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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.