Thursday, March 3, 2011
Kennedy Space Center
The first night on the road was uneventful - thankfully. the big adventure of the day was at a McDonalds in South Carolina off of I-95. I had a coupon for a free fish sandwich if I bought one. Buy one, get one free concept. So I ordered a Fish Sandwich meal for $4.39 and said here is my coupon for the second fish sandwich. the free one.
So, the fellow at the register rang it up and it came out to $8.00 and some change. So, stupid me, I asked how he did that. He called the manager over and she took a whack at it. She futzed with the cash register for about 10 minutes and I finally suggested that she simply ring up the $4.39 meal and hand me another sandwich. That caused a major short circuit and after another 10 minutes of futzing, we finally got to $5.50. At that point, I took the deal and ate my free $1.00+ sandwich.
So, got to Kennedy Space Center about noon on Feb 23rd. I did not intend to take a tour. Instead, I simply wantd to know where I could best view the launch. They said I could buy a two day pass which would include a ticket to view the launch from the visitor center. But they were running out of passes to the visitor center, so make up my mind or be S.O.L. Easy, let's take the two day pass. Besides, this will be the last time I get to see a shuttle sitting on the launch pad.
So, off I go on the tour bus with 50 of my best Chinese buddies. They are taking pictures too so they can steal our technology and sell it back to us. Who knows, maybe in 10 years, you will be able to buy a space shuttle at Wal-Mart. And the instructions will be in Spanish and English.
So, I saw the VAB - Vehicle Assembly Building and then off to an observation tower where we could look at Pad 39A. The shuttle itself was obscured by the gantry and all of that mess but I could still see the nose of the big orange main fuel tank. They said it goes through 1,500 gallons of fuel in one second during liftoff.
Then on to the Saturn V and Apollo exhibits where they have a full scale Saturn V rocket on its side and one of the actual Apollo capsules. I had been there a number of years ago so I sort of did the O.J. Simpson dash (before he went to jail) through because I needed to be at St. Sebastian park by 5:00 pm to claim my camping spot. And oh by the way, to get a good viewing spot for the launch tomorrow, be back by 7:00 am.
So, I drove like a batoutahell to get to St. Sebastian Park about an hour south of the Cape. Made it at 4:55 pm. Got there and the ranger told me that I don't have a reservation. He told me that I must be at St. Sebastian Game Preserve - about 15 miles away. I can't even find that one on a map. So now it is well after 5:00 pm, campgrounds are full and most offices are closed and I don't have a place to stay. Hmmmm. I'm becoming a tad annoyed. Both with myself and life in general. I ask, are there any other campgrounds? Sure, try this one. Donald McDonald campground. OK. I'm thinking this has got to be some kind of joke. A takeoff on Ronald McDonald and you get to camp with a clown.
So, I decide to drive back up I-95 and get closer to Cape Kennedy and just get a cheap Motel 6 for the night. So I get to Cocoa Beach and pull off and get to a Motel 6. Fine. What's the rate? $149.00 plus tax. So what's the deal? I paid $52.00 with tax last night in Brunswick GA. Shuttle launch tomorrow buddy, do you want the room or not? We have three rooms left and there are people standing behind you in line. Is that the AAA rate? That's the only rate. By the way, it's a smoking room. OK, fine, I'll take it. Do I have to smoke? I get some reply in Hindi that sounds like a cobra coming out of a slurpee machine.
So, the room smells like old cigarette smoke with cheap air freshener sprayed liberally. Where's the wi-fi so I can do my blog? No Wi-fi. How about a light over the vanity so I can see to brush my teeth? Later I discover only basic cable. No Discovery Channel, No History Channel. Only NBC. No TV tonight In the morning, another surprise, no hot water. No coffee in the room either. Ahh, a great stay at the Punjab Hilton.
So, needless to say, I'm up early. I pack my backpack with a bottle of gator-ade, water, 2 apples and a bag of Doritos. Got my folding chair and my video camera and my tripod and I'm ready for the expedition of the day.
Next Chapter - Launch day -Or picnicing with 40,000 of your best friends - Or Where old car batteries go to die.