Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Month of Vacation

So for the month of June, I kept alluding to the upcoming vacation that the hubby and I were taking. We finally took off for our vacation at the beginning of July. We headed out on a cross country road trip to see the last shuttle launch of Atlantis. It was a long road trip from California to Florida. I called it our coast to coast to coast trip. Since we have decided to no longer fly due to currently TSA policies, we have had to make some decisions on how we are traveling. This time we chose to drive, and it was overall a very eye opening, but fun trip. We would drive at least twelve hours a day in order to make it in time to see the launch. The days were long, but we would break up the monotony with my afternoon news reports reading the news aloud as well as reading about different topics that we would wonder about. I read about everything from armadillos to Saltair to The Thing?. Don't click on that last one if you love roadside attractions and don't want the I-10 The Thing ruined for you. The biggest stand out of the trip out was the great food at Peck's Seafood in Slidell, Louisiana. We tried our best to support as many local and small businesses on this trip as possible. Many of our meals were at small mom and pop type places or out of our cooler rather than going the usual fast food route. The food at Peck's was amazing and huge. The staff there was super friendly and attentive. My big favorites there was the crab and corn chowder as well as the oyster po boy. The shrimp platter had more food than you could shake a stick at. It was a great place, a little ways off the interstate but well worth the side trip for some good fried seafood.

Finally we ended up in Titusville the day before the launch, and we had to go to bed early. The wake up call for us on launch day was 2:30 in the morning. We needed to be at Kennedy Space Center at 4:00 am, so we made our lunches and headed out for the day. The trip out took only 50 minutes. Once we got to the center and headed through security, our next stop was to get on a bus tour. We got on one of the last bus tours for the day. It was neat to see the buildings in the dark all lit up with flood lights for the launch. The vehicle assembly building definitely gave me shivers as we drove past it. We went out to the Saturn V center to see the rocket (pictured above) and the control center. I have to say that aside from the launch and watching the sun rise over the launch vehicle from the Saturn V center, this was my favorite thing at Kennedy. It was a well done recreation of the launch sequences that used to take place out of the control room. The windows rattle, the room rumbles, and the screens on the desks show the views that each person would have seen.

We decided to just watch and experience the launch when it happened rather than try to take pictures or watch it with binoculars.I am glad that we did this. It was spectacular to watch, and I am so glad we got to be there to experience it. The light from the shuttle was so intense, and it was the best example of the difference between the speed of light vs. the speed of sound. We did not hear the sound of the launch until after the shuttle was out of sight through the clouds, around 22 seconds after the launch started. We did take pictures of ourselves in front of the exhaust trail before heading to our bus for the trip back from Banana Creek Causeway to the visitors center. I don't look too bad for having only a few hours of sleep before the early pre-dawn arrival time. It was on the bus that we realized we made the right choice to watch rather than try to capture the fleeting moment of the launch. Many people were lamenting that they saw nothing and had no pictures to show for it either. I was so glad that I saw it and love the memory of that moment.

After the launch we headed back across the country. We went to St. Petersburg, Flordia next. A quick stop was made at The Dali Museum. It was well worth the side trip. The museum has some very neat pieces, and while I wished we had a bit more time than we did, it was a nice diversion from the usual days of driving. We then went out to dinner at a great local restaurant in Maderia Beach called Walt'z Fish Shak. The staff can be kind of brisk, and the place is populated by locals, but once they realize you are there for their true seafood versus one of the many chain places, all that melts away. Make sure you arrive well before 6 pm as items from the small menu disappear soon after that time. All the fish is fresh caught that day and prepared very well. We had a great time there and headed off for the next destination. We stopped in Paducah, Kentucky for a quick quilt shop browse, and I left with some great fabrics for a few aprons before the main event, Kansas City Barbeque. This time through, we stopped at the original Arthur Bryant's. It was great, and I totally recommend that you visit the one in the industrial part of town. Looking at their smoke box was amazing. The crew there is fast and efficient, and we ate ourselves silly.

From there we headed toward Rocky Mountain National Park. That was a great camping trip. We spent three days at the park camping and hiking around the mountains. We took the Alberta Falls trail up to Lock Vale. It was a moderate hike, and it only became difficult once we hit the snow pack. We had no poles with us, so it was all sorts of hands and knees scrambling to get up to certain places. The waterfalls were spectacular as the snow was very heavy this year and the rainstorms in the area have also been plentiful. We packed in our lunch and took a leisurely six mile round trip hike. The weather was perfect, and despite my thoughts that we were going to get poured on from the rain in the afternoon, a drop never fell on us. It fell on the campsite, but not on us.

The Loch was worth the extra trip up. We originally planned a shorter hike, but we wanted to make it up to Thompson Falls. Once we learned from other hikers that the upper falls was obstructed from view by ice and snow, we decided the loch was far enough. The water was super clear, and you could see all the fish swimming by. The local YMCA camp was doing some sort of initiation rite by having the campers jump into the glacier fed water. It was cold for sure, and while I am sure the kids enjoyed it from their triumphant yells, there was no way I was going into that cold water. We made our way down for a night of star gazing back at the campsite and got to see some wildlife up and personal that night. Deer were feeding on the grass just behind our tent, and a huge male elk was also feeding at the front of the campground.

The sunsets up in Rocky Mountain were spectacular. This was the view from our picnic table one night. It was just a beautiful tapestry of clouds and color every night. From there we headed home after a two week journey. It was great. I then had five days to recover and get packed before heading off to Chaos Wars in Idaho for eleven days. That was also very fun. It is always good to get to see old friends and get some combat archery under my belt for the year. I danced at the bonfires, and was delighted to make some new friends as well as reconnect with some old ones. Now I am getting back into the swing of homemaking, and there is a lot to do. While it is a well oiled machine, starting back up from an almost month long absence is difficult to say the least. There are piles of laundry to do, rooms to clean, and equipment to store. Costumes need repair, and I need sleep to get over my usual "Chaos Cough." A lot has gone on, and new plans are in the works. Check back for more updates and a new feature to the blog hopefully starting this Friday! It is good to be back, and I cannot wait to start in on all that my mind wants to do!

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