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South Indian Tuk-Tuk Challenge: Day 2

Nov 14, 2010

13 November. It was great to watch everyone arrive last night with lots of stories. The gang was very happy to see that our "tents" were fabulous. I had convinced everyone we would be roughing it this night. The expression on Karen's face everytime I mentioned tents the prior two days was priceless. We truly regretted leaving.

Today's challenge would be to make it through the town of Coimbatore, find our way to Salem, and then drive to an elevation of 1,200 meters (about 4,000 feet) through 20 hairpin turns.

As we all raced off, Ed and Roger (Roger mostly), decided they wanted a louder horn. They waited while 4 different horns were fitted to Roger's satisfaction. Meanwhile, Henry and Paul P also had some items checked and rechecked. I think he had gotten over the fact the brake lights were never going to work, but he was going to make sure that at least the brakes did.

The route was a mixture of potholed, crowded streets and modern highways. One of the things I have noticed over the past few years is how rapidly India's infrastructure has evolved. Some of the highways were were on today were fantastic. And I have been able to get mobile coverage in the most out-of-the-way places. We see cellular towers everywhere, and I have not worried about getting a distress signal out should we need.

Paul and Kagan of Team Bare Apple, unfortunately, did need such a signal to call for help when Kagan hit a pothole dead on. Kagan was in the midst of passing a car, when a bus pulled out from on coming traffic into his lane in an attempt to pass a truck. Amazingly, the service folks gott here in an hour, took apart the whole front end and replaced it in another hour, and Bare Apple was on its way after a couple of hours.

Not to be outdone, Guy and I of Team Symanta Bear, lost our entire right rear wheel while coming down a highway overpass at our full speed of 45 kph (28 mph). We were wondering what the wobbly feeling was all day. We kept getting out and looking at the front wheel where it seemed to be coming from. The bolts sheared off, the wheel came off, and we were sliding down the ramp. As there were no shoulders and as we were coming to a stop in the midst of the ramp, we had to crank up the engine and ride down to the end onto the shoulder. We stopped in front of a modern Ford dealership. They helped us lean the rickshaw over and put some rocks underneath it. Guy replaced the tire and we canabalized bolts from the other tire. Meanwhile, some nice folks on a motorcycle brought us the other tire. We then proceeded on a hunt for spare bolts. We were up and running in 30 minutes.

We knew we were still in a good position and kept moving. The climb up the mountain was incredible. However, our fuel line was leaking and we started to sputter along. We had a heck of a time, but still made it to the top. When we stopped for water, Oracle of Tuk flew right by us. As we gave chase we started to sputter and lost site of them. We got within 100 meters of our destination and asked for directions. Completely misunderstanding their correctly given directions, we proceeded to get lost for an hour. We finally made it in as it was getting dark.

Rob and Trang of Osso Bay did not get lost and took first place. Eddie and Mark were an hour behind in a strong second, but stopped to take pictures of the beautiful scenery and the monkeys. Roger and Ed took advantage and took second, leaving Eddie and Mark with third. Kagan and Paul came in fourth a bit after, as they and the remainder of us got badly lost. We were second to last after Karen and Xavier in AutoBear who took fifth. Henry and Paul of VeriBear pulled up the rear down the very muddy last 50 meters to our Tree Houses.

It was a great day, and we ended by celebrating Aravind and Guy's birthdays.