A Writer’s Grave, Turtle ICU and the Year that Was

December 28, 2011

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can’t believe another year has come and gone! One of the fun things about blogging is you can look back on the year and see what you’ve accomplished, where you’ve been, and what you’ve learned. Although I didn’t travel as much this year, I still had amazing experiences.  Here are a few of my favorites:

No. 1:  Cross Creek, home of Pulitzer Prize winning author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings…

with a visit to her gravesite.


No. 2:  Turtle ICU at the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet

No. 3:  Gander Mountain Firearms Academy, in Lake Mary

No. 4:  Dinner at the top-notch Blue restaurant in Flagler Beach.

No. 5:  Deep Sea Fishing out of New Smyrna Beach

I finally tried a Florida avocado, made a Clove Orange, devoured a champagne truffle and tasted the best Muffaleta sandwich ever.  I learned about armadillos, LandLubber grasshoppers, and Herculean trees.

And I’m not through with Florida yet.


Guns, Lasers and Virtual Simulation

October 26, 2011

Back in February 2011, a press release announced that the retail store Gander Mountain in Lake Mary (just north of Orlando) was to be  the very first Gander Mountain store in the country to open a state-of-the-art civilian firearms training facility.  Claiming to have highly skilled instructors, a live fire range, and virtual reality simulation technology to knock your socks off, I was intrigued enough to buy a  45 minute session through Living Social. So, before it expired, we headed to Gander Mountain Academy in Lake Mary to give it a try.

Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol

After watching a short video on gun safety, Matt and I went our separate ways with our own instructor. My patient instructor, a former SWAT sniper, first took me into the simulated firing range where he taught me how to stand, and how to shoot a Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. I’m not entirely new to guns. For the past 10 years I’ve owned a 38-Special, which I bought shortly after a man attempted to enter my apartment one night as I returned from a class. Even though I trained using that revolver, and received my North Carolina concealed carry permit, I never felt really comfortable with it. The Glock 17 is a different story. It fits.

After shooting a few rounds and getting used to the gun, we headed over to the Pro-V SIM 300 Virtual Simulator.  Here I was surrounded by screens where people appeared from behind closed doors or around corners. Some carried babies or cell phones, others carried guns or knives. You had to decide in a split second where they were and whether to shoot or not.  Although at first I did take out a few innocent people, this was by far my most successful, and favorite, part of the night.

Next up was the PRO-V SIM 180 virtual simulation. Here you were to “pop” nine different bad guys (targets) as quick as possible. Although I cut my time in half the second time around, it didn’t even come close to comparing with my sniper instructor who can do it in under 4 seconds (probably with his eyes shut too). Maybe with a little more practice…

To round out the experience, we moved on to the live range, with a real Glock 17, with real bullets. Donning eye and ear protection, I slammed bullets into the target at 5 feet, and 15 feet out.  Other than the new belly button I gave it, I hit the chest almost every time. Of course, I didn’t realize until later that the target was a hostage training target and I had obliterated the hostage. Did someone forget to mention this to me?

The results of my live range firing.

This wasn’t exactly a Florida only experience since new training academies have opened in both Wisconsin and Texas this year.  But Florida’s was the very first such experience in all the land, and that’s gotta count for something.