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The Florida Series: Chapter 9

Now that Phil has opened the office of Movement Mortgage, and has moved there, my wife, Cindy, and I decided on a trip to the Keys for a week. I recently wrote a little about the Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo, where I had owned a condominium about 20 years ago. As I said, it truly is a remarkable place that has everything to offer its members, homeowners, and visitors- the only downside (to some) being the prices.

My condo, which I sold in 1993, had now risen ten times in value. With my unerring 20/20 hindsight, I sure wished I had kept it! Anyway, I called an old friend who lives there, and he got us a guest pass so we could rent for a week.

I had not flown since Covid arrived, had not experienced the joy of wearing a mask for six hours straight, nor the redesigned 737. This plane used to have three and two seating, now three and three, squashed into the same space. They gained the extra seat by making the aisle and the seats smaller, to the point of true inconvenience and discomfort. They have also cut back on the number of flights, assuring that most flights will be packed like sardines in the can. They are buses with wings. This was on a major airline, non-stop from Boston to Miami, and I just can't imagine that the discount airlines could be much worse. To add a nice final touch to passenger misery, they don't serve any alcoholic beverages.

From the time we landed until we left the airport with the rental car, an hour and a half had passed, most of that waiting for baggage. Flying has really become distasteful; but it wasn't always. In the 1980's and early 1990's, one could purchase bulk tickets from Delta and a few other airlines. You had to buy a minimum of ten round trips between the same two cities. The price was by far not the lowest; but that was not the reason for buying them. They were completely open-ended, meaning that you could call minutes before a flight, and if there were seats available, they had to give you one. Plus, you could cancel a flight reservation anytime, without penalty. To top it off, you could upgrade to First Class using only the double points you received for the flight itself. The flying experience was great; today, not so much.

The drive from Miami to Homestead has also changed a lot. Traffic was once usually sparse, now it is always heavy, and returning to Miami at any time in the morning will give you bumper-to-bumper standstill conditions. Where the Turnpike formerly passed miles of tree farms and nurseries, there are now housing developments. It is not until you take a left onto the Card Sound Road, which crosses vast areas of the National Wildlife Sanctuary, that you get the feel of subtropical Florida. Immediately after crossing the Card Sound Bridge, and enjoying the views in all directions, one comes upon Alabama Jack's, a quintessential Keys beach bar, surrounded by mangroves. Of course, we stopped there for a drink; OK, more than one, and after some superb appetizers we headed for Ocean Reef.

The club was hosting its "Vintage Weekend,” where exquisitely restored boats, cars, and planes were on display. To us, the highlight of the week was the airshow put on by a professional flying squadron of four planes, in front of the club's extensive pool and beach area, called Buccaneer Island. These pilots were a picture of grace and flawless execution of complicated maneuvers. The degree of precision was astonishing! The club was much busier than it would normally be, during this usually quiet time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we had no problem getting reservations at its collection of nice restaurants. As the week came to an end, we really dreaded the trip home to what might as well be the frozen tundra of Boston, after being in the Keys.

My best advice, if you love Florida, BUY A HOME THERE!! Phil will get you the best mortgage obtainable, and you will have secured your place in the sun! To help defer the cost, many second-home buyers rent their houses and condos for a part of the year, until they decide to retire, or spend a lot more time there. We hope to do just that, within a few years. Yes, I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time in Florida years ago- an "early bloomer," you might say- but I miss it, and I want back in, the sooner the better.

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