Friday, March 27, 2020

Kennedy Space Center!

(Note - we were in Florida back in February; this is one of several catch-up posts from that time period)

Kennedy Space Center!  I've been wanting to come to Cape Canaveral for some time, and while we didn't manage to get lucky enough to time our visit with an actual rocket launch, maybe that just means we'll have to come back someday.

Especially since we didn't have time to see any of the nature-related things in the area either (like manatees!).  As soon as I started browsing the KSC website I knew we'd need to spend every possible minute making maximum use of our entry fee (and also that we wouldn't have time to see everything there even).

So while I was highly focused that week on not getting sick (so we could get on the cruise, which was screening passengers for any COVID symptoms), we went and braved the crowds at the space center.  And washed our hands a lot.

Live love and prosper, Astronaut Friend:

John can move the world, or the whole sky even - his training lately has been paying off:

Space Shuttle rocket model - life size, I believe:

We started right away toward the Space Shuttle Atlantis, our last remaining shuttle to visit (after Enterprise, Discovery, and Endeavour).  First, a gathering in a theater...

The dramatic unveiling of Atlantis reminded us that we weren't far from Orlando/Disney, quite an impressive introduction to this space shuttle "in flight".  Hello Atlantis, it's great to finally meet you!

An item of note is that the folks in Los Angeles are hoping to eventually display Endeavour in the upright launch position, which would be super cool to see someday.

The Canada Arm, used for many missions in space:

A wonderful look into the cargo bay:

A quote from Neil DeGrasse Tyson describing how the Hubble Space Telescope was repaired, along with one of many amazing images from it:

An early shuttle computer...

Which was named SPOC!  Coincidence?  I think not.  They should have added "Kiosk" to the end of the acronym though.

Hey, another Star Trek reference - astronaut Rick Searfoss was onboard our first Star Trek cruise and gave some excellent presentations about his time in actual space (one of the few - maybe the only one - on board the ship who had been there for real).  RIP Mr. Searfoss.

An unexpected Stephen Colbert sighting - he just pops up when you least expect it sometimes:

Here we have the Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill!  Too funny.

More Star Trek - as part of the memorial to Michael Anderson and the crew of Space Shuttle Columbia:

A photo of John Glenn going back to space on shuttle Discovery, super cool:

The NASA Airstream bus that transported astronauts:

On the bus tour out past the control center:

Tesla cars parked at a SpaceX building, woot!

One of the SpaceX launch pads, so amazing to be this close to something we've been watching on webcasts for several years now:

Imagine being here and watching that!

A really nice tribute to Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin:

Wait, where's the camera?  I managed to capture one more Star Trek-related image before the screen changed...  can you tell what was on my mind at the time?

Up-Goer Five, in real life!  Ridiculously large and impossible to capture in a photograph.  And so awesome to see.

Another attempt, along with an oversized notepad and "space pen":

One of the places you might could watch a launch, if you happened to be here at the right time:

Continuing the walk through the long building, finally to the front section and the "people box":

It's almost like we're on the moon too, playing golf, driving around:

But first, imagine having to travel there and back in this!

An actual NASA capsule, rescued from the ocean:

A moon rock, and like most everything else here, it's the real thing:

So this is really neat, and I just happened to hear a tour guide explain that the artist, Alan Bean, was also an astronaut who walked on the moon in 1969!

Models of Mars rovers, so adorable.

SpaceX makes another appearance, in the hall of future missions:

And finally, as the sun is setting on this planet and they are asking people to leave so they can go home too, the rocket garden which we'll need to explore - another time!

In closing, a 1914 quote from another brave explorer:

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Driving around the Southeast

This post spans several states, as we drove from South Carolina down to Florida and then up to Alabama and finally back to Florida, with a bit of Georgia too.  It's a good thing I keep a workout log so I could go back and figure out where we were.

For starters - Skidaway Island state park.  The campground is large, shady, quiet and very pleasant.  We're starting to gravitate toward state parks because many have trails right out the door.  Many of those trails are camera-worthy, including at Skidaway.

The highlight here was the variety of shapes in the vegetation:

We are definitely still in swamp territory:

Fun run through the fronds:

Just driving down the road with house in tow:

We next camped east of Jacksonville, and while driving around in Tug (our truck) we noticed a ferry was boarding.  Looks like a shortcut over to the A1A, let's get on!

Getting a whole lot better at ID'ing pelicans, especially when we get up-close views from a ferry barge:

Just a little bit of route 1A1 for now.  On our subsequent drive down the east coast of Florida we followed it for long stretches (in between jumps out to I-95 for quicker movement) and it was fun seeing all the coastal towns, beach areas, palm trees...

Somewhere in the Florida panhandle - a solar farm, yay!

One big accomplishment for February was -finally- reaching the highest point in Florida, all 345 feet of it.  It has been humorous to us that we were lacking only the lowest and highest highpoints of the 50 states.  Now, with #49 in the books, we're left with the obvious challenge of Denali (and no specific plans yet to attempt it, we shall see).

Signing the register:

It's a nice little roadside park:

Woo hoo, last highpoint for a while!

Another excellent state park - Oak Mountain near Birmingham, and an even larger set of trails to explore.  We didn't get even close to see the whole thing and hopefully we'll get a chance to come back sometime.

There were plenty of hills to train on, and a little pond on top of one of them:

After being in the lowlands it was nice to get a view again:

A historical site, complete with a piece of the wreckage:

The patterns in this rootstock struck me as interesting:

Lovely path along a creek:

OK, now jumping ahead... we parked Howie (our travel trailer) at Lake Guntersville and started a "Tug Tour" for several weeks.  The truck is set up with a bed in the back so we can sleep comfortably in it.  We alternated camping and hotel rooms as we meandered down through Alabama (running an FKT along the way), Georgia, and back to Florida.

Back to the sandy shores, and a bit of wildlife to welcome us:

We had time to enjoy a beach or two along the way:

In the middle of this photoset we spent a day at Kennedy Space Center, but that's a blog post in itself (next up!).

Jetty Park campground was an excellent find, close to Cape Canaveral and within walking distance of the Atlantic.  We went for an early morning stroll and John realized that we were probably looking at the port we cruised out of with the family a couple years ago.

Looking for sunrise:

Florida is not lacking in birds to photograph:

Our pelican friends are here too:

Love watching pelicans glide over the water:

One more stop - Blowing Rocks!  I believe someone on Facebook recommended this place, so I followed the "star" I had placed on my Google Map and we ended up here.  So glad we did, it's neat.  Starting with the vegetation lacing over the shady path:

"No, not lava this time!" rocks along the beach:

Fun with camera angles:

Sometimes at high tide when the wind is right, there are little blowholes around here.

An excellent tunnel through the vines and a great place for a walk:

Next up - SPACE!