Dangerous Ride 2: The Century That Wasn’t

CYCLING STORIES

There is a ladybird in the corner of my rear-view mirror. I didn’t think for a moment that you can’t see reflections of flying objects in the mirror, let alone ladybirds. How wonderful it would be if I could see reflection of birds and insects in the mirror, I can’t keep thinking, until I saw the ladybird grow and manifest itself as an SUV. I heard the horn blaring and I stretched my hand to indicate that I am turning right. After the turn, I noticed that the sky is slowly turning to yellow, and then to golden brown. My pace had slowed down.

Shut up head. Home’s hardly ten kilometers away. I pacify myself and continued pedaling to a certain point where the urge to lie down somewhere on the roadside became so strong in me. My visual became brown to grey and finally black. Later when I managed to open my eyes, I called home. “I’m sending my coordinates, come and get me” was all I could mumble.

It was a beautiful morning. I started off at 6:30 with the aim to revisit one of the most beautiful and picturesque roads in the entire National Capital Region: the Faridabad – Gurgaon Hill Highway. I am not new to the road, but every time I ride, there is somethig new about it.

The stretch between Kalindi Kunj to Pul Pehladpur in Southern Delhi is the stretch where you find the maximum number of drivers taking the wrong side of the road. You have to steer through that wrong traffic too. Life’s like that.

Once you turn towards the Pali Road and start heading towards Gurgaon, you suddenly start getting the feel of passing through the wilderness. Yes, that is where the Aravallis begin. The hill highway that passes through this low mountain range doesn’t have street lighting for most of the route. While passing through Pali Road, you could hear the voices of peacocks and see packs of monkeys playing with their little ones. There are also several stray cows waiting for benefactors to feed them. You can see expectations their eyes. They observe each passing car, waiting for someone to get out and throw some food at them. I pedal through peacefully.

All through Pali Road, I saw trucks of all sizes and shapes passing by, making me wonder where all these monsters are going. There is a crusher zone, where they crush rocks to make gravel for construction. Pali road ends at the Crusher Zone area where it crosses the Gurgaon – tryFaridabad Road. I take a 90-degree turn to the right, climbing towards the peak of the hill. This is a populated area, and buses do ply on this road, picking up and dropping off small-town people all the way. This road is paradise for the typical Delhi motorist, because this is the road with the least number of monitored traffic intersections per kilometer in the whole of the National Capital Region.

 

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This road is not just picturesque, it has the least number of traffic intersections per kilometer in the whole of the NCR

Cyclists in Delhi consider this road as ideal for practicing endurance tests and climbs, because there are several steep climbs in this route. Once you become part of the traffic and try to match their speed levels of 35 kilometers (approx. 21.75 miles) per hour, drivers can’t ignore you. A few road bikers pass me through on flashy Bianchis, Cervelos and Cannondales, shouting “Good morning.” I return the greetings and try to catch up with them, knowing well I can’t match their flight. Though MTBs are not made for speed, I fly through some impeccable free-falls and some great climbs to reach Khushboo Chowk, where I started my return.

I tried to park on one of the bus shelters, hoping it would be abandoned, just like the way the bus shelters in Greater Noida are. To my surprise, I saw people walking up to the bus shelter to wait for buses. So, I quickly munched my bite and resumed the ride. During the way back, I couldn’t see any tea seller on the road. All food carts were displaying boards for colas and bottled water. That’s how they make the best out of the burning Summer. I longed very much to see a tea seller. I generally don’t like colas. Tea is a good way to rejuvenate the spirits, fight back the summer heat and would also spark some good conversations.  The summer sun started burning me up (41 degrees C / 106F on average) and the hot headwinds couldn’t dry my spirits very much. But I understood that if I stay more on the road, then it could spell trouble.

Just as I was about to complete a climb, a signboard flashed in front of my eyes. It caught my attention within the fraction of a second, and I turned towards it. On white surface it was written “Kulhad chai” (tea in earthen pots). As I rolled into the shop premises, I found it quite interesting. The guy who came out said they are just opening up but assured that the tea would be ready in a few minutes. He invited me in and I found this beautiful old cat, peacefully resting under a chair. “She has three children, and she fights with dogs to keep them safe” says the person who brought me the tea. Cats are a rare sight in Delhi, and I love to see them. I asked them permission to take a few pics of her. She wasn’t very happy in my disturbing her morning nap, but stayed still for me with a slight displeasure in her eyes. I packed up the kulhads and put it in my bag for my little one. He enjoys painting earthen vessels.

 

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She stayed still for the camera with a slight displeasure in her eyes

On the way back, the wind kept getting warmer as I passed each kilometer. Not just my lips, the wind has sucked out the moisture from my throat too. I can’t go on for more. With each passing turn I expect, I’ll reach that curve where the familiar shikanji cart is parked. A few more kilometers and I found it. The cart owner initiated small talk and was pleasantly surprised when I said I am coming from Gurgaon and shall have to reach Noida before lunch. I gulped down two glasses, thanked and paid him.

Reaching back to Pul Pehladpur lets you forget all the great time you had till then and leaves you to face the harsh reality. Despite the hot wind and near-burning sun, the roads are choked with dense traffic. Yet the flow stops when the lights turn red in traffic intersections, unlike in Noida. I am extra careful while passing under the Metro Rail stations of Badarpur and Mohan Cooperative since I have faced near shaves from vehicles of all sizes and shapes. That is how you become a better cyclist.

I wanted to shush my throat when I felt dry but had to give in while crossing the Sarita Vihar Metro station. Another few gulps of water and I am about to leave. “Wooow!” was the surprise of the water-seller when I said, I am returning from Gurgaon. He wanted to know where I am heading. “A little more into Noida,” I said. He smiled back. I get back on the road to climb the Sarita Vihar flyover. If you are traveling to Noida for the first time through this route, it is easy to be confused because of the conflicting sign boards on display. The old board which suggests that you ride under the flyover and turn right to Noida is brighter, larger and quickly catches the eye of the unsuspecting driver, whereas the new board directing you to climb on the flyover and take a left turn mid-way is dull, small and placed in a location that you will definitely miss. The old route was closed a few years ago, but they haven’t removed the signboard. So here you can see several cars rushing in the reverse in order to make up for their lost time. I know it and I carefully avoid them.

RouteMap
The route map

The Kalindi Kunj traffic intersection is swarmed by vehicles of all sizes and shapes. I’m careful not to get hit. I lower my gears to gain more grip in the less than walking speed of traffic flow. That huge procession leads all the way to the Yamuna bridge.

Something is happening. Is it my legs? I don’t know. A few motorcyclists nodded and smiled at me. I waved back. All is well. If something seems not to be well, I should remember the above Rule number 1, I tell myself. Extension of the Metro route from Botanical Garden to Nehru Place, indirectly helped us in an interesting way. The underpass that leads towards Antim Niwas and Amity University is mostly deserted. I dived deep into the underpass enjoying the curve of the road. That was when I saw the ladybird in the mirror.

I opened my eyes and was happy to realize that all is well. I didn’t fall down from the bike. I am not injured. Thankfully the bike is safely parked nearby, though I don’t remember how I parked it. I opened my mobile and checked Strava – to my disappointment it indicated 96 kilometers. So close to my dream, and I wanted to push a little more. But how can I pedal home if I can barely stand? I try to console myself.

Summary
Narrowly missed that century. Better luck next time

From a distance, I see my vehicle approaching. They got my location. It’s evacuation time now. I don’t know if I should feel happy or sad. But yes, family support helps you pursue your hobby to higher levels. But the 100 – that is for another day.

What was the most tiresome experience you had on the road? Let me know your thoughts.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. bgddyjim says:

    I did 125 miles (200km) once, myself, and I was so tired I laid down and took a nap in the grass. It took me seven hours but I got it done. Good try, man. Don’t give up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Manu Stanley says:

      Thank you brother. I am inspired by you.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. SonniQ says:

    You have developed really good story telling. I can see your travels easily as I read. I am curious why there are so few cats. Where I am cats are everywhere. Also, you won’t find roadside carts here. You would have to stop at a store for a drink. I, too don’t drink colas or any carbonated soda. I drink one cup of coffee in the morning. Otherwise only water and sometimes tea.

    Liked by 1 person

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