Chapter 1: The Plan Every tour starts in a unique way. Some require a careful planning and a thorough study of routes. While some tours present themselves to you, and all you need to do is to act your part. Our Gujarat tour started in similar way one Sunday night, when I and Nandinee were sprawled across the hall, my eyes heavy from a nice supper and mind half processing what the idiot box was blaring in front of us. But whatever images it was showing were definitely interesting, and I woke up from my slumber to concentrate. It was a travel channel showing various tourist spots of Gujarat. Even in my half- awake state, I had to agree it seemed wonderful. The destination had presented itself, and we responded positively to its invitation. It was the month of November, and luckily we were in season to visit the place. Unlike Ladakh which requires months and months of preparation, most other tours require much simpler – yet no less involved – preparation. The mode of travel was no brainer – Vesta (Suzuki GS150R). She had been my faithful ride for many tours now, and it was natural that we would take her across to the plains of Gujarat. Slowly the plans were made, railway tickets were reserved, Vesta’s parceling through train was in place. For 8 days that included two Sundays, it was a perfectly set plan. But like all good plans, this too had to be led astray. At a very short notice, Elizabeth entered our lives and changed the whole damn plan that we had planned so meticulously over many a week. Elizabeth Just one week prior to our tour, we welcomed a wonderful addition to our lives – A green Ninja 300. As per the tradition, she too was christened. We considered many names, but the name that finally stuck with us was – Elizabeth, or Ellie in short. In a Marathi movie ‘Elizabeth Ekadashi’, where it is a bicycle’s name, a little boy tries to explain his sister what the name Elizabeth means. After trying different meanings, he finally concludes ‘Elizabeth means long lasting’. This seemed a reasonable expectation looking at the quality the Ninja 300 offers. Now Vesta and Ellie are completely different breeds. Vesta glides over roads, has a nice upright riding position, provides a lot of place to place ourselves and luggage on top of her. After many rides, I had come to know her in extreme details, as to how much slope she could manage, which overtaking maneuvers could she safely undertake and which ones she would simply had to wait out. We could ride at our own pace, without disturbing the world around us, and not getting disturbed in return. But Ellie is a completely different animal. First of all, she is a rock star. Vesta blends into her surrounding; Ellie stands on top of a table and grabs eyeballs. And she is not just a show horse either. She has enough power to match the looks. The riding position is bit forward, though not as dedicated as other sports bikes. The seats are cushioned only so that one wouldn’t complain of the manufacturer not using any foam at all. The pillion has to sit close to the rider, and luggage space is a luxury. But Ellie has a mind of her own. What she embodies is not looks or power, but freedom. Now I could choose whether I want to calmly ride or hurry up. I could now get out of traffic at my own wish. The sudden increase in power and riding precision was certainly a great upgrade. Once I got Ellie, it was a natural progression that she would take us to Gujarat. But I couldn’t send her via train, with so many ornaments prone to damage. So a wild plan was fixed. ‘Let’s ride all the way and back!’ Luggage on Ellie Mounting luggage on Ellie deserves a special mention. Since the bike had to take me, Nandinee and our clothes for 8 days, we wanted a good luggage capacity. A magnetic tank bag was an obvious choice, but it was not enough. We had to have a saddlebag – two bags joined together, placed on pillion’s seat so that the pillion can sit on top of it (like a horse’s saddle). But Ellie’s curves and upswept exhaust made sure that none of the readymade solutions work out of the box. It required a couple of nights thinking and studying of many luggage options on Ninja 300, when finally we came up with a simple solution, to put a spacer to push the saddle bags away. This simple mod made the whole trip possible. Without this mod, I would be constantly having tension whether the saddle bags would touch the exhaust, and if they did, then that would be a whole different chapter. We rode a number of small tours here and there to get used to Ellie, and got her first service done.