Although we barely changed our location, 2021 was still a year of big changes. We started off the year spending the month of January in the same private RV park where we languished for most of 2020. Then we moved the Airstream to live underneath our house-in-construction, where we enjoyed being on our own property but endured many months of construction mayhem. Our builder finished up his work on the house in the middle of the year, but we still had plenty of tasks to accomplish ourselves. By the end of the year, we had transformed ourselves from “people who live in a 25 foot metal tube” to “people who have a relatively normal house.”
Before and after:
House Construction Completed
Our overriding objective for 2021 was finishing construction on the new house, and that took most of the first six months. We worked diligently on tasks like caulking and painting (interior and exterior) and sanding the decks and building the kitchen cabinets, but despite the free (and motivated) labor from us the whole project took way too long. Check our our prior posts about the construction process (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6) for the year-long chronicle.
Supply chain problems meant that even after the house was technically livable, we waited for months for furniture to arrive. At last, the house was fully furnished and we shared some final pictures here. Despite the delays, we are thrilled with the result. After three years of living in the RV, with its very compact refrigerator and pantry, it was especially fun to make giant stock-up trips to Costco and Whole Foods. We went a little crazy.
We spent the second half of the year on relatively small projects like building closet shelving and adding landscaping. We immediately became enamored with the fabulous Tallahassee Nurseries and had to work hard not to buy too much landscape material. Good news: most of the landscape material we installed is still living despite our very challenging conditions of poor soil, high winds, and salt spray. Bad news: we’ve only tackled a small part of the property so far. While we are going to leave quite a bit of the native vegetation in place, we also have a sandy area of the property that in our minds is designated as “Future Pool???” but with no firm ideas of exactly what we are going to do. I’m happy to wait until supply problems clear up and we are more settled into our new routines before making any major investments in that project.
We also spent time getting to know some of the creatures that frequent our yard, and experimenting with how to lure more.
Have Vaccines, Will Travel
Getting two jabs of Moderna in April and a third jab in November meant that we were ready for some long-awaited reunions with friends and family. We traveled to South Florida and visited my mom for Mother’s Day and again for Thanksgiving. We hugged, we laughed, we ate fabulous meals with friends and family, and it was wonderful. We also picked up our stored items and finally got to see our artwork after several years. We cackled maniacally when we found the business wear and dress shoes we had kept in storage, and took many of those items to the local thrift shop at the first opportunity. I’ve made a solemn vow never to wear high heels again.
During the summer we attended a family reunion weekend at a lovely lake house in Georgia to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Ken’s aunt and uncle. Ken was the ring-bearer at their wedding so it was fitting for him to be part of the anniversary party even though he is now a bit taller and wouldn’t be caught dead in a white tux these days. We were so grateful to be able to catch up in person with Ken’s brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, cousin’s kids, and close family friends.
Finally, we capped off the year with a short trip to Jacksonville to attend the Gator Bowl and cheer for my college team. We stayed away from the pep rallies and pre-parties and only attended the game, but since it always helps to win we still had a blast. Our hotel was conveniently located within walking distance of both the water taxi to the stadium and a cool little area with interesting local restaurants and breweries. Over the course of 48 hours we ate, we drank, and we cheered in great amounts. We really appreciated getting Jacksonville foodie destination recommendations from fellow RVers Only the Rocks (Instagram: @onlytherocks), who are originally from the area, and they did not steer us wrong. We enjoyed both Aardwolf Brewing and Intuition Ale Works, and had fabulous food from The Bearded Pig BBQ and V Pizza.
Making Local Connections
Other than those few brief Airstream-free road trips, we didn’t travel this year. Instead, we jumped into several different volunteer roles to get to know our new area and its inhabitants better. We signed up for the litter patrol on the island, which means we have a few assigned blocks that we are supposed to patrol regularly to pick up minor trash. The biggest events of the year, however, are mass clean-ups held in the spring after the annual Chili Cook-off, in the summer after Fourth of July, and in September as part of the International Coastal Cleanup. During these events scores of people turn out to to clean up roadsides, beaches, and vacant lots, while one of the local landscape contractors uses his trailers to haul off all the trash to the dump.
We’ve also connected with several different facets of the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. On the research side, we volunteered for nearly 6 months of daily sea turtle patrol from May through October. We enjoyed the hands-on science (see post #1 and post #2) although the results of our efforts were heartbreaking at times. In a totally separate ANERR research project, we are also doing quarterly sampling for the presence of microplastics in the water and sand of the Gulf of Mexico. On the education side, we’ve attended a few adult education programs to learn more about the local ecosystem, and we are signed up to volunteer at the family-oriented Estuaries Day event in the spring.
We are now on the list of regulars to volunteer with a variety of other community events like holiday decorations. Even better, when we show up for these events we actually know the names of many of the other people we regularly see. Plus, we’ve enjoyed attending events organized and staffed by friends and neighbors, like the annual en plein air art festival and the Christmas festivities. Spring 2022 should bring even more events. We’re particularly looking forward to the ones that were cancelled or drastically curtailed in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic. This thing is eventually going to be over, right?
Looking Ahead to 2022
Fully vaccinated and boosted, we’re planning to hit the road again! The purpose of building the house is to have a winter home base and travel in the summers. We are starting off this new style of travel relatively modestly, with plans to travel for about three months in 2022 during the worst of the summer heat and humidity (June 15 – September 15). And we’re keeping things really simple by generally following the itinerary that we had already booked for 2020 before the pandemic cancelled all those plans. We’re heading to Wisconsin and Michigan for the bulk of our time on the road, and excited to explore several totally new-to-us states. As of now, the plans for 2022 look like this:
I’ll obviously be posting much more over the summer when we are on the road, but in the meantime stay tuned for more tales of North Florida. Best wishes to all for 2022!