east coast Florida Kennedy Space Center southeast travel Uncategorized

Day 2- KSC, Beaches, and a Huge surprise

The night before, I ended up going to bed a little before 2100 (9pm). So naturally, my body was ready to be up around 3. I woke up refreshed but what was I going to do at 3 in the morning. 

Kennedy Space Center doesn’t open till 9. Breakfast at the hotel isn’t until 0630. I had a couple hours to kill. So what do I do?

I ended up starting to write my review of the Holiday Inn Express Palm Bay. Plus I attempted to get some night shots from the parking lot. The moon shots came out ok. The star shots were too blown out. 

The parking lot was much too bright. Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather have an overly bright area than one that’s not. Plus having the parking lot so bright, I could see if there were any gators lurking nearby. 

I’m assuming there were no gators near me. If there was, they were hiding pretty good. Either way it was a good thing. I ended up not seeing any.

Around 0530 or so I made a trip to the local Wawa to top off my tank and get coffee. I am not one of those people that cannot function without coffee. I do just fine but I do enjoy a good cup in the morning. Plus the room coffee just wouldn’t cut it.

Now I killed enough time to get me to about 0600. Breakfast and the sunrise were both happening in a half hour. Sunrise was happening about an hour later than I’m used too.

In the Philadelphia area, Sunrise was around 0530 when we left. Here in Palm Bay Florida it was happening closer to 0630. I wouldn’t have been able to catch the Sunrise on the beach and make it to breakfast before 0730, which was when I was planning on leaving to head to Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

Now before all of that could happen, I had to wake my daughter up. For the past few weeks I’ve been getting her up by replaying “I’m gonna be (500 miles)”. She is NOT a fan of that song but hey it does the job. It gets her up.

It was time for breakfast and the three of us headed downstairs to the lobby.  Breakfast this morning included cheese omelets, scrambled eggs, sausage links, biscuits, pancakes, oatmeal, assorted muffins and bread, and cereal. The breakfast was very good. It just wasn’t as good as the one in Pekin, Illinois

After breakfast we got ready to leave for Kennedy Space Center. It was going to be around a 50 minute drive, taking the “long” way. I also made sure to fill up the cooler with water and ice. 

The high today was going to be 98 with a heat index of 107. It was going to be a very warm day. The kind of day when you don’t want to be outside. However, we were going to be outside for a good part of the day.

We left the hotel around 0730 and started heading towards KSC. Now since I was taking a longer route, we were driving along the coast. When we got near Patrick Space Force Base (yes, Space Force Base), I saw a couple of spots with beach access. Since we were in no rush and had plenty of time we made a quick pit stop to soak up some sun, sand, and waves.

It was a nice little spot and would make for the perfect place to watch a sunrise. The park does open at sunrise but I like to arrive at least an hour ahead of time. This way I can practice my astrophotography.

Almost every spot I came across didn’t open till sunrise. That definitely sucks for me but there is nothing I can do about that. I just kept looking for a good spot but ended up not finding any. Guess it will have to be the hotel parking lot again tomorrow morning. 

As we were driving, we ended up seeing large ships up ahead. It didn’t take me long to realize they were cruise ships. My daughter ended up pointing out one of the Disney cruise ships. She wasn’t too sure at first but once I pointed out the large Mickey on the smoke stacks. She was like I knew it.

I also pointed out to her that this is where she would be leaving from for her cruise in August. I’m just not sure if she is more excited about our current trip or her cruise. Guess I’ll know soon enough. 

KSC, Kennedy Space Center, Space Coast, Florida,

It wasn’t much longer after we passed the port that we arrived at KSC. The parking lot opened at 0830 and we arrived around 0845. There was a good amount of cars already but we were still able to get a spot close to the front. The gates to enter don’t open till 9.

We grabbed a couple of pictures out front and stood in line. Right at 9 the National Anthem played. We turned and faced the flag and prepared for our first full day.

Gateway, Spaceport KSC, Kennedy Space Center, Space Coast, Flordia

One we got through the gates we headed right for the brand new exhibit. It only opened three days earlier. Gateway The Deep Space Launch Complex was the newest addition. 

This whole exhibit was amazing. Everything in it was something new to see and learn. It really does amaze me on what NASA has planned for the future of space travel. Both my daughter and I love all the things to do with outer space.

You can check out the new generation of rockets that will take us back to the moon and hopefully beyond. See the new Orion space capsule. Plus you can see how the astronauts will live in space.

There are also several interactive elements within the Gateway complex. You can try out the Boeing Starliner Simulator. 

Will you pass

Or fail?

You won’t know unless you give it a try. Just don’t forget to go upstairs and check out the spaceport. It truly is a fun experience.

Here you can go on one of four different journeys. Will you choose Uncharted Worlds, Red Planet, Cosmic Wonders, or Daring Explores? We did the Uncharted Worlds and it was a space version of Soarin (ride from EPCOT).

After we finished checking out Gateway we headed to the buses to head over to the Saturn V Center. It is a very informative 20 minute drive to the center. If you are lucky you can witness one of the huge vehicles moving a rocket to the launch pad. Or you might catch a glimpse of a rocket being assembled in the VAB. 

On our way to the Saturn V Center our bus driver told us about a launch that was happening around midnight tonight. He also pointed out the launch pad on the way. 

Now this excites me a lot. I was unaware of the launch happening tonight and only knew about the one that was scheduled for Tuesday. I knew I was going to have to figure a way out to see this. 

A nighttime rocket launch is on my bucket list. I have always loved space. As a kid I dreamed of going to space. I even briefly thought about trying to get that one way ticket to Mars.

Anyway, we arrived at the Saturn V Center and watched the presentation on the Apollo program. Everytime I see it, it amazes me. Make sure you don’t skip it if you visit KSC.

Once the presentation is over you head into the main hanger. Inside is a full size Saturn V rocket. 

Saturn V Rocket, KSC,

Pictures or video just don’t do it justice. The racket is massive. It takes over a minute to walk end to end. That’s at a fairly fast pace too!

There are many things to check out here too. It’s not just the rocket. It’s here that you can touch an actual moon rock. Who knows maybe it will give you good luck too.

We were starting to get hungry so we grabbed a small bite to eat at the Moon Rock Cafe. We grabbed a couple of pre-made sandwiches and a drink. The sandwiches were good and the price was reasonable. 

After we ate we headed outside to catch a peek at the Space X rocket that would be launching later that night. I was able to get a good view of it with my 16-300 Tamron lens. I really hope I get the chance to see it tonight. Only problem was it was starting to get cloudy.

Space X Rocket, Kennedy Space Center, Launch Pad 39A, Falcon 9 Rocket
Falcon 9 Rocket on Launch Pad 39A as seen from Saturn V Visitor Center

We ended up heading back in and catched the bus back to the main area. Once we got off we headed to check out the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Every time I see the space shuttle I am surprised by its size. I always figured it would be much bigger.

The whole exhibit is pretty awesome. My daughter’s favorite part is the slide. The slide shows you how the space shuttles would land. There are also plenty of things to learn.

You can also learn about the other shuttles and the notable things they did. Plus you can learn about all the astronauts that lost their lives on Challenger and Columbia.

Over the next couple of hours we explored everything Kennedy Space Center had to offer. I was surprised that my mother even enjoyed it. She has never really liked these kinds of experiences. 

Once we left, we started making our way back to the hotel. But first we wanted to dip our toes in the water and grab a bite to eat. It was a tough call but we decided to eat first and skip the beaches at Cocoa Beach.

I had two suggestions for us. My mother ended up choosing The Pig & Whistle over the Tiny Turtle. It ended up being a great choice. 

Pig and Whistle, Fish and Chips,

All three of us enjoyed what we ordered. Oh and I swear my mom’s fish and chips were the biggest I’ve ever seen. It was the size of her forearm. 

I ended up getting cheese curds for the table that were very good. For myself I ordered the Shrimp Po Boy which was on special. My daughter got the bacon cheeseburger. We were all very happy with our meal.

Once we finished eating we went back to the car. The sky was getting very black at this point. I knew it was only a matter of time before the rain came. However, it had to hit up the space coast beach on last time.

A couple miles down the road we stopped at one of the many beach access points. The sky over the Atlantic looked nice. The sky behind us not so much.

Hangar's Beach
Hangar’s Beach

We didn’t spend too much time on the beach. It was nice and refreshing dipping our toes in the water and there was a nice breeze coming of the ocean. In the distance you could hear the rumbles of thunder. It was time for us to finish heading back to the hotel.

Before we went back to the hotel, I had to check out the Bass Pro shop. Out front they have live gators. My daughter probably could have spent an hour out front looking at them.

Bass Pro Shops Palm Bay, FL

However, we didn’t have that long before the rain would be here. We were probably in the store for no more than ten minutes before we started hearing thunder. No rain yet, just really loud thunder. 

When we got done shopping we headed back to the car. At this point it still wasn’t raining but the wind was insane. It was some of the strongest wind I have experienced in the last year or two.

We were halfway through the parking lot when it started to rain. At first it was pretty light. After a minute it started coming down hard. Like buckets upon buckets of rain. Pair that with the wind and it was insane.

We pulled away and started making our way onto I-95 and back to the Holiday Inn. I’ve driven in some pretty bad weather from heavy rains, hurricanes, and snow storms. However, this was some of the roughest I’ve experienced in years. I was only going 45 mph max for a good five minutes before it started to calm down a bit.

We made it back to the hotel in one piece and stayed mostly dry on our way in. It rained for the next couple of hours. Around sunset it was still pretty cloudy with rain.

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to see the Space X rocket launch around midnight with these conditions. I checked the forecast and it too wasn’t looking good for the launch. They were calling for thunderstorms for the next couple of hours.

I ended up going to sleep around 9 and didn’t bother setting my alarm to wake up at 2330 (1130pm). Tomorrow we were leaving for Fort Myers and I didn’t want to wake up around midnight not to be able to see the launch and make myself more tried for the drive. If definitely sucked but I figured I will have another chance at some point.

It’s funny how things work out. Did my body wake itself up to catch the launch? Did the rumble of rocket wake me from a dead sleep? Guess you will have to check back tomorrow to find out.

This was only day two of our travels. We still have 11 more to go. Be sure to come back to see what we did and where we went.

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