Tuesday, 30 December 2014

DAY 20 - Hawkward Times On The Road

Hi all, and welcome to the Day 20 Blog brought to you from Atlanta, Georgia.

Today was another transit day.

We left our Hotel in Matthews (south-east of Charlotte) at around 0815h embarking on the 261 mile / 420 km drive to Atlanta. The drive takes us from North Carolina (the birthplace of aviation), into South Carolina (apparently the birthplace of the BBQ) and into Georgia (the birthplace of the mighty C-130 Hercules...according to me).

Fortunately, this is was one of our shorter drives taking just under four hours to accomplish. Of all of the fairly nondescript drives we have had on this holiday, this would have had to be the least interesting. In fact, at one point, I thought the car's engine was playing up, then realised that all of my passengers were snoring.

Charlotte, North Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia

We stopped for lunch at Cracker-barrel in the town of Commerce, Georgia. Cracker-barrel is an old style restaurant offering homely-type meals and certainly was a nice break from fast-food. My meal was a meatloaf with mashed potatoes and vegetables and it was real nice. Everyone else seemed happy with their meals also. Whilst in Commerce we stopped at a Tangers Outlet Centre to pick up some more stuff.

Welcome to Atlanta, Georgia

The Promenade 2 building (left) and an office building (right)

We arrived in Atlanta, mid-late afternoon and booked into our hotel which is in the downtown district, before venturing out for some food supplies. We then set about planning to travel to Phillips Arena to watch another NBA game, this time between the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, Bob and I had another disagreement, but it wasn't Bob's fault, he's just old and Atlanta has changed since he last had his maps updated. So when I plugged in the address for Phillips Arena which is located in the city centre into Bob (our GPS) and noticed the city buildings getting smaller in my rear-view mirror, I knew there was a problem. However, between Bob, myself and a city map (skillfully narrated by the boys) we still managed to get to the Arena just in time for the game.

The obligatory family shot with me as photographer

We had hoped to catch LeBron James who now plays for the Cavaliers, as it was his birthday, but unfortunately he was injured and out of the game. But that's okay, he showed up on the bench anyways. Also, noting that LeBron James was going to be a big draw card for the game, all attendees were given free Atlanta Hawks T-Shirts, which is a pretty good consolation.

It's Lebron James, and he seems really happy?

The match was pretty exciting and we were in good company as Usher was also watching the match with us. I kinda felt like I was Paparazzi at this match.

Usher with his Son and Bodyguard close behind

In the end, the Hawks won the game, making this our first NBA match (this trip) where the home team has won. We were beginning to think it was our fault.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand for the National Anthem

For Sal...again

Action from the game

The drive back to the hotel (a mere 1.9 miles) was equally adventurous as the trip to the Arena as the inner city of Atlanta appears to have changed dramatically in recent years. In fact where once was a road, there was a building, so Bob and I continued our issues. I think that 1.9 mile distance to get home required about 5 miles of detours as Bob kept asking me to turn down roads that no longer exist. But we managed to make it back.

So between the problems with my GPS and the Hawks win, today certainly was a little bit Hawkward. Well that's it for today. Looks like we have a busy rest day planned for tomorrow.

DAY 19 - Speed Freaks

Hi all, greetings from Atlanta, Georgia and the delayed blog for Day 19, which all took place in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The day kicked off with the usual breakfast which followed a great sleep-in until around 0900-ish. First item on our agenda was a trip out to check out the famous Metamorphosis Sculpture and fountain by Czech Republic artist David Cerny. The Sculpture is a 30' (10 m) tall, 14 tonne stainless steel head divided into slices that rotate (though they didn't during our visit). It is located in the north-west of Charlotte not far from the airport.

Speaking of airport, I suspect you are all getting a little edgy over my lack of aircraft photos taken on this holiday. I had heard that Charlotte Douglas Airport had an impressive area for spotting called the Airport Overlook, so of course we checked it out. I must say that that in terms of airport spotting vantage points, this one takes the cake. The airport itself is the 24th busiest in the world (in terms of traffic), so there are lots of opportunities to see aircraft. The range isn't huge, with lots of regional jets and the occasional Lufthansa Airbus A330, plus the Air National Guard has a C-130H Hercules Unit operating out of here.

The best thing (and strangely obvious) aspect of this is that you are situated high above the security fences and have a wide ranging vista that doesn't just take in Runway 18C but a vast array of taxiways and the general apron areas including the cargo area. The area also has benches, picnic tables and ample nose-in parking again with unimpeded views. One thing working against us; however, was the weather which was very cold and wet. The wind was also blowing left to right meaning that we could only really capture the take-offs, which was fine, but the landings would offer and even better view of the aircraft. Here's some pics:

As you can see, the weather was pretty average. This photo also gives you an idea of the unimpeded vista
Following this, we headed to the other side of the airport to check out the Carolinas Aviation Museum which contains the famous US Airways Airbus A320 N106US which crash landed in the Hudson River under the control of CAPT Sullenberger after hitting a flock of birds shortly after takeoff. It is an example of excellent airmanship and crew resource management. This picture here may help remind you.

But the museum also houses some other interesting stuff including an F-14D Super Tomcat, an AV-8B Harrier, a D-558-1 Skystreak, a stunning Piedmont DC3, a CH-46D Sea Knight and lots of other stuff both inside and outside. On the negative side, the stuff that is housed outside is fenced off and curiously oriented to prevent good photos of some of their treasures, for example a beautiful Douglas DC-7B painted in Eastern Airlines colours is hidden to the back of the other aircraft. The display for the US Airways A320 is brilliant, though difficult to capture in its entirety.

Sopwith Camel

Boeing PT-17 Stearman

Douglas DC3

Douglas DC3

McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier

Savoia Marchetti S.56

Grumman F-14D Super Tomcat

Grumman F-14D Super Tomcat

'Miracle of the Hudson' Airbus A320-200

'Miracle of the Hudson' Airbus A320-200

McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier

LTV A-7E Corsair 2

'Miracle of the Hudson' Airbus A320-200

McDonnell Douglas F-4S Cockpit Section

Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak

Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak

Douglas DC3

Schuyler and Kyle revisiting the past

Douglas DC-7B

McDonnell Douglas F-104B Voodoo and Convair YF-102 Delta-Dagger

Lockheed EC-130E Hercules

Following this, we then headed into the city to see the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Even though we aren't exactly NASCAR fans, this was a must-see. The amount of famous cars and brilliant displays, including interactive displays was amazing. From the Glory Road which is a step through time from the earliest NASCAR days to the most modern, comprising 18 cars as though they were on a race track. I suspect that both Todd and Matt Hill would be most interested in this museum, but honestly, even non-devotees of NASCAR like us, would love this museum and should see it.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

This is designed to give you an idea of how steep the oval tracks can be

Maureen behind the wheel

Kyle behind the wheel

  Me behind the wheel

Schuyler behind the wheel...what the?

Josh behind the wheel

This is the rig that determines the legality of the NASCARs in terms of profile, size and shape

I don't think these guys know what a workshop is

A skinned NASCAR

Glory Road
To round off the day, we stopped for a shake at a historic Dairy Queen Restaurant, and also caught some city lights.

Dairy Queen

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina

We then had dinner then headed to Time Warner Cable Arena to watch an NBA game, the Charlotte Hornets play against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Milwaukee Bucks won the match which is interesting because so far in all of the NBA matches we have watched to date, the home teams have all lost.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand for the National Anthem

The view from my seat

The Hornet's Coach advising the play

For Sal
Well that was all for our time in Charlotte. I must admit, it was nothing like I had imagined. It's a pretty city with lots to do. Between the Charlotte Douglas Airport Overlook, the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the US Airways 'Miracle of the Hudson' Airbus A320 we certainly felt like speed freaks.