INSANE! EXHAUSTING! BUT WHY? YOU MUST BE KIDDING! HAWW!! Well, all these expressions are legitimate and any sane mind would have these on reading the title. But then, sanity is too comfortable to be in.
The idea was rooted in my mind long back when I was planning to buy a bike after moving to Pune for work. I loved being on wheels since adolescence but it was restricted to city commuting and once a month driving to the outskirts of Ahmedabad for audit assignments. Riding took a back seat when Chartered Accountancy drove on top of my priorities.
As it is said that some things might be vague for some time but are never lost; I instinctively started watching motovlogs, and the love for motorbikes as well as riding long distances started igniting. On 10th May 2016, I bought a Suzuki Gixxer SF aka babybusa. And since, I decided that at least once I will ride home on this beauty, end to end. The idea itself was terrifying to me, but Chartered Accountancy had inculcated one thing in me, “Soch lia to soch lia”. Instead of thinking why, I have always thought about how. I started humble, with riding 80 kilometers a day, then 160 kilometers a day and the last long ride before Pune-Ahmedabad being to Panchgani which amounted to 250km a day. And this Panchgani ride gave me enough confidence for Pune-Ahmedabad ride but least did I know what I was putting myself into. I decided to ride home this Diwali.
Parents were reluctant at first and laughed off the idea while younger brother was delighted and supported in the same. Somehow managed to convince parents and started preparing myself mentally to ride 700 kilometers in a day but it’s always easier said than done.
I marked 27th October 2016 to undertake this herculean task. I know that for majority of bikers , this might not even qualify for being called a long ride, but it was surely a one for me as I had recently started riding long distances and was not even close to being called a rookie too.
26th October 2016. Left work at 9 pm and came home with mixed emotions of uncertainty, nervousness, fear, excitement and adventure all at the same time. I started packing the necessary stuff into the backpack I was about to carry. (Yeah I don’t use saddle bags, panniers or tie my luggage on the saddle. I thought of sleeping early as I was about to have a very long day ahead but sleep, is too notorious. While generally I can sleep at anytime anywhere, sleep decided to betray me ahead of such an important day and I wasn’t able to sleep for quite a time.
27th October, 2016. I woke up at 3 am at the first ring of alarm, which was surprising for me. Finished morning chores, took bath at 3.30am, and was ready to leave by 3.50 am. Took out the bike and started it. Time for a mandatory selfie before starting a trip, but it was 3.59 am and the street light wasn’t enough to give proper lighting for a good selfie. Never mind, I thought and started riding. Ah, the anticipation and uncertainty. Just after riding 300 meters, I remembered that mother asked me to call them at the time of leaving. Informed them that I had left for home and continued riding. Next stop, Lonavala.
I took the old Mumbai Pune highway and was continuously riding in dark with trucks, trailers and Lorries on the road. There was no sight of a two wheeler at that hour. *Sigh*. Felt like a miniature creature riding among hulks. But the corners and turnings made the ride interesting. I reached Lonavala at 5.30 AM and took my first break for refueling. Though I had ridden to Lonavala before, today it was different. Resumed riding at 5.45 am and it was still totally dark and not a single soul was visible on the road towards Khandala. *Spooky*. Next stop, Panvel.
While riding towards Panvel, there is a 5 kilometer patch where the old highway and Mumbai-Pune Express way gets merged. Being aware of the speed at which vehicles cruise on express way, I was dreary of riding that patch. But then, what needs to be done, needs to be done. It was dawn already and I was riding smoothly towards Khopoli exit of that dreary patch. I took a breath of relief as soon as I exited that merged patch. The road now was a single lane road but being early morning, there wasn’t much of traffic . Soon I reached Panvel and took a five minute break for having water and allowing the bike to relax a bit. Next stop, the fountain hotel, Ghodbunder Road.
Started driving towards Thane with the help of Google Maps as Mumbai roads can be quite confusing for a novice and I didn’t want to waste a single minute or ride in wrong direction even for 100 meters. Crossed thane creek bridge, Airoli, Mulund and was on Ghodbunder Road Soon. Mumbai roads are “chummeshwari” to drive on, if there’s no traffic. I was happy that the ride was smooth till now but little did I know that an ocean of vehicles awaited me at the fountain hotel junction. It was the longest traffic jam I had seen in my life till date and was disheartened at the amount of time I was about to lose to this jam. I was moving ahead at a snail’s pace on whatever space trucks and cars had left but still couldn’t see the end of the traffic jam. Well God seemed to have some mercy on me and a localite helped me get on the wrong side and I went past through the traffic jam. The other side was also totally packed and police had to use barriers to control the incoming vehicles. Well, I had crossed that horrible jam and it was time for a break. I stopped at a fuel station nearby for a short break and resumed riding at 9.15 am.
The highway after Ghodbunder Road was a six lane one and a total treat to drive on. It was 10.30 am and I had not eaten anything since morning, so thought that it was time for a proper break and started searching for a good restaurant. I crossed Charoti and stopped for a brunch at 11 am. The first thing I was doing after stopping the bike was to stretch the body as it was not used to such long rides and I didn’t want anything to be a hindrance in reaching home.
Resumed riding at 11.30 am and boy it was hot already! I was unsure of how much more time to would take to be home but was focusing on next major city I would arrive at to keep myself going. Courtesy the super smooth roads, I was cruising at 85 kmph on a 150cc machine easily. The signboards showing Ahmedabad as still 400 kilometers away seemed like putting a challenge before me. Challenge Accepted. Next stop Vapi/Valsad.
Riding continuously makes you thirsty, like very very thirsty and the problem is you can’t stop so frequently just to have water. And that’s why hydra packs were invented I believe. But since I didn’t had one, thought of stopping and the very next moment I saw a tender coconut seller. Oh the heaven! Never had such a satisfying tender coconut ever. The seller was curious on seeing babybusa and asked which make it is to which I replied that it’s a Suzuki. Sometimes, we’re really ungrateful and take everything for granted while there are millions who dream of our lifestyle. It happened to be a 20 minute break and I resumed riding soon. Manjil bahot door thi abhi!
Crossed Surat and I was a bit happy that a major milestone has been achieved. Suddenly I passed a board saying two wheelers and light vehicles may use Golden Bridge which I ignored as I was riding at high speed and thought that the main road wouldn’t be that bad and might take just 15 20 minutes more. But little did I know that I ignored a golden opportunity by ignoring the Golden Bridge. Just as I came out of the dilemma, saw a sugarcane juice seller and couldn’t resist it. Things you do for the love of beverages!
Just as I rode for few kilometers, my nightmare was standing right in front of me. Bharuch-Ankleshwar traffic! Being a first timer, I kept hoping that the roads would be free in next 10 minutes but they seemed to be upset with me. Having a bike, I was riding in the extreme left and it surely gave me an off-roading experience. Watching a monster like Toyota Fortuner driving with half of it in side pit and half on the road, is something you don’t see regularly. The traffic jam seemed to be eternal and I still had a very long way to ride. But there was no turning back now and I had to cross this traffic jam as soon as possible anyhow and it really made me feel severely insignificant amongst those monstrous trucks. It took an hour to cover those 10 kilometers and it was the most tiring part of the ride. So tiring that I was compelled to take a halt. In order to calm myself down from the frustration of traffic jam, I pulled in at a complex’s compound near Kadodara. Informed parents of my whereabouts and tried laying down on the bike itself. Never knew hard metal too can give so much of comfort. While resting, I saw a restaurant staff struggling with opening boots pace of a car and he clearly had no idea about it; so helped him open the boot space and had a smile on his face that he won’t have to face his employer’s insulting words now. Heard a song to calm my mind and I was ready for riding again after a 30 minute break. Next stop, umm, not sure!
Started riding again and now the weather seemed in favour and it was pleasant enough to ride comfortably. I hadn’t provided a single ounce of caffeine to my body today and it suddenly started craving for it. I was trying hard to ride as far as possible before stopping but caffeine was inevitable now. So as soon as I saw a good restaurant, I pulled over and had a refreshing tea which was good far beyond my expectation. A curious guy at the parking asked me if I was going for a long ride to which I responded that I am coming from a long ride and destination isn’t too far now.*Proud*. Again rode off towards home.
After riding a few kilometers, the fuel was at 25% of the tank capacity and it was time for refueling. Topped up the tank and this time the service person asked me regarding babybusa. Such an attention seeker she is! By the time I reached Vadodara, it was already dark and I was scared enough to drive now as I was always scared of highways at night time. Though I had the offer from my father to transport babybusa from APMC Vadodara, I was determined enough to ride home completely on my own. I didn’t stop at Vadodara as I was already running pretty late and decided to take a stop midway somewhere around Anand.
I was riding too cautiously as it was dark and 2 times it happened that a person crossed the highway just like that. My heartbeat reached at 100 per minute as I knew that one misjudged tap at the brake pedal and I would get run over by vehicles approaching at 120 kmph from behind. Though the remaining distance was much less compared to the distance I had covered, it felt like forever.
As I reached Anand, took a stop at a kathiyawadi restaurant to have something and prepare myself for the last leg of the journey. Once I entered the restaurant, I realized that my body wasn’t in a mood for anything solid at this time, so I had to make do with a soft drink. And one thing I learned there was that people give weird looks to bikers, no matter what. Anyways, I was excited as hell because home was just a few kilometers away. Next stop, home.
After riding for an hour and a half, I entered Ahmedabad. *happiness at heights*. I just had to ride 17 kilometers now and I was in no mood to have any further delay and was riding at high speed in spite of the traffic due to Diwali shopping. Rode for another 25 minutes and HOME COMING!!
Finally, a beast of a road trip ended. The desire to do something intense after a long time was fulfilled. The wish to ride home at least once on babybusa crystallized. 700 kilometers. 18 hours. I was changed from inside forever. It was done.