Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Endeavor, Day 1, April 28, 2011

Since attending the NASA Tweetup event for the launch of Atlantis on STS-132 last May I have made it my new obsession to see the remaining shuttle launches as punishment for waiting until the end of the program before getting excited about humans riding rockets into space.

Back in November I came down to see Discovery launch on STS-133 and finally did see her launch in late February. This launch attempt is also turning out to be a bit more exciting than I’d like and this time I’ve decided to share the gory details with those of you brave and bored enough to read them.

This trip started Wednesday night, April 27 when I made contact with a guy in Orlando who had tickets to watch the launch from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center, which he was practically giving away. These are not ideal tickets in my mind as they are through a tour operator and require you to ride a bus to KSCVC and because you can’t actually see the launch until the stack clears the pad BUT it is better than nothing so Wednesday night I started working on the travel details.

I was surprised at how quickly and easily everything fell into place for me to fly to Orlando on Thursday so I could pick up the tickets and then be at Port Canaveral to catch the bus at 5:30am Friday morning. I got 5 hours sleep Wednesday night by the time I got packed and took care of some work things. This comes into play later.

Things went south, except for me, when I arrived at the Indy airport Thursday around noon. I was supposed to fly through La Guardia on my way to Orlando but everything was delayed due to the severe storms and deadly tornadoes that had hit the south the day before. Even if I could get to LGA, it wasn’t certain that I could many a connection to MCO. I must have been booked and on standby on 4 or 5 different flights before at the last minute, I found a flight through Memphis that would get me to Orlando at 10:20pm. As long as I could be in Port Canaveral by 5:30am, it didn’t really matter to me when the flight arrived.

I arrived in Memphis only to find my flight to Orlando delayed an hour. That gave me some time to enjoy some Memphis BBQ before the flight departed. While in the air, however we ran into a large storm cell so that added 20 minutes to our flight so we didn’t land in Orlando until after midnight.

The only thing that did go right was my rental car. I did the Wild Card option on Thrifty.com and ended up with a Crown Victoria to drive around for the cost of a compact. The bad thing was it took 45 minutes of waiting in line before I got the car.

I left the airport, picked up my ticket at a hotel near to mine and then headed to my hotel for a 2-hour nap. I arrived at the hotel only to find that Hotwire had not given them my reservation. This didn’t take long to fix and the great folks at Hotwire paid for half my room to compensate me for the trouble. 

Those were the shortest 2 hours of sleep ever.