Buzz… Buzz… Buzz…my alarm gently nudged me out of my slumber at 3 AM. The day had come, the day I was planning for the entire week. Clothes, shoes, jacket, helmet and bag were all strategically placed in advance, so valuable morning minutes would not be wasted. Almost like a machine I got ready, and while warming up the engine went through a mental checklist. Documents - check, bike condition - check, safety gear - check, change of clothes - check, xBhp flags - made and ready. I felt like a schoolboy on the first day of school. I was excited and nervous at the same time. How would this ride be? Who knows…
Buzz… Buzz… Buzz… Another alarm reminding me it was time to leave pulled me back to reality. My journey started way before the break of dawn; if I were to make it to the rendezvous point at the appointed time I had to leave early, very early. The cold morning air whistled through my helmet and the empty roads put me into a “rider’s trance”. Nothing else in the world mattered at that moment, it was just me, the road and my bike.
Before I could snap out of my trance, I was pulling up to the meeting point on NH6. Few of the bikes were already parked in a line, my heart skipped a beat, was there anyone I knew? No, these were all unknown bikes.
I parked, got off and introduced myself. We all knew each other from the group chat, but I have never met them in person. Butterflies in my stomach, I unstrapped the bundle with xBhp flags that I had made earlier and started handing them out. This was a surprise I was working on for this particular ride. Fingers crossed, I wondered, will they like them? Will they put them on their bikes? To my great relief, the flags were warmly welcomed by everyone.
Gradually, more bikes pulled up, and I recognized some familiar faces from past adventures. Sweet and warm familiarity, it was an additional relief, I was now getting more and more comfortable in this group. It is something about bike riders that makes them look all tough and inaccessible, but when you actually talk to them, they are all warm and welcoming. It was not long before I shook everyone's hand and started making new friends. In no time the butterflies in my stomach were drowned in hot chai, while we snapped photos, and discussed past road trips.
Finally the last member of the group pulled up, and after a few brief words from the leader, we mounted our bikes and were ready to move. Fifteen riders showed up for this trip, the largest group I have ridden in. I was excited to see what the road had to offer us in the kilometers ahead.
After an uneventful drive out of the city bounds, we were welcomed by Bengal’s famous winter fog. At times it was so thick, one could not even see past the rider directly in front of them. With some skillful maneuvering and very diligent leadership, we were out of the dense fog and heading for the first stop in our journey, the most important stop - breakfast!
Nothing builds sense of belonging and strengthens bond between team members like a good meal shared together. We were not just motorbike riders, commuters or tourers; we were a group with a common goal, interests and destination. It did not matter if you were a college student or an accomplished professional, if you lived with your parents or was a parent. We all had our different lives, but we were united by one thing, our love for the road and the wind on our faces. This made all the difference, I felt like I was not alone on the road, I was a part of an organism, an ever evolving and ever changing organism. And that felt good, really good!
With this warm feeling inside (and some hot puri-sabji as well) we moved along the currently fog free, and sunny highway. No amount of action cameras and video footage can capture the feeling of riding in a large group. It was like watching synchronized swimming, like being part of a well orchestrated performance. It was beautiful how we took over trucks without breaking formation, how the spotters held back traffic and made way clear for the group to ride through. Even the traffic police held back traffic for us so that we could pass through intersections graciously.
After a relaxed national highway and an intense state highway, we were closing in on our destination. A few kilometers of unpaved dirt road separated us from the ocean. This part of the trip really gave me a chance to show off my bikes full potential at conquering a bad terrain.
Finally we found a peaceful spot amongst the shade of the pine trees that grew all along the coast. It was break time for most of us. Unfortunately one of our riders had mechanical issues with the starter of his bike, so after patching it up he and another fellow rider had to depart earlier to make sure they make it home before dark. As for the rest of us, we snacked, relaxed, shared some laughs and captured fascinating photos of the red crabs that inhibit the beach.
The ride back was just as fascinating as the beginning of the trip. The sun was already setting, as we were getting tired. We encouraged each other and pushed our limits to reach our destination safely. At last, we saw the hazy city lights blinking afar on the horizon. We had now stopped near our rendezvous point, where hours ago our unforgettable journey began. With a few hugs and handshakes the group dispersed to be united again in a couple of weeks for xBhp Kolkata's Anniversary Ride.
This ride has added 600 kilometers to my ODO, but it has also added many wonderful people to my ever growing list of friends. I am forever grateful to xBhp Kolkata for the many extra miles that they have gone out of their way for me. So keep them engines revving and those wheels on the tarmac, till we ride again.