Discoveries on the journey…

I met a woman yesterday who spends her winters here at the park. She is retired and lives in a 19 foot long travel trailer. When I asked if living in such a small space bothered her, she replied that she only sleeps inside the trailer; she spends all of her time outside. Her “living room and dining room” are under the canopy, on her patio slab. Which is fine, if you don’t mind wind, rain and chilly temperatures. She bundles up and sits in her lawn chair all day long, watching camp life happen around her.

Winters are still nippy in Northern Florida. Last night the temperature dipped to 27 degrees. We were warned by a neighboring camper to disconnect the water hose to our unit so it wouldn’t freeze and break the brass fittings. Now, at 9 am, the sun is streaming into the windows and the outside temperature is up to a balmy 39 degrees. This is a temporary cold snap; the locals reassure us that we will be topping out in the 70’s again by the end of the week. For the next few days, I will be holed up inside the RV.

We have had to make adjustments to life in small spaces. I am not willing to spend my days wrapped in blankets to sit outdoors during the cold snaps. That defeats our purpose of coming to Florida to escape the cold weather!

Getting the RV road-worthy was only the beginning! We find ourselves adding to our list of missing essentials on a daily basis, as we adjust to this new life-style. We have already added three electric space heaters, one for the bedroom, bathroom, and main living quarters. These RVs are not well insulated and must be driven to the refill station to refill an empty propane tank. Heating by electricity is the easier choice. We will find out how pricey the electricity is when our bill arrives at the end of the month.

Other discoveries:

After years of living with an automatic ice-maker in my refrigerator, I needed to buy an ice-cube tray. Simple pleasures of life; ice in your drinks.

Our motor home was stocked with a set of unbreakable Melmac dishes. We have seen them for sale at Camper’s World stores, hawked as the best camping dishes on the market. I remember Melmac dishes from my childhood. They truly are unbreakable and are a nice alternative to paper plates, but I have discovered that they do not hold up well in a microwave! They melt! Off we went to Wal-Mart for a 4 pack of Corelle dishes.

The glass tray in the microwave oven is a perfect fit for my frying pan. Of course, there is no handle so a lid to fit the frying pan is on my list for a future trip!

Our coffee-maker sprung a leak early in this journey and we replaced it for less than $20, at Wal-Mart.

The air quality is greatly improved since switching to unscented kitty litter. We are glad Wal-Mart also carries pet supplies.

Cooking presents another challenge because my little kitchen only has a 12 inch span of counter space. It is manageable, but meals are by no means elaborate or complicated. Space is at a premium so most of my kitchen tools stayed at home. The process of meal prep reminds me of the years I spent living in a college dorm, fixing weekend meals in my room. At least I have a small stove here, and don’t have to figure out how to cook everything in my popcorn popper!

My daughter jokes that we really are “retired” despite my husband’s job allowing him to commute to work by phone. It seems that every time she phones us, we are at Wal-Mart, picking up groceries or those missing essentials to make life easier. And, if I get too bored, maybe I can apply for a job! I can smile and say, “Hello, welcome to Wal-Mart!”


CATastrophic living

Snowbirding takes major adjustments. How do you transition from living in a sprawling 2500 square feet to 300 square feet – a space just slightly larger than a college dorm room? From the nearest neighbor being 1/8 of a mile away to life in a trailer park? How does one transition from commuting to work in an office to working “at home” from a laptop? And, how do you adjust to living with two cats in that tiny space? What do you do with the litter box?

At home, the litter box is a non-issue. The cats have their own space in a room under the basement stairs (which is actually larger than this RV!) where their beds, food, and litter box reside. Odors are no problem. Clean the box daily when you feed them; it is out of sight and out of mind. Here the litter box presents a major problem.

We thought we had the problem preemptively solved . My husband removed a chair from the “living room” section of the RV and replaced it with a cabinet. The top houses the TV and printer, but the litter box is hidden inside with an opening for easy entrance for the cats. And, because we occupy a very small space, I purchased a new brand of kitty litter that is specially designed for small spaces. One would think we had the problem solved.

However, I did not factor in sensitivity to scents. I have allergic reactions when burning scented candles and sitting near someone wearing strong perfumes. A heavily deodorized kitty litter is not the best solution!

My husband’s workspace is next to the cabinet and he has complained since we arrived about the “landfill odor.” It gives him a headache and has talked about moving to a different town just to escape the smell. I have developed a “stomach bug” and have battled an upset tummy and headache, which increases when I step into the RV. Oddly enough, we don’t notice the “landfill odor” when we are outside!

The proverbial light bulb went off today and we finally connected the dots! The rank smell is from the litter box! Since we are using the showers here at the camp, which are far more spacious than the tiny shower stall in the RV, we have relocated the litter box to the bathroom shower stall. We must keep the door ajar for kitty access, but can open the ceiling vent, and hopefully, dissipate the smell.

And, after work today, we have a date planned to visit Wal-Mart for some unscented litter. I can hardly wait!

Suddenly Snowbirds

Singer Ann Murray had a hit record in the 70’s titled “Snowbird” where she sang about a migratory bird that left the snowy, frozen meadows of the north for warm sunny skies. “Snowbird, take me with you when you go to the land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…” or something like that. My diagnosis of suffering from an unconventional form of cold-induced asthma, battling an asthma-induce URI since early October, and the opportunity for my husband to transition into retirement brought us to the sudden decision to spend the winter in Florida.

This introduced a series of rapid life changes! I gave notice at my job just prior to Thanksgiving, he applied for retirement,and we spent the month of December breathing life back into our ancient (22-year-old) RV after ten years in dry dock. 

Christmas was a whirl-wind of family parties, rapid packing, and a departure for the sunny south before the New Year with an ice storm nipping at our heels.

We are unconventional snowbirds; most of the folks we have met are truly retired and maintain a home in the north where they live during the summer, and spend the winter months in luxurious RVs with multiple rooms that “bump out” when they settle in for the winter. Our little rig is only slightly larger than the dorm room I had in college! (As a student, I would have loved a dorm room with its own kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom.) All the comforts of home are here, including a small flat-screen television. But, my husband is still “working.” He has an office area set up in a corner of the RV as he transitions out of his current career by satellite remote. I have my “office” on the dinette table where I write and attend an internet class I am enrolled in. And, we share our little space with two cats!

Boots, our 18-year-old tabby, spends most of his time curled up next to me on the dinette bench sleeping. Buster, the three-year old Maine Coon, spends his days leaping around the dashboard chasing birds and squirrels. The cats are loving all of the attention and “people time” they are receiving from such close quarters.

Because of my husband’s job, we are “tethered” to a site during the week and are limited to traveling only on weekends. Consequently, we have rented a monthly slot at a Florida campground where he can commute by internet.  We are close to the well-maintained showers and laundry room, have a concrete patio and little picnic table, and are surrounded by other monthly lease campers.  The park is its own little community of friendly people, with pre-planned activities if you choose to participate. 

As I walked the mile circle around the park this morning, feeling the warmth of the sunshine on my face, I was overwhelmed by the blessing of being outside and able to breathe the air. This transition from Michigan feels as if it happened rather quickly; we like to plan our life and work our plan. But we serve a God who specializes in “Suddenlies.” He cares about the details of our life, and directs our paths. He will guide us as we listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Because of God’s direction, we are “Suddenly” Snowbirds.