To each his own. To me my own.

Photography

Up High Again

This past weekend we packed our bags and headed up to Blowing Rock in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains for an overnight trip. Normally being a day trip, it amazes me the intense coordination and planning it takes for us to ‘get away’ for just one night. The house sitter for our baby boy Mojo, food and drink shopping for said house sitter, coordinating the alarm system, etc. Of course, it does help knowing the house sitter is non other than my baby girl and her robust boyfriend. So at least there’s no huge guesswork on food choices there.

We stayed in this same place March of last year, a week after Keith proposed – so this return trip was very special to us. Originally built in 1874, the adorable hotel is called The Hemlock Inn. Today, the original inn has been completely refurbished with additional rooms having been added. Each of the beautifully decorated historic rooms offer individual rustic mountain settings complete with hardwood floors and antique decor. Each room having it’s own unique decor, we opt to stay in a different room each time. This was our room last weekend:

Room_4

Here’s a couple shots from their website showing what’s in store once our beautiful warm summer weather decides to arrive (and stay).

OutsideSeating

Garden

Knowing the shops on Main Street so well, I was surprised we’d never been in the Six Pence Pub. Then I remembered neither of us are bar people, never have been! But since this place came highly recommended, we decided to pop in after we were checked and settled in our room. It did not disappoint. Though I didn’t get them in the picture, I’ll have to admit the fried pickles here are probably the best I’ve ever had.

sixpencepub

Of course the trip would not have been complete without a leisurely drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway before we left on Sunday. It’s my dream to someday drive the entire Parkway from start to finish. We always gravitate to ‘our’ overlook… Big Bear overlook. This overlook has 360º scenic views and is very near Price Lake. It was disappointing to see that someone had stolen the rustic sign that’s resided there since we started coming – I guess this tells me it’s not just ‘our’ favorite overlook.

bigbearoverlook

Here’s another panoram of the luxurious mountain laurel.

mountainlaurel

As usual, I found a t-shirt in a local store that I just couldn’t leave without. This shirt might as well have come preprinted with my name on it…

tee

So I guess I’ll save my story of walking around naked in the dark with a gun for another time.

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This I Promise You… my Forever.


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Clean White Slate

My beloved South got it’s snow yesterday. It came in swift and accumulated very rapidly. It was a blessing for it to occur on a Saturday afternoon/night of the weekend! The residents here seemed perfectly content to have a warm night tucked safe in their homes, and enjoy the scenery of the beautiful white snow outside.

It brought along with it thunder and lightning, which has been endearingly termed Thundersnow. The conditions that lead up to this type of event are extremely rare, and usually only occur in the states along the East Coast.

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This morning, I couldn’t resist the urge to walk down the pathway adjacent to my building to the lake. Although the overnight ice was treacherous, I went slow to reach my intended target.

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The Prize:

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A true photographer at heart, whether professional or amateur (I’m most certainly the amateur), will do almost anything to get their intended shot.

Going back up…
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This is my second weekend here. Along came the cleansing white snow which, to me, signifies a clean white slate. That’s how I see it, anyway.

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Can you tell I have this little thing for trees?


Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreaming

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the direct rays from the sun sometimes makes me sleepy. About a minute after I snapped this, Camille was fast asleep.

Prior to that, I thought she looked dreamlike.

To view other entries in this week’s photo challenge, ‘Dreaming’ –  click here.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting Moment

With this weeks photo challenge being a fleeting moment on the street, I thought yesterday’s incident should fit fairly well as my subject.

The phone rang Thursday afternoon and I saw it was Keith, so I picked up immediately. “I’m on the side of the road, just blew two tires.” I hurried several miles down the road and found him preparing to change the right rear.

Having only one spare, we had to leave and buy a used tire to mount on the rim of the right rear which was now supported by the spare. Back at the car, he removed the right front and discovered he wouldn’t be reusing that rim. Double-whammie.

A fleeting moment with a very large rock in the road ended up being the culprit of the blowouts. Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the term Rocky Road…


The Legend of the Blowing Rock

Last weekend we took a day-trip back up to the town of Blowing Rock, NC. With the majestic Blue Ridge Mountain scenic views, the town shops and our favorite barbecue restaurant, it tops our list of favorites. We had never actually been on the Blowing Rock, so we paid admission to see what it was all about.

I admired this little bird who chose to sit atop the Blowing Rock.

This little girl beside me looked lonely. 🙂

I’ve always loved a good legend. Something about them always connects me back to my childhood, where things could instantly turn magical and mystical. This, to me, is one of those tales that takes me back to that time.

It is said that a Chickasaw chieftan, fearful of a white man’s admiration for his lovely daughter, journeyed far from the plains to bring her to The Blowing Rock and the care of a squaw mother. One day the maiden, daydreaming on the craggy cliff, spied a Cherokee brave wandering in the wilderness far below and playfully shot an arrow in his direction. The flirtation worked because soon he appeared before her wigwam, courted her with songs of his land and they became lovers, wandering the pathless woodlands and along the crystal streams.

One day a strange reddening of the sky brought the brave and the maiden to The Blowing Rock. To him it was a sign of trouble commanding his return to his tribe in the plains. With the maiden’s entreaties not to leave her, the brave, torn by conflict of duty and heart, leaped from The Rock into the wilderness far below. The grief-stricken maiden prayed daily to the Great Spirit until one evening with a reddening sky, a gust of wind blew her lover back onto The Rock and into her arms. From that day a perpetual wind has blown up onto The Rock from the valley below. For people of other days, at least, this was explanation enough for The Blowing Rock’s mysterious winds causing even the snow to fall upside down.

I’ve got my own handsome Cherokee brave. 🙂

The Blowing Rock website


Weekly Photo Challenge: Together

As most of you know, I have a new ‘son’ – Mr. Mojo Risin. He was unusually nervous on the way to get groomed for the first time today. Although the little man was afraid, he trusted his new Mommy implicitly. In fact, everything seemed more than okay – as long as we were Together.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Through

This picture was taken while perched behind a window during our 2012 New Year’s vacation at the beach. I like how the ocean is visible through a single pane of the vase, but becomes very opaque through both panes.


Sights of Spring

I’ve missed all you guys and my little steam release of a blog here. For a over a week now I’ve been sick with the crud, which literally made it’s debut one full day after bragging about how well I’ve been for over a year. If you’d like for the crud to come pay you a visit, all you have to do is brag about your long tenure of being without. This little rule also applies to speeding tickets. You’re welcome.

In lieu of jotting down anything and everything boring in my life at the moment, thought I’d share a few sights of Spring as seen through my own eyes. Hope you all are having a beautiful start to the Spring season and staying healthy and happy!

I've never seen tulips like these before, with the tattered-looking petals. I thought they were gorgeous.

Meet our favorite young hibachi chef... Tai. He's a good kid and very talented, I know he's going to do well in life. We were with him on the first night he cooked over a year ago. Tai, Keith and I have our alma mater in common - K and I are class of '86, and Tai is class of '07. Rams rule! 🙂

One of our many gladiolus sprouts peeking up to say hi. The gladiolus are quickly on their way to becoming my favorite flower.

Our garden, all tilled and ready to plant! I'm really excited about this, it's definitely going to be a summer hobby. 🙂

The oh-so-green daylilies in the front flower bed. I put some fresh mulch in there yesterday, too.

Our St. Patty's day cocktails. I just HAD to have a green one.

This is my favorite Saturday find - a cactus garden. I just couldn't leave this one sitting at the store! My Mammaw was the cactus geru - she was so good at growing them and arranging terrarium gardens. I spent half my childhood picking their pricks out of my skin.

A bunny rabbit my Mom gave me. Love-love! Can you see all the red canna sprouts popping up around it?

The smaller birdbath was a gift from my Mom - combined with our big one it looks like it was meant to be!

I forwent begonias this year and opted for these African Daisies I planted yesterday. I can't wait to see their progress in a couple of weeks.


The early bird got the worm

A budding tree’s silhouette in 7am light

I’ve had my eye on the big tree right outside my work for almost a month now, since history has taught me it’s the first to bloom. It wasn’t until yesterday morning that I noticed it was now nearing blossom stage… the buds are no more.

Silly me. I blinked and missed it.


A View from Mount Mitchell

Those who know me are well aware of my continuing quest to kick acrophobia out the window once and for all. Thought I’d share a few pictures of our road-trip yesterday up to Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and the highest point in the eastern United States. This is the highest up I’ve ever been. For those of you who’ve been much higher and think this is a simply a walk in the park – humor me. I’m terrified this high up (mainly during the drive up and down), but for some reason the mountains keep calling me back. It’s so beautiful and peaceful here, even if it does scare me to death.


A Day in the Life of Camille

This morning as I sat in front of my computer, my trusty sidekick hung out with me.
I caught her snuggling with Mr. Frog (the first stuffed animal Keith ever gave me).
For once, I happened to have the camera right beside me.

A few minutes later, she gave her customary ‘hummpphh’ from her table beside the computer desk. Knowing my little girl so well, I immediately took note it was more than a ‘hey mommy, over here!!’ grunt. It was obvious she was planning a desk-launch, and she wanted clearance to do so.
And so the stance was taken.

No, Camille.” Hunched forward again in pounce mode. (A little firmer now) “Camille – NO.”
She then backed off completely with one exception – her little left paw was left suspended
and quivering in mid-air.

And it hung.

And hung. And quivered.

“Aren’t I cuuuuute, Mommy?
Let me squint my eyes at you to let you know how much I love you Mommy and,
and, and… you are getting very sleepy, Mommy…”

“sooooo, now could be my chance – lemme slide in a little looksie at two o’clock…”

She shoots – she scores.

After digging her out from the wires on back of computer (oh how I hate that)
comes the dreaded walk of shame.

“Whatta you mean I gotta get back on the bore-table?! All that work for nuttin’??
Oh I’m pissed. No, I won’t look at you. No. I’m so…”

…pissed, I tell you. Errr, what… a close-up you say?
Well – okay, gotta look my best for dem close-ups. Cheese!!”


Mountain View

We finally made the trip up to Asheville this weekend to visit Biltmore Estate, the largest private residence in America. The mansion itself boggled my mind. It’s still hard for me to come to grips with the sheer magnitude of this place – especially coming from the era in which it was built. Once we cleared the forest and the estate came into full view, that was it – I was officially mesmerized.

The Biltmore House

Photography is only permitted outside of the house, otherwise I would have some fabulous pictures to share. To me the tour was eerily amazing. I use the word eerie because as I walked through this huge mansion, it’s almost like I could still feel the presence of the Vanderbilts who lived here. I couldn’t help but place myself back in that time, when everything seemed so much simpler – although this most brilliant architecture is anything but simple. I found myself wondering what a normal day consisted of for Mrs. Vanderbilt – what she did after she woke, what she ate for lunch, what she did during the day in that big house, what rooms were her favorites. As I walked through the lush gardens, I imagined her there admiring the beautiful roses. I thought of the grief she must have felt when her husband died unexpectedly leaving her with a young daughter. Walking through the basement in the servants quarters, I imagined the young servants and what their lives might have been like. As we continued to climb stairs, gaining story after story, the long hallways brought to mind their only daughter Cornelia and how it must have been to grow up in a house like this. An image formed of the little girl running down one of the many long hallways and bounding into the endless amount of rooms. I wondered if she’d ever gotten lost in there. These ‘thoughts’ still run rampant in my head – I now realize a visit here lingers with you long after you’ve left the estate.

Partial view of the garden

After touring the house and gardens, we ventured over to the village and winery, and even happened upon a Tiffany Lamp gallery. I was very happy for the opportunity to see all these gorgeous lamps in person. It reminded me of an art gallery because everyone was so silent except for whispers. Again, cameras weren’t allowed in there because they want you to visit in person. My mom has wanted one of these lamps for so long, I’d love to be the person to get her one someday.

Since the leaves are so beautiful this time of year, we decided to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a leisurely ride over to Grandfather Mountain. The weather couldn’t have been better, and the scenic views were breathtaking – it was a lot to take in.

View from Blue Ridge Parkway
Taken from ‘our’ Thunder Hill Overlook

We’ve taken tons of pictures at the above overlook. I like it best because it comes complete with views on both sides – across the road is a beautiful field with a tremendous view of it’s own. It would be a great spot to picnic.

Another overlook on the Parkway
A favorite spot at Price Lake.

I love the mountains. I learn something new every time I visit – but this particular trip will probably hold the record for a long time to come.


Sunflower Fields Forever

This field is located about a mile down from the house. Being that I took the picture about 3 weeks ago, unfortunately the poor flowers have now either passed their prime or are severely drought-stricken. The picture was inspiration for my ever-amateurish little poem, which I write very few of.

Sunflower Fields Forever

Tucked away from all the hype
and bustle of the town
there lies a field where there are only
sunflowers allowed.

Long necks stretch up ever-taught
Their heads gaze oh so high
In their attempt to say ‘hello there’
way up to the sky.

Simple, timeless is their beauty
of vibrancy and hue
Unknowingly an artists’ vision
Of canvas dreams come true.

They have one wish – to kiss the sun
This kiss shall set them free
It is, dear flower, after all
Where you’re supposed to be.

It’s not the first time we have met
In dreams I’ve seen you here
Soon in this field you’ll rest your heads
‘Til next you reappear.

~Life of Bon, 2011


My Cure for Acrophobia… NOT

As much as I’ve been up and around the area, I’ve never been to the very top of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. Positioned 5,946 feet up in the clouds, it’s height is impressive even when compared to that of Mt. Mitchell which stands at 6,684 feet – the highest peak in the eastern United States. Grandfather Mountain is definitely the highest point I’ve ever been in my life, and likely ever will be again. It’s surely high enough for me.

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As we drove on past our favorite little town of Blowing Rock, NC we decided to visit the top of this infamous mountain. I learned a good bit about it, including the fact that Grandfather has more plant diversity contained in it’s area than in all of Europe. It’s landscaping and inhabitants are largely protected, which is always great to see. The admission fee included entrance to everything except the highland games. Nature museum, gift shop and restaurant, animal habitats, many impressive cliff points, walking trails, and never to be last –  the mile-high swinging bridge.

Ohhhh, Mama.

I’ve worked feverishly for years to try and rid myself of this dreaded fear of heights, also known as Acrophobia. Countless trips to mountains, numerous rides on the Intimidator coaster (tallest and fastest in the Southeast), a couple of paragliding adventures over the Atlantic… but nothing could have prepared me for the entirely helpless panicked feeling of being out on that bridge.

I wanted to be able to snap a pic or two out on there, but I had to keep walking moving. My legs felt like jelly, I was shaking uncontrollably, and my chest felt as though I had entered into cardiac arrest. I couldn’t disappoint Keith, I knew how badly he wanted to walk it – but I simply cannot explain how terrified I was.

To say the drive up to the highest point/swinging bridge was treacherous was an understatement. Several complete u-turn points paved the way up the last several hundred feet, with nothing but sheer drop-off below. Each car literally had to stop and think first about what they were doing. Except for the pavement quality, it seriously reminded me of that tv show ‘Most Dangerous Roads’ usually found in third-world countries. And I thought the trip up was bad until I realized we had to come back down.

Another tidbit of info I learned: Remember when Forrest Gump ran across America? A portion of his trek was filmed while running up Grandfather Mountain (a curve now appropriately named “Forrest Gump Curve”. Ironically, I came home and the movie was on tv last night… one of these snapshots is of Forrest running around that particular curve on my tv. 🙂

I guess the height thing is one phobia I’m just going to have to live with. As far as ever conquering it, I can’t say I haven’t tried!

http://www.grandfather.com/


Stowaways and Freak Parades

Feels like it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything. I hope everyone had a safe and memorable Fourth of July holiday!

Since I moved, I’m rarely (if ever) on the computer – I’d probably do fine without one. Things are just so interesting outside, I want to stay out there. Even though it’s hot, the beautiful outdoors continue to beckon us. I’m so thankful for the peaceful surrounding area, which feels as soothing as warm chicken soup on a cold winter day. I’m finding myself wishing for this summer to last forever – for the flowers to continue growing, for the frogs, butterflies and fireflies to live twice as long as normal, for the hummingbirds to not have to fly south this year. Not asking for very much, am I?

I love Independence Day, but always seem to associate it with summer being ‘half over’. I wish I didn’t do that, but the older you get the harder becomes to change your way of thinking. I did witness the best fireworks show I have ever seen in my life, right here in the city of Gastonia. They put on a full twenty-minute long show in center-city, even the finale was twice as long as usual. This city seems to have stepped up their game! We both thought it worth the wait of a couple hours for that good spot. People-watching was hilarity at it’s best even if fireworks weren’t involved, but we tend to be a little ruthless in that area. Trust me when I say I have stories.

(Babygirl center)

My daughter came over for a swim yesterday, and brought her newest toy with her – a camera that can snap pics as far as 20 feet underwater. She originally bought it for her cruise in September, and we were glad for the opportunity to play subjects. It works great, and we had a blast with it! Now if only I can figure out a way to stow away in one of her suitcases come September…

Nothing has ever matched all the freedom and happiness this summer has brought me so far. I’m so very grateful for all the opportunities in life that have been presented to me, as well for the ever-blessed time in my life that I met Keith. A real and genuine person is a rare find these days. If a person is lucky enough to find that precious gem – hopefully they’re smart enough to hold tight those qualities and traits, and cherish the person with their whole heart. Because they deserve nothing less than a whole heart.


The Snake Whisperer

Snakes in general terrify me, and I hate them. I don’t want to hear about how beneficial black, corn and king snakes are – or the fact that they’re non-poisonous. They’re the stuff my nightmares are made of, and I could definitely see myself having a coronary over one. About five years ago, I stepped on a baby copperhead in my house **YES I SAID IN MY HOUSE** and I’m still not over that. Did I mention I was barefoot?

My boyfriend has had several recent encounters with black snakes which I think he rather enjoys. In each instance, he’ll ‘rescue them by moving them (by hand) to a tree or another part of his yard.

Last week’s instance (these are his pictures… I told him that second one was Nat Geo material):

Lo and behold, Saturday night here came another one (a different one) on the wrought iron railing of his porch. Once again, K gathers it up and places it ‘safely’ back in a tree. The thing was obviously looking for some eggs or baby birds, as it was about 4 feet from both when he happened upon it.

Sunday morning, we woke up to this in the kitchen window (taken through a screen with my cell phone, so it’s grainy):

Upon further inspection outside, he’s pretty sure this is the same one from his porch Saturday night. Now, I’m telling the truth here when I say that snake was gazing at K adoringly, almost lovingly; as lovingly as a snake can look, anyway. It’s almost as though it was thanking him for not killing him the previous night.

Right before camping out by the pool for the afternoon, he saw a mockingbird chasing another one away across the back yard. Ugghh.

All I can say is, word’s really getting around throughout the snake community that this is the yard to go to. C’mon over, buds!! Plenty ‘o bird life, and Massa’ won’t kill ya here…


Pre Summer

Wasn’t this a beautiful weekend? Never mind the rain, it seemed to make things even more beautiful. Yesterday the sun came out for most of the afternoon and K and I partook in some quality time beside of (and in) his pool. I didn’t think we’d be able to get in it this early in the year, but it got really hot outside. You could feel the sun literally burning your skin! So today I sport the sunburn from hell – mainly my face got a bit too much.

Saturday morning, we got up and on a whim decided to drive up to the best BBQ place in the world,  Woodlands BBQ in Blowing Rock, NC. This place is simply the bomb… and well worth the drive. I honestly can’t say enough good about it.

Okay, we got a little mountain scenery in as well. We parked and walked around the historic town of Blowing Rock. The azaleas are in full burst there, and there are so many beautiful flowers, everywhere! The shops there are the most unique I’ve ever been in. I so love spontaneous day-trips.

Know something else I’ve evolved into doing? Loving a roadtrip with the windows down and my hair blowing. This is something I used to abhor – my hair simply could not get that messed up. Ever. But now… it just doesn’t matter. In fact, I’m so comfortable with it I just may get a scarf for times like this, like Thelma and Louise. If ya think about it, it might even add a little Hollywood theme to the ride. Hey, it’s all about how it makes you feel, right? And I feel damn good. And it feels good to feel damn good…


Azure

I recently ran across these pictures and immediately fell in love with them.
I’m picky about my island pics… they have to possess that certain ‘something’.

Can’t you just get lost in ’em? The beautiful hue of azure, the pillowy clouds… the virgin white sand.

C’mon, admit it… you’d like to be here just as much as I would. Wouldn’t ya?

One day. Yep. One day….
Until then my sweet, I’ll see you in my dreams.


The Shark Whisperer

I love marine life. Sharks in particular amaze me – seriously, every single thing about them. I’ll get engrossed in a tv special about them in a split second. For this reason, I wish I’d done better in school and went on to excel in marine biology. Either that or writing, my two true loves in life. 😀

I watched what was actually a rerun of a special the other night where CNN’s Anderson Cooper had the amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of free-diving with professional “Sharkman” Mike Rutzen. Free diving. This means cageless. With Great White sharks.

The Great White is by far the most dangerous and powerful shark known to man. It always blows me away to see how massive these sharks were, so witnessing a human being free-diving with them is quite remarkable. Click here to see the 13-minute special aired on CBS’s 60 minutes.

It seems that I’m always learning something new about sharks – guess I can attribute this to the interest factor in that I’m always paying attention! First, contrary to what some people believe, they are not blind or even partially so. Mike said that they actually like to make eye contact with humans! Can you imagine making eye contact with a Great White up close and personal? Also, a sharks eyes are not black, they are actually blue. As he and a great white swam past each other while making eye contact, he pointed the color out – and you could even see the sharks eyes turn to him. The sharks seem to ‘like’ him. Um again, these are Great Whites – the same predator depicted in the movie Jaws!

Mike searches for curious sharks... which he calls 'players'.

Now, he doesn’t just free-dive into any old Great White infested waters, mind you. He ‘feels out’ the sharks beforehand – deciphering their ‘personality’ or ‘current mood’. This is how he will decide if the shark is what he calls ‘a player’, an endearing term he uses to describe a curious shark. With all the criteria in place – in he goes.

Mike “Sharkman” Rutzen owns and operates his own dive company off the coast of South Africa called Shark Diving Unlimited. For a nominal fee you’ll be able to cage-dive, allowing you to safely observe the sharks for yourself (you’ll just need to travel to Africa to do it with him). I can’t think of a single thing in life more awesome than the opportunity to do this. Along with his faithful and professional crew, he operates the business with his vessel Barracuda – a 12.5 meter Lee Cat specifically built for Great White shark cage diving. Her twin hull makes her extremely stable… admittedly by SDU, a good thing to keep in mind if you’re prone to sea sickness! With a maximum of 21 clients each trip, the back deck is spacious with an upstairs viewing deck that offers a great vantage point to watch the action. All diving equipment, towels and picnic lunch are on board, as well as all required safety equipment including two 15-man liferafts.

Michael believes that he is able to decipher the body language of great white sharks – and proves his theory by altering his own body language to maintain control of the interactions. By making his body smaller, he can attract a curious shark; by making himself bigger in the water he can deter a confident shark. His golden rule is to ‘stand your ground – because everything that swims away from a Great White shark is potential prey’.

German filmmaker Ralf Kiefner made a wonderful film about Michael free-diving with Great Whites. The film is called Beyond Fear and was broadcast on National Geographic. Since the release of the film, Michael has become known world-wide for his unique understanding of Great White shark behavior.

By free-diving with these magnificent creatures, Michael hopes to increase awareness of the many shark-killers out there that still exist, as well as promote the ‘gentler’ side of sharks. He believes this to be a crucial step in the right direction in changing the public’s negative image of these majestic predators.

In his native South-African accent, Michael jovially states that he’s always felt he will be one of  those who die at a younger age. When asked why, he replied, “Well you know… I smoke too much, drink too much, and I like to drive my car really fast.” AC asked, “But it won’t be from a Great White?” to which Michael replied with a sly grin, “Naw”.

Information and photos derived from www.sharkdivingunlimited.com