Contemplating our next adventure

Published 2:49 pm Friday, February 19, 2010

There’s a delightful fishing village on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, about a two-hour drive south of Bainbridge, miles back from the main highway, about as isolated as one can retreat from Florida’s bustling population and retirement centers.

It’s called Cedar Key, and we vacationed there last summer, and fell in love with the place.

It was here that we rediscovered steamed clams, one of those seafood delicacies usually found from the Chesapeake Bay area in Virginia than up along coastal towns into Maine. It was here, we discovered that the Cedar Key fishermen devised new ways to grow and harvest clams in local bays and estuaries, and it was here last summer that we daily stuffed ourselves on the little buggers.

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There’s a linkage here between our discussions on what to do after we retire. After 34 years, Faye has announced that this is her last year of standing in front of a classroom full of eighth-graders. Come June, she will be unemployed, joining the ranks of those collecting retirement checks and Social Security.

So what do we do now with the rest of our lives?

For several months, I have been recommending a new adventure. Sell everything in Bainbridge, secure a condo with dock on the waterfront in Cedar Key, buy a boat and go fishing.

It didn’t go over.

We have watched friends our age contemplate retirement.

“Oh I have been so busy,” is a simple refrain.

Or, “I have more time now to do things than ever before. Never a dull moment.”

Or, “Oh, you are going to love retirement. So much to do. We never get bored,” she said as she wound her way through the aisles of Wal-Mart seated in one of their electric buggies.

I worry about being busy just to be busy, and having to get around in an electric cart.

Many years ago, we had some teacher husband and wife friends who accumulated their 30 years in teaching, retired while in their early 50s, and since have been attempting to find busy things to keep busy.

Our greatest fear is doing busy things just to be busy too, accomplishing nothing.

Then, there’s location to consider.

Do we stay in Bainbridge, or seek a retirement community, or consider the ultimate other people ponder—relocate to the same town where you are close to children and grandchildren.

Three years ago, we built a new house in Bainbridge, smaller than the one we had lived in for 12 years, a deliberate downsized model, preparing for retirement.

Now those plans are being reconsidered.

To move or not to move. To stay or hit the road.

Bainbridge has been good to us. Our stay here has been a place easily called home, the longest our shoes have stayed in one closet for nearly 20 years.

Other than some real estate and a business, there is nothing traditional here to bind us, no family roots or long historical family traditions. We are typical modern American parents—our own parents departed, ourselves in one town, and our children and grandchildren in others.

It’s big stuff to contemplate.

On our vacation travels over the past few years, we have discovered B&Bs, bread and breakfast lodgings. We love the historical ambiance of old homes, uncomfortable antique furniture, gourmet breakfasts, and conversations at the table with strangers from other places.

Faye has always loved old Victorian homes, hinted many times we should buy one and restore it to its former grandeur.

I’ve always said, find one you like, and we’ll build it. The great advantage of a new home is that everything works. In an older home, as anyone will tell you who has one or is retired in one, restoration work is never done. It takes all the time and money you want to give it.

She threw a hooker at me the other day.

The B&B in Cedar Key is for sale, she said. An old antique Victorian house, with manicured lawn and gardens, only one block from the Gulf.

OK, I said, but it has to come with a fishing boat, preferably a 31-foot Cobia, 350-horsepower twin engine Yamahas, complete with sonar and fish finder, console seating, 24-gallon live wells, six gunnell rod holders, insulated beer and drink coolers, stereo speakers, double-decker high-backed captain’s chair and bright shade canopies.

If I am going to cook breakfast every day for a bunch of strangers in my house, for the remainder of the day, I am going to require rest, relaxation and recovery while sailing upon the briny in the Gulf of Mexico, lunching on steamed clams and cold beer.