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A beach, a space ship and a road trip

MJ and I went down to Florida earlier this month for a family reunion, but the rest of our trip was pretty much a vacation, the first beach vacation we’d had in nearly two years.

Several evenings were spent poolside with frozen strawberry daquaris from the outside bar. Sunday was our beach day after breakfast with family. We got some chairs and an umbrella set up by the hotel and spent a long afternoon relaxing. I went in the ocean a couple times, where strong waves made for an exhilarating dip. On the beach I spent much of the time reading, finishing Madeleine L’Engle’s Dragons in the Water young adult novel that afternoon. Our time concluded when an evening thunderstorm rolled in and forced us to pack up and head inside.

That evening MJ found us a Cuban restaurant to go to, which happened to be both highly rated and near our hotel. It was probably the best meal out I had during our whole trip, such delicious food! And a couple incredibly strong mojitos for me, though I probably should have stopped at one, hah!

Monday was more of an adventure day. At 9:30 we met up with my mother and Aunt Elaine to drive up to the Kennedy Space Center! I had never been before, and that day was a particularly special one since it was launch day for the SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-12, which was sending a payload up to the International Space Station. The timing was somehat coincidental since I just learned about the launch over the weekend and then planned accordingly, but I have always wanted to see a launch for myself. Unfortunately we hit several snags in our journey to do so. The first was not leaving early enough. The launch was at 12:31, and we figured that getting there by 10:30 would be fine, but we didn’t expect the hour we’d spend in traffic once we were within a mile and a half of the center. That got us there just shy of 11:30, meaning the viewing platform closer to the rocket was full and we missed the last bus to it by about five minutes. Never fear though, they had bleachers setup within the center for all of us poor souls who had to view from there! It was a hot day, so we picked up a couple umbrellas to shield us from the sun as we sat in the bleachers and waited for the launch.

It’s a really great experience being there with so many other people. To my disappointment we’ve trended away from science and space interest and spending in my lifetime, but being there with hundreds of other people to feel the excitement, brave the hot Florida August weather and do the countdown was a lot of fun. Alas, the second snag of the day was where we were sitting in the bleachers, a huge building was in the way of us seeing the launch! Once it cleared the building we were able to see the rocket, but it was pretty high up at that point. I took a picture anyway.

It would be disingenuous to say I wasn’t disappointed by the experience given the inability to make it out closer and then missing the best views even from where we were, but I sought the silver linings. I’ve watched plenty of launches in the comfort of my own home via NASA TV an SpaceX coverage, I know what they look like. You go to these things to see it with your own eyes, but also to be with the crowd and feel the sonic boom. We did also get a pretty good view of the rocket itself coming down to land over at Cape Canaveral. So we got to experience some of that, and in the end I’d say it was worth it to experience those things with MJ, my mother and my Aunt Elaine. Still, I would like to go back some time for the full experience.

With the launch completed, the heat really started taking its toll. The temperature soared into the 90s with high humidity, placing the heat index at well over 100. We wandered through a Mars exhibit and swung by their shop, but we departed mid-afternoon to find some food in an air-conditioned space beyond the chaos of the center. We ended up at Crackers Island Grille in Cape Canaveral, where I had some delicious fish tacos and a local beer before returning to the hotel and parting ways with my mother and aunt.

With that, our trip together was winding down. A final visit to the pool that evening and a late dinner concluded our evening. Tuesday was bringing an early morning departure for me as I joined my mother and Aunt Elaine on a road trip up to Philadelphia, and MJ was off to fly back home to San Francisco.

Our road trip began at 8AM with a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts to get us going, and then we hopped on Interstate 95, which we were pretty much taking all the way up to Philadelphia. My aunt drove the entire way, the full 16 hours! Thankfully it was pretty uneventful, at least on our side of the highway, we did pass three major accidents that shut down I-95 south throughout the day.

As our journey progressed I had some lively discussions with my aunt, of which the most fun was a topic we disagreed on, but we were able to roll our eyes and laugh about it when we reached a firm impasse in our discussion. We hit Washington DC at the tail end of rush hour, which slowed us down a bit, but once we were through that we sailed on through up to Philadelphia, getting in a bit before midnight. A quick stop at Wawa provided us some dinner, which we brought back to the townhouse to eat before we went to bed.

This was the first time I had someone from my side of the family staying at our place and the first time using the sofa bed. It made me grateful we’d invested in setting up the guest room as soon as we moved in, and with our decision to go with the sofa bed. Having lots of beds for friends and family to stay makes this place that much more valuable for us.

My mother and aunt departed early Wednesday morning, leaving me a day off from work to catch up on house things and chill for the afternoon before returning to work on Thursday.