Friday, July 8, 2011

We have liftoff!

July 8, 2011, Space Coast—The day didn’t start without mishap, but it grew into one that was memorable.
Last night we both showered before going to bed. (Nice to know, right?) When you are in an RV, the experts generally recommend what they call a “Navy shower”—wet down, soap up, rinse off. That recommendation is made for when you are boondocking—that is, camping without hookups.
We are in an RV park, and we are hooked up. At least, now we are. Last night, when we pulled into the park, it was raining, so Jim hooked up the water and the electrical outlets. That gave us plenty of H20 and electricity. But he didn’t hook up the sewer (grey water) connection, which would automatically drain the grey water tank. The problem was that he had parked the motorhome about six feet too far forward, and the sewer hose wouldn’t reach. Since it was raining, he decided to wait until the morning to fix the problem, if at all.
We forgot about showers.
Since we had plenty of water…well you get the picture. We (OK, maybe I) didn’t do a Navy shower. So, when we woke up this morning and Jim was about to take an a.m. shower, he discovered about four inches of water in the shower stall.
Not a major problem, but a lesson learned. It successfully drained, of course, once he hooked up the sewer.
I thought we were going to watch the launch from the RV park; I was mistaken. Jim wanted to get much closer, so at about 10:30 we headed out toward Titusville, which is near Cape Canaveral. The weather was still iffy but blue sky showed through the clouds, so everyone (thousands of people) were optimistic.
The closer we got to the Cape, the more congested the highway became. Cars were parked everywhere, and people were hiking along the highway, moving in a mass eastward. We hoped they knew where they were going, since we joined the troop as it trudged up (literally) the highway, took shortcuts across woody and weedy areas, and finally ended up in a park on the Indian River, part of the Intracoastal Waterway system. We walked about 1.5 miles. Had I realized we were going to take a nature hike, I’d have worn sneakers, not sandals. Fortunately, I had the insight to prepare a thermos of ice water for each of us and insist that we take chairs. We needed both by the time we reached our viewing destination.
Once we got settled, we had about a half hour to wait. The minutes passed, but no one knew if the launch would take place. The park was packed with people. On the bridge to Merritt Island, about a mile away, we could see thousands more waiting in anticipation. Would it be a “go”?
As the designated launch time—11:26 a.m.—passed, everyone wondered. Then, a couple minutes later, we could see the smoke from the rocket and then suddenly, glowing in the patch of blue sky, was the rocket with the shuttle on its back! It burned brightly for several seconds, perhaps 30, before becoming hidden in the clouds. Just as it passed into the clouds beyond our view, we could hear the sound of the rockets! Loud! They rumbled so much you could almost—not quite—feel them beneath your feet.
It was over in minutes. As the smoke dissipated, we packed up our chairs, camera, binoculars, and water bottles and made the long trek (downhill time) back to the car.
We stopped for lunch at a local barbecue place, where the wait staff was selling T-shirts of the last shuttle launch.
Next time you see me, I may be wearing, “STS 135: Final Shuttle Mission.” It was historic.
Until next time,

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