Saturday, June 13, 2009

Day 13: KSC Tour

Jason and I woke up at 3AM Sat. morning to find the launch scrubbed. So we slept in and decided to hit up the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and do the cool NASA stuff.
We did a lot of neat stuff. First we hit up the IMAX film about the moon landing. It was in 3D, and done pretty well actually.
There was a full scale mock-up of the space shuttle on premises, along with a full scale mockup of the SRB's and External Tank.
Check out the cool tiles.
Mock up of the internal bay with a fake satellite.
Shuttle cockpit.
We checked out the astronaut memorial...something that I had seen on TV after the Columbia accident and had wanted to see. It's designed as a reflecting wall so the names appear in the clouds. Beautiful, and moving.
The rocket garden was pretty neat too. The horizontal rocket is the Saturn 1B.
The famous F1 engine from the Saturn V rocket used in the Apollo program.
Too big to fit them all on the camera, even with a wider angle lens.
We finished up the day with a cool drink and a walk thru of the Early Exploration museum. Pretty cool to see what was required to get to space back in the day. This shot is the ablative material from an old re-entry capsule.
The NASA control room from the 1960's. I am going to have to remember this for my dream home.

We ended the day with some speculation of NASA's plans, developing our own contingency plans for the rest of the trip and heading off to bed early to get good sleep.

Launch Scrubbed

One word: Doh!
NASA has cancelled today's launch of the space shuttle Endeavour because of a leak in the gaseous hydrogen vent system that developed late in fueling. Officials say the launch will be delayed until at least Wednesday and perhaps longer.
And since it moves up 25 minutes per day of delay, it's 100 minutes earlier and getting into a night launch. If it were to go up in 4 days, it would conflict with the LRO launch schedule. Which requires some negotation with the military. If they do NOT change the LRO schedule, then the earliest it could launch is June 20th at 3AM-ish. More here.

Not sure what the plan is tomorrow, but for now, back to sleep.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 12: Preparing for Launch

Today, was a rest day. I slept in and ran a few errands. Hit up Walmart for some camping supplies, Kinko's for some more website/trip cards (I had some made before I left, but ran out), the post office and some food at Dixie Crossroads. Jason's Aunt said it's where all the tourists want to go, and in fact, as we were leaving, the line was 1.5 hrs to get in. I had a plate of rock shrimp (like little lobsters) and some key lime pie. Very good.

Tomorrow is the launch. I am going to be in the VIP section, watching with the astronaut families, politicians and celebrities. Don't ask me how I managed that, I won't tell you. Jason and I get up at 3AM EST time to head over there. I board a bus at 4:30AM to the KSC and the launch is set at 7:17AM EST. I've got my HD camera and SLR ready, with a rigged up mount so I can work them both at the same time. Got the good mic and plan to have some time to practice before the launch. I really hope it doesn't get scrubbed. At least, not for too long.

I'll probably tour the KSC complex and do all the IMAX stuff after the launch.

I am so excited I can't sleep. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 10 & 11: Florida Panhandle

Jason and I woke up from our stay in Mobile and headed towards Florida. We drove around Pensacola and then took the 85 towards the beach. We stopped at the Florida visitors center...the rest stops are pretty cool. This one had a Jet and a previous one had a lunar lander. Texas has wifi at every roadside stop, even ones that are just a picnic table. Why doesn't California have this stuff?


Made a pass thru Destin, to see the beach I visited as a child. Very slow and lots of's completely different than I remember...very touristy and built up. I'm pretty sure that the place I stayed as a kid was either paved over or developed around so much as to not be recognizable. Or both.


Panama City was a hole...lots of traffic, crazy drivers and felt a little sketchy...reminded me of Tijuana. Bleck. Mexico Beach was very nice, relaxed. I should look at some property in that area. This is how I remember Destin...

Drove thru Apalachicola...a beautiful part of Florida, on the panhandle. Pretty trees and beach along highway 98...very scenic.

We decided to try to camp somewhere in that area but every state park in the area was full...guess it's that season. So we ended up at an RV park just off the beach. Very nice, but lots of bugs. We cooked up some of our freeze dried camping meals on our camp stoves. It was pretty good...this is Chili Mac:
Jason after setting up camp.

We checked out the beach at night, and found a bunch of crabs running around. They were about 8" long and ran really fast, doing their little crab walk.

Thinks he's camouflaged...
The little tracks...
Found his home.

The next day, after a terrible night's sleep (mosquitos + heat + humidity), Jason took a dip in the Gulf of Mexico while I took pics.
A few early morning joggers.

Driving out of Apalachicola was real nice...similar to what we'd seen between there and Destin. Lots of trees, occasional beach views.

We stopped in Perry, FL for breakfast. I got stuck in the bathroom in the diner, the door lock was jammed and wouldn't open. But I eventually escaped and was able to finish my food. It was good.

As we were leaving the diner, I pulled my cool vest out of the trash bag I had kept it in...all pre-soaked and ready for use. I thought it smelled kind of funny, but I put it on anyway. 2 hours later, we stopped for a little break and I smelled like a dead fish. I took it off and even went into the bathroom and washed my t-shirt in the sink. Bleck.

I had picked out Ocala Natioanl forest as a probable pretty route. Sounds good, driving thru a national forest, right? But it wasn't pretty like a national forest should be...just kinda plain with a few spots of southern pines. Jason and I played around getting pics of each other on the bikes. This is Jason on his 1200GSA.

Riding thru Daytona beach was...strange. Lot of other bikers...but out of about 30 or so I waved at, only 2 waved back. It had a weird vibe. And the car drivers had very little respect for bikers...riding our butts and cutting us off at any opportunity. For a beach town, it wasn't very laid back.

Jason had arranged it for us to stay with his Aunt, who just happens to live in Titusville. Turns out she is a retired electrical engineer and worked for a NASA contractor. She re-arranged her house to set up twin beds for us in her master bedroom and had beer ready for us when we got in...what awesome accommodations. She even bought us tickets to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and the IMAX shuttle show. I really enjoyed talking to her that night. She pulled out something pretty cool...the owners manual for the Solid Rocket Motors. So cool!


Jason and I joked that the first page said "Thank you for your purchase of a Solid Rocket Motor. Warranty information is on page 10". Hehe. In reality, it has all the technical diagrams and even how to pack the parachute and what methods the boats should use to recover them after splashdown. Pretty interesting reading.

We slept well in our comfy beds that night.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 8 & 9: New Orleans to Mobile

In the hotel in Crowley, I hit up the free continental breakfast and then quickly got on the road. I continued thru Lafayette on the I-10 and into Baton Rouge. I was amazed to find that the highways were actually really long bridges across the swamps.

That part of Louisiana was really green and smelled like a handful of rich fertile dirt. It brought back memories of looking for nightcrawlers on the farm in Tennessee.


I was headed to New Orleans to meet up with Brent, who I had met on ADVRider. A few hours after I posted about my trip on that site, he had offered me a stay on his couch and a beer. Jason, a buddy of mine from Tennessee, was also meeting up at Brent's house. Jason is joining me for part of the trip, out to see the shuttle, some time in FL and back to Nashville. He has a blog too, at I put Brent's address into my GPS/iPhone and it brought me into town and right to his front door. Well, actually, a few feet past it.


He had made up a welcome sign but I passed it right up. After a tour of his great place and pulling the bike into his garage, unpacking, etc, we ran out to a bike store to pick up a few things. But it was closed, I forgot it was Monday. D-oh. So we hit an athletic store and I grabbed a few new pair of socks for the trip. My feet have been pretty hot in those new Sidi waterproof boots I have, and I think the humid air and 7 days on the road were taking a toll on them. So some new thin socks were in order. We headed back home just in time to get the call from Jason that he was 20 minutes away. We made the welcome sign more visible so he wouldn't miss it like I did.


But he missed it anyway. So funny! After Jason met Brent and his lovely lady Nicole and we crammed all the bikes into the garage, it started to rain pretty hard. We busted out some beer and sat on the front porch and waited for it to stop.


The rain finally did stop and we decided to go out. Their house is in a great neighborhood, down town New Orleans, and about a block from the trolley linen. So we jumped on a trolley and headed down to the French Quarter.
We hit up the River Walk, and checked out the mouth of the mighty Mississippi. And then headed over to get some real cajun food at the Gumbo Shop. I had crawfish etufee, one of my favorite meals, and something I hadn't eaten in over 6 years. After that, we went to check out some of the sights on Burbon Street, and grabbedd a beer. Brent and Nicole were excellent hosts, shared their home, the garage & tools, took us to great food and showed us around town. I'm so greatfull to have met them and can't express enough how awesome they were. I hope they can make it to San Diego one day so I can return the favor.
After killing a giant 2" Louisiana cockroach (that just wouldn't die), I hit the sack for some much needed rest.

The next day, Jason, Brent and I headed out for a spin on the bikes. We rode across lake Pontchartrain on the Causeway, which later we found out is the longest bridge in the world. Pretty cool! Brent took us to see a statue of Ronald Reagan in Covington, where we also grabbed some coffee and lunch.


He rode with us around the north shore and split off when we got back to the I-10. Jason and I continued on the scenic route 90, on the beach thru Biloxi, Long Beach, Gulfport, Pascagoula and Mobile.

There was a neato tunnel thru Mobile, under the water I believe.


We stopped on east side of Mobile in Daphine, for dinner at Banini Bob's. Since we both had a long day and were pretty sore, we opted for a hotel instead of tents and found our way to the hot tub for an hour or so before heading off to bed.

Day 6 & 7: Abilene, Austin & Galveston

I woke up a bit late on day 6 after a late night. I split out of Abilene and headed south on the 84 towards Brownwood. The scenery was a bit better than north western Texas, and the wind wasn't as bad either. After a while it got genuinely pretty.


A gas stop in, Coleman was next and as soon as I pulled up, a nice guy named Conan started talking to me. He and his mother were taking a trip to California from Texas, in a truck, with his motorcycle in the back. He was very interested in my travels and we talked for a while, about the proper ways to walk a bike up in the back of a car. I'll have to do a video-podcast on how to do that after I return home. He mentioned he had a friend named Cale that I'd probably get along with well, that he lived in Austin and would probably even put me up for the night. He gave me his info and told me to go to where he worked (Cypress Valley Canopy Tours) and he'd call them and let them know I was coming. Unexpected, and very cool.

I stopped in Brady for lunch, and ate at the 84 Cafe. It was a small diner, run by a nice Mexican woman. I had chips and salsa served with my hamburger. She even volunteered to mail a few postcards for me.


Continuing south, the flatland turned into rolling hills. I passed thru Llano, which had a great bridge and a little waterfall that a bunch of kids were playing around on and jumping from. Tempted tho I was, to jump in with them, I decided against it in the interest of time.


As I made my way down the 283 towards the meetup place Conan had suggested, Texas became very pretty. It was hot, but real nice. I stopped by the roadside again to stretch.

I turned off onto Paleface Ranch road to head to the the Cypress Valley Canopy Tours to try to find Cale.


I arrived and everybody working there knew about me...since Conan had called ahead. They were all pretty young, between 17 and 22-ish, but real nice guys. I met Cale and he turned out to be a really cool guy...has a Triumph Trophy 4 touring bike. He and his brother Aaron led me back to their place in south Austin. They gave me food, shower, washed my clothes and set up a couch for me to crash on. We talked for hours about all kinds of things, including a cool idea for a social t-shirt company they want to start. What awesome guys.

Woke up the next day, thanked Aaron and Cale for their hospitality and headed out towards Galveston. I took the 71E towards Altair and the 90 to Sugarland. I passed some pretty cool homes on the way into Galveston.


The traffic getting there was pretty bad, lots of stop and go lights and tons of cars. Galveston is neat, it reminds me of Coronado Island, similar homes, beach, surf, long peninsula with an island attached. I was headed to the far end of the peninsula, to take the Port Boliver ferry across to the other side and continue my journey along the coast. I finally made it to the ferry line and was bummed to see that it was really long and moving really slowly. But getting there was bad too so I wasn't going to turn around now. My bike was running pretty hot, and I was happy when I finally was flagged to move into the lanes to get on the ferry, about 45 minutes later. But I found out that was actually a parking lot to took about another hour and 15 minutes before I actually got on the ferry, and it was scorchingly hot. I took off my gear and sat in the shade of my bike, hoping the hot blacktop wouldn't give way under the weight of my heavy bike and topple it off it's kickstand.


But it was worth the wait. The ferry was really neat, the view was great and it came with a cool ocean breeze.


I continued east after the ferry ride while the sun started to set. This part of Galveston had been destroyed by hurricane Ike last year and it showed. It looked like an nuclear bomb had been dropped, it was wiped almost clean, with rubble piles all around and a few houses still standing with warped frames and wall and windows knocked out. There would be a sign for a business and nothing left but a foundation. Very much like a ghost town, a bit lonely and freaky. I can't imagine what it must have been like to live through that storm.


After the 'sceneic' route thru Galveston, I hit up the I-10 east. I wanted to try to make it to Lafayette, LA that night, in the hopes I could potentially meet up with Cale and Aaron's uncle, Donny. I phoned him and he offered me a bed too! But it was 3 hours away and I wouldn't get in till nearly midnight, so it'd be hard. 30 minutes into my trip on the I-10 towards Louisiana, I hit mega traffic. It was inching forward with no stops, and after an hour of it, my left arm was killing me from all the clutch use. Pulling over for a bit gave my hand a much needed break. It cleared up soon and I slabbed it East. Unfortunately, after the additional 1.5 hour traffic delay, I was too tired to make it to Uncle Donny's house. Some German students were in a car in front of me and by coincidence, we kept seeing each other as we both were hitting up hotels along the interstate asking room prices. I stopped at 3 before I settled for a motel in Crowley around 11:45pm.