The skies were dark, a foreboding of what lay ahead. Today I would part ways with my yellow companion of the past 7 days, my Corvette ZHZ. It was always going to be a bitter sweet moment having travelled almost a thousand miles together but it was made all the more bitter by the fact I couldn’t take it with me to Discovery’s last launch. Still I was determined to make the most of this day, rising early so that I could take my time driving her back to the place from whence she once came. Whilst I wasn’t really that emotional I still couldn’t help but look back over my shoulder at the stunning piece of automobile engineering whilst I slowly walked away.
I was in a daze for a good hour afterwards, wandering around Orlando airport trying to figure out what to do. I had a couple hours to burn until I picked up my next car, a convertible of some description, and I hadn’t had any breakfast. The pickings on this side of the airport were quite slim as I had been over them several times whilst I was staying at the Hyatt but I finally settled on some yoghurt and coffee from the local Starbucks. I had came prepared for this brief interlude back at the airport with my copy of Pandora’s Star grasped firmly in one hand and proceeded to devour a couple chapters whilst I waited for my next ride to be ready.
I’m always a little nervous when it comes to booking things over the Internet and this was no exception. Having only booked this a couple nights ago I was hoping that everything was ok and I would be walking out there, FSM willing, with some kind of car that would make it to the KSC tomorrow. Thankfully everything checked out and 30 minutes later I was in possession of a red convertible Ford Mustang. I was flying blind this time around as I hadn’t bothered to get a GPS for it but I was confident I could find my way back home since I had done it enough times in the corvette, but time would tell on that one.
Then just as I was leaving the skies began to rain down with nearly the same fury I had felt whilst I was down in Miami. It was as if nature itself was abhorred by the notion of me driving another car, weeping for two companions separated by circumstances. I managed to pull under an overpass and figured out the roof just in the nick of time saving myself and the pristine interior the torrential downpour that was now savaging the area. In amongst all this I noticed I had found myself on the same road I had gotten lost on the first day I spent driving here in the USA, promptly righting my course and finding my way home about 30 minutes later.
I spent the majority of my day here in the hotel, watching videos and reading a couple more chapters of my book. It was a tactical move to try and aid in the healing of my foot in preparation for tomorrow since I didn’t want to be hopping around in pain when the shuttle roars into action tomorrow afternoon. On any other day it would’ve been one I considered wasted but with the downpour and relatively cold conditions all across Florida currently it didn’t seem like a bad way to spend the day. It would’ve been even better if I could’ve spent it cuddled up with my wife in front of the TV, but our separation (which was due to end tomorrow) put an end to that idea before it began. I’ll just have to make up for lost time when we see each other again.
Spending the whole day indoors did leave me a little restless so I decided I’d at least attempt to find somewhere to eat outside of the hotel. Driving around for 30 minutes I couldn’t find anything past crappy chain restaurants or fast food, certainly nothing worth the price of admission like it was back in Miami. Defeated I returned to my hotel room and ordered room service, which they got wrong. I wasn’t really about to argue with it though since I wasn’t particularly hungry and the meal they had sent up was decent¹.
Tomorrow will, hopefully, be the climax of my 11 days spent here in the sunny southern state. The enormity of it has still yet to set in and I’m sill anxiously awaiting confirmation that my flight has been changed but those aside it still excites me that I’ll be able to bear witness to something as awesome as a shuttle launch. No doubt tomorrow’s post will be one of elation, awe and a drained wallet as my fiscal conservative side gets pushed aside by that little boy in me who just won’t stop dreaming about becoming an astronaut and wants that t-shirt to go with it. I’ve been ever so jealous of those lucky people who got in on the NASA tweetup, living vicariously through them as I follow their tweets and pictures. Hopefully I’ll get to join them next year (hint hint) when I come over to see the very last shuttle launch.
¹Just as I was finishing up this post they brought up the correct order and said the other meal was on the house. Well that was lucky and it would be even better if I had a fridge in this place. Maybe it’s time to make an impromptu one with wet towels in the bathroom, that ought to keep it cool enough for breakfast tomorrow morning! 😉
Ever since the wonderful day I had exploring Miami yesterday I had been dreading this morning, it was time for me to check out of the Viceroy and head back to Orlando. When I first arrived I was a little overwhelmed with the level of service and opulence that was presented before me but after spending just a mere 4 nights there I began to grow accustomed to it, revelling in the luxury. As they say though all good things must come to an end and so it was that I packed up my things and began getting ready to check out. I had the room until 12pm so I thought I’d make the most of it by catching up on the latest news and watching all of the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers on Hulu. This had the unfortunate consequence of alerting me to something dire to my whole reason for being here.
The shuttle launch had been delayed, again.
When I first planned the trip to include my jaunt over here to Florida I had initially budgeted a week (so that Rebecca could have time with her best friend in the world, Laura) for me to hop around and have fun in the Corvette with a couple days at the end for the shuttle launch, some slack to make sure I didn’t miss it due to weather events. The first delay was well within this schedule and whilst it was shocking at the time I could handle it by just booking another rental car to cover the trip out there and back to the airport the next day. This next delay however posed a more serious problem as I would be flying out that day at 12pm and the launch wasn’t scheduled until 3 hours later. After an hour of unmitigated panic I decided I wasn’t going to be fucked by a day and shot an email off to my travel agent hoping to get the flight moved without having to pay out the ass for it. A quick check of the flights shows I could book it on my own for about $120 and another night in a hotel wouldn’t break the budget. I should hopefully hear back from her sometime tomorrow, letting me see the shuttle launch and validating my whole reason for being here.
With that all settled I went downstairs to check out and to grab the Corvette so I could get out of there. It was a pretty uneventful drive back, but it was far more enjoyable than the one down. On the way down I was still fighting off the last little bit of my jet lag making the last hour or so of the drive quite tiresome. Today however I was very well rested and I’d finally grown accustomed to the heat and humidity making the drive that much more pleasurable. I even took a little time out to make a 0-60 video of the corvette and put the top down for the first time since I got it. I should’ve done it sooner because damn, it just looks sexy when it’s topless:
It’s a bit too much when you’re doing 75mph though so I had to put it back down after a couple miles of getting my head blown around. I reconciled to spend the last few days with the top down as much as humanly possible though, it really is quite fun (especially putting it up and down, it’s fully motorised).
The hotel I had chosen for my last few days here in Orlando was the Crown Plaza Universal. The name makes it sound a lot better than it actually is but I guess it’s more oriented to families who are staying here to go to Disney World rather than the strapping male technophile like the Viceroy was. Case in point I had to pay for my Internet connection here where every other hotel I’ve stayed in has provided it free of charge. This place is considerably cheaper than the rest of them though and they still have a gym.
After I got settled in and had a quick work out my mind shifted towards finding some dinner. Firing up Yelp brought up quite a few good locations all within a long walk/short drive away with the best of them unfortunately being lunch only places. I finally settled on the Hanamizuki Japanese restaurant which had quite a few good reviews. After driving over there and waiting about 10 minutes to be seated (they weren’t that busy, but seemed to miss me and the 10 customers standing behind me somehow) I was seated down at the sushi bar and given their extremely large menu. The food was pretty good, definitely worth the price and I’d actually rate it above Zuma. Reason being the people here were actual Japanese nationals, not the wasians at Zuma who spoke (admittedly good) rapid fire Japanese at you. I didn’t think twice when the chef offered me some sashimi in Japanese, thanking him with a quick “arigatoo” to which he responded “doo itashimashite”, which means you’re welcome.
Returning to my car I was reminded of the day I had yesterday and how much good had came from just exploring. The tempreature was still quite nice even at this late hour so I decided to jump in, get the top down and go for a cruise. I set off in one random direction and found myself on the main strip of this part of Orlando with lights and all sorts of things lining the street. It was beautiful in its own way, a tribute to the American way of life. The moment was wholly captured by the instant when I pressed the accelerator just that little harder than I had done before and the corvette let out a note of which I had never heard before. It was beautiful, like a caged lion being released from its bonds into the wild. The second I came to from that moment of pure automobile ecstasy I laughed in a way I haven’t done in years. That pure feeling of joy that comes from doing something so utterly ridiculous that bypasses every other part of your brain and just tickles the pleasure centres. The grin wouldn’t leave my face for almost an hour afterwards.
With that came thoughts of what to do tomorrow. I’m thinking a cruise down to the beach with the top down will be perfect, with the corvette getting a good boot on the way there and back. I think I’ve finally hit that part of the trip where I finally drop all those barriers that I put up to protect myself when I’m in an unknown situation and with that I’m ready to just relax and let the trip happen all on its own.
Damn it feels good 😀