Walking and exploring Lake Okeechobee

Lake O me

“Don’t die without embracing the daring adventure your life was meant to be”.

(Steve Pavlina)

My Walk into the Future has allowed me to experience some great adventures. 

My adventures prior to COVID-19 took me to places that required a bit of planning.  Planes, trains, and automobile (not really the train) got me from place to place so I could enjoy new places.  We are slowly getting back to being able to travel again with more and more people getting vaccinated.  I am excited about the possibilities of becoming a running tourist again.  Please note, I signed up for the early bird special to run the 2022 New Orleans Rock n Roll Running Series Half Marathon next February.  Yes, the Rock n Roll folks changed their name!

The newest adventure for me only took me 35 miles from Fort Pierce.  I have traveled to the town of Okeechobee multiple times because we have a campus there.  I drive over and take care of my work and then drive back to the main campus in Fort Pierce.  A very routine process but realized I had never taken the time to go to Lake Okeechobee.  Imagine being about 10 miles away from the largest freshwater lake in Florida but never visiting.  Decided to fix this issue and get over to the lake for a little adventure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Okeechobee

My day started with the prospect of severe thunderstorms approaching the area.  Luckily, I did not let this deter me from my adventure. The skies remained sunny and clear, so I took a chance (Walk into the Future) and packed a backpack and headed over to see the big lake.  The drive over was around 40 minutes, so it did not take long to begin the adventure.  There was not much traffic on the road, so the drive was easy.  It is a farming community so not many sights to see on the drive except orange groves, farms, and cows.

I did not create a travel plan for my visit so just decided to make it up as I went.  Parked at the Welcome Center and took in Lake Okeechobee from the walking bridge.  This was my first view of the lake and it did not disappoint.  The massiveness of Lake Okeechobee is probably the most impressive part of being there.  I knew going over it was going to be a large body of water but being there and not seeing a bank on the other side was amazing.  Finally got a chance to break out my new camera with my 80x zoom lens for this trip—it was needed to zoom in on objects in the distance.

I decided to go further down the road and see what other adventures Lake Okeechobee had for me.   Pulled over when I saw a sign for the Lake Okeechobee Historic Trail—seemed like a great place to explore a bit more.  The trail is paved so made my way east and took in the sights.  There were several people at this point fishing, and they were pulling them in.  Guess I will return to this spot IF I ever get into fishing—never been high on my list of hobbies to pick up. Got a 3 mile walk in on this portion of the trip and got more pictures of the lake and surrounding area.  A couple riding their bikes shared they saw bald eagles a little further down the trail so decided to get back in the vehicle and drive down more to where they mentioned seeing eagles.  Would love to get pictures of bald eagles in the wild!  I was also racing time because the skies were getting dark—the rain was coming!

Drove another 5 miles or so down the road and pulled into another segment of the Lake Okeechobee Historic Trail.  There were more people fishing here so the theme of the day is Lake Okeechobee is great if you like to fish. 😊 Again, walked on the trail heading east looking for perches eagles would populate—funny to read that last sentence—how would I know where eagles hang out???

Got a good walk in on this portion of the trail.  I saw birds but nothing as interesting as bald eagle so took more pictures of the lake.  I got lucky and spotted an alligator swimming in water close to Lake Okeechobee.  This allowed me to utilize my zoom lens to get a good shot of a 6-foot alligator—my camera on my phone would not have allowed me to get this shot so happy to have the zoom available now.  Cannot wait to take some pictures in Negril, Jamaica with a real zoom lens!

The skies got extremely dark because of the incoming bad weather so decided to cut my losses and get back on the road to head home.  No need to get caught in a thunderstorm on Lake Okeechobee.  This was a short trip but worth the time to drive over and explore Lake Okeechobee.  May venture back over soon and experience the lake via an airboat ride.  The adventures continue! 😊

“I thought it was an adventure but actually, it was life”.

(www.ecogentleman.com)

 

Turning the corner on COVID-19

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(Image by Sergei Tokmakov, Esq. from Pixabay

“Choose to be optimistic.  It feels better”.

(Dalai Lama)

I do not know if we have truly turned the corner on COVID-19 but it does feel like we have made some progress.

The rollout of the vaccine has been moving forward the past three months and my excitement is firmly rooted in the fact I have family and friends who are fully vaccinated.  Happy to report I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Friday and should be fully vaccinated by the time you read this article.

I realize there is more work to be done before we get to herd immunity but there are positive signs daily.  We need to maintain a level of caution and not get too far ahead to ensure these positive vibes remains.

My excitement for turning the corner is because I was able to visit my family in northern Florida and did not feel like I was putting them at risk.  My mom, aunts and uncles are completely vaccinated and this was the first visit where I did not have the same concerns about possibly bringing the virus into their homes.  Please note, we still maintained physcial distancing and masks wearing but mentally it felt like we were safe again.  I have not hugged my mom in months so a simple side hug this time was a welcomed aspect of the visit.

My goal is to have my second shot completed before I head back up to visit with family and friends again.  The peace of mind knowing everyone has been vaccinated will allow us to spend a bit more time together and not worry about passing a virus on to a family member. 

The concept of physical distancing and how we fellowship will probably be changed forever.  Simple things we did around the holidays will most likely change—I do not know if I will ever be comfortable again with our large Thanksgiving gatherings again.  We set up tables and chairs outside for Thanksgiving 2020 and this process went better than I expected.  The weather was great and family was able to spend time together but not in a closed environment. I see this being the new tradition as long as the weather cooperates.

I hope the Walk into the Future blog readers are in the process of getting vaccinated. 

I questioned the rapid pace of the vaccine creation and deployment but put those concerns aside in order to ensure I was protected.  This protection extends to my family, friends and coworkers—getting the vaccine is my way to get closer to normal again.  I would like to get back to being a running tourist again in 2021.  This will only happen when more and more people get the vaccine—here’s hoping herd immunity is a real thing!

Note:  I got sent home from work the day after I wrote this article due to contact tracing.  COVID-19 is still alive and well—stay safe!

When are you getting the vaccine?  What are you looking forward to once herd immunity is gained?

“The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength”.

(Marcus Aurelius)

Always remember Rosewood, Florida

Justice

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

(Nelson Mandela)

Happy to see the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement continue to draw attention to racial injustices.  The momentum gained after the George Floyd murder continues to lead people worldwide to protest injustices.  It feels real this time, but I thought that after Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, and Michael Brown.  Too many instances where black people are killed, and the justice system does not provide justice.  Not trying to be cute with words here but most of these examples were seen on video just like George Floyd but no justice for black victims could be found.

Would like to say these are just isolated examples and America really treats black people well.  Yep, we all know that would be a huge lie and I could not say that with a straight face anyway.  America’s majority has treated people of color horribly and then try to convince us everything is okay.  It is not and has not been okay for a long time.

Decided to go back in history and introduce Walk into the Future readers to Rosewood, Florida.  Most people have never heard about Rosewood or the horror the black families endured there.  It does not get the same press as the Black Wall Street massacre but is closer to home for me.

Sadly, I did not learn about Rosewood until the 1997 movie directed by John Singleton was released.  I grew up in Florida and never heard a word about the massacre in a history or civics class.  Rosewood is less than a two-hour drive from my hometown Jasper, Florida so it is equally shocking how close this type of mob/Klan activity was to my family.

I watched the movie and remember thinking this happened right down the street from my hometown.  How is it possible I did not know about this?  How could an entire town get wiped off the face of the earth and nobody said a word?  This appears to be the American way.  We condemn other countries and regimes for their atrocities and then hide ours from the public.

The movie stirred me to visit Rosewood in 1997 so I could see the place for myself.  Sadly, the only substantial thing to identify Rosewood is a placard to let you know you are in the place where the town of Rosewood use to be.  There are a few buildings there now but most of the things in the area are incorporated to Cedar Key, Florida.  Felt weird being at the site of a massacre of black people but believe this was an important lesson to never forget the past so these things do not repeat.  Like what is happening now; we cannot just let these injustices occur without responding in kind.

The BLM movement is here to stay, and we will need to remain vigilant to ensure human rights are respected for all.  Keep learning and growing tree branches—we need you to make this a better world!

Learn more about Rosewood, Florida here:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/03/rosewood-florida-massacre-racial-violence-reparations

 

“The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in the American society”.

(John Lewis)

Irie vibes–control the controllable

Control

(Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them”.

(Maya Angelou)

Control the controllable is one of my favorite sayings.  Do not remember where I heard it first, but it has been a way of thinking for many years.  Try to leverage this saying when things appear difficult and I need to remind myself to trust the process.

I shared the saying in a LinkedIn post back in April and was pleasantly surprised with the number of views (900+), reactions (20+) and comments the post garnered.  The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we view normal and it can be easy to get overwhelmed with everything happening around us.

Dictionary.com defines control as the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.

Control the controllable can serve as a positive mantra to help tackle difficult times and situations.

Take care of yourself

Taking care of yourself can be done in many ways.  For some this may mean ensuring you make time to exercise.  For others this can be done by eating a healthier diet.  This combination is a critical aspect of controlling how you function daily.  A key component some of us may have forgotten until now is the mental and emotional elements in your life.  COVID-19 has made us view life differently and reveals the importance of mental health.  The ability to seek and find clarity should be at the forefront of taking care of yourself.

Take care of others

Who are YOUR tree branches?  Make sure you reach out to them to help them navigate this new way of life.  Most people will tell you they are doing okay but keep checking on them.  They will appreciate the effort and it helps you keep your tree growing.  You can also reach out to people who are not tree branches; make someone’s day and become a mentor to help move them forward and provide some guidance.

Continue to practice physical distancing

The government and news agencies penned the term social distancing.  Believe this connotation has been a problem from day 1.  Most people had never heard of this term prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and it may have confused some.  I like the term physical distancing because it says right in the title to stay away from others.  We have got enamored with social media and everything that comes with it—think a lot of people could not understand what was really being asked of them when told to practice social distancing.  Regardless how you address the term, physical distancing is something we have some level of control.

Create personal outlets

Look for personal and creative outlets to leverage the things you can control.  The Walk into the Future blog has become a major way for me to express a creative side I really did not know existed.  I get excited researching topics and then challenging myself to create an article someone else may want to read.  Have no idea if anyone is really reading this stuff but I keep plugging away because it is something I control.

Running and weightlifting are other outlets I utilized to control the controllable for myself.  Journaling outside of my work on the Walk into the Future blog has a calming effect for me.  Most times when writing in my journal I can generate work and life ideas to implement later.  Handwriting content in the journal also makes me slow done a bit and really think through what I want to write down.  Always recommend journaling to anyone who will listen to me because it is an excellent outlet to express thoughts—try it! 😊

Reggae and the beach are other outlets I have available to me daily.

Open your eyes and your mind to see your outlets!

The control center of your life is your attitude”.

(Anonymous)

Live, love and laugh

Life can be a compilation of good and bad. Let’s focus on the good and leverage the positive energy this mindset brings.  Live daily, love often and laugh always!  (I just made that up). 😊

What daily things are within your control?  How do you maintain this control? Thanks!

“The moment you give up, is the moment you let someone else win.”

(Kobe Bryant)

 

The happy spot: Negril, Jamaica

Curry Goats

Made my annual pilgrimage back down to Negril, Jamaica in May.  Decided a few years back I would travel yearly to Jamaica to enjoy the sun, rum and reggae.  I’ve missed a year here and there but have been consistent getting my Jamaica passport stamp.

The Jamaican Tourist Board (JTB) created the ‘Once you go, you know’ slogan in 2003 to generate tourism interest and get more people to visit the island.  I always thought about the slogan because I wanted to ‘know’ what Jamaica was about but thought it was beyond my price point.  A simple check on Expedia highlighted how affordable a trip to Jamaica can be—prices vary based on brand names (Sandals, Beaches, Palladium) to more economic options (Samsara, Legends, Rock House).  You can spend as much or little as you want based on resort brand, location and all-inclusive food/drink options.

Samsara

My preferred resort is Samsara which is situated on the west end of the island.  The unique feature for Samsara is the resort is located on a cliff.  The cliffs provide unique experiences for guest to ‘cliff dive’ while enjoying the water.  I don’t cliff dive but use the access to put my snorkel gear to good use.  I spend about 3 hours daily exploring underwater caves, following fish and watching Jamaican spear fishermen catch barracuda.

 

Samsara is close to other west end resorts, so I have made a point to visit some of them while on the island.  This allows me to experience additional waterfront views, menu options and drink specials.  My favorite lunch spot on the island is the Rock House.  The Rock House has an expanded menu with a lot of traditional Jamaican food options.  Steamed snapper, peas and rice and callaloo is my go-to meal ‘every’ time I’m there.  Callaloo has a look and feel of collard greens but I will warn you, the Scotch bonnet peppers are smoking hot.  I spend more time pulling them out, but they do add flavor to the dish.

Rock House

I got a bit adventurous and decided to stop at a new spot on this trip.  I pass the Kool Vybes Bar and Jerk Centre every time I’m in Negril but never stopped.  Just assumed everything on the menu would be smothered in Jamaican jerk sauce but they provide the option to have the sauce on the side.  The food at the Jerk Centre was great and may be the best food bargain in Negril.  I will ensure to make it back to the Jerk Centre—recommend getting the jerk sauce on the side if you’re not into spicy food—Jamaicans like food with a kick!

http://realnegril.com/koolvybes/

Jerk Centre

Samsara has a sister resort (Legends) on Seven Mile beach.  Guests have full privileges at both resorts which provides additional options while in Negril.  I can spend time snorkeling off the cliffs at Samsara and then trade for beach activities to include jet skis, catamaran excursions, shopping and dining.  This 2 for 1 resort option is a ‘hidden’ gem to enhance the overall enjoyment while in Negril.

7 mile beach

Reggae

My go to spots to listen to live reggae in Negril are Alfred’s and Bourbon Beach.  I always ask the locals for places to visit and they all agree Alfred’s Ocean Place and Bourbon Beach are the best places to hear live music and catch the Irie vibe.  I’ve never been disappointed with the music or the vibes while at either place.  Both locations are right on 7 Mile beach so you can kick back with a cold drink, listen to the bands and hear waves crashing at the same time.  Very enjoyable experience!

A new place I added to the rotation this trip was Roots Bamboo Beach resort.  Large stage with an impressive sound system with live reggae on Monday and Wednesday nights.  Roots Bamboo Beach is extremely close to Alfred’s and Bourbon Beach—went back and forth between venues when a band had to take a break.

Negril’s uniqueness with cliff and beach access keeps people like me coming back year after year.  It’s always great to meet someone from Europe or Canada and hear they are on their eight trip to Negril—most are like me and stay at the same place every time.  They are in the ‘know’ about Negril.

So, now you know—Negril is my happy spot and I plan to visit as often as possible.  Already looking forward to my next trip down.

What is your happy spot to visit?  When’s the last time you were there?

Sunset 1