If you’re planning a big Texas to California road trip, we’ve got an epic 14-day itinerary covering the best sights and things to do along the way! This road trip starts in Austin, Texas and ends in Los Angeles, California and includes stops in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada along the way. In this two-week road trip, you’ll check off 6 amazing National Parks and experience some of the most beautiful places in the American southwest.

Hi there! We’re Sarah and Matt, two nomads road tripping across the United States with our cat, Fitzgerald, making a new place our home month to month while working full time and adventuring as much as possible. We spend any free time we can get hiking, camping, backpacking, and exploring new places! We hope that our experiences will help you plan for your next adventure and inspire you to be an outlier!

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Texas to California Road Trip: 14 Day Itinerary

This epic 14-day Texas to California road trip itinerary takes you from Austin to Los Angeles, covering all the best sights to see along the way. On this road trip, you pass through 5 different states, explore 6 national parks and catch some of the southwest’s most epic sunrises and sunsets. 

  • Day 1 | Travel to Austin, brewery hopping, dinner and live music in Austin
    • Stay: Austin
  • Day 2 | Austin to Big Bend National Park
    • Drive from Austin to Big Bend National Park (6.5 hours)
    • Sunset hike the Window Trail
    • Stay: Chisos Basin Lodge or campground
  • Day 3 | Explore Big Bend
    • Hike the South Rim Trail
    • Stay: Chisos Basin Lodge or campground
  • Day 4 | Sunrise in Big Bend and drive through Marfa to Guadalupe Mountains National Park
    • Sunrise at Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend
    • Drive to and explore Marfa (2 hours 45 minutes from Santa Elena Canyon)
    • Drive from Marfa to Guadalupe Mountains National Park (2 hours)
    • Stay: Pine Springs Campground in Guadalupe Mountains
  • Day 5 | Hike the tallest peak in Texas (Guadalupe Peak)
    • Hike Guadalupe Peak and Devils Hall in Guadalupe Mountains
    • Stay: Pine Springs Campground in Guadalupe Mountains
  • Day 6 | Explore Carlsbad Caverns National Park, drive to Las Cruces, and sunset hike with views of the Organ Mountains
    • Explore Carlsbad Caverns (30 minutes from Pine Springs Campground)
    • Drive from Carlsbad Caverns to Las Cruces (3 hours)
    • Sunset hike Picaccho Peak near Las Cruces
    • Stay: Las Cruces
  • Day 7 | Explore White Sands National Park
    • Day trip to White Sands (45 minutes from Las Cruces)
    • Watch the sunset at White Sands
    • Stay: Las Cruces
  • Day 8 | Drive to Petrified Forest National Park and hike the Blue Trail
    • Drive from Las Cruces to Petrified Forest (6 hours)
    • Hike the Blue Trail in Petrified Forest
    • Stay: Holbrook or Winslow, AZ
  • Day 9 | Drive to and explore Sedona, AZ
    • Drive from Petrified Forest to Sedona (2 hours)
    • Explore Sedona: Hike Cathedral Rock, Sedona wineries
    • Stay: Sedona
  • Day 10 | Drive to the Grand Canyon and hike to Skeleton Point
    • Sedona to the Grand Canyon (3 hours)
    • Explore the South Rim and hike the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point
    • Stay: Grand Canyon
  • Day 11 | Squeeze in one last hike in the Grand Canyon and drive to Las Vegas
    • Hike the Bright Angel Trail
    • Grand Canyon to Las Vegas (4 hours)
    • Dinner and evening out in Vegas
    • Stay: Las Vegas
  • Day 12 | Explore the best sights in Death Valley
    • Drive Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park (2 hours)
    • Visit Badwater Basin, Artist’s Palette, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and Zabriskie Point
    • Stay: Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells
  • Day 13 | Death Valley & the Alabama Hills
    • Death Valley to the Alabama Hills (2 hours)
    • Explore the Alabama Hills
    • Sleep: Alabama Hills
  • Day 14 | Alabama Hills to Los Angeles

Texas to California Road Trip Map

The map below displays each of the stops, places to stay, and things to do along this 14-day Texas to California road trip itinerary.

  • To email this map to yourself for future use, click the three dots in the upper right corner.
  • To view more details about each location, click on the marker on the map.

Details | Texas to California Road Trip

In the following section, we’ll detail each day of this incredible 14-day Texas to California Road Trip. We have done everything included in this itinerary so you can rest assured that each stop is legit. Of course, if you have less time or something doesn’t quite look that exciting, you can customize however you’d like!

Day 1 | Travel to Austin

Total driving time | Varies based on your starting point
Stay | Austin

This 14 day Texas to California road trip itinerary starts in Austin, Texas. Depending on where you are traveling from, you may have more or less time to explore Austin on day one. 

Local craft breweries

Austin is known for having a ton of awesome craft breweries and we can’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than brewery hopping! Visit a few different spots to sample the best local beers. Below are a few great options:

South Congress

For dinner, we recommend heading over to South Congress for Mexican food at Guero’s Taco Bar or make your way to Terry Black’s for some of that iconic Texas barbecue.

After you have had your fill of tacos, margaritas, brisket, and/or cold beer, it’s time to enjoy some live music, Austin’s true specialty! Check for concerts in town while you’re there, but if there aren’t any big headliners, don’t fret. You can find great live country music in Austin any night at one of the many local dive bars.

We recommend visiting the Continental Club on South Congress. This dingy dive bar is known across the country music industry for hosting up-and-coming musicians. We went on whim on a random Tuesday night and enjoyed the cheap beer and awesome performers.

P.S. Looking for some road trip music inspiration? Check out this epic playlist complete with all our favorite songs about travel and adventure!

Day 2 | Austin to Big Bend

Total driving time | 6.5 hours
Sleep | Chisos Basin Lodge or Campground (Big Bend National Park)

On day two, drive from Austin to Big Bend National Park, located deep in southwestern Texas. On the way, you will pass through the cute town of Fredericksburg and the surrounding Texas hill country, which is littered with vineyards and wineries.

Big Bend Window Trail

Hike Stats
  • Hiking distance | 5.2 miles
  • Elevation gain | 950
  • Total time | 2 – 3 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 6
  • Difficulty | Moderate
  • Trailhead | Chisos Basin Visitor Center (you can also start from the Chisos Basin Campground, which saves 1.2 miles)

Find this hike on AllTrails: The Window Trail

It is a fairly long drive to Big Bend, and you probably won’t be moving too quickly in the morning after a night out in Austin, but after you arrive in Big Bend, we recommend doing the Window Trail hike for an awesome sunset view of the Chihuahuan Desert. The trailhead is located right next to the Chisos Basin Visitor Center

Sleep | Chisos Basin Lodge & Campground

On night 2, we recommend staying at the Chisos Mountain Lodge or Chisos Basin Campground. It’s the most centrally located lodging in Big Bend and within walking distance to the trailheads for both the Window Trail and the South Rim Trail (on tomorrow’s agenda).

The Window Trail hike in Big Bend National Park

Day 3 | Big Bend National Park

Total driving time | None!
Sleep | Chisos Basin Lodge or Campground (Big Bend National Park)

On day three, tackle the South Rim Trail, our absolute favorite hike in Big Bend with stunning views of the Chisos Mountains. The trailhead is located by the parking lot for the Chisos Basin Visitor Center, so if you are staying in the area, you won’t even have to get into your car!

South Rim Trail hike

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 12.7 miles
  • Elevation gain | 2700 feet
  • Total time | 6 – 8 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | Hard
  • Trailhead | located near Chisos Basin Visitor Center

Find this hike on AllTrails: South Rim Trail Loop and/or Emory Peak via South Rim Trail

At 12.7 miles and 2700 feet of elevation gain, the South Rim Trail is a tough hike that will take up a full day, but it’s well worth the effort! Make sure to bring your camera and enjoy the sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and desert. A detour to Emory Peak, the tallest point in Big Bend and the East Rim of the Chisos Mountains, can easily be tacked on for one epic Big Bend adventure.

Views from the East Rim of the Chisos Mountains

For more information about hiking the South Rim Trail, we’ve compiled a complete guide, including details on how to tack on Emory Peak and the East Rim:

Day 4 | Big Bend to Marfa to Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Total driving time | 6 hours
Sleep | Pine Springs Campground in Guadalupe Mountains National Park or Carlsbad, NM

On day four, squeeze in one last adventure in Big Bend before making your way to Guadalupe Mountains National Park with a stop in the quirky town of Marfa, TX on the way.

Santa Elena Canyon (Big Bend)

No trip to Big Bend is complete without visiting the famous Santa Elena Canyon. It’s a little out of the way (1 hour from Chisos Basin), but we think totally worth seeing! The canyon rises high above the meandering Rio Grande and is perhaps the most iconic site in all of Big Bend.

Big Bend National Park
Sunrise views at Santa Elena Canyon

Big Bend to Marfa

After catching an epic sunrise at Santa Elena Canyon, begin making your way toward Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Along the way, stop in the eccentric and peculiar town of Marfa, Texas. This small desert town, with a population of less than 2,000, is home to a number of art exhibits, fun restaurants, and the famous Marfa lights.

Take some time to explore and grab a delicious bite to eat. It’s about 3 hours from Santa Elena Canyon to Marfa.

Marfa to Guadalupe Mountains National Park

After stopping in Marfa, continue to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which is about 2 hours northwest. Unfortunately, there is no town close to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and the only lodging option in the park is the Pine Springs Campground. We’d recommend staying here if you’re up for camping, as it’s right by the trailhead for Guadalupe Peak (on tomorrow’s agenda). Otherwise, you can find a hotel in Carlsbad, NM, about 30 minutes away.

If you make it in time and want to stretch your legs, stop at Guadalupe Mountains El Capitan for sunset, as the massive rock lights up in shades of red and orange.

sunset over El Capitan in the Guadalupe Mountains

Day 5 | Guadalupe Mountains

Total driving time | None!
Sleep | Pine Springs Campground or Carlsbad, NM

On day five, you will spend the day hiking to Guadalupe Peak, the tallest point in Texas! The trailhead is conveniently located within walking distance of the Pine Springs Campground, which means no time in the car today.

Guadalupe Peak Trail

Hike Stats
  • Hiking distance | 8.4 miles
  • Elevation gain | 2,950
  • Total time | 6-7 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Hard
  • Trailhead | Pine Springs Trailhead (paved and accessible with any vehicle)

Find this hike on AllTrails: Guadalupe Peak Texas Highpoint Trail

The 8.4-mile hike to Guadalupe Peaks climbs just under 3,000 feet and is no easy feat! But those who reach the summit are rewarded with breath-taking, 360-degree views over the Chihuahuan Desert, El Capitan, and the surrounding Guadalupe Mountains. It just might be the best view in all of Texas!

While the Guadalupe Peak trail is not technical, it is very steep and you should only attempt the hike if you are physically fit.

exploring the canyon at Devil's Hall in Guadalupe Mountians

Day 6 | Carlsbad Caverns & Las Cruces

Total driving time | 3 – 4 hours
Sleep | Las Cruces

On day six, spend the morning exploring the otherworldly Carlsbad Caverns National Park before heading to Las Cruces, New Mexico where you will make the short but steep climb up Picacho Peak to watch an amazing sunset over the Organ Mountains.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

There are two trails through Carlsbad Caverns, both of which are fairly short so expect to spend about 2 to 3 hours here:

  • Natural entrance | Very steep 1.25-mile hike into the caverns via the natural entrance. Note that this is a one-way hike, and you will take an elevator out of the caverns once you’re done exploring.
  • Big Room | The main attraction and most beautiful part of the caves, this 1.25-mile walk leads through the largest cave chamber in North America.
The Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad to Las Cruces

From Carlsbad Caverns, head to Las Cruces, NM which is about a three-hour drive. The city of Las Cruces is framed by the stunning Organ Mountains, a uniquely-shaped mountain range featuring a series of massive pinnacles that resemble organ pipes. As the sun goes does, the Organ Mountains put on a spectacular show as the spires light up in a vibrant shade of red.

Picacho Mountain Hike

Hike Stats
  • Hiking distance | 2.2 miles
  • Elevation gain | 770
  • Total time | 1 – 2 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 6
  • Difficulty | Moderate
  • Trailhead | Dirt roads required to reach trailhead (high clearance needed)

Find this hike on AllTrails: Picacho Mountain

To get a picture-perfect view of the sunset, make the short but steep climb up Picacho Peak, which is opposite the Organ Mountains. Getting to the trailhead is a little rough, so you will need a high clearance vehicle. Although the hike is short, it does gain nearly 800 feet in just over a mile, so be prepared for a lung-burning climb!

sunset from Picacho
sunset over the Organ Mountains and Las Cruces in New Mexico

Day 7 | White Sands National Park

Total driving time | 2 hours
Sleep | Las Cruces

Day seven is dedicated to exploring White Sands National Park, one of the newest national parks in the United States! White Sands is relatively small with just a few hiking trails, but you will have a ton of fun running around the massive sand dunes. We recommend visiting White Sands as a day trip from Las Cruces, as there aren’t many lodging options closer to the park.

Hiking in White Sands

There are 5 hiking trails in White Sands and you can see a good portion of the park in just one day. The best trails for iconic white sand dunes views are the Alkali Flat Trail and the Backcountry Trail:

  • Alkali Flat Trail | A moderate to challenging (not flat!) 5-mile loop that goes up and down the dunes with some of the best views in the park.
  • Backcountry Trail | 2-mile loop with great views in the heart of the dunes. Also used for backcountry camping (permits required).
  • Interdune Board Walk | Easy 0.4 mile walk along an accessible boardwalk through the dunes.
  • Playa Trail | Easy 0.5 mile trail with the chance to learn more about the dinosaurs that once walked these lands.
  • Dune Life Nature Trail | 1 mile stroll through the lower vegetation-covered dunes offering the chance to learn more about the wildlife in the area.

When you’re tired of hiking, purchase a plastic sled from the Visitor Center and embark on a classic White Sands adventure: sand boarding!

exploring the dunes at White Sands National Park

Sunset in White Sands

What is a sunset in White Sands New Mexico like? Just picture row after row of white sand dunes glowing in the sun’s last few rays as it slowly slips behind purple mountains far in the distance, lighting up the sky in an explosion of color. With a cup of red wine and bag of snacks in hand, there is no better place to watch the sunset than in White Sands!

In this area of the park you have two general options for finding a good sunset viewing spot. You can either:

  • Follow one of the hiking trails that brings you out onto the dunes OR
  • Head out into the dunes and choose your own adventure in search of the perfect spot!

For more details, we’ve put together a guide complete with all the best sunset spots in White Sands and tips for a great experience.

Sunset over White Sands National Park

Day 8 | Las Cruces to Petrified Forest

Total driving time | 6 hours
Sleep | Holbrook or Winslow, Arizona

On day eight, drive from Las Cruces to Petrified Forest National Park in northern Arizona, where you will spend the afternoon wandering amongst the technicolored petrified wood and take in the views of the Blue Mesa. Then rest your head in either Holbrook or Winslow, Arizona (where you might find yourself standing on a particular corner made famous by the Eagles…).

Where to see the best petrified wood

Of course, the first priority when visiting Petrified Forest National Park is finding the petrified wood! While you will be able to find petrified wood throughout many parts of the park, the two best spots to see the biggest and most colorful pieces are:

  • Giant Logs | A 0.4-mile loop featuring just that… giant logs! We were really blown away by just how vibrant the colors of the wood (rock?) are.
  • Crystal Forest | A 0.75-mile loop named for the crystals that you can see in the logs that features some of the coolest petrified wood in the park.
Colorful giant logs in Petrified Forest National Park

Blue Mesa Trail

Hike Stats
  • Hiking distance | 2.4 miles
  • Elevation gain | 225
  • Total time | 1 – 2 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Easy
  • Trailhead | Paved pull-off on Petrified Forest Road

Find this hike on AllTrails: Historic Blue Forest Trail

While Petrified Forest is mainly known for its petrified wood, did you know there are even more beautiful and colorful badlands in the park as well?! But our favorite experience in Petrified Forest was the hike through the Blue Mesa, an area of deep blue and purple badlands, unlike anything we have ever seen.

Hiking the Blue Mesa Trail in Petrified Forest

Day 9 | Petrified Forest to Sedona

Total driving time | 2 hours
Sleep | Sedona, Arizona

From Petrified Forest, make your way over to Sedona, AZ, a popular tourist town in Arizona surrounded by towering red rock formations and plenty of hiking trails. Even better, end your day with an afternoon of wine tasting on the Verde Valle Wine Trail.

Hikes in Sedona

With so many incredible hikes in Sedona, you’ll easily be able to fill your morning and early afternoon exploring the beauty of the desert. Here are a few great options:

  • Airport Mesa | Easy 0.5 mile hike that’s great for sunrise or sunset.
  • Cathedral Rock | Short but steep 1.2 mile hike up one of Sedona’s most famous landmarks.
  • Soldier’s Pass Cave | A fun 3.1 mile hike to a cave carved into the red rock cliffs.
  • Devil’s Bridge | One of Sedona’s most popular hikes covering 4.5 miles roundtrip to a narrow bridge you can walk across.

For more details about the four hikes listed above, check out our complete guide here:

views from Cathedral Rock in Sedona

Verde Valley Wine Trail

After a busy morning of hiking, spend the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing with a few glasses of wine on the Verde Valley Wine Trail. We recommend the following stops:

Day 10 | Sedona to the Grand Canyon

Total driving time | 3 hours
Sleep | Grand Canyon National Park

While one day in Sedona isn’t nearly enough time to fully enjoy the town, on day ten, continue west making your way to the Grand Canyon, perhaps the most iconic and recognizable natural landmark in the United States.

If you haven’t been to the Grand Canyon before, prepare to be blown away. There are no pictures that do it justice and you will be absolutely shocked by its enormity. Few places have literally taken my breath away and made me audibly gasp like the Grand Canyon did on my first visit!

When you arrive at the Grand Canyon, head out to the South Rim Trail and take your time soaking in the beauty of this magnificent place.

South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 6 miles
  • Elevation gain | 2000 feet
  • Total time | 5 – 8 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Difficulty | Hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point

If you are like us, you will quickly be overwhelmed and annoyed rubbing elbows with throngs of tourists along the South Rim. The best way to escape the heavy crowds is to leave the rim and head into the canyon itself!

For some of the best views in the park without the crowds, we recommend hiking the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point and back. Skeleton Point is a beautiful viewpoint below the rim of the Grand Canyon that gives you a glimpse of the mighty Colorado River. Although the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point hike is only 6 miles round trip, it is challenging with plenty of elevation gain which should not be underestimated!

Grand Canyon South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point

Day 11 | Grand Canyon to Las Vegas

Total driving time | 5 hours
Sleep | Las Vegas, NV

On day eleven, you have two options. You can either spend a little more time exploring the Grand Canyon in the morning and then drive to Las Vegas or you could skip the hiking in the Grand Canyon and head straight to Las Vegas if gambling, boozing, and good food sound better!

Bright Angel Trail to 1.5 Mile Resthouse

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 3 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1200 feet
  • Total time | 2 – 3 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails: Bright Angel Trail to 1.5 Mile Resthouse

If you opt to tack on one more hike in the Grand Canyon, we’d recommend the Bright Angel Trail to 1.5 Mile Resthouse. Similar to the South Kaibab Trail, this trail leads you down into the Grand Canyon. You can hike in as far as you’d like before turning back, just keep in mind that the trek back to the rim will steep!

In terms of views, we’d say the Bright Angel Trail comes in a very close second to the South Kaibab Trail.

Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail

Evening in Las Vegas

Once you finish hiking, hop in the car and drive to Las Vegas. Today will be a long day in the car, but a nice meal and fancy drink is waiting for you in Vegas!

By the time you arrive in Las Vegas, you should have just enough time to reward yourself with a delicious meal. One of our favorite restaurants is Mott 32, an upscale Chinese restaurant at the Venetian. This is definitely a splurge for us, but if you order wisely, you can eat here without breaking the bank. Mott 32 is the kind of place where you can order a $400 Braised Abalone, or stick to a simple (but way better than takeout Chinese ) $25 orange chicken.

Day 12 | Las Vegas to Death Valley

Total driving time | 2 hours
Sleep | Furnace Creek

On day twelve, drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley and spend the day exploring the largest National Park in the lower 48. You may think Death Valley is just one massive, sweltering desert and while it is one of the hottest locations in the world, there are a ton of fun things to see! We’d recommend staying in either Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells, as the park is massive (3.4 million acres) and these are the most centrally located areas.

Things to do in Death Valley

Being the largest national park in the lower 48, it’s not possible to see everything in the Death Valley in just one or two days, so you will need to prioritize. Here are a few great things to do Death Valley:

  • Visit the Badwater Basin Salt Flats, the lowest point in North America. If you have time for just one thing, Badwater Basin is Death Valley’s most iconic landmark.
  • Tour the Artist’s Drive and stop at Artists Palette to see some uniquely colorful landscapes!
  • Watch a beautiful sunset at Zabriskie Point.
  • Explore the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, a massive collection of orange sand dunes at the foothills of the Grapevine Mountains.
  • Hike to the Panamint Sand Dunes for a less crowded sand dune experience.
  • Hike Telescope Peak, the tallest point in Death Valley. If you’re up for a challenging hike, Telescope Peak offers perhaps the best views in the park. On a clear day, you can see both Badwater Basin (lowest point in North America) and Mt. Whitney (tallest peak in the lower 48) from Telescope Peak.

For more details and ideas on how to spend your time in Death Valley, check out this detailed guide below:

Day 13 | Death Valley to Alabama Hills

Total driving time | 2 hours
Sleep | Alabama Hills

In the morning, spend a few more hours exploring Death Valley and check out anything you may have missed yesterday. Then drive west towards the Sierra Nevada mountain range and spend the night camping under the stars in the Alabama Hills.

Explore the Alabama Hills

After leaving Death valley, spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the Alabama Hills, a popular spot just west of the Sierra Nevada mountains filled with unique rock formations, up-close views of the some of the tallest peaks in the contiguous US, and plenty of amazing camping spots!

The Alabama Hills are uniquely located right where the desert meets the mountains. We love the area because you can look up and see the snow-capped peak of Mount Whitney while surrounded by unique rock formations only found in desert landscapes. It is truly one-of-a-kind!

Here are a few awesome ways to spend your time in the Alabama Hills:

  • Go on a “treasure hunt” for Arches! There are numerous arches scattered throughout the area, some hidden among the boulder piles.
  • Hike to Mobius Arch, one of the most iconic arches in the Alabama Hills known for framing Mt. Whitney in the distance. Mobius Arch is accessible via a 0.6-mile roundtrip hike.
  • Hike to the Shark Fin, a 1.7-mile roundtrip loop to a distinctly-shaped rock formation, that is also popular with rock climbers.

Camping in the Alabama Hills

Because the land is owned and managed by the BLM, camping is free throughout the Alabama Hills area! Camping here is a truly unique experience and offers the chance to see an epic sunrise in the morning.

If you aren’t up for camping, spend the afternoon exploring and then find a place to stay in the cute small town of Lone Pine.

Day 14 | Alabama Hills to Los Angeles

Total driving time | 3 hours
Sleep | Los Angeles, CA

The final day of this epic Texas to California road trip ends in Los Angeles. Spend the day exploring the city or continue to your final destination from the city of angels.

Texas to California road trip

Other useful resources

Below are a few helpful resources for planning your Texas to California road trip:

Questions about this Texas to California road trip itinerary? Drop us a comment below and we’ll be happy to help!

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