Colorado natives Mark and Sandra Walker spend their first winter in Florida as
by Mark Walker
As the northerners struggle with below freezing temperatures, we have turned into nomads in Florida. Unlike the Spaniards hunting for gators, deer, fine tasting oranges and tubers, we have found the comforts of RV parks, running water, 30 amp power and clean pools. Instead of being armed with bows, arrows, rocks and slingshots, we have MasterCards, Visas and ATMs… and Walmart! In the RV community, the Walmarts are almost like churches. Not for a place to worship, but a place for spiritual connection to our people. I never really appreciated a Walmart until I had to park a 26’ RV. And the Super Walmarts… fahgettaboudit! Glorious space and everything we could possibly want for our 250 sq. ft. luxury condo on wheels.
Living in an RV full time has great appeal to people that dream of escaping the maritime-like doldrums of calm seas and windless days. Without dreams, I’m not sure we have much to look forward to as we get older. Because the dreams of our youth are veiled in smoke, our hair is a lot more gray and our bellies are a bit bigger than those shirtless college days. Therefore, we have to create new dreams so we can forget – that we forgot – our old dreams. LOL!
And it’s always better to have a partner in our dreams (wife, husband, dog, cat or a good bottle of whiskey) that can help maintain a positive attitude when things get you off course. Our RV adventure for the last 4 months has brought us to 46 cities and plenty of cool places to visit (refer to atlasobscura.com for great suggestions). We’re not pulling a car, but do have two road bikes that seem to get us around when we have the energy. Wintering in Florida is new to us. We have lived in Colorado for the last 20 years and have enjoyed the beautiful Rocky Mountain winters. But, after much debate, we sold our house, I quit my job, and we put everything in a 10×20 storage unit. We bought a Winnebago View and set off to explore the roads in our new RV.
We left Colorado in September and experienced some of the most beautiful fall scenes that the Rockies have to offer. I highly recommend a visit to Ouray in the fall. There is a beautiful RV park (Ouray RV Park) nestled in the San Juan Mountains and is walking distance to a natural hot springs pool that is spectacular!
As we traveled along the southern states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, it was a little chilly, but not quite as cold as Colorado. It did snow a few days in Mississippi and got very chilly as we traveled through Tennessee and Alabama. But then we got to the panhandle of Florida and things were beginning to warm up a bit.
Winter is such a wonderful time of year to travel around Florida. I say that not because we have lived in Denver for the past 20 years, but because people are generally happy in December. Maybe it’s all the extra cookies, snacks and cake that we enjoy during the holidays. Maybe it’s the wine or seeing our wives looking so spectacular in their red dresses and ribbons in their hair. It’s the time of year to share stories and be perplexed at how quickly the time has passed. I mean the gifts are nice and the dinners are wonderful, but the sharing of our stories of what happened throughout the year are making the person across from you smile; even if the stories are exaggerated a bit.
Our Florida December was really just another spectacular summer in Colorado. January and February were no exception… Shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. Everything starts with a dream. It’s keeping our dreams alive that seems to be so difficult. It’s not for the weak or timid – it requires tenacity and stamina. You should be dreaming of coming to Florida in the Winter. It’s worth it!
Florida winters attract people from all corners of North America. Some of the people that end up in these RV Parks are quite the characters. I watched a couple meticulously wash an already spotless RV. I watched them wash and dry and clean for hours as I sat and read a book about how to enjoy your free time. I like a clean vehicle, but we get around to washing it once a month which seems to fit our schedule just fine.
At another RV resort in Southern Florida, I watched a guy walk around the outside of his RV with a clipboard and open every compartment door and make a list of everything that was inside. Wow – that seemed crazy to me.
Rule #1: Once you put something in a compartment, cupboard or a nook, never move it. Ever. That way you will remember where you put your stuff.
Rule #2: The smaller the RV the less ‘stuff’ you can carry.
There are a lot of full-time RVers in Florida during the winter months. And these full-timers seem content to find a place near the coast and hang out for 4-5 months. Other full-time RVers like to chase that 70-degree weather all year long and are constantly on the move from park to park. Wintering in southern Florida is so easy. Those who have never experienced a winter in Florida are somehow missing out on one of the best things that retirement has to offer. Not that Florida needs any advertising about its weather, but reading about the polar vortex in the north while reading a book in shorts on a beach in Florida just seems wrong. But I manage to work through the guilt.
Some of these RV resorts are HUGE. One of the biggest ones we visited in Florida was Sun-N-Fun in Sarasota. They have almost 1500 spots in this paradise – mostly full-time RVers and a lot of mobile homes. The preferred mode of transportation is a golf cart. The parking lot for the pool was strictly for carts.
I saw a woman driving a cart with a beautiful Afghan Hound in the front seat and her husband politely sitting in the backseat of the cart holding a beer that was perfectly nestled on the top of his belly. He didn’t seem to mind and was probably more content in the back seat… Just sayin’. And some of these golf carts were painted with custom colors and had the names and state of the owners:
Barb and Anthony Russo
Adorned with rainbows that go over the tops of their names. I so wanted one of those! But my wife quickly reminded me that if we are going to pull a vehicle, it’s going to be a car, not a golf cart. Good point.
So, back to the inventory. I can see how useful it would be to have an inventory of all the things that we have in the RV. I probably had forgotten a lot of the stuff we were harboring. I was fairly certain that we had a number of spiders underneath, maybe a few geckos or mice and possibly a cockroach or two. Opening up the first door gave me pause after thinking about all those critters. But I endeavored to get an accurate inventory of our ‘stuff’.
The first compartment was easy because it had some of our big things stored in it like our chairs, an hors d’oeuvre table, a lawn mat and a few cushions. No critters. Check! Next compartment had a collection of odds and ends that I had no idea why we had them stored in the RV. Cocktail napkins (a.k.a. 500 grit sandpaper) for every major holiday that were tightly packed in a large ziplock bag. What the heck do we need those for? I put those in the garbage bag straight away. Then the plastic cups… every size and color… as, I’m sure, my wife would want to color coordinate with the napkins. Don’t see the need for those either. Out they go. One crescent wrench, a flathead screwdriver, two hammers and a set of standard and metric sockets… great…. keep those for sure. Then I found the colored plates and a plethora of plastic cutlery. No need to keep those. We have stainless steel forks and knives in the RV. The rest of the things were tools, a bike lock, volt meter and a new bag of bungee cords – SCORE! I was looking for those. There were some room fresheners that I chucked out as well. Our home smells great.
Next compartment… I opened the door and…. WTF! There was a mama raccoon and two baby raccoons just staring at me. I dropped my clipboard and let out a little shriek. I was staring at them straight in their eyes wondering how the heck they got in that compartment. We must have left the compartment door open one night and the little critter crawled in there and had some babies. Just then, the raccoons started making the craziest, awful screeching sound, I’m sure out of fear of seeing my shirt that was adorned with the Rocky Mountains covered in snow.
A lady from across the way started screaming, but I could not understand anything she was saying as I don’t speak French. She then started screaming in English and was apparently very upset about the raccoons. She was saying something about how cruel I was for keeping my pets in a RV compartment. I tried to explain to here that these were NOT my pets. But she kept on screaming until a few more neighbors gathered around our rig. It was all in French. Apparently, they were holding court, waving their arms in the air, pointing at the raccoons and glaring at me.
As I was about to explain to them that these were not my pets, the three raccoons jumped out of the compartment and scampered down the road. They rattled their way to the edge of the park and were about to enter a large mangrove, so I quickly ran after them; I snapped a picture just before they disappeared.
I think the neighbors were satisfied that these were truly wild animals and I had no intention of keeping them around as pets. My wife arrived back from her day at the mall and took one look at the bag on the table that was filled with her entertainment gear. She darted a dirty look at me and started putting all that stuff back into the compartment. I was determined to avoid the lecture, so I grabbed my swim trunks and quickly headed toward the pool.
Wintering in Florida is something very different from wintering in Colorado and doing it while most of the country is experiencing one of the coldest winters in decades makes me feel much happier that we bought our RV. I’m fairly certain that I will never take an inventory of our compartments again. And we still have our party napkins, plates, cutlery and plastic glasses for our next happy hour. We’re still living our adventure! Be well and be sure to stop by and say hello if you see us in an RV park. We are always happy to entertain new friends 🙂