I never slept that night. I opened my eyes at 04:45 AM, seconds before the alarm went off. I got up and grabbed the phone from the table and disabled all alarms. I prefer to set multiple alarms because it makes me feel like I am not a snoozer : ). I did not have enough sleep but, unlike other days I was not feeling sleepy. It was a big day. It was my first road trip on the new bike, the Thunderbird 500. How could I not be excited? I had gone to bed at 01:00 AM and I got up at 04:45 AM. It was not a good thing because I had to drive the whole day, but what could I have done.
I looked outside the window and, it was still dark. After getting ready, I decided to wait for the light to show up. At 06:30 AM in the morning, I started the trip. There are two routes, one via Solapur-Bijapur and the other via Satara-Kolhapur. After reading a bit and, talking to a few people I had decided to take the Solapur-Bijapur route. Till now I had only driven on Satara-Kolhapur route (part of the Golden Quadrilateral). So I mounted the phone to use it for navigation and selected the Solapur-Bijapur route. I wanted to switch of the data to save the battery, instead, I just turned off the wifi. I had downloaded the entire route in the offline map.
Because the internet was still active, the map kept on changing the route based on traffic. I knew the general direction to reach the highway (towards Hadapsar in Pune), so I understood on every occasion whenever the map showed an opposite direction I should take. I then found out the mobile data was still running, so I put the phone on flight mode. I did not need any traffic-related info because there were no shortcuts, anymore. After about 30 minutes, I touched what seemed like the national highway. I was driving up and, I could see the bright light coming from the sun. I did not want to drive in the dark, so I had started late. But I could have started a little earlier.
I had bought this bike in August, and the pedometer still read just 250 KMs. It’d change in coming few days. I had read about refuelling after petrol reaching half of the tank. So I kept on checking the fuel indicator. I had filled the whole tank last night, so I was kind of sure that I could go at least 200 KM without worrying about refuelling. But after touch the 50 KM mark, when I saw the fuel indicator, it started showing the warning signal. The first and a ridiculous thought that came to mind was, is the average of Thunderbird this bad? It didn’t stay for long though. It was indeed ridiculous.
At the time of delivery, the guy had told me that if I were riding on the highway, sometimes the air could build up in the fuel tank and the bike might halt and stop. The engine was still running though. I stopped the bike on the roadside, opened the fuel tank and waited for a while. I started again and, the fuel indicator was showing full now. But after a while, something else happened. This time, the indicator started blinking, as if it was not able to read the fuel level. I stopped again to open the fuel tank for removing the possible air built up. It didn’t work though. For the rest of my journey, the fuel indicator did not work. I thought of getting it checked up in Badami, and continued.
I was doing an average of 50 KMs per hour. The maximum speed that I had touched was 80 KMPH. I am not one of those who loves to drive on high speed. I feel driving at high speed not only has risks, but it is also uncomfortable and unsmooth. I usually stop after every hour or 45 minutes. I calculated the worst case scenario and figured I should refuel after driving around 150 KM. And I found one when I had driven around 175. I crossed Solapur at around 12:00. I was on time, considering the unexpected and expected stops that I had to make. The road was not in good condition so, I was driving at 60-70 now. I reached a small town called Zalki and, at the last tea shop in the town, on the highway, I stopped. I sat there for a while, talked to the shop owner. He asked me from where I was coming, where I was going. He also suggested me to stop at Bijapur and visit Gol Gumbaz and Shivmurti. Those were the two places you should go if you are in or around Bijapur and it would not take more than an hour, he told me. But as I had to reach Badami before sunset, I couldn’t spend an hour at one place. So, I decided I might stop in Bijapur for a night while returning.
After reaching Bijapur, I left the National Highway. The road from there to Badami was monotonous. I did not find a proper tea shop or hotel where I could stop and have tea or eat something. Each stretch of around 10 KMs had good 4 lane road and less traffic as compared to other highways. But after each of those stretches, I found many diversions and roads which were under construction. I even drove for more than an hour because I could not find a proper place to stop. Then I started hearing a strange sound coming from the front part of the bike. This sound only existed when I was accelerating. I tried to figure out and, found that it was coming from the fuel tank. I knew something was wrong with the fuel tank because of the fuel indicator. But this sound was strange. I stopped under a tree, ate half of the protein snack bar that I was carrying. I thought after resting a bit the noise will go off. But it did not. There was nothing wrong with driving experience except the noise. But it did not matter much.
I had booked the hotel at Badami. I reached at exact 5 PM. I couldn’t touch the 500 KM mark but, this was one of my longest trip in a day.