Saturday, May 15, 2010

Shuttle Launch and a Beachfront Idyll

5/8 - 5/15/10

Nancy came back from her visit home on Tuesday and I was glad to have her back. My Mom is kind of up and down, mostly down and it does not look real good for the future. At this point we are just waiting things out.

We decided to go over to the east coast to watch the shuttle launch on Friday 5/14. This will be the final voyage of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and there will be only two additional shuttle launches before the program is shut down. After doing some investigating we determined that the best place to watch from was around Titusville. We also found that traffic coming back west after the launch would be pretty bad, so we decided to find a room for Friday night - easier said than done at this late date. We decided to look farther south around Melbourne and found a small beachfront motel in Melbourne beach that had a room for Friday evening only.

The advice we found on the web suggested that we needed to be in place at our viewing spot “three to four hours” before the launch! As it turns out, that was good advice. We left Ruskin about 7:45 AM on Friday, took our usual back road route up through Plant City to I-4, then into Orlando where we headed east on FL 417 to FL 528. So far so good, started to pick up some traffic on 528, including a mile long back-up into the first toll booth. Traffic was heavy, but when we made the turn NE onto FL407 we came to a stop! We crawled along at no more that 10 miles and hour, with lengthy full stops. It took over an hour to go the four miles to I-95! Only bright spot was that this area had clouds of love bugs, but we were not going fast enough to splatter them on the car (we made up for this on Saturday!) Realizing that we were probably in the traffic actually going into the Kennedy Space Center - for which tickets were required - we hopped on I-95 north and easily made it into downtown Titusville. The best viewing was shown as “Space View Park” so we went looking for that, a pretty easy search given the crowds headed that way! We found a very convenient parking spot for $15, good thing we have a tiny car and could fit it into the last space in this particular lot. Walking into the park we found a good spot along the street in the shade of a palm tree to set up our chairs, eventually there were four of us moving along with the shade of this tree as the day wore on!

We were in place about 10:30 AM - for a 2:20 PM launch! There was a pretty sizable crowd already there, any later and we would have been hard pressed to find any shade at all! We spent the next several hours reading, chatting with our neighbors, and people watching. By the time of the launch the crowd was huge and people were even standing waist deep in the water in the bay between the arms of the park.

In the center of this picture there is a gazebo at the end of the pier, just to the left of it is a mound on the far shore, the launch pad is just to the left of that mound. As it turned out we had an excellent viewing spot and could see the launch quite clearly. We were about 15 miles from the launch pad and a little over a minute after ignition we could clearly hear the sound of the launch, just about the time I took this picture:

Afterwards we were able to get our things collected and back to the car pretty quickly. We then headed south on US 1 and of course traffic was horrendous for the first hour. Thank goodness we got the AC fixed in the smart! It performed flawlessly all the way along. It took two hours to get to Melbourne Beach, what should have been about an hour drive, but it was well worth it. The Sea View Motel was exactly as advertised, nice, clean and our king bed room was right on the beach. Here is a picture of Nancy on our patio just after we arrived:

It was a beautiful evening with a nice sea breeze and we took a long walk on the beach before dinner. This motel is on what amounts to a private beach that runs for miles with only a few houses, as well as a nature preserve and a county park, a really pretty spot.

We walked across the street to Cafe Coconut Cove, an excellent German restaurant with good German beer on draft, and had a very nice dinner as we watched the sunset across the Indian River Lagoon.

Saturday morning we were up before dawn so we could watch the sunrise from our patio.

Then we took a nice long walk on the beach and came across tracks where a sea turtle had come ashore during the night to bury her eggs. To get an idea of the scale, those are ATV tracks in the upper right corner of the picture. This was one big turtle, the tracks were about 30” wide, and we could see where she came up and turned, the mound where the eggs are buried, and a second set of tracks (top of picture) where she returned to the water.

After breakfast we sat on our patio and enjoyed the ocean view for a couple of hours before heading back to Ruskin. We drove south on the barrier islands to Vero Beach and then took highway 60 back west through Lake Wales and Bartow before dropping south in Mulberry to FL 674 west. The love bugs were out in force and when we stopped for lunch at Lake Wales Family Restaurant we washed a lot of the bugs off and hosed off the front of the car. When we got to the car wash in Sun City Center later in the afternoon the guy said “Wow, I did not think you could kill that many bugs with a smart car!”, then we told him we had already washed it once today!

Back to our home away from home by mid-afternoon after a really nice interlude on the east coast. We would heartily recommend the Sea View Motel for anyone looking for a nice beachfront location in Florida.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is the Formula One Race from Monaco, and then the Blackhawks play the first game of the Western Conference finals in the afternoon, so we know where Dennis will be!


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