Growing up we had numerous vacations. We frequented Walt Disney World, drove to Mississippi every summer and visited family in California. I have many memorable vacations, we consistently saw wonderful things. If I can say anything about my childhood, it would be that we had great trips throughout the USA and my Dad loved to stop and see something different or to see something that we all love. It is the one thing that I know I have inherited from my father, the love to drive the open roads while vacationing. When I get in the car and drive for a vacation today, I always look for something nearby that we might have stopped at when I was a child, I do this to make sure my children get to see some of the great places I visited as a child. The vacation that stands out the most for me is one special trip we made to Florida.
It was June 1983, we traveled by RV to Florida. We camped for a week at Fort Wilderness in Walt Disney World. The week at Disney was jam-packed, we were consistently in the park from open to close. Never a dull moment, there was way too much to see and do. I was 12 on this trip, I can only assume that at this age I had finally overcome my fear of these giant characters. The laughs my family would have at my expense. Who would think that Mickey Mouse could actually frighten a child.
When we were leaving Disney World, my father decided that we should drive to the Kennedy Space Center. As we were touring the space center, I looked up and above us was hanging a large countdown clock from the ceiling. This is truly the only thing I remember inside the space center. I have never been back, so I have no clue what is really inside to see. The large clock was calling to me. There were 4 days left until the next launch. I pleaded with my Dad to stay in FL, how cool would it be to see the shuttle launch with the first women astronaut. He agreed and we looked for a campground with an available site for what seemed like forever. Because of the impending launch, the campsites were jammed. The good news was we found a site, the bad news we were miles from the launch site and it was not something you could just go and watch.
My brother turned 16 on this trip, June 14, 1983. I remember celebrating his birthday. Since we did not plan to still be in FL, there was nothing for him on his special day. No gifts, that would wait until we got home. No real cake, because we were not supposed to be celebrating his birthday here and the store at the campground did not have birthday cakes, our only option was Hostess Cupcakes. I will never forget the look on his face when we presented him with his “cake” with 17 candles on it (we always add one for good luck). For sure this “cake” would launch itself. We never laughed so hard.
The morning of the launch, we got up and pulled together our things to leave later that day. Then we sat outside and waited. I had no clue what we were waiting for, I knew the shuttle would launch, but we were too far to see it. We had either a radio or tv on and sat and talked with our neighboring campers. The countdown was finally low, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and blast off. The ground shook hard, like an earthquake rocking California. Above, in the sky, you could see the exhaust from the shuttle. We watched as the shuttle disappeared into the Earth’s atmosphere. This was a huge day in history for all women, we had just launched our first female into space. I will never forget the day we watched Sally Ride blast off into space! June 18, 1983 what a day that was.