Friends, An Obstacle & The Space Coast – Central FL
It was time. After ~5 months in southern FL it was high time to move on. This winter was all about family and we’ve really, truly enjoyed it, but we were SO ready to get back on the road. The FL summer heat was already rearing its ugly head (way too hot, way too early!), and adventures in the North were calling our name. The beast was restless and so were we.
But before we left FL behind there were 2 things we really wanted to do. And it turns out there was a third little unexpected thing too, which scared the bums off us but thankfully didn’t stop our progress. All just a regular day in life on the road, right?
We Touch Base With Friends
Our first goal was to head over to the Central-West coast of FL to see our buddies Chris and Cherie.
Those of you who’ve been following their adventures know that they’re now living on a boat! Not only were we dying to see their new digs, but we really wanted to touch base with our good friends before heading North.
As luck would had it we got an offer to stay at a pretty fancy RV resort in Fort Meyers (review coming) just ~40 mins or so from their marina, so we snagged it and loaded up the beast to make the drive.
We had an awesome evening and thanks to the miracle of Dramamine (and a few grapefruit Margaritas) I was able to handle the gentle rocking of their boat in the marina without passing out or spending my time draped over the edge. Oh, and yeah their new digs are sweeeeet! We are super excited for them and wish them the very best on this new and very interesting chapter of their nomadic lives!
We Hit An Obstacle (Literally)
Our next drive took us across 2-lane roads and back to the East coast of FL.
Now we generally love driving back-roads and when we have a short drive we much prefer them over the crowded interstates. They’re more relaxed and you don’t have to deal with all those crazy 18-wheelers zooming by all the time. But they are smaller, and in many places there’s no shoulder so you have nowhere to pull over if something gets in the way.
That’s exactly what happened to us.
We were happily driving along at ~50 mph when we rounded a corner and suddenly faced a big, black thing in the middle of the road. Yikes! We didn’t see it until we were almost ontop of it so there was literally no way we could stop in time. In addition the road we were on had no shoulder (and a ditch to that side) aaaand there was oncoming traffic in the other lane, so we had no way to swerve either left or right. So, we did the the only safe thing we could do and that was to drive directly over the obstacle, trying to keep it as close to the middle of our RV + tow so that it would hopefully avoid the wheels or anything important. That’s exactly what we did and initially it seemed like the move had succeeded, right up until our US Gear Tow brake started alarming that we’d lost the connection to our tow. Oh noooooo….
We pulled over as soon as we could safely do so, fearing the worst. Was our tow damaged? Was the RV damaged? Would we need to go back to the repair shop AGAIN? After our big tow accident last year, this was literally the last thing we wanted.
Our hearts were in our stomachs as we walked back to inspect the tow. The obstacle had thrown up our flap with enough force that it had hit our hitch and cracked the tow cable plug, but miraculously that was the only damage! The metal part of the mud flap was heavily dented and our tow plug was a gonner, but our tow cable was still attached (by a hair), and there was zero damage to either the hitch, the RV or the CRV.
THANK YOU RV Gods!
We unhooked and traveled the rest of the way separately, so very relieved that the damage had not been worse. Thankfully Paul had a spare tow plug, and after some re-wiring and old-fashioned banging (on the mud flap) he got everything working & ready to go again. It’s not perfect but it’s good enough, and with a bit of luck that’s our one and only scare for the year. A girl can hope, right?!
We Go Into Outer Space (Kind Of)
Our ultimate goal was actually something that’s been on our bucket list for years, and once the tow plug was fixed, we were able to focus all our energy on that.
As hard-core Science geeks and Star Trek Fans (well me at least), we’ve both been fascinated by Outer Space ever since we were kids. We LOVE anything and everything to do with Space stuff and nothing quite speaks to this inner geekiness than the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Merritt Island, FL. Together with next-door Cape Canaveral, this area is known as the Space Coast of Florida and it’s where American Space History was (and is being) made!
From the very first US-based missions to space and the moon (Saturn V/Apollo Programs), to the engineering marvel that was the Space Shuttle, to modern-day SpaceX launches and yet-to-be missions that will one day take people to Mars, this is where it all happens!! Rockets launch east-ward from here over the ocean getting a nice little kick from the earth’s rotation, and if you’re lucky and time your visit right you can even see one while you’re in the area.
For folks like us it is one of the coolest things you can ever experience!
Now there are lots of neat guides on visiting the Kennedy Space Station (KSC) including THIS one written by our RV buddies Tim and Amanda, so I’m not going to go through everything there is to see and do there. But what I will do is give you the low-down on how to “do” it in ~4 hours.
You see most folks spend an entire day or even multiple days at the Center and if you have the time and ability I most certainly recommend it. But since we travel with paws and don’t like to leave them for more than 4-5 hours at a time (and never 2 days in a row), we do things differently. It’s just part of the very voluntary sacrifice we make for our furry family.
So, how do you cram all that Space awesomeness into just a few hours?? Well let me tell you…
How To Visit The Kennedy Space Center In ~4 Hours
In my usual OCD style I researched ahead on every tour in the Center and discovered that with just a few key tricks and the perfect space-time-combo of tours, you can visit just about everything in ~4 hours without the need for interstellar transport or wormholes. You will certainly miss some stuff, but you’ll see all the most important exhibits and you will definitely not feel rushed or short-changed. Here’s my tips on exactly how:
1/ Park The RV Close By
In order to maximize your time at KSC it really helps to park your RV as close to the Center as you can.
There is actually on-site parking ($15) if you’re just coming for the day, (no overnight parking allowed) but if it’s hot and you have paws this won’t be a viable option. Thankfully there are plenty of good RV park choices only ~20 minutes away:
- Seasons Of The Sun RV Resort – A full-service, full-hookup private RV park that offers PA 50% off rates in the off-season. This is where we stayed (full review coming) and it was perfect. $35-$48/night full price depending on site & season. $22-$25/night with PA (April-Nov only). Click HERE
- Manatee Hammock Campground – The closest public park to KSC. It offers full hookups and you can even watch a rocket launch from here! But sites are on small side and officially can only take RV’s up to max 39-feet. Regular price $26/night. PA $13/night available on first-come-first-serve basis during weekdays (not valid on weekends or holidays). Click HERE
- Other Options – See HERE and HERE.
2/ Download The Free KSC App Before You Go
You get a paper map if you buy your entry ticket through the main KSC ticket line, but we bought our tickets at the self-serve Kiosks (no lines, you see) and once we got into the center we couldn’t find a map and were initially a bit lost. Thankfully the free Kennedy Space Center App provides everything you need to know in the palm of your hand. Download it before you go and you’ll save time finding your way around.
3/ Arrive AT Open (9AM), On a Weekday
The Space Center is hugely popular and crowds can amass, especially on the weekend. Also most of the main attractions are guided tours which means you have to be on a tour to see them (you can’t just wander through on your own time). So people are herded through in fixed-size groups and queues/back-ups form when the tours get full. The good news is that you can avoid all this by arriving right AT open (9AM), choosing to go on a weekday (rather than a weekend) and being selective about which exhibits you visit first.
4/ Take The Bus Tour to Apollo/Saturn V First
As soon as you get into KSC hang a right and get yourself on a Bus Tour.
This will take you around the two on-site launch pads (including the SpaceX pad) and out to see the Apollo/Saturn V Museum (only accessible by bus). It is the longest tour in the center (~2 hours total time, there and back), but IMO it’s also the absolute best and you simply cannot miss it!
On the bus you’ll get to see the off-limits sections of KSC including the Vehicle Assembly Building and the A/B launch pads. At the museum you’ll experience a re-enactment of the Apollo 8 Launch (you go through the original countdown in an exact replica of the original control room!), you’ll get to see the jaw-dropping 363-foot long Saturn V rocket (OMG!), learn about early space suits and touch a real moon rock. It’s awesome!
The tour bus is understandably popular, but if you snag the very first bus of the day you don’t have to wait in line to board, you’ll be the very first people at the museum and you’ll get back to the main complex with zero wait times. Also since it’s the longest tour (time-wise), once you get this out of the way you can concentrate on the rest of the Center with far less pressure.
5/ Then Go See Atlantis
Once back at base, go see the Atlantis Space Shuttle exhibit. This is another hugely popular exhibit, but it generally doesn’t fill up with people until later in the morning, and if you managed to catch the first bus tour you’ll get back here before the crowds hit.
There’s a short 15 min guided intro and then you get to see the Shuttle and play around with the many interactive exhibits in the museum. It is SO much fun and easily worth a good hour of your time!
6/ Leave The Rest For Last
Once you’ve completed the two biggest (and best IMO) exhibits, you can spend the rest of your visit just wandering around the remainder of the Center with zero pressure. The rocket garden is open, self-guided and super easy to see (no lines here), there’s a Heros of Spaceflight center and if you’ve got more than 4 hours there are IMAX movies too (we didn’t have time).
We arrived just after 9AM, took the very first bus tour to Apollo/Saturn V, spent quality time at the Atlantis exhibit and walked around the rocket garden, all in under 4 hours. We didn’t wait in line (anywhere), none of it felt rushed and we crammed in tons of space awesomeness in minimum time.
The next day we watched a rocket launch with Polly from an excellent view-point underneath the Max Brewer Bridge. Although we weren’t that close it was still quite a rush to see, and a very fitting end to our time on the Space Coast.
MORE VISITOR INFO: The Kennedy Space Center is open from 9AM-7PM. Parking costs $10 (car) or $15 (RV). Admission costs $50/adult ($40/child) and includes the bus tour and all main complex attractions. Multi-day, military and senior discounts available. NO dogs allowed inside the center.
Believe it or not this wraps up our winter travels in Florida. I’ve got 2 campground reviews coming up, and if I get the chance I’ll write a more detailed post about our winter in FL and RV tips related to that (I do have lots to share, but may run out of time to do so!). Otherwise the next post you’ll see from me will be from another State. Onwards and northwards we go!!
Useful External Links:
- Kennedy Space Center -> Main visitor website HERE
- Space Coast Launch Schedule -> Detailed website HERE
- Where to Watch Rocket Launches -> Great, detailed website HERE
PSA Announcement -> Looking For a Sweet Fulltime RV Rig?
After 5 years on the road good friends Hector and Brenda (Islandgirlwalkabout) have settled down into a fixed home in New Mexico and are selling their 2004 National Tropical T396 RV! We’ve spent lots of time with these folks on the road, and not only are they lovely people, but their rig is a really sweet little RV. They’ve done tons of upgrades (both to the interior and exterior), and they’ve kept her in prime running condition. I’ve seen this rig myself (many times) and can vouch that it looks as great in person as it does in the pictures. So, if you’re looking for a rig that’s ready to go, I honestly don’t think you could find a better deal from better people. Click HERE for more pics & info.
2004 National Tropical T396 RV
73k miles on her Freightliner XC chassis / Caterpillar engine / Allison transmission
Numerous upgrades & improvements
They are asking $68K.
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