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Posts Tagged ‘couchsurfing’

Space Shuttle Atlantis, Launch Day, Mission STS-132

Space Shuttle Atlantis, fueled and ready for its last voyage, May 14, 2010

Today was one of those days that are almost beyond description.  I have been dreaming of going to a shuttle launch for five years at least.  I was in Miami last year and missed one by just a few days.  Since then I have been trying with some earnest to see a launch.  As you may or may not know, the shuttle program is coming to an end after just two more launches.  The program has been very successful over the last 30 years, but the fleet of shuttles is aging and the program is drawing to its inevitable conclusion.  With that in mind, I decided a couple of months ago to attend this launch of the Shuttle Atlantis on its last voyage into space.


Atlantis, moments after lift-off, May 14, 2010

Tickets to see a launch have always been hard to come by.  The spots on the causeway frequently sell out within minutes of them going on sale.  This year it has been much harder due to the dwindling number of launches and subsequent increase in the popularity of the remaining missions.  About three weeks ago the tickets went on sale on the internet and I spent two hours trying to get tickets, unsuccessfully.  Evidently the ticketing program had a malfunction and after two hours they closed down the ticket website and said there would be an announcement for another day to buy tickets.  The makeup ticket sales day sold out all the tickets in 37 minutes and I was unable to buy tickets.    Myself and two friends were going to Cape Canaveral without any tickets to see the launch.  (we had heard that you can watch it from less prime spots that did not require tickets, and that was our plan).

Atlantis, Moments after lift-off, May 14, 2010, HDR

I have written in previous posts that I almost always couchsurf when I travel.  I love having a local person to stay with that knows the ropes and really understands where they live and what makes it special.  The accommodations for this trip was a wonderful person in Cape Canaveral named Kim.  We arrived at her place yesterday and within in a couple of minutes we were treated to the most wonderful surprise we could imagine.  Kim, our excellent couchsurfing host is an engineer for a company that is contracted by NASA.  She is an employee of the space center and as such has great access to the launch.  She took us out to get pictures last night and then took us to the causeway today for the main event.  (The causeway was the same spot that I had spent four hours trying to get tickets for.)  It was a wonderful day and it was very exciting to watch the Atlantis take-off.  Being with Kim was like having backstage passes to the best concert ever.  She was a wonderful host and it was an unbelievable day.  I took a lot of pictures, and these are my favorites so far……..

The launch was really spectacular.  The shuttle lept off the pad in a blaze of fire and smoke and a few minutes later the roar of the engines hit me in the middle of the chest and did not quit hitting.  The shuttle rose quickly into the sky.  It was easy to follow it until the separation of the solid rocket boosters and then it became a glowing dot in the sky that slowly disappeared, leaving an appreciative crowd (and Mark Miner) with a memory to last a lifetime.  Thanks, Kim for being so gracious and showing us such an incredible time.


Launch Day


This is our golden ticket.

Countdown to the launch. It is 9am here in Cape Canaveral. We have had breakfast and we are pumped for the launch. According to the news everything is a go at this point. We are going to head to the causeway around 10:30 for the 2:20 launch. Everyone is so excited here.


Mission Patch for STS-132

Every launch has a different logo or “Mission Patch”. this is the mission patch for this launch. (STS-132)

Night before the Launch……..


Night Before Shuttle Launch, May 2010


I am in Cape Canaveral. We have excellent tickets to the launch tomorrow courtesy of a wonderful couchsurfer here. It is the night before the launch. This photo was taken from approx 13 miles away, as close as we can get tonight. From this distance, the shuttle is just a small dot in the center of the frame. It has been greatly enlarged to make this picture. Tomorrow we will be on the causeway which is six miles from the shuttle. At that distance, the image will be four times larger in the camera than it is tonite. and Zak Evans from Utah

Zak Evans, my great CS  friend from Utah ordered a box of random stuff from when I was there in December.  I wrote a little post when I was intoxicated that described the ordeal.  This is a link to that post…. <-be sure to read this post to get up to speed on THIS post. 

This is the video of the hip-hoppin-hippies.

Community Supported Agriculture, (and more portrait HDR)

Two weekend’s ago I had a couple of couchsurfers in town. They were from the San Francisco Bay area. They are currently trekking across the country to start a new life as CSA farmers. CSA stands for community supported agriculture and they made it sound pretty great. They hope to take over a farm from an ailing couple in Michigan and start a CSA program there.

The basic idea of CSA means individuals buy a ‘share’ of a farm at the beginning of the season. For this, they receive a weekly basket or box of fresh vegetables from the farm as the season progresses. Participants also get special trips to the farm, fresh flowers in season, etc. In return the farms get a good cash flow at the start of the planting season when they could use it most. It also helps to spread the risk. In a drought year, people who bought into the farm help absorb the decreased production. To me what CSA really does is connect the community to the plight of agriculture in a more transparent and fun way.

Learn more about community supported agriculture.

About the pictures.. I noticed that they had their lives packed into this car and thought it would make a great photo. We got back from hitting downtown and they ‘posed’ in the garage for a few pictures. They have been HDR’d because, well, I really like HDR.  They are Matthew and Molly.


Matthew Benjamin, HDR, Des Moines 2010


Molly and Matthew Benjamin, HDR. Des Moines 2010

Day 16, Phoenix to Albuquerque


Near Sunset, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Today was a great drive that took me from Phoenix Arizona to Albuquerque New Mexico. I am starting to get jaded a little bit by all the scenery. It takes more to impress me than it did at the start of the trip. (I am sure that one week in flat Iowa will cure that).

About halfway through the drive today I spotted a sign that said crater national monument turnoff was ahead. It also said tune to am radio 1610 for information. So I tuned in and they told me lots of info and hyped it all to hell. They did not mention the price, the announcement just said “all this for one low admission price”, that made me skeptical, but it said it was “just five minutes off the highway” Actually six miles at thirty miles an hour = twelve minutes off the highway. So twelve minutes later I get to the crater and they want fifteen dollars to see it. Sorry not in the budget. I did tell the manager that the sign for the radio announcement should read ADVERTISEMENT, not information. The manager said that they don’t mention the price so that they can get more people off the highway into their place. (yeah and I hope these travellers take a big crap in their parking lot and then leave).

I got to Albuquerque without a Couchsurf host for the night. I had sent out a few requests but no replies. I was in the parking lot of a super8 when I checked my mail one last time and found that I had a place to stay. (Helen and Lester in Albuquerque) They were great hosts and we went to see the movie Vampires Assistant together. The one picture with this post is close to sunset just outside of Albuquerque. Tomorrow is Alb to Oklahoma City, a drive of about 540 miles.

The Trip so far…. Photos to come!


I am currently two days into a two and a half week tour of the southeast US. The plan is to hit Wichita Falls TX, New Orleans, Gainsville, Key West, Miami Beach, Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, Washington D.C., Louisville and then home!

I spent the first night in Wichita Falls, went out with some old friends, met some new ones. Got drunk in a place where they serve you alcohol in the parking lot and you drink it in your car….

On Sunday we drove from Wichita Falls to New Orleans, Louisiana, parked in the French Quarter and got soaked to the bone in a drving rain that did not let up for 20 minutes. We hit the Quarter for a few hours and then met our host for some beers. Patrick (our host) has been coming back and forth to New Orleans for years. He lives here permanently now and really knows the area. The bar that we met up was in the northeast end of the FQ in an area that is mostly locals. The bars were more friendly, the drinks were cheaper and better endowed and it was a great atmosphere. We sucked up some booze and live music and crashed at Patrick’s comfortable place in Uptown.

Monday we hooked up with Daniel in the French Quarter. He is a very organized host and takes it seriously. He has a wonderul place that is cool, comfortable and well furnished. He showed us around some of the local spots and we hit good waffles in the morning at a diner. It is stifling hot in New Orleans right now.  And we spent a good part of the early afternoon just chillin in Dan’s nice house. I called the Royal Sonesta hotel.  They are located in the middle of the quarter in a beautiful location on Bourbon St. I told them that I stay there every year for Mardi Gras (which I do) and that I was just in New Orleans visiting some friends. I asked if we could use the pool. The manager said they don’t have a particular way that it is done like that, but if we walked into the hotel and to the pool and did not cause any trouble, they probably would not even notice. The next five hours was spent in the pool and drinking beers. By the end of the day the burning sun had fought back and forth with pouring rain on several occasions, both were very welcome.  Today we head out for Gainsville Fl it is about 600 miles of driving with the stop we are making in Panama City to drop off a fellow couchsurfer………

Couchsurf Campout – South Park, Coloardo

Couchsurfing AT the campout!

Couchsurfing AT the campout!

Recently I had the chance to meet up with about 300 other couchsurfers at the first annual campout just south of Denver in South Park, Colorado. It was four days of drinking, camping, drinking, hiking and drinking. I hiked into the mountains a couple of days up to 12,200 feet and got some great photos at the snowline. I drank way too much, froze my f@#king ass off, and took a lot of photos! I met so many wonderful people saw and did things that will be with me forever.

Mark Miner

180 Pictures from the campout! if you want to download any of the pictures, highlight it and then hit the download button!

My couchsurfing profile!!! <- Click here to see it.

Couchsurfing Chicago Style

Amy IS salsa!

Amy IS salsa!

First of all, let me say. I think they really got something right with this couchsurfing….

Recently I had the chance to visit Chicago CS style. I packed up some road food, (tortillas, peanut butter, honey and chips) loaded up my audio book and set out for Chicago from Des Moines. First stop was the wonderful condo very near downtown of Daryl, a 30yr old OR nurse who has been with couchsurfing since 2007. He showed me his place, gave me a set of keys to the very secure building and then he left for work. The place was great, had a spare bedroom and bathroom, and was in a wonderful location. I made a tortilla with PB and honey and headed out to Chicago on the EL train. Ten minutes later I was downtown. Over the next two days a fellow couchsurfer, Zac arrived and we hit a number of museums. (I have a membership to the Sci center of Des Moines, this got us into the field museum, The Chicago science center and the Adler planetarium all at NO charge.) Daryl had to work days so he caught up with us nights and showed us around Chicago including the best place to take a skyline picture!

We were having a wonderful time in Chicago and no place yet to stay on Friday. (Daryl had other surfers coming in) We went to the Chicago couchsurfing event on Thursday night. I met a bunch of cool couchsurfers including Amy and Greg. Greg said we could crash wherever he was crashing on Friday night. Amy was having a salsa party fundraiser on Friday night and she invited Zac and I to go. When we arrived we could hear the salsa music from a block away. It was great fun, there were many interesting people there. We met Amy’s roomates and all of us went out for drinks afterward. Everybody was very nice. We ended up staying at Amy’s place which was just a short walk from the bar. She had a great place, a comfy couch and a great shower! I left for home on Saturday morning. Viva la couchsurfing!!!


Random pics from this trip!


Zak Evans, Couchsurfer from UTAH!

Zak Evans, Couchsurfer from UTAH!

Recently a friend of mine turned me on to a site called The basic idea here is that you register your couch or spare bedroom as a place that fellow travelers can ‘crash’ when they are in your town. You register on the site and can immediately start searching for places to surf. To increase your chances of being accepted as a traveler you need to get verified (a painless one time procedure).

I used to arrange a place to stay in Indy on a recent trip. I located a place for the two nights I was going to be there, found a person to host us in a spare bedroom and was all set. At the last minute my stepfather decided to go on the trip as well and he got a hotel room instead and we all stayed there.

Last week I received a request for someone to surf my couch on Friday and Saturday in Des Moines. It was a 21 year old guy who is traveling all 50 states. He is about 6 weeks and 17 states into it at this point. He stayed Friday and Saturday and it was a blast. I learned so much more about couchsurfing, and he had a great time partyiing in Des Moines until 4am!

My plan is to do a bunch more couchsurfing this summer. It is very affordable (read –free–). Meeting new people and seeing a city through the eyes of a local is a great way to travel.