Sunday, December 30, 2007

Busch Gardens during the Holidays

Busch Gardens all dressed up for the holidays.

An antelope finds a solitary corner to take a break.

The elephants gather around right before an interactive show. They playfully waved their trunks around as if waving at the people.

Holiday lights at dusk.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas at the Opryland Hotel

We visited the Opryland Hotel to see the sights and walk off some of our Christmas feast from earlier in the day.

The place is huge. There are a series of interconnected gardens inside vast atriums. This scene is on the Delta Island.

Lights and fantasy animals from the upper walkway in the Garden Conservatory.

Near a restaurant on the lower level of the Garden Conservatory. The balconies are at hotel rooms and open walkways.

I think this is on the lower level of the Garden Conservatory. There were a lot of twisted paths going up and down around a pond. The turns in the paths made small, hidden areas where there was seating, statues, leprechaun figures, and exotic plants.

This scene in the Delta area looks like a gazebo near an ice skating rink, but it is really a polished indoor floor. Little M danced around shouting "Watch me ice skate."

An outdoor manger scene set up around a pond.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve in Nashville

We travelled north on the Dixie Highway from Florida to Nashville, Tennessee for Christmas.

Monday, December 03, 2007

LC-39 Observation Gantry

We went to Kennedy Space Center today and went on a tour that went to the LC-39 Observation Gantry. It's an observation tower where you can see the shuttle launch pads. This tour is closed on launch day.

This is a picture of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where the space shuttles are lifted vertically to be fitted with the big orange fuel tank, solid rocket boosters, and otherwise readied for launch.

A shuttle engine on the LC-39 Observation Gantry.

A view up the shuttle engine. A launch can be scrubbed up to 3 seconds before lift-off. The shuttle engines fire up 3 seconds before the solid rocket boosters. That's to prevent the shuttle from being launched into space if the engines aren't working properly.

Shuttle Atlantis on the launchpad. You can see the black nose of the shuttle and the orange fuel tank. The wide part of the tower rotates away from the space shuttle for launch.

The platform with the tractors around it is the crawler that takes space shuttles from the tall Vehicle Assembly Building in the background to the launch pad. The crawler travels up to 1 mile per hour with the shuttle vertical and maneuvers the space shuttle into place at the launch pad.

Here is a panorama of the crawler path showing both space shuttle launch pads. I couldn't get both launch pads in one shot, so this is crudely stitched together. Click on any of the photos to see a larger version.

This is another photo of the VAB as we left the tour area. It is the third largest building in the world (by volume) and the largest one story building in the world. One of the stars on the American flag on the side of the VAB is 6 feet across. The blue field in the flag is the size of a regulation basketball court. You can see it from miles away.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Christmas Tree

It was 90° F today when I bought my Christmas tree. I'm amazed at how much the winter theme is present in the holiday decorations and cards, despite the tropical Florida heat. I'm having a hard time finding tropical themed Christmas cards. Most of the cards depict snowy winter scenes. Some of my neighbors have winter themed yard decorations like polar bear and snowman figures. Up north it seems natural, because the environment is in a wintery freeze. Here it appears more obvious that the religious holidays are infused with celebrating the winter solstice.