Saturday, February 18, 2017

Manatees at Apollo Beach

The Tampa Electric Power Plant has provided a Manatee viewing area. This area is the city of Apollo Beach, on the main land south of Tampa. The Manatees gather in the winter around the water discharge pipes where it creates warm water. The viewing area is very nice and includes a large nature area with walking paths. We did not see much of the Manatees as they stay around the pipes rather than the large desks over the water. There was a large crowd and parking was full all day. We left there and took a drive south to get photos of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge then turned east toward our motor home at Avon Park.

We parked in over flow area so the walk in was about 3/4 mile.

The Manatees are a few hundred feet from the viewing deck.
You can see them when they come up for air, otherwise they lay on the bottom.

This boat had photographers on board so they did see the Manatees up close.

Another walkway parallel to the water.

This walkway was about 1/4 mile out into the water way.

We walked the nature trails back toward the Jeep.

About 1 1/4 miles to the Jeep. All flat paths for old folks.

Driving south over the Sunshine Skyway Bridg from the St. Petersburg side.
This interstate starts on the north side of Tampa and crosses the bay two times. 

Here is the bridge from a rest area along I-275. The roadway curves to the right to approach the bridge. The south end is on the left side of the photo. Yes, this is another I-275 so they must reuse the interstate numbers. It connects St. Petersburg to the main land. Construction of the current bridge began in 1982 and was dedicated on February 7, 1987. The new bridge cost $244 million to build and was opened to traffic on April 20, 1987. It replaced an older bridge constructed in 1954, which was partly destroyed in a collision in 1980.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

FMCA Rally

FMCA is one of many RV Clubs. We pay dues to FMCA, Escapees, Good Sam and Passport. FMCA and Escapees provide the most benefits; Good Sam and Passport save the most money with discounts at RV parks.

This rally was near our winter site so we decided to attend. The Family Motor Coach Association home office is in Newtown, Ohio, the east side of Cincinnati. They have rallys in many areas of the USA. We were surprised at the size of the Lakeland Lindner Airport in Florida and their Sun n' Fun area. The other surprise were the rows and rows of motor homes at the event. The official count was about 750. FMCA reported that other rallys have attendance over 2000 motor homes. 

I did not take photos of the other vendors and events. There were a number of seminars to attend. There are more airplanes on display and some in a building that we did not get to see. The airplanes were not part of the rally but were part of the Sun 'n Fun area. Here are a few photos of the 5 day event.

Our motor home and Jeep in line with many more. Good thing it did not rain. The weather was sunny and 78 degrees. We paid for electric service that was provided by large trailer mounted diesel generators. We were happy not to be parked near the generators.
Many rows of motor homes of all makes and models.
Back to back
Outdoor entertainment, the weather was great.
Freightliner chassis display, they are at all rallys. Their crew is from Gaffney, SC, same place where we had our service in November. 
Big diesel, 600 HP. Ours is only 380 HP
Air museum and displays. What's wrong with this one?
There were only 12 model VK-30's built.
The Convair F2Y, a rare jet, only 5 produced.
The only seaplane that exceeded the speed of sound.
A VF-31 F-14 Tomcat that flew from the Theodore Roosevelt carrier. Original design was in 1948. In September 2006, the F-14 Tomcat was retired at NAS Oceana.
A Lockheed XFV-1, one of two built in 1951 as a vertical takeoff airplane.
This is the only one to fly during testing.
A Boeing 727, donated by FedX and serves as a classroom for high school students. When class is in session, students watch on closed-circuit interactive tablets as their supervised peers in the cockpit start the aircraft and operate its systems.

Sun n' Fun, Lakeland Lindner Airport. This was a great place for the rally. We plan to attend again next year and spend more time seeing the other airplanes and displays.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Space Shuttle Atlantis

  You have to see this exhibit. Go there as soon as you can.

The Atlantis was the last mission of the shuttle. It's now in it's own building where you can see it up close. This was our second time to see it and I want to go back many more times. The Challenger and Columbia memorials are also in the building. There is more in the building but these photos are mostly of the Atlantis. I enlarged some so you can see more detail.
There are so many things to see and read, I could spend days there. Good thing we have annual passes. Google any subject about the Shuttles and you will find plenty of detailed information. 

STS-135 was the last flight of the Atlantis and the shuttle program.
It had 33 missions over a 26 year period.
Dr. Max A. Faget was the Director of Engineering and Development. He proposed the Shuttle program to his engineers on April 1, 1969. This is the paper model he tossed into the room during that meeting.
After the very moving introductory movie, this is what you see when the curtain goes up.
You are right in front of it.
A view of just some of the famous LI-900 silica tiles, made from essentially very pure quartz sand. They keep the reentry heat from burning up the shuttle.
The thruster jets are easy to see. Remember the front windows when you see the photo from the Columbia shuttle near the bottom of this blog.

The cargo bay is fully open so you can see all the details
Cargo bay, arm and exit hatch for space walking

Shuttle engines.

Bottom of the shuttle.

Back view of the wing

This is a piece of the Challenger shuttle that exploded in 1986.
It's in the memorial area for the shuttles.

This one is hard to look at. What were they thinking when this started to happen? The astronauts were right behind the frames of the front windows of the Columbia shuttle when it came apart over Texas on February 1, 2003. I remember watching the news interruption while eating breakfast that morning. Wreckage was scattered over a wide area of Texas.

One wall of the memorial area for the two shuttles

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Kennedy Space Center - My Favorite Place

Kennedy Space Center is on Merritt Island between the main land and Cape Canaveral. The Indian River is on the west side and the Banana River is on the east side. Bridges cross over to the island and to Cape Canaveral. The Cape and Kennedy are actually two different areas. The Cape is an Air Force base and Kennedy is operated by NASA. The City of Cape Canaveral is nearby and a favorite place to board several large cruise ships.

There are plenty of books available that tell the story of the original Cape Canaveral site and how it was constructed. Also, plenty of books about everything at the Cape and Kennedy Space Center. Google the Kennedy Space Center, Space Shuttles, and Cape Canaveral. You will find plenty of online reading material.

Kennedy Space Center is something you must see. If you are in Florida or if you make a special trip just to see it, you will probably stay for at least two days. Also visit Huntsville where the Space Camp is located. We were there three years ago and it is also a great place to see. I always want to stay longer at Kennedy so we have annual passes so we will visit several times while we are here for the winter. We were there two years ago for our first visit. 

After taking tours of the old launch sites and seeing what they created in the early 1960's, I realized that I should have worked there. Lot's of tube type electronics back in the 1960's and I still remember how to work on tube equipment. I wish I had known more about it after high school because I may have ended up there. The equipment they built 58 years ago is amazing. It is the most interesting place I have every visited. 

Here are a few of the many photos from our visit on January 28th, the day after the Grissom Memorial. My next post will be from January 29th and Space Shuttle Atlantis. 

Vertical Assembly Building (VAB). It really is not leaning, just my camera lens. You can't tour this building now but the shuttles with the huge fuel tank and booster rockets were completely assembled in vertical position in this building, now used to assemble other rockets.
Another view of the assembly building, the tallest single floor building in the USA.
This is Launch Control next to the assembly building. After the rocket launches, Houston takes over during the mission. This building is three miles from the launch pad to provide a safe distance from the launch pad in case the launch vehicle should explode on take off.
Launch tower for the Mars missions, an Atlas V-541 rocket. There has been an unmanned test launch. No matches allowed around that fuel tank!
This was a launch platform for the Shuttle. It is being modified for other rockets.
This is one half of the huge Crawler vehicle that delivered the Space Shuttles and now other rockets from the Vertical Assemble Building to the launch pads.
This is the long pathway that the Crawler uses to deliver rockets to launch pad 39. You have probably seen this on TV prior to launches. The Crawler is parked on the left and the Assembly building is in the center. The crawlerway is a two sided roadway like an interstate highway. The crawler weighs 6,000,000 pounds so the crawlerway is a special roadway to hold that weight.
SpaceX now leases launch pad 39A.
The crawlerway leading up to launch pad 39A.
The rocket end of the Saturn V rocket on display at the Apollo/Saturn  Center at Kennedy. This is a separate building near the launch pad 39 complex. The entire rocket is suspended from the ceiling so you can walk under it, quite a sight. The Saturn V sent astronauts to the Moon. You have to stand under this to realize how huge this is. A NASA bus takes you out to the building. There is another Saturn V at Huntsville, Alabama. 
Another view of the first stage of the Saturn V rocket.
The people look small compared to the rocket.
This is the second stage, basically a fuel tank.
The Moon Lander
The third stage with a single rocket engine to send it out of orbit and toward the Moon.
This is the Lunar module that landed on the Moon
Here is an Apollo command module attached to the Lunar Module under it.
A command Module hatch from the inside.
The real Apollo 14 command module.
Our friends Barry & Donna from French Lick, Indiana, with us at Apollo 14.  We have known them for thirty five years. We stayed with them two days at Orlando and traveled to Kennedy for the Gus Grissom memorial plus two more days at Kennedy.