I've been on the road, traveling to and through Florida, for about ten days. For those of you who don't know Florida, I thought I'd tell you what's interesting about the state.
The beach. There's lots of it. There's so much of it that even though Florida is crowded, the beaches are not. Well, maybe there are a few crowded beaches -- South Beach? Fort Lauderdale? Lido Key? -- but that's only because people want to see and be seen. There are miles and miles of beautiful uncrowded beaches. And the sand is nice too. Where we go in South Carolina the sand is silty, almost muddy. The Florida beaches are made of warm golden sand that feels great between your toes.
The water. Not the water you drink. In fact, the drinking water in Florida is pretty bad. Stick to bottled water. But the ocean water is blue and clear and usually plenty warm. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are even warmer and bluer, although they occasionally get Red Tide or some other kind of tide -- but that's unusual. For the most part the waters are beautiful.
Historic downtowns. Really? Am I kidding? For the most part Florida is one giant strip mall, with more muffler shops and pawn shops per square mile (I swear) than any other state in the Union. But, actually, a few towns have made efforts to make a small part of their downtown nice-looking and walkable. On this trip I've been to two of them: The little settlement of Eau Gallie in Melbourne, and the downtown riverfront in Fort Pierce.
The weather. It's been sunny and in the 70s every day since I crossed the border into Florida. We had a shower one morning, but it cleared up by noon. And . . . wait. I'm mistaken. On at least one day, maybe two, the temperature got up into the low 80s.
Fishing. I'm not a fisherman, so I don't know first-hand. But the guy downstairs in my airbnb said he caught two big ones this morning. "Is that your dinner?" I asked. "No, I threw them back," he said. And who am I to doubt him?
Golf. There are even more golf courses in Florida than there are strip malls . . . and that's saying something. Honestly, the courses are not spectacular -- they're flat and sandy, with lots of water and hardly any trees -- but where else can you meet up with a few friendly strangers who, by the third hole seem just like your old golfing friends at home?The food? Well, about 99% of the food in Florida is fast food from the likes of McDonald's, Wendy's and Waffle House. But if you look for it, you can find some great local dishes. I found a super Mexican restaurant in Fort Pierce. And a fellow I played golf with told me about Sharky's out by the beach. The guy lives in Delaware and winters in Vero Beach. He told me Sharky's makes a good Philly cheesesteak, "Not as good as home, but pretty darn good. They also have a fantastic Mahi sandwich." Then his friend chimed in -- "And the shrimp is to die for." I can't stomach Philly cheesesteak. And I'm allergic to shrimp. So I got the Mahi sandwich, which was every bit as good as my new friend promised.
Family. A lot of people come to Florida to visit parents and grandparents -- and lots of times brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews show up. We used to come to Florida when our kids were small and my parents were still alive, retired in South Florida. It's good to get together with family, especially when it's on vacation and it's sunny and in the 70s outside. I've been traveling alone so far, but in a couple of days I'll be meeting up with B, and then we're visiting my sister, and a few days later -- well, not in Florida, but in South Carolina -- we'll be meeting up with children and grandchildren, and for this old geezer, at this time of life, that's what it's all about.
So if Florida is so wonderful, why didn't we retire here? For the rest of the story check out my post from last year Why Didn't We Retire to Florida?