Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
Up at 0600, without shave or shower since none of us had really expected to stay the night and had brought no equipment. Then we ate in the mess hall, which was beautiful. KKMC is nicknamed the Emerald City for its green-roofed mosque in the headquarters area. We got a glimpse of it on the way out; it's beautiful. One of Jack Anderson's columns referred to the Emerald City as top secret; even the name and location are classified. That was a real laugh, since everyone in Saudi knew where the place was and a large fraction had been there. We went back to the motor pool by 0800, spent until 1100 milling around and checking out vehicles, then left for the trip back.
Between KKMC and Hafr-al-Batin, about 50 kilometers, I saw three recently-wrecked fuel tankers. At Hafr-al-Batin we picked up Tapline Road and headed southeast. For the next 2-3 hours, the landscape is the flattest and most barren imaginable; there is absolutely nothing to the horizon taller than stubby grass, which was surprisingly green because it had been an unusually rainy winter. This is the only landscape I have ever seen without the slightest trace of water erosion; whatever water erodes during storms is erased or filled in by the wind during dry times. You could not drive more than a mile or so cross-country in any desert in North America without running into a gully, and the bushes would make cross-country driving a chore. Here you could drive for miles in any direction. I had heard of Kuwaiti refugees striking off cross-country in their cars; now I know how they could do it.
The overturned bulldozer at Al-Qaysumah was still there. There are innumerable wrecks along Tapline Road, many mangled beyond recognition. The most interesting part of convoying was meeting oncoming convoys of HET's (heavy equipment transporters) with Abrams tanks. They take up the entire opposite lane right to the center line, and roll along at 60 MPH. They are definitely the top of the food chain on Tapline Road!
CPT Haney and CPT Pitts have distinctly different ideas on how to run a convoy, and it wasn't very long before we caught up with Pitts' serial, even though he had half an hour's head start. Fortunately, they soon turned off to pick up more vehicles at one of the other logistics bases and we passed them. We did up to 75 on the open road, less in congested areas. At one point, two vehicles weaved in and out of our convoy and passed us; a few miles farther on we caught up with them. The lead vehicle had rear-ended a slower truck, and the second one rear-ended the first. Fortunately, the damage was minor and nobody was hurt. About halfway between KKMC and Jubail the landscape is one of buttes and mesas, and I caught a rock in my windshield there. My truck had no lights, so as it was getting dark, approaching Jubail, I resorted to using my hazard flashers so the Saudi drivers would see me. We finally got in about 1830. We had heavy rain and thunderstorms all night.
The Seasoned Traveler Knows How to Adapt to Cultural Differences
Left: Never Turn Down the Chance to Eat at a Good Mess Hall
|Note the Three-Lane Traffic and the Accident|
|Why You Boast of Surviving Tapline Road. The oncoming truck is a HET, Heavy Equipment Transport, carrying an M1 Abrams tank. He's doing about 60, and if he slams on his brakes, his stopping distance is, oh, Egypt. He's definitely top of the food chain on Tapline Road. The vehicle ahead of me is giving him a wide berth. There is ample room for an Arab to try to squeeze through.|
|Air cover: left: an A-10|
|You Don't Do Tapline Road for the Scenery|
Below: Bedouin camps off the highway.
|The dark band along the horizon is the smoke pall from burning oil wells in Kuwait.|
|This view plainly shows the head of the smoke plume.|
|Left: smoke pall on the horizon.
Below: towns on Tapline Road.
Created January 10, 2000; Last Update 12 June, 2020