Monday, April 23, 2012

Loxahatchee River - Jupiter

The first time I remember hearing of the Loxahatchee River was back in the early 80's. The first time I kayaked on the river was last weekend. Why the long wait? I don't know either. I should have done this many years ago and many times by now. As you may know if you follow this blog, I have kayaked or canoed many places in South Florida and around the state. I have enjoyed kayaking many more times and places than I have ever posted. When I say this trip was unique, you can take my word for it.

There are a few points along the Loxahatchee River you can pick up a canoe or kayak. This particular trip began at River Bend Park. I heard a lot about this section of the river and I was well prepared. The first order of business was to rent a kayak. My inflatable was a no go. The water level in the river changes drastically and this day it was low. That means a lot of bumping over logs.

I rented a kayak at Canoe Outfitters of Florida  right inside the park. Clicking the link will give you a pretty good idea of what they offer but bottom line, a kayak for the day - $25.00. I own an eleven foot inflatable Sea Eagle 370 and in the past have always rented ocean kayaks of about the same or slightly smaller size. The kayak I rented for this trip was about 7 feet long, a sit inside type, and a lot more tippy than I'm used to. About half way through the trip I noticed foot cleats inside. As soon as I adjusted them and started using them, my back stopped hurting and the kayak became much more stable. Wish I had noticed them sooner.

This is the kind of place you can enjoy over and over or a must do at least once in your lifetime. For me, it was a one hour drive and a  million years back in time kind of trip. You will not hear a car or plane 99% of the time. Only the sounds of running water and wilderness. This is where I am going to give you a wealth of information to make your trip more enjoyable.

Call ahead - This is a small river with a limited amount of boats for rent. I had no problem but I would  make a reservation to avoid possible disappointment.

Go early - The Canoe Outfitters opens at 8:00 am. We arrived at 8:30 am but still had the entire river to ourselves all the way out to the turnpike bridge. The way back was a totally different story. The river went from slightly congested to packed with novices.

Bring a camera - When else will you have an opportunity to see ancient, giant cypress trees unless you are lost in a swamp. There are also some great wildlife shots along the route.

Dams - There are two. You may be able to slide over them on the way out if the water is high enough but you will need to get out of your boat and drag it back the other way. It's actually a lot of fun even if I totally sunk my kayak on one. A dry bag is a great idea. Wish I had brought mine.

Alligators - They have them and in abundance. They will not eat you unless you are stupid. If you are stupid, and you know who you are, stay home. That goes for noisy, reckless, a litter bug, or just plain ignorant. This river and all the plants and animals who live in it were here long before you were. Try and remember you are visiting their home and use some of that common sense and common courtesy that seems so rare these days.

Skill - That all depends in the water level. On the day I went, it was a bit more challenging. There are obstructions and currents all the way down and back. For me it made the trip worth while. For some canoeing couples, it was putting relationships to the test. I will very likely go back when the water is higher just to see the difference.

Choices - If the river seems too intimidating, going the opposite direction at the start takes you down a wide and extremely flat canal. There is even a picnic area and launching beach if you brought your own boat. Much more suitable if I want to come back with the inflatables another time.

Once the canoe ride was over, I found some very elaborate and well marked walking/bike paths. They are all crushed coral with the occasional bridge. I walked along for a while as I was drying out but decided I would return with the bike and fully explore them soon. Not too far of a drive for a truly unique get-a-way from the big city.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

7 Super Shots Challange

It's been a good week. First, my blog reached over 20,000 views. I never thought a blog I write basically for my friends and family would ever have that kind of popularity. Second, my biggest fan in the whole world RedNomadOZ from Australia has invited me to join the HotelBookers 7 Super Shots Challenge. I'm not sure the contest is still on but I found the challenge intriguing. Find seven photos in my collection for the seven categories provided and write a little explanation of each. Oh Red - you have no idea what you are asking. I have 14,836 digital photos in my collection tonight and I've never given these categories much thought so I'll have some digging and reminiscing to do.

A photo that … takes my breath away:

Every time I look at this photo I remember the day my young daughter pedaled her bike right up to an alligator and started taking pictures. I had the biggest panic attack since high school. Luckily this little guy was more interested in getting some sun than snapping her foot off. Since then she's held a gator (mouth taped), kayaked with gators, and had many a plate of gator bites. This will always be the close encounter I remember most vividly.

A photo that … makes me laugh or smile:

So what is this  - can you guess? Yes it is a hot air balloon but if you can't figure it out, it's a reflection in a canal. If you look dead center you can see the big white flame that is creating the lift for the balloon. Just to the right is my head and half my body leaning out over the basket so I could get this shot. I had to jam my foot on the huge propane tank so I would not fall completely out of the balloon. The pilot was not amused. I smile every time I tell this story at the looks on faces of the people who hear it. 

A photo that … makes me dream:

I have always dreamed of flying off to space and exploring the universe but taking a picture of a Saturn 5 engine at NASA is about as close as I'm likely to get. Still hopeful of one day making it to orbit at least. On the day I went, most of the space station was sitting in a clean room behind a glass window. Now all those bits and pieces are floating overhead. This generation's recent collective dreams made real.

A photo that … makes me think:

This is one of the Gator Boys now made famous for their gator wrangling reality show on Animal Planet. I was amazed by the seemingly casual way he handled this dangerous critter. Even more amazed that this is his line of work. There are days I wish I was doing something else for a living then I think of guys with jobs like this and I run right back to my air conditioned cubicle. I think I made the right career choice.

A photo that … makes my mouth water:

The famous BrooN AKA Brian Howard. A favorite of the Renaissance Faires and stages across the country. After many years of being a mere fan and watching my favorite performers eat fire, I took the plunge and a class in the art. This one photo tipped the balance for me and sent me on the quest to follow a crazy and dangerous hobby. Although fire eating will definitely make your mouth water, it's one of the few exotic delicacies I've tried that decidedly does not taste like chicken. I may never perform in front of a paying audience but family BBQ's will sure be interesting.

A photo that … tells a story:

This sign is located at the entrance of a decommissioned Nike Missile base in South Florida and tells the story of why this country still exists. I thought I knew about the Cold War until I got a history lesson from a Nike Missile veteran. Without this weapon system, those on the other side may have seen the opportunity to "push the button". The nuclear-tipped defensive weapons at the ready in this bunker and around the country gave everyone second thoughts. Had the Cold War heated up even a few degrees, it's hard to imagine South Florida still being habitable. This story was best written by letting sleeping dogs lie and never launching these weapons in anger.
The photo that ... I am most proud of:

This photo starts with the first fly away trip I took with my daughter a decade ago. I was still shooting film at the time. We went to Washington DC and Virginia for a week traveling the mountains, caves, and history of the area. On the very last day, just before our ride to the airport, we stopped off at the Korean War Memorial. Even though neither of us had a personal connection to the war heroes etched in this wall, we both felt the connection our country had to them. This was the 37th photo on a roll of 36 shots. The last roll I had left after a week of shooting. This shot never should have existed and yet here it is still bringing tears to my eyes even after all these years.


I have looked at so many photos I have not seen or thought about for a very long time. So many memories attached to each. Over the years I have gone from a few shots here and there to hundreds for a single event and they all have a memory associated with them. Thanks Red. This has been much more than a simple challenge and I have enjoyed the 3 days it has actually has taken to accomplish. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Miami Renaissance Faire at Cauley Square

Casey Martin and Rob Williams
Kamikaze Fireflies
You would think that I would be Ren Fested out by now. I know I thought I was. I have a friend who missed all five weekends at the Deerfield Beach Ren Fest and wanted to go, so we packed the cameras and headed south. I've been to Cauley Square before and I remember it as not a big place, so I was expecting a tiny event and a quick day. Wrong! We got there at opening and closed the place. My friend got pulled up on stage during the second show we attended (and luckily loved it), stared into the eye of a hawk on her shoulder, and fired a Ballista at a live and moving knight. She also bought me a couple of hard ciders and a cup of mead which left my camera focusing a whole lot better then I was. So how did such a fantastic event occur in such a tiny place?

Magic and a chain saw.

Intricately winding paths cut through the heavy ficus forest and were covered in gravel. Stages were strewn randomly throughout. It really helped to pick up a map and show schedule at the gate. Turn after turn down the paths I slowly began to realize this was a really big show.

You do not want to miss Celtic Mayhem, Masala Dancers and the Joust. All Florida Faire favorites. The Kamakazi FireFlies came all the way from LA just for these two weekends so it hardly mattered how far I had to drive to come see them. There was plenty of shade for the audience which really sets this event apart. The performers - not so lucky. Those stages get pretty darn hot. Even hotter if Casey Martin blows a 20 foot fire ball across it.

Masala Dancer
I was there Sunday and witnessed one of the jousters sustain an injury during an unscripted dehorsing. No matter if they are riding horses, battling in full armor, eating fire, stilt walking, or blasting out a wild fiddle tune on a 110 degree stage - every act is live, dangerous, and exists for the sole purpose of your enjoyment. A whole lot more enjoyment than you will ever find on your TV or Xbox. I never get tired of saying these performers work for tips and a buck or two is a small price to pay for the value of the experience you will have.

The Miami faire is open just one more weekend so don't miss it. I did not have time to revisit the Cauley Square shops but my friend was very interested in going back again to thoroughly check them out.

This is a very quaint and historic piece of Miami's past and I am so glad the Florida Renaissance Festival will be bringing thousands of new visitors to what I hope is their new permanent home.  I spent a lot of time at the Ren Fest in Deerfield Beach this year and a lot of the visitors at the Miami show were new to me. It's great to see even more people enjoying the last of the Vaudevillian style performances in America, and hopefully maybe even their first trip of many to Cauley Square.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Miami Food Trucks - Hollywood

You may remember my post on the Miami Food Truck Invasion back in August. If not, you can just click the link above to check it out. I was there opening day and I was impressed. I have been back a couple more times and so far I have enjoyed the gourmet offerings.

Today was the first attempt to bring these rolling kitchens to Hollywood City Hall. What I understand from the Assistant City Manager, Cathy  Swanson-Rivenbark, is this four week experiment may be extended if it's successful. Personally, I hope so since it's a half block from my office. I like to walk to lunch and there are plenty of places nearby. I've eaten locally for years. This is more of an exciting treat than an everyday lunch choice. Maybe a bit on the pricey side for some, but I love trying new flavor combinations and a couple of bucks is a small price to pay for unique and inventive flavors.

Even though this mini-event was held right on City Hall Circle next to the Broward County Public Library building, probably two thirds of those in line were no one I've seen around the neighborhood before. I overheard someone say that they mostly brown bag and eat at their desk and they just walked over to give it a try. I'm not sure how this was promoted but the word certainly got out around City Hall Circle. It was fun to have lunch with people I work with but just never have time to go out with. I even saw one woman introduce herself to her co-workers who only knew her over the phone.

So how did I make out? I decided to give the famous $7.00 grilled cheese sandwich from Ms. Cheezious a try. This is not Mom's grilled cheese, that's for sure. First, it was heavily loaded with delicious, stretchy cheese - like a pound and a half heavy. Smothered inside, I found tomatoes and fresh basil. The whole concoction was called The Italian, appropriately enough. I opted for the sweet potato fries for the full experience.  The second I made my choice, I spotted a sandwhich on the menu with goat cheese & prosciutto. Next time for sure.

This experiment will run Wednesday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm for the month of April. There was limited seating, but since the four trucks were well attended I suspect the City will bring out a few tables and chairs if this takes off. The trucks at City Hall will be rotated, but if you want to choose from the full compliment of Miami Food Trucks they are still at the Arts Park every Monday evening. Monday night Downtown is slow so it's a great excuse to get a unique meal and check out the constantly reinvented Hollywood Downtown. That way you can plan for that big Friday night out to impress your friends with how well you know your way around. I know that's what I do.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cupcake Burlesque at Five Points Lounge - Fort Lauderdale

Five Points Lounge

Everyone who knows me and anyone who has followed my blog for more than the last two months knows that for me "Burlesque" and "Lounge" is the equivalent of saying I went for a weekend camping trip to the moon. Just wouldn't happen. So how did I wind up in this place for this event?? A little mermaid invited me to the show and under some spell she cast over me - I agreed.

My blog is based on me trailblazing new adventures for my friends. It has also been a personal diary of me pushing myself to experience life with a little more color and flavor, but this was something way outside my comfort zone. As much as I wanted to change my mind about going, I could not disappoint the little mermaid. I ocean kayak regularly and I hear mermaids can get pretty nasty when crossed. Not to mention, this one dries off and grows legs. Best to play it safe, do as I was told, and hope for the best.

Let's build the anticipation by describing the venue. Parking was a challenge so let me save you a ton of frustration. Just south of the lounge is a very sketch alley. Turn down there and find plenty of fenced-in parking behind the building. Took me a pass or two to figure it out.

The Five Points Lounge is connected to the Kreepy Tiki Tattoo shop and the entire place looks like a 1950's tiki bar straight from the South Pacific. I grabbed one of the few tables and camped the entire night watching the patrons arrive and mingle. I have one tattoo which made me practically naked compared to the inked beauties passing by. A good number of them dressed and quaffed in the vintage style of the '50s that my aunts and uncles maintained throughout the 60's and 70's. None of these outfits came from Granny's closet or a third hand store. They were fine new works of art with plenty of views of the best tattoos I've ever seen all in one place.

Jenna Smith
The band Askultura took the stage and played for about an hour. The sound system could have been a bit more crisp and the stage more brightly lit. The music did however fit the room and the mood. I can't even remember the last time I saw a band with a wailing trombone that didn't involve uniforms and marching.

Finally, it was time for the  Cupcake Burlesque to take the stage somewhere close to the midnight hour. I managed to be standing in the front row with my big camera and blasted away till my flash overheated. I should apologize to everyone around me for blinding them. I was hoping to have more to show for my efforts but I am not a professional.  If you head over to Jenna Smith's Facebook, you will find plenty of really good photos from the event.  If you want to see more, and believe me they show a lot more..... you are going to have to attend one of their many performances around South Florida.

This is not my regular type of thing but all in all I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. I was left with the impression that a whole room full of people time-traveled from the simpler life of the 1950's with a quick stopover in the 90's for some ink and piercings. I appreciate that the performers and the crowd are reviving that simpler time in this modern, crazy world. While I was there I spotted a vintage mermaid tat at the Kreepy Tiki that would have made my merchant marine Grandpa and uncles proud to display.

I'm thinking about it.

I may not be doing this again but I do have friends that love this era and will no doubt be checking it out (if they have not already).