The Little Engine That Could

First off, let me say Happy Birthday to Joel and Cody! Thank you Joel for sharing Gigi’s cupcakes (delish!) that were gifted to you by your awesome gf!  Crew did a fantabulous job with a cool ice cream stop for lunch!  Then, Cody (our youngest rider) turned 20(!!) and rode his first ride today as not a teen! The BDay BBQ at the Blackstocks was very impressive and it was so great to meet Mr. and Mrs. Parks, who had come down to surprise visit Cody for his bday celebrations (presh!).   Happy BDay, bros!   *<:oD   

Joel Beckett

Cody Parks

Next, I am proud to say that our team, half way through the ride, has already conquered many, many natural obstacles – the great heights of the mountains (sometimes with 4000ft+ climb!), scalding heat of the deserts, 25mph+ headwinds with a ~dust bowl, seemingly freezing temperature in the 20s (that only gets colder when riding), poor road-work with ominous bumps and humps along the way, and now RAIN!  Even though we were soaked (and freezing) in the first 7 miles of our Tulsa Solidarity Ride yesterday, we carried on like champs through the rolling hills of OK. Thanks to Josh Mitchell, Eliza Beal, Duane Wang and Heather Langerman  for sticking with me through the whole solidarity ride –  boy, am I grateful!!  Tulsa is gorgeous!!  …breath-taking views off the hills, pleasant bike lanes, greenery for days, and cute lil rivers* with fun bridges to ride over.  

Notttttt the most ideal bike riding conditions at the start of our ride. Soaking wet, we stayed together and finished our first solidarity ride with pride!

Later in the Tulsa ride, weather cleared, we dried and we rolled toward the finish line in the sun! B)

Slam dunk job on our first Solidarity Ride, team and thank you for all the impressive Tulsa riders who joined us!  Thank you to Erin Blackstock, Dana Martin (as well as the whole Blackstock fam, Martin fam and Bridgit) and Blake Middleton (and Katie Middleton and friends) for hosting and supporting R4WH events in Oklahoma (Norman fundraiser, Norman hotel rooms, Tulsa dinner, Solidarity ride, Tulsa luncheon, Tulsa BBQ, and more!).  OK rocked and check out these all-stars featured in Tulsa World news!!  

A comment about the blog title:
The last month has been one of the most memorable, but also one of the most difficult months of my life. I really, truly considered stopping after one week into the ride – thinking it was just too physically daunting for me. But, with the encouragement from my family, friends, and my team, I continued on. And, even then, every hill I climbed and every gust of wind I fought, I would become a little bit more dejected. Had it not been for Kyle’s determination to ride with me and Dreas’s encouragement as a dedicated crew that day, I may not have gotten through my first Century. Had it not been for Matt’s Escalator idea, I may not have gotten through my second Century. Had it not been for Jing Wang’s uphill jams and whimsical shenanigans and Duane Wang’s quirky bike riding games and midride stories, mountains would have killed my spirit (#You’reGoingDown, Mountain!   #HAMdownHAMup). Had it not been for Josh Mitchell’s generous tips, I would still be riding like a n00b. Had it not been for Team Happy Hour (especially Erika, Matt and Heather), I might have quit early on my last team ride. Outside of the rides themselves, let me take a moment to thank Chris Esber for his limitless positivity and humility. Let me also thank Eliza Beal who has been dubbed “Salt Mother”** for her incredible leadership (as CEO of R4WH), one of the front-riders through the “desert wilds…hills and dry gulches” of our rides and, most of all, for her genuine dedication to the health and well-being of our team.

Liz Mitchell had told us that we are lucky to have such a dynamite team, and I can’t help but wholeheartedly agree with her as I am writing this post, reminiscing about the awesome contributions from each and every one of our team members (at 3:30am). I remember telling Heather one day that the bike riding itself was not that enjoyable for me (not to be a major downer, but no matter what you are doing, if you are trying your best and still are the very last almost every.single.time, the act can get old, daunting, and slightly frustrating). BUTTT I would still get up every day at 5:45am(ish) and get ready to ride when I was supposed to because I remembered that this was not just about the bike ride***. I would remind myself constantly about our greater dedication to education****, fundraising, and solidarity. Honestly, sometimes it just helped to look around for a bit and see raw American beauty around me as I cruised on my bike’s two wheels (yes, by “cruised” I do mean “moved very slowly, pedaling with all the quad and hamstring strength I have”).

All said and done, I can say that in my 26 years of life, I have never, ever, ever experienced anything so challenging (physically and mentally) and so rewarding!  I may have finished last almost every time in almost every ride, but I, with the help of John Reid and all my teammates, got over all my guilt and disappointment and rode my heart out like a Chobani Champ!!  

Before I sign off, to my team, I want to say I <3 you, guys!! I sincerely, really miss you. I continue to be amazed by your tenacity, altruism,  discipline and athleticism as you roll along to the second half of the ride. It’s such a bittersweet feeling coming home to all my loved ones but leaving behind this rowdy R4WH fam I have grown to love in just one month! I am already antsy and I absolutely, positively canNOT wait to see the team circled around for another team slowclap and cheer at the CBus solidarity ride!!  

Slow Clap led by Djondo

Team Cheer led by yours truly

I am counting down the next two weeks until I am reunited with my teammates for one last ride through Columbus!

Til then,
Ride on, dudes!! \m/
From the little caboose that could,
Pankti Shah (aka punkdizzle)



*Dearest Blake, I recently heard you had quite the scary tumble into the river – hope you have fully recovered, friend – I know a thing (or six) about tumbles and they’re not the greatest.

**Salt Mother, deity of the Zuni Salt Lake, was a name Eliza was admirably given by the Zuni tribe on the team’s visit to the Zuni Salt Lake ceremony

***Don’t get me wrong, there were some absolutely awesome things about the actual bike riding:  first off, the slow clap (thanks, Djondo) and the morning cheer got me fueled to go every morning. Then, during many rides, we got to see snakes, ostriches, armadillos (”armadillo in Amarillo” – teehee betchya can’t say that really fast, five times in a row), llamas and camels! Neat, right?!  The team even got to get busy with the Zuni (#Iamnotazuni  -jing) Tribe in their ceremony at the Zuni Salt Lake. We saw the sun rise almost every morning, and most mornings, rode right into it – of course, it was absolutely surreal and strikingly picturesque. Most of all, the rest stops – nothing beats rockin’ out to some rowdy beatz (anything from Nicki (obvi), My Cy to Macklemore and even Dubstep) with your teammates mid ride and catching your breath real quick (#QuickTurnovers) before you hit the pedal to the metal for another 20miler.

Rest stops are the best stops!

**** The education?  Omgosh, my passion!  From little preschool nuggets to mature med students, I enjoyed every minute of every presentation I had the privilege to give. And how rewarding!  The students were perceptive and quick to learn facts (Middle school children learned about water sanitation abroad and “non-communicable diseases” here in the United States while preschoolers learned about vitamins, nutrition and sugars association with diabetes. College students and Medical students were eager to learn about epidemiology of HIV, TB and Malaria as well as listen to some personal stories from our riders’ experiences abroad!).  Not to mention, it was very interesting to catch a glimpse into their dietary habits (who knew “kids these days” are obsessed with “Hot Cheetos and Takis” and … Monster energy drinks!).  Thank you to Blake, Chris, Dreas, Kyle, and Liz for sharing your educational materials and expertise on world health with me. I have learned so, so much from you education studs!!  8)

Teaching about healthy eating, heart health, diabetes, exercise, and global health concerns like diarrhea and poor water sanitation to 11yr olds with impressive learning curves and memories!

A very special thank you to the team for having some (slightly spicy :/) samosas and listening to my talk about India (a country very near and dear to my heart). You too can check out the presentation here:


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