Lit up with anticipation
We arrive at the launching site
The sky is still dark, nearing dawn
On the Florida coastline… – Countdown, Lyrics by Neil Peart
About a quarter century ago, Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for the rock group RUSH, penned those words as part of Countdown, a song he wrote about the space shuttle Columbia in the spring of 1981. Peart and band-mates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, at the invitation of some friends at NASA, had flown to Cape Canaveral to witness the launch of America’s first space shuttle.
As I sat down just now to write about me and my buddy Joe’s just completed trip to see the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, I thought about this song. It describes, in a way, some feelings I had during our 4th Annual Spring Training Trip. Here are some random thoughts.
When I purchased airfare last month, prices and choices had never been better. Yet worries over the future of many carriers have never been greater. I saw the toll the woes of the industry have taken on some of the airline employees. Give ‘em a break and a smile if you can.
We talked with some of the locals in Viera. It’s a growing place, attracting retirees as well as NASA and Air Force folks. There’s not a lot in the vicinity of the ballpark but a lot is on the drawing boards. There’s a development map at the park, located to your left after you pass through the main ticket gate.
The excitement among Washington fans is remarkable. The Nats may not even finish above 500 but just being able to root, root, root, for the home team is enough for now.
Met and chatted with Bruce and Ellen Van Buren, a friendly couple originally from D.C. Thank you Bruce for your stories about seeing the Senators at Griffith Stadium and Ellen for your kindness and jovial spirit.
Weather-wise, the law of averages caught up to us. We had super conditions in ‘02 and ‘03 in Phoenix and in northern Florida last year. This year, a rain out on Wednesday. The blue skies returned on Thursday and Friday with some wind.
On Friday afternoon we saw an Atlas 5 rocket (Communications Satellite) blazing its way into orbit. I was reminded of the heady days of the space race in the 60s. I was 12 in ‘69 and remember staying up late to watch Neil Armstrong step on the moon. A few years later, me, my Mom and my sister drove to Florida and took a tour of the Kennedy Space Center.
Tip of the hat: Washington Post beat writer Barry Svurlga and his eats reviews at his blog notes. We enjoyed the food at Panera Bread (soups, sandwiches, pastries) and the seafood at Bonefish Willy’s. The two places are polar opposites regards appearance, atmosphere and proximity to the ballpark. The chow at both, however, is excellent. (Panera is about a mile from Space Coast Stadium while BW’s is down towards Melbourne).
Note: As noted by Jeff at District of Baseball, the map at the Panera website is wrong. It indicates a location in a subdivision about three miles SE of the ballpark. Panera is in a new shopping center that's within site of the ballpark.
John Glenn was once asked what he was feeling right before his first take off into space. He said something about being worried that the rocket had been assembled by a governmental agency that awarded contracts to the lowest bidder.
That’s kind of where the Washington Nationals are. Things are shaky right now but the fans are excited. There’s nothing like watching a lift off.