Monday, April 24, 2017

Orlando Day 7

Today was Sunday, our sixth day in Orlando, though our seventh since leaving Utah. Today we had a full day at Cape Canaveral. We rode on the top deck of a shuttle bus out to Merritt Island. Along the way, Mark swore that he saw a dolphin, but the rest of us only managed to see a few alligators. It was still exciting because these were our first gators.
The boys were so excited to ride on the top of the bus!
Here's the whole gang!
This was one of the first gators we spotted. We were so excited!
We arrived at Kennedy Space Center, which is a lot like an amusement park without the rides. There are space themed restaurants, I-max theaters, and a lot of other touristy things. The first thing we wanted to do was the Space Shuttle Atlantis experience. There was a short show, and then the curtain came up and Atlantis was behind it. We were able to get right next to it, and it is amazing how scarred and used it looked. The cargo doors were wide open, too. It was really cool how big it was. Both Mom and Dad had emotions close to the surface, which is really weird when looking at a rocket. It was truly amazing to see something that had been into space so close!
We were pretty excited to be at the Kennedy Space Center.
Seth was excited to be an astronaut.
There are interesting space things to see all over.
This is a replica of the Mars Rover built from Legos! 
That is actual size of the boosters.
You watch a film, and then Atlantis appears behind the screen.
Then the screen lifts and you can walk out and see the space shuttle. It is pretty amazing! 
We could almost touch the space shuttle. It was surreal.  
We walked all around Atlantis. 
We've learned a lot about space over the last few years, so this was a great activity for us.
There were other things to do, too. The boys went down a slide and did several simulations, which included landing the shuttle, making repairs to the space station, and crawling into the ISS. Mom was a little freaked out at climbing along the clear plastic tube of the space station more than 40 feet above the floor. We got to do almost everything. But we were super disappointed that we didn't have the time to do the launch simulation, as that is what we were most excited for, but we had to be to dinner.
The boys all enjoyed flying the mock space shuttle, but Dad enjoyed it the most. 
This is the ISS (International Space Station) built to size. 
I could not live in here for very long. Dad seemed fine with the tight spaces. 
Mom did not like crawling through the clear tunnel. You could see the floor 40 feet below! AAHH!
Mom liked exploring the non-see through tunnels of the ISS. 
You could slide down this big slide to the next floor. The boys loved it. 
We were excited to see this info about Stephen Colbert. We miss his show!
Dax is trying to land the space shuttle. He got the hang of it after crashing about 20 times.
Dinner was buffet style, and there were about 200 people. The buffet wasn't very good, and the boys didn't eat a thing, but we really liked the program. We had a retired astronaut named Mark Lee come and speak to us. He flew 4 shuttle missions and was the first astronaut to use a jetpack untethered from a ship in space. He spoke for about 30 minutes and showed pictures of some of his missions. Then he took questions. At the end of the meal, he even took a picture with our family. This was the only time that we had the entire crew together in Florida for a picture, even though it didn't turn out very well.
Mom loves waiting in line! We had to wait for a bit before lunch. Nothing like Disney World, though!
This is Astronaut Mark Lee. He had a lot of amazing things to share about space. Our nephew asked a question, "What was the best and worst thing about being in space?" His response was, "There is nothing bad about being in space." 
These are the patches from the missions that he was part of.
Each patch is designed by the astronauts and includes their names.
This is the whole Daniels group. The only pic of us all together!
Immediately after dinner, we caught a bus that took us on a tour around Cape Canaveral. The tour was a two hour ride around the cape to visit a lot of the sites, and it was awesome. There is a National Wildlife Refuge on the island, so we enjoyed looking for animals and got close up views of sea turtles, many alligators, roseate spoonbills, blue herons, opreys, and all kinds of egrets. Best of all we saw a dolphin about 25 yards from shore. Suddenly, we were all believing Mark! It was hard to get a photo of him cresting, but we got a lot of pictures of his fin.
Roseate spoonbills don't even seem real.
You certainly won't see one in Utah. Here are three different birds: Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, and Egret.
This alligator was the biggest one we saw.
He made a sudden splash into the water as we were watching.
Shark! Oh, wait, that's the dolphin...
We watched him for nearly 30 minutes. He was so close to shore.
So was he!
We love to see the turtles and tortoises best of all.
The tour was perfect for space nerds like Dad, too. We saw the massive crawlers that slowly roll the launch pad out to its position. There was also the largest one-story building in the world, in which rockets were housed in a standing position before taking off. There were a few monuments and memorials along the way that honored some of the astronauts that have ventured into space. The final stop was to see the Apollo 8 Saturn Rocket, which is the largest rocket ever built. It hung above our heads and was separated into stages. It was almost 100 yards long. You could walk along beneath it, but it was nearly impossible to take a picture. There were also spacesuits, moon rocks, lunar rovers, and a million other artifacts to look at. It was so cool to see so much modern history.
This is the launchpad crawler.
SpaceX is leading the industry right now.
Mom and Grandma.
We probably have the weirdest kids in Florida.
This is the catwalk that connected the Apollo rockets to the launchpad. Imagine astronauts walking right there.
Our boys loved this as much as Magic Kingdom (almost).
That's the rocket storage building.
There were some really well done movies, including this video of the Apollo missions.
This is the actual mission control for those launches. 
Apollo 8 is unbelievably long. It's impossible to get a picture of the whole thing.
The boosters were massive.
The boys liked to touch this rock from the moon.
This is the actual space capsule from when Apollo 14 came back from their mission.
This is what it looked like before traveling through the atmosphere twice.
This patch from the Apollo 11 mission has no names because Neil Armstrong insisted that
this mission was the accomplishment of thousands of Americans.
Bet you didn't know Snoopy was an astronaut too!
By the time we got back from the bus tour, it was almost time to go. We stopped at the gift shop and Mark spent his money on a space shuttle hat and a really cool flight patch from one of the missions that Mark Lee, our astronaut had flown on. Then we high-tailed it back to the chartered bus that would take us back to the hotel.
We were constantly surprised at how well our boys were doing even with all the walking and the long days.
The bus ride was an hour back to the hotel, but Grandpa ordered pizza, and we ate right when we arrived, though it was already 8 pm. Luckily, we're on vacation, so we still had a little time for the pool. Our kids are fortunate that 10 o'clock Florida time is really 8 o'clock Utah time, so in a way, they weren't even that late for bedtime!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Orlando Day 6

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Today was a much slower, easier day. In fact, when we got back to the hotel, I could still feel my feet. We rolled out in the vans about 9 am and headed for St. Augustine, the oldest European city in the United States. It's nearly two hours away, and we weren't sure what we'd see, but we knew we were going to start at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. All the way down the road we kept looking for alligators, which we still haven't seen, but we didn't see a thing in the blur of trees rushing by.

The National Monument was pretty busy, and the parking was horrendous. Luckily, Mom is an expert driver, even in a 15 passenger van, and Bob was lucky when he volunteered to find a parking spot. He hopped in as we all piled out, and then a car pulled out right in front of us, so he drove 15 feet to the parking space. We also got in to Castillo de San Marcos for free because Mark used his fourth grade pass. As soon as we got in, the boys started up the Junior Ranger, and because they wanted to be Advanced Junior Rangers, it took a long time. Eventually, though, they earned a badge and a patch.
This was the first time Mark got to use his fourth grade pass. 
I think Seth took 10 pictures with muscles on this adventure. The fort was in a beautiful location.
The entrance was cool because it was pretty intense just to get inside. 
This is the old Lion's Bridge that is a drawbridge still being used.
Castillo de San Marcos is an old fort with walls more than twelve feet thick. It was totally unconquerable in its time, and had to be purchased by the British from Spain, because it could not be captured. The layout of the fort was really cool. There was a large open courtyard surrounded by 30 foot high walls. The inner wall is built into rooms for barracks and storage, and there is a wide staircase leading up. When you get on top of the wall, there are paver stones for a good 25 yards across the rooms below and the outer wall. At each corner are wider points called bastions and there are huge cannons mounted all along every wall. Best of all, there is a massive moat that surrounds the fort, though it was mostly used for protecting cattle from invaders. They kept up to 600 cows in it. A lot of the tour was about the artillery and the make up of the fort. They even fired off a cannon, which Dax and Seth hated. They sat in the video room with their ears plugged for half an hour to avoid it.
We had the nicest ranger come and talk with us about the Junior Ranger program.
The windows and doors let in natural light.
This is the big open courtyard in the middle. 
They had a secret place where they stored ammunition, and we had to crawl inside to see it. 
This is the special powder storage area so it wouldn't blow up if the fort ever got hit.
The boys loved all the cannons throughout the fort.
Here is a view from up top!
Everyone kept pretending to fire the cannons, even Dad. 
Dax couldn't believe how huge the cannons were.
This is a look toward the outside. The moat was the outer grass area.
The coolest thing we learned about the fort was that the walls were built out of sedimentary rock called coquina, which is sand and shells. It was amazing that basically the entire fort is shells. This helped it absorb cannon shot rather than being broken apart by it, which is one reason it couldn't be captured. We all really liked this monument, and we spent over two hours wandering around. Dax even spent his money on a Junior Ranger game, which he's had his eye on for a long time.
The stairs were awesome. 
We were fascinated by the walls filled with shells. 
They had a demonstration on how they would have fired the cannons as a warning. Mom and Mark watched!
Grandpa had been here before and was excited to share it with everyone else. 
This was definitely a favorite stop for all of us!
Our next stop was downtown St. Augustine, but it was a tourist trap, so we only spent a few minutes wandering around. We may have missed something, but we didn't like St. Augustine. I think we were mostly tired of walking. Instead, we drove up to the lighthouse at Anastasia State Park and snapped a few pictures. Then we went to the beach at the state park. This turned out to be the highlight of the day.
We debated going into the oldest schoolhouse in America, but we were ready to just hit the beach. 
There was a wall that surrounded the entire town of St. Augstine, and this is all that's left.
The walls in town were all made from the shell stone, too.
The lighthouse was fun to see. The boys had never seen one.
We got quite a few family pics this trip because we were traveling with family. 
Bob laid on the ground for this pic because we were trying to get the lighthouse behind us.
The sun was in a horrible spot for pictures when we were there. 
The old building and lighthouse were beautiful.
There is a beautiful beach at Anastasia, and it is covered with shells. Seth was in the water and soaked to the skin right away, and he Mark played until they were freezing cold. Dax and Dad walked the beach looking for interesting finds. We brought home a bunch of different shells, which are innumerable at this beach. We stayed and played with the cousins for a long time, and the weather was perfect. Everyone enjoyed the Atlantic and the pelicans kept swooping down right on top of us. It was  a much nicer pace than our first five days here.
Seth was soaked in a few seconds.
The boys loved being at the beach with all their cousins.
Dax had fun, but he got cold quickly! 
The pelicans flew right by us, and so close to the water.
They were so fun to see! 
They flew directly over us quite a few times. 
Randy was brave and got in the water. The only adult who did. 
The first day we were in Orlando, it was 97 degrees. Today at the beach it was 67 and windy. 
The Caspian terns hung out on the beach, too. The boys loved sitting close to them.
The oldest kids loved body surfing.
Seth just wanted to run away from waves.
But sometimes he got caught!
And fell down in the water!
Dax spent a lot of time looking for shells along the beach. 
The sisters! We aren't all together very often!
About the only thing left to do was make the drive home. One of things we wanted to see was the Daytona Speedway. We found a restaurant that is right down on the beach called the Starlite Diner. It was too dark to go down and see the famous Daytona Beach, and we only drove past the speedway, but the food was awesome, and we finished it up with strawberry shakes. We still didn't get home until after 10 pm, but at least the boys slept most of the way back to the hotel. It's a good thing, too, because we are off to Cape Canaveral early in the morning!
The food was delicious at the diner. We are suckers for good diner food! 
It was a great day!

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