18,000 Foot Tandem Skydive from Skydive Space Center @ Titusville, Florida

This Saturday morning, a good buddy had drove us out to Titusville, Florida to go on 18,000 Foot Tandem Skydive at Dunn Airpark. Now, this idea had floated around in my head for few months; however, I had remained non-committal to the adventure until another set of travel plan fell through last minute. Buying the skydive Groupon on a Thursday, my focus initially was just on making the roaster for Saturday jumps.

Upon arriving at Skydive Space Center at 7:15 AM on this Saturday morning, I hadn’t realized the gravity of jumping out of a “perfectly good working plane.” Yet, my buddy was extremely anxious. His anxiety had culminated in sweating profusely while filling out waiver paperwork. Amazingly, this plane ride was his third flight lifetime. After getting checked-in, some of the instructors had sized us up with  harnesses. They then had pulled us aside in groups providing instructions for body positioning for the actual jump. The tipping point for my fear of heights had precipitated with the first propeller engine roaring on. This was eclipsed by learning I was going to be the the first customer out the cabin door. After final strap check and round of instructions, the videographer, Derek, had positioned himself first out the door. Then quick moment after, my skydiving guide, Mark, had propelled us across the threshold into the open air.

In freefall, I was treated to an awesome view of the Titusville, Florida coastline. It had looked lush and pristine from above.  After about a minute, the free fall had shifted to controlled decent with the parachute deployment. I was provided an opportunity to steer the parachute. In difference to steering a hang glider, the parachute was intuitive and mirrored your arm movements naturally. After this exercise, my skydiving guide had provided final guidance on landing. The landing itself was remarkable for the small amount of real estate being targeted. The landing though quick, was firm and controlled. After standing up, I had looked back to see my buddy cruise down out of the air with huge smile. It was remarkable  turnabout. Despite the nerves earlier, it was definitely half the fun of selecting this travel outing.

Some things to consider, if you had wanted to go try out this experience. One, consider wearing glasses instead of contacts was a thought. My left contact was dislodged by the air pressure into my goggles. Two, expect a nasal drain after landing, think my sinuses had drained for good 30 minutes afterwards. This was also true for my friend. Three, as far as Skydive Space Center, private GoPro usage was prohibited leaving you with minimum $100 purchase for event media (i.e. video and pictures). Lastily, I had suggested gym shorts for comfort in the harness. All in all, the experience was one of a kind, simply phenomenal. I had recommended this to anyone with a sense of adventure.

Read More:
Skydive Space Center (www.skydivespacecenter.com)

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Unexso Shark Dive at Shark Junction, Saturday, June 28th 2014 @ Freeport, Grand Bahamas

For my 26th dive overall, I had selected a trip out to Shark Junction with Freeport’s Unexso dive shop. For traveling across the Atlantic from Port Everglades, my buddy and I had picked up a day cruise from Balearia Bahamas Express from Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Bahamas for $120 US. Summary on the commute, it was about seven hours total working through customs. In retrospect, I had wished making this kind of effort for a multi-day visit.

After arriving in Freeport, the next major step was the 30 minute taxi ride to Unexso. For reference, the location of the shop was in the market place next to the Pelican hotel. As far as equipment rentals, we had asked for the $40 upgrade to rent BCDs, fins, regulators, weights, and a mask; however, we had opted to bring our own masks and dive computers. The push on the dive computers, the shop had skipped on wanting to attach our wireless transmitters to their regulators. After a brief meal and rain storm, the boat had headed out to sea. Getting to Shark Junction had took about 10 minutes. During this time, Jarvis, our shark feeder, had provided a rundown of the forthcoming action under the water. One reservation about this excursion was sitting statically on the sea floor. The reason for sitting in a single file profile for the divers was reducing any room or motion for open jaws. Apparently, the grey reef sharks had a disposition to key off sudden movements when hunting prey. The dive instructions on hands was keep them close to your body and avoid moving them out into the open water.

Descending at Shark Junction, all the visiting divers were placed in a row along the front of a downed boat. From here, we had prepared for the underwater show starting with a hungry stray grouper. Unfortunately for the grouper, he was shushed away but not before becoming irate, changing colors from dark brown to a white pattern and back. After few moments, the dive master had started working from right to left in front of his audience doling out food to the hoarding sharks. The sharks had behaved very similar to hungry dogs waiting for a treat. On the flip side, the several grouper in the area were fairly head strong constantly trying to sneak in for a bite. This underwater adventure had lasted for about 30 minutes before shifting to an ascent.

On the returning cruise ship, a passenger had asked me about my fear of sharks on the dive. The response was simple “My only fear was running out of air.” After watching sharks feed in close proximity, it was extremely obvious the focus of their attention, fish. If you had wanted to personally challenge your phobia of sharks, suggest a similar dive. The only question for myself that remains was,”What kind of sharks to see next?”

Read More:
Balearia Bahamas Express (ferryexpress.com)
Unexso Grand Bahama Island (www.enexso.com)
Grey Reef Shark (Wikipedia)
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Top 5 Most Viewed Nature Blogs @ GarzaFX.com

Over the past year, I had published over 200 entries talking about food to film to fancy; however, nature related posts had made up a good chunk of reoccurring traffic from the Internet. These specific locations I had enjoyed showcasing either because of their remoteness or calming affect upon my person. Here were the Top 5 Most Viewed Nature Blogs @ GarzaFX.com

  1. Cape Canaveral Seashore National Park – New Smyrna Beach, Florida20131001-194755.jpg
  2. Wildcat Lake Park @ Ocala National Forest, Florida20131115-222214.jpg
  3. Pope Still Hunt Camp, Apalachicola National Forest @ Crawfordville, Florida20131103-170549.jpg
  4. Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest @ Salt Springs, FloridaSalt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest @ Salt Springs, Florida @ GarzaFX.com
  5. Hawk Mountain, Georgia on the Appalachian Trail @ Chattahoochee National Forest20140101-195156.jpg

Barracuda Reef Dive off the Sea Experience, June 8, 2014 @ Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Second dive of this day, I was able to get around without my wet suit moving constantly in the ocean. I hadn’t seen any barracudas for the Go Pro video below; however, I had seen schools of grunts and jacks, a grouper, a queen angel fish, a yellow hog fish, and wrasses. The only creature undocumented on the final edit was a turtle. Holding on the dive flag had also provided an even flow to some of my camera work. The video I had composed using  Go Pro Hero 3+ Black Edition, MacBook Pro and iMovie. Think I was fairly jazzed putting the video together. Adding the track Solar Sailor from Daft Punk to the video, I had thought ideal counterpoint for drift diving.  As far as air consumption,  I was clocking an acceptable number with my PSI on the scuba tank on a 40 minute dive with 1500 psi leftover. Below were the stats from my Suunto Viper Air dive computer for this outing. In retrospect, lots of  elements were ideal on this dive with air temperature at 91 degrees F, warm seas at 82 degrees F and oodles of video. It had  epitomized everything that makes scuba diving fun! barracuda reef drift dive @ garzafx.com barracuda drift dive @ garzafx.com 

Read More: Sea Experience (seaxp.com)  

The Stuffed Pig and the Sombrero Resort @ Marathon, Florida

On a brief road trip through the Florida Keys, I had ended up staying two nights in Marathon, Florida. On this adventure, two things had worked in Marathon’s favor versus Key West. The two differences were the cost of getting a room, about 50% less and being equidistant between Key Largo and Key West. Upon checking into the room at the Sombrero Resort and Marina, the amenities were acceptable but, worthy of a 2 out of 5 stars on various travel websites. The WI-FI, though free, was unable to transmit any data. Despite the dreary Internet connectivity and the windy weather, the friendly front desk staff were polite and accommodating. They also had produced an interesting suggestion for dining at a nearby place called The Stuffed Pig.

The great thing about the Stuffed Pig were the selections of eclectic seafood options on the menu and the outside seating area. On consecutive mornings, I was seated inside their front of house. After review of the menu, I had ordered up Shrimp & Grits. This entree was composed of grilled shrimp with grits with sprinkling of cheddar on top. It had also come with portion of smokey crisp bacon, two eggs and toast. The only difference between the first and second day, I had added on a side order of conch fritters day one. The summary on the Stuffed Pig, I had enjoyed both meals enough to clear the plates clean. For myself, that dining experience had made the stay in Marathon, Florida worthwhile.

The Stuffed Pig is located at 3520 Overseas Hwy, Marathon, FL 33050

Sombrero Resort & Marina is located at 19 Sombrero Boulevard, Marathon, FL 33050

Read More:
Marathon, Florida (Wikipedia)
The Stuffed Pig (thestuffedpig.com)

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Tenneco Towers East Dive off the Sea Experience, June 8, 2014 @ Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Tenneco Towers East was one of the more challenging dives out of my twenty-five to date. This day on the boat had started out with my buddy’s cylinder order being mixed up with 21% regular oxygen blend versus a Nitrox blend of 32%. After securing the correct tanks, he had run into a busted o-ring when setting up his gear. Both of us also had issues with our regulators leaking air from one location or another. Luckily, the dive master from the Sea Experience was extremely helpful in securing my wireless transmitter and my friend’s run to his BCD.

After getting out to sea, I had run into a two issues right out of the gate. First my buoyancy was way off  preventing a controlled descent. Second, one of my fin straps had come loose approaching the boat ladder. After getting back on the Sea Experience, I was provided an additional 4 more lbs. of weights. After re-entering the ocean, I had easily converged with my buddy patiently waiting at the top of Tenneco Towers East. We then had started our decline down the slop of the top of the structure.  Originally, we had planned to spiral around the tower but, the strong current and my earlier missteps didn’t allow for keeping with our dive plan. After our last air check, my friend had realized the necessity to work up to a safety stop; however, I had lost view of him moving to the boat anchor. With rising bubbles and silhouettes from other divers, my view of him was totally obstructed. Amazingly, he had seen me the entire time looking down the rope for the anchor.

After getting topside again, I had found my dive buddy seated at the front of the deck. We soon had engaged about the miscommunication under the water and the break in visual contact. The fundamental faux pas had centered around dumping our planned movement and properly signaling with our hands to ascend outright. I had thought for myself, “Lesson learned. Keep it simple stupid!” With my dive relatively unsuccessful with about 23 minutes submerged time, the silver lining was firing up a newly acquired Go Pro gathering my first dive footage. To that end, I had posted a video below that I think truly communicates the unworldly feel of Tenneco Towers.

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Created with Go Pro Hero 3+ Black Edition, MacBook Pro, and  iMovie.

Read More:

Sea Experience (seaxp.com)