15th August 2012 – 04:30 am – Rakshak Chowk, Pune
Life is a gamble. You can get hurt, but people die in plane crashes, lose their arms and legs in car accidents; people die every day. Same with fighters: some die, some get hurt, some go on. You just don’t let yourself believe it will happen to you…!!! Muhammad Ali
This is what we believed in and what we told to all our relatives when we started for this ride.
It was not raining, which was anyways a heartening thing for all of us. I left my house at 4:00 am sharp, the thump and the roar of my Royal Enfield on the 15th August morning 4:00 am made most of the guards run towards the parking to see what had happened. They could not dream of someone leaving from the parking at 4:00 am on 15th August – a national Holiday … But I was ready to take the journey. I reached Rakshak Chowk and saw 3 bikes parked opposite the tanks at Rakshak Chowk. I was happy that I was not the last to reach. I had done a small shopping the previous evening for everyone. Being an Independence Day ride, I bought 10 India flags which we may tape on our rear view mirror and it would look awesome. I carried the tape with me to fix it properly on all bikes to endure the wind and the water and be with us till the end of the ride.
4:45 am – Rakshak Chowk – 10 bikes were vrooming at Rakshak Chowk … we had got 2 additions …
Udyan like the old sailor had come to bid us adieu and Abhijit, one of our riders in Brzzz … who hails from Vadodara and planned to ride home on this break with us till his hometown.
So let me introduce you to the 8 bikes and 9 riders for the Ride to Rajasthan, it is very important to introduce the protagonists, or I call the Lead role players of this movie:
1. Ayush Chaturvedi – Moderator of Brzzz … the man, the machine aka Sabu – Riding the RE thunderbird 350
2. Vikas Bahar – Moderator of Brzzz … Started Brzzz 4 years ago … the pillar of the group – Riding the Pulsar 180 cc
3. Rachit Rastogi – Moderator now … Passionate rider – done all Long rides with Brzzz … riding Pulsar 200
4. Sharath Shivarama – aka Anna, moderator now … he would live on the roads if given an option … riding a Pulsar 220 cc
5. Prateek Baliga – the Young Gun of Brzzz … he loves speed … riding a Pulsar 180 cc
6. Rohan khanapurkar – the Photographer … wish the CBR was a little low, the crash master – Riding the Honda CBR 250
7. Bharat Gopalakrishnan & – Moderator – the Gravity guy – he loves adventure – riding the RE 500 Classic
8. Sarthak Chandra – Moderator now – let me be modest for myself – Colonel Sahab, the Alarm Clock and headmaster – Riding the RE Thunderbird 350cc
We were all there, ready to rock n roll, and lined up for a photograph at the starting point … when to our horror, the Armed guard from the cantonment came running towards us …. “hey … yahan photo kheechna mana hai” (photography is not permitted here), we could not take panga with the armed forces and we like good citizens of the country started our machines … and with a roar of 4 RE, 1 Honda CBR, 5 pulsars moved from Rakshak Chowk. The Ride to Rajasthan Had officially started!!!
Living with the traditions of Brzzz … we still needed a pic of the start of the ride … so we had to stop at Wakad … for the official pic of the Start to the “Ride to Rajasthan” … once done … off we went.
The plan was to ride through NH-4 to Mumbai, then cross the Eastern Expressway and move towards Kolivada … straight on the Ghodbandar road to hit NH-8 and take a right.
Being the 15th of August, we expected some checking but the intention was to cross Mumbai as soon as possible. 10 bikes started from Wakad, Udayan had joined us to see us off till the first toll on the Old Pune Mumbai highway and we had Abhijit as mentioned before to ride till Vadodara. We decided on the formation where Ayush would lead till Mumbai and Prateek, being from Mumbai would lead us through the city till we hit NH-8.
So all set … but we had lost some 30-40 mins in the course of taking a starting pic, and the 10 bikes roared through the empty roads at 5:35 am on a national Holiday…. BUT…. We were 1 hour behind schedule.
I am sure all of us took the name of the almighty and started. As it normally happens on rides, the first couple of hours are a bit slow since the machines and the riders are warming up, so how could this be different … but, we had to cover a whopping 700 kms today and we had to reach high speeds as soon as possible, as crossing Mumbai was haunting everyone, and crossing Surat by 3:00 pm was a top priority. We had decided that we would avoid riding as night as much as possible… BUT … yeah yeah again … the but … came in … it started raining while we crossed Lonavala … and we slowed down a bit … we were cruising at 70 – 80 by then … but this is not what we had planned … we had to move at 90 at least … but this is the life of a rider … !!! We were at Vashi at 8:00, which was ok, but as I said, as per the plan we were running 1 hour behind schedule … now the real test … how long would it take us to cross Mumbai. We halted for a quick sync up and change the lead, as Prateek would lead the group now, being aware of all the roads of Mumbai.
We saw, people doing the pranayama, some walking briskly, some people doing some weird yoga … staring at us as if they have seen aliens … I am sure they did not expect 10 bikes roaring past them on 15th August with Saddle bags and in full riding gear … but we could not enjoy their white faces for long since we had a plan in place and we had to cross Mumbai asap. We were lucky that we didn’t get enough traffic and not even rain … which is a surprise for Mumbai and 15th August … as most of us have the memory of a few things when it comes to 15th August ….. 1. The march past in School, 2. The laddu and samosa after the march-past, which turned to Frooti later and 3. Rain …
The first 2 were out of question now … but surely the third has been there ever since we left school … but we didn’t get Rain, except little in Lonavala earlier … which was a big benefit, as we could maintain speeds as we desired. We turned left on the Ghodbandar road, and wah … 9:10 am we had crossed Mumbai and we were at the Red Light to Take a right on NH-8 … NH-8 had to be our proxy home for the next 3-4 days as we would be spending 10-12 hours on this very road … so we loved to take that right turn … !!! Once we were on Nh-8… we had to stop for Breakfast, as you know by now, at Bladerunnerzzz … we love the following; Roads, Destinations, friends and Food.
We have been riding for almost 4 hours now and we and the machines wanted a break … so we stopped a km after we took the right on NH-8 for breakfast.
Wow … the first pit stop … the machines are doing well, all riders are feeling great and the best part … we had crossed Mumbai. Just for your knowledge, we Bladerunnerzzz are often called “Bhukkadrunnerzzz” ‘cause we are always hungry. All the nine Bikes and 10 people took off the gear, and took the table where we would hog … normally we need the same size of the table to keep our riding gear as we are sitting to have food. Luckily this place didn’t have any other travellers who had stopped by, and we had the luxury of using the entire place to ourselves.
The order was simple – 6 plate idli, 4 plate wada, 4 dosas, 3 omlettes, 6 wada pav and 20 cups pf tea … sounds a little dangerous …. But Plz don’t forget we are Bhukkadrunnerzzz … we need to have the energy to ride for another 500 kms…!!!
15th August 2012 – 10:30 am – NH-8 (160 kms)
The breakfast was over and all of us were full … ready to burn the rubber now. NH-8 is debatably one of the best roads of the country, 6 lanes excellent condition of the roads …!!!! WOW
We started cruising and soon we were touching 85-90 kmph … it was indeed a pleasure to ride on those roads.
We were cruising, and with a few stops for Sutta and water and nature’s call … we crossed the Maharashtra Border to enter Gujarat … excellent roads … excellent weather … and we were cruising towards our destination. BUT …. Haha … yes the but ….
When we entered Gujarat, it started getting hotter … and with all the riding gear we were all slowly boiling … so that stops increased and speed decreased …!!
15th August 2012 – 1:00pm– Vapi, Gujarat – NH-8 (290 kms)
It was 1:00 pm … at least 32-34 degrees … we were crossing Vapi … we had come about 300 kms and some vehicles needed a re-fuelling as the next big place would be Surat another 125 kms ahead … so we thought let’s sync up, as we were now divided into 2-3 groups … some had gone ahead, some had fallen behind … so sync up at Vapi was obvious …!!!! And lo … we were just 8 bikes…. Surprisingly Rohan on his CBR 250 was missing …!!! Now we were not sure if he was ahead or he was behind…!!!
We all tried to recall who was behind Rohan and who was ahead … 10 mins, 15 mins …. We had no clue where he was…. Stopping at Vapi was not scheduled earlier so he may just have gone pass … but we were not sure.
Another 5 mins … and far we see a red bike with a guy with riding gear … yeah … Rohan was there… he had stopped for fuel.
Now around 1:30 pm … we were still 122 kms from Surat … this was our first checkpoint in the morning. This seemed difficult now, some people were hungry, but it was very hot … so we decided to be on liquids and move …
15th August 2012 – 2:15pm –Valsad, Gujarat – NH-8 (325 kms)
We crossed Valsad in 35-40 mins once we started from Vapi … the roads were awesome, 6 lane, disciplined traffic … being a holiday and a long weekend … we were being overtaken by cars where the entire family was going on a holiday, and the kids and the passerby would come near our bikes and start shouting “kahan se aa rahe ho aap log?” “Kahan jaa rahe ho?” … we at 90-100 kmph would have to answer them … coming from Pune … going to Rajasthan … and they would pass funny comments … Bike pe …!!!
What do they think … we are riding the bike from Pune to Surat and then board the train to Rajasthan …!!! But for most of them we were the biggest entertainment on the highway….!!! U can imagine … 9 bikes … in full gear … some would call us … “who dhoom waale … dekho “as if we are coming straight from the shooting of Dhoom-3 … and doing a reiki for Aamir Khan !!! But it was fun … it is nice to see the faces of kids who enjoy it soo much …. “Hey mumma mumma … see racers”
The First Check point of 3:00 pm had crossed … we were still 35 kms from Surat… and all of us were burning in the heat … but we carried on …!!! But now the water breaks became quite frequent.
15th August 2012 – 4:25pm –Surat, Gujarat – NH-8 (420 kms)
It was 4:25 pm … we were 1 hour 30 mins behind schedule and as per our discussion a day before; we may now stop at Vadodara and not ride till Ahmedabad. Everyone was quite tired, the Gatorade and the Red Bull was the only thing pushing everyone hard.
We stopped at a petrol pump where I had to get the re-fuelling done and couple of other guys also had to re-fuel. There was a small shop where everyone jumped on for cold drinks and tea … we did not stop for Lunch so everyone was hungry and we had to take a decision now.
The decision: Now the crucial decision needs to be taken.
Fact 1:- Surat – Vadodara – 150 kms
Fact 2:- Surat – Ahmedabad – 280 kms + distance we will have to travel in the city to reach the hotel
Fact 3:- we have no Bookings in Vadodara
Fact 4:- We have a booking for a Free Stay in Ahmedabad
Fact 5:- The average speed till now has been around 50-55 kmph
Inference 1:– we can reach Vadodara in another 3 hours – around 7:30 pm
Inference 2:- We can reach Ahmedabad by 10 – 10:30 pm as per the current average
Now, we had to take a call … One fact which we had not considered, which was very crucial was Bharuch, which was 70 kms from where we had stopped … there is a bridge you need to cross in Bharuch which is single way … there is some construction going and there are heavy traffic jams at that place … now we were not sure that what time can we even got to Vadodara.
So not wasting much time, and postponing the discussion to take the decision where to halt in the night, we thought of moving and first cross Bharuch and then take a call. Now seeing the time we decided to finally RIP …. Hey not rest in peace but to really rip the roads apart … off we went … after the much required water and cold drink break.
15th August 2012 – 5:10 pm – Bharuch, Gujarat – NH-8 (500 kms)
We had really ripped the roads and covered a whopping 80 kms in less than 45 mins … and to the delight of all; we crossed the bridge … the much controversial bridge in 10 mins.
At 5:15 we had crossed Bharuch and were 75 kms from Vadodara … now the spirits were high since we were ripping … but a couple of guys were too tired and wanted to stay in Vadodara … we crossed the toll after Bharuch and stopped to decide what to do …. All the facts and inferences were considered again … now the weather was also a little pleasant as the sun god was not as scorching as it was a couple of hours back.
Rachit’s hometown is Vadodara and he expressed the desire to stay with family overnight and join us in Ahmedabad the next morning before we leave for Udaipur, as per the initial plan. Most of us, Ayush, Vikas, Sharath, Prateek and me determined to go all the way to Ahmedabad … what this meant was – 200 kms to go and it was already 5:15. But we decided that we have to cover the maximum distance today so that the next day is easy on us and we can leave Ahmedabad a little late. But Rachit wanted to stay at Vadodara and we knew that he can catch up in the morning and move together to Udaipur. Bharat who was with his wife was very tired and decided not to go till Ahmedabad, and we decided that Bharat may stay at rachit’s place and next morning both of them can leave early to catch with us in Ahmedabad and we move together to Udaipur.
Now there were 2 groups made:
Vadodara group – Rachit, Bharat & Rachna and Abhijit (who was riding till Vadodara – his hometown)
Ahmedabad group – Ayush, Sharath, Prateek, Rohan, Vikas and Myself
Off the groups went …!!!
15th August 2012 – 6:15pm – Vadodara, Gujarat – NH-8 (570 kms)
Would you believe it … we were standing on the Vadodara – Ahmedabad by Pass at 6:25 pm … we had covered 65 kms in 45 mins again … and it was still not dark …!!! Wow!!! Now another 125 kms left and we are in Ahmedabad. Our spirits were high and we stopped for a final water and red bull break … we were glad that we have done 140 kms in the last 2 hours … this is what Brzzz is … !!! Now we were in full control of our machines and the roads and nothing could stop us now.
Oh … we didn’t know!!!!
We spent a good 15-20 mins having water, juices, Gatorade, red bull… washing our faces … as we were very confident that we are in hitting range now … 120 kms .. With the way we are riding should not take us more than 90 mins.
But …. Yes the last but of the day … which was the worst …. But, we didn’t know that 2 wheelers were not allowed on the Vadodara – Ahmedabad Express-way and we had to take the old highway … which was not the 6 lane highway we have been getting, but a single road with oncoming traffic … a narrow 2 lane highway …!!!! And we were screwed.
After 12 hours … 570 kms … riding with trucks and Busses and taxis and cars coming straight on your face was horrifying. Our plan went for a complete toss…
15th August 2012 – 7:15pm– Vadodara – Ahmedabad Highway, Gujarat – NH-8 (610 kms)
The roads were narrow … there were lots of Buses and trucks and it was dark … all the vehicles were showing off their headlights and trying to prove that how strong they were … in the process blinding us every 10 mins…!!! We took a small halt and I decided to lead, experience does matter … I took the lead and started cruising from 50 to 60 to 70 … !!! BUT …..
It is easy to see your fellow riders in the rear view mirror in the daylight, and if the one behind you falls behind, you may slow down and stop, but at night is actually impossible to see if the vehicle behind you is one of your group members … and yes the same thing happened.
I was leading, followed by Prateek, Sharath and Rohan. Vikas and Ayush were together and had fallen behind. I asked everyone to stay together as we also had to find our way to the hotel in Ahmedabad.
I was riding or rather fighting the lights and traffic and cruising at 60-70 kmph … I was able to see a lot of lights in the rear view mirror … after 55 mins and covering some 45 kms I thought of stopping and sync with all the others … as we had just crossed Anand .. !!! I stopped, Prateek was behind me and he stopped. And lo … there was nobody else in sight … Sharath, Rohan, Ayush and Vikas were not in sight.
I asked Prateek if he realized where they fell behind … but he was also blinded by the lights and had no clue … we thought of waiting on the highway with our bike indicators on for a while for them … !!!
We were standing on the highway in Pitch darkness … the only light was the light of some traffic from either sides … or the lights of our indicators. 20 mins passed and no-one arrived. I was sure that they have not overtaken me … but they could not be so behind … but we had no option, it was around 8:15 pm … we took out our phones and by God’s grace had network, Google the “Jagat maamu” told us that we were just ahead of Kheda … and around 25 kms from Ahmedabad. Then we realized we saw a right diversion some 10-12 kms back and started wondering if they would have taken the diversion. But right now we were clueless … we called Rohan and Sharath who would not take the call …. So we decided to move … and reach Ahmedabad and then call the again … It had been 15 hours and 660 kms that we have been riding … and it was high time that we wanted food … and the bed … … if you remember we did not have anything to eat after breakfast in Mumbai … we were just on water, Gatorade and Red Bull …!!!
So Prateek and I started off heading towards Ahmedabad … it was so heartening to see the signboards and milestone showing Ahmedabad 30 kms ….. 20 kms ….. Finally … we crossed aslali lake, and saw … Welcome to Ahmedabad…. We were standing at cross roads with a huge Signboard saying “Sardar Patel Ring Road” … wow….we were in Ahmedabad. BUT …. Yeah the last but of the day ….
Prateek and I didn’t know the name and the location of the Hotel … Rohan knew about it … and we had anyways lost them on the way … now again we didn’t have any choices what to do … we just had to wait to see them coming or their call …
15 mins … and we saw 2 bikes showing the indicator towards left … on the highway these were the only indicators we saw … and realized that finally our prayers have been answered. Sharath and Rohan arrived, and as I had presumed, they had taken the diversion and had to return which took them those 30 mins extra. Now we had to get the location of the hotel …. But lo … where are Ayush and Vikas?? We were dead tired for any more excitements … we all did the routine tasks, which we have been doing since morning, Check-in on Facebook about our location, this is critical for our families back home to also know that where we’ve reached and how are we doing, and it was also very important for someone if he falls behind to know where the other group members are…. Technology as a boon …!!! in the process of doing the same, Sharath saw an sms from Vikas that they have halted in Anand to meet a friend and would come directly to the hotel… so now … we had to reach the hotel, Rohan called and asked for directions, once we got all the directions “mama ji” told us that we are 13 kms from the hotel, after 694 kms, 13 kms looked as if we will reach in the blink of an eye. We started, together and made sure remain together till we reached the hotel. Now it was easy as we were riding in the city and were going slow. We had to ask directions on every turn and every red light for our good night hotel … hey … this is not where we will have a good night … but the name of the hotel was good night … uuuhhhh … I remembered “Hotel Decent” of jab we met … I wished it was not the same class … Hotel Good night. We had to go to Sidi Sayyed jaali masjid, lal darwaza. The name itself sounded horrifying…!!! And right opposite to the masjid was the hotel …!!! Uufff….we had to cross through the entire city to reach the destination … while approaching all of us were apprehensive where we were going and what type o a hotel it would be … but since Rohan’s dad had arranged for a free stay, we carried on….asking directions at least 20 times … and wherever we stopped for directions, there would be crowd of at least 10-15 people instantly to watch us … wearing riding jackets, helmets, with bags on a summer night … asking for lal darwaza.
15th August 2012 – 9:15pm– hotel Good Night, lal darwaza, Ahmedabad, Gujarat (697 kms)
Finally we were at the reception … and wow … the hotel looked shabby from outside, but it was excellent inside … Excellent 3 AC rooms were booked for us … with running hot water …. Not the running hot water in the movie “kahaani” but there was running hot water in the taps. WE HAVE DONE IT!!!
The toughest day was over … Pune to Ahmedabad – 700 kms 16 hours … 6 bikes …!!! We were finally in our rooms … dead on the bed … waiting for food, Vikas and Ayush!!!
Vikas and Ayush, who had halted in Anand to meet a friend also reached the hotel by 10:15 … we all, had a good hot shower … and ordered lots and lots of food …
15th August 2012 – 11:30pm – hotel Good Night, lal darwaza, Ahmedabad, Gujarat (697 kms)
We had finished 1 Butter chicken, 3 dales, 3 Paneer, 23 Rotis, 3 plates of Rice and 3 plates of curd … Aahhh … and finally the 1st day was over, and we all bid each other Good Night !!! The day 1 for Ride to Rajasthan was over!!!