Sunny Daze

Posted January 8, 2018 – Narrated by Carmen.

If you’d rather listen to the podcast, click the play button.

 

Well, that was unexpected. Eighty miles from Cuba … frozen, windburned and terrified for the poor iguanas falling from the branches of the gumbo-limbo trees onto the concrete below.

It’s already an otherworldly atmosphere here with the set of Les Miserable repeating itself every two-hundred feet or so along the Florida Keys overseas highway. Five days of winter blast on top of the Hurricane Irma fallout left us rather, well, not ourselves. Jim had to wear long pants. That’s about as historic as it gets.

A brief moment of sun at Jolly Roger RV Park in Marathon, Florida – January 4, 2018 – 58 degrees and winds gusts up to 40 MPH

Even Pico had symptoms of SAD. We set aside our snorkel gear, cozied up in down blankets beside our new blazing furnace and read about travel rather than do it …

Last Friday, while warming my gloved hands over a steaming cup of Cuban coffee, I glanced accusingly at Jim and asked, “Whose idea was this anyway? Instantly, we both flashed back to the early 80’s and Sunny Daze

Sunny Daze – the sailboat that inspired Living in Beauty.

Sunny Daze, was a sweet 47′ ketch owned and captained by our dear friends and spiritual mentors, George and Helen Riley. Jim learned to sail in college, and on the occasional balmy winter afternoon, George allowed Jim to give a hand with the sails on San Diego Bay. Just before they set out on an extended expedition, George and Helen gave us a tour below deck.

George and Helen Riley in front of their boat, Sunny Daze, early 1980’s.

Ducking and squeezing through the cabin, I couldn’t imagine how they’d manage in that space.

Typical galley of a 47 foot long sailboat

Nevertheless, I was overcome with an excitement I couldn’t shake. Later that day Jim disclosed that he’d had the same feelings.

The next morning at church, Jim told George that we’d seen the light and were ready to make the break and transition from house to sailboat so we could … wait for it … save money! In an enormous burst of laughter, George sputtered “Save money!?” several times as if Jim had three heads and couldn’t figure out which one to address. We owe George. That merciless, but expert jibe, probably saved us from certain ruin against The Shoals of Youth.

Knowing we had nothing but enthusiasm, strong backs and each other, George encouraged us to remain up to our eyeteeth in mortgage debt – even in a bad market with 13% interest (and lucky to have it in 1980). In due time, he told us, the economic winds would turn favorable and we’d have that energy behind our nascent dream of full-time travel.

John Prince Park Campground
Our campsite across Lake Osbourne, Lake Worth, Florida

Sailors peer suspiciously at the sky because they know separate and opposing forces are always locked in combat. Imbalances will come – disruptions that are both necessary and temporary in order for nature to pursue her course – but the captain must be prepared to deal with the consequences. Steady as she goes.

The artic chill on the Gulf of Mexico as experienced by this beautiful 1966 Airstream parked in a space nearby.

But, back to Sunny Daze … I wonder if our 30-year-old selves would accept George’s sage advice today?

The early 80’s were revolutionary. Mobile phones and personal computers set off a rapid succession of technological advancements. Now, average people with normal jobs and responsibilities can break convention and join the rising Mobile Empire as millennials and pre, semi, and fully retired boomers, seniors, and even the disabled live capable nomadic lives.

Even as sales of automobiles and houses decline, RV sales are in a boom phase – up 19.6%. Marketing and government groups huddle around the phenomenon and ask, “Why?” The RV boom certainly isn’t all good for everyone and some municipalities are taking measures to rein it in. But it could have an unexpected positive effect on the national park systems as manufacturers lobby Washington for more expansion, access and improvements rather than less.

The job market is already taking advantage of the increased mobility of employees who are able and willing to instantly relocate. Like the 1950’s with the kit house boom, limited housing options in key areas like Southern California and a deficit in small-scale transitional housing in safe and vibrant walking communities have contributed to the RV boom.

True, for some the RV is a survival choice, the last step before homelessness. But most people who leave their houses to join the Great Mobile Migration  – whether on foot with nothing but a suitcase and a guitar like our coddiwomple friend Herb, or to roll with the rollers or float with the floaters – are doing it because they can.

Since two-thirds of the world is covered in water, living on a boat is a natural choice. It’s also very sexy and bohemian.

But as the technology was advancing, so were the highways. Add Canada and South America, and the travel opportunities are overwhelming. But even if RV’s could fly, those old civilized prejudices will continue to associate living on a boat with romance …

… and full-time RVing with gypsies, tramps and thieves …

Henry Fonda – The Grapes of Wrath – 1940

When Airstreams get no respect, it’s a clue that a shift is underway – That’s enough. The Adults are getting concerned … But with views like these,

Photo courtesy Caitlyn Colt Battles at Argosy Odyssey

…  who’s complaining? Pinch me. I must be mything!

Among those we’ve met who abandoned their former homes – temporarily or permanently – to live out of a suitcase and journey on foot, boat, plane or vehicle are marketing executives, producers, journeymen, professional rock climbers, artists, independent contractors who work at Amazon and the national parks, and women traveling alone who work online as teachers or consultants. These friends and acquaintances live in everything from $500,000 rigs and classic VW vans to homemade teardrops and renovated vintage pop-ups.

Christmas 2016 with Rob and Ozzie traveling full-time in their 1967 VW at Ho Hum RV Park, Carrabelle, Florida.

Besides finding adventure, celebrating powers of self-reliance and joie de vivre, travelers are also looking for open space for contemplation, peace and quiet, better climate, or cleaner air and water – or a prescription from anxiety or allergies or an abusive spouse. Sometimes they have a smoking habit, or pets that condos and rentals will not accept – or, they’re writing a novel, or raising an autistic child, or caring for a sick spouse.

We met Travis the traveling Duck in the Florida Keys!

I recently met an 83-year-old man traveling with his wife who was on home dialysis. He said it was easier to keep the RV and boat in proper sanitary condition for his ill wife who was happiest when they were traveling together by land or sea. They were moving toward her last wish, to sail The Gulf once more.

Helen’s sailor has now gone away … but his adventurous spirit lives on and continues to inspire our travel dreams. “What would George and Helen do?” is a good way to approach any crossroads we encounter.

Yesterday afternoon, the wind calmed and the sun warmed the iguanas enough to come out from their secret places. Locals and snowbirds crept out of their RVs, insisting the climate event was unprecedented. We wonder if it’s the new normal.

This afternoon, we’ll go to No Name Pub where we can taste local brews, watch wild key deer from the deck and raise a toast to Sunny Daze who gave us this idea.

Fair winds and following seas!