We traveled to Florida by auto train about three weeks ago. The trip was uncertain until mid November because of my crazy health issues. Once they had subsided and we had the doctor’s OK it was a matter of finding a place to stay. We missed out on the condo building we were in two years ago(Covid kept us from coming last year) because by the time we knew we could come the condo unit we wanted was no longer available. Anthony, our rental agent, said that he would keep looking for us but no guarantees – it was definitely an owners market and places that would fit our needs had long ago been grabbed up. But then one day Anthony sent us a link to a unit that had just come on the market. It had the location we wanted on South Ocean Drive in Jensen Beach, however the pictures that were supposed to show its finer points were rather blah, so with no expectations of anything special we took it – we really wanted to go and nothing else was available.
The trip on the auto train was weird. There was no gathering in the club car or going to the dining car at an assigned time. Covid precautions were strictly enforced. In spite of the negative input from the Florida governor whose state was our final destination, masks were worn by all. I have always enjoyed the socialization at dinner time – meeting interesting folks from different backgrounds. Two years go we were seated with a couple from New Berlin in central New York State. They shared the story of the economic revival of their community by the Greek Yogurt company Chobani who, it seemed to them, had randomly opened a factory in New Berlin. I have always liked Greek yogurt, and this brand in particular, so that was an interesting bit of trivia to learn.
The auto train’s final destination is Sanford, Florida. The drive from there to Jensen Beach takes about an hour and a half. We speculated about the condo which was to be our home for the next two and a half months. Why hadn’t they put more energy into the link promoting the units finer points – what were we getting ourselves into?
Well the unit is lovely! Our expectations were so low but this has turned out to be probably the nicest place we have ever rented. Four things stand out for me: the view, the mattress in the master bedroom, the artwork on the walls, and the fact that the owners do not use it as a storage place for furniture they do not know what to do with. We have a view of the Indian River Lagoon out our front door and the Atlantic ocean is our living room treat. We are used to rental units that frequently have lumpy mattresses. The mattress here is firm and very comfortable – as one gets older the right mattress assumes even more importance.The art work in rental units has always seemed very generic – that the owners went to a store for equipping your rental unit, stated the amount of art they needed and walked out with whatever was sold to them. This place has a variety of interesting art work through out the unit. Some of the pieces I like very much. A good example of the owners using their unit to store furniture is the place we stayed in several years ago. It also was a two bedroom, two bath condo. In the dining area it had eight high backed stools that lined the wall plus a dining table with six chairs. This is a small example of the excess furniture that littered that unit.
We got to meet Mike and Amy the owners of this condo. They came when we let our rental agent know that the TV was not working. Fortunately they couldn’t get it to work either so they purchased a new one for us. We wanted to ask them to just buy a simple TV, not another 53 incher with enough bells and whistles to make your head spin. But no luck – the next day Mike returned with a newly purchased, equally complicated lighter version of the TV that had died. Back in Virginia we have two TV’s. The one in our bedroom is 19 inches, with no bells and whistles. It is at least twenty years old and has been a faithful provider of the news and music we like to listen to. The downstairs thirty inch TV is perhaps ten years old, a so called smart TV whose many skills took a while to master.
It is an adjustment when you rent – you have to adapt to the various owners style of house keeping. There is a big difference between renting for a week and renting for three months. In the geographical areas we like to rent in, a three month rental is pretty standard – usually going from January 1 to March 31st. Jerry and I like to be home for the full length of the Christmas season – keeping our Christmas decorations up till after Little Christmas. We don’t like to sell this sacred season short. This year we will be taking the auto train home on March 26. I am always so eager to head for home when the time comes. Even though some of our family is able to visit us in Florida it is nice to be local and accessible, and Spring in Northern Virginia is one of my favorite times.
We know that we are very fortunate to be able to pass some of the cold winter months in Florida. Particularly this past week when the Northeast was pummeled by a powerful “bomb cyclone”. It was cold by Florida standards but nothing like the weather our family from Virginia north was experiencing.
We are equally fortunate to have some good friends who are Florida residents – some are old friends who have retired in Florida and whom we see during our Florida snow birding time, others are new friends whom we have just met during our Florida stays. They all help to make our time here even more special. I have always valued good friendships but as you age you realize even more what a precious gift is a true friend. There are so many good quotes on friendship. I have enjoyed trying to find one that best summarizes my own feelings. Ray Bradbury’s words resonate with me: “We can not tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is a last one which makes the heart run over.”