A Magical Island Kingdom ™
Cadillac Caravan Chronicles
April 02, 2002
"The Wheel in the Sky keeps on turning;
I don't Know where I'll be tomorrow."
words and music by Journey
When the Caravan Ends...?
Our June 03, 1999 Press Release stated that our trips to Galveston, TX had "captivated and inspired us to consider making dramatic changes in our lives". We became so fond of Galveston that we began to consider living there. It further stated that our trips to The Island helped us "to clarify what criteria are important to us in choosing where we want to live, at this point in our lives. We decided that we would like someplace that is on the ocean, south of the Mason-Dixon Line and in a city that's smaller than Phoenix." ..."we feel it's time to live near the water and we find ourselves most comfortable with the culture of "The South"."
Galveston meets all of the criteria that we are seeking, but we felt that we needed to consider other locations so that we could see if any place else suited us even better. The Cadillac Caravan has given us the chance to live in, or at least experience:
New Orleans, LA and Plantation Country; Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, and Biloxi, MS, and the Mississippi Coast; Mobile and Fairhope, AL; Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach, AL, Pensacola, FL, and the Emerald Coast; Tampa/St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and Naples, FL, and the Suncoast; Savannah, GA, Hilton Head, Beaufort, Edisto Island and Charleston, SC, and the Lowcountry; Georgetown, and Myrtle Beach, SC, and Wilmington, NC.
What have we learned?
1. Although we liked every place we went, we can eliminate some of them from further consideration. Mississippi does not have a significant historical town/city on the coast, and it's beaches are not the best. However, the one thing that makes some portions of their beaches exceptional is where there are Ante-bellum homes overlooking the water! This is probably the only place in the country where you can find this! The Mississippi Coast also had the worst, biting no-see-ums that we encountered, anywhere on our journey. The casinos do bring some entertainment, and a touch of excitement to the area, but we would not be likely to live there.
Alabama has Mobile, which is an important historical city, but if we are going to live on the Gulf Coast, New Orleans is a far better choice! The Emerald Coast, from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL to the Pensacola, FL Barrier Islands has beautiful white sand and emerald-colored water, which makes their beaches unique; but these are just "beach towns"! As much as we enjoy the beach, we want something more than just a "beach town".
Georgetown, SC and Wilmington, NC are nice, small port towns near the coast with a lot of history and character, but they are not as picturesque as The Lowcountry. If we are going to live on the SE Atlantic coast, we would stick to choices in The Lowcountry.
Myrtle Beach may be one of the premiere beach towns in the country, especially for golfers! It has great beaches and a lot of action and entertainment. Myrtle Beach looks like a good place to spend a long weekend, but we wouldn't choose to live there.
2. We love New Orleans! It is the Queen of the South! It's French Quarter, and Garden District are unparalleled! Bourbon Street has live music that you won't find anywhere else, and it's ship traffic on The River ranks right up there with that in Galveston! However, if you aren't satisfied to do beach time on Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi Coast beaches are more than an hour's drive away; not very convenient. It's hard to tell whether the City government is more corrupt or lazy; but things don't get done in The City, and they do have problems with their police department. Many of the workers in the private sector take their cue from the city workers and demonstrate why they call it "The Big Easy", when you are trying to get service. But we still love her; corruption and sloth and all! We will be back someday!
3. Tampa/St. Petersburg and The Suncoast are certainly acceptable because of the fact that they have the best weather along our entire path, and the beautiful Florida Gulf Coast! You don't have to spend 4-5 months of the year fighting off the cold, to one degree or another. The Tampa/St. Petersburg metro area has some substance and character to it, that makes it more than a "beach town", but it is hardly the "Old South". It is more like "Phoenix on the Gulf"; with a few extras thrown in. Our favorite place is Bradenton, on the Manatee River; but especially Anna Maria Island. This would be a good place to live life in the sun, and stay out of the cold! The drawback of the Barrier-Island towns is that they are more or less just "beach towns", with little character or charm to them. Their Mainland counterparts, like Bradenton, are not "beach towns", but they don't have much history to give them real character. However, if we get cold enough, we will go back to The Suncoast!
4. The Lowcountry is a very special place! It has a long history of being the most fiercely independent region in the country, several important historical cities, good beaches, and the marshes and creeks of the Sea Islands add a dimension to the coast line that you don't find on the Gulf Coast, with it's Barrier Islands. Rhett Butler eventually returned to Charleston to see if there was "any place left with a sense of charm and grace"; and someday we might, too! Likewise, if we find ourselves missing "The Squares", and River Street, we will make our way back to Savannah! A smaller town, like Beaufort, might even work for us, too.
And The Winner Is!
The Cadillac Caravan has been exciting, entertaining and a lot of fun, and it has successfully created a short list of places where we may someday want to live for longer periods of time (New Orleans, Bradenton/Anna Maria Island and The Lowcountry), AND eliminated others from further consideration, for now. We would be very happy living in any of these places on the short list, however, none of them has emerged as a clear favorite over our benchmark, Galveston; at this point! In addition, our failure to conclusively pick just one town or city as THE best fit for us has made us even more aware that the ULTIMATE answer may be to find a way to maintain homes in more than one location! We are not talking about the usual pattern that this takes, with a primary home in one place, and then a vacation house somewhere else. For us, this would be two places to live and work, according to the seasons or other considerations. We left behind the usual concepts of vacations, and we don't believe in retirement; so we're not looking for this kind of arrangement! We want to be able to seamlessly move from work to play, on a daily basis; in the location(s) where we choose to live!
As the first step in this process, we feel it is time to return to Galveston to establish our second home there. We will maintain our residency and primary home in Arizona while we see where this path leads us. Someday we would love to be able to rent, a house, condo or apartment; or even buy property, in both of our "home towns", but that is not feasible, at this time. For now, we will rent something in Galveston and use the north wing of The Stew's "Creole Cottage" as our Phoenix residence.
There are two main reasons:
1. Galveston was the catalyst to send us on this journey, so we need to return to "the source" of it all to get the proper perspective on the places where we lived, and that we experienced on The Caravan. In addition, due to the fact that we moved so much, on The Caravan, we didn't get a chance to really "settle in", with all of our own furniture, and personal belongings, so we need to experience The South from that perspective, at this time. We have made do with other people's ideas of how to set up a household, slept on some uncomfortable beds, and used a lot of a marginal kitchen utensils on The Caravan, because we were usually fitting into someone else's house!
2. Galveston still has a unique convergence of the things that we are looking for, which is why we loved it in the first place:
First, it is a significant historical town, AND it is right on the beach! You get the historical ambiance without having to drive miles to the beach! It could be argued that New Orleans, Mobile, Savannah and Charleston are all more important historical cities than Galveston, but you have to drive 30-60 minutes or more to get to the nearest beaches, when you are in these cities. Since we don't plan to try to live on the beach, we don't want getting there to become a chore, or it's not fun anymore. Galveston is the ONLY town that we have ever seen that is on the beach, but is MUCH MORE than just a "beach town".
Second, Galveston has the most active ship channel in the South! We love hanging out on the water, be it stream, creek, river, marsh, bay or ocean; but we find it much more interesting if there is some activity on it. Some people like to watch the cabin cruisers come and go, but we like freighters, tankers, ro-ro ships, tugs, crew boats, supply boats, barges, commercial fishing boats and oil rigs; along with the private pleasure boats! The only thing that we don't like are jet skis!! In other words, we enjoy watching people working on the water, not just playing! Mobile, Tampa, Savannah and Charleston all have bigger and busier ports than Galveston, BUT far less ship activity. This is because all of the ships bound for Houston, Texas City and Galveston must pass through the Galveston Ship Channel! It is the best place to see the most activity!
Third, the Cost of Living (COL) is somewhat lower than in the other, more prominent cities where we lived. This is especially true in the historical sections of all these cities. We would like to try to find a place to live in a historical house, or a loft on The Island, and this should be much more affordable in Galveston than some place like New Orleans. Since the COL is even higher in The Lowcountry, than on the Gulf Coast, historical properties are much pricier there!
Fourth, we do not want to put ourselves in another location where many shops and services are at inconvenient distances, like here in Edisto. As a smaller town than the others that we considered, Galveston still has most of the essentials; without some of the problems of larger cities. Those goods and services that are not available, right on The Island, can usually be found a few miles north on I-45. Everything else can be had by running up to Houston; including two major airports.
Fifth, although far from a major tourist destination, if we choose to get into some kind of tourism related business, like a Bar & Grill on the water, retail shop, or Internet tourist service, Galveston does get about 9 million person-days (number of people in the party, times the number of days in the stay) of tourism per year. So there is a reasonable market available.
We will leave Edisto at the end of April bound for Galveston. When we get there we will put everything that we have with us into storage, and look for a place to live. After we find a place to live, we will leave one car there, and head off on a Nostalgia Tour of Southern Illinois, on our way to visit my family in Northern Illinois. From there, it is on to Phoenix, where we will visit with friends and family, take care of any business that needs our attention, and remove all of our possessions now in storage. Some will move into the "Creole Cottage", and the rest will be loaded onto a rental truck for the trip back to Galveston. When we return to The Island, we will unload everything from the truck and the local storage unit to set up our "second home"; and life will begin anew!
As we begin our transition out of the Cadillac Caravan and into our "landing" on Galveston; new Federal regulations require that we make the following announcements to those who have joined us on this long journey:
If we crash into the water, you will find a space for your life jacket under your seat. Unfortunately, we sold them at a flea market in Mississippi, to raise money, so we hope that you can tread water!
In the case of sudden loss of pressure, don't worry, because your head will most likely explode, so you won't care anyway!
If we are forced to accelerate suddenly, to avoid another vehicle, the only pressure that you will feel is your body being thrust against the seat, just before you lose consciousness!
Keep you arms and legs, as well as your head, inside the vehicle at all times! The alligators are very hungry!
As we begin to slow down, please keep your seat belt buckled, and remain seated until we come to a complete stop! The Caravan is still moving, so don't try to get off yet!
No animals were injured in order to make this journey.
Turn the page.
From: the FORMER Confederate States of America, the FORMERLY Sovereign State of South Carolina (the FIRST to SECEDE!!), The Lowcountry, Colleton County, the Village of Edisto Beach:
We will continue to "Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler"!!