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Gators and Snowbirds: One Northerner Tries to Fit In Down South

Meghan Stetzik

Posted on January 24, 2018 16:12

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There's a lot to love about Gainesville, but it's still not my true home.

Last April, my husband and I packed up a U-Haul and made the long drive from Cleveland, Ohio down to Gainesville, Fla. It took two days and over 20 hours towing our beat-up old Honda and when we finally pulled up at our new digs, it was close to midnight.

Even after dark, it was pushing 90 degrees. The air was muggy, the ground was sandy, and there were palm trees and pine trees galore. Everything was new and everything was an adventure.

The first day I found something amazing: a little lizard, smooth-skinned and drab like the terrain around him, clinging nonchalantly to the screen of our front window. I snapped a photo and sent it to my family back north – “Look what I just saw!” They were equally impressed.

It only took a few hours for me to realize that there are lizards everywhere down south. They sunbathe motionless, on our patio furniture and car hoods, and once I even found a dead and shriveled up fellow in one of my flowerpots. They may be cute, but they sure aren’t smart.

By May I had also encountered one of the deadliest snakes in the world – the Coral snake – just a couple feet from my chair on our back deck. Apparently our colony of lizards attracted more than just owls. I warned my neighbor about the sighting, and she said dismissively that her mother-in-law had recently killed one with a shovel in their own back yard.

Here in “Gatorville,” outdoors running season begins late fall, and the busiest time for weddings is smack in the middle of winter. Now that it’s January, I understand why so many ‘snow birds’ fly south this time of year. The sun is nearly always shining, there’s finally enough breeze to stir my wind chimes, and even if it’s in the 30s overnight, we’re still guaranteed a comfortable temperature by lunchtime. Sure, it gets cold. But it’s southern cold.

There are national parks for hiking, gators for viewing, and plenty of things to do downtown. But if I’m being honest, I still don’t quite feel at home here. I’m a northern girl at heart, and I miss my familiar environs – big mountains, brick houses with basements, loamy soil that supports more than just scrub brush and wild ferns, and the pleasant lack of enormous cockroaches.

But most of all, I miss being close to my family. Visiting my hometown in Pittsburgh used to be a two-hour drive. Now it’s a full day of air travel.

That old expression, “There’s no place like home,” rings especially loud these days. I’m loving this Gainesville adventure, but the vibe here is just off. I’m an impostor in the south, and it’s going to take some more time before I really find my place.

Luckily, there’s a lovely beach along the coast where I can sit and think this over, surrounded by seagulls and surf, taking in the glorious Florida sun.

Meghan Stetzik

Posted on January 24, 2018 16:12

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Source: FOX Sports

Florida has added South Alabama to its 2020 home schedule and will pay the Jaguars $1.2 million for the game.

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