Slow speed riding in any city is an uncomfortable affair, but when you ride so as part of a formation of around 40 riders there is a different sort of excitement attached to the affair. Add to it not one but two Police jeeps providing the formation escort at the front and rear, it becomes a memorable ride. That basically defined the Road Safety Awareness Campaign conducted by xBHP Kerala and Trivandrum City Traffic Police on the 26th of February, 2012.
xBHP Kerala chapter have been conducting Road Safety and Helmet Awareness campaigns in Trivandrum City for the past two years but this year it became an even grander event. Riders assembled from all over Kerala, some arriving the previous day itself and some like me on the day of the eve.
The day began for me at 3.45 AM when I woke up to put the finishing touches to my saddle bags and perform a ceremony that to me has been as poignant as Tom Cruise’s donning of Samurai suit in “The Last Samurai” – wearing of my riding gear. As civilians I suppose we riders all may be excused this slight imaginary delight of wearing armor and comparing us to Samurai. After all when we consider the maniacal drivers and riders out there hell bent on killing us every day, a war analogy is not out of place. A couple of bananas and a pot of extremely strong black coffee and it had become 5 AM and I was on my way to Trivandrum.
The early morning ride was of course a very pleasant affair. Scant traffic and a pleasantly cool weather was something I had been relishing for some days! It was a very sedate pace that I maintained, riding at 60-65 kmph during the dark hours and around 70-80 after day break. Several pit stops I took routinely at 50 kms / 1 hour ensured my progress was steady. The rising sun view of the beaches at Kollam was simply spectacular however the breakfast stop with a fare of frigid dosas and curry was uninspiring. However when on a ride one is content at getting just about anything to eat, so no complaints and refilled thus, the ride was on.
Nearing 10 I was on the NH47 bypass near Technopark, Trivandrum looking for my entry into the city. Consulting Google devata the past day I had plotted in my mind an adequate route to the apartment of my relatives which would be my place of halt until time for RSAC. Thinking quite smart of myself I had plotted a seemingly short and traffic free route to the destination, and as I predicted it was short and remarkably traffic free. There was just one problem. There was a level cross just 2 kms short of my destination which was closed at that time and the train was standing still at the junction. Ten minutes I waited there at the railway level cross, getting cooked thoroughly in my riding gear. Then with a silent curse to Google Maps I called my mother who finally gave me a correct route.
Without much ado and after several more asking to bystanders I finally found my relatives’ apartment. Regaled with lots of family gossip and a sumptuous lunch by around 1.30 PM I left my relatives’ house to reach the Kawdiar Palace from where the rally would start. This time I decided not to rely on Google Maps anymore and finally reached Kawdiar Palace. At first I had no idea where to meet but some friendly chaps in a passing car told me that some bikers were waiting further down the road. There I met some of the Trivandrum xBHP’ians who too was waiting for the rest of the riders. Soon at the instructions from another senior rider we rode up to the Kawdiar Palace where the gatekeeper instructed us to park in a place that was particularly lacking in shade. The handful grew into a dozen and finally scores as nearing 3PM riders came together and fighting for the scant shade to escape from the mid-day heat the xBHP’ians renewed some friendships and cast anew new acquaintances.
Nearing 3PM the dignitaries started arriving with the more prominent arrival being that of Prince Aditya Varma, a scion of the erstwhile Travancore Royal Family. An avid follower of the biking scene, he got a treat himself when he got to ride Milan Cherian’s Kawasaki Ninja followed of course by the band of journalists who had come to cover the event. By then it was time for the inauguration. After brief speeches by the Prince and Circle of Inspector (Vigilance) Mr. Rakesh Kumar the street play organized by Padhiker, a group of artists was unveiled. The evocative performance raised several issues like helmet awareness, under age driving, over speeding and seat belt awareness. Even by the conclusion of this play it was apparent to most of us that event is off to a successful start.
Having thus been flagged off by Prince Aditya Varma, the riders as a formation of two columns rode out of the Kawdiar Palace gates escorted as mentioned earlier by Police Jeeps and the ubiquitous White Police Bullets. My GoPro Helmet cam was being used by me to cover the ride initially in a rear view and then on a front view mode. Though it was a Sunday there were a fair traffic density and the usual hazard of vehicles trying to cut across the formation. Maintaining respectable riding discipline and formation, the RSAC rally made its way across Trivandrum City. The rally made halts at Museum Gate near Kanakakunnu Palace and Gandhi Park at East Fort where the Padhiker team conducted their street drama while the xBHP riders distributed pamphlets propounding the concepts of Road Safety among the public. The response from public was quite enthusiastic, the spectacle of so many bikers in full riding gear, riding in perfect formation as also exemplary performance by the street drama troupe all helped in driving the message home. The final leg of the rally was towards Shangumugham Beach where the grand finale of the Road Safety Awareness Campaign 2012 would be held. At the beach the sight of the arrival of so many bedecked bikers a substantial crowd gathered and the final performance of the street drama was held.
With the arrival of the Asst Commissioner of Traffic (Trivandrum North), M Rajamohan and Circle of Inspector Traffic (Trivandrum North) Niyas P the RSAC 2012 formally concluded. In an age where rebellious disregard for rules and regulations and disrespect and ignorance of traffic rules define youth and biking, the responsible riding ethos of xBHP were much appreciated by the officers of Kerala Police who promised cooperation in future endeavors. The setting sun of Shangumugham beach thus presented a fitting finale for the RSAC as the riders of xBHP Kerala said their goodbyes and made promises of G2Gs and rides in the future. Riding off from the event the most heartening feeling after all is the contentment at being part of an activism for something we riders truly believe in – Responsible Biking.
It would however be amiss to stop this narration here as it is from now onwards, that is after the conclusion of the RSAC’12 that the most awesome rides of the day would begin. With the end of the ride the Cochin xBHP’ians started discussing their return plans. One group were about to leave immediately at 7PM itself but then another group , i.e. Anand, Swaroop and Lijo were planning to start later after a brief halt at Lijo’s place. My parents were ordering me to not ride on at night, and compelling me to stay at my relatives’ house. Personally I was not very confident of riding solo at night considering my exhaustion. I knew that I could not ride with the 7PM group as I needed more time to relax. So the best choice was to ride out with the late night team.
So we rode down to Lijo’s house where after being intimidated by Lijo’s dog and regaled by the antics of Lijo’s cat we finally set out at 10 PM joined by Vineeth who would be Anand’s pillion. The first priority as we set out then was of course fuel and food. We tanked up at a fuel pump just before being chased out by its owners who wanted to close it for the day. Then lead by Lijo we made our way to the MC Road which we planned to follow before joining the NH47 at Alleppey. With increasing agony we passed several closed restaurants before finally our tummies achieved salvation at a restaurant near Vembayam.
It was the ride from here on that I was most worried about. I knew that after already riding around 250+ kms in the day, I was considerably less fresh than my co riders who all had arrived the previous day. I knew I could not discount the possibility of fatigue over coming me, but I also could not fail the personal challenge I placed over me to reach Cochin before the day was over. However the presence of excellent lead and tail riders gave me considerably more confidence. So off we started down the twisty and smooth roads of the MC road, a road that Lijo assured us was best driven only at night.
Riding on an unknown road in the middle of the night, on a road replete with speeding trucks and with exhaustion always trying to sneak in thoughts that could distract one, it was a more psychological than a physical test for me. Reason and logic tried to creep in thoughts and doubts about hidden dangers ahead and of exhaustion preventing me from completing the ride and becoming a burden on fellow riders, but then the mind strove to keep the thoughts out and concentrate all attention on the road ahead. No time for thoughts, just to focus on the road ahead and lights behind. It was a Zen state that really helped me through the ride.
Thankfully I managed not to slow down the group as a whole and I felt their pace and progress to be on par with mine, stopping every 50 kms / 1 hour for rest and coffee break. A considerably long break was taken at Changanassery where we mused about the crazy driving by a few tipper lorries in the stretch. From Changanassery we took the detour from MC Road towards Alleppey where we took another coffee break before setting out to tackle the insane traffic of NH47 once again. As distance from Alleppey to Cochin decreased, tarmac started improving and soon home was almost near. A final pit stop was taken a few kilometers before Aroor where Anand’s bag tied behind my bike was given back and a final good bye was said. At Kundannoor Junction I finally took the detour to Tripunithura waving a good bye to the riders who had helped me achieve yet another memorable ride of my life!
A proponent of solo rides, this was one group ride I thoroughly enjoyed and valued. Once again, thank you Anand, Lijo, Swaroop and Vineeth.
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