Florida 2018: Day 3 - Riviera Beach


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Florida 2018: [Day 1: Murfreesboro] [Day 2: Merritt Island] [Day 3: Riviera Beach] [Day 4: Key Largo] [Day 5: Key Largo] [Day 6: Key West] [Day 7: Dry Tortugas] [Day 8: Orlando] [Day 9: Columbia] [Day 10: Cincinnati]

Sunday, July 22, 2018: Shortly after midnight, we left our motel and headed out.
We passed the scene of the accident we had passed five hours earlier. Police were still working at the scene since it was now a crime scene, with one of the vehicles in the accident thought to have driven away. (Update: that driver provided proof several days later that he hadn't hit the car that crossed the median causing the crash in the other lane.)
We found a spot along the river around 12:30 AM. There were four or five cars there already, including cars 10 - 15 feet away from us on either side.
Tom had Spaceflight Now up on his phone ...
... and we watched it for launch updates.
Other cars joined us in the hour leading up to the launch, including several cars with kids.
From our comfortable position in the front seats of our van right on the water's edge, we could see two launch pads across the water, but one was clearly where the main activity was occurring. Our little camera handled the darkness and the distance pretty well, and we were able to get some blurry views of the rocket ten miles in the distance.
We waited patiently for the SpaceX webcast to begin.
As promised, coverage began fifteen minutes before launch. It was surreal to see a high detail version of what we could see with our own eyes in the distance.
By 1:48 AM, everyone was out of their cars awaiting the launch. Debbie set up her phone on the ground to take video of the launch. It didn't catch anything other than the sounds of us saying, "Wow!"
The webcast was on a slight delay, so we were taken by surprise when the night lit up on the rocket's ignition right on schedule at 1:50 AM.
We couldn't see it earlier, but once we had liftoff, we could see that our view of the launch was perfectly framed by structures somewhere in the water between us and the rocket.
Here's the Falcon 9 carrying Telstar 19V into space.
Up it goes!
Debbie alternated between zooming in ...
... and zooming out.
The Falcon 9 started to angle toward the east.
More of an angle now.
And more.
Here's the first stage separation. The rocket was pretty far away by now.
At this point, we could just see a barely visible dot. You can see it in the larger version of this photo.
We could just make out the first stage re-entry burn in preparation for langing on the recovery ship.
That interesting building is the top couple floors of Exploration Tower, which we'd be visiting ten hours later.
In the car next to us during the launch, there was a woman and her sweet dog, who waited very patiently for her in the front passenger seat.
Seven minutes after liftoff, the highway was filled with cars heading back to homes and hotels. The cars around us started to leave as well.
We stayed a little longer to admire the nearly clear sky and the lovely moon.
As the headlights from departing cars lit up the sand on the ground around us, we watched more of the SpaceX webcast on Tom's phone.
We got about seven hours of sleep before checking out of our hotel at 10:45 AM. Here's the turnout to the dirt road we took to get to our launch viewing site.
There's the direction we faced across the Banana River.
Ahead of us was busy Port Canaveral, where three different cruise ships were in port.
Welcome to Port Canaveral!
Here is ship number one: the Oasis of the Seas.
We had breakfast/lunch at Grill's Seafood Deck and Tiki Bar.
It's really hot in Florida, so it was nice to sit in the air-conditioning but still be able to watch the activity in the port.
We started with a bowl of Bahamian fish chowder, described as a spicy brown bisque.
We both had the Grills' lunch special: seafood with two sides and a slice of cheese bread. Tom opted for filefish, Caribbean wild rice, and black beans. Debbie had the shrimp skewer, coconut sticky rice, and Tahiti taters. It was all really delicious, especially that amazing cheese bread.
We went outside to see ship number two, the Adventure of the Seas, arriving in port.
We were surprised to look down and see a whole swarm of baby sharks. There's probably a name for a group of sharks and it probably isn't "swarm."
We could see what was attracting the sharks' attention. On the other side of the dock, fishermen were cleaning fish ...
... and tossing the leftovers out to the pelicans.
We enjoyed a few more minutes out on the deck before moving on.
Milliken's Reef restaurant had closed down, but they hadn't gotten around to removing their beautiful sign quite yet.
Right next to the waterfront complex is the Exploration Tower.
It's a gorgeous building surrounded by a lake of salt water. A sign warns visitors to "Beware of Alligator." You have our attention!
In the lobby of the building is a hanging sculpture made entirely of plastic items. We'll show you a closer view later.
An informational movie is shown on the hour. After watching a minute or two, we decided to duck out so we could have the top observation level all to ourselves.
Here's the view looking to the west.
If you zoom way in, you can almost see our launch viewing site at the far base of the bridge on the right.
Here's the view looking to the northwest. There are two cruise ships in this view, the Adventure of the Seas, still coming in to port, and ship number three: Carnival Liberty.
If you look straight down in the water, ...
... you might see some very large fish down there, ...
... like these.
Looking to the north, ...
... there was a cargo ship ...
... next to stacks and stacks of wrapped piles of lumber.
Here's a view toward the northeast, ...
... and a little more toward the east.
Way off in the distance in the north, we could see NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building, ...
... and the Morrell Operations Center, the command center for operations of the 45th Space Wing.
Tom got a panorama of it all, ...
... and a shot of this sign, which shows the locations of Cape Caveral's launch pads in the distance.
Here's the top of the structure, looking almost straight up. It reminds us of the Burj al Arab in Dubai.
At the back of the observation level is a display on the wildlife and points of interest in Brevard County.
We took lots of pictures, ...
... despite being surrounded by alligators.
Then we worked our way down the tower, floor by floor.
Floor Six is the air and space level.
There were displays dedicated to the Space Shuttle program, and its role in the construction and re-supply of the International Space Station.
This display featured the Apollo program and its goal of exploring the Moon.
This display featured a collection of limited access passes to the Firing Room for Apollo 8 through Apollo 16.
Apollo 12 astronaut's Alan Bean and Pete Conrad walked on the Moon in November 1969. Tom consoles himself by thinking that while they got to walk on the Moon, they probably couldn't write software worth a damn.
We took a restroom break and unbeknownst to each other, we each ended up photographing our respective restrooms because they were so beautiful. Here's the men's room, ...
... and here's the women's room. If anyone doubts that we have identical taste in design, doubt no further.
Floor Five is the Port Canaveral level. Tom tried his hand at being a Harbor Pilot.
He piloted his boat out to the digital cruise ship but didn't quite make it before time ran out. Sorry, cruise ship passengers!
This display shows the transformation of Port Canaveral into the thriving sea port that it is today, ...
... while this display shows how dangerous the shallow waters and reefs are around the port. This map shows locations of some of the sunken wrecks in the port that lie just below the surface.
Floor Four has a large, sunny meeting room ...
... with a gorgeous wooden door that should really be at our house.
Huge lenticular pictures graced the back wall of this level, and changed scenes from one to the other as you walked past it.
Floor Three contains the movie theater ...
... and a large room with lots of information about the port and leisure activities, ...
... such as fishing. We weren't able to identify the fish we saw in the lagoon at the base of the building, but maybe it was one of these.
Debbie took an opportunity to hang ten at the Ron Jon surfboards display.
Floor Two contains displays about the history of the port.
It also had this large interactive table, which Tom wants to own.
From the second floor, we could get a closer look at the plastic sealife sculpture hanging over the gift shop.
Here's a closer look at the plastic jellyfish.
Back on the first floor, we were able to resist the adorable sea creatures that were probably created by the same company that made the camel we bought in Jordan, ...
... but we could not pass up the display of SpaceX t-shirts. Tom left with a royal blue shirt with just the SpaceX logo, but he looked long and hard at the Occupy Mars shirts.
We were on the road by 1:00 and a can of ice cold Peach Crush hit the spot on a hot day.
We passed our launch viewing site again. You can just see it in this photo to the right.
Here's a better look. These people are standing right around where we parked, except our van was facing directly toward the water.
Palm Bay is a client of Tom's company, so we had to get a picture of this.
We headed to Fort Pierce for our next stop. As we passed Old St. Anastasia Catholic School, ...
... we were surprised to see this Peacock Crossing sign as we drove through town.
We were headed to Sailfish Brewing to sample some of their beers.
From left to right are: Pierce Ciderworks Coco Loco Nut, Lionfish Pale Ale (with cilantro, lime, and jalapeƱo), Mullet Run Mild (English dark mild), Cheshire Catfish Porter (blackberry, blueberry, and cocoa), Peach Flounder Pounder (double IPA with peaches).
We came specifically to try the Lionfish (which was a little disappointing because it had very little pepper flavor) but we fell in love with the Coco Loco Nut cider. We also loved the very cool Sailfish Brewing forged tap handles.
There was no sign indicating what these bags were, but we eventually guessed that they were popcorn.
Then it was time to move on, ...
... but first we admired the tile work on the street benches. We have pineapple, ...
... birds, ...
... and a sailfish, appropriately enough.
A couple of blocks away, we found a large sailfish statue in the middle of a roundabout.
On our way out of town, we figured out why those Peacock Crossing signs were around as we passed a parking lot with close to a dozen peacocks and peahens wandering around.
This pretty purple church is First United Methodist.
We continued to see random trees with Spanish moss decorating them, mixed in with palm trees.
We had more leftover ribs as an afternoon snack while we drove, but still had more leftover when we were done.
Our next stop was Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach. We crossed over the Blue Heron Bridge, ...
... turned left at the base of the other side, ...
... and turned into the park entrance.
The parking lot was packed and the only spot we could find was a trek from the beach. The snorkel trail here should only be visited during the half-hour before and after high tide, and we had another 45 minutes to wait, so we decided not to stay.
Instead, we headed back across the bridge to our West Palm Beach hotel.
.A bright green lizard welcomed us as we arrived.
We were staying at the Hilton Garden Inn for free, ...
... courtesy of some airline miles that were close to expiring.
A half hour after leaving Phil Foster Park, we opened the shades to discover that the thunderstorms had arrived. With high tide still 40 minutes away, we wouldn't have been able to snorkel even if we had stayed, so we definitely made the correct call.
We headed to Pollo Tropical for dinner.
Debbie had the shrimp wrap with a side of sweet plantains, ...
... while Tom demolished mojo roast pork with black beans and yellow rice.
We picked up a couple of delicious cookies in the lobby on our way back to our room.

There was a nice rainbow during a break in the rain. We spent the evening relaxing and getting to bed early to make up for two nights of limited sleep.

Day 4 >


Florida 2018: [Day 1: Murfreesboro] [Day 2: Merritt Island] [Day 3: Riviera Beach] [Day 4: Key Largo] [Day 5: Key Largo] [Day 6: Key West] [Day 7: Dry Tortugas] [Day 8: Orlando] [Day 9: Columbia] [Day 10: Cincinnati]

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