Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day 22... Into the Annapurna Conservation Area... Turture to Dharapani.

Life starts early in Nepal... Well the resident rooster decided to roost right outside my window and come 5:30am, he was sure that his calling in life was to let everyone in town know his existence.

I was ready to get up and get packed anyway.  I slept ok in the filthy room but I barely fit on the bed.  I needed to sleep diagonally because the headboard and footboard were spaced for Nepali sized humans... and I'm not even a tall guy by Western standards.

The little shop slash kitchen of the guesthouse was a bustle activity.  Nepalis who had stayed the night were preparing for the day.  Eating breakfast, drinking tea and coffee, and trying to stay warm.  There was a thick fog and mist about.  Without the sun breaking through a moist chill had set in.  I was a little disappointed sitting there waiting for Raju.  I was thinking about how yesterday was sunny and gorgeous and that could have been my weather window.  I tried not to let it get into my head.  I tried to stay present.

I had a cup of tea and chatted with the local guys who were also hesitant to get on with their day on this chilly morning.  Raju called and said that he and G. and another rider were on their way but that it was freezing and they'd stopped of for tea.  He expected to arrive around 10:30.  I knew this probably meant 11am or maybe even a little later.  Simply because I know how it goes trying to get somewhere on a bike when you're freezing.

I was getting anxious to get going.  Yet with the mist and fog, I decided to dig in and be patient.  I had a cup of coffee and watched the rooster who'd woken me for the day, strut around and flap his wings at the hens.

Raju arrived with G. and an Australian named Dan.  They pulled up shortly after 11.  We sat down to some tea and masala eggs.  The guys were freezing.  After wolfing down some breakfast and tea, I started figuring out how to load up the XR350R.  There were no grab rails on the rear of the bike, so I was unsure how I would secure my gear.  I managed to slip the nylon straps between the fender and the subframe.

Dan and G. were heading all the way to Kathmandu, so after a few more cups of tea, they saddled up just as the sun burned through the mist.  Finally a good sign.

Raju had his work cut out for him with the Yamaha.  Dan and G. peeled off and after a quick chat over details of the bike switch, I headed off in the other direction... Up.

I was stoked the sun had come out.  I put on some tunes on my iPod and kicked the big Honda over.  The deep rich rumble of the 353cc single-cylinder motor pushing through the Supertrapp Exhaust put a smile on my face.  I took off heading toward the now glistening mountains.

I was only about 30 km's from Besisahar at this point.  So far I'd been told this will be my last option for fuel.  It took a few minutes but I finally found the petrol.  I rode around asking everyone where the petrol pump was and everyone shook their head.  Finally a young girl heard me asking a man where I could get petrol.  She came up and pointed shyly down the road.  Then she lead me to this pretty shop keeper, who was very happy to sell me petrol in repurposed plastic water bottles, one liter at a time.

5 liters got me almost full.  I hoped this would be enough.  I was told this was the last place to get fuel so I crossed my fingers that this was false information.  I already had too much gear on the bike and didn't have a good way to carry fuel with me.  This could end up determining how far I was able to get into the Annapurna Conservation Area.

The pavement ends here in Besisahar.  I wolfed down some fresh oranges and a liter of water.  I bought another liter of water for the road and thanked the shop-keeper woman, who was so happy to help me out.  She spoke very little English but was very excited about the big dirt bike.  I was really realizing that though locals ride small motorbikes up to the villages, motorcycle tourism is pretty limited so far in this region.  I was excited to get back on the bike and get off the beaten path.  I checked the air pressure in the tires just on a whim.  Good thing I did too, because both front and rear were below 15 psi, which explains the way the bike was handling on the pavement.  I found a moto shop pretty quickly and aired up to 30psi.  Well airing up I discovered this:

Yeah that makes a guy feel really confident heading into the roughest roads of the region with no spare tubes, tools or compressor/pump/CO2 etc.  I knew I'd burn the rest of the afternoon trying to source these things out here in Besisahar, so I crossed my fingers and headed off to the end of the pavement and beyond.

A short few k's and I arrived at the official entrance to the Annapurna Conservation Area.  I was really excited to finally be entering the area I'd been working towards for the last few weeks.

I'd been told that I'd have pretty good roads until I got past the big Chinese Hydropower plant project.  I figured it would be a big project, but I was surprised at the tunnel through the mountain and then the cranes and dozens of dump trucks and concrete trucks.  

The information was absolutely on spot.  Once I crossed the small makeshift bridge upstream from the hydroproject, the road turned into a real jeep road... like the 4x4 kind.  I was loving it.  The Honda XR350R was performing awesome.  Not only just performing awesome on the roads, it had a ear to ear grin plastered to my face!

I came to a fork in the road.  I wasn't sure which way to go and it didn't seem like anyone would be coming to tell me.  I hung out snapping some photos watching the sun head for the ridge.  I realized that I was going to need to think about staying in one of the trekking villages soon.  I was told that the valley was laid out much like the other side of the Annapurna circuit, meaning that every 5-10 km's there would be a village with a group of teahouses and guesthouses.  The beauty of this is that once I got a feeling for how long it was taking between villages, I'd have a good idea of how long I could keep pushing up the valley.  

The road got flat out exciting.  I was standing in the footpegs most of the time and the riding was just epic.  There was such of mix of terrain.  At times it was really decent road, but the drop offs  made it absolutely necessary to be fully concentrated.  And then the road would rise and climb and subsequently get chewed up with big rocks and ledges and loose gravel and holes where jeeps had gotten stuck... it was a constantly changing, constantly challenging ride.  I couldn't have been happier.
I thought about how this riding was completely the opposite from riding on the Pritvi Highway, constantly negotiating traffic.  But it required as much concentration... all of it.  All the concentration you could give was needed to keep the bike moving forward and upward and not out of control and off the road to imminent death below.

This thread of road, trying so hard to be a gesture of horizontal in a landscape entirely dominated by variations of vertical, snaked along the cliff sides.  Evidence of previous wash outs and landslides were everywhere.  I stopped frequently to make some photos but it was just such an approximation.  This landscape was so big and so impressive that it was very difficult to get an image that really held the scope of the scene.  Plus dealing with the variation of light between shade and sunlight was nearly impossible.  I hope these images can inspire your imagination...  I'm not sure how else to impress that this landscape was so big and so impressive that I was really giggling in my helmet at the absurdity of there being a road here at all!

And then views like this...

It was hard to believe what I was seeing was real.  So incredible and beautiful and constantly changing and shifting, there were at least a dozen waterfalls dumping down into this amazing village tucked down in the valley.  I stayed high and kept pushing up the valley hoping to make a few more kilometers before stopping for the night.  It was about 4pm at this point.  I figured I had another 1.5 hours before it would be completely pitch black and terribly dangerous to continue.

I reached Dharapani and the first Nepali Police checkpoint and Annapurna Conservation Area Permit check office.  The guys manning these offices in Dharapani were incredibly friendly and seemed genuinely excited to see me here on the big Honda XR350R.    I was happy that I had a permit this time around.  I gained some information from the locals not affiliated with the offices about where I should stay in town.  The officials were unwilling to give their opinion as it is prohibited for them to make any suggestions about which guesthouse to stay at.

In the end I was pointed to Three Sisters Guesthouse by a guy on the street saying that there was a place for the bike and that the food was good there.  It was amazing how the town seemed like a ghost town.  Only two weeks earlier on the other side of the pass the guesthouses were mostly full.  The peak season had passed and now only a light trickle of trekkers were passing through towards the Thorung-La pass.

I was welcomed warmly at Three Sisters.  A few locals had gathered and were drinking warm Rakshi, local rice wine, like Japanese Saki.  Of course they invited me into the kitchen and wouldn't take no for an answer.  I didn't want to be rude with my non-drinking ways these days so I had a small glass of the warm rakshi with my new friends.  The guy with his arms around me was a little too excited that I was from America.  He told me no less than 100 times that he didn't like people from England, Australia, Germany, etc.  He only likes America.  America the best.  His English was broken but his point was not.  He was very affectionate... like to the point I actually had to ask him to stop touching me.  He didn't.  I blame it on the rakshi.  Great people... and probably the best Dal Bhat that I had the whole trip.

Three Sisters Guesthouse cook hand making vegetable momos.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Day 21 Setting out for Manang... Oh Nepal... you and your pesky lessons and reminders.

Woke up early... 6:30am.  Strapped the bags to the bike and set out for Bullet Basecamp again.  Raju had the 1985 XR350R there for me to test ride.  Not so much for me as for him.  He said that people had complained that the bike pulled to the left at times.  We had talked the evening before that I've ridden a lot on XR400R's in Peru.  So I kicked over the high-compression single and it roared to life snorting out of the Supertrapp exhaust.  I stood up in the pegs and ripped it out of the shop.

This was a really bad idea.  The bike ran like it was a week old, not 30 years old!  The suspension was plush and felt great.  The only pull to the left I could figure out was just suspension dive on off-throttle.  I'm sure whoever was riding this thing had no concept of staying in the throttle.  This bike pulls!

I'd made up my mind though.  As much as I wanted to take the Honda, I'd decided that I would make do with the Yamaha to save some money.  It was all loaded up.  Good thing too, or I'd have been very very tempted to take the vintage Honda.

When I set out, I'd decided that I would try to make a short cut from the highway.  I saw that there were a couple of dirt roads on the map that went almost directly from Pokhara to Besisahar.  This would cut off tons of km's of wrapping around to Dumre on the Pritvi Highway.  I was so excited to get into the back country immediately that this was a really exciting option.  I was thinking I was so smart with my map.  Duh, who would go all that way around, when you can just rip some gravel roads right through?  So sweet.  I gotta dirtbike now!  I can go anywhere!

The view at Begnas Tal was prettier than the first time I was here.  Nothing wrong with glaciated peaks reflecting in glass smooth water.  Pretty sublime.  I was very happy for the clear weather and couldn't wait to get up in those peaks!  I wound my way around Begnas Tal and between it and Rupa Tal.  I followed thinking this was such a great score.  Beautiful scenery, good paved road... and then the pavement stopped and life got really, really bumpy.  The lack of compression and rebound damping was driving my crazy.  Every bump the telescopic forks banged down as they rebound from their compression stroke.    I smiled on.  The route was challenging but beautiful beyond belief.  When the road dead-ended at a half-built bridge twenty minutes into my "shortcut", I started to wonder.  But the locals just pointed me back to where I came from and signaled to ride up the riverbed.  Nobody speaking English out here...  but I got the gist of it.

I stopped to rearrange my gear and take a couple layers off.  It was really warm back here in this protected lowland valley.  I waved over a young boy that was watching his grazing water buffalo.  He looked to be in his late teens and I figured he might be able to speak some English.  He came over shyly, but sure enough he spoke English.  I showed him my map and pointed out the roads, I wanted.  He nodded, and pointed ahead up the riverbed.  I asked how long to Besisahar... "10 hours in bus."

Wow.  Nice short-cut!  He told me to go back to the highway.  It had taken all of 45 minutes to go 7 kms.  I could quickly see that this was going to take extra days, not extra hours, to take my imagined short-cut.  It would be beautiful no doubt, but I didn't have that kind of time.

So I backtracked back out to the Pritvi Highway.  And as much as I wasn't wanting to ride it again, I was moving along at a great pace.  Just fast enough to be fast and just slow enough to be safe.  And riding one gear higher than felt right to keep the torque down and hopefully keeping the motor burning very efficiently.  I zipped along and soon found myself in Dumre making a left across the big river and now heading towards Besisahar on a nice paved road.  Audrey had told me that this section: Dumre - Besisahar took about 3 hours in a microbus.  I looked at my watch 1:30pm...  with any luck I'd be in Besisahar by nightfall.

The road was beautiful and I was clipping along nicely.  I was making good time.  The sun was bright and warm.  I was dressed perfectly, had great tunes jamming in my earphones, was stoked that the landscape became fully pastoral and the hustle of the Pritvi was fading fast in my memory.  Passing was easy out here... rarely were there vehicles going opposite directions, meeting at the same time.

I came up over a sweeping left (riding on the left here) and passed a bus quickly on a downhill when moments later I hear a deep thunk followed immediately by a LOCKED AND SKIDDING REAR WHEEL, that didn't respond at all to my having pulled the clutch lever tight to the handlebars!  All I could think of was that if I didn't keep this thing on its wheels the bus, whose horn was now BLARING, would run right over me!  I kept keen on the bars gently controlling the skid to the left shoulder, while the bus BLASTED past me, horn still BLARING.

I came to a stop.  Holy shit!  What now?  I thought I'd seized the motor.  I got the bike to stay on the sidestand even though the bike was facing downhill.  I looked at the bike tracing my eyes from the rear sprocket forward, hoping to source an easy fix to my locked death skid of a moment ago.

Oh.  There's the problem!  This will be an easy fix... with parts and a professional workshop maybe...  Not so much on the side of the road with a multitool pliers and a mini-wrench named after a cute orange pet fish... Lil'Guppie doesn't sound so tough when this is what you're looking at having to remedy on the side of the road!

YEAH!  Ooooops!  And all I could really see was the top of the sprocket jammed into the swingarm.  The Lil'Guppie did succeed in getting the sprocket cover off so I could try to figure out what to do about this mess.  Honestly... ear muffs kids... "FUCKING YAMAHA!!!"

I took a breath and looked at the positives.  1.  It was sunny and warm.  2.  It was 2:30pm not 5:30 and getting dark.  3.  Look at the view where I broke down...

A couple of young boys stopped to see what had happened.  They admired what was a big dirt bike to them.  They were grabbing bolts and chain parts to inspect them, as fast as I could remove them.  I grabbed them back from their curious fingers before they went missing and asked them to go find me a plastic bag.  

A few minutes later they came back shrugging their shoulders empty handed.  "Are you kidding me?  Nepal's roadsides are completely littered with plastic everywhere... and now that I need a some plastic to wrap up these filthy parts, there isn't a piece of litter for miles.  How is it possible that I managed to break down where there is no trash, when all I need is a plastic bag."  I muttered all this out loud.  They shrugged.  Probably wondering what the heck I was yammering on about.

I finished removing the master link with my multitool, saving all the orings, and putting all the important little pieces of the chain link into a piece of paper and into my pocket.  I removed the chain and pried the little sprocket out of the swing arm.  I showed the boys the messy pile of parts, pointed to my somewhat clean yellow riding jacket and they got the idea.  I needed to get this pile of mess onto the bike without getting all the used motoroil on the chain all over my everything.

Two minutes later this was the solution...

We wrapped all the pieces up in this nest of dry straw and then the enterprising young man twisted some more straw into a makeshift braided rope and tied up the hay bundle and I was good to go.  Nest of parts bungee'd under my coat and I started the uphill push, heading 2 kms to Turturhe, where he said the nearest motorcycle repair shop was.

Once more... FUCKING YAMAHA.  Have I mentioned before how little I enjoy pushing motorcycles?

What I couldn't figure out on my long 2k push was how the damn sprocket could have busted off.  Usually they are held on by a reverse-threaded bolt or nut to prevent them from ever coming off.  The more the motor is putting to the sprocket the more the reverse thread holds the sprocket on.

When I called Raju from the motorcycle shop I'd just sweat my ass off pushing the bike to,  I wanted to throw my phone into the gutter and set fire to this piece of crap Yamaha.  He told me that I just needed to get the guys to weld it back on!  WTF?  Weld it back on?  You mean it was welded once before?  He responded that the bolt snapped off 6 years ago and he just welded it on!

I didn't believe that this happened six years ago.  And I couldn't help but want to reach through the phone and grab onto one's neck with how close it had come to me ending up under a racing local bus!

I asked what I should do about the severed stator wires.  No problem Raju said... just have them weld on the sprocket and splice the wires and tape them up.

While I was comforted by his confidence in his fellow Nepali motorcycle mechanics, I wasn't having the same experience.  The mechanics were mere boys,  and the boss was maybe 25 at best.  I just sucked down cigarettes and watched the alpenglow realizing that one way or another, I'd be spending the night in this little farm village.

The mechanics kept shaking their head at the bike as they talked to Raju on the other end of my iPhone.    When they got off the phone, I looked at the boss guy with a questioning look.  He started explaining to me how many bikes they had to fix...

Oh shit here we go... he doesn't know I work in a dealership and how often I've had to look a helpless traveler in the eye and say, "well they could probably fix it..."  followed by any number of ifs... "if we only had the parts, the time, the, the, the..."

But within a cigarette, he'd decided I was worth helping.  And they'd stopped the local welder on the road and we towed the Yamadog to the welding shop.  The sprocket got welded on.  The wires got spliced now in the darkening light...

They had it almost fixed and I was wondering what I would do if they actually succeeded.  Would I push on into the literal backcountry wilderness that I'd intended to ride?  Would I scratch the trip and do the smart thing and ride this hunk of crap back to Pokhara?  Would I stay in this tiny little village?  
Any surprise that the only other Japanese bike in the shop was... a YAMAHA?

They turned the key and the headlight lit up.  Good sign.  But when they pushed the starter it would only sputter and pop once.  Then nothing.  I'd figured they got a wire wrong splicing the stator back together.  But by now they'd opened the cam chain cover and began telling me how they couldn't fix the bike tonight.  The cam chain was too loose.  Maybe so.  I'm sure the power skid hadn't done wonders on the internals of the motor.  I called Raju and gave him the bad news.

I paid the shop their requested fee for the 1.5 hours they worked on the bike... 300 Rupees ($3 USD).  Holy wow.  I think we've got a few bikes in the shop that we could send over... actually maybe I could hire one of these guys to come change tires.  Talk about a labor rate...

Raju had a solution that kept me from getting upset or coming unglued...  He would be in Turturhe by 10:30am with the Honda XR350R.  He would ride it to me and then load the Yamaha up in a truck if he couldn't fix it himself here.

Lost a solid half-day but on the good side I'd be riding the Honda after all.

Staying in these little roadside villages that get no tourism is always a trip!  It is usually afforded only to over-landers in times like these.  Backpackers and package tourists rarely get stuck in these places.  But I knew it would be fine.  I'd eat good home cooked food, steering clear of any meat, and I'd have a place to sleep but knew it would be far from tourist standard...

Don't sleep too closely to the walls and you'll be ok.  Needless to say I slept in my own sleeping bag rather than brave the blankets and linens.  Remember my comments from Tansen about the nose and throat clearing...  Well I'm pretty sure that is what makes up the wall decoration here.  Pretty nasty.

I did have good Dal Baht for dinner.  And the locals who could speak English came by to have a chat with me their lucky tourist.  I was a celebrity.  Thanks to those nice folks of Turturhe, my evening turned into a really great evening that I'll likely not forget anytime soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 20 Pokhara... Fingers crossed sorting a rental bike...

Great breakfast along the lake and then it was game time.  I tried Raju and got ahold of him on the first try.  He said he had some options for dirt bikes and that I should come by his shop, Bullet Basecamp & Surgery after noon.

He said that he had two options for bikes that I might be interested in and I should come by and we could work out the details.  Perfect.  This was exactly the break I needed.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that the bikes would be decent and the rates would be fair.  Now I just needed to do some further packing.   I want to go as light as I can on this trip.  It will still require some gear though.  If I make it to Manang, I'll be up over 4500 meters (14,750'), so I'll still need to be carrying a sleeping bag, liner, extra socks, jacket liner and 300 wt. fleece, down jacket, small first aid kit, and all my camera gear.   The plan is to stash another small bag at the guesthouse.  I made my mental list and my physical piles of what would go and what would stay.

I had a pretty good idea that I'd be able to do it with one waterproof duffle lashed to the seat and wear my backpack, hopefully with very little in it.  I'm not a huge fan of wearing a backpack while riding.  I'd rather have everything strapped to the bike, like on the Enfield, but I was already planning to have to wear the pack.

I headed off in a light jog for Bullet Basecamp and my meeting with Raju.  Little did I know that all the pieces that would need to fall together today would have me jogging nearly 10km's by the time I was done...

I got to Bullet Basecamp around 12:30pm and found Raju and G. from Holland hard at work on G.'s vintage Royal Enfield.  He is getting it up to spec to take on an overland tour from Nepal back to Holland.

Raju took a minute to have tea and talk to me about dirtbikes.  The two options he had for me were an old, maybe mid-'90's Yamaha XT225 Serow or a 1985 Honda XR350R.  I test rode the Yamaha.  I was unimpressed.  The front suspension felt shot.  It had spring to it but the compression/rebound damping felt non-existent.

When I returned to the shop and inquired about test riding the Honda, I got a little bit of attitude out of Raju.  I took into account that he had his hands full with G.'s Royal Enfield project.  I also took into account how many people must come talk to him about rental bikes and are just blowing smoke.  Raju's Bullet Basecamp is in the Lonely Planet as a popping bar and restaurant as well as moto shop.  I didn't get the full story but the bar and restaurant weren't functioning while I was in Pokhara.

Regardless, Raju's answer was that it was possible to get the Honda to the shop, but only if I was 100% that I wanted to rent it.  And NO DISCOUNTS.  Ok. Ok.  I get it.  Never mind the Honda then.  I'll see you at 5pm to pick up the Yamaha.

I started another jog at this point back to Mintz Cafe to have a cup with Audrey, a French-Canadian trekker I met up in Tatopani.  She gave me all the details I needed to find the ACAP permit desk... conveniently located clear across town in Damside.  I thanked Audrey for the info.  Chugged my coffee and was off for another jog to Damside and the Pokhara Tourism Office TIMS/ACAP Permit Desks.

I was working up a nice sweat and honestly, I'd not really gotten my blood pressure up over much these days.  The occasional push of the Enfield at high elevation but no real exercise to speak of.  Jogging around Pokhara, even though it drew a lot of funny looks from the locals in the backstreets I was running through, felt great.

I got my ACAP Permit sorted without a problem.  When they asked to see my TIMS card and I showed them the receipt from Tatopani, they were confused as to how I could have gone through the West side of the Annapurnas without getting an ACAP then.  I mumbled, smiled a lot, cracked some jokes...  I left out the story about how Karma already kicked my ass with my lost camera and that somehow I'd already paid my karmic debt for not having a permit for the first leg of the trip.  The gods obliged and took care of the details...  Staple, staple, stamp, stamp, stamp.  Have a great trip.

The permit guy was friendly.  This helped.  And I was wondering what they'd say when I filled in Motorbiking as my activity.  He said, "Good Luck.  The road's not finished, I think you only go Chame."  That was ok.  Everybody has an idea of how far I can go.  My idea: go find out.

I jogged back across town.  Showered up.  Blogged.  And jogged back to Bullet Basecamp.  It was beer-thirty now.  Everyone was happy.  Raju and G. were there and two other guys, who I eventually came to know as Matt and Ian.  Matt is the infamous owner/operator of Hearts & Tears Motorcycle Club in Pokhara.  He offers tours and rentals of Royal Enfields.  We talked at length about the trip into Upper Mustang.  He did a recon run there last year and this April (2015) will take an expedition with film crew up to Lo Manthang.  It was really exciting to talk about the options to coordinating the Nepali guide, securing permits, condition of road...  

Ian had a load of great information on the Manang side from my hiking treks in the area, but no one had any information on the motorcycling condition of what I was about to attempt.  They just said, "Good Luck. " and "can't wait to hear how it goes up there."

In our conversation Raju picked up that I work in a dealership and that we sell Harley-Davidson, BMW,  and Honda Motorcycles... I think he started feeling bad about not bringing the XR around for me to test ride.  He demanded that I come by at 8am and check it out at least.  He's had complaints that it pulls to the left and would like my opinion.

I rode the Yamaha to Placid Guesthouse figuring I'd made the ok choice.  It all came down to money again.  $20/day on the Yamaha or $35/day on the vintage Honda XR.  It was a killer.  I'd chosen to spend more money on the nicer Royal Enfield 500EFI Classic,  which amounted to over double the price I would have spent on the 350 Classic.  Having the 500EFI certainly proved worthwhile.  It was new and gave me zero issues other than the clutch cable.  But the budget shock of a cool $700USD for 14 days was playing a heavy role in my accepting the Yamaha.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm really not a Yamaha fan.  Of the big Jap 4, Yamaha just always ranks lowest for me.  I don't even know why really.  They make fine motorcycles and occasionally put something on the market that sets a trend, but rarely.  I just find Yamaha unexciting.  I grew up on a Suzuki, which was ok.  But I had a Honda ATC110 three-wheeler as a kid too, and that machine always started on the first pull of the recoil rope.  As a kid that only wanted to ride, that Honda's reliability and ease of use, left a lasting impression in my mind.  So making the budget choice on the Yamaha wasn't easy, nor was it a choice I was completely comfortable with.

I met up with Audrey for Django Unchained at the open-air cinema & cafe on the hill overlooking Lakeside.  Another great evening at the cinema with good company.  Early to bed again... I wanted to hit the road early.