July had come and gone, with August too threatening to disappear at warp speed. It had been hectic scenes, with the past few months having been both, agonizing as well as fruitful. The latter since there have been travel opportunities galore all thanks to things kicking into high gear on the work front. Unfortunately this meant that the window of opportunity to head out onto the open road with my own wheels was looking rather slim. Things really got to a stage where I had walked past the bike without disturbing the cover for a really long time. Then one morning, I couldn’t take it anymore. Went home and dusted the cobwebs off the helmet, donned the jacket & swapped into the ‘other’ pair of shoes. Called in at work as I was stepping out the door, and told them that I was taking the ‘longer shortcut’ to the office today – half hearing them groans and smiles on the other end as I disconnected the call.
Taking the covers off her, I gasped on seeing just how much we’d missed each-other. She threw her usual starting tantrum – an all too familiar routine that occurred after a long gap between rides. Some five minutes of coaxing and cajoling her, she was back to her sweet purring self, idling as though she’d never been neglected at all. The plan was simple – to head out into the trails leading into the hills in the backyard (well sort-of). This way, I could still make it well in time for the post-lunch session at work. Little did I know just how far from reality this would turn out to be. Riding out onto the tarmac, it was a lovely feeling watching the smile start to form on the face. Most people have this need for speed, the urge to twist the throttle to its stops, just to see how quick their machines will go. Call me a pragmatist or chicken (depending on how full the glass at your end is), but I tend to find far greater joy in moving at a pace that’s brisk enough to get the breeze into the face, even as it allows me to soak in the beauty around me.
Overcast skies greeted us as we fell into our rhythm, unstressed motor leading to a steadily relaxing rider who was starting to forget about the work getting piled up in the inbox. The trip-meter was still into the double digits when something clicked in the head and I jinked left at the next turn-off. The straight wide roads were left behind, having been swapped for the narrower, twisty unknown – well, not quite, but still. The singular joy of riding along interior roads is that they bring you a new experience each time. In the span of mere months, the dry tarmac had disappeared under the rain. Small puddles dotted the road, the surface was broken in places and as I went further, there was a lot of brown and darker greys mixed in with the regular shades.
Progress was slow, but I was happy. The thing about being on the road is that it gives you time to recoup, gather your thoughts, streamline things and ponder over stuff in a way that’s just impossible back in the regular cycle of life. No – I’m not going to go all Zen on you or get philosophical either. It’s just something that regular road-trippers would identify with, that’s all. The steady pace was doing wonders for us. Taking it easy on the straights, admiring the many shades of nature as it changed colours under the monsoon skies. Corners were a different thing where temptation would get the better of me. The block treads on the CEAT’s gripping true even after having gone past their half-life were the singular reason why I could stay committed, confident in the fact that she would keep me right side up every time.
The mind began to wander off a bit too much, so it was time to pick a spot and catch a breather. A water-body looming up in the distance was inviting enough, and seemed like a good place to gather the thoughts. The approach was a bit rocky but she remained well within her slipping point. It was amazing just how well she’d aged. The next hour or so was spent snacking on the local delicacies and catching up on the gossip – kidding on the latter part. You see, I was the outsider, the alien in the riding gear, making his way through a place on Earth, where people of his ilk seldom traversed. It as soon time to return, not to work, for that point had long passed, but to the routine of everyday life – the batteries recharged and a renewed grip on things.
Things somehow felt different on the way back. I found myself paying increasing attention to my steed. She’d stretched her legs after a long break and I was cautiously checking for any new, unwanted sounds – as if to see if her aging internals were in need of some TLC again. A carb tune-up was in the works for sure, along with an oil-change, but there was little else that was needed. People tend to grind their machines, neglecting service intervals and letting niggles go unattended until it is too late.
Like my machines though, I’m a tad old school in my beliefs. A wise, learned rider had once let me in on his secret during my formative riding years and since then, the ‘take care of your wheels and they’ll take care of you’ motto had never let me down. So apart from regular oil changes, cables get replaced long before they get frayed – resulting in a record where not a single cable has snapped on me in the middle of a ride. I’ve never gotten over the great Indian habit of riding on tires till their metal under-wires have popped out either. Two monsoons is how much I use up my tires till, swapping them out diligently even when it means sticking to the tried and tested CEAT-tire combo that have supported me with their stable grip and puncture-proof habits for thousands of clicks on the odometer. The same goes for the chain-sprocket set too, erring on the side of reliability and replacing it a thousand odd kilometers in advance.
Hosing down the dirt and grime that evening, I was on a high that only a road tripper would understand. There was a fair bit of explaining to do at work the next day, but the good-folks that they were though, they let me off. Not before dropping in a gentle reminder to check the phone at regular intervals the next time the open road called 😀
I’m reasonably sure that I’m not the only one to have experienced a similar day when the urge to get on the road outweighed all the work that’d greet you the next day. Also, you’ll are far more learned folks with oodles of experience that I can learn a trick or two from. So regale me with your tale someday and maybe I too can learn through your words.
Thanks for stopping by…