I know you had been waiting for this sequel & it took longer than it should have. There were other things going on this world that kept me occupied & there we witnessed the euphoria of The Cricket World Cup as well. But, as promised, here I am with me myself & Dory
( This is the second part of my Freedom Ride, read part-I )
So, the D-day had come & I had to do what I had thought of, to set off on my long awaited ride. A coconut was brought in advance for good omen. Morning went by even before I got to know it. Turned off the alarm, got ready with my riding gear, woke up all my roomies to bid farewell. Anupam was the chosen one to crack open the coconut (he had been, hands down, undisputed pavitra person amongst us). Took some customary photos with friends & Dory’s odometer. I felt a bit of emotions running through me while setting off for a new road in life, I had to take leave of people I had spent a good part of my life with. But soon, excitement of the ride took over that feeling. The ride was scheduled to start at 0630 HRS, practicing the standards of IST (Indian Stretchable Time), I started at 0720 HRS. With Ik Onkar and Aarambh in background, we set the pace.
Bid Adieu Maharashtra
The fuel was tanked up at a nearby filling station (I later discovered about station’s duping on fuel, felt agonized). In the moment of excitement (and as a habit), I carried on at NH4 and missed the turn to Nashik. After riding for almost 10 odd KMs, I realized my mistake, took a U-turn and we were back on track. It was the very first of missed turns in the journey.
Just the first few KMs and I could already sense the enriched level of self confidence, thanks to the good riding gear. The onlooker’s stares added to the glamour quotient . Since I didn’t have any breakfast before leaving, the first 15 min pit-stop came soon after 60 odd KMs outside Pune. Riding again, I realized that the Maharashtra stretch of NH3, although it has got only two lanes, is smoooooth, with dashes of Ghats in between. The ride on those roads was a pleasure.
Reached Nashik around 1:00 PM. The ride so far had been steady and smooth. Spotted a lot of marriage parties on my way to Nashik. It seemed to be an auspicious day.
Just after crossing Nashik, I couldn’t believe my eyes, an awesome four lane highway which showed destination in three digits for the first time. That was the right time to have lunch. A dal khichdi with masala chhas, twitter status updates, couple of calls and a photo upload later, the ride resumed. Riding on that four lane road was awesome. The traffic was negligible on the road and thanks to my lunch, I felt certain sleepiness, sugar cane juice was the way to stay hydrated and to take another break.
While enjoying the good roads and the soothing music I glanced to check how many KMs I had cloaked so far. Something didn’t feel right, OH NO! the speedometer was dead! DAMN! This isn’t good – how will I have a perfect ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture of the speedo-meter after finishing the ride? With milestones and earlier sneak-peak of speedo-meter, I made a simple calculation how much I had ridden with the broken odometer. I cursed myself for not carrying a spare cable… huh. All I thought was to carry a spare clutch cable, but even for that, later changed my mind. I was told that a Bajaj Pulser clutch cable can be used in case of emergency. With a hint of hope that Dhule was near where I may get a spare cable, had some deep breaths and I was back to normal. After I reached Dhule, I asked for a mechanic at 5-7 places and even went further inside the town. Unfortunate for me, it was a Sunday and every automobile workshop was closed. Once again, the ride continued & so did my cursing, on my irresponsibility. To add to the woes, the awesome four lane highway turned into ‘work-in-progress’ four lane road. You ride on one side of the ride for couple of KMs, with construction on the other side, take a diversion, ride on the other side of the road, and take another diversion, repeat. It started getting darker and thanks to the mechanic hunt, we lost some riding time and that flip-flop, right-left changing of lanes was making it worse to ride.
In one of the many vehicular takeovers on that under construction NH3, as I over took an 18 wheeler, I came face to face with a lot of gravel on the road. I was at a moderate speed and somehow lost balance on riding those gravels! Before I could know it, I fell towards my right and chhhhhrrr… the same 18 wheeler somehow managed to stop almost one & half feet away from my face. I could easily feel the warmth and smell of its front tires (talk about, about to have out of body experiences!). After some shock, I composed myself and gauged the damage to Dory. Thankfully, nothing major had happened, the head lamp’s cap was broken, the crash guard bended on the right side and some fuel spilled. I was most afraid about the right rear mirror but thankfully it was fine.
Thanked God and after a small break, we resumed the ride to the almost dusk. In an attempt to reach Shirpur early (my first night halt), I overshot the turn by 8-10 KMs, took a U-turn and rode back to Shirpur. In Shirpur, again I looked for a mechanic but there was none for Royal Enfield and yes in town there were several marriage processions so it was only wise to abandon the search for a mechanic. I checked-in to a hotel and retired early, post the tiring ride of more than 500 KMs.
Plan for the day: Get speedo-meter fixed as soon as possible. Today’s night stop should be at Guna, ~500 KMs away.
After a good sleep, I hit the road at 0630 HRS in the morning. The wind was cool and riding felt good. From Shirpur, a very bad stretch of road started, two lanes, with dashes of potholes and ghats beside the road.
After a few KMs a very long queue of trucks & trailers greeted me. Maneuvering among halted trucks on THAT road, that morning didn’t come easy. Out of nowhere a policeman emerged, and thus started my 20 seconds of being a VIP . He got the road cleared for us (all hail Dory!).
Madhya Pradesh Main Aapka Swagat Hai
One and a half hours later, an almost non-existent board greeted me with “Madhya Pradesh main aapka swagat hai”. The construction on that stretch of road was on as well, however, after some 50 odd KMs, we saw a smooth mouth watering 4 lane highway.
Madhya Pradesh’s famous Poha-Jalebi was my break-fast before we continued the ride. While in food-joint, the owner had approached me to ask about my ride. He doubled my fear of bad roads when he mentioned that the roads we were on since morning were very good in comparison to the roads ahead, “you should have taken the Rajasthan route”, he said. Had my roommates been there, I could have been charged with some serious sections of IPC. Contrary to my fear, the road till Indore was very good; it was 4 lane mast highway, a real highway.
The little Indore experience
I had made a mental note to get Dory checked in Indore. While asking directions for a mechanic shop, I got a chance to interact with local Indorees. Rajiv Nema’s Indori videos were so right , I had to ask for directions from at least 2-3 people to understand it correctly! The name of the area, Chhoti Gwal Pedhi, made it tougher. It was only after reaching the area, I could understand the name of the area. Since at it, I saw a sign which pointed to Jabran Nagar in Indore . I got hold of a Royal Enfield mechanic, finally speedometer wire and head lamp’s cap were replaced. I bought a spare speedometer cable, just in case. I so much wanted to have my lunch in Indore but things weren’t as per plan and no matter what, the ride had to continue.
The milestones which were showing distance to Agra as 500 KMs till Indore, added extra 50 KMs after Indore and showed as 550 KMs! Either I was riding up the hill by 25 KMs that was not taken into account by the earlier milestones or it was simply a mistake.
Lunch was done after Dewas, riding continued. After almost 50 KMs, the bad and constantly bad roads started. A quick re-calculation of distance and time left in the day made me realize that we were behind schedule and it might even get dark by the time I reach Guna! I continued to ride for hours with stops only for water & pee breaks. The roads were very bad, so bad that the speed could not get pass 40KMs/hour. Just before the dusk, I passed Bioara, a town ~90 KMs away from Guna. Then, it was certain that I would have to ride couple of hours in dark under those conditions. A small break and before I could know, it was dark. I took off my sunglasses and put the helmet visor up for more visibility. The average speed on that road was 25 KMs/hour, thanks to the dust and insects that made it even more difficult to ride with naked eyes. Adding to the road conditions, the headlight wasn’t lighting up the road properly, the Indori mechanic didn’t attach the wires correctly (another thing in the show stopper checklist, wow). Those two hours of the ride were the most difficult stretch of the entire ride. I counted every KM to Guna. Strange enough, I noticed that milestones in MP were on the right side of the road, it wasn’t easy to read in pitch dark. Finally we saw a 4 lane toll road and an exit to Guna. A mix of excitement with a wrong sign board and we continued on toll road. Realized the mistake after almost 10 KMs, another U-turn and with a very tiny exit, we reached in Guna. Finding a hotel near highway wasn’t a tough task. Got an OK one, checked-in & ordered food. While waiting for food, I felt the pain in parts of my body. It was partly because of the ride and mostly because the body parts hadn’t moved enough. I spent a total of 15 hours on road that day with no more than 2 hours at halt. In that pain, it was relaxing to see sign for Agra, showing 325 KMs . Good Night!
Chalo Bhaiya Agra Chalo
Ahaa… the good night sleep, that one gets after every hard riding. I had a morning walk for a couple of KMs in Guna to fight the stiffness of body and I tell you, walking never felt so good .
On one of the greyish pink cold mornings of February, we covered 2 KMs of by lanes of the still sleepy town. The distance to Agra was just above 300 KMs so I decide to start a bit late that morning. The ride resumed at 0800 HRS. After crossing school going children, wandering cattle and a lot of tempos, we were on an empty NH3 highway.
Now, after two days, I remembered all the songs of the playlist and was almost tired of it. So, I played some intermittent games with myself, to have fun, marta kya na karta. Like, “let’s count the Dhabas in a KM” (Observation: Dhabha had name of the cities, may be the place where owner/workers of dhaba come from. E.g. Yadav Dhaba, Gorakhpur, Baliya, Behraich) – “play a song, mute the sound, match my song time, unmute the sound to check if the song finished” – “what is the average distance between two petrol pumps” and many more silly games and observations.
Well, the condition of road was average between Guna and Shivpuri but in Shivpuri, I saw the most horrible stretch of road of entire trip. There were potholes of several feet!(you think I am joking, go take a ride) After we passed Shivpuri, the roads got better, in fact they got to an extent of Very Good . Those newly laid roads were almost empty, had a lot of dry greenery on both the sides. That stretch of the road could have made a perfect location for some Bollywood masala movie.
In that nowhere of smooth ride, with my small, silly games in my mind, suddenly the engine misfired. Yes, the fuel did hit reserve. Because of the broken odometer cable and the fuel duping at Pune fuel station, the fuel calculations had gone for toss, the entire ride. The game distance-between-two-fuel-station of morning came to no rescue; it was played in radar of civilization & not in the middle of nowhere! Had no idea how far the next fuel station would be in that jungle (Oops). A reserve fuel warning in middle of nowhere was very scary. I had never ridden Dory in reserve fuel to check the mileage, but my good old calculations suggested that we should comfortably cover another 40 KMs with little fuel left in the tank. To have better mileage, I kept an optimal speed of 50-60 KM/h; there was not a single soul, correction not a single human for several KMs to check for the next fuel station! But even if anybody had been there what purpose would it solve?. Gaadi ko jitna chalna hai utna hi chalegi . After almost 25 KMs, I saw a shepherd and stopped to ask for next fuel stations, “it’s just 2-3 KMs away” were the beautiful words. Phew, I heaved a sigh of relief. I said to myself “if he said 2-3 KMs that would mean, that it shouldn’t be more than 5-6 KMs”. HP fuel petrol pump – 4 kms These were the most beautiful words I read that day. After another 6 KMs, HP petrol pump welcomed me. Bhagwan hai!
Gwalior! I reached Gwalior around 1400 HRS in the afternoon and planned to have my lunch but before I could know, the struggle with potholes for several KMs, had us already out of Gwalior on a 4 lane mouth-watering highway. Gwalior- left behind, Morena – crossed, Dholpur – passed. But riding was taking its toll. Now, the stops were more frequent. Since, the distance was very less now; I was very excited to reach home and skipped Lunch. That stretch of highway was very good except for few patches of construction. A call from Het reminded that I must not forget to get gifts for home. A small divert after entering the boundaries of Agra to quickly fetch some gifts & deliver them home… sweet home.
P.S. There are few learning from this ride, which are
- Never overtake from left side on a highway, come what may.
- Always avoid and ignore a bike rider who rides with pointed toes. Dangerous!
- Don’t keep a target of KMs to be ridden in a day. Just ride until you feel right and then rest.
- Don’t underestimate the power of boxer shorts. On a day long ride, they are bliss.
- Avoid carrying a touch phone, with gloves on, it’s almost impossible to do basic operations.
- Carry a small point and shoot camera. I couldn’t take more pictures because of my heavy camera. Stopping for taking picture required, taking sunglasses off, removing helmet, taking gloves off, and taking camera out from bag. After taking pictures, put everything back on. So, taking picture was an ordeal of 15-20 mins. Point and shoot camera can be easily kept in your pocket.
- Always make sure if data roaming is turned on in your mobile settings before leaving home network or else you’ll have no Internet.
- Take milestones distance with a pinch of salt. It can easily vary 10%.
- Enjoy the ride including the not-so-good incidents, have fun. It’s the ride which matters not the destination.