Road Trip Along The Colonia Connection Highway

The journal of a fool who may now be regretting his drunken boasts and plans back in the bubble.

Pre amble. This trip was made along the Colonia Connection Highway in 3306, flying the newly renamed Diamondback Explorer HMS Dolphin with a fully fuelled jump range of 57.25LY and a theoretical of 62.18.

Day 0 – To the start point

I must have been drunk last night.  Declaring that I would head to Colonia for a road trip, hitting everyone of the stops on the Colonia Connection Highway along the way.  What am I a travel writer?  Actually I must have been really drunk as for some reason I boasted I would start from Hutton Orbital in Alpha Centauri.  Not been there before.  Guess I’ll get the t-shirt once I arrive.

It started off last night at the bar in The Great Western at Brunel Hub in the Ceos system.  The recent collapse in the materials market has hit mining hard.  Not that I mine much beyond raising drinking cash.  But the atmosphere was depressing and people were drinking hard.  It was then that the tales and arguments started.  Back in my day …. And so on.  I have vague memories of around this time blurting out that with nothing to do I would go on a road trip to Colonia.  Yes, I was drunk.

The trip to Alpha Centauri was uneventful.  It’s my first time here.  The realisation of what I’ve let myself in for has just hit me.  Forget the hundreds of jumps and fuel stops to Colonia, it’s the getting to Hutton Orbital.  It’s just so far.  I’m sure there should be some way to FSD there, but no, you have to fly the hard way.  At least it’s not at sub light speeds ….

80 light seconds out and I’ve just had a bit of a shock.  The alarms suddenly went off and I had to rush back to the cockpit.  What, you expected me to sit there for hours with nothing to look at for a simple trip with no one around?  Except there are other ships.  Just like the one that’s just tried to interdict me and which was not even visible.  A cheeky pirate preying upon the tourists.  I wouldn’t care, I’m not even carrying any cargo for him to steal.  Still I managed to get into the seat in time and wrestle control.

Now at Hutton Orbital I find there are no “I went to Hutton Orbital and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” t-shirts left.  Still I got a mug and a bottle of the local gin to recover from my shakes and drown my sorrows.  Shame I just dropped and broke the mug.  Tomorrow is the start, time to hit the sack.

Day 1 Morning – Alpha Centauri to Mammon Monitoring Facility at Mammon (20 jumps)

So it was time to start.  I made my way to the ‘Mug’ beacon while setting up my first route.  20 jumps, about 1,100 light years.  What could go wrong.  It’s not like I don’t trust the flight computer overlays but the artificial orbital lines clutter my HUD and what sort of idiot needs them?  This sort – on just my second fuel scoop session I managed to leave scorch marks along the bottom of the ship.  Ah crap.  Still I made my way on and I’m now at the Manon Monitoring Facility.  It’s an asteroid base, the first I’ve seen and been to.  All impressions of awe vanished as soon as I wandered in to ‘town’ though.  This is a simple mining facility with the capabilities of supporting and maintaining the ships based here.  There’s not much to do aside from the usual chain bar and grill.  Oh there’s a temple as well – they have their own religion – Seekers of Mammon or something like that.  Just glad they are not in to abstinence as I needed this beer.

Day 1 Afternoon – Mammon to Hillary Depot at Blu Thua AI-A c14-10 (23 jumps)

OK so the plan was to do one run then relax and be a tourist in the afternoon.  Ever tried being a tourist in a religious mining base?  Didn’t work for me.  Also I had expected to be doing anywhere between 40 and 60 jumps a day so two short hops to start off with was not so bad.  Except I’m now planet side.  Gravity weighing me down, or is that the discovery that this almost is a truck stop straight out of twentieth century America.  Rows of spaceships, all showing signs of travel.  A long, low cantina server food.  Another building ‘servicing’ lonely pilots.  Yes even in the black there’s a need for certain comforts.

Sleep well space cowboys ….

Day 2 Part 1 – Blu Thua AI-A c14-10 to Amundsen Terminal at Lagoon Sector NI-S b4-10 (44 jumps)

My back hurt this morning.  Maybe not what you’re quite thinking though.  Planets – there’s just no consistency in gravity.  On a ship, in a station, you’re at Earth standard 1.0G.  Here – well it’s not that different but it was enough to result in my catching my foot and going flying, well crashing.  Still I was in good enough condition with a pain killer or two to clamber back in to the cockpit and head on my way.

This was the first time this trip I started to watch my fuel.  Four jumps without being able to scoop.  Sure my baby has some range, but it’s still just six and a half jumps max, about 380 light years.  Still I did not find myself having to divert in the hunt for a fuel star, unlike last time when I trekked out in to the Soul Sector and failed to find that interesting destination being anything more than a vague brown patch of space.

I’m also starting to wonder if stating I was going to do every stop on the way was a wise choice.  Now I am about to make a massive 1 jump journey to my next stop.  Still Amundsen Terminal was not decorated with pine furnishings as I had hoped, it was just another planet side mining base stop over.

Day 2 Part 2 – Amundsen Terminal to Attenborough’s Watch at Lagoon Sector FW-W d1-122 Sector (1 jump!)

Attenborough’s Watch is an asteroid base, my second, but this time with facilities not controlled by (potential) religious nutters.  It’s a bit of a trek from the main star and could best be described as a hive of villainy, still I’ve just had a damn fine steak.  Sure there was a fire fight outside the station when I arrived, but we’ve all seen that enough times within the bubble.  Oh and before I forget, for some reason Attenborough’s Watch is placed on the far side of the asteroid ring from the main star, meaning for the last few klicks you have to manually weave through rocks.

Here’s one thing though.  When making drunken plans, sober up first before sorting through the details.  I had spotted the closeness of Amundsen Terminal and Attenborough’s Watch, however it was only after staggering back to the ship to crash after a few brews that I noticed my next three port of calls barely cover 1000 light years between them.  I could have, and possibly should have, done all 5 stops in one day.  I would have been good practice as well as I’ll have a 4000 light year jump to do in a few days’ time.

Day 3 Part 1 – Attenborough’s Watch to Observation Post Epsilon at Trifid Sector IR-W d1-52 (13 jumps)

Wish I had more time here as the system looks interesting, but with three jumps to make this is purely a quick refresh stop.  The Observation Post is an odd place.  While it is a hollowed out asteroid in a material rich ring, it feels more like a military base.  In some respects perhaps it is a good job I’ve now tidied up and have to run.

Day 3 Part 2 – Observation Post Epsilon to Rock of Isolation at Omega Sector OD-S b4-0 (16 jumps)

My first time at a detention centre and I feel nervous.  I’ve not done anything wrong and I do know the way station is separated from penal colony itself, but I still keep thinking I’ll get back to find a few passengers.  Oh and there are cameras everywhere and I’m certain I was being watched in the toilet.

Day 3 Part 3 – Rock of Isolation to Omega Mining Operation at Omega Sector VE-Q b5-15 (1 jump)

Well I arrived without being hijacked or held to hostage, or even any additional passengers.

While this is another asteroid base, what a difference.  One worth noting.  It has both a shipyard and outfitting.  Nothing large, but worth noting for safety.  More geared for mining of course and if you need to extend your fuel capacity don’t expect much more than a couple of additional units.

Food and entertainment wise.  It’s a miners’ base of operation.  Mainly simple food and drink, plus a couple of high-end joints for big celebrations.  Oh and a casino come cat house.  I must admit the run between the observation post and the penal colony was tiring.  Perhaps I was more dehydrated than I first thought after the drinking session last night.  Part of me thinks I should take advantage of the facilities here, part of me thinks I should be bright and awake for my first trip through the Eagle Nebula tomorrow.  Hope it’s as impressive as it looks on the maps.  I hear music and cheering, just five minutes should be fine.

Day 4 Part 1 – Omega Mining Operation to Eagle Sector Secure Facility at Eagle Sector IR-W d1-105 (28 jumps)

Think I might have caught something last night.  Oh boy do they party hard at the Omega Mining Operation.  It might be in the middle of nowhere, but yeah gods was it fun.  Or at least as far as I can remember.  Feeling a slight itch now and also seem to have regressed to the mentality of a ten year old for a while.  After just a half dozen jumps I caught myself thinking ‘are we nearly there yet’ ….

Entering the Eagle Nebula was a bit of a let down.  As you approach this dark purple patch the hazy brown background grows larger and larger and then vanishes.  Looking back you can see a bunch of stars and it is interesting but not quite what I expected.  Perhaps I should have jumped short.  In fact I’ve decided I will jump back to the middle of it before moving on to my stop for the night at Eagle’s Landing. No improvement.

Oh by the way, only come here if you’re desperate for a refuel, it is a truly boring rock.

Day 4 Part 2 – Eagle Sector Secure Facility to Eagle’s Landing at Eagle Sector IR-W d1-117 (2 jumps including diversion)

I’m not sure what I was expecting.  Bright lights and ethereal neon signs?  Heavenly trumpets?  Certainly not more of the same, just a reasonable number of bright pin pricks in the sky, and to think I had purposely chosen the middle of the nebula as my destination.  Still we live and learn and so on to Eagle’s Landing, a planetary outpost which is almost 5000 light seconds out from the main star.

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but with Eagle’s landing you could still be in the bubble.  It is also somewhat of a contradiction.  This is a large establishment with plenty of space, offices, accommodation, yet there are very few amenities.  I must admit I am surprised there are no spaceship facilities beyond fuelling and simple repairs here or at the Eagle Sector Secure Facility as there is 700 light years to travel in one direction and 1500 in the other for real help.

I would say I’m bored here, but it’s pleasant enough.  Would almost be the ideal family facility if there were many children here, but there are not.  It almost feels like this was expected to be the centre of a major mining rush that never occurred.  Oh and as for the doctor’s – a very clean and well-appointed facility where I was given some cream for the itch.  Turns out it was a reaction to some post mining residue dust – presumably picked up in a bar.  I hope.

Day 5 Part 1 – Eagle’s Landing to Mjolnir’s Wrath at Nyeajaae VU-Y a27-9 (25 jumps)

What a name for a penal facility.  It’s like a finishing move in some fantasy MMO game.  “I finish him with my Mjolner’s Wrath”.  Still interesting place to have a station.  I’ve just done around 200 light years without being able to scoop fuel from a star, including in this system.  It does make it sound like any escape attempt back towards the Bubble could be high risk.  Having said that I’m not sure just what prison facilities they have here as there’s a starport which sells ships on the same base.  Isn’t that like a major source of temptation, or perhaps it’s just taunting. Perhaps the inmates are low risk long term ones who are close to release and are employed making and maintaining small ships to give them a trade once they are allowed back in society?

Obviously I’m not hanging around here for too long, especially when Eudaemon Anchorage is just a jump away.  It’s that damn list again, and that damn boast I would hit every stop along the way.  Still at least the coffee is half decent.

Oh oddly enough, no Cartographers here, does that mean that any stolen space ship will have a blank navigation computer?

BTW the planet this facility orbits looks interesting.  Almost titanium grey in colour but with strong orange bands across the surface, almost like rivers.  Would be tempting to go down there and take a look, but that would be when you discover Mjolner’s Wrath is just a transit point and the real prison is down there….

Day 5 Part 2 – Mjolnir’s Wrath to Eudoxus Hithe at Rohini (1 jump)

There are two stations listed in the guide so I was always going to hit this one first, after all Eudaemon Anchorage is a fully fledged space station.  Actually this place is an ok mining depot, and the whole system would not look out of place back in the Bubble.  Still no point in me hanging around. A quick refuel just so I can’t be accused of wasting the ground crew’s time and then off to civilisation.

Oh side note, I spotted a third station in the system, but Orange Vista Enterprises is not on the list so I’m off the hook with that one.

Day 5 Part 3 – Eudoxus Hithe to Eudaemon Anchorage (no jumps)

A real proper fully fledged space station!!!  Except it’s not.  Maybe in a year or two but at present it is a building site.  Actually that’s partly unfair.  There’s still the sort of facilities you would expect near Sol, just lots of boarded off areas which are still under construction.  Even the landing bay only looks to be a third to half done.

Still it means proper facilities, almost proper civilisation and the need to behave as I have a long day tomorrow, when I cross over the half way point on the trip.  Next stop looks interesting as the computers show my destination to be in a brown area of space. Still last time I went to such an area it was disappointing (and a 15k light year round trip).

Day 6 – Eudaemon Anchorage to Sacaqawea Space Port at Skaudai CH-B d14-34 (75 jumps)

Well the longest run in this adventure (outbound anyhow) is now over.  75 jumps, some  4100+ light years.  Also I’m now finally out of the Inner Orion Spur and in the Inner Scutum Centaurum Arm.  Who names these things?  Not my first time outside of Orion as my previous jaunt took me across two sectors, though that sounds more than it was as I clipped the corner of one of those regions – still sounds better.

At one point I wasn’t sure if the ship entertainment system was taking the piss out of me.  I was suddenly asked if I wanted to play I Spy !?! until I realised it was just re-runs of some 21st century 2D comedy.  I chose to stick to music.

This may not have been the longest I’ve been in the pilot chair, having undertaken a 102 jump session before, but boy am I now tired and so are my eyes.  This space port may not have much to offer but I was still able to upload my navigation data to update the Universal Cartographics records.  Looks like this has put me in favour with Colonia Council and I’ve not even reached there yet.  One thing I do wonder about though.  How to they get the new information around.  After all it would take time to use ships to carry the data everywhere.  I did hear they might be using some Guardian communications technology, but that was in a bar under the influence of alcohol, so it was probably just BS.  Probably.

Tomorrow I should be heading to Gagarin Gate at Gru Hypue KS-T d3-31, a 56 jump run, however I’m going to be a tourist instead.  Just 9 jumps away is the famous The Collection of Worlds, so I’m going to head over and see if I can be at one with space.  It’s in the wrong direction so I’ll head back here afterwards rather than doing a long slog.  I never said that I would hit a new stop everyday, just that I would hit every one in the route on the way out.  Time to look for some transcendental music on the ship entertainment unit.

Day 7 – Side trip to ‘The Collection of Worlds’ (Skaude AA-A H294) (9 jumps each way)

I’m not sure quite what I expected.  Probably what they showed in the brochures – typical travel agents, all photo shopped.  To be honest it is an interesting system, though flying straight into the navigation beacon really did not help my initial mood.

I think for the two black holes you really need the other stars to be in the right alignment.  Don’t get me wrong, they were impressive and I managed to get too close be knocked out of super drive on each occasion.  As for the neutron star …

I should have looked at the white dwarf as well, but I’ve seen one before unlike a neutron star.  It’s large and primordial.  I found myself drawn to it and super charged my engines and ….  Well I did jump out, but …

You know how when you first get a new ship you have to go through the system to stop it asking you idiot questions?  Well I bet one of those was ‘do you want me to recalculate your jump route as your FSD is now supercharged’.  Guess what I forgot to do, and so all the benefit from a few butt clenching minutes were wasted.  Still at least I know how to do it for next time.

Day 8 – Sacaqawea Space Port to Gagarin Gate at Gru Hypue KS-T d3-31 (56 jumps)

On the way over I looked up who or what Gagarin was.  Turns out he was the first man in space.  Considering who he was I expected some sort of theme, like the outpost being laid out in the shape of a star, and red in colour, but no it’s the usual kit mining facility with about as much here to do as you would expect.  At least the Laika grill serves decent enough food.

Now I’m close to three quarters the way along the route I’ve come to realise why some people splash out on the produce of Gutamaya, where you pay for those luxury touches and fittings, including in the crew quarters, or even the Dolphin or Orca, where not only do you get the same extras but you can also mount a luxury cabin to bed down and relax in.  Sure the Diamondback Explorer is sturdy, reliable, rugged, has great range and endurance, but it is some what utilitarian.  I am comfy but on this long trek I feel like I would prefer to stretch out more or treat myself when relaxing, especially after the long flights like today and a few days back.  Once in Colonia I might have to hire one as a runabout before returning.  Will probably give enough time for a full check up and service on the old girl as well.

Tomorrow is a shorter run, but with two star systems and three stations to visit. This will leave me three runs of similar length to today.

Day 8 Part 1 – Gagarin Gate to Penal Ship Omicron at Stuelou AT-J c25-24 (37 jumps)

Are there such a things as tours of penal colonies?  As I approached a number of liners were jockeying for position and photo shots.  Still there are worse obsessions to have out there, and some are even not alcohol or drug fuelled.  I’m not going to drink again for years once I’m back as without the evil liquor I would still be safe and comfortable within the bubble.  Of course that’s not going to stop me having the occasional beer with my food …

Also what star system is Kansas in.  A few times now I’ve seen signs up on docks saying I’m not there any more.  Not sure I’ve ever been there and I can’t find it in the nav computer.

Not sure if I’m getting paranoid with being in the middle of nowhere, but I think there’s an odd vibration in the port thruster.  The systems check out just fine so I think my mind is telling me an over haul is due on arrival in Colonia.  Also you can tell I’m getting closer to the galactic centre as the density of stars suddenly became a lot greater over the last ten or so jumps.

Day 8 Part 2 – Penal Ship Omicron to Marlin’s Reach at Gandharvi (1 jump)

So Caravanserai is near the entrance star and Marlin’s Reach is over 16k light seconds away, so guess which one I’ve gone to first.  It does make sense from a comfort and relaxation point of view at the end of the day, but it still means spending a fair while going to and from the place.

Arrival at Marlin’s Reach does throw you. After all it’s your stock mining station, however it has been re-purposed as an observation and science unit for the planet below, as Gandharvi B2 is Earth like and they are looking to try and colonise it someday.  I suppose any environmental alterations are being controlled from up here.  Considering it’s purpose and the lack of a shipyard, the outfitting section is surprisingly well stocked.

Day 8 Part 3 – Marlin’s Reach to Caravanserai (no jumps)

Ok I have to admit it.  This is a beautiful white oasis in the middle of nowhere.  A suitable resting place for weary travellers.  Sure they’re still building the station, but it’s far closer to completion than Eudaemon Anchorage and it’s shipyard and outfitting outlets are fully functional.  Having done some quick research in to the origins of the name I’m also glad to report it is not a dry port, so beer or wine will be consumed alongside tonight’s food.  Hoping for a themed restaurant as I’m frankly more than a little board of steaks and burgers.  I’m a soft explorer, not a trucker.

Day 9 – Carvanserai to Polo Harbour at Boewnst KS-S c20-959 (43 jumps)

Ok my brain hurts.  Nothing to do with alcohol, but the journey.  By the navigation computer I’m now 1620 light years closer, yet it took me some 43 jumps and none of those were short, so I’ve actually covered roughly 2450 light years.  Where did the extra 830 come from?!  What have Universal Cartographics programmed into the mapping?  What have I been diverted around.  What do they know.  Should we be nervous?  What does not help is that the astrogation system does not produce a step by step route for you. You would have thought with humanity being in space for so long we would know how to provide that information on demand and in easy to consume forms.

About halfway through I changed sector to the Norma Arm, and then just three jumps later I was back in the Inner Scutum Centaurum.   Another exploration tick in the box I suppose.

As to Polo Harbour itself.  Not a horse or a playing field in sight, in fact not much at all. It is really dark here and the port feels like it was installed as a simple rest stop to break up a very long branch on the highway.  Guess it’ll be a burger an beer again tonight.

Day 10 Part 1 – Polo Harbour to Marty’s Rest at Kashyapa (45 jumps)

I’m starting to really admire those who do the Colonia run in just one go or just a couple of stopovers.  I’m feeling more tired as I go along.  There’s a certain amount of rapidity with what I’m doing.  Sure it’s a nice idea in theory to stop and examine every star system and I was talking about doing a scaled down version on the way back, but with ~550-570 jumps that would just take too long, and after all what’s the point in drunkenly accepting a challenge like this if you can’t get back quickly to tell everyone about it.

Day 10 Part 2 – Martyr’s Rest to Vihara Gate (no jumps)

And that is it.  The list is complete.  The highway has been travelled and just the end point is left.  Next stop Jaques Station at Colonia.  Might have a decent rest before I move on and bring things to an end.  The tale is in the journey and getting there, not the arrival and while I’ve not done much in the way of investigation or side trips, there have still been points of interest.

Day 11 – Vihara Gate to Jaques Station at Colonia (45 jumps)

Well that final leg felt easy.  Think it was the normal – about to arrive mentality.  Still can’t complain.  When I lined the ship up for the final jump I felt a big grin come across my face on seeing Colonia in the HUD.

I’ve now landed, and have decided I will spend a short time in the area.  One thing I was not expecting was to find a line of ships outside Jaques Station.  All were cruise liners so I suspect they allowing passengers to take holos before docking.  Also saw a bulk freighter for the first time, presumably bringing supplies from the Bubble to Colonia.  Was an impressive site.  Perhaps that might be a source of quick and easy income, ferrying goods back and forth (though I expect wages/rewards to be low).

HMS Dolphin is now in for a full service.  Looking at the shipyard and brochures at present for something to use locally.  Only thing is no Gutamaya stuff over here (no Empire nor Alliance presence) and in reality I’m not sure an Orca or Beluga will be suitable for me.  I might have to go for something a lot more practical.

Update 10/8/2020
I always intended to include a scan of my route map, which I obtained from the excellent Elite Dangerous Fandon Wiki pages.
In addition – for those who are looking to get access to the engineer Mel Brandon. You need to be allies with the Colonia Connection Council. Easiest way is to ‘honk’/scan each sector on arrival and sell the astronomical data. I know one fear is doing a very long journey with lots of data which could be lost in an accident – well on the wiki sourced route map you will note a number of the stops, which I have also marked on the left, are aligned/owned by them, so selling data there not only removes the risk of losing data, but also gains the influence you need before you even arrive. You still need to do a ‘gain access’ mission once you have arrived, then do some combat (for which I bought a new ship – don’t worry I still have HMS Dolphin) to gain bounties to trade.