Florida – September 2011

Day 9 – Kennedy Space Center

Tuesday 27th September

By the time we got up this morning, Patti had already left the house but Ben was still around along with Nikki & the baby. Sandy got up just shortly after me but suffered from insufficient sleep again throughout the night. Someone had turned off all the lights upstairs and Joey had woken up in the middle of the night, presumably to use the bathroom, but started screaming in a blind panic because he couldn’t see anything. At home, we always have a hall light or the bathroom light on during the night so he is unaccustomed to finding himself in the pitch black. Despite my best efforts, there’s very little I can do to ensure that Sandy gets much rest-bite from having to deal with the kids during the holiday. Even if I were to somehow manage to get her some ‘time off’ from having to deal with the kids, she’d still be worrying about them and that’s a connection that no holiday is yet going to be able to untether. I don’t think a Mother’s concern for her children can truly be ‘switched off’ – even for a holiday.

Despite me mentioning a couple of times that we planned to have breakfast somewhere en-route to today’s destination of the Kennedy Space Centre, Ben insisted on cooking some breakfast for all of us. As we’ve eaten out for every last meal since arriving, this turned out to be somewhat of a surreal and unfamiliar experience – but a tasty one at that.

We were eventually out on the road much later than I would have liked. Although we had not long eaten (at least some of us), we stopped two thirds of the way there for brunch. Partly through not knowing whether we were going to be passing any more food stops before getting there, we ended up stopping at a McDonald’s. I have to say that I dislike the McDonald’s here relative to those back in Australia. Everything is more crispy and it just seems so unfamiliar now.

Largely because of our late departure from Palm Coast, we didn’t arrive at the Kennedy Space Centre until gone noon. Consequently, we were never going to fit everything in but we did our best to get around to most of the major things during the course of the day. After parking the car, I had to convert the voucher that I bought a few days ago into real tickets. Armed with these, we made our way into the complex, which was only sparsely populated throughout with visitors today. Indeed there was no waiting for anything at all during our entire visit. That’s the beauty of having chosen this time of the year to visit. None of the Americans are on holiday and all the area attractions are largely deserted – relatively speaking that is

A few photo opportunities greeted us just as soon as we entered the complex but given the lateness of the day already, we made sure to be on one of the waiting tour buses so as to get the tour out of the way with as quickly as possible. Air-conditioned coaches leave the visitor centre every fifteen minutes or so and take you on a ride past the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) and over to a viewing platform not far from the main Space Shuttle launching pad area. We spent around twenty minutes or so here admiring the views from the 4-story viewing platform before boarding another waiting bus that took us on to the Apollo Saturn V rocket exhibition. Along the way, we managed to catch sight of some lovely wildlife – including an alligator floating in one of the waterways that line the roads here. Although Cape Canaveral is the home of NASA and the US space program, the vast majority of this section of Florida’s East coast is designated a natural wildlife preserve.

We spent a good deal of time at the Apollo Saturn V building. You’re first exposed to a series of videos on large screens that depict the various achievements of the Apollo program before going into a room where the controll-centre and countdown to launch are simulated before your very eyes. Ultimately, the group of tourists are then released into the main rocket hall, where an actual Apollo Saturn V rocket hangs suspended from the ceiling and broken into it’s various stages. As the largest rocket very built, it’s an impressively enormous piece of space technology for which only the most jaded of tourists would be unimpressed by. Lunar landers, moon buggies and various other moon landing paraphernalia complement the huge rocket through the hall space. It’s done very well and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

For the past several days now, the kids have ‘latched onto’ the penny squeezing machines that we find dotted around the various theme parks. Sandy and I have hoards of these squashed pennies in collectors cases from various visits to the Orlando area in years gone by and it has been fun watching the kids get just as excited as we used to do whenever we found a new machine to slip a few quarters into. There were half a dozen or so of these hand-cranked machines dotted around the place and both kids seized on every opportunity to beg us both for the requisite quarters.

As has become customary with each visit to a new theme park, both kids came away with a new toy. Today saw Joey walk away with a soft toy in the shape of a Space Shuttle, complete with orbiter, twin solid rocket boosters and external tank. Jennifer decided on the exact same soft toy, only the next size down from Joey’s 50cm version.

With soft toys in hand, we boarded our final bus of the day back to the main visitor centre. A few new attractions have sprouted since we were last here and one of these was a simulated Space Shuttle launch ride. This was advertised as a major ride with lots of rough turbulence, noise and shaking. As such, we were convinced that Jennifer would be too short and that it would be too intense for Joey, so I was the only one to have a go. Although a neat ride in its own right, it’s not nearly as bad as they make it out to be. As I was getting my teeth vibrated out of their sockets on this ride, Sandy took the kids out to the play area and to the rocket yard for some photo opportunities.

Currently showing at the Kennedy Space Centre is a Star Trek exhibition and we spent some time perusing around the two exhibit halls dedicated respectfully to Star Trek the original series and TNG. The sets were quite convincing and there was some pretty neat Star Trek memorabilia on display.

Our tickets granted us access to most areas of the facility and this included an IMAX showing that was all about the Hubble Space Telescope. Although at 43 minutes, this was slightly too long to capture both kids’ attention spans for the full showing, it was quite funny watching both Joey & Jennifer reaching out in front of them to try to catch the stars and other objects made to appear in front of them through their 3D glasses.

We wandered around outside some more for the remainder of the half an hour or so before the centre was due to close. In the event, we were amongst the very last visitors to vacate the premises. Once in the car, we fed the SatNav with instructions to take us home. This it did and, fortunately, it took us past a Chilis restaurant, which is a favourite for both Sandy and me, and so we made this our one stop to fill our tunnies before making our way back to the house.

We arrived back by around 21:00, by which time Jennifer had just about fallen to sleep and Joey, although still awake, was not far behind. Our usual bedtime routine rounded out the evening. We are planning a visit to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park for tomorrow and I doubt it will be a very early start to the day, which is designated as a rest day after all.