Posted by: Jacqueline Knapp | May 2, 2011

Why driving on the beach in Volusia County is unique to Florida

Daytona Beach and others in the Volusia County area are some of the few beaches across the country that allow you to purchase a day or seasonal pass that permits you to drive your car on the beach and park it for the day while the tide permits.  Driving directly on the beach has many advantages and perks to beachgoers, surfers, and families alike; it lets them pack all their towels, chairs, food, umbrellas, and play toys all in the comfort of their car.  It also means no lugging heavy bags and making multiple trips back to the car to get something.  People of Volusia County seem to love the fact that they can cruise down to the beach whenever they want, but all good things never seem to last.  Controversy and fighting over the accessibility of driving on the beaches in Volusia County has recently risen, with anti-driving groups citing environmental, health and safety concerns.

There have been several deaths and accidents over the years involving cars running over victims either playing, lying on, or crossing the designated driving lanes.  These deaths have caused groups of people to join forces to determine how to eliminate car access to the beaches of Volusia County all together.  When access ramps are opened, cars have clearly marked lanes and speed limits they are supposed to observe carefully.  However, these are followed more like approximate ‘guidelines’ and with limited beach patrol, are difficult to enforce in all areas.

The main groups opposing the rules to let cars drive on Volusia County’s beaches cite that the city only continues to allow residents and tourists to drive on the beach because of tradition and money.  Season passes are $20 for Volusia County residents, $40 for non-residents, or $5 a day.  As one of the most event-driven towns in the area, Daytona Beach is built upon tourism and the potential to make easy money from charging for beach access is enticing.

Eliminating car access to Volusia County’s beaches would mean the city would need to build multiple public parking lots and access paths for visitors to go to the beaches, most likely equating to a multimillion-dollar project.  With so many other projects up for evaluation and approval for Volusia County’s budget, eliminating beach access and spending the time and money to form alternate solutions seems far from the real ambitions of city officials.  However when most people hear about the tragic events and injuries that have resulted from cars driving on the beach, they cry outrage and unanimously agree that car access should be taken away immediately.

I on the other hand believe that Daytona Beach needs to permit cars to drive on the beach to increase beach visitation.  Ice cream trunks, beach chair and umbrella rentals, sunscreen trucks, and four wheeler rentals are all businesses that depend on the amount of people visiting the beaches every weekday and weekends.  On weekdays and weekends where tides are too extreme to allow beach driving, the amount of people who make the effort to actually go is staggeringly low.  Yes, driving on the beach can be very dangerous to pedestrians and innocent children, but it is a personal responsibility and the responsibility of parents to carefully monitor and watch their children and themselves.

At low tide Daytona Beach has 500 feet of beautiful, packed sand to enjoy, so this should clearly be enough room for cars to pass in their lanes and for families to situate themselves on either side.  Of course I believe it is also the shared responsibilities of drivers to stay alert, follow the speed limits, and stay out of restricted areas, but it is equally the responsibility of beach goers to monitor the area they have chosen to occupy.  Long live driving on Daytona Beach!

The Nissan Leaf
image source

It’s no wonder that as gas prices keep going up and up and up, the focus and efforts of creating alternative fueled cars has quickly increased.  One of the most popular kinds of gas alternative cars on the market right now are electric cars.  An electric car sounds just as it is; it is a plug-in, battery powered automobile that has zero tail pipe emissions.  The downside to electric cars however is that they cost more than a gasoline car, and run much shorter distances than gasoline cars can before needing to be refueled (charged).

However, the Nissan “Leaf” is about to change all negative preconceptions and pessimistic thoughts about owning an electric car.  The Nissan Leaf is the first mass-produced electric car by a major manufacturer.  It is a five door, mid-size hatchback that boasts a 100-mile round trip on a single charge.  Considering most Americans only travel approximately 40 miles a day, this car is extremely adequate for about 90% of U.S. consumers.

The Leaf is set to be priced at $32,780 with federal tax incentives of up to $7500, bringing the costs to be around $25,000.  Electronic cars tend to cost more in maintenance costs than gasoline cars do BUT electronic cars have zero tailpipe pollutions, zero greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce dependency on petroleum.  Depending on the voltage supply electric cars can fully recharged in as little as three and a half hours and with government support, charging stations set up in large cities could help cars cruise around all day long.

It’s obvious there needs to be a major change in the way the world consumes petroleum and the Nissan Leaf seems like a step in the right direction.  If 90% of Americans who drive under 40 miles per day were to invest in an electric car then up to 40% of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions could be cut down.  Imagine the relief that would provide for countries fighting over petroleum, the increased health benefits for those who live in cities and breathe in car emissions day in and day out, and it could help people around the world in the fight to live green.  Let’s hear it for The Leaf!

Posted by: Jacqueline Knapp | April 22, 2011

The Most Important Things To Bring To The Beach

As a self-proclaimed sunshine traveler, I often frequent the beach whenever I have the opportunity, no matter where I am. Living in Daytona Beach for the past year has provided me with many opportunities for not only getting a year-round beautiful sun-kissed look, but also for perfecting a beach routine.  After many months of traveling to and from the beach, I have figured out the most important things to bring and how best to prepare yourself for a day of fun in the sun!

1. Get a mesh beach bag. There are many fashionistas out there that would scream at this statement saying that mesh bags are unattractive and completely unstylish for a beach look.  But what is really stylish about slathering on sunscreen, sweating, getting covered in sand, and smelling like salt?  A mesh beach bag is airy enough that it’s not going to overheat anything you leave inside, will filter out small grains of sand through the bottom, and are easy to hose out at the end of the day so they don’t carry half the beach back into your house.

2. Bring 2 towels.  Though this may seem excessive to some, two beach towels can come in handy in a lot of ways.  No matter how hard you try, the towel that you lay on the sand to sit on is going to get covered in sand, and will not be very useful at all when drying off when you get out of the ocean.  Keep your second towel tucked safely in your mesh bag so you can wipe off your face when you’re done swimming, get sunscreen out of your eye, or wipe off the dry sand stuck on your body before returning home.

3. Put your cellphone in a plastic bag. For many a cellphone is like a limb, so leaving it behind in your house is not an option. Sand gets EVERYWHERE so be smart, and protect your cellphone by putting it into a ziplock plastic bag.  You can wipe your hands on your second clean towel and take it out of the bag if you need to use it.

4. Bring 2 water bottles.  Many people only bring one water bottle to the beach, but I’ve found that two is the way to go.  The first water bottle you bring should be filled with lots of ice and be insulated and will serve as keeping you hydrated in the hot rays of the sun.  The second one serves the purpose of having fresh water to use to rinse off.  Use it to splash your face when you get out of the ocean, to pour over your hands before handling your cellphone, or for rinsing off your feet at the front door of your house.

In addition to these ‘extras’ don’t forget to bring your shades, house keys, sun protection, umbrella, and bathing suit ;)!

Posted by: Jacqueline Knapp | April 10, 2011

An Outing

This past week I had a wonderful dinner with a friend at a fun restaurant called Boondocks.  We went at the perfect time of the day right after the huge thunderstorms from earlier that day cleared away and set the scene for a beautiful sunset.  After traditionally feeding some leftovers to the hungry bottom feeders as everyone else at the restaurant does, we took some beautiful photographs by the Halifax River as the sun dropped quickly with magnificent colors.

Posted by: Jacqueline Knapp | April 5, 2011

The best way to have your morning coffee


Posted by: Jacqueline Knapp | March 27, 2011

Roatan, Honduras: A Diamond in the Rough

Unfortunately my wonderful two-week vacation to the island of Roatan, Honduras ended all too abruptly yesterday (although I knew it couldn’t last forever), but as a result I finally have time (or rather am not diving and sitting in the sun relaxing) to reflect on all the wonderful opportunities and sights that this island has to offer.

The main reason why people travel to Roatan is because it has one of the most spectacular reefs you could hope to find in the Caribbean. With over 31 dive sites filled with beautiful coral formations, healthy fish life, wrecks, planes, and sharks, as well as a plentiful amount of dive operations from which to choose, you really can’t find a better place to hang out and visit for vacation if you’re a fan of scuba diving.

With such quality reefs it’s hard to distinguish the “best dive sites” of Roatan because even the “worst” are still spectacular spots.  However, of the 31 sites to choose from, my personal favorite dive sites would have to include Spooky Channel, Lighthouse Reef, White Hole, and Cara-a-Cara — an intense shark dive filled with Caribbean Reef Sharks swimming around you in every direction.

Spooky Channel takes the prize for best overall atmosphere. With a sandy bottom reaching down to 95 feet and sheer coral walls extending up to just 3 feet below the surface, you can’t get more picturesque beauty underwater. This dive site is appropriately named Spooky Channel because of the dim light that filters through to the bottom of the crevices, and diving this site with the angle of an afternoon sun made it a truly “spooky” experience.

Lighthouse Reef is a shallower dive on the West End that boasts beautiful pillars of coral formations scattered like sprinkles thrown onto an ice cream cone. You could easily spend hours weaving in and out of these coral towers peeking into every crevice finding damsel fish, lion fish, file fish, trunk fish, lobsters, crabs, and one of my personal favorites, spotted drums.

White Hole is a great dive because the lighting is breathtakingly perfect.  This site has amazing visibility and is very dramatic when the sun casts a bright light on the beautiful hues of pink, purple, green, yellow, and orange corals, reflects off the glowing spots of juvenile damsel fish, and alights the almost flourescent look of jaw fishes’ fins in the sand.  It also seems to be quite the popular hang-out spot for sea turtles and file fish.

The last of my favorite dive sites is Cara-a-Cara, the aforementioned intense shark dive located near the west end in deep blue water. This dive was quite ominous to begin with as a huge rain storm decided to pour down on our crowded dive boat just as we anchored to the buoy, forcing us all to quickly strap on our equipment and jump into the fast current of the ocean, furiously dragging our bodies horizontally along the tow line before going down. Once safely underneath the surface however, this dive quickly switched from cold, dark, and slightly annoying to jaw-droppingly exciting.

Once at the bottom depth of around 70 feet, all divers are asked to relax on a designated sandy patch with their backs to a coral formation and watch as Caribbean Reef Sharks start swarming the area, sniffing out the bucket of chum weighted down on the bottom about 15 feet in front of them. If there is little to no current the last 15 minutes of the dive will be spent swimming out in the open among these giant beasts and searching the sands below the empty chum bucket for any shark teeth that may have luckily fallen out during the quick, but ferocious, feeding.

All in all, you cannot go wrong with any dive site in Roatan, I’ve just highlighted some of my best moments and favorite spots that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Also, I’d like to thank the crew of The Octopus Dive School for being such amazing leaders, energetic, crazy-fun, and great, wonderful people! Thank you Nuria, Sophie, Carmen, Eva and Antonio!

Posted by: Jacqueline Knapp | January 27, 2011

Want to navigate to one site for all your good news? This is it.

I’ll be contributing to this new blog, which will feature stories on the most interesting local stuff to do in the Orlando area, events going on in central Florida, fashion, electronics, fun interesting stuff and more!  It’s soon to become my one stop shop for finding the best stories on the web:

Posted by: Jacqueline Knapp | November 27, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Review

Living in Florida has more great benefits than just warm weather and beautiful beaches, it means I’m close enough to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando! This is one of the most amazing constructed theme parks I have ever had a chance to visit, and the people involved in making Hogwarts come alive truly succeeded in their goals. Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will cost you around $15 dollars for parking, $80 for a day pass, $15 for lunch, and any extra money spent onsouvenirs that you may want to buy, but if you are an avid Harry Potter fan such as me, there is no better way to spend your money.

Most people are not aware that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is nestled within the Island of Adventures at Universal Studios, meaning you have to walk around the entire loop to get to the Hogwarts segment. This is not a bad thing however, it is actually a great addition because the other ‘worlds’ like The Cat in the Hat, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Marvel Super Hero Island, and Toon Lagoon all have their own unique roller coasters and shows that contribute to a magical day of fun. There is no question however that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the most developed section in the Islands of Adventure, and no doubt the most popular.

The thing that makes The Wizarding World of Harry Potter so great is that it truly brings the atmosphere in the books to reality. Anyone who is a fan of Harry Potter has no doubt pictured what Hogwarts may look like in their head with a mash up of what is shown in the movies, and the park has done an excellent job of representing Hogwarts the way it is in fans’ minds. When you enter Hogsmead, you immediately see the Hogwarts Express with lots of eager fans waiting in line to get their picture in front of the ruby red train. As you move through the park you will come across Dervish and Banges, Filches Emporium of Confiscated Goods, Honeydukes, Ollivanders, Znokos, and dining at The Three Broomsticks.

All the broomsticks, robes, wands, candies, chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott’s Beans and more are all available for purchase and kids go crazy! Navigating through these shops can be quite a challenge in itself, most stores are so crowded you hop in a line that filters through the store and pop out on the other end if you haven’t picked up something to purchase (which is no doubt not the case for most!).

After enjoying a cup of butterbeer, (which is non-alcoholic and tastes like a butterscotch icy) you come across three featured roller coasters. Flight of the Hippogriff is a cute ride designated for younger kids. A couple twists and turns and ups and downs will have young children shouting for more. Dragon Challenge however has height requirements because this is a high-speed, twisty-turny rollercoaster to say the least. This is a great ride; passengers start off side by side in dragon shaped seats and take off at the same time “racing” through the corkscrews, loop-to-loops, and breathtaking freefalls to meet up at the end of the ride.

The highlight of Hogwarts however is the ride, Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey. The wait for this ride is usually very long, my friend and I were in line for an hour and half and that was beginning of the week, mid-afternoon. However, once inside the building Hogwarts appears before your eyes. The line walks you through the constructed school bringing you through Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor Common Room, the Great Hall, a classroom with realistic 3D holograms of Harry, Ron, and Hermonie and more. When you finally get to the ride you will experience Harry Potter more up close and intense than you ever thought possible. I don’t want to ruin the excitement for those of you who haven’t visited yet, but I will reveal that the basic premise is a ride that lifts and swirls you back and forth between white screen projections and online sets. This is the best ride I have ever been on in my life, and my biggest regret is that we only rode it once.

In the end, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is unbelievably exciting and makes you feel like you are really walking through Hogwarts and Hogsmead. I would recommend this trip to anyone and plan to go back as soon as I can!

Posted by: Jacqueline Knapp | November 18, 2010

The Best of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York

Upstate New York is a popular tourist destination in summer months for its beautiful weather, green foliage, wine tours, and beautiful lakes and lakefront property. There are seven lakes commonly identified as the Finger Lakes; Ostisco, Skaneateles, Owasco, Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka, and Canandaigua Lakes. These picturesque landscapes were elegantly carved by melting glaciers over the past two million years and because of their outstanding environmental factors, are now hosts to the largest wine producing regions in New York State.

Cayuga and Seneca Lake are close to 40 miles long and two of the deepest freshwater lakes in the nation; with Seneca Lake’s deepest point reaching a whopping 635 feet!  Most upstate residents will unanimously agree that among all the Finger Lakes, Canandaigua and Seneca are the ‘best’ for dining, touring, lakefront property, swimming, boating, and all other water-related activities.  Each lake has their own unique qualities and if planning on traveling to the Finger Lake region, then you should determine in advance what type of activities you would like to do to be able to make your trip the best experience.

Canandaigua is a small city of 12,000 residents that is bursting at the seams with tourists in summer months.  It draws attention from all over for its incredible wine tours, cute boutique shopping, original delicious restaurants, rich history, historic landmarks, and its post-card-perfect lakefront.  Lakefront property prices have exploded in recent years with people from all over the country flocking to purchase some of the most beautifully crafted houses with direct access to the lake.  In the summertime it’s hard not to run into somebody in town that isn’t planning on heading to the lake for the weekend.

Boat traffic can be congested at times, with ‘tailgating’ on the south shore near Kershaw Park being a popular activity for residents to do on weekends.  During holiday weekends such as the 4th of July over 100 boats can be seen tied bow to bow with hundreds of people of all ages floating in the shallows celebrating the richness of life.  During the summer months Canandaigua hosts many downtown festivals with uniquely constructed jewelry, arts and crafts as well as popular music artists in its newly redesigned music theater, the CMAC.  It is a beautiful destination for couples, elders, and families alike and can leave you more exhausted than before you took your vacation.

Seneca Lake is just as a rich location, with more destinations and wineries to tour as well as many historic landmarks, such as the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the Harbor at Seneca Falls, the Seneca Falls Heritage Area, Belhurst Castle, Seneca Lake State Park and Watins Glen.  As far as water activities go, Seneca is a great place to hit to avoid crowds.  It is significantly larger then Canandaigua Lake meaning there is less demand for space, letting you safely tube with your family or cruise along during a relaxing sunset with few boats in sight.

If you want your vacation to be about R&R and having some fun rocking and rolling in the waves, then Seneca Lake is your best bet.  Rent out a cottage on the lake front and take fishing trips, read a book on the end of the dock in the warm sunshine, and drag sleeping bags down at night to see the billions of stars light up the sky on a clear summer night…who knows maybe you’ll even see a shooting star!

Posted by: Jacqueline Knapp | November 2, 2010

Cayman Brac: The Relaxing Vacation You’ve Been Searching For

When most people think about traveling to the Cayman Islands they immediately picture Grand Cayman.  Although Grand Cayman hosts the famous Stingray City, Dolphin Cove, and the Atlantis Submarine, staying away from the crowds can give you a more cultural and special experience.  Cayman Brac is the smallest of the three Cayman Islands, with a population of only 1,800 people and is 12 miles in length.  Cayman Brac’s intimateness offers a true cultural experience and environmental appreciation of the beauty of the island.

The diving of course is spectacular, with one of the most popular dive sites being the 330-foot Russian Koni class frigate sunk and renamed by the Cayman government as the Captain Keith Tibbetts in 1996.  A vicious, large storm in January of 1999 tore the ship sitting at a planned and perfect 90-feet in two; surprisingly and conveniently making it more accessible for more novice divers to penetrate.  Cayman Brac offers some of the best wall dives with outstanding visibility including School House Wall, West Chute, and Bluff Wall among the best.  Found in the warm dive waters off of Cayman Brac are large formations of elkhorn and staghorn coral, large barrel sponges, morays, snappers, grunts, cowfish, trumpetfish and some of the most beautiful, sprawling seafans. 

The dive staff at Reef Divers on Cayman Brac treat you like royalty; setting up, removing, and cleaning your equipment each day for you, so all you need to worry about is putting on your fins and mask.  “BJ” is one of the younger dive masters, but in no way does this correlate with his experience as a dive master.  BJ has an eye for micro-organisms, riding fun currents, and making sure you’re taken care of from the minute you step on the boat until your on your way back to your resort.  He even boasts slapping the fins of Barracuda to watch them swirl around quickly to ‘stare-off’ with them.

Cayman Brac is famous for its caves–Peter’s Cave, Bat Cave, and Great Cave.  All of these rock formations have a long history with the residents of Cayman Brac, offering protection and refuge during some of the toughest and strongest hurricanes and tropical storms to hit their island.  Cayman Brac offers wonderful shopping, with hundreds of jewelry pieces formed with gorgeous black coral and the islands natural stone, Caymanite.  You also have the opportunity to snorkel, hike, bird watch, rock climb and dine at some of the most delicious and original seaside restaurants.  With some of the most healthy marine life steps from your table, the seafood is divine and fish is as fresh as it gets.

Unfortunately the Lion Fish , an invasive species, have begun to flourish in the Cayman area, declining fish life and threatening coral formations.  One up side to their invasion however has been the invention of a new sport.  Dive masters now hold competitions to spear gun as many lionfish as possible to help keep a healthy control of their population.  Despite the lionfish’s invasion, Cayman Brac continues to host beautiful fish life, coral formations, spectacular wall dives, and some of the friendliest natives in the Caribbean.  It’s a mistake not to visit this place, your only care will be choosing what delicious food to eat that night!

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