14.04.2017 - 17.04.2017
My friend Donna and I recently visited the Sunshine State, and in the midst of the trip, I realized that I was experiencing numerous 'first-time' endeavors. And isn't that one of the great benefits of travel, anyway? Expanding one's horizons with experiences that make for hilarious, endearing and memorable tales.
First...Trip to the state of Florida
As of this trip, I have now visited 21 out of the 50 states in the U.S. (While that doesn't sound like a lot - don't forget, I've been all over Texas and California which are two of the biggest states in the nation.) I'm always excited to visit new places, and I enjoyed my first visit to Florida. I know that this state, too, is a vast and varied terrain, which I look forward to exploring even more in the future. For now, enjoy reading about my six other "first" experiences in this great state:
First...Beach on the Atlantic Ocean coast
That's right - as much as I've traveled all over the U.S., including many cities on the East Coast, I experienced my first Atlantic Ocean beach during this visit to Cocoa Beach. On Easter Sunday, we rented two lawn chairs and an umbrella which the staff kindly set up for us, and from there, we parked our selves on a spot of sand where we had a nice view of a surfing competition taking place that day. It struck me how incredibly windy it was near the water - like a torrential onslaught of whitecaps on the waves - but I guess that's what makes for a great surf. Someday, I want to learn how to get up on a board myself, but for this day, I happily reclined, watched the scenery and read my book. A couple times, I did brave the crisp 60s/low 70s blustery temperatures to submerge into the comforting, refreshing ocean water. (It was totally worth the 20 minutes of shivering and shaking wrapped in my towel on the lawn chair in the sunshine afterward.)
First Time...Eating Alligator
One night, I got dared to try eating a unique appetizer during dinner at a local seafood restaurant. The meat itself was a little bit rubbery and extra chewy, but the tangy dipping sauce that came with the fried alligator meat made it taste pretty good. In small doses, it's worth a try.
First Time...Holding an Alligator!
After playing 36 holes of mini-golf at the Golf N Gator, we walked over to the nearby reptile cages where the staff let us hold a live creature. The look on my face says it all. The excitement, mixed with nerves and a little bit of guilt that I had eaten, well, something the prior night. If you're in the mood for some putt-putt, seeing some reptiles up close (including fenced off along the perimeter of your golf course)...and panning for jewels, it's good times at the Golf N Gator. This was probably my favorite idea and experience for an Easter activity, ever.
Wow, so many powerful flavors in one concoction. The minty taste and sinus-obliterating scent almost took my breath away in every delicious sip. While hanging out and talking with my travel buddy, I realized towards the end of the drink that the surrounding scenery started to look a little bit swirly...even while I was still sitting down. I hilariously realized that I was a little bit buzzed. Don't worry, I didn't get sick, I only had the one beverage, and I successfully walked back to our very close-by hotel room, in spite of the perceived "tilting".
First...Visit to NASA at Cape Canaveral
What an amazing place. I had no idea until I saw it for myself how vast and comprehensive the Kennedy Space Center really is; this is where real science and innovation has and continues to take place. At the same time, the Visitor Complex is like a mini Disneyland (or should I say, Disney World, since this is Florida). It's not just your average tourist attraction or "museum" information displays that you're viewing here. You're looking at the actual spacesuits, the computing equipment, and even the shuttle itself. (Yep, you can see the Atlantis shuttle, which had been in use for 20 years.) Another cool feature of this place: There is a bus tour where you can drive past the launch sites. (In fact, side note, we missed by one day being in town for a scheduled launch!) I also loved learning more info about NASA's prep and plans for a manned mission to Mars in the next 15 - 20 years. If and when that happens, I'm scheduling a trip to see that epic launch!
First Time...Touching a Moon Rock
Amidst the numerous cool displays in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, it's easy walk past one particularly neat feature...the opportunity to literally touch something that did not originate on this planet. This one piece of solid matter had a very smooth, polished feeling to it - not at all what I would expect.