From the moment you step off the plane, you are drenched with sweat that seems to be pouring out of you from places you didn’t even know could sweat. What should you do? Where should you go? You aren’t that run-of-the-mill person who likes to do what everyone else is doing, and neither should your vacation be! While ordinary people are at Harry Potter World, or taking selfies in front of a Disney castle, or paying $400 to swim with a dolphin, YOU will be swimming with manatees and checking out the places that reflect Florida for its natural beauty, not its man-made attractions… (Ok, some man-made attractions).
Here is what we did during two action-packed days in the Land of Flowers:
Blue Spring National Park
This is a beautiful park where you can rent snorkels, tubes, kayaks, and (I believe) scuba gear. During winter, this place is a natural habitat for manatees. We spent a couple of hours here, just swimming around, looking into the spring, enjoying the atmosphere. I would recommend getting here earlier in the day, as early as possible actually, because as the day went on, yucky teenage jerk bags showed up and started playing football across the spring and using foul language and just being all around dirtbags, which took away from the experience. Other than that, I could’ve spent all day here. The water is very clear, great temperature, awesome scenery.
Big Toho Airboat Rides
There are numerous airboat rides throughout the state, but if you want an experience with someone who has been doing this job for years and is a member of a founding family of Florida, then this company is right for you. We had a great, inexpensive ride, saw baby alligators, and the entrance to the Everglades known as “The Shingles.” Not only was the ride smooth, thrilling, and beautiful, but our guide was knowledgeable and hilarious. Check Groupon to see if they have any specials going on.
American Pro Diving
How many people do you know who have gone swimming with dolphins? I know two, and they are intolerable, judgmental, all around yucky people. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who spends hundreds of dollars to swim with dolphins is snoody and gross, but I mean, maybe there could be a connection somewhere. Now let me ask you this: how many people do you know who have gone swimming with manatees? That’s what I thought.
Thanks to Groupon again, we found a hidden gem that is easy to miss. We woke up early on Saturday morning, drove a convertible VW bug for two hours, got in some wetsuits, and swam with a manatee. I must admit, he wasn’t as lively as I had hoped, but it was amazing to see one of these animals up close and in their natural element. I didn’t get to swim with a baby… but I saw a baby and it was the cutest thing that ever happened to me in my whole life.
American Pro Diving also offers other tours with scuba and/or snorkel. Check them out:
On the way back from American Pro Diving, it would behoove you to make a pit stop at Joe’s Deli… ‘cause, why not? We were looking for a place to eat some gator tail, and then we were planning to just settle for Burger King, when we stumbled upon a cute little sandwich shop. Although it is a small place, it is not small in taste. Not only is the food awesome, (try the seafood salad), but the business itself is family owned and operated, which is hard to find nowadays. The restaurant is located near Cooter Lake. Cooter Lake. I mean, come on, if that’s not exciting, then I just don’t know what is.
Don’t settle for Bahama Breeze, (which is delicious, but is pretty much just Jamacian Applebees). Go to a place that makes food because they love it and they care about the quality.
Well, it’s a beach. There are restaurants and bars and shops. The thing that makes this place worthwhile is the temperature of the water. We got there at 10:00 p.m. and jumped right in there, fully clothed and comfortable; it was like a jacuzzi. I didn’t even know that the ocean could be so warm. The great news about night swims is that no one is going to bug you because they are all at the bars. I only saw people here because they were playing Pokemon Go.
Super cute place. Swan boat rentals, fountain that really reminds me of “Married With Children,” restaurant, geese, statue of a woman. I would advise heading over here on a weekend evening if you really want to have an experience and do some people watching. We were here on Saturday, early evening, and there was a church group singing in the little amphitheater. The man who was singing with the group was phenomenal and actually brought me to tears a bit, but I cry a lot. Overall, a cool place to take a walk. Lots of people playing Pokemon Go. Like everybody except for me.
We stopped by Pulse and read the biographies of the people who lost their lives there. It was incredibly touching and humbling. For a lot of people, we don’t see these attacks for what they are because they are becoming more and more common. But there are real people involved- with real lives- real families- real potential and spirits that someone stole for no reason. If you are in the area, you should go by this site to help bring in some real humanity and perspective on something that may usually be too obscure of a concept to fully understand.
The Holy Land Experience
Ok, so I found this while I was driving, but I wasn’t able to visit it because I was attending a conference and the hours conflicted. This place is basically like a giant castle with displays of Bible stories, etc., and from what I saw on the website, they have Jesus walking down the street with the cross as a show, which is like, daaaaaaaang. I wish I could’ve seen that. Have you seen that? SHARE SOME PICTURES IN THE COMMENT SECTION IF YOU HAVE!
I’m sure we did some other things, but those were definitely the highlights. We didn’t do what everyone else was doing. We didn’t waste our time sweating our buns off waiting in lines. We didn’t fall into the tourist traps. We did do some touristy things, but we didn’t pay crazy cash for them and we didn’t go home with an extra suitcase loaded with Donald Ducks. We came home with memories from putting 997 miles on a rental car, a thirst for more water activities, and pictures of us in places that our theme park-hopping counterparts didn’t even think to see. I mean… what’s the point of going to Universal Studios anyway? They got rid of the Jaws ride. Come on, bro.
If you're anything like me, you spend a lot of time in the car. One of the drives that I make way too frequently is the drive between Las Vegas and Southern California. When I make this drive I usually try to get in and out of the car as quickly as possible and reach my destination fast. I usually don't even stop for gas or to go to the bathroom. However, the last time I took this drive I was more adventurous about it and finally stopped at the places that I had always seen and wanted to visit, and also found some new things that I didn't even know existed.
If this is a drive that you frequent and you want to break up the monotony, or if you are taking this trip for the first time in the future and want to make the most of it, then I have a few places I think you should stop and enjoy.
Spots in order, starting in So Cal, ending in Vegas:
Peggy Sue's 50's Diner and Dinosaur Park
Calico Ghost Town
So this is pretty well known already, so I won't spend too much time talking about it. This is a town that was purchased by Walter Knott, the owner of Knott's Berry Farm who revamped some areas of the actual mining town and then built some new attractions, such as one of those confusing houses, some shops, etc. You can go on a mine tour, which is really cool and fun and a great place to have a beer and watch a shoot out where no one is really going to die. They also have a shirt that says "I found the Glory Hole." Needless to say, I bought that.
St. Antony Monastery
If you've been out this way, you've seen it... the abandoned waterpark surrounded by dilapidated signs, buildings, and half dead palm trees. It's a dream come true for people who like to explore things from the past and wonder where it all went wrong. This is the kind of place where you could sit for a long time and just think and look around and imagine what it was like twenty years ago, bustling with families and smelling like hot dogs and sun block. Magical.
Disclaimer: There are some warning signs that the best things in the world may not happen here, so make sure you are safe and smart when you visit and make sure that you are paying attention to your surroundings and have an exit plan if you need one.
Desperado at Buffalo Bill's
If you need to stop for gas, lotto tickets, or Taco Bell AND fried chicken in Primm, take a stroll over to Buffalo Bill's and ride their roller coaster. It's not too pricey compared to New York, New York's comparable ride on the strip and is one of the country's tallest roller coasters. This joint also has a kickass buffet.
Seven Magic Mountains Outdoor Art Exhibit
Sometimes you don't mind getting there late, and on a day like that, this list could help you enhance your driving experience. This is just a starter list, and I'm sure I'm missing lots of cool hidden gems along the road, but this should get you going. If you know of a place I should check out and add to the list, leave a comment below!
I love you!
Sometimes things are really great and you are on top of the world; other times you lie in bed all day and drink box wine in a pile of cheeseburger wrappers and you don't know why.
It just happens sometimes. You can't always be that unicorn running along the top of a rainbow with magical kisses from Heaven falling down all around you. Sometimes you need to relax, reflect and regenerate. The Triple R. There's nothing wrong with this and the more you allow yourself to feel however it is that your body is telling you to feel, the better. If you fight these natural reactions to the world around you or you try to suffocate them with anti-depressants and fake smiles, you are hurting yourself and you will never truly come out of your funk.
But why can't I be happy all the time like Marcy on Facebook? Great question. Better answer. Marcy isn't happy like that all the time. Marcy is just like you, probably worse. Marcy puts those pictures of vacations up on her Facebook and acts like she enjoys her kids every moment of every day and seems to cook all the time and loves inspirational quotes. What you DON'T see her post on FB is her credit card statements, selfies of her pulling her hair out because little Billy won't shut up and go to bed already. You won't see Marcy take a picture with her prescription of Zoloft or a picture of the other woman that her husband got pregnant. Why? Because Marcy is a liar. Marcy wants someone to be jealous of her. She wants to put on those airs and act like she has it all together. People use this modern technology to paint a picture of what they want their lives to be; but it doesn't mean that they're happy and it doesn't mean that everything they say is true. Sometimes it's all they have and when they post something, they momentarily forget what the truth really is.
Don't do this. Don't be this. Don't lie to yourself or anyone else.
I'm not saying to go on social media and proudly proclaim that you have the Herp and haven't showered in a week, but I am saying not to make crap up. You aren't helping yourself and you aren't helping anyone else either. Just be yourself. Stop caring what everyone else says and does. Get rid of your social media because in all honesty, it will free your time, your mind, and help you to regenerate yourself without being polluted with the lies of those around you. You don't hate your life. You just need to take some time for the Triple R. Be honest with yourself and you will feel better.
Ashley and Cecilia work hard, play hard, write stuff, read stuff... because they don't know what else to do with their lives.
I- We should buy something superficial
II- Buy odd clothing
I- An Unusual Social Event
I- We should go somewhere with dangerous animals
I- Somewhere with strange food
When we get ten total votes, the item with the highest number of votes will be our next expedition.
(One vote per reader, per category).