Letters From a Bus
June 2007: Maiden Voyage
5th entry for June
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Florida Tourists

St. Augustine, FL, Day Fifteen at the home of my brother and his wife, Jerry and Marsha Barlow

Sunday, June 24, 2007 — Day Forty of living in our Allegro Bus

This week we turned into tourists.  On Wednesday, June 20th Dennis, Marsha and I drove a few hours south to Cape Kennedy.  It was fascinating and we had a terrific time.  However, there is too much to see in one day.  Next time we will stay nearby and do two days (second day is free).  There are two tours:  The NASA Up-Close Tour and Cape Canaveral: Then and Now Tour. http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/index.asp

We chose Cape Canaveral and I just loved it.  I remember everything we read in the news and saw on those old grainy black and white TVs.  To see where all this happened was really wonderful.  First we stopped at the 49th Space Wing Exhibit Hall and we saw Launch Complex 26 (LC-26) the launch site at Merritt Island.  It was used for the Jupiter and Jupiter-C rockets.  This was the launch site for Explorer 1, the United States first satellite, in 1958.  The blockhouse was built to protect some two-dozen controllers from the fire blast.  They had to be close because everything was done by copper wire signals.  

Left: Look at how basic the controls were in 1961. Above: The concrete was 3 feet thick and the windows were a foot thick (I think). Below: A Redstone rocket on display, one of the first they fired up.

Next we stopped at Pad 5 where on Mercury 3 Freedom 7, Alan B. Shepard. Jr. was the second person and the first American astronaut to go into space on 5/5/61.  Then we saw Launch Complex 14, well known as the launch site for NASAs Mercury-Atlas 6 flight, which made John H. Glenn the first American in orbit.  It was also the launch site of the other Mercury-Atlas flight, and various unmanned Atlas launches.  Then we went to Launch Complex 19, used by NASA to launch all of the Gemini manned spaceflights.  Unmanned Titan I and Titan II launch vehicles also used it.  It was in use from 1959 to 1966 during which time it saw 27 launches, 10 of which were manned.

We stopped at Launch Complex 34 used by NASA as part of the Apollo Program, to launch Saturn I and IB rockets.  It is the site of the Apollo 1 fire, which claimed the lives of astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee on 1/27/67.  It was a sobering moment as our guide told us about it.  There is a memorial plaque on the right rear column.  In the distance we could see a Delta 4 satellite rocket ready to launch at pad 37.

Left Above: Dennis walks towards Pad 34. Right Above: Fire Deflectors used at Pad 34. Left: Seen in the distance from Pad 34 is a Delta4 rocket ready to go. Above: The ocean in the distance seen from Pad 34.
Last we drove by the Launch Complex 39-A & 39-B.  Originally designed to support the Apollo program, they are modified for Space Shuttle launch operations.  Now they have a new Fixed Service Structure and a Rotating Service Structure.  We saw the Crawler-Transporter used to transport the Space Shuttle stack from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad.  I don’t know which rocket we saw there.  I think it was Delta2 “Dawn” originally scheduled to be launched on June 21 and now re-scheduled to be launched on 7/7.  (Delta2 “Phoenix is to be launched on 8/3 and Shuttle Endeavour “ISS 13A.1 is scheduled for 8/9.)  
Left: Crawler on the left and Delta2 "Dawn" in the distance. The "Go Atlantis!" sign will soon come down. Right: The same crawler seen full length.
The tour finished at the Apollo/Saturn V Center.  There we saw a brief movie and then we were escorted into a “you-are-there” theatrical presentation that let us relive key moments in a control room — the liftoff of the first manned Saturn V rocket and the first manned landing on the Moon.  This experience museum is very cool.  Later we walked around the center with all the hardware on display including the world’s largest indoor artifact — the extraordinary Saturn V rocket. 
First fuel fill-up - $450 gift from Bankston at Texaco, Jordan Lane, Huntsville, AL 5/21/07
Left Above: Control room for manned lunar landing. The chair lights up when the person who sat there speaks. All the monitors are lit and the control button lights flash on. Right: OK, this is all too much for me. I'm standing under the Saturn V rocket looking lost.

Thursday, June 21st was the solstice and also our 21st wedding anniversary.  Was it only a year ago that we threw a big 20th anniversary garden party at our home in Los Altos?  Then we were making plans to buy a bus and now we are living in it!  This year we celebrated in company with Marsha and Jerry with a delicious dinner at South Beach Grill.  In the afternoon we toured the St. Augustine Lighthouse. 

My son, Jeff Parry, is the manager of the International Hostel at Pigeon Point Lighthouse. http://norcalhostels.org/pigeon/  Naturally, I’ve become lighthouse enthusiast.  Jeff asked me to get an official lighthouse passport and collect stamps so I got my first stamp at the oldest lighthouse in North America.  (A watchtower was established by 1586 on Anastasia Island to protect the new Spanish settlement of St. Augustine.)  The lighthouse has a large gift shop and a very large and wonderful museum on two floors in the restored keepers’ house. It is still a working lighthouse.  We learned about the history of the light station and the lives of the keepers and their families as well as the maritime history of the nation’s oldest port.  We spent a lot of time in the museum but OK I admit it, we didn’t climb the 219 stairs to the top of the tower.  (Too hot.) 

Left: St. Augustine Lighthouse. Above: Model of the first lighthouse. Below Left: The Keeper's house as it faces the interior yard and the lighthouse. Below Right: The Keeper's House as it faces outward towards the water. The beautiful old oaks are covered with Spanish Moss.
On Friday we made an early start to see the Alligator Farm before the day got too hot.  It’s a good thing because we spent two hours there.  This is a wonderful zoo and everything has been done with great care.  The displays are marvelous.  We learned about the differences between alligators and crocodiles and saw varieties of living species from all over the world.  I was amazed at the gardens and overhanging trees around the alligator pools.  Birds were nesting and feeding their young and although they were free, they all chose to be right there within easy seeing distance (and sometimes easy reaching distance!)  This is an amazing place.  http://www.alligatorfarm.us/
Above: Dennis at the Alligator Farm entrance.
Below Left & Right: Beneath the Bayou set (with a sign that says "NO WAKE") lurks a white alligator.
Above left & right: A huge alligator pool with a touring platform on two sides. There are lots of alligators in them thar waters.
From the platform you can see thousands of nesting birds including storks and herons.

The beaches here are very different from beaches in California.  They are a couple of hundred yards wide and can stretch for fifty miles with very few interruptions.  Over hamburgers at the Beachcomber in Crescent Beach we watched cars stop at a small guard station and then drive onto the beach.  The beach is bordered by tall grasses and fences planted in the sand dunes.  Houses up on the dunes line the beach front. 

At the entrance to the beach there is a tall lifeguard chair and they fly a colored flag to indicate conditions.

Lavender:  Dangerous Marine Life
Red:  Extreme Danger
Yellow:  Caution Swim Near A Lifeguard
Green:  Conditions Favorable

I’ve never seen a lifeguard in one of those chairs. I think you're on your own....

We’ve had a great time at the Barlow house.  Marsha and Jerry are very social and wonderful hosts.  Marsha is a terrific cook and loves to entertain. We’ve enjoyed more sunsets from the dock.  It has been wonderful for us to have the opportunity to visit with my brother and sister-in-law.  
Marsha cooks. Rudi and I watch the sunset from the dock.
It was especially great to see my big brother!
Elsa Walton, Barlow Camp, St. Augustine, FL, Monday, June 25, 2007