Sim Card Cutter Blunder

SimCard

Just before traveling I bought a MicroSim Cutter since now all my phones are Micro Sims, got it from one of the phone shops on Khalid bin Waleed Street in the city. Simple process, it was on my to do list so a few hours before my flight I cut my US, UK, and then I decided to cancel my BB service at last and I cut that chip too and switched phones around.

Did that really quickly.. too quickly.

I wanted to put the chip in the phones and it looked a little too small. Turns out the guy sold me the iPhone 5 Nano-Sim cutter! I was pissed, now I have to get new Sims and some of them I can’t get except when I land, thats ridiculous. I’m an idiot for not checking, and that guy must have switched them, and then I blame Apple for changing the Sim Card sizes every time they change a number on their damn iPhone! Very annoyed!

Schengen Visa – Getting Difficult

Schengenzone

I just renewed my passport last year and I still had a valid US Visa for a few more years but my Schengen ran out, and my UK Visa ran out with my passport. The UK visa was straight forward, I submit the required documents and since I scanned the finger prints five years ago I don’t need to do it again.

I’m traveling and going through Germany so I submitted to get the Visa from the German Embassy with my original bookings at the time. I went to Al Qabas Visa processing in Sanabil Tower or Al Babtain Tower as it used to be remembered. Went through the process, it was smooth, they asked for my insurance, and the preliminary bookings. It was several weeks before my travel date which worked out fine.

I get notified after a week that my Schengen Visa was refused because I didn’t have a confirmed hotel booking and for 10 days I don’t have a hotel booking in Germany. I mentioned that Germany was not my end destination and they didn’t even pay attention to that. I was confused and pissed, there is even a stamp on my passport stating that my passport was reject by the German Embassy, on a new passport so that pissed me off.

I go back to them this time with the bookings stating that Germany is not my final destination, and the visa for the final destination is attached from when I originally submitted and if there were questions why didn’t anyone ask me, my cell phone number is on the form. The person at the counter didn’t type that up so they thought I was going to stay in Germany for 10 days without a hotel booking. Great, back to square one but this time instead of 5 days it took 3 days, and I got it after the weekend.

The surprising part was the Visa, the validity of it starts at the date of travel not when it is issued, usually the validity starts when the Visa is issued. And I only got 4 months when my previous one was three years, something is odd, but I will take it for now since I’m traveling soon. Still it was very odd that they are doing this and its not like I have had multiple Schengens before. so its surprising that they gave me such a short Visa validity. It seems they are getting more Anal or they want people to pay more for the Visas, I’m not sure what changed but its very annoying.

UAE & Oman Bike Trip

This started off back in early June and we were discussing the details about going on a nice long bike and we were discussing the locations and honestly UAE was a nice location to start with. I didn’t want to rent a bike and do a tour, I wanted to ride on my bike on a trip not another bike. There were about six of us as I mentioned in the other post but by the time it came to commit only four could commit from the six, and it was a solid number so we went ahead with the idea. All the major planning and details were being discussed over the few months but the major travel arrangements didn’t happen except until the first week of October, I probably should have started it earlier since everything would get booked up on Eid and I thought we were going to go to odd places and there would be availability but I was very wrong, we hit German tourist territory with about 3/4 of all the locations we went to.

Bike Travel Preparation

  • We did as much research as humanely possible.
  • Luckily there are a lot British nuts in UAE who ride so we found a substantial amount of youtube videos for the areas we were heading towards so we knew what we were in for
  • Tristar serviced our machines and got them prepped by checking every nut and bolt on our bikes
  • I got a Garmin Nuvi 1490 LMT with updated Middle East Maps from Seas & Deserts
  • Mapped everything on Google Maps including stops and made sure we were on track to the nice curvy roads

Setting Up The GPS

  • I got the Ram Mount for the Garmin Nuvi 1490LMT
  • Installed the Garmin Battery Cable thanks to Tristar
  • The GPS wasn’t budging in speeds upwards of 240 kph so it was perfect
  • I transferred our routes through a program called Tyre which you can download here
  • I double checked our route on the Garmin Device and modified it slightly since it wasn’t 100% as we wanted

We got information from Tristar on which shipping company to use and we also checked a few others. We decided to have our bikes shipped to Dubai and start from there, we didn’t want ride from Kuwait to UAE because I heard that Saudi is a very boring straight line, no curves so it would be tiring and no reason to ride it. After a little research and a few quotes we went with Al Sawan shipping since they have had experience shipping motorcycles to Europe and other locations in the Middle East for other riders. They got our bikes to Dubai within 5 days ready in a storage facility, so picked them up from Dubai Green Park Community on Wednesday morning and road back to Dubai. It felt like we were the wild pack and about to embark on an insane adventure.

This is the route we took:

  • Day 1 – Dubai to Ras Al Khaymah
  • Day 2 – Ras Al Khaymah to Khasab, Oman to Ras Al Khaymah (Curvy Road)
  • Day 3 – Ras Al Khaymah to Fujeirah (Curvy Road)
  • Day 3 – After we got to the Hotel we took a ride from Fujeirah to Kalba then Hatta and Back (Very Curvy Roads)
  • Day 4 – Fujeirah to Al Ain (Again Very Curvy Roads through Kalba and Hatta)
  • Day 5 – Al Ain to Dubai (Straight Line & Boring)

We had to pack 7 days worth of clothing into a small tail pack on the back of the Diavel, and I carried a back pack which was a bit uncomfortable and not a smart idea. I brought a laptop and a few things which didn’t require and taking up space. So on the travel days I was in a bit of an uncomfortable position. I didn’t know the exact routes and the GPS gave us about 90% of the right routes, the thing is I double checked it as much as possible.

I had my GoPro Hero2 attached to my Helmet and switched it on during the curves which was a lot of fun. The one thing I just had to keep in mind was to switch it off at border crossings, but we had a few incidents at security checkpoints where the camera was running but I didn’t know they were there and they asked about it if it was running. So I just had to keep it in mind during our trip since we had a few places that we crossed that I put the GoPro away.

There were three parts to the ride that I loved, Khasab Oman, a beautiful two lane road by the coast head from Ras Al Khaymah to Khasab. It was thrilling to ride and felt brand new, I wish to ride again soon, we just didn’t have the chance to fully enjoy it. Then there were the curves just before Fujeirah, it was just over the top, high speed curves and then some tight curves up in the mountains, I was excited while riding, I haven’t seen roads like that in my life.

When we got to Dibba Al Fujeirah after the first set of curves we were riding by the coast with some very beautiful roads passing by the Gas Storage Facility in Fujeirah before getting to our hotel. It was fun and Fujeirah had the most modern mall, I think it was called City Centre, very nicely done. We dropped our things and went riding to Kalba since it was only 15 KM away and then continued another 60 KM to Hatta which we went through the infamous tunnel, I loved hearing from my screaming exhaust and I think so did the people outside the tunnel. The Diavel really is another name for Devil because that’s what it sounded like screaming through. We found a few Wadi’s which we stopped by, it really was a fun adventure, and took some pictures there as well. Then we rode back to the hotel and decided to turn in after getting some coffee. The one thing I have to say is that you can find a Starbucks in every location, I was shocked, they are everywhere.

Next day we headed out for our longest ride over 230 KM and surprisingly we only had to fill once even with the Monster riding with us. We hit the fun curvy part on the way to Hatta and through the tunnels, its such an amazing road. Then when we came close to the Oman border the roads became straight and it got a bit boring, so it was a little over an hour of straight highway, and as we got close to Al Ain the roads were turning into a major highway, four lanes on each side. When you get into Al Ain it is a beautiful area with lots of vegetation, and it feels like the old Sharjah that I remember from the 90s. And one thing for sure is that it was extremely clean, every road so clean, in UAE & Oman.

Throughout our ride we only got caught in traffic during the evening in Dubai as we were leaving. The best times to leave are early morning so you can enjoy your day where ever you are going. Everyone gives us way, about 90% of people on the road were nice to us or indifferent. The other 10% are a bit crazy but compared to Kuwait it’s a walk in the park. We spent most of our day riding and when the sun sets we are back at the hotel, getting a bite to eat and passing out to walk up at the crack of dawn when possible.

Our Hotels:

  • Palace Old Town – 1 Night
  • Hilton Ras Al Khaymah – 2 Nights
  • Nour Arjan Rotana Fujeirah – 1 Night
  • Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet – 1 Night
  • Palace Old Town – 1 Night

Since the moment the GPS was switched on we travelled a total of 1402 kilometers all over the UAE and a bit of Oman on Day 2 & Day 4. It was a hell of a trip and to top it off we went wakeboarding in Dubai Marina which was a lot of fun. I only got upstaged by my young cousin and I was falling face flat into the water, but I enjoyed it. The ride to Dubai was exhausting because it started getting a bit hotter then we expected and it was all a straight line, it was very boring, so hitting the water right away was exactly what was needed. This was probably one of the best rides I have been on and the roads in the UAE are better then any road I have seen in the UK or all of the West Coast of the US. The Diavel and Monster S4RS were more then capable for a very long trip and taking roads of every kind and I’m hoping to do something like this again and soon.


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Cross UAE & Oman

This will probably be one of the most intense rides I will ever take, we have been planning this for over three months, but the real planning started about a month back. We got our bikes prepped, we were initially supposed to be 6 guys but due to work conflicts we dropped down to 4 guys on this little adventure.

The Machines On This Trip

  • 1 Diavel Carbon
  • 2 Diavels
  • 1 Monster SR2

I have done some long distance traveling before but not in the Middle East so this is going to be a new one. We are as preparred as can be at this point. I mapped out everything on Google Maps and ported it to my Garmin Device which is mounted to the left side of my handle bar. I mapped out our routes exactly, calculated what we needed and the distances between stops and the gas stations in the vicinity and some areas don’t have gas stations so we needed to plan for that.

I have to thank Tristar for all their support in setting this up. We know its the beginning of riding season but they took our bikes serviced them, and even recommended changes for a long trip. I got a rear bag mounted to the back of the Diavel which doesn’t look too bad in my Opinion. I changed out my rear tire since it was a little abused so I had to ride it out a bit before taking it to UAE. They also recommended a transportation company for us since we didn’t want to ride through Saudi, so they were very helpful getting this trip off the ground.

Right now all our bikes are waiting for us in a storage area close to Jebel Ali. We get there, we ride them to Dubai and then the 1000 KM+ adventure begins.


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Short Hiatus

Going on a break every once in a while is always important to do. I was pretty much offline in a lot of forms, stopped my Blackberry for about a month, barely checked twitter every 4 to 5 days. Didn’t post for about two weeks which was driving me nuts since I had a lot to say. The only real place I was putting a few things up was on Instagram and I wasn’t on that 100%.

When on vacation I wanted to enjoy my vacation, and thankfully I managed to go to a lot of events that were very fun and I got a lot of Riding in during this vacation. One speeding ticket in California over a 30 day period is impressive for me, and it wasn’t too bad.

I tried watching as many movies as possible, some were fantastic and some were disappointing but it was a lot of fun. Now I’m back and playing catch up, and my Google Reader is going to blow! lol

Waterstones Visit in London

At the beginning of July I had a quick business trip to London and one of the usual stops other then the Harrods Pizzeria is the Waterstones bookstore in Piccadly. There is always something different about bookstores, there is a personal touch and you get introduced to books that you would never think of taking a look at online.

The best part of the bookstore are the personal reviews of the staffers, a lot of these people work there because they like it and they give you a personal opinion on these books. It gives me a chance to checkout books that I would never think of picking up and that is how I discovered a few of my favorites authors.

A usual my favorite section is the Fantasy & Science Fiction section on the first floor but I decided to check out all the other sections before heading there so I start from the Fifth Floor and clear each floor before heading to the next one. Usually I end up spending about 15 mins per section, and then about two hours in the Fantasy & Science Fiction section. This time around there were more Vampire & Zombie books then usual and I picked up a few that seemed interesting, I chose a few different books and the usual. I said I would only get two books but ended up getting five with me.


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Pizzeria @ Harrods

One of my favorite places to eat while in London and it has its own sort of fame over the years and some people would wait over two hours just to get a seat when its really crowded. When I got in line there were a lot of people ahead of me, but luckily I was on my own and I told the Italian Maitredee and he had a seat ready to go.

It was my last day in London, my flight is later at night, I finished up most of my errands and I was going to stuff myself silly on this food before taking off. I love the smell of the place and they made it bigger then it used to be but the service is still good, and they have tables now but I only love eating at the counter.

I didn’t even need to look at the menu, I ordered four things:

  • Roca Salad
  • Margarita Pizza
  • Lasagna
  • Coke with Ice & Lemon

I didn’t leave a bite on the plate when I was done, and I had a huge smile on my face. Honestly the food tasted better then I expected, I always think that over the years it wouldn’t maintain their level but somehow they got even better. Of course at the time in the beginning of July the place was packed with people from the GCC (Mostly Saudi, Emirates, and Qatar). I just came for the meal and it was worth it, even right at this moment I’m thinking about that Pizza and Lasagna.


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Forbidden Planet – A Must In London

Pop Culture Central of Europe, the best place for any Geek/Nerd to visit while in London, I visit there on every trip I take to London and there is always something different to see or something that really excites me. Movie memorabilia of every kind, Comics, games and anime collectibles that you only see online, every Star Wars & Harry Potter fan would go nuts there. Still I never get tired of it, I could spend hours there, there is always something that I want to purchase but these days I am lacking space so I always choose items that fit or that make me think “MUST HAVE IT”

One section that people forget about is there HUGE comic and graphic novel collection down stairs, I picked up all of the novels by the comedian Kevin Smith, read a few pages and they are pretty funny and he is a funny guy so decided to take all his books. Then there is the Transformers section which have all the stuff dating back to the 80s up to the new things from IDW in 2012. They sold some fake weaponry which looked really cool but I didn’t want to risk taking that on a plane with me. When walking around upstairs I honestly don’t know what to pick up, I tell myself not to go overboard, I never have enough space in my bags but then I don’t reason well with myself and pick up a few things that I end up walking out with a smile, if your wondering what they are its the items in the last picture in this post.


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Automat – Damn Good Burgers

Whenever I am in London I always make a stop in Automat, its one of those places that I am familiar with and always enjoy. They have just been consistent over the years, they never really disappoint, a very simple menu, salads, burgers, and a few pastas and in my case the most important being the Mac & Cheese.

The Mac & Cheese is just a perfect combination and not too heavy, I love taking a bite off the top of the baked crust. With the burger there which is also pretty damn good, I didn’t know what to eat, and I always like to start off with their Chicken Ceaser Salad, it just tastes so good and refreshing. You have to book sometimes to eat there, the place gets packed.

Link: Automat

On The Go

The last week has been hectic, I had to travel for work for a few days only to find that my emails and things in Kuwait piled up when I got back. But as usual when I’m in Dubai I take full advantage of what ever movies were playing but due to the lack of time I only managed to watch 3 of the 5 that I wanted to watch and one of them was sadly a waste of time.

The last few weeks were pretty good, I got into a rhythm of finishing work, and family events as well as getting the right amount of online time and slowly catching up with my RSS feeds. But just those few days of distortion totally messed up my routine, even the gym routine, I tried eating healthy but that wasn’t happening due to the amount of popcorn I was having.

Not blogging was annoying since I wanted to get as much done as possible, but even sitting at the computer was a luxury I didn’t have while on the go. Even when I managed to slightly catch up on my RSS feeds a few weeks back, that number shot up again because I didn’t have time to read through any of the feeds.