The Dog & Rocket Tour 2010

April 11, 2010

The Dog and Rocket Tour

Filed under: Uncategorized — corkyboy @ 2:21 am

The Dog and Rocket Tour 2010

Up in Massachusetts There’s a little spit of land.
The men who make the maps, yes, they call the place Cape Ann.
The men who do the fishing call it Gloucester Harbor Sound,
But the women left behind, they call the place Dogtown.

Harry Chapin 1942-1981

Welcome to our Dog & Rocket blog which will cover the 5 weeks of our trip this year to North America. Our itinerary takes us via Hawaii to Massachusetts, Niagara Falls, New York, Virginia, Washington DC, Charleston SC and Flagler Beach FL, Cape Canaveral FL, before returning to OZ va Hawaii.

So you are probably asking yourself why the name of “Dog and Rocket” and here follows a brief and hopefully coherent explanation.

Let’s start with the Dog. Back in 1972 I first heard Harry Chapin’s “Dogtown” and so began a lifelong attachment to his songs and music, which it must said are not to everyone’s taste. Some of it is quite dark and melancholy but some of it also made the mainstream such as “Circles” (all my life’s a circle) by the New Seekers, “Cat’s in the cradle” and “Taxi”. Harry, in his lifetime did a lot of work to overcome world hunger, long before that idiot “Bono” jumped on the bandwagon. In fact he was one of the first to involve Pop Music Artists in this field of charity work. Sadly, in 1981 Harry had an argument with a Petrol Tanker on a NY freeway, an argument which he lost. Chapin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian work. If you are interested to read more just click on this link: 

So our tour begins in Gloucester Harbor, Mass the old whaling town that Harry featured in his song “Dogtown”. We have never been to that part of the USA, so this was a good reason to include it on our itinerary and also to see Niagara and New York, two other places we have yet to visit. We finish our tour in Flagler Beach, FL where we will be handily placed to see on July 29 +/- Mission: STS-134 Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A Launch Time: 7:51 a.m. EDT. This will be our second attempt in recent years to see a Shuttle launch and hopefully it will go off on schedule. This is the penultimate launch of the Space Shuttle before it is retired so we hope it all goes as planned.

August 7, 2010

“Supersize my Flounder please”.

Filed under: Uncategorized — corkyboy @ 4:39 am

Well we are now back home after god knows how many time changes and 13 aeroplanes. Our final week in the USA was spent at Flagler Beach in Florida on the Atlantic coast. Initially we planned to stop there for the Shuttle launch that never was and for a relax, so we did just that. 

Three things that stood out during our stay at Flagler are Flagler Beach Pier and the size of the fish they catch. As we walked along the pier, on our first visit, we saw a guy cast his rod and he must have offered up a small prayer along the lines of “Supersize my Flounder please” because no sooner had his bait hit the ocean than it was taken by an Alabama Flounder. Now I have caught flounders before off Southend Pier and the mud flats off Leigh on sea and Chalkwell, and if you caught a good one it might go a pound in weight. But this one when it was landed after a brief but spectacular fight was just short of eight and a half pounds. In fact it looked more like a Halibut than a flounder. This got me wondering what else they caught off the Pier, so how does a 12 foot Hammerhead Shark grab you for starters? You can see it the link along with some other monsters. 

Another nice surprise was the town of St Augustine which was just 20 miles up the coast from us. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer and admiral, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city and port in the United States.  St. Augustine lies in a region of Florida known as “The First Coast“, which extends from Amelia Island in the north to Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Palm Coast in the south. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War and gave Florida and St. Augustine to the British, in exchange for the British relinquishing control of occupied Havana. Bet you didn’t know that! With the change of flags, almost all the entire population of 3,100 Spaniards departed from St. Augustine. Consequently there is a lot “history” to be seen and found in the town and if you want to know the full story then click here

The final thing that stood out for us was the heat. It followed us all the way throughout our trip, never below 90f by day and frequently over 100f. So naturally when we got to Florida and the humidity kicked in it was pretty uncomfortable. As a result a lot of time was taken in seeking out the air conditioned venues (car, mall, restaurants etc.) or riding on boats or open buses to try and stay cool. We knew it would be so, but with the heat index frequently topping 115f it really put us to the test. 

However this morning we are back home to a beautiful dazzlingly blue sunny sky with not a drop of humidity in sight, and a temp of 19c, perfect. That’s the end of the story.

July 28, 2010

Excuse me Sir, but are you a retired Naval Aviator?

Filed under: Uncategorized — corkyboy @ 3:27 pm



That was the question posed to me by a rather distinguished looking grey-haired gentleman sitting across from us in Tour Bus at Charleston SC Visitor Centre as we waited for the driver to take us on our way. It turned out that he had spied the new baseball cap that Karen had just bought me, and perhaps he was being just a tiny bit mischievous as when I replied I was a retired retailer from the UK he asked me to repeat it, perhaps in case the rest of the bus had not heard my lame reply. Anyway he was a charming old guy, accompanied by his family, he went on to explain that he flew for the US Navy and saw action in both Korea and Vietnam. He flew the Douglas A-3 Sky Warrior and the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk   The A-3 was the heaviest ever aircraft to be carrier borne and the A-4 was the backbone of the Argentinian Air Force strikes on UK troops in The Falkland’s little bit of bother.

 Staying with the MilitaryAviation theme for a moment, the Airport at Charleston SC is shared with The USAF and the 437th Airlift Wing. They fly the C-17 Globemaster 3 and as we taxied across the field I counted 22 of them lined up all in neat serried rows. Here is another good link to the C-17.

Back to the holiday and Charleston. It is a lovely sleepy old place, full of history involving both the British, who first colonised it in the early 1600’s and in 1861 the first shot was allegedly fire at Fort Sumter to kick off the US Civil War.

Examples of the British Colonisation are reflected still today in the Plantations and Plantation Houses that remain. One of the best examples is Magnolia Plantation.  The plantation dates to 1676 when Thomas and Ann Drayton built a house and small formal garden on the site. (The plantation remains under the control of the Drayton family after 15 generations.) The historic Drayton Hall was built in 1738 by John Drayton on an adjoining property. We spent a very interesting time visiting Magnolia but the heat and humidity on the day were absolutely draining, reported locally that day by the TV stations as having a heat index of 117f and it all ended around 4.30pm with an almighty storm and a 2  hour power cut back at the hotel.

We are now in Flagler Beach FL for the final week of our break. We are on the Eastern Seaboard, well away from all the theme parks in what can only be described as old fashioned Florida. We are staying in a lovely house that Karen tracked down and are just going to spend the week unwinding from all the travelling we have done. The weather is great, mid to high 90’s with only moderate humidity forecast so all looks to be set fair until we have to hop on the big birds again for the long haul back home.

July 23, 2010

Flashed by an old lady in Central Park

Filed under: Uncategorized — corkyboy @ 9:42 pm

The drive into New York (La Guardia) was fairly uneventful apart from a couple of torrential downpours on the way. That said we did go by Scranton PA, another place Harry Chapin wrote a song about, 30,000 pounds of bananas, to be precise. It was another true story and you can read about it here.

Back to driving on US Freeways. Speed limits on the freeways are generally around 65mph and enforcement of them is almost totally absent. Everybody seems to go at least 10mph faster than the posted limit, irrespective of road or weather conditions. Consequently there is a lot of erratic lane changing and “exciting moments” so we were not unhappy to offload the hire car back to Hertz, who did not spot the bit of damage to the front apron so no excess charge there.

New York was continuing to swelter in 95f  temps so for our first day we took to the water. We rode the subway to South Pier and did the ferry to Staten Island and then in the afternoon we did the Statue of Liberty cruise. Day 2 we did the guided bus tour of downtown NYC and hopped off part way to do Central Park. As it was another blisteringly hot day we sat down for 5 minutes on a cool bench and that was when the trouble started. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an old lady approaching, who if she was a day she had to be 80. Immediately she caught my glance and I looked away sensing imminent problems. As I did she hollered out “You shouldn’t look at people like that, it ain’t nice”. Of course I had to make eye contact with her again and she was now doing a spritely skip towards me, holding her dress up around her armpits and displaying a knee length pair of your grandmother’s old red paisley print drawers. To make matters worse, at the top of her voice she yelled out  ”hey boy do you want some of this?”. I was mortified, Karen nearly wet herself but fortunately the old girl continued on her merry way and did not hear my reply.

Our verdict on New York was that it was vibrant and exciting and in the neighbourhood where we were staying, Upper West Side Manhattan, completely safe and non-threatening to just stroll around in, much to our surprise.

Saturday 17th, we hopped a quick flight to Baltimore for what should have been a 2 hour drive to Lake Anna near Mineral in Virginia, but it turned into 4 hours plus in 96f temps due to heavy traffic. We are stopping here for the next 6 days and anticipate a quiet, restful bit of solitude, just what we need after NYC.

Well the restful 6 days on the lake is over with not much to report although the temps nudged the 100f mark all the week we were there. We did a trip into Washington one day, car and Metro, to see the sights and it is a truly impressive Capitol, although we did think the White House was more “Bijou” than we imagined it would be. We think we also saw David Cameron’s motorcade blasting its way around town, but we could not say so for sure.

We are now overnighting in Baltimore but get on a plane for Charleston, South Carolina tomorrow. Actually we have to get on two as for some reason we have to fly to Detroit first, crazy airlines.

July 13, 2010

If it smells and looks a bit like Grimsby, it probably is.

Filed under: Uncategorized — corkyboy @ 9:37 pm

Well our planned 5 night stay in the Boston area was reduced to 4 because of the distance we needed to travel to get to Niagara Falls, our next destination. Unlike Australia where the roads are generally crappy but empty, travelling 600-700kms a day out here is not the way to go.

The time we spent in in and around Boston included a trip to Gloucester (Dogtown) the old New England Whaling Town made famous by Harry Chapin in the song Dogtown. It was a bit of a disappointment hence the title of this posting “If it smells and looks a bit like Grimsby, it probably is.” However we did also spend some time visiting Salem where the good Christian settlers, lacking entertainment, decided to go on a witch hunt of some of their unfortunate brethren.  From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided.

So on Sunday we set off for Niagara Falls, stopping overnight in Utica in NY State. Here we watched The World Cup and saw one country that turned up to play and one that thought it was in a brawl, shame on you Holland. Next day we were off to Niagara where we saw the falls by night and today we did the full tour including the ride on the “Maid of the Mist” up to the Horseshoe Falls. Sure it is very touristy but the American side is just parkland, but look across to the Canadian side and it looks just like Las Vegas.

Tonight we are stopping over in the town of Corning NY. The name may sound familiar because it is the home of Corning Glass aka “Pyrex”. Tomorrow we head  off the New York where we will part company with the hire car, hope they don’t see the ding on the front apron caused by a lump of road debris thrown up by a passing truck. We have 3 nights in NY before we head off for a week of peace and tranquillity on Lake Anna in Virginia, can’t wait.

July 8, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, the sound of freedom”

Filed under: Uncategorized — corkyboy @ 2:57 pm

Here’s our first update covering just our journey to New England in general and Danvers MA in particular.

After a day’s layover at Waikiki in Honolulu we were back in the air for the overnight journey to Chicago and a quick plane change at 5am for the final leg to Newark NJ. The flight out of Honolulu was memorable for the sights and sounds that prompted the title of this posting and they came from the captain of the United 777 we were travelling on. If you are not an aviation buff, what follows may be of little interest to you but for the rubberneckers among us, well here’s the story.

As we taxied across the airport to our departure runway we were joined by two FA-18 US Navy Fighter jets.  They joined immediately in front of us and eventually lined up for departure on the runway with us some 50 metres from them and with an excellent view. As they sat on the runway doing their pre-take off checks our captain gave his usual preamble over the intercom and then with without referring to the FA-18’s but with immaculate timing he said “Ladies and Gentlemen, the sound of freedom”. Immediately the FA-18’s lit up their engines with a tremendous cacophony of noise and were gone like bats out of hell. Half the passengers in the plane cheered, as they could see what was happening, those on the starboard side were looking completely nonplussed.

Our flight from Chicago to Newark was also made more fun by the Captain who decided to make all the ATC radio traffic available on the plane’s entertainment system via CH9 and your headphones. I have flown, more than a few times before, but never had this treat and I think the gentleman from Al-Qaeda  who was sitting three rows behind us found it very informative as well. The speed with which the conversations were conducted was extremely rapid and in some very broad American accents, not easy to understand at times.

However, we were soon off the plane and in the hire car and battling our way down the New Jersey Turnpike and before too long we were queuing to cross the Hudson via The George Washington Bridge.  This bridge has to be the most magnificent steel suspension bridge in the world and definitely the most awesome sight on our trip to date.

Once we cleared New York we were in to Connecticut and then New England before arriving at our destination of Danvers MA where we are stopping for 5 days. We are planning to visit Salem, Boston, Gloucester and any other local sights we can fit in. Our Essex readers will feel quite at home here as we are in Essex County MA and nearby places include Braintree and Maldon.

June 17, 2010

The “Rocket” part of the tour has been cancelled.

Filed under: Uncategorized — corkyboy @ 8:44 am

For the second successive time NASA has thwarted our plans to see a Shuttle launch. For weeks Discovery was slated to launch on July 29th but has now been updated to September 16th, b*+=t$#$ds!

Since we are in Florida for a week I will have to now get my aeronautical fix at Kermit Weeks’s (real name)

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