I slept soundly in Jitu’s guestroom. My bike slept soundly at Newark Cargo someplace. The Transatlantic Air India flight was most comfortable and I was looking forward excitedly to this part of my journey. I would get to meet my wife, after all these months.
My childhood and school friend, Jiten Chanchani, erstwhile the biggest coal miner in India, shook me out of my jetlag and said his friends were waiting to meet me and they have some good remedies for jet lag. So I got up, showered and generally partied for the next few days, while I waited to take delivery of my bike from Newark customs and cargo. Ofcourse, a customary visit to Jitu’s basement was in order to see the two things stored there. His vast collection of samples of Home furnishings and towels and Single Malt Whiskies. I wondered what the connection was, but then this is all the basement had, besides the washing machine and other domestic supports.
I met his friends, who are the original Hangover people, who spend one week every year in Las Vegas, actually playing golf in the daytime and listening to Hindi music at night over single malts. This what they say they do. A dedicated bunch.
A message from the Cargo brought Jitu and me to collect my bike from the warehouse. Delightfully packed in sweet smelling wood, my bike looked refreshed. Ofcourse it didn’t know what jet lag was. Delivered in perfect condition, I promptly took it to a Triumph service center and left it there, while I resumed partying with the Hangover group. At one such dinner in a restaurant, I met a waitress from Lithuania and when I told her about my visit there and all the memories, she felt happy and homesick. I had almost forgotten about Europe and Russia. My God, I was now in the United States of America!
Thanking Jitu and his gracious wife Meena, I rode out to my niece and her husband in another part of New Jersey. I would stay here for a few days and then ride on. But only after picking up my wife from the airport! So, Pooja my niece and Girish her husband, helped me to unsaddle. I kept some of my luggage in Girish’s BMW bike trailer, so I didn’t have to carry it inside. He does Event Production and has a warehouse Hollywood would be proud of! Pooja is the Kitchen Queen. She fixed a quick lunch and showed me my bedroom. We soon left to get my wife Priti, who was flying from the West Coast, after meeting our daughter and her school friend, Moha. We would be meeting after a few months. Flight was on time and I spotted her with her luggage in a trolley, all waiting for her relatives. We hugged like lost kids meeting after a lifetime. People started watching. Pooja let us be. Reaching home, to a delicious dinner by Pooja the Kitchen Queen, we all exchanged stories and chat over dessert. Then I spent till early morning telling my wife all about Russia and Europe.
The next few days was spent in catching up and catching up. A fierce competition broke out between Pooja the Kitchen Queen and the restaurant menu. So, sometimes we ate out, sometimes in. Pooja really cooks well. One evening, we caught up with Jitu and his family for dinner, to meet his very pretty daughter Priyanka, who just got married. The discussion went back to Single Malts. Then I left for the West Coast.
The first stop was Arlington, Washington DC, where my son now stays, having just moved from Houston for a new job. DC is lovely. A big city. Riding in had to be done carefully, since the options to change course on the road was more than what Google could handle. I reached at night and my son Vishu was waiting at the apartment kerbside. I had kept in touch with him on my Sena navigator. This looked a higher rent, so things must be better. Nice. An electronic garage shutter showed me to the huge basement garage and Vishu, a gym enthusiast, ran ahead to show me my spot, which was at 10$ a day. This building had a pool and gym and a club floor. Looked like a hotel. So I tried to look decent at all times. We had a great time, visiting the Aircraft Musuem and everywhere else. Having just moved in, the furniture was still coming in and it was fun being part of the building up process. Friends came in with food for me, while Vishu went to work. Nice again. Knowing he was alive and happy, I left.
Virginia and West Virginia are beautiful states, though still waiting for Fall. So it was hot. Cloudy sometimes, undecided other times, but hot otherwise. It suited me, though a bit cooler would have been nice. Riding the curves of the Appalachians helped. Forested. Good weather. Lovely views. Riding on, I came to flatland America and it was strenuous trying to fix on a distant point. Vast. Silent. Beautiful. Though at times it looked like a rerun of the past 100 Kms! Beautifully boring. I didn’t cross too many bikers. Parkersburg, Carrollton, St. Louis flashed by and the fields of Kansas crept it. Manure and produce wafted fragrantly through the State. In Topeka at my night halt, I learnt about the coming storm in the morning. Hail was imminent. So I got up early and rode before the storm crossed infront or overhead. Still, I had rain all day and cold wintry weather. So I had to dig out my thermals and get warm. I really think every Sunday the weather changes. It’s not constant anymore. At Oakley, I stayed at The Knights Inn, a cute motel and the owners wife sent some samosas to eat. It was real hot Indian food. Next morning came tea. Most of these motels are owned by Indians and off them a lot are from Gujarat.
Denver brought me to my spiritual family once again and I stayed with my Guruji’s devotees Bipin and Shashi Agarwal. Shashi drove me to Crestone the next day and at 10,000 feet I entered our Guruji’s Ashram. The view of Colorado was splendid from here. I took a Diwali break and stayed over in Denver a day more. Shashi blessed my bike with the Diwali tikka ceremony and the next day I rode towards Utah.
This state has been a childhood desire of mine to visit, since a lot of the cowboy movies were made here and I saw it all. At Grand junction, I stayed at an Airbnb called Lonewolf’s Retreat, owned by a Vietnam Veteran: Jeffery. He was in the midst of redesigning his property and it was wonderful to be privy to his thoughts. I rode onwards to Green River via the Moab Canyon park area. I felt like Gregory Peck in McKenna’s Gold! My entire Utah ride was mentored by my Nepalese friend Archana Sapkota, an IT specialist from Oregon, who had detailed me on the halts and sights etc. So I rode to Kanab in between Zion and Bryce and it was thrilling. Kanab was the ultimate Hollywood location, for Glenn Ford and people of his time. The MainStreet had a walk of fame with mementos and details of cowboy stars and movie trivia. The Kanab Bunkhouse was a lovely musuem type night halt. Utah was cold.
Riding onto Las Vegas, I encountered a heatwave and stopped at a fuel pump to change. Thermals went back and the ventilator jacket felt good. I stayed a dice throw from MGM Grand and after a quick shower, walked the Mile. I could see the Mandalay Bay and prayed for the fallen. But life went on and tourists were at it. Most came in groups, some couples and few loners. Or, maybe I was roaming in family time.
Victorville took me through Roy Roger town. Here, I enjoyed the hospitality of Kevin Chauhan a hotelier, who hosted my stay, with a delightful mexican dinner and morning coffee. His motel: The Hilltop Inn and suites overlooked the entire valley.
The next day I completed my American ride, in Pasadena, at noon sometime, in the loving arms of my daughter, Tulsi. Some 5000 kilometres, child to child. We both commemorated the moment with a tattoo each. My first!