Tuesday, May 31, 2011

10,000 photo views on Flickr!! - Wahoo!!

My Flickr account is only a couple of years old and has about 650 photos so I was surprised today to see I had so many views. Some of it has to do with the photos I post for my blog. My Northern Europe set is by far the most popular. If you have the time to take a look please visit My Flickr Photo Albumn. I know some folks out there get 10,000 hits on a single photo but it seemed like a personal milestone worth sharing. Enjoy.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mountain Biking - Amelia Earhart Park - Hialeah

Mountain biking attempt number two. If you remember from my last posting on the subject, I was just starting out on the intermediate trail when my bike suffered a catastrophic failure. With some glue, bolts and eight inches of galvanized water pipe, I made a very ill advised repair. Before I plunk down some serious cash for this sport I thought I would see if I even care for it. Ok, let's be honest. I want to see if I can even survive the bunny hills. For today's adventure a new venue. Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah.

I may be a total novice but my partner for the day is not. Nor, does it seem, the 30-40 riders all getting ready for an early start to the day when we arrived. My friend was describing how the trail starts off easy and gets progressively more difficult when we were informed by another rider the entire course has been reversed. Better to test my sketchy repair work close to the car I'm thinking.

We plunge right in on the beginner trail. Not bad. A little rough. Five minutes later we are dodging trees, climbing hills, and taking hair pin turns in the sand. Hey, this is the intermediate trail. Did I miss the sign? Not much of a warmup I'm thinking.  It was about all I could do to keep up when I was confronted with a ten foot climb. I could not switch gears fast enough and stopped dead as my front wheel cleared the top. With a few encouraging words and suddenly locating some inner strength I was up and over again and again hill after hill. Tremendously exciting and dangerous enough to command my full attention.
Dog tired and almost to the end

We rounded a corner and I realized I was playing follow the leader right onto the Advanced Course. "Are you serious ?!?!" I called out.
The answer was I was doing just fine. Maybe I was not making clear I was already percentage points past my limit. I did not clear the first or second hill but another burst of determination kicked in and I was up and over the third. The way down was practically vertical from my point of view. At one moment I was certain the back wheel was going over my head. A little too much for day one. I was forced to bypass the worst of it while my riding partner zipped around the course like a bumble bee.

There are plenty of twists and turns and very challenging terrain on the advanced course that I will tackle next time. I promise. For right now, I was happy to walk away. My bike is about on its last pedal and I will need to upgrade to something that can run this course. Upgrading me is another matter but I am determined conquer the advanced course at Amelia.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Adventures Unlimited Outdoor Center - Milton

Ok - I know. Milton is no where near South Florida. It's actually about as far North and West as you can get in Florida. So why did I include it in my blog? Because I had one of my personal greatest adventures with Florida Zip Line Adventures at  Adventures Unlimited Outdoor Center. I spent three days Zip Lining, Kayaking, and just chilling with my daughter in a very unique cabin right on the river. Oh and the fact that I am featured in Splash Magazine surely didn't hurt. All right, just a photo but still very cool so let me stretch this into my own little 15 minutes of fame.

I was in need of a unique spring break activity with my daughter and I needed to do it in the Pensacola area. From the web site, Adventures Unlimited seemed to fit the bill. After looking over the place, I decided on a very cool cabin on stilts and booked the Zip Line Ultimate Adventure. I've done Zip lining in Costa Rica so I was not expecting to be wowed by Florida. The 14 zip lines and two sky bridges didn't seem too intimidating. Trees here are just not that tall.

The test Zip was a breeze. No problem. After a short hike in the woods, it was time for the real thing. A 60 foot climb up a telephone pole that moved in the wind. My vertigo kicked in at about 30 feet and kept kicking me all day. The course consisted of zipping from one precarious perch to the next then climbing up a pole to an even higher perch to zip again. One tower was well above the tree tops. Beautiful view but one heck of a leap of faith to jump off of. The two sky bridges look like nothing from the ground but walking across them is an instant adrenaline rush. The final tower on the Ultimate course was worth the price of admission alone. The 900 foot ride over the river was more than enough to satisfy this coaster fan.

To balance out the trip, we took a kayak trip down the most incredible river I have ever been on. The crystal clear, winding, lazy, Coldwater Creek is a sight not to be missed. My daughter and I grabbed a box lunch to go with our trip and parked on one of the many sandbars to enjoy a quiet meal by the river. I assume by the number of canoes, kayaks, and tubes at the boathouse, the river might get a bit crowded in the summer time but we were there in March for the private tour. I was already planning my second trip to Adventures Unlimited even before I found myself in the news.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Miami Seaquarium

I will warn you right up front it cost about $40.00 to walk thru the door of the Miami Seaquarium. Not the typical free event I normally blog about. "Hey - that's a lot of fish food" I told the gal at the ticket counter. Yeah. She might have heard that one before. At the end of the day I thought it was pretty cheap for the amount of fun I had and the amount of fish, dolphin, rays, turtles, sharks, and of course Lolita the Killer Whale that needed to be fed. That said, let's talk about the day.

As I walked thru the gates I immediately remembered my last visit. It was 1976. I was so excited I wanted to run right to the dolphin tank. Some things never change. I walked quickly to the dolphin tank just in time for the show. I enjoyed the first show of the day as much as I remember I did 30+ years ago. Even though the Miami Seaquarium opened in 1955, they have done a great job keeping up with the times. The shows have not changed much but they seemed fresh and new. The place was packed with kids and you could tell every single one was totally amazed. I'm sure I looked just like that on my first visit. Next stop - the Sea Lion show.

The show was full of humor, ecological awareness, and crazy tricks. There was a huge crowd on the day I went and plenty of applause. After that, it was time for Lolita the Killer Whale. I was completely unaware that this Lolita was the exact same one I saw in 1976. That is a lot of shows. I don't know what she had against the folks in the lower stands but she threw half the pool at them. What a splash!! About half the audience knew what was coming and some even wore bathing suits. The other half looked pretty shocked. Everyone was dripping wet about 10 rows up. Besides the shows, there is plenty of other things to see and do including a little water park. Hey, if you are already soaked, why not. Explaining a day at the Seaquarium is a lot easier with pictures and I have plenty in my Photo Album. Click on over and enjoy the show. Did I mention I got to pet a sting ray? I can promise you your kids will mention it over and over and over again. This trip may be a bit pricey but what else cost so little for memories that last so long. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Downtown Hollywood - The new place to be

So here it was - Friday night and I was looking for something to do after a long week. I had some tentative plans in Downtown Hollywood but not until much later in the evening. I have lived and/or worked in Hollywood since 1978 and only recently have I considered the downtown area an actual destination. For the last decades you would have found me in Las Olas, South Beach, Delray, Pompano, Boca, even the Sawgrass Mall but not Hollywood.

Since I work in Hollywood, I was at the parking garage at 5:05. I dropped my cash in the meter and great - 2 hours free. Didn't see that. Now I have a ticket good till 11:05. Oh well. I had Facebooked my friends the day before and no one was interested. Made a few calls. My usual buds had plans. The only thing left to do was get a beer at Mickey Bryne's and wait for my friends to show around 7:30 pm. As luck would have it, I found some people I knew and met a few more. I had to tear myself away and walk down to Whiskey Tango where again I met a few people I knew and made even more new friends.

We talked, and laughed, had a fantastic dinner, and hung out till the band went on stage. I didn't head home till 11:00 or so and just beat the ticket lady to my car.  Those two free hours paid off. Unusual night? Not even close. This happens every time I go. Hollywood is like living in a small town with enough bars and resturants to satisfy the crowds. As I was leaving, a few folks were just getting there! Hollywood used to roll up the sidewalks at 9:00 pm. I'll save a trip to Lincoln Road for when I really want to impress someone but for a great night out with old and new friends, I'll go to Hollywood. Thanks Cindy, Trish, Bill, Johanna, Jon, Paula, Nancy, and everyone else for a memorable night. There are a lot of links on this page so check them out. Then give Downtown Hollywood a try and see if you agree.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kayaking Whiskey Creek - John U. Lloyd Park - Dania

As I mentioned earlier, this blog might lean heavily towards kayaking adventures since the purchase of my new Sea Eagle 370 kayak. Whiskey Creek is a little known route I never gave much thought to in the past. It's about a 2 1/4 mile, one way trip from the launch site at the North end of John U. Lloyd Park and extends South to the Dania Pier. Four and a half miles with a stop for lunch is a little over 3 hours for me and makes for a pretty good day. Kayaks can be rented at the park but if you bring your own, it's best to launch at the boat ramps. Once you clear the bridge, you are on the Whiskey Creek and past point where motorized boats can navigate.

It only takes a few minutes to launch the kayak so the boat ramp was not a problem. One minute I was staring at enormous cruise ships and the gantry cranes that load the container ships in Port Everglades. Three minutes later I was paddling down a lazy river with just the sounds of nature. On the East side were hundreds of beach goers but the Sea Grape trees and Mangroves block out everything including sights, sounds, and the smell of sun tan lotion. In just a hundred feet, I left the black water of the intracoastal waterway and into the crystal clear water of the river. Well, salt marsh really.  Fish were all around and in every size and shape. A Spotted Eagle Ray passed right under the kayak and there were even a pair of Horseshoe Crabs so close I could have dipped my hand into the water and touched them. I parked the Kayak in a little Mangrove cove to enjoy a drink and a snack. As I was relaxing, a Heron flew in and had his lunch too. This was the easiest and most pleasant kayak trip I have yet taken. Perfect for those that want to give kayaking a try.

A couple of things you should know about Whiskey Creek. It is directly in the flight path of the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood airport, a little disruptive to the peace and quiet that you will enjoy for most of the time you are paddling. You should also check the tides as some sections are about ankle deep at low tide. The nice thing is, if you manage to fall out of the boat, you can likely touch bottom even at high tide. If you don't find kayaking appealing, the main draw of Lloyd Park is the beach. A must see if soaking up the rays is more your thing. I like the longer, more challenging kayak adventures but few I have been on have as many fish and birds viewed so easily from the boat. This would the perfect trip to unplug your children for a while and introduce them to nature then follow up with a picnic in the sand and surf.

Low tide - Whiskey Creek - Dania

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mountain Biking - Oleta River State Park - North Miami

I have owned a Mongoose Mountain Bike for years but have never really taken it off road. A typical weekend ride for me is about 20 miles. I like that my bike rides heavy on the road. Much better workout. I heard about Oleta River State Park from a friend and decided to give it a try. This is South Florida right. No mountains, no hills, no curves in the road. How hard can it be.

Oh boy!!! Big surprise. I started off with the beginner trail and found out what a beginner I was. The hills were what I expected. Dirt pushed up here and there. It was the rocks, roots, branches, and closeness of the trees I didn't really think about. Jumping logs and running across little wooden bridges keep my attention focused like a laser. I put my new helmet to good use more than once. The trails are pretty well marked and not all that crowded when I was there. That is to say no one ran me over. It is quite amazing to be right in the middle of a busy city and yet totally immersed in nature. After about 20 minutes on the novice trail, I gave the intermediate trail a go. I approached a steep hill and didn't quite give it enough gas to make it over. The incline was enough to make my brakes useless and I came down backwards pretty quick. In all fairness my bike has never stopped going backwards before and if the rear brake had managed to grip, I would have rolled the bike. Not to be deterred, I got some distance from the hill and a good amount of speed and was up and over. I was pretty shocked when the seat on my bike snapped right off. I was not too badly hurt but I have to say I am not to impressed with Mongoose right now.

The conclusion of my first experience at Oleta is that it is far from my last. Of course I need a new bike but wow, what a rush. I barely even scratched the surface of the trails and some of the advanced trails are terrifying. One had a set of stairs. Not sure if you were supposed to carry your bike up or ride down them. All I know is I want to try again and soon.