Highway 50 Revisited
Exploring one of the busiest, yet most overlooked, roadways in our region
Published: December 1, 2011
“Have you ever heard of a canned hunt?” he asks a small audience during a recent Sunday afternoon hands-on wildlife show, in which viewers learn about (and handle) gators, tarantulas and invasive species like pythons. In states where the activity is legal, he explains, tame animals are set loose in pens and shot by trophy hunters – it’s a practice Todd makes it a point to disparage during his talks with the public.
Jungle Adventures has partnered with Hands on Wildlife Safari, a nonprofit eco-education organization, that allows the park to offer lectures and demos, wildlife safety programs and handling classes to the public.
“By the time you leave here, you’ve come into contact with something you’ve probably never experienced before in your life,” Todd says. That includes being just a few short feet and a scrawny chain-link fence away from a 12-foot alligator during feeding time.
“Head up, Bonecrusher!” Todd calls out to one of a half-dozen huge gators sunning themselves alongside the park’s moat. The animal raises his massive head and opens his jaws wide so Todd can toss a hunk of meat into his gaping maw. The audience is so close you can practically feel the rush of air when it snaps its mouth shut. You certainly would never get that close at Disney, Todd likes to remind park visitors. Indeed.
None of this is readily apparent from the highway, of course – from its façade Jungle Adventures looks like just another roadside attraction, a fading relic from a bygone era when State Road 50 really was the only way to get from one side of the state to the other. “We hear that all the time,” Lashbrook says. “‘We never knew it was there, we thought it was just a gift shop.’”
10438 E. Colonial Drive
We make the pastries fresh every morning,” affirms Diana Castrillon in a thick Spanish accent. She uses a damp cloth to wipe down the two-top where a mid-morning customer recently enjoyed coffee and a buñuelo (Colombian donut). The cozy seating area inside Colombia Bakery, which holds fewer than 20 people, is teeming with the aroma of freshly baked dough and brewing coffee. A large, glass display case sits at the center of the room, chock full of both sweet and savory traditional Colombian fare: arepas (corn cakes), empanadas (fried corn meal pockets filled with meat), papa rellena (stuffed potato balls) and pandebono (bagel-shaped bread with queso fresco and guava). An adjacent case holds packaged food products – fried plantain chips, fruit candies – shipped in from Colombia and delivered by a distributor in Miami. This time of the morning, just before 9 a.m., Castrillon greets patrons who are looking to grab a quick cup of Colombian java, a breakfast pastry and La Prensa newspaper before starting the workday.