Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vacation Details

Okay, let's see.  Where were we?  Oh yeah, our shuttle launch vacation.  First, let's talk transportation. Don't ever fly through Atlanta on Delta Airlines if you can avoid it.   Prior to winning the launch lottery, my nephew, Michael, and niece-in-law Alicia, were planning to spend the 4th of July holiday here.  They had already purchased Delta tickets to fly to/from Dulles from their home in Atlanta.  When we won the launch tickets (notice I said "we"), they simply tacked-on another flight from Atlanta to Melbourne, FL. 

Initially I had no idea that Michael and Alicia were planning to fly into Melbourne, but it just so happened that that's where I wanted to fly rather than into Orlando, and the only way to get there from Dulles was on Delta via a stop in Atlanta.  Naturally we opted to take the same flights as Michael and Alicia.  It worked out great in terms of all six of us spending more quality time with eachother, sharing rides to/from the airports, sharing the car rental and condo, etc.  But that's where the greatness ended.

To start with, the flights were very crowded.  On both legs to FL -- from Dulles to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Melbourne -- most of us were separated, and Stephanie and I were seated near the engine. On the first flight we were right next to it, and on the second flight we were directly in front of it.  It was awful. The engine noise is obnoxiously loud.  To add to the insult, our connecting flight from Atlanta to Melbourne was delayed for an hour.  Apparently Delta was missing an entire crew.  Delay number 1.

On the way back, our flight from Melbourne was delayed because our plane, which was coming from Atlanta, was late leaving Atlanta and thus late arriving in Melbourne.  Delay number 2.  Once on the plane from Melbourne, we arrived in Atlanta 5 minutes too late to catch our connecting flight to Dulles. The next flight was two hours later.  Delay number 3.  Needless to say, we weren't very happy about it. 

Fortunately, Alicia was adept at expressing to the gate supervisor that it was the Delta's fault we were late and they owed us some sort of compensation.  Atlanta was her final destination so it didn't really matter to her that we were late, but she fanagled $200 worth of vouchers for future flights and about $45 in meal vouchers so that we could go have something to eat while waiting for the next plane.  That turned out to be a good thing, because our substitute flight ended-up late too!  Delay number 4.  We finally flew out of Atlanta and got back home to Dulles about three hours later than originally scheduled.  Amazingly, I didn't get my panties in a twist the whole time!  With 3 out of 4 flights operating behind schedule (and all due to one airline and one airport), I normally would've been agitated.  But for some reason, right from day one, I just accepted these and any other inconveniences as part of the whole vacation package, and that seemed to make everything okay. 

Well, I take that back.  There were two exceptions to being okay.  The first was while we were hanging around waiting for the delayed flight from Atlanta to Melbourne.  I went into a little shop inside the terminal to buy something to drink.  A woman who was in line ahead of me decided she would flip through a bunch of stuff near the check-out register, and then, "oh yeah," she forgot, "I need to get some pens, too," and off she went to look through a few of those.  All the while, people behind me were scurrying over to another cashier who just opened her register.  The woman in front of me continued taking her good sweet time.  She couldn't care less that people were waiting. I couldn't help myself any longer and finally blurted out to her, "maybe you should have done your shopping before you got to the check-out counter."  She turned and looked at me with an evil expression on her face, then she responded, "maybe you should just chill."  So I replied, "well, we are trying to chill, but we can't pay for our drinks because YOU'RE in the WAY."  Glaring even more intently now, she held up her fist and said, "why, I oughtta slug you."  I shot back at her, "I dare you, woman."  She started to swing at me but I blocked her fist with my left arm while I punched her in the face with my right hook.  A scuffle ensued and were we both arrested.

I'm KIDDING!  The scenario actually ended with her giving me an evil look and the cashier apologizing for her afterwards.  I just thought I'd embellish the story for the fun of it. 

The second incident that wasn't okay with me was when a woman tried to butt in line at the Kennedy Space Center while we were waiting to board the buses out to the causeway.  We had been waiting patiently with thousands of other people since 4am, and I wasn't about to let her sneak through the line.  I called her on it; she played dumb and made excuses.  The little wench.  She knew exactly what she was doing.  I stood my ground and she moved back to wherever she was originally.  Good thing I saved everyone from her dastardly deed. 

So that takes care of our traveling. Now, on to the next aspect of vacation time - eating and drinking!  Our first night out in Cocoa Beach was actually spent in Port Canaveral.  Port Canaveral is where the cruise ships come in and out.  We saw one leaving when we first arrived at the condo.  Those things are massive, and surprisingly fast.  Another ship we saw towards the end of our trip had a huge, spiral water slide on the top deck. Wow! But I digress...getting back to dinner in Port Canaveral...we went to an area that had a bunch of restaurants along the waterfront.  We wanted to eat outside and enjoy the evening, as beach tourists are inclined to do on their first night-on-the-town, but the tables were all first-come first-served -- and it was crowded. 

I spotted a large table with only two guys sitting at it and they appeared to be getting ready to leave.  Encouraged by a little buzz I had going from our earlier happy hour on the beach, I went up to them and asked if we could share their table.  Next thing you know, we were pulling up chairs and overtaking their table. As my entourage began sheepishly arriving one by one, I made introductions.  "This is my husband, Mike. This is my daughter, Stephanie. This is my niece Taylor.  This my nephew and his wife..." and so forth.  One of the men looked at me like I was nuts.  Really he just thought I had a lot nerve and couldn't believe we were squeezing him out.  But I didn't care.  I was on vacation.  And if you don't ask, you don't receive. 

We chatted for a little while while they waited for their check and we waited for our beers.  It turned out they were in FL for the shuttle launch, too.  The only difference was, although we were prestigious ticket holders, they went one better.  They worked on the boats that go out and retrieve the spent booster rockets.  Pretty cool, huh?  I always wonder how people get such interesting jobs.  Especially when one of them was from Baltimore and the other was from Mobile, AL.  How'd they both end-up in FL pulling rockets out of the sea?

As the men were leaving, they confirmed for the naysayer in our group (who shall remain nameless) that there was a 70% chance that the shuttle wouldn't take off, up from 60%  earlier that afternoon.  It was cloudy and the forecast called for more.  But a 70% chance of "no go" meant a 30% chance of "go," and that's what I was betting on.  We were still more than two days away from countdown at that point.  Phooey on the non-believers.

Okay, that's it for now.  Gotta run.

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