Reclaimed My Soul

This post, it's been a long-time coming: 1 year, 2 months and 10 days to be precise. 1 years, 2 months and 10 days ago,  India faced Bangladesh in the first match of the tournament that went on to become the best tournament in the history of Indian Cricket. And on the same day, I returned from my honeymoon, i.e. honeymoon with my bike - Blackbird. We set off for the honeymoon on 15th Feb, exactly 1 day after the Valentine's Day.

When you're on the honeymoon with a girl, it's about the destination; but when it's your bike, it's about the journey. The highway is your bedroom and the sweet sound of the engine is the sound of love. Well, our bedroom was 500kms+ long NH8s stretching from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad is not exactly a honeymoon-ey destination if you're with your wife but my word, the tarmac on NH8 is as orgasmic as it can get. Now, some of you smarty pants would ask, "But why you went to Ahmedabad? You could've take the Konkan belt and gone to Goa or explored the Sahyadris." Well, the reason I went to Ahmedabad is because that's where my childhood friend was getting married, and I could've taken flight, train or bus, but I didn't. Had I done that, I wouldn't be able to write this post, right? 

Besides, the journey that I took, it stood for everything that I am and everything that I believe in. That journey didn't just got me to Ahmedabad, it got me back my soul. I took that journey just days after leaving a boring desk job which most others thought was a "lucrative job" with "exciting prospects." No prizes for guessing why I prostituted my soul and took up that job in the first place: To earn enough money to buy myself the bike. Yes. 

In simple words: Sold my soul >> Took up the job >> Earned money for bike >> Bought the bike >> Kicked the job on it's ass >> Went out on the NH8 >> Got my soul back. 

And for those of you who're thinking, "you're lucky, your parents give you the freedom," let me bust it for you, that it took days of pestering, arguing and convincing to get OKAY from them (Dear foreign readers, in Indian family system,  we do take our parents' permissions before embarking on a journey that may end your life). That OKAY came at the 11th hour, literally; it was 11pm when I got the green signal for the trip that I would eventually embark on 7 hrs later. After 11pm I packed my bags, got 5 hours of sleep and set forth on my way without knowing if I will make it in one-piece. Because everything got finalized at the last minute, I never bothered getting my bike serviced, oil changed or pack any spares; it was just me, a full tank of fuel and the open road. 

At this point of time, I would like to show a middle finger to all the "kuch toofani karte hai" & "darr ke aage" commercials, who pretend to be too macho doing CGI stunts. Guys, try taking the open road. The one which you've never traversed before. Without any preparations what-so-ever. And do it for 500 kms. On the bike. All alone.

Getting the the go-ahead is the easy part, the difficult part is the road itself. Nothing can ever prepare you for a 500 kms solo bike trip. Absolutely nothing. As much as it's fun, it has it's fair-share of pain as well. Especially when it's your first one. The sweet pain, as the virgins would say it. But nothing can compare to the feeling you get when you come out on the top (pun unintended). 

The Open Road & YOU
Mumbai - Ahmedabad: Tied my bag behind me on the pillow seat, tanked up the bike, checked the tire pressure and I set off. As far as Mumbai is concerned, February is not exactly "wintery" but trying riding to Manor (about 80 kms. from Mumbai) at 7am and you will feel the chill in your bones as your traverse through the sea of dense fog with 100 meters visibility. It took me less than 100 kms. to realize that it's not going to be a rosy ride. 95 kms. from the Mumbai, got the tire punctured. Thankfully there were a series of garages alongside that mended it. 

Tip: If you have tubeless tires, don't waste money paying the mechanic for the puncture. On the highway they rip you off charging as much as Rs. 140-180. My local mechanic told me, that you can get a small strip of the puncture material for 300-400 and you can use it 8-10 times, get that and mend it yourself.

Five kms. down the road, heard a big "phussshshhhshhh" & flat went the rear tire, on the spot. Bike speed: 95 kmph. Apparently, the mechanic thingy had done a shoddy job. Thankfully, right in front was petrol pump with a mechanic under it's shade. The puncture had become too big for the tire to go on with another patch. Either I had to get a new tubeless tire, nearest place to get it was 100 kms. away at a Yamaha showroom in Mumbai OR to convert my tubeless to a tube-tire thingy using the old tire (with half a dozen punctured patches) that he had. Oh, did I tell you he had never worked on a Yamaha FZ before and hence it was a trial-and-error for him to get the real wheel detached? I finally got down and got my hands dirty (literally!) and helped him remove the real wheel and get it affixed as well. But not before he would keep me awaiting for 1 & half hour while he would fix up the truck tire. Given the fact that he was the only mechanic in a radius of five kms., I had little choice but to sit there and look at the cars zipping by. I was 6 hours in to the journey and I had covered a total distance of 100 kms., had 2 punctures, bike's real wheel was no longer tubeless and it now contained an old tube from Hero Honda Karizma which had been punctured about 457 times before. I spent next 6 hours covering the remaining 400 kms. 405 to be precise. In that, I took exactly 3 pre-planned stops. One stop every 100 kms. 

Tip: While taking long distance journeys, stop your bike once every 100 kms. or every 1 hours, turn off the engine and let it cool off for 5-7 mins. Meanwhile, get off the bike and get some blood circulation going in your feet and also stretch yourself before your back crescents permanently. Keep someone (parents/friend/spouse) informed about your trip and call them every time you take this mini-break and update them about your latest position, so in case something goes wrong, they know where to look for you.

Since I wanted to reach before dark, couldn't afford to take a food-break. It was 500 kms. without a grain of food. Finally reached the destination at 6.30 pm, i.e. just after sunset.

Tip: Avoid night journeys on bike. If you can't take food break, keep yourself charged up with chocolates or energy bars. You can have a chocolate bar, once every hour when you take the break. Won't take up your time and it'll keep you energized. Drink water to keep your hydrated but not so much that you'll need to take frequent loo-breaks.

If you thought, this was the end of the hardships, let me tell you, this was just a warm up. The 500 kms. return journey was yet to come and Mr. Murphy had new plans for me.

Ahmedabad - Mumbai: The return trip started with an auspicious event called stomach ache. The stomach motivated the whole body to shiver since I started my journey even before the sun woke up. Also for the first time I got a first hand experience of how you can fall asleep while driving/riding. I still don't remember how I covered the distance between Ahmedabad and Baroda. At the A'bad-Baroda Expressway & NH8 intersection, stopped by a took out a tee from the bag and covered myself in double layering. 

Tip: Make sure you wear a thick jacket or a double layering or at least a thick tee during early morning else even if it's a pleasant day, during early mornings when you're riding at 80-100 kmph, you will catch cold and/or shiver and fall sick.

Spot the Sun.
That was the first of many unscheduled stops. Through the rest of the journey my stomach decided to take more breaks than my back. Had to stop a thrice for loo-breaks, twice for soda/lemon juice and once to buy medicines.

Tip: Always carry medicines and glucose powder.

Just when it seemed that my stomach is holding up and I'm on the home stretch, about 70 kms. from Mumbai, on the ghats, in the middle of nowhere,  a 3 inch nail decides to kiss my rear tire. I had to push my bike with an upset stomach and fever,  2.5 kms. uphill before I managed to find a mechanic. 

Tip: On NH8, you'll come across many sign boards of towing services and their numbers, in case you break down. Make sure you note them down. Also, keep the number of the NH8 Emergency Services handy.

Once I mended my bike, for the very last time, I jammed the headphones in my ears and set off towards the final destination. On the playlist was '21 Guns' & 'Time Of Your Life' on loop.

"When you're at the end of the road

And you lost all sense of control

And your thoughts have taken their toll

When your mind breaks the spirit of your soul"

"So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth it was worth all the while

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right. 
I hope you had the time of your life. "

Finally, 1009 kms, 102 fever, 3 punctures, 3 loo-stops & 1 rear wheel later I was back, back to being a free soul!

"Wind in the air"? - Cliche.
"Open road"? - Vague
"Biking god"? - Irrational.
"World is at my feet"? - Sounds like a dictator.
"I feel like God"? - Subjective.


Honestly speaking, no adjective or phrase used in any of those bike commercials or brochures can possibly describe the feeling that you get at the end of your honeymoon with your bike. The sense of freedom, rebelliousness and superiority that you feel, cannot be described by mortal words.

Objects In The Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

Honestly, I don't really think so anyone will read this thesis that I've written in the name of the blog. Even if no one reads it, I'm glad I managed to tell this story which I was willing to share since a long time.

Keep riding!!!


Punit Dubey said...

Wow! What a style of writing....loved it Man! Have been to Mumbahi-Ahmedabad-Delhi route twice...its awesome, especially Mah-Gujrat border, thn Udaipur stretch...

Phoenix said...

@Punit: Thanks for those kind words. You gone all the way to Delhi from Mumbai on bike? That's great! Yeah, NH 8 is amazing; barring a few super bikes, I think you can max out most of the bikes on that highway.

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