I put the last of necessary items in my backpack. My luggage load has gone down compared to the previous ride. But, another aspect hasn’t gone down – Mom still worries the same, if not more. I try to soothe her, quoting all my past experience with rides. She still goes on “You take care of yourself, especially on the highways. Many truck and lorry drivers are drunk and sleepy”. I get us two mugs of hot black coffee and give her a tight hug. In few minutes I’ll be leaving for Kerala. I am pretty excited as my rides were getting pretty local for few months now. A long one was more than needed. Finally, the alluring road lies ahead of me. I cruise along the Ambarnath Karjat Highway – this one joins the NH4 (Mumbai Bangalore Highway). 100 odd speed breakers and still counting. Sensing the usual terrible traffic ahead, avoiding the expressway stretch of 6 kilometers I crossed Lonavla and stopped at the stall beyond Lonavla toll naka for chai. This was the same place I visited previous Sunday with Jagdeep. Mr Sohan (the stall owner) recognized me as the same guy who came on last Sunday. Before I could utter a word, he handed over a stick of Classic Milds cigarette. Just unbelievable how this gentleman remembered my brand. The gigantic corporates of the world can learn a lesson or two in customer service from this man.
This time I had decided I’ll be riding through the night with just occasional halts to cure the weary limbs. I’ve always maintained the bond of bikers’ brotherhood is exceptional. It is only demonstrated when someone wake up at 4 am and comes down driving 25 kms from his home just to meet me on the highway. Mr. Sachin Bhiungade is a fellow biker who rides with the Pune based club Road Shakers. He is also a solo motorcyclist and had been on a solo ride to Kerala in March. I had a good chat with him for half an hour and he promised me any help I needed prior to venturing towards Kolhapur – Hubli highway.
My trip reached Karnataka in the wee hours of morning. That means I covered 425 kms in 6 hours…phew. It wasn’t a full moon night, but the moonlight sure made it feel that way. Now, though I have no werewolf curse that gets activated at sight of the moon; I did feel a strong urge to howl at the moon like a wolf would. Maybe it’s the virtue of my club (I ride with the Wolfpack India). Or maybe this is what it feels to be a Ghostrider?
Some 100kms after I crossed Hubli, I noticed 2 bikers on sports bikes. Now the rivalry between Royal Enfield riders and Superbike riders are legendary. We RE guys have this general tendency to dislike their attitude, while they zip past the lesser powered bikes at super speed. However, these guys were riding slow for their kind of bikes. I gave a thumbs up sign while crossing them, all the while watching them in the mirror expecting some kind of show-off behaviour. But none happened. Some 25 km ride later one biker drew up parallel to me and gave a thumbsup. I signaled them for a tea break. We stopped at the next stall on the highway and shared some really good conversations. I mentally kicked myself for stereotyping. The ride with them continued for another 250 odd kms till we reached Bangalore and finally bid adieu, but not before finishing another round of chai and sutta. I was happy with the real Brotherhood of Bikers I experienced in a short span of 12 hours.
Bidding them good bye on the Neelmangala Toll which is like the gateway to Bangalore, I was received by a social media friend Puneeth who had come to escort me to the toll naka. This followed up with a lunch session with a bunch of other social media friends Bhargav and Sujith. The time spent with them passed on so pleasingly that we even missed taking a picture together.
Mumbai to Bangalore, done and dusted covering a total distance of 1050 odd kms in a span of 14 hours. Phewww!! That was real quick.