Florida Recap: Part 3

The final installment on my Florida vacation. If you’ve been following so far, we crammed two amusement parks and a day at the beach in the span of three days. The fourth and final day, our flight back to Ohio was scheduled for 8pm. That means we have plenty of time to make our last day in Florida a good one. The weather took a little dip from the previous days. When we first arrived, it was 80ºF. The last day, day before Halloween, it was a chilly 47ºF in Florida! I was quite surprised because coming from a state where it can snow one day and be scorching the next, I expected Florida to have stagnant hot weather all the time. Clearly I was wrong but you know what? Nothing could ruin my day, not even cold weather.

I should start by saying like many people, I have a bucket list. Visiting Japan is numero uno on that list for my husband and I because we are huge anime fans and we love Japanese cuisine. I also would like to go to New Zealand, Ireland and go back to Florence, Italy someday. Besides travel, I also have regular bucket list items. I want a home library someday, I want another dog, I want to be an author’s assistant and I absolutely wanted to not only pet a horse but go horseback riding.

Well, horseback riding got slashed off my bucket list on this last day of our Florida trip. You cannot imagine how insanely happy I was! We traveled to Kissimmee, Florida to the Lazy H Ranch to  participate in the second best experience of my life (seeing a sea turtle in the ocean was the first). We pulled up and was greeted by some fairly loud chickens. One of which was very bold but I’ll come back to him in a second. Previously, we had to send our height and weights to the woman so she could match us with our horses. They were so beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We told her we were from Ohio and my friends from Maryland and soon as she heard Ohio, she told us about the horse she wants to get that lives in Ohio. The horse was white with a blonde name and her name was Blondie. She said the horse was $8000 and she really, really wanted Blondie but was hesitant because, and we learned this, horses from the North sometimes have a hard time acclimated to Southern weather. Also, the insects are different so they may not be able to handle certain insect bites.

So anyway, my horse’s name was Briar. Briar was a rescue horse. She was abused and malnourished and this woman met her and fell in love because even though Briar had been through a lot, she was still the sweetest horse ever. She brought her back to health and now Briar is a happy horse. My husband rode a horse named Cash who was a retired show horse. Acrobatics would do tricks on his back! My best friend rode Ally and her husband rode Chevy. We used these stairs to get on the horses and she strapped us in. Then we got a basic lesson on how to control the reins and off we went. We walked to this conservation area across the street from her ranch and she told us about how Hurricane Irma devastated her land a little bit. Uprooted two trees on her property and she started off with 9 chickens but by the time hurricane Irma passed, she only had 4 chickens left. The conservation park we rode through was known as Twin Oaks and it was a nice hour and 15 minute ride.

I realized that horseback riding is very therapeutic. I could literally do that all day long. Oh! Another thing she told us was if our horses tried to eat grass or bushes to stop them from doing so. Apparently horses will eat until their stomachs explode and even then, they’d keep eating. She said that while we were riding them, they were working and when they were done, they would go out to pasture and eat to their hearts content. Cash actually got loose one time and got into the horse feed and 300 lbs of food. The vet had to come every day for a week and give him an IV to help flush his stomach of all that feed. Crazy! We rode past this lake, I forget the name of it, but she had us guess how many gators were in it. Since it was a lake, we guessed pretty low, about 3000 or less. Boy were we wrong! She said at last survey they counted 30,000 gators in that lake! Just wow. We also saw a lot of eagles soaring while we were riding through and we got to trot which I am so bad at and definitely felt every bit of that horse ride the next day but it was sooooo worth it! I want to horseback ride again!

Anyway, here is the gallery of pictures. Chevy was a super lovebug at the end! Horse noses are so freaking soft and fuzzy and I wanted to stay and cuddle him all day long! Cujo the chicken also wanted attention, to the point that I swear he posed for me for this picture. Such a special chicken:

That’s it for Florida. I hope you all enjoyed reading about the trip in these three posts. 🙂

Florida Recap: Part 2

Following Islands of Adventure, we went into the next day bright and perky. One of my goals this trip was to see a beach; put my feet into the ocean. Orlando is in central Florida so there’s not a lot of beaches around. My friend and I googled a bit beforehand looking for some beaches that were close by that we could go splash in. We ended up coming across Cape Canaveral National Seashore which happens to be a national beach park that stretches for many miles. It’s undeveloped as well which means no building beach front properties on this stretch of beach; very natural. It’s about a 1 hour 20 minute drive from Orlando so we got a good headstart in the morning. I usually read on long trips in the car but I didn’t get enough sleep the night before and ended up sleeping the whole way there. By the time we got there it was a little cloudy but it was still a nice and toasty 80ºF. When you first get out of the car, you can hear the beach even though you cant see it. There’s a wooden ramp built up this hill that leads to the beach. There was a sign with beach rules with the very first one being “Know how to swim.” I don’t know how to 100% swim but I didn’t plan on going out deeper than what my feet could touch. We get to the beach, strip down and slowly inch forward to the tide. The water was warm but cold to our bodies initially. You know how you always have to acclimate to a body of water cause your natural temperature is so much warmer. But once we were in, we were in! The waves were so fun to splash in (and get knocked over by) but even though we had sand in all kinds of places and a mouthful or two of saltwater, it was one of the best days of the trip.

Later on we decided we were hungry. Naturally, after splashing around in the ocean, we wanted seafood. We went back to the suite to shower all the sand out (and believe it was A TON of sand, probably half the beach) and then went to a seafood joint I found through Google that had really good reviews. When a local, eat like the locals do! And man was the food fan-freaking-tastic. The restaurant was called Winter Park Fish Company and I got the best fish and grits of my life. If you’ve never had this food combination, you’re missing out. It was seared mahi-mahi over sugary cheesy grits (which btw, I never put sugar in my grits but oh my goodness gracious), with this spicy lobster gravy sauce drizzled on top and brussels salad on the side. My husband had fried snapper fish and chips with these powdered sugar hushpuppies. I wish I could order the whole menu and take it home. We found out the owners live half the year in Florida and the other half of the year in Costa Rica so they always have fresh fish. Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Florida, make sure you eat here! Here’s some pictures:

We settled down for the night after dinner to prepare for the next day. We went to Busch Gardens Tampa which is a theme park/animal park. There used to be an old show on TV with Jack Hanna who would talk about animals and animal welfare and I remember he would always host these shows at Busch Gardens. You all know I loved animals so I got great enjoyment out of the animals more than the rides although Cheetah Hunt was a pretty fun ride as well as Montu and Cobra’s Curse. Walking through to get to the actual Cobra’s Curse ride was really cool cause there was a couple of boa constrictors inside and it was all dark and stuff talking about serpent gods and what not. When we’d rode every coaster and seen all the animals, we decided we were hungry and went and got Jamaican food this time. Here’s a picture gallery from Busch Gardens (and me and my best friend just cause):

Tomorrow will be the last part of my Florida vacation recap. It also happens to be my most favorite day so I had to share it in it’s own post. You’ll see why. 🙂

Florida Recap: Part 1

I’m finally getting around to talking about Florida. Partly because I’m drawing a blank on what to write about today which also has to do with the fact that my reading slump was murdered yesterday when I binge read The Trouble with the Twelfth Grave in just under 4 hours as well as started a new book right behind it and can barely think of anything else. So, over my biscuit breakfast, I give you Florida.

A few months ago, my best friend presented me and the husband with a proposal of joining them in Florida for a vacation. You see, her parents own a timeshare and offered her the use of it. Since the suite sleeps six, she figured it’d be fun to have a bit of a group honeymoon. She got married last year and they haven’t exactly honeymooned yet so this was to be sort of a mini honeymoon. One of the days of the vacation, the 26th to be exact, was my husband’s birthday so I asked him if he wanted to go to Florida for his birthday and he initially said he’d think about it. When a man tells you he’ll think about it, that can mean months to years. I ended up making the decision for us considering I would be the one finding flight deals. I ended up finding our tickets for about $200 bucks but I bought them as 4 one way tickets instead of 2 round trip tickets. You’d be surprised at how much money you can save when you buy like that!

We left that Thursday, the 26th. I worked half the day and my husband was off. I get home to make sure he finished the list of things I told him to do to prep for our leaving (he was off after all), and then we made sure the cats had enough food to last until Monday, that Turtle was fed (cause he can go without eating for weeks), and off we went to the airport. We landed in Florida around 8PM. My friend picked us up and took us to suite. Oh, btw, it was really nice going from 50ºF to 80ºF; from seeing fall colors to palm trees. We dropped off our stuff then went back out and had a hibachi dinner for my husband with gong banging and lit cupcake included. He was so adorable.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we headed out to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure. I’ve never been here before so it was very exciting. We went about an hour after park opened because we did not want to wait an hour or more to ride some rides. We started at the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster. I have to be honest, I haven’t rode a rollercoaster in years so there was a high probability I was going to to scream. And scream I did. You know how rollercoasters start off slow going up that first hill and then build speed once it hits the downward slope? This one didn’t do that. Halfway going up the hill, I’m sitting her having a conversation with my husband, asking if he was excited and what not when all of sudden we go warp speed and whatever he was saying got cut off by my screaming “holy shit!” and then laughing because I tend to laugh at my reactions. That was a good adrenaline rush to start the day. From there we went to the Spiderman ride which was a super cool 3D simulation ride and we got to be in the front car so felt every bit of those special effects! Those 3D glasses were legit! From there we rode the Kong Skull Island ride which is also a 3D simulated ride. That one wasn’t as cool as I though it was going to be.

After leaving Marvel and Jurassic Park came Harry Potter World. We spent a good amount of time traversing the castle (Hogwarts). They did a really good job building that massive place. They even had the talking portraits which looked completely real! The ride in there was 3D simulated where you start by playing Quidditch and then you’re trying to escape dementers who are after you. Very fun! After leaving the castle, we got some butterbeer which tastes like frozen cream soda and traversed Diagon Alley. After Harry Potter, we walked through Morroco and then came upon Posiedon’s Fury. This was a sort of 3D guided walk where decisions are made based on a series of events. There was this one part where the guide opened this gate and all this water come splashing down and for a second we thought we were going to have to walk through the water but then the whole room, except the floor, started spinning really fast and created this crazy water tunnel. It ultimately led us to Posiedon’s final battle against his enemy and it was really cool. The final ride we rode was Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall. This was another one where what you prepare for in your mind is not what actually happens. I thought we’d slowly go up the tower and then drop. Nope. We shot up that tower so fast it stole our breaths and then we dropped just as fast! All four of us were cracking up and it was definitely a good thing my husband took his flip flops off cause he defnitely would have lost then. After that, we left. We had authentic Hong Kong cuisine that night and prepared ourselves for the next day’s outing which I’ll talk about tomorrow. 🙂

Ending this post here with a picture gallery. Scroll over the pictures for captions:

Things People Do

Before I get into the awesome eclipse pic share, I want to discuss thoughts I have about the things that people do for money. If you’ve been following this corner of the internet for a while, you know I do endangered posts every Thursday featuring animals and sometimes plants that are endanger of extinction in the hopes of spreading more awareness.

Every morning on the way to work, I listen to NPR. This is my main source of news and I prefer it that way because NPR is pretty unbiased and does not take sides in the always revolving debate of politics, religion, and everything else under the sun that occurs on this planet. This morning while I was listening to the latest about this and that, a reporter recounted a story I just find unbelievable. Late last year, China announced it was banning the trade of ivory in the entire country. We all rejoiced because that essentially kills the need for poachers to continue going after elephants for their tusks or conservationists in collaboration with vets going out and cutting off elephants tusks to prevent them from dying at the hands of poachers. Hooray right? That’s a huge step back in the race against extinction right?

Well, yes and no. You see, now that ivory is illegal to sell in most countries in this world, poachers have taken a different avenue in order to make money; besides poaching on other endangered animals that is. They are now taking themselves to the most backends of Siberia to mine permafrost in order to dig up MAMMOTH tusks to sell! MAMMOTHS!! I mean that’s taking it to a new level to poach a creature that’s literally extinct because you can’t kill an elephant?? Am I missing something here? Is the money really that worth it? Honestly, if it’s all about making thousands overnight, I just want to tell these poachers to get some pole dancing lessons and become a stripper because digging up a long dead creature, not to mention the methods in which they are doing it are ruining the environment, is taking money making to an all new, extreme low.

Now that I got that out of my system, here are the pictures I took of the eclipse yesterday! If you’ve never worn eclipse glasses, they are a really cool piece of cardboard and lens tech. They are completely dark on the inside. It’s not like looking through a pair of sunglasses where your landscape is tinted, it’s completely darkness until you look up at the sun. And when you do, that’s all you can see! It’s the coolest thing ever. One picture I took looking up at the sky with the glasses over my camera lens and you can see the clouds passing by the beginning of the eclipse. When we were at the peak of the eclipse, it was a bit harder to get a picture of the situation in the sky and my car hood came into play because I could look at that with sunglasses and take pictures at the same time. I think I got a pretty good picture but there are definite plans of upgrade camera technology with special filters for the 2024 solar eclipse.

Lastly, I want to share a picture a friend took that I thought was super cool! It’s the reflection of the eclipse on the ground!

Do you think I’m being dramatic in my rant above? (You can tell me without consequence I promise 😉 ) Did you happen to catch the eclipse or maybe watch it online? Let me know in the comments below!

All the Elements

I haven’t done a photo challenge in a while but when I saw today’s word, elemental, I knew exactly which picture I wanted to share. This past June was my two year wedding anniversary. A friend of my husband’s had a birthday party at the site we got married. It was pretty surreal for us to see the place 2 years later and walk the paths to see if anything changed. While walking down one of the trails, I happened to look back and saw this brilliant array of natural colors. I stared for a second and then I snapped a picture of the moment. It was so quiet and it was just us on the trail and I just remember experiencing this powerful moment of joy at the fact that we were standing here, loving each other as much, if not more than the day we married. ♥♥

Highbridge Trail

Thank you photo challenge for the prompt today. I’ve been looking for an excuse to post these pictures.

A few weeks ago I posted a story about encounters with Canadian geese while walking in the Gorge Metropark. The park has 3 trails: Glens trail, Gorge trail and Highbridge trail. Most people walk the Gorge trail because it takes you down to this huge man-made waterfall. It’s a 57 foot tall, 440 foot wide dam that used to generate electricity to residents (I have one picture from winter). Now there are talks of removing the tam because scientists believe its actually harming the ecosystem and obstructing a clean, healthy flow from the Cuyahoga River.

Highbridge trail is the more intensive back route of this park. You get to see the Gorge from a different viewing angle as well as seeing the power lines and generators used to provide power it at one point.

There’s also this HUGE bridge. I can’t even fathom how they built this through a forest but walking up on it, I was amazed. The bridge connects both sides of State Road to give humans a shorter drive distance; driving through the park vs. around it.

I wish it could have been a wildlife bridge then it wouldn’t be so invasive but hey, the removal of the Gorge is one step in the right direction. Maybe the bridge can be converted later.

What do you think about human structures encroaching through natural habitats? Let me know in the comments below!

Passing Through

My mom is throwing a birthday party for my grandma in two weeks. She’s turning 75. The party is going to take place at a shelter inside the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I went up there today to have a video chat with my mom so she could see the place and have the exact picture in her mind’s eye. She lives out of state, you see, so she was only going based of stock photos from the web.

After I showed her the shelter, I decided to walk to the trails. My husband and I came to visit two weeks back but we didn’t have enough time to walk anything. I noticed a trail called the Overlook and was definitely interested in finding out what I was going to “look over”.

You know, walking through a forest is something else. It made me realize how we’re all passengers in this world; in our lifetime however long it may be. Nature was here before us and it will certainly be here long after we’re gone. Yes, we manipulate it, change it, kill it, but it always finds a way to adapt, survive, and in some cases evolve.

I probably walked about 35 minutes and it was just beautiful. Really brings you down to Earth in a literal, massive way. I don’t know how this place will look a year from now, 10 years from now, 50 years from now, but I enjoyed it today and I’ll enjoy it again each time I go back because every day is always new and different.

How does nature make you feel? Do you agree with what I said? Does this make you want to come to Ohio and explore with me?! Let me know in the comments below!

Cherries: The Final Chapter

Its pouring down raining here today so I thought I’d share a story of sunshine and color!

I mentioned in a previous post that I work with people who are 30-50 years older than me. Well, my boss is 80 years old. He is such an enigma! I could probably do a whole blog series just about him. Anyway, usually when I come to work I do office stuff. That mostly involves paperwork, emails and answering phones. However, when you work for someone who is 80 years old and has many hobbies, your work day can often change. For example, he’s decided to have bee colonies at his house so he ordered a bunch of flow hives off eBay and had me put them together. It was a trial let me tell you. Another time he sent me to the post office to pick up 3,000 bees, not in my car mind you!

So, I’m usually first in the office. Then he strolls in about an hour or hour and a half after me. Yesterday, he decided that it was cherry picking day. I shared a couple of pictures of these cherries from their blossoms to the actual fruit. They’re ripe now! He walks into my office and goes, “you ever pick cherries before?” I’m like no, never. I’d never even seen a cherry tree up close until I started working here.

He explains that he’s going to put me and my coworker in a basket and lift us up to pick everything off the top of the tree. Now as you’re reading this, you’re probably like is he senile? What do you mean lift us up in a basket?? I automatically think of a picnic basket and I’m pretty positive I’m too big for that. Or like a hot air balloon basket but we don’t have one of those.

It’s actually a metal basket strapped to a forklift!

So I am literally entrusting my life to the driver of this rusted contraption below me and there’s no strapping us to the basket itself. It’s a free for all.

Half my day was spent up in the air which was pretty fun. When I told my husband he was like, “this is what you do all day?”. I was like when an 80 year old man tells you to pick cherries, you pick cherries!

Here are a couple pictures from up in the air to give you perspective. The first one is the view from the top of a semi that docked for shipment pickup. The second one features a cameo from Mr. Continental! He blends right into the forest with that tree growing out his bumper.

This is only one tree of many. As you can see in the picture above, there’s a tree with a different type of cherries. I thought all cherries were created equal but the dark red ones are called Bing cherries and those yellow ones are Queen Ann cherries. The Bing cherries have a slight sour taste whereas those Queen Ann cherries are sweet! They tasted like grapes to me.

We filled two big boxes of cherries and left the rest to the birds and other wildlife to strip the rest of that tree. Since this day there has been lots of cherry pie and cherry jam in this office.

Do you have fruit trees? Do you like cherries? Is it rainy where you are in the world now? Let me know in the comments below!

Cellphone Cameras

Sometimes your cellphone camera can surprise you. It’s amazing how far technology has come along and it’s only getting better and better! Both pictures were taken with the Google Nexus 6P. For the second one, I tried to take the picture without grabbing the flower but the wind was blowing too erratically and I love sunflowers too much not to take a picture!

Focus