Hmmm. We have reached the city. The trip is over. Overall, it was a good trip. Quite tiring but good nonetheless. I feel like writing about this trip. Don’t know why. I had so many trips last year but didn’t feel like writing about anyone. This was special in a way. May be last year I had too many of them and hence none of them was special. This one was after a long time and it turned out to be a pretty good one.
I should slow down a bit. These guys are stuck at the signal. I’ll let them catch up first. In the meantime, I can start telling the story. May be I’ll start from the starting. Start from what I was planning for this weekend.
I was planning to go for a bicycle trip from Ooty to Mysore. 160 kms in a day. Should have been a good experience especially considering that the weather today is beautiful and very apt for bicycling. But I didn’t have the enthu for cycling. May be I had planned it too much in advance and stripped it off all the spontaneity which happens to be the most fun part of a trip. Probably another reason was that so many people showed initial enthu but everybody withdrew. Except Ripple who didn’t withdraw but didn’t seem to have the enthu too. So, I also lost the enthu and cancelled the trip. Instead I did the default thing for a free weekend, rode my bullet to a far off place.
Yeah, I can see these guys now in the rear view mirror. I can resume the normal speed. Bangalore looks pretty green. Greener than most of the places I rode to this weekend. How come I never noticed that this road from IISc to Sankey tank is so green? Probably because whenever I ride through it, I am preoccupied with getting to some place. Add the chaotic traffic to that and well, the end result is I never noticed that it’s a green and beautiful road. There is little traffic now because of sunday and I am in a peaceful mood conciously looking around for beauty. And that’s why I must have noticed it now.
I have observed that the biking as an activity can be classified in some broad categories:
Get There Biking - This form of biking is primarily concerned with getting to a place. You get onto your bike and ride off to some place to run errands or to meet someone or to do some stuff. Your mind is preoccupied with what you are going to do once you get to the place you have started for.
Leisure Biking - A beautiful place. Scenic and serene. That’s mostly the place where you do leisure biking. Your concern is not getting to the place you are getting to. In fact, the thought of reaching the destination is somewhat distasteful as the journey will be over. This kind of biking is limited to short distances as not all the roads are scenic. In fact, some time try Bangalore Mysore road in scorching heat. Leisure is the last thing that will come to your mind.
Thrill Biking - Speed. Sharp turns. Overtaking. Quick maneuvers. You have a thrilling time while biking. You are completely focused on what is there on the road. Zoooom, whoooosh, chiiii!! This is thrill biking.
Stress Biking - Ever went from Kemmangundi to Hebbey falls? Probably they planned to make a road there but just left the project after cutting the hills. It’s a hilly road with all the twists and turns, ups and downs. You won’t see any sign of tar and there loose stones (bigger ones) on the entire road. After riding those 12 kms to hebbey falls and back, my rear wheel had lost its circular shape and my hands were all red and aching trying to keep the handle straight. This is stress biking. It’s a torture device for the machine and a challenge for the man. Note, there is a little bit of thrill invovled here. But it’s mostly challenge and stress.
Endurance Biking - This one is like a test of endurance of man. How much discomfort can your body sustain? Me and Ripple once did 1000 kms in three days. 1000 kms by itself is not a big figure but we did it on the worst roads we have ever seen and in the worst heat that has ever hit us. And we were doubling! By the way, once Ripple told me that a bunch of guys did Pune to Hydrabad and back continuously. That’s endurance biking.
Biking Nirvana - This one is not a separate biking category as such. It is more like a sum of all of above and much more. Biking Nirvana is biking for the sake of biking. Not to have the thrill (though you do have thrill), not to have the leisure (though you do leisure biking), not to test your endurance (though that can happen eventually). You ride to ride. You like a turn, you take it. You like a road, go on on it. You like the forest, stop and take rest. You find it funny how the paint of a milestone has faded away, you shoot a photo as memoir and move on. You don’t have much of a plan. It’s a rough blueprint. I am starting on this road to begin with and would probably go to a place X and I need to be back in 3 days so that I can go back to office. That’s all the plan you start with.
The reason I liked this trip so much was that it was in last category. And I was conciously aware of it. This thought stuck me while cruising from Mangalore to Udupi. I wonder if Robert Pirsig presented some similar stuff in ‘Zen and the art of motor cycle maintenance’. I don’t know. I don’t remember after 7 years what all he said about biking. What I do remember is that more than biking he was saying something else which he considered far more important but most of the people just took it as a biking book.
On the next signal, I should tell Ripple that we’ll be taking left before Windsor Manor as that road is shorter. The signal is quite close now so I’ll indicate that I want to talk to him.
While riding to Udupi, I was in a reverie of a sort. Of course I was attentive to riding and aware of all the tankers coming from the opposite direction and and I was watching for any Sumo/Qualis that comes from behind. But above all, I was riding. I was cruising at 80. And when you are cruising at a constant speed, your mind is flooded with all the random thoughts. Some fragment of memory or some observation about your surroundings or some deep pondering on an otherwise meaningless subject. By the way, this is one interesting aspect of riding. All this while, you’ll be thinking one thing or the other but after the ride is over, if someone asks you what all were you thinking, you’ll be at a loss. You’ll wonder what you were thinking and then just manage to say ‘nothing’!
So, my mind was full of some random thoughts and then this one thought of different types of biking stood out. And I started pondering over different types of biking. Even after reaching Ududpi, while we were relaxing on the beach under the shade of a short coconut tree, if Ripple had asked me what all did I think about, I would have thought for a while and would have said ‘nothing’. But I did think but just that thoughts were random and didn’t have any organization. And these thoughts continued to be so till the night in Chikmagloor where I joined the pieces together.
Aha! Bangalore Bistro!! It’s a nice place. Sometime, I’ll come with Vaishali here. For now, I’ll keep the program as decided and head to pizza hut only. Cunningham Road being one way from the other side, we’ll have to go around it via Millers Road and Queens Road.
We decided to have Pizza for lunch as it has become a symbol of modern urban life. Not that everyone in bangalore goes around eating Pizzas to have an urban life. There is a reason and a little bit of history why we treat Pizza as a symbol of modern urban life per se. Long time back, in my college days, we did a trek to Samsi Jungle in Himachal. There were 5 of us (including me and Sahu). Once the trek was over, me and Sahu wanted to use the remaining vacations for going to Kullu-Manali, whereas, two of the other chaps had had enough of mountains, jungles, dust and hard life. They wanted to go back to Delhi and do some urban stuff like eating Pizza. Later, Sahu made a joke out of it and eventually me and Ripple started treating as a symbol.
“Get us a 12” pizza, half of it Veggie supreme and half feast with garlic bread.”
“Anything thing to drink sir.”
“Yeah, one mountain dew, one pepsi, one nimbu pani.”
“Yeah, whatever you call nimbu pani.”
“You have ordered for a 12” pizza half ‘n’ half with Veggie Supreme and feast with a portion of garlic bread. One Mountain Dew, One Pepsi and one Lemonade. Your pizza will take 15-20 minutes. blah blah blah.”
I hate this mechanical speech. But then if I speak the same stuff over and over 100 times a day, I would also lose the naturality in my voice. Anyway, we are here to have Pizza out of a whim (and Navin is not even aware of why me and Ripple desired Pizza so much), and while we wait for the Pizza to come, I can go on with the story of past 44 hours.
So, having cancelled the original cycling program, I still had to do something on the weekend. While Vaishali and Aarushi are not here, the house looks too empty. I had to go out. And what could be better than a long bike ride; just for the sake of a bike ride. For making a program, you need someone who says “Let’s go” and another one who says “Yeah, let’s go”. In our case, I tend to say “Let’s go” and Ripple always responds with “Yeah, let’s go”. And once it is decided that you are going, some other will show interest. Some out of those may actually join and the rest will opt out for various reasons (including enthusiasm). Navin was the guy who joined us in this trip and Chakri opted out because his shoulder had just healed and it was not advisable for him to go on long rides.
It was Navin’s first trip. And for a first trip, it was a hard one. On the first day itself, we rode throughout the night. The road was good and that was the only consolation. But riding throughout the night doesn’t really sound very romantic to someone first time on a long ride. And so was the case with Navin. Of course, we didn’t plan to ride through the night. It just happened that way. Our original plan was to leave Bangalore at 4:30 PM on friday, reach Sakleshpur by 9 PM and stay there for the night. Leave for Udupi saturday morning via interiors of Karnataka (instead of taking the Mangalore highway). And be back by sunday night (or sometime on monday if we find ourselves short of time). So, that was the tentative plan. What road we’d take from Udupi and where all we’ll spend time, where we’ll stay on saturday night; all these things were left undecided for runtime decisions.
But whatever little plan we had, that also went awry as we started at 6 PM instead of 4:30. We reached Sakleshpur at 11:30 PM and we couldn’t find any acco. The staff in all the hotels was sleeping and responded with just two words ‘room illa’ (i.e. no room available). I believe that it was out of sheer laziness that we were not given a room there. The staff wouldn’t have liked the idea of being disturbed from deep sleep. And it wouldn’t have surely been their idea of hospitality/professionalism/work-culture/blah to show us the available room, make neccessary arrangements (i.e. providing extra bed, towels soap etc), opening the register and making an entry for us. They would rather choose to continue sleeping and that’s the choice they made anyway.
Well, let me be honest here. We did find one place in Sakleshpur where we could stay. And Navin was desprate to sleep there (he was a first-timer for a bike ride), Ripple was inclined to sleep there and I was determined not to spend even 5 more minutes in that room. It was dingy, stinking of alcohol and overall a very very shady place. We decided (or let me say I forced everyone) to move further till we find a place to sleep.
And here rest of the plan went awry. There was no point of entering the interiors at midnight looking of an acco. We had to abandon the original plan of reaching Udupi via interiors as we wouldn’t have found any acco before Udupi itself. So, we moved towards Mangalore looking for a hotel whose staff is not too lazy to give us a room. And we didn’t find such place before Mangalore.
“Hey, I am already full. You can take this piece.”, I said. Hmmm. Navin didn’t protest. I am sure he knew that the piece was too small to be cut in halves. We’ll go to my house first so that I can take my cloths from Ripple’s bag. And after that, warm water bath and relax!
Hmmm. Nothing feels better than relaxation after a long journey. And in Mangalore, we could find a hotel with clean white bedsheets and a big well lit clean bathroom. It was cozy and we could crash on the comfortable bed. We slept for four hours straight. That was the relaxation we had at Mangalore. Enough to keep us going for the next day’s journey.
Our plan was disturbed. It wasn’t so disturbing for us as we didn’t have much of a plan to begin with anyway. We were to bike and that’s what we did; before and after Mangalore.
Ride to Udupi was great. It wasn’t scenic. And the sun was harsh. But we had a good time riding to Udupi. For one, it was a welcome change to ride in the day as the biking was effortless. Also, we could experience more of that Biking Nirvana for which we were out on the road.
On the way to Udupi, I thought about a lot of things. It was mostly random in nature. I’ll get a thought and for a while I’ll follow its line. Just then, I’ll see a milestone passing by which will evoke completely different thoughts in my mind and I’ll start following those thoughts. And then I’ll see an old man pushing his cart loaded with lots of misc stuff and that will evoke some past memories and my mind will start floating in a fantasy. My mind was smoothly moving from thoughts to memories to fantasies. The movement was mostly so slow and smooth that I could notice it and be amused too. Sometimes, I would think about something. Sometimes, a thought will involuntarily cross my mind. And I’ll observe this new thought with amusement; sometimes relinquishing and sometimes sticking to the old one…
It’s biking nirvana. I can’t describe it. Any attempt would be futile because if you haven’t done it, you won’t know it. Simple.
“We did 880 kms in 44 hours. That averages to 20 kms per hour. Pretty good amount of biking.”, Ripple calculates and discloses to us.
Yeah, that’s pretty good amount of biking we did. The only time when we preferred leisure over biking was at Udupi beach. Udupi beach is neither commercialized, nor virgin. It attracts very few tourists and none of them comes close to the beach in a sunny afternoon.
It is mostly free of all those beach side stalls that sell nimbu-pani (i.e. lemonade), coke/pepsi, bhutta, nariyal pani and all the other stuff that you get at crowded places. At the same time, there is a pretty good resort right on the beach that is clean, green, airy, and open. So, you get to enjoy a clean beach, free of all the crowd and all the commercial vendors selling stuff to the crowd from a sea facing restaurant.
Udupi turned out to be a pleasent surprize. The feeling of pleasure was hightened because at any point in our journey, we didn’t picture ourselves having a good time there. Before we reached the Udupi beach, Udupi was just another dot on the route we were taking. We were not going to Udupi. Udupi was on our route. That was the difference. So, whatever good time we had at Udupi was a bonus.
Ripple wanted to stay at Udupi. And I understood why. It’s difficult to describe it but it’s kind of this. When you get to a good place while biking, you should just stop and relax and enjoy the place you have reached. You should forget that you still have a long journey in front of you. When you are in that state of biking nirvana, all that seems important is the present moment and how you feel at that time.
But Navin was not enthusiastic about the idea of riding 450 kms the next day. He was interested in distributing the distance rather uniformly over the time we had. And because the idea of getting back on road was not at all distastful, we left the Udupi beach and headed towards Chikmagloor.
The ride to Chikmagloor was again mostly Nirvana like. This is the ride during which some initial notions about Biking Nirvana started emerging in my mind. I have been riding for a couple of years now. And I was trying to find the single common element in all my rides. The chief question for which I was looking for an answer was ‘what is it that prompts me to go on these long rides?’. The answer I got. First a vague and then a definite shape emerged.
“Anything else sir.”
“No. We are done.”, said Ripple.
Eating Pizza was a good idea after all. It’s good that people didn’t notice or care about our state. Among all these people with clean faces and clean cloths, we look like not part of the civilization. Anyway, we were fine once we were sure that Pizza Hut staff doesn’t care about our condition.
We left Chikmagloor at 6 am on sunday and headed to Halebidu via Belur. The ride to Belur was fantastic to say the least. For one, the road is very good. It’s not scenic but it’s serene. And we could catch the early morning time for riding. The time when the night is over but the day is yet to begin. The time which paints the country side in a bluish grey color. The time when your surroundings look so fresh and yet a bit lazy. I hate myself to say this but it was like the time when BIOS is just loading the operating system. Too bad a joke I guess…
Halebidu was another good experience. I have been to Belur before but not to Halebidu. It was in ruins but much more majestic. It reminded me of ‘Second System Effect’ as described in Mythical Man Months. Looks like after making Belur temple, the king got too ambitious. He wanted a much grander temple to be built with much more sculpting. The project overshot the time estimates (I am sure he didn’t have budget constraints ;) and it couldn’t be completed. Historically speaking, there are other reasons why it couldn’t be completed.
The ride from Halebidu to Bangalore was again a very smooth one. Good road, little traffic and just right weather. It’s sunday afternoon and we are back.
Oops. I forgot to show the left indicator. Good that Ripple and Navin now remember that we’ll be taking left from here for my house. Oh, I am dying to take a hot shower. It’s 3 now. The house will have some dust on the floor. But that’s ok. Shanti will come tomorrow to clean it. I can live with dirty floor for a day. And I’ll give the rolls for development today itself. I’ll post them on flickr. Nice site for sharing photographs. I think I’ll use tags for my photographs. Guess, I’ll use halebidu and udupi tags. I can also use boat tag for the photographs of that blue boat. Hey wait! How fast my mind has switched its line of thought. From biking nirvana to flickr.com and folksonomy. Did you see? I just took this turn here and I got the feeling that I have reached home. I got the feeling that the trip was over. And well, my mind stopped thinking about biking nirvana; all those random thoughts just disappeared and I have a very clean picture in front of my eyes about what am I going to accomplish in next couple of hours.
Well, I guess, it’s time to wrap up the story. When I started telling the story, I planned to explain biking nirvana through different experiences of this trip. I planned to delve deep, express and make you feel it. I planned to rip it apart and show you different elements of this state and how all these elements come together to form the state called biking nirvana.
But now I have decided against it. Why? Because however hard I try, I’ll not be able to do it. Because I’ll not be able to make you think what I thought, make you feel what I felt, make you see what I saw. To see the country side covered in morning bluish grey color, to face the warm wind on your face, to feel the cool wind in the green cover of forests, to have deep ponderings on random subjects and random thoughts on meaningful subjects, you have to get on your bike and ride. That’s when you can know what Biking Nirvana is…