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In to the Wind

January 9, 2013
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

My first year back to Iowa was in 2005. For five straight years we were tested with some of the most severe winters on record for Iowa. The decision to move back to Iowa from Florida was predicated on several factors, not the least of which was my intuition the bubble was about to burst in the economy, and Iowa would be a better place to be than Florida.

By the end of the fifth winter, I was certainly questioning the wisdom of leaving the heat and moving to the cold. So many years ago opposite thoughts haunted me.

I've told you before I worked for the newspaper in Iowa City, what seems like a lifetime ago. They transferred me to SW Florida when they started up USAToday.

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Actually, 1981 was a very good time to be leaving Iowa and moving to Florida. Basically, Iowa went into a fiscal depression during the eighties, while Florida prospered. My intuitions or perhaps my guardian angel have served me well.

The move to Florida was prepared with great anticipation. Being somewhat poor, young, and idealistic, we set out on the journey with great expectations. I had an old Ford van, an Econoline. The inside was sprayed with cellulose insulation, and it was customized in a comfortable, homey sort of way. It had been my home away from home on camping trips and such. It had a hitch and ball. Connected to that hitch was the sorriest excuse for an open box UHaul trailer you have ever seen. In that trailer, and packed into the van, were all of our worldly possessions.

We made a mistake and sold all of our furniture, so we wouldn't have to move it. Young, idealistic, we thought we could just buy new furniture. Don't ever do that if you move! Keep the old stuff UNTIL you replace it. It was tough sleeping on the floor and eating off TV stands for a while, but, that's a story for another column.

Anyway, picture this old van pulling a ragtag trailer headed southtowards Floridaa young, eager couple peering through bug splatter on the windshield, on a late June Iowa day. The journey south was not without incident.

The farther south we went, the hotter it got. The old van did not have air conditioning either. Around Nashville, I looked in the mirror and saw smoke coming from one of the wheels on the trailer. We had to pull off the highway and make a detour to an auto mechanic. In about 2 hours, they had the bearings replaced, and we were on our way again.

It is a 24 hour drive to SW Florida from Iowa, no matter how you slice it. Since we were dog tired, and had been running for close to 18 hours, we decided to stop for the night in a motel. It was in south central Georgia; Tifton I believe. I don't remember any details of the stay, except the next morning the van would not start. It had a dead battery. There was a kind soul in the parking lot that helped us jump the van, and we were off again. I stopped by a service station (yes there were service stations still, back then) and they told me the alternator was not putting out; it was shot.

The van was running. There was plenty of daylight. We made the decision to keep it running and finish the trip. I'd replace the alternator after we arrived.

The drive through Florida, heading south, is long. The closer we got, the hotter it was. As we drove into SW Florida, we noticed the sky had a yellow tint. There was an acrid smell, and the heat was oppressive. Listening to the radio, we soon learned the area was suffering the longest stretch of draught on record, and the temperature that day was the highest ever recorded. To top it off, the haze was from the Big Cypress Preserve. It was on fire!

It was July 1. We were to close on the new house today. We rolled into the driveway of the house, and shut down the old van. It had been running continuously for the past eight hours. Just to check, I tried turning the key to restart the motor. No joy, the battery was dead. We stepped out of the van, nervous smiles on our faces. We had made it. Not without incident, but we had made it.

I stood in the driveway for a few minutes, and questioned the wisdom of what we had just done. Here were two young people who had left the sanctity and familiarity of Iowa to come to Florida. Emotions were running high. The temperature was running high. The smoke, the heat, and the humidity were oppressive.

I thought for a moment I had arrived in hell, what was I thinking?

Both big moves in my life have been greeted with extremes of nature. I love the change of season. Iowa certainly has some wide weather swings. There never was a clear change of season in Florida. Summer arrived in April and persisted until November. There is one thing of which I am certain here in Iowa: next winter will be different.

There are times we must close chapters in our lives, and open new ones. It is a measure of a person's worth how this transition plays out. "Love and kindness always," helps smooth out the kinks, and relieves the anguish.

Until next time-

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the "Local Columns" button.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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