Monday, June 25, 2012

Florida EcoSafaris - St Cloud

When those of us in South Florida are looking for a quick getaway packed with fun and adventure, we generally head to Central Florida. I know what you're thinking. Theme parks and mouse ears. This time I was looking for something a little different.

My destination - Florida EcoSafaris in St Cloud near Orlando. I was looking for something with a lot less waiting in line and a lot more dangerous. When I signed a waiver at the front desk stating serious injury or death could be the possible outcome of my visit, I knew I was in the right place.

I could write a book on this trip and it would start with me being born with an over active fear gene. Fear of heights happen to be high on the list. So why would I spend a day up to seventy five feet about the ground and the bulk of that racing along a wire? There are two ways to live - curled up in a safe ball in the house or pushing past my limits. Way past in this case.

The first thing you need to do is harness up from head to crotch. I've zipped before but this harness was serious business. That's because there is a full course of fun ahead and zip lining is the easy part. The harness is used for all six activities at the Eco Safari Park.

If you have never tried zip lining before, this course would be a great test drive. The towers start at 104 steps or seventy five feet high. There are spacious landing decks cleverly engineered to not end in a solid pole. Plenty of railings and lightning rods. The course consists of nine towers, seven zip lines, and two suspension bridges. Intimidating but not paralyzing. You can start off with a 1,300 foot zip to the ground if you are not sure. That's how I did it. The rest of our group chose the zip line roller coaster. I needed to think about that one a bit.

We had a great group of traveling partners and two very entertaining guides. Some of the younger ones flung themselves from the deck. A few had some reservations. As far as I could tell, I was the only one with a serious fear factor but the fun factor was getting me past it. We took about an hour and a half to make the tour which dropped us off at the same tower we started at. Just a mere 104 steps away, the only zip line roller coaster in the US, The Rattlesnake. If you are out to conquer your fears - this ride will do it. If you think it looks easy from the video - I urge you to try it. With the full Eco Safari pass you can ride it all day. Not many in our group went twice.

Now for something a little more relaxing. The Cypress Canopy Cycle. If you can ride a bike on a hill - something we don't have in Florida - you are ready for this ride.  Once you leave the station, you are on a wire twenty five feet above the ground on a self guided tour of the tree canopy. It would probably have been a good idea to take a bottle of water but for the most part, it was an easy ride. One I could take every day.

If none of this high adventure interests you, check out the coach safari or horseback safari. We rode the big swamp buggy on the hard road to the zip line area but as we were heading back I was wishing the driver could take us through the swamp on the way back. Now that I know it's possible, I want to go back for a wilderness adventure.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Riverwalk - Fort Lauderdale

I have lived in several places in South Florida over the years but I have lived my life on Riverwalk in Fort Lauderdale. It has been the go to place to share special moments with family, out of town guests, old friends, new acquaintances, as well as first dates, dinner dates, events, and even breakups. Sometimes a text message is really not enough on that last one.

How long have I been visiting this part of the New River? I bought a $50.00 personalized brick for the renovation a few decades ago so long before that even. Riverwalk is one of those South Florida locations that just gets better with age.

Jungle Queen
This past Sunday it was just me, my camera, and a flood of memories. I remember dinner and a walk before shows like Stomp, Rent, Wicked, and Beethoven at the Broward Center. There is a free Jazz Brunch the first Sunday of every month and I've been to about two dozen.  Special events like the Glam Doll Strut are held here. I watched the Boat Parade from this spot one year.

Water Taxi
When my daughter was young we would spend an entire day going up and down the river on the Water Taxi. They run the boats on used cooking oil and every time I think of those trips I'm hungry for french fries for some reason. For something a little larger and a whole lot more touristy, there is the Jungle Queen. It's been decades since I have been a passenger. Maybe it's time to get a group of friends and go again.

Crossing the river you will find draw bridges, a train draw bridge and the most unique way to get to the other side, a tunnel. Since this part of Florida is only 10 feet above sea level you would think a tunnel would be more or less impossible. Even more impossible considering the size of the boats that pass over the road.

I have more photos on my Flickr site. If you are wondering where all the people are, I went at 2:00 pm on the hottest day of the year so far. Unless you work in a blast furnace or weld in a ship yard for a living, you may want to choose winter or the morning and evening hours for your visit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pirates in Fort Lauderdale

I bought a new lens for my camera a few weeks ago but have not had the time to take it out until this past weekend. My first stop - to shoot pirates.

A couple of hundred years ago that phrase would have had a whole different meaning. These pirates happen to be from the
South Florida Pirates and the event was World Ocean Days at the Museum of  Discovery and Science. Who knows the ocean better than pirates right? The South Florida Pirates also know a lot about special events, causes, and kids. Check out their link above to see where you might find them. For many events they bring their artillery. Pistols, muskets, and very loud and impressive cannons. Nothing went bang while I was at the museum. Must have been a rule or something. Unlike a few centuries ago, these modern day pirates are pretty well behaved. Captain Hook even performed a magic show for the kids.

I was tipped off by a friend about another group of pirates permanently stationed near Fort Lauderdale beach. BlueFoot Pirate Adventures caters to the tiniest of pirates for a little fun and adventure on the water. You can find them at Bahia Mar when they are in port. When I was a kid, we made our pirate ships out of cardboard in the back yard. This real live boat can hold nearly 50 passengers. Now that's a birthday party. Check the link for details.

After leaving my pirate friends, I took a stroll down new river and found a new restaurant on the water. The Pirate Republic. I'm starting to sense a theme here. Back when I had a boat, I remember this place as Shirttail Charlie's. The name may have changed but the crowds of boats and patrons did not seem to take notice. I would have stopped in but I was on the wrong side of the river. I've never navigated a car there before but it's a pretty safe bet I will soon.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Robbins Park - Davie

My typical weekend bicycle ride takes me through Robbins Park in Davie. Normally I pop in the front entrance on Hiatus Road and pedal out the back directly behind Flamingo Gardens on Flamingo Road.

This weekend I thought I would explore a little. Robbins Park is small but probably one of the most under utilized parks I visit. Unless there is an event or major holiday, you can expect to find the parking lot completely empty. There are a few pavilions and some play equipment. Mostly an open field. I've never seen a wedding at the wedding gazebo but I have seen some photo shoots at Robbins Park. This little park is about the only nature in a sea of monster houses. When I was a kid, it was a real treat to head to a park for a picnic. I guess kids today would rather text and Facebook then throw a Frisbee or a football. Of course some of the back yards I pass on my ride would qualify as a mini water park but even there I never see anyone venture outside their air conditioned mansions.

One thing you will find at Robbins Park are horses. Nearly every weekend I share my travels with one or a dozen riders of the four legged rather than two wheeled variety. Much of the horse trails are well shaded and only occasionally cross the bike path like at the bridge on the west entrance. There are several places in the area offering rides and lessons. I'll stick with biking. I'm always surprised by the amount of people who own a bicycle compared with the ten or so I pass on any given weekend. I guess the rest just decorate their garages with them.