boyhood dreams

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an astronaut. I would spend hours playing with Legos building elaborate spaceships, then I would crash those spaceships into the walls. So perhaps it’s good that I didn’t actually become an astronaut.

This week I’m in Florida to watch a space shuttle launch. It’s the second to last shuttle launch in history. The shuttle first launched in 1981, the year of my birth, and it’s retiring this year, just before I turn 30. It’s kind of cool that I get to sort of live out my boyhood dream before I turn 30.

In high school most guys dream about cars. My three dream cars in high school were the Toyota Supra, the Mazda RX-7, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-X Spyder. Of those three cars, the only one that remains in production is the Eclipse Spyder.

When my buddy Tim and I arrived at the airport rental car counter, the lady at the desk asked us if we wanted to upgrade to a convertible for only $8 a day. Oh heck yea. It ended up being a pearly white almost brand new 2011 Eclipse Spyder. Best $8 bucks spent. BEST EVARRRRR…

I quickly fell in love with this car. It’s loaded with every option imaginable, it even had a subwoofer in the back seat. It also had the sequential shift package. That made the car incredibly fun to drive. Every time I pulled out of a toll both, I switched into the sequential shift mode, slammed on the gas, and upshifted near redline. The car is fast but the fact that it’s so low to the ground and the fact that you feel the air whizzing by above your head makes it feel so much more incredibly fast than it actually is.

Of course I could drive hard and upshift near redline on my Subaru too, being that it’s stick, but I never shift above 4k. My Subaru and I are in a long term committed relationship and I would like to keep it that way. But for this brief fling with the Eclipse, I can shift as aggressively as I want to, not having to worry about the long term maintenance issues.

The best thing about the car, obviously, is the fact that it’s a convertible. It’s perfect for Florida. You can drive top down pretty much any time, even at night it’s warm enough. The atmosphere is perfect for driving top down, there’s water and palm trees everywhere. (Sorry for the gratuitous shot of my hairy drumsticks…)

In the morning we went to scout out a location to watch the space shuttle launch. We found a pretty good spot at Spaceview Park in Titusville. Our plan is to get there at around midnight the morning before the launch and camp out on the docks, a whole T-15:47 before the scheduled launch window.

We spent the rest of the day at the Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle was actually already on the launch pad. Here is a shot from a little over three miles away of the shuttle on the pad. I rented a humongous lens to be able to view the launch up close, and I was quite impressed. The shot came out relatively sharp for a picture from over three miles away without a tripod. You can see the top of the liquid fuel tank and one of the solid fuel boosters peeking out of the top of the assembly. The shuttle is there too, it’s just shrouded behind the walls for protection.

The shuttle launch is scheduled for 3:47 on Friday. Since we’re flying back Friday night, we only have one shot at viewing the launch. Statistics, time and the weather are against us. I heard a news report this morning that NASA pegs the chances of a launch on Friday at 10% due to the storms moving through the area. Endeavor, the shuttle going up this time, has only a 50% launch rate on its first attempt. There are supposedly half a million people in town to see the launch, which means traffic is going to be a nightmare. We’re worried that we might not be able to make it to the airport in time for our flight. Ordinarily 4+ hours for 40 miles is no problem, but these are extraordinary circumstances.

I guess we’ll see what happens Friday. Even if the launch gets delayed, I’ll still be happy that I got to sort of live out these old boyhood dreams. The launch would just be the icing on a sweet dreamy cake.

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