By Bruce Stambaugh
I think I am just going to quit going to Florida in the winter. I know it sounds selfish of me. But I really think it’s the right thing to do.
First of all, I am not a big fan of the Sunshine State. When I have visited in the summer, it’s always been way too hot and sticky for my liking. My experiences in the winter haven’t been much better. Both times that I have sought a sunny, warm reprieve from the sting of winter in rural Ohio, I got burned, and I don’t mean sunburned.
In 2008, my wife and I flew to Florida in March, mainly to see a few Cleveland Indians baseball spring training games before they moved to Arizona. Near the end of our brief stay, a rare blizzard hit the mid-west, including our home area. The magnitude of the storm was so vast, so consequential that no commercial airlines were flying to Ohio. Our stay in Florida was extended for three days. But it wasn’t much of a reward because the weather turned cool and damp, keeping us inside.
Instead of being able to take advantage of walking a pristine beach or go birding, we spent a lot of time watching The Weather Channel. Their meteorologist reported live from downtown Cleveland, showing firsthand the effects of the blizzard. As strange as this may seem, I really wanted to be at home, not in Sarasota. Part of that desire was guilt. I am a township trustee and I felt duty bound to be home to help dig out.
But more than that, I love storms. Weather is one of my major hobbies. In addition to being a severe weather spotter, I also measure the snowfall for our area for the National Weather Service. And here we were getting more snow that we had had in a long time and I wasn’t there to experience it, much less send in my snow reports.
Last month, we had another chance to visit Florida. Good friends invited us to stay a week with them in a house they had rented in Sarasota. Neva and I needed a break since 2009 had been such a draining year for us with all the family health issues we had had, most notably my father’s illness and subsequent death. This trip, though, we decided to drive instead of fly. When we arrived, the weather was very nice, our friends even nicer. We settled in and began planning our week’s activities.
We did the beach thing, which allowed me to both walk and take pictures, yet two more hobbies. We visited a lovely state park where I learned a lot about Florida floral, fauna and local history. Here, again, I was able to photograph several species of birds and some rather large alligators.
The last part of our trip was to be spent in Savannah, Georgia, a city I had long wanted to visit. We managed a trolley tour of the lovely historic city before our plans changed. Once again, a major winter storm was brewing in the mid-west, and once again my wife and I were glued to The Weather Channel. I saw the track of the storm and its expected arrival time. I knew we had two choices. We could cut our stay short and drive straight home or stay an extra few days until the roads were cleared. You can guess what we decided.
We returned in time for me to have the distinct honor of sending in my mundane but necessary snow reports. We were home, and I was happy to be measuring this big snow.