On many mornings in 1930, surrounded by the chirping of birds, Pulitzer Prize-winning Dutch author Edward Bok could be found in his studio at the base of a 205-foot art-deco, neo-Gothic tower. Today, visitors to Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark, can take in the sights and wander the more than 50 acres of meandering gardens sculpted by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.
Visitors roam through shaded clearings and child-friendly gardens filled with vine-covered arbors and butterfly- and bird-watching areas, such as the Window By The Pond observatory. Paths wind past cold-resistant and semi-tropical ferns, palms, and pines, and vibrant explosions of azaleas, camellias, and magnolias that caretakers lovingly re-paint each morning. Among the trees stands Pinewood Estate, a Mediterranean-style mansion that welcomes seasonal tour groups into its rooms. In the gift shop, visitors peruse mementos such as historical books and decorative, nature-themed jewelry. The gardens sprawl through the Pine Ridge Nature Preserve, where a 3/4-mile path lets visitors glimpse rare plants and endangered animals such as the indigo snake and gopher tortoise. Gardens staff protect these grounds from fire damage, preserve plantings by collecting seeds, and reintroduce native species by organizing singles’ mixers.
Though skydiving is often billed as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for the staff at Jump Florida Skydiving, it's a job. As they climb above the scenic landscape of Lake Country in a Cessna 205 aircraft, they stay calm as excitement radiates off customers—as young as 18 and as old as 79—about to make their first leap. At the ideal altitude, the plane levels off, and jumpers get into position. The sky is amazingly clear around the plane, which takes off from a private airport, so there are no commercial jets or flocks of migrating geese obstructing the airspace. Tandem or solo divers step to the edge, take a deep breath, and experience the thrill of accelerating at 9.81 meters per second per second.
While participants revel in their adrenaline-fueled thrills, the staff keeps them safe by adhering to the strict standards of the United States Parachute Association. These protocols enforce rigorous regulations, safety guidelines, and eminently cool member handshakes. On the ground, the team prioritizes hospitality, offering guest rooms, a restaurant, spectator fields, and a nerve-diffusing bar.
Grown from two small shops to 28 locations by the sweat equity of a hard-working father-and-son team, McGee Tire?s open-air bays now proudly display the cobalt and maize d?cor signifying their status as authorized Goodyear dealers. Skilled hands outfit hoisted cars with conventional and standard oil while computerized systems recalibrate tires, brake service secures stoppers, and transmission tune-ups correct gear-bound problems. At the core of full-scale commercial fleet services, a specialized shearography machine helped earn McGee Auto Service & Tire a mention on ]Modern Tire Dealer's](http://www.moderntiredealer.com/) list of Top 100 Retreaders in the U.S. Oversize vehicle service also caters to recreational drivers, with RV service including repairing electrical systems, recalibrating drive trains, and restocking the feedback of the horn's onboard bugler.
Each Eye Doctor?s Optical Outlets location is doctor-owned, uniting the staff with a common vision to sharpen sight and boost eye health. Eye examinations reveal prescriptions and uncover any other ocular problems. After patients choose a new set of lenses, the in-house technicians get to work crafting them in the shop?s own lab rather than sending them off to be made during a summer camp?s arts and crafts day. Sundry designer frames border eyes in looks from Giorgio Armani and Marc Jacobs to Nike and Harley Davidson, and there is usually a trio of technicians in the shop, enabling multiple clients to summon help with a single pigeon call.
Start Skydiving owes its ranking as the number-one skydiving location on dropzone.com to its staff of master skydivers, pilots, and instructors. The team navigates its aircraft thousands of feet in the air for tandem or AFF solo skydives, and the jumpers help novices in obtaining their own USPA B, C, or D licenses. Newly inducted divers can gear up with Start Skydiving?s online store, which carries everything from altimeters and flight-specific shirts to tickets for rides on hot-air balloons or twin-engine pterodactyls.
As Super-Lube's name suggests, its signature service is the oil change. Technicians at its more than 50 locations lubricate engines with up to five quarts of premium oil. The comprehensive service, which requires no appointment, also comes with a 20-point maintenance check, and a free fluid top-off between changes. The technicians' handiwork extends beyond oil changes, too?they can change radiator fluid, swap out fuel filters, and replace broken windshield wiper blades.