eliot & drew bike through india for 3 months, trying to inconspicuously do some good in the world.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

film review: Aetbaar

the daughter of a protective father meets a mysterious dirt-bike riding, dark-and-mysterious type after class one day. he has the deep, brooding allure that good little girls can't resist. he's rough with her, and creepy and has a deep voice. BUT THIS ISN'T A VAMPIRE MOVIE. 

then they dance together when he somehow knows she will be at this one club. he says he is something like a demon.  the whole room fades away and he keeps biting her neck while talking about feeling her heartbeat. BUT THIS ISN'T A VAMPIRE MOVIE. 

then, he beats up a bunch of women and follows the girl around, even when she's on vacation. her mother approves but her father thinks he's up to something. in the final confrontation, he is bloodied and beaten but seems to have an almost supernatural strength - hellbent on having her love forever at any cost. BUT THIS ISN'T A VAMPIRE MOVIE. 

it's Aetbaar

i sat through two and a half hours of this junk waiting for a bollywood-style vampire dance off (maybe a nod to Thriller?) and got nothing. nada. zilch. turns out the dude really was just creepy as all heck. if you thought christian bale's batman voice was bad, wait till you see Not-A-Vampire in Aetbaar. interestingly, the wiki on this movie indicates it's a remake of 1996's "FEAR," which is funny because another one of the movies i have to watch, Zinda is an obvious rip-off of Oldboy. India, like America, seems obsessed with the reboot / remake. 

anyway, beware the Aetbaar: which may or may not be a vampire.


Monday, December 28, 2009

sorry

been feeling a little under the weather and bogged down with holiday stuff. updates coming at you soon.  i promise, just as soon as i can stand up long enough to get on my bike.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

outrageous india

as proof by yesterday's train video, india is craaaaaaazy.

in a good way.

more proof of the apparent fearlessness of indian bystanders and the brazen attitude of it's motor-vehicle-operators can be seen here. the world's greatest dirt bike-while-texting-also-relaxing-all-cool dude can be found here.


in a much more serious but no less cool video, the basics of the holy scriptures called the upanishads can be found here. WARNING: crazy alien baby @ :40. according to who you ask, the upanishads were the basis for modern hinduism, buddhism, and taoism - everyone at least gives them a nod for influencing these religions. in the case of hinduism, and certainly Brahmanism, saying these texts are central is a gross understatement.  people: this is an old and incredibly influential set of scriptures that, whether or not you know it, have probably come to you in some form of another.

bags and blizzards

finally got around to buying rear racks for the panniers last night - at a paltry $35 a piece i think we made out okay. could have been worse.

oh course, when we bought them, they didn't fit our frames at all. we were having serious doubts about getting them to fit. thankfully, the nice folks at Bike World  were good enough to let us hang around (and even lent us some tools and a couple racks) so we could work on getting the racks adjusted. eliot ended up rigging his reflector holder and screwing the rack mounts into that so it comes off the saddle stem. i got some longer mounts and bent the heck out of them with a set of pliers, mounting them straight into the bike frame. whose will be mightiet? LET THE BATTLE OF JURY-RIGGED PANNIER MOUNTS BEGIN.

afterwards we went for a ride ... in 45 degree weather ... in the rain ... in bike shorts. people, "cold" doesn't begin to describe the kind of pain i was in. but it was good. or, at least, character building (which, growing up, my dad apparently thought was synonymous with "discomfort.") still, we live to bike another day and now we can take stuff with us. exciting. pictures forthcoming.

three big purchases left, folks - the insurance, the visas and the tickets.

Drive in Totals:$: 1713.71

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Traveling by Train


So one of the plans is to see much of the country via train, resulting in a mix of train travel over long distances and expansive bike travel over specific regions. We think this will give us a pretty good insight into Indian travel culture, as so much of the country is crisscrossed with railways. Apparently one can get almost anywhere via rails. The Indian railway stations are a thing of legend, with people being trampled every year during major rush hours and other folks hanging on to the side of trains as they scream along the tracks. As exciting and awesome as that all sounds, we're hoping we don't encounter anything as drastic as this video shows. I didn't even know trains could go that fast....

Friday, December 11, 2009

film review, salaam namaste

the other night eliot and i thought we'd watch SALAAM NAMASTE as part of our ongoing education in all things india. this theatrical one-sheet should tell you everything you need to know about the movie:



the male lead was of ... questionable sexual orientation and spent the whole movie prancing around wearing pastel clothing and jumping off steps in a mentos-esque explosion of euphoria. the female lead was exactly as annoying as you'd imagine someone who wears a skirt with "Von Dutch" written across the back would be.

while the movie started out light hearted, about halfway through it takes a really serious turn. the happy music stops as the characters debate whether or not they should abort their love-baby (spolier: it's twins!). the supporting cast seems to be made of cut-out of western stereotypes viewed through an Urdu lens. really disconcerting. especially the crocodile dundee guy.

on the plus side: australian babes dancing like indian babes. i forgot to mention - the movie takes place in australia.

anyway, if you can figure out what's going on in this movie, more power to you. i couldn't make heads or tails of what i felt for these characters short of contempt. oh and NOT ENOUGH DANCING. there was only one decent bollywood dance-a-thon. some interesting trivia: the male lead is apparently royalty and part of a film group called the Illuminati?

boooOOOOOOOOoooooorrring


Thursday, December 10, 2009

blech.






it's been so cold the last week that both me and eliot caught some slight colds. nothing serious just a lot of sniffling and coughing and moaning and ... still biking. which has only exacerbated the problem. eliot seems to be more or less over it, having chugged generic antihistamines for the last week. i've been relying on a steady diet of doing nothing about it. it caught up with me a couple days ago but a ready supply of mint tea with lemon has me mostly better. last night we went biking in what was one of the coldest night we've had thus far. my opinion is no-doubt skewed from the windchill of cruising around at 20mph, but i can tell you this - when we got home it took a solid half hour before we had use of our toes again. also, i've realized that runkeeper is not the most accurate software on earth for keeping track of mileage. i guess you get what you pay for. according to last night's ride, we clocked an additional 10.74 miles so i'll add it to the total, but i'm beginning to think we're riding further than this device is giving us credit for. speaking of last night's ride, it was amazing - we cruised through the new part of the riverwalk. i'll stop and snap some photos next time we're there so you guys can check it out (well, thems that don't live in SATX, anyway). Drive in Totals:$: 1624.71Logged: 34.63m/55.73km

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

idealism


on monday i was listening to the Diane Rehm Show ("one of her guests is always you!") when who should be on but none other than former U.S. representative and current director of the national endowment for the humanities, the honorable Jim Leach. you can hear the show here.

representative leach spent the hour talking about civility and a series of talks he's giving on the subject. he also spent a good portion of his time talking about the need for citizens to be civil to one another, both in public discourse and abroad. he made a special point about citizen-diplomats and not relying on the government to be the sole diplomatic entity speaking on your behalf. in other words (with apologies to mr. leach) show some respect when you're talking to people. be a good guest and be gracious with your words and actions. anyway, i thought i'd drop him an e-mail:
Good Morning -

I'm still listening to you on the Diane Rehm show but I wanted to drop a note and say how much I am enjoying your talk - with special regards to something specific you said: that the government isn't the only diplomatic entity in the United States; that each citizen, in every way is an extension of diplomacy and has an obligation to remain civil. Powerful stuff, and I couldn't agree more! If you get a chance, please briefly check out http://ghost-runners.blogspot.com. A dear friend and I are going to be traveling through India as "ghost runners." We took our name from the suburban tradition of having an invisible man who plays for both teams during a baseball game, who helps how he can, and leaves no trace. We want to travel the country and meet with people one-on-one to just talk.


I think it's truly important to interact with people across the globe face to face - it's a chance to show respect to others and learn a bit about culture first hand. I deeply endorse the idea of citizen-diplomats and was overjoyed to hear that such an accomplished individual in such a prestigious position agrees whole heartedly. Thank you for being straight-forward and honest. We'll keep doing the same.

and mr. leach's repsonse came shortly thereafter:
Thanks for the note. I am intritgued with your perspective and term: "ghost runners." Sounds a bit conspiratorial but the intent couldn't be more idealistic and as few understand, idealism and practicality are frequently synonomous.
what a thoughful, stand-up dude. we'd love to hear more from mr. leach, and we'll keep you posted if we do. his ideas about civility and respect hit right to the heart of what this trip we're taking is about.

Monday, December 7, 2009

ghost runners

i thought it was time i explained the name and mission of our little journey here.

if you've been reading this blog so far, chances are you know me and and eliot personally, but you may not know exactly what caused us to leave good jobs and spend lots of money to go halfway around the world for no good reason. back in college, me and eliot lived together for a couple years and had a lot of time to talk about a lot of things, and we kept coming back to a dream we both happened to share - to travel long distances using primitive means.

we talked about sailing or walking a long distance. we started building a railroad push-car to travel the abandoned railways of the United States. we never really found a focus but we knew we wanted to travel.  about two years ago, we got really serious about biking long distances - we figured it was a good way to see the world and a good way to meet people along the way. we were planning on africa but, if you follow the news, you know zimbabwe, sudan and kenya are not places you want to be right now. we both love all things india so we decided to go there.

regarding the name: suburban kids play pick-up baseball games all the time, and there aren't always enough players to make up a batting roster. so when a player makes it to a base, he places a "ghost runner" there. if the next batter can make it to the base, the ghost runner advances similarly.  the great thing is, the ghost runner plays for both teams. he doesn't do much - just stands on the base and helps out when and where he can. he helps, but he's not the batter, not the pitcher. just a runner, passing through.

we wanted to have a one-to-one cultural experience in india. we really believe in the idea of citizen-diplomats. there is no reason why diplomacy should be left to governments alone (and there's some pretty good reasons why we should wrestle some of that responsibility away from governments). go out into the world and help out where you can - don't try to save the world, just play the game. don't take sides. be respectful. be decent, and then move on.

we're relying on the kindness of a number of people - friends and family in india, friends and family here, strangers who have been nice enough to give us advice and the average person in india, who we're hoping treat us with kindness and hospitality in turn. it's been pleasantly surprising to me how much time eliot and i have spent researching manners and customs in india, discussing what gifts are and are not appropriate to give, how much space in our bags we can spare for things to give away. thing is, people are people everywhere and they just want to be happy. might be that means sharing a meal with a couple vagabond americans; might be that means leaving them the hell alone, and that's okay too.

we're all just passing through, folks. let's be excellent to each other.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Seriously, India, what the heck is going on with Cricket?


In a valiant attempt at trying to understand what goes on in the game of cricket, I consulted the YouTube. Someone in Pakistan thought this was a good explanation, but it still seems like Space Baseball to me. You decide:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

see? we're not crazy.

well, maybe we are. but we aren't the first ones to be this particular brand of crazy. some old dude and some young whipper-snapper were doing this stuff back in the way-back. click the thumbs for full-res pics:*




* i just realized i might have freaked-out some of our older readers. that last sentence should read: click on the little blurry squares and a big, bright picture will appear. DON'T WORRY GREAT-PA, IT'S JUST THE INTERNET - THE MEN ON THE PICTURE-RADIO AREN'T GETTING BIGGER. 

remember:

when choosing your malaria medication, mefloquine, while cheaper, may have:
"severe and permanent adverse side-effects. It is known to cause severe depression, anxiety, paranoia, aggression, nightmares, insomnia, seizures, birth defects, peripheral motor-sensory neuropathy,[2] vestibular (balance) damage and central nervous system problems. For a complete list of adverse physical and psychological effects — including suicidal ideation — see the most recent product information."
meanwhile, users of it's more expensive cousin, Malarone (Atovaquone, A+P):
"(may) have difficulty sleeping (nightmares, incoherent dreams) while taking Malarone." 

two rides, cinema-style

i totally forgot to post some of our more recent riding adventures -

three nights ago eliot and i went on a stupid, stupid bike ride. now, as you probably already know, eliot and i are the kinds of dudes who laugh - nay, taunt - danger. we stare straight into the beady black eyes of danger, take a sip of straight rye bourbon and whisper in a firm gruff voice: "yer momma." but on monday, eliot had to get to a credit union so we took off down the access road of loop 410. now, details get a little blurry, but i remember it going something like this:




we still managed to ride 8.36 miles. so that's something, i suppose. the lesson here is: buy a light for your bike, because seriously: trucks will kill you, you guys. thankfully, we made it home safe (never did find a credit union). then last night, as +/- 40 degree weather made for a pleasant brisk evening we went on another ride (7.55 miles though i think it was further) that went something like this:









Drive in Totals: 
$: 1624.71
Logged: 23.89m / 38.45km

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

knocked up
















today i went to go see my doctor, the good and honorable Dr. Kuebker. in addition to checking out a bunch of little things i wanted him to look into these last few months in preparation of making this trip (gooooo health insurance), he's also the man solely responsible for making sure that i don't get jungle-rot or some such incurable disease. so today i got the second part of my hep a shot.


i'll be heading  back to Dr.K after he checks the CDC website to get typhoid, yellow fever, malaria, rabies, scabies, male pattern baldness, triskaidekaphobia, dropsy and whatever else he can think of.


list reads like the obituaries form oregon trail. 

Monday, November 30, 2009

panniers

just picked up a set of these:



with shipping, it came out to 57.99. we'll see if these discounted bags live up to their lofty claims. DOING IT ON THE CHEAP.



Drive in Totals: 
$: 1624.71
$e: 755.79
$d: 868.92
Logged: 7.98m / 12.84km

going up the country

eliot and i went up to our buddy's ranch this week and managed to a get a solid ride in.  after riding around the ranch grounds a bit, we took off down the country roads. it was a really solid test of our specialized crosstrail's and i'm pleased to say they held up very well. the lock-off on the shocks is a must - with the lock off on asphalt it's smooth and quick (not quite a road bike but close enough), switch it off and it handles like a mountain bike on trails. really enjoying the ride.

it was also reassuring to finally get some mud on the bikes.  we rode through water and in the rain, got to hear the chains rattle down the gravel road and even fishtailed a bit. all told, a good training weekend. the last few rides i haven't had RunKeeper going so we can't accurately total the mileage, but we'll start that up again soon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hindi - Time to Learn It Up!


So Drew sent me this video for what will certainly be the first of many viewings in preparation for India-Thon 2010 - Learn Hindi 101.

This awesome little guy (who's every 5th or 6th word sounds a little like Dr. Strangelove) is outlining the basics of the Hindi language, as well as the up and coming language for Western-Central India (Mumbai) , Marathi.

Needless to say, we'll be soaking it up from this kind gent, as well as trying our darndest to understand the elusive Indian Head Bobble, which can mean yes/no/maybe/I dunno/thank you/goodbye/I love you/let's get some burritos dude, all at the same time. Awesome!

drive-in totals

you may be wondering what we mean by "drive-in totals." well, you see kids, back when i was in new york city in the summer of 2005, i lived with my best friends marshall and lily ... wait. no. let me start again:



back when me and eliot first met, one of the things that endeared us to each other was our mutual love for one Mr. Joe Bob Riggs (hallowed be his name, may he live for many years more). most folks got no clue who this guy is but he is probably the person most responsible for nurturing me through my formative teenage years (mom, dad and brother blair aside).  turns out eliot felt the same way - we both had spent countless nights as youggins stayin' up way to late to watch this crazy country yokel sit in front of his trailer and show us the world's worst films. the guy is a genius.

his humor, his taste in movies, his awesome fashion sense - all of it got in our heads, like that high-pitched squeling noise from scanners.<-- careful, there's alotta guts and stuff in this clip.

in every episode of his movie-review show monster vision, Joe Bob would total up all the ridiculous things that happened over the course of the movie and give you the DRIVE IN TOTALS. how many dead bodies, boobies, monsters, car crashes, etc. etc. hence, the drive-ins for ghostrunners.

now you know.


TNT MonsterVision (With Joe Bob Briggs) DVDs

BIKES

dudes and ladies - we have bikes. repeat: we have bikes.

so a HUGE step yesterday in our plans to take this re-don-dic-u-lous trip of ours: eliot and i travelled over to ride-a-way bikes here in beautiful san antonio, tx and purchase two (2) Specialized Crosstrail Sport bikes. the cost was 549.99+44.69[tax] for a total of 594.68 each.

the guys at ride-away are super helpful and i would recommend going there if you are planning an equally hair-brained trip into the heart of darkness. seriously, even if it's just for information, these guys know their stuff, are totally amiable and don't work on commission - no salespeople here, just enthusiastic bikes guys. hell, they even threw in free toe clips (not a huge deal for you maybe, but some of us operate on a budget). plus they fully indulged our idiotic ramblings, nonsensical questions and complete lack of common sense regarding bicycle repair and personal safety. i give them a 5/5.  i'll stop here, but i would compare it favorably to the experience we had at the outfitters. except there wasn't beer. if there was beer, 6/5.

speaking of that outfitters, i neglected to mention them by name - Good Sports. If you're in south texas looking for gear, skip the big pro shops and go here. again, free beer.

more to the point: we went for a sweet ride through our most hilly of homes and came out feeling amazing (the jameson's at the end of the ride helped). we're using the runkeeper™ app on my iPhone to track our rides.  last night was a short ride:

Ride #1 = 7.98 miles (12.84km), averaging 12.59mph (20.26km/h) over 38.01 minutes. 


not bad considering how friggin' hilly things are around here. we'll keep pushing it, but last night was a good warm-up. it's going to be a totally different game w/ bags and gear. speaking of which, we'll add a drive-in total for current bike weight as soon as i can find a scale to weigh myself / the bike on.  oh, and for the drive-in's below, $=total, $e= just eliot, $d= drew.

in the meantime, rock hard, ride free. make good choices. be well, do good things, stay in touch, etc. etc.

Drive in Totals: 
$: 1566.72
$e: 755.79
$d: 810.93
Logged: 7.98m / 12.84km

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

bicycle love triangle

last night eliot and i hit up four bikes stores in something like an hour-and-a-half. everything was going fine, with all eyes still on the specialized crosstrail from the previous night. that is until this sweet GT Total Comfort rode into my life. 


cool matte green-grey coating, righteously sized and an internal gear-hub.  me and eliot rode it around the parking lot and both really loved it. like ... really loved it. the internal gear hub was so smooth and the bike was fun and well balanced. it was a real drag that they didn't have it in eliot's size. anyway, this led to a massive internal struggle as to which bike i should get. 


ultimately i decided to go with the specialized. i mean, i really enjoyed the internal gear thingy and it would probably never break and i took the bike off this one sweet jump and uuughghghhhAAAAARRHRHHH!


yeah. have to go with the regular style gear hub.  if it breaks, at least someone somewhere will know how to fix it. the extra gears it provides could come in handy but are probably unnecessary.  one way or the other, we'll definitely let you know how the specialized works out. could be somewhere down the road, i'll wish i had the rock solid, lifetime garunteed of a fully sealed and lubricated 8-speed internal gear hub by shimano, one of the world's leading manufacturers of NO NO NO NO CAN'T SECOND GUESS MYSELF. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

tire > weights

we found a tire on the front porch and decide to turn it into a work out regime. yes, we are really close. but we're also inside cause it's cold and dark outside. hopefully, night time in india is bright and warm.


video

junk. and "junk."




above you'll see the specialized crosstrail 2010 which eliot and i fell in love with tonight. definitely the way to go, even though it is expensive ($550) (actually that's not so much). and anyway, the benefits it offers - sweeeeet shifters and nice derailer, not to mention double walled rims makes the price more than worth it. we're going to look around a bit since the (helpful) dude at ride-away bikes was unable to offer us anything less than list plus 10% off accessories. still, might be worth it.

we then traveled over to this mom-and-pop outfitters store where my buddy Adon works. he agreed to help us out with getting the right gear. he was busy so this other clerk helped and and she was amazingly helpful - totally knowledgeable, agreeable AND she gave us beer while we tried stuff on. aaaaaaaaamazing. eliot walked out with a north face rain jacket and some bikes shorts while i picked up a merino wool shirt, north face 100 wt. wool pull over and some sweet bike shorts.

seriously bike shorts are amazing - they kind of hold your junk this tight, but comforting way. it makes you feel sort of funny, but you like it. maybe you know the feeling. anyway, they look just like this:


eliot spent 161.11 and i spent 216.25, for a total of 377.36. because this is the first time we've spent money i'd like to introduce the drive-in totals for our trip. ocassionally we'll keep you updated with how things are progressing by mathifying things (cost, mileage, etc.) the first official drive in total is thus:

Drive in Totals:
$: 377.36

Saturday, November 21, 2009

friends & family


just got back from Sports Authority where this dude (james perhaps?) gave us a hand testing out some bikes in the parking lot. after some chit-chat and a hand shake we scored a sweet "friends & family" 35%-off coupon if we buy stuff on thanksgiving. with that in mind, and the fact that we can't decide if we should go mountain bike or touring bike, we decided to look around some more before purchasing. but possible-james' business acumen might have just scored him a customer tonight.

we both really liked the touring bikes but were afraid the slimmer tire profile and relatively thin rim-wall might be an issue on india roads. the actual conditions of said roads warrants more investigation.

in other news, with thanksgiving coming up, i have started thinking about the family and how they'll deal with me being abroad and out of touch for X-number of months. it will definitely be weird to see everyone again upon returning.

talked alot tonight about:
• crazy long indian names
• funny indian accents
• our deep desire to speak hindi
• inventing a set of panniers and bags that convert into a big framed backpack.

reminder to: breakdown equipment into things we need one of and things we need more than one of, then divide stuff up accordingly. for example - one multi-tool, one pump, lots of extra tubes, sets of clothing, food, cooking supplies, etc. etc.

btw, the bike i really liked was the diamondback edgewood. specifications can be found here and it looks just like this:



Thursday, November 19, 2009

the wolf is loose

eliot has landed in san antonio a little later than we anticipated, but he's here and we're rolling on.

last night we had a really good talk over some PBR about initial plans. things were pretty haphazard with both of us getting really excited, then butting heads, then laughing and getting excited again. i managed to take some notes:

1. We are definitely taking instruments, but we have to figure out which ones. also, we should take the digital recorder i have and lay down some sweet tracks - ghostrunners style.

2. How long do we want to stay in Dubai / the emirates?
2b. what's the cost to stay there?
2c. what things do we really want to do there?
2d. if worse came to worse, can we cut this leg of the trip completely?

3. Shipping bikes on planes seems to be the way to go. this is one of those things we can knock out now.

4. Camera(s): DSLR?
4b. found and tested the sony HD cam - little bitty guy that shoots 1080p. we'll be taking this and probably a point-and-shoot. it would be nice to have compatible HC SD cards for both and a netbook with a huge drive to DL them too. maybe external HDs?
4c. point and shoot options

5. WHEN IS THE RAINY SEASON IN INDIA AND HOW DO WE PREPARE?!

We then made two lists, one of "controlled" costs / expenses and one of research topics:

CONTROLLABLE EXPENSES:
• Food (+stove) <-- assuming 50% meals prepared / purchased
• Clothing
• Bikes (tubes, tires, etc)
• Airfare
• Health Insurance
• Inoculations
• Netbook / Laptop / HDs
• Water*
• Phone (cards?)
• Camping Gear

* - there was a post about a water bottle that filtered water with a physical barrier that was super cheap and useful. i'm going to find that blog and repost it here.


RESEARCH TOPICS:
• Route
• Gear
• Language & Culture
• Training (1st aid, bike repair)
• Health (BMR, BMI, et al.)
• Technology / IT


We're going to proceed by knocking these lists out, one item at a time. We'll be compiling our research here and updating it frequently.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

handshake

we're going to begin documenting the whole ramping up to the journey thing.

so far, we're about t-minus 3 weeks from e-man hitting TX. at that point, the grind will start. i did manage to make this handy semi-PERF chart that explains how we're going to be taking this beast down (by taking out it's heart, obviously - thanks, mcconaughey).

i'll upload that as well as a tentative timeline pretty soon.