Epic ride to the North-East

As I was scrolling through an email from one of our supplier company inviting us for their annual dealer meet with sponsored return air fare ignited the spark to this wild idea of solo ride. I quickly checked online for the best flight fare available to the National Capitol and then calculated my total cost and had a smile on my face. Confused? I had a partially sponsored ride to North-East!! Yes, I decided to take the fastest and the luxurious mode of transport I had in mind, my Harley Davidson. The biggest challenge came to my mind was to convince my parents. Fortunately it did not take much time. One special person was on satyagraha right from the moment I shared my idea. I then realized I was no more a bachelor and had the toughest hurdle to crossover. Of course it took me days and nights, literally until the last fraction second to convince, console, cajole my wife.

So it started as annual dealer meet being the reason for the ride and ended as the ride being the reason to ride all the way to north-east. Planning commenced with the help of technology (Google maps). It took me couple of hours to draft my first route plan, from the starting point to the destination. Post receiving some valuable feedback from my rider friends/ acquaintance from various social networking sites the plan was tweaked / modified and a practical & realistic route plan was finalized.

I then started planning for basic needs for my ride. Yes, it was like digging a deep hole into my pocket, starting from the riding gear, GPS navigator, latest road map and first aid kit. It was going to be a well planned ride, so had to keep in mind all possible eventualities. Safety first with loads of riding pleasure was the mantra. Partial plan was discussed with parents and only people who knew the complete route were my friends on various forums! It was not until the day before the ride that my wife got to know the detailed plan, when she was asked to take printouts.

Objective of this Ride

This ride was long pending since 2007 on my Royal Enfield Bullet 350, but unfortunately could not be executed. I believe long ride makes a person stronger, confident and ready for taking up tough challenges in life. I was doing this ride solo and was expecting a lot more than the 3 characteristics I just mentioned. I wanted to evolve as a stronger confident person taking up new challenges in life with more risk taking ability and a winner of course. The ride was also unique as I had never come across any person who had done a solo ride for such a long distance on an HD in India. I wanted to cover maximum states/ cities/ towns on the planned route. I couldn?t take up the eastern quadrilateral or the north south corridor due to bad road conditions and constructions in progress. I had to restrict going along the western belt and then onto north India.

The day before the ride

It was very hectic, lot of pending things to complete at work as I would be away for almost 20 days. Lot of things running on my mind, but this was nothing unusual as I look back most of my trips have been like this. I knew that I had to cover 870 kms the very next day starting at 5 AM but I ended up sleeping at 2am as usual.

Day 1

It was a 30 minutes delayed take off on day 1 and my wife bid me bye with her sleepy eyes and chanting one mantra ?please cancel this trip?. A smile on my face and I was gone with a blow of a wind. I could only hear the soothing sound of my machine. The first halt and the first photo were taken at Chitragurga where I had to refuel. The plan was to stop every 100-150 kms, for relieving the pain in my bottom and get some blood circulation there. I uploaded my first picture on Facebook so that family and friends could follow me virtually. Breakfast point was at Kamath Hotel, Ranebennur. I was very choosy when it came to stopping my bike for rest, food, coffee or anything for that matter. I wanted to stay away from the crowd who gathers to enquire about my journey as it would waste some of my precious riding time. But whenever I had no choice I was trying not being rude and patiently addressing their queries which made them elated. In spite of my delayed start I had covered a lot and by the time I reached Kolhapur I was 1.5 hrs ahead of anticipated time. Thanks to the Golden Quadrilateral project for making my ride buttery smooth and I had covered 870 kms in 12 hours.

My aunt was shockingly surprised to see me on 27th evening which was 3 days in advance due to my last minute change in plan. Had a quick shower and some homemade yummy dinner before hitting the bed.  The next day was supposedly a rest day but I did a little bit of shopping, enjoyed a movie with my uncle & aunt, had some seafood for lunch and caught up with some power nap. Coffee at home in the evening and crime patrol at 11 pm helped me come back to life. Good night.

The next couple of days were flat riding, reaching my pit stop, keeping tab on time and gearing up for the next day?s ride. Regular activities like cleaning my helmet visor, dusting my riding gears, refilling my flask with 4 cups of strong coffee etc were religiously followed.

Day 3

On my way to Vadodara which was my next pit stop, met up with a good friend of mine at Mumbai, who was my roommate during PG days. Methi parata with fresh dahi and a cup of coffee at Shetty?s bungalow at Meera road made my breakfast delightful. He then dragged me along for a quick darshan of his Guruji and got me blessed. In no time I hit the highways again. Vadodara was fun with window shopping at the local streets and dinner at famous Sasuma restaurant for some delicious Gujarati food.

Day 4

It was holy Ajmer. Met up with Abhinav, my good friends from TAPMI and had some hot yummy kachoris at a place, where he used to hang out during school days. Couldn?t visit Pushkar temple, but managed to sneak through the Dargah of Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer and got blessed. Had lip-smacking dinner at Abhinav?s place before gazing at his 3 day old baby boy, who could barely open his tiny eyes. The day ended gossiping old stories and current life, with Abhinav at the guest house arranged by him.

Day 5

Hanumangarh- 450 kms from Ajmer was a pleasant ride on the runway kind of roads. I happened to feast on some top class idli?s for breakfast somewhere near Kishangarh, quite surprising but truly authentic! It was a non discrete town on the border of Rajasthan and Punjab and I had the privilege to stay in an old palace converted into a hotel. It did not offer any tourist attractive sights so it was ideal for me to spend a quiet evening royal style.

Day 6

Hanumangarh to Jammu was no doubt an amazing stretch. I tried the maximum speed possible on my bike on the Bhatinda expressway. I was so excited to capture the image of the check post as soon as I reached Jammu. My navigator device said ?you have reached your destination?. Called up my wife, mom and couple of friends and shared my joy of being on top. From the toll to Jammu city, the roads were excellent with a Tata safari following my speed at 160+ kmph for over 20 minutes, finally I decided to slow down and the person who was driving waived his hands asking me to stop. He too happened to be a biker and was surprised to see a two wheeler go at 160+ kms! He said he almost reached the gates to heaven trying to follow me out of curiosity. I smiled at him acknowledging his expression and wishing him ?drive safe?. As I approached Jammu, the scenic beauty amazed me and completely got me rejuvenated. My stay was at a hotel, which was on a cliff with a full view of the valley. Jammu was fully lit up for the karva chouth.  Had some road side snacks, channa kulcha and Jammu special sweets as I walked through the streets. Before this trip I had only heard about the beauty of Jammu girls, but it was still unbelievable despite them being right in front of my eyes. Bought some souvenirs for friends and family just before my dinner at a local joint, where I had some Kashmiri fish curry and naan. I hit the bed in no time as it was so chilling outside.

Day 7

I was more than excited for the Jammu-Shimla route, which was one of the most exotic biking routes. The initial 30 kms were mesmerizing ride through the hills, maneuvering on the curving roads, where I actually enjoyed having my street bob. I saw the nature change its colors, something that has to be experienced with your own eyes. But soon the roads gave way to potholes and there were more of them than the road. It was a contrast after all the good days I had encountered. Shimla had a lot of galli kind of roads packed with tourists. The only destination, where I had made an advance Hotel booking was at Toshali Royal view resort, Shimla and to my bad luck everything went wrong. It was already late evening with dusk setting in fast and the hotel was 30 kms away from Shimla towards Chandigarh. I was riding through the freezing cold narrow roads of Shimla town full of tourists and very soon I realized that I was all alone in the dark. I had a tough call to make whether to ride further or dash into a new place.  Although I had earlier decided that in no circumstance I will ride in the dark, the businessman in me overrode the rider this time and it turned out to be a costly one. The journey beyond was through ?freezing cold? ?dark? ?empty? ?narrow? roads on the hills with lot of concerns crisscrossing my mind. What if I encountered a puncture, what if there was a breakdown, but finally decided to just focus on the ride. It was the toughest ride and after some time I had a strong intuition that I must have lost my way and waited for someone to come to my rescue. I was lucky to find a passerby who guided me to the right path. Retracing my route I found the detour and finally after 20 odd kms reached my destination. At the resort, I insisted that I wanted top most room until I realized the reception was on the topmost floor and all the rooms where below, on the slopes of the hill!!! A hot water shower was a blissful feeling after such a ride, had a simple meal and slept. Next morning was the best surprise, the room opened up into the mountains with shades of green and chirping of birds. I clicked a few pictures of the valley and then bidding good bye to Shimla headed to Haridwar. Decided to take the Chandigarh route as I was curious to know how well the city is planned. Tried reaching one of my friend who lived in Chandigarh, but he was out of town.

Reached Haridwar and checked in to our community ?Mutt? and Guru darshan was planned with the help of my uncle back in Mangalore. Had authentic Konkani food for dinner, visited the local streets and picked up few Rudraksh for family and friends. Visited to the Holy River Ganga, sprinkled some holy water on me hoping to wash of all my sins in the past and the ones I was going to commit in future (got some in a copper urn too, just in case!).

Next ride was Haridwar to Gurgaon (via UP) back to good rides with high speeds on wide roads. Reached Gurgaon by 11am and as expected had a grand welcome from my relatives, had home food and lot of rest. Did some ?Shopping for wife? which was part of the trip so that she is reminded of how often I was thinking of her!!

Next day was the ?reason? for the ride, got to meet our business associates after long time. A smaller group of people knew about my ?riding business? and asked for more. They were happy listening to my riding story and wished me luck for my way back. Met Mr Garry Fisher, who is known as ?cycling guru? and had a chance to interact with him.

Finally service day came in, parked my HD at the Delhi Harley showroom and they did a good service job, I must say. Some valuable tips from the service manager there got me impressed with his knowledge base. To my surprise, first time my TomTom GPS navigator stopped functioning ?a blackout situation? after depending on the device for past 10 days contineously. It was a strange feeling to ask people for directions after long gap, but managed to reach Gurgaon pretty easily. Felt good about my direction sense as it was intact! I cooked some special food for my relatives and did some more of shopping (for wife!)

My relatives were also thrilled come on a ride with me and got to experience ?flight on the road?. End of it the expression was ?Wow! What a bike!?.

The journey back home was not faraway and had to pack my bags with lot of junk (food and shopping). Before the ride I had assumed I will reduce at least 5 kgs of my excess pounds, but to my surprise I had gained five after indulging in all the local delicacies and sweets. I was in my riding gear at 5.30 am with photos being clicked by my bua (Father?s sister) for memories. The next two days were going to be long rides. Did some sightseeing, visited a local fair and had one good meal at Bawarchi restaurant, Udaipur. Gulped some hot jamoons before hitting the bed, Yummy!

Headed to Pune touching base at Anand, Gujrat (felt milky) the next day. Reached Mumbai at around 7 pm and decided not to ride further keeping in mind the safety issue. I had surprised my sister by banging on to her main door. She didn?t have the slightest hint of my arrival. As a return surprise she offered me one full meal consisting Surmai fry, shrimp chutney, prawn sukka, rice bhakri and chawal with gallons of Thumps Up as if she had known my visit. Got a chance to play with my naughty niece and super naughty nephew until I said sweet dreams to them.

As a matter of practice I got up at 5 am sharp without an alarm and I was in my gears on and all set to hit pune before 10 am. It was quite a disappointment, bikes are not allowed on Mumbai- Pune expressway and I had to take the alternate highway but I ensured I reached Pune on time. My uncle and Aunt were so desperately waiting for my arrival with all that they prepared to feed me well. They were so happy that I had no bad incidences until then and shared every bit of my experience with them. Wandered around the streets of pune having some snacks here n there, neera, sugarcane juice, and not to forget the hot hot Jelebis. Also bought few diwali lamps to take back home. I was the star cook for that evening. Had some neighbors? visiting my aunts place to taste the egg chilly I prepared. Also cooked my own creation of ?potato bhaji? and I suppose it was good. My Uncle and aunt insisted for a ride which they well deserved. They enjoyed every bit of it without any doubt.

Last day ride begun with a sense of enjoyment and sorrow. I knew I can?t be riding all my life without a break and was brought down by the fact that my ride was only for some more hours. I was supposed to reach Mangalore on 11th as per my earlier plan, which was known to my wife and parents by now. But instead I reached one day prior surprising the larger crowd back in Mangalore (joint family). All my cousins rushed out of their home hearing the roar of my machine. Even before I got off my bike they were begging for a ride. WOW? look at this.. I wish I was a Harley Davidson.. so famous and in demand!

As it was an early entry I couldn?t find my parents and wife at home as they were enjoying junk food at a nearby snack bar. I had to call them from the land line to give my last surprise, I am back home in one full piece and not pieces! Surprise element was part of this road trip starting with my wife, aunt, sister, friend, parents and me of course.

After celebrating our first Diwali at home I and my wife rode back to Bangalore (short ride of 350 kms J) to get back to routine.

Wish to do such rides time and again! This makes me feel so young and grounded!


Author: Ganesh Nayak