Orlando FL, Saturday Feb. 21
So where is this envelope we are pushing?? Because Saturday was zip lining. Now for some of you that may be old hat. But I get vertigo when looking down from lofty, and some not so lofty, heights. Chris did her usual thorough research and found a zip line site that had multiple zips, did not require us to use hand brakes, and was run by an eco/naturalist conservancy so we could feel good about where our dollars were going to boot.
The Allen Broussard Conservancy was established by the parents of a young man who died of complications from Hodgkins disease at age 29. It consists of over 4700 acres of longleaf pine, wire grass, wet and dry prairies, sloughs, etc. The land was available because until the 1940s it was harvested for the pine timber and the products from the sap used for ships, particularly wooden ships. When the land was left barren, a Miami development company bought it and sold vacation lots to individuals. Since there were no roads and the land was zoned agricultural, the buyers were fleeced and the land later reverted to the state.
In 1969, the Broussards (William and Margaret) came here from Louisiana where the family had long been involved in ranching, including cattle and horses descended from the Spanish (remember Paynes Prairie a few days ago?). They still maintain a working ranch whose land will eventually be attached to the conservancy. The cattle on the ranch are grass-fed and the hamburgers we ate afterwards came from ranch cattle.
Their son, Allen, died in 1990 and the conservancy was born shortly thereafter. It is home to native trees and grasses, is a bird refuge, offers nature tours and summer eco-camps, and zip line adventures. Forever Florida is the adventure/camping arm. It is located about an hour southeast of Orlando.
Our adventure began with a ride on a swamp buggy to the zip line location. Our driver pointed out various animals and birds; our first alligator of this trip, an anhinga, green heron, egrets, etc. Several zip line adventures are offered, we took the basic seven zip lines, three skybridges, and ten connecting observation/loading/landing platforms. Overall, the zip line took about two hours plus assorted waiting times, harnessing up, etc.
The starting platform was 100 plus steps up into the tree tops. For us, some of the most nerve-wracking times were standing on these platforms as they swayed from the breeze and movements of the group of us. There were 11 zippers and two guides. At each location, the guides would explain the next zip, how to take off, and how to land. One guide would go to the next landing platform and “catch” us as we arrived. The other guide would harness us up to the zip line.
Their set-up involves dual line ziplines. It seems this is a rare type, most are a single line. The dual line creates less spinning. In addition, the landing set up allows one to land on the platform; Forever Florida’s previous, now outdated, zipline, ended in a post at which you had to stop yourself before running into it. Ouch!
The first zip was relatively easy, sort of to let us get used to the process. Once you realized that you could just sit in a crouch and that the harness would support you, your worries about holding yourself upright went away. Only two of the 11 people had ever zipped before. Only one of our group got sick/queasy during the seven zips-not Chris or I. Luckily that person was able to finish the course rather than being rappeled down.
Several of the zippers became adventurous and tried out various poses while zipping; Chris and I were more basic. You might sway a bit and supposedly the two harness straps would allow you to steer left and right but I was not very good at that. On one zip, we went backwards. Halfway through, we had to climb up from the landing platform to a second, higher platform to gain additional elevation to continue the journey.
I did manage a few pictures. You had to keep items safe in zipped pockets or in lockers at the starting point. Luckily my traveling pants have several zipped pockets as does my shirt. The weather was overcast so the pictures are not as sharp as I would have preferred.
Our next major event of the day was not until 7:30 pm so we walked around the property for a bit, had a late afternoon meal, and then drove back to Kissimmee, half-way to Orlando. The Kissimmee-Silver Spurs rodeo has been going on since 1944, with two rodeos per year. This is ranching territory. It bills itself as the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi. They had a full house last night, looked to be about 7000 people in the arena. I do not know how the largest is computed; the rodeo we went to once in St. Paul had more attendees and seemed to have the same general line-up of events.
Anyway, we arrived as the doors opened at 6:30 (remember, we did not have a lot else to do) and people watched for the next 60 minutes. The rodeo began with a very Christian opening prayer and an honoray salute to emergency responders. With my usual way of viewing things, I was not sure that having 8 guys in camo rappelling down from the balcony and aiming automatic guns at the spectators was a particularly great way to honor emergency responders but it was not my show to run.
We watched the usual events, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie down roping, etc. We were impressed with one contestant. He had been a rodeo cowboy, went to law school, became a judge and at 50+ went back to participating in rodeos. He did not place in the tie down roping contest. In saddle bronc riding, one contestant, Tyler Corrington, is from Hastings MN. We had seen him participate in the Calgary Stampede two years ago. However, he was scratched tonight and did not participate.
There were several instances of where the bull or horse was the center of attention when the cowboys riding shotgun could not control the animal after the event and were chasing it around the arena. One other time, a steer banged the clown in the barrel around half the arena before no longer being interested in the barrel.
A pleasant, but long, day. Today, Sunday, the temperature is likely to be in the low 80s with partly cloudy skies. We are going to take a day off from our work (traveling and seeing) to just take life easy, hopefully by the pool.
Ed and Chris Sunday Feb. 22 Noon