Late in the winter of 1982, the Great White Whale (USS Coronado) eased into Muscat, Oman, the next port visit on our semiannual swing around the Indian Ocean. Blue-gray mountains ringed the harbor and towered over our ship. Nestled at the foot of the hills and ringing the bay was a brilliant, white, low-lying string of houses and buildings. Over the next few days, we were hosted by the Royal Oman Navy at their base. The Admiral accompanied the ambassador to call on the Sultan in his palace. Meanwhile, we junior officers were free to visit the marketplaces, and, in my case, to ride out into the desert.
All manner of wondrous things were on sale in the souk. The Omani khanjar daggers particularly impressed me. This was the first place that I saw men wearing them in public. I had no doubt that the steel of their blades matched the workmanship of their decorated hilts.
Outside the immediate ancient city, I found a sprawling suburb of well-paved roads, beautiful, clean buildings, and imposing mosques that featured varied architecture in a wide range of brilliant colors. There was a relatively flat area between the steep hills and the coast. I rode about 5 km outside of town, where the city suddenly ended, and the road continued straight into the mountains. There was no vegetation except for the palm trees planted on the highway and in walled gardens. Everywhere lay the talcum-like “sand” (dust, really) that characterized the entire Arabian Peninsula. It could insinuate itself into the best-protected machinery in the world. If I had been able to continue riding east, I would have reached the Strait of Hormuz. This was a lucky day for me. The weather was comfortable, and the wind was calm. No sandstorms arose, nothing broke on my bicycle, and I encountered no potholes or sudden ends of the road. I had to get back for the evening meal, so I turned around and rode back through the city, admiring the variety and beauty of the buildings and sharing the happiness of the crowds who were clearly enjoying the day as much as I.
Trip update: This week, I focused on visiting family and preparing to resume my travels.
I tested the Shore Line East (SLE), a commuter train to New Haven, and found that it sped me to the big city in only a half-hour. I rode to Milford to visit my cousin Nancy and spend the night, then rode back to New Haven to take the train to Old Saybrook. Rolling my bike on the train made it so convenient, that I now know that I can pop over to New Haven any morning or afternoon to run errands as easily as riding to Old Saybrook. I also deployed my new tent and tested it out. There are some places in Canada where the motels are too far apart not to camp. Next week, some thoughts about a well-kept secret about bicycle travel. Smooth roads and tailwinds, Jonathan.