Melbourne & Cocoa Beach, Florida
We set out driving East on Highway 152. We continued East until the road stopped and we saw the ocean in front of us. On the way along Highway 152, Tara kept an eagle eye out trying to recognize the $20/night motel she'd stayed in ten years before when she came to visit her friend Pam who was in travel school in Kissimmee. She found the school her friend had attended, but couldn't decide for sure on exactly which motel looked familiar - alot of the cheap hotels looked the same.
Upon arrival at Melbourne, we got a nice surprise checking in. The lady at the counter upgraded us to a suite room. We are "supposed" to get space-available upgrades when checking in at any Hilton since Seth has a gold hilton card. However, we never remember actually getting an upgrade! Thus, this was great. Our room was not quite ready yet, so we went out to the car, got suntan lotion, Tara put on her suit and we went to the beach and pool to relax.
The beach was OK, but not a very nice beach. It smelled strongly of fish, was littered with washed up seaweed and just generally was not well-kept. But, don't get us wrong, it beat the Cannes beach by 1,000% - there wasn't a dead rat (or any other animal) in site. Tara had her pockets filled with sheels very quickly and we headed back after a short walk since we didn't want to get sunburned. Back at the hotel, Tara enjoyed the pool and whirlpool while Seth lay back in a beach chair. When it was time to check-in, Tara coudn't bring herself to leave the water, so Seth went up alone. But, when he saw the room, he went out onto the balcony and beckoned Tara to come up.
The room was BIG with a separate area for sitting on a couch and watching TV, a separate dinining area with a 3-sided view out of wall to ceiling windows and a big bed in front of mirrored closet doors. It was a really special room and we ended up staying two nights instead of one since it was so, so, so nice.
One night we enjoyed a local mexican restaurant in a nearby stripmall, but the 2nd night, Tara bought food at Kmart and we made it in the room's microwave since she felt we were spending more money than our budget and should be cheap.
We had hoped to see the shuttle land since we'd seen it take off. We asked in the hotel about seeing the landing, but since the landing was at night and from the West instead of the East, we weren't going to be able to see anything. The concierge did mention though that we'd hear a sonic boom when the shuttle dropped below the speed of sound. Thus, we were out on our balcony and inside watching the Nasa channel as it was scheduled to land. We did not see anything (except on TV where a special night lens was used) - but we did hear a boom. Kool! The NASA TV station itself was very fun to watch. We found that we had it on sometimes since the astronauts were being interviewed in space or because there was an interesting show on.
We hated to leave, but we needed to stay at another Hilton and there was the Cocoa Beach Hilton conveniently up the coast just a bit.
The Cocoa Beach Hilton's big surprise was that the front desk was using a Mac 512K for encoding the magnetic striped on the hotel's key cards. We had to take a picture of the computer!
We were also upgraded to the "executive floor". This didn't mean our room was that nice, but we did get free snack food & free alcohol at night. We took advantage of this offer and didn't even need to go to KMart to save on food expenses this day!
We also visited the Ron Jon Surf Shop since Seth had been here with Mike Coop nearly 11 years previously. Afte rRon Jon's (and pizza hut for lunch), we walked to the beach. The beach at Cocoa Beach was no more impressive than the beach at Melbourne. And Cocoa Beach was actually disappointing to Tara since there were very few shells to be found.
On our way back to the hotel, we unexpectedly enjoyed a beautiful sunset. We were driving along when Tara noticed that we were surrounded on both sides by water. The strip of land we were driving on was very, very narrow. Seth turned around to try to find a place looking west over water. We drove through a very imressive, upscale neighborhood with cute, customized mailboxes and eventually settled on a park bench right at the water's edge. This was a one bench park and looked out over wild-looking water with lots of submerged dead trees. These trees attracted lots of birds that were also fun to watch. Plus, there was one boat out fishing. It was very nice. We were joined by two guys who'd also come to see the sunset. They said they often see ?manatees? swimming along and we did get to see a few far away. The only close-up wildlife was birds and jumping fish. Finally, after the sun set, the little biting bugs drove us away. We didn't have our camera along, so we have no photos of the beautiful sunset, only memories.
After our one night at the Cocoa Beach Hilton, we had fulfilled our Hilton stay requirement for 2000 & headed out back to Orlando.
On the way, Tara wanted to stop at the Kennedy Space Center's Visitor's Center since she'd read that there were some type of limited free tour (but that a maximum access tour was about $25). Well, turns out there were no free tours, but we decided to go anyway since we were already at the entrance gate and we had seen the shuttles lately.
We'd highly recommend the tour. We took the bus around to various stops and had fun exploring the exhibits. We did have to rush a bit though since we wanted to get back to the main visitors center for an IMAX movie. In the end, the IMAX movie was not impressive at all, but after the movie, some exhibits we hadn't seen before were open. At one point, it seemed like we and a raccoon picking through the garbage were the only ones left in the park! Going inside an old shuttle was fun and we were amazed with how small the living quarters are compared with the cargo bay. Tara especially liked the toilet (both in the shuttle and the space station exhibits!). As it got darker and darker and darker, noone kicked us out.We continued shopping in the souvenier shop until they closed it, but then walked around a rocket garden all by ourselves. Unfortunately, we did pay for staying out after dark, since the next day our legs were covered with bites!
|Ease of Journey|