Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Following Snakes . . .On Twitter

I just started following the missing Bronx Zoo cobra on Twitter ( @BronxZoosCobra ). This "snake" has more than 140,000 followers and has only been on Twitter since Monday. Which got me thinking. Perhaps to promote tourism in the Sunshine State, we could convince Disney's Animal Kingdom to "lose" a monkey, who could then start Tweeting his adventures. This would be much more believable than a snake Tweeting as far as I'm concerned. A monkey has "fingers" which would allow him to Tweet easily from his iPhone. A snake only has his tongue and tail.

Should we start a quiet campaign to get Animal Kingdom on board with this?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Florida Roadside Retail

Traveling the back roads through small towns in Florida provides shop-a-holics with a whole new category of retail to enjoy. I call it Roadside Retail.

Whether I'm traveling on long trips or short trips, I find it greatly amusing to keep track of all the different "items" you'll find advertised for sale along the roadway. You might expect to see signs offering the traditional boiled p-nuts, fruit and produce, but here are some of the other great deals I've personally cataloged in recent years.

Goats, piglets, pot belly pigs, and emu.
Jerky - including alligator jerky
Hammocks, hand carved wood furniture and porch swings
Farm equipment, boats, RVs, cars and motorcycles
Worms and other bait for fishing
Silk floral arrangements
Firewood and mulch
Sculpture made from driftwood
Hot sauce and homemade relish
Fried fish and bbq
Pre-made Easter baskets
A variety of large stuffed animals
Above ground pools
Handmade turquoise jewelry

Surely you've purchased a few unique items in your Florida travels from independent entrepreneurs. What did you buy?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'll get you my pretty!!!

Dear Scout the Stinky Corgi:

You thought you were very clever when you managed to scrub off your cone outside someplace where I cannot find it no matter how far and wide I search. See, the problem is, you need to wear that cone to let the sore on your back heal. My intentions are pure I assure you. I'm sorry to say your "hide the cone" plan did not work. I have found a replacement for it. A pink tutu.

And you thought the cone was embarrassing. Bet you wish you had it back now.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday at Marineland

I spent a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at Marineland. Did you know that Marineland (now called Marineland Dolphin Adventure) is the oldest marine attraction in the U.S.? In addition, one of the park's residents - Nellie - is the oldest dolphin in the world born in human care. She celebrated her 58th birthday in February.

I spent about 2 hours at the park and really enjoyed talking to the volunteers. There were 3 volunteers "on deck" while I was there. Two retirees and a college student. Their job was to answer questions about the dolphins and work with the visitors who were there for one of the "dolphin experiences," including a swim with the dolphins program and a touch and feed program. These folks loved their "job" and they agreed with me that Marineland is one of Florida's best kept secrets. And that's a shame.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Marineland since I visited so many times as a kid. It was the only "theme park" for miles back then, and even if it hadn't been, it would have been my favorite. This Florida girl was raised right - brought up to love and appreciate the dolphin (and seaturtle, too).

What makes Marineland a good alternative to the big Sea World park, in my opinion, is that it is an intimate, quiet park right on the ocean. You can stand on the deck under the shade of an umbrella and watch the dolphins swim, then turn around and watch the waves wash onto the beach. You can't do that at Seaworld. And if you want a chance to see (and touch) a dolphin up close, this is the place. Their classes are very small - no more than 12 people - and you get a lot of one-on-one time with the trainers and the 12 dolphins in residence. Plus, when it comes to education, conservation and research, Marineland leads the way. They've been the home of the University of Florida Whitney Lab for Marine Bioscience since the mid 1970s and were recently purchased by the Georgia Aquarium, which should ensure their viability for decades.

I'm hoping you will help me share this secret. Marineland, located on AIA between St. Augustine and Flagler Beach, is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. You can register for several of the different dolphin encounter programs, however, you can also just visit and see the dolphins and enjoy the afternoon (like I did) for only $8.50 adults and $4 children.

Visit them online at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Summer Camp Shuffle

Tennis. Ballet. Art. Swimming. Photography. Horseback riding. We’ve tried them all.
Since it will soon be time to pick a summer camp for the kids, I thought I’d share - or commiserate, depending on how you look at it - my experiences with summer camp for MiniMe.

I was thrilled to discover that MiniMe was great at tennis. But her enthusiasm for the sport was in opposition to her ability. She made a precious ballerina but outgrew the tutus after age 6. While she’s very creative, art classes just didn’t seem to resonate. She’s been swimming like a fish since she was 2 (big shout out to the YMCA’s swim instructors), but only enjoyed "playing" in the pool and couldn’t stay in her lane. Photography was a successful endeavor, if you consider finding 42 pictures of the dog on your digital camera a triumph. Horseback riding? I won’t even go there.

All of these were excellent summer camp programs; it’s just that no matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve been unsuccessful in finding an activity that MiniMe will stick with. Until this year.

Turns out I have a "Drama Queen" (as if I didn’t already know that). MiniMe participated in the Children’s Musical Theatre summer camp last summer and finally found her passion. She’s continued to take part in this outstanding program and I’ve been proud of her effort and dedication. It’s rewarding to see her experience the enjoyment that comes from working hard to perform on stage.

It’s always difficult if not frustrating to find just the right activity for your child. Or maybe that’s just me. How about all of you?  What was your kid’s favorite summer camp?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Attracted to the Florida Roadside

Quirky roadside attractions are what the Florida tourism industry was built on. Even though that industry has become dominated by a mouse, there are still plenty of Old Florida attractions to see throughout the state. On a recent ride through Crescent City, I came across one of my favorite Florida drive-thrus. The "honor system citrus stand."

Not only is the produce fresh and locally grown, the fruit stand is self-serve. I can't be sure, but I'm thinking that you wouldn't find a self-serve, honor-system drive thru in New York City. But, thankfully, you can still find a few of these locally-owned roadside businesses throughout the Sunshine State. One of my other favorites is the Biggers Apiaries honey stand near San Mateo on SR 100, which has been operating on the honor system for over 60 years in that location.

There under the shade of a giant old oak, you can pull off the road and purchase orange blossom honey, wildflower honey or tupelo honey. Drop your money in the box and continue on your way.

Another curious off-the-beaten-path sight worth seeing is the Indian River Fruit Stand at the stoplight intersection of SR17 and SR40 in Barberville. You may know it for its 8ft tall roosters.

This Barberville market has been attracting customers locally, nationally and internationally looking for the unusual for more than 20 years. There are 451 different items, totaling 1,000 pieces to choose from on the 4-acre property shaded by towering moss-covered oaks. Looking for a sculpted metal flying pig? How about a 24 ft giraffe statue? Oversized hand-carved teak furniture from Indonesia on your list? The startling sculptures large and small include farm animals, dinosaurs, jungle creatures and the fantastic. Oh, and you can also pick up locally produced honey and citrus.

The current owners Carlos Pendola and Sandra Tedder say their most expensive item is a 12 ft figure of Atlas priced at $5,500. The “giant roosters” go for $2,300. But there’s something at every price point. The art and fruit business accepts cash, credit or check and can even arrange shipment and delivery.

Ok, it's not operating on the honor system, but can you honestly say you can purchase a giant chicken in your hometown?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Daytona Beach Bike Week and Me

When I first landed in Daytona Beach in 1995, I really did not like Bike Week. It was loud, our streets were crowded and the bikers made me a little nervous (especially so many of them at one time - like a gang!). Now I've embraced it. Especially since I realize that "loud noise" is actually the sound of money coming to our area.

I guess you could say I've not only embraced Bike Week, I've become one of them. Check out the photo of me on my new motorcycle with a serious case of helmet hair.

I've even had the opportunity to become an official Bike Week blogger. This job allows me to write every day, meet and talk to a lot of interesting people and increase my social media presence. In fact, I was invited last week by a local hotel to a Blogger/Tweetup media event. While I had fun and got to "meet" a lot of the people I "follow" in person, what was even better was to see a business in the travel industry fully embrace social media and look at us bloggers and tweeters with newfound respect. Turns out we matter. Who'd of thunk it?

I recommended a few of my blogger friends to the organizer in case they are looking to work with other social media experts - so don't be surprised if you get a call or email.

This weekend kicks off 10 days of Bike Week. I actually get paid to go out and enjoy it - something I'd do anyway, for free. Shhh. Don't tell anybody.