Friday, January 10, 2014

tales from the highway

i'm still settling down from an epic road trip. and yes, I have promised i'll blog the details. but before I dig into the facts and information, there's the fun part: anecdotes from the 2933 km ride. and yes, there are a few noteworthy tales from the numerous highways i rode on :)

the impolite overtaker

cruising down the mumbai - bangalore highway at around 100, it took me a few seconds to notice an indica that had crept up behind me and was waiting to pass. when i noticed, i waved it on.

the people in it must have misunderstood my wave, because as they passed me, one of the passengers rolled down his window and waved back. with his middle finger.

the polite bus driver

the mangalore - solapur highway is a 2 lane highway, mostly flat and straight, with a lot of trucks, relatively few buses, and for some reason, practically no bikes. since it's straight and flat, trucks usually get enough time to creep to their max speed, so overtaking is usually a long-drawn process. except for this one time, when i peeked out from behind a truck, saw an oncoming state transport bus, which, inexplicably, saw me and went completely off the road in a huge cloud of red dust. half the highway for my puny bike to overtake. and i wasn't even eager to overtake, but i definitely didn't want to insult that bus driver's generosity. hope he saw me wave through that cloud of dust, because I could only hear the bus growling through the dust on the shoulder.

pass fail

riding around on the narrow roads outskirts of hampi, i was about to pass a slow moving tempo, when i noticed an oncoming bike. far enough to safely overtake, but close enough to merit a flash of my headlight.

he must have misunderstood my signal though, because after i flashed my light, he signaled back with his right hand that my headlight was on.

bike in a haystack

the mangalore - solapur highway ride was my trip's longest (time-wise) leg. at some point, I thought I was quite zen with the highway. cruising at 100 ish, i'd slow down and wait behind trucks that were probably driving at full throttle, until a wee bit of frustration would kick in and I'd zoom out and overtake, and hold my speed until the next truck.

so i was pleasantly surprised when a truck i was cruising toward, abruptly turned off the highway onto the shoulder, right in front of me.

surprise turned into shock when i realized it was because there was a huge haystack blocking the width of entire national highway. and i had just a few metres before i hit it at a triple digit speed.

bracing for impact, our only reaction was frenzied chants of "oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck". until we went cleanly through the haystack.

funnily enough, we probably passed through atleast 10 more such haystacks on the highway. there'd usually be someone at the edges, trying to get the haystack onto one side of the road. I have absolutely no idea what was happening there.

head to head

haystacks weren't the only shocks we had to deal with on the mangalore - solapur highway. the absolute worst one was when I sped up to overtake a truck, with an oncoming truck in the distance, i was nearing 100 (as usual), and saw that i was about to ride straight into a huge (nay, enormous!) crater. 9-10 feet in diameter, a foot deep at the edges, deeper in the middle, with roughly dumped stone chunks inside.

i slammed my brakes and burned tracks, but to no avail. i was fully in the crater by the time i was slow enough to do anything useful with the handles. luckily, the bike held, the saddle bags held, my pillion held, my heart held, and the oncoming truck driver saw the crater and braked better than i did.

off-roading on a national highway

as we approached hospet down the mangalore - solapur highway, random haystacks and 10 foot craters came together to form one huge mess. at one point, we found ourselves alone on the highway.

that's right, all the other vehicles were driving on the mud shoulder on either side, which was actually in much better condition than the highway itself. being on a bike helps things somewhat, but even then, at some point I got tired of literally weaving across both lanes of the highway in search of tarmac. it was actually better to ride on the dirt at 5 km/h. wish I clicked photos: that strip of craters was definitely not a road, let alone anything worthy of being called a highway.

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