Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lion Country Safari - A Blast From My Past.

DSC_8680The year was 1976. Dad drove Mom, myself, and my 3 sisters from Philly, PA to South Florida in the old Galaxy 500 station wagon, middle of August - NO A/C. Today that would be considered child abuse I think. Back then it was windows open and the back of the hand if we got out of line. Our only break from the oppressive heat was
Lion County Safari.

You can't very well roll through the park with the windows down so Dad was forced to rent a car with air conditioning at a nominal fee. Even though we stopped off at Disney, this was the most vivid memory of that trip. I always assumed the other memories simply boiled away in my skull.

We moved to Florida in 1978 and took several trips to the park to entertain visiting relatives. My last trip was before my daughter was born so it's been over 25 years.

Except for a few select animals who might be especially dangerous, the rest are roaming free. I was having little trouble driving and shooting photos of them. Some were quite interested in stopping traffic and inspecting vehicles. The Ostriches in particular on this trip seemed particularly interested in blocking the road. Many years ago it was a Rhino that I saw bump into a car. In cases like that - the Rhino wins.
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For my latest trip I chose a particularity hot day. I know from my experience at the zoo, this is usually a poor choice if you want to see animals up and about. Not so at Lion Country Safari. Pretty much every critter was roaming on the way to somewhere. I can't count the number that crossed the road. Some of the lions were napping and the ones who were active were drawing a small traffic jam. As I was waiting to proceed, a lioness just strolled down the fence line and posed for photos.

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If you rather see my shots then venture out and get your own [click here]. I can guarantee visiting is better.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Florida Air Tours - Best Birthday Ever!

I wanted to do something unusual for my 55th Birthday. Something more unusual than the crazy stuff I usually do each year. I blew a chance to fly in a WWII bomber once so I thought I would give that a try. Of course as with all lost chances, it was on the other side of the country this year. I learned long ago the only things I've regretted in life are the things I didn't do.


P1010236 Not willing to give up so easy I found something even better. A WWII, open cockpit Waco biplane. Even with my history of adventure I had to stop a second and consider if this was for me. Yep - Exactly One Second. Booked it without hesitation. The price is about the same if you have one or two riders so the biggest challenge was finding a co-pilot.

P1010215I have spent a lot of time in both Orlando and Cocoa Beach and every once in a while I've seen the Florida Air Tours planes circling overhead. I went Hot Air ballooning in Orlando a while back so I chose Cocoa as the destination for this flight.

When you click on the link the first thing you may notice, it's not exactly cheap. I would have opted for the aerobatic upgrade at a nominal additional cost but my travel partner would never have gotten in the plane. We found out after the flight about 50% of the people go all the way and many are return customers. There is little doubt I will be one of those.

P1010107So what is it like? Smooth. From take off to landing it was like floating.... with a really loud, hot,100 mile an hour wind just outside the windshield. I had no problem sticking my small camera outside the plane but my long lens cameras would have been useless.

P1010220One thing to be aware of, all the controls the pilot uses are within easy reach.... So DON'T TOUCH. Simple rule, easy to remember. That and the plane is made of fabric so don't break it getting in and out. No problem, just walk like a cat. After you memorize those safety tips, you get a really cool, WWII helmet and you hop right in. No kidding - There is no real big lead up. You park your car and 10 minutes later watch it get tiny from the air.

Our pilot was very laid back and having as great a day out as we were. Seemed like we all had fairly stressful jobs normally and what better way to relax than to jump in a vintage flying machine and cruise the beach. Granted he had a bit more to do but I think he enjoyed himself more as it was our first flight and he has hundreds under his belt.
The Pilot - Yes he sits in the back.

I managed to shoot a few videos as well. Hopefully they give give you a sense of the experience. 

Now I'm going to need a new friend to help split the cost of the aerobatic package so feel free to write me here at BobCarlsonBlog@gmail.com and lets see what we can work out. 

Take Off - Smooth as it looks

That's NASA down there.