March 19, 2007 GMT
Gators and Guinness

I'm now a fully-fledged Pirate of the Conch Republic. After nearly a week as a slave I was initiated in a ceremony which involved a certain amount of drinking, and other stuff I'm not allowed to tell you about. The slavery bit was mainly cleaning Stan's mirrors and wielding the whizzer with appropriate ingredients to provide endless margaritas.

I was at the Pirate Rally on Sugarloaf Key, around 20 miles from US Highway 1 Mile 0 on Key West. A good gathering. You don't have to ride a BMW but it clearly helps. I was only there because when I arrived in Jacksonville I discovered (with Phil's help) that Stan was 500 miles south. So off I went.

A bunch of us designated a driver and went down to Key West on Saturday evening to see the sunset and join in the St.Patrick's Day revels. Mad.

Today I toured the Kennedy Space Centre. I always knew the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) was big, but it looks huge from six miles away. The view of it from my motel is from ten miles away and it still looks ginormous.

The tour includes launch pads 39A and 39B - think Apollos and shuttles, as well as loads of other stuff. The site is in a large wildlife preserve, with alligators, bald eagles, manatees and loads of different birds. In fact, most things are enclosed in alligator-proof fencing, and a couple of weeks ago one of the launch pads had to be closed down for two hours while they removed an alligator which had managed to get over a ten-foot fence which wasn't the gator-proof variety.

As you probably know, shuttle Atlantis has had to go back to the VAB for repairs, and the mobile launch pad on which the crawler transports the spacecraft to the pad is still at pad A from the previous launch as the crawler was supposed to be taking that back after the Atlantis launch. The 'road' from the VAB to the pads is mainly gravel, rather ripio-like, and still bears the imprint of the crawler tracks.

So I'm now on Plan [fill in your preferred letter here]. Atlantis is due to launch probably in late April. So after staying a few days with Stan in Jacksonville (major service time) I'll head north and try to make it to Canada by mid-April, when I have to be out of the US. I can then come back, get another 90 days' entry stamp (if the Dept. of Total Obscurity doesn't object) and come back down here for the launch. There are a couple of bike meets in June here in the US (BMWMOA and HU), then it'll be back to Jacksonville to do the shipping thing.
Or not, of course.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at March 19, 2007 11:12 PM GMT

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