Posts Tagged ‘Space Coast’

When the Challenger exploded, there we were

January 27, 2011

Challenger’s trail of vapor from Diane`s second-floor balcony on Merritt Island

Hmmm, that is weird and kind of pretty I thought, as I watched the Challenger’s trail of vapor from my second-floor balcony on Merritt Island, Fla., 10 miles from Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. It was Jan, 28, 1986, a crisp, clear Tuesday, a little after 11:30 a.m.. The cloud formation was so interesting that I took a photo, shown here. I didn’t assume anything had gone wrong. Unthinkable.

Then my brain caught up. How can this be? Odd became ominous. I switched on the TV. And that’s when I heard the news. The Challenger had exploded. I called my friend and colleague Connie Ogle. “Connie, turn on your television. Now!” We were both due at work in a few hours to edit and lay out the news section of Florida Today, the local paper.

The crew of the Challenger's final flight (photo Wikipedia)

I’d lived on “the Space Coast” of Florida for two years and never missed a shuttle launch. I’d scan the sky while my windows rattled. Always I was overcome by the enormity of the rocket, the science, the human achievements. Most of my paper’s readers were connected — through work, family, or allegiance — to the space program. In 1985, my pal Scott Kline and I got press credentials to view a launch from the VIP stand. Standing in the bleachers with the shuttle just across a small pond I will forever recall that rush of watching the space shuttle fire up and shoot into the sky while the ground shook below us. Awesome.

Connie and I went to the newsroom early that day, along with the entire editorial staff. We scrambled to put out a special edition. Of course this was the shuttle launch that the entire country —  no, the world —  was invested in, the first one carrying a civilian, New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe. All eyes were on the flight, and, by default, on our community. The press already was everywhere, and more reporters flooded in after the explosion. And there we were, shellshocked, working on the hometown paper, trying to soothe our readers who had grown up with NASA in their back yards.

Challenger's rollout to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Cape Canaveral in 1983 (photo Wikipedia)

The craziest part was the journalistic rush coupled with personal depression. I guess everyone whose job thrives on emergencies feels this way. We were news people at the center of the world’s news. But the news was horrific and dragged us down.

That day and every day for months we wrote and edited pages and pages of shuttle coverage. And of course it was all the residents discussed. I remember feeling relieved that I’d recently moved away from Cape Canaveral, the closet beach community to the space center.  For weeks after the explosion, volunteers and NASA workers combed that beach for shuttle parts. For body parts. I was glad to not witness that. I’d moved off the beach to temporary digs in Merritt Island because I was headed to Europe in the spring. In April 1986, I left behind Cocoa, Cape Canaveral, the Space Coast and Florida Today, where still pages and pages were devoted to that day — the weather, the O rings, the sorrow.

January 28, 1986. Twenty-five years ago. A defining moment for all of us there, from the Space Coast to the other side of the planet. 

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Tides Hotel Waterfront? We think not

January 10, 2010

Ground view from hotel to the water

What do you think? Is the Tides Hotel Waterfront justified in calling itself waterfront even though the hotel has a busy six-lane road (US Highway 1) between it and the Indian River?

I and several of my professional travel-writing colleagues say it’s not, because “waterfront” means that a place is on the water — not near the water, across the street from it, or within view of it. That would be “water view.” When Wessel and I pulled up to the “waterfront” hotel, in Melbourne, Fla., where we had reservations for two nights, we felt we’d been tricked.

View from the waterside looking at the hotel. Be careful crossing the road!

Not surprisingly, the misleading moniker was only one of our problems with the Tides.

Overall, their claim of being a boutique hotel is ludicrous. Fauxtique is more like it. Playing club music in the lobby and decorating with fake plastic grass doesn’t fool anyone.

The worst of the offenses? The shower was lukewarm. (When we complained, we were told we should first run it for 20 minutes! Can you imagine?) The wireless service worked in the lobby but not in our fifth-floor room. (We were told it must be a problem with our computers.) The meager cold breakfast was on par with a low-end Days Inn. Every employee had a different excuse for everything. I had to argue for a partial refund.

To be a boutique hotel, one needs more than fake-grass decorations

Adding fuel to my fire, the owners, Landcom Hospitality Management in Jacksonville, won’t return my calls. In my years of consumer advocacy, whether private or public, I’ve never had a company not return my call. And this is a hotel management outfit. Wow.

Why were we there in the first place? I’m writing a travel piece on Melbourne and the “Space Coast” for the Washington Post. Part of the theme is how downtown Melbourne has come of age. After Googling around, I stumbled upon the website for Tides Hotel Waterfront and read it was Melbourne‘s “only boutique hotel,” and “luxurious” at that. I thought it would be a great example for the story. The opposite  turned out to be true.

We've seen much better at a Days Inn

In all my years of travel, I’ve never seen such a blatant case of hotel deception in the US. This will teach me to study Google Satellite and read Trip Advisor first. I would have read these earlier comments:

“It’s waterfront if you don’t mind looking across and listening to US Route 1, a six-lane road. What a bogus claim.”

View from the fifth floor. Water view? Yes. Waterfront? What do you think?

“The advertising overstated the deliverables — waterfront really meant a four-lane highway between the hotel and the water; boutique really meant remodeled with new paint, fixtures, and furniture, but the hotel still feels like a 1970s concrete block motor inn. As an example, breakfast was prepackaged muffins and pastries along with styrofoam cups for your coffee and juice. This is not what I had in mind when I saw the word ‘boutique.’ ”

I would invite Landcom to remove “Waterfront” from the hotel’s name, along with the “boutique” claims — or start living up to them. Shame on Landcom if they keep up the charade.