Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How I spent Memorial Day

Author Adam-Troy Castro and his wife Judi picked us up at the hotel at 10:00 a.m. and we drove the 50 miles to the Kennedy Space Centre (getting slightly lost on the way). The Castros' rental car's windshield got so plastered with splattered insects ("love bugs," we were told they were called) that we actually had a very hard time seeing though the glass.

At one point, I asked if people knew what ate love bugs -- then supplied my answer: Herbie-vores. :)

We started our visit to the Kennedy Space Center (which was remarkably uncrowded, given that this was the Memorial Day holiday) by watching the 3D Imax film Walking on the Moon, which was spectacular -- all four of us were teary-eyed by the end. We then took the bus tour to the launch-complex viewing platform (where we could see the top of the Shuttle Atlantis on the pad), and to the newly enclosed Saturn V viewing facility.

We lingered so long at various places (but enjoyable so) that we didn't get to go to the third station on the tour, devoted to the International Space Station, but that was okay. We ran into San Diego fan Cary Meriwether and his girlfriend Michele at KSC, and spent part of our day with them, as well.

We finished our day by doing the Shuttle launch simulator, a new ride (it opened on Friday!) that supposedly accurately mimics a Shuttle launch by simulating three Gs. Although it was purported to be similar in vomit-inducing abilities to the Mission to Space ride at Epcot that we'd done on Friday of last week, it was actually quite tame, and we all enjoyed it. But I was very disappointed in the conclusion, which has the shuttle hanging upside down, with the Earth overhead -- because, while looking on the day side of Earth, they had the sky filled with brilliant (Christmas-tree light) stars. You can't see the stars in space when the Earth is lit up by the sun; there's too much glare, and the stars are too faint.

For NASA to opt for a Hollywood-style version of space, instead of simulating the real thing, was a huge disservice in my view.

After, Adam, Judi, Carolyn, and I went to Cattleman's on International Drive for a nice, late steak dinner.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At June 02, 2007 10:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, thought you'd like to see my comments, from my newsgroup, about the love bugs.

If anything, Rob understates the phenomenon of love-bugs.

For those of you who live elsewhere in the nation, love-bugs are little flies
that, for three weeks in late May and early June, engage in a massive in-flight
orgy all over central and northern Florida. In some places, every cubic meter
of air has three or four happily fornicating pairs.

This is annoying, just walking around. It is a genuine pain in the ass while
driving, because they splat your windshield by the hundreds, each impact leaving
a sticky, semiliquid white stain about the size of a dime. These stains resist
windshield washer liquid and even the generous application of elbow grease.
They smear and streak. One or two of them, added to the view ahead at sixty
miles an hour, is just an annoyance. Several hundred, turning the windshield
increasingly opaque, are a genuine hazard.

This week, driving toward the Kennedy Space Center, we found ourselves on a
stretch of rural highway so dense with the little fuckers that the pat-pat-pat
of their little bodies exploding on impact was like a heavy rain. If you looked
forward, you saw the black specks approaching you by the hundreds, looking a
lot like the stars in hyperspace as seen on the viewscreen of Captain Kirk's
U.S.S. Enterprise. The rococo ratatat of their happy deaths soon manifested
as myself straining to see through the few clear sections of glass, while Rob
Sawyer, sitting next to me, did what he could to apprise me of the street signs
he was able to read through the passenger side window.

And even that was not the most disgusting part of it.

When we arrived at the space center, we emerged from the car and saw that the
bumper of the rental car was FURRY with lovebug corpses, most of which had not
completely smashed, and were therefore twitching their wigs in a vain attempt
to free their maimed and mushy forms from the glued muck of whatever the hell
it is they use for guts and seminal fluid. The car had a beard.

As the vacation proceeded, Judi kept saying that we couldn't return a car that
looked like it had been driving through a insect mass grave. I said, we'll take
it to a car wash if we don't encounter a hard rain on the way back. The hard
rain was provided by nature, and the scouring effect of nature gradually reduced
the white smears on the windshield to invisibility, over a hundred miles or
so. We stopped for coffee at one point and took a look at the front bumper.
The beard was only MOSTLY gone. Now the car looked like it needed a shave. There
was still a dense forest of black spots, like stubble. It looked like we were
driving the MIAMI-VICE era Don Johnson.

This is central to upper Florida, between May and June.

This is, of course, just before that even greater delight, Hurricane season.


At June 05, 2007 10:11 PM , Anonymous Judy said...

Sounds like you had a great day there Rob! We love KSC and I can't wait until my little munchkin is old enough to take there. My husband and I went by the Houston Space Center on our honeymoon back in '99 and very much enjoyed the tour relating to the ISS.

Did you see any of the massive queen-mattress sized bald eagle's nest on the roads around there? Cool stuff.

At June 05, 2007 10:59 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Judy. Yes, indeed, our bus driver (at KSC) pointed out the eagles' nests. Way cool!


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