With the light turned out and the party over by 2:30 Tuesday morning, we took our time packing up our camera equipment and clearing up our temporary campsite.
Towell had planned to spend the night in his motel-room-on-wheels of a van. But Overstreet and I had hotel rooms in Winter Haven and although we'd brought some pillows and blankets, those mosquito-free, air-conditioned rooms sounded like a better idea.
However, if given the choice an hour later, we would have chosen the bugs and fresh air. It was 3:05 a.m. when we decided traffic had cleared Titusville enough for us to hit the road. At 4:05, we had covered exactly 7 miles of our 85-mile journey back to Winter Haven.
And this was no time of the morning for old men. Both of us have pulled more than our share of "all-nighters" during our time, but that time has long passed. This one was going to leave a mark.
Traffic wouldn't get any better for awhile. All we could see ahead of us were two lanes of barely moving taillights, and absolutely no traffic in the other two lanes of the divided highway — the two lanes headed back to Titusville.
Traffic flow did improve enough for us to complete what would normally be an hour-and-a-half drive in three hours. My head hit the pillow at 5:56 a.m.
But at least I'd drawn a line through "see a space shuttle launch" on my lifetime list of goals.