Thursday, February 28, 2008


The Crew: Tom & Roe, and Donna & Rod

One of the things I've always wanted to do is ride on an airboat. You know, those flat bottomed boats with the big airplane propellers on the back? Maybe this desire came from watching Flipper or Sea Hunt when I was a kid, I'm not sure. About 10 minutes from the Great Outdoors, there is a place to do just that. We made arrangements, and, with our friends Tom and Roe, went off to explore the local waterways.

Peaceful looking but there's gators on the banks!

While we were waiting for our boat to come in, another one was unloading...they were obviously race fans in town for the Daytona. They were also drunk and quite giddy. They made their way back to their car, and one of the guys asked his girl to flash him so he could take a picture...eewwwww! This woman was no spring chicken, but she dropped her top. Roe commented, "When you get older, your bra size changes from "perky" to a 36 'LONG'". Enough said, we all got a good laugh before the ride started.

View from one of the small channels we navigated
After donning our ear protection, Captain Dan took us out for a 1-1/2 hour ride. What is neat about airboats is that they don't need water. We traversed several times across land, taking a shortcut to the next part of the river. Since the boat isn't floating on water during the traverse, it is a wee bit bumpy on land. The boat reached speeds of 50mph on the straight-away waterways, which was fast enough to clear out the ole sinuses! We saw many turtles, alligators, and birds. I spotted the biggest gator of the day, at about 13 feet. Dan would cut the engine back and coast up to a gator (or gators) sunning on the bank. Sometimes they would sit there, not moving, but sometimes they would bolt for the water at the last second, splashing us as they headed for the water. Often we would see their heads and eyes as they floated in the channel. As we approached, they just sink out of sight. Interestingly, Dan told us their main source of food are fish and turtles. Turtles often sun on the same beach as gators. I guess turtles are not exceedingly smart amphibians!

Snaggletooth looks like he just had lunch!

Smile for the camera!

This was a great experience, and if you're ever down in Florida, we highly recommend trying it out!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Holy Space Shuttle, Batman!

Kennedy Space Center

When we were in the Houston area, we visited the Johnson Space Center. Of course, The Great Outdoors is only a few miles from the Kennedy Space Center, where the launches and returns take place. Sooo, we had to visit this NASA center...Atlantis was going up!

Shuttle mock up
We purchased a two-day, up-close tour package, that included a walking tour at at the visitors center, lunch with an astronaut, and a bus tour. We spent day 1 visiting several exhibits, including the "launch experience". On this ride, you get to simulate a shuttle take-off. Because of Donna's healing broken rib, she opted to view the launch from a separate area. It was pretty realistic, lots of vibration and simulated g-force. After that, we headed off to lunch - our astronaut was Story Musgrave, one of the more famous astronauts, with 6 flights to his credit. Dr. Musgrave is also in the Astronauts Hall of Fame. Lunch was good, and after seeing a few more exhibits, we drove over to the Astronaut Museum and Hall of Fame.

Photo opp with Dr. Musgrave

Memorial for fallen astronauts

Two days later, we drove out to KSC for our up-close bus tour. This was to be a very special tour, as the Atlantis shuttle launch was scheduled for the following day. The tour was great, as we got within 1 mile of both launch pads. We could see Atlantis clearly from our vantage point. During a launch, the closest anyone can be to the pad is 2-1/2 miles. Any closer can be very hazardous to your health, up to, and including, death.

Assembly building. Note the huge doors on the left!
The next day, we witnessed the launch from a safe 5-6 miles. It was spectacular, to say the least! To get a good viewing spot, you have to be out there about 3 hours earlier than the scheduled time. All day NASA was worried that weather could cancel the flight - there cannot be any lightning within 20 miles. As late as 8 minutes before launch, there was a weather hold. But the clouds took a turn, and we got these great shots! While loud, the wind was blowing towards the shuttle, so it wasn't as earth-shaking as we had been told it was. But it was very spectacular, none the less!

Atlantis is off!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hangin' Out

Recent visitors to our site. There were 4 total

Well, we've been here in Titusville, Florida since December 24. We've definitely gone into the "relax-mode"! Here in the park, we've seen some stuff - a few nights ago, we were out walking (with a flashlight). I veered Donna out into the middle of the street when I saw a coiled snake right in the middle of a driveway. I'm not sure what it was, but it was definitely NOT a garden snake. She had no idea until I pointed it out to her. The tropical sunsets seem to be getting better as time passes. I'll have to brave the mosquitoes and get a shot or two before we leave. More and more big birds seem to be appearing. Everything from sandhill cranes to blue herons to storks. Throw in a few buzzards, and thousands of little birds that often blanket the sky, and you get the picture!

Abbey has met a lot of Yorkies here - they are as popular as the Shih-Tzu's. A little male named Cody lives aross the street from us. He's about the same size and color as Abbey, and they are fast friends, licking and herding each other around.

Abbey goes for a ride!

We've done some sightseeing and driving around in the Orlando area, and are getting a flavor of life here from the local TV channels. Crime in the Orlando area is violent and prevalent (the news is full of shootings, home invasions, and robberies). We took a trip to nearby Mt. Dora last week, and witnessed a couple of guys duking it out in the middle of an intersection! On the way back we saw almost the same thing! We won't be taking any side streets, or heading out after dark.

Monday 2/4, we are going to the Kennedy Space Center. We purchased tickets for "Lunch with an Astronaut", so we'll be taking in the Space Center and then having an interesting lunch. Our son Todd and daughter-in-law Victoria did this on their honeymoon, so we are looking forward to comparing notes. Also this week, a daytime launch of the Space Shuttle is planned. We will be driving out to the coast to see this event. It should be spectacular!

Looking across the Indian River towards the Space Center

Gulls checking out the view

We leave for the Tampa area on the 25th. Time is fleeting!!