Kennedy Space Center, a 3,500 year old Cypress tree and other interesting things

Friday night, shortly after work, I began heading up to Kennedy Space Center. Hours later, I arrived at a Love’s at exit 129 on 1-95 in Ft. Pierce, FL, ready to bed down for the night before getting up the next morning. The Truck Stop itself sat on a shabby part of highway, right next to an ENORMOUS Adult Superstore. Eh, it looked a little sketchy, but the vibe wasn’t too bad, so I went ahead and parked and tried to get some sleep. Several hours later in delays sleeping due to excessively high heat and humiidty, I finally passed out.

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

Got back on the road shortly after 7am and drove up to Kennedy. As I later learned, minimum safe viewing distance for a shuttle launch is 3 miles away – otherwise the sound will either damage you, or – if you’re close enough, kill you outright. Yay, nifty deadly facts. 🙂 Almost everything from Cape Canaveral up to Kennedy is Space Coast this or Space Coast that.

Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39

I arrived at the Space Center, startled that I’d seen more alligators on this trip than I had in my entire time staying in the Everglades. I also noticed that, instead of going horizontally like most ley lines do throughout the world, the Kennedy Space Center has ley lines that go from the ground up into space. Kinda made me think what came first – were the ley lines here before NASA started the first launches, or did man help bring them into existence from the huge amounts of energy expended each time something is sent up into space? It’s something I’m still pondering.

The Visitor Complex Admission Ticket is around $45, but it’s WORTH EVERY PENNY.

Garden of Rockets – Kennedy Space Center

As you walk in, you can see the ‘garden of rockets’ off to the right. Inside it’s a small collection of tourist trap stops, frozen dot ice cream and IMAX move theaters. There’s also the Space Shuttle Experience, which I didn’t have time to ‘experience’ this time ’round, unfortunately, due to time constraints. With the Visitor Complex Admission Ticket ticket, you get a bus tour past the Vehicle Assembly Building, the ENORMOUS crawler that takes the ships from the VAB to the launch pad (a process that apparently takes over 8 hours to get from the building to the launch pad itself) before being dropped off at the LC 39 Observation Gantry where you can see the two launch pads – one, currently still in operation and the other decommissioned. I ran around there for a little bit, getting pictures and just taking in the entire experience.

I then went down into the gift shop and bought a couple things for my niece and nephews before engaging in a wonderful conversation with these two animated NASA employees that worked the shop. I explained my plans to travel around the country, and told them about some of the things I’d seen so far and was told that I was ‘an inspiriation’. 🙂 They were very nice Christian ladies that weren’t at all overbearing or hateful, and they said that they’d pray to the angels to keep me safe while I was on the road, for which I was duly grateful. People praying FOR me, I got no issue with. People praying AT me or because they feel that there’s something wrong with who I am, bugs the crap out of me.

Apollo / Saturn V Center

I then meandered back to the bus and we headed to our next location – the Apollo / Saturn V Center. A group of us waited for what seemed like a pretty long time for these large metal doors to open.. It some point, I started wondering if this was one of those social experiments designed to see how long they could get people in a group to simply stand by a door before somebody started asking one of the employees a question about when it would open. Finally, it did, and we were able to walk into a large theater that then showed a film detailing a bit about the astronauts and events leading up to the Apollo 8 mission. After that, we were led into a large theater with bench seating in a representation of the launch control center for the Apollo 8 mission.

All the consoles down on the floor were the actual ones used during the mission, which was a really cool touch. It was about a ten minute presentation, with the full countdown and launch of the Apollo 8 vehicle – and as the rocket finally took off, the entire room shook with the sound. It was a really intense experience. As I did back when I watched the Roving Mars IMAX movie at the Air and Space center in DC, I actually cried. I’m so completely overwhelmed and moved by the very idea of space travel. The enormity of the tasks that mankind went through, and still goes through, to get a vehicle, manned or unmanned, into space is just dazzling.

inside the Apollo / Saturn V Center

After that presentation, the group walked into a room with an actual Saturn V rocket, broken out into components. It’s held up in the hanger so that you can walk underneath it and see it from all sides but the top. Within this room are spacesuits, lunar buggies and other treasures from the Apollo missions. I don’t think that most people, when they think of space flight, consider how audacious it was to construct these programs – much less actually go into space in these vehicles, or out into the cold void of space itself to do spacewalks or affect repairs to ships in orbit. We’re inundated with space movies where amazing, spectacular things happen, but the reality is just mind blowing.

inside the Apollo / Saturn V Center

Because time was running out, and there were many other places I wanted to go, I didn’t have time to do the Space Shuttle Experience. I’ll have to try to get back someday to do it and check out more of the facility.

Like I said before – WORTH. EVERY. PENNY. (PICS)

I then drove out to Cape Canaveral and stood in the ocean waves while looking over at the remote launching platform in the distance. I found myself wondering what it must be like for the residents here whenever there was a launch. Did they get irritated as hell at all the people from around the country that migrate down here to experience the event? And what must it be like to witness such a thing as it happens. I can’t even imagine – but dammit, someday I’m going to come down here and watch NASA send something up. I’ll probably cry like a baby while it happens, too.

inside the Apollo / Saturn V Center

My next stop was St. Luke’s Cemetery in Oviedo, FL. I was curious about the small menacing building that had been the cause of negative experiences for people visiting the cemetary. I visited, conducted my spiritual business, then left lighthearted. Got a couple pictures of the gorgeous trees around the area as well.

Big Tree Park – Orlando, FL

I then wanted to get to Orlando out to see that 3,500 year old tree that that a 26 year old idiot burned down because, according to the news report, she wanted to ‘light a fire to see it better’ at night. First, I found myself at a place called Big Tree Park off of 930 N Thornton Ave in Orlando. It’s in a fairly nice suburban neighborhood and is a gorgeous, happy old tree. At first, I thought that this was the tree from the news report, but then realized that the tree mentioned in the articles was in fact in Big Tree Park in LONGWOOD, FL about 25 minutes down the highway. I took a couple of pictures of the tree, then sprinkled a tiny amount of mom’s ashes at the base of the trunk. This weekend was the anniversary of her death, and I think it made her happy to rest at the foot of yet another big florida tree covered with spanish moss.

Big Tree Park – Orlando, FL

Big Tree Park – Longwood, FL – the location of the 3,000+ year old cypress that burned down earlier this year

I then tried in vain to try to locate the overpass on I-4 at the St. John’s River in Seminole County, but couldn’t find it, so I headed out to Rouse Road Cemetery. It’s hard to find parking on the road, and the traffic there can be somewhat breakneck, so it’s probably best to visit it during daylight hours. However, being that it was past 7:30 at night, the sun had gone down and the moonlight illuminated my way as I walked up to the cemetary gates. It’s not really well marked – if you drove by it and weren’t looking for it, you’d miss it – at least in the dark. I went inside, conducted the spiritual business that I needed to there, then left. (It bears explaining that I DO NOT deface or desecrate graveyards, EVER – and I don’t do this on a ghost hunting lark. If any of you are honestly curious about what I do when it comes to dealing with those who have passed on, email me – but I don’t get into details in public)

Once my ritual work was completed, I then zoomed back into Orlando proper, hoping to get to go on the 2 hour Orlando Ghost Tour through various haunted buildings in the city. Sadly, parking was crap and I got there too late, so I jumped back on the highway and drove out to the nearest Love’s Truck stop – exit 44 off of I-4 in Auburndale, FL. When I finally arrived and went up to the counter to ask where I could park for the night, it was explained to me that they ‘didn’t allow overnight parking’. One hour parking only. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Funny – it’s the first Love’s that I’ve encountered on the road that hasn’t. AND, on their own iPhone App particular location clearly stated that overnight parking was one of the amenities.

Not wanting to start a fight when I was already woozy with sleep, I just got back on the road. Not five minutes down the road was a rest stop with overnight security, so I headed for it, hoping DESPERATELY that it was actually what it said – a REST stop. Thankfully, it was indeed, and I was able to crash there for the night. I’ve already written to Love’s about the incident- who knows if anything will be done about it or not, but I did my part to make them aware of it.

The Holy Land Experience – Orlando, FL

That night there were lots of windstorms and rain. Several times throughout the night I imagined waking up and exiting the van, only to find a pair of legs that ended in a bright, ruby pair of slippers poking out from underneath it. At some point in the week hours of the morning, a small chorus of owls started hooting somewhere nearby – then stopped, then started up again, then stopped. This happened a couple of times and it made me grin each time. I got moving at about 8am, heading up to Longwood to see the actual ancient cypress tree that had burned and collapsed. I was waylaid by The Holy Land Experience theme park on the side of the highway, though. I drove by, but they’re closed on sundays – go figure. Very disappointing.

Big Tree Park – Longwood, FL – the location of the 3,000+ year old cypress that burned down earlier this year

Continued on my way up Longwood, but sadly, the park was closed to the public, which I guess makes sense while they work to clean up the debris. I couldn’t see the remains of the tree from the gate, but could see blackened scorch marks on a couple of trees in the back. 😦 (couple of pix starting here)
At this point, I take a look at my handy dandy roadsideamerica.com app, and Cassadega, the spiritualist/medium community that I’d been wanting to visit was only a half hour away. I went ahead and visited, enjoying the feel of the place when I arrived. I parked and walked around a bit, getting a feel for the energy of the place – very invigorating. I picked up a few essentials that I’d been looking for from some of the stores, and ended up having a conversation with one of the girls there who mentioned that the cypress had lots of saplings at its base that weren’t harmed, so there’s a nice nugget of hope there. 🙂

LEGOLAND Florida – Winter Haven, FL

I did some personal stuff with the energy from the vortex, then headed back on the road. It was then time to go visit LEGOland. On the way back down I-4, I finally found the overpass on I-4 at the St. John’s River in Seminole County and did my spiritual healing/helping thing there, then got back on the road. After a long drive south, back in the direction of the RV park, I arrived to find that admission to LEGOland was $75. Now, I loved LEGOs as a kid – but not that damned much. I’m only willing to spend so much on certain kinds of nostalgia. Hell, if I wanted to get plugged for that much cash, I’d have gone to Disney.
Although LEGOland was a letdown, I was exhausted from everything I’d done over the weekend and it was time to head home.
Mischief Managed. 🙂
Now – I leave to head back to Texas on thursday night, right after work. I figure I’m going to hit the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, FL. If I’m feeling REALLY brazen, I may also try to hit the NASA center in Houston, but I don’t think I’ll have time. Throughout my time on the road, I tend to do what I call ‘drive dialing’, which is pretty much where I just pick a person and call them so that I can share some of the trip with them – so if I end up calling you and chittering inanely, you’ve won that round of calling.
Enjoy!
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