I do think there is value in everyone and anyone setting specific life goals. And just like I think every adult should have a list of things to do before they die — a bucket list, some might call it — so too every child should have a parental-supported list of things to do before they leave the age of innocence and become a teenager. I decided to write that list down, and from my daughter’s fifth birthday until the day she turns thirteen we’re going to try and do them all.
49. A rocket, or something that has been or will go into space.
Fresh back from a week-long tropical vacation, I’m balancing a mix of (on one hand) jet-lag-induced apathy towards anything involving a keyboard and a monitor and (on the other hand) a bursting-at-the-seams enthusiasm for getting our adventures down in text.
Of course, the obvious solution for this dichotomy of spirit is to start with something concrete and simple by officially crossing yet another item off the grand list of 100 things and by getting the record down as this, a travelogue-slash-report.
Short-story: we went to look at rockets.
Longer story: A few months ago — despite the fact I was fairly mum about it here in the blog — we hunkered around the computer with our credit cards and booked a cruise vacation. It was a grand trip on a big ship, swooping around and about through the Eastern Caribbean. Seven days of sand, surf, and sun. Glorious. And, the vacation having ended just a little less than twenty-four hours ago (and as I sit here contemplating all that bubbling enthusiasm to write piles and heaps and insane quantities of words about just that) it should be noted thee there will be numerous upcoming blog posts detailing the various aspects of said vacation. This is only — sort of — one of those posts
If right now you are wondering what exactly a cruise vacation has to do with rockets, let me back up a little bit…
A few months ago we booked a seven-day cruise vacation leaving from Port Canaveral, Florida (as of this post) about eight days ago. (Get the math yet?) Port Canaveral is a little chunk of land that — if the name rings a bell for the rocket-enthusiast in you — is in booster-exhaust-sniffing range of one Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. For those who don’t get the NASA channel in their cable line-up (if there is such a channel) the Kennedy Space Center is essentially the place where — for the last fifty-or-so years — the United States had been building, maintaining, and launching their various fleets of rockets and space shuttles.
We arrived in Florida (a week ago last Saturday) very tired from a very long, very late, and very red-eyed flight direct from Edmonton. That said, we’d planned for twenty-four hours to kill before the cruise ship boarding time. The goal: visit Kennedy Space Center and check out some rockets.
…sciency-goodness wrapped in the candy-coating of some rides, food-stalls, animatronic exhibits, and a bus tour.
Driving through alligator-infested (yes, we saw some) swamplands (there is a pretty nice highway, but it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive) one finds oneself entering the Disney-like experience of what pretty much amounts to the NASA theme park experience. (It is just down the road from the Magic Kingdom, after all!)
The Kennedy Space Center visitor complex is sciency-goodness wrapped in the candy-coating of some rides, food-stalls, animatronic exhibits, and a bus tour.
It’s all worth it, of course. I’m not even going to try to mask my excitement. It was pretty awesome. We spent the better part of a day there and we all left feeling pretty pumped about space exploration, moon visits, and rocket ships.
And to top it all off, the last stop on the bus tour is a museum right near the site of the VIP launch viewing area. You enter through a set of heavy steel doors, walking into a journey-like re-creation of an Apollo-era rocket launch, complete with an immersive, window-rattling simulation of what it might have been like to be in the room. The story concludes and as everyone shuffles out into the main exhibit hall we are greeted with the immense and darn-near-overwhelming view of an actual Saturn V rocket, tilted on its side, it’s five main thruster engines glaring you square in the face.
Claire — despite her own jet-lag and a very long day of travel not-quite-behind us — seemed impressed. She gazed at the rocket over her head, not exactly sure what to make of it. But, heck, I wasn’t exactly sure either.