The trip home felt looooonggg. We met the shippers out at the barn at 2 am - loaded the horses into one of the big vans and drove to Abu Dhabi for departure. Single lane paved road cutting across the desert - the dunes drifted across the road made me think of home ... and snow. A few rough spots where the pavement was missing, 2 hour trip - deep dark night. Spent quite a while at the Abu Dhabi airport - watched the sun come up over the runway (I created a minor fracas when I took a picture of the sunrise - cameras are forbidden! at airports - I think I was very lucky to get my camera back - lots of shouting. dumb tourists :) We loaded the horses on the palettes, onto the plane, and said goodbye to the shippers - Pedens Bloodstock - the company employed to handle all transport and logistics for the UAE equestrian events. We made a lot of friends with these folks, they were wonderful.
Luxembourg was a bit of a mess - arrived 7am, some confusions, delays, but the horses were unloaded and kept in warm roomy quarantine stalls. We spent the day at a hotel during the layover, met again that evening and waited through more delays (engine problems). We split off from the New York bound horses, loaded Khruschev, Sharee and Tang (btw Christy and Tang finished their 5th Middle East ride this time - amazing team) and took off for LAX just before midnight. Arrived 12 hours later - 2am (PST) and the horses were taken off to quarantine for 3 days, and Karen and I were deposited in the airport. I thought it was too early to call Carol, who was to pick us up and give us a place to stay while the horses were quarantined... so we thought we'd just get on one of the hotel shuttles and hang out in a hotel lobby/restaurant until it was a more reasonable time to call for a ride. Good idea... We were a wee bit sleep deprived by this point - almost 72 hours with just a few naps, and a fairly demanding ride thrown in. And after being in Dubai where there is NO crime we weren't really up to snuff regarding self-preservation. The first shuttle that came by took us to a so-so hotel. - closed. There were other hotels in sight so we sort of wandered along, looking for a hotel and restaurant that might be open. We were on the corner, hauling luggage when a Sheraton shuttle drove by. The driver slowed to ask us if we needed help (I think we looked a little out of place on the corner at 2:30 am) - we said we were looking for a restaurant. "Ok, I take you to restaurant - how much you pay?" Oh heck... so $10 later we're in the shuttle. Turns out the guy is African, his brother is a business man in Dubai, he's headed there in May. Small world.
He drove a couple blocks (we were too tired to notice that we were no longer in the hotel district) and dropped us off at a Denny's. Still a little on the dense side we vaguely noticed the security guards hanging around out front and the fact that we stood out like sore thumbs in the younger boom-box crowd. We figured we'd be here a few hours, took our time ordering, lots of coffee, stories exchanged. Were just finishing our pancakes when all hell broke loose. In no time the far side of the restaurant was a battle zone - no weapons (fortunately) but 20 or 30 guys beating on each other - management hollering, security guards in the midst of the brawl - tables being pushed over, chairs flying - a group of women ran past us and out the emergency exit, setting off the alarm. Now hollering, banging and alarm screaming. We were pretty much frozen and transfixed. I was seated facing the brawl, Karen had her back to it but was watching my expression and the guy next to us was doing a running commentary on the battle so she had a pretty good idea of what was going on. The cops arrived and things started to settle down a little - so we thought. There was still a lot of hollering and guys running around, in and out the door, shoving. It was far more dangerous out in the parking lot so we figured we'd be sitting quiet for a bit longer. Then a guy came screaming through the room waving a gun "everybody get down. get down!" I still don't know how we squeezed under the booth with all our luggage scattered around but in a flash we were both under the table - wide eyed, and in true brain-dead fashion I was laughing too hard to be scared.
We stayed under the booth for a while - finally things got under control - the security guys had all the gang outside, the waitress came by and we emerged from under the table. Still incredulous, still laughing in amazement, and at seeing ourselves and the others under the tables. No shots fired, no knives, just fists, chairs and brawn. We slid back up into our seats and were assessing the situation when I heard some gasping and whimpering from the booth next to ours. I turned around, two young women were sitting there, had just crawled out from under their table - the one next to me had bright red hair, her face was as white as a sheet and she was shaking. She looked at us and shrilled " I----- I-m fffrromm Kansas! I'm from Kaaanssass!!" I don't think I've laughed so hard and hysterically in years....
So - all ends well.
A fitting end to an amazing experience!