Paddleless Paddleboarding

We interrupt or regularly scheduled  North Carolina trip post for a quick reminder that I am in Florida after all…

One of the reasons paddleboarding never gets old is because it can be the most calm, peaceful activity you can imagine or it can be a crazy good workout or adventure.  It just depends on you, your location, and the weather.  Mostly the weather.

Your body acts like a sail, and when the wind is particularly high it can become impossible to paddle against it without kneeling or sitting down to catch less wind. It can be exhausting and dangerous if you don’t know your limits. So, tip of the day is always paddle out against the wind so when you are getting tired the wind can help you back.  There was one time when just as I turned around the wind changed direction and I think by the time I got back home I slept the rest of the day, but it usually works.

Last weekend we headed out to Fred Howard park, and though the wind was moving along pretty good we hadn’t been out on the boards for 2 weeks so decided to give it a go anyways. After all, who could resist heading out into a morning like this?

SunriseNeedless to say getting to the other side of the little bay area we were in took about 3 times longer than usual.  Heaven forbid you decide to stop to rest, you would end up moving backwards.  Which is actually kind of fun because the fin on the board makes it turn around for you. But still. Tiring, remember?

Heading into the sun is beautiful, but you can’t see a thing in the water because of the reflections.  Heading away from the sun the water is so clear you can see straight to the bottom.

2015-11-02Here’s the cool part.  Once we decided to head back we just stood on the boards and on occasion made a slight course adjustment to come in where we needed to.  Check out how fast we were going – no paddling needed.  Keep in mind I was standing on the moving board when you judge my mad videoing skills.

I kind of had a squirrel moment with some birds, but the point is the board was going that fast all by itself.

This is what Tampa residents come home from vacation to. Groovy, right?

Paddleboarding Pop Stansell Park

Last weekend we decided to try out a new spot to paddleboard.  You can go to the same place every time and see something new, but it’s still fun to try somewhere different.

Saturday morning was pretty windy, which is not a great thing for SUP. Your body acts a a sail so you can go really fast with the wind which is fun, but you do have to change directions eventually.  It turned out Pop Stansell is perfect for windy days. We set off from the ‘boat dock’ (is it called a dock if it’s just a muddy place to drop off your boat?) Immediately to the right there is a large area to paddle between mangroves and homes.

Boat Dock064

It looked like if you headed straight out you’d be on the bay but that I’ll have to explore another day.The downside of this area was it was just sort of dirty.  You have to walk through that icky, sticky,slick mud that is in some places in the bay to get to the water. The water was brownish and because it was the way for boats in the neighborhood to get to the bay it just didn’t have the same clean feel as the water further out.  That seems to be typical of neighborhood waterways though.

The water was only about a foot deep all through the area, which is actually pretty cool unless you fall in (I didn’t, yay!). It’s pretty cool because there are huge fish jumping everywhere and a ton of different birds.

Birds at Pop Stansell

I didn’t actually check out the park itself, but this place is going on my short list of places to paddle when the wind is up too much to paddle on the bay.

Park Stansell random things

All in all it’s a great place to go to see all kinds of interesting things, as long as you don’t mind a wee bit of muck on the way in and the occasional boat passing.

If you are in Florida have you been to this park before?  Where are some other little out of the way places I should check out?

#HowlOScream review – & some tips

You KNOW I love some zombies and mayhem.  So deciding to attend Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream Unearthed was a no brainer. Not like a zombies aren’t interested no brainer, which was kind of too bad, because there were a lot of zombies to watch out for!

This year Howl-O-Scream included 7 haunted houses and a show.  We made it to 6 of the houses. I missed DeadFALL which I am pretty bummed about because that one was set in a Victorian garden and greenhouse, and you know I love gardening.

I have to say, I was only disappointed by one house, and that’s because it had the longest line and because I suck at video games. I think everyone else really liked this one. Zombie Containment Unit 15: Moving Targets is pretty much a real-life video game. While you’re waiting you hear a broadcast – one of the zombie containment units has been breached.  They are escaping and citizens are needed to help stop them! You get a super cool laser gun and are set loose on the containment unit of zombies. Hey, this is a job for me! Except that just like every other video game I was never quite sure what I hit or didn’t hit or what I was even trying to do.  Not an issue with the place, it’s that thing where I can’t play video games and then I give up.  So sad really. Know what’s not so sad? This mad cool zombie DJ on the way in.

All that about my least favorite.  Needless to say we had fun.  So what was the very best haunted house?  Everyone we asked said it was Death Water Bayou, so we went there first. It was pretty epic. Voodoo queens, Deliverance types, it was a great start to the night.

Death Water Bayou

But it wasn’t my favorite.  I loved the BASEMENT. It was a tour through the kitchen for Mama’s Meats. If I hadn’t been a vegetarian before I went in I’d still be one now.  Because that woman’s secret ingredient is Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets you.  Gross and scary and awesome all in one.

The Basement

What’s up next? How about a Zombie Mortuary? It seems zombies have taken over a small town mortuary and are working their way through the staff and mourners.  Sound old school? Holy crap, you try walking through a room of totally still dead people and trying to not touch anything because you know whatever you touch will actually be alive and get you. Ya, it’s like that.  I didn’t get any pictures ‘cuz zombies, but here’s Busch Garden’s video to haunt your sleep.

Next house, Circus of Superstition: The Last Laugh. I own a black cat and I have no problem (much) walking under ladders, but that does not mean I think it’s a good idea to meet all superstitions in one house.  In 3D no less. Got a problem with leaving a hat on a bed? How about a cracked mirror? Hmmm, sucks to be you. Hope you don’t have a problem with clowns… ‘cuz clowns.

ClownsOh, and then there is the reason that all of this occurred.  It seems that while doing renovations to the park an old house was dug up. In the house? A demon of course. Stupid renovations.  Just saying.

Scarlett's RevengeOh, and here’s some tips for when you go.

  1. Bring a change of clothes if you really want to be dry. You are in Florida, it’s going to rain and lightening.  And when it does Busch Gardens is going to close the rides because of that crazy thing where they don’t want you to die. Even if you’ve been in line for a while be nice.
  2. Talk to the people around you. We didn’t get to go on any roller coasters because lightening, but I met some great people and heard some great stories.  Sometimes a win isn’t the one you were going for. Plus, the houses are still open.
  3. Want a great picture? Don’t hesitate to rest those elbows on a trash can or whatever is around.  It makes for a much clearer picture on your cell phone than if you just hold your phone up.
  4. Drink.  Ya sure, they have not just beer but also mixed drinks. And I had some. But I’m talking about Power Aid or water.  And don’t wait until you’re thirsty and cranky.
  5. Start with the house or event you most want to see – you may not have time to see everything.
  6. Most important – wear comfortable shoes!  We were on our feet from 4:30 to 1:30 am and by the time we left the car seat was the most comfortable chair I had ever, ever sat in. Ever.  Trust me on this one.

I received 2 tickets to #Unearthed run as a member of Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with Busch Gardens in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own, of course.

The 5K Color Blast – and a giveaway!

The 5K Color Blast is coming to Tampa (actually Lake Park in Lutz, but whatever) November 11th! If that date sounds familiar it’s because it’s the same day and location as The 5K Zombie run. Coincidence?  I think not.  It’s because Monster Runs LLC is putting on both runs / parties. They’ll also be in Sarasota October 25th, the day after The 5K Zombie run there.

Know whats cool?  If you sign up for both The 5K Color Blast and The 5K Zombie Run at the same time you get an extra ‘combo’ medal. So if you run for the bling you are in luck!  Check it out. You know you love your running bling.

Zombie Color MedalsWhat else is cool?  This is a color run / trail run hybrid.  You’re fine with a jogging or large wheeled stroller if you’re running with young-uns, it won’t be mountain hiking or anything, but it does add a fun change from your average run.

I went to Monster Runs LLC’s color run last year with my usual running partners, we had way too much fun. They may not make it this year though, they are busy preparing for a little sister they are expecting soon after.

5kcolorrunIn case all of that cool isn’t enough (you are being SO difficult!) I have a pair of tickets to give away.  The winner will be contacted next Tuesday, you’ll just need to register by October 1st.

Here! Enter here!

Can’t decide if you want to go?  Watch this and then sign up, don’t forget to use code ZEN5 to get $5 off your entry. You’re welcome.

Deer Hunting

Last week my daughter decided she wanted to go find some deer at John Chestnut Park. Very doable – there are lots there. Sadly, you have to be there very early to see them. Why must I get up before the sun to see cool animals?

We decided (my best interest?) to be there when the park opened.  6 am. Then we changed it to 6:30 because I can’t see in the dark anyways.  I actually got there a few minutes early. Too bad they didn’t open until 7.   (Cue detour to Starbucks for coffee and lemon cake)

Wanderings through the woods at the you-know-what of dawn is actually really fun.  I’d say peaceful, but I was there with my days away from 16 year old daughter. Sadly, she takes after her mother and the sarcasm is strong within her.  It’s amazing we saw so much as a mosquito as much as we were laughing.  Would have been a fair trade.

But we DID see deer, quite a lot of them.  Here’s crazy shaky proof.  Try not to get nauseous watching it

We saw a bunch of other cool animals, including a HUGE alligator.  I probably should have removed the sound on this one but it made me laugh. It’s my typical any moment.  I’m confused, so confused. Oh wait, I’m happy!

Counter-intuitive as it seems I highly recommend getting up stupid early on the occasional day off to do things that just aren’t as cool later in the day. Or impossible due to the heat! That way when you take your afternoon nap that you deny you ever take you can feel justified because you are actually catching up on much needed sleep.

What would it take to get YOU out of bed dark-early on a day off?



The 5K Zombie Run – Giveaway!

Guess what time of year it (almost) is. Zombie time! I’m seeing Halloween stuff in my Facebook feed, I’m already looking forward to the Walking Dead starting back up, and it’s time to get your tickets for The 5K Zombie Run. Yay!

The 5K Zombie Run will be in Sarasota Saturday October 25th at Nathan Benderson Parkand and in Tampa Saturday November 14th at Lake Park.

I ran in The 5K Zombie Run the last two years, it’s a little like playing chase on the playground in grade school. But all of the so called adults around you are making horrible zombie jokes, and you will too.  Trust me.

2013_11_9 5k zombie runThe folks at Monster Runs LLC were nice enough to send me codes for 2 race entries to give away, and they can be used at either the Sarasota or the Tampa run.  I’m going to give them away as a pair, because who wants to face zombies alone? Just click the Rafflecopter link below and enter. The contest ends Thursday the 11th, I’ll notify the winner by email Friday.

Enter to win!

All participants will receive a t-shirt, finisher medal, tattoo, photos, a car decal and entry to the post-race apocalypse party. Yay apocalypse party!

You can be a runner (victim) or a Zombie – either way tickets are $35-$60 depending on when you get them. Spectators and gear check is free, both of which I consider a huge plus. I’ve left my backpack sitting on the side of a field at a couple of runs and it’s always been there when I get back, but there is still something to be said for knowing FOR SURE your car keys will be there when you get back.  Just saying.

If you don’t win your tickets be sure to use the code ZEN5 for $5 off your ticket.

Need more excitement or have the energy of a 2 year old lab? The Zombie Run starts in the morning at 9:00; at 2:00 The 5K Color Blast starts at the same park!  Come back next week for a chance town 2 tickets to The 5K Color Blast.

I received 2 tickets to the Tampa run as a member of Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with The 5K Zombie Run in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own, of course.

Paddleboarding… with Sharks (Finally!)

I’ve been paddleboarding for a few years now, and I’ve seen lots of really cool things. Dolphins, sting rays, more kinds of crabs then I care to count, about a billion kinds of fish and all kinds of other interesting creatures.

The one thing I have never seen while paddleboarding was a shark. But it seems I’ve finally found the secret. I was told if I go to  Fred Howard Park in time to be on the water at sunrise the chances of seeing sharks, specifically hammerhead sharks, would be pretty good.  So the last couple of Saturdays that’s exactly where I’ve been. And success!

The last two Saturday mornings the water has been perfect.  Smooth as glass. Between the height you get from standing on the board and the fact that there is no chop to hide any movement it’s the best chance for seeing anything that’s out there.

Water Like Glass

Almost as soon as we were on the water I saw a dolphin swimming around who went surprisingly close to shore which was pretty cool.  Of course it may have been better if we had actually been closer to the shore. Only manatees can beat dolphins for the cool factor. And that’s just because manatees will come right up to you on occasion.

Not very long after that we saw what I at first thought was a bunch of dolphins playing.  The water was splashing like crazy and the occasional grey body and fin could be spotted from where we were paddling. I saw one fin separate from the rest in our direction though, and it was very steady, not moving up and down like a dolphin’s tends to do. The shape of the fin also was telling – this was not a dolphin. Which lead me to the conclusion that neither were the other animals splashing around because the single shark kept circling back to them.

I have to admit that as much as I’ve been wanting to see a shark  I had absolutely no desire to paddle closer to them. I don’t know if they were doing the ‘feeding frenzy’ thing,  playing (do sharks play?) or something entirely different but regardless of what they were doing, no.  I stayed were I was and considered myself brave for doing so.  Brave and three year old excited, it was pretty neat in my humble opinion.

The one bad thing to come from this? I realized just how bad my little point and click camera is.  I tried taking video of them, but the few seconds I was actually pointed in the right direction all you could see was that something was really churning up the water.  So I am now on the hunt for a waterproof camera with a lot of zoom and a viewer that I can see even in the sun.  Because next time I want to be ready!

I also saw a couple of big turtles which I would have loved to get a decent picture of. I’m actually pretty OK with the simple fact that I get to see things like that, but it would be fun to share the pictures if I had them. Here’s a few that I did take.

Paddleboarding 8_22_15Any other paddleboarders or kayakers out there?  What sort of things have you seen when out on the water? Do you ever feel like no one is ever going to believe what you saw if you don’t get a picture of it?  I don’t know why but I always kind of think that. Of course I also think if I go out with a really good camera I won’t see as many animals. Superstitious much? Why yes.

Summer of Rum 2015

The Summer of Rum festival turned out to be everything hyped and some more. As expected.

This time I learned from experience and rented a room in walking distance at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Ybor City. Definitely a good move.  The place was perfect – clean, quiet and about a 5 minute walk from the Cuban Club. And of course the fact that no one has to be the designated driver after a celebration of all things rum was a plus. It’s my new go-to place to stay when I’m in the area for certain.

We decided to start the evening out right and headed straight to the rum tasting upstairs.  Another good move.  Dang, I’m like an expert or something.  At what I don’t know. Anyways, I got to try all of the rums on my list including Wicked Dolphin (who had RumShine!) and Blackheart, obviously a rum for pirates. Blackheart was a really good spiced rum, this may be my new go-to for rum and cokes.


We tried quite a few rums – enough that I forgot to keep taking pictures. 🙂  I have to admit, I had a hands down favorite.  Blue Chair Bay had a banana rum that was so good it could be sipped straight out of the bottle.  If you were inclined to do such a thing that is. Not commenting any further on that.


After that it was off to sit in cool comfort and watch a bit of a pirate movie.  I’m always a fan of pirates.  And movies I don’t have to try and stay quiet during. Win and win.


By then it seemed wise to have a meal, so we walked across the way to the Spaghetti Factory. There were a bunch of really good looking food trucks, but I didn’t see anything vegetarian jump out at me.  If we were going to get serious about drinking and lasting to hear all of the bands to the end a serious meal was in order.  Who says carbing up is just for runners?

My son and his girlfriend met us after that and we all had a great time just hanging out, listening to bands and people watching.

SummerofRumBandOne thing I have to say, the bartenders in the VIP tent were amazing.  See how the girl’s hands are blurry in the middle picture below?  That’s not bad photography, that’s how fast they were moving to keep up.  And all the while everyone was cheerful and and fun.

2015-08-294Oh yeah, and we all got pirate tatts at Captain Morgan’s place. Because when in Rome… and also when drinking rum all day.

I received two VIP tickets to The Tampa Bay Rum Festival in exchange for writing a review and a giveaway. As always, my opinions are all mine.

Summer of Rum 2015 Giveaway

I now know what it would take to pull me out of my self imposed blog break. That would be my favorite party of the year.  The Summer of Rum Festival is back next Saturday, August 15th from noon to 11:00! This is seriously my favorite yearly event.  And not just because I love my rum. Here’s my review of last year’s bash just to prove how much fun it was.

What would cause this to be not just a favorite but my VERY favorite? For one, it’s at the Cuban Club in Ybor. This means a photo worthy historical building AND not having to be outside in the heat the entire time.  Because we can have lots of fun outside in the heat and all, but it’s also nice to not worry about finding a place in the shade so that you can melt a little bit slower. Plus, maybe it’s haunted.

Also, you know I’m all abut the music.  And the booze, but mostly the music.  Well, it depends on the moment but right this moment I’m sober and so giving music the one up. Summer of Rum means ska and reggae and generally island influenced music all the whole day long. And rum. Anyways…  The Hip Abductors are the headline act and I’m particularly liking this song.

UNRB is scheduled again this year, so another yay.

Anyways, lets get back to the important stuff.  The rum. There will be the big names like Captain Morgan and Malibu but check out some of the one’s I don’t know a thing about.  Which means the festival will be a learning experience. Learning is good, right?

  • Black Heart Rum

    They say “Blackheart is bold, brazen, risqué and cutthroat”. I don’t know, I haven’t met them but they certainly sound fun.

  • Monkey Rum

    They have a spiced run with “hints of coconut” AND a coconut rum.  Presumably with LOTS of coconut.  I’m in.

  • Wicked Dolphin 

    I think they are just joking. Dolphins are never wicked. Maybe they mean wicked cool.

The excellent people who put on the Summer of Rum Festival gave me a couple of pairs of general admission tickets to giveaway.  Want one?  Just leave me a message below telling me why you want to go, what your favorite rum drink is, or just tell me you want the tickets.  I’ll pick a winner Thursday the 13th, come back here to see the winners.

Oh, if you want to buy your tickets you can do that too.  General admission tickets are $20 now or $25 at the door.  Want all you can drink and access to the VIP areas? $85 now or $100 at the door.  Of course you know at the door means if they don’t sell out…

I received two VIP tickets to The Tampa Bay Rum Festival in exchange for writing a review and this giveaway. As always, my opinions are all mine.

Time to Refresh

I have kind of fell off the blogging wagon for lots of reasons.  A promotion at work was awesome, but it means I’m working more hours and blurring the work / home life line a bit. I’m actually installing Windows roles and features and then SQL on a laptop while writing this on my computer.  Nothing like multi-tasking work and real life!

I just signed up for project management classes to get a certification so I’ll be keeping pretty busy even outside work in a non-vacationy way for a while. But those are the things that keep life interesting, right?

But I’m not fooling anyone.  I still live in vacation land and I still fully take advantage of it as often as possible.  I went paddle boarding a couple of times in the last month (I saw what was AT LEAST a 4 foot carp! Or some other kind of fish, I don’t know.) and am planning to go again in a week, to explore underwater caves.  So I can’t even fool myself into thinking I’m much of a workaholic.

I have managed to completely ditch writing, exercise, cooking much that wasn’t frozen and all that sort of thing.  You know, the basics.  The funny thing is I miss them ALL and so I’m not sure why I need to make such a concentrated effort to get back into them.  But I do, so there you go.

So I’m joining a Blogging 101 class (always fun to go back to the basics!) which is an excuse to revamp and redefine what I want to write about.  I started writing here just to keep a running journal, then more and more about running, but I’ve really merged into other areas and it’s about time to admit it.  I like to write about healthy things I’m doing, from food to running, so whenever I’m writing more I’m also taking better care of myself. Weird really, how those things are linked in my life.

But anyways, here I go on a bit of a blogging adventure, wish me luck!