3-2-1…We have liftoff!

After two months plus in southern Florida, Team Joy Girl was anxious to get back to a more active form of cruising. With several less than glowing reports regarding the busyness of the Keys, Niki and I felt even more content with our decision to take the Okeechobee Waterway route. Cutting through the center of the state and across the large but very shallow Lake Okeechobee, this route saves about 20 hours of travel in a slow boat like Joy Girl. More importantly, it keeps the senior officers, Scully and Roswell, from having to endure any outside or offshore passages with their inherent risk of rougher seas. We’ve been asked if going this route is somehow cutting corners on the Great Loop, but in fact, this is the route displayed on the official AGLCA logo.

Combining our desire to cover some ground and the relative plainness of the canal, we scooted across the state in just two days. For the first time in nearly two years we were on the east coast again, and I would be remiss to not mention that this realization caused a stir of excitement in the crew. From here on out Joy Girl would be heading north, getting closer by the day to Hilton Head Island and “crossing her wake”.

With renewed focus we spent short stays in several marinas on the east coast of Florida. We stopped in Cocoa Beach and we were able to catch up with our friend Frank with whom we’d traveled in the rivers. We enjoyed his hospitality and a wonderful meal together.

We had been told often that the Kennedy Space Center was something not to be missed, so the next day we caught a Lyft and head out to Cape Canaveral. Let me get right to the point and say, this place was off-the-charts fantastic! Niki thinks they must have hired someone from Disney to design the new exhibits as they are top notch. (And is it just by coincidence that the telephone area code for this region is 3-2-1?) We started with a bus tour of the grounds, passing the Vehicle Assembly Building (one of the largest buildings on the planet by volume) where the rockets are actually put together. We saw one of the “crawlers” that move these monsters from the VAB to the launch pads, and saw (from a respectful distance) the very pads from which we lofted our astronauts toward the moon.

After an informative bus tour, we saw an actual Saturn V rocket and a fascinating collection of displays from the Apollo program. The Saturn V’s were the heavy lifting rockets that blasted payloads starting with the Apollo missions, including the SkyLab program. Over 36 stories tall and with more than 7.5 million pounds of thrust, it was the most powerful man-made machine ever constructed.

Moving on, we were taken into the very launch control room from which the Apollo missions were started. Preserved to look just as it did on that incredible day back in 1969 and complemented by three large video screens and seat rumbling sounds recreating the launch, it was easy to imagine being there as this amazing journey began.

Also at the Cape is Space Shuttle Atlantis, one of three such vehicles in existence from the program that was discontinued in 2011.  I found fascinating the creativity and “outside the box” thinking that was required to bring to fruition the idea of a reusable space craft.  And yet again Niki and I were blown away by the high quality, very well thought out manner in which this amazing sector of our space program was presented.

In summary, I’m not often one to get all that much enjoyment out of museums like this. But in the case of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, I was absolutely awestruck. Whereas usually I’m pretty well done with these places in an hour or two, at this one I could have easily spent two or more days trying to absorb it all.  Should you ever be in the area of Cape Canaveral, DO NOT miss this place!

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