We have Lift Off!

Ever since I was a little kid, space has been a fascination of mine. Something about the beauty and the mystery, as well as humans traveling there, just drew me in.

I’ve witnessed numerous launches of Space Shuttles, and many different types of rockets, but my recent experience at the Kennedy Space Center tops them all. I had the privilege of joining a small group of people for two days of behind the scenes action, leading up to a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket launch. The CRS-12 launch was the highlight, but getting to tour the Vehicle Assembly Building and the Flight Control Center were high on the charts. We were even able to get up close to the Falcon 9 rocket, as it sat on pad 39A, just hours before its lift off! That is something I never in my life thought I’d be able to do! Another highlight to me was sitting in front of some NASA officials like: Astrophysics Director, Paul Hertz, and Acting Administrator, Robert Lightfoot, as he spoke to us about his opinions, future space flight, and tons of other amazing things that NASA is doing and will be doing for this country, and the entire world!

This was an experience I will never forget, and I am so grateful of the NASA Social and everyone behind it. I can’t thank you all enough for the opportunity.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the amazing 2 days:

nasa 19nasa 13nasa 14nasa 17nasa 9nasa 7

Mark M.

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Christmas in August, in Florida.

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of my days at the beach, so I decided to take a short trek inland to go on a little adventure. A few of my favorite adventure spots in central Florida are in a little town called Christmas. It’s only about a 40 minute drive, so that is where I figured I’d set off to. My goal for the day was to find snakes. Venomous snakes. But that didn’t seem to happen. However, I did end up seeing lots of awesome birds, beautiful scenery, turtles, tortoises, deer, and my favorites, American Alligators.

I wanted to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, so I rode my bike, rather than walk. Part of my ride consisted of small dirt roads, winding through the swamps and wetlands, part of it through the woods, part through some tall grass, and part of it even involved a big grassy hill (big for Florida)!

Besides overlooking the wetlands from the hill, my favorite part of the adventure was with one of the Alligators I hung out with. I chilled around with a few, but this one was down for social interaction even more than the others. When I first walked up to the gator, it was laying down chilling on the side of the swamp. So I sat down with it and chilled a bit. When I got up, the gator got up and slowly went sliding into the water right next to me. It just kept a close eye on all my actions. Tje Alligator did not seem threatened, and neither was I. It was just a very cool, close, and relaxing experience. A nice vibe.

deer 1

deer alli

deer bird

deer road

deer gator creep

deer swamp

deer walking gator

deer dirt

deer swamp 2

deer gator

All in all, it was a great little adventure, and I am looking forward to more in the near future.

Get outside!

 

Mark M.

Ecuador Adventures in May.

Some of my favorite places I’ve had the privilege of visiting have been in Latin America. I love the foods, the natural beauty, and the complete kindness of almost everyone. People just seem to be more caring and giving. Even people with almost nothing to offer, will offer you what they have, just to make sure you are happy and enjoying yourself. It truly feels like another world in my opinion.

With all that said, when I was offered another trip to Ecuador, I had to say YES! I had visited Ecuador twice before, so I already had friends there, which makes trips more enjoyable. Also, I would be joining some other close U.S. friends of mine, which makes it even that much better! I arrived to Quito, Ecuador a little late in the evening, so I didn’t really expect much of a meet and greet from anyone, except a quick hello, and lets go..but to my surprise, I was greeted by my great friend Marco Calderon, and a couple other bmx riders. Instead of heading straight home and to bed, they took me around and showed me some beautiful sights of Quito. It was definitely a nice welcome to a beautiful country.

The next day, all the others flew in, and that’s when the trip really took off! We had the privilege of visiting the actual Equator! It was something I never really thought I would do or see. Funny thing is, there was a massive monument built many years ago, on what was THOUGHT to be the actual line.. but with better GPS technology, they found that the actual Equator is about 250 yards away from it’s original said location. Non the less, it was cool to visit both the real, and the fake locations.

From there, we packed up into a van and took an 8 hour journey from Quito to Macas, where we would be spending the next few days. The best part of the journey was driving through the Andes mountains! we passed by waterfalls, volcanoes, and so much beautiful scenery, some of which was so amazing looking that it looked almost fake. The not as good part of the drive was the rain, twisty steep roads with massive cliffs on the side, and some spots of the roads even completely washed away by landslides. It was an adventure, to say the least!

During our stay, we took a quick stroll just outside of Macas city, to a cool little spot on the outskirts of the Amazonian Jungle. It was amazing! We crossed over a roaring river on a sketchy bridge made of bamboo, which was almost totally separated in the center. It seemed like the little bridge could go at any second, but it was the only way to get to the hiking trails on the other side. we crossed the bridge, and I felt like I stepped into another world! It was simply amazing! We took a hike along the river, through the massive lush greens and tall palms. It felt like we were in Jurassic Park!

Basically, this adventure was a success! We rode bmx, hung out with the mayor of Macas, met great people, ate amazing food, saw some beautiful sights, and most of all, we were welcomed and cared for by every single person we crossed paths with. I have to give a huge thanks to my pal Marco Calderon for making this trip, one for the books.

Here are some shots from the trip.

Enjoy!7C6AF684-68A8-47FC-A561-C8F050A97C90The fake equator monument.

IMG_6643The sketchy bridge. IMG_6644Sketchy bridge again.

2A729DC1-E8C7-479B-914B-5A55B66274FBThe van. We packed 14 people, and bags in this.

7234AAA4-E5BE-4E1F-B506-20574D980DB0Everyday views in Ecuador.

D8AAD72C-75F4-4775-B6BC-32639627A3FEThe beautiful Cotopaxi Volcano.

906320E2-240F-4053-B7BC-048E772BC220City streets of Quito.

D117FC17-61FC-4FD4-9F74-8D7555E88262View #1 Parque SangayE7EF932B-63EE-4F52-841F-C7FB19FC5D2CView #2 Parque Sangay

CC9D97B9-9707-4197-9416-CB65381B9F62The flag of Ecuador, flying high above Macas.

 

-Mark M.

Easter Adventure.

Everyone has their own way of celebrating holidays.. Some spend their time relaxing with loved ones, some go to the beach, some have a picnic at a park, or many other options. The woman and I like to get out and adventure!

It was an absolutely gorgeous Easter Sunday, here on Florida’s Space Coast, so we decided to do our usual, and take an adventure to a nice populated wildlife area. The temperatures were perfect for seeing Alligators, as it was a sunny 75 degrees. 75 is still slightly chilly for gators, so they were out trying to catch as much sunshine as possible.

In the hour and a half or so that we spent pedaling our bikes around, I’d say we saw about 15-20 Alligators, ranging anywhere from 1 foot to about 9 feet in length.

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9BD5FC9E-6BE7-4A9D-90FF-5D60F13B60FC

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No matter how many times I see these beautiful creatures, it’s always amazing! Of course, I had to approach them and hang out, partially to see how they would react, and partially for the excitement factor.

Alligators were not the only things we saw on this little adventure! We also saw a bunch of birds, as well as a cute little raccoon that was prowling the waterline, most likely looking for eggs. The raccoon would scrounge around a bit, then pop up and take a look to see where we were at, and back down on the hunt.

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I hope everyone had a great Easter!

Do yourself a favor, and get outside.

Thanks,                                                                                                                                                            Mark M.

 

Wild Monkeys in Florida!

For years now, I have been visiting Silver Springs, Florida in search of the infamous Monkeys (Rhesus Macaques) that roam the area. I have heard multiple stories about people seeing them, and even seen some photos that have popped up here and there…but never laid eyes on them myself, until this past weekend.

As I arrived to the parking area, I thought to myself  “I am starting to think these things don’t really exist. I have been here way too many times not to see them yet.” Even with many doubts of the monkeys existing, I hopped into the kayak and paddled off into the somewhat unknown. The kayak trip started as expected with lots of turtles and some alligators, which are always great to see, monkey gatorbut I was there for something else.

After stopping to check out some alligators, it was time to move on. Now about an hour into the kayak adventure, I am starting to once again, have doubts.                                                Moving along, I see someone up ahead in a kayak staring off onto land, as if they just saw a monkey! Sure enough, they did! We paddled up and parked next to the shoreline and gazed in pure amazement. There they were! After years of visits, I finally laid eyes on the infamous Silver Springs Monkeys! It was more exciting than I expected it to be. monkey looker

At first, I thought there were only a few monkeys in this group, but as we sat longer and longer, we ended up seeing at least 10, maybe closer to 20 monkeys, chilled out, eating, checking me out, climbing around and playing. It was incredible!

monkey baby eats

How and why are their monkeys in Florida, you ask? I will explain:

They were brought to the area in the late 1930’s by a tour boat operator, known as “Colonel Tooey,” to enhance his “Jungle Cruise” ride. Little did he know, the monkeys can swim! Some of them wandered off and started new colonies, and some stayed in the area. Now it’s said that there are at least 5 colonies in the state, but are most commonly seen around Silver Springs state park.

monkey baby cutemonkey creeper

This was one of the coolest things I have seen in this great state known as Florida!

Seek and enjoy.

 

-Mark Mulville

The good, and the ugly.

I was feeling like I needed a little bit of exercise yesterday, so I hoped the bike and took a stroll. Per usual I brought my camera along, just in case something crazy were to happen, or if some wild animals decided to pop out in front of me. Sure enough, I spot my first wild animal! Only issue was, it was dead. There was a 4-5 foot alligator, floating on its side in the water next to me. It was definitely a sight i was not expecting, or wanting to see.. mi-deathThis certainly bummed me out a bit, as I love these beautiful, beastly creatures. But I didn’t let that totally ruin the adventure, as I still wanted a bit more exercise anyway.

From there, I make my way deeper into the woods, and further away from any roads or people. Like a few of my recent adventures, I start to spot lots of animal foot prints! Besides the obvious deer and raccoon prints, I am still not quite sure what these tracks are from. I’d like to say either a large cat, or a coyote.mi paw.jpgNow I just want to come in contact with whatever animal is responsible for these. More adventures will be had in this general area, until I spot the culprit.

I was starting to get tired and near the end of my bike ride, but I was slightly bummed a bit. I was bummed about the dead gator that I spotted earlier in my ride.

As I got closer to my car, I look next to me and see a very large and beautiful Great Blue Heron! These are definitely one of my favorite birds. I am not one for birding, but I do love seeing these, and many other larger birds/birds of prey. mi heron.jpg

Get outside and adventure.

 

Mark M.

 

 

Island Style. February

When I start getting antsy (which is always), I have to get up and do something. Typically my quick free times are spent just riding my bmx bike around near the beach, jumping off everything in sight. But, when I have more time to kill, it’s adventure time!

This past Friday resulted in just that. I had about 2 hours time to get out and about, so I took a trek back to Merritt Island to try and find some wild animals to hang with. At first, I just kept seeing animal foot prints, but no animals. I saw foot prints from: raccoons, deer, birds and bobcats….but no animals.island-prints

Even though I was out there partially to calm my antsy nerves, I was becoming more and more antsy from not seeing anything! Then, right as I am getting ready to call it a day, I spot some Horseshoe crabs in the water! I was pumped! I ended up seeing 18 shacked up horseshoe crabs, doing naughty things, right in public. Two of them were even getting dirty on a piece of 70’s shag carpet that was dumped in the water! island-crab

As I move on now, much more excited on the adventure, I spot something big off in the distance. It was on the other side of a good sized lake and at first glance, I thought it may be a pipe or something..It looked big! So I took a little journey to the other side to get a better look. Then, I make out what it is. It is a huge alligator! I ditched my bike, and got in stealth mode. Once I get closer, I notice this is a very large creature. It was at least 10 foot, if not much bigger. As I approached it, I got spotted. The alligator lifted it’s head up a bit to check me out.island-big I gave it a few minutes to relax and then I proceeded to inch closer, one small step at a time. I end up within 6 feet of this ancient creature, and then decided to stop. I didn’t want to scare it, as it was soaking up some sun rays. After a few more minutes of hanging out with it, the gator lowered it’s head, closed it’s eyes, and began to nap the afternoon away. At that time, I was a bit whooped to, so I took a seat down next to the gator and chilled out for a bit. It wasn’t till I got up to head back to my bike, that the gator finally opened it’s eyes. island sleep.jpg

This definitely turned out to be an exciting adventure. Not all wildlife excursions are successful. But when they are, It is such a treat.

It’s time for another adventure!

 

Mark M.