Many years ago, one of the shuttles landed in California. Then it had to "flown" back to Florida. It came piggy-back on a 747, and had to do a pit stop at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. I was working on the top floor of a 22 story building - the plane with shuttle atop flew right past our conference room windows. It was so close we could see the burn marks from re-entry. With binoculars we could see it on the runway at the air base. One of the neatest experiences I've ever had.
Not this time around; the last time we were able to view the shuttle after it had disconnected from the space station and could easily see (without binoculars) the two of them lined up one behind the other. The evening was very clear and we knew from a news broadcast when and where to look into the evening sky. This was very impressive and once I got the binoculars the viewing was even better.
Did you ever see the SR-71 launch? And I use the word launch instead of take-off because it was quite an event to behold. Back in 1976 my Marine squadron spent two months at Kadena AFB on Okinawa. They had a detachment of SR-71's there. Amazing thing to see. They'd start it up inside a hangar and then it would roll out with security and support vehicles around it - sort of like when the astronauts go to the launch pad. The crew wore space suits. That thing would get about half-way down the runway with afterburner flame cones about 50 feet long, then it would rotate and go what seemed like straight up, and it would be gone.
We always knew when they were going to launch a "habu" because a couple hours prior to it they would send out a couple KC-135's to refuel it. It took that long for the tankers to get on station where the habu would need them.