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(June 30, 2008)

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Since my 13-year-old grandson had been promised that we would visit the Disney World and Universal Studios' theme parks in Orlando, Florida this summer . . . it provided an excellent opportunity to arrange historical and informative visits to the USS Alabama battleship, NASA's Space Center Visitor Complex, National Naval Aviation Museum, and New Orleans (since before Katrina). 

And what was going to be a very fun trip . . . the expectations of a perfect one became reality a few weeks before we were to leave when I learned that the space shuttle Discovery's launch had been reset for May 31st.  It then allowed me to arrange to see Discovery's launch when we were at the Kennedy's Space Center Visitor Complex.  Nor can I

 

David Bancroft, Founder of USA Patriotism!
David G. Bancroft

adequately describe the “big eyed” happy expression from my grandson we heard about seeing the space shuttle's launch in person. (more a little later)
Now, the news about Discovery didn't diminish my grandson's enthusiasm about the rest of the trip either.  It just made it more so.

Needless to say, I was really looking forward to sharing his infectious glee, as was his mother and grandma.

Battleship USS Alabama

David Bancroft with his wife and grandson with USS Alabama in background

 Our first “official” stop on the trip was at the battleship USS Alabama that is moored in Mobile Bay near downtown Mobile, Alabama. 

This memorial park also goes beyond the mighty battleship including... the submarine USS Drum; B-52D “Calamity Jane”; A-12 Blackbird Spy plane; Vietnam PBR River Patrol Boat; Tuskegee Airmen's P-51D Mustang; other military bombers and fighter planes; tanks and artillery; and, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials.

Depending on one's historical interest (or a child's wanting to see / experience everything) . . . just a leisurely, very informative self-tour of the Alabama can take several hours to most of the day.  I just wish we had planned for more time there, as there is so much to take in for so many reasons. 

And it was quite evident that my grandson could have spent several more hours looking around the Alabama alone. (It is what I would have wanted to do when I was his age.) 

Oh yeah, he asked a few questions too!

 David Bancroft with grandson on USS Alabama
We also had an unexpected, memorable meeting with a World War II hero who survived the Bataan Death March and three years as a POW in the Philippines under the Japanese. 
David Bancroft, founder of USA Patriotism!, and his 13 year old grandson meet with retired Army Colonel Glenn Frazier when visiting the USS Alabama on May 30, 2008 at the start of another Experiencing America trip that will be covered in an upcoming article by David Bancroft.  Glenn Frazier survived the Bataan death march and three years as a POW during World War II, which he beautifully recounts in his compelling book, Hell's Guest. 

My wife, our 13-year-old grandson, and I were in gift shop to buy tickets to tour the USS Alabama, when we noticed a tall man about my father's age wearing his military medals and ribbons.  He had just finished taking a photo with a young boy and then sat down at his table to sign a book for the boy's mother.

I then noticed the title of the book and went over to introduce myself. And found myself shaking the hand of retired Colonel Glenn Frazier, who authored “Hell's Guest” . . . a compelling recount of his haunting ordeal during World War II. (The book is also a great testimony about who we proudly refer to as the greatest American

generation.) 
We had an enjoyable conversation about his efforts in promoting the book and its potential of being made into a movie.  I also want to again express my thanks to Glenn Frazier for the signed copy that he sent me,  and encourage you to experience “Hell's Guest” for yourself.  (You can even learn more about Colonel Glenn Frazier at http://www.hellsguest.com, where a dedicated copy of the book can be ordered.)

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Space Shuttle Launch

I have a feeling that most people who vacation in Orlando, FL to experience what Disney World, Universal Studios, and other local attractions have to offer . . . never take the 45 to 60 minute drive eastward to visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC).

Well, it should be a vacation must for all doing so . . . as every adult and children even 7 or 8 years old would find it worth every minute of their time.  You can spend a full day depending on what you want to experience including... launch pad tours; IMAX films; the many different rockets and space capsules; seeing the insides of a space shuttle; the fallen astronauts memorial, and, having lunch with an astronaut.

David Bancroft with grandson in front of space shuttle Explorer     space shuttle Explorer
The two photos above show David Bancroft with grandson in front of space shuttle Explorer and side view of Discovery

There are also several options in viewing a space shuttle launch in person, which includes do so very near the launch page by purchasing VIP tickets.  However, I understand that it requires ordering these tickets when they immediately become available . . . especially if it is going to be a weekend launch like Discovery's was on May 31, 2008. 

Nor does being the founder of USA Patriotism! carry much media influence when all the VIP tickets were sold out and allocated to dignitaries within a short period of time of the first day they became available . . . about two weeks before I finalized the visit to KSCVC.  One family from Great Britain that were sitting with us to see the launch about 6 miles away at KSCVC, told us that they were unable to purchase the VIP tickets within minutes of them being available to purchase online at the KSCVC site.

One of the astronauts describing his experiences and the space shuttle Discovery's launch Still, we had a great time waiting for about 90 minutes before Discovery's launch, as two astronauts who piloted separate space shuttle missions had a very informative conversation going on that was appreciated by the thousands in attendance under the very hot, almost cloudless sky.

Now, I know some might think that the photos here don't adequately illustrate why one should see a shuttle launch in person.

 Space shuttle Discovery's launch on May 31, 2008
Well, being there for possibly a once in a life time experience is reason enough for all who were there!  So, I urge you to do so yourself . . . as there are only ten space shuttle launches remaining.
Driving / Staying Advisory...  While I had a parking placard that allowed for parking after the gates closed after 9am on a shuttle launch day, it didn't help in avoiding the nearly three hour return drive to Orlando when leaving KSCVC after the shuttle launch.  The fact that the launch was on a Saturday attracted over 150,000 people to view the launch in various areas (some illegally).  Just imagine all those vehicles that were heading back to Orlando too with the first 20 or so miles on a two-lane highway.  You might want stay in Titusville or nearby on the east coast the night of  “a weekend space shuttle launch” and then check in an Orlando hotel the next day.

Epcot at Disney World

Since you most likely will be visiting Disney World and/or Universal Studios if you are going to experience KSCVC, I strongly urge all adults and families with children who are old enough to understand the importance of culture to take a full day at Disney World's Epcot theme park. 

David Bancroft and his grandson in front of Dsiney Epcot's American Adventure ... a must see memorable historical showcase of America. 

Epcot has are many enjoyable attractions and rides, but visiting each country's showcase center should be a must, especially on a first visit.  What better way to get a sense of where many American families originated . . . as She is a nation of immigrants.  You can even enjoy a respective country's food, knowing that some of the restaurants are relatively expensive and quickly booked. 

Needless to say, the photo here with my grandson shows our visit to The American Adventure, which remains my favorite on many levels. Inside the showcase you will enjoy a memorable historical experience.  And you should definitely arrange your time to enjoy a patriotic sidewalk performance that takes you back to the American Revolution.  And in front of the American Adventure is where concerts occur at the America Gardens Theatre.

National Naval Aviation Museum

Having my 13 year-old grandson with us reminded me of the first time when we visited the National Naval Aviation Museum the first time with our two sons (11 and 8) and daughter (10).  

David Bancroft with his grandson in front of National Naval Aviation Museum  US Marines jet fighter
David Bancroft and grandson in front of National Naval Aviation Museum and a US Marines jet fighter

David Bancroft with his wife, daughter, and grandson in front of statues of naval aviators from each war at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL (June 2008).
David Bancroft, wife, daughter, and grandson in front of statues of naval aviators from each war

 And while my daughter liked it then, she enjoyed it much more watching her son having a great time looking at over 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aviation along with sitting in the many cockpits including a Blue Angels one. 

It was the same excitement that my sons exhibited over 20 years ago. 

You can also enjoy a group tour given by veterans, IMAX movies, and motion-based flight simulator.  Even the drive to it within the Naval Air Station Pensacola offers some interesting views. 

Oh yes, my grandson did ask a few questions during this wonderfully, inspiring visit
Visiting New Orleans Again After Hurricane Katrina

Since the last time we visited New Orleans was about a month before Hurricane Katrina made its devastating landfall on August 29, 2005 . . . we spent several hours there visiting the river front area and the French Quarter. 

Seeing the statue of General Andrew Jackson (photo right), who became one of America's great Presidents, exemplified to me the character of New Orleans in its ongoing efforts to return fully to the way it was before Katrina's deadly, destructive visit.  

The same can be said for Mississippi's gulf coast communities that were impacted severely, as well, but with less media attention to given their recovery efforts. 

And while we can all hope that another Hurricane Katrina event upon the USA shores will never come again, I am sure Americans will respond as they have always done to assist fellow Americans in need.

 David Bancroft, wife, and their grandson in front General Andrew Jackson's statute in New Orleans

Your Turn 

I hope you enjoyed reading about another Experiencing America adventure from me . . . and will experience all or part of it yourself one day (if you haven't already done so). 
David G. Bancroft
Founder / Owner
USA Patriotism!
Copyright 2009
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