Monday, April 4, 2016


Addendum from Lauren: We visited my friend from undergrad, Scott, who is now a prof at U of Florida! I foolishly forgot to take photos of the trip, so here are some unrelated photos of some good times:

Also with David in Monterey.
Fun times! (also featuring Yum and David!)

We spent 3 nights and 4 days in Florida:

The first day, as soon as we crossed the state line on the I-10 near Pensacola, we stopped in one of these "welcome centers" advertised by the side of freeways. This turned out to be a good idea and we might be doing this more often. The staff at the welcome center is very helpful, and knows a lot about the state as a whole (as opposed to visitor centers in cities where they would only know about things to see and do in that city):

Goofy photo taken at the Welcome Center.
We briefly stopped at Pensacola to see the beach:

We mostly drove on that day so we did not do much and rested at Tallahassee:

Camp site at Tallahassee.

On the second day in Florida we drove to Orlando and went to the Universal Orlando Resort. This was the most entertaining, sophisticated, and fun amusement park I have ever been to. In my opinion it is better than, say, Disneyland in Los Angeles or Paris. I especially liked the simulator rides (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, etc.) where a roller coaster moves you through a decorated scene and stops at various points to show a 3D action scene projected on a screen. The transitions between decors and screens are almost seamless and if you do not pay attention you might forget for a second if you are watching a real, mechanical robot or a virtual robot :)

Lauren's favorite area: the Harry Potter section. In front of the Hogwarts Express.


Ollivander's for wizarding wands.


Platform 9 3/4.

Leaky Cauldron.

Enjoying a cup of butterbeer.

My favorite part: Jurassic Park!

About to climb on this ride in Toontown...

...and we got soaked.

Marvel Superhero land.

Moe's Tavern from the Simpsons.

Back to the Future Delorean.

Replica Hollywood Blvd.

On our third day in Florida we visited the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, the NASA facility where most of their space launches take place. We saw the 2 launch pads (39A and 39B), various buildings, etc:

A walkway used for astronauts to access the shuttles.

A bus tour took us from the space center to the actual launch pads and various complexes:

The windows of this building are made of Kevlar, or else the loud noise from the rockets would shatter glass.

Launch pad 39A. The only hangar nearby is wearing a prominent SpaceX logo, and the tour guide made sure to emphasize the booming field of space companies.

Launch pad 39A. Notice the giant tank of liquid hydrogen. Another similar tank of liquid oxygen is nearby.

The other launch pad, 39B.

This "crawler" as they call them was running and moving the launch platform. Normally rockets stand on the platform as they move them to the launch pad, but in this case it was just the platform being moved. Needless to say it is absolutely gigantic and only went at max speed of 1 mph.

Vehicle Assembly Building, where they assemble the rockets. The largest one story building in the world.

One of the original mission control center where they operated the Apollo missions.

One of the main exhibit: a Saturn V rocket.

Interesting international newspaper coverage of the first manned moon landing.

Moon motor car.

Closeup of the moon motor car dashboard.

The Kennedy Space Center is the "only place in the world where you can touch a sample of the moon".

The actual moon sample.

Another major exhibit: one of the 6 space shuttles—Atlantis.

Closeup of Atlantis' cockpit. Lauren said it looked like it was made of paper mache. 

Finally on our last night in Florida we camped near St Augustine (which is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in the US), however is was too rainy to do anything interesting, so we drove north along the coast and stopped at the beach by Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve when the sun came out:

Next stop: Georgia!

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