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Here is a great idea- Take the family on an adventurous bike ride.

Because we are a lean, mean fighting machine of a family, we decided to bond together by riding bikes in the middle of nowhere.

It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and like most Sundays, my cousin Josie decided to come up for a visit.

I am stating for the record- I warned her- I explained we were going biking as a family outing- She was game- So much so, she brought her own bike.

As we are driving towards the middle of no-where, rumbling in the back seat began.

“Where are you taking us?” Josie exclaimed.
Sophie chimed in, “Mom, this is scary.  There is nothing around here.”
“Daaad,” Nick cries, “turn around!  This is already too far!”

“Too late now!  We are committed to this.  We have five bikes hanging off our truck and we are going to have family bonding/fitness fun!  By the way, there is no cell phone coverage where we are going.  Hahahaha!”  Me, being queer.

“What’s this place like?”
“Don’t know, never been there.”
“Where are we going?”
“Don’t know until we get there. Hahahaha!”

My BFFiF had told me about this incredible trail they had found online around Lake Apopka.  They had gone the week before and absolutely loved it- even with having to walk seven miles back to the car due to a flat tire on Wayne’s bike.  They still loved every step of the way.

“Are we there yet?”

Mark pipes in, “This is a dead-end, no trespassing area.  There isn’t even a road, Deb.”
“I know, Gina said keep going.”

So, rebel Mark believed me and kept going, along the canals and through the woods to a clearing surrounded by a barbed wire fence and gate.  Mark thinks I’m a loon to have listened to Gina and Wayne.

Right next to the huge NO TRESPASSING sign was a tiny marker with the symbols that welcomed adventurers to the path.  We unhooked the bikes, aired up the tires and were off!

Trust ME!

The signs are right there, inviting us to come in…

See, it’s not so scary.

This is the restoration grounds for Lake Apopka.  Surrounded by farmland and canals, the trail lead us, well, kind of nowhere.

Road going, well, who knows.

When you are in the know of what you are doing, you either look for the white triangle or follow the teeny tiny signs with the bike, person and arrow pointing you in the right direction.

What to do?

Didn’t realize this until we came to a point where the “paved-ish” road became a grass bed with farm equipment spewed everywhere.

The fork in the road. Decisions.

Oh, yea, and this was after we peddled past three gators and a snake.

One of several, wait, it gets better.

Josie, thinking out loud, “We need to get out of here! We need protection!!”
Mark, in unison “This is not right.  We have to turn around!”
Kids “Waah, waah, waah!”

It’s an adventure!!

We trek down this bumpy path, admiring the corn fields and full moon, every one of us secretly scared of when or where the next gator/snake will appear.  As we gathered some speed, we came to a hill that lead to a bridge over one of the canals.

Finally enjoying the ride

This was the break we were looking for.  After all we had been through getting lost in nowhere land with gators and all…

Josie expressing the desire to have a golf club for protection

We are regrouping to figure out which road to travel on now.

Faking the Family Bonding. I can’t lie…

Rejuvenated and ready for more!

Aah huh, cause we’re a lean, mean fighting machine of a family!
brrrm brrrm beep beep

Family Bonding. Swear.

Yea, we are happy campers on the safety of this bridge.  We decide to turn left following one of the canals, with the brush of farm to our right.  Ahh, so beautiful, so green, so peaceful.

(She is ready to wring my neck, preferably by a golf club, but she didn’t bring one…)

And then we hear it… The screams from Mark and Nicholas.


Our hearts are pumpin’.  Never in my hundred years of knowing Mark had I ever heard him scream the way he did, with Nick belting right with him.


A couple of choice words were used as we were peddling as FAST AS WE COULD to get the #$%^ out of there.  Zooming past what we already knew, wouldn’t you bet those stupid little white arrowed, bike and people symboled signs were EVERYWHERE!

Seriously, I am in BIG TROUBLE NOW.  We barely made 3 miles.  Maybe 3 miles until the BIGGEST ALLIGATOR KNOWN TO MAN/Mark/Nicholas CROSSED THE PATH IN FRONT OF THIER BIKES!  Having gators hang out on the berm is one thing, having one cross the path directly in front of you and realizing it stretches from one side of the “road” and hangs off the other side of the road AND it is walking tall to which you can LIMBO under the belly of this beast- is another…

My peaceful, family bonding/fitness day ended with our hearts pounding as though we  had done the 14 mile trek around the lake.  But, nooo, it ended abruptly due to a freakin’ alligator that could have eaten Mark and Nick.  How do I know they could have been eaten alive?  Cause Wayne said so.  It was dusk and the time gators roam for food.  Yea, meaty guys.

As we feverishly repack the truck as Nick became Boy Scout watch dog, I insisted on planning another trip out to this lovely GatorLand in Apopka.  No one was listening.  Everyone was deep in thought of “WHY DID WE LISTEN TO HER?”  Depending on who you are- HER meant either ME or GINA.

One week later…

—– Original Message —–

From: Josie Cooper
Sent: Tuesday, May 01, 2012 12:10 PM
To: O’Brien, Mark; Deb O’Brien

Subject: 75-Year-Old Man Bitten, Dragged by Alligator at a Golf Course Pond | TheLedger.com 

YIKES… You’ll not get me to Apopka Wild Kingdom for a bike ride again!!!   And I forbid u to take the kids!   (no matter how much they plead w you!)

Xoxxo Josie

From: Mark O’Brien

And you said we needed a golf club for our protection on our bike ride???