Florida 2006, Part III
As I was saying earlier, when I get to a place with heat, sun, and water, it's hard for me to think about spending time with much else. But while in central Florida, we did a little -- just a little -- of the typical touristy central Florida stuff.
Of course, there's the whole theme park thing, and this time we spent just a day on that. We took in the Disney Animal Kingdom, which is a Disnefied version of a really nice, large, well appointed zoo. In addition to getting excellent looks at several rare species (at least,they're rare to us), we enjoyed the Lion King show, a fun re-creation of an African village, a few kiddie rides, and the usual encounters with the life-size cartoon characters. There's a lot of preaching about conservation, and I tried not to think too much about the irony of getting that message from a corporate giant like Disney -- especially at a location where it likely mowed down square mile after sqaure mile of habitat for its plastic universe. Anyway, it was a fun and educational, albeit hot and ultimately exhausting, day.
There were cheaper wildlife thrills right in our condo backyard. One day the kids looked off the deck and saw a family of peacocks strutting around on the grass strips around the complex across the street. And there were quite a few signs of interesting life amidst the shells that were all over the beach. Many crab bodies and parts thereof, and the bones of some big fish, were among the finds. Tiny fish swam in the shallowest parts of the tide. Perhaps the most interesting critters were some black sea snails that attached themselves to the rocks that line the channel where the cruise ships go in and out of Canaveral. The size of the head of a pin.
Probably the coolest moment of the trip came on our last evening in Florida. We were nearing the end of an action-packed day, in which we were trying to soak up everything our hosts had to offer. We had found our way to the beach for a farewell to the Atlantic, and my daughter and I were walking up toward the jetty, combing the beach. A bright and lively young girl ran up and made friends with my little one, and after a few steps we met her dad.
"We're here to see the launch," he said, gesturing north toward the Kennedy Space Center. "We come down to watch a lot of them."
"Darn, we won't get to see it," I responded. "We're leaving in the morning."
"No, it's today," he responded. "There's a window between 6:11 and 7:11."
It was an unmanned flight, of course -- a weather (they say) satellite called GOES-N, being launched as a ready backup in case anything goes wrong with the cameras we already have up there.
"It will be right over in that general direction," the other dad said. "Over that hill." He pointed slightly west of due north -- not to the launch pad right on the water that they use for the space shuttle, but an unseen site a bit inland.
"Cool!" I said. A while later, as we headed back south toward our beach headquarters, we noticed the number of people on the sand growing, and all eyes were looking past us toward the space center.
By the time the thing took off a few minutes later, we had made it back to our towels and had met up with the rest of our family foursome. The launch made quite a prolonged rumble, and an awesome sight -- a bright yellow tongue of fire blasting out behind the speeding vehicle. "Look, kids -- the rocket! Wooo-hooo!" What a piece of work is man.
I tell you, that thing went up fast. It was through the scattered clouds and out of sight in nothing flat. There was a bit of an easterly arc to its path. The sound persisted for a while, even after the rocket was beyond the reach of the naked eye.
Somewhere in there, I suspect, there's a metaphor for our trip.