Tuesday, February 22, 2005

An Adventure to Remember...

From experience I have come to believe that life is all about taking chances....doing something out of the ordinary. I have long been yearning for a vacation...almost 15 months now and the opportunity sprung up on me out of nowhere...Bipin Sadhwani my pal at USC got a job at Boeing in Philadelphia and needed help moving his car to Columbus, Ohio where his parents live. It was a moment of reckoning really...I always dreamed of a road-trip coast to coast across America but I was loosing two days of pay and consideration of the risks involved. Anways I am back in one peice and glad I followed my heart.Well here is a day-by-day account of the trip.

Day 0 - I pack my stuff hurriedly and leave for work. Conduct an interview with a telugu gal for my own position....am struggling hard to not show off my own inexperience. The interview is going fine until my co-worker Khanh, who is all into fashion and latest dresses, asks this gal what is that on ur forehead...referring to the potte...I loose my control and burst out laughing...so much for professionalism. I escape from work at 1:30 drop one of Jisha' s friends for an interview at Irvine and head to my own interview with a recruiter at Santa Monica. Hopefully something good will work out in the next few weeks. After that visits Jisha to say bye to her and get to eat some sumptuous food she has cooked. From there I head to USC and grabbed Chackochan's digital camera and road atlas(in hindsight my best decision...otherwise we wud have been driving around all lost in the American Mid-West). Then to my loyola classmate pappanabhans house to get a jacket for the snow. By around 10 I reach Bipin's place and our plans to have dinner at the gurudwara are foiled as its too late and we head for In-n-Out which is giving a hot challenge to McDonanalds and BurgerKing in the burger industry. By around 12 I hit the sack but one of Bipin's friends Deepak comes to bade farewell and their talking interrupted my sleep but I cud understand.

Day1, Thursday, Feb 17-We had planned to start at 6 in the morning but loading Bipin's stuff into the car takes longer than expected and finally when we hit the road at 8am we were up against the unrelenting LA office-hours traffic. We crawl out of LA and by then we have lost precious time and we stop at 100 mile intervals to take turns driving. At Barstow, we have lunch at a Subway and see the gujju owner giving an earful to his white employees...we saw more of their dominance on the way at motels and 7-11's. The rive through the Mojave Desert was boring and finally we crossed California and entered Arizona where the desert took an interesting turn with landforms of all sizes and shapes and some breathtaking views. The heart-breaking part was that we were within sniffing distance of The Grand Canyon National Park and had to give it the go-by bcoz of our unbelievable determination to hit our goals for the day (Bipin remarked if we had tried this hard we wud have been working at Microsoft now!!) Finally Arizona gave way to New Mexico and all we had for company on the road were giant trucks and trailers who went at 75-80 mph(never knew trucks cud go that fast) and by then we had mustered the courage to set the cruise control to 80 and just eased our foot away and let the fingers do all the driving. The roads were straight for miles on end and we had taken that so much for granted that curves were becoming an unneccessary nuisance. Mathew called me up in the afternoon to give some depressing news - a USC senior and a half-mallu had died in a car accident....we decided to be extra careful while driving. The sun was beating down on us harshly and the desert heat was forcing us to take breaks every 100 miles to cool the engine. The car was a 2004 honda civic and gave us no trouble all the way. By nightfall around 9:30pm after 12 hours of driving we reached our destination - Albuquerque, New Mexico. We checked into a motel and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant but the food was yuck.

Day2, Friday, Feb 19 - We woke up at 6 in the morning after a 5 hour sleep and had a free continental breakfast at the motel b4 we pushed off. We decided not to stay hungry as both our stomachs had developed cramps presumably from a combination of the long innings "in the driver's seat" and hunger. By friday the storm which had struck the california coast on thursday had caught up with us. We were in for a really wet drive and again our decision to drive at 65 was reversed by the other cars and trucks which kept going at 75-80. On wet road, cars and trucks splash such a high spray of water its hard to see the road ahead...i wonder why none of the cars here have mudguardson their tires like in India? The roads here are amazing...the water doesnt stay on the road for long, very few potholes, roadsigns to warn us of curves, construction, deer crossings, what not! But we deeply missed some of the pleasures of driving thru an Indian highway. No people on the road, none of the uncertainities of driving in India like wondering whether there is oncoming traffic beyond a curve, overtaking, etc. I had developed a bad cold which gave me a miserable time all thru the day. From New Mexico we entered Texas and here we passed thru a small town called Amarillo. Here i lost a bet to Bipin and had to take him to Starbucks and sponsor his cofee....otherwise for the whole trip the entire expense was taken care of by him. From Texas we entered Oklahoma and were beginning to see villages..I have never seen a village in America and I was certain the way ppl looked at us they hadnt seen many Indians b4. Our progress had been slow till then bcoz of the rain and we had to reach St. Louis which was on the Missouri-Illinois border for the night. But around 100 miles short of St.Louis after crossing Oklahoma and 3/4th of Missouri and close to 15 hours of driving and 950 miles covered for the day Bipin was beginning to doze away in the naviagtor's seat and I was fading too we decided to call it a day(or say night) we took an exit....after focussing on the road 50 meters away it suddenly became difficult to see the close road and signs....my eyes were crying for sleep and bipin wasnt any better...i missed a motel and we both started yelling at each other....finally after 5 minutes of a little erratic driving and quarrelling we reached the red roof inn. By then the heated words were forgotten and we were laughing abt it. We checked in and just crashed to an unconscious sleep by around 1am.

Day3, February 20, Saturday - We woke up late at 8 and after another free breakfast we were off only by 9 with Bipin behind the wheels. I had done most of the driving yesterday and was still reeling from the strain but thankfully the cold I had yesterday mysteriously vanished and with another 600 miles to go we still had a lot of driving to do. Bipin took up the challenge and soon we passed St.Louis at 11 and entered Illinois....I drove only 200 miles and bipin took care of the rest. We had seen isolated snow yesterday and were beginnning to reconcile to driving on snow for today and the rigours accompanying it like skidding and low speed now that we were out of desert country and were soon entering the heart of the mid-west. But every time I have been on the east coast the weather has been thankfully great. Slowly but steadily we passed Illinous, slogged our way thru Indiana and entered Ohio. By 6:30 pm after what seemed like an eternity we reached Columbus. We had not picked up a single speeding ticket and had not had a single close shave too...god was with us rite thru.I had a quick dinner with Bipin's family and soon Viswan, my sct-pal and Mithun, my Loyola bud, my right and left arms in the US were at their doorsteps waiting to pick me up. It was the icing on the cake...being with these two good friends after a great journey. I was reinvigorated and soon we were joking away and I havent laughed like this in a long long time. Viswan and I were seeing each other after 15 months and he had to endure a speeding ticket to get here while Muthu came with good news of finally getting a job after a 2 month search. We hunted unsuccesfully for motels in Columbus and not finding any started driving towards Indianapolis where we were supposed to have lunch with our sct friend Merine. On the way we stopped at a small town called Springfield where we decided to spend the night at a Super8 motel. We had a bottle of Chivas Regal to celebrate the occasion but everyone was so tired we just had a little b4 we started watching the movie, Chakram but we slept off midway.

Day4, February 21, Sunday - We woke up only at 10 am and by the time we got ready and started out for Merine's house it was 1:30pm. Shan, one of our fellow Savages, had come online and we chatted with him for an hour b4 deciding this wuz not enuf and also rang him up. On the way we did a real crazy thing. We watched the rest of the movie, Chakram on Viswan's laptop inside the car with Muthu driving and amidst pouring rain. I remarked I had the balcony seat bcoz I was in the back while they had the thara tickets. Speaking of the movie we three were convinced Prithviraj given time is goin to hit it big in Malayalam. Merine meanwhile was livid with anger as we had been hours late and finally when we got there I got the biggest surprise of the trip.It was a pleasant one though - the dear gal had cooked up a real feast for us - there was aviyal, pulissery, theeyal, vendakka thorran, cabbage torran, pachadi, chicken curry, carrot thorran...dunno what all i missed...viswan had given her a list of things to make but none of us expected her to take all this effort. We three ate like dogs and after sitting and talking and joking and pulling each others legs merine showed us some of the sights of Indianapolis. We bade goodbye to her and reached the hotel at 10 pm and again went to sleep. We three had just more than a day together but it was filled with so much bonhomie and laughter and fun...muthu's wildly exaggerated tales and viswan's inimitable ability to take pokes and my slippery ability to comment adikkufy without getting any flak back and the way we use famous mallu movie dialogues to intersperse our conversations it was one hell of a time together.

Day 5, Monday, Feb 21 - We wake up at 5 am, have breakfast, checked out, said a hurried goodbye to bips and his parents(wish i had more time to spend with them...they surprised me with gifts for accompanying their son...one friend lesser in LA now) and then viswan left for New York...he left me with a bearhug and kisses(!!) too(sadly he got a ticket on the way back too...now 7 alogether in US, Canada and India...i think he will soon give hollywood stars a complex) and Muthu drove me to the airport with just an hour left for the flight. His driving is just amazing...even under pressure he doesnt go beyond 70. I reached Santa Ana en-rote Mineapolis but Bipin's roomie whom he had delegated to pick me up went to LAX bcoz he mistook the name. Anyways got back thru an airport shuttle, met Jisha and drove back at night towards San Diego. And today here I am in the office...jotting down this long long blog dreaming of my next vacation...hopefully if we three save enuf money a trip to Bahamas in July.


Anonymous said...

aliya jabba onnannora blog ayi poyade!!!great work!! ne kollamallode


Anonymous said...

Da..reminds me of our narrative writing in Eng 1 exams..:)
Good write-up, a little detaied..but I guess blogs are supposed to be..

Keep blogging Jabba..:)

~ Sheni.