Wed. Dec 11, 2013:
As it turns out, going to be at 3 in the afternoon is a good way to ensure a super early wake up the next day. I was sore and sick of being in bed. It was only 8:00 (I had woken up at 7:30 and still tried to sleep, alas I was sore in all positions) and I figured everyone would still be asleep. Somehow I was still the last one out of bed. It was decided that after crepes for breakfast we would set out for the Kennedy Space Centre.
We put all our faith in the GPS to guide us there. That is until we got to a neighbourhood service station and the GPS said we had arrived. Jokes ensued about seeing where the shuttles get serviced while we tried again with the GPS. This time we put in Cape Canaveral and we were on our way. The GPS assured us that we would be there in an hour. I am not sure that it took into account having to stop at a toll booth every few miles, it was ridiculous. I would have rather paid a higher toll at just one booth. After a while Brent noticed that two exits ago the signs for Kennedy Space Centre had stopped. We followed the GPS, taking the exit it suggested. We stopped at gas station and asked for directions; turns out we had to backtrack two exits. When we checked to see where the GPS was taking us, we found out it was taking us to Kennedy Camp Grounds. No more GPS, we were going to follow highway signs. Thankfully the gas station had a Dunkin’ Donuts so I too could fill up: on coffee and donuts. Given the season, I was drawn in by the red velvet latte and matching donut. While we were in the Dunkin’ Donuts there was a group of horribly annoying guys. One of them said to Tasha: looks like you dropped something. I was looking all around, mildly panicked, wondering what she could have possibly dropped. And then he said: your smile. No reaction whatsoever from Tasha, nothing but laughter from the guy’s friend: if only that were the end of it. His friend commented that he had not done it right, and proceeded to demonstrate how it is done… and used the exact same line on Tasha again. Of course more laughter ensued as he too got shut out. Another from the group piped up that they were both saying it wrong. “I hope we weren’t annoying,” one of them said to us on our way out.
Back on the highway we finally saw some signs for Kennedy Space Centre, we were back on track! It felt like we were really close once we took the right exit. What I had forgotten to account for was driving all the way out, given it was located on a little tiny peninsula, as in far away from everything. On the way we saw a gator in the canal running parallel to the road. As it turns out, the land around the Kennedy Space Centre is a nature reserve, which explains that photo of a frog getting blown sky-high during a rocket launch.
We started our day in the rocket garden which is exactly what it sounds like: winding paths with rockets interspersed throughout flowerbeds, complete with little info boards. We looked at maybe two rockets before seeking shelter from the noonday sun in the History of Space Exploration exhibit. Back outside in the rocket garden they have a Gemini capsule you could climb into. I did not enjoy it, it was cramped and tiny and only added on to the list of reasons why I will never be an astronaut. The Angry Birds in Space exhibit seemed unrelated and I learned nothing there. There was a laser maze you could go through, wherein you had to jump over and crawl under lasers. There was a camera inside; we could watch Brent and then Greg attempt the maze. The results were hilarious. Alas, the supervisor came over and Tasha did not get a chance, turns out it was meant only for kids.
We stopped at the Orbit Café for lunch. It was absolutely horrid. My chicken tenders tasted like peanuts. I watched them make Brent’s chicken sandwich, as she pulled the pre-cooked chicken breast out of the warmer, it was soaking wet and dripping: that is not right. After lunch we went on the bus tour. Up until then it had seemed that Kennedy Space Centre was a bit of a rip-off, so expensive and so few things to see (rocket garden, history of space flight, Angry Birds and the one building, Atlantis, we had not gone to yet). It all seemed like stuff that could be set up anywhere.
The bus was taking us to an exhibit on the Saturn V rockets, but instead of going straight there, we took the scenic route. We got to see launch pads, bases, the Vehicular Assembly Building (i.e.: where they build the rockets). One of the coolest things was getting to see a Crawler, as in what they use to get the rockets from the Vehicular Assembly Building TO the actual launch pad. Along the way we also saw some more alligators hanging out in canals.
We were dropped off at the Saturn V Rocket Centre and left standing there. It was a long boring wait, but finally we were let in. We stood in a giant room and watched a video about the creation of the Saturn V rocket, it was tacky and horrible. From there the doors opened into a small auditorium, at the front of which they had set up the actual control room from the Saturn V launch to the moon. On the screen they played clips from the actual launch, both raw footage of NASA people running about and people watching the launch. When the footage of the launch played, the whole auditorium shook so as to add a sense of realism. Another set of doors opened and there, suspended from the ceiling on its side was the Saturn V rocket in all its giant glory. I cannot state how enormous it was, for comparison: I am guessing it would not fit in an airplane hangar.
I got to touch more moon rock, this time it was basalt which is naturally smooth unlike the rock in the Smithsonian which was smoothed over time with wear. They had on display the Kitty Hawk capsule from the Apollo 14 mission, it had been to space and back: you could tell, compared to all the other stuff on display. It was no longer silver, having taken on a tarnished brown colour. The only space food they had in the gift shop was astronaut ice cream. I had been hoping to buy as souvenirs some food in a tube or something really wacky.
The bus ride back was much shorter, as we drove directly back. Along the way in the canal there were what appeared to be flamingoes (in the Nature &Technology building we would later learn that they were roseate spoonbills). In the Atlantis building we had to go up a ramp, around a corner and up another ramp. There was so much anticipation building… only to be faced with a barrier and a sign saying we had to wait 7 minutes for the next showing. I was concerned that this was the wait for the shuttle launch simulation, which I had every intention of sitting out. Turns out it was a movie about Atlantis. The movie continued in a second room, except this time it played on all the walls and the ceiling, making me really dizzy. It was supposed to make us feel like we were aboard the Atlantis shuttle.
The doors opened and there in front us was the Atlantis shuttle, complete with a Canadarm (of which there are apparently multiples, not just one as I had previously thought). There was more age discrimination as we tried to take the slide down to the next floor, it was at the angle of re-entry, but you had to be under 12 years old. On the lower floor of the exhibit, down below the shuttle, there were various simulations you could test out. I tried to land a shuttle but it only made me really dizzy and I crashed, further proving what a lousy astronaut I would make. I sat out for the shuttle launch exhibition, as I was still not feeling 100% better after the flu.
We were so close to being done; we had only 3 exhibits left! The Hubble Space telescope exhibit sucked, we were expecting gorgeous colour photos, but there were only a few. It was mostly little info bubbles about it intended for people who were waiting around to be let in for the IMAX films. I was tempted by the movie theatre popcorn, so I stayed behind while they went to the robot exhibit. I had to settle for Cracker Jacks because the popcorn was only available in giant tubs. Apparently I had only missed Greg getting hugged by a robot; the rest of the exhibit was boring. I was about to ask Brent if he knew that the astronaut posted outside the exhibit was in fact a person in costume, until I saw out of the corner of my eye that the astronaut was following him.
The Nature & Tech exhibit was really boring and unrelated; it was about the wildlife in the nature reserve part. We were all very tired and ready to leave. For dinner, Brent and I went to the sports bar. I was craving greasy, garlicky chicken wings: the perfect dinner for a sore throat. I had brought along my souvenir cup, but the bar tender made way too much margarita and I ended up with an extra half cup on the side. The best part of the day, no matter what Greg says, was the bus ride.