Mar
10
2009
0

An introduction

To learn more about this specific trip, go to www.rideagainsthunger.org. To learn more about me go to www.kyleaskine.com.

Below is a little blurb about me and my trip.

I sort of get a chuckle when I begin struggling for words and just say ‘mostly through the north’ after I talk about going up the west coast. What I really wanted to say was that I have no idea how I will get across the country. I will probably end up in Idaho and Montana in the beginning, but beyond that, I will see which way the wind blows me.

This was also horribly awkward to do, but I think there was a large improvement even between the first and second post, so I just got to work on making them better continuously.

Because this is a reasonable introduction, I will probably perma-link this post in the top bar.

Written by in: Everything,Pre-trip |
Mar
10
2009
0

The beginnings of my bike trip.

So when I was a wee lad, I remember getting a PC, and how exciting that was for me. It was a 286/12, and I was probably 5 when we got it. One of the games that we got was a program called Chessmaster 2100. I played my father and the computer quite a bit in chess. I lost pretty much every time to both of them, but I still fancied myself as quite the chess player. I guess when you are young you don’t let empirical results get in the way of your opinions. My dad got a great chess set one day on a business trip to Mexico (I believe) and we would play on that fairly frequently. However, as I got older (maybe 8 years old) we stopped playing, and I stopped playing against the computer. After all, we had Nintendo, ESPN, and other more exciting computer games.

In middle and high school I became a huge technophile, checking sites like slashdot and zdnet every day. So my interest in chess was briefly rekindled when Kasparov played Deep Blue in 1996 and 1997 while I was in middle school. I still fancied myself quite the chess player despite not playing at all for the six years before that. However, this was short lived as the real world again proved to be more interesting and dynamic than the chess board.

Finally, when I was a sophomore in college (2003) Kasparov was playing Deep Junior, and these matches were televised on ESPN! This is what finally made me actually want to learn to play chess. Shortly after this match I decided to go to chess club to prove how much of a prodigy I was, despite not playing chess for the last 13 years. It turns out I sucked when presented with real competition.

(Sidebar: A few months after I started to attend chess club I was trying to get my roommate to play me in chess, and he kept saying no. Eventually I told him that I would pay him $15 if he won, since I knew that he couldn’t. Suffice it to say, he won. Oops.)

(Sidebar #2: A couple years ago I started taking Judo. This made me feel like a badass, so I would challenge my friends to (grappling) fights all the time. Somehow this ended with me fighting a friend (with no fighting experience) in a room with like 10 of my closest friends watching. I was choked totally unconscious. Oops again.)

(Final Sidebar: Moments like this are key for me. I am a naturally… ‘confident’ (to use a gentle word) person when it comes to any competition, or really anything that you can score. I need this stuff to get me back to earth sometimes. Anyway, I think that the embarrassing moments in your life are some of the best learning experiences you have. I have been blessed with many learning experiences.)

Anyway, back to Chess Club. I went to every meeting for the final two and a half years of college, and ended up becoming President. I got to go to the Kasparov – X3D Fritz Match in New York in Fall of 2003 (an all around fantastic weekend I spent with an old friend where I got to meet (and drink with!) tons of the best chess players in the world). I played chess full time after I graduated for a month, going to at least a tournament or two a week. I took off three days during my second week of full-time work (that was a fun conversation to have with your boss) to go to the World Open (the biggest chess tournament in the world) where I came in third in my section, netting me a nice profit.

After that I again pretty much quit the game, as ‘real life’ took over. I stopped following along with the sites that I used to frequent so often.

Life went on for a few years, and eventually I decided to quit my job (I decided on November 15, 2006 that I wanted to get an MBA, took the GMAT’s on December 1st, and had my first application in December 13th) and go back to school to a school that offered an MBA you could get simultaneously with a masters in Information Management (which is what I did). I got here to ASU, and then realized that I was over my 20 year love affair with computers. I didn’t want to work with setting up computer systems and programs forever. I dropped the MSIM degree and picked up a Specialization in Real Estate shortly after arriving. I had no reason to choose Real Estate over anything else, but just chose it because it seemed to be a little entrepreneurial and very different from Information Systems (maybe I could even be outdoors some!).

The Real Estate program here is definitely the most time consuming (and probably most stressful) in the entire MBA program here at ASU. This meant that I was spending a lot of time killing myself over project deadlines. This meant I spent a lot of time in front of my computer as opposed to going out with everyone else. This meant I was surfing the web as a way to procrastinate. This made me begin to peruse a couple of my old chess sites because they were preferable to doing real work. One of these was chessmind.powerblogs.com, written by a guy named Dennis who used to post online chess lessons that I used to watch.

One day I was looking through his archives and I found this post. It is a really tragic post about a friend that he knew that was killed while riding his bike when he was struck by a car in Arizona. He linked up a website called crazyguyonabike.com to celebrate some of his friend’s writings.

I began poking around here and loved it almost immediately, if for no other reason than because it was so very different from slaving away indoors on a project to get it done before a deadline. I didn’t even know that it was possible to go so far on a bike. The plan to ride my bike around the world after graduation was quickly hatched in March/April of 2008. This was later altered to make it just the country (for a large variety of reasons – lack of money being the main one – but I still dream of doing the world).

So that is my story on how I decided to ride my bike around the country.

Life is a random thing.

Mar
11
2009
0

Q&A

I filmed a quick Q&A session a few days ago where I talked about why I am taking my trip, some of my main inspirations, and also why I got this Domain Name for my website.

I want to add a little color to some of these responses.

So on the ‘why am I doing this?’ part, I feel like I overemphasized the introspection part and underemphasized the learning about people part. They are probably equally weighted in my brain. I like throwing people out of their comfort zone and seeing how they react. Hence me having a mohawk for a significant amount of time three times in the last few years.

Here is my list of the major inspirations I had:
Tzuo Hann Law
A bit about Mark Beaumont

Other blogs which sucked me in:
BikEarth – I didn’t really like the political overtones, and I remember being disappointed when it ended early, but definitely one of the blogs I followed the closest nevertheless. Something about it just drew me in.
Long Haul Trucking – Another blog that sucked me in.
Pete Kinnecom – A short but very entertaining read. Very funny.
Biking Barkley’s – About a newlywed couple taking a several year bike tour. They have an amazing camera and they show it off frequently. Really really gorgeous pictures.
Vas’ Odyssey – An interesting blog more in the spirit of On the Road (one of my favorites) than the others. Tons of really crazy stories.

Kyle

Written by in: Everything,Pre-trip |
Mar
11
2009
0

Practice Ride – 1/12/09

Practice Ride 1 – 1/12/09 – 72 Miles

(Note: This should give you a somewhat accurate indication of these will look like with some exceptions. First, I didn’t film a video that day, but that will never happen on the trip. Secondly, I am hoping once the trip gets going there will be more interesting interactions with people. There aren’t many people in the desert, sadly. Also there will probably be more pictures in each entry as well.)

(Note 2: To see large versions of the pictures just click on them.)

I figured that it would be a good idea to do a practice ride before setting out on the real trip, so when I got back to Arizona from Winter Break I spent a couple of days planning a route, and early one Monday morning, after only two hours of sleep (mostly from excitement) set out for a three day trip out towards eastern phoenix. I had recently read this journal and planned on doing something similar.

I pulled out of my complex at around 7:30 in the morning with my bike all loaded up, and preposterously poorly packed.

My bike was so poorly packed.

My bike was so poorly packed. Notice the belt that was used to hold my sleeping pad on.

So anyway, I went out to Southern, the arterial road I live on, and as I am crossing the street, my entire back rack fell off. I kid you not, it was dragging on the ground behind my bike. I had ridden literally 1000 feet and I had already lost my entire back rack.

I cursed some, ignored the rush hour traffic staring at me, picked up my rack and pushed my bike back home. There I did some duct tape repairs to my rack after getting everything back together and set back out at around 8:15.

After I got through that, it was very smooth for a few hours. I rode east through Mesa, and had absolutely no issues.

Phoenix is actually a great city for biking. Note the wide bike lane and pretty background.

Phoenix is actually a great city for biking. Note the wide bike lane and pretty background.

Do they have problems with falling over??

Do they have problems with falling over??

Finally I got out to Power Road, which is basically the end of Phoenix, and did several calm hours with little traffic and beautiful scenery.

Arizona is Pretty

Arizona is Pretty

I am definitely going to miss this when I leave.

I am definitely going to miss this when I leave.

There isn't a lot of traffic on Bush Highway. Perfect for an intro ride.

There isn't a lot of traffic on Bush Highway. Perfect for an intro ride.

Eventually I got to Lake Saguaro, then the fun began. I would estimate that there was three or four miles that took me around an hour to do. It was absolutely straight uphill. There was frequent stopping and drinking and eating of dried ramen (yum). By the time I got to the top of the hill (the intersection of Bush Highway and 87) it was in the heat of day, and I was down to a bottle and a half of water.

From reading the journal earlier I knew that there was nothing in Sunflower, which was the next closest town north, and I had no idea if there was a gas station or anything between where I was and Payson. I didn’t have the water to camp out over night and cook. I found a spot in the trees off the road and took a three hour nap and think about what to do next.

When I woke up I decided to just head back towards Phoenix on 87. If it was the real trip I would have waved down some cars and seen if there was anything coming up, or if they had any water, but I didn’t want to make a total ass of myself on a practice ride. Luckily the entire ride home was straight downhill, and I got to stop at Taco Bell in Fountain Hills.

So I got home at around 8, having had failed, but this was a failure in which I had learned a lot about what needs to be done. As long as I always have duct tape, and get water frequently (even if it is only to top off a bottle or two) I should be fine. Well fine enough to survive anyway :-P.

My route for the day.

My route for the day.

Written by in: Everything,Pre-trip |
May
21
2009
0

Important Info About the Ride

http://www.kyleaskine.com/2009/05/21/final-pre-trip-update/

I am linking to this because it explains how this site will work. The trip is going forward, and the first ‘episode’ will be out June 1st as promised. I leave Sunday, and am super excited about this!

I look forward to seeing everyone on June 1st!

Kyle

Written by in: Everything,Pre-trip |
Jun
01
2009
5

Day 1 – Tempe to Wickenburg – 80 miles

When I got up in the morning, it didn’t really seem like anything was that different, and I didn’t have trouble sleeping the night before at all. I thought this was a little strange, but was glad that I wasn’t freaking out.

The bike fully loaded

The bike fully loaded

Another view

Another view

Anyway, I walked to McDonalds for breakfast, said goodbye to the roommate (he left before me) and did the final packing of the bike. I set out at around 8am.

Bye bye business school

Bye bye business school

I am rolling along, not far away from roads I have ridden 1000 times, when I look back and I see that my tie down on the back rack is suddenly very loose. Not only that, but when I stop I hear a loud hiss coming from my front tire. Upon further inspection, my tie down has become loose because my sleeping bag is gone. Just gone.

I sigh, since I cannot ride my bike backwards because of the flat tire, and not wanting to fix the flat because I want to snag my sleeping bag before someone else does if it is on the side of the road. I walk my bike back probably about a mile before giving up on the sleeping bag, when I proceed to unload my bike, turn it over, and look at my tire. I take off the tire and look at the tube, and there is a giant gash across the tube, which I suspect was put there by the tire liner. I had gotten a similar one a few days earlier on the back tire (which I miraculously patched), so I just took out the tire liner and set about trying to patch this, though I was not optimistic. While I am patching this I leave the pump attached to the valve like a dumbass, and when I am done I try to take the pump off the valve, and the whole thing breaks off. So much for my patch job. One tube totally ruined.

Down to no tubes in reserve, and without a sleeping bag, I return to Tempe to go to the REI. I wait outside for it to open for around half an hour, and then buy a sleeping bag, two tubes, and a U-Lock. Finally I head back out to restart my trip. Suffice it to say that my back tube quickly blows out, with a second gash (remember I patched one several days before). In goes one of my new tubes.

Tempe

Tempe

After all of that, I finally have a fairly quiet ride through Phoenix on the bike paths and side streets.

Hah

Hah

Bike path in Phoenix

Bike path in Phoenix

I stop at a McDonald’s at around 2 and have a lunch before beginning the climb from Phoenix to Wickenburg. The climb is pretty uneventful, with the exception of a hole in the front tire, which I just replace with the other new tube that I got, since I did not want to sit on the side of the hot hot road and fiddle with patches.

Rats (I think I was going 8 or so at the time)

Rats (I think I was going 8 or so at the time)

The desert is pretty

The desert is pretty

The choo-choo is the only way you can get to the wild west (or bike I guess)

The choo-choo is the only way you can get to the wild west (or bike I guess)

That sign lies... it was not open.

That sign lies... it was not open.

I eventually get to just outside of Wickenburg at around 7pm and find a secluded stealth camp spot. The only downside is that I get to share it with swarms of killer ants and a bed of rocks is the only place I can set up my tent. Ce la vie. I get set up and go to bed.


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(Note: I don’t know why the google map above is horribly off center – just grab the top left corner and pull down and right.)

Written by in: America,Everything |
Jun
02
2009
4

Day 2 – Wickenburg, AZ to Brenda, AZ – 80 miles – 7.5 hours saddle time

I wake up at around 6, lay in the bag until 6:30, and then packed up and hit the road at about 7:15. I stop in Wickenburg at McDonald’s (clearly) and have some breakfast. I notice here that I am not really able to eat anything at all. Since breakfast the day before I had one and a half McDoubles, and I barely choked down a sausage burrito and a sausage McMuffin today. I guess my body still is in some shock about what is going on. Luckily I have around 3 cups of sweet tea each time to get some calories in me.

World Famous

World Famous

I'm sure you havve been here, it is an important hub.

I'm sure you have been here, it is an important hub.

Bike Path in Wickenburg

Bike Path in Wickenburg

I leave there and have a really nice ride up a pass and down to a run down town called Aguila. This place has a ten foot barbed wire fence around the convenience store (still open). Everything, literally everything has bars on it. I quickly leave and head towards Wenden and Salome.

Still so far away.

Still so far away.

The desert is still pretty.

The desert is still pretty.

The only bad thing... count the beer bottles in the picture.

The only bad thing... count the beer bottles in the picture.

I had been looking at my map and saw that I was going to basically losing 2500 feet of elevation between the pass just beyond Wickenburg and Blythe. I was excited that I was only going to have to pedal maybe 5 times during these 150 miles, and even considered doing my video at the top of the pass to brag about this. Well, I did not take a 15-20 mph headwind into account. It was in my face all day long after Aguila and it was brutal. I was going 8mph on flat ground and maybe 12 at most on downhills. What should have been an easy day where I could take some time off became a marathon in the saddle. I hate the wind.

That is still the same numbering system from all the way back in Phoenix. Ha.

That is still the same numbering system from all the way back in Phoenix. Ha.

I still still think the desert is pretty.

I still still think the desert is pretty.

Anyway, I stopped a a cool little cafe in a little town called Wenden (no barbed wire in sight!). It was pretty neat, and the ladies that ran it gave me a bunch of almonds and raisins to take with me.

Neat place. Highly recommended.

Neat place. Highly recommended.

I then hopped right back on my bike and continued through Salome where I chilled under a canopy of some closed business for an hour (it was hot). I then hopped back on my bike again, and stopped at a little diner in Vicksburg Junction (population 0 – the diner is the only thing there) where I ate pie and ice cream.

I did a few more miles and then bed.

Some quick other thoughts. It is a little sad riding through a lot of these towns. You can look at them and tell that they were really bustling back in the 40s and 50s, but once the interstates were built, and they were not selected to get one through their town, it was over for them. Some have limped along, but the for sale signs and closed businesses are everywhere. One more thing: it seems that the ladies in the small cafes that I stopped in are not from the area originally, don’t really know how they got there, and don’t really like it there. Strange.


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Written by in: America,Everything |
Jun
03
2009
2

Day 3 – Brenda, AZ to Desert Center, CA – 93 miles – 8.5 hours saddle time

I woke up at 5:30, made some adjustments to the still duct-taped rack (near disaster averted… mental note: fix in LA), and got on the road at around 7.

Getting closer!

Getting closer!

I quickly made it through Brenda, and onto I-10 towards Quartzsite.

Thus begins a new leg of my trip.

Thus begins a new leg of my trip.

No problems there.

No problems there.

I climbed a pass and then drifted down into Quartzsite (hit my max speed thus far: 28 mph – woo).

Quartzsite, a bustling Metropolis.

Quartzsite, a bustling Metropolis.

I rode along the main street there for a while and then stopped at McDonald’s. Thumbs up for them letting me charging my cell phone. Thumbs down for having a broken ice machine.

I left there and climbed another pass out of Quartzsite. I rode down another huge mountain into Ehrenberg and then crossed the Colorado River into Blythe, CA.

p1000269-1600

Heading towards Bylthe.

Horray!

Horray!

Colorado River. Known for work such as creating the Grand Canyon.

Colorado River. Known for work such as creating the Grand Canyon.

Onto state number two.

Onto state number two.

Now, I have never heard anyone say anything good about Blythe, but I thought it was fine. It is certainly industrial and farming driven, but people on the main street seemed friendly. I stopped at a Starbucks there for a few hours for some Wi-Fi and to get out of the heat.

(Editors note: I wrote the above in the Starbucks. After I went outside and went down the main road (Lovekin) to get some food, I see a little more where people are coming from. There were around a zillion homeless and otherwise depressed looking people around, but only on that stretch. Unfotunately that is the only part of town most people will ever see. Blythe needs to do something about this if they want to fix their reputation.) Anyway, I figured that I would do another 20-30 miles after Blythe and stop somewhere outside of Desert Center for the night. So I set out after my 3 hour rest at around 3:30 and got back on the road.

p1000277-1600
p1000276-1600

I did a couple of solid hours, the first one pretty sharply uphill. At around 6:30 I began looking around for a suitable stealth camp spot. Problem was there was absolutely nothing. The desert just had no plant life around at all except for really tiny bushes that offered no protection. I was forced to keep going and do my first night riding of the trip. It was miserable – I was tired, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Luckily I read a story earlier in the day by a guy that said that said that the proprietors of the Desert Center Cafe had let him camp outside. So I decided to keep going through the darkness. Finally, at around 8:45 I reached Desert Center, and walked into the empty cafe and asked the lady who was working if I could camp somewhere. She insisted that I just go to sleep in the post office across the street instead. I know plenty of bike tourers sleep in post offices regularly so I figured I would do it. Sure enough as soon as I walk in and start unpacking, two guys walk in (remember it is only 9:00 – late for me but not for regular people), and an awkward conversation begins (see video for more). Anyway it turns out to be fine, and I talk to one of the guys for a while who turns out to be one of the town pastors. Eventually, he needs to leave but offers to take me to breakfast at 6:30 in the cafe. Sweet.

I go to bed shortly thereafter, and am only awakened once by someone checking their mail during the middle of the night.



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Written by in: America,Everything |
Jun
04
2009
4

Day 4 – Desert Center to Rancho Mirage – 78 miles – 6.5 hours saddle time

I get ready and head to the cafe at around 6:45 (but note I can see it, and I know the pastor is not there). Anyway, I sit inside and talk to the waitress for a while, but still no pastor. Oh well, no harm done. I order an omelet and get out of town.

An old, closed gas station and cafe in Desert Center.

An old, closed gas station and cafe in Desert Center.

This cafe has not been closed for even an hour since 1928. Sadly the woman I talked to said that this may end soon.

This cafe has not been closed for even an hour since 1928. Sadly the woman I talked to said that this may end soon.

My home from last night.

My home from last night.

Downtown Desert Center. This road used to be Route 60 when it existed.

Downtown Desert Center. This road used to be Route 60 when it existed.

Getting closer!!

Getting closer!!

The desert in the morning.

The desert in the morning.

I head up the hill and stop again to eat and to buy some stuff in Chiriaco Summit.

More Desert

More Desert

The George Patton museum in Chiriaco Summit

The George Patton museum in Chiriaco Summit

I talk to a trucker who offers me a ride to Indio. However, since I am in a town with Summit in the name, I decline, and am rewarded with an absolutely amazing ride down San Andreas Fault on Box Canyon Road. I highly recommend it to absolutely anyone who likes biking in the area. It is gorgeous and totally downhill all the way to Mecca.

The beginning of Box Canyon Road.

The beginning of Box Canyon Road.

Box Canyon Road

Box Canyon Road

More views off Box Canyon.

More views off Box Canyon.

Yet more Box Canyon.

Yet more Box Canyon.

Entering the fault zone.

Entering the fault zone.

Looking behind me...

Looking behind me...

Looking ahead... at vineyards.

Looking ahead... at vineyards. The Salton Sea is in the background.

Wine comes from there.

Wine comes from there.

Wrong turn in Oman?

Wrong turn in Oman?

In Mecca I go to another Starbucks for a few hours of WiFi. When I am done I head north on the 111 through the towns of Thermal, Coachella, Indio, and into the rich areas of town. The best part is that I have a tailwind the entire time. Once I get to places like La Quinta, Indian Wells (gorgeous), and Palm Desert it is getting dark, and I know that the police (and residents) of an area like this would not appreciate me free camping, so I begin to look around for lodging.

Someone who was next to me at a stop light yelled out if I was going to Palm Springs, but he was pulling away by the time I responded, and I never saw him again. Alas. There was not really any space which was not inhabited, so when I saw a Motel 6 in Rancho Mirage, I went to investigate. At $39.95 the price was right, so I got my first room of the trip, and immediately had my first shower of the trip. It felt good. I also managed to do laundry there (much needed), and watched a little bit of The Ultimate Fighter. It was a great day beginning to end, the best thus far on the trip.

The "campsite"

The campsite.


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Written by in: America,Everything |
Jun
05
2009
4

Day 5 – Rancho Mirage, CA to Banning, CA – Headwinds

42 miles – 5.5 hours saddle time

(A note on saddle time: this is automatically calculated by my bike odometer and only counts the amount of time I am actually moving. Therefore, really hard days like this are going to show less saddle time than there actually was because I was off the bike resting, cursing the wind, etc. more often than days that are going well.)

I got up a little late, and set out at around 8am.

Outside my motel in the morning.

Outside my motel in the morning.

Another mountain shot.

Another mountain shot.

One more.

One more.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs

I stopped at a Burger King on the main street of Palm Springs, which was quite nice (Palm Springs, not BK). Anyway, heading north out of town I thought everything was going great, only to find when I reached the 10 that I did not take a turn that I was supposed to take to stay on the 111. Along the way I rode through one of the largest wind farms in North America.

Wind Farm

Wind Farm

More Wind Farms

More Wind Farms

What a shot. He was going around 40 at the time and my camera surprisingly did not flip out.

What a shot. He was going around 40 at the time and my camera surprisingly did not flip out.

More of the same.

More of the same.

So now I was a few miles farther East than I wanted to be. I spent around an hour trying to follow a path that I found on Google Maps to take me through the first part of the pass without getting on the 10 (now apparently illegal). I got to the road that was supposed to take me there, I got stopped by a fence saying it was private property. Lame.

I turned around and went back down the hill I had climbed, looked around, and saw no alternative to taking the 10, so I got on it, apparently illegally. (Note: it may have actually been legal and missigned, as I found out later that night on the internet.) Anyway, I hauled ass for the next two miles to the next exit, and got off and took a gravel path for a few miles. This was a horrible idea, and I ended up walking my bike for a while.

I invented a new game. It is called offroading with a fully-loaded tour bike! All the kids will be playing it.

I invented a new game. It is called offroading with a fully-loaded tour bike! All the kids will be playing it.

I eventually got to another road that I could actually ride on. I stopped at a McDonald’s and chilled for a little while, because I was exhausted from the wind.

I eventually got going, and had a route planned out to get to Banning without getting back on the 10. I start out up Fields Road, and come to a checkpoint for the Native American tribe who owned the land. I told them my situation, and they had no sympathy, and told me it was private land, and they turned me around and sent me back towards the I-10. I sighed, and turned around and looked for another route. I saw a Railroad Avenue that may or may not have been a real road the entire time, and started along it. I was going along (slowly due to the wind) and sure enough, another dirt and gravel path. I pushed the bike again, and eventually, finally, got to Banning. I was cruising down the main street of the town, saw a Travelodge, and got a room. I ordered takeout, and relaxed for the remainder of the night after such a brutal day.


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Two quick postscripts: First I finally figured out how to use Google Maps correctly, so no more scrolling needed. Second, remember that this blog is updated M-F… so see you next week!

Written by in: America,Everything |

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