Take a flying leap

Photo: Nicole Hamel

Feb. 29, an extra day in the year, presents an opportunity for adventure.

Leap Day babies, sometimes called leaplings, have a true birthday only every four years, on Feb. 29. Historians say Leap Day originated with Julius Caesar, so a toga party would seem to be in order for a birthday celebration.

This year is a leap year with 366 days, rather than 365, because the actual length of a year is roughly 365.25 days—the time it takes for Earth to orbit the sun. That adds up to an extra day every four years, and that day is tacked on to the shortest month, February. 

Why Feb. 29 and not Jan. 32? Roll with it. For leaplings, Saturday, Feb. 29, is a day to celebrate, and for many other people, it’s an “extra” day of living. By land, sea or air, Lake County offers the chance to leap into a new adventure.

Take a flying leap by signing up for pilot lessons at Leesburg International Airport, along U.S. Highway 441.

“Just come on down and we can set you up with a discovery flight,” says Eli Weiss, a flight instructor for Sunair, the airport’s fixed-base operator. “We’d take you up and at about 1,000 feet, I’d give you the controls and you fly the airplane around. Then, if you fall in love with it, from there we can just sign you up for our private pilot program.”

Sunair has six flight instructors and all of them carry a full schedule of lessons, Eli says. Students start by obtaining a private pilot certificate to fly a single-engine airplane, then proceed to instrument rating, which allows them to fly in clouds and low-visibility conditions. Students may pursue a commercial pilot’s license if they want to make a living in aviation. (352.787.2211. sunairaviation.com.)

Eli, who is building hours as a flight instructor with the goal of piloting for an airline, loves everything about flying.

“I love the freedom of going anywhere,” he says. “I love being an instructor. It’s a blast. It’s rewarding to see your students kind of taking on your personality. How you operate is how they end up operating when you’re in an aircraft. All the procedural stuff that I do, I try to instill that in them to make them a safe pilot.”

After going up in the air, get down in the dirt at Revolution Off Road, 4000 State Road 33, Clermont. (352.400.1322. revolutionoffroad.com.)

“Take a quick click off your bucket list and leap onto one of our ATVs perhaps or leap on our mucky ducks,” says Audrey Jowett, who co-owns the business with her husband, Kevin.

The ATVs are automatic Polaris Sportsman 450 vehicles, and mucky ducks are eight-wheel amphibious vehicles. The variety of outdoor experiences also includes shooting, archery and fishing, and the adventure park also hosts birthday parties, making it the perfect spot for leaplings this Feb. 29.

Showcase of Citrus, at 5010 U.S. Highway 27 in Clermont, also hosts birthday parties and offers a Leap Day special: any person born on Feb. 29 may receive a free Monster truck tour ticket valid for one year, with a reservation, as well as a free slushy or creamsicle on that day.

The Monster truck tour is a must-see agritourism adventure, says Tara Boshell, co-owner with her husband, John Arnold, a third-generation citrus farmer. Four Monster trucks—modified school buses that sit 12-14 feet high—hold 25, 30, 35 and 40 passengers, respectively. The hourlong tour through the 2,500-acre ranch begins in the citrus grove and then moves through native woodlands, swamps and pastureland.

“Since we are a working citrus and cattle ranch, guests will see and feed our cattle, as well as see our exotic animals,” says Tara, listing animals such as ostriches, emus, kangaroos and miniature horses. “We try to make the tour an educational and entertaining experience for everyone.”

Tour reservations are encouraged because at this time of year, Showcase has a wide variety of ripe u-pick citrus available, attracting a few thousand people a day, Tara says. (352.394.4377. showcaseofcitrus.com.)

The Showcase of Citrus property also is the meeting spot and occasional launch site for Orlando Balloon Rides, which lifts off from various sites in the area depending on the winds on a given day. The one-hour hot-air balloon flights take off at sunrise and cover the greater Orlando area above the treetops and rising to several thousand feet.

Leaplings and adventure seekers can book a ride for Leap Day as long as Mother Nature cooperates, a staff member says. (407.894.5040. orlandoballoonrides.com. Using the code 2020 provides adults with a $35 discount on a flight.)

For an adventure that’s a little more physical, the BoneFrog Challenge is coming at 8am Feb. 29 to Rock Springs Run State Reserve, 31699 Ethel Drive in Sorrento. BoneFrog is billed as the world’s only Navy SEAL obstacle course race, and organizers throw down a challenge to competitors: “You must be functionally fit to succeed here. You will get muddy. You will get beat up. You will be exhausted. But you will finish.”

BoneFrog, which has the most military-intensive obstacles in such events, was created by Navy SEALs to challenge, build and inspire participants to become better athletes, according to organizers. The event has distances of 3, 6, 9 and 18 miles for four competition levels ranging from 20 to 50 obstacles: sprint, challenge, Tier-1 and endurance, plus a kids race. Spectators also are allowed at the reserve. (Register at bonefrogchallenge.com.)

If Navy SEALs barking at you is too intense, more traditional foot races also are planned for Leap Day.

The Clermont Waterfront parkrun 5K race against the clock starts at 7:30am at Lake Hiawatha Preserve, 450 N. Lake Minneola Shores. This is a free event for all running levels and ages. Register at www.parkrun.us/register/.

The Lake Apopka Scenic Trail Run is scheduled from 7:30am-5pm. The course is a point-to-point, 30K run (18.6 miles) along the Lake Apopka Loop Trail. The majority of the trail is packed lime rock or clay, and runners can participate individually or form a relay team of up to four people. (sommersports.com.) The run starts at Magnolia Park, 2929 S. Binion Road in Apopka, and finishes at the picturesque Green Mountain Scenic Overlook in Ferndale.

Look, don’t leap, from the overlook. But make the most of adventurous opportunities on Leap Day.  

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