Friday, February 5, 2010

T minus 43 hours and counting

We are at the Elks lodge in Cocoa, Florida (map). The lodge is just three blocks from the historic downtown, known as Cocoa Village, and we have plenty of dining choices within a short walk from here. This is just an empty parking lot, but there are three other rigs here (including two that we saw at the Stuart Elks when we were there), I assume on account of the upcoming shuttle launch.

This is not the closest lodge to our launch destination in Titusville, but we chose it because the Titusville lodge is really not in walking distance to anything, and has a parking fee due to having hookups that we don't need. I would also assume they are full up around launch days, even though you can't see the pads from there. We arrived here Wednesday afternoon, so we would have plenty of time to scope out launch parking, and wandered down to the waterfront for dinner at Cara Mia, a nice Italian joint with a view of the anchorage. For anyone who did not catch the tweet, the Red Cross finally sorted things out and decided we were not needed in Orlando for the Haiti repatriation; a friend of ours working that operation says things are quiet there.

Yesterday we rode the scooters up to Titusville to check out the parking options. It's at least 20 miles or so to the spot I had pre-selected, and by the time we finished the whole circuit, we'd put a good 60+ miles on the bikes. On our way north, we stopped at several roadside locations along US-1 that offered a good view of the pads; I was able to see the nose of the external fuel tank through my binoculars (Endeavour herself is obscured by the gantry). Two locations were Brevard County parks, two were private parking lots, and the remainder were open land of unknown status along the road.

We rolled right past Titusville City Hall, so we stopped in to inquire about the parking issues with Code Enforcement. They were very pleasant and handed us a map, along with a copy of the pre-launch RV parking rules. It would seem, however, that the map calls out several locations which are actually under control of the county, and the parking status there is somewhat in question; one local we encountered while scoping out a park told us it would likely be roped off before the launch.

We eventually made it to my carefully pre-chosen site, along the bridge landings on the Max Brewer Parkway, only to find they are completely closed off due to a massive project to replace the old bascule bridge with a much taller bridge just south of it. In addition to wiping out a bunch of launch parking, the bridge project obscures the view from the parks at either end, as well as the marina just north. On top of all this, construction on the road through the north end of the city would make reaching these sites a pain.

We double-checked some spots on the map on our way back south, then headed out to Port Canaveral to check out Jetty Park. Notwithstanding what I had read in various places, the pads are not visible from Jetty, and the camping is, unsurprisingly, sold out. The overflow parking we could use would only be available after midnight on Saturday, and the view from that lot is obscured by trees. We rode back by way of Cocoa Beach, and ended up having dinner at Norman's, right next door to the lodge.

I have my fingers crossed that of the four or five spots along US-1 in Titusville we saw yesterday, at least one will be open to us tomorrow morning. The aforementioned local had guessed that tons of RVs would be arriving as early as today to take up positions (even though the ordinance clearly states no sooner than T-24 hours). So this afternoon, I plan to zip back up there on the scooter to see if he was right, and also see if anyone has started roping things off.

We plan to load up tomorrow evening, so that we can head out first thing Saturday morning to find a spot. I am hoping that the vast majority of launch tourists will be arriving in cars, and thus not likely to be staking out parking spaces a full day ahead of liftoff, whereas for us, it's not a problem to be sitting around all day in a parking lot.

Assuming the launch goes as scheduled (a scrub would reschedule it for 23 hours 37 minutes later), we should be rolling out of Titusville sometime mid-day on Sunday. We had planned to just head north from there, but our mail is en route to this lodge, and will not arrive until Monday, so we will head right back here. We'll stick around through Tuesday morning, when an Atlas-V is scheduled to launch from Canaveral Air Force Station; I'm expecting to have a good view of that from right where we are.

By Tuesday evening we should be in Jacksonville, on the first leg of our trip west to Tucson.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sean And Louise, been enjoying your adventures for about a year, here are some thoughts on viewing the shuttle, we live in Vero Beach and have driven up to see one night launch, although it took a couple of tries to actually see the launch, we drove in to Titusville and drove North on US1 a mile or so out of town and found an empty lot with a few other cars parked in it along the river, by launch time 2 hours later it was filled up. I would think you could find a spot and park any time after the sun went down and not have too much trouble, or find a spot on a shopping center across US1 and walk down to the river to view, The Titusville Police didn't seem to be too concerned with where people parked and you will have the benefit of not having to get out in the traffic immediately after the launch. Good luck with your viewing, we will probably be up there somewhere to see the last night launch.


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