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Staycation is the buzz word in travel

August 4, 2008 by · Comments Off on Staycation is the buzz word in travel 

Kyacking along the Chain of Lakes

Kayaking in Central Florida

With gas prices soaring over four dollars a gallon, summer vacations are taking a hit. "Staycation" is the buzz word: meaning stay near home on your vacation.

Florida residents are fortunate to have many choices within the Sunshine State. Naturally, Orlando boasts world-famous theme parks and the Space Coast offers tours of the Kennedy Center.

Jacksonville touts some fantastic parks and beaches along with neighboring Amelia Island and St. Simon's. St. Augustine is always a popular destination and renovated Marineland isn't far down Interstate 95. Check out the changes and the new educational one-on-one dolphin encounters.

But if you're hankering to go a little further from home, consider some off the beaten track adventures in Central Florida.

Westgate River Ranch presents a 1,700 acre Dude Ranch complete with authentic rodeo, campfires and singing cowboys. A petting zoo, pony rides and swimming pool keep little ones happy. Adults can try trail riding or drive cattle in a round-up. In addition, swamp buggy and airboat rides splash some great fun. Watch out for the alligators! The facility offers hotel rooms for as little as $ 89.00 a night, for a family of four with kitchen.

Bi-Plane rides return from barnstorming days and appeal to anyone interested in aviation history. For $65, fly in the open cockpit of a 1929 D-25, complete with leather helmet and scarf tied around your neck. Visit Fantasy of Flight in Lake Wales.

How about something even more adventuresome? Skydiving! Tandem jumps are safe and designed for first time adventurers. I personally assure, the thrill will never be forgotten. I loved it! Florida boasts 14 certified centers, such as nearby Jacksonville, Deland, Lake Wales and Orlando. Each location delights participants with different scenic views.

Kayaking is a cool summer activity and easy to learn. Spend a day paddling and gliding by tall cypress trees, prickly cabbage palms and blue herons. Reasonable rental rates are obtainable on lakes or rivers through the state. Try the famous Chain of Lakes— sixteen freshwater lakes connected by a series of canals in Winter Haven.

Fishing? While Jacksonville offers the Kingfish Tournament; central Florida is the large-mouth bass fishing capital of the world.

Southern Belle at Cypress Gardens

Anyone dig Gardening? Cypress Gardens, Florida's first tourist park founded in 1936, display immense topiary creations as well as a botanical sanctuary. You'll find the gardens photography worthy, along with beautiful hoop-skirted Southern belles.

Of course, the park's famous Ski Show Spectacular still jumps with athletic and acrobatic feats, including the signature human-pyramid of skiers. Newly added water park rides, a heart pounding roller coaster and other amusement thrill rides are on site.

Bok Towers

For something more peaceful, meander around Bok Towers and gardens. Tranquil resting places are tucked into the lushly landscape of ferns, oaks and pines. Listen to the singing bell tower or consider attending a special summer carillon concert.

This summer play near Jacksonville for super staycation fun, or add the price of a tank of gas and explore the middle of our state.

For further information visit:
www.wgriverranch.com
www.Floridaskydiving.com
www.fantasyofflight.com
www.cypressgardens.com
www.boksantuary.org

This article appeared in the August issue of The Creekline

Central Florida ~ I Went Skydiving

June 25, 2008 by · Comments Off on Central Florida ~ I Went Skydiving 

Flying

Skydiving wasn’t even on my Bucket List: that list of things to do before you die.

But here I stand: feet together, toes on the edge, knees bent, arms crossed and hands grasped to the straps. “3-2-1-GO,” yells my instructor who is harnessed to me and out we jump- plummeting at 125 mph toward earth. I kick my feet backward, close my eyes for a second or two, and open my heart. I want to enjoy this.

Immediately an immense wave of butterflies hits my stomach and then, just the rush of the wind. Opening my eyes, I see the world 14,500 feet below, and it’s beautiful.

I’ve just jettisoned out a Beechcraft King Air at the Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales, Florida. Before the jump, Buzz Bazzoni, head instructor, explained the procedures and safety rules to fellow students and me.

“Oh my gosh,” I scream, smiling now. “This feels amazing.” Not the most profound statement, but hey, I’m freefalling in my first tandem skydive, adrenaline pumping.

My senses tingle, on extra alert, reminiscent of the day my car was hit and spun in an accident. Each sensation registers simultaneously. I see, feel, smell, hear and taste the air as it pushes on my cheeks, making them flutter like a comic book character.

Pat Martin, my certified Zen-like guru, releases the drogue chute, a small thin parachute meant to slow down tandem jumpers, so their combined weight doesn’t allow them to fall too quickly. Later the drogue is used to deploy the main parachute.

What an odd sensation being tightly conjoined to a cute guy, his body smashed against my back. No, it’s not sexual but actually quite comforting.

Pat had to record at least 500 jumps and spend three years in the sport before he could receive his ratings and qualify as a Tandem Master. He must also be FAA medically certified, like a pilot. I feel I am in good hands.

FUN

Liz Sass, a videographer I hired at the facility, free falls as well. She approaches from midair, diving down. How she does this I don’t understand. She reaches out and grabs my hand, called “docking”, then swings me around. I’m having fun and not feeling scared. Liz makes me wave, throw a kiss and generally keeps me busy while I drop two miles. I feel like Peter Pan flying over hundreds of lakes in Central Florida. Gee, there’s a sports stadium and over there, the orange juice factory.

Pat checks the altimeter on his wrist. He does this often. He uses his fingers to count down, informing Liz when he will open the chute.

Shazam. Up we shoot like a human champagne cork, as if rebounding off a trampoline. The big Set-400 colorful canopy opens and billows above us.

Now our bodies hang more vertical. Margie Barron describes it, “as a bird on the thermals, just floating down.” The breeze keeps us aloft. I feel almost weightless, except for the pull from the chute on my shoulders and from the harness. It’s lovely up here.

Wispy, marshmallow puff clouds dot the air. Pat announces that we are about to go through one. Whoosh. I’ve always wanted to jump on a cloud.

Slowly we circle around; I see the drop zone, a grassy field. I look down and get a bit dizzy and queasy. I decide to gaze at the horizon instead.

I try to lift my legs out in front of me, like I must do for landing. Dang–a rather challenging task; should have done my ab exercises. Pat says to hold on to the ribbing on my jumpsuit, which makes it much easier.

We’re now close enough to yell to others on the ground; they respond with cheers. We zoom down and softly bump the ground, the heel of my shoes digging up a divot of grass. Whew- I take a deep breath in and let it out with relief.

Liz runs up to interview me. “What was the best moment?’

“When the parachute opened.”

“Did Pat take good care of you?”

“Absolutely.”

“What are you going to do next?”

“Go to Disney World.”

Well, actually I am going to call my family and tell them I jumped out of a plane three miles up and survived. Not only that- I loved it. They had no idea I went parachuting and will certainly be surprised, as I have a fear of heights.

“Hello, Jay. Guess what I just did? I went skydiving,” I cry.

My husband replies, “No you did not, you would never do that.”

My teenage daughter grabs the phone. “Mom, are you crazy? What were you thinking?”

My head is still in the clouds. I feel as thrilled as I did when I gave birth to each of my four children. Hormones zip through my body, the euphoria continues. I am empowered.

Yes, I earned lots of bragging rights; but when the newness dies, and the story has been told, it comes down to personal power. I opened myself to the world and took a chance. I soared to a new place and was fulfilled. I have touched the sky, found joy and I am alive.

Leonardo da Vinci, that Renaissance genius said, “, once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return.”

And I do.

Thumbs Up

www.FloridaSkydiving.com


Lake Wales on Dwellable

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