Tuesday, October 28, 2014

St. Augustine Lighthouse St. Augustine, Florida

Today, we visit St. Augustine, Florida. Debi and I both love lighthouses so this was a must see on our trip through the Sunshine State. While there's more to see in this beautiful city, today's post will focus on the lighthouse itself and the keeper's home.

This was the caretakers home here in St. Augustine. Pretty nice digs for the caretaker, his wife and their six daughters.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is an active lighthouse built in 1874. It was automated in 1955. 

From it's beginning until 1936, the lamp burned oil. Gatekeepers had to carry the oil up the circular staircase, all 220 stairs to the top. 

In 1936 indoor plumbing was installed and the lamp was electrified. It stands 165' tall and is constructed of local bricks.

It is also known for paranormal activity and two episodes of Ghost Hunters was filmed on site. During the taping of those shows, mysterious voices could be heard as well as several shadowy images appearing inside the lighthouse itself.

Looking up toward the top of the lighthouse. Imagine carrying a 5 gallon bucket of oil weighing almost 30 pounds up this staircase to the top every 2 1/2 hours! Makes me tired just thinking about it.

This, and the following pictures are views from the top of the Lighthouse. Beautiful country.

The first picture of this set was of the front of the caretakers home. This one is of the rear which faces the lighthouse tower. William Harn, his wife and six daughters lived here. 
 St. Augustine Light - St. Augustine, Florida 2014

Daytona Speedway Datona Beach, Florida

Anyone who has visited Daytona Beach knows the City is known for more than it's beautiful beaches. It's also the home of the famed Daytona Speedway, home of the Daytona 500 which starts the NASCAR racing season every February. While we were there, we decided to take a guided behind the scenes tour of the Speedway. This tour takes you via tram, down onto the racing surface, through the garage area and into owner's suites. It finishes with a tour of the Daytona 500 museum. The tour was about 3 hours long but we were never bored. Everything was really interesting and our driver was extremely knowledgeable and friendly. 

I've been asked to post more pictures of our journeys, so with this post, I'm going to post more pictures in a smaller format. To view larger images, simply double click on any picture you want to enlarge. Enjoy....

In keeping with my weird sense of humor, I snapped this picture. Notice the "Lost and Found" sign above the Exit Only sign. Then notice there's a waste basket below the Lost and Found sign. I asked the security guy about it but he didn't have my sense of humor. Oh well....

Dodge got into the racing scene at Daytona by providing the Daytona 500 Pace Car.

We were on the access road above the racing surface. The banked racing surface rises almost 5 stories from the inside stripe to the outside wall.

Interestingly, the seats are painted various colors in random order. This makes the grandstands look fuller than they might be. Ah! the things we do for television.

You can see the road course in the foreground. Daytona Speedway hosts road course racing, motorcycle racing, powerboat racing and superbikes.

Our guide pointing out the area on the track where Dale Earnhardt crashed on February 18, 2001

If you've enough bucks, you can rent or own one of the many suites surrounding racing surface. This would be your view.

Inside, looking down the suite. All of the suites are side by side but separated by windows. Each has several television sets, a full bar, small kitchen and of course, restrooms.

Another view looking down on the track from the suite. That car sure looks small from up here.

Now we get down on the racing surface itself. This is the back straight away. Notice how flat the track is here. To quote a cliche, this is where the rubber meets the road...

After running the track, we visited the garage area. This is a series of garages, forming a "U" shape around the center stage areas. During race festivities, excluding the race itself, these stages feature live entertainment. The first garage on the left is for the 'pole sitter', the second for the second fastest etc.

Here's the other side of the coin. If you look closely, you'll see the last garage on the right is number 44, reserved for the slowest qualifying car for the race.

This picture and the one below show the inside of the garage areas. Don't you wish your garage floor was that clean?

Debi, Jasmine and I get our fifteen minutes of fame with our picture on Victory Lane.
Start / Finish Line
The winning car driven on NASCAR's opening race is placed on display for the entire year. 
This year Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race driving this car.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Rocket Launch !

We had a great time in Cape Canaveral and look forward to returning in the near future, most likely in 2017 when the U.S. returns to a manned space program. One of the highlights was experiencing a live rocket launch. Our first experience was on September 7, 2014 when NASA launched a rocket at 1:00AM. We were about to go to bed when we heard this loud roar that just kept getting louder and louder shaking the coach at the same time. We had not checked the launch site and this launch had been delayed from August so it was a surprise to most of us, especially in the middle of the night. Anyway we found out the next rocket launch was scheduled for September 16, 2014. We were scheduled to leave on September 11th so we extended until the 17th. We had no assurances the next launch would go as scheduled but felt we'd miss out on something special if we didn't wait it out. We weren't disappointed, but we did have to wait almost three hours for the weather to clear. A daytime launch would have been awesome but the nighttime launch was pretty impressive.

We walked to the end of the fishing pier to attempt at getting the best possible place to take pictures. We were a little apprehensive looking at the cloud cover as the launch time approached.

We could see the rocket on the launch pad. If you look closely, you can see it on the right side of the picture about a third of the way from the right. 

The launch window was 6:08PM to 8:10PM. About 5PM we had a downpour but it was short lived. We arrived at our photo spot about 5:45PM.

What can you do? Launch time passed and now we wait. Fortunately, we brought our chairs and our phones so we were able to get minute updates as the launch time was pushed back. Everyone was friendly and in good spirits. Of course, the beer the gal has in her hand helped some...:-)

At 8PM, launch control announced the launch was ON at 8:10PM. Anticipation built and finally, at exactly 8:10 the sky began to glow. I had my camera and my Ipad ready, one on stills and the other on time delay. Here are the awesome photos.

And just like that --- it was OVER.....but, WOW, what a rush....!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Space Shuttle Atlantis

One of the highlights of the Kennedy Space Center tours is the Space Shuttle, Atlantis, on display at the visitor's center. Watching the launches and landings on television is not the same as viewing them in real life. This vehicle is awe inspiring. You won't want to miss it.

On display were two lunar landers. Obviously, the actual landers were discarded in space as they would not be usable with the earth's gravitational pull. However, test modules had to be made to ensure their performance once placed on the moon's surface.  This one was part of the Apollo program from 1969 to 1972.

This one is called a LRV or Lunar Roving Vehicle. It was used on three Apollo missions in 1971 and 1972.  It was a battery powered four wheeled vehicle designed to carry two astronauts, their equipment, supplies and samples they recovered.

The Apollo 14 Command Module. 

Apollo 14 was launched on January 31, 1971 with Alan Shepard, Stuart Rosa and Edgar Mitchell on board. On February 5, 1971 Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell walked on the moon, following in Neil Armstrong's footsteps in 1969.

There are several moon rocks displayed. This specimen was brought back by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972.

Apollo 17 was the final mission of  the Apollo Lunar Landing missions.
 Introducing the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The Atlantis was the fourth Space Shuttle or Orbiter, built for the space program. It's maiden voyage into space was on October 3, 1985. It made a total of 33 missions, landing for the final time on July 21, 2011.

In all, Atlantis, in completing those 33 missions, made a total of 4,848 orbits, deployed 14 satellites, docked with the Soviet Space Station MIR seven times, the International Space Station 12 times and logged a total of almost 126 million miles.

To prepare for a ride into space, astronauts had to ride simulators to get the feel and experience of an actual launch. At the Kennedy Space Center, they have one of the launch simulators. Your admission ticket allows you to experience an actual launch yourself. Pretty exciting. Yes, you do have to wear a seat belt!

Another interesting exhibit is to is try your hand at actually landing the shuttle. Simulated, of course, and after two tries, I had it mastered. 

They also have a large slide to simulate the 22% angle of descent. I burned off some skin from my elbow by not keeping my arms folded.

The "Rocket Garden" is a display of the many rockets used by the United States during the space program. All these rockets are displays only, but impressive nevertheless. Each rocket had a placard noting what it was used for and why.

Upon arriving back at our coach we watched as these tugs escorted another submarine to the Trident Port across from our site.
 That evening we were treated to a full moon over the Atlantic.