Letter from Abu Dhabi

I am pleased to announce that Per, a crazy Norwegian, and I, Chris, an equally crazy Canadian, successfully completed a 520-kilometer (323-mile) ride from Muscat, Oman, to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), in 21 hours between Thursday, March 21 and Friday, March 22, 2002.

We left Abu Dhabi on Thursday at 11:30am by car, with Per's wife and son along as moral support, and drove to Muscat. After a quick tour of the sites, we went to the Al Bustan Hotel (one of the finest in the Middle East) for a traditional Italian pre-ride meal. The waiter not only did not believe us when we told him what we planned to do, but dismissed us as crazy tourists who didn't know what we were talking about. At 9pm, we set off from the palace in Muscat at a rather blistering pace and aimed for our first rest stop 80 kilometers (50 miles) away. Average speed at the end of 80 kilometers was 36.7 km/h (23 mph), with slight wind assist and a lot of adrenaline. After a 10 minute break, we set off for another 80 kilometer (50 mile) run, but this time, and for the rest of the trip, we headed into the wind. Our average speed after 160 kilometers (100 miles) was 33.5 km/h (21 mph). The Oman coastal highway is beautiful and has streetlights for almost the entire way. The next stop, 240 kilometers (150 miles) from Muscat, was Sohar, the corner where we turned off into the mountains to aim for the border and Al Ain, in the UAE.

By now it was 5am. We were a little tired, and the streetlights had run out. We stopped, hooked up all our lights (three flashers each on the back, plus three headlights between us), had more food and drink, and noticed a rather ferocious wind coming through the mountains right at us. The lowest temperature that night was 22C (72F), with an average temperature of 26C (79F).

The light started to appear, and we headed towards the border, which was now only 50 kilometers (31 miles) away. What with mountains, strong head winds, and just a little fatigue, our pace was somewhat slower than when we started. At the border, they asked us how many days it had taken to bicycle from Muscat. When we said we had left at 9pm that previous evening, they repeated the question - they couldn't understand two guys riding bicycles continuously for 300 kilometers (186 miles). We battled strong winds for a further 50 kilometers (31 miles), to the Al Ain Hilton and our rendezvous with two more riders, Doug MacMichael and Des Kwok (both also Canadian orthopedic surgeons), who had agreed to ride the final 170 kilometers (105 miles) with us into Abu Dhabi.

By the time we set off from the Hilton, it was almost 11am and the temperature was up to 39C (102F). The first 40 kilometers (25 miles) were, again, at a blistering speed, with Doug pulling us at around 35 kilometers (22 miles). We stopped to rest and we were all gasping - including the two fresh riders. Heat and dehydration were now major issues, so the bottom line was drink, drink, drink. We set off again at a slower pace, and, again, ran into horrendous head winds coming straight from Abu Dhabi. We charged on, with Des and Doug taking turns pulling, while Per and I were starting to show some signs of fatigue (after 400 kilometers — 250 miles — in 32 hours, with no sleep). Stops became more frequent due to the 40 to 50 kilometer (25 to 31 mile) headwinds, sun, and temperatures of 35C to 39C (95F to 102F).

We ran into a lot of sand on the road. Per fell over at low speed — no blood, just a little sand on the leg and arm. At just after 6pm, we entered the city via 30th Street. When we got to the main grandstands, the crowds (three wives, one son) were cheering! According to Des, the final 170 kilometers (105 miles) averaged just over 30 km/h (19 mph), despite the headwinds and traffic. Photos were taken, the bikes were loaded onto the cars, and home we went. After a shower I was asleep, and absolutely nothing could have woken me.

Today - Saturday, March 23 - Per and I are alive and well, as are Doug and Des. In a moment of weakness at the end of the ride yesterday, I asked Heather and the others to shoot me if I ever suggested doing anything similar again.

Today, I fully retract that statement. It was an awesome ride.

(Published with permission of MedHunters.com.)

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