dunkyb's leave of absence

dunkyb is driving and hiking around North America for a few weeks.

This site is his journal for the trip, and a repository for photos and GPS tracking data. Enjoy!

If you're looking for the 2008 road trip, it's been archived.

Here endeth the journey

Posted by dunkyb on Tuesday, 3rd July 2012 at 13:38 GMT
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Ah, it's good to be home again. Can cook and eat my own food, watch my own TV shows, sleep in my own bed. All very pleasant.

So, thoughts from the journey?

Well, I'm not planning on buying a Camaro. There's a lot of good things about the car: It's very comfy, goes like it's jet propelled, gets decent fuel economy. On the other hand, it's automatic (not a terrible auto, but still a bit clunky), it understeers like the steering wheel isn't connected to anything (the engine is pretty damn heavy) and the visbility is atrocious (I've ranted about this one before).

Still, according to the stats, I spent 160 hours driving in it over the past two months, which is quite a long time. I've seen an awful lot of roads, almost all of whom had terrible road surfaces. For some reason, the Americans are generally unable to keep their roads anywhere near flat, preferring massive potholes. This may be acceptable when you're driving something with soft suspension, but the Camaro had 'sporty' suspension, which just led to a series of dull thuds along the roads.

So, any questions about the trip?

And I think it's gonna be a long long time...

Posted by dunkyb on Saturday, 30th June 2012 at 04:01 GMT
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And it was a bloody long time.

So, I decided to go see the Rocket launch this morning (well, it is the most powerful rocket currently launched). On the bright side, it was only 40 miles or so north. On the down side, the launch was scheduled for 0613. And it was a 45 minute drive to a decent viewing point.

So, as a result my alarm went off at 0415 (to give me time to pack up). I'm managing to rationalise this by pretending it'll help me adapt back to UK time. I packed up (how did that get there?!), checked out and headed North in the dark. On the downside, my windows were covered in dust from the various storms I had recently. However, I solved this problem by driving fast enough that I didn't need to see behind me (yes, for some reason only the front windscreen has wipers).

So, shortly after six I found myself driving along a riverside road near to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (this launch was military, so not from the civilian parts of the space station). Both sides of the road were full of parked cars (clearly this launch thing is popular, despite the hour!). Pootling onwards, to just outside the Air Station, I found some viewing stands and more importantly: space to park. Sure, it was on a swamp, but nothing could possibly go wrong.

I bounded out of the car and listened to the commentary (the place I'd found thanks to sheer random chance had speakers distantly explaining the launch) - 4 minutes to go!

Woohoo! My timing was excellent (as always!). It was about 15 minutes before sunrise. The sky was a beautiful dark blue and I'd just caught the launch.

Regrettably, 18 seconds later, the launch was held. Sticky valve it turned out.

Luckily, about half an hour later the launch was started again. This time we got to T minus 3 minutes and 34 seconds until it was held. Another, completely different sticky valve.

At this point, I noticed that whilst the fish swimming in the river were having fun (whole shoals of little silver fish jumping out of the water together), so were the mosquitoes. I could see the little bastards (well, I'm sure they were about three feet across) snacking on me. A small, but entertaining slapping dance ensued.

Luckily the countdown started again! This would finally distract me from the pints of blood I was losing to the local fauna! This thought distracted me for several minutes until once again the countdown was stalled. Turns out it was another sticky valve (Are you ******** kidding me?! This isn't ******* rocket science!).

By this time, I'd spent about an hour and a half by this swamp, watched a fun sun-rise over Florida and started to enjoy the weather. I'd also grabbed my kindle, so was less bored than usual.

Luckily the handsome and talented Rocket Scientists worked out that the valves could be manually opened (FFS!) and the launch could go ahead. In another hour and a half. More luckily I remembered I had cold drinks in my car and a camping chair (Gotta get more value out of my $10!).

Chair, plus Diet Coke, plus kindle, plus Sun, plus splashing fish led to a rather pleasant hour or so.

The countdown started again. By this point I was getting increasingly cynical about the prospects for the damn thing getting off the ground, but suddenly we were down to the last ten seconds (We do owe a great debt to 'Die Frau im Mond'). I looked over at the VAB - that's not a launch pad. I looked at the launch pads I could see - nothing happening there. Luckily, it turns out that rockets are pretty damn obvious, and this one made quite a lot of fuss as it rose over a small clump of trees nearby.

OK, so I was about 10 miles away from the launch. As a result, it was completely silent. The rocket slowly lifted about the trees and slowly struggled into the sky. Then the noise hit. Pretty damn loud considering the difference. Can understand why they say that within 100 ft of the launch the noise kills you (and within 400 ft, the fire kills you - wouldn't this also happen within 100?!?).

Still, seriously impressive and I'm glad I've finally managed to catch a launch from close up (I saw a night shuttle launch from Miami when I was there, but that was from 200 miles away).

As you can probably tell from the map, I'm nearly back at Atlanta. Decided there was no point staying in a crappy hotel nearish the airport, when I could stay at a crappy hotel slightly less near the airport. Not long to go tomorrow.

So, this is nearly it. Over 7000 miles driven (nearly 1/3 of the way round the planet, or ~12 times the distance from Land's End to John o' Groats). I've been here for the best part of two months, hit a lot of states, seen no live bears.

Any great insights or mind expanding ideas? Nope. It's just time to go home.

Day X minus Two

Posted by dunkyb on Friday, 29th June 2012 at 03:25 GMT
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My dastardly plan to stay by the beach for an extra day has finally paid off. IT was sunny today (and a little breezy, but not too bad).

As a result, I went for a swim (to break up my otherwise uninterrupted day of lazing around). There were some flaws with this plan:

1) my contact lens were washed out within the first five minutes by..
2) ... the surf. Which was a little over-enthusiastic, probably 3 - 6 ft breakers. This was very popular for the...
3) ... surfers. One of whom decided to try and run me over.

Aside from that, all good fun!

Am getting up early to try and see the Delta IV Heavy launch tomorrow morning (it's a little early...)

Am rapidaly running out of time on this break. Still, it's certainly feeling like it's time to go home. That's gotta be a good thing (either that, or I'm looking forward to a First Class flight).