The story behind the ride “Know yourself before you head out to discover the world” I don’t know who said this, or if someone said it at all. But this became my prime force to undertake the ride, the story of which I am going to share. It must be evident by now that I am an ardent motorcyclists. Around two years ago, I had stopped riding in the truest sense when I opted for an assignment abroad. The assignment was optional, although long term; but it came to me at a point of life where I was looking to escape my demons rather than face them. Two years and tens of thousands of air-miles later, I returned back but my demons awaited me. My plan was set. I needed some answers from life. I needed a direction. I needed a long ride. The Road had been my teacher for long. I read the signs it throws at me and try to see an analogy they hold in real life. I wanted to unravel some jumbles that life was stuck in using these small fortune cookies that The Road had in wait for me. As we go on together on this journey, I will share my interpretations of the messages from The Road with you. Fate had its own plans for me. My two buddies who were supposed to join me for the ride were forced to take a rain check a few weeks before due to their personal and professional commitments. I moved back the dates of the ride to suit me and went into consultation with the members of BULLZzz to finalize routes, and seek advice based on their experience from the ride last year. BULLZzz is the name chosen by the group of motorcyclists for themselves, who share a common passion of riding their motorcycles to beautiful destinations. I cannot thank my friends enough for the immense help they provided in terms of advice, riding gear, a postpaid connection, heck, even a place to stay until I finished my trip. They had their apprehensions, yet they trusted and supported my decision to ride alone. Going into flashback, some members of my office may remember me as the guy who used to provide some entertainment by sharing our group’s weekend escapades and a couple of longer rides as well. Members of the group turned up the flame brighter and did some momentous rides: Sikkim (which I just missed), two trips to Bhutan, and to the Mecca of all motorcyclists in India, Leh-Ladakh. They went on to tease me with the pictures from the rides, and I was dreaming though the eyes of my friends. A temporary measure to keep my flame burning was to buy a pocket-rocket, i.e. a superbike at a client location abroad and push the speed limits for a while. The small island nation, however, had its limits in terms of size, and it would have required me at least eight rounds of the roads, tip-to-tip, to achieve what we like to call a normal day’s ride. Back to the present, I returned back to India and had around twenty days in hand to prepare for the ride. Preparation is required at multiple levels for the rider and the motorcycle. I myself had to prepare myself physically and mentally before I could seriously consider undertaking such a trip. The most I had ridden till date was 1300 km on a road trip, riding on non-consecutive days with two friends on a reliable Japanese bike through inhabited places. This trip demanded just the opposites; at least 2000 km, riding back to back for days, alone, through places uninhabited most of the year, on a bike the British left behind to torture the Indians even 65 years after freedom from their rule. Psyched, aren’t we? That accounts for preparing myself mentally. Friends helped a lot with that, assuring me nothing would/could/should go wrong in unmanageable proportions. We’ll see! I was supposed to get back on my cardio regime while abroad, but lethargy was my best friend there. I started when back in India, too late for the ride. I managed to do some running on the days that I had left with me, either on the roads in the office campus, or near the place where I stayed. Swimming would have been good to make lungs stronger, as the diluted atmosphere requires a lot of energy just to breath normally. A proper training should have included some exercises to strengthen the core, which I dutifully skipped. And how did I pay the price later on! Next comes the other part of the equation for the perfect ride: the bike! A day after arriving in BBSR, I took the train to my hometown Jamshedpur and drove down on the way back. My poor ride had suffered a lot in the hands of its caretakers, but I had blind trust on the machine and didn’t think twice before the ride. The riding gear and tools were loaded and I took some 11 hours to drive down the 400-something km. The bike was handed over to service center for the routine maintenance, plus fixing niggles I had noticed. A trip was made to Cuttack to get some genuine spares direct from the wholesale shop. A set of offroad tyres were shipped from Delhi by a college friend and mounted on the bike. I learnt to unmount tyres, replace a punctured tube with a new one and mount it back – survival on the road in the middle of nowhere! The authorized mechanic gave a brief how-to session on replacing some vital cables. No hands-on there. Collecting the items required for the trip was the last phase. Bike was shipped by then, along with some luggage, all the way to Jammu via GATI, a renowned logistics company. They charge a bomb but they deliver safely. I went around hunting for toiletries, medicines, eatables, clothes, more spares, quick-fix items, a cheap bag to carry them all, etc. The list was huge, will happily share if someone needs it to prepare for their ride. Document copies, originals, storing them safely. To think back now would surely give me a headache. Let’s move on to what I would call Day - 1, when I undertook the journey to Kolkata from where I was supposed to catch my flight to Jammu. The damned Dhauli express had it’s up and down trains at nearly the same time. And it was around the same time I lost my common sense that day. I rushed to platform 4, lugging my bags and helmet, and boarded the train, only to realize it was heading to Puri. As I was getting off the train, the loudspeakers boomed to announce the arrival of the up train. I rushed back to platform 1, panting in the heat and staggered into my coach. The journey was dull and I landed at Howrah at the right time. The Yatri Nivas at HWH station was luckily having a vacancy and I bunked up there for the night. After a couple of tries to capture the Howrah Bridge at night, I had my parceled biryani and dozed off, for the next day had to start early.