The sweet taste of victory

So here I sit, in my living room after about 1200 miles of biking across the United States. What an odd sensation. I feel like I’m done. I already am relaxing and hanging out forgetting that I have about 3300 miles yet to complete. I don’t think there are words to describe what I felt when we were walking up to Millennium Park. I don’t even know what I was thinking. My mind still has not wrapped around the fact that I biked from NYC to Chicago, let alone that I am biking to San Francisco. I feel so oddly comfortable in my house. It’s weird to see things that are mine and not the team’s or the church’s. I took a shower today and the water was hot the entire time. Like people told me I would, I have missed my luffa. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try and no matter how much you scrub, you will always find more patches of grease that you missed.

I am so fortunate to be a part of this experience and to be experiencing it with the people that I am. We are not a team, we are a family. We have been since Day1. I never once felt uncomfortable. I love everyone on the team so much! We laugh during the good times and we help each other in the tough times. It’s really awesome. Today we rode 28 strong the entire way which was unplanned but worked out phenomenally. I don’t think our team could have done such a great 30 mile ride together if it weren’t for our closeness and the fact that most of us have already ridden which each other at least once before. We handled the situation with grace and Manny did an awesome job leading us through the city streets. What a ride it has been so far and I definitely feel the best days are on their way. The first week was so hard and there were even worse days over the last week because the heat was just so intense. I can say that the worst thing for me is definitely the heat. I think I personally struggle a lot more mentally then I do physically. I feel pain but I think I can compartmentalize it pretty well. However, whenever my morale is low, everything goes downhill. The heat puts me in a state of exhaustion and deliriousness which is hard for me to control. However, I still made it through. I finally feel stronger and I can say with confidence that I am stronger. I am a stronger rider, a better person, and a harder worker.

Today was by far the craziest day of my life and is likely to remain so. We woke up in the morning and it was pouring. We also woke up to Pi walking around which was weird. Pi is our team’s Director of Team Development. He trained us as best he could and sent us off to cycle across the U.S. It was so weird to see him this morning after almost 1200 miles. We got to talk to him about our experiences which was neat. He was kind enough to drive the van so that we could ride as a 28 person team for only the second time on this trip. Usually one of us is driving, but when we rolled into Champaign and Chicago, our two most important stops, we were lucky to have alumni help us out.

Now when I say today was crazy, I mean it was insane. When we got up it was pretty bad out. There was lightning and a heck of a lot of rain. We ate breakfast and readied ourselves with an awesome Mosher (a daily get amped session) by Manny. We did some stretching to our team anthem which is “Push it” by Salt-N-Pepa. The phrase “push it” has become a team motto. Whenever we are in the mood to get somewhere, we “push it.” After stretching, Manny pumped us up as if we were going to play the football game of our lives but really the greatest ride of our lives. We chanted as a family and sounded like one kick ass individual. It was just awesome. Couldn’t have been more pumped.

So the craziness began. From the second we started to the second we reached Millennium Park, things were just insane. In the morning we could barely see as it was pouring and there was still some lightning. We rode out separately in our groups but ended up staying pretty close to one another. The cues were wrong for some reason, perhaps because of the rain some roads were closed. We ended up riding as a 28 person team on the fly for virtually the entire ride. We moved as one vehicle, one big semi truck of cyclists. That in itself was insane but it only got worse. We rode through deep puddles without the ability to see if there were potholes or sharp objects etc. Even worse, we walked through 2 foot deep floods 2-3 times. We even caught someone boating around in a flood we walked through. I mean we took this day like champions. What could have been the worst day ever, ended up being the best day ever. Not one of us was complaining, we were all laughing and enjoying the insanity of the situation. We had issues from brake pads falling off, to gears getting stuck, to two flats within 5 miles of Millennium Park. You name it, we experienced it. No matter  how hard it was, we all sucked it up and took it in I4Crazy style. In the midst of the water mess, pretty much the first time we have really ridden in rain this entire trip, we rode 28 of us throughout the city. There were lights shut off and roads closed and there was traffic but through it all, we stuck together. I can’t believe that we managed as well as we did. We knew to give each other space to brake because of the rain and we knew that we had to constantly check to make sure everyone was through the stoplights. We never left anyone behind and we didn’t have any crashes. It was amazing. I could not be more proud.

Finally we reached Connor Yanz’s house. Also known as Manchild’s cave. I think the Yanz family deserves a round of applause. They fed 28, utterly disgusting riders. God alone knows what was in that water we walked through. They had towels ready and food and coffee set up. They had a flood in their house already and then allowed 28 soaking riders in. I mean literally, they must be the kindest people alive. We played with their lovely dogs and filled up on energy while we attempted to dry off. All of us were freezing at this point but as usual we sucked it up and got back on our bikes as we rode through more puddles, potholes, floods, and traffic. What was great was that whenever anything went wrong, the entire team stopped. We stuck it out together. There were few complaints and everyone worked to help each other.  After all of that we finally caught the wind of the lake. We had two flats along the way but we stayed strong. The wind tried to push us down, but nothing was stopping us at this point. We pushed each other through the wind to the stop light by Millennium Park. We made it relatively on time for the first time in I4K history. Regardless of how much we dealt with, we were still on time and still together. By the time we walked in we were mostly dry from the wind and we were all smiling and laughing. At Millennium Park, I was able to see one of my closest friends and to see my family and the family members of my teammates. It’s great to have fans everywhere we go, especially after we have such an unexpectedly insane day. This ride into Chicago will go down as one of the craziest in I4K history, but also will be one of the best days of the 2011 trip. I think that it is tough for any of us to say that this was a bad day. It was absolutely the coolest day of my life.

As I said in my first trip blog, we see things that we would sleep through in cars. As soon as I got in the car to go home, I fell asleep. I thought to myself, what if I rode through the Chicagoland area the way I have across the country, what would I see that I have missed all my life when I was sleeping in car rides. Earlier today when I was in Chicago, I was a force to be reckoned with, even on my own. My mom and sister came to pick my Dad and I up for lunch. As soon as they stopped, I flipped my bike upside down and removed the wheels. People stared at my bike, watched me as I quickly disassembled and put my bike in the car. I was wearing my jersey and proud to stand with about 1200 miles under my belt. It amazed me that people had no idea what I had been through in the past few weeks and there was some pride in that thought. It was like I was in on a secret that only a few people in the country know. It was so cool. When I went to get lunch on UIC’s campus, I walked around with the straightest back I have ever held, proudly showcasing my jersey and cycling shorts. People looked at me oddly but I didn’t care, I took it in stride and enjoyed the moment, amazed at what I had accomplished. It is at times like these that I really recognize what I am doing. It’s weird, but I often forget that I am cycling across the U.S. I get so in the zone that all I think about is getting from Point A to Point B. Once I’m at Point B it’s like I have permission to crash and I almost immediately fall asleep. I don’t often take the time to think about what I am doing. Now that I have my own computer in hand and some time to contemplate, I am really starting to feel the monumentality of what I am doing. When I turned on my computer I saw the I4K logo and I felt that I finally understood what the logo meant. It’s funny how my eyes went right to it. I feel like I am finally living up to this dream that I have had for so long. I feel honored to really be a member of the Illini 4000 family now. It’s so awesome to have support from every end of the earth. My Dad told me that at parties people ask about me and my Mom told me that even her patients ask about me. People I have never met in my life ask how my ride is going and ask about where I am. I know its the same for everyone else on the team. I have friends and family from all over the world following me on Facebook and reading my blogs. It’s weird to see the people that have caught on. Some people I haven’t seen or talked to in years are now paying attention to everyday of my life. It’s just unbelievable. I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their support. If it weren’t for their encouragement none of us would be standing here today. I do feel the sweet taste of victory at having reached Chicago, but I keep forgetting that this is only 1/4 of my trip. I have much more victory ahead.

I do apologize for the length of my post, but I think that today deserved it. Plus, I’ve been really behind because I just can’t stay awake. I’m gonna have to do something to keep myself up. Contrary to popular belief, I refuse to join the coffee trend. As I tell my teammates sleep is my coffee, but I have yet to figure out a good schedule that allows me to read and write too. I don’t know when I will next blog, so until then, good night and good luck.

Comments (10)
  • Harsh & Rita Thakkar says:

    Divya, we are so proud of you. What are you doing is for a great purpose and yes, people (who know you AND who don’t know you) will follow you. You are only 3300 miles away from the cross line! We are with you, supporting you what you are doing….Cheers,

    Harsh & Rita

  • Joan Lindsay says:

    Great blog entry, Divya! I know all of you can complete the ride with strength, endurance and good humor. Ride on… and my katie will be right there with you:)
    ~katie’s mom

  • smoxley Sandra Moxley says:

    Reading this put the biggest smile on my face, thank you for sharing your journey with everyone around the world. The next month and a half will fly by, enjoy every day and safe travels as you ride toward San Fransisco!

  • jschlesinger Jonathan Schlesinger says:

    One of the best I4K blog posts ever. Thanks for sharing!

    “I mean we took this day like champions.”

    Looking forward to seeing you and the 2011 team tomorrow morning!


  • dnagpal dnagpal says:

    Thanks Jon! I really appreciate your saying that. I always wonder if my posts are even interesting for people. They are really a chance for me to let my mind loose and let myself get out what I am thinking. I can’t wait to read these years from now. I think it will be really sweet to see what I thought about everything. I’m glad to know that people are enjoying reading my posts as much as I enjoy writing them.

  • dnagpal dnagpal says:

    Thanks Mrs. Lindsay! You have know idea how much I adore your daughter. We crack each other up all the time. I miss her when I don’t get to ride with her. I think we both succeed in having the same level of craziness in us. She is one of my favorite people on the team not that I’m picking favorites but just know she is, and don’t tell anyone else ;)As she would say, she keeps me young :P

  • dnagpal dnagpal says:

    Thank you to the Thakkars I can’t believe its been nearly 3 weeks since I was at your house! What a wonderful adventure it has been. Thanks for keeping track of the team every year. It’s great to have your support. Your son should be so proud of what he has created. I am honored to follow in his footsteps and hope to one day live up to him.

  • dnagpal dnagpal says:

    Sandra,I’m so glad I could make someone smile as much as I have been. It’s been an awesome journey and it has flown by. Can’t wait to see what’s in my head when I am walking across the finish line in San Fran!

  • dpatel Disha Patel says:

    awesome blog! reading this brings back so many I4K memories and makes me even more excited to meet the 2011 team tomorrow! :)

  • Joti Nagpal says:

    Excellent, Divya. It’s good to be able to do it and express it too. Keep it up. We are proud of you. May God give you the strength and energy to complete the rest of the journey, without any mishaps. Wish you best of luck.

    Loves – Mom & Dad

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