Things Are Looking Up!

November 1 – December 21, 2019 – Florida’s Space Coast

Written by Jim

With all the people along the Space Coast of Florida looking up at the skies recently, it’s a wonder we haven’t all tripped and fallen over each other. Several launches have occurred since we’ve arrived, along with a unique event that had our eyes on the sky. More on that last one in a bit. We will also fill you in on a few things that have been happening with us lately.

Our first goal when we arrived in Florida was to get our first of two rounds of Shigrix shingles vaccines. That had to be put on hold after Diana and I came down with some pretty nasty colds from our trip south. Those carried on for two weeks and kept us home bound except for one trip to the beach on November 11 to watch SpaceX launch another 60 satellites into their Starlink internet constellation.

I did manage to grab this short video of it peeking through the clouds as it soared over the ocean. After it disappeared into the clouds, we followed suit and vanished from sight into out RV to continue our recovery. And SpaceX recovered their booster, after it landed on the barge Of Course I Still Love You 250 miles off the coast.

Once we felt we were over our colds, we made our way to the pharmacy to get those vaccines. We knew the side effects of them was flu-like symptoms for a day or two, so we weren’t looking forward to that. The pharmacist told me “As quickly as the side effects hit you, they will be equally quick to leave.” He wasn’t kidding. I felt as if I was hit by a truck, as every joint in my body ached until 1 PM the following day. By 1:15, it was gone. Fortunately, Diana had just mild symptoms. We have one more round to go in mid January and then we are (hopefully) protected.

The rest of November had us sprucing up our lot.

The sticker grass invades the plantings each summer, so it is up to us to clean it up. The park owners didn’t plant this landscaping (previous residents did), so they require us to maintain it or they will take it out and let the grass take over. We like the look of the plantings and gladly put in the effort to keep them looking nice. It’s only labor, and the sandy soil is easy to work with.

On December 4, we headed up to Port Canaveral with out friends Bob and Pat to view the next SpaceX launch up close. We were actually a bit too close, as we had a hill blocking our view of the pad. It would’ve been great once the rocket came over the hill, but unfortunately the winds were too high to launch. It did launch the next day, and we viewed it from our beach. This particular mission was a resupply trip to the International Space Station.

This is a frame grab from a failed attempt at a video. I made a rookie mistake and left it on autofocus. Still, not too bad considering the rocket is a good 50 miles away at this point.

Once again, SpaceX recovered their booster, landing 250 miles off of Jacksonville on Of Course I Still Love You. These people are good at what they do.

Our next event was a quick day trip to Lakeland to meet up with fellow RV-Dreamers for a picnic.

What a treat to get together with these folks! The big news this year is that several couples…including Howard and Linda (RV-Dreams founders and owners in the center of this photo)…have transitioned from full-time to part-time status. Many of us have bought houses or property and are establishing roots. The two of us are still officially full-timers for another three years or so, until our heads hit the pillows in our cabin.

And on that home front, we have made some progress on our Northern Michigan property. We have our garage plans drawn and are in the middle of securing permits. Most of our subcontractors have been lined up and we are awaiting quotes from a few more. We feel we are on track to have a completed garage and utilities by the time we head back here next fall.

Following that, we headed to Cocoa Beach with Bonnie and Fred for that unique event we mentioned earlier.

Here are the four of us, ready for the show! And what might that show be that had us looking skyward?

Skydiving Santas! Plane load after plane load full of Santas dropped from the sky and attempted to hit giant inflatable targets on the beach.

This Santa even hitched a ride on his buddy’s parachute on the way down! It was a really fun way to spend the day! Unfortunately for me, I was beginning to come down with yet another cold. Spending the day in breezy conditions probably didn’t help matters. I’m still recovering.

Speaking of recoveries, SpaceX managed the quickest turnaround of a launch facility by sending the JSAT communications satellite on its way on December 16 at 7:10 PM. It flew from Pad 40, which had seen the ISS resupply mission depart just 11 days earlier. Feeling as crummy as I did, I wasn’t thrilled about hanging out on the beach in the cool night air, so I opted for an attempt at a ‘streak shot’ over our Christmas decorated RV. It involves using a tripod, an iPhone, and the Slow Shutter app. Added bonus this time around is that my new iPhone 11 has a wide angle lens available, ensuring more field of vision to catch the rocket’s flame trail.

To say I am pleased with the result is an understatement. From left to right is the first stage trail, main engine cutoff, second stage ignition and the trail until it disappeared from sight. The soft white jumbled blob to the right of our lit up palm trees is our illuminated American flag. That’s the result of the camera overlaying successive photos over each previous image to create the effect. Diana pointed out that it looks like a Christmas angel. 🙂

On Thursday afternoon, after an almost three day voyage from 450 miles offshore, the SpaceX first stage made it back to Port Canaveral.

This is the third time this booster has flown, and it will most likely fly again. Again, SpaceX is good at what they do.

On Friday, December 20, another launch took place. This one was the test flight of the Boeing Starliner, one of the two entries into the Commercial Crew program designed to launch astronauts from American soil again…the other being SpaceX.

With the launch occurring at 6:36 AM, we opted to view it from our corner. This is the view looking north as it disappeared into the clouds. It was clear up at the Cape, so early risers to the north ended up with a great show.

Quick note: As of this writing, the Boeing Starliner experienced a problem and will be returning to Earth early. It is an un-crewed test flight, so no lives are in danger. Stay tuned for updates in our next post. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

15 thoughts on “Things Are Looking Up!”

  1. We’ve thought about getting those shingle shots too but our doctor isn’t convinced they are necessary…think we eventually will though. Sure wish we could have been with all you RV Dreamers! We are having our own annual mini RV Dreamers get together in Quartzsite. Your phone does an amazing job on all those launches!
    Cheers!

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    1. If you haven’t ever had chicken pox, you might not need it. Otherwise, I’d seriously consider getting them, Dianne. We will make it a point to meet you two , one of these days! On the camera: the first video and the failed video were on my Panasonic Lumix camera. The streak shots on the last two launches were using the iPhone 11. All of the parachute photos and videos (except the selfie) were with the Lumix. That camera definitely has it’s limitations. So many factors in shooting a launch: weather/cloud cover, time of day, direction the rocket is headed in…that all plays into it. Our favorite so far was that launch over our rig, as I let the iPhone do its thing on the tripod and just stood back and enjoyed the launch. It was stunningly beautiful and colorful. They never get old. 😊

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  2. We are from Holland MI and stay at Jetty Park campground for month of Jan. We would like to stay longer but worry about salt air doing damage to our motorhome. Does that concern you or are we being too cautious? We love it there with everything to see. Including the subs.

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    1. Salt air is a constant battle, Sally. We use a product from Lowe’s called Fluid Film. Spray it on any exposed unpainted metal part and you should be fine for the entire time you are there. We spray once a season. Just wear cheap goggles and a mask. It will destroy plastic lens glasses. I learned that the hard way. You can also spray WD-40…just know that you will have to do it weekly. We are 200 yards off the shore, so our rig doesn’t get hit as bad as you would at Jetty Park. Small world: I spent my career working in Holland!

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    1. Another one (Starlink) just came up for “no later than January 3 at 10:45 PM”. Another streak shot. Perhaps we will head up the coast and try for a closer vantage point. The planned abort test around the 11th should be awesome, as we will get to see them destroy a Falcon 9, save the capsule and watch it parachute into the ocean. I really want to get a video of that.

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  3. Your spot is so perfect for capturing those great launch shots!! Amazing the booster is retrieved like that – they really are good at what they do. Exciting you should have a garage with utilities waiting for you in Michigan. Is it a standard or RV garage? Hope that’s the last of your colds!!

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    1. A hybrid on that garage, Jodee. Tall enough to get the truck in with the kayaks on, but the RV is going to continue to live outside (where it has been its entire life). On the colds: we are being SUPER careful to wash our hands and not rub our eyes. And the launches have been spectacular! We are hoping the one this Saturday morning is amazing…the long awaited Crew Dragon Abort Test. Nothing cooler than a capsule flying away from a booster experiencing rapid scheduled disassembly! 🙂

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