2012 January 1
We have officially been on the road for only two weeks and two days. How is that possible? In some ways it feels much longer - in a good way.
One of the goals of this journey is to decide where we might settle for the remainder of our lives. Both Raymond and I are born and raised Pittsburghers who have traveled in our younger years and always returned to "the Burgh" because of family ties. Pittsburgh is a lovely place, but we were thinking it might be nice to live out the rest of our lives somewhere different.
There are any number of places that we have ruled out for one reason or another. We don't care for the topography of Ohio. We love much of New England, but really don't want to live there in the winter. Driving through West Virginia made me certain that any cold winter state really isn't for me. Even traveling through the mountains of NC made me aware that perhaps that is not the environment in which I would like to winter. That fact was a bit disconcerting. I do so love North Carolina's beaches in winter! But the mountains, well, that's another story. We did like the low country of South Carolina. Mostly, I think because it was our first really warm spot. I have never been a huge fan of Florida, but Raymond is, so we began our sojourn down the west coast of Florida. The campgrounds we stayed in were lovely, as were the people we met. Seffner had an international village feel to it. Bradenton was full of kindness and information, but also the place where the tiny bugs, called "no see ems" by the locals feasted upon our Yankee flesh like we were a smorgasbord! When attempting to decide where to go next, our decision was helped along by the Thousand Trails membership "special offer" in Sunshine Key, which had not been available just a week earlier.
Way back in the 80s (remember then?) we had spent a week in March, in our tent with our dog Blue, at a campground just north of the 7 Mile Bridge in the Keys. We remembered that trip fondly. So, we decided to go for broke so to speak, and spend a week just south of the 7 Mile Bridge.
First, I am astounded at the development that abounds since our last trip down here. Granted, twenty-seven years is a l - o - n - g time, but still I was shocked. The 7 Mile Bridge that we drove on back then is now "the old bridge" and used in various parts for fishing and walking. There is an abundance of Spanish speakers, many of whom are Cuban, which Is different. There is an overabundance of white haired men trying to look like Ernest Hemingway. There is a Dolphin Research Center and a Turtle Hospital, which didn't exist on our last trip. But, the thing that amazes me most is that in spite of all the changes, there is an undefinable quality of peaceful coexistence that pervades over all else. The sun beats down, but there is a gentle breeze, as well. For the first time, I could actually see myself living somewhere other than Pittsburgh or Corolla, NC. (And let's be honest, we could never really afford to live in Corolla, no matter how much we love it)
Two weeks and two days into our discovery trip and we may have found a place where we could live, for say four months each year. What is so cool, is that Raymond is on the same page! We're not really ready to put down roots, but we both can envision us living here, or in Marathon, or somewhere in the Keys, for the months of November through March.
It actually feels kind of good to have that thought. Who knows how it will all shake out? Time will tell. Plus, there is so much more of this country to see. But, we are both drawn to the water, me for the spiritual connection I feel and Raymond for the actual swimming! Of course, I also feel a spiritual connection to the mountains and to many, many places in the Southwest, so maybe that isn't a good measuring stick. And I've never set foot in the Pacific Northwest
It does feel amazing to be so peaceful. Especially after all the drama attached to actually getting on the road, followed by my emotional upheaval on Christmas Eve. That stuff feels like it happened a really long time ago. I'm declaring that a good thing and an auspicious start to 2012, on the road.