The purpose of my trip down to Spring Hill, FL (just north of Tampa) was to visit my oldest cousin, Laurie, her husband Nick, and her two daughters Emma (6) and Kate (4). They're certainly more exciting to hang around than my granparents and great aunts, but honestly, kids wear me out. After being a veritable jungle gym for two hours a day, even Utah vs. Pitt last night couldn't keep me awake.
This area of Florida is surprisingly beautiful. It's not on the beach, and it's not swampy like Gainesville an hour and a half north, but if you replace vineyard with orange groves, it almost reminds me of central California. There is some mission style architecture, a lot of farming, and a lot of nice subdivisions.
Typically when I go to Florida, I am on vacation. This trip down south, was no exception. My first day down here was filled with about 8 hours worth of golf. We won't talk about my score, but suffice it to say that on the 18th hole, I Happy Gilmore style drove the ball 300 yards onto the fairway. I would go on to bogey the hole after I tried to carry a lake with my three iron and ended up about two feet short. It being my golf game that we're talking about, that was pretty much the highlight of my game.
There are about 10 golf courses within a few miles of my cousin's home. One cause of this, is the great number of retirees (yes, all from New York and New Jersey--that isn't made up). But, another reason for that I think, was the housing boom. At its peak, Countrywide had 500,000 loans out in Florida, 73,000 were subprime. In 2007, the company was worth $24 Billion. In 2008, Bank of America bought it for $4 Billion (most analysts, thought that too much). To illustrate the result of this crisis, the golf course that we played, had a beautiful 90% done 34,000 ft., two story clubhouse. It has lain fallow for three years and has become molded and overgrown with weeds behind a chain link fence. The country club filed for chapter 11 in 2008; it's now a public course. According to Nick, housing values have accross the board been slashed in half, and these are Mcmansions we're talking about here.
The neighborhood that my cousins live in reminds me of a sit com (Copeland St. Rowdy Bunch shout out) a bit. People just drop by to hang out and shoot the breeze. Everybody is a young professional, with kids--sort of the quentessential American suburb. Kids riding their bikes in the streets. No fences between houses. Swimming pools. Dogs.
Like I said before, this has really been a true vacation. I've slept late, eaten well, gone to the gym, and played exhaustively with my cousins who think I'm their uncle/the energizer bunny. If you do anything fun with them, they want to do it 75 more times...at least.
In any case, I'm about to make the drive up to Tallahassee to see my friend Jamie who's in film school at FSU. Oh and Drew will be there too I guess. Adventures to ensue, I'm sure.