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Cocoa Beach
121 Scrub #1
121 Scrub #2


 Cocoa Beach and Al Worden Photo Credits: Mary and Me
Wayland charges the Atlantic Ocean surf
Wayland charges the Atlantic Ocean surf at Cocoa Beach
Lexie keeps a watchful eye on Wayland
Lexie keeps a watchful eye on Wayland
Lexie, Wayland, and Al Worden after dinner
Lexie, Wayland, Al Worden, and Linn LeBlanc after dinner
Lexie, Wayland, and Al Worden after Dinner
Lexie, Wayland, Al Worden and Linn LeBlanc
The STS-121 mission was targeted to launch on July 1st, 2006 with the launch window opening at 3:48:41 and closing at 3:53:02 p.m.  My family was fortunate to have been extended an invitation to view the launch from NASA’s Banana Creek viewing site.   We were guests of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

This was the first time that my 3 year old grandson Wayland would have an opportunity to see a rocket launch.  Our airplane flight to Orlando was also his first airplane flight.  We took a 7:00 a.m. flight from DFW to Orlando with a scheduled arrival at 10:36 a.m.

The biggest problem with an early morning flight is the fact that you need to get up very early to ensure that you are at the airport on time.  Those hours are not so bad for me, but they are pretty tough on the grand children.  The flight however was pretty smooth.

By the time that we got our luggage and rental car at Orlando, it was time to grab something for lunch.  A Friday’s restaurant near the airport seemed like a convenient place to eat.   We were shocked by the large police presence when we entered the restaurant.  About 90% of the people in the restaurant had on police uniforms. Closer inspection revealed that the police where enjoying an awards ceremony luncheon.

After lunch we headed out towards the space coast on a road that used to be called the Beeline Expressway.  The State of Florida renamed the road since our last visit.  Some overactive marketing person decided that “Beeline Expressway” was not an appropriate name for tourism.  They came to the conclusion that “Beachline Expressway” was better.  Regardless of what the sign says, to us it will always be the “Beeline”.

For the first part of our vacation we were going to stay at the Cocoa Beach Oceanfront Hilton.  There were no reservations when we were booking our travel arrangements.  Thanks to Linn LeBlanc of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation we were able to get a room from a block of rooms that was set aside for guests of Delaware North Corporation.  The Hilton with its beach access was a perfect place to entertain our grandchildren while we waited for the launch attempt.

After we checked in, we changed clothes and went down to the beach.  Wayland had a blast playing in the Atlantic Ocean.   This was his first experience in an ocean. For a 3 year old he really warmed up to it fast.  Waves splashing him in the face were great fun to him.  He was so excited.

That night we were invited to dine with Linn and Apollo 15 Astronaut Al Worden.  Al was the Command Module Pilot for Apollo 15.  The location for our dinner was Bernard’s Surf restaurant.  Bernard’s Surf has been a fixture of Cocoa Beach since 1948.

We had a little difficulty locating the restaurant.  Mary called Linn and got refined directions.  As I was making a u-turn to go back, the bumper of our car scraped a stop sign.  This rental car was a Chevrolet Impala and it had longer nose on it than I was accustomed to.  It was just a scratch, but it dampened my mood.

Mary, Lexie, Wayland, and I met up with Al and Linn in the restaurant.  The restaurant moved us to the back room and an out of the way table.  Having the chance to dine with Al was just amazing.  Who would have imagined that we would be dining with an Apollo astronaut in Cocoa Beach the night before a launch attempt?  Al was a real pleasure to dine with.

While we were waiting for our food Linn mentioned that Al had recently taken Scuba diving back up.  He got interested after hearing about our undersea adventure with Scott Carpenter back in April.  Linn told me to tell Al about our adventure.

Well, that was all it took.  I was so enthused by that adventure that I can talk about it for hours.  So there I was at dinner with an Apollo astronaut and I was monopolizing the conversation rather than listening to the astronaut.

We finished our dinners and I asked Al if we could take a photo of him with Lexie and Wayland.  He was really great with our grand children.   You won’t meet a friendly more sincere person.  Al obliged us by posing for the photo.

The next morning, I reflected upon our dinner conversation and I felt horrible.  I knew that I had talked way too much.  I figured that Al must have thought he was having dinner with a raving idiot.  What was done was done.  All I could do now was apologize to Al the next time that I saw him.

When Wayland got up, he looked out of the window of our hotel room.  He exclaimed, “It’s still here”.  He was referring to the ocean.  Apparently he thought the ocean would go away over night.

The story continues the next day.  For this part of the story follow the 121 Scrub #1 link.

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UPDATED : June 11, 2008
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