Today was hectic and dirty but most of us made it to Chandragargh.
We packed last night and woke early. Mariska and Bill walked over to Soni's at six a.m. Wrenchs and hammers flew, but the bikes weren't ready. As soon as they finished a bike one of us ferryed it to the hotel to be loaded. We loaded three bikes by 8, but didn't get the last one until 10:30.
Traffic was mad by the time we attempted to drive out of the alley. Anthony's bike quit because it was out of gas. Soni offered to send a boy to get a can of fuel, but the heat was already oppresive so I siphoned some fuel out of my tank just so we could get going.
We rode the same route to the gas station as yesterday, which was nice because there was plenty to think about aside from where the hell I was going. Bill pulled up to me at the petrol station asked how it was.
I told him, "My front end is fucked, I think the boys forgot to tighten something."
He said, "Mine too, I think it's the way they are." They aren't so bad once you get moving. It reminds me of driving a jet boat. You can't turn until you get up on step. Then it isn't so bad it's just that you need to fight the instinct to slow down.
Too bad it's almost impossible to stay on step if you ever get up there because traffic is utterly insane. One good thing is that now that the bikes are loaded they are about 18 inches wider. That doesn't seem like alot until you realize that we are splitting lanes, wedging tuk tuks, dodging cows, and rubbing concrete barriers.
Soni agreed to lead us out to Highway One. He was happy to do it because we are the only customers since his dad started the business that have even seen his shop. He supplies the bikes for companys like MotoHimalaya and none of them want their clients to ride in Delhi because leading a tour out of that city would be all but impossible. All Soni's clients start and end their trips in Shimla. If all goes well we will reach Shimla tomorrow.
I was toward the end of the pack, constantly chasing to get to the next intersection so the group didn't get spread too thin. We had a harder time because we were fatter than yesterday, the holes were harder to find, and closed sooner.
After a roundabout Soni took us on a shortcut the wrong way down a one-way. Two blocks felt like two years worth of riding. I saw Kagen turn down a dusty alley. We made eye contact and he took off.
I waited till I was sure Phil saw me and rode away. The alley bent to the right and when I came around the corner, Kagen took off.
Phil should have been twenty seconds behind me but showed up two minutes later. Mariska was MIA. Phil went back to look for him and I checked my watch, 10:53. Phil and Mariska were back in just a couple of minutes. Phil gave the thumbs up and I merged in a hurry.
I hoped to see one of the gang waiting on a corner or the beginning of a roundabout. Even standing on the pegs, I couldn't see over the mass of traffic. It didn't take long to realize that our group was split in two. I made my way to the edge of the road so Phil, Mariska, and I could have a pow wow.
Phil felt confident that if we beared in a westerly direction we would run into Highway One. Mariska and I wanted to go north because that was the shortest way out of Delhi, distance-wise. But Phil was more adament than we were confident, so we agreed to give Phil a chance and stay as close together as possible.
We let Phil follow his nose and he brought us to the Outer Ring Highway. It took what seemed like forever to get out of Delhi, trucks, buses, scooters(with four people on them), cars, bikes(that's pedal bikes loaded with vegetables,plywood, rugs, etc.), and tractors fought the heat and each other to get onto the main road. I might fly down to L.A. when I get back so I can have a leisurely rush hour experience.
After a bit of sand riding, we skirted a concrete embankment and found ourselves on Highway One, northbound. We pulled over to have a drink, a pee, and to make a phone call. We left a message on Bill's phone to let the rest of the group know we were all right.
Traffic thinned substantially the further we got from Delhi. That's not to say that it ever got slow enough for us to relax. When you mix trucks, tuk tuks with up to four people standing on the bumper, scooters, motorcycles, cars, pedal bikes with carts full of rebar, and walkers on a road full of potholes where cows have the right of way, you can't let your guard down.
Phil signaled that he wanted to eat and I gave him the thumbs up, not so much because I was hungry but because I needed a break. We found a roadside stand that serviced truckers and ordered lunch.
They probably don't get too many whiteys. All eyes were on us. But they were nice, the food tasted good, actually damn good, sphinter challenge be damned.
We saw the group go by and ran to the road to wave them down. Carl saw us, turned around, and made sure we were all good. We hustled into our riding gear. It's not to fun to put all that stuff back on when it's well over ninety degrees, let alone hustling into it.
I saw them on the side of the road and waved but carried on. We didn't get out of the city as early as we liked and had to think about darkness. Chandragargh is a million souls strong and I wasn't looking forward to arriving at night.
The group caught and overtook me. We headed to a fuel station. I counted heads and realized that we were still missing two folks. Kagen and Bill were last seen in Delhi. But the agreed upon meeting place was Picadilly's in Chandragargh so we carried on.
Somewhere along the way we lost the Brits but they turned up at Picadilly's. We called Bill on the off chance that he may be on the side of the road. He was and he was standing next to Kagen and Kagen's blown up motorcycle about fifty km north of Delhi.
They are 200 km behind us waiting for Soni's boys to bring a new cylinder head. We will see Bill and Kagen in Shimla.