It might not be Route 66 but Alvin Thomas hits the highway in a convoy of Ford Mustangs to keep his American dream alive.
There’s something oddly satisfying about going on a road trip. It has to be one of the least complicated methods of escape from your daily travails: you pack a bag and take your car (and maybe some loved ones) and hit the road. There are no pesky flight schedules or train tickets to worry about, and everything is done at your own pace.
With that in mind, I had been thinking about taking a road trip across Oman into the UAE for a while now. However, the unpredictable nature of my work meant that I had been putting it off for a long time. So I was surprised and delighted when I got a call from the boffins at Ford (Arabian Car Marketing Co) asking me if I wanted to head out for a road trip to Sur… in a Mustang!
Naturally, I jumped at it. And last Friday (April 7), I joined the crew from Ford, and 40 other Ford Mustang owners from the Muscat Stangs club, for a road trip from Muscat all the way to the beautiful city of Sur.
My car for the day was the same “Ecoboost” Mustang that I reviewed a while back. The only difference was that this time I was travelling with a veteran motoring journalist and an industry-leading photographer, and was therefore not alone.
The starting point of our journey was the beautiful park at Al Sahwa. It has been known to be one of the few parks from which you can observe flights coming in to land. It is a perfect park for photographers, as you can get some close-up shots of the airplanes.
We began our journey at 10am (on the dot), and our start was nothing short of momentous. Mustangs are known to be loud muscle cars; imagine 40 cars starting their engines at the same time.
We were escorted out of the park grounds by Royal Oman Police, and proceeded along the main highway until we took the turn-off to head to the twisty roads of Al Amerat. The initial part of the drive was quite mellow, as we did not want to disrupt the normal traffic.
But things started to change as we headed into the commanding mountains of Al Amerat. It is a brilliant stretch of tarmac – one that is designed to put your vehicle to the test. As expected, the noise resonating from the beautiful hills set the tone for the day that lay ahead.
We proceeded across Route 17, capturing as many images of the stunning scenery as we could. Even the temperature was on our side, marking itself at a very tolerant 28 degrees Celsius.
But as soon as we hit the hilltops near the village of Al Hajar (which we featured in Issue 464), we stopped to capture a few photos of the cars. We parked along the side of the road to snap some of the breathtaking shots of the mountain range. From up here, the buildings looked like small skittles. The mountains themselves were breathtaking to look at. I quickly scaled a small hill in the vicinity to click a picture of the setting. Of course, coming down was no easy task.
Next, we gathered and had a briefing from our team leader –Sami al Habsi – who advised us not to rev our engines unnecessarily and to adhere to the speed limit.
After our 30-minute stopover, we headed back onto Route 17 and proceeded along the splendid highway. While on the road, there is a lot to see. There are small, remote villages in between every valley. I was told by my co-passengers that there is one that exists en route to Sur that is covered in black sand. I will certainly be visiting the area soon.
In any case, I concentrated on what I could see, and snapped a few photos of the scenery from my Mustang (no, I wasn’t driving when I clicked the shutter). Thanks to the shade of the hills, the temperature was still quite low. Some of the team members also took that as an opportunity to put their convertible roofs down.
This is when it struck me: this long drive has all the makings of a road trip across Route 66 in the United States. Drop-top cars in the background and the bellows of the V8 muscle cars made the scene more authentic. I cannot lie: I really felt like I was driving through the US. It felt amazing, and above all, like a dream come true.
Soon, however, we hit the Sur highway (which was very secluded), and went for it. There would be no stops or interruptions; just miles of driving. On the road, I saw what looked like the remains of a toll-booth. My co-passengers told me that motorists were supposed to pay for using the roads they drove on but the Government decided not to levy tolls.
In an hour-and-a-half, we had reached our final destination: the Ford showroom in Sur. This was signified by the Mustang owners revving their engines at full blast to grab the attention of the people nearby. And there, they (Ford) revealed to us the all-new Ford Mustang California Special.
In the coming issue of Y, look out for some more of my adventures in Sur, which include me meeting some of the local kids and also exploring the beautiful suspension bridge in the city.
You have two highway options to get to Sur, however, the drive through Route 17 is more scenic. To enter Route 17 from Seeb, take the ramp that heads to Muscat Expressway, before taking the exit to Baushar. Follow the road to Al Amerat and head straight through route 17 for the next 200km. En route you will pass through Tiwi, Wadi Shab and even the village of Qalhat.