Two weeks ago at work, I was told that more than likely, I would be going to India the week of the 21st. Not really knowing what to expect because getting the entry visa was going to be touch and go, I really didn't give the trip much thought. Instead, I was concentrating on riding 3 to 4 days a week, just tempo stuff, nothing fancy, and counting the days for the trip that I really am looking forward to, Panama.
The new wheels and bike bag arrived and the days were ticking by nicely, with the miles getting piled on and the form just where it needs to be for this time of the year. In fact, I hadn't felt this good in November in many, many years. And then, at the last possible minute, and I mean, it was to the second in fact, the visa was approved after some well placed phone calls at the Indian embassy. Threw some clothes in a suitcase, packed the laptop, Ipod, magazines, books and off I went on a 22 hour trip.
Arriving in Mumbai was quite the shock. Traffic is horrendous, the city is a bit trashy, there are people everywhere, a large number of them poor, and the heat is strong. Yet with all of that, the natives are very friendly and make you feel welcomed. But this wasn't a vacation, so it was time to work. Our first pre-recorded show on Monday was a technical nightmare and having a crew from all over the world, whom I had never met before made for quite the challenge. On Tuesday, we sat down, and I explained in details what I wanted from them. The second show was live and it was perfect. We did another pre-record show soon after and it was time for a few Heinekens. Wednesday was an off day and the crew decided to hit the streets for some local shopping. That night we were supposed to attend an awards ceremony, but two of us decided to skip it and stay in the hotel.
I never heard the first gunshots or explosions coming from the Tridant Hotel, about 500 yards from the Intercontinental Hotel where we are staying. But when the phone call came to let me know not to leave my room, I knew something was up. No soon had I put the phone down, that I heard the sirens and then the first of two large explosions I would hear during the night. Needless to say sleeping was out of the question. All night the news came coming in on the tv and friends from all four corners of the world were checking to see how we were doing.
At around 7AM this morning we went out to the Tridant and found a large crowd of people gathered a few hundred yards from the hotel. The police presence was evident and as we got closer, we saw a guy who had been kidnapped and somehow, managed to escape. We soon got him on the phone with our studios in DC so he could tell the world his story. His friend was still at the hospital and nobody knew if he was alive or dead.
We then decided to head to the Taj Mahal Hotel and as we approached the building, the gunshots could be heard inside. Scary to say the least. A second team arrived from Qatar and took over from us, so back to the hotel for a well deserved burguer and fries, some rest and to pack for the trip back home tomorrow.
My form evaporated into thin air, I'm tired as hell and can't sleep at all, but this experience has taught me so many things in a spand of a week, I will never forget it. But now, I'm ready to head to Panama, bike and all, and get my ass handed to me on the long, gradual climbs. And riding with my dad is always fun.