June 8th 2007 Watching the Atlantis Launch
Although the skies over the west coast of Florida contained numerous rain showers, about half a dozen members of our chapter decided to make their way over to the east coast and witness the launch of Atlantis. The ride from Clearwater to Orlando brought us through a few rain showers but east of Orlando the weather was beautiful. Clear skies and only a few puffy clouds. One of the chances you take are that the launch could be scrubbed due to a number of factors- one being the weather. It looked like the weather at the launch site wouldn't be a factor.
Surprisingly other than the delays going through the toll booths on the Bee Line Expressway the ride over went fairly smooth. We expected that it only being about an hour prior to launch we would have to park miles from the site. To our disbelief we actually parked along the causeway leading out to the south end of the cape. There was only water and a few palm trees between us and the launch pad.
At 7:38 P.M. the engines were ignited and from our vantage point we could see Atlantis as she rose from the launch pad. The late evening sun illuminated her exhaust plume as she rose higher and higher and then finally pitch eastward. It was about 40 seconds before we heard the rumble of her engines as she continued to rise . Then as she was almost out of sight we watched her two solid booster engines fall away. What a spectacular site and this is the only place in the world that the general public can watch such an event.
Following the launch we decided that it was time to grab a quick bite to eat before heading back across the state. One of our members suggested we go to a well know restaurant just up the coast . Well this wasn't one of our better ideas, as we promptly found ourselves in the middle of thousands of folks in downtown Titusville trying to escape the traffic gridlock the launch had created or just like us looking for the place to eat. Unfortunately our GPS kept directing us onto the main roads where traffic wasn't going anywhere.
When we finally made it to our destination, the restaurant was still open, However there were about 60 -70 people that had gotten there ahead of us with the same idea. Tired and hungry we opted to find another eating establishment that would be on our route home. As it turned out we found a Cracker Barrel that was just off the interstate. Our 35 minute wait was closer to one hour but as the clock went from Friday to Saturday we finally had our dinner or maybe breakfast in our stomachs.
It had been almost four hours since the launch and having delayed our return towards Orlando we figured surely the traffic would be light going home. WRONG.
The Expressway going back to Orlando wasn't and expressway. It was more like a slow moving parking lot with a top speed of 15 MPH. So, that's the way it went all the way back to Orlando.
What an experience. A twelve hour trip to watching a thrilling launch which lasted about 3 minutes. Was it worth it.... You Betcha.....