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by Donna Carter

B

ecoming snowbirds was not an idea

that Doug and Heather Reid had ever

considered until fate stepped in. Th e

Meaford, Ontario couple in their mid-sixties

was comfortably retired, spending summers

sailing on Georgian Bay and winters skiing

and snowshoeing. Heather, a former school

teacher, dabbled in watercolour painting,

while Doug’s big passion aft er a successful

career in the computer industry was fl ying

remote-controlled model airplanes. Th ey

also took various short-term vacations and

cruises. To say the least, life for the Reids

was both full and fulfi lling, enjoying their

retirement in one of the prettiest waterfront

towns in the Georgian Bay region. Leaving

their winter activities behind for a snowbird

existence was a non-issue. Life seemed perfect

just as it was.

Enter fate. In 2012, snowbird friends in

Lakeland, Florida unexpectedly invited them

down for a week. Th e friends owned a house

in Highland Village, a manufactured home

community near the south end of the city.

When the Reids accepted the invite, they

were unaware that the die was cast. Th ey

immediately liked what they saw – both the

park and the snowbird lifestyle. Th e seed, as

they say, had been fi rmly planted. Shortly

aft er returning home, and negotiating long

distance, they sealed a deal to purchase a

Highland Village home on a generous pie-

shaped lot. “We knew the house needed

plenty of work, but it had good bones and the

fact that it was situated overlooking the park’s

only lake was a big selling feature,” says Doug.

Fast forward to 2016. Today, Heather says

that she wonders why they didn’t become

snowbirds much earlier. Th e purchase price

of the house that they bought, together with

major renovations including a new kitchen,

altered fl oor plan, all new appliances and

much more, came in at a total tab of just over

US$23,000. For the most part, the home is

entirely new from the inside out with a back

deck overlooking the lake that is home to

pelicans, egrets and other Florida waterfowl.

In a bright south-facing sunroom, Heather

has her easel set up where, instead of painting

snow scenes, her inspiration is a landscape of

palm trees, brilliant bougainvillea, blue water

and exquisite birds.

Likewise, Lakeland could not have been

a better fi t for Doug, who hit the jackpot

involving his favourite sport – fl ying remote

control airplanes. Just a few miles down the

road from Highland Village is the Imperial

R/C Club (Imperial Radio Control Club).

“Th e facilities there are excellent,” says Doug.

“Th ere’s a 30x600-foot runway together

with cross runways. It’s a superior club that

surpasses anything available to me at home.”

Here at this Academy of Model Aeronautics

(AMA), where there are a half-dozen certifi ed

fl ight instructors, Doug is working toward

achieving the Imperial R/C Club’s certifi cate

of recognition denoting that his pilot

skills meet the club’s criteria for safely and

effi ciently fl ying a model airplane. Th e AMA

site is equipped to provide trainer aircraft but,

not surprisingly, Doug has a small fl eet of his

own which he built himself. “I can fl y here in

the winter and at home during the summer,”

says Doug. “It’s the best of both worlds.”

Overall, the couple both agree that life is

sweeter since becoming snowbirds.

“We love the Highland Village park and,

from day one, people here were extremely

friendly and inclusive,” says Heather. “We

never have a boring moment.” Th e park has

a large clubhouse, heated swimming pool,

library, games lounge, exercise room and

shuffl eboard court. Heather helps organize

weekly golf outings at several local courses

and Doug was appointed stage manager for a

February play written and presented by park

residents. “It was a sold-out performance with

every seat in the clubhouse fi lled,” says Doug.

“Next year, we plan to produce a musical.” Th e

park also has a monthly events calendar that

includes everything from line dancing to card

games, potluck dinners and more. “Th ere’s

always something going on,” says Heather.

Th e Reids say that they are oft en asked why

they didn’t opt for a community on or near the

Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. Th e simple

answer which they give is that they initially

liked what they saw, so why shop around.

Heather explains that Lakeland isn’t just a long

stretch of retail outlets and high-rise hotels. “It

has a real downtown and a good community

vibe,” she says. Nicknamed the City of Swans,

at least 80 of the gracious birds are permanent

residents on some of Lakeland’s several small

lakes. Also, throughout the town itself, there

are large swan sculptures everywhere.

Overall, the Reids are delighted that fate

stepped in and led them to their snowbird

retreat. Not even the declining Canadian

dollar has dampened their enthusiasm. “It’s

not the end of the world and, in spite of the

negative exchange rate, we are committed to

riding it out,” says Doug.

THE FICKLE FINGER OF FATE

it turned one couple into avid snowbirds

14

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