Bahrain, Dubai, and At Sea - May 1993
Farewell to the REEVES!
It's hard to believe that after forty two months I will finally leave the REEVES!! FREEDOM!!! This last underway from Bahrain really was not fun. Ten whole days at sea! Gasp! After all of that inport time, sleep, fun, it was really unpleasant going back to sea. Plus our operational commitments didn't help much. The Nimitz is a serious pain in the neck. The only thing they care about is the wind for flight ops. So she says one thing, does another, then when you compensate for all of her course changes, she corners you in a small area of your operating area. We also had to plane guard a couple of times. Being behind the Nimitz at 2000 yards is not something I am going to miss at all.
To add to the confusion, the Iranians had a major exercise in the north Arabian Gulf. Add a couple hundred dhows, bhonka boats, and small boston whalers, and I was calling the CO about every ten to fifteen minutes on the midwatch. And when he doesn't get a good night’s sleep, he gets a little grumpy. I have managed to divest myself of all of my jobs except Safety Officer. No one will tell me who my relief is. So basically I am doing work on some projects for the Combat Systems Officer, my boss. I really wanted to be completely done and just be a passenger, but no such luck. I'm still standing watch also. Great.
We have been extended in the Gulf an additional week. Means nothing to me. The trip to Hong Kong is looking really bad. Thailand is in, but exact port unknown. And the ship will return to Pearl on the 21st of July. So when they told me we might not get into Abu Dhabi, I wasn't shocked. I am listed on a flight to Naples on the 3rd of June, so I am getting off the ship before then even if I have to hijack one of the ships small boats. Hopefully I won't get that desperate. Rumor has us pulling into Abu Dhabi a day or two late.
Well, I got a nice package from Georgetown. It was great to sit down and read the course descriptions, info on the school and its facilities, and tuition fees. I almost had a heart attack on the last one. I took some grad classes at UCSD when in San Diego, and they weren't that expensive, but that's a state school. Georgetown is a private university. Try almost $600.00 a unit. And I need 36 units, with a B average to matriculate. Not exactly cheap. I have been saving for school, but that's not exactly in my price range. Tuition assistance will help, but not much. As soon as I get to DC I plan to go talk to the financial aid people. I really don't think I'll have a hard time getting a government loan to help cover my expenses.
Plus I figure my initial moving costs are going to be high. I am planning on renting a car in DC for a couple of weeks while I look for an apartment and a car. I've been thinking about a used car. I'm going to want/need wheels, but do I need the car payments and the high insurance of a new car? Can I afford the expenses to maintain a used car? I'll look at both. Ideally I'd like to find a nice used car, but not so nice that it will get stolen, and one that is small since parking in DC is a premium. My sponsor sent me a map of DC and I think I will focus my apartment hunting north of Georgetown and south of Bethesda. I'd like a bay front window facing Rock Creek Park, but I'll take what I can get. I really can't wait to live a normal, okay semi normal life.
Well, our departure from Dubai has been delayed. Dubai is okay. Hot, very hot. It is more metropolitan than Bahrain, but that's not saying much. The focal point of the city is the creek than runs through the center of town. This was a liberty port for us so I got a chance to explore. We walked all around town. In one of our jaunts we discovered the tire souks. Merchants here tend to cluster together, so you find an area with twenty or thirty stores that sell the same thing. I'm sure they don't price fix. Anyways, here we are trekking down this street and pass store after store after store selling tires. Big tires, small tires, truck tires, car tires. And they were all empty! And what's that little quip that location is everything? I don't get it.
Anyways, I had really wanted to get a Persian rug here. You can get a nice Tabriz for $600.00 and an Isfahan for a cool grand. But I kept thinking Georgetown, loan, debts! I didn't succumb, but it was close a couple of times. I avoided the gold souk like the plague. A bunch of people are buying gold and plan to take it back and sell it. They should make at least 50% profit on the deal as they sell be weight here, not design. But, I don't have the funds to play that game.
Kevin and I took a dhow ride one day. The river runs really fast and here is this old man rowing us across the river. It cost us 10 durhams, around three dollars. We got rooked, but that's to be expected. They know you are foreigners, and they milk you every chance they get. The taxis don't have meters, so you have to bargain with them all the time. And you know the ride that costs you 20 durham, costs Achmed only three durhams. It really gets you upset after awhile. I took a couple of tours while here.
Sand skiing was a blast. They pick you up at 0700 in a land cruiser and you drive around 45 minutes into the interior. The last is flat and desolate with rolling hills/dunes, and then all of a sudden you top one ridge and see it. The mother of all sand dunes. It really is odd, so flat and then one huge dune. We drive off the road and then we all get out while the driver partially deflates the tires for increased traction. Then it’s up to the top. You have to love those "oh my God we're going to crash" handles as there were no seatbelts. The driver is abusing the land cruiser (and us) as we go up to the top. The car stops around thirty feet from the top and we get out. He takes out the sand skis, snow boards, and we climb the rest of the way while he drives around to meet us at the bottom. I borrowed some of Kevin’s SPS 35 sunblock so I was good to go. At the top of the dune looking down is this pretty steep incline that goes down at least three hundred feet. I strap in and down I go. It was great, I cut into the mountain a lot at first to control my speed.
The sand is different than snow, it's hard to cut back and forth. I had a couple of prime wipe outs which resulted in me being caked in sand that is clinging to my suntan lotioned face and body. We made around ten downhill runs and I got some good photos. So it’s around 1030 and its time for our next stop. Covered in sand we get back into the car. An hour in the car driving over highways and goat trails covered in sand is not that comfortable. And when we entered Oman, yes Oman, I knew for sure that us infidels were going to be sold into slavery. Our driver, Habib, or that’s what we called him, spoke maybe ten word the whole day. We drive up these gravel roads up into a real pretty canyon and the car stops. Habib says, "Get out. Swimming hole that way. Be back by 1230." He pointed, but of course we couldn't see anything. So we all got out and started down the hill making bets if Habib was really going to be back at 1230, what country were we in, and could we possibly make it to civilization if we needed to? So after going down the hill we ran into this aquaduct. We followed it a way and finally found this mountain spring that had cut into the rock making a really cool swimming hole. We jumped off the thirty foot cliffs into the water below. The water was so cool and felt incredible. We had a blast. There were about eight of us total and we had it all to ourselves. It was like a private little oasis. I could have stayed there all day. But when 1230 came we were on the road looking for Habib.
He showed and then took us back stopping for a picnic lunch. Chicken, fruit, hummus with pita bread, and cheese sandwiches. Not bad. By the time we got back to the ship around three thirty it was definitely time for a nap. The club scene here is the pits. Worse than Bahrain. So I have been going to sleep early most of the times. We went to the best Mexican place here run by a three foot guy named Poncho. It was great food and the entertainment by bands was good.
The second to last day in Dubai the wardroom went on a camel ride. They pick you up again in land cruisers and off you go. We must have been four wheeling for a good hour and a half. Hope you don't get car sick! It was lots of fun. We got to climb some small dunes, never again. We finally made it to this traditional Bedouin tribe village with tents and carpets. They brought out a couple of domesticated camels, though one had a muzzle. They smell, and can they burp or what? Now some helpful tips to guys. When you get on the camel, adjust yourself in the seat or you will hate yourself later. When the camel gets up you lean back and then you lean forward. Hold on tight. The rolling gait of the camel is not at all like a horse. I spent the first few minutes on the camel trying not to hurt myself. After that it was cool. Here I was in the desert in the Middle East, riding a camel into the sunset. I can pretty much say the half-life of camel riding for the uninitiated is about ten minutes. After that I think the novelty rubs off, but something else is still rubbing.
After the riding we had a Bedouin feast. Camel steaks, chick kebobs, steak kebobs, camel sausage, a parsley/salad thing, hummus, and eggplant spread. It was all good, but I think that camel steak is an acquired taste. It is so dark in the desert and so peaceful. There I was lying on a Persian carpet, okay it probably wasn't a good one, propped up by pillows, looking out at the crescent moon hanging in the desert sky. I kept waiting for one of my harem to come and feed me peeled grapes, but it never happened. Go figure.
Well it looks like that our arrival into Abu Dhabi will not be until the 6th of June. I am listed on standby for a flight on the 3rd so the plan was to be heloed off and fly to Bahrain. But we are doing some hi tempo operations and with me and Fred, another officer, gone, they will be standing port & starboard watches. Six hours on, six hours off. That's not bad in combat, but that really sucks if you are on the bridge. Plus I have seen so many of my fellow officers leave and walk down the brow and get gonged off and I've always looked forward to that day. I don't know, but I think I'd feel gypped if I were helo-ed of the ship. Fred has to leave. He's married and he has to go back to Pearl and pack out with his wife. I haven't spent a dime on Italy yet. If I get there a week late who cares. I was just planning on bumming around, and had only made a few reservations. So again I extend, but this is the last time, until the 10th. That way I get to walk off the ship in Abu Dhabi. Now I just need to walk on egg shells until then. I probably need to be seen by a psychiatrist, but I'll live. I can stand on my head for ten days.
And sometimes it's so hard to say good-bye. The Desert Duck was supposed to come and pick up Fred and some other people who are transferring, but it had a mechanical problem and had to turn back. The Desert Duck is the logistic helo that operates out of Bahrain and delivers mail and passengers to the ships in the central and northern Arabian Gulf. Fred is really upset as this is the second time a helo has bailed out at the last minute. Well, this Memorial Day finds me cruising the northern Arabian Gulf. No holiday for us. The Nimitz went to anchor off the coast of Bahrain so she could stand down her air wing and have a steel beach picnic. Now the reason we got extended was because the Nimitz was going to be on station until the 4th of June. But she's in Bahrain and we're here. Go figure.