For a long-standing solo rider like me, any company is always welcome; but in this instance, getting to ride with RTMC was a privilege, so what if we were only 4 Bullets!

It’s another thing when you are riding in a small pack, early in the morning, bugs entering your mouth, your nose, your eyes and you take your bike up through the gears, till the sound of the engine fills up more than your ears, till it fills up your very soul.

Man, was I happy!!

The stretch till Kollekal is heavenly, four-laned almost all the way, and it sure was bliss, overtaking the trucks, seeing the others all lit up in the my rear-view mirror and slowly but surely – as one familiar landmark after the other fell by – letting the magic of the road fill my being. And then, with the skies lightening into dawn, we reach Kollekal and I turn left and pull into the A-1 Plaza.

First thing GR says when his helmet comes off is “Why did you turn and stop man, the ride was heavenly”. But then, this is where he wanted to turn back from, so that is what he did and we also rode ahead in no time as there was no Tea available at the place.

After Kollekal, it was Deepa who was leading; I take off after her and note that Prashant is talking to the Reliance Bunk attendant. There’s no sign of Prashant as Deepa flies in front of me. By now the light is getting brighter and I note that the quaint water-logged quarry before Toopran where I have stopped on a number of times to watch the water-birds is getting filled up.

Maybe the right place to put up another A-1 Plaza or some swanky resort, eh??

We ride on, me happy to tail and maintain a safe riding distance, doing a nice 80-90 and drinking my fill of the green Turmeric and the just awakened Sunflowers, even as trucks get overtaken and Sumos and Cars on the wrong side get the middle finger. Then I see a blazing headlight on my right and yes, Nomad is here. Prashant also seems content on riding herd and we do exactly that for something like 20kms or so and then he suddenly high-tails it.

I am content being on the highway, happy with my pace and not keen on pushing this bike I love so much, so I see Prashant and Deepa become specks in front of me and then disappear, till we link up again, when I see them parked on the left side of the road at Narsingi. I tell Prashant everything is okay but I am not happy with the way the bike is moving and that I will carry on at my pace.

He wanted to know where the next A-1 Plaza is but it’s a while since I was on this road and 2 years or so back there weren’t that many A-1 Plazas. So we start off again and the bikes in front of me become specks again. A bit after, a blue Thunderbird comes pretty close to me on the right side, the rider gesticulates, I say, Hi, Hello, etc. Evidently he can’t hear over the din of two Enfields, he now comes to the left, tries to pull his Balaclava down to talk, I shout and say “You must be Deep, Prashant is up ahead”, he falls back and then in a burst of heavy truck traffic, I lose sight of him.

If you are lucky enough to be on a road when the light is that of a full-blown golden winter morning, you can’t just ride through, you get touched to the through. I can see the water birds in the ponds, road side ditches and the small stretches of wetlands. I want to stop and put the camera to use, but I am pretty happy just riding along. From Ramayampet to Kamareddi is a lovely wooded stretch where the road dips and snakes nicely and this is where, while I am having fun with the throttle that I see two RE’s parked on the left side of the road and Prashant up-ending a bottle. Before my heel can crash on the neutral finder, Prashant waves me on and I ride on, enjoying the sights and the beginnings of the usual pain in the butt.

At Indalvai, I finally get to have a long delayed Chai! By now, my legs are getting a bit cramped and my back paining a bit and I do need to have a water and Tea break so I pull over to the left at Indalvai, buy some Chotta Gold Flakes from a shop and three RE’s come along, the Blue Thunderbird in the lead. Prashant is all eyes and blazing headlight, but this time I wave him on, I do need that Tea and I do need some time for the bike to cool off.

I managed to have the Tea without having to remove the jacket and once on the road I finally get proof of AP10R8691 not being in the pink of its health. Why? Where the road is straight, perfectly flat and with nary a pothole on it, the bike seems to want to go to the edges, right into the fields. I am bloody pissed and am like, “wtf, the rear tyre is new, the rear sprocket and chain is new, my attitude to life is new, then why isn’t this bike the Don of the old?” I hold back a bit more of the throttle and gentle the bike along at 60kph and realize that this is no wobble from the wheel. And resign myself to riding along. After all there is a road ahead and I have all day to do something like 350 kms.

Riding alone is something that has never worried me and I have always had the bad habit of looking all around me when I ride. So, I do just that, enjoying the views from a motorcycle’s seat, cutting out the frills, holding onto a steady 80kmph, gulping mentally when the bike weaves and still grinning from ear to ear from the thrill of being on the road. The sunflowers are more than what I can count and I also spot small patches of what could only be flowering Onions while the rest of the canvas I am riding through is green, just transplanted, growing rice.

And then, I do not really know when, I am suddenly passing through fields and fields and fields of Millets. Some are green all through, some are green and ripening golden, some are green and ripened red. So, I decide to stop and get a couple of quick snaps for my memoirs. Back on the bike, after a quick smoke in shade (did not remove the leather Jacket) I mosey along, wondering if I should stop for breakfast or try and catch up with the rest of the guys. So I don’t stop at Balkonda (there are a couple of hillocks here that look as if they are a pebble heap made by some supernatural child) I don’t stop at Son Gad (a small and solitary fort on the right side before Nirmal), I don’t stop at Kadthal (there are three statues here, one of Mahatma Gandhi, one of Subhash Chandra Bose and one that looks like that of Lord Rama, but maybe is of Alluri Seetaramaraju), I don’t stop at Nirmal fort (bang opposite is Nirmal tank and man, oh man it was full of ducks and any number of other water birds) and I for once don’t stop in Nirmal either.

Once through Nirmal, I note that there is a A-1 Plaza on the left, just before Mahboob Ghat starts, but I don’t see any RE’s parked there, so I get going and hit the ghats. The fun of riding in the ghats is not for me, I am too intent on ensuring the bike doesn’t go off the road, but somehow manage to ride on, noting that the monkeys are out as usual (this stretch always has monkeys on the road, probably because most truckers throw Roti and other food crumbs at them) and that the stretch isn’t as green and cold as it was last time I rode through here. By now, it’s getting hot in the leather jacket so I don’t take the turnoff to Kuntala (AP’s highest waterfalls) either and ride on wondering if Prashant and the others are behind me or ahead of me. Finally, I stop at Adilabad, its around 11.30 in the afternoon and I see a SMS from Prashant, saying that they had stopped at a hotel Nirmal to my right, at around 9.45. I ask around for Hotel Nirmal (for all I knew that could be the name of a hotel), ask everyone who looks at me if three RE’s have passed by, they say “No”, so I decide to ride on.

While intent on roaming and wandering, I was aware that I needed to stop somewhere and activate the roaming on my cellphone, but somehow I went on avoiding doing that and finally I was already in Maharastra. Now I had another major worry, my bike hit reserve and the two bunks I come across were out of petrol too. But then, I am kind of used to hitting reserve all across the country (the joke is entirely on me) so I hunker down and ride on. Entering Maharastra, the first thing I note is that the roads are no longer the millpond smooth ones behind me, but patchy and broken in a number of places. This means that there is more than a weaving bike to now contend with, every vibration of the bike making me feel as if I am on a rack, driving a million needles into the nerves at my elbows, knees and wrists.

Ouch, but I do deserve all this pain, I have been stupid to not ride for so long, and must say I have got used to the comforts of city living. I finally tank up 30 kms into Maharastra, @ Bori, with probably a spoonful of juice left in the tank and its one more reason to like AP10R8691 even more.

I could do with a bit of a bite but I am still intent on catching up with the guys ahead so I ride on again, weaving bike, hot leather and groggy self, notwithstanding. By the by, it’s around 1.00 in the afternoon, and I get to see the mirages on the road, the sunlight is a blinding glare from the centernut of the handlebar and I am wondering why there is absolutely no shade for me to just park the bike and catch a nap. Then all of a sudden I see a roadside hotel and I stop as I am suddenly overtaken by the urge to gorge on some Vada Paavs. The hotel doesn’t have Vada Paavs, but Samosas will do for me as well, so I tuck into three, enjoy a tumbler of Chhai and send the SMS updates to brother and colleagues, “150 kms from Nagpur and its lovely to be on the road”.

The roads are bad on this stretch and the traffic is a bit heavy and the weather is getting hotter and hotter so I forget everything about stopping for photography, pass lovely bridges with water flowing under them, a couple of canals nicely bending and reach Hinganghat at 2.20. Pull over at a quaintly named place called Kisan Hotel, order the most basic fare – a plate of rice, two dry Rotis, Dal, Brinjal curry, Chaach and a plateful of Radish salad – and get around to SMSing Prashant and calling my brother in Nagpur. Brother is like, I will take two and half hours to reach Nagpur (Hinganghat is 90 kms from Nagpur), I am like are you mad, I will be there in one and half, finally we agree that I will be at Panchsheel Square by 4.30 and I ride on again.

The roads are a bit better now but then I get caught up at a Railway Crossing where everyone seems to be looking at me. Normal behavior from the onlookers, considering that I was in a black leather jacket, my helmet is a catchy Red and my Bullet is growling even at idle.

Prashant’s SMS was that they are somewhere at a A-1 Plaza before Nagpur (on the right) so I ride on, cross Jam and then see a A-1 Plaza to my right, turn and check the parking but there are no bikes. I am riding pretty fast now, I want to get to Nagpur in a hurry, the road is now four laned and superb and yet in passing I see stands of Bamboo all along, glowing an incandescent yellow, reminding me of “yellowtome”, the Nikon competition which I somehow managed to forget all about. And then, finally at around 4.15 I am in Nagpur and use a local phone to call up my brother, berate him and ask him to spare me the pain of going around in traffic on a heavy Enfield and he finally guides me to Ravinagar Square.

Brother comes and I get a warm hug. He has no exclamations of surprise or incredulity, (my family knows me fairly well) but he still wants to know what Rider Mania is. I tell him people from all over India ride over to meet each other and talk Bullets. He wonders if I have ridden down to party and offers me all the booze in Nagpur if I stay back with him. I am like, no you come along, we will party there. While this repartee is happening, we have had two teas each and I have another nice palate experience, having eaten a “Cutlet Paav”, it’s getting late so I take his leave and tell him I will try and catch up with him in the next two days. I am also anxious to get the bike checked ASAP, so brother doesn’t manhandle me and I ride out of Nagpur hunting for Star Key Point Resort. The resort is on the Amravati Road, pretty simple to find really, since its straight all the way from Ravinagar, but I manage to cross the Resort and ride 10 kms beyond. Reason being, I mistook the logo of Star Key to be an arrow pointing the way down towards Amravati :-)))).

I forget to say of course that I also had a sunset to shoot and was looking for a suitable place where I could shoot it through one of the numerous Orange groves. As usual, when in doubt, I managed to stop and ask; got directed by a friendly car driver, took the turnoff this time and 2 kms of riding through a nice interior road lands me up at Star Key Point Resorts.

Prashant and Deepa are already there and I meet Deep too, so I get around to giving the bike to the RE Service guys (thanks to Sachin) and divest myself of the heavy leather jacket and the boots. By the by, I link up again with Deepa and Prashanth, meet Mr. Bose, meet CP of GBC, hear that RoadSurvivors are some 400 kms away and so on and on. The RE guys say the problem is with the Rotor and Stator, they dismantle the Clutch case and then say it’s because the front sprocket (behind the magnet) had developed play. I get around to sending some more SMS updates in between meeting Dino and Anukaran (who did not recognize me since I was as clean shaven as him), registering for the event and meeting Dipesh and some other guys from 60kph.

By now, I am dog-tired but the Wanderlust guys had arranged for drinks for everybody on the eve of Rider Mania, so I have a couple of Beers and then we (me, Mr. Bose, Mr. Naidu, Deep and another guy who had a Tee Shirt saying “Eaashoo” ) have dinner together and man that was some session. We talked of everything under the sky, right from Biryani to cleaning bikes, to a love for the road and so on. Finally, I knew I had to crash, so I got myself an extra mattress and fell into it.

Thus, I arrived at my second Rider Mania. God, be kind

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