Sunday, June 07, 2009

Extreme ... !!

Ever since I rode a Pulsar for around 70 kms a month back on NH-4, I had this plan brimming in my head. I needed to convince myself before anyone else that I can pull it off. To start off, I was not sure. I was not confident. But the prospect of it was very tempting. I knew I was going to be under the pump for the duration of the plan but I just wanted to give it a shot and see where I stand. So, what was this EXTREME plan?

Simply put, I wanted to go to Goa on a Pulsar(or a similar bike) and come back to Pune. But this has to be done within 24 hours. I know it sounds crazy, weird, illogical and crap. Apparently, I also share the same feelings :). I was aware that going to Goa and spending hardly 2-3 hours and then returning didnt make any sense. But my goal was to ride the bike and see if my endurance helps me battle all the exertion of such a ride. Plus, why one day only? It would have been convenient to go to Goa, spend a day and then return. But I did not want convenience. I just wanted to try this. To execute this plan, I had to choose a day when I have a holiday and Biw does not have one.

Over the last 2 weekends, Biwi had been working. I made up my mind that if she works this weekend too, I had to take the chance. The rain was threatening all week and I wanted to get this done with before the rains started. Of course, I had to let Biwi know about this. She refused instantly when she heard about it and understandably so. I needed the entire week to convince her and though she caved in, I knew she didnt want me to go. Throughout all this, I was quietly confident that I will be responsible enough to do the basics right and make it a success.

The next step was to venture out for some mates. Frankly speaking, I didnt expect anyone to join me. No one would be ready to ride for around 17-18 hours in a single day and even if they would, they would not like the idea of spending just a couple of hours in Goa. But I would have loved someone to be with me.

I floated the idea to my CoV mates. Initially, Gaurav and Prashant sounded interested but later decided to back out and they were frank enough to tell me the reasons. Lack of sleep and the prospect of driving in rain and in the night would be extremely dangerous. I did not have any hard feelings. I asked Prakash and Dinesh. Prakash refused immediately. Dinesh jumped at the prospect. He assured me that he was going to come. This excited me even further. We had to make some decisions now and plan it to perfection.

We needed bikes. Dinesh has his own Pulsar 200. I could not afford to take my Yamaha around for 1000 kms in 24 hours. She would not last. Throughout the week, I pestered friends and colleagues to lend me their bike for a day. I know how close a bike can be for a person and I was also telling them the reason why I wanted the bike. Not many would like someone else riding his bike for 1000 kms. On Friday afternoon, I asked one of my colleagues, Vineet, for his bike. He agreed immdediately and even went to the extent of taking me with him to his place during snack hours and getting me the papers of the bike. I am extremely thankful to Vineet. That bike made the difference. It was a Pulsar 220 :)

The plan? It was to leave Pune at 3 am on Saturday morning and come back before midnight. We would ride separate bikes. This turned out to be a good advice from Gaurav. That was the basic plan. It evolved more and more on the D-Day.

I called up Dinesh on Friday evening and asked him to go home early and catch some sleep. I myself was going to reach home by 6 pm, have some food and hit the sack. So far so good. I came home by 6:15 pm. Had some food and was asleep even before it was 7 pm. I forgot just one thing. DAPP meets every Friday evening. I got a call at around 7:30 pm from Biwi asking me where we are supposed to meet. I asked "For what"? only to realise that it was Friday. Sleep plans went out of the window since I didnt want to disrupt the weekly DAPP routine. DAPP assembled at my place at 8:30 pm and we spent the night at Dev Uncle's kitchen discussing about our plans on the morrow.

Prakash was busy talking us down about how this plan is ridiculous and it was having an effect on Biwi. She started getting worried all over again. Surely, we were not going to call off the plan so late? Were we? It was 10 pm. We had to leave in 5 hours and still hadnt got sleep. Biwi suggested we postpone the plan by an hour and get extra sleep. I was not sure that was going to matter. We agreed to leave at 3:30 am. Dinesh and Prakash went home. This was followed by one last ditch attempt by Biwi to make me cancel the plan. In hindsight, I was quite close to cancelling it looking at the overcast skies on Friday evening. But this plan had been hounding me all week. I needed to get it off my mind. A typical husband-wife discussion led to no change in the outcome. I was going ...

I got up at 2:40 am and was ready by 3:15. Packed some dry clothes in my bag. Took a sweatshirt to counter the cold and I was ... as they say ... FEELING IT ...

I made sure Dinesh was up too and asked him to meet me at Ambegaon Naka in Katraj at 3:30 sharp. I myself left home at 3:25 am and reached Ambegaon at 3:40 am. Dinesh came 5 minutes later. We discussed the course of action.

We decided not to race beyond 100 km/hr. If needed, we can touch 100 once and that would be it. Clear Satara before sunrise. Reach Kolhapur no later than 7:30 am and Sankeshwar no later than 9 am. We would halt for breakfast at Gadinglaj. This was Part 1 of the plan. Part 2 was to discussed during breakfast. Gadinglaj is 310 kms from Ambegaon. The last thing was ... dont wear a watch. We did not want to keep looking at the time and feel the pressure.

With this discussed, we high fived and set off in the night. It was 3:50 am. Zooooommm.

Riding a bike on NH-4 is like a dream. You cant expect anything better than that if you are an avid bike rider. The toll nakas also do not pose as a stumbling block. We rode within ourselves (or so we thought). Satara was taken out well before sunrise. In fact, the light improved only when we were getting close to Karad. Throughout, we could see lightning in the background of the road ahead. Rain was threatening. The time of the day was such that there were not a lot vehicles on the highway. It made our task simpler.

Karad and Kolhapur came and went. Everything that I looked forward to was coming true. The thrill was magical. After passing Kolhapur, I was eagerly looking forward to reaching Sankeshwar. NH-4 is even better as we enter Karnataka. It transforms from a 4 lane to a 6 lane highway for some time. I ventured out and touched 104 as my top speed but I am generally scared when I drive fast. So, I rode between 80 and 90 throughout. I took the Sankeshwar exit and stopped. Dinesh had not yet reached. I called Biwi and informed her that we had reached Sankeshwar. I called Dinesh and he was around 4 kms off Sankeshwar. I still hadnt seen the time. Dinesh came and we both rode for another 15 kms to reach Gadinglaj. Most of the hotels had not started serving food. We finally found a hotel that served us Poha and tea. Dinesh told me that he was late coz he halted at Kolhapur and also waved and screamed at me but it seemed I neither saw him nor heard him. Dinesh had to call someone and it was then that he told me the time. It was 7:25 am. No wonder none of the hotels served food at this time. We felt good that we covered the bigger portion of the distance in less than 4 hours. We had breakfast and discussed Part 2.

The road was a state highway now and not in the best of condition. So we agreed on a speed of betwen 50-65. Pass Aazra, Amboli and reach Sawantwadi. We decided to meet at Sawantwadi next. It was 85 kms from Gadinglaj. We also discussed that it would be nice if we can reach Sawantwadi by 10 or 10:15 am. We also decided to put on our earphones and enjoy Part 2 since it was going to be a slower ride from Part 1. We left Gadinglaj at 8:05 am. The road through the jungle of Aazra and the Ghat of Amboli was OKish but it was a very pretty sight. Especially in Amboli. The clouds had descended right into the valley and it was a sight that commands Oohs and Aahs. I so wanted to halt and spend some time here. But the bigger task of reaching Goa prevented me from doing so.

Amboli's Ghat demanded that we ride extremely slowly to negotiate the sharp turns. Once Amboli was taken out, I reached Sawantwadi and parked my bike outside the bus station. This time I saw the time in my cell. It was 9:50 am. So far so ... pleasing. Again, I called Biwi. She was already in office and she also sounded surprised when she heard that we had already reached Sawantwadi. I called Dinesh. He was around 8 kms off Sawantwadi and told me that he had to stop in between coz a honey bee bit him. Luckily, either it seems it was some other insect or a smaller bee coz he seemed unhurt when he met me at Sawantwadi. Time for Part 3 of the plan.

Panaji was 60 kms away. But we needed to go more towards Mapusa rather than Panaji since we had decided to spend the time in Goa at Baga beach. We decided that it would be nice if we can reach Baga by 11. It would give us more time in Goa. Thats when things became a bit sticky. As soon as we left Sawantwadi, it started pouring down heavily. Dinesh and I had to stop and we put my sweatshirt and his jacket in the bag since we wanted them to remain dry. We decided that we will ride despite of the incessant rain. It paid off. We rode safely in the rain and negotiated the sluggish city traffic to reach Baga. It was 11:10 am and we had completed the first half of this plan.

We parked our bikes (the speedometer read 448 kms) and headed straight to Nine Hills. This is the hotel we frequented a lot during our last visit to Goa. But sadly, they were serving only drinks. We then went to Britto's. We were only going to have food for the next 3 hours.Fish and Chicken were gobbled up. I claim to be an occasional drinker and this was more than an OCCASION. I had a bottle of KF which was enough to set the zing for the remainder of the ride. There was some typical fun associated with an all-boys get together and we made sure we enjoyed with all our stupid and lewd comments. It was important to keep the spirit going in such a plan. It was quite an experience watching heavy rain on a beach. That surely made all the crowd flock to Britto's. And we were not complaining. Afterall, it was keeping us AWAKE ;)

We had some tea and it was time to leave. We stolled out on the beach just to feel the sea. The tougher of the 2 halves stared down at us. As decided, we were to leave at 2 pm. To make it even more spicier, we called up Biwi and Prakash and asked them to book tickets for Angels and Demons for any show after 11 pm. Forget midnight, we wanted to reach Pune before 11 pm now. We were pepped up and raring to go. We decided we will not change into dry clothes since it was still drizzling. We will take that call in Sawantwadi.

We discussed the plan till Pune. Reach Sawantwadi by 3:30 pm. Gadinglaj by 6 pm. And hit NH-4 before sunset. We refuelled and set off. So far, only the bums (as expected) were sore but everything else was still holding up :)

We reached Sawantwadi on the dot. It was still drizzling and we decided that we will change into dry clothes only when we see a dry patch of road. We set off for Amboli. Reached Amboli at 4:15 pm. Halted and clicked the only pics of the journey. I will put them up once Dinesh gives me the pics. Had tea and set off again. On our way to Aazra, it stopped raining and even sunlight made an appearance. This was it. We stopped and changed into dry clothes right in the middle of the jungle and the highway much to the chuckle of onlookers. Dry clothes surely gave a totally better feeling. We reached Gadinglaj at 5:40 pm. Had tea at the same hotel as the one in the morning. The owner of the hotel smiled when he saw us coz we had asked him directions to Goa in the morning. The highway was still 15 kms away and we wanted to reach there before the light started fading. Sunset was still some time away. We left Gadinglaj at 6 pm after discussing the next phase. That was to meet at the PUNE - 100 kms mark. That would be some way after Satara. It also meant that we needed to drive at a stretch for 200 kms. Given the fact that we did 300 at a stretch in the morning, this was not going to be too difficult. But our condition was not the same as morning.

Anyway, we set off for Pune. Reaching NH-4, we wanted to cover as much distance as possible before the light went out. We did a good job of it. We cleared Kolhapur around the time the light went out completely. The trouble started some time after Kolhapur. We had not taken the rain into account. That too in the night. It started off as light rain but slowly changed into heavy rain. The fact the we needed to ride with the visors of our helmets upturned didnt make it easy since the rain was hitting us in the face and eyes. The speed dropped off considerably and it was a battle to cover the remaining distance. Even when Karad passed, we had another 50 kms to go before Satara. It was extremely tough to ride in the rain ... not because we were scared that we would slip off but coz it was difficult to maintain the speed that would take us to Pune before 11 pm. Somehow, we managed to reach the PUNE - 100 kms mark at 9 pm. Fortunately, there was a small stall right at that mark. Dinesh came after 5 minutes. We had 3 cups each of tea. We could not hold the first cup at all since our right hands were stuck in the ride mode. Even when we held the cup correctly, we were shivering so much that some of the tea fell off. It was only after 2-3 sips that we felt better. Prakash had called informing us that there is no show after 10:45 pm in any of the theatres. 10:45 would be too ambitious we thought :) So the plan of watching A&D was dropped. This also made us decide that we will stop here for some more time. We sat there sipping tea for around an hour. The rain had reduced considerably.

We left at 10 pm. The last 100 kms were going to be the longest since we were itching to reach Pune and meet Prakash and Biwi. Dinesh told me that he would go home directly since we were not going for the movie or dinner. I reached home at 11:35 pm to be greeted by Prakash and Biwi in the parking lot. This was followed by me telling them about the entire trip and they were an extremely excited audience coupled with my excitment. Prakash went home. I had a hot water bath and saw the India Bangladesh match. Well played India. Way to go ... !! ;)

I also feel that there are some myths associated with riding a bike on a highway. Driving fast is not necessarily the same as driving carelessly. There is a method to most of the things we do in life. It is also not a big issue riding in the rain. You just need to stick to the basics. We covered 200 kms in the rain in 3 hours ... thats an average speed of 70 ... as I said, you just need to keep it simple. I also feel that too much is made of the fact that riding/driving in the night is an issue. While it is more conveneint to ride in the day, riding in the night is not too difficult. 50% of our journey was in the night. The last factor is sleep. For me and Dinesh, the enthusiasm of executing this plan was enough to keep sleep away. Just for the record, we slept for 3 hours on Friday night but never felt that we are dosing off for the next 24 hours ... we even found time to come back and see the cricket match. Its all in the mind. How keen are you to do something?

The after effects? Well ... the bums have been chiselled the wrong way :) ... right elbow was locked since I have a tendency to keep my right hand upright while riding ... the right ankle was locked due to constant action with the brakes ...

As they say, all in a day's time :)

Cheers ... !!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Upset weekend ... !!

What a weekend it was. It seemed as if none of the predictions (read expectations) were destined to go right.

Djokovic crashed out of Roland Garros on the same day as Venus Williams also met with the same predicament. Just 2 weeks ago, Djokoic had run Nadal close at Madrid and lost an epic semi final. He was surely looking like finally breaking the Nadal code. But he lost rather meekly in straight sets. But the ripper of the day was Rafa eating the humble pie. Full marks to Soderling. What a match the Swede played. His forehand was like a dagger all evening. Nadal was found wanting trying to play his grinding game. On more than a few occasions he was caught flat footed by the marauding Swede. Credit to Soderling to fight back from a break down in both the 2nd and 4th sets. In fact, it felt as if Soderling should have won in straight sets looking at the way he dominated the match. The men's defending champion was followed by the ladies defending champ. Ana Ivanovic can win the title of the most inconsistent player over the last 12 months. She also crashed out without much of a fight.

If Federer doesnt win this time, he will surely cry more than January. He has to negotiate Tommy Haas tonight which I presume will be a tough match. His quaterfinal match should be comparatively easy. He may play Roddick or Monfils. But the semi may be tough. He can play either of Robredo, Tsonga or Del Potro. Looking at the way Soderling played, Federer might end up playing him in the final. But dont underestimate Davydenko, Murray and Gonzalez.

And what about the NBA? Lebron vs Kobe was billed as the dream Finals especially after Lakers-Celtics last year. Without a doubt, these 2 are the hottest superstars in American sports. But the Orlando Magic and Superman had other ideas. Lebron and the Cavs were dumped 4-2 in the Eastern conference finals. This was a shocker given that the Cavs had trampled their previous 2 opponents 4-0 en route to the conference finals. But the Magic have been that kind of a team. They haven't let the loss of Jameer Nelson affect them at all. If anything, this team will surely give Kobe Bryant and the Lakers a run for their money in the NBA Finals which kick of this Friday.

Stoner stunned Rossi at Mugello. This is like Rossi's pet circuit. Having won for the last 7 years ... !!

But its been that kind of a weekend. Bodes well for sport. More and more sportsmen/sportswomen are making their mark. Here's hoping for another fun filled sports weekend.

Cheers ... !!