So we drove down the east coast of Florida with no particular destination in mind. Drive until we didn’t feel like it and then stop at a beach somewhere was the plan. Cocoa Beach was where we ended up, in a motel built and owned by “The Original Seven Astronauts”. For those of you who didn’t watch I Dream of Jeannie, Cocoa Beach is just across the water from the Kennedy Space center. I’d been doing a very poor job of keeping up with the specifics, but I knew that a shuttle was on the launch pad, waiting to go up and do some work on the new space station. I knew it had been there for over a month, suffering from delay after delay. The latest delays were due to some unrelated rocket that was to be launched first. We could see the pads across the water, lit up very nicely. RVs and campers were lining all the roads, parked along the right-of-way along the beach. The hotels were jammed (though we got a room with no problem). Anxious people were everywhere. Without checking a paper or any official program, we determined that the latest schedule had the shuttle launching sometime Friday. It was a nice bit of luck that we just happened to be right there, right then. The launch itself occured at 5:30ish am, just a few minutes before sunrise. It was beautiful — I’ve never seen anything like it. The fire, the smoke, the noise. The beach a few feet from the motel room was the perfect spot to watch it, too. Absolutely spectacular. Or so I was told. I didn’t wake up until 8. The first thing I did was flip through the TV to find out when the launch was supposed to happen. I found “The NASA Channel”, and they were already showing live video from space. Dagnabit. Again I say, dagnabit. Let this be a lesson for you: when you’re in Cocoa Beach, find out if there’s going to be a launch, and when it is, before you go to bed.
Thursday we drove down the east coast of Florida. I’d never been to Florida before, but I was looking forward to the drive. Florida has always been an enigma to me. So many contradictory images floating around in my head, all from TV, movies, and other media. Probably the same images you have — huge expanses of cities. Lots of orange groves (Florida Oranges: A Colorful Story). Produce farms. Theme parks. Beaches. Resorts. Swamps (and swamp-apes). Kidnapped Cuban boys. (Sorry. That was uncalled for.) More cities. A billion retired people living the good life. Also, the odd fact that Florida is the number one cattle producing state in the nation, growing more cows than even Texas (and they’ve joined the ranks of the cattle mutilation mystery). Don’t ask why I just happened to know that last fact. I know things like that for no good reason. It’s part of what makes me who I am (read: “A dork.”). But you see why Florida confused me. Those images just don’t go together, and on the map, Florida looks like too small of a place to have all that. On the map, it looks like a long curved beach with swamp in the middle. Where do the cows live? As it turns out, Florida’s much bigger than the maps let on. That long bit that sticks out into the ocean is really quite long. And filled with cows. And orange groves. And cities. And swamp. Usually, all within sight of each other. And there’s something that don’t show on the movies or TV (well, maybe on Dateline or 20/20, but I don’t watch them): landfills. Big mountainous stinky landfills. Up and down the interstate, with condo subdivisions build right in their shadows. And they’re tall enough to have shadows, too (take a virtual tour here). I guess they can’t bury their trash in Florida, because they might poke a hole in the bottom and sink the whole state. I guess I’ll research that some and get back to you.
The text of the ceremony. It was a fine wedding.
Well, shiver me timbers! (I drove on the “Buccaneer Trail” yesterday, so now my head’s full of pirate talk). The Amazing Randi has a weekly internet column, where he talks about all sorts of Amazing Randi skeptical-about-the-paranormal stuff. Yo ho ho!