After completing our five month western swing in October, 2013, we settled down at Sandy Oaks in Beverly Hills, Florida for our second winter of snowbirding. This stay was twice as long — from mid October to mid April. We got much more involved in campground activities; there was something going on every day. I had an expanded student base for teaching Nantucket Lightship Baskets. And we started to call more and more people our friends.
We headed directly to our home in Churchton, Maryland in April. It wasn’t a matter of wanting to be off the road. It was a matter of wanting to re-examine our life there. So far we’d been home just 85 days since the beginning of our journey in October of 2009. We had neighbors and neighborhoods and medical people to reconnect with and long term associations to cherish — especially with the kids and grandkids in nearby northern Virginia. Schip-Dude and Allie were familiar with the yard and their homey routines, but Melody only spent a week here last fall and Tom was new to the territory. So they, too, had learning and adapting to do as well.
On top of that, we realized how much the house and yard were crying for our attention. While our tenant had done her best to keep it up, no one treats your property the way you do! So we backed the Big Horn into its side yard driveway, plugged it in and completely unloaded it. Whatever the next step was, it needed a thorough cleaning. And those short-dated cans in the back of the pantry closet needed to be consumed! Then we got to work — Dot on the yard and I on the house — taking lots of breaks to rekindle relationships.
It wasn’t too long before we realized that our situation wasn’t going to go exactly as expected. It wasn’t a “pick up where you left off” situation. Don made a run at renewing his relationship with the Summer Garden Theatre but felt very out of the loop. Things were great with the family, but so much else had changed — or moved on. The house was comfortable — after all, we’d lovingly created it out of a sixty year old Sears Roebuck cottage fifteen years earlier. And what a view (above)! But we didn’t remember how much upkeep was involved.
We had a saying about the dogs on travel. “They didn’t mind their yard changing from time to time as long as their house remained the same.” We started feeling a corollary to that — we loved it when our yard changed, because there was always so much more to see! The bottom line was that it wouldn’t be too long before we hit the road again. And with the prospect of spending up to half the year at Sandy Oaks and up to the other half on the road, the value of a Churchton “base camp” began to diminish. Within thirty days, we started outlining “Plan B.”
When the ball started rolling, it gathered momentum. First decision: We wanted to still have roots down somewhere. I asked Dot where else she’d like to live, and she quickly said “Sandy Oaks.” In addition to a couple hundred RV sites, there were about 40 mobile homes in the park. Some were rentals; others were snowbird-owned. A dozen or so were occupied year ’round. Florida was also an excellent state for retirees, and the west-central location actually had seasons. We thought it could be perfect for spending six months there and beating it out of state for the hot summer.
So we got on the phone to see if any houses were for sale. Rosemary, the office manager and a good friend, sent us pictures of the one she knew about — a singe wide, old, and with almost no improvements. Wee said no.
Rosemary mentioned our interest to Anne Melanson, the resort’s General Manager. Anne and her husband Doug had purchased a number of the houses from foreclosures and abandonment. Doug and his brother did the work to flip them over to new ownership. Sadly, Doug succumbed to a vehicle accident in early 2014. A large unit was unimproved, and Anne relayed to us that she’d kick out the tenants and sell it to us for a very modest price.
I flew down in early July to see it and take copious pictures for Dot’s review. We recognized that it would take many hours and many dollars to make it livable for us. But we saw potential, and we liked the fact that it had enough property to insure privacy. Living there offered an additional benefit: we could park the RV in field storage for a gentle price when it wasn’t in use. After three days of negotiation, we signed up.
The next two months were a whirlwind. We listed our house with the broker who’d handled our rental. We had seven lookers in seven days, at which time the second couple contracted for it at our asking price. We negotiated a closing date for August 15. We couldn’t take possession of the new place until 9/1, so we decided to spend the two weeks camping out and visiting family. We hired U-Haul to provide storage containers and deliver them to Florida — worked out okay except for the fact that the need for a sixth container sent the price spiraling by one third. After the closing, we parked our car at a son’s house and headed to Pennsylvania, where we spent a week with Dot’s mom (91) and stepfather (90). Then we headed to Virginia, camping near the boys and their families while we took advantage of Labor Day sale prices by.dropping a bundle at Home Depot for five new appliances.
On the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, we started for “home.” Then a near disaster: the front of the Big Horn started opening up from a frame failure. We drove the last lap on Monday with trepidation and made it, parking in an assigned site and looking forward to staying put in the trailer while we began renovating our new digs.
much less keeping it up. When I asked Dot where else she’d like to live, she said, “Sandy Oaks, of course.” Thus, our snowbird home became our permanent address with the acquisition of a large, 34 year old “double-wide” in the Resort, which we have since converted to a traditional home. The story of this, our second total renovation, is covered elsewhere in this site.