TITUSVILLE, Fla. — James Overstreet, Larry Towell and I got to cross one more item off our lifetime lists early Tuesday morning. That item being to view a NASA space shuttle launch.
With one Bassmaster Elite Series tournament ending on Sunday, March 9, in Leesburg, Fla., and another scheduled to begin on Wednesday, March 13, in Lake Wales, Fla., it made perfect sense that the ESPNOutdoors crew would venture to Titusville on Monday night for the blastoff of STS-123, the latest launch of the space shuttle Endeavour.
With an 11 a.m. hotel checkout time looming in Leesburg, we decided to take an early look at possible photo opportunities in Titusville, pop. 42,614, which is sometimes referred to as "Space City, USA." Located 40 miles east of Orlando, it's also known as NASA's company town.
When Overstreet and I pulled into a Highway 1 convenience store for gasoline and directions, we got the best advice of the day — "Just drive down this dirt road that goes behind the store. It's got the best view of the launch."
We felt obligated to buy a couple of "I Saw The Shuttle Launch, Titusville, Fla." beer cozies (one for $3, two for $5).
And especially after we met a family from Des Moines, Iowa, setting up their lawn chairs in a nearby city park shortly after noon, a full 14 hours before liftoff, we realized how valuable our viewing spot would be.
We had no intention of claiming a spot of ground for that long. We still had to check into our Winter Haven, Fla., hotel room — 85 miles away — then come back for the launch. But a crowd was already gathering in Titusville.