Saturday, February 6, 2010

Greetings from Camp #STS-130

We are parked on a section of grass
between US-1 and the Indian River Lagoon (map), in Titusville, Florida. Even though the city ordinance technically permits this only from T-24 hours, we've actually been here since yesterday afternoon.

That's because my quick jaunt up here on the scooter revealed that, indeed, RVs were already arriving and the spaces with good views were filling fast. At least one RVer that I spoke with said he had checked with Titusville police who told him it was OK to park now, but had cautioned that while city property would be free, some empty waterfront property was in private hands, so don't be surprised if someone shows up to collect money. I zipped back down to the Cocoa Elks, where Louise already had Odyssey ready to go (I called her when I saw the glut of rigs), and we headed back up here post haste.

We drove right past the first couple of areas, with half a dozen rigs in each, because another RVer had told me she thought they were privately owned. We pulled in here, next to a different half dozen rigs, because a sign near this property suggests the city is planning to develop a park here, so we figured there was a good chance it was already city-owned. I should reiterate here that several of the spots on the list we got from Titusville Code Enforcement turned out to actually be Brevard County Parks, and when I called the county yesterday I was told in no uncertain terms that we could not park there, or at least not until sometime after midnight tonight.

We made the right call -- about 10pm or so, several rigs that had been parked south of here showed up, and asked us the status here (all I could do was shrug). Apparently, the land owner showed up, and booted them out, wanting to keep the area available strictly for cars. At, probably, $10 a pop, I'm guessing they'll make tons more money by keeping it as dense as possible, which means cars instead of rigs.

We're also glad we decided to come when we did, rather than wait until this morning. By 10am, every possible spot with a direct view of the launch pad was taken; by 11:30, rigs were parked two and three deep in places. I am guessing that by early this evening, we'll be parked-in for the duration; there are probably a hundred rigs here already, and I've even seen at least four tents.

We deliberately chose a spot where the view from ground level is obstructed by a large bush, but we can see the pad from our penthouse window and, of course, our roof deck (the launch pad is the bump on the horizon just to the left of Odyssey in the top photo in this post). We are just about as close as anyone can get without a viewing ticket for the Space Center itself, at 12 miles from the pad. At that distance, it will be a full minute between when we see the boosters light, and when the thunderous sound reaches our ears. The bush means we will not have a large group of people crowding around the bus at liftoff, since there is a better view a few yards away in either direction.

Once we had ourselves well parked
and squared away, we wandered across the street to El Leoncito, the closest restaurant. It was packed; the waitress told us all hotels are sold out for this launch. She also told us no one would hassle us for being a day early -- shuttle launches are the golden goose here in Titusville. The fajitas were excellent, as were the swimming-pool sized margaritas.

We deliberately did not do any "set up" last night, just in case we got booted out -- getting definitive information about where parking is and isn't allowed is nearly impossible. But once the place turned into Quartzsite-East this morning, we figured we were safe, so I set up the deck. I've dogged down the Celestron spotting scope on one of the railings, with an excellent view of the pad. We also pulled the scooters out, figuring that, at any moment, more vehicles might come in and block the ramps from opening; this will give us more dinner options tonight.

We've learned that fellow full-timers Chris and Cherie from Technomadia are also here for the launch, and we're trying to connect with them this afternoon. And we expect our friends from Live Oak to be coming down tonight, with a large entourage, so we may try to hook up with them as well.

Our plan is to get to bed early and try to get some sleep in before liftoff, set an alarm or two for about 4:20, and stumble up to the deck just a couple minutes before ignition. It's supposed to be 44° at that hour, so there is a distinct possibility we will wimp out and watch from our comfy chairs in the warmth of the penthouse.

I will forewarn our readers now: we do not plan to take any photos. For one thing, photographing a night launch is extremely tricky, requiring careful attention to a variety of manual camera settings (auto-exposure can't cope with going from the black of night to the amount of light coming off the boosters), and our camera is really not up to the task, nor is our lens long enough. But more importantly, photos of launches (taken by those far more capable than us) can be downloaded off the Internet by the thousands -- I expect this launch will be no exception -- and all the advice we've read says just watch the launch with your eyes, and not looking through a viewfinder. Good advice that we intend to follow.


  1. We're trying to hook up with the Technomads too. We're coming in from St. Pete. So we may see you as well. (I follow you originally from ADV, Ara and PirateJohn have mentioned you at times).

  2. Thanks for saving that spot next to you.. delighted to join Camp STS 130 :)


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