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Riders cross the country on secondary roads and highways, and safety has been a problem. Racers died in and after collisions with vehicles.

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Last year, a racer was hit by a car and paralyzed from the waist down. Last September, Jure Robic, 45, was killed after being hit by a car while training in his native Slovenia only weeks after winning the race for the fifth time.

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View all New York Times newsletters. Strasser stopped for his first rest, a minute nap, at the hour mark, while Baloh powered on to take the lead. But Baloh, who finished third, stopped for a minute nap 36 hours into the race, while Strasser kept going.

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After more than 40 hours of riding on just 10 minutes of sleep, Strasser settled into a ritual of sleeping for about 70 minutes each morning with the help of his coach, who used hypnosis to help him fall asleep. But sleep deprivation began to take a toll.

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After the race, Strasser, said he was craving a steak dinner, but it was 2 a. Instead, he took his first shower in more than a week and fell asleep for 12 hours while still wrapped in his towel. Goldstein celebrated with a pear, a banana and an apple but no Champagne.

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Invalid email address. Please re-enter. You must select a newsletter to subscribe to. I had just finished a long stretch of work and felt depleted, and possessed a feeling of vague yearning. My beautiful Camaro had fallen victim to a motorway pile-up, so my two travelling companions and I rented a boxy Volvo and headed east. It took us more than a week to cover the western half of the country, sidetracking, lingering, following our collective nose; but after almost murdering one another in Fort Collins, Colorado, nearly getting arrested outside Lawrence, Kansas, and suffering food poisoning in Cincinnati, we raced over the second half of the country in two days of continuous driving.

Memories were forged on that trip that still hold a prominent place in my mind, nearly 25 years later: that first view of the Grand Canyon, a sunrise over a purple desert outside Santa Fe, and the shocking, humbling expanse of flat, corn-covered land in the Great Plains.

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We staggered into Greenwich Village at 2am, exhausted and ragged, but on a deeper level I had been renewed and invigorated by the trip. Grinding the miles away, the monotony had permitted my mind a freedom to drift that I had never previously allowed. It changed me, and it taught me something. By temperament, an hour in the car is usually enough for me. But ever since that first taste of the road, whenever it's a "damp, drizzly November in my soul", there is one cure I favour — as Ishmael took to the sea, I hit the open road.

During a time of personal indecision, I drove across Texas with a trusted friend. Outside Amarillo we stopped at the sight of a dozen brightly painted old cars with their noses buried in the ground, their tailfins protruding up into the Texas sky at the angle of the great pyramids of Egypt. I ended that trip clear in what I needed to do. Another time, during a period of mourning, I roamed through the stark landscape of southern Wyoming and then drifted up into Montana's vast and lush spaces, staying in roadside motels, eating at greasy spoons with names like Mother's and Sal's.

One of the essential components of any road trip is the soundtrack that emerges to accompany and help propel our movement. Invariably on my travels, one artist, or one record, asserts itself. Bob Dylan has carried me through the south. Sam Cooke swung me across the Great Plains, and I can't hear Counting Crows ' first album without thinking of my time rolling through rural Pennsylvania, crossing the Allegheny river and coming into Pittsburg.

But it is the end-of-the-day driving, when all the music has played itself out and the miles churn underfoot unaccompanied, that haunts my memory most — the width of Utah driven in eerie silence; only the hum of tyre on tarmac. The road can change not only ourselves but also our relationships to those who travel with us.

An intimacy is shared that no one else can understand; something happens between us as a result of all those hard-earned miles. I will always remember the endless hours in the back seat with nothing to do but stare out of the window, counting licence plates of the cars from different states, asking how much longer till we arrived.

And my father always trimming time from his answer, so that we knew to add another half-hour to his response. When we crossed over the Bourne bridge onto Cape Cod, then stole our first glimpse of the Atlantic, an excitement filled the car that had seemed impossible just minutes before. These recollections remain the purest memories of my childhood. American movies have long had an infatuation with the life-altering power of the road.

But it was during the 60s and 70s that the American road movie came of age. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek terrorised the plains in Badlands. But it was Easy Rider , Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper's counter-culture homage to drugs, free love and the endless highway, that solidified the genre in More followed.

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That gesture of defiance hints at the secret that rests at the heart of the road trip — arrival is never the true goal. Maybe that's why, after the initial relief, disappointment is often the accompanying feeling upon reaching one's goal. Bruce Springsteen admitted to driving across the country, only to arrive at the Pacific and turn around and drive the width of the nation back to New Jersey. What exactly are we looking for with the wheel in our hand?

While still on the road, when still in motion, hope is allowed space and time to play out on its own field of dreams — and hope is something no reality can ever match. Since America is still an idea more than anything else, that hope is indispensable to our national psyche. It's no wonder that the facts of who we are and what we ultimately do, comes often as a shock and disappointment, even to ourselves.

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