I love driving south.
When we first left Connecticut on the (sorta) pre-pandemic day of February 15, 2020, it was a bone-shattering Zero degrees according to my home weather station. I knew that our final destination of Atlanta would be much much warmer, and I couldn’t help glancing at the outdoor temperature reading every few minutes of the ride. Somewhere in southern Pennsylvania the mercury started rising, and it was one of the greatest feelings of my life.
Growing up, I loved winter – it was tied with summer as my favorite season. As I matured in my high school and college years, I picked up the fine art of snow skiing (and later, snowboarding), and winter shot to the top of the charts. Though I haven’t skied or snowboarded in about two decades, every late summer/early fall, I still have my first dreams of swishing down frozen white slopes.
But somewhere, oh, around…homeownership in 2013, winter became so much less than it once was. Not only had I not skied or boarded in years, but what once were joyous occasions – snowstorms – became hideous vehicles of tortuous labor. The driveway needed to be cleared – no small feat considering it was a hundred feet long and steep. The walkways needed clearing – I was once subjected to the threat of legal proceedings against little old me by our cantankerous mailman after he spotted a few patches of ice on our front walkway. Of course the deck needed to be cleared – and Handan’s glorious new deck meant that task nearly equaled the driveway. And let’s not forget the fur jerks. Every time the snow piled up more than a few inches, I felt duty-bound to carve out a series of meandering and intersecting trails in the back yard with the snow blower so Penny and Pepper would have room to stretch their red-furred legs.
Winter’s stock crashed, and it crashed hard. Gone was the wonderment and joy of a snowstorm. In its place was worry, dread, and resentment.
I will never forget the year some crazy wet Nor’easter/blizzard hit and (as usual), we were on the line between snow and rain. What that meant was a foot of concrete was falling outside or house. If I waited until the end of the storm, there would be no hope of clearing the driveway. The only thing to do was head out into the heart of the beast. As luck would have it, I had the flu and a fever of 102. But this was New England, madam. Fever be damned. I was out in the flaccid and soggy blizzard, clearing not only the driveway, but also the snow blower every few minutes. I’ll never forget that night. It cemented my hatred for winter.
When the temperature started to rise on that trip to Atlanta, I knew we were done with winter for good. We’d escaped its brutal clutches. Yes, I’d be back to Connecticut many more times to pack before we fully moved, but the psychological break had happened.
When we moved to Atlanta, I shed the last vestiges of my winterized self and became a Warm Weather Man.
After a time, even Georgia didn’t seem far enough south for me. This past April, Handan, Baris and I drove to Miami to take car of some business at the Turkish consulate there. I remember driving through southern Georgia. How different it was compared to northern Georgia! There was Spanish moss! I got a feeling of longing. I wanted Spanish moss!
And then we hit Florida. Palm trees. Lizards. Heat. Ocean. Humidity. And Spanish moss.
Somewhere deep inside, I think I knew then that someday we’d end up here, if not for me, then certainly for Handan. She was built for weather like Florida’s. The heat, the humidity, the tropical feel – it’s a mirror to her native Antalya on the Mediterranean coast of southern Turkey, where she was born and where she spent many years. And it’s not much different than the Aegean city of Izmir, where she did most of her growing up.
And though I spent most of my life worshiping the snowflake and cursing the sunbeam, all along I guess I was destined to become Florida Man.
So here we are in Jacksonville – a city which neither Handan nor I had visited before we pulled up to our apartment complex with two cars and a U-Haul trailer last weekend. Handan had found a promising apartment online, and I did a whirlwind application and lease signing. The digital ink was barely dry before we hit the road for points south. I was counting on a smooth and problem-free ride from Georgia to Florida, because I had us arriving at the leasing office 1 hour before they closed on a Saturday. If something went wrong on the road, we’d be scouting a hotel room until Monday morning.
But the ride was smooth, and the weather was glorious.
We got our keys and started unloading…up two flights of outdoor stairs to our 3rd floor apartment. Let’s a have a look at how things stand right about now. I’ve had time to go to IKEA (it’s only 4 miles away!), and I even snuck in another trip back to Georgia to load up a slightly smaller trailer with more stuff.
For the next 11 months, this is our new Florida home! (There’s a video walkthrough at the end of the post).
Let’s step past Penny and make our way into the living room.
There’s more than enough space in here for my babes and me. Just to the left in the picture below is our screened-in balcony.
The girls love the carpet, and in the past week, we’ve come to love it to. We’re now starting to understand why every house in the South has carpeting – it’s damn comfortable! You can see 3 IKEA boxes in the picture below. They are Halvsta cabinets – the same we used in our Georgia craft room. I had already built two of them when I took these pics, and I’ve just learned from Handan we’ll be buying two more! Hey, IKEA is only 4 miles away…why not?
Here are the two that I built already with Baris’s old plasma TV on top. We bought that TV in Vietnam, and it has traveled with us from Vietnam to Connecticut to Georgia to Florida. It must be one of the most well-traveled televisions on earth!
Did I mention the girls love the carpet?
I think they like Florida, too!
Our IKEA sofa from the Georgia home – now with a fresh cover! I didn’t bother cleaning anything or putting things in order for these pics. We’re still moving in and settling, and I wanted the pictures to show that.
This is the dining room that will never see a meal eaten in it. Instead, it is our new craft room! A much better use of the space, wouldn’t you agree?
Still a lot of stuff to unpack and put away.
Entering the kitchen now through the craft room. Yes, two bottles of Advil there on the counter. We’re living on caffeine and Advil these days. At our age, moving two U-Hauls full of stuff up a two-story walkup is no joke! On the plus side, we’re going to get back in shape!
The kitchen has everything we need. Sure it’s not the gleaming beauty Handan designed for me in our old house, but it suits me just fine.
The most important corner with the most important appliance.
Yes I am.
The fur jerks are living like queens. By the way, that dog-feeding station is holding up like a champ!
The second bedroom – also my office.
The second bedroom walk-in closet – now craft storage!
Guest bathroom. It’s big! Florida bathrooms are much bigger than those in Georgia.
The master bedroom – for now just a bed and two nightstands. I need to get a chest of drawers from IKEA so I can pick my clothes up from the floor! By the way, that bed frame is Baris’s old one. We bought it back in 2013, and it has survived 3 moves now. Not bad!
Half of the master bathroom. It has everything you’d expect from a modern bathroom – toilet, shower, cabinets, mirrors and lights. What more could you want?
We brought a lot of crafting supplies, but I made sure to pack a few little things to make it feel more like home. This little guys is Handan’s favorite scented broom gnome.
And finally, the view from our balcony.
So far, we absolutely love it here. Our apartment is close to everything. Restaurants 0.2 – 0.5 miles away, Hobby Lobby half a mile away, IKEA 4 miles – just anything we could ever need is at our fingertips. I know when we buy a house next year, it won’t be this convenient, so we’re going to enjoy this place to the fullest!
Okay, that’s it for now. I need to wrap this up and get back to work helping Handan unpack. I’ll have more updates soon! I’ll leave you with a video walkthrough!