Thursday, September 3, 2009

Trip's over, Sunshine

Eight or nine years ago I walked into Max’s with my friend Fritz. We ordered beers. I took a big swallow of the delicious nectar and began to hiccup. I hiccupped through that beer and another. I held my breath, tried to burp, whatever and still the hiccups came one after the other.

Finally, Peddy the bartendress with the bloody mary mix that required three months of aging came over. She said she could make a concoction that would cure them or the beers were on her.

We watched her throw all kinds of stuff-soda, bitters, eye of newt, Tabasco, and who knows what else into a pint glass. She slid it to me and instructed me to drink it all at once. I drained the glass in one swallow, set it down and promptly hiccupped.

With a bellyful of that painful brew, I decided to walk home. When I got to the Glacier Creek Bridge I vomited fiercely, wiped my mouth and hiccupped. That’s the last time I vomited until the Welcome Dinner for the second India tour of 2009.

I didn’t feel ill at all. I just had to excuse myself mid-curry and find the men’s room. I vomited violently, though it’s always violent, isn’t it? I washed my face and went back to finish my meal. No bellyache, no loss of appetite, just had to get all that puke out, I guess.

Then in Kalpa I got up at five to take a pee. I’ve been standing to piss for quite a few years now with no fears but a fart while urinating turned out to be dangerous business. Explosion is a word that comes to mind. As long as I’m up and there’s loose stool running down my leg, I might as well shower.

Hotel rooms in India mount the shower, sink, and toilet all in one small area. There is no shower curtain or anything like that. You always need to consider the placement of the toilet paper before showering. This simplistic design makes clean up a breeze.

I spent the rest of the trip clenching my ass while pissing, just to be on the safe side. I’m happy to report as was well.

Here are couple of notables from the second trip. One of the kids was overwhelmed by the time we got to Chattru. It was the most technical day of riding so far and he felt that he was beyond his ability and no longer having fun.

So he hopped in the chase vehicle and Manoog(pronounced Manoosh) got on his bike in his jean jacket, cotton slacks, and penny loafers or maybe they’re rupee loafers here, I don’t know. He grew up in Dehli and learned to stand on a moped so the boy can ride. He sure looked ridiculous wearing Karl’s American head-sized helmet but he ripped through the water crossings, over the boulder fields, and into the mud like he was born on a bike. I couldn’t confirm it, but I think he was.

It rained hard that night and continued to pour while we rode. It doesn’t take much water to have a big effect in this steep topography. Mudslides oozed over the road in many places. Brown water ran down the tarmac making haystacks over six and ten inch rocks. I saw lots of land in motion and rocks tumbling. Mariska missed kissing a rock the size of a basketball with his front tire by centimeters.

On the last day, we woke up to falling snow and got an early start so the kids could do some last minute trinket buying when we got back to Manali. It had rained hard all night but changed to snow for us in the morning. Dodging moving rocks and going over mudslides around hairpins requires sharp reflexes, a clear mind, and the ability to feel one’s fingers.

I noticed the kids holding onto the cylinder head whenever terrain allowed and realized that their hands were probably much colder than mine, and mine were damn cold so I told Anu we needed a break.

We stopped in Sissu for some chai. Anu made the decision that we were done riding for the day and taking a taxi over Rhotang La (3990 m). None of the kids protested in the slightest. We stuffed nine people into an eight passenger van and were off. I drew one of the jump seats behind the axle and made contact with the roof using my head several times.

We picked up a bottle of beer for the driver, dropped off a cell phone battery at a random house, and picked up three more people which required lap sitting. The snow began to stick as we climbed and was six inches at the top, which is about 5 and a half inches more than you’d want on a bike, good call Anu.

Twice we went around mudslides that Tatas and buses couldn’t slide past. Only two vehicles behind our chase vehicle got through the last spot before the mud oozed all the way across and closed the road. Lucky kids, we were. They didn’t have time to get the trinkets, but that’s what saved us and it’s the thought that counts. I hope their significant others will understand.

I’ve had a wonderful trip, full of great people, mind-blowing scenery, world-class riding, and some much needed helmet time. But I gotta tell ya, I’m ready for a bacon cheeseburger in the land of trusted farts.

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