Archive for the ‘Off-the-Beaten-Path’ Category

Lanier’s Historic Downtown Marketplace

September 8, 2010

In The Heart Of Old Downtown Kissimmee, This Place Is A Great Find!

18,000 square feet crammed packed FILLED from floor to ceiling with antiques, collectibles, design ideas and everything in between–welcome to Lanier’s Historic Downtown Marketplace located on Broadway in the heart of old town Kissimmee. 

Packed From Floor To Ceiling

For the lucky readers of my blog seeking “more than a mouse”™ and an off-the-beaten-path adventure, you’re in for a real treat. Lanier’s is not simply an antique store. It is an oasis of southern hospitality. (you might be invited to have a coffee or lemonade by the store owners.) It’s a maze of amazing design ideas. It’s packed with a prestigious cornucopia of creativity. In short, it’s a shopper’s dream and an historian’s treasure! 

Jeremy Exudes Southern Hospitality

Jeremy had no idea who the LanceAround family is or that they would converge upon him on a hot, sunny Saturday afternoon. His warm smile, sincere greeting and offer of coffee made one instantly like him. He is the manager and member of the original Lanier family. We explained that we were looking for some items resembling Hogwarts for a Harry Potter bedroom we were creating in one of our vacation rental homes

Sitting next to Jeremy was Myles Edwards, a professional designer who, Jeremy says, makes Lanier’s shop windows rival Bloomingdale’s every Christmas. They put their heads together and soon Jeremy was whisking us around his store finding troves of Potter-esque items. 

#1 Daughter Discovered Lots of Treasures

There was so much to see even someone who dislikes shopping as much as I do found tons of amusing items that captured my attention and imagination. We spent over $100 on various items, not only for our vacation rental home but also for Number One Daughter who discovered a four player chess set she just had to have. 

Meanwhile, Number One Son was still debating on which of the multitude of ancient chests and antique desks he found would work best in the Harry Potter room. Mrs. LanceAround and I smiled as we enjoyed watching how much our children enjoyed this one-of-a-kind place. 

It was like we had discovered our very own hidden treasure–and now you can too! 

Lanier’s Historic Downtown Marketplace
108 Broadway Street
Kissimmee, FL 34741
Open Mon. to Sat. 9am to 5:30pm

Sebastian Inlet State Park

August 5, 2010


Sebastian Inlet State Park 

For the lucky readers of my blog who are seeking a truly natural Florida beach experience, you will be pleased to discover Sebastian Inlet state park

This is a great alternative to the more commercialized beaches, such as Cocoa or Daytona. Here, the crowds are sparse, the beaches serene and the wildlife abundant. Of course, there’s no stores, no pizza parlours and no ice cream shops. 

Instead, the Sebastian Inlet provides one of the best opportunities for surfers.  According to “Sebastian Inlet is a very consistent surf break! Sand bottom with refraction off the jetty bends the wave to form a powerful wedge effect! Big lippers and air launches! Along with right and left tubing waves! Not a place for beginners! Heavy locals, Big talent, and most of the pro surfers congregate at the 1st peak to show off their talent on a good day.” LanceAround does not understand a word of that report, but it sure sounds like a lot of fun. 

On Sunday, Number One Son, Number One Daughter and Mrs. LanceAround took a well deserved break and drove to Sebastian Inlet. We parked our car right beside the bathroom facilities. Outside, there was also a convenient shower useful for washing off the sand on your way out! 

Natural Wildlife Abounds

A short boardwalk takes you from the bathrooms to the beach. Along the way, the tall grasses were teeming with large, Golden Silk Orb-Weaver Spiders. They created a magnificent array of beautiful webs. 

At the beach there were only a couple dozen bathers and no lifeguards. The sun was shinning, the weather was gorgeous and the surf very mild. (Unfortunately–as LanceAround and Number One Son love to ride large waves!) 

Number One Son and I enjoyed an hour long swim while Number One Daughter joined Mrs. LanceAround in a relaxing nap on the beach blanket. We then used the showers to remove all the gritty sand and drove to Vero Beach to enjoy an Indian meal before heading home for the evening. 

Located between Melbourne and Vero Beach, Sebastian Inlet State Park is only a 90 minute drive from downtown Kissimmee. In addition to pristine beaches, it features the premier saltwater fishing spot on Florida’s east coast. There’s surfing, the McLarty Treasure Museum, the Sebastian Fishing Museum, scuba diving, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking and nature trails.  Full facility campsites and a boat ramp are also available. 

A serendipitous discovery for the lucky readers of my blog who seek “more than a mouse!”™

Lake Louisa State Park

April 24, 2010

The Picturesque Lake Louisa

Just 15 minutes from Disney World, Lake Louisa State Park is an ideal place to experience the REAL Florida.

4,500 acres of pristine Florida wilderness, including 11 natural communities, 6 lakes, 2 streams and 105 acres of lake shoreline are set in the corner of the Green Swamp, Central Florida’s vast wetland.  Here you can hike, bike, boat, swim, bring your horse for a trail ride, camp, RV or rent a cabin.

Kayak and Canoe Rentals

Its close proximity to Disney makes it an ideal location for a diverse vacation experience.  Well marked equestrian, hiking and biking paths along with fishing piers, BBQ pits, picnic tables and comfort stations give plenty of options.  Kayak and canoe rentals are also available

Cabins Overlook Lake Dixie

Campers can choose from primitive campgrounds, full-facility campgrounds, RV sites and cabins.  The spacious cabins include two bedrooms, utilities, large porches, linens and all overlook beautiful Lake Dixie.  The cost is a modest $120 per night and they sleep up to six.

P-51 Pilot Memorial

The park ranger is happy to provide you with birding pamphlets and trail maps.  Who knows what you’ll discover.  In 2001 the low water level on the lake revealed the remnants of a P-51 Mustang that crashed on a training mission in November 1944.  A monument with a piece of the propeller is on display by the lake.  Two prehistoric dugout canoes were also found that year.

Lake Louisa State Park is located south of Clermont, FL on Hwy. 27 just a few miles north of Hwy. 192.  Phone number is 352.394.3969.

For the outdoor and athletic enthusiast and lucky readers of my blog  looking for “More Than a Mouse”™ it’s time to discover Lake Louisa.

Orlando’s Best Kept Secret III–Biplane Rides

March 13, 2010

An Old-Fashioned Barnstorm Ride!

You pull the leather helmet over your head, snap the goggles onto your eyes and, with a whimsical flurry, toss the end of your scarf over your back. Climbing into the cockpit, you realize that only the presence of your digital camera strapped to your wrist makes this flight different than the first flights taken by your ancestors in open fields under a hand painted sign proclaiming “Barnstorming!”

Once inside the open cockpit, you marvel at the twin wings of your biplane. The pilot starts the engine and the loud sputtering roar of the wooden propeller makes it difficult to hear your partner who is strapped in right beside you.

As the pilot taxis to the grass runway, you feel every bump and shimmy. The bumps get more intense as the plane picks up speed. Suddenly, they stop. You notice the buildings and trees becoming smaller and smaller as the plane ascends.

What a View!

“Hey! There’s Interstate 4,” you shout to your partner, “that’s the road we just drove on!”

While the view is magnificent, the noise of the engine makes conversation impossible. Just as well; you don’t want to miss the view. You have given the pilot permission to do some mild maneuvers which creates a slight queasiness in your stomach.

You look over the undeveloped Florida landscape and smell the fresh airplane leather mixed with the oily machine smells of a vintage aircraft. You can’t help but muse on how it must have felt for your ancestors to have taken this identical flight back when flying was still a novelty and barnstormers used to go from town to town giving similar flights to families filled with wonderment.

The flight lasts for 15 minutes, which, ironically, feels both very short and like an eternity.

You have just experienced an old fashioned, Waldo Wright’s biplane ride–One of my picks for an “Orlando’s Best Kept Secret.” At $70/person, this 15 minute flight is a bit pricey. But the experience makes it worth the cost. Plus, you can combine the $70 plane ride with the $30 admission to Fantasy of Flight and your entire day of aeronautical exploration costs not much more than a trip to any other day long attraction in the Orlando area.

Waldo Wright’s biplane rides take off from the Fantasy of Flight runway, just 30 minutes down I-4 from Disney World.

For those wanting an even more immersive experience, for $230 you can actually pilot a Stearman biplane during a half hour flight.

Biplane rides, Fantasy of Flight , Balloon rides and the chance to pilot an old fashioned biplane are not attractions that are heavily advertised in this attraction packed area. But for the lucky, well-informed readers of my blog, they are the kind of off-the-beaten-path, “Best Kept Secrets” that are fun to discover during your trip to the Orlando area.

Tibet-Butler Preserve

December 4, 2009

440 Acre Tibet-Butler Preserve Next to Disney World

A crow could fly from Disney World to the Tibet-Butler Preserve in less than a half a mile.

By car, it’s just a bit further than that.  It is worth the drive.  

Vera Carter Environmental Center

Don’t misunder-stand me.  I love the mouse. However, I think it’s a good idea for families to do more than visit Theme Parks when travelling to the Disney World area.  After all, Florida contains the only mixture of tropi-cal and subtropi-cal climates in the continental USA.  There’s a lot to discover.

Here’s a simple and easy way to experience the real Florida–take an hour break from the tourist area to hike one of the short trails in the Tibet-Butler Preserve and spend a few minutes reviewing the information inside the Vera Carter Environmental Center.

Montessori Students in the Preserve's Classroom

From Disney World, you drive north on Route 535 to the preserve on the right hand side of the road.  You’ll get there in about 5 minutes.  Parking and ad-mission are free.  The preserve is open 8am to 6pm Wednesday to Sunday.  Heck, you can even arrive there at 8am and still be at the Theme Park when it opens at 9am!

The 440 acres of the preserve were purchased by the South Florida Water Management District through the “Save Our Rivers Program” in 1989.  Here, you might catch a glimpse of a bobcat, fox, swallow-tailed kite, gopher tortoise, bald eagle or even a rare indigo snake.  Song birds are ubiquitous as well.  You can hike through bay and cypress swamps, freshwater marshes and scrub and pine flatwoods.

Grabbing a Water Sample From the Marsh

One of the neat features of the preserve is the Interpretive Trail Guide. This handy pamphlet corres-ponds to marker pylons on the trails inside the preserve.  At each pylon the guide gives educational tips and suggestions of things to observe.  It is detailed, well written and appropriate for all age levels.   

Within moments of entering the preserve you will feel as though you have entered a new world.  Peaceful tranquility will envelop you.  The hiking trails are wide and smooth.  Well constructed boardwalks traverse the swampy areas.  Follow the trail to the Osprey overlook.  Once there, you can rest on one of the benches and enjoy the view of the water lilies adorning the edges of Lake Butler.  

# 1 Daughter and Class in the Florida Wilderness

Our daughter’s Montessori classroom went to the preserve for a lesson in water quality.  After a brief presentation in the classroom, the instructor took the students out to the marsh.  Samples of water were obtained.  The students donned goggles and gloves, then tested the water for oxygen content, ph levels, turbidity, temperature, contaminants and so forth.    

Kaitlin and Instructor Conduct an Experiment

It was a great lesson.  The students were engaged with rapt attention.  Mrs. LanceAround and I took a moment to sit on the benches under the Osprey Pavillion and enjoy the tranquil serenity of the surrounding fresh water marsh and view of Lake Butler.  It was a much needed respite from our hectic schedules.  

The perfect natural Florida environment for the well informed traveller seeking “More Than a Mouse”™

Florida Eco-Safaris and More at Forever Florida

October 4, 2009


Some of Florida's "Not-So-Wildlife" Enjoys a Nap on a Barrel
Some of Florida’s “Not-So-Wildlife” Enjoys a Nap on a Barrel

By now, regular readers of my blog understand that Forever Florida is a very special place.

The last five blogs have focused on the main activities at Forever Florida:

–The Allen Broussard Conservancy, a 4700 acre tract of land forever preserved in memory of the young man who passed on too early and is forever loved.

Montessori Student Explores the Florida Landscape

Montessori Student Explores the Florida Landscape

–The Zipline Safari, an opportunity to see the REAL Florida by zipping up to 55 feet in the air and walking across two sky bridges.  A definite must-do!

–The Coach Safari, a gentle way to experience the wilderness and diverse ecosystems of Florida while riding five feet in the air on a monster coach.

The Horseback Safari, giddy-up and ride ’em cow hunter (don’t say “cowboy” unless you’re lookin’ fer trouble) through the wilderness of Forever Florida.

The “City Slicker” Dude Ranch experience at the Crescent J ranch, a real, hands-on adventure in ridin’, ropin’ and drivin’ cattle across the pristine Florida wilderness.

Yet, with all that, we have barely scratched the surface of what Forever Florida has to offer. 

Look Closely

Look Closely

Camp Illahaw in Forever Florida offers campers of all ages the chance to experience everything that’s great about Florida.  The diverse ecosystems, wildlife, rich heritage, a working cattle ranch and more are part of the experience.  Each summer Camp Illahaw provides weekly Summer Adventure Camps for children ages 10 to 15.  Throughout the year church, civic, school or scout groups can reserve the campground for a true Florida outdoor adventure.

A low ropes course is available for corporate or private group retreats.  Teach your organization the value of team building, leadership and determination as you master the challenges presented on the course.

Montessori Students Find Delight at Every Corner

Montessori Students Find Delight at Every Corner

Camping is a large part of Forever Florida.  There is a small, primitive one-troop Scout Camp on the Crescent J Ranch that has been used by Girl and Boy Scouts for over thirty years.  There is a remote but up-scale campground way back in the wilderness of Forever Florida for individuals, couples or small groups.  Also, a large area “up front” can comfortably handle a Camporee of up to twenty Scout troops.  Plus there are two more campsites in-between.  What’s more, in the fall of 2009, Forever Florida will add six person cabins.

Education is a large part of the Forever Florida mission.  They provide Educator Resources designed to be compatible with Florida educational standards.  They host student classrooms, such as my daughter’s Montessori School, who spent a day at Forever Florida learning about the wildlife, taking a coach tour, and learning teamwork with the ropes course.  There is a Teacher In-Service Accrual program for teachers searching for non-traditional in-service point accrual.  They are also in the process of developing an On-line Interactive Eco Classroom.  It will focus on the various Florida ecosystems and their relationships to each other and to us.

Breath Deep

Breath Deep

If bringing your class or group to Forever Florida is not possible, the Forever Florida Mobile Classroom can come to you!

Hungry?  The Cypress Restaurant provides a daily BBQ special with all the fixin’s fer just $10 per person.  They even serve beef that was raised on the Crescent J Ranch.  It’s also a wonderful place to host a birthday, anniversary, wedding or other special event party.

Right beside the rustic tables in the restaurant is the gift shop which features artwork by local Florida artists along with suitable souvenirs of all kinds that help remind you of your time in the Florida wilderness.

Want more?  Okay, there are nighttime zipline adventures, Howling Halloween scare nights, the Owl Room provides a multi-media space for corporate or group meetings, the Panther Pavillion is a popular venue for informal events, special parties and BBQ’s with all the fixin’s brought over from the Cypress Restaurant.  A Harvest Music Jam takes place in October.  This year will feature the 10th annual Patrick Smith day, which honors the acclaimed Floridian author with a day of storytelling, arts and crafts, vendors, animal interactions and a special kid zone.  (Just $10 per carload.)

Look Closely

Abundant Wildlife of All Sizes

More?  How about celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas at the Cypress Restaurant; ringing in the New Year; or celebrating the season of renewal and new life by having your Easter Dinner at Forever Florida.

You want even more?  Tell you what, give the folks at Forever Florida a call.  They will work with you to create any kind of special event.

After all, this is a very special place.

Forever Florida
4755 N. Kenansville Road
St. Cloud, FL 34773

A “City Slickers” Real Dude Ranch Cattle Drive in Florida!

September 29, 2009
An Old-Fashioned Cattle Drive at the Crescent J

An Old-Fashioned Cattle Drive at the Crescent J

Any list of all-time great movie lines has to include a famous line from the movie City Slickers starring Billy Crystal as Mitch.

For his 39th birthday, Mitch’s two friends buy him a week’s adventure, for the three of them, working at a Dude Ranch.  In one hilarious scene, Mitch attempts to rope a steer and gets caught.  As his body is dragged along behind the steer, Billy delivers one of the funniest lines in movie history as his character Mitch wails, “I..I…I…I’mmmm  Ooonn  Vaaaacccaaatttiiiooooooonnn!”

It’s movies like City Slickers and old westerns that have spawned the popularity of the Dude Ranch or Cattle Drive vacation.  These are trips where guests learn to ride horses, rope cattle, drive cattle and develop other cow hunter skills. 

The Crescent J. Ranch at Forever Florida offer two kinds of cow hunter experiences.  They have a Half Day, Rawhide Roundup and a Crescent J Cattle Drive Weekend.

The Rawhide Roundup costs only $99/person.  It includes three hours of cow hunter challenges, skill building and fun.  (Don’t make the mistake of calling a Florida Cow Hunter a “cowboy” or you’ll get quite a talkin-to!)  You’ll learn the basics of herding cattle and tending ranch.

In addition, Crescent J is one of the few ranches that feature Spanish Colonial Cattle.  These animals have a lineage that go back to when Ponce de Leon first brought cattle to the new world.  They also have the largest herd of Cracker horses in the world.  Here is a link to more information about the animals and native landscape at the Crescent J.

After three hours of authentic Cow Hunting activity, you’ll be ready for a break and will enjoy ending your day with lunch at the Cypress Restaurant.  This is included in the price of your adventure.

Overnight Campfire Under the Stars

Overnight Campfire Under the Stars

For those seeking a longer adventure there’s the three day, two night Crescent J Cattle Drive Weekend.  After learning the skills of roping, riding and cow cutting, you’ll go on a three day cattle drive, driving Spanish Colonial Cattle to their destination.  You’ll experience the wonders of the Florida wilderness while camping under the stars and enjoying campfire meals together.

This adventure is only $299/person and must be reserved in advance.  In addition to the Cow Hunter experience, Forever Florida also offers a Zipline Safari, Coach Safari, Horseback Safari, camping and many other activities.

These off-the-beaten-path activites are a lucky find for the readers of my blog who enjoy seeking those out of the way adventures while on vacation to the Central Florida area.

Forever Florida
4755 N. Kenansville Road
St. Cloud, FL 34773

Horseback Rides in Florida

September 25, 2009
Horseback Safari at Forever Florida

Horseback Safari at Forever Florida

There’s something about riding a horse through the wilderness.  I can’t describe it.  It’s “real.” It’s “deep.” It’s, I don’t know, it just feels so right, so wholesome.

First, there’s the smell.  The combination of leather saddle and horse.  It’s unlike any other smell.  Then there’s the raw power.  When you are on a horse, you can sense the living, breathing power of an animal with much greater strength than you have.  However, there is also the tenderness–somehow you understand that the beast beneath you is tame; it is here to serve you.  Then, if you are lucky enough to be allowed to gallop, there’s the combination of speed, focus and determination.  The rocky, shaky gait has somehow turned into a smooth motion.  You feel like you are sitting still in the saddle and the world is rushing past you on both sides.

Experience the REAL Florida

Experience the REAL Florida

Don’t worry, if you are a novice to horseback riding you will likely spend the entire ride at a gentle walk.  After the initial anxiety of getting on the horse and learning how to lead it, you suddenly notice that you are more relaxed and focused on the wilderness around you.

At that moment, you are transported.  The 20th century is a dim memory.  This is what it was like to travel in days gone by.  You experience the world with a whole new perspective.

The Horseback Safari at Forever Florida will provide you with this experience.

For the beginner, you may want to start with the one hour ride.  The cost is only $40 and it is money well spent.  You can also ride for two hours for $60 or three hours for $80.  All riders should be at least 12 years old, but 10 year olds are welcome if they have proven riding experience.  If you weigh over 275 pounds, an individual evaluation will be needed to determine ability to participate.

If you already have some riding experience it might be time to upgrade to an overnight safari.  For $199 you can have a 2 day, one night safari and $299 buys you a 3 day, 2 night safari.  These rides traverse scenic and historic trails that were first used by Native Americans riding horses in the 1500’s.

You’ll travel through diverse ecosystems ranging from Pine Flatwoods to wetlands.  While enjoying a simpler time, you’ll see the native wildlife of Florida including alligators, black bear, deer, turtles, wild turkeys, 200 different bird species and maybe even the endangered Florida panther.  Not to worry–your expert guide will ensure your safety as well interpreting the various animals and landscape you encounter.

The Only Way to Fully Appreciate Florida's Natural Beauty

The Only Way to Fully Appreciate Florida's Natural Beauty

City Slickers can rest easy as the overnight camping facilities feature restrooms, showers and even limited power access.  The safari includes riding instructions, campfire dinner, two person tents, campfire breakfast and, upon your return to civilization, a delicious lunch at the Cypress Restaurant in the Forever Florida Visitor’s Center.

Bring your sleeping bag and spirit of adventure.  A night under a canopy of stars awaits the lucky readers of my blog on the Forever Florida Horseback Safari.

 Defininately off-the-beaten-path and well worth a visit for the adventurous traveller seeking “more than a mouse”®

Forever Florida
4755 N. Kenansville Road
St. Cloud, FL 34773

Coach Safari at Forever Florida

September 23, 2009


# 1 Daughter (in Monster Coach Safari) Watches Montessori Classmate Pose for this Photo

# 1 Daughter (in Monster Coach Safari) Watches Montessori Classmate Strike a Pose

Tourist attractions are nice.  They are generally designed to be fun and entertaining.  Yet, when I travel to a distant land, I like to experience the local culture–what is this place really all about?   I try to seek out the interesting sites outside the touristville area.

If you are visiting Central Florida, one great experience is to travel several hours south to explore Florida’s Everglades National Park.  I have written a blog about this excellent destination. 

A much easier way to experience the real Florida is to take a Coach Safari, one of the Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida, less than an hour east of Disney World.

I was lucky to discover this wonderful place when # 1 Daughter’s Montessori School took a field trip there.

Care For a Drink From Bull Creek?

Care For a Drink From Bull Creek?

Forever Florida is a 4700 acre wildlife conservation area.  It brims with ecotourism activities such as a Zipline Safari, Horseback Safari, campground, working cattle ranch and much more.  Each provides an in-depth, hands-on experience in the Florida wilderness.

For the less adventurous, the Coach Safari is an easy and enjoyable way to get right up close to the natural Florida landscape.

The Forever Florida wildlife conservation area has nine distinct Florida ecosystems and an endless array of natural flora and fauna including alligators, black bears, white tail deer, nearly two hundred species of birds including Eagles and even the endangered Florida Panther.

To see this up close, Florida EcoSafaris have monster, open air safari coaches that are elevated five feet off the ground.  Winding through the Florida landscape you’ll have to hold on to your seat as these motorized beasts travel over land and water within inches of trees and foliage.  Have your camera ready!  You never know what you’ll see around the next bend.

Your adventure begins at the Crescent J. Ranch–a real working cattle reach that showcases Spanish Colonial Cattle and Florida’s unique Cracker Horses.  Many people don’t realize that it was Ponce de Leon who introduced the horse and cattle to Florida.  Florida “Crackers” were herding cattle long before it became a way of life in Texas and other midwestern states.

After the ranch, you reach the border of the wildlife conservation area.  Your knowledgable guide will provide insight and commentary about the native inhabitants and landscape.  At any moment you might catch a glimpse of an alligator, turtle, wild turkey, deer or any other of the numerous critters that roam this pristine wilderness.

Montessori Students on the Boardwalk

Montessori Students on the Boardwalk

The coach will visit a floodplain forest and you can take a stroll along a boardwalk with an up close view of Bull Creek.  Forever Florida says the tea-colored water of this “blackwater” stream is so clean, it is safe to drink.  But I won’t dare try it.  I will take a deep breath, however, as they point out that the water and plant life help to keep the air pure.

You’ll return through several more diverse ecosystems to the Forever Florida Visitor’s Center.  Here, you can enjoy a country meal at the Cypress Restaurant or buy the perfect souvenir at the gift shop.  There are large wooden rockers and an expansive porch for you to rest a moment and take in one last draught of both the Florida environment and an ice cold libation from the restaurant.

It’s like your own little piece of heaven here on earth.

The Coach Safari is wheelchair accessible, perfect for all ages and costs $28 for adults and $22 for children ages 6-12.  5 and under ride for free.  The Coaches depart daily at 10am and 1pm.  There are also custom departures available for groups.

The Montessori Classroom LOVED the Field Trip to Forever Florida!

The Montessori Classroom LOVED the Field Trip to Forever Florida!

Florida EcoSafaris
Forever Florida
4755 N. Kenansville Road
St. Cloud, FL 34773

My Son, I Will Love You Forever–Forever Florida

September 17, 2009
Allen Broussard

Allen Broussard

Allen Broussard died in 1990 just four days after his 29th birthday.

He fought Hodgkin’s disease, numerous surgeries and had a heart transplant.  Infection set in just a few weeks after the transplant.  Allen didn’t make it.

Allen’s parents, William and Margaret, are a ophthalmologist and a mathematician respectively.  I have never met them.  While watching the slide show presentation at Forever Florida I discovered a lot about who they are.

Bill and Margaret loved Allen (and all their children.)  They taught them to love and respect nature.  Allen assimilated this teaching.  Even as a youngster he had the ability to learn things from observation that escape the attention of most adults regarding the habits and characteristics of animals.  He went on to do doctoral work as a wildlife ecologist in the natural world he loved so much.  Numerous camping and hiking trips to remote destinations, such as Alaska, Australia, Germany and even a honeymoon to the Galapagos Islands continued to foster Allen’s love and devotion to the study of animals and their natural habitats.

When the physically fit Allen developed Hodgkin’s disease, his parents suffered through his health battles for 10 years.  A few weeks before his heart transplant, he asked if the area around his boyhood playland of Bull Creek in Osceola County, FL could be preserved.  His father thought it might be possible.  Allen was so excited he began to call his friends and tell them the good news.  When he died from infections just six weeks after receiving a new heart, his devastated family made it their mission to carry out this request.

No parent should ever have to experience the anguish of burying their child.

Allen loved animals and nature.  He had a special affinity for birds; real birds.  Yet it is a mythical bird that springs to my mind.  The phoenix  rises from the ashes of its own demise.  Likewise, Forever Florida rose from the ashes of Allen’s passing.

Forever Florida is anchored by the Allen Broussard Conservancy–a non profit 501(c)(3) organization founded to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems of Florida’s native wilderness, provide a permanent habitat for wildlife, maintain the historical ranching operation and educate the public about the importance of conservation and the preservation of our unique heritage.  In addition, Forever Florida is home to a working cattle ranch and eco-tourism.

It is the eco-tourism that is the most visible aspect of Forever Florida.  Here, you will find a Zipline Safari, Horseback Safari, Coach Safari, campgrounds, ropes course, working cattle ranch and special events.  Each of these will be described in later posts.

This post, however, focuses on Allen and how the grief of his passing and the love of his family came together to create a unique place of beauty, tranquility and education.

It is both touching and ironic that many of the acres of conservation found at Forever Florida are acres that were part of an old swindle, sold to northerners as develop-able lots but were really only swampland.  When the owners of many of these lots found out what Forever Florida was trying to do, they donated their land to the Conservancy.

I will write several more blogs about this place.  But, for now, I am simply struck by the deep love of parents for their dying son.  A love that would last forever–Forever Florida.

A very special place that is well worth a visit.

Forever Florida--Where Allen Played as a Young Lad

Forever Florida--Where Allen Played as a Young Lad

Forever Florida
4755 Kenansville Road
St. Cloud, FL  34773