We now have the best of three worlds: The Roadtreking world, where we can go anywhere, stay anywhere and boondock far off the grid in spectacular wilderness or enjoy luxury resort-style campgrounds; Our home in Michigan which is located on a beautifully wooded lot with a trout stream in the backyard; and now our new three bedroom Gulf-front condo on Okaloosa Island on the Florida panhandle's Emerald Coast.
We've dropped little hints about the Florida condo on the blog and podcast for several months. Now it's done and this is the the full blog post that explains it all that I've been promising since April.
Here's the answers to everything we've been asked about it, as well as more.
But first, now that it is all done, here's a video look at it: Mike's Florida condo
We bought it last April after our friends, fellow Roadtrekers Les and Kathy Shanteau invited us to visit their condo, located in the Emerald Isle Club development on Okaloosa Island. Here's a look at Les and Kathy's two bedroom unit. Yes, I know, the music in their video is the same as the music in mine. It also happens to be the theme for the Roadtreking RV Podcast. Since I own the rights to the theme song, I figured why not use it in these videos and this not run afoul of music copyrights.
But anyway, it was Kathy and Les who got us excited abut buying a place on Okaloosa Island. After all, we have made over a dozen trips to the area in the past three or four years. We absolutely love it there. The beaches, we believe, are the best you can find anywhere in the country. We love the turquoise water of the Emerald Coast, the restaurants, shopping, the fishing and the beautiful nature nearby available for hiking and photography opportunities.
Besides, our son Scott and daughter-in-law, Lauri, and our four grandsons live in southwest Georgia, a little over three hours away. I love attending our grandsons' football games and making the weekly drive from Okaloosa Island to Albany GA is a lot easier than making it from Michigan to Georgia!
Since we spend so much time there it made sense to get a place to use as our home base. The Emerald Isle Club, where Less and Kathy are, had room for parking the Roadtrek, another benefit. And owners are allowed to have dogs. Renters are not, by association rules. But owners are.
So when Kathy pointed out a three bedroom unit with spectacular gulf views from two balconies that was available, we got pretty excited. So excited, we bought it. But then came the work. We totally gutted it. It took eight dumpsters to get rid of the debris. We tore it down to the concrete floors, wall and ceiling studs. Then we totally remodeled and updated it. Jennifer and I felt like we were in an HGTV series. It was a huge job that lasted months. Then it was time to furnish the place. We had to buy everything new… every chair, sofa, bed, appliance.
At the same time we were remodeling our condo, the Emerald Isle Club itself was undergoing a year-long, $5 million renovation.
It seemed like our remodeling and the building renovations would never end.
But now, everything is done. And we are thrilled.
The condo will not be our home. We will spend more time traveling in the Roadtrek than in the condo, and more time in our Michigan home as well. It will be a getaway for us from time to time, but it's primarily going to be a rental.
We will use it ourselves mostly in the fall and winter when we need a getaway or a home base for exploring in our RV, but then plan to rent it out much of the year. The peak season down there on the Emerald Coast is from May through September… summertime, when Jennifer and I are doing most of our traveling in the Roadtrek. So we'll rent it out. You can see lots of interior photos and get details by going to http://emeraldisledreams.com. And yes, we will discount to Roadtreking friends.
The condo sleeps up to 10 people. It s perfect for two couples and a couple kids or grandkids. We had Jennifer and me, our son Jeff and daughter-in-law, Aimee, and our year old granddaughter, Jovie; plus daughter Wendy and son-in-law, Dan, and our two granddaughters, Hua Hua and Rachel, down over the summer and we had plenty of room. Oh yeah, Bo was there, too.
We're new to this rental world. After all the work we put into the condo, it's a little scary renting it out. Will they take care of it? Not smoke inside? Treat it like they would want someone to treat their home? We have heard all sorts of horror stories from other owners. We haven't had any issues yet in the three or four times we've already rented it out. But I admit to worrying about it a bit.
Okaloosa Island is just west of Destin, FL.
I've written before about Destin, which calls itself the “world's luckiest fishing village.” Why lucky? Because the crystal clear, emerald-colored waters of the Gulf Of Mexico are filled with grouper, snapper, amberjack, flounder, trout, redfish and more. Seasonal fish such as cobia also make the area popular for in-shore fishing. But the real reason fishing is so good there is its proximity to the Desoto Canyon off shore, where the gulf floor drops below 3,000 feet in spots, making it attractive for billfish like Blue Marlin, Sailfish and Wahoo.
Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island are unique among Gulf Coast communities in that deep water is within a relatively short distance of shore. Within a half-hour of leaving Destin Harbor, anglers are in waters as deep as 60 feet,and 100-foot depths are easily within 10 miles of shore.
On our last visit to the area a month ago, I discovered kayak fishing. When we go down again right after Christmas, I'm picking up my brand new fishing kayak, which fits perfectly in the back of my Roadtrek. Most of my fishing will be just offshore in the Gulf or in the protected waters of Santa Rosa Sound or Choctawhatchee Bay, a three minute drive from the condo.
The panhandle is not like the rest of Florida, weather-wise. Compared to south Florida, its quite cool in the Panhandle from December through the end of February. Winter temps at night down there dip regularly into the 30's. Daytime highs are usually in the 60's, sometimes the low 70's. For us, that's perfect weather.
In the summer, it's in the upper 80's and 90's on the Emerald Coast but noticeably less hot and humid as it is in the rest of Florida or the south.
We love exploring Florida. It is a huge state that takes 12 hours to drive across, north to south. Having the condo as another home base opens up all of Florida for us to explore in our Roadtrek, as well as the Deep South states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and even Louisiana.
I saw a sign the other day down in Alabama at a pecan store off I-65. It said “I wasn't born in the South…. But I got here as quick as I can.”
Jennifer and I feel that way. We love the South. And having our Florida condo as a third home (to our Michigan sticks and bricks home and our Roadtrek home) truly does makes for the best of three worlds.