Florida Wanderings
Sunday, February 15th, 2009 - 12:05 pm
Category: Journal

I went to Florida on business, but decided to take a few extra days to wander around somewhat aimlessly. If east felt like a good direction to follow, well, I’d head east.

Feb 8
Sunday started with the usual “guess I better pack with since my flight leaves in a couple hours.” Got to the airport, into the air, landed, picked up my car, made my way to the hotel all with out incident. Actually it was pretty smooth going. My coworker and I went out to Tony Roma Steak House. It was passable. Although we’d be working outside of Daytona, we were staying at hotel in Orlando because one of the guys with the company lived nearby.

Feb 9-10
Training was pretty painless and interesting. The folks were very friendly and treated us to some really magnificent food. I really enjoyed it as strange as that may sound. Tuesday afternoon we finished up and I was on my own.

Feb 10 Evening
My next point of interest was to visit the “Space Coast” so I picked up couple fliers then started figuring out how I was going to get there. I remembered I had some points I could use to wrangle up a free hotel room, so that I did. I found a place in Titusville, which is across the water from the Kennedy Space Center. I drove out to the factory that morning to save a couple hours (and 150+ miles) of travelling.

As I started making my way down I realized that something interesting was going on ahead. There was a large, dark, funnel shaped cloud that I was pretty certain was coming from a brush fire. As I got closer I realized “That must be pretty close to my hotel.” As I got even closer I realized “That must be right next to my hotel.” And so it was. Right outside my room window.

After settling in and taking a quick shower it was time to head out shopping for some things I would need for the rest of the week. Rather than ask anyone I just figured I’d head east, towards the Space Center, and see if I could find a decent view of the launch facilities. There was a really exciting shopping mall that was so full you could hardly find a space to park…

…or not. Picked up the things I need then headed east some more to try to get to a beach and take some photos. I was able to get to a parking lot on the river, but wasn’t able to get any really decent photos.

(the lights on the horizon are the space center)
But what I did discover is that I was at a nice little restaurant. I went in and had a lovely dinner of fried mushrooms, broiled scallops in a sherry garlic sauce, and a couple glasses of Windham Hill cab that I found quite delightful. While I was there a young man who had just gotten back from service over seas proposed to his lady. There was much rejoicing.

The fire was still burning when I got back. It was, however, out in the morning. I would later learn that it was a controlled burn designed to create fire breaks to help keep things under control when storm season hits.

Feb 11
In the morning it was off to the Kennedy Space Center. I got out a bit later than I hoped, but managed to get there by about 10am. Unfortunately, that’s too late to get on the guided tours. Fortunately there is plenty to do. I would say this should easily be a 2 day visit if you have the time. I spent seven and a half hours there, and it’s largely sight seeing so rather than go into detail I’ll caption some photos.

Explorer Shuttle

This is a replica of the Space Shuttles. It wasn’t too exciting, but it was right next to the new Shuttle Launch Experience. That was pretty cool. You walk along a scaffold that takes you up to the ride. Along the way you hear about the launch experiences of folks from around the world from various stages in the space program. Once inside you strap in, they pivot the “shuttle” so that you are on your back. Through some shaking and pitch adjustments they really make it feel like its more than just gravity pulling back on you.

Space Shuttle
Shuttle in the distance

Discovery was originally supposed to launch on Feb 12. Due to some technical problems it has been postponed. I had hoped to catch the launch, but these things rarely ever launch on time. The shuttle is obscured by a shroud designed to protect the assembly from lightning strikes while it waits for launch day.
Launch Vehicle Assembly Building, Shuttle Service Facility & Crawler

You can see the cut out for the tail of the Shuttle. The launch vehicle building has two horizontally opening doors, and several vertically opening doors. The solid boosters, eternal fuel tank, and shuttle are assembled inside the building atop the crawler. Once assembled they travel several hours at less than one mile an hour to the launch pad. You can see a glimpse of the solid rockets and tank waiting to be mated with Atlantis for the next mission

Space Shuttle Main Engine

Various Launch Platforms

Apollo & Atlas
Mission Control

The “Moon Rocket”

We were able to see parts of the International Space Station being readied for launch.

After a long fun day at the Space Center, it was time to hit the road for Tampa to shoot pool with a friend.

150 miles later we found a pool hall with $1 pints. 6 pints later we were done shooting pool, and with the help of my cousin I found a cheap hotel for the night. It was pretty hideous. I’m pretty sure that shower hadn’t been cleaned in a while, the AC did not work, and it smelled kind of funny.. but I was asleep in fairly short order.

Feb 12
Morning broke and it was time to find myself a beach. I checked out and pointed my car east towards the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way I saw a sign for Tropicana Field, so being a baseball fan, I detoured and stopped for a couple quick photos.

It was pretty obvious I should have done the beach thing the night before instead as I headed into the clouds on the Bridge to Nowhere

Many miles later I got to a beach I was happy with. The water wasn’t too bad, but any Floridians in the area had sweatshirts on and were nowhere near the water. I was entirely undeterred. I waded around for a bit before deciding to dive in and swim around.. when I jumped up to dive in, however, my swim trunks stayed in the water. There weren’t too many people around, and those that were around didn’t seem to notice. There were a bunch of pelicans around diving into the water, I had gotten a couple shots of it, but they didn’t come out to well.

I really enjoyed my stay. I very much enjoyed my driving around which ever way the wind blew. I found a cheap little spot I could have rented for the rest of the weekend and I debated hard. But after stopping for lunch, I decided it was time for the long drive back to Orlando to catch my flight. It was a 3 hour drive, and full of danger. But with my trusty white PT Cruiser, I was somehow able to ride off into the sunset. Though I would soon find that staying another night probably wouldn’t have been so bad.

Dropped off the car and picked up my boarding pass with minimal incident.. except I noticed my boarding pass showed the flight being delayed 2 hours. The high winds knocked all travel to the north east back a couple hours. The flight before mine had been delayed 4 hours. The time posted on the board said my flight was delayed until 11, but the internet told me 12:30. At 10:30 the board changed to say we were boarding. There was nobody near our gate, there was no plane outside, and there were no answers as I went out to find out what was going on. By 11:00 our flight was no longer listed on the board.

At this point I elected myself as spokesperson of my fellow passengers and hunted down someone in that lovely Jet Blue plaid. They told me the plane we were waiting for should be landing at approximately 11:40. I went back to my companions and made the announcement. A half hour later they finally sent some folks over to talk to us and take care of us. Apparently one of the other passengers sought them out and gave them hell. They sent 4 people over.

Feb 13
I spent the next while practicing juggling my hat and balancing standing on the toes of one foot. Finally our plane arrived and we were boarded by 12:30.. but then we had another delay. The pilot didn’t get into specifics, but I’m sure it had to do with take off order and waiting for our place on line. We finally lifted off, I had Asobi Seksu and Brilliant Green going on the iPod, slept the whole way back. Getting home was uneventful, I put on the new episodes of Scrubs and went to sleep.

Vital Statistics:
times stopped for directions: 0
cars: 1
flights: 2
hotels: 3
times clothes changed in the car: 6
temperature: 70-80s
photos taken: 220
miles on the road: 800+
drinks: just enough
food: way too much
public nudity: you’re welcome Florida ;)

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