Ride To Angeles Crest Highway

Dubbed by Terry (Chief organizer of San Diego North County Cruisers) as the the best ride in So Cal … this one sure lived up to it’s billing!  On a typical “May Gray” Saturday in San Diego a group of 20 gathered at the usual spot off Highway 76 to embark on this epic ride.

After coffee, debrief on expectations we were off … Up the 15 to Wrightwood that would serve as the entry point to the mighty Angeles Crest Highway.  The highway is a two-lane (one lane of travel in each direction) segment of California State Route 2. The road is 66 miles in length, with its western terminus at the intersection at Foothill boulevard in La Canada Flintridgeand its eastern terminus a State Route 138 northeast of Wrightwood.  Potential high winds on the highway – check … high speed long distance riding – check.  Yeah we experienced those variables as we arrived close to Wrightwood.

After this short break it was time to experience the unrelenting twisties and elevation changes … and yes those did come with some incredibly scenic vistas.  God are we lucky to live in Southern California.  Our next stop Islip Saddle came some 20 miles before our lunch destination at Newcombs Ranch.

The scenic Angeles Crest on a cool, sunny afternoon was a treat indeed … here’s a little sampling of what we experienced along the way.

Next stop was Newcomb’s Ranch restaurant for lunch.  I believe it’s the only eatery on the Crest and a great gathering spot for motorcycle and car enthusiasts.

Newcomb’s is a comfortable joint with decent food and service.  We hung around there for an hour and half or so before making the turn around on the Crest.  Good times!

The parking lot at Newcomb’s was a visual treat.  Besides the usual assortment of cruisers and sport bikes we happened to witness a cornucopia of vintage cars from a Pasadena car club.  These machines were simply fabulous eye candy.

You know what else was special?  The reunion of the “Fatboys 3” … Erik, Dung and I were in the same Rider’s Edge Harley Davidson class and this was our first ride together.  So good to hang with them!

After lunch, we oogled at the shiny chrome and intensely colored automobiles.  Shortly thereafter, the cruisers and sport bikes made their way from Newcomb’s back to their respective destinations.

With a final stop at the Bass Pro Shop, the group headed back South to San Diego and an awesome 300 plus mile ride came to close … a smashing success. My special thanks to Terry and Andrew for organizing, Greg as always for company from Carlsbad and Ed for hanging with me.  Looking forward to the next ride!

Tribute to My Parents at Their 50th Anniversary

On November 28, my brother and I organized our parents’ golden anniversary in Dubai with our family and friends.  The celebratory event was held at the Dhow Palace Hotel in Dubai.  We had hundred or so guests on our carefully chosen list that have played a part in our parents and family’s lives.  A script of my tribute to them along with images is presented below.

“Ladies and Gentlemen: We are gathered here today to celebrate my parents Jairaj & Sheela’s golden wedding anniversary.   I want to thank you all for being here on this joyous occasion. A big, special thank you to dear friends and relatives that have traveled to Dubai today to help us celebrate:

Mr. Navin & Dama Megchiani from Bahrain

Mr. Chandu Bhatia from Bahrain

Viju Bhen & Jayanti Lal Kotecha from the United Kingdom

Ms. Carolyn Grieb from the United States

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Sanjay, my parents’ first born.
Some folks would have stopped after one perfect child, but
Mummy and Papa couldn’t help themselves. Good thing my dear brother turned out just as good.  Anyway, on behalf Jitu and I, please indulge me as I take you on a short story … a love story … a family story that spans five decades.

The 1960s

Our parents were married in 1961 and the story begins in Bahrain.  I had asked papa to describe the moment he first laid eyes on his future wife.  Papa said and I quote “The minute I saw that thick black hair, I knew she was the one for me”.  From what you see here, it’s hard to blame him – gorgeous isn’t she?  On that note, check out papa’s movie star handsome looks.  My sense of style was definitely shaped by dad but try as I may … I can never achieve that look of cool! I landed on this earth in 1966 and my brother arrived on the scene in 1969.

The 1970’s

The 70’s … What a great decade for family memories!  I recall a very happy childhood with lots of love and nurturing from our doting parents.

Hmmm … I wonder who was mama’s boy in these two pictures.

In those days, dad worked at the British Bank of The Middle East and mom was a homemaker.  My brother and I both attended the Indian School of Bahrain. Life was simple, stable and predictable in those years.  For papa, the social life in those days revolved around friends.

A people person to the core, nothing made him happier than being surrounded by friends.  Gentlemen like Chella Thaker, Javer Lilwa, Bhagwan Bhatia, Victor Bhatia, Chandu Bhatia, Navin Megchiani and Gopinath were always in the picture. Young men in this room, please note the classic look of these sharp dressed men!

This next image shows papa’s good friend Mr. Chella Thaker at his stationery shop and business The National Trading House. His shop was a short 5-minute walk from our house on Tijjar road.  Papa used to spend a few hours in the evening every day at the shop. Jitu and I often accompanied him there as he spent time hanging out with Chellabha.  I know Chellabha’s son Dilip is here today.  He would agree that simple pleasures of tea, sandwiches and Malbari samosas close to the shop would be the highlight of the day!

Thursdays in the Gulf signaled the arrival of the weekend, and that meant an evening spent at the Bahrain Sports Club (aka BSC).  For our parents, their friends and the general Indian community at large, this was the gathering place for playing bingo, snacking and socializing through the night.

For me personally, Thursday evenings were special for one other reason … Cassette Tapes … yes this is before the arrival of CD’s and ipods.  The love of music was taking root in my life and I would beg papa to give me 300 fils at a time – that was the asking price for each recorded tape at music shops near the club. Of course, dad always obliged and I loved him for that.  It was just one simple act of many in which my father displayed generosity with his children and others that were touched by him.  And yes both our parents tolerated the loud rock music we would crank out in our bedroom where there was no escaping.

Picnics by the resort pools (nakhals) were common in the summer time with families.  Local cricket was a great pastime in those days and our love for the sport grew over the years.

I remember mummy helping us with most of our schoolwork but the one subject that was universally despised with both Asarpota brothers was MATHS!  The teaching, the homework and the learning of that that subject were outsourced to papa’s brother and resident math genius Nandhibha.  The irony of it … I hated maths in those days but here I am with almost 20 years of making a career in finance. Mummy also had a great artistic ability and her love for art translated into my somewhat limited but passionate hobby for sketching as a child.  And for that I am grateful.  I have always loved this image of Jitu, Prakash and I.  It symbolizes the fun we had in our youth … Prakash you were supposed to close your eyes my friend!

The 1980’s

The early 80’s were a decade of change. Dad moved back to Bombay in 1983.  In 1987 after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I decided to move to the US.  This family picture was taken that year before I left the country.

Selflessly, papa made that happen!  With whatever little funds he could afford, he got me started on my Masters degree and for that I will always be grateful. Not having gone to college, papa always had big dreams for his children.

In 1989, I married my lovely wife Connie.  Mummy, papa and Jitu were all with me in Milwaukee to celebrate the event and to welcome Connie to the Asarpota family.  By that time, papa’s perfect movie star hair was turning grey so my mom convinced him to add color.  You can see the results here: A Black “Boot-polish” head.  Nice hair dad!

The 1990’s

1991 was a special year for us.  On January 26th that year, my wife Connie gave birth to our daughter Cristina.  For my parents, this little girl was their first grandchild and she became the apple of their eye.  The same year, I graduated from business school and my parents were there with us to celebrate yet another milestone.  I couldn’t have been happier.

In 1992, Jitu landed in Dubai and the early 90’s were a lot of hard work for my brother and I as we strived towards achieving our goals. The year 1996 was yet another happy occasion for the family as Jitu married Sonia.  3 years later in 1999, grandchild #2 Meera arrived. Ok Jeets – I know you like Foster’s but don’t you think you were going a bit too far here? As always the warmth and support from my parents radiated throughout the family as the decade came to a close with the family expansion.

The 2000’s

The early part of the decade began with events that changed the shape of our lives globally but even more so in the United States.  Mummy and papa were visiting us in Milwaukee in September of 2001.  The horrific images of September 11 we all witnessed will remain in our memories forever!  The families torn apart from the tragedy on that fateful day collectively sickened us.  Yet as time went on, we all took comfort in that our family was together and realized that life can be so precious.  As the year went along as you can see in these images, we had some memorable family gatherings.  In recent years, I have had even a bigger appreciation for the work ethic and values that our parents instilled in us.  In 2005, we lost our grandmother.  She had been ill for years and mummy took great care of her till the very last day.

In 2009, Connie and I sent off our daughter Cristina to attend university.  The parenting skills that Connie and I have used over the years have been shaped by the same values bestowed upon us from my parents.

With that, I would like to thank everyone once again for being here to celebrate the this evergreen couple.  I hope you all enjoyed the trip down memory lane.  Mummy and Papa – Happy 50th! … I am so privileged to be standing here today.  On behalf of all your friends and family here – Congratulations and god bless!”