Florida is the land of dreams. Palm trees, oceans, miles of white sand beaches, amusement parks, everglades, alligators, and more. It's warm year 'round and even when it's a bit cool, it doesn't last for long. Almost heavenly.
We knew we had to get out of Michigan with the bus. The cold and condensation of moisture inside our bus was not yet controllable. We had months of work that had to be done to make the bus into a welcoming home, and it couldn't be done in the north. We put it on Facebook that we needed a place to work, someplace south and warmer. An invitation came from an uncle of Amy's that she hardly knew; but family just the same. He was kind enough to offer his place, electrical and water hook up for the bus and all the tools and advice we could use. It was in Florida, the land of paradise.
I was a little apprehensive about driving the bus so far from 'home'. I still didn't get it through my thick skull that 'home' is the bus and we're near home every time we're near the bus. But, it's hard to get far away from the familiar.
Well, off to paradise we went. Amy had never been to Florida, so I thought “why not?" It's not snowing there, we will have everything we need, and we can get all our work done.”. So, off to Florida we drove. I remember crossing the state line and starting to see palm trees along the road. You really know you're in a different place when the landscape changes so much.
We arrived at Uncle Oren's house on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and backed the bus in beside his house. The yard is all sand. In the north I would be afraid of this much weight on sand, but he assured me that it would be fine. He was right. The sand is firm and solid. The big tires moved across without hardly an imprint.
The first couple days were spend unloading our bus bays of saws, tools, and wood that we had brought with us. Oren had a large carport tent that he lent us to keep the sun off while we work. The sun was hot during the day, but the evenings were comfortable. We would wake to comfortable temperatures but everything soaked with some kind of heavy dew. Apparently maybe a mist from the nearby ocean. Whatever the source, absolutely everything was wet. The walls of his house next to the bus, the bus windows, the tent over my tools, my tarps, the sand would stick to our shoes... it was as if it poured rain all night. But, by ten o'clock or so, the hot sun would come out and steam away the moisture. Until about noon it's like a sauna, hot and wet. By noon or so, it's pretty much dried up the ground and it's just a blazing sun. Now for folks that like to sleep til noon, then lay on a beach and drink umbrella drinks, that must be paradise. For this Englishman who get's sick in the sun, I'm starting to wonder if this really is paradise afterall.
We began to find our way around the territory a bit. Oren's home is in a country setting and a quiet side street in a small subdivision type residential area. Neighbors are not too close and nobody really minds a bus in a yard with saws running. We're not far from the town of Spring Hill, which has everything we need like Lowes and Home Depot. All the roads are lined with restaurants, supermarkets, medical clinics, barber shops, adult stores, and churches (usually together). We're not city folks, but it is nice to have the necessities nearby.
We began to make some progress with the bus. We started by building the drawers for the kitchen and bedroom cabinets. The boards were already cut up in Grayling, but they had to be assembled, the slides installed, etc. By the end of each day the heat was exhausting and I had these terrible little bites on my ankles. I could never find the creature that was chewing on me, but each evening I would sit down and take off my shoes and socks and begin to rub Cortizone into these awful red welts. We also began to learn of other critters to watch out for. Apparently there are plenty of snakes and bugs to be leery about. Neither Amy or I are big fans of anything that slithers, and so far have not met any up close, but there is a certain anxiety about the potential of meeting one unaware.
As our friends in northern Michigan began to share stories of a record winter we were complaining of extreme heat and nagging bugs. Seems it was good that we escaped Michigan. The north has experienced one of the coldest winters, with the most snow that it has seen since the 70s. Looks as though this cycle has began to make a swing. I've heard it said by the ol' timers that the weather runs in forty year cycles. I guess maybe when we're old we might be able to tell the young 'ins the same thing. It's been hard for us to get any sympathy for our overheated woes from our Michigan friends who are cold and buried in snow; most waiting for this global warming thing that the government keeps working on. I think Al Gore might actually be dumber than a bag or rocks, but that seems to be the first criteria to being in a position of governmental power... I digress.
While we have been here, we have enjoyed a trip to Orlando to visit Sea World. Oren and Patty had some complementary tickets through a membership they have. So we went. It was a great day. A little cool for the locals that day; probably in the mid to upper 50s, but for us, it was a nice change. It's a great place to visit if you get a chance. To buy tickets would be out of the question for us, just too pricy. But, if you are offered some kind of pass, take it. Lots of fun things to see and do. The crowds were terrible, people wall to wall. So, I suggest that you go when its snowing or blowing to avoid the cowds... seriously. If you go at Christmas or spring break, you'll never really see anything but a bunch of crazy people.
Amongst all our complaining about the hot humid air, the burning sun, the skin crawling bugs, the flesh eating fire ants, the threat of snakes and other jungle creatures; we are incredibly grateful – thankfull to Oren and Patty for allowing us this time and place to accomplish a great deal of work on the bus. We expect when we leave here in March we will have most everything finished on the inside. That makes for a very successful winter. Without their offer to park here and work we could never have done this. We truly are thankful.