The weather really gave us a beating this past week. My last entry was during a day off due to high winds and although since then we’ve been able to get out to the islands, working has been a bitch thanks to the winds still blowing 15-18 mph steady with gusts upwards of 25-30 mph. We even had a small rain shower pass through one day that kept us on standby all morning, then drying out guns and product all afternoon and for the days since as we’ve made our way to each location around The World. The wind makes traveling tough in the small boats like pontoon boat, or speedboat, and one day we just all stuck to the mothership to get us around, which was slower but better than nothing. As the week wore on the winds died down, the last two days have been mild breezes that keep you cool under the sunny sky devoid of clouds but not enough to stir up swells in the water that make boating difficult. The marine forecast is calling for them to pick up again before New Years but die down to single digits for show night. Fingers crossed!
Until this past week I was boating with my crew captain Andy. We weigh roughly the same so we could swap out driver/ballast duties. Now, after swapping out a crew member, I’m boating with Tom, who is heavier than myself so if he sat on the tiller and me in the front the boat would have trouble getting up on top of the water. It’s a 15HP engine so it’s possible it could do it but overall we’d be traveling slower. So now I get to drive all the time
It’s really been getting chilly in the mornings, down into the low 50′s so I have to wear long pants and a sweatshirt with my leather jacket liner to stay warm until we get out onto the islands – by then the sun is high enough to get things warmed up quick. Today I ditched the sweatshirt and jacket liner and just threw on my Taipei riggers jacket from the 101 building. It really is cold out there with no sun!
The big 24″ guns have been set up at their firing locations, they stand about 10 feet tall and it’s pretty cool to see them sticking up from the islands – you can see them from a fair distance and it helps us navigate around since their locations are marked on our maps. All the shells have been completed and today they were carrying them out for a photo shoot prior to begin the process of getting them loaded. can I say again how excited I am to see those things lift and break?
I also found out this past week that I will be one of the people firing the show, and my location is on the horn of Africa so I’ll have fireworks going off all around me. My responsibilities during the show because I’m firing will make it impossible for me to just sit back and watch, but I can definitely peek up from my console from time to time to steal glimpses, and will have my GoPro on its head strap mount.
In my last post I was going to the kart track later in the day, and I did with some of my crew. We had a blast running two heats. The clutch karts are all similar so the only factors separating lap times are driver skill and weight. My buddy Sasha who was a pro shifter kart racer tells me the general rule of thumb is 20-25lbs equates to around .5 seconds. I’ve been unable to get my lap time down below 1:20 and I wish I knew what the baseline was for my weight class. he also gave me tons of advice to do better. I’ve already been back again once (shaved .4 seconds off my lap time) and plan to go at least one more time to race under the lights at night. I’ve been able to mount my GoPro to my helmet both visits however I didn’t do a great job aiming it and you watch the video wondering how I navigated the course while staring at my steering wheel *sigh* The very first heat though that held my 2nd best overall lap time did have a good camera angle fortunately, so here’s that lap:
Another thing I got to this week I said I was going to try last entry was the full-scale car racing game I saw at the Dubai Mall. Unfortunately it was more of an arcade game than a racing sim. The car, a Nissan Skyline, was indeed right-hand drive but with no clutch pedal just a shift stick for up/down on the center console. And it was a drifting race as well. Still, the motion platform made it a fun ride.
I had made plans with the crew to go ice skating at Dubai Mall but when that fell through I decided to head over to mall of the Emirates and see if I could book a visit to the penguins at Ski Dubai. They had openings that night so I was able to sit as a small Gentoo penguin walked around the group while a trainer explained how they care for and train the penguins. Then they had a special bench where you could sit and the penguin would hop up for a photo
Next we were introduced to two King penguins, the second-largest in the world next to Emperor penguins but very similar to them as well. The Gentoos aren’t docile enough for strangers to interact with them directly but the Kings don’t mind a little human interaction and are willing to be petted and even hugged. A problem arose for me since I was wearing my bike jacket and the penguins found my appearance a bit off-putting – not just the colors but because I looked different than the normal outfits Ski Dubai give people to wear in the snow park. So while I got to pet them okay going in for the full hug wasn’t really to their liking. They didn’t bite or act nasty just sorta sidled away like “creeeeepy guy don’t touch me” hahaha. Still, it was great to get so close to my favorite birds at last! It always sucks to just watch them from behind a glass pane as they play in their zoo enclosure.
Speaking of zoos, I also paid a visit to the Dubai Mall aquarium, which has the largest single pane of acrylic in the world showcasing their main fish tank. They also have a zoo with tons of aquatic species, including otters and Humboldt penguins to go along with the usual variety of fish, lizards, crustaceans, etc. I’ve never seen or heard of a pig-nosed turtle before but they had one. It was a nice overall exhibit of marine wildlife. You can also walk through a tunnel through the main tank – it’s not the world’s largest or longest tunnel but it’s still impressive – especially when you have tiger sharks floating menacingly right over your head. I got a behind-the-scenes tour of the operations as well for my ticket price. Too bad I don’t have the time to take their scuba diving course!
Christmas has come and gone, unlike in Taipei things are moving along well and we were able to have the day off. I spent then morning checking out the textile Souk, which is a traditional-style market with stalls featuring, you guess it, textiles – traditional clothing and scarves and other wear made out of materials like silk and Kashmir. I had to visit a few shops and haggle a bit but ended up with a yellow and black scarf I like that I can wear around my neck or on my head. The shop vendors are very insistent – too the point of being rather annoying – and that made the shopping process a bit exhausting. You walk in and they do their best to not let you walk out empty handed, practically throwing stuff on you or placing it in your hands to get you to want to buy it. One guy followed me for a few yards “my friend! my friend, I have good deal. Come, come back I give you good deal. My friend!”
I had packed my santa hat with me again like in Taipei so was able to be properly adorned during the holiday party, only one other person out of the 200+ pyrotechs there had one and it was a pretty cheap one compared to my fuzzy hat. Win.
That’s pretty much it. The final push is on to get things ready for show and we’re well on track. I will come back with another update in 2014 but until then keep an eye on my Facebook for continuing updates, as well as the official channels I linked to earlier. Happy New Year!