Monday, October 30, 2006

Huntsville: There And Back Again

Arvind Kejriwal was in town. Noted RTI activist from Delhi, heads Parivartan, Magsaysay award recepient ('06), Arvind is on a tour of the USA, and has been very successful in exposing many a case of corruption in the Indian government offices through the efficient use of the rather progressive Right To Information Act.

Santhosh and myself attended his very interesting talk and got a little delayed. By the time we picked up Ganesh and our dinner from Thai Kitchen it was just past 9pm. The drive from Austin to Huntsville is a little under 3 hours. Santhosh was in his elements and was constantly entertaining us with his thoughts on the moon and other desultory topics. Somewhere around Brenham, we did not connect from 290 to 105, and entered the red-neck town of Brenham. Here I'll refrain from placing blame, but Santhosh was navigating. Once we were in the town, Santhosh suggested we stop at a gas station and ask for directions to 105.

The gas station was deserted. Santhosh and Ganesh went in, while I was filling gas, and was promptly accosted by a rather inebriated gent (i.g.), who wanted to know what was in the cooler in our car, and if he could partake of it. I gently suggested to him that his tankard was rather full already, by a gesture of hand and an askance look, and further brought home the suggestion by locking the car and walking away. The i.g. then followed me to the gas station, and as I went in, he was distracted by the cashier, and promptly proceeded to ask him, the cashier, to part with some of his cash register contents. Fully conscious that we could be shot, we deliberated on what to buy and slowly made our way back to the car and left the gas station in one piece.

After much meandering through the town of Brenham, we finally got to 105, and even as we were picking up speed, we were stopped by a cop. I rolled down my window, but the cop insisted on walking around towards Santhosh's side, the door with the dysfunctional window. The cop asked us where we were from, and where we were headed to. When we said Huntsville, she wanted to know why we were going to Huntsville. By then we were all well into our granola bars and Santhosh's "to run a trail race" filtered through the granola bar, came out as "to run a trade race". Clearly not comprehending, the cop persisted, "Come again?". Santhosh, this time, "to run a train race". Now the cop gave up and asked me to step out of the car. I thought that meant a ticket, while Santhosh expressed to Ganesh his concern of getting to Huntsville in case I get arrested. The ever-persistant cop, again asked me what we were going to Huntsville for, and this time I explained with key words like race, running, marathon, and state park. It seemed to get across better, and she said, "Do you realise you were going faster than 60 in an under 60 zone?". I went on a long explanation about having gotten lost, and the interaction with the i.g. at the gas station. At which point the cop said drive safely, and sent us packing with just a warning.

The rest of the journey was mostly tame. Barring a few incidents of Santhosh flirting with the receptionist at the La Quinta Inn, and Ganesh and myself having to lug a spring rollaway bed up a large flight of stairs, we got to bed and lay down, and as the poet once said, let sleep pour over us in a healing wave, knitting the ravelled sleeve of care.

The return journey was no where as entertaining, but had its moments with Santhosh's song and dance routine (no legs), and an attempt to translate narumugaye. In all a rather memorable drive back and forth adding much to the charm of our first ultra-distance race.

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