The (Un)Surprising Habits of Snowbirds

You probably already know what I recently learned: “snowbirds” is what you call retired people who live up north but spend their winters down south, Florida or Arizona pretty much.

This means we’re not snowbirds (we plan on spending all our summers and winters where it’s moderate!), but we’re blending in quite nicely with those around us here in Bonita Springs, FL.

Sanibel Island

Sanibel is one of those special places in the U.S. that used to be a glorious secret to those in the know, but now I think everyone knows.

Back in the ‘80s (and maybe before—Esther, help me out here), my aunt and uncle did kind of what we’ve done: they threw in the towel on a normal life by quitting their jobs, in their case renting out their house in Virginia, cutting the umbilical cords with their kids, and starting over on Sanibel, back then a hidden paradise.

My aunt took a job at a hotel, and my uncle bought a boat, named it (cleverly, as all boat names are) “The Virginia Gentleman,” and they set up a business taking tourists out fishing, sightseeing, shelling, and dolphin watching.

So for years I was privileged with trips to visit them. I learned such important things as:

  • To be a good guest where your hosts have guest after guest, get out of their hair and explore the place on your own.
  • Don’t volunteer as first-mate when you have a hangover.
  • Don’t impulsively jump out of the boat into the water when you first see dolphins swimming beside you (that was my sister).
  • Always double the garlic in recipes.

Those were fine times.

A few years ago, too many hurricanes plus the inevitable getting-old thing sent them back to Virginia, but they have photos of Sanibel all over the house there.

Similarly, our former neighbors (and current friends) in Maryland used to vacation in Sanibel every year and love the place. But, now, it’s crowded and not welcoming to gay couples (which they are), so they’ve regretfully said goodbye to Sanibel as well.

All this extremely long story explains why I was so excited to take a day trip to Sanibel, just an hour north of us—because, despite friends and family having left there, they all still speak so fondly of the place and have been urging us to visit. Tracy bought an electronic pass for the new fancy bridge to the island, and we packed for part of the day at the beach and part at Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve.

We did get about two hours in at the beach (including a nice take-out lunch), but then the storm (pictured above) rolled in, and we skedaddled. After all that, we’ll have to go back.

Our Local Brewery

This experience wasn’t as awesome as hoped for, either. But the beer was good!

Still, ideally we would have ridden our bikes there (or even walked; it’s only a mile and a half away), but there is no outdoor seating, only a parking lot. So we drove in order to take beach chairs.

Poor poor us, I know. Having to enjoy our very good beer in a parking lot. We even had to play Pass the Pigs right there on the asphalt. Woe is us!

The food truck was most excellent though (nachos with mac and cheese, BBQ, and pineapple). And like with Sanibel, we’ll probably go back.

Imperial Bonita

That’s the name of our RV park, if you missed that before. We’re still digging it.

Banjo is very interested in the gopher tortoises at the entrance, plus the flocks of ibises and herons and egrets and all manner of glorious birds fishing in the Imperial River right behind us.

Our Fun Find

We’re digging the wildlife, too, but look what else we found: the only other Frolic I’ve ever seen like our own beloved, our first RV.

We found this beauty while biking to the farmer’s market, post office, and UPS store (biking to errands makes them feel less like errands). It was on my second ride-by that I thought I saw the Frolic logo on the front and just had to stop and snoop.

Our own dear Frolic (I call her “dear” but Tracy probably calls her “damned”) was our primer in RV life, and Tracy’s primer in how to rebuild systems in plumbing, propane, electrical, you name it. And bravely my ex-laws bought her and have continued her renovation.

I love my home now, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the Frolic, and I can’t believe I found another. (I think the tire company Midas made them as a promotional stunt very briefly in the mid 1970s.)

Well, that’s what snowbirds do, I suppose. Take day trips to the beach and not get bummed by an aborted mission because there’s always time for another trip. Sit around in brewery parking lots (in fact, a crowd of retirees gathered after us in that parking lot; they sat in a socially distanced circle with their own beach chairs and folding tables: how fun!). And reminisce about old trailers you owned. Suits me!

You guys take care out there. Only a short period (I hope) until we’re all vaccinated.

2 thoughts to “The (Un)Surprising Habits of Snowbirds”

  1. Hey Shelly, I love the Sanibel story. I hope you had a great time on your visit. Please keep sending me emails. Stay safe and Happy Holidays! I miss our conversations. \
    PS. Booby says, hello!