Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trans Am Bike Race 2016 - My Accounts

Trans Am Bike Race is a race of about 7000 km with various kinds of terrain and landscape, temperature ranging from 0 degree Celsius to 42 degree, which can happen on the same day, altitudes from sea level to 11500 feet, with total gain of about 165,000 at a very conservative calculation. There are bad roads, rough roads, smooth roads, bear infested roads, thick forests, totally dry places. It takes through mostly country roads and there are places where supplies are 100 miles apart.

Writing about every detail of the experience for me alone will sound like J.K. Rowling's novel, leave alone about compiling stories that I got to hear from other riders. Here, I will try to give a gist of the race while I focus mostly on my journey, how I survived the distance in spite of a horrible health condition, that happened in a bad timing, and in spite of my lack of adaptability to a food habit that is poles apart from my regular eating routine.

I'm not a good writer who can make the story interesting and absorbing. Besides, the essence of this story is more focused on my peculiarly helpless condition. It is not the finish I envisioned. I was not excited writing about it. That has caused the delay in writing this blog. However, I do understand the importance of writing this story for my point of remembrance as well as for others who had been with me all through the race.

Dedicated to

I dedicate this ride to two women who are most important in my life - my beloved mother, Ibemhal Heigrujam and my adorable wife, Sv (Senthilvadivu). My late mother has taught a lot about hard work and meaning of pain and suffering, which her life was full of from childhood till her last moments. Sv has been a pillar of support for 15 long years in every endeavor I take up, even if it meant something she didn't agree with. She had gone through a lot of hardships specially during this ride.

Tracking links

http://trackleaders.com/transam16
http://trackleaders.com/transam16i.php?name=Thoudam_Opendro_Singh

Result

The month before

After having ticked almost everything in terms of accessories, I was just left with a month of training. I already had four weeks of training by then, which included 15 hours of running (4 hours per week) and 170 km ride to Basavanabetta. Another 15 hours of running and one Kalhathy climb pending for May month.

Anticipating mostly fat based diet in the USA, I tried transitioning to low carb, high fat diet. It was 90% soaked and boiled groundnut with omelette. I successfully passed the whole of April on this except chewing some raw cabbage now and then.

As luck would have it, I fell ill in the first week of May with very high fever. It continued for one week, totally on the bed with blankets in peak summer. It subsided a bit by the end of week, still not completely gone till half of second week. I just survived and went for Kalhatty climb the second weekend. The third week had a different problem altogether. My chest and whole nerves on the hands were burning with full of body aches. I never had this experience in the past. I went to a gastroenterologist suspecting acid reflux from what I read up. He sent me back to a general physician without even checking anything as he suspected dengue. General physician sent me for blood platelet count. It was just below normal. He asked me to be on abundant fluid and check for dengue next day morning. Next morning, the result came negative and platelet count also increased to normal range. The problem slowly subsided in the next few days. I restored my normal diet, but no appetite. People had started asking if I should be going to TransAm in this condition. I was so focused on the race that I suppressed all my problems.

The week before

I got a work from San Francisco office for a week so that I could acclimatize. But this period turned out to be a nightmare as I could not sleep in the night due to jet lag and I had to force myself working in day. Anita (http://www.anitabora.com/blog/)and her husband Sandeep had agreed to see me off to the start point, which would save me from driving myself 800 miles. Sandeep also charted a couple of nice course for my training ride. I set the bike up as if I was riding TransAm. We started well and stopped for a freshly baked bread around 30 km along the way. It was not even 20 mins since then I had severe urge for urination. Soon, I was bonking (zero energy feeling in cycling lingo) and followed by very frequent urination. Sandeep thought I was dehydrated. And I knew that I was not. My urine was very clear and my body started feeling some burns. I thought it was due to my severe lack of sleep. I also noticed that I was unable to breathe normal. Heart rate would spike up even with slightest effort. I would force Sandeep to stop and wait till I gathered some energy. It never helped. After some effort, we finished a climb and a downhill and I slept on the road side while Sandeep called Anita to pick me in the car. After this, we cancelled the second ride plan. I ran a 10 km in one morning. Nothing else.

Sandeep made a lot of uncomfortable inquiries about my preparedness on the clothing and equipment. I was certain that I had everything I needed. My judgement was primarily based on my assumption that I was going to ride hard all night and sleep only during hot day. Besides, I knew Sandeep of a different rider, who would take a cycle shop even for a 400 km ride. I was also going to target 20 days finish which would deprive me the luxury of comforts. After he insisted, I bought a pair of leg warmers, arm warmers, full finger gloves, a heat blanket (basically wind proof blanket). He also gave me his saddle bag (after he noticed that my custom made bag was touching my thigh while pedaling) and two handle bar bags for snacks.

Race day - first day teaches me many new lessons

Sandeep and Anita drove the whole of Friday from my hotel to Astoria. I was sipping water conservatively to avoid frequent urination. We had breakfast in McDonald. I also ate a couple of plums. I started feeling that burning in my body, specially the limbs. I told them that I would take a nap and I fell asleep. I was alright when I woke up. We checked into Columbia Inn, walking distance from the start point. I had earlier packed all my clothing and bags, including bike bag, into the box and Anita agreed to post it for me to GENERAL DELIVERY in Yorktown, which was the finish point. I asked her to post a week later so that it didn't have to wait too long there.

We had a good dinner the night before. Sandeep helped me to select some snacks from Safeway to try out along the way. Most of it were sweetened bars of cereals, dry nuts and a few dried meat (jerkey). I was again with the same burning feeling most of the night. I hardly slept. I was ready well before morning.

Columbia Inn, about to check out
Sandeep and I walked to the start point for briefing. There were already people gathering - riders as well as family and friends. Nathan Jones recognized me immediately. After all, I had asked so many questions in the forums (facebook).
Nathan Jones
People were chatting and inquiring each other about their desires, what their plans along the route. Some were modest about their goals. I was not. I was still positive of a good race though inside me I had cast a doubt and had many uncertainties cropped up in the mind.


At start with Sandeep and Anita
BTW, Anita writes very good : www.anitabora.com/blog
After some briefing by Nathan, we were good to roll at sharp 8 AM. People from the east (Yorktown) would have already started at their 8 AM, three hours before us.
Start line up




Nathan led us out of the city and we were soon out on our own.
Leaving Astoria - photo courtesy: Nathan Jones
I already had some snacks in the hotel room and I had no plans to stop for breakfast. I had purchased a bag full of snacks that would last for two days even if I were to ride non stop. I had 4.5 litres of water and that should be sufficient for 15 hours of ride at moderate pace. We got dispersed very soon. I didn't have a map. I relied on the track on my watch as the watch would give me a long lasting battery. But the resolution of the track was not good enough at times and I also had to be careful at forks as there was no map. Still, it was 99% usable. And I would have to make small mistake for that 1% and come back to correct course.

I planned to click a lot of pics through the cellphone which was dummy without network connectivity. So, I clicked many in the morning on the first day. Morning was in and out of 101 as we were routed towards more scenic trails away from traffic. It was a nice morning with literally no traffic. I was a bit surprised to see some sections away from tarmac, that was on pavements on the beach, passing by those Saturday morning walkers including toddlers and elderly folks.


It was a nice beach pavement on a Saturday morning,
negotiating around small children and senior people at times.

Quite magnificent rocks on the west coast
I also clicked a selfie myself. I volunteered to click some pics for others who were struggling to capture a photo of themselves with heavier camera. I told myself to go easy and not to push at any point. Focus was on riding more consistent.
One Selfie
After a couple of hours ride, as we were riding in and out of 101, I missed a turn and I was going downhill. As the watch showed off course, I stopped and turned back before I went too far off. I also saw two more riders zipping down the same path and I shouted to inform them. I kept eating the snacks bars now and then. I was not sure how my body was going to react. Soon after, I was having the urge to leak. My energy was going low. I increased my water intake to cope with the leaks. I started climbing gradually. It must be within 4% to 5% gradient at places, along the beach or in the woods not far away from the shore. It was still manageable.


By noon, I really needed some food. But I didn't have an idea when it would come. My plan was to keep riding with the stocks I carried and eat when I passed by food. I didn't want to adjust my ride around food and water, which was why I carried a lot of water bottles. Post noon, I reached a beach town, probably Garibaldi. I don't remember many of the place names. I will try to construct by seeing my ride log and google map timeline. I should have been able construct the precise place names from the credit card transaction history. But I'm able to download old history. So, I will just narrate with vague place descriptions.

There I stopped for food. I didn't know what to eat and the kinds of restaurants and the kinds of foods they would serve. I just stopped by on a road side restaurant, ordered through a small window. I ordered a burger and french fries. I waited long for the food to be ready. When it was ready, I was unable to swallow. My mouth was really dry and hurting. Even my favorite potatoes were not pleasant. I filled one bottle of water here. I still had one bottle. I took time and ate the food slowly. I rolled out after a long break just for a meager lunch. It was getting hot.

From 101, I turned towards beach again along 131.Then from 131, my watch was showing a sharp left U turn towards Netarts Bay Drive. The road was very poor, narrow and small. I couldn't believe that it could be the road I should be taking. But then, GPS wouldn't lie. But since I didn't have a map, this weird feeling happened whenever I had to deviate from a main road towards a small lane. There was this restaurant right after the left U turn, on the right side on an elevated platform, open air with a roof. People were eating stuffs and I stopped nearby thinking whether to order something appropriate or not. I couldn't understand what this feeling was. I knew I had to eat, but so much hesitation because I didn't know what to order or what they were serving. Hesitation to face the unknown. The timidness was beyond my explanation. I rode around the parking area and decided to skip. As I rode away from there, I stepped onto the water on the right walking over the rocks on the shore. It looked like a big lake, because I could see some land on the other side. I washed my face to cool myself and tasted the water. It was salty sea water! Enough of trying. I continued and I had just one bottle of water left.
Netarts Bay Dr, where I tasted the water!





I did some more small climbs. At one point, I saw a convenience store. I refilled all my bottles. I had bag full of snacks for which I would have spent nearly $50. I was in a dilemma. They were useless at that moment, but unsure if it would ever work again. Considering the weight I was carrying, I decided to dump all of them in the trash. Then I continued. It was getting hotter by then. The northern states have daylight of almost 18 hours. Sun rises around 4 am and sets around 9:30 pm. This makes a lot hot day between 10 am till 6 pm. After 100 miles, I was back to 101 again. I was feeling good again, but I still needed food. I was literally starving. There was this small creek side road, named Slab Creek Rd, Neskowin, around the 108 miles mark. I missed this turn as the course resolution on the watch was not good. But I seemed to be heading in the right direction overall. I had seen instances where it would merge as the low resolution track misses out the curves of the road. I was climbing and climbing faster as I was in an anxiety if the I was even going to be on course again. I peeped through the trees to see if there was a road on my left down the hill side as the track showed on my watch. I couldn't see anything. After climbing for about half an hour, I became off the course by a good margin. I decided to take a U turn and track back downhill. I put my goggles in the jersey, zoomed down the hill to find the turn that I missed. It was easy to miss in a low resolution track. I was on the course again. I rode in the beautiful, serene and desolate woods alone. I saw a cycling couple relaxing on the grass on the side and a couple of cars over the stretch. Otherwise, a rupturing silence was all that was around.

Garmin forerunner 920xt hangs, everything lost

It was getting cool by then. I just rolled gently, tired but manageable. My log shows 124 miles at 7:46 PM. Around 8:30 or 9 PM, I noticed that my watch was not refreshing. I tried pressing all buttons. No response. Nothing at all. I tried to switch off. No response. I panicked. I tried everything. Then, I just tried a long, really long long press on power button as I thought it would switch off. It rebooted. I was so happy. Next moment, I tried to start the course again. To my shock, all the courses were gone. I cleared the ride log every now and then to prevent memory getting full. I had done that at 100 miles as well. So, I was puzzled. Then I remember Prashanth's (Bangalore Bikers Club) response in my thread on how to load gpx track on Garmin forerunner watch where he mentioned a similar experience. It never occurred to me that I could reset the factory and thus wipe out the memory. I was tensed. The road was straight so far, no junction. Yet I was afraid to move. I was thinking hard for options. At that moment, I felt that my race was over. No alternative map, whatsoever. I had spent hours to figure out and load the track on the watch. All that was gone. On the first day! That feeling is hard to explain. It was as if I was struck by lightening.

I opened my cellphone and turned on the GPS. I had downloaded some states map offline on the Heremap app. Heremap was failing to start often on my phone. I had to reboot every time this happened. Now, I had the map, but I didn't have the course. Knowing the odd roads TransAm took us through, there was no way I could ride by just referring some points of interest. I would have rolled just a couple of miles. I saw a convenience store on the right. It was 9:30 PM by then. I narrated my situation to the gentleman in the counter. There was no customer and he was about to shut down. I requested for his WiFi password so that I could download whatever information that could be helpful. I had never used smartphone for navigating a course earlier. I was clueless what I should be doing... pinged Sandeep about my situation. I told him why the snacks had backfired on me. He advised that I could download the cue sheet and use my cyclocomp (only distance) to navigate turn by turn. The problem with this suggestion was that I was not familiar with US roads, how they navigate through congested places or at junctions. I was not comfortable crossing even a signaled junction if it didn't have clear signs. As luck would have it, I had the RideWithGPS app on my phone. I opened it. I didn't even remember the password. But, it went through as I had logged in earlier. I remember logging into it only from desktop. Anyway, I was there. The next thing I noticed was that I had uploaded the entire TransAm gpx track as well as splits of 250 miles in my account. I didn't remember uploading them to RideWithGPS though I made those splits for loading onto the watch. I just thanked my stars for this miraculous act I had done without any intentional purpose. Some unknown force had made plans for my misfortune, I would say. The download took time as internet was slow. The gentleman at the counter was patient but I could sense that he was just waiting for me so that he could shut down. I bought a few snacks to buy time. And I still saw that the download was way too slow. When it was finally done, I tried opening it and the app crashed with 4300 miles of track. I requested the gentleman that I would need some more time as net was slow. He told me that he would keep the WiFi on and I could just use it from outside. Perfect, I thanked him so much. I downloaded the first segment and then 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. I didn't try to download all the 17 segments as I could do them later. Meanwhile, I tried charging my phone from the power bank that runs on four AA batteries. I bought the expensive lithium ultimate batteries to charge my watch. I bought these adapter that converts the AA batteries into a USB power out from dx.com. I had never tested with a phone like mine which draws 2A if not controlled by the power source circuit. The adapter didn't have a control circuit I guess. It heated up and burnt in a few minutes. I had two and tried the other one, different model. That also got burnt. I was having 12 lithium batteries and they would be useless now as SPOT device takes only AAA batteries. I was not worried about it now. I carried the 12 batteries since I didn't want to waste them. I tried to open the segment one. It opened fine. I was ready to go. Oh! I forgot to mention that I had to pay $6 per month to download map offline in RideWithGPS. My credit card would have required OneTimePassword if payment gateway was Indian. But I didn't need it for RideWithGPS.

I rolled and it was a joy in the initial couple of miles, with a clear track on phone display. Then I was having severe burn all over my body. It was not ache. It was a kind of a burn as if some chilli powder was mixed in my veins. I was slightly trembling too. I pulled over to the side and made the bike fall safely. I pulled out the blanket and rolled it over my body and lay down on the side which was a slopping gravel chip. I didn't see any other place where I could be away from the freeway. It was still safe distance. I had no clue on what I was going through. I closed my eyes and soon I dosed off. Then I heard a car pulling over and I got up. A lady's voice came "Are you okay"? I said, "Yeah, I was just drowsy and felt unsafe to ride". Another car pulled up and said,  "You gave us heart attack". They all came from the next town as they were informed by another driver who had seen a bike that looked like a hit and run case. I apologized and explained my situation. It was past mid night. I continued riding. This was going repeat in many of the coming days though I would learn to handle them more efficiently in later days.

I kept looking out for options to eat as I didn't have anything at all. Nothing around. Soon, I joined 99W and I saw motels and town. I saw a convenience store at a gas station. There were cars with heavy sub and rock music. I ate some refrigerated sandwich along with potato chips. I also had a ball of puffed rice. I felt good. It was already close to 4 AM day break. I continued riding after a decent break. I passed through a stretch that didn't have tarmac, but only gravels. I think, the tarred road was just around and merged after half a mile. But the track showed me over the gravel. I reached Corvalis in the morning, 190 miles in little more than 22 hours. Not so bad considering my horrific incidences and starving mode. I didn't turn on the phone screen during navigation as I wanted to save battery. RideWithGPS would give two distinct and audible buzz if I was off the course or on the course. I would then turn the screen on and correct my course. This was a bit tricky in towns as I downloaded only the track, not the map again. If I had data connection, it would have pulled the map and overlaid. But I didn't have the data connection.

Day 2 - Cop stops me

Just as I was coming out of Corvallis and after crossing the bridge over Willamette river, I joined the interstate 34E. It was early morning and there was hardly any traffic. I saw an upcoming right turn ahead as per the track. I was busy browsing the phone as I rode. BTW, the phone was mounted on the strap of the tuppeware bag using styrofoam sheet and zip ties till the end of the race. I got these zip ties from Sandeep during the practice ride. Cops pulled over in front of me with the siren buzz. I stopped. Cop stepped out and asked me to pull to the side. I was really worried now. He told me that I couldn't go on that road and that he saw me busy on the handlebar with something and I was endangering myself. I apologized saying that I was new to the country and came just for a ride. He took my name and other personal details and let me off with a warning. Later I realized that the bike lane was on the other side of the road, which would be left of the 34E. I never knew this concept of a bike lane completely on one side of the main road. I always thought that bike lane will be on each side of the road. This was a lesson I learnt on first day. India does not have bike lanes and the concept was new to me.

As I used my phone for GPS navigation, I didn't want to click any photo as it was inconvenient to remove it from the zip ties.

I continued riding. I ate a packed sandwich in the morning and then again around noon. I also filled water from a park on the way. I was going well all these while. And suddenly, I had this terrible feeling of burning in the veins. I was also drowsy. I was looking out for a place to take a nap. Since it was a country road, there were enough places I could just step away from the road and take a nap. I pulled over under a tree. As I attempted to take a nap, I felt the urge to leak. I didn't have much choice except using the trees. As I lay, I was thirsty and burning again. I drank and leaked and drank finishing almost two liters of water in an hour and all flushed away from the body. At that moment, I felt like doing a Moraji Desai (taste own urine) just to see what the hell was in the urine. After this cycle of drinking and leaking I was feeling good again and I continued riding without any nap even after one and a half hours.

Finding the phone charging point

I was feeling decently good. I even accelerated my pace a bit. I had to charge my phone and I also had to eat somewhere before I start climbing the McKenzie pass. It was getting very hot too. I stopped in a gas station. I requested the gentleman inside the convenience store for a plug point for charging my phone. He told me that there would be one outside on the wall. I couldn't figure it out even after three times of explanation from him. He finally came out and he showed me the point with a cap on it. This was another first for me. I let it charge while bought snacks, water and goggle expecting snow on the way in the mountain. The charging was slow and I didn't have a choice. My phone required 2A for normal charging and I had only a 1A charger. I ate and drank and used the rest room. I also tried to take a nap sitting on a bench. After about an hour, I started riding again. If I remember correctly, I didn't fill all my bottles as I didn't want to climb heavy. I also didn't pack any snacks as I hoped myself to be in a food point on the way. As I rode along the McKenzie River, crossing the river over the bridge, it was getting cooler.

Climbing the McKenzie Pass

McKenzie pass was covered in 5 feet of snow just a couple of weeks ago and snow was ploughed to let the cyclist pass. It was still not open to cars. Cyclists had requested the authorities in the area to sweep the debris and gravels off the road the day before. As I took deviation from the highway 126 towards the forest, it was completely desolate with tall trees everywhere. Cars were allowed till the next 7 miles or so, but no car ever came. As I slowly rode through the forest, I couldn't even see the sky through the tall and thick trees. This stretch till Sisters, the next town, is about 40 miles (64 km). I had no idea of the distance. And I had no idea of the supplies I would get along the way. I had just almond (raw) and ground nut (over roasted) with water, just two liters by then. I think, I didn't fill up all the bottles in the previous gas station. After some distance, there was a barricade bang on my path "Road Closed". I got shocked and really worried with the prospect of having to go back. I tried recollecting if Nathan told us to take the longer route or through this short cut. I clearly remember him telling us about the sweeping of the road. So, I pushed the bike on the side of the barricade and continued through the forest. I constantly drank, avoided pushing unnecessarily. I was really happy with the way I was climbing. Since I didn't have an idea of the distance, I just relied on the elevation profile on RideWithGPS to get an idea of how far I would need to climb. Just about the peak, I ran out of water. I ran out of food too. I kept going. There was no snow and I was a little disappointed. I could see some snow on the road side. I put the warmers, gloves and wind cheater. I still didn't have a jacket. It was good enough though it was still cold. I saw the streams on the side. It was dark and I couldn't see how clean the water was. I didn't expect industrial pollution there. So, I filled two bottles and drank whatever I could. Nothing to eat. It was already 11 PM. I kept riding, all downhill from there all the way to Sisters. It was already midnight.

Run out of food

I was totally starving, not even a peanut. No 24 hour gas station. No motels. In India, hotel front desks are open 24 hours and I thought of the same for motels, but I was wrong. No where to stay and nothing to eat, I stopped in a gas station which was shut down. I rolled myself inside the blanket and slept for a couple of hours. I woke up post 2 AM. I didn't want to waste my time waiting till morning. So, I continued at the slowest pace possible hoping that I would get something on the way. I still had a little bit of the icy water I fetched. It was almost over and I was conserving just in case. Along the way, I heard some streams down a trail, but there was a sign that said that it was permitted only during day. I hesitated and thought for a while and decided to just continue riding, at crawling speed.

After a while, I saw a town coming up - Redmond. I saw a car driving into McDonald and opening it. I asked if they were going to open it. They said "No". On my prodding, they told me a shop a little down the road which would be open 24 hours. I went there. There were two of them. I bought some frozen sandwich, bought some snack bars again and some dry fruits. I stocked up water fully. It was already morning.

Day 3 - The Drowsy day

I got energized and rode well for a while before I lost it again soon. It was frustrating and hot and climbing by the morning. There was no shade to hide. And no supplies in between. I kept going, eating whatever little I packed. I was worried about running out of water the heat continued like that. Stopped multiple times in the morning trying to take a nap, even if it was 10 mins, under the sun, at times leaning on the culverts of the road. I climbed gentle slopes at crawling speed. I went down the stream beside the road and filled two bottles while I freshened up and cooled myself. Water in the bottles were hot. As I approached Mitchel, small hamlet almost on the hill, there was a free water station for bikers. It has ice and a free flowing cool water pipe. I refilled all my bottles there. I stopped for a good lunch in a nice restaurant in Mitchel. That made all the difference. I was able to ride strong after that. Around 8:30 PM, I decided to check into motel, Blue Mountain Lodge Motel, early as they would all close by 9 PM. It was a low mileage day. But I looked forward to a good night sleep. However, I didn't get anything around for food. I went to a nearby convenience store and got some frozen stuff. I forced myself to eat that before sleep. I washed my jersey and shorts using shampoo. I hardly slept even though I checked in early with full sleepiness. Frequent leaking was not allowing a continuous sleep. I struggled to sleep after the break. I would have managed about 5 hours of sleep altogether. This was the longest sleep in a long time as I was having trouble well before the race as well. I forced myself to eat again. It was still icy, frozen burger kind of thing, not exactly sandwich. I was not even sure if it was supposed to be eaten without re-cooking. I refilled water from tap. Phone was fully charged. Set to go.

Day 4 - A strong ride that ended scary, 500 miles

Terrain was a bit of up and down, but overall down hill. Crossed John Day, Austin and reached Baker City at noon. It was hot. I stopped at Sinclair gas station for hot bites for lunch. Some convenience stores stock hot food during the day. Other riders also rolled in. Most riders were already complaining about the soreness in the rear part due to sitting too long on the saddle. I didn't have any such issue as I had been cleaning the rear end with clean water to avoid sweat and acidity. I had never faced issues in my previous long rides as well. So, I was confident about these things. Back, hands and shoulders were fine too as I kept the handlebar high and rode more upright.

It was a larger group in a while. There weren't many stops and it was hot. So, riders ended up gathering in the same place. Since I was in the middle of the line up, I had more chances of bumping into someone or other.

I had burgers and fried chicken. It tasted good and felt good. I rolled out after about an hour of break. It was getting really hot. Air was blowing hot. But it was mostly rolling downward. All good. 4:13 PM, I saw rider applying ice outside a store in Richland. I too stopped and topped up water. Applied some ice. After about 15 mins, I also rode off. Some people were talking about a climb coming up, 7% gradient for 3 miles. It didn't sound bad. But I started having the same problem again. No energy, breathing not right, frequent leaking. I was unable to ride even in the lowest gear. I did what I had done the last three days. Drink, pee and repeat till all that were troubling me got flushed out. In a 3 mile climb, I would have stopped at least 10 to 15 times, cursing myself for not breathing properly. Soon, it was downhill at the same gradient. I just coasted without pedaling. I again saw some riders eating ice cream in Baker County. I stopped there to see what I could eat. I don't eat stuffs like ice cream even if given for free. In a desperate attempt to try and get some energy, I too ordered ice cream. I didn't eat or buy anything else as I was frustrated with food. I also didn't have an idea when the next supply would come. I pushed off. People were rushing to reach the next town before night. It was already 7:45 PM. I was unable to ride on the flat road itself. Wind started coming. Drizzle followed soon. I wore poncho, protected cellphone. I removed the poncho after a while as it was not really raining. I lost a lot of time without covering much distance. I was hungry. Feeling really low. I looked out for places to eat. There was none, though I could see some houses around near the dam or just before the bridge. As I crossed a bridge over the Snake river, I flagged down one car to inquire if the next town was nearby. He said, 30 miles with 6% gradient. It scared me, but I could not go back because there was nothing far behind and it would be uphill going back. It was uphill going forward and at least I would be moving head. So, I decided to focus on my breathing and roll as slowly as possible. The river was a really noisy one flowing down the slope with fierce force. That was the only sound that accompanied me. No soul, no vehicle. As I crawled up, I saw that I was nearing the peak as per the GPS. But I found myself being unable to stand itself, leave alone riding. I was trembling and inside me was burning like hell. I also ran out of water. I didn't have a grain of food. Anything would have been better at that moment. There was a bit of drizzle. I just kept the bike on the side, rolled the blanket over me and closed my eyes knowing well that nobody would come on that road. I had no idea if I would ever get better when I woke up. I just hoped that I would. I told myself that if I survived that, I would survive anything ahead. It was around 11 PM when I closed my eyes. I woke up after about a couple of hours I suppose and the burn feeling was gone. I didn't have any energy. No energy had become my new normal. So, I was normal again and continued riding.

It was downhill all the way to Cambridge. I stopped at Jay's Sinclair gas station store before day break and had some food and filled water. Then I stopped at Lakey's Cafe at 7 AM just to figure out the kind of food I would get in Cafe. A few old folks were having a lazy morning time with tea and some hot breakfast. I ordered whatever sounded like some potatoes in it. I ate well. Service was usually slow. I topped up water there and continued.

Day 5 - I was totally fried up

It was getting hotter and hotter. There was a road repair going on. I rode on the gravel chips for about a mile before the workers there said that we couldn't ride and they would transport us for 2 miles in a pickup truck. They did that for all riders. I had hardly done 100 miles for the day and I wanted to stop at Riggins around 5 PM. I thought I would chill and rest and then ride in the night. I got into a homely restaurant run by an elderly lady. She introduced herself as the owner of the restaurant and that she would make anything I wished. She made a customized plate based on what I requested. Some green stuff, potatoes and burger. One plate was only salad. I forgot the name of the flower in it.
The host in the restaurant made custom salad that had nice flowers!

This is how my lips looked after getting fried for two days:

I checked into a motel there. I asked around for some market to buy fruits. I chatted with my wife, Sv, and she insisted that I should find fruits from fresh market. I also bought enough snacks. I had spent a lot of time looking around for food. It was raining and it restricted my movement. I walked around, instead of riding. Sv also insisted that I did some stretches and some asanas every day without fail. I obliged as any input was better at that point. I went to a pub and packed two large meals, one for late dinner and another for early morning. Some of the things which worked earlier, such as puffed rice ball, weren't available as I progressed. Different places had different flavours of snacks, though some branded ones were common, such as oat and honey bars or loose pack, which turned out to be the worst of all that I had tried.

Meanwhile, I got to know from Sv how Sarah had ignited the fire among the leaders. She would later loose the lead on a bad navigation error. I had been totally disconnected from the world as I didn't have a phone or data and I was not really racing. I was fighting a different battle for which I was not prepared for. Racing TransAm is one thing and surviving ill health is another. I had to do both.

Day 6 - The best day so far climbing the White Bird and Lolo Pass

I was charged up after good rest and good food. I rode and rode. I had never felt better in this race. I climbed the White Bird which was a 10 mile of steady climb at about 6% gradient. Just as I reached the peak, it was day break. And there a senior gentleman, TransAm rider, probaly Ed, was fixing a rear derailleur hanger as it broke. I stopped to eat fresh fruits, sandwich and water, all from my bag, at White Bird.
Selfie at White Bird Summit
I didn't waste time. I zipped down the hill at fast pace. Grangeville was nice and open lush green field with roads going up and down at some places. So slopes needed me to shift down. I used the momentum in most places. In a couple of places, it was rough road and downhill. My water bottle jumped out in a couple of times specially the one in the horizontal bar as it was pointing downward.

I was on a roll. I didn't stop for any breakfast or lunch. It was not hot as I rolled along the river side climbing the Lolo hot springs, which was a long 90 miles climb at gentle gradient and probably slight tailwind. This road didn't have anything. I could find a toilet - not sure what they call that, with pit right below the commode. It didn't have even water or hand wash. No food. I was feeling a bit tired and drowsy around post noon. I lied down for a while to take a small nap. The Lochsa river was majestic and beautiful.
Lochsa River on the way to Lolo Hot Spring
It was also a very scenic and enchanting road. Lush green forest on both sides of the river and road is along the river all throughout.
The dark spot below the pic is from handle bar. I was lazy to crop the pic!

There were some places safe to get to the water. I soaked my feet in cool water, filled my bottles. I also saw a snake that got disturbed by my joining onto the water.

River as seen on my right

I reached Lolo around 10:30 PM. I stopped in a pub there, ate well and stocked up supplies. I spent more time than needed as the phone charging was slow. I didn't want to halt there. So, I continued riding. It was getting really cold at that altitude and latitude. It was downhill and I was a bit drowsy. Soon, downhill was over. But I was extremely drowsy, but not possible to nap on road side as it was very cold. I hadn't ridden even for 10 miles and I was unable to ride due to drowsiness. I spotted a store at the junction of 93S. I sat down and wrapped myself inside the blanket. I was shivering due to cold.  The gentleman inside the store asked me that I could sit inside and take nap. I was reluctant, but he insisted. I thanked him and napped on the chair with head resting on the table. I was woken up by another angry staff later yelling that it was not a place for sleep. The other gentleman got embarrassed and told me that the other gentle man was unnecessarily harsh. I apologized and said, I would move on. I bought a chap stick for lips there as Sandeep had earlier suggested. By this time, my lips turned from burnt to wounded and it started bleeding every time I opened to eat.
Lolo Pass Visitor Center

Day 7 - Unnecessary drama of my phone going dead, 1000 miles

I rode on the Bitterfoot Bike Trail along the 93S. One road name struck me - Kootenai Creek Rd. Not sure how that is pronounced, but to an Indian who knows both Tamil and Hindi, that sounded like an abusive word (Kutte and Nai mean dog in Hindi and Tamil respectively and often means abusive). It was dark initially. Towards day break, I stopped on a store along the bike trail. When I continued, I saw that the phone screen was off. I tried various means to reboot, but no avail. At first, I thought that power button was gone. I wanted to remove the battery and reboot. But MI4 wouldn't allow me to remove the battery. I was devastated with this prospect. Since I used zip tie for mounting the phone, the tie at times used to move over the power button and I suspected that this had damaged the power button. I pressed hard again and again to the point of damage and tried even plucking it out in case it got jammed inside. I started inquiring for town where I could buy phone or a sports and adventure store where Garmin edge kind of device could be purchased. I even tried asking a lady who was on bicycle if there were any bike shop with navigation devices. I couldn't get any positive answer. It was still too early for the Verizon or AT&T stores to open. So, I moved along slowly looking out for shop after shop. Finally in Hamilton town and there were shops and they would be opening in an hour or so. I was ready to wait at the door of a Verizon store. I parked my bike. Ready to rest there. I tried playing on the phone power switch again. I saw a faint glow on the screen as I was in a darker area near the door of the store. Then it struck to me that I had turned off the auto-brightness mode and kept at minimum brightness during night to save battery. I felt stupid and extremely elated at the discovery. Now, I didn't have to wait for the store to open. I rode along.

After a while, I was totally on a country road, with no supply coming up. I wanted to eat something. As I was heading more south, I also felt a little bit of headwind. I was headed more towards east by the afternoon. I noticed only agricultural machines along and nothing else. By around 4 PM I reached Wisdom, a small county where I saw some sign boards of motels. From here I was supposed to take right and head south towards Jackson. The winds that blew from south to north was stronger towards the evening and I wanted to wait till late at night considering that I hadn't slept the previous night. I checked into a motel. I walked to the market, which was shut. Nothing was open except one pub with a sign board of gluten free pizza. I walked inside and ordered a medium pizza and a large pizza with extra cheese and chicken. The lady was surprised. But I insisted and I said, I would take some away. I ate full and requested her to pack the rest. She packed inside a few aluminum foils, two slices in each wrap and each wrap inside a zip lock bag. I thanked her. She didn't accept credit card, but it had cash machines if I would need to withdraw. I had cash and paid. I again didn't sleep well enough. I would have slept probably about 3 hours though I stopped for 10 hours in that place. It took time to get sleep again once I woke up due to bath room calls. I packed again, wore all the warmers I had and started riding again. I kept eating the pizza I carried, at regular intervals, which was like frozen food by then.

Day 8 - Headwinds started bothering really bad

The winds were opposite in the early hours. I was getting gentle tailwind. I also saw snow in mountains at a distance. I could feel the chillness coming from the snow mountains.


It was freezing cold. I reached Jackson in no time. I had a Mexican breakfast (I could not remember the name) from a van. It was nice. I headed east and again towards Twin Bridges in the north east direction. I could feel strong headwind in this direction. But I was feeling strong and I rode really hard. Another rider overtook me on this head wind stretch and later I caught him up again before Twin Bridges. I was on the drops for the first time to fight against head wind. I stopped at Twin Bridges to buy water - just water. I kept eating the pizza from the previous evening. Soon I reached Ennis before 4 PM. As I was shopping in Ennis, I saw Morgan Allen from California. I hope, the name is correct. I verified the trackleaders log too. We had crossed on the first day as he caught me up after fixing his first puncture within an hour of flag off. He wanted to be among the top finishers and rode hard whenever on the saddle. But he had frequent punctures for no apparent reason. He had changed tires as he suspected it to be misfit on the rim. Then he changed the entire rear wheel too. It still didn't help. He rode the Tour Divide the previous year just to have fun and he was very serious about racing hard on this one. I could see his disappointment. I had also told my horror stories of food and illness. He narrated his story about horror food stories when he visited India. Then I told my extra stories of GPS watch failure and managing cellphone batteries and told him that I was going to buy a power bank. Hearing this, he just plucked off his power bank, which was zip tied to the frame. I said, "No". He said, he was thinking of quitting. I insisted that he should visit a bike shop as one last try. It was Saturday evening and his time was running out. I said, "Even if you quit, I didn't have the heart to take anything like that seeing the disappointment on his face". He said, he would buy one if he managed to fix his bike. BTW, rule does not allow riders to take any help unless the same service is available to everyone unbiased. I did take the power bank. He was offering many more things - he was loaded with GU gels, huge sleeping bag, various nutrition and electrolytes. I declined and wished him luck for his rear wheel. I continued riding.

As I headed south, my target was to reach West Yellowstone, which would be 80 miles from Ennis. The wind before noon was more from north east as I was riding towards Twin Bridges. I felt as if it was a cross wind before I reached Ennis. So, I was expecting a tailwind after Ennis as the route will head south. To my horror, it was a strong headwind. My bike is setup with upright posture and I'm very bad in riding in aero position. I just couldn't pick pace. At that pace, I was not going to make to the next supply at all. So, I decided to lie down by the side of the road and see if the wind would subside. As it didn't happen, I decided to head back to Ennis before the motels closed. The nights were terribly chill and that also became a concern if I were to continue riding. I rode back. It must have been less than 20 miles I suppose. I just managed to check into a motel by 8 PM. But restaurants were all shut. I was not comfortable walking into crowded pub with heavy music on the Saturday night. Back home, I live a life that is plain and simple, which excludes going to westernized places like pub and things like that. I was just uncomfortable. I tried a couple more restaurants. They were all closed. I tried another pub which seemed less crowded. I ate some food and ordered some for take away. I returned to hotel. I whatsapped to Sandeep about my evening and headwind. He suggested me to start checking weather and wind forecasts. At one point, I asked the forecast for the next day. Being the technically correct person all the time, he mentioned the rule of the race to me. But he said, he could tell me how to check! I wasn't even serious about the whole forecast thing and I told him that I would figure out myself. I was still not checking the forecasts. For every stop in motels where I got WiFi connection, I would update him on my food and energy level. I also told him that my problem and symptoms seemed like diabetic or at least pre-diabetic. He didn't agree though.

Day 9 - West Yellowstone National Park, 1500 miles

I woke up early against the extremely cold weather. Temperature were just above freezing point. But I pushed myself out of the cozy bed reminding myself that headwinds wouldn't allow me to ride later in the day. It was a nice picturesque as I rode along the Hebgen Lake road.
Hebgen Lake
I was enjoying the view very much. Not a soul around. I crossed a senior gentleman who was riding the route in the opposite direction. He encouraged me and told me that I was doing well. We parted after about 5 minutes of chit chat. I reached West Yellowstone at around 10:30 AM. I wanted to buy a winter jacket as I was gaining altitude day by day and I was becoming vulnerable to cold weather with my health condition. Shops didn't have real winter jacket, but I bought a light weight one which cost me $180. It was really expensive! But I didn't find much to select. I bought another hiking socks and a few snacks. I rode on. I had to pay $15 as the route entered the National Park. First, I had a doubt if I should go ahead skipping the line of vehicles. Then, I decided to stay in the line. In India, no bicycle pays toll. The lady in the counter told me that I would have to pay even if I had walked. I swiped my credit card. Later I realized that it was a tourist place and that was the reason for the charge. I was again feeling sick. I was finding it hard to find a place to leak. People were everywhere being a Sunday in a tourist place and no toilet facilities along the way. I couldn't ride fast. I tried stopping every now and then to rest and take nap if possible. I also ate snacks here and there. It had become a routine that every meal would be followed by bonking that would last for 3 to 5 hours.

There were a lot of people crowding around hot springs where thick white fogs or smoke rose from the water.
Hot Spring
Hot Spring in West Yellowstone National Park
But I was feeling good in the late evening. I picked up pace. I had a long climb coming up ahead before mid night. I had to take a call if I should take a nap before the climb or go ahead. I saw a gas station along the way near Moran. I stopped there to charge my phone and also to take a small nap. It was very cold. But I was better off with the jacket now. I would have slept about an hour. Then I started moving. As I started climbing around 1 AM, one car pulled up on me and said:
"You must be on one hell of a mission".
"Yes" - I said, thinking that he was talking about the odd hour.
"Do you have a gun"?
"No" - I replied with a bit of a surprise at the question.
"The road is infested with bears in the night. Do you have a bear spray".
"No" - I replied.

He told me to be careful and drove off. Not a soul after that. My heart rate was going up with the climbing and anticipation of bear. Soon, I saw the huge digital sign board that read:
"BEARS ON THE ROAD. DON'T STOP ANYWHERE EXCEPT IN PULL OUT. DON'T GET OUT OF YOUR VEHICLE"

That made me even more alert. No sleepiness by then. It was four lane road with two wide shoulders on each side. I was riding right in the middle between the yellow lines with my light flashing from from left to right so as to scan continuously. The only consoling factor was that I could turn back down the hill if I were to spot a bear. I was imagining if bears could plan attack like those wolves in Planet Earth documentary. What if they attacked me from front and back at the same time! I kept going - no stop. It was about 17 miles of climb with gradient ranging between 3% and 5%. The jacket kept me warm. But the fingers were numb inside the gloves. My hiking socks were covered with plastic sheets as I slipped my feet inside the sandal. It was not good enough, but with my tolerance limit. I reached the peak before day light. No bear fortunately! I wanted to click a few pictures with the snow. But it was still dark. So, I passed some time eating some peanuts and almond seeds. Elevation was 9555 ft above sea level.
Snow as I saw in the dark
I also took a selfie. I didn't realize how my face had changed by then.
After the bear infested road. Notice few snow on the road side.
A point at Continental Divide. This is a part of the Tour Divide (off road) race I suppose.

Day 10 - I quit!

I rode down the mountain. It was fast but freezing cold. I couldn't bear with the temperate on my fingers and toes. I was just waiting for the sun to get warmer. It was still hiding behind the terrain and I could barely feel it. At one point where the light was directly on the road, I stopped to get some warmth. But it didn't help. I continued to roll. About 30 miles, I stopped at Dubois to have breakfast. The restaurant was crowded, very crowded. I sat outside. But I didn't mind as I was charging my phone and I wanted a break. I had had a good ride after the low feeling in West Yellowstone National Park. I seemed to be managing things within my limits now.

I kept riding. I crossed Crowheart by noon. Weather was cloudy. It looked as if it was going to rain. I welcomed the rain for a change. It was raining properly at Fort Washakie. I wore poncho and continued riding. Vehicles sprayed debris and slush to me. I reached Lander 3 PM. I stopped at a Subway. My bike was dirty with a lot of dirt and muck. I washed my feet with water from my bottle since I didn't want to walk into the Subway with dirt. Rain had stopped. I ordered chicken sandwich and plugged my phone for charging again. I spent too much time there. I also went to buy water and snacks from the Safeway nearby. I also picked a multi vitamin tablet packet. I left Lander around 4:30 PM. After a couple of hours of ride, Alistair Davidson, a 53 years old rider, caught me up while I was wearing warmers. We were talking about where we could stop. I didn't have much idea. But he had the ACA (American Cycling Association) map. This was the first time I saw an ACA map. It had details of places to stop on many famous biking routes. I had read many riders mentioning about this map in the forums. But I never fully understood the significance of that until I saw one and rode the route. He was talking about a church in Sweetwater Station, where we could get just place to stay and rest room, but no food or water. At that moment, I had the urgency to leak. As I spoke, I was literally going to burst. I waited till he moved. Then I relieved myself and I continued. Immediately, I started feeling some pain in my lower right abdomen. I carefully stretched a bit and continued. The pain increased further. Within an hour, it started hampering my right leg pedaling action. I imagined all the bad things that could happen - kidney infection, permanent damage to organ, full blown diabetes for lifelong, etc. etc. Sweetwater Station was just 10 miles away. But I wouldn't get any motel there. I wouldn't get anything for another 95 miles till I reached Rawlins that would be next day. I calculated myself if I should go back to Lander riding back 30 miles or take a chance going ahead. I tried more stretches to see if I could relieve the pain. It was not letting up. I decide to ride back to Lander. It was a painfully slow ride back to Lander. It was past 11 PM. All the motels front desks were shut down. I didn't have any data to find places that would open 24 hours. I tried one after another. Finally, I saw a motel that was open. The person in the front desk was a grumpy Indian, who talked to me in a very discourteous manner. The motel was also one of the most expensive, $90 per day. I didn't have a choice. He gave me $5 discount. I didn't even bother to push my bike as I locked it outside. I was dirty from the evening rain. My dresses were soiled and dirty. I had decided to quit as the pain was scary at that moment. Sv and my brother, Chitaranjan (pet name Nanao), had been tracking with concerns on why I had ridden back. There were an email chain of my family friends consisting of Rajesh, Krithiga, Meiyappan, Jana, Samundeeshwari (Sv's sister), etc. There was another email thread among my office colleagues which I didn't have access to, but I came to know later. Then there was the BBC threads which I didn't read often. I called Sv using the calling card. I informed her of my decision to quit. She sounded unhappy with the decision. She told me to take rest for a couple of days if required and then decide. The irony was that I decided to quit the race as I promised the family that I would not risk my health just for the sake of the race. Family usually knew me as someone who could take a lot pain beyond justification. I was just trying to be safer in the larger interest. And here, my wife was advising me on the contrary. She was probably afraid that I would take the same journey the next season if I were to quit in this one! I spoke to Sandeep. He also told me the same thing, which he said was general randonneurs advice. He also denied that I could suddenly develop diabetes. Anyway, I updated my facebook that I was quitting. I updated the TransAm facebook page too with the decision. I have put all my dirty dresses in a plastic bag for dumping into a trash. Sv, her sister (Samundeeshwari, or just Samu) in Virginia and my brother Chitaranjan (pet name Nanao at home) in California had started working on my return flight.

Day 11 - A happening day

Meanwhile, my office colleagues and ex-colleagues were also trying to help. Sivakumar Rajan, my ex-colleague in my previous job in Trigent and current job in Oracle, had a brother in law who would have a lot of contacts across India. He was trying to help me. But I was refusing all help from him as I felt that it would be unnecessary trouble for others. The next morning he asked me to go to doctor. I refused. He found the motel where I was staying by seeing my tracks and informed the front desk person to help. Siva is a serious guys when it comes to helping friends. I didn't want him to take too much effort to help me as I didn't feel needed. I just assured him that I would go to the doctor. I went to a hospital a couple of miles away. I had never gone to medical care in the US. I have gone to hospitals in India in a few occasions. We have outpatient departments in hospitals where one could just walk in and wait in a line to see a doctor. No admission required. It will be typically 10 to 15 mins per patient, cheap (about $5 approximately). I walked into the hospital front desk telling that I had stomach pain. She sent me to Emergency Room. I thought, that was probably the procedure for them. In ER, the front desk collected my name and DL for address proof. She also inquired about insurance. I had taken a travel insurance just in case. They took blood and urine sample. They wanted to give IV fluid with sodium. I told them that I was not dehydrated. I knew that much. They insisted that it wouldn't be any harm and they would stop once the blood test result showed no dehydration. The results came in about an hour. Everything normal. They took CK test to see if I had physical exhaustion. CK was higher than normal. But nothing alarming. Finally, they couldn't tell me why I had the stomach pain. They sent me back after noting down the insurance details. I had no idea of how much it would be. I just hoped that it would go cashless and smooth. It would haunt me later. Another story on that.

BTW, I met one fitness enthusiast in Safeway the previous evening. He was tracking TransAm and was happy to speak to me. I met him again in the hospital as he was working there as lab technician. That was a pleasant surprise. He inquired about my kind of food and suggested a Thai restaurant in the town for rice.

As I returned to the motel, the guy at the motel asked me very unceremoniously if I was checking out. Else he would charge for the next day. I was going to stay for another day. But I didn't want to stay in the same motel. So, I said, I would check out. He said, he would give me another hour. I packed everything up as I had earlier unpacked everything. Then I went about asking for other motels. Everything was booked except one shady looking one. I didn't have a choice. I checked into that. But the staffs there were very nice and helpful. I slept for a couple of hours and I had a bit of undigested loose motion with some gas. This relieved me half of the pain. I was certain then that it was the indigestion from eating too much of raw almond. Things were either over roasted or not cooked enough. I couldn't eat any dry fruits too as they were mostly mixed and even resin caused me trouble with urination. I avoided any sugary stuff as it caused severe burn in the nerves and muscles until I flushed them out with water and urine. Bread was the only thing I couldn't avoid.

Since the medical report didn't find any fault and I also came to know the probable reason for the pain, I decided to continue the ride. I didn't want to disturb Sv yet as it would be mid night there. Chitaranjan and Samu were working on the flight details and I didn't know about it. When I informed them of my decision to continue riding, they had to change their track. I went out to do the laundry. I hadn't eaten for 24 hours by then. I frantically tried to reach Nathan to inform my decision to continue. Others in the facebook informed them and my status was changed from Scratched to Active again. Nanao also asked me to buy a phone which they could reach me in case of trouble. Sv was more commanding me to do right away. Nanao told me that there was a shop that could close in 5 mins. I walked down the road fast. I knocked on the door harsh as I saw people inside. The staff there got annoyed as I tried to hide my anxiety and explain my situation. They plainly told me that they wouldn't be able to do any transaction. There was a cellphone shop inside the same office. The staff there was a nice gentleman and told me that he had an alternative if I wanted. He told me prepaid phones which didn't have SIM option, but I could just buy a plan and activate it. It cost me $85 all of it. I immediately agreed. He did everything and explained to me how to dial local and outside numbers. The plan had unlimited calls inside US for a month and some data plan.

I also wanted to change my electrolyte capsules. Those capsules wouldn't dissolve nicely in water. Hence I used to bite and swallow for every half a liter or water. I didn't want to continue this way. Hence I bought some electrolyte tablets which Sandeep had shown me earlier, an effervescent and fast dissolving one. I also got some gels for the next day in case I would have trouble with food. I also bought a rain pant, mostly to help in cold weather conditions.

I went to the Thai restaurant. I hadn't eaten for almost 30 hours and my stomach was clear of all the undigested food. I ordered two bowls of rice with chicken gravy. It was so heavy that I had to leave some of it. I went to bed hoping for a big day ahead.

Day 12 - The power of rice

I woke up early as usual and started riding. I didn't eat anything. But I had the gels. I wanted to take it easy for a couple of days as I had starved the previous day and my body needed to gain a little more strength. I had planned to stop at Rawlins which was 125 miles. I felt so good that I rode and rode without any stop. No breakfast or lunch stop. Then the unthinkable happened. I skipped the only chance to refill in Jeffrey City or Muddy Gap. I thought it was in Jeffrey City, but other riders account suggests it to be in Muddy Gap.
3 Forks Muddy Gap Services also known as about the only thing you'll find between Lander and Rawlins.
Image courtesy: TransAmBikeRace facebook.

I didn't feel the need as I was feeling better than normal without unwanted urination. Rice made all the difference. I popped in a few gels in between too. As I headed south, I faced very bad headwind. I was still able to pedal through, but at that pace, I was going to take more time than plan. That would also mean running out of water. There was nothing in between. Another 30 miles to go. I tried to conserve as much as possible. Water ran out 20 miles before. I just couldn't gain momentum. 20 miles without water is not a big deal, but a big deal while fighting against wind or any climb. I was completely dry. It was hurting to breathe itself. I just tried to conserve as much as possible. Since I didn't have water, I couldn't take the gel too. Later I heard that Illaria, the lady from Italy, too had to flag down a car to get some water in the same stretch. It was climbing before Rawlin and that added the pain further. I entered Rawlin. I saw a road side fruit van (I forgot the term they used). I bought various fruits and stated eating with juice flowing over my hands. I felt so good with juicy fruits. After that, I looked out for restaurant. Some restaurants were closed. I went to McDonald as I didn't want to think too much. I ate and packed some. But it was not enough. I booked a motel using the phone I bought in Lander. I rode to the motel and slept. I overslept past the restaurant closing time and I couldn't get any other food. I ate some chicken nuggets that I had packed from McDonald. It was not enough. But I didn't have a choice.

Day 13 - Headwind gets worse

I fought against the headwind as I was heading straight south further. I see no other option as the road was all the way to south. I stopped under the tree when I couldn't ride at all. Otherwise, I just rode slowly or very slowly. I was amazed how well Elyse rode against headwind. She used to overtake me often as I would again overtake during her longer breaks in the night. I had breakfast at Saratoga. But I didn't have lunch as I didn't find any place to eat. I didn't see anything in Riverside too. Soon I entered Colorado state. It was beautiful. I stopped at Walden for pizza at 5 PM. It was more of community service restaurant. The shop was about to close but they said they would make it for me. I refreshed while they made the pizza. It was too hot for me to eat. I ate as much as I could, actually more than I should. I packed the rest. The shop closed as soon as I stepped out. I wanted to take a nap before I started another climb to reach Granby. There is another route from Walden to Kremling without going to Grandby and Hot Sulphur Springs. But my route is through them, more climbs probably and thick forest. So, I wanted to take a nap before the ride in the night. I sat down on the bench outside. There were too many mosquitoes. I covered from head to toe and tried to nap. People were chatting and walking now and then. I didn't really get to sleep. Soon, the mosquitoes disappeared as the weather become colder. I got a nap of about an hour or so. I decided to continue by around 10 PM. This was when I realized that I ate too much. The roads had those gaps that would give very unpleasant jerks every couple of seconds. I don't know if those gaps were due to crack in winter or engineers made them purposefully. It didn't seem like purposefully done, because I saw bitumen full up in may of those gaps. But they looked so uniform in pattern that I thought it was intentional. This was common everywhere in the first half of the race. That made the stomach heavy and unpleasant. I continued at gentle pace. It was midnight when I reached 9600 ft. I had to attend to nature call to relieve my bowel. It was freezing cold. Since I wore bib short, I had to remove my jacket, gloves, jersey and rain pants. I went into the wood on the side. I had to remove the garmin watch as I couldn't pull out the jersey with watch on. I kept the watch on a log there. I realized that water was freezing cold and I was going to be in trouble to clean up myself. Others in the forum suggested baby wipes for such situations. But being an Indian, I was always comfortable with water and I didn't carry any wipes. I had tough time cleaning up with frozen water and numb hands. Then I dressed up, came to the bike on the road side, washed my hand again before I wore the gloves. I started climbing further. That was when I realized that I had forgotten the watch. Garmin forerunner 920xt is a decently expensive watch. I went back to search. But there was no way I was going to find the trail I went to. I didn't even remember how far I had gone, though it seems just 5 minutes. Then I remember that I washed hand on the road. So, I looked out for the wet mark on the road. I found the watch to my relief. I continued riding further. I rarely forgot things. But later, I would forget the watch in rest room at later point of time. I returned in that incident too to find it from the restaurant staffs. Soon, I was going downhill. It was freezing cold and I was very sleepy and drowsy. I was often veering off the road into the tall grasses and gravels on the side! I was impressed how I could manage balance under the circumstances while I also scolded myself for being reckless and risking myself unnecessarily! Or was it really unnecessary? That was when I turned the phone data to check emails to keep myself engaged. People back home, friends and biking community, had noticed that I had continued riding and they started wishing me luck. For the first time, I replied to the BBC group with my surprise that they were still tracking a rider who had quit. It kept me a little more excited and awake. But I fell to sleep again. This sleep downhill ride was outright dangerous. I tried to take a nap, even if it was for 5 minutes. It helped to some extent. I ate the pizza I packed. I didn't stop in Kremmling too. There was road repair after Kremmling and it was a very slow pace. Soon, the route left the interstate 9 and took a detour to go around the other side of the Blue River. Later, I noticed that people with paper maps missed this turn as they were heading for Silverthorne straight.

Day 14 - Run out of water again

As I rode around the Blue River, I ran out of water. I knocked on some doors. But no luck. Then I filled water from some stream as there were plenty. The water was not clean, but something to survive. Just then, I saw a gentleman driving into his garage. I asked him for water. He was a senior person, at 60 plus, a retired soldier who had served in Vietnam and warfares like that. When I talked about heat, he quipped that India should be hotter. He filled my bottles from the tap in the garden while we talked of politics. He was saying about the predicament of having to choose between Hillary and Donald. He spoke of Dalai Lama and how he loved him. He spoke of the whole warfare in the West Asia and why they should have just left them. He spoke of the gun lobbies in politics. He kept on and on. I loved the talk for a while and then I just wanted to continue riding. I thanked him for the chat and water.
On the village side of Blue River. Some riders without GPS miss the right right and continue on the highway itself.

I was still not nourished enough. I had booked a hostel in Breckenridge. So, I just wanted to reach there. I was planning to reach there by 12 noon. But at the pace I was going, that was not going to happen. From Silverthorne till Breckenridge was supposed to be all along a bike trail. The gpx resolution I had gave me trouble to get onto the trail initially. It was fine after that. The trail protected me from the headwind to some extent. The trail had runners and bikers. It had toilets too, though I didn't have to use them. It was a peaceful and nice trail. I clicked a few pics.


A typical trail section on Blue River trail
I saw names like Sarah, Stephen written with chalk on the winding of the trail in the start. I continued. I also saw some water kept midway for bikers. It was some 16 miles or so. There was strong headwind in the second half. The trail also had more ups and downs compared to the road. I was moving at pathetic pace, but managed to reach the hostel The Bivouac "Bivvi" Hostel. It was a dormitory with 6 people in a room. There were many hikers and bikers. I got a middle berth. Each berth had enough charging points. I showered and slept off. I still had the pizzas from Walden. When I woke up, it was too late for going out for dinner. I was happy for the fact that I overslept. I microwaved the last pieces of pizza and ate them. I was good to go for the highest peak in this race.

Day 15 - Hoosier Pass at 11500 ft, 2000 miles

I left the hostel around 3 AM (time zone had changed) I suppose as I wanted to climb the Hoosier pass before hot day. I was doing good.
Lips were bleeding every time I opened to eat



I stopped and had breakfast at Fairplay. I also wanted to buy some more electrolyte tablets. But I could get them anywhere. It was frying hot. I decided to stop early at CaƱon City at around 1 PM to escape from the heat. I went to a Mexican restaurant and had rice. It was not as good as I expected. I also bought a probiotic chewing stuff from a nearby Safeway store. I left the motel at around 9 PM. Reached Pueblo by post mid night. I stopped at a store there for supplies.

Day 16 and 17 - Kansas is specially dry, race at half way

I stopped for breakfast at Ordway. There in the Cafe, one senior lady followed me as she had been tracking all the riders. She saw that Illaria was also nearing the place and went out to receive her as well. She took pictures with us and later I came to know that she had paid for our breakfast as well. I couldn't get to thank her. I cannot recollect the name right now and will update here when I recollect.

I shopped for some fruits. Illaria was trying to fix a cut tire using duct tape. She had a spare tire, but she didn't feel the situation needing the spare tire!

From here on, there was nothing for a long time. I reached Cinnamon Joe at noon. I ran out of water. I rode around the whole town for any restaurant. Nothing was open as it was Sunday. Later I saw a gas station which was open. I filled my supplies and took some break. Road was rolling and hence I really wanted to continue throughout the night. But I was dozing off every now and then. I called Sv to have pass some time and keep me awake as I rode alone in the desolate road. Road was also smooth. I kept going in drowsy state till next morning.

When I was having snacks at Scott City, Amy Williams rolled in. We were talking while eating. I told her that I planned to stop early at Ness City as I hand't slept the night before. I had already booked and she did the same. She rode off soon and I followed a while later.
Wheat fields along the Kansas road. Wind blows fine wheat dust and it could cause irritation inside jersey.
It was just getting hotter and hotter. But I rode well and reached the motel in Ness City just about 1 PM. I tried for a few restaurants. Most of them were closed. I saw one cafe with sign board of some potato and chicken stuff in the meal menu placed outside. When I entered, the lady there told me that they were closed and there was nothing else. I pointed at the board and she apologized. Then I found a pub just near the motel and I had my lunch there. The lady there told me that it was harvesting time and people were busy and hence the town was quiet. While I was eating, a boy came in with a box of donuts. He told me that the lady in the previous cafe felt bad at not serving me food and hence sent me the donuts. That was really touching. I conveyed my thanks to the boy and to the lady. I checked into the hotel. I washed clothes and slept. I woke up at 1 AM. I started riding really furious as the weather was pleasant and I had good amount of energy. I also had some food in the bag. I was almost around 20 mph most of the time.

BTW, the probiotic seemed to help me to a good extent in my ability to handle better range of food. So, I continued eating them in following days too.

Day 18 - Just another hot day with bad road

Just about morning, there was a store in a gas station. I bought some supplies. Then I realized that there was nothing ahead until Newton town. The road around Nickerson was so bad that I stopped to look at my map many times if I was on the right track. I was. I reduced the pressure on my tire and kept riding on really pathetic road. I had ridden in much worse roads back in India. So, I didn't have much to complain really. I was also running out of water and food as it was getting hotter and hotter. Then suddenly I noticed a house and there was a bench and sign outside with "Biker Riders Water", "Let it run to cool". The tap was already kept outside. I sat on the bench and thanked the unknown kind person.
Sign with BIKE RIDERS WATER near Nickerson
I continued and the roads became good after a while. I noticed very old cars around the agricultural villages. Myself being from village upbringing, the life there looked familiar to me, but something I never thought of in the US. 

I reached Newton town around Noon. I ate pizza before entering Newton Bike Shop.
James and Heather of Newton Bike Shop

Chuck Lee, Ilaria Corli, Mike Richardson and Elyse Williams.
James commented Chuck was dirty with greases when he entered while Ilaria looked clean.
But I had seen how Ilaria was when she was fixing the damaged tire :)

Newton Bike Shop had good collection of vintage bikes and other memorabilia. He had a chain from the first season winner in the rest room wall, for instance.

They had almost everything that a long distance biker would need, including rooms to retire.

James and Heather were already tired of anticipating my entry into the shop as they didn't expect me to stop for food. I didn't know that they would have food for riders. They were such a nice pair, very passionate about bikes and with amazing hospitality. I requested for batteries for my SPOT device which they didn't have. She managed to order them and get in time for me. They showed me the recreational center where I could use the shower, which was free for long distance cyclists. I had run out of my salt tablets. So, I decided to buy something from the pharmacy. I called up to check if they had any electrolyte for oral re hydration. They had something called Thermostabs. I didn't have a choice. I bought them. It takes time to dissolve, leaves some precipitates that chokes on throat if I were in a panting state. But it served the purpose. I didn't plan to sleep in the bike shop. I ate a lot of fruits there. My bike was ready with tires interchanged. I declined the offer to service my bike. My bike was still in very good condition except for the muck on the chain. I hadn't used the brakes so far. I charged my batteries. I took a nap sitting on the sofa itself. There were about 5 or 6 riders altogether at the same time. I spent around 6 hours there. Then I continued.

I rode well initially and then soon I realized my mistake of not having slept the time in Newton Bike Shop. I didn't need the sleep that time as I had slept in Ness City. But that was a convenient place and hot day time I could have used for sleep. I regretted later. I stopped in a store to take a nap. Then I continued. It was not enough. I stopped again on the road side again.

As I crossed Eureka, I saw three or four RAAM riders. A couple of them sleeping on the road side in their pilot vehicles and a couple of them overtaking me with their escort vehicles. Seeing the logs, my cycling friend, Srini, who did RAAM solo the same time, was passing through the same road at the same time. One of them could be him. I soon deviated from their freeway to join towards Toronto and Coyville. Around mid night, I stopped in a convenience store and tried to sleep outside. The staff noticed and told me that I could nap inside. I would have slept for an hour and continued again. During my sleep, I heard Mike coming in the same store and leaving.

Day 19 - Frantic search for water again

As I rode slowly the morning, I was looking out for food and water. It was getting hot again. But there were enough shades where I could take shelter. But I desperately needed water. I went around the Walnut county houses, knocked on doors. Mike also joined me after a while. I had lost a lot of time. We went around a church to look for taps. Then we found a fountain in a children park. We filled and rode. He rode away. Just at the end of the county, there was a gas station and a store. I could have saved so much time if I knew about it. I ate some hot food and rested for a while.

By post noon, the headwinds were so bad and I was not having any energy. Head winds were so bad that I was once wavering on the road and a truck honked from behind At one point, a car stopped by and asked if it was worth going. I said, I didn't have a choice. It was getting hotter too. I still rolled slowly with an intention to halt at Pittsburg. Just about Pittsburg, may be another 7 or 8 miles, I ran out of water again. The distance was a pittance. I could have just gone ahead. But the headwind was so bad that I didn't want to push further. I flagged down a car by showing water bottle. She said, she would fill it for me and she drove away with the bottle. It took quite long before she returned with the water. I felt guilty of the effort she took. I thanked her and moved along. I stopped at a motel in Pittsburg owned by another Indian, a very nice gentleman. I ate well, bought fruits and supplies from the nearby Walmart store and slept.

Day 20 and 21 - Fun at Missouri roads, 3000 miles.

This is how a typical road in Missouri looks like:
The wavy roads of Missouri
The road goes up and down like a wave in the sea shore. They are significantly steep and I had to shift the gears every slope. There is a better picture in TransAm Instagram.

A typical city limit sign board - population, speed limit
I rode without much events on this day. I also pushed hard as I felt good. People were very warm and it was very easy to indulge into a conversation. It was moderately hot and I sweated profusely as I pushed harder. For the first time I ended a day with sore muscles. For the first time in this race, I had used my muscles more than my energy and legs were asking me to go easy.

I had planned to stop in Houston, early again. If I had to stop in a motel, I had to do it before 8 PM and planning it was never perfect. After I checked into a motel, there was another gentleman who had ridden the TransAm route in 2011 if I remember correctly. He asked me if I stopped by the ACA headquarter in Hoosier Pass. I didn't even know about it. He rode one year just upto Hoosier Pass and then the whole route the year after.
This gentleman rode the TransAm route in 2011, if I remember correctly.
I continued the next day on a similar looking road of Missouri. My legs needed an early break as muscles felt sore. So, I stopped early at around 4 PM at Farmington, which was 3000 miles on the course. The following is how a typical Missouri elevation profile looks like.
A typical elevation profile in Missouri

Day 22 - Crossed Illinois in a single day

Illinois was another beautiful day. Full of energy and beautiful route. First thing I noticed as I entered Illinois was the corn fields.
Turtle on the road

Large cornfields in Illinois

Cornfield in Illinois

Mississippi River. Not exactly sure where I clicked this. But in Illinois.
As I was zipping up and down the roads in Illinois, Nathan jumped out of his car and tried to click a photo. Too bad, I was in a steep downhill in full aero postion. He missed the click. I continued the momentum to climb the next hump. He turned around and caught me at the up slope. He was returning from Virginia after the leaders had finished the race. He has spent the last 22 days on the road capturing moments of the race. Quite tough job! Thanks Nathan for making the event possible for the third year.

It was warm and hot, but the Shawnee National Forest trees kept me cool.
Shawnee National Forest
 Trans Am Bike Race has to use Ferry to cross the Ohio River in Cave In Rock at the border of Illinois and Kentucky. This has a specific timing, between 6 AM and 9:30 PM. This is a bit tricky part in the race. If one misses the day's last ferry, he has to wait till next day morning. If one catches the last ferry, then he has to ride the whole night as most things on the Kentucky side would have shut down. I think that there was a time zone difference too, which would make it an hour advanced in Kentucky side. I was right on time for the ferry before 8 PM.
Approach road to Cave In Rock

Waiting for ferry in Cave In Rock
I crossed Illinois and I still didn't have an idea how far the next town would be and where the supplies were. I didn't realize the time zone advancing. So, I was thinking that I would get enough time to reach a place to stay. It was drizzling and getting dark. I rode as fast as I could to reach Marion. As I neared Marion, I booked a motel online and called up the front desk to expect me a bit late as I would need to eat some food before shops closed. I packed some fast food from McDonald and proceeded towards the motel which was a bit off the course. The gentleman in the motel was a Gujarati Indian and he was elated to see me. His office was inside his house. He offered to prepare food if I wanted Indian food. I was glad to hear that but I declined. I slept off soon after that. This would be my last stay in motel.

Day 23 and 24 - Kentucky dogs keep my racing alive, 3500 miles

Kentucky was no different from Missouri or Illinois in terrain. It was slightly better of course. It was scenic and no major climbs that I could remember. But quite choppy elevation profile. It was typically about 15,000 feet total gain over 250 miles. From here on, the weather was nice in the night. I could sleep in the open any night. But days were still hot. I used ice bag hanging from my helmet to keep myself cool.
Just a nice lush green field in Kentucky
As I have been skipping sleeps, my rides became more erratic and inconsistent. I also started having trouble with my motion as I had been eating too much fatty food. I noticed blood in stool for a few days.

One problem in Kentucky was the dogs that were let loose. Some of them were well fed ones and some of them were just small dogs. At one point, there were two healthy ones. They were ready to chase me as I could see from a distance. Not having a choice, I accelerated to gain some speed. To my surprise, those two also started running to gain speed. They were running right in the middle of the narrow road. I didn't want to risk being pushed to the far right. So, I went straight into the middle of the road. They were caught by a little surprise and tried to find a way to get around me. I made a nasty swerve around them and sped beside them. They were still chasing as I went in full speed with heart pumping to max limit. Most other cases were dogs that would be chasing from far off and I always had time to be ahead. There were a lot of such dogs. At another incident, there were four dogs. I had to stop as escaping from them was impossible. There were three or four cars lined behind me. I had to wait till the dogs moved away from me. The moment I started riding, one chased me again. I had to lift up my left leg and yell, while I also pushed myself to the extreme edge of the road. I almost went off the road.

I was very drowsy and tired by the time I reached Berea city. I stopped for food and packed some. I spent enough time waiting for the sun to go down. Meanwhile, I was wondering if I should check into a motel. I almost went to one before I decided against it. I was still drowsy. I stopped on a road side to take a nap for an hour and then continued. I was still feeling bad. I stopped by a store to stock up. I crawled up the hill. From Bighill, there was a major climb and it was raining too. Cars were throwing debris and slush towards me. But I continued with a dull energy. Due to rain and mountain road, there was a car accident around Clover Bottom. The ambulance was already there and traffic was regulated. It was downhill to McKee and climbing up again. I reached a place called Booneville in the late evening. I stopped in a store for some food. The store staff advised me to stop in the church  next as there was nothing ahead for long. He told me that most bikers through that road would stop in that church. I had never stopped in church. He told me that there would be no one. But there would be a shade behind, where I could sleep on the benches or on the floor. There would be shower, etc. After some thinking, that sounded like the right thing to do. So, I stopped there. There was already a lady in tent, still awake as she was talking on the phone. I tried to figure out where the shower and toilet were. I couldn't figure out and I had to ask her. Shower and toilet were a makeshift arrangement. No hot water. No flush for the toilet. It was smelly. But it served the purpose. I didn't have a plug point to charge my phone. Or I just didn't search enough. I slept for a couple of hours on the bench. And then I pushed off.

Day 25 and 26 - Nasty elevation gain

When I was talking to people in Booneville, they were asking me which direction I was headed. I mentioned those places - Lookout, Elkhorn City, Breaks, Haysi, Honaker, Rosedale, Meadow View, Damascus, Troutdale. They were taking pity on me as they spoke of the climbs which they knew. The last part of Kentucky and starting of Virginia had elevations gains of about 25,000 ft over 250 miles. I managed most of it. I also caught up with Sony Malcom, from California state, during a morning stop in a store.

Sony usually liked to sleep longer. He was saying that he would sleep on the way in some open place. That same night had heavy rain for about an hour and I came to know later that the rain spoiled his sleep as he was unprepared for the rain. I kept riding on the rain with pants on. I didn't wear poncho this time. I just wore the wind cheater. The rain had trickled inside the ventilator holes and I was fairly drenched. Since the water entry was controlled, my body was still warm though drenched. One car pulled up beside me and asked where I was headed and if he could drop me to my destination. I told him about my ride and he left with a sense of disbelief.

I reached Honaker around around mid night. I halted in a gas station and lied down on the bench outside. I woke up after about a couple of hours of sleep and continued riding again. Not a great day. But not a bad day either. I kept going. Sony and I played catch up gain for the next 36 hours. I was really drowsy on the 26th day noon. I stopped just before Wytheville to take a nap again. When I woke up, I was a bit hungry. I rode a little further at Wytheville. I saw Sony there again. He had overtaken again while I was napping. We ate together for one last time. I left the place a little before him.

I kept riding till 10 PM. I was in Christianburg and having a confusing time deciding whether to continue riding or take a break. I decided to take a break. I lay down at a gas station bench again. I slept for a couple of hours and moved on again.

Day 27 - A big ride and steepest part of Appalachian Mountain

I had a couple of muffin cakes, three bananas and some usual stuff and no particular food on this day. I was feeling really good. I was surprised that muffin didn't cause an issue. I was really loving Virginia. I clicked some random pics of the scenic route. Nothing specific about them.
US Bicycling Route 76 is well marked from Missouri till Yorktown in Virginia

Lovely roads in Virginia



If I remember correctly, this was a diversion due to bridge collapse.
I reached Lexington around noon of 30th June. I passed through the congested town. I could have bypassed that if I had known about the alternative as I was not really looking for any food. As soon as I came out of the town, I saw a bear in front of me, crossing the road, coming out from right side woods to the left side woods. I saw a few houses here and there as well. My heart pounded. I didn't know what to do, It was slightly up slope and I could have ridden fast. I waited for a couple of minutes seeing if any car would come along the road. None came and bear seemed to have gone deeper into the woods. I continued riding. I knew of a bad climb coming up. My chain had collected some nasty muck from the rain two nights ago. The rear derailleur was not shifting any more. I stopped by a store and got a WD40 can. I took to a grass area, grabbed a bundle of napkin papers and sprayed on the chain and cleaned as much as I could. I still wanted to carry the car in case I would need. I wiped hands, wiped the rear rim and put the paper in the trash can. I rode off. The gear was shifting okay after that. But still some effort was required. The road there was washed out by flood. Only the loose gravels were there. It required some effort to gain momentum, though I was still in good mood.

From Vesuvius towards Montebellow, there is a small stretch of climb that goes above 10% gradient. I huffed and puffed there, getting off the bike now and then. Trees made it cool in spite of the heat at noon. The gradient eased soon after that. I thought I had sufficient water and snacks. But I underestimated the climbs. The climb took its own time in spite of my best efforts. One scary thing happened. My phone battery was draining out fast. This really worried me. I started pushing to my limits. It was a small gradient, but long and consistent climb. By 4:30 PM, I reached White Rock.
A bridge near White Rock
Soon, I ran out of water and food too. But I was still doing okay. Road surface was really good and rolling. I belted down the downhill. Then came a few miles of slight up slope. I was still able to ride hard. I pushed really hard in that up slope that lungs were begging to slow down. I told myself that it would soon be down hill again at this momentum and please bear with myself as the phone battery was dying. Phone battery was running out real fast. I was almost there in Charlottesville. Just as I was near Charlottesville, I saw a small sign board saying "FOOD, SHOWER and A PLACE TO SLEEP, FREE FOR TRANS AM RIDERS". 3.x miles from here along the route was mentioned. I stopped by and was excited about the prospect of a shower, which I hadn't done for three days. My phone needed charging, I needed complete resupply. Just when I was browsing the map, my phone died. But I had loaded the segment in the other backup phone I bought in Lander. I opened the map and rode holding it in hand as I didn't have a mount for it. It was still downhill. Two bikers approached and they asked if I was Thoudam Opendro. I said, "Yes". I asked them if they could help me finding the place to the free food. They said, it was their house. They had come to receive me. I was touched by this gesture and compassion and passion for bikers. As I rode along with Bill and his son, he asked me what kind of food I would want. I said, "anything". He told me the choices. Rice was among the choices. I said, "Yes". I desperately needed it! He gave me two choices of rice - basmati and some other name which didn't want to stay in my head even after he told me twice. I asked for the other one, not basmati. He asked about the side dish. I said, "anything" again. He said, "some chicken". I said, "yes, in any form". He asked me all these on the way so that he could order on the phone to his wife and I could save time waiting for food.
Bill, his wife Shawna, son Tanner and daughter Kailey (photo sent on my request)
Bill rides road bike and Tanner rides MTB
As soon as I entered his house, I plugged in all the devices - two phones and power bank. He offered to clean my bike, to which I said, "not required". I just needed to wipe the rim off the WD40 as it was giving a lot of noise and less effective. I didn't bother much all these while as it was in the rear only. I felt sorry for taking in my dirty bike onto his carpet and sofa. But he insisted. He gave me a soap or solution to clean my greasy hands. He gave me fresh towels, soap, shampoo, etc. I don't use soap, shampoo or toothpaste. I carried a small cotton towel of my own. All I needed was water. But I was so touched by the hospitality and sincerity of his willingness to help the bikers. He told me that he had all tools if I would need any repair. He also handed over a rear light in spite of me insisting that I would not need it. He also offered me gloves which I declined. Food was ready. I climbed upstairs to his kitchen and dining where Shawna had kept the food ready.
Bills dog Ruby. He goes almost well with Bill's cat, not in the pic.
There was a lot of rice, salad, some berries and some kind of melon. I relished them all. Bill was asking Shawna to wrap some rice for me to eat along the way. I told them that I could eat really heavy if it was rice. So, there wouldn't be any need to pack. I would eat them all to last till next day! They were quite surprised at how much I could eat.

I was done. As I hurried up, I later realized that I didn't even keep my plate to the sink or dish washer. I just left on the table. I felt bad about myself as a guest, though I knew well that Bill and Shawna had the hearts to forgive me.

Bill rode for 10 miles with me so that I didn't have to worry navigating out. I was heavy and puffing a bit to keep pace with him. He asked if I wanted to slow down a bit. I said, "Keep going" so that I would be off pretty soon. My target was to reach Yorktown by 4 PM and collect my items from post office before 5 PM, in case the post office would close on Saturday. I had hardly used the big chain ring except in the downhills. While trying to keep pace with him, I shifted to big ring and chain fell off. While trying to put the chain back, the bike fell to the ditch on the side and I tumbled upon it. The bike had a very heavy handle bar with a bags hanging on the aero bar. That caused many falls during leaning on various supports. Bill turned back and put back my chain.

I rode hard the whole of night. At one point I was very drowsy and I slept on a small county road, on the grass near Sheriff's office. I was woken up by the Sheriff himself after about an hour. I told him that I needed a nap as I was riding very drowsy. He didn't mind that. But I was already awake. I woke up and continued riding. I faced some drizzle in the morning. I stopped in a gas station for supply and rest room. The store didn't have rest room. But there was a potty in the gas station. I had to use it reluctantly.

I was on the road again for one last time.

Final Day - 1st July, Friday

I was excited about the finish ahead. I rode even faster than usual. Some stretches were not even good roads. I just kept riding. I was amazed with how much the road turns to take us through various country roads. As I entered Ashland, riding along the railway track, I was stopped by an old gentleman. He showed my spot on trackleader on his cellphone screen. He had been tracking me and others to cheer tired souls like me and encourage me to keep up. His name was Tim Miller, who rode the Trans Am route in 1974, which was before I was born.

As I passed the outskirts of Richmond, one gentleman named Karthik from India met me outside a store where I was having my brunch. He told me that Sai and Abhirami (the couple from my college engineering class in CIT) sent him to take my pictures and to hand over some water as they couldn't do it themselves. I thanked him and them, but declined taking the water and other eatables. I was in the store anyway. Besides, the rule does not allow me getting help from friends. I also ran out of salt tablets. So, I put table salt in my water bottle for the last few miles.
At Richmond, photo by Karthik, friend of Sai and Abi
As soon as I joined the route 5S, I rode on the Virginia Capital Trail all the way till Williamsburg. It was a nice and really long trail. I felt drowsy along the trail and I also came to know that the post office would be open on Saturday too. So, I lay down for a while again. Soon, it started raining. Instead of riding, I just spread out the blanket over me and bike and waiting for the rain to subside. It was just 30 or 40 more miles to finish. I could have just finished it. But I was not in a hurry anymore. So, I rode leisurely. The road around Williamsburg towards Yorktown had horrible surface, a kind of surface that was washed out completely, but not loose gravels. I reduced pressure and kept riding with a jarring body. Just as I was about to reach Yorktown, it started raining heavily again. I couldn't ride as I needed the cellphone to navigate around town. My phone could not be mounted in the rain. So, I stopped again, trying to see the route now and then over the plastic cover. But I could not operate the screen over the wet plastic cover. Rain stopped very soon. Traffic was very heavy. I rolled to Yorktown finally along the beach trail. Beach was crowded. There was a "no entry" sign on the path to the Victory monument. When I inquired some people, they told me that pedestrians and bikers were allowed. I pedaled up and got someone to click a pic for me.


I was relieved to have finished the race successfully, though it took way longer than my target of 20 days. It took me 27 days and 7 hours to be precise.

I owe a lot to my family, friends, relatives, the cycling community in Bangalore and many unknown people around the world who had encouraged us all through the race. Sv has an account of her own which she kept while I rode on. That will be another story on itself, which I will add as anecdote later. He story has more characters, such as her parents who supported our children for school and their prayers for me.

I booked a motel afterwards. But I rode to a wrong address with a similar name. That made a really late night for me to take the rest. Riding in crowded town was not fun, in fact dangerous as cars honked behind me with no shoulder on the road. Next morning I walked 6 miles to post office and returned by cab. I disassembled the bike and packed it inside the bag after cleaning the dirt and grease.

I had booked my return flight from Dulles (Washington International) Airport, which was less than 10 miles from Samu's house. I asked Samu's husband, Senthilkumar, to pick me up as I wouldn't be able to drive without dozing off. My return flight was on 5th and thus I had three days of rest. Samu knew well how different and tired I looked than usual. She cooked really nice food for me. I just had to sleep and eat in a continuous cycle irrespective of whether it was day or night. Senthil dropped me to the airport in a ziffy as I made myself late in getting ready. I thanked them after I got to the boarding gate well before time.

I thank the GoGreenGoCycling team and the residents of my neighbourhood for the honor and encouragement given to me.
Dr Ali Poonawala and his wife Fatima, and GoGreen Rao at the airport when I landed in Bangalore

Some moments that didn't have any specific recorded time

There were moments when I couldn't breathe deep. I was breathing very shallow and I would be scolding myself for not breathing correctly.

My race was done with so low energy level but with so much high hope that I was often reminded of the dialogue line "Tujhe Holi khelne ka shauk hai lekin teri pichkari mein dum nahi" in Dirty Picture. I will not translate it here.

I had carried a spare green color bag that could be crumbled very small. I sometimes hung it behind the saddle bag. At one point, I thought it was missing. But I didn't want to get down to check it. So, I pushed my left leg behind feel it hanging. My feet got almost stuck in the rear wheel spokes. It hurt me, but no injury or damage to the spokes. I felt very stupid about the action.

Once I saw a McDonald that was open for drive through, but not open for service inside. I went to the drive through for order. I didn't know how to make the order, but I spoke on the mic and listened to the speaker on the drive through. The voice on the speaker clearly said that they wouldn't take orders unless I was on car! I waited outside till 5 AM when they actually opened. They also don't make the regular stuffs for breakfast.

In one of the raining night, I was lying down on the floor in a gas station, in front of a store. The rain water came flowing on the floor. The station had a water tap outside too, where I filled my bottles.

I never got to venture out into a campground. But I wanted to try and inquired about it from people. They said that I would need to carry a tent of my own and without tent, the insects would crawl over me. So, I stayed way from campgrounds.

Updated as and when I remember

The place I used to see for fruits on road side was called Deli.

As I saw nearly all the phases of the moon in one go, alone in the night, fighting sleep and other odds, the song that constantly came to my lips was "khoya khoya chand" sung by Md Rafi from the movie Kala Bazar. I realized how addictive the tune was in that moment.

Here is a tribute my brother and team in KanglaOnline.com made : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxxln0eQCTk

I saw another couple of bears on the downhill towards Charlottesville. Later, Bill told me that those bears were generally not dangerous unless they had cubs.

The deers in the woods of eastern half of US are something. They are everywhere. Many of them manage to jump across the fence and many of them died on the road, hit by moving vehicles.

There was one more animal, smaller in size, something like a sloth, I forgot the name. They were also killed in many numbers on the road.