Tag Archives: Travel

Road Trip- Kennedy Space Center

I was eleven years old when John Kennedy made his famous, “we choose to go to the moon,” speech, fifteen when Grissom, White and Chafee died during a pre-launch test, eighteen when man first landed on the moon, 24 when Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff and 51 when Columbia disintegrated upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. So I’ve really grown up with the space program. Understanding the significance of the race to the moon with the Russians back in the 60’s and the pride we all felt during that time is hard to explain to someone unless you lived through it. It would be hard for younger generations to understand.
Strangely, there are those who still believe man never went to the moon; that it was all staged on a Hollywood movie set. To those conspiracy theorists , I’d ask you to watch a new documentary that was recently released in theaters, called Apollo 11. It’s fascinating.

I’ve always wanted to visit KSC and see some of the spots where history took place. So on a recent road trip we spent a day at KSC in Merritt Island Florida. There are quite a few exhibits, movies, and hands-on attractions that entertain and educate adults and children. They’ve also done a great job of turning this into a great way to spend a day away from Disney, if that’s your destination. (It’s only about an hour east of Orlando.) From the space shuttle that’s opened up for you to view, to the actual lunar spacecrafts to being able to sit and experience what a shuttle launch might feel like if you were on board at liftoff, to touching a moon rock, it was a fun and educational day.

So here are some of the sights, which only give you a glimpse of what you might expect if you choose to visit.

Entrance

As you enter, JFK fountain with a portion of his speech.

A portion of the rocket garden

The original seven as seen in the Astronauts Hall of Fame

The view across the water at the launch pad.

The Vehicle Assembly Building, at 129,428,000 cubic feet, it is
one of the largest buildings in the world by volume and the largest
single story building in the world. Designed to assemble
large pre-manufactured space vehicle components such as the massive
Saturn V and the Space Shuttle; and stack them vertically onto the
Mobile Launch Platform and crawler transporter.

 

Alan Shepard’s spacesuit with moon dust still on the shoes.

Standing under these rocket boosters at the Apollo/Saturn V Center
was pretty impressive. The photo doesn’t  do it justice.

Astrovans which shuttled the astronauts from their quarters to the
launch pad.

   

Hard to imagine spending any amount of time in something this confining.

   

What the control room looked like on February 20, 1962 as John Glenn
became the first U.S. astronaut  to orbit the earth.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

So if you’re in the area and would like to actually have lunch with an astronaut, think about visiting the KSC. If you’re lucky and time it right, you might even be there for an actual launch, which must be pretty impressive to see.

Oh, by the way…we’re planning to send man back to the moon in a few years.
That should be interesting.

Road Trip-Charleston, S.C.

We took a road trip last month from NJ to Florida with some stops along the way. We’ve become fans of road trips in recent years simply because it gives us so much more flexibility. There are so many little places or things that we miss when we fly and we never have to worry about packing too much or too little. We just throw what we want in the car and take off. Of course flying is a necessity for some trips but when you have the time, driving is a great alternative.

Our first stop was in Charleston which is so beautiful and rich in history. There are so many stories that make up the city but it’s a place you have to see and walk to really appreciate it. Just not in the summer..:)

Here are a few photos of the landscape and Magnolia Plantation located about 20 minutes from downtown.

I found this in a rest stop just outside the city. I’m guessing they’ve had some problems in the past..:)

You have to love a hotel who provides you with cider, different kinds of M&M’s all day long and three different kinds of chocolate chip cookies at night.

Downtown

Magnolia Plantation

Photos never do beauty justice but it gives you  sense. Hope you enjoyed them.

 

 

Intercourse

We always enjoy visiting Amish country around Lancaster, Pa. While retail outlets, hotels, entertainment venues and restaurants of every kind have taken away some of the simplicity and quaintness during the past thirty years, it still remains a peaceful, pretty place, as long as you where to go.

Pennsylvania Dutch Country has towns with unique names, (including the one below), which the retailers seem to have fun with.

During our last visit, I took some photos of the t-shirts for sale in some of the stores. I wonder what the Amish must think.

And yes, the town of Intercourse is actually between the towns of Blue Ball and Paradise. And yes, I own that baseball hat.

How could I not?

Three Quotes And A Photo

We took a two-week road trip recently through Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, (another blog), and I came across three quotes or phrases that I thought were fun, along with one very interesting photo.

The phrases first…

What is a bookshelf other than a treasure chest for a curious mind.
(I like this for all the obvious reasons)

Say what you will about the south but no one retires and moves north.
(I never thought about this before but there is some truth to the words)

Intoxicated people, children and leggings, never lie.
(Well now, we can go on forever about this line)

As for the photo, I was stopped at a light in Lexington, Kentucky and saw this window advertisement for the attached business.


Now, I’m not really sure what kind of establishment this is. Is it a bait and tackle shop? A bar and grill? I was thinking maybe both but the fine print right next to her lips and below the anchor says…you’re sure to catch something.

That altered my mindset just a bit. While I was tempted to investigate, I thought better of it and left when the light turned green. Not that I wasn’t curious but you know what they say about curiosity.

Besides, I just wasn’t in the mood to catch anything from a place called Ole Hookers.

Driving The Blue Ridge

We had an opportunity last month to take a road trip to North Carolina/Virginia. We spent a few days in Asheville, which has an abundance of crazy good restaurants then headed north along the Blue Ridge Parkway to a pretty little town called Blowing Rock. It’s one of those drives  you can probably make in two hours. It took us seven. There were just too many beautiful places to stop along the way. A short hike or two and before you know it the sun was getting lower in the sky. A few weeks later in October and the colors along the parkway must have been gorgeous. Anyway, here are a few of the places we stopped to take a look, understanding that photos never do these scenes justice.
Please keep in mind I’m not a photographer and I was only using my iPhone.

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During one of our hikes we heard music playing on a phone laying on a tree stump. We looked up and saw two people up in a tree. When I told them I had to take their picture they laughed and asked me to take one with their phone as well. I don’t know who they are but they made the blog.

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If you ever have an opportunity to visit the mountains of North Carolina, and I highly recommend it, take a long day and a slow drive between Asheville and Blowing Rock. You won’t be disappointed.

Judging Perceptions

Quite a few years ago I happened to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a meeting. Clean city, nice people. As I was waiting for the hotel elevator with a middle-aged couple, we had a brief but very nice conversation. In the few minutes it took for the elevator to arrive and take us to our floor, we talked briefly about the city of Milwaukee. They were from Wisconsin but visiting for a couple of days. As we stepped off on the same floor, we continued speaking about the new ballpark and the city’s proximity to Chicago, which was only a 45 minute drive. It was a very nice conversation and we even laughed once or twice. As we were saying goodbye, the woman asked me what brought me to Milwaukee and where I was from. I told her I was in the city on business and that I was from New Jersey. In an instant, her facial expression changed as she said, “I’m surprised you’re even speaking to us.”  With that, they both turned and walked away quickly, as if I had some sort of infectious disease they were afraid of catching.

New Jersey.

Those two words conjure up all kinds of jokes, hostilities and images. Hollywood and late night talk shows have had a field day with it. Comedians regularly include it in their acts. Speak with people from other states and many times their feelings are similar to that Wisconsin couple. Traveling by car to another state with New Jersey plates and you will be lucky if they don’t flip the closed sign on you as you pull up. A recent poll I read claims New Jersey is the least liked state in the union and the only state in the U.S. in which more people have an unfavorable opinion of than a favorable one.

I’ve often wondered why people feel this way and what all these negative opinions are based on. I suppose the impression many people have of New Jersey is what they see when they fly into Newark Airport. The see the ports and the smoke stacks of the refineries on their way into New York and they think the entire state looks like that. They run into someone who may be rude to them at the airport and think everyone in the state will have the same personality. They watch the Sopranos and think everyone in the state is mobbed up. The watch Jersey Shore and believe everyone at the beach is a lewd drunk with little common sense or morals, even though the people in that show were from New York.

How sad that we allow others to define our views and opinions based on what their limited experiences may have been. Is the area around Newark Airport unattractive? You bet. But if that’s all you care to see, then you’re missing this……..

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And if you think the beaches are only what you’ve seen on the embarrassment of the Jersey Shore show, then you’re missing this…..

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At this point, I’m guessing you think this is an advertisement about New Jersey. It isn’t. It’s about allowing others to decide for us. It’s about making up our own minds about a place or, more importantly, a person. It’s about giving everyone an opportunity.

Every state has their armpit areas as well as their fair share of rudeness. Maybe we’re a little more direct here about what we say and how we say it but quite honestly, I prefer that approach. I’ve been places where people smile at you and say, “bless your heart,” as the knife is going in your back. How sweet.

I wonder how many people we never got to know because someone else told us to avoid them. I wonder how many places we’ve never visited because someone else had a bad experience, which may have been their own doing. How much music, how many restaurants, how many trips have we lost because of what someone else said.

Why?

After all, when was the last time you believed anything that came out of Hollywood? Talk show hosts and comedians? Really? These are the people whose opinion you really want to take into consideration?

We’re all smarter than that.

Aren’t we?

 

NYC Cupcake Tour

I love desserts. I could go to dinner and be perfectly happy ordering an appetizer and dessert and if you want to skip the app, that would be fine with me. So when one of our daughters gave us a cupcake tour in New York City as a gift, my happy face had a happy face.

The tour happened in and around Greenwich Village and included six stops. Not every stop involved a cupcake, which was fine with me. You want to have a cupcake tour and throw in a few different kinds of desserts? That’s like asking me if it’s okay to take me on an ice cream tour and include pies, cakes and a chocolate stop. How is that even a serious question?

The walking tour was supposed to last two-hour but it ran over about thirty minutes and involved walking about a mile and a half.

The first stop was a little store called Baked by Melissa. These were not your typical cupcakes but rather the top of a mini cupcake. They were all very different and priced at one dollar each. Melissa’s is just off Union Square in case you’re ever in the neighborhood. Our sample was a seasonal creation called a Lemon Cuparoon and it was very good.

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Our second stop was a gelato/sorbet place called Amorino. They don’t just serve gelato in a cup as many places do, they create a work of art, as seen by the photo below. Their gelato is served like a flower and it’s impressive to watch them make it, especially when they incorporate more than one flavor. Our sample today was a seasonal mango sorbet and I have to say I’ve never tasted sorbet like this. It was made with all natural ingredients and felt like I was biting into a fresh mango both in texture and taste. It really was very good and the best sorbet I’ve ever tasted.

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Our third stop was my favorite. The front of Molly’s Cupcakes looks like a school bus and the tables inside were classroom desks. But the real attraction was the cupcake itself. If you are ever in New York, Chicago or Iowa City, I’d suggest you walk off your plane and find this place. The cupcakes were that good. We were able to choose our own full size cupcake and frosting and add toppings from the toppings bar if we wanted a little kick. My wife had a carrot cupcake with cream cheese frosting and said it was the best she ever had. I went old school with a vanilla cupcake and chocolate frosting. When I was done I asked if I could work there for free. I didn’t want to finish the tour or go home that night. I wanted to stay and close the place down; sweep the floors, clean the tables, wash the tins, whatever it took.  I was prepared to endure a sugar coma and if that’s the way it ended for me, the smile on my face as they carried me out would be enough for people to understand. Here’s a taste of Molly’s..

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IMG_1534IMG_1537Our next stop was another little place called Bisous Ciao Macaron. It should be noted that these are not macaroon’s, those coconut cookies, but the French Macaron which is a little piece of heaven in a small dessert sandwich. We sampled a chocolate macaron which was just the right amount of sweet and so delicious. Bisous Ciao also served some other delights which you can see below. Great little place in the village that you should try if you’re ever there.

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At this point the sugar was definitely kicking in, so what did we do? We went to a tiny little place called Milk and Cookies, of course. Most of these places are very small and this place was no exception, unless you’re describing the cookies. They were big and they were very good. Our sample, if you can call it that was a very large oatmeal, sea salt and toffee cookie. It was excellent but I could only eat a piece. Why? Because I had to buy a chocolate chip cookie and sample that also. And yes, you are reading the photo correctly; they are 29.50 for a baker’s dozen. And yes, people were buying them like crazy. That’s our tour guide, Mallory, in front of the store.

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Our final stop was, unfortunately our least favorite. Magnolia’s Bakery has been credited with starting the cupcake craze back in the late 90’s based on its inclusion into the popular show, Sex  and the City. Bus tours and a near cult following were a result but for us, the sample of a red velvet mini cupcake was not up to par with the rest of the stops. It tasted dry and kind of stale.

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Some sights along the way included the snake man and the giant bubble man in Washington Square Park.

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Of course after all those sweet, we were in desperate need of some real food so we hiked over to Little Italy and had an early dinner outside at La Mela. That enormous dish which could have easily fed two people was red snapper with rigatoni and a side of the best broccoli, (no joke), I’ve ever had. Must have been the roasted garlic. IMG_1556 IMG_1557

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It was a fun day, even though we walked over ten miles, according to our tracker. There are so many food tours in the city, if you’re so inclined to try one. We walked from midtown, down to Union Square, did the tour, walked to Little Italy and Canal Street and then back to midtown. The Village has a very different feel than midtown and you never know when you’ll run into a little club like Cafe Wha?, where Bob Dylan first played in New York and people like Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Springsteen, Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor also performed and honed their skills.

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Hope you enjoyed our little tour. Stay hungry and now you can go and have a cupcake… or two.