Biking from Stanford to San Francisco
On one eventful morning in March 2006, I had learnt that I had just cleared the JEE. That monstrous exam that I had spent the last three years preparing for. It was a good day in my life. It was a great day in fact. I felt I had just been re-born. As I would tell my dad, Abba, this is my new passport to life. From now on, nobody will ask me about my past, I’ve cleared the IITJEE. That’s all that matters. For a 19 year old me, that was more than I could even dream of.
So, that weekend, a couple of my friends and me decided to go hang out at the recently opened Hiranandani Gardens in Powai. To celebrate our triumph over JEE, all we wanted was to go out and have pizza at the Pizza Hut and race at the go-karting track.
Now, in Mumbai, pretty much everyone travels by the local trains. It’s the fastest way to get from point A to B without worrying about traffic jams. Had this been any other day, I would have taken the train from Byculla to Powai. But this was no normal day. I had just cleared the mother of all exams. And I felt amazing. I was on top of the world and I would not take the train to Powai. No sir. I decided to ride my bike to Powai. For no real reason I was going to ride 25 kms (or 16 miles) on my rusty old bike through the polluted and traffic congested streets of Mumbai.
Now, for the last two years I’ve been at Stanford, I’ve dreamed of riding all the way to San Francisco. It’s in a some sense an ode to my ride from Byculla to Powai. From one city to another. So, when I woke up yesterday I felt liberated. As I lay in bed, I thought to myself. This could be just one of the many Sunday’s I’ve lazed through or I could do something different. Push myself. Do something crazy to remember this last sunday of June by. And I decided that I’d ride my bike to SF.
After calling a couple of people and getting no enthusiastic response, I decided it was going to be just me. And so I set out. It was beautiful. It took me 3 h 5 min to get till the Caltrain station in downtown SF from the Stanford campus. The total distance one-way was about 45 miles (or 72 kms).
And boy, was it beautiful. Compared to the dusty, painful ride of six years earlier in Mumbai, the ride along the SF Bay was a very picturesque and beautiful one. Even though I rode three times the distance in about the same time, the journey was more pleasant.In a sense, I had re-created for myself the experience I had enjoyed six years ago. Only, instead of polluted streets, I rode through beautiful paved trails. Instead of buses almost running me over, I enjoyed the solitude of empty roads along the bay.
But in both cases, I was so exhausted that I hauled my ass back with my bike in the train. Falling asleep with my hands around my precious bike. Tired and spent. But with my heart content.
Some pictures/videos from the ride: