OK Disney was only 2 days of our wonderful 8 day trip to Florida. Here is the rest.
Our 3rd prize day was spent at Kennedy Space Center. Yes we could have done something obvious like Sea World or Universal Studios or we could have done something less obvious like go see Blue Man Group (which was under serious consideration) but I could not resist the educational and cultural opportunity to visit Kennedy and learn more about the space program. And we are not sorry, it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. I thought this would be the day Isabelle complained that she was bored but at the end of the day she claimed to love it more than Disney. I think she loves what she is doing at the moment the most but she really did great and enjoyed it. I challenged her to learn 3 facts that she could write in her journal and share with her class and off we went to discover. We learmed so much more than 3 things.
Here we are, first things first, accost a stranger to take a family picture. There are a handful of buildings and some interesting sites here at the main part of Kennedy but we really didn't get to see everything here. My mom had mentioned they had a great bus tour and the second thing we did was get in line for the bus tour. I thought it would be like at Disney where you get on a bus or tram and drive around for 15 minutes and then back for the next thing. Actually this bus tour was the bulk of our day. We left the main building area and drove over to a viewing platform where we could get see the main launch area. Then back in the bus and over to another building where we spent most of our day viewing various space paraphenelia and seeing videos about the program. It was facinating.
This is the building where they keep and assemble the shuttles. This is the largest one story building in the world. If the doors were fully open you could slide the statue of liberty in. Although it isn't obvious in the picture we could see the back end of one of the shuttles. Since we aren't sending manned missions anymore than are in the process of preparing the shuttles to go to various museums. One is going to Houston, TX, one will stay at Kennedy and the third is going...I forget. It seems like just yesterday that we announced then end of our space program and yet they have already full embraced the new direction of the space program in every video and display in the place. The new direction will focus on deep space missions and they will be privatizing the space program. In March they are doing a launch which will be a test run for a private company trying to get a contract to send stuff up.
This is the launch platform. They set the shuttle on it and then have a huge crawler machine that they use to drive the platform with shuttle over to the launch area. It is amazing what they have created for the space program. When John Kennedy decided that our goal was the moon and we could not be stopped the fact was we had never even gone into space. Every single detail of our current space program has been created along the way. Not just the building of the spaceship but every policy and procedure involved in a launch. The road from where the shuttle is built to where it is launched had to be specially engineered to handle the weight of the crawler carrying a platform with a shuttle on it. Every detail had to be thought of and invented. What an exciting project to be a part of.
The launch site. We didn't get to go out there.
It is hard to photograph the background and the foreground. Especially when one is sunny and the other is in the shade. So that little smear on the horizon to the right of Jake is the launch platform. In person it doesn't look like a smear. We are about 3 miles away, the closet they let people get.
Here we are in the second building, part of the bus tour. This is the Saturn V rocket which, if I recall correctly, was the first manned trip into space, or the first signficant one.
Isabelle holding up the rocket.
We got to touch an actual rock from the moon. It felt like a smooth stone touched by thousands of people but still it is cool to say we touched a rock from the moon.
I was really inspired by the space program and the focus and determination that went into accomplishing putting a man on the moon. The risks, the many failures, including the deaths of several astraunauts on their first attempt into space, and finally the success. They kept persevering, slowly worked through each problem, found answers and put man on the moon and created a space program. It is a wonderful lesson for our life as we work toward a goal that will be full of challenges but worth it when we accomplish our goal and stand on our personal moon.
Kennedy is surrounded by a huge wildlife preserve. Basically everything except the few buildings and launch site are wildlife preserve. The bus drivers were pointing out alligators and eagle's nests as we drove around. So apparently they were doing a controled burn that day which got a little out of control. As we drove near the area on the way out we could see a small fire on the side of the road but as the day progressed apparently it got larger and more out of control. By the time we left they were counting people and pretty much kicking them out of building. What was about a 3 mile drive out turned into a 30 minute tour of the cities surrounding Cape Canaveral as we drove back another way because they had to close the roads.
Once back to the main part most of the exhibits were closed but we got to check out the Rocket Garden before we left. So cool. All the rockets of the past stand proudly as part of the legacy of our space program. As you can see the smoke was darkening the sky considerably.
In reality this is all the room the astraunauts had during those early missions. They sat in one place for days.
As much fun as Disney and Kennedy were Isabelle desperately wanted to spend some time at the awesome pool at our hotel. So our last day in Orlando she was at the pool shortly after 9am and stayed until right before we checked out at 11.
How cool is that pool? Our room was in the building behind her, 11th floor, overlooking the pool.
On this side of the pirate ship you can see a little hole which was a water slide. It wasn't open that morning but her and John had some fun with it the night before.
My favorite part was the hot tub. Especially wonderful on tired legs.
We had a short but wonderful lunch with friends before we left for Marco Island. We arrived at dinner time and we whisked away to Joey's Pizza as soon as we arrived for a fun dinner. While technicaly we ate inside the restaurant we sat next to huge totally absent windows so it was like eating outside. It was the middle of winter and the weather was great.
The next day Isabelle was ready to hit the pool and we began our attempts at banishing our winter white.
I had my camera and started taking a couple of Jake who just went with me here. John was feeling a little disturbed by the time we were done.
Isabelle could barely contain herself. That is my parents place with the balcony above her head.
Isabelle is still laughing about pushing her brother into the pool.
They had so much fun together. Jake is the best big brother ever.
We had lunch at a restaurant on the beach. My mom picked up this long sleeved swimming shirt for isabelle after she got quite a bad sunburn our first day there.
Before we left I needed a few family pictures on the beach. That morning John and I had gone down early to walk down the beach a while. I could see a sort of obvious point so we headed toward it not realizing it was about 3 miles away. We even decided to run for about a mile or so before my knee gave up. It was a dream come true to run with my hubby along a beautiful white sandy beach the sun on my right the waves on my left. Pinch me.
It was really the totally wrong time of day lighting wise for these pictures so they are a little dark but otherwise turned out great. We really need to take another class on how our camera works so we can properly adjust the settings for this stuff.
Isabelle found another little girl playing in the sand and really was not into family pictures or standing still for us.
Here are my feet saying goodbye to the sand.
Isabelle rinsing off the sand as we leave the beach for the last time.
Grandma and Isabelle drove the long 3 blocks from their condo to the beach.
The men and I walked.
I really pray we can return to Marco another winter. Now that I have gone 2 years in a row it seems like a tradition worth perpetuating. But both trips have been paid for so we will see what happens. I found this trip to be so much more fun since I was familiar with everything. I was able to guide John right to their condo without directions, I knew where I wanted to have lunch, what to do on the beach. We really wanted to try Kayaking while we were there but finally admited that the visit was too short for another adventure and just enjoyed the beach. We headed back to Orlando on Friday night tired but happy, spent the night in a very inexpensive but surprisingly nice hotel near the airport and began our journey home Saturday afternoon.
But WAIT, that is not all! Our original flight had a short layover in Atlanta, just enough time to get off one plane, rush across the airport and get on another. But my sister lives in Atlanta and I hadn't seen her in over a year and it seemed like an opportunity. So when we checked in at the airport I asked the guy if there was any way he could bump us off that flight and put us on a later flight so we could have dinner with my sister. Well he must have a sister somewhere too because he ended up finding us seats on a flight 5 hours after we landed. He said he normally he was supposed to charge for the change but would do it as a courtesy to us. And so I give a shout out to AirTran for their wonderful customer service. If I can do London during a 7 hour layover I can definately have dinner with my sister in 5 hours.
Michele picked us up at the airport and we found our way to Lenox Mall where we met up with her husband for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. I believe my favorite part of the visit was having her point out the transvestites at the mall as we walked through. While I had been to the mall before it is definately a differnet place on a Saturday night than it is on a Wednesday afternoon.
The cousins loved seeing each other (the oldest just turned 13 and was at a surprise birthday party for her so we didn't get to see the new teenager.)
And it was a joy to see my sister. When we are together it seems like no time has past. Now the short visit is like a dream.
The men enjoyed some quick bonding as well.
And with that we flew home, John and I watched a very strange movie called "Cowboys and Aliens" on the flight, my brother picked us up from the airport at 11pm because he is wonderful and we disovered that our bed is the most comfortable bed the in the whole world.
It was such a wonderful trip full of so many wonderful family memories. Every day we commented on how grateful we were to win this trip and have this experience. And again, as I have been doing all year, I am aware that this is likely our last major family trip before Jake moves into adulthood and begins his independence from our family. I had written in my contest entry about my desire to have one last big family trip with Jake before he graduated and this trip was that and so much more. I loved seeing my children outside of our normal daily life. I wanted to make memories with my children that they could carry into adulthood, memories that would span the distance between thier ages and bring them together, memories that they will share and laugh together about in years to come and will remind them that, although it was short, they shared a childhood together. Thank you, thank you Family Circle Magazine and Caryn at "Visit Orlando" who put it all together for making our family vacation a dream come true.