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Posted in March 2012

Sea World – Sea Venture!

Visit Orlando helped me to have several first time experiences and I was enthusiastic about most of them. However, this one really caused me to stress out. I wasn’t afraid of walking with marine life, I was terrified of feeling claustrophobic in the breathing helmet.

I arrived at Discovery Cove with a smile on my face and worry on my mind. Grand Reef’s innovative, new experience is called Sea Venture. It is an underwater walking tour and a dive helmet is worn so humans can breath. I have never been comfortable with the concept of scuba so I was fearful about this adventure.

The aquarist did his best to assure me that he would be by my side and I would be fine. There is even an informative orientation in which participants review the breathing apparatus. I was not at all anxious about being in the water with rays or sharks, I was anxious about how anxious I might get in the sea helmet.

The staff was very supportive and addressed my concerns, reassuring me at all times that I would be ok, and if I wasn’t they would be able to help me to get out of the water in a timely manner. I eased down the ladder and the dive helmet was placed on my head. I will admit that I had a momentary flutter of panic before I descended. However, the comfort of the helmet and flow of the air gave me the confidence to go for it.

This was a truly magical experience for me. I overcame another fear and enjoyed being below the surface. Rays soared overhead and I stood alongside hundreds of fish. The guides stuck close by and provided info on a wipe board explaining what we were seeing and what was coming next. They also took plenty of pictures with the underwater cameras lent to everyone by Discovery Cove. This was educational, exciting and a terrific addition to my 49 first time experiences before I turn 50.

Fantasy of Flight, The Bi-Plane!

Feeling the wind in my face and soaring in an open air cock-pit has always sounded like something I would enjoy. So when Visit Orlando sent me to Fantasy of Flight to experience flying in a real bi-plane, I was definitely excited.

Fantasy of Flight has an amazing collection of airplanes and an engaging, interactive tour that showcases the stories that go along with each, individual aircraft. I have never been a real history buff, but there is something really magical that brings these experiences to life. The owner and founder of Fantasy Of Flight, Kermit, is a true visionary and he uses all of this story telling to illustrate that anything is possible.

After learning a bit about the back-story of Barnstorming it was time to actually board the bi-plane to experience it first hand. I was required to wear head gear and eye protection because the wind was going to be quite intense. I sincerely felt no apprehension in doing this and completely confident with the pilot Waldo. I climbed in, buckled up and we taxied out on the grass tarmac to take off.

The feeling of speeding across the lawn and lifting off was very exciting. Once we were in the air, I was amazed at the smells coming from below. We flew over an orange grove and the strong scent of citrus was really powerful. I indulged all of my senses during the flight and found this to be very exhilarating. I am delighted that this is something to add to my 49 first time experiences.

Gatorland

If I had an actual bucket list, I am pretty sure feeding alligators would not be at the top of it. Probably not even on it at all. However, now that I have actually had the experience of feeding them, this was DEFINITELY one of my favorite things I have done with my 49 before 50.

Gatorland is home to thousands of crocodiles and alligators. Some of them have appeared in movies, tv shows and commercials, but I did not actually recognize any of them from their on camera work. This is one of Orlando’s very first attractions and has been open for 59 years. Gatorland has retained an authentic warmth and I am certain that it is because of their employees.

I was greeted at the gate by Tim. Tim is a seasoned herpetologist that actually has a relationship with many of the animals throughout the park. He talks to the gators and birds, and they sincerely respond to his voice. Tim genuinely loves these huge reptiles and is passionate about making each guest feel special. The first thing we did was to head back to feed the gators.

At first I truly thought that it would be “no big deal” to toss food to the alligators. However, once inside the enclosure, I was seriously scared. The gators are massive. Great big, giant, live animals with huge jaws, teeth and claws. You can take a look at the video to see the afternoon I spent at Gatorland. This was a first time experience for me and something to add to my list of 49 new adventures.

 

Hang Gliding!

I have always had a strong desire to hang glide. I didn’t think that the first time I actually did would be in Orlando though. I am so thankful to the folks at Visit Orlando and Wallaby Ranch for allowing me to add another notch to my 49 before 50 belt.

Hang gliding is all contingent upon the weather. Safety is the number one concern when it comes to this experience so all of the conditions have to line up just right in order to fly. This requires waking up particularly early in order to get in the air before the wind kicks up. The over tired sensation simply enhanced the dream like state I was in because I was doing something I have waited for a long time to do.

Malcolm owns and operates the Wallaby Ranch. He is open, warm, fun and carefree. After hang gliding just once, I can understand why he is so mellow. The experience of soaring is so different from anything I had expected.

The process is surprisingly simple. We went over the basic rules, strapped into the harness and before I knew it, we were flying. I anticipated an intensity; screaming WOOOO and feeling a massive surge of energy. However, it was one of the most peaceful things I have ever done. Once in the air, it is incredibly quiet and somewhat dream-like. Hopefully in the video you can see just how calm it was.

Faking It!

I figure by now we are all very close. I mean you have seen me in my bra and I share loads of secrets with you. I am going to let you in on another very personal fact about me – there is one thing I do all the time where I simply go through the motions and completely fake it…

Of course I am talking about WINE. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I know the difference between red and white. I know how to drink it. What I don’t know is what I am really supposed to do when the waiter brings me the cork and pours a small amount for me to taste, so I go through the motions and pretend that I do.

I know I am not the only person that does this, so I asked a wine expert, Nate at Napa restaurant located in The Peabody Orlando to help me to understand the basics of wine-tasting.

Dog Sledding in Alberta

My husband is truly a dog person. He grew up with dogs and probably enjoys them more then he likes being with people. On the other hand, I have been a bit of a reluctant latecomer to the world of embracing our four legged friends. When each of our two kids left for college, my hubby came home with a replacement child/rescue dog. These rescues make my heart happy and have turned my world around when it comes to love for pups.

It is a given that I am always up for a new adventure. When I discovered I could combine two passions into one experience I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Tourism Alberta promotes all kinds of Winter fun and invited me to participate in a Howling Dog Tours dog sledding experience. It was icy cold, snow filled and spectacular.

Each sled is pulled by seven dogs that truly seem to love what they are doing. Their excitement while being harnessed to the pull rope is demonstrated in howls, barks, jumps and genuine doggy enthusiasm. As a bit of a neurotic mom, I worried that they might be cold or didn’t really want to be outside pulling the sled, however, participating in this experience showed me otherwise. In fact, as we stopped for a little break, the doggies rolled in the snow, played with each other and appeared to be anxious to get back to the fun of pulling the sled. They are amazing athletes that truly enjoy their sport.

The people that care for the dogs LOVE them. There are wonderful back stories about each pup. Many of them are actually rescue dogs. They are given water with raw chicken in it to make sure that they drink and stay hydrated. These canines are cuddled, hugged, praised and loved by the staff at Howling Dog. I had an amazing adventure with our team :)

Ice Hike

I am not a cold weather person by nature. My idea of an amazing vacation usually includes a body of water like a heated pool or
moderate ocean temperatures. A Jacuzzi works too. So naturally, when my itinerary on my trip to Alberta featured an ice hike on a frozen creek, I wondered what I was doing there. However, since my 49 before 50 goal is to experience new things and push myself beyond what is my typically comfortable routine, I embraced the adventure…. and wow, I am glad I did.

Discover Banff Tours is a full service company that picked me up at my
hotel and drove me to about thirty minutes outside of the town of Canmare to Grotto National Park. The witty and knowledgeable guide informed me that this area is famous for not a lot of snow due to their annual precipitation and they are well known for wind and bitter cold. Big confidence boost.

The tour company provided me with ice grips and a cleat-like attachment that fits over one’s shoes. The guide also offered ice poles but I declined. We started off on our hike and it was COLD!!!

Once we moved into the canyon-creek area all of the wind disappeared. Tracks from wild-life in the snow, ice waterfalls and a peaceful beauty replaced the nasty weather. There were a few points that the hike was slushy but no major fear of breaking through the frozen ice. My mind was quiet and I felt exhilarated by the hike. I never feel more at peace than I do when I am deep in nature. I have realized that being comfortable doesn’t have to be a requirement for having a great experience.

Taking Flight!

My husband rarely wishes he could tag along with my 49 before 50 adventures, however today I got a text from him that was whiny in nature because he thought what I was doing was so cool. And he was right….

Flight Deck in Anaheim is home to real fighter jet flight simulators. Pilots actually train on these machines but at Flight Deck, the general public has the opportunity to take the controls and fly. As soon as I arrived I was greeted by one of the pilots, “Sparky”. He got me outfitted in a real flight suit and put me through an informative briefing session. Once we completed the introduction, I followed Sparky into the actual training room where real pilots were participating in dog-fighting combat training sessions.

I climbed into my aircraft and Sparky reviewed the different controls on the panel. There were so many buttons, lights and sticks that I was definitely overloaded. At first glance, these look like a complex video game but they aren’t. They are exactly like what the fighter pilots use on a daily basis and it is overwhelming. I closed the canopy and “took off”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the hang of it. Once I got in flight I struggled with evening out the aircraft and ultimately crashed. This looks like it should be a fun game, but it is intense and pressure filled. I am glad I did this and have learned that I should definitely leave the flying to someone else :)