A Travellerspoint blog

October 2007

Day 40 - Blog Housekeeping - Map Update

Map & general status update (aka anything to avoid doing my 'real' work...)

rain
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Yes, I think I've got the map caught up:

Also, in case you're wondering (or new) - there are still about 10 days +/- back in September where I haven't finished adding pictures to the blog entries. Believe it or not, I do intend to get these caught up (for my own sake if no one elses). There was a lot of interesting stuff we saw during that portion of the trip (as we have everywhere we've been!)

Since these are so far back now, when I do get them updated - I'll put a note in a current entry.

Also, in case you're new - you can click on the Categories on the right. The Preparations category has some introductory stuff about us and our trip. I intend to (someday?) start using some of the other categories better, such as Education & Photography - but haven't had time to yet. We're trying to get through New England before winter hits and are running a little behind. Once we get farther south, we'll slow down a bit which will make it easier to get all these grand plans caught up (unless we find even more places to visit!)

Posted by jl98584 16:59 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (2)

Day 40 (10.11.07) - A Very Short Trip in Maine

We stop early so I can take care of some business, so not much to write about and only a few pictures. But we are in Maine finally!

rain 58 °F
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Miles Driven: 81
Weather: Overcast and Raining, high about 58 F

We got off to a good start from the Stony Creek campground and continued east. I was able to check voice mail at the campground using a public phone (it's been over a week since I've had any cell phone signal from AT&T). If you've had trouble getting ahold of us, please try email - it's been much more reliable than cell phone service (I'm using a Sprint data card for the laptop, hmm).

We saw a visitors center in Rumford, Maine and decided to pull over. Unfortunately it was too early for lunch because there were a couple of very yummy looking food vendors there (Apple Crisp & Baked Pototoes). There was also a sign about the Rumford Waterfalls. These are the highest waterfalls east of Niagara Falls in terms of total vertical drop, but there has been so little rain this year that the falls were dry. There is a power plant that also draws off water, but usually there is enough for both. The picture is of the (dry) upper falls, from the looks of the rocks, I think it probably is pretty spectacular when there's enough water.

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The woman at the visitors center recommended a route that would have given us a better view of rural Maine and taken us up into Moose country, but since we are a bit behind on our schedule we decided to keep heading east. We passed some interesting things, including blue fire hydrants. Perhaps a silly thing to take a picture of, but I loved the colors so...

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We drove on and decided to stop for lunch at a diner in Skowhegan. I think I'll let the sign explain the history of the place for me (love it when the town takes care of the hard work for me!).

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Just outside of town we passed an RV park with wi-fi. Although it was only about 1 PM, I have a bunch of work to do on the laptop regarding Dad's place. Sooner or later I was going to have to stop driving and touring and just get this work done, so I decided to pull over. Of course, so far this afternoon I've puttered around and not gotten the work done (I did get the printer installed and a few other things done, but will still have to get that letter written...)

So not much to write about today, maybe we all needed a break!

Mom and I plan to continue east tomorrow, then start down the coast of Maine. Lots of stuff to see still and a lot of driving yet to do. It's supposed to rain again tomorrow (fine with us while we're driving in a warm, dry vehicle), then get nicer and sun again by Monday. That will be nice on the coast!

Posted by jl98584 16:11 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Day 39 (10.10.07) - Vermont to Maine

3 stops in Vermont first, then we skirted the White Mountains in New Hampshire and actually made it to Maine finally, not the top corner yet, but Maine!

overcast 0 °F
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Miles Driven: 138
Weather: Rain last night again, Heavy overcast most of the day, Mid 50's F

<<I wrote this last night, 10.10.07, but lost the internet signal before it was finished - all that great writing lost forever! So here it goes again. Maybe someday I'll learn to back things up as I go?>>

As promised, the first thing we did this morning was visit the "Rock of Ages" granite quarry and factory in Graniteville, Vermont (close to Barre and Montpelier). This is the largest granite quarry in the US. It is over 600 feet deep and covers about 56 acres. The granite dome they are working is so large, that at the current rate of extraction, it will last another 4,800 years!

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You must take a tour to see the quarry (safety reasons I assume), but it was worth it. The bus parked right next to the fence, which was right next to a ledge - I guess they aren't worried about the edge caving in! The picture is hard to do justice to the scale. In the second picture I used the 12x zoom to capture just the detail in the lower right of the wide angle shot. The men are drilling a series of holes in the granite to break it into blocks small enough for the derrick to hoist out of the quarry. The ladders up to the top are for safety only, the derrick also hoists the men and machinery into and out of the quarry.

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The "Rock of Ages" company sells some granite wholesale to other companies who manufacture various products out of it. They also process some of it themselves to sell as gravestones, manufacturing platforms and other things. Granite makes a great platform for manufacturing since it is very solid and stable (at various temperatures I assume). So after touring the quarry, we decided to also tour the factory. This is only a small section of it, but you can see some of how it works.

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We also found out that tourists can make their own souviner by sandblasting a picture onto small piece of granite. I love hands on experiences and the cost was quite reasonable ($8.50), so I decided to give it a shot. A room in the factory is set aside with three small sandblasting boxes. Staff assist you in picking out a piece of polished granite that has a rubber mask attached to it. You stick your hands in heavy rubber gloves in the sandblasting boxes and grab the sandblasting gun. The staff turns on the power and you move the gun back and forth until your picture is blasted into the granite. As long as you keep the gun moving, the rubber mask protects the parts of the granite it covers so the only area's that get blasted are where the mask cutouts are. Here is an example of the three stages, the blank polished granite piece is on the top, the piece with the rubber mask on the left, and a finished piece after sandblasting on the right. This is another tourist who has just finished making his souviner. He is scraping remaining pieces of the rubber mask off with an exacto knife. Mom also took a picture of me doing the sandblastingl.

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Before leaving the "Rock of Ages" factory, our tour guide recommended we visit the Hope Cemetary just outside of town. It has many examples there of finely carved granite which they are very proud of, I think they like to recommend this as kind of a 'showroom' for their art. Neither Mom nor I particularly like going to cemetaries, but since we were driving right by it, I decided to pull over and check it out. There are certainly some unusual gravestones there and it really does show how well granite can be carved.

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After leaving Barre and the granite behind, we drove on eastwards. Mom thought we should head straight to New Hampshire and finally get back on track for our trip (we had planned to make the northeast corner of Maine by October 1st!) However, I thought it also might be fun to stop at the Cabot Creamery and see how cheese was made. It wasn't very far off the road we were taking anyway. Again, the tour started off with a video about the history of the company (I wonder if all Vermont factory tours follow the same sort of plan?). It was interesting however, we learned that Cabot Creamery is a farmer owned co-op that has won a major international award for having the best cheese. I didn't learn too much about what makes cheese, but I learned a little more about how a modern cheese factory works! The still pictures I tried to take didn't come out very well, but I did get a halfway decent video of two hugh metal troughs. The first one is mixing up cheese curds (curds are cheese before it's been aged). The one in the background is processing whey. The dark spots are peppers, which are being used for this particular batch of cheese.

Although this side trip was my idea, I think Mom enjoyed as much as I did (and the cheese tasting at the end a little more). She remembered her mother making cheese by hand when she was little - quite a difference. While I was in the gift shop buying some extra sharp chedder, she prevailed upon another tourist and snuck this in behind my back!

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You can also learn more about the Cabot Creamery at their web site:

http://www.cabotcheese.com/

So having stuffed ourselves with cheese samples (and a few purchases), we got back on the road towards New Hampshire. We got as far as St. Johnsbury when Mom said that she'd really like to visit the Fairbanks Museum there. We had heard about it from the tour guide at the Fairbanks House in Massachussets. Some extreamly distant cousin's of Mom's had moved to St Johnsbury, VT. Thaddeus Fairbanks invented the platform scale, then he and his brother, Erastus, formed the E & T Fairbanks Scale Company in 1824. This venture was very successful, in fact we passed the current factory later on our way out of town! The Fairbanks Museum is really a Museum of Natural History, but they do have an exhibit in the basement about the brothers and some of their scales. I also loved the building, but forgot to ask if it was a Fairbanks home.

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The rest of the museum was interesting also and they even let us take pictures! However, we couldn't use flash (light is hard on fragile objects), so I didn't take too many pic's and the ones I took aren't very good. Mom took this picture of an old music box. She couldn't believe it only cost a nickle to play, so asked the museum staff. 'Oh yes' they said and then even handed her the nickle to play it! (Some Vermonter's may not be so reserved after all?)

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So having toured the granite quarry, the cheese factory, and the Fairbanks museum - we were finally ready to start heading east again. This time, we drove through New Hampshire without any major stops - although we did stop frequently in Vermont and New Hampshire both, trying to get the perfect shot of the fall foliage. With the cooler weather, the colors were somewhat better today, but the dark sky & rain made it difficult to capture. We took Hwy 2 through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and I could tell what all the fuss is about. Even if the colors aren't as bright as in some years, the colorful forests go on and on. The trees are very dense and you can see colors for as far as the eye can see in both Vermont and New Hampshire. My pictures may not do these justice, but I will post just the best shots here. There was one spot where the sun was streaking though the overcast just over one of the White Mountains, which was awesome, I think this is my favorite shot (cropped heavily).

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Finally, it was getting too dark even for me to try to pull over for scenery pictures - so we actually made it into Maine! We will continue heading east tomorrow, maybe only ten days or so past our original target?

Posted by jl98584 18:14 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Day 38 (10.9.07) - Stowe, Vermont (Video's Added)

We didn't go very far, but saw lots of things.

overcast 60 °F
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Miles Driven: 51
Weather: Overcast, but occasional sun breaks (Rain at night again)

After a hearty breakfast topped off with some Vermont Maple Syrup, we drove up to the Von Trapp Family Lodge, in Stowe Vermont. This is the family made famous by the movie: "The Sound of Music". Of course, the movie took a lot of liberties with the family story, but it was loosely based on the family. Marie and Georg von Trapp bought their kids (eventually there were nine in total) to the United States after leaving Austria and bought a farm in Stowe, Vermont for the family. After Georg died in 1947, the family started taking in guests to help make ends meet. The original lodge burned down in 1980 and a new lodge completed in 1984.

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The lodge area now includes several extra buildings and facilities. In addition to the gift shop (where of course we both spent money), we stopped at a wonderful little bakery and met Sue, who was glad to help us part with our money (and expand our waistlines).

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You can get a sense of the view from the lodge behind the bakery however, splendid! As we drove down the hill, we passed the Horse & Buggy ride offered by the lodge. We didn't take it since it was quite cold, but in warmer weather it looked like it might be fun (also, check out the view again). Also, we passed some Austrian Cattle raised by the lodge, then later some wild turkeys.

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We headed back towards I-89 about 8 miles away and passed the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. It looked a little like a tourist trap but I decided to stop anyway (we'd been enjoying their cider since we arrived in VT a couple of days ago). In the front is a big gift shop, but in the back is a room where you can watch the cider being made. They also have a huge vat of cider you can sample (I took at least a couple of cups). Perhaps it is a tourist trap, but a very interesting and tasty one!

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We also bought a couple of small pies, one Apple and one Pumpkin. We tried the Pumpkin for dessert tonight and it was wonderful - they use apple cider in the recipe somehow. Of course, you can learn more at their web site:

http://coldhollow.com/aboutus

A couple more miles down the road was the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, with tours available. This wasn't the type of thing we normally stop at, but as we were in the neighborhood we decided to check it out. It was interesting, but maybe we should have skipped it. There was a six minute video about the history of Ben & Jerry's, then a short viewing of the factory (very automated) and finally they gave everybody a small scoop of their banana rum ice cream at the end of the tour. I loved it, Mom - not so much. No pictures were allowed inside during the tour, which will probably save us both some time now!

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Somehow, we finally managed to make it back to the freeway and drove on the Montpelier. I decided I wanted to see this city because it is the smallest state capitol in the US, with about 7,900 people. The small town where I'm from, Shelton, WA has about 8,400 people so yes, Montpelier is small. The capitol building was built using granite from Vermont (see tomorrow's entry...). Several of the grand, old homes across from the capitol building have been converted into government offices.

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<<Caution: The following is my perception of a conversation & interaction that took place at the Visitors Center in Montpelier, VT. I have since learned that the visitors center staff have a completely different perception of the same events, in that I walked in angry and they were trying to respond with humor. So in the interest of fairness, keep in mind that my comments are only from my perception, which may or may not accurately reflect what happened, so my conclusions may or may not be correct either. If you want to read the comments about the 'angry tourist', this is the link . Motto - be careful about what you write in blogs, somebody might actually read it!

http://montpelier-vt.blogspot.com/2007/10/why-it-is-good-to-be-polite-and-kind-to.html>>

It was interesting that when I drove down the main street ("State Street"), they had a visitors center - but there was no parking for it. I found a parking place down the block and walked back to see what I could learn about Montpelier, but when I mentioned to the man behind the desk that I'd never seen a visitors center without parking before, he said "Well, you've seen one now." I tried to explain that I just thought it odd because it was hard to use the visitors center if I couldn't get to it and he said: "We're awfully busy here. We're not going to build a parking garage just for you." I'm only relating this because it so represented the attitude I often found while visiting this state - his was more extreme than most, but folks often here seem to have a cool, almost stand-offish attitude compared to other states we've visited. I'm sure they're friendly after you get to know them, but not at first contact. This is odd because tourism is their largest industry!

Maybe the origion of Vermont as a disputed territory defended by rugged individualists has stayed with the people somewhat? Anyway, I wasn't in much of a mood to spend any more time visiting Montpelier, so I decided to head on out to a Maple Sugar/Syrup farm on all the maps and brochures.

The Morse Farm is still a working Maple Syrup producer (and a big host to many big tour buses). The farm isn't really that big, the gift shop is bigger then the sugar house, but at least it's authentic (they also buy sap from neighboring farms of course, but farm their own tree's as well). Mom was tired so stayed in the RV. I went through their sugar house and walked out to visit the trees (as well as the gift shop). I picked up a video of the operation for $10 which we'll share with the school back home.

Maple tree's produce sap in the early spring in March or April. The sap starts rising to help grow leaves once winter starts coming to an end and the sugar producer's can tap some of that sap. The American northeast (including Canada) is the only place in the world that produces Maple Syrup and sugar - I'm not sure why, certainly other area's have Maple trees? Anyway, the sap comes out of the tree looking a lot like water. They tap the tree using a drill, then insert a hollow tap to allow the sap to drip out. Traditionally, they used a metal tap and hung a sap bucket off the tap (with a 'roof' to keep debris out). Today, most sugar growers use plastic taps and pipe to collect syrup. It is much cheaper and faster as well as cleaner (since there is no way for bugs or debris to get into the sap).

The sap drains into (or is transported to) the sugar house where it is boiled down into syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Originally the farms produced maple sugar that pioneer households used as a sweetener. When railroads became common, sugar from the south was much cheaper so New England farmers started selling syrup instead. The process is the same, but syrup isn't boiled down as far. However, even though the product is now syrup, the process is still called 'Sugarin'.

Most of the pancake syrups available in supermarkets today contain little if no maple syrup. If you read the label however, you can still find real maple syrup and it is quite good. The Morse farm still uses wood to boil down the sap, so keeps a wood shed next to the sugar house (you can see the roof of the sugar house behind it). In the off season, it doubles as a theater to show visitors how the syrup is made.

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After leaving the Morse farm, we wandered around the back roads quite a bit -very bad roads - the gift of harsh Vermont winters I suppose). We finally found the "Rock of Ages" granite operation. The gift shop was still open, but tours to the quarry were over for the day. This is the largest granite quarry in America and I'd really like to see it. Also, we were both tired and there was a nice RV park just a block or so from the operation, so we decided to stay here for the night and take the tour in the morning.

The good news is that after the granite quarry, we should be able to head back into New Hampshire and continue pressing east again. Maybe we'll make it to Maine before next summer?

Posted by jl98584 18:34 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (13)

Day 37 (10.8.07) - Burlington to Stowe, Vermont

We started heading back east across Vermont. Sometimes we just don't move very fast.

rain 55 °F
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Miles Driven: 54
Weather: Heavy Overcast, occasional light rain, Cool (mid to high 50's F)

You might be wondering how we could travel only 54 miles today (and some of that was a loop!) We did get up at a reasonable hour, but didn't leave the campground very early because I had some chores to do (bills to pay, etc.). Also, we walked down to the beach at the campground to see Lake Champlain. I'm not sure the official geography, but Mom had heard that Lake Champlain is sometimes considered one of the Great Lakes, so she really wanted to visit it. This was the main reason we drove up to Burlington.

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As you can see, the weather has (finally?) turned colder and wetter. According to the locals, this is more normal for Vermont in October. Perhaps, but we enjoyed the warm sunshine while it lasted! Maybe the cooler weather will help bring out the fall colors a little more? Some tree's have already lost their leaves (Uncle Bob read that there had been a bad storm earlier), but there are still a lot of green tree's - so I'm hopeful.

A short distance away from the Campground was the Ethan Allen Homestead. Unfortunately, the museum was closed but a 'self guided' tour of the homestead was allowed. Ethan Allen built the home in 1784 after he returned from his exploits in the Revolutionary War. He and Benedict Arnold had lead early Vermont settlers, the 'Green Mountain Boy's' against the British at Fort Ticonderoga and succeeded in capturing it as well as several other forts. The huge stores of cannon and powder seized at Ticonderoga allowed the American rebels to break the stalemate at the siege of Boston, which caused the British to evacuate the city in March 1776.

In spite of these early successes, Ethan Allen wasn't as clearly an early American patriot as it may seem. He was a fervant Vermont patriot and quite a few of his contemporaries would just as soon have had him strung up as honored. The British colonies of New Hampshire and New York both claimed the area between Lake Champlain and the Conneticut river (present day New Hampshire's western boundry). Although he didn't have a clear claim on the territory, the New Hampshire governor sold land grants to working class people such as the Allen family who moved into the area and started farming it. New York's governor also sold land grants to the same area later, but mostly to wealthy land owners who did not actually settle on the land. So many of those who settled Vermont would side with whichever government would recognize their land claims. New York fought this for many years, so Vermont declared itself a republic and didn't join the United States until 1791 - the first state to join the union after the original 13 colonies.

So for the people of Vermont, Ethan Allen was a hero (if a little profane) - to the people of New York - not so much. However his homestead is now a National Historic Site and used for many school programs and activities. Although the house was closed when I was there, I was able to take a couple of decent photographs through the windows.

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On the road again, we got just outside of Burlington and I remembered the Rest Area had advertised Wi-Fi, so I pulled in. Mom may have been a little frustrated at the long delay, but I took advantage of the 54MB internet speed to try and get some things caught up. So we didn't really leave the Burlington area until about 2 PM (sorry Mom).

Mom really wanted to visit the Bird Museum outside of Richmond, just a few more miles down I-89 (which I also wanted to visit). So off we (finally) headed, but as we drove through Richmond - she saw a Bakery and thought it would be a good idea to get some bread (we were low). Outside they had a garden with a lot of different pepper plants and some yard art - this might inspire some of you to put your old yard tools to creative use:

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Just a few blocks further (in Richmond), we saw a sign for parking for the Round Church. We missed the parking lot, but there was an empty parking spot on the little side road right in front of the Church so we stopped. This was something we had see in the tourist brochure and we both thought it would be interesting, but neither of us had bothered to figure out where it was or plot it on the map. So here it was right in front of us!

A very nice volunteer, Patricia, met us at the door and showed us around. The church was built between 1812 and 1814 for a cost of about $3,000 under the direction of William Rhodes. Pew's were sold to local families for about $500 and could be customized by them. People who couldn't afford a pew (or a nice one anyway) sat around the outside (colder) or up in the balcony. The building was designed to be used as both a town meeting hall and a place of worship. It remained in use for 130 years, at which time it seriously needed restoration work.

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There is also a web site (of course) with more information and pictures:

http://www.oldroundchurch.com/content/view/13/40/

After learning about the church, we finally got back on the road to the Bird Museum, arriving two minutes before they closed. However the young woman that greated us had a meeting going on and said we could stay a little longer. She also mentioned that the man who carved all the birds was working upstairs if we wanted to meet him (I did). The museum has over 470 birds carved by Bob Spear. He has been working on this turkey for over a year. He said he used to work with hand tools, but now does most of his carving with power tools and is also teaching a student how to carve the birds. I noticed these "How To" cards in his work area and thought maybe one of the woodworkers in the family might be interested.

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He started carving birds as a retirement hobby twenty seven years ago! The carvings are beautiful and very realistic. Most are set up in exhibits that reflect the birds in their natural environment. There is also a viewing area set up with a large window to outside bird feeders. While we were there a small woodpecker and very large blue jay were competing for position at the feeder (the woodpecker seemed to have the advantage, despite being much smaller). While the museum staff was being very lenient and allowing us to stay past closing time, somehow I was worried about the time and failed to take any more pictures of the bird carvings themselves! (Mom's back was hurting also so she didn't want to stay any longer). Fortunately, they have pictures on their web site as well as a live webcam of the bird feeders:

http://www.birdsofvermont.org/

I take SO many pictures it would seem like way too many, however when I go to update the blog - don't seem to have enough (in this case, at least some pictures of the birds Mr. Spear carved). Maybe I was just a little tired.

We got back on I-89 and started southeast again only to turn off at the exit for Stowe, Vermont. There are quite a few things to see in this area but of course now it is too late to be sightseeing tonight. We found an RV park a few miles from the Von Trapp lodge, so are parked for the night. Mom was probably getting a little bored spending every evening reading while I updated the blog, so we played a couple of games of Rummy Cubes after dinner (split winners), by which time she was ready to call it a night. I have to use the data card (no wi-fi here), but it seems to be adequate for tonight.

Posted by jl98584 18:34 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

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