell Inn is a clean, modern motel with nice rooms and a decent location. They lean into the whole UFO/ alien culture around town hard, which is appealing for some people, too.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Roswell
(from $93): An affordable chain hotel with nice rooms. Their pool is a little on the small side, but the location is great—which definitely makes up for it.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Roswell
(from $115): A bit more expensive and a little further away from the downtown action, this Holiday Inn Express is still within walking distance to most attractions, and it features a bigger indoor pool than the Fairfield, and it has a complimentary fitness center.

Where to eat in Roswell

The Cowboy Cafe
($): This famous diner serves all-day breakfast, lunch, and dinner with plenty of cowboy kitsch—with just a hint of Roswell’s famous ufology. The alien omelet, mothership burger, and double barrel burger will all knock your boots off.
Martin’s Capitol Cafe
($): An affordable Mexican restaurant with excellent food and a good amount of vegetarian options, too. Try their taco plate or their tamale plate!
Stellar Coffee Co
($$): Another option for all-day breakfast, with lunch and dinner options as well, Stellar Coffee is a little more straightforward and less thematic than the Cowboy Cafe. They also offer really good coffee, teas, and smoothies.

What to do in Roswell

Walk the Roswell UFO Strip: Along US Highway 285 through downtown Roswell, you’ll find a small collection of nifty, quirky, and almost excessively kitschy UFO-themed businesses, including
Alien Zone
Roswell Spacewalk
, and the International UFO Museum & Research Center. There are lots of places for selfies and family photos and plenty of options for tacky, but fun souvenirs. 
International UFO Museum & Research Center
: As Roswell’s main UFO-themed attraction, the International UFO Museum & Research Center is packed with sci-fi paraphernalia and cool exhibits kids will thoroughly enjoy. They also have a great gift shop and some of the friendliest museum staff you’re ever going to meet. Admission is just $2 per child (5 to 15) and $5 per adult.
The Roswell Museum
: Not really digging the whole UFO thing? The Roswell Museum showcases local and regional art and history. They do occasionally flirt with the UFO stuff, but this is a great spot for taking in art you might not otherwise be exposed to. Kids 15 and under get in free, while tickets for adults 16 and up cost $10 each.
Bottomless Lakes State Park
: If all these indoor activities on your New Orleans to Grand Canyon road trip have you feeling a little cooped up, head down to Bottomless Lakes State Park for some fun outdoor activities. They have camping, too!

Roswell to Albuquerque 

Distance: 201 miles, 3 hours and 2 minutes
It might not be the easiest city name to spell, but Albuquerque is definitely an easy place to enjoy. With a history dating back to 1706, Albuquerque is a city steeped in stories in which multiple cultures come together like few other places in the country.
The drive time from Roswell to Albuquerque is just over three hours, making this the shortest leg of the trip.
When leaving Roswell, take US 285 (the same street with the UFO museum) and head north out of town. Stay on 285 for quite a while, until you reach the small town of Clines Corners, where you’ll get on Interstate 40 West, following the signs toward Albuquerque.
Guess what? You’re now officially getting your kicks on Route 66! You’ll spend most of the remainder of your New Orleans to Grand Canyon road trip on this fabled highway. 
Pro Tip: The TV shows Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul take place largely in Albuquerque, a city with a famously high crime rate. But you should be fine if you stick to tourist areas and keep your car locked.

Where to stay in Albuquerque

The Monterey Motel
(from $90): This is the cheapest motel we recommend in Albuquerque. The Monterey Motel is comfortable, modern, and safe with nice rooms and amenities.
The El Vado Motel
(from $120): A vintage Route 66 staple, the El Vado was one of the first motels built on the famed highway. Situated in Old Town, the El Vado has nicely updated rooms and a revolving list of restaurant startup “food pods” that allow aspiring restaurateurs to launch their businesses.
Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town
(from $169): A grand four-star hotel with an impressive pool, featuring poolside drinks and food. The Hotel Albuquerque is one of the nicest hotels in the city, with a perfect location in Old Town, and is right across the street from one of our recommended dining spots, the Sawmill Market.
Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm
(from $300): Los Poblanos is a chic inn with gorgeous rooms and suites, many of which include fireplaces and have s’mores kits for the kids. They have an excellent restaurant on-site, as well as a tremendous spa.

Where to eat in Albuquerque

Flying Roadrunner Bakery
($): Super yummy coffee to get your day started right, with lots of breakfast sandwiches, tacos, and pastries. This is easily our top choice for breakfast in Albuquerque.
Old Town Pizza Parlor
($): Old Town Pizza Parlor is easily one of the best pizza places west of the Mississippi. Their pizza and calzones will make even a hardcore pizza connoisseurs from New York swoon.
Sawmill Market
($ to $$$): With 17 restaurants, wine bars, and breweries built into an old lumber yard, Sawmill Market has lots of great choices for dining in the Old Town area.
High Noon Restaurant and Saloon
($$): It’s not often the best steak restaurant in a city also has the best vegetarian-friendly menu as well, but that’s exactly what you get at High Noon. Their menu stands out for offering American, Mexican, and Tex-Mex infused with local flair.

What to do in Albuquerque

Explore Old Town
: Old Town is a brilliant neighborhood with history and culture around every corner. With guided historic tours, classic pueblo-style buildings, and an almost overwhelming number of eateries, shops, and museums, this is the cultural epicenter of New Mexico and a place no history buff should pass up.
Petroglyph National Monument
: With artwork dating back 700 years to Native Americans and Spanish settlers, the petroglyphs are a big draw for history buffs. This national monument is free to enter, too!
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
: The history and culture of the Pueblo people are fascinating, and this top-flight museum introduces you to them in thoroughly captivating ways. Try and go when they have a live event happening, and consider visiting their restaurant as well as their art store. Tickets cost $7 for kids ages 5 to 17 and $10 per adult.
The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History
: The Manhattan Project, which created the atomic bombs used in World War II, was heavily developed in New Mexico. This museum teaches visitors about this project and nuclear science as well. Tickets cost $11 per child (6 to 17) and $15 per adult.
Route 66 Casino
: A classic casino along America’s most famous roadway, the Route 66 Casino has entertainment for kids and grown-ups alike (but mostly grown-ups). It’s not one of those little slots-only casinos, either. They have table games here, too!

Albuquerque to Grand Canyon Village

Distance: 410 miles, 6 hours and 10 minutes
Our New Orleans to Grand Canyon road trip is finally coming to a close, and it ends at one of the world’s most famous natural wonders. The mesmerizing Grand Canyon draws countless tourists and visitors from all over the globe year after year.
This final leg of the journey will be a bit grueling. The drive from Albuquerque to the Grand Canyon Village will take just over 6 hours!
Consider stopping over in Gallup, New Mexico if this is a little too long for you or your kids.
When leaving Albuquerque, get back on Interstate 40 West. You’ll take in a good bit of Route 66 here (Which is now I-40) as you head west. Good towns to stop in along the way include Grants, Gallup, Holbrook, Winslow, and Flagstaff.
Eventually, you’ll come up to the town of Williams, Arizona. In this area, you’ll take exit 165 to get on Arizona Route 64, which will take you to Grand Canyon Village.
Pro Tip: If you’re planning to do the Grand Canyon Railway train ride, consider the hotel options in Williams before departing. This is a nice town to stay in before heading up 64.
MORE: 8 pro tips for long car rides with kids

Where to stay in Grand Canyon Village

Yavapai Lodge
(from $118): Cozy rooms in a traditional Route 66 motel. It’s very conveniently located and affordable if you book far enough in advance.
The Red Feather Lodge
(from $125): This hotel is down route 64 in Tusayan, just six minutes from the Grand Canyon. There’s a shuttle bus from Tusayan to the Grand Canyon, too. Guests can bring their keys to the Plaza Bonita restaurant for a 10 percent discount.
El Tovar Hotel
(from $278): A great option for a nicer stay in Grand Canyon Village, the El Tovar Hotel was built in 1905, and they’ve gone to great lengths to keep this establishment an authentic western experience. The lobby feels like the set of a spaghetti western movie, and we say that lovingly!

Where to eat in Grand Canyon Village

Foodie Club
($): An all-day breakfast diner with great lunch and dinner options, Foodie Club is located in nearby Tusayan and prides itself on its “fast and good” motto. They could add “cheap” in there, too. Their menu is very affordable, super tasty, and good for any meal.
Fred Harvey Burger
($): A nice, laid-back lunch spot with a simple fast-food menu featuring burgers and beyond burgers.
Plaza Bonita
($$): An authentic Mexican restaurant in Tusayan. Their chimichangas and steak picado are delicious, and they have lots of vegetarian options, too.
Big E Steakhouse & Saloon
($$): This is a fun restaurant with great food and plenty of options for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, featuring live entertainment from musicians and magicians. You simply must have dinner here before you leave the Grand Canyon!
El Tovar Dining Room
($$$): A reservation-only steakhouse in the El Tovar Hotel, this is ideal for dressing up and enjoying a perfect dinner to celebrate your New Orleans to Grand Canyon getaway.

What to do in Grand Canyon Village

Yavapai Point
: There aren’t any bad views of the Grand Canyon, but Yavapai Point might be the most jaw-dropping. This area is great for photos (please be safe when taking selfies!), too. It can get a little crowded, though.
Yavapai Geology Museum
: When you’re up at Yavapai Point, be sure to check out the onsite museum. It’s free of charge, and it provides fascinating background information on the geology and history of the Grand Canyon. 
Go on a “Grand” Hike
: You’ll find lots of great trailheads in and around Grand Canyon Village. The famed Bright Angel trail is a challenging eight-mile trek, and if all that exercise doesn’t take your breath away, the scenery certainly will!
Ride the Grand Canyon Railway
: This unforgettable train ride departs from Williams and takes you on an amazing journey through time, with live actors and performances along the way. Ticket prices vary depending on which train car you ride in, but the cheapest start at $32 per child (ages 2 to 15) and $67 per adult (16+). Watch out for those pesky train-robbing bandits!
MORE: 5 best road trips in Arizona for outdoor adventure

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