After three or four months working hard on the line, I was yearning for a weekend getaway ---- Mahabs, Pondy came to mind, but I wasn’t fully for it.
Then came a call one Tuesday from Royal Enfield that they were planning a ride to Yercaud, and I just couldn’t be without grabbing the oppportunity. Just to be back again along with seasoned riders whom I rode with months ago to Yelagiri and back.
After enrolling for the trip, I bundled up some inner wear and an oil stained pair of trousers to embark on the journey to the destination 355 kms away from Chennai.
I kept my fingers crossed, because earlier that week when I registered for the ride, there were thundershowers and I thought rain would play spoilsport, but that wasn’t to be.
The sun woke up pretty to show itself from the clouds, and I did catch a little sleep that Friday night, as I was eager to be in the seat of my Enfield 500 the next morning.
My wife, as usual, tried to talk me out of the trip more because of the danger of me trying to play young and too adventurous by riding all the way to Yercaud.
But, my mind had been made up, and no amount of sweet or stern talk could make me give up. You live only once, so why not? I told that to myself and was up at the break of dawn to the only brand store of Royal Enfield at Adyar.
By the time I reached the store by six, there was already a bunch of riders more eager than me to kick-start. After several mugs of coffee and a smoke, I said hello to those who had been with me to Yelagiri.
Then came the others, some die-hard enthusiasts of Enfield bikes whom the Royal Enfield persons introduced to me. Then at eightish, the 31 motorcycles in all thundered and we were off for a trip that was to become most memorable.
We stopped near Poonamallee where we re-grouped to take the Bangalore highway. After a roll-call,the riders started their machines and off we went.It was a sunny Saturday with no signs of rain-bearing clouds all along.
The more experienced bikers led, with the less seasoned ones trailing behind, including my 2002 Standard 500. There were Classic 350s and 500s and the very young were on their Thunderbird Twin Spark.
Weaving in and out of trucks and buses, we hit the road to Sriperumbudur and it had been a smooth take-off till there. The distinctive thump rent the air as passersby waved us, thinking that we were on a mini-expedition, if you can call it that --- but it was customers--- Enfield bond that has been legendary and no reams of paper could ever be enough to write home about it.
Children along the roads, in school uniforms cheered us, some day in the future they too might be astride Enfields to show the world what the art of motorcycling is all about.
From here began the experience of being one with the machine. Cruising at 80 km/hr, we neared Kanchipuram when the chain of my machine snapped, and I hardly had the time to wave down the riders in front to tell them I had a problem.
Of course, the Enfield person who was at the tail-end (behind me to see that I was with the rest of the fleet) jammed his Thunderbird’s brake and came to the rescue.
He picked up the greasy chain in his gloved hands and said he would tow my bike and off we went with he perched on his machine with his right leg on my footrest pushing my 500 till a restaurant where the rest of the group was waiting for us two to arrive.
After a hearty breakfast, four or five riders who were part of the fleet said they could fix the snapped chain. For all you know, they may have been theoretically knowledgeable about attending to minor repairs and glitches.
But reality bites. Pity, Royal Enfield did not organise a back-up vehicle. So these five rolled up their sleeves to fix the chain with a spare link (thanks for the spares).
But the chain wouldn’t get linked. After half-an-hour or so, they thrust the job of towing my bike to the man from Enfield. Later, the rest of the group resumed their journey, and I glided against the breeze with the man and his steed pushing mine.
Overtaking lorries and buses was difficult for the two of us, as we broke our ‘bond’ (towing) every now and then to give way to cars and mini-trucks which were faster than us.
Nearing Ambur, the man pushing my bike stopped by and arranged for an Enfield mechanic, and he was spotted a mile away on a vintage Enfield nearing us.
He arrived at the spot and fixed the link to the chain and presto, I had the zeal to clip on my bike till Vaniyambadi. There we joined the other riders who had gone ahead of us. Their engines were cooling down, when I rushed to the fuel station to tank up, and rejoin them.
Everyone in the group patted by back and said they were happy to see me on the road alongside them. Off we took to the State Highway to Yercaud without much of a lunch, all we had were snacks and softdrinks during the short breaks we took to energise us further.
The State highway to Harur and Koopanur was full of craters and potholes, but the machines did not give up, though we had to when one of the riders had a flat rear tyre. Fortunately, there was a roadside vulcanising shop and we parked our vehicles for tea and re-charged ourselves.
By this time, it was nearing dusk, but from there to the foothills of Yercaud there was no stopping us. Because that was the schedule with a strict no-no to biking after sundown.
At the foot hills, we stopped and had egg dosas and ice-cream to prepare for the climb. Then began the ghat road, but the professional riders briefed us on the do’s and don’ts and how dangerous and tricky the hair-pin bends could be.
Refreshments over, we began the climb with a few taking snapshots of the scenic beauty. There was a thin mist coming down on us.
But we rode hoping to reach our place of stay by dark. And we did, the briefing helped us, each of the motorcyclists was on guard, as there were no barricades or retaining walls on either side of the ghat road.
It took us an hour or so to reach the plateau and after the long haul we parked our bikes in the resort and headed for our respective rooms to have a wash, only to return to the sumptuous buffet that awaited us.
The food was delicicious and we were later joined by groups from Puducherry, Madurai and Bengaluru. As we were tasting the food, we exchanged stories and past-experiences of motorcycling till the chilly night descended, and we took refuge in the fine, cozy rooms.
Some of them still speaking aloud of their dreams to get together once again in the future, if not sooner.The next morning, refreshed with pooris, pongal, idlis and coffee, we cleaned our bikes which were drenched in the midnight showers and tinkered with them to begin the return journey, the same way we had come.
This time, we split in two groups and thumped our way back to Chennai which we reached earlier than expected, at around sevenish.
We converged on Poonamallee again, and after an emotional farewell, each left with handshakes and hugs to get back to the daily grind after a long eventful weekend.