2014 Dubai Tour: Stage 03
On Thursday, February 6th, schools in Dubai were closed due to rolling road closures needed for the Tour of Dubai.
I A Chronological Breakdown of the Day's Events
10:00–10:30 AM: Keiran and I eat breakfast at Fournil De Pierre, a French patisserie across the street from the lofts, where we’ve been eating breakfast every morning for the last four days because the first day we ate there they served us the two pain au chocolats we ordered, warm. And every day since we’ve been hoping/expecting our pain au chocolats to be served warm like they were that first day, but they haven’t been, they’ve been served room temp, which in croissant-talk might as well be shrink wrapped and semi-frozen. Our waiter, it’s the same guy every day, we thought he was French because he has a French accent but it turns out he’s Serbian, anyway, even though we absolutely love him we’re too embarrassed to ask him what we did or why it is that our pain au chocolats were warm that first day but cold every day since. We almost asked the woman who owns the apartment we’re renting because she has a French accent too—and it turns out she has her’s because she’s from France—but when we asked her if she had ever been to Fournil De Pierre and if she had what did she think of it, she said that it’s okay but she doesn’t really eat pastries there because they have inferior flour. Then we were too embarrassed to ask her about what’s with the warm one minute and cold the next. Consequently we’ve made peace with the situation and have decided it’s okay if it remains a mystery.
10:45 AM: We meet Josh (above left, seated), Jerry aka Jerry Balloch (above left, standing) a well known freelance commercial and editorial photographer living/working in Dubai, and Matt from Adventure HQ (above right) at the start.
10:45–10:46 AM: After locating Main Scooter Guy halfway through a packaged sandwich in some shade just beyond the start line where the photo moto and course official motos typically line-up their bikes, I make my case for a second day on the back of a bike so that Matteo and I may ride again! Main Scooter Guy smiles before saying no, absolutely not.
10:46–11:21 AM: We make a plan to meet back at Jerry’s Range Rover 10 minutes before the start, at which time we will leave with the pre-caravan in an attempt to drive the course in the sweet spot (calm before the storm) between the rolling enclosure in front and the peloton in back, something which in theory (based on anecdotal evidence collected in Europe and America) should be fairly straightforward. In the meantime, we all have free time for wandering, lurking, interviewing, photoshooting, additional coffeeing (Nero Cafe), shuffling, observing, sunburning, mindless staring at walls/sky/feet and to talk Emirati women into portraits (see below).
11:22 –12:25 PM: We leave with the pre-caravan. So far so good. We drive past two Sheik Palaces on the way to a freeway off-ramp near the airport. After photographing the peloton as they pass we leave the safety of the course—in every direction on every road that isn’t the course, there is a sea of parking lot-style gridlock—to leapfrog the peloton and re-enter the sweet spot. On the way up the freeway, we pass several large fully lifted Ford and Chevy pickups with with oversized wheels and various other WT-bling like roll cages, flood lights, snorkels, etc. I learn about Arabian Rednecks and dune bashing and why the citizens of Dubai need towing power. We also pass Dragon Mart, one of the largest semi-permanent tented markets in the Middle East, and which when seen from the sky resembles a dragon. This sparks a heated conversation about how in the UAE they really like to “make shit that looks like shit” when seen from the from the inside of your private jet or one of your helicopters. For example:
- World Islands is an artificial archipelago synecdoche of various small islands constructed in the rough shape of a world map, located 4.0 kilometres (2.5 mi) off the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The World islands are composed mainly of sand dredged from Dubai’s shallow coastal waters, and are one of several artificial island developments in Dubai. The World’s developer is Nakheel Properties, and the project was originally conceived by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.
- Palm Islands are two artificial islands in Dubai, United Arab Emirates built in the shape of palm trees. The islands are the Palm Jumeirah and the Palm Jebel Ali.
- The YAS Viceroy Hotel in Abu Dhabi which when seen from above looks like “a cock and balls.” Side Note: This example might be unintentional, there’s no way to know really.
- The dude who spelled his son’s name in “trenches” in the sand in the desert big enough that it was legible from thousands of feet above—his sons name is H-a-s-s-e-n Hassen.
- And the Burj Al Arab, the world’s only 7-star hotel shaped like a sail.
12:26 PM: Our re-entry is blocked. In fact, as we make our way through stopped cars and traffic to the point of entry, we find the Director of RCS (the race organization managing the Dubai Tour) in a skirmish with an Obstruction Oriented Police Officer—OOPO. Behind him are several Team Cars and VIP-types. We are late to the party. The Director of the RCS, an Italian, is talking to an interpreter (in person) and someone on his mobile at the same time. He’s also pacing and doing the pinched finger hand shake thing at the ground near the OOPO’s feet. The interpreter is pleading with the OOPO, the OOPO is unyielding. Several minutes go by. The UAE national team Team Car is allowed to pass, everyone else is not. Finally the RCS director hands the OOPO his phone. The OOPO is not happy about taking the phone but he does, though in the process he becomes a Petulant Police Officer—PPO. The conversation does not go well for the PPO, after some pacing and yelling and head shaking, the PPO hands the phone back to the RCS director. The PPO doesn’t say anything, he just jerks his head in the direction of the Desired Re-entry Point—DRP. He doesn’t move his PPO car, or apologize, or laugh, or even verbally consent to our collective passage. Just the head jerk.
12:53PM: The plan now is to drive the course 40km or so up the road to the Al-Madam Round About, where will stop, let the peloton pass, photograph the passing peloton, deviate from the course, take the back way which is actually the front way to Hatta, observe the pre-finish finish line in the township of Hatta, backtrack the course into the mountains, park on the top of the second climb which climb is called Generator Hill, wait for the peloton to pass, photograph the race for the last time today.
II A BRIEF SYNOPSIS IN LIST FORM OF THINGS DISCUSSED, SEEN, DONE, HEARD, ETC. ON OUR DRIVE
- Every year during the Al Dhafra Festival in Abu Dhabi they hold a beauty contest for camels. The event is designed to celebrate various aspects of Bedouin Culture; camels or “God’s gift to the Bedouin” are a big part of that culture. The camels aren’t judged solely on their looks, behavior and comportement factor as well. Owners of the top 10 camels receive prizes including luxury cars and cash.
- If you run a camel over on the road, by law you have to pay the owner of the camel whatever the owner of the camel thinks the camel was worth before you injured/killed it.
- There must be thousands and thousands of job opportunities for window washers in Dubai. Per capita, or per square foot, or average building height, or however you measure this kind of thing, Dubai must have more vertical feet of glass than any other city in the world. There must be a saying here that goes something like, “In Dubai, if you have squeegee and a harness (harness optional!), you’ve got a job.”
- There really are camels on the side of the road, like wild, in the Middle East. And side note: after close inspection, I can 100% relate to a Camel Beauty Pageant. If you think cows are pretty wait to you see a camel; they are regal, they are tan, they DO have camel toes, they have great smiles, they are friendly (ish), they are so tall!!!!!, they are cool dudes.
- They have cats in the desert, and, according to Jerry, “they’re badass” and they live in caves.
- The smaller dunes are yellow. The larger dunes are orange and red. Shit grows on the yellow dunes but not on the red dunes. The red dunes are for partying.
- I talk about how yesterday, when I was on a fake moto/scooter, driving up and down the freeways of outer Dubai photographing the bike tournament from basically within the bike tournament, I saw a photographer driving himself on the course on a 90’s era Honda Aero 50. Sandstorm or not, the max speed of that scooter, when driven by a professional jockey or pre-adolescent child, is 45 kilometers an hour. Eventually he was asked-as-in-forced to leave the course. But I liked that guys moxie, just driving out on the course like that. I’m sure from his perspective—I have a vest, I have a scooter, I have a camera, let’s party—it makes perfect sense to simply sort yourself out. At any rate, the world needs that kinda moxie. Dear Tour of Utah, Manual for Speed is coming to your gig this year and so listen, you can either assign us a photo moto or we can assign ourselves a rental scooter. Your choice.
- Some of the police cars in Dubai are Bugatti Veyrons.
- We passed a sheik on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, basically at the end of the driveway to his ranch, who is part of one of the wealthiest families in the UAE. It’s a known fact that various professional cyclists from Europe visit his ranch in the winter to train and take selfies with any number of his pet cheetahs.
- “Asking will get you an answer.”—Keiran Best regarding whether to ask a course official if we can pass, or to just pass.
- They have a variation of the peace sign here in the UAE, apparently a local Sheik started doing it and so now it’s all the rage. It’s just like your basic rabbit ears-style peace sign but with your thumb out too. Try it, it’s easy!
- If you’re interested in rugs or ceramic camels, and/or roadside stands that sell rugs and ceramic camels, drive to Hatta.
- Apparently a local Sheik likes Voss Mineral Water from Norway, it’s the water with the cylindrical bottle that doesn’t make any sense. And I guess Voss stamps each bottle of their water with a “bottling date.” The story goes that this Sheik wanted to drink his Voss on the same day it was bottled, so he chartered a jumbo jet which he sent to Norway on like an elaborate beer run of sorts. Side Note: I did about fifty-four seconds of fact checking on this story. While I couldn’t verify ANY aspect of it, I did learn that during a test sponsored by Finland’s national broadcasting company (YLE), three blindfolded wine experts rated Voss water lowest of the six waters tested, which included Helsinki public tap water.
- This song was playing in the bathroom of a Lebanese fast food joint: Ma Badi Asbih Majnoun by Sameer Hannah.((Publisher’s Note: This song apparently does not exist on YouTube. This is the first time an MFS-Approved Playlist Track has been absent.))
- On our way to Hatta we drove through several checkpoints and the country of Oman.
- If you don’t care about flies and sporadic dust tornados, the egg parathas and tea from the Indian shack on the side of the road in Al Shuwaib are delicious. And cheap!
- If I was a thirteen year old white girl this is how I would talk about this race: So like that Paco guy in the red, wow!!!!!! Every day he wins the whole race except for the end part which is only like a super tiny bit compared to the whole day. I mean shouldn’t he get something, like maybe some Louis Vuitton or D&G sunglasses????!?!!!!??!? That big guy with a girls name is cute but he’s only fast at the end, I mean that’s cool but not that cool. Also how come that one Taylor guy gets like 700 Versaces a minute for every mile he doesn’t get lost or fall down, is that clock day really that important? I don’t understand cycling at all but I love the outfits!!!!!!!!!!