Thus began a 17-day epic journey across America, through North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. The landscape changed gradually from the fertile soil of the East to the parched desert sand of the West, along twisty roads, flat stretches and vast mountain ranges. Along with the competitors, I saw the fabric of America change along the way. This wasn’t a postcard view that you glimpse from the Interstate at 75 mph; this was up-close and personal. It was a view that showed all the blemishes: small towns dying as businesses closed, houses boarded up and roads in disrepair. We saw the surface scars: the mom-and-pop restaurants that had been put out of business by fast-food franchises; the five-and-dime shops replaced by Dollar General, Target and Walmart. But we also saw the incredible diversity, beauty, size and scope of this great country.