I have become something I swore I would never be—a snowbird. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a snowbird is someone who lives in the North and flees to Florida at the first sign of cold weather. My paternal grandparents were snowbirds, and even my father was a snowbird for years.
I've always enjoyed the cold. No hot weather for me. It made me sweat, and I didn't like to sweat. For years, I didn't even own a winter jacket.
Three winters ago, the Lovely Louise and I decided to head to Florida for most of January and all of February. I wanted to rent a house on a canal where we could keep a boat, and that's how we discovered Cape Coral. Over 400 miles of canals. Surely we could find one that worked for us, we thought—and we did.
Remember that winter when Cape Cod had one snowstorm after another? That's the winter I was in Cape Coral. I enjoyed sitting on the boat dock and watching snowstorm after snowstorm wallop the Northeast while I sat there with my fishing rod and a cold beer. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we thought about looking around and seeing what a house would cost.
As it turned out, the crash of 2008 drastically lowered prices in Florida, and even in 2014, they still had not come back to anywhere near pre-2008 pricing. Oh boy, more house, less money. If I've learned one thing in real estate, it's that less money is better than more money. We found a house.
I've never liked the cement-block Florida home; it feels suspiciously like a woman's prison to me. Put some bars on the windows and I feel like I'm in Orange Is the New Black. Not that that's a bad thing. I’ve seen a couple of episodes of that show, and living in it could be quite interesting. Anyway, our house was stick-built by a guy from up north who imported all his wood, windows, and doors. It feels like a good, old New England home. It's just built in a Florida style, which I can handle.
Of course, as I'm writing this, it's 88 degrees outside and the humidity is about to give me an afro. No problem. Everyone down here says the heat isn't that bad because everything is air-conditioned. They forget to tell you that to get from air-conditioned splendor to air-conditioned splendor, you have to go through the solid wall of humidity that is Southern Florida, even in October.
No matter. When I left Cape Cod, it had been raining for almost a week. Not real good, solid rain like you get in Florida. No, Cape Cod rain is damp and drizzly, with a chill you can only get rid of with a good hot tub. Of course, if you're sitting in a hot tub, you must also have a glass of bourbon and a good cigar. Actually, now that I'm writing about it, maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought. (Yes, it was.)
I don't worry about cold, damp winters anymore. Just lock up the house, turn the heat down, pack the truck, and set the course for South. Eventually, you arrive in the land of the never-ending summer. As you travel around, it feels a lot like God's Waiting Room—there are a lot of old people here … and I mean a lot. As I've told you, I'm in my sixties, and in my neighborhood they sometimes call Louise and me “The Kids.” Louise would want me to tell you that she's only 29. She's been 29 since I met her, and I still don't have the courage to contradict her. Fine with me. I like younger women.
Florida is wonderful when we arrive in October. Most of the snowbirds haven't arrived yet, so the roads are clear and the restaurants have plenty of room. From October to January it's very quiet, and you can actually find a parking space when you go to the beach.
About the middle of January, the snowbirds start arriving en masse, and the place starts to get crowded. No more just stopping by the Lobster Lady (our favorite local restaurant that has real New England clams and lobster flown in regularly) and getting a table. The line of tourists and snow people starts to head out the door and up the sidewalk once January hits. No big deal; they'll all leave in March and we'll still have a few weeks to do what we want, when we want.
All in all, I'm content being a snowbird. Since we go from Cape Cod to Cape Coral it's starting to feel like home in both places. The main difference is that we live on Cape Cod and we live in Cape Coral. I think that's because Cape Coral is a city and Cape Cod is the name of the entire peninsula as we live in the town of Barnstable on Cape Cod. Ah, who cares? I still have the best of both worlds—Cape Cod in the summer and Cape Coral in the winter. Between that and living with an ageless 29-year-old, I'm a very lucky man, indeed.