Sometimes secrets are just a left turn off the highway on a road trip in Florida.
Sometimes secrets are just a left turn off the highway on a road trip in Florida.
At the end of a road trip, I think Americans look for an epiphany. As we age, the road less traveled is more about introspection than a place. Visiting eleven Florida parks in five days, the common thread for myself is a calm in motion and at rest.
This journey is now beyond the constraints of ego, rather a gift of time spent with nieces and a nephew. The lesson from a hospital bed a year ago is converting possibilities. An opportunity for them I hope, looking into a future with road trips and experiences of their own into reality.
In these images of water, earth and sky, there is a liberation from the confines of an ivy drip. Freedom from the mindset that rationalizes consuming emptiness transmitted over a wire or radio signal. My aim is never a question of where, rather whom I share this fragile existence with. Before life’s undertow takes one’s last breath, step forward, drive on and reach out into the cool blue water.
This cluster of vents is located at the back of Juniper Springs Recreation Area. Always best to visit when the park opens. The morning silence gives way to Cardinals, turtles and hikers.
More information check out;
Dive #74. So what ya’ might already know about Blue Springs in Orange City? The surrounding waters are popular for swimming, free diving and floating away on inter-tubes during warmer weather. If lucky, you might even see gators basking in the sunlight and other indigenous aquatic life moving around the waterline.
Approaching the spring head, the strength of the current increases significantly. At times, one can walk or swim on the far right in the shallows avoiding possible over exertion. The fallen tree laying across mouth of the entrance is about 15 – 20 feet deep depending on rain fall. After breaching this depth, if certified for cave diving, you can choose to go down all the way to the cavern between 90 – 120 feet. We stop at a depth of 55 feet. For my outing, it is one of two diagnostic runs for checking equipment and physical recovery from a surgery in March 2018. Some may describe the dive as pedestrian but, Blue Springs provides a nice warm up if out of practice before heading to the big blue ocean or new to diving. Looking skyward in the crevasse, bubbles illuminate in the water column while exhaling into the penetrating sunlight. The imagery is eerie yet, calming.
Before the trip, the folks at Seminole Scuba dive shop did offer tips on an early arrival with a possibility of sighting a baby manatee. How early is the question? Due to the high volume of traffic, the park does get full on summer weekends. On this Sunday, we arrive at 6 AM, a full two hours before gates open at 8 AM. The rangers close the park around 9 AM due to full capacity. Being the first divers in line, the payoff is viewing three adult manatees and two calves around the boil prior to our descent. This marks the first time I see these gentle creatures while scuba diving.
Bits of advice should you make your way out to Blue Springs State Park in Orange City, call the front gate a day ahead. The spring run closes in fall and winter because manatees use Blue Springs to stay warm during colder weather. Get there at least an hour before open. If diving, bring hard copies of your certification cards. This Florida State park will not accept electronic copies. If diving or swimming isn’t in the cards, one can opt for other water borne activities like kayaking or hopping onto a riverboat ride on the St. John’s.
Dive #73. What could I tell you that you don’t already know? Florida is more than beaches, sun and humid weather. The Rainbow River basin offers a break from that cliche with some of the most crystalline and refreshing aquamarine waters in the state. The eel grass bowing to the changes in current offer a dream like quality on recollection. In the footage from March 2018, the Gar and the Blue Gill that pass in and out of focus reinforce this sentiment. Feeling the pressure from small fresh water boils on the riverbed pushing against your hand only heighten the visceral experience. As a flashback, the moments interrupt even the most mundane tasks like washing dishes unexpectedly. Some folks might even use the word surreal.
To learn more about Florida freshwater fish;
To catch river boat ride for diving;
Dive #71. What else can I tell you outside the video? Paradise Springs is one of two Florida locations where diving a cavern to 100 ft can be done without an additional Cavern Diver certification; however, you’ll need proof of your Advanced Open Water certification. The other site is Blue Grotto in Williston, Florida. Before heading out to Ocala, Florida, double-check each diver brings enough money for covering the cash only entrance fee of $30 in US currency. If claustrophobic and/or fear the dark, there are other unique spring experiences perhaps more suitable like Devil’s Den. Lastly, while this family owned operation does offer air-refills and some equipment, be sure to square up any boutique gear needs ahead of schedule. During our visit, the nearest local dive shop less than a mile away, remains closed for business all Sunday.
After parking and paying the entrance fee, divers get to watch a homemade instructional video. This underwater guide provides a play by play of the descent including fossils in the walls, the guideline, assorted man made figurines and the max depth death sign. Some aspects of the surrounding area do get left out like the fog evaporating into the morning sunlight just above the watery entrance. Right above that view, a closed circuit camera is peering over the dive platform. Which makes one wonder, ”Why so many gun shell casings are littering some of the steps to the opening below?”
With that introduction out of the way, Florida freshwater springs are well known for providing excellent visibility and year round temperatures of around 70 degrees F. They make ideal targets for testing out dive equipment, physical and mental conditioning. Submerging into the mouth of the spring, the sun illuminates the water giving way to the next chamber. Looking backward, a bluish hue emanates over the debris mound recalling a church alter or a theater stage. The second portion of the cave is vast in width and height. The space is more than adequate for three pairs of divers. Moving into the third portion of the cavern, the space narrows. Glancing back to the surface, I can always see the lit opening. Following the guideline, the experience feels effortless.
At the bottom of Paradise Springs, it’s easy for your vision to fill with saturating white from a camera lighting rig. This is exactly what occurs on our little adventure. What follows are moments of complete darkness. For myself, a surge of endorphins make my heart race. With eyes still attempting to adjust, my emotions peak into a panic attack. At the same time, my dive partner slowly moves to photographing another limestone wall facing in the opposite direction. He is unable to hear the tapping on my tank because of a hoodie covering his ears. The catch for myself is cycling off blood pressure medication, specifically Beta Blockers. Beta Blockers happen to suppress your body’s natural adrenaline response. Without them, it’s like being exposed to “raw untamed power” that fire up your fight or flight response.
Now, any calm person knows Paradise Springs is devoid of any current, sharks, gators, devils and demons. We’ll “mostly.” With both of my dive lights operational and the entrance above, the challenge is relaxing and managing air consumption until re-establishing visual communication. After about five minutes of holding the guide rope, and burning through a ton of air, fear gives way to calm and an engaged dive buddy for an air check. In the open ocean, there are many other factors beyond your control. This is why I love Florida springs for diving. It’s about as close to ideal conditions a diver gets for trial run outside of a pool.
Whether you dive or not, on Beta Blockers or know someone, I suggest reading up on the many side effects of this powerful class of prescribed medications. Here is a starter article that might peak your interest; Side Effects of Beta Blockers and Weight Gain.
Diving is a lot about metrics, air consumption, depth, ocean current, water temperature and more. The experience is colored by each diver’s focus. My experience for this set of dives could have been characterized by all the small details that can go wrong. Days later, I’m still itching from the stings of baby jellyfish across my legs and arms. Small knicks on my hands, knees and elbow are still healing from contact with fire coral and barnacles. Pondering all the possible adjustments for improving gear and physical conditioning for the next dive, I choose to recall the minutes differently.
I remember the hammerhead shark swimming by on an ascent.
I remember the turtle speeding away from the light of my flashlight during a night dive.
I remember the stingray gliding above the sand and reef.
I remember moving about the hull of a boat wreck with barracudas.
I remember big blue.
Three days out from this trip, I can still close my eyes in silence and feel the rocking of waves on a boat, back and forth repeatedly. Men aren’t meant to be under the glow of office fluroscents. Men are meant to be under the open sky.
How do you remember a walk in the woods? With months past now, I had reflected on this winter outing because of the sunlight illuminating the golden, brown and red hues of dry brush and weeds. On this morning, it hadn’t mattered how near or far this location. More important was the immersion into adult introspection contrasting with childish titillation.
Traveling the first mile of the artery feeding the majority of park trails, a wooden marker had signaled a break in the path. Turning left and moving across a paved road, my friend and I had encountered a campground. At the edge of this encampment of vehicles was a small row of wooden benches converging into a theater like area. Much to our amusement, we had found a lady’s discarded top nearby on the ground. Wasting no time for a photo-op, I had stretched the garment across my chest for minutes of grins.
During the second portion of the hike, we had walked through crisp foliage underneath a green canopy of pine needles. The gray dry sandy trail had eventually transformed into a dark brown. With each advancing step, our feet had slipped further into the watery mud. Despite the diminishing quality of the surroundings, our spirits had coasted along on the power of puns and innuendo. This had continued until encountering a small black constrictor. Collecting snapshots of the peaceful reptile, we had completed two-thirds of the white trail loop.
The final leg of our morning journey was characterized by curiosity regarding walking sticks and bees. The walking sticks insects had seemed eerily out of place. They were easy bait for any predator hungry for a meal; however, pairings of these insects had slowly crawled unabated from any lizard or bird. Next, just past a worn wooden hold for horses, a hoard of bees had hovered in the air. Almost out of sight, the droning sound of the bees had recalled a recent news story. A story in which a father and son were stung by a hoard ending up in the local hospital. With this thought echoing a similar childhood experience for my friend, we had expeditiously cleared the last portion of the hike.
That small adventure navigating through nature had epitomized a moment of personal freedom and liberty. An adventure that had deferred adult responsibility. With fall coming around again, I had looked forward to not only cooling weather but, the smile of an earnest friend.
Wekiva Springs State Park
For all their shortcomings, Microsoft provides one of the most palatable soft sells for products with MVA. It is also providing one of the widest selections of technical subject matter training from any IT vendor. In combination with white papers and TechNet, Microsoft Virtual Academy provides a great starting point for learning and/or review of Microsoft offerings.
For getting the greatest return on your time, in course descriptions look out for phrases like “Jump Starts” and the appropriate difficulty level (i.e. 100,200,300).
Some of the key benefits without logging into microsoftvirtualacademy.com are viewing free courses or downloading free E-books (http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/ebooks).
On the other hand, by associating a Microsoft account when logging into MVA, here are some key benefits;
1. User(s) can bookmark classes for later viewing by clicking on the ADD TO MY LEARNING PLAN radio button.
2. User(s) can track their progress and reprioritize.
3. Participants can print a completion certificate per course. I believe these make a nice fit for annual reviews.
4. Periodically get vouchers for new Microsoft exams when registering for Live Events.
Whether you are an IT profressional, hobbyist or just curious about technology, I would suggest exploring the various subjects categories available encompassing administration, development, and more. Learning, I believe works best by inspiration. MVA definitely starts one down a rabbit hole of possibility, leaving a person wanting to know more. It’s just a question of how far you go to get your answers.
To create a Microsoft Account go to https://signup.live.com/
To logon to MVA, visit www.microsoftacademy.com
So, using PowerShell for years now, last night while watching a course off microsoftvirtualacademy.com, I had come across a new tip. One that had made my heart flutter and awakening me from the edge of slumber. Anyone familiar with PowerShell had probably come across the ability to cycle through commands with TAB but, “How about cycling in reverse?”
Periodically, having to quickly TAB through GET- or SET- commands, usually had meant inadvertently skipping over the right entry. Then, you were left partially annoyed having to interrupt the search with CNTRL + C
The remedy for this quandary for going back in time through PowerShell commands was simply utilizing SHIFT + TAB
That, I had found worth repeating few times.
SHIFT + TAB
SHIFT + TAB
SHIFT + TAB
Recently, I had attended Microsoft’s Inaugural Ignite tech conference @ Chicago, Illinois. One of the best parts of the experience was hearing first hand product changes from developers. Outside some of the branding of Outlook into Office 2016 for the Mac, Microsoft had mapped out their commitment to stability, enhancements, and regular updates. Those updates were getting specifically released every month or two from this point forward. Another noteworthy improvement was handling of attachments. Attachments were reintegrated into the client for saving directly into Office 365 or SharePoint with the same familiar icon. As an Exchange administrator, I had wondered, “How much email quota space an employee is going to save?” Probably quite a bit!
Of course, with the good had come the bad. Still off the table was lack of support for “recover deleted items” and “Import/Export of PSTs.” Though currently only Windows options, the product management team had verbally committed addressing these missing features in the near future (i.e. hopefully a year).
So, the big takeaway was developers reaching out to their customers. “How?” you might have asked. For my current environment, three areas had got my attention for connecting.
1. Where should you report or ask about a bug?
2. Where can you ask for an enhancements for future versions of Outlook for Mac?
3. Where can you ask a quick question relating to product support outside of a bug, fix, or enhancement (i.e. What are supported versions of Exchange for Outlook 2016 for Mac?)
On Twitter with ‘Outlook for Mac’
Apparently, the product management team had curated each of the above areas regularly. That openness for contact was far more refreshing than hearing about any feature parity or cloud strategy. For years, Mac development had seemed like an afterthought. Now, Microsoft had made in words and deeds the thought of supporting Mac for Outlook just a bit more exciting!
Meet the new Outlook for Mac 2016 (channel9.msdn.com)
The Office 2016 Mac Preview is here! (blogs.office.com)
Microsoft Ignite Keynote, 2015 (channel9.msdn.com)
At work, I had come across monitoring alerts for our Exchange servers. The error had showed a failed state for the Exchange Edge Sync service. The only problem, we had lacked any Exchange Edge servers routing traffic. The remedy was disabling MSExchangeEdgeSync across almost 30 transport servers. Now, on one hand repetitive tasks were from an IT perspective, therapeutic; however, what if I had missed one by accident. So the push was on for a code snippet to silence them all like lambs Clarice.
1. get-transportserver – The first part was gathering all Exchange servers with the transport role.
2. set-service MSExchangeEdgeSync -startuptype “disabled” – This was important for avoiding the manual GUI moves per server.
3. -computername $computername – This was the final piece to the puzzle, pulling names for set-service to work against.
So, the final command was formatted like this.
set-variable -name $computername (get-transportserver) set-service MSExchangeEdgeSync -computername $computername -startuptype “disabled” -whatif
Again, I had encouraged anyone in a production environment to always append -whatif just before pulling the trigger. Be sure your sure, no one had liked making a mess of things in front of your chancellor.
Set-Service (Microsoft Technet)
On June 17, 2014, I had learned a horrible truth regarding WordPress vlogging on iOS devices. No, I hadn’t discovered a mentor a Sith Lord. Rather, my iPhone was no longer capable of uploading videos without syncing through my MacBook. The inconvenience had driven my fingers searching across the internet searching for an answer. “What a creative buzz kill,” I had internalized reading the developers’ GitHub explanation for dropping video.
Asking when this function might return, the developers had quickly responded in a few weeks; however, the expectation for delivery had slipped from a month, then to a season and now over a year. With so much time passing between updates, I had already forgotten about ever returning to WordPress for vlogging. Instead, I had periodically thrown up a few videos elsewhere, specifically Facebook or nothing at all.
Last Thursday, checking my email at work on break, a curious entry had filled my view. Re-reading the email two more times ensuring my comprehension, I was bewildered. A developer update had just come through when video uploads might be returning. To my surprise, the phrase being used was “imminent.” Apparently, I wasn’t the only curious soul to the inquire,” What does that exactly mean?” Another follow-up email from a fellow GitHub follower had solicited these responses;
“..Subject: Re: [WordPress-Editor-iOS] Re-enable support for uploading videos (#14)
Thanks for sticking with us!
@richardmax Roughly, sometime in the middle to end of May.”
Reading these responses, I had hastily verified my iPhone for the version of WordPress iOS Editor being 5.0. It was like winning a pie eating contest. Better yet, it had equaled the joy of watching the newly released Star Wars Force Awaken teaser trailer like a giddy childhood nerd.
Now, the only thing remaining was cautiously waiting in anticipation.
Why WordPress for iPhones won’t upload videos? (garzafx.com)
This past Monday, I had placed my two week notice at the office. With that simple interaction, a new journey had started to surface on the horizon. Gone were the countless hours of shifting through different conversations and desires that makes one resolute in a final decision leaping forward; however, the trepidation accompanying such a decision was dwarfed by the acceptance of changing, if not ending, some of the personal work relationships from over the years. For those moments, I had encountered emotional conflict.
Some of these interactions had grown into friendship, perhaps even extending even beyond this reality. Yet, still my mind had wandered into the potential of tomorrow. “What now?”, I had thought reflecting on all the shared stories and jokes over the years. What defines my person was the very freedom of wandering, aimlessly sometimes, from one locale to the next. Though, what merit had held the journey without the company you keep?
Tonight, I had started thinking about the choices ahead giving rise to new adventures. Whether mental or physical, these steps were highlighted by starting with one moment, one muse at a time.
During my father’s eulogy, I had rehearsed words in my mind, “While one door closes, another opens.” This sentiment had embodied our personal journeys moving forward until final conclusion. Whether through pictures, text, or sounds, the composition of shared story telling experiences had turned my hands right maneuvering into Poe Springs Park.
If just a casual passer by, the open greenery of the park had appeared exceedingly mundane; however, walking down the wooden board walk, the spring boil was brimming with water bugs and a multitude of green hues. Walking down the concrete stairs bordering the spring, my friend had warned me of the disconcerting slipperiness of green algae on its steps. Catching a small quick slip moving downward, I had quickly conceded to gravity into the shallow waters.
With the overhang of trees and break of the sunlight, it was hard to see the opposing water’s edge. Was there a gator in the darkness? Who had known but, I wasn’t going to travel any further than required for swimming into the boil. Submerging myself further into the spring waters, it had pushed back with distinct force from the cropping of jagged openings.
Away from the calming charm of the spring head, its waters emptied out into the expanse of the Sante Fe River. This river was product of the many springs along its twisting curves. Like leaves on the water’s surface, I had drifted onto the corner of accompanying fishing pier overlooking the Sante Fe River.
A week later, sick in bed, feeling like death, I hadn’t pondered the meaning of turning off the road into Poe Springs Park. Reflecting now, I had believed times like these fill our work, our lives with hope. In the end, without hope, how does a person start the day?
In downtown London, I had experienced my first childhood memories of trains and candy. All these years later, in a small, quiet adventure on Central Florida’s SunRail, I had indulged myself again but, with a moment of reflection. Gazing outside the box car’s windows on Interstate 4, the ride had recalled some of my other journeys’ across the ends of the United States.
Listening to the rhythmic clanking of the wheels over the tracks, I had remembered trips to Washington D.C., San Francisco, California, Boston, Massachusetts and Miami, Florida. Each commute had the unique appeal of the respective metropolitan area. Yet, all had encompassed a degree of random unexpected chance. With the certitude of departing and arrival times, my job was day dreaming of exploits for every endeavor with sights, sounds, tastes, and other sensations.
During a stop in Debary, Florida, a few elderly folks had exited out of the SunRail cabins into charter buses. I had pondered, “Where these people reminiscing too? Perhaps, they were thinking of the freedom of being on the railroad or, maybe just days gone by?”
Enroute back to Maitland, a grouping of friends across the cabin were joking about the news of the day. It was charming compliment to another family with their small children pointing outside to the passing trees and houses. All of these travelers had invoked a similar sentiment, the joy of moving somewhere between one’s future and past.
From an ecological point of view, I had wondered how John Muir might reflect on such an area on this October day.
Perhaps, it was the crisp blue springs waters next to the nearby train tracks.
Or maybe, the expansive open picnic area that had rolled like soft green waves under the park’s entrance.
Rainbow Springs State Park was elevated terrain, lifting one’s visceral response beyond the stereotypical flat topography of Florida. With hues of yellow, green, red and blue on display, flowing through the fall air was a sentiment on the edge of spirituality. Representing the thousands of indigenous state springs, this location had embodied all the reasons for protecting the environment. You hadn’t needed a whole of lot money ($2 per person) for experiencing one of Florida’s most versatile and picturesque parks. An open mind was the only thing required for embracing the charm of its small walks and swimming in the sun on this October day.
Rainbow Springs State Park (Florida State Parks)
John Muir (Wikipedia)
Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1 (BallotPedia)
Under a mix of rain and rolling grey clouds, I had hit the Florida highway toward Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. With elements in flux, I had questioned the wisdom of following through on a Wednesday’s morning impromptu road trip; however, after finishing the commute into their parking lot, the weather cleared into postcard Florida sunshine and blue skies.
While absent opportunities for swimming or canoeing, this excursion had provided in person viewing of Florida’s indigenous wildlife like the panther, bobcat, fox, and more. Of the many on-premise animals, very few, I had seen in the outdoors except gators, otters and manatees. Another hallmark of the park was “The Underwater Observatory”, a.k.a. “Fish Bowl.” This submerged area had permitted visitors an alternate perspective in watching fish and the playful manatees.
After clearing the “Fish Bowl,” I had wandered down the Wildlife Walk boardwalk. Here, the bulk of the park’s creatures were concentrated concurrently from flamingos to the Florida Panther to the reptile pavilion. The highlight for myself was hearing electrifying calls of bald eagle.
Toward the end of loop on the boardwalk, past the reptile exhibit, I had caught glimpse of resting alligators. Across from the gators was the only non-indiginous creature on display, a 50 plus year old hippo. Turning the corner around its holding area, I had noticed a sign with an image of the backside of a hippo with tail swinging side to side. According to park ranger earlier in the day, the sign had served as warning of the hippo’s playful spraying behavior. A behavior, which had offered as motivation for clearing the area after seeing this hippo heading to the dry embankment.
Initially, I had held a certain apprehension about visiting a park without options for water bound activities; however, the charm of seeing so many indigenous Floridian animals had won me over. The big takeaway was seeing kids and other adults being equally enamored by showcased wildlife. Of the many state parks, this one was worth the travel even under threatening skies.
Manatee Programs: 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Alligator/Hippopotamus Program at 12:30 p.m.
Address: 4150 South Suncoast Boulevard, Homosassa, FL 34448
Hours: 9 AM – 5:30 PM, 365 days a year.
Admission: Adults, $13.00, Children 6-12 $5.00, Florida State Park Pass Holders, Free.
Note, The last tickets are sold at 4:45 p.m.
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (Florida State Parks)
Blue Skies (1926 song) (Wikipedia)