Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Riding Around Minneapolis at Sunset


Last weekend we the weather was nice enough for a motorcycle ride. It was a busy day, but we managed to get out just before sunset started. It was a short one hour ride, but we both really enjoyed it. Minneapolis

This time we rode around Minneapolis and the Mississippi River. I really enjoy riding by the river and wanted to share some of that with Laura. Before we left, I asked her which bike she wanted to ride on. She thought about it for a few seconds and then picked the SV650. I’m sure the other bikes were jealous. The poor Ural is still stuck in the corner taking up space.


Our first picture stop was the park just south of the stone arch bridge. The bridge is a beautiful pedestrian bridge which was a former railroad bridge. It was first built in 1883. Looking back on my old posts, I wrote about finding this park for Ural National Rally Day 2011. I also wrote about it when Keith came up from St. Louis for a visit; check it out here. Wow, time flies.



We looped around enjoying the winding road along the river as far south as Ford Parkway, and then crossed over to the Saint Paul side. The roads on the Saint Paul side were not as smooth as Minneapolis. At one point we were both making noises for how rough and bumpy it was. It was almost washboard bad even though it was paved.

In our exploration, we found this little parking space with a great view of downtown Minneapolis. It’s just north of Washington Ave, but south of dinkytown. I’m sure I’ve ridden past this spot at least once before, but I don’t remember stopping to enjoy this view before this ride.

We both really enjoyed the ride and the sights. Here’s hoping we can squeeze another ride in soon.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Visiting India: Riding in India (Part 6 of 6)


As I mentioned in my first post of this series, I was visiting India for my friend Ganesh’s wedding. After several plane rides and a train ride, we arrived in Erode. His family met us at the train station. They took our bags and piled them into the car. It quickly became clear there wouldn’t be room for the two of us as the bags were piled up to the roof.

The family scooter was also there (above pic), so Ganesh jumped on. He was eager to ride. I was a bit skeptical since we were both tired from traveling so long. He started it up, and I climbed on the back. I was slightly worried about not having any motorcycle gear. Soon the heavy morning traffic swallowed us up. It was an assault on the senses. So many sights, sounds, and smells! Honking, people yelling, exhaust, bright colors, and movement everywhere. It was overwhelming! Ganesh was a bit rusty at first, so I became very alert while I tried to find a place to hang on. It was exhilarating. Over the next few days I had several rides on the back of the scooter.

I also rode with Ganesh’s dad on the back of the family motorcycle to the bus station on the way to Chennai. It was after dark, which made it extra fun.


Once in Chennai, we used the above tuk tuk or auto-rickshaw. They were a blast! Three tiny wheels and cover. They were completely under powered for anything above 30kph. The drivers made New York Cab drivers seem calm. It was exciting riding with them as they wove through the heavy city traffic. Several times my drivers darted in ridiculously small gaps and alleys. One time with less than an inch to spare on either side. It seemed adhoc races were always forming between the drivers if one passed another while both had a fare. It was a hoot.

By chance, I managed to get the same driver two days in a row. He was aggressive and it was like being in a rollercoaster. I enjoyed it. He always knew all the shortcuts, and while he drove completely wide open most of the time, he stopped to save a small dog from getting squished by bus once. His non-existent English combined with my utter lack of Tamil meant we couldn’t understand each other’s words, but we still understood each other. The second night in the rain was a hilarious ride others might have said scary. I gave him a big tip. He was really fun.


This motorcycle belongs to one of Ganesh’s friends. It is a Pulsar 150. You can see the common engine crash bars and rear footrest for side-saddle riding. This is the motorcycle I rode while I was there.


I didn’t buy a helmet while I was in India. They were cheap, like maybe $10. The 2% off sale made me laugh out loud. In hindsight, I should have bought one, but I didn’t. I didn’t go to India with the plan of riding a motorcycle, it just happened.


Here is me in my Indian riding gear! I normally wear full gear: helmet, eye protection, gloves, coat, pants, and boots. It was a different experience riding without the gear I've been accustom to. It felt odd. Most people weren't wearing any gear, so culturally it was correct. Some people wore helmets, but most didn't. Only in the mountains, did I see people also wearing gloves and riding coats. I didn’t go far or fast, so I felt relatively safe.

India is now the third country I’ve ridden a motorcycle in after the USA and Canada.

This trip was easily one of my favorites. I really would like to go back; I just need to figure out when it will work out. India has 29 states, and I only visited three of them. There is a huge country left to explore! If you ever get the chance to visit India, do not hesitate just go! I miss all the colors, the friendly people, and the amazingly delicious food.

Again, a big thank you to Ganesh, his family, and his friends for being such great host and making the trip so very memorable and fun. 

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Visiting India: Motorcycles (Part 5 of 6)


India is full of motorcycles! They are much cheaper than a car, great in heavy traffic, and can be parked what seemed like almost anywhere. They didn’t appear to be much fun in the rain. When I was in Chennai, it rained quite hard several days. The roads quickly flooded and people were riding around with their foot pegs dragging in the water. Most riders use a motorcycle as their only transportation, but there are those who also just ride for fun. The ones who ride for fun tend to have more money to be able to afford a second vehicle.


The motorcycles were much smaller than in the USA. Most of them were from 50-200cc. I saw a few above 500cc; they were rare. Lots and lots of Hondas, Yamahas, Suzukis, and other Asian brands. So many brands and models I’d not heard of or seen here in MN.


At one of the malls I visited, they had a dedicated motorcycle parking lot with a dedicated motorcycle entrance/exit. Cool!


One of the “bigger” sportier bikes.


Notice all the motorcycles have engine guards.


 This trike has a handicapped plate. The only time I saw trikes like this is when they had the disability plate. They were basically two extra wheels welded on. The original drive wheel was still in there, so they actually have four wheels. Are they still trikes then?


This was the motorcycle I rode.


Next up, Riding in India!

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Visiting India: Street Scenes (Part 4 of 6)


The traffic rules in India are quite different from those in the USA. For starters, they drive on the left side of the road instead of the right side. There is also a ton of motorcycles on the road. I would guess at least 50% of the vehicles are motorcycles. Painted lines were quite rare. They just made lanes as necessary.


In the cities, there was usually a concrete divider between the different directions with regular gaps for making turns and u-turns. The rules seemed to be rather simple. Stay to the left most of the time; sometimes people would drive/ride on the wrong side of the road to because the turn-arounds/gaps were too far away.


Another rule seemed to be that the bigger you are, the more right away you have. Since they didn’t really have painted lines, if you could fit, you could go. If you couldn’t quite make it, use your horn. It was loud and chaotic. I grew to like it.


Motorcycles had a huge advantage since they were small and could move through traffic in the denser areas. The cars were stuck.


I expected to see cows everywhere, but I didn’t. They were definitely there and they were roaming around. The cars I was in almost always honked at them if they were in the way. These cows were hauling in freight to be loaded onto trucks for further transport.


This is another average street scene in an average sized town. The cities were much more crowded.


One of the few times there were painted lines on a beautiful mountain road. Our car was passed by many motorcycles zipping around that day.


Next up more motorcycles!

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Visiting India: On the Road (Part 3 of 6)


The roads in India reminded me of Malaysia, but more chaotic and many in much poorer condition. In India, they drive on the left side of the road. This made crossing the street for me a bit of a challenge at first. I kept looking the wrong way and nearly getting run over. They also walk on the left side as well which caused me some hassle walking around the malls and cities as I nearly plowed into people; I was on the wrong side. Many of roads didn’t have lines painted on them. Lanes were created by the vehicles as needed. At first it confused me, but then I came to enjoy the freedom of no lines. Also like Malaysia, motorcycles make up at least 50% of the road users. Motorcycles everywhere!


From the stereotypes about India in the USA, I expected to see five or more people on every motorcycle and tons of royal enfields. Neither of those turned out to be correct for my journey. I only saw a few enfields. They are quite expensive there, so most folks ride cheaper motorcycles. The speeds are quite slow in India as well; I would guess an average of 30kph.


Here is the another enfield. I like to think this one is outfitted in India adventure travel mode. I like the umbrella on the back of his hiking backpack.


I only saw five people on a motorcycle twice in the three weeks I was there. I managed to capture this family on a scooter as we passed them in a car on the way to Munnar.


Most of the time there were only one or two people to each motorcycle or scooter. Many of the women rode on the back sideways as shown below. Most of the motorcycles I saw had a small platform for their feet to facilitate riding side-saddle. Two other common modifications can be seen on this bike below as well. Almost all had engine crash bars and a heel-toe shifter to help with riding in sandals.


Motorcycles can haul nearly anything in India. These guys below are hauling the windshield to car. They weren’t going very fast.


Lots of different delivery motorcycles too. I’m not sure what this guy was delivering though.


Another delivery motorcycle. This one with a much more substantial custom box strapped to the back.


Monkeys. Monkeys were all over outside of the cities. This one was part of a gang that was near the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu at the police checkpoint. When the car stopped, they would jump down and rush towards looking for snacks. We barely rolled up the windows in time before they started taking things out of the car.


One of my favorite road signs in India. I’m not sure of the exact meaning, but I think it means fun curvy road ahead!


Next up more street scenes!

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Visiting India: Scenery (Part 2 of 6)

Before I went to India, I had no idea there were mountains in the south. I thought they were only in the northern part. I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoy mountains, and the Western Ghats near the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala didn’t disappoint. The mountain air was cool and crisp (60-70F) compared to the oppressive heat further inland (80-100F). The Western Ghats top out just under 9000 feet which makes them respectable mountains in my book.


My first trip to the mountains was in a hired car. We left early in the morning from Coimbatore and started driving to Munnar. The Western Ghats are visible from Coimbatore and just kept getting bigger the more we drove. We started out on what seemed like the edge of more arid land, and as we rose in altitude things became more and more lush. I’ve linked several of the places on Google maps. Check out the road details in the area. They were very tight and twisty; I think they would be very fun on a motorcycle.


Munnar is a famous area for growing tea and the scenery was amazing as shown above. The tea plants were all worked by hand. The workers slowly moving over each plant.


I also took a trip to Nelliyampathy. It was much smaller than Munnar and beautiful in a different way. The roads were smaller, and it was more remote. It was also much cleaner being mostly free of pollution and litter. Most of the tourists were in Munnar, and not many came down the little road to Nelliyampathy.


I visited Ooty which is another big tea producing area in the Ghats. It is also a very popular tourist destination. I enjoyed visiting a tea factory and buying freshly processes tea. Wow! It smelled so good in there. The tea had amazing flavor and was really cheap. I’m still enjoying the large purchase I made.


Above, is a view from the hotel I stayed at in Ooty. The sunflowers were pretty and spread all over the hotel grounds. The hotel was quite cheap at maybe $40/night for a large, clean room, large bed, and a private bath WITH hot water! Hot water was a luxury in India much like it was in Malaysia.


The botanical gardens in Ooty were impressive. They had so many varieties of plants I’d never seen before. I could write an entire post on that garden. The conservatory there was interesting; it was full of succulents and cacti. Everything else enjoyed the humidity outside. Quite a contrast to the topical plants we have in the conservatories in Minnesota.


On the eastern edge of Tamil Nadu is the Indian Ocean. On one of my trips to Chennai, I visited the ocean and some of the world heritage sites along the coast. The ocean was nice, but I didn’t stay long. The driver I had that day was good. He knew about this empty stretch of beach. No people and more importantly no trash.


I visited Maamallapuram which is along the coast south of Chennai. They are home to some impressive sculptures and temples along with several UNESCO World Heritage sites.


The first site I visited is called the Shore Temple. It was built around 700AD out of blocks of stone. It was nice to walk around, and I had an English speaking guide who told me some of the history.


The second site in the area is also a UNESCO World Heritage site called Pandava Rathas. All of the monuments above is carved from a single large stone. I am really impressed they managed to carve such detail out of ONE large stone and before 700AD even.


I visited many temples while I was in India. The view above is from one of them. I don’t remember the name now. I just remember the view was impressive as it was situated on top of a tall hill overlooking the town below. There was also a contingent of monkeys looking for food on the outside.


Above is the inside of another Hindu temple I visited. I didn’t take many pictures at the temples as almost all of them were in use. I didn’t feel right taking pictures of people while they were performing their ceremonies or praying. This one had just finished being used, so I took a quick photo.

Join me for the next post where I write about Indian traffic and roads.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Visiting India (Part 1 of 6)


In the summer of 2014, I had the good fortune to visit India for the wedding of my close friend Ganesh. I spent three weeks in southern India with most of my time in Tamil Nadu and a few days in Kerala. This will be the first in a six part series about my time in India. One post every other day.


I was lucky to spend a large amount of the time with Ganesh’s friends and family. They were unbelievably friendly, generous, and welcoming. I can’t thank them enough for all they did for me! It was an amazing trip.


I will try to keep this series focused on the scenery and the motorcycles. I might write a few posts about the food over on my food blog; we’ll have to see how ambitious I get. In short, the food was some of the best I have ever had.


The flight to India from Minneapolis was the longest I have had to date! I flew from Chicago to Dehli to Chennai and then took an overnight train to Erode where my friend’s family lives. It was about 40+ hours of travel time to get there. I was severely jet lagged. At that time, they were 10.5 hours time difference. On the return journey, I flew from Coimbatore to Chennai to Dehli to Chicago to Minneapolis. The Dehli to Chicago leg was about 14.5 hours the single longest flight I have been on. It was totally worth it.


During the trip I saw so many great sights from mountains to ocean and everything in between. It was hard to trim down the photos into a series of posts. While I was there, I tried to unplug from technology and just live in the moment. I took some photos, but not nearly as much as I normally do. It was nice to just experience what was happening without worrying about trying to figure out how to share it.

(Wedding photo courtesy of Jarwin Tee)

Google Map of Tamil Nadu.

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