A girl, a bike, and an open road

I was up at 4am and headed over to the main hotel for the 4:30am riders meeting. Coffee was welcome, but as usual I diluted mine with hot water and decaf so I wouldn’t spike and crash in a few hours; I’ve found that I don’t need that much caffeine to wake up in the morning, what I actually need is the ritual of a hot beverage, a little rehydration, and a handful of calories from the milk..

We were all a little less jovial, many faces showing the effects of 4 days of hard rally riding. Even our rally master Paul looked a little low-energy; allegedly the rally staff’s rented RV that they used to move the entire operation from Cheyenne to here in Pennsylvania wasn’t the most conducive mode of travel for sleep. It seems like a great idea on paper, though!

We kept the meeting fairly short, going over the schedule, an explanation of a couple quirks (including a manned bonus with a narrow time window), and an additional warning about watching our speed. Far too many rallies pay lip service to this, but don’t actually put any teeth into it. However, LDX was penalizing folks points for pushing outside the envelope of reasonable, which makes for a safer rally for everyone.

Leg B Schedule

The big change for this leg was instead of George Washington statues that give us a progressive point bonus, we’re after Abe Lincoln statues that give us a progressive multiplier bonus. Here’s how it works, from the rally book:

For every Lincoln bonus you successfully claim, each non-Lincoln bonus afterwards multiplied by the number of Lincolns plus 1. If you claim a Lincoln bonus successfully, the next non-Lincoln bonus is worth its listed value times 2. A second Lincoln bonus claimed and all non-Lincoln bonuses after are worth their value times 3.

There is a catch. Once you successfully claim a Lincoln bonus, you MUST successfully claim at least one non-Lincoln bonus after in order to get the point increase. Also, Lincoln bonuses will NEVER be increased, only non-Lincoln bonuses. If you claim two Lincoln bonuses in a row, the next non-Lincoln bonus will only increase its multiplication factor by 1. You need a non-Lincoln bonus in-between. If you claim a Lincoln bonus, but it is denied, then any non-Lincoln bonuses after will only be increased by whatever factor was present prior to the Lincoln that was denied.

Got it? Basically, getting 5 Lincoln statues makes a 1,000 point bonus suddenly a 5,000 point bonus. You better believe we’re gonna be trying to stack as many Lincoln statues as possible!

I hustled back to the overflow hotel where I’d left the laptop and GPS setup and ready to get to work. We’re still chasing Founding Father combos, but what are we looking at for this leg?

Martin Luther King Combo Obtain both Martin Luther King Jr. bonuses 4,000 points
Fifteen Lincolns Combo Obtain 15 of the Abraham Lincoln bonuses 20,000 points
Cpt John Mullan Combo Obtain all 13 of the Cpt John Mullan bonuses 30,000 points
Father Marquette Combo Obtain all 3 Father Marquette bonuses 30,000 points
Madonnas of the Trail Combo Obtain all 11 Madonna of the Trail bonuses 30,000 points
Albert Einstein Combo Obtain all 4 Albert Einstein bonuses 25,000 points

🟢/🔵/🔴/🟣 = Low/Med/High/Extra High value
🟩/🟦/🟥/🟪 = Same, but Daylight only
🅰 = Same, but Abraham Lincoln bonuses
🐾 = Checkpoints

Martin Luther King Combo (4,000 points)

Only 4,000 points, but one is a mile and a half from the final (it's right there under the paw print), so if you're passing anywhere near the other in Omaha, NE, you might as well pick it up.

Fifteen Lincolns Combo (20,000 points)

With 38 Lincoln bonuses available, there's plenty of targets, and since we're going to be targeting Lincoln statues anyways, this is a nice little bonus to stretch for.

Cpt John Mullan Combo (30,000 points)

With a really tight grouping, this could be a really tempting combo to sweep up through I-90 through the Rockies.. but you'd have to charge hard across the country without picking up a lot of anything else.. might stack nicely with a dip down to Gerlach, NV, the 12,000 point bonus at the IBA memorial north of Reno.

Father Marquette Combo (30,000 points)

3 high-value bonuses and a great combo score, but there's a catch - the purple one is on Mackinac Island, meaning a passenger ferry (and hope you can sprint to grab the photo and catch the same boat on it's return, or twiddle your thumbs waiting for the next sailing.) Living in the PNW, I know ferries; they make my scheduling nervous. Also, one is in Chicago, and there's only 2 or 3 Lincolns to stack before hand (which you would want to do to maximize the score from such a high-value but potentially time-sucking bonus.)

Madonnas of the Trail Combo (30,000 points)

What a beautiful ant-trail of bonuses strung across the middle of the country! If you're ambitious, stack in some Lincolns, you could stretch up to Gerlach, or at least sweep up that cluster of red bonuses in Colorado.

Albert Einstein Combo (25,000 points)

A decent amount of points that stacks well with some Lincolns and other high-value clusters...

One thing that Paul has included in his last few rallies is a spreadsheet tool for quickly calculating scoring. It accounts for combo scores, multipliers, sequencing bonuses, etc.. it’s a great little tool that takes a lot of complexity out of scoring, and makes it easier to test out a number of routing choices on the clock without having to guess. With that tool in hand, I looked at a variety of routes built around the Madonnas, the run up through Idaho, etc, looking for a route that would score a minimum of 100,000 points, our target minimum for finisher status.

I threw out the Father Marquette bonus, even though I thought it’d be epic - the ferry scared me too much. A solid score could be had with a loop east through New England and New York before tackling that combo, swooping up a ton of Lincolns along the way to stack in the Lincoln bonus, but I was still thinking I shouldn’t be aggressive. I also threw out hitting Gerlach, although I did spend a lot of time exploring the Cpt Mullan bonus string or the Madonnas and then looping to get Gerlach - at 12,000 even a handful of Lincoln multipliers would make for a great score, but would again require what seemed in that moment to me like a heroic number of miles. I still don’t really have a great idea of what I am capable off, and remember, in this rally I’m focused just on finishing here, so I can prove that being accepted to the IBR in 2023 isn’t just because I’m female or a big personality, but that I actually belong here doing this stuff.

I still was waffling, fielding a few online messages from other folks having some technical issues with getting the spreadsheets themselves opened, when Nick Byrnes, another rider in the rally, called to see if I was done planning and free for breakfast. He had invited me to team up with him for the JBR in September, and we hadn’t really had time to meet during the first couple of days in Cheyenne, so I felt like I had to now despite the time crunch. Breakfast at the hotel was predictably slow and tedious, and took over an hour. The place was full of screaming families and blaring Fox News, but somewhere in there I decided that if I wasn’t pushing for a big finish, I should at least ride to some places I hadn’t gone before and see some new things, so I settled on a route that picked up the Einstein combo, along with 7 Lincolns, and left me with 3 hours of slack time.

It was a bit more aggressive than my Leg A plan, but not outrageously so, had a few bits I could drop if something came up, and would let me finish with around 220,500 points, well over the minimum 100,000 needed for finisher status!

So finally, at 8:30am, the kickstand went up and the engine turned over, and I was finally - FINALLY! - on my way. US-322 to US-22 into Harrisburg, skirting around the city to the west, picking up US-15 to Gettysburg, traffic light in the mid-morning sunshine. The air was already humid and thick, and the sun was starting to warm things up pretty fierce. I made good time, although Gettysburg itself was a snarl of tourists in SUVs and RVs, tour buses disgorging passengers who disperse into minibuses to get driven out to various locations on the battlefield. Someday I hope to visit myself, but will try to hit it in an off-season for sure.

24) BPR26 - Abraham Lincoln - Gettysburg, PA - 299 pts

I pulled up at the main traffic circle and spotted a place to park next to 3 or 4 other bikes; apparently I wasn’t the only slow-poke getting back on the road this morning. I grinned at the irony that I was parking along with a couple other BMWs in front of a Starbucks, and crossed the street to where other rally riders were on the phone and vigorously discussing the issue with this bonus: it wasn’t there.

Apparently the statue had been removed temporarily as part of a restoration effort, and was in the middle of being reinstalled. This reinstallation was apparently employed some kind of Top Secret procedure that no one was allowed to photograph, and several of us had been scolded by the woman who was running the project.

Word came through the other riders on the phone that the scorers knew this was going on, and that all we needed to do was photograph the area to document we were there. I took a ton of photos, and called Nancy (my scorer) to confirm - better safe than sorry!

This segment: 129 miles, 2h02m
Total: 129 miles, 2h02m
Time Remaining: 75h58m
Points scored: 59,023

Feeling woozy and cranky already in the heat, I stopped and got gas at the Sheetz on the edge of town, stocking up on cold drinks and snacks. I would need every drop of hydration and every electrolyte, as I could tell already I was going to sweat today.

It wasn’t only the heat and humidity that prompted me to sweat; late morning traffic on I-270 was spicy. I’ve always heard people complain about DC drivers, but after 2 or 3 near misses in as many miles, I had to agree, so I switched on my “annoying Angeleno” persona and ducked and weaved my way into safe pockets.

25) BPI08 - Madonna of the Trail - Bethesda, MD - 601 pts (x2)

The statue itself is next to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Bethesda, and with no place to park and getting some stink-eye from the doorman, I pulled onto the furthest edge of the little entrance drive and the ramp to the underground parking garage while a stream of black SUVs, Mercedes, and Land Rovers came and went.

That Lincoln bonus is already paying dividends; instead of 601 points, this scores me 1202!

This segment: 74 miles, 1h37m
Total: 129 miles, 3h39m
Time Remaining: 73h17m
Points scored: 60,225

The buildings in east coast cities all seem to crowd the street, looming over the sidewalks and making for claustrophobic canyons of concrete and glass. Compared to the set-back buildings west of the Mississippi, these cities just feel busier and crowded, even when in reality they’re smaller or sleepier.

The Garmin lost its lock somehow, and had no idea where I was, and it took a bit for me to get enough signal on ATT for the cell phone to pull up a map to get me out of this snarl. Once I started moving, both GPSs figured it out, rotating and locking into place. They took me on a route that roughly traced the northern edge of DC on a series of busy stroads. I had people turning left from the right lane, sudden stops in the middle of a block, running red lights.. man, DC. Way to be a stereotype!

26) BPR28 - Abraham Lincoln - Brentwood, MD - 299 pts

It’s not a rally if I’m not in a cemetery taking photos of something! Fort Lincoln Cemetery is named after one of the Civil War ring forts thrown up to protect the capitol, and was frequently used by Lincoln as a location to meet with officers. I’m sure having a spring that runs cold in the hot, muggy summers didn’t hurt, either.

Set back amongst some greenery, I missed the statue and had to loop around, and was futzing around with the rally book to make sure I knew what angle the photo had to be from when Crystal Sabas rolled up, so we swapped photographer duties and then I let her take off while I did paperwork and drank more water.

This segment: 11 miles, 0h40m
Total: 140 miles, 4h19m
Time Remaining: 72h37m
Points scored: 60,524

The heat and humidity were stacking up against me. It was going to be a long day… I was NOT making good time. The only thing stickier than the air was traffic, and each stop I felt like I was swimming through vaporous sludge. There was no opportunities to make up time, narrow streets and drivers who invented their own rules, lanes, and parking spots kept me on edge. There was no opportunity to “zone out” at all.

I followed US-1 into DC proper. I briefly held up as traffic pulled to a stop. Suddenly the two cars in front of me launched forwards across an intersection, and I saw a Capitol Police officer gesturing wildly and assumed we were getting waved forward onto Constitution Ave, passing the north edge of the Supreme Court and Capitol Hill. As I passed him, he threw up his hands in exasperation and started blowing on a whistle and make the huge “STOP RIGHT NOW!” sign, arms thrown wide.. but at the car behind me. About 100 feet later, I noticed the motorcade of black SUVs coming the other way. I rode “casually” and tried to look unassuming.

I stayed on Constitution Ave all the way down the Mall, a slow slog of city traffic, tour and city buses, DC Metro directing traffic, no parking anywhere. I got to the National Academy of Sciences and parked in a No Parking zone, figuring it’d take more than a couple minutes for parking enforcement to find me, and sprinted up to snap a photo of the next bonus.

27) BSC03 - Albert Einstein - Washington, DC - 299 pts (x3)

Oh man, I wish I had a better track record at getting random strangers to take rally photos of me, because Al here is just screaming to have someone sit on his lap!

This segment: 7 miles, 0h39m
Total: 147 miles, 4h58m
Time Remaining: 71h59m
Points scored: 61,421

I pulled out and continued down the Mall towards the Lincoln Memorial; I need to get turned around and down to the southeast to National Harbor.. and of course I missed a turn in the sworl of ramps and loops by the Monument, and found myself over in Arlington, Waze and Garmin fighting to figure out where to go next. They both finally agreed and sent me back over the river on I-395 past the Jefferson Memorial. Traffic was stop-and-go, and slowly I inched my way south and east out of DC at last.

28) BPR27 - Abraham Lincoln - Oxon Hill, MD - 299 pts

Back in 2014 I was working for a DC-based company, and had to attend an all-hands meeting held here at National Harbor. Back then, it felt like a construction wasteland, and now it feels like just another poor facsimile of an organic, small town Main Street mashed into a mall of the usual brands. Yuck.

I was grumpy and hot and tired and needed to pee and traffic is awful. I snacked, I drank, but nothing was breaking this foul mood. Luckily, this stop was another Paul Tong Two-fer!

29) BCR01 - Frederick Douglass - Oxon Hill, MD - 299 pts (x4)

This segment: 14 miles, 0h29m
Total: 161 miles, 5h27m
Time Remaining: 71h30m
Points scored: 62,916

I-95 turned into a slow slog, including a long half-hour where I barely made 10 miles. It wasn’t stop-and-go so much as creep-and-crawl. All the way in the left-most lane, I was constantly having to put a foot down, still keeping an eye on traffic merging into me without looking. Hot, mid-afternoon traffic.. such a joy.

30) BNA03 - Cockacoeske - Richmond, VA - 1520 pts (x4)

Traffic was so bad that I was happy to actually navigate the potholes of downtown Richmond, VA to the state capitol building. Several streets were closed or marked one-way due to construction, so I had to do some manual navigation, eventually finding parking a block away, across from a rough looking bar that gave me vibes of “don’t leave anything on the bike” so I locked everything up and hoofed it over to the grounds of the capitol building. The statue of Cockacoeske is in a small garden gathering of other notable women from Virgina. She was a leader of the Pamunkey tribe, and it was under her leadership that lead to the formation of the first Native American reservation in America.

My my my.. look at how that Lincoln multiplier is stacking up!

This segment: 106 miles, 2h11m
Total: 267 miles, 7h38m
Time Remaining: 69h19m
Points scored: 68,996

From Richmond I turned east, taking I-64 to Williamsburg, the next bonus location being on the campus of the College of William and Mary. Traffic was lots of sports cars and small SUVs, all seemingly packed with college age kids, topped with surfboard and beach gear, and I pondered in the heat if I’d made a mistake stopping in Richmond first; I’d be coming back through Richmond after this next bonus, and maybe from a traffic perspective it would’ve been easier to navigate Richmond in a couple hours instead of shortly after 4pm.. who knows, but there’s always some general rules of thumb around navigation American cities. I didn’t have to ponder it long, as it only took a little over an hour to arrive at the next location.

31) BPR96 - Thomas Jefferson - Williamsburg, VA - 1720 pts (x4)

Waze skipped me past Williamsburg proper and coming in from the south side of town, which also took me through the edge of Colonial Williamsburg. Another place I hope to come back and visit, as I grew up surrounded by colonial era history, I wondered a little if my spaceship of a motorcycle created any kind of dissonance for visitors, who were otherwise surrounded by period-dressed docents and re-enactors.. honestly, though, I doubt any of them noticed.

As I got to the campus, GPS was telling me that the Thomas Jefferson statue was off a sunken garden at the middle of a quad, and not seeing any signs prohibiting vehicles I took what were clearly small paths for service vehicles picking up trash and recycle behind the buildings, and parked in the shade.. not that it would help, I was still swimming in the thick air.

Luckily for me, this is another Paul Tong Two-fer location, with a statue of Rev. James Blair. the founder of William & Mary, just across the soccer-pitch sized sunken garden. Taken with the statue of Jefferson, this stop netted me over 10,000 points! True to form, Leg B was proving to be far more critical, points-wise, than Leg A…

32) BED05 - Rev James Blair - Williamsburg, VA - 845 pts (x4)

This segment: 57 miles, 1h10m
Total: 324 miles, 8h48m
Time Remaining: 68h09m
Points scored: 79,256

…and with that, I was done with the east coast, and could finally – FINALLY – start heading west again. First though, back to Richmond, picking up a beltway and emerging eventually on I-85, heading southwest towards Raleigh-Durham. I stopped an hour or so south of Richmond for gas, and then a heck of a lot of nothing. What traffic on this stretch of road seemed to be 80% trailer trucks hauling who-knows-what to far off destinations; the pine forest was fairly monotonous and unbroken for the miles between exits. Finally around 8pm I was realizing I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and still needed to score my daily meal bonus (to maximize points for the 8 hour rest bonus..) and spotted a Waffle House up ahead just outside Henderson, NC. Grease and sodium and a little caffeine sounded like just the thing after a long, demoralizing day of slow traffic and high temps, so I parked the bike in the lot, my butt in a booth, and attacked a plate of eggs and hash browns.

Choices were made..

I’ve eaten at a handful of Waffle Houses now, and… I don’t get it. They’re universally some of the worst food I’ve ever had. It’s just the mystique of them, isn’t it? Some memory from y’alls misspent youth, where Waffle House was the only thing open past 8pm or something? I just don’t get it..

Back on the road a few minutes past 9pm, I’m still leaking time. The sun at least has decided to go down, but the heat isn’t dissipating, nor is the humidity giving me any quarter. In fact, Mother Nature has now added “plague of insects” to tonight’s menu, and I have to ride with my visor closed for 50 miles or so until whatever bug that is triggered to swarm by twilight thins enough that I can breathe fresh air again.

I was just skipping around the northern edge of Durham, picking up I-40 around 9:30pm, when the pain started. Normally I have a cast iron stomach, but a nagging sort of gnawing pain was beginning to percolate in my belly. I passed Greensboro, NC shortly after 10pm and had switched over to I-35 towards Charlotte when wave after wave of flinch-inducing stomach cramps started to wash over me. They’d make me squint and grit my teeth for a minute or so, then slip away as fast as they came on, only to start again a few minutes later. I stopped at the next rest area around 10:45pm, to see if, uhm, anything inside needed to not be inside anymore (either end, I didn’t really care..) but my body apparently both hated whatever was inside it but also was vigorously defending to it’s last keeping it inside.

I’ll never eat at a Waffle House again.

I kept limping towards the next bonus (Spartanburg, SC) and chatted with Shawn Kitchen on the phone for a while; after the day I had, I was getting pretty fatigued, and the cramps weren’t helping, so hearing a friendly voice was welcome. He invited me to crash at his place near Spartanburg, which I considered. Since he rides rallies, he knows I’m just literally going to fall onto a couch or a guest bed and be gone 2-3 hours later with no time to socialize.. but I was stubborn, and a little obsessed with whatever the heck my body was doing, so decided to just keep pressing.

Around 11:30pm, I stopped at a rest area just north of Charlotte, NC, feeling faint and exhausted. I was just wrung out, and felt like I needed a nap, but the rest area was a little over-run by big truck (semis and pickups) and I didn’t really spot any good places to lay my head. I did some quick scouting online of hotels just past the next couple bonuses, and realized in that moment that I was thinking about quitting. The cramps had subsided somewhat, to more of a dull gurgle, but I was still in enough pain that the thought I might need to stop my rally did occur to me, and I started running through scenarios about what I would do if I needed to hit urgent care or take an extended rest break.. and as I was thinking this, pulling through the back half of the rest area, I spotted Bryan Bailey and Marissa Scott next to their parked Goldwing, so I pulled over and we exchanged a brief hello. If I remember correctly, they were setting up to take a nap here for a bit, and while chatting I thought “hey, maybe all I need is a longer break? What if I take my 8 hour rest break at the next big town instead of throwing in the towel?” and with pleasantries and good lucks exchanged, I got back on the highway feeling recharged.

It’s amazing what some friendly human contact can do for one’s mood. Thanks Bryan, Marissa, and Shawn.

My tummy finally started settling down, and by the time I got to the next bonus location in Spartanburg around 1:15am, I was tired but feeling healthy again.

33) BSC02 - Albert Einstein - Spartanburg, SC - 1680 pts (x4)

I don’t rightly know if Einstein was such a laid-back, casual dude as these statues depict, but it sure is a hoot to think that a physicist because such a cultural icon of smart, laid-backness that there’s any number of statues of him just kicking back.

This segment: 389 miles, 7h50m
Total: 713 miles, 16h38m
Time Remaining: 60h19m
Points scored: 85,976

At this point, I was feeling pretty well done for the day. I was falling further and further behind; my schedule for the day showed me as about 3 hours behind at this point. I knew I had time in the schedule, but only about 3 hours.. so I was basically operating with little margin. I knew I could make up some time on the road, since I only schedule myself for 18 hours of riding a day to account for bio breaks, slow gas stops, traffic, actual time sleeping. However, after the tummy issues, I was feeling a bit fragile, and wondered if I was pushing too hard. Am I really as tough as I think I am? Do I actually have the grit to keep doing this? Am I over my head here? Tired, but stubborn, I decided to embrace the suck and bull through as much as I could; I was only an hour or so to the next bonus location in Greenville, SC, and I could figure out a plan from there.

34) BCL04 - Joel Roberts Poinsett - Greenville, SC - 1260 pts (x4)

People have always told me I’d like Greenville, and I’ve always wanted to check it out.. shame I had to buzz in at 2am in the middle of a rally. Speaking of loving a place, Joel Roberts Poinsett? Who the heck was he?

Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779 – 1851) was an American physician and diplomat. He was the first U.S. agent in South America, a member of the South Carolina legislature and the United States House of Representatives, the first United States Minister to Mexico, a Unionist leader in South Carolina during the Nullification Crisis, Secretary of War under Martin Van Buren, and a co-founder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts (a predecessor of the Smithsonian Institution).

The drunk guys who wanted to know all about my motorcycle and what I was doing taking photos also certainly loved Greenville, and the three of them gave me a verbal tour of seemingly the entire town while I took photos of first this bonus, then the other one that our rally master had cleverly selected that was right across the street!

35) BLC02 - Vardry McBee - Greenville, SC - 4260 pts (x4)

Vardry McBee (1775 – 1864) was a saddlemaker, merchant, farmer, entrepreneur and philanthropist who has frequently been called the father of Greenville, South Carolina. After buying up worn-out land abandoned by westward immigrants, McBee practiced new methods of restoring the fertility of the soil, such as drainage, the use of manures, crop rotation, and seed selection. In 1815 he purchased from Lemuel J. Alston more than 11,000 of acres of land in South Carolina, including the heart of what is today Greenville. He established a number of small industrial works on the Reedy River, including a sawmill, ironworks, brick yard, and stone quarry. McBee also owned two gold mines in Greenville County and extracted enough gold to have bars transported to the mint in Philadelphia. McBee was reared as a Quaker, and he continued to wear clothing of drab colors throughout his life. He regularly attended services of various denominations and remained private about his religious views, though he was baptized a Presbyterian shortly before his death.

I’m someone who always reads the sign; I used to joke “I love a good interpretive plaque!” but it’s not just a joke – I really do appreciate learning more about the story of a place and the people that came before me, however irrelevant it might seem to our modern day-to-day lives. We, too, will someday be viewed from a far distance, and the choices we make now will set the stage for that future as surely as those of these dusty historical figures have. As our rally master put it in the rally book:

Drive through any small town and you’ll see a building named after someone you’ve never heard of. You might find George Washington High School or Martin Luther King Jr Elementary but who is the namesake of Thomas Haley Elementary or Otis Brown Elementary? To the passer-through, their names mean nothing, but for the people that live in those communities, these were giants who built the community. These are people who owned the local general store for many years, the local doctor whose donations built the lone town church, the municipal leader that fought the state legislature for some important protection of the town and their livelihoods. They built America, one small-town turned big city at a time.

This segment: 34 miles, 0h54m
Total: 747 miles, 17h32m
Time Remaining: 59h25m
Points scored: 108,056

Bonuses submitted, I made my goodbyes to the drunk guys, and rode a little ways down the street and around a corner, where I stopped to find a hotel for the night. I needed to lay my head down and recover for a bit, so booked a room at the Best Western in the most appropriately named Travelers Rest, SC, 20 minutes up the road. I was checked in, showered, and my head hit the pillow by 3am, with a 6am alarm set. Surely a couple hours of shut-eye will result in a clearer view of where my rally stood.

Onward to Day 6 ➡️

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