Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy

The worst thing about Michigan in February is the darkness.  It really seems as though the are no sunny days from sometime in late January through early March.  It's all dreary darkness with cold and slush and ice thrown in to make a mix of misery.  In Florida, it really seemed that there was sun on every single day. Even on days when it rained, it only rained for a couple of hours, and the sun was out the rest of the day.  My spirits improved so much, and my dog and I got to walk outside a lot more than we would in cold slippery sloppy Michigan. 

My sister came to spend two weeks with me in Titusville, from cold, dark and icy Seward, Alaska.  She spent nearly 24 hours in flight and layovers to get to Orlando.  All the same she felt it was worth it.   We ate oranges and walked out in the sun, took convertible rides in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, and rode the airboat.  We also tested many of the local eateries.  Among our favorites were Dixie Crossroads, Corky Bell's, Catfish Cabin.  Check them all out and see the different offerings. The fish is so fresh, it is nothing like what we can get in most parts of the midwest.

We enjoyed some shopping expeditions, too. Ron Jon's Surf Shop was a lot of fun, featuring two big floors of surf and beach gear and decor and fun items.  We also had a wonderful time at Cocoa Village, which is a beautiful old fashioned style shopping area sited right in old downtown Cocoa.  There are gift shops, home decor, clothing, linens, crafts, artists and a hardware store that is over a century old.  One shop has items made from recycled materials like pop tabs, gum wrappers, tin.  Ice cream, coffee, sandwiches, and sit down fare can all be obtained.  We tried Ossorio for the ice cream and coffee, and they also have nice pizzas and sandwiches.  You order at the counter and wait while your food is prepared. There are lots of tables both inside and outside.  Murdock's is also really good.

You might guess that I was getting pretty attached to the place.  I originally planned to try Titusville for one winter, and then try another place the next winter. I was flirting with the idea of Tubac Village, an old town reviving as an artist colony south of Tucson.   We've been in Arizona and really liked the Tucson area a lot.  But as the month went on, I was having a hard time sticking to that.  Titusville had its hooks in me already.

Titusville is a good sized small town, something over 40,000 residents.  It started in the 1850s as Sand Point, but the post office was short lived. After the Civil War, Confederate Col Henry Titus arrived to settle on land owned by his wife Mary Hopkins, laying out streets and building a hotel and donating land for four churches and a courthouse. Railroads arrived and a station was built in 1892.  Citrus produce was a prime product shipped from the area.  The town grew up and down the river bank.  Indian River City was four miles south.  The railroad ran north and south a short distance west of the river, and much of the development hugged the shoreline.   US Highway 1, Washington Avenue, follows the shoreline and carries city traffic.  You can drive north on Highway 1 up past St. Augustine and Jacksonville, and on up to the Canadian border in Aroostook County, Maine.  South it will take you to Miami and beyond to Key West. Nowadays I-95 will speed you along the same general route about five miles west of US 1. 

Mmy rental house is in old Indian River City.  The house was built in the 20s.  Many of the houses standing in the area today date from the teens and 20s.   I was comfortable with the area, and on our walks, my sister and I would look for houses for sale, just for fun.  We didn't see many, and none were from the older era.  There are a lot of what I would call infill house that came along later, in the 50s and 60s, producing a uniform look in lot size, with a few of the older large farm style lots remaining.
I started to explore other neighborhoods, just to expand my house hunting territory.  Houses on the other side of the tracks were newer, 50s and 60s, and as you head west and north, you come into 70s, 80s, 90s and 21st century neighborhoods. Midway to downtown, there is the La Cita Country Club neighborhood, quite upscale, beautiful houses, with neighborhood rules on property maintenance.  La Cita is a beautiful private golf course where you can be a member whether you live in the neighborhood or not.  Likewise, living in the neighborhood doesn't make you a member.  Nearby is Royal Oak Country Club, a municipal golf course.  It has fewer amenities but is still very nice, with homes in the neighborhood ranging from about  $90,000 to $300,000.   There are no restrictions.  I was thinking maybe a golf community would be a good investment.  There is easy access to shopping from both of these two communities, and the golf courses would be attractive to retirees wanting to improve their winter options.

This first year I was there, February 2009, the housing markets were still near the top of the bubble range of pricing. Sellers were beginning to realize they could not recoup the value of their home as established during the bubble, so prices were coming down.  The shuttle program shutdown was in the offing, and people were beginning to worry about being able to sell if they needed to move.

We were feeling like we could get a nice house for a reasonable amount if we could agree on the neighborhood and kind of house.  We did have some serious disagreements on those points.  I wanted a three bedroom one story house in "the neighborhoods" between US 1 and the tracks.  Hubby wanted more space, a bigger house, and a HUGE garage.  Or did he?  "Tis true,. every house we looked at in my target neighborhood, he nixed as "too small" or "built too cheap."  Every house in the golf neighborhoods was "too costly" or "not the right look."  I was partial to some houses built as a community just south of St. Theresa's Church, off Court Street, on Royal Palm Court, Citrus Court, Flamingo Court.  They were all built in the 1950s, from the same plan, three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, carport.  The baths were really creative. One opened off the master bedroom, just the toilet and sink.  Another door opened to the tub with shower. In that room, a door opened to the other half bath which opened to the hall.  I've been told this is called a Jack & Jill bath, with private facilities and a shared tub.  There were lots of palm trees, nice big lots, and most had big Florida rooms on the back.  They were also "too small and too cheap."

Hubby liked some houses up along Indian River Avenue south of downtown.   Of course, they were listed for upwards of $600,000, and most were two story Victorian style, with 1.5 baths.  I nixed those because we couldn't afford them, and I wanted a one story house.  I did love the neighborhood, but couldn't see how we could afford it at all.

And so we left Titusville to return to Michigan, our appetites whetted but no sign of agreement.  Our landlord offered us the Spanish house for the next February, and all I had to do was leave the deposit.  Done!  We will be back!

Next,  how we continued to house hunt and plan expeditions for February 2010.

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