Friday, June 17, 2011

Roadtrip chronicles - through the eye of a storm

Not having learnt our lessons from our first day of the trip, every morning we would make ambitious plans to set out by 4 am or earlier and drive hard the whole day so as to reach a far-away destination by evening. What would actually happen would be that we would leave by half-past 6 or later, drive peacefully and stop many times whenever the Old Reliable needed some succour! This was no different on day 4 of our journey (that's including the extra day in Alipur). We started off from Raiganj at 6:30 am, and had driven for only about 50 kms, before I realised that the car was pulling to the left the moment I crossed 70 kmph. Something like that would have caused much consternation and stress in the past, but after 4 days of getting adjusted to the fact that the OR was going through middle-age with all its associated health problems, we had become rather blasé to these events! Arthritis, hypertension and diabetes were all in their initial stages and with the stress of the long drive, we were likely to identify many problems that till then we had not known existed.

And so we crawled along till we reached the next big town, Malda, where we realised that similar to Shillong, nothing opened till 10 am! And finding breakfast is never easy in a small town, unless you are willing to risk the tasty, yet suspicious offerings of roadside vendors! Deciding we had taken too many risks already(!!), we breakfasted on biscuits and chai. Fortunately, we found a Maruti service centre whose mechanic had arrived early for some reason and there the OR got her next assessment - the fifth by a mechanic in 5 days! This guy decided to take her apart completely and we watched as he quickly stripped the left side of her engine compartment bare. At the end of that, it was obvious that he had no clue what the problem was! Finally he looked at one of the washers of the suspension and said that it was a little too flat. Sounded extremely fishy to me. Looked like the washer was being accused just because this guy needed to find something wrong! But then, what did I know about all this. So we changed the washer and he put the OR back together. Just as we were leaving he said he would balance the wheels - something that had been unsuccessful on our last try. As he removed the right wheel, he suddenly looked up with a smile and announced that he had identified the problem. It was actually quite obvious. The treads on the inner surface of the wheel had worn away completely and even to my untrained eye it was obvious why that would cause the OR to pull to the left. Wonder why my mechanics in Shillong who had supposedly inspected her completely had missed that! This guy put in the spare tyre and then declared he was done. Sure enough, there was no more pulling to any side, though I wish the fellow had identified this at first before taking apart the car and unnecessarily changing the suspension (at no small cost to me, I may add!!).

After that, we had a peaceful journey till the evening apart from the various minor issues thrown up by our national highways. But just 50 kms away from our destination of Asansol, we had another adventure. We went right through a huge thunderstorm. We saw it from afar, with the lightning and the thunder and thought it was really exciting. But as the sky darkened and we entered the storm with the rain pelting down, trees and branches crashing to the ground and lightning striking all around us, it was no longer just exciting. There was an element of actual fear added too, as we witnessed the power and fury of nature. It was only 20 minutes before we crossed the cloud and emerged to the sunshine on the other side, but they were an intense 20 minutes! We even forgot to take any pictures, though I doubt they would have shown anything. But we had made another great memory. Another adventure, another memory.
The dark sky before the storm, the sun nearly completely hidden. Many tries at getting a picture of the lightning failed. But this video caught a few. This was much before the really scary part!

We finally reached Asansol, where, at last, we hit the Golden Quadrilateral. It took us more than an hour to find a decent hotel with parking and the one we finally found was not really worth recommending, so I will not do so! We had a restful night though, knowing the rest of the journey would be much more peaceful, now that the road was going to be so good. And sure enough it was...... But that, as they say, is another story!!

P.S. Only one more of these to go, in case you are getting bored!!

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Zoom in and out using + and -. And use the mouse to toggle. Thanks Google Maps for the help!


  1. Methinks OR needs to be renamed OU. And how do you know the tyre was the cause of the problem? To me, it seems more like effect than cause.

    P.S. Ambitious - line 2.

    - The Black Mamba

  2. you should add a map to yr story, so we can follow along!


  3. Well, TBM, after changing the tyre, the problem disappeared, so I that was my logic. But then, I'm no expert! And as always, thanks for the correction!!
    And Suneeta, that was a really good idea, thanks!!