Monday, January 07, 2008
‘Just Ride’ this was the catchphrase I learnt on my last Hampi ride with the wifey… we had rode with the Bike Nomads for their fifth annual meet and I got to meet a lot of different bikers who ride just for the passion of biking… nothing to prove, no wars to fight, no revolutions to lead, no lives to change... just the joy of the ride.
During this meet I decided that I also want to do a solo long ride and see how it feels to be all alone on the roads chasing the horizons, witnessing the changing landscapes and feeling all the thoughts blow out of your hair in the wind… I wanted to RIDE!
The thought had been in my mind since a while; all I needed was a bit of motivation and push in the right direction from a few guys to get me going. I decided that I’ll ride from Bangalore to Ahmedabad and back for the Christmas and New Year holidays that I had applied for.
Planning and preparation for the same started almost immediately! Got spare cables for the bike, spare tube for the tires, a little bit of tools (most of the tools were borrowed from friends) puncture repair fluids, balaclavas, spare visors for the helmet, and a few other small things) all of my biker buddies here at Bangalore and in other locations like Pune, Bombay and other parts of the country who knew about my plans were really excited about the whole thing and kept me really motivated and charged for the ride. The last minute preps included an oil change for the bull’s engine, checking of all the wiring, tightening all the nuts bolts and screws and getting the monster tank filled to the top!
The last two days before the ride were the most painful for me; I was too excited and couldn’t calm down at all! My spirit was itching to cover all the roads that I can. On Friday I dropped the wife to the airport (she was traveling the ‘sane way’) saw the ridiculously long line at the check-in counter and told her that I’ll be in touch once I hit the road. We said so long and I went back for my final packing and preparations. The saddlebags were packed, tank bag had enough food, fanny-pack filled with the necessaries and my riding gear was laid out for the early morning ride. Once satisfied with the packing and preps I crashed thinking that I’ll wake up at 3am, get ready and ride out by 4am.
Awoke by 4:30am, (darn this is late!) by the time I showered, dressed and set out, it was already 5:45… I was kinda worried that I might not make my time if I started so late! But then the words of a veteran biker echoed in my head “ride for the joy of it… don’t set too optimistic goals… you can stop whenever you want, wherever you want!” I finally rode out ‘dressed to the tooth’ at 5:45am on December 22. Strangely the roads were relatively empty (thank god for the winter mornings) I reached out on the NH4 highway by 6:15ish and then let the bull rip for a while… both the biker and the bike were fresh and prepared for a long run for the day! Amazingly, since I was solo, the bike reached 100kmph easily and I couldn’t even feel it! My first stop was around 100kms from B’lore the morning chill had set in, a faint light on the horizons I clicked a solitary picture from my phone-cam, drank some of the mango juice I was carrying and started again.
First pit stop was the Reliance A1 Plaza at Chitradurga (around 166kms from B’lore) when I pulled in the plaza it was already quite crowded but being a solitary guy you find a place to sit pretty easily! I ordered a nice south Indian breakfast of Idli-Vada and some freshly brewed filter coffee… the junta there had some kids with them and the kids were the friendliest people I saw there! All of them lined up around me and started asking questions one of them I still remember (we going to Bangalore, you go where?) (Are you India?) heh heh, was really funny and cute, I finished my breakfast quick and rolled out again.
From Chitradurga I rode straight to Davangere, the road is one straight stretch with a few potholes and very few craters, I could maintain pretty decent speeds, crossed Davangere in a flash and then the road just started turning from good to bad and bad to worse! Almost one hundred kilometers of sand, dust, dirt and no roads! But as I’ve learnt from my numerous rides in Karnataka, every stretch of bad road eventually ends and gives way to a nice well carpeted good tar road. By the time I reached Hubli-Dharwad, the road conditions had come back to normal and then improved again! My stop here was a very smallish chai and sootha break. By now, the muscles in my butt and my hamstrings had started a bit of tingling… not serious pain yet but yeah, the seat did feel as if it was on fire! Heh heh…
I crossed Belgaum and entered Maharashtra when I landed near Kolhapur… I kept taking my 10minute breaks every 100kms on the way but they were not very special, maybe a sootha break and a swig from the water bottle and ride again. Upon hitting Kolhapur I realized that the state had changed as the traffic sense amongst people suddenly changed drastically! I saw too many bikers, pedes and dogs along the road but didn’t stop, just became extra cautious to ensure that I don’t crash into something. After Kolhapur as I neared Pune I could sense fatigue setting in, thankfully on every break I would find motivating and inspiring sms messages on my cell phone from the fellow BNers. I crossed the Karjat tunnel when darkness had already set in, called up Capt. Nandu Chitnis who was my host for the evening at Pune; took directions from him and rode on into Pune! What a feeling! YAY! YAY! I had covered over 800kms in a day!
Pune has changed a lot fro what it used to be in 2001. I had spent 2 days in Pune in 2001 and had fallen in love with the town, found the people very amiable, the traffic manageable and the town to be small. But now! Oh my god! The city had expanded out of its limits… it was like looking at a really fat lady trying to fit into a tight bikini :D people everywhere, crazy traffic and too much pollution… I could actually see smog settling on the city while I rode past.
After managing to get lost a few times and coordinating with Capt, I finally landed in his apartment’s parking lot. 891kms clocked on my trip meter! Was exhilarated but also was a bit pooped out when I pulled the bike in. Upon meeting Capt I started feeling much better... I was showed the guest room and I rushed into the shower for one of the best showers I had in ages! Amazing hot water, washing all the stress and aches off my body… upon stepping out of the shower I find Capt waiting with his trademark 2KF (for those who don’t know Capt and the story of 2KF, it means ‘2 bottle KingFisher’ – a premium brand beer) sat with Capt, guzzled some beer, smoked more soothas, chatted about this and that, and Medini aunty called us for dinner… what a sumptuous meal! Palak-paneer, aloo-gobhi ki subji, fulkas, dal-chawal, and some amazing sweet. I ate like a glutton and then crashed… in less than 15minutes I was fast asleep! The only drawback here was the excessive amounts of mosquitoes in the area! I woke up around 1am with a swollen face (swollen because of all the mosquito bites) pulled my bedding right under the fan and slept off again, woke up around 4ish, got dressed, messaged Adi Bhelke (a fellow BNer who was going to ride with me from Pune till B’bay) woke Capt in the wee hours of morning to say goodbye… had a cuppa chai and rode out with Adi.
Early morning, cool breeze, mist, fog and smog all along the way! We took the route towards Bombay… the road was whizzing past as we stopped at Lonavala for breakfast. Ordered our last ‘south Indian’ meal for a few weeks; had some utthapams and coffee, while having our breakfast we saw a gang of some Bombay based bikers who all rode in with some cool bikes! I remember seeing a goldwing, a HD sporster and one Suzuki sports bike… funny part is that we were admiring their bikes and they in turn were looking at my bull! Well I must admit, my bull is a pretty looking steed, and for the ride it was laden with the saddlebags, the tankbag and lot of other stuff on it. Felt really funny! From Lonavala we started for Vashi (Bombay) where Prasad Temkar (BN B’bay chapter) was going to meet us.
Dunno what was going through my mind while doing the Lonavala twisties; I missed turning on one of those and climbed on the sandbank… almost an accident happening, but there were a few guardian angels looking over my shoulder that I was on the bike and the bike was all okay after this incident. After this, I kept my speeds relatively lower on the ghat section tillwe hit Bombay. Finding Prasad was not too hard but we had spent quite a lot of time on the road and it was already late morning when we actually met up. My bull’s chain was a bit loose by now so Prasad found a local mech who fixed it for me in 30bucks. Adi said goodbye here as he was riding back to Pune now, and Prasad took over the lead to guide me out of Bombay city towards Thana (where the milestone says Ahmedabad 545kms – in Prasad’s language) the climatic differences were very obvious, I could feel myself sweating like a pig in my riding jacket and the heat was becoming unbearable. We stopped once more on the way to get me a bottle of water and some more mango juice in a bottle (this was courtesy BN B’bay chapter as Prasad put it) reached Thana in a while after that, had our soothas and Prasad did show me the milestone showing Ahmedabad 545kms. Said farewells and I rolled towards home time in my watch a little after noon.
My initial plan was to ride till Surat, stop over for the night there and then ride towards Ahmedabad the next day… call it the amazing speeds or the amazing roads, I reached Surat around 4ish (not bad!) stopped at a nice chai tapir for some chai, chatted up with the locals there, they were too amazed to see such a wacky looking bike and an even wackier looking biker :D I got to know that Narendra Modi had won the CM elections for Gujarat again! Called up the wifey from there and she said that the whole city of Ahmedabad is in a jubilant mood and major celebrations are happening all over, roads blocked and stuff. She also suggested that I should stopover somewhere on the way and not hit A’bad.
After Surat it felt that god was not on my side at all! The roads were nonexistent. There were diversions every couple kilometer and everything was covered in sand and dust, with mile long lines of trucks and cars… felt as if I wouldn’t be able to get out of here anytime soon! My average speed had dropped from 80kph to 40kph and I felt like a slug moving along the really bad traffic. I actually was cursing myself now in my helmet, screaming and shouting that I shouldn’t have done this stupidity, should’ve taken a flight like every other person and not thought about riding out… finally Baroda came and the roads improved… it was around 8ish now and I stopped after Baroda for a chai and to ask the chaiwallah if he knew any decent hotel to spend the night. This guy was one extraordinary enthu cutlet. He was coaxing me, “kya saab, itna saara chalake aaye ho aur an 100kms pehle ruk jaoge?” honestly, he did make sense, he gave me one complimentary cup of masala chai and some more words of inspiration and I rode out in the night!
I had decided that I’ll reach home tonight, nomatterwhat… strangely all my exhaustion and fatigue had suddenly vanished and I was all charged to reach home now… stopped at an Essar gas station and put in some of their ‘advanced petrol’ in the bike (must say it felt better than the shell that I usually use for my bull!) called the wifey from here and told her that I’ll hit A’bad in a couple hours. The ride from here was pretty decent, once again, the winter evenings had demotivated most of the ‘faltu’ riders on the way so the roads were relatively empty. When A’bad was only 50kms away I encountered a trio of ‘filmy, faltu, lukkha’ bikers on one 100CC bike racing with me, I usually avoid racing with such guys who don’t even have the brains to wear a helmet on the highway but they were becoming irritating… every few minutes they’ll zoom past me, slow down, try to cut my way and do the same circus again… I kept maintaining my normal speeds but they became too irritating! I finally twisted the wrist and shot over 120kph for a while, the roads were still empty and traffic was strangely was nonexistent… in a short while I lost them out of my rearview mirror and I regained my ‘normal’ speed.
Ahmedabad came with its hustle and bustle, I was sane enough to remind myself that I’ve approached into the city and the speeds were relatively slower and the concentration was extra high… went and picked up the wifey from her parents’ place and we rode together to my house… my parents had no idea that I was riding all the way from Bangalore to Ahmedabad, so when I rolled through the gate into the compound, they just freaked out! Funniest thing is that they didn’t even recognize me for the first few minutes… heh heh
The bike was finally unloaded of the bags, I took off the riding gear, had a nice shower and then we sat and chatted. My dad had ruled in his ultimatum that I will not be allowed to do any of such antics in front of him ‘EVER’!
The next morning I woke-up fresh and recharged, took the bike to the Royal Enfield dealership in Ahmedabad, met Samir Dutta the owner of the store who got the small knickknacks serviced for free! That guy had a great spirit and I really hope I get to move to A’bad to expand a few biking clubs there aswell!
Well this was my dream ride that finally came true. The trip meter clicked 1648kms in a total of two days and I now feel much better about myself and the bike… I was supposed to ride back too but that was a flop story and I’ll tell you about it in the next post.
A few people I want to mention and thank here:
Capt. Nandu & Medini Chitnis – for their amazing hospitality, the amazing food and the 2KF.
Adi Bhelke – for riding with me from Pune till Vashi
Prasad Temkar – for guiding me out of Vashi all the way till Thana and showing me the A’bad 545kms milestone.
Doc Arnob & Doc Prithivi – to keep me company and sending their guidance every pit stop.
Rocky – kept calling me everytime I stopped and motivated me
Wifey – for being who she is and keeping the whole matter hush-hush till I landed in A’bad
Cdidi & Jiju – they were with me all through the ride ‘long-distance’
Anoop aka XH – for lending me his tools
Samir Dutta – for servicing the bike free @ a’bad and spending so much time with me there.
Finally I thank RedEye – for being the beast it is and taking me places…
Life is all about the journeys, not the destinations…
p.s. stay tuned for my part 2 to this blog (my stay in A’bad and my journey back)