Shortly after my wife and I were married nearly 25 years ago, we decided that when it came time to retire, we would like to spend the summers in Vermont and the winters in a warm weather climate somewhere. We took several vacations investigating possible winter retirement destinations. The life of a “snowbird” didn’t sound so bad to us. We already had a summer place in northern Vermont on the shores of Lake Champlain. About 10 years ago, we found a place in southwest Florida that we fell in love with. It’s on a salt water canal that has direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. All that was left was for us to save up enough money so that we could actually retire.
We have spent almost every summer weekend driving from our home in Massachusetts to our summer camp in Vermont. As you can imagine, the weekends flew by. We would also try to spend at least one full week there, usually over the 4th of July week. We have been doing this for more than 25 years and never regretted any of it. For the last 10 years, we have also tried to get down to Florida as often as possible so that we could spend time there. My wife would usually manage to get down there 5 or 6 times each year. I would get there less often. We tried to spend a week or more there each year during January. We love it there too.
Earlier this year my wife was given the opportunity to retire at the end of this month. We are thrilled! However, I’m not ready to retire yet, so I needed to figure out how I was going to manage that. About 2 months ago, I decided that I would start my own consulting business. I have been doing this on and off for the last several years. But turning this into a full time thing is a little different. So now it’s real. We will be making the transition to “snowbird” status this winter.
Even though this has been our plan for many years, now that it is becoming real it’s a little scary. The new life style, the new business, etc. are all cause for some anxiety. We’re figuring things out and I know we will be fine. Since this is a cycling blog, I wanted to talk about the good, bad and ugly the impact this has on my cycling. Please understand that I know most of these things are trivial matters. Having said that, I am still surprised by the amount time I’ve spent worrying (needlessly I’m sure!) about these issues.
This move will do a lot of really good things as it relates to my cycling. But it will also create some challenges for me personally. Part of my reasons for writing this blog are cathartic. It helps to “talk this out” even if it’s only through a blog post. So here goes.
The Good – The weather.
The vast majority of my rides will be in warm temperatures. One of the reasons that I have not been willing to ride in cold and rainy weather here is because I didn’t really have the proper clothes for it. Knowing that this move was imminent, it was very difficult to justify the expense of good winter riding gear. It pained me to have to get rid of most of my winter running gear when I had to give up running many years ago. I didn’t want to go through that again if I could help it.
The Good – Time to ride.
For the most part, having my own business will allow me to ride when it’s convenient. There will be times when this isn’t possible but for the most part, I will be able to control my calendar. I love that!
The Good – Group rides.
Our lifestyle of being in Massachusetts during the week and Vermont on the weekends has made it senseless to join a cycling club. I have been riding with an informal riding group in Vermont. I love the people and enjoy riding with them but I have only been able to join them a few times. Living there all summer will allow me to plan weekday rides with them as well as justify a full Saturday or Sunday riding with them.
I have already joined a cycling club in southwest Florida, The Caloosa Riders (http://www.caloosariders.org/). Last year I attended one of their meetings to see what the people were like and what kind of a group it is. Although it’s hard to tell from one meeting, they seemed to be a good group. I’m looking forward to getting to know them and riding with them in the future.
I am also interested in becoming a Randonneur. Although there isn’t a club exactly in my area, there are two that have events in my area. The Central Florida Randonneurs (http://floridarandonneurs.com/wordpress/) are located in the Orlando area. I have spoken with one of their members so I have the right contact there. The other group is The South Florida Randonneurs (http://johnandjuliet.com/RUSA/). They are located in the Miami area. Both groups have rides that would be accessible to my area in southwest Florida. I haven’t been in touch with anyone in that group yet but I suspect I will be. Again, I look forward to more group rides.
The Good – There is a new road bike in my future
Our plans are to drive back and forth some years, and fly back and forth other years. As a result, I decided it made sense to have a road bike at each location. (Doesn’t it always make more sense to justify another bike when possible?) I will be driving my boat down to Florida in late February. Shortly after I arrive, I will be looking for my new bike. I never bought a new bike so this will be fun … and a little nerve racking! There are so many good choices. My budget will get me into the low end of carbon fiber bikes. As such, my short list includes Felt Z3, SCOTT CR1, Cervelo R3 and Specialized Roubaix. I’m not sure these will all be in my budget, but they will be close. I’ve only ridden the Felt, so I have some test rides to complete too! Now there is something to look forward to.
The Bad – Lack of hills
I love riding the hills I have in Eastern Massachusetts. I’m not particularly good at them, but I’m getting better. Regardless, I love them!! I love the challenge of climbing the hills and the reward of the downhill afterwards. And what could be better than riding quickly along rolling hills through wooded and winding roadways! Sometimes I even notice the smile on my face as I am riding along roads like this. Granted, I will still have some beautiful hills when we are in Vermont, but I’m afraid my Florida rides might be a little boring. I’m hopeful that my new riding club will introduce me to some nicer routes than what I’m aware of now.
The Ugly – Transition to the hills of Vermont
I would imagine that the first few weeks riding in Vermont each spring will be difficult. After spending 6 or 7 months riding mostly flats, the hills will be tough! The first few hilly rides might get pretty ugly!!
We are very lucky to be able to move into this new phase of our lives. Although I am a bit anxious about many of these issues, I am looking forward to making this transition to “snow bird” status. We have a lot to do over the next several months, but a good part of the enjoyment comes from the journey.