Sunday, July 26, 2009

Segway Tour

Another thing I've always wanted to try is a Segway tour or ride. I've seen then a few times, on TV shows such as Arrested Development, in movies such as Paul Blart: Mall Cop, even on other tours - when I was in DC for the MCM last October, I walked right by a group taking a guided tour on Segways. It looked fun so after digging around a bit, I found that Segway of Central Florida offered a historic tour of nearby Mount Dora.

My friends Amy and Christine and I showed up a few minutes early, and started getting used to the Segways. They are very sensitive - we quickly found out that it doesn't take much leaning at all to make the Segway go forward. Turning was done by pulling the central handle left or right, and that's about it. After doing figure 8's in the store for a few minutes, we headed out for the tour.

The tour itself began in a park, with a view of the lighthouse. Almost immediately, we went offroad onto grass, which the Segway handled quite well. We quickly got comfortable controlling the Segway - it really didn't take much time at all.

Mount Dora Lighthouse
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
This lighthouse is on Lake Dora, and is the only lighthouse on a freshwater lake in Florida.

We wound our way through Palm Island Park, through a nice neighborhood and Gilbert Park, up Mount Dora (a towering 100 feet or so), and through downtown. Our guide filled us in with information about the B&B's we passed, the original general store and lakefront dock, sites of historical interest such as the location of the fire and police station, so-and-so's original house, and so on. Granted, Mount Dora doesn't have the adventurous or exciting history of other cities, but it was enjoyable enough on top of the Segway ride. It began as a factory town and added more when a railroad was built, and these days it hosts a lot of festivals, from art to bicycling events.

Our Segways had a speed limiter of 8 mph, which I immediately translated to the running pace of 7:30 min/mile. We are all runners and I joked that I could qualify for Boston if I could ride a Segway the whole time. Halfway through the tour, the guide showed us how to take it out of "slow" mode, upping the max speed to 12 mph, or a rather speedy running pace of 5:00 min/mile. We didn't have any trouble with the extra speed, and zoomed away for the rest of the tour.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tomato Plant

One thing I've learned about myself over the past 6 years of home ownership, is that I basically despise yardwork. There are tasks I don't mind but still don't like (trimming bushes), tasks I hire out (lawn mowing), and everything else (weeding and so on) I would just rather not do. I see myself looking for townhomes and/or condos in the future, to avoid a large lawn to take care of. :)

About the only thing I do "enjoy" is growing tomatoes. My friend Mai gave me this plant for Christmas, and it has reliably produced a handful of tomatoes every 4 to 6 weeks. That isn't enough to feast on, but they do make an occasional salad extra tasty. All I have to do is water it and shovel a bit of fertilizer/topsoil in now and then. Easy enough even for me to do!

Tomato Plant
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
This sad looking tomato plant is the extent of my enjoyable gardening efforts.

Maybe I'll branch out into growing simple herbs or green onions - edible plants that do well in pots.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Surfing Lessons

Another activity I wanted to try is surfing. So today, Mai, Charles, Diana, and I drove over to Cocoa Beach, FL to take a group lesson. Our executive summary is: we had fun, but not enough so that we're going to buy a board and take it up as a hobby.

The lesson started with some safety information, about rip tides, jellyfish, and sting rays, and then we practiced getting up on the board. The motion isn't too difficult: you lay on the board with your hands at your ribs, do a pushup while looking up and sliding your feet forward into a crouch, stabilize, and then stand up (keeping knees bent). We tried a few times in a building before walking over to the beach.

As beginners, we were given foam surf boards. Really long ones. Mine was probably 9 feet tall or so, which made it a bit unwieldy! The foam boards are softer so they don't hurt as much if they bang into you, and they are wider/longer for better stability. Afterwards I asked about the fiberglass surfboards and the instructor said those turn and slide through the water faster, which makes them tougher to learn on.

We practiced hopping up on the boards for a few more minutes, and then headed out into the water. Once out there floating on our boards, the instructor would hold us still while we got ready, and then helped launch us as a wave came by.

All of us had our share of falls, but over the two hour lesson, we each had a few successful rides to shore - stood up and surfed in for a few seconds at least! We would take turns and move back for more.

The unexpected thing for me was how tiring it was getting back out from the shore. Those long foam boards proved to be a challenge to move through the swells, on the way back out. To get decent practice, we were far enough out where the water was almost over our heads, and a few times I was swept off my feet towards the beach. Hopping on and paddling all the way out also proved tiring. I felt wimpy because we were in small waves, probably four feet at the most, and I'm sure serious surfers wouldn't even consider what we tried as surfing at all. We were on the skiing equivalent of a bunny slope the entire time, but at least at a ski resort a lift takes you back up. I can see why surfers work up a huge appetite after a few hours, given the work involved in getting back out for more!

After we finished up with the lesson and rinsed off the salt water, we ate lunch at a nearby taco stand, and went back to the beach for a bit. We walked back out in the water and had a great time just bouncing up and down with the waves - almost as fun as surfing with a lot less effort. ;) Well that isn't fair, I'd try it again if the opportunity came up. But I think I'd be more likely to get a boogie board, for riding waves.

Surf School
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
I'm a graduate! Along with Mai, Charles, and Diana.

Friday, July 17, 2009


One place I wanted to visit before I leave Florida is the Everglades.

I searched around and found a tour company (Dragonfly Expeditions) that has a really fun sounding multi-day tour. The itinerary is packed: visit a fishing village, stargazing, hike, photography, biking, canoe adventure, etc. So I made an inquiry... and found out that they don't run the tour during the summer, due to heat and mosquitoes. I can understand that!

But lately the local paper has been filled with stories that make me NOT regret visiting the Everglades... it seems the Burmese python population is out of control and the state is launching an effort to reduce the population. This follows from several stories about a pet python that killed a 2 year old girl - in this case the pet owner didn't lock the python properly.

So I think I will pass on an Everglades visit. Maybe I'll get a book or DVD instead. ;)