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NOTES: This is a long post – not having access to Google, Gmail, WordPress, etc… is somewhat challenging. Also, the “I” referred to below is sometimes Kimberly and sometimes Mike – you can figure it out.

The last time we were here was nearly 15 years ago and my how things have changed. The city is cleaner. The air seems dirtier. There are far more Chinese tourists than ever before. There are way fewer bikes on the road. But China is still China and some things never change – the smoking, the spitting, the pushing and shoving, the people, the people, the people, so many people… ahhh, it’s good to be back!

From the airport to the taxi, everything seemed like just another city. As we drove deeper and further into the center or Beijing we remembered just how massive this city is. The blocks are huge, gray and cement. The buildings all have the same communist look, void of character and stained with a yellow and black soot. The taxi dropped us off at the end of a narrow street, “ba hao hutong” (hutong #8). Hutongs are the savior of Beijing. Between the massive city streets is a network of alleys, some with beautiful trees, some clean, some filthy, all with endless doors leading to homes of various sizes and number of occupants. In all the hutongs there are a few shops and public bathrooms that are used by a majority of the hutong dwellers. Our airbnb home was in hutong #8, we opened the very non descript metal door and walked passed a little makeshift kitchen and several small apartments. When I say small they are about the size of a very small room or perhaps a large walk in closet – each having at least 4 occupants. At the end of the hall was a round moon shaped entrance, this was the final gate to the home of Cindy and Nick. It was a step back in time to old Beijing, we had a large two bedroom place with widows on all sides. Our own bathroom and shower with 4 heads (yes we could all shower at the same time). The kids had to get used to throwing the toilet paper in the garbage and not in the toilet.

As Beijing grew, the people who lived in the hutongs either systematicall subdivided their spaces, or were forcefully removed to make room for modern highrise condos and offices. The ones that remain are truly a respite from city life. Beijing is now in the process of rebuilding some of the old hutongs, instead of tearing them down, as they realize the unique treasure that they are.

Beijing and China in general is a monstrous place. There are a lot of noises and the more noise one can make, the better they feel. It’s a place that people feel better when someone else is knocked down. Enter our first dinner. We went to eat jiouzi, a steamed dumpling, much like a won ton without the soup. As we walked into a local restaurant, the air was thick with cigarette smoke and a group of men were sitting around a table with an absolute mess on the floor. They reveled in who could talk louder and who could yell the deepest, all the while food spilled, cigarette butts stamped out and spit was coughed up and shot onto the floor around them. The highlight was the fight over the bill. It’s a tradition that was once a great gesture to show respect to others, now a trump card to hold over your friends heads that I beat you to the punch. The jiouzi was good and when we stepped out into the street with cars zooming by and the city’s polluted cloud covering us like a dirty cotton ball, Soleil said, “Now I can breathe and hear!”.

Our first day led us to the Forbidden City, it’s a major tourist destination, but you can’t come to Bejing and not go. The loudspeakers were turned full blast and the tour groups were in force, but if you stay on the edges and appreciate the history of the place, it’s not too bad. Schlepping two kids down the mega boulevards of a major Chinese city is not my idea of fun. As many of you know, the only true mode of transportation for this family is by bike – car is too fast, walking is too slow. So we rented two tandem bicycles for the duration of our stay and life quickly got a whole lot better. No more schlepping. No more whining.

Now, the Chinese have a habit of driving without following too many of the rules, and I don’t think they know what a helmet looks like (I know, Mom, I know… but look at the bright side – with them on the back of the bike, there is no way for them to get lost!). Biking around Beijing, you have to keep in mind a few important rules of the road:

  • First of all, there are no rules
  • Second of all, there is no stopping as pedestrians DO NOT have right of way
  • The Chinese adopted the American system of right turns allowed on red, but they didn’t quite understand the stop first part of the rule – so they just barrel through right turns at the intersection.
  • If you make eye contact, you must yield, so best to avoid looking at all costs.

The bikes allowed us to get around the city much faster – we saw many of the random temples, rode around the beautiful HouHai lake, cruised through the old “hutongs”, and visited the Llama temple, an old Buddhist temple which I had never been to before and it was beautiful – highly recommended for a peaceful respite.

The next morning was an early morning rise to see The Great Wall. Mike’s Dad has an affliction known as “carve-isitis” – he feels the overwhelming urge to carve his name into ancient relics of great importance. Luckily, this affliction has subsided in his old age, and he is no longer carving. But in his heyday, he managed to claim a brick on the wall, and he promised $100 to the grandchildren if they found it. So we were on a mission. We searched every tower and finally found it after 3 hours of searching every corner of every tower between the stretch of wall he had steered us towards. We took a tram to the top of the wall and got to ride a toboggan down. The toboggan was so much fun that we opted to do it a second time.

The Wang family has deep roots in Beijing. Beida (the Oxford of China) was attended by Mike’s grandmother, his Great Grand Father helped found the Library and he, as well as his brother and cousin, have taught there. Mike’s father was born in Beijing, his great grandfather was a minister at the first Methodist church that was attended by 2 U.S. Presidents. The list of history goes on and on…

We spent a whole day going to historical “Wang” sites. The church, grandmother’s middle school, places that KK and Bob have been to. It was supposed to be an easy day that led us all around the city including the Temple of Heaven. That night we went to a Chinese acrobat show. It’s like a kitschy Chinese circus but entertaining as all get out. The highlights were watching 12 women ride around on 1 bike and biting your nails off as 8 guys on motorcycles zoomed around inside of a pretty small metal ball. After the show, we thought we would walk 3 blocks to dinner, then catch a taxi home – seemed easy enough. Well, 3 blocks takes about 1 hour to walk – finding the restaurant takes about another hour and getting a taxi in a city of 21 million people is like waiting for a lottery ticket to fly by while sitting at a bus stop in the Gobi desert. We navigated the Beijing subway and after 2 transfers and several long walks, we collapsed into our beds at 11pm – so much for an easy day!

The plan for the last day was to drop off the bikes, eat lunch in an air-conditioned place and not get too sweaty before the long train journey. Up to this point, Beijing had been a perfect trip. “The pedestrian is the lowest form of living creature in Beijing” our host Nick told us. I couldn’t agree more (foreshadow). After relinquishing the bikes everything seemed massive again. The city seemed too hot, too crowded and it just all came at you like a sack of rice.

We made our way to Jingshan park which resides at the back exit of the Forbidden City. It must be one of the most visited places in Beijing but we had it on an amazing day. First off, the air seemed like home, BLUE! Some miraculous wind must have come in last night and blew away the hazardous-to your-health-2.5 micron death cloud that had been sitting over us the last few days. At the top of Jingshan park you could see as far as the eye can see, as Beijing is pretty flat. We could see all the places we had been in the days prior (remember we could only see about 1 block if not for the crystal clear air). Secondly, the place was relatively empty and relaxed on the cool benches of the Buddhist temple at the peak overlooking the Forbidden City in peace and quite. As if the gods were smiling at us, there was a good stiff breeze and no one was smoking, two things you don’t find in Beijing. Needless to stay, we lingered…

We were on cloud nine and ready to enjoy some lunch. As you leave major sites in China the touts and dregs of society come out. “Hutong tour” “Taxi” “Tea ceremony”

“where are you going”…. It’s an endless assault when you are on 2 feet and not 2 wheels. With the kids in tow you move even slower and lunch suddenly felt like a long 2 blocks away. We opted to jump in a motor cab, which is like a 3 wheel motorcycle that takes 2 passengers. At first all was well, then I asked why we were not going in the right direction? Kimberly and Kai were in the lead 3 wheeler and by the time I told the guy to turn around, they had led us to a desolate end of a hutong, a good 3-4 blocks in the wrong direction. They said “wangfujing is just over there”, I knew it was not and that this was not going to end well. He then took out a sheet and told me it was going to cost me 300 per motor cab. (about $100). I quickly took out a map and said we are nowhere near where we wanted to go and that I was not going to pay. A little yelling… scared kids… Kimberly walking away quickly with the children…, and we were nowhere near anything. A textbook shakedown. I took out what was about the equivalent of $1 and started to hand it to him. As he advanced and grabbed for me, I gave a pretty forceful shove. I think that was enough to startle him. As he was about to start a fight I yelled “Police”, this was enough to send them on their way. It was a crappy way to leave Beijing, but as we walked the now 6 blocks to lunch, I told Kai something I was told long ago. When China beats you down and the humanity seems to not exist, remember that you have a passport and can leave at anytime. The poor ass will have to live here the rest of his life. We missed our bikes.

After the motor cab incident and the failed attempts at hailing a taxi, we braved the subway, which required two transfers to make our way to the train station for the train to Hong Kong. Being in transit is kind of the worse part of traveling, so I wasn’t looking forward to the journey. The kids were very hesitant about the whole experience and Kai even whined at one point “Why can’t we just take a plane?” But once we entered our soft sleeper train car, the kids were in heaven. Our very own sleeper bunks in our 4-person soft sleeper car going from Beijing to Hong Kong – what could be better? I find traveling by train so incredibly relaxing (provided you’re not slumming it in hard seat!). The landscape zooms by. There are various train stops where you can peer out the window and wonder what it’s like to live there. You can stroll to the dining car. It’s relatively smooth and safe. It feels like the gift of time – there’s nothing to do but read, talk and daydream – when, in your daily life, do you have that kind of luxury for hours on end. And, while sleeping comfortably in your bed, you’re making progress towards a new destination! Next up – Hong Kong!

A few random reflections on Beijing:

  • Its hot, sticky, dirty and the men here seem to pride themselves on wearing dress pants pulled up like shorts and sport shirts pulled up above the belly. And the larger the belly, the more pronounced the shirt is pulled up.
  • There are a lot of men and boys, and far fewer girls I wonder what will happen to the one child policy in the coming decade.
  • There is a public bike system here, 1 yuan per hour to rent (about 15 cents). This is to try to get people to bike around more and drive less. A good start.
  • In general the city seems cleaner in terms of trash but dirtier in the sky.
  • The subway system is pretty clean and seems to work very well, something we did not see much of as we had bikes.
  • We did not see very many foreign tourists, none on the train. But have met lots of Chinese tourists from all over China. This is different from years ago, and a good sign for the country in that people have disposable income and are starting to see more of their country.
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NOTE: WordPress, Google, Gmail, Facebook and several other sites are blocked in China, so our last post didn’t work.  I tried to get around it by emailing the post to my blog, but apparently it didn’t like the content or photos.  So this time my parents are posting for us, and hopefully this will work.  Mike cannot access his email at gmail, but my yahoo email still works.

Hot, muggy and smells like steaming bowls of curry and spices – we must be in Singapore! We had a great visit with Ken and Mei-Mei enjoying their last few days as expats – after 18 years of comfy cozy expat life in Asia they are returning to the mother ship to settle down in California. The girls got to meet their long lost cousin, Bailey and could have easily spent their entire time in Singapore in the pool!

Most of Singapore sits under an endless maze of air-conditioned malls, and since none of us enjoy shopping, we opted for nature adventures, wandering the streets and eating our way through the town.  Sights and sounds we experienced in our 5 days included:

  • ·    HAWKER FOOD – we made a beeline straight for the stalls.  Carrot cake (which is actually turnip cake fried in a special soy sauce with spices), Hokkien Mee, Laksa, Roti Pratha, Murtabak… and more deliciousness I can’t remember the names of. Singapore is an eater’s paradise and it did not disappoint.
  • ·      Little India – we schlepped the kids through some crazy Hindi temples, which I love because they are not at all uptight – everyone is willing to let you go anywhere and do anything and they will explain anything you want about the Hindu religion and the wacky colorful statues staring down at you.
  • ·      Gardens by the Bay – Singapore spent $8Billion spiffing up the Marina area, and they have two huge cloud forest domes with all kinds of spectacular vertical walls full of diverse plant life.  At night, there are these crazy “super trees” that are all lit up and make you feel like you’re visiting the future.  Truly extraordinary.
  • ·      Din Tai Fung – if it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it’s good enough for us – and the Xiao Long Bao did not disappoint – I think Kailani stuffed in at least 10!
  • ·      Bukit Timah Nature Reserve – Ken and Bailey took us for a stroll through the jungle – it is a nature reserve in the middle of Singapore and you’d never know you were in a major city.  We saw a Colugo (flying lemur), a monitor lizard, a snake (ick) and a pack of monkeys.  We also sweat out about 2 liters of water each – if you’re looking for a serious pore cleanse, look no further.
  • ·      East Coast Park Bike Ride – we rented bikes and rode for 10 miles along the East Coast of Singapore, which is a giant park that runs along the beach – it was glorious – the kids loved riding, but I think Bailey enjoyed it the most.  Little does she know she will soon be in the bike mecca of California! We ate some more Hawker food at the East Coast Food Village – Laksa and Satay, YUM!
  • ·      Bananaleaf Apolo – our last meal in Singapore was a return back to the same restaurant we had visited with Bob and KK 15 years ago – indian food served on a banana leaf!
Every evening ended with “the show”, as I like to call it.  Sitting on the deck of KAM’s 21st floor apartment with all the doors wide open, glass of wine in hand, vicariously observing Singaporeans do the laundry and put the kids to bed, watching the lights of the city twinkle and the Marina Bay Sands laser show.  The air was heavy and the warm breeze soothed our souls – aaaahhhhh, Singapore!ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

June 17/18th

The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building as of 2010, at 2,717 ft, with 160 floors. Dubai holds over 60 world records and this building is no exception (in fact, so many that the Guinness Book of World Records set up a satellite office in Dubai). It cost $1.5 billion and was built in a record 6 years by workers from over 80 different nationalities. We had to go to the top.
As some of you may know, I (Kimberly) have developed a moderate fear of heights in my 40s, so it took some overcoming to make it to the outdoor observation deck for this picture (see how “tiny” the massive skyscrapers behind us look!).
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Earlier that day, we visited the Jumeirah Beach Park and went swimming in the hella hot and saline waters of the Arabian Sea. It was fun, but definitely not refreshing. We have no photos, because photography is illegal on the beaches in Dubai.
Dubai is a pretty nutty place – 85% of the workforce are expatriots – so you have 100s of different nationalities living as guests in a country that was founded only 40 years ago (1971). They are still searching for an identity, but with more money than they can shake a stick at. We spoke to several workers throughout the day (mostly from Pakistan) and asked them how they like living in Dubai and they said “It’s great! It’s safe!”. I suppose, at our core, after food and water are taken care of, feeling safe is a basic human need that many of us westerners take for granted. My feeling of safety was definitely challenged looking down through the floor to ceiling windows on this view:
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Big thanks to Mom and Dad for the fantastic visit. The kids got a little taste of the middle east, but nowhere near as authentic as it was just one generation ago. Only time will tell where the never-ending development will take them. If you are an architect, Dubai is your playground. If you have an idea for a tallest, widest, shortest, longest anything – then come lay your claim – I’m sure you can find a sponsor here.

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We headed to our final destination in the UAE, Dubai, I can’t believe we only had 2 days left.  

Lets see, we trekked in a desert, surfed, rafted, shopped, ate, water slided, went 150mph on a roller coaster….what else did I want to do here? Oh yeah, go skiing!

If you have not heard, yes you can ski in Dubai. We went to the mall to see the people enjoying the winter wonderland inside while it was 110+ degrees outside, having a large feeling like it would be fun we skipped on this. Next time, next time.

 

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I don’t know about you but I always dreamed of a souk as a mystical place where camels and shady characters roamed around under huge mazes of tents.  A place where you might still find Aladdin’s lamp or run into Indiana Jones. We headed off to the Spice Souk, followed by the Perfume Souk and finally the Gold Souk. What we found was not what I dreamed.

San Francisco is famed for its Fisherman’s Warf. Have you been there? Yes, it is a massively historical site and picturesque to a fault.  But at first glance all you see is rows and rows of cookie cutter restaurants, souvenir stalls and touts selling Segway tours. Well that’s what I thought of the Souks. I was more than a little disappointed as we bolted through the mostly new structures with new canvass tents. It was like Stanford Shopping center with some kitschy stalls. Needless to say we did not stay long.  On the bright side, there was a massive amount of gold packed into those tiny shops.

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As traveling does, you learn to trust your instincts and look for the sunny side of the street. Since we were in the area already we decided to poke our heads into one of the oldest building in Dubai and the oldest school.  We soon found out that they aren’t really that old as we looked at the signs and discovered our house was built around the same time, but hey come on look to the sunny side remember. The historical house and the school were both gems. It was like opening a box of ice cold chocolates. Each place had about 10 doors centered around a courtyard, inside each door was either a diorama or some cool photos or short films about life back then. Each room was also air-conditioned to the hilt. Imagine walking around in 110 degree heat all day with your kids. Then you walk into a one room museum that is cool and clean and quite, your kids and you have a sudden lust to read all the placards and just stare at all the displays as the sweat dries and leaves cool white salt rings on your clothes.

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After the “cool” history lessons, we headed back out into the streets.  This particular district is much older than the rest of Dubai and the streets twist and curve around like the Arabic writing.  I have not seen Chai Wallas since India, but there were lots of them here. Also lots of people with huge wheel barrels for moving goods. This seemed like the engine of Dubai, where the real people toiled and worked. Not part of the machine but the actual metal, the people were sweaty, hot and dirty like oil. The people were walking with fever and purpose as goods were being purchased and sold all over. One street would sell only womens shoes “wholesale only” plastered on the store fronts. Another street sold only rice, another TVs, all with the “wholesale only” signs on display. I did not think anything of it, until we got to the river front.

Big old boats lined the river front, 3 to 4 deep at times. The boats were being loaded with boxes and bags of everything imaginable. They seemed extremely unsafe and way too loaded down. “Where are these boats going?” I asked someone. “To Iran” I was told.  Ah…now I understand why all the stores said wholesale only.

 

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It’s hard to believe we have been in the UAE for almost a week and only eaten at restaurants and malls. If you know us, we like street food! When we exited the old Dubai area and saw what looked like a great chance to get some real fresh squeezed fruit juices and shwaramas we jumped at it. The tables were on the street corner of what seemed like a 14 way intersection.  The customers were from Pakistan, India, Arabia, Africa…then us. The food could not disappoint.  It was delicious.

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Feeliing like explorers we ended our day by jumping on the river bus to cross the river. “why are we on this boat” aksed Soleil. “So we can see what we can’t see from land” I told her.

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Fathers Day started off as most other fathers days of years past. A leisure breakfast, followed by some hugs and kisses from the kids, a few lovely cards and of course the wife asking “what would you like to do today? Its your day.”

George and myself had made a few plans for everyone to visit the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi in the morning and then a few of us would head off to more fun.
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It was the first time my kids had ever been into a mosque and they marveled at the stone work and huge amounts of marble. It was strange for us to, all the famous mosques I have ever been in have been old. Ancient in many cases, but this was new. The lights were LED, the doors were sliding electric and even the clocks were digital. I could not put my finger on why, but it was strange to be in such a holy place and it be so new.

The UAE has oil and lots of it. The oil translates into loads of money and keeps the country very very comfortable. Land is the other thing vastly abundant here in the UAE. So what would you do?….build the worlds fastest roller coaster? Hells yeah. Enter Ferrari World, you wanna feel what 0-150MPH in 4 seconds is like? Check out the video on this page. (http://www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com/en-gb/attractions/formula-rossa.aspx)
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Yes you have to wear goggles, yes your cheeks are blown back, yes your mouth blows open so wide that bugs fly into your mouth and all the saliva rolls back down your throat, but it’s a total thrill. When the roller coaster stops, there is water shot onto the wheels and parts of the track to cool them. Sure it’s 110 degrees outside, but the damn wheels need to be cooled after each time the cars are run, its fast! This was by far the best roller coaster we have ever been on. So we went twice.

But why stop there why not build a massive water play area where you can surf, kayak, raft and zipline too? So, after the roller coasters, Kai, George and myself headed to the middle of the desert and into the 115 degree heat to play in the man made water oasis (http://www.wadiadventure.ae/). We arrived just in time to be briefed by our Nepalese rafting guide. I felt like this might be the real deal on the water, why else would you have a world class raft guide at your disposal? After a few drill with 5 us in the boat in a flat calm water area, we were ready to run the gauntlets. Most white water rafting trips start with a car ride or a long hike to put in at just the right spots, not here. We paddled over to the conveyor belt and while in the raft, went up to an area where some massive pumps were clearly sending lots and lots of water down a man made river. The actual run was a blast, especially since I got tossed out of the boat twice! The first time I hit the water I was laughing and then I thought “this is real”, I was rushing down the river with my feet up in front of me and bouncing off rocks. The second time I got tossed out the boat George and Kai were in the water too. A little concerned that Kai would be scared, I quickly swam to here to make sure she was ok. When we climbed out of the water and onto the river bank, she was grinning ear to ear. “That was awesome!” was all she said. That’s my girl.

I had to miss the last 30 minutes of rafting as my surfing appointment was about to start. So strange…my surfing appointment? I ran across the park to the wave machine and fake beach. I grabbed a rather short surfboard and proceeded to paddle into the line up with 5 other guys. If you have ever surfed you know that the swell comes from far far away and a large part of surfing is being able to judge when and were the swell will break and paddling to put yourself in that right spot. All the time there are others trying to put themselves in that particular right spot too. Not so in the wave pool. You line up between a drain and a sign that says 2.5Meters, so close to the wall that I found it easier hold onto the sign with my hand. Your sitting in totally calm water and then suddenly a wave appears about 50 feet away and you turn to the beach and start paddling like mad to catch the wave. The wave itself is about 6 feet high and has a fun drop in, but after that its sort of weak and shapeless. But still, you just surfed a head high wave in the middle of the desert in a massive pool!
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Have you ever wanted to test your fears? Try an airpark. Kai and George did. An airpark is a ropes, logs and planks course that is situated some 20-30 feet off the ground. Don’t worry if you fall you wont die, your harnessed into a safety tether. But do you really want to test the tether? Kai was brave and started the course first, all the while saying to herself “you can do this, your wearing a harness”. While George just said “come on, you gotta be kidding me,” every step of the way. It was big test of mind over matter that was rewarded with a zip line over the park.
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We are trying out a new satellite tracker and you can see most of our destinations here (https://share.delorme.com/MichaelWang). If you click on the little “+” symbol by my name you will see our routes.


The two kids fell fast asleep in their wet bathing suits 2 minutes after climbing into the car last night.  I love it when I know every last fume of their energy has been spent.  It tells me they lived life to the fullest and left nothing on the table.

Yesterday morning we climbed into the car at 3:30AM and my Dad drove us for two hours out into the middle of the Arabian desert.  We arrived as the sun was coming up and we climbed the highest sand dune we could see. The ocean of sand was infinite. There appears to be no sign of life in every direction, except for the sand tracks left by the occasional bird, snake or desert fox. It is so quiet that someone can be 5 sand dunes over and you can still carry on a conversation.  If you follow a ridge, the sand is hard-packed making it easier to walk on.

Kailani loves hiking and climbing, so she had no problem keeping up with MeMe who climbs these dunes regularly for exercise.  Soleil, on the other hand, preferred lying down in the cool fine sand and letting it run between her fingers. After an hour and a half, the sun was rising and it was time to escape the heat.  The kids (mike included) enjoyed jumping off the dunes and making sand avalanches – when your feet hit the falling sand they make a funny fart sound.

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Sweaty and sandy, my parents drove us another 10 minutes down the road to an 8-star resort (5 stars isn’t enough for the Emirates) – a beautiful hotel right out of the Arabian Nights with a breakfast buffet that rivaled anything I’ve ever seen.  We had a long leisurely breakfast in the lap of luxury sampling delectable treats including camel milk with dates, Foul, hummus and lebneh, smoked fish and Shakshouhk – YUM! (Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort)

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Full and content, we pile back in the car for the drive back to Abu Dhabi, and halfway there, out of the empty sandy dusty desert, emerges a massive sand-colored pyramid and an abandoned jetliner aircraft. We had to check out the Cars Heritage Museum, also known as the weirdest place on earth according to me. Outside a sandstorm was blowing dust like a white-out at burning man, but inside was a dark cool quiet cavern of nearly 200 cars on display.  We were the only ones in the place, apart from the kind little Filipino guard.  A Sheik had amassed a collection of random automobiles and put them on display.  Ford trucks, corvettes, Mercedes benz’ in every color of the rainbow (and this guy likes rainbows!), Suzuki Samurais… the list is too long to name them all.  He even had one of the original automobiles ever invented from 1885!  Outside was a Guinness book of world records winner for the largest 2-wheeled caravan ever manufactured – it had 8 bedrooms and bathrooms and 4 garages!  There also was an abandoned jetliner.  Here this place sits, in the middle of the desert, with not a soul in sight – extraordinary.

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After a two-hour siesta, as if we hadn’t had enough fun for one day, we decided to visit the Yas Waterworld, which is right across the street from my parent’s apartment – the kids (mike included) were ecstatic.  The water slides, wave pools and lazy rivers kept us busy for hours, and kailani took several slides going double with grandpa. We closed the place down and the kids collapsed in the car, exhausted.

Our first day was mostly getting our bearings in this wild and wacky place called Abu Dhabi.  We visited the Corniche and dipped our toes in the hot-tub-water hot Arabian Gulf.  Some guard was enforcing some random wacky rules on us like “adults are not allowed to touch the playground equipment, even if you’re trying to push your child on the swing”, or “your feet must be on the sand (not the sidewalk) if you want to be in your bathing suit”.  The view of Abu Dhabi from the window of the suite we are staying in displays a vast array of architectural feats – a building in the shape of two convex circles (mike likened it to a space station that had landed on Tatooine), a bridge that looked like an unfurled paperclip and a mosque that is so white it blinds you to just walk across the central plaza- to name just a few.

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The place we are staying at is awesome – my parents sprung for a two-bedroom suite in the complex they are in and it is more than comfortable.  The first night, Kailani had jetlag and woke up at 2am and couldn’t sleep the rest of the night – and neither could I, so we both stayed awake and read while we watched the sun rise over Tatooine.

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P.S. funny joke Soleil made up – “Hey Mommy, a camel that is camouflaged is actually ‘camel-flaged’!” – cute!


Here we go, departing out of SFO! Thanks, uncle bill, for the drop-off! Let the epic summer of 2014 begin…

Yesterday, we enjoyed the Los altos tradition of apricot picking, and said goodbye to the land of perfect weather and plentiful fruit. Thanks uncle Packard!


I didn’t take any photos on day 7 cuz I was too busy crossing the finish line, woot!


Day 6: 84.4 miles from Lompoc to Ventura

Muscles definitely snapped to attention and I felt completely solid the entire Day 6. I got an early start, which was nice, since it allowed a little more dilly dallying at the lunch stop. I’ve learned that it is actually harder to stop because your muscles tighten up and it takes that much more work to get them warmed up again – better to push through all the way to lunch. I made it to lunch by 10:45am, where this kids met up with me, and I also got a nice visit with my niece, Harlowe, who is a student at UCSB in Isla Vista – YAY! Love her…

Group cycling is a whole different ballgame. You are working as a unit, so it takes tremendous focus and energy to communicate your every move to the hundreds of cyclists around you.

Riding through Santa Barbara was epic – right along the coast along beautiful bike paths. A man sets up an ice cream stop every year and serves baseball-sized scoops of ice cream to every rider to thank them for riding, so sweet!

I stopped and chatted to the creepy little man today. His name is Seth, and he has been providing goofy jokes to riders for over 8 years now, and he’s actually not that creepy, but seems like a pretty nice dude. I plan to find out tomorrow why he does it.

Day 6, dressed in a Shamrock costume, written across it were the letters “Come get me lucky”, or was it, “Come, get me lucky”, or was it “Come get me, Lucky!”…

 

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