Florida Take 2

This trip was planned, at least, but that didn't stop it from being interesting.  The first thing to happen was that - while on a tight schedule and halfway to Shuttle-U from Chino - Amy realized she'd forgotten her swimsuit.  So we turned around, and Don met us at Ace Hardware for a fast exchange before I peeled out again - now we were late. I had given us an extra half hour while going into town, just incase there was traffic.  As we pulled up to Shuttle-U a scant 10 minutes before they left, I was glad I had.

It was an uneventful shuttle ride, and then something exciting (read: stressful) happened.  Our flight from Phoenix to Dallas had been pushed back an hour.  Nothing so big in itself, but it meant that our one hour, 15 minute layover in Dallas had turned into 15 minutes.  Dad said there was a later flight from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale, but everyone at American I spoke to seemed very confident that Amy and I could make our connection.  Trust the experts, right?  (Never trust the experts!)

Our flight out of Phoenix continued to be delayed for mechanical reasons, which is always something I'm willing to wait for.  However, as the minutes passed without our taking off I became convinced we were going to miss our flight.  A first for me.  It just wasn't working time wise.  We were scheduled to land two minutes from the time our other plane was supposed to taxi away from the gate.  Two minutes?  Well, I thought, perhaps they'll be in gates right next to each other.  Hahaha.  It turns out our flight arrived in gate C 39, and our flight to Fort Lauderdale departed from gate C 25. That's quite a run.  However, DFW has a little monorail train thing that runs around the entire terminal, so Amy and I figured that would be our best shot.  Waiting to get off the airplane we had our bags poised and ready for a run.  As soon as we cleared the aircraft we were gone, sprinting through the huge airport.  First I checked a flight status board only to see to my dismay that our flight to Florida was on time.  Damn!  If only it had been delayed too...Amy and I ran as fast as we could for the monorail.  Spending a few tense seconds waiting for it to arrive, I kept checking my watch.  Then we were on and off.  It really was faster than running, and it gave us time to catch our breath.  As we worked our way around the bowed terminal, I watched the gates flash by.  And then I saw gate C 25.  And there was a plane in it!  Perhaps we weren't too late after all!  Dashing off the monorail and down the stairs to the gate, Amy, myself and one other woman ran up to a guy in a reflective vest who was just closing the door to the jetway.

"Are we too late?" I panted.  He looked mildly amused and asked to see our boarding passes.  Showing them to him he nodded, "Right then, if you reach the plane before they close the door you can get on."

What?!

He unlocked the door for us, handed me all three boarding passes, and stepped aside.  We thundered down the jetway towards the plane, skidding to a halt when we reached it and saw that the door was indeed open, and there was a prissy looking male flight attendant standing there with his hand up in the universal 'stop' signal.  Oh no.  Had we come through all this only to be stopped now?  Looking back, I can only imagine the poor guy's reaction to having his plane rushed by three people, especially in this day and age.  Bouncing on the balls of my feet, they finally let us on.  Our seats were already taken so we had to scrounge and find seats where we could, but we made it.  I ended up sitting between a talkative businessman (sold hair care products) and a very quiet man who - half way through the flight - pulled out Harry Potter.  Whee.  :)

We finally arrived in Fort Lauderdale to find Dad...but not our bags.  Ahh yes, our luggage had not been able to travel as fast as we had to catch the last leg of the flight.  No matter, we had made it, and a very kind woman with a German accent had us fill out forms and said our bags would be delivered to the house the next day.  On to the house, and the futon I spent so much time sleeping on last summer.

The next day we waited around for our bags, stuck in yesterday's clothes until they arrived - late.  Then we changed and drove to a location Dad is hoping to get for his restaurant.  We had some pizza and an excellent dessert while Dad chatted with the owner.  So far negotiations seem to be going well!  It's a great location.  Mostly that day was a relaxing day, because within the next few days (I can only remember the order of events, not what days they occurred on), we were going to go four wheeling.

But before we went four wheeling we went to the beach to watch Susan's neighbor Larry play in a beach volleyball tournament.  That was lots of fun.  Larry is the one who owned two quads, and he was going to let us borrow them.  Quadding in Florida is much different than in Arizona.  In Florida you keep the quads in the garage.  When you want to use them you put them on a trailer and haul them an hour away to a big open area with lots of mud.  Unload quads.  Ride around.  Put quads back on trailer, drive home, put back in garage.  It's like owning a boat in Phoenix, you don't really get to use them practically.  It was still lots of fun though, especially for Amy who had never had control of a vehicle before.  While the rest of us relaxed in the shade, she was off exploring her new found freedom.

Soon after Dad and I discovered that Discovery was scheduled to land at Kennedy the following morning (again, I don't know what day this was on, but if I did some research I'm sure I could figure it out), and thought we'd drive up there (2 1/2 hours away) to see it.  It was supposed to land at 4 am, and after doing extensive research (Creighton helped a lot too, thanks!) we decided that it just wouldn't be practical.  You can't see anything when the shuttle lands in the dark.  So we scrubbed that idea.  (Get used to that word - scrubbed, it's going to come up a lot in the next few paragraphs).

Then we discovered that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter would be launching from a big rocket the next day.  The launch window was between 7:30 and 9:30.  Dad and I figured, why not? and got up at 4 am that morning to drive up to Kennedy.  It was very dark, and we were very tired, but our excitement kept us going until we found a nice field just outside of Cape Canaveral AFB with a clear view of where we thought the rocket would go up.  There wasn't anyone there, and we figured it was just because it was a rocket and not a shuttle.  A window rolled down in the car next to us. 

"Are you here for the launch?"

"Yup!" we replied eagerly.

"Well it's been scrubbed."

Oh no!  We got up at 4, drove for hours, got here...and it's been scrubbed?  How cruel!  But the trip was worth it for two reasons.  The first being that the nice man gave us the magic telephone number which has all the launch information on it.  Kind of like the snow day number, only for launches.  The second reason it was worth it I haven't told you about.

Jump a short ways back in time to the night of the Harry Potter release.  Creighton and I have driven to a Barnes and Noble on the far west side of Albuquerque to purchase our copies at midnight.  Snagging ourselves a couple of chairs I pulled out some cards, and wondered how we were going to play on our laps.  The answer was almost ridiculously obvious.  A lap desk!  I got one from the stationary section and we began to play.  Now this wasn't just your average lap desk.  This was -the- lap desk.  Beautiful hard wood, with a soft leather cushion on the bottom.  It was perfect.  I've been looking for a lapdesk for a while now, and I had finally found it.  However, I was broke.  I told myself that I would wait until birthday money came in, and then I would go to the Barnes and Noble in Prescott and buy the desk.  Because if it's at one Barnes and Noble, it's probably at the others, right?

Wrong!

When I got back to Prescott and got birthday money I drove up to the mall and went into our Barnes and Noble.  No lap desk.  I asked someone who worked there.  "Oh yeah, we used to carry those a few years ago..."

Dejected, I left.  I tried Linens N' Things, Michael's Crafts, The Raven, and Joanne's Fabrics.  Nothing.  No lap desk.  Well, I figured, I'd be going to Florida the next week and I was sure to find one there.

Wrong.

I called at least 15 Barnes and Nobles in the DelRay area.  10 Borders, 8 Walden Books, and 5 Books-A-Million.  "I'm looking for the Lapwrite brand portable desk, do you carry it?"

"No, I don't think so..."

"A what?"  "A lapdesk.  Piece of wood with a cushion on it."  "I'll have to go check...no I'm sorry."

"Yes, we do."  "What brand?"  "It's made special for Barnes and Noble, it doesn't have a brand.."

"A what?  Let me transfer you."  "A what?  No, we don't."

"We used to, but not anymore...no we can't order it for you."

I even e-mailed the company asking them where I could find one in Florida.  I got a reply that most Barnes and Nobles carry the desk.  Liar!

By now I was not only desperate, but I was stubborn.  I had seen a few other lapdesks that would have worked perfectly well, but I wanted the Lapwrite Lap Desk.  And only that one.

So, back to post-scrubbed-launch sadness.  Dad had found this great restaurant name when he was doing research to come see Discovery launch (but it was scrubbed the first time, so he didn't get to see it) called The Blueberry Cafe.  Determined that something go right this morning, we endeavored to find it.  Let me first explain to you how Florida works.  It's essentially one big, long strip of cities on the east coast.  The cities change without telling you they've changed.  Therefore, so do the address numbers.  When you're told the place you want to go is at 2100 Highway 1, you have to drive down Highway 1 looking at every single 2100 until you find the one you want.  Finally, starving and exhausted, we arrived.  The food was okay, but it tasted delicious because we were so hungry.  And, they had the -best- coffeecake muffins I had ever had.  It was delicious!  (I'm getting to the second reason in a minute, just be patient).

So, because we had driven south on Highway 1 all that way, we needed to find a road that would take us back to the 95.  It's more difficult than it sounds because of the Intercoastal, and not every road has a bridge to get across it.  However, we did find one and as we're driving we see a Barnes and Noble.  Now, I'm pretty bitter at this point.  It should have been EASY to find a lapdesk, but it's proving impossible!  But, I couldn't let the chance pass by.  Just incase.  I'm a hopeful person, right?  So we stop.  And we go in.  And ask.  And the guy says yes but I'm skeptical because most Barnes and Nobles out here have -a- lapdesk, but not -the- lapdesk.  He leads us to where the desks are and beneath the pile of generic desks I see something familiar.  That curve of the wood, with those beveled edges with that line right there...I almost knocked the poor guy over diving for it.  My lapdesk!  An honest to goodness LAPWRITE LAPDESK!  I had found it!  After about a month of searching, I had one in my hands!  (Also the funny thing was that - not knowing about my lapdesk obsession, for my birthday Dad and Susan got me a Barnes and Noble gift card, and this really cool paperback book cover, but the gift card was funny).

 

The desk had a little chip in it, so when I went to pay Dad pointed it out and asked if they had any others in the back.  They didn't, but I wanted it anyway, so the cashier gave me 10% off.  Plus I had Don's 10% off Barnes and Noble membership card.  Plus I had the gift card from Dad and Susan, so I ended up paying $24 of my own money for a $50 lap desk.  I had triumphed!

 

Back to the launch.  It was a 24 hour hold, so it was due to launch the next day at the same time.  Dad and I thought about it, and then decided we would try again.  Why not?  It's a once in a lifetime thing, seeing the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter take off.  Only this time we'd do it right.  We'd pay admission to Kennedy Space Center and that way, even if it was scrubbed again, we could still visit the Center, take the tour and all that fun stuff.  That night we didn't get to bed early due to going to the movies.  Susan and I went upstairs to the Premiere and saw Wedding Crashers (hysterical, if very racy), while Amy and Dad saw The Dukes of Hazard downstairs.  To bed late, and up at 4 again the next morning, Amy, Dad and I headed out under the cover of darkness.

We got to Kennedy and saw that there were a lot more people there than had been the day before.  Probably because most of them had known /before/ driving out that the launch was scrubbed.  But so far, so good as we listened to Mission Control over the loud speaker.  Paying admission we went in and walked around the exhibits, and then wandered over to the corner of the Center where everyone was standing, waiting for the launch.  We found that boring so we went into the Launch Status Center.  Literally a room with a podium and a NASA guy answering questions.  On big monitors in the front they showed live images of the rocket out on the launch pad.  All was well.  We were hungry, Dad ate the rest of my M&Ms, and we waited.  They were fueling.  T-10 minutes and counting.

 

T-9 - All systems go.

 

T-8

 

T-7 - Fueling complete, all systems go.

 

T-6

 

T-5, there seems to be a problem with the software.

 

-Hold-

 

T-4, "I've just received official confirmation that the launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been scrubbed for today and put on a 24 hour hold."

Noooo! went the cry from everyone at Kennedy Space.  Dad and I had tried four times to see something space related (landing twice, launch twice) and we had been thwarted again.  And the next day was our flight home so we couldn't get up early and try again.

You know, after everything we couldn't help but laugh.

So we took a wonderful tour of the space center, watched IMAX movies, visited the gift shop, I listed to Jon McBride speak, and then we drove home and took naps. 

   

 

The rocket launched the next day, and we watched it on TV.  And then Amy and I flew home.  It was a great trip, nice and relaxing with just enough stuff to keep us occupied.  I arrived in Prescott the night of the 12th.  On the afternoon of the 13th I met with Beth and Cori to pack the car, and at 5 am on the 14th we drove to California.  But that's another story.

(Pssst!  Go read it HERE!)

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