Florida: Reflections on Sunshine State


After 2½ years in Florida, we are moving back to Wisconsin, where Irene accepted a job in Madison, with the VA. After packing our boxes, I had a chance to reflect on our stay in the Sunshine State.

Climate was the primary reason we moved here in the first place. Although Florida is hot much of the year, humid all the time, and rainy in the summer, we picked it over the low humidity and clear skies of Phoenix, mainly because the southwest lacks water. Charlotte, Atlanta and Dallas were also ruled out, because their winters are not warm enough.

Although the temperature in Tampa-St. Pete reached 92 F each day, every year, for five months straight, like winter in Wisconsin, people just stay inside, in their climate-controlled buildings and cars. While northerners question the risk of hurricanes in Florida, not one hit the state in 2½ years. For me, the best part of Florida was the ability to go outside and take a walk nearly every day.

Health care was the second consideration when we moved. The Medicare crowd is a major industry in Florida, due to the number of retirees. On the plus side, I found a primary care physician I liked, and had a reasonably good hospital stay for an appendix operation. On the bad end, five different people at an eye clinic examined me one morning (four too many), because they needed to justify pay-for-service billing practices, on the incorrect assumption I was a Medicare patient; an orthopedic doctor also would have run unneeded X-rays for a shoulder issue one time, until I told him I had no health insurance; and as to the dentist, I could have flown back and forth to Wisconsin and still paid less than what I paid.

The cost of living was a consideration when we left Wisconsin. The foreclosure crisis here actually kept us from buying. The old saying is “you get what you pay for.” Here, we looked at bargain properties and ultimately learned of the reasons they were low-priced. Also, Florida condo dues are uniformly too high, homeowners insurance is too expensive, and real estate taxes are just as bad as they are in Wisconsin. There are a lot of available properties in Tampa-St-Pete, but the financial well-being of condo associations was a major concern.

Transportation was good and bad. The Tampa Airport is convenient, and urban areas are connected by freeways and large streets. The problem was the number of bad drivers in Tampa-Bay. Does Florida mandate driver’s education in high school? If not, why not? While turning, no one uses a simple blinker, except cars driven by Snow Birds from the Upper Midwest. Many just cut in front of others, hoping for the best. It’s almost like Cairo or Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a jungle out there. No wonder auto insurance is more than double what it was in Wisconsin.

In the category of recreation, to be honest, we did not use the Gulf Coast as much as we could have. There are nice beaches, boat cruises, and golf courses, but we always seemed to be doing something else.

In the final analysis, life is about people, not places. A person in the middle of a desert, surrounded by a few friends, can have a better time, than a single person all alone, in the midst of a big city. Since we have family in the north, our decision to return was motivated by that. To the nice people we met while down here, good-bye. Perhaps we will meet again. My blog will be down for a least a week. Once we are resettled again in Wisconsin, I hope to start writing again.

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