A Friendly Mess!!

Kochi - Palakkad (continued)

Once we hit mainland we all agreed that Danny would start the driving since he was the most comfortable and we began our journey winding through the streets of India. Since we really wanted to go inland, we thought we would make it as far as we could the 1st day and around 4 pm start looking for a city to spend the night.


Joanna mapped out all the cities on this portion of the trip at about 45 mins away from each other. This was really helpful because it was really the only way we knew whether to keep moving or stop for the night.


And, yes, as everyone describes, India is extremely poor! Everywhere you look…  At this point, we have not even begun to see the have and the have-nots… It is just the have-nots... The poverty is so overwhelming that I think at some point your mind just begins to overlook it. We had brought ball caps and pencils to give the children along this journey. I knew to expect some type of gratitude for this gesture. But it was at another level that these gifts were being received. These young children were so happy receive these gifts. And soon we would be surrounded by tons of kids, as word spread fast.  I am so glad we decided to take something.

As we began winding up the roads, the faces we received driving in this pimped out rickshaw were classic! Most people were very happy to see us driving by, waving, cheering, giving us compliments…. Then you had those that just looked at us like we were completely crazy, and then you had the more conservative types that you could tell were not happy that we were here at all. This mixture of different attitudes absolutely kept us on our toes at all times on how to act or what to say.

One of the people that we had met on this journey described his home country of India as a Friendly Mess. I cannot think of a better term for this place. For the most part, everyone is absolutely helpful and would do anything to make sure your trip is going well. They also are very fond of their country and really wanting you to tell them how wonderful it is…

On our way into the mountains of the Western Ghats, things began to get more and more rural.  The homes and buildings began to turn more into shacks and shanties and even the roadside convenience stores disappeared to now just shanties selling water or chai without any type of electricity (so everything was warm - good for chai, bad for water).

We pulled off to the side of the road to fill up and I heard our team say “Look, look, an elephant!" Sure enough, here comes probably the largest elephant I have ever seen, walking up the highway. Only led by a little man on the top, it appeared to be carrying a log of some sort in its mouth and tusks. This thing was huge. It must have been at least 17 feet tall. Its legs were chained - I assume to make sure it didn’t run off. As it walked by you, it absolutely looked at you in the eye. I am not sure about my other team members, but I was absolutely astonished by this enormous creature!

We got back into our rickshaw and kept driving on, searching for a larger town to rest for the night. 

One of bloggers in New York City on Instagram does a series called the faces of New York City.  As I meet these characters in India and they try their best to tell us who they are and try to figure out who we are, I am completely reminded of this NYC blogger. We could absolutely do something like that here called the Faces of India. I have been making an effort over the last few days to find such faces that really, really tell a story in their look. I will post these items as they come up.

All of the sudden, we passed horns blowing into the air and what appears to be some sort of street festival.  We stop our rides to venture out to see what the commotion could be. Since there is a heavy Islamic presence in the state we are currently in, Joanna decides to stay back as I grab my camera and walk into the crowd. About 15 men, blowing huge circle horns, are playing sounding very much like a hurt deer. I understand that may not be the best descriptive word for this horn but really it did sound bad…. As they notice me taking pictures they motion for me to come closer. It is obvious they are very proud of this activity and love that a foreigner is taking interest. After a few minutes of filming they bring my right into the middle of the drums  and all of them now are performing for me. The crowd of possibly 50-70 people are really appreciating that we are there and are coming up to introduce themselves. Then once again the faces of India begins. Young children are led up to me so I can also take their picture. Their parents knowing how beautiful they are, loving the idea that they are being photographed. I run back to get Joanna and Danny. This crowd has proved to be extremely welcoming and are loving the idea that we are there.


We finally found our hotel this evening. As we drove up it looked much like a hotel we would hav seen in Saudi. All marble walls and floors. They brought in our rickshaws and locked them up for the evening.  After we  had the best $3.00 dinner that I think any of us had ever had (Mushroom Rice, Vegetable Curry, Dal, bread etc…), we got ready to spend the night for only $35.00.

Gridskippers Meeting in NYC!!


It started as simple as a blip on my phone last Wednesday morning...Our Rickshaw Race partner Danny, who lives in Texas, was trying to schedule an October Gridskippers meeting to help plan and organize... Within minutes, we had successfully pulled in the meeting from October to this Saturday and in New York City. The gathering of miles and additional funds ($$) quickly were arranged and our weekend was set! Normally, this would be absolutely fine, and we would embrace this type of spontaneity... Although since we are moving to our new apartment on Friday, we knew this was going to put a bit of a wrinkle in our packing plans... but in the nature of Gridskippers, we could figure it out!

As soon as they arrived Saturday, we were off to one of our newest special favorites in the city and that is the North River Lobster Company.


This special little find has offered many adventures for us this summer! It is located at Pier 83 and their business plan is spot on. The restaurant is a nice size 3-level boat that sails up and down the hudson for no cost to the patrons. They only ask that you enjoy the food, drinks and sometimes live music along the way! It is a great idea and, since they do not push any of the tables to leave between cruises, we always find ourselves taking a few trips out as we enjoy their tasty drinks and yummy lobster and shrimp! 

Here, we toasted the group with a drink of our choice and began the first of many Gridskipper meetings that took place this weekend. Our initial topic started with video and photography requirements... The wish list began to emerge as we discussed camera stabilizers, video storage, ability to edit on site, GOPRO requirements, monopod, lighting, microphones, computers and software etc...

With a list such as this, the conversation then turned to backpack sizes, security, followed by clothing requirements and if we really needed a tent... With that, we took our adventurers to Paragon's Sporting goods.  Since we are then just a few blocks from Mario Batali's crazy huge shop of Italian specialities, Eately... We had to spend some time there!  What kind of friends would we be if we did not show them that place!!

As I am sure most soon-to-be rickshaw runners have done from time to time, we retired at our local favorite Indian restaurant, Saffron. We discussed our future plans with the server, who then graciously took us on a culinary tour of his own personal recommendations! It was fantastic! 


Sunday morning, we got up and began to get ready for the next meeting. This meeting, as most New York meetings should, took place at the Yankee Stadium... :) I am sure this was part of some bucket list for our Texas friends and it didn't fail to impress!


The planning quickly went to pimping the rickshaw and what we need to ensure this little 7-HP vehicle will be able to endure the race and provide enough protection and some comfort to us, so we too can endure the trek.

With all the power that our equipment will need, the Rickshaw will absolutely need a larger battery. With a bit of research, we found how we can add an additional power source with the option of recharging with solar power. Although traveling at night is frowned upon, for us to finish the race in the allotted time, it may be required. For this, we need to make sure have the correct lighting and I believe we may have found it with these new LED options. The only issue now is, we are pretty sure it is too bright and may be blinding for those that may be driving towards it... so possibly a plan B?

We ended this Gridskippers weekend with the New York standards...  A quick trip to Coney Island and then a nice dinner at home with NYC pizza and red wine.


It is crazy we have been here almost 4 years and we have yet to find our "favorite" pizza place. They really all are very good and better then we have had any where else in the world. I am sure the NYC water really has something to do with this!  Although this evening, we chose to deliver from Justino's pictured above and it absolutely did it's job!


With that said it was a great weekend and many things were organized and discussed to move the project forward! Please help us by helping us raise money for our charity ArtsConnection.  ArtsConnection's mission is to save and preserve the Arts Programs in Public Schools. These programs are essential to children's growth and need all of our help to keep them preserved and moving forward. This entire race through India is for ArtsConnection and the work they do! Please help and support us! Please give a tax-deductible donation as soon as possible. We have a long way to go to meet our goal!!!!

Getting Ready to Get Ready!

As far as the Gridskippers’s race through India is concerned, the summer 2015 seems to be the summer of getting ready to get ready...

 With end of the heat upon us, we have had a chance to sit back, take a deep breath of air, and then shout: “Dear God! What have we gotten ourselves into?!!”

For the record, YouTube videos…. Bad.! Bad.!! Bad.!!!  As a hypochondriac’s attraction may be to, my obsession became So many fellow Gridskippers/Adventurists have posted their own personal Rickshaw video experiences of this escapade onto YouTube... Initially, I told myself that it was important to view these videos. How else could I could make a list of supplies required? With that in mind, I grabbed a notebook, sat back, and began to watch…..
Now, it is has been at least two months this addictive ritual began, and I can assure you, very little has been written.

Although, I have seen many of the following:

  1. Significant amount of Rickshaw breakdowns (possibly averaging 3/day)
  2. Numerous Crashes… Small ones… Big ones… Medivac ones…
  3. People being pulled over by Big Scary Policemen
  4. People being pulled over by Big Scary Policewomen
  5. Sleeping in really nice hotels
  6. Sleeping in really bad hotel
  7. Sleeping in stranger’s homes
  8. Sleeping in Rickshaws
  9. Sleeping next to a camel
  10. Sleeping on the side of a road or possibly an alley
  11. Horrific driving conditions... No other word really to describe
  12. No real recognizable food options
  13. People being chased by angry or at least looked angry natives
  14. Grumpy adventure partners
  15. Hating on the “Navigator"
  16. Sometimes really grumpy partners
  17. Night Driving
  18. Rickshaws on Trains, Boats, and Trucks, just trying to finish
  19. Lots of Bad spark plugs
  20. Many helpful and kind people helping strangers on their journey
  21. A fantastic amount of money raised all in the name of charity
  22. A lot of horn honking
  23. A very hot trip in the desert
  24. A very cold trip in the mountains
  25. Rain
  26. Hail
  27. Two Weeks of smelling like Petrol
  28. Delirious adventurers
  29. Broken  Bones...
  30. And the opportunity to meet and make lifetime friends.

The list goes on….

On the note of getting ready to get ready, as summer winds down and schools begin, it is time to start really warming up on the charity side of this adventure. So many things are planned that will help us support the public school’s Arts programs via Artsconnection!

Everyday you are being asked by others to give money to their own personal cause. Unfortunately in today's world and the dangers around us all, many times these monumental and life and death requests overshadow the charities and organizations such as Artsconnection.  Art programs throughout the US public school systems are being cut and reduced. Our sole purpose for this race and fundraising is to help make sure all children growing up today have the same exposure to music, art, theatre, and dance as we did growing up. 

And if you still do not really want to concern yourself with that, at least support us and our crazy race through India! Even $10.00 will help!

Thanks again!!!