My Journey with the Space Shuttle
Since they announced the Space Shuttle Enterprise was flying into NYC to go to the U.S.S Intrepid I kind of took it as a challenge. I joined a forum with guys that plane spot and learned a ton about where it was gonna fly in. Yesterday was the day that it left JFK airport by barge on its way to the Intrepid. If you didn't see my post about the Space Shuttle flying in click here and then come back.
Yesterdays schedule had the shuttle leaving JFK at 8am or so it was suppose to. I woke up at 7am after getting about 2 hours sleep. I loaded up my backpack with enough batteries and cards to film for 2 days, you have to be prepared for events that only happen once. I had a plan that I was going to film the shuttle from the Crossbay Bridge that connects Broad Channel and Rockaway. I knew the shuttle had to come through that way since the other bridges are too low. My plan then included getting on my bike and riding ahead of the shuttle and take pictures from a few locations as it headed to New Jersey.
I figured I could make it all the way to the Verrazano Bridge if the wind was blowing the right way. After standing on the bridge for a while my friend Danny showed up and told me the tugs weren't moving yet. He had an app on his phone which I downloaded and saw the tugs in real time. After seeing they weren't moving I rode my bike about a mile back home and had a cup of coffee and some breakfast.
The tugs started moving shortly afterwards so it was back on the bike and back to riding up the bridge to the middle. I get set up and there was still no shuttle in sight. After about an hour we find out they only moved a little bit and stopped to get the tugs in place better. By this time the bridge was starting to fill up with people that had the same idea as me. I met a lot of good people on the bridge.
Since I was the only one with a good zoom camera I could see the shuttle but it was still 3 miles away. I took out the video camera and took a short video. Turn down your speakers the wind was loud.
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity the guys that drive the tugs were able to get the shuttle through the tight train bridge where it headed right for me. By this time I was on the bridge in the hot sun for hours. I was spent but still managed to take over 700 pictures of the shuttle and 7 videos as it made its way towards me. As it went under the bridge I was on it had to clear it by about 5 feet. I could have jumped off the bridge and landed on the tail with no problem.
When the shuttle passed me I was already exhausted and dehydrated a bit. 3 cups of coffee on the day do not count towards hydration. I quickly realized that I would not be following the shuttle very far. Because the amount of people leaving the bridge I couldn't ride down and the shuttle was moving at a good pace now since it was in open water. I didn't mind as I caught up with my friends Denise and Steve who I hadn't seen in 20 years.
At the bottom of the bridge I saw that the shuttle had a good 8-10 block head start on me. It was go time! My stupid hard-headed Irish temper was getting the best of me and I couldn't let the shuttle beat me to the next spot. I quickly realized that this was a stupid plan I had since the wind was hitting me directly in the face and I wasn't 18 years old anymore. I didn't care and I went into overdrive, I had a hard time negotiating the traffic that was pulling over to take pictures and the people that had already taken pictures and were leaving. I moved all the way into the left lane and got the bike up to about 20-25 mph vs the wind.
I passed the shuttle around 110th street and settled into the park at 116th street where I had planned to make the second set of shots. At this point I knew it would be my final destination. I hopped off the bike and ran down to the waterline so no people would be in my way. I was able to get about another 50 shots as the shuttle passed me by. It was very close the shuttle got to my location in a hurry.
After taking the pictures I returned to the bike and sat on a bench for about 20 minutes and drank some water. I was totally spent, couldn't even drive my bike home. I was disappointed that my journey was ending where it did but that didn't matter as I watched the shuttle get smaller and smaller as it left. Luckily the subway was 1/2 block away. After about a half hour I was home where I went to bed even though it was only 6pm or so. I had some sort of heat exhaustion and I shouldn't have even taken the train home without sitting in the park and take it easier for a while.
I was trying to plan shots of the shuttle with the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower in the background. I was standing in Freedom park so it only seemed natural to me. I managed to get a good shot and when I looked at it closer I noticed my friends Kenny and John in Kenny's boat. I had no idea they were in the shot when I took the picture. It totally made my day when I looked at the pictures hours later. My persistence paid off!
Click here to see more pictures of the Space Shuttle on its journey.
Great pictures Vinny. Usually TV pictures are from such distance it’s hard to get an idea of scale, I had no idea the shuttle was so big, that last picture really gives some scale perspective!
Vinny O'Hare says
I agree I didn’t think it was as big until it was right under me.