Travel Blog – Qatar Dune Surfing & Beach “Party”

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Qatar might not sound like a travel and leisure destination to you, but for me, back in 2007 there was no better place to be. I needed a week off of work. I needed to get away. You might say, to me, Qatar was the top destination on travel list.

You also might say Qatar was the only option.

And, the trip there was free.

Upon seeing my accommodations, I inquired about the available day trips I could take. There were a number that I signed up for and took that week.

Only one, for the cost of $60, took me on an excursion to a destination unknown. The description at the front desk was vague. It described a dune surfing adventure along with a beach stop and delicious meal to conclude the trip. I was skeptical, but needed to see for myself. This is not exactly the excursion desk on a Carnival Cruise.

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Our chariots awaited us in Nissan Pathfinders. The drivers instructed us to pick a car, any car, as we boarded not exactly knowing where we were going. I wish I could remember the exact conversation with the driver. I’m pretty sure he was not even Qatari. Like many workers in Qatar, the U.A.E. or Kuwait, they brought over from much poorer countries to work for a period of time at much higher wages than their local economy. Pakistan and India notably provide a larger base of English speaking workers. Countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and Indonesia provided low cost labor for large construction projects. From the few videos I did take, much of the attention of the driver seems to be paid to the music selection. It seemed to be the singular most important thing to him. In one video, Beyonce is playing. In the other, it’s Linkin Park. One hand is on the wheel, and the other is trying to impress us with his taste in music. Don’t let the media fool you on what people around the world think of Americans. You’ll be surprised how many people love American culture, movies/fashion/music, while disliking only politics. Even in America, most people dislike politics.

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Once we hit the actual dunes though, it didn’t take long for me to realize how good my driver was. He wasn’t exactly a stunt driver, but I could tell by the time we began going up and down large dune slopes, some almost the slope of a roller coaster drop, he knew exactly what would impress us. There was a certain joy I think in getting a reaction from us. Before the last drop, we parked for some pictures before going to the Meesaid Sealine Beach Resort. R&R Dune Trip #6.jpg

It might not look like it, but you could have rolled me off that sand dune. If you look closely, you can see tire treads of the cars that drive up and down the dunes.

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So there we were. What better way to celebrate surviving a sand dune roller coaster? How about jellyfish. Lots of them. So much, there was a jellyfish bottle spray to use if we got stung by one. Never in my beach travels had the jellyfish been the actual attraction. I ventured in the ocean, only in part to say I stepped foot and “swam” in the Persian Gulf. I basically sat most of the time reading the paranoid Michael Crichton novel, State of Fear. R&R Inland Excursion #3.jpg

Then came time for the meal. It was much better than what I expected. It was kebabs, pilaf, and some sort of chopped salad. The kebabs came in three different flavors: chicken, lamb, and a “mystery mix.” Whenever presented with the “mystery mix” you have to sort of go with the “destination unknown” theme and just try it. It was good and I ate all of it, to include the grilled jalapeno. R&R Inland Excursion Meal #3.jpg

After a couple hours we departed back to our accommodations. There were many other “adventures” that week, but nothing gave me the same moment of solitude that eating kebabs on a beach in the Persian Gulf did.

I still remember it over a decade later.

Surprise surprise.

Thrift Treasures (The Bo Jackson Score)

I stopped by a Goodwill on the way home Monday and found something after 15 minutes. The store was a hot mess, but to me, this is where pickings are better; nobody knows what is going on there.

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This is the typical scene at this particular store. It is one of the worst ones for books. I rarely go in because they churn through so much (located next to a Burlington). So it was here I found an oldie but a goodie for those NFL fans of the late 1980s. Bo Jackson the duel threat phenom before he blew out his knee. IMG_9477.JPG

The only other thing I picked up was a first edition Stephen King book, Bag of Bones. There was nothing special about it other than I collect Stephen King Books. Unfortunately, since I collect all on memory now instead of stressing out with an inventory sheet, I found out I already had this book in first edition. On well, minus 99 cents unless I find someone else who likes him. IMG_9482.JPG

I combined this score with two other books I bought the previous weekend at a random quick stop. I found a pretty pristine copy of Sphere by Michael Crichton, a first edition, one of my favorite novels of all time (the movie was horrendous). I had found 4 BCE in the past, so this one stuck out to me from a quick scan. Can you see the difference? The real first edition has the reflective metallic details in the lettering. All I had to do was wipe off a few scuff marks (Like some random leaf or something in the O) and it looked like it came from the book launch. Believe it or not, a first edition Sphere runs around $45. All an all, another solid 1.99 purchase (a higher end thrift shop … grrr) IMG_9530.jpeg

The last book of my was a first edition of Legends. This is pretty much mandatory in every fantasy collector’s shelf. Just look at the authors. You’ve already seen Anne McCaffrey from my first autograph score. I have a Stephen King score from 12 years ago I can show if I ever hit a dry spell. IMG_9483.JPG

The back of the novel is just as loaded (with Terry Pratchett, Orson Scott Card, Robert Silverberg, Ursula K Le Guin, and George R. R. Martin). As a huge fan of a bunch of these authors, getting a first edition of this was huge. The novel debuts “The Hedge Knight” which is the first side story he published, showing Dunk and Egg and their adventures. So far, I have yet to find a first edition of A Game of Thrones or A Clash of Kings, the only two books before this (I do have a first edition of Tuf Voyaging). It is funny to note he wrote a Dance with Dragons was forthcoming, instead of a Storm of Swords that came next. In any case, the novel is cool to have, notwithstanding it is worth $25-$30 despite being a $1 purchase at the thrift store.

As for the Bo Jackson Book? I did it again. Call me the autograph whisperer, but I seemed to have crafted a process to find autographed books at garage sales and thrift shops left and right.The Heisman winner still commands a fanbase and charges around $100 per autograph at conventions. On ebay, this book when signed goes between $39.99 and $60. So it was a pretty good score for 99 cents. Below is the picture of the autograph as I was standing in the middle of the shop looking like a fool.

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READ ABOUT MY ANNIE HALL SCORE

Book Reviews: Timeline

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Timeline by Michael Crichton

I almost missed graduation. That’s how much immersed I was in the book. My parents were so confused. I had just finished 4 years of college, and all I wanted to do was read a book.It was probably the tenth book by Michael Crichton I’d ever read, and to me, it was his last great novel. I read two more Crichton novels that summer, and nothing could capture the plot, pacing, and character development in Timeline.

The story was simple. A team of researchers travel back in time to the 14th century to rescue a professor. There, all hell breaks lose they find themselves in the middle of a seige between Lord Oliver of Castlegard and Arnaut de Cervole.

The strength of the writing was the research Crichton interwove into the book. Part of me wonders if he read about the success of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and decided put his own Sci-Fi twist on the genre, since romance is central to the story. What I found particularly strong was Crichton’s explanation of how multiverses worked. It set up the rules for what was to come later in the novel.

Less than a year later, I dragged two friends to the movies to see the movie adaptation. It wasn’t quite the same. Maybe it was some rude couple behind us commenting every ten seconds. Maybe it was trying to jam a story that big into a couple hours. All the history was shrunk to a few lines of dialogue.

But it did have Gerard Butler, before he was Leonidas Butler. Marek was the best character in the book and movie, so at least something carried over.

I did make it to graduation with about 15 minutes to spare.

Book Rating: 9/10

A REVIEW OF A DIFFERENT KIND OF TIME TRAVEL BOOK, WHICH I THINK WILL SOON BE CONSIDERED A CLASSIC