As I sit here on a warm Sunday morning at the end of January. It’s 67 degrees and the sun is shining with just a slight breeze. I now fully understand why people go south for the Winter. This is our first time participating in this yearly migration and if I have my way it will not be the last.
We made the short 45 minute drive from Milton, FL to Foley, AL on December 17th. Blue Heron Escape RV Resort was our destination for the winter and we didn’t know exactly what we would find. This was our 5th stay in what I consider a true RV Resort. Blue Heron is not as fancy as some, specifically Anchor Down, but it is brand new. I’ll do a full post on the resort soon.
I had been to Foley/Gulf Shores in the past. Even looked at houses to relocate about 12 years ago. But I had not spent a lot of time in the area. One thing has changed since I was last here. The growth has exploded. Building, both commercial, residential and RV Resorts, is booming.
I’ve always liked having changing seasons but I really despise how we get snow in the Chattanooga area. My perfect winter would be a week or two of snow that stays on the ground about 8 inches deep where you can enjoy it. Instead we get small snows the are slushy and melt away by lunch usually.
Anyway, I just really have not enjoyed winters the last few years and living in the RV full time I didn’t look forward to dealing with the cold so we planned our Wintering. I’m not going to lie. If it wasn’t for an issue with being in Florida and working remotely we would have probably gone down around Sarasota where we have some friends. We ended up in Foley because I can work from Alabama as much as I want to.
It’s probably 12 -15 degrees cooler here than it would have been farther south but it is also 10 – 20 degrees warmer here than back home most days. It did get very cold here, lows around 20 degrees, when we went home for Christmas/New Years. It was 5 degrees at home. The folks here that have been wintering in Foley said that was very unusual and the coldest they remember it getting. Everyone keeps telling us that this winter has been colder and had more rain than usual so I’m encouraged next time we may have more beach days than we have had.
Our resort is so well located. We are 5 minutes or less from most shopping, restaurants etc. We are 8 minutes from the beach most days. It’s 8 miles and on weekends the traffic can sometimes make it a 15 or 20 minute drive but we are learning to use backroads. This has made the experience of staying somewhere for a long period amazing. We are also close enough to reach Mobile or Pensacola in less than an hour so there is really nothing here that is not easily accessible
Everywhere we go places are full of Snowbird’s. I would say that most of the time they are easily spotted. The truth of the matter is that age is the first indicator. We have met so many people who are wintering in an RV, condo or house. However, we are meeting more people our age and younger doing this. We are also meeting lots of people who have moved here in the last 3 years, thus all the growth. This is mostly fueled by the rise in remote working.
Most of these folks come every year. We have some new friends at our resort who have been wintering in this area together for the last 7 years. Most have been snow birding for the last 20 years. When we are out and meet snowbirds. The locals seem to know them. It’s like they are locals. This was a really interesting and welcome find for us.
I have to admit, after a lifetime of wanderlust and wanting to live somewhere besides Northwest Georgia, that I’m living my best life. Cathy on the other hand has been struggling quite a bit balancing adventure against community. She was really missing our family and friends.
What we found here was a lot of community. These folks spend half the year together every year. The local gathering spots recognize them and know them by name. So this gives me hope that we may find friends if we winter in the same place.
The other good news is that friends and family are starting to come visit. Additionally we are only 6.5 hours from home and its an easy drive in big pearl. So a month and half into wintering we have found the experience a positive one.
One other interesting thing we have found is the population of snowbirds and relocated folks, here and on the East coast of Florida is quite different. I think this is mostly due to highway systems. On the East coast we met mostly folks from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. St. George Island, on the West coast of Florida seemed to be mostly from Illinois. Here it’s heavy midwestern. Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa and Canada.
I’ve really enjoyed hearing about their homes and travels. They are always glad to share their experience and we have learned a lot already. Our resort has a group of very active friends that plan dinners, breakfasts and football parties at the clubhouse.
I’ve purposely kept this post very general as we plan get into details in posts about specific topics and adventures. But I did want to share some first impressions of snow-birding…excuse me…wintering