Well, i've been busy, that's my excuse and i'm sticking to my story :p (seems like a dead giveaway of being the other way around and just being sheer lazy X-p)
Anyway, apart from just being lazy (oppss.. there goes the excuse :p) Katyusha have been under the 'work in progress' category for, how long was it...? 2 years? and suprise suprise she still is :p so if my first story doesn't stick, that's my second fall back position >:-p
Anyway, i'm writing this not because of the excuses i'm making up along the way (there goes the entire defensive positions :p) but because THERE'S ACTUAL SOMETHING TO WRITE ABOUT XD
Katyusha despite being a 'work in progress' have finally reached the stage where she's actually drivable :p she WAS previously drivable already when Ryousuke came back some months ago, but we were still ironing out handling and teething issues so there wasn't anything to really write about (other than perhaps Ryousuke's epic La Drive video :p)
We apparently found out that Katyusha had a faulty steering rack. That caused quite a whole lot of problems especially to me with my self esteem being so low and skills rusted ten times over. I, not surprisingly, actually forgot how to feel 'connected' to the car and the last time we drove (when we did the La Drive video), I was actually more scared than excited driving Katyusha..
It made me questioned the very reason why I love this crazy hobby. I wasn't enjoying touge drives anymore O.O among the reasons (if I can still be considered credible enough to still give excuses :p) is that I no longer feel connected to the wheel and I can't seem to place Katyusha accurately on the road as I wanted to.
That took away any notion of control and I was feeling like a passenger with Katyusha actually on the wheel. A very dangerous position when the driver himself doesn't feel in control :p
Secondly was because of the sheer speed Katyusha could carry through the corners. Granted, I haven't driven in anger through the touge for quite a while, so my sense of speed have somewhat been rather negatively amplified by my poor experience, but more so because Ryosuke after what we experienced with Kate, decided never again to skimp on tyres and bought for Katyusha the best his wallet can come up with :p semi-slick Hankook S3... if i remember it correctly (given my rather poor performance of sticking to my excuses, I myself would rather doubt that correctness :p)
So, bottom line, touge is no longer fun. Age is creeping up on me and it's blunting my reflexes, and my youthful courage and enthusiasm have finally deserted me, setting me on the path of being a disillusioned, cynical, grumpy old man who finally saw the big slap reality was giving him in the face mid-way in his life :p
Then last week I got Katyusha back home. She's a beauty.. A thing of art.. if there's anything that man ever made perfect, is the automotive design that can evoke such emotions.. :P
Anyway, enough being poetic. It's bad enough that I'm being a cynical grumpy realist defeatist, but put poetry in there and you can get 'Hamlet' and 'Romeo and Juliet' kind of stories all over again.. nothing but beautiful misery :p
Well, there was Katyusha, just sitting there at home being pretty (which she was pretty good at, I must admit :p) and who am I to resist such temptation being the typical easily tempted fool I am :p
(Just look at that beauty.. peeking out with her doe eye and pouty lips.. who can resist that :p)
So I had a rather irresistible urge to drive her... My first attempt was actually through Genting Sempah, but that night it rained and that basically scared the crap out of me :p so we were more like crawling through the touge rather than actually trying to find back the 'fun' in it... when I said we, I mean me and my friend Afiq, who's also partly responsible for my rather resurgent quest to rekindle my love for the touge :p
Anyway, the first trip was rather a disaster :p but the second trip... the second trip is what this post is all about (FINALLY!!! X-p)
I somehow managed to bring Katyusha to the office, and my plan was, since I'd be staying back to finish off some work, why don't I go for a drive first to spice up the night X-p
(It was drive-your-motorized-wife-to-work day :-p)
To cut things short, after office hours, I drove Katyusha through some slightly loose rush hour traffic to Afiq's house to pick him up. His brother (Ayip) somehow manage to tag along as well :-p and as we contemplated on where we should go, ominous black clouds heavily pregnant with the seeds of rain hung over the mountains that holds the touge hallowed ground of Genting Sempah.
We ran through our options:
1) Sempah would seem to be ready to be soaked in a deluge, if that happens, then events of the first trip would only repeat itself i.e. my rather miniscule balls would manifest itself in full glory X-(
2) Kuala Klawang would be nice but then it's the evening rush hour... going through the Ampang traffic with Katyusha is not really a pleasant way to start things off
And as we try to think of some other options, Afiq suggested Fraser Hill.. It's pretty far, the touge at the 'Gap' would be rather terrifying, and so... WHY NOT!!! X-p
That evening I just felt like I want to drive... just drive... just enjoy the driving.. to anywhere, at any distance... just, why not? why not? :-p
So then we all unanimously decided to say WHY NOT X-p and not care of the distance we would have to go through, nor the traffic, nor the weather, nor anything really... :p who cares about Katyusha's erratic idling, who cares about Katyusha's unstable engine timing which sometimes causes her engine to stall by just clutching in, who cares about Katyusha's thirsty habits, who cares about Katyusha's unrealiable starter to crank the engine, who cares about the fact since we're hauling 3 people, we have to stuff Afiq in the back and pretend he has no legs X-p Damn it all and JUST GO!!! X-D because WHY NOT?!! :-p WHY NOT!!!! X-D
And thus we start... our epic trip.. just the 3 of us.. heading to one of the most dangerous touge that I know of.. knowing full well that I am broke and only my debt with my credit card can satiate Katyusha's rather expensive thirsty habit.. and pretending Afiq has no legs :-p
We manage to get into MRR2 without much of a hitch, and made the mistake of going through Batu Cave rather than bypassing it... Apparently Thaipusam is just around the corner so Batu Cave is a beehive of activity with pedestrians swarming the streets... no matter.. I'm sure stressing my left leg clutching in and out of Katyusha's semi-racing clutch in bumper-to-bumper crawl is less painful than pretending to have no legs X-p maybe...
We eventually got through and got to the Petronas just before the Ulu Yam touge close to 8 pm. Made a quick stop for prayers, have some guy check out Katyusha, and embarrassingly try to crank her engine as her starter decided to act up just when someone is ogling her :-p well, that's actually an anti-theft feature and not a defect X-p why you say? BECAUSE RACE CAR!!!! X-P
Anyway, after a lot of du'a, we manage to get her engine running :p and off we go into the breach!! X-D first up, the Ulu Yam touge... It's an uphill drive so it's not that challenging. This time, rather than trying to feel the limit of Katyusha, I instead tried to feel MY own limit. "Know yourself and know your enemy and you need not worry the result of a thousand battle" says Sun Tzu. With that in mind, I decided to try to go slow, and slowly up the tempo gradually. Go only up to the speed I'm comfortable with rather than the speed I'm trying to cope with.
With super sticky tyres, superb suspension and set up (Ryosuke had Katyusha corner balanced the last time around) and with the steering rack fixed, I felt something which I haven't felt in a very long time. FULL CONTROL. I can finally accurately place Katyusha on the road where I wanted her, turned in the way I wanted to, accelerate out the way I needed her to.
And before I know it, the corners that I thought and previously felt tight through the Ulu Yam touge suddenly felt rather mild and hardly challenging. Before I know it, the touge was over and we were passing through the dam behind slow traffic.
I managed to squeeze out a few more fun moments through the touge before reaching Ulu Yam and it suddenly felt like Ulu Yam is an easy and rather mild twisty stretch of road. Granted, like I said, I didn't really drove fast, so I was probably going through the touge more slowly than I should but hey what the heck, I was enjoying myself :-p
We couldn't really know how fast we were going because Katyusha also had a rather shitty dash cluster illumination that couldn't illuminate it's own face in broad daylight :p I just had to guess our rev from the general position of the tachometer needle and I have no idea what speeds I was going. It was probably fast if compared with the casual family sedan like my daily beater Honda City, but compared to real enthusiast standards, it was probably rather shameful :-p
Anyway, we reached Ulu Yam and Afiq suggested another touge route bypassing Batang Kali. When we got to that route, we got stuck behind a Honda Civic FD2r with Type-r badges. I suppose he's a poser but for ego sake, I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and consider his car a genuine type-r :-p
He was driving rather slowly that even a motorcycle overtook us, so the first opportunity to overtake came and I grabbed it. He suddenly picked up pace and tried to keep up with me, I knew this for a fact (eventhough I can't determine our speed :-p) because we then overtook the same motorcycle that overtook us earlier.
So IT IS ON!!! X-D COME AT ME BRO!!! Sadly it wasn't really a pedal-to-the-metal let's-go-crazy kind of affair :-p it's still the same let's-go-slow-and-see-how-fast-we-can-increase-speed kind of thing :-p but significantly more so as I increase the tempo rather dramatically to try to see if I can actually outrun this type-r (wannabe maybe :-p)
The highlight of the moment came when we approached a rather sharp almost 90 degrees left turn, the road was tight, but despite so, I hit the brakes as hard as I felt necessary. I can safely say that with the brakes and the tyres, my braking was far from the threshold, but it was enough to quickly scrub off the speed and allowed me to confidently take the turn.
That feeling of full control, that connection to the car, the feel of the road, the adrenalin pumping through my system, all those reminded me why I love the touge, why I was crazy about it, and why it's turning me crazy again :-p
Needless to say, I manage to 'titik' the type-r (wannabe... maybe :-p) rather ruthlessly X-p things went on rather undramatically and we reached Kuala Kubu Bharu where we had dinner.
(the culprit - the man with no legs X-p)
(the man who couldn't fit in the back because he has a gut X-p)
(and the retard who could barely fit in the driver's bucket seat because he has guts jutting out of all sort of unlikely places X-p)
(and the flowers... because why not... :-p)
We ate western dishes at a Mamak restaurant. My experience so far with Mamak western dishes is that they have all been bad. It's rather safe to say that this mamak IS NO EXCEPTION X-p
So after the dreadful dinner, we continued on our journey. Reached the touge leading up to the notorious 'GAP'. I was simply driving through as comfortably as I dared and so there was nothing dramatic :-p the car, the tyres, the suspension, the steering, they were all superb and gave me complete control. I just simply twisted left and right and felt like I was driving in GT6 X-p
The road was unfortunately really bad at certain places and with springs as hard as Katyusha's, your spine is inadvertently made part of the suspension system X-p
The road conditions did caused one dramatic moment. As I was turning into a right turn hairpin, the road turned bad and basically had a speed bump in mid corner X-( it caused Katyusha to skip and since it was a right hairpin and I was driving within the lanes, there's not much room for run off. So Katyusha skipped to the edge of the road, knowing I needed full braking capabilities of Katyusha to save the situation, I straightened out and dug in the brakes and fortunately manage to stop Katyusha just as her left front tyres touched the grass :-p
It was a pretty close call since a ravine is just off the edge of the road so it could have turned out pretty badly, but like I said, a combination of rather wimpy slow drive, great brakes and sticky tyres, the situation didn't turned for the worst. I would have like to say because of my God-like skills but that would just be as glaring as my excuses :-p fortunately I wasn't trying to push the limits of Katyusha, simply said.
We finally reached the 'Gap' just as a Hyundai Starex reached it as well. Since the 'Gap' was really tight and twisty, I didn't intend to try to 'attack' it but rather cruise our way to the top, and with the Starex leading the way, we can at least know how tight the corner turns.
But then the Starex started to pull away (!!!! WHAT???!!! a Starex was able to pull away from you in the Touge???!!!! O.O yes, sadly I was THAT slow X-p) which made me realize that I couldn't follow the Starex if I just continue to cruise... I needed to 'attack' so to say :-p (getting serious in the touge just because of a Starex....? I hope you're kidding.... >.>)
Anyway, after much consternation, I finally manage to catch up to the Starex and suddenly, as the road turn a bit wide into a corner, the Starex gave a signal and pulled over the side letting me pass. I suppose he had found Katyusha's lights to be really annoying and after realizing that he couldn't leave me behind, he decided to quickly let me pass.
All is good and well, but that means that he had taken the assumption that I am seriously 'attacking' the touge, which I was actually not and just wanted to have him lit up the way :-p but because of that impression, social conventions compel me to follow through my representation to the Starex and thus this 'forces' me to continue my attack on the 'Gap' X-p which was horrifying to be honest :-p
Katyusha nevertheless didn't disappoint and we manage to reach the top without wrecking ourselves :-p needless to say, our first order of business: find a toilet X-p we literally crapped ourselves X-p
Then it was a matter of taking as many breathtaking pictures as possible :-p like this retarded red suns pose picture X-p
Ok, that may be a bad example, but surely these pictures are breathtaking :-p
We finally made our way back, and due to several factors, we decided to drive through the highway, so we got up to Tanjung Malim and drove back to KL.
Katyusha's cooling system is apparently not made to withstand extended periods of high speed drive, so we had to take it rather easy through the highway. We nevertheless made it home in one piece (if not I wouldn't be writing this now would I :-p) and that night will forever be etched in my memory as one of the greatest piece of driving experience I had, simply because it rekindled my burning passion for touge again :-p
So whenever we're in the dumps, always ask why not X-p (now that is a rather stupid conclusion :-p)
Drive safe ;-)