Rockets and Beaches

We arrived at the Space Coast RV Resort in the early afternoon and got ourselves set up for the week. The Delta IV rocket carrying a next-generation GPS satellite into orbit was scheduled to launch at around 8:15pm, but the weather was taking a turn for the worse. After some torrential rains and heavy winds, things calmed down so we drove about 25 minutes to the prime viewing area, arriving about two hours before the launch. For Delta IV launches, it’s recommended to park along the side of the road near Port Canaveral where the cruise ships dock. The rain didn’t let up, so the launch was scrubbed at around 7:30. Fortunately, it was rescheduled for the next day, with a 90% chance of good weather.

20140516-IMG_2731Everyone’s lined up and waiting for the 8:03pm launch.

We returned on Friday, getting there earlier since the weather was perfect. Before long, car after car pulled up next to us along the side of the road, and eventually there was no room left for late arrivals. We read our books, caught up on e-mail, and chatted, so the 3-ish hours went by pretty quickly. The launch happened right on schedule, and was a fun experience! Since we were parked about 8 miles from the pad, it took over 30 seconds for the sound to reach us after we saw the launch. When it did, it was really impressive. I commented that it felt like someone turned a subwoofer up to “11”. We’re glad we were able to catch the launch, and hopefully it won’t be our last! Our video of the launch is below, but the puny microphone on our point-n-shoot was overwhelmed by the deep rumble of the launch, so it just sounds like wind.

We spent a few days in the “real world” taking care of grocery shopping, cleaning Rover’s insides, working on our budget, taking Max and Opie to the nearby dog park, and other mundane tasks. After the weekend crowds were gone, we headed to the Kennedy Space Center for a full day of fun (and education).

20140519-IMG_2765Space Shuttle Atlantis, the last shuttle to fly in space.

The Space Center was great! We’d visited a long time ago, but a lot has changed since then, and we needed a refresher course anyway. Most of the historical exhibits were really fascinating, giving insight into the space race during the cold war, or Goddard’s early experiments with rocketry. We did wander through one exhibit that purported to be about our robot emissaries to space, which we found to be lacking, even with the understanding that it was geared towards kids. The Apollo Saturn IV rocket was of course impressive and we spent a lot of time walking around (under) it in awe of its size and complexity, and the audacity it took to successfully create it in under a decade and launch it to the moon. The Space Shuttle Atlantis was also on display, and the Shuttle Launch simulator “ride” was a good experience too.

Another highlight of the day was the bus tour of the Space Center campus. Our driver was fun and did a good job explaining everything we saw. We were lucky and got to drive right past the “crawler” platform that carried the Apollo rocket and the Space Shuttles to the launch pad. It was rolling (crawling) down the road at 1 MPH. It’s a massive vehicle and I’m glad we got to see it in action!

20140519-IMG_0014The crawler carries large spacecraft like the Space Shuttle to the launch pad at 1 MPH over a pair of wide gravel roads.

 What better way to top off our week than a trip to the beach? Cocoa Beach was a short drive from our campground, so we packed up our chairs, towels, and stopped by 7-Eleven for some snacks to keep our energy up. In short—we had a blast! The water was nice, and we could wade out pretty far. There were enough people there to not feel lonely, but not so many that it felt crowded. Surfers came and went, and a couple of kite surfers sailed on by. We spent the day reading in the sun, swimming in the sea, people watching, and snacking. We’re not experienced sunbathers, so we both missed a couple spots with our sunblock… lesson learned, and hopefully we’ll be more thorough next time.

With another week behind us, we turn North and head to St. Augustine, for real this time!

20140521-photo 1Opie keeping cool at the Rockledge “Barks & Recreation” dog park.

Michael Fischer

After a high-tech career spanning software development and systems administration to leading hundreds of engineers across cities and continents, I’m now slowing things down a bit. Traveling full-time in an RV with my awesome wife Kathie and our two big dogs Max and Opie, I’m now pursuing smaller personal software projects while seeing North America up close.

6 Comments

  1. James Jensen   •  

    thanks for update on your travels…That area will one we want to visit when hit the road east.

    Jim

  2. Rod Reichardt   •  

    We’ve always enjoyed our visits to the space coast. We have usually visited in conjunction with shuttle launches. I was lucky enough to see three. One from about the same place you guys did. One from Kennedy and one from the VIP site near the Saturn V exhibit. That one was around 2:30 a.m. but was really fun. It was in the late 90s and was a mission to Mir, the Russian space station. There was a large contingent of vodka drinking Russians at the site with us. I have a brother in law who works for NASA and he received an award that included a week long tour of the Space Center culminating in the launch. He chose me as his guest. We got to go to several meals with astronauts and a reception for the Russian Space Agency folks. We toured the vehicle assembly building and the building where they packed the parachutes, with sledge hammers of all things. Maybe the coolest week of my life. We are planning to take our new 36LA that direction (from Texas) next Fall.

    • Mike   •     Author

      Sounds incredible Rod! Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    • Kat   •  

      Now THAT sounds like an awesome tour! VAB must have been pretty awe-inspiring!

  3. Julie Dahmer   •  

    I don’t know if you see replies like this from long past your blog date, but I am perusing your early blogs to get info on dog-unfriendly flora in the south. We met you last May at Crater Lake and learned about your blog. We loved Opie so much that we finally started thinking about another Lab and now have a 7-month-old black Lab who will travel with us in the RV when we head south for a few weeks in May (from Maine). (We are more than a year from a real long-distance trip). Your blog post here reminded me that our first long (12-day) RV trip took us to FL from MD to see one of the last space shuttle launches in Nov 2009. We were not towing a car then so we had to drive the RV everywhere. But it was great to just hang out in the RV for a couple hours after the launch until the crowds dispersed and we could get back to our campground (a very Stepford Wives place in Titusville–creepy-clean)

    • Mike   •     Author

      Hi again Julie! So far the only dog-unfriendly flora we’ve come across is Foxtail grass in the west (e.g. California). Our blog post about Pinnacles National Park includes our expensive trip to the emergency vet. A 7-month old Lab puppy must be quite an armful! Hope you enjoy your upcoming trip…

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