Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Day 1869

I made it. It was a long travel day, especially considering I was just going to California. I flew from Dallas to Los Angeles, changed planes and then took a little prop plane up to Santa Maria. Santa Maria looked pretty close to Vandenberg Air Force Base on a map, but I discovered that it wasn't that close when I actually got there. As it turned out, Santa Maria was only about fifteen miles from the North entrance to the huge base, but I needed to go to the South entrance. I could have taken a short cut directly through the base to the South entrance, but I didn't have my credentials yet, so I had to take a long circuitous route around the perimeter instead. I'd probably still be driving around aimlessly, if I didn't have GPS in the rental car. I'm certainly glad I didn't decide to drive up Highway 1 from Los Angeles. I was considering doing this at some point, but wisely reconsidered when I remembered what rush hour traffic was like in California.

I was surprised at how pretty the countryside is in this part of California. There are lots of rolling, green hills dotted with what looked like small Live Oak trees. I was expecting urban sprawl, but this is a lot closer to wilderness. As I approached the base, the terrain flattened and the hills turned to farmland. The soil must be good here, because all the crops looked lush and green. It was weird to see crops growing in January. There was almost no signage on the farm roads that led to the base. Without the GPS in the car and some very explicit directions, I doubt that I would have ever found the elusive South entrance to Vandenberg.

Today's visit to the base was just a dry run. I have to get up very early to check in at the South gate tomorrow morning. This is where I pick up my credentials and join the other media mavens who will be attending the launch. If I'm late, they'll just leave without me. That's why if you have to get lost, it is a lot better to do it today than tomorrow.

I was hoping to have dinner with some of the others attending the SMAP launch this evening, but after driving around endlessly trying to find the correct entrance to the base, I didn't have the energy. I drove back to the hotel in Santa Maria, ate some dinner, and tried to get the WiFi to work instead. I brought a little WiFi hotspot with me, but the hotel seems to block it. It works when I'm driving around, but as soon as I get to my room, it quits.

I think I'm going to be on NASA TV sometime tomorrow, but I doubt if you'll see it. Very few cable companies carry this odd little channel. Tomorrow will be a bucket list kind of day. I'll get to see the rocket up close, talk to the scientists who designed the SMAP mission, and visit all sorts of interesting restricted areas on the base. I think the whole idea is that we're supposed to live Tweet about our experiences. You can't really say much in 140 characters though, so if you really want to know what happened, you'll have to read tomorrow's blog.

I thought I'd forget a lot of things on this trip, but so far all I seem to have forgotten are spare batteries for my wireless mouse and the password for my mobile hotspot. I thought the password was already loaded on my laptop keychain, but apparently it isn't. Oh well, I can always use my phone until the battery runs out. Oops. I forgot the little charger that fits into the car's cigarette lighter too.

I'm tired, but I feel like the day was a success. If you're reading this, it means I've figured out a way to get online. I just put in an early wake-up call at the hotel and I'm looking forward to meeting my fellow space bloggers just before sunrise at the Vandenberg South Gate.

Sophie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day