by Jamie Rich | June 14, 2019

Editor’s Note: Ready To Launch

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Photography by Mary Beth Koeth, Makeup by Jennifer Comee with the Rosy Cheek

There are very few places on this Earth I wouldn’t travel to. Before I moved back to Florida in 2012, my family and I lived in London, Moscow and even Douala, Cameroon. The one place not on my bucket list? Outer space. The idea freaks me out. If Elon Musk himself gave me a seat on a Falcon rocket, I’d have to give it to my husband or my photo editor, Ellen. Both have said they’d gladly suit up and blast through the ozone layer into space. 

Until recently, I hadn’t even made it as far as the John F. Kennedy Space Center, just three hours down I-95. But the seemingly constant stream of news about SpaceX rockets and launches made me realize I needed to check things out. 

My sister-in-law Sara and I loaded up three of our girls (Wallis, 12, Elle, 12, and Audrey, 7) and drove to Cape Canaveral. As we crossed the bridge over the Indian River, sailboats bobbing in the water below, the girls screamed with excitement. I admit, I was excited to see real rocket ships too. 

We spent the day wandering the exhibits in awe of the space shuttles and spacesuits on display, watching short films on famous astronauts (a la 1990s Epcot) and eating suspect park food like astronaut ice cream. The Space Center’s kitschy-futuristic design is more George Jetson than Elon Musk, which for a while had me feeling the nostalgia of being a teenager on a school field trip—only this time I had my two kids with me. 

NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis, Kennedy Space Center
NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis, Kennedy Space Center; Photography courtesy of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism

In the meantime, Elle was frantically looking for her cell phone, lost near the Atlantis exhibit, while Audrey was begging to buy an astronaut costume. Somewhere between the lost-and-found and the souvenir shop, I was plucked out of my state of wonderment and transported back to present-day motherhood.

“That’ll be $178.40, please,” said the smiling cashier.

One flight suit, two tie-dyed NASA sweatshirts and a recovered cell phone later, we learned that this summer marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic Apollo 11 mission to the moon. 

In Flamingo’s summer Travel Issue, writer Blane Bachelor remembers the Space Coast’s glory days in the 1980s, when she watched shuttle launches with her parents who had both worked in the space industry. Today, Cape Canaveral is booming with technology and innovation again. Hopefully her piece inspires you to make the journey, and see for yourself. 

In our cover story, Flamingo contributing editor Eric Barton sets out on a road trip with his wife, Jill, and their sweet Chesapeake Bay retriever, Lucky, across the Sunshine State to prove that there’s much more to traveling with your best friend than cheap interstate motels, as they visit some of Florida’s finest resorts and boutique hotels. 

Not too far from the luxurious suites of Miami, we go completely off-grid with conservation writer Bucky McMahon, who ventures deep into the Everglades with Hell’s Bay professional Benny Blanco. While poling their skiff into the hinter regions of Florida Bay to hunt for tarpon, the dire state of a paradise nearly lost comes into focus. 

Next we head northwest to Tampa for a tasting tour of Florida’s newest city to savor. Over the last 10 years, Tampa has quietly transformed from a chain-restaurant haven into a culinary mecca crawling with James Beard semifinalists. Award-winning food writer Laura Reiley eats and drinks her way through her favorite spots from white-tablecloth dining rooms to repurposed shipping containers and every bite in between. 

Beyond food, space, dogs and tarpon, we also have fascinating Floridians, like actor Tony Hale of Veep, Arrested Development and Toy Story 4. I had the pleasure of interviewing Hale, a self-described “spaz,” who shares memories of finding his comedic voice at a community theater in Tallahassee, where he grew up. 

I hope these stories, and so many more, keep you returning to our pages all summer long. The great thing about Flamingo is that it travels well, by boat, car, plane—hell, it could even fly on a spaceship. So let me stop writing and start packing. It’s time to hit the road and see real Florida.

University Press of Florida