USA Road Trip-Space Shuttle Launch- week 23
Week 23- Of Space and Seas and Swamps, Snorkeling and Sunrises across Florida.
In choosing places to visit in the USA Jetty Park in Port Canaveral, Manatee Springs and Wakulla Springs State Parks in Chiefland and Tallahassee, both in Florida, hardly make a top ten list, but then life is full of surprises especially when you travel across the USA by looking at the Rand McNally Road map, Lets Go USA and the local visitors centers for where to go, with a bit of help from the locals.
Firstly you need to know that there is an important and vital difference between a visitor center and an information center. Both cater to visitors and both have information but as far as we can make out the emphasis is vastly different. The visitor center, normally run by the State or local City, is there to make information available about the area and its attractions while an information center is there to sell tours and entrance tickets to particular theme parks, tourist attractions, etc. Neither charge money for their services and both are very helpful but the information centers get a cut from the tour operators and so have to sell you packages that often can be very expensive and sometimes are not even needed if you are prepared to “do it yourself”. We invariably ‘did it our way’ and if that involved driving ourselves or walking it also meant we could do our thing and saved a lot of money!
We left Errol and Jessie’s house in Boynton Beach after a longer stay that planned due to various reasons and laden with a cooler box full of goodies from our very generous hosts. Our long stay there did give us the opportunity to experience the good life American way and become hooked on “Dancing with the Stars” and American Football (I also watched the finals of the “World Series of Baseball’ between the Phillies and New York). Now I remember why I don’t really want to stay in the USA, because with my lack of willpower I would become a coach potato in no time!
North on the I-95 to Port Canaveral and Jetty Park Campground, which, according to Audrey’s research on the internet, is the best place to watch the launch of the space shuttle and also happened to offer camping. The launch was scheduled for 14.28 on Monday, depending on the weather in Florida and also in Spain because that was the designated “bail out” area if something went wrong. We arrived relatively early after a 6.30 start from Boynton Beach and put out our deck chairs on the jetty facing towards Cape Canaveral amongst the other early arrivals who had also researched the best place to be or who had been there for other launches.
The gentleman camping next to us had made the journey from Connecticut to hopefully view his first launch. Everyone was suitably excited as the time drew closer and I wondered what I was going to do for two hours when, low and behold, a group of Pelicans, Terns and Egrets arrived on the rocks right in front of us to feed on a large shoal of bait fish that had obviously also heard about the launch and the pelicans and other birds had miss read launch for lunch, an easy mistake to make. As I clambered over the rocks and finally found a seat on a rock near the bird activity I was treated to a great photographic moment, or two, or three!
According to ground control everything was on track and so the countdown began about 5 minutes before launch time, the weather in Spain must have been fine(after all the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain) and we could see that the weather in Florida was indeed fine! Excitement among the waiting crowd was at fever pitch as those with cameras tried to estimate where the shuttle was going to appear, there was going to be no opportunity for a reshoot if you missed it the first time.
The radio commentators and the crowd together counted down the final 5 seconds and then there it was - a magnificent sight to behold and the crowd rightly hooped and hollered in amazement and wonder! Seconds later the sound of the booming lift off also arrined and then the rushing sound of the shuttle leaving the lower atmosphere. Audrey took video and I took still photos and you will be glad to hear that they came out reasonably well, with Audrey also recording the sound effects! There we sat with tears in our eyes, unable to speak for some time. I am still not certain why it moved me so much, but it did!
The sunset that evening was another marvelous sight and were the hundreds of birds that roosted on the beach at Jetty Park. We realized again that one must get out and see God’s great creation rather that sit at home and watch reruns of old TV programs and the depressing daily news of how we as humans seem to be doing a fine job of messing things up.
Tuesday we decided to stay on and go on a cheap half day cruise along the coast sponsored by those who put their money in the slot machines that lined the inside of the ship that had to leave the Florida coast before they could be used. Meanwhile we out on the deck took countless photos of amazing birds that seemed to delight in doing fly pasts again and again for us humans-for no obvious reason. Audrey unfortunately found out that she did not have sea legs and so the trip was less that a delight for her. Fortunately I was fine and so I filled a couple of flash cards with photos of the same birds as they passed by again and again! Hope I get at least a few good ones and I still have not had time to identify all the birds. We were excited to get some really good photos of a couple of American Skimmers on the beach amongst the variety of terns and gulls during a pleasant walk on the beach this evening.