I woke up with an alarm and did my usual Walmart routine of using the disabled bathroom which has its own sink within the stall to wash my hair and face. When I got back outside, the dark clouds had turned into rain, but it was only gentle. I worried about the weather for the second attempt at launch. By the time I’d had breakfast and got in the driver’s seat, I had a minor panic when my nav told me it would take 1hr, 20min to get to the viewing site and I’d only allowed for an hour! Thankfully I was aiming to get there at 9am for a 9:40 launch, so I still had time, but not as much as I’d originally planned! I didn’t muck around once I was on the road and by the time I made it to Port Canaveral, I was thoroughly sick of highway 4 and had no desire to see it again.
The crowds around the port were much the same as yesterday, if a little thinner. I parked in the same spot and walked to the same spot on the beach, feeling lighter since I had only me to worry about. I was hoping to meet the parents I’d hung out with yesterday and sure enough, there they were on their deck chairs, in the exact same spot. I walked straight up to them and wished them a good morning! They did the same to me and were happy I was joining them again! Gloria and Al had spent the rest of yesterday at the actual space centre, doing the tour that I’d done a few weeks ago.
The visibility out to the launch pad was poor due to the low hanging clouds and fog, not even the assembly building was visible. We all took turns with the binoculars trying to find the rocket, referencing photos taken yesterday, but we only pinpointed it a few minutes before launch when the fog had cleared a little and we could see the NASA building as a reference point. The mood yesterday had been one of high anticipation, but today, it was pure scepticism and not just amongst us three. Since there wasn’t a commentator close by, I held the torch and streamed the live coverage from my phone. We couldn’t hear it too well and Gloria and I were just saying how we’d believe it when we see it when we were interrupted by a bright flash of light off in the distance. The rocket had been launched!
There were oohs and aahs from the crowd as we watched the fireball fly through the clouds. We only caught glimpses of it as it ducked in and out of the grey patches and soon lost sight of it. We didn’t hear any sound for at least thirty seconds after launch and it was a low grumble that made the ground shake, only very slightly. All eyes were on the sky, searching for the rocket, but it was beyond us now and we waited for the first stage rocket to come back down. We had some idea of where to look, but the clouds did not help. I scanned and scanned and scanned, listening in to the commentary to try and understand where it was at. Then, Al shouted, “There! There!” pointing over to the horizon. I, and many other people around us, saw it for a moment before it disappeared behind a building with a great BOOM!!
Al’s hands went up in despair, he was sure it had crashed and he convinced me pretty easily. The noise we heard had been monstrous and definitely hit everyone in the chest. But no, the rocket had landed perfectly, the sound we heard was the supersonic boom of the engines firing their last breath. Everything had been a success. I was happy I got to share the event with Gloria and Al, they made the whole thing. You can see the pride in their faces, especially in the tears in Gloria’s eyes. Their son had helped to make that happen!
I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as we chatted while the rest of the crowd dispersed. Before I said my goodbyes, I asked them to pass on my congratulations to their son and they wished me a safe journey. It had all been worth it. While I hadn’t actually seen the rocket, only the fire from underneath it, to witness such an amazing thing, even from twelve miles away, was unique and I’m sure I’ll never get another chance like it.
I dawdled at the car, topping up my oil and consulting my Atlas for the best route to take heading west. By the time I was done, the traffic had all but dispersed. I had a long drive ahead of me, I was keen to build up some mileage to get me across to Arizona in time to meet Kevin. By lunch time I was still the wrong side of Orlando, but at least I wasn’t on highway 4!
I found a sweet lunch spot by a boat ramp which was packed full of trucks and empty boat trailers. I watched a guy playing with his drone while I ate and did some more trip planning. Back in the car, I eventually hit the west coast of the Florida peninsula and pitched north, ditching my nav for the Atlas because I was out of the cities now and back on small highways. I started listening to a new audiobook called “The 100 Year Old Man…” about a guy who turned 100 and ran away from his nursing home resulting in comedic adventures. It was entertaining enough.
I’d sussed out a camp near the panhandle and was happy to find out my mileage had gone way up without the surfboard on the roof. Having a functioning Ignition Control Module probably helps a lot too. Driving down the dirt roads to get to camp, I wasn’t sure what I would find, but at the end of the road was a beautiful camp, free for all and practically empty. It was right next to a river and popular with kayakers. I spoke to a couple who were just driving through and the guy told me about the area, informing me it was full of rednecks and redneck hospitality (ha ha, whatever that means). His wife couldn’t believe I was out here by myself, not able to understand how I wasn’t scared. I asked her why I should be, thinking about that redneck hospitality, and she said there was no special reason. Obviously not something she would do.
I was getting eaten alive even before the sun went down so lathered up with bug spray before dinner, knowing I’d be able to shower it off in the morning. I gathered a bunch of firewood and in doing so, discovered these funny tree stumps standing short amongst their grandparents, as if stunted in growth. I got dinner going and multi-tasked getting the fire on too. A lot of the wood was wet, so it was a challenge and needed much attention, but I got there in the end. By the time dinner was ready, it was looking after itself.
Under the red light of my head torch I read by the fire, then, needing to retreat from the bugs, I threw everything I had on the fire, enjoyed watching it burn and sizzle, then retreated to the van, where I’d set up my fly net above the bed in an attempt to get airflow without bug intrusion while I sleep. We will see how that goes.