Monday, April 28, 2014

Winter Vacation Cont'd

Oh for crying out loud, didn't I finish the Vacation Story yet?


On Tuesday we just tooled around in the rain doing not much at all. I bought a charger to replace the Nikon one I needed to keep my SLR going but had lost (again). We did some light shopping and that was the day gone. Best forgotten really. Which is what I did. Can't remember any more details at all. Oh hang on. I've remembered a bit

We'd noted the presence of something called a "Roadhouse", basically a steak eatery, in a shopping plaza near the timeshare and attempted to visit it that night for dinner. Negotiating the road system carefully we missed the roadhouse on account of not finding an entrance to the car park and ended up on a toll highway. We pulled up to the toll booth and wound the window down, and the attendant said "you're looking for the roadhouse, aren't you?"

We admitted we were and he mapped out a circular route around the network of highways that would bring us back where we were originally in only ten to fifteen minutes, but would, unfortunately, mean we'd have to pay the toll as there was no turn-around or escape lane. We marveled at this revenue generation scheme and then proceeded to get lost.

We eventually found the restaurant and were treated to the most unremarkable steak dinner I've eaten since I left England - land of the see-through steak.


We tooled over to Kennedy Space Center and had lunch with astronaut Bob Springer while Florida disappeared under biblical levels of rainwater. We assessed the various things we wanted to do there and ended up buying a year's pass because the economics of car parking, lunching with astronauts, visiting the Vehicle Assembly Building and possibly visiting one of the launch pads made a year's pass cheaper than two days of tickets.

Bob Springer was an engaging speaker and a very pleasant chap to boot and I enjoyed the whole experience of meeting and listening to him.

The only disappointment was lunch itself, which was of excellent quality but consisted of entirely mundane Earth dishes. No squeeze-tube food or squeeze-bulb beverages at all - though there was Tang if anyone wanted it. It quite ruined the experience. If you get to eat with an astronaut, it is supposed to look like you are eating the contents of a paint box, dammit.

The company was excellent too, all of the people at our table were raving space nutters, and we monopolized the question time I'm afraid.

Then there was a photo session with the astronaut and the assistant who took the shots marveled that of all the people on line, we were the only ones with "a real camera", and so was able to check the results without asking how.

I returned home that night well satisfied. Mrs Stevie seemed to enjoy it too, until she threw her back out and spent the night howling in agony.

Luckily there is a second bedroom in the villa, so I lost no sleep at all.


The next day dawned and we went hunting Chiropractors. It turned out there was one near where we had been on Sunday so we killed a morning getting Mrs Stevie a new back, then I exchanged the omnibus edition of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen I'd bought on Sunday for one with the first twenty pages bound into the book. I was uncertain when I opened it whether I had a defective copy or whether Alan Moore had chosen a particularly bizarre mis-en-scene beginning for the story. Turned out it was the first one. And so to bed with painkillers.


Back to NASA so I could visit the Vehicle Assembly Building - the big building you see in Apollo 13 where they put the Saturn V "stack" together before trucking it to the launch pad.

Yes it is just a big shed, but it is a big shed I've wanted to see inside for, well, forever. Besides, it was teeming down with rain again and who wants to tour a launchpad with water sluicing off the steelwork?

I should explain that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. An artifact of the lack of a shuttle and no vehicle yet ready to replace it meant that the VAB and one of the two launch pads used for the shuttle launches were available to be toured by the public for about six weeks or so. This was about two weeks before that window was due to close for good, for the VAB would be needed for the new space lifter and so would both launch pads, which were being refurbished and upgraded for that purpose - as was the crawlerway.

It was annoying that it was raining so much because I would have loved to tour the launch pad, but getting pictures would mostly involve shooting upwards - into gallons of falling wet.

We had a good time, watched both the marvelous IMAX movies, listened to Bob Springer's presentation again and got his autograph on the picture we had taken with him.

When we got back to Kissimmee it finally stopped raining so I suggested we dine at a "Bahaman" restaurant we'd taken note of when we'd arrived at the timeshare. I was in the mood for some Caribbean Cuisine too.

Sadly, another distinctly ordinary dining experience was my lot.


We drove halfway home. Did some light arguing. Stayed in the same hotel we used on the way down.


We drove the rest of the way home. End of vacation. End of vacation story.

I know this post lacks a vital something but I can't be arsed to make up tales of space aliens or earthquakes. The truth is that the most exciting thing that happened was the thing that threw Mrs Stevie's back out, and she has threatened to visit me with extreme violence if I so much as hint at the scenario, equipment or costumes involved. All I can say is it was dead good until it wasn't, which is sort of my life encapsulated.

So you'll just have to imagine it.

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