The Space Coast

After a hectic and stressful 24 days at our Pawleys Island home, our boxes and bags were packed, the sale of our home was complete, and our new home was several months from being finished. What to do? We had all the boxes and furniture moved to a storage unit near our new home in Wilmington, NC, and we and our bags headed south to the Space Coast of Florida. Our first stop was in Wilmington to check on our new home.

This is the way it looked on May 30. It may look like it is being built on a beach or a desert, but it is really located in the city of Wilmington. We were there for our pre drywall inspection.

We then made a circuitous route through Charlotte, Columbia, and Charleston to see our children and grandchildren before heading south to St. Augustine, Florida. Perhaps we are jaded from so much more exotic foreign travel, but we were somewhat disappointed in St. Augustine despite it being the oldest city in the US. While there were some nice buildings in the old town, the ubiquitous souvenir shops detracted greatly from our enjoyment. One thing we did enjoy was the guided tour of Flagler College.

One of the campus buildings is the former Ponce de Leon Hotel built by millionaire developer and Standard Oil cofounder, Henry Flagler, in 1888. Flagler made his fortune first in grains, then in railroads, and finally in oil. He was fortunate to have two very good friends who helped build the hotel: one was named Tiffany and the other was named Edison. This meant the hotel had some very nice chandeliers and was one of the first fully electric buildings in the world. In fact, electricity was so new that that customers were afraid to flip the switches; so Flagler had to hire people to do this for them!

The two towers of the hotel were originally used as water storage tanks so the hotel could have running water.The building was one of the first in the country to be made of pored concrete. The trim on the doors, towers, and windows is terra-cotta.This picture shows four unique features in the former ballroom of the hotel: the clock was made by Edison (you can tell because he uses IIII as the Roman numeral four instead of the more traditional IV), it is a Tiffany chandelier, the stone in which the clock is mounted is one of the largest pieces of that stone type (Sorry, I forgot the stone type), and the ceiling color around the chandelier is the first use of Tiffany blue.The dining room features Tiffany stained glass windows. These windows are some of the first he made so they don’t reflect the more colorful style for which he became famous. Still, how many college dining rooms feature Tiffany windows?We also enjoyed the Lightner Museum, which is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel built by Flagler across the street from The Ponce. At the time it housed the world’s largest indoor swimming pool.

After an overnight in St. Augustine, we drove to our destination, the home of our world cruise friends, Dave and Donna. They are in their Pittsburgh home while we are staying at their second home in an RV and golf resort on the Space Coast of Florida. Their community is unique to me as all homes must include an RV garage or carport capable of housing a motor home.Since most people here have a motor home, one or two cars, and a golf cart, the garage designs are a major feature of the home.

This is the typical morning view out our back window. The late afternoon view is quite different with ominous black clouds, the rumble of thunder, and flashes of lightening. We have been in Florida for fourteen days and there have been heavy thunderstorms in the late afternoon on thirteen of those days. There was hail on two of those days. It makes it difficult to plan any early evening activities as the weather can make travel difficult. The area is also somewhat of a wildlife reserve. There have been deer in the back yard, alligators in the lake, and a bobcat running in the road. Herons, egrets, and other shore birds frequent the lake. We have seen an eagle on the roof of the largest house across the lake.

Our stay here is very relaxing. There is a beautiful national seashore about a half hour away. We also spend a lot of time at the neighborhood pool. We are both reading a lot of books. The neighborhood is even more friendly and outgoing than the Carolinas. Every person you see when you are walking, whether they are walking, driving a car, driving a golf cart, or working in the yard, waves and says “hi” to you. The people at the pool also want to talk to you and invite you to neighborhood events. We notice that the space program is a common topic of conversation here. I don’t recall anyone talking about it in the Carolinas. It is clearly an important part of their economy.

On the way home from the beach last week, we stopped at the manatee observation deck in a national wildlife refuge.There must have been more than thirty manatees hanging out around the deck. It was the first time I had ever seen a manatee.

Mary Anne and Steve, more friends from our world cruise, have invited us to their house several times and taken us on tours of the area by car and by boat. They are docents at the lighthouse on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station so they have gate passes and free access to the station. Most of our space launches have taken off from this station from one of the more than thirty launch pads located there. It appears that every new space program requires a new launch pad as only three are presently active and the others are abandoned. The active ones all belong to private companies.This is one of the active launch sites. The two tall metal towers are glorified lightening rods. Before launch, the rocket is moved within the center structure to prepare it. This one is unique in that at launch the structure moves out of the way. In most launch pads, the rocket moves away from the structure before launching. The odd shaped thing on the right was used to divert flames from the rocket at one of the abandoned launch pads. That launch pad where I am standing was the site of the Apollo One disaster where three astronauts were killed during a training exercise.After our tour, we enjoyed lunch in Port Canaveral. We have one more week in Florida before we head to North Carolina.

5 thoughts on “The Space Coast”

  1. I’m sure it’s an optical illusion, but your new Wilmington garage looks twice as big as your new house — and you don’t even own an RV (to my knowledge). Great you’ve been able to see Mary Anne and Steve, and your live surrounded by Donna and Dave even though they’re nowhere in sight!

    1. The houses they build are relatively narrow and deep, so they do look like a lot of garage from the front. Our Prius is going to leave a lot of room for my workshop in the garage.

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