Monday, November 10, 2008


Gas stations usually have a diesel pump in one part of the station and the petrol pump elsewhere. The bikes swarm around the petrol pump while the chase vehicle does its thing with Jean checking to make sure that the pump has been zeroed and then doling out the money from the fuel kitty we all contribute to. On two occasions all operations at the station came to a halt. The diesel powered generator that powers everything has run out of fuel. One time a little diesel was hand pumped into a can to get things going again; another time, a little diesel fuel was siphoned from a tractor that was sitting there.

Fog lines. Some of the roads have fog lines painted along the edge of the driving surface to aid in night driving and in times of reduced visibility. Two times on this trip my observations of the fog lines made me chuckle inside my helmet. The first time happened when we were in the mountains. Part of the road had caved away down the mountain side so most of our lane was gone. The fog line painter faithfully followed the edge of the road
giving us a lane that was about two feet wide at the caved in area! The second incident occurred at a spot where there was a three foot wide pot hole on the edge of the pavement. The fog line painter here decided to include the pot hole inside his line so painted around the outside of the hole to give the road a nice rounded extension. About a kilometer down the road he repeated his artistry.

War and Peace

Here is my take on the last several days…………..

It should have been a walk in the park--only 125 km from Gwalior to Agra on a four lane road. First of all, the four lane looked as though it had been under construction for several years and the traveling surface kept switching from one side to other, depending on where the pavement was. Eventually the road became a bona fide four lane highway along with the previously mentioned subsets of traffic coming towards us in both the passing lane and the left shoulder. No time to relax!

About 30 km south of Agra the scariest event of the trip happened. The traffic was blocked in both directions on the four lane--in our lane was a farm tractor with large trailer parked across the road. The traffic on the other side of the median was also blocked and there was a large crowd of people on the other side of the road block. RA saw a stone fly and we all rode off the road to make an end run around the trailer. I muttered under my breath, “Let’s get out of here!” I’ve heard too much about crowds and what can happen here or anywhere when mob mentality takes over. Ross got ahead of Jean and followed a car over the obstruction, a large fire hose stretched completely across the highway, but not before someone threw a hand full of dirt in his face. As I came around the end of the trailer I saw several people pulling Jean off her bike and begin pummeling her, after she too had dirt thrown in her face. I stopped my bike and got off as quickly as I could and was prepared to rush into the fray to rescue Jean. Ross was coming back from the other direction and the unruly mob melted back into the rest of the crowd on the road. Ross and I are bigger than the average Indian and I am sure we looked formidable with our helmets and riding gear. As Ross and I got Jean’s bike up and running, RA was calming Jean and we all remounted bounced over the hose despite some telling us we could not pass. I think we were all prepared to run over anyone who got it our way.

In retrospect we think we know what happened. We are not sure about the purpose of the hose--probably as simple as someone wanting to water his field with a four lane road in between his field and the water source. We think some vehicles had crossed the hose and either actually damaged it or made the people think it had been damaged; at the point we crossed it, part of the hose was fully “inflated” and part of it was flat. We also think that the trouble had started on the other side of the road and spilled over to our side. We will never know exactly what happened, but to see the mob mentality take over and attack an innocent by- passer will be forever etched into my mind. The image of Jean being dragged off her bike into the dirt is the darkest of this trip.

The Howard Park Avenue was our refuge from the afternoon’s happenings and from the rooftop we got our first glimpse of the Taj--the main dome and couple of the minarets. Looking down on the rooftop of the school below us we saw several brown monkeys making their way towards the hotel and the swimming pool on the ground floor. We also saw a man with another monkey on a leash (larger and lankier with long legs and a long prehensile tail) climbing up the metal grill work near the pool and onto the rooftop. It was the monkey guard!! The leashed monkey ran off the intruders and while he was eating his reward the human biped took potshots with a sling shot at the invaders.


A day off for most of us as we relaxed, napped and swam in the pool. Harlene came down from Delhi on the train and she and Helmut and Bill visited the Taj Mahal. RuthAnn and I walked over to the Taj to get the lay of the land and check out the entry gates. The whole complex is surrounded by tall stone walls so no close view of the main reason for our trip to India.


It was about a 15 minute walk to the ticket window and the lines that were quickly forming just before sunrise. After paying a little over $16/person and passing through strict security, we were on the grounds. Our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal in the early morning light was breathtaking. After two hours of wandering the grounds, taking pictures from every possible angle, and watching the complex grow whiter and whiter with the rising sun, we headed back to the hotel for a much needed breakfast.

A full day of sight seeing visiting the tomb if Itimad-ud-Daulah (the Baby Taj), the Agra Fort and viewing the back side of the Taj Mahal from the Yamuna River.


Our last full day in Agra was actually spent in Fatehpur Sikri, a walled city built in the late 1500’s out of red sandstone by the Emperor Akbar. It was abandoned soon after its construction due to a lack of water at the site. We also visited the impressive Jami Masjid, a huge mosque just outside the walls of Fatehpur Sikri.


Jaipur, the Pink City, was our home for three days while we got a taste of another Indian state, that of Rajasthan. We did a self guided tour of parts of the old city. Climbing to the top of the Ishwar Lat, a tall minaret, gave us a great view of the old city and some of the other sites we would visit in the next two days including the City Palace Museum, the Jantar Mantar ( an incredible array of astronomical instruments made of stone and brick), and the Hawa Mahal ( a five story high structure, but only one room deep) full of peep holes that allowed the ladies of the harem to see what was going on in the street below without being seen by the public. The “Palace of Winds” is the current icon for the city and appears on virtually any tourist publication touting Jaipur. Many camels and decorated elephants plied the streets of Jaipur. It is here that Ross and I “lost” our wives to a fabric vendor in one of the bazaars. When we discovered them, they were knee deep in piles of fabric bargaining like mad. As the price came down to about a dollar separating the two sides, a round of Pepsi-Colas sealed the deal.


This was our last day on the bikes as we scooted up the four-lane (sustained speeds of 70-80 km/h!!) toll road to Delhi. The smog was very thick (we did not envy the runners in the Delhi half-marathon that day) and we find ourselves back at the familiar White House Hotel.

We rode approximately 2300 miles in India and Nepal in the last five weeks and are very happy to be back safely. We could have kept the bikes for two more weeks, but felt that our biking adventure should come to an end at this time.

What will we do with our remaining time? On the 13th we are flying to the south of India to Kochi (Cochin) where we will spend about a week exploring the beaches, back waters, and tea plantations there. An overnight train ride will take us north to Goa where we have booked a week in a resort. We will then fly back to Delhi before ending our India adventure on December first.