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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET ?                                                      Nantucket, MA

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Greetings! Last week we left off in steamy Connecticut. Since then it’s been unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the 90’s. Add the high humidity, and it feels like you need to take a shower right after you took a shower. But instead of going back to California for relief from the heat, I went somewhere closer. My brother Frank made a very generous offer to take a long weekend and check out his new house in Nantucket. Although I grew up less than 225 miles away, I never visited the island I had always heard so many good things about. One was that the temperature is usually 10% cooler than the mainland in the summer, and 10% warmer in the winter, because of its proximity to the Gulf Stream. This weekend it was a remarkable 25 degrees cooler. You gotta love that — especially in this heat!

Nantucket lies 30 miles off the Massachusetts coach. It’s an island, a town and a county -- the only place in the U.S. with the same name for all three. It is 14 miles east to west, 3 ½ miles north to south. That sounds tiny, but driving around it sure doesn’t feel that way. It’s a lot larger then what I imagined.

The name Nantucket is derived from a Native American word meaning "faraway island" or "land far out to sea." As Herman Melville wrote in his classic Moby Dick: "Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore . . . " This week we had the privilege of checking out this posh island off in its own little corner of the world.

The population of Nantucket is 12,000 year-round, but during the summer it swells to over 55,000. But it’s still not crowded – those people enjoy over 82 miles of pristine beaches, almost all of it open the public. More than 36 percent of the island's land is protected, and will never be built on. (Those areas are open to the public for hiking and bird watching.) When my brother bought his house, he had to pay 2 percent of the purchase price to The Nantucket Land Bank -- the first of its kind in the country -- so they can acquire more open space.

Nantucket has a greater variety of vegetation than any place of similar size in America. Many plants and flowers have been imported -- heath and broom from Scotland, ivy from England and rugosa roses from Japan.

The most impressive fact of all is that Nantucket lists more buildings in the National Register of Historic Places as totally preserved than anywhere else in Massachusetts -- including places like Boston, Plymouth and Salem.

Frank and his fiancee Cricket were going to Nantucket to get their newly purchased vacation house ready for the summer rental season. I figured this was my best chance at going, and for the best price around: free!

We had a couple of ways to get there. We could have flown on a small plane from either Newark (on Continental, tel.: 800-525-0280) or LaGuardia (on USAir , tel.: 800-428-4322). But those tickets aren’t cheap, and with today’s commercial air travel hassles we would not have saved much time -- if any. Another option was to fly on Cape Air (tel.: 800-352-0714; website www.flycapeair.com) or Nantucket Airlines (tel.: 800-635-8787; website: www.nantucketairlines.com ). Both offer hourly flights from Hyannis, Boston, New Bedford and Providence, R.I. In addition, Island Airlines (tel.: 800-248-7779, website) offers frequent flights and charters out of Hyannis. But I am not a big fan of small planes – plus we had Cricket’s dog Cumpa, and bikes for the renters to use.

So the best bet was to drive, then take a ferry. We packed up the car, braved the Friday I-95 traffic and made it to Hyannis in four hours. Hyannis is a good-size port town on Cape Cod. Fortunately Frank and Cricket already have a car on Nantucket, so we did not have to take the slow car ferry operated by Steamship Authority (508-477-8600; website: www.steamshipauthority.com; summer one-way fares are adults $14, children 5-12 $7.25, children under 5 are free; car $175, bike $6). Not only does the car ferry take over two hours, but taking an automobile on a summer weekend requires a month’s advance reservation.

Another slow, economical way to get to Nantucket is Hy-Line Cruises (tel.: 800-492-8082; website: www.hy-linecruises.com). This traditional ferry takes just under two hours. Summertime one-way fares are adults $15.50, children 5-12 $7.75; children under 5 are free. Both Hy-Line Cruises and Steamship Authority also operate high-speed catamarans, which take only an hour from Hyannis. The Steamship Authority’s high-speed service is called the Flying Cloud (tel.: 508-495-FAST; one-way tickets: adult $27.50; children 5-12 $20.75). We took Hy-Line Cruises (website; summer one-way fares are adults $36; children 5-12 $27; bikes $5), because their schedule worked best for us. Getting on and off Hy-Line was a breeze, even with everything we brought -- including three big bags of groceries from Trader Joe’s in Hyannis. Kudos to the bellmen, who helped passengers load and unload cars.

On the ferry we sat next to two nice sisters. They live on the island every summer, and told us the best places to go. By the time the captain slowed the boat down heading into port, there was contagious excitement in the air. Everyone was so happy -- especially me. It was the same rush I get when I arrive in a far-off land for the very first time.

Stepping off the boat was like going back in time -- in a good way. Everything was so quaint, the locals were friendly, and there were no fast food chains or Starbucks. Hallelujah! It was old school, but with all the modern conveniences – like electricity, internet, and paved roads. While Cricket waited with Cumpa and our bags, Frank and I rode the bikes to his house to get the car. I’ll never forget riding on those uneven cobblestone streets (only found in the center of town), passing so many historic buildings (there are still more than 800 houses that were built before the Civil War). I was particularly impressed by the illuminated church steeple. With all of the historic surroundings, and the bright moon shining through the full-bloom oak trees, I felt like I was in Salem, Mass. Okay, I’ve never been to Salem -- but thanks to Hollywood movies, I feel like I have.

To better understand Nantucket, here’s a brief history of the island. It was discovered in 1602 by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold. When he arrived, there were 1,500 Native Americans of the Wampanoag Tribe. In 1659 the English settlement began. Back then Nantucket was under the jurisdiction of New York. The "nine original purchasers" from Thomas Mayhew were Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swayne, Thomas Bernard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greenleafe, John Swayne and William Pike. You still see those names all around town. From 1800 to 1840 Nantucket was considered the Whaling Capital of the World. At its peak, 88 Nantucket whaling ships sailing around the globe.

Whaling made Nantucket famous. Just like in the fictional book Moby Dick, the Nantucket whalers hunted the sperm whale. It produced valuable spermaceti oil (wax) from the spermaceti organ located in its head. Before electricity, whalers used this oil to make candles. They sailed all over the world, hunting these mammoth mammals down. Ships were gone anywhere from two to five years. Along the way they picked up more manpower. That’s why it was not unusual to see people from all parts of the planet -- Portuguese, South Pacific Islanders, Africans -- walking around Nantucket. To learn more about whaling and whales, check out the recently remodeled Whaling Museum at 13 Broad Street (tel.: 508-228-1894). My brother Frank recommends reading the book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.

In 1846 a "Great Fire" began in Gary’s Hat Shop in the middle of the night. It destroyed the wharves and much of the business district, in part because the buildings were so close together and the streets were so narrow. Remarkably, no one died, yet the only building left standing was William Roache’s accounting firm. His brick building remains in Nantucket today. When the town was rebuilt the streets wider – and every building on Main Street was constructed of brick. (Most are now covered by wood shingles).

Because of the fire and the steadily declining demand for whale oil after crude oil was discovered, the island underwent a severe depression. This continued until the islanders began promoting tourism. In 1881 a railroad was built from Steamboat Wharf to Surfside, where a new hotel was constructed. In 1917 the railroad was washed out by a major storm. Today only one rail car that remains. It is attached to the Club Car Restaurant (website: www.theclubcar.com). In 1918, cars were permitted on Nantucket.

Nantucket is full of history. There are so many interesting facts and stories. I learned a great deal by taking an 80-minute tour, given by the Historical Society. Tours depart every day from the Whaling Museum at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. The cost is $10, and groups are limited to 20 people (dogs are welcome!).

Now that you have a good background on Nantucket, next week I will tell you all about my trip. Of course there will be plenty of pictures and web resources. I will even include a short video.

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet

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Pictures From

The Trip


Frank Packing Up Car


Cape Cod



Ferry Tickets


Car Ferry


On the Ferry






Riding to the House



History Tour



Walking Tour


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    This website is for travelers who are REALLY on a budget. SleepingInAirports.com includes over 3,000 listings from travelers who rate their sleeping-in-airport experiences by 3 symbols. A skull and bones means it was "hell - sleep, comfort and/or safety are not possible." A crossbones accompanied by a happy face equals "tolerable - not terrible, but not that great either." The best symbol is just a happy face. That means "excellent, considering it's an airport -- sleeping, comfort and/or safety are possible."

    Even if you do not plan to sleep in an airport (who does?!), you should log on and read some user comments. They are both enlightening and funny. There are also plenty of helpful tips, in case your late-night flight is cancelled and you have no place to go. These range from the best terminals to sleep in, to what to pack in your carry-on (eye shades, ear plugs, bottled water, snacks, books and magazines…) The site also advises overnighters to act innocent, dress for the occasion (in layers), and have fun.

    In case you're wondering: The best airport to sleep in is Singapore's Changi (top choice for the past 8 years). Other airports that are good to get stuck in: Amsterdam, Auckland, Brisbane, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul. The worst airport to sleep in is Papua New Guinea's Port Moresby. One contributor witnessed 7 people killed in a gang shootout (that’s a good enough reason for me to get a hotel there). Other worst-rated airports include Boston (most seats have armrests, and there are lots of security announcements), and Bombay (dirty, smelly, lots of mosquitoes, and security guards ask for bribes).
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