Winter is snowbird season in Florida. Places that are popular with retirees are noticeably busier, with people flocking to golf courses and restaurants. The same uptick in activity occurs in campgrounds, where RVers can avoid the brutal conditions up north and instead enjoy the mild Florida weather. Plus, if people are interested in visiting the Sunshine State in an RV, we can confirm that summer is absolutely the wrong time to do so. So it comes as no surprise that we’ve been fairly busy with visits and events the last few months, despite living in a place that’s primarily a summer vacation destination.
Visits From Friends and Family
At the end of January, our RV friends Kevin and Laura of Chapter3Travels rolled into town with their travel-savvy dog Thor, and along with mutual friends and nearby neighbors Eric and Laurel (Raven and Chickadee) we had a good long stretch of hosting. It’s great when visitors bring their own house, and this visit was proof of concept for our decision to add an RV pad along the side of our new home. Between the low-hanging branches at Casa de R&C and backing in within inches of our concrete pilings, I’m not sure which moochdocking spot gave our friends more stress. Luckily they handled both with ease, and we all enjoyed a glorious period of fun and fellowship.
Having guests in town was a perfect excuse to show off the local attractions. We kayaked the Apalachicola River, hiked in the state park, did a walking tour of historic Apalachicola, and visited both the local breweries. In between we shared fabulous food, swapped stories about the road and about life, and treasured the chance to see friends for a somewhat extended period of time. We’ve found that RV friends often make fast friends, sharing our interests in travel, minimalism, the outdoors, breweries (of course), and more. Kevin and Laura are coming off the road this year, and we are so glad that they swung by this little corner of the world to deepen our friendship before embarking on their next adventure.
Another important winter visitor was a reverse snowbird. My mom traveled north from South Florida to come see our new place and be introduced to the area we now call home. What did we do to entertain her? Basically the exact same things. Second verse, same as the first! We kayaked the Apalachicola River, we walked around the historic area of town, we visited local restaurants, we visited the state park, we celebrated happy hour on the beach, and spent many days catching up. We talked about landscaping, architecture, and family history. It was a marvelous stretch of family time.
Small Town Activities
Our community also uses the presence of winter guests as an excuse for plenty of events. In mid-February I volunteered at the Tenth Annual (skipping 2021, thanks to COVID) St. George Island Tour of Homes to benefit the St. George Lighthouse Association. We toured homes in the morning before I worked a shift as a docent at a lovely new place in the afternoon. It was fascinating to see different island homes in a variety of sizes and styles, each with unique and appealing property, location, and decor. I understand that over 400 tickets were sold, and the steady stream of visitors to the home where I was working kept me talking constantly for three hours. It was quite literally the largest number of people I have interacted with in one day in years (again thanks to COVID) and I was exhausted.
A few weeks later, we participated in the island-wide spring litter cleanup along with about 50 of our neighbors, including several snowbirds with homes on our street that they only occupy in winter. Little events like this help build community and, not coincidentally, are critical in helping us finally learn the names of our neighbors. Then in mid-March we attended several events associated with the 10-day-long Forgotten Coast En Plein Air Art Festival. We particularly like the demonstrations in which four different artists work in a specific location using different approaches and styles to capture the essence of the spot. Seeing talented artists create beautiful pieces in many media (pastels, watercolor, oil) so quickly was a delight. If only observation and admiration could somehow translate into my acquiring some natural talent of my own.
Amidst all these activities, these introverts couldn’t bring themselves to attend the Apalachicola Oyster Cookoff, the Library Bake Sale, the Mardi Gras Pet Parade, the island’s annual Chili Cookoff to benefit our Volunteer Fire Department, or other recent local events to benefit worthy causes. Cash donations will have to make up for our absence.
While it may seem that we are just enjoying (or at times powering through) the fun and games, we’ve been squeezing some projects in as well. Most of these are in preparation for getting back on the road this summer to visit the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. As I suspected when we established a home base, travel planning is a lot less annoying when there is a stable, predictable internet connection and no pressure to spend time enjoying the current visit rather than focusing on the future travel plans. Creating an itinerary has also been easier this year because we are relying heavily on (AKA shamelessly copying) the plans we originally made for 2020 before the dreaded pandemic hit.
I’m happy to say that the task of making all our reservations for the summer is complete. We have reservations in four public campgrounds in Michigan (3 state parks and one national lakeshore) plus three public campgrounds in Wisconsin. As usual, securing each of these reservations required sitting online the day the booking window opened (e.g., 6 months in advance at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time for Michigan state parks) and clicking “reserve” the nanosecond the official U.S. government clock (www.time.gov) hit the correct moment. But based on our small sample size it was much easier than getting reservations in Florida parks in the winter — I snagged the spot I wanted at each place on the first day of trying. That could be a sign of tremendous good luck, or perhaps a sign that I have become craftier in my old age. Either way, I’ll take it.
We are really looking forward to experiencing piney forests, waterfalls, and endless lake vistas this summer. But while daydreaming about turquoise freshwater lakes is easy, we have some work to do before the Airstream is ready to travel. We’ve been working steadily on several long-overdue maintenance projects on the rig, which I’ll detail in a future post.