Sunday, November 27, 2011

iFly

This particular post is going to consist mostly of a video, as there really isn't a whole lot that can be SAID about this adventure, it has to be SHOWN.

A few weeks back Troy and I went to iFly, an indoor skydiving joint in Orlando.  Check it out at: http://www.iflyorlando.com/ifly-indoor-skydiving

iFly simulates sky diving (without a parachute) by shooting air in a vertical wind tunnel at speeds up to 150 mph.  It does feel a lot like skydiving though it isn't QUITE the same experience.


I actually did go skydiving earlier in the summer, but just haven't had a chance to edit the video for that one yet.  That will be coming before too long though, I promise!

We paid for two 1 minute flights each.  That might make it seem like in 4 minutes Troy and I would be on our merry way, but the way it worked was that we didn't get to go twice in a row, rather we were in a group of about 14 people and had to wait for everyone in our group to go once before we could go our second time.   There were a couple of very small children flying (I believe the younger limit to enter the wind tunnel is 3 years old) and it was quite entertaining watching them fly!  They were certainly braver than I was at that age.

I would definitely recommend this place to anyone who wants to experience skydiving without actually having to go skydiving.  Scaredy cats, this is for you!  This is probably the closest you will ever get to the experience, and you are completely safe the entire time, especially when compared to free falling from 10,000 feet!

Check out my flight experience on this 5-minute video (oh, and be sure to stay tuned for the instructors turn at the end... awesome stuff going on there)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Package from Stacy

This is the kind of stuff you get if you are lucky enough to get a package from Stacy!

  • 25 tea bags in the following flavors - 4 bigelow green tea (one with lemon), 5 twinings mint green tea, 3 salada green tea, 2 traditional medicinals organic chai, 1 traditional medicinals organic rose hips, 2 traditional medicinals organic lemon yerba mate, 3 bigelow orange and spice herb tea, 1 tian hu shan jasmine tea and 4 trader joes english breakfast tea
  • 2 packs Stride gum (spearmint)
  • 1 Bic pen (blue)
  • 1 pair chopsticks
  • 1 "Act for Autism" CVS puzzle pin
  • 2 deflated balloons (orange)
  • 1 child-proof safety outlet cover
  • 1 refrigerator frame with photo of Blake family
  • 1 framed photo of Olivia in tutu
  • 1 "I brake for Intercourse, PA" refrigerator magnet
  • 1 package of cookies and cream magic milk straws
  • 1 opened package of magnet sheets "create your own photo magnets"
  • 1 spool of purple ribbon
  • 1 goodie bag from Olivia's first birthday containing crayons (4), ringpop (watermelon), glow bracelet (that did not glow), ladybug bubbles
  • 1 dice keychain from Merv Griffin's Resorts
  • 1 dead bug in tuperware container

Friday, November 4, 2011

Swimming with the Manatees

A couple Saturday's ago, the Mchugh girls, Mr. Funk and I went swimming with the manatees at Crystal River with the "Manatee Tour and Dive company" ( http://www.manateetouranddive.com/ ).

What an awesome experience! I have gone snorkeling only twice before this - the first time was in Florida, and I really didn't have a terrific experience - it was before my laser eye surgery and I didn't realize before signing up that my glasses wouldn't fit under the goggles... so I wasn't even able to see the barracuda swimming below us; the second time was in Australia where I also didn't have a terrific experience - even though I could see, I had gotten seasick on the way out to the barrier reefs. That was my first time being seasick, and despite what you might have heard from other people, being seasick is NOT a good time! Anyway, this manatee snorkel was MUCH better than both of those experiences.

We started our journey off with a way too looooong car drive. It was early, and we were running late. Mr. T., my GPS, told us that we were going to be arriving about 15 minutes after our scheduled time... and then topped it off by calling us fools. 15 minutes isn't so bad... but unfortunately, we ended up hitting an unexpected pocket of traffic which pushed us to being 45 minutes late. Luckily the tour group waited for us to arrive before setting off on the river. Really though, that wasn't a huge surprise as we were the majority of the group...

Before we changed into our (provided) wetsuits, we were required to watch a movie about how not to bother the manatees. They are a protected species, and if you harass them in any way you can be fined or jailed. Of course, as far as I could tell, none of us came to annoy the manatees. Except perhaps Mr. Funk.

Anyway, after we watched the video, we suited up in the wetsuits and got into the boat. We looked pretty sexy, fo sho.

The boat traveled for about 10 minutes before anyone saw any manatees. To pass the time, our guide and Mr. Funk were wondering out loud what manatee meat might taste like. "I bet they are pretty fatty...." "No actually, you would be surprised, there really is very little fat on them!"

Eventually we got to the manatee zone. They require that you keep boat speed to a minimum in manatee areas, as they have a tendency to travel close to the surface and can easily be injured by boat motors. If you look at the back of a wild manatee, more likely than not you will see scars from past motorboat injuries.

Just then the guide perked up. "Ok guys and gals, look over there!" "There" there was a couple of manatees swimming around (or so he said, but I couldn't see them from the boat). The guide dropped anchor and said, "OK, this is it. When you get in the water, make sure that you don't touch the ground with your feet or you will kick up the sediment at the bottom and the water will look cloudier." We all kind of looked at each other... the water seemed like it was REALLY cold... and no one wanted to be first to get in. The water on this river is actually 72 degrees all year round, but as warm as that sounds, it can still cause hypothermia with prolonged exposure. The guide obviously saw our hesitation because he followed up with "Don't worry, I promise, the first 60 seconds are the worst, but then the water inside your suit will warm up." I turned to Mchugh #2 and said "also, I heard that if you are really cold, you can always pee in your suit to warm yourself up..." (true fact, I learned that in Australia - not that I peed in my suit of course) She looked at me like I had lost my mind. "Um, yeah... but I'm not planning on doing that!"

Mr. Funk decided to be the brave first soul to get in, and when he didn't freeze immediately into an ice cube I got in next. The experience pretty much went like this: "AHHHH! BRRRR... cold... cold..." chatter... chatter... "oh... my... god!!!!" "oh wait, ok, it's really not that bad.... lets find some manatees!"

I put my head in the water and began to swim towards the direction of the manatees. It wasn't very easy to see underwater, the river really was quite cloudy - hopefully this wouldn't result in me not being able to see the manatees. In order to closer to these gentle sea cows, we had to swim under the water to get past a pipe sectioning off the area. None of us wanted to swim under it and have our snorkeling gear completely under water... but this time I was the first to, shall we say, take the plunge?



Above you can see me swimming like a fish. I don't know who owns the house behind me, and I haven't a clue whether they like the fact that the people of Manatee Tour and Dive are bringing people to scuba dive in their "back yard"... Luckily no one came out to shake a fist at us. "You divers get off my yard!"



Anyway, eventually I was able to find one of the manatees, but he kept a pretty good distance from us. He was not in a friendly cuddly mood. Although the water really wasn't as clear as I would have wished... I did try to take a few pictures.

For the most part, I was trying to stay away from the rest of the crowd on our tour (it was actually just us and two other boys, only one of whom went in the water - so I guess it really wasn't much of a 'crowd').




Snorkeling is incredibly relaxing! All you have to do is float face down in the water. I wonder if this is what mob victims feel like? Though I do definitely prefer being a snorkeler.

I was swimming around looking at the manatees for another 15 or so minutes, hoping that one of them would come a bit closer to me (I really wanted to get that money shot for my blog) when suddenly I realized how quiet and empty it had gotten around me. I lifted my head up out of the water to see

where everyone else was, but all I saw was this:

Where were all my people? I looked over to the boat and saw that everyone (minus me) was in it. I am also pretty sure they were talking about me. I swam hurriedly back to the boat. "How long was everyone waiting for me?" I wondered out loud. Mchugh #1 said, "We all swam back one at a time as we got bored and cold. We were going to leave you! The tour's only two hours!"

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I looked around all the chattering teeth around me. o...k... I was a bit confused. Was that it? Were we all done? Is that all there is to a manatee tour? If that's all there is, my friend, then let's keep dancing!

I was very disappointed. I didn't think anywhere near two hours had gone by. Then Mchugh #2 said "I am NOT going back into that freezing cold water unless the manatees are doing back flips out there." Yay! So that means we were NOT done! We boated a little while longer until we got to the next spot.

"This next place you have about a 25% chance of seeing a manatee, but the snorkeling is really beautiful. To get to the good spot, all you have to do is go past those two white signs. There are all kinds of beautiful fish, turtles, and underwater plants." Mr. Funk was the one that spoke what we were all thinking. "Ummm... The signs that say 'danger'? Are you serious?" "Yes! It's really pretty in there!"

The two Mchugh girls decided that the water was too cold for them to get back into, and as they had already gone swimming with the manatees once before they were OK with missing the pretty and dangerous part of the river.

Mr. Funk was the first to jump in again and he headed straight for the signs. I jumped in next, and almost immediately I saw this little guy:

Mr. Funk had swum right past him without even stopping. You can actually see his feet in the above picture. I figured maybe he was more looking forward to seeing the pretty part in the dangerous river. Me, I wanted to get to know this little manatee better! The water was plenty clear in this part of the river, and the manatee seemed very photogenic!






I named him Mr. Freckles, just because I wanted the most absurd manatee name I could think of. Also, Mr. Freckles is a friggin cute name!

This picture makes me feel as though he is professing his undying love to me. Or saying, "Who, me?"











I loved this picture as well, his pose is fantastic!














And here he is, taking a little rest on the bottom of the riverbed! And you will be VERY happy to know that I did get some video of the manatee as well!




Having seen enough for now of Mr. Freckles, I decided to go off to the "pretty" area behind the dangerous signs. It really was nice snorkeling, lots of schools of fish, and interesting underwater plants. There were also a lot of leaves floating around... this must be the only way you could tell it is fall in Florida.

The current was extremely strong in the river, pushing back against me as I was trying to swim. Perhaps this was the rivers way of saying "Nooo! Go back! Danger!" but I am not known for listening to rivers.

Enjoy some of the pictures I took while snorkeling.


















I was trying to get a cool picture here of both above and below the water... it didn't turn out as good as I hoped it would though!







































Underwater growth...

















Here's a picture of me from underwater. My goggles kept fogging up on me for some reason. I think the guide said something about what to do if that happened but I am pretty sure I just wasn't paying attention to him...









There was a whole group of scuba divers in the river along with us. That is what I have to do next... learn to scuba dive. Gotta wait for the Groupon though :)


















Eventually I decided to try to get back to the boat. I say try because... well... as most people who know me will understand, my sense of direction leaves much to be desired. So I did get a bit turned around before I made it back to the boat. I thought maybe if I just went in the direction of the current (and let it carry me) I would easily find my way back, but I didn't want to take the chance of floating aimlessly down a river, so I had to ask directions from a passing scuba-ist.

After another quick stop to see Mr. Freckles, I was back on the boat with my peeps. On the boat ride back, we saw another manatee which had a floatie tied to its tail which marked its location. Our guide told us that it was a previously injured manatee that wildlife officials wanted to keep track of while it's being rehabilitated. We were not permitted to swim with this particular manatee. We watched as it rolled around and around under the water (I was thinking about how Mchugh #2 said she would only swim with a manatee doing back flips and wondered if this would have been close enough for her). The guide told us that while it looks like they are playing and having fun, the fact that the manatee was rolling around like that was a sign of extreme stress. Wanna check out the video? Go ahead!




One last thing that caught my attention during my manatee tour. Check out these ducks:



Yeah, they are fake. But when I was looking at them, I thought they were real. "Wow! Those ducks have been perfectly still for a while!" Don't laugh, my eyes were still blurry from the water and the camera can see closer up than I can. It reminded me of the time when Mchugh #1 and I saw an iguana in the street, and started directing cars around it so it wouldn't get hit. When we went to try to pick up the lizard... we realized it was just a toy. Yeah, we are that cool.

Anyway, we got back and changed into our warm clothes (that water really was freezing, especially after you get out.) and I just couldn't help myself. I had to visit the gift shot and by myself these!


Awww! Baby manatee pajamas! I also got the matching tanktop :) I am such a sucker for pajamas.

This was an awesome trip. I already am planning on going back the end of November or December when there are more manatees about. If anyone wants to join, let me know! Feel free to fly down to Florida. The weather here is FANTASTIC in November and December. At least compared to where most of you are...