Ah! My wife, Jyothi, and I just love the road trip.
Our Premier Padmini car
Even when we were in New Delhi, we had been on many road trips in our Premier Padmini car. It was a different ballgame then. The Maruti revolution that gave wheel power to the Indian highway driver had not happened.
Our Premier Padmini car was in great condition, thanks to timely servicing and maintenance. In those days, we had to check the level of water in the car’s radiator every single day. I would also religiously check the levels of engine oil and brake fluid. I would wash the car every Sunday.
The highway road trip
For the highway trips, I used to carry a plastic can of water for topping up the radiator just in case. Read here about the savior on our Punjab road trip. An extra fan belt was always in the boot. The wiper blades would be replaced ahead of a monsoon trip. I would ensure that the tire air pressure was maintained. Given the condition of the highways, the spare tire in the boot had to be in good condition.
Our car used to get heated up during a long drive and while we stopped for food at a roadside Dhaba (local eatery), the car would be resting as well with its bonnet up, letting off steam.
In comparison to today’s cars, our Premier Padmini car was not created for high speeds. Even if it could achieve high speeds, I didn’t have the confidence that the car’s brakes could bring the car to a sudden halt if and when required. Also, the highways were narrow, not lit and many were without dividers. Consequently, in comparison to today, it took considerable time to cover distances. Since the roads were not so good, we also anticipated punctures along the way. I had trained myself to change a tire like a professional. I had all the required tools in the boot.
Although the Premier Padmini seats were comfortable, they were not ergonomically designed – a long drive could lead to an aching back.
Continuing road trips
Over time, we changed our car several times but the spirit of going on road trips continued. From New Delhi, we covered Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh.
We also went on a road trip from Sikkim to Bhutan through winding mountainous roads. What a trip that one was!
When we relocated to Bangalore, it was a great move for the highway driver in me. From a road trip perspective, Bangalore is very strategically located. We have done many road trips from Bangalore. We have made several trips to Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, and Goa.
Ah! An ambitious road trip!
Our most ambitious trip was from Bangalore to the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat in my car with my cousin and his wife. We combined social visits, pilgrimages, and sightseeing during that 2-week long trip. We had planned the trip in a way that we were at the Rann of Kutch on a full moon night – a surreal experience!
Road trips are special
There is something special about road trips.
A road trip is a great opportunity for conversations. In a modern world where the conversation within a family is limited to only obtaining status updates, a long road trip with a captive audience allows for conversations spanning diverse topics and helps immensely in lifelong bonding. Everyone has a story to tell if only we are willing to listen.
A road trip allows for surprise detours. Many a time, we have learned from the locals of a place worth visiting and have taken a detour from our original itinerary. With time, I always planned my road trips with a flexible schedule to accommodate such changes. We stumbled upon Talnu, located in Himachal Pradesh, in a fortunate stroke of serendipity.
The joy of finding your way back
In the earlier days, before the GPS came in, we could easily get lost. The road signages were poorly designed. The paper maps were outdated – anyway, I was not very good at reading maps. The locals usually have a way of helping us with directions that are not always useful. For many people the concept of distance is warped. They would not be able to estimate the distance to the next turn. Sometimes, the language caused issues. I have taken innumerable wrong turns in my road trips. But then the joy of getting back to the right track is immeasurable. The GPS has robbed us of this joy now.
Food is another key feature on our road trips. During our road trip to Gujarat, as soon as we crossed into a new state, we would buy the local snacks from there. When I am in a new location, I have a habit of checking with the locals for their recommendations for food. I have received recommendations from grocers, school teachers, security guards, tiny shop owners, real estate agents, temple priests, and autorickshaw drivers. Without exception, we have been guided to amazing food joints.
We still remember the all-women restaurant at Goa that served pure vegetarian food – we had some mouthwatering puranpolis. In Haridwar, we were directed to a vegetarian eatery along the Ganges – sitting at a window seat one evening, we could watch the river flow alongside. At Dharamshala, I located an old ex-army man who ran a Dhaba serving delectable rajma-chawal. He had some amazing stories from his army days. In Rajasthan, we visited an eatery run by an old couple. They were excellent conversationalists and we mingled with the family. Near Hampi, we ate at a rural resort run by a family. The middle-aged lady cooked amazing vegetarian fare while the father-son duo kept us engaged in conversations. I could go on and on. What amazing experiences!
Road trip and writing
For a travel storyteller like me, every road trip offers new material for my writing. With a good camera, a story comes alive. There is so much to see and experience in India – one lifetime is not enough! Read about our Kerala road trip here. I have plans to go on exclusive writing trips – exploring a place through my writing. Now the social media including my website guarantees unimaginable reach for my writing.
Always between road trips
People like us are always between road trips. We have just returned from a short road trip. Two more road trips are in the offing including one to Maharashtra.
My wife and I also have an ambitious plan to drive down (or is it drive up?) from Bangalore to Leh sometime in the future.
I can clearly see the road ahead.