This snow bird is headed north having just wrapped up a 15 week winter stay in Fort Myers Beach, FL. This was the longest time we’ve spent parked in one place and the longest we’ve stayed in southwest Florida.
We had a very nice stay. I figured for this post I’d do a short snowbird wrap up and share some of my thoughts about this years stay.
It’s the main reason we come to Florida for the winter. The weather was consistently sunny and warm. There were no extended cold or rainy spells. There was only one day where I had to put on long pants. All other days my attire was a tee-shirt, shorts, and sandals. Most days the temps were in the 80’s and nights were in the 60’s. Almost everyday was a perfect beach day. I could count on one hand the number of days were it rained. Other than some muggy days that brought out the bugs, “perfect” would be a fitting one word description for the weather we had this winter.
Getting Involved & Connected
After spending five winters in Fort Myers Beach, it no longer feels like a vacation. We’ve done all the tourist stuff and been to all the popular attractions. This year I got more involved in the RV park attending events like the Pig Roast, Pancake Breakfasts, Fish Fry, Hot Dog roasts, and the Fashion Show. I played in the weekly Cornhole Tournament and attended several music events.
Last year, I joined the local Moose Lodge just as we were leaving. This year, I became a regular attending several of their weekly dances. The Lodge also became my backup place to have dinner when Anne wasn’t cooking (or I was lazy).
I joined the Bay Oaks Rec Center and played pickleball twice each week. This was a great way to meet more local folks. I also started attending the Beach United Methodist Church each Sunday. This was another wonderful community of people with whom I got to be part of.
Overall, I got to meet many more people this year and felt more connected to the community.
Things that Worked Well
There were a few things that worked out really well this winter. The first was having a car. This was the first year we brought a car down to FL. It was really for Anne so she could do her “run around thang” (e.g., exploring, shopping, church service, girl time, etc). Where we stay is so close to everything that I rarely drove the car. But Anne was happy having her car. And a happy wife means a happy life.
The second was my bike. There was no skinny tire road bike this year. I brought down an off-road fat tire bike that I could ride anywhere. It has a front handle bar bag to carry small items like my bike lock, camera, and glasses. I also added a back rack so I could carry a beach chair and groceries. The bike worked out great. It was my main mode of transportation. I took it to the beach, rode it on beach, took it shopping, rode to the Moose Lodge, to the Rec Center, and even rode it to Church. The big benefit of my bike – I rode everyday and got lots of exercise during the winter months.
The last thing that worked great was my drop shade and patio chairs. Florida is the Sunshine State and during the mid-day the sun can be brutal. Having a big awning and sunshade let us create an outside shaded patio space on our lot. We got some comfortable folding patio chairs (bag chairs don’t cut it for a 3 month stay put stint), Anne added flowers, and I added a fan. It made for a great place to hang out in the afternoon. My favorite pastime while on the patio was listening to podcasts and reading the Bible.
The Not-So Good
There were a few things that detracted from having a perfect snowbird stay. The bugs were bothersome during December and a few weeks in mid-March. During these times, I got bit up pretty bad. I also pulled a couple of muscles in my back while playing pickelball. And, some old biking injuries flared up with all my biking. There were several days where I was hobbling around the RV park like the geezer I’m suppose to be.
By staying longer and making friends with some locals and fellow snowbirds, I also got humbled by some real life bad things that happen to people. Vern had to got back to Canada due to a failing liver. John the Barber passed away during our stay. My neighbor Alan, lost his son and had to leave early. My Lodge friend Juliana had her Mom pass away suddenly. Being a snowbird doesn’t make you immune to life’s tragedies.
And the last thing that was not so good was having to watch our friends leave. In prior years, we’ve always left Florida to go home or to take a road trip by the first of March. We always left before most of the other people. We would have 10 minutes of sad good-byes on one morning and then were on our way.
This year we left in early April and had to watch our friends make a steady exodus at the end of March. For over a week, there were 10 minutes of sad good-byes being said every morning. Seeing the RV park empty out left me with a hollow feeling. One of the key things I like about my snowbird lifestyle is having all the good people around me. Seeing them all slowly dissipate before my eyes was a sad experience. All the good times and daily interactions that I got from being part of this group melted away like ice-cubes on a hot sidewalk.
But, I know many will return next year. As will we – same time, same place.