NEW YORK CITY/DUBAI – JULY-AUGUST 2018

JULY 27, 2018

For those of you keeping score at home, Murphy and I started our vacation on Friday. New York City is just a stopover before hitting our final destination. Usually I try to provide a little education when I post about my travels, but I don’t think there’s much I need to say about this sacred and emotional place.

Photos from the guided tour at the 9/11 Museum. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the really moving artifacts and displays, but trust me when I say the entire museum was really well done.

We stopped by Times Square just to make sure it’s still 2018.

We had to dodge raindrops and lightning bolts, but we got some good photos from the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building!

 

JULY 28, 2018

I might have a death wish sporting Royals gear at Yankee Stadium. Murphy was much smarter going neutral. Still, it’s a beautiful ballpark…first time here. I can only imagine what old Yankee Stadium was like during the battles George Brett and Goose Gossage, among others, had back in the day. We even checked out the park across the street where the old stadium once stood.

P.S.: The Royals won 10-5!!! We met some great Yankees fans having a lot of fun in the right field bleachers. It was a fantastic experience!

One of the credit cards I use has a perk where I’m allowed to access a number of airport lounges instead of waiting at the gate for flights. At this one at JFK in New York City, we got free food and drink as well as a place to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the gate. On to our final destination!!

 

JULY 29, 2018

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The plan was to reveal our final destination through a video I was putting together, but thanks to persistent cloudiness, the last scene where we share where we actually are has been thwarted until things clear out.

So, if you guessed Dubai, congratulations! Hopefully we’ll be able to make our video before we leave!

The flight from JFK Airport in New York City to Dubai on Saturday night into Sunday was about 13 hours, but the pain was lessened by the fact that we were flying an Emirates Airlines A380 double decker for the first time. No first class or business class upgrades to the second level happened this time, but even economy class coach down below was pretty comfortable.

 

JULY 30, 2018

When it’s 115 degrees out (not a typo), what’s the first thing you do? Skiing, of course! Yes, there really is an indoor slope at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.

So, the last time we skied (or snowboarded, in Murphy’s case) was more than a few years ago. In our cockiness, we both forgot more than we thought. So, after we both bit it a few times on our first run, a guide told us to practice on the bunny slopes before getting back out there again for real. After that, I was in pretty good shape and made some good runs, but Murphy was frustrated and switched to skis. That didn’t go much better for him.

We both picked up some good lessons today: I learned that I can remember and figure things out over time with a little persistence, and Murphy learned a little humility, but he didn’t quit either. All in all, it was a great experience!

I wouldn’t characterize it as a sandstorm, but there is this dust haze just enveloping the entire city here in Dubai. These photos are from our first 24 hours here. The first is a ground floor view of the 88-story building where we’re staying (we’re on the 66th floor), then some night views around the nearby marina, and finally, the last few photos depict the haze preventing any long distance views from where we’re staying from occurring. The locals keep saying it will eventually go away, so we’ve got our fingers crossed.

When traveling, it’s the things that go wrong are what you remember best versus the things that go right.

The Dubai Frame is what it sounds like: a 500 foot tall picture frame, that just opened in January, standing on end on the north side of Dubai. The idea is that at a certain angle, you can take a photo of all of the city’s major downtown landmarks (and yourself, if you want) inside this frame.

The journey there on Monday was at least a couple miles from the closest Metro (subway) stop. In 110 degree heat, plus the fact that we were getting hangry without a good restaurant in sight didn’t help matters.

But then, like a true oasis in the desert, a large grocery store seemed to appear out of nowhere. We bought a large cooked pepperoni pizza (at this point, we didn’t care to experiment with local cuisine) and a huge bottle of water for less than $10, sat on a bench right next to checkout line at the store and sucked down that pizza in no time flat.

The Frame itself seemed anti-climatic at this point. It was hazy, and you couldn’t see anything in the distance anyway. We took a few obligatory shots around it without actually going up to it, hoofed it back to the Metro, and headed back exhausted to our hostel. It ended up being a really good nap that afternoon that Murphy started early on the train. Sometimes calling an audible at the line of scrimmage makes for a better story.

Our first full day in Dubai ended with a traditional Dhow dinner cruise. Dhow is the generic name given to many Arabian wooden vessels. Ours happened to be a double decker with a indoor, air conditioned dining compartment below and a open air viewing deck above.

Now, none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for the lead foot of a cab driver! There was a miscommunication…probably my fault for not understanding broken English over the phone. When the gentleman on the phone said the boat would be boarding across from the British Embassy, I took that to mean across the Missouri River wide width of Dubai Creek. So, we arrived off the Metro (subway) 20 minutes early, but couldn’t find the boat. I called back, and discovered we were on the wrong shore with only 10 minutes before casting off! Our only option at this point was to quickly find a cab and to ask the cabbie to step on it, and boy, did he ever! His fare display in the taxi told him he was speeding, but he didn’t seem to care. I called back to the boat and handed it to the cabbie so he could get exact instructions on where to drop us off. The cab only cost $8 (including the tip), and we barely made it in time, so that ended up being totally worth it!!

After that stress, for the next two hours, we relaxingly dined on Beef Stroganoff, rice, salad, and dessert, and sat with and conversed at our table with a couple from Germany and another from New Zealand.

We then went upstairs to witness the magnificent views from up and down Dubai Creek along with a traditional show of Tanoura dance, using a lighted and weighted skirt.

All in all, a great finish to the day with another good story to boot!

 

JULY 31, 2018

We were in the back seats of an SUV along with a French family being driven by Faheem from Alpha Tours careening through sand dunes in the Arabian Desert.

No, no, no…that’s not the punch line to some really bad joke or screenplay idea—that actually happened today!

Google Maps proved we were in the middle of a large desert and the video shows we were getting knocked around a little bit. But, at least the tour company cared enough to install a roll cage in the SUV and provided us with barf bags.

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It’s a 9-hour time difference between Kansas City and Dubai. Since it’s now Wednesday morning here, Murphy and I can officially wish you all a happy hump day. 🐪

Murphy is still getting his summer cross country workouts in.

We had an excellent sunset dinner safari tonight. We were transported by SUV through the Arabian Desert and had kabobs, potatoes, salad, fruit, rice, and dessert at a literal oasis. The evening ended with traditional belly dance number. No, we did not partake of the hookah.

 

AUGUST 1, 2018

I am still getting my 6am workouts in while I’m here at a gym here in the building. The first time I hopped on the elliptical machine though, I thought my pacing was really awesome until I remembered the settings were metric in kilometers, not miles. 🤪 Murphy, seriously, is also getting his workouts in though, Todd Warner.

I am such a terrible father. What dad worth his salt would actually get his newly-drivers licensed son lessons on how to drift a car at the Dubai Autodrome (Superspeedway).

Like most beginners, he spun out quite a bit, but then started to figure it out. His Italian instructor, Eduardo, told him he did better than the average student, but of course, he might tell everybody that. The videos show his progress from my vantage points inside and outside of the vehicle. This may be the only time I’ve ever told my son to NOT apply what’s he learned in any real life situation back home. I’m counting on all of you to report anything you may see from him!! 😂😂😂🏎🏎

The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest man-made structure at 2,722 feet high. The observation deck is just a mere 1,823 feet up. The views were acceptable, but without the aforementioned haze, the visibility would have been much greater!

Whenever Murphy and I leave the country, we strive to live like the locals. But we have a tradition to eat once at a McDonald’s wherever we are just to compare menus and food. For instance, they have a Big Mac with chicken patties instead of meat and a Shawarma Extra Value Meal here. Other than that, it looks and tastes like it does back home! #ImLovingIt

 

AUGUST 2, 2018

I get asked all the time how a teacher can afford to go to the places I’ve been the last few years. There’s two reasons: (1) being educated about using credit card points and miles and (2) staying in hostels.

Hostels aren’t for everybody, that is true. It’s like living in a college dorm again. But I think there’s more upside than downside. For instance, instead of spending $150 per night in a hotel, the TOTAL cost for BOTH Murphy and I for the whole week is about $150!

Also, this is one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever been in. There’s hot complimentary breakfast in the mornings (receptionist Lisa actually cracks the eggs and cooks the omelets herself!), access to a workout room and pool as part of the building condo association, and the views from the 66th floor are spectacular (shown here despite the aforementioned haze).

You do have to give up some privacy sharing bathrooms and sleeping in bunk beds, but our rotating cast of roommates and breakfast buddies so far have represented Sweden, Russia, Germany, Holland, New Zealand, Jordan, Spain, and France. There’s not many places where you can engage with a cross section of the world like that.

Plus, the staff here is amazing…they’ll tell you where the good places are to go instead of the what the hotel concierge is sometimes paid to tell you!

So, that’s another commercial for the hostel from me. Maybe you’ll be able to look into it someday!

Murphy and I went to the VR (Virtual Reality) Park at the Dubai Mall on Thursday. It was what is sounds like…a playground where you put on headsets and pretended you were somewhere else. We played two of the games: (1) Payday—The VR Heist, where you held up a bank, broke into a vault, and tried to make off with as much of the cash as possible before getting arrested, and (2) The Walking Dead, just like it sounds…shooting zombies.

The games were pretty cool and very realistic! They even played up the themes in the room decorations, even though they had nothing to do with what you actually saw in your headsets. Pretty cool way to spend an afternoon!

Okay, remember when I posted earlier about our modest living conditions at the hostel? Well, I have a teeny, tiny confession. For the last full night we’re in Dubai, Murphy and I are living it up.

A perk of a credit card (that has a $49 annual fee) I use is one free night per year at nearly any hotel in the Intercontinental chain. So, I chose to use this year’s free night at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina just down the street from the hostel. Plus, since I have status with their rewards program, we got upgraded to a suite and got six free drinks at the hotel lounge.

So, Murphy and I sat on the balcony at the lounge overlooking the marina. He enjoyed his Fanta Oranges, and I enjoyed drinks slightly stronger (😃). We went back to the room, showered, and relaxed by watching TV in our robes and slippers. So, all totaled, this was probably a $500 room plus the drinks, for essentially the $49 annual fee. That works.

At first, it seemed like cheating. Murphy and I put on wet suits, tanks, and all the apparatus. But it really doesn’t seem like scuba diving when you do it in the controlled environment of the Dubai Aquarium, albeit one of the world’s largest, right?

Until you actually get in the water. Then, it’s just you, the water, and all the animals. Like the sharks, for instance. They’re real sharks. With real teeth. We were instructed they wouldn’t bother us if we didn’t bother them, but it didn’t exactly seem like the same thing as dealing with wasps. The fish were beautiful and awesome. There were also eels. And rays. And snappers.

So, it was totally real and incredible. And we became part of the aquarium. People actually were at the Dubai Mall watching Murphy and I along with all of the other marine life in the tank!

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but being up close and personal with so much wildlife was really awesome, and not cheating at all!

 

AUGUST 3, 2018

Our last day in Dubai began with a speedboat tour around the entire set of Palm islands. I felt like Murphy and I were in the opening sequence of the ‘80s TV series Miami Vice (Google it, millennials).

We saw three major landmarks we hadn’t seen up close yet. (1) The Dubai Eye is a huge Ferris wheel under construction set to open next year. It’s supposed to be bigger than the London Eye, of course; (2) Atlantis Dubai looks exactly like Atlantis in the Bahamas; and (3) the Burj Al Arab hotel is the iconic building here in Dubai. They say it’s a 7-star hotel, whatever that means, and the helipad there has been used for multiple photo shoots and where Roger Federer and Andre Agassi once played tennis.

Architecture can be fascinating. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you…the Canan Tower really is twisting. In fact, at 1,004 feet, it was the world’s tallest twisting tower, until the Shanghai Tower topped it in 2015. I wonder what it must be like to live or work in there.

 

AUGUST 4, 2018

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Well, we made it back to Kansas City. We left Dubai at 3:00am Saturday, landed at KCI at 4:30pm Saturday, but somehow I ended up with a couple days worth of whiskers. Science is confusing sometimes. 😂

Thank you all for going along with us and putting up with my frequent posts in the last week…it’s probably overkill, but I just like educating people about what’s out there in this huge planet we all occupy. I worry whether my posts come off as bragging…it’s really not. I’m a continuous learner…for as overplayed as that phrase might be, I believe in the fact that every person can learn something new every day of their life. That’s why I take Murphy on these experiences, and that’s why I post about every single part about them…to pass along lessons that we have learned.

So, I’m thankful to all you who took time out to check out what we were up to, to comment, and to ask questions. I know I haven’t responded to all of you, so please hit me up again if that’s you. I wish you all great health along with experiences and memories that last many lifetimes over.

Here’s the vacation destination reveal video that never got published due to weather that prevented our final shot until halfway through the time we were there. Plus, we flubbed the line on top of the Empire State Building…Murphy was supposed to say, “It’s tall, but it’s not new.” The evening we filmed it, there was lightning all around, and we were allowed outside on the observation deck for just a few minutes, we quickly shot it, and I didn’t check the tape until it was too late. No worries…hopefully, you’ll still find that it’s a fun little video! #Dubai

 

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